Love the Treadmill

Generally, most coaches, myself included, only recommend using the treadmill for a portion of runs, or when running outside is unsafe during a training cycle. Given that races are generally held outside on the uneven ground, it’s important to get used to running on uneven ground, with wind resistance, and on courses with turns for best race results. The treadmill doesn’t do a very good job of replicating real race conditions since you can only run evenly in one direction on a nice, soft, smooth surface.

Generally speaking, treadmill running is easier than running outside. The moving belt enables faster leg turnover, making it easier to run faster with lower effort levels. The soft, bouncy surface of the treadmill also doesn’t enable to same soft tissue adaptations as running on a harder surface, so soft tissue injury is a possibility when returning to the road. Finally, there are no adverse circumstances on the treadmill – no weather, no turns, no cracks, no lumps and bumps. The body and mind don’t have an opportunity to adapt to the reality of running in imperfect conditions, on an imperfect surface. There is also a distinct psychological benefit to running outside that has been established in several studies. Research suggests that runners simply enjoy outdoor running more, and feel better after an outdoor run. (Side note: as a mental health professional, I find this super interesting. If you do, too, check out this article and this study – put them in Google Scholar for best results)

That being said, there is no evidence that running on a treadmill is detrimental. There are a number of studies to this effect, and the treadmill is a well-established training tool for runners at every level. Most people accept that treadmill running is just fine if it is done well, with proper mechanics, and in moderation.

If  you’re planning to use the treadmill for a portion of your training, here are some great tips to love the treadmill.

First, monitor your form to avoid injury. It’s hard to love the treadmill if it’s hurting you. It’s best to run most of your treadmill runs at a pace that feels easy and use the treadmill for speed work cautiously. The treadmill enables a runner to program a pace and hold that pace long after the runner tires. Running a too-fast pace when you’re tried on a moving belt can result in over-striding, landing with the foot too far in front of the body. Running a too-fast pace on a moving belt can also result in all manner of problems with running form. Poor form and over-striding can lead to hip, knee, ankle, and hamstring pain. To resolve this, monitor your form and your stride rate. If you stride rate is lower than at the same pace outside, you’re over-striding, using the belt to propel you, and at risk for injury.

Run a variety of runs on the treadmill. It’s temping to run the same pace at the same incline mile after mile, settling into a treadmill routine. The treadmill belt’s flat, smooth, uniform surface ensures that you work your muscles and joints in exactly the same way. Too much of the same is a bad thing and can result in repetitive stress injuries. For treadmill happiness (and less boredom!) change up your run, using the treadmill’s programs, or running a variety of speeds and inclines on each treadmill run. I’ve already posted two of my favorite winter treadmill runs – the SportsCenter run and the college basketball run. Here are two other treadmill runs I love:

  1. Commercial Fartlek – Warm up 10 minutes at an easy pace. When a commercial comes on, increase your pace by 30-60  seconds per mile until the commercial is over, at which time you return to the easy pace. Continue on until you reach the desired mileage or time. Warm down by running 5ish minutes at a 1-0% incline.
  2. Character Fartlek – Warm up 10 minutes at an easy pace. Select a particular character in the show/game. When the character comes on, increase your pace by 30 seconds per mile until the character leaves the scene. If the character speaks or does a target activity in the scene, increase the incline by 1%. Once the character stops speaking or leaves the scene, return to the easy pace. Continue on until you reach the desired mileage or time. Warm down by running 5ish minutes at a 1-0% incline.

Finally, make your treadmill run as much like an outdoor run as possible. Even if you could just pop your water bottle on the console, carry your bottle or wear your belt as you might outside. Wear appropriate running shoes, not beat up old gym shoes, and use the treadmill as an opportunity to mimic race conditions. Practice slowing down to drink if you normally do, or wear a race-day outfit that isn’t appropriate for your outdoor conditions (a great option if you’re like me and race in warm weather conditions on vacation during a frigid winter). The more you can vary your treadmill running, and make that running as close to outdoor running as possible, the safer, and happier you’ll be.

Treadmill running

Troy Conquers 26.2: The End is Nigh

For the past several months, I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching most of my family members for the Disney Marathon Weekend races. It has been a wonderful journey, and great fun to see each of my family members growing through the training. The best part of coaching my family has been working with my brother as he trains for his first marathon – as part of the Dopey Challenge. I am so deeply proud of him that it stuns me. Every time he achieves a new goal, I am filled with pride. The best moment was this:

Troy's Garmin

The text he sent me following his *second* twenty-miler. He’s amazing. I even got a little misty-eyed reading his texts. It has been truly my pleasure to see him finish this training. Here’s his take:

I ran the Volkslauf 20K in Frankenmuth, MI on July 4, 2014 as my first long race (more than 5K) since Disney in January.  I had trained well through the summer, but missed long runs or workouts along the way.  Still, I dropped 2 min/mile off my expected half marathon time and finished without injury.  It was a success.  The next day, I ran a 5K with Dr. Rachel as a shakeout and a glimpse as to what would come in January again.  I had never done back to back races and probably very few back to back runs.  But that was the future for me – training for Dopey and running back to back to back.

Thus, I consider July 5th as my training start date for the Dopey Challenge.  I started out following the Disney supplied plan. Then, in September, I switched to the Dr. Rachel prepared plan.  Since then, I have followed it as best I can; running through Lake Fayetteville in Arkansas, West Hartford in Connecticut, treadmills, and the Pere Marquette Rail Trial here in Michigan. Since training started, I have logged 406 miles running – 113 of which came in November alone.  Even as temperatures have dipped in Michigan, I have stayed outdoors; trying to avoid the mistakes and injuries of last year.  Staying healthy and getting stronger (running) has been a huge priority.  I have missed out or skipped out on things so much that I am sure my friends and wife are sick of hearing “I would love to but I have to run tomorrow”.  But the end is nigh.

In an early post (August,) I had mentioned my weight loss goals.  When Dr. Rachel visited for the Volkslauf, besides being my running coach, she also helped me with changes to my eating habits.  I don’t say diet.  I still drink beer, eat pizza, and grab fast food (sometimes while still in running clothes).  Nothing has been cut but instead portion size monitored and better decisions made.  I am down 48 pounds, feeling better than ever, and I think it has translated to better, faster run times.  The holidays are a hard time to skip the eggnog, the cupcakes, and the thirds at family dinner.  But the end is nigh.

There are 15 days, 15 hours, and 8 minutes (as I write this) before the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  While I expect some of my new habits will carry with me into the future, the end is nigh.

Troy Conquers 26.2: Pushing Boundaries

Two weeks ago, I sat down to write about setting a new PR for distance: 14 miles.  Prior to that, the longest distance I had ever run was 13.4 miles during the Walt Disney World Marathon in Jan 2014.  Running the half hurt and I was not physically prepared for the run thanks to plantar fasciitis.  The DrRachelRuns training plan for Dopey obviously pushes beyond this boundary, so a few weeks ago I hit 14 miles and a new PR.

The week before (three weeks ago), I had limped home after running 12 miles and collapsed on the floor – much to the amusement of my wife.  I hadn’t run 12 miles since July and went out too far before fueling, didn’t carry enough water, and ran too fast through the middle of the run.  I took a day off to contemplate why in the world I was putting myself through such misery then got back to work.  The next weekend, I went out and put up 14 miles.  I was foolish though… again.  At mile 11, the cold and snow had set in along with desperation to finish before my Garmin™ ran out of battery power.  I sped up and lost all semblance of pacing during the last three miles.  I hit both a new distance and new half marathon PR (2:35 woot!!), but at the cost of suffering. These 12 and 14 mile runs were not great but they were done.  I couldn’t bring myself to finish the post as I went out to get ready for my next run; sure that it would be another complete study in misery. I was afraid that all I would have to say was how horrible running is and to abandon hope all ye who enter into this dastardly pastime.

Old Record

Old Record

New Record

New Record

Last week was 16 miles – new territory again.  I went in having learned from 12 and 14; a clear pace goal and fueling strategy based on the previous weeks failures.  As the miles piled up, I was amazed at how good I felt and how well the run was going.  I cruised through mile 10 and felt great through mile 12.  Even mile 14 was feeling pretty good.  The wheels fell off at mile 14.5.  I shuffled and moaned for another 1.5 miles to reach the finish line and immediately texted DrRachel that I would never run again.

Pace Map

I will be out there next week running again and this time 18 miles.  What I have come to realize, these long runs have really helped me to identify issues in my fueling and pacing strategies for long runs.  Each time I feel like death by the end of the run I can pick apart what I did wrong and where.  Going from 5K to Half changed my ideas about running kits and what equipment I need.  Going now from Half to Full I am learning more about strategy.  I had a good strategy to get to 14 and now need to revise to get to 18, 20, and ultimately 26.2.

