Tag Archives: Kansas

Garmin Oz Marathon Recap – Never Surrender Sometimes – April 16, 2016

View of the Garmin Oz Marathon start from the hotel.

View of the Garmin Oz Marathon start from the hotel.

A week ago I ran the Garmin Oz Marathon in Olathe, Kansas (ok, a week and a day).  Olathe (pronounced “Oh-LAY-thuh”) is about 45 minutes southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, is surprisingly hilly, and has an excellent Bass Pro Shops.

 

WELCOME TO KANSAS

I flew in from San Francisco via Minneapolis, arriving late Thursday afternoon.  Before leaving the airport, I met up with a friend who happened to be flying into the Kansas City airport at the same time for work (and when that happens, you have to meet up at the Kansas City airport).  After some iced tea and failed attempts to convince him to run Garmin Oz with me, I picked up my rental car.  The intermediate-sized car I reserved was not available so they gave me a minivan; unfortunately it didn’t come with a husband, mortgage, or a dog, so I had a lot of empty space to myself.  After getting my sweet ride I headed straight to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Olathe.  I missed the expo/packet pickup but knew I’d have time the next day to do that.

Even though it was late and I had eaten multiple meals during the travel day, I was hungry for a real dinner so I asked the receptionist for some nearby recommendations.  She suggested crossing the street to get either Mexican or BBQ.  I went with Mexican and was not disappointed at The Salty Iguana.  Was the food good?  It wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good!  Was the venue loud?  It was pretty loud considering there were like 10 people there!  Was the food cheap?  Yes, it was amazingly cheap!  The hotel receptionist said to mention I was staying at the hotel, which got me a 10% discount, which meant my chicken burrito with chips and salsa was only $8.93 with tax (not including tip).  Thumbs up!

So much food (at The Salty Iguana).

So much food for $8.93 (at The Salty Iguana).

The next day I had big plans – first, hit up the free breakfast at the hotel, then visit the expo to get my bib and any other goodies that appealed, then visit the Super Target for fun and snacks, and at some point visit either the trampoline place or the IMAX theater.  I managed to do all those things except the trampoline or IMAX, due to a headache and weird fatigue probably brought on by all my recent travel.  It was especially disappointing because I got a free 30 minute coupon to the trampoline place (Cosmic Jump) at the expo, but I just couldn’t manage even trying it out.  Next time?  Instead, I watched Pitch Perfect 2 on HBO in my room while eating mountains of popcorn and treats from Target.  It was a Pitch Perfect 2 way to spend an evening before the race (in that it wasn’t amazing or as good as the first time I ever ate popcorn in bed, but it was comforting and familiar and a fine way to relax).

 

RACE DAY

I spent race morning fussing about my hotel room for as long as possible before the marathon, since the start was literally in the hotel’s parking lot (and I have no desire to use porta potties when I don’t have to).  I ended up spending a little too much time in my room and eating too much in the process.  I was weirdly hungry and overate, which was a bit, ahem, upsetting to me later in the race, but it probably only cost me about 8 to 10 total minutes (two stops), and ultimately I didn’t feel that bad and finished the race feeling fine.

 

Trying to show off my broom before the start.  The dang thing didn't help me fly at all!

Trying to show off my broom before the start. The dang thing didn’t help me fly at all!

While stuffing Pop Tarts and granola bars into my mouth, I got all gussied up in my witch costume (complete with homemade paper bag broom attached to my back), headed out to the start, and almost immediately lost my hat to the gusty winds.  I jammed the hat back onto my head but it flew off again right as I crossed the starting line, forcing me to go back and retrieve it (and giving me mild anxiety that I screwed up the electronic chip reading from crossing the mat twice and would be flagged as a cheater).  Since the hat wouldn’t stay on, and I didn’t want to lose it (because, well, awesome hat), I folded it up and tucked it into the back of my tights.  Yep, I ran with a full witch’s hat complete with long black ribbon tucked into my CW-X tights for 26.2 miles.  It was a little warm but not as uncomfortable as you’d think.

 

Random chicken photo for my mom.

Random chicken photo for my mom.

