Monday, May 1, 2017

Great Event, Lousy Day for State #40-- Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon Race Report

This was my second marathon of 2017, and I don't think I ever had any hopes of it being a good one. I hadn't run more than 10 miles at a time since the marathon in Mobile in January, partly due to that massive ankle sprain that happened in February (and cost me a month of training) and partly because it was winter and gross and I didn't feel like running. Also, I'm at least 10 pounds heavier than I should be. This makes a huge difference in comfort when running, trust me. Finally, I had bought a pair of Altras about a month ago just to try them. They are very comfortable when running, due to their incredibly wide toe box and incredibly generous cushioning, but after every run in them, my heel hurts again. Meanwhile, when I ran in my regular Brooks, they hurt while running (because my toes felt all cramped in them) but my heel didn't hurt afterwards. So I didn't decide until the day before the race which shoes I would wear. I settled on the Brooks, because I ran an easy five miles two days before the race in the Altras and afterwards my heel felt as bad as it had at the worst of my plantar fasciitis, so bad that it was very painful to walk through the airport the next day. 

As if all that wasn't bad enough, the weather was also dismal. I flew into Oklahoma City on Saturday through violent skies, with giant black thunderheads, scary lightning, and wind that slammed the plane up and down and side to side while we were coming in for landing. We had already added 45 minutes to the 2-hour flight because the plane had to go far to the west and circle back to get around the worst of the storms. Nevertheless, it was all supposed to clear out for race day although the cold temperatures were predicted to remain. (By "cold," I mean mid-40's, which some runners -- not me -- would call "ideal.") Saturday, though, was a total wash. It poured most of the day. It was absolutely not a day to make anyone feel like getting out and exploring the city. 

People in Oklahoma are friendly, and I mean really, really, aggressively, in-your-face friendly. I remember that from the one other time I was in Oklahoma City. I did a home training there more than ten years ago. Everywhere I went with the guy, it was like I had a dozen new best friends there immediately. At the time I thought it was charming; now, older and crankier, I mostly think it's annoying. For example: the woman at the rental car counter greeted me with an enthusiastic, "Welcome to Oklahoma! What brings y'all here?" When I told her the marathon, she said to her coworker, "Oh my gosh, Becky, did you hear that? She's running the marathon! Wow! Is this your first?" I responded, "No." She asked how many, and I reluctantly told her it was my 49th. A very long discussion ensued during which she made sure every single person renting a car knew how amazing that was. Meanwhile, I was like, give me my car so I can go to my motel and SLEEP!

Finding parking for the expo was a pain. I drove around and around downtown in the rain but literally could not find anywhere to park where I wouldn't get soaked walking to the expo. Finally I parked six blocks away and walked -- or more accurately limped on my very painful right foot -- through the rain and through the gigantic puddles at every intersection. I was very annoyed about the parking situation. I know Oklahoma City is a big city, but, at the risk of sounding like a coastal snob, I believe that every city in flyover country should have plenty of free, available parking everywhere, downtown included. 

The expo was huge. I hadn't really realized quite how big this race was. Over 25,000 runners between the marathon, the half, the 5K, and the kids' run. It was one of the biggest expos I've been at in a while, but a lot of the vendors had nothing to do with running, and there weren't a lot of free food samples, so it wasn't a very exciting expo either. I was feeling pretty blah about the day and the whole event until I checked out some of the displays on the history and meaning of the race. It was established to commemorate the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building back in 1995, which I had sort of forgotten about. I definitely didn't remember how many people had been killed -- 168! I would've guessed 20-something -- and I had no idea how much damage had been caused to the building. There were plenty of pictures, videos, and other things on display from that day that reminded me what a massive tragedy it really was. There are still a lot of first responders and friends and family members of the victims who run in one of the races. When I saw all that stuff I felt a little bad about being so cranky about the weather and the race.

After the expo, I went straight to my motel and slept for several hours while the storm went on outside. There were several races in surrounding states that were cancelled on Saturday, and I'm sure this one would have been too if it was planned for Saturday instead of Sunday based on the amount of damage I saw driving around later. There was one street where a whole row of power poles were done, some snapped in two or three pieces, and several places with giant trees blown down. Stop lights were out all over the city. It was a big mess. Even when the storm passed, the wind was blowing like nothing I've ever experienced. Let me tell you, it takes some pretty violent weather to make Michigan weather look tame, but Oklahoma had that weather this weekend!

Race morning it was raining and still very windy. I went back and forth -- tights or shorts? It was 45 degrees out, but felt much colder with the wind. I went with shorts. This race had a 6:30 start, which is early for marathons. I totally could've used another hour in bed, but at the same time, I was happy about the early start. Just like teaching class -- you can't finish it and be done with it until you start it, so you might as well start it sooner. 

I had made a point to find the closest McDonalds for my race breakfast, and check to make sure it was open 24 hours, but when I got there it was completely dark. I found another one and drove to it. It was also all dark, with a handwritten sign saying "Closed for weather." I was forced to settle for a Circle K ham and egg sandwich and coffee, and now I was a little late, too. Fortunately it was much easier to find parking in the morning than it had been for the expo. Unfortunately, as soon as I got out of the car I knew shorts was the wrong choice. I should've had tights, and also a buff and a hat. The wind was so strong it was hard to hear anything else. 

