Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(2016)
"Beautiful backdrop for a beautiful race"
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If you're gonna challenge yourself to a half Ironman best to do it in an amazing town for adventures. Chattanooga provides a beautiful backdrop to distract from the pain and suffering, while also providing more amazing volunteers than I've seen at any other race in any other city. The rolling bike course is pretty fast with only one real gear grinder, and while the run course is pretty hilly there's plenty of fun aid stations and pretty sections along the river and over bridges.

Pros:
-Check in: Just follow the arrows through the multi step process and the whole process goes smoothly. No lines and I was in and out in 5 minutes.
-You have to check your bike in the night before the race so no need to worry about it in the morning. One less thing to lug around on early race morning
-Expo has plenty of local vendors but I didn't spend much time walking around - again lots of friendly, helpful people
-Swag: really nice shirt, and sling bag with some extra goodies and coupons. After the race you get a nice medal, of course, and a hat.
-Race morning: lots of volunteers so you don't have to wait for body marking. Head into transition and set up your area. There are volunteers walking around who can help you if you're not sure how to set up. Dozens of school buses waiting at transition to take participants to the swim start so you don't have to wait.
-Swim start: first come, first served. After the pros, everyone else just lines up. No crazy mass starts. The whole process moves very fast.
-Swim: river swim under 3 cool bridges. It's nice seeing downtown from the river and, for the most part, people spread out so you're not getting kicked in the head too much.
-Wetsuit strippers: I didn't wear a wetsuit this year but the strippers are really helpful for getting that thing off.
-Bike course: BEAUTIFUL. I could have stayed on my bike all day I think riding around that countryside. I will say, the pack never really thins out much so people do end up drafting a bit, even though most people are not doing it on purpose. There's not a lot of course marshals regulating this behavior but, honestly, I don't think there's much anyone could do anyway.
-Run: I'm used to running the terrain in Chatt but I know this is a difficult course for many. The bike course gets 3 star difficulty but the run pushes it to 4. It's a 2 loop course so all the hills you see the first time, you'll get to see them again. The aid stations on the run course are the best. There's some school groups and church groups mostly and they all have different fun themes. I particularly liked the aid Hawaiian themed aid station. Each station has water, Gatorade, ice cups, oranges/chips/pretzels/gels, coke, first aid/vasoline, port-o-johns, and they're all within 1 - 1.5 miles each. You can definitely do the run without carrying hydration.

Cons: I wasn't a fan of the finish area this year or last. The food offered is dominoes pizza (yuck) with some chips, pretzels and diverse drink options. I just wish they had something else besides greasy food. After a race my stomach is already pretty messed up so eating crappy pizza isn't really the best plan imho. However, Chattanooga has no shortage of great food and drink options right near the race area in downtown.

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(2016)
"Best worst marathon ever! (Seriously the best; the worst part was the weather)"
Overall
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About 25 people traveled together from Atlanta for this epic race weekend. Our group participated in a broad combination of the available races (1 mile, 5k,10k, half, full) with about a dozen completing the marathon (and 2 first timers!). I knew this was going to be an amazing race weeks before we even arrived. The communication was excellent, the people are gracious, and the events are class act.

Expo: Perfect size and not too crowded. Some cool vendors I haven't seen at other expos and the race swag is awesome. Since I have a ton or race shirts, I bought a flying pig bike jersey. Cool to have something different. The organization of packet pickup was done really well. The only weird/funny part is that the t-shirt pickup is on the opposite side of the expo, effectively making you walk through the "gift shop" to get there.
Swag: really nice race shirts (including women's specific sizes), medals for all the races and extra bling if you complete one of the challenges, poster, nice embroidered duffle bag, flying pig head wrap
Communication: website, app, and twitter accounts kept up to date and responsive, especially since there was risk of bad weather
Start line: corrals A-H each with their own porto-potties (nice!), school buses for bag drop (you drop your bag at the bus window corresponding to your bib number, live music. Crowds were kinda thick for the first few miles but you could still run without running too many people over
Course: BEAUTIFUL. The first few miles you go over 3 bridges and the views of downtown Cincy during the sunrise were epic. We were treated to several rainbows along the way. They tell you that the only real hill is the monster up Eden Park between miles 6-9. This is a significant climb that takes place in 3 sections with short flats in between. However, while the course is a net downhill from there, it does so over rolling terrain. The course is hilly but the neighborhoods are beautiful. Don't expect it to go easy after the climb ends at mile 9 basically.
Aid stations: Holy aid stations, batman! Water/Gatorade at least every mile (I'm pretty sure some were closer than that), with random food stations in between. There's a ton of interesting food on the course including: oranges, fig newtons, twizzlers, bacon, graham crackers, jelly beans, cheezits, etc. That's just what I can remember. It was a blazing hot and humid day but we never ran out of water or sports drink. In the later miles they handed out ice, wet towels, tissues

It was a pretty rough day considering the heat and humidity, but the race itself was magnificent. My favorite race of all time (even compared to NYC). Several of us plan to make this a regular trip.

