Latest reviews by Riley Fickett

(2013)
"Race Review: Color and Glow 5K 2013"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

(copied from my blog review here: http://versustheroad.blogspot.com/2013/09/race-review-color-and-glow-5k.html)

Louie and I ran in the Color and Glow 5K last weekend! It was so great to participate in a fun run type of race instead of something super duper challenging like I have been this entire race season. I wasn't nervous about the distance, I wasn't worried about my time, and I wasn't concerned about coming in first place (but let's be real - I'm never too concerned about coming in first place, because I know it'll never happen :P). I was just there to have a good time!

One complaint we both had about the race was packet pick up. Participants only had 2 options - the day before the race (which was a work day) from 11 AM to 7 PM at an off-site location, or on-site the day of the race from 10 AM to 12 PM (the race started at 7:30 PM) only if you were travelling more than 80 miles to the race. A. That's super inconvenient for participants who live close but work weird hours (like me) and can't get to an off-site location, and B. What are the participants that are travelling from far away supposed to do for 7 hours after they pick up their packet? A race like this always needs pre-race packet pick up as an option. Seriously, that's a no brainer. The only time races should be allowed to get away without race day pre-race packet pick up is if there's tens of thousands of participants and it's physically impossible to hand out all of the packets right before the race. Judging by the amount of people that were at the race, I think they could have handled at least one registration tent.*

The race was held at Brockton Fair Grounds in Brockton, MA. We showed up about an hour early (which is TOTALLY unlike us) and we were able to just hang out and take in the atmosphere before lining up. The race MC was tossing out glow-sticks at the starting line, so we weaved our way to the front of the pack to catch a few and get decked out for the race.

The race was scheduled to send the first wave out at 7:30, but it didn't start until about 7:50. We got a little antsy for the start of the race, but it also gave us the opportunity to take in the atmosphere, rack up out glow stick collection (I think I wound up with about 12 or so, haha), and get excited for the race to come!

Personally, I was expecting more lights along the course - kind of like the Electric Run - but the route was, for the most part, pitch black and since the majority of the race was through a field, I was super worried I was going to step into a hole (which I did a few times) and injure myself. For this reason, I was extremely careful about my footing the entire race, which definitely took away from the fun. I would love to see this course more well lit (bonus points if it's colorful lights!) in years to come.

I would like to have been covered in more paint, also. I sign up for races like these to be doused in color. We were in the first wave, so I understand that they had to conserve for the other runners, but adding in some more paint stations along the course would be awesome. (Side note - they didn't tell the voluteers not to shoot paint into the runner's faces. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other runner got their eyes painted, because I certainly swallowed some. >_>)

Either Louie and I totally beasted the course, or it wasn't a full 5K. I think we finished in about 22 minutes (neither of us timed it because we were just there for the fun!) which is extremely fast for both of us. I wasn't too surprised about the short distance (we experienced the same thing for Color Me Rad) because these types of events are more about the fun experience than completing a true 5K, which I think is awesome. I love that there are events like these to encourage people to get active and introduce them into the running world with something fun!

This was a really fun race with a LOT of potential. They need to add a few things to make this a truly great event, but I think with each year this race will improve and become bigger and better. I can't wait to see where it goes! If you're looking for a fun, unique approach to fitness and night life, definitely check Color and Glow out!

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(2013)
"Race Review: Harvard Pilgrim Finish at the 50"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

(copied from my blog review here: http://versustheroad.blogspot.com/2013/07/race-review-havard-pilgrim-finish-at-50.html)

Last week Louie and I (along with Nick and my parents) ran the Finish at the 50 races. My dad ran the 5K, while the rest of us ran the 10K in 90 degree weather with 85% humidity like crazy people. The event was A LOT bigger than I expected, and hands down the largest race I've ever run. I'm used to about 2,000 people tops, but this was the kind of race that if you split up, it was almost impossible to find each other again.

I was not properly fueled for this race. I had worked all day before hand, and couldn't really hydrate properly (I work retail and you can't have a water bottle on the sales floor) and between working and packing for the holiday weekend, I didn't eat all that great throughout the day. Needless to say I was feeling it! I finished in 1:02:41, though, so I'm not too upset about it!

I was a little disappointed in how the race was run. The water stops, though nicely spaced out throughout the course, weren't long enough to accommodate the amount of runners, and there was a huge back up at every station. You also couldn't get back into the stadium once you stepped foot off the field, which was super annoying. I think the runners should have been able to come and go as they needed as that was the only place with post-race water.

The event itself was fun, though! It was so cool to be on the field at Gillette. I know that there are various NFL sponsored races that have the same idea as this one, so be sure to check for races near you! :)

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(2013)
"Race Review: Superhero Scramble 2013"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

(copied from my blog review here: http://versustheroad.blogspot.com/2013/06/race-review-superhero-scramble.html)

This past weekend Louie and I ran the Superhero Scramble! The New England race was what they call a "Charger", which means it was their shortest race at approximately 4 miles and 20 obstacles. It was hosted at Amesbury Sport Park, a popular location for New England obstacle races. With Tropical Storm Andrea hitting the northeast on Friday night, the race got pushed back three hours, so we didn't get there until the afternoon - nice change of pace after all these early-morning starts!

