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John Niedzwiecki

Loudoun Half Marathon   (2014)

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T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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Let's start with some brief notes of the stuff leading up to the race. First, I want to mention pre-race communications. The Ashburn Area Running Club (AARC), who put on the Loudoun Half Marathon and 8K, did an amazing job with communications. There were updates almost weekly updates leading up to the race for about a month an a half which was phenomenal. They were emailed to you and linked to the updates portion of the website. They talked about the course map, preview runs, a look at the shirt design, reminders and inspiration. This doesn't even include any additional small updates and pics from their Facebook page. Best I've seen for any races I've run. Yes, even runDisney didn't give this much contact leading up to their races.

Packet pickup was quick and easy. Walk up, find your bib number, next table get your packet, next table for goody bag and shirt and you're done The shirt was a nice quality tech shirt. Granted, it was a small race, so there wouldn't really be lines expected, but even at that they were set up to be amazingly efficient.

Race morning was good as well. Parking was ample at the school. It was nice being able to drive and park easily at the race site. The meeting area was right next to the stadium, which was opened up for the finish area and included real bathrooms, which was a nice added bonus. When I arrived there was zero line. Closer to start there got to be a short line (even in the men's room). Then it was just walk out the gate to the starting like and away we go.

This was a smaller race, so no corralling. Water stops were well spread out. They also FULL of people cheering, which was very nice. On a course that rolls through Ashburn, there wasn't exactly people lining the streets to cheer. There were people at time, still out as slow poke me came by, which was nice. All the water stations cheered and helped try to pump you up. Many seemed like they were being volunteered by local students, either from the track team or sports teams or other organizations, such as Boy Scouts. It was nice to see them out there. I have to also call out one specific group. Later in the course, way down at the bottom of a long hill there's a water stop. I see noone else ahead of me at this particular point. But I hear cheering. Loud cheering and hollering and clapping. Even though I was way in the distance, they were letting me know they saw me and they were there. There was a group ahead of the station, that I can only assume where cheerleaders, as they cheered a very rhythmic cheer. And they continued to cheer as I went off into the distance the other direction. It really helped mentally.

The weather was beautiful. Even as the sun warmed up, there was a breeze that countered it. As it wore on, I got a little warmer at times, but the breeze was usually not far behind. The course featured some rolling hills, but nothing too steep or difficult. Around mile 9 the course goes onto the W&OD trail. When I was at this point there was no problem. When the race pack was there, it may have been problematic. There are many bike riders who use that nice path in both directions and it isn't very wide to support the large volume of runners for a race. The course would follow the trail all the way to back by the school. While running on the trail, it was really encouraging. Many people, runners and bikers alike, would give me some encouragement as they ran in the opposite direction and saw my bib. I received a lot of "great job", "you're almost there" and "finish strong!" It felt good. The last small chunk of the race was on the track back at the school.

I was greeted immediately with my medal and congrats at the finish line. Even being the 4th from the end, they were still there for me. Heck, there were even 2 people there for medals. After my medal I got the 2nd most important thing: a cold bottle of water. I drank that and waited for the person behind me to cross because I knew they couldn't be too far behind. I clapped and cheered as they crossed, grabbed a 2nd bottle of water and headed for the food, and they still had plenty. I also liked it because it was different than other race, which often sports bananas, other fruit and maybe the occasional bagel. They had fruit cups, rice krispy treats, some cookies. It was a nice touch. Everyone was still there at the finish, caring about the back of the pack. It was a nice way to finish. Later, there were even high quality and FREE pictures from photographers that were out on the course, icing on the cake.

John Niedzwiecki

Blood and Guts Run   (2014)

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Packet Pickup and Course:

Packet Pickup was simple and that day. When I say "packet" I more mean "bib". You simply came in, signed a waiver, walked up to one of 6 windows and got your bib. Nice, easy, simple. The course location was in Bull Run Special Events Center. This is just off of rt 66. While it's near the highway, the first time or two i went there it was pretty confusing. By now this was simple for me to get there as I been there for many things, but for a first timer, it is deceptively tricky. There was plenty of free parking right next to the course. No worries. The course looped back and forth maximizing the space, with one main hill that you hit twice, though the first time was followed with a giant water slide, so well worth it. I've run here before and it works well for a 5K. The only issues with the course were the way in which they did some mud, but I'll cover that in the race portion.

