Race Report – 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

The 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll (SJRnR) Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 6 October 2013. This was my fifth time running this race. Once again, I signed up for the 2014 event when I was at the expo on Friday.

Last year I was concerned about the lack of communication from the race organizers because the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) race organizers were sending out a lot of emails. This year, it’s exactly the reverse. The communication from the race organizers has been excellent, and the SJRnR Facebook site has been a good resource, too. Meanwhile, the dearth of communication from the NWM organizers is quite worrisome to me and to other runners.

2013 RnRSJ Finisher's Medal and T-shirt

2013 RnRSJ Finisher’s Medal and T-shirt

Expo and Race Swag

Packet pick-up was smooth and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. I know that they require an ID when you pick up your packet. However, it was still nice to have the volunteer tell me that she needed to see my ID because she didn’t believe the age that was printed on my bib.

They didn’t have unisex t-shirts this year so I ended up with a women’s t-shirt. I like the men’s t-shirts because they’re baggy. When I signed up for the 2014 event, I selected a men’s t-shirt. The women’s t-shirts were grey so it will be easy to match next year. I always try to wear the last year’s t-shirt to the current year’s race and, although I love navy blue (the color of last year’s shirt), it was hard to find something to go with it.

Other than the t-shirt, there was no race swag besides the little drawstring backpack. I like the drawstring backpacks because I use them when I travel.

The expo was about the same size as last year. The RnR staff working the RnR “booth” seemed distracted and disinterested. I signed up for the 2014 event and then had to find a volunteer to request my t-shirt. I ended up buying more headbands and some aloe cream, which was expensive so I hope it will be worth it.

Gear Check

The gear check area was organized and neat. As in previous years, I didn’t use the gear check because my hotel was very close to both the start and the finish line. I really like loop courses!

Race Start

The race organizers implemented a wave start this year. I saw some comments on the Facebook page about people hating the wave start. I’m generally ambivalent about wave starts because I’m slow. Although I got very antsy when my corral didn’t move for a long time, I appreciated it in the end because I was able to make a last-minute port-o-let stop, which meant that I didn’t need to make any stops on the course.

Whoever they got to sing the national anthem this year was atrocious. She was so focused on trying to sound nice that she screwed up the words, sang off-key, and was just generally horrible. Again, people have no manners when it comes to the national anthem – people didn’t remove their hats and people continued talking during the entire national anthem. No matter how horribly it is sung, people still ought to have respect for it.

Race Course, Entertainment, and Volunteers

The course hasn’t changed in the past few years. It’s mostly flat with three or four small hills to keep things interesting. I know that the race organizers added the “mini-marathon” last year to increase participation and registration but they really add to the congestion in the early miles.

I had my headphones this year so the bands weren’t as important as they were last year. This year, the music was upbeat, which was good. The cheer teams were enthusiastic and loud. It was great watching them high-five runners and wave their signs, trying to cool the runners off as they passed by.

The volunteers at the water stations and along the way were great. I wish someone could tell them how helpful it is to have someone clapping and cheering for you along the course, especially in the middle miles. Because they really are. When you hear a random stranger tell you that you’re doing great, just when you’re wondering what you’re doing out there, it’s very helpful.

In addition to the volunteers, the residents who came out to watch the race, who pulled out their boomboxes or their instruments, who turned on their water hoses and sprinklers also helped to keep the runners going. I saw a lot of funny signs – not that I can remember any of them now – along the way, too. I hope all the volunteers, cheer teams, bands, and spectators realize how much we appreciate them.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The 2013 medal is blah. It matches the shirt. It’s almost as if the race organizers ran out of inspiration when it came to San Jose. After all, what is San Jose known for that you could turn into a finisher’s medal? I hope they get a surge of creativity next year.

The energetic blonde lady wasn’t at the finish line again. The finish line seems anti-climatic without her.

After taking my finisher’s photo, I wandered around the loop collecting water, Gatorade, two containers of chocolate milk, a Power Bar, a Jamba Juice smoothie, a banana, and snap pea crisps. Not a lot of munchies this year but I suppose it was okay because I don’t know how I could have carried anymore. Maybe next year I’ll remember to tuck a little bag in my pocket.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP:  The organization of this event is truly flawless.

