Latest reviews by Alastair Vance

(2019)
"When can I sign up for next year?!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my third year running RAD and it is easily the race I look most forward to all year.

I just love the course so much, how it meanders through the trees alongside the Eno river, the elevation gradually increasing as you make your way to the rock quarry. The course definitely gets top marks for scenery.

I ran this year with my buddy Zach and we decided our main priority would be take it easy and enjoy the race. We found a nice conversational pace and did just that.

There are two aid stations on the course, one at approximately 4 miles, and the second at around 8 miles. At mile 5 there was an unofficial aid station, complete with several cans of beer of which we availed. Thank you, to whoever left those out!

Durham celebrates 150 years as a city in 2019, so it was nice to see this emblazoned on the actual race medal, making the hand-made medal even more precious.

The after-party was awesome. Our wives and children joined us afterward for some live music, beer and food. This year the fire pit and s'more-making ingredients was an awesome addition.

I will say that Zach and I did pull off some amazing poses for the course photographers and none of the photos seem to have made the cut. 🤣

Amy Rossi does a great job taking the photos and makes available for free (donation to Life Skills is encouraged).

Well, that wraps up a really good race year for me and I'm glad this race helps me end it with a high note!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"They Changed The Course!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The expo for this race seemed a little empty this year -- the quality seems to degrade each year I've visited it. There was not a lot of vendors there to keep anyone around for long, so it was simply in-and-out to grab t-shirt and bib. I've always liked the shirts for this race, so thankfully they did not disappoint.

I hadn't paid too much attention to the weather until I found an poncho in my race pack. It was only then I realized how bad the race weather could turn out. ;-)

And it rained. It rained hard. When it was time to line up for the half marathon start, it rained even harder. I was wearing the poncho, but removed it just before we started. The road turned into a literal river and my shoes and socks were soaked through before I even started. For the first time while lining up for a race I seriously wished I'd stayed in bed. The media were reporting 400+ people did just that.

The race started and off we went. The rain kept coming down hard for the first 30 minutes or so and then became much lighter. To be honest, after the first mile or so the rain didn't bother me much at all. It's also something completely out of the control of race management.

This was my longest race distance since running a marathon back in March and working through an injury. I've always enjoyed running this race, but this year I did not like the course changes.

It felt like a lot of turnarounds had been introduced, and all within a single neighborhood area. I used to like this race because of the downtown city feel, but this felt more like a training run, running in my local neighborhood and trying to make up a few extra miles before heading home, in the rain.

I still recommend this race to others, because maybe if it was sunny and bright I may not have been annoyed as much with the course.

Usually the after-party is GREAT, but again, it just had a washed out feel this year because of the weather and no-one really wanted to hang around very long. I just grabbed my can of beer and took it home with me.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"Irish Castles and Cattle!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

What a beautiful location for a race.

Carlingford is a little village in Ireland, situated by the sea at the feet of mountains. There are old historic buildings and castles dotted throughout the narrow streets.

Parking is a challenge, as it's quite limited. Get there early, or find a spot on the road and be prepared to walk back into town.

The Half Marathon course is along the sea front for quite a few miles. The weather was overcast and the wind was blowing, but fortunately from behind for that whole stretch.

There is a few hills at the beginning of the race, but after that it's mostly flat.

There was 2-3 aid stations I think. They had water for sure. I don't remember there being any sports drink available.

The course was not closed to traffic, so the occasional car or tractor would dart in and out of the runners as it made it's way past. At no time did this feel unsafe. It was just different to what I was used to.

The scenery was amazing though. I just loved being there, and the race is large enough to have a bit of atmosphere and excitement around it.

I'm so glad the date fell in the time I was visiting Ireland. Yes, I don't mind running races while on vacation. ;-)

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"My first Half, and now my first Marathon!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

WHAT A DAY!

Well, it's obvious that the memories of pain and tiredness are starting to subside. It was probably a great idea waiting a day or two to review! ;-)

As the title says, I ran Tobacco Road Half Marathon last year, and it was my first half. That race was an amazing experience for me. Somehow I got talked into running the full marathon this year, and again the experience was amazing and so rewarding.

A lot of that can be attributed to how smoothly this race is executed. Everything from parking, pre-race coffee and snacks, plentiful porta-potties, aid stations, and post-race party -- it's top notch.

We arrived early to the race, around 5:15am, even as a coveted parking pass holder. There was a few grumbles from the team about that, but it good to get parked so close to the start line. We stayed in the car for a while and made a couple of trips to the port-a-potties. The longer you leave it, the longer the lines will get. :-)

We still had time for some pre-race photos. Coffee and some snacks (bananas, etc.) were available at this time if you needed them.

We started to line up around 6:45am. The start-line gets a little busy but with the army of pacers with signs in the air, it's easy to find where you should slide in.

The weather was perfect. It started off a little cold, but if I had worn anything other than shorts and short-sleeves I would have got too warm.

After the National Anthem under a huge American Flag, off we went. It was the first time I was running a race that I hadn't actually experienced the full distance yet. My training took me to 20 miles, so all I could think about was the remaining 6.

The half and the full race starts together and shares the road for 2.5 miles, at which point we hit the American Tobacco Trail. I live close to the trail and had run every section of the course many times. It's flat, tree-lined, and really nice, no matter what time of the year.

When the runners reached the trail, the half marathon turns left, while marathon turns right. Half marathon has an out and back and then back on the road to the finish line. The full marathon has an out and back, then also runs out and back on the half marathon trail section and then back on the road to the finish line.

The trail for the most part is hard packed gravel which makes it a bit easier on the joints.

There was aid stations every 2 miles or so with water and Gatorade. They also had plenty of GU gels available. I hadn't trained with GU, so I carried my own gels with me. There are also a number of porta-potties next to each aid station.

There was apparently some unofficial aid stations as well, set-up by neighborhoods connected to the trail. The Mimosa stand was the most intriguing. I really wanted to have some, but decided it wouldn't be a good idea. The 7hr sweeper would probably have caught up with me.

There is not a lot of spectators along the route, there is more at the various road crossings. I don't mind this too much as I'm fairly zoned out and listening to my marathon playlist. There are plenty of runners passing you due to the out-and-back nature of the course.

On finishing the race you get great medal, some water and a foil blanket to keep you warm. Then you can go pick up some pizza, chocolate milk, beer, oranges, bananas, etc. while listening to live music in the tent.

I pre-booked a massage at the Expo, so immediately after consuming some pizza I jumped the line (because I pre-paid) and had a massage. Yes! Another first for me.

After some more post-race photos we left for home and we'll all still talking about the experience.

I may not run the full next year, but I definitely want to run the half again and PR.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"Run for Chocolate!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I was excited to get to run this race again. 15K is a great distance to race, and Charlotte is a great city to race in.

The course runs out of the city and through many neighborhoods and eventually back into the city center. The after party location changed this year and it was much better. Plus the addition of hot food (tacos!).

The course it quite hilly -- it reminded of running in downtown Durham. The course changed this year making it slightly more hilly than last year.

I loved the race shirts for 2019. It was a black, zip-up hoodie.

The aid stations had plenty of water, nuun, and chocolate treats every 2-3 miles through the course. I wouldn't normally eat the chocolate on the way around, but this time I gave it a try. Not sure I'll do that again. It's best if I leave the chocolate consumption to the end.

Which brings me to the finishers mug. It's a cup of hot chocolate, plus some dipping chocolate and multiple treats to dip in it -- pretzels, banana, marshmallow, etc.

Charlotte is a great city to hang out in, so it's easy to make a weekend out of it.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.