Monday, May 16, 2016

ASICS Vine Body Sole Half Marathon Race Recap

Let me start out by saying a couple things.

First, I am well aware that there are many kinks in inaugural events/ races. Although this was the first year for the ASICS Vine Body Sole Half Marathon, this was not ASICS first rodeo, therefore I was expecting a bit much better... I mean, they sponsor the New York City Marathon for goodness' sake - they SHOULD have some resources they could have tapped into for assistance had they needed it (and, spoiler alert, boy, did they need it!).

Next, I realize that a few folks may think some of my opinions are a little too harsh, but I've gotta #KeepItReal, not only because I want my friends/ family/ followers to know what they are getting when they are spending their hard earned money on an event, but also because with my Fibro Fog I tend to forget things pretty quickly so I want to remind MYSELF of my thoughts on the event so I remember if I want to participate in following years.

So, with that being said, we might as well just jump right into it!

I won a free entry into the ASICS Vine Body Sole Half Marathon from an ASICS Ambassador. I was intrigued about the whole event so when I won the entry I was stoked! (I should note at this point that the only time I heard about the event was when I saw people giving away entries on social media... maybe that should have been clue #1, but I digress...)

With the race being female centric (I did see a couple guys on the course) and the cost in Napa being so expensive, the hubby and I decided he'd sit this one out! It was going to be a quick turnaround (I ended up leaving Friday morning around 4:50am and getting home around 5:40pm Saturday afternoon), but I was pumped for it all!

I packed my bags and made the 8ish hour drive northbound on Friday morning. My plan was to leave early enough as to beat the morning commute through LA so got on the road a little before 5am.

Used my Eagle Creek gear for the quick trip (along with the canvas bag I got
from Ford at Wanderlust). 

The drive was decent - but long on my own (remember, Ryan, Walt and I just made a similar drive a mere three weeks ago when we went to NorCal for our camping adventure that concluded with the Big Sur Marathon).

With the race being Saturday morning I was trying to hydrate on the drive which made for a couple extra pit stops along the way. My final stop was in Dublin for lunch (and yet another potty break) at Mr. Pickles. [Sidebar: Ryan used to call my parents' dog, Dizzy, Mr. Pickles so when I saw it come up on my Yelp app I knew I had to give it a go! And the "vegetarian sandwich on wheat with no cucumbers, tomatoes or peppercinis" HIT THE SPOT!]

Mr. Pickles was scrum-didily-umptious! 

I pulled into the winery that was hosting the "expo" around 1:30pm or so. As the saying goes, "you never get a second chance to make a great first impression" and I've gotta say, the impression that I received when picking up my bib definitely set the tone for the weekend...

Let's just say there was ZERO signage, direction or flow. I ended up in a restaurant asking if anyone knew where the race bib pick-up was and I was given very strange looks by all of the employees I encountered. Then I went on a search of the grounds and came across a couple of tents in a courtyard - BINGO BANGO! I asked the vendors if the bib-pick up was nearby and they all had puzzled looks on their faces... Okay, so I'll be doing this on my own...

I finally found a room that appeared to be the right area. When I walked in there was a "solutions" table. I asked these ladies if I was in the right spot and they said "For what?". Ah, so you're gonna be like that, eh?! I decided I'd try to figure this thing out without their 'assistance' since I had been around the block a few times when it came to races. There was a big table with a couple volunteers sitting at it. Thank goodness - I FOUND THE BIBS!

I was able to grab my bib but then was told to go back to the beginning of the table to pick up a bag. The lady at that spot then asked for my shoe size and found me a bag with a pair of socks in them that correlated. And again was left to fend for myself. I had to ask about the race shirts (I saw them behind the table but was never offered one or asked for my size). I knew we were supposed to get a pair of shoes with our registration and saw an area with chairs and shoes, so meandered that way, but had to figure out everything on my own.

I don't know if it was because I was wearing Brooks or they were extremely disorganized or the ASICS folks were just 'models' and not actually there to work or if they were just plain rude but the help (or lack there of) that was offered was comical. It was like ASICS was just using this event as an expensive and elaborate photo shoot and didn't realize or care that there were other people around or hoping to run a race.. But, hey, that's just my two cents.

