Latest reviews by Riley Fickett

(2021)
"Race Review: Death by Hills at the 2021 Kansas City Marathon 💀 I-35 Challenge Day 1"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

copied from my blog review, which you can find here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2021/10/race-review-death-by-hills-at-2021.html

What a whirlwind of a weekend! I'm currently sitting in the Kansas City Airport about to head home after finishing my FIRST DOUBLE MARATHON WEEKEND. I've been training for the I-35 Challenge since June and this weekend I officially ran and completed both the Kansas City Marathon in Kansas City, Missouri and the Des Moines Marathon in Des Moines, Iowa. Instead of waiting 4 months to post my reviews (lol), I thought I'd get my thoughts down on digital paper before I forget too many details of the experience. I'm going to break up my review of the weekend into two parts, so stay tuned for part 2. For now we'll kick things off with the 2021 Garmin Kansas City Marathon!

TRAVEL & EXPO DAY

I headed out of Boston bright and early on Friday morning to head over to Kansas City. I think at this point in I was having some serious regrets regarding all of my life's decisions that lead me to be on a plane to run two consecutive marathons, but there as no turning back now. 😬 I landed in KC around 10:30am, met up with Cassie, and we headed straight over to the expo for packet pick up.

While there weren't too many vendors at the expo (at least not as many as I'd see in pre-COVID times), the venue was great (located at Union Station - a GORGEOUS building!) and packet pick up was quick and easy. Cassie actually registered on-site for the 10K without any issue, and I was also able to pick up our friend Jocelyn's packet as well (she was doing both full marathons with me!) since she was not getting into KC until much later. There was a little bit of confusion with mine and Jocelyn's bibs - we were supposed to get a special designation for the I-35 Challenge on our bibs and an extra shirt and we were originally only given marathon bibs and shirts. It wasn't until I saw the table of I-35 shirts when I realized that maybe we didn't get everything we needed so I asked the volunteers. They were super great about rectifying the mistake, got us the right bibs and shirts, and were so friendly and helpful through the whole process! Race volunteers are honestly the best people you can find. 💙

KC MARATHON PACKET INCLUDED:

-Kansas City Marathon cotton t-shirt (hooray for no tech shirt!)
-I-35 Challenge finisher long sleeve shirt
-Bib & safety pins

Honestly, I prefer race packets to be no-nonsense like this one. I don't love getting coupons to local businesses unless it's something I can use during race weekend (I really don't need a coupon for a water filtration system lmao) and usually the samples that get included go unused. My preference is just give me some nice swag that I will actually use OR just give me my bib.

After some quick pics with our bibs we were both famished and wanted to grab some BBQ as Kansas City's BBQ is some of the best out there! We asked a few folks what they'd recommend for BBQ and Jack's Stack was hands down the favorite so that's where we headed. We both ordered burnt ends that were honestly SO DELICIOUS and really hit the spot after a long morning of traveling.

Eventually we made our way to our Air BnB and shortly after checking in I hit the road for a shakeout run. I knew I wasn't going to get it done if I started to relax, so I got on the road for a 2 mile run which gave me a taste of the INSANE hills in KC. Mentally it was so great to get a feel for the terrain the day before, even if it was only a taste, but BOY is Kansas City not messing around with its hills. 💀

Unfortunately in the evening I started to feel so sick to my stomach. I think it was a combination of nerves for the races, traveling, being dehydrated, and honestly the BBQ I had for lunch. The food itself was INCREDIBLE and so well made, I'm just not a huge red meat eater and of course I had beef burnt ends. Probably not the smartest move the night before a race. I was super nervous about feeling sick for obvious reasons, but most of all because I could NOT bring myself to eat anything for dinner. Going into a marathon on an empty stomach was a pretty scary prospect, but I opted to drink water, get sleep, and keep my fingers crossed that I'd feel better in the morning.

RACE DAY

Luckily I woke up feeling somewhat better, and was even able to stomach a bowl of oatmeal before we headed out! We went to pick up Jocelyn at her hotel and made our way over to the start line. One tip right off the bat - if you're driving, get to the Kansas City Marathon EARLY. We got to the starting line area about 30 before the 7AM start and drove around for a decent amount of time before finding parking. Essentially, everyone is trying to park in ONE designated parking garage which cause a line of cars all over the place. We eventually found an empty parking lot to park in and made our way over to the start. We got to the starting line RIGHT at 7AM, which is a little too close for comfort for me, but at least we made it!

