Latest reviews by John Niedzwiecki

(2017)
"A Rocking View of the City"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 20171014 083425 151

The Expo

The expo was held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (the same location as New York Comic Con). Location wise, it was pretty convenient for me coming from New Jersey. I was able to park in Weehawken and take the ferry to the Midtown stop which was right at the convention center. Unfortunately, this meant $26 in total to get to the expo ($8 parking + $9 ferry each way). I was able to easily get in and get right back to pick up my bib then t-shirt, no waiting. There was an area to change corral if you needed, a place to exchange shirts, and then a booth to sign up for runner tracking. As you exit this area you enter the official merchandise area, which felt a little lacking. There were several shirt designs and some generic Rock ’n’ Roll merchandise but it seemed small. There was also no official Brooks area, which I think was a part of the difference. My main experience has been with DC, where there is a lot of official Brooks gear for the race and a wall of shoes. I was really surprised to not see them at least there with the Rock ’n’ Roll themed shoes the released this year.

The convention itself was nice in that things were spread out instead of crammed together with no space to move. This was the result of having a fairly nice sized area, but also because of a seemingly lack of vendors. It felt small. Looking at the official vendor list, there were 25 vendors, but if you subtract the official Rock ’n’ Roll booths and information related ones, you’re left with about 20, which I honestly don’t remember that many. It was a little disappointing, maybe because I was just thinking “big city == big expo”. Overall, it was nice, but what I had heard from some other people there (Kim), it is still a smaller race as far as Rock ’n’ Roll goes. It was nice, just not what I was really expecting.

I did have one disappointment: the race shirt. While Rock ’n’ Roll does a great job theming the medals to the location of the race, they did not do that was the race shirt for Brooklyn. It was a generic guitar image in the middle, the only thing about it that was “Brooklyn” was the race city itself. They could have used the Arch from the race or even the Brooklyn Bridge, but the design to me just fell flat compared to DC’s design that had both the Lincoln Memorial and cherry blossoms on it. It just felt like a real opportunity missed and a little let down. I’m a person who actually does love to wear my race shirts, but I like when they have character to the race.

Race Morning

Race morning took some planning. I first needed to find parking in Brooklyn. The closest I could find was about 2 miles away. I did find a lot to reserve with SpotHero for only $11, but it warned of possible oversize charges for my vehicle, but I was willing to chance that for $11 NYC parking. It was also within a couple blocks of the 4 and 5 trains, which would run to Grand Army Plaza for the start line to take away my 2 mile pre-race hike. On a side note, it was really close to a 2 and 3 line but they weren’t running for construction. I’m very glad the Rock ’n’ Roll team had that noted at the expo to save me that trouble. All in all, my plan went well and I was aboard a train full of racers, and a handful of people who had to be wondering what was going on with their empty early AM train. The station let us out near the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch which was where the start was, which was very cool to see first thing in the morning.

One thing different here from DC races was security, in that there was a security check point. It looked bad walking up to it, but moved very quickly through the medal detectors. For a second, the started to tell me I couldn’t take my Orange Mud pack in with me, but the realized it was my water and said it was fine. I’m sure there was a no backpack rule for good reason, but it seemed they made an exception for hydration.

The last pre-race piece to mention was the bathroom situation. It had one good piece and one bad piece. The good was that they essentially just had a wall of porta-potty lining the entire length of the corrals. This was nice because after the initial people all lined up at the beginning, there were plenty to choose from and get in line for. Plus it was also convenient to the corrals. However, it was set up like this: area on the left for walking down, metal barriers with signs denoting the corrals, on the the right was the corral area and then the far right were the bathrooms. This cause problems being able to figure out who was waiting for the bathroom and who was just waiting for the race to start. They should have put them on the non-corral side to make things less confusing. The number of bathrooms was great, but the organization of mixing it with the actual corrals was not. One small change, which I’ll be sure to give in my survey to them, and it would be greatly improved.

As I mentioned, you could have changed your corral as the expo to move up from your assigned corral if you thought you were going to run faster, but from what I heard, it was purely based on expected finish, so whatever you tell them is what they would say. However, just like DC, the corrals were “fluid” at best. They had the rails with the number signs, but that was it. There was no division, no ropes between, nothing. The most you had was someone holding a sign with the number on as we moved forward. I was assigned corral 16, but went further up to use a bathroom (because of the crowding at the entrance I mentioned) and then only really got back to about 14 before it wasn’t worth the effort. Then, when I moved with the people around me, somehow I ended up crossing the line with corral 12?! It was really just move up together and then run when they said go. In the end, it didn’t really matter, but I didn’t intend to jump forward 4 corrals, it just happened in the “fluid” corrals.

