' Adventures with FitNyx: September 2017

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?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

AARD: What's your biggest fear with an event?

Today's AARD question comes from one of my fellow Sweat Pink ambassadors, Marsha A, who asks: "When do you begin to breathe easy?  It seems every race has that one thing you HOPE goes as planned and then you let out a sigh, either when the race is over or that "thing" (weather, etc) works out like you'd hoped...  What's your biggest fear about/with the event?"

That's a bit of a doozy, Marsha!  But the easy answer to my biggest fear about an event is having a major medical incident occur during the race.  I've had a few races during which a participant was either injured (like being hit by a car) or experienced a serious episode (such as a heart attack) and really, those are my worst fears.  I'm trained in CPR and first aid, and so far I've managed to keep my head in a crisis (even as a participant in a race witnessing a medical incident and taking control), but some day there's going to be something too big for me to handle.  I haven't actually lost a runner to a medical emergency yet, but there's a first time for everything and THAT is what I fear.

But as for beginning to breathe easy...  It's probably when I verify the top finishers.  For just about every race, I manually record the times of the overall winners, to check against my timing equipment to ensure everything is working properly.  Once I know my boxes are reading properly, the weight comes off my shoulders.  I've had every kind of problem you could have at a race: police not showing up (or worse, leaving early), major unannounced construction altering my route, running out of shirts, running out of medals, running out of food, horrible weather, portos tipping over in a storm the night before (grosssssss)...  I can deal with all of that, but if my timing equipment isn't working and the race has more than a hundred people, I'm screwed.  There ARE ways to adapt but I would definitely be panicking more than I have for anything else.

Do YOU have a question for a race director?  Itching to know more about the race planning process?  Looking for some tips or consulting for your own race?  Leave me a message - comments are great and emails work too!  And stay tuned for the next informative Ask A Race Director!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

AARD: How much time is needed to plan a race?

Today's Ask A Race Director question comes from Sharla W. who asks: "How far in advance do you have to start planning for a race?"

As with many of the questions I've been receiving, there is no one right answer to this question; instead, the answer varies depending on a few factors.  Longer distance races (half/full/ultra marathons) take more time than a 5k.  Destination events will need a broader marketing timeline than a little local event.  A full series of races might have an ongoing timeline, constantly requiring work on the next event and relying on routine marketing.  Venue choice might make for a longer permit process, and of course the race's goal number of participants should be considered as well.  But for the sake of information, let's narrow this answer down to two cases.

Hosting a local 5k usually needs about three to six months' worth of planning. It is usually the event permit and any police/ranger support needed for the proposed course that takes the most time, and in some cities the permit process may need to be done up to a year in advance.  Popular venues may also require an early permit, if only to reserve the intended date before another organization's event can secure the location.  Once the permit is in place, the rest of the process can be done in a few months.  Activating registration is simple, but marketing and selling sponsorships should be started at least three months prior to the event date.  Finding volunteers can be done in a pretty quick turnaround if the race supports a large cause or charity, and any swag orders (shirts, medals, etc) usually go in less than a month prior to the race.  Course creation only takes an afternoon, unless there's construction in your path.  Of course, the goals for a local 5k are usually smaller in scope than a national blowout event, so the timeline can be shortened to fit this scope.

They'll see everything!  They'll...
They'll see the big board!

A larger event, such as a destination marathon, requires considerably more time, especially if the race is in its early years.  At least one year of marketing is practically a must, and if the course is going through a major metropolitan area, permitting may need just as much advance notice.  Even for established races, next year's event is usually started immediately after completing the current year's event.  Securing sponsors, reserving the race date at the venue, and promoting the event can be an ongoing process.  Actual race day arrangements are made a month in advance or more, including placing orders for shirts, medals, food, and whatever else is needed for the race.

In the end, the time it takes to plan a race is heavily dependent on the event itself.  You want a larger crowd with a bigger scope, you need to plan for a much longer timeline than if you have a short local race that isn't going to go all-out every time.  Of course, all that said, I've seen races start planning only a month or two in advance and not only draw a large crowd, but pull together a really exciting event/post race, so there are exceptions to every rule!

Have a question you'd love to Ask a Race Director?  Send it over!  I'm happy to answer any and all questions, as well as provide assistance and consulting if you are interested in putting on an event of your own.  Stay tuned for the next installment of AARD, coming next week!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mill Creek Distance Classic Race Recap

After twelve long months, I have finally completed my goal of a half marathon each month for one full year!  My final race of this journey took me out to Youngstown for the annual Mill Creek Distance Classic, a race known for being incredibly hilly and challenging.  I'd already run a few crazy hilly races, so I figured, why not - let's end this mission with one last tough one!

