' Adventures with FitNyx

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AARD: How strict are cut-off times for races/courses?

Today's question was originally asked by Joan Oliver Emmer (Women Who Run the World), but I chose this one for today because I recently had the same discussion with another runner friend who was curious: "How strict are cutoff times for races?  Why can't I get my medal if I am only a few minutes behind?"


Here's the main deal with cutoff times - they're not usually the race's choice.  Course limits are most often dictated by the venue where the race is being held, which for longer races that have cutoffs usually means a city.  There are lots of permitting points that I'll probably eventually discuss, but the most relevant today is the street closure aspect, and therein lies the basis for the cutoff time on a half or full marathon.  My best example is the Marine Corps Marathon: the famous "Beat the Bridge" cutoff is set at mile 20, which participants MUST reach by 1:15pm.  This is a hard-and-fast limit that is enforced by a line of buses pulling in front of the course.  All participants who miss the cutoffs are put on the buses and taken to the finish line, where they do not get a medal or a time because they didn't finish the race.  The MCM website is very clear about several cutoff points and the pace needed to "stay alive" on the course.

But why 1:15pm?  Why a 14-minute pace?  The 1:15pm time is the latest Washington DC will allow the roads to be closed around the capital.  Obviously, DC is a kinda important city for our country, and even on a Sunday, people need access to the buildings along the National Mall and other points of the course.  The 14-minute-per-mile pace is not some arbitrary "we think you need to be a better runner than this" decision, but rather a calculation of what it will take to make it to the Bridge by 1:15pm.  This cutoff isn't meant to discriminate against slower runners specifically, it's just a city requirement to have the streets cleared at a reasonable time.

Of all the first-marathon advice I received, "don't get on
a bus" was the piece that stuck with me the most!


Boarding buses at the cutoff, however, is NOT the universal solution for races with a time limit.  For other events, that cutoff time is a little more "soft", and most participants will still be able to complete the race and earn their medal.  If the venue/city allows it, a soft cutoff will see slower participants moved to sidewalks or all-purpose trails so the streets can reopen, allowing the participant to continue with their race at their own pace.  The important difference between these two types of cutoffs (hard and soft) is communication prior to the event.  MCM makes it very clear what will happen to anyone not meeting cutoffs, including when and where those sweeps will take place.  Other races plan for sweeps, but don't tell their runners what to expect - at these events, runners are surprised to learn they may not be able to complete their goal.  It is very important as a race director to make sure we're communicating our cutoffs and what to expect at those times, especially if a soft cutoff means fewer aid stations.

In very, very rare occurrences, a race will impose a cutoff time simply to allow the race workers and volunteers to go home.  I've really only seen this done for ultra marathons, if a company doesn't have a big enough crew to keep shifting employees throughout an event that might take some people 24 hours or more.  Some races will keep the course open but may not be able to keep volunteers on the course for the full time and cannot guarantee course support after a certain point; again, communication is key for these instances.

Finding a pacer can help you manage your race splits better
while also giving you an experienced runner's advice along the way!

I keep putting the onus on the race directors to ensure their participants are aware of a cutoff time and what it may mean for their experience - but it's equally important for race participants to do their due diligence in researching an endurance event.  While prepping for my MCM experience, I wrote a post about finding the right marathon for your pace, especially if you're looking to enter a limited field event.  It's just as important for runners to do their research before signing up for an event, and perhaps even more important for potential participants to be honest with themselves about making the cutoffs.  Be prepared for what you might experience at your race, and we'll do our best to craft races that can accommodate as many people as possible!  This whole crazy running business is a team effort, after all!

Have you ever been stymied by a course cutoff?  Have you ever been surprised on race day to find out you're in danger of an unadvertised sweep?  What other questions do you want to Ask a Race Director?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mission: Redemption

One year.

A lot can happen in one year.  This is a pretty common theme on this blog, really...  If you've been following me for a while you've probably noticed I have a relatively tumultuous life that changes constantly.  I'm never in the same place as I was a year prior.  This time, fortunately, I think I'm in the best place I have been in my life!