The Race

The race itself was pretty nice. It had an initial out and back of a mile, which was nice because it meant you got the early crowds twice, and then a longer out and back which eventually lead to the park. I have to say the choice of bands, especially early was interesting. I love a good mix of music genres (seriously, you just need to see my Spotify) but going in, you’d think Rock ’n’ Roll might have a bit of guitars and some rocking sound. The first three groups were a folk band (banjo and washboard) and then two brass groups. Now, all were good, just not exactly rock and roll. Entertainment wise, you also had some local marching bands and drum lines, which I like because I was / am a band geek, but they’re only high schoolers. They need to be early on the course because by the time my plodding self gets to them, they’re not interested or able to play and more. They’re worn out. There was one in particular that was on the long out and back and neither time were they playing as I went by. There was some really good entertainment though, don’t get me wrong. There were a couple that were enough to make me take a 30 second break just to listen a little more to them. There was also a lot more than DC had, which was my critique there. I just had bad luck in that I went by several not playing (but not that I expect them to play for 3 hours straight either).

The course was nice, mostly flat, with the city to see. It was cool, but nothing exceptional. It’s not that you went by a lot of sites to see, but there was a lot of the city character to see, which I enjoyed as I’ve spent time in NYC but never Brooklyn. I was very impressed with the number of water stops on the course. I always carry my own Nuun with me because I want the electrolytes and the flavor but also because I like to have some between stops and not be dependent solely on them. I found I drank a lot less of my bottles than I usually do because of the sheer number of stops they had on course. This was also really welcomes because while the temperature was nice, it was humid and sticky. The race ends in Prospect park, which a couple mile loop around the outer edge. By this point my right foot had been hurting and was causing some issues with my stride so I was taking it easier. The park was a nice change and cool to look at with all that was going on for a Saturday morning. The only unhappy part was seeing a sign saying “Specialty Bike Route. Last Exit before steep hill”. Not what I like seeing before the last 2 miles. As much as the hill sucked, you then slowly rolled your way down into the park for a nice finish. I was able to push through and was happy to finish.

Post Race

The post race party was nice because it was held in the park so they had plenty of room. They also had the food all in a bad ready to go for you with a protein bar, gummies, chips, Gatorade (Team Nuun, did not drink), and boxed (yes boxed) water. They also had bananas and chocolate milk separate. I got to see the headliners sing a couple of songs and get my free beer. Michelob Ultra may not be my beer of choice, but I appreciated the “Run Done Beer Now” custom can. There were also number of tents set up: medical, merchandise, information, baggage collect. After my beer I decided to head out, which unfortunately was like another mile out of the park just to get to the start line for the nearest subway station. I did stop for two slices of NY style on my walk to the car, which was a fantastic post race fuel.

Final Thoughts

I always wanted to run in NYC and now I have. I enjoyed it. There definitely is room to improve and grow, but I enjoyed it overall. In and out of NYC was a bit of a pain for the expo and race, but that was because I was staying for free in NJ as opposed to having a hotel in NYC, so that really is just a push and a choice I made. The race itself had a good course, great aid, and was a fun time even with the ending hill. Overall, would run again.

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(2017)
"Fast Course with a Little Heat"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb clarendon day run pentagonselfie

I was running the double dash, so I started the 10K by first making my way back up the hill. I had about 17 minutes, so we started a brisk pace walking up the hill, but noticed a lot of other people around us with no medals, so assumed they were all making their way to the second race so we felt in good company. The problem was, on the way up the hill we saw the mile 1 marker, and quickly realized we the finish line was not “just about a mile” as we thought. As we got closer, there was suddenly a flood of a lot of racers coming towards us. Crap. So we put it into a jog because we knew we weren’t where we needed to be. When we reached the start line, thankfully it wasn’t closed off, closed down, or in any way “you’re too late”, so we crossed the line and started our second race 8 minutes behind. I wanted to give everyone else a lead to feel good.

