Posted in Race Reports, Running, Travel

Race Report: Inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012

The days leading up to the inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012 were overcast with scattered showers. The weather reports predicted cold temperatures (1° C) and chilly winds with chance of scattered showers for race morning. So, of course, race day dawned sunny with not a cloud in the sky and, although a bit nippy, just the barest of breezes sweeping through the starting area in Holyrood Park.

For an inaugural event, things were rather smooth, which is a testament to the Rock-n-Roll organization.

120415 RnR Edinburgh Half Medal
120415 RnR Edinburgh Half Medal

The expo was set up in the park, right where the finish festivities – concerts and awards presentation – would take place after the race. Because of the open setup, everything was in tents. The bib and chip tent was off to the left and the t-shirt and gear bag tent was straight on so most people began by queuing in the t-shirt/gear bag line. I think better signage would be helpful in the future. Or another suggestion would be to have a big tent that starts with bib/chip pickup then flows to t-shirt/gear bag pickup and then flows to the souvenir store.

I mention the souvenir tent because I also almost missed it. The souvenir tent was a compact affair with the sample items hanging on the walls with signs indicating sizes and prices. Easy enough, right? Not if you’re queued up behind a half-dozen Italians who needed to see all the sizes available for all the items. And then, as one bought an item, another one would see it and want one just like it. Only in a different size, of course. So then the clerk would have to pull out all the sizes again while trying to wrap up the first transaction. Repeat six times before it was finally my turn.

All I wanted was my usual commemorative t-shirt plus a beanie cap. The t-shirt has become my tradition at races away from home – because sometimes a finisher’s t-shirt isn’t appropriate attire. The beanie cap was for the weather. Although I packed an assortment of Bondi Bands which could be pulled down over my ears, given the dire weather warnings on the BBC, I wasn’t sure they would be sufficient. By buying that beanie cap, I took my first step toward breaking my cardinal rule of racing.

Gear acquired, I headed back to the hotel, stopping to buy a bacon roll from one of the food vendors. I promised myself another such roll after the race. Mmm…good incentive.

120413 Edinburgh RnR City Centre Road Closures
Bus stop notice showing closures/diversions due to the 2012 Edinburgh RnR Half-Marathon

The night before the race, I listened to the weather report again. The report said frosty and windy and chances of showers. I considered my planned race outfit. I watched another weather report. I looked at my race outfit again.

The road to hell is paved with broken rules, right? My cardinal rule for races is that you don’t wear race swag until you’ve earned it. If I broke my rule for this race, who knew what other evil acts I was capable of committing?

I tried on the race t-shirt. Not the cotton one I bought at the souvenir store but the tech t-shirt given to all registered runners during packet pickup. It fit perfectly. My long-sleeved shirt went on top. I waffled but the next weather report convinced me – I needed the layer. And the beanie cap.

As noted earlier, race day weather was gorgeous – chilly for sure but I could have survived without the extra layer. And probably the beanie cap, too. Ah well, at least I was prepared for the worst weather.

If I needed a theme for this race, it would be “Chilly and Hilly.” A fellow runner I met on a day tour the day after the race commented that the hills only seemed to go up and never down.

That, of course, was a slight exaggeration. We had at least two nice long downhills – heading out of Holyrood Park into the City Centre and then the final mile back into Holyrood Park for the finish. Thank goodness the race directors weren’t cruel and didn’t plan an uphill finish.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Going Down Side of Arthurs Seat
The start of a nice long downhill

The scenery went from residential to coastal to residential to park to city to park to city to park. Running along the sea wall took me by surprise – I didn’t expect us to be that close to the sea during the race. Lines from my favorite poem, Sea Fever by John Masefield, flitted through my head during those miles.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Seaside
Gorgeous views along the Firth of Forth, miles 4 & 5.

The residential areas were another surprise. Little clusters of people gathered here and there outside their houses to clap, smile, and offer words of encouragement. Since I’m a slow runner (just ahead of the 2:30 pace group through the first 2/3 of the race) the thought that people would spend a chunk of their Sunday morning cheering for strangers was quite heartening.

As usual, the race organizers set up entertaining bands and DJs at just the right spots. The volunteers on the race course were great about managing the traffic. There was a lot of waste, though.

Instead of cups of water and Gatorade at the hydration stations, they gave out bottles of water and Powerade. I thought that was great because I took a bottle of water at the first station and carried it until it was empty and then grabbed a Powerade bottle. But other people took a sip or two and then chucked their bottles. Or, even worse, they’d grab two bottles, take a couple of sips out of one and chuck it, and then do the same with the other bottle further down the road. It was especially sad to see 500 mL bottles of Powerade – almost full – chucked in the gutter.

