Latest reviews by Brendan
A few weeks ago, I got myself out of bed, dropped my son off at hockey and then made my way to the starting line of the Newburyport Half Marathon. This would be my fourth Newburyport race having completed the half that is run in May, the High Street mile with my daughter in August and the Yankee Homecoming 10 miler which is a week before that race. With the running of this race, I will have completed a race in each season, ex winter in Newburyport. Further, as a result of this run, once could say I know the roads of Newburyport too well!
Before proceeding into the full review, the following is a must for me when I run a race.
The race must have scenery! Enough said.
The race must have a feeling of a race and "camaraderie" and people along the route cheering (so it feels like a race)
The course needs to have some challenge to it.
The race must be well organized and have the ability to answer questions of all sorts, whether via a good FAQ page or just answering email.
Swag is not as necessary but it must have a good finish line, well setup for my post run beverage and a decent finishers medal. If they gave out things other than tshirts, like bags or jackets, that would be cool!
With that part out of the way, what was this race about? Well, in short, it featured a flat terrain for the most part (a few small hills here and there), plenty of foliage and views (those were virtually everywhere) and a relatively quiet course (not many cars on the route). The number of runners made it the second biggest one I have take part in - 2500 - but one only really felt that number of runners at the starting line as my picture shows below. Once the race thinned out in the first mile, it was really never crowded. The finish line was somewhat disorganized but that was a small problem. Overall, it was a good race.
What were The "Pros" of this race?
Scenery! This is a clear number one reason to run. This race. Plenty to see throughout the course and the foliage is just outstanding.
Terrain flat! If you are not looking for rolling hills and want a flat course, this one is for you!
Plenty of aid stations. This one was a good and bad for me. There were plenty of them and lots of space to get water but as you will read below, there was a few stretches where there was nothing for 3 miles. That kind of bothered me.
Lots of Fan support! The spectators were all over this course. They helped getting my second wind to finish! At the same time, if you saw the look on my face at the finish line...well that did it speak to a "second wind."
Organized ahead of time! There was some great communication efforts going on with this race ahead of time. Everything was communicated well, in a timely fashion and answered some questions I had allowing me to be ready on race day!
With the "pros" out of the way, let's look at the "cons" of this race.
Scenery vs Challenge: So the scenery was great but the challenge was only there because I did not train well or just was not in great shape for the race - the challenge was not from the course which was basically flat. Which one wins out? Well depends on my moods for a given day!
Finish line fun but... So running to the finish line was cool as the last 300 yards was lined on both side by many people. Once crossing though, I had no idea where the finishers tent was and getting food was a problem - the line was both runners and non runners. I was not about to sit in a long line to eat pizza. Thankfully the Yasso ice cream bars were there (I seem to be the only one who likes them it seems) and water was being poured out via cup. Not exactly great. I will give the organizers a pass based on the weather of the previous few days - it prevented them from setting up the tent and that has them working on the fly...
Aid stations were unpredictable. Most races I run, the aid stations are at or near the mile markers. That was not the case with this race. And in one instance, there was no aid station for about three miles. Admittedly, I should have drank more water ahead of time so perhaps this is my fault more than anything but this still should have been more uniform.
So in summary, this was not a bad race regardless of what shows up in the Cons section. However, given the popularity of this half marathon, I would have not expected to run into the problems I mention above. Would this prevent me from running again? No but I think I am all "Newburyported" out and need other races to focus on (ultras are coming!)
Well, that is about it. Thank you for reading.
The Ragnar Reach the Beach Relay is a race that stretches 200 miles across New Hampshire - from Bretton Woods to Hampton Beach. Teams can be as small as 6 (Ultra) to as large as 12 (everyone else basically). It takes place around the 17th of each year in September and is comprised by about 500 teams or 6500 runners. It started at 6am on the Friday start with teams going 24-35 hours later into Saturday. White Vans are generally what you see everywhere along the route but the local people also root everyone on as well. Every runner is a member of a team but at the same time, they are also a member of an community of runners. I have run this race twice now and seen all 36 legs from either running them or supporting people on the route.
