Latest reviews by Annabelle

(2015)
"DO NOT start fast. Better to enjoy the free beer."
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This was my second (consecutive) time running this event and was again very pleased. What I didn't know last year but I learned this year is that this event is put on and organizes entirely by VOLUNTEERS, all people (I think) who live/work etc in Lemont. Considering how tough the course if and how smoothly the event goes, I find this very impressive!

Unlike last year I went into the race this year with respect for the course. START EASY! The first quarter mile + of the race is flat and down Main Street until you take a hard left up the first (STEEP) hill. This race boasts a fast field so people have a tendency to really take off, but if you control your start, you'll past DOZENS of runners just in the first mile.

The hills aren't ever un-runnable but they are more or less nonstop. The course turns and twists a lot and makes the distribution of the climbs and descends really perfect.Whenever you really begin to feels burning quads or tired lungs it's magically time to go downhill. If you are fit, and you run an even effort on the ups AND downs you will be rewarded by being able to less loose and FLY through the last mile which is almost entirely down hill and then flat for the last .15mi or so down Main Street to the finish line.

Top 3 male and female finishers are awarded cash prizes and age groups 3 deep receive the signature hunks of rock. Only 'meh" element in the unisex shirts which are basically cocktail dresses for the women.

Stick around for the post-race party, there are several options for free beer and cider and they encourage refills. It's wonderful to see everyone and the kids from the last couple of aid-stations run in with the last athlete. (who is something of a legend)

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(2014)
"Perfect for seasoned as well as rookie trail runners."
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The difficulty of this race is very much dependent on how the weather is during the race as well as for the days and weeks leading up to it. In past years the course has been altered to accommodate flooding, wind, or too dry conditions. Additionally, wind and heat can be a problem. For the 2013 running however, the weather was absolutely perfect and so the course was run exactly as presented on the race website.

I train on the Chicago lakefront mostly and so am not doing very many hill workouts, and although the hills of Catalina were extremely tough, they weren't impossible for a flat-lander to run and feel decently in control. The highlights of this race were the scenery, the comradery (EVERY runner had a great and friendly attitude!), the course markings (I get lost at races ALL THE TIME and had ZERO problems here), and the aid stations. There were rangers along the course to monitor safety and also I presume to protect the landscape and wildlife, at any rate, they were extremely friendly and supportive. The aid station has anything and everything you could think of (they seriously looked like runner's buffets!) and the volunteers were ready to help with anything, one even helped me re-tie my shoe!

More specifically, the first 2.5 miles are straight uphill, similar to a mountain road race (which I suppose this is), everyone seems to band together and chat and take it steady, which helps a lot! The course is then constant climbs and descents, with varying terrain from single track to a mile plus on an access road. Around mile 22 you run the first 4 miles of the course in reverse, it's a big boost to your spirits when you recognize the scenery there. The final two miles are a mile of downhill switchbacks and then you are hurled out onto the Catalina roads still tearing downhill for a mile to the finish. A great chance to make mile 26 your fastest mile!

This race is small so there is no expo but the race-specific gear available for sale is high quality, the race swag is a cotton t-shirt, which frankly is a welcome item now with all the low quality "tech" shirts at most races these days. The finishers medasl and age-group/overall awards are wonderful!

If you run this race I HIGHLY RECCOMMEND attending the pre-race talk the night before. There were only about 20 folks there and even though the course descriptions and tips don't seem to make a lot of sense during the talk, they actually came in really handy during the race! For example, what to do if you encounter buffalo (specifically a baby and a mama!), where you can go to the bathroom, and where the terrain and your footing might get tricky.

The one and only challenge with this race (management wise) is if you have any bathroom emergencies! There are bathrooms along the course but they aren't really obvious (see comment about attending the pre-race talk!) At the start line there ARE NO BATHROOMS! There are two bathrooms at a kids park just under a quarter mile form the start, just pray they are unlocked. This IS NOT a race where you can pop off course and go to the bathroom, as you will harm the wildlife.

As with any destination race, the costs can add up, here you need to factor in the ferry and likely a hotel (there is one boat race morning, but the runners who came in on that seemed a little stressed). However, I spent far less than I do for the Boston marathon each year, and it was 100% worth it!

In the end don't forget to jump into the ocean after you cross the finish line! Traditional, instant ice-bath!

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(2014)
"Who knew there were so many hills in Illinois!"
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I've wanted to do this race for a few but the dates never worked out for me. This year the Quarryman saw a jump in participation and also in the depth of the field of runners racing due to being added to the CARA Circuit Competition. Like any springtime race the weather can be really terrible or perfect. This year is was great, last year the race was I think 3 weeks earlier and it snowed, in 2012 the race was cancelled (I think by the fire department?) at the 13th hour because of lightening.

Anyway, this is a great race, it was smooth as you could expect, and the race director ran! I always take the RD participating as a sign that things are well handled. I was nervous because I registered on race morning, I stalked the race's facebook page and expressed my concern of a sell-out there, and they responded almost immediately. So nice. The water stops were mostly manned by I think high school kids, they did a wonderful job, they even expertly called out whether water or Gatorade came first. Bravo kids!

The course is tough! But based on cross referencing the leader board with their past races, you CAN run fast here (I did not, however). Counting the hills, or waiting for them to be over is futile, with all the turns (there are A LOT of turns-but impossible to get lost, lots of course support), it's pretty clear that the course is made to intentionally maximize the available hills.

