Latest reviews by Samantha

(2018)
"4 Way Challenge With Extra Cheese "
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Thumb 2018 05 07 17.14.28

2018 marked the 20th Anniversary for the marathon.I heard great things about the Flying Pig races so I was super excited to run them this year. Since I love challenges and earning ALL the medals, I signed up to run the 4 Way Challenge with Extra Cheese. The 4 Way Challenge with Extra Cheese consists of a 1 miler, 10k, 5k, and marathon (in that order) over the course of three days. So where do I start...

The Airport
The fun and excitement for the weekend started with the welcoming party at the Cincinnati airport. There was a great welcoming committee for the runners to greet us as we walked to baggage claim. I received a goodie bag that included a chocolate bar. There were also plenty of props for photo opps. If I wasn't excited before, I was really getting there after landing in town.

The Expo
The expo was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati. Picking up all the my four of my race bibs was quick. The packets were organized according to race and challenges. For the 4 Way Challenge, I only had to make one stop to pick up all my bibs. Runners were organized by last name, so no need to know bib numbers. Each bib was placed in an envelope that had a checklist printed on them to make sure you pick up all your items. The shirts and gifts (blankets) were at the back of the expo. The shirts were also easy to pick up.

The expo had tons of vendors who were selling running items and the official commemorative cookies. Sponsors, such as PG, were giving out nice samples There were plenty of pigs for pictures.

I bought an official Flying Pig Sweaty Band and a Flying Pig cookie. I learned about the cookie from Flying Pig Instagram account prior to the race. I ate it while I was waiting in line for the PG samples.

The 4 Way Challenge With Extra Cheese
Kings 1 miler Race
The first race for the 4 Way Challenge was the Kings 1 miler. The race was held on Friday at 8 pm. The course was short and flat. We also received a medal. I had my PR the weekend during this race. After the race we attended the post race party where they had chili dogs, free pictures, and drinks.

Flying Pig 10k
The Flying Pig 10k was the second race in the series. It took place on Saturday at 8 am. The course took us from Cincinnati to over the river to Kentucky and back to the Cincy. The course had rolling hills and was not as bad running in Atlanta. It was really cool running through two states for a race, a first for me. The crowd support during the race was awesome. There were tons of volunteers giving out snacks and water during the race. Someone had a pig at mile 4 at a water stop. The race offered snacks (pretzels, snack bars, and fruit cups) at the end of the race. After the race I got my medal, snacks, and switched to my 5k bib and lined up for the 5k that immediately followed.

Flying Pig 5k
The Flying Pig 5k was immediately after the 10k at 10 am. The course was only in Cincinnati and was 3.1 miles of the 10k course. We got to see the pig again during the course. The volunteers were out in full force and snacks were great. It rained during the race, but nothing major to ruin the run. After day 2 my medal court was up to 3. The only thing left was the marathon.

Flying Pig Marathon
The Flying Pig Marathon was the final race of the weekend. It was Sunday at 6 am. Similar to the 10k we ran in Cincinnati and Kentucky. We ran a few miles in Kentucky and majority of the race was in Cincy. The course was similar to running in Athens, GA. There were enough hills and flatness to balance out the race. Mile 6 was probably the toughest, but the most beautiful part of the race. At the top of the hill at mile 6 was gorgeous view of Cincinnati and the Ohio River. Since I turned my phone off to conserve my battery power I wasn't able to snap a picture.

The course was fully supported with plenty of water stops and volunteers giving out snacks (including bacon). I even met one of my Twitter friends on the course. While I did not achieve my sub 4:30 goal, I finished before 6 hours. I slowed down around mile 18 because the sun came out and it started to get hot. Overall I really enjoyed the course. This race was a great way to start my marathon retirement.

After the race we received our medals and then we had to walk though the park to get our Finisher's jacket and 4 Way Challenge medal. My only complaint about the race is the amount of walking we had to do to get our 4-Way medals and jacket. It would have been nice if those items had been at or closer to the Finish Swine.

I can put a stamp on OH and KY for races. I would highly recommend any of Flying Pig races. They had awesome volunteers and the best race management that I have ever experience. I didn't have to worry about cars at any time during the race. The race also communicated with participants to keep us in the loop about everything. We didn't receive our medal racks, but thanks to communication we knew that before the race so there were no surprises. Best wishes to those who are brave enough to take on any of the races or challenges, may the swine be with you!

