Okay, it’s redemption time. I hopped on a flight to Minneapolis this morning, where I met Maniacs John and Catherine for a 2 hour carpool down to Mason City, IA. “What’s in Mason City, IA?” you may ask? This bustling metropolis is the birthplace of Meredith Willson (composer of The Music Man), boasts a wooden door factory and a metal door factory, and also produces Kraft pudding cups. But most importantly to us, it is the host town of the On the Road for Education Marathon.
We got into town around 4 PM and headed to the packet pickup, which was held at the local high school. Several booths were set up around the lobby: one for registration, one to get your pre-registered number, and one with the stuff. Sounds pretty standard, right? Well, have you ever run a race where they hand you a package of beef summer sausage with your bib? I sure hadn’t – so random! We were also pointed to a table with an assortment of running socks, and got to pick a pair. Most had cuffs, but I was pleased to find one pair of ladies low-cut socks – my favorite for running. I wasn’t going to be bold enough to wear them the next day, but I was still excited to get a new pair.
We went back to our hotels to drop off our stuff and settle in, and then it was back to the school for the pasta dinner. At only $6, reviews on Marathon Guide said it was a great value and not to be missed! Following the signs to the school cafeteria, I was expecting something like the dinner at the Mesa Falls Marathon, which I loved.
The woman who was taking tickets let me in without paying… because children under 16 eat free. I tried to correct her, but she waved me forward anyway. Do I really still look that young?? The next day, I donated $6 at the food stand after the race – it was all for a good cause, so I didn’t want to stiff them.
After going through the cashier for dinner, we were now in the main cafeteria line, where we waited. And waited. And waited. Boy, first Rhode Island, and now this – it seems like I can never get my pre-race meal when I want it! Rumors were that they had run out of pasta and were making more, but after 15 minutes had gone by, we wondered if they had run out of stock completely and had to go to the grocery store or something – it doesn’t take that long to boil water! Still, for a free meal, I wasn’t complaining.
When the pasta finally did come, it was very simple: some spaghetti, meat or marinara sauce, and a roll. There were pre-made bowls of iceberg salad we could have, and for dessert, the town’s famed Jello pudding cups. The woman serving pasta didn’t really give me a big portion, and I asked for a bit more, but didn’t want to be greedy, so I figured I could just go up for seconds later. However, it seemed that we had gotten there at just the right time – shortly after we got our pasta, they ran out again, this time leaving about 40 people waiting in line for another 30 minutes! I didn’t know what was up with their “supply chain mismanagement” (you can take the girl out of consulting…), but it was definitely disappointing. With so many people waiting, there was no way I was going to try for seconds, so I figured I’d just go without and then maybe get a snack later if I really still needed it.
We headed back to our hotel, and I found that while I wasn’t quite as full as I usually like to be, I wasn’t starving either. I hoped I would be well-fueled for the race the next day, but it was supposed to be a fairly flat and easy course, and I wasn’t going for time anyway, so I didn’t worry too much about it.
What I was worried about, though, was the forecast. Rain again! I was already apprehensive about attempting another marathon after last weekend’s depressing DNF, and to throw rain in there was really scaring me. I asked Catherine and John what they planned to wear, and realized that once again, I was unprepared: I had brought only a skirt for the bottom, and a tank and a light long-sleeved shirt for the top. When am I going to learn to get some running tights and a windbreaker jacket?! I am an idiot. Catherine was debating between pants and shorts, as was John, so at least my attire wasn’t totally crazy… but both of them were planning to wear a light windbreaker and then maybe take it off at the start. I had sweats I could leave at the start, but nothing else to wear while running.
Now completely nervous, I went to bed, just praying for the forecast to clear. I’ve been so depressed all week long after quitting on Sunday, and I don’t know what I would do if something went wrong and I had to do it again (at least, for the second consecutive time – I’m sure I’ll have more DNFs somewhere in my career).
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to bed this scared before a marathon.