Friday, January 23, 2009

The Coastal Challenge vs TransRockies Race

So I just get an announcement that all TransRockies participants are getting a free Windstopper jacket- how sweet is that?!!!

Someone asked me today how The Coastal Challenge race was (they knew someone who was participating this year). I have to say....overall the race was fun and a great mental and physical experience. I learned that my body is capable of things I never knew it could endure (at that you can only push it so far), that my mind reaches deep into the unknown depths of my soul when trying to overcome pain and anguish, and that I always manage to bring out another "wind" just when I need it. I have learned that the bonds you make with the people you meet at these events are stronger than some of the people you have known all your life. I was recovering from a really tough time in my life while running that race and the spiritual and emotional rawness of the whole thing was something that will last me a lifetime. The views were amazing and the culture unique. I joined that race with a goal in mind and I came home successful.

However, I also feel a bit bittered by the whole thing. I realized throughout the race that the moments that I took home with me, the memories- were more due to what I 'made' of the race. I was highly disappointed in the director on a number of occasions. It wasn't until after the race ended and we were all home that I received an email from the director asking why I felt disgruntled (he had read a comment I made on another runner's blog).
I felt that things throughout the race were not well organized and that the hype was all smoke and mirrors on the internet site. Although there were many points I could list on why I was unhappy, it would just make me sound like a complainer which I wasn't...but my two biggest complaints I will list.

#1 The website:
It was almost never updated. We never found out about details of the race until the last moments and even then the directions weren't always accurate. The website links, the news feeds, the comments, the profiles of the runners- everything was a link to last year's information. My name was misspelled even when I clicked a link to fix it and was sent a confirmation that it would be fixed. It is still wrong and there is no link from my name to my "profile" that others were given. However, the biggest thing with the website was that there was a place that family and friends could post "shout outs" to us runners. We were promised to have them delivered each night of the race for pick-me-ups and laughs. Every night we all came in from the run exhausted, hurting, thinking about the early morning start the next day, and excited to see our personal shout-outs. However, we never once saw a single shout out. The director blamed it on web access, but I know for a fact that several of the media folk were able to get their blogs out during the week and the director had no problem posting our status/times in the race. One of the older gentleman runners had a birthday and when we got home we saw a TON of his family had posted teary-eyed letters to him in support of his acheivements. How awesome would that have been to have seen that midrace. It would have given us all wings to fly and smiles on our worn out faces. Yeah, I was a bit bitter.

#2 Director Who?: actually my number one gripe
If you have read my blogs on the days of the race, halfway through the last day of the race my swollen body seized, gave up, shorted out. I could limp but was unable to run on the sixth day. I had placed pretty well throughout the race for a girl who had only run a half marathon and a small handful of 5Ks prior to this mega race. The last day I had a fallout with my body and in tears had to come to terms that I just couldn't do it. I chose to walk the last half instead of giving up. I was determined to walk across that finish line and complete the race even if I had to crawl. I waited on the side of the road for another co-runner who had twisted her ankle and couldn't run but decided to walk so that she would have some company. We both toughed it out and crossed the finish line together....dead last on the final day. There were a small handful of people still out at the finish line to cheer us in. A volunteer who ended up washing more dishes than she signed up for, a doctor who ended up having to pay her way and work as a volunteer also washing dishes (even though the nurse practitioner- who I might add had no antiseptic and had less first aid gear than I did in my running pack- got her way paid), and a couple of fellow runners. Surprisingly, there was no race director or race team member there to cheer the runners in. You would think that the director would be the number one person to be at the finish line to encourage the runners and make their experience the best it could be. To show that even the dead last runners were just as special as the first runner in. To make every single runner feel like they had acheived greatness. If I had seen his face at the end of the race with a beaming smile and an "atta' girl" I think many of my views of him would have been wiped clean. A redemption he never bothered with.

