Long Beach Half Marathon: At Times, a Total CF
And I don’t mean “Capillary Flow” or “Compact Fluorescent.”
I’ll start out by saying, initially (i.e. before race day), I was impressed with the race organization, the materials, the website, the price, etc. The expo was small and little to no shwag – though Clif did have this big sample thing where I tried everything and saved two clif bloks in a coffee cup (because I am cheap) for race day (and I totally used them – I shoved them into my already open pack of blocks). The technical tee is actually quite nice though I wish there were more races that did tanks because I much prefer running in tanks over anything with sleeves.
Our goodie back also contained a Chocolate Clif Shot and a little package of Don Francisco Breakfast Blend ground coffee. I’m drinking the coffee as I write this. Mr. Francisco makes a decent cup of joe.
Anyway, so, we stayed at a hotel about a 10-15 minute walk from the start. Left the hotel at 5:45/6am to walk over (my wave - #2 - was scheduled for 7:05am). We make a stop at Starbucks inside the Renaissance Hotel and my two friends used the restrooms there (I was waiting for more “activity” in my body before using a rest room). We spent a bit too much time there and this was mistake #2 (#1 would have been to leave even earlier than 6am). We got to the start around 6:40am, find the bag check and wait 5-7 minutes checking the one bag. This would later be mistake #3 on our part. From here on out, the rest I blame on the race organization. And our mistakes would not have been mistakes with a better organized race.
We find the porta potty (i.e. big-blue-shit-box) line and holy moly. WTF. There was no way I could NOT go – it was urgent, if you get what I am saying. My race buddies also had to go, so, we got in the damn line. We waited at least 20 minutes to use one. Not nearly enough to service the number of runners (18000!). Also? No toilet paper left. FAIL TO THE MAX. Luckily, my one runner pal is always prepared and grabbed the roll from the hotel knowing that this would be an issue. Otherwise I would have been wiping my ass with seat liners.
This is where my non-stop complaining about the race began. As you would expect, I missed my wave. I get out of the porta-john, and walk/jog over to the corrals (which wasn’t even close to the potties) and go in through the back, missing the other side entrance that dumps you into the further ahead corrals. When you’re short, and there are people everywhere, it’s hard to see what the heck is going on. I end up in wave 6. The LAST wave. Apparently, 30% of this wave was people like me who got screwed by the porta line. I got as far up as I could before I just couldn’t move up anymore. I didn’t start until 7:34. I ran into one girl who was running the full and supposed to be in wave 1. I hope that it went OK for her and that she wasn’t trying to BQ from wave 6.
I spent nearly all but the last two miles of the race dodging and weaving. Wave 6 is like a 13 minute mile and higher. I was running 8:30 pace. You can see how that really doesn’t work. Oh, the grumbling and huffing I was doing in my head AND out loud. I swore under my breath more times than I can remember. When I had the energy, I would say “excuse me” or “thanks”. Some runners were really thoughtful and knew when they were part of a block and would speed up/slow down to relieve it – I thanked one guy for helping me out that way – he sped up big time to let me through. Other runners were completely oblivious and would create a wall, shoulder-to-shoulder. The first time I had to run all the way around one group (another runner dude was into the sand, running around them). The second time it happed I got pissed and as I ran up behind them I said “You are all running shoulder-to-shoulder! Excuse me!” This was like mile 8 or so. I was fed up at this point – I could not keep my mouth shut.
Honestly, I feel really bad about all the elbows and arms of runners I bumped into – it wasn’t their fault that I got stuck. It was the damn bathroom line and our later arrival, to a lesser degree. I was trying my best to courteously dart around but it was challenging as the race was packed.
So, that is another issue – the course is actually quite nice. Except for the fact that you have 18000 runners starting together and at mile 6 it narrows to the width of a wide single car lane. Dumb. This mile is where I had my slowest by 20 seconds. I just couldn’t move.
The last mile, the winner of the men’s marathon (and the second place runner) came running by and that was a total boost for me to kick it into gear. It has a downhill finish which was great and the crowd had finally thinned (a bit – I did have to dodge a couple people in the last mile). I finished 1:54:12. And AGAIN I ran longer, 13.24 miles probably because of all the weaving. I was determined to know what time I actually ran for 13.1 miles, so I hit the lap button when I got to that distance – a time of 1:53:05. Had this race not been such a mess for me, I think I could have been in the 1:52’s. Which means I was really pretty damn close to wave 1 (1:34 – 1:51). But I started in wave 6. Nice.
Splits (you can see how I was running all over the place since my best pace was consistently the 7’s but my miles were 8.5-ish):
The fun does not end here though. This is when the real cluster f--- begins.
I cross the finish and somehow miss the water. They only had water bottles one hot second after the finish line. I was EXHAUSTED. By the time my brain processed that I needed water, there was none to be found. I was at the food baggie line and 10 year olds were handing them out – I tried asking them but, seriously, they’re in grade school. I just got blank stares and the “I don’t know” face. Another runner heard me ask and was so flippin’ nice, she gave me her extra bottle. I could have kissed her was I not covered in salt and smelly-ness. To not have more locations with water was kind of a fail.
I was supposed to meet my friends on the other side where the porta-johns were. Well, there was only one way over to that side (and the idea of waiting around in the madness trying to find them on the finish line side was just not happening) via pedestrian bridge. Another 20 minute line to cross a smelly fart chute. Seriously, the bridge smelled of BO and farts from all the runners going through. Again. Fail. More grumbling.
The true epic fail came when I went to get my bag from the check. We were sitting on the grass behind the tent waiting for our other friend to cross the finish and I get up to get in line and realize, holy smokes, the line extends all the way to Jerusalem and another line extends to Shanghai. I get in the line and wait for MORE THAN AN HOUR. A friend comes and stands in for me (since he didn’t run and felt like I should go sit down for a bit). I go sit by the tent and see that someone is opening up the back of the tent. All the fed-up runners tired of waiting for hours to get their bag, essentially, storm the tent and take matters into their own hands.
I go in there and there are runners everywhere. People at the front are just holding up their numbers hoping that a frazzled volunteer will find their bags. The three volunteers in there are losing their minds. Actually, two were not, just one lady. This one lady got so out-of-sorts that she was screaming about how we all need to get out. At one point she yelled “Everyone get the f--- out!” Like that’s gonna work, lady. I, and everyone else, ignored her. The only way things would get better is if she called security. I got out of the tent because I was getting nowhere finding my bag. Ten minutes pass, I go back in and my some miracle of God, my bag (which had my friend’s new iPhone 4 in it) is sitting on the top of this pile with the tag/number facing up. I triple checked it against my number pinned to my body, and then high-tailed it out before security showed up (and they did).
The end result of this is that I would not do this race again. Not unless they cap the entrants to like 12,000 total (rather than 12K half, 6K full). There is simply not enough room in that park area to handle that many runners. I don’t know where they would have even put additional porta johns had they had them. There was no space. The finish line area was cramped and only one way out over a narrow pedestrian bridge. The course can’t handle that many people in the narrow sections. Charge more and cap the entrants lower!
But at least I still PR’d. Yay! Snow Canyon Half on 11/6 is next!