Latest reviews by Crystal E

(2017)
"My first SeaWheeze & trip to Vancouver! "
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I'll start by saying that I did not get into this race the traditional way. I was not able to secure registration through the online frenzy when it first opened. I was lucky enough to get my registration by attending a special run event at my local Lululemon store after waiting for quite some time in line for one of only forty spots available. The online frenzy is not easy and you have to usually be logged in on many devices for a chance, just keep that in mind for future attempts!

Pre-race: I was in school till 4:00 pm on the day before SeaWheeze, so I flew in late and actually missed all of the Friday festivities. I'm a little sad about this, but I knew this when I made the decision to try to get into the race. (I'll say here that it's a really hard race to get into, so once I got in, I was set on going even if I missed the expo & yoga stuff the day before.) A friend of mine was able to pick up my race package, which I'm grateful for (I just needed to fill out a special letter & give her my government ID).

The race package was a really cool cinch backpack with a SeaWheeze water bottle and a tube of Nuun in it. Also, the tag for your shoe (no bibs!), Sunset Festival bracelet, and a coupon for a free cup of coffee at JJ Bean (which I definitely used the next day).

The morning of SeaWheeze, I woke up at 5:00 am (race starts at 7:00 am) and slowly got ready. Drank a smoothie, got dressed, my usual routine. Once we were ready, my friend and I walked over to the starting area (from Gastown) and checked out was what going on. There were some warmup exercises and lots of excitement going on. The washroom lines were quite long, so I didn't get in the starting chute as early as I wanted. Basically, I could not get myself lined up with the 2 hour Pace Beaver and I was outside of the fence waiting to get in through a broken section of the fence. Many people found themselves in this situation. It was mildly frustrating, but once the first wave took off, I was able to move into the chute slowly for the wave 2 start.

We waited a few mins, got pumped up and then wave 2 was off! So much excitement, I just tried to take it all in and ran at a comfortable pace. We ran through downtown Vancouver, over a bridge, into the Kitsilano area, and around the SeaWall. Some of the areas we ran are a blank to me, but the run around the SeaWall was AMAZING. Gorgeous views and the ocean air blowing over us as we ran, you couldn't beat it. I literally kept saying to another friend how beautiful the views were, so I'm betting that's why she took off ahead of me after 15K. ;)

Throughout the course, you couldn't get bored. Actually, I forgot my headphones in my checked bag, so this was the first half marathon that I ran without music. Honestly, for this race, I didn't miss it. There were many awesome cheering stations and music, and the whole community vibe around the race was fantastic. There were also plenty of hydration stations (offering water & Nuun), so I definitely didn't go thirsty. Personally, I like when races have more hydration stops, so that I feel like I don't have to carry water with me (unless it's really hot). The 2 hour Pace Beavers (one male, one female, sorry I didn't catch their names) were awesome and friendly, so I appreciated that once I caught them.

Post-race was also quite fun, with lots of excitement around getting the medals and free SeaWheeze sunglasses from Clearly. As we were guided up the walkway by the convention centre, there were warm towels for wiping sweat off and a few nice spots for photos by the water. Once we got to the food area, I was pleasantly surprised that there was a post race gluten/dairy free food option!! So, I was able to eat the yogurt and banana bread! I can't tell you how happy I was about that. :)

After we collected our food, we sat around the Olympic Cauldron with all the other runners chatting, taking pics, and enjoying the atmosphere. We also received a little package from Saje, which was fantastic! Saje was around pre and post race offering essential oil scents, roll-ons, etc to runners, which made the area smell quite lovely. The post race area did get quite busy, so I missed my opportunity for a free massage or chiro treatment, but it was nice to see all the runners utilizing these services. There were also stretching & foam rolling areas available, for those who wanted to chill out and recover.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at SeaWheeze. The race was a blast, the atmosphere was great, and the festival offered something I hadn't done after a race. If I go again, I'd like to get there for all the pre SeaWheeze festivities, so that I can really experience it all!

Pros:
- Lots of excitement, great crowds, good central location
- Awesome course, lots of pace beavers to help you with pacing
- Lots of hydration available
- Plenty of pre and post race festivities
- Good race swag, loved receiving the shorts to train in before the race
- Post race food was awesome, gluten/dairy free option
- Bag check option
- Awesome medal!

Cons:
- Washroom lines, or maybe I need to know the area better to find a washroom quickly
- Sunset Festival store options weren't that great, but I saved money not buying anything

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(2017)
"Great trail race for first timers!"
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So, it took me a solid year or two to finally sign up for a 5 Peaks race after envying my friend's pics and experiences of running these races in Ontario and Alberta. Since I'm mostly a road runner, I searched through the options for Alberta a couple of months ago and chose a race that was close to home and didn't seem too technical. Also, I had heard that the Fish Creek course was fun, so it seemed like a no-brainer for me.

Registering online was easy & I used an ambassador's code for 10% off race registration. There's plenty of 5 Peaks Ambassadors across the country, so I always see them tweeting or instagramming their codes, which is super convenient. It's not much, but it's nice to save a couple bucks here and there!

There were two distance options for this race - the Enduro and the Sport. The odd part about this race is that I signed up for the Sport distance, which was around 6KM at the time of registration. About a week before the race I double checked the map, and the distance had changed to 8.3KM. No big deal, it's just worth mentioning that you should double check your distance as you get closer to the race.

These races offer packet pick-up the morning of the race, so I opted to do that because the regular pick-up spot was a bit far for me to travel on transit. All I did was show up a little early and it was super easy to grab my bib and race swag (an awesome pair of Swiftwick socks!).

Pre-race there were 1K & 3K kids races going on and watching them was super cute and fun. Everyone was cheering the kids on & the race director was even giving away a growler for the loudest person (adult!) cheering. Growlers as prizes? Definitely different from road racing! :)

I did find that showing up early was important for this race, especially if you need to use the washroom before running. There were two outdoor park washrooms available, but the women's lines were long. It took long enough that I literally had to run out of the washroom and to the start line and take off right away! Not a big deal, just glad I got out in time to make my start wave!

The course was really nice and took us through some different terrains. We started on pavement and then switched to gravel and dirt trails, with a good amount of single track (which was totally new for me). There were some good hills that gave me a challenge and certainly some beautiful views through Fish Creek park.

The weather was quite nice for the morning of the race, but a bit humid, which is a funny feeling for Calgary. It felt even more humid in the woods, but it was nice to get some shade. I didn't really notice a lot of bugs or flies, which was nice as well because I totally forgot bug spray.

Another fun part of trail running that I learned is that the distance posted may not be what you actually run. Around 8KM I was starting to think that we were too far from the finish line. I even started to worry that I got lost, but I still saw the flag markers so I wasn't sure. I kept following the flags and eventually got back to the finish line, so I'm somewhat sure I ran the actual course. But, the distance I got on my Garmin was 9.44KM. I know these aren't super accurate, so I asked a few people and they got distance around 9.3KM for the Sport distance. No big deal, not complaining, I just found it funny... I signed up for 6ish KM, noticed it got updated to 8.3KM and ended up running over 9KM. Good times, right?

Post-race the food options were awesome. Watermelon, bananas, oranges, chips, cookies, macaroons, etc. Seriously, the watermelon was so refreshing after the race, it made me so happy. There was plenty of water and electrolyte drink, you just have to remember to bring your own water container because these events are cup/bottle free.

After the races there were some fun contests to win free trail shoes from Altra and another growler. They also presented the medals to the top 3 in male and female age groups and top 3 overall. Lots of people seemed to stick around for the food and fun, so that was nice to see.

Overall, I had a great time at my first 5 Peaks race. Enjoyed the entertainment, loved the course, and found the post-race food to be wicked. Trail runners seem to have a lot of fun and the atmosphere appeared to be more relaxed than a road race. I'll probably check out another one late this year or maybe next year, as long as the course isn't too technical.

Pros:
- Sweet race swag (Swiftwick socks), which is different for every race of the series
- Post race food was awesome, lots of options
- Cup free event, so ideally there is less litter around
- Fun atmosphere, cool prizes
- Cute medals for age group and overall winners
- Nice course, great views
- Flush toilets
- Easily accessible by transit, but there was a good amount of parking available

Cons:
- Not enough toilets
- Race distance changes were a little confusing for me as a first timer
- The starting waves were a little confusing, different from the email, so you have to really pay attention at the start

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(2017)
"Calgary's Fastest Road Race!"
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For those who don't know, the Sporting Life 10K is an iconic race that is held in Toronto every year in support of sending kids affected with cancer to camp OOCH. Obviously, this is a worthy cause, so approximately 20,000 people participate every year and get to run down Yonge Street (which I totally love). While living in Toronto, I couldn't coordinate taking part in the race for some reason (probably work), so I was really excited when they announced hosting the first 10K race here in Calgary once the Sporting Life location opened at South Centre mall. Another bonus was the race date, which was one day before my birthday and I've been starting a trend of running a race on (or around) my birthday to add some fun to ageing.

I registered months ago, but it was easily done online and I actually received a Saucony Canada coupon, as well as a coupon to Sporting Life as part of the race registration. They also offer you an opportunity to donate while registering, so I did that easily as well and received a tax receipt in no time.

Over the past few months, I got excited to see how this race would turn out and for the downhill point to point course. The last time I ran a 10KM race was in September 2016, so I was hoping for a solid PB to keep me excited and motivated for Seawheeze training.

Race kit pick up was super easy, there wasn't even a line when I went to the Sporting Life store. I was also offered another coupon to the store, which was great but I've been attempting to be on a budget for my upcoming Seawheeze trip. Plus, I don't REALLY need more running gear right now, do I???

As per usual, I did not sleep well the night before this race. Will that ever happen? But, I got up around 5:15 am so I could calmly do my usual pre-race morning routine and then I took the bus/c-train to the start. Honestly, it's pretty awesome that this race starts at a c-train station, it made getting there completely stress free. At the start were a good amount of portable toilets and the bag drop volunteers. Both of these processes went smoothly and then I wandered over to the start line. Now, here's a first for Calgary - this race HAD WAVE STARTS. There were only 2 waves, but still there were waves!! It still amazes me that Calgary Marathon does not have waves or corrals, because this race started much smoother than my half marathon in May. I didn't feel cramped or bottlenecked in any section. Now, I realize that there were a lot less participants (approx 1,000), but still, the waves were super helpful. I placed myself near the middle of wave 1, took some pics, warmed up and was ready to go.

The start went pretty quick, just a couple of announcements, someone actually sang O Canada, and then we were off! And yep, downhill right away! I had planned to run a 5:05 KM because I was aiming for around a 51:00 minute time (which would have been a PB), but right away I felt good and the downhill had me cruising!

Overall, I quite enjoyed the course. Mostly downhill, but definitely some flat sections and a few inclines. We ran down some pretty open roads in Calgary, which was kind of neat as well. My only issue with the route was that there were 2 spots where we had to run across oncoming ramp/turn-off traffic and there was no marshal or anything there guiding runners. I found this a little odd, especially because cars were coming when a bunch of us were running across, so of course we were waving and trying to make ourselves noticeable to oncoming traffic on a turn-off ramp. Running through downtown was also pretty cool and I really liked the location of the finish line at Olympic Plaza. I like it so much that I cruised across the finish line and then past the volunteers handing out medals! Needed a little more room to slow down and I noticed a few other people did the same thing.

After the finish there was a PB gong, which I totally took my turn to ring. And then, the post race snacks were awesome and gluten free again - chips, Kind Bars, Bananas, Gluten Free Honey Stinger Waffles. Run Calgary certainly gets the post race food right! (In my opinion, anyway. No bottled water though, so if you were really thirsty you had to keep going back to the snack line). There were also post race massages and both Saucony and the Kids Cancer Care reps were around to answer questions and tell you more about the race and cause.

