Race Review: Celtic Solstice 5 Miler

Hey guys!  As you know back in December, I ran the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler in Baltimore. I posted the recap but now it’s time for the race review to see if it’s right for you! I judge races based on 5 categories; atmosphere, course, post race party, race swag, and logistics.  To read more about my rating system, check out my Race Reviews/Recaps page. Five medals is the highest rating a category can receive while one medal is the lowest. So what did I think about the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler?

Atmosphere

If you want to run a holiday-themed race, this is definitely the race for you!  Most people dress up in costumes or other festive gear that will surely get you in the holiday spirit. I would say people generally run this one for fun and run it with a group of friends. Not to say that you can’t go and compete, but if you do show up to compete, be sure to line up at the very front at the start line. There are not corrals at the start and everyone just kind of squeezes in at the last second before the gun.  The Irish Wolfhounds and bagpipes make this race even more festive and fun!

Course

The course itself is just okay. I wouldn’t say it was very scenic and pretty. There are quirky Baltimorean things you run by such as weird gazebos and a random graveyard by the tennis courts. At least it keeps it somewhat interesting? LOL! The course is hilly and challenging but I like that because it keeps you honest. I also like that you are always around people but it does not feel crowded.  I get my energy from others around me so I am not a fan of races where you are alone for a portion of the course.

Post Race Party

If I could give the post race party 6 medals I would!  The post race party is the reason I come back year after year.  Admittedly, I do not like to drink beer after a run. So races that offer that as their selling point do not appeal to me. But mulled wine after a blustery run? Perfection! After I cross the finish line I head right to the warm tent and grab a cup of mulled wine.  Then quickly head over the the table with all those yummy Italian cookies! It’s always nice to just hang out and relax after a race and I love listening to the bands at the after party. If you like a good post race party, this is definitely the race for you!

Race Swag

What I like about this race is you have the choice to opt out of the race premium, therefore saving money on race registration.  I don’t know about you, but in December my wallet is feeling a bit tighter than usual from buying presents. This year I chose to opt out but in previous years I have received the premium. Registration without the premium  is around $40 and registration with the premium is around $75. The value of the premium is about $65 (give or take) so the value is there.  It just depends if you want to spend the money or not. The previous year the premium was a very nice Brooks quarter zip long sleeve shirt that I wear often.

Logistics

When you have a lot of runners driving to a public park on the weekend with limited parking, there’s bound to be some chaos. I remember one year we were sitting on the off-ramp for 30 minutes to get to the start line. Another year they had to delay the start because a gate was stuck and prevented runners from getting to the start line.  This year we were turned around several times because random access roads were closed or the parking area was full. But honestly, my running partner and I expect this now so we do not panic or stress. Plus we are only running this for fun so we aren’t worried about getting to the starting area early. Even though the logistics aren’t the best, it won’t deter me from doing this race. The race organizer isn’t at fault and they really try their best to make it less stressful. I just think the race has grown in popularity and cannot handle the venue.

Overall

I really like this race and if there is a year when I cannot participate I’m definitely sad. If you are looking for a fun holiday-themed race with a great after party, then you must sign up for this one!

So tell me, have you run a holiday-themed race? If so, which one?

 

 

Race Recap: Celtic Solstice 5 Miler

Hey friends!  Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend!  This past Saturday, I ran the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler in Baltimore.

This is my 5th time signing up for the race, but really only my 3rd time running it since it got snowed/iced out 2 other years. Unfortunately, they won’t cancel the race for inclement weather and there is not a refund.  So I got smart and sign up just a few days before the race when I can view the forecast. 😛

With the race start being at 8:30 am, my running partner and I decided to leave our ‘hood by 7 am to give us enough time to get there, park the car, and use the port-a-potties. Thank God we did leave early because we thought we would be smart and take a back road to the start area (the Maryland Zoo). We did this because the main way to get to the start is a short exit off the main highway and every year it is notoriously backed up and you are just waiting. Well when we tried to take the back entrance into the zoo, it was closed off. Womp womp! Then we drove around to the front of the zoo, where Santa was waving in traffic to another parking area. Well we must have been on the naughty list this year, because when we pulled up to the lot the attendant (Santa’s helper?) told us the lot was full and we would have to find another lot. So we turned around and were luckily pointed down another road, where we parked right at the start!!  Score!!

After parking, I quickly spotted the Irish Wolfhounds that kick off the race each year. I love petting these gentle giants!  This boy was 165 pounds!

 

Soon enough, it was time to start the race! We all had to walk up the road and turn around to run the other direction. Kinda awkward and it was packed. I couldn’t see the bag pipe march with the dogs but I sure heard it! So much fun!

Then we were off!  It snowed the day prior so I had to watch my footing but the race route was pretty well salted. Mile 1 was crowded but honestly, I do this race for fun. If you follow me on Instagram, you know my fitness watch broke a few weeks back. That allowed me to not be constantly looking at my time and just enjoy the scenery. The course goes through Druid Hill Park, which is America’s third oldest park. Oh, and it’s hilly as all get out. It was fun to run by all the quirky features of the park such as an old graveyard, pools, tennis courts, a K-9 Police Unit, and the Zoo. By mile 4 I was feeling the hills but knew the last mile would be over quickly.

After finishing, I quickly went to the post-race tent and grabbed some mulled wine. That’s always the food item that has the longest line. So right there is your incentive to run a little faster during the race 😉

Basically, the post-race food is the reason why I run the race. Other than the mulled wine from Boordy Vineyards, there is delicious soup (think it was vegetable soup?) from a chef in Baltimore, Italian cookies from Trinacria Deli in Baltimore, and coffee and hot cocoa from Zekes.

Another fun year at the Celtic Solstice in the books!

So tell me, what’s your favorite Christmas-themed race? How many of those cookies would you have eaten post-race? Be honest 😛

Race Review: Charles 12

Hey friends! Hope everyone had a nice, relaxing Labor Day weekend! Why can’t every weekend be 3 days?! I definitely needed the extra day to rejuvenate and recover because this past Saturday, I ran the Charles 12 in Baltimore!

This is my third time doing this race and I absolutely love it. Thinking about doing it next year? Here are the details:

Course:

The race starts at The Shops at Kenilworth in Towson and ends at the Under Armour headquarters in Locust Point in Baltimore City (12 miles. Hence the 12 lol).  In previous years, the course ended at Power Plant Live.  So you had to run about a mile past Power Plant Live into Federal Hill and turn back around to run back to Power Plant Live.  Talk about torture! I much prefer the finish at Under Armour because it’s a straight point-to-point course and finishing at Under Armour makes you feel a little badass.

Miles 1 through 4 are pretty hilly, but after that?  Smooth sailing all the way down hill! Makes for a pretty fast time. I mean look at this elevation chart!

Race Logistics:

Charm City Run (the race host) offers a shuttle (additional $5 at time of registration) from the finish line to the start line. Ideally you’d park at finish area and then catch the shuttle to the start. While this is a great idea and works for many people, it doesn’t work for those who live in Towson or west of Towson. I would have to drive past the start, get to the finish area early to catch the shuttle, and then schlep back to the start on the bus. My running partner and I opted to drive to the start, park our car next to the shops, and then catch an Uber back to the car from the finish. So was this a better solution? Not really. The Uber wind up costing us $45 and to wait for it to arrive took forever! Next time we will just wake up 2 minutes earlier.

The weather forecast for race day was pouring down rain. Luckily, the race offered bag check so you can check warm and dry clothes to have at the finish.  What a lifesaver!  By the time I finished, I was soaking wet and after a few minutes, got VERY cold.

My runner partner and I in our best trash bags 🙂

Premium:

The race always hands out a nice premium by Under Armour and is worth the cost of the race entry alone.  This year, we received a very nice and thick Cold Gear hoodie.