Wine, Dine, and Rain

I love all things Disney. I especially love runDisney events – each event is unique, and super fun. This year, I decided to try an event I had never done, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Mom and I signed up to do the half marathon months in advance and eagerly anticipated race day. Before I knew it, summer was over and Wine and Dine was coming up fast. Unfortunately, mom had been having some foot trouble – first with plantar fasciitis, then with a hell spur (poor mom!) so her training wasn’t quite as strong as she had hoped. Determined to persevere, mom made the decision to do the race despite her less-than-perfect training. I’m in the middle of my marathon season, so I was planning to use Wine and Dine as a training run where nice people happened to hand me water. Both of us were ready to have fun and enjoy a few miles around the parks.

As race day neared, the forecast grew more and more depressing. First a chance of rain. Then rain and cold. Then, 100% chance of rain, cold, and all of it starting around 10pm. Sigh. If you’re going to get rained on, at least let it be as Disney.

A night race is a strange thing. Mom and I got our gear together and took pictures of our flat runners.

#Flatrunner

Then we waited. And waited. I read a terrible book from the lending library at my mom’s golf course clubhouse. Mom took a disco nap. Finally it was time to leave for Epcot, where we would park, and get ready for the race. We drove up to Epcot, parked easily (and without any waiting at all), and hopped on a bus bound for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. We got to the staging area with about two hours to spare. Mom likes to be prompt. 🙂

In the staging area, a DJ was playing dance music and teaching popular line dances. Photographers were taking pictures. Characters were available for photos. Generally, everyone was upbeat and milling around in a big field. We took a few pictures.

Wine and Dine waiting

We did some dancing. We sat on the ground and watched people. I was delighted it wasn’t raining. Mom and I had grabbed cheap, flimsy ponchos at the local dollar store, so we were prepared just in case. About an hour before the race started, we made our ways to the corrals and found a curb to sit on. We eagerly awaited the start of the race, scheduled for 10pm. At about 9:45pm it started raining. Then it started pouring. By the time our corral started at 10:30pm, we were wet, cold, and ready to see the finish line.

The course for Wine and Dine isn’t my favorite runDisney course. It begins at Wide World of Sports and follows Osceloa Parkway (the Highway to Hell, in my family’s lingo) for three miles to the main gates of Animal Kingdom. Once in Animal Kingdom, the course winds around and past the beautiful sights of Everest and the tree of life. Seeing the attractions lit up is a true highlight of the race. All throughout Animal Kingdom, the rain poured and the temperature dropped. Mom and I made time and hustled along – both to stay warm and to get to the finish faster.

After Animal Kingdom, the race course goes back out on Osceola Parkway and along toward Hollywood Studios. Finally the rain eased up and we were able to take our ponchos off and enjoy the run. It was cold, way too cold for my shorts and tank ensemble, but I was having a great time.  I didn’t know it, but Hollywood Studios had already decorated for the holidays and it was gorgeous. We ran through a road all lined in lights!

Hollywood Studios during Wine and Dine

Onward we ran, stopping to take pictures with our favorite family, the Incredibles.

Incredibles

Just after we exited Hollywood Studios bound for Epcot and the race finish, it started pouring again. I had stupidly tossed my poncho in a trash bin miles earlier, so I trudged along, soaking wet and really cold. We ran along the Boardwalk and around the Beach and Yacht Club hotel area. Amazingly, the volunteers all along the course cheered. They were amazing, and totally undeterred by the cold and rain. I am so grateful to them all for the cheers, smiles, and support those last few miles.

Finally, blessedly, we made it to Epcot and to the finish line under Spaceship Earth. I have never been happier to see that shiny ball in my life. We got our medals, mylar blankets (best. thing. ever.), and food boxes. Mom and I were smart and had stashed clothes and towels in our car, so we headed directly there, cranked the heat, and changed into dry clothes. After warming up, we made our way back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had a small gift card to spend there and planned to use it. We enjoyed a bratwurst on pretzel bun, some nachos, and guacamole before the park shut down at 4am. We closed the party down!

Back at home, I took the best hot shower ever and crawled into bed at 5am. It had been a crazy day, but the most fun. There’s nothing like a runDisney event for a little bit of running magic!

