Latest reviews by Jennifer Thiel

(2019)
"Love the course and it was very pregnant runner friendly!"
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Disclaimer: I received free entry to Hot Chocolate 15k Minneapolis race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This was my first time running the Hot Chocolate 15K and I ran it while 24 weeks pregnant (so the course felt a little bit tougher than it would have if I wasn't pregnant). I love the course it's run on (very similar to the Hot Dash 10 Mile in March) and it has been a favorite area to run in for marathon training runs. It's a gorgeous way to see Minneapolis even when it's still snowy in April (as it was for the 2019 race. But be prepared for some hills!

I enjoyed having Nuun on course since it sits a lot better than Gatorade or Powerade in my stomach, it was mixed a little strong and was sweeter than how I like my Nuun. I also appreciated the M&Ms at the second water stop even though I had to carry a little cup since there were more than I could eat in one go. Luckily I had a pocket I could store the plastic cup in until I passed by a recycling bin instead of creating garbage along a running path I love.

Port-a-potties were plentiful at the start/finish plus along the course, I didn't have to wait for one to open up either time I needed to make a stop. Which usually doesn't happen during a race for me but being pregnant, I have less room for my bladder so I was very happy with that.

Even with the amount of runners and there being a large out and back section, I didn't feel course crowding at all. I did run/walk intervals (6 minutes running, 30 seconds running plus some additional walk breaks up some hills) and I never felt like I was in someone's way when I started my walking (after moving off to the site and throwing up a hand so others would know).

We had to walk a bit from the finish line to the party area, which I wasn't surprised at since it's similar for Twin Cities in Motion's Hot Dash. It wouldn't have been a great walk if it was cold but I was warmed up enough from running 15K. I was really excited about the chocolate treats which (what I ate of them) was pretty good. We didn't spend much time at the post-race party because I was pretty exhausted and there wasn't a ton to do besides picking up chocolate goodies, the Hot Chocolate race store and some photo opportunity stops. I loved the Honeystinger waffle (first time trying it and it was delicious dipped in chocolate and it was the perfect temperature outside to drink hot chocolate. I ate the rice crispy treat and marshmallow also in my bowl on the walk back to the car but the melted chocolate hardened halfway back (not surprising since it was right around freezing).

I also loved that they have free race photos. My husband does come along to be my race photographer but it is nice to have some finish line photos without paying a huge extra amount for them. They aren't the best photos but it's because I was pretty worn out by the end (again, 24 weeks pregnant) and didn't have a ton of energy. But I ran across the finish line and have photographic proof of that!

One thing I was disappointed in was the amount of paying for parking we had to do (and finding out where to park). The expo was held in downtown Minneapolis at a hotel with no option for day of packet pickup, which they did recommend parking at the hotel but it was $7. I opted to park at a nearby ramp and pay $3. Especially since the expo was so small I spent about 20 minutes altogether from entering the ramp to exiting. It would have been nice for the option for day-of packet pickup (although you can have the option of paying for it be mailed) since April can still have bad weather in Minnesota (the first day of the expo was a day all schools in the area were closed due to snow and driving conditions weren't great most of the day with snow/sleet/hail).

Day of parking would have been easier if they suggested a couple of close parking lots to the race start but instead, they just linked the Minneapolis parking website which is overwhelming to try and find a parking lot on a mobile device. It wasn't too bad since we know the area but we did have to find a different parking lot last minute since the one we entered an address in for didn't seem to exist (Google took us to a residential area).

One last thing I do want to give a plus for on this race is that it's dog spectator-friendly (just don't share your treats with them). We brought our beagle-mix Vinnie along and he had a ton of fun watching the runners, getting all the pets and getting in some exercise by walking around until I got close to the finish line. It was also spectator-friendly for my husband who was easily able to take photos at the start and right before the end.

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(2018)
"Fun winter race in February (even when it's below zero!)"
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This was my second time runing this race (first time was in 2015) and both times have been sub-zero temperatures. Which, you have to expect when you run a race in February in Minnesota. But, the years I didn't run it were above freezing so make sure you know how to layer properly.

The one downside to this race was there isn’t a ton of parking close by and the roads were pretty busy. We were about 20 minutes away from race start when my huband decided to drop me off and go find street parking. So I had a short, two minute walk to the starting area but we had to walk about 1/4 mile back to the car afterwards which isn't as great when it's subzero.

I love running the lakes in the Twin Cities but I'd never run around Lake Nokomis before this race, just past it on the trails connecting all the lakes.Since it was February, there wasn't a whole lot to see besides snow and the other runners but that was ok with me. It's a nice, flat course which made it perfect for 5K PR run! It's a flat, single loop around the lake with about 11 feet of elevation gain so it's great for a winter PR or just to break up the witner running blues with a great race.

The volunteers and staff are (as always) so awesome for Twin Cities in Motion races and they get extra props for standing out in that cold weather and being awesome support crews. There's not a ton of spectator support (again, February in Minnesota) but the course volunteers were so motivating and cheerful. The race announcer was giving out fun Valnetine's Day facts and cheering on racers as they finished, you wouldn't have guessed how cold it was by how warm eharted everyone was.

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(2018)
"Hilly half"
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This was my second time running the Stillwater Half and I just lvoe this small race! The course, starting out on the Gateway Trail, is gorgeous but hilly (my least favorite part is the double hill out on the highway). Since most of the course is along the Gateway Trail, there isn't a lot of spactator support and it's harder for family and friends to see you at multiple points during the race.

You do get a discounted brunch buffet at the Water Street Inn but the one year we did that we weren't too impressed with it. Not the race's fault but after running a hilly half I was expecting a little bit better quality of food.

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(2018)
"Great smal town race"
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I ran this as my second marathon since I was looking for a spring marathon within driving distance of the Twin Cities. It made for a perfect weekend getaway for me and my husband (who spectating the entire marathon via bike). The course was challenging at times when there was less crowd support but my fellow runners and the pacers helped me push through. The Blugold Mile is an experience and is the perfect spot for when you need that final push to the end.

I loved that, leading up to the race, the race organizers held mulitple Facebook and Instagram Live sessions to answer questions which was perfect for someone traveling to the race. It was a gorgeous course and I cannot wait to come back again!

Read my entire race recap at oatmealrunner.com/blog/2018/5/9/how-i-prd-at-my-second-marathon-by-seven-minutes-eau-claire-marathon-recap

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(2017)
"Best possible choice for a first marathon!"
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I've run multiple races with Twin Cities in Motion so of course I decdied to run my first marathon with them! I love that they do a special Facebook group for that year's first time marathoners and a newsletter with training tips. It was a great way to keep motivated over the months of training. Plus, when I crossed the finish line, one of the Twin Cities in Motion staff members reconized me as part of the first timer groups and gave me my medal and congratulated me for finishing my first marathon.

Since I live locally, I ran parts of the course on a regular basis so I felt confident on what was coming up. Even though there was rain and wind for the second half of my race (I finished in just over five hours), the volunteers were awesome and so were the crowds that came out. It's a gorgeous way to see Minneapolis and St. Paul. Usually the weather is gorgeous fall (and you get the leaves changing colors as well).

The rolled out an app for the marathon this year, which you could track runners and find all the race weekend information. It worked really well and I'm glad to see they have an app for all their races in one place now!

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