Oklahoma | Wait, I thought OK was flat?

After wrapping up with Kansas, we were back in the car heading south down I-35 towards Oklahoma City for the second leg of this crazy weekend. When planning for this back to back I just used the 50 states gadget on runningintheusa.com to look up races that were near each other on weekends I had available. I talked a little bit in last post about the crazy time with the Kansas race (thanks again Wicked Marathon) but Oklahoma was much easier as there was only the one race to choose from that weekend. It was a small town race with less than 100 marathon finishers the last few years so I decided to keep the small race vibe going and head down to Ardmore, Oklahoma  

Race:  A2A Bar Nothin’ Marathon
Location: Ardmore, OK
Date: March 25, 2018
Finishing Time: 5:09:57    

The drive from Ottawa to Ardmore was a straight shot down I-35 through OKC and still further south for a little over an hour. We were back to 75 mph speed limits with nothing but prairies on both sides of the road. Exits were few and far between and it really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. There was a point on the highway that had a scenic lookout point on the prairies and it seemed like a good spot to stretch my legs a little bit. I knew that the 5.5 hour drive between races was going to be tough on my body so we tried to make a few stops along the way to keep the blood flowing in my legs. I also wore running tights as compression which provided me with lots of strange looks from locals when I got out of the car. The scenic lookout was really cool for as far as you could see there was just flat land. A few hills out in the distance but nothing substantial. There were also a crazy amount of cattle just roaming the land. Really felt like little house on the prairie type stuff. Ok back to the drive!  

  While in the car, I tried to get down carbs in preparation for tomorrow’s race but my stomach wanted nothing to do with it. Bella and I would share some Cheerios and I would take a bite or two of a bagel before just feeling disgusted with myself. I would try getting some sleep but trying to get comfortable in the car with sore legs (and body) just wasn’t working. Instead Kaela and I just recapped Kansas and then started prepping the plan for Sunday.

A little over halfway in the trip, we started looking for dinner options. Kaela never ended up having lunch while she ran around taking pictures of me so at this point she was a little “hangry”. I wanted to get lots of carbs in a single meal since my gradual approach wasn’t working, so I looked up pizza places in the area. I started to see a familiar name throughout the area, Simple Simon’s Pizza, and assumed it was a local pizza chain and that we should give it a try. On their menu read “The Home of the Original Calzone” so we of course had to try it. I gave the location a call and was speaking with some teenage girl, that didn’t seem to be the brightest, and I had asked her how big the calzone’s were because their menu only had sizes personal and regular with no additional description. She asked how hungry I was and that made me think that maybe the personal was not going to be big enough, so we ended up ordering two regular calzones.  

What a surprise we were in for when we picked up the food. The regular calzone, come to find out, is a large pizza just folded over. Needless to say it was way more food than we wanted and Kaela ended up only splitting one of them while sitting in the parking lot and not even touching the second. Back on the road we finished the final piece of the drive. Once we started to get back into civilization the speed limit dropped back to 70 (not to Kaela’s liking) but we powered through to Ardmore.

  As we got closer to Ardmore, I started to notice the hills on each side of the road. I was under the impression that Oklahoma was just as flat as Kansas, but I started to realize I was mistaken. Just a few exits from our hotel, there was another scenic overlook that gave a beautiful view of the last few moments before the sun set. We talked to a couple about the area and they said that the Arbuckle Mountains (what we were on) were the oldest known in the US and bring people from all over the world to study the lime stone and other rocks.  

Great, now I am going to run on a prehistoric mountain range!   Arriving at our hotel around 10pm, we checked in and I spent a little time getting my clothes and gear organized for the morning. The room was a larger suite so it gave me a little more space to do it all. I laid out my clothes for the race on a table and couch. The race morning was going to be a little chilly, so I made sure I had a throwaway shirt that would keep me warm in the early hours. Time just seemed to be moving by so fast because before I had realized it was already almost midnight. Usually I am nervous the night before a race but in this case I was so exhausted from the run that morning and the travel that I passed out hard.   But the sleep was short lived, with my alarm going off at 4am, I was back at it. I grabbed my bagels and headed down to the lobby to use their toaster (two nights in a row with no microwaved bagels is a win) before heading back to room to eat. The weren’t going down all that great, but I knew that I needed to get in the food to ensure got through the race. I spent quite a bit of time just staring down at my plate just rethinking over and over again this whole back to back race idea. I had to get myself out of the negative thoughts to keep my head up and focused.  