Thumbs DOWN: I absolutely hate having an event called the “mini marathon” as part of this race day, especially when the distance of that event is 5 miles. What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Thumbs UP: Getting the high school and middle school children to volunteer is great.

Thumbs DOWN: The water on the course tasted bad. Not at all of the aid stations, just at the first and second aid stations.

Thumbs UP: This event continues to grow and still maintain its high energy and great coordination.

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. In the meantime…

Happy running!

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Race Report – 2012 Peacock Acres Turkey Trot 5k

The 5th Annual Peacock Acres Turkey Trot 5k took place on Saturday, 24 November 2012. This was my first time running this race, but interestingly enough, not my first time running this course.

Check In/Registration and Race Swag

Check-in was straightforward and simple. The volunteers knew what they were doing even if some of the participants didn’t.

I had pre-registered my parents and myself, but I didn’t know my brother would be home for the race so I didn’t register him. His registration process was smooth and simple, as well. Again, the volunteers knew what they were doing.

Race Start

There was a young man dressed in a turkey costume and he was given a head start. The goal was to “catch” and overtake the turkey. The prize for the first person to beat the turkey to the finish line was – you guessed it! – a turkey. The race started on a downhill so at the starting gun, the field took off at a sprint after the turkey. Thank goodness they don’t have us run up that hill to finish!

Race Course

This trail course was very hilly and had areas of sandy soil instead of hard-packed soil. It’s a tough course on a normal day and even tougher on a hot day.

After I finished, I ran/walked back through the course to find my parents. They were a little on the slow side, and I finally found them almost at the halfway mark. My mom always wears too many layers so I ended up carrying two of her sweatshirts for her! The good thing is that they weren’t the last ones to finish. A lot of walkers were struggling with the hills, the sandy soil, and the heat.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

For a small event, the race organizers had a nice selection of munchies for before, during, and after the race. There was a best costume contest for the dogs – something to remember for next year!

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up: My entire family – including Rambo – was with me for this race.

Thumbs Down: No age group prizes – I doubt that I qualified for one but I’m pretty sure my brother did. It would have been sweet for him to get an age group prize for his very first 5k.

121124 Gilbert at the Turkey Trot 2

Thumbs Up: This was a dog-friendly race.

This is a tough little course. I would run this race again next year. I’m sure Rambo would enjoy the trail but I’m not sure if my parents will want to come along.

Happy Running!

Race Report – 2013 Run in the Name of Love 5k

The 3rd Annual Run in the Name of Love 5k took place on Sunday, 16 June 2013. This was my first time running this race. This was also the first year that this race partnered with the Big Sur International Marathon organization and I have to believe that it really benefited from that partnership.

Check In/Registration and Race Swag

Check in was straightforward and simple. The volunteers knew what they were doing even if some of the participants didn’t. There were plenty of port-a-potties and no lines, which is always a good thing.

The race t-shirts were royal blue long-sleeve cotton t-shirts, which is great for wearing around on the weekend. Race directors please take note – not all of your race participants want or expect a technical t-shirt for every race. Sometimes a nice cotton t-shirt to lounge around in or run weekend errands in is perfect. And there were bandanas for the dogs.

Race Start

Parents at the starting line ~ In the Name of Love Run/Walk 2013

Parents at the starting line ~ In the Name of Love Run/Walk 2013

The starting ceremony was a bit awkward because apparently, the official ceremony happened in the registration area. When race officials realized that all of the runners and most of the walkers were waiting at the start line, they hustled up and had a second starting ceremony. I didn’t appreciate the announcer’s snide remarks about music. After all, who named him the music expert of the day? But other than that, the National Anthem was stirring and well-sung and all participants were wished well before being sent on their way.

The runners started first and the walkers were given a separate start about 10 minutes later. From a runner’s perspective, this was great because I didn’t have to navigate through the walkers in the early part of the race. The course for walkers was also much shorter so most of them were finished by the time slower runners like myself crossed the finish line.