Up the Tempo

As a running coach, I work with a lot of runners looking to increase speed. To run faster you have to run faster, and many runners are hoping to do just that, myself included! We’ve all heard the terms tossed around – tempo, fartlek, and intervals, but many runners aren’t sure how to combine those runs to make a training plan that not only makes sense, but helps them get faster. To start, its essential to understand the different types of runs and the purpose behind them.

Let’s talk tempo. A tempo run is a run that is done at a “comfortably hard” pace. Depending on who you ask, there are several different types of tempo runs. I will focus on the most traditional, the lactate-threshold (LT), or threshold, run.

Most runners have heard of lactate. Lactate is often blamed for muscle fatigue, though it’s really lactate plus some other acidic by-products of metabolism that build up in the muscles. At any rate, as your body works harder, acidic stuff builds up in the muscles and makes them less able to work as hard. You slow down when lactate accumulates faster than your body is able to clear it. When you run at lactate-threshold pace, you’re training your body to run at the fastest pace at which you can keep blood lactate levels pretty stable, thus keeping the muscles going and the pace steady.

A LT tempo run is designed to help your muscles get better at using/clearing the by-products of metabolism so you can run for longer at a faster pace. The more training you do at a quick pace, the longer you can keep blood lactate stable and the higher your “threshold”, or the level at which muscles reach their acidic limit. Basically, by running at your current threshold pace, you increase your threshold pace. Higher lactate threshold leads to the ability to run faster, longer, at easier effort.

To get this great effect, you have to train at the right intensity. There are several ways to determine if the intensity is right. Most experts say that a good tempo/LT pace is the pace at which you could run for an hour, but no more. For me, that’s hard to pinpoint, so I use some other, well established, methods to find the right pace.

  • Recent race pace – LT pace is usually about 25-40 seconds slower than your all-out 5k pace
  • Heart rate – LT pace is around 85% of your maximum heart rate

LT pace will vary based on how you feel, the terrain you’re running, and other factors related to training and stress. To make it a little easier, I often use simpler tests to determine my tempo pace. Tempo pace is about an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale of rate of perceived exertion (if 3-5 is easy and 9-10 is racing a 5k). Tempo pace is also the pace at which you can only utter a few words (and those words make sense), but can’t form a complete sentence.

Once you’ve found the right intensity, the next step is to determine the amount of time to spend running at that pace. A good tempo run should have an easy warm up and cool down, with a period of comfortably hard running in the middle. There are three usual types of tempo runs, short tempo runs, classic tempo runs, and long tempo runs. Easy, right? A short tempo run might be a 12-25 minute run with a pace at the fast end of the LT range. These shorter tempo runs are best for short distance race preparation, like 5k or 10k training. A classic tempo run includes 25-40 minutes of steady running at LT pace, and is a great run to include in the training plan for any distance. Finally, the longer tempo run, a tempo run that’s done at the high end of the LT pace range, with that pace held for 40-60 minutes, is a great run for runners training for longer distances. Longer tempo runs have the added benefit of training the body to run in a slightly uncomfortable state for longer periods of time, a mental and physical skill essential for success at half marathon and longer distances.

If you’re hoping to get faster, a tempo run is a great run to add to your training plan. Start with one every 10 days or so, and move up to one tempo run, or other speed-development run, per 5-7 days of training. Now, let’s get speedy!

My Pace or Yours

One of the best parts of being a runner is the opportunity to inspire others. I coach other runners and I love seeing them achieve their goals. I also have a great time as a professional pacer. I work with MarathonPacing, a great marathon and half marathon pacing company, and absolutely love the work that I do as a pacer. Recently, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to pace two great races, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Wineglass Marathon events.

The Wineglass Marathon and its associated events is a great weekend of racing in an adorable town. Wineglass takes place in Corning, New York, a charming small town famous for the glass company and museum.

Corning, NY

The race runs through nearby towns, past farms and small communities. It runs over small bridges and past forests full of turning leaves. The scenes are lovely and it’s one of my favorite half marathon courses around. This year, like last year, I paced the 2:30 half marathon group.

Wineglass 2014

I had a great group. We ran together, told jokes, and had a great time. I coasted into the finish with perfect timing and a very happy group of finishers.

The next weekend, I was signed up to pace the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, pacing the full marathon group. I had the assignment of pacing 5:30, the course cut off. I was to be the last place finisher and guide runners who were close to the course cutoff. The Mohawk Hudson River Marathon is a great event in Albany, New York. Albany is a great town, with a charming old fashioned down town. The race is well organized and supported by a local running club.