The Race:

The Blood and Guts Run is a zombie themed obstacle course 5K. The zombies were minimal impact. They lined the course sporadically: some lumbering slowly down the path, some coming out of tall grass to scare you, some chasing you from behind to startle you. There were some nicely done zombies, but they had little impact to the race. There were several stations that were zombies squirting you with blood, but the water wasn't even red by the time we got there, and we were one of the middle start corrals, which was disappointing.

Some people costumed up for the race which was nice. There were people as zombies, general Halloween costumes and some zombie slayers. I saw one girl with a corset zombie killer outfit on complete with two play guns strapped to her back that was pretty sweet as well as a little 3 foot tall Captain America. They came in all shapes and sizes. I opted to use this as an option to break out my team shirt from my intramural softball team from college: the Amputated Stumps. It just felt appropriate.

The obstacle course was fun but just challenging enough. It was not (and nor should it be) on par with an obstacle course on the level of say a Spartan Race or Warrior Dash, but I wouldn't expect or want it to be. There was a fairly large number of "up and overs" as I'd call it: small wall, tall plank walls, inclines with ropes, etc. Spread throughout the obstacles were muddy patches. I say it that way for a reason. They didn't feel like enough to be an obstacle or a part of the race like a mud run, but were more than just mud developing from all the runners in that portion of the field. It felt more like someone decided "Hey, let's mix it up. Hose down the straight aways so it gets muddy." I'm not saying that's the way it was carried out, but just how it felt at times. It didn't always seem to server a purpose, nor did it feel like it was thought through to balance the amount of water properly to get good mud as opposed to just muddy and flooded areas.

I ran this race with my namesake John. We had a blast on the course though and I enjoyed the company to chat while we ran. My favorite story has to be the army crawl section. One obstacle was simply titled the army crawl: netting set low to the ground over mud that you were meant to crawl through. One side was all water the other mud. Naturally, most people, including us, chose the mud side. When you got down in it, we'll just say it smelled "country" so we did hands and knees as opposed to down on our chest. We come out the other side and John makes the remark "What, you didn't army crawl? Where's the mud?" Just as he finishes, karma hits. He slips falls straight down on his back. He gets up, does a little slippy slide and back down again, this time on the front. Covered in mud. Oh so funny. I of course didn't dare laugh until I was across the puddle though. He's faster than I am, so really helped push my pace early on. It felt good and I kept pace, but by the end I was gassed and let him finish strong ahead of my slower pace.

Post Race and Swag:

After finishing the race, you were greeted with a nice little medal and your cotton t-shirt for finishing. Pretty nice swag for a small little 5K. As you walked down further, they gave out protein bars. Not one, but one box full. A nice unexpected bonus.

From there, we wanted to hit 2 important things (after hosing off some mud): the food trucks that smelled so good and the beer garden. We had an 11:30 am start time, so it was perfect time to eat. We chose a truck that smelled wonderful: the Urban Bumpkin BBQ. The whole menu looked fantastic. I chose the Alaskan frybread taco, with Asian beef brisket. Oh my goodness did I choose wisely. I had several people telling me after seeing mine they were mad they ordered anything else. I was not disappointed. It was well worth however many points it would cost me, not that I bothered trying to find out how many it would be. From there we took our food to eat in the beer garden, featuring 3 craft brews: a pumpkin beer, an IPA and an amber ale. I can't remember where they were from, but I know at least one (if not all) was local. Nothing like a food truck plate and cold beer to celebrate the race with.

Value:

I got my ticket for free from Party City for giving them a lot of money, so it was great value for me. Nearing the event, they were charing $79, which would be way over priced. There was however a Groupon up until 2 days before for $39, so as long as you did simple searching, it was a pretty good value. The t-shirt was cotton, but nice and the medal was small, but still cool. Pretty good value for the price, especially when you top it off with all the protein bars.

