Latest reviews by Casey Nelson

(2018)
"Perfect night time 5k"
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Thumb torchlight 5k pic 4

Overall this is a great race. The race itself takes place on a Wednesday night (yes that is correct, its a night time race) starting at 7:30 PM. The Management puts on a great race and really worked to get the participants excited to start the race by having a DJ at the starting line and flames shoot off when the race began. I would also say the crowd support was amazing. I know this race runs right before the Aquatennial Parade, but it sure felt like all the spectators waiting for the parade were just as excited to cheer on the runners as they were for the parade later that night. The post race party had such a cool atmosphere to it. The sun was starting to go down after the race ended, the live music got everyone in a good mode, the free samples from vendors helped fill everyone's goody bags, and the free beer helped 'rehydrate' us post race :)

This race did not have an expo, but had many locations in the week leading up to the race where you could pick up your bib and t-shirt. In my opinion this worked out better than having an expo because I could get my bib when it fit best into my schedule, at a location that was convenient to my house. A perk of having an expo is seeing additional vendors as you walk around to get your bib, but the Torchlight 5k still had vendors, they were just at the post-race party!!

I parked near the finish line and walked from there to the starting line since this was a point to point race. I had no issues finding a parking spot that was only a block away from the post-race celebration. I didn't mind the walk to the starting line as it let me take in a bit of the downtown area and get mentally prepared for the race.

The race itself takes you through downtown which makes for great scenery. There were two aid stations on the course which seemed like the correct amount for a 5k race. There was no finisher medal when you crossed the finish line which is a bit out of the norm for almost all races I have run, but being that its a 5k, I wasn't overly disappointed in that. On the flip side, there were photographers on the course taking pictures which were free thanks to Athlinks!! This perk alone makes me want to run the race again next year (on top of the spectators, volunteers, and post-race party)!

I would highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a fun, energetic night time 5k race. Did I mention that they were voted one of the best 5k races in the U.S by the BibRave 100!!

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(2018)
"Wind, Sleet, Snow…Lets Race"
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Thumb race pic 8

This race was held on Saturday April 14, 2018. There was supposed to be the option of running either the 5k or 15k, but due to the snow storm that decided to hit Minneapolis the night before the race, it was decided that all participants would run the 5k due to safety concerns. I had been signed up to run the 15k, but decided I would still participate in the race even though the distance had been changed (can't pass up chocolate at the finish)!

Expo:
The expo is held the Thursday and Friday prior to the race weekend (with the race being on Saturday morning). If you are an out of town traveler coming in for the race weekend, you should make sure to check the anticipated hours of the expo. They appeared to be more in line with business hours which would make it hard for someone traveling on the Friday before hand to get there before they close. If this is the case for you, you can opt in to having your bib and swag mailed to you prior to the race weekend (what a great option to have)!

I attended the expo and got my bib and my 1/4 zip long sleeve participant shirt (not a finisher shirt because I was given it prior to even participating in the race). Usually I like to get the shirt at the finish line so I know I earned it, but in this case I was happy to have it ahead of time as I needed to exchange it for a larger size and they had an exchange booth at the expo. The shirt quality and fit is great! I can definitely see myself getting wear out of it! I also sampled the hot chocolate and fondue while I was there!!

Pre Race:
Usually I try to get a warm up run in and get down to the starting line early enough to take it all in prior to the race starting. Due to the snow, wind, and all around tough conditions that morning, I opted for sitting in my warm car as long as possible and then jogging down to the starting line just in time for the national anthem to be sung and the race to begin.

Race:
Being that this was no longer a 15k and now was a 5k for me (and taking into account the snow covered roads, wind, and my watch being covered up by multiple layers and glove) I decided to run this race purely off of feel and didn't look at my watch one. The course itself is nice for a 5k although for the second half of the race I found my visibility limited due to snow build up on my sunglasses. There was one aid station on the 5k course which served Nuun for hydration (I am a huge fan of Nuun, so even though I didn't need hydration at this aid station, I made sure to grab a cup of nuun. They also were giving out marshmallows at this aid station, so I decided why not and took one of those as well!

