Latest reviews by Riley Fickett

(2020)
"Race Review: Running from the Stadium to the Sea & Another New PR!!! // Los Angeles Marathon Weekend 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/2020/03/race-review-running-from-stadium-to-sea.html)

Brett and I ventured out west a few weeks ago for marathon #14 - the Los Angeles Marathon! We left on an over night flight on the 6th which was brutal. We left Boston at 9:30pm EST and landed in LA at 1AM PST. WOOF. So thankful that Brett's cousin Stevie and his wife Yvonne was willing to take us in and cart us around for the weekend. (Shout out them for carting us around all weekend and showing us a great time!) We got back to the house around 2:30am and was greeted by signs that their daughters had made for us. They are so adorable! 😭

We woke up around 7:30AM the next morning which was a bit surprising, but maybe being on east coast time messed with our ability to sleep for longer. πŸ˜‚ Our plan for the day was to head into LA (we were staying a bit outside the city) to hit the expo then grab a bite to eat. But first, shakeout run! I ran 2 miles around the neighborhood which was so needed after being on a cross-country flight for 6 hours. I must have felt great because my second mile was the fastest mile recorded on my Garmin to date. Woops! πŸ˜‚

I showered up and we hit the road for LA. We made a stop for breakfast (Chick-fil-A, our fave #chickenbiscuits), popped by to see Brett's aunt, and picked up Yvonne before heading over to the LA Convention Center for the expo! We, of course, also needed to make a stop at Starbucks because I was essentially falling asleep standing up. I needed energy before wandering the vendor booths!

This expo was HUGE and pretty well organized as well. All of the bib and shirt pick up was up front so if you only wanted to grab your race packet you could quickly grab it and leave, but they had dozens of vendors and photo ops so we wanted to take full advantage. We could have definitely stayed at the expo for a while to check everything out! I think we were there for about 30-45 minutes or so just seeing what was around.

After the expo we stopped at a restaurant across from the Staples Center called Tom's Watch Bar which has the MOST TVs I've ever seen in a restaurant. We were watching literally every sports event that was happening in the United States at the same time. πŸ˜‚ I grabbed a bite to eat and drank my water while everyone else got to enjoy cocktails. (Probs the worst part of marathon weekend - not being able to indulge with everyone else until after the race. 😜🍹) We had a good time just chatting and planning what race day would look like. It's always so amazing to know there's folks in my life willing to sacrifice their weekends to support my crazy marathon endeavors!

We headed back home in the mid-afternoon to get ready for the next morning. We were about to lose an hour of sleep to daylight saving's so bedtime had to be early. 😩 I laid out everything I needed, packed my Camelbak, used the therapy gun on my legs, set my alarm for 3AM, and finally got into bed around 9pm.

Fake 3AM (really 2AM) slapped us all in the face on race morning. I popped out of bed to get ready since we were hoping to be on the road by 4. Yvonne very kindly made me a breakfast smoothie (which was DELISH) and I am so thankful that she did that for me because I totally would have forgotten breakfast if she didn't. 😳 I don't know what it is about race morning but sometimes I get so focused on how the run is going to go that I forget everyhting else. Again, SO THANKFUL that I have amazing people around me to help me take on these 26.2 beasts!

I knew traffic on race morning was going to be nuts and we had tried our best to prepare for it. We got to the Dodger Stadium area by about 5:15am - about an hour and 45 minutes before the race started - but we still were stuck in so much traffic trying to actually drive up and park at the stadium. We waited in line for a while until we saw other runners hopping out of cars and walking their way to the stadium. Brett and I eventually decided to do that same with the hope that Stevie and Yvonne could meet up with us at the start before the race, but as we walked up the road we quickly realized that there was no way they would be able to make it to the stadium and park before I started running. Such a bummer! Definitely plan ahead when it comes to the starting line because with 27,000 runners + their loved ones all driving to the same place it will take you a long time before you can actually get there and park.