The 10K course followed the same exact path of the 5K, down through Courthouse and Rosslyn then onto the 110. The only difference was that the out and back portion went out further before coming back. The city portion again was the nicest and we took advantage of the downhill portions to try and gain a little time up front. Between being tired after running back to the start and starting late, we wanted to try and gain some back while the course was giving us the advantage. The temperature was starting to rise now and the sun was feeling a little hot. I didn’t look closely at the map, but knew the course allowed us to go out to the Pentagon, so I was happy when we reached it. Unfortunately, the Pentagon is quite large, so we saw it for quite a while. The added difficulty of the highway portion was that the sun got very hot very quick (upper 80s), more so than expected. That was very draining on the second race. I had been well stocked with my Orange Mud HydraQuiver Double Barrel filled with Nuun. As the race went on, I filled up boy ottles with more water and then proceeded to dump a cup (or two later on) on my head to help cool down. It worked well with my BUFF UV Multifunctional Headband (that’s a mouthful) to keep cool and the sun off my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t think through the two races as the combined distance and instead as the individual pieces, so I wasn’t prepared in the fuel department. Coupled with the heat and liquid only (minus 1 banana on the hill and 1 GU pack) my stomach was sloshing and I was energy depleted.

Now we get to a slightly unfortunate part of our journey. Towards the very end, we new we were near the back but had seen some people behind us on the out and back. Then we saw the first cart carrying people from the back of the pack. Then, a course marshall on a bike was next to us and we could hear him talking about number of people on the course and where, so we knew we were in danger. He gave us the low down, that we had to make it back to the city before that cart grabbed the people behind us and then came back for us. He also said they had to open up in 6 minutes. It seemed a stretch but doable. Then the police SUV picked up the group behind us and asked us for a ride, and we said we wanted to keep running as long as we were allowed so asked if we had to get in. We did not, but 1 minute later the cart was back to pick us up. *sigh* we were “swept”. So they drove us up to essentially the end of the highway so that we were back on county property they said which they were allowed to keep open. From looking at my tracking, my guess was right, and we only got pulled for a quarter of a mile exactly. I can’t help but have fleeting thoughts of “if you gave us the 6 minutes you said” or “if we had just been back to the start with those extra 8 minutes” but the reality is in running and in life, you need to just keep moving forward, and we did.

We finished out as strong as we could from there and crossed the finish line, to an official time of 1:32:18. The best part is there were still a couple of people in that little section of the city cheering us on.

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(2017)
"Fast and Fun 5K"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb clarendon day run bibravepros

I usually like to start off my race reviews talking about the expo. Well, this is just a local race, so there was no expo to be had. There was packet pickup in the days leading up to the race, but also on race morning. Pick up closed 15 minutes before the start of each races. I arrive just after 7, with the first race starting at 8 am. I found street parking a block and a half away from the start line (nice and easy and FREE on Sundays). Pickup was a breeze. I walked right up, got my bib then went down to the next table for my shirt. The shirt was a nice soft tech shirt and orange, which is great because everyone knows #orangeisthenewfast. Though it did make it slightly more difficult than normal to find my fellow BibRavePro Katie with all the extra orange around. As the race got closer, the line got a little longer, but always seemed to be moving. One of the biggest draw backs was due to all the work on the metro lately in DC, there were no early hours, so if you rand the 5K you had to drive as trains weren’t running yet. The pre-race bathroom line was getting a little long at times, so they might have benefited from a few more port-o-pots, but the line moved fast enough to be ready come race time.

The race course was a nice downhill course starting in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington. It winds through Courthouse into Rosslyn before moving out onto a closed portion of the highway. Running through the city was nice and no, not just because it was downhill. You had a lot to see and the sounds of the city (yes, I mean jackhammers at one point). The highway portion would be an out and back portion, as the course ended in Rosslyn. We ran on the 110, so you could see the Netherlands Carillon (which I highly recommend you hear play) and we went by the edge of Arlington National cemetery before looping back. The 5K finished well, just over 40 minutes at an official time of 40:19.

After grabbing a banana and bottle of water, we found out we got all our medals after the 10K (which made sense). All in all, we had about 17 minutes to make it back up the hill, which should be no problem to go a mile in that time (we thought it was only a mile).

