Latest reviews by Lissa Nypaver

(2020)
"America Runs, and So Did I!"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

I was looking for a "Comeback" 5K to run after my June knee surgery. The race dates were between July 27th and September 30th, the perfect time frame as my 12th week surgery anniversary was September 3rd. The SWAG was crazy sweet, consisting of a Finisher Medal, Ultra-soft T-Shirt, Distressed Trucker Hat, and Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. And also, the America Runs Virtual 5K partnered up with the Gannett Foundation to donate to local COVID-19 recovery funds with a goal raising $1 Million in donations. The Gannett Foundation will disperse 100% of all money raised and donated to COVID-19 recovery state funds. It sounded perfect across the board, so I decided to make it my official Comeback Race!

The race sent a few emails out and SWAG arrived before the end of the racing period, which is nice if you are into instant gratification. Some Virtuals only send out after the race date. All the items, shirt, hat, water bottle, and medal were all excellent quality. The bib was personalized by name and number and they even sent a few product samples. My only suggestion would be to come up with more participant interaction, maybe a Facebook group, to increase runner excitement.

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(2020)
"Virtually Running for the Zoo"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

Last weekend I ran the Virtual Run for the Zoo to benefit the Lincoln Park Zoo. For this virtual my run bestie, and I wanted to make this race as special as the organization it was to benefit. So we planned a race day extravaganza. That is one of the big advantages of Virtual Racing, you can kind of create your own experience.

The event organizers sent ample emails with lots of information about the event and the zoo, especially where the proceeds went during the race period. There was also a Facebook Event page set up for participants to share info and virtually "hang out". We were encouraged to post our photos on social and there were also several prizes that participants could win from fastest times to the most money raised and a few random draws as well.

Basic entry got you a race shirt that was tech material and really cute. For an additional donation you could get a medal that was also super cute and featured the same ostrich as the shirt.

We were able to run the race whenever convenient between April 6 and June 7th. I got up bright and early on Sunday to head over to my friend’s house. She was super gracious to host the event and to map out the course. Also she ordered some super fun inflatable animals for us to hang out with at the Start/Finish Line in front of her house. I brought some Animal Crackers for our aid station and we also chalked us a Start and Finish Line. Things were looking super festive for our race.

I finished my 5K in 26:53.

After I finished, we had an epic Finisher's Party! We changed into our totally adorable finisher's shirts and had a ton of fun taking a ton of finisher photos with our inflatable friends, and to replicate an "official" finisher's party, My friend’s hubby even hooked me up with some finish line beer. He even made us breakfast after! Seriously, I think these two have a future in race day even planning.

As far as the official business of the virtual, once completed, I entered my results into the Run for the Zoo website. There were several virtual prizes for runners

All in all, it was an awesome virtual race. It was great to be able to participate in an event that I normally would not be able to due to the distance and cost of travel

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(2020)
"Hot Chocolate, Cold Day"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Expo was a bit smaller in past years, but I feel that this is common for all races. It was really efficient. You bring in a QR code that they scan and print a sticker and attach to your bib. Easy peasy. In fact I picked up 4 other packets and was done right away with no hassle.

Since this was my 3rd year running the HC15K Charlotte, my bib said that I was a Legacy so a stop to the next table and I picked up my Legacy gift - a branded mug with an amazing sprinkled chocolate bar and bronze medal. Such a cool perk. Several people stopped to ask us where we got them and how.

Then it was on to pick up our jackets. They scan your bib and hand you a bag with your correct size. You can try on your jacket and switch out if necessary. I always love the HC15K jackets. They are always amazing and this year was no exception.

After getting the jackets, we wandered around looking at the few set ups there. In the middle was my favorite, the chocolate sampling. They had hot chocolate to try and also fondue chocolate with a cookie and marshmallow and mini chocolate squares. Yum! And they have some fun facts about the amount of goodies they use and allergy information.

There was also a small merchandise area where I bought a super cute HC15K knit hat. I immediately put it on and got lots of compliments. I even wore it for the race the next day!

Okay y'all, I am not going to mince words... Race day was COLD. Like really cold. It was 23 degrees F at the start line and this warm-weather loving girl was not having it. I will fully admit, I was sulking. But you know what? I still had a great race because that is the power of Hot Chocolate races.

