Latest reviews by Ryan Day

(2019)
"The Nitty Gritty"
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What an incredible race! If you're unfamiliar with Gritty, he's got quite a personality and the race organizers did a great job capturing that personality at the event. Whether it was the pre-race ceremonies or the various obstacles and gimmicks on-course, Gritty was certainly out in full force for the 5k.

The course itself had only slight elevation at a few points but is mostly flat and you have a nice downhill push at the finish line. Great for nailing your PR (unless you get distracted by the hot dog buffet at the 3-mile mark). The course is loaded with "Gritty's distractions" as a ploy to help him win the race. Whether it be silly string gauntlets, orange fog machines, or the last-second hot dogs, runners have plenty of entertainment on course.

This being the inaugural year of the race, it was incredibly well run. The expo was just a simple packet pickup and I was in and out in under 10 minutes. The only hiccup on race day was that the race was a lot more popular I think then they were anticipating. The traffic started to back up on the road leading to the course and they had to delay the start by 30-minutes to get everyone into the parking lots.

Other than that, the race ran incredibly smoothly and it was AMAZING seeing how seriously participants took the costume challenge. The variety of homemade Gritty tributes was truly impressive.

If you're looking for a fall 5k I would highly recommend the Gritty 5k in the future. There's plenty of fun and activities for the whole family.

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(2019)
"ALL of the Chocolate!"
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What an awesome race! This was my first race with the Hot Chocolate series and also my first ever 15k so it was great going in knowing I'd be snagging an automatic PR! So let's get into the details!

Pre-race, the communication from Hot Chocolate was great and they even offer you a code to share with friends to give them a discount on registration. You're also rewarded for each person you refer who ends up registering for the race which was a feature I'd never seen from other races. I'd been registered since the fall so I got plenty of updates over the last few months with tips for the race.

Travel/Expo:
This is really the main area that I think could use a little improvement as far as the race is concerned. The expo is only open until 6 pm the day before the race and for people like me who are working and traveling from out of town, that doesn't leave much of a window. Hot Chocolate does offer an option to have your race packet mailed to you but I also enjoy going to the expos in person to check out the vendors. I was able to make it and was actually really impressed with how efficiently and quickly the packet pickup process was run, but I was definitely sweating a bit trying to rush down from NY as traffic started to build. The packet came with your bib, some energy beans, and the AWESOME sweatshirts you get for participating in the race.

Race Morning:
We should have done some investigating the day before to find parking but it wasn't too much of an issue. We were staying across the river from the starting line so we just got as close to the water as we could and walked across the bridge to the start. The starting line also went a lot more smoothly than I'm used to. There were no lines at gear check and what I was even more shocked by, you only had to wait in a 2-3 person line for the porta-potties! I was also happy they staggered the starts of the 5k and 15k because I was able to see all my friends start the 5k before heading off on my warmup for the 15k.

The Course:
I love running in Philly and have learned that many of the courses include the same out-and-back loop along the boathouse row on the river. Unfortunately, this may not offer the best scenery but it's beautifully flat! Starting the race, I was towards the back of my corral so I had to navigate through the typical congestion you find on race day but nothing too crazy. I was able to find a decent pace within the first half mile or so and the crowd thinned out a lot close to a mile in. There were also plenty of aid stations on course for runners but I do wish there was a bit more clarity on what was offered. They had posted online that they would have Nuun, water, and snacks but it was a bit hard to tell until you were up close which cups had what. There was one aid station where all of the cups were Nuun cups but when I grabbed one I realized it was actually just water. I just think that separating the tables a bit and adding some additional signage would make it easier for runners passing through quickly to grab what they need and go. It was a short enough race that it wasn't really a concern but worth mentioning. Otherwise the organization couldn't have been better.

The Finish:
I've run this finish before and it's a little tough pushing up one final hill but it's great passing under the final underpass and coming out on the other side seeing the ornate art museum steps crowded with cheering runners. It's exactly what I needed to get through that final push. I was thrilled to cross the finish line and get my AWESOME chocolate bar medal and a few cups of Nuun to refuel.

Finisher's Festival:
I had built up a lot of anticipation for the finish line and I was not disappointed. The mug that every runner receives at the finish was packed with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, rice krispie treats, pretzels, banana, Honey Stinger Waffle, and marshmallow! It was a great way to refuel post-run. The weather was beautiful after the race so we took our time at the finish line enjoying the music, the photo ops, and of course, running up the famous Rocky Steps.