Luckily the walk wasn't so bad (maybe 10-15 minutes?) and it was actually good to get my body moving before the race! Brett and I found a spot in the parking lot and he put me through a dynamic warm up before heading over to the corrals (trainer boyfriend perks!). I was in the open corral which meant that we were the last to start, but I believe the majority of the field was in the open corral so you could just hop in wherever. After the elites and seeded corrals were off, it was our turn! I really appreciate that they didn't do a waved start for the open corral. Despite the fact that the corral was so big, we moved quickly and I was on the road about 15 minutes after start time - not bad!

The first few miles flew right by. This course is so much fun. There's people everywhere (spectators and runners alike), there's LA landmarks at almost every mile, and there's just so much to look at! This marathon also encourages folks to go for Guinness World Records during the race so lots of people dress up. I saw a guy running in a bear mascot suit (see the vlog below for a clip!), folks running while dribbling basketballs, I even saw a runner at the finish line dressed in a full suit (INCLUDING dress shoes - OUCH). No matter where you look on the course there is entertainment

Despite the rolling hills of this course (which honestly I was not very prepared for), I was moving along at a pretty good clip and hitting my paces. I was staying on top of my fueling plan and it seemed like everything was clicking! The only thing I was worried about was that I needed to find a restroom but every single porta-potty stop had a huge line. I figured by maybe mile 7 the lines would have maybe died down but that was not the case at all. There were lines at every bathroom stop for the entire race which I have not seen at a marathon before. This year's field of runners was the biggest LA has seen and they did not prepare to have enough resources for all 27,000 of us.

The stretch between the 10k point and the half marathon point wad my absolute favorite part of the course. There was a beautiful stretch where we ran downhill and could see the Hollywood sign in perfect view in the distance, we ran down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and I even got to see Brett, Stevie, and Yvonne right before mile 12! I was definitely still feeling fairly energetic through this stretch despite the hills putting my legs to the test. I also found a 5:00 pace group around this time that was doing run/walk intervals so I ran with them for a couple of miles before needing to fall back a bit.

After mile 15 the hard work really set in. I finally made a bathroom stop at mile 15 and had to wait in line for a few minutes. This *might* have been where my sub-5 went to die, but I also know that if I waited any longer it would have messed with my run. You never know with the marathon what factors are going to impact your race! I decided to make a stop so I didn't have to think about my bladder for another 11 miles. After the break, I ran through Beverley Hills blasting Weezer (because you have to), enjoyed the Cheer mile at 19, and really had to focus on staying hydrated from mile 20 on as the temperatures started to rise. At this point I was chanting "sub-5, sub-5, sub-5" to myself to drive out all the negative thoughts that were trying to creep into my mind and ruin my race.

The last miles were TOUGH. It took a lot of mental fighting to keep myself moving forward. I didn't make a single stop after hitting the bathroom at 15 which I was proud of myself for, but I did need to take walking breaks here and there. (It's my goal to build my mental toughness and physical fitness so I will keep running all the way through 26.2!) Mile 24 was SO CHALLENGING because it was ALL UP HILL. πŸ’€ At that point I knew that a sub-5 was pretty unlikely (runner math is never fun haha) but I knew another new PR was in reach. After I crested the hill it was all downhill to the finish line. I put my head down and gave it everything I had for the rest of the race. I was able to see Brett and Yvonne right at the finish line and I puuuuuuuuuuuuuussssheed through to the end...

AND I SET ANOTHER NEW PR AT 5:03:01!!!!

I am so stinkin' proud of being able to set two marathon PRs within a month of each other. I worked so hard to become faster during the last training cycle and the hard work paid off. I am still working my way to sub-5 but I know that it will come with more time and training. I can't wait to see that 4 at the beginning of my finish time some day soon!

To be honest the finish area is kind of a mess. Santa Monica being a beach town, there really isn't a ton of room for people to get around (ya know, because of the ocean being right there and all). After you cross the finish line, you have to walk about a quarter of a mile to get out of the finish area. I understand why races have to do this but I'm never a fan of it. All I want to do is sit down! Once I finally got out of the finish area I found a patch of grass to sit on for a while as I waited for Brett to navigate the crowds to come fin me. Because so much of the finish is roped off to spectators and there is just a billion people everywhere it took him a while to actually find where I was. It's just SO MANY PEOPLE and SO MANY BARRICADES at the finish that you really should pre-determine a meeting point at the finish with your loved ones. It's not easy at all to link up close to the finish, so make sure you make a plan. Either way, I was so happy when Brett finally found me and we were able to celebrate another new PR!

