Latest reviews by William Brent
The good: It really is a well put together event.
The bad: miles 6 through 8, and 21 through 24.
Registration / Pre-race Communication:
Registration was super simple. Most of my information was saved from previous registrations.
I was not inundated with communication leading up to the event.
I do feel that the event could have promoted its shake out run a little better.
Packet pick up
I was really happy to see that 2023 had an 'expo' feel.
2022 packet pick up was in a running store which had impossible parking and it was not convenient to walk to. The Dorrance was interestingly elegant and was easy to get to (by foot or public transport.)
So, 2023 was hot.
It certainly felt over 90 (my garmin read a max of 93)
I can't tell you 2024 will be any better, but 2022 was 73....
The topography (according to my garmin) looks flat and there is no topography on the website for reference. I remember from 2022 there is an interesting up hill at mile 3 and an uphill along the bike path at mile 5 but I completely forgot miles 6 through 8 is this bothersome uphill along a stretch of road. It was not closed to traffic (which I don't know how you would) but its just not great.
In 2022 we passed Rose Larrisa Park and went through this neat little community, but skipped it in 2023.
The loop around (the south side) of the country club is stunning and probably the best part of the run (plus its a nice down hill.)
I'm still not entirely sure why the last third of the race feels like the absolute worst. Its only 30 feet of climb, but it hurt.
I love volunteers, because the race would be really difficult without them.
That being said, the race director should teach the volunteers how to man the aid stations.
Coolers / Jugs go next to the tables not on, to make more room for the cups.
Stack cups with some card stock between them to get more on the table.
Don't overfill the cups.
please and thank you.
(this is a personal preference, not a rule, put the Gatorade/electrolyte beverage first)
Wide finish area; thank you volunteers with the towels!
I read there would be food and a finish festival...there was a DJ (super polite and engaging) and a few beer tents, there were some food trucks (three) on Francis street.
It was nice to relax ins the grass after the race... I guess it was a festival?
Would I recommend this.
In short, yes.
All in all this is a well put together race.
If the race director can review that section by Silver Spring Elementary school i think everyone would be happier!
I am a huge fan of the Hot Chocolate Series. I have run in person and virtual many times.
I have also directed races and understand some of the logistic challenges faced, that being said... this event was modified from its original duration because of weather,
The good: SWAG is always a plus. This year's Hoodie was great. The energy and support from the race staff/volunteers were great.
The bad: Parking in Philly close to race start is always...interesting. You are almost certainly paying for parking and almost certainly walking. There isn't much bad about the folks at Hot Chocolate, however with the weather there were a few complaints; mostly the 'merch tent' was kicking people out because it wasn't a shelter from the rain.
Signing up / Pre race communication: Part of the benefit of having run this race in the past is all my information is pre-populated. It was quick and painless to sign up. Communication from the race was tolerable. There was enough communication leading up to the race that I remembered the race was coming but not so much communication that I regretted signing up for the race.
Expo: Didn't go... Not complaining, but unless you live in Philadelphia you should have the packet mailed. The expo is about 4 hours the night before the race (no way for me to get there without taking the day off work), I would almost rather see a post race expo. Packet Pickup could be morning of and then all the sponsors and vendors could be in the finish festival area.
The Course: There are ample port-o-potties at the start. Thank you!
Running in Philly is generally fun; the course this year had the Schuylkill River on the left going out (Kelly Drive) which is probably easier to coordinate than on Martin Luther King Drive. This year, with the weather there was only 1 race. The 5K was stopped due to lightening about 2 minutes into the race.
Event Staff communicated what they could, when they could, and was
The 10K and the 15K were cancelled and the 5K was re-corralled and everyone went out on the same course. The 10K and 15K there should have been a bridge and a hill...but with the course shortening those were skipped.
Finish Medal was a little weak this year. I appreciate the shape of a chocolate bar and that the ribbon matched my bib. I shouldn't complain, but I did.
Finish Festival: Still had the hot chocolate! There were some sponsors who stuck out the rain (thank you Lidl)
Post race communication: They offered a discount because runners were impacted by the weather which is nice.
All in all, sign up, you'll be happy.
A few notes before the review:
Course Scenery was rated as a 5 of 5 but the better part of the race was done over night.
