Thursday, October 5, 2017

For the Love of Chocolate






Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

Ever since I have heard about the Hot Chocolate race series, I have always wanted to attend. The race jackets were awesome and who doesn't love being  handed a heaping bowl of chocolate at the finish line. Plus, I love me the 15K distance - it's super challenging but is over before things get really rough (mile 11 seems to be my nemesis). But unfortunately, despite being a large city, Charlotte, NC was never on the tour schedule. Atlanta was always close enough to race, but the weekend that the Atlanta race fell on was the same weekend as my daughter's birthday, which meant the only chocolate I was getting was birthday cake.
Soon you will be all mine!

Imagine my excitement when this year, the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K announced a Charlotte race! I signed up for the 15K IMMEDIATELY. I'm not even kidding. I got the announcement and clicked register. All that yummy chocolate and awesome chocolate bar race medal and cute jacket will be all mine this year! (Well, technically next year, the race is February 10th).

But wait, there's more...

Also this year, the Atlanta race changed dates and is no longer in mid-January, instead it is the first weekend of February. Not only that, I had just gotten accepted as a BibRave Pro which afforded me the opportunity to get a free entry. I had a tough decision - Do I dare run two Hot Chocolate 15K races back to back? Can I handle that much chocolate?

Ummm.. YEAH! 

So I've gone from being sad and not being able to do a Hot Chocolate 15K to doing two!! Not only that, I am road tripping to the Atlanta race with one of my running besties so it's going to be an adventure! I can't wait!

What about you? You want in on some yummy chocolate? I can sweeten the deal for you even. Use the code "BRHCATL18" for a bonus Hot Chocolate Cap when you check out.

To register:
Atlanta - https://www.hotchocolate15k.com/atlanta

Friday, September 22, 2017

I've Gone Pro

I'm so excited to finally announce that I have been chosen to be a BibRave Pro

What's that you may ask. Well, have you ever heard about a race but didn't know too much about it so you were unsure of whether you wanted to run it or not? Were curious as to how actual runners felt about a certain course? Wanted to find out was the SWAG Bag really worth the cost? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then www.BibRave.com is just want you need. There, real runners post their honest review of the races they have run rating everything from course terrain (how about them hills), parking, SWAG, communication and more.

I learned about BibRave from a fellow runner friend, (check her blog out here - http://barkingmadaboutrunning.blogspot.com/ ) who posted about it on Facebook. I checked it out and was hooked. See, I am a researcher. I like to know everything about a race before I run it. Helps with the nerves. Being able to read real race day experiences has really helped me immeasurably.

From there, I learned about #BibChat - a  weekly Tuesday night Twitter event where runners from all over get together to chat about topics, learn about cool gear and get to know others in the running community. I've made so many awesome new friends though these chats and learned about so many cool things. They also give away two items from a sponsor each week. On my 3rd #BibChat I won a free pair of Oofos recovery flip flops - see my previous blog about them here. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join - Tuesday evenings at 9 pm EST.

Anyway, back to being a Pro. Over the summer, BibRave announced applications were open for their ambassador program, the BibRave Pro team. I had gotten pretty involved with BibRave at that point posting several reviews, being involved with the #BibChats and just making friends with several community members. Why not, I figured. Worst case scenario, they say no and nothing changes. Well, they said YES and here I am. A Pro.

So what does this mean. Basically, I just keep doing what I've been doing, interacting with an awesome community, post my race reviews, be involved in #BibChat and learn about new awesome products. But as an extra bonus, I now have access to really cool race and gear discounts that I can share with you. To see these awesome deals, check out the two new page tabs at the top of the blog. They are updated periodically so be sure to check back on occasion.

So what's your next race coming up? Afterwards, be sure to share your experience with us at BibRave!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Holy Hills!!

First let me get this minor disclaimer out of the way - I am close friends with the Race Director of this race, which is just one of the reasons I run it each year. She's awesome, but that will not influence my review.