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(2016)
"Fun relay with some bumps in the road"
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The United Relay (www.unitedrelay.org) is a 3 course relay from the west coast (Seattle, San Francisco, LA) to NYC, sponsored by AfterShokz, in partnership with over a dozen charity organizations. Joining a stage cost $50, and a group stage cost $25, plus you could set additional fundraising goals. I had the opportunity to run the relay with BibRave. I allocated my registration fee to The Trevor Project and opted not to fundraise because I'm already part of 2 other fundraisers this year. They offered a free, with $5 shipping, cotton t-shirt. I opted out since I have enough t-shirts. You can also order tech shirts (which I also do not need).
I initially signed up for stage 252 from Piedmont Park to Kensington Station near Decatur. I was nervous about this stage because it was scheduled to start at 1am and I had to make the route myself. It also became clear that I would be running alone since I had no crew able to join me at that time of night. Additionally, the staff emailed me a few weeks before my stage to ask if I could run additional stages. At first I was unable to commit to this because I could not miss a whole day of work. However, United Relay eventually allowed cyclists to complete stages as well. I was then able to volunteer as a cyclist for 5 additional stages, 244-248. This route was 51 miles from Cedartown to Smyrna on the Silver Comet trail. Since I was able to complete this on my bike I was able to start the relay later in the afternoon, and staying on the Silver Comet path meant I would not have to create my own route.
Luckily, I was able to arrange for a friend to shuttle me and my bike from the end of the route to my starting point in Cedartown. I started riding at 4:45 and arrived in Smyrna at 8:28, just in time for the next leg. It was really tough but I had a nice time seeing the countryside roll by.
After passing off the baton I grabbed a quick bite (McDonald's fries FTW!) and drove to Kensington station, the end of my nighttime leg. I was able to take MARTA to midtown to meet Samantha at Piedmont Park for her leg around the park. I was then able to complete my last leg back to the MARTA station, another 9 miles, arriving at 12:30.
It was definitely a long day, and I wish the logistics of the Relay had been better, but overall I'm glad to have been part of an epic cross country relay for a good cause. The support staff, Joel and Sarah, were doing a great job and had to complete most of the relay themselves since the Blue Route did not have a lot of participation. I think this had to do with some poor planning (this is the first time they did the big, 3 route relay) and the fact that it was a continuous relay; IMO they should have scheduled the rely from sun up to sundown with rests at night so there would have been better participation, especially in big cities like Atlanta (the Blue relay came through ATL only late at night ).
I think many of these issues are part of the growing process of such a large relay and will be mitigated in the future. I'll be glad to take part next year.

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(2016)
"Fun, technical single track; beautiful views"
Overall
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After slogging through some ultra distance trail events this winter, I was looking for a fun mid distance trail. Falling on Easter weekend (and we would be in Chattanooga already for that) the River Gorge race was the perfect event. Since I planned this race late it was already sold out when I went to register; however, they had a wait list option and I was pulled off that list in less than 24 hours. It was even more exciting to find that the weather forecast was perfect! Clear skies, 45 at the start, up to 60. Yay!

Pros:
- Easy race morning check in. They also had check in at a local running store on Friday night.
- Awesome, moderately technical single track trail with sweeping views of the Tennessee River valley. Running along the ridgelline looking into the valley = magnificent.
- Rolling hills, mostly runnable. There were 2 sections where I hiked, including a mile long rock garden that was gnarly but pretty cool.
- 2 aid stations at miles 3.6 and 6.8, so carrying one bottle was plenty. Moderate faire including water, sports drink, Gu's/chomps, oranges. For a 1 miler this was plenty.
-Free race photos from TrueSpeedPhoto!
- Race shirt is gender specific!

Cons:
- In one part of the race documentation the start time was listed as 8:30 instead of 8 so there was some confusion. They started the race 10 minutes late to account for this, as well as long lines at the port-o-potties.

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(2016)
"Low key marathon fun run! "
Overall
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Sweetwater Creek State Park is a popular stomping ground for Atlanta area trail runners. However, if you're looking for some less known/used trails in the park, the Yeti Heartbreaker is for you! River views, mill ruins, and a hidden lake all within 20 minutes of downtown Atlanta. The race is a great first trail marathon due to it's low key nature, easy access, and really friendly volunteers. A few hiccups during the day didn't deter from an overall positive experience.

Pros:
- 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta
- Packet pickup inside the visitors center with access to real bathrooms, a warm meeting room to leave your gear and hang out before the start.
- Double figure 8 course with single aid station in the middle of the figure 8. Really easy to refuel, don't have to carry a lot of gear, opportunity to use the bathroom every 5-6 miles.
- Only 50 runners!
- Nice shirts with several color choices
- Heart shaped bibs and "medals"
- Challenging hilly course but not technical. Good for first timers.

Cons:
- Course markings somewhat confusing. A group of us got lost after missing markings that were somewhat off trail. We accidentally cut off 1 mile of the first loop. When we came around the second time (after clarifying where we messed up) we found the markings but they were off the naturally occurring flow of the trail and no tape to block runners from going the wrong way. Not a big deal but it was definitely a case of poor markings, rather than runners not paying attention. No one was truly upset about it and we found our way the second time thru.

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