Latest reviews by Becky B

(2015)
"A Tough but Well Supported 1st 50K"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb 50k ggb 2

The North Face Endurance Challenge-California is where I tested out my true endurance as a runner -- this is the site of my first ultra: a 50K. The information leading up to the race was excellent. The emails that came out focused on training and prepping for the event.The emails that arrived during race week focused on the details (where to get your bib, parking, etc). I had a question about packet pickup and I received a response back promptly.

The shuttle situation worked out well for us as we stayed at a host hotel (Holiday Inn Express in Mill Valley). We simply stepped outside, got onto the bus and got dropped off near the start line. For those who drove, a designated parking lot was utilized and those folks took a shuttle to the start as well.

The morning was cold. Wow, I didn't prepare the best I could have for the race. I was running with 3 friends and all of us were scolding ourselves. I had checked the weather and was expecting high 40's. Well, apparently San Francisco, and especially where this race took place can be chillier. Therefore, I advise anyone racing this (esp those with an early start like the 50 miler or 50k) to prepare for temperatures that are roughly 10-15 degrees cooler than what the weather.com app says. There were some fire bins going and some tents where we all huddled so I think the race organizers did their best to keep us warm prior to the start.

When this race tells you to prepare for elevation, they aren't kidding. Serious elevation. I clearly did not run enough hills prior so I ended up walking all the hills. Most folks walked the big hills (esp in the first half of the race) so I didn't feel as bad but I would recommend anyone who runs this race to train extra miles on hills.

The scenery was beautiful. I can't say enough good things. The trail itself wasn't too difficult or crazy. There was one section of downhill with wooden steps built into the trail that were rather slick with morning dew so most everyone slowed down. But overall, the terrain wasn't too rough. The trails were well marked.

The aid stations....this was my favorite part. I have never loved aid stations like this. I felt like I was coming upon a buffet at every station. Just about everything a runner would/could want: bananas, orange slices, potatoes (soaked in water so they were soft), potato chips, Clif shot bloks, M&Ms, water, Clif powder energy drink and my favorite...Coke. Wow, drinking soda pop during a race was the most delicious and wondrous thing I ever had during a race. I know I must sound crazy but I never realized how great Coke would be during a race. So every time I got to an aid station, I immediately went to grab myself a Coke. Ahhhh, so refreshing.

The people: For me, this race was tough. Really tough. I'm not the fastest runner so I was concerned about the hard cutoff of 10 hours. I walked way more than I had planned. Overall, I felt like I was doing okay. The other runners were incredibly supportive. Every time they passed me (or I moved to the side to let them pass b/c the trail was narrow) they were offering so many words of encouragement or wanted to high five me. That meant a lot to me b/c this was my first ultra and I had a lot of self doubt. I can't give enough positive comments about the aid stations, the volunteers and the other runners. All were fantastic.

The only negative I have to share is the medal. I know it's all about the bling but the medal was kind of ordinary and small. When I crossed that finish line, I wanted a big flashy medal to drape around my neck. But I suppose that in some ways, this race was about endurance...about pushing yourself and knowing what you can do. The other runners were fantastic but other than there, there weren't really any spectators or lines of people cheering you on. I didn't have cell service at all during the race so I didn't get any support texts from friends or family. This race was about me never quitting and never stopping so I guess that the subtle look of the medal was actually quite appropriate.

Loading Comments... Ajax loader

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2015)
"Troegs: Great Beer. Great Race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb troegs medal

I heard about Troegs Brewery from a friend who told me how great the beer is at this place. So when we found out about a race with Troegs beer at the end, we signed up. And believe me, I was not disappointed!

Communication/Organization: The emails I received were very clear and laid out exactly what was going on and when. The information for parking was spot on and I was able to park very close to the race finish and without cost (the garage was free). Getting to downtown Harrisburg proved to be issue free and finding my way around was easy. This was my first time to Harrisburg so I always get a little nervous when going to a new city but truly found my way without any problems.

Race Day: Packet Pickup was a set of tables near the finish line. The morning was cold and windy but you all know that doesn't stop runners. The swag inside the bag was awesome! First, a very soft Troegs shirt that I know I'll wear again and again. It's not a technical t-shirt but that's okay by me. I also got other little trinkets like a chip clip, beer koozie, toothpaste and coupon pack (which for someone who doesn't live in/around Harrisburg proved to be kind of worthless). A photographer sat on the overpass and captured pictures of the runners with the Capitol in the background. That was definitely a nice background for a running picture.

