Posted in Race Reports, 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!

Posted in Finance, Opinions and Thoughts

Charity Begins at Home

Illustration from below book
Illustration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was growing up my mom frequently told me, “Charity begins at home.” She usually told me this when I would refuse to share a book or a toy with my brother but then turn around and share that very item with a friend or classmate. It was my mom’s way of reminding me that I needed to take care of my family first before I tried to take care of others.

It’s a lesson that has taken some time to sink in, honestly. For years I donated money to a nonprofit organization that provided food for needy people in the Caribbean. I didn’t really think twice about it – food is important to me and after all, needy people are needy people and it doesn’t matter where there are, does it? Or does it?

A few years ago I sat through a United Way presentation. And one of the statistics cited in the presentation really struck a chord in me. The statistic? One in four people in our county used one or more of the services provided by United Way agencies in our county. Imagine that. If you go out to lunch with three coworkers, chances are that one of the four of you are receiving services from a United Way agency.

Of course, not all services provided by a United Way agency are for those in need. If you belong to the YMCA and go there to use the gym or to play pick-up basketball games, you’re using a service provided by a United Way agency.

Even with that explanation, the statistic of one in four really hit a nerve. I attended a United Way presentation again in fall 2011 and discovered that the statistic had changed to one in three, likely due to the economic situation in our country. One in three.

While Americans in our own country, our own states, our own communities are suffering from homelessness, hunger, and health issues, we seem to be intent on sending our own contributions anywhere but here in America. We seem especially focused on Africa.

I don’t understand this. While I’m glad that the spirit of giving and volunteerism is alive and well in America, even in these tough economic times, why are we sending our donations of money, items, and our time overseas? If charity begins at home, then why aren’t we taking care of our fellow Americans first?

And the thought processor churns on…

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!