Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pittsburgh Race Expo 2013

I went to the Expo on Friday.  I was not in the best of mindsets since I had gotten in at 4:30am, only had a few hours of sleep and didn't feel right at all.  But I wanted to make the best of it, knowing that Friday was my only "free" day without my older two munchkins who don't tend to do well in expo situations.

First of all I was extremely naive.  I figured hey, it's the opening day, and if I get there around 11 when it starts (for those of us who did not purchase the VIP package - those lucky folks got to get in an hour beforehand) then the crowd wouldn't be too bad.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Wrong.  We left our place around 11 am - we don't live far.  We got to the convention center area at 11:07.  Traffic was already heavy and the closest parking garage was already full.  There were swarms of people everywhere.  By the time we got parked and headed into the building it was almost 11:30!  Fortunately, once inside it wasn't too bad.  Things were very well organized and I had studied the map of the layout beforehand, so I knew where to go for the important stuff (bib pickup, bag pickup, pace team signup, and Elite Runners and Walkers... lol).

The first thing we did was pickup Victoria's bib and shirt for the Kids Marathon.  I was so excited that she decided to do it.

Then I found the booth where I could pickup my bib.  I was only second in line so it was very fast.  Right next to where I picked up my bib was the booth to get my shirt.  The shirt is ok.  Not my favorite, but not the worst, either.  I'll try to grab a pic of it because I haven't.

After I got my shirt, I finally took a look at my bib and noted that it said "Corral C" in the upper left.  Well crap.  I knew I had underestimated myself when I registered, and I was right on the borderline between corrals.  However, given my performance at JASR, and the fact that the pace group I wanted to run with was in Corral B, I really wanted to be in B.  So, I hopped in the Runner Services line.  AKA the longest line in the world aside from a PA DMV.  I think we were in line for over an hour.  SO many people needing help, mostly with transferring bibs from one person to another and switching up relay info.

I was kind of nervous, because I had heard through the grapevine around town and via social media that there would be absolutely NO corral changes due to security, etc.  I kept running plans in my mind on what I would do if I started in Corral C.  I could line up with the 3:50 marathon pacer and do the whole "start slow, end fast" thing I did at JASR or I could try to make sure I was at the front of the corral to hopefully come close to the others.  I could pace myself, but that really terrified me.  I'm a crappy pacer, usually.  So I was totally prepared to get a big ol "I'm sorry for the inconvenience" when I finally got to the little blond lady at the table.  She smiled and asked "How can I help you today?" and I took a deep breath and said I was hoping to be able to change corrals.  She took a look at my bib and said "to which one?".  I told her B and she said "that's no problem at all" and slapped a B sticker on my bib.  I was stunned and just said "thank you so much!".  She smiled and said "You're welcome.  Good luck!" and I was on my way.  The wait was worth it.  Just goes to show you that you can't trust everything you hear from people, even if they claim to be veterans of the race!

After Runner Services, I wanted to go pick up my goody bag.  To do this, you had to walk the whole way over to the other side of the building, walking through the Dick's Sporting Goods store.  Smooth move you marketing people.  And kind of annoying.  But I got to the counter where there was no line at all (thanks to at least 20 people working there) and I got my bag and my book with all the race details, etc.

The bag.  Well, the bag itself is actually pretty decent.  One of the better quality string backpacks I've had.  I was a little disappointed in the contents though.  I've gotten better stuff in an Elite Runners race bag.  Meh.  But, the stuff wasn't why I was there.  At this point in the day I was just happy to have something to hold the bibs and shirts and stuff I was carrying all that time.

From bag pickup we started to walk around and see what there was.

I'm not real big on high pressure sales or tons of BS advertising, and there was a ton of it here.  I don't like people grabbing me and pulling me aside to show me their latest invention.  I also don't get why window sales and deck sales and auto sales people are at a road race expo.  I understand that part of the "point" of an expo is for people to showcase their product.  And that's cool.  Maybe I'm just not real into expos.  I don't know.  What I did know is that I had a shopping list and a wish list and I wanted to snag some cheap stuff.

The first place I hit was Elite.  I love that place on a normal day but they typically have kickass expo deals.  Today was no exception.  The only thing I will gripe about is the Mizuno rep.  He was kind of a douche.  As I was walking through a pair of bright blue shoes caught my eye and I just looked to see what they were.  He took that opportunity to pressure me into trying them on, walking around, etc.  They were Wave Inspires.  They felt ok, maybe a little on the wide side to me.  I told him I'd think about it, but I wanted to look around first and he started in with "everybody says that" "this is my last pair"  "you might wanna just get them now" etc.  Ugh.  I was happy to get away from him.  I was hoping to score some shoes, but a) There were like NO trail shoes and b)  I really want to test some out first and the squished in atmosphere of the expo really didn't allow that.  So prices be damned, I'll hit a real store soon.

