Biggest Loser 10K Recap

I love “The Biggest Loser.” I don’t watch every single season but I usually watch a few episodes from every season. If nothing else, it helps motivate me at times I’m feeling low. I wish I could hire Bob Harper as my personal trainer. When I initially lost weight, I used one of the show’s DVDs on a regular basis so I feel a special connection to the show.

So when I saw “The Biggest Loser” was sponsoring a 5K/10K Run/Walk in D.C., I knew I wanted to sign up. I decided to go with the 10K to keep me on schedule with my training for the 10 miler I’m doing in October.

Unfortunately, this was hands down the worst race I’ve ever participated in.

Saturday was a prelude to the disaster that was about to come. Packet pickup was at Penn Social in, shocker, Penn Quarter. Luckily I can walk there from my apartment. Everything associated with the race was going on downstairs. And it was chaos. The area was way too small for the number of vendors, tables and activities that were part of this mini race “expo.” You could barely move around down there. Thousands of people were registered for this event and yet there were only two lines (three for the 5K) to pick up your race bib. So the poor volunteers were trying to go through a box with half the alphabet of last names to find race bibs. Then you had to go stand in another line to pick up your shirt (which I must admit was actually pretty nice). All but one lady working that table seemed clueless about how to pass out shirts. I was going to take pictures at the “expo” but it really would have been impossible.

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Race shirt. Please ignore the fact that it’s on a large pile of laundry.

I thought all of this might be a fluke. Certainly these folks know how to plan an actual race course right?

On Sunday, I got up at 7 to make sure we got out the door in time for the 9 a.m. start. Here was probably number one. Most races I’ve participated in start at 8 a.m. or earlier. In the summer, it’s a necessity in order to beat the heat. Although I love being able to sleep in, I would have loved it more if the race had started at 8, when there were still some clouds and the temperature/humidity were as tolerable as they were going to be for the rest of the day.

Problem number two (something I can’t blame on the race planners) was my Garmin.  Something is wrong with it and it never seems to charge anymore and it’s a couple of hours behind. I must get this fixed because my Garmin is sort of a crutch when it comes to racing. I have to know how far I’ve run and when I’m running longer distances, I HAVE to know my pace. I had to rely on Endomondo for the race. I thought it might be a good thing because it meant I wouldn’t obsess about distance/time, but man did I miss my Garmin.

Since the race was at RFK Stadium, we took the Metro over. Then it was a semi-long walk to the start. As we approached the start, I started to notice how much pavement we might be covering in this race. I really had no idea how bad it was going to be.

Before the race, several former contestants from the show tried to pump up the crowd. To be honest, the crowd was kind of lame. But maybe they were beginning to sense some of the problems that were to come.

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Former contestants. Don’t ask me their names though. I’m terrible with names.

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Joe enjoys taking pictures of me next to signs that say “Biggest Loser.”

When it was time to line up for the race, they told us all to cram into the corral (which was way too small) and to line up with runners in front, run/walkers in the middle and walkers in the back. No division between those running a 5K and those running a 10K. And trust me, some of the folk at the front of the corral had a very liberal definition of what “running” is. I made it into the second start “wave” and I was off.

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Joe’s view of the starting line.

It really didn’t take me long to dislike the race. I think I was a quarter mile in when I started to think, “Okay, this kind of sucks.” We were running in a sort of switchback pattern across a parking lot. I could only guess how far I had gone because my phone was having a problem picking up GPS and I was guessing based on my time. I don’t know whatever really happened with Endomondo during this race. It would tell me each lap time for each mile but I could never get the screen with the map and elapsed distance to show up. I only tried a couple of times though because my fingers were sweating too much to swipe the screen of my iPhone most of the time.

When I looked at the course map before the race, I thought we were going to run some of the way on a trail next to the Anacostia. So imagine my surprise when I finally rounded a curve under a bridge, after endless switchbacks, and saw…endless concrete. The entire race would be run on the stadium parking lots. There was nothing scenic or pleasant about it. It was just all baking pavement with zero shade. I was trying to remain positive but really, it felt miserable. And what made it worse was knowing that we would basically be running two “laps” of this course for the 10K distance.