Race Course

The course ran through the southern part of Carmel-by-the-Sea and north along the road above the beach so there were beautiful views all along the way. The volunteers did a good job making sure that no runners went astray. The water station at the half-way point was organized, well-run, and at a good point in the race.

The finish line was a little bit congested. This wasn’t the fault of the race organizers, rather, it was due to walkers and the dogs congregating just after the finish line and just after the medals. A suggestion for next year might be to move the water tables a little further down the road from the finish line so that people will naturally keep going after they cross the finish line and get their medals.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The volunteers giving out the medals did a pretty good job of identifying the 5k runners and the 2k walkers. It still feels odd to me, though, to have to walk up to a volunteer and ask for my medal.

After crossing the finish line, participants and spectators move down the road and then are separated into two streams – participants and spectators. Only participants with bibs are allowed into a corral where they were given bags with munchies. The post-race goodies were pre-bagged, just like at the Big Sur Half-Marathon. I think that’s great because it ensures that everyone gets the same amount of stuff and there’s no hold-up while people pick up their food.

I thought the method to separate the participants and spectators was excellent, as well. I’ve been to enough races where spectators go to the goodie line and grab food and drinks even though they didn’t run or walk in the event at all. After participants picked up their munchie bags, they merged back in with the spectators down the road to the beach where there were tables and chairs set up for people to relax and wait for the auction and raffle. We didn’t stay for either as we had brunch plans.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up: My entire family – including Rambo – was with me for this race.

The Garcia family walkers ~ Mama, Rambo, and Papa

The Garcia family walkers ~ Mama, Rambo, and Papa

Thumbs Down: Nothing really stood out as a “thumbs down” for this race, just some things that could be tweaked for next year!

Thumbs Up: This was a dog-friendly race.

Thumbs Up: The organization and the volunteers were exactly what I’ve come to expect from Big Sur Marathon events. Keep up the good work!

I would definitely recommend this race to runners and walkers, especially if they have dogs. Happy running!

Race Report – 2012 Big Sur Half-Marathon

The 10th presentation of the Big Sur Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 18 November 2012. This is the tenth time I’ve run this race.

I talked to a friend who also ran this race and we both agreed – it was an off day for both of us. I had difficulty catching my breath and struggled to find a rhythm. Not sure why but I’m glad that I figured out early on in the race that it was going to be an off day for me so I reset my expectations and had a great time.

Expo and Race Swag

I usually pick up my race packet and go to the expo on Saturday but since my brother was here and running for his first time, we went on Friday afternoon. I realize that the people handing out the race bibs are volunteers but if they don’t want to be there, they shouldn’t be there. We waited about 5 minutes for the volunteer taking care of our two  ranges of numbers to come to his station, even though other volunteers had told him that he had a line. And when he finally did get around to taking care of us, he wasn’t the most pleasant person even though my brother and I were being as nice as could be. It was as if someone hit him with the grumpy stick when he woke up from his post-lunch nap.

I don’t usually buy anything at the Big Sur Half-Marathon expo just because it’s the last one of the year for me. By the time this event rolls around, I’ve already gotten everything I need at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon expo or online at Road Runner Sports. This time, though, I picked up a new running skirt and saved on the shipping and handling fee by buying it at the expo.

I’m not a fan of the Big Sur Half-Marathon’s virtual goody bag. It cheapens the whole experience for me. And it makes me a lot less likely to actually visit any of the vendors that had coupons in the virtual goody bag because I won’t bother to print out the coupons or flyers. I understand the whole point of the virtual goody bag but I don’t like it.

Race Start

As we were walking up to the corrals, the announcer asked if anyone could sing the National Anthem. Apparently, the singer that was supposed to be there didn’t make it. Someone in the crowd volunteered – I think she was a spectator and her son was running the half-marathon – and she was fantastic. I hope the race organizers got her contact information and ask her back next year because I have not heard such a pure and simple rendition of the National Anthem in a very long time. There were no trills, no runs, no vibrato, she didn’t sing in an octave that was beyond her control – she sang it simply and she sang it well.

The wave start was much, much better than last year.

