Latest reviews by Meridith Daniel

(2017)
"2017 Destination Enoteca"
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The Run the Vineyards series, put on by a Good Day for a Run, is a favorite of mine. So much so that I often volunteer for their events. They're local to me and it's a great way to give back to the running community. After volunteering at a few events through the summer/fall - I decided that it was time to run and this 5k at Auburn Road Vineyards worked out well with timing in my schedule.

With over twenty Run the Vineyards events, this race series has their races down to a science when it comes to preparing and having everything covered for their runners. They keep the races manageable for the locations in terms of field size and parking.

There was an option for packet pickup at the local running store (Mullica Hill Running Company) but just as easy is day of pickup, which is what I opted to do race morning.

The weather wasn't looking fantastic for race morning and for a brief moment I even considered just skipping the event, as you run through vineyards, dirt trail, and on paved road. However, I had a friend that I was meeting up with and I'm not really one to let a little (or a lot of) rain scare me away. Thankfully, while overcast, the rain showers moved out for the actual race.

This is the third year this race has been run and it begins running through the vineyard (vines on both sides/grass) which leads to a dirt road. From what I understand the course was slightly different than the previous two years. I asked a few people who had run the race before and they liked this course better. We had the opportunity to run through two sections of vineyards, which was neat! There was a water station in the middle of the race, which we passed twice in case more water was necessary.

The photographer knows exactly where to station himself to grab shots of the runners and (my favorite) they're FREE. He roams through the runners before and after the race, as well as capturing great shots during the event.

The t-shirts were long sleeves tech shirts although this series has a variety of options when it comes to shirts. I've gotten tech t-shirts, tanks, and long sleeves from them - depending on what race and what season I'm running. As you cross the finish line there's a bottle of water offered to each runner, a KIND bar, and the Run the Vineyards wineglass. The results are immediately emailed to you, as you cross the finish line.

On each race bib there's a tear-away ticket for wine from the host vineyard, putting the wineglass to good use right away! I went with the Good Karma red blend from Auburn Road vineyard. My friend and I grabbed seats inside near the musician, ordered a cheese plate, and enjoyed the morning after the run. Run the Vineyards is always an occasion - it's never rushed, it's really easy-going and relaxed (after the running portion, of course). We got to watch the awards given out to overall winners (a bottle of wine and a medal), and age group awards (medals).

Overall, a great time, as usual. I'm already signed up for the 5 miler in the spring!

More pictures/thoughts can be found here: http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/10/11/race-recap-run-the-vineyards-destination-enoteca/

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(2017)
"Are You Ready to Rock?"
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I ran the Rock 'n Roll Philly race back in 2012 as my third half marathon. I haven't been able to work it into my schedule since but was very excited to return this year!

Rock 'n Roll weekends always start with the expo experience, followed by the race. The Philly Rock 'n Roll Health and Fitness Expo was held at the PA Convention Center in Center City on both Friday and Saturday. Runners are able to pick up their bibs, t-shirts, and other assorted race goodies.

I arrived when the expo opened on Friday. Getting my bib was no problem however, I was surprised (and a little disappointed) to find out that the race shirts had gotten held up in transportation. The kind volunteer at the shirt table provided several options: wait until they expected them at 2pm, come back the following day, or pick up the shirt the day of the race. I opted to pick up the shirt at the race, which was not a problem.

Race management sent out an email regarding this at 11:15, which was too late (in my opinion). I was already in the city at the time, having traveled there from my home in South NJ. I wish I had known about it earlier because I would have changed my plans and attended the expo on Saturday. Not a huge deal but it did sour my mood for the rest of the expo. I realize that this is definitely the exception rather than the rule with this race series.

Besides the shirt snafu, the Rock 'n Roll race management knows how to host a great expo. Since they're such a big racing series, they have the flow of the expo down to a science, leading attendees from one section to the next with plenty of signs and helpful volunteers. If you aren't able to make it to the expo, you can have a friend pick it up. The friend is able to pick up two packets for "free", after that there is a $20 charge per packet. There is no mail option, but with more races having that option, it's something I know many would appreciate.

This is the 40th year that this race has been run, having been known prior as the Philadelphia Distance Run.

Saturday morning were the 5k and 10k races. The 10k distance was newly introduced this year; I had many friends who ran and had a positive experience.

Sunday morning it was half marathon time. Philadelphia is about a half hour drive from my house/nearby train ride. I chose to take the train and walk a mile to the start line, which is my standard mode of transportation for Philly races. Easy peasy! I always aim to get into the city about an hour before the start of the race (although I was in corral 21 so I knew I would have plenty of time!).

Once I arrived I tracked down where I needed to go to get my race shirt. Since I had a hydration pack, I decided to stuff it in there (rather than check a bag).

Rock 'n Roll's race village is huge and there's plenty of things to do and see both pre and post race. I wandered around a bit, chatted with plenty of people and seeing fellow BibRave Pros. Philadelphia's Rocky Steps (aka the Art Museum) is always the backdrop of big races in Philly and this was no exception.

The first 5 miles of the half course have to be my absolute favorite. I love running in Center City and the energy is always terrific. From about mile 3.5 to 5 is an out and back stretch along Fairmount Avenue, which I love because you can see the other runners and the cheering from people along this stretch is fantastic. Very motivating!

The second part of the course leads you along the Schuykill River on Kelly Drive, across Falls Bridge, and back the other side of the river on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The miles seem to stretch here and while the scenery is picturesque, this is where I wish they would stack the bands and entertainment. I appreciate everyone who was out there, including the band who changed the lyrics to The Indigo Girls "Closer to Fine" to "Closer to the Finish Line."

I knew I wasn't going to break any personal records during this race so I enjoyed, took my time, and had my phone out nearly the entire time to take many pictures and videos along the route. I made a friend during the last mile that I had been leapfrogging with from mile 10 and we finished the race together, which was really nice!

The medals for this year were money, baby! The half marathon medal was Ben Franklin with a sweatband on his head 13.1 bill. Too funny!

Immediately after the finish line, they were handing out water and a sports drink. Directly after that there was ice cold chocolate milk, which hit the spot! They were also giving out ice cold RnR towels, which was perfect on my neck. There were snacks directly after but unfortunately, juggling everything became a bit of a challenge!

Post-race celebration included the band Big Head Todd and the Monsters (never heard of them before but they were entertaining). There was also a beer garden but I completely forgot about it until I was walking back to the train station. Whomp, whomp.

Fun way to kick off fall racing in Philly!

In need of more pics/video? Swing by: http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/04/03/birthday-race-recap-philly-hot-chocolate-15k/

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(2017)
"Vacation Races Inaugural Shenandoah Half 2017"
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The inaugural Shenandoah half marathon took place this past weekend in Luray, Virginia. Despite it being an inaugural race, it is hosted by Vacation Races and they're experienced in putting on races in national parks.

While the Shenandoah half marathon doesn't actually take place IN the national park, its a point to point challenging road course that includes many farms, hills, a variety of animals, and ends by Lake Arrowhead.

There was rain in the forecast for the weekend, which wasn't ideal, especially for those who chose to camp at the Vacation Races Campground (near the finish line). A friend and I opted for the Budget Inn instead (note to readers: camping might have been more preferable).

The expo was small but fun. The shirts are green and honestly, I don't love the color but that's more of a personal preference. At the expo they had a tutorial on how to turn t-shirt into a bag and other activities. We made s'mores and found our names on the inaugural Shenandoah design.

We also took some time to ask a few questions to announcer/race coordinator, Kaelee. She'd run the course in the morning so she was able to give us some pointers and let us know what to look forward to the next day.

The race began at 7am and was a point to point race and almost entirely on road, save the first and last 10th of a mile. You could park at either the start or finish and they had school buses to shuttle runners from one point to the other. We decided we’d rather shuttle before the race than after; we parked at the finish and shuttled to the start.

At the start, there was coffee and hot chocolate. They also offered bananas and things like Vaseline and thoughtful touches that runners might find useful. It was a rainy day and there were a few pockets of storms that rolled through - the worst one about a half hour before we were to begin the race. Thankfully there was a pavilion and other places to stay dry and we came prepared with ponchos.

The rain tapered off just in time for the National Anthem. We self seeded in corrals that were broken into paces/estimated finish times and soon were on our way.

Virginia was lovely, with lots of local flair that we northerns aren’t accustom to seeing on a daily basis. We saw llamas (or were they alpaca?), plenty of cows, and were graced with the presence of a kitten in the middle of the road (right outside its house - no worries!). Our goal for this race was to enjoy it and we did. There were many hills, but we expected them and we took advantage of the downhills.

The aid stations were perfectly placed. Vacation Races is a cup free race, so they offer hydropouches or you can bring your own hydration system. I opted to get a pack (I’ve been considering it for awhile and this was the perfect reason) and ended up not needing to fill the bladder of it at all – it was the perfect amount for the half distance. They had Honey Stingers available at every aid station, as well as cut up bananas and orange slices at the later stations.

At the mile 3 aid station they even had a bin where runners could drop clothes that they’d then drive to the finish line of the race! I didn’t need to take advantage of that but they really seemed to think of everything.

The course was quiet, although it was on an open road so cars were allowed to drive along the course. In the early morning, there was not much traffic. We all looked out for each other, calling “CAR!” when there was a car either behind or coming toward us.

Mile 10 onward felt like a continuous uphill. I know that there was some downhill too but I don’t really remember much of that. It just felt like we were constantly climbing. Having looked at the elevation map ahead of time, we knew that it was coming but, whew, my hamstrings and glutes acted like they weren’t made aware of the situation!

We veered into Lake Arrowhead Park for the last stretch of the race. The support here was incredible with lots of finishers cheering us. Volunteers pointed us in the right direction since it was along grass and gravel. We turned for the last 10th of a mile and crossed the finish line with huge smiles on our faces! There was an announcer (Kaelee) standing at the finish, welcoming everyone by name.

Immediately after crossing the finish line, we were able to get our medals and our snack boxes that were filled with lots of delicious treats.

From start to finish, this getaway was an awesome!

More words and pictures can be found here: http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/09/05/race-recap-vacation-races-inaugural-shenandoah-half-2017/

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(2017)
"Small town race, small town feel"
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When looking for a local race for the 4th of July, the Woodstown Firecracker 5k fit the bill. My son, who is mostly a non-runner, was joining me and I needed something that wasn't too challenging and that he'd enjoy. I'd heard good things from others who have participated in years past so we chose this one.

The registration fee was very affordable, $15 for me and $10 for my son (anyone under 18). Even with the couple of dollars tacked on for the transaction fee, it was less than $30.

The t-shirt is cotton (and white), so while I won't be wearing it for any running events, it's a good sleep shirt. The artwork on the front of the shirt was designed by a Woodstown High School student, which I thought was a nice touch.

It was race day bib and shirt pick up. The race started at 8am (pickup beginning at 6:30am) giving us more than enough time to get everything and put the shirts in the car. There were a few portapotties available and we also saw an ambulance near the start of the race, which I'm assuming was a "just in case" situation.

The course began at the Marlton Recreation Park in Pilesgrove/Woodstown. It was a loop around the park, then through a neighborhood, and then back in reverse through the park. Very well marked and the roads were mostly quiet with only residential traffic.

There was one water stop about halfway through. Residents of the neighborhood came out of their houses to cheer, or stood in their doorways/windows, and one even stood outside with a hose to sprinkle anyone who needed it. And on a day like the 4th of July, it's usually needed!

There's a lot of trees giving shade and coverage along the course - which is wonderful. There was a woman on a bike toward the back of the pack (which is where we were with only 186 participants) and I think she was just keeping tabs on everyone as we came around the home stretch.

No timing mats on this course, they collected the tabs at the bottom of the Road ID bibs as we crossed the finish line. Each participant was given a bottle of water as we finished. It was a quiet little 5k and a fun way to start the day!

More pictures and words can be found here: http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/07/05/woodstown-nj-firecracker-5k/

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(2017)
"Back for more (with a PR!)"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Heritage Vineyards is located 2.4 miles from my house and hosts festivals and other events throughout the year. Run the Vineyards is a series put on by Good Day for a Run and has events at over 20 vineyards in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Last year I registered for the race at the coaxing of friends and quickly fell in love with everything about the race. It’s a challenging course but also familiar as it’s right near my home. The packet pickup is at the local Running Co. AND if you pick up your packet there (rather than race morning) you can save 20% on anything in the store.

The t-shirt is unisex and this year it was a nice red color. The logo changes every year and that is reflected on both the t-shirt and wine tumbler.

My time from last year was 1:01:48 and I was pretty pleased with that once I saw the course and the terrian. It’s got grass, it’s got sand, it’s got a bit of road, and it’s got tons of rolling hills. The goal for this year was to beat last year’s time and if I managed to get under an hour, even better!

This event sells out every year so I made sure to register early, back in the fall of 2016. My bro in law and sis in law made the trek down from Central Jersey to watch my younger son while I ran; we planned to picnic and hang out at the race after party, filled with music and fun running themed booths.

The race began at 9am and due to a rough start, my fam rolled into my driveway at 8:48. Normally I would have been freaking out but I knew that we would still get there with time to spare. I jumped out of the car as we arrived (8:52), found my friends (8:55), and was ready to run at 9am. How’s that for timing?!

There was no official corrals, so the 655 runners had to place themselves in the spot where they thought they’d fair best.

It’s difficult because the first stretch of the race is narrow and if you don’t put yourself in the right area, you risk either going out too fast or holding up people around you. I think I did pretty well placing myself this year and tried to be mindful of the people around me.

Free race photos rank high up there on my list of things I love to see at races and the Run the Vineyards races not only has them but they’re ready for download the day of the race.

My Garmin was a little off from the mile markers, reading about .06 behind. Interestingly, my first two miles were the exact same pace (11:45) but my legs were feeling tired, which didn’t bode well for the next 3 miles. The hills seemed to be non-stop and while the day was perfect in terms of weather (gray skies and 66 degrees), the pollen count must have been high and I was feeling it.

There were three water stops so I grabbed a cup of water at the second and third ones in an attempt to ease my throat (no dice).

Miles 3 and 4, I clocked in at exactly 12:27. Way to be consistent, huh?

The last mile consisted of one last hill, a nice downhill, and then a few more turns around the trail. I heard the announcer say “these runners are going to come in at just under an hour” and that was all it took for me to hit the gas!

I crossed the line at 59:36, which means that I got a PR of over a minute! Woohoo!

At the finish line there were bottles of water, bananas, and wine tumblers. The bib had a wine ticket and there was also wine available to purchase. My family and I spent the rest of the morning picnicking and enjoying the day.

For more pictures, feel free to swing by http://www.scootadoot.org/2017/05/02/mary-poppin-bottles-run-the-vineyards-heritage-5-miler/

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