State #26 on the Kansas side of the border. I did not make the “go” decision until a week before race day so that means airfares would be sky high so I made the 11-12 hour drive a 2 day trip on both ends. There is no true direct route but 2 ways of getting there that are about the same amount of driving time. The Western route goes through Miss’ Sippy to Memphis then into NE Arkansas to Springfield, MO partly via 2 lane roads. From Springfield, I took a slight detour to see some of the Kansas countryside. I had been to Kansas before but only for a few brief minutes. Now, I can truly count it among my states visited. The Eastern route is longer but all interstate. It goes through Nashville, western KY and southern Illinois before heading due west from St. Louis. I took this route going back and covered nearly 1500 miles all told.
I found that there is no clear line where the South ends and the Midwest begins. The southern quadrant of Missouri up to at least the Springfield area is more Southern than Midwestern. The southern tip of Illinois is only 1.5 hours north of the Tennessee border so you’ll hear southern accents at least as far north as Carbondale, which is over an hour north of the Kentucky border. However, the I-70 corridor, which includes Kansas City and St. Louis is purely Midwestern.
I worked half a day on Thursday and made it past Jonesboro, Arkansas for the night. The terrain became quite hilly as I entered the edge of the Ozarks but flattened near Springfield. I stopped for lunch the next day in Ft. Scott, Kansas then it was 2 hours due north into Kansas City. I arrived by mid-afternoon, scored a hotel within walking distance of the start at the Legends Outlet mall. Dinner was a prime rib at an independent restaurant.
It started and ended at the Kansas Speedway about 15 miles west of downtown KCMO. It was advertised as a “challenging course” but I figured it’s Kansas. How hilly could it be? As expected, the first and last 1.5 miles were pancake flat on the speedway but the middle 10 were constantly up and down with no flat spots. The inclines and declines were all about a half mile long and some were pretty steep too. The methylation support has resulted in more consistency in my training but I still have mild fatigue every day plus lost fitness. My realistic goal was a sub-1:45 (8:00 pace).
I took off feeling strong and despite aiming for a pace just south of 8:00, I found I was holding back to stay in the 7:30 range early. That was a good sign but I knew it was too fast and by Mile 2, the pace became more sensible. By mile 3, I ran into a fierce headwind outside the speedway and it was becoming apparent that the course was going to be tougher than expected. I was beginning to fear the worst. Here are the early splits:
Normally, if I can make it through Mile 5 without a complete meltdown, it’s going to be okay the rest of the way. I was hurting and abnormally sore in the groin but in control and settled into a sustainable pace. The wind seemed to die down a bit too. Early in Mile 6, we turned off a nondescript highway into a park. This was the most enjoyable part of the race with the hills a bit more gentle in this section.
I passed the halfway point just a hair under 52 minutes so I was still 30+ seconds ahead of pace and figured I could afford to go 10-15 in the red and be able to make it up in the last mile. Unfortunately, the hills kicked back up a notch back on the highway heading back. I walked through an aid station in Mile 9 and found that I had slipped behind pace by Mile 10.
The speedway was coming back in view by the end of Mile 10 and after a downhill, I still believed that I could make it. The optimism was short lived as the headwind kicked back in with a vengeance in Mile 11, which was almost all slightly uphill. Though the final distance was accurate, the Mile markers were consistently short, which meant the last mile was too long. I could not muster any kick on the Speedway to the finish but pride kicked in when I knew I needed to hustle to break 1:46 and squeaked in with 2 ticks to spare.
1:06-1:45:58 (last .17)
Pace per mile: 8:05. AG: 5th/18- 72nd percentile.
I’ll take it. This was nearly 21 minutes faster than my rock bottom race last September. It won’t be a disaster if my pills are a little off but I can still feel a difference. If everything was perfect and the course was flat, I think I can run 1:42, which would be my best time in 2 years. If I can just get back under 1:40 and stay there until I’m 40, I’ll be satisfied.
This was a destination event with the race being just a part of the fun. I hoped to meet up with a childhood friend for lunch but she was out of town. I did get a good recommendation for a post-race BBQ at a place called Jack’s Stack in downtown KCMO, which was extremely hilly. I was glad the race was on the Kansas side. From there, it was on to Independence just a few miles east for the Truman presidential library. I’d rank him as a near-great president between 6th-10th in history.
Next up was a baseball game between the Royals and Braves which resulted in a rare Braves victory. I enjoyed talking with a man from Nebraska who is a lifelong Braves fan since the mid-‘80s. The next morning, I stopped at a place called the International House of Prayer, which holds 24/7 intercessory prayer and worship music but no formal worship service. I stayed there for a while and just took in the Presence before heading home. The trip back went without a hitch though St. Louis was a bit nerve-wracking. I spent Sunday night just south of Nashville and had an easy drive Monday morning. I worked a half day.