Latest reviews by Gina Hanzel

(2017)
"Grandma's is THE BEST"
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This is my 2nd time running Grandma's and like the last time, the race did NOT disappoint!

Duluth is truly a wonderful gem of a city with great energy and beautiful scenery. The trip to the North Shore is worth it alone to check this marathon off your bucket list!

EXPO: Large expo with great guest speakers. Fantastic all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner which will for sure fill your belly before your race! I highly recommend this option because it can sometimes be hard to get a table at the local restaurants on marathon weekend. Why not just pull up a chair and eat at the expo before closing for the night?! No brainer! And, the pasta was great!

AID STATIONS: Grandma's knows how to cater to their racers. So many volunteers make this marathon a success. Cold sponges, ice, Powerade, water. You are never without a necessity. Along the course spectators also help you with basic necessities. Vaseline anyone? The national guard is posted on several locations t/o the course to lend a hand if one is needed. Porta-potties are frequent and usually only had a few runners waiting at a time.

Transportation to the race: Grandma's requires that all runners take a shuttle to the starting line either with the train or a bus. The shuttles are plentiful so there should be no problem getting one one. This year, I took the train - it was a fun experience, but a bit cramped. Nonetheless, it's always fun to ride the train along the lake - race day we had a nice view!

SCENERY: You can't beat the lake view. While you don't see the lake your entire run, you do get great glimpses of the lake and the cool breeze is a welcome feeling when it's hot.

The weather can be a bit of a wild card in Duluth in the summer - however, I will say that this year was fantastic. It was sunny, but only about 72 so not crazy hot!

The course itself is fairly flat - but does have some rolling hills, none of which are very steep - but if you're expecting very flat - this is not it, but there are NOT large hills - Grandma's is famous for BQ's because most runners are able to finish fast due to the course.

The race does have about 8700 runners at the marathon start, so porta potties are busy but there are hundreds of them. My suggestion is to get in line at least 30 minutes before the start so that you are sure to get a visit in before you start the race.

The post race fair is great as well with fresh fruit and bagels. Each finisher gets a drink ticket for beer or soda and the Country band at the finish tent is great! It's a nice place to unwind after the race and is not tremendously busy either, which is nice.

Let's talk about the medals. In the last few years - these medals have been fantastic! For 40 years prior, they were a simple circle medal with the grandma's logo. Iconic for sure, but in the world where people covet their medals, I really am happy that grandma's design team has brought out NEW and BIGGER medals. This year - it was beautiful! All race finishers receive their t-shirt at the finish line and if you registered early you got an extra track jacket too!

This race is truly awesome and I would recommend it to anyone.

Sidenote: The ONLY negative is lodging. Prepare for a spendy visit as hotels require a two night minimum stay and they can be upwards of $500 for the weekend. The Dorm is a bit less spendy, and seems to work well for another option. Be sure to book lodging early. Check outside of the city if you don't mind driving in as your rates will be much less expensive.

Don't forget to take a dip in the lake after your race! It's a nice "ice" bath!

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(2017)
"Scenic Race a MILE HIGH! "
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If you're a "flat-lander" looking for a challenging race at elevation - you can't go wrong with this race! This downhill race has a few rolling hills but due to the nature of the downhill in the canyon you will fair well.

The race starts at 5500 ft and while you do feel the elevation, start out slow and you will be just fine. This race is a smaller race with only about 1000 people running. I loved the smaller field size. Most of the race is on a two lane road or paved trail. Very scenic.

The race expo is small but so is the race..... so that's ok. The medal is AMAZING - look below for a pic. I was a little disappointed in the race SWAG at the expo. There was no gear to purchase for the half marathon - a missed opportunity for marketing for sure. I ALWAYS try to buy additional clothing items at races, but they only had gear that read 'marathon.'

The race finisher shirt is a BROOKS technical running shirt which is great! Fits and washes well and it was a bright color.

Race organization was great. We received many race e-mails leading up to the race with clear communication and if you followed twitter and instagram you got even more.

On course aid stations had NUUN, water and Honey Stingers. Porta potties were spaced accordingly on the course.

If you're looking for spectators to get you through, there weren't many. This race was one to truly enjoy your experience and the scenery around you. Open pastures, beautiful foothills, Colorado mountain air. I am SO glad I chose this race.

Even though this race has a small field size I much prefer that over very large races. It was an intimate race with a fabulous post-race celebration in Old Town Square. If you haven't checked off Colorado on your state list - do this race.

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(2017)
"Great race! Short Course. "
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This was the inaugural race. I'll get the elephant in the room out of the way right now. The course was .5 mile short. Somewhere between mile 4 and 5 I believe the turnaround had everyone off course. The race was a certified course but organizers definitely missed the mark on this one. I discussed with about 15 different runners at the finish and we did all concur that the race was short.

Unfortunately, this was a HUGE mistake for the race. But, I am confident that this will not happen again so I will most likely run this event again. A friend of mine emailed the race directors and the response was we will strive to improve the race next year.

The SWAG for the race was great and the cost was moderate. I paid $71 after fees. The medal is truly beautiful. Parking access was perfect and free. The parking lot was the starting line so it can't get easier than that!

Scheels was the event sponsor, so the race started in the Scheels parking lot. I loved this because that meant flush toilets, in addition to porta-potties and a little shopping before the start. Race organizers were friendly and packet pickup was great! There are several options for the timing of packet pick-up. Because I lived out of town, I really appreciated that I could pick up my packet the morning of. I also had to exchange my race shirt and that was absolutely no problem.