As you might know from the map or flyover video, the race starts out on North Ridgeview Road, forming a jagged loop for the first half before heading out and back on the (paved) Mill Creek Trail for the second half.  The most shocking thing was how hilly the first half was.  It felt like running a really boring roller coaster.  For comparison, it was hillier than Central Park, and compared to Central Park, the hills were longer, for the most part steeper, and more “regular” like waves in an asphalt ocean.  It wasn’t terrible, and it wasn’t mountainous (monotonous yes), but it was surprising for what I expected from Kansas.  The only good part was it offered more shade than I expected, mostly because the sun was so low in the sky that the hills blocked it.

The second half wasn’t nearly as hilly, except for the very steep (but fairly short) hill down to and up from the paved trail.  The trail was about 5-6 feet wide, paved, and not as shady as I had hoped or expected.  It’s often demoralizing to be heading out to run 12 more miles when others are heading back in to finish, but the other runners were friendly and mostly in good moods, so it was actually nice to pass them.  There were a lot of encouraging words and even one high-five!  (I was hoping his speed would rub off on me.)

My goal was to “run” until mile 20, then let myself walk the rest of the way to the finish.  I managed to run a bit until about mile 22, when I switched to full walking, partly because I was thinking I had the Delaware Marathon in 2 weeks (it was actually 3 weeks), but mostly because I was tired and I simply didn’t want to run.  My philosophy these days is not to torture myself with any of these races and try to enjoy the day and the experience as much as possible.  So if I want to walk, I walk!  It was a gorgeous day to be outside and I was actually enjoying it.

 

We were very lucky with the weather – it was in the 60s to low 70s and overcast for almost the entire race – a tiny bit warm, a bit humid, and a bit windy, but otherwise perfect.  If it had been sunny (or rainy, which some said it has been for the past several years), it would have been torturous in various ways.  The water stations were only every 2 miles (sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less), which was ok since it was overcast, but if it had been hot and sunny, it would have been really rough.

The home stretch - with more hay bales!

The home stretch – with hay bales!

The hill from the trail to the main road (not pictured) was so steep and painful I immediately and un-affectionately nicknamed it “Cramp Hill.”  Even walking it almost made my legs seize up.  I heard others complaining about this hill after the race so I know I wasn’t the only one who struggled with it.  But we were back on the main (Ridgeview) road and had only a few more rolling hills until the hotel shimmered in the distance and the finish line awaited.  I whipped out my witch’s hat, ran the .2 through the finish, and collected my surprisingly enormous medal.

The finisher food and medal!

The finisher food and the giant (smudged) medal!

I heard several other runners say they ran this race every year just for the medal, and I can see why – it’s pretty nice and much much larger than the preview images indicated.  The green portions are a translucent glass, which is cool.  The only disappointing thing is that the metal has permanent smudges and fingerprints on it – and they were there before I even touched the medal.  I washed it several times with soap and warm water, buffing it with a soft towel in-between, but some of the stubborn prints remain.

I'm a wicked witch!

I’m a wicked witch!

 

After the race I was feeling well enough to check out the Bass Pro Shops (yes, it ends in an “s” even though it’s one shop, which is just as weird as “Brussels Sprouts” – it’s correct but seems wrong), and I’m so glad I did.  It’s only about a 6 minute drive from the hotel, and it’s the best Bass Pro Shops I’ve visited yet, mostly because of the shooting arcade!

I didn’t do much else that day (I mean, really, anything else would have been a let-down), and my flight home was super early the next morning (I left the hotel by 4:15 am!).  Overall, it was an okay race, a pretty fun visit, and I’m glad to have another state down!

 

Thinking of running the Garmin Oz Marathon?

 

Front and back of the Marathon shirt (short sleeved, tech fabric).

Front and back of the Marathon shirt (short sleeved, tech fabric).

There were 512 full marathon runners, 1,838 half marathoners, and 559 10K runners (a total of 2,909 runners).  Because it’s a relatively small race and the marathon starts first, it wasn’t too congested (the halfers peeled off at about mile 12).  A decent portion of the runners wear costumes (more in the half or 10K, of course).  The medals for all the races are pretty nice.