After the race, we stopped for lunch at the Water Grill right near the finish line. One of the biggest highlights was getting to meet up with our pals Carly and Kirby! We hadn't seen them in a few years and I was so good to see them. I had a delicious plate of fish & chips (highly recommend!) while we caught up and I recovered from the race. Before we left we had to snag some photos with them before making a plan to not wait to long before seeing each other again!

I wanted to finish up this post recognizing how fortunate I was to actually run this race. LA was one of the last marathons to stay on schedule (the week following LA it seems like everything got cancelled), and now amidst so many race cancellations and postponements I feel very lucky that I was able to run all of my scheduled races this winter. It just makes my experience at the 35th Annual LA Marathon that much more special.

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(2020)
"Race Review: Racing to the Castle at the Princess Half Marathon // Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend 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/2020/03/race-review-racing-to-castle-at.html)

I actually got a pretty decent amount of sleep before race #2 of the weekend which I was happy about because Sunday was going to be a looooong day! I was up with my alarm at 3AM and immediately started getting into my Provincial Belle costume. I knew I needed to be Belle for the Princess Half because she's the Disney Princess that I relate to the most. I really loved putting my costume together and I think I really came out great! πŸ’™πŸ“š

One of my favorite details of my Belle costume were my socks! My friend Shannon got me these for Christmas and I thought they went along perfectly with my costume. If you can't tell, they are banned book socks with the titles of banned books on one sock and the titles blacked out on the other. I feel like Belle would be a huge fan of these socks!

We were a little worried about what getting to Epcot would be like when we didn't have our own transportation. Luckily I had scheduled an Uber the night before to pick us up at 3:45 and we were able to catch a ride no problem. I will say that Ubers are in high demand at that time because you have literally thousands of people trying to get to the park at the same time. Our driver's phone kept going off with ride requests during the 15 minute ride to Epcot. I would recommend if you are planning to do an Uber or Lyft to get to the park on race morning, make sure you're scheduling it in advance because even though there's drivers out and about, everyone is trying to book a ride!

Similar to the 10K we got to Epcot around 4am. There were significantly more people at this race (22,800!) so it was a bit more of a process of getting to the staging area. Cassie and I also both had bags to drop since we were planning to head right to Magic Kingdom after the race, so we had a few more stops to make before we could really enjoy the morning. After we dropped our gear and got ourselves situated, we tried our luck again at a pre-race character photo. We opted to wait in line for Queen Minnie since she had the shortest line. We waited in line for about 40 minutes or so and got to the point where there was maybe two more groups ahead of us before they brought Queen Minnie in! 😫 So heartbreaking! Again, if you're hoping to guarantee yourself a character photo, make sure you're getting the the staging area much earlier than we did. Either way, we got cute pics of our costumes with the character backdrop before headed to the corral!

Because the race field is so much larger, the corrals need to be placed on a larger stretch of highway on the park property to accommodate all of the runners. That means we did have to walk a bit away from the staging area. A lot of folks say it's a mile walk but I don't think it felt more than half a mile. Either way it really wasn't that bad of a walk, so I wouldn't stress too much about this portion of the half!

Again I was placed in the last corral so I had a bit of a wait ahead of me. The way the corrals were placed (A-F were on a straightaway section of the highway while G & H were on the opposite side), they were able to get almost all of A-F out in about 15-20 minutes. However because G & H had to cross over and kind of zig-zag their way to the starting line, it took another 40-50 minutes for me (I was close to the front of H) to get up to the start. Luckily I don't mind waiting too much, but seeing how quicky A-F got out on the course definitely motivated me to remember to submit my proof of time for my next Disney race. πŸ˜‚ Standing around is tough on the feet! But before long I was finally running one of my bucket list races - the Disney Princess Half Marathon! ✨

As expected, being in the last corral there was a lot of walkers and slower runners that I had to dodge around, but there were plenty of stretches where I felt like I could run at a regular pace. I did keep the pace quite easy (I think I stayed in the 11min range for the entire race where I could help it) because I just wanted to take in the race and enjoy myself. This is a race I've wanted to run for the better part of a decade so I wanted to enjoy it! Around mile 2.5 you get to the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. Even though you have a couple more miles to go to actually get to Main Street, it's an exciting milestone of the course!

