Latest reviews by Chadd

(2015)
"My First Bike/ Run Race"
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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The Delaware Valley Duathlon was my first ever race that included a biking portion. I was training for a triathlon that year and used this race as a warm up to get me used to transitioning from a bike to running. The race started with a 5K then a 15.5 mile bike ride and finally one last 5K.

This was an overall enjoyable race. It was held in a very scenic area north of Philadelphia known as Lake Nockamixon, roughly an hour north of Center City Philadelphia. This is a beautiful lake with miles and miles of trail on it. So needless to say the scenery for this run was amazing. Half way through the two 5K's you would up with a wide shot of the lake as you were running down a trail. It gave me time to take in what was going on around me and enjoy such a physically demanding race. For as beautiful as the scenery was, the 5K runs were rolling with a few hills. So the run tested me a lot physically. The first 5K wasn't as bad, however this was the first time I had ever run a 5K after biking such a long distance so the second 5K was difficult to say the least.

The bike ride was enjoyable as well. Unfortunately the bike portion was not held in the trails of the lake and was held on a main road. So you did have to race your bike alongside of cars whizzing by. And even at one point a car almost cut off a number of us racers. But it was also a physically demanding ride as well. There were plenty of hills to test you out.

I would highly recommend this race. Duathlon's are great races to test your ability if you ever think of one day running a triathlon. Triathlons can cost a lot of money to run. And what I have experienced is the swim portion can be one of the most difficult. Not only is it physically demanding, but you need separate clothing during this portion because you are going into water. So if you are toying with the idea of running a triathlon but not sure about it, I highly recommend a Duathlon to dip your toe in the water. And if you live in the Philadelphia area this is the Duathlon to run!

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(2015)
"Did It For The Medal!"
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This past weekend was the Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia. It was my second year running this race and overall was a great time. To be completely honest my motivation for running the race this year was purely superficial. Last year they didn’t offer a medal for the race, which I found odd considering it was a longer race that attracted a lot of runners. Usually runs over 10K’s offer some sort of race medal. And honestly I consider myself a medal chaser, I have no shame. So when I found out this year they were offering a medal, I knew I had to sign up. Plus it was a pretty cool designed medal so how could I pass it by?

The day before the race I took the train to the city from work and was on my way to the expo. It was held in the traditional location for most big races in Philly, the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It is a relatively easy trip to make because the one major train station is a short walk to the convention center. I wrote about this in a previous post as well, but as someone who is coming from the suburbs it would be nice for races to push their expo times back a bit. Most expos end at 7:00 which means I have to leave work early and disrupt my work schedule to make it there on the time and catching the right train. I could drive, but the one major road (Route I-76) that connects the suburbs to Center City Philadelphia is constantly backed up, the train is just easier.

I had mixed feelings about the expo itself. Because there was a volleyball tournament happening at the convention center I believe the expo got pushed out of its normal location. Most big race expos happen in one of the main ballrooms. So I walked to those rooms and found a very large volleyball tournament going on. So as a result the race expo was held in a room that looked more like a small warehouse in the building. I am sure this wasn’t something the race organizers could help so it is hard to hold it against them, but it took away from the atmosphere of it all.

The room not withstanding, the expo was good. I was impressed with how they gave you your bib. Usually you have to stand in a specific line that is specific to bib your predetermined bib number. But for this race you didn’t have a predetermined number. You gave them your confirmation code and they printed your information out right there in line. They would then take this information and stick it to either a 15K or 5K bib, depending on which race you are running. I found this interesting because it made getting your bib a lot easier. Plus you got your name on the bib which usually does not happen.

The expo was also great because they allowed you to make changes there on site. They gave away a race hoodie versus a traditional shirt. If your hoodie was not the right size you could switch it out for one that was the proper size. This was a great piece of swag because it is perfect for the spring weather. It zips up on the front and is lightweight. Last year they gave away a pull over. I use the pull over for cold running more than wearing around the house, so it was great to get a piece from them that can be used in other areas. If it was a repeat of what they gave away last year I really wouldn’t have seen much benefit. And as per usual there was a lot of different race merchants selling different products and goods. I typically don’t look around as often because I got most of what I needed during the holidays so I didn’t do much shopping. They were giving out some chocolate towards the exit of the expo so naturally I had to stop and get some of that.

