Monday, April 22, 2013

Race Report: Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz

I got lucky - I picked a great race to round out my spring marathon season. Last Saturday, I ran the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, KS - you know, the Land of Oz! I heard about this race from my friend Jeff, and in my quest for 50 states, this sounded like an excellent option to cross off the Sunflower State.

I managed to talk a couple of girlfriends into joining me in Oz, and got lucky to also connect with a couple of other girlfriends who live in the area. Girls' weekend!! Friday morning, I got the kids off to school, then headed over to Sarah's house to pick her up and head north.

Best thing about going to races that are within driving distance: no bag limit for travel!!

The drive from NW Arkansas to Kansas City is easy. Unfortunately for me - and even more so for Becca - my navigational abilities are suspect even when aided by Google Maps. After a couple of wrong turns I managed to get to KC International, and we were off to packet pick up. Notice I didn't say expo - this was accurately billed as, "packet pick up." I do love small races, but the trade off is the lack of a big expo hall filled with vendors selling things I didn't realize I desperately needed until right.that.very.minute. (My budget thanks you, Garmin Marathon.)

Check out the flags. I think this was in between gusts.
The packet pick up and a couple of local vendors were set up in the parking lot of Garmin International's headquarters. Cool. Kansas wind: not cool. It was blowing like we were on the open plains, and while I expected some wind, this was disconcerting at the least. Good thing my stated race strategy was: wake up on race morning and let the weather be the primary dictator of my strategy. Reduces the chance for disappointment.

Got our packets, went inside to check out a cool digital fly-through of the race course, took a couple of pictures, then off to the hotel. Check in, get settled, then head out for an early dinner with Anne.

Everywhere you go, there you are - especially if you went to West Point and have friends and classmates scattered all over the U.S. Olathe is only about 45 minutes from Ft. Leavenworth, and after 15 years, I got to see my super-stud classmate Anne who helped me with a training plan for my half iron triathlon last summer. Her husband was running the half, so it worked out perfectly to have a pre-race dinner / reunion that afternoon. (For the record: she has two of the world's best behaved kids in the history of the universe ever. Seriously. They were so good while the grown ups sat and talked for two hours.)

Race morning: I was mentally ready for wind, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what to wear for the temperature. Base layer plus long sleeves? Base layer plus jacket? Just long sleeves? Tights were a non-decision, despite Sarah's crazy shorts. I mean, it was 37 degrees outside. She crazy. I opted for base layer and jacket, which meant race belt instead of pins for my number.

My official marathon race-day socks
We all got in the car, drove the five minutes to Garmin and parked 100 feet from the start line (did I mention that I love small races?!). I got out of the car and promptly decided I was overdressed. Good thing I brought three other clothing options in case I changed my mind. Jacket off, long sleeve on, race belt off, safety pins on. Ready to go.

Let's go, Twinkle Toes!
Sarah and me. Note the shorts. Cuh-razy.
Me and Becca. Finally - a race where I'm not wearing a blue shirt!!
After the events of last Monday in Boston, the feeling among the runners was different than any race I'd run before. Many of us pinned the extra sentiment with our number, and I saw more BAA blue and gold than I've ever seen at a race before. It was a lovely symbol of the running community, and how we're all interwoven. I don't have to know you - to know you're a runner is to know you're my friend.

So that's an awful lot of prelude to the race itself, which was terrific. Let me once again extol the virtues of a small race. I got out of my car about ten minutes before gun time, stepped almost to the front of the runners with the 3:30 pace group, and had no trouble finding room in the starting line crowd. Plenty of full and half marathoners, many in Oz costume which made it that much more fun!

There was a moment of silence to honor the victims in Boston, the singing of the national anthem, and we were off. True story, off I went: faster than my hoped-for average pace as is typically my strategy, but good grief - until close to mile 2, I didn't pay attention to exactly how too-fast I was running. I felt good, though, the weather was PERFECT, and I decided just to see how long the feeling would last. When I heard a spectator somewhere between miles 5 and 6 say, "there's the second female runner" as I sped by, that was a thrill of a lifetime. I knew it probably wasn't sustainable, but I was at a sub-8:00 pace and feeling terrific.