Food:

This year the race had a selection of food trucks at the finish area and a meal ticket was on your race bib to redeem at any truck you choose.  While I really like this idea, it was poorly executed. There were 4 food trucks and they all seemed to serve the same breakfast sandwich? Maybe I’m wrong but that’s all I saw posted on each truck and that’s what everyone was munching on. Plus the lines were incredibly long. So I didn’t eat anything because the wait was crazy and we were ready to go.

Other things to note:

  • The National Anthem was sung by an incredibly talented young girl. Like, she could sing at a pro-football game good.
  • The police support was on point! Thank you police officers for keeping us safe!

Bottom Line:

This ranks up there as one of my favorite races.  Army Ten Miler holds the #1 spot for me but Charles 12 is in the top 5. Definitely sign up!

Me, all smiles, with my race medal!

So tell me, what’s on your fall race schedule?

2017 Parkway Classic 10 Miler Recap

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Hi guys!  April is flying by! I ran the Parkway Classic 10 Miler this past Sunday in Alexandria, VA.  This race is definitely up there as one of my favorite races. It’s always well organized, the course is a point-to-point with some nice rolling hills, and is a BEAUTIFUL course. The houses you run by are absolutely stunning! The only “drawback” is there isn’t spectators along the entire course, but the last mile is packed with a cheering crowd.  That’s okay, because the beautiful course helps distract you from the pain. 😉

My running partner and I arrived the night before and stayed at the Sheraton Suites in Old Town. The hotel price was comparable to others but the location of the hotel couldn’t be beat.  It was 3 blocks from the finish line and 2 blocks from the shuttles that transport runners to the start line in Mt. Vernon. I like to keep things stress free where I can. 🙂

Packet pickup, located at the Pacers Running Store in Alexandria, was only about a mile away from our hotel. I love how Pacers organizes packet pickup. First, you can pick up for multiple runners without any kind of signed permission slip or ID.  They also always have multiple people handing out packets so there are no lines to wait in.

Later that night, after a quick dinner at T.J. Stone’s, we settled in and I took a picture of my race day outfit so my boyfriend would be able to pick me out of the crowd during the race. I definitely suggest doing this if you have someone coming to watch your race.

Race morning came and after loading up on bagels and coffee, we walked two blocks to the loading area to catch the shuttle to the start line.  These buses were brand spankin’ new! They even had seat belts! #safetyissexy LOL

We got to the start area about an hour prior to the start, which left plenty of time to use the porta-potty (a must!) and check a bag.  I am so glad I decided to check a sweatshirt because it was freezing again once you crossed the finish line. No one wants to stand around sweaty and cold!

Just before the 8 a.m. race start, I lined up at the 7:00 to 7:59 minute per mile group and we were all smiles event though slightly cold.

At 8 a.m., the gun shot rang out and we were off! Apparently I was feeling pretty good!  Here is my mile split breakdown according to my Polar:

NOTE: I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor haha

Here are my official results:

Danggggg!! 😛 That was 16th out of 511 females ages 30-34, 59th out of 2,635 females, and 298th out of 4,482 people!! Even though I didn’t break my goal of a 1:09 performance like I had wanted, I am still proud of myself.

A performance like that calls for a nice cold one, so my boyfriend and I stopped at Port City Brewing Company to celebrate.

How do you celebrate a good run? What races did you run this month? Write in the comments above, under the post title 🙂

Sole of the City 10k Race Recap

Hey friends! How was your weekend? On Saturday I ran the Sole of the City 10k in Baltimore!

 

My goal race is actually the Parkway Classic on April 23rd, but this race happened to work with my training schedule.  Plus, a bunch of my friends do this race and they told me I absolutely HAD to register. Okay, twist my arm 😛

Packet pick-up was earlier last week and I got to pick up this sweet premium from Under Armour.

Do not be deceived.  This hoodie is VERY thin. Basically I would only wear this walking around in 65 degree weather. Yeah, so not really a hoodie LOL. The packet pickup itself was at Charm City Run was pretty well organized per usual.