I learned from fellow runners at a whisky tour a couple of days after the race that the bottled water and Powerade was likely in response to people getting sick from cups of city water at the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas event last December. I don’t know if they ever proved that the people who got sick actually got sick because of the water but apparently the Rock-n-Roll organization wasn’t taking any chances. It’s too bad that their cautiousness resulted in so much waste.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Cowsgate 1
Perfect shot for #SeenOnMyRun ~ didn’t notice the front of the cow until I was looking at pictures for this blog post!

The end of the race was a fast downhill portion and when I turned towards Holyrood Park and the finish, I could hear the announcer greeting the runners as they covered the last bit of the distance. I made the final turn to the finish gate, looked up, and there she was – the little energetic blond from the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon. Microphone in hand, she cheered for the runners, exhorting them to smile, encouraging them as they took their last few steps to cross the finish line, and giving high-fives to everyone who swerved over to her.

As I’m writing this, I’m already looking forward to seeing her in October at the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon.

I’m also looking forward to getting my World Rocker Heavy Medal at the end of the year.

This is a good event for a newbie traveler (always easier to travel to a country where they speak English) who wants to run in an organized race event.

Happy running!

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Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report: Together with Love 10k 2012

Bahía de Monterey, California
Monterey Bay ~ Image via Wikipedia

The 27th annual Together with Love run took place on Sunday, 12 February 2012. The race benefits the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center.

This race is a beautiful out-and-back course along the Monterey Bay coastline from Lover’s Point up to Spanish Bay (for the 10k). The weather on race day was perfect running weather – overcast and on the chilly side. It looked like rain so I wore a light rain jacket but the rain didn’t show up for the race.

As with last year, the race was chip-timed. I received my bib and D-chip in the mail but this year, there was nothing else in the envelope – just the bib with the attached D-chip. I’m not sure why the race organizers chose not to include race instructions this year. Perhaps it was a sustainability-related decision. I would have preferred to have something mailed with the bib. At the very least, a strip of paper with the date and time of the race!

I was signed up for the 10k but after I picked up my t-shirt and goodies bag, I briefly toyed with the idea of just running the 5k because of my hip and lower back aches. Just briefly, though, because I really wanted to run 6 miles to stay sort-of-on-track with my half-marathon training.

The race t-shirt was a long-sleeve technical t-shirt with another great minimalist design. My dad, who is the beneficiary of all my long-sleeve cotton race t-shirts, probably wishes that the race would go back to giving cotton shirts. I, however, like the technical t-shirts a lot. As with most races nowadays, people wore their race t-shirts before they earned them.

The race started close to on time and we were off. For the first couple of miles, I just ran. I didn’t pay attention to my Garmin, I didn’t worry about my time or my pace, I just ran. The 5k turnaround came and went and I ran on. I think the race organizers have a wicked streak because the 10k turnaround is on a hill. Granted, it’s not a big hill but after nearly 3 miles, any hill counts!

The race flow felt more disorganized this year – probably because race instructions weren’t included with our race bibs. By disorganized, I mean that people were running on both sides of the road and at no point were we ever moved over to one side to make room for the returning runners. So the 5k winners were having to run against the slower runners, most of whom were so oblivious that they didn’t bother to move aside, much less cheer for the faster runners.

There were some volunteers on the course who were amazingly enthusiastic, encouraging, and uplifting. And they were placed at the perfect spots – close to hills. These ladies cheered and clapped and made runners smile. I really appreciate race volunteers, especially the ones who cheer and smile.

I finished the race and felt good. My time was just a twitch faster than last year’s time. I need to work on being able to hold a faster pace at the end for a longer distance.

There was a line for the munchies and I didn’t have the patience to wait in line for a muffin half or a bagels half or a banana half. I think as the race becomes more popular, as it does year over year, the race organizers need to consider a different setup for the post-race food. The nice thing, though, is that they always seem to have a lot of food, which is a good thing for slow runners like myself!

All in all, it was a good race. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a beautiful course with small rolling hills.

Happy running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report: Nike+ Women’s Half Marathon

My city. My terms. My Nike+ Run.

Sunday, 15 January 2012, was the inaugural Nike+ Women’s Half Marathon. This was a virtual race – each participant would run a half-marathon at any time from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, 15 January 2012, and log the run with Nike+. Participants could run anywhere so some runners who were already signed up for a race let that race do double duty.

