Latest reviews by Heather

(2016)
"Kick off 'race season'!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I honestly can't tell you how many years I've been doing the Shamrock Shuffle! I love getting to run through the streets of Chicago - gives you some nice scenery vs so many other races that are on the LFP (which I still enjoy). It's necessary to be on the streets though, with the amount of runners they have out there. This is always a well managed/organized race and I always have a great time. The race was held on Sunday, April 3 with 2 waves of runners/corrals. The weather was a bit chilly and windy, but definitely not bad at all. Race morning ranged from mid 30's to lower 40s (though I know around 7ish it was a feels like temp of 25). As long as you're dressed appropriately, no problem. I personally enjoyed the weather, but I know that can be a touchy subject, as everyone's hot and cold is relative to them and their location.

I saw 'race season', because for most it kicks things off for the year, but if you're like me, all year is race season :)

PROS:
+ Expo was on two days: Friday from 10 am–8 pm and Saturday 9 am–6 pm at McCormick Place, West Building Hall 1
+ Parking at McCormick Place was super easy, and they validated at the expo so it was $10
+ New expo hall this year - F1, which was super close to the parking lot - not the hike it was last year in Hall A I believe
+ TONS of exhibitors - I had a lot of fun looking around at other races, gear, etc. and a lot have expo/discount pricing
+ Nike has a bunch of awesome Shamrock Shuffle gear every year (sold by Fleet Feet)... unfortunately for me, it was no different this year. My wallet took a hit ;)
+ Packet pickup was organized and easy - you have your confirmation email/QR code you show to the person at the bib pickup; you could hop in line where you number we be (say 20,000–25,000), or if someone was free they were happy to help. I accidentally went in the wrong numbered line (thought it was correct but then looked up and realized I should have been over 2 lines, but they didn't seem to mind). Your bib comes in a folder with safety pins. You then went down to the other end to grab your race shirt, organized by Men and Women sizes, and you got a bag with your shirt, Chicago Athlete Magazine, Shamrock Shuffle sunglasses, coupons, and a box of Cold-Eeze.
+ Easy to exchange your shirt. I found the sizing to be a bit smaller than most, so I went up a size. They had sample shirts to try on, and all you had to do was give them your folder with your bib so they could scan it and swap out the shirts. Easy peasy.
+ Gear check opened at 6:30am along with start corrals. Wave 1 start at 8:30am (corrals A–D), Wave 2 at 9am (Corrals E–H)
+ Post race party start at 9am; live music began 9:30. Post-race party ended at 1:30 with an after party at The Scout at 2pm
+ Aid stations were well manned and stocked - gatorade at first set of tables, water at the next. Located mile 1.6 (State Street and Randolph Street) and 3.6 (Harrison Street and Wells Street)
+ Energetic volunteers
+ Course on the streets of Chicago - start at Monroe and Columbus, west on Grand, south on State, west on Jackson, north on Lasalle, west on Randolph, south on Franklin, east on Harrison, south on Michigan, east on Mount Roosevelt, and north on Columbus to the finish line.
+ At Finishers Chute you received your medal, bottle of water, cups of Gatorade, bag of Sun Chips (original or cheddar), bag of pretzels, Special K snack bar, and a banana.
+ With your entry you received a free Michelob Ultra (there was a ticket you tear off your bib). I think you all know how I feel about that beer option, though, so I did not partake.
+ Thomas English Muffins and Bagels - you got a free toasted muffin of bagel. I wasn't hungry before the start, when the line was short, and when I finished it was really long so I passed, but cool option
+ Home Run Inn pizza truck

CONS:
These are just nit picky things, not that they bothered me much, but I know some people want to know ALL the details, so here they are:
- The shirts ran small to size, in my opinion. Even the XL seemed pretty small, which made me wonder how many women had to go with a men's size in order to get one that fits?
- Some of the Chicago streets have some potholes/uneven spots, so you just need to watch where you're going
- I'm slow, so of course was in the last corral, which I'm fine with. Mom and I stood at the back of the fence so that once we started moving, we'd be starting at the back so we wouldn't have people running us over as we did our intervals. Once we started moving though, a TON of runners joined in the back, so corral H was WAY overcrowded. It was maybe the size of 2.5 corrals. Might be a pain, but maybe have an unofficial break between the last corral mid-way through to help break them up. The crowd never really thinned out when running, which seemed unusual to me, as usually it does. Lots of weaving around walkers or slower runners, which didn't bother me a ton, but again, know that it does for others.

