There are plenty of Valentine's Day-themed runs to choose from these upcoming weekends. The Sweetheart Shuffle is a fun one (via Bodies Race Series), but my long-standing go-to in the KC area has always been KC Running Company's Sweetheart Run 5k. Sure, you can still run as an individual; but the main feature of this one is paired teams (do not have to be significant others, by the way), all vying for the coveted top-team (by all-male, all-female, and co-ed) champagne flutes (bubbly not included). The all-female (monther-daughter, best friends, usually) teams and co-ed teams come out in droves, and actually attracts some wickedly-fast runners, so come in your flats (erm...racing flats, that is). Last year's winning co-ed team finished in 43:16, or about 6:56/mi (year's previous have shown even faster times). If you're open to an all-male squad, your chances are good: last year only two all-male teams competed.
Friday, February 10th, 1:00-6:00pm
either of two KC Running Company Stores,
4760 W. 135th St.
1555 NE Douglas St.,
Lee's Summit, MO
Since this is a KC Running Company-hosted event, packet pick-up is at either of their two stand-alone retail stores in Leawood or Lee's Summit. Parking has never been a huge issue, although once I had to circle lot twice (woah is me!) to get a spot since I got their around lunch time at Leawood store. Just be sure to mind the surrounding businesses if you plan on picking up before the end of the business day. Beyond that, pick-up is pretty darn quick.
Race Day Parking
Though parking in the southern-most lots of Ritz Charles are open, they fill quickly. Luckily, to the west of Ritz Charles (on the other side of Grand View) there are plenty of empty spaces next to the fields, AS WELL as spaces to the south of Ritz Charles (on the other side of 137th). Last year there were no parking attendants, though this year that may be different (although, I didn't really feel there was a need for them).
After parking, feel free to head indoors to the Ritz Charles: last year they kept it open for us. The awards are usually handed out post-race in the western-most banquet room of the Ritz Charles.
If familiar with last year's route, this is no different. On paper, it looks simple enough: a near-perfect square. But like most run routes in Southern Kansas City, they never are. This route features two climbs and a combined total of about 200 feet of climbing. There are a couple of flat-ish spots, including the run-in to the finish, so save a bit of energy for a strong final kick.
Here are the basics for the 2015 route...
In years' past, I've posted a sort of "virtual run" or sorts, which showed Google Earth Street View images of significant areas on course. I'd like to bring it back, but it takes so much bloody time. Luckily, I posted a virtual run of the route with my 2015 preview. So I have the images to re-post them here (since the route hasn't changed). So here you go.....
With a little bit of luck, the above image is what you should see come Saturday morning (albeit with a few more people and a start banner). In past iterations, we've gotten quite a bit of cloudiness, and even a fair bit of snow on the ground.
At any rate, the blue line in the image actually is the run route. And right about where the blue line start is also about where the start line lay. So we're looking from about halfway back in the corral. The start line is just off the west side of Ritz Charles' parking lot, on Grand View. Runners head south towards the Blue Valley Recreation Complex ball fields, immediately turning left east on 137th street. The opening meters are ever-so-slightly downhill, though it won't really be obvious.
At just about a quarter mile - usually about the point where the lead pack starts to settle in - the route takes a right, heading south on Antioch Road. Through 1/2 mile, still pretty much flat.
A half-mile in is where the first climb begins to rise ('Willowbrook Hill'). Forthe image above, Google Earth's wide-angle lenses tend to 'flatten' hills quite a bit, but you can see where it picks up over the next quarter-mile or so. This first hill is a progressive one, so the opening slopes are less steep than the final slopes. Willowbrook tops out almost a half-mile later, just short of mile marker 1, after just over 40 feet of climbing (2.4% average grade).
The top of the Willowbrook Hill climb peaks just short of mile 1, which rests right as runners take another right, off of Antioch and on to west 143rd Street. The road does drop a little after the turn, but picks up for a mini-climb less than a quarter-mile later.
Halfway in to the race, and still on 143rd, climb 2 starts ('Heritage Hill'). This hill climbs a bit more steadily than Willowbrook, though is longer and by average more steep, climbing over 70 feet in just a half-mile. Mid-climb, runners will take a right off of 143rd and head north on Switzer Road before topping out right at mile marker 2.
Almost on-point, the road falls -- FAST -- at mile 2. This is a great point to grab a few puffs of fresh oxygen before the (relatively) flat run-in, so take advantage! And be sure to keep your cadence high -- try your best not to "brake" yourself, which will really kill the quads.
In just a quarter mile, all 70-plus feet of climbing from Heritage Hill is wiped out. At the bottom, the road climbs again, but ever-so-slightly (may even feel flat-ish). Fresh off the descent, runners will quickly find them turning off of Switzer and on to east 137th. Just past the turn, 137th flattens out, and then slightly tips downward.
Just short of mile marker 3, the road flattens out once again. What legs you salvaged descending the last climb, give your all-out on the final quarter-mile of flat road. Just past mile marker 3, runners turn left off of 137th and on to the final meters, north on Grand View. Congrats! Now go collect your champagne flutes.
Keep R/B/S'ing, y'all.
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