What a differance a few years can make?

I was at Ashland, WI this weekend for Shelley’s first half marathon, The Whistlestop Half-Marathon. I used to have very high regards for this race, but after this weekend, I left with a new impression. I think some of the problems is that is is hurt by past success… Thank god there is a great course and a scenic course, of I am not sure i would suggest anyone go there again.

It all started going wrong Friday after got to the event check in… At check in we were informed we have to pick up the race chip at the start. That seemed goofy. (Later when we looked in the bag, we learned there was also no pins for the number.) We went to the pasta dinner… The lines were long. Not sure they were prepared for the amount of people they had waiting. When we got to the end of the line, there was no pasta. As we waited about 3 minutes, a guy came out and said “we can not cook it fast enough”. This was early in the night, about 6:15 PM… When we left the line was longer and people appeared to wait longer than we did…

Ok, not a great start, but we went back to the cabin and went to sleep. We woke to howling winds and snow. About an inch. The road was a little icy. Temp near 30 but the wind chill must have been singe digits. Great…

We went to the start I had Shelley wait in the line for the biffy while I got the pins and the chip. I went to a barn to get the chip (and there was again a line!) and I asked about pins for the number. No one knew. One person suggested I go out by the start (a few hundred yards across a field) and check there. At that location, a person to me to go back to a table near where I got the chip and they were on the table… less than 50 feet from where I got the Chip.

Then there was an announcement the race was going to start 10 minutes late. Well, after waiting so long for the biffy in the frigid cold, Shelley and I went to the car to warm up. The car was fortunately parked about 30 feet from the start. We saw people lining up to start and got out of the car to see what was going on Before we knew it, the start gun went off? But there was less than 200 people in the race. I thought there was 1,500+… THEY STARTED IT ON TIME WHEN WE WERE TOLD 10 MINUTES LATE… I really had a felling they had no clue what they were doing!

There were still people coming to the start confused when the male leader came by (3 mile mark). Over a thousand started over 5 minutes after the real start, as they were told the race is going to start 10 minutes late. Many people just sat in the cars trying to stay warm and got out of the car at 8 minutes after, 2 minutes before the assumed start.

The road was slick but the sun was coming out and it was warming up. I just stood there waiting for Shelley and saw so many people confused as they came to the start line and there was not official start for them…

Then my day was spent seeing Shelley every 2 miles. Watching the aid stations, I was so happy I had her carry a bottle as the stations were to small to serve the crowds that were there… Very short and understaffed.

The race was a success for Shelley. She was about 2:35 and really was fresh the whole way. She said it was enjoyable course. She wanted to get out of her wet clothes but wanted to get here finishers shirt. Oh, the put that a block away in another tent… She went to the tent to get her finisher shirt. GUESS WHAT, they were so understaffed, she stood outside the tent for about 10 minutes waiting in line to get her shirt… And the wind chill was easily in the low 30’s. She got real chilled being in wet clothes.

So we were really having a sour taste of the experience, when we decided to pay $7 to have her time posted on her medal. We dropped it off, they said about 30 minutes. We waited30 minutes, then I checked and we were 14th in line and it took about 2 minutes each. So we went to the entertainment tent and got Hot Chocolate. We waited in the tent for 30 minutes and went back, we were now 13th in line… I asked what was that all about and he just said “we put all these ahead”… They were from the other races (10K/5K). He said another 30-40 minutes. Now we could have went to shower and ate already… But we had wasted over an hour waiting for the medal the way it was. SO we decided to go the the grocery store and returned in an hour. The medal was done… BUT THEY SPELLED HER NAME WRONG! We just shook our heads and left.

Shelley fortunately loved the course and the success she had. She did not like the weather and as she has little experience with races, she did not get bothered by the rookie effort I saw by the under-prepared organizers this weekend. So many errors and lack of communication. There are so many ways to make this easier (Like give pins in the packet, give the chip the night before so the race site is not so congested and packed trying to get people the chip, like put the shirts near the finish and hand them out near the medals, by learning to spell, by being prepared for larger numbers.)

I left with the impression they can not handle a larger high class event. They have done a great job based on my experience with a smaller race, but this was way to much for them to handle. If they are trying to get the size down and make it more manageable, they are succeeding as I will no longer suggest this as a half or full marathon to participate in…

I did take many pictures. They can be seen at: http://picasaweb.google.com/peasemines/DropBox?feat=directlink

Carry on…



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3 responses to “What a differance a few years can make?

  1. kurtn

    It was good seeing you out there! What a cold day. I agree with all of the organizational comments…pretty bad. Congrats Shelley! Hopefully we'll see you guys again soon!

  2. Kel

    Sorry to hear about all of the problems – I'd always heard good things about this race in the past. Hopefully the organizers will figure things out and get the race back up to standard.Congrats to Shelley!!

  3. Beth

    Congratulations to Shelley! I have heard similar comments about the race this year. I also heard that hotels that charged reasonable rates last year required two nights and had their rates ridiculously high. Too bad, as it sounded like such a cute race. So glad your wife had a great day dispite it all.

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