Latest reviews by Nora Gozzo

(2017)
"Rocking and Rolling Through Montreal"
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This past weekend, I got to check off 2 items on my running bucket list –

Run an international race.
Run a Rock n Roll race.
Check and check!
My friend and I were making a racecation out of this, so we drove up Friday afternoon. We were staying at a Holiday Inn in downtown Montreal that had been listed as one of the recommended hotels on the RnR website. This worked GREAT. We were about half a mile from the expo and right across from the metro station (which was free for all runners to use on race day!).
Unfortunately for those registered for the full marathon in 2017, the weather did not decide to cooperate. Temps were forecasted to be around 85 on Sunday and Rock n Roll made the decision to cancel the full marathon. While I feel horrible for all the folks who spent months and months preparing to run 26.2 miles this past weekend, I do think this was the right decision. There was not a lot of shade out on that course and those are just brutal conditions to run a marathon in. Participants had the option to downgrade to the half marathon, transfer to a different Rock n Roll event, or get a full refund, which I think was a fair solution to a bad situation.

EXPO: While I thought it was a good-quality expo with plenty of vendors, free samples, and opportunities for shopping, I knocked off a star because it was so darn hard to figure out where to go when you first entered the expo hall. A little more directional signage would have been nice. Even though neither my friend nor I spoke French, we had no issues communicating with anyone or figuring out where to go once in the expo. I didn’t know quite what to expect in terms of a language barrier, but thankfully we never had any problems.

Race: I headed out to the train station around 6 am, wanting to be on the early side for the 7:30 start. Thankfully, there were plenty of other runners in the train station and I had zero issues figuring out where to go. I had to switch lines after a couple of stops on one train and when I got on the second train, I found myself standing right next to another Bibrave Pro, Bradley! It was great having a friend to chat with about running and other Rock n Roll races as we made our way to the start. As we climbed up onto the Jacques Cartier bridge where the race began, we got incredible views of the sunrise, the amusement park La Ronde, and all the corrals stretching out across the bridge! The only thing about starting on the bridge was that it made it logistically challenging to warm up. Most of the bridge was reserved for the corrals with a narrow driving lane on one side for police and race officials. There were plenty of porta-potties at the back end of the bridge (the only thing was that you had to hop over a jersey barrier to actually be able to access them). The race started right on time at 7:30 am, which I was very thankful for as you could already tell it was starting to get warm. Most of the course was very flat with very little shade apart from a couple of small but intense hills in the second half.There were tons of fire hydrants that the city had opened along the course so that runners could cool off by running through the spray - overall, I thought the city did a great job taking all the necessary precautions to keep the runners safe in the warm temperatures. They even had ice-water soaked towels at the finish which felt so nice!

THE BLING: I loved the medal. It does a great job showing off the specific features of Montreal that you got to see along the course. Rock n Roll also allowed runners to vote on the design of the medal in the months leading up to the race which was pretty cool! The t-shirt was also very high quality - Brooks technical with female/male sizes. Definitely a shirt I will continue to wear during training runs!

Overall, I was very impressed with the Rock and Roll experience. The bands along the course were frequent and added such a festive element to the race. While there were a few moments when I wished there had been somewhat better signage/direction, it was pretty dang smooth for a race with 10,000-ish runners. For an account of my personal experience at RnR Montreal, you can check out my race recap at https://2gensrunning.com/2017/09/26/rock-n-roll-montreal-race-recap/.

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(2017)
"The Groton Road Race: Scenic Courses, Family Fun, and Post Race Cupcakes"
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The Groton Road Race is a small town race put on by the local Groton running club in Groton, Mass. I had volunteered at the event in years past, but was excited to finally be able to race it this year. There are a number of different race distances to choose from - Tots Trot, 2k, 5k, AND a 10k. This makes the event extremely family-friendly. I opted for the 10k.