This year the St. Anne School Nun Run, a race to benefit the church school, was moved to Sept (it had been in the Spring in the past) to occur during the school's annual International Festival, which I think was a great decision and led to more exposure and race entries than prior years. Pre-race, there is lots of email communication and Facebook posting to keep participants in the know. Pack pick up was race day only and despite that, it was a quick and well organized process. The pick up area and race start were located across the street from St. Anne Church and there was plenty of parking at and around the church. I parked, walked across the street and waited only a minute or two to pick up my bib and cute cotton shirt (seriously, the logo is adorable and filled the shirt front with sponsors on the back). There was a large table with all the regular rack packet items - chap-stick, pens, coozies and bottle openers that you could help yourself to, all with sponsor logos, but I have tons of this stuff already, so I passed. A quick trek back to the car to stash my shirt and back across the street to the race start.

The race atmosphere was very festive. It was a smaller race but it was located about 2 miles from my house, so I knew a lot of the participants. Lots of showings from local running groups and of course much of the St. Anne Church membership. The race was free for children, so there were a lot of kids there as well. One local group, F3 was there in a large showing and had several local disabled youth that they were pushing in racing wheel chairs/carts so that was really awesome too be a part of. The kids were all so excited.

The race started at 8 am right after the National Anthem and a short prayer. One thing I wasn't so keen on for the start is that we started the race in a grassy field before turning onto a neighborhood road after about .1 mile. I'm notoriously clumsy, but managed to make it to the road without incident. I also am not a fan of races that allow dogs, esp when those with the dogs don't start in the back, but that may be just me as I have a slight dog phobia.

I swear I didn't mean those things, Susan!
Time for honesty. This was probably one of the most brutally hilly routes I've ever done a 5K on. Holy hills it was a rough one. And I literally ran a race with the word Mountain in the name. The course zig-zagged around neighborhood streets near the church for 1.5 miles where you then turned around and went back the same way. There was a water station at the turn that was well staffed, but I passed without water which is typical for me for a 5k. It wasn't any less hilly coming back either. Around mile 2 I saw the race director, who I may have said a few unkind words that I had to apologize for later. This was the second year the Nun Run followed this particular route as they had to avoid the local university area due to an event. Fingers crossed next year's race is able to route on Winthrop campus again and not on this hilly hilly route. There were ample volunteers on course who helped keep everyone's spirits up and more than a few neighbors were out in their yards cheering runners. I spent some time running with some of the F3 guys and their kid companions and was able to forget the rough terrain.

Somehow I'm not slipping on grass at the finish
The finishing mat was a quick turn off the road back onto the grassy field which again made me a bit nervous with the still wet grass, but was fine. Lots of people cheering at the finish. There was a huge table with cups of water and Gatorade. There was another table that was filled to the brim with all kinds of snack foods. I'm not kidding, it was the best post-race stocked table I've ever seen. Fruit of all kinds, bagels, granola bars, chips, crackers, cookies, muffins, you name it. There were several church ladies making sure that everyone got food and they were super sweet.

There were no medals with the exception of those who placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the following- Overall Male/Female, Masters Male/Female and in 10 year Age Groups Male/Female. The medals were super cute, color appropriate (Gold, Silver and Bronze) with the race logo on one side and the placement engraved on the back. Despite the rough course, I managed a placing (time 29:39), in fact, my first Masters placing since turning 40 a few months ago - 3rd place Masters Female.


Overall, great local race, great community and a great cause. Will for sure do it again, I'll just be keeping my fingers crossed for a route change.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Run Around the Park - Carowinds Run and Ride Race Series Review


This was my second year with the Carowinds Run and Ride Series running the Half Marathon. I signed up for the series back in January which allowed for a pretty big discount, so I ended up registering for 3 of the 4 possible races - the 1 miler, the 5K and the Half. The other distance (Quarter Marathon) was not an option for me as it was at the same time as the Half.

Packet pick up was available the Friday evening before the race at the race site or on race day. I opted to pick up Friday evening. I arrived right when pick up started and walked right up. Snoopy was there to greet racers and he and his handler kept my daughter entertained while the volunteers pulled my 4 packets (my daughter was also running the 1 miler). There were 3 steps to pick up. First you got your bib in an envelope, then to another line where you got your shirts and then to a 3rd line to pick up your park tickets if you chose a registration that came with tickets. We have season passes to Carowinds, so I passed on the ticket option (which made for a cheaper registration), but later found out they were giving line cut passes to the Half participants, which I missed out on as this was not clear. Those running the 1 miler and 5K got cotton yellow Charlie Brown-like shirts. Half racers got red tech Charlie Brown-like shirts plus a bag with a hat, magnet, and buff. I had to ask for the extra swag bag as the volunteer kept getting confused on who should get what, but finally got all my items, pried my daughter away from Snoopy and left.

