Category Archives: Marathons

Ferry vs Bus to the NYC Marathon

The eternal debate rages on…

Warning:  Long boring post ahead that will only be interesting to you if you’re considering baggage and transport options for the NYC Marathon.  Mom, you can skip reading this one.  😉

 

This year the baggage and transport options for the NYC Marathon open on Tuesday, July 11 (and close on August 22). But runners won’t find out their bib numbers or starting corrals until much, much later (probably October).  So how do you choose between the options?

 

Bag or No Bag?

This one is pretty easy.  Most people say not to check a bag.  The upside of no baggage is an earlier exit from the park (relatively speaking – you’ll still exit 1/2 mile after the finish line vs 1 mile for those with bags) plus a free waterproof fleece-lined hooded parka.  These parkas are huge, thick, just massive things that really help you stay warm (and dry, if it’s raining).  They are ugly, and you’ll never wear it again, but you’ll also find it hard to toss because it’s so nice.  The downside is you’ll have to toss your warm layers and whatever else you want at the start but don’t want to run 26 miles with.  Use this as an opportunity to get rid of clothes you don’t want anymore (everything is collected and donated) or buy cheap or used clothing if you don’t have anything you want to leave behind (but I mean, c’mon, when are you going to wear that stained sweatshirt again?).

 

The only reason you’d check a bag is if you absolutely have to have something at the start that you can’t toss but can’t carry.  If you need something particular at the finish (but not at the start), I’ve heard you can check a bag at Jackrabbit on 72nd between Columbus and Amsterdam (for a small fee). Otherwise you can probably last until you get back to your hotel or car (or, heck, even buy it from a store near the park).  Ultimately, I haven’t heard many complaints about the choice either way – I think the bag check runs pretty smoothly, and those who don’t check a bag are fine, too.  Can’t really go wrong here.

 

Ferry or Bus?

This is the big question I’ve debated for a long time, but I think I’ve finally made my choice.  When I ran in 2005, the buses left from downtown and the ferry was not an official option.  Now, buses leave from midtown (next to the library at 5th and 42nd) and the ferry is an official transport option.  (I’m only going to debate the NYC options since if the bus from Jersey is an option for you, you’re probably not debating anything!)

 

The bus is appealing because it’s one-stop-shopping.  You get on the bus, you zone out, and you get off at the starting area.  Lovely!  My friend who took the ferry last year said it was cold and if he had to do it again he’d take the bus.  Plus, the bus is in midtown, which is easy to get to even if there are delays on the subway or something (I could taxi or uber or even walk if it came to it).  So at first the bus was the clear winner for me.  But then I realized they close the bridge at 6:45, which means that all the buses are really early.  Not a problem if you are in one of the first couple waves, but if your start time is 11:00 and you’re taking a bus at, say, 5:45, that means you’d board the bus more than five hours before your start time!

 

So what are the start times, and how do you know which wave you’ll be in?  I’ve found several old pace charts that really, really help with this question – this is from 2014this is from 2015, and this is from 2016.  NYRR will seed you based on what you said your finish time will be (and maybe possibly based on data it has on you, but I’m not 100% sure on that).  Basically, and assuming this year will be like last year, if you’re a 3:00 to 3:30 marathoner you’ll be in Wave 1 that leaves at 9:40 am, 3:35 to 4:00 will be in Wave 2 at 10:15 am, 4:00 to 4:30 will be Wave 3 at 10:40 am, and 4:30 to 6:00 (yikes that’s a big spread) are Wave 4 at 11:00 am.  Note that it might take several to many minutes to cross the actual starting line.  Last year I had friends who started almost at noon.  That means that even if they finished in 4 hours 45 minutes, the sun would already be set.  🙁  (Let’s note here that I’m gunning for a 5:15 finish, but will be happy with 5:30 and ok with 5:45.  So, yeah.  A lot slower than sub 5.)

 

So, setting aside the fact that there’s a decent chance I will finish this marathon in the dark, I will certainly be in Wave 4, and I will probably have a green colored bib and have to run on the bottom of the Verrazano bridge (rumor has it blue and orange get top, green gets bottom).  These are all depressing things to learn, but I guess I’d rather make peace with them now than be surprised on race day.

 

Back to the ferry!  The ferry is highly recommended on online boards, but why?  It seems like a hassle – you have to subway or taxi all the way to the tip of Manhattan, stand in a crush of people to get onto a ferry that holds 5,000 people, then get off in another crush and make your way onto another bus (one hopes there are enough buses there waiting), which then finally takes you to the start.  And as my friend said, it’s cold.  And it sounds like a lot of standing and walking and generally being on your legs to me!  So why so recommended?  Honestly, it sounds like the #1 reason is because the “view is nice.”  Yeah, you get to see the Statue of Liberty and feel like you’re really “in” New York City.  I mean… I guess?  But as someone who has lived here 17 years and has seen the statue many times, I think I can pass on marathon morning.  Other ferry advantages?  You can “stretch out” and there’s a bathroom on board (and in the terminal).  But there are also bathrooms on the buses!  (or so I’ve read)

 

The real reason I’m (probably) choosing the ferry?  (Gasp, yes, I think I’m going to deal with the ferry hassle!)  Because of the time cutoffs and my late start.  Even if they have buses as late as 6:30 (which I highly doubt what with the 6:45 bridge closure), that’s still 4 1/2 hours before my wave starts.  I could take the 8:30 or even 9:00 ferry and probably make it on time (although I’m sure my nerves will get the best of me and I’ll be on the 8:00 ferry).  Regardless, that’s a pretty big time difference, and ultimately makes taking the ferry worth the additional hassle.  And who knows, maybe I’ll be so inspired by the beauty of the Statue of Liberty that I’ll crush my time.  I am strongly considering dressing like the statue for my race costume anyway…

 

Either way, people say be on the bus or ferry 2.5 to 3 hours before your official start time to give yourself time for the transport(s), walking, security, bag check, porta potty visits, getting to your corral, etc.  Also note that in the past, bag check closed a little over an hour before the wave (e.g. 9:20 for a 10:30 start) and corrals closed about 20 minutes before the waves started (e.g. 10:10 for a 10:30 start), so you might need even more time to get to the start depending.  The upside is it gives you more time to eat the free bagels, Powerbars, coffee, tea, and water that’s at the start.

 

Ultimately, getting to the NYC Marathon start is a big hassle, no matter how you slice it.  And then after getting to the start, you will inevitably be waiting around a long, long time (in the cold and other unpredictable elements).  But then after all that hassle and all that waiting, you get to run 26.2 miles, so there’s that.  Why do we do this again?

 

TL;DR – take the bus if you’re in waves 1 or 2, if you’re staying in midtown, or if you don’t mind hanging around the starting village.  Take the ferry if you’re from out-of-town and really want the “NYC experience,” if you’re staying at a downtown hotel, or if you’re in a later wave and don’t want to kill too much time in the village.

 

Are you or have you ever taken the bus or ferry to the start of the NYC Marathon?  Checked a bag?  What meal are you planning for before and after the race?  Share in the comments!

I got into the NYC Marathon!

It already has!

