Latest reviews by Chris McBratney

(2017)
"Race for a good cause"
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This was the first year for Run For Warriors, and it benefits the Wounded Warrior Project, which is obviously a great cause. Since Fremont isn't a huge city, most of the race routes tend to be on roughly the same course, so this was nice in that it ran a completely different route.

This is a flat and fast course with no annoying 180 degree turns. It is very open in spots, so if it's windy (which it was yesterday), you will absolutely feel it.

The registration process was very easy. It was $35 for the 5k, and you get a long-sleeved technical shirt. Even if they didn't have your size, they would order more. It's great to see a race go above and beyond like that.

The parking lot was blocked off, so it was a .1-.3 mile walk from parking access to the race site. I don't mind that, as it allows for me to warm-up, but for others who aren't there to "race", I can see how this could be a nuisance.

Within the large parking lot of the church, they had a huge platform trailer that was equpped with a podium, and a large bucket truck to hoist a huge American flag. The trailer/podium was used to set the tone for the race, and talk about those who serve. Also on the platform was a bagpipe player who played Amazing Grace, which was really cool. It was very windy, so even with the PA system, it was hard to hear what they were saying, so I'm not sure how much race specific information they gave, if any.

There were plenty of facilities inside, so you didn't have to stand out in the cold if you didn't want to. I stretched inside after my warm-up and then saw people heading to the start/finish line at about 2:45 (the race start was scheduled for 3 pm). I made my way outside to find everyone lined up. There was no timing mat, but they did have a digital clock at the start/finish line, so I knew that it wouldn't be chip-timed.

There was a man at the line who was talking to some of the runners and said we were going to get going. It was still not even 2:50 - a solid 10 minutes before the official listed time. This was really strange. Most runners are usually at a race well in advance, but many (myself included) have often rushed to the bathroom shortly before a race, so I could see this create some issues.

The gun went off and there was a motorcycle leading the pack. The road was closed and they had plenty of volunteers there to make sure that traffic wasn't an issue. This was really great to see.

The course, as I mentioned, is fast and flat. They had volunteers at every intersection to ensure runner safety, and I saw no oncoming traffic trying to rush through the crowd. There were lots of active duty participants, and they all ran in their PT gear, which was cool to see. You could easily identify who was military.

Upon finishing, there was no one there to collect times or places, so I assumed that there was no official timing of the race. This likely means that there would be no final results posted, or awards given. I don't necessarily recall seeing anything about awards, which is fine, but overall results (in a hand-timed race) is easy and free.

There was plenty of food and drink afterwards, but there was this awkward period of "is there anything more happening afterwards" that many runners seemed to have, myself included. Eventually, I just left assuming that was it.

Overall, it was a good route and a great cause. Any issues are easily fixable and I hope they put this on again next year. Even if they don't officially time it or do awards, it's still a good fast course to run a time trial.

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(2017)
"This is an event, not a race!"
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This was the first time I've run this race, although, I've run several other races put on by Pink Gorilla Events. You get the same type of awesome vibe and race experience with this as you do all of their other events - it's a true event, not just a race. There's loud music, a ton of energy and an overall "party" type of atmosphere.

Just like their other events, though, there are runners of all abilities. The winning time of this race is usually in the 32-33 minute range, but there are others running at so many different paces that anyone would feel welcome.

The course is mostly flat and built for fast times and PRs. The race starts at 7 pm, and many runners finish in the dark. It was really cool seeing so many headlamps coming up the hill to the finish corral - so much different than most races.

This year's weather sucked - it was 85 degrees at the start, but much of the race is shaded, so it felt much better.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this for someone looking for a total running experience!

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(2017)
"Some good, some not so good."
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I decided to make this my first full marathon experience. Overall, it was OK. Part of me wishes I'd chosen a different race to be my first marathon, but hindsight is 20/20.

We registered for the race pretty early, and the cost was reasonable. We like that the Omaha Running Club is trying to make the Heartland Marathon the marquee marathon in the city after the Omaha Marathon was purchased by an out-of-state company.

First, the expo. This year, it took place at the Hilton in downtown Omaha. It's a nice facility, although, parking can be a pain, unless you want to pay exorbitant hotel parking rates. One thing I'll definitely credit the Omaha Running Club for doing is getting a good guest at the expo. Last year (we didn't participate, but went to the expo), they had Frank Shorter speak, and this year, they had Bart Yasso. The expo is easy to navigate with a number of good vendors. Picking up your packet is simple, they have you check your bib to make sure it reads, and then you're free to go. If you're in a hurry, you can get in and out really quickly.