The Legs of the Race
There are 36 legs in this race, all of different shapes and sizes. Some are very small while others can almost be half marathon length (10.9 miles is the longest one of the race). The elevation moves in this race can be breathtaking at times and there are no flat roads. That is what makes this course so great - lots to see and lots of challenge.
At the beginning, the views are of the Mount Washington Valley and by the end, the views are of the Beach (as you "reach the beach"). In between, you run through areas you cannot see (as you are running in the dark) and beautiful sunrises as the dawn approaches. You will find yourself sleeping either in a van or under a tree and wake after a few hours to run again. Each of these legs will challenge you physically and mentally as the stop and go of running over 24 hours takes a toll. As the race goes on, even the shortest of runs can be hard and if you are caught running during the day in the heat, the marginally hilly road can be very difficult. These legs as a result are tough and the challenge is very high!
Organization and Management
In years past, the communication for this race from Ragnar has been horrible. You send an email and get a response far past the time you needed it by. If you called, you ended up in a voicemail and very rarely got a call back. This year, that changed though as we get closer to the race date, the communication tends to have trouble (never email) at this point.
Ragar had a deal with Enterprise snd that was a mistake this year for us because by screwed up my reservation giving us trucks versus Vans which I ordered (and charging me for the vans). In years past we have not used corporate accts of Ragnar and going forward, we will not use it again! It just stinks.
As for expo, it was organized well but the setup for race day remains a problem each time we get up there. We arrived at Bretton Woods around a hour before but their instructional video seems to run every 20 minutes (so if you miss the start, you need to wait). All members of the team also have to see this video which they could easily just post to their website ahead of time. This means all teams members have to go to the starting line even though six of them won't be running for upwards of 8 hours!
One last thing. The breakfast is expensive. Save your money and just stop in at one of the local shops along the route. Better food for a better price can be found.
The swag for this race is pretty good. Each team member gets a good shirt (they have always done this well). Also each finisher gets a medal and the runner who completes the 10.9 mile run (leg 6) also gets a medal for completing the leg. KIND bars are in the race bag for both teams and one bracelet which is handed off between runners at each exchange. There are some others smaller things in the bag as well. Overall, not bad stuff.
There are photographers on the route but you do not ever notice them. The pics they get are petty good and they are free if you don't mind the RTB logo on the bottom of them.
This is a great race to be done as an ultra team or among 11 of your best friends. The views are great, the scenery is not comparable and the challenge is awesome!
Last week, I shared my running result from the Yankee Homecoming 10 mile race, which took place this past Tuesday, August 2nd. Today, I share with you the details of the race itself!
I have run races in Newburyport before so I was familiar with this course already (plus the race video on their site was helpful as well). Overall, it has a nice mix of small hills and descents and all along the route, there is a good contingent of supporters. In fact, that support translated into water stops almost every half mile (it seemed) which is more than anything I have ever seen and people had hoses and myst shooting out onto the road to keep the runners cool! Even brownies and lemonade are served on this route (helps I guess if you have the munchies).
Beginning of the course is largely downhill for the most part (as I ran sub 7min/mile splits) during those first two miles. Then with the turn from the bottom of Marlboro street, things start to rise higher for the next several a miles (but nothing dramatic). The water stops kind of disappear at this point and the hardest climbs of the race occur during this stretch. Once getting over the climb, you will come to the circle at the end of Merrimac and the water stops and fans start to kick into overdrive!
at XX2i.com, 50% off with code XX2iRocksThe rest of the course then rolls up and down for the next few miles and then once you pass over rt 95 (after getting the option of lemonade and brownies right before), things will flatten out and it is smooth sailing from there. The fan levels pick up about a mile before and the very last stretch, once hitting Newburyport High School, has a steep hill! Nothing like hitting that stretch at full speed and forgetting about the decent climb at the very end!
