Latest reviews by Rachel Drew

(2016)
"Great Run, But "Ride" Option Needs Work"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This review is of both the 10k running race and the "Ride" option, which allows participants to ride a 5k worth of distance on roller coasters for an additional medal.

Run:
Registration costs (starting at $55 for early bird and going up to $70) were well worth the price, considering that registration for the event gets you free parking (usually $20 per day) and an admission ticket to the park (usually $50 and up per day). Parking was very easy, and only a short distance from the start line. I took advantage of race-day packet pick up because I drove down from Vermont to avoid paying for a hotel stay. Things were well-organized at the start, although there were only 6 porta-potties for 300ish runners, which meant that a lot of runners were still in line to go when the starting horn went off.

The course was surprisingly well-shaded, which was great considering that the sun was out and humidity was at 90% at the start. It's a decent split between running on hard-packed dirt access roads on the perimeter of the park, and running on asphalt through the park. I ran the 10k option, which was 2 loops. There were a couple of small hills, and one larger one, but on the whole, elevation wasn't really a challenge. Two water stops on the course, so 10k runners had four hydration opportunities. VERY supportive volunteers, and the course was well marked with chalk arrows and volunteer flaggers.

I was disappointed with the food options at the finish. It was a hot, humid day, and all of the beverages were warm-to-hot in temperature. There were the usual apples and bananas, some cookies, and bagels, but I didn't see any cream cheese or peanut butter to put on them. The lack of food turned out to be a big problem for me. Since the bagels didn't look appealing, I decided I'd just buy food inside the park. But aside from cotton candy and funnel cakes, food vendors in the park didn't open until 11, which was almost 2 hours after I finished, and I was RAVENOUS by the time I managed to get my hands on an $8 slice of pizza.

Ride:
As part of the roller coaster race, participants were to "Enjoy early access to The Great Escape and select rides, before the park opens to the public." Perhaps it was wrong of me to assume, but I figured that this would be an opportunity for those of us "racing" to get a head start on coaster riding before the park opened and lines got long. What this actually meant is that all 300ish of us were corralled into a very small fraction of the park (cordoned off with ropes and security guards) with only 1 restroom per gender, no food options, and 3 operational rides, only one of which was a roller coaster. Again, I shouldn't have assumed anything, but I felt sort of misled.

Add to that the fact that within an hour of opening, wait times for roller coasters extended beyond 30 minutes, food vendors didn't open until 11 am, and my favorite coaster (and the longest one in the park, and therefore the most advantageous for those doing the coaster race) was not open, and no one knew whether or not it actually would be open that day, and I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. Still, I stuck it out, and by 1, my favorite coaster was operational, and I'd racked up enough distance to earn my coaster medal.

The final blow for me was that in order to check in with the race officials to receive my coaster medal, I had to leave the park. This didn't seem like a problem since I was planning to head home right after anyway, but as I exited the park and attempted to walk over to the race table, I was stopped by a security guard telling me I couldn't go that way, and would have to go through security again. I'm sorry, but asking people to wait in line and go through a metal detector a second time is just dumb. I was so dumbfounded, and quite frankly, angry, that I left without getting my coaster medal. In the future, the race table should be somewhere more accessible.

To summarize:
- Could use more potties at the start/finish line
- There needs to be more food at the finish, or food vendors need to be open earlier so that hungry runners can refuel
- Cold beverages after a hot race would be nice
- Early access to the park didn't really mean much for those doing the coaster race
- The race table should either be inside the park proper or outside the security checkpoint so that it's easier to access

I would definitely do this race again, especially the run portion, simply because now I know what to expect, and won't be disappointed by unmet expectations.

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(2016)
"Crowded But Fun"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This is now my third year running this race because I get free registration through work, and my feelings are the same as in years past. It's a great community event, but it has some logistical issues.

Pros:
- Great community support--people on their lawns and porches cheering, playing music, or spraying hoses for runners to go through (it's usually pretty hot)
- Mostly flat course with a couple of small hills
- Streamlined bib pickup process
- Chip timing
- Well-manned water stop at the halfway point
- Race official calling out times at each mile marker

Cons:
- Traffic coming into Montpelier is a nightmare. I got off the highway at 4:40, sat in traffic for 20 minutes, and ended up parking almost a mile away from the start at the Park and Ride. There are no shuttles, so I had to run over.
- Parking options aren't always super clear. They send out an email before the race telling you where you can and can't park, but some signage coming off the highway would be very helpful.
- There is a mass start with close to 4000 participants, but almost zero race etiquette. In the pre-race emails, it's suggested to seed yourself appropriately based on your pace (and walker vs. runner), but even so, the first half mile or so of the race is extremely congested, and many people end up stopping to walk right away. People walk in large clumps, all over the road, so a lot of bobbing and weaving is necessary.
- Cotton t-shirt

If you're looking to "race" this one, make sure you seed yourself way up at the front; otherwise, resign yourself to the crowds and jostling.

