I almost had to write a “boycott the Area 13.1 race series” post, but luckily it didn’t come quite to that. Although, I do think this race wasn’t really that great anyway.
Let me try to explain how excited I was for this race first.
I’ve been wanting to this race for a really long time. Basically since last year when it first came to Colorado. I was dating a runner at the time and we saw this race and thought it would be really fun. Not going to lie, the glow in the dark alien medal was very appealing. Anyway, he is in the military and never knew in advance if he would have certain weekends off so we didn’t pre-register. As the weekend got closer, he did end up having to work but I thought I would just go and run it myself and register race day.
Race day came, and Colorado got hit with some serious rain storms (remember when all that flooding happened last year?). I decided I didn’t want to run in the crazy weather and opted out.
When this race started being advertised for the 2014 season, I swore up and down I was going to run it! As the year went on (and that boy no longer in the picture) I kinda lost track of the race. Then finally it crept up on me. With my finances being pretty low this year, I was kinda bummed at the price and started debating exactly how much DID I really want to run the race.
Over the last few months, I have been participating in the Road Runner Sports Adventure Runs. Back in July, I saw that they were raffling off a few race entries into the Area 13.1! I didn’t win in July, but I did pick up a $10 off code. I knew they would be raffling more at the August Adventure run, so I still didn’t register.
August came, and I didn’t win again, but I saw who did! I was pretty blunt and went right up to her and asked if she was really going to run it. I even offered to pay her a little bit (I figured giving her 20 bucks for the code was cheaper than registering at full price. Both people would win!). But she said she might actually run it. She knew we had a mutual friend and that if she decided not to run, she would look me up and let me have the free entry.
As the month wore on and the race approached, I decided I didn’t want to fork over the money and register, but about a week and a half before the race, I get a Facebook message. “Hey is this Whitney from the Adventure Run?? I can’t do that Alien run, do you want my code?”
Ecstatic, I asked her if she wanted any money for it. “Heck no,” she replied and I tried registering for the race.
The code didn’t work. 😦
I was bummed! Instant mood change.
I even registered before the price increase in case the code was only good for a monetary value. But no luck.
I emailed the race directors hoping for a response. Three days went by and I hadn’t heard back from anyone. Understanding that it was a holiday weekend, I sent another friendly email on Tuesday, the next work day, and still never got a response. On Wednesday, I wrote on the Facebook page (still very friendly, I swear!) and nothing. Thursday (two days before race day), I find another email address buried on the website. I sent a third email and finally heard back from someone in response to my original email that afternoon.
They wrote back, short and sweet, and said the code should now work.
It did. I registered and I was geared up to run come Saturday night.
With a good friend of mine visiting from out-of-town, I loaded in his car and we drove down to Castle Rock race night. I was super excited and knowing it was a night race, purchased a package for glow sticks.
I grabbed my race packet, pinned on my bib and we began snapping and connecting glow sticks. I ended up attaching about 40 of them to myself.
As race time approached, I lined up in the coral next to a friend of mine that runs a lot of the 3W races and we got ready to run. Once the count down ended, we all took off running and since they didn’t post a course map, I just set off after everyone else. Probably the ONLY time I’ll ever be glad I’m not fast and leading the pack since I had no idea where to go.
MY RACE – 4/5:
I started off kinda fast, knowing I wanted to finish in under two hours. The first mile took us around some soccer fields then spit us out on the East Plum Creek Trail. As soon I was there, I instantly recognized where we were. I had run on this same path just about a month or two before at the 3W Summer Prairie Dog Half. During that race, I did really well for the first half then developed a ton of knee pain (tight IT band). I remember that it was pretty hilly and instead of having most of the hills at the end, we would get them right in the middle since we were running the reverse out and back course.
At a mile and a half, we passed the only aid station we would see until the halfway mark. Not knowing that at the time, I passed up the water offer and continue with my strong steady pace. The first four and half miles were pretty flat so I had no troubles. About that time, a nice lady caught up with me and we ran together for quite a while. She was super nice and after telling her I was working the Broncos game the next day for my Cross Country team, she promised to come get beer from our booth! She kept true to her word, and now I have a running buddy in Fresno, CA!
