First post from my new computer and boy, this turned into a bitch-fest post! Time to edit. I'm overall not so happy with this race but it was still okay, so here goes:
My first race of the year was a couple weekends ago - probably the earliest during the year that I've ever raced (with the possible exception of indoor track in high school/college). I decided on Friday that as long as I was in the Cities anyway, I might as well run the Securian Winter Half Marathon. Happily, my sister was able to bring my registration in so I didn't need to pay the race-day registration. $30 wasn't too bad for a half marathon, I figured, even if I wasn't exactly in racing form, I did still need a long run and might as well make it a higher effort since I wouldn't be getting as high of mileage as I wanted.
There was $2 parking in the ramp right at the starting line so I figured that made more sense than trying to find street parking somewhere. Luckily, I allowed myself a decent amount of time - silly me didn't think about all the one way streets and about how much time I'd spent sitting in lines of runners in cars trying to get into the single access to the parking garage . . . Then I made it into the garage and followed a few cars in front of me as we commenced circling. I started getting worried the higher we went and then as we were looping back down I noticed that cars were starting to pull into not-spots - places their car more or less fit into but weren't official parking spots. I suddenly wished I had done the same when I followed the car in front of right back to the exit. Happily, a volunteer directed us into the monthly parking where there was plenty of room. This also meant free parking since we didn't go by the gate on our way out - yay!
I still had enough time to pin my number on, tie my chip into my shoe and head up into the bathroom lines. A quick dash back into the building to warm up and there's Rick, Wayne, Karen, Guy and Jenny (who I just met then)! We chatted for a couple minutes and I glance at my watch - 3 minutes to race start, maybe I should head outside? Sure, great idea!
So I wander out and meld my way into the starting pack, which was surprisingly easy. Hmmm. A balloon for the 3:30 pace group? I think I'm a little closer to the front than I want to be. But Shane should be around here somewhere. So I look around and Lo and Behold! There's Shane! I work my way back to him just in time for the gun to go off. Though, I don't actually remember exactly how the race started - nothing nearly as awesome as a duck call, to be sure :) Shane said his plan was to start conservative and pick it up the last three miles - which sounded like a good plan. It quickly developed that our ideas of starting conservative were different though, so I let him go on ahead.
The race started with a little two mile loop around Rice Park, which is where all the ice sculptures for the winter carnival are at. It's hard to get a good look as you're running by, but was I saw looked pretty neat. It's also always fun to run a race through a public place when most of the people around have no idea what's going on. Around there, I ran into Randy around there, which was great. After that, the course is an out and back on Shepard Road and was actually kind of boring. Randy passed me by sometime out there but I could always keep him and Shane in sight.
One thing I'm rather confused about - the 5K and 10K started a few minutes behind the Half and once we got onto Shepard Road, 3 10K men went by . . . and that was it. One in the lead and two more a bit back. I did see a 4th 10K guy after they turned around (pretty obvious when they're going the other direction) but I didn't see a single other 10Ker so I was really surprised to see in the results how many people did that race. Very strange because it means the first three guys were ridiculously far ahead of anyone else. Maybe I've just never seen a 10K race from that vantage point before.
I was very surprised to see at the first water stop that they were handing out bottles of water. It made me glad to have brought my small hand held - I would have felt bad grabbing a bottle just to take a few sips and then toss it. What a waste!
It was fabulous to be able to have a longer run on nice, clear roads! I rather putzed about for the first bit, just enjoying a nice run and trying to keep the pace down. Randy and Shane were in sight the whole time, so it was nice to have some idea of how I was running in relation to people I know. I was amused because there didn't seem to be a lot of runners taking the tangent on corners and I kept watching as Shane in front of me would cut over more than anyone else. We were two of very few runners who ran tangents as opposed to staying in the right hand lane when the whole road was shut down for us.
I was rather surprised at how rolling the course was. Nothing huge but some nice long ups and downs when I was expecting a completely flat course was actually kind of nice. A couple in particular stuck out - one of the uphills made me excited for the way back and one looooong downhill made me a bit worried about the way back up it. Turns out, the way back up was so gradual that I didn't even notice I was heading back up it until I was less than two blocks from the top. Yay!
