Thursday, March 31, 2016

#TBT - a bit of running history

While moving some stuff around this afternoon, Wil unearthed a small pile of "papers"... some hang tags from Ex Officio, a couple of stickers, and these:

Now, this may not look very exciting (and, okay, it's not...), but these are the long lost race bibs from the first 5K of our "serious" running lives. 

Sure, we had run a 5K before. I had even run a duathlon the previous spring, and we had both run a triathlon that summer. 

But these bibs were from the Resolution Run from January 1, 2008 -- the year we had resolved to train for and run our first marathon. Amusingly, our official time from the race, 30:10, stood as my 5K PR for years!

I remember the race -- lovely and flat on roads around Magnuson Park. We were given hats as swag -- HATS! Hats that we still own today! -- along with one of my all time favorite race tees: grey, long sleeve, cotton tee with 2008: Year of the Runner printed on it. Awesome. And we saw a bald eagle. 

The back of the bib included a coupon for $15 off a pair of shoes at Road Runner ... And we decided to get new shoes in the days after the race. So when I couldn't find the bibs later on, I just assumed that we had surrendered them to the sales clerk. 

So, I'm not sure why they reappeared today, but I am thrilled to have my only missing bib back so that I can add it to my bib keeper -- which will now hold all of my race bibs. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dust Bowl Half Marathon Series trip : Texas in my rear-view mirror

Happy to be home from my trip to "Tornado Alley"... the races were fun, if harder than they should have been (ummm, guess that's because I haven't been running???). And I saw some beautifully bleak sights ... land, lots of land, under sunny skies above, and all that.

The last day of the trip w0as an "insurance" day -- I didn't want to risk missing a flight from Amarillo because the drive from Kansas took longer than expected. Hence the swing east to Shamrock (via Clinton, OK...).

Got up on the "late" side, not leaving the hotel till 8:30 or so, then making my way west to Amarillo via historic Route 66 and its modern-day rival, I-40. Apparently some 90% of Texas's stretch of historic 66 is still drivable today ... it seems like most of the time it's a frontage road with some pretty terrifying right-of-way and "yield" set-ups. But every so often, there's an I-40 Business Loop that runs through a town that is clearly the old alignment of Route 66.

This amazingly adorable little Phillips 66 gas station, built in the 1920s, is in the town of McLean, TX.

A little farther along, near Groom, is this leaning water tower, built to attract visitors. Still works.

Then on to Conway, where there is a nicely restored stretch of old 66 where you can zoom along with a 75 MPH speed limit. (Terrifying on a narrow road!)

But before you leave Conway, you must visit the VW Bug Ranch ... a little homage to the Cadillac Ranch on the west side of Amarillo.

Loved this old dear most of all ... he was around the other side of the graffiti-covered house.

that's no bug...
Sorta nice to have this place by myself... and yet, sorta creepy.

A few times I was driving on historic 66 when there would suddenly be a sign that said "dead end - no outlet" or "pavement ends". Now, why this sign wasn't posted by, I dunno, a place where I could turn off the road, I'm not sure. Let's just say I have now perfected my 3-point turns on narrow country lanes.

Then on to Amarillo ... through it, really, because I was headed to Cadillac Ranch.

It was a little weird to find -- at least, the GPS directions were a little hard to follow. But there it was, in a field next to a frontage road. It was also VERY, VERY BUSY, as a bus of Italian tourists had arrived, every person carrying a can or two of spray paint. Whee.

 I had considered stopping somewhere to pick up paint ... but then decided that I would wait to do it until Wil and I could both be there. So I just walked around the cars, watching the people painting and trying to avoid picking up overspray in the brisk wind.

lots of layers of paint
It's nice that the cars are in a field -- you don't get power lines or billboards or anything in the view. And, if you time your shot right, you can also get some photos without people...

Cadillac Ranch, 2016
I then decided I would drive to the stretch of historic 66 in Amarillo, the idea being I would get out, stretch my legs a little, find a bite to eat. But I wasn't super interested by what was on offer ... and, despite driving up and down the "busy" stretch 2 times in each direction, I decided I didn't need to stop. 

And then, while pulled over and looking for somewhere to eat, I discovered that Amarillo is home to a Torchy's Tacos. Well worth the 20-minute drive across town, I promise you. 

