Monday, June 26, 2017

Chicago Marathon Training: Week Two and Three

I missed my update last week because I was at the beach so I'm going to recap weeks two and three of my Chicago Marathon training. As I mentioned in my first post, I'm using Hal Higdon Novice 2 and my goal pace is 12:00 minute miles. This will be my fourth marathon but it's the first time I have a time goal. If you missed my week one training update, you can catch up here. 

Week 2 included the same 2 three mile runs and a five mile run that week one included. There is no speed work included in the guide I'm following, but I'm going to occasionally incorporate it in just as an added benefit. This week I got rained out and took one of my three mile runs inside on the treadmill and I used a workout on the Aaptiv app. Aaptiv is an app with a ton of different workouts but I've only used it for treadmill runs. My favorite is Brit is Back, a speed workout set to different songs by my queen, Britney Spears. The workout is only 2.5 miles but can easily be bumped up to 3 miles by increasing every interval by .2 MPH and resuming the 5.0 MPH pace during recovery. This workout actually feels really good for me and my training because I have to hold my goal pace during recovery, despite being tired and out of breath from intervals. 

I hate that I did this, but I skipped my 9 mile run on Saturday because I was at the beach. The guilt I feel from skipping a long run early on is enough to ensure I don't skip another long run. The plan allows room for flexibility but it highly encourages not skipping or adjusting the long runs. 

Week three started out with a great track run. I ran my first mile in 9:52 and it's honestly been a month or two since I ran a sub 10:00 mile. I also found out during week three that I was selected as an ambassador for Asheville Marathon! I've never run Asheville Marathon before but I've read about the beautiful scenic course set on Biltmore Estate. I'm really excited for the scenery and Biltmore wine. As an ambassador, I've been given a friends and family discounts to share until July 31st. This rate is the absolute lowest I'll be able to share with you as a race ambassador and it's super simple to redeem. Register here and use the codes below for 15% off all distances and challenges. 


This plan also requires cross training once a week. I've currently been playing tennis and using Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide workouts on days I don't run, but I'll soon be switching to Orange Theory Fitness classes. I signed up for a membership in January for a studio opening soon by my house. I'm really excited to see how OTF classes will improve my running. I've heard wonderful things and loved the preview class I got to take at another studio in town. 

I'll kick things up in week four with an 11 mile run and I'm excited to see how that goes! I'll check in with you next Monday! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chicago Marathon Training: Week One

I'm currently training for the 2017 Chicago Marathon and wanted to share my progress weekly. I am 17 weeks out now and selected Hal Higdon's Novice 2 program. Having completed three marathons, I still feel like a beginner. This program is designed for beginners who have run an occasional 5k or half marathon and have been running at least a year. I felt like the Intermediate 1 program would've left me burnt out in the first month since it requires six days a week. Novice 2 requires five days of training per week. A long run and a day of cross training are included in every week of the Novice 2 plan. Below is the full schedule.

My first run was on Tuesday and consisted of an easy 3 miles on the track. I didn't intend for this to be a progressive run but the songs kept getting better and it just happened that way.

My Wednesday run was intended to be a 5 mile pace run. I got pulled over on my way to the track and by the time the officer let me go, I only had enough time to go home and run a 5k on my own. We had kickball playoffs that night and after winning our first game we ended up having a double header. It was probably best that I didn't run the 5 miles I was scheduled that day, anyways.

I ended up doing my 5 mile pace run on Friday. My goal pace for Chicago is 12:00. I started my first lap on the track at a 10:34 pace. I was feeling good on Friday so I had to add in a few walk breaks to get down to a 12:00 pace. I ended up running an average 11:51 pace. I'm going to re-evaluate my goal around week 7 and figure out if an 11:30 pace may be achievable. For now, I'm shooting for 12:00 though.

My last run of the week was an 8 mile pace run on Sunday evening. Everything about this run was bad for me. I know they say "the only bad run is the one you don't do" but I can't imagine this run helped me at all. I was slower than my goal pace and wasn't feeling well. Waiting until Sunday evening wasn't the best idea so I will not be making that mistake next week.

Other than Sunday's long run, I feel really good about my first week of Chicago Marathon training. After running this race in 2016, it easily became my favorite race. Knowing everything I have to look forward to in Chicago is motivation to train harder and smarter this year. 17 more weeks!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My January-February 2017 Whole30 Experience

I'm After reading 18 success stories, gaining 15 lb. and trying on 10 pairs of pants that didn't fit, I took the plunge and decided to commit to Whole30.  Just to clarify, I did not turn to Whole30 simply to lose weight.  I know how to do that.  I turned to Whole30 to change my life.  I was exhausted from going back and forth between dieting and extreme exercise.  I needed something that was going to last me a lifetime- something that would help me develop healthy eating habits and improve my relationship with food.  I needed these things and didn't even know it until Whole30 came into my life.  To be honest, I didn't think this type of balance was achievable.  Well, it is.  And I'm going to tell you exactly how I did it.

