Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(2015)
"A great destination race!"
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I'd like to run all the Marathon Majors, so after running NYC in 2013 I set my sights on Chicago. My husband and I have never been to Chicago and the date happened to coincide with our 1 year anniversary so what better reason to visit this beautiful city??
Chicago is a beautiful big city with a small town personality. Everyone is very laid back and friendly and I think this translates to the race as well, Even though it's a huge race (40,000+ runners) I never felt overwhelmed. Everything seemed very organized and calm.
The expo is a little off the beaten path in that it;s not easily accessible by transit. However, there were several shuttle locations near the race hotels so we just took the train to one of the hotels and then the shuttle down to the expo. We never had to drive anywhere but I think there was convenient parking at the expo center as well. The expo itself was one of the largest I've seen but very nicely organized. We got there early on the first day so I'm not sure if the lines were very long on Saturday. I showed my confirmation to someone who entered it in a computer and then told me to head to line 18 (out of 22?). Before I made it to my designated check in there was a crowd of people blocking my way. However, the gentleman at table 18 saw me and yelled 'Jessica, over here!' I guess once you do the initial check in they send your info to the packet pickup people so they're expecting you. Nice touch! Again, just very friendly, helpful people. Yay for midwesterners.
The expo became kind of crowded the longer we were there but the aisles were nice and wide so it didn't feel too claustrophobic. I hate hectic crowds so this was nice for me. The North Face and Nike were the two big stores where people bought most of their race paraphanalia. I opted for the Nike finishers jacket. Overpriced for sure (as expected) but that's the one item I promised myself I could get (since I never got a finishers jacket in NYC).
Race Day: We were staying about 20 minutes outside of downtown so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get to the start (gotta beat those potty lines!). I arrived at 6 and it was still really quiet so there were no lines for security, bag check, or potties. By 7:15 it was crowded though and I waited in a long but fast moving line for one more potty break.
I walked to my corral and found my pace group. It was a beautiful morning, if not a bit windy. Wave 2 started at 8am and our corral crossed the start about 15 minutes later. It was quite crowded but everyone was moving. I was warned about this and tried my best not to weave around people. Just relax and keep the pace sign in sight. There's a blue tangeant line painted on the ground for the elites to follow and this helps stay on the shortest course, especially since Chicago has a ridiculous amount of turns. Despite my best efforts, by the halfway mark my garmin was half mile ahead of the mile markers. Oh well. Also, it just wasn't my day so I fell off my pace group and switched to intervals. However, Chicago is a great city and course to just have a good time. Once I switched my game plan and decided just to have fun this was an easy task. Only other downside? It was 75 degrees by the time I finished, probably accounting partially for my less than stellar performance. I think it nearly reached 80 for the day. That's a seriously hot race, especially on asphault in an urban environment with little tree cover. Oh well.
At the last turn at mile 26 they had course monitors pulling anyone without a bib off course. Word to the wise, if you wear layers at the start make sure you put your bib on your base layer so you don't accidentally dump you bib. I saw some people fall into this trap and they couldn't finish. Bummer.
There were a lot of first time marathoners around me at the finish so there were a lot of tears. I always get a little emotional at the finish, but when people around me start crying it really sets me off with the water works. Happy tears after a hot race!
The course wasn't pancake flat as I expected; there were some small hills, mostly over the bridges, and then the hill up one block right at mile 26. Still nothing compared to Atlanta. Should be a great PR course if the conditions are better.
After the race grabbed some water, snack bag, medal, and check bag pretty quickly and then used one of their changing tents to put on dry clothes (considering how salty I felt, I'm so glad I brought dry clothes and sandals - highly recommended). Finally met my husband at the family meetup and we left right away, so we didn't stay for the post-race party. They did have a band playing though, and there was beer.
Ended my day with a picture at the bean and then a Chicago style dog at Portillos. Great day!

Cons: The only con I would say is the medal this year. They put the iconic Chicago bean sculpture and this doesn't really translate to medal form. It just looks like a kidney. Bad.

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(2015)
"Great trails, great people!"
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This is my second year completing the Yeti Snakebite 50k. It was my first ultra distance event last year. Running an ultra in August, in GA, may sound like a bad idea but let's face it, running an ultra distance at any time of year is difficult. This year the difficulty wasn't with the heat, but with the rain pushed up from Tropical Storm Erika. Running through the mud and rain is fun though!

The start/finish was at the Group Shelter at Sweetwater Creek State Park. The park is easily accessible and requires a $5 parking fee if you don't have a state park pass. You get to park right near the shelter so it's easy to carry your gear and you don't have to walk far after the finish. Happy feet! The course is a figure 8 that you complete 3 times for the 50k and 4 1/2 times for the 50 miler. The group shelter acts as a great gear check since you pass through it after each loop. After each loop I was able to grab extra nutrition, reapply Body Glide (a must with all the rain!), and change shoes and socks (the wet conditions destroyed my first pair after 12 miles). A loop course is great for a first time ultra participant.

The first part of the loop was very runnable, not technical, with some good flats and downhills. You eventually end up next to Sweetwater creek which is really nice (I love hearing the water), and up 72 steps at the main creek falls (ouch x 3 loops!). Once you reach the top you get a steady flat/downhill past the mill ruins (very cool), and into the aid station around mile 4.5. The aid station is well stocked and equipped with awesome volunteers. If you've not run many trail runs you should know that aid stations include tons of cookies, gummy bears, pickles, soda, PB&J sandwiches...the works!

After aid 1 you head into the second half of the loop. There's a lot of climbing on this part. There's probably 2.5-3 miles where you do some good power hiking. Again, 3 loops of this is difficult but if you look at the climbs like a break from running it's definitely doable. At mile 9.5 you return back to the aid station and then it's about a half mile back to the group shelter. Rinse and repeat.

The yeti trail runner always have fun swag. A race shirt with a unicorn is definitely worn around town with pride. Also, a custom beer and coaster as a finisher award is much more exciting than the common medal. Although there are cutoff times (11 hrs for 50k, 13 for 50miler), the race director Jason is a great guy who wants everyone to have fun and finish. If you're looking to accomplish a new distance, be surrounded by great people, and have a lot of fun (even in pouring rain or crazy heat) this is the race for you!

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(2015)
"(Not so)Hotlanta Half, aka "Wetlanta""
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The second year of this race highlighted that this can be a great annual tradition, regardless of weather conditions. The race is sponsored by Big Peach Running Co and run by Orion Racing. Considering Big Peach is an exceptional running store with exceptional staff, it’s no surprise they put on a solid race. About a month before the race I ran a group run course preview at Big Peach just to get a long run in without doing it alone. The route was challenging but the organizers were enthusiastic and offered a registration discount in store. I decided to jump on the opportunity and use the race as a training run for my fall marathons.
The website and email correspondence leading up to the race were simple, clear, and provided all the necessary information without being spammed. They offered 5 days of packet pickup, rotating around town to the various Big Peach locations. They ONLY offered race day packet pickup for an extra fee of $15; 100% of this fee went to the various beneficiaries of the race. Even though participants represented 30 states, I’d still consider this a small, local race. As with smaller races, there was no expo. However, Big Peach had discounts available during packet pickup which is pretty much the same benefit you get at an expo anyway.
Race day arrived and the first major plus was the location of the start/finish area. Last year the race started at Underground Atlanta. Anyone from the area knows that it is not worth visiting the Underground. The new start area at Pemberton Place in Centennial Olympic Park is easily accessible via public transportation and there are plenty of paid parking options due to several popular attractions in the area (World of Coke, GA Aquarium, Center for Civil Rights). At the last minute I opted to drive downtown and paid $7 to park directly next to the pre-race area. MARTA costs $5 round-trip so the extra $2 was well worth it, especially considering how the weather turned.
The second plus for the day, which definitely earned an extra star, was the fact that there were real public toilets as well as port-o-potties available. The public toilets in Centennial Park are really well-maintained and we never waited more than 5 minutes. For those of us who like to use the toilet a few times before a race (just in case!), this was an awesome perk. Runners’ bibs were assigned to 5 different corrals. However, it was an open corral system so you could start anywhere you needed, i.e. with a chosen pace group. Pace teams were available in 15 increments and staffed by the awesome Big Peach staff. 15 minutes before the start they had a fun group warmup and then everyone placed themselves in the start chute. They did the national anthem, and then a countdown to an on-time start.
The course: After a short downhill through the start, the pack turns right and immediately up a long, steady hill. It was a quick reminder that not only is running in August in Georgia difficult, but adding the many hills of Atlanta makes it even more fun. The course was challenging, with the first 5 miles providing some long climbs. The second half of the course is still hilly but slightly less challenging. The course took you through some nice Atlanta highlights including, Turner Field, Old 4th Ward, the Beltline, Piedmont Park, and Ga Tech. Aid stations are at every mile, with Nuun sports drink at every other station. Nuun is a high quality electrolyte drink and not too strong on the taste. I’m very impressed they offered this instead of the typical, sugary alternatives. Bravo for that. Also, several aid stations provided Huma gels. Huma is a really tasty gel with a nice consistency. Again, better than what’s typically offered in races. Quality stuff. Finally, about halfway through the race they had PowerIce, awesome ice pops with electrolytes! These things are amazing, especially during hot races. Even though we didn’t have the expected heat it was still a refreshing treat.
Now’s a great time to talk about the amazing volunteers. Each hydration station was manned by volunteers from the local non-profits that benefited from race proceeds. They were well-organized, helpful, and enthusiastic. Despite thunder, and monsoon-like conditions for most of the race, these volunteers were high energy the entire time. Running with bricks of water on your feet is never easy but the awesome course support from volunteers and some brave spectators made the experience fun rather than miserable. Honestly, a cool summer storm was much more enjoyable than the expected heat and humidity. A race that’s still fun in spite of difficult conditions is impressive.
Back at the finish I collected the largest half marathon medal I’ve ever seen, a bottle of water, and a bagel. Due to the weather conditions they canceled the awards ceremony and most people, myself included, left immediately. I’m normally not a fan of driving to races, but having my car so close to the finish allowed me to dry off quickly and change before heading home.
Nicely done Big Peach. I think you’ve created another yearly race tradition.

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(2015)
"Boy Scouts and their parents are great volunteers!"
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I've heard about this race for a few years from a friend. The race benefits local Boy Scout troop #39. Hence the 39 kilometers. If you'd like to try a longer distance trail race this is definitely a great race. The trails are well maintained and not technical so it's also good for a beginner trail runner.
The 39k is 3-13k loops at the Clinton Nature Preserve. If you or your friends would like something a little more tame, they also have a 10k option.

There's an aid station at the start/finish of each loop, as well as at the 7k mark. Each aid station is well equipped with typical trail race fare (cookies, chips, gummy bears, soda, water, poweraid) and staffed by cheery boy scouts and their more cheery parents. I'm not sure the volunteers understand why anyone would run nearly a marathon, on trails, in Georgia, in the middle of the summer, but they were great at keeping us happy. Each aid station also had a cooler with ice. I happily used this to soak my bandanna and hat each time through. It was even more hot and humid than usually so this strategy was much needed.

The race shirt was ok. It's a thick cotton shirt so I'll probably only use it for around the house and bed. The race "medal" however is awesome; it's a cross section of tree trunk with the logo etched on a leather cord. Very cool and unique. For the cost of registration these guys do a great job. They've made a little, local race into a very well-organized, fun event. I'll be adding this to my yearly race list.

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