Fried Avocado and a Mr. Pink
Then... what to do? It was time, of course, to visit the Big Texan Steak Ranch...

It goes without saying that I didn't care to attempt the free* 72-ounce steak dinner (*if eaten in under one hour). But I did have a little wander around the complex.

There is, of course, the Big Texan himself, moved from his original place on Route 66 to the new location on Interstate 40.

howdy, partner
And this massive steer, which is apparently towed on a trailer in parades and such. Giddy Up.

lots of bull
Inside there's a big restaurant, a gift shop (of course!), a weird "shootin' gallery" (you know, with targets that trigger a piano player and such), a bar, and an area that looked to be closed but would have been a nice place to have a beer. Heck, maybe if it wasn't 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon it might have even been open. Big signs over the bar said "rated one of the top 10 places to drink a beer" by Draft Magazine. Really? Huh. It was okay.... They do brew their own beer, however, so I decided to have the Pecan Porter. Pretty tasty... but I'm no beer connoisseur...

I poked around outside as well ... they have a cute motel on site that's been painted to look like a western town, and a cute Texas-shaped pool. ("Swim across Texas!"). Noted that the pool was closed ... which made me extra happy I had stayed in Shamrock rather than pressing on to Amarillo!

Then, well, there was nothing else in the world that I wanted to do, other than just go home. So I filled up the gas tank, drove to the airport, dropped off the car and just went through security. Not much to do in tiny Amarillo airport (7 gates!), but I sat in the one shop/restaurant/bar and killed the two hours before my flight left.

A plane change in DFW, then an uneventful flight to Seattle, then home...

This was, overall, a successful 2-state trip. Heck, I even had some time in Texas and visited some classic Route 66 locations. But the key was picking up two big states: Oklahoma and Kansas. It would have been much more fun with Wil joining me (he had his own adventures seeing Smashing Pumpkins and Bruce Springsteen), but happy to have gone on this mini-trip.

Dust Bowl Half Marathon Series : Ulysses, Kansas

Welcome to Ulysses!!!
It's (my) day 2. Of course, it's really "day 3" for the Dust Bowlers... 
It was, again, very chilly -- 28 degrees as I left the hotel. While I was sitting in the charming breakfast area (TATER TOTS! ON THE BREAKFAST BUFFET! YES, THEY'RE JUST MINI HASH BROWNS!!!) I kept hearing a car alarm go off for a bit, then be quiet. I wondered if if was the wind, or...
When I went outside, I saw two runners standing somewhat helplessly next to a car. They would try to unlock it, set off the alarm, and then lock it again. Oh dear. I tried not to stare -- there's nothing worse than rubberneckers! -- but one of the women asked if she could get a ride to the start with me. I hesitated ... mainly because my mind wasn't working super well, and because I knew I wasn't going back to the hotel after ... but when the woman quickly said, "Oh... I could ask him if that's better ...." (referring to the man next to me, getting into *his* car), and I said, "No -- I mean, of course!" 
The other woman declined a ride as she wanted to see to her car. It was only later than I realized it was "costume lady".
Bev got in the back of the car ("sorry, the front is a mess!") and we chatted as I got myself sorted. She told me this was her first Mainly Marathons series, that she isn't actually a 50-stater, but stumbled across it on the internet and thought it sounded fun. She booked the trip for herself, then posted that she had hotel rooms booked in every town and was looking for a roommate on the group's Facebook page. That's how she met her car-troubled, costume-lovin' roommate. 
It was fun to meet someone else who had a little skepticism about the races ... again, she was only on day 3!! I told her I had been the same way, but as each day passed I had more and more fun. 
Got to the start area, found parking, and then sat in the car chatting for a bit -- it was really too cold to go outside! Eventually, at 7:15, we got out and headed to the "village". 
I love these people ... and I swear it's not just the endorphins talking. Here is the start area ... the watering hole getting set up, the timing/registration table signing newcomers in, and the pre-dawn sky...
Mainly Marathons start/finish area, Ulysses, Kansas
A few minutes before the start, Clint got up on his ladder and made some announcements ... I had the usual wistfulness about not getting a caboose. :) 

Clint on his ladder for the race talk
Then we set out, running around Frazier Park, right next to the Bentwood golf course. Really pretty sunrise ... While I've been here the sunrises and sunsets have been pretty amazing. Of course, that might be because of all the prairie fires I keep hearing about...
why, yes, we did start at O-dark-thirty
Today's course looped around a small lake, this time on a packed gravel path. Mostly flat, with just one gradual, not-super-steep hill. 

the sign in this picture is a list of the wild birds who live here
The area is also a wildlife preserve, so we might have seen wild turkeys, pheasants, and other birds ... but I think the clever ones have gone south. Or are inside keeping warm, at least...