If you don't know what Whole30 is, I'll give you a brief description.  Their website and the comprehensive book The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
are both great resources, though. Simply stated, you cannot have any alcohol, added sugar, dairy, legumes, soy or wheat for 30 days.  It is obviously much more complex than that but those are the basics.  To be honest, giving up cheese and wine scared the hell out of me.  You have to step out of your comfort zone if you want change.  I decided this extra cheese on my pizza habit needed to change and I was willing to trust the process.  You need this level of trust to successfully complete the program and make long-term changes.

So after having a pity party and a farewell to food tour, I asked my Mom to get me The Whole30 Cookbook for Channukah.  Looking back, this book is probably the best gift I've ever been given.  These recipes are shared directly from the creator of Whole30 herself, Melissa Hartwig.  There are endless resources online for Whole30 compliant recipes but the book was my absolute favorite source.  You can also read It Starts With Food and Food Freedom Forever.  Since completing my 30 days, I have ordered the latter but neither are required to start the program.

I decided I would begin my program on Monday January 16th.  I spent the weekend before Whole30 in South Carolina running Charleston Half Marathon during Restaurant Week and of course ate all the things.  On Monday, I meant business.  All I actually remember eating on that day was eggs for breakfast and potatoes with dinner.  I didn't keep a food log and in hindsight that was probably a mistake.  If you are new to Whole30, keep a food log.  I can tell you several things I ate during my 30 days, but it's certainly not an all-inclusive list.

So, the first few days of Whole30 are known to give you a massive headache from the sugar withdrawal.  Some people compare this sensation to a hangover.  Fortunately, I cannot tell you from personal experience how this feels because I experienced nothing of the sort.  While I do drink wine and eat bread and pasta, I do not have a sweet tooth.  I don't like sugary, sweet things.  I don't eat ice cream or cookies or donuts.  Occasionally I may indulge in one, but these are not weaknesses of mine.  Take me to a restaurant and I would rather get a cheesy, fried appetizer than splurge on dessert.  This worked in my favor because I never once felt deprived of sugar.  I cruised through the first week preparing lots of chicken and potatoes.

Week 2 presented new challenges because days 11 & 12 are said to be the hardest in the entire program.  At this point, the novelty wears off and a lot of people decide to cheat or quit altogether.  I'll admit my only mistake was on day 8 eating at Moe's.  I thought I was being good by ordering grilled chicken and all compliant toppings.  Do you know how hard it was to refrain from chips, queso and sour cream?!?  Well, come to find out their chicken was grilled in soybean oil and soy is off limits.  Some people suggested I needed to start over.  I thought that was unnecessary because my stomach hurt after the meal and left me extremely bloated.  I learned everything from that mistake that I needed to: soy is something I need to avoid on a regular basis.  I don't feel the need to re-introduce soy into my diet.  Also, don't trust restaurants!  They will sneak anything into your food.  Check labels and ask questions. 

Week 3 is really where the magic happens.  You get an immense amount of energy and focus, also known as "Tiger Blood."  There is pretty much nothing stopping you from reaching Day 30 once you've experienced Tiger Blood.  I was strong enough to go out to bars and turn down drinks in my third week.  While I'm pretty sure everyone appreciated me being a DD, the best part of week three was the feeling of liberation.  When alcohol and food no longer controlled me, I felt pure freedom.  Drinking water while watching a band play was just as relaxing as drinking a beer.  Tiger Blood gives you confidence and I was confident enough to sing and dance just like anyone who had been drinking.  Also, this bar was an outdoor bar that I like to go to during the summer.  Just thinking about being able to show off this body that I've worked so hard for in a sundress over the summer would be enough motivation to not drink.  I look at alcohol in a whole different light now.  Don't get me wrong, I still love it.  I just don't feel the insecurity to drink it every time I go out now.

On Week 4 I decided I was ready to give restaurants another chance.  I went to lunch with co-workers and refrained from bread and the cheesy, fried appetizer brought to the table.  I asked the server all the right questions and was able to enjoy a tuna salad.  Later that night, I went out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse with my family.  Outback is a great place to eat when you are on Whole30!  They have a gluten-free menu with slightly modified options.  I typically get the crab stuffed tilapia, but the server informed me that it contains breadcrumbs.  I went with the grilled tilapia found exclusively on the gluten-free menu and a side of baked potato.  I actually clarified my own butter at home and brought it along in a container so I could give my potato some fat and flavor.  I don't know what I'm more impressed with- my ability to turn down a bloomin' onion or the cleverness involved in bringing my own butter to a restaurant.  Either way, that entire experience was a win in my book. 

I'm now on week 5, day 31.  I've had countless people tell me they could never do it.  32 days ago, I thought the same thing.  If you want something as bad as you need air, you will find a way to make it happen.  In these last 30 days, I not only improved my relationship with food but also myself.  I'm pretty dang impressed with the strength and resistance I showed during this program.  I'm a proud Whole30 alumni.  I mean, turning down nachos during the SuperBowl?  That's something I've never done before!  I literally went to four grocery stores looking for compliant plantain chips I could eat with my guacamole and my Dad made me baked wings with no sauce.  Who needs to pound beers when Lady Gaga was giving the performance of a lifetime, anyways?

For most people, Day 31 is a re-introduction day.  The journey does not end after 30 days because you need to experience restricted foods individually to see how your body reacts.  The journey really never ends, actually.  I have a Half Marathon on Sunday so I am going to postpone my re-introduction period a few days and enjoy my Whole30 lifestyle a bit longer.  I didn't want to re-introduce anything this close to my race and I have the momentum to keep going.  A huge reasoning for deciding to do Whole30 had to do with my running.  I knew losing weight and fueling myself with proper nutrients would improve my running exponentially.  Well, I have lost 21.6 pounds so I'm excited to see how I perform on Sunday!  Yes, you read that correctly.  21.6 pounds in 30 days.  No pills, wraps, or extreme working out.  This is Whole30. I am Whole30.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Will Run For Pizza: My 2016 Chicago Marathon Review

Today I got accepted into the 2017 Chicago Marathon lottery!  I figured it would be a good time to finally share my first experience running in Chicago in the 2016 race.

Chicago Marathon has always been a dream race for me.  My Mother was born and raised in Chicago, but I only visit The Windy City once as a kid and that was in the late 90's.  So I did exactly what you would expect for me to do and registered for Chicago Marathon on a whim.  I originally said I would wait another year because it fell on my birthday weekend, but it appears Chicago Marathon ALWAYS falls on my birthday weekend.  My original plan was to head to Tampa for the weekend to see my alma mater ECU play USF.  My Pirates lost so Chicago Marathon was obviously the better decision.

I started experiencing FOMO when I saw many of my running buddies receiving their lottery acceptance emails.  I didn't enter the lottery for Chicago Marathon.  I know that Chicago Marathon actually reserves a large number of bibs for charity so my only option was to fund raise my way in to Chicago Marathon.  I signed up to run as a St. Jude Hero since I ran for them during my first marathon in this year's Dopey Challenge.  There is an extended list of charities who run for Chicago Marathon that are definitely worth checking out.  You can view a list of the 2017 participating charities here.

So after registering to run with St Jude, my boyfriend and I booked our flight and counted down the days until Chicago Marathon...

He did not run.  Just to clarify.

The night before we flew out of North Carolina, I was too excited to sleep.  I stayed up watching The Breakup because it's filmed in Chicago. Duh. This obviously led to more excitement and an even more difficult time getting to sleep.

Friday was my birthday and we woke up early and ready to leave.  My sister drove us to the airport and we surprisingly took off on time.  For anyone who knows me, you know I have the worst luck with flight delays.  We fortunately did not have any layovers and flew directly into O'Hare.  If you ever want your birthday to last an extra hour, take a flight out west.  Of course, I spent that extra hour on a plane but nonetheless I had a 25 hour birthday (who am I kidding- I normally have a month-long birthday)!

Upon landing, our plan was to take the train downtown to our hotel.  I was advised to purchase a three-day pass.  If you are staying downtown like we did, I actually suggest you don't get the pass.  I paid $20 for essentially a one-way ticket because I never needed to use the train again.  Our hotel, Hyatt Regency, was walking distance to nearly everything including the starting line.

We were able to check in early, nap, and freshen up before deciding what to experience first.  I decided I wanted to head to the expo before anything else.  There was a shuttle that conveniently stopped right in front of Hyatt Regency and was supposed to take approximately 15 minutes to get to McCormick Place.  Well, President Obama  happened to be in town and there was a road closure that backed up traffic and caused our driver to go a different route.  We were on the shuttle for an hour.  I'm not even exaggerating.  We saw the long lines waiting for shuttles when we got off and decided it was best to just take our time at the expo.

The expo was top-notch.  The venue, McCormick Place, is actually the nation's largest convention center.  From the vendors to the experiences, there was so much to do at the expo.  I started with a beer from Goose Island.  Maybe I'm sheltered from runDisney races, but I've never seen beer at a race expo.  I'm certainly not complaining.  That beer was my first of many Goose Island 312 IPA's that weekend.

The North Face had great gear at their booth.  I don't typically buy hoodies but I wish I had purchased one from them.  Chicago Marathon was a dream race for me, after all.  I left the expo without a hoodie and now I carry an immense amount of regret for not purchasing one.

We headed back to the hotel to figure out our next move.  Because I'm a planner, we already had dinner reservations for my birthday.  When talking to a fellow runner, she suggested RPM Italian, which happens to be co-owned by Bill and Giuliana Rancic.  She must've known exactly what I was looking for because because it was every bit of chic, elegant and upscale.  I made reservations one month in advance and there was only a 5:00 and 10:00 PM option.  Like an amateur, I went with the 10:00 option thinking we would have lunch and be able to wait that late.  Well, we should've stopped for a slice of pizza before checking into the hotel but we didn't.  And we were way too hungry when 5:00 rolled around to even fathom waiting another five hours for dinner.  So, I cancelled our reservation and opted for Giordano's instead.

There is a Giordano's in walking distance from pretty much any hotel so we walked to the Millennium Park location.  There was a 45 minute wait but we were able to order our pizza during the wait so it would be ready shortly after being seated.  My boyfriend and I split a pitcher of none other than Goose Island 312 IPA while we waited for our pizza.  The cheese pull on that pizza was everything.  I highly suggest you squeeze at least one trip to Giordano's into your trip if you plan to run Chicago Marathon.  Stuffed pizza is my new thing.

