2015 USA XC Championships Race Review

Generally speaking, this is a somewhat out of the ordinary race review. However, due to a lack of road races during these colder months, and in light of the recent Disney film McFarland, I have decided to review the 2015 USA Cross Country Championships which took place on Saturday February 7th.

Read our race review of the 2015 USA Cross Country Championships.

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Long Run Hydration Best Practices

2015 is well underway, and we, at Runners On The Go, are guessing that some of you had a new years resolution to run your first Marathon. However, longer runs means more variables; More things to consider. What to wear, what eat,  what and when to drink.

Long Run Hydration is one of the most common topics of interest that running customers have. Many people wonder how much they should hydrate, when they should hydrate, and what they should hydrate with on the long run.

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5 Tips for Scheduling Your Races

Whether you just made your new years resolution to finish a 5k, 10k, or Marathon, or you have been running races for years; choosing which races to run, and finalizing your race schedule can be a daunting, and time consuming task. As much as race calendars like Running In The USA, RRCA and (shameless plus) Runners On The Go help. Sometimes having all that race info at your fingertips can make the process even more time consuming.

As January ends and you start putting the finishing touches on your race calendar, consider these 5 tips.
1. Know Your Running Goal
Before you decide what races you are going to do this year, you have to know what you want to gain from the experience. Do you want to run a PR? Do you want to finish your first Marathon? Do you want to run 50 Marathons in 50 states?
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. Any goal is a good goal as long as it is challenging but achievable. However, before you go around choosing your races and checking your shirt size you have to think about things on a macro scale.
Write down what your goal is for the year and then attack your race scheduling with that goal in mind.
2. Timing of the Race
Not the literal timing of the race, but the time of year. A successful race calendar builds. Of course this depends on when in the year your target race is and when you start your training cycle. For example if you are running the Boston Marathon, then your Schedule will look different than if you just want to finish a 10K in 2015.
Either way the concept is the same though. The Schedule builds. Running and racing are like anything. Practice makes perfect. If your goal is to finish your first 10K this year, and you can’t do that right now, you wouldn’t expect to step out the door tomorrow and trot a nice, easy 6.2 miles.
You want to asses the shape you are in now, and assess your goal. You want to set intermediate goals that you think will be stepping stones on the way to reaching your goal.
Pick a race at the time of year when you expect to be able to reach your primary goal, then set intermediate goals at checkpoints during the year that will help you to reach your primary goal. The first step to setting your race calendar is choosing the dates that you will attempt your primary goal, and then choosing the dates that you want and expect to be able to achieve your intermediate goals.
3. Pin Down the Racing Logistics
Once you have your goal in mind Consider the details of the race. What is the race distance? Do you need a fast course? Do You want to travel or make a vacation out of it? Do you want to achieve your goal at any one particular race? Does your goal involve more than one race?
Pinning down the race logistics may be easy to do, or it may not be. For example, if my goal is to beat last years’ time at my local 5k, then pinning down the race logistics is simply a matter of finding out the race date, and time, etc.
However, if You are trying to achieve a Boston Qualifier then there are all sorts of logistics to consider. You will have to have a course that is an official Boston Qualifying course, you will want a fast course, you will want a group of people, or pacer going the pace you need, etc.
Based on your goal decide what kind of race you need, answer the classic 5 W’s and 1 H who, what, when, where, why, and how. You don’t have to pin down exactly what race you are doing, just think about what you will need and where you will need to be to achieve your goal.
You may not be able to pin down all the logistics. For example, if you live in Alaska and you know you need to run a Marathon in December, you may not know exactly where the race is going to be. That’s OK, work out as many of the details you can.
4. Do Your Running Road Race Homework
Now that you have a general idea of when and where you are racing, and what type of race you need to be in. It is time to start actually investigating races. This is where you will use Road Race Calendar websites. Use them to search out the time of year and location (if you know it) that you will need.
Don’t just choose the first race you come to that will be sufficient for your needs. Do your homework. Does the race have a website. Check the online reviews of the race. Check the results. Have they been having more and more finishers each year? Growth is a sign of a quality race. Look at the course, will it be sufficient for your goal? Check the results to see if there will or will not be a group of people to run with if you are trying to achieve a certain time.
Just like you would do your homework before making a purchase of a certain product, you want to do it before committing to a road race.
5. Create the Rest of Your Race Calendar
Essentially step 5 is to repeat steps 1 through 4 for the rest of the races that will lead up to your key race. For all of your lead in races you will have to consider what goals you need to set to be able to achieve your primary goal. You will then decide when you would like to achieve those goals to give you the best chance of achieving your primary goal and seek out races at those times.
Runners use many different methods to put together a race calendar. Also, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to running. Some people may need to run a race every two weeks for the months leading up to their goal. Others may not want to run any races. If you have a coach or running advisor, I would strongly urge you to consult with them when putting together your race calendar. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy it. Running can be a physical and mental struggle, and you don’t want to make it stressful by sweating over your race calendar. Remember that you are setting goals, and putting together a race calendar because you enjoy running.