Results/Photos:
Within minutes of crossing the finish line, I checked my email to find my official results posted. In my first 15k I finished in 1:08:02 and snagged 18th in my age group, 105 overall out of more than 5,000! Another awesome perk is that the Hot Chocolate series offers free race photos. By the time we were back at our Airbnb I had an email with a link to all of my photos and this is one of the few races where the photos actually came out pretty good!

I would highly recommend a Hot Chocolate race to anyone who is interested, I'll definitely be looking to sign up for more in the future!

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(2019)
"Never Underestimate the Hills!"
Overall
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Expo:
Unfortunately, weren't able to see much of the expo because we were in a bit of a rush. The tough part about coordinating travel with a group of ten is scheduling everyone's arrival/transportation. Then once you add snow and flight delays to the mix, any pre-existing plans go out the window.

We finally made it to the expo around 5 pm but with long security lines, we didn't make it inside until around 5:30. This was the first Rock 'n' Roll race I've been to that had a security checkpoint and it didn't seem like they had quite prepared for the volume of runners. I think the snow delays also, unfortunately, caused a much larger rush later in the day.

Strategy:
I prefer to aim for negative splits when I race but I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to be feeling by the end of the race. That being said, here's a brief breakdown of my initial pacing strategy:

Miles 1-3: 9:08 pace
Miles 4-6: Work towards 9:00
Miles 7-13: 8:55 pace
Miles 14-23: 8:53 pace
Miles 24-26.2: As fast as possible

Miles 1-3:
So now that you know what my plan was, you'll see that went out the window relatively quickly. I kept an eye on my pace but I was more focussed on heart-rate and how I was feeling. Still, through the first 3 miles, I hovered around a 9:01 pace. There were so many more people running this race as opposed to my first marathon so I was content just to take in the sites and enjoy these early miles.

Miles 4-6:
I was feeling really good at this point but I knew I had a long way to go. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of seeing what pace I might be able to accomplish if I pushed just a little harder. I noticed myself speeding up a few times but overall maintained an average of an 8:55 pace. Mile 6 also brought the first serious hill which was a bit of a reality check.

I knew there were still two more hills coming, one just past the halfway point and one around mile 22. I wanted to make sure I still had gas in the tank, especially for that final push.

Miles 7-13:
After the burning in my quads subsided from the first hill, I was still feeling really good and I thought I'd take the opportunity to put some extra time in the bank in case I slowed down later on. It helped that overall the course had a slight downhill trajectory for this chunk of the race. I was holding onto an 8:45 average pace as we passed by the finish line marking our halfway point.

Miles 14-22:
The back half of the course was one long out and back so I started preparing my mind for the dark periods ahead. The second hill was brutal but I was still able to recover quickly on the downhill. There wasn't nearly as much scenery and watching runners pass by headed towards the finish I couldn't help but focus on how long I still had left to get there.

I had expected this and had timed my playlist accordingly as my music transitioned from my "relaxing" first-half jams to something a little louder. I started to feel the soreness creep into my legs but was still able to maintain a solid pace with a little more effort.

Miles 20-22 were definitely the darkest part of my race with a lot of long straightaways and far-off turnarounds. Although the miles seemed to flow by somewhat quickly, I was conscious of every stiff step I took. I was so zoned in on moving forward, I forgot to lap my watch at mile 20 but averaged 8:47 over this chunk of the course.

Miles 23-26
The final hill almost killed me and took a long time to recover from. I'm glad I had banked a bit of extra time early. I just kept visualizing the finish line in my head and putting one foot in front of the other. Despite how my legs were feeling, I focussed on my form and maintaining control. The mile markers were passing by more quickly and I knew I was close. My pace slowed to around 8:50.

The Finish:
Coming around the final turn, I summoned everything I could to shave off any seconds I could. I knew I'd crushed my previous PR and couldn't wait to see my official time. With 30 or so yards to go, I heard my friends and family call out giving me the last burst of energy I needed to cross the finish line in 3:53:08.

There was a lot of emotion crossing the finish line but I was also immediately struck by how much better my legs were feeling compared to my last marathon. I basically fell over after my first marathon but was walking comfortably through the finish festival in DC.