I was just finishing my dinner when my email dinged – I checked and my stomach dropped – I got into the NYC marathon lottery!  Hooooooo boy…  I did not see that coming.

 

First, apologies for the incredibly long break in posting.  I still can’t run due to injury, so I haven’t been in the running mindset, so this blog has been gathering as much dust as my running shoes.  I was going to write a post about what I have been doing besides running, but I kept putting that off because, well, it is profoundly uninteresting.  I’ve been resting a lot, and walking a little, and just started rowing and going to the gym again, but then I played tourist in this beautiful weather we’ve been having and overdid it, compressing my ankle and causing pain and swelling, helping keep my PT busy and my running shoes dusty.

 

On a lark, I applied for the NYC Marathon lottery two weeks ago – the last day they accepted applications.  The odds of a local resident getting selected for the lottery were only about 23%.  Well, apparently I am one of the 23%, because I got in!  (You might remember I was only 2 races away from qualifying last year, but I couldn’t make it because of the injury.)

 

I really didn’t think I’d get selected, and I was okay with that.  I still can’t even run a block, so the idea of running a marathon seems farfetched.  But I also rationalized that if I did get in, it might be a good way to test the waters – I ran the NYC Marathon in 2005 (good lord, has it really already been 12 years?!), so there would be no pressure to finish for my 50 States quest, plus it’s a local race so I wouldn’t have the added expense and stress of travel and hotel.  But now I’m realizing it’s only 8 months away, which seems so so so very soon to learn how to run 26.2 miles.

It’s making my stomach do flips, that’s for sure.

 

So, I just won probably the worst lottery in the world and I paid $255 for the privilege.  As the immortal Forrest Gump(‘s momma) said, “stupid is as stupid does.”  I guess I’m back to being a stupid runner, even without the running!  Huzzah!

 

Did you get into the 2017 NYC Marathon?  Have you ever won any sort of lottery or prize?  How much would you pay to not have to run the NYC Marathon?  Share in the comments!

2016 Year in Review

It feels like I have more range of motion now, but the photos don’t really show it…

There’s a bit of poetic symmetry (is that a thing?) in that 2015 was the best year ever and 2016 was the worst.  If you’ve been living in the woods this year and missed all the happenings, first, I’m jealous, and second, you can watch this trailer to catch up on what 2016 was like:

That was basically my year, but throw in a sprained ankle, a broken fibula, multiple weeks on crutches (spread across multiple months), multiple weeks in a aircast boot, a cortisone shot deep into my joint, and general declining health and a total loss of fitness, and that’s my 2016.

 

Before my injury, I was doing almost a marathon per month (the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, the Little Rock Marathon in Arkansas, the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, Kansas, and the Delaware Marathon in Wilmington), and I was convinced that 2016 would be the “Year of Ugly Medals.”  Sadly, it just became the “Year of Ugly.”

 

I still don’t know when (if?!) I’ll ever run again, let alone run a marathon.  But I really, really, really, truly, madly, deeply hope that 2017 is better than 2016.  It isn’t a high bar, but if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that almost anything horrible can happen.  🙁

 

Luckily, there are only a couple more days left in 2016 (plus one extra leap second), and poetic symmetry (it’s now a thing) indicates 2017 will be a good year.  I wish all of you health and happiness and health in the New Year!  (Health twice because it’s so important.)

 

How was your 2016?  Are you super glad it’s almost over?  Did you make any resolutions for the New Year?  Share in the comments!

Rocket City Marathon Video from 2015

A big expo for a small race!

A big expo for a small race!

The Rocket City Marathon is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this weekend, and while of course I won’t be there, I did run it last year and wrote about it here.  I also made this video back then.  I meant to post it ages ago but I was somehow still too shy to post a public video to YouTube.  For some reason, I’m over that now, so here it is!

 

It’s about 2 minutes long and I used a GoPro template, keeping the “GoPro” tags at the beginning and end as a joke since nothing in the video is extreme (except for the dunk into the fish pond where I risked catching salmonella from all the duck poop).

 

 

I hadn’t watched it since last year, and it was a fun/painful reminder of healthier times (although I didn’t do particularly well at that race).  It’s also an embarrassing reminder of how little I’ve used my GoPro since then, both because I haven’t done anything GoPro-worthy and because I find taking footage and then editing it to be exceedingly time consuming and difficult for me.

 

I wish all the runners this year luck and good weather, and I’m sorry to hear they switched the venue of the pasta dinner from the space center to the art museum, because honestly that was the best part of the whole race!

 

Have you ever made a GoPro video?  Do your videos tend to end up in a black hole on your computer?  What’s your favorite online video?  Share in the comments!

Delaware Marathon Recap – Happy Mother’s Day – May 8, 2016

A cool bridge along the Delaware Marathon course.

The cool bridge along the Delaware Marathon course that’s featured on the medal.

I tried three four new things for the Delaware Marathon this past Sunday, because, as the old marathon saying goes, “Everything new on race day!”  (That is the saying, right?)  What new things did I try?

 

  1. I finally wore my Marathon Maniacs shirt!
  2. I tried fueling with PayDay bars!
  3. I ran with a sore throat!
  4. Bonus – I saw a woman cheating!

I can recommend two of those four things, but you’ll have to read on to find out which ones!

 

The view from the Doubletree Downtown Wilmington.

The view from the Doubletree Downtown Wilmington.

The number-one thing Wilmington has going for it is its location.  On Saturday morning I zipped down on Amtrak (if “zipped” includes a 30 minute train delay) and walked two blocks to the outdoor expo.  Because of all the rain, there was a bit of a mud “situation” that the race organizers tried to combat with piles of straw, but it wasn’t entirely effective and I left with my shoes and jeans spattered with mud.  Luckily, they were not my race shoes and the mud hazard was worth all the goodies – I picked up my bib, two free Gus, a shirt, a pint glass, a hat, a cowbell, and a bag.  Before heading to my hotel I continued down the riverfront a couple blocks to Harry’s Seafood for some sea bass and a ridiculous chocolate peanut butter dessert.

After eating too much I hauled all my stuff to the Doubletree Downtown.  At check-in I got another goodie bag (with another Gu, a Kind Bar, a marathon door hanger, a marathon oval magnet, and marathon info) plus a warm chocolate chip cookie.  Later that afternoon I went out for some water and fun sized PayDay bars, which I planned on eating during the race for the first time ever.

 

To be clear, it’s not the first time I’ve ever had a PayDay bar, but it was the first time I’d ever eaten them during a run.  They ended up working out pretty well!  I’m in an eternal process of tweaking my marathon nutrition, but I’m trying to move away from gels/gus because I think they’re yucky.  Instead, I’m trying to eat things I actually enjoy and using races as a way to eat (more) treats!  I picked PayDay bars because they don’t have any chocolate to melt and the peanuts are salty, which is something I often crave during a race.  Their nutrition profile also isn’t too far off from “typical” race food, but is a little heavy on the fat – each fun size bar is 90 calories, 90 mg sodium, 5 g fat, 8 g sugar, and 2.5 g protein.  Compare that to Salted Caramel Gu at 100 calories, 125 mg sodium, 0 g fat, 7 g sugar, and 0 g protein, and 2nd Surge (my standard go-to) at 90 calories, 115 mg sodium, 0 g fat, 13 g sugar, and 3 g protein.  PayDay bars don’t have potassium listed (so I assume it’s zero?) and they don’t have any caffeine, so I did supplement with 2nd Surge and some Gu chomps on race day.