Layton Classic Race Review

The Layton Classic sets a high standard for local road racing at a distance that is not marathon or half marathon.

I have never been a full on Race Director myself. I have, however, been involved in the process. From what I have observed, when people go from putting on a 5k to putting on a 10k, the distance doubles, but the workload only increases by about half. However, in going from putting on a 10k to putting on a half-marathon, the distance just about doubles, but the workload triples or quadruples.
This makes the racing experience rather interesting. I expect completely different things from a half or full marathon than I do from a race that is 10k or shorter. Different things make them a good race. In short, there is a different feel and a few different grading criteria.
However, for continuity’s sake, I will review the Layton Classic based on some universal criteria, baring in mind that it is not a major full or half marathon.
Layton Classic finish line - A family friendly event
The Layton Classic is a Family Friendly event held right next to the Layton Surf and Swim
Packet Pickup: A- I can’t speak for the packet pickup that occurred the night before the race. I am sure that it was well run and had very few hitches. I picked my packet about an hour and fifteen minutes before the start of the race. There was no line, I was able to get my packet and get out of there in less than five minutes. The race also did a great job of sending e-mail reminders so I knew exactly where to go, when to go there, and what to have. The only reason the packet pickup does not get an “A” is because about 40-50 minutes before the start of the race a line started to form that got pretty long. If someone wanted to come and pickup their packet in this time they would have had to stand in line for awhile. That being said, I think the folks picking up packets that close to race time expect a bit of a wait.
Course: Grade – A (disclaimer, I ran the 10K and only did a portion of the 5k course during my warmup, but the 5k course seems to follow a similar layout with about half the climbing to go along with half the distance.)
If you are looking for a course where you can set a big pr without a lot of work . . . Run the Deseret News 10k. If you are looking for an honest course that you can run fast on, but will challenge you, the Layton Classic is for you. The first half of the course is a mixture of flat and slight uphill. The race finishes at the same elevation that it starts at, so you do the math on the second half of the course. If you are running this course hard you will feel tired at the halfway point, and you will likely be behind pace. I would advise you not to despair. I felt the same way and I negative split the second half of the race by about a minute.
Layton Classic 10k Start Line
The start and finish areas were well organized and there was plenty of room.
Aid Stations: I really can’t speak much to quality of the aid stations as I didn’t stop at any of them.
Volunteer Support: Grade – A-. Really this should be an A, I am being as nitpicky as possible with this grade. The volunteer support was great. I always knew where to go on the course, everyone was friendly. Everyone cheered. The only complaint (and this is very small) was that the folks at packet pickup didn’t know the difference between a “cotton shirt” and a “tech shirt.” They asked me my shirt size and I asked if it was cotton or technical. I generally get a medium if it is a cotton shirt because it will shrink to fit me. The girl told me it was cotton, I got a medium shirt, only to realize that it was actually technical. I didn’t care enough to say anything. As I said before, this is a very small deal. The support/volunteer crew was fantastic.
John Coyle winning the Layton Classic 10k
After a few bad races in a row it was nice to log a win.
Shirt/Swag Bag: Grade – B. I really have no complaints on the shirt, but I have a LOT of race shirts, and even more technical shirts. The gift and curse of managing a running store is that you have access to all the best gear. To get an A from me in this category you have to step up your game. The Layton Classic shirt is a standard long-sleeve technical race shirt. Here is my logic on the grade: In order to get an A the shirt has to be a nice technical shirt (think brooks, nike, asics) Because of the cost involved with having upper echelon tech shirts only very large races have them, but they are out there. Overall I would say the Layton Classic shirt is an average tech shirt for a race of it’s size, but it gets graded up for being long sleeve and for the design. If average is a C and it gets graded up for those items, that makes it a B in my book. That being said, it is right on par with any shirt in Utah road racing, and DEFINITELY one of the best shirts amongst races that are not marathons or half-marathons.
