Latest reviews by Samantha Andrews

(2024)
"Louisiana Half Marathon Recap"
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My 2024 race schedule is in full swing. My first stop this year was in Baton Rouge, LA for the Louisiana Half Marathon. It is the sister race for the Mississippi Half Marathon that I ran last December. Running both races completed the Beach 2 Bayou Challenge. This was my first trip to Baton Rouge and the trip reminded me how much I really enjoy visiting Louisiana.

The Expo

The expo was held at Rendezvous 13. Packet pick up was really quick and easy. Pictures of race map were available. Since this was first time running the race, I was only concerned about the split of the half and marathon races.

There were vendors selling items at great prices (I purchased four pairs Brooks shoes for $50 each). Runners could take pictures at the photo booth and props. They had may favorite item of the all, the name wall. My name was all the way at the top, but I found it. I also met other running buddies from Atlanta at the expo.

Race Day
I stayed at one of the host hotels so I was a few blocks from the start line at the Louisiana State Capitol. The race started off cold, but warmed up around mile 4. The course was mostly flat with a few places of elevation. I enjoyed the scenery throughout the race. We ran through the LSU campus (I saw the stadium aka Death Valley) and neighborhoods. It has been on my favorite half marathon courses in a while. I tend to get bored during runs, so the scenery and the other runners made the race enjoyable. I finished in 2:39:55 and was awarded my medals.

The race after party was amazing. There were drinks, Mardi Gras King Cakes, jambalaya, and gumbo. I also picked my Beach 2 Bayou medal. Overall it was fun race and I would run it again in the future. My only feedback for improvement for the race would be more signage for the expo location. It was challenging finding it since the address was not provided on the web page and I am not local.

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(2023)
"Mississippi Gulf Coast Recap 2023"
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I closed out my 2023 race calendar by running the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon on December 10 in Biloxi, MS. I crossed Mississippi off my 50 states journey. While I have family in Mississippi, I have never visited the Gulf coast area. How did the race go?

The Expo

I stayed at the Margaritaville Hotel, the host hotel and location of the expo. The expo was in the parking lot of hotel and was small with a few vendors. That was great for my pocket. Packet pick up was quick and the swag included the bib, a drawstring bag, and a tee-shirt. The expo also had a participant name wall, one of my favorite race features.

I took a few pictures with the props and the left the expo to explore the city.

Race Day

The day started cold and rainy, but the rain stopped before we started. The race has a point to point course. The marathon and half marathon were 26.2 and 13.1 miles away from the finish, respectively. Having the two starting points reduced the amount of people at the start and throughout the race, but we also didn't have a chance to see the marathon runners. As a result of the course set up, we were transported to the start by shuttles from the hotel. I caught a 5:30 am shuttle and hung out with friends until the 7 a.m. start time. Both races had a 6 hour time limit.

The course was completely flat, which was nice change for me. I knew it had the potential to be a fast race, but I also struggle with Achilles issues when I run on prolonged flatness due to my lack of training on that type of terrain. I decide to run intervals and enjoy the course. This also preserved my heels. The water stops were frequent enough that there was really no need to bring your own hydration, though I did since I like drinking Ultima. I even took pictures along the away (something I rarely do during races). There were some interesting things, from astonauts to a lighthouse, to see along the way.

We ran down Highway 90 for 13.1 miles. I am familiar with Highway 90 since it runs through my hometown in FL. We ran up an overpass at mile 11, which was the only place of elevation during the race. The heels rejoiced as we climbed the ramp. The race ended at the MGM Park and was a huge post-race party. I finished in 2:38:58, which was a great time to end this year's racing season. One of the coolest things about the race is that they pinned our finishing time in a YouTube video of the finish line.

The medal was a turtle, my favorite animal. The post-race party was at a stadium and despite the stairs was fun. There was food, drinks, and merchandise for purchase. Shuttle service was not offered at the finish, so thankfully I was able get a ride with Eric B., my fellow BRP, back to the hotel. Check out was at 11 am and I didn't want to pay an additional fee for a late check out.

Overall, I enjoyed the race. I put a stamp on Mississippi for the 50 states journey. My only suggestions for improvement would be to offer shuttles at the finish and to negotiate a later check out with the host hotel, especially for the marathon runners. .

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(2023)
"2023 Half Marathon Review"
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Last Saturday (4/1) I ran my 5th Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon. Savannah is one my favorite in state run-cation destinations. It is a beautiful city with relatively flat terrain. I can also make it an overnight or weekend excursion if I choose. This year I was excited to come back to run the half marathon to kick off my spring racing season. This race has become part of my spring running tradition.

This year, my goal was to finish strong and pain-free. I have just gotten over self diagnosed plantar fasciitis and I grateful that I can run and walk normally. So how did the race go?

The Expo
The expo was held Charles Morris Center on Friday, March 31, the day before the race. I arrived early to pick up my bib, water bottle, and Brooks-branded duffle bag and visit the vendor booths. Packet pick up was quick and simple. There were plenty of volunteers to direct traffic and help take pictures. Fleet Feet Savannah had a large booth and were selling Brooks shoes and other gear. I was a bit disappointed that they were not offering any expo sales on the merchandise. I didn't purchase anything from the expo, but I did have time to take pictures.

Race Day
The race started at 7:30 am at Forsyth Park. I arrived early so I can could take advantage of street parking. The half marathon and 5k were combined at the start and we were divided into waves. I was in Wave 2. The race offered pacers for the half marathon. The 5k eventually split near the end of their race.