I thought I had read that today would be 11 laps for the half, 22 for the full. Bev had clearly read that, too -- we chatted about it in the car. But turns out we only needed to do 7. Somehow, fewer, longer laps are always better for me, mentally. Seven laps might be the ideal number, too... You do one while you're fresh and raring to go. Or in my case, a little stiff and tired, but therefore a little oblivious. You come in, get your first rubber band, pick up an egg or maybe some candy, and then head back out. By the time you complete your third lap, you're loose, and you realize that you only need three more rubber bands. Come back after four and your're more than halfway done. Sweet!
back and forth, back and forth
And, of course, it's always nice to see Black Cone, the turnaround marker...
hello, Black Cone!!!
It was a little funny to feel like an outsider with insider's knowledge.... to know a bunch of folks, at least by name and by sight, and therefore get more than my share of cheers and greetings. Had a quick chat with Trisha (Tricia?) -- she couldn't remember where we had run together, but knew she knew me and my name and my smile. I told her Center of the Nation last year ... and that I ran with my "hairy husband Wil". At which she said, "OF COURSE! Sunny and Wil! Always smiling!" 

Trisha --genuinely the friendliest runner in the world!
 didn't have a great run, unfortunately ... the wind kicked up and I just felt tired, and I couldn't force myself to pick up the pace. So it took me more than 3 hours to get around... but most of the morning I spent chatting and cheering my fellow runners on, so that was nice. 

I do love the way Mainly Marathons sets up ... note the great big food table on the left, the the watering hole behind it. Then on the right, in the shadow of the camper, is the timing table. Farther back is Norm's Kitchen. Straight ahead is the rubber bands table ... ah, sweet rubber bands!!!

So... much ... food...

seriously, a race without hard-boiled eggs, gummy bears, and Fritos pales in comparison with these races...
This park even had bathrooms with flush toilets and running water ... so after the race I quickly cleaned up a little, put on street clothes, and headed off as I had a long drive through the wilds of Kansas and Oklahoma (and a teensy bit of Texas) ahead of me... 
Well, there's always time for a bib and medal photo, of course!
discovered, when coming home, that I had left my "run happy" hat in the rental car :(
Not a whole lot to tell ... other than I drove mile after mile through ranchland, farmland, and the occasional small town, stopping only for gas.
Pulled into Clinton, Oklahoma, and made a beeline for the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, a charming little museum with nice dioramas and history. 
well if you ever plan to motor west...
Then I drove -- keeping to historic 66 as much as possible -- into Shamrock, home of Texas's tallest water tower...

why, yes, this is a historic landmark...
a piece of the real Blarney Stone ...

(happily, they're going to move this from its current location in a small park to "downtown" Shamrock...)
... and the glorious Tower Station and U-Drop Inn... 

Sadly, the tourist information center and gift shop was closed for Black Friday... and isn't open on the weekends ... so I didn't get to go inside. Pity.
I did stroll around Shamrock a bit ... including trekking out to the park to see the Blarney Stone. I hear they're going to move the stone to a new "Blarney Plaza" in "downtown" ... probably a better spot than its current location... That said, for St. Patrick's Day the town wraps the street signs to the park in green foil, declaring "Railroad Avenue" part of the "Green Mile". 
I checked into the immaculately clean Shamrock Country Inn -- adorable! -- and then decided that I should go ahead and have some dinner while I waited for it to get dark. I was simply unable to resist the lure of Big Vern's Steakhouse and Saloon, where I sat at the bar and had a massive, delicious dinner.
I can't attest to the steak, though the other food was delicious and folks seemed very happy!
I was also served my beer in a frosted goblet. Despite it only being a pint, the glass itself was so heavy that I needed both hands to lift it to drink. Seriously. 
#everythingisbiggerintexas #itsnotaglassitsachalice
Finally, it got dark... and at 8pm, the neon went on at the Tower Station ... this is why I came to Shamrock!

