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Apr 22, 2013

Lansing Half Marathon 2013 race review

I usually use the shirt for this first picture but did not receive one(explanation below)

Short Version:

Finished in 1:44:57(official time); no new PR
Overall place: 107/1118
Overall pace:  8:01/mile
Seven mile mark:  54:19(7:46 pace up to that point)
Age Group(M40-44): 8/66
Race #43
Half marathon #13

Overall, not a race I would run again.  Awesome medal - one of my favorites but other than that, the race organization, communication, and course are something I'll leave for others to run until they make some changes.

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Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very simple.  The race had a website for information.  Everything was done online at Active(dot)com.  You could also send in your race registration as well.  I was registered in minutes.  I registered on June 25, 2012.  Almost 10 months early.  Normally I don't tell people when I register but it allows you to understand some of my frustration.

Since Lansing is about 1 hour, 45 minutes from me, I confirmed with the race director that there would, in fact, be race day pickup back in June before I registered.  I was not interested in driving three and a half hours round trip to get my packet at the expo and then come back again.  I actually confirmed that they were still having race day packet pickup again in November and was told yes or I could pick up at Playmakers(which was not actually true since another runner on Facebook said he went there and nothing was set up).  I also confirmed again April 12th due to the Boston bombing to make sure and again was assured there would be race day packet pickup but to be there very early at 6:00am, subsequently told 6:30am then on Twitter Friday evening(which I just happen to see) was told that they could not guaranty race day pickup and to come on Saturday at the expo since Sunday pickup could not be guaranteed.  I was not happy to say the least.  That is the first time I've ever heard that in all my races - keep in mind this is #43 for me.  Either it's offered or it's not.  It's really very simple in my opinion.  Here's what I read on Twitter:
Of course, I just happen to see this twitter request from another runner above Friday evening and could not believe it and was quite upset.  Frankly, if there is ever going to be a change like this the day before the race, the race director should send out an e-mail to all registered runners notifying them of any changes.  I was told on Twitter to call the volunteer coordinator and "she was making a personal sacrifice to help you out" since of course, there would be no guarantee.
Subsequently, I talked to the packet pickup volunteer(who was very nice and helpful by the way) and she confirmed that there would be race day pickup(not just for me obviously) but not until 7am and she guaranteed it would be open.  There were issues with security due to the Boston bombings which is why it had to be for 7am.  This I could certainly understand.  Frankly, I would have rather been told this instead of someone on race management making it out to be that a volunteer was making a personal sacrifice(which they are anyway - the very definition of a volunteer) to get me - and just me - my packet.  It was nothing more than an attempt to make me feel bad for not coming to the expo the day before.

Fortunately, in the end, it worked out(well, sort of).  I was able to park in the parking garage that was right across the street from the start which was very convenient.  Parking was also free on Sunday's which also is a nice bonus.  I was there early at 6:50am and the building was open and there were no issues getting in -- at all.  In fact, there were lots of people picking up their packets on race day so really all the stress that was caused was for nothing except to make a client(a runner) angry for no reason really.  The bottom on line - This could have been avoided had the race management had all the information on their website in a clear and concise manner when, in fact, it does not even mention race day pickup on the website.(which is why I had to e-mail the race director 10 months ahead to begin with)

As I came walking to the Lansing Center to get my packet, this is what I greeted with:
Security check point
Happy to do it.
I guess I was not surprised that there would be heightened security the day of the race after the terrible events in Boston.  By the way, I wore this on the back of my race shirt and got tons of compliments:
A half marathon for Boston - bib courtesy of Races2Remember via Facebook
As I made my way into the Lansing Center, I also was greeted with this:
Large police presence
The Lansing police/State police presence at this event were overwhelming.  I expected it would be high but didn't realize until throughout the day that I've never seen this many police at an event ever.  Of course, this was also one of the first marathons after Boston so I was happy to see the race management and police were taking things very serious to keep us safe.  In fact, all over the place, people had on little ribbons that the race provided(but they ran out at the expo) and others had things like I did.  It was a nice feeling to see everyone pull together.

