On April 19, 1995, some a-hole parked a Ryder van full of fertilizer and explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonated it killing 168 people. Among the dead were a bunch of children in a daycare just above where the van was parked. Timothy McVeigh was quickly caught, tried, convicted, and executed for the crime. Terry Nichols and several others got lengthy prison sentences but were ultimately spared death by flipping on McVeigh and each other while trying to avoid the needle. The federal building was rebuilt on a site nearby and the original building site has been converted to a memorial to those who perished. This marathon is run in memory of those killed and to raise funds for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the Memorial.
Late spring and early summer is a tricky time to run long distances close to home. When I put Oklahoma City on the calendar I did it with every intention of waiting until the last minute to decide if I was actually going. I watched the weather closely and decided on Thursday/Friday to head out on Saturday morning. TJ and I were the only two originally on board. As the date approached Hillary signed up. Then Jerie. Then on Friday (yes, the day before we left) Rachel jumped in. TJ flew up solo, the rest of us piled into Kel’s car and drove the 388 miles due north on I-35. Me (the guy who only likes to stop when the gas tank is empty)…in the car with three girls who are vigorously hydrating for a marathon the next day. It’s probably not fair to call it a recipe for disaster but it was definitely a recipe for one, one, one slow trip to Oklahoma. We hadn’t even made it 40 miles when
Hillary the first one had to go. We stopped in Salado, Waco, Fort Worth (combo stop for lunch as well), Ardmore, and Paul’s Valley. On average, we stopped every 80 miles. Despite that, we made excellent time arriving in Oklahoma City exactly 6 hours after leaving Austin.
We checked in and hit the expo. Rachel was leaning towards doing the half but it was sold out so she had to register for the full. With our packets in hand, the only thing left to do was check the updated weather forecast (rapidly deteriorating) and start making dinner plans. We found a cool little Italian place, Portofino’s, that was in a building that used to house a PF Changs (big horses still out front). The service was slow but the food was good and reasonably priced.
Race morning we awoke to temps in the low 50s, rain, lightning, and winds screaming in from the north at 20 mph (bringing more of the same with it). The start was delayed 30 minutes in an attempt to let the lightning pass through. It worked, the lightning was gone but the wind and rain stayed and the strong north winds dropped the temperature into the 40s. We waited until the last minute to leave the hotel which ended up being a mistake. We couldn’t get closer than two blocks away from bag drop before the crowd of runners and spectators got too thick to allow forward (really backward) progress. We basically got stuck and had to wait for the race to start to cover the remaining two blocks in the opposite direction to drop our bags. Once dropped, we worked our way forward and crossed the starting line about eleven and a half minutes after the race had started. Chip timing minimizes the impact of this but what it doesn’t do is thin the crowd much. Starting that far back means a lot of weaving early on. It probably took us two miles to get to a point where the crowd was moving at about our desired pace (roughly 9 minutes per mile). TJ and Hillary got themselves to the starting line on time so they didn’t have to deal with any of this.
I’m not sure why, but I decided to wear the Garmin for this race. Jerie, Rachel, and I planned on running the whole race together and wanted to run right at 4 hours…or slightly under. I’ve done shorter races in conditions like we were running in but never a marathon. The wind wasn’t a big deal but mixed with the steady rain and cool temps it made for an interesting day. I usually attempt to gauge my future misery by how quickly I start sweating. Sweating within a mile means an epic meltdown is close at hand, sweating after six or seven miles is usually a good sign. Being completely drenched from the start throws that measure out the window so, for today only, I decide to use my frozen fingers as a gauge.
Miles 1 – 5, after a perfect 10:00 minute mile one and a 9:40 mile two we get on track and end up averaging 9:21 through here. After a mile, Jerie and I lost Rachel in the crowd. We didn’t know if she was ahead of or behind us so we marched forward. It is highly unusual for my hands to stay cold after two miles even in the coldest of conditions. At this point they are still completely numb.