The 10K didn't start until 30 minutes after the marathon, so Jocelyn and I said goodbye to Cassie and made our way to the starting line. Before we knew it we were off and running!

This will be a theme throughout this review - the Kansas City Marathon is SO. FREAKING. HILLY. This is more than just rolling hills. We're talking about VERY extended uphill stretches with very little reprieve until the back half of the course. So, in true KC Marathon fashion, the first mile took us uphill. Jocelyn and I stuck together for the most part through the first two miles. Because we started on an uphill climb and we were feeling fresh, we actually ended up going out waaaaaay too quickly. At some point after mile 1 I turned to her and said "hey… we have a whole other marathon tomorrow…. maybe we should slow down" 😂 We came up on our first water stop around 2 miles and this is where we parted ways for the first time. I stopped for a restroom break at this point (no time for the bathroom before we started!) and she continued on.

I will say that even though the course was super hilly, it provided some incredible views of Kansas City! As the sun was rising it hit the buildings on the KC skyline and really made the city glow. It's always so incredible to see the sunrise on a city you're visiting for the first time!

The weather was on the chillier side (40s-50s) for the majority of the race, and stayed nice and cool in the shadow of the buildings during the first half of the course. It wasn't until mile 7 or 8 where the sun really started to warm things up finally. Coincidentally, this is where I finally caught up with Jocelyn for a few miles! Running with a pal always makes these distances so much easier. We stuck together and chatted until about mile 10 or so.

The half marathoners split from the full marathon right around mile 12.5. As you might know, my least favorite course design is when the half marathon splits from the full RIGHT before they finish - it's such a tease to the full marathoners! I guess I could let this one slide because we technically couldn't see the finish, but we could still hear it haha. As you were approaching this point in the race you could compete in the Garmin "Segment Challenge" which is about a 400m stretch where they'll time how fast you can run through that segment. The fastest runners would win a new Garmin Forerunner! I did not even attempt this challenge (lol) but it's a really cool idea and a great way for the title sponsor of the race to be well connected to the event.

As I came up on the half way point, I saw the lead runner turning the corner toward their mile 26! It is so wild when you realize that these athletes are TWICE AS FAST as you. 😳 I guess the tracking app was messing up because at this point my dad texted me and said it looked like I was already at 17.4 miles 😂 I told him "I wish"! With a quick restart of the app he was able to see the accurate information, though, and it was nice to hear from him at that point in the race for a second wind! I also saw Cassie cheering me on as I came up on mile 14 for an additional boost of encouragement!

I was still feeling pretty nauseous from the night before so this second half of the race was pretty tough. Luckily the hills flattened out slightly as we entered an out-and-back section of the course around mile 16. I really love out-and-backs because I love seeing and cheering on the other runners on the course, so this was great to distract me from how my stomach was feeling. There was also surprisingly a lot more crowd support on this section of the course than there was in the city. Quite a few neighbors were out cheering on the runners and the volunteers at the water stations had such great energy! I also put on my music at this point which of course made everything so much easier. Really between miles 17-21 I was having a grand old time. Probably the best I've ever felt during the third quarter of a marathon, even with the nausea! I also saw Jocelyn as she was approaching mile 19 and I had just hit 20. It was great to see a familiar face during the toughest section of the course!

Around 23 I saw a Ted Lasso "Believe" sign and it just lifted my spirits up so much! This was also a downhill section for the most part so I was flying (or at least I felt like I was… I'm sure my splits say otherwise lol). Right after 24 I saw Cassie again for one more boost of encouragement before getting to the end. 25-26 was another great flat and downhill section and then….

26.

An UPHILL FINISH.

Yes, after miles upon miles of nothing but hills, just to demoralize you a tiny bit further, the course gives you one last uphill at mile 26 to take you to the finish line. The runner I was closest to shared a look with me like "….really?"

Because REALLY?!

I was pretty bummed about this because at this point my legs were so shot from the rest of the course that I had no other choice but to walk up the hill at the end of the race, and so many other runners around me were doing the same. I wasn't a fan of that choice for course design. I'm pretty sure the wind was taken out of everyone's sails as they turned the corner, which is a huge bummer.

Either way, I got myself up that hill and into the finisher's shoot where Cassie was waiting to be paparazzi. After a day full of ups and downs (literally), I had finished state and marathon #16! We even got to see Jocelyn come across the finish line for her 96th (!!!!) marathon not long after I finished!

RACE STATS

Due to the hilliness of the course, my upset stomach, and this being the first of two days of marathons for me, I knew going into this race that I would not be breaking any speed records or shooting for anything like a sub-5 time. The name of the game over the weekend was getting across two finish lines regardless of how long it took! The elevation stats on this race are NUTS though 👀

THE MEDAL

I'm still on the fence about how I feel about the medal for this race. Someone pointed out that it is the same medal they were offering last year for the virtual race which is an interesting observation. There isn't anything on the medal suggesting that it was specifically designed for the 2021 running of the Kansas City Marathon, which makes me a little bummed out. However, I do enjoy the light blue theming, the image of the blue fountain in KC, and I really love the medal ribbon. (My fave part is the "KC" inside the heart!)

OVERALL THOUGHTS

The Kansas City Marathon is definitely one of the most challenging marathons I've run to date. The elevation and terrain is unforgiving and it will definitely 100% trash your legs if you aren't prepared for it. While the organizers can't really help the terrain of the city, I think they could rework the route to make it somewhat more of enjoyable experience for runners, or have at least figured something out about that uphill finish.

There were a few course issues we observed as well. The way it was marked was a little confusing when it came to where you were supposed to turn, which side you were supposed to run on, etc. Jocelyn also observed that while there were flags for "First Aid" on the course, there were zero folks staffed (so essentially no med stations anywhere which is…. a choice for an athletic event.

However, the race organizers were great, all of the volunteers were well informed and helpful, there are beautiful views of the city throughout the course, and if you're a spectator, there are LOTS of places for you to see your runner. I feel like I saw a lot of groups of spectators multiple times!

While I'm glad I finished the Kansas City Marathon on Saturday, I don't think I would necessarily run this race again. I think it has a lot of potential to grow into something fantastic with some tweaking of a few points, but for now I'd only really recommend this to runners who really love hills. I'm sure they're out there somewhere, lol!

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(2021)
"Race Review: 22 Miles of PAIN at the 2021 Des Moines Marathon 🩹 I-35 Challenge Day 2"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

copied from my blog review, which you can find here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2021/10/race-review-22-miles-of-pain-at-2021.html

If you haven't read my Kansas City Marathon race review yet, do that first! This review will cover Day 2 of the I-35 Challenge at the 2021 IMT Des Moines Marathon!

TRAVEL & EXPO DAY

Almost immediately after finishing the Kansas City Marathon, Jocelyn, Cassie, and I all hopped into our rental car and headed north on I-35 to get to our next stop - Des Moines, Iowa! I never thought I'd be traveling to Des Moines in my free time, but when BibRave offered this opportunity to the Pros, I thought it would be a great chance for me to tick Iowa off of my 50 marathons in 50 states list! The drive from KC to Des Moines is about a three hour ride and just a straight shot through miles and miles of corn fields. (The Iowa State sign had a slogan on it that read Fields of Opportunity which is a very appropriate slogan lol.)

We got to the expo in Des Moines around 4:45pm or so. The expo closed at 6pm on Saturday which was a tight squeeze for the I-35 Challenge, but we got there in plenty of time which was great. We pick up our packets which had significantly more stuff in it than KC:

DES MOINES MARATHON PACKET INCLUDED

-Quarter zip (again, yay no tech shirts! Even though it's kind of tech-y material, it's still so nice!)
-Bib & safety pins -Event program and catalogue of things to do in Des Moines
-LOTS of product samples…. Probably too many product samples haha
-A rain poncho which is a nice touch, even though it was beautiful for the race!

This expo felt a little bit more full and more like a typical race expo than KC, which was nice. It was located in an event hall of a convention center, most if not all the vendors were running and fitness related (no one was trying to sell me windows and doors to the house I don't own lol), and there were lots of fun photo opportunities which we took complete advantage of!

We also met up with some of the BibRave crew, including Jenn, Bill, and his wife Jennifer! It was great to meet these folks in person after talking exclusively online for nearly two years! 🧡

We were all famished at this point so we popped over to the Iowa Taproom for dinner (which if I lived in Des Moines, I'd probably hang out here all the time). My stomach had finally settled a bit and I was feeling QUITE hungry so I was very excited for food! I also wanted to give myself a little bit of a celebration for finishing marathon and state #16 that day without totally trashing myself for the next morning's race, so I had a baby 6 oz. beer with dinner 😂

We were all pretty beat and we had races to get ready for in the morning (Cassie with the Des Moines Half Marathon and Jocelyn and I will the full), so we wrapped up dinner fairly quickly and headed to our AirBnB to crash. (Not before getting our flat runners in, though!)