Next, the course. The route starts on the Riverfront, which is pretty cool. It's scenic and the downtown location could be a nice feature for both local and out of town participants. The first 4 miles are hilly, taking you through parts of downtown and by the Henry Doorly Zoo. You then cross the Veterans Memorial Bridge into Iowa, running over the Missouri River. From that point, you're largely on a walking/running/biking path for the majority of the remainder of the race. While much of the path is somewhat scenic, there is non-race traffic (walkers, runners and cyclists) navigating the trail as well. From mile 4 to about mile 9, there isn't much shade, so the sun can bear down on you. The Lake Manawa section provides some pretty park scenery and some off and on shade. This section is an out-and-back, so you have the benefit of the shad for about 8 miles, or so. From there, you loop back into an out-and-back before traversing back towards the River, through a park. After about mile 20, parts of the course get pretty desolate. In a race this size, you may not see anyone in front or behind you for large stretches and you feel pretty isolated. The majority of miles 4 through 24 are flat, so it allows you to get into a good groove, though. At around mile 25, you get to cross the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which takes you back into Nebraska from Iowa. This is a really cool part of the race, although the climb to the top of the bridge is a grind. You then get to cruise into a nice decline as you make your descent from the bridge to the Riverfront, looping around to the finish line.

The weather sucked this year, which is no fault of the organizers, obviously. It was 72 at the start, and 85 when I finished. The downside of Nebraska is you're just as likely to get a great weather day as you are a terrible weather day.

The aid station volunteers along the course were awesome and very helpful. To me, this was probably one of the highlights of the race. They were really that good - encouraging, attentive, motivating. There were aid stations about every 2 miles, or less, and they were stocked with water and Gatorade. Some aid stations had Gu (which I didn't need) and cold sponges (which were freaking life-saving).

When we got there on race day, it was easy to check our gear and didn't have to fight for parking. We got in line in the corral, but I couldn't find either of my two target pace groups (3:30 or 3:45). I was planning on going with the 3:45 pace group, but thought I could always just stay well behind the 3:30 group if I felt ok enough. The website advertised pacers for the 3:00, 3:15, 3:30, 3:45, 4:00, 4:15 and 4:30. However, there were only pacers for 3:00, 3:15, 4:00 and 4:30. Not cool. This kind of derails your plans 10 minutes before your first marathon. In my opinion, if a race isn't going to have pacers, that's fine. But if you say you're going to, then you better have them. It's kind of a big thing to get wrong. The Race Director told me afterwards that "All pacers are volunteers and no one stepped up for the 3:30 and 3:45 slots. We have to go with what we are given." While I understand that to a point, don't advertise something that you can't deliver.

Post-race, there was a lot of food - hot dogs, chips, fruit, fruit snacks, chocolate milk, water, etc. I wasn't hungry, so I only had chocolate milk. There was only one massage therapist there, and there was a line for her. Then, she ended up leaving before the race wasn't even over, so I was pretty disappointed after I got done with my cool down to see that I wouldn't be able to take advantage of that great service.

Overall, it was a fine race. Will I do it again? Probably not, unless some fixes are made. There are 3 marathons in Omaha within a 5 week period, each vying to be THE marquee marathon in Omaha. While the work the Omaha Running Club does is appreciated, I think they have a way to go to get this to the level it could/should be. Omaha isn't a huge city, so I'm ok with us not having a nationally-recognized marathon, but 3 in the fall is a lot, and it's so oversaturated. I just wish we had one group that could completely nail a great race.

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(2017)
"Such a fun race atmosphere!"
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For some context, Tails 'n Trails is a dog-friendly event, where people can run or walk with their dog(s) over a 1 mile, 5k, 10k or half marathon distance.

This is the 3rd year of Tails 'n Trails, and my first time actually running it. Usually, I do the 1 mile walk with our kids and dog while my wife runs, so I was really excited to give it a go. The race takes place at Chalco Hills Recreation Area, which is in the Southwestern part of the Omaha metro. It has a huge lake and a variety of trail options including paved, a wide mowed grass trail and some single track (but I wouldn't say it's a great place if you're looking for a lot of single track).

The first thing you notice when you arrive is that the race is all about dogs. It's the whole purpose of the event - the proceeds go to three local area dog rescues. If you don't like dogs, don't do this race. If you love, or even like, dogs, you'll have a blast. Music is playing loud, dogs (all leashed) are making new friends and dog lovers are making new friends. Having been to this event for the past three years, I can say there's never been an issue with a dog getting aggressive with another dog or a human.

