A Runner’s Prayer

Christmas Coupon Codes!

I took last week off, so I apologize!!  Since I love to give, here’s some running coupon codes and discounts for you!

  1. Rock n Roll New Orleans: $14 off with the code SAINTS until midnight tonight CST
  2. The Recovery Sock: a Schwaggle deal for 40% off for 2 pairs of compression socks + free shipping.  You an active.com member? Log on and get another 15% off! Pay $35 and some change for a $70+ value! Expires tomorrow and limited supplies left
  3. Running Plans: Free through Active and Sony! Marathons, Half Marathons, and 10Ks
  4. Capital City Half Marathon: Not sure if this is still active, but you can try EARLY11 or CHAMPION
  5. Running Warehouse: up to 60% off with Active Advantage for 2 days!
  6. Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: Didn’t get in to this year’s race? Volunteer race weekend and get guaranteed entry into the 2013 race. Yes, it’s true…I volunteered (and ran) last year and I didn’t have to worry about getting into the race off the lottery this year 🙂
  7. Broad Street Fitness (Philadelphia): Live in Philly, Old Towne Specifically? take a peak at this PhillyDealYo for a 66% off deal for BSF!

A Response from RAM Racing…5 Days later

Last Sunday, I emailed RAM Racing after their disastrous, hot mess of a race in DC (The Hot Chocolate 15K/5K).  I even blogged about what I wrote to them. Friday, at 6 PM no less, I got a response from them.  This is what they had to say:

Dear Ms. Guenther:

Thank you for your email. We will certainly review each of these points you bring up and figure out how we can make the entire event better from it. Again we apologize for your bad experience, this event did not meet our standards for our races and we promise to learn from these mistakes.
If there are any other concerns you may have, please don’t hesitate to email us.

RAM Racing
D.C. Hot Chocolate 2011
Participant Relations

No name associated with it, just like their anonymous email from their President earlier in the week.  Never again RAM Racing. Never again.

The Race That Was A Hot Mess- A Response To RAM Racing

Dear RAM Racing,

I emailed you a whole host of concerns yesterday after the hot mess that was the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K in DC.  I’m not holding my breath for a response from you, but I have some issues with your apology or lack there of.  Good for you for having 10 years of experience putting on races and having 100 ‘flawless’ races in the past- friends of mine who’ve run the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K/5K beg to differ for the past few years, but that’s another story.

In your apology, you essentially blame everyone but yourself.  You take absolutely zero accountability for things that were well within your control.  The race was far to big for 20,000 runners and should have been capped well before that.  Having a race at a place with no metro access is beyond stupid for a place like DC (take a look at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run, the Suntrust Marathon/ Half Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, the Army 10 Miler just to name a few- all are located within walking distance to the subway).  How you handled race day parking was beyond ridiculous.  One lane of traffic in? Are you serious?  And the fact that parking was oversold, parking passes weren’t checked and you never followed your own rules for who should have been let into the parking lots.

You also blame traffic on accidents occurring on the highways leading into the National Harbor.  All the media outlets I checked (news stations, MDOT, etc) have no record of any accidents in the vicinity of the race, nothing on Facebook, Twitter or that showed up on the day of the race.  You provide no record yourself of where the accidents happened and more than a few people have disputed your so called accidents.

Runner safety was by no means looked at in this race.  I’m not sure who’s idea it was to have runners on 2 lanes of a 3 lane portion of highway with traffic in the 3rd lane going 55 miles an hour, but it compromised runner safety in a huge way.  Additionally, a bike and running path for 20,000 people with one side that was stone and another that was a 10 foot drop into the Harbor?  I’m not buying the narrow start leads to a narrow course.

I’m not asking for a refund. Why? Because I’ll never be running one of your races again.  You dropped the ball on this race for me and unfortunately for you, you only get one first impression with me and it was a nightmare.  Make a mistake once, shame on you; make the same mistake twice, shame on me.  I’ll take my money elsewhere to a race that can deliver what they promise.  Your race was a hot mess and an epic fail.

