Sunday morning dawned way too early for me, as always, but it was time to get up and run one of my favorite marathons, so I couldn’t be too upset about that. We were supposed to leave Patty’s house at 6:35 to pick up our friend Aaron, but Jenn agonized over her clothing choices for much longer than necessary, so 6:35 ended up being more like 6:45. She was so stressed out about being cold during the race and she couldn’t decide how many layers to wear. Meanwhile, I threw on my Mossy Oak tights (which it was finally cold enough to wear during a race), some shorts, my Maniacs singlet, and some arm warmers and gloves. Yes, the high temperature for the race was 25 degrees and I planned to run it in a singlet while Jenn decided whether she should wear 2 or 3 jackets. Hmm.
We got to our VIP Parking area (thanks to me speaking at the expo –WIN) later than anticipated, and with the shuttles running really slowly, we came very close to missing the Maniacs picture. In fact, we did quite a brisk warm up sprint from the shuttle drop off to the picture location and made it just in time. I had a quandary, though. I really needed to go to the bathroom, and the lines were long before the picture. When everyone headed over to the picture, I got in line for the bathroom and decided to forego the picture. Last year, there were so many people in the photo that you could barely make yourself out anyway, and with even more Maniacs and Fanatics signed up this year, I knew that would be the case again. Hitting the bathrooms was definitely the right call since the lines were even longer afterwards with very little time before the race!
Patty, Jenn and I ended up joining up with Jennie, Jennifer, and Terri. Yes, for those keeping track at home, that is 3 variations of the name Jennifer in a group of only 6 people. We were all planning on running the race and finishing around 4:22 (10 minutes per mile), so we took off together. We had such a blast! The atmosphere at this race is second to none. We were having so much fun that we barely noticed the very hilly start to the race. Patty knew that there were jello shots and beer waiting at mile 10.5, which everyone was excited about – especially Jennifer. She asked us about 4 times before we reached mile 6 if we were close to the jello shots yet. Imagine our surprise when we saw a sign advertising free shots at mile 7! I ran up and asked what they were shots of, and it turned out to be Bacardi, so I wisely passed. I can barely say the word “rum” without throwing up thanks to a bad college experience. Jenn, Jennifer, and Terri weren’t quite as forward thinking as me and took the shot without asking what it was. As it turns out, Bacardi doesn’t go down that smoothly at 9 am when you’re running a marathon.
We were all chatting away and having a blast and holding steady around a 9:45 average pace, which felt very comfortable. As we ran down Riverside it was fun running by other Maniacs and shouting out encouragement to them. It was even more fun because we had finally reached a flat portion of the course after some lengthy and challenging hills. FINALLY, much to Jennifer’s delight, we reached the jello shots and free beer at mile 10.5. This was probably the best beer stop I have ever been to. They had jello shots in all the colors of the rainbow, plus the shots of beer. We all took one and we got the guy from channel 2 news to take our picture. For some reason, he was not interested in interviewing me to find out why I love beer so much. Trust me, I asked. I think it was a hard-hitting story that he passed up on, and I’m sure he is kicking himself now. The sweetest part of the stop was when Patty’s friend (and T-Rex reader!) Kate held up a bottle of Sprite and a pack of Oreos and told me she had brought them for me and asked if I was feeling ok! I couldn’t believe how thoughtful she was and I felt so bad that I was feeling a little nauseous (possibly the jello shots…hmm) and had to turn them down. Seriously, I still feel awful, so Kate, thank you SO MUCH and please know that I was incredibly touched by that gesture. You are incredibly thoughtful and pretty and nice.
Jennifer grabbed a couple of jello shots for the road and we headed back out. Not too much later, we saw Anders, who was working as a photographer for the race since he was hurt and couldn’t run. He always brightens up my day, so we stopped and took a picture. The half marathoners split off shortly after, but we were now averaging 10 minute pace and I was feeling fine. I had thought about splitting off and just doing the half earlier in the week since I got sick with bronchitis after my last half marathon and wasn’t sure I’d have the energy to do a full without compromising my training for Kiawah. I had plenty of energy at the split and was confident that I could finish the full, so I kept going. This was a bad idea.
