Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cincinnati Half Marathon – Race Recap

June 28, 2014


My original plan was to mail in my registration form and a check but I waited too late and had to register on-line.  I hate paying those extra fees!  And then I was having problems on the laptop that I use and had to switch to my husband’s to even get the registration to go through.  This would be the first of many hiccups I experienced with this race. My total registration cost was $67.40.

FRIDAY, JUNE 27th:  Cincinnati is a little over 2 hours from where I live so I didn’t feel pressed for time to get there on Friday.  Packet pickup was listed to take place from 4pm-7pm at Sawyer Point.  I wasn’t sure what Sawyer Point was but assumed that it was a park.  I guess I should have done a little research prior to leaving.  Oddly, OnStar initially didn’t find it/couldn't find it either via the address or name.  But the lady kept trying, switched to a different system (what ever that meant) and was able to send me directions.

Naturally I had to make a bathroom stop so I pulled over at the rest stop in Batesville, IN.  Eating that big container of watermelon was probably not the smartest idea to do while traveling…but it certainly helped with getting me hydrated!  Back on the road in no time and it wasn’t long before I was across the Ohio state line.  I hit a little bit of traffic and construction once I got to the west side of Cincinnati but it didn’t delay me too much.  So I get on Pete Rose Way and supposedly Sawyer Point is in the 700 block but I don’t see anything that is signed for it.  I eventually pull over and start looking through my paperwork.  Suddenly I see a guy walking up the sidewalk and he just help up a race shirt to look at it.  I jumped out of my car and asked him where he got it.  He tells me that packet pickup is about a 1/2 mile back down the road.  He would be right and wrong about the distance.

Since I wasn’t sure if I was parked in a legal place, I decided I’d better find somewhere else to park.  I made a U-Turn and headed back down the road and then went in to town a bit to look for some metered parking.  Found a space rather quickly and then began to dig for change.  Some random guy showed me that the meters there can give you 10 minutes for free and then stated that I only needed to pay until 5:00pm.  I barely had enough change!  This guy then gave me random directions on how to get to the park and I headed that way.  First I needed to walk through this cute little park at the end of the road.  Abe was on guard so I took his picture.


A left turn and then a right turn and I was mostly back to where I saw the guy with the race shirt.  So I crossed the street and asked the gentleman in the parking booth if I was headed in the right direction for packet pickup and he said yes but that I needed to (and he pointed) keep going that way.  As I am still wandering around this park, I’m approached by another couple asking if I’m looking for packet pickup – they are as well.  They were told it was just across the railroad tracks.  Um…the tracks run parallel to the road so that isn’t helpful.  They decided to keep going left.  I headed right because I saw some folks with bags that looked like they might be for a race. 

SUCCESS!  Found it…and there was a really long line…and only two people working the table.  Also, there was some triathlon stuff setup.  Now I begin to worry.  Did I signed up for the wrong event?  Am I there on the wrong day?  The girl in front of me is picking up triathlon stuff.  But they were handing out stuff for both events.  Standing in line was also a treat because the lady 3 people behind me had the most annoying child.  He didn’t want to be with her but he didn’t want to go with his dad and sister so he just kept screaming and complaining.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  But I saw these pretty flowers as I was leaving the park so that made me smile.


Now from a time standpoint I was in a bit of a pickle.  It was between 5pm & 6pm and I didn’t want to get caught in any rush hour traffic so I decided to walk around a bit and was hoping I could find where the start line would be located in the morning. 


Oh the things I saw as I was walking around Cincinnati; some vendors yelling at each other (the Bruno Mars concert was that night at the US Bank Arena), two guys and a girl that got stopped at a light while I was there and felt the need to have an in-depth conversation about all things weird.  I had to go a different way when I saw that we would be stopped at a light together again.  Oh and I finally saw this sign below for the park where packet pickup was.  The misleading thing is that there’s nothing to give it some perspective in size but there’s no way you could see it while driving!


Made my way back to my car and drove to the hotel.  I had reservations at the Millennium Hotel which – when I asked the race people for hotel recommendations – this was one they said was not “race friendly” to runners…but it was the only one available AND affordable. 


What was NOT affordable was the potential charge of $25 to park my car so I parked in a public garage the was catty corner for only $10.  I was hoping that it would be safe there.   As I was checking in, I was told that check out the next day was 11:00AM but when it was time to sign the paperwork I noticed that it said check out was noon.  BOOM! 

After getting everything to my room and the car parked, I started to unpack.  Suddenly I noticed that I’d forgotten my hat.  UGH!!!  So I set out on the town to find one.  Sadly, the “town” was shutting down anywhere from 7:00pm – 8:00pm.  Seriously, Cincinnati, OH had nothing open on a Friday night.  I made it in time to Walgreens but they didn’t have what I was looking for.  Across the street was a CVS that had just closed.  About two blocks away was Macy’s and even though they had baseball hats, some of them were “winter” baseball hats (so too hot to wear) which is why they were on clearance and the others were $25+ and I wasn’t about to pay that for a hat I’d only wear once.  So it was back to the Walgreens where I found some wide headbands that I was hoping would work and also bought some other supplies: chocolate milk, water and miscellaneous snacks for the drive home tomorrow.