About 30 hours before the race I decided I would book a hotel for the night before the race. Once again, driving to the city from the suburbs can be difficult. And with a race this large it is even more of a headache. In addition to all this the race began at 8:00 AM, making travel on the train difficult since most trains wouldn’t leave early enough to leave time to get ready before the race start. So as a result I checked out a few last minute hotel deals and got one close to the race site for a half decent price. Overall this was a good decision because I was able to get up about 45 minutes later than I normally would have, and it was a quick 5 minute cab ride to the race. This allowed me enough pre-race time to do the normal things I need to do on race morning (I don’t have to go into details, all runners know what I’m talking about).

The race ran the standard river loop of Philadelphia. It’s tough to describe the course because I feel like I have described it a million times. But it was a great course overall. It followed the Schuylkill river as well as ran a bit into Center City. However this day in Philly was exceptionally windy. When I got to about mile 2 it felt like I was fighting the wind extra hard. It was coming hard off the river and was relentless. By the 3rd mile it started to slow down and wasn’t as heavy. Around mile 5 or 6 it started to pick up a bit. Luckily by the end of the race the wind was at the runners back. It was around mile 8.5/9 where I felt the wind really pick up and aid my running. It damn near felt like it pushed me to a minute per mile faster than my regular running. The end of the run was fun as usual. When running on this course the last .3 miles or so are full of spectators. It’s like running in a parade route and really helps you finish the race hard as everyone is screaming and cheering for you.

Overall the race organizers did a great job handling logistics of the race. I got through the portable toilet line in a fast manner, found my corral easily and took off with no issue. Philadelphia is a large city and this race attracts a lot of runners, so I imagine coordinating this many people is not an easy task. I found the beginning of the race to be interesting because they did not have the typical Hot Chocolate race arch. You have probably seen it before, the large black arch with the marshmallow figures at the top. Instead there were just two forklifts that had their forks raised high with a banner that read “Start” held to the top. I found out later that due to the wind they could not put up their normal arch.

I really enjoyed this race and recommend it. The cool thing about this race is they offer a 5K option that occurs 45 minutes before the 15K. So if you aren’t comfortable with the 15K distance yet, you can run the 5K and still get a big race feel that most 5K’s do not offer. For me, getting comfortable with being around that many runners was just as hard as the miles themselves when I first pushed past the 5K race distance. Personally for me the race was great. Last week I ran the Back On My Feet 5 Miler and PR’d the 5K and 5 Mile distance. In this race I PR’d the 15K distance and was right in line with my time for the 5K. So to PR 3 distances in the past 2 weeks is an awesome feeling. It is only the first week of April and my running is really coming to form. I am getting faster and feel like for the first time ever that I am finally getting control of my running and pacing myself properly. I still have a lot of work to do before the Chicago Marathon, but to feel this confident this early on is a great feeling.

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(2015)
"An Overall Great Race For A Great Cause!"
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This past weekend was the Back on My Feet Philly 5 Miler. The Back on My Feet (BoMF) organization is a great group that helps rehabilitate the homeless through running. They have local operations in many cities across the country. If there is one close to you and you love running, it’s definitely an organization you should try and get involved with in someway.

