Monday, April 8, 2013

From The Sidelines

This blog post is part of a series of posts associated with the Hospital Hill Run Blog Team.  For more information, see my original post.  To see all blog posts, review those that are tagged as "Hospital Hill Blog Team".  To register for the Hospital Hill Run, check out their website!

Ugh.  March was not kind to me with blogging.  I had such a roll going after Disney and into February and then March hit.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been working on some crazy web site projects as well as getting most of my training in.  Oh yeah, and the whole "pay the bills" job thing.  So in reviewing my long list of topics for my Hospital Hill Run blog team, I decided to throw an audible and maybe give some insight as to something athletes may not normally partake in: "Athletic Supporting".

No, no... it's not what you think.  It's being that loved one who gets up with you at the crack of dawn to go to a race.  The person that schleps around your stuff while you are out competing.  That person that freezes their tuchus off waiting for the sun to rise high in the sky all while hoping to not miss that perfect photo of you crossing the finish line.  I must say, in the three previous race seasons, I have never been that person.  Well folks, that changed on March 23.

You see, my wife isn't into doing the stupid crazy long distances that I do.  The 5k is her marathon!  So, when she's doing a race there is a good chance I'm also doing it and usually doing the longest distance available.  So by the time I'm done, she's been done for a while.  I rarely get to see her finish.

The opportunity for her to do a race while I sit on the sidelines was ripe on March 23.  Mostly because I didn't have the right "parts".  TKB participated in the all-lady Diva Dash 5k!  What follows is my spectator report and lessons learned:

With a nice 8:30am start time, we were able to get a little extra sleep.  I should have been a good boy and did a bike ride before hand but held out hope for a good trainer ride afterwords while the wife was sleeping off the race.

Instead of packing up my post-race clothes or pilling my bike and tri-bag in my truck, I was making sure the camera was charged and ready to go and validating TKB's last minute clothing choices. The temps were suppose to be in the mid-30s and cloudy.  Not optimal as I wasn't exactly sure if I would stay outside or seek shelter inside.  By 7:30 we were off!

The race was at Park Place next to the Sprint campus.  We live near Parkville, so it was a bit of a haul but our hope was to arrive around 8am and meet up with Lauren (my training buddy Joe VI's wife).  Lauren was also running the race but Joe was still hanging out at home with the kiddos.  I was on my own!

Once we huddled inside a small diner, TKB and Lauren did the pre-race duties of hitting the bathrooms. I actually don't recall seeing many port-a-pots out, which might explain why this place was pretty packed.

Pretty soon we were headed over to the start line, which happened to be outside of this diner.

This is definitely when being a spectator is noticeably different.  For one thing, I was wearing 10 times the amount of clothing that I normally do.  The second thing is I was holding keys, jackets, backpacks for TKB and Lauren.  Instead of acquiring satellites, I was cueing up the camera.

Pretty soon it was time for Lauren and TKB to get in the start corral.  This race wasn’t large, by any means; however, the narrow streets of the outdoor mall shopping center made it pretty tight to let everyone loose.  I believe they had four or five waves starting about 2 minutes apart.

Once the third wave was released, Lauren and TKB were off to fight through the mall and neighborhood to the north.  Now I was lonely, my training buddy, Lauren’s husband, stayed home with the kids because it was too cold to bring them out, so I had to fend for myself. 

I decided a nice latte would keep the insides warm since I wasn’t able to do so with the race.  My level of exploration wasn’t that far reaching though and I quickly gave up the hunt. 

With the temps being in the 30s, there were a few places to keep warm.

I did walk around a bit to see what all was going on.  I never put much thought into the fact that at many races there is this Gobots style transformation that occurs.  It’s when the start line gets replaced with this smorgasbord of post-race nutrition, photo ops, chip collectors, and medal givers. 

The race ninjas/elves/fairies brought out the water bottles, setup the chip collection buskets, and start preparing the medals.  For this being just a 5k, they had some pretty sweet medals for the participants!

