Thursday, October 28, 2010

Running for the Bay! Marathon (Pictures and Suggestions)

A few final thoughts on the Running for the Bay! Marathon:

This morning in my inbox I noticed an email bringing to my attention that apparently my blog is now famous, or at least getting its 15 minutes. One of our gang from the race asks, "have you seen this... you're featured." Clicking on the link I find the story titled Moonlit Marathon on the website of The Times of Apalachicola & Carrabelle newspaper. It's a well written story about the race by a local journalist that mentions my blog in the fourth paragraph and even quotes my race recap!

The first time I write something that I feel is extremely negative, but needs to be said, and NOW I get noticed? Not exactly what I hope for when I write these "hobby posts" of mine, but realizing how I might have a few new readers this week I'd like to make a few suggestions that perhaps could make this race a more successful event in coming years.

There are currently 100 review posts on for this race as I'm writing this, most of which are negative or constructive criticisms. I've never seen that many before; not even on the Tipple's Beer Run where they got shut down mid-race by law enforcement and there was no beer at the finish line! Some comments are positive, some are harsh and uncalled for and some are useful suggestions. I hope the race director will consider them all and stay the course by holding the event next year.

I feel the problem at it's core was poor communications between the race and the runners. Most of the issues runner's experienced could have been easily avoided had race officials effectively informed the field of what they were getting into so they could have been better prepared. They're a lot of bitchin' and complaining about the lack of support. Most of us train on the road with traffic and no support. If we knew we could have self-supported ourselves, but instead many runners, I feel, felt betrayed by statements on the race website or lack of information about the race conditions at the expo. When my group asked about pace groups the information volunteer at the expo when on to explain about how bicycles would be pacing the leader, but didn't even really understand the definition of a pace group leader.

Here are my suggestions for a successful race next year:
1.) Offer a discount on registration fees to all the runners that participated in 2010 in an attempt to get them to return. While doing so regularly issue press releases on everything being done to correct issues from the inaugural race and any improvements or new features. The running community is close-knit and word travels fast. 700+ runners was an excellent turnout for an inaugural race and an excellent base to spread the word both positive or negative.

2.) If the race is truly benefiting a charity clearly inform the runners exactly who, why, when and how much. There was some confusion about this and there's a huge customer base of runners that strive only to run in charitable races even if only a portion goes to charity.

3.) If the state government want allow the bridges to be shut down for traffic (I'm guessing they won't since they seem to be main arteries) consider other ways to improve safety. Signs could alert motorists of the race and that there are "runners on the road." Line the course with MORE orange cones. Perhaps explore shutting down only 1-lane of traffic. Most runners are used to running against the flow of traffic. I think running with the flow caused an increased amount of stress with some of the runners. Ask for sponsorship from one of the companies making reflective gear for runners to wear. Provide each runner with some kind of reflective gear from that sponsor as "swag" in the goody bag and encourage them to wear them during the race. Most experienced runners will NOT wear a race t-shirt, no matter how nice or reflective, during the race of the t-shirt, but perhaps a reflective anklet or bracelet or LED light. And please, PLEASE try to find a solution to the 5k & 10k turnarounds. This year it was NOT safe, nor clearly marked to have them crossing busy lanes of traffic to get to the other side of the road.

4.) It's pretty obvious and kind of beating a dead horse to ask for more hydration during the race. Thirty years ago runners were used to not having any support. Ultra marathons and trail runners currently are used to not having much support. However, your average modern 5k to marathon runner expects to have plenty if not too many aid stations along the route. If not, we need to know about it so we can carry hydration along with us, or have friends along the course. Consider having water before the race available. Trash the post race chips and sodas. The mini-Cliff bars were great and there was water and Gatorade, but get some bigger cups or give out bottles. Runners need larger amounts of fluid after a race than during. Small cups are great when we're on the run, but after the race it's a waste of paper to have runners going back for 4 or 5 cups and hard on the volunteers. Instead of chips get bananas, bagels, oranges, etc. Not all carbs are created equal and runners know this...

