Monday, July 11, 2011

Race Review: Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole ½ Marathon

The weather for this event was oppressively hot and humid.  With the exception of a few days, the prevailing local weather leading into this event had been mild in comparison.  It takes a few weeks of training in this kind of weather to acclimate to the conditions, leaving most racers unprepared.  The course was concrete and open with the exception of about 2 miles in the second half of the course.  Sunrise was at 5:22 am, with the event start time at 8:00 am, giving the road plenty of time to absorb and radiate the sun’s heat.  The sun was out for most of the event and easily upped the perceived temperature by 10 to 15˚F placing the heat index at 95 -100°F.  South south west winds provided some comfort and resistance in the first and last 3 miles of the event.

The morning of race day forecast from  This forecast should have triggered immediate revisions to pace expectations and race day plans as well as a reflexive trip to fill up a glass of water.

The course has previously been described in the 2 part post Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole ½ marathon course preview (1 and 2).  I looked forward to the novelty of running over the Hoan Bridge but was underwhelmed by the actual experience.  The Hoan Bridge is an interstate highway over an industrial part of the city to include the often foul smelling metropolitan sewage district and is currently a construction zone.  I did get my foot momentarily stuck in a rubber covered sewer grate and fortunately was not hurt.  The course stands to benefit from inclusion of the city streets of Bay view, the third ward, or downtown and much more shade.  I Understand Summerfest has tied the identity of the race to the Hoan Bridge, as such one pass is sufficient leading into the city - better view.  Out and back is logistically easier but redundant.

The course map, elevation, and grade acquired using a Garmin 410 Forerunner.  The three hills on the course were daunting.
My personal experience with the event left me satisfied with the race coordination but I also understand my anecdotal experience does not reflect the experience of all racers.  The largest complaint I have was the poorly implemented finish and recovery area.  This has already been addressed in the race management company’s apology letter for which I applaud their ability to recognize failure and promise action.  All the food, water and such were packed into a narrow corridor, fed by the finish chute leading to overcrowding and leaving racers one fleeting opportunity to grab what they needed.   This area needs to be moved into an open area away from the finish chute.

The start corral was well thought out with well marked sections for expected pace.  There was a shortage of restroom facilities, no bag check, and no water at the staging for the start.  The course was well marked in addition to personnel providing clear directions.  The water stations were generously spaced every mile.  No timers were available but the mile markers were easily visible and fairly accurate – the race signage could be more robust and elevated such that all racers in a crowd could see it.  RFID Timing checkpoints were suspiciously absent at key turnaround points leading to valid questions concerning the integrity of the results.  Volunteers were wonderful and helpful.  Also absent were DJs or live bands along the course which I had perhaps naively assumed would be there based on previous experiences in similarly priced events and the Rock ‘n Sole name of the event.  In comparison to other races the rock ‘n sole ½ marathon was overpriced.

The results file continues to be updated and anomalies removed since first being published.  The finisher results could be overstated due to the lack of RFID checkpoints on the course.

Finish times are organized in 10 minute increments.  The top 10% of men finished in less than 1:43:17.  The top 10% of women finished in less than 1:58:04.

From the results 2,985 runners completed the course, 1,347 men and 1,638 women.  My personal watch and the official times had me completing the course in approximately 1:38:00.  Lap times by mile:

95% max heart rate on the return trip over the Hoan Bridge during mile 6 indicates an epic failure in adjusting pace for the heat.  The following miles were punctuated with rests to keep from overheating.
1 mile:  6:45
2 mile:  6:28
3 mile:  6:43
4 mile:  6:46
5 mile:  7:05
6 mile:  6:40
7 mile:  7:24
8 mile:  7:50
9 mile:  8:14
10 mile:  8:22
11 mile:  8:17
12 mile:  8:13
13 mile:  7:50

Examination of the splits reveals close to a minute and a half difference between my fastest and slowest miles, horrible.  I completed the first half in 44:25 and the second in 53:32, close to a nine minute difference.  This is the result of not following my own advice.  I did not adjust my race plan for the heat and had a spectacular second half melt down.  What amazed me was after I cut my pace not that many people passed me.

Using average calorie burn per mile and empirical data from optimal running weather I found my personal performance penalty to be 10%.  My body was burning 10% more calories just to stay cool.  Adjusting my race time by 10% yields a 1:28:20 equivalent performance, quite the effort.  The fact is the second half of the race was not enjoyable at all after my overly ambitious start.  Had I paced myself evenly my overall time would have been faster.  I look forward to future opportunities to apply this lesson.

The (mis)management of this race has created a lot of negative publicity for Summerfest and the race management company.  Social media and local media were immediately full of haters, trolls, and apologists and remain abuzz.  For the haters out there claiming people need to provide their own water:  Event organizers stated water would be present and it is reasonable to expect this basic need be met, more so when money changes hands.  For the apologists claiming to suck it up because this was for charity:  This line of thinking is intellectually dishonest as some proceeds go to charity but many parties involved stand to profit.  Hiding behind a cause does not excuse failing to live up to expectations.  For the tax money subsidized this event trolls:  Cities collect fees in support of events like these on top of general taxation of all human activity.    For the victims and those threatening lawsuits, get over your bitterness and move on, lesson learned.  Take some personal responsibility, train for events, wake up early on race day, and hydrate before ever getting to the race.  Everyone can grow and learn from this experience.    

I am quite certain the event had many smart people working behind the scenes with narcissistic self aggrandizing leadership.  I say this because of the consistent hammering away of how “iconic” this event is going to be.  Leave that to the public to decide, what has become of modesty?  Proper planning and attention to detail will get the name of this event out more than self promotion ever will.  I am certain next year’s event will be much better following this public lesson in humility, that is if there is an event.  I look forward to the changes they will be rolling out and will consider racing this event in future provided Summerfest addresses the many well documented complaints of participants.

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