Latest reviews by Erica Haynes

(2016)
"Run for chocolate"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I really do enjoy the Hot Chocolate race series. Anyone can show up and have a great time. It's a well organized race and appeals to the speedsters, and those who are just wanting to enjoy every moment on the course. If you're ever available for the race I highly suggest running it at least once. You won't regret it.

Packet Pickup- You can add your QR code that you get after registration and the one they sent the week of to your Passbook. It’s a quick scan of that and your bib and your ticket is printed out with your assigned corral (more on that later)
Expo: Mostly clothing, there were two clothing booths that sold clothes, decals, and other little runner trinkets including gels and decals, and the official Hot Chocolate gear was there as well. If you are eyeing a particular item, buy it. I had hoped to buy things that I was on the fence about after the race but they no longer had my size. There's also music and of course, chocolate samples. There are bounce houses for the kids which is great for those picking up packets with children, it gives them something to do. Also, Fair Park charged $5 a car to park, so carpool if possible!
Parking: While parking is ample and moves fast once you get into the gates, getting to the gates is nothing short of a hot mess. Expect to be sitting in line to park for at least 30 minutes, depending on your arrival time that could be shorter or longer, who knows. Also, it’s quite a hike to the start line so make sure you have EVERYTHING you need before heading out so you don’t have to make the trek back.
Corrals/Gear Check: Gear check was organized and indoors which gave runners options to indoor bathrooms and warmth before the start. Everyone was assigned a corral based off their expected finish time, and it was printing on the tag on your bib. I will say I didn’t notice anyone actually checking to see if people were in the right corrals. You could apply to be in a preferred corral by submitting proof of time, and I was happy to be placed in the second corral, and the race went on as scheduled and smoothly, I didn’t have to worry about weaving in and out people at the start.
Course: I really have no words, there wasn’t anything scenic about it. It’s always fun to run through the Dallas neighborhoods, but the roads were horrible due to construction. The volunteers at the water stops really made the course exciting.
Aid Stations: They were well stocked and spaced out properly, they had Nuun and the flavors were made known via big Nuun signs before entering the station, water, as well as sweet treats, such as chocolate chips, marshmallows, and M&M’s.
Post Race: There’s music, bounce houses, official Hot Chocolate gear for sale, as well as the line to get your finishers mug. The line moves very fast and they even have bags to allow you to take home your mug without messing up your car. There was also music playing so that people could stick around and hang out for the bit and just enjoy the moment.
Overall: I would do it again. It’s just one of those races that’s fun to link up with your friends and to have a good time. It’s such a low-pressure atmosphere that any runner can truly feel comfortable running out there. The corrals help out a lot with that so that you’re with people who at the same level as you. I will forever recommend this race to the first timer who wants to dip their toe into running.

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(2016)
"Interesting water stops! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

One of the things I enjoyed about this race was that it was a weekend, and consisted of two days of running. In most races if you complete more than one event you are rewarded with an extra medal, in the case of this race that extra medal is a crawfish tray for their Déjà vu Award.

Race communication: This race offered lots of pre-race communication including emails leading up to race week with final information, such as course/parking maps, expo information, bib numbers, race guides, etc.

Packet Pickup: you have to pick up your packet before the race. They do not offer race day pick up, but they do have a proxy pickup. Someone else can pick it up for you with a copy of your confirmation emails and ID.

Expo: It was your standard midsized expo. It has security, bib number look-ups, an area to pick up bibs, and a separate shirt retrieval area. Very organized. There was also a table set up to pick up VIP wristbands as well, or to purchase an entry into VIP. Upon leaving you are greeted by the fine folks of community coffee and I may have gotten addicted to their King Cake coffee. It’s just delicious. Right next to that area Tasc, who has all of the official LA Marathon clothing, had their area set up with goodies. The lines were pretty long and I decided that I would wait until race day to purchase. There were your standard vendors, including medal holders, KT Tape, local races, a bank, doctor’s office, etc.

Pre-Race: Very standard, it was a self seeding corral and was mixed in with the quarter folks so we all started at the same time. I was able to meet up with a local Texas runner as well as fellow Pro and packet receiver Jen. We took our official BibRave picture and headed to our spots.

