Latest reviews by Ryan Day
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Run Inspired had sent a detailed itinerary for the morning that had lineup slated for 9 am, a half-hour before the 9:30 start time. I knew I wanted to get in a quick warm-up run before the race and I hate feeling rushed before the start so my mom and I decided to arrive at Winterthur no later than 8:30. I have to say I definitely felt some extreme nostalgia pulling into the park and reminiscing about my last race there almost nine years ago.
We had plenty of time before the race so before warming up we decided to explore some of the booths. They'd advertised the post-race festival but I wasn't expecting so much to do before the race. My mom and I made an obligatory stop at the Project Warm photo booth, the raffle tent, and although we didn't participate, we enjoyed spectating during the group warm-up that they held around the starting line. I also did a quick warm-up run running backward from the finish line, and I'm glad I did because I realized that the last quarter mile or so of the race was going to be a gradual uphill push.
Just before the start, I had the pleasure of catching up with fellow Bib Rave Pro Meredith who was also running the race. It's been great meeting so many awesome runners online through I RUN ON BEER but nothing beats getting to meet a fellow running buddy in person!
I headed to the starting line around 9:15 and was a little nervous about how crowded it was. The chute was separated into different corrals by different pace signs and so, as politely as I could, I started trying to move forward closer to the eight to nine-minute group. The path we were on was only 15ish feet wide so we were crammed in pretty tight. Although I was a bit nervous about weaving my way forward once the race started, they did stagger the start times which allowed the crowd to thin out significantly. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was off and at a comfortable pace within the first thirty yards past the starting line, hardly any weaving necessary.
Miles 1 & 2
It felt great to get started, and even better since we started by running straight into the woods. I'd built up so much excitement in anticipation for this race that I was ecstatic just to get started. My mind was definitely racing since I was so unsure of what my pace should feel like but I made it my goal to not look at my watch until I crossed mile two. I was running at an effort a bit higher than a training run but one I knew I would be able to maintain.
As soon as we crossed the treeline, the path took a quick turn up the first steep hill of the course and it was rough. In high school, we drilled hills relentlessly and focussed on pushing up the hill and using the flat ground at the top to recover. I'd like to think I'm still as good at running hills as I was back then but I don't get much training running around Long Island. I was definitely pushing up the first few hills but was cautious not to overdo it.
Miles 3 & 4
I don't think I've mentioned yet but it was extremely overcast on Sunday and had rained in the morning so the roads were wet. On one hand, the day was much cooler than initially predicted which was a welcome surprise. Unfortunately, this also meant the roads were a bit slippery. I could feel my feet slipping beneath me on the uphills and had to run more cautiously on the downhills.
Crossing into mile three was the first time I checked my watch and although I can't remember my exact pace, I remember it being under eight minutes, somewhere close to 7:50. My legs were starting to show signs of slight fatigue but the burn felt good. I was breathing heavier but still felt like I was running a pace I could maintain. There was water every 1.5-2 miles so I also paused briefly at the 2nd station to steal a few quick sips of water.
Miles 5 & 6
The race was flying by but the course was beautiful. Winterthur is a beautiful park and the course winds its way through all of the best parts. We had run on a few open roads and through a couple of fields but for the last third of the race, we were back in the trees. It felt more secluded but I had my running playlist to keep me company. I have a very eclectic taste in running music and just as I crossed into mile five Scotland the Brave came on. No vocals, just pipes and drums. Call me crazy but I always hide that song somewhere in the middle of my playlist to give me a needed boost on race day.
I knew I was closing in on the finish and continued to push harder. There was definitely a voice in my head telling me to ease off but I was able to keep it at bay (for the most part). It definitely helped to see my mom about halfway through mile six cheering me on. I gained a second wind and really opened up just in time for another brutal uphill. My lungs were screaming but I kept running. Closing in on the top there were several moments of panic as I thought I might hurl but luckily I reached the top just in time to relax and regain my composure. Steep uphills mean steep downhills so I was able to cruise back down and recover before the finish (another hill).
Rounding the final turn I spotted my dad by the finish line; he hasn't seen me run since high school. That really gave me the push I needed to let go on the final straight-away. I wasn't sure of my time but I knew I had smashed my initial goal. Every step I was pushing myself harder and was barely aware of that last hill. My mom had made it back to the finish line so I shot her a quick smile right as I crossed, or at least I think I smiled... I was gasping pretty hard at this point.
As soon as I'd stopped my stomach was in knots and the urge to puke came rushing back. I took a moment to focus on my breath and thankfully was able to keep it down. The feeling passed quickly and it's a good thing because the finish line snacks were stockpiled with my favorites. I stuffed my pockets with all the Wawa grub I could find (Wawa pretzels are close to life-changing) and plenty of Herr's Cheese Curls (whole grain so I'm sure they're healthy). I joined up with my family who asked for my final time and I realized I'd forgotten to stop my watch! With the added time of walking through the chute, my watch was showing 49:49 (a 7:57 pace), I was thrilled.
