Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Race Recap: New Year's Race Los Angeles

January 3, 2015 | Los Angeles

The first race of 2015 is in the books! This was big for a few reasons: not only was this the first race of the year (that's always exciting), but it was also Doug's first half marathon! I probably geeked out over this way more than he liked (sorry babe), but I was just so freaking excited. I still am. 

As an ambassador, I worked the expo on Friday (hope I got to see you there!), and then of course raced on Saturday. Because this was my first NYR experience, I want to cover it all - I know there are tons of legacy runners out there who have lots of feedback and I definitely want to hear it below! Make sure you comment and I want to be sure to share it all with the race folks. 

The Expo
The Millennium Biltmore hotel is beautiful. We've met there a few times for some NYR events and photo shoots, and every time I walk in, I love it. Even more so at Christmas! But I digress. We spent 15 minutes walking around the first floor trying to figure out where we were going, because some arrows contradicted other arrows - only to find out that some hotel staff had moved one that would have directed us straight to the correct door. Oh well.

Party starters!
To me, the expo was underwhelming. I realize this is not a huge race (around 7,000 runners total for a 5K, 10K and half marathon), but I suppose in my head, I expected a little bit more. The cool part was that the expo itself was a lot of smaller, lesser known companies or local racing companies (like one of my faves, Renegade Racing). There are certainly advantages to locally focused races. 

Packet pick up was downstairs in the basement, essentially, while the expo was upstairs in a nicer, larger space. The basement felt... dank. It was old, and clearly isn't used super often. The space was large, so it worked, but could have used a lot more "sprucing up" to make it the exciting thing that packet pick up and expos can be! Monica and I, who worked the Information Table together, were brainstorming ways that the space could be brought to life and encompass the fun that this New Year's Race tried to embody. Namely: it's a New Year's Race! All the race volunteers at the expo should have like, new year's hats and tiaras and all the silliness that you see at a New Year's party! It adds a level of fun. 

Somewhere in the day, Doug, Jumah and Long came to get their stuff! Can't you see the excitement on their faces?

Soon-to-be half marathoners!
The Race
We got to downtown LA and parked right at 5 - while the ambassadors were invited to the VIP party at the Biltmore (re: warm hotel and pre-race food!), but I opted to skip it and head right to the race start to get settled with gear check and in our corral. We parked not even three blocks from the start line (foreshadow: this sucked after the race). 

We followed the corrals down towards where gear check should have been, only to eventually realize we had stopped in the middle of the line. Despite two large trucks, the actual gear check station wasn't super well-marked - and we were lucky that we ended up in the right line based on bib numbers (there were numbers printed on small signs on the top of the truck). Lucky catch. 

I was assigned Corral 3, Doug in 5, Long in 4, Jumah in 4, but we all started together in 5. It was already super crowded when we got in about 5:40 and we weren't even 'in' becauase the corral was literally overflowing. I wish there had been more corrals so they could be a little bit smaller in size. Even at under 7000 racers, that was still way too many people in one corral, since all 3 races started at the same time, in the same corrals. Luckily, when the gun went off and we actually crossed the start line, the congestion spread out pretty quickly. The plan was to run ahead to mile 5-ish, then wait for Doug, check in, and probably run the rest with him. 

Before even the mile 1 marker, the course takes you through the 2nd street tunnel, the same one that RnR LA takes you through - so I knew to expect to lose Garmin reception. And like clockwork, I did, so for the rest of the run after .84 miles, I was exactly .6 miles behind. At least I was able to keep track of that! 

It was a little uncomfortable running out of the bridge and seeing dozens of protesters regarding the Ezell Ford shooting/autopsy, and dozens of policemen lining the streets between the runners and protestors. My opinion aside, I felt kind of uncomfortable, especially as one woman was standing a foot from an officer, yelling and yelling and yelling in his face. It was a strange experience during a race and something I've certainly never witnessed before.

At any rate, I ran pretty solid until the first super nasty hill - walked a bit - and made my way up to the first layer outside Dodgers Stadium. 

Even as opposed to the Dodgers as I am (yep, I said it!), it was cool being up in the stadium, overlooking the city skyline. As I was taking photos of the skyline and taking it in, Doug caught up to me - apparently not that far behind the whole time! And from there, we tackled the rest. Through Dodgers Stadium:

And then... hills. All the hills. Once you think you're off them, you make a turn, and then you're running back up hill. You run down the hill, and there's a U-turn at the bottom telling you to go right back up to where you came from. I feel bad that this ended up being these guys' first half - what a tough course to tackle! 

I shuffled with Doug - sometimes I'd walk, and he'd shuffle on ahead and I'd catch up. Sometimes, I'd run ahead and then stop to walk and he'd catch up, and we played a sort of leap frog for the better part of the course. He runs with headphones on, so I yelled to him a lot: "Just a 5K left!" "TWO miles left!" "Hey babe... in a mile, you'll be a half marathoner!" I'm not sure which ones he actually heard, but as we powered through mile 12, I heard a lot of cursing to himself and asking "Where the f--- is the finish line?!" I just had to keep insisting it was right around the corner. 

I grabbed his hand as we turned the corner past mile 13 and powered in. Done and done. Doug's a half marathoner! 
This one will be ordered!

Being that this was my first year of the race, and the course has changed a little each year - with major changes this year as the course no longer ends at LA Live - I only have feedback regarding some of the logistics, not the actual course itself (minus the hills). 

- Awesome LA sights (City Hall, skyline, Dodger Stadium)
- Amazing volunteers freezing their hands for us at water stops
- Sweet medal (who doesn't like glitter?)
- If you're a legacy runner (I am not), an additional charm! (see Cons too though)
- Great, challenging course

- Not a con, just be ready for those hills!
- Running by/through some really sketchy areas. I didn't feel unsafe, but uncomfortable. 
- Dodgers roads especially were torn up - not the race's fault, but in some super dark areas, made me nervous to trip and twist my ankle
- Post-race wasn't marked in a way that could be seen - needs a lot more light
- Legacy charm was advertised as medal -- turned out to be far from a medal 

Alright, so lemme hear it! Did you run the NYR race this year? What did you think?

Because I served as an NYR ambassador this year, I was given a free race entry. All opinions are my own - and are real. Overall. I had an incredibly positive experience and am grateful for the year I had with NYR, and am hoping for a year 2! Thanks, Jive Live and New Year's Race crew!

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