Overall, I had a really good time at this race. It was easy to get to by transit, the course was fast, and post race festivities were nice. Hopefully they are able to keep running this course because it would be nice to see how I progress by next year! Plus, the race is for a great cause (Kids Cancer Care), so that makes it all worth it!

Pros:
- Easily accessed by transit (can't comment on parking, etc.)
- Sweet Saucony tech shirt as part of race package
- Saucony and Sporting Life coupons after registration
- Fast course, mostly downhill
- Start line easy access, bag check available
- Point to point course
- Great gluten free post-race food options
- Post race location great (in middle of downtown)

Cons
- Two sections running into oncoming traffic with no marshals
- No bottle water at finish
- Aid stations (one at 3K & one at 7KM) not great/fully organized (but I didn't need water, so I cruised by)
- No portable toilets on route for emergencies
- I heard the race caused traffic issues, but this is usually the case with any race

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(2017)
"Hot Half Marathon!"
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My quads hurt.

That's it... that's the post.

I'm not sure what it is about the Calgary course, but my quads never hurt this much after any other race. I honestly think that my quads hurt more after yesterday's half marathon than they did after a marathon.

Anyway, Calgary Half Marathon. What a day.

It was a very nice morning, cool air and sun rising, which made for a nice start to the race. I live pretty close to the start line, so I walked over feeling relatively calm and chatted with another gal while walking. She was very excited for the race, which boosted my excitement so it was nice to chat with her.

Calgary Marathon uses part of the Stampede grounds and the Grandstand for the pre and post race festivities. It's nice because it's a pretty open area and then there's also flush toilets to use if you're not in the mood for portable toilets. They also have a few booths around where you can buy or check out some stuff and also Jugo Juice there with smoothies at the end. I went and checked my bag right away (yes, I checked a bag. I wanted to exchange my race shirt size) and was able to line up for the washrooms pretty easily. If you'd like a guaranteed shirt size, sign up early. I signed up about 4 weeks in advance and there was only Large and XL shirts available for women to choose during registration. Honestly, this is the first time this has happened to me, so I found it odd. Luckily, I arrived to the shirt exchange at the right time and was able to trade for the last Small available. The shirts were cute this year - different, for sure - and more exciting than last year's bland shirts. So, I wanted one I could wear. (I'm one of those people haha)

After the washrooms, I went straight to the starting chute to get in position. I arrived a little earlier this year after last year's debacle, which was nice for my nerves. I thought we would hear the national anthem because of the Canada 150 celebrations, but we did not. (Apparently they did play a recording of the anthem that people in the front could hear, but I thought someone would sing it.) They had a few announcements and a moment of silence (which I also couldn't hear and I wasn't that far back) and we were off! Again, my biggest pet peeve with this race is that the 50KM, 42.2KM, and 21.1KM all start at the exact same time with no waves. This causes chaos for about the first 5KM of the race at least. People running into each other, having to dodge and weave through people, and bottlenecking in some areas. The start of this race is not really that fun. Also, they lay out pylons to mark the tangents for the elites, but these are hard to see in all the chaos, so I saw so many people running into them and falling because you can't even see past the person in front of you when making turns, etc.

Once the 21.1KM separates from the 50KM & 42.2KM runners, then the course opens up a bit more (this was around 6KM I think). Then you can start to focus on your pace and getting into a rhythm. It was a gorgeous morning, so I tried to focus on the nice weather and just the general atmosphere of race morning. I tried to run with a pace bunny group, but they were hard to keep track of in all the crowds. So, I just tried to go at a good pace on my own and not run into people.

Overall, the course was pretty good. Straightforward, you knew what direction to go and there were plenty of volunteers and course marshals out letting you know the turns. There was also plenty of crowds and people cheering, which was really nice. Once again, the Calgary Lululemon crew really stepped up their cheering game and presented one of the funnest cheer stations of the race. This was especially nice around 19KM when I was really starting to feel the struggle in the heat. Two years in a row now that this race ends up getting hot - good & bad when you consider the alternative that you get in Calgary in terms of weather!

