"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Recap: Race Organization

If you haven't yet read my Seattle Rock 'n' Roll marathon recap, you can do so HERE. There's so much that goes into a race weekend, though, that I felt like everything other than the actual running needed it's own post. There's the organization of the race itself, the expo, transportation and lodging issues and a few other items to mention here. Let's get right to it:

I had never been to a race with an expo before so I didn’t have any expectations. Upon entering the Quest Events Center on Friday afternoon the party-like atmosphere was in full swing. Bib pickup was quick and efficient as was the t-shirt and swag bag pickup. The sponsor booth area was fairly crowded and I realized later that I had missed the 2011 sign up booth, where I could have registered for next year's race for a mere $55. There were various freebies (mostly food/drink samples) being handed out but nothing I absolutely had to have. Most everything for sale was at retail price or above. Grade: B

Swag Bag: Ehh. A few useful items, like some Zicam allergy gel and cold sore gel, mini bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a package of Cytomax powder and a $10 off $50 purchase at Sports Authority, but nothing that I really said "Wow!" or "Sweet!" to. I don't have a dog, but I'll give the healthy dog treats to my parents' dog so he can turn his nose up at them. Most everything else found its way into the hotel garbage can. The shirts are quality tech shirts from Brooks. If you hope to run in this shirt, however, be warned that they size big. I'm 5'11" and what I would call and a slim to average build and my medium-sized shirt fits if I'm wearing it around casually, but it's too big to run in. My wife got a size small, which fits her much the same way, but is just about the right size for me to run in. Grade: B-

At the starting line village the next morning, the UPS drop off/pickup was simple, fast and efficient. Can't ask for anything more than that. There was plenty of water available and I believe there was food also, but I didn't look very hard. There were more portable toilets than I have ever seen in my life, but there were still long lines at every one of them. My understanding is that participant drop off site was a nightmare (as should be expected with 27,000 runners), and the shuttle busses from the finish line had more issues as the morning went on (also to be expected). I stayed at the Days Inn around the corner and walked to the starting line, so I didn’t have to deal with any of these issues. Grade: B

Speaking of the Days Inn, yes, it was literally around the corner from the starting line. And yes, it was a dive of a motel. But it was worth every penny not to have to a) pay more for a hotel near the finish line and then wait in line at 4am to catch shuttle to the starting line or b) stress and fight the traffic to the participant drop-off point and then still have to walk a considerable distance to the starting area (and potentially miss your corral start). My wife and I stayed in our room until shortly after 6am and then enjoyed a leisurely walk to the starting area where we took in the sights and sounds, dropped off our bags, relaxed for a few minutes and then made our way to our respective corrals just prior to the Star-Spangled Banner being sung and the elite runners being sent off. You get what you pay for in terms of hotel rooms, but the Days Inn, despite its drawbacks, was worth every penny. Accommodations Grade: C-. Location/Convenience Grade: A+

The 20 aid stations were spaced evenly from one another and the volunteers were all cheerful and supportive, not bored and miserable. It made a huge difference. I also appreciated that the Cytomax tables always came before water (so there was never confusion as to what you were getting) and that tables were set up on both sides of the street, so there weren't any kamikaze runners darting across the street for the last cup of liquid. There were two or three stations with Gu gel, one with gummy bears (which, at mile 16, I couldn't resist) and one with pretzels (which I should have resisted). My wife tells me that supplies were running low on the half marathon course, but there was plenty of everything on the full course. Grade: A

The spectators were great. There were a few miles at the end when there weren't very many people (we were on the freeway), but there were crowds hovering on ever bridge and overpass that we ran by. The finish line area was 4 or 5 people deep for the final 1/4 mile. Better yet, spectators cheered throughout the race, not just for the one or two people they were there to see and support. This makes a huge difference, especially for those of us who didn't have anyone on the course supporting us (my family members were all running). A very special thank you goes to the lady standing around mile 18 holding a sign which read: "Dear Complete Stranger - I don't know you, but I'm proud of you." I acknowledged her sign as I passed, she offered a few words of encouragement to me and I went on my way, a little tear in my eye. Grade: A

img_4022Post race festivities were what you would expect. I got my picture taken, was given a heavy, high quality finisher's medal (which was different than the 1/2 finisher medal--THANK YOU) and made my way through the normal food tables of water, Cytomax, granola bars, bananas, oranges, chips, crackers, bagels etc. I don't drink, but I understand there was beer also. There was plenty of room to move around, take pictures, sit and relax. The medical area was clearly marked as was the family meet-up area. The gear bag pickup provided by UPS was just as smooth and easy as the drop off was. Grade: B+

I didn't stick around for the post-race Tonic concert. You'll have to read about that somewhere else. Grade: Incomplete

The Seattle light rail system worked well for us. After leaving the post-race recovery area, we walked a short distance to the Stadium Station, paid $2.25 each for a ticket and then enjoyed a quiet stress-free 20-minute ride back to the Tukwila Station (about 2 miles from the hotel), where my mother-in-law and kids met us with the car (there were also numerous city busses and hotel shuttles at the Tukwila station if you were parked at your nearby hotel). We used this same route to get to and from the expo on Friday and avoided the downtown traffic/parking mess and costs. Grade: A-

If I have one complaint, it's this: The bands. I realize is a "Rock 'n' Roll" marathon and in no way am I asking to get rid of the bands. It's all part of the experience and I get that. I'm just not a real big music guy and I didn't care for a single one of them. In fact, I found many of them more annoying than inspirational. There were a few I might listen to if I needed some good background music while driving, writing a paper or making dinner. Not so much for gutting out 26.2 miles though. Others will surely see this the other way. Fine. The quality of the bands reached a low point at mile 24 when we were greeted by some group with a cross-dressing lead singer screaming death into his mic. On the way back in after the final turnaround, said cross-dresser had stripped down to his skimpy underwear and was breaking things as he continued his screaming. Not my thing. Grade: C

I would run this race again. I should have remembered to sign up at the expo for $55 but I wish the race organizers would have been a little more merciful and/or gracious for our participation. Instead, arriving home late Saturday night and getting a post-race reminder to sign up for next years race only to find out that the price has been increased to $105 before November 30th (and a staggering $135 after) felt a little like a slap in the face. Congratulations, you sold out 28,000 spots at the current price months in advance. So why not increase the price and make a few more bucks? I guess that's supply and demand in action. At $135 though, I'm priced out of this market.

Overall, I would give this race a solid A- grade. There are a few things that could be tweaked here and there, but the Competitor group obviously knows what they are doing and they do it as best as can be expected when you're accommodating 28,000 participants. From getting to and from and in and out of the expo, to aid station and spectator support, to post-race festivities, everything went smoothly for me. If any of you ran this race I would be interested to hear about your experiences and would be willing to post them here or link to your recap on your blog or website if you'd like.

No comments: