So I know you've been dying to hear how my race was, right?
Last Saturday I headed out to the National Harbor to run 9.3 miles with 19,999 other people. I was SUPER anxious about the crowds, getting there, getting chocolate, pretty much everything but the actual run.
The run itself was HARD. We started going down hill and I hit the first mile marker at 12 mins. Whoa, way too fast for me (I'm usually at about 13:30 - 13:45 miles). It was 5 miles out and back on a highway. It was boring and awful with all of the exhaust from the trucks and cars just one lane over. It was defeating to see the PACKS of people over a mile ahead of me when I was only two miles in. When I turned around however, it was encouraging to see all of the people I was ahead of. I kept my eye on a few people and just made it my goal to keep up with them.
The first five miles ended going uphill the way we came then back down hill for the next 3/4 miles. We ran past the finish line and went along the 5k course that had already happened that morning. Unfortunately, the downhill wouldn't last, at about 6.5 miles (right after I passed hubs cheering me along) we hit another hill, straight up.
Until this point I had stuck to my run 2 minutes walk 1 intervals. This hill was defeating. My attempt at running up it was counter productive. I just walked to the top, totally off of my intervals for the rest of the race. The final two miles were just run as far as I could, walk until I caught my breath. The final 1/4 mile was again, UPHILL. This was the steepest of the three hills too. Once I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I sprinted by hubs and friends cheering me on to finish.
What surprised me here was that I burst into tears. I was NOT expecting that at all. I wasn't dead (thank you training) and I had actually passed a LOT of people in the last mile (again, thank you training). I felt defeated though, that was the hardest run I had ever done. I had purposefully trained on what was one of the hillier parts of the trail I like, but I didn't feel prepared AT ALL for the giant hills in the race. I felt better once two ladies finished behind me saying that this was so much harder than the 10 Miler courses for the big races in DC.
When I signed up for the race, I had set a goal to finish under the slowest allowed pace time, 15 minute miles. As I had completed my longer training runs, I was coming in at closer to 13:45 - 14:00 minute miles. So before the race I had hoped to finish under a 14 minute mile pace. My official time was 2:11:50 which was a 14:09 pace. I was disappointed that just two minutes faster would have gotten me under the 14 minute goal.
This was my first big race and first race over 5k. My personal run was hard but good, the event as a whole? An absolute disaster.
The 15k was supposed to corral up at 7:45 and be off at 8 or shortly after. Our parking pass said to arrive at the National Harbor by 6:30. We were about 1/4 mile from the exit at 6:10 and then hit dead stopped traffic. At 7:35 we still weren't parked, had barely made it off the exit, so my friend and I jumped out of the car to walk to the start line. We had to walk about a mile to get to the start line and saw that the 5k was no where near starting. They were supposed to be off at 7:30.
At about 8:30 the 5k finally started. The 15kers jumped right into the corrals to get going ASAP. 15 mins later, the leaders of the 5k were finishing. At about 45 mins almost the entire 5k had finished and we still hadn't started our race. At this point, it was 9:15 and I had been expecting to be over half way done already. I had eaten breakfast four hours earlier and hadn't brought water with me. I was starving, thirsty, and numb from the cold. We had no information about when we would start and were just standing there hoping it'd be soon. Without any warning, the crowd started moving forward to the start line. The first mile and a half, I couldn't feel my feet because they were so frozen.
At the 5 1/2 mile when we were crossing back by the start and then finish line, the course was crowded with people who had finished the 5k and were now walking back to their cars. I couldn't tell at several points if I was even on the course because I couldn't see any other runners, just people with their families walking to their cars.
The water stations were poorly manned, often having to wait for water to get poured or do it yourself. (Let's blame this for my 2 minute hold up that cost me my goal pace). Once I finished running uphill to complete the race, the post race party was even further up the hill. At this point, I could choose, walk uphill some more to get rationed hot chocolate and fondue, or walk downhill a mile and half to get back to our car. I chose downhill. Prior to the race, I was really looking forward to celebrating my finish with other runners over delicious Ghiradelli hot chocolate, by the time I was finished, I just wanted to go home.
My experience and frustration with the poorly run race was not unique. I checked the Facebook page of the race and there were hundreds of unhappy folks. RAM Racing did not issue a statement until Sunday and it was just full of excuses.
They claimed traffic was bad because of an accident, WTOP and the Washingtonian have both said there was no accident reported. They said the National Harbor had promised parking would be no problem for 5,000 cars, but they never checked passes (Which had cost an additional $10 and required carpooling), so everyone parked there. They said the 15k was so delayed because the 5k went the wrong direction on the course, which is why we had to wait for them to finish. Shouldn't the lead bike have known which way to take the runners?
The whole thing was so poorly run and from what I can tell, it was mostly from them registering at least twice as many racers as the event should have held. Runners who were at a bit of a quicker pace said the course was too narrow and they were elbow to elbow the entire time and bumping and tripping into each other. The jackets provided were too small for everyone, leading to everyone sizing up and them running out of jackets.
I left the race with an awful distaste for RAM racing and am doubtful I would do another race with them. From what I can tell, most of their events have major mishaps.
All in all, I signed up for a 15k, I trained my butt off to prepare, and finished the race pretty much as expected. If it weren't for the poorly run event, I'd be so much more positive about the whole experience. I am looking forward to my next big race. I'm looking for a 10 miler or maybe perhaps even a 1/2 marathon in late April or May...any ideas? I need something to train for and something to work towards. I wanted to do the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, but we come home from vacation the night before, so I don't want to stress myself out doing a race the next day.
I am looking forward to working on speeding up a bit and knowing what I'm getting into with the big races now.
How was your first race experience? Positive or an absolute disaster?