I've wanted to run a Rock 'n' Roll marathon since I first ran one of their events in 2015 and Rock 'n' Roll DC did not disappoint. They had a separate "Marathon Finisher Zone" with plenty of snacks, a heated tent to get changed, massages, and BEER! I spent plenty of time their refueling and warming up while waiting for a much-needed massage.

Overall:
I'm so happy I finally crossed a Rock 'n' Roll full marathon off my list, I'll definitely be back for another. I'm not sure I'd do DC again if only because of the elevation but I've got my eye on New Orleans in 2020. I'm a huge fan of the Rock 'n' Roll series because they tend to be very well organized, they offer awesome swag, and the finish line celebrations are the BEST!

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(2018)
"I came, I puked, I conquered "
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This past weekend I had the pleasure of running the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon for the second time. The first time I ran RnRPhilly in 2016, it was unseasonably hot and humid and I was also woefully unprepared for the race. After getting in much better shape through marathon training this spring, I decided to return to Philly to see if I could crush a new half marathon PR. This time around, I put in A LOT more miles during training, added in strength training, and incorporated some speed work as well. It was still a little hotter than I'd liked, but I was much more prepared to go into this year's race.

My wife and I headed down Friday night to get settled for the weekend and although we stayed in Philly the last time around, I have family nearby in Delaware so we decided to stay with them this year. We arrived in DE late Friday so we waited until Saturday to visit the expo. I recently switched over to running in Brooks so we actually spent a lot longer at the expo this year perusing some of the new Brooks models. After Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh's significantly smaller expo, it was nice to be back at one of the larger Rock 'n' Roll races to get the "full" expo experience. I was also happy that Science in Sport had plenty of gel samples available so I could test out the on-course nutrition before race day.

Sunday morning we were back on the road by 6 am to head towards the starting line but had a hell of a time trying to get parking. Rock 'n' Roll partnered with Spot Hero for the weekend so we'd booked a garage ahead of time. Unfortunately, with all of the street closures, we quickly realized it would be impossible to make it to our reserved spot. Since the event was posted on the Spot Hero page, I had just assumed all of the listed garages would be accessible. Luckily, I was driving with my wife so she let me out to rush over to the start while she circled around to find somewhere to park.

I had the VIP package for this year's race and although I don't know how often I could justify the cost of the package, the perks were amazing. Just having access to private port-a-potties alone may be enough to convince me to shell out the extra cash in the future. It was also great having a changing area after race along with private gear check. My stomach was a little rough post-race so I couldn't enjoy all of the food but the ice-cold Gatorade and water was a godsend. I also took FULL advantage of the massages.

The race itself was phenomenal although a bit hot once again, unfortunately, not much you can do about that. The course for Rock 'n' Roll Philly does a nice loop around City Hall in the first 4-5 miles and the sites through downtown Philly are definitely my favorite parts of the course, especially running past City Hall itself. The course used to run by the Eastern State Penitentiary which I also enjoyed but cutting it out eliminated some decent elevation. Then you've got a long out-and-back along the Schuylkill River. Although I do like that this keeps the course pretty flat, I'm generally not a huge fan of long out and backs. Especially as the temperature climbed, running the final 4 miles of the course straight into the sun was tough.

Luckily Rock 'n' Roll has plenty of aid stations on course which are especially well marked this year so you know from a distance which tables have water, Gatorade, and gels. As always the race volunteers were amazing and offered plenty of motivation to the passing runners. They were also quick to ask if I needed help when I made a sudden B-line off course to puke around mile 12 (the heat really got to me).

Despite the brief detour, I still managed to cross the finish and, after another quick puke break, I confirmed that I'd crushed my past PR by more than 7 minutes. Official time for Rock 'n' Roll Philly 2018 was 1:38:16.

Once my stomach was settled and I'd gotten some Gatorade in me, I headed back to the VIP tent to change into dry clothes and get a much-needed massage. I didn't spend too much time in the tent but I did pop back in throughout the morning to restock on cold drinks.

Aside from Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans, I haven't stuck around too long at many of the post-race celebrations but it was nice to just relax by the Art Museum after RnRPhilly. My wife and I actually knew the band that was performing (My wife's good friend's brother is the lead singer), so we decided to hang out at the finisher's party for a while. I also definitely enjoyed the addition of the 2nd free beer for runners.

Overall, this was probably one of my favorite Rock 'n' Roll races I've run so far. The PR was obviously a nice perk but even without it, it was an awesome weekend with friends and family!