I parked close by to the start in the 7th Street Station garage which had plenty of spots and was adjacent to First Ward Park where the race started and finished. I had made arrangements to meet with my various running crews - BibRave, Burn Sisters, random running friends and so on at landmark and we took some quick pictures and mostly were cold. There were a ton of potties which I used 2x (race day nerves, yo) and never even waited in line there were so many. Just walked right in!

The 5K started at 8:00 so I went down to cheer them on. This year the number of 5K runners was much higher than in past (actually for all runners I think) as in the past the 5K waves were A, B, and C, but this year it was A-F! After the F wave went out, the banners were flipped for the 15K runners to line up. I was in Wave G which was the first 15K wave. The 15K started right on time at 8:30 and we were off!

Another time I will not mince words... This course is HILLY! Most uptown Charlotte races are, but I believe that this course takes the (chocolate) cake as one of the hilliest, at least that I have run, and I've done a lot of Charlotte races now. There is an uphill around mile 4-5 that just does not quit. It's the area around the Country Club and man is it rough. I tell myself every year that when I get out of the Country Club area the hardest part is now over. I mean, not the last of the hills, just the worst of them. But the course is very well marked and there are aid stations stocked with water, Nuun and goodies like marshmallows and M&Ms spaced throughout. There are several cheer stations scattered throughout the course as well so it is interesting and fun to run. There was this guy who was WAY excited to be cheering on the runners around mile 7 that I swear his exuberant high 5 gave me renewed vigor. Around 8.5 there was a sorority that a brightly colored "Hit Here For Speed Boost" Sign that I swear worked. And the last half mile there are tons of inspirational signs to guide you in.

The finish line was located on 7th Street and as usual for a Charlotte race, it was uphill. I was prepared for this and saved a bit of energy for the end. Lots of cheering in the chute and the announcer welcomed every single runner in by name. Overall, I was pleased with my time, I had cut a minute off of last year's finish on the same course, but can't help but feel had it been warmer (and had I had like 10 lbs less of clothes on) I could have done better. I was handed my medal by a super cheerful volunteer and made my way to the Nuun station and then a water bottle.

The goodie pick up is super efficient, lots of volunteers on hand to assist you. You tear off the bottom of your bib and you are handed a bowl of yummies! This year, the bowls were made of biodegradable heavy cardboard which was awesome.
After that, it was just another quick walk back to the garage and that was a wrap for the Hot Chocolate Charlotte 2020. Loved it even if it could have been a bit (a lot) warmer.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Did I mention that HC15K races give you FREE photos! In fact, I got an email before I even got home telling me that my photos were available. I thought there was no way that was right, but yup, clicked the link and there were 3 finish line photos waiting for me. So cool!

I will for sure be back in 2021 and I hope to see you there too!

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(2019)
"A Rocking 5K in Savannah"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Sunday was the 5K, which took place at Daffin Park a bit later in the day, 12:30, which was to get to sleep in. Since it was a bit further from our hotel (3 miles) we had to drive over, but there was plenty of parking. Just like the Saturday races, the event was super well organized. Since it was at a Baseball Stadium (Go, Savannah Bananas), there was plenty of clean bathrooms. Waves were clearly marked and there was an organized stretching session to get everyone ready to race. The course was BEAUTIFUL, the whole thing lined with trees covered in Spanish Moss in a residential neighborhood. Again it was very flat and a fast course, and easy one to PR on, which, I didn't push due to my big PR the day before, but instead ran it with a friend who did PR it! There was a water station around the halfway point and the course was very clearly marked. The finish was in the baseball stadium which was fun to do the final bit on the baseline to the cheering spectators in the stands. Like the Saturday races, there was a band playing at the finish and lots of beverage/snack options in the finisher chute. You also got a beer ticket with your bib. And because we ran both a Saturday and Sunday race, we got a 3rd medal for completing the Remix Challenge!!

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(2019)
"All the Marathon Glory With Just Some of the Pain!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This past weekend, I ran my very first Marathon Relay at the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon. Basically how it works is you, and up to 4 of your friends split up the marathon distance and tackle the course together rather than have to put in the full 26.2 miles by yourself.