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(2017)
"Cold Tour of DC"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb rnrdc course

EXPO:

The expo was held at the DC Armory. The Armory is located right nearby RFK stadium, the location of the finish. There were two days of the expo: a half day on Thursday and a full day on Friday. I think having more than one day for the expo, when all the races were on a single day was a nice benefit. Overall, the expo was well organized. The pick up was very efficient. When you came in, you went downstairs and got your bib, with tables grouped by number. There was an area to adjust your corral. Then, you went back upstairs and it put you right where you needed to go to get your shirt and gear check bag.

After the t-shirt pickup area, you were out into the expo area. More specifically, they put you in the large Brooks area with the official Rock 'n' Roll Marathon goods. They even now offer their own Rock 'n' Roll Brooks shoes. Brooks also had a spot for you to take a picture, and if you used the hashtag #runhappydc, it would print your picture for you. Since it is the 20th year, the had a giant banner you could sign, since you're a part of it. This was simple, yet cool. The selection around the expo was a pretty good mix with some bigger names. I didn't personally find too many killer deals, but just browsed lightly. Overall, I felt the expo was pretty good, but not overly exceptional.

PRE-RACE

Let's start with this: it was cold. Ok, now that we've settled the story of race day, let's move on.

With the Metro Rail SafeTracking, there are no early or late openings for special events. Needless to say, this can cause some problems for things in DC. With the fact that Rock 'n' Roll DC having a full marathon, they are able to keep the course open for longer, and therefore start the half marathon later. If you were running the full marathon, things were a little trickier than normal, but for myself, the half marathon started at 8:30 am, so I was able to take the metro in.

There was also a very chilly wind, which I was prepared for. At the museums near the start were a line of UPS trucks ready for bag check. I thought this was an awesome way to do it. Trucks were divided based on your last name, so your gear went in, was driven to the finish line, then you'd go find your truck again to get your bag back.

In the block between the gear check and corrals, there were both bananas (half frozen from the weather, not kidding) and small water bottles. It was nice to be able to grab a quick banana before or water if you needed. There was a stage with music at the start line and they had speakers all the way back the corrals (something often overlooked). Back in the cheap seats, there weren't really fully walled off corrals, just number posted, so I just moseyed in with everyone else. Frankly, everyone back there wasn't really bothered by it anyway.

THE RACE

I love running in DC. Like many cities, there are such different areas to see. The course takes you on a nice tour of a portion of DC. You get to start with the museums and monuments, head up the river, see areas of NW like Adams Morgan and running through Howard University, get a view running toward the Capital and then finish up down at the Armory and RFK stadium. Mile 6 holds the hardest part of the course: the hill of Rock Creek. It's a winding hill in NW at the almost half way point. It's also an inspiring part. Every year, the hill is lined with people with American flags. Wear blue: run to remember is there to honor the service and sacrifice of the American military. They have signs honoring those who have lost their lives, as a reminder of their sacrifice, but they're there with their flags and amazing words of encouragement to help get you up that hill. Once you reach the top, you're reward with some flat course and the knowledge that you're on the homeward half of the half. Near the end, you're running straight back towards the capital, before turning away to get to RFK stadium and the finish, which makes for a nice view. The second half is mostly flat with only some slight increase, helping you finish strong.

The on course entertainment was pretty good. There was definitely more than I remember than 2014 in the rain, but it still felt dead during the middle portion of the course. The one thing I think they could do to better the on course entertainment would be to run speakers out in either direction from the stage, extending the music on those portions of the course a little more. I'm not sure how technically feasible that may be but it would be nice to make the most of the stages you have.

I really enjoy the course. It's a good one to pair with some other DC races to see the city on your two running feet. The marathon has a tighter time limit, but the half was given 4 hours, which is a fair bit of time for a race, making this more accessible to runners of all levels.

POST RACE

One of the best thing about Rock 'n' Roll marathons is the post race concert. They get some good bands and always go for a bigger name headliner. For DC, they had The Family Stone. I'd like to tell you how they were, but I didn't get a chance to see them. With the half starting later, I got to the finish line as they were performing. I did get to hear a portion of their playing, but until I got my medal photo, banana, chocolate milk, and my check bag, they were already finished. It was a little bit of a bummer, but I think the timing was fair. If they races had all started at same time, I would have had an hour and a half of music, so I have no hard feelings. It's just a side affect of the Metro SafeTrack this year. In addition to your free snacks and your free beer, you had several food trucks lined up ready to serve your runger. I opted for a quick slice of pizza before heading to the metro.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Early March is a tough time in DC when it comes to weather. There's a lot of variation, evident by the 70° - 20°F swing we had in the week. In the two times I've run this race, I haven't had great luck: chilly and rainy one year and downright cold this year. Even with that, this is still a great race. I love the course for the diverse parts of DC you get to see. Rock 'n' Roll puts on a well organized race with a great course. If you don't mind the dice throw that is the weather, I suggest seeing DC via this race.