In comparing to other races I have run, the hills segement is rated only a 2 (out of 5) and the rise and decent are about even at around 300ft (according to my SmashRun data). Overall, a good mix of hills, people and scenery!
So in terms of the administration and management of the race, everything ran smoothly from my perspective. I was able to get my number without a hassle and pick up a Tshirt (though it appeared they had a bit too many XLs and not enough of the rest). Water was available before which I think is the first time I have seen such with all the races I have run this year (though I could be wrong).
The starting area was a bit crowded for the 5k start - which was right before the 10 miler (it also started at the same place). I was a bit confused on where the start for the 10 mile race (it appeared others shared the same confusion) but we all figured it out and moved on down high street. Pace gates were marked which was helpful. Communication as a whole prerace was not great though but the microphone and announcer were not near the starting line because the finishing line was across the parking lot (of the school) which explains perhaps why.
As for parking, one had to either find a spot in the neighborhoods or park down near the Nock Middle School. To me about a 1/2 mile walk is not that big of a deal but it others it might be? I found a space that got me out of the area quickly after and I was home in no time. If you are not from the area, then be prepared for closures on rt 113 early (the main exit to Newburyport off 95). That caused some distress for some runners from what I heard but since there is mostly locals running this race, such complaining was limited.
Last point: I did not know where the porta potties were. Since I live about 10 minutes from this race location, it did not come up in my mind but when looking for them after, I could not find them easily....might have been a major issue if I had not lived so close. Yet again, I could have easily asked someone!
The post race "expo" was setup pretty good so things would not get too crowded. Water was available about 50 yards from the finish line and the snack tent (which was somewhat limited but had enough for the most part) was closer to the starting line but out of the way. Lots of great volunteers were there to direct you on your way but what got me was the obstacles I ran into in trying to get back to my car! It was not easy as the finish line was basically gated off for the last 1/3rd of a mile!
So let's look at the freebies that come with this race - and a key point to consider was the level of that entry fee before proceeding; it was very low compared to most races of any distance and the money was largely going to charity so as a result, this was run as if it were on a low budget (I believe)
Medals? This is the first race I have run that did not feature medals for the runners. Given the amount of sponsors which were on the tshirt, you think this would be a given but alas, no it was not. I did realize though after the fact that while a medal is nice, it should not be the end all be all so to speak and finishing with a PR is more important!
Post Race Snacks: It was a good selection but I have seen much better! Again, low entry fees must equal low snacks? But the snacks hit the spot when needed.
Tshirt: It is not a bad Tshirt and better than many I have recieved from races of late. Not sure of this was a replacement for the lack of a medal?
Nothing else for "swag." So a Tshirt was it for the swag end of things. Good shirt again but there was nothing else and given the sponsorship of this race, I hope a lot of it went to charity!
No photography! I did not see a photographer anywhere on the route. It was somewhat strange but pictures were taken of the winners crossing the finish line so someone was out there.
So to some up this review, I don't believe I will run this race again. It is fun running with friends and seeing some along route as one goes through downtown Newburyport but aside from that, the 6pm start was tough (I am a morning runner and nights are hard) and there was very little included outside of the race. Course is a cool one with all the support along the way and the views that are included but now that I have run Newburyport twice on this route (the opposite way was with the half marathon route a year ago) so it is time for something different!
So would I recommend this race? Yes. At the same time, if you are one of those runners who is all about swag, this race is probably not for you.
Hat Tricks are typically for hockey but not this past weekend! I had the pleasure (if you want to call high temperature levels and decent hills pleasurable) of running in Runners World Classic, at Merrimac College via the Hat Trick: three races - I ran the 5k and 10k back to back on Saturday morning and the half marathon on Sunday morning. 3 races, almost 23 miles, all in 24 hours! Just fantastic. In terms of how this review will go, It has three pieces (the races) but is wrapped together by some good management, interesting events and wonderful volunteers. Also, how about those Yasso Frozen yogurt bars!
