I think the thing that I like most about traveling for both work and marathons is that I’m constantly surprised by the places I go. Jason Aldean has a song called “Flyover States” which is basically about all the states in the middle of the country that people in more populated areas think are boring or have nothing to offer. No offense, Nebraska, but you fall into that category. When I headed to Omaha last week for work with a side of marathon, I expected to see a lot of wheat, no hills, and possibly no trees or joy. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was lucky enough to stay with my friend Donna, who is the sister of the fearless Patty. She was kind enough to open her house to us for the weekend and she even made us cookies!
This weekend, we had a new addition to Team T-Rex. I picked up Jenn, a fellow Maniac and reader of this blog, at the airport on Friday afternoon and dragged her around with me to do some more research for awhile. I met Jenn only once, briefly, after the Vermont City Marathon where we both PRed. I was fairly confident that she would be a fun addition to the group, but who knows? Well, it turns out I was right, because we headed to a brewery within about 2 hours of her arrival, and even though she doesn’t drink beer (wine/liquor only – I KNOW), she is still quite likeable. Continuing my tradition of making friends with bartenders wherever I go, Jenn and I started chatting with the bartender to find out the hotspots in Omaha so that we could drag Amanda there after we picked her up from the airport. He had a lot of suggestions, but only one stuck out – a country bar named Rednecks. YES.
Despite the fact that she is generally pretty shy, Amanda loves two things more than most others – dancing and karaoke. It was not hard to convince her that we should wait for Kate to arrive (yes, I went to the airport three times in one day because I am SUCH a good friend) by going to Rednecks. As we pulled up, we discovered that there were free line dancing lessons going on that had just started. Jenn and I were dressed in straight up running clothes – sneakers, sports bras, and all, and Amanda looked somewhat normal.
This may shock you, but I am not the best dancer ever. I mean, I did win an award for it when I was 7, but it’s been downhill since then. Fortunately, the only other people that were taking the line dancing lessons were middle-aged couples decked out in full western/rhinestone apparel complete with boots, so the whole situation was totally non-threatening…right. We practiced some moves for awhile with the very helpful instruction of the dance teacher, who immediately noticed us due to our lack of appropriate attire and proceeded to call attention to us for the rest of the night because she was so impressed that we were there from out of state to run the marathon. While I appreciate the shout out, all this did was alert all of Rednecks’ eligible men that we were there alone and READY TO DANCE.
So, here’s a thing about me. Despite my heart of stone, I actually have a hard time being mean to people in person and I’m incapable of rejecting anyone to their face unless they are extremely rude or creepy or offensive. So I danced with no less than four guys at the bar – the old man above, a ConAgra food scientist from India, the world’s tallest cowboy named Isaac (in the plaid shirt to the left of the picture), and someone else that I can’t totally remember. Anyway, I had a lot of moves. Like basically way too many moves, as demonstrated below.
We were mostly devastated when it was time to leave Rednecks to pick up Kate. The whole way to the airport, Amanda kept asking me (because she was slightly drunk on account of me being a “bad influence”) if we could go back the following night. I said that of course we would go back, because we had far too many more moves to learn. Obviously when we woke up on Saturday morning, we immediately vetoed the idea.
Saturday morning held far greater treasures than any country bar. It was on this day that we discovered the wonders of Hy-Vee, which is basically the midwestern equivalent of Wegman’s, but with much nicer people. This grocery store is not only full of amazing things like the world’s biggest salad bar, a deli that makes the best beer cheese dip ever, and a gourmet cupcake bar, it also apparently is a breeding ground for the world’s most attractive, fit, doting fathers because of course, Omaha.
Amanda and I went on a short run – we’re talking 2 miles – before we all headed off to lunch and the expo. And we couldn’t breathe. It was hot, hilly (OMAHA HAS HILLS) and we were dying. This did not bode well for Sunday’s race. Then we all headed to lunch in Omaha’s cute downtown area, which I think is called the Old Market. There were tons of little restaurants and shops, and downtown Omaha turned out to be extremely awesome! I had my first (and last) Bloody Mary at lunch. Sorry I’m not sorry, Jenn, but you can keep those.
After lunch, we headed over to the expo. Somehow, despite the expo being pretty small, I managed to spend a small fortune on account of heavily discounted running clothes that I wear and an Omaha Running Club t-shirt, which was obviously necessary. We were disappointed to find that the race shirt was basically a giant advertisement for the company that was putting on the race (new this year) – in fact, it doesn’t even say Omaha Marathon! The women’s cut shirts were also freakishly small, although I was able to get one that fit me. Many others were not so lucky. It was at this point that we also learned that the entire course was a straight out and a back, and that the 10k, half, and full all started together. Well, that ought to be fun.
Not all was lost, though, because the race offered a free pasta dinner very close to packet pick up. We met up with Patty and the Tulsa crew and headed over to a local bar before going to dinner. It was so nice to see everyone again – like one big reunion, just like old times – and of course, everything is better with beer. The pasta party was surprisingly adequate, especially since it was free. Many a pasta party runs out of food, but this one didn’t. And even though it was boiling lava hot outside (whatever, it was 72) we stuck around for a few hours and had a great time.
Eventually, I got a text from Jenn telling me that she and Kate had gone to the bar in the restaurant and wanted me to join them. Well OF COURSE they did because I can’t leave anyone unattended or they end up accosted by creepy townies. Kate and Jenn had somehow managed to attract an Omaha patron that was completely addicted to shots. Every 3 minutes he was asking us if we wanted shots, and they inevitably included Jager. I was fortunate enough to pawn mine off on unsuspecting people around me, but I could tell the situation was escalating quickly. When he went to the bathroom, I herded the girls out of the bar as fast as humanly possible. I suppose this is why Jenn and Kate described me as the “Queen Bee” when giving the townie a description of our group. I like to think of myself more as a Guardian Angel, but Queen Bee is fine too.
The night would not be complete without one last trip to Hy-Vee to buy cookie dough and cheese dip – the pre-marathon fuel of champions. We were too embarrassed to ask one of the millions of hot dads in Omaha to take our picture, so the bag boy got the honors instead. Hey, he’ll be a hot dad one day too.
Between the hills, heat, and the fact that our whole group was pretty out of shape, I was feeling none too optimistic about the next day’s race. Hey, at least we did plenty of carbo-loading.