The Big Sur Half-Marathon race bibs are personalized with the race registrant’s name – there is no option to have a phrase like, “In Honor of…” imprinted on the bib. Because race bibs – the selling of and the transferring of – have been on my mind a lot lately, I was looking at the race bibs in my corral. I noticed a guy wearing a race bib with the name Jennifer. He very definitely did not look like a Jennifer. Nor did he look like he was running in honor of a Jennifer. Obviously someone named Jennifer had sold or given her bib to this guy.

Race Course

Since this was my tenth time running this course, there weren’t any surprises. The course has not changed in the last couple of years. The scenery is always breath-taking, though, no matter how many times I see it.

A few of the aid stations ran out of cups. One aid station was reduced to using soup bowls. The second and third to the last aid stations were completely out of cups by the time I passed through so that meant no water or Gatorade unless you were carrying your own bottle. Not everyone carries their own bottle because they rely on the aid stations so to have two or three aid stations run out of cups is not good. The sad thing is that even though I’m a slow runner, I wasn’t the slowest one on the course so I felt bad for the other runners and walkers behind me.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The race organizers tweaked the “finish village” a bit this year so it was confusing for me. I’m not sure if it was better or worse but the end result was the same.

I got my official finisher’s photo taken by the MarathonFoto photographer. The photographer I chose was having fun with the finishers and having us strike poses. Instead of the usual finisher’s backdrop, they had arranged it so that the background was the wharf and Monterey Bay. I thought that was a great touch. After all, if you have great scenery around you, why shouldn’t you incorporate it?

The food tent was as efficient as last year. Goodies were already pre-bagged except for the cookies and bagels, which made sense because then you could choose what flavor of cookie and/or bagel you wanted. The low-fat chocolate milk was plentiful and delicious. I understand the whole point of being environmentally friendly and sustainable but the cups of water are just not sufficient or efficient for the end of a race.

Since my brother had done the event with me, I didn’t bother to check out the soup or beer booths. Maybe next year.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

  • Thumbs Up: This was my big brother’s first race ever and his first half-marathon ever and he did great!
  • Thumbs Down: The weather report that predicted rain and more rain.
  • Thumbs Up: We had sunshine instead of rain.
  • Thumbs Down: Disinterested volunteers handing out medals at the end. When you have to ask for your finisher’s medal, that’s just not cool.
  • Thumbs Up: The enthusiastic volunteers and spectators along the course.
  • Thumbs Down: Having the announcer go on and on about the pace group leader that finished just before I did…which meant not having my name announced as I crossed the finish line. Small touches like this are important.
  • Thumbs Up: Seeing my name listed in the program as one of the “Grizzled Veterans” – the people who have run every presentation of this event.
  • Thumbs Down: Having my name misspelled in that list and having the disclaimer that the people on the list self-reported. It shouldn’t take too much effort for the race staff to research and verify – that disclaimer was quite a detractor.
  • Thumbs Up: All of the MarathonFoto photographers on the course meant a lot of photo choices – great job!

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. Registration opens on 1 April 2013.

Happy Running!

Race Report – 2012 Nike Women’s Marathon

The 9th annual Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) took place on Sunday, 14 October 2012. This is the second time that I’ve run this race.

Someone made the comment on the NWM Facebook page that this event is really more of a half-marathon event and I happen to agree. It may have started out as a marathon event but once they added the half-marathon event, I think the focus has turned to making the half-marathoners happy. That’s probably because 2/3 or more of the 25,000 entrants are half-marathoners, not marathoners.

NWM 2012 Marathon Motivational Poster 2

It seems to be a pattern in my life that training during the fall and winter is good but then I fall off the wagon in the spring and summer. As with last year, my longest run leading up to this marathon was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-marathon the week before. I must be a masochist, right?

I stayed in a hotel in the Civic Center part of town instead of going back to Nob Hill. If I run this race again next year, I definitely will go back to Nob Hill. Getting hit on and begged from by the homeless people on Market Street was disturbing.

