Latest reviews by Denise Crider

(2021)
"Hot Chocolate 15K Virtual; It’s a Sweet Treat!"
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While I’ve enjoyed running two in-person (IRL) Hot Chocolate races in Atlanta in previous years (both the 5K and 15K), this was my first VIRTUAL Hot Chocolate race!

Yes, I’ve done many virtual races these past 12 months – as many of us have! And, sure, I miss IRL races, but I completely enjoyed this 15K!

PRO'S:
One thing in particular I appreciated was that I received ALL the gear BEFORE race day. I registered about six weeks prior, and had all the goods at least a week before race day arrived. The race website also lets you know how far in advance you need to register in order to have your swag before the big day. Sweet!

Personally, I like to finish my race WITH A MEDAL shortly thereafter! Nothing like a post race pix with bling in hand to make the race feel complete. And, having a real bib (versus one I had to print) was a nice touch! The gear the HC folks provide is always great quality; loving my hooded (removable) jacket that doesn’t have 20 sponsors (none, in fact!) listed on the back.

CON:
You get the chocolate before the race, and it's hard not to eat it before race day! ;) I must admit I ate all the chocolate provided BEFORE the race, but had enough self-control to wait until post-race to consume the hot chocolate. Yes, with whipped cream.

More PRO's:
I chose to run my race near the Chattahoochee National Recreation Center. The first third was very hilly, and the remainder was much flatter. I then had a socially distanced coffee with friends post race to celebrate, and take some medal pix. It was a great morning!

I’ve run 12 virtual races in the past 11 months – even a marathon! I actually ran my fastest half marathon ever during a virtual race, too. The point is that while we all enjoy and crave in-person (IRL) races, virtual races certainly have many benefits. I for one know my training and fitness would suffer if I was not working towards some goals and races.

Isn't it great that you can pick the date, course, time that you run? Flexibility to fit your schedule, your needs. A few other benefits: no standing/shivering in corrals, or waiting for the porta-potty with a virtual race. It also makes you more self-sufficient, and a more knowledgeable runner, as you have to provide your own nutrition/hydration on course. There is much value in that!

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(2020)
"Disney Marathon is Different - & That's Mostly a Good Thing!"
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I've done the Disney Marathon six times, and this year (2020) I completed it as part of the Dopey Challenge.

Overall, I think Disney does a GREAT job with Marathon Weekend, and the Disney Marathon. But, it is also unlike many other marathons.

Some things that are DIFFERENT from other marathons:
- Very early start time of 5:00 a.m., and needing to be in staging/corral area at least an hour before then.
- Lots of run/walkers, with seemingly most, if not all pace groups using the Jeff Galloway run/walk method.
- Character photo stops galore!
- Ability to go on a few rides during the event (ie: Mount Everest) - where else can you do that?
- Fireworks at the start of each corral.
- Ability to run through four Disney theme parks, plus their water theme park, Blizzard Beach!
- Amazing photos taken during the race (Disney Photo Pass) - considerably more than other races.
- Disney characters at the start and finish as well!
- Possibly warm temps, even in January! In 2020, the course was shortened for some runners due to rising temperatures (over 80˚F).
- If you're staying off property (Disney), you'll need to leave even earlier to make it to start area on time.

They have by far the best med tents of any race I've done (I've run 14 marathons, 25 half marathons), as well as good water/nutrition stops as well (approx. every two miles).

While there are numerous corrals, it still tends to get quite crowded, especially with the corrals that are "further back." Expect that certain areas will be crowded.

Overall, I think the Disney Marathon, and runDisney races in general are great for those new to racing, and those that use the run/walk method. And while I think almost any runner would enjoy a Disney race, those that are really set on PR'ing may not like the vibe of the runDisney Marathon. It's more casual, and all-runner friendly. As with anything, nothing can be all things to all people!

I highly recommend giving a runDisney race, and especially the Disney Marathon a go!

