Latest reviews by Brie

(2015)
"My first destination race!"
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This Ventura Marathon takes place in the trendy little surfer town of Ventura, California. My husband and I drove down on our honeymoon from Vancouver, BC. I ran the full and he did the half. We stayed at the nearby Crowne Plaze, which wasn't cheap but was beach front and adjacent to the start line.

Saturday morning we went for a walk along the beach and over to the race expo by the pier. We got our bibs, technical shirts, and tote bags. The swag was really nice. The shirts were light blue with a surfboard graphic and the tote bags featured bright images of the pier and palm trees. We went back later to pick up a pair of Altra runners which I had been eyeing up earlier. They were 10% off and I got a free Mile 26 shirt with the purchase!

The marathon started at 6:00am and the half started at 6:30am on the Sunday. The start line was on Harbor Blvd in front of the Ventura Pier and the marathon turnaround was near the Port Hueneme Pier.

The course is flat and somewhat scenic. One of my criticisms is that the route was further from the ocean than I had thought it would be – obviously I should have checked the map better. Despite it being from “pier 2 pier” and despite the route being mainly parallel to the beach, the ocean wasn’t in sight for most of the race. I did, however, see a couple cacti and there were some more scenic areas and cute residential neighbourhoods near the start and turnaround, as well as lots of palm trees to be seen.

My other criticism is that this race wins the “most roadkill” award – I don’t think I’ve ever seen roadkill during a race, let alone like four different times! I guess that’s more usual around those parts, but maybe the race should consider getting it cleaned up beforehand?

Other than those two minor details, the race was awesome! However, my personal performance was terrible. I don't know if it was under-training, sitting in a car for four days prior, poor nutrition, or the heat and humidity but I had an uncharacteristically bad go of it. But I made it eventually!!

The aid stations were about 1.5 miles apart the whole route and were well-stocked with water, however, I found that on the way back there weren’t electrolytes/sports drink at most of them which was disappointing – I assume they ran out.

There was an abundance of volunteers, including lots of school-aged children. I think some of them had a contest to see how many waters they could hand out to runners! Most stations had volunteers to mist you with a cool spray and some even had kids with Super Soakers who were very polite and asked if you’d like to be sprayed before shooting you with water. At one of the last few aid stations a kid was handing out packages of trail mix which was pretty much the best thing ever!

I also ran with one of the pacers for a while who was really personable and interesting! I wish I could have kept up with him for the second half of the race!

My parents had somehow signed up to receive notifications on my progress and time, so that's pretty cool! The race also offered free photos which is a huge bonus!

The medals were a cool sunglass design featuring bright colours and a subtle bottle opener! It's basically the only thing that motivated me through the heat and scorching sun! They also have a post-race beach party which unfortunately I was too destroyed to participate in. I did grab some post-race food before going back to my hotel room to die a little.

Overall, it was a really cool and an awesome experience for my first out-of-town race!

Read my full race recap here: http://briehemingway.com/blog/2015/09/brie-jesses-california-adventura-part-2-the-ventura-marathon/

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(2015)
"My first ultra ... and it was AMAZING!!"
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This is by far the best race I've ever done! The cost was about $80 (USD even though it's in Canada), which worked out to $94 CAD. This may seem like a lot but it's actually less than I paid for the BMO Vancouver Marathon. In addition to the actual race, they also organize four orientation runs which they only charge $5 which goes towards insurance and a donation to the group that maintains the trails. The orientation runs have an incredibly well-marked route and even included an aid station and post-run snacks. I feel like the orientation runs really added value to the registration fee as well. I feel like this added a lot of value to the event ... $94 + ($5 x 3 o-runs) = 4 organized runs for $109.

Now onto the actual race. First of all there are four options: the 50 miler is on the Saturday and the 50K and 23K are on the Sunday. OR you can opt to do the "50/50" which is BOTH the 50 milers and 50K, which three of my friends did (successfully, I might add).

Squamish is about an hour and a half drive from where I live and since the race started at 6am, I booked a hotel room near the finish line the night before and the night after. My husband (who did the 23K) and I arrived Saturday afternoon to catch our friends doing the 50 miler at one of the mid-way aid stations. We went to the finish line after where we picked up our race packages (which include an awesome t-shirt), bought a couple Squamish50 buffs, and then wandered around "downtown" Squamish. I went back to the finish line long enough to catch one of my friends come through but then scurried off to my hotel to get a good nights sleep.

The race offered a shuttle to take runners to the start line of the point to point course for $5 but the group of us ended up getting a ride. The 50K route starts near Alice Lake and ended back downtown. I had run pretty much all of the route during training. The scenery is beautiful, the race atmosphere was amazing, and the aid stations and volunteers were unbelievable! Even though it was one of the hardest things I've ever done, it was also so much fun!

It took me almost 10 hours (cut off is 11 hours) but making it to the finish line was awesome! That may seem like a long time, but there is quite a bit of elevation on the route and yes, I am slow. I got a sweet medal, a huge from the race director (every runner gets a hug!) and then helped myself to some post-race food and a beer. There were tons of racers and their friends and families hanging around the finish line to cheer people on, despite it being like 5 hours since the first runner came through.

I recommend doing this race if you are looking for a challenge and want to experience beautiful BC scenery! The 50K sells out fast, so sign up right away to avoid disappointment!

Read my full race recap here: http://briehemingway.com/blog/2015/10/race-recap-squamish-50-km/

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(2015)
"16k race up a mountain!"
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Seek the Peak offers a 4-person relay or a solo option. I chose to do it solo. I picked up my race package the day before. It didn't include a t-shirt and I wasn't planning on purchasing one until I found it that it was Lululemon brand and only $28 (which is a deal for Lululemon shirts). The design was super cute too!