I'd definitely recommend this race! It's a standing tradition here in Chicago for most runners.

You can read a more personal recap on my blog: http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2016/04/shamrock-shuffle-2016-recap.html

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(2016)
"Icy path leads to SLOW race; great SWAG"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first year running this race. The weather turned out to be less than ideal. The start was 27 degrees with a feels like temp of 16, 15mph winds, and partly cloudy. Much of the course was near the lake, with the wind being almost unbearable. I was very happy to have a Buff to cover most of my face, or I'm sure I would have gotten wind burn or something. The part that wasn't covered (you know, my eyes so I could see haha) hurt so bad. Luckily, the course did get away from the lake for a few miles, which at that point I was thinking it was getting warm and I could take my hat off, but then we got back on the lake and was glad I kept it on. I normally am able to take my gloves off about a mile into a race, but the wind was so bad I kept them on the entire race. Anyway, race weather conditions can't be helped - it is what it is, just thought worth mentioning.

PROS:
+ Option to get packet mailed for $9.99. I chose this option since I didn't think I'd be able to make it into the city/up north on Thursday or Friday. Packet pickup on Thursday, April 7 from 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, April 8 from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. at Sports Authority Sporting Goods, 3134 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60657
+ It was originally scheduled to start on Cannon Drive across from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and then it changed to Montrose Harbor about a month prior, but they were good about sending out an email and updating the website with the new information.
+ They set up shuttles to bring you to the start line from the old parking locations (Zoo, street parking near the Cannon Drive location)
+ 1/2 pullover - nice quality/design; you had option to choose the women's purple or the black men's
+ Plenty of aid stations - water first then gatorade.
+ Enthusiastic/friendly/supportive volunteers
+ The course was supposed to close at 11:30, but stayed open longer
+ They were breaking down the finish line party around 12:20. We finished later than expected due to waves taking a long time to get through and ice on the path, so was worried about missing out on the pizza and beer. Luckily, we were still able to get both.
+ Unique medal
+ 10k and half marathon distance (I honestly contemplated taking that 10k turnaround when we hit it with how rough the race was going with the ice and wind).
+ I liked that the course was a little different. Not a complete out and back on the LFP
+ Bottled water, Pizza (Connie's deep dish) and beer at the finish line! And it was a Chicago based beer company - Finch's Beer Co. Yay for not the other beer we are so used to haha.
+ Even though we had to park over a mile away (originally thought it would be a great warm up, but then we had to wait 30 minutes before starting anyway), it was free, and there were port-potties lining the parks, easier than waiting in the line at the race

CONS:
- Parking at Montrose was a HUGE pain. I thought we left plenty early, but we ended up getting caught in a long line of traffic to get off LSD onto Montrose exit - was backed up about 1/2 mile and took 30 minutes to get through. Didn't help that people would cut the line.
- We ended up having to park over a mile away from the race. It started at 8:15, and I thought we would miss the start, but there ended up being a 3 wave start, and we had to wait around another half hour before starting. Knowing that there was going to be a wave start would have been helpful. We would have stayed in the car a little longer to stay warm.
- The course was about 75% ice. I know the weather can't be helped, but I thought for sure someone would have gotten the path cleared for the race. I don't know if that should be on the city or the race, but it was very unsafe. We ended up having to do a lot of walking, trying not to fall.
- With the amount of ice on the course, I was surprised at the lack of medical staff on course. I didn't see any falls, somehow, but I imagine there had to be some. I almost fell about 5 times, but managed to stay on my feet. Even some spots that looked clear ended up having some black ice and slid plenty of times.

