Oklahoma! Oklahoma! Oklahoma!

So after completing my last state (that blog will come later when I feel like having time to reflect – I have had time I just don’t feel like putting that kind of thought into today) what could I possibly do next? That’s right! Run another marathon the very next weekend! A long time ago my friend Karen had asked me to run Tulsa, Oklahoma because she was afraid that everyone had ran it the year before and no one would return. I told her that wasn’t true because EVERY year Oklahoma is a huge gathering place but signed up for it anyway. It was such a hard endeavor for me. Signing up for Tulsa really is not a large deal to me. It is a driver (I can drive to it – in less than seven hours even) and it is on a Sunday so I don’t even have to take a day off from work. Double win!

Tulsa though does seem to have one huge problem. Two years ago I ran Tulsa and had described the event as the worst marathon I had ever run until well, Tulsa this year. Now mind you it was not horrible or out of control or anything like that. Since I do not mind running in the heat (actually prefer it – my PR is in July after all) only cold weather marathons bug me. And two years ago it was cold and with just a hint that it may rain. I remember telling my aunt afterwards, “I don’t care about the damn marathon maniacs reunion, I just want to shower and get warm!” Then last year it was really cold at the start (seriously bad shivering issues going on) and when I got done it was not comfortable. I watched other runners come in and had a good time drinking free beer but I remember thinking, “Can we leave yet?”

But this is Tulsa and it is never cold so those two years just had to be some sort of odd occurrence that would not happen three years in a row, right? Right?

Wrong. So so wrong. As soon as Vegas was done and in the rearview mirror, I pulled up Oklahoma’s weather hoping to get more goodness but it was not to be had. I could not even believe my eyes! It said low of 22 the night before and high of 34? That was awful! And as the week went on rain kept coming in occasionally plus the temperature kept dropping and it was pretty much known if it did hit the 30’s that was not happening until the afternoon. Just great. In Tulsa where it always feels ten degrees cooler? I was not a happy camper. Karen was ecstatic all week goading me on Facebook posts and messaging me about how she loved the weather forecast. She was funny but this was not. I was actually quite upset.

So why would one risk warmth for a marathon? What people should really know about Tulsa is they treat us frequent marathoners right! They give us our own area before and after the race, free food and alcohol after the race and free booths to both the Marathon Maniacs and 50 States Marathon Club at the expo where we can meet and have general fun. This year they added a few new quirks as well. They had a bullhorn at the expo and were announcing what you were when you got it such as “Marathon Maniac”, “Ladies and Gentlemen we have a 50 stater” or “Another first timer!” Just awesome.

So after a not so long drive to town and picking up two friends, Karen and Alison, at the airport and a quick lunch at a decent Mexican place we made our way to the Expo. We parked free – just have to say this always a good sign of a marathon that cares. Never like ones that try to charge you for the race and then bilk you an extra five to park at their expo. I understand race morning – most spots can be private parking and it can be a mess to find a spot but typically there is no reason to charge for the expo. Thank you Tulsa! The three of us went to the expo and saw several great people and had great conversations including fellow blogger Danielle, Jennifer (like 4 of them), Brian, 50 Stater Steve Boone, and Dave Mari. There are others and I am sorry but if I listed them all we would be here for the better part of a paragraph and my memory.

After that we drove around town for a little bit and checked out the center of the universe (a spot in Oklahoma where only you can hear your voice echo – it is a bit freaky), had a really good beer at a local watering hole and went to a very well planned dinner at a fantastic joint. It was really a hip looking place and the food was all organic and raised locally. It was impressive and reminds you that you don’t have to go to Portland, Oregon to get a real good meal where they care about such things. Just search them out in your own town!

At dinner Michelle presented me with the gift of a 50 sub 4 finisher shirt. It was so incredibly nice. She has to be the most considerate runner I know of and if you do not know her it is your own loss. And yes it is the Michelle that goes by Mom O 6. A 3:40 marathoner and mother of six – she proves that only our negative thoughts of “I can’t” hold us back. She just keeps getting more consistent and I have never hear her utter such words. It was also nice to meet Stephanie, my new friend for the trip, at the dinner and to get to know some other new runners as well. Mike was there and I did not have time to ask him about the course changes as I did at other races – and it was just as hilly as ever so I am glad I did not. I did meet a Jennie who lived in Richmond and threatened to stay at her place if I ever ran the race. She never blinked. I guess that is what is so great about our community – there is just that level of trust.

We went back to the house we were staying at that night. Alison was really concerned already. We were freezing just getting to the house! She may be from California and I from Iowa but I agreed – this was no weather to run in! Karen was happy as always whenever it gets below forty degrees and as I laid my clothes out that night, there was just not enough. I think only a snowmobile suit would have been appropriate.

We headed out the next morning and sat in the car until someone absolutely had to go to the bathroom and then waited far too long in line to go. Seriously folks when standing in line at the port a potties, pay attention other people will steal the open one – that is all. The temperature was 26 degrees race morning and it never feels even that warm in Tulsa (experience talking her folks). Thankfully, we were able to make our way to the Maniac area before the race. Everyone had already lined up for the picture and I will be completely honest and say that is one picture I am 100% fine that I missed.

