Race: Adidas Split 16k – http://www.totalrunning.com/new/evento/SPTMCAR1463509567  

Runner: Julie Usplit 16k finish

Date: 6/12/2016

Location: Chapultepec Park, Mexico City, Mexico

Results – 1:27.13

3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most

  1. Exploring more of Chapultepec than just the small 2 mile circle I normally stick to. It was great seeing so much more of it, especially early in the morning before the rest of the city was awake
  2. The proximity of the race to our apartment; I was able to walk just 25 minutes to the start, with a little bit of jogging as a warmup
  3. Being a part of the running culture in another country and city, especially in a city as big as Mexico City.

Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Packet pickup – It was at a mall, on a Saturday, on the very south side of the city, about 15 miles from the actual race location. It’s difficult going much more than a few miles in a car here, so the trip to get the packet took about 4 hours and cost more in Uber fees than the race fee. To make it worse, they moved the site of the packet pickup the day of, so we were walking around the mall, clueless as to where to go, until we spotted a guy with a race bag and he explained where it was.

Also, the race had lots and lots of turns and little out and backs. We took about 25 turns on the course and took 180 degree turns at least 5 times. I definitely lost momentum with every turn and turnaround and was a little miffed at some runners who decided to pass on turns, especially the narrow ones, as they’d cut right in front of me and then I’d nearly clip their heels. I’m amazed the winners ran as fast as they did (2 men under 51 minutes and many more under 1 hour!).

Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race

Group stretching. I knew to expect it because Matt did it has the Toluca marathon the weekend prior, but it was still a little weird. 15 minutes before the start 2 guys got up on a platform in front of the group and led us all in stretching and calisthenics. I went along with most of it, and so did about half the runners.

Also, another thing I knew to expect, is that about 75% of runners wear their race shirt the day of the race. Had it been as short as a 5k, I would have joined in, but given it was almost 10 miles and my first race back, I didn’t want to chance suffering through miles of chaffage from wearing a new shirt the day of the race.

Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular

It was my first race back since becoming pregnant and giving birth via c-section, so it was really cool for me to get back in the racing culture again. While I ran a little slower than I would have liked, I still think I ran to my potential given the shape I’m in, given my training, and given the altitude here. My goal was to break 1:30 and I ran 1:27.13, so not bad!

Also, I love racing in other countries. It’s a cool glimpse into what’s normal for that country and/or that city’s running culture. For the most part races are the same, but there are enough differences that make these races all the more memorable. I just wish I was in better shape to be able to run faster and be closer to the front of the pack, or at least the front of the average Jane runners.

Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Altitude makes a difference! I wasn’t sure if the race would be flat or not, as I only saw a course map a few days before the race, and even the tiniest of hills were difficult. We gained about 350 feet I believe, according to my Garmin, and most of it was in just a couple hills. Definitely struggled there.

Other tips – Be ready for something to change regarding the race. Just a few days before the race I received an email saying the location of the race had changed (seriously, how does that happen?), so I’m glad I paid attention to that. Even the packet pickup changed the day of the packet pickup.

Bring your own toilet paper (really, to any race here and abroad). The porta potties didn’t have any and thankfully I brought a little ziploc of toilet paper just in case. Many people used the hand paper towels that were in the hand washing stations (really, hand washing stations but no tp in the porta potties???), but had those not been there, people would have been pretty screwed, unless they all know to bring their own tp too.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Train in altitude as long as possible. Don’t start out too fast because it hurts even more at altitude and is harder to recover on the run. I went out a little too fast for the shape I’m in, at 8:45 pace, and suffered the first 4 miles, slowing down more and more every mile, and it was hard to recover on the run, but then got a little pep after 5 miles (and the hills were the worst at miles 4 and 5) and got a little faster near the end.

Aesthetics – is it a pretty course

For Mexico City, yes. It’s in one of the biggest parks in the city and stays in the park, so it’s definitely a pretty place to run. We went around a few lakes that were actually really beautiful to run around, especially given that I could see the entire circle around the lake surrounded by runners, and because early morning mist was still steaming off the top of the water.

Difficulty – is it a tough course

Yes, only because it’s at altitude, because there are a few hills, and because of all the turns and turn arounds. For someone who is accustomed to altitude, it’s a fairly easy course that’s more annoying than anything because of all the turns. It’s a relatively flat course, but for me, altitude made a difference.

Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

On a scale of 1-10, I would say an 8. The packet pickup location change felt like a newbie move and it was a little unnerving that they changed the race location days before the race. Otherwise, during the race, it felt like a well oiled machine. It’s an Adidas race series, so you’d hope it feels put together. We started the race right on time, there were lots of bathrooms near the start, tons of signs throughout the race, volunteers at every turn, and plenty of water and gatorade, and a nice finish chute at the end with a goody bag.

Competition – is there a strong field?

Yes, there was an Elite starting chute and by the look of them warming up and judging by the results, definitely a strong field. I’m not sure how deep it was, but there were certainly fast times. This is also part of a race series throughout the year, so I would bet a lot of people do the entire series and focus on really racing all of them.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

It had a cap of 5,000 and sold out about 10 days before the race, and registration only opened in late May, so sign up early. When I signed up I was #4489, so I was one of the last to sign up and it closed shortly thereafter. If you want to run any of the races in this series, stay on top of when registration opens. And pay attention to any race communication after you’ve signed up, as they change things all the time.

Aid Stations

It had 3 water stations and 3 Gatorade stations. Either way, it was plenty throughout the race, not so much that it was overkill, but enough that I was actually thirsty by the time the water stops came around. The only downside was that it was either a water station or a Gatorade station, but not both. There wasn’t any other aid like Gu; I carried one Powergel, which I ate at mile 7.

Weather and typical race conditions –

We’re in the rainy season so it’s typically high 50’s, low 60’s in the early mornings and warms up to high 70’s in the day. The race started at 7am, so it was dark and high 50’s until the race started, then warmed up over the course of the race. It was fairly humid since it had rained quite a bit the night before, which made for some puddles and muddy spots along the way.

Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Bring your own toilet paper and your own food, such as Gu or Powergel. Other than that, nothing special since it’s a road race.

Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends

Sort of. Had Matt been there for the start (he had Paavo do deal with, so he wasn’t getting there that early), he could have seen me at the start, at 6k, and then the finish. If he was able to get around the course faster without a baby, maybe he could have seen me at one other spot in the park.

Awards –

I think they gave away special shirts to the first 30 people and I think because it’s a race series that there’s like a “yellow jersey”, Tour de France type shirt, that they give to the winner of that race.

The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it

4 out of 5. Had the packet pickup not been so hellish of an experience, it would be a 5. Otherwise, a fun race in a big green space in the city, well run, competitive, well supported, and downright fun to be a part of in another country.