As I went further into the building, I got to where race packet pickup was:
Expo sign
Of course, the expo was yesterday all day so there was nothing set up for today except for the packet pickup which was fine by me.  You grabbed your number and went to the pick up line.  There were plenty of volunteers to help out and I was able to get my race packet right away and also pick up my buddy's race packet(since he could not attend but wanted his shirt)
New new race map which I'll explain later
This area also had an area for volunteers to check in.  According to the race management on Facebook, there were over 500 volunteers for this race.  Now I have not managed a race before so I don't know every detail of this but that sounds like a tremendous amount of volunteers for a race with only over 2,000 runners.  Of course, there were many more marshals on the course than I've ever seen due to security as well so perhaps that is why that many were needed.  Regardless, all volunteers I met were very friendly, helpful and appreciative that runners were there to run the race.  Of course, I appreciate all that the volunteers do for us runners on race day as well.
Volunteer check in
At race packet pickup, there appeared to be plenty of volunteers for this task.  As I picked up my packet, they said they were out of race shirts in Medium but they gave us something to fill out so they could mail them to us.  I also tried to get my running buddy's packet and Small was also out.  Wow!  It appeared that there was a last minute demand for the race so they gave away all the shirts at the expo. This is the first race I've ever been to that ran out for pre-registered runners.  Now to me there is no sense in getting angry at a volunteer like I've seen people do.  I've volunteered for the race packet pickup job before and there's no fault of the volunteers for this issue so I just sign up for mailing and went on my way.

The race said they will make things right and get them out to people that did not get one and I applaud them for that; however, my primary issue is that they should not have given out race shirts to the people signing up at the expo to begin with.  If you recall, I signed up in June 2012 yet someone last minute can come in because they could make it to the expo and sign up?  It's really disappointing that the race management could not manage this better.  Last minute registrations should ALWAYS be told that they have to wait until AFTER the race to see if there are shirts left, otherwise, the race would need to order them shirts after.  To me, it's the only fair way to do things.  So unfortunately, I won't be able to show you the shirt until I actually receive it in the mail.  I will say that I saw lots of people wearing the shirt on race day and I really like the color(blue) and the design and it will be one that I will wear once I receive it.
Packet pickup - great volunteers!
Start Area
After I took my packets back to the car, I was able to get a few pictures of the start area.  The start area was very well organized as you can see below.  It was also right next to the Lansing Center so all the runners were able to wait inside until just before the race started.  I really feel this is an excellent place to start the race.  It was a nice touch to see the American Flag hanging from the start line as well.
Start area - well organized
Another reason it's a great place to start here is this is the Capital of Michigan.  As you can see below, the Capital building is right near the start except we actually run the opposite way of the building but it's still a very nice area to start a race.  In addition, before the race, they did a tribute to a local runner who ran Boston this year but got stopped short.  She was symbolically finishing her race and the Lansing Marathon was giving her a medal - very nice and a great idea!
Capital Building near start
They did the National Anthem and we were ready to start racing!!!!
Runners in front of me just before start - I should have gotten closer
Runners behind me with the Capital Building in the background
Course

Lansing Half Map per Garmin
Elevation per Garmin

Splits per Garmin
As you can see from my splits, I went out entirely too fast.  I should have never been running in the 7:20's.  My goal for today was 1:45:00 but I don't think I could have gotten any faster if I wanted it.  I just wasn't feeling it today to get any faster.  Overall, though, I'm happy with the result and felt a 1:45 is within my fitness at this point.  Based on my results, I really should have gotten closer to these start line since I had to run around many runners and some walkers too.

* Note:  I take pictures during the race to enhance the review but I don't slow down or stop to cause any race issues.  Not all are perfect but I'm getting better.

A couple days before the race was to start, the management made a call to change the race route.  We have gotten lots of rain here in Michigan and Lansing has a river that runs through it.  The river was flooded in several parts so they had to change the course at the last minute to avoid most of the flooding.  Unfortunately, it probably took out some of the best parts of the course since much of what was moved was away from the river and away from the trail along it.  I don't give any fault to the race management for this.  They did what they had to do to still have a race and I commend them for that.  I will say, however, that there was only three miles at the very end of the race which I felt was anything worth coming back for.  Perhaps the original course would have been better had it not been flooded but I didn't run this last year to know otherwise.

