Monday, December 5, 2011

The Hot Mess 5K

On Saturday I ran the Ghiradelli Hot Chocolate 5K with Amanda, Hawi, and Kristen.  We all woke up at 4:30 AM to carpool and make it over to National Harbor in time for the race's 7:30 AM start time.  The race, sponsored by Ghiradelli and organized by RAM Racing, was a total disaster with a delayed start time and a disastrous, if not dangerous, course.  I had every intention of writing a scathing review this morning, but last night the owner of RAM sent around a pretty heartfelt apology email explaining what went wrong Saturday, and being that it's the holidays and all, I'm in a forgiving spirit.  They had also fed me chocolate at the end of the race, so my chagrin was quickly forgotten.

From what the email said, I feel bad for RAM because it seems as if everything that could have gone wrong on Saturday morning, did.  I'll start with my initial experiences and give the RAM version later.  Hawi, Kristen, Amanda and I arrived at the starting line around 5:45 AM.  We wandered around looking for the physical start (we had been led to believe we'd need to take a shuttle there), and not a single volunteer could tell us where to go.  Finally we realized we were parked about 20 feet from where we needed to be, so we sat in the car to keep warm.

Not long after we arrived, there were 2 traffic-stopping accidents on the Interstate inhibiting participants from getting to the parking lots and starting line.  Because of this, race officials delayed the start over and over again.  It was like the Valentine's episode of 30 Rock where Liz and Matt Damon are flying to their romantic getaway and Pilot Damon keeps saying "30 more minutes, folks."  Amanda and I were more of a "You snooze, You lose" crowd, meaning if you didn't wake up early enough to get to the race (like we did), then too bad.  But, it wasn't up to us and the race didn't kick off until 8:15.  Annoying.

Once the race did start, it was the worst course I've ever run in my 26 years.  About 2/3 of the race was on a bike trail that couldn't have been more than 8 feet wide.  So unlike other races where the start is crowded and then after the first half mile people have spread out, we were running on top of each other for most of it.  At points, I was literally jogging in place.  There were no openings in the crowd to get through and no system or room for passing.  To top it all off, runners still attempting to get from the parking lots to the starting line were walking the same trail, upstream.  So while we're running, people are walking along this trail going the wrong direction.  It's a wonder no one fell off into the harbor.

I was running so slowly in this packed crowd that I was able to snap a picture of how dense it was.

It felt like we were being herded.  Baaah.

My last and final complaint about the course is that the last third to half mile were uphill.  A significant incline uphill, not a baby molehill.  Talk about a buzzkill.  My race strategy is generally to huff and puff and think about how much I hate running for the first 2 and 3/4 miles.  Then I open up, make up for lost time and sprint at the end.  Yeah, that just isn't happening on an uphill finish.  

We sat in the car for over 2 hours to keep warm.

Now, RAM had an explanation for all of this (except the uphill finish line) which really put things into perspective.  The accidents were actually more trouble than they seemed.  The police halted traffic to clean them up.  The Maryland parking authorities promised they could park more cars than they actually could.  The bus company delivered far fewer shuttles than they promised and the accidents halted those busses shuttling passengers from the metro meetup points to the start line.  And this is really the clincher: The lead biker who was guiding the start of the 5K was misdirected by the police and we literally ran the course backwards.  The owner says this resulted:  

"This action directed the 5K in the opposite direction from the way it was supposed to flow, insuring that the runners would run into themselves.  We had to open up the start line much faster than we would have liked, in order to avoid returning runners from running into outbound runners, which would not have been a problem if the lead runner was allowed to follow the planned course."

And this explains why we ran the narrowest part of the course first.  Good grief Charlie Brown.

At the end, I finished the race in 33:42.  Not bad considering the crowd and a few very steep hills (which, now that I think about it, we should have run downhill instead of up...)  

The most successful part of the race could be considered the afterparty.  We all received Ghiradelli hot chocolate fondue with a pretzel, apple slices, marshmallow, banana and rice crispie treat.  In seconds, my angst over the terrible course was eased.  Nothing like the calories you just burned waiting for you at the finish line.


Ghiradelli Hot Chocolate

Fun Merchandise!  "Will Run for Chocolate"
Honestly, I talked to a lot of runners who had the same problems I did with the race.  And we swore that RAM Racing would lose any of our business in the future.  However, after reading RAM's apology, and realizing that it wasn't their poor planning, but the stellar execution by the Maryland police, I personally have decided that I'd be more than willing to give RAM a second chance.  I just hope the next race they organize is sponsored by Tiffany.  

No comments:

Post a Comment