Sunday, March 11, 2012

Extreme Running Tour de Walmart


It was the best birthday run ever!

This was also a fantastic birthday. Not only did the weather gods smile on us, but the whole weekend was a celebration and appreciation of so many things. I am so fortunate to be where I am right now, and I am so grateful for the friends and support I have in all aspects of my life.

A quick recap is in order here, so skip the next few paragraphs (italicized) if you've already read the previous post on this.

I got this idea when I was rehabbing my ankle injury last fall. I noticed that my bike routes took me by several different Walmarts in the area. Walmart has never been much of a part of my life, I have gone there out of convenience when it's the only store in town where I can get all of the race food and supplies I need, usually in small towns in out of the way places like Okeechobee, Florida or Pahrump, Nevada. Last summer in Badwater the trip to Walmart was an adventure in itself thanks to my crazy crew.

One day last fall I figured the distance of a ride that went by all 4 Walmarts within about 15 miles of my house, in Fort Collins, Loveland, and Timnath. It was 48 miles if I did a loop from the house. The magic number, 48, matched my upcoming birthday. The idea was hatched and I forgot about it. Then this winter I became hooked on girl beer, thanks to our neighbors. Michelob Ultra 3.2 with pomegranate and raspberry flavor. Great recovery drink after a long run. I couldn't find it anywhere but Walmart.

On a recent girl beer run, I saw some awesome Walmart fashion and it reminded me of the idea. Since I needed a 50 mile training run, it was perfect. I invited some friends and though there were a few conscientious objectors, the idea appealed to a lot of people. Dennis said he would crew! I decided I would liven up my running wardrobe by buying one article of clothing at each Walmart, and wear it.


Extreme Running Tour de Walmart

Leg 1

Jen showed up at my house at 7:30 am, and parked in front. Her friend was going to meet us around 9 am and pick her up so she could make it to an event later that morning. Jen got the usual treatment that guests get in our household, an escort to the bathroom by Iris.

Dennis took a picture of us before we took off. We were both half asleep. We got started a little later than we planned, but I thought we might make it up at the Walmart stops. I figured on about a half hour stop per Walmart to shop, get through the checkout line, resupply at the car, and take pictures.

It was a cold but perfectly clear morning. We couldn't have had better weather. I had told Tom, Ginger, and Morgan my ETA for Walmart #1 on Highway 287, and I had my phone. Jen and I proceeded south on the Power Trail. First potty break, the porta-potty was in use! We waited a few minutes but then I decided to find a tree.


When we got to the top of the hill on south Lemay by the reservoir, where the road curves, Jen's friend stopped, took a picture of us, and Jen tok off. The plan was for us to stay in touch by texting and she would try to join me later, possibly on the final leg.

I continued on the last 3 miles solo to Walmart #1, where Dennis, Tom, Ginger and Morgan met me with birthday hats. I arrived just a few minutes late, and we went inside for our shopping stop.


I found the purple camo bras that I'd seen on my girl beer run weeks earlier, but again, they were out of smalls. On the next rack there was the same bra in black, in a small. It wasn't quite as "Walmart" as the purple one, but Ginger assured me that I couldn't go wrong with black. So I decided to go for it.




We went through the checkout line. Morgan and Ginger insisted on buying the bra for me, even though I had a Walmart gift card, that a friend in Colorado Springs sent me in advance of my Walmart tour. They told me to save it for one of the other Walmarts.

Our cashier was a sixty-ish looking woman with long blonde hair. She was really nice. Morgan and Tom told her what I was doing and she didn't seem to believe it.

We went outside, I refilled my bottles and got a snack and a drink at the car, and we took off for Walmart 2. It was still cold but warming up. I kept my warm shirts on, since I freeze even when other people are wearing singlets and shorts.


Leg 2

We proceeded east along the Loveland bike path and caught the path around the west shore of Boyd Lake. The morning was warming up, and the view of the mountains was spectacular. We were moving at a fast pace, and didn't take too many walk breaks. Just before we reached the underpass at Highway 34, we saw a runner coming toward us. He looked familiar. It was Felix!

