Marathon Route #25: Prairie Fire Marathon – Witchita, KS

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Halfway Done! Halfway Done! This run marked the halfway point for my entire quest – I wanted a tickertape parade, dancing in the streets, and fireboats shooting streams of water.  Seriously, I really wanted those fireboats on the river hitting me with full force fire hose spray – it was hot! Runners attempting the official Prairie Fire Marathon will do so almost four months down the road in the second week of October when average highs are around 72 degrees and lows are around 51 degrees.  By comparison, I stepped out of the house at 4:15 am and it was 86 degrees.  It was roughly around 94 degrees when I finished.  This was not including the humidity index which made the real feel around 102! Although I didn’t have anybody running the course with me, I did have a great deal of support from the folks at First Gear Running Company and the organizers of the Praire Fire Marathon.  On Saturday morning, I ran with a group heading out for their first training run for the marathon.  These amazing runners were kind enough to slow down so I could run with them and talk about my quest and they were full of tips about the course and the heat.  At the end of the group run, one of the volunteers with Praire Fire came over, asked me some questions, took my picture, and connected me with the organizers so I left with some amazing swag including a great beach towel and very fancy flame colored racing sleeves (which I will probably not wear until October, but they do look sweet). She also gave me her number for emergencies and her and her son checked in on me during my run to make sure I didn’t pass out, while they were going for their Sunday 10 mile long run. Overall, thanks to the gorgeous last third of this course and the hospitality I receive from this city, I’m really looking forward to officially running this race in the future.

Course Review:

This was one of the hottest days of the summer so I started at 4am. I truly hate starting to run so early. My body doesn’t really feel like it’s woken up. The first hour to two hours which are usually my best running times feel like I am running completely immersed in water. This feeling was exasperated by the high humidity. Leaving the house in the morning it was already 85 with a real feel of 92 degrees. It didn’t get as hot as it was supposed to but I can tell you 94 with a real feel of 101 degrees at 11 am is pretty tough stuff to slog through. I mention this because I didn’t really see the sun until mile 10.

If you have run this course before, there have been some subtle changes to the course. There is a new out and back  along Grove St. that allowed them to cut some chafe in one of the more industrial areas around mile 17. This also allows you more time along the river and in some of the pretier parks. This is one of the flattest courses I have runn all year, with only minor grades and isolatef hill areas. The beginning of the course starts you off with a beautiful view of downtown. You start at the newer WaterWalk area and cross back and forth over the Arkansas river on Lewis St. and then onto Douglas Ave. You run down the main thoroughfare of downtown, past all the high rises and under the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Train line. Around mile 4.5, you leave behind the main artery and start running through nice neighborhoods with the slightest of hills along College Hill Park and Cypress Park. The highlight for me of the first third of this course is along Hampton Rd. and Lakeside Blvd. The homes are nice in this area, but the park that’s been carved between these two streets with its bronze statues and cute little bridges spanning the water way is a great moment for a photo opportunity amidst some mundane neighborhoods.

The next five miles heading towards the halfway point are a bit of suburban khaki, somewhat blah and non descript as you run along outer city streets and neighborhoods, the highlight being a little trail area tucked in around mile 10-11. Surrounded by condos and cookie cutter houses, someone has taken the time and effort to carve out a little enchanting walkway connecting two neighborhoods with decorative trees and flowering shrubs. The mile around the half marathon mark feels a little strip mallish, but within a mile and a half, you are running along the nicely shaded beautiful neighborhoods of 2nd St. As you near the end of the second third of the marathon you get some glimpses of the beautiful brickwork of the revamped Old Town, where some amazing businesses are revitalizing older buildings. The last third of this course is where the scenic tourist views are, so if you have support during the race, you want to make sure they capture you going over one of the Little Arkansas or its big brother and running through one of these final parks. Riverside Park is gorgeous and a bit more accessible to some pretty views than later on by the Botanical Gardens. There are some large noteworthy sculptures by the art museum. The final 5K along the Arkansas River is very tranquil. I loved the sound of the river gently flowing along. One more time crossing over the first bridge and you cross the finish line.

Lessons Learned:

Heat Is Bad, Humidity Is Worse:

This is by far the hottest day I have ever run any distance, much less a marathon. I got some great tips from Marathon Maniacs. I froze the water in the containers on my belt and but two large frozen bars of water in my Camelback.I wore all white.I wore a large brimmed hat (but I need one with a brim all the way around). All the businesses were fine with me stopping in for refills. I did salt tablets. I carried a sweat towel and utilized it as cover for the back of my neck after soaking it in some cold water. There were some other great ideas that I will save for races with some more personal support. The heat itself was not insurmountable. What really drained me was the humidity. It had rained the night before and instead of helping, it just covered everything in water. When the sun did come out, it became a sauna. Especially after 9am, the sun was really beating down and as I was trying to stay in the shade, the trees would radiate dense steam clouds that just robbed the energy from my limbs. I do envy the runners attempting this race in the fall.

Do Not Use A Slushy To Cool Down:

Even with all the added preparation, my body was really beginning to overheat by mile 18 so I stopped at a gas station and got a Slushy to cool down from the inside out. Earlier in the year, a popsicle had really saved my overheated button in Tacoma. The Slushy had 2 downsides. 1. It had a ton more sugar than the popscicle, so although it did give me a boost, I came crashing down hard a couple miles later. The was also a lot more citric acid and it soured my stomach most of the last hour and a half. This was a suggestion from a supporter and I must say for me, it did not work.

 Physical Review:
  

After a week of intense healing on my feet from running in Revel Rockies, the blisters had healed enough for me the run in Wichita (I’d like to thank Epson salts and Gold Bond foot lotion for that). During the race, every injury I had sustained over the previous 6 months stopped by for a visit, but as I took in water and electrolytes most of the severe aches went away. The largest issue was the draining of energy from the humidity. It became a real challenge to keep going after mile 21 and I was was particularly awash in it around the Botanical Gardens.  Fortunately there was a little breeze along the river, so occasionally relief blew in and quickly blew out. This was my longest street run by far, clocking in at 7:12:02. This was also the first city I started with full ice baths for my lower torso and not only did it refresh my body from the crushing exhaustion, it also made walking the next day much easier than in te past. This will become a regular habit for me.

The heat of this course has helped me make some clear decisions for the summer. The day after this marathon, I rearranged my schedule so that I bounce up and down through the midwest, hopefully giving myself a break every other week or so by going north after a more southern and heated marathon route. It will mean a little more driving, but hopefully it will break up what looks like a dreadfully hot summer. Next week I continue in the center of the nation with an official race in Iowa – Run4Troops. Thank you for reading my journey and as always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

wp-1473331519964.jpg

 

Make it quick...I'm on the run!