Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Escape from Charlotte!

So after 40 hours stuck in the Charlotte Airport, countless snacks from the US Airways Lounge, several trips to Starbucks, flying to a city that is a 2.5 hour drive from my original airport, and a car ride I am HOME.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mississippi/Alabama Marathon Double Weekend

State #14 - 1/8/11 Saturday Mississippi Blues Marathon Jackson, MS
#15 - 1/9/11 Sunday First Light Marathon Mobile, AL

PART ONE - Jackson, MS Fri/Sat

First off, I had not done much running in the 2 weeks leading up to the double due to hosting a visitor and in turn spending a few days in Milwaukee leading up to the race, brrr. That coupled with not having done a double marathon before, I was heading into the unknown. I teamed up with Murray to share hotel and car rental expenses, he is another Marathon Maniac whom I had met in Maine at the Mount Desert Island Marathon mid October of last year. I chose to fly into and out of New Orleans and rent a car to drive as all 3 locations were just about 3 hours driving time apart and I hoped to sneak in a visit with friends that I knew from when I lived there from 2002-2005. The flight leaving Milwaukee Friday morning was uneventful, but leaving Kansas City the plane’s computer gave an error message, so mid-taxi to the runway, the airline IT person told the pilot to turn off the entire plane to re-boot the computer (isn’t that what all of us try first?!). Well, it worked and we were on our way and even managed to land in New Orleans 15 min early due to a very strong tailwind.

The drive to Jackson, MS was scenic with the bayous, cypress trees and spanish moss. The drive went by quickly and generally uneventful save the wind batting around the itty bitty rental car on the elevated interstate system. The expo was at the convention center and was well organized (except for me, I didn’t think to bring my ID with me so I had to walk back to the hotel, then back again) and we were staying at the very nice Marriott about 5 blocks away. Dinner at Sal and Mookie’s, a local Italian restaurant that was crazy busy but the wait went quickly with good conversation, 4 of us total heading into the double marathon weekend. A grocery store run on the way back to the hotel and to bed at 9:30p.

Woke up to a cold morning with a large number of runners hanging out in the lobby until the last minute. The best part was the hotel set out pre-race bananas, granola bars and gatorade in fancy glass and brass dispensers in the lobby. Their coffee that was set out in the lobby was actually pretty good. All at once people started spilling out onto the street and we followed suit with the start a 4 block walk.

Fancy Gatorade at the Marriott

Pre-race lobby at the Marriott - Staying warm

One of several Elvis costumes
Some running and some directing traffic

Start line

The course winds quickly out of downtown and stays in the neighborhoods for most of the course. It is hilly, but small hills that resemble a roller coaster cause if you were not going up you were going down. Everything was well organized, well stocked aid stations with water and gatorade and 3 gel stations. As the miles went on I started chatting to a young man that went by the name "Dub," whom was running his first marathon. I leapfrogged with Murray the entire course and we both pulled Dub along. They both finished together about 10 min behind me, I last saw them at the 20 mile mark.
The last 6 miles I found a second wind (or perhaps a first) and began to steadily pick up the pace and slowly pick off runners, I had a sub 4:30 in mind and wanted to build a slight cushion should I begin to slow down or some bonus hills sneak into the course.

Finished 4:24:41

Quickly showered then hit the road for the 3 hour drive to Mobile with Murray as a passenger to keep me awake and entertained.

PART TWO - Mobile, AL Sat/Sun

We arrived in town at 4:30 and checked into the Candlewood Suites Downtown, Murray got bumped to the front of the check in line due to his frequent customer status, we got a few stare downs. We walked the few blocks over to the expo then across the street for the included pasta dinner, enjoyed the conversation with the runners at our table, then headed back to the hotel. I skipped the 50 States Marathon club gathering in exchange for some additional rest.

There were almost 100 names total!

Southern Belles at the Expo and me :)

The race start was a short walk from the hotel and we timed things well such that the start gun went off a few minutes after arriving to the start. This race, similar to the day before wandered through the streets with oaks, spanish moss, and ferns hanging off the bark. However this course was largely flat with course road surface at times. I was less chatty than the day before but got several good conversations in during the run.

Finished in 4:39:58 with a sprint to the finish to beat 4:40, no chip timing for this race.

Showered, then hit the road to New Orleans. Stopped an hour into the drive because I was STARVING. At Cracker Barrel I ate a chocolate shake, pancake breakfast with eggs and bacon, and a side of biscuits and gravy. I hit the road once the rain squall passed and my stomach was full. Stayed with friends from when I lived in New Orleans, had dinner at an Itailian place in the french quarter. And then breakfast the next morning in the Marigny. Stopping by Touro Infirmary, I was curious to see if any of my co-workers were still there that were in the hospital during Katrina. Turns out 2 nurses where there working and I sat in the nurses station chatting away for almost 40 minutes catching up. That felt really good to connect with them.

Then on to the airport where the rest of the adventure begins.

PART THREE - Charlotte, NC Mon-Tues++
Stuck!!!! I arrived in Charlotte, NC at 5pm Monday with my evening flight to Charlottesville being cancelled 3 hours after it was scheduled to depart due to ice. So, I was rebooked on a morning flight and had a largely sleepless night on the cold floor of the airport. I used the mylar wrap from the marathon in Mobile as a blanket, and it actually kept me quite toasty. After a few hours I decided to get up to use the restroom and to try to relocate to a quieter area as the terminal they had corralled us into had 2 bars open until 2am when I moved, and they did not look like they were closing down anytime soon.

I found an alcove of a wine bar and joined 2 gentlemen that were already lying on the floor and sleeping, both in their business casual and their small personal bag. Those who had checked luggage were unable to access their bags. I was able to get 2 hours of sleep there, and when I got up for the day about 4:30a, I gave and then wrapped one of the gentlemen with the mylar wrap as he had commented how cold he was. Starbucks was open, so I got an Americano to start my day and migrate to the gate. Once I got to the gate and got in line to get my boarding pass the gate agent said that there were seats available on a mid morning direct Charlottesville flight, so I got a ticket for that flight at 10a and headed to get breakfast. After I dumped the plate of biscuits and gravy on the floor, then got a new plate, I sat down to eat and saw Murray walk by. He was supposed to be home Sunday night!!!! Not in Charlotte on Tuesday Morning.

We walk to the US Airways lounge at 8 am, and that is where we continue to sit at the time of this posting 2pm EST. I have a flight scheduled at 4pm to Richmond.....not real hopeful but not much else to do. I will post an update when something happens.

And now I have done a double marathon!