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time of about 5 1/2 hours.  Your experience may vary.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 5/10 – Olathe, Kansas, is about 45 minutes outside of Kansas City, MO, which is probably the airport you’ll fly into.  It’s nice that the start/finish of the race is in the hotel’s parking lot, but there is no easy way to get to that hotel, nor is there much else near the hotel, so that means you’ll probably have to rent a car for the weekend.  (For what it’s worth, the front desk said a taxi would probably cost $50 one-way to the airport.)  You can run across the street for Mexican or BBQ, and the hotel itself has a bar and restaurant.
  • Staying There – 9.5/10 –  The Embassy Suites Olathe is new (opened in late 2015 I think), and it was great.  The rooms felt new and while they’re not large, they were nicely laid out and still provided a pretty full kitchen (mini fridge, separate sink, and microwave, plus coffeemaker).  They had free breakfast (with made-to-order eggs) and even had an afternoon happy hour with free drinks and snacks (like chips and small slices of pizza).  The gym looked ok but the pool is very small.  Parking is ample and the spaces are large enough for your minivan.  My total for 3 nights was $454.
  • Cost & Registration – 9/10 – I paid $76 (with processing fees) for the marathon back in October 2015.  You get a nice short-sleeved tech t-shirt with minimal logos, a big medal, and decent finisher food (the chicken sandwich was excellent, but the only beer left for slowpokes like me was Bud Light).  They also had bananas, granola bars, and tubes of yogurt.  On-course support was ok and included a couple Gu stations, but there were no bananas or pretzels or anything like that.
  • Organization – 8/10 – Pre-race communication was fine, but the redesigned website needs more (or less?) designing (it’s so big and unwieldy for such a small race).  The expo was small and simple with limited vendors, so if you need a particular gel don’t expect it there (they had some Gu but no salted caramel, for example).  They don’t have a pasta dinner, and the “virtual” goodie bag is a joke.  I think they could have done a lot more with the Garmin sponsorship, since so many of us runners have Garmins and often have complicated and serious relationships with them, but it seems like it’s in name only (plus the winners get a watch).
  • Course – 6.5/10 – As I described above, it’s pretty hilly in the first half.  It’s also a little boring, but that was to be expected.  It is closed to traffic, not too crowded, and not very cambered so pretty easy on the legs.  I think they had a porta potty at almost every water stop, but the water stops were only about every 2 miles, give or take.  The Garmin tracking was spot on except for mile 8, but at some point got back on as my watch beeped “26” at almost exactly the 26 mile marker, which NEVER happens in a race!  Starting and finishing in the hotel parking lot was really nice and easy.
  • Crowd – 2/10 – Almost zero, except for that one awesome guy with the cookies and the sign.  One bonus point for a spectator in a “Fear the Tree” t-shirt.
  • Other Factors – 6/10 – Bass Pro Shops shooting gallery, Super Target, Cosmic Jump, and IMAX, and that’s just in Olathe.  I think there’s a lot to see and do in Kansas City, but I didn’t have the time.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – The race was just ok, but I actually really enjoyed the overall experience.

 

23 down, 27 to go!  My next marathon is the Delaware Marathon in, you guessed it, Delaware, in two weeks!

 

Have you ever visited Kansas?  Have you ever gone to one of those trampoline places?  Have you ever visited a Bass Pro Shops?  Share in the comments!

Expectations for the Garmin Oz Marathon

The cables for the cable cars at the cable car museum in San Francisco.

The Cable Car Museum in San Francisco.

I’m on the road in California right now, heading to Kansas tomorrow to run the Garmin Oz Marathon on Saturday.  As per usual, I’m undertrained and planning on taking the race as slow and easy as the 15 minute per mile pace time limit allows (about a 6:30 total time limit).  But this time I’m also coming off more than a week of travel to California, where I went to a reunion and then enjoyed the sunshine and the free Cable Car Museum in San Francisco.  Needless to say, I did not get much sleep during the reunion, did not do any running, and have eaten a lot of “I’m-on-vacation-so-it-doesn’t-count” food (cheese-stuffed burritos and paninis on campus!  steak tacos and steak-steak two nights in a row!  two different kinds of peanut butter chocolate caramel fudge from Pier 39!), so I’m not feeling like a runner, let alone a marathoner right now.  But maybe an elaborate costume will help?

