Two different states, two different trips.
My original plan was to drive up to St. Charles, MO to run the MO' Cow Bell Half Marathon, then spend a few days in Missouri before continuing on to Wichita, KS to run the Prairie Fire Half Marathon. I rethought that plan, deciding I really wanted to spend those days at home. With gas prices so low these days, it would be cheaper to just drive home after the St. Charles race and then drive up to Wichita the following weekend to run the Prairie Fire race.
Plans finalized, I left home on Thursday, waiting until after morning rush hour, and drove up to Searcy, AR for the night. The next morning I continued on to the St. Charles, MO area, stopping at the fitness expo on the campus of a local college in nearby Cottleville to attend the race expo and pick up my race packet.
|Packet pickup for the MO' Cow Bell half marathon.|
I met friend Colleen at the expo and we went off in search of lunch afterward. She took me to a totally unique concept restaurant called Tom & Chee, serving a wide variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and several different versions of tomato soup. So good....and so hearty!! This place gives a whole new meaning to "grilled cheese sandwich." Oh, my!!
|Meeting Colleen at the MO' Cow Bell expo|
Another gal was flying in from Florida the next day and we had plans to do some wine tasting that afternoon. I found a Starbucks about a mile from my hotel so that morning I took a little walk, checked out the downtown area of St. Charles, near where the race will start and finish, and then picked up a cappuccino and then stopped at a Subway and grabbed a sandwich for lunch.
Friend Colleen came by the hotel where I was staying and picked me up, and then we all headed off toward wine country along the Missouri River west of St. Louis. Beautiful countryside along the river, the road winding and climbing up and down the hills and bluffs near the river. We passed several wineries before arriving at the Colleen's choice, Montell Winery. It sat high up on top of a hill, commanding a fabulous view of the river valley below. The parking lot was full to overflowing, but the place had enormous outdoor decks on the backside, taking full advantage of those gorgeous views. It was a little chilly, but once we got settled in, it wasn't too bad. And did I say that the views were fabulous?!
I was dropped back at my hotel late that afternoon and I walked the easy block to Subway and grabbed a sandwich for my dinner, then returned to my room, laid out my things for the next morning's race, and settled in for the evening with dinner and football.
It was a little chilly the next morning - race day - but the 1.5 mile walk to the race start warmed me up in a hurry. By the time the race started, it was warm enough for me to remove my jacket and tie it around my waist. Colleen and I stayed together for the entire race, which took us out of the little downtown area and through some somewhat rural areas. We went past a large pumpkin patch - the real kind, with pumpkins still on the vines in the fields! Then it took us through a planned community called New Town. While this is a common development style down here in Texas, it's a foreign concept apparently to Missourians. Both Colleen and a friend who joined us for lunch afterward used the words "eerie" and "weird" to describe it. But I really liked New Town and could easily see myself living there. Everything was pristine and spotless, with planned community pocket parks, enough retail to keep me happy, including a little market, a coffee house, a pizza shop, a cafe. It was really cute!
|MO' Cow Bell race route, data from my GPS watch|
The miles flew by, having someone to talk to along the way. Next thing I knew, we were back in town, along the main street, then a left down a steep hill toward the river, and another last mile to the finish line. I love the finisher's medal!
I walked the 1.5 miles back to the hotel, but not before stopping at the Starbuck's along the way. The plan was to meet with a small group at Schlafly's Brewpub in Morgantown at 1:00 for lunch. A friend who lives in nearby St. Peters made plans to meet us there. She plays guitar and knew that this brewpub has a bluegrass pickup band every Sunday, so she was excited to join us.
|Friend Kay joining in with the bluegrass group. They sounded great!|
|Our running group...all finishers!|
Now I have four wonderful days at home, saving myself hotel and food money for only the cost of 38 gallons of gas. Good decision!!
Then, at 6:00 AM on Friday morning, I climbed back into the car and headed north toward Wichita, KS. A long, boring 635 miles, but it got me to the Hyatt in downtown Wichita by 4:00 PM. I got checked in and then headed downstairs to the lobby lounge area and ordered a light snack and cup of coffee.
The expo and packet pickup were at the convention center next door to the Hyatt, so after breakfast, I walked over there, got my packet, then returned to the hotel and ordered a cappuccino from the lobby coffee bar. I had no plans for the day, but had to be honest with myself and admit that I really didn't feel like doing much of anything. I considered going for a walk along the pretty paved walking trails by the river, but sanity won out and I walked to the McDonald's a few blocks away instead and got lunch then returned to the hotel and watched football for the afternoon. I'd forgotten that I signed up for the pasta dinner that evening and was a bit disappointed in this, since a group of our running club members were going to meet for dinner at a brewpub in the historic district. But I'd paid for it and couldn't justify blowing it off. Plus...it was right here at the hotel, so I could grab a plate of pasta, be polite to my table mates for 10-15 minutes while I ate, then return to my room.
It's so nice to be able to roll out the front door of the hotel and be right at the race start line! Even better that the finish line is also right outside that same hotel. I got down to the start line just a few minutes before the race started, and then soon we were turned loose to cross the start line.
This is a fairly large race, more than 5,000 runners in the half and full marathons. I like larger races because it means there will always be other runners near me throughout the race. Nothing's worse than being out there on the last few miles of a race course pretty much all alone.
It's one of the better race routes I've run, and that's one of the reasons I returned to do this race again 3 years later. Another is the fact that the finishers are given a finisher shirt. Only a small handful of races do this. Chevron Houston Marathon is another race that gives out finisher shirts. It's nice to have a high quality running shirt and to wear it knowing that it was earned, not bought.
|Nearing the finish line|
|Finisher medal and finisher shirt|
|Prairie Fire race route, data from my GPS watch|
Next: A couple of weeks at home to get caught up, then a trip to Golden CO to attend the annual 50 States club banquet and to receive my award for completing my 50 States-50 Half Marathons. Oh yeah, and there just happens to be a race there that weekend, too! The club president couldn't have us all coming out there and not have a race to run while there.