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!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon 2016 Review

On a cold, wet Saturday morning in April I got to combine my love of running with my beer drinking hobby and run my first beer-themed Half Marathon. While I've finished beer runs ranging from 8k to 15k, The Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon in High Point, NC was my first beer run totaling 13.1 miles. It is also the only Half Marathon in the Triad followed by a craft beer festival. When I read about this race, I knew I had to participate. They also offered a 5k race. Runners for both distances received free entry into the Carolina Brewsfest after the races. 

I reached out to Junction 311 prior to the race to inquire about a complimentary blogger's entry and they were generous enough to comp my registration fee. I love free races but I also love sharing my experience and expressing my genuine thoughts on a race so you will get nothing but the honest truth from me on ALL my races. 

I'll admit I was a little skeptical about the race taking place in High Point. All other Triad beer runs have taken place in Greensboro or Winston Salem. My impression of High Point before this race also wasn't the greatest. I may have a love/hate relationship now with High Point, the furniture capital of the World. Yes, that's right. Little High Point is home to the International Home Furnishing Market every April and October. On my way to packet pickup I passed through the downtown area where the semi-annual market is held and was astonished at how nice it is! Maybe I should've given High Point a little more credit. More on the hate part of my relationship with High Point in a little bit... 

Early packet pickup was on Thursday at a bar and that was my first indication that this race was going to be great. The location was Brown Truck Brewery on N Main Street.  I would've stopped for a few beers but the bar was about 20 minutes away from my house and I wanted to squeeze a run in before sunset. The alternative option to packet pickup was on Friday at the High Point Omega store or on race morning. In addition to our bibs, we received a race shirt and canvas tote perfect for farmers market shopping. You know, when you buy food to pair with your beer you need a bag to put it all in and this one is perfect. 

I arrived about an hour before the race started on Saturday morning. I was actually thrilled with the 8:30 AM start time. When it comes to races, I've become accustomed to much earlier start times than that. The weather was less than ideal when I arrived. It was chilly and misting before the race took off. I've unfortunately ran in significantly worse conditions so I wasn't worried about a little rain or cold. The cold never bothered me anyway! 

There was a lot of food before the race took off. I have a hard time running with food in my stomach so I had to pass on the fruit and candy offered pre-race to runners. Between the Half Marathon and 5k, there were approximately 1,000 runners. It was definitely one of the smallest races I've participated in. It's an awesome race so everyone who likes beer and running needs to show up in 2017. I prefer larger races with tons of runners and need more beer drinking enthusiasts to run with next year. 

Race Review 

The course: 6/10
That love/hate relationship comes from the rolling hills of High Point. Holy hills! I wasn't expecting such a tough course.  The race started off in residential areas which I was not a fan of but we did run through High Point University's campus and past Oak Hollow Mall. Because of the size of High Point and the number of race participants, there were hardly any spectators on the course. I live for cheers of encouragement so I was disappointed with the turnout. The weather may have also played a role in the lack of spectators, though. 

The swag: 9/10 
In addition to entry into Carolina Brewsfest, runners also received two free beers. I'm not talking Michelob Ultra (not hating on Mich Ultra- it's my fav bikini-conscious beer) but local craft beers. There were dozens of choices. I decided on the Skull Camp Not So Pale Pale Ale and Bombshell Beer Strawberries N Cream Summer Ale. Two totally different beers but both very delicious. Local breweries such as Natty Greene's were also present but I've had all their core beers and wanted to try something different. If you're not from the area and run Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon in the future, I do recommend stopping at the Natty Greene's tent. I love their Wildflower witbier. There were also food trucks lined up waiting for runners during the festival. It normally takes several hours for my appetite to kick in after a Half Marathon so I did not hit any of these up. 

The medal: 6/10 
This was not my favorite medal. I like big sparkly medals and was hoping these would have big beer mugs on them. You know what would have been really cool? A medal with a bottle opener. For the theme, I was expecting a little more. I'm a medal snob though and at the end of the day any medal is just more bling to add to your collection. 

