Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recap: Prairie Fire Half Marathon

Race Day: Sunday, October 14, 2012 @ 8:00am

Race Day - 1

In the weeks prior to this race I had been combating a massive depression that I did my best to hide from friends and family...not always with success. It wasn't until yesterday, October 12th, that I finally decided that I would participate in Prairie Fire. This involved last minute packing and planning which I really hate as I typically pack several days in advance even up to a week in advance. To top it off, I planned to car camp for the night prior to the race in order to save a few bucks ($7 on base vs $100+ at the starting line...I reservation I now regret having cancelled). Anyway, I managed to get everything that I thought I needed while still packing minimally after waking up at 3am and doing my packing then.

By around 6am I was on the road to Wichita, Kansas which would be about a 9 hour drive including the loss of 1 hour due to the change to Central Time. The drive itself was fairly uneventful and I made pretty good time arriving at the expo at just before 3pm CT. After stopping to pick up my race packet, I got in the car and set my GPS for Offutt AFB where I had planned to camp out for the night. Lo and behold! Offutt AFB is located in Nebraska and was the base I had planned to stay at when I had planned to originally do a Saturday half marathon at Valisporo just outside Omaha. Okay. So I began to freak out. I was on a very limited budget...just over $100 for the trip (gas on the gas card). I knew there was no way I could pay for a room near the start so I decided to go ahead and drive to McConnell AFB to see if they had rooms available. Unfortunately, the Air Force lodging prices had just gone up from $39/night to $53/night at the beginning of the month. Figuring that at least I'd know it would be a decent room I was lucky enough to find the base after incorrect directions from the GPS and getting lost for about 10 minutes.

After finding the back gate to the base I finally made my way to the Air Capital Inn and was able to get a temporary lodging facility (basically a 1 bedroom apartment) for $54 for the night. As I got back into the car after registering it began to rain and by the time I made my way to the building that I was assigned (just behind the building with the office) it was throwing down. I don't mean just a little hard rain, but torrents of rain. Monsoonal rain. Wet to the bones rain. As I drove slowly through the parking lot I searched for where my room was...I saw the room number preceding my room and decided that would be the place to park. Wrong. When I got out to start carrying my stuff to the room I was unpleasantly surprised to find that my room was not where I thought it should be, but rather on the other end (not side) of the building. In order to find it, I had to walk in an open corridor getting pelted by the rain. I walked up the north corridor and didn't find the room. I walked down the south corridor and found the room at the very end of the building...the total opposite of where I had parked. I threw whatever I had in my arms and took a deep breath before tackling the rain that was coming in almost horizontally and rather painfully. I ran back to the car and moved it to a space just outside my room and began grabbing what stuff I needed for the night. As I finished up, I turned on the TVs only to find a severe thunderstorm watch in effect with the potential for 2" hail. Joy. Not only was I soaking to the bone, but my car may get smashed up here in tornado country. I took a few minutes to try to wring out my shirt during which time I realized that the pasta dinner would be starting in just literally over an hour. Here I was with a dinner ticket and soaking clothes and hair. Luckily the rain had let up and I decided that I'd take a chance and go to the base exchange to see if I could get a cheap outfit for the night.

About 40 minutes later I got back to the room having found a shirt, skinny jeans on clearance and an umbrella for less than $25. I quickly dried my hair (the rain had stopped by now) and stuck the blow dryer in my shoes, alternating every few minutes, to dry them out a bit. Thank goodness I don't wear makeup! I got dressed and headed out to the dinner with just enough time for the ~15 minute drive to the venue. I arrived just in time to sit down towards the rear before dinner was served and introduced myself to the table. There was another Beth who was also a relatively new runner with this being only her 2nd half marathon, another nurse who had just finished a contract at a hospital in Santa Fe and was heading home to Florida (if I remember correctly) after running the full marathon and finally a young man with his family who was running his first full marathon and would be heading east to visit his family right after the race. The food was pretty good although there was absolutely no protein offered...kind of odd, usually there's at least a little protein at these things. Dane Rauchenberg, ultra runner and author, was the guest speaker and was really rather interesting and entertaining. We all left at around the same time, before the event actually closed down...actually I think I was the last one at the table.

I made my way back to the base...with correct GPS instructions this time and got my gear ready for the race the next day. I was just glad that with the rough afternoon that the race had a start time of 8am rather than 7am that had been the norm through out my earlier races. I was glad that I opted for a room instead of trying to find the Famcamp since the t-storm warning was still in place with the continued chance of least I would be warm and dry, not having to run to the bathhouse to use the restroom or shower in the rain, etc. And mostly I'd be able to sleep in comfort and spread out as much as I wanted. I had forgotten my meds (realized that at about 5 hours into the drive) so I had to settle for Benadryl for sleep, Tylenol and some Endurance Caps (electrolyte capsules) instead. After I taped up my knees for support, I headed to bed and was finally asleep by around 11pm.

Race Day

Woke up at 5:30am. Went straight into the shower, ate my typical breakfast, taped up my feet and got dressed. I left the base at about 7:10am which was plenty of time to park and get to the starting area...or so I thought. The drive into downtown was fine until I started hitting all the closed streets. Ugh! I finally got to a lot that I thought was relatively close to the starting area only to find out that it was no where near. So, I headed back to the car and drove around again and again parked in an area that I thought was close to the start. It was now about 7:40am. As I followed some obvious spectators I became a bit worried when I saw a mile 1 marker. I asked the volunteers there if the start was straight ahead but they weren't sure. I broke into a jog (mind you I typically do a 12 to 13 minute mile) and passed one of the course bands. I asked another set of volunteers if I was headed in the right direction and they said I was...I guess I should have gotten a little more specific. I was now in a slow run...rather than a jog. I was beginning to panic. I began thinking how I drove 9 hours, suffered through the storm and now was going to miss the start of the race because I had parked a mile and a quarter away from the starting area. I finally began to recognize the area and headed in the direction that I thought that the starting line was at. I was near tears by this point. After hitting several dead ends, I finally saw the venue. I broke into a full run as I heard the announcer declare that the race would be starting in a couple of minutes. I literally had just enough time to tear off the tab on my bib and toss it and my gear bag to one of the girls at gear check before heading to the start where I heard the words..."We'll be starting in 1 minute!" Whew! I fired up my MotoACTV's GPS, tried to catch my breath and tried to calm the surge of anxiety that had suddenly welled up with the relief of finding the start. It wasn't good though that I was already panting before the race had even started. "GO!!"