I hesitated about signing up for this race. My runs lately have been to build a base for the half-marathon training that will start in a couple of weeks. I didn’t want to sign up for the race and then not be able to finish it or injure myself in the process because of my inadequate training.

I compromised by signing up for the Nike+ challenge because I could log the miles without paying the entry fee. After all, was the finisher’s bracelet worth $40? Then, last week, I reminded myself that I could do the distance, that I had completed the distance on minimal training before, and that I could walk to the finish if need be. I decided to go for it and registered for the race. I was official.

I chose to do my run on a treadmill, in the evening, after the football games. Since I hadn’t been training for this race, I decided to treat it like a long run and go at my long run pace instead of pushing my race pace. I thought that I would do a run/walk ratio of 9/1. That’s 9 minutes running, 1 minute walking. The morning of the race, I changed my mind because I knew I was going to be running at just a twitch above my long run pace and decided that my run/walk ratio would be 14/1.

After watching the Green Bay Packers lose miserably to the New York Giants, I put on my running clothes, laced up my Asics Gel Nimbus 13 – the next pair of shoes in the rotation, not my usual race shoes – popped my Nike+ sensor into my bean pod, and strapped on my Nike+ SportBand.

One small hiccup, though. I recently moved my treadmill to the garage and the idea of staring at a blank garage wall for 2+ hours was a bit daunting. I don’t have a television out there (yet!) and I’m anti-i so I don’t have an iPad. I’m also cheap so I don’t have a tablet. I had hoped to use my Nook to watch movies on crackle.com – not the best solution because of the Nook’s lack of flash – but even that idea was stymied because my treadmill is now too far away from my wireless router to get a good enough signal to connect. Luckily, I had my phone and was able to watch old episodes of NCIS during my time on the treadmill.

The run went surprisingly well given my lack of training. I stuck with my run/walk ratio of 14/1 and ended up pushing the pace well beyond my easy run pace because I was feeling so good.

I ran until my Sportband read 13.12 miles, ended my run, and then walked for a few more minutes to cool down. When I logged my run, though, instead of uploading 13.12 miles only 13.05 miles were uploaded. That, of course, freaked me out because I wanted to be counted as a finisher! In retrospect, I should have kept the Sportband on while I walked my cool-down – it’s what I do during my regular runs, after all.

Post-race soreness wasn’t too bad and I was able to do an easy 3+ miles on Monday.

I’m glad that I signed up for the Nike+ challenge. I’m glad that I registered for the race. I’m glad that I have a treadmill. The successful completion of this event makes me look forward to the half-marathon in April.

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2011 Big Sur Half Marathon

The 9th presentation of the Big Sur Half Marathon took place on Sunday, 20 October 2011. It was my 9th time running the Big Sur Half Marathon.

The weather was a bit of concern for people commenting on the Big Sur Marathon’s Facebook page but I was looking forward to rain as long as it wasn’t a huge downpour. As it turned out, the storm passed through overnight and we were left with some residual clouds and the occasional shower.

I left my car at about 0640 to head to the start line because the race day instructions said to be in our corrals by 0645. The corrals seemed to be half full and that made sense when they announced that the start time would be 0705 – instead of 0700 as the race day instructions had said – and that the corrals would go off in waves 3 minutes apart.

The opening festivities were okay. One of the speakers told the runners that we needed to hurt as badly as we’ve ever hurt during the race and that would give us an idea of how our military members felt when they were overseas protecting the United States. I thought it was a silly thing to say because race pain is quite different from the pain of being shot or having limbs blown off by IEDs. That aside, I always get choked up by the National Anthem unless the rendition is particularly horrible, which it wasn’t. I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that there are a lot of people – both men and women – who don’t take their hats off for the singing of the National Anthem. It bothers me but it doesn’t surprise me.

In theory, the wave start made some sense to prevent the congestion in the early miles. In practice, the wave start needs some work. When the gun went off, the volunteers in our corral immediately took down the barrier in front of us and so, of course, we all moved up to the corral in front of us. When my corral reached the start line, we stopped because we knew that our wave hadn’t been called. But the announcer told us to get moving so we started running. We had barely taken 10 steps when the announcer greeted our corral. Disorganized.

The main thing that I didn’t like about the wave start is that I missed seeing the elite runners on their way to the finish line. But I did enjoy having people with me throughout the race, especially at the end.

