Latest reviews by Becky Clayton
Wow, where do I begin?! It has been a whirlwind of an adventure over the last week. I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of Hubs, the Angry First Grader (AFG), and my in-laws. We had a few bumps in the road, but we made it and had an unforgettable time as a family.
We left our house around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 18, 2020 to drive to Hub’s parents’ house so that we could park our car there (thank you!) and they could bring us to the Philadelphia International Airport for a 9:31 a.m. flight to Orlando. The AFG is such an amazing traveler by now that she didn’t complain whatsoever on the way there.
Near our gate we found this Short Story Dispenser, which was wicked neat! You could pick between a 1-, 3-, or 5-minute story. While we were waiting for our flight, after I read my short story, I ran a mile near our boarding gate to continue my run streak.
We boarded our flight on time, Hubs endured my death grip on his hand, and I listened to my Marathon playlist the entire way via my awesome AfterShokz Aeropex to try and distract myself. The AFG had a blast taking pictures with her digital camera that she got for Christmas/this trip.
We landed around noon, and as quickly as we could, we lugged our belongings to the rental car area. As much as I want to complain about the Philly airport, the Orlando airport is now the bane of my existence for several that I’ll get into later. We had a little trouble with our rental car, but we finally secured a ride and started off on the 6+ hour journey down to Key West.
It was an uneventful, long ride, Hubs did the majority of the driving, the AFG did everything in her power to stay awake until the last possible second when she crashed hard, and we made it to the Fairfield Inn & Suites Key West around 10 p.m. We had been traveling for approximately 12 hours. Phew!
Thank goodness fellow BibRave Pro Didi had picked up my race bib and shirt on Friday, because we didn’t make it to Key West in time for packet pick up on Saturday, and I get nervous about race-day packet pick up. I would have of course done that if I had to, but thanks to Didi, I didn’t! Didi also secured us a taxi on race morning to take us to the start, and we planned to meet in the hotel lobby around 5:30 a.m. You’re the best, Didi! In our bags we received our bib with tags for a raffle, bag-check option, and 2-for-1 drinks at Turtle Kraals after the race. We also received a very nice short-sleeve, zip-up women’s fit shirt.
I laid out my Flat Becky* for the evening, set my alarm for 5:15 a.m., and quickly went to bed. I woke up a few times throughout the night, like I’m wont to do when I’m nervous that my alarm won’t go off for some reason. But overall I slept fairly well.
*I had my new BibRave tank top, BibRave buff, AfterShokz Aeropex, Garmin watch, and my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro, to name a few items. I also had a Toasted Marshmallow Gu, a Sea Salt Chocolate Gu, and a Tutti Fruitti Gu.
I somehow amazingly got up, dressed, and out the door without waking up Hubs or the AFG! That has been my plan on other race trips, but I’ve never done it successfully before. I met Didi in the lobby, where she said our taxi was ready. I love meeting fellow runners, and Didi was so sweet! We chatted on the way to the race start, and our ride was less than 4 miles there. We used the bathroom at Turtle Kraals, walked around the expo area to kill time, Didi grabbed a coffee from the Cuban Coffee Queen, and we found a cute selfie sign. I would have loved to try the coffee there too, but I was nervous about having to use the bathroom before/during the race.
The expo itself, which consisted of a few pop-up tents, had the usual offerings of shirts, stickers, and the like. They had a DJ, porta-potties, and it looked like race-day packet pick up started around 6:30 a.m. instead of an hour earlier like it was supposed to. I’m sure everyone got their bibs successfully though and all was well.
We texted BibRave Pro Ashley to see where she was as we walked to the race start. We thought we were at the start near the Cuban Coffee Queen, but we weren’t. We walked about a block with everyone else to the start. She somehow found us in the sea of people, so we took a quick picture and talked about race goals. I knew my average is somewhere around 02:30, but with the heat, the hallux rigidus in my right big toe, and the gorgeous scenery, I didn’t have an actual race goal in mind. We started right around 7 a.m., and as I separated from Didi and Ashley, I wished them happy racing!
This course was flat (except going toward the first turnaround, but even then the elevation is nothing compared to other parts of the country), fast, and loops out and back twice. You mostly ran on road surfaces, but you also ran on a couple small bridges too. The first turn around was after Mile 6, and the second was at Mile 10 out and back on a pier. The volunteers helped steered the 5K runners in the correct direction, and the 5K started a bit later than the half (7:15 a.m.), which was nice.