I failed to remember that the first many miles are net downhill. Doh.

So then the hills began. For those of you who think Kansas = flat, let me help you. Western Kansas is just that. Eastern Kansas, where we were, is on the bluffs of the river and rivals northwest Arkansas for rolling elevation changes. I felt okay through the half marathon point, but between the excessively fast pace and the lack of hill training the last six weeks, I knew the back half could get ugly.

Right again.

I managed to hold it together until about 16, but as more and more people passed me, and my pace dropped off as my calves and hamstrings tightened, I knew I wouldn't be able to hold on to a 3:30 dream. Just as well; even my computer password at work has reminded me for the last two months that I was running this race for the bling. The last several miles of the marathon wound along the running trail in Olathe, which was exactly like the running trail at home. That was mentally a huge help, because at this point I was walking through the water stations and trying not to shuffle across the wee little uphills on the trail's bridges.

Another lesson learned at Oz: having friends running the half while you're running the full means a guaranteed finish line cheering section. Sarah and Becca were right there cheering me on as I came to the finish line, and I managed to finish in 3:44:42.

I think you had to be there...

I kind of have to pinch myself - three sub-4:00 marathons in four months. A year ago, I barely broke five hours. What a year it's been.

With some fellow Maniacs - running for fun!

She's a maniac, maniaaaaac...

I had to get a little help at the finish line to return my chip; while I was sitting I chatted with a young lady who had just finished her first marathon. In 3:29. Wowzers. I asked her old she was and she said 29 - to which I immediately responded that I was pretty sure she had just run a Boston qualifying time. The look on her face was exactly why I run - super excited for her.

Can I get - some help - with my chip - please!
Lots of fun at the finish line - the small "expo" was forgotten thanks to the excellent food, drinks, and massage tent at the finish line. I got my finisher's shirt; a free massage; two bowls of incredible mac & cheese; a grilled chicken sandwich; and a Belgian White celebratory beer. My space blanket finally wasn't enough to keep me warm, so we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and shower.

Girls' weekend continued with Heather picking us all up - no more directional challenges behind the wheel! - and we headed out for dinner. Our plan to go to Jack Stacks on the Plaza was foiled by excessive traffic in the highway, so we did what any self-respecting post-race celebrators would do. We opted for Five Guys cheeseburgers and fries!!!

If you're going to go all in, running marathons and eating cheeseburgers, then you really should go ALL IN - so we headed to Cheesecake Factory after dinner. (This dessert will be filed under "Why I Run.")

Party animals though we may be, that was about all we could handle. I think we all slept like the dead that night. Got up Sunday morning to load up the car, and whaddya know, the Kansas wind was back. Looks like my streak of crazy-windy races is over; after wind and rain in Houston, and a persistent headwind in Mississippi, I got a break in - of all places - Kansas. There's no place like home, there's no place like home...

All in all, an excellent weekend. Great times with Sarah, Becca, Anne and Heather, and so much fun running another 26.2. This was marathon #6 and state #6, but the last one until the Fall unless something totally unexpected happens. I'm glad I ran this one for the bling - because, as bling goes, this one is pretty sweet.


  1. I think this was the perfect race to be your 3rd marathon in under 4hrs in less then a year! HOLY CRAP!!!!!! YOU DID THAT!! and here you are with friends, a girls weekend, cute socks, and cheesecake. PERFECT celebration :) I am so proud of you!!! :) and Becca too :)

  2. amazing job, and amazing story!!!! Hope to be there with you on #4 this fall, where we going?!!!

  3. Thanks for your story, honey. See you on Friday. Drive carefully!

  4. Great job! The bling is pretty cool looking :)