Latest reviews by Gina Hanzel

(2016)
"Hot Dash, Hot Swag, Hot Dish!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Hot Dash didn't disappoint this year! Overall, I would give this race a 5!

SWAG:
In my opinion, races that have great race swag attract the most racers. Hot Dash sold out this year, I feel in part, due to the great 1/4 zip long-sleeve technical shirt and finisher medal for ALL participants.
The medal was a cute gold pot holder with an orange and blue ribbon. It's always nice to have a medal at the end to make you feel like you accomplished something, especially after running 10 miles.

AID STATIONS/SCENERY:

Because this was "just" a 10 mile, I didn't utilize the aid stations, but they were adequately staffed and stocked with electrolytes and water. All of the volunteers were smiley and helpful in the 28 degree temps. It was chilly this year - great racing weather. Very cold after the race when you're all sweaty. :)

The course is mostly flat with one hill at mile 7.5. In my opinion - this hill was an easy climb with a great downhill at the top. It crosses the river, although unless you look to your right, you didn't get to enjoy the view too much. I tend to focus forward, so I miss some of the view. Most of the course is fast and flat through residential and industrial neighborhoods, until about the last 7.5 miles. This is the cherry on top when you start to see the Mpls skyline and can cross the stone arch bridge. The last few miles passes you through some of the best parts of Minneapolis. The last 1/4 mile to the finish is on cobblestone - pretty much watch your step.

The spectators on the race were few and far between - if you're looking for crowd support this is not your race. However, it was quite cold and the roads getting to the race were awful due to the overnight snowfall - this could have deterred more cheering sections. There is never a time that you are running alone - so if other runners motivate you to keep going, you are all set!

PARKING:

The parking access for the race is convenient and close to the start, but has somewhat of a hefty price tag at $12. If you get there early ( maybe 2 hours before start ) you can find ample FREE parking. I didn't arrive to the location until about 45 minutes before the start and the wait to get into the parking ramp that I pre-paid for was about 30 minutes. On the plus side, I stayed nice and warm in the car!

RACE MANAGEMENT:

The Lumberjack/MN theme to this race was great. Along the course you will see runners dressed in flannel with beards and axes. There is a costume contest, warming fireplaces, hot dish and Finnegan's beer at the end. I took full advantage of a fireplace to warm up my frozen fingers, and the hot dish was HOT, which is always a plus and mighty tasty! I could have eaten seconds for sure!

The photo opportunity at the end was great as well! Lots of props and volunteers there to take your photo.

The race appears to be well managed and had ample food at the finish. Full water bottles, and the usual race fare.

I had a great time at this race. My only complaint is the bottle-neck of people for the first 1 1/2 miles. The course runs down one side of a two-way street and it can be difficult to pass slower runners. I just made my presence known and everyone was friendly and let me slip through! If you are looking to PR this fast and flat race.... start toward the front of your corral time.

I will definately be running this race again next year!

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(2016)
"Polar Dash - Half Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This year, Team Ortho moved their Polar Dash to a new location in St. Paul! Kudos to the race organization!! Minnesota winters can be brutally cold and January 1st always brings cold blustery weather. Today was no exception. We had 6 degrees at the start with 9-10 mph winds. The new location had a HEATED pavillion for racers to relax in before and after the race. To make matters even better.... FLUSH TOILETS!!!!
If you're brave enought to run a winter race in Minnesota - make sure that you dress warm! Very warm. For the race I wore a neck gator that pulled up over my face as well as two pair of pants and two pair of socks - although after 13.1 miles the blister on my foot is angry at me for doing that! One pair of socks from now on!
There is not a race expo for the Polar Dash, but they do have a store at all of the race pickups where they sell Team Ortho themed race gear.
The course scenery was very beautiful and the roads were some sidewalk, some paths and some pavement. The Mississippi River was always along side us as well. Some rolling hills that I only noticed the 2nd time through - after I was starting to get tired. The only complaint I had was that the course was repeated twice. Normally, this isn't a big deal running down and back twice ( for a total of 4 times ) but at the 6.8 mile mark you literally run through the finish line gates to complete the course again. In very cold and blustery temps it was slightly depressing realizing that you still had to complete the final loop. However, I will say that having run this race twice - I did enjoy this course more.
Parking was very accessible - we arrived an hour early and scored a FREE parking space. Otherwise there were lots available for 10 dollars within a few block walk to the race start.
Lets talk about the SWAG. You run this race for the gear most definately! The 3/4 thermal jacket this year is simple but warm! And the medals are always great! But, don't be shocked by the pricetag of the race entry fee - it's steep! I paid $70 to run the half marathon and they wanted a $30 bib pickup fee for a total of $100. I was a little late in deciding to register, so the bib pickup fee was my fault. Luckily, I new someone at the race that would pick up the packet for me, so I saved the $30.
Even thought is extremely cold, I like this race by Team Ortho. It's the only race Team Ortho puts on that isn't over crowding. The half marathon size was around 350 people today. Small race which I loved, but only 2 spectators on the entire course! :)