So let's take a look at the weekend from high above and discuss the "non race" end of things. First, I enjoyed the ambiance (if such exists with a race environment) as it was just pleasant to walk around the tents and the campus area, during and after the event. No other race venue I have ever visited had this feeling (perhaps the Shipyard Half has this feeling in the old port of Portland, ME). The day before, on Friday, I walked into the building where registration was being handled, confirmed my info, heard a joke along the way and walked out. "Easy peezy" as my kids would say! Saturday and Sunday was very similar in getting around.
On both race days, everything was communicated well by the race director and the group singing the national anthem was just fantastic! Portapotties were placed in a good area (and I was told they were brand new plus there were many of them). The beer garden was behind the main stage and there were vendors spread out in the main area so lines and access were never an issue. The Hot dogs were pretty good post race and the food at the finish line was ok (not a yogurt fan). There were volunteers handing out water and Gatorade at the finish area as well (along with sponges which were extremely helpful with the heat).
In terms of "cons," I only had three issues with this end of the weekend. First, on Saturday, the main portapotties ran out of toilet paper between the 5k and 10ks. That had a few people angry (but runners are resourceful and someone found a toilet paper roll handing it out in line). The second issue was the starting line. The area was super crowded and I could not get to my pace points (not a big issue normally to me but it was not something I had not planned on). The last issue with the food at the finish line - I would have liked to see some fruit but perhaps high temps would have made such problematic? Unsure. Anyhow aside from this, next time around, the RW Classic folks need to extend the starting area and spreads out the pace gates AND fill the portapotties with more toilet paper! (They were full on Sunday btw).
As for each race, here is a rundown!
So as I noted on my blog, my plan going into the Hat Trick was to use this race as my warmup! Well, it turned out to be my PR for the day! The 5k course was somewhat flat and and a great run starting through Merrimac College (like the others), running through some shady neighborhoods and then finishing up back ok school grounds. The starting line was too crowded to get to my pace area so I started at the back of the pack and moved up (though the fact that there are many slower runners in a 5k then other races hurts at the beginning and you have less time to make it up). Your best bet if going for a PR is to get out to the starting point early so you don't run into the same problem I had!
As for the course, using my SmashRun data, the 5k rates a "2" in terms of hill difficulty (out of 5). That is not "flat" but that does not mean you are climbing a mountain either. If you happen to run Boston's landscape, that is flatter than this race! The downslope is at the beginning with a climb at the end. It winds through neighborhoods and for the most part is a safe run from a traffic perspective. Overall, with this being my first 5k that I have officially run in about 25 years, it was a good race. I believe they had one aid station around the 2 mile mark and water was plentiful.
So with the 5k being my best race of the day, this was by far my worst race. Having run somewhat harder than planned in the 5k, I predictably had less in the tank for this one! The hour wait between races also was an issue as I couldn't keep loose enough and my ankle was acting up! The profile of this was like the 5k with a downhill at the beginning and an uphill climb at the end. HOWEVER, add in heat and the comparison ends! The temps had risen by 10 degrees at the start of this run so climbing hills in the heat was not easy!
In terms of my SmashRun data, the 10k course measured a 3 on the scale difficulty (vs 2 for the 5k). The 100 ft climb over a half mile span in the latter part of the race was just a killer! In fact I ended up walking four times in this race as the heat and hills took their toll! Like the 5k, there were some narrow stretches and once again the starting line was an issue getting to the pace group. Like the previous race, you moved through some neighborhoods and swing back onto to campus to finish.
The Half Marathon
This was my "target" race of the weekend. In short, I planned on running easier on Saturday so I could do well on Sunday. With less people at the starting line, it seemed less crowded but this time around I was starting at the back anyhow and would use mile one to warm up. Weather was better than Saturday (about 10 degrees cooler) but with a bit more humidity. Overall it seemed more pleasant this morning with less people around as we all geared up for the final leg of the race.