But that's not why I'm reflecting on "one year" right now.  True, in the past year I've bought a home, gone through a couple relationships, made a big job change...  But the single moment that matters to me right now happened one year ago today: I ran my first full marathon when I took on the Marine Corps Marathon in DC.  From Mission: Preparedness to Mission: Accomplished, it was one heck of a journey, but by the end of race day, I was pretty sour on the final experience.  You can read more about my MCM story in a series of posts from last year, if you're interested in the full details: Expo / Part 1 / Part 2 / Aftermath

To say I was disappointed with my first marathon would be an understatement.  I was so turned off by that experience that I was heavily leaning towards the "one-and-done" camp.  People who know me best, though, could tell right away that I'd end up doing another marathon, if only to prove I could do better than the first one - and as it turns out, they were right.

As of yesterday, I am officially registered for my SECOND full marathon!


I'll be staying local and running through my hometown this time around, doubling my previous half marathon experiences at the Cleveland Rite-Aid Marathon in May.  Coming back home a few years ago opened doors in my life that I'd never before thought possible.  Cleveland has brought me my dream job, a wonderful home, and some of the best friends I've ever made.  It's about time I applied the magic of the 'Land to my running schedule!

Of course, this registration brings with it new challenges, and new opportunities.  Instead of training during the nicest months of the year, I'll be training during the coldest, nastiest months.  I'll carry with me the lessons I learned from last time, and I'll build to improve upon them.  I have more realistic expectations for my race experience - especially having run the half marathon for the past two years, making me more familiar with the course.  Hometown advantage is great to have on my side, as well.  I can preview the course, take training runs along the route, and of course I'll be able to invite a larger support group since the whole family is right here in town.

Hopefully, Marathon #2 will bring me the redemption I've been craving for the past year.  It's time to start the new mission - wish me luck!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RICEing Just Got Easier

Aches and pains are pretty much a guarantee for those of us living an active lifestyle.  While there are plenty of good injury prevention practices, there's just no avoiding the occasional twist, sprain, or general overuse soreness.  Every athlete knows how to treat those minor injuries with the old RICE adage: rest, ice, compression, elevation.  But even if we weren't itching to get back to our movin' and shakin', this on-the-go world makes it difficult to take proper care of those aches and pains.  Who has time to sit still for an 20 minute ice application every few hours throughout the day?  Fortunately, gone are the days of needing a ziplock full of ice cubes to stay perched precariously on your sore knee or ankle.

Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review; I received
no additional compensation.  As always, all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Paincakes are revolutionizing the RICE treatment for those of us who suffer from sprains or sore muscles but have to keep moving despite the pain.  While resting completely is certainly the best treatment, it simply isn't always feasible to take a day off work just to nurse an irritating minor injury.  For those days, an ice pack that sticks in place and doesn't leak is just about the best possible invention on the planet!

The science of the gel-based reusable ice pack isn't exactly modern marvel, but I've never seen one that is both flexible and self-adhesive until I found Paincakes.  In the past, if I wanted to use one of those gel packs, especially on a busy day, I had to monkey with an ACE bandage for a while trying to find a good combination of flexibility and stability that would allow me to go about my activities for the day.  If you've ever tried this delicate juggling act yourself, you probably remember being frustrated that you couldn't quite find the right level of tension to keep the ice pack where it needed application while still being able to move at all.  Paincakes totally solves this problem by sticking directly to the affected area - and staying PUT for as long as you need.

Paincakes - part of a balanced recovery routine!

I've been using my Paincake for almost a year now, and it sees action almost weekly.  The adhesive is still just as strong as it was on the first use!  In fact, the only signs of the frequence of use mine receives are the slightly peeling edges of the adhesive square.  Since the Paincake sticks so well, it takes a little effort to peel it off, and the repeated pulling is starting to pull the square up at the corners ever so slightly, but I supposed that's to be expected after quite a bit of use.  It certainly hasn't impacted my ability to use the ice pack, so I'm not really worried about it quite yet.  The product only claims to be good for 100 resticks which I hit quite a while ago, so I think I'm doing well!

