Latest reviews by Katie St Pierre
*Disclaimer: I have received a free entry into the Crystal City Twilighter as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro Ambassador (tell them I sent you!), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!*
I am always a fan of night races. I'm not sure why I love them so much, but I think they are a lot of fun! Arlington, VA is right near where I live, so getting to Crystal City for the race was super easy. I've run Pacers Running events before: Run with Santa and the Let Freedom Run 5k, so I knew what a great race the Crystal City Twilighter would be.
Here is what I had driving up I-95N/I-395N into Arlington:Torrential Summer downpour. It was terrible. But, the race was supposed to go on, rain or shine, so I kept driving. It had been really hot earlier in the day (90s), so I was hoping it would stop raining and cool down.
Pacers was really helpful with letting people know that the day-of bib pick-up was moved inside the Crystal City Mall due to the rain.
Luckily, it stopped raining about 30 minutes before the race and stayed dry for the duration. It had cooled down, but I was still soaked with sweat at the finish line.
About 15 minutes after I finished running, it started to rain again, but I was already in my car driving (slowly) home.
Parking for the Crystal City Twilighter was super easy. There were many garages available right at the start line. These garages had free parking during the evening. I parked in the garage adjacent to the packet pick-up location, and it was right across the street from the start/finish line.
Packet Pick-up was available the week of the race at the Pacers stores. I was not able to get up to Arlington to get my bib, so I opted for day-of pick-up. Packet pick-up was relocated inside the Crystal City Mall due to the rain, but it was super easy to get to and took no time at all.
With your race registration, you received a technical tank and a glow stick. Unfortunately (as with most Pacers 5ks), there was no medal for this race.
There was a big, pretty area by the start line with music, water filling stations, tables, and a photo booth. I got my picture taken, and met up with fellow BibRavePro, Vanessa from She Runs by the Seashore. We chatted a bit before the race before getting in the corral.
There was no official corral placement.
The course takes your around Crystal City. You go behind a bunch of buildings, around near a park, and then back. It wasn't anything special to write home about, but the city at night did look pretty neat, coupled with all of the glow sticks. The terrain was all road and it was very flat.
Since I was completely soaked with sweat, exhausted, and chaffed, I went directly home. However, the party was just starting at the finish line! There was food and drinks, as well as music and festivities. Everything looked awesome all light up!
*Would I Run this Race Again?*
Probably. I do love a night race, and Crystal City/Arlington is easy to get to. While the scenery wasn't anything to get excited about, I did enjoy all of the lights, and it was a nice change of view from where I usually run!
Read my full review and experience here: http://adventuresbykatie.com/2017crystalcitytwilighter/
The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon took place on Saturday, June 4, 2016 in Purcellville, VA – about halfway between Leesburg, VA and Charlestown, WV. The start and finish was at the Doukenie Winery.
I registered for the race about two months prior to race day. I had a free entry code thanks to BibRave, but my dad paid the full fee of about $100.
This is an expensive race, and there are still extras to add on for the full race weekend experience.
Some of the add-ons include:
Early bib pick-up in Arlington, VA
Race day bib pick-up
Bus transportation from Arlington, VA
Wine Tasting Festival
The expo took place on the day before the race (Friday) at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, VA. I drove over to the expo after work (about 40 minutes) to get my bib and to check out the expo.
Packet pick-up was fast and easy, and it didn’t take too long to explore the expo, which was about four different vendors. There was nothing too exciting, and I was in and out in 10 minutes.
The expo was definitely not worth the drive for me (40 minutes there and over an hour to get home), and looking back, I probably should have paid the $15 to pick up my bib the morning of the race.
The bib was pretty cool. It was shaped like a wine barrel! We also got a drawstring bag and the race shirt (which was too big for me).
The race started at 7am at the Doukenie Winery. My dad and I met at 5am to drive the 70 minutes to the race start. The parking lot for the race was all field. It was a good thing that it wasn’t muddy because I was driving my Prius and could imagine getting stuck.
There was a line of port-o-potties at the start line. Luckily, the lines moved quickly and we still had plenty of time to take some pictures before the start.
There were some pacers lined up at the start so you could kind of gauge where you should be. There were 1500 people at the race, but it certainly seem that crowded at the start line.
The course for the race is an out and back, with a lollipop loop in the middle. About 30% of the race is on unpaved road and had some rolling hills, but nothing too terrible. The worst thing about the race was that it was super humid and started to get pretty hot.
There course was pretty scenic. There was a lot of tree-lined streets, animals (chickens, goats, cows, horses, deer), and cool buildings.
Watch my race video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyxtWu0-6h8
One great thing about the race? FREE downloadable race photos! Yay!
We finished the race in 3:04:31, with an average pace of 14:06. There was still about 100 or so people behind us. I did not know that there was a cut-off time for the race, but it seemed to be a limit of 3:30 (from what they were saying over the loudspeaker).