Since it is a point to point route, there was a shuttle set up in the morning from the lot at the bottom of the Grouse Grind to the start line at Ambleside beach. I opted not to use this service and instead park at the start and find my way back there later. There was lots of parking available.

The route features the widely popular Grouse Grind, a 2.9 km climb with 850 m elevation gain. I have done the Grind several times before, once coming pretty close to a time of an hour.

Prior to the Grind is a 10 km stretch from Ambleside beach to the base of the Grind. It went through the Capilano Canyon, which I was not familiar with, and then up a steep road called Nancy Greene Way, which I have only ever driven.

After the Grind, the last 3 km take you up to the peak and back down to the lodge where the finish line is located. I had no idea what to expect for this portion.

I was so nervous about this race. How do you pace yourself for an entirely uphill race!? How much is actually runnable for me!?

It turns out most of the first 10 km is runnable. The Grouse Grind is not (for most people anyway). The climb from the top of the Grind to the peak is steep and on loose gravel. If you have some gas left in your tank, you could run or run/walk it but I just briskly walked most of it. At the top, you turn around back the way you came and it's a short downhill to the finish.

There were four aid stations along the route which had pretzels, oranges, Vega gels, water, and Powerade. I ate a little bit of everything! It was really hot and sunny so I had my hydration pack as well with snacks and water.

At the finish line, there were lots of people hanging out and booths giving away free coffee, tea, cider, etc. I didn't stick around long but it seemed like a fun place to hang out for a while! I received my finishers medal, hydrated, and then took the gondola back down to the base of the Grind and ran a slow 10 km back to my car.

Overall a really fun race and very different than the usual ones! You can tell it's a good one due to all the repeat runners. It's an annual event for many locals!

Read my full race recap here: http://briehemingway.com/blog/2015/06/race-recap-seek-the-peak-2015/

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(2015)
"Even better the second time!"
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This was my second time doing the BMO Vancouver Marathon. This year was even better than last year since the weather decided to cooperate! It was a beautiful warm, sunny day which meant a better running experience and more spectators along the course. It is a very well-organized race - they pretty well have it down to a science!

I picked up my race package the first evening that the expo was open. I got their early and only had to wait in a few small lineups for my package plus packages for three of my friends. It was a bit exhausting carrying around four bags, picking up four t-shirts, four transit passes, four pairs of gloves, and checking four bib chips to make sure they are working on the way out. Each one of these steps required going to a different locations and opening up each bag one at a time which was cumbersome. It would have been easier if these things were just in the race package to begin with, although most people probably aren't picking up for so many friends!

I walked around the rest of the expo. They had some really nice Run Van t-shirts and other running gear for sale and some great vendors including local running stores. I bought some HoneyStinger chews.

The race itself is amazing, especially on a clear day when you get the really good views of the ocean and mountains. The start is quick and efficient at getting the 5,000 runners going. There are lots of the portable washrooms, although still lines. They say there is no parking to get people to take transit (which I recommend) but there is on street parking in the area.

During the race, there are many water stations, a few gel stations, and a banana station (my fav). The city really embraces the event and there are lots of spectators cheering everyone on. The course is mainly flat or downhill. There are a couple hills including the infamous Camosen hill and the Burrard Street Bridge.

I couldn't believe how many photographers and cameras were throughout the route! Some cameras were just set up on tripods automatically taking a shot every second or so.

The finish line was amazing. People lined the entire chute and John Stanton, founder of the Running Room, gave me my medal, which was even bigger and better than last year!

The only negative feedback I've heard is that there are one (or two?) intersections along the route that runners can get stopped at to let traffic through. I've been stopped both years, for about 20 seconds, which does get deducted off your chip time using strategically placed timing mats.

I definitely recommend this race to local and travelers. It is a great way to see the city!

Read my full race recap here: http://briehemingway.com/blog/2015/05/race-recap-bmo-vancouver-marathon-2015/

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(2015)
"My first trail race!"
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Survival of the Fittest has a 13 km and 18 km option. I chose the 18 km distance! It was my first trail race and I had heard such great things about the Coast Mountain Trail Series. They did not disappoint!

First off, Squamish is beautiful and we lucked out with blue skies and sunshine! I got up there early with a friend who was volunteering. The did their first ever kids run before the race which was adorable! I also picked up my race bib and a free package of coffee. There are no t-shirts or medals with your race registration but the entry fee is very affordable and they give away tons of prizes after the race.

Everyone at these races are amazing and super friendly. I chatted with a random guy at the start line, a couple ladies during the race, and met a few Twitter people that I knew were going to be at the race.

I had run the route before so I was somewhat familiar with it. The course starts with a short descent followed by 8k uphill then a steep 3k downhill section. The remaining 7k has a couple little climbs, and downhill stint, and then a last short gruelling climb up to the finish line. You know you have to run the last hill hard … because people are watching! Most of the trails are shaded by trees but there is an open area where you really feel the heat on a hot day.

There is one aid station along the route which had coke, water, oranges, chips, and all that good stuff! They had a great spread at the finish line with all that plus watermelon and more!

I finished with a time of about 2:40 which put me near-ish the back of the pack. There were a lot of amazing and fast runners at the event but everyone is so supportive regardless of speed and time. Pretty much everyone receives a high five from the race director before crossing the finish line!

The finish line was a big hangout / party with everyone sprawled out on the grass relaxing as seemingly endless prizes were given to top finishers and random participants. They also have an amazing race photographer, Brian McCurdy Photography, that takes photos for the event which are posted online for everyone to view. It is such a fun atmosphere and a well-organized event! I recommend checking out the Coast Mountain Trail Series! I'll definitely be doing more of their races!

Read my full race recap here: http://briehemingway.com/blog/2015/06/race-recap-cmts-survival-of-the-fittest-2015/

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