The course: the course was basically in/around downtown Harrisburg. We started on one side of the Capitol, looped around (passing the finish line on the loop) and then ran up onto an overpass. The course was well marked, relatively flat, the roads were free of potholes so all in all, a nice easygoing course. The tough part was when the wind whipped while running on the overpass. But I suppose that tends to happen in the fall in Pennsylvania.

Post Race: Ooh, this is where the Troegs Hop Dash 5K shined. First, the medal. The medal is a nice piece of bling (quite heavy) and doubles as a bottle opener. Would we expect anything less from a craft brewery? And then each runner received 2 cans of Troegs beer. Bring your ID because everyone got carded. After the beer, I went to stand in line to get my post race treats. Besides the typical post race snacks like bananas and pretzels, they gave us a pretzel. A big soft pretzel (not a little crunch pretzel). Ooh, beer and a pretzel was a fantastic snack combo post race. A DJ was cranking out tunes but for me, I was getting awfully chilly so I didn't stay much longer after my beer and pretzel. But hey, with a 2nd can of beer, I had a beer to go to enjoy later. Full disclosure: I gave my can of beer to a friend but still, it was basically a beer that each runner could enjoy later which I thought was awesome.

Overall: this was a great race and I would run it again if I can get over to the area. I'm not from Harrisburg so this was a nice little add to my visit. Now if they turned it into a half marathon...I may definitely have to make the trip back. But if you live in the area and/or are in the area on race weekend, definitely hop on over to the Troegs Hop Dash 5K. No matter your time, everyone is a winner with Troegs beer!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2015)
"Sweet Race but not Enough Sweets"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I signed up for the Hershey Half as part of the Relay which means 1 runner runs 6.7 miles and 1 runner runs 6.4 miles. This was a great way to enjoy the race with a friend as well as give my legs a break since I ran a marathon the prior weekend.

Organization/Communication: The communication was clear and concise. I knew where and when packet pickup was as well as where to go for race day. No complaints here.

Expo: the expo was tiny tiny tiny. I think there were maybe 8 vendors. I actually felt bad for the vendors because it was incredibly cold out and the expo took place under the grand stand of Hershey Park stadium. The vendors looked cold and it didn't seem like most folks were sticking around after they retrieved their packet/bib. I was disappointed there wasn't an actual Hershey vendor stand giving out chocolates doing fun pictures with the mascots. I saw the Hershey bar walk by but I was in line for my shirt and bag so I didn't get a picture with him. Organizationally, I got my bib, bag and shirt quickly. There was a short line but it moved quickly. I was disappointed that my bag didn't contain chocolate either. Umm, where is the chocolate? It was not in my bag! I had a small pack of Twizzlers.

Race Morning: parking was extremely well organized. The folks directing parking just directed everyone into the lot and we parked efficiently. The race began at 7:30am. I arrived at 6:30am. This gave me plenty of time to use the bathroom and drop my bag off at gear check. Hershey had porta potties available as well as the use of the bathrooms inside the stadium so that was nice (a real bathroom!). The morning of the race was around 30 degrees -- very cold -- so I couldn't wait to start running. I was runner 1 for my relay team so I lined up with all the other runners. My friend and all the other runner 2s were taken to the exchange point on buses. That seemed to be well organized and go off without issue.

The course: the course is nice despite a few hills in the first 6.7 miles. I really enjoyed running through the park. It would have been nice if some of the rides were going or more of the Hershey characters were available for pictures. The Hershey bar was standing to the side at one area and waving to people. I really liked how many orange cones were lined up on the race course marking every single 0.1 mile. It helped me keep track of the distance and time. When I saw the 5.50 cone, I knew I had about a mile left until the exchange point so it was time to fire up the cylinders and go all out in that last mile.