5.) The awards ceremony? Seriously? Hype it up more! Turn off the loud music outside and use those PAs to announce the winners outside where everyone was loitering, not inside the community center when most runners had left or were unaware of a ceremony. It seemed like there was a lack of communication between the timing official and the race director. When asked individually they both seemed to be waiting on the other for something. This was my first race ever placing in my division and I didn't even want to go claim my award. I was told a certificate would be mailed to me. I hope that's true. Check out other races and see what they give out for division place finishers. Something representative of Apalachicola Bay would be awesome. Perhaps a small locally made plaque with an oyster shell on it. Oyster shells are free last time I checked. Have the awards ceremony sooner. Not in the 6th hour of the race. Place finishers rarely stick around until the race course is closed.

6.) Consider tweaking the race course to feature more of Apalachicola and less of St. George Island. After the race I felt like I hardly got to see the city of Apalachicola and let's face it St. George Island has an amazing beach, but otherwise there's not much to see there and the course can't be on the beach as the sand is too soft. Plus, this would decrease the possibility of runners facing stronger winds for longer periods of time on the island. Shut down the main street of Apalachicola and encourage the merchants and residents to come out and show their support. This would give the race a feeling of having more crowd support than the zero crowd support currently experienced.

7.) More bathrooms.... 'nuff said. (Visit THIS race for an outstanding example)

8.) Don't give up. Hold the race again next year. It's a great venue and a part of Florida that everyone should see at least once in their lives. Runners are a wonderful group of people and any town or city should only hope to bring that economic impact upon itself.

And to end on a positive note here are a few pictures from Jenny and my race weekend experience in Apalachicola/St. George Island!

Our party of ten gorged ourselves on a wonderful pre-race dinner at "That Place off 98" in downtown Apalachicola. I think they were a little slammed by runners causing their service to be slow, but dang that food was great!

Jenny on the final stretch of bridge (about 5 miles) somewhere around mile 22. Notice the bicyclist volunteer in the background desperately trying to pour water in cups for approaching runners. There's not even a table as he was lining cups up on the ground.

Jenny crossing the finish line and qualifying for Boston!

My Half Marathon finisher's medal. The full marathon was the same, but with a slightly different ribbon.

Cast netting at sunset on St. George Island.

The bridge between St. George Island and Eastpoint the day before the race. Ironically, there was little traffic the day before.

Sunrise on St. George Island.

Moonrise on St. George Island

Shrimp boats of Apalachicola

Two of my favorite things: Beach and the hour of twilight after sunset!

Jenny and I on the beach at St. George Island the evening after the race.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Running for the Bay! Marathon and Half Marathon, 10k, 5k - Apalachicola, Fla.

Update: Keith Brantly was NOT a "no show" (see comments at bottom) and I apologize for my poor choice of words and lack of fact checking. Evidently he was at the expo at the scheduled time Friday night and due to being ill he informed the race director he would not be attending on race day. (update on Oct. 28, 2010)

Quote of the Race:
"Ouch!" - The only word mustered up during the first few minutes by Jenny between tears and gasps for breath after crossing the finish line and achieving a Boston Qualification time with nearly 4 minutes to spare.

Location - Apalachicola, Eastpoint & St. George Island, Florida
Cost - Marathon ($79-$99 depending on pre-registration dates), Half-Marathon ($65-$85 depending on pre-registration dates), 10k ($49-$59 depending on pre-registration dates) & 5k ($29-$34 depending on pre-registration dates. Day of registration is unknown, but I do believe it was available.
Year of Running - 1st
Sponsor - K-Swiss, Cliff Bar, Culligan, LaraBar, RoadID, Ultra Running Magazine, RRCA and various other local businesses.
Charity - Website claims "Wounded Warrior Project," but unknown if any funds or what amount of registration fees were actually donated or if that was just a suggestion to the participants to make their own donation.
Number of Participants - 681 total participant finishers. 237 for the Marathon, 266 for the Half, 88 for the 10k, 89 for the 5k and 1 for wheelchair division. (According to results as official results on the race website are not posted as of today).
Available Races - Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, 5k
Course Condition - Mostly concrete bridge with a few short sections of asphalt paved road. Most of course is along the road shoulder with little protection from traffic and goes with traffic rather than against (runners on right side of road shoulder). Approximately 1 mile of course was closed to traffic. Overall very poor and dangerous conditions that need major improvements.
Pace Groups - None. When asking the "information" volunteer at the expo about pace groups it quickly became apparent that they had no idea what we were talking about. We were told there would be bicyclist "pacing around" during the race.
Expo - Day before and average for a race of this size. Packet pick-up and expo (1-vendor from what I could tell) was held at the Apalachicola City Hall located at 1 Bay Avenue.