Miles 6 – 10, definitely in a groove now. Clipping along at an average of 8:57. My hands are so cold my fingers are actually starting to hurt. Jerie is handing me an occasional gel blast (cola flavored, yum!)…and I just have to kinda slurp them up out of my palm. I cannot pinch them between two fingers.
Miles 11 – 15, it’s pretty flat through here plus I stopped to tinkle and Jerie kept going. I had to speed up a little to catch her and ended up averaging 8:45. I went through the half in 2:01:31 so I’m set up pretty well for another negative split assuming we can pull off the sub 4. I have lost all manual dexterity in my fingers. I find myself pumping my fingers for the better part of the time between miles…only stopping to check my split when the watch beeps. I’m actually starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to feel my digits again.
Miles 16 – 20, the sun actually came out at mile 17!! It didn’t stay long though. Just long enough for my fingers to thaw out and for Jerie to remove (and discard) her trash bag, plastic gloves, and real gloves. By mile 18 it was raining harder than before, the temp had dropped another 5 degrees, and the wind was gusting up to 30 mph. Mile 20 is a rocking downhill and helped us eke out an 8:59 pace through here. Oh, and I can’t feel my fingers again.
Miles 21 – 26.2, we realize that we are going to be very, very close to 4 hours. I think we even tried to speed up when we could. Miles 20 to 24 were a long, slow climb and we were having a hard time keeping them close to 9. We took turns pulling and, when we could make words, tried to encourage each other and keep each other focused. I didn’t have my heart rate monitor strap on but I’m pretty sure I know what it would have said…I was giving it all I could and I think Jerie was too. We averaged 9:12 per and crossed the line in 4:01:41. I couldn’t actually push the stop button on my watch so I had to wait for the official results to confirm this. The official results also confirmed another negative split (this time by a whopping minute and twenty seconds)!
Full details here.
If you’ve ever run a marathon you probably know first hand the frustration of knowing that you’re going to be very close to your goal time but really have no energy reserve left to tap to shave off a minute and some change (or even 10 – 15 seconds per mile over the last several) to get it done. We knew, we tried, it just wasn’t in the cards that day.
Oklahoma City uses the RunPix technology as a supplement to their regular results. To illustrate just what I mean when I say we left it all out there…their tracking system says we passed 153 runners in the final 10k and were passed by none. You’ve probably read enough of my reports to know that I don’t roll like that. That was all Jerie and I’m just glad I was able to hang on for dear life to her very wet coattails all the way to the finish line.
So, we’ve crossed the finish line…the race should be over, right? Wrong! I grab a water, a fig newton, and a cookie and start sleestacking my way out of the finisher’s chute. Towards the end there is a Carl’s Jr. mobile grill set up and they are churning out the FREE burgers as fast as they can. As awesome as it looks…I just can’t do it. We grab our finisher’s t-shirts and check the reunion area for Rachel, Hillary, and TJ. Empty…duh, it’s raining like gangbusters and the wind is really picking up now. We’re only a few blocks north of our hotel so we start the walk back. That north wind is hitting me in the back so hard my neck is cramping! Then I start getting pelted with hail!! We duck into the massage tent and wait for it to pass. It does and now we really start to worry about everyone else…hoping that they’re finished or at least able to find cover.
I finally get back to the room but cannot get warm. I put on dry clothes and get under two down comforters but am still shivering. I take a long, hot shower but start shivering again immediately after getting out. I get back under the covers but this time I take the hairdryer with me. That does the trick!
We head out to a sports bar for some recovery grub. I down an excellent burger and fries but have to limit my beer intake to one (gotta drive home). We hit the road and are not at all surprised to learn that all that crappy weather is basically trapped on the I-35 corridor. There are a few wrecks, lots of construction, and more hail so the trip home takes about 2 hours longer than the trip up. I did learn that mildly dehydrated girls (who have just run a marathon) sleep more and pee less than girls who haven’t.
The highlight of the return trip was the obligatory Blizzard stop! It really hit the spot!!
Oklahoma City is definitely a marathon worth doing. It was my 25th marathon and my 14th state.
Next up, The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon on June 5th in South Dakota.