Look familiar? It should ... it was the model for Ramone's House of Body Art in the movie Cars (and in Cars Land, at California Adventure). 

Tower Station, Shamrock

Ramon's House of Body Art, Radiator Springs 

I was sad that the shop was unexpectedly closed ... and anxious that that meant the neon would for some reason not turn on. But it did ... ahhhh.

After dinner I headed back to my room, filled up my mint-green bathtub, and relaxed with a book and a cocktail before having an early night. 

pity about the new shower surround, but the pink tile with dove grey trim, plus a mint green tub and toilet... retro goodness!
I was just about to type that it was a pretty uneventful day ... but then I realized that I ran a half marathon in Kansas today ... that's state #36! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dust Bowl Half Marathon Series : Guymon, Oklahoma ...

Good morning, Guymon!!! The winds seem to have died down .. so is it a nice morning?
Oh. 28 degrees? Brrr. That's pretty cold. Wish I had thought to bring gloves. Or at least an extra pair of socks to put on my hands... Let's just say that I lost the feeling in my fingertips while I was waiting for the start.
Despite my seeking out the start the previous day, I was still a little lost and managed to drive all the way aroud the park and back in before I got parked. I'm the best. We had to park on the opposite side of the lake, then walk the half mile round to the start area. I picked up my bib, my "starter medal", and my funky shirt (pink and blue tie-dye!) and then just tried to keep warm.
It was still quite dark as we waited ... but I was really looking forward to this pretty little course:

A few minutes before the start, Clint climbed his ladder to give the course talk... today's course was 7 laps for half marathoners. I love it when the laps are longer and the reps are fewer...

The course was a giant C, running a narrow path 9/10ths of the way around the lake, reaching a turnaround, then going back. Why, hello there BLACK CONE!!!
Look how pretty this course is?
A couple of challenges ... it was c-c-c-cold... and at some point the wind picked up. I had decided to run/walk 4 of the 7 laps, then reduce my running. By lap 6, I was basically just walking -- hoping to save my legs a bit. But it was SO COLD that I got super chilled, and had to put on my Nanopuff again for the last lap!
Also ... and I know this will sound HORRIBLE... but. There was a racer who had a recumbent bike chair ... because the course was so narrow, he was just running loops clockwise around the lake -- he'd never be able to make the turnaround. All good. But the problem was, he was going really fast -- like, BIKE fast. And the course was narrow, and he was passing people without havingn room to do so. As in, passing people so that the oncoming runners had to jump off the path to avoid being hit. Not cool. But I don't know how it could have been avoided, other than maybe all of use running loops, and him going the opposite direction? Sorry if that sounds really, really mean, but ...
And at the end of the day ... rubber bands, man.
Hurried back to the hotel for a quick shower, then headed out ... to KANSAS!
Stopped in Liberal, Kansas, to visit the Land of Oz ... but discovered, at 12;03, that the land of Oz is closed for lunch from noon - 1. So I gave it a miss.
ButI did fill up on gas at a Sinclair station, and discovered this charmingly dressed dino...
Since the next town was so close by, I decided to make a wide swing to the east to pass through Dodge City, where I didn't linger... I mean, I GOT THE HELL OUT OF DODGE!
But then I went to what I really wanted to see, some off the best-preserved ruts from the Santa Fe Trail...
Okay, it took a lot of imagination, but I do think I can sorta see them? Well, maybe...
Then some fast driving on 2-lane highways to arrive in Ulysses, Kansas, my stop for the evening.
One very nice thing -- the Grand County Historic Adobe Museum hosted a reception forr us at the museum ... which was, truly, one of the nicest small museums I've ever seen. Really nicely curated displays, and an interesting collection of artifacts.
Really pretty diorama...
... and a nicely restored Pegasus neon...
Already feeling a little sad that Wil and I aren't both here and doing the entire series ... but also kinda happy to only have one more race left!!!

Virtual Running Blog Hop -- this month's topic is "first race of the year" ... this isn't my first race, but it's my first new state of the year, so I think it's still relevant.