Latest reviews by Heather C

(2017)
"Another great year for F^3!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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8th Annual F^3 was held on Saturday, January 28, 2017. This was my third year running F^3 Lake Half Marathon, and I will continue to keep on my list of races I want to run each year. I think it is well organized and being able to stay warm inside before the race is a major benefit you won't get from most other winter races. I also LOVE that they added more locations for packet pickup this year. I especially enjoy that there were suburbs on the list, as most races will have 1 day for packet pickup and it'll be in the city, which can be tough to get to. Race day weather was cloudy, about 26 degrees, but with 16-22mph winds, a real feel of 16. Not great, but definitely not the worst case scenario, so I was ok with it.

PROS:
+ 6 days of packet pickup! Saturday, January 21 10:00 am – 6:00 pm at Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town, Sunday, January 22 11:00 am – 5:00 pm at Fleet Feet Sports – Deerfield, Monday, January 23 10:00 am – 8:00 pm at Fleet Feet Sports – Oak Park, Tuesday, January 24 4:00-7:00 pm at Running for Kicks (Palos Heights), Thursday, January 26 10:00 am – 8:00 pm at Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town, Friday, January 27 10:00 am – 8:00 pm at Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town
+ You could pick up packets of friends/families. Large groups could email ahead with the packets being picked up, where and by who for quicker process. Show ID and ID/confirmation email of friends/family picking up for.
+ You could add race day pickup for $15.
+ Pre- and post-race inside the United Club at Soldier Field.
+ Easy access to race either by car (park inside the garage) or take CTA.
+ SWAG at pickup included a drawstring backpack, KIND bars, running store coupon, and a 1/4 zip tech pullover.
+ Don't have to get outside until about 10 minutes till race time.
+ Wave start (couldn't hear or tell how it was divided up, but know towards the back didn't start until about 10:10). Pacing signs up to help runners line themselves up.
+ 16 minute/mile pace requirement, so walkers welcome.
+ Race start of 10am and course closing at 1:30pm. I do love a later start time - more sleep! Plus, in the winter, it means the temps might warm up a little more than if it were at 7 or 8.
+ 8 aid stations (4, but you pass twice as the course is an out and back). Stocked with Gatorade and water.
+ Course goes around Soldier Field and then out south and back north on the LFP. Though it was an out and back, the course was never too congested or crowded. Also enjoyed cheering on the runners and friends as they were heading back north. High-Fives always help pump me up!
+ Gatorade Chews around mile 8 or 9? I can't remember haha.
+ Volunteers were all great - appreciate them being out in the cold for that whole time! Races can't happen without them.
+ Finish line = medal, full-sized bagels of different flavors, bottled water, cups of Gatorade, bananas, crackers, and Muscle Milk.
+ Half Marathon Finisher Medals were large and in charge.
+ The path was clear of ice. Some puddles, but nothing you couldn't get around if you didn't want to run through them.
+ Top 5 I think Men and Women received prizes. Age group awards (0-19; 20-24; 25-29; 30-34; 35-39; 40-44; 45-49; 50-54; 55-59; 60-64; 65-69; 70+). I have one beef with this - see below. I hear they received gift certificates, but not sure what for.
+ Post-race party at Kroll's. I had another engagement to get to, so I went home, but I hear it was hopping. You received a free beer with a ticket from your bib once there – and it was for craft beer from local breweries in Chicagoland (Pollyanna and Noon Whistle - - I approve of this!).
+ Gear check available, and it looks like they had a better set up after 2015 crowd problem.
+ They send out a post-race surgery so they can improve every year. And they actually take it to heart and make improvements each year.
+ Free downloadable photos.

CONS:
- Website said awards for 70+. That's my mom. When we went to the awards table after the race to see results, they said the age group was 60+. A few days later when we received an email about photos being ready, it mentioned there was an error with age groups (something to do with the timer and initial upload) and that an updated listing was available through a link in the email. If you won an AG award but didn't collect from the Awards Table, you can pick it up at the CARA office. The CARA office is in the city. I hear the award was a $10 gift card, which is cool because the winner can use it on whatever they want. However, it would cost my mom $10 to get into the city, and the time and effort wouldn't be worth it. I really feel that since the mistake was on their end, and since we did try to get her award at the race, and since it shouldn't have affected too many people, they should just mail out their awards. Just my opinion.

OTHER:
• Parking was available at Soldier Field North Parking Garage at a 'discounted' rate of $19. Usually $22 I think. So, while discounted slightly, it's still expensive. The usual for Chicago, though.
• Supposedly there was hot chocolate somewhere... I saw a guy asking if anyone wanted some before the race, but never saw it post-race (which is when I could have used it). Not sure if it's because we finish after most or what, but every year it's supposed to be at the post-race (finish line or inside? Not sure.) and I can never find it. Or it's all gone. I could just be missing it in my haze of exhaustion haha, but I find it worth noting.

I do enjoy this race, and won't let the minor issues get in the way of running again in 2018, because it is a really well-organized, fun, unique race that is managed well. To me the pros far outweigh any cons, and generally the cons are nit picky things that I feel should be mentioned just so people get a full scope of the race and I like to be completely honest and transparent in my reviews. Definitely keep this race on your list if you haven't run it (or keep it on there and run every year like me :) haha).

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(2016)
"Cancellation handled well"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The 2016 race was to be held on Sunday, December 11 and was a 5k (previous years it had been an 8k). I think this was the first year that RAM Racing took over (as it was a Fleet Feet event and they partnered up for 2016 where RAM was in charge of the event (like SF10).

I was VERY disappointed in the swag. When I registered it had me pick a size for sweatpants (and honestly was the only reason I decided to run this race as I was returning from vacation a day before) was. Sweatpants are unique and fun, so I was super excited about them. About a month before the event it changed to a red fleece hat. Boo. The quality isn't great and since it's fleece it doesn't have much stretch, so for my smaller head it is too loose, and I imagine for others too small. RAM is usually on point with SWAG, so for the hat to take over the place of the sweatpants was a real bummer. I don't know why if the sweatpants weren't locked down, why that would even be on the registration/website. I would have preferred TBD to be displayed. In the future, I hope they nail down the product before adding it to registration and website so people don't register for something they might not end up with.

A little before midnight I received an email from RAM that the race had been cancelled. Looking at the weather the night before, I was weary and on the fence about going at all. I figured I'd wait and see what it was like in the morning, as on a good day my drive would be about an hour (which means if roads were bad it would take MUCH longer). Luckily, I didn't have to make the decision.

Other than the email, they made it known to keep an eye on their FB page for any updates, and the cancellation was also posted there. So I think that was handled well and in an organized fashion.

Email read:
Hello Rudolph Ramblers,

We are sending this email to let you, our valued volunteers, partners, staff and runners, know that RAM Racing has made the decision to cancel tomorrows Rudolph Ramble 5K (12/11/2016). While we had hoped to be able to hold the race, the National Weather Service - Winter Storm Warning will now remain in effect until midnight Sunday and is expecting significant snowfall overnight through Sunday evening. Light snow will persist thought Sunday evening and with accumulations from 7 to 12 inches. Significant amounts of snow are forecasted that will make travel dangerous and the National Weather Service is asking everyone to only travel in an emergency.

Given this situation, we are unable to confirm that the running course will be plowed prior to race start, thus meaning that RAM Racing cannot be certain that we can activate our medical/safety protocol based on the conditions. Please give us 24 hours before asking questions as our first priority is to try to make sure that the thousands of runners, volunteers, and staff will try to make it out to the event in the morning. Our number one concern is safety.

Thank you for your understanding,
RAM Racing

I appreciate that they took runner/volunteer/staff safety so seriously. I have my doubts that the course would have even been cleared of snow, which makes it dangerous for runners (and hard for medics to get to said injured runner). I think they made the right call and following the National Weather Service was smart.

A few days after the event, they emailed runners again to let them know they could register for any 2017 RAM event with a special, personalized code to get 50% off. Also, any kids' registered would be able to receive their goody bag with medal and treats from Dec 16–31 (bring in Bib). AND all 5K participants were still able to enjoy a FREE Do-Rite donut and cup of Dark Matter coffee by showing their bib number at any Do-Rite Donut & Coffee location in Chicago through Saturday, December 17th.

The course was on the inner path, going past the Lincoln Park Zoo with the start and finish near Peggy Notebart Museum. I was planning on parking at the zoo. There was one aid station with Nuun around the half way mark, so even though there was no race, I know the scenery enough to give it 4 stars and for a 5k any aid station gets 5, as I don't deem one necessary but think it's nice (though I'm not a fan of Nuun).

They also noted that since there wasn't a toy drive at the race site with the cancellation, they would be purchasing and delivering gifts to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, which I think is a great gesture.