Some of the details at the bib pick-up

Let's just say as soon as I grabbed everything I needed I was left shaking my head and crossing my fingers that the rest of the weekend was better organized. I made my way to our hotel and waited for Paula to arrive. Once we unpacked a bit I made sure to ask Paula about her expo experience, hoping that maybe I just caught the team at a bad time, but, in fact, she had a similar experience... BOO! We ended up staying in a hotel about 50 minutes away from the race due to cost and it was still uber expensive. For a "free" race, this was turning into quite the ordeal ;)

Paula and I wanted to take advantage of all of the events we could. She (and her sister-in-law) went to the workout earlier on Friday and we both wanted to try out the Sunset Yoga. Once it was time, we made our way to the winery for the yoga session (it was a different location than the bib pick-up, which I think is a little strange, but hey, that's just me). I was hoping to set up my GoPro like Ryan and I had done at Wanderlust, but when we walked in and set up our mats one of the ASICS folks asked us if we would go to the front row and took our stuff so it wasn't in the photos/ videos.

I do have to admit, the yoga was great! Like I have said before, I am not a yogi at all, but the stretching was just what I needed after the long drive up from San Diego County. It was a little strange to have a media and camera crew going around during the entire session, but if you could get over that slight invasion of space it was fine. Although afterwards I couldn't find the girl who had taken my bag and of course all of the other folks I asked just looked at me like I had a third eye or something. Finally I tracked down my gear so that Paula and I could skit-skat-scaboodle out of there.

Post-yoga glow ;)

I would have much preferred the succulents to the wine as a gift ;)

Although the yoga had given me a little hope about the weekend events, Paula and I were still pretty skeptical. The website was finalized a week or so before and the information provided to participants was so few and far between that we were honestly hoping when we showed up on Saturday morning there would be race... For example, we had driven around the area for most of the day (going to grab our bibs, to the different events, etc) and saw no signs that there would be a race the following day... No port-o-potties, no road closure signs, no nothing... Paula was able to find a map of the course when she grabbed her bib and was actually told that part of the race was on a trail... WAIT, WHAT?! Thankfully, just like with the majority of folks we came across, that person didn't know what they were talking about...

After a yummy dinner (and quite entertaining... I mean, with all of the wine tours folks can do in Napa, there are bound to be plenty of plastered folks nearby to people watch), we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the morning.

My #FlatCarlee was ready to rock, even if the race wasn't ready for us...
Race gear included a #WeRunSocial tankSparkle Athletic skirt, PRO Compression
(#TwoPairDontCare), Handful sports bra, Brooks shoes, Shwings, Road ID,
Garmin Forerunner 220Sparkly Soul headband, Momentum wraps,
and QALO wedding bands.

Paula was meeting her sister-in-law at another hotel that was offering a shuttle to the race, but I was very leery about the shuttle options so decided to drive and park at the finish (I had a dinner to be at in Carlsbad by 6:30pm so needed to leave right after crossing the finish line and based on my experiences thus far, wasn't sure if I'd actually be given a ride on a shuttle back to where we started). Since traffic seems to be horrendous in the Napa area I decided to leave the hotel around 4:45am so that I could get over to the race area around 5:45am (the race was supposed to start at 7).

Two mornings straight that I was out of bed before 4am - OUCH!

The finish of the race was at the same winery that the yoga was at on Friday, so thankfully I knew where I was going, because, honestly there was NO SIGN that a race was going to take place... Maybe it was because I was early, but all I could do was laugh because there was NOTHING! I pulled into the parking lot where we had been the day before and with no signs of life just parked. A few minutes later a kid came up to my window to ask me to move to another parking spot. Once I re-parked I heard the 'head parker' yell at the kid to have me move again. I asked him where to go and he said 'Well, you see that car right there, that's mine, how about you park by it and then we will figure everything out.'

I decided to sit in my car since it was chilly out and I was early, but I heard a fellow runner get out of her car and ask the guys where to go for the start. One of them said 'We will get you parked, but that's all we do"... WAIT, WHAT?! No one knows where we are supposed to go?! WHAT THE CRAP?! I know (from the map) that the start was across the street somewhere, so once the sun started coming up I figured I better start making my way to see if I could find this thing. I walked back up the driveway and saw a sign... I think it was the first sign I had legit seen all weekend.