At the halfway mark, we had just conquered 1.5 miles of rolling hills (only to have to do them again in the opposite direction) and finally we saw water. They were in little tiny cups, so I gobbled two down and continued on my way trying to keep my under two-hour goal. The hills weren’t AS bad in the reverse direction, but they were still pretty challenging. I just kept running. I was getting pretty tired and because they didn’t have any mile markers, I had no idea what kind of pace I was keeping (I don’t have a fancy-schmancy garmin, just a regular ol’ stop watch I was wearing) and didn’t know how much longer I had. I kinda guessed, but it was now night and hard to see anything around us. It was pretty dark! I was covered in glow sticks and had a head lamp, but there were many runners without any sort of lighting. This might explain why I gained a few close-by followers – they must have been leaching off of my light.
When the aid station came into view, I stopped to drink water and asked the volunteer how much was left. That’s when I found out that it was a mile and a half from the end. I looked at my watch and I had about 12 or 13 minutes to reach the end! I would be cutting it pretty close! My calves were the most tight, but my legs were overall pretty tired. I really wanted to break two hours!
I found the soccer fields that we initially ran around but didn’t know which one, the first or second, was the one to turn right. I made the wrong choice at first, but corrected my path. I looked behind me and saw I had some followers that I was leading astray as well. I apologized and noticed that my running friend had caught up to me (like he always does, check out the Father’s Day Classic). I looked again at my watch and with my wrong turn, I was getting really close to the two-hour mark. My friend said he wasn’t feeling well and I then took stock in myself. I wasn’t feel well either (lack of proper hydration!) but with 0.2 miles left, I left him and sprinted to the finish line. I finished in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 7 seconds!
The good: I reached my goal, no knee pain, and just minor soreness.
The bad: I am still far off from my PR set two years ago for the half, but these most recent halves have been pretty hilly courses. The other bad, I felt pretty sick after this race! Really nauseous to the point that I ALMOST didn’t drink my beer! Yes, almost. Of course I had to drink my free beer – pretty much the only good thing about this race!
Overall – 2/5:
I really, REALLY, don’t like to just be bad-mouthing a racing company, especially since A) they know 3W Races but also B) Because being an ambassador for a different racing company, I get to see things from the other side, and I know it’s hard work putting together a race. But let’s just start out with this: I probably wont run this race again unless they get their act together. Judging by the comments on Facebook, I guess last year was a little better. HOWEVER, I really do like the idea of this race and think it has A LOT of potential. I mean, ALIENS!?! How awesome is that theme! Maybe the original one (the Roswell one) is bigger and better.
When I first saw the event and read through their description on their website, I was super excited! I mean, you can check it out HERE if you want to for yourself, but they made it sound super fun! Lot’s of alien themed things along the course, lots of fun lights, and a great post race party were all promised to us. None of which were delivered. And I could have sworn I saw somewhere that the medal was supposed to glow in the dark…but it does not. (And yes, I have left it under lights for HOURS, and still no luck. I tried looking on the website again, but I can’t find it anywhere that reads it glows in the dark. It IS possible that I made that part up in my head).
A few days after the race, we got an email with our results and where pictures were posted (those were free, thankfully!), and there was a little note in there: “We wanted to also take a moment to explain and apologize about some glitches along the course: we had set up glow in the dark balloons and cones to mark the course in addition to a handful of stations with cool lighting and displays. When our lead biker went out he let us know that most of what we had set up had been stolen or moved. This was an unfortunate and unforeseen incident, especially for you runners, and we are sorry that you did not have the experience that we had hoped to provide. We have taken notes and will have more organized event next year.”
No offense, but I don’t really believe that things were “stolen.” I could possible believe a thing or two was stolen, but EVERYTHING? And, this implies that they had more aid stations that were stolen as well. But why would they set up aid stations, with lights and everything, without anyone there to man them? I just think they didn’t have enough volunteers. If this teaches us one thing, it’s how important volunteers are, and next time you see a race advertising that they need volunteers, sign up! Speaking of which… we need volunteers at the 3W Fall Prairie Dog Race!
Race Organization – 1/5:
In race organization I consider everything from pre-race, during the race and post-race.