Exchange Point/Relay: The exchange point was well marked but not well organized. When i came running up, I saw a crowd of people. I was looking for an area marked off where you would literally tag/high five your partner. No such exchange area existed. And no one was really monitoring the exchange area. If they were, I didn't see them. After I tagged my friend and she took off, I was kind of left there on my own wondering what to do. I had to run over to the "finish" to get my medal and recovery bag. I think it would have been nice if this area was better marked so after you tagged your teammate, you were directed to the "finish" area. I will say that it was nice to receive my medal right then and there and not have to wait until my friend finished. Maybe that defeats the purpose of the relay. But I can tell that it's a great feeling to get that cute Hershey kiss medal draped around your neck when you're done. I had a short walk to get the buses. Once my bus was filled up, we were driven back to Hershey Park Stadium. This part was less than exciting. After we got off the bus, we were directed on where to enter the stadium. Once you're in the stadium, you had no one directing you, no one taking your picture or anything. You were just left on your own. I took a picture of another relay runner and he took my picture b/c no one was around to take our pictures. I have to admit that it was disappointing to not get the official finish line w/ bling picture. I then changed into the dry clothes I had stored in my gear check bag and waited for my friend to finish. I think this race could have done a better job with the relay by transporting us back to the stadium and then having us wait. When our partner was mile 12, they could have notified us so we could finish together, receive our medals together and get pictures together.

Post Race: Apparently there was a small chocolate stand around mile 12 on the course. Post Race? Chocolate was again no where to be found. My recovery bag was great (banana, protein bar, pretzels and a giant cookie) except no chocolate. I got Twizzlers....again. Seriously...Twizzlers? I run Hershey and I get Twizzlers? That was a major disappointment.

I didn't stick around long b/c it was cold and there wasn't anything to do. In our bags from the expo, we all received 2 tickets for Hershey Park. That was very nice. Based on my schedule, I wasn't able to use the tickets so I enjoyed giving them to some other folks who were taking their families to the park for the day.

Summary: I think the race was well organized overall, and the course was interesting. However, the relay portion was not well organized and left runner 1 kind of stranded and underwhelmed. And the lack of chocolate? That was my biggest disappointment. I ran Hershey and got Twizzlers. Will I run this race again? No, I don't plan on running it again unless I hear of changes they make. The shirt was nice, the recovery bag was cool and the medal is great but I did have my heart set on chocolate.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2015)
"Hartford Marathon: Great for 1st timers"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Although the Hartford Marathon was my 3rd marathon, it was my first marathon in 2015 and was almost a year since my last one so I felt like I was a newbie again. Hence, the title of this review: great for 1st timers. Let's talk organization: Hartford Marathon Foundation does an EXCELLENT job with communication utilizing many channels (email, Facebook, twitter) to keep runners/participants informed and up to date. I knew exactly what was going on, what to expect, where to park, etc. So great job on organization and communication.

Expo: the expo was well laid out and organized. I got my bib and shirt/bag quickly and w/o issues. I didn't feel the expo had much to offer me personally. I liked the Run Hartford gear and then after that...well, it seemed like more physical therapy, insurance companies, etc. For me, nothing really struck my fancy.

RACE MORNING: parking was a breeze. The info/maps/directions were perfect. I knew exactly where to park and how to get to the start line. Plenty of porta potties (come on, you know that's important!) in various locations so not all the runners were piled up in one area. Start line was right in front of the Capitol Building so very easy to spot and find. I never felt crowded at all. Everyone had space. I liked how the half and the full started off together because I was able to run with a friend for the first few miles. That helped to get me off to a good start.

The course: The first part of the race covered downtown Hartford. I never felt crowded and felt there was plenty of room for everyone ESPECIALLY after the half and full runners split. I guess there weren't as many marathon runners. The only thing I didn't like about the course was the out and back. But that's just me in general. It was fun to see the lead runners on the other side of the road, but I also felt disheartened because it seemed like everyone was on the other side and passing me. More on that later. But in general, no major complaints on the course. Yes there were some hills but no real monster hills and I always feel a good hill or two is needed to keep a runner in check during a race.

Aid Stations/Musical Acts: This is where the Hartford Marathon really shined. Plenty of aid stations with lots of water/gatorade to go around. And get this, there was a musical act (band, DJ, bagpiper, etc) every 1-2 miles. I really liked this because I ended up not using my music at all during the race. I wanted to see what the next act was going to be doing/singing. So for me, the musical acts helped to keep me entertained on the course and make the miles go by faster. And I have to mention the candy stand just past mile 22. All sorts of treats to help keep the sugar rush going. I'm telling you, that green apple Jolly Rancher lasted me a mile. It was a nice refreshing treat that kept me going!

