Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Get Lucky 7K 2014 (Dude Where's My Beer)

Get Lucky Twin Cities 7K (4.25 miles)
Average Pace 12:29/mile

Ah, St. Paddy's Day.  Green Beer.  Corned Beef.  Getting up at 6 am to run a 7K race.

Wait, what?

Yeah, yeah.  You got that right.  Race season has officially started again for this girl, and despite my less than ideal first race of the year at Little Rock, I didn't let that stop me.  Besides, my sister and I had to outdo our performance from last year.  Or at least outdo our costumes, if nothing else.

What do you think - did we achieve our goal?

My dress, by the way, if you love it, came from my favorite Etsy seller Micksmakings.  My sister's outfit was made by her, but I'm sure she could hook you up with a version of it if you contact her via her own Etsy shop.

Anyway, back to the race recap!

Before I get too deep into the story, I want to say that this is the third time now that I've run Get Lucky Twin Cities (7K distance), and the second time I've run it with my sister.  And, the best part about running this race, not to mention the reason I've done it three years in a row, is the fact that it's supported by my gym.  Which means... PARTY BUS!!!!!

So, when my alarm went off at 6am, it wasn't because I so excited to race that wanted to get going ASAP to enjoy the pre-race festivities (for a run that's gun time was 9am).  It was because our chariot awaited us:

Yep.  We travel in style.

By 7:30am, our group had piled onto the bus and we were off!  Overall, the drive down was fairly uneventful, aside from a minor parking snafu - apparently the place where we've parked for the last two years wouldn't let us park there this year...???  WTF.  Fortunately, our bus driver managed to "Get Lucky" and found enough metered parking spots in a row to accommodate the bus.  With credit card in hand, our organizer spent some of her hard earned "blarney" on a few hours worth of parking meters, and we were "golden".

OK, I'll stop.

Once the bus was parked, most of us unloaded and headed over to the pre-race holding area.  Thankfully, Team Ortho learned a lesson or two from last year's frozen-ass run, and came up with a warming house option for 2014.  This worked out great!  And while I wanted to enjoy people watching in the Depot building for longer, I simply couldn't... Team Ortho pulled a switcheroo for anyone who did early packet pickup/delivery, and my sister and I were both impacted by that.  Which meant, we didn't have a valid post-race beer ticket. 

GRR!  That's the most important swag from the race!

Unfortunately, we spent the first 30 minutes roaming around the Depot looking for the info booth, then waiting in line for the info booth, and finally getting our free beer ticket from the info booth.  What a pain.  But also, kind of fun, since we got to march around in our costume and get lots of responses.  (FYI - It's amazing how many people immediately look at your costume when you're wearing a rainbow dress in a sea of green.  More on this in a bit).

With the eventual success of getting a beer ticket in hand, it was finally time to party!  Back into the crowds of the warming area we went...

There, we met up with a group of girls from our bus, and started enjoying the festivities.  Of course there was plenty of people watching, and just before 9am, they had someone sing the national anthem.  From what I can tell, the race was very prompt, as my the race results reported a gun time of 9:00.12.  Props to the race organizers for improving on race error number two of 2013 (an extremely delayed start).

By 9:05, us ladies were anxious to line up, and decided: cold weather be damned, it was time to go outside. 

Except... we couldn't get out of the Depot.

People were preforming my ultimate pet peeve: standing around like cattle blocking the walkways and exits because THEY'RE not ready to go anywhere yet.

Ugh, seriously.  If we had an emergency and NEEDED to get out:

In scenarios like this, it becomes blatantly apparent that Minnesota nice is a HUGE problem.  Most people are too polite to say/do anything when the crowd that was moving in front of you suddenly stops.

I, on the other hand, am much too obnoxious for that.  You can blame it on me being bossy or impatient if you want, I don't care.  But thanks to my years of business traveling in Hong Kong, I'm a master at navigating crowds.

