Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Vegas Half Marathon

Vive Las Vegas!!
Only in Vegas can you...
(1) watch 2 runners lose $2K at the roulette table before the race start (I hope they at least got a good time!)
(2) stop at a water station that smeels oddly of urine
(3) watch a wedding, and be able to congratulate several pairs of runners with "just married" signs on their backs
(4) watch a woman get chased down and handcuffed right in the middle of the race course
(5) run a little harder just to avoid getting high-fived by a lady stumbling through the course the wrong way reeking of alcohol (at 8AM, mind you)
(6) take a break and watch the Blue Man Group perform mid-race
(7) run alongside Elvis for 13.1 miles....

The Vegas Marathon is definitely an experience, however a few comments...
  • The course was very fast and flat with only 1 fairly insignificant incline around mile 6 or 7 (half marathon course just after the split from the full marathon)
  • Running the strip is interesting, but once you get past the Stratosphere, the rest of the course is very boring (at least the half, I can't speak for the full marathon route), weaving somewhat through local Vegas and then a very dead strip of pawn shops, bail bonds, gentleman's clubs, massage parlors, etc...
  • There was almost no organization at the start line. There were indicators for those looking to do a sub-3 hour or sub-4 hour marathon, but nothing after that, and with the large amount of people, there were walkers up front, 10 min/milers in the back.. just very mixed up
  • The Blue Man group was performing at about mile 2.5 and it was great to have them there, but a note to race organizers would be to set up some type of viewing coral for those who wish to stop and watch. People were just stopping and standing in the middle of the course.. even spectators were jumping in with their cameras to get a better view.
  • With only one exception, the water stations were all fully stocked. The one exception was around mile 9 where they ran out of power gels. Although, I couple of stations we had to pour our own since there weren't enough volunteers.
  • The half marathon and marathon split off around mile 6, and then rejoined around the half marathon mile 11 and the marathon mile 24. Well, needless to say, but the faster marathoners (the sub 3 hour group) were not pleased to be merged in with us slower half marathoners.. there was a lot of yelling, and I can see their frustration, however there was no direction for separation of the course -- at the finish line, half marathoners were directed to the left and full marathoners to the right (which is how we were when the merge started), but for the final 2.5 miles, runners were darting everywhere and running people down. A suggestion to the race organizers would be to put up some cones or signs so that the halfers know to stay to the left and the full marathoners to the right.
  • Interesting note is that this if the first race I've done when there was not one vehicle who seemed to care that the roads were closed. One car pulled over and asked an officer how he could get somewhere, and was very polite about it. Perhaps this was because most of the traffic there are shuttle busses and taxis.. and there didn't seem to be a lot of car ownership in the neighborhoods we went through.
  • Not many spectators at all, especially when we left the strip (which only accounted for the first 4.5 miles), although one fire department came out to cheer as we went past the station.
  • Nice finish line with lots of snacks and goodies.. even better if you stay at Mandalay Bay or Luxor and have just a short walk to your shower!

Overall, while it didn't get placed on my top 5 race list, it was definitely an experience and you do get some great discounts (i.e. half price tickets to Circue Du Soleil).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Portland Marathon

Dad, Heidi and I arrived in Portland on Thursday to a weather report calling for cold (50's) and rainy for the rest of the week. We spend the couple days before the race checking out the city, driving to the coast, taking a brunch cruise on the Columbia Gorge... and stocking up on warmer clothing the race expo!! Race day arrived sunny and beautiful though, in the 60's -- excellent!!

The first few miles had a couple hills, but nothing too terrible.. the problem here was there were a lot of people who did not line up properly in the starting corral and were walking 5-6 across, so you really had to work hard to get around them, which zapped a lot of energy.. Otherwise though, the race support, spectators and fellow marathoners were fantastic, and I engaged in several conversations with quite a few interesting people that really made the time go by. I maintained my 3/1 intervals for the entire first half of the marathon, which I was really proud of! I then switched to 2/1's but sadly ended up walking more than I'd wanted that second half.