Overall Experience: 7/10 
If it weren't raining I would have stayed at the festival much longer, bringing overall experience up to an 8 or 9.  Unfortunately it was cold and miserable and I was in the mood to just go home and sleep after finishing my two beers.  Considering my dislike for the hilly course and the smaller amount of runners, I still really enjoyed this race experience. I love themed races because it incorporates more than just running and encourages more people to get involved. The craft beer festival afterwards was great. It kept the race interesting and gave me motivation to finish sooner. It wasn't my greatest time but that's an incentive to come back next year for time improvement. 

It's worth mentioning that there were several other packages you could purchase during registration.  I did not add anything on to my registration, but for $35 you could become unlimited taster and receive a commemorative glass to try every single beer from every single brewery.  With 25 breweries serving 4-6 beers each, you can guarantee a good time with this pass.  Make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water, though!  There was also a VIP unlimited taster for $60.  I would totally go with this option next year because VIP received entry into a seated section away from the brewery tents.  There was extra food, tables, and plenty of room to mingle over here.  From the looks of it, the VIP experience was well worth the additional $60 on top of your race registration fee.

Next year's event will take place on Saturday May 13th. Junction 311 offers many events throughout the year in addition to Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon. Check out some upcoming races below for the two options I'm most interested in running! A full list of events is available here.

Big Beach Marathon and Half Marathon 
Gulf Shores, Alabama 
January 31, 2017 
The inaugural event of The Big Beach Marathon promises a flat, fast Boston Qualifying course along the Gulf coast. I would travel all the way to Alabama for this race! Afterwards, there will be a post-race party with free beer and live entertainment. I've never been to Alabama, but from the looks of it this will be a great beach town to run and celebrate in.  There's also a pre-race pasta party the night before both runs. 

Morehead City, North Carolina 
March 4, 2017
I spent the summer after I graduated college soaking up the rays of the Crystal Coast and stuffing my face with fresh seafood daily. The little beach towns of Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle are sure to capture your heart. In March, experience a 5k, 10k, or Half Marathon run across the famous Morehead City bridge then party afterwards in the Southern Outer Banks.

I hope you have as much fun with your beer runs as I had with this one.  Keep running and drinking beer, my friends.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Inaugural Star Wars: Dark Side Challenge Review

Last month, I particpated in runDisney's Star Wars: Dark Side Challenge.  It was a two-day, 19.3 mile challenge including a 10k on Saturday morning and Half Marathon on Sunday morning. My boyfriend participated in his first race ever during the Star Wars 10k.  I believe in peer pressure/encouragement when it comes to making my friends and family fall in love with running so it was only a matter of time before I got him to run a RunDisney race.  I'm so excited to share the memories we made and how he felt about his first RunDisney race!

This was the second time during a runDisney event that I ran for a charity.  Since I ran as a St. Jude Hero for Dopey Challenge as part of my first marathon, I have decided to run all my charity races through St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  I have not yet met my goal, so if you want to support St. Jude you can do so on my fundraising page.  It costs $2 million a day to operate St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and donors are what keeps the hospital and its patients alive and well.  I cannot think of better motivation than running for the children of St. Jude.  If you're looking to run for a charity, my experience running for St. Jude has been nothing but rewarding.  St. Jude Heroes run races all over the country, not just at Walt Disney World. 

We arrived in town after an 11 hour drive (that normally takes 8.5-9 hours) on Friday, April 15th.  Although we really just wanted to check into the hotel and relax for a while, we had to stop at the expo for packet pickup first.  There was nothing too different about this expo.  I saw many of the same vendors that usually show up for a runDisney expo.  There were Star Wars movies playing on the screens outside at ESPN.  I admittedly have never seen a Star Wars movie in my life so I couldn't tell you which one was playing while we were there. 