One particular switch-a-roo I found interesting was the race clock.  At the start it was set in a countdown mode but needs to be changed to the actual race clock.  Boy was I surprised that this wasn’t some sort of atomic clock setup or matched to the GPS or something.  Nope.  There was some dude waiting to start the clock at 16:00 when someone inside the timing truck gave the signal.

Another interesting tidbit was regarding the race course.  I didn’t know the course but I wanted to make sure I was positioned appropriately to get that all-important finish line photo.  Originally I thought they would be coming back through the finish chute in the opposite direction because it said “FINISH” on the north side of the structure.  Naturally I figured it out when the post-race nutrition was setup but it dawned on me that they want the “FINISH” to be in the finish-line photo as well.

Soon enough I decided to get in position for when Lauren and TKB finished.  TKB has told me countless stories of having to jockey for position, sometimes requiring an elbow or a stern look to ensure your well earned spot is safe.

No issues for me though… being 6’4” does provide some benefits for working around the non-civil spectators.  Fortunately, for this race there weren’t very many people setting up for the photo op.

Lauren and TKB both utilized the GPS tracking, Glympse, so I didn’t have to worry about missing them at the finish.  The only problem was I didn’t know the course, so I still had some questions as to exactly when I would see them.

This was truly the first time I have seen the overall first place finisher cross the line.  I’m not a fan of 5Ks because they HURT.  Yes, marathons hurt, but it’s a different kind of hurt.  The wheezing sound is actually your lungs trying to escape.  Watching the first place finish cross the line in what appears to be extremely effortless stride was frustrating, yet awesome.

I continued to watch the ladies finish.  This included an 11 year old who crossed right as the clock ticked 20:00.  It was amazing!

About the 28-ish minute mark I saw Lauren make the final turn.

Since they started in the third wave, their chip time is 4 minutes slower than the gun time.  Sub-30!

Then SOON after Lauren was TKB!  Her training in March was sideline by a few things but she ended up with a Personal Record (PR)!!!  Lauren also PR’ed!   It was a record day for everyone!

I’m so proud of her!!

After Lauren and TKB picked up their medal and water they noticed my trembling since I never went inside to warm up during their fast runs.  We trotted up the parking garage and took off for a local bakery (Great Harvest) where I finally got my hot beverage and some delicious lemon blueberry bread.

Lauren, TKB, and my thumb

Lessons Learned
  • For shorter races, plan your mid-race activities wisely.  Not a lot of time to go hunt down that perfect drink or find that spot in near the finish line.
  • Prime spots for finish line photos were pretty available, but I could see how they could fill up fast.
  • A note about that, don’t miss your athlete crossing the line.  5k or marathon or whatever, it’s important to see them finish a task that is as great as this.  It’s likely that they have put a lot of effort preparing for this race.  If you have kids, make sure they are there too because it’s a great example of being healthy.  Joe VI and I worked it out so he could Facetime with Lauren after the race so the kids could congratulate her!  Being there electronically is just as good!
  • Prepare to carry.  Most races have bag checks but sometimes your athlete might not want to deal with that.
  • For longer races, you might want to consider your food options as races like a half marathon or full marathon may mean waiting around for a few hours.  Bring a book or other entertainment options.  Traveling to the race?  Book a hotel close to the site in case you want to go back for a nap. 
  • GPS tracking.  While this technology isn't 100% reliable it is a savior when it works.  As mentioned previously, we use the free Glympse software that runs on a smartphone and transmit the runners GPS coordinates and speed to a web site.  People with the link can visit that site (or use the app on their own phone) to follow the athletes.  It will show multiple runners within the app. There are other apps but I have really only used Glympse. Garmin has one that will display data from the Garmin devices, provided they have a way to record the ANT+ data on their phone.  We just used this for our Brew-to-Brew team. Someone carried the cell phone in a running belt so we knew when to start looking for the runners.  It saves so many headaches.

Discussing the race or how awesome I was doing the support duties.
Thanks for reading!

Feel free to stop by and ask questions in the comments or hop over to Twitter to chat me there!  You can find me as @ScottyTris.

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