Latest reviews by John Niedzwiecki

(2014)
"Fun Little Run at Santa Time"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This race, put on by Bristow Tri and Swim, benefitted USMC Toys for Tots program. While the race was a bargain price to begin with ($25) you could save an extra $5 by bringing a toy. Sure, you'd spend more than that on the toy, but it isn't really about the money, is it? It's about toys for boys and girls who otherwise may not get one. That's something always worth giving towards.

I went with a semi costume for the race. Not as complete as my snowman costume for the Christmas Town Dash 8K the week before, but I went with my Grinch face shirt over some long sleeve Under Armor and some Christmas ProCompression socks.

Parking at the race was a cinch. It was held at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Manassas. This meant plenty of parking and it was located right of of I-66 which means easy access. I did race day pickup, which was simple, as always at a BRATS event. There was a table set up right near the start / finish line. As it has been with every BRATS race I've done, there was a table with one person that would look up your name, another grabbed your bib and a third your shirt. The swag was limited to the shirt, but it was a nice Santa themed tech shirt. Yes, a technical shirt for a $25 5K. Hard value to beat.

The weather started a little chilly. As the race went on, it warmed up quite a bit, feeling almost spring like at the end. The field was pretty small, just 144 people, which felt especially small compared to the previous BRATS race that had just under 700 total. The course wasn't difficult, some slight hills but they were long and nothing too steep. It was an out and back course near the battlefield and I-66. A portion of it ran past some office buildings and businesses, which was less scenic. The turn around had the battlefield on the one side (nice) and the interstate on the other (less nice). The race was structured similar to the Turkey Trot they ran, where there was "one" water stop, but since it was an out and back, you could hit it twice. In the end, the race went by quickly, which I'll fully attribute to having someone to talk to for the race. I had met another blogger for the first time and ran with them for this race.

While my time didn't seem to keep as fast as I had hoped for pace wise on our tracking (Katie's Garmin and my phone), the official chip time was under my goal (12 min / mile) and another PR for 5K for the second race in a row. Hopefully, I can do the same in the last leg of the holiday 5K series in January. Post race, I grabbed my water bottle, free banana and a granola bar and chowed down quickly. I snapped a Nuun in half to drop into the bottle, because that's just how I roll. Great value to get a technical shirt and more than just a banana and water at the end.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2014)
"First Turkey Trot with a Side of PR"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I was excited to run my first turkey trot. I can't really explain why, I just was. The race I picked benefitted a great cause. It was in memory of a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty and benefitted his foundation. Added a little bit of good feeling to Thanksgiving. The race day weather was cool, but not as bad as expected. I wore long sleeves and tights under my shorts, but was not cold standing around pre-race other than my hands. Of course, the starting line was outside of a closed Target, mocking my cold hands with their gloves for sale inside any other day of the week. With that in mind, though, parking was ample and simple. Packet pick up was a breeze race day, just like my previous BRATS race experience. I walked right up to the table, gave them my name. One person checked me off, another grabbed my bib and a third got me my shirt. The swag was limited to just the shirt, but it was a nice short sleeve tech shirt (in a bright orange that I enjoy). I wore it later that day, and it's a good quality tech shirt that I'm happy with.

Both courses were shared, with a simple out and back. For the 5K you just turned around sooner than the 10K racers. The start went in 2 waves, the first was the 10K starting at 8:30 followed by the 5K around 8:40. This leads to the only hiccup of the race. There was one speaker at the start / finish line that was playing music pre-race. This was also used for announcements just before the race, reminding everyone what the pre-race email mentioned (10K first, course highlights, two way traffic). However, with the large number of people, if you weren't up front, you didn't hear it. you didn't even know they were talking. Heck, back where I was before the race, we didn't even know they were doing the national anthem until the rockets were red glaring. Another speaker further down would have went a long way.

The course wasn't too difficult. It featured a slow uphill grade for a decent portion of the first half, but I hadn't even realized it until turning around and realizing how much downhill I was going. I had my run walk intervals going and apparently didn't even notice the uphill journey. I won't argue with that. My phone came in with a just over 12 and a half minute pace (with negative splits!), which I was very happy with accomplishing. After seeing my chip time, I found out I had a sub 12 minute pace, which makes me ecstatic! It actually is my 5K PR. I even could have likely pushed harder. I'll get them next time.

Official time: 37:03.74

After finishing the race, we were given a dog tag with the race logo on. It's not full on bling, but it was pretty cool. This is part of a 3 race "Holiday Series" with a special bling after completing all 3. For the runger, there were bananas, granola bars and protein bars. Not a bad selection for a small 5K.

