Monday, April 7, 2014

The Cocoa Classic Half Marathon Recap

I feel like this is going to be a long one, so bear with me. There are pictures. Maybe not a ton of the actual race, but trust me there are pictures and I will try to  break up the paragraphs as best as I can.

Second, I'm going to be a bit grumbly. I had a fantastic run, let me say that. But, this was an inaugural race and it was run like the people running it had never, ever done anything like this before. So there will be some complaints on that part.

Packet Pick-Up
It's never a good sign when the half marathon you signed up for doesn't have an expo. It was definitely a sign that things were on a much smaller scale than I was used to, that's for sure. I picked my packet up on Saturday afternoon at a running store about five miles away from my house. There were about eight tables with boxes full of running bibs so I headed up to the one that matched my last name and waited. The teenagers running that table never acknowledged me, just kept messing around with some zip ties. When they finally did decide to speak to me one of the girls looked up my name and couldn't find it. Finally the first thing she said to me, after me standing there for a good two minutes was, "Are you registered for the 5K?" To which I responded in the negative. "Half-marathon table is down there." And she gestured towards the end of the line up of tables. There was one table set up for the half and seven for the 5K.

When I was given the correct packet I was told they were out of the sweatshirts in my requested size. I filled out a piece of paper that was left haphazardly with a whole bunch of other papers so who knows if I'll ever get my sweatshirt.

Expo/Packet Pick up Grade: D+

The Start
When my alarm went off at 5:30AM all I could think was "what kind of asshole gets up this early to run 13.1 miles? I must be insane." I got dressed in my capris, running skirt, wicking t-shirt and jacket. Toasted an english muffin with some almond butter and was ready to go.

My friend picked me up at about 6:00AM. The start was set for 7:00AM. I don't live that far from Detroit so it was an easy commute. We got slightly nervous when it turned out our intended route was already closed for the race. Yikes. But, we managed to follow someone who looked like they knew what they were doing and we made it to a parking lot by 6:40AM.

We hung out at the starting line for a bit. I had worn an old pair of pajama pants over my capris so I wouldn't freeze while we stood around. Bonus there were A TON of porta johns. And because the half had less people in it than the 5K (which started at 9AM) most of the porta johns were unused! It's always a nice feeling to have to unwrap the toilet paper!

We look a bit sleepy and chilly but that's to be expected

After a few minutes of standing around the pacers started showing up.Nothing had been mentioned about pacers on their website which kinda sucks. As soon as we saw the 2:45 Pacer my friend and I knew we were going to try to stick with him. His name was Will. We knew this because he had it written on the back of his bald head with a Sharpie. Now that is someone who understands how to pace!
Those are some sweet pajama pants!
The race started on time. There were about 1000 people there so the start was slightly staggered. We crossed the starting line about six minutes after the initial gun.
The Start Grade: A- (Only because nothing was mentioned about corrals or pacers on their website)

The Race
My friend and I ran at 2:1 intervals, running two minutes and walking one minute. Aside from a few times where we were trying to catch the pacer or up a hill at the end, we stuck with that interval. Neither of us are big talkers and we both trained for this on our own so I wasn't sure how that would go.

It was awesome! This is the first half I have ever run where I was with someone I knew the entire time. We kept each other motivated and pumped up. I've known her since high school so we both knew when to chat and when the other really just needed to zone into her music and just run. There was definitely less chatting towards the end of the race.

Will was spectacular! He kept turning around and yelling at us "Everyone having fun!" and doing silly dance and cheering when we passed mile markers. We kept him in sight until about Mile 11 when we lost him after we took a potty break.

Now, as for the actual race, it was pretty unsupported. Water stops weren't where they said they would be. And when we did get to some of them, seriously, this is no joke, there weren't enough volunteers manning them to hand out the water so we had to stop and wait for someone to fill up a cup for us.

Plus, there were no porta johns between Mile 8 and almost Mile 12. That's a four mile stretch!

The route was scenic for the most part. We ran through Detroit, along the riverfront and over to Belle Isle, a state park. Knowing there was a bridge in our route ahead of time helped. We conquered that bridge both times we had to run over. Once we headed off of Belle Isle, we ran on a bit of a neighborhood street. This was very boring and would have been very disheartening if not for my friend.

The road we were on was blocked off from traffic. But, because it was a smaller side street at one intersection some motorist has very kindly moved aside the cones so he or she could get through and left them moved aside. That meant at one point we had to cross an intersection while cars waited at a stop sign. It made me very mad at people in general. Who sees a closed road and opens it up for themselves?!? Selfish move! And bad move for the race committee who didn't have people on the corners to prevent this kind of stuff.
S at  Mile Marker 10. This was the neighborhood stretch of the race.

