MCM's expo this year was held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which I believe is a big change from years past. Throughout the weekend, my transportation was provided by my wonderful brother who lives just outside of DC and was willing to donate his time to the cause, so getting to the Gaylord was not altogether difficult - we just drove. There was a longish line to park, but we kept moving and only had a very short walk from our (unexpectedly $10) parking spot at the center. There were other events going on concurrently so we had to make our way to the far back basement room to find the MCM expo. Fortunately it was easy to find our way.
Packet pickup was a BREEZE. I've never really had to wait long for a packet pickup before, even at some of the bigger races I've done, but I was still pretty impressed with just how smoothly I was able to get my bib and shirt. There were dozens of Marines waiting at well-labeled booths, broken down by bib number, and thanks to the bib card (printable or mobile-accessible from email) the pickup staff simply had to page through the bin of ordered bibs to yank mine out and hand it to me. I grabbed a commemorative program (and am kicking myself for only taking one) and my MCM patch, then headed over to the shirt tables.
My bib didn't have any markings for which shirt size I had requested, and I had forgotten what I'd put, but that didn't seem to be a problem as people just went to the size they wanted and were handed a shirt. We weren't allowed to try them on but a small looked about right so that's what I grabbed. It fits well, but the material is very heavy and it's a kind of putrid green mockneck, so there's a good chance I won't be wearing it much. Good quality item, certainly, I just wish I'd come last year for the beautiful red ones!
Now that I was ready for the actual race part, it was time to check out the expo vendors. First up: the Brooks gear store, which had a huge selection of MCM gear of all kinds! It also had a line that stretched all the way back to the expo entrance, with estimates of about an hour wait time. I'd arrived at the expo early on Friday morning, pretty soon after it had opened, so I was shocked by how long that line was! As it was my first marathon, though, I was pretty determined to grab some MCM goodies to wear proudly back home. My mom and brother helped me pick out a beautiful dark blue long sleeve burnout shirt and a UV protective tank top before we headed to the line. After a while of waiting all together, my family told me I should go meet up with some of the people I had planned to connect with at the expo while they waited. I was hesitant to abandon them, but also realized if we killed two birds with one stone, we could get home sooner.
I headed over towards the Motigo booth to meet up with Celeste, one of the creators of the Motigo app. We'd been communicating about this awesome technology before the race, and had agreed to meet in person at the race. If you haven't heard of Motigo, you need to check this thing out! It's a mobile app that allows friends and family to record personal messages for your race, to be delivered at set points along the course. MCM had provided a bunch of messages for this race as well, so everyone using it would have "cheers" and motivation delivered directly into their ears while running. VERY cool!
After chatting with Celeste for longer than planned, I went back to Brooks to check on the line - and found my family STILL in the middle of the Cedar-Point-esque line lanes! I joined them for the last few turns, during which we actually passed a Gatorade aid station in the middle of the line, a cheer station, and a candy station. Though the long line was kind of annoying and the space was very crowded, the amusement of shopping line aid stations helped lighten the mood, and I must say I was pretty impressed with how quickly that line actually moved. Eventually we were at the register, then through the register, and confronted with the madness that was the MCM expo.
I was so surprised to see how small the conference hall was. MCM's field of about 30,000 runners is one of the biggest races I've ever been a part of, but the expo space was comparable only to races of about half the size. Vendor booths were crammed in and people were shoulder-to-shoulder at most points around the hall. All of the open space in which the packet pickup booths had been remained largely empty while the rest of the expo was shoved in whatever corner it would fit. I felt like I was at Chicago's Wizard World comicon instead of a prestigious race expo. Wading through the sea of humanity was less appealing than I'd expected, so I made rounds as quickly as I could to grab freebies but ultimately spent much less time connecting and browsing at the expo as I had intended. I DID try to participate in any activity challenges that took place around the hall, as always, and ended up in my best-ever wheel pose every for a while, which stretched me out after the long car ride we'd made the day before!
Finally, after only one half-hearted loop around the hall, I called it a day. I think this made my family very happy, but I was a little disappointed. Still, getting off my feet a couple days before the race was ultimately the better choice, so we packed up and headed for home. My bags were still brimming with goodies, and of course I had my bib which was the number one most important part! Saturday was a full day of rest, with absolutely nothing race-related to post about - just a bunch of family gaming and Final Destination watching (side note: NOT a great choice before a big day, as I was starting to freak out about all the little things that could go ever-so-wrong), and of course that little INDIANS IN THE WORLD SERIES thing...
My actual race-day experience will be broken up into a couple different posts, and I'm still working on organizing my thoughts. There was so much to take in and process! As you've probably noticed in this post already, I took a lot of photos and my posts will be a little pic-heavy, but gimme a break! It's 26.2 miles PLUS the rest of the "experience" thing, so deal!
Read about the rest of my MCM experience! Part 1 - Part 2 - Aftermath
What's the best race expo you've ever been to? What made it so awesome? How about the worst?