Thursday, October 29, 2009

The DKSVM: A Quick Review

I don't want to criticize the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon, because it was a fun run and, geez, I PR'd. The course — I did the half, the out part of an out-and-back — was an interesting mix of urban (downtown), neighborhood (Willow Glen) and semi-natural (the paved Los Gatos Creek Trail). It was also 13.1 miles, just like it was supposed to be, and the weather was beautiful, clear and crisp as the race got under way at sunrise, and sunny for the post-race goings-on. And those goings-on weren't bad, with a free fish taco, a nice change of pace.

What the hell more do I really need than all that?

Still, there were a few issues with the race that others might find helpful to know about as they ponder which events deserve their hard-earned entry fee. Some things that didn't bother me too much but might be a concern to you:

1) Weak Web site with "coming soon" pages (for course elevation, for instance) that never came and confusing or non-existent instructions on race logistics.
2) Almost non-existent crowd support. The marathoners probably had it better as they neared the finish line downtown, but for the halfies it was a pretty lonely affair.
3) I enjoyed the several miles on the paved path but from time to time was almost frustrated having to deal with non-racers out for their Sunday more run, walk, ride or blade. Hey, I'm glad they were out there gettin' it done, but in a race it's nice not to have to zig and zag to avoid baby strollers.
4) The volunteers were enthusiastic and polite, but they didn't always have answers to questions and didn't appear to have strong leadership guiding them. At the finish they ran out of water (which was handed out in paper cups). And none of the volunteers knew where bathrooms were or where we were supposed to pick up the bus to get back to the start. And when we did figure out where to get the bus, we had to stand in line for well over a half-hour.
5) As mentioned, back downtown at the marathon finish, they had some Mexican food, fish or chicken tacos, rice, beans, good stuff. But again there was no water to be found. In fact, to get anything to drink we had to reach inside the ropes to where the marathoners were finishing and grab a Gatorade.
6) The on-course sport drink was Ultima, which is OK for a 5K but for a half marathon or marathon? The drink has no carbs. You need carbs to do a marathon, and could certainly benefit from some in a half marathon.
7) There was no effort made to seed the runners at the start. So I'm starting out intending to run 6:35 miles having to dodge people who are running 9-minute miles. Not a big deal, but kind of irritating and, moreover, quite avoidable.
8) There were no results posted until the next day, and the results included no split times. This is another thing that's not a huge deal but you'd think the SILICON VALLEY MARATHON would be as technologically with-it as other marathons, many of which now offer 5K splits, real-time tracking and results immediately upon completion. The DKSVM had none of this.

To wrap things up I'd say that overall, the race had a kind of sleepy, relaxed feel. Which makes sense. It's a bit of a forgotten race in Northern California in October, following fast on the heels of the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose 1/2, a typically flashy Competitor Group Inc. franchised event with big-name pros - Meb Keflezighi among them this year - and a field nudging five-figures, as well as the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, which is actually much more a half-marathon (12,730 finishers) than a marathon (4,351), but is any case large. So there's a virtual guarantee, coming amid that glittery clutter, that the DKSVM is going to be small (around 2,000 racers total). And perhaps the organizers know that, and it leads them to be too unambitious in their staging of the event.

In sum: A good race that I quite enjoyed, but one that could be better.

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