We had our friends Brett, Kristen, and Jeff come along with us to spectate. Unfortunately, they had to spend $20 just to get in, which is all well and good - obstacle races cost a lot of money to put on - but I was disappointed in what they got in exchange for the entry fee: a $5 ticket to the merch tent (none of them wanted to buy merch for an event they weren't participating in) and a view of the smallest portion of the course possible. All three of them agreed that the $20 would have been worth it if they got a free beer or burger, and access to more obstacles so they could take pictures and cheer us on. I would have loved to have them cheering me on at all of the obstacles that were just over the hill from where they were waiting for me! If they had done a bit more for the spectators, I bet more people would spend the money to come to the event.

There were many different types of people running the race, from elite athletes to those attempting the first athletic event of their life. I would say that the majority of the obstacles are totally doable by everyone participating, and if you couldn't complete the task, you had the option of taking the penalty of 10 burpees and 10 spins on the dizzy bat. (They may as well have given us a couple shots of tequila instead!) The obstacles we had to complete were:

Up and down a giant hill twice
Climbing the wall near the start (pictured above)
Up and over a cargo net which was pretty high off the ground - definitely made me face my fear of heights!
Run through tires
Crawling under barbed wire
"Leap of Faith" - a 15-20 foot drop into a pool of water. We just got up there and jumped before we thought of how far the drop was and freaked ourselves out, haha. Lost my headband at this point!
Swimming under barbed wire
Swing across a pool of water on rings
More barbed wire!
Dragging a cinder block through sand
Carrying a sandbag across a river
Rock Wall (this obstacle was closed - I guess it got ruined in the storm)
A number of walls you had to get up and over, or under and through
Mud holes
Balance Beam
Rope climb
Army Crawl through mud and under barbed wire
Slip n' Slide (I'll detail this one in a bit)
"The Beast" - a giant wall that you had to scale using a rope
"The Final Battle" - two guys that are trying to tackle you that you have to dodge

I was able to get through all of them except the rings and the rope climb. Let's be honest - I have little to no upper body strength.

The Slip n' Slide was my only real complaint about the course. Apparently while we were out on the course, the Slip n' Slide broke or something, so instead of shutting the obstacle down (you know, the smart, safe thing to do) they just took half of the tarp away (the part of the tarp that would have plateaued and slowed you down) and let people slide their way onto the ground at top speed.

I'm sure this was fine when the bottom was still grass, but after hours of racers and water sliding down, the bottom turned into rocks and gravel. They didn't warn us about the rough landing, so Louie and I went down the slide, oblivious to what would happen. I bruised up my arms and booty pretty badly, and Louie scraped his side and legs. We saw a few people at the bottom with broken bones, and after the race there was tons of people with scraped up backs and bums. Not a smart idea on their part at all. Even if you have people signing injury and death waivers, you shouldn't have obstacles that are straight up unsafe. With an event this scale, they should have known better than that. Just shut it down next time.

The Beast was definitely the obstacle I was most nervous about, but when I finally got to it I had a pleasant surprise!

Brett had volunteered to help the event staff out and basically ran the obstacle! It was definitely a comfort to have a familiar face helping out on the obstacle I was most nervous about. :) I really didn't think I was going to make it over the wall (again, no upper body strength!) but Brett came up with an idea of pulling the rope while I walked up the wall and I made it! Louie also made it up the wall, although he's a bit stronger than me, and didn't need as much assistance. I'm proud of us for making it up!

One thing that would have made The Beast better would definitely be better padding at the bottom. There were only hay bales to catch people if they made that enormous drop, and again, I saw a lot of injuries at this obstacle. Jeff suggested using high-jump mats at the bottom of this obstacle, which I thought was a perfect idea. It's an extremely high drop to just be caught by a hay bale, especially when people are falling back first, or even head first.

I'd say that despite a few safety issues and benefits for spectators, this race was put on well and a lot of fun. Superhero Scramble is still in its first year of touring the nation and they're working out a few kinks, so I really hope they take runner reviews into serious consideration going into their second year to make their event even better. I would love to do this event again next year to see how far it comes!

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(2013)
"Race Review: Memorial Day 15K Trail Race"
Overall
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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(copied from my blog review here: http://versustheroad.blogspot.com/2013/06/race-review-memorial-day-marathon-15k.html)

A couple weeks ago I ventured over to the Berkshires to run the MDM 15K Trail Race. The race was part of a huge race weekend sponsored by Berkshire Bank, which also included a 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon, and a kid's race. The 15K Trail Race, which happened on Saturday, was the first race of the weekend.

Unfortunately it was raining the morning of the race, which made waking up at 4AM and the 2 hour drive slightly miserable, but I decked myself out in Red, White, and Blue (even put a bow in my hair!) to celebrate Memorial Day, slapped a smile on, and hit the road!

