The Good The people of Santa Cruz offered exceptional support to both the race and the participants. A lot of races are held in contempt by the locals - roads shut down, traffic is rerouted, and people get angry. In Santa Cruz, you saw the opposite. On the bike course motorists went out of their way to give cyclists room, and many honked as they passed (which scares the crap out of you, but nonetheless). A house on the run course had speakers out blasting U2 all day, and I do mean all day. I first heard it heading out on the bike around 8am, and it was still playing U2 after noon. There were families with little kids on bikes with cowbells cheering, there were even people pulled over on PCH cheering and offering support. Keep in mind this was a race that lasted for 7-9 hours, and the entire time there were people out their giving support.
The race directors did a great job of keeping things moving and organized. I never had to wait in line for anything but a pre-race bathroom visit. There was tons of room in the transition area, so no one was haggling over space. You not only got a medal for finishing, but just for trying you also got a necklace at registration. I really got the impression that the race directors had the participants' interests at heart.
Nobody was a jerk at the race, which was a refreshing change. At most of the races I've done in Southern California, people are dicks. They'll knock over your bike in the transition area and not even say they're sorry. They'll leave trash everywhere. They'll be dicks on the course, blocking legal passes and trying to get away with things when the race marshalls aren't around. There was none of that at Big Kahuna, and that made the race much more enjoyable. All of the volunteers rocked. And most of the volunteers at the bike aid stations were hotties :)
The Bad On the course, there were a lot of people breaking rules. I'm not sure how many got penalized, but it's probably not enough. This was a USAT sanctioned race, which means it has to follow USAT's rules. No drafting, no headphones. Those are the two rules I see get violated the most, and they're both safety related. On PCH there were more than a couple of groups of people who formed a pod or peloton. 2 and 3 abreast, 6-8 people in a row. If it was a closed course with a lot of room I'd be less concerned - it's still breaking the rules, but I could live with it. This was an open course, with cars passing us, where the bike lane was two feet of shoulder. Riding in a group like that is just asking for trouble for yourself and everyone else. At one point two women were conversing, riding side by side, and were passing people on both sides. One thing you should never hear at a race is "Passing on your right.… OOPPS!". That was incredibly foolish. On the run I saw a number of people with iPods. At least one was so into their music they cut part of the course (accidentally). In my mind there's no excuse for that kind of thing. You don't participate in a race, much less a half ironman, without knowing the rules that you agreed to when you signed up. Some of these people undoubtly didn't know the rules, but the majority of them did, and in breaking them put other people at risk.
Post-race there was some food, but it ran out fairly quickly. The usual fruit, bagels, and water, handed out by volunteers. The race directors provided finishers with a coupon for a free burrito at a place close to the finish, which was a good idea on the surface. From the race director's perspective, it was a great deal, and they probably pulled some strings to do it. From the participant's perspective, all you want to do at the end of the race is have someone start shovelling food into you, not have to walk someplace to get your burrito. If the race directors had volunteers fetch the burritos for racers, I think everyone would have been happier. As it was, a lot of people grumbled about the food. Me, I got lucky. When I finished Dad had already gone to get pizza - he missed the finish, but I got his pizza. Not that he needed it! [ 9/18/2005 06:49:00 PM ] [  ]