The view from the top of the St. John's bridge was the reward for the only real significant climb around mile 17.. after that it was smooth sailing (and slightly downhill). With an 8 hour time limit, they were well prepared and there was no shortage at any of the aid stations.. although only one stop for gummy bears and no other food stations :(

About 10 minutes after we got back to the bungalow we were renting and spent a little time in the hot tub, it started POURING -- couldn't have asked for better timing on that!

This was my first marathon, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I thought it was a great race, well organized and terrific support -- and Portland is a fantastic city with tons to do. I would definitely recommend this race!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Annapolis Triathlon

The shennanigans of this race started a few days earlier when the race directors sent the following note - keep in mind that triathlon rules dictate that wetsuits are not allowed when the water is 78+ degrees:

*** Remember, if you miss your wave start time, the clock is running. Due to the absence of rain this summer, there is the potential for jellyfish or sea nettles during the swim. Take precautions to limit your exposure. Your wetsuit will help, and there are sun screens which provide some protection. The water temp is expected to be close to the USAT wetsuit cutoff of 78F and we will further advise as we get closed to race day. Bring your wetsuits!!

Um, say what???? Thankfully, Joann was able to track down some jellyfish repellant at some scuba dive shop, and Jon located a sea nettle forecast for the chesapeake bay indicating that I had only a 10% chance of running into one.. even with these two facts, I was still quite relieved on race morning when it was announced that the water temp was 77.2 degrees!

After watching members of the Navy band play the national anthem (dressed in their wetsuits, mind you), it didn't take too long until it was time to line up with my wave. I tried to preview the course, but the last buoy was out of sight. Finally, we jumped in and were off. The swim started out as most open water swim starts do, with people grabbing your legs, kicking you, swimming up your back.. the only difference in this race was that we never really spread out like normal, so the trampling continued for the better part of the swim. But all in all, the swim was nice, the water was warm, and it wasn't until the end that I started to see little swimming things in the water.. I did the 1.5K in 36:17 which I'm pleased with.

It became very apparent that the transition is where I really need to put some focus - I spent about 5 minutes in T1 taking off my wetsuit, putting on my bike shoes, drinking some fluids, etc, etc.. This is an average time for me, but I really wouldn't mind shaving off at least a minute of that.. something to think about for next year....

Out on the bike, I felt good.. this was a great course, with mostly rolling hills, 2 significant downhills (one that led right into a 90 degree left turn which made things interesting), and 1 tough climb right in the middle that separated the men from the boys - as you think you're approaching the top, you go around a bend and realize you're only halfway up! ouch. But, after my experience in mountainous Columbia, MD, I'll take it! Coming into the stadium parking lot, I saw - and heard - Joann, Ingrid, Jon & Marc... definitely helped getting up that last incline into T2! I finished the bike in 1:39:07, which was about what I'd expected considering my training lately has been much more run focused and not so much on the bike..

I spent 3 minutes in T2 before heading out on the run.. again, my focus has been on marathon training, not 10K runs, and so my run became another training run instead of a race pace.. which I'm fine with considering the marathon is 4 weeks away. About 20 yards into the run, I found a running buddy and we decided to pace each other, so it was nice having someone to chat with.. the way the course was set up, it allowed my cheer squad to stay in one area and see me multiple times, which was great. my one complaint is that there were no mile markers anywhere on the course.. of course, it was a nice surprise when we go to a water stop hoping we'd gone about a mile, and the lady told us we were at mile 2.5 - yippee!! 1:32:42 total, and consistent with my marathon training pace - next year, I'll focus on speed...

Overall, this was a great race and I'm glad I did it - and again, SO COOL having friends and family there!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Columbia Triathlon

My alarm goes off at 5:00 AM Sunday morning... race day. I drink about a half gallon of water and eat my peanut butter & jelly sandwich and head over to Centennial Park. Body marking and transition set up goes smoothly (after all, how can you mess *that* up?!), and I meet up with Deb and Sarah around 6:30 with about an hour and a half to kill before my start time. They get me zipped up in my wetsuit (which normally is no big deal, but this zipper was being stubborn), visit the TriCats tent, and watch the earlier waves go.. by this time it's raining.. great, nothing better than a slick bike course, not to mention the torture of the hills that is the Columbia bike course!