I went through the typical eat, pack, dress routine before Kaela drove me to Noble Stadium where the race would finish but more importantly where I would catch a bus to the start. The race was a point to point race that did not allow runners to drive or be dropped off at the start. So Kaela had to get me to the buses before the final one left at 6:30am with a race start of 7:30am. I was dragging a little bit out the hotel door and we arrived to the stadium as volunteers were saying 5 minutes until buses leave. At this point I still had not picked up my packet, so I gave Kaela a kiss and rushed to grab my bib and event t-shirt.  

CRAP!  

I hadn’t even thought about once I got my gear where I would end up placing it as Kaela was just heading back to the hotel and then heading on the course to see me around mile 7. I guessed I would have to just carry my race shirt for first 7 miles and then hand off the Kaela. I placed my bib on my belt and walked over to the buses as final boarding calls were being made. Grabbed a seat on a tight school bus, put my head on the seat in front of me and tried to be as comfortable as possible. It wasn’t a long ride to the start which was great compared to the crammed hour ride to Big Sur, which was my last experience in a school bus.  

When we arrived at the start, they had said that the bus would stay parked with the heat on for a little bit for those that wanted to stay on. The morning temperatures were in the low to mid 50’s which was a little chilly with the sun not yet up, but in this part of the country, I am surprised I didn’t seem some Uggs and fur coats out on the course. I decided to keep my legs comfortable and hop off the bus and just find a seat. The start of the race was at Turner Falls and I don’t know why I didn’t put it together prior to but it was actually a water fall. It was pretty cool sight when I walked around the corner to grab a seat away from the crowds and stumbled upon the falls. I did not have my phone with me but it made it that much better that I just enjoyed the view and didn’t worry about getting the right shot and using the right hashtag to post to social media.  

I met a few friendly people while waiting at the start. One in particular was Emily. She was newer to running marathons and was working on running across the country as well but mostly half marathons. We chatted a little bit about races in this part of the country to give me some ideas of possibilities for the future. Soon after it was time for the national anthem. I don’t know why, but hearing this before races gives me the feels every time! I think it goes back to little league baseball and the feeling of excitement, nervousness, joy and so many other emotions happening all at the same time.   So I said earlier that I didn’t even think about dropping off my bag back with Kaela but luckily they had a bag check that was taking place at the starting line. It was the most low key bag check ever, with runners being provided a trash bag and a permanent marker to write bib number on it. I followed those instructions, hit up the porta-pottys one more time and made my way to the start just up the road.  

The race started with the marathon and 21 milers at the same point. Between the two races it was a light crowd which made the start really easy to get lined up. I knew in previous years there were only about 100 marathon finishers so I just hung out towards the back of the pack so I could run my own race.  

GO!!!  

Just like that we were off. We started on the top of the hill near the falls and had a short climb followed by a longer descent heading back down towards the highway. Not to long after starting, my body started to get warm so I ditched my flannel on the side of the road. My legs felt really great right at the start, would not have thought I ran the 50k the day before. I knew that it was a long race though, so I tried to keep my legs in check. Gravity was taking over a little bit and rather than beating up my legs by putting on the brakes I opened up my stride a little bit and glided a bit. I started to go by quite a few groups of people on the long decent. In one group in particular a lady said as I passed “you are going to be my pacer”. I laughed it off and said that she would be passing me here in a few miles.  

After passing a few more groups the pack really thinned out and I caught up to a single guy named Tom. He seemed to be going a comfortable pace for me and he was wearing a 50 states completed shirt, so I thought he would make for good company to pass the time. While talking to him I found out he has run over 400 marathons and said he was running sub 4 hour’s for most of the first 300. That was until he had to have open heart surgery and that slowed him down a bit. Mile after mile he told me stories of races all over the country and things he had learned along the way.  

We hit some rolling hills until about mile 5 when we had a steep descent. At this point Tom and I were talking with some other guys and Tom got into one of his stories and we ended up flying down this hill. They were moving at a pace that was much faster than I wanted, even in with the slope, so I backed off a little bit and let them get ahead. Once we hit a flat portion, I used that separation to take in a gel and just catch my breath. I felt strong so far and knew that I had to keep my focus in order to keep it up.  

