Latest reviews by Jake Spitz

(2018)
"Wet & Wild 2018"
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Boston 2018 will be a race I never forget. The will and determination from the athletes to the volunteers and spectators here are immeasurable.
The expo moved this year to the seaport. While more inconvenient from downtown, it's super close to Logan if you hit in on the way in. The Bib/shirt pickup was easy, while the merchandise section is still very congested, and, for me, not worth shopping through. There's plenty of opportunities to buy stuff downtown at Runbase, Marathon Sports, Nike, Tracksmith, Rabbit, etc...
As part of the Boston365 program out of Chicago, we got a chartered bus to the start in Hopkinton w/ our own gear check. I can't speak to the process of the school bus/gear check offered by the B.A.A.
If you're in Chicago and plan to run Boston, sign up for this program. It's well worth it, just for the bus. I can't imagine sitting out in the athlete village for 2 hours in the pouring ran.
It's a decent walk from the village to the starting line. I got in the corral w/ about 10 minutes to spare and just tried to stay warm.
The actual race went pretty well for me. I ran controlled through the front half and managed a decent back half w/ the hills. The weather was a huge factor for most, even if just making it an uncomfortable experience.
The finisher area was full of volunteers and everyone along the course and here were incredibly helpful. I think you could exit the chute earlier than in 2016, so I was able to make my way back to the hotel quicker.
The expo isn't a great experience (IMO), the access to the race start can be tricky, but everything else about this race is amazing. I can why people enjoy coming back year after year for the experience.

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(2016)
"Tour de Chicago"
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This is my fourth Chicago Marathon and by far, the best experience I've had at this race. I was coming off a very tri-specific training season and wasn't sure where my legs and endurance were at for the long distances.
Expo: As per usual, the health and fitness expo was located at McCormick Place, south of downtown. Some of the preliminary checkin stuff was located outside of the main room, which seemed to open things up a little inside. While Nike is a huge sponsor for this race, their merchandise section was less compact and it was easier to move through and around than previous years. Packet pickup was very smooth and quick around 3pm on Friday. Didn't spend a lot of time at the expo, bought a hoodie and a t-shirt and headed out quick!
Pre-race: I did not do the Gear Check provide by the race. Through Chicago Endurance Sports, we were able to hang out at the Race Day Resort located at Roosevelt University. It costs $50 for non-members, but IMO, it's still worth it: private gear check, indoor bathrooms, pre/post-race food and beverages, massages, medal engravings, finisher gear...it's pretty great. Our group headed to the corrals around 645am, leaving a little earlier than last year so we didn't get stuck in the gates (it gets pretty backed up after 7am).
Race: Weather was perfect this year (maybe 5º cooler would have been amazing) and minimal wind had a lot of thinking this could be a PR day. The aid stations and volunteers were great and energetic. There was a tangent blue-line painted on the course again this year. The crowd support was great, even south of mile 20. Usually it thins out a bit down there. The toughest part of the course is the LONG stretch coming home on Michigan Avenue. It seems like Roosevelt is never going to come, but when you finally turn that corner and head up the mountain to Columbus, you know you're so close to realizing your goal. The finisher chute is so memorable. Take it all in, the crowd can be deafening.
Post-race: After meeting up with some of the team, we made our way through the amenities and headed west back to the resort when we could. I can't speak to the 27th Mile post-race party; I've never been to it.

For me, Chicago 2016 was the best marathon I've ever run. It was my first successful negative split full, and the first time I've used UCAN exclusively for nutrition (all pre-race - only took 1 GU around 2hrs). I have a lot of fond memories from this season, but ending it this way, in Chicago, was quite the icing on the cake.

