Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My First Long, Lone Race Journey

4/12/12 - My first long distance road trip alone & for a double half marathon

Well, I guess this was the real start to my Half Fanatics adventure. It's the first real travel I'm doing for my quest of reaching the highest level in the club possible. Up to now the only real long distance road trip I've done was a 10 hour drive to Phoenix back in the early 2000's when I was taking classes with the University of Phoenix. I had driven 22 hours straight from home to the Bay Area for a trip to visit family and friends but the whole family was with me. This was going to be a solo venture for a total of 19 hours of driving to get to my first race.

I had planned to get on the road by 5am and actually managed to be ready to go by 4:30am. However, I needed to get some snack supplies and gas up prior to leaving. Before leaving the house I began looking for the gas card that I had intended to use for the trip and couldn't find it. I went out to the car to search there but had no luck. I'd eventually have to make a call to customer service to have a new card express mailed to my cousin's house in Illinois. I ended up making a WalMart run and for some reason that took longer than expected. While in the parking lot I made the call to the gas card company and arranged the delivery. After about 20 minutes on the phone I was off to gas up before getting on the road. By the time I did get started on the drive it was after 6:30am. The sun was just starting to show itself in a nice, orange/pink glow on the eastern horizon...a far cry from the darkness I had expected to be driving in for the first hour or so of my trip.

The first five hours of the trip were relatively familiar as I had done the drive to Amarillo, TX many times plus a drive to Shamrock, TX for a dog rescue transport a few years earlier. As I traveled into McClean, TX on I-40 there was a gaggle of state troopers, local sheriff vehicles and ambulance on the eastbound side of the freeway. There had been a bad rollover of a minivan and with the number of ambulances and the appearance of the minivan I don't think the outcome was very good. Oddly enough I can't find any kind of report on the accident. I'm fairly sure it wasn't a tired imagination at work.

As I traveled further on through Shamrock there were no other occurrences of note. Once again I crossed the border into Oklahoma and once again the terrain seemed to change for the better. Although not as green and lush as in the more southern area of the state that I had visited a couple of weeks prior it was still much more green than what I am accustomed to at home. By the time I hit Oklahoma City it was lunch time and time to get my pasta feed on. I located the nearest Fazoli's which was conveniently on my route and changed the GPS to get me to the location. I knew there would be toll roads on the way but I wasn't sure of exactly they would be and I had mistakenly assumed that there would be people manning the toll stations and having done so I hadn't prepared by bringing coinage with me. I was surprised to find that the firs toll station I came to was completely unmanned and had a toll of $1.15. As I rifled through my change collection cup (thank goodness I hadn't emptied it like I planned to) I managed to find just enough silver to make the toll. As I drove on I took the exit towards Fazoli's only to find another unmanned toll station with a 35 cent toll. Again, I was lucky enough to find just enough change to meet that toll. At Fazoli's I ordered spaghetti with meat sauce and treated myself to a sweet tea just to get a little caffeine in me. I decided that before I got back on the road I'd need to get a boat load of change so I went over to the WalMart just behind the restaurant to try to buy some coins at the bank inside only to find that they didn't have any extra rolls of coinage. Then I had to go over the freeway/toll road to the BofA and had to wait in line for 20-30 minutes just to get the change that would hopefully be enough to get me through all of the remaining tolls for the trip.

I finally got back on the road after about an hour and a half total, landing myself a firm 3 hours or so behind my original schedule of arriving at my cousin's house between 7-9pm Central time. I continued on towards Joplin, MO finally paying a final toll of $4 just outside of Miami, OK. The drive through Missouri was also uneventful although for some reason the rolling hills and lush greenery, very reminiscent of my trip to Ardmore, OK, didn't register to me as being a view of my runs in the region. I'm not sure of where I had stopped to gas up in Missouri around 5pm but I realized that I wouldn't be arriving at my cousin's before 11pm or midnight so I called and told her that I'd just check into a hotel or the lodging at the Air Force base nearby so as to not disturb the family. I ended up driving through St. Louis around 10:30pm and made it to Scott AFB shortly after 11pm and was lucky enough for find that they has some space available rooms open. I checked in, got settled and layed down for a fairly good sleep on a rather hard mattress...the rooms are not the best that I've been in when using military lodging, but at $39/night I can't complain. This was evidently an older building which hadn't undergone much recent renovation and had older, squeaking floors and furniture.