My Paincake is great for icing the entire ankle area, or one side of the knee, at a time.  I can also target other painful areas, like specific points on my back that need iced down after a tough workout, or the bumps on my forehead when my dog knocks me into a doorframe because she's so excited I'm home (yes, that happens more often than you'd think - she's the best but she's a handful!).  There are also mini Paincakes that pack the same punch but in a smaller size!  Both the regular and mini Paincakes come in a waterproof ziplock pouch so you can tuck them into a suitcase while you travel, allowing you to take relief for aches and pains anywhere you might have access to a freezer.

Obviously last year...  #Windians

Having the ability to ice anytime, anywhere, without having to be careful about my ice pack slipping or falling off helped me get through last year's marathon training with minimal down time.  It's currently helping me ease back into teaching fitness classes on a regular basis.  And in the future...  Who knows what it might help me accomplish?  When I'm able to take better care of my body, anything is possible!  Kinda makes you wanna set a big new goal, eh?  ;)

What helps you take care of your body while balancing a fitness lifestyle and, well, a regular life?  Do you have a favorite RICE routine or product?  What's your next big fitness goal?

Monday, October 16, 2017

AARD: Is race directing a full time job?

Okay, I'm going to take a day to answer the question I hear the absolute most by far when people learn I'm a race director.  "Oh, a race director?  Is that like, part time?  Do you make much money?"  This is one of those jobs that a large portion of the population doesn't even know exists, and it's hard for people to wrap their heads around it - especially since it's a relatively rare position.  Even being in the industry for several years, I still only personally know maybe 20 people who make a full time living doing nothing but race work.  Now to be fair, I know there are many cities across the country and the world that have 20+ race managers/directors each, but that's still a lot fewer RDs than, say, teachers or doctors.  It's uncommon and it's unusual, so I can see why this question comes up so often.


For me, yes, it is a full time position and I make a salary that covers my expenses.  I've made enough in the past to accumulate some decent savings, but took a pay cut to move to another company that better matched my personal vision and goals in the industry.  My bills are always paid on time, I own my own home with a very manageable mortgage, and I have enough left over to do things I enjoy.  Currently, I have room to help my company grow and my compensation will match that growth, which will put me back at a very comfortable living very soon.  It's a great balance of affording a stable life while also working every single day with something I love and about which I am passionate.

My position is a little different than the majority of race directors, though.  I work for a major timing company.  We host 20+ races each year that we own and for which we do all the work, but a large part of our business is contracted out to local organizations who want to put on a race as a fundraiser.  Technically, every person from these groups who spearheads their event is a "race director".  Some may call themselves that, others will just say "oooh, I'm a volunteer and they asked me to be in charge."  The vast majority of the race directors I work with to manage, time, and consult on their races are either paid part-time for their race work, are salaried for a more generalized position that includes planning the organization's race event, or are true volunteers who are donating their time to charity in order to build a great fundraiser.


Honestly, race directing is basically just a form of event planning that focuses solely on running events.  When considered in this manner, the idea of a "full time race director" is a little less unusual than it originally seems!  I'm doing many of the same things a wedding planner or a conference planner might do, I just happen to do it for runners and I'm planning courses and coordinating timing instead of picking a menu or matching color palettes!  It's a very complex job with lots of facets to keep me on my toes and busy 365 days a year, and it's a blessing to have found such a perfect position for my career.  I hope everyone who gets involved in race management has as great of an experience as I've had!