I really enjoyed this race. The weather wasn't as cold as it could have been. Despite the small speaker issue, overall the race was well set up and run. It was also a great value. I registered at an early bird rate of $25. How many 5Ks give tech shirts as part of their swag? runDisney doesn't even do that as $60 (on the cheap end of the scale for their 5Ks). The race was simple but good.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2014)
"Zombies, Obstacles and Mud, Oh My!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Packet Pickup and Course:

Packet Pickup was simple and that day. When I say "packet" I more mean "bib". You simply came in, signed a waiver, walked up to one of 6 windows and got your bib. Nice, easy, simple. The course location was in Bull Run Special Events Center. This is just off of rt 66. While it's near the highway, the first time or two i went there it was pretty confusing. By now this was simple for me to get there as I been there for many things, but for a first timer, it is deceptively tricky. There was plenty of free parking right next to the course. No worries. The course looped back and forth maximizing the space, with one main hill that you hit twice, though the first time was followed with a giant water slide, so well worth it. I've run here before and it works well for a 5K. The only issues with the course were the way in which they did some mud, but I'll cover that in the race portion.

The Race:

The Blood and Guts Run is a zombie themed obstacle course 5K. The zombies were minimal impact. They lined the course sporadically: some lumbering slowly down the path, some coming out of tall grass to scare you, some chasing you from behind to startle you. There were some nicely done zombies, but they had little impact to the race. There were several stations that were zombies squirting you with blood, but the water wasn't even red by the time we got there, and we were one of the middle start corrals, which was disappointing.

Some people costumed up for the race which was nice. There were people as zombies, general Halloween costumes and some zombie slayers. I saw one girl with a corset zombie killer outfit on complete with two play guns strapped to her back that was pretty sweet as well as a little 3 foot tall Captain America. They came in all shapes and sizes. I opted to use this as an option to break out my team shirt from my intramural softball team from college: the Amputated Stumps. It just felt appropriate.

The obstacle course was fun but just challenging enough. It was not (and nor should it be) on par with an obstacle course on the level of say a Spartan Race or Warrior Dash, but I wouldn't expect or want it to be. There was a fairly large number of "up and overs" as I'd call it: small wall, tall plank walls, inclines with ropes, etc. Spread throughout the obstacles were muddy patches. I say it that way for a reason. They didn't feel like enough to be an obstacle or a part of the race like a mud run, but were more than just mud developing from all the runners in that portion of the field. It felt more like someone decided "Hey, let's mix it up. Hose down the straight aways so it gets muddy." I'm not saying that's the way it was carried out, but just how it felt at times. It didn't always seem to server a purpose, nor did it feel like it was thought through to balance the amount of water properly to get good mud as opposed to just muddy and flooded areas.

I ran this race with my namesake John. We had a blast on the course though and I enjoyed the company to chat while we ran. My favorite story has to be the army crawl section. One obstacle was simply titled the army crawl: netting set low to the ground over mud that you were meant to crawl through. One side was all water the other mud. Naturally, most people, including us, chose the mud side. When you got down in it, we'll just say it smelled "country" so we did hands and knees as opposed to down on our chest. We come out the other side and John makes the remark "What, you didn't army crawl? Where's the mud?" Just as he finishes, karma hits. He slips falls straight down on his back. He gets up, does a little slippy slide and back down again, this time on the front. Covered in mud. Oh so funny. I of course didn't dare laugh until I was across the puddle though. He's faster than I am, so really helped push my pace early on. It felt good and I kept pace, but by the end I was gassed and let him finish strong ahead of my slower pace.

Post Race and Swag:

After finishing the race, you were greeted with a nice little medal and your cotton t-shirt for finishing. Pretty nice swag for a small little 5K. As you walked down further, they gave out protein bars. Not one, but one box full. A nice unexpected bonus.

From there, we wanted to hit 2 important things (after hosing off some mud): the food trucks that smelled so good and the beer garden. We had an 11:30 am start time, so it was perfect time to eat. We chose a truck that smelled wonderful: the Urban Bumpkin BBQ. The whole menu looked fantastic. I chose the Alaskan frybread taco, with Asian beef brisket. Oh my goodness did I choose wisely. I had several people telling me after seeing mine they were mad they ordered anything else. I was not disappointed. It was well worth however many points it would cost me, not that I bothered trying to find out how many it would be. From there we took our food to eat in the beer garden, featuring 3 craft brews: a pumpkin beer, an IPA and an amber ale. I can't remember where they were from, but I know at least one (if not all) was local. Nothing like a food truck plate and cold beer to celebrate the race with.

Value:

I got my ticket for free from Party City for giving them a lot of money, so it was great value for me. Nearing the event, they were charing $79, which would be way over priced. There was however a Groupon up until 2 days before for $39, so as long as you did simple searching, it was a pretty good value. The t-shirt was cotton, but nice and the medal was small, but still cool. Pretty good value for the price, especially when you top it off with all the protein bars.