Sincerely,

Christine

An Open Letter to RAM Racing

I’ve never, in all my races, felt compelled to email the directors of the race because of so many things that went wrong.  Yesterday’s Hot Chocolate 15K changed that so RAM Racing got an email from me regarding their fiasco of a race.  Here’s what I wrote:

To RAM Racing and whom it may concern,

Yesterday, I was one of 20,000 runners signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15K and was one of many who was disappointed with the race.  I know that you have probably received many emails from frustrated and unhappy runners, but I felt the need to comment on yesterday’s race.  I’ve participated in 3 marathons, 13 half marathons, 4 10 mile races and multiple races ranging from 4 miles to 9 miles and yesterday was by far the worst race I have ever participated in.  My areas of concern are as follows:
  1. Runner’s Safety– the first 5 miles of the race were on open highway, using 2 of 3 lanes of an active highway lane with moving traffic in the 3rd lane.  I was pushed into cones because of the amount of runners and saw a few runners fall due to runner congestion.  If something were to happen where medical attention would have been needed, there would have been no way for it to get there.  The last 3 miles of the race was on a narrow path with one side being a significant drop into the harbor.  With a race of 20,000 runners, again if something happened, there’s no way medical attention could have easily gotten to the injured party.
  2. Location– I’ve done races in Washington DC before (the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, the Suntrust Half Marathon and the Marine Corps 10K) and all have been easily accessible via metro and public transportation and in areas that can accommodate the amount of runners registered for the race.  The National Harbor, though a beautiful place to visit, is one of the worst places to have a race in DC because it’s hard to get to and clearly, couldn’t deal with the amount of people yesterday
  3. Traffic– although you claimed the back up leading to the race was due to an accident, I looked on multiple news outlets yesterday and couldn’t find any accidents in the area where runners and volunteers would have taken to get to the race.  I took the shuttle in from Crystal City and we sat on the Wilson Bridge for a good 20 minutes waiting to get into the start.  There were runners who allowed for ample time to get to the race and sat in traffic anywhere from 1-2.5 hours to move only a few miles.  It was such a bottle neck trying to get into the Harbor, it was nearly impossible to do so. Additionally, while on the shuttle, I saw runners who were passengers jump out of their cars to run to the starting area.  Incredibly unsafe circumstances for them to be in.
  4. Communication– both leading up to the race and at the race, I found the communication to be very poor.  The “Fun Fact Friday” emails were beyond confusing of what to in terms of transportation and parking.  Additionally, I requested a seeded corral and had to submit results on 5 different occasions and had to email at least 3-4 times to try and figure out the issue which was by no means on my end, as I submitted PDF results each time I requested a corral.  At the race, the delay in start times were difficult to hear if you could hear them at all and I never heard once of an  official start time for the 15K after it was decided to move back.  I got some information from Facebook on my phone that you posted but I shouldn’t have needed to go that far.
  5. Shuttles/ Parking– I was one of the few lucky ones in that I didn’t have the hour + wait time to get on the Crystal City Shuttles back to Crystal City, but more effort should have been made to secure more shuttles if that was going to be one of your main sources of transportation.  As to parking, many people complained of multiple issues with it.  Since I didn’t go that route, I’m not going to bring that up, I just hope you listen to what those who did are saying.
  6. Delayed Start- never in the many races I’ve done have we had a start pushed back to over an hour later with little explanation.  I’ve been at races where maybe 5-10 minutes of a delay, but not 64 minutes.  The only reason I was able to hear was something about shuttles needing to be moved off the course, which shouldn’t have taken that long to begin with.  I was in C corral and saw at least 5 runners decide to leave because they were sick of waiting or they had other places to be.  As runners, we prep around when we’re told the start is going to be and I was no different.  I was out of water by the time we started and my legs were tight because anything I had done to warm up had gone to waste.