We crossed the finish line and got our medals and some snacks. I went to pick up my wine glass, and then we left. I did not stay for the Wine Tasting Festival that was taking place.
Want to learn more about this race?
Location: Pohick Bay Park in Lorton, VA. Previous races run here include 5k at the Bay.
Weather: Rainy. It had been raining all night long and continued all morning.
Course: Mostly trail, some paved road, some gravel. Hilly. Muddy.
The theme of this race was bugs. There was a raffle for Nationals baseball tickets for everyone who dressed up as a bug or a pest. I wore butterfly wings and a butterfly headband. Other people were dressed up as butterflies and ladybugs. I like the themed runs and wish more races would do them. It’s just festive!
Packet pickup was located in a covered picnic area and was simple and quick. I then sat in my car until the race started to minimize getting wet. About 10 minutes before, I went to the start line and hung out with Sponge Bob!
After a quick race run-through, we started to run. Luckily, the rain had let up a bit and I quickly shed my rain jacket. It was just too hot to wear (it was 50 degrees outside).
The course was pretty through the trees, but completely muddy. At times it was hard to run because it was too slippery. I was extra cautious because we all know I like to trip and fall, especially on trails. Luckily, I stayed upright the entire race.
I was super interested in the people that were trudging through all the puddles and not caring that they were getting muddy and soaked. I was running, but totally watched where I stepped, trying not to go in the puddles.
The course starts on paved road, changes to gravel, and then goes to trail. There is a big hill at the beginning going down (which you have to then climb up at the end), then it is flat for a little while before a HUGE hill before the turn around point. There was a water stop, and then we turned around going down the hill we just climbed.
If you want to learn more about my experience running this race and to see some pictures, check out: http://www.adventuresbykatie.com/croppmetcalfesbugrun5k/
Bishop’s Events has a lot of races planned for the rest of the year: 5ks to half marathons. Check out what they have to offer and maybe I will see you there!
The Cherry Blossom 10-miler is an annual race that takes place in Washington, D.C. in early April. If you are lucky, it coincides with the peak bloom of the beautiful Cherry Blossoms that line the water basin and other areas around town.
Unfortunately, we had strange weather this year and peak bloom was about a week or so earlier than the race. That week was also windy and rainy, so most of the beautiful blossoms fell off before we could enjoy them.
One of the reasons I signed up for this race is because how I loved running through the Cherry Blossom trees during last year’s 2015 Cherry Blossom 10-miler. If you want to see the pictures, make sure to check out my post: http://www.adventuresbykatie.com/cherryblossom10/
It’s funny how things can change year-to-year depending on the weather. Anyways, here is my recap on this year’s 2016 race!
The expo is located at the National Building Museum in downtown D.C. It takes place on both Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday morning/afternoon. My mom and I were available to head to D.C. on Saturday afternoon. It took us a while to drive from our house (30 miles away) because the highway had major traffic. We parked at Pentagon City Mall and then took the metro into the city, which included a transfer.
The expo was crowded and it was hard to get around. Picking up our bibs and t-shirts, though, was quick and easy. After that, we browsed around the vendors. My mom ended up buying a new hydration belt.
Race day was Sunday morning and the weather was cold and windy. There were wind guts up to 50 mph and the wind chill was ridiculously cold. I pulled out my 2xu Hyoptik tights and my wool Buff in hopes to stay warm.
My friend met up at my house and we drove to Springfield to catch the metro downtown. I was super thankful that she brought an extra throwaway sweatshirt because I would not have survived the time before the race without it. The wind was brutal.
We were seeded into different corrals and we began to run. I don’t remember much about the running of this race because it was too cold and windy.
All I know was that I kept running, and I was pretty fast. It was too cold to walk or move slowly.
The course goes down Independence Avenue, over the Memorial Bridge, down Rock Creek Parkway, back down Independence Ave and around the Tidal Basin, and then around East Potomac Park (where most of the Cherry Trees are located, but there were barely any blossoms left).
At the finish line they were passing out mylar blankets. I was not anywhere near the end of the pack, but they were already running out. There was a huge mosh-pit of people around the volunteer passing them out and there was a lot of yelling and shoving. Maybe because they didn’t order enough blankets or maybe because people took more than one, not everyone was going to get one. Luckily, I (calmly and nicely) secured one (even though I almost got trampled). I then went to get my medal and banana and waited for my friend to finish.
Because of the weather, there was no “after party” and they encouraged everyone to go directly home. I left as soon as I could.
This race has the possibility of being a fun race with a beautiful course, IF the weather cooperates. This year it was a lot of fun, but pure agony in how bitterly cold and how strong the wind was. The lottery for next year’s race will open in early December.
To see more pictures and to learn more about my race experience, check out: http://www.adventuresbykatie.com/2016-cherry-blossom-10-miler/
There are four races taking place: the full marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 1-miler. I was signed up for the half marathon, which takes you over two separate mountains!