The next morning I woke up early and went for a 5k stretch run.  If I lived in Chicago, I would literally run everyday.  It's such an active city with beautiful surroundings.  We spent the rest of the day walking around Navy Pier and ate dinner at Lou Malnati's.  Their chicken alfredo was the largest bowl of pasta I've ever seen and it was like $11.  I ate every single noodle and drank another Goose Island 312 IPA because CARBO LOADING.  Then we headed to Wrigleyville to experience a Cubs game.

Being in Wrigleyville during a Cubs playoff game was the coolest sports experience I think I've ever had.  We didn't actually purchase tickets to the game but we hopped from bar to bar and decided we were officially Cubs fans for life.  Call me what you want, but I don't think experiencing a Cubs playoff game during my first Chicago Marathon and then cheering for them after I get home makes me a band wagoner.  If anything it makes me feel like I'm still in Chicago and experiencing Marathon weekend all over again.
I tried to get to bed early on Saturday night.  Sunday morning rolled around and it was tough to get out of bed but I walked to the starting line.  I'm still blown away at how well-organized the starting corrals were.  The race starts in Grant Park and its truly a phenomenal venue.  It was easy to enter and easy to make way to my corral despite there being 40,000+ runners.  I was in the second last corral so it took nearly an hour after the first corral for me to actually take off.  Once we started though, it was well worth the wait.  Well worth training in the hottest summer I think North Carolina has ever had.  And worth the very high price tag that comes along with flying to and staying in downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Marathon takes runners through 29 different neighborhoods and each one attempts to be more memorable than the others.  I don't think I can pick a favorite.  The crowd support was incredible.  From what I hear, its easy for spectators to get around.  I saw my boyfriend twice on the course and then again at the finish line.  Around mile 16 I got to see encouraging messages from my friends and family on a mega-tron.  I only saw three but I was later emailed everything my friends intended for me to see on the course!  Thanks, guys!

I crossed the finish line and there was Goose Island 312 IPA waiting for me. My phone died around mile 19 so I don't have a medal picture. After getting my medal and drinking my beer, I took a Lyft back to the hotel.  You can judge me all you want but I had zero desire to walk any further after that race.  I got back to my hotel and took a nap without even showering.  I decided it was best to just order pizza after my nap and I decided on Gino's East.  I didn't go out and do anything else that evening but I would've liked to.  I was just so sore!

So, here's my review of The 2016 Chicago Marathon!

The course: 10/10
Chicago is famously flat and their course is known to be a flat, fast course.  Chicago is also a gorgeous city so there's always something to look at.  With the vibrant neighborhoods and 1.7 million spectators, its difficult to get bored on this course.  I can't find anything to complain about.  Chicago Marathon has the perfect course.

The swag: 9/10
This year, Chicago gave participants neon yellow tech shirts.  There's also beer at the finish line and the expo!  Since it's a World Majors Marathon, they really don't need to entice runners with swag in order to sell out every year.

The medals: 9/10
I've seen past medals from Chicago Marathon and loved them.  The design this year was not my favorite, but because of the experience it's one of my favorite race medals.  The medals typically feature a Chicago icon and this year they went with the Picasso statue on Richard J. Daley Civic Center. This is apparently where the Chicago Marathon used to start, so I like the history behind it.  With next year being an anniversary year, I can't wait to see what they feature on the 2017 medal.  The Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park was on the 2015 medal and the iconic Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago was featured on the 2014 finisher medal.

Overall Experience: 10/10
I absolutely fell in love with Chicago and the Chicago Marathon this weekend.  It's my new favorite race by a long shot and the perfect way to celebrate my birthday weekend.  The food, the history, the culture, the fans.  They're all a perfect ten.  If I could do just one race again and again, this would be it.

Now that I've gotten home and been able to reflect on my weekend, there are a few things I would do differently.

First, I wanted to arrive on Friday because it was my birthday.  I loved spending my birthday in The Windy City but I would actually prefer to arrive one day later next time.  That will allow me to stay one day longer past the race.  There was so much to do in Chicago but I didn't want to drink too much or stay out too late prior to the race.  I would have really appreciated the extra time in Chicago when I didn't have a race to focus on.  Next year, my birthday falls on Saturday so I can arrive early in the morning the day prior to Chicago Marathon with plenty of time to make it to the expo and eat.

Second, I'm going to RPM Italian!  I heard several runners exclaim how delicious it was and I regret cancelling my reservation.

That's actually all that I would change.  I loved my location and I can't wait to experience another Chicago Marathon.

I love running for St. Jude but I'm relieved to not have to stress about fundraising for Chicago in 2017.  Now I can just focus on training to make the 2017 Chicago Marathon my best race yet!  My goal is to beat Katie Holmes' time from the 2007 NYC Marathon, 5:29:58.  Of course I'll update you on my training along the way!  Cheers to running Chicago in 2017!


Friday, September 16, 2016

First Race of Fall 2016: Carowinds Run & Ride Race Review

After a long hot summer of training runs for Chicago Marathon, I finally had my first race since early June.  It felt good to be back.  I feel like I'm in my zone on race weekends and I didn't miss a beat getting back into that element.  This was my third Run & Ride Weekend and second year running at Carowinds.  I walked the 5k on Saturday and ran the Half Marathon on Sunday as part of the Total Inversion package.  It was hot, but it was one heck of a weekend!