Expo and Race Swag

This was my second time going through the Expotique and I didn’t like it any better this year than I did last year. In fact, I confirmed that I hate the Expotique. There were several entrances into the tent this year and the volunteers at the entrances were pretty lackadaisical and more interested in joking around with one another than in guiding people to the correct place. Once I reached a check-in spot, though, the check-in was quick and easy. Thank goodness I checked in on Friday because from the tweets and Facebook posts, the Expotique was a zoo on Saturday.

Even though it wasn’t as packed on Friday, there were still long lines for everything. Moving through the crowd was next to impossible – I cannot imagine what it was like on Saturday. I grabbed my gear bag and headed over to Niketown because after trying to deal with my Garmin 405 for a couple of years, I decided that maybe I needed to switch over to the Nike+ SportWatch. The sales guy was helpful and I walked out of Niketown with a new toy.

Listing of 25,000 participants in the 2012 NWM and Half

After taking care of business in Niketown, I found my name on the wall outside the store. Three times.

My Name on the NikeTown Wall

The race swag consisted of a lot of little flyers and snacks. The snacks were great – I ate most of them while I was lazing around in my hotel room on Saturday. I didn’t pay attention to the flyers until after the race on Sunday. Too late, as it turns out, to take advantage of some of the things.

Gear Check

Gear check was much more smooth this year. Nike must have listened to feedback from last year’s event and they rearranged the start corrals and had gear check buses for each corral. The volunteers at the gear check area were great – enthusiastic and helpful.

Race Start

The race start was something altogether different. Since I was honest about my expected pace and finish time, I was all the way in the back. And I mean all the way in the back. Really. After the gun went off, it took me more than 33 minutes to get to the start line. Under normal conditions, I wouldn’t have been concerned. However, the NWM has a limit of 6 hours and 30 minutes in order to get an official time and a finisher’s necklace. I didn’t know if the 6h30m limit was based on gun time or chip time and since I was planning on finishing right around 6 hours, the added 33 minutes to the gun time worried me throughout the race.

NWM 2012 My Favorite NWM Poster

My recommendation for next year would be to have a start corral upfront for the marathoners. Even better than that would be a start time 30 minutes before the half-marathoners. We’re going to be out on the course a lot longer than the half-marathoners so why shouldn’t we get an earlier start and our own special start corral and gear bus?

Race Course

The course felt a little easier this year because it hadn’t changed from last year. However, the organizers weren’t prepared for the number of people on the course. Either that, or this event is really geared towards half-marathoners.

The weather was perfect fall running weather. It was overcast and foggy and it stayed that way throughout the race. The sun was out in the city by the time we took the shuttles back to the start line and that was just perfect.

NWM 2012 Reasons to Run

The first aid station that was supposed to have Shot Bloks was out by the time I got there. I wasn’t annoyed because I had my own gels. But it did bother me when I saw how many full sleeves of Shot Bloks other runners had thrown on the ground just past the aid station and then I had to wonder how many half-marathoners had been served.

By the time I passed the bra exchange station, they only had a few XS and XL bras left. Slightly better than last year because last year, when I reached the bra exchange station, they were completely out. Again, I had to wonder how many half-marathoners had been served.

My quads seized up around mile 12 and after that, every step was agony. It was probably due to having run the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon the weekend before. Even though my legs felt like they had recovered from that event, they really hadn’t. Thank goodness in 2013 there will be a weekend between these two events, as there was in 2011!

Once the marathon course splits from the half-marathon course, things get pretty desolate. The aid stations were much smaller and seemed to be spaced further apart. I tried really hard not to hate the part of the course around Lake Merced but even though it wasn’t hot like last year, Lake Merced sucked. I wonder if the organizers can find a way to get the 26.2 miles without having to go around Lake Merced?