Just like that we were off. We started on the top of the hill near the falls and had a short climb followed by a longer descent heading back down towards the highway. Not to long after starting, my body started to get warm so I ditched my flannel on the side of the road. My legs felt really great right at the start, would not have thought I ran the 50k the day before. I knew that it was a long race though, so I tried to keep my legs in check. Gravity was taking over a little bit and rather than beating up my legs by putting on the brakes I opened up my stride a little bit and glided a bit. I started to go by quite a few groups of people on the long decent. In one group in particular a lady said as I passed “you are going to be my pacer”. I laughed it off and said that she would be passing me here in a few miles.  

After passing a few more groups the pack really thinned out and I caught up to a single guy named Tom. He seemed to be going a comfortable pace for me and he was wearing a 50 states completed shirt, so I thought he would make for good company to pass the time. While talking to him I found out he has run over 400 marathons and said he was running sub 4 hour’s for most of the first 300. That was until he had to have open heart surgery and that slowed him down a bit. Mile after mile he told me stories of races all over the country and things he had learned along the way.  

We hit some rolling hills until about mile 5 when we had a steep descent. At this point Tom and I were talking with some other guys and Tom got into one of his stories and we ended up flying down this hill. They were moving at a pace that was much faster than I wanted, even in with the slope, so I backed off a little bit and let them get ahead. Once we hit a flat portion, I used that separation to take in a gel and just catch my breath. I felt strong so far and knew that I had to keep my focus in order to keep it up.  

  Tom had started taking walk breaks and I ended up catching back up to him. Now I think that quick mile down hill shook him up a bit because we would run for a little and then try to slow down to fast walk when trying to tell more stories. I kept him going but I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it up. Soon after I realized that we were coming up to the turn that would bring us into the horse ranch but more importantly my first opportunity to see Kaela around mile 7. As always she was posted on the side, Bella in tow, taking pictures. Knowing that I may be a little worn out, she was carrying all sorts of extra nutrition should I need it. At this point I didn’t need anything but told her that on the way back out I probably would.  

We took a left to head towards the horse ranch. It was an out and back 5k full of rolling hills that brought us down to a walk a few times, again mostly because of Tom’s story telling. The horse ranch was really cool just seeing the acres and acres of land, but due to the weather there weren’t many horses out and about. Oh did I forget to talk about the weather?  In this section we started to get some light showers that felt nice to cool us off but so light that it just was an annoyance.  We were making progress in his section but it seemed with every story more and more people were passing us by. The lady that said I was going to be her pacer had caught back up to us and passed us like we were standing still. I didn’t want to be rude and just take off, but I knew something had to give.  

After hitting an aid station around mile 10, Tom said that he needed to back off a moment which was my opportunity to try and create some separation. I pushed ahead catching back up to the “pacing lady” and formally introduced myself to Chasidy. We exchanged some simple introduction “how do you do’s” before almost simultaneously noticing to massive climb we had on our left. Making our way to the split at mile 11, I got to see Kaela again. I grabbed some salt tabs from Kaela, a sponge from the aid station and I was back on the road. 

This is where the race really started as the long rolling hills were the only scenery for the rest of the race. I noticed that Chasidy had gained some ground on me but I was determined to use her as a goal to keep pushing me forward.

  Due to my short stop at the aid station, Tom had also caught back up to me but with my motivation of pushing through to catch Chasidy I didn’t slow down while chatting with him. I pushed the pace and he would back off and then catch up doing what seemed to be almost fartlek type intervals. So not only was this part of the course quite hilly, the wind decided to blow a completely different direction from day prior and was directly in our faces. I kept my eyes to the horizon and pushed through my stride with each step. The course was very easy to see as it was straight down the same road that just rolled all the way into Ardmore. Because of this rolling nature you could see the next two aid stations down the road which were a least a mile a part from each other. This played some games mentally feeling so close to an aid station and it never seemed to get closer with each step. Around mile 14 I noticed I was pulling a little closer to Chasidy but she was not slowing down at all. I started to think I wouldn’t be able to catch her and then snuck into a porta-potty. “This is my chance” I thought (not in a creepy way at all).   With her stop I was able to catch up to her at the next aid station and picked up our conversation that we had started before. She had told me she came into this marathon quite undertrained after being beat up from the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth (which she convinced me to do in 2019). She said that at this point in the race her goal was to just finish around 5:30 and I told her that she will be keeping with me and we would be breaking 5 hours.

