Monday, May 14, 2012

Big Lake Half Marathon race report

Let's start by saying that this is a cute little race next to big, beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee. After picking up my packet (and surviving the porta potty line), I headed down to the start. Easily the prettiest starting area I've ever seen:

standing at the start, looking at a bit of lake
A few hundred runners standing around, enjoying the perfect morning:

A slightly wobbly national anthem -- it's "o'er the land of the free", not "in the land of the free", but hey... -- and for the first time ever, people all started running at once. Not run a few feet and then stop and start again when you get to the starting line... Just "go!" and everyone started running. It was almost shocking.

We ran along a little back road for a mile, before arriving at Winnepesaukee proper and passing the finish line. (A man near me said, "Wow -- I just PR'ed!") Then we just ran and ran.

Coming from a pretty, lake-filled city, I was perhaps not as impressed as I should have been with the scenery. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty, the course well-marked, and the water stops frequent and staffed by friendly volunteers. And the weather was absolutely perfect. But it sorta felt like running at home...

Anyway, not much to tell -- long hill between miles 3.5 and 4.5 up to a ridge with some nice views, and eventually a steep downhill stretch to the lake.

Running was okay, if a little gimpy on the uphills (where I did more than my fair share of walking, but who cares). Downhill was so steep that I had to sort of carefully pick my way down the bumpy road.

Like many lakefront roads, they're almost private -- so you see squillion-dollar houses on five-dollar streets. Lots of uneven ups and downs, broken pavement, etc. But it was certainly pretty...

Then it got a little weird. I was approaching a water stop just before mile 10. As I ran up to it, I thought, "those kids are really far out into the road". The road was better paved, but still pretty narrow. And the kids were several feet away from the table at the side of the road. I had picked up a cup of water from one kid, but wanted Gatorade as well. I made eye contact with a man dressed as a nun -- he was saying "water" so I moved a few inches to my right to avoid him and hone in on the kid next to him, who was saying "Gatorade". As I shifted, the "nun" made a weird face, and I felt the whoosh of a car right next to me... and it just barely clipped my right elbow.


Now, the driver wasn't going particularly fast, and the road wasn't particularly wide, and I'm sure he didn't realize that he had clipped me. It was just enough to bump my arm forward... AND COMPLETELY FREAK ME OUT.

The "nun" and I looked at each other, wide-eyed, but I just kept walking while clutching my cup of water and willing myself to breathe. Very weird.

(I mean, the water stop was FULL of kids. Crazy old goat in a Lexus.)

The rest of the run was pretty much without incident -- even though I essentially walked the rest of the way in "to save my legs" (ha ha). Nice support at the finish line -- lots of runners wearing their medals and cheering. Got a little shout out (people are always excited by out-of-towners), a really pretty medal, and a bottle of water. 

finish area

Walked around a little bit -- deciding that the line for race food was too long and too slow-moving, but stretched in the sun and then climbed on a shuttle back to the start. On the way back to my hotel I stopped in and got a double scoop (yeah, you heard me, DOUBLE SCOOP) of amazing ice cream. Paying $3.80 to buy my own was WAY smarter than standing in line...).

I liked the race, I liked my fellow runners, I liked the area. But I do have a few comments.

There were a few amenities promised but not delivered on. I am almost hesitant to mention them, mainly because none of them were things that matter to me. But for some people it does matter, so here goes.

1. "multicolor technical tee" -- this was actually a nice cotton t-shirt. I don't mind a cotton t-shirt. To be honest, I'm not going to wear it anyway. And a cotton t-shirt is better than an off-brand, cut-rate "technical" shirt like you get at some races. (Run Like Hell Half Marathon, I'm talking to you...). But if it mattered to you, you might be disappointed.

2. "digital split clocks every mile" -- I'm not sure there were digital split clocks anywhere on the course. Again, I have a watch, and the miles were marked. I think most people have watches, so maybe no one cares, but if you expected to be able to track progress, you might be bummed.

3. "The Whole Course will be a party, too, with live entertainment throughout!" -- again, though the folks at the aid stations were friendly, helpful, and often blaring music, it wasn't really "live entertainment". Do I care? No. But someone might. There *WAS* music at the finish line, with lots of people hanging out in the sun.

And now, for some nice(r) comments! The medal was gorgeous, and had one of the best ribbons ever. Great placement of the race name on the back -- so when someone had the medal on, you could read the race name at the back of the neck. The volunteers at the aid stations were super nice, and I especially liked the ones with all the kids in superhero garb. The post-race food looked good -- but I didn't have the patience (or time) to wait in the long line.

Big Lake Half Marathon medal

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