Latest reviews by Kaitlyn K

(2017)
"The Big Easy PR"
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T-shirts and medal get 1 star for being plain, boring and having almost nothing even remotely New Orlean-related on it.

I didn't stop at an aid station, but the ground was fairly clean around the stations and they seemed to occur often.

The start corrals were well spaced out. I didn't feel crowded on the course at all. The expo wasn't too crowded, even on Saturday afternoon. Overall, the race was well managed.

The highlight of this run is of course the fantastic scenery. You run through the Garden District and see gorgeous homes, back downtown past Cafe du Monde, and then up Esplanade for more beautiful homes to finish in the park. The only downside was the uneven pavement, but just watch your feet and you'll be fine. Lots of shade, so even if the temps climb you are shaded for 90% of the course. The start line was right downtown and the finish line was in City Park, which connects downtown via streetcar.

Thanks to the super flat course with not too many turns and the great weather, I managed a PR! Thanks NOLA!

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(2016)
"I Like Pig Hills and I Cannot Lie"
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If you only read one sentence of this review read this: Everyone who says "all the hills are in the beginning of the marathon" is lying to you.

The review in detail: The Expo. Incredible. So. Much. Swag. My goodie bag is overfilled. Lots of great vendors with discount gear and lots of cute flying pig themed gear (I got a winged pig Sweatybands). One of the recommended hotels was connected to the expo, so it was really easy to get to for me since that's where I stayed, but it was right downtown and near the start line as well.

Race Management. Their Twitter account was on point with weather updates and very responsive. 2 days out it looked like we'd be running in a thunderstorm and they were responding to everyone's questions about weather procedures. Great job on that front. Thankfully none of the emergency procedures had to be put into play because mother nature smiled on us. Also, major kudos to the Spot On Pace Teams. Great energy with the 4:20 crew (thanks Susan and Elizabeth!)

The course. Fantastic. We got sunrise views of the Ohio River going over the Taylor Southgate Bridge into KY, and then again more views coming back into OH on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge. And yet more gorgeous views of the river at the top of the climb to Eden Park. Then the route started winding through neighborhoods, so you got to look at homes and cute little towns where the residents came out to cheer you on. Yes, the major climb happens from ~ mile 6 to ~ mile 8.5, and in looking at the elevation profile it seems to just be downhill from there. The truth is the rest of the course is a rolling net downhill course, with a final couple bumps in the last mile that make you want to cry (a la Mt. Roosevelt for anyone who runs Chicago). Though the rolling hills are less elevation gain/loss than the major climb, the cumulative miles at that point on the course make the 80' gain around mile 14 and the 50' gain around mile 18 feel worse.

Side note: If you're running more for fun there is A LOT to eat and experience on course, from a bacon station, graHAM cracker station, Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, beer (unsanctioned beer mile at 14)...the city of Cincinnati loves this marathon and they make it really fun.

My only critique is that some aid stations had water in Gatorade cups and vice versa. But just confirm with the volunteer (or "Grunt") what they're handing you and you won't get surprised. Other than that, go forth and conquer some hills, the Finish Swine will be that much sweeter.

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(2016)
"Ravenswood Neighborhood Race"
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This was my first ever Ravenswood, but I chose a good year (20th anniversary). I love races in Chicago that aren't the usual up-and-down the lakefront. This course takes you through Ravenswood and up to Lincoln Square neighborhoods, which is a nice change of scenery. There are a couple turns, a few speed bumps and some cobblestones, but overall the course is flat and easy to run. It's also a very family friendly race, with lots of kids on course. The pre- and post-run atmosphere was very fun, like a neighborhood picnic, especially with the giant communal table set up for the pancake breakfast.

I also love that this race actually benefits the neighborhood it is hosted in (Ravenswood Community Services Food Pantry at All Saints Episcopal Church), so you can feel good about your race entrance fee.

Packet pick-up is at Fleet Feet, so easy no matter what neighborhood you live in.

The shirt was not a technical shirt this year, which is fine, but I wish that had been specified in the advertisements, since I don't necessarily know what a "Mizuno Core" shirt is. That's my only gripe, and it's minimal.

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(2016)
"I Ran in Paradise!"
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A group of us traveled down to Mexico for the half marathon as part of Chicago Endurance Sports Winter Warriors, so we got a little bit of VIP treatment. We had our own private tent and access to the VIP tent at the finish line, and we got showered with some extra swag, so just keep that in mind.

Start line: No corrals. It was a small field (2,000 total, ~800 for the half and the rest 5K and a 3K kids race) but everyone started together, no wave starts. The course opened up almost immediately though, so it was never crowded and there was little or no zigzagging around runners.

Course: Read your elevation maps, especially if you've been training in the flatlands (like Chicago). There were a lot of hills (largest elevation gain was only 150ft though). The front half of the course has the longest sustained climb, but the back half had the steepest climbs. The course takes you through all the major sights: down the major thoroughfare, along the hotel zone, back up over a highway overpass with great ocean views, up the hills of Mount Solmar (the mountain with the cross on top), down through the Sculpture Garden and the San José Estuary to the Puerto Los Cabos marina, finishing back across the highway and into the Plaza Mijares and “Palacio Municipal” downtown. There are 4 hairpin turnarounds. The aid stations were about every 5K I think, and some had water and Gatorade, but some just had one or the other (and yes the water was safe to drink).

The terrain: Varied. Mostly pavement. The Estuary is packed dirt and sand. There are some cobblestones and grates on the bridge and on the back half of the course. The final 2K there were some painful rocks I remember thinking felt like lava, but that was also the final mile of the race.

The finish: Finish line photos as you cross. Bananas, water and gatorade. Baja Brewing Company was on site handing out beers, which were delicious. Gear check was very easy in and out. The VIP tent was where it was at though. It was right on the finish line, across from the grandstand and stage, so perfect viewing/cheering opportunities.

Swag: The medal features the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas. The t-shirt is neon yellow technical shirt with a vertical race logo. Our group got hooked up with race packsacks in day-glo green or neon pink. There was also a cinch bag for everyone, and a handful of freebies at the expo like a lanyard or a pen. Not much at the expo. Some gear and additional race shirts or hats/visors for purchase.

Great experience with the VIP treatment, but with a small race I think you'd probably get something similar. You just won't get to hang with the Kenyans and Bart Yasso, sipping Veuve Cliquot. By the way, due to the smaller field, if you're speedy you're a likely candidate to hit the podium and get a magnum bottle of Veuve for yourself, in addition to some sponsor swag.

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(2015)
"Will Run for Donuts!"
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Despite rainy, muddy course conditions the Rudolph Ramble 8K was a great event put on by Fleet Feet. The corrals were self seeded for the crowd of about ~1,500 participants. Since they capped the event at 2,000 the course didn't feel overly crowded, and self-seeding worked. The course wasn't anything exciting, for anyone who does the fun runs on the lake front path frequently it was a pretty familiar route. But the real reason why you showed up on a rainy December morning (albeit a 60* December morning) was the race partners and the swag: Do Rite Donuts and the Rudy8K beanie.

I love that this race doesn't do a medal nor a t-shirt. I love the beanie from this year (and last year's toboggan) because it's something new and useful that you'll use all winter. I missed the foam antler this year but oh well.

Other vendors on site handing out freebies: Lolë hairties, Big Shoulders coffee, and CES Dunkin Donuts coffee and baked goods. Great festive atmosphere with carolers at the start and on-course. Quick results posted almost before noon.

And don't forget: there's a kids race option if they aren't up for the full 5 miles called the Donner Dash.

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