Their Philadelphia chapter put on a 5 mile race this weekend along with their primary sponsor, AT&T. It was a great way to not only help in my year long marathon training of races above 5K distance but it also allowed me to help out an organization that is doing a lot of good in the city of Philadelphia.
Packet Pick Up
BoMF allowed for two packet pick up options. You could pick it up the day of the race, or you could stop at the Philadelphia Runner Center City location the day before. (Side note: Philadelphia Runner is Philly’s premier running store, check them out if you’re ever in town). I chose the day before option. I took the train down to the city (coming from the suburbs) and walked the 5 or so blocks to the store and got my packet. It was an easy process, just gave them my bib number and got what I needed. Took only minutes. My only critique would be to extend the hours of packet pick up. Coming from work I took the earliest train I could to get there on time. And even that train only left me with 15 minutes before packet pick up closed. Next year I’d extend the pick up hours by 30 minutes or so.
The Course
They held their annual 5 Mile run by the famous “Rocky Steps” as most people know them. For locals it is the art museum steps. The course ran your traditional running route of most large races in Philadelphia. Starting up MLK Drive, looping through Fairmount Park and back down MLK to the finish. For those who aren’t local this course follows the Schuykill river. It’s a really nice course because it’s open and you get a great view of the river and the city. A mile and a half in you do have to deal with the Sweet Briar Lane hill. On this hill the elevation jumps almost 100 feet from top to bottom. I started the race feeling really good with my running (lately I haven’t been) and didn’t think I’d walk any of it. That clearly changed at this hill. I walked about 3/4 of the hill but by the top of it got back to running. The good thing was, there was an equally as steep downhill at the end of mile 2 that made up for this walking. I ran the remainder of the run back down MLK Drive and in a time of 49:00 (unofficially) I PR’d the 5 Miler!
Race Swag
BoMF did a pretty good job with race swag. They gave away a bag with a bunch of goodies. The bag itself was nice. It seems like it holds a good amount and at the same time it is mesh and see through. Since the attacks at the Boston Marathon most races require see through bags. So this will be a good bag to bring to those races. Plus I like having bags like that for gym bags. There was also discounts on other races in the city, sporting good discounts and other things. There was even a pretty nice pair of sunglasses. However I am certain they are women’s. They also gave away a tech shirt. It’s a nice shirt but really bright yellow. If I ever have a late night run I would wear it for safety. But I don’t think I’ll wear it out casually or at other runs.

Overall this was a really good run. Outside of the obvious benefits of supporting such a great cause the run itself was a lot of fun. There was a lot of post race treats and plenty of volunteers to help out in need. Runners passed the same water station at 1.5 miles as they did at 3.5 so there was plenty of opportunities to rehydrate yourself. If you live in the Philly area and are looking for a run to test yourself out early in the year this is a great choice. It was cold enough out that it really tested you physically and the course was long enough to kick start your running year.

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(2015)
"Awesome run!"
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This weekend was the Frostbite 5 Miler, hosted by The Ambler Area Running Club. For me it was my first official run of the year. The next few runs I am training for are a 10 Miler in May and Half Marathon in June. So I thought it would be good to get myself out there with a 5 Miler early on the year. In fact I have written this previously, but I do not see myself running many 5K’s in 2015. Instead I would like to keep 5 Miles the shortest distance I run in official races for the year.

As I mentioned I am in the beginning of a training plan for two 10+ mile races so my training for this run was just a part of that. So this race came at the end of the 4th week of my training plan. Based on my plan (in a perfect world) that would have given me 4 weeks to train for this race. And by train I mean start running again in 2015. Based on my Nike+ app (add me!) I only ran a total of 10 miles in January. So as I mentioned in a perfect world that would be 4 straight weeks of running to prep for this run. Unfortunately this world is not perfect. Realistically it was 3 weeks because I spent a week on a cruise in the Caribbean.

None the less I got a good amount of training in before hand and ultimately had a good race. I completed the race at the time I expected and overall the cold wasn’t as bad as expected. It is also important to note this was the first run I did outside since I think November. I have been training solely on the treadmill (more on that experience in a future post).

Waking up in the morning was a true shock. I have lived in the Philly area long enough to know what the cold feels like. And last year I ran in snow regularly. However having not done it in months I didn’t think I would make it. In fact, if my girlfriend wasn’t with me I cannot 100% guarantee I would have ever gotten out of bed. The cold sucks, there’s no way around it. Regardless I trudged out there and dealt with the weather. I even made the ridiculous decision of taking off and handing my jacket to my girlfriend as I got in the starting line (I was certain I was going to run in it up until the last minute).

