Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nike Women's Marathon 2011 - a Snapshot

When I put my name in for the marathon earlier this year, my thought was "if I'm meant to run, my name will get picked." And then I kind of put it out of my head. I think I was looking for the luck of the draw to tell me if my body really should continue to pursue this running thing.

This year's drawing couldn't have come at a better time. I had just had to put my beautiful dog Anna down after a tough struggle with Cushing's Disease the day prior. And it was my birthday. Receiving that email from Nike was really what I needed. I was meant to run and I had something to focus on!

I booked my room/flight package on my own in May since I wasn't traveling with a team and wanted to make sure I got a room close to the start line and as affordable as possible. I figured I would figure out my cheering section later. But October came MUCH faster than I expected and found myself traveling solo, which was a new experience for me. I wasn't worried. My hotel was going to be in the heart of the activity of 20,000+ women all doing the same thing. I knew I wouldn't be alone. And I wasn't.

Pinot: the secret weapon? I looked up restaurants near my hotel in advance and had picked out a place called First Crush that looked like a nice place for a pre-race dinner. When I arrived, there was a seat at the bar and I sat with another woman traveling solo for the race. I really wanted to have a glass of wine ... but drinking before a race? I do beer but usually just one. I couldn't help myself and ordered a "All Pinot All The Time" flight because it looked simply yummy. My new teammate I discovered had already ordered the same flight for herself. We were later joined at the bar by two other women preparing to run the race and the girl next to me ... also ordered the Pinot flight. Perhaps this is a secret pre-race nutrition trick I never heard of? I got a PR the next day, so I'm not disputing it!!

Nice things about being alone in a hotel room for a race?
You can lay out and fidget with your gear as many times as it makes you feel comfortable. If you don't want to tour around too much and just want to relax and focus - you totally can.

You can use the bathroom as often and whenever you want. I kept going until it was time to head out to the start line and I didn't need to use a port-a-potty until mile 13, which was awesome!

Enjoying my coffee and bathroom!

No waiting for the shower after the race. Already showered and now you want a bath? Go for it!

I wandered around the Expo and tried out things. I talked to random people and we shared our stories. It was super relaxing.

The start line was energetic and exciting. And then a little overwhelming. The "corrals" for pace groups were pretty loose, just some people holding a sign and then it was a free-for-all in the street for racers and spectators alike. There weren't any breaks to go to the Gatorade table or the gear check buses and so people just had to shove their way through the crowd to go anywhere. I was sure they were knocking all my necessities off my race belt. I found myself right before they finally started to race starting to panic a bit and saying in my head "never again ..."! But I focused on conversation with another solo runner to keep calm and to capture the energy for positive vibes.

CROWDED @ the start!
Since the corrals weren't obvious or enforced, I don't think people made much effort to organize themselves by actual pace group. Honestly in races where the corrals ARE organized people still don't heed the pace groups. I often wonder why someone who plans to walk the whole race puts themselves in Corrals 1-5 sometimes? I guess it's the fear of being slower and needing to start sooner?

Team in Training does a GREAT job getting first-timers ready to run or walk their first full or half marathon. They make them feel like a team and they raise amazing amounts of money for a very important cause. People are excited to be there and it's exciting to be amongst them.

That said: they really need to focus some energy talking about race etiquette. Walkers should move to the right and runners to the left. Runners should be courteous enough to give a verbal warning before passing on the left or right. Walkers should not span out 3-5 across and create a practical wall across the path. If you want to get things out of your fanny pack or stretch, look behind you before thrusting out an elbow or throwing out your arms. Step aside to stretch? Look behind you before entering the run path again. Simple concepts like that.

Everybody trained hard for this. Many took it on as a great act to do for someone else. So continue that consideration of others into race day. It would be a shame to injure someone on such an important day just because you weren't thinking about sharing the space.

The weather?
Couldn't have been MORE perfect if it tried! It was cool in the morning, but not cold. It stayed overcast the entire race and so it never got too hot. Beautiful. I felt SO blessed!

The course spectators, cheerleaders, volunteers, power song stations? Awesome. A few signs made me tear up a bit!

I loved the energy around me but have to admit feeling relief when we split off from the half and a bit of panic when we briefly rejoined the half as well. So many people at such different paces was challenging to maneuver for sure. My first 10k was much slower than the last portion of the race because I was so restricted.

The course itself was pretty nice. Scenic, lots of cheer stations, hills to make it interesting but not impossible, flat enough when you were tired at the end of the race -- I loved it.

And despite my few complaints - I had an awesome race and all memories are now fond as I look back!

My amazing finish
Found this shirt someone had made @ NikeTown - one of the reasons why we do it!

Some of the other perks of the race!
Unwrapping to see what this year's charm looks like
Post-race mess

Battle wounds!

Now it's as if you were there with me! You're welcome.

No comments: