Latest reviews by Alastair Vance

(2018)
"10 Years Running!"
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This is one of my favorite races of the year without a doubt. This was the 10th year the race has been put on (and the 2nd time that I've run it). It was a bit warmer (and humid) than last year, so I was expecting to run it much slower, but I did OK in the end.

Most of my races this year have been much longer distances, so it was a little refreshing to be racing a shorter distance for a change.There were no pacing groups that I saw, but you don't really need it for this distance.

I always love running through the streets of Durham. The buildings provided some shade from the sun and there was a nice breeze at times which helped me to stay cool. The route has some hills, but nothing too steep or long. Strava reports around 300 ft elevation gain for it.

The atmosphere before and after this race is one of the best around. It's just buzzing. After the race, in the finishers area, you could grab some Beer, Nuun, Beer, Smoothies, Fruit, Beer, Granola bars, and samples from other vendors.

Being able to browse the farmer's market after and hit up some food trucks at the food truck rodeo is just another bonus and a great way to experience Durham, North Carolina.

The t-shirts are great. Thankfully this year I actually ordered the correct size when I registered, The medal is functioning cowbell -- I only have room for a few of these. :-)

There's only a couple of races I sign up for the minute registration opens, and this is one of them.

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(2018)
"Sweat those Hills!!"
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This is categorized as a trail race, but it's really hard-packed gravel and not as technical as a trail run. However, there's plenty of challenge here because of the hills. In fact, it was my most difficult half to date. With close to 1000ft elevation gain on a muggy North Carolina morning, I suffered big time.

It's an out and back course through Umstead State Park where the hills keep coming at you. I fell apart on the way back.

Access to the race is easy and there is hardly any traffic. Parking is ample and close to the start/finish line. The t-shirts are really nice, and I loved the wooden engraved medals.

There was plenty of aid stations on the route, with nice cool water in (most of) the cups. Gatorade was also offered at each station. There was no other fuel options provided.

It's a nice small local race, that humbled me a little and I will definitely run it again some time to improve on my results. It was my first time running this race, but it's been going for 20 years now.

Afterward there was plenty of snacks available (except beer).

If you like a bit of a challenge, give this race a look.

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(2018)
"The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music!!"
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This was my second ever Half Marathon race. I have to say I really enjoy racing this distance. I'd never ran a Rock 'n' Roll race before, so I was glad to have an opportunity to do so on their last visit to Raleigh, NC.

I went to the EXPO on the Saturday, the day before the race, and picked up my bib and shirt. The shirts were nice -- Brooks technical shirts with minimal sponsor logos. The EXPO had some great vendors. My wife managed to get a great deal on some compression socks. There was lots of official Rock 'n' Roll merchandise as well. I loved the shirts with every participant name on it. Very cool.

Parking for both the EXPO and race day was very convenient. I managed to park quite easily within a block of the starting line.

I have heard over the years of how hilly a course it is, so I was expecting the worse. To be honest, it wasn't all THAT bad. Yes, it had hills, but there was plenty of relief on downhill sections of the course.

The funny thing is -- Because of the "hilly" reputation, Rock 'n' Roll made modifications to the route this year to make it less it less hilly. Well, according to past runner's Strava records, this years route had a 100ft increase in elevation gain!! :-)

The Live music along the route was awesome. I can't recall the number of times it brought a smile to my face. I also loved the energy of the spectators throughout the various Raleigh neighborhoods. They really helped keep me going.

It was so cold at the start of the race that I did something I never do. I went and grabbed a coffee and drank it around 30mins before we started. I've never had to use the bathroom so bad during a race before that I needed to stop -- until THIS race. At mile 9 something very bad was going to happen if I didn't find a porta-john. Rock 'n' Roll are fantastic for providing so many along the route. Not sure what I'd have done otherwise...!

Aside from messing up my time a little, I was still happy to finish within 2 hours on this course. I'm sad I won't get a chance to do better next year.

The medals were great, and you could get your medal engraved with your name and finishing time if desired. And there was plenty of snacks handed out as you walked through the end section of the course after finishing.

The band, SUSTO, sounded really good at the post race event. My only gripe is that I finished the race around 9am and the post race party didn't start until 10am. I was so cold at that point I couldn't even imagine holding a cold (free) beer. And yes, I made use of gear check and had a coat to wear post-race!

While a specific review of the Raleigh race may not be super helpful to the reader, now that the race is gone, I will say that in general that the race was really well organised and executed. I would not hesitate to run many of the other Rock 'n' Roll races across the nation.

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(2018)
"My First Half and I Absolutely Loved It!!"
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This was my first half marathon race. I chose it because it's close to home and I often run on the American Tobacco Trail.

I ran the race with friends from my running club, so we had a parking pass (recommended) between us and traveled to the race together. I was a bit surprised to find out we needed to be in the parking lot 90 minutes before the race start. However, it was nice to be parked so close and we were able to chill in the car for a while anyway.

The t-shirts were great. I had somehow ordered the wrong size when I registered, but was able to exchange it on the race morning.

There were plenty of porta-potties, but the lines did get quite long closer to start time.

I liked how the full and half participants all started together. There was just over 3200 total runners but it was easy enough to jump into a pacing group. Everyone ran together for the first 2.5 miles (on the road) and then the half and full went different directions (on the American Tobacco Trail).

The Trail surface is hard packed gravel and could be a little dusty, but it is definitely a bit better on your knees than running on the road.

Because it's an out and back, you may think there would not be enough room on the trail for runners going both ways. I honestly didn't find that to be an issue. I liked seeing the runners coming back. It added to the experience for me, as we could cheer each other on.

There was plentiful aid stations, with Water and Gatorade, and a sprinkling of spectators at the various intersections with roads.

I felt strong until about mile 10, and then pushed through for the last 3 miles. The downhill finish was very rewarding.

Afterward, there was beer (important), Papa John pizza, fruit and fruit drinks, plus live music. I probably hung around a lot longer than I do for most race after-parties. My wife and young son joined us for the after-party as well, so it's quite easy for family members to join after which is great.

The race photos turned out great. I do wish they'd adopt the same model a lot of other races do these days and offer race photos for free. :-)

I will be back next year to beat my PR.

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(2018)
"Will Run For Chocolate!"
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Plenty of firsts here for me.

1) First time travelling over 30 mins to a race.
2) First time staying in a hotel for a race.
3) First time racing the 15k distance.
4) First time having chocolate available at the aid stations!
5) First time being assigned to a race corral.
6) First time making use of a race pacer.

I stayed at the Sheraton Charlotte hotel, which was the "preferred" hotel on the race website. It was really nice and really convenient to have the race Expo at the same location. The Expo had a swap table if you needed to swap out your ordered race shirt size.

The race shirts themselves are amazing -- a bit above your normal race t-shirt. They are quality long sleeve micro-fleece tops. I wanted to purchase an additional one for my wife, but they didn't sell them unfortunately.

The race start line was only a few blocks away from the hotel (15min walk) and I had no trouble finding it on race morning. I got there quite early and saw the 5k race leave before the 15k people assembled on the start line.

Being assigned a race corral was fantastic. Very few times have I started a race without a squeeze at the starting line. My assigned corral was the first to start and it was so cool to be able to start off running and not trip over anyone. The corrals were released 4 mins apart.

My target was an 8.30/mi race. But I didn't know what to expect in terms of elevation. I couldn't find this information on the website. I started out a little too fast, among the 8.00/mi crowd. At around 2 miles in and a few hills, I was starting to slow a little. The 8.30/mi group caught up with me. I managed to stay with the 8.30/mi for the remainder of the race and still achieved my target, but it wasn't easy!

All credit to the race pacer though. He kept on pace the whole way and motivated those around him to keep going. I had never used a pacer before like this, but could not have done it without it this time.

Racing at the 15k distance was new for me. It feels weird to finish just before 10 miles. This was definitely good prep for me with a Half Marathon coming up in March. I know better what I'm capable of and can make some goal adjustments with confidence.

The after-race party was dampened a little by the constant drizzle all morning. So the field itself was becoming really muddy... or was that chocolate... now I'm not sure. Anyway -- the bowls of melted chocolate and assortment of items to dip in it was awesome.

The Live tracking was really cool as well. It was a free service that allowed my wife to check on my progress. It texted my pace at 5k, 10k and completion to her phone.

The race also provided race photos for free, and most of them were available immediately after the race. Now that is amazing right there. It's not their fault I look half dead in most of them.

Would I run this race again? Yes, I would!

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