Post Race:
I crossed the finish line and get my awesome medal in the shape of a chocolate bar, along with some samples of Nuun to bring home. From there I made the long walk to get to the fondue (I say long walk because it was cold out and there is a decent space between where the finish line is and where the post race food is located). Once there I was meeting by very energetic volunteers who handed me my fondue bowl and hot chocolate (by the way, hot chocolate after a cold race is amazing)!! Due to the cold conditions I did not opt to hang out long and headed back to my car to warm up and drive home.

Overall I am really happy I showed up and ran the 5k and tested my willpower to get out and run in not so ideal conditions. The volunteers are course and post race were so great for showing up and cheering everyone on!!

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(2017)
"41st Annual Grandma's Marathon (2017)"
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Thumb grandmas finish pic  2017

Grandmas Marathon (41st Annual) was on Saturday June 17th in Duluth, MN. The race start time was 7:45 AM starting in Two Harbors, MN and ending in Canal Park in Duluth, MN. This is a road race that takes you down the scenic highway along the shores of Lake Superior. There is a tiered registration system in place for this race (the closer to the race day you register, the more you will pay for this race). This year if you signed up before the new year you also got a long sleeve quarter zip training shirt as well with the cost of entry into the race.

Expo:
The Expo is held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) with plenty of vendors present to spend a good hour walking around and checking out all the running related products. At the expo is where you pick up your bib as well. This race has the bib process perfected. There was no wait to get my bib and the lines to make sure the time chip worked appropriately moved very smoothly. This year I also went and listened to Kara Goucher speak (she was running the half marathon this year) which was very inspiring to hear her running story.

Pre-Race:
My hotel was right next to the finish line so I was able to walk from there to the DECC to catch one of the buses that brought me from Duluth to Two Harbors where the starting line was located. Prior to leaving my hotel I had my usual english muffin with peanut butter, a banana, and a cup of coffee. Once on the bus it was smooth sailing to the starting area (although the bus sure was hot)! At the starting area I had no problem finding a port-a-potty right away with no line. I then did some stretching and a warm up run to loosen my legs up prior to the race. Bag drop was very easy to get to and very easy to find my bib number range for dropping my bag off. I planned on starting around the 8:45 pace group so had to make my way towards the middle of the coral pack. This process was very easy as they had fenced off lanes along the outside of the coral with pathways into the coral at different entry points so you could get to the starting area you needed. I listened to the national anthem being sung, and then waiting for the race to begin!

Race:
I must say, this race is just so well organized. There are so many volunteers working at each and every one of the aid stations, and an abundance of fans cheering you on (more so as you get closer to the downtown Duluth area, but you would find fans staggered all over the course). There are families who set up sprinklers at the end of their driveways to spray the runners, and cheer stations of all ages set up along the course. The views of Lake Superior cant be beat as well! The first half of the race had aid stations (with water and Powerade) every other mile with the second half of the race having aid stations I think every mile. There were a lot of aid stations that had cold sponges to grab as well. From what I could see, there were plenty of port-a-potties along the course.

My race was good from the perspective of completing another 26.2 miles, but not exactly as planned in regards to goal time. The first half of the race went good (hitting the half way mark at 1:51:43). Up to this point the weather was still decent (mid to high 60's) with cloud coverage. After the half way point I feel like the clouds parted, the small breeze that I felt in the first half completely disappeared, and so did most hopes of findings shade along the course. From about mile 17 on I felt like I was getting dehydrated. I needed to start taking 2 glasses of water and 1 glass of Powerade at every aid station, along with a cold sponge whenever it was offered. Even with getting this, I still felt like I was always needing more. Slowing down to get more water at the aid stations, along with my legs feeling extremely sore, really slowed down my overall pace. I still managed to finish in a 3:57:25 time, but was a ways off of the time I thought I was capable of getting. In the end I am just grateful to have run another marathon, had wonderful family and friends cheering me on, and getting to spend another wonderful weekend in Duluth, MN where I went to college!

