Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Route 66 Tulsa Marathon Review

2011 Route 66 Tulsa Marathon
November 20, 2011
Tulsa, Oklahoma
16th Marathon Completed
My Overall Experience ... 3 out of 5

Spoiler Alert...
  • Well organized race, but few volunteers
  • Very sparse local crowd support & turnout
  • Maybe the best law enforcement support I've experienced
  • Cool & breezy ... 39-40 degrees/10-15mph North wind
  • 2nd coldest marathon I've ever ran
  • Not nearly as flat as expected, but not extremely hilly
  • Nice marathon shirt, finisher shirt, and awesome medal
  • Cool "Center of the Universe" Detour, but I opted not to run it
  • Ran through beautiful University of Tulsa campus
  • Grew "THE PR BEARD" for a month before the race ... it worked!!!
  • Finished with a "disappointing" PR - 3:20:03, 7:38/pace (Disappointing because I thought I'd be much faster)
  • Overall finish of 64th out of 1,438 runners - not bad, all things considered

Finisher Medal ...
Route 66 Tulsa Marathon Finisher Medal ... one of my favorites so far!
Replica of  the 1941 Cadillac hood ornament, "Flying Goddess" 
Tulsa, Oklahoma
I'm always hesitant to disrespect a city after visiting for a marathon.  When you're only there for a short time, it seems really unfair to judge it based on what you experience in a 24 hour period.  However, I've been to Tulsa, Oklahoma many times over the years and unfortunately, it's just not one of my favorite places.  The people have always been very friendly, but there's just not a lot that makes me want to make it a destination.  However, I'm sure there are several wonderful things about the town that I am simply unaware of.

One of the national landmarks that Tulsa claims is Route 66.  It was one of the original, and probably most famous U.S. Highways.  It gained several nicknames over the years including "Main Street of America", "Will Rogers Highway", and most notably in the John Steinbeck novel "Grapes of Wrath" it was called "The Mother Road".  In 1985 the highway was officially removed from the U.S. Highway System, but its long history is alive and well in Tulsa.

(top row, from left) Tulsa, Oklahoma skyline, ONEOK Field - Home of the Double-A Tulsa Drillers baseball team, Meadow Gold Ice Cream sign - a staple of Route 66 since the 1930's, Arkansas River with Tulsa skyline
(bottom row) Wildlife Statue donated by Nature Works, Inc in the River Parks area, Oklahoma State Flag, Front Gate at Philbrook Art Museum
One of my favorite things about Tulsa, is the Tulsa Drillers - the Colorado Rockies Double-A Minor League baseball team.  I've seen a lot really good future stars play there including Troy Tulowitzki a few years ago.  And in this trip to Tulsa, I finally got to see their brand new stadium, ONEOK Field.

University of Tulsa Campus
One of the pleasant surprises of Tulsa was the beautiful University of Tulsa Campus.  The home of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane was very neat and clean and easy to get around.  Most of miles 21 & 22 during the marathon were spent on the campus, and even though I was exhausted by that point, I still enjoyed the beautiful, well kept grounds.

Packet Pick-Up
The pre-race Expo was the standard, run of the mill packet pick-up, and was fairly well organized with a couple of small exceptions.  The Expo opened about 15 minutes late on Saturday morning, which is not really a big deal, just a personal pet peeve of mine.  Also, race numbers were not posted on a large board or available at a separate desk via a computer print out.  Rather, runners waited in line to report their name, then waited for someone to look up the race number before handing out your bib and race chip.  However, the lines moved fairly quickly and the volunteers did a great job of getting the materials to you and answering questions.

It cost $5 to park at the Tulsa Convention Center.  This is another thing that bothers me a little with some race packet pick-ups.  In the $100 I paid to run the race, they couldn't break me off some free parking?  I'm sure there were free parking opportunities available in the area, but as an out-of-towner, I typically park at the event center due to ease and unfamiliarity with the surroundings.