The rest of the course was in neighborhoods(even an apartment building lot/street) and near freeways and was not very scenic.  I don't know the roads of Lansing so I cannot say whether they could have made a better course but, given the circumstances, I think they did an excellent job at modifying it at such short notice.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate the week of the race.  I'm glad they had the foresight to plan ahead for this aspect so a race was still possible.

It was pretty crowded to start but after about a 1/2-3/4 of a mile things started to thin out nicely.  It would have been nice for the race to at least have pace signs up at the start so that people correctly got into their paces.  This would have eliminated running around so many runners.  I would not expect the race to have corrals with the smaller numbers there but signs could have helped.
USA great start to the race!
You can see already at the 1 mile market that it's not that crowded.  This is one of the nice things about doing a smaller race.
Mile 1
As you can see below, we are running by the side of the highway.  Not a very scenic route in my opinion.
This is about mile 2 since I missed the marker
Mile 3 in the neighborhood
You can see there is more of a spectator crowd at this point of the race.  For a small race, I was actually very pleased with the support from the people including the residents.  It was more than many races, even larger races, that I've run in the past.  I'm sure many came out not only to cheer their runners but to support runners given the events at Boston this week.
This was a nice crowd here
Notice the police on bikes
Mile 4
Lots of Boston wear out today - I think this was 2006
Mile 5 - and more police.  Support was fantastic
I took a picture of this sign which is funny because there was not much to see.  Perhaps summer looks nicer.
Mile 6
In the apartment building area? Huh, interesting.
Mile 7 - also a timing device
A neighbor who made a great sign and was giving out water - very nice people in Lansing.
I think it was right around here that I saw Spike from Running Spike and Red from Caution, Redhead Running, both H/W and bloggers and was cheering on the runners.  Spike was dressed as a bear? haha!  It was nice to hear her scream out "Detroit Runner".  I also saw Colleen from Running One Mile, 13.1 as well several times at the race.  She was doing the relay.
Continuous police
One thing to note is that they had the signs up for every mile marker so you got to see what the marathoners would be looking at on their second loop.  Personally, I would not run a double loop marathon but I know they are popular in the Ironman series for Triathlons.
I never felt so good at mile 22 - oh did I mention it was a double loop for marathoners?
Reminders of Boston everywhere
Another aid station(which I'll discuss below)
The yellow container was a great idea.  These are at the end of the aid stations so runners could throw their cups into it and try to keep down the amount volunteers had to pick up.  I thought it was smart.
Waste containers at aid stations
Several port-o-potties throughout the course
As you can see here, we had to get detoured onto the sidewalk because the street was completely flooded from the rains.  You can see further to the right how much water is there not only on the street but next to the street.
Flood just at this part
Mile 10
A train above(which apparently stopped some runners on the course.
No mention from race management this might be a possibility.
The picture below is the start of the trail.  It was the best part of the entire route starting at almost mile 11.
Finally the prize! The trail 
Mile 11
Wooden bridges - love this part!
We didn't get to go over the steel bridge below and still remained straight but I can imagine this is a fantastic place for a run.
Steel bridge
Close to town
This was also a great place for spectators to yell and/or get pictures of their runner.  It was also a great place for runners to run.

This art below is right by the river and the trail.  A nice touch.
Gotta have art.
We did get to cross a steel bridge to get over the river.  If you look closely, you can see the capital building right in the middle.  Another nice part of the race.
Steel bridge
Mile 13 - rounding the corner to the finish
Almost at the finish line right near the start.
Finish - although this pic was taken after I had finished
I do like loop courses so you are always seeing something new.  Unfortunately, there just was not much to see except the last 3 miles of the race course.  Of course, that is just my personal opinion and some of you might really like a double loop marathon in the neighborhoods.  I would have liked to run right past the Capital building also or maybe onto Michigan State.  It seems the double loop is more to make it easier on the race management than about having a great course for the runners.  I was very happy to not run that second loop.

Aid Stations
The aid stations were well stocked and had plenty of volunteers at them.  They offered water and some off brand type of gatorade for fuel.  While I'm not one to use GU for a half marathon, if you wanted it, you would have had to bring your own.  If you were running the marathon, you would need to come prepared.  I've never seen a marathon that didn't offer GU or some kind of gel on the course.  In fact, many half marathon courses I've run even offer it.  In addition, the course should offer something that is not off brand so runners have the ability to train with it.

