Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Race Management

Running a long distance road race requires a lot of preparation and a fine sense of energy management.  Putting on a long distance road race requires a lot of preparation and in the end an uncanny ability at time management.  More on that in a bit but first I want to dissect my race over the weekend in Naples, Florida.

I ran the Naples Daily News Half Marathon on Sunday.  In the weeks leading up to the race I fully expected to run under 1:50.  However, the best laid plans can be undone by the simplest of acts.  That act was pulling a shoe box out of a large box of shoes, spraining my back and leaving me unable to run for almost a week.  Now missing that amount of training just a couple of weeks before a race shouldn't have impacted my goal.

I simply failed at the first rule of racing, preparation.  I needed a couple of more long runs and several more tempo runs.  I could tell when I returned to running a few days before the race that I needed to lower my expectations. 

Race day dawned muggy and in the back of my mind I knew that breaking 2 hours could prove challenging.  I needed water right from the get go and by mile 6 I simply let my mind drift and spent the next 6 miles checking out the shoes of my fellow competitors, most of whom were passing me.  I made a major mistake in not carrying a couple of GU's with me.  Part of me wants to think of myself as a 30 something runner who doesn't need to worry about replenishing dwindling fuel supplies in my body.

I woke up at mile 12 and actually mustered a decent last mile.  As I approached the finish line I noticed a commotion about 50 yards short of the finish.  Paramedics were busy putting another running onto a gurney and as I crossed the finish line they were in full pursuit of a nearby ambulance.  I crossed the finish line in 1:54:43 and the gentleman who had his heart stop just minutes before survived his near death experience, the best news of the day.

The Czarina, who had bravely run the same race the year before on no training, managed to cross the finish line in around 2:09:52, about 6 minutes faster than the year before.  She was happy and I was happy that we had both enjoyed one of the best half marathons in the country.  And then we waited, and waited and waited for an awards ceremony that was woefully behind schedule.

Turns out there was a time management problem.  Something happened to the timing system.  I didn't learn my official time until 48 hours later and I will never know my official split times or my "real time."  By "real time" I mean the time from when I crossed the start line mat to the finish mat.  It probably took me about 30 seconds based on my first and second mile splits.

A timing failure for a major race like the one in Naples is a black eye.  Having worked on numerous road races, including at the timing table in the days before chip timing was available, I can attest that the work and need for attention to detail is killer.  Money and age group awards are at stake a mistake can be a major embarrassment for the race and its sponsors.

It's a shame that it happened, but it should serve as a reminder for runners who have become accustomed to results being posted within minutes of the finish that a lot of behind the scenes work goes on to make that possible.  Sometimes people and their machines don't live up to our expectations.  In my book as long as there is a well marked course, plenty of water tables along with some food and fun at the finish line, than the race is a success. 

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