I realize you’re getting a lot of information, but many of us are frustrated.  I spent $65 on registration, drove 4 hours on Friday night and booked a hotel room and was highly disappointed.  As much as I appreciate the volunteers (I’ve volunteered at many of the races I’ve participated in), I don’t understand how the volunteers get sweatshirts and the runners get a low quality jacket.  We would have been fine with a higher quality shirt, tech shirt, long sleeved shirt, anything. Additionally, we were told at 3 pm yesterday an update would be coming soon.  It’s 11 AM on Sunday and we’ve still heard nothing.  I really hope you take this to heart and something is done to prevent issues of this magnitude in the future.  Additionally, something needs to be done for the runners who headed home and couldn’t run due to traffic issues.

Thank you for your time.

Will Not Run For Chocolate Again

I was really looking forward to the Hot Chocolate 15K in DC, I really was.  It looked like it was going to be a good time and they threw in chocolate.  I should have known things were going to go downhill real fast a few months ago when people didn’t hear about getting seeded in the corrals after a good month.  I myself had to email in 5 different times with proof that I deserved a spot in the C Corral. There were also countless “Fun Fact Friday” emails that really weren’t fun at all, but emails explaining (or attempting to explain) how to get to the race, parking and all the pre race stuff.

Earlier in the week, I emailed a friend of mine who was also running the race and lives in DC.  Since I was leaving for DC right from work in Bethlehem, PA and it’s a good 4 hrs to DC from there and I didn’t know what time I was going to leave, I needed a back up plan to be safe.  Come Friday, I left around 445 and actually made pretty good time.  I got to DC around 9 or so (which is when the expo closed) and was able to meet up with my friend Dave who picked up my packet on Wednesday with his.  He was out for happy hour right by my hotel in Crystal City which worked out for both of us!  I did some last minute race checks and saw they were suggesting runners get on earlier shuttles so I had 5 alarms set for between 5:20 and 5:40 (the shuttles were a short walk to my hotel).  When I went through my stuff, I took a look at my jacket which was a medium like I asked for, yet it still doesn’t fit right.  I don’t understand how clothing manufactures act like women don’t have an extra part to worry about up top, I mean really!  I was expecting more than a cheap jacket and a bib in my packet- how about some freebies?? At least the bib is interesting

I woke up around 530 and got ready.  My stuff was put out the night before so it was more of get up, change and go.  I was able to hop on a shuttle pretty quickly at 6 AM and then stuff hit the fan bad.  What should have been 20 minutes point A to point B ended up being around 45 minutes.  We sat and inched along the Woodrow Wilson Bridge for a good 25 minutes.  I saw runners who were passengers getting out to run to the starting area which I would have loved to do but with no luck.  I don’t know who’s idea it was to have this thing at the National Harbor (although a good place to visit), but it was a logistical nightmare.  People who carpooled over had to have minimum 2 people in the car and each had to pay $10 at the expo and have some sort of pass showing when they got off the ramp, but not all were checked.  There was also no sort of Metro close to the Harbor.  Any race I’ve done in DC (The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, the Suntrust Half Marathon, the MCM 10K and my parents have done the Army 10 Miler in addition) have been within walking distance to public transportation. I wonder why?!?

I was able to find a tent with a heater in it and stood close to it for awhile.  It also had volunteer sweatshirts in it. As it got closer to what should have been an 8 AM start, I snatched a sweatshirt to keep me warm while the 2 volunteers were busy and headed to the corral holding area and to the bathroom.  I also realized that they hadn’t started the 5K yet and it was 7:45 (it was suppose to start at 7:30).  I couldn’t even hear what the guy on the microphone was saying as to why there was a delay, but I figured it wasn’t going to bode well for the 15K.  I started searching Facebook and saw that people had been sitting in traffic trying to get off towards the Woodrow Wilson bridge and had been sitting for over an hour and 15 minutes, some people over 2 hrs and they had left at 5 AM!  Somehow, the 5K was pushed back to a 8:15 start so people could get to the start if they were in traffic (which they were blaming on an accident. For the record, there was no accident according to many who were stuck in traffic).  The 5K finally started at 8:15 and by then I was cold.  Any warmth in my muscles was gone…I’m glad I hajacked that sweatshirt and don’t feel bad about it one bit.  15K runners were getting annoyed and at one point, you could hear people chanting “What do we want? To run! When do we want it? NOW!”