I sat wrapped up in my blanket right next to the gear check tent until the last possible moment, wondering how all those volunteers in gear check could possibly be so cheerful. I couldn't have felt less cheerful. I so did not want to be running a marathon in these conditions! Or in any conditions really, with my sore foot and my ten extra pounds of fat. Nevertheless. I wanted that medal and I wanted to check Oklahoma off my list, so I was at the start line at 6:30, even though surrendering my blanket to gear check was very difficult, and I was instantly freezing. 

This race is known for both hills and iffy weather. Rain and wind have both been factors about half the time in this race's 17-year history. I did not mind the hills at all, but the wind was a different story. If there is one weather condition that is more depressing to run in than any other, it's wind! I would rather have rain, heat, snow, even extreme cold. There is just something about wind that has always sucked every bit of motivation out of me, and now I was facing 26.2 miles of it. The hills, on the other hand, I didn't mind at all. I like races with a lot of up and down. They keep me from getting bored. I was hoping that the challenge of the hills would keep me going.

The race started downtown, right next to the memorial and museum. We had a couple miles of downtown and then started heading toward the capitol. My legs were dead. I felt like I had already run a marathon on them. At least my foot didn't hurt, though. I told myself that I would warm up and feel better, and that the wind couldn't be head wind all the way.

We ran up to and past the capitol building around Mile 3. That was the coolest part of the race in my opinion. You could see the building up on a hill in the sunrise, silhouetted against the sky. There is an oil rig in the middle of the road on the way up to it. I think I read somewhere that Oklahoma is the only state that has an oil rig on capitol property. That whole thing was cool, but then it was done. 

I don't really remember that much about most of the rest of the race. There were some really nice neighborhoods with amazing numbers of spectators out there freezing their asses off but somehow still managing to cheer with enthusiasm. There was more crowd support than any other big race I've been in lately. I think it may be because residents of this city really care about the cause. It's personal to them, therefore they don't mind being out there in the cold cheering. Good for them! It's just too bad that I was still so cranky that nothing could cheer me up. Not first responders, not family members of victims, not adorable little kids with their hands stretched out hopefully for high fives, not hot men in uniform manning water stops. This was just not going to be a good day for me, and there was nothing to do but grit my teeth and gut it out. 

Mile 15 was where it really got bad. Several miles of the course runs along the shoreline of Lake Hefner. This is a very pretty part of the course I'm sure, but it turned us directly into the wind. Wind blasted across the lake and into our faces. Worse, I knew how far we had to run in this general direction. There were giant whitecaps on the lake, making it look more like the ocean than like a freshwater inland lake. That was one of the most depressing stretches of any race ever. And still, STILL, there were happy, cheering Oklahomans, even some out on boats, getting slammed up and down but still cheering for runners! How could that be? I would never, not for any reason, be out in this weather if I didn't have a very good reason, and cheering for runners would not be a good enough reason. 

Nothing really exciting happened the rest of the race. Oh, except that it started to rain, despite the weatherman's optimism that the rain would have cleared out. The sun was shining, but it was still raining. It rained most of the last ten miles, never hard, just enough to soak my clothes and make me colder. There seemed to be a lot more uphill than downhill in the last ten miles, though my perception was not to be trusted by that point. I walked when I felt like it, ran when I had a little extra energy. I knew I wasn't going to break four hours, and when I know that, I sort of give up. Also, my foot started hurting around Mile 18 or 19. Not like a real injury, just like I'm tired and I'm sore and it would've been nice if you'd trained properly -- or at all -- for this race. My calves also started to cramp going up hills, something that never happens to me in races, but, again, I never go almost four months without running more than ten miles at a time, either, so I pretty much deserved this. 

I finished in 4:14:43, one of my worst times and definitely one of my worst race experiences. The finish line had decent food -- Carl's Jr cheeseburgers among other things! Because I hadn't run fast, I didn't feel nauseous, and immediately inhaled a burger and two chocolate milks before I realized I was in danger of hypothermia if I didn't get warm quick. I picked up my bag from gear check and walked to the YMCA, where they were letting us shower for free. I was the only one in the YMCA, and even though the water in the shower was barely a trickle, it was deliciously hot. I stood there in the scalding trickle for half an hour and discovered something even better when I came out -- a sauna! I sat in there for even longer, roasting comfortably. I love heat. I love it so much I swear that I will never, ever complain about heat again. 

When I was done showering, I put my bag back in the car and then had to make a decision. My race bib got me free entry into the memorial museum, which was only two blocks away, but that would require me to go out into the terrible cold wind for two blocks and hobble to the museum on my sore foot. What to do? Finally I sucked it up and went to the museum, and I am so, so glad that I did. Anyone who is anywhere near Oklahoma City should not miss this museum. It has some horrifying stuff in it, but is also very tastefully done, and overall is one of the best museums I have ever seen in my life.

State #40 is done, and even though it was a terribly unpleasant experience due to weather and my own lack of training, I can't say anything bad about the race itself. It's a great course, a great experience, and a solid choice for Oklahoma for 50 staters. Now I can just hope that this counts as a training run for my next marathon, in Fargo on May 20, and that that one is not as painful as this one was. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, nice job toughing this one out. I HATE cold, hate being cold, hate running in the cold (why do I live in Michigan?)... I probably would have worn two layers of tights and not shorts!