Race recap: We're off to see the wizard! Although we don’t normally run in costume, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to run the Oz half marathon in some seriously festive attire. Kristin was the cutest darn Dorothy this side of the Yellow brick road, complete with ruby red slippers. I made for a "handsome" wicked witch - assuming that's possible, and our good friends Marty and Minda made the voyage out to Kansas with us but we were unsuccessful in converting them into running as munchkins. Within the first mile, Kristin's hope for being able to click her heels three times and be at the finish line were dashed as both her slippers shot off her feet. Literally. The red slippers shot like a rubber band across the street mid stride. Fortunately that didn't break our spirit. Shortly after the marathon split a fellow runner shouted to Kristin "you lost your ruby red slippers a few miles back." low and behold this runner was ultra-marathon world champion Scott Jurek who was pacing his wife in the half marathon! The next few miles just seemed to fly by as we chatted with Scott and just enjoyed the moment. Its one thing to meet a world class athlete, but it's another to run side by side with one. I think the better business bureau needs a call, as this "flat and fast" course was definitely false advertising. We don't shy away from races with hills, but the course just wasn’t as described. Around mile 9 we ran through what could best be described as the haunted forest. Sadly, the race didn't pick up on the Oz theme here, which has a lot of potential. Over the next 2 miles we traded spots back and forth with Scott and his wife - she was really pushing herself and that was great motivation to keep pace. With just about a mile to go there was a fairly sharp right hand turn and while the entire course had great volunteer support, for whatever reason there wasn't anyone around telling runners where to go. It wasn't rocket science, but the rest of the course was so well supported I was just surprised. As we ran down the home stretch we soaked in the crowds’ enthusiasm for our festive outfits and were thrilled to cross the line in under 1:45!
Highlight: Two-fold: being two of the few runners in Oz themed costumes lead to some playful and motivating banter from race supporters and running another state with our friends (Minda and Marty both surprised themselves and ran quite well - Marty even captured a second place age group win scoring a sweet tin man bobble head for his desk)! Love traveling and running with you Rossman's!
Tip: even though the race starts and ends at Garmin’s HQ, don't expect any merchandise discounts or any kind of sweet Garmin gadgets.
Day 1 (Friday):
HOG heaven! We stepped right off the plane and right into the Harley Davidson factory. After a few quick photos we headed behind the scenes to and saw the entire production process from building a frame to customizing paint jobs unfold before our eyes. Even if you’re not a motorcycle enthusiast, it was really cool to see the inner workings of such an iconic American brand.
M&M may have bars on the windows, but it holds the key to our hearts. This place was totally unassuming, but we read some reviews online and decided to give it a go. The hook 'em up, piled high with turkey ham (not quite turkey, not quite ham, but completely tasty) was freaking brilliant. The onion role was crazy fresh and we all walked out of M&M converts to their sandwiches. If you get there early enough this sandwich haven also bakes a pretty solid donut. The chocolate long John was quite enjoyed by the group, but I fancied the soft and gentle texture of the original glazed.
Mo’ money mo’ problems. The Federal Reserve money museum has some seriously limited hours (~10-4pm Monday through Friday), but it is well worth it. Aside from the viewing room, where you can see workers counting stacks upon stacks of cash, you also get to see the impressive level of automation the Federal Reserve uses to securely manage its vault of cash. The wall of vintage coins was a personal favorite - it’s not every day you get a chance to see coins minted every year from the 1790's to present day in unbelievable condition. And let's not forget the free bag of money you get when you leave! Seriously, free money. Ok, maybe that was a touch misleading, but you do get a nice bag of shredded bills as a souvenir for your visit.
Enough with the touristy stuff, where’s the beer? Glad you asked. Next up was a trip to boulevard brewing company where Minda managed to sweet talk the tour director into a few extra spots on the last tour of the day. Aside from the high degree of environmental concern and use of "green" architecture it the recently added packaging facility, this was a fairly typically tour. The post tour tasting was pretty awesome though - the brewery arranged live musicians and it was a very chill place to try some new favors and enjoy some old favorites.