Overall the volunteers were great and did an excellent job cheering on the runners.  These are only two of the pictures I took of aid stations but they did offer several more on the route.


Finish area
Of course, the finish was right where the start was since it was a loop course.  Here's what they had at the finish.  Water, Gatorade(off brand - I tried it after and it was not bad), bananas, bagels, and granola bars.  They also were giving out space blankets when you finished which is a nice touch given the weather can be a little chilly after the race.  Race conditions were perfect in my opinion.  Start in the 30's and finish in the 40's.
Off brand of gatorade
Bananas, bagels and water
Space blankets to keep you warm after
Success - the medal!
Amenities
For your registration, you received a race shirt(forthcoming and hopefully I can post a picture when I do receive it), course support including aid stations and police for traffic control and safety control.  You also had a great place to sit inside before the race - a real bonus.  In addition, there was the finish line food and the medal.  For those that could make it, there was a race expo the day before.  Unfortunately, I could not attend so I cannot comment on the size or quality of the expo.  The race course was also a certified course(soon to be due to the flooding issue changes)  It would have been nice to see the QR Codes on race bibs so people could get instant results.  I also think that the ability to track your runner is a good option that was not offered - and should be at least for the marathon.
Half Medal
Close up - one of the best designs I have

Back of medal
Inside your race packet
Organization
Unfortunately, organization is such a huge part of a race and I just felt it could have been better.  Keep in mind that I understand it's a huge undertaking to put on a marathon and the race did lots of things right.  I know, given my vast race experience, that there were things that need to be improved on.  The first and most important thing that needs help with this race is communication.  The website needs to be reviewed much closer.  All questions that need to be answered are not on there.  You can't tell runners the day before that packet pickup might not be guaranteed.  Hey - maybe I'm making too big a deal of it(I'm sure I am) but I'm the customer and should be treated with respect whether I'm right or wrong.  It's how it works in business and whether you believe it or not, racing is a business and runners have lots of choices for races.  They did have a Facebook and Twitter account which helped but I'd suggest that the staff talk before posting things about the race so there is no confusion.  It should also match everything on their website and all changes should be well know via email, website, Facebook and Twitter and not just one of these avenues.

Also, some of the runners were stopped by a train on the course.  While I understand that the race management has no way of controlling this, it would have been nice for them to tell the runners this might be a possibility and how they will handle the time lost if this occurred.  Instead, they just let it happen and upset many people for no reason.  Communication of this ahead of the race would have runners at least know what they were getting into so they did not have a surprise on the course.

Shirts ran out and from what I heard from many runners, medals ran out as well for the half.  There's really no reason either of these should ever run out.  At least if they do run out of shirts, they should not be promised to the late registration runners as I said earlier.  In regards to the medals, it's really hard to judge the medals with the additional demand to allow for only preregistered runners to get them.  Unfortunately, the faster you are, the better chance of receiving one.  The race said they will make everything right and all will get a race shirt and a race medal.  As long as they follow through on this, that is good for me.  I think they just need to find a better way so they don't run out next time.

Overall
Overall, would I run the race again?  Well, not until they fix the issues I discussed above(which is not that hard).  Perhaps, as one of my fellow runners suggested, a runner survey, would help the race management know what the issues are that upset people or suggestions for a better race.  Not that I'm upset at all - my reviews are here for my readers to make informed decisions on what races to run.  If it sounds like your kind of race, go for it!

I loved the medal!  In fact, it's one of my favorites of all the races I've done.  A superior design!  I also like the start/finish area, close parking, smallness of the race and a place to stay warm.  In addition, we could use the real bathrooms in the Lansing Center while waiting for the race to start.  Unfortunately, besides these things, there's not much to come back to unless they consider changing things to help improve the race.  Regardless in all of this, what better way to spend a Sunday morning than running a half marathon!
Me near the capital
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

22 comments:

  1. Fair and even race review! and btw you got a picture of my running buddy! the Mile 3 pic, the girl in the Yellow Resolute Running shirt! She set a huge PR on the course! Could you send me the pic??

