Saturday, February 11, 2012

Race Recap: Virginia is for Lovers 14k

Guess what?

As predicted, after all of my obsessive worrying and weather channel stalking, IT DIDN'T RAIN ON ME!


This is my first official "race recap" so bear with me. I'm going to start with the expo and end ... well, at the finish with sections divided by bold headings and a "grade" assigned to each part of the race.

Expo/Packet Pickup - A
J and I arrived on Friday evening and headed straight to packet pick up. Pick up was the the Virginia Beach Field House which was easy to access with plenty of free parking. We got there around between 3 and 3:30 pm and it was a ghost town.

*cricket cricket*

I was happy about this. Many of the races that I run have 20,000+ participants and the packet pick up and expo are a complete mob scene.

My bib and goodies were in my hands in less than 5 minutes. The shirt for this was a black jacket with the logo embroidered on the left chest (photo later). It is probably the nicest freebie I've gotten at a race and I hate to say it, but I liked the red t-shirts that were laid out better. Not sure who got the red t-shirts instead of the jacket, but I kind of wished I could trade.

The "expo" part of this was pretty spare - one or two vendor booths, Sportsbackers, Dick's Sporting Goods, and a few others. We zipped right through and headed to the hotel. I'm giving it an A - would've been an A+ if there had been some more vendors.

Race Day Arrival/Parking - D
The race website had suggested that everyone plan to arrive at the race by 8:00 am, as the road into the parking/start area was going to be closed at 8:15 am. Trusty Google maps (and our ride from the field house to the hotel the night before) told me that we could get to the race in 15 minutes.

I hate waking up early (a poor quality for a runner, I know), so I decided that if we left the hotel by 7:35 we'd be more than fine. After my breakfast of 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich and a Gatorade Prime, we hit the road.

My chauffeur

This is before we hit the traffic. When we were less than a mile from the parking lots and sports complex, we hit a parking lot. And it was raining.

Two things that I hate: traffic and rain.

It was 7:55 when we hit this. I figured we'd be fine - we were only 1 stop light away from the sports complex. But no, it took us 20 minutes to go 1/2 mile and we were at the stoplight when the police closed off the road at 8:15. I was not amused by this at all. The sports complex is right to the big Virginia Beach Amphitheater that holds thousands and thousands of people for concert events and they couldn't handle 3,000 people coming to a race?

Because we couldn't access the parking lots that we were supposed to be in, we ended up following some other other cars who were obviously filled with racers and parked illegally (shhh) in a hospital parking lot that was close to the sports complex. We then had to walk about 1 mile to get to the start, which was right outside of the field house where we had picked up my packet the night before and where the finish line would be.

Start Area - B+

Finally at the starting line!
Race Day outfit:
Brooks Ravennas
Injinji Toe Socks
Lululemon running crops (from BF, my first piece of Lulu)
Lululemon Run Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve (it's my pink sadly you can't see it here)
Lululemon Featherweight Hybrid Running Jacket
Lululemon Running Hat (not sure of the "real" name)
Lululemon Run Mittens 

Of course I had to go to the bathroom even though I had already gone 3 times before leaving the hotel. Luckily, I had "my person" with me (I refer to my non-runner race escort as "my person") so that he could hold all of the stuff that I had to take off before going into the port-o-john.

There were more than enough johns, so the line moved quickly and the one that I used was shockingly clean.

After putting all of my stuff back on, we listened to the National Anthem, which was song by Mrs. Virginia, then I went to get into my corral. There were 5 corrals and I was assigned to corral 2, so naturally I lined up behind the flag that said "corral 2" on it. This race actually started in waves, meaning that they let corral 1 go, then held corral 2 for 30 seconds before letting them go. Because of this, I figured out that I had not lined up in the proper corral because the announcer started talking about corral 3 and welcoming us to the start line. I didn't really care that much, but was kind of annoyed that I somehow lined up wrong.