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(2016)
"Celebration Race"
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This is one of those bucket list experience races. My first time in Boston, first time at Fenway, and first time running that famous course. I tried to take as much in over the weekend as I could (within reason). The BIB pickup side of the expo is easy to get in and out of. The merchandise side is pretty overwhelming and very tight. While cool to see, I'd recommend hitting up some of the brand stores around to get your merch: Adidas RunBase, Nike, NB, and Marathon Sports, just to name a few. Our hotel was right in the heart of the finish area. While very convenient, when I do this race again, I'll probably stay in Cambridge or towards the North End to save some $$. The downtown area isn't that big and it's very manageable via the T. There's so much to see and do the weekend leading into the race - it's a good idea to get a gameplan for Sat and Sun, and schedule in some downtime, too!!
Our Boston 365 program, via Fleet Feet and Adidas, had a chartered bus to Hopkinton so we didn't need to use the race gear check area and we had full access to the bus until we left for the start line. Allow yourself an hour to get from the Athlete Village to the start. It's probably not a mile, but it's slow moving and there's also a huge lot of port-o-potties before you enter the corrals.
The actual course is fairly straight with only 4-5 90 degree turns. However, the first half is almost all downhill and if you haven't trained on hills...the second half will be challenging to say the least. It was so cool seeing all of the famous sections: the "Scream Tunnel", the Newton Hills, Boston College, the Boston Strong overpass, the right on Hereford, and left on Boylston to the finish.
The finisher shoot and post race area is well managed and all of the volunteers were so good! Be aware, it's another hike to actually get out of the post race area. Keep moving. Your legs will thank you later.
Although I missed my time goal, my ability to reassess at the halfway point allowed me to truly enjoy the second half of the race. It's probably the most fun I've had running a marathon, ever. I may not be back every year, but I will definitely run this again...and again.

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(2016)
"Preppin' for Beantown!"
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This was my first time running this race and I can see myself running this every year, whether prepping for Boston or not! Such a great, small, but very competitive race. Very easy to get to (just about an hour out of the city) and the day-of packet pickup is super quick.
The course is pretty challenging - my watch calculated 600-700 ft of elevation gain/loss over the 13.1 miles. There's not a lot of spectators, but the scenery is pretty and we had pretty fantastic weather this year. Aid stations were approx every 2.5 miles which was enough, but they weren't well labeled and the gatorade/water weren't always in the same order. No big complaints, though.
For me personally, I used Cary for a training run and a barometer for how my Boston training was going. Goal was to hold marathon pace through the first 10 and dial it in for the last 5k. Tough course to maintain even splits w/ the elevation changes, but was able to battle through and really really enjoyed the race overall!!

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(2016)
"Spring Tradition"
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I also enjoy kicking off the Chicago racing season with the Shamrock Shuffle. In my opinion, race management has gotten consistently better over the 5 years I've raced it.
Expo - much easier to get to than Navy Pier, and less stressful. Although, I heard the expo moved further east (longer walk if you park by lakeside) it was still easy to get in and out. Of course they make you walk across the expo to get your shirt :) I thought the booths/vendors were slim this year. Maybe I'm just comparing it to the Chicago Marathon, but when you have 25k+ runners coming w/ their families to the expo, it seems like there could be a little more.
Pre-race - This year, the Fleet Feet Racing Team did not have immediate access to a team tent and with some scheduling difficulties beforehand, most of us decided to use the regular gear check areas which didn't end up being an issue at all. Wave 1's gear check is right by the corral entrances which made warming up/dropping off bags very easy. The required clear gear bags are big enough to hold clothes from a chilly spring morning.
Race - This course winds through the city, offering glimpses of the Loop and runs along many of the same streets as the marathon. The aid stations are set up well (I didn't take anything but they seemed very well-managed). The course is marked well which is important because your Garmin will NOT be accurate on such a short course. There's at least 3 sections of signal loss...and on a 5 mile course - most of your splits will be off. I'd recommend manually lapping if you can. You get to experience Mt. Roosevelt right before the finish line...not sure if this is a blessing or a curse :) The finisher chute on Columbus is long and it's very easy to grab post-race swag. Lots of food options, photo ops, vendors, and a glittery shamrock medal await!
For me - This was a nice speed warmup for Boston. 2 weeks out from a marathon, I wanted to use Shamrock as a longer tempo run, with 2 mile WU/CDs on either side. I figured I'd go out and see how mile 1 felt and either hold pace or try to push it. Legs had some pop so I dropped it down to 10k pace and was able to hold that through the race. It's a tough distance to figure out: race it like a 5k and die? Hold back until the end? Lots of ways to attack - this year I felt good throughout and ended up negatively splitting (the exact opposite of last year).
Nothing better than spending a brisk, spring morning with 25k of your closest friends! See you next year!!

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