Latest reviews by Riley Fickett
Copied from my blog review, which you can find here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2020/12/race-review-mount-dora-half-marathon.html
This weekend I had the opportunity to run the Dora Double Challenge at the Mount Dora Half Marathon Weekend in Mount Dora, Florida! Mount Dora is a cute little historical city in Central Florida, just north west of Orlando. ince I'm in the area for the Christmas holiday anyway, I thought it would be fun to check out this race as part of the BibRave Pro Ambassador Team. This was a fun, festive race that made me feel safe and so comfortable to make a return to in-person racing. I'm excited to tell y'all about my experience!
The Dora Double Challenge consists of two races -- the Mount Dora 5K on Saturday, and the Mount Dora Half Marathon on Sunday. I'm a big fan of race challenges, so I knew I had to sign up for both races. Because we drove down from New England and didn't arrive into the area until late Friday afternoon, I opted to wait until the morning of the 5K to pick up my race weekend packet. I still wanted to lay out my race morning outfit before bed, though. Flat runners are a pre-race must!
Luckily, it was super easy to navigate everything on race morning, and was able to pick up my packet with no issue. The packet pick up was located in the pavillion near the 5k start line, and everything went very smoothly. I first picked up my bib, which came with a tote bag and two really awesome magnets - one for each race. I thought these were such cool swag items, and I definitely hadn't gotten anything like these items at other races I've done! I then picked up my race shirts and was given a red shirt for the 5K and a black shirt for the half. They also had green shirts for the half marathon, which I believe were in men's sizes. It was so exciting to get a piece of swag for each one of the races I was completing.
After a quick stop at the car to drop my newly acquired packet and slap my race bib on my leg, I headed up to the start line which was SUPER festive! There was soap snow, stilt walkers dressed as elves and toy soldiers, and (of course) a GIANT inflatable Santa.
I was able to meet up with my fellow BibRave Pro Samantha, who was also doing the Double, and chat with her before we took off for the 5K! Due to COVID, I haven't had the chance to meet any BRPs in person during my first year as a Pro. It was so great to change that on Sunday and actually meet someone that I've been talking to for over a year! I hope 2021 brings more opportunities to meet my fellow Pros. Fingers crossed for more in-person races!
The race kicked off at 7:45am and the race organizers made it clear for runners to arrange themselves by pace, and only enter the corral once their pace group was called, to promote social distancing. Whether or not runners actually followed this directive is... questionable... BUT I will say that participants were really great about wearing masks in the corral, which was a relief. The race organizers were also great about reminding folks to continue to wear their masks in the start and finish areas of the race. I was off and running around 7:50am!
I didn't take any photos during the race because I was actually feeling really good and wanted to see how hard I could push myself. I was CRUISING for this entire race and ended up going sub-27! It was great to really push myself hard through this race just to see what my body could do. (I also think I was just really excited to be running a race, so that could have added to the pep in my step 😂) According to chip timing, I ran 3.1 in 26:53.54, an 8:40 pace!
The finish area still had a VERY festive vibe, and there was plenty of space to social distance, which folks were pretty good about. I'd say participants weren't as great at wearing their masks at the finish as they were at the start, but at the very least everyone was spread out well. One thing I liked about the post-race experience is that instead of having tables of bananas, waters, etc. that runners could grab, they put everything in one large gallon baggie and let runners take a bag as they were exiting the finishing chute. They also included your medal in this bag, so as to reduce contact of passing the medal from volunteer to runner. I thought that was a great idea to promote safety!
Before heading out I had to do a lil selfie photo shoot with my medal. Of course I needed to take a selfie with the giant Santa, and once I had walked away from the finish area and made sure no one was around me, I took another photo with my ~smiling face~ 😂 I headed home after getting my snaps in, and got prepared for Day 2 - the half marathon!
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!
Over the weekend I ran the Virtual Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K! I've been wanting to run a Hot Chocolate race since I first learned about them, but as of now they don't usually come up to the northeast. I hope that changes in the future so I can get the full race experience, but I'm thankful that I was able to enjoy the virtual experience. We've been having a bout of really warm weather over the last few days and I was excited to take advantage of it with this virtual race. Sunday afternoon I laced up, donned my BibRave orange, and headed out on my 9.3 mile journey!
