St Ives 10k in England

It seems to be pretty normal for me to look for races when travelling, and this trip included a 10k on Sunday. In my last post I mentioned that I may fill my blog with my runs in England, but after that post my Achilles was pretty bad, and being on vacation I decided to take a break instead. There was plenty of walking during the vacation so I was at least active.

So, after 9 days without a run I went along to the St Ives 10k unsure of how it would work out. The morning started with a 3k fun run that my kids entered. They had a lot of fun and got a medal (not at all bad for the very reasonable entry fee).

The 10k started at 10:30am. I didn’t know anything about the course and thought I would take it easy to start to see how my ankle would hold up. Of course, I failed. It seems that racing brings out a need to push myself. At first it felt easy but I knew I would need to ease back a little on the initial pace because I have only run 6 miles a couple of times in recent months.

Soon after the start the course turned up a gentle hill towards an airfield. A left turn took us into a strong headwind and a long straight with a slight uphill grade (I’m glad I didn’t know how long that section would be – sometimes it’s better not to know the course). Of course, we had the tailwind on the way back, but I knew how long that straight section was and psychologically it was tough.

By around 5 miles I was suffering – this photo at the finish shows that. Despite that I managed to finish in 45:32. It’s a long way off my times from even last year.

As for the Achilles, that was painful at the finish but not noticed during the run. The worse problem was the next day (and the day after), my calf, quads, everything were incredibly tight. I haven’t felt like this after a run outside of running marathons.

Grape Gallop 5k

I recently posted about being contacted by the organizers of the Grape Gallop. A few weeks ago I went along to their 5k at Alba Vineyard.

The race start was 10am and I arrived at about 8:50. When I got there, it was clear that the race was going to be relatively small so I would have been okay arriving a bit later, but it was a very pleasant morning so having a bit of time to look around the course wasn’t a bad thing. I walked the first half mile, and later ran with my kids up part of the longest hill (yes, it’s hilly) as a bit of a warm up. I was being cautious because I didn’t know how my ankle was going to react (on Saturday I started a short run only to stop within a few steps because of it).

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

All the organizers and other participants were very friendly. It looked like there might be a couple of relatively fast people. One in particular approached me early on, a young guy who clearly knew a bottle of wine was at stake for the winner and was there to get it. I was able to reassure him that I was in no shape to keep up with him, and likely would not have been able to even at full fitness.

The race was two loops through the vineyard on gravel/stones and grass. As a side note, with many of my shoes, as they are minimalist, I would have had problems with those stones, but I had with me a few options and my latest pair – the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG – were perfect for this.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

During the race my ankle held up reasonably well, but lack of overall fitness showed. As expected with the small field of participants, the race split – the fast guy there to win pulled easily well ahead from the start, and I possibly went out being a little overenthusiastic. I felt okay though, and I was in second with a decent gap opening up between me and third place.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

After the first loop I wasn’t looking forward to the big hill again. My lack of overall fitness was definitely kicking in and I knew I was going to struggle up it the second time around. At this point I was just hoping to be able to hold on and not get caught by anyone else so I could claim the second place.

There were a lot of walkers and run/walk participants taking part and that meant passing them on the second loop. This wasn’t a problem because there was plenty of space for passing.

I did hold on, and the third and fourth place were a couple who were running together, including the 1st place woman. My time was 23:50 which is my slowest 5k since my very first, but given the tough course and my recent issues, I was happy with that. First place was 20:05 (he had run a 5k the day before in the 18s). The first place woman came in at 24:18.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

After the race, you pick up your wine tasting glass (if you’ve paid for that – you can enter for less without the tasting) and tote bag for carrying wine bottles. The set up was great for socializing with the other runners, and was very relaxing.

I’m not sure if any results get posted for this event, or even if they were even recorded outside of the first place runners. The race was not chip timed, which brings me to what to expect from the race.

  • Don’t expect competitive field – it’s more like a community event (and I actually really appreciated that).
  • Don’t expect awards/medals – outside of first place male and female there are none. The first place runners got a bottle of wine each.
  • The course was well-marked, but no volunteers were out on the course other than at the end of the first loop to make sure you took the correct split there. This includes the water station (you help yourself from the table if you need it). I did hear that some people may have gone down the wrong way at one part of the course but didn’t see that myself – it wouldn’t have cut much off, but if it ever gets to be a more competitive event, that could be an issue.
  • You will get a scenic course – very scenic.
  • There had been some rain during the week and some parts of the course were soft. I imagine very heavy rains could make some areas very muddy.
  • If you like a small race feel with very friendly people, this is definitely worth a look. I imagine bringing friends to make a day of the wine tasting and food truck festival would be a fantastic day out. I was there with my wife and kids and grabbed some food before we left (we had other things to do later so didn’t stick around past 1 – food festival started at noon). There were not many food truck options. I don’t know if we just got unlucky as I did spot a Facebook post from someone disappointed by the fact there were not as many options as previous festivals at that venue.

