Latest reviews by Ryan Day

(2018)
"I came, I puked, I conquered "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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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(2018)
"My First Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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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(2018)
"In like a lamb, out like a lion"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Pre Race:
If you couldn't tell from the rest of my reviews, I LOVE the Rock 'n' Roll series and was thrilled to be traveling to a new city. I was especially glad I chose Raleigh when I learned that the location would be discontinued after this year. I'd heard it was one of the smaller races in the Rock 'n' Roll series but wasn't sure what to expect. Rock 'n' Roll had also implemented a lot of new features for 2018 so I was excited to try them all out first-hand. In typical Rock 'n' Roll fashion, the pre-race communication was great and I got plenty of email leading up to race day. I especially appreciated the weather warning I got the week before the race reminding me that it was going to be unseasonably cold this year (starting temperatures in the low 30s).

The Expo:
I have to say, I was slightly underwhelmed by the expo in Raleigh, only because the Rock 'n' Roll expos usually feel like one big party. The expo was a lot better than some other races I've been to but not on par with what I've come to expect from the Rock 'n' Roll series. That being said, I did like the addition of the live band playing in the lobby of the convention center.

Race Day:
I may be a bit biased but I loved the location of the start and finish area. My corral was literally 15 yards from the entrance to my hotel and the finish line was only about 2 blocks away so transportation to and from the race was easy. I definitely appreciated getting to hide inside until the very last minute to avoid the cold since I hadn't quite packed appropriately.

On Course:
If you've ever run a Rock 'n' Roll race than you know that one of the highlights of the race is the on-course entertainment and Raleigh was no exception. There were plenty of stages and I always love when there's a bagpipe band playing around the halfway point so a huge thumbs up for that!

The biggest change I noticed this year was the increased signage which I LOVED! For 2018, Rock 'n' Roll really amplified the on-course signage to help you navigate the course. Especially as you approached the aid stations, you could tell from 50 yards out where the water was, where the Gatorade was, and where the gels were which made the stations way easier to navigate. This change may seem trivial but it made the aid stations so much less chaotic as runner's filtered past without needing to stop mid-stride to find what they were looking for.

The other big change was added clocks along the course which I also liked because I try not to check my watch too often during a race. It's actually because of the increased clocks that at mile 9, I realized I was in reach of a PR. I'd started the race taking it slow because this was supposed to be a "tune-up" race before my marathon in a few weeks. After mile-9 though, I kicked it into high gear for the last 4 miles of the race. In the end, I shaved about 25 seconds off of my previous PR which felt pretty good on such a hilly course.

Post-Race:
Another thing I love about the Rock 'n' Rol Races is the plethora of snacks you get as soon as you cross the finish line. I was happy they also had mylar blankets because although I was pretty hot crossing the finish line, that only lasted about 5-minutes before I was shivering on the curb. It was nice to curl up under the mylar blanket with a bottle of chocolate milk and catch my breath. They also do a great job pushing people through the chute and down the road so runners keep moving without feeling like you're being pushed out of the way.

The finisher's parties are always a highlight at the Rock 'n' Roll races but unfortunately, my group was in a bit of a time crunch to get showered, eat something, and get to the airport so we couldn't stick around for long. If you've got the time though, there's nothing better than collapsing on the ground post-race and enjoying some live jams and a free beer!

I had a blast in Raleigh this year and am sad that this was the last year that they'll be on the tour. I'm glad I got to run the course before it was discontinued!

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(2017)
"Chasing a New Half Marathon PR"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Weekend
My wife and I flew out to Vegas on Friday night and did exactly what you're NOT supposed to do leading up to a race, we stayed up until 2 am Vegas time (5 am at home). Needless to say, we slept in as long as we could on Saturday morning. I think the hardest part of the race was using our time responsibly before the race. We did pretty well getting to bed early on Saturday, what I wasn't so good at was managing my pre-race nutrition, especially during the breakfast buffets! My other fear was hydration in the desert but I stocked up on Pedialyte to help take care of that.

Distractions aside, we made it to Sunday and had a pretty relaxing day. We probably walked more than we should but we spent most of the day taking it easy and exploring the strip without overindulging. Come race time, my wife and I decided to separate from the group and head back to our hotel to start getting in the zone and preparing for the race. There was some traffic with the road closures for the race but our driver was able to detour us around to the backside of the starting area where we had no trouble getting in by showing our bibs to event staff.

The Race
Arriving at the race I was definitely starting to feel a little anxious. Like I said, I'd never really "raced" a half marathon so I didn't know what to expect and how I'd be feeling by the later miles. After looking up a few different strategies, I decided to aim for around an 8:30 pace to start for the first 1-3 miles. After that I'd start pushing for closer to 8:15 and try to slowly accelerate based on comfort. Depending on how I felt towards the end I'd push as hard as I could manage for the final 5k. I was trying not to stress too much and luckily ran into a few other BibRave Pros, Jeannine and Fallon, before the race. Catching up with some running friends was definitely a nice way to relax before the start.

