(This was previously posted at BibRave.com, click here for more analysis)
Hat Tricks are typically for hockey but not this past weekend! I had the pleasure (if you want to call high temperature levels and decent hills pleasurable) of running in Runners World Classic, at Merrimac College via the Hat Trick: three races – I ran the 5k and 10k back to back on Saturday morning and the half marathon on Sunday morning. 3 races, almost 23 miles, all in 24 hours! Just fantastic. In terms of how this review will go, It has three pieces (the races) but is wrapped together by some good management, interesting events and wonderful volunteers. Also, how about those Yasso Frozen yogurt bars!
Overall: So let’s take a look at the weekend from high above and discuss the “non race” end of things. First, I enjoyed the ambiance (if such exists with a race environment) as it was just pleasant to walk around the tents and the campus area, during and after the event. No other race venue I have ever visited had this feeling (perhaps the Shipyard Half has this feeling in the old port of Portland, ME). The day before, on Friday, I walked into the building where registration was being handled, confirmed my info, heard a joke along the way and walked out. “Easy peezy” as my kids would say! Saturday and Sunday was very similar in getting around.
On both race days, everything was communicated well by the race director and the group singing the national anthem was just fantastic! Portapotties were placed in a good area (and I was told they were brand new plus there were many of them). The beer garden was behind the main stage and there were vendors spread out in the main area so lines and access were never an issue. The Hot dogs were pretty good post race and the food at the finish line was ok (not a yogurt fan). There were volunteers handing out water and Gatorade at the finish area as well (along with sponges which were extremely helpful with the heat).
In terms of “cons,” I only had three issues with this end of the weekend. First, on Saturday, the main portapotties ran out of toilet paper between the 5k and 10ks. That had a few people angry (but runners are resourceful and someone found a toilet paper roll handing it out in line). The second issue was the starting line. The area was super crowded and I could not get to my pace points (not a big issue normally to me but it was not something I had not planned on). The last issue with the food at the finish line – I would have liked to see some fruit but perhaps high temps would have made such problematic? Unsure. Anyhow aside from this, next time around, the RW Classic folks need to extend the starting area and spreads out the pace gates AND fill the portapotties with more toilet paper! (They were full on Sunday btw).
As for each race, here is a rundown!
5k: So as I noted on my blog, my plan going into the Hat Trick was to use this race as my warmup! Well, it turned out to be my PR for the day! The 5k course was somewhat flat and and a great run starting through Merrimac College (like the others), running through some shady neighborhoods and then finishing up back ok school grounds. The starting line was too crowded to get to my pace area so I started at the back of the pack and moved up (though the fact that there are many slower runners in a 5k then other races hurts at the beginning and you have less time to make it up). Your best bet if going for a PR is to get out to the starting point early so you don’t run into the same problem I had!
As for the course, using my SmashRun data, the 5k rates a “2” in terms of hill difficulty (out of 5). That is not “flat” but that does not mean you are climbing a mountain either. If you happen to run Boston’s landscape, that is flatter than this race! The downslope is at the beginning with a climb at the end. It winds through neighborhoods and for the most part is a safe run from a traffic perspective. Overall, with this being my first 5k that I have officially run in about 25 years, it was a good race. I believe they had one aid station around the 2 mile mark and water was plentiful.
10k: So with the 5k being my best race of the day, this was by far my worst race. Having run somewhat harder than planned in the 5k, I predictably had less in the tank for this one! The hour wait between races also was an issue as I couldn’t keep loose enough and my ankle was acting up! The profile of this was like the 5k with a downhill at the beginning and an uphill climb at the end. HOWEVER, add in heat and the comparison ends! The temps had risen by 10 degrees at the start of this run so climbing hills in the heat was not easy!
In terms of my SmashRun data, the 10k course measured a 3 on the scale difficulty (vs 2 for the 5k). The 100 ft climb over a half mile span in the latter part of the race was just a killer! In fact I ended up walking four times in this race as the heat and hills took their toll! Like the 5k, there were some narrow stretches and once again the starting line was an issue getting to the pace group. Like the previous race, you moved through some neighborhoods and swing back onto to campus to finish.
The Half Marathon: This was my “target” race of the weekend. In short, I planned on running easier on Saturday so I could do well on Sunday. With less people at the starting line, it seemed less crowded but this time around I was starting at the back anyhow and would use mile one to warm up. Weather was better than Saturday (about 10 degrees cooler) but with a bit more humidity. Overall it seemed more pleasant this morning with less people around as we all geared up for the final leg of the race.
So the half started in similar fashion to the other two races swooping through the college and out into the neighborhood. The half repeats a small portion of the race going around the campus once, running past the finish area and then goes further out into the neighborhoods. It moves down a main road for a long stretch and then has a main road climb on the back stretch. The beginning of the half is mainly downhill while the back half is a killer uphill climb.
From a hill rating perspective, again using my SmashRun data, his had the same hill difficulty level of 3 with about 575 feet gained and lost over the course of this run. The one bit piece though to add is this: the first 6 miles are basically downhill with little variation to such. The last 6 are uphill and so if running his, if looking for a PR, best bet is to run the downhills fast because the back end is going to eat away at your legs. I was fortunate to have a good amount of energy but I still finished 8 minutes slower than my last half! So take advantage of the downhills is my lesson!
Aid stations and support were plentiful on this route. There were also medics everywhere as I saw a few ambulances on Saturday (more heat, more medics). Overall, plenty of support all around!
Finally, the Medals and the Shirts: The medals for the individual races were somewhat smaller than normal but if you ran the 5&dime or the “Hat Trick,” the medals were enormous! I guess by running more and having you around longer at the race area, that is more contact with their sponsors and charities and worth more to them! Thus bigger medals. On the shirt side, it was just an ordinary T and not something like the running shirts we all where each time out on the road. Perhaps i already have too many of those anyhow so an ordinary T is a nice change of pace? Lastly, the photo takers were everywhere! The resulting pics that are coming out are better than previous races butt hey always catch me in a distressed state!
Well, that is about it for the race. Liked doing it very much and will probably attempt it again next year so I can crush my times from this year!
Thank you for Reading!