Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gobbler Grind Marathon (Kansas)

November 20, 2011
Marathon 43, State #37 (Age 43)
Kansas City, Kansas

So now that Kansas is history, here’s my run down of my adventures. When planning my fall marathon and finally choosing Nebraska, before making the decision I had also considered a couple other races including a small marathon outside Kansas City called the Gobbler Grind Marathon. After finishing Omaha Marathon the end of September I had the itching to run another marathon before the end of the year. I remembered my research into Kansas and that both airfare was reasonable and there was an extra incentive that the first 1,000 marathon entrants also receive a free pair of New Balance 860’s.  The planets were aligning for a 3rd mid west marathon to be completed in the month of November!

2011 was an interesting year in that I was able to run 3 marathons, when since 2006 my race frequency had fallen off, 2 in 06’, 0 in 07’, 1 in 08’, 1 in 09’, 1 in 10’. Mostly to blame wasn’t the matter of not being in shape, it was the distance I needed to travel and expenses related to the travels combined with a weak economy. I was blessed in 2011 with good sales allowed me to set my sights on a few more races that I had been able to fund than in years past.

Not that 4:06 was a bad time in St. Louis this spring, but the day before the marathon I fell ill and race day was bloody hot, so my time I don’t feel adequately represented my current condition. I was pleased 5 months later to take a whopping 16 minutes off my time in the spring and log my fastest marathon since 2004! Not that I train any more or less for any marathon, it seems like I’m always in a constant “good” shape. I supposed the weekly bike rides in the canyons every weekend help a lot with that! It’s the one part of the weekend I look forward to more than about anything besides spending time with Parisa. I would say I had some longer bike rides before Nebraska’s marathon in September which always help and I actually had several long training runs. Interesting, tho a long training run for me is between 1.5 hours and 2.0 hours and all of these runs were late night after I put Parisa to bed, none really on the weekends when I would typically do a long run.

In preparing for Kansas, it was a goal to help keep me in shape, not to go for a PR. With most marathons these days I have a different mental perspective in that I’m not really trying to run fast, I’m just trying to log another state into my marathon history. Of course it’s much more than that, it’s still the adventure of traveling to new places, seeing new things, and meeting new people. A little less motivating is that the last several marathons have been solo experiences in that my family didn’t travel with me nor did any good friends meet me for the weekend to run together. Finishing a race sometimes is a little less climatic when there is no one at the finish line to give you a high five! Back to training, since Nebraska, I really had no long runs or no long rides, so I didn’t know what to expect come race day here in Kansas.

So entry via Active done, plane tickets purchased, hotel reserved, and my next marathon was on the schedule. A week later Homeyra gets invited to a honoree opportunity in Washington DC which would take her out of town on business the Wednesday through Friday of the Friday I had already booked my flight. Now for the dilemma, what are we going to do with Parisa with both parents flying in opposite directions over the continent? Fortunately I had a late flight and could drop her off at school and Homeyra would be back on the ground later that night, so we asked a good friend to pick her up at school, ironically their son plays soccer on Friday nights in the same league, and then took her back to their house for the night. Much more stressful for a mom than a dad!

A few weeks before the race, I get my coupon in the mail that I was one of the first 1,000 marathon entrees so would have a pair of running shoes with my name on it I would have to pick up on Saturday before the race. I was a bit surprised that registering a not much than a month before the race I could be in the top 1,000, so this is when I figured out this must be a pretty small race. No problem, two of the smallest races I’d ran up to this point were amoug my favorite ones. (North Carolina, Michigan)

So Friday drop Parisa off at school and meet a group of 3 for a Friday morning run in my neighborhood along some scenic horse trails that I’ve never discovered before. I think we ran 6 miles which now was my 2nd longest run in my marathon preparation, only 2 days before the marathon! I shared this with one of the 3 runners who doesn’t believe in my “undertraining” philosophy and she thought I was joking. I wasn’t joking. So headed home, cleaned up and headed to the airport.