The races at Carowinds were actually supposed to be my second race weekend of the fall.  You know that means I've got a story to tell...  I had actually registered for Rock N Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon set to take place only seven days before Run & Ride Carowinds Half Marathon.  I had kinda forgotten about it and was running around like a chicken with my head cut off to make reservations last minute.  There was also the threat of Hurricane Hermine approaching the Outer Banks and I just knew with my luck I would book an expensive hotel room only to have the race cancelled due to weather.  Around Noon on Friday 9/2, RNR announced the One Mile Sand Run scheduled to take place on Saturday had been cancelled due to weather but the races on Sunday would still take place.  They later announced that runners unable to make it to the Half Marathon could receive a transfer to any 2016 or 2017 race.  I was SO tempted to transfer to Las Vegas and run the strip with one of my friends, but I'll be racing Race 13.1 Orlando that weekend.  So I did what any sensible girl would do- I TRANSFERRED TO NASHVILLE!  For the past three years I have felt intense amounts of FOMO when scrolling through my newsfeed the last weekend of April but that FOMO is NO MO'!  I'm packing my boots and heading west to Nashville, TN next spring!  Stay tuned for updates.

RNR Nashville excitement aside, it's time for me to share my excitement from my weekend running at Carowinds!  By the time I got off work on Friday afternoon, packed, and rolled into town it was too late for me to pick up my race packet.  Run & Ride sent out an email to all participants detailing the hours they would be available for packet pick-up and on Friday afternoon it happened to be from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  The email stated that packet pick-up would be available the morning of the races and that runners picking up packets on race morning should arrive no later than 45 minutes before the races were scheduled to start.  So I did just that and arrived to see quite a long line.  No worries!  It was my fault I couldn't make it the night before so I stood in line and received my packet for both the 5k and Half Marathon.  Although I was running two distances, I just received the Half Marathon shirt.  The Half Marathon shirt is a tech shirt- the 5k was not.  I didn't even want the 5k shirt because I wouldn't have ever run in it.  No complaints there!

I do want to call out the runners who showed up with only 15 minutes to spare before the scheduled start time, needing to pick up bibs.  This backed up the line, causing the race to start at 8:40 AM rather than 8:30 AM.  The delay was no big deal but it could've been avoided.  Just saying.  The Peanuts characters were out for pictures before and after the race started so that kept runners occupied while waiting to start.

I didn't run the 5k when I participated in the Carowinds Run & Ride Race last year, so I was excited to see that the entire course stayed in the park.  For the most part, it followed an abridged, backwards version of the Half Marathon course.  It was hot, but it was a lot of fun.  I walked it with a friend, stopping to take pictures at every opportunity.  We headed into the park for a few hours and left in time for me to watch some Pirate Football.  My East Carolina University Pirates beat North Carolina State 36-33 so that was just the whipped cream on top of a scrumptious key lime pie (I'm not a cake person so saying "icing on top of the cake" doesn't do my weekend justice).

I went to bed early on Saturday night while my boyfriend and his friends went out to Dave and Buster's.  They were getting into bed around 5:00 AM while I was waking up so I knew they were going to struggle to make it to the finish line to see me.  Spoiler alert: They didn't make it in time!

I arrived at the park about 30 minutes before the Half Marathon took off.  Runners are allowed to park right up front for free on race day so there's no traffic or parking issues to ever deal with.  Although I already had my packet and bib, I was relieved to see that there was no line for packet pick-up.  Since this race fell on the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we took a moment of silence to honor and remember the victims lost and the sacrifices made on that horrific day.

This year's course for the Half Marathon was slightly different than last year's course.  They both consisted of two loops around the park.  Last year, runners went through the campgrounds on the first loop but not the second which resulted in a long stretch of parking lot at the end.  The second loop this year included the campgrounds, which shortened the parking lot stretch at the end by a lot.  There were bagels and fruit at the finish line, as always.  The temperature was definitely much hotter this year than last year so that was unfortunate.  Regardless the heat, I had a blast and won't ever forget this weekend.

I have zero desire to see my finish time for this race.  I was on pace to beat my PR up until mile 9 which was AWESOME.  I began to feel dehydrated though and there were not enough water stops to get me feeling normal again so I listened to my body and took the remaining 4 miles easy.  Although I voluntarily neglected to look at my time, there are many runners who crushed this course, broke PR's, tackled their first Half Marathon or accomplished so many other goals that couldn't see their times.  There was an issue with the timing chips that was far out of Rev 3's control.  I have ALWAYS had my results available to me at Run and Ride races immediately.  In fact, when I crossed the finish line at the 2015 Carowinds Half, I was able to walk over to a booth that printed out my official race results right then and there.  How cool is that?

