Last Friday, the story of my 5th half marathon began with the Expo for the Hollywood Half Marathon. This was the third running of this event, put on by Superhero Events. So, I knew before I signed up that it would not be as big as some of the other races I’ve run in the past. I say that because whenever you evaluate various events against each other you need to have a fair comparison. The Expo for the Hollywood Half Marathon took place at the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday and Friday. All participants needed to pick up their race packets before the race. So, I took a half day on Friday to make sure I had plenty of time to get my race gear.
One of the cons for this Expo was paying $10 to park. However, when you’re hosting an event in Hollywood, there will almost always be a parking fee to pay. One of the things mentioned in the email about this event was to dress up as if you were going to an awards show to make it more fun. As you can see in the above picture, the room was kind of dimly lit in an effort to give that Hollywood awards show vibe. Also, as you can see above, the lines to get your race bib were very short to non-existent. So, that went by quickly.
Once you got your race bib, it was time to go upstairs to get your race shirt. Again, the crowds were pretty minimal and I got in and out of the line quickly. This lead to one growing pet peeve I’m having. When I got my shirt, I was told that I was lucky because I got the last shirt in my size. Really? I’ve had this happen before and also been on the other side of that luck when the race didn’t have my shirt after I had pre-registered. It seems wrong to me that any race organizer would not have a shirt in the correct size for those that pre-registered. I understand that some races do not sell out and allow for people to register at the Expo. However, its not cool that they allow those folks to take away sizes of race shirts from those who pre-registered. I understand that I’ve never looked into the logistics of this. However, it seems like the race organizers should know beforehand how many sizes they will need to cover the pre-registered folks. They should keep those shirts separate from others who would have registered at the event itself. That gives a definite benefit to pre-registering. You know what I mean? Anyways, I digress…
Here’s the view of the Expo floor. As you can tell, it’s much smaller than other events I’ve participated in. There were a few races out to let people know about their events and some of the typical vendors that show up to race expos. It’s all good stuff. However, I wasn’t in the mood to buy. So, I quickly made my way through the expo floor and back outside.
Here’s where some of the cool, unique elements kicked in. They had this photo-op set up that I thought was pretty cool.
Then there was this free green screen photo-op as well. They posted the pictures here to their Facebook page for you to download later. Not bad.
After the photo, I was back to my car and made my way home. It was a fun little expo and I give props to the organizers for making it a little different. I loved the free photo ops as well.
Here’s the race shirt and my bib number. I loved that they took the time to create a graphic on their race bib! The design was perfectly in tune with the theme of the race. I was not a big fan of the shirt design, though. It was rather plain. What’s not pictured is the blue stripe that goes up both sides of the shirt. I would rather the shirt be all white. The Legacy runners had a much cooler shirt that was red. Up the sides were stars. Much cooler. Anyways, at around 9:30pm, I called it a night.
If you remember from last Friday’s post, I wasn’t sure how I would travel to this race. I opted to catch the 4:45am train from Pasadena. That meant a 3:30am wake up. Yikes! Reminds me of the runDisney races. Anyways, when I arrived, I saw this…
Yep, I was all by myself initially. Since I had to pay for the train fair ($6 for a day pass), I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss that first train. With the schedule showing that I would arrive at the start line around 5:30am for the 6am race, there was no time to spare. Eventually, another runner joined me to wait for this train.
I’ve decided that taking the train to a race ROCKS! At the early time you have to board the trains, most of the people on the train are runners as well. So, it makes for a fun ride…and you don’t have to worry about traffic! We all made it to the Hollywood and Highland train station at 5:35am. As you can see…lots of runners.
Fortunately, there was plenty of time to get into the corrals. As a Southern California native, it’s stunning to see Hollywood Blvd. without any traffic.
It was a really fantastic set up for the start.
I couldn’t resist the selfie.
As I made my way back to my corral, Rudy was highlighting the “course angels.” I was wanting to get to my corral. So, I didn’t pay too much attention. However, the “course angels” were there to keep us runners encouraged. A lot of people mentioned after the race how much they liked having these people on course. Since they carried signs to identify themselves, I sometimes got them confused with the pacers that were on the course.
runDisney fans know Rudy very well. He is the announcer for most, if not all of, our races. So, it’s always great to see him out at other races.
The starting corrals lined up all the way back to the Hollywood location for my church. Good morning Mosaic! Before they opened the LA Live gathering, my wife and I were going to church here in Hollywood.
I made my way into my corral. On the way, I noticed a fellow Disney Cast Choir Member Shari who was in the corral behind mine. It was great to chat with her for a bit.
Like all other races, the corrals move up ever so slowly. The information we received said that every runner needed to be in the corrals and on their way by 6:15am. Well, the first corral didn’t start until at least that time. If there was a singing of the National Anthem, I never heard it. However, the speakers back in the last corrals didn’t work very well.
Finally, it was my corral’s turn to start.
Rudy said…”Runners. Seeeeeeeeeeeeeet….Goooooooooooo! And we were off.
First sight to see was the El Capitan Theatre. Here’s what the race course looked like…
It was a quick distance before we made our first turn. It was also the first out and back of the course.