Aid stations were a 2 because they were not aid stations, there were exchange points, although the Ram Cat exchange point was also an aid station...and I thank them for that.
Overall, this is a must do event.
The Pro: you build comradery with others while takin
The Con: No cell service. Make sure you have a co-pilot who knows how to read directions.
Communication from the race director was good. I wasn't inundated with notes in my inbox, but I was provided the athlete guide and instructions with ample time to prepare for the race.
There wasn't an 'Expo" but the packet pick up process was nice. Low key, a couple of sponsors really nice scenery. Lunch was provided by the race which was nice!
Even though this is a 'trail' race, I didn't need 'trail running' shoes for this event. The terrain is similar to a bike path / rail trail consistency and there were no sharp inclines or declines.
I ran one segment through a tunnel which was both interesting and creepy.
I ran another segment through a state park which had other trails feeding into it which gave a Blair Witch feel...but I didn't feel lost
(okay, my first leg I felt lost because someone had drawn an arrow on the ground, but it wasn't the color of the race arrows and I didn't see anyone 'double back' on the course which is what would have happened if anyone followed the arrow...anyway the pitfall of a public access course...)
Starting so late in the day was a bit rough because you are forced/guaranteed to run overnight.
If the thought of running at night, in the woods, causes you to be a bit fearful, don't be. There were a surprising amount of course marshals? on course for safety. (They were volunteers on bikes and 4 wheelers patrolling the trails more than marshals) and I heard that there may be GPS tracking for course safety next year.
I generally run at night (not for 31 miles) because its convenient, and I've paced a friend of mine through an overnight race before, so I had an idea of what I was getting into; but it was a good experience and everyone was surprisingly pleasant.
The other thing I was anticipating was grueling up hill climbs. Thankfully there weren't any (on my legs?) There was one clear front runner for 'up hill' and that was the first mile of leg three. Otherwise, the course was mostly gradually uphill.
On Course support:
The exchange station volunteers were really nice. Ram Cat was the best stocked exchange station and I think the race would benefit from having some sort of 'vote for the best exchange point' in the future.
I would say the run is self supported. Bring your water and your nutrition because there isn't a full spread on course. IF you are a trial runner, then you are probably familiar with this. If you are a road runner, this will be shocking.
The Finish line:
It was as low key as the race. Not in a bad way though.
The volunteers were super pleasant and the location had great parking.
There wasn't s finish festival like you have at marathons or 'big name' events, but i think that would have seemed disingenuous.
No one brings a crowd like New York. There is something about the energy these spectators bring to an event.
The race directors put athlete safety at the forefront of their decision making.
The bad: I personally had some logistics challenges. All in all though, everything was resolved; BUT, unless you are in the metro area, its not logistically convenient to get to the ‘places’ (Keep reading if you thought ‘the bad’ was going to be about the Hudson.)
I wanted to love this race, and it was a really good race, but I think I had higher expectations that the race could deliver.
I was fortunate enough to have VIP entry, but I didn’t feel VIP until finish.
Packet pick up was not faster (for me) than if I were a regular P.
Very communicative and informative (seriously useful, not just advertising!)
Kudos to the race team for appropriate use of communication vehicles.
The race was also very active on social, and responsive!
YAY! An actual expo. Well, 8 vendors in a conference hall of a NYC hotel, but I’ll take it.
Free coffee! (YAY!)
There were race sponsors and some last minute essentials. I think gone are the days of wall to wall vendors, but this was nice.
The athlete briefing (which was necessary) could have been completed through a Facebook live (or similar) video, rather than requiring everyone to sit in a briefing hall for 30 – 60 min.
I understand that two things are true:
Not everyone has ‘Facebook’ so an in person option makes race information accessible for all.
By requiring the in person briefing, the race can ‘ensure’ that everyone hears the same message.
I’ve heard the briefing and participated in a lot of races. I don’t feel that I learned anything new, but I appreciate that the event staff want to ensure they are ensuring athlete safety.
Similar to IM races, NYC Tri does not permit morning of bike docking.
They permit you into transition so that you can drop off any last minute items.
I personally found this a bit stressful. They hydrogel I use shouldn’t be made in advance… and it was 103 degrees, SO I opted to bring everything in the morning.