Since I live so far away, the early packet pickup wasn't an option for me, so I had to be at the race site at 7AM sharp to beat the lines and pick up my number and swag bag. The registration fee came with a super nice tech shirt, a "Boston Strong" wristband, and some other goodies from local running stores. Berkshire Bank also matched the amount of registration fees for the weekend and donated them all to One Fund Boston, which I thought was a fantastic part of this entire event!

The race began at 8:15. There was about a mile of road that we had to run before hitting the trail, but it was full of great views of the Berkshires. There were 3 different trails that we looped (slowly and carefully, as it was very slick from the rain) but the second one was by far the most difficult to conquer. The second trail was essentially straight up the side of a mountain. I tried so hard to keep running, but eventually I had to break down and walk, along with everyone else. I did, however, make sure I ran the flat parts, the uphills that were reasonably steep, and the downhills that weren't to slick.

I would have to say that this was the most difficult race that I have run so far. I figured that being used to trail running and being a half marathoner would make this 15K a piece of cake, but I was wrong. I'm more proud of myself for finishing this race than any other race I've run so far. I came in at 2:01:11, which gave me a pace of about 13:01. Far slower than my half marathon PR, so that should give you some idea of how hard it was!

If you're looking for a challenge and you're in the half marathon range in your training, I suggest trying a trail run for a change of pace. It will test your endurance, strength, and mental toughness, and will make you feel awesome once you finish!

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(2013)
"Race Review: Great Bay Half Marathon 2013"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

(copied from my blog review here: https://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2013/04/home-hills-and-half-marathons.html#more)

Saturday afternoon, after the Dean women's lacrosse team smoked Brandeis 19-3, Louie, Nick, Brett and I packed up Dory and took a little road trip up to my home state of New Hampshire! I hadn't been home since Christmas, so needless to say I was beyond excited.

First stop was my favorite pizza place in the whole wide world, La Festa in good ol' Dover. (If you're ever in Dover, NH for any reason, go to La Festa. Your life will be changed forever.) We met up with my friend Abby, ordered some pies, beers, and knots, and Abby & I managed to convert all 3 boys into La Festa lovers within an hour. Pretty awesome if I do say so myself! :P

We ventured back to my house afterwards where I was reunited with my parents and puppies after months of not seeing each other. It's always so good to be home! My uncle, cousin, and his hockey teammate were also there, staying over for a weekend tournament they had a few towns over from my house. After staying up and watching the Final Four, we all attempted to get some sleep for our big race the next day.

After 6 hours of waking up from the weirdest dreams ever, I finally called it quits and woke up for the day. After a good stretch and a huge breakfast, we all set off for Newmarket to check-in and get ready for our big race!

Louie, Nick, and I ran the Great Bay Half Marathon, and my mom ran the Beyond the Rainbow 5K (one day I'm going to get her to run a half with me!). My dad and Brett tagged along to take photos and cheer us on! It was so great having people supporting us at the race. During Hyannis (my first half that I ran a few weeks ago in February), it was just Louie and I running it with no one to cheer us on, so it really made such a difference to see some familiar faces at the finish line!

The 5K and the Half Marathon runners all started together, and after 2.5 miles the course split. The half marathon route took us into the woods of Newmarket and up and down some pretty crazy hills. Louie and Nick, who both grew up in MA, were taken aback by how steep some of the hills were. Luckily, from growing up in NH, I'm pretty used to running on large hills so it didn't phase me that much.

Along the course there were lots of supporters, which was definitely awesome and encouraging. There were people partying outside of their houses, people giving out Twizzlers, folk bands, belly dancers, and a guy hula-hooping and playing the banjo on top of his car. That's talent right there! We got some gorgeous views of the waterfront and lots of sunshine which I was pretty happy about.

Louie and I lost Nick and my mom almost immediately, and I lost Louie around mile 4 when the hills started to pick up. I was aiming for a 10 minute pace, but I was going faster than anticipated and eventually found the 9:30 pace runner. I thought it'd be a good idea to stick with her for a while, but after about a mile I felt like we were going too slow, so I decided to just run the rest of the race at my own pace. I was really nervous about going too fast and tiring myself out, but I felt really good throughout the entire race. My hips and hamstrings got pretty tight towards the end, but I pushed through it and just told myself it would be over soon. (Mental toughness is key when running a race that long!)

Coming over the last hill in downtown Newmarket was awesome. I could see the finish line and the crowd cheering on the sidelines only made me run faster. I saw Brett cheering me on right as I passed mile marker 13 which made me feel wonderful, and my dad was cheering and taking photos soon after that. Of course I had to smile and wave to him!

I ended up finishing with an official time of 2:01:52, which smashed my half marathon record by 14 minutes and 4 seconds! I was really surprised and excited by my time, and now I have a goal of running a sub-2 hour half within my next couple races! :)

Louie and Nick came in not long after me, and I'm so happy we all finished the race together. I'm excited for our next race together, the Superhero Scramble in June!

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