MHRM

The race begins at a  local park, with lovely views of the changing leaves.

Mohawk Hudson

Running the course cutoff is a funny thing. Turns out that no one wanted to just squeak in at 5:30 – they wanted to crush their goals. I ran along the bike paths near the river mostly alone, but enjoyed the views and quiet connection to nature. The course is almost entirely run on bike paths through suburban parks. It’s really very nice with a few gentle hills in the middle. I loved the course and enjoyed working with my team.

Pacing is a wonderful thing and one of my favorite things to do as a runner. Next up for me is the Palm Beaches Marathon in Florida in December. I can’t wait!

Troy Conquers 26.2: Shut Up Legs

Here’s a great piece from my brother about his first run with me!

 

Mistakes were made – that is how I categorize more than half my running. Whether it is signing up for things I shouldn’t (Dopey 2015!), starting out too fast (4 minute miles are amazing!), or running too far out on an out and back. Mistakes were made and now I suffer.

I volunteered to help Rachel move to her new home in Connecticut a few weeks ago as any good brother would. I know how much work moving is and understood what I was signing up for in that regard. However, Rachel decreed that while I was in Connecticut, I would join her running group for a taper run and put up 12 miles. Ok. Fine. Moving is a tremendous amount of work but a decent run should still be possible.

I was wrong. Mistakes were made. While I knew how much work moving would be, I did not know that Connecticut had hills. No one told me about this. I expected gentle rolling valleys with beautiful trees just starting to turn colors. The hills, no these mountains, in Connecticut were more than I could handle and had no preparation for attacking. Behold my normal training run (11 mile in MI):

Michigan Run

 

Elevation change of 28 feet and that is because I purposefully ran down to the river and then back up a hill. I try to add in inclines whenever I do a treadmill workout but those are by no means a HILL workout. There is one course I like to run that does have some gentle rolling hills. But not this – this is CT and this was too much.

CT Run

Garmin tells me 401 feet of gain and 362 feet of loss.

After spending two days moving Rachel I was not able to tackle the mountains of Connecticut for the full 12 mile run. I had to drop out at 8.5 miles and was very thankful to the Fleet Feet coaches for getting me back to the store and helping on cool down. As someone who had never been to Connecticut, let alone run there, I have to give a lot of credit to the running community. Not only are there more runners than I am used to, they tackle these mountains (to me) with an ease I could not.

Next time I will know what I am getting into and come planning to run hills. I just may have to train to come to CT to train again.

 

Troy Conquers 26.2: Evolution of Running Gear

In this Troy Conquers 26.2 installment, my brother discusses the evolution of his running gear. From casual, any shorts will do running, to serious marathon training (and the gear to match!), he’s getting more serious. Here’s what he had to say:

While the marathon training is new to me and the mileage is something I have never seen before, ramping up distance is not. Ramping up distance is a learning experience for me and I learned a lot about clothing.  Long before the WDW 2014 Half, my wife and I ran a couple of local 5K events.  When we decided to sign up for these we went to the local sporting goods store to buy some clothes.  It is funny looking back and our choices.

I grabbed the long, heavy basketball style shorts – the ones with two thick layers that hang down past your knees.  For a shirt, whatever – grabbed one ‘tech’ shirt and one cotton tee thinking those would be just fine.  For shoes it was whatever was there and felt comfortable on my feet, but yet priced ok in case this whole running thing fell through.  This was what I trained in for that first race: generic shoes, cotton socks, cotton boxers, heavy ‘tech’ shorts, and a cotton tee shirt.  You can already see the issues in my gear choices.  These outfits were fine for short (mile or two) runs, but even then I started to have issues with chafing.  I was confused at first – I had running clothes so why did running suck so bad?  Besides running in a Gulf Coast Texas July, what I was wearing was hampering my run.

After moving to Michigan the training for the WDW Half started to pick up and it was time to get serious.  We visited the local running store, Runners, for the first gait analysis and shoe selection.  Shoes matter and there was a definite improvement for me and a whole new world of pain-free running for the wife once we had properly fitting shoes. Next was clothing and time to get a couple new running outfits. An assortment of true tech tee shirts and Feetures running socks were the first items purchased along with some wicking boxers.  Sadly, only one new pair of shorts as I yet insisted on wearing basketball shorts for the short training runs.  This was me learning about the right kind of gear for running distances.  At this point I had no idea what compression gear was.  This basic arrangement served me well doing the first half marathon.

