Monday, November 7, 2011

Rock 'n Roll Savannah Half Marathon Race and Expo Recap and Review

I had an awesome weekend in Savannah running my first half marathon! After having quite the adventure getting to Savannah, we woke up well rested on Friday, enjoyed yogurt and oatmeal topped with peanut butter for breakfast, and made our way downtown to go to the race expo.
The first thing I saw out of the parking garage was this "Welcome Runners" sign! I saw several other signs throughout the city and written greetings on business windows welcoming the runners to Savannah. I loved how hospitable the city was towards all the race visitors!

We took the ferry over to the expo to avoid having to drive over the bridge. It was cold but I loved the view of Savannah from the ferry.
The expo was held at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. I liked that the expo had a lot of space alloted for the exhibitors, but luckily I went early on Friday. Participants who arrived later in the day sat for hours trying to cross the bridge. The Convention Center is only accessible by the bridge or the ferry.

Packet pickup was really quick and easy. The race-day directions were explained clearly for those who hadn't read the race directions previously online. We then picked up our bags and shirts and headed into the expo!
Overall we had a really good time at the expo. I was able to see all of the exhibits I wanted to and we had fun trying samples of different kinds of bars and drinks as well as look at the interesting products some exhibits were selling.
One vendor had the funniest bumper stickers. I got such a kick out of this one because it was so made for Zach! That and "I run for beer!". We got our race fuel at the expo since I had forgotten to get it in Starkville. The race was giving out GU but that kind of gel bothers my stomach. I usually stick to Powergel.

After the expo we went back on the ferry and had lunch at Moon River Brewery. I got a wrap that had grilled chicken and sauteed veggies with tons of water and it was delicious! Zach got BBQ and beer. Can you tell who was more concerned with proper race fueling? Ha!
After lunch we walked around one of the squares then went back to the hotel for a few hours to relax and hang out with Zoe. We met up with Scott (Zach's best friend who I'm sure y'all remember seeing from Destin and football pictures!) who is stationed in Savannah for supper. We went to The Distillery. The food was great and we had no wait for a table! I got a grilled chicken sandwich that had peppers and cheese. After dinner we headed back to the hotel, got everything ready for the morning and crashed.
We woke up at 5:15 am, got ready, took Zoe out, and ate peanut butter sandwiches and bananas on the way to the Savannah Mall to park. We were there by 6:15 or so but didn't get on a bus until after 7! The lines were so long for the busses. It seemed like the bus drivers and race volunteers were lacking in communication with race directors. It turns out busses had been waiting at a McDonalds until they were directed to go pick up more runners. The bus situation was way disorganized. By the time we got to the start line the race had already started. I had to give my bag to a "late check in" pile, even though I went to the bus for my last name letter and the driver wouldn't let me put my bag on the bus. I was in too much of a hurry to argue.

We caught up with our corral (with absolutely no warmup) and tried to warm up jogging in place and stretching in the corral.
Here we go!
After about 5 minutes we were off!
The first part of the course went through some interesting neighborhoods in Savannah. They definitely weren't the places you would visit when vacationing in Savannah, but I loved how the residents were all out on the porches or in their yards cheering on the runners. Miles 5-7 were pretty boring...mostly on back roads with no crowds. I took my first gel at about mile 5.5 then took a woods break a little after the 10k mark. The lines for the port-a-johns were extremely long and I didn't wait to wait that long.
I felt really good through about mile 8 when my back really started to bother me. I walked a little then picked up back running and alternated running and walking the rest of the course. I had mixed feelings with the second half of the race because I was frustrated and wanted to run, but it felt like my legs and back were too sore to want to run. I pushed through it the best I could and focused on enjoying the gorgeous second half of the course. We ran by the most beautiful houses and churches in the historic district, and there were lots of people cheering on the runners. This was definitely my favorite part of the race. Zach and I finished hand in hand and reached our goal of finishing our first half marathon! It took us just under 3 hours, which I was disappointed in, since my goal time was 2:30, but I'm not beating myself up over it. It was my first half and we really just wanted to finish happy and enjoy the course.
We did it!
Sweet '90s style shirt tied around the race.

Despite the fact that I was disappointed in our finish time, I tried to push it out my head and celebrate the fact that I just ran my first half. We picked up our free beers (which I promptly gave mine to Zach-I just don't like alcohol that much!) and sat on the grass in Forsyth park to listen to the music and eat some fruit and bananas. After a little while we went to pick up our bag from the bag check. This part was pretty frustrating. I went to the late check in area, who told me they didn't have my bag but that there was another late check out area at the end of the line of busses. I went down that end and they told me the area was in the front of the line of busses. It took me about 30 minutes to find the area behind the line of busses. Miscommunication was a huge issue in the race execution.
Lots of runners who ran the race were a little disappointed in the course. I can see why they wish we ran more in the middle of the city where the parks and nice houses were, but I appreciate why they chose the course they did. The entire city welcomed over 23,000 runners and their families for the weekend. We took over their city and they couldn't have been nicer about it. The entire city sacrificed and volunteered their time to make sure the race went well, and I actually really liked the course. Flat and lots of nice people cheering you on! What more could you ask for? The only recommendation I would have for race day is to communicate between race employees and volunteers as well as make sure the busses are more organized. The food at the end of the race was kind of lame too. For such a big race, there should have been a better variety of food choices.

We went back to the hotel and rested all afternoon and watched football. We had a Hooters-wing-eating-LSU-Bama-game football party in our hotel room that night.
Ice and compression sleeves were my best friends all night!

The front of the race shirt
The back of the race shirt
Close up of the medal
I loved the shirt and the medal! The designs were very cute and I like the tech-tee Brooks race shirt (FYI-if you ever run a race with Brooks as the shirt manufacturer, make sure you size up! Brooks runs small).

I had a great race day! I am a half-marathoner!!
Now onto the next one:

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  1. A guy in one of my classes had on that tshirt today!

  2. Congrats on finishing your first! We didn't even bother going downtown this weekend b/c we figured it was going to be crazy. It would have been fun to watch everyone running by though!

  3. Congrats! It's so cute that you guys finished together holding hands. I didn't meet my goal time my first half either. But good luck on the next one. My next half is a week after yours.

  4. Those shirts are so cute! I wish the OKC or Tulsa Route 66 marathon shirts I have were cute! You had a good finish! I know how it feels to be a tad disappointed in your time, but it was your first one so don't beat yourself up! :) You ran 13.1 miles and that is something not very many people can say. Congrats, girl!

  5. Congratulations Ashley! Yall did awesome! I had the goal of 2:30 for my first half marathon and I ran it in 2:43 but this year I beat my time, so always wish that that second go-round!

  6. This is so awesome! Congrats on your first HALF! :) You're only going to get better!

    And you can run your next in honor of my bday if you want! :)