NWM 2012 Marathon Motivational Poster 1

I really wish that Team in Training would teach their runners and walkers proper race etiquette. NWM posted some guidelines on Facebook about walkers walking on the right and other common sense tips about sharing the road on race day. A lot of people got pissy about that, saying that they had paid their entry fee and so could run or walk any way and anywhere they wanted to on race day. It’s so inconsiderate! It was exhausting to run around gangs of Team in Training participants who were walking 4 or 5 people across. And then when I would try to squeeze in between gangs of Team in Training participants, they would give me dirty looks even though I would politely murmur, “On your right,” or “Excuse me.” Again, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against walkers because I took plenty of walk breaks and walked from about mile 24.5 to 25.5 – I just wish they would be considerate of others on the course. If you want to stroll with 3 or 4 of your friends spread out across the street, don’t do it in a race.

NWM 2012 Marathon Motivational Poster 3

The comment about this event being more geared to half-marathoners really resonates with me. I am not a distance snob by any means – I love the half-marathon distance. I do mind, however, missing out on stuff both on the race course and in the finish area because it’s all been taken by people who’ve run the shorter distance. I feel the same way when I’m running a 10k event that also has a 5k. We all pay the same entry fee so we should all get the same opportunities.

Post-Race: Goodies and Medals

NWM2012 Finisher’s T-Shirt and the Little Blue Box

The NWM Finisher t-shirt this year is a bright neon green. Mine is short-sleeved although I saw some posts that make me wonder if a long-sleeve t-shirt was an option. Maybe for the half-marathoners and the faster marathoners? The cool thing about the finisher t-shirt is that it’s made from recycled water bottles.

I was not offered a finisher’s necklace in the pretty blue box – I had to ask for it. The Safeway grocery bags were out of stock. All of the Neutragena products were out of stock.  Vendors were beginning to break down their tents. The gear check buses were being emptied haphazardly into brown boxes. I realize that it took me 6 hours to finish the race plus the additional 33+ minutes it took to reach the start line but I wasn’t the last one across the finish line and it was demoralizing that there wasn’t as much care and excitement for the slow people who gutted out the entire 26.2 miles.

The chocolate milk was in the Team-in-Training tent. Foam rollers and yoga mats were only for Team-in-Training participants. They really set this event up as “Haves” vs. “Have Nots.” I was always taught that if you don’t bring enough for everyone, you shouldn’t bring anything at all.

Why I run the NWM

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP: Gear check was much improved over last year.

Thumbs DOWN: The official race photographer for this race didn’t do that great a job. For being out on the course for over 6 hours, there were only 10 pictures of me, 4 of which were me crossing the finish line, 1 of which was of me posing at the end. I had to search for myself in the other 5 pictures because there were so many people. It would have been nice to have some official race photographers taking pictures of marathoners around Lake Merced.

Thumbs UP: The weather was perfect for running although apparently not for GPS devices.

Thumbs DOWN: The length of time it took to get to the finish line had a negative mental impact on me because I was worried that I wouldn’t get my finisher’s necklace.

Thumbs UP: Some spectators had great signs.

Thumbs DOWN: Not having enough items at the aid stations for slow runners. Not having enough bras at the bra exchange for slow runners. Not having enough post-race goodies for the slow marathon runners.

Thumbs UP: A Tiffany-designed finisher’s necklace. Enough said.

If Nike wants to turn this into a half-marathon event, that’s what it should do. Don’t call it a marathon when you end up catering to the half-marathoners and treat the full marathoners as an after-thought. As Nike’s marathon motivational posters say – a full marathon is tough, full marathoners are twice as committed. Well, if Nike really believes that, then they ought to prove it with their actions.

Happy Running!

Race Report – 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

The 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-marathon took place on Sunday, 7 October 2012. This is the fourth time that I’ve run this race and, as has become my tradition, I signed up for the 2013 race while at the expo on Friday.

The lack of communication from the race organizers troubled me this year. For this event, I didn’t get a single email, not even a reminder to print my confirmation before going to the expo. This may be typical for a Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series (RnR) event but since I’ve been getting emails from Nike about the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM), I can’t help but compare the two events and NWM has definitely gone the extra mile to create buzz and excitement about its event. Perhaps the RnR is getting so big that they are starting to lose their grip on the details. That’s just speculation, of course. But anyone looking at the menu of events will agree – the RnR is expanding rapidly both here and around the world.

2012 RnRSJ Event Guide and Finisher’s Medal

As I was running the race, I decided that my race reports needed some structure and came up with some headings that I usually include in a race report. Let me know what you think about the more structured format.

Expo and Race Swag

The expo seems to get bigger every year but this year could have just been an illusion because of the construction going on in the Convention Center. I felt like a rat in a maze going from one part of check in to the next and then finally to the RnR store and then into the expo.

The volunteers at the packet pick-up area were friendly, which always helps to set the right tone before entering the expo. When I moved on to the t-shirt area, I got a volunteer who didn’t speak or smile. He didn’t return my greeting, simply held up a t-shirt as if to say, “Is this the right size?” and then just handed it to me. A little disconcerting but not the end of the world.

In retrospect, I should have gone for a unisex shirt instead of the gender-specific shirt because the unisex shirts are roomier.

There were a lot of vendors at the expo. It was exciting to see the booths for other upcoming races as well as the snack and product booths. P.F. Changs, Jamba Juice, and the Sports Authority had teams of volunteers at work trying to get people to sign up for the loyalty programs. I guess I’m a sucker because I signed up for both the P.F. Changs Warrior program and the Sports Authority program.

I managed to get out of the expo with only the things I intended to get – my race bag, my RnR t-shirt, my race registration for the 2013 event, and a hat for race day.

Gear Check

As in prior years, the gear check area was uncrowded and well-organized. This may be because a lot of people stayed in hotels very close to the start/finish area and chose not to check their gear. Or it could just be that the RnR has gear check down to a science. I’m hoping that the NWM will have learned some lessons from last year’s horrific gear check scenario and will have made some improvements.

Race Start

The start corrals were clearly marked as usual and easy to get into. As with prior years – and most races – people are pretty clueless when the national anthem is being sung. The people in my corral kept talking, no one removed their hats or put their hands over their hearts. And of course, there were the obligatory cheers and whoo-hoos at the crescendo of the national anthem, which also annoys me.

But I still always get chills when I hear the national anthem despite the rudeness of others.

Race Course: Bands and Cheer Teams

The Cheer Teams were enthusiastic and loud but not too loud. They seemed more focused on cheering for the runners this year, which was nice.

I had a problem with the bands on the course, though. I didn’t pack my headphones, which meant that I couldn’t listen to music on the run. That made the bands that much more important to me. Some of the bands didn’t seem to realize that it’s called the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” race series and were playing slow ballads. Needless to say, I am going to make sure to put a spare pair of headphones in my vehicle so that I am never again caught without music and dependent on the on-course bands.

Most of the volunteers on the race course were fantastic – cheering and clapping or smiling and clapping. At some of the later water stops, however, the kids manning the water stops seemed more interested in splashing each other with water instead of handing it out to the runners.

Post-Race: Goodies and Medals

I missed the blonde lady at the finish line who usually announces, encourages, and congratulates runners as they approach the finish line. The finish line energy seemed flat without her.

I’ve commented on this before but the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose organizers really need to provide a little bag or something for runners to put the post-race food into. As we walk through the finish area, we’re given water, Gatorade, bananas, Snickers Marathon bars, bagels, bags of pretzels, coupons if we beat the P.F. Chang’s dragon, chocolate milk, and other goodies. It’s awkward trying to hold all of that stuff and eat and drink at the same time. I think that the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose organizers ought to take a page from the Big Sur Half-Marathon organizers and bag everything up in a little brown paper bag and hand that to runners as they go through the finish area.

The finisher’s medal was great – it was designed to look like a cassette tape, something that a lot of the younger runners probably have never seen before!

2012 RnRSJ Finisher’s Medal

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP: Even without the pre-race communication, the organization of this event was impeccable.

Thumbs DOWN: Calling a 5-miler a “mini-marathon” is denigrating to those of us who run the half-marathon distance and to those of us who have run a full marathon. What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Thumbs UP: Not running out of gels or Gatorade on the course and having plenty of goodies in the finish area for race participants.

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. Happy running!

Race Report: MC PAL Mother’s Day Artichoke 5k

2012 Mother's Day Run T-Shirt

2012 Mother’s Day Run T-Shirt

This race report has been a long time in the making and even as I sit here now, I’m not really quite ready to write it. But I have to write it so I can move on to other topics that have been whirling around in my head.

