We’ve got this. Half way milestone.

Date: November 2, 2013

Midsouth Championship Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1

Time: 2:26:51

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Date: November 3, 2013

Cohick Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1

Time: 2:26:23

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For the second time, Denise and I decided to knock out two states in one weekend. This time, we tackled Arkansas and Missouri, which brought us to a total of 25 states completed. And what a weekend it was–it included crossed phone wires, errant GPS instructions, and a renewed motivation to complete our 50-states goal–after a bit of rest and recovery first.

Saturday's shirt and medal

Saturday’s shirt and medal

Denise flew in to Salt Lake City on Friday morning and we then got to be on the same flight into Memphis. I purchased airline tickets this time, rather than depend on being able to fly non-rev only to find out that the flight to Memphis was less than half full, darn it. Oh, well, the return flight out of Atlanta was overbooked so the purchased tickets paid off when I came home.

We arrived in Memphis early Friday afternoon, picked up our rental car, and drove the easy, one-hour trip into Wynne, Arkansas–population 8000. Packet pick up confirmed our suspicions–this was a small, inexpensively planned race and consisted mainly of local runners. That meant cotton race shirts, no frills race packet, and few details about the next day’s race. No worries. The town was so small, it was impossible to get lost and smaller races are sometimes a welcome respite from huge crowds.

We had dinner at a strip mall Mexican restaurant near our luxurious Days Inn hotel–both the meal and the room were cheap and adequate. I don’t normally recommend eating Mexican food the night before a race, but for us, it worked. We set out our race gear and went to bed by 8:00 p.m.–looking forward to a ten-hour slumber before the race.

Crossed phone wires. To our surprise, instead, we received a series of calls to our hotel room phone from other hotel guests–requesting wake up calls, complaining about the smoke smell in their room, and to report a burned out light bulb. Turns out, the phones were wired incorrectly and all calls to the front desk were, instead, going to room 212. Lucky us. We reported the mix up to the front desk, they said they knew about it (but neglected to warn us), and advised us to unplug our phone as a solution.

After following their suggestion, we did manage to get a really great night’s sleep and were ready to roll first thing in the morning.

We woke up to a clear, crisp morning and made our way to the local high school–the start and finish for the race. Races like this are nice–regular bathrooms and warm shelter before having to wait at the starting line are always appreciated–as was the ample parking in the school lot.

The course for this race was an out-and-back, and, with the exception of a mile stretch along a busy highway (didn’t like that part), took us along rural, mostly traffic-free roads.

Because the water stations were set up at every mile (or close to it), we used our walk/run race strategy by slowing at each water station to hydrate and walk for a tenth of a mile. After the brief break we would then run to the next water station. We’ve found this to be a good strategy for a race in general, and an especially good strategy when plans call for another race within 24 hours.

Sunday's shirt and medal

Sunday’s shirt and medal

We were satisfied with our time, felt pretty good, and made our way to the next day’s race–about five hours away, according to previous estimates.

The Errant GPS. We surmised, about half way into our trip to Springfield, that the GPS on my phone was not set to “faster route,” but, rather, a combination of “faster and shorter.” That meant that, while we enjoyed very beautiful scenery, we rarely got to travel faster than 50 mph. This added a full half hour onto our trip when we were wanting, instead, to get to our destination as fast as possible in order to get our race packets before they quit distributing them and in order to maximize what little rest time we had before the next day’s race.

We did make it to packet pick up–with less than an hour to spare and feeling sick of being in the car all afternoon. After arriving, I felt a sharp twinge of pain behind my right knee, which I blamed on the fact that our rental car had no cruise control and I had spent almost six hours working the gas pedal on twisting, mostly single lane roads with fatigued muscles.

We had just enough time to pick up our race packets, check in to our hotel, and seek out some grub. We carbo loaded big time. Denise went for pancakes and hash browns and I thoroughly enjoyed french toast, eggs, and sausage. Then, it was off to sleep. Again, another quiet night and a very good night’s sleep.

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The morning brought a bit colder weather, but the skies were still clear.

Google Images

Google Images

This was a much bigger race–very well-organized and a lot more participants. I liked the course, too. Instead of a rural out-and-back, like most of my recent races have been, this looping course took us through the city of Springfield–historic neighborhoods, parks, and the downtown area.

We were most surprised by the water beer station stop at mile five–right next to the Mother’s Brewing Company. At 8:00 a.m. Denise and I toasted each other with a shot glass-sized beer sample and continued running. Our race strategy was similar to the previous day’s: walk for .1 mile and then run the remaining mile. Things were going as expected and we were both feeling pretty strong. I, however, had to take a pit stop at mile 7 and lost sight of Denise as she continued on her way. Determined to find her again, I kicked it in to high gear and ran a 9-minute mile to catch up with her.

My favorite slogan from the race. This pcture is taken from Google images.

My favorite slogan from the Springfield race. This one is taken from Google images.

I was glad to make up lost time, but I’m afraid my efforts–or perhaps the previous day’s hours of driving–might have hurt my knee. About a mile later, I felt something pop in my knee that caused me to limp along for the next mile and a half,  and fear that I may not finish the race. I kept plugging along, just gutting it out and was shocked when, as we were nearing mile 11, the pain disappeared completely. I have no idea why, but the pain simply left as suddenly as it had come on. This allowed us to finish strong and run the second day’s race faster than the first (barely).

At the finish area, after we quit running, we started getting really cold so we hurried back to the car so we could get back to the hotel to shower, rest, and–(of course) find our next meal.

We scored some really great bar food at the Springfield Brewery–including Scotch eggs, bread pudding, and beer samples–and then turned in early for yet another good night’s sleep. It was so nice to not have to rush to catch a flight after the race. Instead, we got to leisurely bask in our post-race glory, take our time packing, and hang out together for a little while longer.

We flew out the next day, feeling great, well-rested, and motivated to run races in March, April, and back-to-backs in May. Dare we attempt to knock out all fifty states before January 2017? That’s our goal–25 more races in 36 months.

We’ve got this. 

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