Race/Course: It was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as the 5k/quarter run the day before. It starts out on the same course but continues on past the 5k turnaround point. You run through various neighborhoods of Baton Rouge with each one bringing their own unique spin to their water stations. The water stations were exciting, some had beer & champagne, others had donuts, or King cake. Heck! One even had some "grandmas" with donuts! The course spends a good chunk of the mileage running around the LSU lakes including running around tiger stadium. It was a very peaceful and serene course and I enjoyed the homes, and running around the lakes. If there's any complaints I have about this race it would be the roads. It was uneven asphalt and at some parts you had to be careful with your footing. It wasn't hilly at all, with the only hill being crossing over a bridge on your way out around mile one and returning back over it around mile 12. Other than that, the amount of neighborhood support you get is unreal. I never had to worry about a dull moment, or roads that weren't fully closed. It was a fantastic time.

Post Race: After collecting your designated medal you are given a bottle of water and sent down the chute towards the capital building and finishers party. Immediately exiting the runner’s corral there’s a recovery stretching tent and Core protein shakes. But the really good stuff is inside. If you ran the day before you could head over the the awards tend to pick up your Deja Vu Award ( crawfish tray). Each bib came with a tasting wristband that gives you six tastes at the local vendors. There was so much food and beer, and it was greatness. For the Sunday races they offered various VIP packages that included a catered lunch (oh so yummy) beer, bloody Mary's, mimosas, private gear check, massages and tables to sit and enjoy.

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(2016)
"So much food!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

One of the things I enjoyed about this race was that it was a weekend, and consisted of two days of running. In most races if you complete more than one event you are rewarded with an extra medal, in the case of this race that extra medal is a crawfish tray for their Déjà vu Award.

Race communication: This race offered lots of pre-race communication including emails leading up to race week with final information, such as course/parking maps, expo information, bib numbers, race guides, etc.

Packet Pickup: you have to pick up your packet before the race. They do not offer race day pick up, but they do have a proxy pickup. Someone else can pick it up for you with a copy of your confirmation emails and ID.

Expo: It was your standard midsized expo. It has security, bib number look-ups, an area to pick up bibs, and a separate shirt retrieval area. Very organized. There was also a table set up to pick up VIP wristbands as well, or to purchase an entry into VIP. Upon leaving you are greeted by the fine folks of community coffee and I may have gotten addicted to their King Cake coffee. It’s just delicious. Right next to that area Tasc, who has all of the official LA Marathon clothing, had their area set up with goodies. The lines were pretty long and I decided that I would wait until race day to purchase. There were your standard vendors, including medal holders, KT Tape, local races, a bank, doctor’s office, etc.

Pre-Race: Very standard, it was a self seeding corral and was mixed in with the quarter folks so we all started at the same time. I was able to meet up with a local Texas runner as well as fellow Pro and packet receiver Jen. We took our official BibRave picture and headed to our spots.

Race/Course: It was crowded, very crowded. It stayed crowded. I got to the point in which I gave up trying to fight for a pace to settle into. There was nothing fancy about the scenery. The only true scenic place you past is the old governor’s mansion. Other that, it’s just your typical out and back 5k course. Things did thin out a bit once you approached the bridge after mile one which is also where you hit the first water stop. Since it's an out and back course you hit another water stop at the same spot, it's just on the other side of the road.

Post Race: After collecting your designated medal you are given a bottle of water and sent down the chute towards the capital building and finishers party. Immediately exiting the runner’s corral there’s a recovery stretching tent and Core protein shakes. But the really good stuff is inside. Each bib came with a tasting wristband that gives you six tastes at the local vendors. There was so much food and beer, and it was greatness. This was the biggest finishers festival I have ever seen for a 5k/10k EVER, and I’ve done some pretty big name ones.

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(2015)
"Shutting the Island Down! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I'll be honest I do have mixed feelings about this race. It was an inaugural race so I did not expect perfection, however, since the race directors also put on another popular race series I did have somewhat of high expectations about the race. Overall, there were many elements that made me excited about this race that was promised early on that were later phased out without warning.