What do YOU want to know about running and races?  I'd love to share my experiences and observations!  Submit your Ask A Race Director questions in the comments below or via email to fitnyx@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Naked Energy - Tried It Tuesday

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me say I don't drink coffee - and anyone who has ever SEEN me, especially when I'm working races, has a hard time believing I'm not chugging it all day!  Usually, energy is no problem for me, as I'm naturally pretty bubbly.  Some days, though, it's a struggle to get moving, stay alert, and keep my momentum going forward.  On those days, I need a little boost, but it can be hard to find products that can provide the extra energy without having more negative side effects than it's worth.  Thankfully, more and more supplement companies are making pre-workout products that are made from natural ingredients to eliminate or mitigate all the awful itching, tingling, and heart pounding I constantly experience when using non-natural pre-workouts.

Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review.  I did not receive any
additional compensation, and all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Originally, I was all set to write this review based on trying Naked Energy to get my feet moving and my excitement pumping for my return to teaching morning fitness classes.  It seemed like a good enough test, and results were readily apparent starting with my first use.  Not only did the pre-workout get my blood flowing for my classes, it kept me alert and bouncing (literally) for the entire day.  But those were pretty typical days after the classes ended.  I got an opportunity for an even better test of the product last weekend, when my race management company hosted a sold-out marathon at one of Northeast Ohio's beautiful state parks.

My biggest struggle with this new race company has been the distance: it takes an hour for me to drive to the office, even on a low-traffic day.  Headlands Beach state park, where the race was held, is even farther away than the office.  Wake-up time for me was around 2:30am (yes, ugh is correct).  Waking up that early isn't really that bad, but waking up and then driving for an hour and a half in the dark is pretty rough.  I mixed myself a water bottle full of Naked Energy, tossed in some creatine and BCAAs, hopped in the car and started chugging.

Just about to head over to start the race - already 6 hours
in and still feeling bright and peppy!

By the time I got to the park, I was AMPED.  My drive had consisted of some great tunes and the building feeling of "It's TIME!"  I stepped out of the car ready to tackle a long, exhausting day with absolutely zero apprehension.  The kicker to the whole day was that, on top of working setup and tear down for the event, I was also planning to run the half marathon - there's not a lot for timers to do between the start and finish of a marathon besides let the equipment work, so I wanted to get my October half in the books early.  The pre-workout would have to help me get through not only the long day of work, but also the 13.1 miles I'd chosen to throw in the middle of it.  On top of an already tall order, the day started chilly but quickly became very hot when the intense sun reached its zenith in a cloudless sky.  GAME ON.

While many of my coworkers battled through the morning, I was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and beaming all throughout packet pickup and the start of the race.  Since I had stayed at the registration tent until all runners had been helped, I was the last to start the race, but I was feeling great and made up distance quickly.  Finally about two miles in, I connected with a running friend and we chatted for the next 10 miles while we kept our feet shuffling and our spirits up despite the growing heat.  I booked it for the last mile to empty the tank, crossed the finish line, and - went back to work!

Some form of dancing.  Somewhere this counts as a dance.

My job for the next few hours consisted of mingling with runners to get feedback and answer questions, then I moved over to the finish line to hand out finisher medals to the full marathoners as they crossed.  One of our event photographers kept chuckling every time he walked by me and I was dancing; he finally just started snapping pics of me with waaaaay too much energy for post-race, let alone post-race/post-work with more work to go.  I did start feeling the aches in my legs around three hours after I had finished my race, but my energy level stayed true.  After the last finishers crossed, I helped take down our equipment and pack the trucks, then went back to the warehouse to wash out 80+ Gatorade coolers and dozens of grimy tables before driving the hour and a half back home.

When I finally returned to my puppy (who was looked after all afternoon by my boyfriend, thankfully) it was almost 6pm.  That's almost a 16 hour day full of activity, and I was only just starting to feel tired!  Honestly, if there's a better test of an energy supplement, I'd be scared to go through whatever it would be.  I was so elated at the end of the event because everything had gone well and I had made it all day with a huge, genuine smile on my face, thanks to Naked Energy.

Earned that medal thanks to Naked Energy!
Naked Creatine review in the works as well...