I felt like the water stops and porta-potty locations were ample, and the volunteers were all very friendly and helpful! The spectators were spaced out well and gave me the extra oomph I needed in certain sections as the temperature rose. I consistently tried to thank volunteers and police officers on course.
I was surprised to see Mile Marker 0 (“90 Miles to Cuba”) so early in the race (just after Mile 1), but I couldn’t pass up the chance to take a quick selfie. We ran along the water for the majority of the race, which was beautiful. The course takes you past Higgs Beach and Smathers Beach in particular; we have a painting of Smathers Beach in our upstairs bathroom from when Hubs and I came to Key West for our honeymoon, so that part of the course was extra special to me.
In terms of aid stations, each offered water, orange Gatorade, and Honey Stinger gels. Since I knew it would be so hot out, I filled my hydration pack with Tropical nuun and ended up having to refill the bladder once with water at an aid station.
I took walk breaks when needed, enjoyed the scenery, cheered on other runners, and chatted with folks here and there. My finishing time was 02:36:10 with an average pace of 11:55 per minute. I finished 1,085 out of 1,878 runners.
Just before hitting the finish line, I looked at the woman next to me and asked if she wanted to race it in. She said yes, and we charged for the finish. I came in just before her, and we both congratulated each other. If I’m reading the race results page correctly, it looks like she lives in Wilmington, DE, which is wicked cool!
As I walked through the finishing area, I saw a spread of food that included the usual bananas, bagels, and so on, but I also saw corn bread, granola bars, and muffins. I actually didn’t grab anything, because I knew we needed to hit the road from Key West to Orlando right away. I did snag two cups of Ultima orange drink, which tasted great.
The race medal is stunning, communication via email and the Facebook page is superb, and I had a blast starting off our family vacation in Florida with the Key West Half Marathon!
If you’re in the area or want to get away from the cold temps in January, I highly recommend this race!
Where, oh where, do I start with a recap of the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half marathon, which took place on Sunday, September 15 this year?!
My family and I were going to hike up to Philly the Friday before the race to attend the race expo; however, the day before, I messaged the organization on Facebook to see if there was any way that I could opt for a race-day packet pick-up. Lo and behold, they said no problem! I was wicked impressed by A) their very prompt response B) that they didn’t say no and C) that they even helped me decide how to get there on race day (walk from my hotel).
Their Facebook page was extremely helpful leading up to the race—with information, pictures, videos, and general excitement—and even after the race with 2020 race registration information. They also provided details about how to obtain race photos via FinisherPix.
Since we didn’t have to go into Philly before the race, I was able to attend a Girl Scout apple-picking event on Saturday morning with the Angry—wait!—I guess she’s the Angry First Grader (AFG) now, sheesh. We had a blast, and it was nice to walk around the orchard for a bit. The downside was that I wasn’t able to meet up with any of my fellow BibRave Pros that were attending the race. I’m sorry, guys!
After we got home from apple picking, we loaded our bags in the car and drove the hour and a half to Philly to reach the Bellevue Hotel at 200 S. Broad Street. Since we booked our hotel room insanely last minute, we were only able to secure a king bed. We brought an inflatable mattress for the AFG, hoping for the best. (She tends to have trouble going to sleep at night, but once she’s asleep, she usually sleeps like a rock.) Thankfully, Hubs to the rescue, because he set up a little fort for her in the corner.
As we checked in, the front-desk rep, Steve, said with a wide smile that we had been upgraded. He also said that I should run the race for him, which I proudly said I would. He was so nice, and check-in was flawless. Oh, did I mention that we got an awesome UPGRADE?! Our room was magnificent! It was spacious, had its own bar and balcony, had a huge-screen TV, and even had one of those white embossed robes in the closet. It also conveniently had a ton of USB charger spots. If you’re anything like me, you need to charge your cell phone, Garmin, and Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless headphones the night before a race!
Since we got into Philly around dinner time, our next question after we settled into our hotel room was of course where to have a pre-race dinner. We (I was) were exhausted and hungry, and there was a The Cheesecake Factory mere yards from the hotel, so we decided on that. I went for the gusto and got a Macaroni and Cheese Burger. Heaven in a bun, I tell ya! I need to learn to not eat such “heavy” foods the night before a race, but this was just too good to pass up.