The start of the Delaware Marathon 2016.

The starting area of the Delaware Marathon 2016.

Race day morning was cool (in the 50s), overcast, and very humid, but cleared to sunny skies with a bit of wind a few hours into the race.  Considering the rain we had had the entire week before, we certainly lucked out on Sunday.  I dropped off my bag on the bag check tables behind the tents (nothing very formal) and got into a long line for the porta potties (definitely needed more of those, in my opinion).  It only took me 3 minutes to cross the starting line (even with my back-of-the-pack starting position) and I actually jogged across the starting line since it was so open/uncongested.  It got a little more crowded a few blocks into the race because of the narrow walkways and I felt like I was running in a sea of “HALF”ers (which I was).

Running along the river, reading "HALF HALF HALF" all the way home...

Running along the river, reading “HALF HALF HALF” all the way home…

Luckily I had been warned about the hills on the course, so mentally I was prepared to walk a lot.  But since I expected big hills, the actual hills didn’t seem that bad.  They were very gradual but looooong, and everything had to be done twice because of the looped course, but at least every uphill came with a corresponding downhill.  The worst hills came at approximately miles 5-7 and 12 (and again at 18-20 and 25).  Since I compare everything to Central Park, I’d say the hills were similar but stretched out and stacked end to end, leaving longer portions of flat and longer portions of uphill/downhill.

 

While the course was more beautiful than I expected, Wilmington is certainly a city of contrasts.  We ran through some very fancy suburbs with nice parks only to turn suddenly into run-down neighborhoods with payday loan shops (not to be confused with PayDay candy bars) and vacant storefronts.  The most shocking thing I witnessed during the race had nothing to do with the course, however.  Around mile 20.5 a woman blew past me, which was surprising since at that point the course was very empty and I was still trotting along at a decent pace (for me).  A little farther ahead I noticed her turning around at a non-turnaround point – basically cutting the course.  I joked with the guy standing at the intersection that I was jealous of her getting to cut, and he said she told him she had gotten lost and run extra, so was cutting it off now.  I raised my eyebrows but didn’t think much of it until after the race when I realized just how much she had cut – two small loops including the entire portion through Little Italy, or a little over 2.5 miles.

 

Now, even with the cut, at this pace the woman wasn’t qualifying for Boston or winning any awards (maybe… she looked youngish so I don’t think she’d win an age award… and I didn’t get a look at her bib number so I don’t know what she ultimately got), but it was startling to see someone cheat during a race, especially with all the publicity cheating has gotten recently.  Did she really get lost?  Maybe, who knows?  But if you make a mistake like that should you still have to run the full regulation course?  I’d lean towards yes, but I’ve also never had to run 29 miles for a marathon before.  Is it really cheating if you run at least 26.2 miles that day?  What do you think?

 

Because I was sick (my sore throat was slowly developing into some congestion, but the real waterworks, headache, and fatigue didn’t really kick in until Monday – and I’m still battling what turned into a pretty bad cold), I was keeping the option of only running the half and still getting a finish time (which was allowed, according to pre-race communications).  And while I hope not to run while sick again, it didn’t seem to affect me much that day.

 

Marathon Maniacs shirt Delaware Marathon May 2016As usual (at least for the past several marathons), my plan was to run the first 20 miles and let myself walk after that if I wanted (since I’d make the cutoff time by then).  I ended up walking most of miles 18-20 because of the hills, so I kept running afterwards, and was able to keep all but one of my miles under 14 minutes.  Ultimately I finished about half an hour faster than I expected, and while my knees were quite puffy (as you can see I had them iced at the end), I felt pretty good.  A nice touch at the finish was having your name, hometown, club affiliation (like 50 State and/or Maniacs), and number of previous marathons announced.

 

So, the PayDay bars were a success, the illness, while not recommended, wasn’t bad, but the real home run was wearing the Marathon Manaics shirt.  I’m not a runner who needs crowds or lots of distraction during a race, but I do love the social aspect of races, and wearing that iconic yellow shirt got me a lot of cheers and high-fives from other maniacs during the race, plus I got to hang out and chat with some maniacs after the race, too.  Again, not that I don’t chat with maniacs without the shirt, but it does make a great icebreaker.  (The hot pink gloves and the rhinestone necklace were just extra…)

 

The medal!  It is so nice.

The medal! It is so nice.

The best thing I overheard:

“Same day finish!” – from a runner and fellow back-of-the-packer.

 

All the Delaware Marathon swag!

All the Delaware Marathon swag!

Thinking of running the Delaware Marathon?

 

There were 459 full marathoners, 1101 halfers, and 938 people in the two relays (about 2,500 runners total).  The start was staggered (full and halfers started before the relay runners) and there were no pacers allowed.  Because of all the relay runners, the finish area takes on a party/tailgate atmosphere and seems like a fun way to spend a Sunday morning.

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time over 5 hours.  Your experience may vary.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – From NYC (or Philly, or Washington, DC), Wilmington is easy to reach via Amtrak.  Once there, hotels, restaurants, and the start/finish are all within about a half mile or so, so you don’t need to rent a car.
  • Staying There – 8/10 – The Doubletree Downtown Wilmington is old and showing its age, but it was fine for a night or two, and the price was pretty good (total with tax was $240 for two nights, but they also offer late checkout or “very late” checkout at 5 pm for an additional fee if you don’t want to stay the whole night).  I’m not sure if there was an additional parking charge since I didn’t have a car, but I’d imagine there was.  The location was good for the race – about 1/2 mile from the start/finish/expo area, and only a block or two from a Rite Aid and several restaurants, both sit-down and takeout.
  • Cost & Registration – 9/10 – You get a lot of stuff!  I paid $97 (with processing fees) in September 2015, which got me a short sleeved tech shirt (same as the half marathon), headsweats hat, pint glass, cowbell, and a couple packets of Gu.  During the race there was decent on-course support (water, Gatorade, Gu/cookies, porta potties, and medical).  After the race, you get a really nice medal (this year’s had cutouts and a spinner portion!), beer, champagne, and food (the quantity and quality depended on your finish time, but after 5 1/2 hours there were still some sandwiches left, along with lots of bags of chips, some cold pizza, little cups of pasta salad and fruit salad, bananas, chocolate milk, and sugary drinks).  I thought photos were included because they promised “access to digital photos” but that just meant they had on-course photographers and you can buy the pictures afterwards.  I will say the photographers were better than average and took a lot of scenic photos during the race.  There was no memo pad that said “Memo from a Delaware Marathoner.” 🙁
  • Organization – 8/10 – Pre-race communication was good – I particularly liked the trio of race-week emails with all sorts of info included.  The expo was very small and a bit muddy.  The course support was pretty good, but they were missing some volunteers at intersections so you had to keep your eyes open for cars.
  • Course – 7/10 – For a looped course, it was a lot more scenic and less boring than I expected!  And while it did have some hills (most notably at miles 5-7 and again at 18-20, because of the loop, plus a final hill at 25), they were quite gradual, although quite long.  The mile markers felt really off, though, actually coming a lot earlier than they should have according to my watch (which never happens – usually I’m .2 or more ahead of the markers due to weaving), but the course itself wasn’t short (unless you cut it…).
  • Crowd – 1/10 – Basically no spectators except at the finish party area – and it really was a party in that park, with all the relay runners and family members enjoying a sunny May day. There looked like a lot of tailgating and fun going on, and it was painful to run past it to do another 13.1 mile loop.
  • Other Factors – 4/10 – There’s really not much to see in Wilmington.  If you’re from the area, it’s easy to get there, and if you’re not from the area, Philly is incredibly close, in case you want to do some sightseeing there.
  • Overall Rating – 6/10 – The race was decent, the swag was nice, the maniacs were great, but the overall trip was just “meh” – there just wasn’t much else to the weekend…  And yet I’d consider coming back to do the half just so I could enjoy the post-race food (before it’s gone or ice cold) and relax in the park.