On Course Support: I cannot say enough about the on course support at this race. Everyone was incredibly supportive of the runners. And I do mean everyone -- the police, the volunteers, spectators, and even the musical acts. I had extreme pain in my right hip starting around mile 14/15. I struggled to make it to mile 18. This was the first time I ever seriously considered throwing in the proverbial towel and asking for a ride to the start line on one of the golf carts. I was in a world of hurt. And then to top it off, I was a back of the pack person. Most everyone was gone. This made me sad. Then I started to chat with other runners who were there going strong and they helped to encourage me. I encouraged back. We'd leapfrog one another (i.e. they ran past me when I walked and then I passed them when I was running). You don't really get those sayings about digging deep and finding a way to mentally push through until you are one of those people. When the DJ at mile 20 ran out from behind his set up to come on the course and shake my hand and tell me how amazing I was and I was going to finish...that's when I knew I really was going to finish. Up until then, I wasn't sure. And the marathon had bike support folks who would ride up next to me to check on me and ask me if i needed water or Gu or even someone to talk to while I ran. The police cheered and clapped for me. So when I say on course support was one of the best ever, if not best ever, I truly mean it. And yes, I did finish.

Race Swag: When I finished, I was handed my foil wrap and medal (yay!) but then i was handed a bag filled with all sorts of treats and a re-usable water bottle labeled as Hartford Marathon finisher. It was great. I am using that bag as my lunch bag now b/c it makes me happy every time I use it b/c I know what it took to finish that race. My reward was stuff I could use every day. I love my medal but come on, I can't wear it every day to work! So the bag and water bottle are great reminders of the race.

Finish Area: I'll be honest that after I finished the marathon, I just wanted to go home and lay down so I didn't experience the food tent or the beer tent although everything sounded and looked good. I was so drained.

In summary, the Hartford Marathon is a great marathon for someone who wants a little extra TLC for their first marathon b/c you will get tons of support. For those who want to experience New England in the fall, you will see some nice fall colors. I would recommend this race. Would I run it again? Absolutely.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2015)
"Perhaps the best New England Half Marathon!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 7608

This half marathon could very well be the best half marathon in all of New England. Why?

LOCATION: Vermont is a beautiful state with lots of nice scenery (mountains! farms! rolling hills!). This particular area of Vermont, Waitsfield, is just filled with everything picturesque that one can imagine. The town is quaint and during the whole race, it felt as if the only folks in existence were the runners. If you get into town early, go check out Burlington as it's a charming town with lots of cool places to eat and shop and you can even see Lake Champlain.

North of the Waitsfield area, one can find Ben & Jerry's, Cabot Cheese and Cold Hollow Cider (think donuts, cider, cider slushie, etc). I went to these place after my race and enjoyed lots of samples of cheese. So good!

RACE MORNING: At most races, the DJ is pumping the tunes to get everyone as excited and crazed as possible. They play the loudest music with the most beats per minute. But this race....oh, not this race. The music flowing was nice soothing music that sounded like it was flowing from a tropical isle.The DJ even said he wanted to keep things calm so everyone starts off relaxed. Wow, I never imagined that that would be a great way to start a race. No one was pushing or shoving to get near the front (it's a small race so no need for that anyways). They even had free coffee before the race for runners so that was nice.

THE RACE: The race itself was through some gorgeous areas. I felt relaxed during the whole race. There was no traffic to contend with, loud cheering crowds (don't get me wrong...I love cheering crowds but this race didn't need them), buildings, and everything else you'd see in a city. This was the countryside. You could see (and smell) the cows. You passed farms. Ooh, the covered bridge (I definitely stopped for a selfie) was so reminiscent of what I picture in my head about New England.

The website says to prepare for rolling hills. Oh indeed...there were hills. I'm not sure I would call them rolling. I would probably say something like: giant hills -- come prepared. Rolling to me makes it sound like they gently flow. No matter what you call them, this race has hills!

THE FINISH: The finish chute was incredibly charming and welcoming. Can a finish chute be charming? Yes it can at the Mad Marathon. the "arch" over the finish area looked like that of a barn. But the best part of the finish was race organizer Dori standing there with a smile and gave me a hug. A hug when I'm all sweaty? You bet. Dori stands there until the last runner comes in so she can give them all a hug.

And then I went on to grab some food which was awesome. The one thing I remember most was Cold Hollow Cider Donuts. Oh, a cider donut post race was perfect.

Would I run this race again? Absolutely. I already signed up to return in 2016. When I signed up, i received an email from Dori welcoming me back. That's the thing about this race. It's small and completely unpretentious. Could it be the best half marathon in all of New England? I think so...I sure hope those donuts are back at the finish line again. I already know I'll get a hug from Dori.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.