Day  1

On race day, we arrived to the theme park where there was ample free parking. There was a bit of confusion as the race start time ended up being different than posted on the website with the 5K now starting at 8:30 instead of the posted 8:15. Luckily, the 1 miler was also pushed back 15 minutes from 9:00 to 9:15 as I was planning to run both. The on-site DJ made this announcement several times so it wasn't really a big deal, just a bit more waiting.

The race started just outside the park gate and looped around the back of the parking lot onto a maintenance road, and then into a back gate next to a large wooden roller coaster, The Hurler. From there, it wound around the park, into the water park area, under several more coaster, through the Dinosaurs area (always fun to run past life-size dinos), back out a maintenance area. The miles go by fast as there are a million things to look at, especially since Carowinds had already started putting up their creepy SCarowinds decorations. I only ran past 1 Peanuts character, Franklin,  during the race and even then, I think it was just a coincidence as he was making his way to his station for the park to open, but he high-fived me as I zoomed past, which made me smile. There was a water station at the halfway point. I didn't stop, but it was well staffed. My only route complaint comes from the condition of the roads in the maintenance areas.The roads behind the scenes were extremely broken up with loose rocks and huge cracks in many places. I had a few footing slips due to them.

The finishers area was full of cheering people and Snoopy and Charlie Brown were there cheering on the runners. Volunteers were handing out medals as you crossed and there was lots of water bottles, Powerade bottles, bagels, bananas and apples on hand. Prizes were given for the top 3 finishers in each 10 year age group (the previous year had 5 year age groups) and I just missed placing with a 28:18 time for a 4th place finish. I didn't have much time to stick around as the start line for the 1 miler was inside the park and getting ready to be escorted there (only those with bibs were allowed to go to the start) so I had to quickly switch my bib and head over. Overall, the race was fun with only a few complaints - the biggest being there was no on course photography at all, and apparently very very very limited finish line photography for the 5K.  I was kinda bummed about that cause last year's pictures were so cool (hello, Dinos in the background) but luckily, my husband was there to take some finish line photos of me otherwise I wouldn't have any. The medals were adorable (Lucy for the 5K) and link up to others in the series to form a roller coaster car. That right there was worth it to me!

The 1 miler started 45 minutes after the start of the 5K which I also ran. The start line for the 1 miler was a short walk from the finish of the 5K so I had plenty of time to find my husband and daughter, switch bibs and head with my daughter to the 1 miler start just inside the park entrance. Since the start was inside the Carowinds gate, only those with bibs were allowed in so the husband had to wait at the finish line, which was the same finish line for all 4 races. We started directly under the park's iconic Sky Tower, which was pretty cool and after a countdown, we were off.

The 1 mile route was entirely inside the park with the exception of an short bit down a behind the scenes maintenance road and the very end which was just outside the park gate down a finisher's chute. We ran through the Planet Snoopy portion of the park and Dinosaurs Alive area, which my daughter loved. The mile flew by with so many things to look at. Would have been nice to see a few of the Peanuts characters in the park, but Snoopy and Charlie Brown were at the finish line giving out high fives. There was no aid station for the 1 miler, but there was plenty of water, Powerade and food (bananas, apples and bagels) at the finish. There was no on-course photographers, however, there was photographer at the finish line, though only a few of the 1 miler racers seemed to have had their photo taken. My daughter had hers taken, but I had backed up and let her cross triumphantly on her own and there was no photo of me when I crossed seconds behind her.

We were given an adorable Peppermint Patty medal which had a magnet on it allowing it to link to others in the series. My daughter and I had a blast running it together and she wants to do it again next year for sure!