There were also tons of volunteers at the end handing out water and snacks, and I think I thanked each one of them twice. I do like the post race food kit that you get from this race since I am gluten intolerant. I hope they continue to do this because it helps that I can actually eat something at the end. Chips are the best at this time, really.

I sort of deliriously walked through the finishing area and back inside the Grandstand where Jugo Juice was giving away free smoothies. This is also great, because it was so refreshing after running in the heat. Afterwards, I went and tried to find friends and congratulate them after they crossed the finish line, which is relatively easy to do since the finish line is inside the Grandstand so there are places to stand and sit after the race.

Overall, another fun race at the Calgary Marathon. I wouldn't say this is the best course to PB or BQ on, especially if the weather is hot. Also, you still have to arrive early to really be settled at the start on time - especially if you like to line up in a certain spot or with a pace bunny. Post race is a good time and I felt like there was plenty of volunteers to help you through your day, which is nice. A HUGE thank you to the volunteers and Calgary Police Service for working hard on a Sunday morning!!

Pros:
- Local race of relatively good size, so there's some excitement to the whole event
- Great pre and post race festivities
- Finish line in the Stampede Grandstand which is cool when crossing the finish line and also for watching others cross
- Great post race food, mostly gluten free items
- Better shirt this year than last
- Expo is a good size, but could use a few more vendors
- Lots of volunteers around for the expo and race day
- Indoor toilets available race morning
- Good amount of water stations for the half marathon distance
- 150KM race option very exciting for this year & Canada 150 celebrations
- Half Marathon championships held here again

Cons:
- 50KM, 42.2KM, and 21.1KM all start together at 7:00 am with no waves or corralling - very busy, kind of chaotic for about the first 5KM
- Shirt size not available 4 weeks before race... luckily I was able to exchange
- I heard there were some course issues for the 10KM race & complaints about that race starting at 11:00 am (too hot by that time, same for 5KM start at 1:00 pm)
- No race related gear available for purchase - same as last year, when I would have really liked to buy something to commemorate my first marathon
- Pylons on street that were hard to see in crowds, which caused many people to trip and/or fall

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(2017)
"Hills, friends, and fun!"
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Signed up for this race on a whim once I knew I would be visiting family in Halifax during the last weekend of April 2017. Online registration was easy and inexpensive at a price of $15 + tax. It's worth mentioning that because of this low price, there are no bells & whistles with this race. No t-shirts or medals - only for the top 3 male and female finishers. If you're not familiar with MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) races, they usually hold a lot of local events including road and trail races. It's a good option if you'd like an inexpensive timed race or you just want to join a bunch of random people for your Saturday or Sunday run.

MEC emailed us the course description a few days before the race, but it was hard to visualize for this very unique course. The race runs around and through the Halifax Citadel (http://pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ns/halifax), which is a series of forts that served to protect the Halifax Harbour from 1749 - 1906. It's a national historic site, and I was excited for this race because I haven't visited the Citadel in over 10 years.

This race starts at 9:30 am, which isn't too early, so I showed up a few minutes before and met up with a friend. We decided to run the 10K together, which ended up being a good decision because the focus of this race became about fun. The course involved running around the perimeter of the Citadel, up and down side hills, through short tunnels, and inside a WWI trench. So, while being a very unique course, it's not really a PB race unless you're situated right at the front of the pack. Main complaint is that the directions could be more clearly communicated from onsite volunteers. My friend and I got a little lost around our 3rd or 4th loop, so making sure we were going the right way got confusing. We even improvised our last lap to make sure we came in around 10 KM instead of crossing the finish line short. (We crossed at 10.20 KM)

Overall, I really enjoyed my time at this race. Good company and a fun course certainly made the atmosphere for a great morning. Luckily, the weather was beautiful, so the views while running around the Citadel were outstanding. You get to see green spaces, downtown, and the ocean! Got to love that!

Pros
- Unique, fun course (go to this race with an attitude of fun)
- Inexpensive, easy to register online
- Nuun hydration tablets and water at the end, plus fruit
- Plenty of awesome volunteers
- Great views (if the day is clear)

Cons
- Course directions could be improved
- Possibly add a water station half way through the 10K

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