The real kicker is that I didn't experience ANY of the typical side effects I've noticed in any other pre-workout I've taken.  At no point did I feel anxious or nervous.  I never got the flashes of warm tingling feelings along my skin either.  I also didn't feel overly intense about anything, either, which I had noticed on a few other energy supplements in the past.  My focus was even-keel, my energy was constantly high, and there were no adverse physical sensations.  That's perfect for what I need from a pre-workout supplement.  I'm so very glad I tried this one despite so many iffy experiences with similar products in the past.  I guess "Naked" is the way to go!

Monday, September 25, 2017

AARD: How do RDs come up with a race's course?


Kristen K from Run Away With Me asks: "I've always wondered how new races come up with the route - especially here in Anchorage, where every race ends on a giant hill."

Kristin, I can't speak to Anchorage, but I definitely have put together some courses with some crazy hills!  Often times, the course is partially (if not fully) dictated by what the local authorities will allow, and if that means running on a hill, that's what we do.  But course creation is also more than just finding the X number of miles that the police or rangers will let us use.  We look very closely at the actual experience of running the course, as well as timing logistics like start/finish areas that are safe and accessible.  Difficulty is usually a byproduct of these other items, though if it's meant to be a challenging race (like the Hill Yeah half marathon my company puts on every year) we will probably go looking for something a little more spicy!

What does "the experience of running the course" mean?  It's all about flow and accommodation.  Where can we fit the expected number of participants without having people run into each other?  What makes sense with traffic patterns and local establishments?  For example, if we're running on a major road, we're far more likely to be allowed to shut down a lane on one side of the road for a mile or two, allowing traffic to continue both ways, than if we tried to cross over the entire road, which would require stopping ALL traffic.  We try to avoid courses that would cross over themselves to avoid runner collisions.  If it's a race with 100 people, we're more likely to use a bike path or park trail than a race with 1000 people that simply won't fit in that space.  Aid station locations are a concern too - they have to be well-placed for runners to receive fuel when appropriate, but should also be accessible for dropping supplies and for volunteers to find.  We want the runners to have the best possible experience, which doesn't always mean "most scenic" or "most convenient" - it means safety, sensibility, and smoothness.


Having a proper starting and finishing area (or areas, if they're separate) is also a major concern.  Since this is where people will congregate before and after the race, and all of our expensive timing equipment and staff will be located, it's important that the start/finish is placed in a location that is safe and ample for the race's needs.  You can't have a big post-race party in an alleyway, and you wouldn't want to pay police to shut down an entire main street for a very small race just to keep the start/finish on the road.  It has to make sense for what you're doing, how many people you're having, and for the neighborhood.  We take into consideration both amount of parking and easy of getting into/out of the parking area, as well.

Once we find a course that works, we stick to it like glue!  In fact, many race timing and management companies will probably have go-to locations with straightforward courses to keep things simple and to avoid stepping on too many law enforcement toes.  Here in Cleveland, for example, we have only a couple of approved downtown courses, so we may reuse the same course for several events.  I've had a few complaints about the route getting "stale", and I get what the runners are saying, but hope they can understand that running in a major city is very limited.  If we want to offer four downtown races a year, we're much more likely to have them all approved with the same minimal-interference course than we are to get four separate courses approved.  I had a similar experience in Chicago as a runner, finding many of the downtown races often went on the same portions of road and relied heavily on the Lakefront Trail.  It's just the way things may have to be done in some areas.


Do you have a favorite course you've run?  What course features do you think of when you consider favorites?  What's important to you to have on a course?  And, as always, what other questions do you have for race directors??

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quatro Logiq Running Gear - Tried it Tuesday

Now that I run almost exclusively longer distance races, I'm always on the lookout for gear that helps me take all the gels, music, tissues, water, or whatever else I'll need to cover the mileage safely and (hopefully) quickly.  You can tell from all of my race photos that I'm clearly madly in love with my favorite running shorts that I wear to every warm weather half marathon, but they're shorts.  What if I want to bring some gear along on a cooler day?  Until recently, the only option in my wardrobe was to either wear the shorts under a longer pair of leggings (uncomfortable) or to wear a jacket with pockets in which my items would bounce around while I ran.  Well, I think I found a better solution!