I've never seen it, since I don't do scary movies, but is this how Children of the Corn starts?!

And it was pointing me INTO a vineyard... Well, since it was the only sign I had seen the whole time I figured I might as well try to follow the directions it was offering. Thankfully, since it was still somewhat dark out (there ended up being a decent cloud cover/ haze for the race), I was able to see some police lights flashing in the distance and remembered reading that we MUST cross where the officers were or would be in BIG TROUBLE, so made my way to the lights.

The kind police officer (seeing as so many of the volunteers or ASICS folks were less than friendly, it was great to have a smiling face to offer some assistance) made sure it was safe for me to cross and let me go. But go where?! Well, I saw some port-o-potties so figured that must be the way...

Funny story, there were runners lined up on both sides of the starting line until
about three minutes before the race... No one even knew which direction we were
supposed to be running... OH BOY!

I figured I must be early because there were like twelve people meandering around. I saw a 'starting line' so knew I was in the right place and figured everyone else was just on their way (I had heard from Dre that ASICS had 3,000 spots for this race, so I was interested to see how many folks would be running).

At least the grounds were pretty to walk around...

A few minutes later the shuttle that Paula, her sister-in-law and Dre were on pulled in and runners got off. We still had a while before race time (maybe 45 minutes or so), so we socialized and then figured we'd go see what the background at the end of the parking lot was. When I came I thought it was just an ad for the vineyard but soon we saw a line forming.

Low and behold it was a selfie station so we got in line and took a couple pictures. (If you watch the video below you can see me using the selfie station at the beginning... By the way, why is it that I keep getting caught by the cameras making a fool of myself?! Remember the Big Sur video?! Must be the bright colors I wear attracts attention ;))

I guess this is my "SURPRISE, THERE'S A RACE" face ;)

The ladies!

The girl who asked Paula and I to be in the front row at yoga the night before saw me and asked if we would take some pre-race photos for them. We went to the starting line and then one of the photographers looked at our shoes and noticed neither of us were wearing ASICS and whispered to the other that they couldn't use us... Like I thought, it was just about their product... Ah well, it wasn't like I thought we were gonna be famous from the pictures, but since the hubby (aka my professional and personal photographer) wasn't there, it would have been nice to have a few pics of us.

Paula thought it'd be funny to photo bomb improve my picture - it was ;)

With only about 10 minutes before the race we looked at each other and mentioned how the crowd was NO WHERE NEAR 3,000... In fact, I'd say 300 was probably a generous estimate (Paula joked that the bibs were alphabetical. She was 255 with a "V" last name so if that was the case 300 registered runners might have been right on.).

We joked and said that maybe we would be able to place in our age groups based on the size of the field, but then during the National Anthem Paula and I looked at each other quickly and mouthed "Alysia MontaƱo". Yup, the Olympian was just a few rows in front of us. After the National Anthem finished she walked back to run with some friends and Paula and I might have fan-girled out a bit ;)

Yup, we were 'those' creepers taking pictures with Alysia not knowing!

As we were getting ready to start the announcer mentioned that the roads were opened so we would need to stay within the cones and on the shoulder of the road... WAIT JUST A SECOND! This race was legit just on the shoulder or the road?! Well, I guess the lack of signage around town now made sense seeing as they weren't closing anything...

3, 2, 1 and we were OFF! Since we were starting in the parking lot at a vineyard, we ran down the driveway and then a couple officers had the road closed for a few feet so we could cross the street to get over to the shoulder... Yup, we'd be running with traffic (a big NO-NO) on the shoulder of an open road for this race... Well, that's interesting...

I think since one of the roads was the "Silverado Trail" and the map showed it a little 'off road', that is where the
volunteer got that it was a trail race... Glad it didn't turn out that way! 