After picking up our bibs, we walked around looking at merchandise.  I always purchase two official runDisney souvennirs- a wine glass and a pin.  Even though I am not particularly a Star Wars fan, I still intended to get both these items for my collection.  Apparently, there was no wine glass made for this race weekend.  I had a sneaking suspiscion there wouldn't be based off the preview runDisney released of official merchandise earlier in the week.  Their tester pics on social media are not typically inclusive of all ther merchandise but when I did not see a wine glass amongst the merchandise, I for once got a little nervous they weren't being offered. They did offer a beer pint for Star Wars but I really wanted my wine glass.  There were also no challenge pins available at the tkme I hit the expo so I was 0-2 this race with merchandise. 

We left the expo and headed straight to Coronado Springs.  This was the 8th runDisney weekend I've participated in and the first time I have ever stayed on property.  Although I love the place I usually stay, I now prefer staying on property during race weekends.  Because we had to wake up so early the next morning, we decided to spend the night walking around the resort and checking out their bars and pools.  Coronado Springs did not disappoint.  The first night we went to Rix Lounge where they offer cocktails and tapas.  I got a martini and calamari then called it a night while my boyfriend proceeded to hang out at Laguna Bar.  Yes... He was out late at a bar the night before a race. He's clearly an amateur and doesn't know how these things work!

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to head to the 10k.  It was convenient being able to hop on the bus and head straight to the race.  Although I've never had an issue with parking, it saved us time being dropped off right at bag checks.  Plus, Star Wars 10k and Half Marathon races both began at Epcot and ended at ESPN, requiring runners who drove to still take a bus after the race. 

The atmosphere of this race was unlinke any runDisney race I've ever ran.  Instead of music blaring and runners dancing and cheering, scenes from Star Wars movies were played before runners took off.  I'm not sure if this is done at Star Wars: Light Side in California, but I wasn't a fan of it.  It had nothing to do with not being a Star Wars fan.  I just prefer the energy typically found at other runDisney races.  

I didn't mention my boyfriends injury... He tore his meniscus one week before the race. Like a trooper. He refused to miss the race and even proclaimed "I will tear my knee the shreds before I get swept from a race." We took off and started pretty quick. I was surprised how quickly he could move with an injury but it didn't last long before he was in major pain. We saw several characters from the beginning.  This was the 5th runDisney 10k I've participated in and the lines were longer than usual for a 10k.  We started in corral C so I can only imagine how long the lines got once the later corrals took off.  Several times during the race, I commented how much I actually liked the course.  I feel like we spent a lot of time in the parks and on the Boardwalk.  We continued to walk a lot due to my boyfriend's injury so that was a bummer.  His goal was to run a fast race and now wants to do another runDisney 10k to make up for it.  He decided on the 10k during Marathon Weekend. 

After the race, we headed to the bus area and had to wait about 15-20 minutes to get on our bus.  Even if I drove, we would have had to take a bus so the wait didn't bother me.  We took a nap once we got back before heading to our O'hanas brunch reservations.  I've said it before and I'll say it again- O'hanas brunch is one of my favorite Disney dining experiences.  Although I do not eat pork, there's still plenty to eat and I leave with a full stomach.  It's $30 a person, which for the view and experience, I find to be extremely reasonable.  My boyfriend is a breakfast food lover like me and was really looking forward to our reservation.  He loved the experience, especially the part where we met Stitch! He also loved the fresh fruit juice. I'm telling you- that juice blend is magical!  It's a shame they don't mix it with vodka because that's the only thing missing.  I asked for a window seat with a view of the castle, as always, and request they keep bringing the homestyle potatoes and Mickey waffles.  Those are my two favorite parts of the meal!  

I spent the remainder of the day lounging by the main pool at Coronado Springs.  I love that pool!  We ordered pizza and calzones from one of my local favorites- Flipper's.  It was hard to find a pizza place that delivered on property but I've had pizza from them before and it's always great. 

I don't know why, but it was difficult for me to wake up early on the second day.  As I was brushing my teeth, I could hear the bus brakes outside my room so I hurried out the door to catch the bus.  I really loved the convenience of the bus stopping right outside our hotel room to take us to the race.  My boyfriend got a few more hours of sleep before meeting me at the finish line. 