Since the drive to the race venue and hotel in Evansville, Indiana was only about 3-4 hours away I decided to sleep in as much as possible and head out after checking out at around 10am and after heading back into St. Louis to pick up my race packet for Sunday's race. I woke up early, which typically happens after I lose that hour in the time'd think I'd sleep late, and I drove over to the base shoppette to grab some breakfast food and was shocked to see that gas prices on base were $3.97!! Until that point the most expensive gas I had seen on the trip was $3.75. I was thankful that I didn't have to gas up at that time and returned to my room to eat. I packed up and checked out right on time and hit the road back to St. Louis.

As I was on the road, the heavens opened up and the downpour began. Now, keep in mind that I had planned for the reported warm weather in the 70-80°F range with a 30-40% chance of rain. My bad. In my part of the world a 30-40% chance of rain means that it isn't going to happen...apparently in this part of the U.S. it means that it will. I had no jacket, no full shoes (other than my running shoes which only get worn for...well...running) and no umbrella. All I had to wear were floor length maxi dresses and a pair of sandals. Doh! As I found a parking space just across the street from the stadium where packet pickup was occurring I hiked up my dress to knee length, took a deep breath, stepped directly into a puddle and began the "long" wet walk to the venue. By the time i got to the stadium, the Brooks Running people were trying to bring what they could of their outdoor display into the stadium. I entered the building dripping wet and waited in line for the expo to open. While waiting I managed to win a t-shirt from the Brooks crew which I decided I'd wear on the drive home with the shorts I had driven into Illinois wearing. By the time the expo opened (about a 30 minute wait) I was mostly dry and able to enjoy a short, quick jaunt around the expo buying only a few running based stickers and picking up my race packet. I was on the road to Evansville by 12:30pm. I filled up with gas before hitting the Illinois border...with a 20 cent price difference (less) before getting on the freeway.

Again the drive towards Evansville was full of rolling hills and lush greenery. And still it didn't sink into my brain that the course I was to run the next day would probably be much of the same. By the time I hit town my left side was aching/stiff from the two days of driving and I decided that I needed to find a massage therapist if at all possible. It was about 3:30pm when I hit town and after checking into the hotel I headed out in search of a massage therapist with an open appointment preferably later in the evening since I had a free pasta dinner to attend at 6pm after picking up my race packet at the expo. I thought I'd have plenty of time to find a massage therapist but everywhere I went they were either closed permanently or all appointments were full. It was shortly after 5pm when I gave up and decided to head to packet pickup.  Of course as I drove there the heavens once again opened up...the storm had followed me from St. Louis...and again I found myself totally drenched, parked too far away from the expo and since it was an outdoor expo in tents there was running water and puddles to contend with. Bye the time I got my packet and got through the small expo it was past 6pm...I was late for the dinner. I decided to go ahead and go and see if it was too late (in all actuality I was being cheap...I could have just bought my own dinner). I arrived in my soaking wet state again and happily found that they had just gotten midway through the salad.

The dinner was held at Biaggi's and I was seated with one relatively new Marathon Maniac, a soon to be Marathon Maniac, and a couple of 50 state marathoners. We chatted about the best races, running injuries and whatnot...normal running conversation. I met a female Marathon Maniac who was running the same double as I was, but doing the full marathons rather than the halfs like me. Boy...I don't know if I could do that. After a great tossed salad (3 servings), a large serving of spaghetti and a huge meatball, a large serving of fetuccini with Alfredo sauce, around 6 bread sticks and dessert (can't remember what it was, but it was good) I excused myself around 8pm and headed back to the hotel for a hot soak in the tub and some sleep after setting up my gear for the race the next day. Of course, the rain had stopped by the time I left the at least I was dry. :)

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