Post Race food: B+ Post race food may be the most circumstantial grading criteria in this review. What is a B+ for me might be an A+ for someone else and might be an F for someone else. That is the nature of food. The Layton Classic had water, gatorade, and a lot of fruit. I cannot remember all of the different fruits exactly, but if there is any kind of fruit that you like, they probably had it. There was also some bread available. I personally snacked on some grapes, watermelon and bread. This category gets points from me for having grapes and watermelon. These are some of the less common post race fruits. However, some points come off for a lack of more substantial food. Gagels, granola bars, and chocolate milk are some standards that I expect. Races earn major points for creamies or some other type of ice cream, cookies, doughnuts, great harvest bread (I mean actually having great harvest come and slice different kinds of bread and providing honey and butter,) and probably some other things that I am not thinking of or haven’t come across yet. In short, the healthy stuff is great, but I just ran a race, I deserve to be a little unhealthy.
Timing and Results: Grade – A- in my opinion there is little wiggle room in this category. either it is some form of A or it is an F. At the end of the day the timing and results are 95% of what I care about, and if there is some kind of mistake, I am not happy. That being said Stride Racing always does a great job of timing races, and the Layton Classic posted physical results quickly (you don’t always see that these days.) The only complaint I have about Stride Racing is that I am not a big fan of the chips that you tie into your shoe lace. This isn’t because I don’t like having them on my foot, but because I don’t like having to deal with getting them snipped off after the race. I also don’t like the e-mail you get from stride racing if you forget to have your chip snipped off after the race (it makes me feel guilty,) and I definitely don’t like having to mail the chip back to them (it’s not that I want it, it’s just that I am lazy.) I prefer disposable chips preferably the ones that are right on the back of the bib number.
Awards: Grade – A+ I will start this by saying that awards mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For example, many people are very fond of race medals. I personally feel like I have too many of them and they just take up space. The reason I am giving the Layton Classic an A+ in awards is completely because of the awards ceremony. First of all, They give awards to just about anyone they can justify giving awards to (overall top finishers, age groupers, etc.) That is pretty standard. What is not standard is the energy at the awards ceremony. If you are one who sticks around for awards ceremonies, you know they are mostly awkward, and boring, and pretty much everyone is sitting around waiting to see if they won some big raffle prize (a treadmill or something along those lines.) That is not the experience you will have at the Layton Classic. Race Director, Ken Richardson keeps the energy up, and the ceremony, while long, is perfectly paced. There is ample time allowed for competitors to come get awards and raffle prizes, but things keep moving. 3-5 raffle prizes are given between each age group and gender award to keep everyone involved. All awards ceremonies are long. Prior to September 6th, I thought they were all boring as well. The Layton Classic proved me wrong.
A Picture of a guy celebrating toward the finish line of the Layton Classic 10k
All in all the Layton Classic didn’t get straight A’s, but that is just one opinion, and a very critical opinion at that. I, personally, consider myself a very harsh grader (I am like the college professor who takes pride in his class average being 54%.)There was no category that the race botched, and I was actually very pleased with how well the race was done. Some may disagree with me on the specifics of the grades in any individual category, but I can guarantee that you would be hard pressed to find a better race experience within the state of Utah, especially by a race that is only 5k or 10k in distance. I would highly recommend the Layton Classic.
John Coyle is a recent Graduate of Weber State University where he ran Cross Country and Track. He  now runs professionally. He also manages Teton Running Company in Idaho Falls, ID and is the Marketing Manger for RunnersOnTheGo.com. 