It's sad and perhaps ironically fitting that in an geographic area savaged in recent years by hurricanes and oil spills and desperate for economic recovery would be destined for this horrible fate known as Running for the Bay! Marathon. The idea was good and on paper it looks great! The turnout was even impressive for an inaugural event. We were told nearly 800 were pre-registered. Weather was perfect with a temperature ranging from 58-degrees at the 7 a.m. start to low 80s by Noon. The sky was clear and wind was light to begin with becoming slightly annoying later in the race. Sunrise was beautiful at about 7:48 a.m. The problem at its core lies with the Race Director and what appeared on the surface as a break down in multiple areas of communications, organization, support and logistics. I was part of a party of 11 visitors to this area, all of us eager to spend some money and have a good weekend. Seven of us participated in the race (One 10k, two Half Marathon and 4 marathon). Judging from the amateur design of the race's website and doing some weather research on average conditions for the area we came into the race knowing there could be some quirks and hiccups. None of us could believe what actually happened. As for organization, the race director needs help. From our point of view (and I spoke with him at a very lackluster awards ceremony) he was not a "runner" and needs a basic education on average runner needs. The idea was good. The execution was lacking. The race clearly did not have enough volunteers and race officials did not adequately warn runners what they were getting into. Minutes before the start it was apparent that there was a communication break down as a voice over a loud speaker desperately tried to gather volunteers on a bus. There were a total of 10 port-o-johns for nearly 800 runners at the start line and they were pretty much limited along the course. I only noticed one while I was running the Half Marathon. Also, while standing in line before the race a heavy duty truck pulling a large pontoon boat forced its way through the lines as it was trying to make way to the boat ramps, which should have been closed. Support was seriously lacking in every facet from water, fuel, volunteers, police traffic support, course markers and medical help. The one saving grace were the volunteer bicyclist that seemed to be everywhere trying their hardest to help despite being overwhelmed. Spectators were few and far between. Family members and friends of runners seem to gather around the finish line. There were a few along side the road in Eastpoint, but other than that it was nada. It was not the welcoming crowd of residents lining the streets that race organizers were hoping for and promising on their website. Furthermore, the race was advertised to feature Olympian Keith Brantly. I'm not sure exactly who he is nor was that a deciding factor of my attendance at this race, but as far as I could tell he was a "no show," or they never announced his presence. It was evident that Dane Rauschenberg was in attendance as he had a booth at the expo selling his book and I saw him cross the finish line with the female overall winner.

There's a small general aviation airport in Apalachicola, but otherwise your best bets are flying into Tallahassee or Panama City, both a little more than an hour drive away. A car is a must to get around as public transportation is not readily available. I suppose you could come in on a shrimp boat.

Not too shabby. This is one part where the race organizers came through with their promises. Inside the race packets were a really nice Zorrell tech T-shirt (white in color) with race logo on the front and sponsors on the back. There was the normal coupons (Road ID order form, etc.) and Cliff Bars, Larabars and Cascadia Farms cereal.

The finisher medals for Half and Full Marathon are absolutely beautiful with a spinning center section and even a pearl embedded on the front. Only problem is they started breaking as runners walked around post-race with them around their necks! The center section is prone to falling out! Overall men's and women's winners received K-Swiss shoes. Age division finishers were given various sponsor swag including towels, water bottles and lanyards, but nothing too special. The race director personally told me that certificates would be mailed to all top finishers, but I'll believe it when I see it. The post race food was one of the biggest downfalls of this race. It consisted of soda cans (Coke products), potato chips, cliff bars (which they ran out of toward the end of the race), water in small cups and mixed-from-powder Gatorade in small cups. After catching my breath at the finish line I had to repeatedly go back again and again for additional cups of fluids simply because the portions were too small. Seriously, how hard is it to have some bananas or oranges or bagels at the finish line??? Again, if race officials had better informed runners of exactly what would be provided at the finish line I'm sure more participants would have been better prepared by providing their own post-race recovery food and hydration.