I lined up in the A corral and could not even move up as far as I wanted. It really did not bother me as at least it was warm in the crowd. Concern about being lined up behind the 3:50 pacer? Nope, not at all. I had a sweatshirt on and it was covering my race number. I fully expected to take that off in the first few miles. I also went with shorts and compression socks leaving my knees uncovered. It caused some lady to make a snarky comment about people who wore shorts in weather like this. I have not a clue why she thought she was such an expert on such matters.

The race started and I was stuck swimming upstream fighting through other runners. I breathed in the cold air and it really stifling me. Cold weather running will never be my style – I don’t even like breathing that stuff in! And I was lucky enough to run into a couple friends as I moved up including Ethan, Michelle and Vincent. The race did not mean much to me as my goals for the year were already complete, but I kept moving forward trying to outrun the cold. Finally at Mile 5 I thought about stripping off the Iowa sweatshirt hoodie I had on but I knew Mile 10 would be open to wind and I wanted to keep it through there. The experience of running the course was coming in handy.

Mile 10 did come and I was happy to have the sweatshirt still on. By that point the hood had fallen down and was no longer covering my head prompting one other runner to quote “Cade running a 3:20 marathon in a hoodie. No big deal.” I had to laugh when I heard that one. Even I thought at that point I would have really been affected – I was pretty damn cold! I pushed on running with two shirtless runners for the next three miles. It was a little different than my first miles where all I heard was “Go Iowa!” because now all I heard was “You guys are crazy!” The one was running just the half and dropped off around Mile 12. He had to be hurting. Usually halfers make a surge. However the other surged and I never saw him again after the halfway point. I hope he made it – without a shirt I cannot be certain.

The real drama did occur at the halfway point! I ran over the chip timing mat at exactly the half way point and no beep. Nothing. Silence. I ran on but majorly concerned. There were two issues here. Number one, this may mean that my time was not being timed the entire race. Number two my bib was covered due to the cold and the fact I meant to throw off my sweatshirt so if I argued it? Race officials may point out that I was not supposed to cover my number. They were right but the conditions were such that this was not a good race to do this. I seriously did consider turning around for the half but kept going instead.

There really wasn’t much more to report after that. I slowed down a bit and asked a race official what to do – they told me to go on. Another one thumbed up that I did trip his scanner (I did not believe him) and really not much else… Oh wait! I guess you could include the icicle that formed on my hat and was hanging off my head! Yes about Mile 18 I noticed a rather not small icicle forming and hanging off my head! It was shocking to say the least and it kept growing the more I sweated I guess. I was lucky enough to have someone take a picture. And would later argue, “How much faster could I have been without that extra weight?”

The real reason I noticed the sweatsicle was because at Mile 18 I did consider taking the sweatshirt off again but this time I noticed the ice was melting and dripping on my sweatshirt. I thought it may be a good idea to not leave just one layer for ice cold water to be dripping on. I thought that was a key idea. Moving on the Mile 25 was the Center of the Universe Detour (the place where only you can hear your echo again). I looked at my watch and knew that I had a real shot at a 3:20. However, the real decision was that I was feeling chilled again. I just could not see running 26.5 instead of 26.2 with how I felt. I decided to forgo it and saw a guy I had passed earlier running out. I thought of the cool coin he got for doing so but it did not matter – I was happy to move on past it.

I made it to Mile 26 and a for the first time a spectator commented on my icicle! “Iceman!” he yelled out. I had to admit it was pretty creative. I was smart enough to pick up my sweatshirt so my number could be seen and I ran in at 3:20:15 by my watch but would find out later the chip timing never worked and would be credited with a 3:21:15 or so. It didn’t matter… until Karen told me I placed third place age group and did so by about 20 seconds! I was pretty happy I did not take the detour!

A short trip to the timing tent did confirm I never got a chip time. A volunteer kept staring at my icicle until she took it upon herself to break it off. Finally I tried to go to the Maniac area and have a good time but that lasted less than five minutes. It was just way too cold. I picked up my special medal and left (another Tulsa perk). I got on the bus, sat next to a nice lady who told me to go to the Cowtown Marathon, got off at the wrong stop and walked back to my car. The ride home was excellent.

Afterwards I got the news from others. Karen got a sub four (that is all she really cares about). JC did too. That is really nice – he has been on a roll! Dave got the icicle picture to me. Jennifer and Danielle had a good time and most everyone finished save poor Alison. She had a stress fracture and should not have been out there in any case and when she got to Mile 17 the pain was intolerable. And it was too cold to walk the last nine miles. She had to stop and not finish. She had told me a couple times that she should not even be there. The leg plus the weather was too much for her. However she was right the Route 66 marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma is not one to miss even if it is so cold I had to run the entire race without taking off my throwaway sweatshirt!

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