After reading about the horribleness of the Hot Chocolate 5k and 15k (managed by RAM Racing, who joins my list with the 13.1 ‘Marathon’ Series of Race Organizers whom I will never again support in any way), I remembered I forgot to share my race recap for the TXU Energy Turkey Trot in Houston on Thanksgiving Day. Fortunately, this race was, overall, very well done. With one fairly major exception (read on for that).
Potties! They really had an exceptional number of port-a-potties WITH hand washing stations. There were hardly more than 3 or 4 people in each of the mini lines. Keep in mind – this race had over 12,000 runners. As is my race usual, I hit the loo when I arrive at the race site and then again at the last possible minute (I hate wasting precious time on a race course by stopping for the loo. I’ve been racing for almost 2 years and have only had one potty stop on a race course and that was during my marathon.) I didn’t wait more than a minute or two in line for the port-a-potty. Before the race, after the race – super short lines. Not only did they have them at the Runners’ Village, they had them scattered around the official parking lots! Total WIN. (Yes, this is super important to me and to me is an indication that the race organizers are road racers themselves.)
The race course. It was flat. It was fast. It had lots of straight-aways so getting tangled with other runners when trying to run the tangents wasn’t a problem. It had plenty of police officers keeping traffic back. A nice course for a Thanksgiving day race.
(On a side note: I think I was the only one saying “Thanks, officer!” or “Happy Thanksgiving officer!” It always a good move when you say thanks to a police officer who is keeping you from getting hit by a car. I highly suggest doing this in every race you run! Usually you get a smile and a cheerful “You’re welcome!” when you say thanks to them, and who couldn’t use a little happiness when racing?)
The (marginally) Bad:
Parking. Parking before the race was reasonable for such a large race, but getting out was a nightmare. My dad (my cheerleader/driver for the race) and I sat in a line to get out of a parking lot for literally 20 minutes without moving an inch. And we didn’t even see any of the cars in our eye-line moving either. As best as I, my father, and two car-loads of folks beside us could tell, they were directing all of the cars in the two major parking lots (north of the “Registration/Post-race party” on the map) into a single lane, out of a single exit and making them wait at lots of stop lights. I took to running around the parking lot looking for alternative exits, and when I found one I directed probably 75 cars through a service delivery alley behind a restaurant. I like to think I got some good karma for helping out.
Really it wasn’t that big of a deal, except for the fact that our new friends were either trying to make it to the Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade (which they likely missed half of), or needed to get a turkey in the oven asap. My dad and I were just heading home for nap time, since my mom and sis were going to take care of the turkey-ing, so we were okay.
Post-race goodies organization. They had plenty of tasty post-race goodies – bananas, apples, sports drinks and plenty of water – but they didn’t exactly organize it well, at least in my opinion. They had everything under one big long tent, and people were in a single-file line to go through the entire thing – kind of like a buffet lunch line. I’m not exactly sure if the race organizers had planned it to be a buffet style line, or if the runners just kind of started to line up that way, but it clearly didn’t work. A fellow experienced racer and I looked at the line of ~150 people and just skipped the whole thing, stuck our arms in and grabbed a banana and left. It probably wasn’t the best form, but the other guy and I took it to be more of a ‘bar’ situation where you just walk up wherever you want to be and grab what you need. Again, not a big deal. Just kind of weird. (And annoying to wait in a long slow line when you’ve just pushed yourself really hard, had a terrible finish [keep reading] and really really really want a banana already)
The Finish Line & Race Start Times. Whoo boy was the finish line ugly. And I think I know why. They started the 5k exactly 30 minutes after the 10k. Theoretically, this sounds like a good idea – everyone finishes around the same time so no one is waiting for a family member who ran the other race, both races get equal access to all the post-race goodies, etc – but in practice its horrendous.
The 5k and 10k race share the same road for the last ~2miles of the race. Which is incredibly irritating. Just imagine it, you’ve been running for 4 miles, and the 10k field has settled out into a good arrangement – faster runners have gotten around all the people who have lined up improperly/are having a bad race and have started walking (there were no corrals), and you’re with a little group of people who are running about the same race as you (~11:00/miles). Then, suddenly, you are thrown in with the entire middle-of-the-pack race/walkers doing the 5k. They’re walking in the middle of the street, they’re walking 4 across, they’re chatting and having a grand old time just enjoying their race. More power to them for having a great time, but some of us 10k-ers are trying for a PR! We spent miles 1&2 trying to get around this same type of runner in the 10k field! Now we have to spend the last 2 miles getting around the relaxed runners of the 5k field?
And then, everyone stopped at the finish line. And I mean STOPPED. And I mean AT the finish line. Maybe because they wanted pictures and because the organizers didn’t keep people moving out of the finish chute. Or maybe because the organizers let spectators into the finish chute. So people were just standing around talking literally 10 feet past the finish line. So the people still technically on the race course couldn’t make it TO the finish line. Let me be clear: People were not walking through. They were virtually standing on the last 30 feet of the course. Check out the photos below. Under there somewhere is the finish line. All those people are just standing there. Best I can judge, the finish line was that bad for about 30 minutes.
I guess it’s a good thing that I missed a PR by a full 2 minutes, because if I’d missed it by the minute I spent trying to actually cross the finish line, I’d have been irate.
At least I finished it. At least I ran hard and felt pretty good. At least my horrible PF wasn’t coming back with a vengeance (it merely reminded me around mile 3.5 that it was still not completely healed and was slightly achy for a few days after the race. Rolling on golf balls helps.) I probably won’t be running it again next year unless they fix the finish line/starting time issue, but if you’re not trying for a specific time and you just want a relaxed run will 12,000 other people, it’s a really well run race.
So I got another 10k under my belt on beautiful morning! Now that’s something else I can be thankful for.