For virtual runs I tend to not wear my bib because I generally find bibs cumbersome, but I do like to put my bib and my medal on the table we have on our porch as a reminder that we're in race mode! It's also so great to have your medal waiting for you when the race is complete, just like it would be at the finish line.
The run itself was coming a day after I had run 15 miles, so my legs were TIRED. You can definitely see in my splits that it took quite some time for my legs to warm up and actually start feeling comfortable. For the most part, I just tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other in an effort to string miles together because boy was I tired. It wasn't until about mile 6 where my legs actually started warming up and I started feeling good on this run. Sometimes it just takes a while to get into the swing of things! Overall it was a lovely run, I enjoyed the sunshine, and I accomplished the only real goal I have during any race - I finished!
Finish time: 1:40:03
Because it was the Hot Chocolate 15k, I wanted to celebrate finishing with a sweet treat. It was way too warm for hot chocolate, but I felt that not having some form of chocolate was a crime, so I walked down to the convenience store and bought two of my favorite chocolate bars - Take 5 and Milky Way! Chocolate definitely tastes better at the finish line! 🍫😉
In addition to my own finish line treats, the race packets were full of amazing snacks and swag! This race has one of the best items (IMO) that you can recieve for registering - a super cozy fleece-lined hoodie! (The hood is also removable if that's not your thing.) They also sent along some chocolate, hot cocoa packets, and a Honey Stinger Waffle to help recreate the deliciousness you would receive at the finish line during one of their in-person races. Such a great virtual swag bag!
I celebrated Medal Monday yesterday (of course) and showed off the medal you earn by running one of these races while sippin' on a Starbucks Holiday Drink (so happy they're back!). All participants of the 15k and 5k receive a finisher's medal with the same pendant, and the ribbon is different depending on the distance you ran. You'll notice that the 15k medal has a red ribbon, and I believe the 5k medal has a blue ribbon.
One of the coolest things about this medal in particular is that it opens up to reveal a little compartment for a piece of chocolate! I thought this was such a cute touch and one of the more unique medals now in my collection. If you want to see the medal in action, go check out my Instagram post for a video!
I had a really wonderful virtual race experience for the Hot Chocolate 15k, and it has only made me want to try out an in-person Hot Chocolate race even more! In the meantime, though, I definitely recommend trying out one of these virtual races. It doesn't matter where you are in the country, you can sign up for any one of the virtual races and enjoy an at-home Hot Chocolate race experience! Check out hotchocolate15.com/virtual for more details!
This weekend I had the opportunity to run the Virtual Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon! It had been a loooong time since the last time I ran 13.1 miles (since MARCH!) so I went into this race with the plan to take it nice and slooooooow and to enjoy each mile as much as possible. I was bummed that I couldn't be running on the coast of New Hampshire for this run, but I wanted to make the most of it! I had a great time enjoying the crisp fall air, and even vlogged my experience on my Instragram story which you can find in my BibRave Pro highlight on my profile!
I tried to keep my run right around an 11 minute pace, and it looks like I was right on the money! I'm really happy with how the run went. I will say that my legs started to feel the impact of the run around miles 9 and 10, but for the most part I was feeling really great for not having captured this distance in MONTHS! I was so happy to finally finish up my run and have it go as smoothly as it did. Because my race goody bag hasn't come in the mail yet, I decided to pose with a pumpkin as my finish line ~bling~ because my race outfit made me look eerily similar to a pumpkin. 🎃😂 I am excited to get my race swag in the mail to officially celebrate.
After arriving home, I indulged in some puppy kisses, a nice hot shower, and a breakfast sandwich before logging on to the virtual finish line celebration on Facebook Live. Fellow BibRave Pro Ryan from IRunonBeer hosted the event which was so cool! One of the big draws of the live Rockfest event in Hampton, NH is the finish line party where you get to indulge in craft beer, lobster rolls, and live music. During the Facebook Live event, there was live musical performances, recipes to DIY your own lobster rolls at home, and Ryan even taught us how to create an at-home beer tasting! There was also plenty of opportunities to enter into giveaways for future race entries into some of Loco Running's upcoming events.
It was so much fun to chat along with my fellow Rockfest runners and enjoy some comradery even though we were all just hanging out in our own homes. One of the hard things about virtual racing is that it's tough to create that finish line feeling of joy and accomplishment when you're running by yourself in your own neighborhood. I think Loco Running did a fantastic job of recreating the finish line festival, and it felt great to have a commemorative moment after achieving another 13.1!