Race morning came and it was a freezing 35 degrees out!  Brr!!  But then the high for the day was 60 degrees. Even though we lucked out with sunshine, this weather is hard to dress for. In order to be warm, I wore a crappy goodwill hoodie to the start area, which was located at McHenry Row. When I woke up that morning, I really had no desire to “race.” I thought I would just enjoy the run.  But then of course, my friends egged me on! They wanted me to win. Well, I guess it didn’t take much to get me all fired up because I easily agreed and felt the fire in my belly!

After hanging out at McHenry Row and chatting/shivering, around 8:45 a.m. we made our way to the start line.  It was a short walk and not overly congested.  I said goodbye to my friends and headed to the front of the starting line.  After a BEAUTIFUL rendition of the National Anthem (seriously that girl had some pipes!), we were off!

Mile 1 ran through Federal Hill and to the Inner Harbor.  I was feeling good and was trying to gauge the competition around me.  I did have a guy run next to me panting like a dog.  There was no way I was going to let him beat me! So off to mile 2 I went!

Mile 2 was around the Inner Harbor and running toward Harbor East and Fells Point.  I noticed there was not much of a crowd, which was a bummer.  The cold air probably didn’t help. I still felt pretty good at this point as captured by this race photo. I mean look at that stride!

Mile 3 was pretty much the turnaround point at the edge of Fells Point and took us back to the harbor.  At this point in the race it started to warm up I was feeling a bit warm.

Mile 4 was when I really started to feel the heat! We just left Harbor East and was entering the Inner Harbor. Mile 4 basically got you from Hard Rock Cafe to the Science Center. Which honestly, was a little awkward because you were running on the harbor amid the crowd. Like, the bystanders literally had no clue they were in the middle of a race haha. So many confused looks…

At mile 5, I was hot.  Like, nearing overheating.  But with one mile left I was determined not to slow down.  I wanted to place dang it! Mile 5 was back through Federal Hill and the finish line was back at McHenry Row, where we started. Here is a shot of me crossing the finish.

No, I normally don’t look that good 😛 I was WIPED! I gave that race everything I had! Note how the gloves came off. Literally and figuratively, ha!

After the race I waited for my friends to gather again.  I grabbed a free beer but frankly I do not want beer after a race.  I pretty much take three sips and give it to a friend.  Unfortunately the food after the race was seriously lacking. We got chicken salad, but really it was an onion salad.  You can just smell the stench through the box. It didn’t appear anyone wanted an onion salad after a race because most people didn’t eat it lol.

We waited around to see if I placed, but no dice! I was disappointed initially.  Then I got an email with my results.

BOOM! Like 25% percent of the field was female 30-39. Lots of competition!  But considering that, I feel pretty darn good about my race.

So would I do it again? Meh, the jury is still out. I didn’t think the course was anything special. I am leaning toward “yes” but only because I would like to get on the podium next year. Let’s see what I can turn out at the Parkway Classic!

Race Travel: How You AND Your Family Can Stay Sane

Hey friends!  Happy Tuesday and last day in February! To end our partnership theme month, today I want to talk about how to travel to a race with your family. Sounds simple at first right? You’re probably thinking, how can this be any different than a vacation? Well it is VERY different. Here are some tips to help you make the best out of race travel so that everyone leaves happy!

Pre-Race

Tip #1: Set expectations

Well before your big race, it is important to set expectations for the trip.  Is this a race you want to take seriously?  Is this just a bucket list race? Your fellow travelers need to know these things.  If you are taking the race seriously, your family needs to understand that the night before the race you need to be in bed early, time will need to be spent at the expo to pick up your race bib, you may need to eat a very specific diet leading up to the race, etc.  Your family is probably thinking this is no different than a vacation. Also explain what you need from them.  Do you want them to spectate the race? Do you need them to drive you to the start line? Do they need to have a large fountain soda waiting for you when you cross the finish line?  Ok, that last one is really one of mine 🙂 Luckily my boyfriend is gracious enough to make sure I have one after every race.  Thanks honey! He also knew it was important to me to take a picture of the Boston Marathon finish line prior to race day.  How amazing is this picture he took?!

