Tuesday, June 03, 2008

5/24/08 Andy Payne Marathon

The Andy Payne Marathon is an obscure race held on Memorial Day weekend in a suburb of Oklahoma City. A 5k and 10k are held on the same day, and collectively these are known as the "Andy Payne Memorial Races".

So who was Andy Payne?

Ah. A Cherokee from Oklahoma, he was the winner of the 1928 Footrace Across America... which was just what it sounds like. They ran Route 66 across the United States. Unofficially, it was known as "The Bunion Derby". Yeah, I guess so. Andy wasn't given a chance by the media, but he won it. 275 men started, 55 finished, Andy finished first. And the finish? After running from Los Angeles to New York, the participants had to run 20 miles on a track at Madison Square Garden. Yikes. Anyway, it took him just over 573 hours.

Andy was from Oklahoma, Route 66 went through Oklahoma City (it sort of still does, but Route 66's status is sort of weird), and there's even a Route 66 Park in the suburb of Bethany. What a great place to hold some races in Andy's honor.

Now, it just so happens that this park is located next to a small lake - Lake Overholser. One loop on the roads and bike paths around this lake is approximately 8 miles. So... a little loop through the park and three loops around the lake, and voila, what you have there is a marathon.

Or close to it, at least.

These races have been going on for 31 years, and I have no idea why they chose Memorial Day weekend. It's HOT in Oklahoma City at the end of May. It is thunderstorm-y in Oklahoma City at the end of May. And it's always windy in Oklahoma City. At the end of May with the prospect of thunderstorms, these winds can be the staggering kind.

And all of that brings us to my race. The Andy Payne Marathon was not a destination that had been in my calendar for months in advance. I found out a few weeks beforehand that my sister would be having her 50th birthday party in Dallas on Memorial Day Sunday, and by coincidence, the Andy Payne Marathon was on Saturday. The drive between Dallas and Oklahoma City is reasonable (though, ahem, notsomuch on a holiday weekend), so I signed up.

Logistically, this race is quite simple for travelers. Lake Overholser isn't too far from the airport, and there are several cheap and clean hotels... think Holiday Inn Express (the official hotel of men running in pink, heh)... nearby.

But the potential for weather may cause the traveler to search elsewhere. There are several great races on Memorial Day weekend. Bayshore in Traverse City, Michigan is the race I'd recommend without hestitation. I heard that they had 50 degree blue skies for their race.

Not us. At the start, it was 70 and about 200% humidity. At 6:30a. The wind was gusting. Luckily, the course was a series of loops, so the headwind was only problematic part of the time. However, on the other end of the loop, the wind never felt like a tailwind. Instead, it would get quite still and the heat/humidity combined to poach the runners. All in all, it was kind of amusing. While running into the wind, I kept wishing for the sun. While being poached, I kept wishing for wind. We got a good deal of both.

I started the race with two goals in mind: I thought I'd try for "about 3:45". My recent times have been sub 3:40, so this seemed reasonably conservative for the heat and wind. If I couldn't do that, I still wanted to beat 4. I've only run one other race in Oklahoma... the Tulsa Marathon way back in 2002 when I wasn't really training. If I could beat 4, this would mean I've beaten 4 in 35 different states. Pretty cool.

But I started out running 8:30s in an attempt to get something close to 3:45.

Unfortunately, I conveniently forgot that I had run 51.3 miles in 95 degrees the previous week. My workouts during the week had been fine, but as I would soon learn, I was still pretty much trashed from that effort.

Just before firing the gun, the guy at the start warned us that the mile markers were approximate and that the aid was sporadic. And then BOOM, we were off. And I do mean BOOM. He didn't use a starter's pistol. It was an actual handgun, of the Dirty Harry variety. BOOM. I was deaf for at least a couple minutes.

I was also worried about the aid. The mile markers weren't that big a deal. It would turn out that the aid was 1) regular, 2) stocked up, and 3) very VERY friendly. :-) The mile markers were as advertised... as I exited the 2 mile park loop, I hit M2 at 12:30. As in, 6:15 pace. Not me.

I have no great stories about the race. There weren't very many runners and we all spread out quickly. The first lap and a half around the lake were uneventful, except for the whole poaching/staggering effects. At about M15, I ran into the lead pack for the 10k. The race had absolutely no spectators, but the 10k was an out-and-back course, so the slower runners were all hooting and hollering for the 10k leaders. And me :-). I looked like a 10k leader.

Hoot! Holler!

Anyway. By the end of the second loop, I knew 3:45 was not in the cards. And even though I was at M18, it surely felt like I had run longer. Maybe the course was long. Maybe it was payback for the 51.3 miles I shouldn't have run. I could tell that beating 4 would be a struggle. But I really wanted to beat 4.

Around M21, I noticed a random guy standing near the course looking at the ground. A female runner was kind of looking at the ground too, and she had slowed way down.

It was a snake! A big snake.

It just made me run faster :-/.

I passed quite a few runners in this last loop. Lots of people were struggling with the conditions. One guy passed me about M24. At M26, the course turned back towards the park. I noticed two guys in front of me... the dude who had passed me, and another dude who the first dude had also passed. I remarked to myself that if I sprinted, I could pass the other dude. I looked at my watch and noticed that I was going to beat 4 (though not by much!) and decided not to sprint.

3:58. Yikes! And cool!

At first, I got announced... to nobody in particular... as being from some small Oklahoma town. Then the announcer corrected that to Seattle. And thanked me for giving Oklahoma City the Sonics. Dork.

The dude who had finished about 30 seconds in front of me was sitting by the finish line. I sat down next to him and we had a brief chat. Turns out, we were both 3:40ish marathoners, and we both took the same 20 minute weather penalty. Or was the course long too?

Anyway, dude's wife came over and told him that he had won his age group and I had come in second.

Wow. A 3:58, and I not only came in second, but I could have come in first if I had kicked a little. And I came in 10th overall. With a 3:58.

Hard day for everyone on the too-long course :-), I guess.

Overall, it was fun. And Island Boy likes hot.

Afterwards I went to the big party in Dallas and had a great time. Then I had to get my trophy through TSA and back to Seattle. That was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the weekend.

Next up: Already happened. This past weekend, I ran a local 50k that was essentially 31 miles of gentle downhill. With jaw-dropping views, lots of coca-cola, and oreos. Cookies make everything better. More on that RealSoonNow.

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