The usual chip timing company was apparently unavailable this weekend so Run & Ride opted to use a local chip timing company to manage race results.  The company who makes the timing chips sent a faulty batch to the timing chip company and the problem was not discovered until runners began crossing the finish line on Saturday morning for the 5k.  For the most part, the chip timing company was able to problem solve and find a work-around by scanning bibs to match the tracker to the participant but this solution did not work in every situation.  Run & Ride is working diligently to ensure all runners receive recognition for their performance during this weekends' races.  Because of the timing issue, awards will be mailed to those who placed and runners have been offered a generous discount for future races.

I can confidently say this error is uncharacteristic of Run and Ride races and the experience they always provide.  Every time an issue popped up this weekend, race staff had a quick and effective solution.  The chip timing defect  was entirely out of their hands and they are still bending over backwards to make the situation right.  I think their actions speak volumes about how deeply they care about their runners and the pride they take in providing a great running experience.  For this reason, I will continue to run and ride with them as long as I can.  At the end of the day, I'm glad I have the health and resources to allow me to run Half Marathons and I would not let something as small as race results being delayed ruin my race experience.  I'm not downplaying the unfortunate situation, but there are far more important things in life and I'm glad I am able to recognize that.

Now comes the fun part- the race review!

The course: 7/10
For the most part, this course is flat and it's almost entirely in the park.  There are hills in Dinosaurs Alive and the campgrounds, both of which we had to run through twice.  I give the 5k course a 9/10 because there is no loop to complete a second time and the entire course provides a scenic route through the park and newly-expanded water park.

The swag: 10/10
As long as Run and Ride provides us with free tickets to the park, I will keep giving them a perfect score in the swag category.  Runners can elect to receive a one-day or weekend admission ticket with their registration.  Considering early registration is far cheaper than a park ticket, the race offers a significant value to runners.  In addition to the park ticket, 10k and Half Marathon runners all receive a ticket to skip the wait on the ride of their choice.  My group used ours on Nighthawk, a flying roller coaster that features a double corkscrew.  This ride typically has the longest wait in the park so I'm extremely appreciative of the opportunity to skip this line.  We stayed in the park until the late afternoon on Sunday and were able to ride every roller coaster with little to no wait.

The medals: 9/10
Run and Ride really came up with a unique concept when they decided to put Peanuts characters in roller coaster trains for their 2016 medals.  The ability to connect medals with the hidden magnets is my favorite part.  All runners can create their own train based on their races since all runners earn a unique combination of medals.  They will use the same concept for next year but will allow participants the ability to vote for other characters through social media.

Having run two locations this year, I wish there was a way to differentiate the medals by the park I earned them at. The ribbon on my 2015 medal has the Carowinds logo so I'm hoping they bring that back with the 2017 medals! 

Overall Experience: 9/10 
Run & Ride Carowinds will always be one of my favorite races.  It's the first Half Marathon I ran in my current state of North Carolina but it also crosses borders into South Carolina!  It's a fun, unique experience and provided a great amount of fun.  I met so many runners from social media groups this year and I can't wait to run with them again.  The heat was brutal, but the water park stays open one week past Labor Day for runners to cool off.  I need to remember to pack my bikini next time!

You can read my 2015 Carowinds Race Review here and my 2016 Kings Dominion Race Review here.  For a listing and description of all 2016 Run & Ride Races, click here.  There are still two more race weekends in 2016 for the Run & Ride Race series, and you can receive 15% off any race distance by using code RUNBARBIE15.

There will not be any new locations for the 2017 Run & Ride Race series, however, a Half Marathon will be added to the Kings Dominion race lineup making it a two-day event.  Registration will open soon for the events scheduled in June 2017.  Stay tuned for all 2017 Run & Ride details on the blog!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

2016 Kings Dominion Run & Ride Race Review

For the second time, I had the privilege of participating in a Run and Ride event and it was great!  On May 22nd, I ran the Delirium 10K at Kings Dominion and stayed to ride coasters all day.  They offered a 5K and one mile option as well, both of which sold out approximately one week prior to race day.  Rev 3 Adventure puts on this race and comped my entry once again.  I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to run these races for free, but I'm even more grateful that I can share my honest opinions with you through my blog.   

If you've never heard of Run and Ride events, they are various race distances sometimes spanning over the entire weekend that visit a select few Cedar Fair parks.  In September 2015 I ran the Carowinds Half Marathon and will run it again this fall.  I have a full list and description of all locations and distances available on my blog as well.  Included in race registration is a park ticket for participants to not only run through the parks in the morning, but to also stay and ride coasters all day (for race distance of 5K and longer, only).  In some cases, race registration is less expensive than a one-day admission.  In the two Run and Ride events I have run, I have discovered a tremendous value as well as an extremely well-coordinated race. 

I live approximately four hours away from Doswell, VA- home to Kings Dominion.  Rather than get a hotel the night before, my group decided to leave early in the morning and drive straight to the theme park.  It was a rough wake-up call followed by a tiring four hour drive.  I do not recommend doing this and would not do it again. 

With a 7:40 start time, we pulled into the parking lot just before 7:00 AM.  Parking is free for participants on race morning and Kings Dominion parking attendants directed us right up front.  Packet pick-up was available the morning of the race as well as the previous two days.  I prefer to not pick up my race packets the day of the race- another reason I would choose to arrive the day before and stay the night in a hotel. 

