Monday, November 15, 2010

Fort Worth Marathon Race Review

Well, not so much a marathon review as a review of the 20 mile course.  But I think most of it is applicable to the full as well.  I ran the 20 miler as a training run for White Rock and I had a fair-to-poor run. 

First, Elizabeth went to pick up our packets Friday at lunch time.  So sweet of her, so extra sad that it was such a waste of her time.  They didn't have any shirts and said we could just come back later to get them, or we could get them at the race when we picked up our chips.  She was like, say what??!!  What's the point of having advance packet pick-up if you can't get shirts or chips?  Just so we have a couple extra days to read over the flyers about other races or get a jump on using a few random coupons?  Packet pick-up sucked.  For a race of this size (small), if you aren't going to give out everything we need, just don't offer anything prior to race morning. 

So we decided we'd have to leave extra early race morning, since now we'd have to park, get shirts and chips, put the shirts back in the car and get back to the starting line.  We had very poor directions to the start and kind of got lost in downtown Fort Worth, but that was definitely our fault and not the race's.  We found cops on bikes to give us directions, so we made it there without too much trouble. 

One of the best parts of the race is the size -- it's small, which means lots of primo parking available.  We had to walk about 200 meters to the start.  Maybe not even that far. 

And it has a staggered start, so the full starts at 7:30, the 20 miler at 8:00, and the half at 8:30.  That means for the marathon, if say you run a 4 hour marathon (9:09 pace), you're finishing right next to people who are running a 3:30 20 miler (10:30 pace), and a 3 hour half (13:43 pace).  That can be very tough mentally, at least for me.  It's one of my least favorite things about the original Rock and Roll San Antonio course, though in 09 it was better since there was a divider between the slower half marathoners and those doing the full.  In 08, it seemed like everyone around you was walking and made it very hard to finish strong. 

Anyway, a good and bad part to the race -- the shirts.  Only one size available when we got there -- unisex XS.  Lovely.  But it's actually bigger than I expected since it's unisex.  So assuming they can figure out how to get the right size shirts for everyone, the shirts are great.  One of the best I've gotten in a while.  Short sleeve, light blue, technical. 

So, on to the race report.  It's an out and back along the Trinity River Levee until about mile 9.  Very flat overall.  A couple hills in the first (and last mile), each less than 30 seconds of running up.  And then one steeper one near mile 9 (and 11) (and a steep down too), but also less than a minute up.  Almost the entire route is on a concrete sidewalk, but maybe 1-2 miles total are on a gravel path.  Not much shade and it got warm today. 

The absolute worst part of the race, and why I'd not recommend it to anyone next year (it may be fixed next year, but I don't want anyone I know to suffer if it isn't!), is the water stops.  The first two were fine.  Gatorade and water.  Then for all the rest of the stops until the u-turn, just water and NO CUPS!  Many of the volunteers apologized, but there were just big gallons of water and you had to stop and drink out of a used one if you wanted any water.  For a race that cost $85 (and keep in mind, I paid $85 for the 20 miler, full marathoners paid more and were on the course ahead of us, so they had the same problem for at least as long as we did), I expect water stops that have both water and Gatorade (or something similar, at at least every other stop) and I want the water to be in cups (or tell me to carry my own). 

After the u-turn, cups had been distributed to the water stops, but still many of the stops had only water.  And I was still grossed out to know that I was drinking water from cups that had been poured from gallons that runners (often snotty runners, it was cold at the start) had chugged from just a little while earlier. 

Elizabeth wasn't feeling great and we slowed considerably on the second half, walking at some points, but it was fine with me.  I wasn't doing this race for time, I was doing it to see if I could go the full 20 miles.  Another notable thing about the race was that there were little yellow signs to delineate each mile.  However, the mark for the half u-turn was just some spray painting on the course.  The 20 mile u-turn was a very small sign right next to mile marker 10.  We'd been warned to look for it by several runners coming back at us, but could have been very tricky. 

We finally got to mile marker 18 and ran the last 2 miles.  It was fun to pick off slower runners ahead of us, many who were just out for a leisurely half. 

The finish line was decent.  Another pet-peeve:  there were massages available at the finish, but it was a single line.  I absolutely think full marathoners should have had at least half the benches just for them.  It's fine to put 20 and 13.1 in the same line, but it seems unfair to the marathoners.  But as I've said before, I tend to prefer races that have a full marathon only.  When you mix a full with a shorter distance, it can be disheartening.  People going out fast all around you, while you have to pace for 26.2.  Then you get to the finish line and the half runners have eaten all the food.

That wasn't an issue at this one, at least not for me, but it's a frequent issue at other races (and possibly was for the back of the pack at this one).  We didn't need massages, but we got some recovery drink, Muscle Milk (don't love it, but it's okay) and sat around with a friend from speed class that we'd found who also ran the 20 miles.  We figured out there was a line for food and beer, I got a small bowl of pasta with red sauce with a piece of bread, and half a beer (had to drive 40ish miles home and was a little worried about being too dehydrated from the water fock-up). 

The medal was interesting.  I hate the ribbon (full of sponsor logo), and the medal is the same for all 3 races -- marathon, 20 mile and half.  It's interesting because it's actually a belt buckle.  How cute and typcially Texan!  And even better planning -- the ribbon (ugly as it was) has a little spot of velcro, so you can take the medal/belt buckle off it without cutting it. 

So, for the Fort Worth Marathon 20 mile course on 11/14/10, I would say: 
  • pre-race logistics were okay (just shouldn't offer advance packet pick-up);
  • shirts were okay (great shirt, need adequate numbers of all sizes);
  • parking was great (ample and free and very close);
  • course was good;
  • elevation profile was completely awesome;
  • course support was poor, poor, poor (inexcusable in my mind);
  • crowd support was minimal (very enthusiastic, but very rare);
  • finish line was pretty good (separate massage line for marathoners would be good, but otherwise pretty nice);
  • medals were okay (ribbon was poor but inventive, medal was decent but gets major points for being so unique).
I would say this could be a great race for someone who wanted to qualify or PR.  The lack of any real elevation changes and the lack of congestion at the water stops could really work in your favor.  But you would have to be prepared to bring your own electrolytes largely, and at least for 2011, bring your own cup -- and brace yourself to pour someone's potential backwash into that cup...

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