  We talked about running, family and bunch of other random stuff to help pass the time. Every so often Kaela would be on the side of the road taking pictures offering up some delicious snacks. At one point I had a few pieces of the extra calzone that we had from the ride down south. Mile by mile just clicked off and with each aid station we hit marked another mini goal completed. The aid station volunteers were also pretty top notched. Each aid station seemed to be run by another group/organization so they all had their own little bit of flair. One aid station had a pickle juice shot station set up and even had some cups with lids for those wanting to take some juice to-go! At another aid station I noticed a box of donuts that were clearly for the volunteers, but it didn’t hurt to at least ask if I could have one. They were even nice enough to rip off a little part of one for me for the road.

Like I said, we used the aid stations as mini goals because were both started to feel the fatigue start to creep in. Between the hills, the wind and the fact I was already on tired legs, at mile 18 I was feeling it. Shortly after mile 18, Kaela saw us and asked me what time we were looking at finishing. Realistically 5 hours was out of the question, so I let her know that 5:10 was the new goal. Chasidy seemed to laugh it off thinking that we were going much slower than that. We kept with our mini goals, running every downhill and powering through climbs until making it to the split at mile 20. At this point the 21 milers took a left turn heading to the stadium to finish, while the rest of us went out for an out and back 10k. Doing the number one no-no of running, doing math, I knew it was going to be close for that 5:10 and we really need to be focused.  

So remember how I thought Oklahoma was flat? Well the rolling hills from 11 to 20 let me know I was mistaken, but then this out and back through a park made me a flat out liar. This park was nothing but up’s and down’s the entire way. With every turn in the road, I kept looking for a turn around that didn’t seem to present itself. In this stretch I got to a point where I couldn’t take in any more gels and it took all I had to get down the gatorade at the aid stations. We kept pushing forward running more than we walked but we were smoked. There were a few spots where Chasidy didn’t want to walk to she pushed us a little further. I would say we will stop at a certain light pole and she would call out one just a little further away just to keep us moving. She definitely had the push and determination to get us off the course.  

We eventually made it out of the park (dragging and whining) and crossed the street that was the split to head towards the stadium. Chasidy was spent but I knew she had more in her, so I told her from one street corner that we would not stop until the finish. With just a few turns left she said she needed to walk for a moment. I told her that we were very close to the 5:10 but needed to keep moving. She told me to go after it and even though I didn’t want to leave her, I took off instantly. I turned a corner in the parking and put it into another gear, running through the parking lot approaching the entrance to stadium. Kaela was on the side taking pictures and told me to make sure I gave her time to get inside for finishers photo, like I was going at blazing mach one speeds.

Entering the stadium, I glanced down at my watch and realized that it was going to be close. I pushed with everything I had left, lengthening my stride and pushing the pace. I felt like I could have beat Usain Bolt in that moment which later I would find out from Kaela I was running fast but not near as fast as the pain on my face would suggest. With every few steps I would take a look down at my watch just counting the seconds that have gone by. In the final turn gave everything in the final push to get to the finish.

5:09:57

I mean, just under the goal! Completely spent with a few tears in my eyes, Kaela joined me to congratulated me on not only a strong finish but an amazing two days of races. That is when it sank in of what I had actually done this weekend and it put a huge smile on my face. I received my medal and got my obligatory finishers photo on the track. I hung out by the finish line waiting for Chasidy to hit the track. Once she made it on Kaela and I cheered her the entire 400m around the track until she finished. I formally introduced her to Kaela and we talked a little about how we both pushed each other to get us to this point. We exchanged some information and said we would keep in touch. It’s crazy how running can spark some new relationships.

  We made our way to the finishers area to pick up some McDonalds sausage biscuits and I sat on the curb slamming down all the food I could fit in my face. I hobbled my way to the restroom to change clothes before heading out. We spent the rest of the day visiting breweries in OKC enjoy some delicious beer (our favorite being Stonecloud Brewing), before crashing at yet another hotel.  

Overall what a great experience I had at this race. It was very small field but the volunteers and workers were top notch in their support. The course was surprisingly challenging mostly because I was not aware of the amount of hills in the area. Unfortunately, 2019 is going to be the last year they are hosting the race so if you have the opportunity to run it I would! It was great making some new running friends and like I said Chasidy invited me out to her neck of the woods and recommended some races in Texas and Louisiana that are highly probable for 2019.   Up next, Kaela and I head out to eastern Iowa, which once again to my surprise is not flat. Sometimes I think maybe I should pay a little more attention to elevation charts!

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