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(2016)
"You Will Feel Like a Rockstar"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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I have to start by stating that this year's race was not typical--for the first time in its history, the race was cancelled mid-way through due to extreme conditions. The Wet Globe Temp readings indicated that the heat and humidity at noon were too dangerous for runners, and official timing was discontinued. Temperatures were close to 90 F and the humidity was high.

It is my opinion that RunVermont did everything they could to mitigate the unfavorable weather. In the days before the race, they had added 9 extra misting stations, 5 extra ice stations, 4 roving ice patrols, more than doubled their ice order, ordered extra cups and water, extended the course time limit, and asked the residents of Burlington to help out by hosing down runners. All of this is in addition to their regular hydration/aid stations and pre-race preparations.

Expo: The expo was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking when I arrived at 4pm Friday. Getting my bib and race shirt was very streamlined and easy. There were plenty of vendors so any last-minute needs like Nuun, Gu, Shot Bloks etc were available, plus lots of great extras like 14th Star Brewery, Silo Distillery, and VT Smoke and Cure with samples.

Parking: I live in Burlington, so I didn't need a shuttle or take advantage of any host hotel parking. I arrived in the downtown area shortly after 7 am and was able to park within a half mile of the start line. All city parking is free on Sundays, so I didn't have to pay.

Start Line/Bag Check: The starting area was easy to navigate. Lots of porta potties, quick gear check, and plenty of water available, which was necessary on such a hot day. The corrals were well organized and well labeled, and the course was chip timed.

On the Course: This is a mostly flat course, with the only hills when you're going onto and coming off the Beltway (mile 3.5ish/mile 8ish), and the Battery Street Hill (mile 15ish). It's a fairly scenic course, running through neighborhoods, and along the bikepath with Lake Champlain views. The worst part of this race is the Beltway. You're running an out and back on a highway, fully exposed to the sun. There is one aid station that you pass twice in this section, and by the time I'd come back around, the aid station was completely out of both water and Gatorade. Spectator support for this race is INCREDIBLE. Every neighborhood has something going on. Residents of Burlington truly stepped up and had extra water, extra ice, extra snacks, live bands, cowbells, signs, and more. You will feel like a complete rockstar running this race. Burlington LOVES this race, and loves its runners.

I had just crossed mile 19 when we received word that the race was "cancelled" due to the extreme conditions. The race official at the Leddy Park aid station was telling runners that timing was being discontinued, that aid stations were being shut down, and that while we would not be prevented from continuing, we were HEAVILY discouraged from doing so. Due to that information, I elected to leave the course and take a shuttle bus to the finish area. I still received a medal, but since this was to be my first marathon, I was VERY disappointed. I also found out after the fact that the information I received at Leddy Park was incorrect; chip timing continued through the RaceJoy app (although no official times would be honored after the 4 hour 30 minute mark), and aid stations and the finish line stayed open for anyone who finished.

I spoke to the Marketing Director for RunVermont, and she was very apologetic about the misinformation I received and emphasized that all decisions made on RaceDay were centered around keeping runners safe, which I truly believe. It was a difficult situation for everyone involved. I do think that RunVermont has some work to do to make sure that emergency communications are handled better in the future, so that EVERYONE gets consistent and correct information on the course, but it's hard to plan for all potential scenarios. In spite of a disappointing outcome, I wouldn't hesitate to register for VCM again if I wanted another marathon attempt.

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(2016)
"An Annual Favorite"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This is now the third year I've run this race, and I will keep coming back. Excellent course support, mostly flat course, enthusiastic and appreciative volunteers, great post-race snacks, access to real bathrooms and space to wait inside in case of inclement weather. Registration is only $20, but you are encouraged to do some fundraising, as this is intended to benefit Vermont Respite House. They give age group awards for 1st and 2nd place in each 10 year age group male/female, as well as overall winners male/female. I do wish they'd give tech shirts as opposed to cotton, but for a charity race, that's perhaps unrealistic. If you want a fun, feel-good 5k race, this is a good one for you.

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

I registered for this race last-minute while visiting family in DC. On-site registration was very easy, and $25 for a chip-timed race is a pretty great deal. You can also register for the entire series (5 races, every Friday night through April) for $100, and registering for the series gets you either a tech shirt or a $10 gift card to a local running store.

The registration area is in a mall, which is great because it offers access to real bathrooms, and there was a bag check as well. Lots of people come straight after work and need to change and stash their stuff. In my case, I was a tourist, so having a place to change and safely store my backpack was awesome. It's also metro-accessible, which was really nice for me as an out-of-towner.

The race starts and ends in a park right across the street from the mall/registration area, and there was a great community vibe. Lots of people obviously knew each other/had run the races before, and were ready to have a good time. The route is nothing spectacular, but the volunteers and police escorts are amazing, there's one water stop on the course, and plenty of bottled water at the end. If you're looking for a fun, casual 5k, this is the race for you.

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