Although the lobby of the hotel looked fancy and nice, the room was really just average and a little “tired” looking.  And NO refrigerator or microwave!  I had traveled with a cooler of course but a refrigerator is always better. Luckily, there was a snack bar/canteen area downstairs that had a microwave so I was able to heat up my pasta. Initially I thought I would have to drive to the start line but after double checking the address and MapQuest-ing that from the hotel address, I discovered it was only a mile away and that was totally walkable.   I watched TV for awhile and was in bed by 10:30pm.

SATURDAY, JUNE 28th: For some reason, I didn’t sleep well.  Race start time was 7:00AM and I wanted to leave the hotel no later than 6:15 since I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going.  I showered, ate breakfast and was out the door right at 6:15AM.  Thankfully the weather looked better than what it was showing last night.  Maybe since it rained that night, it got it all out of its system.



I basically walked the route that I had driven to the hotel since that’s what I was familiar with but as I got closer, I saw another girl with a race bib on and caught up with her at a stoplight.  She was originally from Michigan but was now living in Cincinnati and she & her friend were doing the 10K.  (You can actually see her in the photo above crossing the street!)  So we make our way down to where we think the start line will be.  We see plenty of other runners but no start line.  Most people seem puzzled.  Some of us start walking toward the direction of Sawyer Point since packet pickup was taking place on race morning as well.  Runners were coming from all directions and NO ONE knew where the start line was.  None of the police officers knew…nobody.  Many of us walked up Merhing Way to Pete Rose Way.  Some runners commented that the start line had been up there in the past but NOPE…still no start line.  Finally, a man on a bicycle came riding up and waving a roll of red duct tape yelling, “the start line is down the road where the red tape line is.”  Well, that line was not there when we walked up the street.


Oh look…there’s the red line…that suddenly appeared.


Here they are scrambling to set up the timing mat (blurry photo)

It was never explained to us what happened or why but the race started 25 minutes late.  Now this wasn’t the first year for this event; it was the FIFTH!  I wondered if they had any hiccups over on the triathlon side.  Needless to say with everything that had happened I was worried if there would be aid stations out on the course so I didn’t toss my water bottle…just in case.

Once again, I put my phone away and figured I’d walk or drive back to take pictures of anything interesting.  But I did take these pictures around the 3 mile marker (I think):


The aid stations were mostly spaced 2 miles apart but I still held on to my water bottle.  It was unbelievably humid!  By the time we reached the 6 mile aid station, I stopped and filled my bottle back up.  This was the first time we also had Gatorade.  I also began dumping water down my back.

The last half of the race was just miserable and I don’t remember much about it.  I do remember seeing one female runner that had big thick longish hair and it was not pulled back.  I just don’t know how she could possibly run with all that on her neck and around her face.  Somewhere between mile 10 and 11, I was next to a lady who asked me if I thought my Garmin was accurate and if it matched how the course was marked.  She said her watch hadn’t uploaded satellite in time.  I told her what my Garmin was showing which was about two-tenths longer than what the mile marker indicated.  I then pulled ahead of her.  There was a lot of walking by a LOT of people.  And I started not to care.  I think had the weather not been so horrific I could have enjoyed the course a little more.  It did have some scenic areas and parks.  I started seeing more of the bikers from the triathlon while I was between miles 9 and 11. 

At about mile 11.5, we entered Theodore M Berry International Friendship Park.  This was the prettiest part of the course and I’m sure there is an interesting story behind it and it would have been the perfect place to get some pictures but I was so over this race at this point.  It took everything that I had to just keep going.  Not that I didn’t think I wouldn’t finish but I was beat up mentally.

I was never so happy to cross a finish line in my life.  Thankfully some lady asked me to stop so that she could cut my timing chip off or I probably would have gone back to the hotel with it still attached.  Of course, she couldn’t just cut it off because I was never given a zip tie and had to undo my shoe to remove it.  But because I had to do that, I saw some members of the 50 States club and began chatting with them.  They were very nice and wanted to get a picture with me.


Picked up a couple of granola bars – that’s about all they had left.    It looked like there had been some watermelon but it was long gone.  Then I looked for some place to take a “finishers photo” and someone to take it for me!


On the way back to the hotel, I walked past where the Cincinnati Reds play and took some photos.  I thought my husband would be interested in them (even though he is a Cubs fan) but I learned that as a young child he experienced an “incident” with Pete Rose and never liked the Reds after that.  Noted!


I was in a daze by the time I got back to the hotel.  My clothes were so saturated with sweat that I could literally wring them out.  SO GROSS.  I wanted to stand in the shower forever.  Luckily it only took me two trips to get everything to the car and then I was back on the road for home.

Some final thoughts:

  • Although there were some flat portions of this course, I don’t think its correct to say that it is flat and fast.
  • You don’t have to buy the shirt and that is a bonus to some people…but of course I did.
  • They listed it as “no frills” racing and that would be true.
  • I thought that I’d read somewhere that Gatorade would be provided more often than just at mile 6 which would also be at mile 9ish, but I could be wrong.
  • We were given GU (but not GU brand & I can’t remember what it was) at the Gatorade station as well so that was nice.
  • I doubt that I will ever do this race again.  It fit the schedule for what I needed this year but it certainly isn’t something that I’d purposely come back for.

The medal was colorful but a little small.


Lifetime half marathon #55.

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