The 10k went off 10 minutes before the 5k and started right on time. The police presence for this race is HUGE and makes this event feel like a bigger race than it really is. They shut down the center of Groton just before the start so you don't have to worry about safety at all. The course contains a number of rolling hills. Yes, you've got to struggle through the uphill sections, but that also means there were some nice downhill sections where you could really cruise. The course itself is also BEAUTIFUL. Groton is a lovely town and running along the country roads really allows you to soak it all in. There weren't a ton of aid stations, but it felt sufficient for the race length/temperature. I was also kind of surprised by the number of spectators along the course - some parts were quiet, but there was a lot of cheering in others, which was a really pleasant surprise, especially at the end when it was getting tough.

The only thing that is a little tricky about the course is that it rejoins the 5k course with just about a mile to go, which means that the speedier 10k runners catch up to the slower 5k participants. I thought they did a good job managing that this year though, keeping 10k runners to one side of the road and 5k on the other so that the 10kers didn't have to go crazy bobbing and weaving around those in the 5k.

The food at the finish line was great. Water, orange slices, bananas, bagels, and homemade cookies. DELICIOUS. :) For those looking for something a little more substantial (the race finishes just around lunch time), there are usually 2 food trucks - Jamaican Me Hungry and a cupcake truck. I think more races should have cupcakes at the finish.

Overall, it felt really well organized and was a super fun way to get some miles in on a beautiful spring weekend in New England. Definitely recommend!

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(2016)
"Flat, Fast and Scenic!"
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There's always plenty of options for fun, family-friendly 5ks in the Boston area this time of year, and the Boston River Run stands out as a solid option for runners looking for a fast course with great views of the Charles River. With the Fall colors fully in bloom in mid-November, runners are treated to a beautiful course (if you slow down long enough to take it in!).

The run/post-race party takes place at DCR’s Artesani Park, on Soldiers Field Road in Boston. While I opted to Uber to the race start, I was surprised to see plenty of parking available - not an easy feat for a city race! I had not been able to make it to the packet pick-up organizers scheduled during the week, but luckily had no issues picking up my bib and shirt on race morning.

The race itself started right on time, at 9 am. The field of runners is pretty small for this event - well under 1,000 runners. This was probably a good thing, because the start chute was slightly cramped as it was with everyone squeezing to fit on the narrow bike path the route followed. The route is a small loop of the bike path and the only minor "hill" comes from the bridge runners cross to get to the other side of the Charles. Other than that, the course is pancake flat. A blessing for runners trying to truly race this 5k!

The vibe of this 5k is definitely low-key. Runners got water after crossing the finish line and there were a few vendors sampling juice, kale chips and a few other healthy options, but it was definitely a smaller food selection than what I've seen at other 5ks. For $33 (or less if you register earlier than I did), you get a nice long-sleeved running shirt (men and women's cut available), and a scenic, fast course. Not a bad deal, and overall a really fun way to spend a beautiful Sunday Fall morning in Boston!

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(2016)
"Fellsfest: An Awesome Race and Event"
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The Fellsfest is a FANTASTIC trail race option for runners in the greater Boston area, and if you haven't run this race before, it is definitely worth putting on your To-Do list! This race was bigger than I expected and ended up really impressing me with all the little perks they put together for the participants.

Some specifics-
Packet Pick-Up: Numerous options and times were available around Boston, making it very easy to pick up your T-shirt and bib ahead of time. They also offered race day pick-up. The T-shirt was cool, but not a tech tee, which would have been nice.
Parking/Access: There was parking available at the start, but what really impressed me was that they had shuttles available to pick you up from Oak Grove station (closest T-stop to the race) to take you the 4 miles to the start. This made public transportation an easy option for the race. They also had parking, though it looked very full by the time I got there, so arriving early to this one would probably be in your best interest if you have to drive to this race.
Course/Water Stations: The 10-milers started ahead of the 5-milers by 5 minutes which was smart, but there was still some congestion at the start as everyone headed into the trail. It didn't last too long though and then everyone was running comfortably. You had to watch out for the 5-milers though once they started because they blew by most of the 10-mile pack! As for the course, most of it was very runnable, even in road sneakers. Lots of rolling hills with 1 killer one thrown in that we hit just before mile 5 and again before mile 10 (the 10-mile route was just 2 loops of the 5-mile course). I think they had 2 water stations on course. I would have loved another one since it was a pretty humid day, but it wasn't too bad.
Post-Race Party: This might be the best part about this race. The post-race party was BUMPING! They had a DJ spinning tunes and 4 different breweries giving away free beer and hard cider - and runners who were of age were able to have as many as they wanted (which probably contributed to the amount of dancing that was going on)! There was also pizza, pita sandwiches, Larabars, Bai, Muscle Milk, and Suja juice. The pizza was delicious and just what I was craving after 10 tough miles.

