Sunday, October 26, 2008

Running in the Heartland

Okay - admit it. Iowa has never been anywhere on your list of places you just HAD to visit in this lifetime. In fact, you can't think of a single person who HAS Iowa on their list - even the extended "What if I live to be 105" list! Which means I can also confess it was never on my list.....UNTIL, of course, the list included ALL 50 states, including a few in America's Heartland, that might not have otherwise been on the radar screen. But notwithstanding your list or mine, Iowa is exactly where we spent last weekend and I came home realizing that my appreciation for such "heartland states" continues to grow and I continue to be surprised by what each and every state has to offer. Yes - Iowa has a LOT of cornfields - stretching just about as far as you can see in many places. Yes - Iowa has a lot of flat land. And Yes, it has at least it's share of small farm towns that look like they barely survived the last century, let alone the current one. But I suspect I am learning that, more than anything, people make a place what it is.....and there are almost always places most people from anywhere else don't know about....and together they contribute to making each State's visit something unexpectedly interesting and memorable. Such was the case with Iowa.

Our race (Siouxland Lewis & Clark Marathon and Half) was in Sioux City, which is on the Missouri River, where it traces the western boundary of the state at an intersection with both Nebraska and South Dakota. The city traces its heritage to Lewis & Clark who came through the area twice on their exploration - once headed upriver and the second time on the return. There are some impressive bluffs along the eastern side of the river with some beautiful forests, parks and inspirational views to the west across the Missouri River Valley. Even the aging city has its charm in an historic district, riverfront parks and a very interesting Lewis & Clark interpretive center. We also found unexpected charm in Council Bluffs (across the river from Omaha) and scenery in the Loess Hills. Council Bluffs introduced us to the Main Street Cafe - a true heartland eatery with wonderful homemade food and soups and a staff to match, not to mention Halloween decorations that alone were worth the visit. The Loess Hills are a remarkably rugged area of hills and forest over ancient dunes between Sioux City and Council Bluffs. And mixed in there were farmscapes and reminders of their heritage that were pretty remarkable.

There you have it. Is Iowa now on your list? Even though it is no longer on ours, we certainly don't regret our visit - and, in the process, that we checked off State #23. The race, itself, was good. It was relatively small (fewer than 200 participants in the half-marathon), but the logistics and support were excellent, the pre-race pasta dinner really good, the post-race snacks and pizza great, and the people warm and friendly - to include Vicky Eliesa - who we found through the Sioux City 1st Ward and proved to be a superb choice to watch Rachel for a few hours during the race. The course was relatively fast - but you remember those impressive bluffs I mentioned early on? Well, we had to climb those between miles 3 and 4.5, and they were pretty grueling. Luckily, the forest parks made it at least scenic (when you were seeing beyond the racing heartbeat and lack of oxygen during the climb). I ended up with a time in the 1:45 range, so felt pretty good, and Karen was likewise not disappointed with her time.

Another fun trip - another increase in understanding what America's Heartland is all about. And considerably more information about Lewis & Clark! The thought to share? I think you'll find it above - don't underestimate people or places and what they have to offer.


Carl & Karen said...

You forgot to mention that I got third place in my age division! If that doesn't tell people the race was small, I don't know what would. For the record, Carl (or your Dad, depending on who's reading this) has, on more than one occasion, gotten 4th place in his age group, thereby just missing out on a nifty plaque. Yes, Karen the slow runner gets awards, and Carl the fast runner gets nuthin'. All together now, NEENER, NEENER NEENER :>)

princess jen said...

My step-grandma lives in Council Bluffs and my cousin lives in Sioux City. I've been there several times and it is pretty. Glad you had a fun time!

The Andersens said...

that definitely sounds like it was worth the visit, and I think its pretty impressive karen got a medal!!
you guys are quite impressive. you'll be done with your last 27 in no time!
love you guys!
and i like your new song!!

Mythreesons said...

I immediately got a big grin when I heard your new theme song! Perfect. Yeah, I have to admit... no desire whatsoever to visit Iowa. But it sounds like you guys managed to see a lot and enjoy a very nice race again. I'm tempted to run one of these races for the pasta dinners alone! Who has the best food and sign me up! I really enjoy following along your racing journey Dad!

Super Daysh said...

I'm glad there are people like you who can find something good to say about anything/any place. tee hee hee. I am glad you had a good race and enjoyed the scenery and halloween decorations, but unfortunately, Iowa is still not on my list of "places to see before I die." Thanks for the pictures though- now I don't have to go. :)