So, there was a lot of this on the course. There were 11 out and backs in this 13.1 mile course. By the end it got really old. My strategy for this race was to try to finish in under 3 hours. The 3 hour pacer was right at the front of my corral. I don’t know how I got placed in this corral. But, I quickly made my way in front of him and never saw him pass me. The night before the race, I had read an article about strategy for a half marathon. In the article, it mentioned the importance of taking the first 3 miles slow to save energy for the end. The plan was to take the first three miles around 30-40 seconds per mile slower than your planned pace. Then, for miles 4-11 go at your planned pace. In the final miles you will push your pace to make up for what you lost in the early miles. Theoretically, you’d have the energy to do this.
Here’s how my Nike Plus GPS Watch said I did by the mile. The mile markers were almost always close to what my watch was giving me. The first mile was finished in 11 minutes, 11 seconds. This is about 30 seconds slower than I’m used to. However, I was trying out this strategy. The next mile was slower than I would have liked. However, I was taking this experience as a test.
Remember the pacer that helped me get through the Walt Disney World Marathon? Well, she was racing the Hollywood Half Marathon as well. I saw her on the second out and back of the course. With each out and back, I got closer and closer to catching her. Until I finally caught her around the mid-point of the half marathon. Up until this point, I just kept going with my 1 minute run, 1 minute walk intervals and decided not to worry too much about the time. With each out and back, my only concern was staying ahead of the 3 hour pacer. I not only saw my marathon pacer, but the 3 hour pacer as well on each out and back. The closer I got to Erica, my marathon pacer, the further back the 3 hour pacer got. So, I felt pretty good about how the race was going.
As we made our way up Hollywood Blvd., the sun came out. It reminded me of running up Ball Road during the Disneyland Half Marathon at times. One thing I should mention here as well is that the water stations were not exactly where they were advertised. According to the race instructions, water stations would located at miles 2,4,6, 7, 9, and 11. So, I was totally caught off guard when the first stop was just past the first mile marker. With smaller races, there aren’t as many volunteers and the water stops are smaller (and on only one side of the road). So, I missed the first water stop. My fueling strategy completely failed me because of this uncertainty. Note to self…in the smaller races, always carry liquid with me.
Anyways, sorry this is so scatter brained. But, I caught Erica just past the mid-point of the race and we ran together for the remainder of the race. It was fun to have someone to run with. Not that my music mix isn’t fun to run with. However, running with another person makes the miles click away much quicker. As the out and backs piled up, it was taking its toll on me mentally. Each out and back had a downhill portion and an uphill portion. The longer the race went on, the harder those up hill portions were to finish. That’s where having a running buddy helped. I was able to stick with my intervals until the 12th mile. Shortly after the 11th mile, that calf cramp problem kicked in again. So, we walked more and ran slower. The last out and back was the one I hated most. We passed by the finish line on the way to the last turn around. It seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. To see the finish but still have a little more than a mile to go was not cool.
I did make it to the finish line in less than 3 hours, though! So, even with the cram problem and the mental challenge of too many out and backs, I finished my 5th half marathon with a smile on my face. It was awesome to hear Rudy call out my name as I approached the finish line! Once we crossed, we got our Star medal…
And made our way through the finishers chute. Here’s where I had another complaint. There were no water bottles left when I finished. So, I was left with a small cup of water at the finish. Again, not cool.
After getting our finishers medal, I walked with Erica to get her extra medal for finishing the New Year’s Half Marathon and the Hollywood Half Marathon. That was one HUGE medal. Maybe next year? I don’t know. After getting her medal, we went to Hollywood Blvd. to try to find Walt Disney’s star on the Walk of Fame. We couldn’t find it. So, Erica took off and I had a little more fun with the medal before going home.
Captain America and Captain America with medal.
Overall, I had another good experience running a half marathon. It’s always fun to run with other people. The races I’ve participated in have always had that going for it. I will wonder what could have been with this race. After all, my training was very spotty for this race. If only I had been more consistent, could I have done better?
Cons of this Race
- Paying to park at the Expo
- Almost didn’t get my correct size of a race shirt (I’m confident that there were others who weren’t as lucky) on a race I pre-registered for
- Too many out and backs on the course…11 of them over 13.1 miles.
- Not enough water on the course
- Not enough volunteers to keep up with the number of runners
- No bottles of water at the end
Pros of this Race
- I loved the free photo from the Expo
- Loved that the organizers tried something different with their Expo (theming it to a Hollywood Event)
- Loved the graphic on the race bib
- Loved starting at the Hollywood and Highland complex
- Loved finishing on the Red Carpet
- Loved the finisher medal
Will I be back next year? Maybe. We got this email from the race director yesterday. He said that some of the improvements will include…
- All RACE PHOTOS WILL BE FREE for participants in 2015.
- Sunday race date w/ Fri-Sat Expo.
- Slight adjustments to the course.
- Easier access to parking garages on race day.
- Separate start time for the 5K/10K to reduce course congestion.
- More Course Angels for support and Running Police to enforce proper running etiquette.
- The final color of our current medal design.
Part of the reason I signed up initially was that this race director really has the runners at heart. I should mention that the race course did have to go through a last-minute alteration due to not getting certain permits for parts of the intended course. So, all of those out and backs are likely the result. So, if the race course changed and they offered FREE race photos for ALL participants, I might be back. That free photos part is what’s tugging on me at the moment. So, time will tell.
Sorry that this race recap is a bit scattered. That’s kind of how the race felt for me.