Notes from the website:
The Rudolph Ramble was the first race we have ever had to cancel in 16 years due to weather. It was a decision that was not made lightly.
We truly appreciate your understanding that our main concern was the safety of not only you, the runners, at race time but also the volunteers and staff who were facing the kind of potentially dangerous conditions in the hours leading up to the race that had the Weather Service and Chicago’s Office Of Emergency Management and Communications advising people not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.
We are also unable to offer a refund to runners despite the cancellation - as is standard in the racing industry. There are non-refundable costs associated with planning and preparing each and every race, regardless of the time of year, and those do not go away even when a race has to be cancelled.
In addition to the disappointment of not being able to stage the race, RAM is cognizant of the fact the toy drive for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital was impacted by the fact that you were unable to bring donated gifts to the race. In the spirit of the season, we have committed to purchase gifts to be delivered to Lurie before the holiday to make up for the shortfall.
Thank you for understanding the situation and best wishes for a safe and happy holiday to you and yours!

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(2016)
"Great Inaugural Event!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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The Inaugural Rise and Shine 5k (produced by Chicago Sport and Social Club) took place on Saturday, December 31 with a 9am start time. I registered for the event because 1 - you know I just love to race and 2 - I wanted to start my NYE off on the right foot and what better way than to have some fun in the city going what I love. It was a sunny day, but some high winds made it a bit chilly. Once we started running I felt the wind died down a little and I warmed up pretty quickly. At 8:15am weather was 39 degrees, feels like 31, 13mph winds, 52% humidity. I got some photos of the sun peaking out, so I feel like mother nature was being kind to us for the race :) Registration opened up early/mid-November at $20.17 and then rose in increments - $20.17 - Nov. 11 to Nov. 28, $35.00 - Nov. 29 to Dec. 8, $45.00 - Dec. 9 to Dec. 27, and finally $55.00 - Dec. 28 to Dec. 31 (I do believe there was race day registration... but I could be mistaken). I learned about this race in mid-December and was excited to register. For the short time period of the race being announced and race day, they had a really good crowd.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup at Fleet Feet Old Town on Friday, December 29 from 11am–7pm, and my favorite - - race day pickup at race site from 7:30–8:30am.
+ I did race day pickup and it was a breeze. You could either give your name or have the volunteers scan your QR code from registration to look you up. I got there around 8am and there was no waiting. Quick and easy.
+ SWAG included a branded pom pom hat and touch screen gloves. Also in the bag was a box of Wild Garden Roasted Garlic Hummus crackers, two Clif Bar minis (I had white chocolate macadamia nuts and sierra trail mix), and lip balm. On the table for pickup they had full sized Clif Bars in Hot Chocolate and Iced Gingerbread flavors.
+ Gear check open at 7:30am.
+ Group stretch and warm up at 8:30am and start corrals opened up at 8:45am.
+ Nuun and water was provided on course around mile 1ish.
+ Great course! Started off on Randolph Street going east, hopped on the LFP going south, utilized the lower path near the lake), then went up the upper path heading north, back to Randolph, where you then headed over to run through Maggie Daley Park and over the bridge by Pritzker Pavilion, and then came to a finish on the east side of the Pavilion.
+ There wasn't a wave start, however, getting in that first .5 mile on Randolph street, which was nice and wide, allowed for runners and walkers to spread out so congestion on the LFP wasn't bad at all.
+ Course was clearly marked and had mile markers (with clocks).
+ Given water bottles at the finish line.
+ Hot chocolate and warming (mylar) blankets when you got back to the race site area.
+ At the race site area, there were also samples of David's Tea, Clif Bars, Bai antioxidant infusion in different flavors, and more boxes of crackers. It was a sweet set up.
+ They did awards at 10am on the stage for age groups 19 and under, then age groups of 10 (20–29, 30–39, until 60+) and top three of AG received a branded hooded sweatshirt.
+ Race bib had a tag of either free mimosa or Corona at Sweetwater Tavern and Grill.
+ Free race photos

CONS:
- I don't blame the race for this, but Sweetwater didn't anticipate the crowd they got and it took quite some time to get served at the bar (about a half hour). There were a ton of runners getting food there as well. Most runners were getting the mimosa, and I saw the bartenders making them at point of sale, where I felt they should have just pre-made it in carafes so they could just pour when someone ordered rather than making them individually. Just a thought.

From the sounds of it, this will be an annual tradition, and I plan on racing it every year (you know, keep that 'legacy' train going haha). It was super fun and I saw a lot of friends. Great way to start NYE!

