Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mad Half Marathon 2013 Race Review

The Mad Half marathon was held in Waitsfield, VT on July 7, 2013.  This was the 3rd annual running of this race.  I decided on the Mad Half because I had hear some good reviews on a few running websites.  One of my good friends who lives in Boston just had a baby.  I figured could drive up to see her and get a quick snuggle with baby Alice then head to Vermont for the race.

They have a good website with a lot of information about the race and links to things in the surrounding  area  They also offer a full marathon and 2-person and 5-person relay options.  I signed up about a week before the race.  

Waitsfield, VT:
The one issue I had was that the only lodging in Waitsfield is at bed and breakfast inns.  While they are very cute all the inns in town had a 2 night minimum.  I think there are some larger hotels in Montpelier which is about 30 min away that  guess I could have opted for if I really wanted to do only a 1 night stay.   I stayed at the Milbrook Inn.  It was nice bed and breakfast.  The owner got up early and started getting breakfast ready at 5:30 am on the morning of the race so everyone could make the 7 am start.  Both mornings she did a made to order full breakfast, including fresh homemade bread.  She said there was no rush to check out.  Which made me very happy because that meant I could get a nice nap and shower in before the I left for home.  

The town of Waitsfield is charming.  They have few old, covered wooden bridges.  They are a lot of hiking trails in the area.  Not a lot going on in the summertime.  This town and the surrounding towns are mainly ski towns.  I drove the course the day before and got some nice scenic shots.   

The expo:
The expo was pretty small on a field outside the Waitsfield Inn in the center of town.  They had a few vendors but nothing to get excited about.  I picked up my t-shirt, which was tech material, and my bib.

Across the street from the expo was the local farmers market which occurs ever Saturday.  There was a nice selection of fresh veggies, maple syrup, and cheeses.  It was pretty hot so I got my maple syrup and had a quick bite to eat then decided to drive to the Ben and Jerry's factory.

Ben and Jerry's Factory:
I drove to the Ben and Jerry's Factory, which is about 20 min away in Stowe, VT.  Because it was Saturday of 4th of July weekend, the factory was not in operation, but they still offered tours.  I decided to skip the tour because the lines were pretty long and I would have to wait for about 40 mins for the next tour.  I walked around the grounds and got some ice cream.  I have to say it definitely tastes better freshly made.   

On the way to Ben and Jerry's I also stopped at the Green Mountain Coffee vistor's center for some iced coffee.  The vistor's center is in an old converted train station.  The vistor's center was not that exciting but I was happy to get my caffeine fix since there is no Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts in the area.

The town of Waitsfield does not really have much nightlife.  There are a few restaurants with bars, but there is not a lot going on at night.  I had dinner at a small pizza place.

The marathon team offers a kid's run on Saturday with music and ice cream afterwards.  I drove by on my way back to the hotel but there did not seem to be too many people there.  The movie theater in town only had 1 movie playing which I was not interested in seeing.   So I decided to make it an early night and get a good nights sleep before the race.  

The course was nice but "world's most beautiful marathon" is a bit of a stretch

The race:
I got to the start about 15 minutes before the race started.  It was a small field about 450 runners for the half, about 350 for the full and about 30 teams for the relays.  They made a few announcement in the finish line area.  Then we walked about a quarter mile down the road to the start.  It is a mass start.  I ended up almost on the start line which was I bit of a shock for me.  Usually when I do a race, I have to wait about 5-15 min after the gun goes off before I make it to the start line.  But I was off and running right off the bat.

The course is pretty challenging.  It is definitely hilly.  The half and full marathon start together.  You start in the center of town and run over the first covered bridge around mile 1.   The first big hill starts around mile 2, and it goes up for about a mile.  It was rough.  Considering the heat, I started out too fast and was not feeling well.  So I slowed down and took the hill pretty slowly.  Finally, I made it up the hill and the course plateaued for a bit.  I was enjoying a nice downhill selection until realized this was an out-and-back part of the course so that meant I would be running back up it in a little bit.  Somewhere between mile 5 and 6, the full marathoners split off to do an additional mile loop.  Whereas the half marathoners make the turn around.  They have volunteers at the turn-around making the transition pretty smooth.