If you know me, you know I rarely have many cons or have much to complain about with races, but I was really disappointed with the parking situation and the icy path. I thought it was unsafe conditions and was worried about breaking an arm. That being said, generally I felt the race communication was good (only downside there was not mentioning wave start... and really I don't think I would have cared if that wind wasn't so miserable), and I'd definitely give the race another chance next year. Knowing how the parking was this year and if it's at Montrose again, I'd switch up my plans a bit to accommodate parking.

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(2016)
"Long lines for characters, but still well organized race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Never Land 5k was held on Friday, May 6 with a 5am start time. The weather was pretty great - it was upper 50s at the start time with a bit of humidity. Though the start is still before the sunrises, if you are slower and take lots of photos you finish in daylight. When the sun rose it was mostly overcast, which I prefer.

PROS:
+ Organized Expo. Though lines for official merchandise lined up early and got pretty long, they kept the crowd inside the merchandise area to a minimum. There wasn't any shoving or rude behavior from what I saw. Very calm, friendly folks shopping.
+ Packet pickup is down the ramp under the Disneyland Hotel in a parking garage. You head to whichever race you need a bib for, show them ID, give them your waiver, they give you your bib, gear check sticker, program book, and pins/necklace if you preordered. Find your number/name in the booklet and sign that you received your bib, initial if you had other things to pickup. Pre-ordered Dooney & Bourke, Performance Jacket, or Bundle? Head over to the pre-order kiosks. All lines were very organized and moved pretty quickly. Head upstairs to the expo in the hotel to pickup your shirts. From right to left it was: 5k, PDC, 10k, half if I remember correctly. Need to exchange for a different shirt size? Head over to the table next to the half shirt pickup and you can do this. I tried on a size up, liked it, and exchanged easily and quickly.
+ Speaker Series and plenty of great gear/stores at the expo.
+ The start is INSIDE Disneyland on Main Street (or around the Main Hub by the castle).
+ 2 water stations - plenty of energetic volunteers to pass out the cups.
+ The Cast Members and VoluntEARS are always great.
+ Cute Finisher Medallion (5th Anniversary of the Neverland 5k!)
+ Organized Finisher Chute. You come out and get your medal, wrap around and get your bottled water (Dasani) and smaller bottle of Powerade. Then wrap around again and get your usual runDisney box of goodies and banana, then there are the photo ops before exiting the runner's only area.
+ There were a lot of PhotoPass photographers along the course. They were in neon green tents, so usually were pretty easy to spot. (Only issue is when people decide to stop to try and get a photo, even though they can get you while running.)

CONS:
- The 5k shirts are cotton. I think you all know how much I love tech shirts ;)
- There are no official corrals. They have A–D for wave purposes (about 5 minutes apart), however, it's on a first come first served basis. This means you have people of all paces together. Though I am on the slower end of the running spectrum, I still like to run. And when the start of Corral B happened, I was ready to go. I had no idea when the start actually happened, as no one was running at all. When I figured out it had passed, it was very disappointing to see no one in the corral (or at least the front) seemed to care to run or stay to the right. By the time we were able to move, it was the first character stop.
- Character Stops were AWFUL. Not the characters themselves, but we stopped at Hook and Smee and it took us, no joke, 25 minutes to get through the line. We were maybe only 1.5 corrals back from the start, so who knows what was going on. Once you commit maybe 5–10 minutes already, it's hard to get out of that line. We finally get towards the front, and they come by saying we might get swept. If that were an issue, you think they might have cut the line off much sooner, because there were still a bunch of people behind us. Luckily, the cast member that had been there with us told them that she was told we'd be ok, and that we could stay in line. I think the main hold up with the new PhotoPass photographers. They aren't as quick or used to moving such long lines quickly. I watched closely, and it was like a 2 minute process per person or group, and it just didn't run as smoothly as when Marathonfoto is in charge. I know it's a new implementation, and in theory it seems great (cheaper, you get all your photos from the parks + the race for $39/day), but they need to get quicker with the photographs in order to keep the lines moving during a race. Perhaps it was just this particular stop... one later on seemed to move a bit better, it's hard to say. I hope I don't sound too whiny, just trying to explain how the experience was from my perspective.
- We got held up at the first character stop, but caught up to plenty of people. From what I could tell there were only 2 official character photo opportunities (with a PhotoPass photographer) - Hook and Wendy/Peter. The Lost Boys were out in two groups of three, but that was for sefie shots only (maybe there was an official photographer there earlier and they left? Can't say for sure). Last year they had all the Lost Boys together and an official photographer, and that was the man photo I wanted this year, so was disappointed. I know there were some photo ops with some pirates (not sure if there were photographers there or not), on the pier, and with the Mile 3 marker/backdrop. If anyone knows of more that I missed, and if there were more character photos that I didn't mention (because I obviously missed them), please let me know in the comments so I can update!
- Course change this year - no longer finishes in California Adventure. Not a ton of running through Disneyland (run past the castle to your left and through Toon Town into backlots and then into DCA). A good amount of time in DCA, but I missed the finish being there.
- If you tried to get in the virtual queue for the New Balance runDisney shoes at 7pm... too bad. It didn't open till maybe 9:15ish, and there were no updates, warnings, or anything as to why it didn't go live on time or that it had gone live at all. The power of social media I'm sure came into play big here for anyone attempting to register.