During the briefing it was communicated that only a clear bag can be brought to transition, which was additionally stressful because I have everything in my race bag, then making sure I transfer it tot he clear bag.
I appreciate the safety aspect, but I also have a system lol.
The nice part about all of this was I could have spent all day walking back and forth to transition to make sure everything was ‘just right’
Race Morning thoughts:
The window to enter and be in transition was a bit narrow, but at the same time appropriate. I was able to set up everything, fill my bottles, double check, get a picture etc.
The Solutions tent was near the start line which makes and abundance of logistical sense. I would have LOVED a solutions tent near transition, or the athlete village. I needed the solutions tent which is why I am so passionate about placement, but I’ve also been part of setting up races, and where it was located made sense.
The swim was in the Hudson. The Hudson is a river in a MAJOR metropolitan area. THE metropolitan area (if I may be so bold.) THAT being said, the water wasn’t as bad as you would think.
Yes there were things floating in the water.
Yes my white tri suit was brown.
No I wouldn’t do it again.
Yes, if you’ve never done it before, just do it.
There was so much support in the water. It was actually impressive. This, alone, is a reason to opt in for this race in the future.
The athlete village layout and the distance from the start was interesting. I would like to see 2 things:
Athlete Village / restrooms closer to start
IF the whole village isn’t able to move, there should be a VIP area closer to the race start.
DISCLAIMER there was really only a short distance between athlete village and start; however, I feel that if they were closer, I would have felt more at ease has I not needed to walk back and forth…
Transition was no issue.
Bike course was no issue, no hydration stops, but that was expressly communicated.
The run course started on a hill, which didn’t feel like it stopped until the finish line.
Great support (water stops).
Its NYC, great support from the crowd.
As indicated earlier, I was a VIP, and the finish area for VIPS was really nice.
Private bathrooms (the kind that look like a trailer and are really similar to a real potty…not the blue ones you see at construction sites or race starts….)
Free coffee (thank you ladies)
wonderful spread of food.
Most definitely a step up from a traditional ‘finish festival’
I was tempted to walk over to the regular finish line festival, but at the same time I was happy in my not crowded VIP area.
Getting back to transition to get my bike was the next obstacle I needed to tackle.
The race advertised shuttles and one person seemed to know where they were.
No one else.
The volunteers (while enthusiastic and generally helpful) pointed in a random direction which lead out of the park.
By the time I was able to get the website up and see that the shuttles were on 67th street I was on 77th and closer to the subway (which worked out because the ‘C’ train left me closer to where I parked my car.)
Another recommendation, have signs which read “transition shuttles’ so the athletes can locate them easier. Or (if possible) have a dedicated VIP one?
Collecting my things and exiting transition was no sweat, and they were validating wrist bands with bike numbers, so all was good there also.
In summery, I would recommend doing this race at least once.
If you’re local, do it every year.
The good: there was a ton of course support! 18 aid stations on the marathon course!
The bad: I think the course map could have been more detailed.
The ugly: you wouldn't think there were as many hills in the ocean state... but there were a few painfully placed hills.
Registration was a breeze, as usual.
As a side note; I really liked the ability to have an early start (for walkers or runners who need to take a bit more time)
Communication from race management was adequate. The only complaint I had was the precise start line was not provided.
I found it (obviously) but usually the cross streets, or a landmark is provided. All the instructions read "downtown"
I didn't feel there was a ton of hype leading up to the race though. A few other races send out a training update or a monthly reminder. Those aren't necessary, but are nice to have.
There was no expo, which isn't necessary. Generally I don't have enough time to go to the expo. Packet pick up was at a local running store, but parking at the store was a bear. The running store was surprisingly spacious and everyone was pleasant.
Race morning was well organized and there were plenty of port-o-johns
Parking for free was non existing, but you could get right up to the start line and then have access to shops and restaurants along the way.
I think the highlight was there were 18 aid stations on course! Unheard of!
Despite the run being largely on a bike path, there was a ton of crowd support.
The hills though... the hills.....
I didn't realize the ocean state was going to be so hilly. To be honest it wasn't as bad as New York...but the placement of the inclines were painful.
I recommend this race to anyone who wants a surprising challenge In a very scenic location.