I found a groove around mile 1 and decided I wasn't going to try and be a hero, especially with an Olympian on the course, but figured I'd run a comfortable race. By mile 2.5 or so we all started to spread out a bit (which was great seeing as the shoulder of the road didn't offer a safe way to pass other runners in most areas). At that point I decided I didn't need a super speedy time, but my goal for the rest of the race was to not let anyone pass me.

Around mile 3.5 there was a water stop and a relay exchange (yup, although no one really knew, there was apparently a 4-person half marathon relay choice for this race... I think the most people I saw at the areas throughout the course was maybe 5 or 6, so I guess 5 or so teams had heard about this option...). There were a few port-o-potties and I noticed that Alysia jumped in one. Around mile 4 I heard someone coming up hot from behind, but since it ended up being Alysia and she was technically in front of me I didn't count her as someone passing me. (It looked like she took the first 3 or so miles easy and then put in her music and took off for her workout.)

I wish I could say the course was amazing or beautiful or something inspiring, but, at least for me, it wasn't. Sure, we were running along the streets next to vineyards, but after one field of grapes they all pretty much look the same to me. And the whole running on the shoulder of the road didn't seem super safe so I was constantly looking down to watch my footing and around to make sure no crazy drivers were heading my way to hit me.

The first six miles or so my right shin was acting up. It felt tight, which happens when I go out too fast (although the pace I was running shouldn't have caused that issue), but it took a long time for the tightness to subside. Shortly after that annoyance went away my legs turned to lead. Any incline on the course (we had some rolling hills to deal with) made my legs SCREAM and remind me how I had done a hill repeat workout on Thursday. Thankfully I didn't go into this race thinking it was for a PR, so I was okay with a strong showing, even if that meant not overtly speedy (for me).

Well, I thought I was keeping a consistent pace, but as you can
see, I'm not the best at pacing ;) The rolling hills may have had
something to do with the differences of course...

It was a little bumpy along the way, but nothing too terrible

The last half mile or so was actually running through the vineyard (which meant loose sand, gravel, grass, etc). And even though I parked at the finishing area I didn't notice anything erected, so hoped that we were getting closer. I heard someone announcing names (or at least mumbling on a loud speaker) so knew I was getting close. I ended up finishing with a 1:47 (and some change) in __ place {yup, just like the rest of the details, the official results are MIA}.

I reached out to ASICS via Facebook and Twitter and they said they would "look into it", but since then I've received radio silence and haven't seen any word on when or IF results will be posted...

And my goal, to have no one pass me, WORKED PERFECTLY! I even picked off a handful or two of runners throughout the race. Even though it wasn't a PR, I felt mentally strong and kept chugging along even when I wanted to let off the gas (I think my latest read has truly helped!).

My watch was off by at least a tenth to a quarter mile starting by
mile 2... Or maybe the course was truly just short...

Once you finished you were handed a baggy with some treats in it. Although I don't like the plastic bag (I would love it if ASICS would have had a little reusable bag here), I do appreciate having everything all together rather than having to juggle and struggle to hold it all. One MAJOR bummer was the lack of water... Yup, ZERO water... They had some coconut water or some flavored stuff, but I just wanted your run of the mill tap water or a bottle of 'plain' water and there was none in sight! (Thankfully I filled my reusable bottle and had it in the car for the car ride home.)

With a lack of signage or direction, the hope is that you would find your way into the little finishing area and then realize that since your bib had tags for a 'keepsake' and 'wine glass' that you would find the wine glass tent to grab it and then would go inside to get a bottle of wine and medal. I don't drink wine, but you could have used your glass to taste the 4 options they offered before selecting the bottle you wanted. I asked one of the volunteers 'If I were to give this as a gift or bring it to a dinner party, which bottle would you suggest?' She gave me the Cab...

Don't get me wrong, it was a HUGE haul we got, but for $250 I'd expect that...
And for someone who doesn't drink wine or wear ill-fitting tops, the majority
of this gear will end up in my 'donation' pile. 

Since I had a dinner to get to by 6:30pm in Carlsbad, I had to dash, but I don't know if runners really would have stayed around long. Maybe if you were a wine drinker you would have, but with the cool, breezy weather and lack of much to do I would assume most folks grabbed their goodies and left. I said my good byes to Paula and her boys (who drove out to see the finish), then jumped in the car for the 8+ hour drive back home.

