Latest reviews by Janelle Johnson-Grummert

(2015)
"2015 Zooma Annapolis 10K "
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This was my first time running the Zooma Annapolis 10K. My friend is a huge fan of the race so she invited me to run it with her. We made the drive down from Philadelphia to Annapolis the day before the race.

The Expo was held in a couple of conference rooms in the Loews hotel, with lots of vendors selling cute T-shirts, socks and such. Being the non-impulsive shopper that I am, I didn’t buy anything. When we got our bags from registration, I checked out the T-shirt and realized it was a bit snug. I wanted to change out the shirt to a medium but was told I’d have to take care of it on race day.

The race started out in the stadium parking lot and then we headed out to the street to meet our first hill of many. I was SO glad to know what was coming because it feels so much better to be able to anticipate what’s up ahead! Once we were running, the humidity really started to kick in, so I was a little nervous.
Unfortunately the mile markers did not line up with my Nike+ watch, so I always hit the mile before we came across the official mile marker. I didn’t want to stress too much about my pace, even though I had far off dreams of running a sub-60 minute 10K. The heat, humidity and hills were not going to make that easy for me! Still, I was surprised I was able to stay under or around a 10 minute pace under these conditions. You could never enjoy a downhill for too long because you knew there was going to be another uphill soon after! There was more than a couple of times where I told Jo I needed to slow down. There was even a point where she told me to stop slouching! My breathing was gradually getting heavier as the race went on. Still, I had flashing moments where I felt like I was in the zone. I had my water bottle so I sipped at each mile and occasionally stopped for water, trying to keep moving as best as I could.

The first 3 miles went by so fast, I couldn’t believe that I was already on the last half of the course! We got to the dock around mile 3 and it was time for me to hit my Clif Shotbloks. Unfortunately, this required me to walk, so I felt bad about losing some momentum. But the Shotbloks always give me a surge so I was happy to take it! We turned around a couple of corners and then came up to a very long hill on a residential street. It was endless! Around this point, the half marathoners took a left since they had a LONG way to go, while we went straight ahead. We had a decent descent once we reached the peak of that hill, but we were quickly coming to the big boy: The Naval Academy Bridge.

We only had to go up the Bridge halfway but that was more than enough! Jo told me to look to the side towards the water instead of looking straight up. It was SO steep! And meanwhile the sun was beaming! I was really tested here, and Jo told me later that she thought this might be the point where I’d walk…but I didn’t! I kept running. I was so happy when we made it to the top – the half marathoners went straight on as we turned around…I knew at this point everything would feel a lot easier! So around mile 5 I was supposed to pick it up to the end. It was a bit tough (because again, more hills!), but around the last half mile of the race, I found a surge. Jo told me to “Go, go!” and I went ahead. I still couldn’t see the finish line but I knew it was close. I had 2 more hills to climb before making it to the finish, but I was so happy as I heard them say my name over the loudspeaker. This is it!

The race was done and I enjoyed the runner’s high for a little bit. I got my medal and a bottle of water and waited for Jo who arrived maybe a couple of minutes after me. We went to stretch, take a couple of pictures, grab some food (they had hummus or chicken salad to choose from), and then go for a free post-race massage. My massage therapist was a really nice guy and did a great job! Unfortunately even with massage, Jo’s foot was hurting pretty badly. We ended up going over to drink our free Barefoot wine, and yes, I had one of each flavor! They were offering their Barefoot Refresh brand: Crisp Red, Summer Red, Perfectly Pink, and Sweet White. Summer Red was definitely my favorite!

Pros:

Well-organized race. Zooma did a great job with the race. While I would have liked more communication leading up, I thought for the most part things were done well.
Challenging course. As much as I may have complained, this race course was awesome. The map doesn’t do it justice. I really enjoyed running over the big bridge!
Not too many runners. After the crazy crowd of the Cherry Blossom Run, it was nice to feel like I could breathe during the race. This was the perfect size.
Great band. There wasn’t any music along the course but the post-race entertainment was really good. The band played Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and even Will Smith. It was a lot of fun!
Great post-race massage. It’s not often that I get to get a massage after a race and it was worth it!
Wine! We probably could have stayed and drank for a long time. They kept the bubbly flowing!

Cons:

Bathrooms were disorganized. I mentioned the mess earlier. Hopefully they don’t make this mistake in future races. I didn’t recall see any bathrooms along the course either, but I wasn’t really looking!
The crowds lacked energy. I was happy to see that people were out along the course, but they were SO quiet! Jo kept on telling them to cheer for us! So many times I could have used a surge from the spectators but most didn’t even clap!
Water stations were a little hectic. I know Jo got handed Gatorade when she asked for water, so that could have definitely been a problem if that happened to others. It looked like they added additional stations along the route due to weather, so I do appreciate that.

I definitely recommend this challenging race and hope to do it again next year! I give more details on my blog: http://www.runwithnoregrets.com/2015/06/zooma-annapolis-10k-race-recap/

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(2014)
"Cold and Windy but Still Fun! "
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This was a really fun race!

Unfortunately, the weather was forecast to be COLD, and they got it right. Not only was it forecast to be in the 30’s and 40’s with wind gusts up to 40 mph, we had lots of rain on Saturday that kept things chilly. I found layer upon layer of technical clothes to wear and pulled out my cheap windbreaker, running gloves and Mizuno earmuffs. I decided to wear a zip up jacket underneath to avoid dealing with a scarf.

We got to Campbell’s Field at about 6:30, and there were plenty of parking spots in the free lot. We didn’t want to linger, so as soon as got our materials, which was very efficient, Bret grabbed a free cup of coffee and we headed BACK to the car.

Around 7:35, we got out of the car to go back to the baseball field for the start of festivities. It. Was. Brutal. There were over 5,000 participants between runners and walkers and we were all looking pretty miserable! I did my best to find a spot out of the wind. Soon it was 7:50 and they were singing the National Anthem (she did a great job) and we were preparing to head on the field and out to the bridge.

We headed towards the bridge and it was kind of ridiculous…the long walk to the start of the Ben Franklin Bridge felt painfully long. Then there was a bottleneck to actually get to the base of bridge since we had to squeeze through a narrow passageway and literally hop over bollards. I almost pulled a muscle in my leg trying to hop over.

But anyway, we were there by 8:15 or so and they refused to start early while we suffered and shivered at the start. I kept trying to get my Nike+ watch to start but it would not sync up. I was so annoyed because I couldn’t get a connection! There were several elite runners up front, warming up in their short shorts. Finally, they pulled the horn and we were off!

During my late, late night on Sunday, I did some very last minute research on how to run up and down hills during a race. Since this race started going uphill immediately, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t push myself too hard.

I could definitely feel the incline as we started but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Unfortunately the wind did NOT work in our favor since we were running westbound and the wind was coming from the north. The rustling of bibs was almost deafening and I saw more than one bib going up, up, and away.

As we started to make our way down I was relieved and felt a good rhythm as my pace quickened. I was nervous because my left ankle has been bothering me lately on my runs, and I was doing my best to have good form running uphill. Heading down we already saw the elites making their way back. Everyone cheered for them of course. Naturally I thought people were cheering for us regular folk so loudly…nope!

As we made our way back towards Jersey, the winds died down considerably, thank goodness! I was finally able to remove my gloves. Going up the bridge seemed a bit tougher on this side, but I was doing my best to keep a good pace. Unfortunately since my watch was out of commission it was impossible for me to know. While there were clocks at two points on the bridge, there were no mile markers, so they were basically useless.

Still, overall I was feeling pretty good and keeping up with Bret. There were quite a few people with signs saying “Go Random Stranger Go!” and some people had noisemakers as we went by. Every little bit helps.

Everything after the bridge was SO much easier. It also didn’t hurt that the weather felt less brutal, my body was warm, and the sun was shining brightly. We turned onto a street downtown and the first water stop was there, which was strange, because I thought the first water stop was supposed to be at mile 1.5, and this was mile 3 (I think)….oh well!

The streets of Camden, New Jersey are not exactly the friendliest, so on certain parts of the course it was a ghost town. But the positive and fun energy was there the whole way. It was nice to run somewhere new. At one point we were along the Waterfront, and it was absolutely beautiful. I did my best to capture a photo while on the run.

This whole time, I was feeling great. The ankle issues subsided once I was back on “flat” land. Still with no watch to guide me, I basically ran by feel. There was at least one other hill on the rest of the course, which was fun to tackle, and I took advantage of the second and final water stop before mile 5. I kept asking Bret how he felt and he was doing well, but he wasn’t as excited as I was!

When we got to mile 5 we finally saw a sign and everyone was saying “only 1 mile to go!”. Well, not exactly…10 kilometers is 6.2 miles! I wasn’t going to discount that remaining 0.2 miles!

Soon we were heading back towards the Campbell’s Field, though we had to make a loop around the block before we made it there. As we came to the field there was a nice tunnel of people with signs cheering, and we ran on the baseball field. It was so exciting, and when I could see the finish line, I put on the gas. Let’s finish this race strong!

I had a wonderful time at the Run the Bridge 10K! Of course I wish the weather was nicer, but I feel so proud that I was able to push myself through the wind and the cold! Final thoughts:

Overall the race was very organized and things went very smoothly from my vantage point.
We needed mile markers besides the 5 mile mark with clocks along the entire course…how else can you gauge your performance if you don’t have Runkeeper or a GPS watch? To the volunteers: Thank you! They were all along the course and really helped me keep my focus. Running on a baseball field is fun! This is just what I needed–a run in new scenery. I really enjoyed the 10K distance! Hopefully this is the start of many more 10K’s!

See more of my recap here: http://www.runwithnoregrets.com/2014/11/run-bridge-10k-race-recap/

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(2014)
"First Rock 'N Roll Philly 5K"
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The Rock 'N Roll Philly 5K was an inaugural race held the day before the 2014 Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I was originally signed up for the half only but decided to shoot for the 5K on a whim. The cost was probably $35 or $40, which is pretty high for a 5K, but it included a medal and a 3rd medal for completing both races so I decided to go for it!

The race started on Saturday morning in front of the Art Museum and ran down MLK Drive. If you live and run in Philly you know this course very well, it's very straightforward (aka boring). But I did have a fun time because all of the other runners were full of energy. There were people in costumes and everyone seemed to be up for a fun time.

It was fun to be laid back and not take a race so seriously. The 5K medal was absolutely gorgeous and one of the most beautiful that I've ever seen! That alone made the race worth it. I probably wouldn't do it again though because I don't like racing back to back on a weekend because it think it did take away from my goals for the half marathon.

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(2014)
"A Great Philly Race"
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The 2014 Rock 'n Roll Philly Half Marathon was my first big race since having a stress fracture in my foot. I ran this race previously in 2011 and had a great experience, so I thought it would be a symbolic and hopefully triumphant return back to running.

Rock and Roll races are huge and they're very expensive. I initially signed up for this race only, but then decided to add on the 5K that same weekend in order to do the Remix Challenge and get extra medals. It was simply a way for RnR to get more money, and I fell for it!

The race was on a pretty nice day though it was a bit humid out, not too bad for mid-September. There were tons of runners and it took maybe a half hour just to get started on the course based on my corral. But once it started, it was great.

The course starts at Eakins Oval and then makes its way towards Center City Philadelphia. Some areas have lots of people cheering on while there are some dead zones. We ran down towards Independence Hall and back around, passing Chinatown then making our way back towards the museum. This was where the energy was high.

The rest of the course is down Kelly Drive, a popular area for local runners. The course is extremely flat so that's good for the speedy runners. Since it's RnR, there were a few live bands sprinkled throughout the course but not as many as I would have liked. The course goes across the East Falls Bridge and down MLK Drive and back up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Overall I was very happy with what I was able to accomplish with this race!

There was an afterparty and free Michelob(?) beer, but I didn't stay for beer or the featured band, though they didn't sound bad at all. I had to wait in a special line to get my Remix Challenge medal, and then I was able to head out the area pretty easily.

Rock n Roll is a fun race and I think it's worth doing at least once, especially if you live in Philadelphia. I think for me, it was just more of the "same old same", so I probably won't do it again for a few years.

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(2012)
"My Worst Race Ever, But Not the Fault of Philly Marathon!"
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I ran the Philly Half Marathon back in 2012 and it wasn't the greatest idea I ever had. I originally signed up for the marathon back in March of that year, but unfortunately ended up overtraining in the spring and had "runner's knee" by June. I had to go to physical therapy for 2 months and then somehow get into race training.

I quickly realized I had to downgrade to the half marathon distance but didn't know the procedure, so I ended up receiving a full marathon shirt instead of the half marathon shirt. I did get the half medal though!

While my performance in the race was a complete struggle (I only trained up to 7 miles before race time), the race itself was really well done. There were pacers that you could easily use to help you with your time goals. There was water, Gatorade, and gels available at the hydration stations. The course is really nice, and there were plenty of crowds for the half marathon runners.

I would definitely do this race again for "redemption"! This is a race where lots of elites come out, so it's exciting to see the the real athletes hitting the pavement. You even can get a high five from the Mayor at the starting line!

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