 

Delaware is “The First State,” but it was number 24 for me.  26 to go!  My next marathon is the Missoula Marathon in Montana on July 10th.

 

Have you ever visited Wilmington?  Do you try new things on race day?  Do you think that woman cheated or was she justified in cutting?  Share in the comments!

Expectations for the Delaware Marathon

My new Pop Tart case, balancing out becoming "Enlightened" and the "Inner Peas" I might get from the other foods.

My new Pop Tart case, balancing out becoming “Enlightened” and the “Inner Peas” I might get from the other foods.

The Discover Bank Delaware Marathon is this Sunday, and food is on my mind!  Most of my marathon preparation involves not so much running but rather the buying and packing of food.  I finally got a Pop Tart container so my Pop Tarts won’t get smashed in transit – I’m a little too excited to see if it works.  I also got a bunch of other new-ish snacks to take with me.  Since it’s a short visit and Wilmington is only a 2-hour train ride away, most of my luggage will be food for before and after the race.  I can even pack liquids!

 

The Delaware Marathon started 13 years ago because Delaware didn’t have a marathon.  (There were a few marathons before 1998, but nothing between 1998 and 2004.)  Now there are several marathons in the second smallest state, but it goes to show how much running has changed in the last 10 years, and how it might change in the future.

 

This year there are 459 full marathoners registered, 1101 halfers, and 938 people in the two relays – a 4-person relay and an 8-person relay.  Yes, an 8-person relay!!!  That’s less than 3.3 miles per person!  Man, I’m gonna be so jealous of them…

 

The course is two loops, so it’ll be my first looped marathon course.  They describe it as having some flats and some hills, so I’m anticipating it to be overall a little flatter than Central Park.  We’ve had over a week of rain along the East Coast, but it’s supposed to clear up a bit on Sunday, with highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 50s, so it should be pretty good weather for running.  I’m planning on wearing my yellow Marathon Maniac t-shirt for the first time, along with inappropriate hot pink gloves and rhinestones for fun.

 

Since Garmin Oz was less than 3 weeks ago, and I’m fighting off a sore throat that’s threatening to turn into something worse, I’ll also keep open the option of only running one lap.  Surprisingly, the organizers have said it’s ok to make that race-day decision!  They said you’d still get a time and even a half marathon medal, if available.  Crossing fingers I won’t have to do that, but if I do, it won’t be the end of the world, and luckily Delaware is so close that I can easily return next year.

 

But back to what’s most important:  The food!  The organizers said that “[b]efore the race, there will be coffee, rolls, spreads, bananas, water and Gatorade,” which is already a lot.  During the race they’ll have Gatorade and gels, but more importantly there’s “a Cookie Stop at Mile 8 & Mile 20.”  Awesome, right?  But check out what they’ll have after the race:

Please plan to visit the FranksWine Champagne Tent for a complementary post race glass of champagne!   Also, your hospitality wristband will entitle you to 4 beers from our Michelob Ultra / Shock Top Beer Garden.  Your post race meal will feature BBQ bourbon pulled pork, chicken, or burger sliders, pasta salad and fresh fruit from 2 Fat Guys Catering; Seasons Pizza; Bananas from Shop Rite; soft pretzels from the Pretzel Boys; Herrs Snacks, Hy Point Dairy Farms chocolate milk; Canada Dry beverages; Vitamin Water and Smart Water.  (emphasis added)

5 alcoholic beverages and enough food for several full meals?!  No wonder I signed up for this race…

 

My biggest (recurring) fear is that all the food will be gone by the time I finish, since I’ll be one of the last finishers on this 6-hour time limit course (and there are so many halfers and relay runners!).  If that happens, I will be sorely disappointed (and plain sore), but I’ll try to console myself with the full pantry of snacks I brought from home (not to mention the plethora of restaurants in the downtown and riverfront area).

 

The race also gives out a ton of swag:  For marathoners, “a gender specific  technical running shirt … a Headsweats running hat… and a special finisher’s medal from Crown Trophy.”  Everyone will get a personalized race bib, free online digital photos, and other goodies in the race bag (including a “Memo from a Delaware Marathoner” memo pad and a Delaware Marathon Pint Glass).  Expect all my memos to be from that pad from now on.

 

Delaware has only 1,982 square miles of territory (according to the race info packet – online sources have it range from 1,954 to 2,491, with many answers in-between).  I don’t know how they’ll fit all that food into less than 2,000 square miles, but I’ll help them get rid of a lot of it.

 

Have you ever visited Delaware?  Are you incorporated there?  What’s your favorite snack?  Share in the comments!

Garmin Oz Marathon Recap – Never Surrender Sometimes – April 16, 2016

View of the Garmin Oz Marathon start from the hotel.

View of the Garmin Oz Marathon start from the hotel.

A week ago I ran the Garmin Oz Marathon in Olathe, Kansas (ok, a week and a day).  Olathe (pronounced “Oh-LAY-thuh”) is about 45 minutes southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, is surprisingly hilly, and has an excellent Bass Pro Shops.

 

WELCOME TO KANSAS

I flew in from San Francisco via Minneapolis, arriving late Thursday afternoon.  Before leaving the airport, I met up with a friend who happened to be flying into the Kansas City airport at the same time for work (and when that happens, you have to meet up at the Kansas City airport).  After some iced tea and failed attempts to convince him to run Garmin Oz with me, I picked up my rental car.  The intermediate-sized car I reserved was not available so they gave me a minivan; unfortunately it didn’t come with a husband, mortgage, or a dog, so I had a lot of empty space to myself.  After getting my sweet ride I headed straight to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Olathe.  I missed the expo/packet pickup but knew I’d have time the next day to do that.

Even though it was late and I had eaten multiple meals during the travel day, I was hungry for a real dinner so I asked the receptionist for some nearby recommendations.  She suggested crossing the street to get either Mexican or BBQ.  I went with Mexican and was not disappointed at The Salty Iguana.  Was the food good?  It wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good!  Was the venue loud?  It was pretty loud considering there were like 10 people there!  Was the food cheap?  Yes, it was amazingly cheap!  The hotel receptionist said to mention I was staying at the hotel, which got me a 10% discount, which meant my chicken burrito with chips and salsa was only $8.93 with tax (not including tip).  Thumbs up!