Even though there's quite a bit of highway between the start and getting to Main Street, there was so much entertainment along the way. There were a couple of character stops, 3 or 4 marching bands and drumming groups, and the video screens playing Cinderella (who the race was themed after)! My only big complaint for the race was that there was a huuuuuge hold up at the Ticket & Transportation Center before you get to Main Street around mile 4. I guess there's a bunch of construction going on right outside the TTC and the course narrows to 1 lane, so as us back-of-the-pack-ers got to that point the bottle neck was so bad that the group came to a dead stop as we waited our turn to get through. I'm honestly not sure if there was much they could do to alleviate that, but it was my singular dislike about this course so I think that's pretty good!

Right before mile 5 you finally make your way through the gates of Magic Kingdom, turn the corner, and see Cinderella's Castle come into view! It's just as magical as you imagine it to be. I believe I cheered as I finally saw the castle because it was what I had been waiting for after all this time! I had to stop and walk my way up Main Street to really make sure I took it all in.

Magic Kingdom was a lot of fun because there were so many opportunities for interaction! There were so many photographers around the park, especially around the castle, characters at almost every turn, and spectators cheering you on everywhere. Even though you're only in the park for .8 miles of the course, there's really so much to enjoy. According to my Garmin this was my longest mile of the race at 18:07, so you can tell I really enjoyed myself! I also felt confident that I put in enough distance between myself and the back of the pack that I was no longer at risk of getting swept, so I stopped for my very first character photo...

DOPEY!!! πŸ’šπŸ’ŽπŸ’œ I have dreams of completing the Dopey Challenge one day so I knew I had to stop and grab a photo with him for good luck on my future attempt at 48.6. After experiencing Princess Weekend I have a feeling it'll be sooner rather than later! πŸ˜‰

There were plenty of photo opportunities around the castle. They have several lines of photographers right in front of the castle, as well as a couple of other angles so you definitely won't miss your opportunity for a good castle photo! I had to stop for at least one more for good measure. 🏰

You exit Magic Kingdom at mile 6 and enter into a loooong stretch of road which is commonly known as the most difficult part of the race, simply because in comparison to running through Magic Kingdom it is quite boring! They did a great job of keeping the fun going on the course during this, though. I think I counted a total of 6 or 7 character photo stops, a few video screens, a DJ, and a marching band, so there's still plenty to look at and interact with! I think my least favorite part of this section of the course in the fact that the turns on this stretch are banked which are really difficult to run on. These kinds of roads really bother my ankles so I tried my hardest to stay at the highest part of the road so I wasn't running *completely* sideways. This only happens a couple times, though, and the rest of the road is fairly flat!

Around mile 11 I hopped in line for another character photo before heading into Epcot - Suzy & Perla! They were so cute and I was excited to get a photo with characters from the movie the half was themed after. After that photo it was time to finally make my way back into Epcot and get ready for the finish! You actually don't run that much in Epcot which I was surprised about. We ran so much in Epcot during the 10K that I figured it would be similar during the half, but you only run maybe a mile backstage and quarter mile inside the park. They had Panchito out in Mexico and there were maybe two people in line for photos, so I made sure to stop for him as well!

Shortly after Mexico was the mile 13 marker and the finish line! They had a couple of characters out at the finish which I was so excited about! They had Donald dressed up in his knight gear as well as *gasp* QUEEN MINNIE! I was so pumped to get a photo with both of them, especially Queen Minnie who I had narrowly missed getting a photo with that same morning. I didn't care that I was literally 10 feet from the finish, I had to stop and get a couple more photos before finishing the race!