Disclaimer: I received these items at no cost in exchange for my review.
As always, all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Quatro Logiq is an Australian company that is solving some of runners' biggest gear problems.  Though their catalog has several items I'm dying to try, I settled on testing out a very simple outfit for starters: a tank top and compression capris.  Doesn't sound flashy, but the big draw was the tank top, which is made with FOUR pockets along the back of the shirt into which I could tuck all my little running add-ons without needing bouncy pockets.  Plus, it's a compression fit, so I could easily wear it underneath a looser long sleeve without discomfort.  I ordered a medium tank top (I normally take small or medium in tops, so I erred up for compression gear), and a pair of large compression capris to go with, since I don't actually own any leg compression gear.

When my items arrived (very quickly despite the overseas shipping!) and I pulled my clothes out of the packaging, I was a little shocked.  The tank looked HUGE, and the capris looked TINY.  I seriously thought I received an XL top and XS bottoms!  Though skeptical, I pulled my gear on and found that my capris fit PERFECTLY despite looking absolutely impossible to squeeze into - I guess that's the joy of compression gear?  The top, on the other hand, was a little too tight even though it had originally looked way too big.  Then I realized the website uses European sizing, not American, and I probably should have ordered a large top.  It was still wearable, so I took the outfit for a test drive.


I'm IN LOVE with these capris.  They're such a great fit and they're probably the most moisture wicking item of clothing I've ever worn.  My first few runs in the QL gear were late summer evenings in slight heat and high humidity, which would normally have me dripping with sweat even in other wicking gear.  Not so in my QL capris, I was dry with no chaffing the whole way!  And even though they appeared so super small at first and I was worried that halfway through the run my waistband would be cutting into me, I never once felt like I was wearing anything smaller than exactly what I needed.  Definitely a major win!

The tank top is highly functional, too, even though I did experience some fit issues from not paying enough attention to the website's sizing.  There are four pockets in the bottom of the back of the shirt, and surprisingly, I had no problem reaching ANY of them to insert or remove items during my run.  All four pockets are the same size, but two of them have their openings stitched a little narrower to keep things like keys and money from popping out easily during the run.  Two of the pockets are full size, and could easily fit my Droid Mini phone while still in its case.  I could put the phone in and pull it out without having to stop running, which is exactly what I was looking for in a pocketed shirt.  I can also tuck gels into the pockets, and I bet you could fit one of those FlipBelt bottles into one too if you wanted to take a small water bottle.  Nothing in the pockets bounced, but I did have some issues with the shirt riding up a bit because of how tight it was.  Again, if you pay attention to the sizing, you probably can avoid this problem.


My gear has gone through a couple washes now, and I am happy to report no shrinkage and no damage to the material with a cold/cold wash cycle and hanging to dry.  I've had other wicking products pill up in the same wash cycle, so I was very pleased to see that these items held their shape, sizing, and quality with no issues.  I'd also like to mention that they sent me my items in a reuseable QL drawstring sack, which is a cute little bonus!

Since ordering this outfit, Quatro Logiq has actually added some NEW gear to their website!  I had my eye on their shoulder sleeves since the beginning (basically a long sleeve shrug that would pair perfectly with the tank top's pockets), but now I'm also interested in several of the sports bra designs they recently released, including one that has another pocket in the racerback straps of the bra.  I'm looking very forward to adding more QL gear to my wardrobe and can't wait to see what else they release in the future!

And of course, you can try it too!  Use promo code logiq15 to take 15% off your order at Quatro Logiq to find YOUR new favorite gear!

What's your gear-carrying solution for when you run or workout?  Have you tried compression gear in the past?