Latest reviews by Jess Gambacurta

(2014)
"Rainy, Windy 5K"
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Thumb decemburrr dash 5k fairweather runner

What a race. Run by Riff Raff Productions, the Decemburrr Dash 5K was well-organized despite the crazy weather. Let's just say that Ohio, the first week of December, can be very unpredictable.

REGISTRATION & FEES: I ended up paying $40 for this race because I signed up a few days before the race. That's a lot for a 5K, but I knew I wanted to run one before 2015 to set a good baseline for 2014. If you registered before October, I believe, the race was only $25. Not too bad!

SWAG: For running the Decemburrr Dash, you get a long-sleeved unisex cotton t-shirt (super comfy and perfect for lounging around in this winter). Because I registered late, I ended up with a large, but that's fine; they clearly stated that registration after a certain date would mean no guarantees for shirt sizing. Unlike many races in this day and age, there are no medals – but you do get a free drink ticket for World of Beer (a few blocks away). I skipped the post-race party at WoB to go home, shower, and eat, but that's not too bad a reward in my opinion. The only option for packet pick-up was race day, and that went off without a hitch.

RACE COURSE: The course started and ended in Scioto Audubon Metro Park in the German Village/Brewery District neighborhood in Columbus. Parking was super easy and I hid out in my car for about 45 minutes after picking up my packet (others had the same idea). I could see the race start from the parking lot! So if you're looking for convenience, this is definitely a great race for you. The race course takes you through a modified loop/out-and-back course in the park and along the greenway trail. A few things to note:

- There are hills. Getting from the park down to the trail (which is all either asphalt or packed gravel, barely noticeable) is HILLY. This is tough for a 5K, and you have a giant hill to climb back up in the last 0.5 mile of the race.
- You run over a small wooden bridge that covers a pond, and there are some turns to it. Watch your footing - this can also make it difficult to go fast because you don't want to slip in the rain and end up in the pond!
- Careful with the out-and-back. Thankfully this was a small-ish race of less than 200 people, but I can imagine if this race grows in size that it might be tough to have people on the narrow greenway.
- We were experiencing very windy and rainy weather on Saturday, but the greenway path runs along the river, so be prepared for wind regardless.
- There was one aid station at the turn-around point! I didn't want to slow down for any water, but I thought this was nice.
- There were volunteers posted along each turn, bend, and hill in the course, so you always knew where you were going. On top of that, the race management team had posted arrow markers on the ground. I found this very helpful, since in the past I have run races that have had zero course support and ended up getting way off track.

VOLUNTEERS: Oh bless their hearts. It was windy with temps in the high 30s and wind chills in the high 20s, PLUS constant rain on race day, and at least we were running. The volunteers were very nice and helpful, especially at directing us through the race course, cheering us on, and handing out water after the race.

I loved this race mostly because I achieved a huge PR, taking 4:30 off my last 5K time (35:49 to 31:19)! I would definitely do it again, but I would sign up earlier next time. Be prepared if you're going to run a race in the winter!

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(2014)
"Fun Hometown Race but Logistical Issues"
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Thumb webster turkey trot fairweather runner

I wish I had more positive things to say about my experience at the 2014 Webster Turkey Trot.

Registration & Race Fees: The Webster Turkey Trot uses RunSignUp.com, so the process is pretty seamless. There are two race options – 4.4 miles or 2.5 miles – and there is no price differential for the races. When I signed up, the race cost $20 and the max cost you would have to pay for the race is $30. Overall it's a good value.

Packet Pick-Up, T-Shirts, and Swag: During the registration process, you select where you prefer to pick up your packet. Since I was driving into town, I figured I'd pick the location closest to where my family lives. The new Armory Fleet Feet location is great and convenient, though there was some confusion because the address for Fleet Feet was off in the race registration email (145 versus 155 Culver). That led to some confusion and wandering around in the cold for a while before we stumbled on some other runners who were trying to find packet pick-up as well. Upon walking in, a Fleet Feet staff member pointed us to a rear conference room for pick-up. The folks who were looking up names and distributing bibs weren't particularly friendly, and for some reason they wrote our names down (on the bib) and misspelled them. I'm not sure why they didn't just ask if we could write our names at the bottom as they assigned the number. Since this is a no-frills fun run, the only swag was a short-sleeved unisex tech tee. Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan of the colors. With the turkey laid on top, I look like a Virginia Tech Hokie in it!