Though the negatives take up half my review, I will say that I had a great time. I made new friends in the character photo lines, and though the wait was super long for the first character, we still managed a photo and didn't get swept, which meant more photos later on. There isn't a chip time, and I'm pretty sure this was my slowest 5k ever (I've done a few runDisney ones now, and none of them have been quick because of photo ops haha). Anyway, I had a great time, enjoyed myself and didn't take anything too seriously (even though I might have gotten a bit anxious about the whole first photo op haha).

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(2016)
"Fun race, awesome cause!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Back on My Feet (Chicago) Mardi Gras Chaser 5/10k was held on Saturday, February 20, 2016. We happened to have AMAZING weather in Chicago on this day - it was in the low 50s with a feel of upper 40s, a little breezy, and mostly sunny. This was my first race organized by BoMF, and I loved learning about the organization and what they do. I think they did a great job with the race and hope to be able to run it again next year.

PROS:
+ Easy registration with a confirmation email sent promptly
+ Communication from race was great - they were responsive on twitter and instagram, and also received enough emails to feel in the loop
+ Packet pickup was originally for Fleet Feet Old Town, which wasn't able to open up on time (there had been a fire there and they've been working on getting back up and running), so it moved to the Lincoln Square location on Friday from 10am–8pm. Neither is convenient for me, but I at least know where the Old Town one is and what the parking situation is. Anyway - because of this change (I think it's the reason), they also offered day of packet pickup from 8–9:30. Yay!
+ I did race day pickup and it was quick - got my bib, shirt, and was able to choose a fun Mardi Gras mask
+ Long sleeve tech shirt - I don't feel like I get enough long sleeves from races, so this made me happy
+ Aid stations on course - gatorade and water
+ Enthusiastic volunteers and BoMF workers and members
+ 10K finishers received a medal - instead of a ribbon it was a bead necklace with a medal, which I thought was fun (more unique and fit the race theme). I honestly didn't even know medals were involved for the 10K until an email before the race. Awesome surprise.
+ Mile markers were little signs stuck in the ground (I saw all 6 signs; didn't mind there weren't clocks or large flags or anything - thought what they had was sufficient)
+ SO MUCH POST RACE food! Mini Bagels - I saw cinnamon and plain, but I think there were other flavors too, bananas, cups of Gatorade, apples, Entenmann's Little Bites (crumb cakes, cinnamon, etc), and cakes/cookies from Bimbo - Bran Fruit, Barritas cookies, variety of Sara Lee cakes, Gansito Cookies. All delicious.
+ Port-a-potties on site - somehow it was only one long line that formed, but it moved quick since that one line was going for maybe 8? port-a-potties. We waited maybe 10 minutes, so not bad. Also, they had the hand washing station! Soap and water! Only thing was there was no garbage for the paper towels in the area, I had to go searching. Minor issue for an excellent addition (I love being able to actually wash my hands with soap and water, so really no complaints about the garbage - I found one eventually).
+ Course marshals to help control any areas we had to run that had traffic
+ Everyone had such a great energy and the weather being so nice made it a great race.
+ 10am 10k start, 10:15 5k start
+ It seemed most people that drove were able to find free parking without much of a problem (I know I did, which made me very happy - I got there really early in case I had trouble getting a spot haha).
+ After party at Fat Cat with NOLA style buffet for about $12ish. Free first beer for participants. I wasn't able to go, but it sounded fun. They were also doing raffles to help benefit BoMF.
+ First place male and female received $50 gift card (for fleet feet i believe)

CONS:
None

I thought the race was well-managed, and being for a great cause, I don't have any negative things to say about the race. Definitely recommend to anyone in Chicago during this event.

