Sioux Falls, the other other Marathon Destination
By: Asia Shah
Registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon began this week, and my little crew was able to sign up sans issues. Hard to believe that less than two weeks ago I was anxiously counting my Benadryl and overpacking for a 26 hour trip to Sioux Falls, SD to accompany my friend and training buddy, Chris, for his Boston BQ race. My dismal survival run last year was enough to secure me a BQ with a 20+ min buffer, so this trip was about one thing, getting Chris to the starting line in Hopkinton, MA, aka the start of the Boston Marathon. Disclaimer: I admit that I like everything about Boston weekend other than the actual race. The course, the sardine-like crowd, and the scenery are just not my thang. Yet, somehow we have gone back for the past 4+ years without fail. Immediately after the tragic events of this past year’s race I felt like not going would be fine by me. Little did I know at the time, the interest and demand for a spot on the start line in 2014 would only grow over the months to follow. Surprisingly, so did my own amorphous urge to occupy my earned spot in April. Who knows, maybe I’ll even enjoy it this time around. In fact, I will enjoy it, because many of my teammates may not be able to. A lot of people decided to qualify and run the upcoming race simply because of what happened in 2013, but that has left many hardworking and dedicated BQ-ers out of the mix. Of course, I hope those who are missing out in 2014 get their earned shot at tackling Boston, but if not, I hope they realize that no race or man-made organization has the ability to validate a person’s running ability or achievements. Rather, by obsessing about Boston and other time-qualifier races, we are in essence, giving our running over to the man instead of defining our own measures of success. Ok ok, I just broke my soapbox with the sheer length of some of those sentences, so onwards…
At this point, all six of you readers may be thinking, “wait a second, Sioux Falls? WHY? WHAT? HUH?” And trust me, I was and still am with you. I am no stranger to small towns, this is true, yet I am unquestionably a medium-big city person. Anxiety can set in at any moment when I calculate the distance between myself and a Starbucks, not to mention that living in a small “city” often requires boarding a peewee airplane and bouncing around in the air for 2+ hours at the mercy of a regional pilot, which we all know is code for “d-list”. There is not enough Xanax in the world to make that fun. The best answer to the question “why SF?” is pretty simple, it was one of, if not THE only, marathons on the very Sunday before Boston registration. Technically, it is also further North than Austin, TX, so the weather was expected to be less asphyxiating. Saturday alone was full of wins; 11am flight meant no early wake-up, no bags to check and no delays meant smooth travel, and I made it two flights with the help of only one Benadryl. What a start! After arriving at the Sioux Falls airport we waited a while to catch the free shuttle to our hotel along with another guy decked out in a burnt orange longhorn polo shirt and cowboy boots. Subtle. Turns out, this guy lives in New Jersey via Austin and knew many people in our running scene. It would later become apparent that there were about 3 possible reasons that people would cite for running (let alone traveling to run) the Sioux Falls Marathon, which are as follows:
1. I am trying to run a marathon in all 50 states
2. I am making a last minute, nail-biter BQ attempt
3. I have poor judgment and this is reflected in my life decisions
Well, this overtly proud longhorn fell into the first category, Chris the second, and well…
Fortunately for us, our shuttle driver and his wingman were fountains of knowledge and enthusiasm about the race. It was never entirely clear if this was genuine interest or simply an overactivity of dopamine circuits in their brains as a result of the Mountain Dew flooding their systems, but it was welcome all the same. They got us. No matter that the driver, who we decided looked like a “Dennis” and will now be referred to as such, fell quite solidly into the Clydesdale category. In fact, they offered to take us to a convenience store to buy gatorades and waters on our way to the hotel, what service! Once at the hotel we quickly understood why the shuttle had taken an eternity to arrive at the airport. Dennis was basically the backbone of the hotel. Checking in? He’s your man. Need a cab? Call Dennis. Rowdy neighbor on your floor? Call security, which is DENNIS. After checking in, reading over the rules (below) and taking a breath it began to sink in, we were finally in Sioux Falls.