Getting to the Race: Because of the limited parking at Webster Park, the race organizers sent out several pieces of communication to get people to park at designated local schools and take the shuttle buses in. We had zero problems catching the shuttle from my high school to the race start, and arrived with 45 minutes to spare.

The Facilities: There were plenty of porta-potties at the race start, but most people opted for the regular bathrooms in the park (which are heated!). I didn't see any porta-potties along the course, so that seems problematic if you tend to experience GI issues when running.

Course Itself: Overall the course isn't bad. It starts and stops at Webster Park, but that makes for tricky parking. The course winds through part of Webster, in and out of neighborhoods – a very suburban race. I enjoyed the small hills that provided a chance to gain some momentum and surge forward. (After running in the Midwest for so long, it's nice to have something with more than five feet of elevation change!) The one issue is that the race course hasn't changed since 1972 (when it wasn't even really a road race), so the last quarter mile of the race goes down what is basically a ravine in Webster Park, through mud and grass. Due to the wet snow flurries and number of people trekking through this area, it was very slick. By the time I got there, it was basically at a standstill as people gingerly waded to flat ground. The final part of the race is on grass, so with muddy shoes and slightly slick terrain, it makes it tough to sprint to the finish. Don't plan to achieve a PR this race, especially with its unusual distance and the fact that it's a fun run. Many people stop suddenly or walk with a big group of people, making it a race that you'll likely be weaving in.

Aid Stations: My biggest issue with this race is that there were NO aid stations. None! For a 4.4 or 2.5 mile race, I wouldn't expect there to be any Gatorade, but water would have been great. I understand that having a road race winding through neighborhoods on Thanksgiving Day would make it harder to clean up after aid stations, but that's tough. I've never run a race without water stations before. When I run this race again, I'm definitely going to bring a handheld water bottle just to be on the safe side.

Post-Race Amenities: To get to water or food, you had to climb a rather large hill (still grass/mud). By the time you got up there, there weren't any posted signs so it was tough to figure out what was where.

Leaving the Race: This was the biggest issue. While each bus getting TO the race is designated to go straight from one school to the race, the shuttle buses loaded everyone up and hit every school on the way before returning to pick up more people at Webster Park. To line up for the shuttles, you had to get into a very long line that went back DOWN the hill you climbed to get water/food post-race. We ultimately spent an hour and fifteen minutes post-race waiting for the shuttle. This is pretty rare for a race this small that doesn't rely on, say, the Metro or the subway. Given the cold conditions and flurries, people were shivering as they stood in line. Even after showering post-race, I was cold and couldn't get warm for another two hours or so.

Overall, it's tough to say. This is a well-loved local race in my hometown, and I'm glad that I finally had the opportunity to run in it. I would definitely run this race again, but here's what I would do next time:

- Ask a family member or friend to pick me up post-race and drop me back at my high school. (Or, if they have time, drop me off at the race and pick me up.) I saw a few people do this, and it seemed smart. Otherwise, I could also get to the race very early and plan to hang out in my car until closer to race time.
- Pack a post-race bag to check. If I plan to wait for the shuttle, this is a must. I've never done bag check but I think a warm change of clothes would have helped considerably.
- Bring a handheld water bottle. By the time I run this race again (in 2016 since I will be in Raleigh next Thanksgiving), they may have added aid stations. To be on the safe side, I will likely bring my Nathan handheld.

Would I recommend this race to others? It depends. On BibRave's required question, I said no. But I think it depends. If you're familiar with the Webster area and you want to squeeze in some pre-Thanksgiving miles safely, this is a great way to do it. (My hometown is not known for being all that pedestrian-friendly, and many roads don't have sidewalks.) It's a relatively cheap race, but there are some frustrating elements that you'll need to consider in advance.

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(2014)
"Great Small Race with Options"
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One Lucky Buckeye is a race that Ohio State's Ross Heart Hospital puts on every year with three different route options – 2, 4, or 8 miles. The routes take you through the streets of Grandview Heights, 5xNW, and Upper Arlington. It's also a fun race because it focuses on women's heart health, so all of the participants are women except for "one lucky Buckeye" (male) who gets selected to run the 8-miler.