When it was time to move towards the corral it was a bit of a struggle because I had to enter my wave from the back of the corrals and fight my way towards the front. There were around 20,000 people in the race divided into 3 waves so needless to say the corrals were a bit crowded. Once I was in place I started to stretch out a bit and the craziest thing happened. I accidentally bumped into the guy standing next to me and when he turned around he recognized me from I RUN ON BEER! How cool is that! It was great catching up with a fellow beer runner and definitely got me pumped up about the race.

Miles 1-3
When the countdown started I was itching to go, especially when the first corral started and jets of fire started shooting from the archway over the starting line. I queued up my running playlist, set my watch, and was off! Ever since my first half marathon in college, I've listened to the same song at the starting line of every race I've run. Louder by DJ Fresh, the Flux Pavilion & Doctor P remix. After that, I transitioned into some standup from Daniel Tosh to help me coast through the first hour of the race.

The race started at the New York, New York Casino. The first mile was tough because we were so packed in from the corral that I was struggling to find my pace. I was averaging around a 9:00 pace with occasional bursts weaving through the crowd. When my watch buzzed for mile 1, I'd clocked in at 8:46. Luckily the herd had started to thin out so I was able to settle into a more comfortable pace closer to my goal. My 5k was 26:47, an 8:37 pace. Not quite as fast as I'd like but not far off.

Miles 4-7
The first 5k was an out and back down Las Vegas Boulevard. Because the first couple of miles were slower than I would have liked, I started picking up the pace in the 3rd mile and was doing my best to keep around 8:15 at this point. Mile 5 ran past the finish line which I'd expected to be tough on morale knowing how much further I'd have to run before I saw it again. The crowd was so loud and enthusiastic running down the strip though I barely noticed. I'd been slowly cutting time off my pace and by mile 6 I was running under an 8:00 pace.

I was a little nervous about pushing too much too early but I didn't feel labored, the pace was comfortable so I kept with it. I tried not to check my watch too often and mostly just focused on keeping my breathing consistent. The race is basically just one long out-and-back down the strip and towards Fremont Street so once we got passed the bulk of the casinos I will say the mood definitely died down a bit. It was much quieter as we approached mile 7 but I didn't pay much attention to that. On the bright side, we ran past the pawn shop from Pawn Stars, and although I can't know for sure, I'm pretty sure I saw Chumlee working the late night window.

Miles 8-10
This was my first time visiting Vegas so I had no idea what to expect as we approached the turnaround at Fremont Street. One second we were running passed quiet pawn shops, the next we were surrounded by packed balconies and bright lights. I also loved the giant metal praying mantis that was shooting flames from its antennae. I was still dancing around an eight-minute pace and I was feeling great.

I was starting to feel a twinge of fatigue in my legs but every time I noticed myself starting to lag a bit I'd push my pace for a quick jolt for 5-10 seconds to refresh and re-energize myself. Another strategy I'd used during cross country was to pick a runner ahead of me and slowly work on catching them. Both of these helped me to continue to push myself and also helped pass the time towards the end of the race. I've flirted with race anxiety close to the finish line in the past so I decided to maintain close to an 8:00 pace until I was within 3 miles, then I would push. I was already ahead of my goal so I wasn't too worried.

Miles 11-13.1
Like I said, I was already ahead of my goal pace so I was feeling great, I couldn't wait to cross the finish and see my official time but I was pretty certain I'd come well under my goal. With only 3 miles to go, I pushed harder but tried not to look at my watch. I just wanted to enjoy the end of the race and take everything in. I was back on the strip and there were people everywhere cheering. I probably had a big stupid grin on my face but I was having a blast. The effort was definitely tougher and I was huffing and puffing a bit, but it was sustainable. As soon as I saw the finish line I took off, lungs burning.

The Finish
I'll admit it, I got a little choked up crossing the finish line. I didn't know my official time but when I stopped my watch I was at 1:46:10, more than 3 minutes faster than my last PR. The race had been such an incredible experience and I couldn't believe how good I had felt throughout (not only physically, but mentally as well). My legs burned but in a good way. I never questioned my strategy and had comfortably run significantly faster than what I was shooting for. Walking through the finisher's chute, I grabbed everything I could get my hands on.

I'd started about an hour ahead of my wife which ended up working out perfectly because as I finished, I also got to stop and give her a hug as she was crossing mile 5. I had some time before she would finish so I burned through my snacks and refreshments and wandered through some of the casinos before I met up with our friends. Sunday night was slotted to be our late night now that the race was over so I was sure to stock up on extra Pedialyte for the adventure.

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