Because of my late entry I can't speak to the shirts, and I actually didn't pay attention to see one, but I'm sure they're nice, based on how great everything else was. For example, there was fairly unrestricted beer (3 kinds!) post race, from those cooler-keg things, and they had cider too (the adult kind!), and pizza, and bagels...and everyone was friendly.

Overall and age-group awards are neat (see photo), actual hunks of rock. I definitely recommend this race but if you haven't being weight training or training on hills, prepare to be sore, I sure was (am).

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(2014)
"THE marathon"
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It seems strange to write a review of the Boston marathon. I mean, it's BOSTON. But, after dreaming of running this race since I was very young, and now having finished it 3 times (2012, 13, 14), I realize there are things that I'd like to say to first-timers that no one said to me. I grew up not far from Boston, a 20 mile supported training run ran by my house every winter, and I watched it on TV every year (typically while playing hooky from school- NH doesn't get Pat's day off), and I thought, naively, that I KNEW this course.

1: It is OK to be a charity runner, charity runners for this event meet a VERY high standard, the fundraising goal can be as hard to reach as running a BQ!
2: There are many MANY more hills than the ones in Newton. Everyone knows about and reveres Heartbreak hill, and yes, the course has a net downhill statistic to its credit. However, the entire course is rolling hills. The start truly does feel like you are being pushed off a cliff, between that and the excitement and how expertly the corrals are seeded (the race management is second to none- except maybe Tokyo I hear), it is hard to NOT go out too fast. If you are passing people in the first 1.5 miles then you are going TOO FAST. Also, there is a hill that can really take it out of you shortly AFTER heartbreak hill, so be ready for that.
3: RESPECT the course. Seriously. Don't get cocky. When a course has been changed only in alterations to the exact position of the start and overall distance in 118 years: don't think you can outsmart it. Even though, like I said, the whole course is hilly, heartbreak hill really can take you to school.
4: YOU CAN PR on this course. As I've alluded to, one of the benefits of Boston is that we KNOW how it is best run. With a negative split. Respect those first couple of downhill miles, be patient for what is ahead, control your flirtations with the AMAZING spectators, and you will be rewarded when you start passing people as soon as mile 6.
5: AID STATIONS: like all big events beware and have a strategy for the water stops. Although Boston has fewer runners than many other major city marathons, the streets are much narrower, so you can feel pretty sardine-canned. There are aid station EVERY mile. So if you plan to skip one, don't stick to the tangents like you may be tempted, instead, run in the MIDDLE of the road. Gatorade comes first, and water second, there are stations on BOTH sides of the road, and they are staggered. Right side always comes first and the left second. So if you miss the first chance because of the throng of runners, stay calm and start merging (NOT cutting) to the left.
6: RESPECT event and the accomplishment. Wait until AFTER you finish to don your jacket. Ok, this is a teensy bit my own personal opinion, but it is also a revered TRADITION, and it seems to be fading as the sport continues to boom. Please, let's respect the marathon that begat all modern marathons, and wait until you finish to wear the jacket. (in fact, I was registered to run 2011, got injured, didn't run, ordered the jacket before that, and refuse to wear it) One of the things that keeps runners returning to Boston for streaks of 5, 10, 25, 30, and even more years, is the camaraderie. You see someone in your home town wearing a Boston jacket and you grin and nod at each other. Because you both know...
7: RELAX. The logistics on can seem daunting for Boston, but they have over 100 years of practice and it really is a smooth and classy operation. Do as you're directed, and things will go smoothly. Except when the weather is particularly bad (not marathon race day bad, but BAD), the time spent bussing to the start and in the athletes village goes by fast. Before you know it you'll be running (even if you woke up at 4am and don't start until 11am).
8: All that said, it is THE BEST race to take as a victory lap. What I mean is, if you aren't gunning for a PR, then enjoy everything this race has to offer. Spend too much time on your feet at the expo, walk the freedom trail (Boston history is USA history), eat a lobster roll on race eve (and some fried clams, what the hell) , go out fast at the start, check in on the Red Sox score frequently, chat with spectators in their front lawn BBQ's, kiss some girls at Wellesley, have a beer with the students at BC, high five 250 kiddos along the course, and soak up every second and every scream between the Citgo sign and the finish line, and post race, go ride the T - if for no other reason than marathon runners get free fair.

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(2014)
"The nicest, most polite and friendly, fast race ever!"
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This race has been running for over 30 years, and among local competitive runner's it has a great reputation as a favorite on the CARA Circuit (team and individual competition). The men's and women's fields run the 5k separately, but it's the exact same event, same course, same support, and this means that there is excellent spectator support at the finish. This race is appropriate for all ability levels (and hosts a 5k walk as well), and attracts a lot of fast runners in the sub 20 minute range.

This was my first time participating and I was definitely impressed! The course is pretty unassuming, but upon reflection it's just perfect for a competitive 5k. There are a few turns, but not too many, there is a short little uphill at 2.75 mi, and then a gentle downhill slope with .25 to go. The streets are closed to traffic which is always great!

Finding free parking is easy, there is plenty of street parking available in the neighborhood surrounding the high school because the race is outside of permit parking hours. The high school is open for packet pick-up and gear check, and also for a place to shelter if the weather is cold or rainy.

Registration includes a tech or cotton t-shirt (depends on how much you procrastinate), and the amenities post race are up there with a marathon. Water, bottles of Gatorade, bananas, bagel, snack packs of pretzels and cheese (I think, I have food allergies so didn't take any), and more.

Also, this race is so nice they give you a carnation when you finish. Awwwww.

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