The race unveiled new mile markers for the race and they were amusing. I missed a couple of the mile markers but saw the majority of them. It certainly gave me something to look at – besides the gorgeous scenery – and to look forward to during the run. I like them much better than the old cello mile markers that the race has used in the past.

The bands that came out to play were really good sports to be out there despite the threat of rain. There seemed to be a lot more spectators cheering us along. The drum band just after the Aquarium is always upbeat and comes at a great time – just after a little hill on the way out and just before the same hill on the way back – but I think they were missing a member or two. The taiko drummers right before the turnaround were not present and that’s too bad. I love the sound of drums when I’m running. I definitely appreciate all of the bands that stayed out there for us slower runners and all of the volunteers who manned the aid stations for us slower runners.

My last couple of miles were run in a light rain. I heard runners around me cursing the rain but my mom has always told me that rain is God’s blessing so I have a very positive view of rain. I really think that the weather was perfect for the half-marathon.

2011 Big Sur Half Marathon Finishers Medal

All of the volunteers on the course were great – big smiles and lots of encouragement. The Team-in-Training coaches who were on the course were very different from the ones at the Nike Women’s Marathon because they offered encouragement to everyone, not just the Team-in-Training participants.

This year, the food tent was very organized because instead of having food that we had to put into boxes, the volunteers had already packed up goodie bags that contained fruit, a cookie, and a juice. Bagel halves were handed out at the rear of the tent. I will say that I missed having bottles of water to pick up because the cups of water are cumbersome to carry through the crowds.

I tried to get a cup of soup because I thought a cup of hot soup would perfectly counteract the coldness from the rain shower but the soup line was long and there was only one soup tent. So I chose not to get soup or beer and instead headed off to the parking garage to make my way home to a well-deserved warm shower and rest.

I look forward to this race every year. I hope that next year the race director will have something special planned for those of us who have run in all ten presentations!

Happy running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – Nike Women’s Marathon

Sunday, 16 October 2011, was the 8th running of the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.

You know from an earlier post that I was a Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) lottery winner. As with the San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon, my health issues and life in general made me set of goal of just finishing. Based on my SJRnR experience, I was secretly hoping for a 5 hour and 30 minutes finish. Ha!

What’s important to understand here is that I didn’t train for a marathon. I didn’t train for a half-marathon. Before the SJRnR, my longest run was a 9 mile training run. Before the NWM, my longest run was the SJRnR.

I arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon. After checking into the Nob Hill Motor Inn, I settled in, checked the map, and then headed off to Union Square for packet pick-up and the expo. I made my hotel reservations too late and all the hotels around Union Square were full. But the Nob Hill Motor Inn is a cute little spot with free parking in a nice little neighborhood. So even though it was 1-1/4 miles from the expo and the race start, I would consider staying there again.

In general, this race was the most disorganized race that I have participated in and I’ve participated in a few over the years. The signage at packet pick-up was limited. Volunteers weren’t at their stations. The ones that were at their stations were distracted and not focused.

Could it be that the loud music and the darkly-lit tent played a role in that? Perhaps.

I was disappointed that there wasn’t an expo. I was especially disappointed because when I had unpacked at the hotel, I discovered that I hadn’t packed a shirt for the race. It was probably because I couldn’t decide whether to run in a long-sleeve shirt or a short-sleeve shirt, figured that it would be a departure-time decision, and then forgot to pack the long-sleeve shirt I decided on. I asked about the expo and was pointed to the Niketown store across the street. Duh!

Niketown was also loud, crowded, and disorganized. But a very helpful young man showed me where the women’s shirts were and I was cooking with gas. Even though it would feel odd to race in a shirt that said, “NWM11,” I was set. I ended up finding another sporting good store just around the corner from my hotel and bought a plain shirt to run in so I didn’t have to wear the NWM11 shirt and feel weird on race day.

On race morning, I left the hotel at 0545 and walked in the darkness to Union Square. As I got closer to Union Square, other runners began to join me on the street and the energy level began to rise with the chatter of family members and runners.

At Union Square, it was electric. The big screen broadcast, the crowds, the music – great atmosphere. Except it was once again lacking signage or volunteers to help direct people. It took me forever to find the gear check station and when I finally reached the gear check, I walked into my worst nightmare. Being pinned in a crowd of people, unable to move, unable to see, unable to figure out what was going on…definitely a scary situation. And it turns out, it didn’t need to be that way. I finally got out by grabbing onto the shirt of a lady who was just pushing her way through the mass of people and thank goodness for that.