After I snagged my photos I floated across the finish line, so happy that I had finally gotten the opportunity to run this bucket list race. I don't generally pay money for race photos but I knew I had to buy myself this finish line snap. I look exactly how I felt coming across that finish line - SO happy! ✨

I came across the finish line and snagged my finisher's medal, which was probably my favorite medal of the weekend. A kind stranger took my finish photo and I took hers (one huge plus of the Disney races that I experienced - everyone is willing to take a photo for you!), I was sprinkled with pixie dust, and I made my way over to the finisher's area.

Almost directly after I took the above photo my legs started cramping up HARD. It was super painful to walk which was concerning, but I waddled my way over to the finisher's area to collect my Fairy Tale Challenge medal. I was shocked at how large the medals from the weekend were. They were all SO gorgeous and I could not stop touching and looking at them. πŸ˜‚

After collecting my challenge medal I finally linked back up with Cassie and we also met up with her family who was joining us for a day in Magic Kingdom! Before exiting the finish area we stopped to grab an Ever After Ale which was a beer brewed especially for Princess Weekend - a blueberry lemonade beer with GLITTER! 😱✨ It was actually so yummy and a great treat after a long morning. We sipped on our beers as we made our way to the monorail for Magic Kingdom.

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(2020)
"Race Review: 26.2 in the Big Easy & Celebrating a New PR! // Rock n' Roll New Orleans Marathon"
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: http://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2020/02/race-review-262-in-big-easy-celebrating.html)

I'm so excited to finally be talking about race day at the Rock n' Roll New Orleans Marathon! The Cheer Squad and I were up bright and early to head down to the starting line. We were out the door by 6:15am and opted to take the trolley downtown. As I've found at other large races, there was definitely a delay in the transportation that morning. When thousands of people are all trying to get to the same location it's only to be expected, so make sure you're planning for travel time to the start the morning of the race!

I believe we got on the trolley by 6:45am or so and were off and walking toward the start by 7. There was a big construction site in the middle of Canal Street during our visit due to the collapse of the Hardrock Hotel, so we had to walk the rest of the way to the start. The start was scheuled for 7:30am so the pressure to get to the start was a little stressful! But we made it in plenty of time. I missed the Maniacs photo by literally 10 seconds which I was kinda bummed about, but honestly I was just excited to be there!

I said my goodbyes to the Cheer Squad and headed into my corral. While I was waiting for the starting gun, I looked down at my watch and realized that even though it had been on the charger all night it was still at 18% battery. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ I rely heavily on my watch to make sure I'm hitting my paces, so because I wasn't quite sure how long my watch's battery would last I decided to load up Strava's record feature on my phone which I had never used. πŸ˜‚ Naturally I had no idea what I was doing, but I managed to figure out how to get it to tell me my mile splits through my headphones. It would have to do!

I waited in the corral for quite some time. It seemed to be about 30 minutes or so before I finally got to the starting line, but once I did my corral got stopped *right* at the front! For the first time ever, I got to be right at the line when the gun went off which was super cool. I don't think it will be often that I will be able to be one of the first to cross the start when the gun goes off, so I tried to savor the moment!

Knowing that I was running Strava off of my phone, I didn't take a ton (or any) photos during the race. I didn't want my phone to die mid-run because I already knew that my watch was going to! Luckily the Cheer Squad took a few great photos to share with y'all and a ton of video for the vlog which you can find at the end of this post! 😊

It was an absolutely *gorgeous* day for a marathon and I was so thankful for the weather. It was a bit humid but not unbearably so, and running in the warmth for a change was so pleasant. The first few miles of the race was an out-and-back section through a neighborhood. The streets were full of spectators and a few live bands. I really enjoy out-and-back sections because I love being able to see the other runners on the opposite side of the road from me. I got to see the elites roll by which is always so inspiring, and having both sides of the roads filled with marathoners and half marathoners was so much fun.

The first 7 miles of the race seemed to FLY by. I was doing my best to not get too caught up in the excitement of the race and focus on my fueling plan, and eventually I fell into a good rhythm with my pacing. Unfortunately around mile 6.5 or so I really started to feel the impact of the roads on my feet. I know I was a bit overdue for some new running shoes but I wanted to stick with my trust purple Adrenaline 19's since I've been doing all of my training in them. Sadly I definitely felt the impact of having worn out shoes and have learned my lesson to buy a new pair mid-way through my training cycle next time.