In summary, this was a fun event you can make a day of with friends or family and I recommend it for that. I would hope that if it were to grow and attract competitive runners they would introduce more awards to recognize more than just first place (based on the participants that were there, it makes sense to keep it small).

I can’t help but feel the race is a bit too expensive. $35 for a “designated driver” entry (no wine glass/tasting) is a bit higher than most road or park 5ks that have more costs incurred by road closing. For example, I am a race director for the Highland Park 5k, which has an early entry fee of $25 (if you include the $10 entry to the food truck festival as a race cost then it is a similar price, but still without road closing costs). Admittedly those races tend to have sponsors which help to keep the cost down, but if you’re choosing what races to do based on your spending budget, it may put this one lower down your list of choices.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, it was fun, but with the caveat that it’s best planned as a day out with friends.

If you use discount code RUNNJ17 you will save $3 off the registration fee.

Garden State 10 – spectator recap

Sunday morning saw the inaugural Garden State 10 mile and 5k races. As I am not able to run I was there to support RVRR members in the races. The last time I attended a race without running I had a lot of fun taking photos. Since then I replaced my 11-year-old Digital SLR camera with a new Nikon D7200 so I took it along.

I cycled the 9 miles or so to the race in part because it seemed like parking was going to be a nightmare and I also wanted to get some exercise. I’m glad I have large panniers to accommodate the camera.

I arrived not long before the start of the 5k and after riding around to find RVRR runners among the crowds I decided to set up around the 2.5 mile mark of the 5k to take some pictures.

It surprised me that there were still cars coming through the park when the 5k was already underway and this seemed to continue with some cars having to navigate their way through oncoming runners.

The 5k race leader, Kyle Price, enjoying his run

Click here to see all my 5k pictures.

The timing of the races was such that the 10 mile started 45 minutes after the 5k. Some were participating in what they called the “half marathon challenge” so most had some time between races.

As I rode out to find a good first location for taking 10 mile pictures there were still slower 5k participants out on the course who were soon going to be faced with an oncoming stream of 10 mile runners (I’m sure they would have had to move to the side). I was also surprised to still see some cars arriving and being able to drive through the park.

I set up around the 1 mile mark and took photos there until I thought it was time to leave to try to catch people at around the 4.5 mile mark (avoiding riding on the course) which was also roughly the 7.5 mile mark. I got there at about the same time as the lead runner, Joshua Izewski, who had been ahead from the beginning and had a large lead by this time. I stayed there until I decided it was time to head to the finish to catch the first RVRR runner coming in (Drew Pennyfeather).

Apart from the traffic and parking problems (which were probably difficult for the organizers to avoid) the race was well-organized and I hope that it is on the calendar again for next year. I hope I’ll get a chance to run it then.

Click here for my 10 mile pictures.

The GS10 official pictures now include my images, so when runners collect their images, they will get mine too.

2016 Newport Liberty Half Marathon recap

Following the events on Saturday in Seaside Park, the day before the Newport Liberty Half Marathon, it was difficult to know how the organizers would respond. In the weeks after the Boston bombing there was a lot of security at the race, but they had time to prepare. On that occasion they set up a perimeter around the registration and finish line areas and you could not take bags through. That caused inconvenience and, in my mind at least, has no impact at all (it just moves anything that’s going to happen to a different place – you can’t block off an entire course). The organizers handled things very well for the race on Sunday. It was obvious there was more security, but it wasn’t intrusive. An announcement at the start informed us that the entire course had been swept, and I felt that everything was as relaxed as ever.

There didn’t seem to be an impact on numbers with over 2500 finishers. The number of finishers and pre-registered runners seems comparable to 2 years ago. Last year was much lower for both and that was the year when the price jumped from $35 to $50 so perhaps that was the issue – of course, this is still probably the cheapest half marathon around, and hopefully they can keep the prices low.