So the half started in similar fashion to the other two races swooping through the college and out into the neighborhood. The half repeats a small portion of the race going around the campus once, running past the finish area and then goes further out into the neighborhoods. It moves down a main road for a long stretch and then has a main road climb on the back stretch. The beginning of the half is mainly downhill while the back half is a killer uphill climb.
From a hill rating perspective, again using my SmashRun data, his had the same hill difficulty level of 3 with about 575 feet gained and lost over the course of this run. The one bit piece though to add is this: the first 6 miles are basically downhill with little variation to such. The last 6 are uphill and so if running his, if looking for a PR, best bet is to run the downhills fast because the back end is going to eat away at your legs. I was fortunate to have a good amount of energy but I still finished 8 minutes slower than my last half! So take advantage of the downhills is my lesson!
Aid stations and support were plentiful on this route. There were also medics everywhere as I saw a few ambulances on Saturday (more heat, more medics). Overall, plenty of support all around!
Finally, the Medals and the Shirts
The medals for the individual races were somewhat smaller than normal but if you ran the 5&dime or the "Hat Trick," the medals were enormous! I guess by running more and having you around longer at the race area, that is more contact with their sponsors and charities and worth more to them! Thus bigger medals. On the shirt side, it was just an ordinary T and not something like the running shirts we all where each time out on the road. Perhaps i already have too many of those anyhow so an ordinary T is a nice change of pace?
Well, that is about it for the race. Liked doing it very much and will probably attempt it again next year so I can crush my times from this year!
Thank you for Reading!
A very popular statement that most have heard is this
“There is a first for everything!”
Well, this weekend there was a first for me and for my 8 year old daughter! A family fun run at the Seacoast running festival in Salisbury, Mass. It took place on Saturday night (after some serious rain) and was run on the Salisbury Beach, starting from the center of town so to speak. Since this is my first family fun run, I really don’t have anything to compare it to so to speak (other than all the other races I have run outside of this category) so keep that in mind when reading this review.
As for this being my daughters first race, I will write up another post on that later this week because that was just cool on so many levels! In the meantime, let’s focus on the race today. The Family Fun run 1 mile was free and one could purchase a shirt for $5 beforehand when registering (I got 2). It mentioned on their site or on an email that food and prizes were to follow the race (I saw hot dogs and hamburgers but perhaps that was in relation to the half) but I did not have really anything else in terms of information. The race map was posted only a few days before it seems and I did not realize it was on sand till I got there on Saturday night!
In terms of the “pregame” we were able to get our numbers near the starting line though the site said to go to Joe’s Playland (they had no idea when we asked). As for pickup of the shirts, they were not available because something was printed incorrectly on them. They also had me down for one shirt when I had in fact ordered two! They gave us a water bottle with “Watetown Savings” on it and a safety kit – would have liked to have some mention of the race but my daughter was happy which I guess is all thst counts!
The race had about 50 people I think all told. Everyone lined up and we ran down the beach. Now, if it had not rained before, this would have been very hard given the typical soft sand of this beach. That was not the case fortunately and we jumped into some tire tracks and stayed in those till the turnaround point .5 miles away. On the way back, we hit the bottom of the beach and that made it much easier for both of us (mostly me) to finish strong. I think my daughter came in around 5th or so but I have not been able to find the race times anywhere so I cannot confirm.
The post race had a water bottle at the finish line and our bib got my daughter a free ice cream at Joes and a beer for me at the deck. A far cry from what I expected. Also there were no medals or anything for the kids which disappointed me the most.
So what is my grade for this race? D+ at best. It was not something I will sign up for again. It seemed to be a bother to those managing the event and when interacting with the kids, who were running the race, it was like “hey kid do you want a water bottle (in a half hearted tone).” Now , I can speak for the other races that were run this past weekend as part of the festivities but if they were run like this, they are not going to get many runners to return. Count me as one of them.