We rolled our(full)selves back to the hotel and got in bed around 9 p.m. While that’s normally very early for me, I knew I had to get up around 5:45 a.m. the next morning and tried to make the best of it. I woke up a few times to check the time on my cell phone (because I’m always nervous that my alarm will malfunction or something equally as ridiculous).
On Sunday morning, I shut my alarm off just before 5:45 and tried to get out of bed as quietly as I could. My plan was originally to get dressed and sneak out of the room before Hubs and the AFG woke up so that they could sleep in a little bit and meet me at the finish line. Oh the best laid plans—right?! No sooner had I made it into the bathroom than the AFG walked in and said she had to go to the bathroom. At that point, I could tell she was wide awake and not going back to sleep. Hubs could sense it too, so we decided to all get ready quickly and walk to the start line, which was about a mile away from the hotel. We ended up leaving the hotel room at an impressive time of 6:07 a.m.
In retrospect, I’m glad that they did walk with me, because I’m not sure that I would have made it on my own, and I was a little nervous to walk the Philly streets that early by myself. I was a C-R-A-B during that walk—filled with pre-race jitters and who knows what. I apologize profusely to Hubs. Thank you for dealing with my crazy!
The walk itself was half pretty, half eye-opening. The pretty parts were walking past statues and water fountains. The eye-opening part was the fact that the homeless population seemed to be so prominent in the area. I used to work around Market Street back in the day, and I don’t remember it being quite so noticeable.
We walked through Love Park, which of course is iconic. It was all a little bit of a blur, because I was so nervous about finding the Solutions tent where I was to pick up my bib and to find my corral. I had never been in a large enough race where I was assigned a corral, but my experience at this race was stellar! We had to stop to ask where the Solutions tent was, but once we found it, it literally took me less than a minute to get my bib. The line was short, the volunteers were fabulous, and everything went very smoothly. The only thing I was disappointed about was that since I got my bib on race day, I didn’t get the race shirt or anything else that came in the bag that runners received at the expo. Bummer!
I was in Corral 15, which was one of the lat corrals. Thankfully, they were all very well marked, so we found it quite easily. We made a porta-potty stop before heading over to the corral. The line moved quickly, and we didn’t have to wait very long.
The announcer notified all runners to be in their respective corrals no later than 7:15 a.m., so I kissed Hubs and the AFG good bye. I felt bad, because there wasn’t a ton to do in the area so early in the morning, plus the AFG was already losing steam from getting up so late. They ended up walking back to the hotel to stay there until it was time to walk the thirty-ish minutes back to meet me at the finish line.
I had posted a start-line picture on Facebook, and my friend Chrissy (who I knew was going to be at the race) said that she was in the corral behind me! We met up for a quick picture and to catch up for a few minutes. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half had been her first half marathon back in 2012. She confirmed my suspicions that since we were both in later corrals, we wouldn’t actually start the race until fifteen minutes or so after the race officially started at 7:30 a.m.
The announcer was an absolute riot—she had so much energy, and I don’t know how she had a voice left after even ten minutes of announcing the corral starts. She did a great job to fire up the crowd and announce when each corral would start the race. Even though the race is rather large, the corrals weren’t wicked crowded, which I really liked. At one point, the announcer asked who was doing the Remix Challenge, and a woman in front of me cheered and raised her hand. I give her so much credit for running a 5K before this half. Humana used to hold the 5K on a Saturday and the half on a Sunday, but for this particular race, all distances raced on Sunday this year.
But the absolute best part of being in my corral was that I got to see THE Des Linden sprinting toward the finish line! I was so excited and in awe that I didn’t think to snap a picture or take a video. I literally got goose bumps and immediately texted Hubs and the other BibRave Pros at the race.
Once our corral crossed the start line, it was go time! I first started listening to the Marathon Training Academy (MTA) podcast episode about marathon fueling. It was an interesting episode, and I know for certain I take the whole “carb-loading” concept overboard and also maybe fuel too much during my races. For this race, I had recently purchased a variety pack of Gu gels and posted about it on social media.
The resounding answer to my, “So what Gu should I use at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly half?” question that I posed was surprisingly the Lemonade flavor! I ended up packing the Cold Brew Coffee, Lemonade, and Pineapple flavors. I ended up taking the Cold Brew Coffee around Mile 4 and the Lemonade around Mile 8. I didn’t think I needed a third gel around Mile 12, so I saved the Pineapple for another day. I have to say that I think I need to find another fuel that isn’t so sweet. I’m a Gu-lovah for life, but lately, my palate has changed, because all sweet gels are not appealing to me. I was honestly hoping that the Cold Brew Coffee brew would be almost bitter, but it wasn’t. And I had the same hope for the Lemonade, but it was still a bit too sweet for my taste.
I did encounter some difficulties along the way, most of which were unavoidable:
After the MTA episode was done, I just wasn’t feeling any other podcasts. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t concentrate. Instead, I ran with music for most of the race, which is very unusual for me. I had a handful of songs on a particular playlist that I just kept on shuffle. I tried to stay in the moment and not let negative thoughts crowd my brain, but it was tough to stay positive with the sun and humidity.
Oh, did I mention the weather?! It was humid. And hot. And humid. Bleh. I now remember why I prefer to race in the fall and winter months!
I also had a wardrobe malfunction of sorts where my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro started leaking. As in, the entire front and side of my shirt was soaked less than a few miles into the race. At one point I had to stop running completely, pull off to the side, and undo the tube that goes on the hydration bladder so that the leaking would stop. That meant I couldn’t drink from it though, which was a pain. I don’t mind stopping at water stops, but when I’m thirsty during a race, there’s nothing worse than not seeing a water stop in sight. I ended up taking multiple cups of water at each stop, and even some sports drink that I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Most of the liquids offered on course were luke warm. I don’t have a solution for this, and I know it’s nearly impossible to offer cold water, but I started almost feeling nauseous at one point. It’s probably my own fault, because I’m sure I drank way more water that I actually needed.
May I vent? Have runners never heard of keeping their gel packets after they take them instead of throwing trash on the ground?! I always keep my “empties” and save them until I can get to a trash can. Seriously, runners. Please pick up after yourselves!
My Garmin was possessed in spots, because at times my pace appeared to be very slow. I think it’s because the GPS signal was weak (?) at times. It was a little disconcerting though to look down and see a pace that is slower than my normal walking pace! It was also a few tenths of a mile off in distance, so my Garmin would beep at me that I completed a mile before I actually hit the mile marker on course.
I will say that this race has some very good qualities:
Overall the course was flat. There were some slight uphills, but none ever seemed like actual hills. According to my Garmin, the elevation gain was 338 feet, and the elevation loss was 332 feet.
The volunteers were amazing and motivational. Everyone was friendly, accommodating, and cheerful. I made sure to yell out a “thank you!” to everyone I came in contact with.
The aid stations and porta-potties were plentiful. Even though it felt like mentally they were very far apart, the course was well stocked. I thought about using a porta-potty a few times during the race, but I was able to hold off until after I finished.
I loved the soft pretzels and COLD chocolate milk at the finish!
You can tell by my time splits that I was ready to finish this race toward the end. My 5K time was about average for me if I’m not racing the distance. I can plod along at an 11-something pace fairly easily most days. Around Miles 11–12 was when I just wanted the race to end, and the last mile or so was nearly my fastest of the entire race except for the beginning! I tend to be able to muster up some energy to sprint to the sweet, sweet finish line.
Sadly, Hubs and the AFG did not see me cross the finish line, because I erroneously told them that the start line was the same as the finish line. Whoops!
After I crossed the finish line, I got my medal and went over to the finish-line picture area where professional photographers from FinisherPix were taking people’s pictures. I got a picture and then proceeded toward the food area. If you’ve read my race reviews in the past, you know I’m a sucker for a good soft pretzel. Philly did not disappoint! The AFG snagged one from me, but I was able to grab another, along with a family picture together and an ice-cold chocolate milk. Yum!
The Hubs is the MAN, because he brought my OOFOS Ooahh Project Pink Sports Sandals for me to slip into immediately after the race. Oofos will donate 3% of sales to the breast cancer research team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston!
That wraps up another half for me! I would highly recommend this race, but particularly if September would cooperate and be just a smidge cooler than it was this year.
