Just over two weeks ago, Wifey and I headed to plains of the American Midwest for our final race of 2016 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So before the memories of another 26.2 miles (or in this case 26.8’ish miles) fade too far I best get on with The Williams Route 66 Marathon Recap. This was my 11th marathon overall in my 8th State with Oklahoma joining the ranks of Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Our trip to Tulsa was a relatively short racecation. We headed out on the Friday before the Sunday race and returned on Monday morning. It was, however, packed full of activities and events and we had a great time on one of our most fun trips of the year. The weekend flew by and it seemed we were heading home as quick as we had arrived.
We had elected to stay at the host hotel for the event, the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tulsa. We arrived Friday afternoon after flying from Seattle to Dallas where we had time for lunch before our connecting flight to Tulsa. The hotel offered a great discount for the event and had a free airport shuttle. After an easy check-in, we headed out for happy hour and dinner at a local brewery/eatery. This has become a standard for us when we we are on the road and arrive a couple days before race day. It’s always fun to explore new downtown areas and sample the local restaurants and brews.
First, a few highlights
- This is a fabulous event that truly caters to the needs of the runners. The entire marathon weekend has something for everyone from the kids race to the 5K/10K Saturday runs to the half and full marathon main events on Sunday.
- Everyone associated with the event was so friendly as was just about everyone in the city of Tulsa. The city is truly welcoming to visitors.
- We participated in the blogging panel at the expo courtesy of the wonderful social media manager Cheryl Lawson, who made us feel so comfortable and welcome. Thank you Cheryl!!
- Tulsa can get real cold real quick! Overall, the weather was great for running but the the overnight lows dipped to about freezing so it was a cold start in the morning.
- Marathon Maniacs and Half-Fanatics – this race really is for you! There is a VIP staging area near the starting corrals complete with private portables, gear check, coffee, tables, chairs etc. And, a big post-race event/party complete with food, beer, and custom medals.
- This course is not conducive to PRs – it is continuous rolling hills. Oklahoma may be flat but Tulsa is not and if there is a hill in the city, this course has it! They are mostly rolling and not super steep but for 26 miles they are never ending.
- You can run the world’s shortest ultra at mile 26…I did and you should if you run this event. There are timing mats that time the “ultra” split so you can subtract it from your overall time. The Center of the Universe detour will net you an extra bling in the form of a really cool coin and a beer shot. Of course you run a couple more hills to get it but well worth the extra effort and everything hurts by then anyway.
Expo and Blogging Panel
After a relaxing morning and a great lunch at the hotel restaurant we walked the half mile or so to the convention center for the race expo. Packet pickup was well organized and easy to navigate. The expo was one of the larger ones with variety of the normal vendors and various race booths to visit. The tech shirts for Route 66 are great quality, being long sleeved half-zip type jackets.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we were honored to be invited to be part of the expo blogging panel that is held as part of this event. Along with 4 of our run blogger peers from around the country we participated in a fun Q&A style panel as we talked about all things running and blogging. I highly recommend participating if you choose to run Route 66 and have an active running blog. It was a unique experience and a lot of fun. Thank you Cheryl for the kind hospitality and the opportunity to be a part of the expo. Definitely a first for both of us!
The Hyatt was a block from the back of the starting corrals so we were able to enjoy a relatively late race-day sleep-in until 6am! We had noticed the rather dramatic change in air temperature on our walk around Tulsa on the way to the expo. Race day morning greeted us with a temperature of a couple degrees below freezing. We looked more like football fans heading to a winter game tailgate than marathon runners.
The Route 66 Marathon includes some extra recognition and events for the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics clubs including a very welcome private/VIP start line area and post-race party in addition to the custom medals. The waiting area with hot coffee, designated portables, and private gear check was much appreciated…mostly because it allowed us to keep our heavy layers for as long as possible! After the group photo, it was time to head to the designated starting corral and get ready for kickoff.
Start and first 5’ish miles
After a long race season, I had not really followed any kind of formal training cycle for Tulsa. This was the 6th and final marathon of the year and I had no illusions about even coming close to my 3:59 PR. I was determined to enjoy our final racecation of 2016 and experience the fun run party weekend. Realistically, I thought something around 4:30 would be an appropriate target that would allow me to finish relatively strong.
With all that in mind, I was determined to not go out too fast. After a short downhill to get the race started, I settled in around a comfortable pace of around 10:00. For the first 5 miles my pace varied only by 10 seconds. A portable stop at an aid station around mile 6 disrupted my rhythm but no real cause for concern. With a long way to go and no time to chase, I was not worried by taking a minute for needed relief.
The next few miles were not quite as consistent but were mostly run around 9:30, with a couple miles dipping below 10:00. The course was rolling hills throughout and while the downhills were most welcome, it was just a matter of time before we paid the price with another climb. The crowd support was fantastic with all kinds of block parties going on as we ran through one neighborhood after another. An enthusiastic group outside a gym were riding spin bikes and blasting music, high-fiving us as we ran by. At some point we ran by a TV station who had a camera and reporter on the sideline broadcasting. Admittedly, that might have been in the second half!