Overall:

I had a really good time on this race. I wish I had been running more recently so I wasn't so gassed at the end, but I enjoyed myself. It was just tough enough without being overbearing. It kept it's fun. The main downside was the odd thing about the mud that I mentioned. I have no problem with it being "an obstacle" of the course but it felt so haphazard that it was hard to enjoy. It felt less of a challenge and more of an hinderance to the rest of the race. I was pleasantly surprised to earn some bling and had a good time. Weather was perfect, and the course route was nice. I enjoyed and would do again.

Katie St Pierre

PureChiro 5K   (2014)

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A week before Halloween, I met up with my friend Chip and we ran in the PureChiro 5k in Vienna, VA. This was the first FREEZING morning of the season. The wind was blowing pretty hard (enough that one of the vendors tents blew away) and it was difficult to keep warm.

Luckily, as we started to run down the path, the trees blocked the wind a bit and the sun started to warm us up. I didn’t have any set intervals for this race, but just walked as needed. I always find it interesting that 5ks always seem so much longer and harder to me than longer races. By the end I was huffing and puffing, even though the course was pretty flat. Must have been the cold…

I finished in 33:18, which is on the medium fast side for me. Not too shabby, I guess, from not running a lot recently. It was a very pretty, tree-lined course, and was very flat compared to some other races that I have run recently.

I decided to dress up as Minnie Mouse and definitely had a lot of support for it! And the hat helped my ears and head to stay warm, so it was a perfect outfit.

This race was put on by Bishop’s Events. They still have a few races left this year, so feel free to check them out!

Katie St Pierre

PureChiro 5K   (2014)

Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

A week before Halloween, I met up with my friend Chip and we ran in the PureChiro 5k in Vienna, VA. This was the first FREEZING morning of the season. The wind was blowing pretty hard (enough that one of the vendors tents blew away) and it was difficult to keep warm.

Luckily, as we started to run down the path, the trees blocked the wind a bit and the sun started to warm us up. I didn’t have any set intervals for this race, but just walked as needed. I always find it interesting that 5ks always seem so much longer and harder to me than longer races. By the end I was huffing and puffing, even though the course was pretty flat. Must have been the cold…

I finished in 33:18, which is on the medium fast side for me. Not too shabby, I guess, from not running a lot recently. It was a very pretty, tree-lined course, and was very flat compared to some other races that I have run recently.

I decided to dress up as Minnie Mouse and definitely had a lot of support for it! And the hat helped my ears and head to stay warm, so it was a perfect outfit.

This race was put on by Bishop’s Events. They still have a few races left this year, so feel free to check them out!

Katie St Pierre

Potomac River Run Marathon   (2014)

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Just a week after my Disney World races as part of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, I decided it would be smart to run another half marathon in Maryland near Carderock. I had previously run this same course/race in during this past spring and really enjoyed myself, so I figured I would do it again.

I had an 8am start and it was COLD! It was in the 30s when we started and it was hard to keep warm, especially while just standing around waiting for the race to begin. Luckily, we finally started and I quickly warmed up. I ended up taking off my jacket (and just wore a long sleeved tech shirt) after the first couple of miles. My ears were covered and I had gloves that I took on and off as needed. I’m glad that I wasn’t freezing the entire race!

The race started out pretty well. I was keeping to my intervals of run 2:15 / walk 1 and was keeping a pretty steady pace of 12:30. Not terribly fast, but I did just do a long run the previous weekend!

Once I hit mile 10, though, I hit a wall. My body started to shut down, even though I was taking my fuel. My feet were also really starting to hurt (I need to get them checked out…it’s the bottom of the foot where the heel meets the back of the arch, on the outsides of my feet.)

I shuffled for the next 3 miles, chatted a bit with a woman who was running her first half marathon, and finally finished with a time of 2:51:01, about 10 minutes longer than the other race in the spring.

Regardless, I had a great time and still enjoy the tree-lined, lock-full, river-seeing course!

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