Good thing Chris left his children at home and I decided against bringing my helium tank. We could have been “evicted” from the hotel, which definitely would have affected us on race day. But as it turned out, we were able to get a decent enough dinner in town, though I would warn that cab service has not fully evolved in the great plains of Sioux Falls. Our cab driver appeared to be selling mini-bar refills out of her van, along with questionable test tubes filled with neon liquid, conveniently located in each cup-holder. Instead of asking questions, since the authorities would likely take a similarly relaxed approach towards their work, we pretended like this was not (probably) illegal.
Eventually, it was time for some shut-eye. This is one of the most dreaded parts of race weekends for me. For the most part, I do not get very nervous for races, but marathons have such heft that they weigh on my brain a bit more than the shorter stuff. By this I am referring to the amount of months spent specifically targeting each race, the course-specific race plan, the travel involved, and then there’s that whole “it’s 26 miles not 3″ thing. To say there is not more at stake would just be false-o. Somehow, I had very little trouble sleeping this time around. Unfortunately, the lack of concrete goals (other than finishing) along with a feeling of this not being my race probably helped my sleep, yet definitely did not help my run. Obviously, a healthy dose of nerves, which I define as excitement and expectations, is necessary if I want to get the best out of myself.
Walking into the track stadium around 6:15am the next morning had us feeling quietly, yet cautiously confident. Chris was more than ready to go sub-3, even in the middle of a build for his fall/winter “A” race, but with warm weather and many unknowns being smart and staying focused early and often would prove to be important. Of course, being so clearly fit and charismatic, we attract attention in spades. So it was of no surprise to us when the local ABC newswoman wanted to feature our athletic achievements in her spot for the local news (please exit post now if sarcasm-detection is one of your emerging social skills). The sheer size and awkwardness of her camera equipment sort of manhandled her as she dragged it across the infield grass, elated to have found her marathon muses. It would quickly become apparent that she had no specific knowledge regarding running, or really about sports in general. In fact, I pictured her, dejected and frightened, as she pulled a slip of paper out of a small hat designated “B Roll News Topics”. No matter, her luck changed quickly when she found out we are from Texas because a still-shot of a Texas flag flapping in the wind can easily take up at least 4 seconds of tape…
The three of you (optimistic estimate) still with me are probably tirelessly waiting for the textbook race report section of my blog to finally (dear god) appear. Though, to be fair, I will warn you now that I am simply not going to go there for several reasons. I used to write race recaps with details regarding the races themselves, and I shudder to think that I may have forgotten to include that one GU I tried to take but I dropped it and then the other GU wouldn’t open right so I had to rip it and then I accidentally split my watch but it wasn’t at the mile marker and I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I WAS. But really, does anyone benefit from this other than my future mental healthcare provider? Other than the boredom factor of race details that not even I want to recount for myself, is the fact that with this race and most of the destination races I have run (including Boston), the bread of my race-trip sandwich has been way more enriching, exciting, and interesting than the meat. Yes, the races happen, good and bad, fast and slow, positive and negative, and they are worth recounting in order to learn lessons and provide feedback to el coach. Good blog-fodder they are not. What I have found in the last few years of non-collegiate running is that 99% or more of my time and energy in this sport is spent training and learning about myself and my Team Rogue teammates. Racing is what keeps a lot of us motivated and gives us a chance to test the lessons we have learned, the fitness we have worked our asses off to gain, and to test out that new GU flavor we wonder if will make us puke or not (because trying it beforehand? Where’s the adventure in that?). It’s funny, in my head this is so clear and totally not as chaotic as it is coming off. BUT, the point is, other than relaying the fun fact that Chris squeaked in under 3 hours (by 2 seconds!) and is officially accepted to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, I have little else to say about the race. Oh, and this: the actual “falls” of Sioux Falls? Highly disappointing.
Hopefully, all of my teammates will be safely on board the Boston train come Friday and I can read all about their mid-race bathroom mishaps and download the PDF to their sock-choice decision tree. But, if this shall not be, then I hope they can remember that each morning we kick our toned booties out of bed for 5:30am workouts well, thats the stuff. The stuff that matters, creates memories, and keeps me, and maybe them too, coming back for more.