I'm going to keep this as short as I can as I've already pretty much trashed the race in the above review and I HATE being negative. I hate anything that makes me be negative so I'm going to focus on the positives for a bit.
We got to the race about 45 minutes early and found it super easy to park within a few hundred feet of the start line. We stood in the bathrooms lines for the majority of our pre-race time and almost got run over by a truck pulling a boat! The announcer had all 700-800 runners line up telling us to get in order, fast runners up front and slow runners at the rear. They gave the hand-crank wheelchair dude (he was the only one) a 2-minute head start and then they blew the horn and we were off. It was dark and initially crowded. Kind of a clusterf*ck as we turned the corner to go over the first section of high rise bridge. There was significant camber and while it did not affect me I'm sure it bothered some runners. The next 5 miles were basically into the sunrise and amazingly beautiful. It looked like the horizon was on fire as early morning rays of light breached the bay.
Listening to Metallica's Ecstasy of Gold from the S&M Album on my iPod, I hit replay and listened to it twice as it was totally surreal. I had worked hard in the days prior to this race on my playlist. It has been a long time since I listened to music during a race and I was stoked about my selection of songs. I even calculated the time of where I'd be at different sections of the race to what music would play. Then at mile 3, or near the 10k turnaround spot, I noticed something. It was quiet. Why can I hear myself breathing so hard, I pondered to myself? It's funny how when you're running it takes a long time sometimes to figure something out. A minute or two later I realize there's no music playing. I check my 5-year-old, 20-gig, iPod Photo and it's dead. I play with it, frantically trying to get it to come alive. I do a hard reboot. Then it's apparently obvious that the battery is dead. It was fresh off the charger and it only lasted 20-something minutes. With 10 miles left to run I grunted at the thought of no music.
So be it.
Last month, I ran to a PR finish at the Delta Lake Marathon in New York with no music. I will do it again!
As I arrive in Eastport, coming off nearly 5 miles of concrete bridges with heavy high speed traffic, I'm feeling pretty good. My legs are fine. My breathing is fine. I'm relaxed and on pace by my best mental calculation to finish around 1:45:00. This would be awesome and I celebrate the thought of such an achievement for a few seconds. There is a section of road closed to traffic so the fear of being annihilated by a car temporarily eases up and I settle in with the runners around me. There a few girls behind me, a few guys in front and an aid station on the horizon. I pull out a GU and slam it. I haven't taken any hydration yet and honestly can't remember seeing any aid stations. I think they were setting up around mile 1, but I must have been too early because they didn't have any water out yet. Now it's mile 6 and while I don't feel like I need anything yet, I force myself to take some water and my own personal GU. We were lucky enough to be staying on the beach on St. George Island so we got a preview of the course a hour before the start as we drove in to Apalachicola. All of us were silently horrified by the complete lack of aid stations so close to the race start. The mile marker signs were there, but we saw them there the day before and what's worse is some of them were blown down or blown away. I could tell Jenny was freaked out. She is attempting to Boston Qualify in the full marathon and did not bring a hydration pack because the race's website claimed there would be aid stations nearly every mile.
Soon it's time to split away from the full marathoners and head back to Apalachicola. I turn the corner and realize I'm completely alone. The pack of runners I've been pacing with all continued on with the full marathon. There's a ditch alongside the road. The thought crosses my mind of ripping off my dead iPod and tossing it into the ditch as hard as I can. It's strapped to my arm and bulky. It's providing "mental drag." The only thing that holds me back is the fact that you can get a discount from Apple if you recycle an old iPod when you buy a new one. I need all the discounts I can get.
As I approach state road 98 to make the turn back to Apalachicola there's a police officer that stops oncoming traffic just for me as I'm still alone. I thank her and continue on down the course. It's now that I realize how poorly marked this course is... I'm thankful I reviewed the map before and was familiar with it from driving it, but holy crap you could get lost without any other runners to follow! I can see a girl and a guy about three football fields ahead of me. We're running on the right-hand shoulder of a busy road so it's unnerving not being able to see approaching traffic. So far there's been quite the random collection of road debris including fun noodles, sharp aluminum siding, a headless seagull, a dead raccoon, hundreds of dead monarch butterflies and too many different types of trash to list. If this race was in my city I would be embarrassed of the trash along the course. The scenery is beautiful though as I can see for miles across the bay. Pelicans are constantly flying over and there's now a light breeze at my back. The sun is out, but I'm not hot yet.