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(2018)
"Gasparilla Ultra Challenge (All the races)"
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Thumb 2018 02 25 10.58.08

On February 24 and 25, 2018 I participated in the Gasparilla Ultra Challenge (http://www.tampabayrun.com/) in Tampa, FL. For years I had heard about the Gasparilla race series and I was super excited to run it this year. In my true nature, I went all out and ran all the races for the Ultra Challenge. The Ultra Challenge consist of (in their exact order) a 15k and 5k on Saturday and a half marathon and 5k on Sunday. The races were back to back. 
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The Expo
The expo was held at the Tampa Convention Center. Number and packet pick was really easy. For the Ultra Challenge I picked up one bib, 4 shirts, and my jacket. There were plenty of vendors who were selling goods and discounted race entries and giving out free samples. I bought a few Sweaty Bands and had a nice ice cream sample (counted as carb loading).  The expo had a name wall (one of my favorite expo items) and plenty of signage for photo opps. 

​​Saturday Feb 24, 2018
Race #1: 15k
The first race for the Ultra Challenge was the 15k. The race started at 6:45 am. Thankfully I stayed 2 blocks from the start line. Since the weather was unseasonably warm they provided wind chillers during the route. The route was similar to the Hot Chocolate Tampa route along Bayshore Blvd. It was flat and there were water stations every other mile. To survive the heat and conserve my energy for the next 3 races, I ran a 2 min/30 sec interval. I finished in 1:50 and grabbed a bite to prep for the 5k. The highlight of finishing the 15k was meeting Meb at the finish line. 

Race #2: 5k
About 20 minutes after finishing the 15k I got in the start corral for the 5k. The official starting time was 9:35 am for me. The 5k was also along Bayshore Blvd. We ran the same out and back course. I ran this race at a slow pace because the heat was starting to get to me. I ran a 1/1 interval and even had a donut during the race (something I never do). I finished the 5k, which also completed half of the Ultra Challenge. 

​​I carried my 15k medal in my backpack during the 5k race, but the race offered medal drop off for those who did not want to run with it. They also offered quick snacks between races for the challenge participants.
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Sunday Feb 25, 2018
Race #3: Half Marathon
The race started at 6 am. We ran the first 5 miles through a neighborhood before we ran on Bayshore Blvd for the remainder of the race. We ran on the opposite side of Bayshore than we did on Saturday. I ran a 2 min/1 min interval up to mile 9. At mile 9 the heat was too much and I started to slow down. I finished in less than 3 hours and immediately lined up for the 8k. The medal for the half marathon was a cool pirate skull. It will be a unique addition to my medal collection. 

​​Race #4: 8k
The 8k was the final race of the Ultra Challenge. I had nothing in the tank to run the 8k so I walked. It was very warm so I walked with one my running buddies and new friend I met along the way. It was fun to just enjoy the last race of the series.  Upon completion, I received the 8k and Ultra Challenge medal.
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Overall it was a great race series. All the distances were fine. The hardest part of the race was the heat. It was in the 70s and 80s through the races. Thankfully the course was flat so the terrain was not something to worry about in addition to the heat. The races were well organized and the swag was nice. The only improvement I would make is to cover the bridge gratings with carpet to prevent tripping during the runs. 

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(2018)
"Hot Chocolate ATL-3 yr legacy"
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Thumb 2018 02 04 10.26.56

The Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k has been a yearly ritual for my friends and I for many years. It was great to participate in the race in its sixth year in Atlanta. What made this year extra special was the 3 and 5 year legacy awards for Atlanta runners. Legacy awards were given to 5k and 15k finishers who ran either race distance consecutively for 3 or 5 years. The awards consisted of a medal and commemorative pin. This is my fourth consecutive year, so I was awarded the 3 year legacy award. 

 The Expo
The expo was held at the World Congress Center. This year it was held in Building A, which was shorter walk than its normal location in Building C. The expo was also smaller, but had plenty of vendors selling various items. Hot Chocolate and chocolate snacks were given out to get us ready for our post race goodies. 