Troy at Disney

After a year of running, and, now training for a full marathon, I have completely changed my outlook on running gear.  My outlook it is still changing as the distances have started to increase.  Now all my shorts are actual running shorts, even those nice ones that have a zippered pocket in the back.  I had no idea how much I needed that before hitting a 10 mile run and desperately needing a Gu.  All my running shirts have lost the graphics and screen print – just plain tech running shirts to prevent unnecessary chafing.  A multitude of socks reside in my drawer, all meant for running.  I have wool socks with toes, thick padded socks, thin socks, Elite version socks with arch support, and compression sock that go to my knees.

Troy's socks

Calf sleeves for recovery were new to me until after my first half and I can’t explain how much I love them.  So many things I didn’t know I would need when I started that have made the training so much better.

I am getting close to breaking 13 miles in training.  I have never run farther and don’t know what lies beyond.  Maybe I will need new gear, maybe not.  I have some fancy new Lululemon running shorts if nothing else!

Great Finds!

I’ve mentioned before that I look for, and pick up spare change along my running route. Most runs I pick up a few cents, sometimes I find a quarter. I make about $5 every year just from spare change. Most runs I find a few cents.

Spare Change

This week, on my long run, I had to stop for a bathroom break. As is the case for most long runs, when I realized that I had to pee I was miles away from a bathroom that was available for use that early. After waiting and running for several miles, I finally made it to a Dunkin Donuts. As I ran across the parking lot, I had visions of donuts dancing in my head. I wanted a donut so much! I realized as I got closer that I didn’t have my usual water bottle – the one that contains my emergency cash. I was so sad that I had only collected three cents so far during the run. I didn’t have enough money for a donut. I immediately thought that it was too bad that I hadn’t found a dollar bill, which I have before. It would have been just enough to get a few donut holes. Sadness. As I walked in the empty store and headed toward the bathroom, I looked down. There was a folded dollar bill on the ground! I couldn’t believe my luck. The running gods had smiled on me! And the Munchkin I bought was the best donut I have ever had.

Race Review: Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

This spring I had the great opportunity to go to the RRCA national convention. In addition to the useful seminars and fun social runs, there was a silent auction benefitting the RRCA programs. I enjoy silent auctions, so I was happy to participate. A new girlfriend and I teamed up to bid on and monitor a few key items. There were a couple marathon entries I had my eye on and was actively bidding on and so did my friend. Right next to one of my friend’s bidding projects was an entry to the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. No one had bid on it. A half marathon in coastal Maine in the end of July didn’t seem to prompt much in terms of vigorous bidding. The race wasn’t too far from me, and I didn’t have anything on the calendar. I bid on the race. Why not, I thought. Thirty minutes later when the bidding ended, I had won two entries into the Shipyard Old Port half marathon.

A few months later, the Shipyard Old Port half rolled around. The friend who had wanted to join me couldn’t make it, so my husband agreed to ride up to Maine with me for a little road trip. We left at a ridiculously early time to head up to the race. The drive was easy and went by quickly. We got to the port area and were able to easily find a parking spot thanks to the parking maps that were emailed in advance of the race. The maps were clearly marked and made it super easy to navigate to a free parking lot and from the lot to the race staging area.

Race morning packet pick up was smooth and easy. I walked right up -no waiting – and got my gear. I love the race shirt. It’s a pale blue with a lovely multicolor logo design. It even fit! I knew it was one that I would wear often. Thanks to my winning entry in the auction, I got a commemorative hat and a mug. Both had the fun logo and were nicely done. I use my mug often and wore my hat this morning on my run. The hat is a nice sweat wicking hat in a comfortable fabric. The gear was nice looking and useful.

About 45 minutes before race start, I headed for the corals and the porta potties. The lines for the bathroom were epic. I cannot recall a time when I saw longer lines for the bathroom. Worse, the lines snaked out into the driving lane of one of the biggest free parking areas. Cars were dodging runners, runners were in the traffic lane. Volunteers had lost control. There were simply too few porta potties for the number of people. Probably about half as many as were required. The lines were just ridiculous. I waited 42 minutes. Then I race around the bend, down a long hallway, and into the corral. Thank goodness I wasn’t really racing – I barely made it to the corral by the time the race was to start.