So much food (at The Salty Iguana).

So much food for $8.93 (at The Salty Iguana).

The next day I had big plans – first, hit up the free breakfast at the hotel, then visit the expo to get my bib and any other goodies that appealed, then visit the Super Target for fun and snacks, and at some point visit either the trampoline place or the IMAX theater.  I managed to do all those things except the trampoline or IMAX, due to a headache and weird fatigue probably brought on by all my recent travel.  It was especially disappointing because I got a free 30 minute coupon to the trampoline place (Cosmic Jump) at the expo, but I just couldn’t manage even trying it out.  Next time?  Instead, I watched Pitch Perfect 2 on HBO in my room while eating mountains of popcorn and treats from Target.  It was a Pitch Perfect 2 way to spend an evening before the race (in that it wasn’t amazing or as good as the first time I ever ate popcorn in bed, but it was comforting and familiar and a fine way to relax).

 

RACE DAY

I spent race morning fussing about my hotel room for as long as possible before the marathon, since the start was literally in the hotel’s parking lot (and I have no desire to use porta potties when I don’t have to).  I ended up spending a little too much time in my room and eating too much in the process.  I was weirdly hungry and overate, which was a bit, ahem, upsetting to me later in the race, but it probably only cost me about 8 to 10 total minutes (two stops), and ultimately I didn’t feel that bad and finished the race feeling fine.

 

Trying to show off my broom before the start.  The dang thing didn't help me fly at all!

Trying to show off my broom before the start. The dang thing didn’t help me fly at all!

While stuffing Pop Tarts and granola bars into my mouth, I got all gussied up in my witch costume (complete with homemade paper bag broom attached to my back), headed out to the start, and almost immediately lost my hat to the gusty winds.  I jammed the hat back onto my head but it flew off again right as I crossed the starting line, forcing me to go back and retrieve it (and giving me mild anxiety that I screwed up the electronic chip reading from crossing the mat twice and would be flagged as a cheater).  Since the hat wouldn’t stay on, and I didn’t want to lose it (because, well, awesome hat), I folded it up and tucked it into the back of my tights.  Yep, I ran with a full witch’s hat complete with long black ribbon tucked into my CW-X tights for 26.2 miles.  It was a little warm but not as uncomfortable as you’d think.

 

Random chicken photo for my mom.

Random chicken photo for my mom.

As you might know from the map or flyover video, the race starts out on North Ridgeview Road, forming a jagged loop for the first half before heading out and back on the (paved) Mill Creek Trail for the second half.  The most shocking thing was how hilly the first half was.  It felt like running a really boring roller coaster.  For comparison, it was hillier than Central Park, and compared to Central Park, the hills were longer, for the most part steeper, and more “regular” like waves in an asphalt ocean.  It wasn’t terrible, and it wasn’t mountainous (monotonous yes), but it was surprising for what I expected from Kansas.  The only good part was it offered more shade than I expected, mostly because the sun was so low in the sky that the hills blocked it.

The second half wasn’t nearly as hilly, except for the very steep (but fairly short) hill down to and up from the paved trail.  The trail was about 5-6 feet wide, paved, and not as shady as I had hoped or expected.  It’s often demoralizing to be heading out to run 12 more miles when others are heading back in to finish, but the other runners were friendly and mostly in good moods, so it was actually nice to pass them.  There were a lot of encouraging words and even one high-five!  (I was hoping his speed would rub off on me.)

My goal was to “run” until mile 20, then let myself walk the rest of the way to the finish.  I managed to run a bit until about mile 22, when I switched to full walking, partly because I was thinking I had the Delaware Marathon in 2 weeks (it was actually 3 weeks), but mostly because I was tired and I simply didn’t want to run.  My philosophy these days is not to torture myself with any of these races and try to enjoy the day and the experience as much as possible.  So if I want to walk, I walk!  It was a gorgeous day to be outside and I was actually enjoying it.

 

We were very lucky with the weather – it was in the 60s to low 70s and overcast for almost the entire race – a tiny bit warm, a bit humid, and a bit windy, but otherwise perfect.  If it had been sunny (or rainy, which some said it has been for the past several years), it would have been torturous in various ways.  The water stations were only every 2 miles (sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less), which was ok since it was overcast, but if it had been hot and sunny, it would have been really rough.

The home stretch - with more hay bales!

The home stretch – with hay bales!

The hill from the trail to the main road (not pictured) was so steep and painful I immediately and un-affectionately nicknamed it “Cramp Hill.”  Even walking it almost made my legs seize up.  I heard others complaining about this hill after the race so I know I wasn’t the only one who struggled with it.  But we were back on the main (Ridgeview) road and had only a few more rolling hills until the hotel shimmered in the distance and the finish line awaited.  I whipped out my witch’s hat, ran the .2 through the finish, and collected my surprisingly enormous medal.

The finisher food and medal!

The finisher food and the giant (smudged) medal!

I heard several other runners say they ran this race every year just for the medal, and I can see why – it’s pretty nice and much much larger than the preview images indicated.  The green portions are a translucent glass, which is cool.  The only disappointing thing is that the metal has permanent smudges and fingerprints on it – and they were there before I even touched the medal.  I washed it several times with soap and warm water, buffing it with a soft towel in-between, but some of the stubborn prints remain.

I'm a wicked witch!

I’m a wicked witch!

 

After the race I was feeling well enough to check out the Bass Pro Shops (yes, it ends in an “s” even though it’s one shop, which is just as weird as “Brussels Sprouts” – it’s correct but seems wrong), and I’m so glad I did.  It’s only about a 6 minute drive from the hotel, and it’s the best Bass Pro Shops I’ve visited yet, mostly because of the shooting arcade!

I didn’t do much else that day (I mean, really, anything else would have been a let-down), and my flight home was super early the next morning (I left the hotel by 4:15 am!).  Overall, it was an okay race, a pretty fun visit, and I’m glad to have another state down!

 

Thinking of running the Garmin Oz Marathon?

 

Front and back of the Marathon shirt (short sleeved, tech fabric).

Front and back of the Marathon shirt (short sleeved, tech fabric).

There were 512 full marathon runners, 1,838 half marathoners, and 559 10K runners (a total of 2,909 runners).  Because it’s a relatively small race and the marathon starts first, it wasn’t too congested (the halfers peeled off at about mile 12).  A decent portion of the runners wear costumes (more in the half or 10K, of course).  The medals for all the races are pretty nice.