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  2. Great and accurate review...I was one of the runners stopped at the railroad crossing and lost at least 3 minutes there. Spent months training for a PR that I was preventing from achieving ( officially) due to that SNAFU !!....not to mention the safety issue to runners when the gates first started to come down. They should have determined a fair way to give runners their 'time lost' back.. Also had the same issue with shirt size...Won't do the Lansing again!
    Best part of the race was the Finish line management. Very well done!

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  3. Well it is a very cool medal :) I have been to several races where they do not give you the size t-shirt you ordered even if you were pre-registered months before. It's very, very frustrating. Due to that I generally always try (if possible) to make it to the expo as soon as possible. At least they are attempting to rectify the situation...some races don't make an attempt at all.

    That's crazy about all the security! I guess it's good in light of everything, but I certainly haven't experienced that yet, but I have raced since Mon. We are doing the Indy Half in a few weeks and it's the largest half in the country. I'll be curious to see how security is there.

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  4. That is a cool medal. I really hate when they don't have the size of shirt I requested when I registered. It seems like it shouldn't be that hard to get the correct amount of shirts.
    I ran a marathon on Saturday and they had bomb sniffing dogs check all of our bags. I suppose extra security is good.

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  5. Pretty great review..packet pick up is a big deal ...it's the reason I don't do a lot of races in Chicago. Most don't have day of packet pick up and to drive to and from is a PITA.

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  6. I had really, really hoped that this years race would go much better considering what a cluster it was last year in its inaugural year, but unfortunately it doesn't seem like they learned much from experience. Many of the issues that were experienced yesterday mirrored last year. Spike and I volunteered at registration/packet pick-up on Saturday and just those few hours volunteering it was easy to see that it was going to be a disorganized mess. I agree that they really need to put out a survey to make this race better, because as you pointed out, some of it is SO EASY to fix. And whoever is running their social media really needs to learn how to communicate.

    Oh and having worked the packet pick-up, I hope you ordered a size small shirt or else you will be SWIMMING in a medium. The shirts were SO big, I've never seen a run of shirts run SO big in my life! I feel bad for all the women who surely will never be able to wear their shirts as they are so big being unisex (mens) shirts.

    I will say, if they improve organization and it's not a flood year, you should definitely come back. The River Trail is so beautiful and everyone that hasn't run the area before really missed out on a great experience because of the flooding. As for the train debacle, that still amazes me. Not a mention of it at all and so many people held up because of it. That should've been addressed when they rerouted and is simply unacceptable to not have mentioned.

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    1. Great. I ordered Medium so now I'll get a shirt too big. I've run Capital City before. Well run race and excellent on the trail.

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  7. What a MESS! I cannot believe they replied to you in that manner on twitter...wow. Glad it all worked out and you were able to get your packet. Congrats on yet another half! Great pictures! :0)

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  8. Great review thanks for sharing. Good job on meeting your goal time too. Pretty cool medal... does very race medal in Michigan feature a car somehow?

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  9. I don't feel too bad for not running this race now. :) Seriously, the main reasons for early registration from a runner's standpoint is to save on registration fee, to assure your spot in a race and to make sure you get your "stuff" like the shirt.

    As for no race day registration, I totally understand that. No race day pickup makes zero sense and I can't see any race do this. If they want to pull any runners from the SE Michigan area (and I'm sure they need to), you can't expect everyone to pick up the night before.

    I hope they learn some lessons from this race and do better next time. I would like to do this race in the next couple years if they can pull it together and communicate better...

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  10. Congrats on a great run, first of all!

    Second of all, whoever is running their Twitter account needs to look for a new job... that's terrible! I signed up for the first Lansing Marathon and had to drop out due to injury. I tried contacting the Lansing Marathon folks for MONTHS and never got a response. That alone made me never want to run that race, even without touching foot on the course!

    Its sad because Lansing is my hometown and I love it. I wish the race better reflected how great Lansing can be (Especially the river trail)!

    Sorry your race experience wasn't amazing, but I appreciate you sharing your experience!

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  11. Great Review.

    I was part of the twitter convo, and was appalled in the manner they spoke to you! I couldn't get over that! The website needs review, and a new FAQ section for sure. I lucked out with a friend that picked up my packet on Saturday, so I did get a shirt. But I was so upset that she did not get a medal, it was her very first half marathon! How can you not have enough medals?!?

