Kelly the Culinarian: 2013 USRA Aurora Fox Valley Trail Half Marathon Race Recap

Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 USRA Aurora Fox Valley Trail Half Marathon Race Recap

Blergh, I'm not really sure how to write this race report. Here's the deal: I had a decent race and posted a new half marathon PR. I'm not sure if I was more excited to PR or that reader Bill recognized me from my blog while we were waiting this morning and introduced himself. I feel so legit - I'm Internet famous!
However, this race is what I expected, which isn't a good thing. Also, it was not at all as promised.

Let's start at the beginning. After my disappointing Egg Shell Shuffle race, I was on the search for a redemption race. Groupon just happened to be advertising a half marathon for $35 per person, boasting bathrooms, a post-race party, tech shirts, medals and age group awards. I jumped, and didn't hear a peep from the race company, USRA, for weeks. Dan, the creator of the Western Cook Running Group, also signed up and found out the skinny on this race company. The guy behind this race series, Dean Reinke, has a slew of accusations leveled against him by people all over the Internet (read here, here, here and here). So up until this morning, I wasn't even confident a race would happen, based on others' previous experiences with the USRA series.

I lined up at one of the two port-o-potties and joked with Tim that I had to lower my expectations to the $35 level. And that's what I did.
As I warmed up at the start line, which was a duct tape line on the pavement, Dan caught me and said, "So 1:50, huh?" I was so psyched to see him!

We were off and Dan chugged along with me for 10 miles. We chatted and swapped stories. It was a welcome distraction and quite pleasant. I had a few tough moments, but generally kept pace and avoided stomach issues.

I ate some homemade fuel around 6 and 11. There were port-o-potties on the course, thankfully, but I didn't need them this time. Homemade fuel for the win!

There were only two water stations, so I was glad I brought a handheld water bottle.

I couldn't quite hold on for the final 5k and didn't quite make it to the 1:50 I had hoped. My knee was killing me in the last mile and I just couldn't push, and I swear the finish line kept moving further and further. Still, at 1:151:07, it's a five-minute PR!

I collected my medal, then waited with Dan and Tim for an hour for the awards ceremony because the instant timing said that I was third in my age group. Looking at the Web site now, it's ambiguous as to how many deep the awards went:
So I went up to Dean and asked. He handed me an award and said, "Here you go," which seemed very unceremonious. The award was also this glass thing that just said "Age Group Winner" with the date. I don't really feel comfortable posting a photo of it because it feels like I wasn't supposed to get it.

Let's compare what was promised versus what went down:
Accurate timing: There was no start mat. I hear the 5K was long, and I think the half was a bit long, too.

Tech shirts: Well, let's take a look. They're cute, but cotton.

Post-race party: It was a dude with a boom box, bottles of water, unwashed apples and 90-calorie generic chewie bars. I'm not hating, but I was hungry. Also, the signage had Miller Lite on it. There was no beer. There was also no on-course food or fuel.

Finisher's Medal: I got one, but not everyone did. I also hear that for the late finishers, they ran out of food, which wouldn't be hard. By the time I rolled in, the food was already scarce.

I think I got what I paid for, but this was little more than a semi-supported training run. It wasn't that well-marked and the aid stations were scarce. Nothing to write home about, other than my shiny new PR, thanks to Dan's superb support.

Bowie pulled a Napoleon
Cost: $35 through Groupon

Pros: Super cheap, free and accessible parking, bathrooms, small race and extremely beautiful course

Cons: Cheap medals, not enough bathrooms at the start, underwhelming/confusing award ceremony, lackluster post-race food, no start timing mat, the race ran out of food and medals for later finishers, no on-course fuel, very little support, no real post-race party, no medics anywhere

Would I race this again? No. It sucks to finish a race with an awesome new PR and feel less than stellar about the whole situation. I wanted to celebrate a bit, but there was nothing there.


Michelle @ said...

congrats on the PR...sorry the other aspects weren't so great!

Maggie W said...

Two water stations and I assume no Gatorade? For a half marathon???? That's terrible. And that post-race spread ... ugh. There are a couple super cheap half marathons by me in the south burbs in September that are around that price, but I have no idea how they would compare. They have been going on for decades though, so I have a feeling they are old school, meaning, they are probably done properly but without any bells and whistles. I should sign up for both of them out of curiosity.

KellytheCulinarian said...

There was gatorade, but Tim said they stopped handing them out and since I had my handheld, I tried to keep trucking through them. I thought it was strange they didn't have any fuel anywhere, and I really needed more than a granola bar after that race. I was in a bit of shock my sounded like a crazy person when I called my mom from the "finisher's chute."

Losing Lindy said...

oh no! That is terrible! But congratulations on your PR!!!!

chococat34 said...

Spot on, Kelly. Being one of the final finishers, I can personally vouch for there being no refreshments. I did get a "medal" and bottle of water. But no support along the route...I seriously wonder what would have happened had someone needed assistance along the course. I did enjoy the was beautiful, although that had nothing to do with the organizer!
I would hope that the city of Aurora realizes they could host a really great 1/2 marathon and locate another organization to run it. Not this guy.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Sorry to hear that the race was pretty weak, the starting line was classic! But congrats on the PR and being totally famous now! You better get your fingers insured now that they could be your bread and butter!

Nicole and Scott Kesten said...

There were lots to be Happy for and lots to be crappy for.
Congrats on your PR.

Wish you would have put "Dude with a boombox" in the cons.. i giggled outloud when i read that line :)

Unknown said...

Well, congrats on a new PR!
That does stink about the race and I knew you were kind of not expecting much. I've run a few "no-frills" races and they are usually still fine, but they don't advertise as having all the amenities.

JennB said...

Kelly - My sister (Maggie) and I did the 5K and, like you, were grateful to have had the Groupon deal! We noticed a huge lack of volunteers on the course, with the exception of a small group at the 5k turnaround. We felt sorry for runners who may have fell ill or injured along the way - no one to assist. There was no apparent plan for medical emergencies. We also noted that at the turnaround we had to ask whether this was where we were meant to head back; there was no signage. In fact (at least for the 5K) there was NO signage along the course - no mile markers, nothing. The only mile marker we noticed was for mile 13 on the return; obviously meant for the half marathon. Runners deserve to know officially where they are at on the course. And the 5K course went well beyond a 5K. My GPS app indicated we had gone beyond just over 4 miles (by the time we got to the parking lot). When we plotted out the exact course (using Map My Run) we learned we had actually run 3.98 miles - not a 5K distance; I can't imagine how you half marathon runners feel, having run an inaccurately measured course. Never have I had quite so many things go awry!

Ashley said...

Sucks that it was a crappy race set-up, but congrats on the new PR!

Zenaida Arroyo said...

What a race!!! Congrats on the PR!

I like your Garmin. Which one do you have?

KellytheCulinarian said...

I have the Garmin 405CX, but I rarely use the heart rate monitor. I love all the features, though, and recommend it highly.

Tim H/// said...

Hi Kelly!

Sorry to hear of your experience at the Aurora Fox Valley race.
I'd like to invite you to a race like you probably have never run -
The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon, BIHHalf for short. It is organized by my fire company in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania as a fundraiser to keep our organization going. This is one of several events during our Run, Ride, and Soar Weekend. We are located in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish Country. Not only do many of our Amish community members help to put on the race but there are quite a few Amish that run the race. Please take a look at our website -

I realize this may be quite a distance from where you live but consider adding to your bucket list. We would love to share our part of this great country with you!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Stay safe!
Best regards,