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(2016)
"Da Ditka Dash = Super Fun Run"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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The Ditka Dash 5k was held on Saturday, November 19 with two waves - one starting at 9am and the other at 10am. Weather was 36 feels like 25 with 24MPH winds and cloudy. Though that sounds cold, it wasn't too bad once we got running :)

PROS:
+ Race Day packet pickup available from 7:30am - 9:45am. This is what I did and it was quick and easy. Also available at NEWCITY Lifestyle & Entertainment District; 1457 N Halsted Street; Chicago, IL 60642; Thursday, November 17 | 12:00pm - 7:00pm; Friday, November 18 | 12:00pm - 7:00pm.
+ Plenty of race emails updating participants on race details.
+ Packet included a short sleeve tech shirt, stick on mustache, and aviator sunglasses.
+ Was able to exchange my shirt after the race (unworn) for my correct size.
+ Wave start to help with course congestion.
+ Da Coach at the start line!
+ Post-race goodies included a bottle of +essentia (purified water with electrolytes) and mini cliff bars
+ At the after party, you could get a Miller Lite (ticket on your bib), Cliff was there with full sized-holiday bars (pumpkin spice, gingerbread, and hot chocolate), sausages and hot dogs for purchase, and I think there was a band? We didn't stick around too long as we were pretty cold and wanted to get home to shower (and we had a mid-day birthday party to get to).
+ AWESOME medal at the finish line - double sided with different design on each side!

CONS:
- My mom registered me and I guess it was unclear whether shirts were unisex or gender specific, and must have appeared unisex as she got me my unisex size. When we picked up, they were gender specific. So for improvements I'd say make it clear during registration that they are gender specific (drop downs should be WS, WM, WL, MS, MM, ML, or something similar).
- No pace signs for lining up, which made each wave a bit of a mix of walkers and runners

OTHER:
• One aid station on course with water.
• Course went from Waldron Deck south under the McCormick Place tunnel (that's a negative to me only because it's so dark in there!), then a turnaround that had you crossing over the grass where you then go north on the lake front path to the finish line.
• Post race party held on the stadium green.
• Start on Waldron Drive, Finish on the path.
• Not chip times (clocks at start and finish).
• Plenty of parking at Soldier Field; majority parked at Waldron Deck for $20.

This was a super fun event which I intend to run again. I had registered a few years back, but then a different race we had registered for was on the same day and bc that had a medal (I think this was the first year Ditka Dash did medals), we chose to run that one. Then other years that date just didn't work out, but I'm so glad it did this year. Great swag and having packet pickup on race site is definitely a win in my book (it can be tough to make it into the city a day before the race, especially on a Friday, and some races the mailing option is too pricey). I hope they continue that option.

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(2016)
"Wonderful Thanksgiving Day Tradition"
Overall
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Thursday, November 24, 2016; 8am start - 15th Annual

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot with special 15th Year Finishers Medal! The challenging course on the scenic streets of Palos Park is 4 miles and USATF certified. There are 13 hills. In 14 years this race has donated over 120,000 cans of food and $3,000.00. The event is limited to 1,300 and proceeds, which include 2 canned goods from every entrant, go to stock the Worth Food Pantry. Each participant receives a stocked goody bag and a special giveaway item (hooded shirt (purple for women and green for men) and Feetures socks). Start and Finish outside Palos Park Rec Center. No aid stations, but give 3 stars because I don't think it's necessary for a shorter race distance to have one. They can be nice, but not needed. Weather was in the upper 30s, cloudy - my kind of weather.

PROS:
+ Parking is limited at the race start, so you can park at a nearby Metra lot (you don't have to pay for parking), and the race has school busses to take you to the start and back again when you were finished.
+ Packet pickup is at the store (Running for Kicks in Palos Heights) Monday–Wednesday.
+ Packet pickup on race day.
+ Packet pickup also included map for parking and the course.
+ Goody bag included a purple or green hooded shirt and a pair of Features running socks.
+ Tent to hang out in before/after race.
+ 5 year age group awards going 3 deep.
+ Post race bottled water, bagels, and bananas.
+ Family friendly - love seeing so many people being active.
+ Smaller race, maybe about 700 participants.
+ NEW for 2016 - race medals. Not sure if it'll happen again next year or just special for the 15th year.

CONS:
- There was a screw up with the shirts (not sure what happened), but the women's didn't have any L and I think they ran out of women's sizes... I heard that it was possible that the men and women's numbers got mixed up.
- It wasn't obvious during registration that the hooded shirts were gender specific - in the past it's been unisex so was unaware it was gender specific.
- No raffles during the post-race party - I think this was due to the shirt mishap and they likely had to shell out cash to order more. Would have been nice if they announced it, as I was waiting around for them haha.

I really enjoy doing this race every year. I think this was my 5th or 6th year running this race. It raises money and donates food to the hungry and I love starting my holiday (that generally means lots of food) with a 4 miler. I think this was our fastest pace yet, too :)

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