Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pasadena Half Marathon Race Report

Last weekend DH and I had a wonderful time running the Pasadena Half Marathon!

Last year, DH was a resident adviser at Avery, a Caltech Dorm, and we ran a training group together for a group of undergraduates to prepare for the 2011 half marathon. Due to a wedding, we weren't able to run the actual race ourselves. So, we promised to come back and run it with them in 2012. Little did I know when I made that promise that I'd be 6 months pregnant. I am so glad that we made that commitment though, because it served to motivate me to keep running a lot and complete a half marathon at 27 weeks pregnant; something I probably wouldn't have done without the extra support. Thanks, guys!

The whole event really couldn't have gone smoother. I love small(er) marathons for that. Plus, we really made things easy on ourselves by staying at a hotel, the Saga Motor Hotel, which is located right at the start/finish line. The hotel even let us use their conference room, free of charge, to host a little pre-race breakfast with our group!

Before; all ready to run

After; happy to be done!*

I think my running will scale back a bit now, though I hope to keep a weekly 10 miler in there for a bit longer. We'll see how it goes =)

For any local runners who are interested, here's a review of the actual event:

Race Review: Again, this is a small(er), mostly local race so expectations should be set accordingly. There were some great aspects to this year's race (the 4th running) and some areas that could use some improvement.

  • Excellent coarse support: Water stations at roughly 2 mile intervals were all well stocked with water, Ultima, and friendly volunteers.
  • Traffic management: Major intersections were well staffed with police officers and lane/road closings were done appropriately for the volume of runners at each point along the course. I didn't feel like there were any bottlenecks or overcrowding anywhere along the way.
  • Course route improved: The course was tweaked this year in a very good way. Some of the North/South (uphill/downhill) out-and-backs were replaced with a great out-and-back across the Colorado St. Bridge. One of Pasadena's most noticeable landmarks, running across this bridge was a great addition! Plus, because the course goes under this bridge a few miles later, we were treated to a glimpse of the super-speed runners ahead of us =)
  • Very convenient: I prefer small events over large ones for this very reason!
  • Inconvenient and disappointing Expo: I didn't go to the expo myself (DH did the pickup for us) but from what I hear it was a real let down over past years. The first three years the expo was at the Pasadena Convention Center; a nice space that's easy to get to with lots of room, facilities and, as it's indoors, shade. For some unknown reason, this year's expo was at the Santa Anita Park. While not terribly far away, it's in another town so that was inconvenient for our group of students. Everyone estimated that there were only about half as many vendors as years past. Also, because it was held in the infield of the park, there was no shade and everyone came away with sun burn. Not a good idea to have runners baking out in the sun the day before an endurance event! The race organizers billed this new location as an improvement, but I think it was a big fail.
  • Absolutely NO COURSE ENTERTAINMENT?!? What happened here? In past years there was some music and bands positioned at strategic points along the course. The limited fan support is to be expected and is not a big deal. However, the organizers didn't have a single high school band or even a guy with a boom box, anywhere. The local Lululemon store along the course had some staffers out dancing and playing music and one church along the course was playing their sound system loud. That's it. There area lot of hills on this course and it sure would have been nice to have a band or two on them to help keep things peppy.
  • No additional course support. Past years had some misting stations on the large hills and other nice perks. None of that was present this year.
  • Not enough on-course porta-potties. The few that were out there always had lines, through the whole race. I finally gave up finding one w/ out a line and took a 5-min pit stop standing in line around mile 9; very frustrating.
While my 'con' list is longer then my 'pro', that's just because it's easy to be a critic =) Overall, I rate this as a wonderful event that I definitely recommend to local runners. I'm sad that we likely won't ever do this event again, since we're moving back East in a few months.
* Don't worry, everyone finished and we didn't lose five people; we just couldn't find everyone for a post-race picture because some folks finished too far ahead of us. I blame the baby bump =)

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