Post Race:
I crossed the finish line, and what did I want...my medal!! And boy does Grandmas deliver in this department. I think starting last year, and continuing this year, they have really done a good job of giving you a high quality, heavy duty (AND I DO MEAN HEAVY) medal that showcases something iconic about Duluth. This year it was the waves of Lake Superior! After getting my medal I did feel like I had to walk a little ways before I was able to find any water (the distance itself probably wasn't that far, but when you are finally done running, I feel you want water to be right there for the taking). Next I grabbed my finisher technical shirt (you have to earn these shirts by finishing the race, not by getting them along with your bib at the expo) and headed into the racers finish area that is only accessible for people who participated in the race. This had the bag drop area in it, along with plenty of food to get those calories back after finishing the race. Beyond this area was a massage tent where I attempted to wait in line for a free massage, but after waiting about 20 minutes and the line barely moving, I gave up. There is also a large tented area for fans and racers alike to take in live music being played and refreshments being served!!

Overall:
It had been 9 years since I had last run the Grandma's Full Marathon, and once again it did not disappoint. As with any race of this distance, there are many challenges to overcome, but at least I know that how the race is being put on is not one of them. With 41 years of experience under their belt, the Grandma's Marathon race, and weekend, experience is something that cant be beat!

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(2017)
"Maple Grove Half Marathon"
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Thumb maple grove half   finisher pic

The Maple Grove Half Marathon was on Saturday May 13th in Maple Grove, MN. The race start time was 7:30 AM and starts and ends at the Maple Grove Senior High Stadium. In addition to the Half Marathon, there is also a 5k, and a 2 person half marathon relay. The course for this race is a combination of roads and paved trails. Registration for this race was tiered from $40-$50 depending on when you sign up.

Expo:
There is no expo for this race. Bib and shirt pick up are on the Friday prior to the Saturday race at a local bike shop. It was really easy to get in and get my bib and technical t-shirt at this location. While I was there I managed to buy some bike related gear for my kids (so I guess I still got the expo feeling of spending money)!!

Pre-Race:
I ran from my house to the starting line (since I live in the area). This was a great way for me to loosen my legs and not have to worry about parking (although I don’t think parking was an issue for others). There were a few vendors present at the start of the race (and in turn the end of the race since it starts and ends at the same location). Communication over a loud speaker was very good leading up to the race start and directing racers down to the starting line. The race started promptly at 7:30.

Race:
The race starts and ends with a lap around the track. I really enjoyed this part of the race as you had people cheering you on right away at the start, and you also could see the finish and make your final push around the track at the end. The course in general has its fair share of ups and downs (hills), and I would have to say it was more ups then downs. There were water stations, port-a-potties, and Gatorade being served on the course. This year was a really nice day for the race, and I actually could have used a few more water stations then were present. I constantly was hoping the next turn would be the one that had water. There were a few family made water stations on the course as well which I loved to see. I really enjoy seeing the community come out and cheer on the runners! The course takes you through neighborhoods and along tree covered portions of paved trails. My family made it out to cheer me on at two different locations on the course, and you cant beat having that motivation while racing! Also, the volunteers directing traffic and runners throughout the course were cheering the runners on at every turn (I felt like I said 'Thank You' more than I have at any other race).

My race in general didn't go exactly to plan as I didn't reach my goal time of a 1:41 and ended up finishing with a time of 1:49:28. The course measured long based on my watch which said I ran 13.3 miles, but the main issues for me were the hills, heat, and stomach pain. As I approached the second half of the race I knew I didn't have my goal time in me, but still gave it my all and am happy with how I finished.

Post Race:
I was handed a finisher medal as I crossed the finish line. I then made my way to the vendor booths where they gave out water, chips, nut rolls, oranges and granola bars. A local coffee shop was even there giving away free coffee, hot chocolate, and mini muffins which totally hit the spot! There was also a booth set up where you could enter your bib number and get your official finisher time.

Overall:
Being that this race is so close to my house and that my family was able to walk down and watch me at two different locations (my daughter even handed me water at a family run water station one of the neighbors set up) I have to say it was great! I would have preferred a little less of the hills and a few more water stations throughout the course, but in general I feel the ones they had would have been sufficient in other years (the prior year it was very cold for this race). I will most likely do this race again (the only reason I wouldn't would be because it falls on opening walleye fishing weekend here in MN, so might be out of town fishing)!!