There are 5 races that make up the Charlotte Marathon race day - the Marathon, Marathon Relay, Half Marathon, 5K and Kids 1 Mile. All races are run the same day with a 7:30 am start for the Marathon, Relay and Half, 7:45 start for the 5K and 7:50 for the Kids 1 Mile. So really there is a race distance for everyone. The races start at the Charlotte Knights Stadium and finish at Romare Bearden Park (across the street) and each course winds through Uptown and some of the most iconic parts of Charlotte. Immediately after finishing, a volunteer gave you your medal and there was a backdrop up for finisher photos Further down, the finish line chute had small Publix bags to pack with food (bananas, cereal bars, fruit cups, Gatorade, water and if you finished early enough Chocolate Milk (they had run out by the time our team finished). NoDa Brewing was giving out free craft beer in a roped off area with space heaters (yay), there was a band playing and several vendor tents set up in the park.

The race website has a ton of excellent information including course maps, elevation maps and extremely detailed information about the races, the schedule, basically anything that you need to know.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Expo because I was working on Friday, but luckily one of our team members worked just down the street and picked up our stuff for us. For the Relay, just one person needed to pick up everything anyway, so it worked out perfect and the teammate who went said it was well organized and easy in and out. Relay runners received an envelop with 5 bibs (all the same number), an Velcro armband with the tracker on it that was to be handed off at each leg, and a shirt for each team member. The shirts were short sleeve Recover shirts, navy with green writing for the Relay and really quite nice. They were true to size and I love the way mine fits.

Our team met up early and carpooled into the Charlotte together in order to save on parking fees. There were plenty of places to park with easy access to the Start. We parked in a garage about 2 blocks from the start and made our way over to the surrounding area where lots of groups had tents up. Music was playing and the ball park had their bathrooms open so it was nice to be able to use a real bathroom pre-race.

Here's a quick heads up to those who have never run in Charlotte before. Charlotte is hilly. Like a lot hillier than you would expect. The 10 miles of the course I ran were challenging, but not what I would consider super hard. As long as you added some hill work into your training, you would be fine. Just don't expect a flat course.

Leg #4 was my official leg, but because some of us are a bit crazy, we actually ran an extra leg to both put in a few more miles and to keep each other company. So I ran legs #3 and #4 which spanned from mile 10 to mile 20. I had asked the Race Director during a Facebook Live event if it was okay if we ran multiple legs and he said that as long as we had a bib and were respectful of other racers, sure, why not, so a few of my team ran multiple legs.

So like I said, my 10 miles were hilly, but not unenjoyable. There were several bands and DJs blasting music along the course also, but I don't really remember at what intervals. Every 2 miles or so there was an aid station with Water and Gatorade. I also heard there were gels at a few stations, but I didn't pay much attention as I carried my own water and nutrition.

When you finished your Relay leg you had to pass off the Velcro armband tracker to the next runner who had to run over a timing mat in order to officially start the new leg. Once finished, there was a table at the exchange point where volunteers would give you a bag of goodies that had a water bottle, Gatorade bottle and cereal bar. There were also a couple of portapoties at the exchange points.

The thing that I was most worried about was getting around from exchange point to exchange point. At first I thought that each of us would have to hang out at our starting point until our hand off, and then we'd each have to make our way back to the finish on our own. There was no transportation provided by the race as far as shuttles or anything like that. What we ended up doing was one of our team member's husband gracious drove us around and picked us up at our stations. With the help of a GPS and the map/directions provided by the race, we were able to successfully navigate the exterior of the race and drop off and pick up as we needed with no one being late to their start and no one waiting long in the cold.

Now for the really only complaint I had about the whole race experience, the runner tracking. The race sent out links to a partner company that handles their tracking, RaceJoy. The app was super clunky and not the greatest to use. First off the bat, it kept crashing on me. So much that I uninstalled and reinstalled and had a bit better luck. Secondly, in order to track a runner, you had to have the app running in the background, which drained the battery some. Also, for the Relay, you had to not only have the app running, but had to physically take out your phone and hit a button on the app to start your leg for it to record your leg. So not only did you have to run with your phone (some people don't) you had to have you phone out, app on, start the leg and then store your phone at the start of your leg. Could use a ton of improvement, but it was functional.

All good things must come to an end, and we were are so excited to see the final leg member of our team round the last corner and head towards the finisher chute. The whole team hopped onto the course and ran in with him in one big, beautiful line of orange with an overall finish time of 3:51:11. After pictures and beer and celebrating at the after party, we made our way back to our cars (just a short walk) and left Uptown Charlotte feeling victorious, ready to do it again next year.

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