The races start at 8:00 with the gun for the half marathoners. At 8:05, the 10k runners go. 8:10 for the 5k and 8:15 for the 1 mile. From the start, you're immediately dumped into the trails, which are wide enough to run a few people across. You start a gentle climb almost immediately, and it's rolling hills from there. Some of the trail is tree-covered, while other parts are fully-exposed to the sun. There are a couple of water-ish crossings in the first couple of miles, but I was able to jump them without any issue.

At around the 2.5 mile mark, you hit some paved trail for a brief period, before getting kicked into some single track. It really is single track. If you try to pass, you'll be running in hip-high grass, so you had better make any passes beforehand. The single track doesn't last long before it widens again, only to kick you back into more single track. This continues for another couple of miles, at which time you come to the top of a really tall and steep, wide, mowed grass hill. This is a great time to let your legs go and let momentum carry you down.

From there, you go up another hill and you're within a mile of the finish. You wind around some wide trails that are net downhill and can use your momentum to cruise in for a fast finish.

Throughout the course, there are several water stops/aid stations and plenty of volunteers to direct traffic. I thought the course was well-marked, too. The 10k and half marathon runners (who do two loops of the course) follow the orange markings and flags, while the 5k runners follow the yellow. I had no issues finding my way at any point on the course.

All half marathon finishers receive a finishers medal. Awards for all races were $50 Fleet Feet gift cards. The swag is great, as each participant gets a t-shirt and a bag full of stuff including dog treats, dog food, a Tails 'n Trails bandanna and some other stuff.

This is one we look forward to every year. If you like animals, I highly recommend giving this a shot!

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(2017)
"40 flights of pure hell"
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This is such a unique event. The First National Tower is the largest building in Nebraska, standing at 41 stories. The goal here is simple: run to the top of the stairwell as fast as you can. Don't let the review title fool you - I really like this race. It's just really, really challenging. This is my 2nd year of doing this event. I normally do traditional distance races on road and trail, so this is a fun change.

The event takes place in downtown Omaha on a Saturday morning, so the parking in garages and on the street around the venue are pretty plentiful. We always pick a garage across the street for ease of getting in and out. When you arrive, they have plenty of volunteers at the check-in area. You can't bring in your own bag, but they provide clear plastic bags for your personal items, if needed. From check-in, you proceed to packet pick-up (there's no pre-race packet pick-up - only the morning of the event), which is also well-staffed and efficient.

Once you're all set, you proceed to the winding hallway to wait in line for your turn. At registration (this event always sells out), you have the choice of start times beginning at 7 am, and running every 15 minutes until 11 am. If you are an "elite" runner (based on previous years' results), you can go when you want, and can bypass the line, which is awesome. The line moves quickly. There's a monitor at the front of the line who repeats the same instructions to each participant, and lets people go every 5-7 seconds to avoid congestion. If you're a faster runner, I suggest the earliest start time possible. If you don't get one, but have an elite pass, tuck in line behind someone who looks fast - the stairwell can get congested quickly if not.

At the start line, they have a basket of cough drops. TAKE ONE! It helps the dryness in your throat as you climb.

Each participant receives a wristband with a chip. When it's your time to go, you scan the chip on the table until you hear a "beep", then you run down the hall to the stairwell.

I'm not going to lie - the air in the stairwell is dry and stale, and the climbing kicks you in the gut FAST! One second you're cruising along quickly, then the next second your legs don't work. I was able to run the first 11 flights this year, after which point it became a power hike. Periodically, there will be a floor that has their door open with volunteers who have water and access to aid, if needed. It doesn't help with the dry air, though. The best way to climb is using both handrails to help propel you up. Your legs will be dead and your lungs will be screaming. Use every aid you can!

When you hit the 40th floor, you exit the stairwell, scan your wristband on another scanner and exit into a conference room. The floor is covered in plastic and they provide water, your medal and a towel (for you to keep). You're encouraged to walk in a circle around the room to get your body back to normal. I was dying. But I wasn't puking in a trash can like another participant, so I guess I had that going for me. After you finish walking, you hit the elevator down to the main floor and are treated to refreshments from Whole Foods. This is also when you can pick up your t-shirt, which is a long-sleeved, dry-fit shirt. The shirts are fairly basic, but good quality. I really didn't love the design of this year's shirt, but it's not the reason I do the race.

Overall, it's a very unique and challenging event. The swag and shirts aren't as great as other races, and the scenery is boring, but it's a race up a stairwell - what do you expect?

Even though I coughed for 2 days straight afterwards, I fully intend on doing it again next year!

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