Jocelyn and I also ordered second dinner (lmao marathoner life) at about 9pm which was incredible. I almost didn't get more food until Jocelyn said she was getting pho and I knew as soon as I smelled her food I would very much so regret joining her on the order 😂 So we got pho and I added some crab rangoons to the order because YOU HAVE TO.

RACE DAY

The race didn't start until 8am the next morning and we were staying literally a block away from the start/finish area (honestly the closest I've ever been to a race start!) so we were able to sleep in a bit which felt SO GOOD. We headed out the door around 7:40ish and I have to say I LOVED the energy of the starting line! It was in front of the Polk County Courthouse and surrounded by tall buildings, so the noise was just echoing around and making everything feel so much more exciting! We even got a great photo with all the BibRave Pros in our orange gear which was so great! It felt so good to be able to see my BRP teammates in person and give them cheers and well wishes before and during the race!

The half marathon and full marathon started together so Cassie and I spent the first quarter of a mile or so together before her first walk interval which was nice! We ran all weekend long and this was the only time I actually got to run together haha. I continued on solo through the majority of the race, but luckily I was able to see so many friendly faces as I ran! I did get to see Angie around mile 2 cheering and she snapped a photo of me running.

And I also saw Jenn around the same time as she was doing her thing managing the Instagram story for the Des Moines Marathon like a boss! The half marathon ran with the full marathon for about 2.5 miles before the split, and this is absolutely what I prefer when it comes to course design. I know that half marathoners will all be done running LOOOOONG before I will be, so while it's nice to run with the big pack, if they could go ahead and split off early so they can finish while I can't see them that would be great 😂

Miles 3-8 were INTENSE hills (as if we hadn't gotten enough of those in KC), and while this section of the course was super challenging and I was SO OVER hills at this point, I think if I hadn't run the KC Marathon the day before I think I would have actually enjoyed that section quite a bit. It was in a little bit of a wooded residential area, and the elevation of the terrain gave it some uniqueness for sure.

Unfortunately for me, I must have taken a weird step going downhill at mile 4 and totally tweaked my ankle. I was hoping the pain would be short-lived but with every step over the next mile or so I knew that I had done something a little bit larger than just an ankle twist and I would just need to figure out how to manage the pain over the next 22 miles. Nahhhhht a great way to kick off day 2.

I saw Jenn again at mile 7 which was so great! She gave me some words of encouragement before heading out in front of me, and I found the 5:05 pace group which I ran with for a little bit to take my mind off of the pain. Around mile 8 we entered into probably my favorite section of the course - the neighborhoods of Des Moines! The Des Moines community LOVES its runners on marathon day! There were so many houses that were having front lawn parties and just cheering everyone on and totally keeping my spirits high through the pain. I felt so supported by everyone who came out and cheered and volunteered!

This was also an out-and-back section of the course which I LOVE because you get to see so many of the runners! I got to see Jocelyn when she was around mile 8 and I was around mile 9. We didn't get to start the race together so it was great to see her running and share a high five and some cheers together. I am so glad I had someone who was going through the same races as me for my first double! I guess Bill also saw me when I was around mile 10 and he was around mile 14. I did hear a man yell "Riley!!!" at this point but it didn't compute in my brain why a man's voice would be yelling my name in Des Moines, Iowa and assumed it was for someone else 😂 It took me about 2 minutes to realize that it was probably Bill and we confirmed it later Sunday night at dinner 😂 SORRY BILL!

Mile 12 brings you into the Drake University stadium and you got to do a lap of the track which was so cool! I didn't know this, but apparently a lot of legendary runners like Jesse Owens have competed in the Drake University stadium before which is so cool. I appreciate the announcer sharing facts like that over the loud speaker as we ran through the stadium because I honestly would have no idea. They also announced every runner as you're running through including your name and your hometown so you get a little bit of a special moment. I know that's something I'll definitely remember about this race for years to come!