The next problem was the mile markers. They were no where close to being right. I never saw mile 1. Oh wait, yes I did. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3. Mile 2 popped up first when, according to my phone, I was only a little more than a mile in. The mile 3 marker might  have been more on target and Joe was there to take a picture of me as I went by. I could see the finish line in sight and I briefly flirted with the idea of quitting and just crossing the finish line for a 5K instead of veering off to continue on the 10K path. I just really didn’t want to run through more hot parking lot. But I made myself continue and figured I would be rewarded since the mist tent for the 10Kers was right at the veer off point. Soon I would be refreshed.

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Joe with his feet up watching the race. Slacker.

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There I go! Don’t ask me why I’m smiling. I was NOT happy.

And then there was almost no water coming from the mist tent. It would have been more refreshing if Joe had just spit on me as I ran by. Thankfully there was a water station just beyond the tent so I just grabbed a cup of water and dumped it over my head. The water was so cold and I was so hot that I lost my breath for a second when I dumped it over me.

So I kept on slowly plugging away. The course was so poorly planned that we had to cross over the path of walkers/runners who were still back near mile 2 (and in a few other places). I made it to what I’ll call the mixing bowl of the race. It was basically a water station where about four different paths converged. And since the path wasn’t clearly marked, those of us doing the 10K had no idea where to go. I spent a minute or two asking the people at the water station which way I was supposed to go. Most of them had no idea. I finally came across one very flustered volunteer who told me which way to go.

And this is the point where I just got pissed off about everything. I didn’t want to go another step because I felt like I was wasting my time. There really wasn’t just a way to quit because there was no short, easy way of going back. So I stopped and walked. I texted Joe that the course planning sucked. He said he could see it from his vantage point near the finish too. I stubbornly walked for what I guess was a half mile or so. I was in a negative spot. Finally I told myself that the faster I moved, the faster this whole experience would be over. I had managed to cool off a little so I picked it up and ran to the end, albeit, kind of slowly.

I finally crossed the finish line (although my phone never told me I had crossed the 6 mile mark so the course was short), got my medal and was immediately herded into a caged area to get my water and fruit. People were PACKED into this area. Great idea for a bunch of sweaty hot people. It felt hotter than it did when I was running.

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At least I got that damn medal.

Joe had somehow missed me when I ran by him right before the finish line so I called him and we found a spot in the shade so I could cool off for a second before trudging back to the Metro. I met a girl on the platform and we instantly bonded over our misery.

I really have no idea what my splits were because I’m not even sure if my Endomondo was right and the course was short. Some folks were calling it a 9K. Anyway, my official time was 1:00:41. Not exactly the time I wanted but that’s what happens when you get lost on the course and then you get pissed off about it.

There were two highlights of this race.

1. Seeing the folks who participated in this race. There were a lot of first time runners (hope this doesn’t discourage them from future races) and people with shirts declaring how much weight they had lost. And there were some folks who were clearly beginning their weight loss journey but who had made the decision to come out and get moving.

2. I ran in my new New Balance running skirt and it was awesome. Very light weight and comfortable. I paired it with a New Balance shirt I had that feels like a feather and it kept me as cool as I was going to be with clothes on.

I wanted to like this race but it clearly needs better event planners. To start, move the starting time back, break up the start waves and choose a different course. No parking lots please. I’ve seen a few complaints on the race’s Facebook page so we’ll see if they make any improvements.

Thankfully, we had something to look forward to after the race. We met up with Mom and Dad for lunch at El Patio so Dad could pay off his debt. He lost our NCAA Tournament brackets this year so lunch was on him. I was starving by then so it was great to have something like that to look forward to. The food was fantastic. Better empanadas than Julia’s. (Don’t tell Joe I said that.)

So a disclaimer after the longest post ever. I’m going to be cutting back on running for the next few weeks for reasons I don’t want to put on a public blog. I’m not stopping all together, but just cutting back. So I might not be updating quite as often. Hopefully that means I just have really interesting things to share when I do.

What’s the worst race experience you’ve ever had?

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