On my way back after the turn around, I decided to make a pit stop.  My stomach was not feeling great, so I stopped at the port-a-potty.  The guy in the bathroom was clearly having some serious digestive issues.  After waiting a while, I debated going forward.  However, I knew the port-a-potties were pretty spread out.  I was worried I would not make it to the next one which was 2-3 miles away.  After about 10-15 min, he finally came out of the port-a-potty.  I felt for the guy, we have all been there.  But you can't just sit in the port-a-potty when it is the only one around for miles.  That is why it is nice when races have at least 2 port-a-potties at pit stops.  Well that pit stop totally blew my race for me.  So I decided not to stress and just enjoy the rest of the race.

I headed back on the course towards that huge hill that I knew was coming.  I trudged through and made it up the hill.  It was pretty hot so I poured a cup of water over my head at the water stop.  After the big hill, there were some nice scenic areas.  I stopped a few times to get some photos.  The rest of the course was not too bad.  Mainly small, rolling hills and flat stretches.  A couple more cups of water on my head at the aid stations helped cool me down.   Around mile 10 or 11, the full marathoners headed off to to the left to finish the second half of the course, and the half marathoners headed back to finish line.  I ended up making 2 more bathroom stops and I was definitely regretting having coffee with milk that morning.  It is not a good combination with a race, and it can do a number on my stomach.

Since I was not having a great race, I decided I might as well get some pictures of the scenery.  One of the farms had a baby calf outside so I had to stop and get a photo.  

I have to say "abandon hope" is the least inspiring sign I have seen on a marathon course ;) 
I liked the bagpipers out on the course.  The beer aid station was a cute idea but I did not stop.  It seems like a great idea to have a beer but with only a mile left in the heat of the day I probably would have past out before making it to the finish line.  

Course support:
Overall I was happy with the course support.  Being a small rural race I did not expect a water station every mile.  There were mile markers every mile for both the half and the full.  They had aid stations about every 1.5- 2 miles.  Most of the stops had water and gatorade.  There were port-a-potties every 2-3 miles.  The crowds were not huge.  Definitely a few long sections with only cows to help keep you moooving.  But there were about 4-5 cheering sections along the course.  The locals were very supportive.  There was a good size crowd at the finish line.  The race director was waiting at the finish to give everyone a high five.  

The finish line:

They had a cute little finisher shoot that included a faux covered bridge.  They was a couple running in front of me.  They clearly wanted to get a picture of the 2 of them crossing the finish line together.  They were just kind of jogging along and I had turned up the pace.  I was in "the faster I run, the faster I'm done" mode.  I tried to go around her on the left and couple times.  However, the woman was zigzagging back and forth, and she almost tripped me.  I ended up having to run straight through the 2 of them right at the finish.  I totally ruined their little finish line moment.  Sorry :(

I finished in 2:46:32.  My worst half marathon (excluding Disney where I stopped for pictures with characters).  Considering the bathroom breaks, especially the one where I had to wait for 15 min, and the heat, it was the best I could do. 

After the finish there was a nice selection of goodies including fresh apple cider donuts.  
They had large kiddie pools filled with ice water, which I thought was brilliant.  

My final thoughts on the race:
Mortal of the story for me is eat light before a race.  That piece of bacon and coffee with milk was a mistake.  I should have just stuck with the pancakes or toast.  My stomach never feels great during a race but sticking to light carbs definitely helps.  My time was disappointing but certain things were out of my control.  Bathroom breaks especially when you have to wait can kill your time.  Considering it was the beginning of July, I did not expect a great time because I knew the heat would slow me down.   

The wrap-up:
Pre-race info- A
Expo- C
Overall organization- A
Course- B-
Course support- B-
Swag/post-race food- B+
Medal- B
Theme- B
Surrounding area- B-

Nice race.  Well organized for only their 3rd year running.  Definitely would recommend for someone looking for a race in Vermont.  Not my best race but I was happy with some maple syrup and a medal to hang on my board in the end.