Direct flight into Kansas City, Missouri. I panicked for a moment when I originally hit “submit” because I made my airline reservation for Missouri when I had just run in St. Louis a few months ago and thought I booked the wrong airport, but a few short miles away is the border of Kansas where the race was being held. Relief, my tickets are actually for the right destination. I have a marathongeek couple that Kansas City is their home town, they recommended a place I check out for BBQ while in the city. I like to see how many sites I can fit in the day before the race, so this Saturday was no different.

First stop in the morning was the kick ass breakfast spread at the Drury Inn followed by a soak in the hot tub! I’m interested in buying a new car, but haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to get. Top contenders are the new SHO, which would make SHO #4 for me, but also Subaru is very interesting to me, I like 3 different models depending on what kind of car I’m going for: Legacy, WRX, or Outback.  The thing is that dealers inventory is limited, so nobody has WRX’s so they are not dealing at the dealerships, as a matter of fact they are selling for over MSRP. Everyone hangs onto their Subaru’s so there is absolutely no inventory of used ones. I heard a radio advertisement Friday night that a local dealership in Kansas was selling Subaru’s $500 over dealer invoice. Cool, I’ll go check them out. Ends up they didn’t have any WRX on the lot either. I even checked out Subaru’s in Iowa across the border from Nebraska, and they didn’t have any WRX’s either. I thought if the savings were good enough I could buy and either drive or transport the car back to LA for less that it would cost to buy new in LA. No luck. No Deal.

2nd stop was to visit Best Buy, had to pick up a new gadget, needed a usb car charger for my phone. With my need for GPS I didn’t think my battery would make it through the day. I almost ran out of juice on Friday night for my 40 mile commute from the airport in Missouri to my hotel in Kansas. The expo didn’t open till noon, so next stop was the running store to pick up my shoes. I had reserved via phone a pair of 10.5’s, get there and of course no one knew what I was taking about. She offered to fit me and I measured 10.5, but the 11 that they had in stock actually fit me very well, so instead of waking away empty handed I took the 11. Also asked for advice on BBQ and confirmed my marathongeeks friend’s recommendation was the best place to go!

Now off to the expo. I knew I would be early, but wanted to finish all my necessary things in the morning out in the suburbs before venturing downtown for more site seeing. I go to the race host hotel, and the expo wasn’t ready to open, so went the hotel bar to watch some football and make a few phone calls. Expo opens and this was my first clue this was going to be a small race. No booths, nothing for sale, only packet pickup. There were 3 races, 5k, ½ marathon, and full marathon. Each race had their own box of numbers, my box only had 260 entries.  I guess I'll be in the top 1000 and therefore get my free pair of New Balance shoes!   All races got the same shirt, but was chipped, so verified my race number, asked for directions to the start line and headed out to find where I would have to go in the morning. I found the two port-o-potty’s (not johns) and new this must be the spot and mapped out how to get here from my hotel in the morning.

My stomach was now growling so time to feed it. Gotta love the Android Google Map feature, how did we live without out this technology? Plugged in the address of Oklahoma Joe’s and wasn’t a single parking spot in the parking lot, line out the door, I think we have a winner. Waited for the long line which moved pretty quickly, very efficient operation, and food was out of this world. Loved the Men’s Health article on the wall, “13 places you must eat before you die”. Of course Oklahoma Joe’s was on the list! The cashier liked my Ironman cap and told me about some cool headphones for running called YurBuds (branded with the IM logo) which simply don’t fall out. Great concept! I bought a pair of headphones at the St. Louis marathon expo with this supposed feature, but they fell out like all the others.

So what seemed interesting to explore in Kansas City area were about 5 things. First was a stop by the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art which caught my attention on the way heading to the highway on my way to the city. Next was a shopping area called the Country Club Plaza which features 180 stores in a 14 block area, a one-of-a-kind shopping destination modeled after Seville, Spain with Spanish tile, piazzas, and terra cotta rooftops. Interesting (girls would have spent hours here), but quickly bored so heading onto the next stop.

