August 22, 2009

Night Before the Marathon

Because of flight schedules, I took today off from work in order to get to Ashton, Idaho in time for the race. While I don’t like giving up my precious vacation days (I really don’t get that many), it was definitely a nice change of pace to arrive in town a bit early instead of just before the race. First up was a morning flight to Denver, on which I slept for three of the four hours. After a brief layover in Denver, I checked in for my flight to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from which I would rent a car for a short two hour drive to Ashton, Idaho. Lots of travel, but all manageable.

The first snag came when I headed to the United ticket counter at Denver and was told that United didn’t have interline agreements with my airline, and that they therefore couldn’t check me in for my flight. Um, what? I had bought the interline pass from the United pass bureau, and I’ve flown United in the past under interline agreements, so I knew this wasn’t true. However, I had a ticket agent and his supervisor telling me I was wrong, and basically that I couldn’t get out of Denver. Finally, the misunderstanding was cleared up, though I’m not really sure how. The supervisor was finally like “oh, you’re an airline employee not a revenue passenger?” Well, yes, of course I am, or I wouldn’t be asking about interline agreements. Either way, the whole incident didn’t even make me that nervous because I was positive I was right.

Though the gate agent had no idea what I had just gone through at ticketing, she inadvertently made up for it when processing my seat assignment. She handed me a boarding pass for 23B, which I assumed to be a middle seat in the back of the plane. I didn’t really care; I was just happy to make the flight. However, when handing me the ticket, she said that she had a few tight connections and that if I didn’t mind waiting, she could probably give me a better seat. As I said, I didn’t care, but I also didn’t care whether I read my book on the plane or in the gate area, so I opted to wait. I was rewarded for my patience with… a first class seat! Believe it or not, in all the business flying I used to do, I had still never flown in first class, so I was super excited to get the seat. In actuality, first class really wasn’t that big of a deal – the seats were wider, but I think they had about the same amount of pitch (basically that means leg room) as the economy seats on my own airline. As for service, the FAs were definitely more attentive, but I still got the same bag of snack mix and glass of water (though this time, in a real glass instead of a plastic cup). It was nice as a little treat, but definitely not worth the ridiculously higher fare. I know it’s different flying internationally, but for domestic trips, I’m really unclear why people buy first class. The only real advantage seems to be free alcoholic drinks (I didn’t have any because I needed to drive when I got to Jackson Hole), but that seems like a steep price to pay for a beer or two.

Arriving in Jackson Hole, I felt a sense of deja vu from when I did Run With the Horses last year in Green River, Wyoming. It was the same beautifully blue skied kind of day, and the mountains and the view were just spectacular. I found the drive from Jackson Hole to Ashton to be very similar to my long drive from Green River to Salt Lake City last year, with the exception that I got a bit lost on this route and ended up having to backtrack about 20 minutes at one point to take a missed turn. Either way, I just love Big Sky Country, and more and more I’m getting convinced that I need to move out west.

The packet pickup was held at the elementary school and was quite simple – just a few rows of folding tables with two volunteers to help you find your packet. The cool little touch to remind you that you were in Idaho? Instead of a boring plastic bag to hold all your swag, the packets were put together in mesh potato sacks. Cute 🙂

There were a lot of fifty staters in attendance, so I hung out with them and again found myself becoming enticed to do races I never thought I’d do. While I’m planning to do the Brookings Marathon next year and have it count as my South Dakota (my race registration is being transferred from last year when I had flight problems), several people told me that the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon is a lot better and more scenic, and that it’s not hard at all for a trail marathon. So maybe I’ll go for it? Hmmm…

The pasta dinner was held right at the elemtnary school where the packet pickup was held, and for $5, I figured you couldn’t go wrong. I was definitely right. $5 got you garlic bread, pasta with marinara sauce, a baked potato with toppings, salad, and homemade baked goodies including an amazing applesauce cake (with applesauce frosting). I ate my fill while chatting with a bunch of fifty staters. One cool surprise while waiting in line for food: a woman I didn’t recognize came up to me calling my name. Surprised, I tried to place her, wondering if I had met her at a previous race or something. Instead, she told me that she was an avid reader of my blog and that she was excited to meet me in person. How cool! So… hi, Kay! It was great to meet you, and best of luck to you and your brother tomorrow in the race!

After dinner, I headed to my accommodations – a bit of a story here. According to the website, the Mesa Marathon has a guest runners program where locals agree to host runners; however, as it turned out, this information was outdated and the program was not in existence this year. Fortunately for me, thanks to the generosity of the former volunteer who ran the program and her friend Gene, I was offered the guest bedroom at Gene’s house, which turned out to be an exquisite log cabin-style lodge a few miles outside of town with the most beautiful view of the mountains and the falls. I really love it when I have the opportunity to stay with a local person instead of a hotel – in addition to the cost savings, it’s just so nice to get to meet locals and enjoy the trip in a more personal way (rather than staying at a generic Hampton Inn or Sheraton).

From here, it’s now time for a good night’s sleep before the race. Will I go fast, getting a new PR to beat even last week’s? Probably not. At least, I don’t plan to push for that. But with my unpredictable running, who knows? It may just happen!


10 thoughts on “Night Before the Marathon”

  1. I sure do envy you for traveling around the country and doing many different marathons. You should have brought the camera. I would have love to see the kind of view you had from the log cabin. The view of the mountain and the falls mus be remarkable!

    I will be eager to hear how you did with the marathon today. GOOD LUCK!

  2. I’m from SD and would definitely recomment Mikkelson trail marathon vs. Brookings. It would be a lot more difficult (brookings would be pretty flat) but I think it would be made up for with the scenery! Although I might do the 1/2 in Brookings, so I could say hi and cheer for ya once I’m done! 🙂

  3. I never got into the hostel / staying at other people’s house deal. I need a bit of personal space. But, I guess when you are going to as many random places as you – you gotta do what you gotta do!

  4. As I mentioned, Little Bro was having knee problems in the weeks leading up to the ‘thon. He dropped at mile ten. It was so disappointing. I’ll send you a link to my race report as soon as I’m done. It was very nice to meet you – sorry it was so “blog-stalker” of me! 🙂

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