I push on and realize I have no clue of how far I have left to run. The last mile marker I saw was mile 6. I'm on the bridges so I know there's less than 5-miles left. There's no water or aid stations and for the first time I start to feel fatigued. The guy in front of me slows and I start to gain ground on him. He's clearly thirsty like me. The girl seems to slow, but speeds up so I can't seem to catch her. Then I feel myself slowing. I feel as if it continue this hard I WILL relieve myself of whatever is residing in my stomach. That would not be fun, so I slow even more.
There's a sign on the opposite side of the road and as I look back I see it's the 10k turnaround marker. Now I can figure that I have about 3 miles left to go and that I've been running for more than 4 miles with no water options. Surrounded by water, water everywhere... but not a drop to drink!
There's a small strip of land, maybe 1/2 mile, between the long flat bridge I'm coming off of and a high rise bridge leading over the channel and down into the city of Apalachicola. This is the final mile or so of the race. At this point there are two, TWO, aid stations set up in this 1/2 mile or so stretch. At the first one I take water and thank the volunteer. At the second one I take water and dump it on my head. I've now got this damn bridge to climb. I almost have to walk about halfway up. I pass a 10k walker and make a commit about who's idea this bridge was and we laugh. At the top I'm about ready to puke, but I can hear the music at the finish line. I manage to get back on pace going downhill (my strength) and cross the finish line under the bridge with a PR of more than a minute!
A few minutes later, Katie (who just ran a full marathon last weekend) crosses the Half Marathon finish line. After catching our breath and meeting up with some of our other friends (including husbands of some of the girls out there running the full marathon), it's not even a question or a discussion. We simply get in one of the cars and drive to the nearest convenient store where we buy lots of cold water bottles and Gatorade. Speeding down the course with great concern for all the runners including our friends somewhere up ahead with no support, we do take note that there are now more aid stations set up than when we ran the course. We find Jenny first around mile 18 and offer hydration. She refuses and we cheer her on. Next comes Michelle, who also refuses, but is happy to see us along the course. Then we find Danielle and Allison. They're all looking good and strong, but some other runners aren't as fortunate. On the bridge to to St. George Island we hand out nearly all the water and Gatorade to every desperate runner we see. They are thankful and I wonder if the knew we did this on our own or if they simply thought we were volunteers in a car? The most horrific thing I witnessed in this race was a large bottle of water and a stack of empty cups at mile 20 on the ground on a bridge with nobody around it. The last thing any runner wants to do at mile 20 of a marathon is stop running, bend over to ground level and pour themselves a drink! At least as we headed back to the finish line there were some bicyclist pouring as much water as they could for the runners.
We are back at the finish line a short while later and waiting for our runners to finish. Jenny needs a 3:40:00 or better time to qualify for Boston and the race clock passes 3:30:00. I run up to the bridge to look for her and she's nowhere to be seen. I check my watch and it's now 3:33:00. I get very anxious and then I see a familiar stride at the top! Will she make it? I think back to my finish and the time it too me to get from there to the finish line and realize she has plenty of time. As she comes down the bridge I yell out that she's doing great! She goes right and I go left taking the short route. We all cheer her in at the finish line. She's a mix of smiles and tears and can hardly talk. After about 30 seconds she manages to get out a soft "ouch."
That pretty much sums up the race... ouch. But hey, she's a Boston Qualifer with nearly 4 minutes to spare.
All the other girls finish strong and we spend the rest of the day relaxing poor side and grilling out along the beach of St. George Island. The environment for this race was great. It was the organization that sucked. It's the first year, but not having enough water, volunteers or medical help is NOT excusable.
I hope they have this race again next year, but realistically, I can't recommend it to anyone. The race director needs to take everything he has and throw it out the window. Wipe the slate clean, forget everything he thinks he knows about running a race, and start over with the help of a strong running organization. There are some seriously dangerous flaws in this race that must be corrected or the race should never be held again.

