Latest reviews by Nicki Fischer

(2021)
"A Strong Welcome Back to In-Person Racing!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first big in-person event post pandemic and it did not disappoint. The race was so well managed, as always. Starting with the t-shirts and swag, the t-shirts were handed out during packet pick-up this year (a one time deal) as opposed to when you cross the finish line. I loved the fit and design of this year's t-shirt. It's a minor thing but who doesn't love a good race t-shirt? Getting your packet is a little tricky, the venue is easy to find and easy to get to but the parking and congestion around the DECC in Duluth is just busy. So many people show up to the event and the area is tight on space so you might be waiting a bit in traffic. Once you get into the DECC, the expo has plenty of vendors and packet pick-up is simple and efficient. This year there weren't as many vendors which I expect was due to Covid but there were still plenty of interesting things to see. At the expo there is a variety of extra race gear you can purchase if the finisher t-shirt isn't your thing and race swag is important to you. On race day getting to the start line is so simple. There are so many buses available to shuttle you to the start and a variety of locations including Superior. The bus shuttles you directly to the start line. Once on course you can expect to find rolling hills along the scenic highway next to Superior. Be cautious about the weather this time of year in Duluth because it can be 40 degrees and rainy or 90 degrees and humid. They use the flags to indicate the weather condition on course. This year was about 70 degrees, clouds and high humidity - not ideal but not horrible either. The rolling hills make the course deceptively challenging. It's easy to crash and burn if you go out to fast, but if you run smart this is a fantastic course to set a new PR. The aid stations are fully stocked and are scattered all over the course. They had water, powerade and ice along with some stations with fruit and gels in the later part of the course. There were medical tents along the course as well if you happened to run into issues along the way. Along with lots of aid stations, the crowd support is awesome. All the people in the area come out and cheer you on. If you have family they might have a tough time getting to different parts of the course so be prepared to only see them once or twice. At the finish line my husband found me easily so the organization of the finish line was good. My only complaint was that the finish area seemed really long to walk through but that's only because you just finish running a marathon that is seems so long! I had my husband pick me up at the end of the race where again the parking was a bit tricky as it was during packet pick-up. They also have shuttle buses available to bring you back to your original shuttle location. Overall, this was a fantastic race and really well organized. It was a big welcome back to in-person racing after the year of cancelled races.

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(2021)
"Running Meets Escape Room"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

Not your typical virtual experience! Help Atalanta make it to Mount Olympus by completing challenges presented by the Greek Gods. Not your typical Greek Gods but modern ones with a funky twist! The clues are unlocked by running certain distances (around 3-6 miles) and then you complete your professionally developed puzzle after. The puzzles are challenging, fun and engaging. The experience leaves you wanting more runs to unlock more clues and solve more puzzles! The final challenge unlocks recipes, playlists and some great discount codes from the race sponsors. They don't send you a bunch of stuff which you throw in a shoebox and never use which is a relief from all the virtual stuff going on. The swag you have access to from the sponsors is top notch but there is no swag directly sent to you from the event. Loved this experience and can't wait for more challenges!

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(2020)
"2020 Virtual 5k Review"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

The Hot Chocolate Race series did an excellent job all around. First of all that stood out was their communication. The series frequently posted about their events on Twitter and Instagram as well as sent out emails. Participants were well in the know about race sign-up, swag bag timing and race day hype. Along with the communication they had great organization. Some virtual races send out their swag bags either sporadically or with no specific timing, but Hot Chocolate sends you your race bag a week out from race day so you can all participate with your bib, medal and gear. They paid very close attention to detail in the swag bag provided. Along with samples from sponsors, you received a medal, bib, hot chocolate, chocolate pieces and a zip up hoodie. The medal opened up to a little piece of chocolate on the inside and the zip up had both men's and women's sizing which is always appreciated. They even included pins for you bib! All around the Hot Chocolate Virtual series was well thought out, well organized and had great communication. A great experience all around.

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(2020)
"Carmel Marathon Virtual 10k"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

The Carmel Marathon had gone through a couple postponements and then ultimately ended up going virtual. The communication on all of their social media accounts was accurate, timely and helpful. Although the packet took a while to be mailed, they did communicate when packets were sent and when to expect them. The shirts were dry fit and in both men's and women's sizing which is always nice. The swag consisted of the basics - medal, string bag and race shirt but everything was well done. This was especially well done considering they had to switch to virtual rather than be virtual to start with. I would love to participate in this event IRL because of how organized and well done the virtual event was.

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(2019)
"Hills On Hills"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Packet pick-up the day before the race was a smooth and easy process. No issues with parking and the packet pick-up went quick and efficiently. There were a few booths set-up but nothing major. As for race morning, getting to the race was a hassle. The traffic was backed up on the highway and cars were all trying to get to the same area of the city at once. I was able to get to the starting line on time but I had a brief moment of panic! Once the race got going it was all smooth running until about mile 3 and that's when the hills started. You would climb up a very large hill into the neighborhoods by the Lakefront and then do various out and back loops. The first half wasn't too bad. Then, you circled back into the city (my GPS watch went a little crazy and lost signal) and continued to do these long out and back loops with hills about a half a mile to a mile long. It was a very challenging course, especially in the second half of the race. The finish was exciting and the crowd was great. I especially liked the race t-shirt as they had both men's and women's cut. The aid stations were perfectly spaced a part and there were lots of volunteers on the course. I would recommend this race to someone who wants a good marathon experience. I would not recommend this race to someone looking for a big PR.

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