FinishLine

Tip #2: Create a spectator map

If your family is spectating your race, it is critical that you create a spectator map so they will know exactly where to be, at what time, and when to expect to see you.  Your family likely has no clue what the course is or the race start. Make it easy on them by writing down all the details.  This past October my boyfriend and some friends were spectating the Marine Corps Marathon to see myself and another friend.  I made a cheat sheet of what time to be at the train stop to get to D.C., what metro line to hop on once in D.C. and the times, where to catch breakfast before the race, and what intersections to be at and what time.  I have to toot my own horn.  It took a LOT of work so I suggest doing this at least one week in advance. I also suggest checking the race website for spectator tips.

Post Race

Tip #3: Have a meeting point after you cross the finish line

If you are running a huge race with thousands of people, you need a meeting area. If you only listen to one of my tips, it needs to be this one.  The last thing you want to do after a race is walk (er, limp) around trying to find your family. Some races have a family meeting area.  Frankly I do not find this to be useful because usually they are too far from the finish and that is where everyone else is meeting.  I suggest picking a landmark near the finish such as a store or restaurant. I always have my phone on me as well, that way my boyfriend and I can touch base and find each other.

Tip #4: Celebrate WITH your family, not just your achievement

You may have endured some grueling miles, but your family has endured waking up super early on a Saturday, shuttling you around, transporting themselves through the race course, and being extra nice to you even though you were stressed and moody before the race. Be sure to thank them and treat them to dinner or an event. You want them to keep supporting you, don’t you? 😛

That’s it for now!  Share any tips or stories you have in the comments below.  Happy running!

 

Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

On October 30th, I completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.  My 10th marathon! Because why stop at 9? 😉 Marine Corps Marathon is one of my FAVORITE races.  You cannot beat the level of patriotism and support at this race.  I went into this race with a goal of finishing, no time goal.  I signed up for the race spontaneously, after I received an email from the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) stating that RRCA certified coaches can sign up for $40. I couldn’t even spell “no” to that offer! So I signed up with about 2 months to train, about half the time needed to properly train. But my base mileage had been pretty consistent for a while.

On race morning, I drove to D.C. (about a 30 minute drive) and parked at the Crystal City parking garage (for free!) at around 5 a.m.  Yes, it is an early start but I will always tell a fellow runner to get to the start area early to avoid long port-a-potty and security lines.  The last thing you want is to be rushing around panicking before you run a marathon. So I got through all the lines early and gave myself plenty of time to line up properly at the starting line. A lot of people do not realize that the start area is a good walk away from the actual start line. Maybe about a half a mile away? The race starts at 8 a.m. but I left the start area around 7:10 so I can see the fly over, which is just prior to the start.  I was able to catch some of the fly over on video.  So cool to watch it again even after the race!

And here is my happy face after that fly over!  Mission focused!

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Yes I am wearing a crappy old hoodie so I can stay warm haha. Another tip for Marine Corps Marathon, wear a hat or sunglasses!  The course does not have a lot of shade so the sun will definitely be in your eyes at several points on the course.

When 8 a.m. came, we were off!  Miles 1 through 3 are incredibly congested and it will be hard to run your planned pace.  Be flexible and do not panic.  You can definitely make up the time later in the race. Mile 4 is when you can really start hitting your pace even though the course is packed. Miles 1 through 4 are through Rosslyn and heading into Georgetown. Both neighborhoods are filled with spectators and you will definitely see some crazy costumes and funny signs!  My favorite signs were “This is a sign (but what does it mean?!)” and “Pain is temporary. The Internet is forever.”

Miles 5 through 9 are smooth sailing. All the spectators are still lining the streets and the energy is high. At mile 10 though, you are entering Hains Point. I have to be honest guys, it gets lonely here until about mile 13.  There are not a lot of spectators and the scenery leaves something to be desired. One special aspect of Hains Point is the blue mile.  This year it was between miles 10.5 and 11.5. Every few feet there was a sign with the picture of a marine who was killed in action.  It is a VERY emotional part of the course and allows you to silently thank those who have served our country.