Photos to come soon!

My official stats*:
15th out of 266 total Half Marathon finishers
1st in my age division out of 12
Net Time: 1:49:14 (personal record)
Gun Time: 1:49:37
Average pace: 8:20

Running for the Bay! Half Marathon grade = D-

*As I write this I'm still confused about what place I actually finished. I was announced by the race director at the awards ceremony as 1st in my age division and that's what I'm recorded on the official race results "here." However, according to results I'm 2nd place in my age division with the 3rd place overall male finisher taking 1st in my age division. He's clearly beaten me and is in my age group, but not listed as in my age group division. This is yet another failure in the organization and execution of this event. All I can say is WTF and it's not a big deal to me as I don't consider myself competitive and all I care about is the PR, which I got.

Friday, October 15, 2010

In memory of The Log

It is with my deepest regrets that I bring to you the news that The Ron Jon Log has left this Earthly world for a better place on this 14th Day of October in the year two-thousand ten.

The Log, age approximately 15 years, died while on the operating table in a small, but soon-to-be well known board-shaping bay in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., after a horrific encounter with a jig saw blade. While The Log's early years are relatively unknown, its last 6 years of adventures are well documented. After a short stint as a learning board along the shores of Bethune Beach The Log relocated to TallGuySurfing's board rack where it spent numerous sessions along the many surf breaks of the New Smyrna Inlet and even a few behind the vessel Quest in the Intracoastal Waterway. Because of its thickness and size The Log provided the stability and float required for dozens of friends and family to learn to surf and catch their first waves. The Log also served as a platform for some of the best and most humorous surf sessions among friends. Infamous memories include Tucker the Labradoodle's dog beach session, Nate's "Mario-kart" scream rides behind the Quest, Brian & Blythe's successful tandem stunt, Jenny's first skurfing attempt, a base for "ding-eduction and experimentation" with its many MANY dings; Chad's first attempt at catching a wave with that same wave being his first successful ride and TallGuySurfing's famous Gator band uniform session amongst many others. It also had a few encounters with shorter boards in a crowded lineup where it ALWAYS won. The Log sported many faces and also many dings. Resin stained orange upon sun bleached yellow from time and exposure, it was a good board and a fun ride. The Log's survivors include Papa Smurf, the 9'0" Walden Magic; Mr. Anderson, the 9'8" Josh Farberow Noserider; the 6'8" Neilson Big Guy thruster; Blue, the 8'2" XXX; Porn Star, the 9'0" XXX; Nemo, the 5'10" Storm twin fin fish; and Alaia, the homemade failure. R.I.P. The Log - may your 9'6" foam and beautiful stringer soon ride again!

Stay tuned for the official announcement of the new recycled and reshaped "Log" in a few weeks. . .

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tipple's Beer Run (4-Mile Race)

Quote of the Race:
Random spectator friend at the finish line: "There's no beer."
Me: "WHAT?!?!"
Random spectator: "Yeah, right after the race started and ATF agent or someone showed up and shut them down because they didn't have the right permit."
Me: "Are you effing kidding me? That's horrible. What the hell? I'm going to get my T-shirt before everyone finishes and there's a riot!"

Location - Tipple's Brews, Gainesville, FL.
Cost - $30 FTC member pre-register, $35 non-member pre-register, $45 day of registration
Year of Running - 1st
Sponsor - Florida Track Club, Zen Fitness & Tipple's Brews
Charity - Fundraiser for FTC
Number of Participants - 417 (finishers)
Available Races - 4-Mile
Course Condition - Asphalt paved road mixed with concrete sidewalks. Flat, straight and Fast.
Pace Groups - None
Expo - None (packet pickup is on race day)

