Yesterday, I motored into Tulsa for a weekend of Route 66 races. However, before racing, I had some work to do.
I got into town around lunchtime, got checked into the hotel (painless!), and walked to the Cox Business Center, where the expo was being held.
First stop, the volunteer checkin table. This is the second year I’ve volunteered at the expo, and I really enjoy it. The folks at Route 66 really make it attractive too — for volunteering, you get a medal that’s as big as the 5K medal. That’s a huge incentive, and I’m sure that makes it easy for them to attract the almost 2000 volunteers that make the race happen.
After getting checked in, I went to pick up my bibs. Last year, this was a real challenge. I volunteered there last year, and I was a whirling dervish, running up and down the boxes of bibs, finding folks’ bibs. This year, they had separate kiosks broken up by bib number. In my case I had to stop three times to get my three bibs, but it really worked sooooo much better!
Next stop was my stint was at the Fan Zone table. We helped folks make signs to cheer on their runners — or strangers! In fairness, there weren’t very many people in the expo at that time, so it was pretty slow. After six hours of driving and three hours of being on my feet, I was ready to be done.
But, I wasn’t done yet.
For the second year, I participated in the Blogger’s Forum. This is always an odd thing for me. I’m just a guy who writes what’s in his head, tries to write like I speak, and do my best to keep things positive. Last year and this, there were big-traffic bloggers sharing the stage with me. And they’re pros, knowing how to market themselves and their art — there’s nothing wrong with that! — and there I am talking about this crazy little blog that gets a small amount of traffic. And just like that, something cool happens…
Man, that just makes it all worthwhile! I met Jeremy after the panel, when he told me he was gonna run the half next year because of what I talked about. Put that medals aside, that’s the real reward from this weekend’s events. I’m still blown away!
(Guess I’ll have to come back next year, and cheer Jeremy on!)
I walked back to the hotel after the panel, having all my non-race obligations completed, and started to think about dinner. This is when I discovered that the hotel doesn’t have room service. 🙁 However, I saw a place that deals in Coney dogs on my walk back. I’m a sucker for a good dog, so I crossed the street, and walked in.
From what I’d read on Yelp, the right way to do this was to order three of ’em, so I did. I got them back to the hotel, and they were crazy good. Their version of chili is a little different than mine, but that’s ok with me!
Fast-forward to this morning, and it was oddly, all nerves again. This is the third time I’ve run the 5k here, and I know it is a hilly mess, but for some reason, those hills had me nervous. I pulled up my big-boy underpants, girded my loins, and headed out to the start line.
For a change, I didn’t get to the start line too terribly early (I’m only two blocks away), and didn’t have to wait in the cold too long. It was 32°, and I was using today to figure out what I needed to wear tomorrow. As it ends up, I was able to do shorts, and be very comfy, so that bodes well for tomorrow.
After a short wait, the gun fired, and we were on our way. This race has a few really big hills in it, and the first is less than a kilometer in. I trotted up it like I owned it, enjoying the view of almost 2000 runners on the course. About two kilometers in, my calves started barking pretty hard — the worst in quite a while. (More on that later.) Around 4km in, my legs were doing pretty well, and from there, it’s downhill and then flat. I was in the home stretch, and pretty quickly had the finish line in site.
The Fun Run starts about an hour after the 5k starts, so I bypassed the treats and goodies at the end of the race, and found my way over to the starting line once again. This crowd was much smaller — both in numbers and stature. There are a ton of kids that run in this race, and it’s just a hoot to see them tackle this. Some of them make it, some get carried by a parent, but it’s a great, positive experience, and with them all getting medals and high-fives from costumed mascots, it’s something they’ll never forget.
By the time the Fun Run is over, all the food lines for the 5k are really gone, so I ended up with just a couple of sacks of cashews. However, the beer truck was still serving, and I had four coupons (two from each bib). I turned in my first two, found a bench, and started drinking my Michelob Ultra’s. I chatted with some other finisher’s, each of us slowly putting down our brews.
I’d asked one of the locals where they’d suggest to go for lunch. They rapidly came up with Caz’s Chowhouse, telling me it was comfort food. That sounded great, so I stood up… and found that my right calf was so tight that I could barely walk. I hobbled along, roughly in the direction of the Caz’s, and found that it got loosened up the farther I walked, so that was a good thing.
I got to the restaurant, and asked the guy setting up the chairs for outside seating about when they opened. When I found out it was just about twenty minutes away, I decided to wait it out. I asked about the menu, and he told me about something called The Big Nasty. The more he described it, the better it sounded… and then the phrase “chicken-fried bacon” fell out of his mouth. I was sold! The manager invited me in for a cup of coffee and to warm up, so I sat at the bar drinking my cuppa joe, and chit-chatted with her and her staff. As it ends up, she was from Knoxville, and a big UT fan. Perfect!
Once they officially opened, I found a table, sat down, and ordered a root beer, the Big Nasty and some fried okra. That, my friends, is comfort food. While I knew that this was described as being laid atop a “cat’s head” biscuit, I didn’t realize the cat they were talking about was a tiger! That biscuit was easily 6″ in diameter, and served open-faced, it was the foundation to a load of cheese fries, a piece of chicken friend steak slathered in gravy, two eggs over medium, and couple of slices of chicken-friend bacon. I’ve had a lot of really, really good things on my travels for these crazy races, but that by far is the best, most unique thing I’ve encountered. And it kicked my butt. I got through about half of it before feeling like I was gonna explode. I was told that I did pretty well with getting that far. 🙂
And as I exited Caz’s, I thought I had a couple of blocks yet to walk to the hotel, but I quickly saw that the front door of Caz’s was cattycorner from the back entrance of the hotel. Beauty.
So, in all a really good couple of days, but I’ve gotta admit, the tight calf is really worrying me for tomorrow. I don’t know if it was the cold, or if I overdid something on the hills, but something different happened today, and that’s unusual for me nowadays on 5K’s.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s attempt at the half marathon!!!