And the run was on...I began walking with the occasional jog still trying to recover from my unofficial pre-race mile. I eventually felt like I was in a groove and began  an alternating run-walk. Bad idea. The first part of the race wasn't too bad. mostly flat going through part of the Riverside area, Old Town, along the Douglas Design District into College Hills and back (for the most part...the last part of the run was on the other side of the river). I had stopped a regular run-walk system at about mile 9 opting to just run as far as I could...typically only 100 feet or so then walking as long as I needed to. Since I was passing my car on the way back I decided to go off course and dump my race belt in the car. I just grabbed one of my 10oz bottles of G2, my camera and my phone (I thought) and got back on course. By the last 2 miles or so I was exhausted and had started to cramp up in my right foot. By that point it became a mostly, if not all, walking event. I'd look out for the course photogs and try to pretend that I was running as I went by them with not a lot of success. I tried to run across the 2nd bridge but it was a no go and I finished the race walking...slowly. I was way over my goal of 3 hours and my foot was cramping badly. After stopping for a massage (where I realized that I must have forgotten my phone in the car), some oranges, a whole bunch of chocolate milk and a Gatorade I made my very first trip to a medical tent to get an ice bag. I sat around listening to the band while waiting to get an ART (active release therapy) chiro to do a demo on me in hopes of loosening up my legs and back before the drive home. I waited for over an hour...everyone else was packing up to go and this chiro was just there chit chatting with the person before me. I had to get on the road so I just said forget it and headed out on the 1.25 mile walk back to the car.

When I got back to the car, I noticed that my phone wasn't anywhere in the car. I spent a half hour searching everywhere in and around the car even following part of the course (after traffic had already started back up) to see if it was smashed on the street somewhere. Crap! That was my lifelink home. Luckily I had my tablet with me and texted the old man that I had lost the phone (again). I decided that it was permanently lost so I decided to go to the nearest Y and take a shower before hitting the road. I checked my texts (no voice capability on the tablet) and the old man had gotten a call from a man whose wife had found it. I used the Y's phone to call him and we began a several hour long telephone tag to get my phone back. Since it was already past 4pm I decided that I'd have to stay another night and drove back to the base to try to get a room. Luckily they had plenty of rooms available and I ended up in a first floor room in the main building. After getting some near San Francisco quality Chinese food in town, I was finally able to get back in touch with the guy and get directions to meet his wife for the return of my phone. That happened at a little after 8pm so I was really happy to have found a room already.

By the time I got the phone back, my right foot was hurting terribly and I could barely put weight on it. In fact, I was basically just walking on the instep because I was fairly sure that I had managed to get a stress fracture of my 5th metatarsal (the outside foot bone). I was going to go to a civilian urgent care/ER when I remembered that there was a VA medical center (read ER) in town so that's where I headed (I didn't need any extra medical bills). After nearly 4 hours I was out on crutches with a post op walking shoe. Joy. I was to be non-weight bearing for 7-10 days...lovely. I got back to the base, figured out a way to carry 2 cans of soda while walking with 2 crutches. At 48 years old, this was the first time I had been on crutches let me tell you...I was no good at using crutches. I finally fell asleep sometime after 2am...

Race Day + 1

I woke up just after 6am. I decided to just take my time and head out by 9am or so. I lounged around a bit, played on the laptop and finally started getting ready. Let me tell you, I was just glad that there was a shower stall instead of a tub in the bathroom. Being non-weight bearing on one foot really made for an interesting shower.

I finally headed out a little before 9am. The only eventful things happening on the way home was getting lost within the first 5 miles and having to backtrack and my first stop at a McDonald's on I-35 service area for lunch (my first lunch at McD's in a couple of years).

I arrived home around 7:30pm MT to a choir of 7 canines barking and howling for mama/gramma. After a weekend like that I was really surprised that I never really fell apart emotionally. I had come close on race day, but I managed to get through it without melting down. Maybe I was actually on the mend...

Official Time:  3:11:27 (Personal Worst by about 5 minutes)

What did I like about this race?
Nice, mostly flat course, nice weather this year (for the race itself), goes through some nice areas.

What did I not like about this race?
Finish area was a bit disorganized...ran out of food for the late half marathon finishers (only had half a tray of oranges when I arrived and I was essentially chased off of the marathon finishers table). The food was almost out at the runner's food tent in the runner's village as well.

Would I do this race again?
Yes, but I'd train correctly (had only run a max of 5.5 miles and only about 15 runs total most of which were only 3 miles or less) and be much better prepared. It was my fault as far as getting an injury all due to poor preparation.

Dane Rauchenberg, ultra runner and author.

I represented Team Red, White & Blue for this race.
Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the course.
I believe this was in the College Hills area.
Going down Douglas Ave, the return trip.
Keeper of the Plains Plaza & Sculpture in the Riverside area.
Coming over the pedestrian bridge at Keeper of the Plains Plaza.
2012 Half Marathon Finishers medal.
Close up the HM Finishers medal.

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