Once we crossed under Eisenhower, we ran across the field directly to Walmart, where Dennis was waiting with the camera. I was starting to get hungry. We took our Walmart pictures, then went inside for shopping.

This time I struggled. I saw several items, again, no smalls in the purple camo bra. So I opted for the matching tank top, which they did have in a small.

Since Felix was there and familiar with the fashion tastes of our friend Ed, we decided to pick out something that might match one of Ed's running outfits. Ed likes to wear running skirts and he has several in different colors. When I saw something eye-catching, I asked Felix if he thought it was Ed. He agreed it was perfect.

We went through the checkout line, and our cashier was another sixty-ish looking blonde with long hair. I asked the others if they thought there was some profiling going on at Walmart. They told her what we were doing, and she laughed, and wished us luck.

I stopped at the McDonald's inside Walmart before we left, to see if they had any salads, thinking I could get something to keep me going other than the bars I had in the car. The answer was, no, we don't have salads here.

No salads at the Walmart McDonald's. Should I be surprised?

Leg 3
Ginger and Morgan were done at this point so Felix and Tom and I took off north on the bike path. Before we left I removed one of my long sleeved shirts. I was running in shorts for only the second time this year! The new sunglasses I won in Paige's blog giveaway worked great- lightweight, comfortable, and plenty of protection from the sides.

Felix ran through the park with us, until he turned around to go back to Walmart 2. Tom and I were on our own. Running through the park we passed two people on bicycles who slowed down and started talking to us, it was one of my coworkers and her husband. Kathleen is a massage therapist in the oncology department. They wished me happy birthday and then saw us again at the north end of the park.

Leg 3 was the longest, about 13 miles. I realized my phone battery was getting low and it was getting hot outside. I called Dennis to ask him to meet us before the third Walmart so he could recharge my phone and bring us some cold water.

Tom and I kept running north on Timberline, but by the time we turned off onto Kechter, we hadn't seen Dennis. I called again, hoping there was enough juice in the battery to get the call through. This time he answered. He'd been out in the yard. He met us a few minutes later. I changed into my t-shirt, and he had ice water. What a relief! It was hot, it felt like it might be in the mid-70s.

I also got a text from Jen asking me to let her know my ETA at the last Walmart so she could meet me there to run home. Tom planned to stop at Walmart 3, so it looked like I would be solo for the 4th leg.

The trickiest and scariest part of this run was crossing the overpass at I-25 and Harmony. It took us forever to cross Harmony, the traffic was so thick. Eventually we got across, but had to negotiate a deep ditch in the middle of the median, which we didn't anticipate. It felt like the Grand Canyon! Otherwise I felt pretty good on this stretch.

Tom and I got across the overpass no problem and descended the dirt hill down into Walmart #3. Dennis met us with food. He got burritos at Chipotle on the way out to meet us. I was starving and scarfed most of it down in a few minutes.


We went inside and I had a hard time deciding on what my garment choice would be. I finally settled on an animal print tank top. Tom insisted on buying this one. We got through the Walmart pretty fast. Our cashier this time had short brown hair, about the same age as the others. When Dennis and Tom told her what I was doing, she told us we could have started at the Longmont Walmart and added another 17 miles. I said, "I'll save that idea for another birthday!"


Leg 4
Tom went to his car, and I asked Dennis to meet me on the other side of the overpass at Strauss Cabin Road so my phone would have a chance to finish charging. I ran back over the overpass and met Dennis on the dirt road. After a quick pee break I took off to complete leg 4, about 9 1/2 miles. The sun was getting lower and I took a long sleeved shirt with me just in case, and my MP3 player. I started walking up the dirt road and posted some pictures on Facebook, letting the burrito digest.