At mile 9 we arrived in the French Quarter and I found the Cheer Squad in Jackson Square around mile 9.75! It is always so unbelievably motivating to see friendly faces mid-way through a marathon and know that they'll be waiting for you at certain points along the course. It gives you something to look forward to throughout long, lonely stretches of the course and also motivates you to work that much harder for the people who are there for you. I always love having my Cheer Squad with me and I'm grateful I have folks who are willing to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to watch me run a lot of miles. πŸ˜‚πŸ’—

This course has one of my *least* favorite features of any race that has both a half and a full marathon running simultaneously. They bring the full marathon right by the finish line of the half before the runners continue on for another 13 miles. It's always such a mood killer to know that the finish line is that close and yet you still have so far to go! πŸ˜‚ As usual, as the half marathon veered off to finish, the course became quite a bit more open. However, the field to this race is so large that I never was alone on the course, which was nice!

Once I passed mile 16 and took the turn onto the section along Lake Pontchartrain, the wind SIGNIFICANTLY increased. After doing some research on the wind conditions, it looks like there was 20+ mph wind gusts and they were mostly ALL headwinds! There were certain points where I felt like I was getting blown backwards. It was crazy! Definitely not something I was prepared to experience so it was a challenge to keep myself pushing through. I was also feeling off stomach-wise for most of the day so this additional challenge really made me have to fight even harder mentally to keep pushing as hard as I could.

Around mile 17.5 I pulled over to refill my Camelbak. As y'all know, I like to run with a pack as I drink a ton of water while running. One of my favorite features of this race was the fact that there was a water stop at almost every mile, and each stop featured an ENORMOUS water jug that you could use to fill up your own water supply if you wanted. I was able to take advantage of that which I was super grateful for. Unfortunately my stop reflected on the GPS tracker Erin, Brett, and Cullen were using to see my progress and they were a little worried if I was okay or not. Brett called me right before I passed mile 18 to check in, and hearing his voice gave me a boost of energy. He let me know that they were waiting for me around mile 20.5 which I was so looking forward to!

As promised I saw their three smiling faces midway between miles 20 and 21. Erin ran with me a bit of the way until we met up with the guys where they were camped out. I was still on track for a sub-5 race so I didn't want to linger too long with them but again, it was so good to see them and get good vibes and high fives all around before heading into the last portion of the course. I would see them at the finish!

Unlucky for me, I started getting some serious leg cramping about 5 minutes after I saw them. I started to have to take stretching breaks which I hate having to do mid-race, but I needed some relief from the cramping! The wind + the old shoes + the exhaustion of running that far was really taking its toll on my body, but I kept my race goals in mind and kept pushing hard. I took a pattern of Run β†’ walk β†’ stop and stretch over the next few miles in order to give myself some relief every so often.

Around mile 23 we finally started to get some relief from the wind. I wasn't totally sure that I would be on track for a sub-5 anymore at that point, but I still was fairly sure I could PR. My watch had been dead for about 10 miles and I wasn't sure how accurate Strava was, so I really had no idea where I stood. I just kept myself moving forward at as quick a pace as I was able to. Once I hit mile 25 I just sucked it up and kept myself running. I was close enough to the finish that I just wanted to put my head down and get it done! The race volunteers and police that were staffing the course were smiling and enthusiastic toward every single runner and I am so appreciative of that. There's nothing worse than being a back-of-the-pack-er and seeing volunteers look annoyed at the fact that you're still running and they can't go home yet.

Eventually I turned into City Park and I knew the finish line was SO CLOSE! As you turn toward the finish chute the energy and crowd was unreal. The music was pumping, every member of the crowd was cheering for every runner, and it just felt so good to be able to be welcomed to the finish line in that way. I saw the Cheer Squad to my right, waved and blew them a kiss, then gave my final push across the finish line. Another state done! βœ…

The volunteers at the finish were great. You were given your medal and had a couple opportunities to take your photo with them. You were handed snacks, water, and Gatorade, and congratulated left and right. When you're super delirious after 26.2 miles it's really hard to think coherently and the volunteers at the finish line made it so you didn't have to. That way you could just reflect on what you just accomplished. I took my medal and a handful of snacks and drinks and met up with the gang so I could finally sit on the ground. πŸ˜‚