All runners received a blue Route 66 Marathon short-sleeve cotton t-shirt with the "Flying Goddess" logo.  I like blue so I thought it was pretty cool.  Also, marathon finishers received a nice lite gray short-sleeve technical t-shirt with the same logo.  I thought the shirts were nice looking and I'll wear them both. Other than that, there were the typical upcoming race fliers and a couple of free samples including GU Strawberry Chomps (which I enjoyed before the race) in the race bag.  All-in-all it was a pretty seamless packet-pickup.  There were only a few small hiccups and the organizers did a great job.

Lodging & Meals
As usual, I stayed at the Hampton Inn while in Tulsa.  I travel for my job so it's basically my home away from home.  I'm used to their excellent service and the room is always the same, so I know what to expect.  Since I travel so much, I build up a few free nights here and there which I was able to use for this trip.  I stay at Hampton Inn somewhere between 75-100 nights per year.  So I've seen my share good and bad rooms.  The room I stayed in at Tulsa was the single best Hampton Inn room I've ever had.  It was brand new with a mammoth flat screen.  It made the stay in Tulsa very nice!

There's not much to report on the pre-race "meal front".  Just the standard Jason's Deli salad and a couple of stops at Subway for my turkey on wheat.  On Friday night I had chicken and pepperoni pizza from Papa Johns.  Why mess with what works!

For this race I grew my first, and probably last PR BEARD!!!  First, because I wanted something to bring me luck in getting one last PR in before year's end.  Last, because I'm not sure my marriage can handle another one!  Michael IS NOT A FAN!!! 

Me & THE PR BEARD hangin' out!
I grew a magnificent, manly, "lumber jackish" beard, and vowed not to shave until I PR'd again in a marathon.  (Truth be told, it was a pretty sad version of a beard)  This was a bit a risk because I'm gonna be 43 in about a month.  It's a very distinct possibility that all my faster times are behind me.  But I really believe that I still have my best marathons ahead of me, so I took the chance that the trip to Tulsa would be one of them.

Now I wasn't about to predict a marathon PR ... I learned my lesson when I did that earlier in the year and failed at the Sioux Falls Marathon.  A little embarrassing.  But I had trained hard and knew that if I ran strong, a PR might be possible at Tulsa.  All I could do was give my best effort, and let THE PR BEARD handle the rest!

I was glad that I had the beard aboard during the marathon on Sunday!  It was pretty chilly at 40 degrees with a 10-15mph North wind.  The beard kept my face warm.  Not only that, it offered encouragement to me when I got tired.  When I wanted to quit, all I needed to do was scratch my scruffly face and it was an immediate pick-me-up.  I would highly encourage any man, and some women, to grow a PR BEARD!  It's one of the great unknown secrets to success of the running world.  And at the end of the day, I had my new PR!  A 3:20:03 finishing time.  So see Michael ... THE PR BEARD is REAL!!! Long live THE PR BEARD!!!  Do you hear me world ... LONG LIVE THE PR BEARD!!!

Race & Course
It was a late 8:00 AM start for the marathon on Sunday.  I was unsure of where to park and how to get around in downtown Tulsa, so I left my hotel room at about 6:15 AM and got downtown at about 6:30 AM.  I think I might have been the first person at the race.  But arriving so early allowed me to find a great free parking spot at a bank about 200 yards from the gear check truck and starting line.  Plus, it allowed me to play several rounds of Angry Birds!  Don't judge me ... yes, I get dumber every time I play this game.

The forecast had varied all week from 54-58 degrees with 6-8mph winds ... which would have been perfect!  Unfortunately, as I sat in my car waiting for the race to start, I watched as the temperature consistently dropped from the mid 40's to about 38 degrees with a 10-15mph wind to start the race.  Also, it was really damp, almost misting - but not raining.  The "feels like" temperature on my phone showed 31 degrees.  Not really Arctic conditions, but it ended up being the 2nd coldest marathon I've ever ran. (Mississippi Blues was 17 degrees, with an 8 degree windchill last year)  The cooler temps ended up having a pretty negative effect on my race - probably mentally more than anything.