The rest of the day was spent lounging with Snowy and watching football. I also picked out a Smuttynose beer to enjoy as I lazed around for the rest of the afternoon - the Smuttynose Mysterious Haze Double Dry-Hopped New England IPA! I actually really enjoyed this beer and it's exactly what I look for in an IPA: juicy-yet-hoppy with a citrusy taste. 10/10 would recommend.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with the Smuttynose Rockfest Virtual Half Marathon. Race directors are having to make some seriously difficult decisions this year in order to make their races as safe as possible, but I know that they're trying their hardest to recreate the racing experience to the best of their ability. I really feel like Loco Running did a great job with Rockfest, and I would absolutely love to run the in-person event in future years. I definitely recommend that you do the same, and hopefully we can run together in person in the future! 🧡🍻
Disclaimer: I received a registration to review the 2020 Run for the Zoo Virtual 10k as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
It feels so great to be writing a race review again! I have been missing racing so much these last few months, and I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to virtually participate in the 2020 Run for the Zoo! This race is usually based in Chicago at the Lincoln Park Zoo, but due to the pandemic they were not able to have the race in person. Instead of cancelling the event outright, they opted to make the virtual and open it up to runners from all over!
The Run for the Zoo has been running for 42 years and all proceeds directly benefit the animals that live at the Lincoln Park Zoo, as well as ensures that the facility can stay free and open to the Chicago community. I really love running races that have a direct charitable cause, and especially one that directly benefits animals. Upon registration, you had the opportunity to make an additional donation to the Lincoln Park Zoo, and if you donated at least $25, you would earn a commemorative medal.
Runners had until June 7th to register, and then had the chance to run their miles between June 7th and June 21st. I love that they gave runners some flexibility in when they could run their miles for their race. I opted to run my race on the 7th - the date the race was originally scheduled for - so that I could keep it as close to the actual race experience as possible. It was great because a lot of my fellow BibRave Pros were also running on the morning of the 7th and having a blast. It was so fun to check in with everyone on the Slack channel after the run!
I definitely rocked some zoo-themed attire. I bought these awesome mint zebra striped shorts from Fabletics, and also picked up a lion tail and some lion ears from Amazon! Since we can't come together to race in-person, I wanted to make the day as fun and as festive as possible. I may or may not have gotten some funny looks from everyone out on their Sunday morning walks, but I know they weren't having as much fun as I was! 😋
The run itself could not have gone more smoothly. I didn't want to push too hard, as the week leading up to the race was particularly stressful at work and I have been having some trouble with foot pain lately, but I listened to my body and ran at the pace that felt good in the moment. I ended up running 10K in under and hour which is *so* good for me so I am thrilled with my time, and I am also so happy with how I felt throughout the run!
Submitting your times to the race was super easy. I don't think I've done this before for a virtual race (I usually just sign up and run the miles and it's all based on honor system) so I wasn't really sure what to expect. When you sign up you get a confirmation number for your registration, like most races. Once you're done running, you needed to hop on to the Run for the Zoo website, look up your confirmation number, enter your race time, then put up proof of your run. I uploaded the first Garmin screenshot above for my proof. If you don't have a GPS watch, you can always use a free run tracking app - there are dozens out there! Once I hit submit on my time, I could officially say that I had completed the Run for the Zoo!
All participants of this race received a participant tech shirt, which I ended up wearing for the rest of the afternoon as a symbol of achievement! It's a super comfy, loose-fitting tech tee (which I prefer!) and I know that it will easily fit into my running attire rotation.
Overall, running the Run for the Zoo virtual 10k was a great experience! The crew at Lincoln Park Zoo that managed this event communicated with participants so well, and I never felt confused about what I needed to do in order to complete the race. I'm sure that coming together and racing in person in Chicago would have been exponentially more fun, but I so appreciate everything that the Lincoln Park Zoo did for its runners and pivoting so seamlessly to a virtual race. This is a great organization and race to run for, so I definitely recommend signing up for their 2021 race!
Thank you again to both BibRave and the Lincoln Park Zoo for allowing me to run this race!
I am (finger crossed) going to be in Chicago this fall for the Chicago Marathon, so I might try to swing by the Lincoln Park Zoo for a little visit while I'm out there! 💗