As excited as I was to know my final pace, I was even more excited to get into the beer garden. I knew I'd beaten my goal significantly so I didn't mind waiting to get the official results. Almost every race I've run that offers free beer offers Michelob so I was pumped to get into the beer garden that was offering beers from two local favorites, Dogfish Head and Two Stones Pub. I decided to go with a 2SP ASAP IPA because I'd never had it before and I was really craving an IPA. It did not disappoint! We hung around long enough to catch up with Meredith as well as a few other runners who shared our table, then it was time to head to brunch but not before stopping by the official results table! I finished the race in 48:24.1, a 7:48 pace!
I wasn't sure what to expect from my first 10k but I couldn't have asked for a better race. Great organization and communication throughout the run. Beautiful views on the course. Great beer at the finish. I could have easily spent the day at the finish-line celebration if the weather had been a little nicer but it made for a cooler race which I certainly can't complain about! This race will definitely be ranking high on my list for next year!
My wife, her cousin, and I were all sharing a hotel room and had agreed upon a 5:30 am wakeup call to be out the door by 6:15. Breakfast consisted of bread and peanut butter and although I tried to stomach a few slices of banana, I couldn't bring myself to get any down. For some reason, my body cannot deal with the consistency of a banana.
Part of our pick-up packet for the race was a free metro-card for Sunday so transportation to the race was pretty easy. The train was crowded but that's to be expected. Baggage drop-off and port-o-johns were stationed along the walk to the starting line so it was pretty easy to follow the flow of traffic and still make all the necessary stops along the way. Before we knew it we were all set and ready to go in our respective corrals. We were slightly disappointed that they didn't sing the Candian National Anthem before the race as we'd been looking forward to but mostly I was just excited to get started!
By start time, the temperature had already crept into the mid-to-high 70s, they were announcing updates in the corrals but they were in Celsius so I have no idea what the actual number was but I wasn't too worried about it yet. I typically have trouble coming out of the gates too fast in races so I was very conscious of my speed crossing the starting line and was checking my watch frequently to keep myself in check.
To help ease into the race, I'd downloaded Hannibal Buress's "Live from Chicago" comedy album as the first half of my race playlist. My breathing was steady so I decided not to worry too much about specific pace, and just focused on exertion. Especially with the heat, I figured I'd keep track of my exertion and make pacing decisions along the course. The first 3 miles were spent running around an amusement park on an island in the St. Lawrence River so it was easy to relax and just take in the scenery.
Four miles into the race the heat was definitely noticeable but not overbearing. I was walking through every water station to get down a few sips of Gatorade and staying in the shade when I could. We crossed onto the second island and were now running around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Formula One racetrack. This segment was a little tough mentally due to a few long hot straightaways, but endurance wise I was feeling great.
To help everyone deal with the heat, they'd opened up a few fire hydrants along the course but I was too nervous about soaking my electronics to run straight through them. I usually grabbed an extra cup of water at the aid stations to dump down my back though. By mile six I was feeling pretty confident that this was going to be one of my better races.
At mile seven we crossed back into the city and started working our way downtown. They'd also installed a misting tunnel on this leg that immediately made me forget about the heat (even if just for a moment). I'd passed the halfway point and my legs were still feeling strong. It was here that I made the decision to really push through the end of this race.
I was hot, but not too hot. I knew that as long as I stayed conscious of my breathing and increased my pace gradually I would be alright. This is definitely where training was paying off because I was so much more aware of my ability. I'd run a five-mile pace run at under an 8:00 pace so when I was down to 5 miles left in the race, I was feeling confident in my ability to keep pushing.
We knew that the race would be finishing uphill and the first big hill I faced was at the end of mile ten. It was tough and many chose to walk to the top to conserve energy. I slowed slightly but remembered the countless hours I'd spent drilling hills in high school cross country practice, my coach telling us to push harder when others slowed down on hills, that could make the difference in the race.
I fought the urge to slow down and pushed through the first hill. The hydrants along the course began looking a lot more appealing at this point so I tried to run through them as much as I could without soaking my gadgets. With only 5k left, I felt great and started pushing for closer to an 8-minute pace or faster. The hills made it tough but I tried to make up for it on the level segments.
I've danced with finish-line anxiety in the past so I was worried I'd gas myself before the end but my breathing stayed steady. I was panting pretty heavily but it felt good. The finish line was in Parc La Fontaine so when the park came into view I really kicked it into gear and I couldn't have felt better crossing the finish line. 1:51:33.
I was a little less than 2 minutes off of my PR but this was easily the best I've felt about a race performance. I was able to stay calm throughout the whole race while continually evaluating how I was doing so far and what was still possible. Although I didn't quite hit negative splits throughout, I started close to a 9-minute pace and ran the 13th mile at 8:04 according to my watch.
Looking ahead it's time to shift gears and begin focusing on the Run Inspired 10k coming up in just a few short weeks, and beyond that, I'll be running yet another Rock 'n' Roll half in Las Vegas! As long as I can keep up my same training regiment, I feel pretty good about running my first 10k and am even more excited to get in one last half marathon attempt in 2017!