The race director said go and off we went. This was also my first run using my Nike+ Sports Watch so for about the first 20 steps I fumbled with that (and my music) and was finally getting going.

The course was great. More hilly than I thought it would have been, but the hills were good. They were spaced out enough that when I thought I was cruising along, they snuck up to give me a challenge. Within the first mile or two my body started warming up so the cold din’t become too much of an issue. Minus of course the fact that breathing in the cold air made my lungs feel like they were on ice.

But back to the course. It ran through a mix of rural neighborhoods and some main streets. The Running Club did a very good job at blocking the road of two way traffic to let the runners through and had more than enough volunteers to help direct both runners and cars. Also since the runners ran through neighborhoods there were a good amount of spectators out during the course cheering the runners on. I remember specifically one woman at mile 2 or 3 out with her son and a radio playing music. Reminded me for a quick second of the Rock N Roll Philly Half Marathon.

The only complaint I had was nothing to do with the course or the Running Club itself. I believe at one point I heard a volunteer yell out to a runner “run don’t walk!”. While I will assume you were doing this to cheer them on, now is not the time to try your hand at being a running coach. Some people incorporate a run/ walk method into their runs. Just because you see someone walking a part of course doesn’t mean you should be discouraging them from it. Clapping your hands and shouting “you can do it” is good enough.

After the run the Running Club had a mini expo set up at the local high school gym it was held at. I didn’t spend much time in this (I wanted to get in my warm car and home immediately!). However my girlfriend waited in there before getting to the finish line in time to see me finish. She said they had a few local running shops that were set up selling items and offering discounts to their stores. Also they had a DJ set up and a table to exchange your race shirt. So while I didn’t spend much time in here, I think that was really cool for the running club to set something like that up. At most local suburb races (under 10K) it is usually just a table with drinks and bananas set up and you are gone.

The food line looked impressive as well. I saw people with chili, hot dogs, bananas, chips, etc. They seemed to really go above and beyond the post race festivities. Again, the line for food was long and I wanted to get home and warmed up so I didn’t stick around.

The pre race swag/ set up was great as well. The Friday night before they set up a bib location pick up at the local movie theater. You could pick up your race shirt and bib from 5-8 pm. My girlfriend is usually not a bib pick up fan. She never understands going out of the way to get something you can just get the day of the race. So I bribed her to go with me by taking her to dinner at a local BYOB in the area. Win – win. The bib pick up was very easy. You walked in and they had multiple tables split between bib numbers. And if you (like me) didn’t know your bib number they had a board to find it. So I walked in and in less than 2 minutes walked out with my bib and race shirt. I liked the bib. They put the running logo, the logo of their main sponsor and a QR code to pull up results. As someone who has kept all my bibs for every run I have run I enjoyed it. The race shirt was very nice as well. It was tech material and long sleeve. So a perfect shirt to help with winter running.

Overall I was very pleased with this race. The Ambler Area Running Club held it with no issues whatsoever. And if there were, they were not very noticeable. They offered a great course, awesome post run experience and picking up your pre-race materials were super easy. I would recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themself with something beyond a 5K, especially in the winter weather. It is one thing to run a race when it is 72 degrees out. Another when you are sucking in frozen air and your muscles are tight because of the weather.

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(2014)
"My First Time At The Philly Marathon Half"
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The Philadelphia Marathon is the premier marathon for the city of Philadelphia. They offer both the marathon and half marathon options during the same time of day. Before I get into my review of the race I first want to discuss my training. Mainly because I felt like I under-trained for this but got my best results to date.

Training:
I followed the same training plan I always have for halves. 8 week training; 5 days per week, 3 days running, 2 days cross training. You run 1 long run a week and increase the distance 1 mile every week. Well my long runs stopped somewhere around week 4 (7 mile long run). For the remaining 4 weeks I only really ran 2-3 days per week. Usually about 4-6 miles per run. Overall I never ran over 7 miles.