Shipyard start

The start got off without a hitch, with runners racing down a huge cement dock and onto the Main Street. Inexplicably, the course went down the middle of the street, kith backed up traffic on either side. The Main Street looked nice (or at least what I could see over the tops of the cars). Very shortly, the course headed into some lovely neighborhoods. The homes were tidy and the gardens attractive. The course was fairly free of traffic and I enjoyed running in the shady neighborhood streets. It was awfully crowded, so I wound my way past other runners and through the masses.

After the first few miles in the neighborhoods, we went back down the Main Street and along the water. As we passed the fish packaging plant for the second time (horrifying and what I once thought was the worst possible smell ever), things started to unravel. I had skipped a too-crowded first water stop and the second water stop didn’t have any water poured, so I passed that, too. By the time I got to the fish plant water stop for the second time, they had no water prepared. Instead, they had a pile of cups and a hose. Runners were told to grab a cup and a volunteer aimed a hose at us. I got soaked and got about three sips of water in my cup. Undeterred, I headed along down the Main Street and up a giant hill. The top of the hill treated runners to an amazing view of the water.

The water and park views were lovely and featured Classic Maine views of boats and rocks and quiet harbors. Following the hill summit, runners headed into a park. In the park, the water stops began to be a disaster. The first water stop in the park was out of water. The second water stop had volunteers bailing water (without gloves) from big coolers. The first cup I took off the table had a dead spider in it. Literally a dead daddy long legs. I dumped it and the second cup had grass in it. Unwilling to waste more time, I picked the grass out and drank the water that was visibly dirty.

Runners then went further into the park, around a tidal marsh. The marsh was not the best. It wasn’t scenic since it was low tide and the crushed shell/sand path was extremely dusty and very hot. Dust billowed up and swirled around. The sun shone down and made the sand so hot I could feel it through my shoes. The next water stop I came to had volunteers bailing water without gloves. Again, the water was dirty. The next water stop was out of water. The next was passing out dirty water. Having no gloves on and giving out water that was *visibly dirty* was totally unacceptable.

I trudged around the marsh on the path for what seemed like ages. Finally, mercifully, it ended and we exited on to a paved bike path. For a few moments, I was so happy. We had left the marsh! Sadly, eye headed past a water treatment plant. Water treatment plants aren’t so bad. Except for when they’re churning the beds. This day, the huge water treatment plant was churning. The smell was indescribable. Truly horrific. I plugged my nose and hustled by. I passed four people vomiting. Everyone was gagging. I’ve never smelled anything so horrible in all my days. Mercifully, I passed the treatment plant and was treated to the best thing ever – a water stop. With clean, cool water. It even had music and misters. It was like an oasis. A spot of beauty. I wanted to just stop there and stay in the cool oasis, drinking my water.

I overcame the urge to stop in the oasis and continued on along the bike path. It was a nice path, smooth and level. Finally, I rounded the bend into the finish area. There were cheering spectators, race announcers, and finishers coming in. I crossed the finish line and was delighted to have finished. It was hot, I was dirty, and I couldn’t wait to find some food and water. The only problem was that I couldn’t find water. A volunteer handed me a tiny six ounce cup. I asked for another and was told that I couldn’t have one because the finish line was running out of water. The finish line had long ago run out of water bottles and was short on water. I knew I had water in the car, so I pressed on. The finish line area was total chaos. There was no organized finish chute and runners lined up in individual lines at various tables for food. I selected a table randomly – I couldn’t see what it was because the line was so long. It was a line for chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate. Next line was for pizza. I lined up, waited several minutes, and was handed one slice of pizza. I had noticed while waiting that every male runner was handed two slices of pizza. Every female I saw was handed one slice of pizza. I got my one slice and was nearly trampled by people in line. I didn’t have the patience to wait in more totally chaotic lines, so I gave up.

Shipyard chaos

My husband and I hopped into the car and went to the first gas statio no we saw for some water. Finally. The ocean views at a nearby scenic spot didn’t hurt.

Shipyard after race

All in all, I was very disappointed by the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. The gear was great. The course was interesting. But to me, there is no excuse for the lack of organization at the water stops and finish line. It is completely unacceptable to have volunteers bailing with bare hands. It is completely unacceptable to have visibly dirty water handed to runners. It is unacceptable to run out of water at the finish line. In talking to other runners, I learned that this is a persistent problem with this race. Other runners were pretty vocal on Facebook about a problem with a miscue on the course or the disgusting smell at the water treatment plant. Still others complained about the finish area chaos. I will forgive a lot of things as a runner, but not a dead spider in my water. Pass on this race.