Ugh. Another DNF. Unlike Ghost of Seattle, I showed up on time. And although the race started off strangely, I would have finished if not for one crucial mistake regarding gear. That said, let’s start from the beginning.
I’ve mentioned my affinity for small races. For the most part this had worked out great, but it has also lead up to some odd experiences. Back in 2008 I ran a race that was called the Live, Love, Run 10K that was my first experience with a poorly run race. Conversely the race, labeled a “1st Annual” has never reoccurred. Not to criticize too harshly. I have never directed a race. There are so many moving parts to keep track of, I can’t even imagine. But when things go wrong, it can be really stressful for the runners.
That said, Yukon Do It, was mostly organized well. However, it had some major issues that all revolved around communication. The site was pretty sparse on information, but seemed to have enough. However, when a bunch of us arrived at 7:00, the time mentioned for bib pick-up. There were no signs indicating where the starting line was. Runners were spotting each other asking “Do you know where bib pick-up is? Is it at the starting line? Where’s the starting line?” With the collective genius of our herd mentality, we eventually found the starting line down the waterfront.
When we got to the starting line, however, no one was around. We could hear people arguing in a tent and it was clear that they were still frantically setting up. We finally asked someone where the bib pick-up was. “Oh, ” he said, incredulous that we would ask, “that’s over at Moon Dogs Too!” A bar down the street. There was no information on the site about that, nor was an email sent out to participants beforehand. We had no way of knowing. The Marathon start was at 7:30. Now, 7:20, we went scrambling to Moon Dogs Too to pick up our bibs. I run back to the starting line and just barely make it back by 7:30, but there were no indications the race was starting any time soon.
The same guy who told us that the bib pickups were elsewhere walked up to me and another runner and said, “Hey guys. We’re going to be starting a little late. Probably 7:45 to 8:00.” There were dozens of other marathoners around wondering what was going on. This guy had a bullhorn but, for some reason, had decided just to tell us. I said, “Thank you, but you may want to use that bull horn and tell everybody else.” He looked incredibly annoyed but proceeded to do just that.
“OK guys, we’re going to be starting late. Probably 7:45 to 8:00. We’ve got an elite runner here and we don’t want him to be hit by all the half marathoners starting.”
We were agog. That excuse made no sense. If you’re worried about that, wouldn’t you want him to start sooner? Whatever, we were just glad at that point that somebody was saying something. People were still showing up pinning their bibs to their shirts.
Strangely, not two minutes later, this guy (race director/guy with a bullhorn?) decides to start the race. We all gather at the finish line, he counts down and off we go!
The course was as described. Along the waterfront between downtown Port Orchard and Manchester State Park, you have a stunning view of the Puget Sound for just about the whole way. The only time you deviate from the water is to loop back around in Manchester State Park, where you’re greeted by the beautiful forests and old naval warehouses.Things were going really well. It was cold, but I was dressed for the weather. I had on running tights, a vest, arm bands, gloves, and a cap that covered my ears. The Yukon Do It Half Marathon is primarily a Half Marathon race, as evidenced by the course. It’s an out-and-back course for the Half Marathon. And doing that again for the full.According to its site, they “kept full marathon mainly for [Marathon Maniacs] wanting to do multiple marathons or get one last chance before end of year.” OK, so it won’t be the most exciting course I’ve ever run, I thought. I’ll just keep bluetooth earbuds handy and load up my phone with podcasts and treat it like a long run with aid stations and a medal! And for the first half of the course, all was going according to plan.
However, halfway through a heavy downpour hit which was followed by heavy snow that did not let up for the remainder of the race. That had started at mile 13. By mile 18, I realized I had made a crucial error. My decision not to bring waterproof gloves meant my hands were soaked and freezing. In fact, my hands had never simultaneously been so numb and hurt so much in my life. At mile 18 I decided to turn around (a unique option, given the out-and-back-and-out-and-back nature of the course). All in all, I ran 21 miles. Not bad, but not worth a medal.
Only 5 miles shy, I might have been able to complete the entire course. At that point, I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was get back to my car and get warm. When I got to my car I couldn’t feel my car keys, so unlocking the car and starting it to get the heat running took almost five minutes all-told. When I finally got the car started, it took almost 20 minutes for my hands to feel well enough to drive.
So yes, I was annoyed by the organizational hiccups in the beginning of the race. However, they had nothing to do with my DNF. I’ll chalk that up to a lesson learned: when facing the potential for inclimate weather bring multiple gloves, preferably waterproof. If it was my first marathon, I might be more bummed. But even a bad race is a good race if you learn something from it.
The same holds true for race directors.