At just a shade before Mile 12 we converged with the 5K people. At first it was nice to be surrounded by people. You can tell from the above picture we were at the back of the pack of half marathoners. But then it sucked to be surrounded because holy crap there were a shit ton of people. People were walking and people were running and people were stopping randomly to take pictures without any sort of warning because they are assholes. Who has a 5K combine with a Half? Seriously, people in the 5K were all "Oh my god, we have ONE WHOLE MILE LEFT? Ugh!" (Please note, yes, I too have been a person who used to think three miles was a helluva a long distance. I can fully appreciate that. I can fully appreciate having fun at your first ever 5K. That is awesome! However, if you have me run 12 miles and then have a bunch of people who are whining about their three miles cut me off to take a selfie then I'm going to think nasty thoughts about them.)

For the rest of the race we dodge 5Kers. We had to run up a hill (hills at the end of a race are evil), then around the corner for the finish. We crossed the finish line then immediately stopped. I mean it, I almost didn't make it over the finish line because of the crowd of people on the other side.
The Race Grade: B- (There weren't enough water stations or porta johns)

The Finish and Beyond
As soon as we stopped at the massive crowd we kinda waited in line for what I did not know. Eventually my friend asked someone if we were in the line for medals. We were not. We had to go back to the finish line, loop around and then we met up with two volunteers handing out medals and heat blankets. They had little cups of water at this point, or at least I saw a bunch of EMPTY little cups of water, but no full ones. I fully support not wasting bottled water, but for Pete's sake MAN YOUR WATER STATIONS. I get it, we weren't the fastest, but according to the results a full 100 people finished after us so we weren't the last ones.
After the finish with our awesome pacer Will!

There was absolutely no direction at the finish line. No volunteers telling people where to go, no race directors, no effing signs. Shoot, there wasn't even a photographer taking finish line pics. I don't mind it so much for me, but this was S's first half and she deserved a better finish.

We found out where the travel mugs were being handed out if you didn't want to wait in line for cocoa, so we headed that way.

The line for people to get their treats and chocolate dipping sauce was ridiculous. I know half marathoners aren't more important than the 5Kers, but come on, you couldn't have had a separate corral for us? We certainly paid more than the 5Kers!

I wasn't even able to get a banana or bagel or anything! According to the results there were 4000 5Kers who finished. FOUR THOUSAND! How could the half marathoners even compete with that insanity?

We did not get any chocolate treats. We didn't get ANYTHING at the finish. My friend and I were tired, thirsty and HUNGRY and the line for the chocolate treats was LONG. Turns out some people waited in line for an hour. There was no way I could've waited that long.

Now, if we were faster runners this would have been different. A lot of the half marathoners finished before the 5Kesr finished (5K started at 9AM so figure if you can finish in 2.5 hours or less it was less crowded) and they were able to walk in and get their treats and cross the finish line with no problems. It almost felt like we were penalized for being slow.

The swag minus my sweatshirt.

We ended up grabbing the empty travel mugs and getting out because it was insane!

Finish Time:2:50:04

A full 25 minutes less than the half marathon I ran in September. That is what proper training can do for you!
According to my app we ran over 13.1 Miles. I read comments on the rece's website and people were complaining about the 5K being 3.5 Miles instead of 3.1.
The Finish Grade: F (Is there anything lower than an F)

I get it, it's the first time this race was run but COME ON! I ran the Detroit Women's Half this fall and that was a first time event and it was a million times better than this.

What kind of race has the half and the 5K finish together and then does nothing to separate the two? At the Detroit Free Press Marathon the Half Marathon participants and Full Marathon participants split up at the finish line. It only makes sense.

Aside from my awesome run, awesome running companion and awesome pacer, this event SUCKED! I mean it really, really did. It was expensive, but the swag and fun chocolate finish line treats kinda made it worth it. HA! I won't even bother giving them the benefit of the newbie doubt and try it again next year. There are better events waiting for me!


  1. First off, AWESOME JOB on completing your half marathon!!!!! Congratulations!

    Second, that sucks that the race was so poorly organized. :( First time or not, they should have been better prepared.

    1. THANKS! In doing some research seems I'm not the only one upset. Boo to them I say!

  2. Yikes! I woulda been super pissed, especially about not getting my chocolate, i mean COME ON! Congrats on the awesome time though, and that medal does look kinda cool ^_^

    1. Right? One guy posted on their website that the only way he got his son to finish the race was by promising him they would get treats at the end and then BOO no treats because of the hour long wait.

  3. So sorry this race did not go as well as you hoped! I actually have heard about other Hot chocolate races in other cities this year that weren't very organized either.

    1. Something to keep in mind. I hope other cities get a better race than we did!

  4. OH man, bummer! I hate it when you spend money and not get much to show for it, especially if there was/is chocolate involved! Boooo!

  5. This is the second report that I've read showing how bad this race was. I feel so bad that you guys gave them all this money and they seem to have truly under performed. Congrats to you for rocking it though!

    1. I've read so many terrible reviews about this race. Such a waste of money. I'll have to find a different spring half for next year. Maybe a runcation!