Sorry it has taken so long to get this together…it has been almost two weeks since I ran the Williams Route 66 Marathon (and Centre of the Universe 0.3 mi detour!), and it is well past time to get thoughts down. But with being on the road and enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with family, well, I guess I had as good an excuse as any to delay my post.
First of all, this was a HARD course. It was almost constant rolling hills, and for someone who trains on flat, flat terrain, it was a battle from the start. It didn’t help that my hamstrings were aching in the first mile, then started screaming (with my back joining in the chorus) about mile 15. I was in pain this race, I won’t lie. But unlike the Marine Corps Marathon, I never hit the wall energy wise, thanks to a revised fueling strategy. So I only had to deal with soreness and major discomfort instead of adding in a zero-energy factor as well. And in spite of the additional challenges of extreme cold, a hilly course and the extra 0.3 mi, I was able to PR on this race by more than 16 min! Which made back-to-back race PR’s on back-to-back weekends (thank you, Richmond!).
The expo was big and the lines were long. I went to pick up my race packet the day before the race, and had a good time walking around the booths. Lucky for my husband, I wasn’t in a shopping mood, so once I got my packet, jacket (way cool, by the way!), met up with my friend Deanna and took a couple pictures with the one and only Bart Yasso (again!), I headed into the freezing cold towards my hotel, ready to relax, set up my ‘Flat Robyn’ and get a good night’s sleep.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Tulsa City Centre, which thankfully was the closest hotel to the start line. This played an important part in my race morning game plan, as it meant I could stay in the warm hotel lobby for as long as possible, conserving valuable energy, rather than stand in the sub-freezing temperatures (it was 28-degrees at start time) waiting for the gun to go off. With about 25 min until the start of the race, I donned my final layers of clothes including a warm, fuzzy bathrobe that my friend Gina bought for me to have at the start (thank you Gina! You saved me that morning!), and I walked the 1 1/2 blocks to the start area.
There were four corrals of runners, with both half and full marathoners starting at the same time. I was in corral B, which made me feel quite speedy! As runners were lining up, I was wrapped tightly in my bathrobe, thanking Gina for this gift of warmth. While others shivered in trash bags that only came to hip or thigh level, my robe went all the way down to my shoes, keeping my shorts-clad legs super warm. Seriously, a bathrobe is the way to go on a cold day! And since the clothes that the runners would ‘throw away’ along the course would later be picked up and donated to homeless shelters, it gave me great pleasure to envision someone getting a brand new Oscar de la Renta fuzzy bathrobe as a new piece of their wardrobe. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did!
While we were finding our corrals, a traditional Native American blessing was being done at the start to bless the course. I forgot how much Native American heritage and tradition there is in Oklahoma, and when I found this out yesterday, I was really happy and touched by the effort of the race organizers to incorporate the local traditions into this very large sporting event in the Tulsa area. They posted a video on their social media, which you can watch here.
One of the nicest things about this race was how they celebrated everyone’s involvement. It was a race made for the runners to enjoy and to feel special. The first evidence of this on race day was how each corral started: the gun went off for corral A, the fastest runners, complete with the confetti streaming down as people crossed the start line. After the last runner in that corral headed onto the course, the next corral started a five-minute count down until they would be released. When the final seconds of the countdown were upon corral B, we also had the experience of the gun start and the confetti flying as we began our journey on Route 66. They continued to do this with each corral to give everyone the pageantry and fun of the race start.
As I mentioned before, my hamstrings made their presence known in the first mile. Clearly it was going to be something I just had to deal with throughout the day. I got in my zone and had some really nice, fast miles through the first 15 miles, hovering right around an average of 9:15 a mile during that distance. Of course, I couldn’t feel two toes on my left foot for the first 10 miles, and my hands were frozen through about mile eight, but hey! I was rocking that race in spite of the cold temps and rolling hills. At one point around mile five I noticed something on the grass of the neighborhood I was running through – frost. The whole place had frost on the ground. I was definitely shaking my head at this.
Let’s talk about crowd support. While not the most supported route I’ve been on, I do have to give many props to those who braved freezing temps and cheered us on! And there were many who did this. Several neighborhoods even got into the act and had a jello shot station (more than 2000 jello shots, according to a sign they had there!) and a DJ (about Mile 10 on Cincinnati). Shortly before that, another private aide station was giving out shots of Fireball, which if I was doing the half marathon, I probably would have consumed because it was so bloody cold! But I passed and instead enjoyed watching other runners throw a Fireball back as they continued on towards their finish of the half.
