I didn’t go looking for Half-a-palooza. IT found ME. Bentonville Half and Hogeye were only a week apart this year — and I couldn’t NOT run races like that so close to home, right? Then my
enabler friend Amanda, always chasing one more state for her marathon list and having recently qualified for Boston, convinced me we should pack up and head to Kansas for the Garmin Marathon. In the Land of Oz. And wouldn’t you know it but Oz made it three weekends in a row. Half-a-palooza was born.
Much like Bentonville and Hogeye, I wasn’t chasing a time goal or looking to PR. Rather, I was looking to inject some head-clearing running into an over-scheduled, under-rested, probably-cranky version of myself that has developed this spring. I haven’t had much time to run during the week lately — this was it. Ready or not.
Amanda and I headed north last Friday morning to retrieve her friend Becca from the airport in Kansas City. Though Becca and Amanda now share a love of running, they first developed a friendship over a different common interest – scrapbooking. And, as it turns out, there is a significant common thread between scrapbooking and blogging when it comes to the compulsion to photograph everything — how convenient!
Becca flew in from Wisconsin for the weekend and we all got along beautifully. The perfect blend of girl talk and running nerdiness. We headed to packet pick-up, where I was counting on being able to purchase ruby red, sparkly shoelaces. What is a run in the Land of Oz without ruby running slippers? But it wasn’t to be. In place of the overcrowded, vendor-filled convention center I’m used to at bigger races was a small handful of booths in the parking lot of the Garmin Headquarters. Bummer. No ruby red shoelaces. But I did manage to get talked into buying a Garmin running shirt. Because I definitely needed another piece of black clothing…
The running community is full of people connected by very few degrees of separation — and the military community is just as bad. So when Amanda mentioned she had friends near Olathe who are not only athletes, but also former classmates of hers from West Point – I was not the least bit surprised. We had dinner Friday night with Anne and Geoff who are stationed at nearby Fort Leavenworth. It was fun to meet them and their adorable kiddos. We chatted running, triathlon (Anne is an IronWOman), and relived old Academy stories with the three of them. Such a good time. Before long it was time to get back to the hotel and try to sleep.
Race morning! It had been WINDY Friday as we got into town so we were a little worried about weather on race day — but it turned out to be perfect. No real wind. Cold, but not too cold. And not terribly sunny. Long sleeves and shorts weather — my favorite. (Amanda thought I was CRAZY for wearing shorts, and I was finally able to convince her that she didn’t need a coat and mittens. Who’s crazy now??)
The support for Boston was incredible. Each runner had a bib add-on to wear during the race, there was a moment of silence observed during pre-race, and an unbelievable showing of blue and gold throughout the day. We saw Boston jackets Friday at the expo, we saw shirts on race day — I even saw several from 2013. It was an honor to run so shortly after all the craziness. There was quite a bit of security at the finish line that day, but I don’t know that I’ve been part of a more inclusive, supportive, spirited finish line party – ever.
A pre-race prayer, a frosty “good luck!” and we were off!
Spoiler alert: Kansas? Not flat.
I’ll admit I pretty much picture Kansas as one sprawling field of sunflowers. Turns out that’s not entirely accurate. Well, not eastern Kansas anyway. There were plenty of hills to keep me busy for 2 hours and 35 minutes.
At some point during mile 7 or 8, I realized my calves had had enough of Half-a-palooza. Imagine stretching a rubberband. There’s a point at which the rubberband is so tight that if you stretch any further, it will snap. My calves. It’s the first time during a race I’ve had to consider if I pushed any harder I actually might hurt myself. So I kept the pace at a reasonable level and kept moving. No use getting crazy – just run because you love to run. And get to the finish line when you get there.
I loved the Oz theme and wish I could have taken pictures of the signs near the end of the course, bringing us in.
There’s no place like home.
Wickedly Fast Half Marathon in the Land of Oz? Yes!
Mac & cheese at the finish line? YES!
I’m sure the lovely people at Noodles & Company don’t mind that I ate three of these that morning. SO GOOD.
I found Becca – who had just set a new PR for a half! – and we headed back to the finish line to wait for Amanda to finish the full. And we had just enough time to make her signs featuring two of our favorite inside jokes from the weekend.
Amanda finished her third sub-4:00 marathon this season. (She’s fancy like that.) What a day!
I know, I know. Enough already. But not only do I have a Half Fanatics membership to match my Marathon Maniacs status, but that officially makes me what the running nerd world calls a “Double Agent”. You’re impressed. I can tell.
If you can manage to look past my insistence upon striking the cheerleader pose in all of these photos, check out this fun picture we took with some fellow Marathon Maniacs who ran the whole darn thing – in adorable costumes! Scarecrow, Dorothy, The Wicked Witch, and Tin Man.
After an afternoon nap and a dip in the hotel pool, we were starving. We got great recommendations from Kansas City natives and had big plans to go to the plaza and eat delicious BBQ at Jack Stack, but traffic and our growling stomachs were working against us and we ended up at the closest Five Guys instead.
This makes four separate moments of weakness – in less than a month! – and I’m officially off the french fry wagon. There’s always 2014.
A fun race. A fun girls’ weekend.
And with that — who’s ready for triathlon season?