Miles 13-17 were probably the most challenging miles of the race for me. My ankle was really hurting and sending pains up my calf and through my heel as well, I figured out that my salt tablets got dropped somewhere along the way while I was running and I really felt like I needed some electrolytes, and the prospect of running 13 more miles was just a lot for me to handle. I FaceTimed Brett to let out some tears and he gave me the encouragement I needed to keep pushing forward. My Dad also texted me around this time to check in and having both of them checking in with me at the same time just helped me keep pushing through. I swear, marathons are NEVER a one-person effort. It takes a community to get you across the finish line, and I have the absolute best community.

Miles 16-24 take you through this really beautiful park that is flat flat flat! I'm surprised I remembered how to run on flat ground with all of the hills we tackled in the I-35 challenge up until that point XD The water stop at mile 18.5 was a PARTY and I kinda just wanted to stop running the race and hang out with them. They were giving out full cans of beer with their water and having the biggest dance party! Shout out to whoever made up the mile 18.5 volunteer team because y'all totally lifted my spirits at that point in the race!

I saw Jocelyn when I had just passed mile 20 and she was around 18.25! It was great to be able to see her again and share another high five and some encouragement. I know we were both hurting so much at that point but being able to see each other put a smile on both of our faces which was great. :)

Miles 22-24 were also pretty tough because my ankle was just so angry with me at that point and I still felt so far from the finish line. Again, my community continued to pull through for me. My friends Erin and Cullen were texting me our group chat, and Brett continued to check in with me via text (and Drangon Ball Z/WWE GIFS lol). Like I said, I would not be able to get through this weekend without my people!

The last 2.2 miles took place on a long stretch of road which was pretty challenging mentally. I knew that the finish was SO CLOSE but I had to keep running straight down the road for what seemed like forever. I just wanted to get to the finish and get some ice for my dang ankle!

Eventually I took a left, and another left, and a straight shot into the finisher's chute where I spotted Jenn and Cassie cheering for me, the announcers said "FRANKLIN, MA IN THE HOUSE!!!" and…

I FINISHED STATE & MARATHON #17 AND THE I-35 CHALLENGE!!!

Jocelyn was not far behind me for her 97th marathon finish as well!!! We all gave each other big hugs when she crossed the finish. We had all accomplished some amazing things together this weekend!!!

RACE STATS

Despite my ankle nagging me for 22 miles, I actually performed fairly well through this race! I was only 11 minutes slower at Des Moines than I was in Kansas City which is so wild to me. I really wonder how I could have performed if I didn't have that injury so early on, but I'm happy with my performance regardless. Like I said in my KC post - the name of the game was to finish each race and I did exactly that!

THE MEDAL(S)

I was given not one but TWO medals at the finish line! My IMT Des Moines Marathon finisher's medal was given to me by fellow BibRave Pro Angie which was SO special! And I also received an additional medal for completing the I-35 Challenge and it's so great to have something to represent all of my hard work put into these two races. While I might not particularly love the two medals I received, it's really the experience of this race that I will always remember when looking at each of them. I proudly wore both medals along with my KC Marathon around Des Moines on Sunday night!

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I truly this race. The community of Des Moines really made this race so much fun for all of the runners. There was SO MUCH course support from volunteers and event organizers and everyone was so positive! The course design had a great variety of hilly sections and flat sections, residential areas, green spaces, and city views so you were always looking at and experiencing something new with each mile. The organization of this event was incredible from the moment I signed up (weekly newsletters, frequent live streams, and SO MUCH INFO at your disposal!) to the moment I crossed the finish line. I never thought I would be recommending folks to journey to the middle of the country to run a race in Des Moines, Iowa, but YOU DEFINITELY SHOULD RUN THIS RACE! I had such a fantastic time and I definitely would love to return in the future.

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(2021)
"Race Review: Carmel Marathon 2021 🏎️"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

copied from my blog review which you can find here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2021/08/race-review-carmel-marathon-2021.html

I arrived to Indianapolis in the mid-morning, rented a car, and made my way to Carmel which is about 30 minutes north of the city. I had some time to kill before the expo started so I went and grabbed an early lunch nearby and got my bearings of the area. Carmel is such a cute little city and I absolutely loved walking around with my coffee and taking in the sights of the city center.

