Saturday, December 20, 2014

Houston 12K's of Christmas Race Report

When you pay full rate for a race (more on that later), you expect certain things.

Or at least the things that I strive to deliver working as part of an event production team.

They are what Pete Magill wrote about in Running Times about an earlier time in the sport of running.

They are:  1.) start a race on-time, 2.) make sure the course distance is accurate and 3.) get the results right.

So how did the 12K's of Christmas, produced by RA Sports Management, do this morning, according to that standard?

The 12K race, set for 7:45 a.m., started five minutes late.

(Not that big of a deal to me this morning, but annoying as I hate being in a situation - as a race announcer - when I have to communicate a delay.  And there are many things that can impact a start, especially out on the course that is out of an event producer's control.)

Course distance?  Who knows for sure.  Should have checked, but it is not a certified course (as I just glanced at the USATF web site).

The mile markers were definitely whacked.  The first two seemed spot on as well as the 5K, but the mile 4 marker was long as well as mile 5.  Miles 6 and 7?  They didn't exist.

If two loops - or two out-and-backs - equal 12K, that means it is 3K out, 3K back and so on.  So the 8K or 5-mile marker should have been before the turn around, right?  It wasn't.

My watch shows that Waverly and I did the last 4K in 20:38.  No way.

Results?  I don't know yet, but I keep my time on my watch.  Therefore, if the timer matches, then it is a good day.

And I think it did.

For those unfamiliar with this race (I was until this year), this is a double-and-out and back on Memorial Drive from the Wortham Center to approximately Spotts Park.

We were a ways back in the corral.

We came over to the start line at about 7:35 p.m. -- 10 minutes before the scheduled start.

You really couldn't hear pre-race announcements.

We could tell that there was an invocation.

After a few minutes pause and without an introduction that you could hear, the National Anthem was sung -- the loudest voice of them all.

We were 24 seconds from crossing the start line (24.61).

Here were our splits and this is how I could tell that the mile markers were totally whacked.

Mile 1 -- 10:28.29
Mile 2 -- 10:18.09  (Thought these were spot on)
5K -- 11:03.05 (As well as this one as this was before the turnaround)
Mile 4 -- 11:34.62
Mile 5 -- 10:08.21
Last 2.5? -- 20:38.71

Total time -- 1:14:30.97 less 24.61 offset = 1:14:06.36

Gary had Waverly's gun time at 1:14:34.9 and chip time at 1:14:11.3 and mine at 1:14:33.1 and 1:14:10.0.

We raced well, I think.  If the distance was correct (which I open to thinking that it could have been off), then we ran just under 10 minutes a mile.  1:14:11 is 9:57 per mile for 12 kilometers.

We practiced a little bit with me leading because at Kingwood on New Year's Day, the trails will be such that you really shouldn't be running side-by-side.

So some of this is just event production pickiness -- some of which that I should just shut off.

However, when I spent $50 for an entry -- the day before the event producer starts using an $8 (per entry) off code, I think it is reasonable to expect to get the race portion of it spot-on (as I honestly don't partake in nor care about the "event" part of things).

Did I have some post-race food?  Yes.  We both grabbed a bottle of water at the finish line (plenty of smiling and friendly volunteers), a bagel and the one bakery place was loading up stuff as much as they could get into people's hands.

This, of course, is a sign that more runners were expected.

I'm guessing that the Santa Hustle race in Galveston tomorrow, which is put on by a Chicago-based firm (and was seeking volunteers one year without disclosing that they were a for-profit entity), snagged some runners.  Only know if results are compared from year-to-year.

Bartendeex Oropeza said that there were many more at this race last year and he was right.

Last year, the event had 702 timed finishers in the 12K and another 116 in the 6K.

This year, the numbers were 349 in the 12K (with an additional 22 DQ's - assuming a single loop only) and 81 in the 6K.

Great to see Walt and Lisa Yarrow, Greg Witherow, Sean Robertson and Kevin Lang out there.  The latter two run a lot of Robby Sabban's races.  Kevin - from League City - does a ton of half marathons.  Also had a great conversation with Suzy Seeley post-race too.

She's always been so excited about Waverly and was sharing with us about being a grandmother for the first time.

Great stuff.

We also talked to a few Cypress Running Club members and thanked them for their participation in the Texas 10 Series.

And, of course, the official race photographer:  RaceShots.Net and three quarters of the Phegley family.  (There will be a picture of me mimicking Ben Harvie running behind Roger Boak).

Overall, Graham Schooley and Lauren Smith do a great job.

These are fixable things that I mentioned above, but they're important.

Graham and I had a chance to talk at length at The Woodlands Marathon Expo after a little bit of some engaging conversation about participants and finishers.

The only thing that "maybe" was missing today (and it can be dependent upon the number of available volunteers) was a smaller water stop in the middle of the course -- equidistant from the start and the turnaround.

And I'm glad that I didn't run fast because the leaders had to run through the crowd on the second loop.  Yet that's knowledgeable when you sign up for a race with that kind of course.

Otherwise ... a great morning.