As I typically do, I’ll sum up this race recap in three phrases—slowwwww, pseudo hills, and rain! I ran the Delaware Marathon Running Festival full on Sunday, April 28, 2019. I ran the half back in 2017 (read my race recap here), so I thought I knew what to expect. I almost miss having this race traditionally on Mother’s Day, but hey, now I can sleep in this year!
I had been weather-stalking for at least four days before the race, and as is typical of Delaware weather in April, it rained a ton several days before the race. In past years, the race expo has been outside at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, but Corrigan Races finally smartened up and starting holding the expo indoors at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Downtown Wilmington. My mom was in town visiting from New Hampshire (hi, Mom!), so hubs, the AK, my mom, and I all went to the expo on Saturday morning around 11:30 a.m. Since the expo was so spread out across the park in years past, I didn’t know how it would feel in a hotel setting.
It was very small but efficient in terms of getting my bib and shirt quickly. And the long-sleeve Under Armour tech shirt is awesome quality! Corrigan had to change the shirt colors rather close to race day for some reason, so I’m a little bummed that this is a white shirt (because I’m accident prone and already spilled ice cream on it, whoops!), but hey, I can’t complain there! The fact that I even knew that goes to show that the race communication was on point. Kudos to Corrigan there!
I didn’t purchase anything at the expo, although I would have if I had seen any nuun or GU available. I unfortunately got there much earlier than the other BibRave Pros, so I didn’t get to meet anyone pre-race
I did, however, love the fact that they had a professional photographer at the race expo taking pictures for FREE! You could sign up before the race to receive a notification via email or text when your free photos were available, and I definitely took advantage of that.
After the expo, we went to the Brandywine Zoo for a little bit too, which was fun. (The AK got to brush a goat!)
The night before the race, we had some delicious pesto chicken pasta courtesy of hubs, I laid out my not-so-flat runner, and I went to bed around 10 p.m. I of course had my BibRave t-shirt and visor ready, my Brooks Ghost 11s, my Feetures socks (not my lucky orange ones, because for the life of me I couldn’t find them), my Handful The Closer bra, my AfterShokz Trekz Air wireless headphones, and my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro.
Hubs and I woke up on race morning around 4:30 a.m. We tip-toed downstairs so as to not wake up my mom or the AK, got ready, and were out the door miraculously by about 5:15 a.m. (I told hubs the night before that we should leave around 5:30 a.m.) I wanted to get there no later than thirty minutes before race start, and we had the typical hour-long drive into Wilmington. I also wasn’t sure how close we could get to the race start in terms of street parking, so I’m glad we left a little bit earlier than planned.
We didn’t hit any traffic on the way into Wilmington, but we did experience the massive road closures in the city due to the race. We ended up parking not far from the DoubleTree and walked to Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park. I was so glad that I brought my BibRave hoodie with me, because I was shivering and cold as we walked to the start, despite it being 55 degrees. (Am I no longer of hearty New England ilk?!)
I of course found a porta-potty right away, and then we walked around the park a little bit. I wanted to take a picture in front of the Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty inflatable beer car (life goal complete!) and a picture at the race start. (Now that I write this post, I realize that I’ve been calling it Slighty Mighty this whole time hah!)
I lined up around the 11-minute marker sign at the start, but soon realized that I had to throw that theory out the window as everyone started inching toward the timing mats. I don’t typically use a pacer, but I noticed that this race didn’t have any pacers whatsoever, which I thought was different.
I think this was probably the most packed race start I’ve ever been in. It was more than elbow to elbow, and no one really seemed to care about personal space. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long for the race to start, and off we went.
The race itself was a bit of a mind $#^@#$^ for several reasons:
1) I thought I would see markers distinctly for the half marathoners versus the full marathoners, which I didn’t unless I missed them somehow. I did check out the course map before the race, but I’m horrible at reading maps haha. I’m not sure what I expected, but I just didn’t feel confident at times about being where I was supposed to be.
2) Several times I said to myself, “If I have to go out and back and go up that hill going back, then there will be a lot of walking involved.” But yet the course didn’t seem to take me back the way I thought I would go—unless I just didn’t realize it?!