 It was chilly, but not freezing at the starting line - plus with plenty of adrenaline rushing through my veins, I felt fine.  The bigger challenge was going to be the course.  I had driven it the day before and it was not nearly as flat as I thought it was going to be.  It wasn't extremely challenging, but out of the last 12 marathons I've ran, it had the 4th most total elevation climb.  In the weeks leading up to the marathon, I had worked on speed and speed alone ... NO HILLS.  I thought the course was super flat.  So as we headed up the first 100' climb at mile 2, I knew I had a challenging day ahead of me.
Route 66 Tulsa Marathon Elevation ... a little hillier than I thought it would be

The course took runners through most of downtown Tulsa, and then through an upscale shopping area before a 8 mile out-and-back along the Arkansas River.  After that we headed back into town, ran by the Tulsa Drillers Stadium, through the University of Tulsa campus, and then back to the finish line.  At about mile 16.5, the Route 66 Marathon features The Center of the Universe Detour. It's a .3 mile detour off of the course where supposedly you can stand in one spot and hear your voice echo.  But those who are only a few feet away cannot hear it.  It would have been cool to experience, but I was pretty dead by then and just wanted to get done.

During the first few miles I really managed my pace well.  I wasn't too fast and my heart rate was really low.  But I quickly noticed that as we ran South, the cold North wind at my back was making my hamstrings really tight.  It wasn't a problem, but really noticeable.  More of an annoyance than anything.  For the first 10 miles of the race, I was keeping pace just fine, but never felt loose or in a good rhythm.  Like I was really laboring to keep this pace that I had kept thousands of times with ease during my training.  My energy level was great and my conditioning felt awesome ... but my friggin' legs were freezing and staying really tight.

At about mile 5 I noticed that I was really starting to accumulate extra mileage.  I really felt like I was running the tangents well, but for some reason the totals on my Garmin were not matching up with their mileage markers.  I ended up with an extra .31 miles, which really affected my overall time.

At about mile 10 we made the turn on the out-and-back along the Arkansas River.  The wind was still blowing out of the North, and this is where I really struggled to keep my pace.  The steady breeze was probably only about 10-12mph, but I was pretty sweaty by then and with only about 40 degree temps, it was absolutely freezing.   It was like my legs iced over at this point.  The stiffness had shifted from my hamstrings to my quads and I was really struggling.  I kept pushing myself on this relatively flat stretch, but this was  the part of the race that really cost me some time.

At at almost every corner where we supposed to turn, I noticed there weren't the typical volunteers pointing the way.  The street corners had been spray painted with arrows, so I never really felt like I was going to run off of the course.  It was pretty chilly, and maybe that's what kept some of the volunteers at home.  However, it would have been nice to have more staff along the course to make sure no one turned the wrong way.  The cold temps undoubtedly had an effect on the people who would typically come out an watch.  This was probably the lowest crowd support I've ever seen for a race this size.  That said, the Tulsa Police Department was amazing!  They stopped traffic and actually encourage runners as they passed through the intersection.  It was great to have their unbelievable support and help with oncoming cars.  My hat is really off to them.

At about mile 14 we turned out of the wind.  This was a welcome stretch of the race, however I had burned a lot of energy battling the conditions and the toughest part of race was just beginning.  From miles 14-24 there were several up-downs with a steady climb of over 200'.  Again ... I did NO HILL TRAINING for this marathon, so the inclines really hindered my pace.  Despite the tougher elevation though, I felt like once I turned out of the wind I was getting stronger.  I began to pick up my pace and I was gradually getting back on track.

Pretty excited to be done with this one
Miles 16-18 were my strongest of the race with 7:16, 7:04, and 7:01 respectively.  Mile 25 was also strong at a 7:04 pace.  But I just couldn't hold onto the faster paces with all of the rolling hills.  The hills were not killer by any means, they just didn't seem to stop.  From miles 20-26 there were 7 hills of 50' or more, and several 25' "speed bumps".  Individually not a big deal, but they just seemed to be one right after another.  A lot of other runners didn't struggle with them though, so I probably just need to get stronger and stop complaining.

