Monday, February 15, 2016

Something Old & New, Something Borrowed & Blue: The 2016 Publix A1A Half Marathon {Race Recap}

My race recap will be a little different this time because I decided to skip the traditional "dawn 'til dusk" chronological reporting I've been doing. Instead I'm going to do a "category" breakdown and try to capture the entire experience as best as I can that way. It will still have a start-to-finish feel though {that's the "something old"} so hopefully the breakdown won't be too confusing or disjointed. I also decided to rate each of the categories using a five star system (*****) because I'm not 100% sure how I feel about my overall experience yet {"something new"}. I figure the breakdown and review will help with that... hopefully. Anyway here goes:

Parking:
I heard a lot of complaints about the parking situation but it wasn't a problem for me. The race organizers made it very clear (in their multiple emails) that parking gets congested and recommended that runners try and get to the designated parking areas by 4:30am on race morning. This was from one of their emails...
(In my opinion they could not have been any clearer about the parking situation)
I'm an early riser on race day (I was up at 2:45am this time) so I don't typically have an issue with parking. I would rather get to a race early and wait in my car in a nice and comfy parking spot, than have to worry about making it to the start corrals in time because I'm battling for spots with half the city.
(Parking rating: *****).

Corrals:
This race isn't as big as some of the other races so they had the benefit of doing a rolling start. They had "pace/mile" placeholders and runners were asked to line up in the start corral based on their estimated pace. I was between the 12min/mile and 13min/mile placeholders...

One of my running partners, Andy, and I were hoping for the same finish time goal of 2:45:00 so we planned to run the race together...

My favorite part about the pre-race section of the day was the instrumental national anthem (and this part in particular)...
video
(pretty incredible right?)
(Corral & Anthem rating: *****)

Start:
The "rolling start" worked out pretty well and it only took us about 7-8 minutes to cross the start from where we were. The only challenge was that some of the more... "conservative" runners/walkers placed themselves toward the single digit min/mile pace sections so there was a lot of bobbing and weaving and trying to avoid colliding with people who were sauntering across the start. Now, let me just say that I don't care how fast or slow people choose to walk or run an event. I'm not a fast runner and even if I was I don't make it a habit to judge anyone's running/walking capabilities. But it would be nice, or at the very least a little bit considerate, for people to stay to one side of the course if they are going to walk through the start. I hope that doesn't sound like an unreasonable request, but I almost collided with quite a few individuals and I do not run fast so it's not like I was speeding through the course. 
(Start rating: ***)

Course:
I didn't pay much attention to the race course prior to race day so I didn't know what to expect. I knew we were going to run along A1A for a bit (the name of the race was a big clue) but outside of that fun fact I was "running blind". Luckily Andy had done the course before so he gave me tips and warnings along the way {"something borrowed"}...

I am NOT a fan of this course. Outside of the A1A stretch I didn't like it. And even sections along A1A were not my favorite. My biggest issue was how congested it got at different points. The section that went through Birch State Park was prone to both congestion and not-so-great smells. I got the warning from Andy and I can usually deal with weird odors (I am a nurse after all and you don't even want to know what I've been exposed to during that line of work) but when you're running and trying to do simple things like maintain your oxygen intake, foul odors are not your friend.
(Course rating: **)

Performance:
Andy and I did 2:1 intervals for the entire course and we were pretty consistent throughout. My official course time was 2:40:49...

I can't find a breakdown of the course intervals (even though they had timing mats along the route) so I only have the Garmin data to show. I forgot to stop my watch as soon as I crossed so the total time is off but everything else is pretty accurate...
I beat my 2:45:00 goal time so I was pretty happy about how I did. 
(Performance rating: ****)

Medal:
This race is actually known for it's medals and has won a lot of awards in the past. This year the medal was very... blue {it's my "something blue" for this post}...
Ok so to be honest the medal isn't my favorite. Kai loves it (and so do a lot of people) but I'm feeling "lukewarm" about it. It's a very good quality medal and it's huge and for the "cuteness" factor the turtle opens up...
(Medal rating: ***)

