Friday, November 25, 2011

Race Report - Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day Run

I have no idea when the first "Turkey Trot" was held or what the genesis for the idea was. But regardless of that, I think it's a tradition that is almost as great as Thanksgiving itself. What better way to start a day by pre-burning a few of the calories you'll be shoveling in later.

We were blessed with a great day here in Northern Colorado. While a chilly twenty-some degrees greeted me when I left my parents' house, the rising sun quickly warmed things to the low fifties by the time I arrived in downtown Fort Collins. Despite multiple street closures, parking was easy for me to find, as it always is.

Past readers to this blog know one of my biggest criticisms of race directors is lack of organization. So in that vein I have to give the directors of this one a lot of credit for having a very smooth running operation. Race headquarters was the Beach House Grill which was just a block or so from the starting line. Participants were routed through the back of the restaurant and then upstairs where you gave them your race number (previously e-mailed) and then you received your packet and a long-sleeve tech shirt. The latter is a nice touch for a race that takes place right before the start of winter.

One criticism I have was the porta-potty to racers ratio. Based on their own estimates of 2400 racers, I figured that ratio at about 1:600. While I wasn't late for the start, I expect some people in line behind me were.

This is not the kind of race where I'm looking for a PR or trying to leave a trail of fire behind me. It's supposed to be fun so I kept it in that min as I slowly worked my way around a lot of people who should not have started in the front of the pack. During this early phase, I saw what was perhaps one of the more entertaining sights in a race: a dog with a Go Pro HD camera mounted to his back. I may have to search You Tube later to see if that got posted.

The race course is mostly straight and very flat. Though you do gain some altitude on the outbound portion of the single loop, it's hardly noticeable. While not looking to set any records, I also hoped to run a sub 9:00 pace and noticed myself about 15 seconds behind that as I passed the two mile mark. This was no doubt to the slow pace I had to keep at the beginning of the run.

I managed to pick things up a bit more in the second half and actually was running in the low to middle 8:00 range as I headed east on Mountain Avenue back toward downtown and the finish line.

At the end, I turned in a 34:46 time (based on my Garmin) and that works out to about 8:41 with which I was pleased. While I would have appreciated a bottle of water rather than waiting in line to fill a cup from a Gatorade cooler, I understand that sponsors don't always come up with what you need. No harm done. To their credit, there were plenty of bagels and orange wedges.

So here's my take on the race overall:

The bad (or really just not so good):

Porta-potties: A lot of folks just gotta go before they run. I don't doubt that the sanitation companies get more than a few bucks per unit delivered, but there's a basic responsibility to provide this most basic of services when you are gathering hundreds of people into one area.  I may  have missed another grouping of them (though I did look around a bit) but didn't see any. There should have been something more like ten rather than the four I found.

Website: Count this as just not so good rather than bad. The race details were found on a link to a PDF document that you then had to rotate to read. I don't think you need a really elaborate website with lots of Flash technology or music and video, but the online flyer seemed a little cheap to me. Also, it would be nice to see a course map and not just a set of written directions.

The Good:

Pre-Race Information: A few days ahead of time, I got details with my race number and pick-up times. They made pick-up available both on race day as well as the afternoon before. This was a well organized process and it made my pick-up a task I was able to complete in about two minutes.

Course:  Flat, mostly straight and well supported. There's no need to make a fun run course a challenging cross-country meet. This one covers four miles in a single loop and start line congestion clears out rather quickly.

Shirt: As I mentioned, a long sleeve tech shirt is a nice touch during the colder months. Nice to get something I'll actually wear now rather than three months from now. I've also noticed a trend in most races away from cotton shirts toward tech shirts. I like it. I don't need another cotton shirt.

Results: I found my official time last evening with no problem. In the era of chip timing, there's no reason this shouldn't be the case. It was still a good thing to see however. We were using the older ChampionChip system and I have to wonder if this won't be one of the last times as it seems more races are using bib-based systems.

Overall Experience: It's been five years since I last did this race, but my positive recollections were confirmed. It's well organized, has a good course and the four mile distance is one I prefer over a 5K. I never know where I'll be from one Thanksgiving to the next, but I do know that when I'm in Northern Colorado, this one will be on my list.

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