However for actually doing little running I ended up PR’ing my 10K distance by a minute and my Half Marathon distance by 8 minutes. So clearly the lack of running didn’t have a negative impact. I attribute these results to two things. First being I decided to do some healthy eating this time around. I focused on eating chicken, steak and vegetables during the week and stuck to it pretty good. So overall my body felt better. And secondly this was my 3rd Half Marathon and 9th race of 10K or better, so as with anything repetition makes you better.

Now onto the race review…

Race Expo
Expo’s for major races in Philadelphia are always fun. And this one was no exception. Bib pick up was easy, the swag bag had some good things in it, and they allowed you to make corral adjustments on site. Outside of that there was plenty of shopping to be done. Typically in expos I do not take advantage of the shopping aspect. I get in and I get out. This time around I took advantage of it. My primary reason was because I got a hotel by the race location so I was in the city for the night and on top of that I was alone so had time to kill by myself. The other reason was now that I know what running a Half Marathon is like, I knew the things I needed to buy that I didn’t have. Things like gloves, socks, body glide and a few other odds and ends. So I took full advantage. I also registered for a free entry to the Broad Street Run, which is another major run in Philadelphia and hard to get into so I couldn’t pass that up.

Race Management
Gore-Tex is the company that manages this race. And overall they did an excellent job. Gear check was super easy. They used UPS trucks to store gear and there were plenty lined up making it easy to walk up and drop your gear off and pick up after the race. The corrals were properly listed and easy to get into and they roped off enough space for runners to make their way to the start line. These things all seem like common sense, but trust me I have run some races that have made these things a nightmare. After the run they had the proper amount of volunteers for medal, heat blanket and food distribution. Again I can tell you stories of nightmarish post race scenes. This race had 30,000+ runners, for them to handle these things with no problem is not something to be taken lightly.

The Course
The course was great. Philadelphia is not a very large city so mapping out 13.1 and 26.2 miles for a race can sometimes be difficult. The race started outside of the famous art museum steps. Rocky fans will recognize them easily. It ran through center city and down Columbus boulevard. The difficult part about running down this street is that you have a major body of water to your left hand side for about a mile or two. Normally this is not a problem because it makes for a great view, but this is November in Philadelphia. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that a major body of water creates cooler air pressure. So it was probably 5-10 degrees colder running down that road than the rest of the course.
The course than ran through the city of Philadelphia. This was probably the coolest part of the race. By now we had reached the 5 mile mark. I felt like by this point my body was in cruise control. Which was a weird feeling for me because as much running has I have done I never really felt like I have gotten to a pace where I feel like I am pushing myself but comfortable at the same time. It was an odd feeling. The cool part about this point in the race was that we were running down a two lane road that was pretty small for as many runners as there was. And the spectators were crowding the road cheering everyone on. So it felt like we were running down our very own personal 2 mile long receiving line. What made it better was the race printed the runners names on the bibs so every now and again I would hear “Way to go Chadd!”

By mile 9 the race turned to Fairmount Park. This was a little more difficult. The park is very hilly and winds around. So needless to say this is when the course started to test me. The cool part though was around this time I felt a large group behind me and the next thing I know the 4:30 marathon pace group was engulfing me. I heard someone yelling encouragement and the next thing I know I am running side by side the pace leader. My marathon time would be 5:00+ so needless to say I didn’t run with them for long. But still cool to be apart of the group for a little while. By mile 10 I had to slow down a bit and apply a walk/run method. All the while I was shooting for a 2:20 finish so I was checking my time at each mile marker and I was keeping a good pace. I ran mile 11 straight through and applied the run/ walk method during mile 12.

Finally I turned the corner and saw the thousands of people cheering towards the finish line. This finish was a lot cooler than runs I have experienced in the past in the same area. Mainly because the finish line was further back so runners ran longer through the spectators. It was really cool to run almost a quarter mile while thousands of people are cheering you on.

Overall this was a great run. No complaints can be made on my end. There were plenty of water stops, the course was great, the volunteers worked hard and the race organizers made sure everything went off with no problems. The Philadelphia Marathon is the premier marathon of this city and I can tell why.

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