A few months ago, I headed north to Tulsa, Oklahoma to participate in the Williams Route 66 Half Marathon. I’d been to Tulsa only once before, on my roadtrip moving from Zionsville to Austin in August 2012. My childhood friend Katie and her husband Justin graciously agreed to host me for the weekend, and that’s only the beginning of the Oklahoma hospitality. Read on….
I left Austin for Tulsa on Saturday morning after running with the ladies I’m coaching for the 3M half marathon (now in less than 2 weeks!). The weather in Austin had turned suddenly and uncharacteristically cold, we’re talking low 20s, so I anticipated even worse in Tulsa. I bundled up for the drive, gave little rascal Miley a hug and kiss (my first time ever leaving her!) and hopped in the car.
The drive was fairly uneventful. Austin to Waco to Dallas to the state line through nothing and nothing and nothing and then hello Tulsa! The Oklahoma hospitality greeted me as soon as I crossed the state line. There’s a toll road just on the other side of the Texas/Oklahoma border and I was in no way prepared for their style. In Texas they just take a picture of your plates and mail you the bill but in Oklahoma they wanted exact change…..I was $1.40 short. The sun had already set and temperatures were dropping. I explained to the booth attendant that I was driving to visit a friend for the weekend and would come back through on Monday. Then, this kind lady paid the rest of my toll for me! She simply said, “Can I trust you?” Yes of course! She handed me a tiny manila envelope with her name on it and the final amount due, instructing me to drop it off on my way back out of the state. With that she said good night and waved me through!
Oklahoma, I think you and my unprepared self will get along just fine!
453 miles, one friendly toll booth attendant and 7 hours later, I found Katie’s house. She and Justin came out in the freezing weather to greet me and carry my lightly packed bag inside. I hadn’t seen their new house yet so after first being greeted by their two fur babies, I was given the full tour (proud to be the first to sleep in their guest room!). Katie and I caught up on marriage (hers), breakups (mine), dogs (ours) and future plans (she with a new business, me finishing school and thinking of where to move next) over homemade pizza and wine before I snuggled in to the warmth of bed.
I woke up rested on Sunday and checked my phone for the temperature. I’m not one to wuss out on races because of weather but when 25 registered in my mind, I certainly thought about it. The skies were clear though, so I bundled up the best I could and mentally prepped for 2 hours in the cold.
Katie and Justin’s cafe, Foolish Things Coffee, was just blocks from the start so we planned to head there so they could open for a few hours during the first part of the race. Justin fixed me up a cup of their gourmet drip coffee while Katie scooped up some homemade granola for me. I stayed in the warmth as long as I possibly could (7:59am) and then left them to find the start line.
Y’all, it was cold. I had on a long sleeve Under Armour tight-as-hell insulating shirt and a fleece zip up over that. My ears were covered by a Bondi Band and had gloves on both hands. I could feel the burn on my face and the tiny patch of skin between my mid-calves and ankles, but otherwise was pretty comfortable as long as I was moving. Talk about motivation to run….
There were plenty of other crazies at the start with me (see proof above) and we all commiserated over the temperatures. A pair of boys next to me were saying they would be spending 4+ hours trying to complete the full…I’m so glad I gave that distance up! 2 hours sounds like plenty of time in the sub-freezing temps. Thankyouverymuch.
Mile 1 – We started off with a confetti shower and headed away from the skyline into the residential hills. I started thinking about my goal for the race – Katie and Justin joked I’d better PR for the sake of promoting their “Breakfast of Champions” but I knew that was out of the question. I hadn’t been consistently training and honestly didn’t anticipate finishing without walking a bit. I was going to enjoy my music, enjoy the crowd’s energy and enjoy texting and Instagramming through the miles. Easiest goal ever 🙂
Mile 2 – Not long after the first mile mark and about halfway up our first significant hill, the two boys from the start line found me. It was typical race conversation, opened up with a complaint about the hills. I retorted with something about it being hilly in Austin and so it didn’t seem so bad, although the hills were comparable!
Mile 3 – I paused to take a picture and told the boys to continue on, that I could try to catch up. Without expecting to, I did (I think they slowed to wait for me 😉 ) and we continued chatting about race histories (the one with the darker beard was trying to do a marathon in every state, the other one was running his first marathon). I told stories of my first marathon and we kept moving.
Mile 4 and 5 – We’re deep into some historic neighborhoods now. Beautiful homes, rolling hills and bright autumn colors. Dad’s texting me, I’m impressing the boys with my ability to take pictures, post to Instagram and text while maintaining their pace. Their pace, which they keep commenting needs to slow down if they’re gonna make it the full distance.
Mile 6-9 – I’m distracted by my company and fail to take pictures by the mile like I normally do but our conversation is interesting and we’re still trudging along at a sub 2-hour pace. I learn the relationship of the boys – dark beard is a math teacher from Moore and light beard was his student last year. Light beard is now in college studying something complex like engineering. Dark beard knows the route well and warns me of the hardest strip along the river coming up.
Mile 10-12 – We’re finally along the river, a scene that feels happily familiar to me thanks to years of running along the mighty Mississippi. The drawback is that it’s colder on the river, and I’m chilled deep to my bones. I remember the Kings of Leon were on, and it’s getting harder for me to text because my fingers won’t move how they’re supposed to. I’m still trying to stop to take pictures. Our conversation is a little less but I still offer words of encouragement – those poor souls have a long way to go.
Before we separate, I make them take a picture with me. I’ve run several dozen races and have never made friends. I’m always open to it, how great to be in a new place and make a connection with someone who loves what you love? It had just never happened until today. We exchanged information so I could continue to text them encouragement on their last leg of the race. And I finally learned their names – dark beard, the math teacher is Ryan and his student is Zander (short for Alexander). I promised to finish under 2 hours for them.
And I do. I push hard the last mile to make it but I still felt strong – something about the cold weather or good company or a fast song. State 11 done!
The boys end up finishing the full – Zander the first-timer leaves his teacher in the dust but Ryan sucks it up and gets it done. And I’m still so grateful I stick to halves.
I reunite with Katie at the Cafe and am served a specialty mocha by Justin. It takes that, a few hours and a warm bath for me to completely thaw out before hitting the town for Christmas shopping and margaritas!
I leave Tulsa on Monday with it on my mind for a final settling place for me, inspired by the Carpenters’ success at each of their entrepreneurial ventures, a little chilly, pleased with my new friends and tentative plans to reunite for a race this spring. And I leave $1.40 plus some interest at the toll booth on the way out of town.