Post-Race Party:
The post race party was crowded. I'm not sure what else to say about it. I wasn't feeling wonderful after the race so I didn't feel like dealing with the crowd. They seemed to have a nice variety of food options and giveaways but the area was small and the lines were long so it was a bit challenging to enjoy. I'm not a beer drinker so free beer after the run isn't a plus for me. I'm more focused on the food options. But after I saw the lines all I wanted to do was go home, so I took a post-run pic with Andy and a few other pics and then I left. I have to say though that if the area for the post-race party was bigger I'm sure it would have been amazing.
(Post-race party rating: ***)

Shuttles:
As you could probably tell by the course map, the start and finish were in two different locations, so the race directors provided shuttles to take runners from the finish area back to the start area. I have no complaints about this process. Everyone lined up and the buses came relatively quickly and we were back to the start area in no time. It was pretty well organized and everyone was respectful (i.e. no skipping) and I even chatted with a few of the runners sitting around me (I'm super shy so that's pretty unusual for me). One of the ladies I spoke to was contemplating doing her first full marathon so the guy beside me (who has also done fulls) and I were giving her some insight (like: "it's a big commitment" and "make sure you have family support before, during and after training" and "Go big for your first full" which translated to "don't do a local race... try Chicago, NY, or Marine Corps for your first full"). Anyway I don't know what she will decide but talking with her and the other runners added to the shuttle bus experience for me.
(Shuttle rating: *****)

I'm going to tally all the ratings and give an overall race rating at the end but in the meantime I had a few other things to share:
I was lucky to run the race with Andy because he truly kept me motivated along the way...

I'm happy to report that I didn't get any blisters during the race! There were a few "tender" areas on my feet where I normally get blisters but there were no actual blisters once I took off my socks and examined my feet. My knee was a little sore but not painful so overall I was really happy...
(I was feeling sick after the race but it had nothing to do with my feet or my knee)

They were offering free medal engraving after the race at one of the local Dick's Sporting Goods stores so I totally took advantage of that...

Calculation of race rating
Parking - 5
Corrals - 5
Start - 3
Course - 2
Performance - 4
Medal - 3
Post-race party - 3
Shuttles - 5
Total 30/8 categories = Average overall rating: 3.75 stars (sooooo.... 75%....that's like a C+ right?)

Would I do this race again? Probably not. Not because of the rating (well, not only because of the rating) but mainly because I'm really trying not to repeat half/full marathon races. There are a few exceptions to that because of extenuating circumstances but overall the goal is to have as many "unique" race experiences as possible :)

Would I recommend this race to others? Yes I would. Apart from the issues I mentioned overall the race is a great one to try. And now that you've read this you know to get there early, prepare for the congestion and smells, and be patient as you wait in line at the post-race party. If you're part of the majority that love the medal then that's a big plus also. One thing I will say about the course (that I forgot to mention before) is that they had a lot of hydration stations along the route. I was pretty impressed by that. I didn't run with any hydration on me so I was totally dependent on what was provided (I should probably give them an extra star for that huh?).

I hope you enjoyed the recap and the breakdown! It was kind of fun to do it this way actually. Based on what I shared and the pics & video you saw, how would you rate this race? Or, if you ran the race yesterday, what was your experience? Would you do it again?

2 comments:

  1. I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy this course. This is probably my favorite course of any race I've ever done, but I agree that in some areas it gets congested, especially in the park. Running along A1A is my favorite though. I was so annoyed the first year I ran the Miami Half to find out you can't really see the beach from the course.

    Luckily I am able to walk to the start from my apartment so I don't have to deal with any parking issues. Adam came and picked me up after the race so I didn't deal with the shuttles either. Perks of being an ultra local haha.

    I'm definitely going to do this race again but I get your desire to not repeat races. I don't know if I'll do the Miami Half again next year. Two times might be enough!

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    1. The A1A section was definitely the best aspect of the course and I think only the Ft. Lauderdale half has a similar view. There were a few areas where they could have partitioned the "lanes" better so that the participants running in opposite directions had enough space. I'm probably being picky though ;)
      It's great that you live so close! And it must be nice to run the race along a route that you are familiar with :)

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