The course got very hilly again after the split, and my legs started to absolutely kill me. They had been pretty painful from the start thanks to the 20+ hours I spent on them at the expo the previous two days, but around mile 15 on the concrete, I knew I was not going to be able to maintain that pace without horrible pain. I yelled to Jenn to wait for me at a water stop and told her to tell everyone to go ahead because I was going to try walking some to lessen the impact. She looked at me with the most relieved look and told me she was feeling terrible and completely out of energy and that she had been wanting to walk so bad, so she and I decided to stick together. We sent the rest of the group on their way because they were all looking strong and we were suffering.
I was pretty frustrated at this point because I really wanted to use this race to gauge my fitness for Kiawah, but it clearly wasn’t going to happen. Every step felt like I had knives stabbing into all my joints in my legs, especially my knees, which basically never hurt. I was so relived that Jenn and I had each other to lean on, though. We had a blast for the rest of the race. We tried to maintain a good pace when we could, but we walked a bit longer at all the water stops and stopped at all 5 remaining beer stops on the course. Seriously. It worked out perfectly because every time I told her I wanted to walk, she said “OMG, I was just thinking the same thing” and vice versa. We laughed at how pathetic we were, but no matter how bad you feel, it’s just really fun to run and talk with one of your good friends. The hills were relentless, though. Some were short and steep while others were long and gradual, but they all took a lot out of us. They had changed the course from last year, and I have to say that I felt this year’s course was significantly more challenging. Thank God there were so many people in Tulsa that were out braving the freezing temperatures to give us beer.
Speaking of the temperatures, I peeled off my throwaway layers at mile 2 and stuck with my singlet and arm warmers. I definitely was not hot or even warm at any point in the race, but as long as we were moving, it wasn’t unbearably cold. The only part of me that was really cold were my hands despite the two layers of gloves I had on. My hands were never really able to get warm, which sucked. It’s really interesting to see how many different outfits people wear in 25 degree weather. Some looked like they were dressed for a marathon on Antarctica, complete with ski masks, while others were shirtless and in shorts. Speaking of marathons on Antarctica, my friend Michelle said that it was colder for the marathon in Tulsa this weekend than it was when she ran her marathon on Antarctica. If that doesn’t sum up how cold it was, I don’t know what does. I went to grab a mini Twix bar out of a bucket along the course, and Jenn did too. As we ran away, she asked me what I had gotten and I opened my frozen hand to find nothing. My hand was so numb that I didn’t realize I had dropped my Twix! Fail.
Last year, my least favorite part of the race was the portion through Tulsa University because I just felt really bad at that point. I’m happy to say that this year, despite the stabby knife pains in my legs, that was not the case. It was a very pleasant surprise when our friend Brian came up to us on his bike and rode along side us for a couple of miles to keep us company! He was getting over an illness and had some goal races ahead, so he decided not to run and just ride his bike along the course instead. This would have been a much better idea had it not been 25 degrees and had he been riding fast enough to generate some heat instead of just wind, but we appreciated his company and it definitely made the miles go by! We also saw him again around mile 24 for just long enough to get our minds off the hills. I like to think that I regaled him with funny stories to take his mind off the wind blowing in his face while he biked at 6 mph.
Jenn and I were both struggling and ready for the race to be over. We started talking about whether or not to do the Center of the Universe Detour, and I basically told her that she was going to and she had no choice. The Center of the Universe Detour is essentially the world’s shortest ultra marathon. Runners can choose to add an extra 0.3 miles onto their race and run past a Tulsa landmark – the Center of the Universe. If you stand on this one particular spot and say something, you can hear it echo, but no one around you can. If you do the Detour, you get a beer at the turn around and a commemorative coin. Last year, the Detour was at mile 17-ish, while this year it was a little past mile 25. Personally, I liked last year’s spot better because when you’re at mile 25, you just want to be done., which was certainly the case for me and Jenn. While the Center of the Universe itself isn’t that exciting, I think this is such a unique and cool race feature that I insist that anyone who runs this marathon do it at least once. It is totally worth the extra few minutes onto your time. I think Jenn pretty much hated me when she saw that we had to go uphill over a bridge to do it, but I like to think she appreciated it deep down under her snarl.