The weather was cold!  It was overcast and in the 50's with a chance of rain all day.  I decided to run in a zip-up which I started to regret just one mile into the race.  The 10K took off first and featured a 5K loop around the park, requiring two loops.  I questioned why Kings Dominion didn't offer a Half Marathon and after running the course I understood why.  Unlike Carowinds, there wasn't enough property to send runners on a 13.1 mile loop.  The great thing about the Kings Dominion courses though is that the entire time is spent in the park.  Runners get view of The Eiffel Tower (a 1/3 replica of the Paris landmark) as well as the chance to run through Dinosaurs Alive and the water park.  After lifeguarding in a water park for three years, I always think it's cool to see an empty water park. 

5K runners took off shortly behind us.  Before I was able to finish my first lap there were 5k runners passing me.  The second lap was much less crowded, though.  It was lightly drizzling for the entire race, barely getting my clothes damp.  The one mile race took off at 8:30 and took runners into the park and down the last stretch of the 5K loop. 

As I was approaching the finish line, I saw my boyfriend cheering for me on the sidelines.  Upon finishing, I was awarded my 10K finisher medal and proceeded to get bagels.  I must say that with three race distances staggered to finish around the same time, the lines for food were long and the picnic table area was crowded.  I remember having the exact opposite thoughts after the Carowinds Half Marathon,  however, that day featured a half marathon and 10k.  Starting only a few minutes apart, the crowds were spread apart and left runners plenty of room to eat. 

The park opened at 10:00 AM, so we had time to warm up in the car before heading out to the cold park.  For mid-May I am still surprised with how uncharacteristically cold it was that day.  I was initially bummed the race took place the weekend before the water park opened, however, we wouldn't have enjoyed it in 50 degree weather so it worked out favorably.

The park was not crowded at all.  I believe the longest wait time we experienced was about 20 minutes for Volcano.  Intimidator and Volcano are my two favorites but the park  has many great roller coasters.  Their newest ride, Delirium, is a great high-speed thrill ride too!

Race Review:

The course: 7/10
Although I loved that the entire course was in the parks, I didn't like having to loop the exact same 5k twice.  I would've rather ran in the parking lot for the first few miles before going into the park.  While there weren't many hills, there were some really slick areas runners had to slow down for.  Had it not rained, these areas wouldn't have even been issues though.  The start/finish line area was also really small for the amount of runners.  Starting in the parking lot may have been a solution to this problem. 

The swag: 10/10
Very rarely will I award any category a full 10 but Run & Ride knows what they are doing when it comes to swag.  As if the free park admission and day's worth of riding attractions weren't enough, they included a fast pass for me to skip the line at the attraction of my choice!  I of course used it to ride Volcano a second time.  All runners also receive shirts and breakfast, too.  During Kings Dominion packet pick-up, the first 100 runners also received a free buff.  I got one last year at Carowinds and wished I had picked up my packet early to receive one at Kings Dominion, too. 

The medals: 9/10
I was ecstatic at the unique medal concept for the 2016 Run & Ride series.  All race distances boast a different Peanuts character in a roller coaster train.  The medals connect to each other, creating a train for runners who participate in multiple distances!  Literally the only criticism I have is that the park name and date are not included on the ribbon.  Other than that tiny feature, these medals are absolutely adorable!

Overall Experience: 8/10
Aside from the less-than-perfect weather conditions, this was a great race.  The ability to run through a theme park and then enjoy rides afterwards is a unique experience that I really enjoy.  This was the first year Kings Dominion hosted a race and I'm suspecting there may be a few changes to next year.  Overall, this was a wildly-popular race selling out in 2 of 3 distances and a great story to add to my medal collection. 

There is still time to register for any of the remaining 2016 Run & Ride races.  Use code RUNBARBIE15 during registration to receive 15% off any distance!  Also, feel free to join my team "Will Run for Beer" for Carowinds in September.  I'm looking forward to seeing many of you there!


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Race 13.1 Greensboro Review

I am a little behind on catching up with spring race reviews but I've been anxiously awating the the chance to sit down and write this one.  I've seen so many social media posts about Race 13.1 that it made me curious enough to experience one for myself.  They promise a top-notch race experience and all the perks that go along with large races, however their race capacities are mid-sized.  I happened to run the Greenseboro Race 13.1 Half Marathon which sold out in every single distance.  It was the largest event in the history of Race 13.1!  They comped my entry as a blogger so I got to experience this race for free.  If you're interested in becoming an ambassador for Race 13.1, check out their ambassador expectations and perks here

Greensboro offered three race distances- a 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon.  Wanting to moon up to Saturn (Level 3) in Half Fanatics, I chose to compete in the Half Marathon to round out my fourth Half Marathon in 37 days.  If you're not familar with Half Fanatics, I encourage you to check them out and consider qualifying for Neptune (level one).  You can do so by running three Half Marathons within 90 days or running two Half Marathons within 16 days.  Both qualifications are achievable with proper training and I will be sharing my tips to fulfilling the requirements in the near future!  At the time of registration, I saw that 49 other Half Fanatics were running Race 13.1 in Greensboro. 

