Today, I spectated at the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon. (The one I pulled out of because I didn't think I'd be ready.)
So M ran it. There were a few quibbles that made me question the universe's goodness and this race in particular.
First, early packet pickup was $10 extra, and they chose a venue in Arlington, in a busy area with very limited parking during rush hour. It meant that we had to work our way through horrible stop and go traffic (a 20 minute trip became 1 hour!) and after circling the block for 20 minutes, we let M go in. I was pissed. (For other reasons, too.) but seriously, folks. Because of the poor choice of location and timing, I couldn't go into the store and look at toys. M's packet pickup became a mad dash. (And I think stores, in agreeing to do packet pickups, hope to get some impulse buys from racers, which can't happen when your racers are dashing in and out). Plenty of others double parked. I may or may not have participated in one road rage-y fight over a parking spot which I lost. And the race had said that the packet people would be getting special store discounts... But the location and timing made it nearly impossible to take advantage of that.
My advice? Longer pickup hours, maybe a different store, and scope it out in advance so you can suggest racers consider metro. Really- write on the directions that parking is limited and metro is suggested. Problem solved.
(Priest note: M May or may not have suggested that on days when I have to spend a lot of energy turning down "regular" grifters at work, I come home very short and snappy. I hear that complaint and I note that he came home with a whole pack of Oreos, soy ice cream, and three chocolate bars, which found its way into a bowl in front of me.)
Arriving at the race was also challenging. I realized that M and I are very different in our race prep. I obsessively read race info, pack my bag the night before, lay out exactly the right outfit, agonize over my warm ups, set up my race number belt, set the alarm clock, and depart within 20 minutes of waking up. He picked out a pile of clothes the night before. Upon waking, he decided between two outfits, made coffee, showered, put on his Chacos, picked out a sweatshirt, packed his bag, picked out food...
Meanwhile, I am internally FREAKING OUT! IT WAS 530 AND WE NEEDED TO BE GONE, ON THE ROAD, BYE BYE!!! I would have been on the road by ten after! He is so laid back and I am so tightly wound on race day... It worries me a bit for Nations!
It was certainly a popular race. As we neared the venue, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. Our comfortable arrival window, having shrunk already thanks to M's leisurely morning prep (seriously, dude, you are running an effin race!! Why aren't you freaked out?!?), was growing ever smaller.
The parking lot we were assigned to filled up, so as we inched towards another one, M opted to... Put his race number on his belt, finalize his food choices, put on his shoes, and take off his sweater, and go off to line up. (No, none of that causes me racer stress, why do you ask? AM I THE ONLY ONE FREAKING MADLY OUT?). I continued to inch along, behind no fewer than THREE official shuttles buses. When I finally bounced over all the bumpy field and pulled into a parking spot, it was 6:59! (Gun at 7.) With such a huge traffic jam, I had hoped that the race would be delayed. But I was sure glad M had hopped out. I jumped out, grabbed my runner spirit sign, and RAN for the line! I made it just as gun went off, and tried desperately to make it up to the 2:15 group, where I guessed M would be.
(Meanwhile, race fans, M had made a successful bathroom stop and had just enough time to line up with the 2:30s).
I have to say, I was a little shocked (and stressed!) that the race started on time when there was such a huge traffic jam that was beyond the control of runners. I understand it's our job to get there in time... But really, when three of your own shuttle buses are also late, I would have delayed the start by 15 minutes. There were runners sprinting from the portapotties and from the parking lot.
Thankfully, I did see M just in time to unveil Sign Number 1. Then I knew I'd have a few hours. So I went back to the car, got the rest of my stuff, changed my shoes to sturdier ones, walked around the not yet open expo, used the portaloo, refilled my water bottle, looked at the scenery, contemplated life... You know, like ya do.
The first runners came in starting around 1:15. As a spectator it is very exciting to see the winners... At least, I think so! The announcer made a few jokes about the spectators wrapped up in their smart phones, and it was so true! No one cheered for the Elliptigo pacers who were hilarious (did they really do 13.1 on those things?), and the winner came into a pretty quiet reception. Worse yet, two guys sitting near me sporting the physique of seedy college frat boys decided they were "hilariously" going to make fun of the top finishers' forms. (Which were stellar.). That sort thing is just major rude. They went to sit elsewhere, but I left for a different part of the spectator area as well so I wouldn't have to listen to or watch them. But the rest of the spectators were pretty nice, especially once the Corocoran winery team showed up with cowbells. Every race needs more cowbells. It took the finish line from a golf tournament sort of polite cheers into an actual cheering throng.
I walked out to the course with sign #2 until I saw M. He was hurting a bit- cramped hamstrings, maybe a pulled muscle. But still hanging in there, right on schedule. He'd run out of the 2:15 group and was solidly in the 2:10s. Later on, another person who finished near him seemed surprised she'd finished so well- she was insisting it had to be a 2:15, 2:16 finish. Except I had watched, and it took the 2:15 people more than three minutes to cross the first timing pad. Chip time and gun time are very different!
The race won me over, after that rough start, with the stellar weather, great venue, and after race yoga. Racers and spectators alike were in great spirits. And even though the race was at a winery, it was not a drinky-drink sort of event. The tasting garden was really controlled, and not the largest part of the event at all, and it seemed like people were there to socialize and relax. So if you aren't a drinker, you'd still have fun at this event.
Overall, M had a 2:10:30- pretty good for a first time race! He's already making plans for how to train to drop to a sub-2! (Which I think he can do, no problem. He was running through cramps and just a week off a big bug.).
I talked to the Newtons shoe guy (remember, I'm in the shoe market), and decided to go shoe shopping this afternoon. Potomac River Running, like Eugene Running Company, ended up fitting me into a pair of Brooks Pure Flows(!). But I went off to Tri360 to try their brands, and fell in love with a springy shoe from On. This is a new company to me, but they have this open sole springy technology, so it's a super lightweight shoe with the minimalist feel, but still plenty of padding and cushy-ness thanks to the sproings built into the shoes. The tri 360 owner and I think they'll be a good fit for all the concrete around here... I am still interested in the Brooks, but in Eugene, I split my time between trails and road. Here, it's all road, and I want to protect my knees! So I'll be running this summer in On Clouds.
Newtons seem OK... But really, I just couldn't bring myself to pay that premium price tag. Seriously, I coulod make an extra student loan or car payment for that amount!