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time of about 5 1/2 hours.  Your experience may vary.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 5/10 – Olathe, Kansas, is about 45 minutes outside of Kansas City, MO, which is probably the airport you’ll fly into.  It’s nice that the start/finish of the race is in the hotel’s parking lot, but there is no easy way to get to that hotel, nor is there much else near the hotel, so that means you’ll probably have to rent a car for the weekend.  (For what it’s worth, the front desk said a taxi would probably cost $50 one-way to the airport.)  You can run across the street for Mexican or BBQ, and the hotel itself has a bar and restaurant.
  • Staying There – 9.5/10 –  The Embassy Suites Olathe is new (opened in late 2015 I think), and it was great.  The rooms felt new and while they’re not large, they were nicely laid out and still provided a pretty full kitchen (mini fridge, separate sink, and microwave, plus coffeemaker).  They had free breakfast (with made-to-order eggs) and even had an afternoon happy hour with free drinks and snacks (like chips and small slices of pizza).  The gym looked ok but the pool is very small.  Parking is ample and the spaces are large enough for your minivan.  My total for 3 nights was $454.
  • Cost & Registration – 9/10 – I paid $76 (with processing fees) for the marathon back in October 2015.  You get a nice short-sleeved tech t-shirt with minimal logos, a big medal, and decent finisher food (the chicken sandwich was excellent, but the only beer left for slowpokes like me was Bud Light).  They also had bananas, granola bars, and tubes of yogurt.  On-course support was ok and included a couple Gu stations, but there were no bananas or pretzels or anything like that.
  • Organization – 8/10 – Pre-race communication was fine, but the redesigned website needs more (or less?) designing (it’s so big and unwieldy for such a small race).  The expo was small and simple with limited vendors, so if you need a particular gel don’t expect it there (they had some Gu but no salted caramel, for example).  They don’t have a pasta dinner, and the “virtual” goodie bag is a joke.  I think they could have done a lot more with the Garmin sponsorship, since so many of us runners have Garmins and often have complicated and serious relationships with them, but it seems like it’s in name only (plus the winners get a watch).
  • Course – 6.5/10 – As I described above, it’s pretty hilly in the first half.  It’s also a little boring, but that was to be expected.  It is closed to traffic, not too crowded, and not very cambered so pretty easy on the legs.  I think they had a porta potty at almost every water stop, but the water stops were only about every 2 miles, give or take.  The Garmin tracking was spot on except for mile 8, but at some point got back on as my watch beeped “26” at almost exactly the 26 mile marker, which NEVER happens in a race!  Starting and finishing in the hotel parking lot was really nice and easy.
  • Crowd – 2/10 – Almost zero, except for that one awesome guy with the cookies and the sign.  One bonus point for a spectator in a “Fear the Tree” t-shirt.
  • Other Factors – 6/10 – Bass Pro Shops shooting gallery, Super Target, Cosmic Jump, and IMAX, and that’s just in Olathe.  I think there’s a lot to see and do in Kansas City, but I didn’t have the time.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – The race was just ok, but I actually really enjoyed the overall experience.

 

23 down, 27 to go!  My next marathon is the Delaware Marathon in, you guessed it, Delaware, in two weeks!

 

Have you ever visited Kansas?  Have you ever gone to one of those trampoline places?  Have you ever visited a Bass Pro Shops?  Share in the comments!

Expectations for the Garmin Oz Marathon

The cables for the cable cars at the cable car museum in San Francisco.

The Cable Car Museum in San Francisco.

I’m on the road in California right now, heading to Kansas tomorrow to run the Garmin Oz Marathon on Saturday.  As per usual, I’m undertrained and planning on taking the race as slow and easy as the 15 minute per mile pace time limit allows (about a 6:30 total time limit).  But this time I’m also coming off more than a week of travel to California, where I went to a reunion and then enjoyed the sunshine and the free Cable Car Museum in San Francisco.  Needless to say, I did not get much sleep during the reunion, did not do any running, and have eaten a lot of “I’m-on-vacation-so-it-doesn’t-count” food (cheese-stuffed burritos and paninis on campus!  steak tacos and steak-steak two nights in a row!  two different kinds of peanut butter chocolate caramel fudge from Pier 39!), so I’m not feeling like a runner, let alone a marathoner right now.  But maybe an elaborate costume will help?

 

Because I’m a crazy person, I decided at the last minute to change my costume from the Tin Man to the Wicked Witch.  Why?  Because although I had visions of wearing shiny silver lame while running in the search of a heart, I realized that I would probably pass out from the heat before making it 26 miles dressed like a baked potato.  So, I thought maybe I’d just wear grey, but without the shine I don’t think it would read very well.

 

My sister mentioned going as the witch, and I realized that’s who I should have been going as all along.  Why?  Because even without Wicked the book/musical, she’s the best character.  All she wanted was her dead sister’s shoes.  Dorothy, besides being super twee and annoying, literally murdered the witch’s sister and then stole her shoes with the help of Glinda, who, after first taunting the witch, callously remarked that the witch must only want the shoes because “their magic must be very powerful.”  Yes, that must be why I want my grandmother’s hand-crocheted afghan – for its powerful magic.  Jeeze, Glinda, you are a monster.

 

Now, just because the Wicked Witch of the West is the best character doesn’t mean I necessarily want her on the medal or shirt.  But, since she is the theme this year, I might as well embrace it and go ugly.  Not sure if or how I’ll do the green face makeup yet, especially since the forecast is calling for highs in the mid to upper 70s that day and I expect to sweat my usual buckets, but I’m hoping the witch hat fits over my running hat with all the Gu’s tucked inside and gives me extra shade to boot.

 

Since this will be my 23rd marathon, I wasn’t particularly nervous about the distance until I watched this (8-minute long!) fly-over of the course.  Never has 26.2 miles felt so far before…  (And here’s a map of the course with the new start/finish at the Embassy Suites Hotel.)

 

At least I’ll have a full day before the race to explore Olathe and/or Kansas City (so hot right now, just profiled in the WSJ), so I might check out the trampoline place or watch a movie at the fancy IMAX dine-in theater, or just do my favorite activity of wandering the aisles of Target.  I was interested in touring the Shatto Milk Company but it’s north of Kansas City and over an hour drive from Olathe, so I’ll probably skip the cows this time.

 

Finally, I’ll pull back the curtain, as it were, on a little blog drama, and probably thereby break all the etiquette rules of blogging, but since I have no ads and make no money on this blog (yet… ever?), being very open/honest is one of the few perks.  Back in January I had a brief correspondence going with the Manager of Sports and Events of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.  He saw my post about the Garmin medal unveiling and he liked it (despite it being negative?  Or did he not notice?), and said they were interested in comping my admission to the race in exchange for a blog post.  I was very excited, told him my annual site traffic, and asked for details.  He first gave me a list of topic ideas for content, then said they’d want to review anything before I posted it (both my “expectations” post and my race recap itself), and then said my eligibility for a free entry depended on that post’s traffic.  I was not thrilled with any sort of content managing or pre-approval of my posts (especially for a small reward like a single free entry), and before it got too complicated I told him again my average post’s traffic (spoiler alert, it’s not that high).  After telling him my stats I never heard back from him (not even to say “thanks but no thanks”).  So, no filter, baby!  I can pan this race as much as I want!  Well, I would have done that anyway, but now I can really nit-pick anything wrong with it.  (I am, of course, joking – I will be as biased or as unbiased as I am on this or any race.  Freedom of the uncompensated press!)

 

Do you go to your reunions?  Do you let yourself slack off on vacation or do you try to stick to your schedule?  Who’s your favorite character from the Wizard of Oz?  Did you notice my various Wizard of Oz-themed puns?  Share in the comments!

I just signed up for a bunch of races

My continually evolving 50 States Marathon schedule.