After waking up waaay too early for another long morning race trip, we arrived at the park to find it chilly but clear and sunny - the perfect weather for a March race.  Though there was snow on the ground around the park, the roads were clear and dry.  I was a little bundled but not overly layered as I've been in the past for spring races.  We were more than an hour from home but I still saw several runners from the Cleveland area and chatted a bit with them before the start.  When we finally set off down the hill, I was feeling pretty good.  That changed abruptly about a mile later, as my insides started twisting for "that time" again.  Why do I always run races when I know I'm going to be suffering??  Fortunately there were well-placed portos and I was able to regroup a bit and get back to running, but I did have a few moments along the course where I was dizzy or sick and had to fight to keep moving.

The brutal hills didn't help, either.  I believe there were something like 22 hills along the course, and since it's largely an out-and-back, you get to go up and down some of them twice!  Suuuuper fun, guys.  Between the terrain and my body's rebellion, I was pretty sure I'd actually end up bombing this race.  But then my GPS chimed in and told me I was moving along pretty quickly.  Apparently some of the trail training I'd been doing through the colder months was keeping me in better shape than I realized.  And although the race was sometimes pretty sparse, there was always another person around when I needed a little oomph or pacing to keep me on point.

By the end of the race I was feeling much better.  Knowing I had already fought for so long helps, and made it easier for me to push up the last couple hills.  When I crossed the finish line in well under 2:30, I was nothing short of amazed!  Without running consistently I assumed the elevation changes and physical distress would have ruined me, but apparently I am even stronger than I realized.  That's a pretty great feeling!  Unfortunately I couldn't get an elated finish line photo with my hard-earned medal right away, though, because the race was OUT of medals.  They told me to wait a little bit and they'd bring more, so we hung out in the pavilion where they had a fireplace and some warm refreshments to keep our blood flowing while I waited.

Once I finally had my medal, it was time to hit the post-race pasta lunch hosted by a local restaurant.  Lunch was just basic pasta and bread but any full meal is a nice little touch after running 13.1 miles.  The place was a little hard to find and looked a little sketchy from the road, but apparently the restaurant is a popular higher-end establishment (and yet I don't recall the name, my bad).  We didn't stay long, just enough to stuff a couple platefuls down our gullets before heading back home, but we enjoyed the food and the whole experience.  The rest of the day was spent in well deserved nap mode!

Mill Creek Distance Classic Breakdown

Organization: While the race on the whole was well organized and a positive experience, I have to take some points away for not having all their finisher medals available at the finish line.  Sounded like someone left a box of them at the office or something, so I had to wait a good half hour after finishing to be able to get my finisher medal.  At least they didn't run out completely!  But the course was well supported with aid stations, which I didn't think I'd need due to the cold, but I just can't pass up an electrolyte at mile 8 with my heavy sweating problem.  Packet pickup was a snap and the post race gathering in the little pavilion was nice, though I probably wouldn't have stayed so long if I didn't have to wait for my medal...

The Course: As promised, the entire route was incredibly hilly.  I honestly can't remember a single stretch of road that was flat for more than maybe a tenth of a mile.  Winding, curvy hills, steep hills, long gentle hills...  If there was an elevation change in that park, we were running on it.  Despite the level of difficulty, though, the park itself was incredibly beautiful.  Early March isn't usually all that green, but enough of the forest was starting to awaken for us to enjoy the beginning of spring blossoming.  Challenging courses are becoming old hat for me (as much as they can) so I rather enjoyed the experience.  Have a much faster than anticipated finish time certainly helped leave a positive impression of the course, I must admit!

The Swag: This was a pretty cheap race, and is definitely one for which the swag speaks to the price.  While the course was well supported with aid stations and police where needed (a factor of the race value that is often overlooked), the race shirt is probably one of the most bland I've ever received and will probably end up in a donation bin before long.  It's a tech material but it's not high quality and the sizing was way off, so it's much too big for me to wear.  The finisher medal is also one of the most bland in my collection, but is at least fully customized to reflect the name of the race and the highlight bridge we crossed, so that's a kind of cool feature.  I'm certainly not complaining about the quality - if I recall correctly I paid maybe $35 for a half marathon?  The fact that I got ANYthing is pretty cool at that price, but I wanted to note my observations for anyone who might not have a million race shirts yet or loves flashy bling.

The Bottom Line: Actually, a great race!  Perfect if you're looking for a challenge, easy on the budget, small enough to let you do your "thang" while still having enough participants to warrant good support and attention to detail...  I wish Youngstown could be a little bit closer, but even with the drive, you can't beat this race for the price.  There's a good chance I'll be running Mill Creek again in the future!