Again, I wasn't sure what time I finished in. My watch was dead, I wasn't sure how accurate Strava was, and I guess the Rock n' Roll tracking app said I arrived to the finish line WAYYY before I actually did. Strava said I finished in 4:58 (and later said I finished in 5:01?) and my unofficial time from Rock n' Roll was 5:04:13 but because the app said I arrived several minutes before I actually did I was worried that my time was much longer than that. It wasn't until later that evening that we got official results, and it turned out my unofficial time of 5:04:13 was my official time! I HAD SET A NEW PR!!!! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ Regardless of what my time would have been I was super proud of myself and how I performed that day. I knew my training had made me a much better runner and had made my marathon experience much better for it. I was super happy and ready to celebrate!

One of the *only* things I would criticize this race on is that the finish line festival was SO. FAR. from the actual finish! City Park is a huge place and the organizers opted to put the finish line festival all the way across the park from the finish line. I was really confused by that decision because there was so much empty space at the park much closer to the finish line that could have easily been used for the after party which would have made it so much easier on the runners. I can speak for myself when I say I am definitely not up for walking super far after running 26.2 miles, and I'm sure other runners could say the same for any of the race distances that were offered. Unfortunately because it was so far from the finish I had zero desire to check it out, even though I'm sure it would have been really fun! If it was closer to the finish and I didn't have to go as far, I likely would have gone and checked it out.

But if that's the only thing I'm criticizing the race on, I think that it's a pretty damn good race! πŸ˜‰

For real, this race was great. The volunteers were so helpful and friendly, the pre-race communication was excellent and I knew exactly what I needed to do as a participant, the on-course experience was so vibrant and fun, and I just felt happy the entire race! This was my first Rock n' Roll race experience and I am so happy it was a positive one. I've heard really mixed things about this race series and I'm glad that my experience was one that makes me excited to come back to it. I'm really looking forward to heading to Seattle and Savannah with Rock n' Roll later this year!

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(2020)
"Race Review: Running with All the Colors of the Wind at the Enchanted 10K"
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: http://fiveleveninety.blogspot.com/2020/02/race-review-running-with-all-colors-of.html)

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 3AM - it was finally time to get dressed and ready for the Enchanted 10K! Luckily we had all set out our flat runners the night before so it was easy to get changed and ready to go in a short amount of time. Plus, we had to lay our flat runners out so we could post them to social media, OBVIOUSLY. πŸ˜‚ For the 10K I was going as Meeko (since the race was themed after one of my favorite Disney movies, Pocahontas) and my mom was going as Ariel.

It was a FREEZING morning (in the 40's! 😭) so I added a couple of layers to my costume before heading out the door. We stayed off-property so we did not have built in transportation to the race, but luckily we had my mom to get us to the race in her car! We were on the road by 3:45 and at Epcot by 4. We stayed in the car for a little bit to stay warm, but I was anxious to get out and check out the staging area. We weren't there to just sit in the parking lot, after all! So we all grabbed space blankets and headed over to the staging area to see what it was like.

We didn't have any gear to check so after doing a quick look around to get our bearings of the area, we tried our luck at getting a pre-race character photo. I had told Brett that I would try to get a photo with Mulan since she is his favorite princess, and lo and behold Mulan was out to take photos with! We hopped in her line, but 5AM rolled around before we were able to get anywhere near the front of the line and the staff brought all the characters in to encourage folks to start heading to the corrals. One thing to remember if you're running a runDisney race and are hoping to get a pre-race character photo, GET THERE EARLY! I believe the staging area opens around 3AM (depending on the race) and people have nothing but time on their hands to wait in line for the photos so lines are super long, so if you want a character photo make sure you're there right when it opens.

Even though we were bummed we didn't get a pre-race photo with a character, we made sure to take some full-costume photos before snuggling back up in our space blankets and heading to the corrals and waiting for the start!

