I've been considering for a few days now whether or not I even wanted to recap this race biggest cluster ever.
I've also been seriously considering just linking to Bebe and piggybacking off of her recap. Because I'm lazy she did a pretty swell job of really capturing the complete and utter lack of awesomeness that was this race.
But then I thought, maybe, you all would like to read a long, angry, frustrated, sarcastic recount of the first nine hours of my Saturday morning (which ended at noon. How sad is that?).
It all started off well enough. I slept at my parents' the night before, because I was meeting up with my friend Stef to drive out to the National Harbor together. I was told that due to the parking location I selected, I had to carpool with another runner. Also, driving 30-40min at 5am just seemed as if it would be more fun with someone else. Meeting at my parents' house was much easier than making her drive alllllllllllll the way around the beltway to my place. Also, I'll take any excuse to play with the puppy for a few hours.
After getting a full face cleaning and playing a few choice games of tug-o-war, I went to bed at the totally appropriately early hour of 10:15 (I mean, that's still 6 hours...). If you can do simple math, you'll already know that this means I was up at 4:15 to get ready. I wasn't meeting Stef until 5, but the earlier I wake up, the more I look/feel like the troll that lived under a bridge in the story of the three billy goats. Exhibit A:
True story: my hair never actually recovered. This is what I get for using grippy headbands. The amount of wispy hair is directly proportional to how regularly I work out. I can always tell I've upped the activity lately because I have those stupid, annoying hairs flying all over my face.
Fun side note: our race bibs have our names on them! Cool or creepy, depending on how you look at it.
So Stef arrived and we made our way over to the parking lot where we would then catch a shuttle to the race site (this is already a billion times more complicated than any other race I've participated in). We were told to be on a shuttle no later than 6:15 (for a 7:30 race, mind you). We arrived at 5:40, and were at the race area around 6. While texting Bebe what I was wearing (so she could find me! Get your mind out of the gutter), she found me. Yay! Hurrah! We did it! At last! We jumped around excitedly (as excitedly as one can at 6am when you've been awake for two hours already) for a couple minutes, and then settled down. Given the following events, we probably should have kept jumping. Maybe we wouldn't have gotten hypothermia. We managed to get one picture before the race. And by one picture, I mean one personal photo. There were probably 200 photographers running around, and I'm pretty sure each.and.every.one stopped us to take our picture. We were rock stars. Maybe they knew what was ahead in the next few hours, and wanted to try and distract us? Probable.
This is where the real fun begins.
Staging started at 7am, so we headed down to the staging area. The three of us all have different average paces, so we picked somewhere in the middle so as to at least begin the race together. We lost each other within the first minute, but I'll get to that in a bit. As we neared 7:30, we stretched a bit and got ready to run. As we passed 7:30, we heard an announcement telling us the race would begin 15 minutes late to allow for all the latecomers. They were stuck in the standstill traffic we could see from the starting point. Oh noes.
7:45 comes and goes, and still no race. We experience a brief glimmer of hope when people in the open corral began moving into the corralled start area, and thought that maybe we were getting started! Alas, no. After jumping and bending and stretching and doing whatever we could think of to keep us warm (I know Maryland is technically in the South, but it's still 35* on a typical December morning, y'all!), we finally got started. At 8:15. Which is a far cry from 7:30, or even 7:45. But we were running, and that was all that mattered.
Until roughly 8:15 and 30 seconds, when we came to a standstill again. Then, at 8:16, we were off! Until we were stopped again at 8:16 and 30 seconds. Why were we stopping? What the heck was going on? At this point we should be done with the race! As we slowly make our way down the two lane street, we see the problem: a tunnel, about four people wide, through which roughly 10k people were supposed to fit. Who did they think were running this race? Ants?
At this point, I had lost both Bebe and Stef to the crowds, hoping we would all find one another, alive and well, at the finish. Thank goodness we had the foresight to pick a meeting place!
Once through the tunnel, what I expected to be a wide road on the other side turned out to be a sand and gravel path roughly the same width as the tunnel. Combine this with all the people who completely ignored the corrals and common sense, and had lined up with the runners fully intending to walk the entire race, there was some massive backup on the path. Oh, and don't forget all the sub-10yr olds on the course! It was super important to turn back every 10 seconds to make sure mom and dad were still there, and possibly stop to wait for them. In the middle of all the runners, on a path along the water, with a five foot drop and no bar to hold people in.
We finally hit pavement after the path, and all seemed well enough until the end of mile 1. At this point we turned up a hill. The hill that never ended. Literally, this thing had to be the entirety of mile 2. Cruel. I trudged along, looking everywhere for mile markers (alas, there was not a one until the last tenth of a mile. Way to be, guys). I finally made it around to the 3 mile mark, meaning there was just one measly tenth of a mile left! Easy peasy? Of course not. The thing was freaking uphill. WHAT THE EFF? They're trying to kill us, for serious. I refuse to walk over a finish line though, so I pushed through. Let me tell you, that was the toughest .1 mile ever. After a fairly anticlimactic finish, I made my way up the half mile hill (rude) to the post party area to meet up with the ladies. At least we were rewarded with chocolate, right? I mean, there's a reason it's the Hot Chocolate series. Melted Ghiradelli with apple slices, half a banana, a marshmallow, a pretzel rod and a small piece of Rice Krispies treat. They also had hot chocolate but we didn't feel like venturing to another tent. We just wanted to go home.
After a full 24 hours of stewing and bitching, I received a mass, clearly PR-written email from RAM Racing (the company that put on the race - did I mention that?). If you want to read it, they posted it on their FB page after receiving (literally) hundreds of angry comments (and apparently deleting some of them. Poor form.) here. If you will please note, there is no mention of an attempt to rectify other than a prayer for a second chance. In that entire "letter" (can we call it a letter if there's no signature?), there is not one attempt to incentivize the 20k-ish runners to participate in another RAM event. Not one. While this company may not rely solely on repeat business, this is possibly the biggest mistake they made all weekend. And that's just for those of us who actually participated. What about the hundreds (thousands?) who couldn't even participate because of the traffic? Those who sat on the highway for hours due to poor choice of location? An offer of a discount for another race, some of the photos taken, even donating the profits to a charity, would have done wonders. More than my frustration with the race itself, I am dumbfounded that a company who has been putting on races for 10 years (or any company, really) could be so negligent of its customers. Because that's all we really are. Customers who purchased entry to a race.
Anyway (she says as she steps off her box), I highly doubt I'll be signing up for any of their races in the future. The chocolate was good, and the company (as in my friends, not RAM, duh) was great, but I can have chocolate with friends whenever I want. We can even run 3 miles first if we so choose! Take that, RAM.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that there was a less-than-promised amount of sarcasm in my post, and for that I am completely, totally and deeply sorry.