I completed the race as an easy run and added intervals about halfway through. I enjoy Savannah's flat terrain, but my heels and Achilles don't aways agree. The intervals helped conserve my energy and buffer the impact of the flatness. I had fun along the course with the spectators and talking to other runners that were running around my pace. There were times when the weather started to warm up during the race, but overall it was a pleasant run. When my soul got weak, I reminded myself that I didn't have to climb the Talmadge Bridge.

I finished the race in 2:34:18 and I was excited to get across the finish line. I ran pain-free and my foot also didn't hurt after the race. The race end with beautiful, well deserved medals.

Overall, I enjoy the race and look forward to running it in 2024. My improvements for the race would be to offer more expo discounts and to increase the number of spectators during the course by offer a cheering competition amongst the different groups.

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(2023)
"2023 Hot Chocolate Atlanta 15k: A sweet race"
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This year marks my 9th Hot Chocolate ATL Race. I ran the first race in 2013 and have been running the series consecutively since 2015. Every year we pray for the best weather situation and then hold our breath until race day. This year, was one of the best years for running the race. The weather was "perfect", meaning no rain or extreme cold temperature. We could actually enjoy the delicious chocolate after the race. I represented BibRave for the race, but I was asked to join the Beast Pacing Team a few days before the race since pacer had to miss the race. So, how did this year go?

The Expo
The expo this year was held at Southern Ballrooms on Peachtree Industrial. This was a change from previous years at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was close to the MARTA and easy to travel to for bib pick up. Packet pickup was quick and easy. We were provided a QR code to present to the volunteers for the bib. After receiving my bib, I entered the main expo to pick up my goodie bag that contained my sweatshirt. Runners were allowed to try on their sweatshirt and exchange it for another size if needed. The main expo also had many vendors and chocolate treats to enjoy. I met up with a few friends and took pictures. I also ate and drank chocolate goodies.

Race Day
The race route has not changed in several years. It started near Olympic Centennial Park. I was added to the pace team a few days before the race. I paced the 14 min/mile group (I switched with another pacer right before the race). The race started downtown and then took us through Summerhill (near the GSU football stadium). We raced near Oakland Cemetery, down Piedmont Road, and through Georgia Tech (my alma mater). The course was typical Atlanta, hills and thrills.

I had fun running with my pacing pod. We talked and built character as we climbed the hills. I finished in 2:10:20, which was my intended completion time. We were awarded beautiful, retro-like medals at the finish. My favorite part of the finish was the chocolate bowls.

Overall, I enjoyed the race. The weather was perfect and it was great catching up with my friends. I will be back next year so I can keep my legacy status. Next year, I will celebrate 10 years of running the race consecutively. The race also provided free pictures, like the one below. See you next year!

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(2022)
"Back for the Double Pump 15 "
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This year was my fifth year running the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run Double Pump Race. The race consist of a 5k (one trip over the Talmadge Bridge), followed by a 10k (two trips over the Talmadge Bridge. The 15k is a total three trips over the Talmadge Bridge that grants spans the Savannah River. While I enjoy the challenge of this race, honestly it doesn't get easier each year. I always say "Hills Build Character" and this race serves a PhD in character. I was a more strategic this year so I could conserve my energy for the race. Let's recap how this year's race went.

Expo
The expo was held at the Kehoe Iron Works Building on E Broughton Street. I arrived to the expo late due to traffic delays along the way. A friend picked up my packet before I arrived. I was able to quickly pick up my VIP wristband for the race. Thanks to BibRave and the race, my registration was upgraded to VIP. There were a few vendors selling appareal and services. One benefit of arriving late is that Fleet Feet was offering all their shoes for $50. Unfortunately, they didn't have my Brooks model, so I had to pass. The venue offered plenty of parking and other participants were able quickly pick up their bibs and tee-shirts.

Race Day
The race started at 8 am. The 5K and 15k started at Hutchinson Island. There was plenty of free and paid parking. I met up with a few BibRave Pros who were also running the 15k. This year, the race combined and organized the runners and walker into corrals. This was a great improvement over previous years where the two groups were separated and eventually combined before climbing the bridge.

Based on my previous year's experiences, I chose to run intervals (2 min running, 45 s walking) for the entire race. In the past I would run the 5k and then struggle during the 10k. Running intervals made the race easier and recovery faster.

5K
The first trip across the Talmadge Bridge wasn't that bad. With the intervals I was able to climb without using all my energy and not going overboard on the down hills. The 5k ended by the Civic Center and once I crossed the finish line, I continued on with the 10k.

10k
The 10k is the doozy. I probably walked a bit too much, but I chose to slow down on the second trip over the bridge so I would have energy for the last trip. It was fun to see all the runners in their costumes during the race. It was beautiful distraction. I also took time to snap a few pictures on the journey to the top.

The Finish
I finished in 1:55:58 and I was awarded 3 medals. The medals have moving boats on them. I also visited the VIP tent for a free catered breakfast. The tent also offered messages and a place to sit and relax. I had to return home after the race, so I didn't take advantage of those amenities. I took the free shuttle back to the start so I could head back to ATL.

I really enjoyed the race and plan to run next year. I think the race corrals were a big improvement to the race experience. I wish the expo was a bit larger and showcased more vendors (running and food) that highlight the Savannah City experience. I love medals and I am glad to add them to my collection.

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