Roanoke is about three hours from where I work, so I left right after work in order to make it in time to pick up my bib. The expo was open from 3-8pm on Friday downtown. I found a parking spot and went to pick up all my stuff.
I was there about 30 minutes before closing time, and there was no line. I got my bib in about 2 seconds and went inside to the expo. There was a spot to pick up your race shirt, your free Farm to Feet socks, and any last minute items from Fleet Feet Sports. I was in and out of the expo in about 10 minutes and went to check in at my hotel.
The race was set to start at 7:30am. Since this was my first time running the race and I wasn't sure how long it would take me to find parking and get to the start line, I got up around 5:45 to get ready. I was out the door a little after six and drove the 10 minutes to the start line. I was so early that I easily found parking at the parking lot next to the park. Since it was a little chilly (in the 40s), I sat in my car until 7am, and then got out to make my way to the race start.
I waited in line for the bathroom (which surprisingly moved pretty fast), and then found my way to the corrals, which were self-seeded. All of the races started at the same time, and I moved back to the last corral, Corral E. There were about 2,200 people running in the races, but it was not overly crowded at all. I thought it was super interesting that people were actually spreading out instead of trying to get to the front of the line.
One thing that was helpful was being able to see who was available for questions! There were people on stilts answering people's questions (and posing for pictures). What a great idea!
The race starts in the city with one mile of rolling hills, and then travels up a beautiful-tree lined road as we ran two miles up Mill Mountain, the first of the two mountains in the half marathon. Everyone from all three races were together, but the marathoners split off before mile 3 to run up the Roanoke mountain before rejoining the course.
This part of the run was very beautiful, and while it was all uphill, it wasn't terribly horrible because there were so many people around. There were also motivational signs to keep you going.
We turned up a switchback and kept climbing to the top of the mountain. I finally reached the top of Mill Mountain and encountered the first food stop. It was amazing! I've never ran a half marathon with such goodies as this one offered. In addition to the water and Skratch, there were bananas, orange slices, gummy bears, and pretzels! It was great to grab a quick snack before I stopped for some photos at the Mill Star and beautiful view.
There was a beautiful view from the lookout! It was a clear day so we could see so far.
But now, it was time to continue running, this time DOWN the mountain for two miles. After the first switchback, the lovely people in the beautiful mansion were serving orange juice and mimosas!
Running down Mill Mountain was probably my favorite part of the race. I was fast and felt awesome. Only positive thoughts were running through my head. Seriously, running up and down Mill Mountain was amazing and I highly recommend at least running the Blue Ridge 10k for this experience.
After Mill Mountain, the half marathoners run a bit through some neighborhoods and parks before coming up to Peakwood Mountain. I was lucky enough to join up with a few ladies for a few miles, which was super helpful because I was running out of steam. The sun was starting to get hot and the hills were starting to get really serious.
Unlike Mill Mountain, which is mostly just trees, trails, and a few houses, Peakwood is all neighborhood. These houses were beautiful to look at and it helped to keep my mind off of things for a bit.
The course flattens out slightly, but then there is more climbing! It was hard to run up these hills, so most people were walking. No shame!
The top of Peakwood was a huge party. All the neighbors were out, handing out fruit, chocolate, wet towels and other goodies. It was great to stop for a moment and catch my breath before the descent.
I was fast again on the downhill (which was great to try to catch up on my slower time going up), but I started to get a side cramp.
I kept going and was glad to find some people handing out watermelon. I normally don't like it, but this was probably the best watermelon I have ever eaten!
You get to the bottom of Peakwood and you think it is all going to be smooth sailing, but there are MORE HILLS! I was so exhausted at this point, and had to walk backwards for a little while.
Other people needed to walk to - this course is so tough! I can't even imagine how the marathoners were feeling at this point.
I finally only had one more overpass to go as I made it back to the city and the finish line. I had a good view of the second mountain that I survived.
Finally! I finished! My official time was 2:57:57, which I was very happy about, but also very suprised! For all of the hills, I kept an awesome pace. Though, I do think that the downhills helped with my time.
Each race distance got a different medal, which I like. The half marathon medal doubles as a bottle opener.
The post-race snacks included water, soda, recovery drinks, bananas and oranges, Dominos Pizza, and some other goodies. The pizza smelled so good!
In addition to free race massages, they were also offering rolling with Addaday rollers. I stopped to get some of my leg kinks worked out before heading back to my hotel.
There was an after party with live music, beer, and vendors, but I did not stay since I had to check out of the hotel and drive home.
All-in-all, this was a great race. I LOVED the first 10k of the race and definitely encourage everyone to run it at the minimum. The second part of the half marathon was grueling and hard, but what else would you expect from America's Toughest Road Half Marathon?!?!?!
The aid stations were great and the community support while running up Peakwood was friendly and encouraging. I will definitely be back next year!
For more pictures and more info on how I did, visit: http://www.adventuresbykatie.com/blueridgehalfmarathon/