Course - B
Good things about the course:
1. Flat
2. Good course support. Water stations every two miles or so and it looked like there were a couple port-o-johns at each. I carry my own water so that I don't have to slow down at water stations and luckily didn't have to utilize any port-o-johns (thank goodness), so I can't speak to the quality of either.
3. Some entertainment including DJs and a cheer leading squad.
4. For the most part the course was paved and wide. We spent a lot of time on streets with a few detours - one through the gravel parking lot at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater, then into the Amphitheater itself (which was neat), then through recreational field areas where the path was paved but very narrow - about 3 people wide.
5. Cute "decor." There were themed portions of the race such as Lovers Lane, where a couple was actually getting married during the race (they ran the race too - their wedding party got an 8 minute head start then they started 5 minutes before everyone else). Along the lane people had sponsored signs with little messages of encouragement/love. My favorite said, "Hey Dad, how about you take us for a walk when this is over? Love, Gizmo and Rocky." In the Amphitheater there were signs with the titles of love themed songs (Love is a Battlefield, I Would Do Anything For Love, Love Stinks, etc). There was another mile of Valentine's jokes (What did the girl sheep say to the boy sheep? I love ewe.) and cheesy pick up lines lined Mile 7.

The meh:
1. Not very scenic. The area that we were in included a sports complex, a hospital complex, an outdoor theater complex, and the section of recreational fields (soccer, tennis, etc). P-r-e-t-t-y b-o-r-i-n-g. Maybe I've been spoiled as the majority of my races have been run in Richmond, Washington DC, along the beach in Ocean City, and in Charlottesville.
2. Very exposed with little shade or cover from trees or building. It was cloudy and overcast the entire time, which I was thankful for. If it had been sunny and on the warm-ish side, it could have gotten hot and uncomfortable very fast. If it had been raining, I would have gotten completely soaked.
3. Accuracy. I don't think that the course was measured accurately. I hit start on my Garmin as I crossed the  start line, and as the race went on I was consistently hitting my miles a little bit before the mile-marker flags. A 14k is supposed to be 8.7 miles (8.699) but my Garmin read a total of 8.73 miles.

The Finish - A
The finish line was actually inside of the field  house. After crossing, each runner was immediately handed their medal and a carnation.

It doubles as a bottle opener. WHOA!

The weird thing was that after the finish line, they had large plexiglass barriers up between the finished runners and the spectators. J was able to find me and he banged on the glass to get my attention. It kind of felt like I was in quarantine or something. Food and liquids were right around the corner. I skipped past the bananas (I hate bananas... another bad runner quality that I have) and opted to grab the bars they were handing out - "Eat Think Smile Natural Energy Bars" - never heard of 'em. There was plenty of Gatorade and water available as well. Then, as if we had enough hands to carry something else, they handed us our "special surprise" which was a beer glass with the Virginia is for Lovers logo.

Apparently you were supposed to use this in the finish festival, but I was so God-blessedly hot that all I could think was that I had to get back outside as quickly as possible. As soon as I found J we bolted out of the building, but the people who were taking advantage of the free beer and Moe's looked to be happy enough.

I wish this Acura had been a prize!

All the swag - race jacket, medal, and beer cup

Overall Grade - B
I think I would run it again. If I do, I will definitely arrive earlier. The arrival was the worst part of the race and being frustrated and rushed is not a good way to start things out.

Personal Performance - A
This race was great for me. I tried really hard to go slow my first mile and then to shoot for an average of 9 minutes per mile. It was the longest I have ever run without stopping to walk - I had to walk a few times during the Army 10 miler thanks to stomach issues. Near the end I started to get some pain in my left hip and my arches, which usually means that I need a new pair of shoes (which is probably true... I was going to try to hold out until after the half marathon but after this, I don't know).

I found myself running faster and faster as the race went on and it felt great. Part of this might have been my motto playing into things (the faster you run, the faster you're done). Around mile 7 I decided I was just too hot so I unzipped my jacket and wrestled it over my race belt. Of course as soon as I did that, there was a turn in the course and we suddenly found ourselves running directly into a very strong, cold headwind. I was freezing and just wanted to be finished.

Here's what the all-powerful Garmin has to say:

I see negative splits!

My official results say I finished in 1:19:29, 406 place out of 2901. I'd say that's not too shabby!

I hope I can keep this pace up for the half - if I do, I have a shot of finishing sub-60:00. But I don't know, it depends on if I get any hip or arch pain, because that really killed me near the end, despite what the numbers say.

Songs of the Race:
Mile 4 - "So Happy I Could Die" Lady Gaga
Mile 6 - "Beautiful Day" U2
Mile 7 - "The Cave" Mumford and Sons

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