Normally race reports are easy to write because I’m usually really excited about how I ran or felt or because  I’m annoyed by something related to race organization. I’ve been putting off writing this race report because all-in-all, it was a good race and yet I’m not satisfied.

The MC PAL Mother’s Day Artichoke Run/Walk is held each Mother’s Day, which is usually a week before the Artichoke Festival. I’ve run this race a few times before even though it’s on Mother’s Day because my mom looks forward to the entry bracelet to the Artichoke Festival that is a part of the race swag. That’s part of my Mother’s Day gift to her.

My parents don’t normally join me for Sunday events because of church – they’re rather inflexible about church while I’m extraordinarily flexible about it. But, they switched to a Saturday service a year or so ago so that excuse is moot now. I was able to convince them to participate in this event and that was a big deal because (1) this was my mom’s first 5k since her partial hip replacement last summer and (2) now I know just how much my dad’s knees bother him.

Race day weather was perfect – slightly overcast and slightly chilly. There seemed to be fewer people than in prior years but that didn’t surprise me because there seemed to be significantly less advertising for this event than in years past. There was no registration link from the Artichoke Festival website and I didn’t get an email from the race organizers until the early bird deadline had come and gone.

Some new things for this race included:

  • A nice technical t-shirt – I’m not one of those race snobs that won’t sign up for a race if the race t-shirt is a cotton shirt but it’s always a nice surprise to get a technical t-shirt as part of the race swag.
  • A new race route – the race organizers worked to change the route so that runners spent less time running next to the highway and more time running in the artichoke fields. I know that a lot of people appreciated that because that meant less exhaust to breathe in but I rather like running next to the highway because cars sometimes beep and people randomly wave at the runners and walkers.
  • Artie, the Artichoke Festival mascot was there taking pictures and hamming it up with the race participants and their families before the race.
  • Course guidance – three youngsters on BMX bikes were on the course this year, with one rider leading the pack, another rider staying in the middle of the pack, and a third rider sweeping the children from the fun run.
  • A 3k run for children.

If I were in charge of this race, here are a couple of things that I would change for the 2013 event:

  • Re-establish the relationship between this race and the Artichoke Festival – an entry bracelet to the Artichoke Festival was not part of the race swag this year and we were all disappointed but even more than that, not being publicized on the Artichoke Festival website probably hurt attendance. Personally, I would rather have the entry bracelet than a tech t-shirt or even a cotton t-shirt.
  • Go back to the old route – while it was nice to run along the artichoke fields, the 10k race route was not very graceful and included an awkward spur right at the end of the race. If I had been a 10k runner, I know I would have hated the new route. But also, the old route didn’t have us running along the highway for very long and, at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, there isn’t that much traffic on the highway anyway.
  • Don’t run the children’s fun run at the same time as the race. Most races with a fun run have the fun run first and then the race but the new fun run took off at the same time as the race and followed the same course, which made the turnarounds a little confusing.
  • I realize that we call it a 5k and a 10k but that doesn’t mean that the markers need to be kilometer markers. Most of us train using miles and we’re looking for mile markers. When I saw the big “1” sign, I looked at my watch and thought, “No way.” So I slowed down and by the time I realized that the signs were marking off kilometers instead of miles, it was too late to salvage a decent time for this run.
  • Get a sound system that works for the awards ceremony. The announcer was louder when she was just speaking than when she started speaking into the microphone. I’m not sure what that was all about but if you’re going to use a sound system, make sure that it works.

The food at this event is always great. Fruit, granola bars, mini energy bars, and bagels with cream cheese before AND after the race. This year there were lots of big fresh strawberries. It’s always funny to me to see non-racers pigging out at the snack table both before and after a race. We saw a lady who was neither a runner nor a volunteer cramming about a dozen granola bars into her pockets before the race. I guess people are hungry!

Despite that list of things that I would change if I were in charge, this was still a good event and I would come back again next year even if none of those things change.

Happy Running!