Finally, 8:00 rolls around and before I know it, it's time to jump in the water. People say the water temp was cold, but I really didn't notice.. the countdown begins, and I'm off... the first orange buoy looks about 2 miles away, so I stop looking up, and just make sure I've got people on my right and my left, so I'm not going off course. I actually felt really good with the swim.. that orange buoy came up much faster than I thought... in fact, my swim time of 32:58 was about 7 minutes faster than I'd expected. I was quite pleased with the swim.

It took me just under 6 minutes in the transition, and then was off on the dreaded bike. I've been having such trouble with my chain in the past few weeks, that I didn't know what to expect. I'd done the course twice already, so I knew exactly where the big hills were (well, that's easy- they were every half mile or so!). About 6 miles in, my chain fell off.. I just knew this was a sign of trouble, and did not want to spend the entire 25 miles stopping and adjusting my bike. I stopped, and spent about 5 minutes trying to get the chain unstuck and back on... then, I spent the next 5 minutes trying to get it jammed in there even more so that the race officials would tell me that it was un-ridable, and I'd have to drop out. 10 minutes later, the bike people finally drove by, and THEY WOULDN'T LET ME QUIT!!! Seriously- I tried.. hard.. to convince them my bike just couldn't handle the course, but they refused to let me stop. He fixed the chain, and off I was again... ugh.

About 2 miles up the road, the chain fell off again, as I expected it would. This time, there was a volunteer nearby, and I tried to convince him that I was done... he refused to listen, however he did tell me that my brake was rubbing against my front tire. So, basically, I'd done the first 3 tough hills with my brakes partially on... of course, he fixed that too and made me keep going......

By this point, I thought I was dead last, since during my time trying to talk my way out of continuing, I had watched so many people go by (besides, there were only 2 swim waves after me, so how could anyone be left?). I got on my bike and continued on though, quite mad at these race officials who wouldn't drive me back to the transition area. Actually though, that was the last time my chain came off, though I faked it once just to have an excuse to stop for a brief rest... did I mention this course is killer?? :-) Turns out, I wasn't the last person... I caught up with 2 others and managed to keep pace with them. I planned 2:15:00 for the bike and finished in 2:12:28... and if you consider all the time I spent off the bike with the volunteers, I probably could've done it in under 2 hours..

I had a fairly quick 2:47 transition and was off on the run. There were a few other stragglers around me, however the course was not marked, and without the huge masses of people in front of us, we just could not figure out which way to go. At one split in the path, we started going one way until another runner coming towards us told us it was the wrong way (she'd already gone about half mile out of her way). At another turn, I was by myself and tokd a 50/50 guess about which way to go.. for awhile, I didn't see anybody and thought that maybe I'd made the wrong decision.. I decided I didn't care and would just make my way over to the finish any way I could, thus cutting off about 3 miles. No such luck though.. I had indeed chosen the correct path as I came up to the mile 2 marker... then the hills began. Who'd have known the Columbia, MD area was so mountainous! The run course was just as hard as the bike course, but I finally started catching up to some other stragglers and walkers. I saw a girl in front of me with a 31 on her calf and figured if I could just get in front of her, I wouldn't be the last in my age group... so I over took her around mile 4.. I walked the uphills, ran the downhills and just could not wait to be done.

At the last quarter mile, I saw Deb and Sarah.. Deb joined my run and pushed me through the finish, with a total time of 4:31:43... phew. My dad, Jeremy, Kristen and Jayce also met me at the finish, as well as a couple from my triathlon club who waited it out for me. They even had strawberries for me! It was definitely the hardest triathlon I'd ever done, and I am determined to master that bike course by next year! although... I'm still mad about those #*&% race officials who wouldn't let me quit!!