Once I got off the dirt road onto Zeigler heading toward the Environmental Learning Center, I started to feel pretty good. I'd texted Jen with an ETA of 5:30 to 6 pm at Walmart 4, but I was running at a great pace and by the time I got past the ELC and onto the Poudre Trail, I realized it was going to be be 5:30 or sooner. I re-texted her, and she was already there, grabbing something to eat at a nearby restaurant.

As I got closer to Lemay, I passed a couple of seedy-looking characters on the bike path, wondering if it would be safe to be out there after dark, even with Jen. I knew I could run back along Lemay and then make up the miles in my neighborhood if necessary. I continued toward the Walmart and by the time I got there, it was only a few minutes after 5. That burrito must have revived me, because I was hauling ass along the last few miles of the Poudre Trail. My legs felt incredibly fresh for 40 miles in.

I arrived at Walmart, and heard a whistle in the parking lot. It was Dennis. I texted Jen to meet us under the flag in front, and we did our photo op and went inside. I was really struggling with finding something to buy, but eventually settled on a bright turquoise tank top and Jen and I got matching animal print headbands.

We did a few extra tenths of a mile in this Walmart, we went all the way to the back of the store to find some drinks that weren't sugary. Finally, I used my Walmart gift card, and still have a couple of dollars left over!

One of the managers was on the floor and Dennis must have told him what I was doing, he greeted us and said we saved the best Walmart for last. Our cashier at this one was a young man, who listened to the story and told us that he thought his 8 mile run before work was long that morning. I told him to keep running.

Leg 5

When we got outside, I got back into my tights and took gloves, headlamps, and warm shirts. I was starving again. Just across the street was a Taco Bell, so Jen and I stopped there, and I got a bean burrito and a taco, and used the bathroom.

I scarfed it all down and we took off by 6 pm. It was nearly an hour break at this Walmart, but it didn't matter, I had accomplished my mission of hitting all 4 Walmarts, and it was still light outside. After some debating of our route, we decided to just go for the bike path, since we were together, had our phones, and it was still going to be light for a while, long enough to get through the creepy part of the bike path.

Once we got out of the river bottom, it warmed up and the sunset and night sky were incredible. The stars came out, and we were serenaded by coyotes around the ponds before we turned onto the Spring Creek Trail. I felt great on this section, too, running well after I digested the food. I told Jen I was so pleased with how I felt, since this was nearly 20 miles longer than my longest run since last July. My legs really did feel good.

We arrived at my house at 7:30 pm, less than 12 hours after we started. Not bad for nearly 50 miles with at least a couple of hours at Walmart breaks.


After taking some finish line pictures, where I think Jen & I looked better than we did at the start, Iris escorted Jen to the bathroom again and she took off for home. Dennis had food waiting for me. I felt good, not stiff or sore, and stayed up for a while uploading my pictures from the day. If you want to see the entire Tour de Walmart photo album, you can go to this link.

What an amazing birthday, and what an awesome group of friends to share it! You can't ask for anything better.

Save money, live better. Always.

8 comments:

SteveQ said...

I've never been in a Wal-Mart (or CostCo or Sam's Club... well, the list goes on for some time), but that looks like a fun run. I'm still trying to come up with something appropriate for my (gulp) upcoming 50th birthday.

From one picture, it looks like you take really long strides for a tiny heel-striker!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Steve, you're right about being a heel striker but I was only striding out to save my life- trying not to become roadkill on a busy freeway exit ramp!!

Kathy said...

Alene, you are amazing!! I've so enjoyed reading your blog! You ultra chicas as are mind blowing - makes us mere 26.2 achievers feel like slackers ! ;)
Happy birthday, your tour de Walmart just cracked me up! Multicolored animal prints ... wow!!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks Kathy! We had a blast. The distance doesn't matter. Only the fun does.

Ultra Monk said...

Happy birthday

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks Ultra Monk!

giraffy said...

Hilarious. I haven't been to a WalMart since I moved out of Florida. Looks like not much has changed... so much animal print.

Happy birthday!!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Heather, it was a blast and finally, warm. I love animal print!