Considering this was an inaugural race with what seemed like a surprisingly good turnout there are definitely some hiccups that FTC needs to and will undoubtedly address. Overall pre-race organization was with good intention by organizers, but seemed to be overwhelmed by too many participants in a confined space. It's a Friday race that starts at 6 p.m. Registration and check-in was open at 4 p.m., but most of the participants did not or could not show up until after 5 p.m. since it is a workday. We showed up at 5:10 p.m. and waited patiently in an awfully slow line just to pick up our bib numbers and timing chip in a room at Zen Fitness that was not big enough to accommodate the number of people trying to check in at the same time. It would have worked better if it was in a larger room or simply set up outside with more volunteers. I also saw a few participants that were obviously there for the beer rather than the run who were very confused by the check-in process, which was set up logically, but could have been more efficient. Parking was stressful, but organizers gave plenty of warning and suggestions through email prior to the event of where to park. It is, after all, Gainesville. Spectators were average for a race like this as a few people turned out along the course to ring cowbells and there was a large crowd at the finish line cheering the runners down the chute. Support along the race course was excellent with plenty of aid stations handing out water. There was even an aid station (official or unofficial?) with 1/2 mile to go handing out only beer!

Gainesville is Gainesville; the largest university in Florida and one of the largest in the country. There is traffic when school is in session so plan accordingly. There's a regional airport in Gainesville, good taxi services and excellent bus service. Interstate 75 runs within a few miles from the start line making it an easy drive from other major cities in Florida.

Goodie bags (reusable sack-style backpacks) were given out after participants finish the race. Inside the bags were a really nice race logo engraved drinking glass (obviously meant for beer), various sponsor information and coupons and a mini-box of cereal.

At the finish line water and Gatorade were available as well as bananas and Domino's pizza (cheese). The top 3 male and female finishers received prize money $200/$100/$50. Each master winner got $100. The top 100 male and 100 female finishers received a black cotton T-shirt with race logo. NOTE: Organizers advertised that many prizes would be raffled off at the post race party including someone winning their "weight in beer." I cannot comment on if this happened or not because after we found out there was no beer we left to drink beer elsewhere.

I was very excited about this race the second I heard about it. In fact I registered weeks before Jenny did. Some of our Gainesville friends were planning to participate so the idea was we could visit them, run the race and Jenny can do her last long run (22-miles) before her marathon with some of her other friends also doing it since I'm not training for the full marathon.
We both took off work early Friday afternoon and started the 2+ hour drive to Gainesville and arrived about an hour before race start. There was an amazing turnout (I guess what you would get in a college town if you're advertising free beer) and most of the participants looked like college age students -- young and fast! There were even multiple guys and girls wearing bloomers with yellow racing flats! We found our friends and had time to socialize before the start.
As planned I decided that this race should be hashed. About 15 minutes before the start gun I found my way back to the truck and made my famous concoction of Redbull, Gatorade & Vodka. The last time I dabbled with this nonsense was the Run for Haven 5K back in March. This time around I made the drink a little weaker so I wouldn't be too buzzed. By the time of the start I was wide-eyed and happy and ready to run like a maniac.
It was a relaxed start. Basically everyone followed the race director up a small hill and into a residential neighborhood and then blew an air horn and everyone started running. We were all sort of in the middle of the pack. I took off running and didn't look back. Jenny and Katie decided to fun run together (they have a 22-miler ahead of them this weekend) and I started passing people and working my way into the right pace group of people for me. There were several guys dressed up as pink flamingos (did I mention there was an unofficial costume contest) yelling at the top of their lungs "cawwww.... acaaaaawwww." It was so annoying I decided to run harder to get away from them. There were a group of guys dressed up as construction workers, but looking like that guy from the Village People. Running next to them I could hear them laughing at the pink flamingo guys and joking that they had been outdone and that they were supposed to be "those guys."
I ran harder.
At this point I can see the lead pack breaking away about 100-yards up the road. They are absolutely flying at right around a 5-minute pace. The crowd thins out as we make a turn off a main road and down a narrow sidewalk. I pass up the aid station water to save time. It's only 4 miles and the weather is great!
At the halfway point I'm breathing hard, too hard. I look at my watch and see that my split time between mile 1 and 2 was sub-7 minutes. Damnit! This is way too fast and knowing that I'll never be able to sustain it I slow myself down to try and catch my breath. Other runners begin to pass me. In fact, runners pass me for the rest of the race. I've definitely started too fast on this one. During the last mile I'm forced to slow down a little bit more. I think the vodka/Redbull/Gatorade is getting the best of me. Note to self: Don't do this again no matter how "fun" it sounds!
With 1/2 mile to go I see an aid station. I toy around with the idea of taking a sip of water or splashing it in my fast. Right as I'm about to reach out for the cup I see that it's beer and quickly retract my arm. I'm already feeling like I'm going to hurl and the last thing I want to do is slam a beer or pour it over my head! I get a short burst of adrenaline during the last few hundred yards as there are people cheering and the finish line is in sight. I was hoping for anything under 30-minutes. Before the race I used the McMillan Running Calculator with my Half Marathon PR from a couple weeks ago to estimate my 4-mile race time and it came out at 31:12. After that I decided that anything better than 31:12 would be acceptable, but anything sub-30 would be fantastic!
I crossed the finish line and the clock read 30:35. I'll take it! Someone cuts off my chip and hands me a ticket for a T-shirt. Kickass! I was fast enough to get a T-shirt. I turn around the side of the chute and look back and Jenny and Katie are finishing about a minute behind me. We then learn about the "beer tragedy" going on and assess the situation. Apparently, they are only allowed to serve beer within Tipple's Brewery. Now let's face it. That business is not large enough to accommodate 500 people. Soon a line forms outside the business and stretches down the block. I'm told you have to drink the beer inside as well and can't have an open container in the parking lot. This does not sound fun at all. Then we hear that Florida Track Club is giving out refunds. Soon we decide to go get cleaned up and go out for proper post-race beer and food at a restaurant of our liking.
For the record, I believe that FTC did everything properly and despite a situation gone bad, they handled it the best they can. Giving refunds until they ran out of money and offering to mail refund checks to anyone else that wishes to get one was a good call on their part. I don't know the entire story, but it sounds like some authoritative official has it out for one of the sponsors or FTC. I mean, who the hell shows up in the middle of an event and shuts it down with no warning? They had to have known before hand and could have saved a lot of trouble by making a simple call to the race director BEFORE THE RACE! Florida Track club has issued this statement on their website and emailed it to all the participants:

