90. okc memorial half marathon
I've lived in OK almost four years and have been to Tulsa's sister city in the west only one time. And even that trip was a drive straight to the stadium to see the Grizz play the Thunder, from the stadium to Hooters (my team lost, so I lost the bet) and straight home.
I've considered doing the OKC half marathon in the past but no one I've ever talked to about it had pleasant weather on race day. It was either freezing cold, or torrentially raining, or both. And I just didn't want to risk that. But, this year, I decided time was up and I should use it as part of one of my long runs.
We hoped to be packed and on the road in time to get to OKC by 2pm so we could grab my bib and explore the city for a while. We didn't end up even leaving until 3:30pm, arriving with just enough time to park and walk to the expo before it closed at 6pm.
I'd gotten many recommendations from people for places to eat but at this point we were both so hungry we just wanted something close by. And, since the weather was so nice, outside. We walked around the riverwalk for a while and finally stumbled upon Sussy's. It looked nice enough. Shame on us for not doing our research. It was awful. But we were both so hungry we ate it anyway. Don't go there for any reason ever.
We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott Northwest and I'm only telling you this specifically because it was such a great experience as a runner! They had goodie bags of a banana, water bottle and granola bar for each of us, and an extended checkout of 3pm on race day. I've run A LOT of out of town races and this is the first time something like that has happened!
Chap got up with me like a champ around 5:30. I first woke up at 4:30 with plans to eat some oatmeal but I wasn't hungry and didn't want to risk a too-full stomach so went back to bed for an hour. We were out the door by 5:45 and I made it to the start line by 6:15. I joined almost 25,000 other runners in the corrals and went through the normal pre-race events. National Anthem, thanking the sponsors etc. But this race had a special 168 seconds of silence to remember the 168 victims of the OKC bombing in 1995. It was pretty chilling how quiet everyone was for that time.
Then we were off. I found a place in the corrals between the 8:30 pacers and 9:00 group. I decided to treat this run like a training run for J+J which called for 8:45 minute paces. It's a nice mental relief to not race every race, and I got to take in a new city feeling relaxed.
I ran at a comfortable pace while the course wound us through downtown. When my first mile summary came over my phone, I was surprised to be going around an 8:20 pace. It didn't feel too hard, so I decided to just keep running at that effort. I tried to slow down to 8:45 but never really reached it until I was really really tired at the end. Which is a good sign.
We ran through Thunder Alley (not very exciting since they lost their last game of the playoffs the night before) and through Bricktown. As we approached the Capitol, I thought about all the teachers who had marched and protested there weeks before. All along the course crowd support, aid stations and volunteers were incredible. By mile 3, I could tell it was going to be a warm race. Since winter's hung around so long, I haven't had many runs in the bright sunshine and 60 degree temps. It was tough. By mile 8 I was at Gorilla Hill, a fun little incline with people dressed in gorilla costumes cheering the whole way.
I think it was around the mile 9 or 10 turn to come back towards downtown when I started to lose my mojo. We turned straight into some 15-17 mph winds and direct sunlight. I swear there was a gradual incline all those miles too. But I hung in there, one foot forward at a time. At this point in the race, I was listening to a Marathon Training Academy episode about the horrific conditions at this year's Boston. It definitely kept me moving a little bit.
I had been stopping for a sip of water at every aid station but around mile 11 I could feel a familiar yet unwelcome "too much water in the belly" ache. So I had to stop with that. I could hear my mile splits getting slower as each one inched on, and I walked a few stretches when I just could't make it up the neighborhood hills anymore. Finally, we were in our last mile and I could hear the announcer at the finish line. We were so close when I guy in front of me collapsed. I stopped to try to help him up, but he just couldn't get his legs back under him. I stayed with him for a bit to try to talk to him, and could tell he was definitely having some symptoms of dehydration. I waited for the volunteers and aid team to come and then they encouraged me on. I hate that for people - he was so close! But these races are tough, and so much depends on your preparation for the conditions.
I was happy to finish and had some pretty bad stomach cramps as we walked through the line of treats at the end. I didn't even really see what was there. I drank so much water on the course on a pretty empty stomach, and then CHUGGED a bottle at the end so fast it almost made me throw up. So excited for those summer runs.....
Chap and I wandered our way through the Memorial after the race. Even with all the fanfare surrounding the physical area, it was quiet in the park. It's hard to believe things like that still happen, and so much hate can exist, but it makes me grateful I've never had to experience it first hand.
Finishing the Long Run
After a gypsy bath, change of clothes and a nap, we set out to try to get my remaining miles. By this time it's almost 10:30am and hot. My stomach cramps never really settled down, and that kept us at a 10min average pace. I focused on my breathing hard for 30 minutes straight, just trying to put one step in front of the next. When we got just past three miles and were almost back, I just couldn't do it anymore. Made it to 16.6 and was reminded of the work in front of me. I still know I can do it, but the mental side of the summer training is going to have to pull me through when I want to quit. Big miles this coming weekend as I've got my first of five 20-milers.