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(2017)
"Hot Chocolate 15k - Minneapolis 2017"
Overall
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Thumb hot chocolate 15k   mpls 2017 pic 1

The Minneapolis Hot Chocolate 15k was held on Saturday April 15th. Race start time was 8:55 AM and starts and ends at Boom Island Park (just outside of downtown Minneapolis). In addition to the 15k race, there is also a 5k race option. Registration for this race was tiered, as most races are these days (you get the best deal the earlier you sign up). After registering I continued to get email communication on what to expect out of the race, along with a general 15k race training schedule. I thought this was a nice touch, although I was already following my own plan so didn't use the one they provided.

Expo:
The expo was held the Thursday and Friday leading up to the race on Saturday. The expo was located just outside of downtown Minneapolis. I went on Thursday and found the expo to be on the smaller side of things. There weren't many vendors, nor were there many people walking around when I arrived (probably due to the fact that I went in the early afternoon when most people were at work). Even though there wasn't a lot of vendors, I still managed to spend a decent amount of money on running gear. It was very quick and easy to walk in and get my bib and race swag (a full zip sweatshirt). I could have been in and out in about 10 minutes, but managed to stay there about an hour.

Pre-Race:
Let me start by saying that race day was rainy. Keep that in mind as I continue to walk through my race day.

There was a bag drop by the starting line, but I drove myself to the race start and was able to leave all my belongings in my truck. I have heard from other reviews that there was no parking, but I, along with many others attending this race from what I could see, were able to find on street parking about 2-3 blocks north of the race starting spot. This was far enough out of downtown that there weren't meters on the street, so it was free. I did a 2 mile warm up run in the area around my truck which worked perfect and then headed down to the starting area about 30 minutes prior to the race start time.

There were plenty of port-a-potties lined up near the start. If it hadn't been raining this would have been perfect. Since it was raining, and you had to walk through the grass to get to the port-a-potties, my shoes and socks became soaked right before the race started.

There were plenty of people directing runners where to go and where there corals were. No issue whatsoever to get to the starting line. It may have been due to the rain, but I had plenty of room to stretch while waiting at the starting line, and was not body to body as you find yourself at a lot of races.

Race:
There was a national anthem sung and then the race began. This is an out and back course that runs along the Mississippi River (4.5 miles out and 4.8 miles back). I think I would have enjoyed the course a lot more if I hadn't been looking to dodge puddles and worry about the rain the whole time. From the times my head wasn't looking down, it seemed scenic and nice! There were enough aid stations along the course to suffice for this distance. However, the last two aid stations I crossed both told me that they were out of nuun (the performance drink for the race). I hope it was just a refill time for these stations and that they weren't completely out for the remainder of the race as I was towards the front of the race participants and there were still many more to cross those aid stations. Due to the rain and the 60 degree temp, it was also humid while running. For me, the course also felt like it had a lot of hills to deal with, so a bit challenging in my opinion.

Once I crossed the finish line I was presented with my medal, nuun, and water. From the finish line you had to walk back towards the starting line across Boom Island Park to get #allthechocolate. This included hot chocolate, fondue chocolate to use with a rice kirspy treat, marshmallows, pretzels, apples, and graham crackers. On a rain filled morning the hot chocolate tasted great. Boom Island Park seemed to be a great location for the post race fun had it not been raining. There were some pavilions that people huddled under to eat their chocolate (myself included), but no one really took advantage of all the green space which had turned into a wet and muddy obstacle to cross. Again, had it not been raining I could have seen this area been a lot of fun to hang around in.

Overall:
This was a local race for me that I was using as a building race leading into my full marathon in June. The distance was perfect (I PR'ed, although I had never raced this distance before so any time was a PR for me). The race was well organized and had enough spectators on the course to add that extra push from the crowd that I like to see (I even got a few "nice beard" shout outs which was nice!! This is a race that I would look to run again in the future and see how I would fare on a sunny day!

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