YIPPEE-KI-YAY 50K, HALF MARATHON, & 5K RACES
Council Bluffs, IA
I checked in to my hotel room in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on October 21, 2022, the afternoon prior to the Yippee-Ki-Yay 50K, Half Marathon, & 5K Races and I was greeted with a very pleasant view of the Missouri River. Council Bluffs is essentially on the border of Iowa and Nebraska, so although I was spending the weekend in Iowa, Nebraska was right across the street. Just six months prior, I stayed across the river in Omaha, preparing to check Nebraska off my 50 States list with Omahalf, which was quite literally the windiest half marathon I've ever run. Thankfully, the weather for Yippee-Ki-Yay Race Day was expected to be gorgeous, as most October days in the Midwest are, at least for 5 minutes. That didn't stop me from having nightmares about a blizzard canceling the race or causing me to be late to the starting line.
I decided my pre-race dinner would be at Via Farina in Omaha's Little Italy District, which I did not know was a thing until I got there. It turns out Omaha's Little Italy is rich with history, and is home to many Omahans of Italian ancestry. I treated myself to a sweet and spicy pizza, which I later worried would be a mistake, given how unexpectedly spicy it was, but I thankfully didn't experience any stomach distress on race morning. The pizza in question was a wood-fired culinary masterpiece with pineapple, proscuitto, and red pepper flakes. LOTS of red pepper flakes. Even though I was almost in tears and my nose was running profusely, I ate the entire pizza.
On race morning, I had my customary plain bagel with butter and cup of black coffee, and was ready to hit the Historic Wabash Trace Nature Trail. The trail is a part of the Rails-to-Trails conservancy Hall of Fame, and is a gorgeous race venue that was hand-selected by our fearless race directors, who are themselves avid trail runners, Graig and Katie Skartvedt. I had the pleasure of meeting Graig and Katie at packet pick-up, and they were as excited to greet each runner as they were inviting and friendly, making us feel like we were part of their family, especially those of us who had traveled from out of town for the race.
Each of the three Yippee-Ki-Yay events — organized by Happy Trailz Running and Run Nebraska —were an out and back route on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. Although this race was only in its third year, it was spectacularly well organized, from pre-race communication to race day execution, and it was obvious to me that this event is something that has been bringing the local running community in the Omaha area together and will continue to grow and become even better with each year. I encountered many runners who were not only running one of the Yippee-Ki-Yay events, but also preparing to run the Good Life Halfsy, which was taking place in Lincoln, Nebraska, the morning after Yippee-Ki-Yay.
I might have done these two races back-to-back myself, had I not already run Omahalf earlier in the year for my Nebraska race, and had I properly trained for a double. In any case, I was pretty satisfied with my performance running just the one race that weekend, and making a great comeback from my August 2022 race in Colorado. My performance had suffered in Colorado and was heavily influenced by the uncharacteristically hot race morning and Fort Collins elevation. When I saw my final results for Yippee-Ki-Yay, I was elated that I'd shaved more than 30 minutes off my finish time.
Yippee-Ki-Yay Half Marathon Recap: Popcorn & A Podcast
The Yippee-Ki-Yay 50K, Half Marathon, & 5K Races celebrated its 3rd year on October 22, 2022. According to my weather app, it was 48° F at the start of the race, with an expected high of 70° F, and 6 MPH wind, absolutely ideal race conditions. The 2022 Participant Guide emailed to each of us from Race Co-Director Katie outlined the course and race day expectations, explaining that the course began with a "gentle uphill" for approximately the first 6 miles of the half marathon, and finished with a gradual downhill for the remainder of the course, which was expected to set runners up for a very "enjoyable downhill finish" for the last half of the race. Some of us joked that the course was actually "uphill both ways" because the downhill was so imperceptible, while the uphill felt obvious. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful race through an endless canopy of fall foliage, beloved by every runner, and touted the past three years as Iowa's number one fastest average 50K finisher course.
The course started at the Iowa West Foundation Trail Head in Council Bluffs, stretched just beyond the town of Silver City, Iowa, and then doubled back to the start/finish line in Council Bluffs. Most of the walnuts that had fallen on the ground prior to race day had been collected by volunteers as they prepared the course — however, that did not preclude walnuts from falling from the trees during the race, and I narrowly avoided being pelted by a sudden deluge of walnuts falling from the canopy of trees while I was completing mile 9. Because the field of runners was fairly small — 180 runners for all three events — it was a very uncrowded course, and there were periods during the race where I was alone on the trail without another runner in sight for miles. This made for a very laid-back, almost meditative atmosphere, in stark contrast with the energy I felt from the roaring crowds of thousands of runners in Chicago during the Lifetime Chicago Spring Half Marathon earlier in May 2022.
The Nation's colors were displayed, and the National Anthem was played prior to the start of the 50K race, precisely at 7:50 A.M. After the National Anthem, the 50K runners were led to the start by volunteers, and took off at 8:00 A.M., while the half marathon runners patiently waited across the street for our turn. I stretched and ensured my Garmin was ready to go, and opted to leave my headphones out since running with headphones was gently discouraged on the trail. The half marathon promptly started at 8:15 A.M., and I was careful not to go out too fast, which was difficult because I was so excited about the perfect running weather and the pretty course I was about to enjoy.