All three of us were placed into different corrals, but we all wanted to try to run together so we went to the lowest corral as a group. We had a loooong wait to get to the start because we were fairly far back (we even had eyes on the infamous balloon ladies! 🎈😨) but we made the most of the wait and tried to stay as warm as possible because we knew that the race was going to be totally worth it. I believe we finally got underway around 6:30am or so and we were finally running the Enchanted 10K!

(Fun fact - this was my 50th lifetime race which was so exciting and such a special race to run for #50!)

We ran as a group of 3 for the first mile or so but around 1.25 I turned around and could not find Cassie. I sent her a quick text to check in and it turns out she had gotten stuck behind some walkers and couldn't push through. I tried a couple times to run back to see if I could spot her but the course was so crowded and I didn't want to also lose my mom so I just made sure Cassie was okay (she was fine, just stuck!) and opted to run with my mom. One thing about being in one of the last corrals is that you're going to have to navigate through a lot of walkers. People are generally really nice if you say "excuse me" and will let you pass them, so my mom and I were able to weave through folks for most of the race without problem, but you should go into this race knowing it's going to be PACKED from start to finish and adjust your mindset accordingly.

Mom and I kept the pace easy because we just wanted to take in the experience and we honestly loved every minute. There were so many characters out on the course (I would say one every .5 - .75 mile or so, with much more within the park), they were bumping Disney music the whole race (mainly Pocahontas), and they even had video screens playing clips of the movies the weekend was themed around.

While we didn't stop for any character photos (every line was 1 billion years long and we knew we were at the back of the pack and at risk of being swept by the scary balloon ladies) but I opted to snag some quick selfies before continuing on the course. This is a great alternative to waiting in line for an individual photo if you're worried about time, and the characters are usually really great at waving to the crowd running by between the photos they're taking. My favorite was, of course, Meeko!

The miles seemed to absolutely fly by and my mom and I had a fantastic time together singing along to all the Disney songs and taking in all the sights. We made sure to take plenty of photos to remember our experience. Mom teared up a bit when we got into Epcot around mile 4 because it brought back so many memories of the last time we were in the park - over 20 years ago when I was 8 years old! It really was such a fantastic experience running through the park with my mom since we were together the last time either of us were there. Going back there with her was so special and I'm glad we got to have those moments together.

Around mile 5.5 Cassie was able to catch up with us which was amazing because we got the chance to all finish the race together! We all danced down the finisher's chute and held hands as we all crossed the line together. We had such an amazing time at the race and I'm glad we all got to finish with each other! We all picked up our medals and (of course) snapped the all-important finish line pics!

The medals were absolutely gorgeous and so much bigger than I was anticipating! You can tell that runDisney really put a lot of thought into what their medals would look like and they are absolutely beautiful. It made me so excited to earn my half marathon and Fairy Tale Challenge medal the next day!

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(2019)
"Race Review: Franklin Turkey Trot 2019"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This race is your typical hometown turkey trot where runners and walkers of all experience levels come out in droves to kick off their Thanksgiving Day. This year it was raining (per usual anytime I'm racing) but I always love starting off Thanksgiving with something active to do in the morning and it was less than 2 miles from my house, so it was easy to stay motivated. This race was to benefit the local food pantry and the cool thing about this race is that you can opt to either pay an entry fee ($25) or donate 25 non-perishable food items. It looks like through all of the participants, they were able to raise $20,000 and collect 2,000 pounds of non-perishable food items! So awesome!

Being someone who is used to running longer distance races, which usually consist of folks who have trained before and know road race etiquette, I had to remind myself that runners from all levels of experience participate in turkey trots. As soon as the race began I was caught behind multiple groups of walkers who were about 5-across, and while I was frustrated for a split second, I had to remind myself that this was for FUN πŸ˜‚ and that everyone else was there for fun as well. So I dodged my way around folks until I was able to have some space to run at the pace I wanted to.

Since it was a shorter run, I really tried to push myself hard for speed. I definitely felt the burn, but I moved at a really fast clip for most of the race! The first half mile of the race was a downhill and the last half mile was an uphill, so my splits look insane but I managed to finish in under 29 minutes (which I haven't been able to do in YEARS), and I even placed in the top 20 of my age group! Overall really happy with how I ran on Thursday!!! 😊

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