Overall, I loved this race! I would 100% run it again.

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(2016)
"The 2016 Hobble Creek Half"
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The Hobble Creek Half Marathon was my 16th half, and 12th state on my quest to run a marathon/half in every state. The timing of this race worked out well for me as I was going to be in Utah the week before for work anyway. This was definitely a small race, and I am sure there are some other options in Utah that are much bigger and more well-known, but I chose Hobble Creek since the date worked well AND because of its wonderful, consistent downhill elevation profile - the course begins at about 6,000' and ends just under 5,000'. The description on their website also got me -

"The Hobble Creek Half Marathon was started by two elite runners and USATF members in 1994 with a vision to create a course that would be both a record breaker... They chose a beautiful route that starts up the Right Fork of Hobble Creek Canyon close to Springville, Utah, the course snakes down the canyon along the river trail and on the road next to Hobble Creek. The race now strives to be Utah's premier 1/2 Marathon event."

Packet pick-up was the Friday before race day at a local running store. It was a little hectic and crowded when we went to get our bibs. There also really wasn't an expo - sure, there was plenty of running merchandise to peruse in the store, but that was about it. Oh well, with a race that's capped at 1,000 runners, I wasn't really expecting much of an expo. The shirts were nice at least - they had fitted V-necks for the women and separate shirts for the men. They were a simple white with the logo of the race on the front.

On race day, my mom and I got up bright and early to make our way to Mapleton City Park to catch the shuttles up the canyon. Because it was a point-to-point course, the organizers stressed that it was very important that all the runners catch the shuttles between 5:30-5:45 am since no cars would be allowed up the canyon road. This had seemed really early to me for a 7 am start, but by the time we were actually dropped off at the top, it was already after 6 am (and we had gotten to the shuttles by 5:30!). There was also a bit of a walk after the shuttle drop-off. It probably took us about 20 minutes, but it felt like longer because I had to use the bathroom so badly and they hadn't put any porta-potties at the shuttle drop-off.

The course really was beautiful. The first 6-7 miles were on a winding road and consistently downhill. I found myself consistently hitting faster splits than I intended just because of all the downhill. I knew my quads were going to pay the price later in the race though, and they definitely did. There were also only 5 water stations, and there were times when I felt like they could have used more. The last few miles were tough, and I did not end up hitting the PR that I had achieved 6 months ago on a course with a more challenging elevation profile.

The finish was nice. There were pretty much no spectators except for the last mile, which was a nice boost when I needed it most. They also had separate medals for the top 100 male and female finishers, as well as carnations for everyone, which was a really nice touch. The post-race food was a little disappointing. They had pretzels and cut up fruit, but nothing to put them in. They also had bread and honey and butter, which was kind of different.

My mom and I also had an issue with our results. When we checked the print-out, we noticed there was no record of our times, despite results being posted for others in the same time frame. Turns out, that the timing chips they had given us HAD to be attached to our shoes in order to transmit signal to the timing mats. Since the chips were a little bigger and more awkward than usual, we had put them in our fuel belts, thinking that would do the trick and prevent them from flopping around on our sneakers during the run. We spoke to a staff person and they were able to correct the mistake, but it still would have been nice if someone had mentioned this to us ahead of time.

Overall, this was a good race and worth running if you are in the area. Just keep in mind that it is a small race and lacks many of the bells and whistles of bigger events.

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