Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Took a Gamble...

Beautiful if windy weather Saturday gave way to dire weather forecasts for race day Sunday...will it be a gamble to run the Gambler's Half Marathon in Council Bluffs, Iowa?

The National Weather Service had the column of states from Iowa and Nebraska all the way down to Texas under a Severe Weather advisory.  Indeed, the entire mid-section of the United States was painted red and orange on the weather map.  The forecasters were giving dire predictions of large hail, tornadoes, strong winds, heavy rain.  It all was looking mighty grim!

I got up early Sunday morning and immediately logged in to the National Weather Service website to get the most up-to-date hourly forecasts.  It was currently cloudy, but looked like it would start to rain about midway through the race.  I was torn as to what to wear.  The temperature was 60 degrees and was supposed to reach high 60's by the time I crossed the finish line.  This called for shorts but what to wear up top.

Remembering how chilled I got in the Go Girl Run half marathon in Columbia MO, I chose a long-sleeve shirt.  At that Go Girl race, I had on a short sleeve shirt and even though the temps were low 60's, as soon as the rain started and I got wet, I got chilled.

So out the door of the hotel I went, and immediately turned around and went back inside.  It was already raining and the wind felt sharp and chill.  I went back to my room to put on my Brooks running jacket and headed back outside and toward the start line for the race, just an easy walk away.

I didn't have to wait long before the gun went off and we were on our way.  I had no idea how many folks had registered and how many didn't show up because of the weather forecasts.  But there didn't seem to be very many runners at the start line.  The first couple of miles were on the street until we picked up a very  nice paved trail along the river.  We stayed on this trail for two or three miles, then picked up a wide sidewalk and followed this to the turnaround point in a very pretty park on a beautiful lake.

Route data from my Garmin watch.  An extra 0.6 mile squiggle at the end as I walked back
to the hotel, squiggle being the result of my Garmin watch not turning off when I pressed the stop button.  

Up to this point the rain had been intermittent, but as I exited the park I began to hear thunder.  Then I began to see lightning in the clouds.  But still off in the distance, judging from the time lapse between lightning and thunder.  Then the rains came in earnest!  It was at about mile 7 or 8.  Earlier in the race I had removed my jacket and tied it around my waist but putting it back on sure felt good as the temps seemed to drop a few degrees.

At mile 9 a volunteer on bicycle was riding the course, stopping to tell each of us that the course was officially closed due to lightning but that we could continue at our own risk.  In for a dime, in for a dollar I always say!  Besides, I was nearly 3/4 of the way there, and I'd still have to work my way back to the finish line near my hotel, so why quit now?

Police cruisers and volunteers in cars frequently checked on us, making sure we were okay, offering rides to the finish if we didn't want to continue.  They weren't pressuring us to quit, just being courteous.  It was very reassuring to know that they were checking on us.

The word "slog" is an apt descriptor of how those last 3 miles felt.  The rains were heavy and continuous now, and the lightning was right overhead.  The puddles were deep and at some points covered the entire running lane.  There was no avoiding the ankle deep water!

In the last mile I was begging for it to be over, begging for the finish line to magically appear in front of me.

Earlier, I Had chatted with a woman at the start line while we waited. Throughout the race she was either in front of me or just behind me, as we played leapfrog with each other.  By the turnaround point, she stayed in front of me, sometimes getting 100 yards ahead and sometimes I'd come within a few feet, getting ready to pass her when she'd pick up her pace.  But as we got to within 1/4 mile of the finish line, I caught up with her and we stayed together the rest of the way.  I really wished she would have let me catch up with her earlier in the race, because we actually motivated each other in those last few hundred yards to the finish line.

We crossed the finish line together and then parted ways.  I've now learned to never walk away without first checking to see if I'd placed in my age group.  The crew were actually packing much of the race gear away and had to dig in the back of an SUV to find the trophies to give me my 3rd place in the 60+ age group.  I could see quite a few trophies sticking up out of boxes, which led me to believe that the turnout for the race was hampered by the weather and/or folks rushed to their cars upon finishing, without bothering to wait for the awards ceremony to collect their bling.

Definitely the truth

I was very pleased with myself for having finished this tough race...and placing 3rd.  There were no doubt others who saw the forecast and chose not to do the race.  Heaven knows, I've done the same thing.  2013 Houston Half Marathon, to be exact.  The forecasts were for cold rain, possibly sleet.  I didn't need to do that race that badly.  But this Gambler Half Marathon reminded me a lot of my adventure in the Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon in 2012.

I walked back to the hotel, where I dripped my way up to my room.  I was so wet that I had to peel everything off before I could sit down, which I so desperately needed to do at that point.

I jumped into a hot shower, collected my things and checked out of the hotel.  Packing the car to go home, I draped my soaking wet running clothes, socks, jacket, hat over the mesh cargo net to dry on the way home.
Soggy wet running clothes everywhere!  Shirt, shorts, socks, jacket, cap, shoes

Another free Marriott Rewards room awaited me in Wichita and I had every intention of having a wonderful steak dinner and glass of wine - maybe two glasses of wine - before calling it a day.

Rib eye steak, rice pilaf and a split of Frexeinet

The finisher's medal and age group award:

finisher's medal and 3rd place in the 60+ age group

State #35 - the state of Iowa - is now done!  What the 50 States map looks like now:

50 States-50 Half Marathons map with Iowa colored in

Coming up next:  A trip back to Cincinnati this coming weekend to run the Flying Pig Half Marathon, my 4th running of this race.  Yes, it's that good of a race!


  1. Wow, crappy weather, but way to persevere and place 3rd too!!

    Won't be long and you'll be coloring in that Oregon state blue. :-)

    1. YES! Can't wait to get to Portland....so looking forward to it and hopefully meeting you.

  2. Way to tuff it out Barbara.... I bet they calculated wrong and just gave you the 3rd place trophy that was on top instead of digging deep and awarding you the actual 1st place trophy that you earned !!!