||Omaha Half Marathon
Despite what you may or may not think - Omaha is not flat! The course is actually fairly challenging with one significant uphill trek from about mile 7 to mile 8 (yes, just over 1 mile uphill). The start was very congested and unlike most races where slower runners tend to start in the middle or back of the pack, the first mile was spent weaving through packs of runners trying to find a comfortable pace (mile 1 was about 35-40 seconds off our race pace). One week after Mike's near DNF (did not finish) at the Philadelphia Half Marathon the nerves were high regarding a flare-up of his IT band, but instead of slowing down at each twinge of pain we sped up, pushed on, and eventually finished well within our 2-hour goal. Not a lot of crowd support (not that we expected any) but all-in-all we really liked this challenging course.
Highlights: Once we had finally conquered the toughest hills on the course we came to a downhill around mile 9 where Kristin's iPod blasted "Omaha" by the Counting Crows. Not to be outdone, Kristin belted out the lyrics for everyone's enjoyment! A great song and perfect timing to distract us from our tired legs.
Day 1 (Saturday):
Twisted Cork Bistro, outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Voted best burger in Nebraska by Food Magazine - you are not likely to find this this restaurant unless you are looking for it. Located in a strip-mall we had our reservations that the Twisted Cork was really the best place in Nebraska for a burger but we decided to give it a try, and we were pleasantly suprised. The Twisted Cork burger is made of beef, pork, spices, white cheddar and a whole slew of other ingredients which made this burger super juicy and delicious. Kristin opted for the corn chowder and chicken salad, and while both were tasty the corn chowder was awesome. Highly recommended especially if you are traveling between Lincoln and Omaha.
Nebraska State Capital in Lincoln, Nebraska. This massive stone building seems to just emerge out of nowhere. After wandering around aimlessly for about 10 minutes (there are very few signs in the building) we found a free guided tour about to begin on the first floor. Without question our tour guide was one of the most knowledgable guides we have ever encountered. The guide provided a great detailed history of both Nebraska as well as the murals, ceiling, and fixtures throughout the building. The tour included a stop in the state Supreme Court (not in session) and the legislature. We learned that Nebraska is the only state in the country that is unicameral and nonpartisan. I'm not sure if the tour would have been as good without the great guide, but it was big plus for us!
Duffy's Tavern in Lincoln, Nebraska. We arrived in Lincoln a few hours before the Nebraska football game and decided to grab a locally brewed beer at this college bar. Nothing too spectacular about the bar itself (seemed like a big local hang-out) but the Empyrean Luna Sea E.S.B. on tap was really good.
While in Lincoln we enjoyed a University of Nebraska Cornhuskers versus South Dakota State Jackrabbits football game. We have been to a number of college and pro stadiums for a variety of sports, but there is something truly special about a Nebraska football game. Not only was there a pep-rally through campus before the game, but every single seat in the stadium was taken! I have never seen that, even at high-profile playoff games. Before the game, the crowd sang the National Anthem, which literally sent shivers down my spine, followed by a fly-over from three military fighter jets. While at the stadium you have to try a Fairbury Hot Dog - a bright red hot dog (no condiments necessary and a perfect pre-race meal) that has been famously served at Nebraska football games for years. A highly recommended stop if you can find tickets (do not expect to find tickets day-of unless you are willing to spend about 2x-3x face value regardless of who Nebraska is playing).
Tip: If you are headed to a Nebraska game there is very limited parking around the stadium - so pre-purchase parking through InterLinc Parking and all you have to do is print the receipt and bring it with to the gate (a person will mark your ticket at the gate and let you into the lot for the day). Very easy and well-worth the $10-$12.
Day 2 (Sunday - Race Day):
In the last few hundred yards of the Omaha marathon/half marathon you run right under the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge which is a very unique walkway between Omaha, NE and Council Bluffs, IA. The bridge is marked with the Nebraska/ Iowa border and it is well worth a short walk across. The Omaha river walk area has been really built-up and is quite enjoyable (fountains and parks make it a really nice stroll), but unfortunately the Council Bluffs side of the bridge is fairly boring (dumps you right into a residential neighborhood). The views from the Council Bluffs side dwarf the views from Omaha though!
Upstream Brewing Company in Omaha, Nebraska. A great post-race restaurant to grab a locally brewed beer, enjoy a burger and fries and catch the Sunday NFL football games (a lot of locals come for the Sunday brunch buffet). The restaurant was converted from an old firehouse so the interior is very unique. The local beers were great - we each tried two seasonal brews (the saison was one of the best). Very friendly staff and all in all a nice local brewhouse.
Also worth a look is the Old Market area which is a short walk from the center of the city and has a countless number of small shops and some of the best restaurants in the city. If we had a longer stay in Omaha we would have definately eaten our fair share of meals in the Old Market area, as it has a lot of options across a variety of tastes. Stay on the lookout for unique art and sculptures throughout the city - Omaha sure has a thing for buffalo!
Nebraska Half Marathon Medals
September 26, 2010: Omaha Half Marathon
(yes, it's made entirely of recycled glass)