The expo was completely outdoors which I really appreciated. At this point in time, COVID vaccines weren't yet that widely accessible and so attending this event was inherently quite risky, so I really appreciate that the organizers of this event were taking steps to make the event as safe as possible, having an outdoor expo being one of those steps. The expo itself was super easy to navigate as it was all on one green space, and a couple dozen vendors, and of course an area to pick up your bib and shirt. My only complaint about the set up of this expo was that all of the booths were facing inward in a circle (that wasn't that large), so everyone who was attending the expo had to all be in the same area in really close proximity. I think it would have made things a bit safer if the booths were facing outward and lines could have spread out a bit more.

After picking up my bib, shirt, and purchasing a souvenir race shirt that had all the participants names on it (so cool!), I headed back to my car. Unfortunately upon arriving to my car I noticed that they gave me a half marathon shirt instead of the full marathon shirt. Luckily I noticed it before I drove to my AirBnB, wasn't that far from the expo, and was able to go right back to the booth to exchange it. They were super kind and apologetic and exchanged it right away for me! I know things get crazy for the volunteers of these events so no harm no foul there, and I appreciate them exchanging the shirt for me!

After the expo I headed back to my AirBnB for the evening as I wanted to get a solid night of rest before the big day. I did a quick 2 mile shakeout run, ordered in some fish tacos, and got to bed relatively early. Traveling solo for these trips does have some perks in the sense that you're 100% on your own schedule, which is nice! All I wanted to do was get my mind right for the morning and get some much needed sleep after a long day of travel. (But of course, not before laying out my #flatrunner!)

Race morning came quickly, as it always does. After getting up, getting dressed, and making myself some breakfast to go, I got in the car and headed up to Carmel. I had my usual pre-race butterflies (I swear marathons will never not be scary), and I think I was extra nervous because of my ultimate goal of running sub-5. This would be my third attempt at this goal and I had worked so hard over the last year to improve my running. I know I had grown as a runner during the pandemic, but I really had no idea how that would translate to the race. I was NERVOUS, y'all. When the time approached I headed down to the start area and did a bit of a warm up and stretch before heading to the start line.

Waiting in the start area was another part of the event I was rather uncomfortable. While the race guidelines clearly said to wear masks when waiting for the start, there was a lot of crowding, and not a lot of methods in place to help mitigate that issue. I did my best to stay far away from everyone else, but YIKES. That was nerve-wracking. I know that it's hard to enforce rules on a large crowd, but if you're hosting this event during the pandemic when you know that it's risky, at least put forth more of an effort to spread the runners and spectators out. I was a little disappointed by how the start line operated in terms of COVID safety.

The morning was beautiful (though a little chilly) and it was looking like a perfect day for a long run. Before I knew it we were off and I was running marathon #15!

This race honestly could not have gone any better. The weather was perfect (sunny and cool, some headwinds here and there but nothing too terrible), the course was relatively flat, the support from volunteers and spectators was so great, and I was just feeling so good through the entire run. For the first half of the race I had to really remind myself constantly to sloooooooooow dooooooown. I was aiming to land around 10:30-11:00 paces for the first portion of the race to give myself a little bit of a cushion for the sub-5 for when I was tired in the later miles. However, every time I looked down at my watch I was moving a bit on the fast side. I think I was excited to be racing a marathon for the first time in over a year!

I really enjoyed the course, even though it had the feature of marathon courses that is my least favorite - it loops back to the finish line at the half way mark and marathoners continue on while half marathoners get to finish 😭 I've run several races where this is the course makeup and I'm always so jealous of the half marathoners when I run by 😂 The funny thing about this day is that I was crossing the half way point the person who won the entire marathon was crossing the finish line. The guy was literally twice as fast as me! 😂

Other than that feature, I really enjoyed the course. The first half took you through one part of Carmel and then second half took you through the other side, always meeting in the city center. There was plenty of course support in terms of water stops which I appreciated, although I opted to hydrate with my hydration pack for the majority of the race (COVID and whatnot, y'know). There was also quite a few spectators out and about -- not massive crowds but enough folks to make it feel like we were somewhat back to normal!