So back to the turnaround . . . I didn't think about it much as when went around it. Since it wasn't a strict out and back course, I didn't know where we'd be turning around for sure. I remember thinking that I'd be 1 1/2 or 2 miles from the turnaround and I shortly started seeing people coming back at me and was surprised. When I came to the turnaround, I was right on Shane so I was thinking about that as I rounded the barricades like everyone else and continued on my way. All of a sudden we hit the 8 mile marker (well, first off, all of a sudden Shane was off like a rocket and I was no longer just about to pass him but back to the mile marker). 8? That's strange, since we hadn't gone by mile 7 yet. Maybe someone put the wrong mile marker here? Well, that can't be right either since we should be just over halfway through mile 6 according to my mile split on my watch . . . Strange. Someone must have messed up the marker placements.
And I continue on my merry way, continuing with picking up the speed bit by bit since I'd been gaining on Shane again and I wanted to catch up with him. Then we ran by mile marker 9. Hm. Something is definitely wrong but the big question is: did we turn around wrong or are the markers just wrong? Finally we hit mile "10" where the volunteer was letting everyone know that the turnaround was wrong and we had 3.1 miles left. Huh. Lovely. It was good to know, though and it was clearly time to kick it down a gear. I caught up with Randy right before here and didn't think I'd be able to get Shane since he seemed to be running exactly the same pace as me, but suddenly, there he was. He tried to chat some but I was working pretty hard so I didn't have much to say - sorry Shane! I got him on one of the last (short and steeper) uphills, though. Which I enjoyed more than I should - it's been a while since I've beat Shane in a race!
Usually, I like to run the end of the course before the start of a race or at least take a good look at the map so I know distances left at approximate places. I hadn't done that this time at all, so I did some guessing about distances left as we rounded corners into downtown, which turned out to be pretty accurate. I did manage to remember that we finished on 6th so as we ran down 5th and I saw up a turn up head, I decided that meant only a block left after the turn and tried to pick up the pace according. Luckily, I was right!
So I finished in a half marathon PR - 1:32!! Of course, the race was over a mile short but hey . . .
I did a short cool down afterward and then wandered into the building since that was the most likely place to pick up my shiny finishers mug (and warm!). I didn't see an obvious place for it so I wandered around a bit - the place wasn't all that big but was rather crowded. I did find the table for the race shirts - a cool design but it cost an extra $20 if I wanted it! Plus it was white and I find it hard to believe that any female race director would ever pick white for a race shirts (serious male race directors - I don't want my bra to show through. Though, maybe I've just found the reason there's so many white shirts out there . . .) so I wasn't ready to turn a poorly done race into a $50 race. So I found the mug pickup - and was under-impressed again. It was white, which made sense being a winter marathon, but had a very small and blah race logo on one side with a blah advertisement on the other. The promised coupon book and winter carnival pin were not in the bag. I ended up deciding against cheering everyone else in and headed back to my sister's since I knew they were waiting for me and I didn't want to stand around outside and get cold - all my extra layers were in the car.
So overall? Not at all impressed. This was put on by a major race organizer and it's just plain not okay to have the turn around messed up - you need to have communication done better than that and this isn't this company's first race or even in the first handful of their races. On top of that, I have yet to see an official apology. No email sent out to race participates and nothing on their website (in fact, when they first posted results, they had the pace column calculated as though the race were the true distance). The only thing out there is a half-assed apology (that mostly reads as though they don't think it was a very big deal) on their facebook page. This is also the only place to find out (if you dig through posts) that the promised coupon books and pins were available to be mailed which is not a big deal for me but is for the people who had to ask if it could be mailed. Not classy. Had I been actually racing this, I would be mad but I'm more annoyed about it than anything.
Bottom line? I'm not planning on going back and will think twice about races put on by Anderson. But, it was a fun time anyway and, like I said, it was great to run on cleared roads and felt good to pick the pace up a bit.