The next person I ran into was one of the guys that's always working in the Robinson store.  I asked him where the socks were because it is tradition that I buy socks before a race and we got to talking about what I liked (I currently prefer SmartWool).  He said he's also a SmartWool fan but recently started wearing Swiftwick and is a fan of those now too.  He talked about them for a bit and I picked up a pair to try.  I also got a pair of SmartWool.  I browsed through the racks a bit and didn't get anything else other than 2 Espresso Love GUs.  At the counter they had advertisements for the November Marshall Mangler trail run!!  I picked one up so I can consider that.

Also on my shopping list was Chocolate Raspberry Roctane.  I had tried this stuff out on my 12 mile run the previous Sunday and it was GREAT.  The flavor was much better than that glucose test Orange I had before and that run just went fantastic.  So, I wanted to use it in the race.  Of course I'd like something that was hard to find.  Elite didn't have it.  Other places didn't have it.  I finally found a half empty container of it on a table at Up & Running.  I snagged two.

Add Hammer gels to the "hard to find list".  Usually I get them at REI because Elite doesn't sell them.  Well (and I am assuming this is because of DICK'S) REI wasn't at the expo and it seems that no one else needs Hammer gel.  Boo.  I did end up finding some at Mojo's booth.  Hooray!  They had a steal on Hammer products, actually, so I got a bunch, including some other stuff that I will try in the weeks to come.

After I got my gels I headed over to the NuGo area where they had the pace team information as well as yummy samples!  A guy there gave me a pace tattoo thingy (which I didn't end up using) and a signup bib for the team.  We also verified that the pacer would be there in Corral B.  I was a bit disappointed in the fact that unlike what was advertised, the actual pacers weren't there to meet and talk with.  There was honestly very little information at all - just here's a tattoo and a bib to put your name and time on, see you at the race! Then again, maybe it was a good thing I didn't meet the 1:50 pacer before the race - more on him later...

One thing that I had on my shopping agenda was trying on an iFitness belt and possibly purchasing one.  I've heard great things about them and have come to the conclusion over the past few weeks that I am definitely in need of a hydration system for this summer and long runs.  My amphipod handheld is freaking awesome, but it has been empty at the end of my long runs on these 60-70 degree days.  So I'm in the market for something.

The iFitness booth was staffed by 2 girls who... well, for lack of a nicer term seemed like total dingbats.  They were also sick as hell and had gravelly throat voices and were hacking and coughing everywhere.  Yuck.  Anyway, they were advertising a "special edition" hydration belt so I asked what that was.  Turns out it has some grippy stuff on the back of it that keeps it from sliding around.  Cool.  Now, keep in mind that I am here at the expo on the first day, in the first few HOURS of opening.  They did not have a single belt in the color (black & yellow), size (sm/md) and style (16 oz hydration, preferably special edition) that I wanted.  WTF?  They kept trying to sell me another one and asking "are you sure you need the 16 oz instead of the 12" "what about another color", etc.  I'm sorry, but if I'm going to be shelling out $40+ for something I want to get what I want and need.  So, back to the drawing board on hydration belts.  At least they gave me a coupon for free shipping from their website.

We kept wandering around and I was getting "meh" about stuff.  I was tired as hell, Nick went hypoglycemic, and Garrett (3 years old) was just getting squirrelly.  We had been there for several hours, so that was expected.  So, we decided to head over to the Dick's store that we blew through at the beginning and then start heading out.

That place was a true mob scene.  They did have cool stuff though... lots of "Run for Boston" items, many different flavors of Pittsburgh Marathon/Half Marathon gear.  I picked up a grey and purple Pittsburgh 13.1 shirt.  I really liked it.  They had another shirt that I liked that was made to look like a football jersey that had the 13.1 on the back of it like a player number, but it wasn't in tech material.  FAIL!

Oh, also in our wandering around, there was a GNC station with a big banner that you could sign in support of Boston.  We all signed it.  That was pretty cool.

All in all, it was a decent time.  I wasn't overly blown away impressed... It was pretty overwhelming and I had trouble finding everything I wanted to (I never did pick up the compression calf sleeves I had on my list), but I did talk to some nice people and let's not forget the success I had at Runner Services.  Next year (and yes, there will be a next year), I'll have a better plan and know more of what to expect.

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