My continually evolving 50 States Marathon schedule.

Since I’m trying to run a marathon in each state, and I’d like to finish before I’m 100 50, I’ve been ramping up my pace on knocking them out.  In the first 9 years I started running, I only ran a total of 7 marathons.  Last year I ran 6.  This year, I’m poised to run 9.  (KNOCK WOOD KNOCK WOOD EVIL FAIRES BEGONE!)

 

I’d like to get the northeast finished sooner than later, so I signed up for both the Clarence Demar Marathon in New Hampshire and the Hartford Marathon in Conneticut.  They’re only 2 weeks apart, which will make them my most closely scheduled marathons yet, but I’m pretty sure that by taking them easy I’ll be able to finish both.  I’ve gained a lot of confidence in the last couple of years in my ability to finish multiple slow marathons relatively close together, even when training doesn’t exist go according to plan.

 

I also did something I’ve never done before while at the Little Rock Expo – I signed up for another marathon!  The people working the booth for the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon were very nice, but the main reason I signed up was because it’s put on by the Running Chicken Track Club, and they always have a chicken on the medal and shirt.  I’m a big fan of chickens since we raised chickens when I was growing up in BFE the rural midwest.  I’ve made worse decisions based on less, so let’s go chickens!

So. Many. Chicken. Medals!

So. Many. Chicken. Medals!

 

I’m also trying to qualify for the NYC Marathon next year.  I’m not entirely sure why – I ran it in 2005 and didn’t really like it, plus I don’t repeat states… and yet… I think the race has improved a lot in 10+ years, and after cheering and volunteering for so many years, and running so many other marathons, I kinda want to run NYC again.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

So, I set out to qualify through New York Road Runner’s 9+1 program this year.  That means you have to run 9 “qualifying” races and volunteer once – “qualifying” doesn’t mean you have to run fast or even run long (e.g., the 5th Avenue Mile is a qualifying race), it just means that you run the races NYRR has deemed worthy (cough more expensive cough cough).

 

I thought running 9 local races would be no problem, until I realized it’s mid-March and I’ve only run 1 so far, and I’m traveling so much for my marathons that a ton of races are conflicted out.  So, I went on a panicked registering binge this afternoon and now I’m registered for 7 more NYRR races, meaning I only need to register for (and run) one more race and I’ll be good (my volunteer requirement will be fulfilled this weekend at the NYC Half).

 

This little registration binge actually cost quite a bit.  Most of the races were $23, but some were more (like the Dash to the Finish which is $40).  So the total for the 8 races I’ve registered for this year is $249, plus I paid $40 for membership (also required to qualify).  And I still need to register and run at least one other race (assuming I don’t miss any other race and have to do a makeup).  Ugh, that’s a lot of money for short races, but at least I’ll get a lot of free bagels, tshirts, and apples…?

 

So now my upcoming race schedule looks like this:

 

 

Open-mouthed shocked emoji face, that’s a lot of races!

 

Oh, and I forgot to mention I’m doing my first double-race day on April 2nd, because I was already registered for the NYRR Scotland 10K Run but I also wanted to do the first Run & Chug 10K (don’t worry, Mom, it does not require actual chugging).  A lot of firsts this year!  Godspeed my cartilage, I hardly knew ye.

 

What races do you have coming up?  Have you ever run multiple races in the same day?  How much are you willing to spend on a race?  Share in the comments!

Little Rock Marathon Recap – Sunshiny Day – March 6, 2016

The starting line of the Little Rock Marathon 2016!

The starting line of the Little Rock Marathon 2016!

 

How appropriate that the theme for this year’s Little Rock Marathon was “Game On,” because I really lucked out on doing Little Rock this year compared to years past.  The weather was great, the other runners seemed happy to be there, I exceeded my pace and overall feeling expectations, and I even got to meet Bart Yasso.  Pretty sweet!

 

I flew into Little Rock on the Friday before the race, giving me plenty of time to hop onto the free hotel shuttle, check in, eat my chocolate chip cookie (thanks, Doubletree!), and stroll the expo.  The expo was one of the better ones – a good amount of stuff to buy, a few good & random giveaways (4 free 60 watt lightbulbs!?!), a free beer, and not too crowded (Friday was better than Saturday, but even Saturday was manageable).

The Expo!

The Expo!  Not as blurry in real life… (unless you drank several of the free beers…)

After the expo, I went to Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill (located right next to the finish line) for some fish tacos and a banana split (pretty tasty, would recommend).  After lunch I strolled down to River Market with the intention of buying some water and snacks for my hotel room.  Turns out River Market is a food court, not a “market,” but I did visit Kilwins chocolate shop nearby, because of course I did (the dark pecan turtles were excellent).

The next morning I put on my most colorful outfit and headed out for the 5K (left my room about 20 minutes before the race start, which was more than enough time to walk there). We lucked out on beautiful weather and the course was ok (not much to say about a 3-mile course), but there were a ton of people who did not line up properly in their corrals.  Now, I have absolutely nothing against walkers – I’m no speed demon myself, and I love races that are open to all paces.  But if you’re going to walk the entire race, especially if you’re going to walk 3 or 4 abreast, you should start at the absolute back!  I lined up properly according to my pace and corral, and yet I was behind 1,000s of walkers.  It took me literally 2 of the 3 miles to finally run next to people going my pace.  If you’re slow but want to feel like the fastest runner ever, start in your proper corral at the Little Rock 5K, because you’ll be passing people almost the entire time, even if you run an 11:30 pace like I did.  (Note this was the first year they did the “challenge” where you get an extra medal if you run both the 5K or 10K the day before and the half or full marathon the day after.)

 

So, the congestion was super frustrating, but luckily it was a short race and there was a hefty medal waiting for me at the end.

Definitely the largest medal I've ever gotten for the least amount of running!

Definitely the heaviest medal I’ve ever gotten for the least amount of running!

 

After the race I treated myself to a fancy breakfast at One Eleven at the Capital Hotel, then strolled the Old State House Museum (free admission, but no guns allowed).

Later that day I got pizza at Iriana’s (a little doughy, but not bad) and rested in my room before heading out again to meet Bart Yasso and hang out with some other Maniacs.  An unexpected treat!

 

The next morning I ate my now traditional Pop Tart and bagel breakfast before heading out of the hotel at about 6:15 so I could make the Marathon Maniac photo at 6:30.  The photo was at the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden, right next to the Convention Center and a couple blocks from the starting line.

So many Maniacs!

So many Maniacs!

 

The Marathon had the same starting line as the 5K, but the course was “reversed” – that is, we ran the other direction across the start, so you had to walk past the start line from the convention center to line up behind it.  The day was warm (started in 50s and got up to the low 70s) and very sunny, but I wasn’t complaining.  We really were lucky because the forecast called for 7-8 inches of rain in the days after the race.

 

I lined up at the front of my corral instead of exercising my usual tactic of being one of the last to start because I was nervous I’d be blocked by all the walkers again.  Luckily I had no problems on Sunday, perhaps because people who do longer distances have better race etiquette more race experience?  At any rate, the course starts by taking you over the river and back, then past the Clinton Museum complex, back around past downtown and up to the Capitol, then through a very nice (and shady!) neighborhood.  Then it dumps you onto a highway before it turns into an out-and-back along a very scenic sort of highway.