3) Around the half-way point, you literally see the finish line where the half marathoners turn left to finish, but I had to turn right. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “If I had just turned left, I would have been done! Who would know?!”
4) It started to rain around Mile 15 or 16, and it didn’t stop for quite some time. I’ve never run a long-distance race in the rain before, so I think I got into a negative head space because of it.
5) For whatever reason I feel like I walked more during this marathon than any other prior. I’m all for walking, but I know I walked during flat portions when I could have easily run. Maybe it just wasn’t my day!
However, I did really love the fact that the course takes you through several types of terrains/areas, including along the riverfront, residential pavement (with gorgeous houses), by the Brandywine Zoo, on a very shaky wooden bridge (hello near-vertigo), on a longer wooden bridge, and shaded, paved trails.
One highlight of the race was seeing BibRave Pro Katie on course and being able to stop and take a picture! I look like a crazy person in the picture because of the angle, but Katie was looking strong! We were also very matchy-matchy with our AfterShokz, BibRave Gear, and Orange Mud vests!
During the race, I listed to several running podcasts including Another Mother Runner, Runner Girls Podcast, and of course the BibRave Podcast. I faithfully took my GUs every four miles, and I know I drank more water than I truly needed. The aid stations were well stocked, and the volunteers were super friendly.
I wanted to finish in under 5:30, which I did. I came in at 05:27:51, with an average pace of 12:31. I’m very proud of completing my fifth full marathon, and I’d love to return to this race next year with a better mental game.
To sum things up, here are my pros and cons from this race:
-FREE race photos at the expo, during the race, and post-race
-Excellent aid stations
-Stellar race communication via email and on the website
-Small expo that didn’t offer much besides clothing
-Because I’m a back-of-the-packer, the post-race food was disappointing—I grabbed a bag of chips and a Slightly Mighty . . . that’s all that was left aside from some fruit
I’m going to sum up the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon & 8K on Sunday, April 14, 2019 into three phrases–small bladder (not my own), nuun (yay!), and Orange Family.
My little family and I decided to make a weekend out of this event, since I had never run in New Jersey before, and the race was a good two-and-a-half-hour drive from our home in Delaware. I had been weather-stalking (new verb, right?) all week, and I was nervous that we’d have rain on race day. I’ve never really run in a downpour for a race before, but all I could do was hope for the best!
We booked a room at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, which was the recommended hotel on the race website for that Saturday night, and I was hoping to leave the house by around 9:30 a.m. EST or so to get to the race expo around 12 or 12:30 to meet up with fellow BibRave Pros Miles and Lacey (my “Orange Family”). I had never met another BibRave Pro in person before, so I was both nervous and excited!
We ended up getting a later start than planned, but thankfully the ride itself was uneventful aside from some on-and-off rain. We drove straight to the expo, which was at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on the Rutgers University Busch Campus. As we walked up to the building, I thought it was neat to see volley ball players. The rain had stopped quite some time ago, and it really felt like summer!
BibRave Pro Miles had already left the expo, but Lacey was still there, so we were able to connect in the lobby to say hi! She’s so down-to-earth and sweet. I hope to see her again at a future race! We talked about race-day strategies and what the expo had to offer. Miles was staying at the same hotel that we were, so I knew I’d have another chance to meet up and say hi likely before the race.
The expo itself was in a small gym-type area. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I didn’t have anything in mind that I really wanted to purchase. However, we did end up buying the Angry Kindergartner (AK) some nuun Sport Strawberry Lemonade of her own (because it’s all the rage with the Kinders, y’know) along with nuun Mango Orange, which I had never tried before. I also snagged the new Hoppy Trails GU. I’m not a huge beer fan, and this flavor doesn’t entirely intrigue me, but I wanted to try it never the less.
I also won a Rutgers pom pom hat by spinning a wheel. Standing in line to spin the wheel ate up the majority of the time that we were there. We stayed for maybe thirty minutes and decided to check into the hotel next.
After spying the pool at the expo, all the AK could talk about was going swimming (even though she doesn’t know how), so we checked into the Hyatt, quickly put our stuff away, and headed down to the pool. We had a blast there and got local pizza and fries afterward for dinner at a place called Panico’s Restaurant + Bar. That seems to be my go-to meal before a race these days, as that’s what I also ate before my first marathon and a few other races. I ate my body weight in pizza, and it had been a long day, so we all went to bed around 9 p.m.