 

Because I’m a crazy person, I decided at the last minute to change my costume from the Tin Man to the Wicked Witch.  Why?  Because although I had visions of wearing shiny silver lame while running in the search of a heart, I realized that I would probably pass out from the heat before making it 26 miles dressed like a baked potato.  So, I thought maybe I’d just wear grey, but without the shine I don’t think it would read very well.

 

My sister mentioned going as the witch, and I realized that’s who I should have been going as all along.  Why?  Because even without Wicked the book/musical, she’s the best character.  All she wanted was her dead sister’s shoes.  Dorothy, besides being super twee and annoying, literally murdered the witch’s sister and then stole her shoes with the help of Glinda, who, after first taunting the witch, callously remarked that the witch must only want the shoes because “their magic must be very powerful.”  Yes, that must be why I want my grandmother’s hand-crocheted afghan – for its powerful magic.  Jeeze, Glinda, you are a monster.

 

Now, just because the Wicked Witch of the West is the best character doesn’t mean I necessarily want her on the medal or shirt.  But, since she is the theme this year, I might as well embrace it and go ugly.  Not sure if or how I’ll do the green face makeup yet, especially since the forecast is calling for highs in the mid to upper 70s that day and I expect to sweat my usual buckets, but I’m hoping the witch hat fits over my running hat with all the Gu’s tucked inside and gives me extra shade to boot.

 

Since this will be my 23rd marathon, I wasn’t particularly nervous about the distance until I watched this (8-minute long!) fly-over of the course.  Never has 26.2 miles felt so far before…  (And here’s a map of the course with the new start/finish at the Embassy Suites Hotel.)

 

At least I’ll have a full day before the race to explore Olathe and/or Kansas City (so hot right now, just profiled in the WSJ), so I might check out the trampoline place or watch a movie at the fancy IMAX dine-in theater, or just do my favorite activity of wandering the aisles of Target.  I was interested in touring the Shatto Milk Company but it’s north of Kansas City and over an hour drive from Olathe, so I’ll probably skip the cows this time.

 

Finally, I’ll pull back the curtain, as it were, on a little blog drama, and probably thereby break all the etiquette rules of blogging, but since I have no ads and make no money on this blog (yet… ever?), being very open/honest is one of the few perks.  Back in January I had a brief correspondence going with the Manager of Sports and Events of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.  He saw my post about the Garmin medal unveiling and he liked it (despite it being negative?  Or did he not notice?), and said they were interested in comping my admission to the race in exchange for a blog post.  I was very excited, told him my annual site traffic, and asked for details.  He first gave me a list of topic ideas for content, then said they’d want to review anything before I posted it (both my “expectations” post and my race recap itself), and then said my eligibility for a free entry depended on that post’s traffic.  I was not thrilled with any sort of content managing or pre-approval of my posts (especially for a small reward like a single free entry), and before it got too complicated I told him again my average post’s traffic (spoiler alert, it’s not that high).  After telling him my stats I never heard back from him (not even to say “thanks but no thanks”).  So, no filter, baby!  I can pan this race as much as I want!  Well, I would have done that anyway, but now I can really nit-pick anything wrong with it.  (I am, of course, joking – I will be as biased or as unbiased as I am on this or any race.  Freedom of the uncompensated press!)

 

Do you go to your reunions?  Do you let yourself slack off on vacation or do you try to stick to your schedule?  Who’s your favorite character from the Wizard of Oz?  Did you notice my various Wizard of Oz-themed puns?  Share in the comments!

Medal Unveiling – Garmin Marathon

The Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz just revealed its marathon medal for this year!

Garmin Marathon medal unveiling 2016

Oh wow, that is so cool!  A hot air balloon?!   How fun and festive and interesting and pretty and…

Garmin marathon 10K medal 2016

Oh wait…  That’s for the 10K.  The full marathon gets this:

Garmin half marathon medal 2016

Ok, well, that’s a little girly, but I guess it’s still kinda pretty and at least she’s a good… wait, what?  Sorry, no, that’s for the half.  The full marathon gets this:

Garmin marathon full medal 2016

Um.  Ok.  See you in April.

 

Do you watch medal unveilings or do you like to be surprised?  Do you care more about the medal or the shirt?  Do you think there’s a creepy medal theme going for 2016?  Share in the comments!