The whole experience of travelling to and participating in marathon (or beyond) #16, and state #11 was even better than I could have hoped. This race took me to Moline, IL, a city with a population of about 44K. Moline is part of the Quad Cities, which in addition to Moline, includes Rock Island, IL as well as Bettendorf and Davenport, IA. The cities are separated by the Mississippi River. The idea of running through 4 cities, over a purported 3 bridges (we actually crossed more than that), and in 2 states, was quite the appealing slogan. That, along with a reasonable flight price, and I was sold.
I flew up to the Quad Cities airport (direct flight, hallelujah!) on Saturday morning, seamlessly retrieved my rental vehicle and was up to packet pick-up at the i Wireless center (a large concert hall venue in Moline) in no more than 15 minutes. One thing that I love about small to mid-sized cities - traffic isn't an issue. There was ample parking, and I could have easily been in and out of the expo in 5-10 minutes. I had plenty of time, though, so I checked out the vendors. Not a huge expo like the massive RnR marathon expos, but very respectable with plenty of stuff. Had a sample of beer, got a free race themed bandanna and got my wicking race shirt (not a true tech tee, but still seemed nice).
The weather was perfect on both Saturday and race day with a low of 45 and a high of 72 degrees. I spent the afternoon getting a taste for the local flair, by visiting the John Deere Pavilion, which was essentially a hands-on museum showcasing the John Deere equipment of old and new, with many accessible for you to climb into and lots of explanations and videos. It was much more interesting than I expected. After failing at finding something from the gift store that I thought anybody would want (after all, I don't know too many stereotypically southern people or farmers), I headed to a Greek Festival in the area. The festival was nice - I enjoyed the weather, had some traditional Greek food like baklava, watched Greek dancers and got an hour long presentation/tour of the Greek Orthodox church.
Below: Inside the Greek Orthodox Church
Getting to my hotel was a challenge. At this point my phone battery (and thus my directions) was almost dead, and I still needed to get there. Well, I missed a turn onto the interstate I needed (since it told me too late to turn), and ended up taking a joyride of over 25 miles..apparently, they don't believe in interstate exits in Illinois/Iowa. The interstates would go on for 6-10 miles before there was an exit at all. Finally I had to pull over, write down the directions before my phone died completely, and made an illegal u-turn.
Despite this minor setback, I made it! I stayed at an affordable little hotel, an Econolodge. It was much better than I expected, so I was pretty happy, and they started serving breakfast at 5:30am, so I wouldn't have to search for breakfast on race day!
For the evening I went to the pasta dinner ($10 for one trip, $15 unlimited). I wasn't overly impressed with the food, but that wasn't why I originally went. I was travelling by myself, so I wanted to feel like part of a group and meet people. Also, Dane Rauschenberg was speaking, who I met previously at the Georgia Marathon expo, and whose book I read. I got to meet Molly Reel, a woman who also spoke on behalf of Compassion International, a charity organization dedicated to helping children in foreign countries - essentially a (Christian) child sponsorship program. She'd visited one of the children she sponsors, which was pretty neat. This was her first marathon, which she successfully completed.
My evening went well, and I was in bed sometime between 10-11pm. I slept great, which is unusual before a big race. I guess I wasn't too concerned. I had been reading my inspirational books (for many reasons), and I think that helped me to relax.
Breakfast at the hotel was an english muffin with butter and a biscuit and gravy. I was a mere 10 minute drive from the marathon, but to avoid any stress I headed that way well in advance, and was parked and ready to go at around 6:40AM. Gear check was inside their bus station, so I stayed warm there until around 7. Took care of my business - which, they had a line at the porta-potties, but not a bad line - only took me about 10 minutes to get through it. The race was a fair size, but there were no corrals, and the race start was with the 5K, half marathon, marathon relay and marathon all together. Different, and somewhat crowded at the beginning, but it thinned out within a couple of miles.