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(2016)
"Improvements made from last year; great race day!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The race was held on Saturday, January 24, 2016. 10am half marathon start, 10:20 5k start. Gear check opened at 8am and closed at 1:40pm. Weather, for Chicago in January, was pretty tame. About 30 degrees, mostly cloudy, with some wind (around 8mph).

PROS:
+ Multiple day for packet pick up with multiple locations. At pickup receive bib and drawstring bag. Shirt and hat were to be picked up after the race.
+ Ability to pick up friend/family packets
+ I went to pickup at RR Sports Chicago and they had a 10% off coupon. I needed some things, so that was nice to get when I walked in for the event.
+ Half marathon finishers received bottle opener medal
+ 3:30 course time (course closed at 1:30). Just take note - the time limit begins with race start at 10am. The race had waves (which I appreciate), so those in the back started maybe 10–15 minutes after race start. Therefore, those that are slower and in the back only have 3:15–20 to finish. When there was about 40 minutes left to the race, I had a volunteer warn me of the 1:30pm finish close and that they'd start breaking down. I finished with plenty of time to spare, but I appreciated that they were letting runners know.
+ SWAG included a long sleeve tech shirt (more on this later), drawstring bag, finisher medal (for half marathon), and beanie (half marathon)
+ pre- and post-race are in the United Club at Soldier Field. Line up at 9:48. Great to be able to stay warm/get warm before and after the race
+ LFP was clear of snow/ice. A few puddles, but no biggie
+ Course goes around Soldier Field and then over to the LFP - go south till about mile 7 and then back north. Some parts were a little congested, when the path narrows and you had large groups of runners going both north and south, but generally not a problem.
+ Live runner tracking for 2016
+ They listened to the survey they sent out last year. Finish line included bottled water, bananas, bagels, hot chocolate (I missed that station, oops), and popcorn.
+ Free race photos
+ $19 special event parking at Soldier Field North Garage (usually its $20–22, so saving a couple bucks is always nice)
+ Though I didn't attend, it sounded like a lot of others were - post-race party at Reggies Chicago - first 312 on them. There was a free shuttle to get bring you there. $12 buffet.
+ Friendly volunteers and workers
+ Aid stations (4 stations, but you hit them on the way out and back, so sort of like 8) had gatorade first then water - even well staffed and plenty of liquids for the back-of-the-pack folks (me)
+ Race communication on all fronts was great. Even got an email today about the shirts, results, a survey, etc.

CONS:
- Not their fault, but a large shipment of shirts didn't make it in time for the race. They asked people to pick up their shirts at any of the pickup locations (4) during the week once they arrived. They were hoping that they'd have enough shirts for out of towners to pick up at the race, and then locals pickup at the store. The vendor offered a 20% discount, but I personally didn't want to have to spend money in order to get benefits from the problem. I think the main problem were men's sizes. I think 5k folks were able to grab a beanie instead of a shirt if they wanted. Being towards the end of the finishers, and the fact that it would take me over 2 hours of driving to get to any of the locations, I was selfish and got my shirt after the race. Now I don't feel so bad because I just got an email and the size I grabbed is still available for pickup. Another email will be sent out once more info on shirts is available.

This is a well organized race, and a great way to stay motivated and training through winter. I would highly recommend it to others. Here is my more lengthy, personal recap: http://www.heatherrunsthirteenpointone.com/2016/01/f3-lake-half-marathon-2016-recap.html

Now if someone reads this who has done Waterfall Xtreme 10 - can you please write a review? I'm interested in knowing more about that one! Thanks :)

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