    And also the train! In the scheme of life it's not really the end of world, but seriously?!? I am angry about it. And it's not just the fact that 3+ minutes were added to my time. But it happened at mile 3.5, just when your in the groove, the crowd thins out, and runners are not "jockeying" for position. And I was feeling good. And then we stopped, dead stop, for 3 minutes. And all the mojo was gone. It was even hard to start again, I can't even imagine what it was like for people who were missing a PR.

    And the Shacklee?? Seriously, a drink no one has ever heard of? And of course that was not listed anywhere on the website for people to prepare with if they wanted to use it. And I love how the volunteers kept saying "Orange Stuff Here"

    The one positive for me was the crowd support which was pretty great considering how small the race was.

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    1. The posted on Facebook they will adjust times for the train so email them. I figured they would adjust at some point. Hopefully they will get their act together on the race. For me, the twitter issue was the biggest issue. My money, my decision to go elsewhere. So sorry your friend did not get a medal AT the finish. I would have bee so disappointed if it were my first too.

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  12. Hey, are you going to use that Playmaker's coupon?!!
    I used to run a lot of races,mostly 5Ks, in Lansing and, from my experience, having pace signs does not deter some people from lining up right up there among the 5 minute milers and then walking.
    It's hard to believe that you did not get your shirt. I have signed up for races on race day several times when a shirt was NOT guaranteed after a certain date and I did not get one so it's not unheard of and it can be done.
    I think I know who you are talking about when you referred to Spike and it does not surprise me that he was dressed in a bear suit!!
    I'm glad you had a good race and got your goal! It's always fun to come in under your goal!

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    Replies
    1. I agree but the pace signs do help some. If you want the coupon, it's yours. Just email me you address and I'll send it to you.

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  13. I live only a few miles from this race course and it has never crossed my mind to sign up for it based on reputation alone.

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  14. Your review was spot on. This is my second year running the Lansing Marathon and since it is my hometown Marathon I had wanted to make this a yearly tradition, but after two ok marathons I am looking at running Midland in May. The saving grace for me all came down to 2 people - Redhead Running and Spike. She was my volunteer for my packet and shirt pickup and she talked me into a medium from an extra large (fits perfectly) and the bear with a megaphone at mile 10.5. He was a huge moral booster and very funny. I actually hoped he would be there for my second loop - and he was - Thanks Spike. The medal is nice, but after running Detroit I see that Lansing took the easy way out and just used Detroit's format. Lansing will have to make some significant changes to bring me back for 2014. The river trail would have made a big difference, but the course still had us running in some unphotogenic areas.
    Rob

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    1. Rob - I'll have a race review next month for the Great Lakes Bay Half you are referring to. Believe me, there are so many great races out there for you to run.

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  15. Just now catching up, wow - that was maybe the most thorough race review I've read. I was looking at your splits and I can't tell you how many times I've done that. After the race I looked back at a certain stretch of miles and thought to myself "what the heck was I doing at that pace" - if I would have only slowed down and managed it better, I would have met my particular goal that day. I enjoyed reading it Jeff!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jim. It's my signature long review. Haha. That's why I've got a short version too. I really messed up on the pacing. Not only did I come in slower because of it, I'm still sore and it's been awhile since I've been sore two days after a half.

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  16. I had the same problem with you at the Detroit Half a few years ago. I had registered for a size XXL shirt (not a small guy), and when I was at the expo, they told me that sizes were running small, so lots of people who had put XL, had traded them up to XXL. So I was not able to get a shirt in my size. I was very unhapppy about this, and the race did nothing to help at all (apparently there were a lot of frustrated people like me). If you register for a size, you should get that size. If you register really early, you should get a shirt, pretty simple.

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  17. It was the worst organization of a race that I have ever been to. They announced today that they will not adjust our times for the train snafu. The shaklee stuff was horrible, the snacks were bad and there was no gu. I can understand this if it was just a half marathon, but for a full...really?!? I did bring two gu's with me, but it wasnt enough. There were porto potties along the route, but at each stop only one...so there was always a line, and for the maratoners, when I finally stopped it was out of paper. To top off the whole mess, I stepped into a huge pot hole and sprained the tendon in my knee. I will definitely NOT do this marathon again. UGH!

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