We ran the only flat couple of miles along the Arkansas River and headed onto the bridge where we were greeted by this sign as we came back into town. From here, the marathon and half marathoners had their split, and I almost cried when I saw that I had to keep going instead of finishing. I knew it was going to get harder for my body to maintain the pace, and I also knew it would likely get more painful as I continued on. At this point, I decided I would be taking some pain killers within the next few miles to keep things as bay so I could finish upright and smiling.
My half marathon time was just over 2 hours, which meant I was ahead of the pace I thought I would be. I decided to stay a bit aggressive to see how I held up, and with me actually drinking Gatorade throughout the race (ugh! I’m not a Gatorade fan, but I knew I needed the electrolytes and calories), I felt like it wasn’t off the mark for me to continue at a similar pace for a bit longer. So I headed into miles 14+ with a renewed sense of ‘let’s do this.’ That was short lived when I felt like the hills kept going up (never down, just up). Thanks to a pep talk from a fellow runner about changing my mindset combined with seeing my friends Gina and Hank cheering me on around Utica Square (I almost ran past them without seeing them. Thanks to Gina for yelling at me and getting my attention!) and I was ready to get the last 10.5 miles.
For me, I seem to struggle around mile 18. I guess it is knowing that I still have eight more miles to go – because that day, I didn’t feel run down. I just felt sore and wanted to start walking more. After all, who would know? I was there to finish, and if that is all I could do, then hey, that would be great! Except I made the ‘mistake’ (or as I now like to call it ‘genius decision’) of talking to a guy in a ’50 states marathon’ shirt. That shirt meant he finished a marathon in all 50 states. And yes, he was running another one. It turns out that he – Ryan – was working on marathon #86 in Tulsa, and he had just run a marathon the day before. This guy was insane, and he was exactly what I needed. We ended up chatting as we ran and somehow decided to run in together. Normally Ryan is much faster and has a fastest marathon time of around 3:18, but he was involved in a terrible car accident in August, and was working on coming back from serious injuries. At Tulsa, he was dealing not only with that, but also had a calf issue, so he was taking it slow. Meanwhile, I was going as fast as I could, but knew my energy was starting to fade as my body hurt more and more. Together we encouraged each other. I do think that I got the best end of the deal, as Ryan was my motivator, my pacer and just great company. We had a blast jamming to music on his phone. He would yell to any groups of spectators we saw ‘she’s going to PR today!’ to get them cheering for us. (Or course, we joked that no one on the sides knew what PR was, so he at one point yelled out something about we’re also going to DQV – and still the crowds cheered for us.) We stopped at the amazing private aide station around mile 23 that served three kinds of beer, mimosas and pickles (best aide station ever!) and walked with me up the challenging hills on Cherry Street.
He came with me on my Centre of the Universe detour, where we grabbed a beer before getting our coin, taking a picture with the volunteer. Together, we charged that final section of the course to make it to the finish line, with him videoing me on my phone as I enjoyed that final stretch. His yells of ‘she’s going to PR’ all along the last 0.2 miles could be heard on the video (below) and it made me tear up in real life (and every time I have watched the video since). We hugged at the end and snapped our finishers selfie.
To cap it all off, I was able to hug Bart Yasso right before I crossed the finish line, with him yelling ‘Cayman Islands’ on the microphone.
I finished in 4:24:54. My results were printed out at a booth in the finishers festival, while I was trying not to shiver while I drank my cold beers (that I had definitely earned and was not about to pass up!) Route 66 was so unbelievably memorable. I proudly have the gorgeous Goddess medal on my rack.
To Bart Yasso: I’m glad I was able to catch you at five races this year. It made my running experience so much more fun! I hope to see you a couple times in 2016, too!
To Ryan: I can’t even begin to thank you. I just promise that I will pay it forward to someone else in a future race. I know how much it meant to me to have you as my personal coach and cheerleader, and I definitely want to do that for others when I am able. I hope to share the course with you again. Maybe for your 100th marathon!
To Gina and Hank: I’m so glad I got to run for your mom. It’s wonderful that my crazy running brought in about $6000 for the Humane Society of Tulsa in her name. And seeing you both after so long was wonderful. I loved every second of our time together. Thank you for making my Route 66 run a great one.
To the organizers of the Williams Route 66 Marathon: Kudos on an incredible job! While I may never be ready to face those hills again, I am so thankful I chose this race as my second marathon. It was fantastic. Well done. Now rest up because I’m sure you have to start planning for 2016!
If you want a great race experience, I highly recommend the Route 66 Marathon. You will feel the hospitality from every angle. Just one bit of advice: be sure to train for hills. Your legs will thank me for it!