Such a WONDERFUL woman! And I get to see her again in just a
few short weeks for RnRSD! YIPEE!

Again, please do not read this recap and think that I am bashing the race or ASICS in general. I totally realize that there will be issues to work out with EVERY inaugural race and event (but for a $250 price tag, there were quite a few things that you would have had to write-off and dismiss). Hopefully, if this race continues in the future, some many of the mistakes or oversights that occurred this year will be corrected with upcoming events.

I stopped at the Napa Valley sign on the way out of town. Three girls were there and offered to take my photo if I took theirs. 

My honest opinion is that this was the worst race from start to finish that I have ever been a part of - the lack of organization, direction and thought put into the event was unimaginable and at points the only thing you could do was laugh. I felt as though I was an inconvenience being there, which started from when I arrived at the Expo and the feeling never went away. If I wasn't a runner or was new to the racing scene, I think this would have turned me away from it. Don't get me wrong, we had a GREAT time, but that's because we know how to make lemonade out of lemons and won't let a bad experience hold us down!

It literally felt like it was a big photo shoot for ASICS and their runners, with us peons just in the way and in the background. Even the photographers on the course were only there to shoot their ASICS runners (I saw them because I was close to a few of their runners, but they weren't taking pictures of the 'regular runners'). If this was a local race and I was given another free entry I might consider doing it again, but otherwise I would save my money (and time). Maybe I will be able to sell the shoes that came with the entry to recoup some of my gas money...

And, in case you were wondering, I made it home with 35 minutes to spare so got a chance to shower before dinner!

We clean up decently... Sometimes ;)

We had a Growth Group social that I was NOT gonna miss! Even if that meant
jumping in the car immediately after running to drive for 8+ hours on a Saturday.

Do you participate in inaugural events or wait until they are tried-and-true?


runlaugheatpie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SD Mom said...

UGH just UGH!

BustAGroove said...

Sorry to hear about your experience. For me what would be key: Does the race organization take public responsibility for the "misses", actively seeks post-race feedback from participants and shares its' plan for improvement the next race event.

Unknown said...

Holy whoa - and I agree with Maria. It's always interesting to see if the race company/owner/production team takes ownership over mistakes or misses in their event, and do they actually incorporate feedback. I'd be SUPER miffed after driving that long just to have a terrible race experience!

fancy nancy said...

Ok WOW! You would think with a name like Asics and a pricetag of $250 that it would have been a very different experience! It will be interesting to see what their response is since I'm certain you are not the only one who noticed all these things!!

As good as it Gets! said...

I wonder if Asics pulled people off the event when they only had 10% of the bibs sold? I don't think this was marketed very well either. Seems like they could have put a postcard re the event in every pair of shoes they sold on-line or in their stores. It is a shame because the idea of the race is appealing. We'll see how they respond.

Anonymous said...

I'd think they'd really have it together too, so I can only imagine how disappointed people who PAID for the race were. Either way, bad form. Notably, I have a friend who has done photography at Nike Women's events and said he was given explicit instructions on ages etc. he was "allowed" to shoot for media purposes. It's only about an hour from me, but after hearing about how it went for you and Paula I don't think I'd ever give this race a chance. First impressions, like you said.

Anonymous said...

After having a bad experience at an inaugural event, I am in the never again place for them.
I will only sign up for races after they have been around awhile.

Two Runners Travel said...

Wow, I can't even come close to topping that for a bad race day experience. It seems weird about the whole shoe thing and $250 for a race is really steep, especially a bad race. Thank goodness you did not have to pay the entry fee.

Miriam said...

Destination Races is a local for-profit company that put on the race, and their races are extremely expensive because they sell out to tourists wanting to visit wine country. They've received complaints about issues (price, quality of goods, transportation), but they don't care because they sell out. Also, road closures are nearly impossible to get in Napa County. I'm not surprised by your report, and I doubt they'll put in on again (I'm a local).

KookyRunner said...

Yikes! Sure inauguralraces have some bumps, but this is just ridiculous! Asics should definitely know better. Like you said, they sponsor the NYC Marathon pretty flawlessly so this race should have been a piece of cake for them!