I checked my gear bag and walked into a nearby hotel to use the bathroom because I had no idea where the port-a-pottie lineup was and had no desire to fight my way back through the gear check scrum. The hotel employees were very kind – I was not the only runner taking advantage of proper toilets! – and I was soon back on the street, just in time for the starting ceremonies.

Start line at the 2011 Nike Women's Marathon

I checked my Garmin to make sure that it was set to go and then looked at the other wrist to check my Nike+ Sportband. That’s when I discovered that I had lost my Sportband in the gear check scrum. Boo, hiss. I wasn’t going to go back to look for it so I just settled in to wait for the start.

I felt great for the first 11 miles. I stopped to take pictures, tweeting and posting them to Facebook, and just generally enjoyed the energy of the crowd. Although the water stops were disorganized and poorly staffed, they served as a good walk break for me.

Alcatraz Island as seen from the 2nd H2O stop, NWM

When the half-marathoners split off from the marathoners, I suddenly found myself in a smaller group. I liked that I wasn’t having to run around Team-in-Training groups walking 4 or 5 across. I liked that it seemed quieter and calmer and I could concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. But that was also when I started questioning my decision to run the marathon!

Motivation for the hills

The remaining 14 miles were a long slog. The chocolate mile is a misnomer because it’s not a mile of chocolate, it’s just the point in the race where volunteers hand out squares of Ghiradelli chocolate. The Team-in-Training cheer teams were pretty demotivating if you weren’t a Team-in-Training member because they would cheer for Team-in-Training members and then go silent as non-Team-in-Training members passed. I realize that Team-in-Training runners and walkers “pay” for this motivation by raising money for leukemia research but it seems a little tacky for the cheer teams to just stop cheering for people who aren’t in the purple singlets.

I crossed the finish line – upright and smiling. I got my Tiffany box with my Tiffany finisher’s medal from the tuxedo’ed San Francisco Fire Department fireman, got my neon yellow Finisher t-shirt, and then moved on to get my finishing photo taken with a pair of SFFD firemen in tuxedos. I have to say these guys were good sports to put their arms around the waists of sweaty women!

NWM Finisher's Medal ~ Worth It!

Then it was on the bus back to Union Square and then the trek back to the Nob Hill Motor Inn. All in all, it was a good weekend. I was proud to finish even though it took forever. Would I run this race again? Now that I know what I’d be getting into, yes but I would prefer to actually train for the race this time.

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon

The 2011 San Jose Rock-n-Rollhalf-marathon took place on Sunday, 2 October 2011. This is the third time that I’ve run this race and it seems to get better every time.

I enjoy running the same races year after year because after one or two times, the course feels like a regular running route – just with a couple thousand (or hundred) extra people running with you. I signed up for the 2011 SJRnR at the 2010 expo. Earlier in the year, I entertained thoughts of setting another PR at this race. But, with the health issues I’ve faced since July, my aspiration was simply to finish.

Finisher's Medal, 2011 San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon
Finisher's Medal, 2011 San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon

The expo was a more positive experience this year than last – I think I was just in a better mood this year. The volunteers working at the expo were energetic and humorous, which is always nice. The RnR shop seemed bigger than last year with a more varied selection. I didn’t buy a t-shirt hoodie as I have in years past because they didn’t have one but I did buy a commemorative SJRnR t-shirt. Even though I get the race t-shirt and know that I’ll get a t-shirt for signing up for the next year’s race, it’s become my tradition to buy a t-shirt.Dodge was a huge sponsor – they had a test drive for charity going on outside the convention center and a huge display in the expo. The volunteers that were trying to get people to stop at the Dodge booth were funny – they were handing out temporary tattoos (adidas stripes?) and were telling us that the stripes would make us run faster. Of course I took them!

The variety of exhibitors at the expo was great. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around and looking at the products and races that were being promoted. I bought some energy bars and nuun tablets, signed up for next year’s San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon, and sampled some delicious grape tomatoes.

Race day dawned slightly overcast and gray. Although I didn’t check a gear bag – why bother when the hotel is a hop, skip, and a jump away from the finish? – the gear check area was uncongested, well-organized, clearly marked, and running smoothly. The long string of port-a-potties ensured that lines kept moving and wait times were bearable.

I  moseyed over to my start corral, lining up at the very back of it. The start corrals were clearly marked and delineated. The energy at the start of a race is always high and today was no exception. The singing of the National Anthem began and I was very gratified to see men removing their hats, people putting their hands over their hearts, and others shushing those who continued talking, oblivious to the solemnity of the moment. The silence leading up to the cheer that inevitably accompanies the words, “of the free,” always chokes me up and did so again on race day.

