Date: September 8, 2012

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:16:46

Go Cats!

Most races I complete require travel to a new destination and figuring out where to stay, where to eat, and how to travel wherever I need to go.  In this case, I went to Cedar Falls, Iowa—the home of Debi, a long-time friend who has recently started running half marathons. Because the race was in her city, she and her husband, Dave, took care of everything and were amazing hosts.

Deb and Dave’s generous hospitality meant that I had a ride from the Cedar Rapids airport to Cedar Falls, a personalized tour of the race course the night before the race, a top quality Italian meal that evening, and great hotel accommodations. Deb had even upgraded my race registration to VIP—which meant that we didn’t have to stand in line to get our race packets, we received a nicer quality swag bag, and in addition to the great, long-sleeved tech shirt, we also received a beverage glass and hat which commemorated the race—the Trekman Park-to-Park.

And I certainly cannot overlook the fact that Debbie somehow arranged to have a John Deere tractor parade for me right at the time of race packet pickup. So, as we walked from Dave’s downtown office to where we picked up our swag, we enjoyed steppers, cloggers, and drummers, along with a steady stream of green farm equipment rumbling down the street. In case you weren’t aware, John Deere headquarters are in Cedar Falls (along with Quaker Oats and Barilla Pasta, I’ve since learned).

The next morning, the VIP upgrade that Debi arranged also allowed us to utilize a parking area closer to the start of the race, and have the use of private porta potties—with no lines to wait in. For anyone who has seen the throngs of people lined up in front of the restrooms during virtually every race, you’ll understand why the no waiting option was such a luxury.

The day of the race could not have been more perfect. Skies were clear, there was no wind, and we enjoyed nice, cool temperatures at the start that warmed to low-seventies later on.

I didn’t break my personal record this race, but Debi sure did—by three minutes—and that’s in spite of the fact that she has been experiencing flu-like symptoms for over a week and has not gotten to follow her training plan as she would have liked.

We ran the whole race with a woman named Susan, whom Deb knows from previous races. We all ran a similar pace so we were well-matched. Agreeing to force ourselves to hold back a bit at the beginning was a very good call (and, we agreed, was a challenge for all of us). For the first three miles or so we kept our pace at around 10:30, then allowed ourselves to creep up to about 10:00-minute miles during the middle of the race. Even though we felt this was a prudent plan, Deb and I were all feeling some aches and pains by about miles seven or eight. For Deb, it was her knee and some slight stomach cramping. For me, I was experiencing new pain in my hip joints. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure it was caused by running on a completely flat course since I’m used to running hills.

Leave it to me to bitch about hills one week and then complain about a flat course two weeks later.

The course itself was beautiful—if not my favorite, at least in my top three courses I’ve ever run. The entire race was run on existing running trails mostly in park areas which were canopied by trees in several areas. We were treated to scenic views of the water throughout the race, and a deer even bounded across the running path about fifty feet in front of me at about mile eleven. That sight was rewarding as I was nearing the end and really having to push myself.

As we crossed the finish line we were given moistened towels and very hefty medals. The announcer also did a good job announcing peoples’ names as they finished and I loved hearing, “Crossing the next of all fifty states off her list” after my name was read.

My only complaint about the entire race weekend was that it was too short. I didn’t get to spend as much time with Debi as I would have liked—we had twenty-six years of catching up to do since high school, and I didn’t get the chance to meet her son. I also missed seeing the Bobcats play football, as I had planned on doing.

I decided to cut my trip short in order to maximize my chances of getting home before work on Monday. A check of available flights showed that virtually all flights out of Iowa were really booked on Sunday and I had a much better shot of getting home if I tried to make my way back on Saturday afternoon. The earlier-than-planned departure meant that, instead of going directly to the Drake football stadium in Des Moines, Debbie’s parents (who were in town for the game) generously took me to the airport on their way to the game.

Deb’s dad, Joe, showed some good old-fashioned expedient Montana driving and got me to the airport about forty minutes prior to my flight. The travel gods were on my side because the airport was virtually empty and that allowed for a quick check in and even quicker trip through security. Amazingly, I arrived at my gate just before they started boarding.

I did end up taking a rather circuitous route home—Des Moines to Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Las Vegas, then home from Las Vegas on Sunday. I decided on this route, after considering several others, because these flights were the most open and also, coincidentally, my husband flew the Los Angeles to Las Vegas leg. That meant I was not only able to spend time with him while he was working but that also meant I had a free room to stay in on Saturday night along with free transportation from the airport to the hotel. Not bad—a very last-minute overnight in Vegas with my husband. That certainly wasn’t planned, but nice nonetheless.

I still have several other Midwestern states to cross off my list and I certainly hope to be able to talk Debi into joining me for at least a few of them.

Next up? Nebraska with Denise and—if we are successful in our negotiations—Caree as well. Maybe that course will be not too flat and not too hilly but just right.

















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