So instead of planning for an 8:00 AM start, I planned for a 6:30 AM start but still giving myself permission to blow off the earlier start if I just can't get moving early enough in the morning. I set my cell phone alarm for 5:00 AM and laid out everything I'd need for the race. Since it is a 40 minute drive on a dark, unlit, narrow and curvy road, I would need to get on the road no later than 5:30 AM in order to get to the race venue, get parked, make one last potty stop, and line up for the 6:30 AM start.
When I woke up the next morning, I desperately wanted to stay in bed, and in fact tried to talk myself into doing the 8:00 AM start. But I knew it was going to be a scorching hot day once the sun was up, so I pushed myself to get out of bed and get ready. I didn't take a shower - didn't even brush my teeth. I just pulled on all of my running clothes, grabbed my Ziploc bag of Cheerios and a banana, and headed to the parking lot and my car.
It was 6:15 AM when I arrived at the start line, the volunteers waving their flashlights to direct me into the field to park. It was very dark out here! It's the middle of Amish country after all! I immediately spotted a couple of my running friends as I pulled into the field. In my rush to get out of the car and make a quick trip to the porta-potty before the start, I remembered to grab my bottle of water but forgot to grab my cell phone and the tissues I always carry with me to wipe sweat and/or use in case there's no T.P. in the porta-potties. So at the very last minute I raced back to the small bank of porta-potties and grabbed a wad of toilet paper to use as a sweat-wipe along the course.
I just made it to the start line as the small group of early starters were starting to move. It was dark and only a couple of runners thought to bring flashlights. We settled into several small pace groups. I was in the second group and fell into step with a man who appeared to be about my age. I asked if I could stay with him, and we stayed together the entire race, getting to know each other and ultimately sharing email addresses with each other before the race was over.
|Our race route through Amish country|
The race route was beautiful!! As the sun started to come up, we were treated to some really lovely vistas across Wheat Ridge, on which much of the race course followed. It was a very hilly course, one of the hilliest I've ever done. The difference out here in the country is that the roads follow the "nap of the land" just as the horse carriages did 100 years ago. As paths gave way to paved roads, the roadbeds were not graded, just paved. So we had some very steep hills and reciprocating downhills throughout the 13 mile distance.
|Sunrise over Wheat Ridge...along our race route. This and the next two photos|
taken by fellow running friend Colleen, who DID remember her cell phone.
|Lots of these....and horses....along the race route|
Water stations with not only water but sport drink, treats, watermelon were every mile. A couple of them were positioned in front of Amish school houses, the beneficiaries of the race proceeds, and were staffed by Amish children and teens. They were so polite, but clearly shy in the presence of people from the "outside world."
Having a race partner to talk with, the miles flew by! Before we knew it, we were within a mile of the finish line. My new friend was doing the full marathon so as we neared the finish line area, we gave each other a hug, I wished him a good second half to his marathon, and he turned and headed back out to do the second loop. By this time it had gotten very warm and I didn't envy him his second leg of the race.
I collected my finisher medal, wandered over to the little shed where Amish teens were replenishing a table filled with home-baked goodies, ice-filled tubs of sports drink and chocolate milk. I knew that some of my friends needed to get on the road to Chicago to run another race the next day, so I assumed they had already hit the road. Because of my early start, I would not know if I placed in my age group until the normal-start runners were across the finish line. This could be an up to 1.5 hour wait. I wasn't sure I wanted to hang around that long, since there was no one there I knew at the finish line and there was nowhere to sit in the shade to wait. So I wandered over to my car, but not before asking a gal in the car next to mine if she'd take my picture.
Such original and different finisher medals! They're handmade by the Amish in this community, and they put their names, ages, and mailing addresses on the back, in hopes they'll get a pen pal or two.
|Delightful and different finisher medal|
Later that afternoon I received an email from my race partner, letting me know how much he enjoyed doing the race together and to also let me know that when he got to the turn at mile 16, he turned around and headed back. He was so close! But he got credit for doing the half marathon, even though he did put in another 6 miles beyond the 13 miles.
When I got back to the hotel, I took a shower and walked over to the Southwest Grill and had a really tasty grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes and a beer to wash it all down. That really hit the spot!!
That evening, I walked over to the Burger King for a grilled hot dog and french fries, craving the salt that these tasty foods would provide. French fries are my favorite race recovery food. If I've driven to a race, I'll often find a McDonald's on my route home, just for the french fries! It was a long day and I was tired!
|Windy Corner Market, Lexington KY|
My plans to get home included meeting my friend from Bowling Green at a really great little place that she recommended outside of Lexington called Windy Corner Market. We met and had a wonderful late breakfast - fluffy Belgian waffle with berries for me, country ham biscuit for her - then visited for a bit, and then I got on the road for my long drive back home. I stopped in Lonoke for the night then got a very early start the next morning and made it home by early afternoon.
That night at the hotel, I logged into the race website and there it was! I'd come in second place in my age group! Too bad I didn't stick around at the finish line to claim my award: a handwoven basket.
Time to recover and start getting ready for our next stage production, assembling sound effects and creating the Play Bill for the event.