 

The big thing I noticed in this race was that most of the runners seemed really happy!  Maybe it was the beautiful sunshiny day, but I saw a lot of smiles even in the later miles – such a difference from the angry Philly runners!  Of course, it helped that I was surprisingly happy, too. I felt better than expected, finished much faster than expected, and overall enjoyed myself throughout the race, which I feel I haven’t done in a long time.

 

While there was almost no on-course entertainment, some of the police officers along the route played music through the loudspeakers on their cruisers by holding the mic up to their phones.  There also were a lot (relatively speaking) of runners around my pace, so as I ran the out-and-back there were plenty of people both in front of and behind me (so it wasn’t as depressing as Philly, either).  I also really appreciated that several stations had bananas (one stop had mini muffins and another had chips and donuts!).  However, I didn’t like that there weren’t enough water stops – I noticed there were about as many beer stops as water stops, and another woman said the same thing!  Especially for a hot and sunny day like it was, I thought there would be more water stops, but I just made sure to drink more at each stop and I was ok.

 

Considering they do a theme every year, there weren’t as many costumed runners as I expected.  Funniest thing I overheard re: my costume:

 

Domino at CapitolMale spectator:  Nice kitty costume!  Meee-owwww!

Me: (laughs, keeps running)

Female spectator (laughing):  She’s not a cat.

Male spectator:  She’s not?  What is she?

Female spectator:  A domino!

Male spectator:  Oh…  Oh…

(and yes, I was running so slowly I was able to hear their entire stationary exchange)

 

The worst part of this race was the food (or lack thereof) at the end.  I don’t know if they never had food or if the half marathoners ate it all, but when I got there (with a 5:30 finish for an 8 hour race, mind you) there was plain rice, plain pretzels, plain chips, plain milk, and water.  It was just so sad.

This was all there was if you finished in 5:30.  And is the themed water really necessary?

This was all there was if you finished in 5:30. And is the themed water really necessary?

 

I had paid $25 for the Perks Pavilion so I headed there to see if I could get food and/or a massage.  They definitely had a large selection of food there – fruit, cold pizza, beer (Michelobe Ultra), make-your-own sandwiches, build-your-own chicken tacos, nachos, bagels, muffins, brownies –  but none of it tasted very good.  I ate and chatted with some other runners, saw the long line for massages, and went back to my hotel room to shower and relax.  For me, it definitely wasn’t worth it – the room was located at the far end of the expo center, so I didn’t go there before the race, and the food was so yucky after the race I could have gotten something much better for $25 from a restaurant.

 

The next day my flight wasn’t until the late afternoon, so I strolled the town again, visited the Historic Arkansas Museum (free admission to the exhibits, $2.50 if you want a guided tour of the historical houses, which I would have loved but I didn’t have enough time – I’d highly recommend checking out at least the inside exhibits), and had another great meal at the Capital Hotel (pictured above with breakfast).  All-in-all, a very pleasant, food-filled, sun-filled visit to Little Rock!

Thinking of running the Little Rock Marathon?

 

All the medals!

All the medals!

There were runners representing all 50 states at this years race, with tons of Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters, and Bart Yasso announcing.  For this, the 14th annual race in 2016, there were 2317 finishers in the 5K/10K on Saturday and 5533 finishers in the half/full on Sunday, and more female runners in every race across the board!

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time of about 5 1/2 hours.  Your experience may vary.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – Little Rock is quite walkable and it’s very easy to do the race weekend without a car.  The expo (at the Statehouse Convention Center) and three hotels (the Little Rock Marriott, the Capital Hotel, and the Doubletree, where I stayed) are all within 2 blocks of each other, three other hotels are also very nearby (Residence Inn, Hampton Inn, and Homewood Suites) and the start/finish lines are a few blocks from the various hotels.  There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance but no drugstore and very limited grocery stores.  The Doubletree offers a free shuttle to/from the airport, and I overheard they offer driving guests short distances if you need to get to a drugstore or something.
  • Staying There – 7/10 –  The Doubletree was fine – it seemed clean, had decent rooms, provided 2 free bottles of water each day in the room (but had no mini-fridge), and had a pleasant staff, but the elevators were having issues all weekend and the walls were pretty thin (I had to use earplugs one night and I could still hear the loudmouth who decided to shout stuff at 1 am).  I don’t know if the Marriott would have been better, but it was a little more than $100 more expensive, and I was ultimately fine with the Doubletree.  Total with taxes and fees for three nights was $488, but it included the free airport shuttle (and a cookie!).
  • Cost & Registration – 7/10 – I paid $144 for both the 5K and the full marathon (with processing fees), which included the $25 for the relatively worthless “Perks Pavilion.”  You get a short-sleeved technical t-shirt and a large medal for each race, plus a bonus medal if you run two of the races over the two days.  The food at the finish was pathetic.
  • Organization – 7/10 – Pre-race communication was fine, the expo was well-done, and course support was fine but they definitely needed more water stops for such a hot and sunny day.  There were a good number of porta potties along the course (at every water stop) and while I saw a few lines at the early stops I didn’t notice huge lines like at some races.  Also, you can wait for the start inside the convention center and you get your finisher food inside the convention center, too, so you have access to real bathrooms and weather protection for before and after the race.
  • Course – 6.5/10 – You start in downtown, run over the river and back, past the Clinton Presidential Library, up to the Capitol, then through a very pretty shaded neighborhood, before getting dumped onto a highway and then run a long out-and-back along a relatively scenic highway next to a golf course, before re-entering and finishing in downtown.  There are some hills (the grade reminded me of Central Park, but they were generally longer than the hills in Central Park).  Some of the roads were cambered, but it wasn’t terrible.  The course is closed to traffic and overall fairly pleasant, but does not offer much shade.
  • Crowd – 4/10 – Not a big crowd, but those I did see were pleasant.
  • Other Factors – 6/10 – Little Rock is charming and had pretty good food and several free museums!  If you’re a big Bill Clinton fan then you’d appreciate the Bill worship there.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – It was enjoyable!  I think the weather really makes or breaks this race, and the organizers still have some kinks to work out even after 14 years, and I wish the medal weren’t so ugly, but overall it’s a pretty decent race and good for slower folk like me.

 

22 down, 28 to go!  My next marathon is Garmin Oz in Kansas, five weeks from now!

 

[EDIT – I forgot to mention a couple of things in my original post – one is about the chain necklace you get at the finish that I mentioned in a comment below.  The other is that at about mile 26 they have volunteers handing out tubes of lipgloss (new ones that you get to keep – the germaphobe in me made sure of that!).  They also have hand mirrors so you can carefully apply your new shade before you cross the finish line.  I grabbed a dark pink gloss and put it on without a mirror while I was still running, but luckily you can’t tell if it’s smeared in the finish photos.  Anyway, that lipgloss is another bonus for makeup fans in this race!]

 

Have you ever been to Little Rock?  For my next marathon, should I pronounce “Kansas” as “Can-Saw” as in “Arkansas”?  Are you planning any coping strategies for Daylight Saving Time?  Share in the comments!