The second half of the race is where things began to get challenging (as it does with the marathon). I actually didn't turn on my music until mile 14 which really helped me continue pushing through the later miles. I think the most difficult miles for me during this race were 16-19ish. For whatever reason, I was able to find another burst of energy as I entered into mile 20 and beyond. I think keeping an eye on the time and realizing that with every passing mile I was getting closer and closer to achieving a sub-5! I was actually dancing to my music around miles 21 & 22... fairly certain the other runners around me thought I was nuts 😅

When I got to mile 23 I had the realization that I was so far ahead of my pace that I knew -- barring disaster -- I was going to hit my sub-5 goal. The question was by how much was I going to reach my goal? I still wanted to push to see how much of a PR I could achieve - I didn't want let off the gas! Mile 24 and 25 I was definitely pushing but alternating between walking and running quite a bit (my legs were quite sore at this point). Once you hit the mile 26 marker you have a bit of an uphill then a fast downhill finish and as soon as I turned the corner to go down hill I gave it everything I had across the finish line and...

SUB-5 ACHIEVED
4:39:48!!!!!!

A nearly 25 minute marathon PR and a huge goal that I had been chasing for a year and a half finally achieved. There was 100% some happy tears at the finish line of this race. I had worked so hard to improve my running, and all I could think of was the many months of showing up for myself that went into this. I was reflecting on how I felt at the Newport Marathon in October 2019 when I had that "I'm never feeling like this at a finish line ever again" moment that launched my quest for a sub-5 marathon, and wondering what that version of myself could have said if she saw me in that moment. I was so so so so SO stinking proud of myself in that moment, and it's a feeling I will truly never forget. I am so thankful that I had a race like that, and knowing that my hard work paid off. It was an unreal feeling.

Once I was able to gather myself and find a place to sit nearby the finish line, I called Brett and my parents to share the news (they were all following along on my Garmin LiveTrack and cheering me on via text throughout the race!) and just bask in my accomplishment. I rested my legs for a bit and then treated myself to a lunch of beer and mac n' cheese at a local brewery which honestly hit the spot SO HARD. If you ever to the Carmel Marathon in the future, I definitely recommend giving the Upland Brewing Co. a try at the end of your race! SO DELICIOUS! 🤤🍺

Overall, I had a really wonderful experience at the Carmel Marathon. There were some places that I think they could have improved when it came to COVID safety, but hopefully in future years COVID won't be a factor for them to have to worry about. That aside, the course was beautiful and easy to race, the race staff and volunteers were all so lovely, and the overall experience from expo to finish line was top notch. Oh, and did I mention the medal? Because it is HUGE.

I definitely recommend the Carmel Marathon if you're looking for an Indiana race! I would definitely run this race again if given the opportunity, so definitely check it out when you're planning your race calendar!

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(2021)
"Race Review: Run to Escape - Mission Mount Olympus ⚡"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

Copied from my blog review, which you can find here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2021/05/race-review-run-to-escape-mission-mount.html

Over the last few weeks I participated in a super incredible new running escape room experience called Run to Escape: Mission Mount Olympus! This is a first of its kind virtual running experience that combines both running and puzzles to put both your mind and body to the test and it is SO STINKING COOL, GUYS! Based on Greek mythology, the Run to Escape series consists of 6 different virtual races ranging from 3 miles to 10 kilometers in distance, and 6 different puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty. In order to unlock the next race in the series, you have to solve a puzzle by listening to audio clues while you run. Honestly, it is so much fun and I am pumped I had the opportunity to try it out as a BibRave pro!

How It Works

Once you pay your entry fee, you will be given access to your first race. Using the RunKeeper app, you'll run the distance of the first race and at various points during your run, one of six Greek gods on Mount Olympus will give you clues to the puzzle that you'll need to solve once your complete your run. When you're done running, Hermes sends you a post-run email with additional clues to your puzzle, and once you have solved your puzzle you will enter the code word to unlock your next run! It continues on through 6 different races until you reach the Pantheon Party at the very end!

What I Loved

Hints Galore! One of the things I was worries about when signing up for this challenge was not being able to figure out a puzzle, and then I wouldn't be able to advance to the next race. Luckily, the RTE team thought about this and provided several hints on how to figure out each puzzle (outside of the puzzle clues) and even provide the answer if your get *really* stuck. These hints and answers definitely saved me from getting stuck a couple of times throughout this series so I really appreciate that I had a way to advance through the series whenever I couldn't figure something out!

Audio Clue Quality is TOP NOTCH! The voice actors did such a fantastic job with creating the characters of Dionysus, Aphrodite, Apollo, Hades, Athena, and Zeus! They were all such great characters and definitely made me feel like I was immersed in the world of Mount Olympus while I ran through the streets of my neighborhood. I absolutely loved it!

