One hundred K’s of Convenience… quirky to say the least.
Well, the message went something like this “hey, I’m putting on a new race with a friend through our QC-TUR group…it’s an urban ultra that’s got some unique bits to it…It’s not dirt so I’d understand if there wasn’t an interest from you or your crew of awesome ladies…We’d love to have more non Quad Cities folks, especially bad ass women, signed up.” So naturally I said, ” Hey Ryan and Josh. I trust you. Here’s my money. Let’s have some fun!”
I got the word out to the Divas and we had 5 spots of the 40 filled pronto. I was scheduled to run 36 training miles over the weekend so I signed up for the two looper or roughly 40ish miles. My friends signed up for the one loop event, 20ish miles or the Lappetizer. Some crazies would do 3 loops or 100k of road madness. This wouldn’t be our typical foray on the dirt but an Iowa March calls for creative thinking to get those miles in. The concept was a low-key, self navigated 20 mile loop where each runner would have to stop at 3 designated aid stations “Kwik Stars” per loop, buy something with your provided gift card, save the receipt in a provided baggie and turn them in before starting the next loop. There would be no course markings, no police guided road crossings, and no cheering spectators. You would be given the course map and gift cards the morning of the race and were required to carry a phone and a head lamp if starting a loop after 1 pm. The race would begin and end in Davenport at the tucked away gem of Schuetzen Park. So hidden that the pre race email stated that if you can’t find the park on Friday, you have little chance of finding it on Saturday. As my husband and I drove up the big hill and arrived for packet pickup, I was like there is no way we are in the right spot but we found it tucked down the hill behind an assisted living care facility. A very unlikely spot for a race start. As my knees knocked together in the cold at the pavilion, I briefly thought about begging Josh for a map but that would be against the rules. I knew if I ended up hopelessly lost in Illinois, I could call Jon and he’d come save my ass.
Race morning began cold and dark. Cold weather gear was needed but I was grateful that the earlier forecast of predicted snow didn’t materialize…We’d get 10 inches of that white stuff Sunday night into Monday instead. I’m pretty sure my face was a bit panicky as I realized that I couldn’t quite read the map with my contacts in. I’m near-sighted so my contacts allow me to see distance but not so great up close. #oldrunnerproblems. I was relieved to realize that I could make out the turn by turn directions on the back side of the map. And before I knew it 6 am came and we were off. I was lucky enough to get to hang with Badass Bonnie and Mark for the first segment of the race. We talked about Arrowhead 135 and her amazing finish, debated the merits of gor-tex shoes, and what we should buy at the convenience stores. Lotto tickets were the best idea. I kept looking at street signs and trying to memorize the correct order of the streets we traversed. We caught up to the main group and we mostly stayed together to the first Kwik Star. These were all locals so I benefited from their familiarity with the area. The most scenic thing we saw in this section was a flattened squirrel on the sidewalk with a wide blood path. Yuck. About eight police cars and an ambulance or two disrupted the peaceful early morning stillness on Locust Street and conversation turned to recent local crimes. We reveled in a beautiful sunrise and a colorful sky and were thankful for the opportunity to witness it.
As we saw the first aid station, we decided to climb the grass hill and cut the corner. We felt so devious! Corner cutting was allowed at this race. Killian Jornet would feel right at home…no switchbacks but plenty of corner cutting. Areas that we weren’t allowed to use were indicated with red on our maps. First Kwik Star stop meant a potty break and a banana. Collected my receipt and we got friendly course directions from Mike who was the course photographer/videographer. He popped up along the course the first two hours and we were always thankful to see his helpful face and take any direction he provided. Off to the next Kwik Star we went.
I ended up running from here on out with Dan and Mitch. Bonnie and Mark were just a bit behind us and yelled out as we almost took the wrong way on a section of bike path. I had seen Mitch at many trail events the past couple years. He is easily recognizable in a pink shirt that he wears at all races. Dan looked familiar too and we spent time talking about normal running stuff and laughed about an old couch along the course and how we could take a rest break there…would it still be there on our second loop or would someone grab it up? Someone had a Green Bay Packer symbol painted on the side of their house. The house was painted in team colors. Obviously a die-hard Packer fan. I stayed observant to my surroundings but there were way too many turns and street names in this section to memorize. Falcon Ave deposited us at our second Kwik Star aid station and this time I grabbed a Payday and ate it while waiting for Dan and Mitch. We again saw Mike here and he told us to head onto 53rd Ave for 3.2 miles. This would be our longest stretch on the same road. He told us to be careful not to miss the Goose Creek path. It’s easy to miss he said. We checked our mileage on our watches and decided we would search for it at 3 miles. This was a 4 lane highway with plenty of congestion and traffic lights to wait on (AKA rest breaks). We crossed interstate 74 and enjoyed the grassy sections that gave our feet a break from all the pavement pounding. I found 3 small empties of Fireball in this section. Somebody had a fun night! We found the Goose Creek Path and could hear ourselves think again. Discussion turned to all the bird named streets and paths on this excursion…Duck Creek, Crow Creek, Falcon Ave, and Goose Creek. And why were there ducks in Goose Creek, shouldn’t they stay over in the Duck Creek where they belong?! Such important issues to ponder. This Kwik Star felt particularly far. I really wasn’t paying attention to miles between. Just running one Kwik Star to the next. Mike wasn’t at this stop as he had to get back to the start for the 20 mile race to begin at 9 am. This time I grabbed the closest thing I saw which was a Reese peanut butter egg. That totally hit the spot. The clerk said see you next time as she handed me my precious receipt.