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(2018)
"My First Marathon"
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I got so wrapped up in finishing my first marathon I completely forgot to review the darn thing!

This was my first ever marathon so I don't have other experiences to compare it to but overall I loved this race. I chose the Coastal Delaware marathon because I grew up in DE and have fond memories of summer visits to the Dewey Beach/ Cape Henlopen area. When both my sister and I decided we were finally ready to give our first marathon a shot it was a no-brainer that Coastal Delaware would be the perfect race.

Pre-Race:
Most of the races I've run recently have been Rock 'n' Roll series races so Coastal Delaware was much smaller than the races I'd gotten used to. I knew this going into the experience but thought I'd offer that as a preface since it definitely influenced my experience with Coastal Delaware. Aside from reminders about price increases, communication leading up to CoDel was pretty light until probably about 2-weeks before the race when we started getting all of the race details. For a small race, they were definitely very well organized and the website was especially useful in planning for the race as well as the weekend.

Since this was my sister's and my first marathon, we were going to have plenty of family spectating and I really appreciated all of the spectator resources on the website. With the course info and spectator guide, we were able to put a detailed plan for everyone coming to watch us run which helped then but was also great as a runner knowing exactly where and when I would be seeing my cheer squad.

Race Weekend:
My number one recommendation for anyone running this race is to take advantage of the nearby Dogfish Inn. That's where we stayed for the weekend and it was incredible! It's about a 10-15 minute drive from the start but absolutely worth it for the accomodations and vibe of the hotel.

This being a smaller race, the expo was pretty small but we still had a good time going booth to booth to check out what was on-site. I become an Athlinks addict earlier this year so it was great to stop by theire tent. They also provided live runner tracking for the race which was another awesome resource for our cheer squads.

I do wish there were marathon specific options in terms of swag since this was my first marathon, all of the finisher gear was just for the race in general. Also, for superstitions sake, I was disappointed you could only buy finisher's gear at the expo, I would have preferred to have the option to buy gear AFTER the race once I'd actually finished. Thankfully there were no mysterious disasters on-course so I'm still able to proudly sport my finisher's quarter-zip and it has become one of my favorite long-sleeves. Quality wise the gear was pretty solid.

Race-Day:
As I mentioned, organization wise, the race oirganizers were well-prepared which made race-day navigation easy. We got to the starting line with plenty of time to use the facilities, stretch out a bit, and see family before we were off to the races.This was definitely one of the best views I've had from a starting line because the race starts on the board walk and we could watch the sun rising over the ocean as we lined up.

After the start, the course winds through some neighborhoods before runner's work their way into Cape Henlopen State Park which made up the first 9 or 10 miles of the course. After that we were back out on the roads exploring Dewey before eventually wrapping back around and finishing on the same board walk where we started. Navigating the course was easy and I was actually pleasantly surprised with how many spectators there were. Because the course sort of worked around in one big loop, it was easy for spectators to spot runner's at multiple locations so it was fun to start to recognize the same groups cheering you on along several spots on course.

If I had one complaint about the race, it would just be that the aid stations weren't terribly well managed from my perspective. I know that it can be tough to find volunteers but there were a few spots where aid stations got backed up because volunteers weren't prepared for runners. Luckily I carried a camelbak so I didn't have to worry much about it. I did notice lines for water and gatorade staring to form at a few points though.

The finish line however, was incredible. Part of the benefit of this being a smaller race was that I recognized many of the runner's at the finish after seeing them on the course. The cammeraderie at the finsih line was awesome as we all worked our way through the crowd congratulating each other. Even a few of the spectators I'd seen a few times on course came over to congratulate me after the race. This being my first marathon, I was in pretty rough shape immediately following the race so unfortunatley I didn't get to check-out the finisher's party sponsored by Grotto's Pizza but I'm sure it was INCREDIBLE.

Post-Race:
Following the race we got the typical emails offering discounted registration for next year's race and within a few days, we got the email with our FREE race photos included. I'm always appreciative of races that offer free photos. Unfortunatley I look like I'm slowly dying in many of the shots but I appreciate the memories none the less!

I tend to choose races that feel like a weekend getaway and this race definitely meets that criteria. If you're looking for a marathon that also offers you an opportunity for a relaxing beach weekend. I can't recommend Coastal Delaware enough. We had a blast, plus there's no sales tax in DE so everything was a little bit cheaper :)

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