I’ve been visiting with my folks in San Antonio since the 16th. So of course I looked for races while waiting through several flight delays. I found two 10k’s to run so my visit will be bookended with races.
Which is a great, because although I have been getting the mileage in, my workouts have been less than impressive. Hill country indeed (and rattlesnakes, scorpions, deer, skunks, attacking limestone, and a cocophany of unidentified pre-sunrise noises).
You’ll notice the title of this post is a race “review” not “recap”, subtle symatics I know, but the pathetic reality is that I ran only 2.75 miles of the EisenHOTTER 10k, last Saturday.
The course was really confusing, I didn’t realize (well, I considered it, but didn’t quite believe it) I was going the wrong way until I’d have to backtrack about a half mile. Once I figured out where I was, it was also evident that I’d already seen about 20 people also off-course to some degree or another. So I cut my way to the start/finish area thinking I could tell the race direcor and he could parse out some actual humans to hopefully save some runners from the same frustrating fate.
Call me Ryan Hall if you want, but an olympic event this was not. And the course was tricky enough that I really didn’t want to sacrifice my remaining patience and my 20-mile key workout the next morning to try and decipher the rest of the course, as it was my ankles and recovering shin splits were tender from just the 2.75.
Anyway, here’s a quick review for any future racers happen to Google upon this post.
The Course: The course was great, or at least the approximately 2.75 (ok, exactly that much) miles of it that I experienced. The 5k course is less techincal than the second half of the 10k, but still not well suited for a beginner. I saw on the race’s Facebook page that this was a first 5k for some runners. eek.
The course is entirely contained within Eisenhower Park which is great for when you get hopelessly lost. It sort of counters the whole hopeless bit, eventually someone and their dog will find you.
Being in a public park the trail was of course not closed. However, any locals caught by surprise were gracious and even their dogs seemed happy to watch the runners.
The caveat to the awesome course, is that it was so poorly managed that I’d wager more than half (at least) of both 5k and 10k participants ran over or under the intended mileage, or DNF’ed altogether. Additionally, in both the male and female divisions, of both races, the individuals who won, won because of the superiour abilities to intuit where the course was, rather than because of their land speed. Which is fine, but not typical.
Advice to Runners: If you’re within 6-8 weeks of an “A” race. Don’t race this. The risk of a knee blow-out or ankle sprain on this course is high. That said, provided next years race yields better course management and markers this race would be spectacular fun, and so worth entering and accepting that you might add 5-8 minutes to your 10k time, and you might walk a couple of short sections of limestone.
Suggestions for the Race Organizers: I am sure the course was tested out. But I think having someone totally unfamiliar with the course, and the park test-run the course after the markers were put out would have solved nearly all the problems that occurred.
That said, perhaps some of the things causing confusion wouldn’t have been evident. For example, the blue ribbons, in a certain light, really looked white. So you wouldn’t question that you were going the wrong way until you were right upon the ribbon, but then you would look ahead and think “aha! a white one” and tear off, only to repeat the same error.
The red to white to blue system of ribbons sounds clear enough until you have a hundred runners out there, split between two courses, that often overlap. Pack mentality can override even the most confident of minds.
Two simple course markers, one for 5k and one for 10k might have helped limit these shenanigans.
Or: arrows over flags, and humans over arrows. Always.
All of this was actually not too hard to take in stride. What wasn’t so easy to witness was that rather than simply get to work trying to salvage the race experience for runners, the race director chose to argue with runners and tell them it was their own fault because the obviosly weren’t listening. Really? (I should note that the volunteers were all very pleasant….just not very helpful, but that’s not their fault).
Don’t take the hard line with your customers. Don’t tell a runner it’s their fault, or that they weren’t listening to your instructions. Because they probably were listening, and memorizing, as I was. A lot of runners obsess over courses, and strategy. If one runner out of 200 messes up, then it might be that they weren’t paying attention. But if most of the field is running all over creation trying to navigate the race…perhaps their was something else at play.
Moral of the story? Even if there is not improvment in the organization and management of this race for it’s running next year, I bet it will still see an increase in participation. It’s one of the frustrating consequences of the running boom. Races have become so popular that people will pay $35 to have a shitty experience, and they’ll walk away thinking it was their own fault.
I am hoping for a better 10k trail experience tomorrow at the Jalepeno Del Sol 10k. But I have to say, I am keeping my expectations pretty low. Mostly because I got this email yesterday:
Their little graphic is cute, so there’s that…