Off we went to finish the loop with maps in hand. I got a bit in front of the guys here especially as we got to the stick part of the lollypop loop and I recognized my surroundings. I saw Brent head out on his second loop looking strong and I enjoyed the nice downhill of Lincoln Ave in preparation for the hill climb back to Schuetzen Park. I power hiked the hill and hit the pavilion right at 4 hours and close to 21 miles. I turned over my receipts to Josh, ate some chips, drank some water, had Ryan refill my water bottle, changed into some light weight gloves and headed back out pretty quickly with map in hand. Mitch and Dan were in as well but were still fueling and changing shoes when I took off.
I knew I had to really pay attention now and would look at my map for the next turn and run on the same side of the road as the upcoming turn. The increased wind made me thankful that I kept my winter running jacket on. Up ahead at the HyVee, I saw the friendly faces of Bonnie and Mark coming my way on their way back to the start. A high five and Mark asked if I would be okay. I said for sure, I got my map! It was right after this that I dropped my map and had a quick vision of it blowing away but I stomped my foot on it fast! Whew, close call. A tighter grip on my map from now on. It was around St. Ambrose University that I started to get a leg cramp. The twitching continued so I took a S-cap and it immediately subsided. Onward to Brady St.
Kwik Star stop 4. Another peanut butter egg, banana and a potty break. Demolished the PB egg and ate half the banana. Headed back out with increased attention to my map as this was the section with the most turns. Lots of neighborhood turns where one street looked a lot like the other. I spent most of this section focused on my directions and daydreaming of my reward at the next Quik Star. I was going to treat myself to a Pepsi (my race crack) and Pringles. I was in need of a sugar and salt hit.
Kwik Star 5. I was a big spender this time. 20 oz Pepsi and a small container of Pringles. I gulped down about 5 ounces and poured the rest in one of my hydration vest bottles. Stuffed my mouth with as many Pringles as it could hold and headed back out to my least favorite section…busy 53rd Ave. Needless to say, it felt far longer this time. I once again counted the 3 Fireball bottles and noticed how much more traffic there was at the later time of day. Everyone busy running Saturday errands and me trying to dodge the traffic as well as I could. It was a relief to see the Goose Creek path ahead. I had noticed on the first loop that the bike path ran next to the business park near the Hamilton College parking lot so this time I cut that corner. That was a satisfying cut. Back to paying attention which was getting a little harder as some fatigue was setting in. I sipped some more Pepsi and looked around a bit. I felt sure that I had missed the turn on Marquette St when I saw a fence I recognized from the first loop and an old banana peel still stuck to the sidewalk. Yes, I’m still on track. I remembered some other little short cuts that Mitch and Dan had taught me the first loop…through the bank and teller line with some surprised glances from the car of an elderly couple in line at the window.
Kwik Star 6. Yippee! Glad to see you but not really wanting anything. I made myself eat half a banana and happily told the clerk when she asked that only about 4 miles to go! I felt great knowing the barn was close and looked forward to that nice downhill section ahead. I had told my husband that I estimated 8 to 8 1/2 hours to finish this race. I looked at my watch with about 3 miles to go and realized that I should have no problem getting in under 8 hours! This brought a big smile to my face. That would mean negative splits in a 41 ish mile race. Yes, super slow mile splits but still negative ones! I pushed that downhill fast feeling really good. I power hiked up the last big hill to the park as fast as I could with hands pushing off of my quads. Hit the top and put the pedal to the metal to the finish line! 7:49 on my watch. Official time 7:50! Yes! How sweet it is!
This race really was a blast. A great way to get in some long miles in a fun race setting and I think it was a great lesson on how to pay attention to directions. Whether you are running a road marathon or a trail race deep in the woods, it’s always important to be observant and aware of your surroundings at all times. Hopefully, that way you don’t run head first into a bear or an oncoming car. Both could not be a great way to end your race day.
As is always the case in a good trail race or an urban road ultra, there are always great stories at the finish line…over a beer or two. Some funny convenience store purchases included Blue Moons (reportedly drank), lotto tickets (Julie won $3), and cigarettes bought (hopefully bought and not smoked). The best story is the gal who ran by her house and went in and took a nap. Who could blame her, right?! That would be so hard!!
All in all, a great day running and conversing with the TUR(d)s! Thanks to my new trail friends that kept me from getting lost that first loop and sharing your navigational wisdom! Kudos to Josh and Ryan for a really awesome and fun city adventure! I think your little quirky inaugural race was a big hit!
Race pictures courtesy of Mike Van Hulle.
Love my Divas!