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(2019)
"A Beautiful Rural Fall Marathon in NY"
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Wineglass is hosted in Corning, NY, a lovely, quaint town in beautiful western New York. The point to point marathon begins in Bath, New York, and winds via country roads through small communities and farm land. The leaves are in the early stages of changing color along the countryside. Total runners (marathon, half marathon, 5K) are ~2,500, so it is a smaller marathon, with a laid-back feel in a peaceful setting.

For those not interested in running a marathon, they do offer a half marathon (Sunday), and a 5K on Saturday. They also have race challenges, the Pinot Half Marathon Challenge (5K and HM), and the Wineglass Riesling Marathon Challenge (5K and marathon).

HOTELS – there are a number of options on the race website, and we chose to stay at the official race hotel, Radisson Hotel Corning. The Radisson is also is the location of the pasta dinner on Saturday night, and provides late check-out, plus some pre-race goodies (water/bananas/bagels/coffee) on race day. The hotel is also walking distance to several good restaurants and shops in downtown Corning. Note that the expo is a longer walk, approximately .9 miles. The other benefit of the Radisson is it is approximately three blocks from the finish, and the morning bus pick-up is essentially right outside the hotel!

EXPO! The Expo is located at the Corning Museum of Glass. It is small, but efficient, and has everything you’d possibly need at an expo. There is also a good selection of Wineglass Race Series merchandise for purchase. It is open on Friday and Saturday, and getting your bib on race day is NOT an option.

Both Meb Kelezighi and Bart Yasso were at expo from 5-7 pm on Friday signing bibs. Unfortunately, I found out after the fact! I did happen to snap a picture of them both outside the expo on Friday.

RACE SWAG: is nice! Swag this year included: a ¾ zip long sleeved tech shirt (male and female versions), runner ankle socks, a small engraved stemless wine glass, a smallish bottle of champagne, and a mini chocolate turtle. That’s a bit better than just the typical tech race shirt! And, I must mention the medal. The medal is glass (shocking) and resembles the bottom of a wine bottle. The medallion is hand crafted and designed by a local glass craftsman each year (note the glass medal applies to half marathon and marathon). And, the race website states if you break it, they’ll replace it!

PRE-RACE PASTA DINNER: I did not attend, unfortunately, as it sells out quick! Meb Keflezighi was the key note speaker, and Bart Yasso was also in attendance. Purchase your tickets early if you want to attend. Dinner begins at 5:30 on Saturday night, and is over by ~7:30. Tickets are $40 for the Radisson “official” pasta dinner, but the race series did offer another pasta dinner option in Bath for $10.

COURSE: This is a point to point race. You MUST take a bus to the start line, and are able to board a bus in either Corning or Bath for both the marathon/half-marathon. Note that half-marathon runners have an earlier window to board than marathon runners. The Corning marathon bus window is 5:30-7:00 a.m. (marathon starts at 8:15!), and we boarded a bus at 6:15 with little wait time. If you are driving to Corning to board a bus, there is parking around the Radisson/downtown area, but it fills up pretty quick.

ELEVATION CHANGE: The course has approximately a NET 200’ elevation loss. BUT, this does not mean there are not some hills! My Nike Running app clocked 550’ elevation gain (meaning elevation loss of 750’). There is an elevation map on the race website, and it appears like the majority elevation gain was in the earlier half of course, up to approximately mile 15.

SPECTATOR SUPPORT: There are a few towns where you’ll have spectator support: Bath, Campbell, Painted Post, and Corning. There’s a smattering of folks in locations between these towns, but overall, the spectator support is more sparse due to the rural nature of the course.

START LINE AREA: An aspect of the race I really like is the start area. There are no corrals (but you get a sense of where to be based on pace groups), and the start line is very close to the covered tent area. There are a bunch of porta-potties, and you can drop off your gear bag within just a few minutes before the race start. Also, the race start was quite low key, which I really appreciated.

FINISH LINE AREA: Lots of crowd support lining Market Street for the last several blocks of the race. This year, Bart Yasso was at finish line calling out people’s names, and their home town, a very nice and personal touch. We took a shower and went to the finish area, and saw the last finisher come across the finish line. It was amazing and emotional!