The museums of the Minor League Negro Baseball and a separate, but attached, Jazz Museum. Kinda cool, but again quickly bored and headed on to Union Station. I remember Union Station in St. Louis, which was converted to shopping was very cool, but the one in Kansas City is still operation plus been converted for retail. Beautiful architecture, they were gearing up for Christmas tree lighting at 5pm, but didn’t stick around. Really cool building, worth checking out if you ever visit!

Up till 5pm it was absolutely gorgeous 70 degrees and sunny, but this would quickly take a turn. Next drove through downtown just to see the the city, then back to the suburbs for dinner at an Italian place I saw close to where I picked up my shoes! Best Buy was also close, so stopped backed for 2nd visit to see if they had the famous YurBuds head phones, and sure enough they did. Tried them on, great fit, great sound, no buyer’s remorse for shelling out $50 on them! Since I sat down for dinner and an hour passed the temperature dropped 40 degrees. What was perfect shorts weather all day had now radically changed, with the wind chill was now perfect coat, hat and gloves weather.

Back to the hotel and another visit to the hot tub, this time a few girls there who were also running the marathon, small talk and back to the room for shut eye. Laid out all my layers of clothes I would have to put on in the morning. Race morning came and checked the weather, my phone said 29 degrees actual and with wind “feels like temperature” 14. This is coming from a guy that hasn’t run for quite some time when it was less than 50 degrees! I think I did have one night where it might have dipped into the high 40’s and I froze my ass off! If it wasn’t for living in Ohio and all those freezing runs I remember because I’m too stubborn to run on a tread mill, I would have stayed in my car and never got out!  Thanks for the Subaru heated seats, I was nice and cozy waiting for about 5 minutes before the gun to get out of my vehicle.

I was able to sneak into the woods to do a little business and back to the start line just in time for the national anthem. I heard the announcement that there were a total of 2,600 runners for all three races. The course was an interesting design in that all three races started together. One 3 mile loop later the 5k runners pealed off and left only the ½ marathon and marathon runners. The route turned to a trail system that was spectacular, no traffic, no car fumes, just flat trails along the river most of the way. There were a couple switchbacks to go over bridges, but that was about the extent of the hills. The ½ marathon was an out an back so great to see how many runners ahead or behind. We circled back to the start once again and this time the ½ marathoners peeled off and only left the hard core 260 26.2 mile runners.

At this point there was another short out and back and I counted about 50 runners doing the marathon ahead of me. Not bad for an old guy! The crowds were light, but there were still quite a few runners doing a similar pace so we jockeyed back and forth, passed a few, was passed by a few. We circled back to the original out and back that the ½ marathoners were on so instead of it being a completely lonely course there was always someone passing by. Very few crowds supporting the runners in the woods, but 1 sign did catch my eye. “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon” If you don’t know about Chuck Norris jokes, google it, they are really funny!

The race went off without any hitches. I started with 3 layers, pealed one off after 3 miles and never had to put it back on. Had gloves, took them off, put them back on, and finished with them off.< Although colder than what I’m used to, nearly perfect weather for running! I looked at my watch about mile 20 and was looking like if I maintained my pace I could actually finish better than my September marathon. I didn’t slow down and in hind site after looking at my splits, my 2nd half was much stronger in Kansas than Nebraska with less training. Can’t quite figure that out. Since the last loop ended up retracing the first loop at I knew what to expect the last 3 miles. I steadied on and had high hopes of doing my patented move of a summersault at the finish line, but there were only a handful of people there so I didn’t even bother.

The finish was anticlimactic, yeah, another state, no pain, head to the car, back to the hotel, jump in the hot tub, pack and head for the airport with a brief stop at Chipotle for lunch! The new headphones worked out, stayed in my ears, sounded great! Now on to 2012 for next two marathon adventures!