Day 2

The Half started at 7:00 am to a wonderfully cool morning. Prior to the race, the National Anthem was played and we had a moment of silence for remembrance for the next day's Sept. 11th. Both the Half Marathon and the Quarter Marathon had the same start time and routes with the Half Marathoners taking a second loop around. We started outside the front gate and with a big circle around the exterior of the Carowinds parking lot circling back to the gate and inside the park. The route wound under roller coasters, through the Dinosaurs Alive area, past the SCarowinds decor, into the water park, under more coasters and out a back service area to take a turn and into the hilly Campground area, came back out down a service road, back into the parking lot and around to the gate again only to start over again. The parts inside the park seemed to go quickly with lots of things to look at with the parking lot areas and campground seeming to drag a bit. I had not had the best Summer training and had run pretty hard for the 5K the day before so I was just planning to take it easy and let how I felt guide me. I started out a bit ahead of the 2:15 pacer and figured at some point she'd catch me and I'd have to decide to either be okay with that or push it. She caught up to me around mile 10 where I overhead her tell the group she was with that they were a few minutes above pace, which I thought was a bit odd, but decided I felt okay and to fall in with them. The pace group's added distraction was welcome and we chatted the last few miles away. I crossed the finish just after the pace leader for a 2:12 finish (despite the fact she was the 2:15 pacer) and a new overall and course PR for me by 4 minutes. Again, as with the 5K, the condition of the roads in the maintenance areas were extremely broken up with loose rocks and huge cracks in many places. I knew to look for this from the 5K and took these areas a bit slower.

Throughout the course there were several aid stations giving out water and Gatorade and I believe 2 were even given out gels. I don't carry water for races and there were enough stations that I passed 1 or 2 without stopping with no problems. I carry my own gels so I didn't take any, but it was a nice option for those who do not. Again, I have to complain about the lack of on-course photography (I really loved last year’s pics) but at least this time I did have a finish line photo.

We were given an adorable Snoopy medal at the finish which had a magnet on the back to link to the others in the series to form a roller coaster. Prizes were given for the top 3 finishers in each 10 year age group (the previous year had 5 year age groups). Snoopy and Charlie Brown were taking photos with finishers and there was, as with the Saturday races, plenty of water, Powerade and food (bananas, apples and bagels) at the finish.


Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed last year's race better than this year's but feel it is a still a decent race series. Management, while great at communicating prior to the races, seemed a bit disorganized, especially with the photography, which is a big issue for me, especially with such fun scenery. I will probably do this series at least 1 more time and see how it goes next year.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cool Summerfest

This year's York Summerfest Road Races were nice and cool with a starting temp in the low-60s, despite having Summer in the the name. These races are an event during the annual Summerfest in York, SC.

This is an annual local race that I have known about for years, but never raced before. This year I was able to make the time in my schedule and signed up about 2 weeks prior to the event and was still guaranteed a tech shirt which was pretty great. Pre-event, the race management kept in great contact, often posting on social media and sending out email updates leading to the event. You could pick up race packets in 3 ways, in York prior to the race, at the Fleet Feet Sports store in Fort Mill prior to the race, or on site the morning of. I opted for the Fleet Feet pick up. The bag contained a tech shirt, bib, sponsor odds and ends like pens and magnets plus vendor ads. I walked in and right out again no problem - well except my daughter spent several minutes petting the FFS mascot dog.

The morning of the race I easily found the location and parked at a municipal building parking lot right next to the race start. The weather was perfect for a race day, low-60s and there were several local vendor tents set up (including my Fleet Feet Sports team) and ample port-a-potties. 5 minutes prior to the start, which was on the road in downtown York, a local ROTC group displayed the colors for the National Anthem and the race started. Both the 5K and the 10K started at the same time and would follow the same route for about 2.5 miles where they split with the 5K heading back to the finish (which was the same place as the start) and the 10K veering off for the remainder of their route before doing the same. The course was extremely well marked with several volunteers and police along the route for assistance. I ran the 5K and passed a water station around 1.5 miles in. I was told their was a 2nd water station on the 10K route as well. The route went through residential neighborhoods with a few challenging hills and there were a few spectators here and there. The last .1 mile back to the finish was a decent sized hill, but there were a lot of people there cheering you on so it didn't seem so bad. 

I crossed the finish line under my 30 min goal and was pleased with my time. Live time race results were posted on a monitor at the finish line and was even more please to find out I placed 3rd in my age group!

After the race there was lots of water bottles on hand and Fleet Feet Sports had a huge cooler of Nuun for the racers. There was a big table full of fruit, crackers and granola bars as well. I stuck around to cheer on the other runners as I had several friends on the course for both the 5K and 10K races. There were no finisher medals for either distance.