Running May Be Ruining Your Smile

Running May Be ruining your smileIt’s no secret that running can be great for the mind, body and soul, but what it’s doing to our teeth may surprise you. According to the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, a new study is linking an increase in cavities and tooth erosion among runners and athletes who train for long periods of time, multiple days a week.

“Expending that much energy requires an increase in carb and sugary food intake like sports drinks and protein bars,” explains Dr. Jessica Emery, cosmetic dentist and owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft Chicago. “Sugar feeds the decay causing bacteria. Our defenses against this bad bacteria live in our saliva. Because of this sugary food, the dry mouth that comes with the way we breath during our exercise and the dehydration that comes with sweating for long periods of time, these make a perfect trifecta for cavities.”

There are a few things you can do to combat this.

  • Always drink plenty of water before, during and after your workouts. If you are a distance runner, consider increasing your salt intake which allows your body to retain water.
  • Carry some sugar free gum to pop in right after you finish your run. This will get rid of the dry mouth and allow your saliva glands to start working again.
  • Continue to brush and floss regularly and if you are experiencing increased sensitivity or pain, see your dentist immediately.

Travel Race Checklist

Think you have all the gear you need for a race? Think again!

Experienced ultra runner Marie from San Diego once forgot to pack her contact lenses and had to run a 100K wearing her emergency pair of glasses–not her running sun glasses–that proved to be a major annoyance.

Many of us have our own ways to make sure we take all the necessary gear when we travel to races. But overlooking a seemingly insignificant item can become a big problem. Planning ahead is important, so start a list several weeks before you travel and add to it as you think of things to take.

Travel race checklistYour list will depend on the time of the year, time of day and location of your race. It’s a good idea to do a historical check of the weather at your location and pack specifically for the typical weather. Then add clothing to be prepared for unusual conditions. This is particularly important if you are running at elevation–think June snow storm at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, east of San Diego.

It’s best to have several thin layers you can add or shed as the weather dictates. The old standby, a garbage bag cut to fit over head and arms, is always a good idea. Avoid fabrics that absorb water when they get wet or ones that tend to chafe.

Matt from Columbus, OH goes to thrift stores to get his layers so he can drop them along the course without worrying about trying to recover them later. Many races give clothes along the course to charities, so everyone wins.

One other consideration. When flying to your destination, if you choose to check some of your luggage, make sure you carry on your essentials for race day. A one-day delay in locating your checked bag could be a disaster on race day.

How do you make sure you’ve packed all the gear you need? Let us know. We’d like to hear from you.

Race Review – Quad City Times Bix 7

Header photo for the Quad City Times Bix 7 race review by RunnersOnTheGo.com

The Quad-City Times Bix 7 Miler in Davenport IA, is a road running tradition in the U.S. With over 10,000 finishers in the 2014 race, this race is larger than most Marathons. I was lucky enough to run in the 40th version of the race this year.  

 
Writing race reviews is an interesting practice. I have raced all over the U.S. in different types of events and in different sizes of road races. I have run races like the Houston Marathon and Lilac Bloomsday run with tens of thousands of finishers, and I have run races with 30 people standing around at the starting line. 
 
In my experience I can generally break races up into 4 categories.
 
Large: Over 10,000 runners
Medium: 1,000 – 10,000 runners
Small: Less than 1,000 runners
Very small: usually a few hundred runners at most. 
 
Of course this is more of a continuum than direct categorization, for example the Bix 7 (10,000 runners) experience is nothing like the Boston Marathon (35,000 runners.) However, the point is that it is not necessarily fair to compare races directly. A race like the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon (about 1,200 runners) is going to be graded with different criteria in mind than the Bix 7. 
 
Runners Cross the Bix 7 40th anniversary logo near the starting line of the race
Near the starting line
 
For example, one of the primary grading criteria for any race is the expo/packet pickup. In many small races you walk into the local running store pickup your packet, browse a little, and walk out. Medium size races usually have some kind of hotel or conference room reserved because of the needed space. At any large race you can expect a full-blown expo. However, the concept of the size of a race being on a continuum comes into play in the quality of the race expo.
 
The Bix 7 had a full blown expo, however, it was nothing compared to the Houston Marathon, and Half-Marathon. This is understandable though considering the difference in size between the two races. The packet pickup was extremely organized and I had my packet in hand in less than 5 minutes. The only thing I noticed was a lack of “swag” in the swag bag (there wasn’t really any free stuff in the packet.) Of course, the swag bag is never the reason anyone runs a race, but it is always nice to get some free stuff. 
 
The expo itself was somewhat unique. Because of the size of the race, many of the vendors you would see at Expos like the Boston Marathon bypass this race. The only shoe company to be found was Skechers. The local running store had a large portion of the floor space at the expo, and the rest of it was taken up by local businesses, sunglass makers, artists, running clubs, etc. The expo also featured autograph signings by Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Bill Rodgers, overall  the expo was unique, but lacked energy (even adding some music would have helped.) 
 
The Bix 7 played host to the US road 7 Mile Championships this year, which will, I imagine bring a different feel to the race than in other years. For starters, the elite field was composed, primarily, of American citizens (not exactly the standard practice for the Bix 7.) This brings an interesting dynamic not only to the elite field, but to the race as a whole. At a race with 10,000 runners there will be a lot of serious and semi-serious runners who are not elite. Having most of the professionals be American, and hosting the U.S. championships created an environment where the general participants could relate to the awards ceremony, and interact with the top finishers. It made the race at the front much more interesting to the people who weren’t actually involved in the race at the front. I think this is especially true because of the course. 
 