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(2016)
"Tropicolored Fun"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb color run party

The Swag

The Color Run offers several levels of registration. This is a nice way to do it. If you just want to enjoy the race, they have the Classic Color Runner, which includes your bib, a sweatband, some tattoos, a t-shirt, and your finishers medal. Don't want to bother with race morning pickup? You can select the Classic+, which gets you the Classic Kit delievered right to your door ahead of the race. I did not get this with my registration, but for things I will mention later in the post, would have really appreciated it. The third option is the Deluxe Color Runner Kit, which includes the Classic Kit, the shipping, and some additional swag. In the Deluxe kit, you also receive a hat, a lei, and some TCR sunglasses.

I received a swag pack, the same as the one I gave away, which was also very similar to the Deluxe kit. The swag was all pretty nice. The shirts were very soft and comfy, something I love from a race shirt. The sunglasses were alright, better than your standard cheap type you see in that style, where anyone slaps their logo on. They've held up to my 4 and 2 year olds wanting to wear them, so that says something for them. The finisher's medal is good as well, a nice addition from the last time I ran the Color Run (which had no medal).

I did not have my packet mailed to me, so had to do race day pickup. Pickup was very easy, one set of lines for your bib then onto the next tables for your swag. There was one hiccup. Parking was a little at a premium at the park, so I was parked a little further away. This meant no time to take everything back to my car. The race only allowed for clear bags to be brought into the complex. All communications leading up to the race mentioned that you could buy a clear drawstring bag for a small fee that would go to the children's charity. Unfortunately, there were no bags. They did the best the could by offering simple shopping bags for free to hold your stuff, but it made for a slightly awkward running experience. Had we known, we would have brought our own, however planned to buy one to support the charity. I guess next time, bring one to be prepared.

The Race

The race course wound around the grounds of the Camden Yards Sports Complex. The course looped around Oriole Park at Camden Yards as well as M&T Bank Stadium. The route was all paved parking lots and sidewalks. This made for some hot running. The day would top out at 98 °F with 97% humidity. We had some shade, depending on the side of the stadium we were on, but the heat was rough. We carried water with us, plus there were several water stops on the course. After running the initial bit, we decided to walk the rest and play it safe in the heat. The number of color stops on the course was really great. Each station had a different color, followed by the last having several. The amount of color you'd get in each stop really would depend on the volunteer at that time, though if you didn't get enough for your liking, you could simply ask for a little more (which I did on one occassion. They were good about not being overzealous, for those that may not have wanted to get quite as colorful. Despite the heavy heat, we had a fun time. For a race like this, it is what you make of it. The one improvement I would suggest to the course would be some more music. The start line and finish line had music, which at times you could hear when the course wound close enough. Simply running some speaker lines out to the course and pumping the same music would be enough to keep it fun and lift some spirits, in conditions like these. The "party-like" atmosphere they keep would be a good fit for this as well.

The After Party

While other races have a great pre-race experience in expos, one of the things they do well at the Color Run is the post-race party. They usually team up with some companies, so there are plenty of snacks (like KIND bars) and water. They always have a stage with a DJ set up for a colorful party. They throw out Color Run swag into the crowd as well as color packets. Then they'd build to a countdown to throw the color into the air. It can be a lot of messy fun.

In addition they have photo spots set up where you can get your picture taken with various backdrops and props, themed to the race theme, such as a giant Color Run Pineapple. These were obviously available for before or after, as well as some well received water balloons. If the free snack items weren't enough, there were several food stands available, everything from pulled beef and sausages, to orange aide, lime aide, and the favorite of the day, Hawaiian Shaved Ice.

Race Review (TL;DR)

Easy flat course for a fun 5K. Room for improvement, but a good all around experience.

Race grade: B

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