Awards were presented in a nice ceremony where medals and certificates were give to overall and AG winners 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 5 year increments. I believe overall winners received gift cards. There was even podium blocks set up for winners to stand on. I placed 3rd in the Female 40-44 AG. After awards, there were about 10 or so door prizes drawn from bib numbers. Overall, it was a great, well organized local race that I would highly recommend.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oh the HUMIDITY

Ya'll it's hot! I mean, of course it is hot - it is after all Summer in South Carolina, but it is really really hot. And I know, it is cliche to say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity, but I'm not even kidding, IT'S THE HUMIDITY.

Every morning, for the past 3 weeks now I've woken up and looked at my new favorite weather app, WTForecast (seriously, this thing is HILARIOUS) and the humidity level has been at least 90%. It starts to take a toll on you. I keep telling myself, just think how badass you'll be in the Fall, but something has got to give. My running has suffered drastically in this.

These cows know what's up
For example, this past Sunday I met a friend for an 11 mile training run. We started at 7 am and it was 96% humidity and 73 degrees already. To say it was rough would be an understatement. More like miserable!! It wasn't as bad as my last month's worst run ever (see here) but it was bad. I honestly was hoping that my friend would want to bail after we did the trail once, but she was a trooper, so I was too. At one point during the run I heard some mooing and looked over and a whole herd of cows were chilling in the river. I was super jealous of them! Afterwards, I was able to literally wring out my hair and create a small puddle!

Unfortunately, I have a Half Marathon coming up in about 2 months so taking the summer off is not an option, however, I am toying with reducing my miles and doing more cross training until the worst of the summer is over. The next few Tuesdays will be trail runs in the woods to help with the worst of the heat. I may suck it up and do some treadmill as I have access to a gym.

How do you keep cool in the heat of the summer? Any tips (or even commiserating) are 100% welcome.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

5th annual Common Heart Firecracker Run

This year my Fleet Feet Training Group chose as their Summer goal race the 5th annual Common Heart Firecracker Run. It was my first time running this race, but I had heard some really great things about it from friends, so I was excited to do it. Not only was the course highly praised, but it is a great local race in that it supports the Common Heart charity, a local food pantry that does a lot of amazing work in the area. I signed up for the 10K course.

We've been having a rough summer here in the Charlotte area already as far as heat and humidity and race day was no exception. In fact, it was 98% humidity when I arrived that the race site in the Lake Park Village in Indian Trail, NC (about a 40 min drive for me). The Start/Finish area was located right in the village center near a big park and shops, so there was plenty of parking available. My training group coordinator had picked up our packets for us the day before so I cannot comment on pick up, but the packets were in red, white, and blue bags and contained the usual trinkets, a few pens, key chain, magnet, lots of sponsor flyers, literature about Common Heart and the race shirt. Shirts were your basic 100% cotton grey unisex t-shirt with race logo on front and sponsors on the back. TBH, I will probably never wear it.

15 minutes before the 7:30 10K start, we were all called to line up at the Start. The 10K course was a large 3 mile loop around the Lake Park Village with a few turns here and there (basically, it was the 5K course twice with the start backed up .2 miles from the finish to get in the requite miles. The 5K course had been officially certified, but not the 10K. 

There was lots of cloud cover and some slight rain at the start, which did nothing to dent the oppressive humidity and temps were already rising in the mid-70s. The loop was beautiful, winding past the park, through the business district, around a lake and weaving through a few streets in the neighborhood. There were lots of course volunteers and a few police officers to direct traffic (the roads were partially closed, but being inside a neighborhood, there was very little traffic, all of which was held or re-routed away from runners. There was an aid station at the half-way point of the loop so 5K runners got 1 water station at mile 1.5 while the 10K runners passed it at 1.5 and again at 4.5. The clouds dispersed pretty quickly after the start and soon we were in full sun with little to no shade on the course. The course was very flat, but the humidity and the heat made the race a real challenge. I fell pretty short of my 10K PR but it wasn't my worst 10K performance and the course atmosphere, scenery and supporting a great cause made up for my lack of performance. Let's put it this way, I plan to make an impressive come back when I run it again next year.


There were no participation medals for either distance, but 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall and AG winners received medals with 1st and 2nd also receiving gift cards to Omega Sports. Overall all, it was a great, well organized race for a great cause on a beautiful course, and I hope to run it again.