As I neared the finish line, I knew I would be close to a PR.  Going into the race, I thought on a flat course with nice weather, I could hammer out a 3:16 - 3:17 without too much trouble.  I still think I can.  When my Garmin read 26.2, I was at about 3:18, but I still had .31 miles to go.  I was able to push it and still get my PR of 3:20:03, but honestly, I felt like I had failed to do what I had set out to do.  Granted, I PR'd and that was cool, but it was MUCH slower than I had planned.

After gathering some orange slices and bananas, I headed over to the shuttle buses that would take us back to the staring line.  The race organizers did a great job with the buses.  They were located directly adjacent to the finish line and very easy to find without any trouble at all.

All in all I can't complain about the Route 66 Tulsa Marathon.  The volunteers, though sparse, were really great.  And the race organizers made sure everything ran like clock-work.  It was a top notch event.  The things I was a little down on had nothing to do with them.  It was just colder than I had planned, which obviously no one can control.  And the course was much tougher than I thought it would be - which is completely my fault for not researching and training a little more effectively.  I've just got to get out of this place of disappointing times in marathons.  It's one of two things ... either I'm not quite as good as I think I am, or I just need to "suck it up buttercup", and quit complaining and just go out there do what I know I can do!   But at the end of the day, it was a nice PR all things considered.  And one more state I can cross off of the list!
... be great today!


  1. Congrats on the PR - those crazy hills look pretty scary! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Nice medal -- sweet. The hills look interesting.

  3. Congrats on another great race! Long live the PR beard!

  4. Congratulations on being great Sunday. I like that medal. I want one. I normally stay at the Red Roof Inn and my room has never looked that great. I feel cheated.

  5. Wow, the marathon course was WAY hilly at the end. Something to keep in mind for me since I'm considering running it next year... It was super cold, I also ran MS Blues, but I did it in 2011 and it wasn't that cold.

    I totally agree on "event parking." SO ANNOYING!!! At least this one was "only" $5. Over this whole journey, I think the most expensive was when we ran in Atlanta on Thanksgiving and I *think* parking was $15!!!! All to run in and out in 15 minutes!!

    GREAT JOB on your finish. That is such an amazing time! The course ran long according to my Garmin for the half too, I came up with 13.28, so it was .17 long... I didn't weave too much this one, it must just have been the course.

  6. Way to go on fininshing another marathon.

    Great run Jim

  7. You can't disrespect a PR even if you expect more. That could anger the event gods and you don't want to EVER get on their bad side. Nice race though.

    BTW: my wife gives me so much grief when I try (operative word with my baby face) tom grow a beard that the "cost" gets way too high quickly.

  8. Congrats on another marathon finish and a PR. The medal really is awesome! :)

  9. I have absolutely no doubt that the PR beard works but I think its power only works when you grow it for each event and shave it off as soon as that event is over. One beard = one PR.

  10. Still a PR. Nice job and I am a huge Troy Tulowitzki fan so thats all I can really remember from the post. ha ha Love the Rockies!

  11. great job Jim!
    clearly it is all because of the beard!
    nice medal!

    happy Thanksgiving!!!

  12. Great recap!

    Nice medal and swag. Pretty cool stuff.

    That course looks pretty hilly, and considering you weren't 100 percent prepared for the hills, you seemed to have handled them well since you PRd and all :)

    Congratulations! You keep setting a high bar and continue to exceed it. Very motivating.

  13. Yet another great race, Jim. Awesome job getting that PR! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  14. You're an inspiration! Great recap.... Congrats on the race! The PR beard rules!

  15. Well done on the PR! And the medal is awesome. But it doesn't hold a candle to the PR beard.

  16. A great race on WAY too many hills....you want fast & flat, come run the Wineglass in Corning, NY!!!

  17. Great new PR~!!
    That's a worthy achievement.

    Must be nice to have the Hampton, Subway & Pizza routine down to a T for the night before.

    Way to PR on unexpected hills.

  18. Suhhhhhwwweeeettt medal!

    Congrats on the race, I too hope to be that speedy someday.

  19. Congratulations! That is a great PR! Lovely medal and shirt. For a PR on the trails you need a 3 year old/long beard and 3 year long hair as well.


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