Overall:

I had a really good time on this race. I wish I had been running more recently so I wasn't so gassed at the end, but I enjoyed myself. It was just tough enough without being overbearing. It kept it's fun. The main downside was the odd thing about the mud that I mentioned. I have no problem with it being "an obstacle" of the course but it felt so haphazard that it was hard to enjoy. It felt less of a challenge and more of an hinderance to the rest of the race. I was pleasantly surprised to earn some bling and had a good time. Weather was perfect, and the course route was nice. I enjoyed and would do again.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2014)
"Colorful "Fun Run" that could use some improving"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

At the end of the day, I did have a good time. I attribute a lot of that to the company. Looking back, I wasn't overly impressed with the race as a whole. The swag was ok. You got a shirt with a nice design of soft cotton, a wrist band, some stickers and tattoos and an over the shoulder Color Run bag that everything came in. The bag was fairly useful seeming, but I used it for the second time to throw an extra shirt and shoes in for after a recent race and it ripped, so short lived. The lack of any corral instead with one large chute made for a long start. The start area did have more than enough bathrooms and hand washing stations, which was a nice touch. The course was rough: the up and down and the packed grass that I can only imagine would get worse as the day went on. This really took away from the overall grade, and the biggest part that could be easily improved. The party at the end was good, but not really my style. I might recommend it to some people, if it fits their style. The race did have some flaws, none of which can't be fixed, but just wasn't me.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2014)
"Fun Flat Race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is a cool race. Registration is held by a lottery system. You have the ability to register a group together for the lottery, so you can all get in together. You all count as 1 person in the lottery, so it doesn't increase your odds. The cost was uniquely done. They offered their own version of the Progressive Name Your Price gun. Registration was a fixed cost and you were able to add on from there. It was their way of keeping it affordable for anyone. You could choose to upgrade to a tech shirt. Then you could choose to add a medal as well as engraving for your finishing time. I opted for both the upgrade and the medal but no engraving. The shirt was nice but the design was a little lackluster to me. The medal, however, was solid with a great design.

The expo was well done. It was located just off the metro stop, so was easy to get to. The packet pickup was quick and well organized. Pickup was divided into a bunch of groups, keeping lines from forming. After getting your bib, you had to go next to the lower level to pick up your shirt. Again, there was no line, nice and easy. After getting my goodies it was time to browse the expo floor. The expo was an ok size. It wasn't huge, but there was a good mix of vendors. I ended up picking up a pair of sunglasses for a great price. During the expo there were various talks going on. I just missed a talk by Greg Meyer, the current American record holder for the 10 Mile. I did however get to meet him and get an autograph.

The race start was on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, so access via the metro was easy again. If you wanted to drive and park though, I'm not sure how easy it would have been. It was an early morning for me to drive to the metro first and take the train all the way in. I wore an old long sleeve shirt to shed at the start line because it was a little cool. The early trains weren't too busy but later may have been a little more crowded. Bag check was easy, which was surprisingly the first time I ever needed to use it. There were plenty of port-o-pots available, so getting a morning break in wasn't hard. There was a warm up going on at the stage as well, but it was way too active of a warm up for me. I still had to run 10 miles people.

The race was a corral start, but there were only 4 or 5 corrals after the elites started. I also met some nice people to chat while I waited in the last corral. It was also interesting to listen to the announcers commenting on the elites as they ran, as this was the 10 mile championships, so an important race to those up front. The course was really nice. The beginning portion had a fair number of spectators. Early the course went across and back on the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and both side were encouraging the other. There were also volunteers down the middle cheering with cow bells and clackers to help push you on. The course wound down under the Kennedy Center before turning back around again. Then we looped the Tidal Basin. Spread through out were a couple of entertainment options, such as a band playing some music and a drum group. After the basin we looped the peninsula with East Potomac Park. it was nice and flat with a good view over the Potomac at Regan National Airport, but it fell like it was going on forever. Also every step further from the monument meant another step going back. Of course, right at the very end to get from the peninsula to the monument was a hill. Being that close to the end it just make you want to yell "Come on!" but it wasn't actually that bad of a hill. Overall the course was flat, with a good number of water stops. There was only once where I really felt like it had been a while but then within a half mile of that we hit another. The course was pretty, but it wasn't the best time for the blossoms themselves. That I assume it simply hit or miss though. The actual Cherry Blossom Festival is so long for that exact reason as well.

After the race was over it was time to get my medal. I had a little trouble knowing where to go. I had to grab someone who already had one to know where to pick it up as there was no volunteers directing. After receiving my medal I went to grab some food but there was none left. I had seen mounds of bananas before the race but none now. And I was in no way the last runner to cross either. There was only a single table of filled paper cups of Gatorade and water. Not even a single volunteer there anymore, but I guess if there was no food there was no need. This was disappointing because I was starving. I did end up winning a $50 gift certificate form the stage where were giving away stuff like t-shirts and hats, so that made up for it. I didn't stick around for the awards, because I had a metro ride to the end of the line ahead of me and I wanted food.

All in all, I had a great time and will definitely be entering myself in the lottery to run again in the future.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.