One of the reasons I am not running the Rock 'n' Roll Brooklyn race this year is because it was a complete disaster last year (which was their first year). Sure, I like Rock 'n' Roll races, but like you I always like to be honest, especially when it comes to recommending races!

Bree at Clarity Defined said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bree at Clarity Defined said...

Wow. I would be so disappointed - especially driving all that way from SD and a turn around trip! I appreciate your honestly and I'm sure your other readers do too. It'll be interesting to see if your results are ever posted and/or if ASICS reaches out to you.

Unknown said...

Wow, what a hot mess. The biggest thing I can't get over though is that this race costs $250! That's insanity especially for a small race without closed roads. Sure the swag is good but I would rather pay less and just buy the shoes I actually run in.

Erica @ Erica Finds said...

$250!? Um - WTF? No wonder no one registered! I can't imagine who figured that pricing out. And, good thing they didn't have 3000 people if the roads were not closed. I would be so mad if I paid for that!!

Bain said...

When I saw the price tag, I was shocked. Then I learned you get a pair of shoes, and figured they were handing out either the cumulus or the nimbus (please say yes) so I could attributed $150 of the $250 to shoes. Okay, but in this part of the state, $100 is still expensive for a race. (I registered to run three half marathons for $199 earlier this year.) Maybe if you figure you'd pay $25 for a yoga class, bringing the race cost to $75... I had some serious FOMO, but since I know how overpriced everything in Napa is, I just couldn't justify the cost.

(I did the Zooma series race in Napa, and the host hotel with the cheap rooms was still over $200/night AND they wouldn't let anyone have a late check-out because they had filled the hotel up. This meant anyone who took more than 2:30 had a hard time getting to both shower and enjoy the after party, as most of us had to check out of the hotel before we could go to the party.)

I wish these California wine-themed runs would go to less expensive places than Napa, or get hotels at reasonable prices. Healdsburg is lovely, and has all sorts of hotel options. Geyserville is lacking in hotels, but would make a lovely race.

Wait, hold up. I'm re-reading this. You were ONLY on the shoulder of the road (not the shoulder plus a part of one lane)? You were running WITH traffic? Hm. I wonder which race management company ASICS hired to put the race course together, because that is super no bueno from a safety standpoint.

Toni @ Running, Loving, Living said...

So sorry that you had a bad experience, inaugural events tend not to be the best, but I definitely expected more from this race.

Kristen said...

OMG this is crazy! I've never had a race experience like this and I can't imagine how the people who paid $250 felt! The whole thing sounds super gross and fake, especially how you didn't get in any pictures because of your shoes! I'm so glad you wrote this honest recap, I think it will help a lot of people make an informed choice before spending so much money!

Janelle @ Run With No Regrets said...

Wow, what a disappointment! I can't believe that race cost $250! You would think that the runners would have a better experience to pay for so much. Unfortunately it sounds like a cash grab. Congrats on your race though!

Unknown said...

This is almost comical! Almost. I've never been to Napa, but I've heard it's an "interesting" place... like, not like San Diego or any other place where people are friendly. Hopefully you placed in your AG!!! Also, if those are Kayanos in a size 10, SOLD!

Tracy said...

This race sounds like a clusterf$&k. There, I said it. Sorry you had a horrible experience, but I can't imagine how the people who actually spent money on it felt!

I actually have done one inaugural race, and that was a local 5K in 2013. Believe it or not, it was awesome and super well organized. The only complaint I had was lack of chip timing, but they fixed that the following year.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and they did not make a good one for sure. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a one and done race. =P

Unknown said...

No. Just no. So sorry you had that awful experience!

Anonymous said...

I am a local as well and I do not agree with your assessment of Destination Races. ASICS created the price-tag, the marketing, the goods, DR was not responsible for any of that. I would definitely not categorize Destination Races in the "don't care because they sell out" mindset. ASICS is the owner of this race, they were calling the shots.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I was there too, won an entry as well. My experience was completely opposite. Loved every second of it. I got to the expo around 11am, it was much more organized at that time, maybe was a different crew. I did question the running with traffic though. Thank goodness we didn't have to do that long.