The Half Marathon race started out simlarly to the 10k.  Not a whole lot of energy, but scenes from Star Wars movies were played.  It was hard for me to get hyped about this race without the usual levels of energy.  Although I was in a good corral, everyone around me started out slower than I expected and it was hard to pass runners right away.  I think the course crowding and lack of energy really effected my pace.  I ran about 1:00 min/mile slower than I did during Princess Half Marathon, despite breaking my Princess PR by three minutes the weekend before.  My toe bled through my Little Mermaid shoes during the race and I had a spider bit on my ankle which both frustrated me and slowed me down. Not every race can be a PR but this was definitely an off race for me. To this day I still haven't looked at my official time. I suspect it's about 20 min slower than my current PR.

Race Review

The course: 6/10
I loved the Wine & Dine Half Marathon course when it was a nightime race.  This course was essentially the same course, backwards with a few variations.  I'm not a fan of running through Animal Kingdom because some of the back roads smell bad.  The race also started at 5:00 AM although all other 10k and longer distances at Walt Disney World begin at 5:30.  I suspect its because the race took place in April and the potential heat.  This race wasn't extremely hot but the second half of the course didn't have a lot of shade.  That Florida sun beating down on you will slow you down a little bit.  Although I liked ending at ESPN for the 10k, for some reason I didn't enjoy that part of the course during the Half Marathon.  Maybe it was the flashbacks from WDW Marathon... I don't know.  I think the biggest thing for me was not running through Cinderella's castle.  My favorite part of any Half Marathon at Disney is running through the castle (Cinderella or Aurora).  This course didn't run through Magic Kingdom so that element was missing.  I never missed it so much during Wine & Dine because the Osbourne Family Lights Show made up for it. 

The swag: 7/10 
I hold Disney to a higher standard than most race series because of my past experiences and the cost of registration. These shirts were not my favorite and that has nothing to do with the Star Wars theme. There was also limited merchandise available at the expo and the elimination of wine glasses bothers me. 

The medals: 8/10
There's no denying that RunDisney has fantastic medals. I felt The Dark Side Challenge medal was lacking creativity but the Half Marathon medal was great. It's one of my largest medals and it incorporates a spinner. 

Overall Experience: 7/10
There were a few things about this race that disappointed me (the course, merchandise selection, etc.) but at the end of the day I got to run through Walt Disney World and my race benefited the children of St. Jude.  For those two reasons alone, I would absolutely run Star Wars again.  I have an annual pass to Walt Disney World so I may as well get use out of it during all four race weekends.  I'm hoping they add one more race to the lineup because at one point they had five annual race weekends at Walt Disney World. 

My last runDisney race for the year will be in November during Lumiere's Challenge.  With all the changes to Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, I'm looking forward to those races and sharing my experience through my blog.  

Star Wars: Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend will be April 20-23, 2017 and registration opens August 9th. Although it took an extended period of time for the 2016 race to sell out, there is no telling if the 2017 races will be the same case.

Keep running!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rock 'N Roll Raleigh Remix Challenge Recap

In April, I completed three half marathons. The first one of the month was the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Raleigh, NC. The Rock N Roll race series has been visiting the Capital of North Carolina since 2014, but this was the Inaugural year of the 5k and Remix Challenge. Because I'm motivated by bling, I registered for both the 5k and Half Marathon.

Raleigh is about 70 miles east from where I live so I stayed with a friend for the whole weekend rather than driving back and forth. The 5k took place on Saturday April 9th and hosted approximately 2,000 runners. The 5k was the only event in Raleigh that was sold out before the expo. Although packet pickup was available at the expo, I didn't make it before closing at 7pm on Friday night so I had to pick up my bib on Saturday morning. 

I attended both races with a friend and we parked at the parking deck across from the Raleigh Convention Center. It was approximately a half mile walk to the start of the 5k race. We had to rush to get there early in order to pick up our bib. The volunteers at the table were very organized and efficient. We got our bibs quickly and were able to start just a few corrals back from my assigned #1 corral. There were too many runners to push through to get all the way to the front. 