The course was quite hilly. Don't let the website fool you. There was a gorgeous paved trail with a combination of flat and downhill for about 3 miles, but the hill at mile 9 was brutal. This course doesn't protect you from the environment either, so be prepared for that! Race day was very windy and we were exposed. It tested mental toughness for sure!

Post-race fare was your typical banana and granola bars, but they were plentiful.

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(2016)
"Beautiful Start and Finish at the State Capitol"
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Great urban race with a small town feel.

I really enjoyed this race because it had plenty of runners but not too many. In the half marathon there were just over 2100 finishers. For a larger city, this was great! The streets were not too crowded and you weren't bumping elbows the entire race. Win-Win.

Madison Marathon Race Management does a great job with organizing this race from start to finish. There was never information I could not find and if I had a question, I received immediate responses. Way to go! So often, races fail to communicate effectively.

EXPO: I gave 5 stars for the expo quality because even though it was quite small, it was well-managed. Easy ramp parking for $5 made it very accessible and on-street parking was also available. Packet pick-up was a breeze. I received my personalized bib with timing chip, my long sleeve tech tshirt and a few other incidentals. I really liked the perk of the American Flag placed on the bibs of all veterans that ran this race! Awesome job!

STARTING LINE: Tons of porta-potties with short wait times. I was able to make one last stop before the race start and didn't even have to wait! Excellent! They were close to the start as well. The runners were all in the same corral, but pacers did line up accordingly, so if you wanted to run with a pacer they were there. Two separate start times for the marathon and half-marathon.

RACE COURSE: It stars and finishes at Capitol Square and was fairly non-technical. But, watch out for the hills about mile 7 and mile 9. These were doozies, but shorter so manageable. Plus the top of mile 9 brings you to the lake with a gorgeous view of the capitol in the distance! WOW! Worth the hurt on the way up the hill. After mile 9 was my most favorite part of the race. You reach the view and from there it's a downhill and flat course around some of Madison's most prestigious homes; including the sprawling governor's mansion. Make sure to enjoy it a bit. :)

All of the course runs on pavement with some areas open to traffic. Runners ran on one side of the cones and all major intersections were accounted for with police officers. For me, a partially open course is a bit of a downer - I run on the outside to be as far away from other runners as possible - I had to dodge in and out of a few cones now and then. Nothing earth-shattering, but my only negative of the course.

Watch out for about mile 12 1/4. A substantial hill at the finish, but if you can conquer it the finish line is close! Keep going! You can do it!

WATER STOPS: There were MANY opportunities for water and Gatorade and they came often. I did not carry water with me on this run and wouldn't have needed to. Great job there. My only suggestion would be to have the water first and Gatorade second or vice - versa. They were not the same at every one.

FINISH LINE: FREE RACE PHOTOS! Such a HUGE race perk. Thank you for that! Heat blankets, finish-line photos, instant race results printed, ample food selection and post-race band that played until 12:00. I was also very pleasantly surprised at the race day parking. Ample FREE race parking on the street on race day. If you weren't lucky enough to snag a street spot there were ramps everywhere with reasonable parking rates!

I would definitely recommend this race!

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(2016)
"Aid Stations, Spectators, Food - OH MY!"
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You can tell right away that the race managers really know what they are doing with this race! Well organized, well hydrated, well fed... I could keep going... and I will.

I completed this half-marathon as part of the I35 challenge and would recommend it to anyone who asks. Great challenge with Kansas City first and finishing in Des Moines.

The expo was located right in downtown with ample free and easy parking. It is a smaller expo but I liked it's charm. I had the ability to move around as I pleased and was able to try lots of samples, which I liked. I also stayed at a hotel close to the start/finish line and the rates were very reasonable.

Race day parking was a cinch and FREE! Can't beat that, and there were potties in the parking lot so extra bonus! If you come a tad early, I don't believe you'd have any problem finding a great and close parking spot!

I really liked that runners were seeded corrals, it kept us a bit separate and not quite as crowded, but this race does draw crowds - over 8000 runners I was told. I ran this race in very dense foggy and wet conditions so it was difficult for me to comment on the course scenery - you do get some views of downtown and there is a lake that you run around with wide paths - I wish I could have seen the view. Silly mother nature.

The elevation difficulty was on the easy side. However, there is one very large incline between mile 10-11. One race volunteer described it as " a sleigh-ride through HELL". Be mentally prepared for that, but there is also a fantastic return down hill as you approach mile 12 with the final mile a slight decline as well!

The spectators and race entertainment were amazing! There was no shortage of spectators cheering and many were handing out their own goodies to help races along the way! I really appreciated the support, especially because I was running my back-to-back half marathons! The race course did change this year and I heard many comments that the course was better than in previous years.

The aid stations on this course were amazing! I wasn't paying too close of attention to what mile markers they were located, but they were plentiful with gatorade, water and GU. If you didn't want to, you would't need to run with any hydration as you shouldn't be thirsty after this run.

Let's talk about the post-race food! One word: AMAZING. Pizza, sandwiches, cookies, chips, bbq pork, chocolate milk - and I know much much more. Lines were not long and there is plenty of room to navigate through even with 8000 people running.

The medal is also great and it ranges in size depending on if you ran the 5K, half or marathon. The 3/4 zip technical shirt has a nice fit as well.

I would absolutely recommend this race!

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