I made sure to lay out my race gear the night before, which included my Brooks Ghost 11s, my lucky Feetures socks (which used to be orange), black capris, my BibRave shirt, my BibRave visor, my Handful The Closer bra (check out my review here!), my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro, and three GUs (Espresso Love, Campfire S’mores, and Birthday Cake).
I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. EST on Sunday, knowing that I wanted to be at the start no later than 7:30 for an 8:00 race start. I whipped my clothes and gear on as quickly as possible and ran down to the lobby to check us out while hubs graciously got the AK ready. (Thank you!)
We decided that although the walk to a shuttle to get to the start wasn’t far away (less than a mile), it wouldn’t behoove us to drag the AK around in the morning like that. Instead, we decided to drive back to the expo location to park at the race start.
As I was waiting for hubs to grab a cup of coffee in the lobby, I turned around to hear, “Becky?” Lo and behold it was BibRave Pro Miles and his fiance! We hadn’t planned on meeting up in the hotel because he was going to leave around 6:30 or 6:45 a.m., and I knew we’d be leaving later than that, so we were hoping to meet up at the starting line instead. This worked out even better though! Just like Lacey, Miles was just super genuine and nice. They wanted to catch the shuttle to the start, so we snapped a pic and wished each other good luck.
All three of us BibRave Pros were hoping to finish around 2:30 or so, so it was nice to say hi before the race knowing that I would likely see each on course as well.
Parking was fairly easy (albeit in a muddy field), and I used the porta-potty before hubs, the AK, and I walked toward the race start. The poop gods were on my side that day (don’t laugh, you know what I’m talking about), so that part of my pre-race nerves went away.
There was a chill in the air, but I wasn’t overly cold, and I hoped that the fog would dissipate some before the actual start. Aside from the fog, I noticed a nuun flag that made me smile from ear to ear! nuun was also on course, which was a godsend to me in the later miles (more to come on that).
We walked toward the race start and stood around for about ten minutes or so before they announced that the half marathoners should start walking to the start to line up. It still seemed early to me (with about twenty minutes or so before the race), but I think they did strategically. The 8K runners/walkers started fifteen minutes after the half marathoners, and I assume they wanted everyone lined up and ready to go as quickly as possible.
My strategy for this race was just to go slow and steady. I couldn’t find an elevation map for the course, but I assumed it was hillier than most courses in Delaware.
The course itself looped out and back a few times and went through the Livingston Campus, the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), to the Busch Campus, past Rutgers Stadium, across a bridge going over the Raritan River, and finished past Buccleuch Park on College Ave.
I took my GUs at Miles 4, 8, and 12, starting with Espresso Love first, which is my tradition. (I don’t tend to drink coffee or eat anything before a race, so that’s kind of like my substitute for coffee.)
Two things surprised me during this race:
1) I ran out of water in my Orange Mud hydration pack halfway through the race. I’m so glad that nuun was on course, because I definitely took advantage of it after Mile 6 or so. I didn’t feel like I was drinking an inordinate amount of water, but I guess I was!
2) I’ve never run a race before where you go through the start/arch twice! Just after Mile 8, we ran through the start again, and I chuckled and noted to another runner that I hoped I wasn’t going the wrong way.
Overall, the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon & 8K turned out to be a great event! It was very well run, offered amazing course support, and the volunteers were enthusiastic and friendly.
With what I have to compare to here in Delaware, the course was fairly flat, well maintained, and very well marked.
Here are some fun facts: At Mile 5, I clocked in at 54:08, at Mile 10 I was at 01:49:45, and I finished in 02:26:08. My average pace was 11:08 per mile. I was #92 in my division, #601 in my gender, and #1692 overall.
If I have the opportunity to attend this race again, I definitely will!
It has become my birthday tradition to run the atTAcK Addiction 5K in New Castle, DE, on my birthday weekend. This year for my 37th shin-dig, the race fell on Saturday, March 2, 2019 and held an extra special place in my heart. I ran, in particular, for my sister-in-law Chrissy, who passed away suddenly this summer from an overdose.