First and foremost, thank you. The outpouring of support over what happened at the Beer Run was astounding. It was clear things did not go as planned, but the number of people who were supportive and encouraging far outweighed the other side of things. Thank you so much for your support.

Secondly, I want to express my most sincere apology. My team and I poured ourselves into this race and truly left no stone unturned. The specifics regarding the permitting issue are still murky to me, but separately, 2 of our representatives were told on 2 different occasions that there was ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM with the beer festival. In fact, they accepted payment for the permit. To put it mildly, we were surprised when an enforcement agent showed about 30 minutes before the event and left us with literally no option but to shut down. It was heartbreaking personally, but more so because the Florida Track Club is a non-profit organization that supports so very many other non-profits in town and this race was our most critical fundraising event of the year.

Third, and most importantly, our sponsors, Zen Fitness and Tipple's Brews had NO part in any piece of the event's challenges; this was a Florida Track Club event and the blame lies with us. These are two local businesses that made tremendous efforts to support this event and our community, and they should be commended. Zen Fitness and Tipple’s Brews are models of what good corporate citizens should be and I hope you'll join me in thanking them for their leadership and generosity.

Finally, I want to apologize on behalf of the Florida Track Club. We were told and believed we were in compliance. It's not clear what we should have done differently but I will tell you we WILL make every effort to make this right. We look forward to partnering with Tipple's Brews and Zen Fitness again to bring you an absolutely amazing follow-up race & beer festival.

Again, thank you for your support & encouragement. We hope you'll give us another shot - we can't wait to throw the kind of party you deserve.

Jake Logan - Race Director

I will close with saying that no matter who was at fault for what happened, it's a shame that an event meant for a good purpose in a town where hundreds of similar events happen each year purely for profit was hampered down upon by some stupid rule or misunderstanding. If FTC holds another event similar to the Beer Run, I WILL give them another chance and participate.

My official stats:
79th out of 417 total finishers
8th in my age division out of 39
Official time: 30:35
Watch time: 30:25
Average pace: 7:38 (with positive splits, lol)

Tipple's Beer Run (4-Mile Race) = C

Post race celebratory drinks at The Red Onion!