Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cocoa Women's Half Race Report

      This weekend I ran the Cocoa Women's Half Marathon in San Antonio, TX. My mom came in from the East side of the state to run the Wild Woman 5k that went with the event, so between the two of us, we experienced the whole thing!

We run for chocolate! It's a serious matter.
        I am excited to say that despite a few hiccups, I was able to PR! I finished in 2:15, two minutes faster than my time at the Shiner half in November, and a full 15 minutes faster than my start of the season last year in March!
My mom and I getting ready for the race in the morning.
       This was only the second year for this race, so naturally there were a few issues that occured during the event. I'll go through all my positives and negatives for the day, but overall we had a great time and would definitely consider going back.

Things That Could Improve
  • Timing- The event allowed us to be timed with chips on our bibs, but was a gun start. This means that if you were anywhere but the front (I got crammed in to mid pack) you were delayed in starting your pace by as much as 2 minutes or more. This may seem trivial, but it's really frustrating for people who are trying to set a PR- I could have reached my goal of running in 2:10 if I hadn't have had to battle 5k-ers who had no intention of running starting in front of me. This was definitely everyone's chief complaint, but as of two days after the race, the timing company has already addressed everyone on the Facebook page and will be making corrections- huzzah!
  • Course marking- I had no trouble following the course, but many found it confusing so it's worth addressing. I think the issues came from the fact that the course followed an open hike-and-bike trail, and therefore could not have every twist and turn closed off. I have been on courses marked with nothing but small orange arrows, so this did not bother me, but some people are used to having volunteers at every corner and intersection. I don't think this is the race's fault, because racing depends on VOLUNTEERS, and if people don't volunteer in large enough numbers, they have to just deal with what they have. This leads to another issue- jerks with way too much time on their hands! After I got to the finish line, there were reports of people who were spectators that acted as if they were race officials and directed women off the course on purpose. Not only was this a super douchey move (what if it was someone's first race!) it was also dangerous! There were women who got lost and ended up on unfamiliar streets with no one around, and if they didn't have their phone to pull up a map, they were SOL. I am a big believer in karma, and the jerks who pulled that stunt have something coming to them they'll deserve.
  • Course distance- I do not have a GPS watch so I am not the best source here, but there were people saying the 5k route was too short and the half marathon route was as much as .4 miles too long. When race officials mark courses, they have to mark the shortest run possible to keep anyone from having an advantage- meaning the inside corners of turns, etc. If a runner with their watch runs the outside of the turns, crosses streets, uses other sidewalks, etc. this can add distance. That, and GPS watches are not an exact science- they vary by model, brand, and year, so I don't think a possible .4 miles is anything to huff about, but some people value exactness, so I think taking a close look to double-check the course isn't a bad idea.
  • Start line etiquette- This is not on race officials entirely, but mostly on racers. It would have been helpful for officials to have corrals set up based on expected paces, and to have separated the 5k runners from the half runners. However, it was a mass start which isn't the end of the world. The problem came from people just plain not listening. Race officials asked again and again for people to move to one side so that those not already lined up could get through and line up and those already there acted like their feet were nailed to the ground, which delayed the start of the race. Then, even though they repeatedly asked walkers and slow runners to start in the back, there were plenty of people who had no intention of running standing right up front, making the gun start situation even worse. If you know you are slower or are just walking, MOVE. Your time is no big deal to you, and that is totally OK, but it is to others who paid just as much money as you did, and it's simply polite to let them go ahead. End. Of. Story. Don't be a jerk.
                                                 Things that were Awesome!
  • The Shirts and Swag- The shirts for both events were adorable, and so were the swag bags that they came in! They were nice, New Balance tech t shirts with cute feminine designs on them and came in either a draw string backpack or a small pink tote, depending on your distance. The bibs were cute too, and sturdy, which I like because I hate when the wind can flap your bib all over the place when you run. Take a look!