I was aware of the hills in the Raleigh course and of course the 5k started out with some small hills. The scenery of the 5k was gorgeous, though. I also loved running past the bands. The weather was a little chilly for April but it was also especially windy. 

This was actually my first timed 5k since running cross country. How is that possible? RunDisney 5ks are not chip-timed. The only other 5k race I've participated in is The Running of the Balls 5k. It's considered The Greatest 5k(ish) on Earth at approximately 3.5 miles so it's also not chip-timed. I've done two RunDisney 5ks and two Running of the Balls 5ks. Other than those four races, all my other races have been longer distances. The RNR Raleigh 5k would be a PR for me regardless so I took it easy and enjoyed the course. 

After crossing the finish line, I headed straight to the beer tents. I was a little annoyed because even after showing my ID when picking up my bib in the morning, they failed to give me a wristband to drink. I had to walk all the way over to bag check for my ID and back to the beer tent before I could drink. I ended up getting six beers though so I couldn't complain. It blows my mind how many people don't drink alcohol and were just giving away their tickets! Michelob Ultra is my favorite light beer so I couldn't turn any of them down! It took me a little while to finish my beers so I was able to stay long enough to cheer the last runner to the finish line. There was also a band playing at the finish line and I was elated to hear "Wagon Wheel" while drinking my beers! 

After leaving the 5k, we headed to the expo at The Raleigh Convention Center. The expo was really organized and well put together. I walked in and was able to pick up my Half Marathon bib right away. They also gave me the wristband for my Remix Challenge medal. Unlike other race series that offer a challenge medal for completing multiple races, RNR requires runners to register for challenge races individually. I like this process because I know I'm not paying extra money for a challenge medal. Some races require you to sign up for a challenge which costs more than te combined cost of each individual race registration. I stopped at a few booths in the expo but didn't spend too much time there. 

I went to bed on Saturday knowing that we would have colder than average temperatures on Sunday morning but that forecast changed overnight and it was 30 degrees when we got to the race. Since I was from out of town, I hadn't even packed clothes for such a cold race! The weather was definitely making me nervous because it was also very windy again. Neither the wind nor the below freezing temperatures are representative of April weather in North Carolina. 

Due to road closures, we got to the race about an hour and a half early to park. We stayed in the car for about half an hour to stay warm then eventually braved the cold to make our way to the starting line. The lobby of The Marriott was open for runners so we stayed in there for a while. I've actually stayed at this hotel before for business and loved it. Had I not had a free place to stay, I would've stayed here and I recommend anyone traveling for RNR Raleigh stay here. It has close proximity to the race and was very comfortable. It's also walking distance to downtown bars. My personal favorite is Raleigh Times. 

The energy at the starting line was high. I was dancing and shivering as corrals were taking off and we were moving up. I was in corral 15 but they were taking off about 1-2 minutes apart. I started off the race at a great pace and was able to keep that pace for the first few miles. 

Raleigh definitely earns its reputation for being a hilly city. The entire course was rolling hills. I'm thinking the 30 degree weather made my muscles so numb I couldn't even feel the burn because I just kept running through them. The steepest hills were between mile 7 and 8 on Peace Street. After making it through the toughest part of the race, there was a nice spectator handing out mimosas at mile 8. I'm either incredibly brave or incredibly dumb for taking one, but how often do you get to drink a mimosa during a half marathon? This girl doesn't turn down mimosas! 

About a mile of the course went through the campus of North Carolina State University. Being a graduate of East Carolina University, I am by no means a Wolfpack fan. It's easy to say this was my least favorite part of the race. The rest of the course was beautiful, though. I loved the parks and being able to run through downtown. 

I miraculously managed to shave almost three minutes off my Half Marathon PR which completely surprised me. I crossed the finish line jamming out to a Demi Lovato song and that's my girl! 