What I didn't know was that 1,500+ runners from Black Girls Run were also running this weekend!  I was not familar with BGR until this weekend, but I came to learn that they are a national group of women encouraging each other to live healthy, active lifestyles while sharing their running journeys.  Their experience levels ranged greatly, but they all came together during the 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon races to support eath other.  To see 1,500 women come together from all over the country to run a race beside each other was extremely inspiring.  Their energy on the course was incredible and every runner could feel it.  Of all the cities they could've traveled to for a Race 13.1 experience, I'm glad they selected Greensboro.  BGR, you're welcome back anytime! 

Before Race 13.1 arrived in town, I saw on their website that runners could volunteer to earn credits towards running a future race.  I've never seen a race series offer this opportunity before so I decided to volunteer during packet pickup on Saturday at Omega Sports.  I actually picked up my packet on Friday after work because I saw Race 13.1 was hosting a block party at Omega Sports and wanted to check it out!  Apparently the race series does this in all locations.  There were food trucks, vendors and live music playing for several hours during Friday afternoon's packet pickup.  This block party got me really excited for the race.

On Saturday, I showed up to volunteer and helped hundreds of runners get their bib and race information for Sunday morning.  I didn't get to talk to as many runners as I would have liked because there was a constant line out the door of runners picking up their packets.  I don't want to sound biased, but I think the volunteers did a great job of moving everyone through the line quickly.  Runners had the opportunity during registration to personalize their bibs and I heard a lot of positive feedback from runners on this perk.  I prefer bibs with my name on it, especially since it gives spectators the chance to cheer you on by name! 

I arrived about 30 minutes before the Half Marathon start time.  The races began and ended in The Friendly Shopping Center parking lot near Harris Teeter.  Race information instructed us to park in front of Harris Teeter, but most shops don't open until 1 PM on Sundays and we were free to park anywhere.  Since I'm a Lilly Pulitzer-loving girl I decided to park in front of Palm Avenue.  The window displays of my favorite Palm Beach-inspired clothes must have been good luck for this race! 

There was music playing and an announcer getting runners pumped for the race.  The Half Marathon distance had pacers at the starting line to help runners achieve their desired time goals.  I really liked the energy of this race at the starting line.  I was pumped and ready to go!  There was music in a few areas on the course as well as several places for spectators to cheer runners on.  Out-of-town BGR members must've brought some spectators to town with them because I saw a lot of BGR shirts on the sidelines. 

Post-race, there was a DJ playing music, an awards ceremony, TONS of food for runners (they had watermelon which is officially my new favorite food to eat post-race), and a giveaway.  At all their races, there is a grand prize given to one lucky winner.  All you have to do is register for the race to become eligible.  If I remember correctly, $1,000 was the prize drawn in Greensboro.

Race Review:

The course 8/10
I loved this course!  Race 13.1 presented a new course this year with 40% less elevation than 2015.  The course started out and ended a little hilly, but other than that it was relatively flat.  The few hills on the course were equally balanced with ascending and descending.  In addition, a portion of the course was on the Downtown Greenway Detour and went right past my old high school, Grimsley.  I ran a lot of this course while on the Grimsley Cross Country team several years ago.  The course had a turn-around point, and after this point there was some crowdidng from runners going in both directions.  I ended up beating my PR previously set in April by seven minutes so that's always a good sign.  With a little bit of weaving I finished with an estimated 13.3 mile distance on my GPS. 

The swag 7/10
All runners got a tech shirt for the race.  I was also able to pick up a cool Race 13.1 bumper sticker at the expo.  The personalized bib was my favorite detail, though. 

The medal 8/10
I felt like the mason jar medal was truly representative of Greensboro and the Piedmont Triad.  What motivated me to select Race 13.1 Greensboro as my fourth race towards qualifying for Saturn in Half Fanatics was the medal.  This medal is the first medal I've received in my currenty city of Greensboro, North Carolina so it's a special one for me. 

BGR runners who registered through the member registration link also received an additional BGR medal for any race distance.  I'm not in BGR but I secretly wanted to add this bling to my collection, too! 

Overall Experience 8/10
I'm still surprised by how much I enjoyed this race.  One of their goals is to exceed the expectations of runners and they have definitely accomplished that goal for me.  I didn't expect to have such a great race experience without having to travel anywhere.  I woke up in my own bed and went directly to the race.  I love that this race series travles to so many nearby cities so I can experience Race 13.1 more than once a year but I am especially glad they have selected Greensboro as a host city. 

For the race fee and the experience, Race 13.1 is a great value.  Whether they are stopping in your city or coming somewhere nearby, it is definitely an experience every runner should check out!  If you're interested in running three or more races per year, it pays to get the season pass which is good for 365 days. 
Race 13.1 does an excellent job at fulfilling their goal of giving runners a first class race experience with a local feel.  They also present opportunities to earn additional bling by completing multiple races in one year.  You can find all the details on how to earn extra bling in my post Bling Alert: Race 13.1 Series

Although a date has not been set for the 2017 Race 13.1 Greensboro weekend, I have been told it will fall around the same time next year.  I definitely plan on running it again.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at another Race 13.1 event!  My next Race 13.1 Half Marathon will be in Charlotte on 9/24/16.  Stay tuned for my experience running through The Queen City!