Latest reviews by Heather C

(2016)
"Instant PR with Unique Race Distance!"
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Hot Chocolate 15k/5k Chicago was held on Sunday, October 30. Chicago is the first stop on the 2016/17 Hot Chocolate Nationwide Tour. I've only done this race one other time maybe three years ago as it always falls on a weekend that I commit to another race. I was so happy with the weekend change this year so I could participate, and run my first ever 15k! Race day weather seemed a bit iffy. When I checked it said rain would be done by 6am, but while waiting to start in my corral we had a few bits of rain drops and drizzle, but it wasn't much or lasted too long. It was in the mid-50s with high winds now and again, mostly cloudy. Generally, perfect running weather.

PROS:
+ The Expo was two days - Friday 10a–7p and Saturday 10a–6p at McCormick Place Skyline Ballroom, West Building. I went on Saturday morning - crowded, but easy to get packet. You go and scan your QR code sent in your confirmation email or from the email they send a week before the race with info. They give you your bib. Then you head over to a line of shirts - go to your shirt size line and they give you a bag with your jacket, which was a fitted jacket with hood and thumbholes. Gear check bags were on your way into the vendor area.
+ Lots of vendors at the expo - Hot Chocolate official merchandise, Fleet Feet, OOFOS, and a bunch of others. You could also sign up for one of the many RAM Racing events (SF10, Rudolph Ramble, Mag Mile, etc).
+ 2 waves for race day - wave 1 at 7:30 and wave 2 at 8:15.
+ Corrals were clearly marked as was the course.
+ I believe there were 5 aid stations - Nuun first and then water.
+ Candy/chocolate stations - there was chocolate chips, strawberry marshmallows, m&ms, and chocolate marshmallows. They were before aid stations which was nice, so you could wash it down.
+ Interesting course - running north on Columbus, west on Lower Wacker, south on Clark, east on Van Buren, south on Lake Michigan (5k turned east on Roosevelt and north on Columbus to finish) - 15k finishers went straight on, east on 31st street, north and then back on MLK Dr, east again on 31st, a small out and back before going under McCormick Tunnel, out and back around Solder Field, then you headed north on the west side of SF, under the bridge and up the hill to Columbus, and north to the finish line.
+ Mile markers and clocks at every mile.
+ Finish line included your medal and bottled water. After party in Grant Park by Petrillo Bandshell.
+ The medals are city specific and for 15k finishers only. It's a unique and fun medal for sure.
+ Finisher mug filled (blue plastic) with cup of hot chocolate, melted chocolate with dippers: Banana, Rice Krispy Treat, pretzels, marshmallow, and one other thing I don't know the name of, but they are breaded sticks with chocolate inside... if that makes sense haha.
+ Post-race included a kids zone, DJ, and merchandise to purchase.
+ Free photo downloads.

CONS:
- The first mile was SO crowded. It was impossible to run your pace without bumping into people. There just wasn't enough space for the amount of people. I wasn't running for a PR, but would have been mad if I were. I don't know how this could have been helped, but there were a ton of people speeding through pushing others that should have been in a higher corral, and then slow walkers that probably should have been one corral back. Just frustrating that there had to be so much weaving and/or being stuck behind a wall of people and not being able to go the pace you want.

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(2016)
"Da Ditka Dash = Super Fun Run"
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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"
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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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(2016)
"Inaugural Wine and Dine 10k"
Overall
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2016 was the Inaugural Wine and Dine 10k held on Saturday, November 5 at 5:30am. It was also the Inaugural Lumiere's Two Course Challenge which was the 10k and Half Marathon. You can read my thoughts on the expo under my 5k review.

PROS:
+ Photos ops pre- and post-race with Check Mickey and Minnie, Emilie and Remy (though Remy left earlier so my mom and I only got Emile), Lumiere, and/or Donald Duck and Goofy.
+ I think I saw 6 character stops, though there might have been more I missed (not sure you'd count it, but penguins from Marry Poppins, Flik and Princess Atta, Pinochhio and Geppetto, Genie, Chip and Dale, and Sebastian.
+ 10 minutes between each corral, went from A–E.
+ Easy to use race transportation (at least where I stayed, I heard some horror stories of no buses showing up because they kept filling it up at the one resort before going to the second stop). I think you had to be on a bus between 3:30 and 4? So that runners were in corrals by 4:30? They took down the digital event guide so I can't double check.
+ Post race run box was same for 5k and half, plus got bottled water and Powerade.
+ Loved the inaugural medal.
+ Start and Finish line were in Epcot parking lot (again, two different locations for each)

CONS:
- A bit of congestion here and there, but generally I felt it was better than the 5k - you had about 3 miles on highway before anything else where it was mostly wide areas for runners to spread out (a few narrow areas, but everyone seemed to manage).

The course took your from highway to Epcot, half way around the world to the Boardwalk, enter Epcot again, and then out of Epcot for the finish. runDisney is great at organization and race management is very clear in their emails. Loved this race and the medal. Very happy I was able to take part in the Inaugural race.

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(2016)
"Fun Run in Lincoln Park"
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Pumpkins in the Park 5k (RAM Racing event) was held on Saturday, October 22 at 4pm in Lincoln Park with a start/finish at Lincoln Park South Fieldhouse. Weather was great - in the mid-50s. This was my first time running the event and overall I thought it was awesome.

PROS:
+ Packet pickup on Friday at Fleet Feet Old Town from 10a–8p and then at the race site Saturday from 1:30–3:30pm. I love race day pickup as it can be hard for me to get into the city on a Friday after work.
Packet included a hooded long sleeve tech shirt. It was black with a pumpkin - pretty neat and unique I think.
+ Lots of things to do pre- and post-race.
+ Course took you North past the lagoon, and the zoo, Nature Museum, and then back around with a loop by the zoo and then you were at the finish.
+ Clear markings at miles - clocks and signs.
+ Course was easy to follow with cones and course marshals.
+ One water stop at about 1.5 miles - water and Nuun available.
+ Awesome post-race goodies. Bottled water, Nuun in cups, Eli's pumpkin pie, Clif Nut Butter Bars, and Taffy Apples covered in sprinkles! They also were making popcorn on site and the line moved pretty quickly. Also Goose Island 312 or OMG for participants 21+.
+ Free race photos.

CONS:
- The first mile was pretty congested. The path wasn't very wide, so maybe adding another corral would be helpful in breaking that up a bit (there were only A and B).
- Not the race's fault, but due to some rains the previous day (day of?), parts of the path had some large puddles making the congestion worse.

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