I liked that this race is relatively small (~750 participants this year, I think the MC said), cheap ($25 for the 4-miler when I signed up), and well coordinated on the day of. I didn't think that their website was very useful (for example, I had a hard time finding on the website when the race actually started), and I think that their coordination with social media wasn't that great. I would definitely run this race again in the future, but it might be a better race for someone who has patience to deal with something a little less organized than most "big" races these days.

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(2013)
"Disorganized on the South Side"
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I ran the Chicago Half Marathon in 2013, and it was my first (and to date, only) half marathon. I traveled from Columbus, Ohio for this race, and felt a little disappointed. Partly it was the warm, humid temps the morning of the race, which led to this weird lingering fog in the distance that meant the Chicago skyline was basically impossible to see. But I'll get into the rest of it:

WHAT I LIKED:
- Awesome, sex-specific long-sleeved tech tee. It's interesting that they change the colors each year. In 2013 the tee was bright orange with navy and white. Love.
- Plenty of water/Gatorade stops.
- Flat course.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE (this is a little longer):
- Expo at Navy Pier was fine, except that no one at the Pier really knew where to go for packet pick-up and the signs weren't always that clear.
- Expo itself was so-so, felt relatively sparse.
- Getting to the start on race day was tricky because cabs wanted to take Lake Shore Drive, which was closed because it was part of the race course. Course maps and pre-race information didn't provide alternate routes or information. We ended up getting out of the cab and walking about a mile to the start because there was so much confusion, and there weren't any signs. Thankfully my running buddy is from Chicago so she had a general sense of where to go, but she doesn't spend that much time in this part of Chicago.
- And on that note, the South Side sucks. Sorry, Chicagoans, but I don't like it when people throw water bottles or other things out their windows at runners when I'm racing. Nope.
- This isn't something that the race organization could have controlled, but due to the weird weather, the view of Chicago's skyline when heading north on Lake Shore was nil. So essentially I was just running up and down a highway, which wasn't that fun.
- After the race, it was extremely difficult to get a cab or figure out where to go. I didn't have my phone with me (problem #1) but when I used my friend's, a cab company said that they would come to the general area we were in but because it was the South Side, they couldn't guarantee that they would meet us at our given location. Um, WHAT? (Problem #2.) We ended up figuring out an Uber ride but this was tough. We ended up walking an additional two miles or so trying to find a cab or some place that a cab would pick us up. After running 13.1 miles, this was really tough.

Anyway, I would NOT recommend this race, though it seems that 2014 was a bit better. I also realized that I don't really like out-and-back races.

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(2010)
"My Favorite 10K – Hilly Trail/Asphalt Race"
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Do you lament how flat the Midwest is? Do you want to experience a race that blends trails, stairs, and asphalt? Sign up early for the Buckeye Classic 10K. This race is put on by M3S Sports, which runs several popular races in the Columbus area, and they do a great job. I ran this back in 2010 and it still ranks as one of my favorite races of all time.

PACKET PICK-UP: For the smaller M3S races, packet pick-up is always at Fleet Feet up in Lewis Center (near Polaris). It's pretty easy to get to and of course it's a good opportunity to pick up other running-related goodies.

SWAG: There's not as much swag for this race, but you do get a very nice sex-specific long-sleeved tech tee. (Note: the year I ran it, the tech tees were not sex-specific, but I found the men's small to fit quite nicely. It became one of my go-to shirts for running in the fall and early winter.) You also get a pretty cool looking medal at the end!

PARKING: There's plenty of parking at the Metro Parks, which is where the race is located. If you arrive closer to the start time, you may need to park further away from the race start and jog in for your warm-up.

RACE SIZE: The race is capped at 500 participants, which makes it a fun, smaller race. This works out well because you're running through Highbanks Metro Park on its trails, and those can get kind of narrow. As with any race, there will be some clustering at the beginning before everyone settles into pace for the duration of the race.

ELEVATION + RACE COURSE: If you run in Columbus typically, be prepared for some mega hills. If you're from hillier areas of the country like San Francisco, Atlanta, or Seattle, you'll probably find this less challenging. You're on the trails for the majority of the race until you get towards the finish, which winds you onto flat asphalt. I love that you can finish fast during this race because the terrain is flat and smooth.

POST-RUN: Be sure to enjoy some Snowville Creamery chocolate milk – so good. Local, whole milk free of antibiotics and full of deliciousness!

Overall I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this race, and I'm hoping to run it again this coming fall! It's a really fun and challenging race, especially before a long day of watching football.

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