The gun went off and the race began. It took my corral a bit to get to the start but the energy never flagged.

I had no race strategy going into the race, even though I knew I likely wouldn’t be running the whole thing. I did know that I needed Gu at mile 4 or 5 so that my energy wouldn’t drop too much in the later miles. But other than that, my plan was to run when I could and walk when I needed to walk.

I spotted a tall skinny blonde lady at the start of the race and decided to use her as my pacer in the early miles. She ran with a loose, easy stride, as if this was just a training run for her. I liked that. And I liked the fact that she was tall enough that I could see her even when I fell back during the aid stations. She was running at a good pace and I’m proud to say that I hung with her for about 6 miles.

The last 4 miles of the race were a slog. It was getting warmer and each passing minute was pulling me further from that 2 hour 30 minute benchmark that I foolishly clung to despite my fatigue. And lack of proper training! When the 2 hour 30 minute pace group passed me, reality set in but some competitiveness kicked in, as well. I decided I would beat 2 hours and 45 minutes and I would not let that pace group pass me.

The ambulance at about mile 12.5 picking up a runner made me glad that I realize my own physical boundaries. The runner had collapsed from dehydration, we all assumed.

The finish line announcer was as fantastic as last year. She was energized, encouraging, and enthusiastic. As you run up to the finish line, you can hear your name being called and then there she is – a little blonde lady giving runners high fives to make them smile as they cross the finish.

The SJRnR is a very well-organized event. The bands and cheer groups along the way are excellent distractions. The volunteers at the aid stations are friendly and encouraging. The aid stations themselves are large enough to serve the number of runners.

I would recommend the SJRnR for anyone looking for a flat and fast half-marathon. I look forward to running this race again in 2012.

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – PAL Artichoke Festival 5k

The PAL Artichoke Festival 5k/10k is run every Mother’s Day and benefits the Monterey County Police Activities League. It’s a small (about 100 to 200 participants) local run that goes through the artichoke fields.  The race is usually held a week before the Artichoke Festival and registered runners get an entry to the Artichoke Festival plus a t-shirt and, harvest permitting, a bag of artichokes for each finisher.

I was signed up for the 10k but ended up dropping down to the 5k. Physically, I could have finished the 6.2 miles. Mentally, it would have been a miserable 6.2 miles. I would have spent the entire time worrying about being a slow runner and being the last runner to cross the finish line. Because the 10k field was so small, I most likely would have won an age group medal even if I finished last! That’s the beauty of smaller races.

The crowd was a mixture of families, couples, moms and children, and friends. The check-in desk was staffed by children in the PAL program. All check-in issues were handled promptly and with a friendly smile. The event organizers might want to make sure they have more medium and small t-shirts on hand next year.

The course is an out-and-back course that starts with a stretch of paved road and then turns off into the artichoke fields. Once in the fields, runners are on agricultural roads, which are rocky dirt roads. Footing is a bit treacherous because the rocks are too big to be considered gravel and too small to be considered obstacles. The course runs along Highway 1 and then goes under the Highway 1 overpass and into more artichoke fields.

The race started on time and we took off quickly. I had to concentrate much more once we turned onto the agricultural road because I didn’t want to twist my ankle on the loose stones. It was a perfect day for a race – slightly overcast and chilly with the sun peeking out midway through the race. Once I turned to go under the overpass, I could see the 5k turnaround – a fire truck was parked on the side of the road and a water station was set up there.

I decided that I wasn’t going to get water and would just turn around and head back to the starting line. As I watched a couple of runners continue past the turnaround, I knew I had made the right decision in dropping down to the 5k. It looked lonely out there.

Post-race goodies included bananas, oranges, bagels, and water. Women were given a pot of petunias for Mother’s Day and all racers got a bag of artichokes (3 big artichokes in each bag).

I tried to wait around for the awards ceremony because, just like at my first race of 2011, I had a feeling that I had won an age group prize. I had watched the returning runners on my way to the turnaround and I didn’t see very many women who looked like they were in my age group so I was fairly confident that I would at least be 3rd in my age group. But, knowing that my mom had a great breakfast in the works won out over waiting for the awards ceremony. I learned today that I did win a prize in my age group but haven’t confirmed if it was 2nd or 3rd. Gotta love being older!

I was able to give my mom her traditional Mother’s Day gift – an entry to the Artichoke Festival and a bag of artichokes – plus a pot of petunias. This is a great little local race and I definitely recommend it.

Happy running!