Hot Chocolate 15K Volunteer Sweatshirt vs Cheap Jacket (back)

We were let into corrals at 8:20.  I kept texting my mom complaining on how we hadn’t started yet and I had no good reason why. I

Sample text of me complaining about a late start couldn’t hear what was being said and I was in the front of C Corral!  We waited…and waited…and waited some more.  We heard something about moving shuttle buses off course (why they were there, I don’t know) and then continuous “we’ll be starting in 15 minutes” announcements.  Come 8:50, we still hadn’t started.  I watched a good 5 people give up and leave the corral all together because they were so annoyed.  After waiting for 55 minutes, Corrals A-D and more people behind us started chanting “Let’s Go! Let’s Go!”  I had no feeling in my feet and my legs were stiff- not good if you’re a runner. At 9:04 AM we finally started.   A full 64 minutes after we were suppose to start, we finally started.  Needless to say, people started cheering (I was one of them).  After 2 straight hair pin turns, there was a water station which would be one of the aid stations after mile 5 and people were snatching water since most of us had already dug into our own supplies.

The first 5 miles were all highway.  Yes, the place where cars go a good 60 mph.  They had 2 of 3 lanes of one side blocked off for us.  The only good thing is that there was a housing complex on the side and a mom and her son were outside and the kid was in his PJs giving high 5s.  The 5K split for some reason was on the ‘out’ portion of the loop and not the back loop of the split.  What was horrible was that there were construction trucks passing us plowing off fuel which made it hard to breath.  There was also the issue of the first 5 miles being ridiculously narrow. You couldn’t get around people and it was a good 4-5 people across out and back so when you had people going both ways, it was crazy.  At water stations, there were so few volunteers, runners were grabbing or pouring their own water or gatorade.  Mile 5 took us back towards the start and miles 5.1-9.3 were going out and around the Harbor.  We ended up on the bike/ running trail which again was so narrow, it was crazy.  We ran into more water stations that were poorly staffed and volunteers yelling there was water on the next table but no one to hand it out.  The last 2 miles were along the harbor water itself so there was room for like 5 people and no place to get over without hitting stone walls or a 10 foot drop into the harbor.  I was so mad when I finally finished.  I didn’t pay for a horrible course, a race to start 64 minutes late and to have other runners get stuck in traffic for 2 hrs because it’s apparently a good idea to have 20K runners all drive themselves to a place with little parking and one way in. Did I mention the course felt about .1-.2 of a mile short??

My friend Dave, who picked up myself, had too much fun Friday night and missed the race, but I told him he didn’t miss anything which is true.  How do you not talk to race directors who work major DC races to figure out some good places to have a race??  And starting over an hour late- UNACCEPTABLE!!  The hot chocolate and ‘fondue’ at the end didn’t even make up for the race.  The volunteers got better swag then the people who actually paid for the race and overall, it wasn’t safe for the people actually running the race.

Apparently the RAM Racing people met this afternoon and we were suppose to be looking for a statement “soon” and that was 4 hours ago.  People are so frustrated and upset with today’s experience, that a group, Epic Fail- Hot Chocolate 5k/15K.  I’ve done my fair share of races (3 marathons, 13 half marathons, 4 10 mile runs and however many 10Ks) over the years and don’t expect races to be perfect, but today was unacceptable.  Apparently, 75-80% of registrants finished, but I’m not so sure about that one.

Never again RAM Racing, never again.

Running for Chocolate

Today, I get to run for Chocolate. Hot chocolate and fondue to be specific. I made it to DC last night in 4 hrs from Bethlehem, PA. Not bad since I left at 445 and it was a Friday (then again I avoided 76 and 95). A HUUGE kudos to my friend Dave, who’s also running, who picked up my stuff for me. With it, the first ever seeded bib for Christine :-$

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