Bib pick up quick and easy. The race also provided goodie bag (jacket) exchange. I choose a men's jacket, that fit well. I got the women's jacket when I paced Hot Chocolate Tampa. I only picked up a HC branded sweat shirt at the expo and my wallet rejoiced. I also met two fellow BibRave Pros who drove down to run the race.

The Race
The weather for the this race series is always a hit or miss. This year it was raining and cold. I have run in the rain and in the cold, but never the two combined. Nevertheless, I ran with my sweeper pacer crew through the rain and all the puddles. This year the course was a bit different in the past. It was classic Atlanta and one big difference was that we didn't run though Turner Field as we have in the past. I still got to cheer for GT as we ran through campus (Go Jackets!)

The race was fine. I am over complaining about Atlanta's hills. I do wish the police enforced better traffic control during race. Other that that, all was well. I am working hard to keep my legacy status, so I will be back in 2019 to earn my 5 year legacy award.

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(2018)
"#miamifamous 5k"
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Thumb 2018 01 27 08.57.00

Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the Fitbit Tropical 5K Race. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

Last year after reading all the #miamifamous for Miami marathon and half hashtags on Twitter, I was determined to not miss the half marathon in 2018. In my pursuit of being #miamifamous I decided to go all in and run the Tropical 5k and half marathon to get the full experience. This is my second year starting my racing season in my home state of Florida.

The Expo
The expo was an interesting location. Initially, my friends and I thought were in the wrong place because the neighborhood seemed a bit sketchy. Once we figured out we were good, all was good. The expo was held in a large venue and they provided free luggage check in, which was nice since I went to the expo directly from the airport. 

The expo had many vendors offering discounted race entries, gear, and food samples. Bib pickup was in a room in the back of the venue. Pick up was quick and easy for both races (5k and half). Outside of entry to the room where the bibs were picked up were props for photo opps, including a Miami Marathon word wall prop. I found my name on the first M. While I didn't buy anything at the exp, I had a great time checking out all the vendors. 

​​5K Race Day 
The 5k started near the Children's Museum on Saturday (1/27/18). The route was mostly flat, with only a hill on a bridge at mile 2. It was beautiful and scenic. I was glad it was windy because the humidity was awake early in the morning. There was one water stop, which was perfect for a 5k. The run was warm without the sun. Thankfully I am used to running in the heat and humidity. After the race, we walked to the afterparty for snacks and to hang out at the beach. 
 
My only criticisms about the 5k race is that the lines were so long for food. I wish they could find a better and faster way to distribute items. Maybe have grab bags were people could just grab and go. I also wish they would ban selfie sticks. Many runners had selfie sticks during the 5k and it is not safe to them or other runners. Overall I enjoyed the race and the medal was nice.  

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(2017)
"All about redemption"
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Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah half marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

Rock 'n' Roll Savannah (http://www.runrocknroll.com/savannah/) will always hold a place in my heart since it was my first marathon in 2014. After the marathon in 2014 I was so happy about a flat course and prospect of running a sub 2 hour race that I immediately signed up to run the half and 5k (Remix Challenge) for 2015. Unfortunately due to a femoral stress fracture I had to sit it out. This year's return to Savannah was all about redemption. I went big and decided to run the half marathon, 5k, and 1 miler for the Remix and GA Pie Challenge. The half marathon was on Nov 4 and the other races on Nov 5.

The Expo
The expo was held at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center on Nov 3. Even though I had 3 bibs to pick up for my races and I was able to get them quickly. Immediately after picking up my bib, I picked up my 3 tee-shirts before heading inside to visit the vendors. 

Brooks is the main sponsor for the race and they had huge exhibit and plenty of gear for purchase. There were many other race organizations and gear vendors. My wallet was happy since I didn't buy anything. I did have a chance to catch up some old friends and take plenty of pictures. 
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Race Day
Concerns about heat prompted officials to move the race start time to 7:15 am. I took a hotel shuttle to race which started near the river. There were plenty of hotels for snacks and rest rooms as well as porta potties. The weather was wonderful at the start. At 7:15 am we were released in our waves to take on the streets of Savannah for 13.1 miles.

Running in Savannah is A LOT easier than running in ATL since they do not have many hills. The hydration stations were every other mile and well stocked with volunteers. There was plenty of crowd support in the historic areas. I finished in 2:31, which is a half marathon PR for me this year. The weather held up for my race and I felt great. 

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