As we left the detour and got close to the finish line, we came upon Bob, a reader who I had met at the expo the day before. We started chatting with him and also noticed a banner that Patty’s running group had put up for her in honor of her 50th marathon! It was so sweet – I saw it and immediately knew she must have burst into tears when she saw it. She is one of the best and most kind and wonderful people I know, and no one deserves it more, so that made me happy. Jenn and I shouted to everyone around us that we knew the lady on the banner – we were so proud! We kept running with Bob, who was struggling too, and the 3 of us pushed each other to the finish. Boy, were we ready to be done!
We crossed the line in 4:47 including the Detour, and our marathon split was 4:44. Even though it was nowhere close to my goal of 4:22, I’m not totally depressed by my time. I had energy and felt completely comfortable with the pace the entire race, including the first 15 miles, which were on track for 4:22. At no point was I tired or felt out of energy – my legs were just killing me, and that’s entirely preventable since I won’t be working the expo at Kiawah. I can’t say that this race was exactly a confidence booster for me like I hoped it would be, but after taking the whole week before the race off due to being sick, plus the expo, I’m trying to tell myself that it’s not that big of a deal and I shouldn’t fret. Besides, any race that includes 6 beer stops and a ton of pictures can’t be that big of a disappointment, right?
As soon as we finished the race, Jenn and I were frozen to the bone. We walked right past the people giving out medals because we thought that we got our special Maniacs and 50 Staters medals in the Maniac tent, but we were quickly corrected when we ran into Patty in the food tent and she told us that we needed to get the normal medal first and trade it in at the tent later. This is where our VIP parking became SO clutch. The car was literally right at the end of the finisher’s chute, and we had left all of our clothes in there, so we were able to get into the car and change with the heat on! None of us wanted to get out because it was 25 degrees when we finished and we were all so cold. Nonetheless, we needed to get our special medals so we had to brave the elements eventually. The medals, as usual, were awesome and a lot bigger than last year. This is one of my favorites!
Unfortunately, the Maniacs tent this year was kind of a bummer. It was not the race’s fault at all – they seriously hooked us up with a ton of food and all the free beer you could drink! Such amazing perks. Sadly, there were just very few Maniacs hanging around because everyone was so cold and there was no way to get warm, even with the heaters. Last year, the temperature at the finish was close to 70 and it was sunny, so there was a huge party with tons of people and everyone stuck around til the end of the race. This year, not so much. Jenn and I were pretty relieved about that because it meant we got to go back to the car a lot sooner and get warm, which was the only objective by that point.
So, this marathon was officially the coldest one I have ever done. That record previously belonged to the 2012 Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama, where the temperature at the finish was a lovely 29 degrees. When we finished Route 66, it was 25 degrees. At least I achieved some kind of record that day, right? Despite the frigid temperatures, this is absolutely one of my favorite races. The course isn’t terribly scenic, but I think even Tulsans would agree that if you came to Tulsa looking for a whole lot of scenery, you came to the wrong place. That being said, the organization, perks, and atmosphere are pretty much second to none. The race directors do a fantastic job and the course support is unparalleled. The volunteers who were standing out there in those temperatures were cheerful and helpful the entire time, the spectators who brought us lots of beer and set up fires in their driveways were so hardcore, and the race directors literally nail down everything you could want from an awesome race experience. I never thought that Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be one of the places I plan to visit every year, but this race is really in a league of its own. Tulsa, you have a lot to be proud of. For those of you looking for a really beautiful, scenic marathon, go to Hawaii. For everyone else, go to Tulsa. You won’t regret it. And I’m not just saying that because Bart Yasso recognized me and said “Go T-Rex!” when I finished, although that definitely didn’t hurt.