Latest reviews by Alastair Vance

(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)
"Back Again for the 2nd Time!"
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Well, I came back again to this race. The plan was to run together as a family, but my wife is out with an injury so we pulled in someone else at the last minute.

None of us even attempted to eat all 12 doughnuts this time. Been there, tried that. This year (like last year) we were there for the fun element.

I ran alongside my daughter who'd never ran 5 miles before. She did really great. Proud of her. The doughnuts really helped to motivate her. Ha ha.

I wish there was porta-potties at the half-way point. I could have really used one. I thought I remembered some being there the previous year (could be wrong).

Plenty of costumes again this year, but I think last years were a little better. Especially when it came to some of the bigger, more elaborate costumes.

It was another cold morning - 20f. At least the sun was out and skies were blue.

The t-shirts were much better this year than last.

It's a great race and a fun event and we'll probably be back!

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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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(2017)
"A-MAZING!"
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It was so exciting to be part of the first ever Race Across Durham Trail Marathon & 10 Miler event. I registered for the 10 mile race, since this was my first ever trail race (and also because I could not run 26.2 miles on a flat surface).

The 10 mile race started at the West Point On The Eno Amphitheater, an open area in the middle of the woods. From there, around 200 runners gathered, ready to run through the trees toward the river to join the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

The race was timed (time-chip on back of the bib), but there was no starting mat, so time was taken from the starting gun. I wasn’t too motivated by time on this race. I wanted to run it well, and enjoy it at the same time, so not having a starting mat didn’t bother me.

I was expecting a little bit of a bottleneck at the start of the race, because we had to transition from an open field to a single track trail. There was no pushing or shoving. Everyone was very chilled and polite and seemed to be out there to enjoy the day.

It took about 1.5 miles or so to thin out on the trail. I managed to pass quite a few people at the beginning and catch some groups that were running at a pace I was comfortable with.

I was really glad I spent a few weekends before checking out the trail section by section — it was really helpful mentally, as I knew which sections of the trail were most challenging and when I needed to preserve energy during the race.

The trail was well marked, and I didn’t hear of anyone getting lost. I did hear about a number of falls though — I’m amazed I managed to stay on my feet.

It was a tough course. Probably one of my toughest races to date.

There were two aid stations. One at 4 miles, and one at 8 miles. I decided not to carry any fluids and rely only on the aid stations. That worked out fine for me.

I didn’t stop during the race to take any photos, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the official race photos. There were 3-4 photographers stationed along the route. I tried my best to look like a real trail runner when I spotted them.

There was plenty of parking available at the race start. And since it was not at out-and-back, or a loop, there were shuttle buses arranged to take runners on the 10-15 min trip back to the West Point On The Eno for the race after party. I was glad family could come and join me for the after party. It was a very chilled affair — which was fine. There was food and beer, and a band playing in the background. People sat around on the grass field, or at the picnic tables.

Based on my training runs, I would have been happy with any time under 2 hrs, so to come in at 1hr 45min was a nice surprise. My Garmin logged the course at 9.4 miles, and 11:10/mi pace. The official distance was 10 miles, which brings my pace up to 10:31/mi. I can only assume my GPS signal got a little lost at times which accounts for the missing 0.6 miles.

Overall, it was an amazing experience for me, and I love running on these trails.

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