Tip: It's a little annoying that this brewery doesn't have a tasting room, so make plans to get on a tour in order to sample the brew.
Small town races are great, but sometimes the one or two Italian restaurants are packed the night before a race - Zoe’s Italian Kitchen was no exception to that rule. After a beer at the bar to help ease our wait and Minda accidentally shattering an empty glass (maybe to “indicate” to the bartender that her glass was empty) we were happy to grab a seat and enjoy some Italian fare. The baked ziti was good but I ate way too much of the warm and cheesy-goodness. Kristin chose the much smarter and lighter chicken masala and didn’t have to be ‘wheeled’ out of the restaurant.
Day 2 (Saturday - Race Day):
Post-race we were all craving some traditional Kansas City BBQ (thick red sauce, unlike the North Carolina vinegar style), so we headed over to the undisputed local favorite Oklahoma Joe’s to sample the local eats. Unfortunately, we were far from the only people to have this idea and the line was literally out the door. A few locals in line said to stay as the BBQ was well worth the wait and they were right! The BBQ pulled pork served on two pieces of garlic bread was massive but melt in your mouth good and chock full of BBQ flavor. Apparently Oklahoma Joe’s changed the recipe of its baked beans, which none of us really cared for, but this is a can’t miss stop for some downhome Kansas City BBQ.
The College Basketball Hall of Fame is a mix of history and interactive basketball exhibits. The history is somewhat limited and is less of a museum and more of a hands-on experience, which was pretty cool. We tried our basketball skills at a number of challenges from a 3-point contest to beat the buzzer to dunk like a champion and enjoyed some laughs despite a little sweating (yes, we actually started sweating). While we spared the local kids humiliation from stepping onto the 3 on 3 court, all in all this was a pretty entertaining stop for some interactive basketball fun.
After working up a sweat we decided to cool down with a beer at the 73rd Street Brewery beer garden. As the brewery was on the outskirts of town it wasn’t very crowded and we were psyched to get a table in the sun. After trying a few samples of their beers on tap we each made our selection and sat back and enjoyed the conversation. The beers were ok; nothing I would bend over backwards to find again, but it was really nice to just relax in a beer garden with something other than a Bud Light. The only odd thing was that as the beer garden was technically outdoors, apparently that means smoking is permitted (a huge downfall in our opinion).
As we drove back towards downtown we made a detour through “The Plaza” an old neighborhood that had an old-world Spanish vibe and was just hopping with people shopping/ walking around and just enjoying life (Fun fact: The Plaza was the first shopping area designed specifically to accommodate shoppers arriving via car!). After re-grouping we grabbed a few beers and patiently waited for a table to open up at Beer Kitchen. As the name suggests, this place has a massive beer list and the best part was that like some fine dining restaurants that pair wine with specific entrees, this eatery paired beers with uniquely menu. The only downfall from the beer menu was that a lot of the “good stuff” was in bottles and not on top. Still, if you are willing to wait, the food was good and the beer selection was pretty stellar too.
Day 3 (Sunday):
Kristin and I decided to shake the legs out with a short jog around the Federal Reserve to the World War I Memorial. The weather was pretty great, maybe even a little warm, but the sunshine helped distract us from the undulating hills that make up downtown Kansas City.
The World War I Memorial was really impressive. The trip to the top of the tower was ok, nothing too special – the views were decent, but if I had to do it again and was relatively short on time I would skip the tower and spend more time in the museum. Aside from some unique artifacts and exhibits, there is a massive video screen that plays a very captivating movie discussing everything from what led to the United States entering World War I all the way through the effects of the war on the economy. There is no doubt why this is the #1 tourist attraction on Trip Advisor, this is a must see if you have any interest in history. Very well done museum.
We celebrated our 45th state with some lunch BBQ at Jack Stack in downtown Kansas City. While the BBQ here doesn’t hold a candle to Oklahoma Joe’s, the ambience was nice and the cheesy potatoes were darn good. Overall, the Southern Jack (BBQ pulled pork on a French roll) was a good way to finish off our time in Kansas with the Rossmans.
Kansas Half Marathon Medals:
April 20, 2013: Olathe Oz Half Marathon