After crossing the finish line I was given my finisher medal and chocolate milk. In order to get my challenge medal, I had to walk about half a mile down to Red Hat Ampitheatre. It was too cold for a beer (yes, those words just came out of my mouth) so I just sat and watched the awards ceremony. Like many other runners, I had to capture a picture of my medals in front of the Sir Walter Raleigh statue. 

I had a really great time at RNR Raleigh. I've grown up close to Raleigh so it's a city I'm familiar with. The race itself was a lot of fun. It was my first RNR event and I had no idea what to expect. I'm sure Raleigh has a smaller crowd than some or their larger cities (Las Vegas, Nashville, Savannah, etc) but that didn't change anything. I will be doing one more RNR race this year in Virginia Beach. That race is a two day event offering a challenge medal on Labor Day weekend. I can't wait for another RNR experience!

I'll definitely participate in RNR Raleigh next year. I think I can handle the hills in the full marathon but I haven't definitely decided which distance I'll run. If I run the half again and beat my time I'll receive a cool koozie and that's a pretty strong determinant. I'll let you know in the next few months which distance I'll run! 

See you next year in Raleigh! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bling Alert: Race 13.1 Series

The only thing I love as much as running a race is the bling I receive at the finish line.  I'm big-time into race bling.  I'll complete a challenge if it means more medals and I'm always curious to see a race medal before I register.  It's the one memorabilia you earn, and half marathon medals are hard-earned.  So, anytime a race series offers awesome bling (or multiple bling, even better!) I feel compelled to share it. 

In an attempt to reach Saturn level of Half Fanatics, I was in search of an early May race and encountered Race 13.1 in Greensboro.  I remember seeing signs for it last spring, but I never really looked into it.  I'm regretting that decision now because it's a series that hits a couple dozen cities, offering big race perks with a small race feel.  The Greensboro race, for example, has a half marathon capacity of 1,500 runners.  That capacity sounds like I have a lot of room on the course to myself.  The medals, however, are not small.  Check out the reward for the Greensboro Half Marathon on 5/15:


I'm a little biased here, but I think Greensboro has the best medal. The mason jar is truly representative of the Piedmond Triad. 
That's enough talk about the Greensboro race, here is a list of the remaining cities this series will be hitting in 2016!

I mentioned there was some extra bling involved... and there certainly is.  Complete three half marathons in one calendar year, and receive a bonus medal.  Receive an additional medal PLUS a Half Marathon Finisher pullover when you complete your seventh half marathon of the series in a calendar year.  With the close vicinity of many of these locations to me, I can definitely hit the threshold to earn the medal for completing three!


In addition to earning extra bling for running races within the series, they also present the opportunity to earn a triple crown medal for completing specific Race 13.1 events as well as other featured local events.  There are currently two triple crown medals offered and they are in Raleigh and Roanoke. 
It's worth mentioning that the series offers a season pass for $150.  The season pass allows runners to register for an unlimited number of Race 13.1 events for only $15 each.  If you intend to run three or more events, the pass will definitely save you money in the long run. 

I'm excited to experience my first race of this series next month and can't wait to share my experience!  I've read that there is a 40% elevation reduction in this year's course from the 2015 course which makes me VERY happy!  This girl doesn't do well with hills! 

Since I'm toying with the idea of running a few other locations to earn an extra medal, I did a little digging to see which destinations most interest me. The Charleston race is Halloween themed which definitely draws my attention. I'm not one to wear costumes for races, but it would be worthwhile just to see other runners' costumes. Plus, Charleston is always a great idea. 

Based on other races I've already registered for in the fall, Asheville and Charlotte are my only North Carolina options. Since I'm already running a Half Marathon in Charlotte in early September, I would be more inclined to try Asheville. I've never run a race in that city! Since I'm worried about hills, I checked out the course and was thrilled to see a 15% decline in elevation from the previous year. The course also promises to be beautiful and scenic. 

If you'd like to run Race 13.1 in Greensboro with me, use code BARBIE10 at checkout to receive 10% off your race registration fee!