Starting from the beginning –
1. From the time I send my first email to when I finally got a response back from a race director, it was close to a week which was two days before the race. When you’re getting that close to an event, you should be checking your email multiple times a day, in my opinion. I wasn’t too thrilled with not knowing if I was going to be able to run or not. And I swear, I was very polite in my emails. The code that I was given in the first place should have worked anyway. Somewhere a long the way, the line of communication was dropped, either from the technology person or the brand ambassador that was present at the Adventure Run where my friend won the race entry.
2. There was no course map on the website or at the race, which ended up causing problems for me at the end.
3. There wasn’t nearly as many course markers (or even ANY mile markers) on the course as there should have been. It wasn’t too bad of an issue for a majority of the course considering we were on a major trail that the only way to get lost would be to exit the main trail. It is ironic that this is the part of the course that had the most “markers” which was just glows sticks thrown in the middle of the path. At the end is where I got lost. We started the race in the day light, and the first mile wound around some soccer fields. However, when we came back that way at night, the first soccer field was not lit up and I wasn’t sure if that was the one we ran around or not. I mean, we started in the day and now it’s dark.
I turned right (around the first soccer field) when I should have gone straight. I figured it out not long after and re-traced by steps. Then the main path continues on, but we were supposed to make a right (this time for real) around the second soccer field. It wasn’t until we kept running (there were two people right behind me, following me) that we looked to the upper path and saw some random glow sticks. Feeling bad for leading them astray, we cut through the dead shrubs to the correct path. From there we had to zig-zag on the sidewalks between the parking lot and the soccer fields, and being night-time, there was a couple of times I could not tell exactly where to run. And yes, I did have a head lamp! There was actually many people with out head lamps – I don’t know how they fared along the course! I wouldn’t have been able to!
4. The website said there would be water stations (all lit up and alien themed) every 3 miles. We passed an aid station at 1.5 miles (where the 5K people would turn around) and didn’t see another one until the 6.5 mile mark! That’s half way! Because the website said there would be tons of aid stations, I didn’t run with my fuel belt and I was dying by the time I reached the teeny-tiny water cups. I gulped two down and prepared myself for the fact that I wouldn’t see more water until I had 1.5 miles left. I actually didn’t know how close that aid station was from/to the start/finish until the way back when I asked the volunteer. I went back to look at the website to see where it had info on the water stations and couldn’t find it – but I know I read that somewhere because I made the conscious decision to NOT run with water! That’s made what made me the most mad.
They did try to save their butts by having a random race director or volunteer riding his bike along the course to check on people and apparently had water in his bike trailer thing.
Cost – 2/5:
Starting at $60 and up to $75 by race day, I do not think it was worth the cost. Yes, the medal and shirt are cool, but that’s about it. It was not organized well enough to be worth that cost. That is part of what you pay for.
Post Run – 1/5:
I think the 5K finishers got the best of the post-race “party.” I saw the pictures they posted, and it looks like most of the runners at this event were running the 5K and they must have all thrown the dance party then left by the time us half marathon finishers found the end.
Course – 3/5:
Minus the lack of markings, the course itself wasn’t that bad. For me, I had already run it with the Summer Prairie Dog Half I did, just backwards. (No, I haven’t recapped that race yet), but it is a pretty hilly course. Since it was night-time, it was perfect temperature for running. I really do wish they had mile markers though since I don’t own a GPS watch and don’t like running races with my phone.
Take what you will from everything. Until they get a little more organized, I’ll probably avoid this race for a while. I’m just disappointed and let down from how excited I was to run this race! All my friends knew how much I wanted to run and were sad for me! Again, I think they are on the right path (no pun intended) and have great idea! I do know how hard and how much work it takes to put on an event like this, but that should be reflected in your cost. It disappoints me further that this race series is supposed to go to a good cause and wasn’t that well-organized. I wish they had done more to advertise the cause at the event itself; maybe I missed the announcements:
“The AREA 13.1 Half Marathon/5K race was created to honor the life of Matthew E. Russell, who passed away at the age of 22. Matthew had a passion to bring education and hope to the Zulu people of South Africa. His foundation supports the building of libraries and furthering higher education for children around the world.”