The front of the Pack, 100 yards  into the race
Can anyone spot me?
 
The start of the race has plenty of warmup area, but, at least in the area I was in, an abundant lack of bathrooms. It is rare that a race actually has enough bathrooms, but I waited in line for about 20-25 minutes. After they bring all athletes to the starting line, there is an air-force flyover, the singing of the national anthem, and presentation of flags, along with a LOT of announcements. The patriotism was great, but when people warmup for a race, they don’t want to stand around for 5 minutes cooling down. I think the race directors could benefit from a bit more brevity. That being said, I have helped put on a race and I know what an emotional and relieving experience it is when it actually goes off, thus I have a bit of understanding for all of the announcements thanking this person and that person.
 
The presentation of the flags at the starting line of the Bix 7 road race 2014
Presentation of flags
 
The course for the Bix 7 is an out and back. LITERALLY an out and back. There is about an extra half-mile when you cross the starting line until you hit the finish line at the end, but other than that, you follow exactly the same route back as you did out. This is another unique and fun feature of the race. I mentioned before the connection between the casual participant and the elite field. I think a big part of that connection is the fact that the casual participant has the best view of the race. They get to see the top guys go by, then they see how far back the guy like me is (I got 20th overall, not my best race.) They get to see the first woman and how that race is playing out. They literally get to watch the race at every level from elite, to emerging-elite, to local-elite, sub elite, etc. It is exciting for the participant/spectators, and it is exciting for the competitors. 
 
The other major feature of the course is that it is one big hill. You start at the base of Brady Street hill which is just over 1/4 mile long and pretty dang steep (I think it probably looks more steep as you are standing at the base of it, staring up, about to start a 7 mile race.) I will say that I would rather have it at the beginning than the end, but it definitely makes for a somewhat technical course, because you have to decide whether to go after the hill that is right at the beginning of the race, or stay conservative. I elected to stay conservative. I am not sure it was the best choice. At the top of the hill is a half-mile of the only flat section of the course and then you hit a long gradual downhill of varying degrees for another mile and a half. The last mile on the way out and the first mile on the back is 3-5 rolling hills, some of them very steep, some gradual, none that are all that long. Then you ascend a mile and a half, and hit the flat. By the time you get back to Brady Street hill at mile 6, you are grateful for the downhill, because you are pretty well spent from all the climbing on the way back. Even still though, the last mile is a screamer. If you are on pr pace with a mile to go, you will most definitely hit it. Think of this race as a 10k, because the hill and some adrenaline will carry you the remaining 3/4 of a mile. 
 
Finally there are 3-4 musicians and/or bands stationed throughout the course. This is always an interesting feature of a race. It can either be exciting or motivating, or aggravating if you are tired and the band is playing a song you don’t like. 
 
I had a somewhat upsetting finish, however, I was in the first handful of people to finish. The only complaint I have about the post finish area is that the racers are guided like cattle quite a distance from the finish line, if I had to guess I would say it is between 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile. The post finish area contains your pretty standard foods, chocolate milk, fruit, peanut butter crackers, water, gatorade, etc. The finish area is a general party, but nothing out of the ordinary, in fact much of it is on black top that is continually heating up as the day goes on, however, it is complete with a massage tent, which is always a nice feature. 
 
Some friends of mine were in the top 10 and I stuck around for the awards ceremony and took some pictures. One unique feature of the awards ceremony was that the top finishers got real trumpets mounted on a plaque, and by real, I mean playable (the top female tested it.) The city of Davenport has strong ties to Jazz music and this is a nice tie in. 
 
The top male, Sean Quigley, and the top female, Molly Huddle hold up the trumpets they received for winning their respective races at the 2014 Bix 7 road race
Sean Quigley and Molly Huddle hold up the victory trumpets.
 
One thing to remember at this race, or any other race of this size, is to remember to make arrangements with your family as to where and when you will meet after the race, and be sure to include your phone in your drop bag. Also, keep in mind that there may be added security measures since the Boston bombings.
 
Costume contest participants pose for a photo at the 2014 Bix 7 road race
Another unique feature of the Bix 7 is the costume contest
 
Overall I give this race a “B.” It is a solid race and could easily get an “A” depending on the preference of the writer, but I try to be as impartial as possible. I think there are some things that could be improved. Mainly the packets, some added energy at the expo, more bathrooms at the starting area, and less time standing at the starting line. Overall, these are small details, the organization is great, and I guarantee this race would be a great experience for any runner looking for something outside of his or her norm.