  • The Medals- The medals are awesome! The 5kers even got one, which made my mom really excited because it was her first race where she ran/power walked the whole thing. The half Marathon medals had it all: pretty ribbon, cool colors, glitter, and a great unique shape.

    You can see the cute pink tote that we got at the expo, too!
  • The Food- Did I mention this was a chocolate themed race? Because the after party food was amazing! There was fresh fruit and truffles from Wiseman House Chocolates, which was amazing. Then, to top that off, there were chocolate chip pancakes from Magnolia Pancake Haus. I am normally not a fan of heavy after-race food, especially when it's warm outside, but these were so delicious! It was definitely some of the best after-race food I've had, and I am such an eater so this is always appreciated. There were plenty of chairs, fun music, and lots of happy ladies to chat with afterwards, and the lines moved quickly so I could eat right away. I was bonking bad because I attempted to do the whole half with only one gel, and really should have had at least an additional snack for around mile 11, but that's all right, because I know better when it comes to the full marathon in a few weeks. Also, quick shout out for BLUE Gatorade! I haaaate lemon-lime, but it's what races always have, so having a tasty flavor was such a nice pick-me-up since I forgot my second gel!

    Mmmmm.....I'd like some more, please!
  • The Course- The course was very pretty! There were a few parts through neighborhoods that were forgettable, but it was mainly scenic hike and bike trails, historic buildings, and shady river walks that made up the route. Some of the trail portions were out and back, which I dread, but knowing San Antonio, I understand why it's laid out that way- some streets just are not blockable due to high tourist traffic, especially on a weekend! They provided a great map with clues about the scenery beforehand as well.

  • The Race Officials- The people who ran this race were super nice and responsive. They listened to everyone's concerns and addressed everything as fast as they could. I could tell the woman who organized everything put her whole heart in to it and took things that went wrong personally so that they won't happen again. I work in customer service, so I know there are people out there who are just negative complainers, and she handled them with grace. I hope she keeps her chin up and puts on another great event next year, because the charity this race benefits is wonderful!
  • The Expo and After-Party Venue- The expo was small, but it's a newer event that was competing with a lot of other races on the same date, so I wasn't surprised. However, it was in a beautiful outdoor location, La Villita historic arts village in downtown San Antonio. The party and expo were in a great limestone square with a gorgeous fountain, shade trees, and cool shops that surrounded it. It was a nice place to hang out and enjoy the yummy food after the race, and way more interesting than an expo center or arena. 
  • The Timing Results- Although the gun time thing was annoying, the technology used to report the results was really cool. The chip was on the back of your bib, and when you walked up to the timing trailer, the computer would automatically read your chip and zap your results on to the TV screen. SO MUCH BETTER than having to squint and scan for your name all over the place, I loved it! It made the crowds at the trailer move quickly and everyone got to see where they landed right away. Very, very nice.
  • The Weather- Always a toss-up in Texas, but it was a beautiful day. For January, it was warm (in the 60s by the later part of the race) so that was a bummer for me because I like to run in chillier weather, but there was a great breeze and lots of shade, so no complaints!
  • The Location and Accommodations- San Antonio gets hated on by a lot of people, even Texans, especially those of us blessed enough to live in the Austin area. :) However, I've always liked it, especially because of my love for history. This race took place down town, close to the River Walk. We were able to stay at the Hyatt right on the river and walk everywhere after we parked our car for free. It was a 5 minute walk to the race location, and a 20 minute walk to The Mercado, where the famous Mi Tierra restaurant was waiting to fill me with margaritas, enchiladas, and sopapillas. (That place is the best- eat there!) It was one of the easiest races I've been to as far as access and accommodations, which makes it more likely that I'll be back.

    It is always Christmas at Mi Tierra!
Overall we had a great time- thanks for a great race!

This blog is following my training as I get ready for the Athleta esprit de She event season. Two events happen in Texas, the Duathlon in Dallas and the Cycle Tour in Austin. I'll be doing both, and you should do at least one!

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