Pre-Race: There was lots of communication and they were quick to respond to any last minute questions on Facebook which I really appreciate. They also sent out the race t-shirt ahead of time so that you could train in and post pictures (free race promotion lol).
Expo: The expo was definitely lacking. First off, there was only one local running store selling products, a few area races and law enforcement booths recruiting people. I will say the race gear was way overpriced, at $25 a shirt, I've spent less on higher quality shirts at bigger name brand expos. The room also smelled horrible which made me feel incredibly sick especially after the pasta dinner. Packet pickup with a breeze, took no time, and was super organized.
Pasta Dinner: I don't think there was anything they could do change this since they didn't cook and serve it themselves. Basically it was line service and you only got two meatballs, a choice of tea or water, and cake that was still halfway frozen.
Race Day: Since this was a point to point race you parked close to finish line and took a shuttle to the start. They clearly gave directions and time frame for the shuttles and it was the most efficient shuttle service I have ever seen. Runners were warned that shuttles would stop at 5:45, an hour before race start time. Totally fair. The start line was typical with self-seeding and you lined up with your pacer. Unfortunately the 5:30 pacer I planned to run with as long as possible was not there, and there seemed to only be one pacer per time as most races have two. There were potties at the start but no water. There should have been water for two reasons, they delayed the start by nearly 20 minutes to allow last minute shuttles, and the first water station wouldn't be for three miles in after you got off the causeway. The race itself was insanely scenic and the crowd and aid station support was great, unless you were doing the full. The races split at mile 12 and the full continues down a long stretch of sand for seven miles out and back. It seemed to be the least supported part. You saw people every 1.5 miles at aid stations but there was nothing else going on there besides sand. For a back of the packer in which the crowd is smaller anything would've helped to beat the mental game of a marathon. This is where the advertised 20 selfie stations would've came in handy. There was no selfies stations, period. This was not the marathon of the selfie as it originally used as a marketing technique. The Gu that was mentioned on Facebook to be at mile 18/22, was nonexistent. No bagels, bananas, oranges, nothing but water and a store brand gatorade for those on the marathon course... and sand. Also, initially there was supposed to be finisher shirts which I was beyond excited about (someone posted about this same thing on Facebook), and it turns out that was also done away with without warning.
Post Race: I didn't even bother to partake much in this, by the time I finished nothing was left, no bagels, just bananas and oranges, people to stretch you, medical, a nice medal, and beer which I don't even drink at Claytons. I was really disappointed that there wasn't any chocolate milk which is a staple at practically every half marathon or full marathon.
I can't say for sure if I would ever return back to run this race, but I do think the half course was pretty great and provided some gorgeous scenery, but there was just too much that got me excited about the race, that I ended up not getting.

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(2015)
"Beedo Beedo Beedo "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is a small race in Waco, Texas, it was cold and rainy and part of the course was flooded a couple of days prior so some last minute rerouting was done and according my devices it rain longer by .37. Considering the weather it was a good race.

Pre-Race: There was not a big expo just a simple in and out type of packet pickup. The packet included the basics. Bib, long sleeve tech shirt, flyers, coupon, pencil and bracelet. This race didn't use a disposable timing chip and that had to be picked up the morning of the race.

Race Day: It was cold and rainy, but parking was ample and close. Again, not a lot of vendors out but plenty of first responder vehicles from neighboring towns giving plenty of pre-race picture opportunities.

Course: It was a looped course that actually had you loop through the finish line. It was flat, but the roads weren't in the best conditions at some parts. As far as scenery it was nice when running through Riverwalk park, other times you just on a sidewalk. You do get to run through a fire station which is pretty cool and rare for a race. The water stations were ample and well stocked with water and gatorade and the volunteers were cold, wet, and cheerful.

Post Race: There as plenty of food which I was impressed with for such a small race, and once again, all of the first responders stuck around for everyone to finish so create a finishing shoot lined with fire trucks w/ ladders extended, police vehicles, swat vehicles all with flashing lights. I hope this is the only time in which flashing lights are behind me lol.

Overall: It was a well run race, it started on time, the course was well marked and they made the best of the rainy situation. There was plenty of race communication before and after the race via email as well as Facebook. The race director was quick to respond to any last minute questions and I really respect and appreciate that.

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