We went to the expo Friday around 4, and it was way too chaotic for me. I'm used to the way the Air Force marathon does their expo, which is crowded but with a clear flow of traffic. This was just a giant room of seemingly randomly-placed vendors that you had to weasel through to get across to packet pick-up. And the sign was illuminated high on the wall, but we were not the only ones to miss it!
But, despite all that, it was fun enough. They were very efficient once you located where to get your bib, and I did find two shirts that had to come home with me.
We timed it just right, too, as it seemed the already larger crowd started to swell by the time we left the convention center. We killed some time at Circle Center Mall before eating a quick dinner at Noodles & Co. Again, timing was everything- no line at 5 pm, but by 5:30 there was a steady flood of humanity.
Jen and I figured out we would need to leave her apartment by 6:10 to make sure we had plenty of time to park since she was running the 5k and needed to be in her corral by 7. So, alarms were set, and after an average pre-race night of mediocre sleep, I got up at 5 and started my race morning prep. I ate breakfast, had Cuban coffee, and things were moving (you know what I mean) three times before we left! I jokingly asked Jen if she had put something extra in the coffee.
By 6:10 on the dot, we were in the car and on the way. Thankfully, there was very little traffic, and on the way to the parking garage we planned on using, we found free parking that was only a block from the start/finish. And then, on the short walk to the starting line, I had to pee again but found an unsullied port-a-potty!
So far, everything was going better than expected.
We were ready.
By this time, Jen had to get in the corral for the 5k, so we parted ways after planning to meet by the DJ booth in the after party area. Soon, they were off. As I stood there, they announced there would be letters in the family reunion area to find your friends/family. Um, where was this info the day before? Or BEFORE the race started?
It seemed like forever before my wave was even allowed in the corral. But soon enough it was 8 o'clock and wave two was going. Jen should have been close to finishing, I knew, so I felt a little bad that she would now have to wait for me. The organizers were hoping the wave start would let the field spread out more, but all I can say is if this was better, I can't imagine what prior years felt like.
It was crowded. So crowded I felt like I was being bumped or stepped on every ten seconds for the first three miles. Every other big race I have done has thinned out by three miles in, or at least by 5. But no. I was keeping a great pace- the first five miles were at 8:45 or 8:30 pace, so I was starting to think about a PR. But then, they start telling us there is no gu allowed on track. Another volunteer said no food at all. So I crammed in my last two clif shot bloks from the open package, and we entered the track.
It was still crowded, but it was cool to be there. I started wishing I had carried my phone. I think it was about 2.5 miles in the track, and I never walked inside, but by the time I exited, I knew my fueling was messed up, and I knew I needed water. I had my handheld, but not every station had water- some were only Gatorade-p, which I can't have due to food allergies. The track had felt hot, too, and around mile 9 I started having that creepy-crawly feeling all over my skin from dehydration.
And there's where I bonked.
I had averaged a pace under 8:45 for the first seven miles, but that track sucked the life out of me (and caused my right IT band to get a little grumpy). Miles 8-12 were all around 9:30. At this point, I was just hoping to push through and squeak in under two hours.
Miles twelve felt awful. I walked three times. Mile thirteen was the same. Desperation had me running hard in between walk breaks. When I finally saw the finish, I pushed it, despite feeling like I was going to keel over at any second. It was still so crowded, but I was able to weave my way around and squeeze through the crowd to finish in 1:59:56! Cutting it close, but at least I made my B goal.
Overall, it was fun, but I now understand why everyone I talked to about this race said they would never run it again despite good experiences. It was exhausting having to fight traffic the whole time, and the confusion about food on the track (having some volunteers yell no food while others said only no gu) meant my fueling was not the best.
Another thing that was odd was how quiet everyone was. Most races, I am surrounded by people clearly having fun. People willing to talk, to engage with each other. But yesterday, it was a sea of game faces.
So, to wrap it up, I would recommend the Indy Mini, but only if you can handle crowds. Running the race track was awesome (I even hollered, "Frank Shorter, you're a rock star!" When I passed him doing commentary). But the crowd sucked. I also think they should have started the 5k after the half like most other races. I think I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars, because I did have fun, but there were some easily fixable flaws.
How was your weekend?
Big races: are you a fan? I've never had the desire to run a huge race like the New York Marathon, and now I know I probably never will. I hate crowds. Thinking of running in that kind of traffic for a full marathon makes me cringe. I think I will stick to races more on the size of the Air Force Marathon (15,000) rather than the chaos of 35,000.