What little distance we traveled in the first 5 minutes of trying to exit was put to shame in less than 30 seconds when I shimmied to the front of our group.  With some very loud "excuse me" and my hands extended in front of me in a dive position, I got the 6 of us right to the doors.

My sister claims I was being embarrassing.  And supposedly we got a few dirty looks.

Whatever, I say we got out of there in 1 minute, tops.  Soooo, worth it!!

Once we were out the door, getting in line to race wasn't too hard to do.  We just jumped in the nearest corral and started slowly heading towards the start. 

Look at that sea of green!

Before the cool breeze could even catch up with us, we were off and running.  Whoop!

As we passed the start line, I noticed I had already lost all my friends in the group, but no matter.  I was running with my sister again, and had no idea what they were planning pace wise, so I didn't worry about it.  Sooner or later we'll all end up back on the bus, anyway.

And so the fun began. 

The first mile was mostly flat or downhill, and headed towards the iconic Stone Arch bridge.  Just as we rounded the corner to start across the bridge, there was an Irish folk band.  Since we had both opted to forgo headphone music this year, we actually really enjoyed the entertainment.

The second mile goes down a cobblestone road - not my favorite.  Since the roads were far less icy this year (almost ice free, actually), this portion was more tolerable, but still not good.  There are several cobblestones missing, and it seems like a guaranteed death trap for some poor runner.  Since we were both focused on not killing ourselves in this stretch, nothing else really stands out in my memory of what happened in this area.

By the third mile, we started hitting some hills, and people were starting to shake out in their pace.  This is where we either passed more people, or were passed by people ourselves.  The passing made the race become fun, because fellow racers finally started to appreciate our costumes.  We got lots of cheers and "nice costumes", and even a few "where's your leprechaun" comments.  It was good fun.

Also, huge props to my sister, who at this point, was able to keep a slow and steady pace up every hill.  That was something she struggled with last year, so I'm proud of her growth as a runner. 

Towards the end of mile three and into mile four, you climb the last hill (another bridge crossing the river) and head back towards the start line.  This stretch is always the least enjoyable for me during the Team Ortho runs.  The area is kind of boring, and you don't get a great view of the river or downtown due to the positioning (hills, trees, cement walls, etc).  Instead, I started up some conversations with my sister about random crap to pass the time, pointed out some weird dead frozen critter that was in the bushes (we saw stiff dead legs sticking out - possibly a fox?  So gross!!) and kept an eagle eye out for on course race photographers.

Speaking of, was it just me, or were there almost no on course photographers this year?  I guess we'll see when they post the photos in another week or so.

Finally, just after 4 miles, we were within sight of the finish line.  I decided to push my sister to the finish, and started to pick up the pace.  All along I had tried to pace her for a more aggressive finish time, without being too exhausting, but this was it.  I told her to leave nothing in the tank, and we went for it.

As we crossed the finish line, though, it was very strange.  There was just streams and streams of runners moving forward, moving forward, moving forward...

After what felt like forever, but was actually maybe only 1-2 blocks of walking, we came up to the medal station.  Finally it dawned on me as to why.  Props to Team Ortho for fixing issue #3 from 2013 (runners forced to walk the last 1/2 mile of the run due to congestion at the finish line).  By moving out the medal station, people were encouraged to keep walking for a much further distance, and that really seemed to help with congestion.

BTW, I forgot to mention swag, so I'll throw that in here.

I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of the sweatshirt we got this year.  I mean, it's cute that the Celtic knot pattern that is printed on the medal (in white) is repeated inside the hood's liner, but other than that... I dunno.  I'm just not a fan of the forest green, I think.

Back on topic RE: the race.

After finishing, getting our medal, and coming into the post race area, I was a little ... meh.  There was what seemed to be ample food at least (improvement #4 over 2013), but I'm really annoyed with Team Ortho using jugs of water and Dixie cups at the finish line for all their events lately.  On course, this is technically fine, but I'm sorry... after I finish a run, I need to hydrate.  A three ounce splash of water isn't going to cut it.  And I find the empty plastic cups blowing all over the place to be a little disgusting.  I hope they change this moving forward, since it really irks me.

