Sunday, September 25, 2011

Omaha Marathon (Nebraska)

September 25, 2011
Marathon 42, State #36 (Age 43)
Omaha, Nebraska

Another weekend marathon planned as a solo journey. As the norm, fly out Friday a.m. and return late Sunday night, flying home the same day as the marathon. I’ve dialed in to the optimum way to get in and out of LAX, key being, pack light and take the bike. This helps beat rush hour Friday morning and offers free parking at the airport terminal without messing with long term parking and unnecessary parking shuttles.

No direct flights to Omaha, so this trip was via Dallas. With a two hour layover a final arrival around 5pm. I usually don’t spend any more than I have to for a decent, but non luxurious hotel, but this trip I enlistedmy friend Brian Schott as my travel planner. He now dating a travel agent, so somehow finagled a way to get 2 free nights at the Hilton downtown. Ends up there couldn’t have been a better choice.

The Hilton was connected to the Quest Center which marathon weekend was the regional finals for the Rodeo circuit. After a small traffic jam, the airport only a few miles away I made it to the hotel in a few minutes, checked in, and headed out to explore “the Central Market District”, a fantastic strip of unique shops and restaurants.

The “?” Brewery was recommended so I made it my stop for dinner. Sat at the bar, had a home brewed frosty beverage and dinner. A 71 year old man comes up to the bar for a shot of Jack Daniels, so I shared with him my marathon adventure in Kentucky when I toured the factory! Walked back to the hotel and discovered they have a hot tub so had to dive in. Was flattered when two girls, in town for the Rodeo, I met on the way to the elevator, and one claimed a friend of hers has a fetish for guys in a towel and asked if she could take my picture. I obliged.

Traveling east is always tough because race morning will always come early. Saturday morning I slept in till 9:30 and took my time getting out of the room only to find the race expo was much closer than I expected, I could have walked, but drove, found front row parking, in and out of the expo in a jiffy. Race bibs had cool timers build in, so the timer on your shoes seems like a thing of the past. Next some food, so back to “the Market Street” crazy finding parking, but stumbled upon a bakery with a fresh home cooked dish. Yumm! On my way to lunch I chatty homeless guy struck up conversation with me and talked me into seeing the Rodeo.

After lunch I wandered through a few of the shops and then drove around town a bit. Heard an advertisement that a Subaru car dealer was selling hail damaged cars at a discount, so thought I would check them out to see how bad the hail was plus perhaps race around in aWRX, however, no luck, none in stock. Back to the hotel and go through marathon packet. Found Qdoba free coupon, so had to make that my pre-race dinner. Quick stop for my breakfast of champions: Banana, Yogert, OJ and a sports drink to pre-race hydrate and a Red Bull for post race. Back to the hotel again, and commit to get a ticket to the Rodeo.

So maybe I was to a Rodeo once when I was a young child, but I don’t remember. This marked my first Rodeo as an adult. Was kind of interesting, so many different types of events. First the bucking bronco, then roping a little calf, bull riding, more bucking broncos, children holding onto sheep for dear life and being dragged across the arena, two person roping, and then lastly women speed obstacle course on the horse. All very entertaining. Following the Rodeo was a free concert by Tracy Lawrence, but too late for this guy so back to the room.

So for picking a great hotel, never slept so good, great bed, pillows, temperature and even nearly across the street from the start line. Morning routine complete and off to the start where I ran into a girl who was running her first half marathon. She traveled the whole state of Nebraska, 450 miles I think, and she had no support crew. Ends up I was touched when she showed me 13 names she wrote on her arm to represent the people in her life she would dedicate each mile of the race. By the time she explained all 13 I could see a tear in her eyes.

So race gets close to start, check in gear bag with warm cloths and lineup. The start was simultaneous for the 10k, 13.1, and 26.2. Thought that would be a little crazy, but it wasn’t. There were a couple wheel chairs and they didn’t even get an early start. I started up front and probably started faster than I would have in the rear, and seemed to maintain a consistent pace throughout the marathon. At mile 2 the 3:15 pace group passed me, mile 4 the 3:30 group passed me, the course winded back to the start and lost the 10k runners as they headed to the finish. About 7 miles is where I saw the first set of runners on there way back for the 13.1 mile course and they were flying, about 4 guys, all seemed like college track athletes.

About mile 8, a hill that wasn’t very steep but seemed not to stop for about a mile or more, other than this hill the course was pretty mild, then head back to the start again where the 13.1 faded off, now the runners really thinned out. At 13 miles were the last people to pass me the rest of the race, excluding 2 guys that were hauling ass about mile 24. Usually about mile 16-19 is where the pain starts to kick in, but I was feeling no pain, perhaps because I was distracted by a mountain biker that rode with me for at least the next 4 miles. My pace still was consistent and then only walks I took were short ones at all the water stops.

I had some energy and decided to kick it in the last mile, plus it was slightly downhill, so the course seemed to encourage me to take advantage of it! I finished and was awarded a finishing metal, this one not actually made of metal, but stained glass, each one hand made and complete unique in color from each other one. Very cool! I didn’t hurt at all the entire race, but when I stopped running it seemed to catch up with me, that was until I strolled back across the road to the Hilton for a hot shower and hot tub. Whoola!

The day didn’t end there, only began. My friend Roger Rude sent me a message that there is an App to download that gives directions to the restaurants from various food channels. I had already planned on grabbing a famous Omaha steak, but I learned I should have had one Friday night because all the steak houses are either closed on Sunday or don’t open until dinner. Plan b was to use the App to find another out of the way place to go. Big Mama’s sounded like it would fit the ticket, I followed the GPS until it told me I was there but still could not locate. Ends up asked two locals and they pointed on top of the hill, so headed up the hill to find a guy from Texas that had heard about the place, was traveling, like me, and gave it two thumbs up. The special of the day was “Duane’s Mo Better Chicken.” How could you say no to that. So lunch was this delicious chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried okra, cabbage, and corn bread, sorry no room for desert. Interesting restaurant, seemed like and old school cafeteria that was converted to a restaurant.

I headed back to the “Market” for my 3rd time, this time to pick up something for Homeyra and couldn’t say no to some Maggie Moo’s. This is where Parisa returns my call and I get to catch up with my two darlings back home! Now to find a few sites to visit before heading back to the airport, snap some pics, and fly home.

Uploaded my pics off my cell phone to Facebook and boarded, ended up sitting next to a young guy, 17, Titus, whose parents relocated from Nebraska to Texas, his girlfriend and 13 friends saved up money and flew him home for homecoming, how cool was that! Ended up talking the whole way home, he’s a cross country and track star, and has a whole life ahead of him, and a pretty short term goal.

Now on the flight home from Dallas to LAX and ready just to be in my bed and see my girls.