Friday, October 4, 2013

The Diva Half...or, Why You Should Never Run an Inaugural Race

At some point, as runners, we all make mistakes. Running a race in new shoes. Not bringing enough fuel out to a run. Not hydrating enough. Starting out too fast. Running out too far and forgetting we have to run back, too. I have made some stupid mistakes in the past 3 years, but this one was by far the worst....signing up for an inaugural race. Yep. I didn't even think it through. Never occurred to me that one should not run a race that has not been run before. I know what you are thinking. What's so bad? HAHAHA We will get there, I promise.

So, sometime earlier this year I saw a post from my friend on Facebook about the Diva Half Marathon coming to DC Wine Country. I was so excited! I want to run a race where you get a tiara, a boa, a medal, a glass of bubbly and some eye candy at the end too. Who wouldn't, right? So, the first day registration opened, I signed up! YEAH! I even found some friends who would come down and run it with me.

I booked a hotel about 5 minutes from the Expo and 20 minutes from the race start. Got a good deal too. I started training in June with a great local running club, the Charlottesville Track Club. I signed up for their marathon training group and got to training.  I even made some new running friends! It was hard training through the summer. (Something else I hadn't thought out. When signing up for a September race, you train in the summer...I hate running in the summer.) Then I realized that the race was only 2 weeks into the new school year! Sure, not like that is a stressful time for a teacher.

Well, race weekend came. I drove up to the Leesburg area and checked in. I did good picking a hotel. We had a very nice room!

Two queen beds, a pull out, 2 bathrooms for 4 ladies. Not bad! The bathrooms were a little odd. They had pocket doors (which are loud in the middle of the night), One bathroom had a very nice shower and a large sink and counter. The other one had a toilet and sink. It was very modern looking and comfortable.

My friends showed up just about an hour later and off to the expo. Was a pitiful expo. Small with very few big name running companies at it. I was disappointed. I love expos!
 We didn't stay long and headed out for dinner. We decided Romano's Macaroni Grill would be a good place for a pre race meal. I had the pasta with meatballs and sausage. The sausage was a little too spicy for me, and I think I was coming down with a cold. It was pretty good though and I ate half of it.
We packed up our leftovers and headed back to the hotel. As good runners, we got out our running clothes so we would be ready to go! Flat mamas!!

 Well, we needed a good nights sleep, right? Although the hotel was really nice, it was hosting many wedding goers who were pretty loud coming back to the rooms at night. The pocket doors were loud from us all getting up to use the bathroom. The air conditioner kept going on and off. Needless to say I slept for maybe an hour or two. I don't think anyone else slept much either.

So, after no sleep, we all got up at 5, got dressed, and then learned the fridge wasn't working so all the leftovers went bad...and STUNK! Off to Chick-fil-A for an emergency breakfast (right across the street) and then on to the race. Just 20 min down the road, right? HA HA HA. Yep. Joke was on us. Even though we left with over an hour to get there, we made it to the parking lot just at the time they claimed they would close the roads.
That was our view for over an hour. Eventually it became one lane of horrible traffic. Then we turned onto a gravel road for more traffic. So, this wonderful race was already starting sour.

 After arriving we tried to find a potty and I just decided the line was too long and went into the woods. We then learned the race was to be delayed due to traffic issues. Yep, that inaugural race. They had NO clue how much traffic there would be.
Dayle and I waiting for race start. Which would not start till an hour and a half late! YEP. Much too long of a delay for those of us who timed our pre race fuels and liquids and bathroom breaks. By the time we started we all needed to use our race fuel.
I thought I should add a photo of the potties. This is all they had for thousands of WOMEN!!! Crazy! Most women went up the hill into the woods.

So, the race finally started and we were off. It was a beautiful the original race start time. Now it was warming up and very sunny. They told us the course was a beautiful 13.1 miles through wine country with gentle rolling hills and a large hill somewhere in there. Some gravel, some paved. A total of 265 elevation gain.  HAHAHA. Yep. Another joke on us. The course was rolling mountains with several larger mountains in there. I can say this as I live in Charlottesville where we have actual mountains. As for actual elevation gain? Not 100% sure because my watch battery went at mile 10.1, but when I got home I found out at that point it was already over 1000 feet elevation. And it was mostly gravel. Not the ideal running surface.

I cried. And walked. And ran really fast at some points because I was SO mad. No sleep. Cold coming on. Late start to a race equals a crabby me. And I lost Dayle at some point. Our other friends, Melanie and Sara, were together and I saw them a few times. I got to a really low point and was about to call my hubby to cry. I didn't want to finish this. I wanted to go home and sleep. At that moment, Dayle found me again and got me going. A few more horrible mountains and the course flattened out some and we finally found the gentle rolling hills. After mile 10. Miles 1-10 were horrible!

After all the pain, and anger, and sadness, Dayle and I really picked up speed and came across the finish line with Tiara and Boa in hand. I finished in 2:18! An 18 minute PR. Still not sure how I pulled that one off. Dayle crossed about 2 minutes before me.
Got my boa, my tiara, my medal! No bubbly....idiots didn't research the needed paperwork ahead of time. But the apple cider was cold and delicious. And I did find a nice hunk to get my medal from.
All of us post race! We are woman! Hear us roar! Since the race started so late, it ended AFTER check out at our hotel! Luckily, we called and they left our room to clean last. We hit lots of traffic heading back and we got there just in time to clean up, pack up and get out. And thankfully, they didn't charge us for the late check out. We need a reward after the crazy day, so off to The Cheesecake Factory!
Yes, we wore our medals and race shirts to lunch and pigged out. We were thirsty and starving and tired.

There were lots of complaints on the Diva Facebook page. Most complaining about the traffic issues, the late start and the misleading course description. I don't think they researched this area enough before decided to hold a race there. I am sure it was beautiful ( I just remember big hills and lots of gravel), but since they didn't really check out the course right it was not the sort of course many of the runners had trained for.

So, beware of those inaugural races! Wait till someone runs it once so they can share their experiences. I would still have ran the race even with the large elevation, but I would have added lots of hill training to be schedule.

My next big race is the Philly Marathon/Half Marathon. Hubby is running the full and I am running the half with my friend Lori whom I ran the Princess Half marathon with. At least this race has been run for years and years. Hopefully no surprises!

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