Regardless, after a great run and a much improved race experience (over 2013), we happily skedaddled back onto the bus for a post-race beer at Cooper Pub.


Plus a post race photo bomb, and a run club group photo.


After a few last sips of beer, we all boarded back on the bus a bit more exhausted and drunk than we were previously, and headed for home.  During which, of course, I won the costume contest for the third year in a row... but WITH my sister this year, which was a first!!

And that's the story of how race bib # 39 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon!

Oh, and BTW, sorry I didn't do a map this time - I forgot my watch!!  :-( 


Regarding Team Ortho...  I touched on some of my concerns about Team Ortho my Monster Dash post, but I'll touch on some of my thoughts here again.

First of all, don't register for Team Ortho if you have your heart set on getting a PR, getting every bit of swag they promise you in your promotions, or even having a "great" race experience. 

You have to go into a Team Ortho event understanding it to be a fun run, and nothing more. 

Why do I say this?  Because, quite honestly, their way of "running an event" is an easy formula: get a ton of people to pay an exorbitant race fee, over promise on what you can deliver, and then way under deliver on race day. 

Yes, it does seem that they tried to improve on many of the issues they had in 2013, but I still saw many of the same recurrent themes that have been present in all their races that I've done since 2012. 

For example, this year, AFTER I did early packet pickup in January, they changed their beer rule (I touched on this briefly in my recap above).  Their only way of communicating this change was via a very non-chalant note on their website, which thankfully I saw a few days pre-race... but many did not:

Why they couldn't communicate this change in one of their 5 billion social media blasts, I don't know.  But basically, anyone who picked up their packet at early events, or had it mailed to them, got screwed out of a beer. 

I know many people are likely reading this thinking BFD, so a few people got shorted a beer.  After all, it's a $3.00 +/- beer.  But that's not the point.

When a runner pays $60-80+ for a race that's not even a half marathon, and they're promised a free beer at a local pub post race, they're going to expect to get some pretty decent race swag ... AND A FREE BEER AT A LOCAL PUB.

But the missing beer, for me, is not the problem, really.  The true problem is that every race I've done with Team Ortho since 2012 has been like this. 

I've done Get Lucky three times, Monster Dash twice, and the Minneapolis Du.  Every time, without fail, something has gone wrong due to poor management on Team Ortho's end.  Problems run the gamut from extremely late starts, to lack of goodies at the finish line, to bait and switch offerings (like this promise for a free beer, and then not having it organized so that early packet pickup folks can actually get their beer coupon)...  I can't think of a single Team Ortho race I did where there weren't a handful of issues during or post race.

And when I compare that to the fact that I did 15 races in 2013 alone, and none of the other races have any similar pitfalls or execution problems, it begins to make me wonder what the issue is.

Yes, I will admit that Team Ortho has a lot of great volunteers, and they can't be blamed.  But think about it for a minute... Just using simple math, assuming the average Get Lucky racer paid $70 for registration, and there is an estimated 11,500 people running:

$70 * 11,500 = $784,000

Yes, you're reading that correctly.  THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS.

I don't care how much it costs for swag, permits and post-race snacks.  There is no way Team Ortho isn't making enough money to cover the cost of hiring a handful of GOOD, PERMANENT, PAID people to organize and execute their races ...

I mean, if my 300 person $15 race in small town Wisconsin is run better than Team Ortho, and they're only making like $4,500... what does that say about Team Ortho's miss-management? 

To answer my own question: not a lot.

So where does this leave me?

While I am likely doing the Minneapolis Du again in August (since I told some people I'd be on their team), I don't forsee myself doing any other Team Ortho events for awhile... if ever again.  With races like Mankato and TC, I'd far prefer to spend my money on events ran by people who know how to organize a good race... not a sub par one.

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