Out on the course I overheard the usual complaints about the potholes in the first couple of miles, but there were other areas where there seemed to be a definite improvement. The weather made it tough – the humidity was high and it was noticeable among the people I see regularly in NJ races with many of them slipping way down on last year’s performance (me included, but that was, at least in part, due to other factors). At least this year the wind wasn’t strong along the Liberty Park waterfront.

My lack of targeted training had an effect on my race, but my time was almost exactly where I expected it would be. I have had a swollen ankle for a couple of weeks, and running does not seem to make it worse, but just to be sure, I have run less to avoid aggravating anything. When it came to the race this meant that I was testing it out a little at first, which probably saved me in the long run. (Photo around the 2 mile mark.)

Party pace @ mile 2 😜 #newportlibertyhalfmarathon #rvrr

A post shared by Elaine Acosta (@cheeky.ninja.runner) on

My mile splits were fairly consistent but I was also able to pick up some speed later on and it was good to see, in a photo also taken by Ninja, that my form seemed to stay strong.

The humidity caused so much sweating that I could feel it in my shoe and somehow my right shoelace (double knotted) came undone around the 8.5 mile point (my best guess is that it loosened because of how wet it got?). The fix was easy and didn’t cost me too much time.

Did you run this race? How did you feel about it? Any feedback is great, for the last few years I have been lucky enough to be a blog partner of the race, for which I do get a free entry. My blog posts are not influenced by this – I’ve enjoyed this race, and blogged about it, before I became a blog partner. I hope that any feedback or criticism can only help make this race better.

With that said, is there a better way to handle the exit from the parking lot? Half an hour to get out is insane. I recall on a previous occasion (perhaps it was for the 10k) they opened up a different exit which probably made things better. That didn’t seem to be happening this time.

2016 Brooklyn Half Marathon review

7am is early for a race start, particularly if you have to travel. Some friends from the running club were meeting at 4am to drive to Coney Island and take the subway to the start but I was staying in Brooklyn in a friend’s spare room. It was still an early start – one of the people in the car from NJ was in wave 1 and the others were in wave 2 and I was a bit worried he wouldn’t make it to the wave 1 start in time (he did but only just before the bag drop was due to close.

The official information suggested arriving by 5:10 for wave 1. It was just after 5:30 when I arrived and it was still quiet. It was warm enough, so I dropped my bag early, went through security, and then it was a long wait.

This was my first NYRR event and on the whole it was well-organized (as you’d expect) but with their volunteer program that presumably just attracts people who want to get a guaranteed marathon place, the quality of the volunteers was definitely variable. On the way to bag drop, one tried to tell us completely the wrong direction, and it was clear from being in the start area early that wave 2 people were being given the wrong information and making it through to the wave 1 start before being turned around and told that had to walk around the outside to get to that area. Some of them were annoyed because they had been specifically told to go that way and had walked quite a way before being turned around.

A large race with an enclosed start area is a tough place to get a warm up. People were running back and forth but volunteers by each entrance to the course were sending people back if they had gone past their area, so those further back had less pavement to run on, and those in areas further forward were being stopped to have their bibs checked at each of these points.

Despite being lined up by expected time, with so many runners, it was the typical situation of having to navigate through some slower runners. This was surprising particularly because I knew I was not going to be quite as fast as the time I had submitted because of recent calf issues. It was most noticeable on turns where everyone seems to slow down quite dramatically. The first half of the course had all the turns and the more scenic views (around and through the park), and then it’s straight, boring slog as you head out to Coney Island and the finish on the boardwalk. There were plenty of water/gatorade stations on the course, and very visible medical tents. I also saw one gel station, but others I know who ran didn’t even notice that.

Official photos are free – nice touch

At the finish you receive a medal and a food bag as you are moved forward quickly to clear the area. The food was not particularly inspiring – I definitely missed having a bagel or a banana but those are probably missing in such a large scale race due to the effort that would have to go into providing them for over 26000 runners.

As you headed to MCU Park for the after party you are warned to pick up your bag before entering the park. There were no lines when I arrived but it would likely have been busier later. In the park, the music kept you entertained but the food and drink options were limited (only 2 food trucks which was surprising, and beer for $8 each). It was a fairly chilly day so once the others I knew had finished, we headed out to a famed pizza place a couple of miles away before heading home.

I’m happy enough to have run this race once, but I’m unlikely to run it again. This is mostly due to the logistics of the early start, but also for that long second half down a straight, boring road.