The race’s proceeds benefit atTAcK addiction, a grassroots 501(c)(3) charitable foundation established to assist individuals and families impacted by addiction. The organization provides support for recovering addicts and their loved ones, advocates for policy changes, educates families about opiate addiction and treatment options, works to prevent drug use, and strives to end the stigma of the disease.
Each year it seems like this race grows leaps and bounds, and this year was no exception! I compared my stats from last year’s race recap, and I was 18 out of 98 in my 30–39 age group in 2018, versus being 36 out of 309 in the same age group this year. I was 201 out of 841 runners in 2018, versus 348 out of 2,444 runners this year. Crazy, huh?!
The weather for this year’s race was slightly warmer, and I was prepared in my BibRave Under Armour Hoodie. I’ve never actually raced in a hoodie before, so I was a little worried that I’d overheat. To compensate, I didn’t wear a hat, and for whatever reason I only wore one glove apparently. I was comfortably toasty but not hellishly hot. Win-win.
Since I usually become a slave driver of epic proportions before a morning race, I thought I would slow my roll a bit and not worry if we were a little bit late (read: “on time” for normal people) to the start. We left the house around 7:30 a.m. EST, since Hubs is the wizard of finding parking spots in Old New Castle, where he grew up. We found a parking sport somewhat near St. Peter School and waded through the throngs of people into the gym to pick up my bib and t-shirt.
Like last year, packet pick-up was a breeze. I didn’t have to wait in a long line, everything was well organized, and I was in and out in a matter of minutes. Then I kissed Hubs and the Angry Kindergartner (AK) goodbye. They were going to drive my birthday cake to my in-laws’ house to drop it off, find a quick bite to eat, and then come back to watch me finish.
This race hosts a lot of walkers and large groups, so I decided to make my way to the start line rather early. I’m not a fast runner by any means, but I knew I wanted to give it my all and get ahead of the larger pack if I could. I found the start line and anxiously waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.
Apparently there were so many people, that the race director/organization stalled the start of the race until a few more busloads of people got to the start. They were shuttling participants from nearby William Penn High School and the Carpenters Local 626 over to St. Peter’s School, since the area around the start of the race really has no dedicated parking. (It does have a parking lot, but it’s full of people on race day.)
The race didn’t actually start until nearly 9:15 a.m. EST, which royally threw off my mental game at first. I was already trying not to put a lot of pressure on myself to run a certain time, and then I had to wait and sit with my own thoughts/anxiety for a whole whoppin’ fifteen minutes until the race began. That was fun.
As we finally started, I had to weave in and out of other runners to try and keep a steady pace. The course itself was the same as last year as far as I could tell, and there are typically two to three spots where I mentally give out—all around the slightest inclines ever. No joke. Not even hills—just inclines that make me want to curse.
I did walk once or twice for maybe 10–20 seconds each, but every time I stopped, I knew it would be better to just keep on running. With 5Ks, I know that they’ll be over in generally 30 minutes or less, so I can endure that type of all-out running for such a short amount of time. I, however, much prefer the full marathon or ultra distances where I don’t care about pace so much, and I’m A-OK with walking whatever I need to.
I came in at 29:52 with a pace of 9:37/minute. These days, that’s extremely fast for me, and I was very proud of my time. I tried not to compare this year’s time to last year’s, which was 29:06. That’s not a huge difference for me, and ultimately I’m humbled to still be able to race a sub-30 5K to be honest!
I’m glad I had my handheld Orange Mud bottle with me though, because I don’t recall seeing any water stops whatsoever. I was also a bit disappointed in the post-race food this year. Last year I remember they had donuts, but this year they just had prepackaged granola bars. Not that either of those factors would make or break the experience for me, but it’s just something to note.
We walked a short distance back to our car and tried to head over to Hubs’s parents’ house literally less than two miles away. Every single street was blocked off in all directions, so we couldn’t get close enough to their house to park. Hubs tried to drop off my birthday cake before the race and ran into the same issue. So we parked as close as we could, parked, and hoofed it to my in-laws’ with an entire cake and the AK in tow. We had to literally cross the stream of race walkers on the course at one point, and folks joked about wanting the cake. It was hilarious!
After the race, Hubs surprised me by asking if we could do the race as a family in 2020. I would absolutely love to do that, and I think the AK will be able to run/walk it by then too. It will be a nice future fitness goal to have as a family, and I can’t wait!