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(2016)
"Polar Dash - Half Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This year, Team Ortho moved their Polar Dash to a new location in St. Paul! Kudos to the race organization!! Minnesota winters can be brutally cold and January 1st always brings cold blustery weather. Today was no exception. We had 6 degrees at the start with 9-10 mph winds. The new location had a HEATED pavillion for racers to relax in before and after the race. To make matters even better.... FLUSH TOILETS!!!!
If you're brave enought to run a winter race in Minnesota - make sure that you dress warm! Very warm. For the race I wore a neck gator that pulled up over my face as well as two pair of pants and two pair of socks - although after 13.1 miles the blister on my foot is angry at me for doing that! One pair of socks from now on!
There is not a race expo for the Polar Dash, but they do have a store at all of the race pickups where they sell Team Ortho themed race gear.
The course scenery was very beautiful and the roads were some sidewalk, some paths and some pavement. The Mississippi River was always along side us as well. Some rolling hills that I only noticed the 2nd time through - after I was starting to get tired. The only complaint I had was that the course was repeated twice. Normally, this isn't a big deal running down and back twice ( for a total of 4 times ) but at the 6.8 mile mark you literally run through the finish line gates to complete the course again. In very cold and blustery temps it was slightly depressing realizing that you still had to complete the final loop. However, I will say that having run this race twice - I did enjoy this course more.
Parking was very accessible - we arrived an hour early and scored a FREE parking space. Otherwise there were lots available for 10 dollars within a few block walk to the race start.
Lets talk about the SWAG. You run this race for the gear most definately! The 3/4 thermal jacket this year is simple but warm! And the medals are always great! But, don't be shocked by the pricetag of the race entry fee - it's steep! I paid $70 to run the half marathon and they wanted a $30 bib pickup fee for a total of $100. I was a little late in deciding to register, so the bib pickup fee was my fault. Luckily, I new someone at the race that would pick up the packet for me, so I saved the $30.
Even thought is extremely cold, I like this race by Team Ortho. It's the only race Team Ortho puts on that isn't over crowding. The half marathon size was around 350 people today. Small race which I loved, but only 2 spectators on the entire course! :)

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(2015)
"Shortcut to the Capitol - 10 mile"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I absolutely love this race. It was made even more perfect due to the cool, but sunny conditions!! The expo is like no other. It boasts a huge selection of vendors and is easy to locate. As I said last year, the only downside to this race is that it is lottery selection. I have been lucky enough to get selected two years in a row so I feel blessed that I was able to run it again.

The course is beautiful. The final 3-4 miles runs down Summit Ave in St. Paul. This street has beautiful trees and huge historical homes. I am not one to look around much while I run, so I miss much of this beauty, but there is not a course that has topped this one for me! It is hilly. Thess hills are not are not crazy steep, but I would describe them a slow-burn. Miles 7-9 along Summit is a gradual climb until about 9.5 with a huge downhill at the finish!

The spectators at this race cannot be beat! You are entertained at every water stop with music and cheers and many people along the way shout inspirations at you as you pass them. Better yet? Wear your name on your arm or your shirt and you'll be sure to get a lot more shoutouts!

Parking is available at the starting line and at the finish line. I have always parked very close to the starting line and it was $4 this year! What a steal. The shuttle at the end of the race is fabulous as it only took us 10 minutes to get back to our car. Runners with their bib are also able to ride the light rail for free back to their vehicles.

My only complaint is after the race. Runners are only able to pick up their finisher shirt after they cross the finish line, and it is extremely bottle-necked and crowded. I find it inconvenient to wait for 30 minutes to get my finisher shirt and then wait again to get out of the gated runner area. Finisher shirts could be given out at the mandatory day before packet pick up for smoother exit for runners.

Overall, this race is fantastic and I hope that I continue to keep getting lucky and get in every year!

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(2015)
"Worth the HURT!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Small town race with LOTS of charm, beautiful scenery and ENDLESS HILLS!!

There were only 112 race participants for the Belle Plaine Scenic Byway Half Marathon. This race also has a 5K option with more runners however. The small race field was fantastic!

I live very close to this race, it was a beautiful Saturday, I was available and trained so it was a quick spur of the moment half marathon! Belle Plaine puts the race on to raise money for the city. Packet pick up was easy in and easy out and there was also an option of packet pick up the morning of the race.

Because this race is known for it's very difficult hilly route, I chose to pick up my packet that evening so that I could drive the race route. I am very glad that I did..it psyched me out a bit, but also gave me an edge because I knew where the hills were and could anticipate the next big energy push that I needed.

This course is absolutely beautiful! We crossed the MN river twice and the fall colors couldn't be beat! Quiet county roads with winding hills and valleys, corn fields, blue skies and fun along the way. I love the water/aid stations. Each aid station was competing against each other to win a prize at the end. My favorites were the people in gorilla suits you could throw water balloons at and the WWE high school wrestlers that were dressed with alter-egos at Mile 11! Great ideas!

The route was absolutely crazy hilly. If you want a challenge, this one is for you. I managed to pull out a PR for me, which made my experience that much better. The finish line was small, but with 112 racers it doesn't need to be much bigger! There was plenty of post race food and also food for purchase. Each racer was able to take as much water as they needed and also were able to have a beer/soda at the end as well. Bounce houses for the kids were a great touch as well - mine are 3 and 5 and the races can get a bit boring. They loved them!

My only suggestion would be to have more signs pointing the runners in the direction of the starting line - we were all fumbling away asking volunteers where to go. Parking was easy. I parked two blocks from the park where the race was held. Fantastic volunteers!

The medal is AMAZING. It's huge and the race motto is "worth the hurt" After the ENOURMOUS mile 12 hill - the medal was well deserved! The race tshirts were unisex, so I most likely won't be wearing mine all that often just because of the fit. They could look into ladies fit! After all, free PR right?

I will definitely be doing this race again and it you're ever in the area - give it a try. It's worth the challenge and the hurt! :)

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