Photos are courtesy of Yippee-Ki-Yay Races & Run Nebraska
There was a generous 9 hour time limit for all of the races, with all events concluding at 5 P.M. This took off any pressure I might have felt about my finish time, considering I was still experiencing some anxiety after my race in Colorado. The course surface consisted of a very fine crushed limestone, and knowing this in advance, I opted to wear my road shoes, which were recommended. I sported a pair of Brooks Revel 5, which provided just the right amount of support and familiar comfort I was accustomed to while running road races. The turn-around point was at the 6.58 mile mark, where a photographer and course monitors waited for us. On the half marathon course, there was one sloped bridge that we came across, which required us to slow down a bit.
When we crossed the finish line, a generous array of snacks, food, and beverages were waiting for us at the shelter across the street, including delicious homemade chicken soup that many runners enjoyed. My stomach was still doing somersaults which began somewhere between mile 10 and 11, so although I opted to forego the chicken soup, everyone who partook in it said it was delicious and just the right thing for a chilly October morning. I snacked on potato chips and began rehydrating with water and Gatorade while admiring my unique wooden finisher medal, which was very "Iowa." Along with each medal, every finisher got a special bag of Keiser Farms popcorn. I was absolutely delighted to receive popcorn as race swag.
Graig and Katie greeted me at the finish line to present me with an awesome special edition Yippee-Ki-Yay race kit bundle full of great products, which I had won by virtue of participating in their special drawing for military veteran participants (more on that below, where I discuss the race swag). I was also very pleasantly surprised to have been selected by the hosts of Run 402: The Podcast to be one of several runners interviewed for their podcast episode recapping the race. I'd never been interviewed for a podcast prior to this one, so I really didn't know what to expect, but it was a fun ending to an eventful race day.
Following my podcast interview, I met up with my uncle Doug, improv extraordinaire and world-renowned professor of mathematics at University of Northern Iowa, for a light lunch at 712 Eat + Drink in Council Bluffs. Before we knew it, three hours had passed after we spent the afternoon laughing and catching up. All in all, a successful race weekend.
Course Elevation Profile
T-Shirts/Swag & Expo/Packet Pick Up
In the months leading up to the race, Yippee-Ki-Yay Races announced that they would be entering military veteran participants into a special drawing for an awesome race kit bundle if registrants selected that they were a military veteran during registration. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was drawn as the Military Veteran Bundle Winner. Packet Pick-up was at Dicks Sporting Goods, 3816 Metro Dr, Council Bluffs, IA 51501, but I opted to have packet mailed to me. Mailed with my packet was a long sleeve race T-shirt, and every finisher got a solo cup and bag of Keiser Farms popcorn and then a goodie bag from Brooks with snacks and water. I ended up going to packet pick-up anyway, even though my packet had been mailed to me, once I learned I was the winner of the bundle.
Included in my special bundle was a free pair of OOFOS recovery sandals from Fleet Feet, BOCO Gear hat with the race logo, large BOCO Gear bag, Keiser Farms tumbler, BOCO Gear headband, a pair of athletic socks, and a large fleece with the race logo. I was not expecting this and I fully intended to wear my adorable leopard print recovery sandals the rest of the weekend. Hands down BEST swag EVER from a race. The fleece and socks were size large, which were a bit big for me, but they were perfect for my husband, so I ended up gifting my husband the fleece and socks, which he appreciated, and I was able to share my good fortune with him.
After taking a look at the Athlete Guide, I had asked the race organizers for a bit of clarification on the aid stations, so I could determine what hydration system and how much additional fluid I would need to bring. I ended up bringing my Camelbak hydration system, filled with 0.5 liters of water on race morning, and that seemed to be just enough coupled with the fluid I got at the aid stations, although I could have filled it up to 0.75 and it might have been a better decision so I wasn't totally parched by the end.
The turnaround point was at the 6.58 mile mark. Between the start for the half marathon and the turnaround point, we first encountered the Barry Hill aid station at mile 2.2, and then the Margaritaville aid station at mile 5.82 before turning around at mile 6.58. That meant in total, we had 4 opportunities on the half marathon course to pass an aid station. At no point in the race were we more than 4-5 miles from one of the aid stations, though during my training cycle I had conditioned myself to hydrate consistently at least every 2 miles, so I knew going into it that I'd need supplemental fluid. I also learned this lesson the hard way in Colorado, where I wished more than anything that I'd brought more fluid because of the high temperatures.
At each aid station, there were open container cups of water and cups of Honey Stinger hydration electrolyte mix. There were also Gatorade bottles, which I did not opt for simply because I did not want to carry a bottle with me, and enjoyed the convenience of downing a quick cup of water or electrolyte fluid. There were bins and trash containers for discarding bottles and wrappers at each station, and we were cautioned that everything needed to be discarded at each aid station, as absolutely no littering would be tolerated for any reason on the trail. Littering would lead to disqualification for a runner even after the participant has finished.
Know Before You Go: Parking/Access
Parking was located at Titan Hill Intermediate School, 4125 Harry Langdon Blvd, which was across the road from the start/finish. Only the 50K runners were permitted to park in the lot at the trailhead.
Holiday Inn & Suites Council Bluffs I-29, an IHG Hotel
2202 River Rd, Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Happy running and safe travels,