Latest reviews by Eric Blasius

(2018)
"Beautiful sunrise tour of Sarasota"
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First things first: I loved this race!! The city is beautiful and the race is well produced. Definitely a race I will run again.
This is a smaller race, so I enjoyed the small-town kind of feel. The packet pickup was small, in Miami on Wednesday and then in Sarasota at Fit2Run on Friday and Saturday. It was very quick and efficient. The race shirt isn't my favorite ever, but it is soft and I will certainly wear it. The folks at packet pickup were so nice and welcoming of an out-of-towner like myself, and it made me that much more excited for this race!
Parking on race day was a bit of a challenge, as the race start is in a congested area. This isn't as much of the race management's error as it is just the logistics they have to deal with. I recommend arriving an extra 30 minutes earlier than you might normally arrive for a race. We found parking on a side street, but after searching for a bit.
The start line was well-organized with the pace groups holding their signs to help organize where folks were lined up. The course heads out to St. Armands key briefly, which does mean heading over a pretty steep bridge at mile 2, and then coming back over it around mile 4. The rest of the race goes through residential neighborhoods and is well-shaded from the sun.
Aid stations were plentiful, but I was confused as some aid stations only offered water or only offered Gatorade, while others offered both. The cups it was served in often changed and a few times I didn't get the liquid I needed. It was a little frustrating. The racing rule of thumb is that Gatorade should always be first and water second, and cups labeled accordingly. Nailing details like this will help keep the field much happier, in my opinion.
The finish line was a welcomed sight! I received an awesome medal and a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade.
The First Watch buffet was one of my favorite parts of my race experience- it featured fresh pancakes (they were making them non-stop!), fresh fruit, yogurt parfaits, a few other small items. I LOVE First Watch to begin with, and I remember reminding myself in the later miles of the race that the sooner I finished, the sooner I got pancakes!!
Free race photos and finisher certificates from Athlinks also are an incredible gesture and very much apprecated.
Overall, I had a great experience and would recommend this race to Floridians or those looking for a race-cation alike.

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(2018)
"Sunrise bliss! Arrrrrr!"
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This was an overall fun race right along the bay! A flat and fast course as you watch the sunrise -- this was a great experience.

The expo was fairly large with a lot of the usual booths and I found it pretty easy to park, get in, get what I needed, cruise around the exhibitors, and get out. Instructions about where to park, how much to expect to pay, how to navigate to the expo hall, etc. could have been more clear, but nothing too terrible.

Race morning was similarly confusing, with vague instructions on parking and how to then navigate to the start line. Though not publicized other than a blurb in the pre-race booklet, I utilized the gear check inside the convention center. I found my way to the corrals area, which was extrememly confusing. The announcer actually was giving instructions of where each color bib should line up by giving street names, but as an out-of-towner, I struggled to understand where the correct place to be was. The announcer, at one point, apologized and said he had actually been giving out the wrong locations for lining up, adding to my confusion and frustration. I quickly figured it out by seeking out folks who had the same color bib as I did, but I was dissatisfied with this process overall.

The race starts on Davis Island and is rather neat! It begins with a brick road that was in pretty good condition. The route then continues around the island past some beautiful homes and in the view of some of the docked cruise ships in port. The race then heads back toward the bay where the rest of course is run. It is a beautiful view and as you go along, the sun rises to your left. It being so close to the water meant that when the sun came up, there was no shade to provide relief from the heat. I admit that I got a little bored of this since it was out-and-back for miles 5 through Finish.

The finish line finally came and I was so excited to see it! It had begun to really get warm. I received a bottle of water, an ice cold rag (heaven) and one of the sweetest medals I've ever received. There were no race goodies or food to be found. I know a plate of food was supposed to be somewhere in addition to beer, but I never was able to find it? If it was in a different location, there was no signage or information pointing runners in that direction. I gave up looking after a short while.

My last note is that while the festival Gasparilla is held in January, this race is held about three weeks later. Other than a brief photo oppurnunity with a busty pirate, there was no Gasparilla theming to this race.

Aside from my few greiveances, none of these would stop me from running this race again. This was its 41st anniversary and it definitely draws a loyal crowd of runners who come back year after year. I will still recommend this race to those looking for a fun and fast springtime race.

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(2016)
"New NYE tradition!"
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I loved getting the chance to be part of the first year of a new Chicago NYE tradition! It was a 5k course starting and finishing in Millenium Park.
Registration opened in November and prices increased every few weeks up until race week. I did feel like the peak pricing was steeper than I would normally pay for a 5k. I also feel like lots of people don't make their NYE plans until much closer to the actual day than they might plan for any other race.
Packet pick-up was offered the day before at Fleet Feet - Old Town. Since I couldn't make that, I was pleasantly surprised that race day packet pick-up was offered. It was very quick and I only waited in line less than five minutes.
Instead of a shirt, the swag item was a hat and gloves with the race logo on them. They were exceptional quality for an otherwise giveaway item. They were really warm and cozy! I have so many race shirts, so I'm happy to get something I know I will get a lot of use out of!

Before the race began at 9:00 am, there was a stretching session lead by an instructor from a local gym. Then, when we lined up, the emcee was very energetic and did a good job at getting everyone psyched up to start! The corrals were organized by pace, which helped keep this small (1,025 runners this year) organized quickly and efficiently. The race started down Randolph and lead to the #ChiLFT (lakefront trail). It was a sunny day, so it was nice to be able to enjoy the view along the lake. The course eventually found its way past an aid station (water and Nuun were offered) and then into the relatively new Maggie Daley Park. Beautiful park to run in! The finish line was back in Millenium Park and was very energetic. Some snacks and bottled water and Nuun were handed out.