In terms of the race and performance, I continued to feel fine as we made our way back to the downtown area. The half-marathon and marathon course share essentially the same route until about mile 12.5. At that point the halfers , mostly smiling by now, veer off to the party at the finish line that we can hear in the distance. We looped agonizingly close to the finish block, made a right turn into a hill and a strong head-wind as we headed out into the second half.
The Long Middle Bit
I’m not really sure what is considered the middle part of a marathon. Despite having done a few now, I’m pretty sure it’s not at the half-way marker but somewhere between miles 14-20/21’ish. It’s long and it goes on forever and you’re never quite sure when you will be through with it and onto the really hard part. The second big loop took us out into the north and east parts of Tulsa. Again, the rolling hills continued through the famed Cherry Street district, which I think might be famous for hills.
But, the support continued and my pacing stayed mostly consistent though slower as I settled on my target of a roughly 4:30 finish. Eventually, we made it to the scenic Tulsa University campus for a huge loop at the 20 mile marker. I was feeling OK but more fatigued and I was pretty certain I was getting close to the hard part.
The Hard Part
After the tour around the University we exited around mile marker 21 and hit more hills. I recall a particularly long and arduous climb approaching mile 22. At the end of this section was another block party and “temptation station.” The hosts were screaming the runners on and offering encouragement in the form of beer shots! I finally succumbed…with everything starting to hurt, I took my first ever beer shot during a marathon, and it tasted spectacular! It was certainly a welcome change from gels and Gatorade.
The beer and a beautiful long downhill gave me the kick I needed to get my legs going again. The next 3 miles really were not too bad. I had a decent stride…well as decent as it can be after running 24-25 miles and I was still enjoying the race and being urged on by the crowds and aid stations.
I am an Ultra-Marathoner
Mile 26 brings the famed Route 66 Marathon optional detour and the opportunity to complete the World’s Shortest Ultramarathon. I was not going to pass up the challenge so made the turn into the detour and up a hill to the Center of the Universe monument. Where I was told to run down the hill on the other side, grab a beer, turnaround and then come back up for my “Ultra” coin! Under normal circumstances that would not have been a big deal but after 26 miles the detour hill seemed like a mountain. Glad I did it though. There were timing mats to allow for a marathon split in addition to total race time.
The Last Bit
With the Garmin closing in on 26.8 miles (whose idea was it to run that extra bit anyway), the end had to be close. I thought I had been hearing the finish party forever and it seemed like we made another 10 more left and right turns. But finally, I hit the final dip under a railway bridge and back up the other side to the long stretch to the finish. The finish was packed with spectators and Bart Yasso of Runners World was screaming out the finisher names as we crossed the line. I was elated to be done and overall very pleased with my performance, pacing, and time.
I didn’t quite make the 4:30 target. My total time including the Center of the Universe was 4:42:26. My official marathon finish time was 4:37:10 – not too far from my 4:30 goal.
Wrapping it up
After doing the usual photo bits and picking up a couple snacks, I made my way to the beer section before finding Paula at the Marathon Maniac/Half-Fanatic VIP post-race party tent. There was plenty of food (and more beer) on hand as well as a custom Maniac medal that they trade you for the one you got at the finish line. It’s the same medal but with the Marathon Maniacs custom ribbon. A very nice touch to an already very impressive bling.
After enjoying the post-race party for a while we started to cool off so before it became completely impossible to stand up, we headed to the shuttle for the ride back to our hotel. Overall, it was a great race day. I did not have any nerves or stress at all. Throwing out any kind of time goal and allowing myself to just enjoy the day really helped. Of course, I was pretty sore. You don’t run 26.8 (see I did that .8 there) miles and not feel a few aches and pains. But, after the customary long nap, we were off to our post-race happy hour celebration. We kept it at the hotel. There was a great bar and restaurant that had everything we needed. We certainly didn’t feel to the need to go explore the city any further!
I’ll save my final summary and thoughts for another post but we loved this race, this city, and this event. I would definitely put Tulsa as one of my top 2 races that I experienced this year along with Missoula. The race shows tremendous hospitality and caters to all runners. A very high quality event.
Six marathons in a year is probably not something I will repeat. I’ll never say never but as we look to next year, I think we might scale back the races. I’d also really like to take another shot at my PR and get under 4 hours again. That likely will require a few less races and a more focused training plan. But, we wont be sitting around either. We have already signed up for our next event – marathon 12 will be in Reno, NV in April!
Thanks for making it through this short ultra recap And for all the good wishes and support. As we head towards a bit of a break and some winter fitness maintenance, I’m looking forward to catching up in the blogging world. And, of course, resuming the Music Monday and Tasty Treat series!
- Have you ever run the Route 66 Marathon
- Ever been to Tulsa?
- What’s your last race of 2016? What’s your first race of 2017?
‘Till next time,
Run safe, run strong, run happy!