Monday, October 29, 2012

Running for Two: Halloween Half Marathon, a Review

Last Saturday, I dragged my pregnant rear-end out of bed well before the crack o dawn, and made the hour and a half drive to Provo to run the Halloween Half Marathon. After spending weeks of training , and literally minutes preparing my "costume," I was pumped and read to go! This was to be my second time running this race. I loved the course, the first time. Lots of sweet down hill miles!

I must mention, that I've "run" around the block a time or two. I've run 6 full marathons (one just two weeks ago in St. George) and dozens (I don't even know for sure how many) half marathons. Been there. Done that.

My first chagrin about this race was the cost. $80!!! EIGHTY BUCKS?! Yeah, I know we Utah Mormons are cheap, but come on! This is literally the most I have ever paid in my life to run a half marathon. But, I guess the jokes on me because, yeah, I did knowingly pay $80 for this race. But for that price, there's going to be some serious swag on race day, right?!


My swag bag from the race packet had my shirt ($80 is kind of a lot even for a tech shirt, which, by the way, is too small) and my bib.  And some coupons.  That’s it.

Ok first. My girlfriends from the gym (both have only run one other half marathon) and I showed up at University Mall parking lot, ready to get directed to which bus we needed to board. The bus boarding area was a giant debacle. Chaos. There were haphazard lines everywhere. We stood in line (4 times) to get on a bus, only to be told it was full, and had to go find a new line. We finally shoved some doe-eyed superheroes out of the front of the 5th line and hopped on a bus. I did not see a single volunteer helping runners find the right bus.

Eventually, we made it to the start line.  Well, almost.  The bus driver stopped about a quarter mile away, and told us all we had to get off and walk.  We had to trudge up an icy, steep hill to find the tent at the start line.  And then we waited.  And waited, and waited.  And waited some more.  I was hitting all sorts of PR’s for this race! (most money spent, most time waiting at the start line before the race).  Again at start line, I saw zero volunteers offering information about where to drop our bags (I eventually figured that out on my own ), when each wave (there were three) would start, etc.  There was no music playing, no funny MC making jokes over the loud speaker, no water or drinks to keep runners hydrated before the race (this stuff is pretty customary at a race start).  Just 2 ½ half hours of standing, sitting, FREEZING, and waiting. 

 Finally, at 9:20 am (a mere 5 hours after I left my driveway that morning), my wave of the race started.  With numb toes, and cold, tight muscles, I began my run, weaving in and out of crowds as I made my way down the canyon.  About 2 miles in, just as I was getting my rhythm, enjoying the steep slope (I love me some downhill running!), we approached the highway.  And the road flattened out.  I was taken back, remembering the last time I ran this race, I had at least 6 or 7 miles of that nice steep downhill terrain.  And then I remembered that they had changed the course at the last minutes because of snow.  Oh well, I’m sure they’ve gotten it figured out.  I kept going. 

Let me tell you one thing about running for two.  You need to hydrate.  A lot.  And you get hungry.  A lot!  Typical races, especially half and full marathons have aid stations every two miles or so.  And usually every other aid station has extra goodies, like GU, Clif bars, First aid volunteers, fresh fruit, etc in addition to water and Gatorade.  I didn’t see an aid station until mile 4.  Even though it was 30 degrees, I was parched.  I drank two glasses (filled all the way up about 1/8 of an inch) of water and one of Gatorade, thinking, next aid station, I’ll have a little snack with a drink.

At mile 6, right after a water stop (yep, nothing but water and Gatorade—luckily I had my GU chomps in my pocket and at least got the 15 calories from that), we turned up what looked to be an ugly mother of an uphill slope.  That sucks, right?  Well, yeah, I can take a little uphill.  I don’t like it but I can do it.  BUT…..add “running” uphill to watching everyone who is already however many miles ahead of you running downhill on the opposite side of the road….pure torture!  RULE #1 of race planning.  NEVER, ever, ever, ever, have your runners run down and back on the same road.  It is completely demoralizing for the runners.  I can’t tell you how many times I considered cheating, and just hopping across the street and skipping the uphill part (I actually talked to one girl who did do that), but I didn’t.  I kept going, getting more and more annoyed at being able to see all the people ahead of me.  Once I finally hit the turn around spot about a mile or so up the hill, my attitude changed a little.  It feels good to be the one ahead, but I felt bad for all the people trudging up the hill, looking pissed off.

The second half of the course wasn’t so bad.  We made our way onto the Provo River trail, which I love.  It’s beautiful.  And the fall colors made it absolutely picturesque.  About mile 9 I thought about stopping to take a pic with my phone, but I was feeling good, and again, running for two, you never know when something is going to start hurting, so I had to take advantage and keep running. 

Now, I didn’t count the aid stations, but I’m pretty sure there were only 4. Maybe 5.  With only water and Gatorade.  No extra goodies.  I’m pretty sure I was only running as fast as I did, because I was starving and sprinting to forage for food.

Finally, 2 hours and 16 minutes from the start, I crossed the finish line.  I was looking forward to some goodies to eat at the finish.  (Baby’s gotta eat!!)  I got my medal (must be plated in gold or something for $80),  a warm (yuck) water bottle, and the table at the end had boxes of oranges and bananas.  The oranges were whole, unpeeled, uncut.  After running 13.1 miles, in 30 degrees, they expected their participants to peel their own oranges with frozen fingers.  Ok, maybe I’m a little entitled, but seriously, grab some volunteers and a knife and quarter those babies!  I did not see any volunteers at the food tables at the finish.  Total volunteer tally for the race: zero.

 At the end, I was glad I ran.  It was pretty.  But I could’ve just driven myself up the canyon, thrown on my tutu, and run down by myself for free.  And, I still sit here, trying to figure out where my $80 went to.  Minimal swag, minimal support.  I was disappointed.  For future reference, dear Halloween half race directors, get some sponsors, and some volunteers, and stop being so greedy and use the money to support your runners!

The end.


susette said...

Oh Sherrie, you should totally do the Haunted Half next year. I did this race last weekend, the 20th and had a blast. It was only 45 dollars and it would be closer to you since it's in Salt Lake. You can read about my experience on the old blog if you're interested. It seriously was one of the top 5 of my favorite races this year. I just keep hearing so many bad stories about the Provo Halloween Half and will probably never run it. I don't mind driving a little further for a good race to Salt Lake :)

I actually parked at the mouth of the canyon and walked the opposite direction just to see a lot of costumes. I possibly could have seen you because after awhile being out there I saw the 2:10 and then the 2:20 pacer pass by. If I would have known you were there I would have tried to find you. Despite all the challenges with this race you still did a fabulous job!!

Sherrie Shepherd said...

Thanks Susette! My friend did that race last week and loved it! I've already decided I'm doing that one next year instead.

Suzie said...

Okay - you're PREGNANT? How did I miss this?! I am SO happy for we REALLY have to get together. Hope you're feeling well.


Mikki said...

Ok, number 1: You're pregnant? I totally missed that as well. I know I don't read blogs much anymore but I do see you post on facebook occasionally, but I don't remember you mentioning it. Of course my memory sucks so, who probably mentioned it and I probably congratulated you and then forgot. :)
#2--you're a rockstar! I don't even walk for one, and you're out there running for two. You amaze me. I need to get my butt moving.
#3---this half sounds like a nightmare. I'd be complaining to somebody.