RTE Team is VERY Interactive! I posted about each of my RTE runs on Instagram and the RTE team commented and interacted with every single one of my posts! It's so cool to see that interaction by the organizers of the race your running. It makes you really feel like they care what their participants are up to! Definitely love it when community can be created in a virtual setting!

Great Communication & Direction! Because this is such a new approach to virtual racing, I am so appreciative of the abundance of directions and communication that the RTE team provided for participants throughout the experience. Any time there was a problem or any type of confusion, the RTE team was so responsive in addressing the issue. I think that is HUGE, especially for a brand new running experience like this.

Incredible Virtual Pantheon Party! Once you finish all 6 races and puzzles, you'll be admitted into the Pantheon Party which has so many cool little features! There's playlists and recipes based on each of the gods, and there's even giveaways you can enter into for prizes from Asics, Knockaround, and Aftershokz! I love the dedication to creating a fun finish line experience, which can be so challenging in a virtual environment!

Honestly this was such a great experience and I cannot say enough great things about it. It is so awesome that the RTE team is venturing into the brand new version of virtual racing and I cannot wait to see what they come up with next. The future of virtual racing is evolving and I am HERE FOR IT!

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(2020)
"Race Review: Mount Dora Half Marathon 2020"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Copied from my blog review, which you can find here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2020/12/race-review-mount-dora-half-marathon.html

Brett was kind enough to join me for half marathon day and dropped me off at the starting line. The start was a couple blocks away from the 5k start, but it was really easy to navigate down to where we were supposed to be. There was plenty of pre-race entertainment and excitement! I was hoping to meet up with the larger group of BRPs that were running the half marathon, but I couldn't figure out where they were so unfortunately I missed the group photo 😭 but I saw most of them out on the course, so that was nice!

The corral for the half was HUGE which I really appreciated. It made distancing from other runners at the start really easy, and again, folks were really great about wearing their masks before taking off. There were sections of the corral you were supposed to line up by according to pace, but it wasn't really enforced so folks kind of hopped in wherever. The organizers tried to release folks by pace as well, but it seemed like most people just went with the flow of the crowd. Before I knew it I was off and running for the Mount Dora Half Marathon!

There was a good amount of on-course support throughout the race, including water stops (they handed out sealed bottled water) and bathroom stops about every other mile. There was also gel distribution at mile 7. I know a lot of races are encouraging folks to bring their own water and nutrition (which is also a great option for safety!), but it's also nice to see that there are still volunteers that are coming out to support runners and give aid to the folks crazy enough to run 13.1 miles on a perfectly good Sunday morning. 😊

The course was HILLY, which is always strange for Florida. I was a little concerned that my legs would gas out after the first few miles because there was a LOT of really steep, rolling hills. I continued to take on every hill, though, and even though it was a challenge I actually felt really good through the entire course! It was also an extremely scenic course that took you past many lakes and through such gorgeous neighborhoods. I swear, the houses we ran by had my eyes popping out of my head at how nice they were! It was so nice to take in such beautiful scenery while putting in the miles.

One of my favorite parts of the half marathon course was the downhill finish. You take a right onto the last stretch of the course and it's completely down hill, giving you a super fast finish. You can also see the giant inflatable Santa, beckoning you toward the finish line! 🎅 Such a welcome sight 😊

I had a fantastic race during the half as well. I was feeling really great so I decided to push, and I wound up running my best half marathon in YEARS! I finished in 2:08:19, which puts me under a 10 minute/mile pace. I don't think I've done that since I first started running long distances. I am so proud of myself and feel so encouraged heading into my next marathon training cycle by the way I performed this weekend.

The finish line was similar to the 5K finish in that you were given your post-race fuel and your medal all in one gallon baggie. You were also handed a Mount Dora Half Marathon hand towel to wipe your face with at the end of the race, which I thought was a nice touch for a Florida race! I didn't hang around long at the finish as I was looking to meet up with Brett, but the energy at the finish was just as festive and fun as the finish line of the 5K. Everyone was in great spirits, there were many photo opportunities, and plenty of space to unwind post-race while socially distancing.

I really enjoyed myself at the Mount Dora Half Marathon weekend. I thought that the race organizers did a fantastic job of creating a fun, festive, and above all, SAFE environment during this unprecedented year in the running world. I would definitely recommend both of these races if you're looking for something festive to do in Florida around the holidays. The hills are a challenge, but the positives of these race weekend experience make them worth it!

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