All in all, I really enjoyed this 5k. It was light and fun-spirited. I would definitely do this race again!!

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(2016)
"26.2 miles of Aloha"
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The HNL Marathon is an incredible experience! A marathon through the beautiful city of Honolulu is a perfect way to end the year.

Race registration starts 11 months in advance. Register early to get the best pricing.

The expo is moderately-small. It includes a lot of vendors that aren't even running-related, which was a bit odd. Bib pick-up was quick, and I was a little annoyed that they were not checking identification as promised. This is important for a majority of the running community, especially after we were told in emails constantly that ID would be checked.
You also pick up your gear check bag, which you would need to drop off the day before the race if you were to use it-- the start and finish lines are not in close proximity, so they transport them in advance. It makes sense to me, though I've seen other runners complain about this.
I was impressed with the huge variety of official race merchandise. There was literally anything thing you could think of branded with the race name on it!

Day of the race, I was staying in a hotel near the finish, so I took one of the shuttles to the start line. That was really quick and efficient! The start area is easily the biggest opportunity for improvement. There was no security, which I think should be in place for a race of this size. There were no seeded start corrals. With almost 25,000 runners, you simply cannot get away with not organizing the runners by expected finish time. I'll be honest, I was really frustrated by this. No matter where you squeezed up to, this made it really difficult to avoid walkers in the first 400 meters even(!). This alone makes this course not a PR course. I spent the first mile weaving and I was pretty far up.
Once you begin, the course winds through some of the downtown area before heading down to Waikiki, which was beautiful! The course then heads up High-Five Hill around Diamond Head, which was just so awesome. Countless volunteers every few paces for more than a mile just there to give high-fives and cheers of positive energy.
The course eventually winds to a highway, where most of the race is on. This part seemed to last forever. There are some pretty views along this out-and-back stretch, but I have to say it is still quite boring. I wish the course took you on some more "local" streets and neighborhoods just to mix it up and keep it from feeling too monotonous. On the way back in, I remember feeling beyond relieved I was done with the highway portion. Finally, you end in a park right near the beach to a beautiful shell lei and a gigantic and wonderfully designed medal!
Aid stations were plentiful, but a few more couldn't hurt, especially with how hot and humid Hawaii weather tends to be. Not all aid stations had water and Gatorade, and they weren't always in the same order. It was quite confusing at times. As other runners have pointed out, the Gatorade was incredibly watered down to the point that it was almost not worth it. I was really disappointed in that. Some aid stations also had ice cold sponges, which was always a treat to see! One aid station in the last third also had a few GU flavor options, which I happily accepted.

Overall, I would do this race again. I was running this race just for the experience, not to PR. I ran an overall good race, but did need to increase my hydration to adjust a bit, but that is to be expected. The views and spectators make this race worthwhile. It's Hawaii, after all!!

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(2016)
"Classy hometown MKE race!"
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This race, in its second year, is a must-do for midwesterners! I'm from the Milwaukee suburbs and live in Chicago now, so it was fun to run a race in my "hometown"!

Expo: What better Milwaukee venue for the expo than the Harley Davidson museum. Parking here was a slight challenge, as there wasn't any direction in the Runner Guide sent out the week before, and there wasn't any signage or people directing. I came right at the expo opening, and found parking in a small lot across the street, which was fine, but kept looking around for more parking, wondering where the masses were going to park as the surge of runners would be coming shortly.
The expo itself was moderate in size, but perhaps they've already outgrown the room in which it was held. Lots of great vendors, but that forced the actual packet pickup area to be a little congested. They moved people through the line very quickly, and were very accommodating as I was also picking up a bib for a friend.
The shirt is a long-sleeved tech tee with thumb holes! Really nice, too! Also included was a cloth tote bag, which is another nice touch. Inside the cloth bag was the clear bag to use for gear check on race day.

Race day: Parking was listed on the Runner Guide to be $5 right near the race start, but since I had forgotten cash (whoops!) used the listed alternative option and parked at the O'Connell parking garage about a half mile away (for $8, but allowed me to pay with a credit card!)
Once over in the start area, the first thing I noticed was incredibly long lines at the port-o-potties. This was a bigger issue than I think the management might have realized. It was minutes before the race was to start and the lines were 20+ minutes long still. I know renting port-o-potties can be pricey, but they need to at least double the number next year.
The next note is about the three races (Full marathon, half marathon, and 5k) all starting within ~20 minutes of one another. I don't necessarily think they need to have separated corrals, but perhaps a staging area behind the corrals to line up the Half and 5k runners while we waited for the Full runners to go through. It was a bit confusing trying to figure out where I should stand until it was time for me to line up. A minor complaint, but one worth considering.
The race announcer was awesome, did such a great job getting everyone the information they needed and keeping the runners energized! We did start a few minutes late, but it wasn't a huge deal.
The 5k course pretty much circles the outskirts of the beautiful lakefront Veterans Park. It was very flat and easy terrain, with very minimal turns. I felt this was a good course to PR on! There was one aid station at around the halfway point, but I was confused at which cups were water and which were Gatorade. They seemed to interchange the cups. This is just a 5k, but I hope in the future this will be addressed.
The finish line was the same place as the start, and runners were greeted with the announcer shouting names of finishers, and then a GORGEOUS medal and post-race snacks and goodies.
The post-race area had free beer and a number of food trucks, along with music and good vibes.

Overall, I had a really great experience, and would seriously recommend this race to anyone. It it's second year, they've done an awesome job of providing a top-notch experience and soliciting feedback on how they can continue to improve. My only regret was not signing up for the Full or the Half so that I could've gotten an extra dose of the beautiful city! I can't wait to see how big this race gets in the next ~5 years!

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