They provide hot soup at the finish line (two kinds!), bananas, water, chocolate milk (my fave), cookies, and a number of other things. Definitely sufficient “plus” for immediate post-race recovery. There’s also a PR bell for those that PR at the race, and while that was my goal for Wineglass, it didn’t happen!

RACE DAY TEMPS: Temps can vary – race day started in low 50’s, and ended in low 60’s. The average is a low of 43˚ and high of 64˚, so our temps were higher, unfortunately! We also had a headwind/crosswind for a good chunk of the race, although a tailwind was in the forecast.

Bottomline, this is a great, smaller, rural marathon. You can easily make a long weekend out of this and spend some time visiting the wine vineyards in the area as well. Highly recommend!

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(2019)
"Definite Bucket List Marathon!"
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This is a MUST DO, bucket list marathon!

The scenery is top notch, unlike any other race I've done. It is a point to point marathon that mostly runs along scenic CA highway 1.

Some key points about Big Sur:
- It is HILLY! With approximately 2,500’ elevation loss and ~2,200’ elevation gain, with a 2.2 mile uphill climb at mile 10 (this is the infamous Hurricane Point).
- EARLY A.M. START since you must be driven by bus to the start. Most bus pick ups are in the 4:00-4:30 a.m. range.
The TaikoDrummers at mile 10 are a great send-off as you begin your ascent up Hurricane Point (2.2 mile climb). You can hear them as you approach/leave that section, and it puts some much needed pep in your step.
- There are many rolling hills in last four miles with some steep climbs, and you will feel it.
- VERY limited CELL COVERAGE throughout the race; almost non-existent until the last few miles. Have friends/family track you as you won’t be able to contact them until late in race. The tracked markers are: miles 5, 9.8, 13.1, 15.6, 17, 22, 24, and the finish.
- FINISHER MEDALLION – is awesome; handcrafted by the same individual (Kathleen Kelly) since Big Sur Marathon’s inception 31 years ago. Composed of clay, they are breakable, so be careful!
- AID STATIONS: There are only 11 aid stations, which is fewer than some other marathons. There are porta-potties at each of these stations (plus where the relay exchanges occur). You may want to consider bringing your own hydration storage (vest, belt)!
- Note, the marathon only had three corrals (A/B/C), with first corral starting at 6:45 a.m., and then each corral five minutes apart.
- SIGHTSEEING: I do recommend driving Hwy 1 the day prior to the race if possible. It is beautiful, and it gives you a better sense of what you’re “in for” on race day. There are many places to stop, and see along the drive. However, Big Sur is becoming increasingly popular; get out EARLY if you want to see these two great destinations: McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Pfeiffer Beach where you can see purple sand!
- Race EXPO: Fairly compact, but nice with lots of race merchandise. We went on both Friday and Saturday, and Saturday was much more crowded. Plenty of official merchandise remained on Saturday, but last minute race needs (GU, blocks, etc.) were scarce.
- The official RACE HOTEL, Portola Hotel, is very nice, and if I run BIg Sur again, I likely will book there. It is centrally located in Monterey, where you can walk to shops and restaurants, and easily walk to the bus for race transportation. The race expo is in the adjacent Monterey Conference Center. It is more expensive, and sells out fairly quickly, so move fast if you plan to book there.
- RACE LOGISTICS: While the race is exceptional in so many ways, you must know this is NOT an event where friends or family will be able to watch you on the course. The vast majority of the course is closed, leaving only the finish to race watch. Yet, the finish line also is not exactly easily accessible either, due to limited parking options. If family/friends want to see you finish, advise them to leave with ample time to find parking.

IMPORTANT: My last tip is to remember to take photos!! TURN AROUND and look what’s behind you – you’d be amazed, especially when you get to peaks of a climb!

Lastly, this is not a marathon you can skimp on training, or you can, if you’re agreeable to having a very uncomfortable race!

I hope you have the opportunity to run at Big Sur! Keep in mind if you don't want to do the marathon, there are other race options (marathon relay, 5K, 12K, 11 miler and 21 miler)!

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