This was the director's "baby" and he couldn't even be there for the people that made his race possible. There would be no race without the runners and their money. People who paid a hell of a lot of money (can I say exuberant?) to have him design a should-have-been fantastic race. What did we get for our green wad? A shitty "schwagg bag" which literally had a set of poorly drawn inaccurate maps (is that really considered schwagg when it is something that is necessary to complete the race?), a metal charm on a piece of twine, and a mustard yellow super scratchy shirt that was five times too big for me. I've gotten better schwagg in a $20 5K and who the hell looks good in mustard yellow??!! I regress..... the director wasn't very polite nor social with any of the runners indicating he was "too busy directing" to notice us peons. I could completely understand and waive it off if the race was well organized with top notch food choices and smooth transitions from one day to the next. I felt as if no one mattered to this director except the top three runners, the media, and his money. If it benefited him, he was all about it. Chatting and hanging out with the media folks and ticos- all about it. I was disappointed to read some of the media's flashy exerpts from the race as during the week they had been bitching just as much as us runners about the director and his organization/social skills. Seeing as their way was paid into this race, I suspect there was a little "I'll pat your back if you pat mine" deal.

TCC supposedly had a handful of sponsors (Nuun, etc) but there was not a single thing to indicate their sponsorship money (or ghost product) was ever put towards this race. Who exactly was getting the kickback cuz I sure didn't see it?

As the race has been moved into the southern jungle region of CR, my interest was a bit peaked when a fellow runner emailed me that she was going back since the director gave her a cut on the price.
*on a side note, I found out that he was "recruiting" runners by using a pyramid type of tactical play. One head runner who gets a cut for signing up X amount of runners under them. hmmm.

I actually considered going back knowing this time what I was going to face and the probable frustrations along with it. I thought about going just to see my friends again. However, after logging onto the computer to check out the logistics of the whole thing for this year my mind was immediately made up. The information (today is Jan 24 and the race starts the 31st) is STILL from 2007 -2008's race. The maps show the 2008 route in a completely different location than this years race! For example here is a copy of their info for 2009:

Route Overview (coming soon)We will unveil the entire route later in the year with a route overview. We’ll disclose specific route details with maps and stage profiles at competitor check in. Here are some examples of last year’s route and maps.

Weather and info is wrong and the runners for 2009 aren't even listed. What the hell? It is seven fucking days away and they still have 2008 information??!!! Ok, so I know the director is not fully responsible for the website- he hires a web master for that. But if it is YOUR race, wouldn't you make sure that shit was up to date and pristine... I am befuddled.

AND- the price has been jacked up. Most likely to accomodate his price cuts (read: "free") to the media and the return runners who are his recruiters. So we get to pay for them. Yeah, like that's fair.


So, point of this entire post was to comment on my pre-opinion of the TransRockies race based on my experience of The Coastal Challenge. So far everything on their website seems kosher:

-The blog links are from people who recently ran this race and are very informative and fun to read. The pictures are amazing and plentiful. You feel like you know what you are signing up for.

-Their schwagg has already far surpassed anything TCC had to offer- hell a Windstopper jacket and technical race shirts with the potential for more schwagg throughout the race (and from reading the other bloggers, the prizes are way cool)!

-TR price is almost half what it costs for TCC and the TR is including a two person team to split it.

-TR isn't promoting people and sponsors on their website just for their personal gain. Advertising that one of the runners is running in support of the Wounded Warrior Project - a non-profit organization is very cool in my opinion.

- They set up your tent for you for no extra charge. At TCC, after an exhausting day in the hot tropical sun and climbing through knee deep mud, we had to take a freezing shower and set up our own tents. This was not an easy nor desired task in a hypoglycemic, hypothermic, muscle-fatigued state. Now this year, TCC is offering a chance to have your tent set up for you....for a fee. As if their costs weren't high enough.

-Their menu is flippin' out of this world. When I looked at the menu my jaw dropped. I am excited to go just for the food! At TCC the food wasn't bad but it wasn't something I thought about with anticipation during the run. In fact, many times the post run food was severely lacking in the much needed protein and carbs us runners need. Now I have an incentive to run faster:)

The TR looks great and my excitement level is soaring. I am trying to keep myself grounded, knowing that there are sure to be pitfalls as nothing is perfect, but so far this race is making me drool. As my hash friends would say: On-On!