This is a guest post from my friend, fellow vegetarian, and Team Triumph Member, Jenn R. Jenn is a veteran of many races of all different lengths. She recently completed the Las Vegas Half Marathon – a night run which was plagued with problems. Hordes of people reportedly got ill from the water that was handed out. There were many exposure-related injuries from runners not dressed warmly enough for the cold desert night. I read numerous reports from participants who were completely frustrated by course and crowding issues and just ending up quitting mid-race.
Jenn, however, persevered. Despite shuttle bus screw ups that caused them to miss the start, and a whole cascade of ensuing problems, she finished this race. (Oh, and not to mention creatively overcoming a medical diagnosis that probably would have put many people off of running permanently!)
Things don’t always go as we plan. But on race day, when tensions are running super high, any bump in the road can spell psychological disaster. I am really inspired by Jenn’s report and hope that if faced with similar problems, I won’t just throw my hands up and quit.
Team Triumph Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon 2011
A little background on me: I started running about six years ago, after we received an invitation in the mail to “Train to End Stroke” with the American Heart Association. I had never run a day in my life, but always wanted to, and the same could be said for my husband. We signed up, and trained to run a half marathon (Rock ‘n Roll Phoenix). We went from 0 to 13.1 miles (21 km) in five months of training.
In the years since, we have done probably 12 or 13 half-marathons, many 5k’s and 10K’s, and some full marathons. I, myself, completed two marathons, the second in May 2009, before I finally admitted to having an issue with my hip, and sought out a doctor. I didn’t have a traditional injury to recover from, but I do have a structural issue in my right hip and I had some tendinitis (and the start of arthritis). So at that time, I was told that I could still run, but that I should stop for a while to heal the tendinitis and that when I was healed, I could run no more than a 10k consecutively. If I wished to do half-marathons, I could, but I had to either run half and walk the rest, or alternate running with walking. Considering that I pretty much did that anyway, I was okay with those orders. Or so I thought. I actually quite enjoyed my running-free life for quite a while.
In fact, I participated the the 2009 and 2010 Las Vegas Half Marathons, happily walking them both. We were going to sit out in 2011 until we heard that it was going to be a night race. Then we decided that we had to experience it.
At the time I signed up for the race, I was still walking. I hadn’t a desire to run. I remembered what had happened in 2010: During my training, I was only able to get up to 8 miles. That came back to haunt me for the race. I got ill during the race and felt crippled when it was over. I was determined that this year it would be better.
Somewhere in the Spring however, I started running some intervals and tried the C25K (Couch-to-5K) training program, which I actually found to be difficult and gave up on. Yeah, I did. It’s not easy to admit that, but it turns out that after 18 months of not running, and gaining 30 pounds, well, it is hard to run longer than 5 minutes and I am one of those people who gets easily discouraged. So I gave up on that. I decided that there was no shame in walking the half marathon – and besides it was still nine months away and I had lots of time!
And then, as sometimes happens, the Universe works to inspire us, and my sister-in-law and cousin-in-law decided that they want to train to run in a half-marathon in their town in February and want my husband and I to join them. Well, not wanting to be the only non-runner for that race, and be left out, I immediately started trying running again!
I start following John Bingham’s plan to walk three minutes and run one minute. I followed this plan for the next four or five weeks until the Las Vegas Half Marathon and everything went smoothly. I felt great, I ran fast, I had no pain afterwards. During this time, I even ran a 5K Turkey Trot which I managed to finish in approximately 41 minutes, which isn’t so far off my average “running only” time of 36 minutes, which means that I ran a lot more of that race than I walked.
We had beautiful weather in Pittsburgh during my training, which was totally unexpected for November. Usually it is cold and snowy, but it felt like spring. I can’t complain. In fact, the weather is probably the number one reason I was able to train so well and so easily.
In my training, I had time to work up to running about 4 miles with intervals. So my plan for the race was to try to do 5 or maybe 6 (since I run better at night) miles with the intervals and then walk the rest of the race. I expected to finish in 3:00, 15 minutes faster than last year’s walking only time of 3:15!
I wish I could report that race day went as well as I had hoped and that this could be the victorious story. But unfortunately, it was not. I woke up that morning not feeling great due to women issues, but that was the least of my problems.
There were so many problems with this race. The organizers of this race are very experienced and we didn’t expect this at all.
It started with shuttles that couldn’t get us to the start line on time. Yes, we were late for the start. This has happened to us before and with the use of a timing chip, it shouldn’t even matter. It didn’t matter before. But it did this time!
When we got to the start, the race was 25 minutes in. My corral wasn’t even scheduled to start yet, however, so I should have been fine. But they had let everyone pass and they were already shutting down the start line. I know there were at least a few hundred more people behind us on shuttle buses.
I could not get to a porta-potty before the race, I had to carry our gear that we were planning on checking, the race was crowded and nobody had room to move, whether they wanted to run or walk.
It was freezing cold. There were people there not taking the race seriously. They were there for an evening stroll – a very long evening stroll – they had on pj’s and one couple were carrying a baby. A BABY for pete’s sake!
The fact that I had to carry gear on my back and had to use the potty made it pretty impossible for me to run. The lines for any potties I found were so long I wasn’t willing to wait. I just kept on walking and walking. Eventually, the need got too great and I found a shortish line and waited, and watched the hoards of people pass me by. That was pretty demoralizing to me. I didn’t like the idea of being in the back.
Eventually, I was out of that line and able to join back in to the runners and walkers. It was around mile 5.5 at this point and although my legs felt like icicles, I did do some running as I had some ground to make up. It certainly wasn’t five miles worth, but I think I did do okay.
At mile 12, it started to rain. That was the cherry on top of the pie. Yay. I finished in 3:36. Not quite the 3:00 I planned on! But, hey, at least I didn’t give up at the start when I got there late! And physically, I felt fine, which I can’t say for many of the participants.
At the finish, I am handed a medal. Guess what? It was a medal for the full marathon! Yes, they ran out of medals for the half-marathon. I just heard that they have mailed out the medals to those of us who didn’t get one. I guess it could be worse, I could have been given an unripe banana for recovery! Oh wait … that happened …. too.
For a complete and very detailed description of the catastrophe that was this race, please see my blog at http://www.jennriffle.com/
Congrats Jenn! Jenn did not come in last – far from it – but I keep this slogan in my mind at all times: