Latest reviews by Jessica

(2016)
"Yearly Chattanooga tradition"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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This was my second year running and pacing the 7 Bridges Marathon. Both years I have paced the 5:45 group and this year I paced by myself. This year was a lot warmer than last year hitting close to 80, and quite humid, but still had great views of the river, city, bridges, galore. I really enjoy this race and think it's especially good for a first time marathoner. It's rolling hills but generally pretty fast course. The race has several thousand runners but only a few hundred run the marathon. It was pretty quiet on most of the course, so having a larger marathon field with more crowd support is probably the one thing that would make this race better.

Pros:
- Parking/access - there's plenty of pay lots and street parking all around downtown Chattanooga. If you head to the start early you're more likely to find street parking which is free on Sundays. I was able to park for free right at the start/finish.
- Pace teams - I may be biased but I think we're pretty awesome.
- Expo - for a relatively small outdoor expo, they did a nice job with a dozen or so local vendors. They had a card you got marked at each vendor to then be eligible for a raffle prize.
- Swag - very cool, gender specific race shirt, hat, towel, HUGE medal
- LOTS of bathrooms at the start
- Post race waffles - duh
- Aid stations every mile is a nice benefit. Each station was pretty small, but they were well stocked. I took a star off for this because they had very few volunteers and it appeared many of them had never worked an aid station at a race before. Bless their hearts.

Cons:
-Aid station volunteers were very nice but not so great at actually handing out aid. Most of them were high school kids so I guess this makes sense. :-)

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(2016)
"Tough, beautiful, absolutely worth it!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Parking/Access
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This race is in it's 9th year and has become a yearly tradition for many. I volunteered at the race several years ago and had it on my to-do list since then. A friend chose this as her first marathon (because she's nuts!) and I decided that was my cue to finally hit the trails again. The terrain is difficult; several good climbs including a rough power line ascent, some steep downhills, and some technical bits on the second half. However, the views are absolutely worth the work required. The stone fort at the top of the mountain may be a mystery but it's certainly not a mystery why this race is so popular.

Pros:
- Pasta dinner and check-in: make the trek to the park the night before the race to check-in early and hit the awesome pasta dinner. For $10 you get an awesome pasta dinner with yummy dessert. You're not going to find a deal better than that anywhere near the park.
- Camping: The race has a group campsite that you can join for $5 per person. It was a lot of fun to hang around the campfire the night before the race and meet other participants. Note, there are lots of curious bears in the park and the Rangers make it very clear that you MUST keep all food, toiletries, etc in your car and NOT in your tent. As far as i know, we had no bear encounters in camp that night but people did see them on the trail during the race! :-)
- Scenery: It's amazing! That's all you need to know
- Aid stations: extremely well stocked and no more than 4 miles apart, which is very good for a trail race. The volunteers are great as well, always kind and helpful.
- Post race chili and cornbread - best ever
- Post race dip in spring fed lake to heal those sore muscles. Ice bath!

Cons:
-power line, although this is kind of a right of passage for any trail runner anyway.

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(2016)
"Another Peachtree Road tradition!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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This was my second time running the Labor Day tradition, Big Peach Sizzler 10k. I registered a few days in advance when it became clear most of my running family would be attending. It was easy to register online and was $40, which is quite fair considering the late registration. While the race is typically hot (hence the name), the course is gently rolling with a net downhill so it makes for great PR potential. This year we finally received a reprieve from the endless heat and humidity and race morning had mid-60s temps and beautiful skies. I'm so glad I opted to get out of bed early on the holiday because a group of great friends stayed together and flew strong down Peachtree.

Pros:
- Running down the heart of Atlanta, Peachtree Street, on a day other than the Peachtree Road Race.
- Rolling, net downhill course is fast!
- Easy parking at the start with race morning packet pickup available (there was Friday/Saturday packet pickup at Big Peach Brookhaven)
- Lots of porto-potties at the start
- Aid stations every 1.5-2ish miles. Only complaint is that there was no electrolyte beverage, only water. Luckily I carry my own and it wasn't that hot anyway. Just seems like they should offer both.
- Swag: really nice soft t-shirt instead of the typical tech shirt. You can pay $5 each for a nice medal and/or car magnet
- Finish line party: free beer, lots of food and drink options from various vendors, including awesome burger sliders. Nothing like a yummy burger and beer at 9am!
- Shuttles back to the start. Considering the start and finish lines are near MARTA stations you'd expect race directors to just tell people to take MARTA. However, given the frustration of holiday public transport schedules, they had a rotating line of school buses ready to take people directly back to their cars at the start. Really fast and convenient.

Cons: None really except lack of sports beverage on course. Packet pickup at Big Peach Brookhaven is a nightmare (bc the shopping center is a crowded mess) but they offer easy race morning pickup anyway.

Final Verdict: add this race to your yearly race traditions.

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(2016)
"Nice new Atlanta course; needs some work"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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The Craft Classic Atlanta Half and 5k is a new race series put on by Road Runner Sports. It's nice to see more half marathon options popping up in Atlanta. Also, starting in Grant Park allowed for a course a bit different than most other courses in the city. It was certainly a nice change of scenery, if not quite a bit hilly (it's Atlanta so that's pretty much to be expected). This race has the makings of a high quality race but needs some help in the area of race management. This is to be expected for an inaugural race. If the management is improved I will probably run this race again and recommend to others.

Pros:
- Unique course through some of Atlanta's historic neighborhoods
- Swag: pint glass, cool tanks/t-shirts for women and men respectively, sunglasses, road runners sports discounts, nice big medal with bottle opener on back
- Parking: very easy parking right at the start
- Bag check: I didn't use it but it was nice to have a bag check area so people could change if they wanted for after party
- aid stations: located every 1.5-2 miles and offered water and Nuun. Nuun is a really high quality product, much better than Powerade normally found at these events

Cons:
- start area was extremely difficult to find in the dark; you had to walk through unlit paths from parking in order to find it and the area itself was not well lit
- my friend needed medical after falling on a pre-race run.It took forever to find someone who knew where to find medical supplies. Once we found supplies, they were pretty sparse
- All the pre-race information made it clear there is NO race morning packet pickup. THey only offered 2 pickup days during the work week at the Road Runner sports in Buckhead. Buckhead is literally the worst place to drive during the week. It took me over an hour to get there and an hour to get home. When we arrived at the start, they actually had race morning packet pickup! I would have loved to avoid sitting in my car for hours on a Friday. Also, they could have done packet pickup the weekend before the race so people could get there easier.
- Post race party: it was not clear from race documentation that we would have to carry our ID in order to partake in the post race beer. The whole post race party area was actually roped off and you couldn't enter without an ID. I've done several other races, including one that ended at a brewery, where carrying ID was not necessary. We had to show ID at packet pickup; that should have made our bib "verified". The whole point of the race was to "run for beer" and my friends and I didn't get to do that.
- Communication: while there was a lot of social media action from the craft classic account, we received zero pre-race information until Tuesday before the race. Packet pickup started 2 days later. This is unacceptable.
- Race start was a bit hectic. There weren't clear announcements and there was 1 big corral. Everyone piled in, regardless of expected pace, so the first mile or so was quite crowded.

Final Verdict: lots of potential, needs improvement. The improvements are easy to implement and I expect next year will be much better. So, I recommend this race, but with reservation.

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(2016)
"Cross the state with 1000 of your (new) closest friends"
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As cyclists, my husband and I have heard about BRAG for some time now. It was only a matter of time before we decided to use one of our few summer vacation weeks to cross Georgia by bike. Each year the course is different so waiting for the right route was really key for us. Earlier this year we realized the 2016 route was leaving from Atlanta, a few miles from our house, and heading to Savannah; this seemed like the year to do it!

Even though we're both strong cyclists, we were both worried about being on the bike for 50-70 miles, 7 days in a row, and camping for a whole week. However, our worries were quickly diminished. From day 1, we met amazing people, pedaled through a quiet Atlanta morning to beautiful farm country, and figured out a good routine for setting up and taking down our camp area each day. In fact, we opted to camp inside, usually in school gyms, each day since they provided AC and we didn't have to bother with breaking down a tent each morning. Ear plugs and eye masks are a must if you decide to do indoor camping. Also, I only had a light sleep sack and I wish I had my full sleeping bag since the AC in many places made me freeze each night. Still, I'd rather be cold than hot and sweaty in a humid, cramped tent.

My husband and I really liked having a vacation where we got good exercise but still had relaxing time each afternoon. It was the perfect combination for people who don't just like sitting, eating, and drinking for a whole vacation. Instead, we got to ride our bikes, eat, and drink. :-)

Pros:
-Check in and expo: I had to do this myself since my husband was transporting the car to the finish but this was generally pretty easy. Also, the expo had some cool vendors including a nutrition/gel I had never tried, a bike themed jewelry shop, and my friends at the Atlanta Cycling Festival. They also had several bands that night (and every night of the week) and the camp area that night was right next to a large shopping center with restaurants, grocery store, and any other last minute items needed
-Parking: We chose the option to transport our car to the finish in Savannah where they had free parking for the week at the convention center. It was really nice to have our own car once we made it to Savannah and then we were able to spend an extra night in the city. At the beginning of the week, BRAG had a shuttle from Savannah to ATL for people who opted for this.
-Camping options: indoor and outdoor options at each location, and all the indoor options had AC, which is not typically guaranteed (maybe we just got lucky this year). Each location also had a beer truck, live music, games, shower truck, and sometimes a shuttle into town for food/shopping
-Routes: all routes were well marked and rest stops were between 10-20 miles apart, usually with 3-4 per day. Rest stops were well stocked with fruit, pb&j, packaged snacks, pickles, water, Gatorade

Cons:
-It was HOT and there were no ice anywhere to be found. I wish they had ice at the rest stops and at the finish each day. It would be really cool if they had a few of the plastic kiddie pools filled with ice at the end each day. Easy and cheap for some good ice baths after some really hot/humid mornings of riding.
-Food options: They advertised there would be food trucks at each location but, really, we were lucky if there was one truck at each location. Some of the schools had pasta dinners, which were very good, but it would have been nice to have more options or better access into towns (some places had shuttles but in Dublin you had to take a taxi for $5 each way per person. That's $20 for me and my husband just to get to Walmart.). We brought our own breakfast and lunch so it wasn't terrible for us, but it would have been nice on some evenings to have a better time finding food. If you have specific food requirements (veggie, allergies, etc), this ride might be difficult for you if they don't improve this. I definitely think it's something they can easily change in the years to come.

Overall, this was a GREAT experience and we loved it! We will definitely be doing this ride, and other vacations like it, in the future.

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