Don’t worry though, miles 13 through 18 are back to the cheering crowds and help you get your mind back in the race.  But at mile 18, you will start your journey to “the bridge”. Yes, everyone just calls it “the bridge”. It’s just a long, boring bridge until mile 20.  At mile 18 someone was giving out watermelon Jolly Ranchers. I grabbed one and prayed that I’d make it over that bridge! My pace started to drop a bit here, but I expected that due to my tight training schedule. I made it to mile 20, which at that point you run around the Pentagon parking lot and into Crystal City. There is a TON of spectators lined up with food for the runners.  I have seen animal crackers, oranges, soda, donuts, Swedish Fish.  You name it and it’s probably there. I have to admit, Crystal City is always rough for me.  I hit the wall and as much as I want to get into the spirit, I am focused on just putting one foot in front of the other.

You leave Crystal City at about mile 24 and it’s gut check time! Again, it’s pretty lonely until about mile 25.5. At this point in the race, I have not stopped to walk.  For me, if I can run an entire marathon and stay mentally strong, I consider that a good day. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 12 minutes.  My slowest marathon time yet. But you know what?  I am not any less proud of the effort I put forward that day.

If you are looking for a well supported race course, with a ton of camaraderie and patriotism, this marathon is it. I recommend this race to everyone as a must do! I am so thankful to all our men and women who serve our country. A country where I am free to run and achieve my goals!

Oorah!

 

 

 

Army Ten Miler Recap

Disclaimer: I was not compensated by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my opinions and mine alone. 

Last Sunday, October 9th, I had the great honor of running the 32nd Army Ten Miler in Washington D.C.  If you live in the area, heck even if you don’t, you NEED to race this race.

The day before the race, my running buddy and I headed to the expo at the DC Armory for packet pickup.  I love the fact that it’s at the DC Armory because there is plenty of free parking and it’s located just outside of D.C., making getting in and out of the city a cinch.

TIP: Go to the expo about 2 or 3 hours prior to closing.  Race gear (shirts, hoodies, mugs, etc.) will be steeply discounted.  I bought a hoodie, a tech shirt, and Tervis travel mug all for $40.  Score!

Army_Ten_Gear

 

After the expo, my running buddy and I drove to our hotel, the Hyatt in Rosslyn, to get settled in before dinner. Any time we are running a big city race, we like to stay in a hotel the night before.  It just makes race morning logistics a breeze instead of worrying waking up wwaayyyy too early and hitting gnarly traffic. And check out this blow dryer that was in the hotel room.  Way to step it up Hyatt!

Blow_dryer

After unpacking, we were ready for dinner. Panera Bread is always a safe bet.  Not too heavy but still filling.  For me personally, I do not find it necessary to carb-load for a ten miler. I stick with a broth-based soup and sandwich. Another perk to eating Panera the night before a race?  You can get your morning bagel too!

So fun story, the forecast for race morning was sunny with heavy winds and temps around 70 degrees F. We woke up at 5:30 am to 50 degrees F and rain.  Whhattt?! So what did I wear for the race? A tank top and shorts of course.

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Luckily, we always bring “throw-aways” (aka old, stained hoodies) to our races. We swear by it!  Why waste energy shivering before the race actually starts? Luckily by race start at 8 am, the sun was out and it was starting to warm up.  I absolutely love the start of this race.  Normally the Golden Knights Parachute Team will jump with the American flag and land dead center on target, but this year because of the winds they were unable to do so. Total bummer! But at least there was the flyover of four UH-60 Army helicopters to kick off the race.  I did catch a picture of one right before the start.

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My game plan going into this race was just to have fun, but after the first mile I was feeling really good. Plus, I knew my boyfriend was waiting for me at mile 6. So that was definitely another reason I was feeling quite speedy!

armytenresult

After finishing and showering, my boyfriend and I headed to Union Market for a post-race treat. A napoleon and a latte. A nice way to celebrate another successful race. 🙂

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A quick summary of the Army Ten Miler

Pros:

  • Well-organized
  • Great race gear
  • Tons of military pride
  • Fast, flat course

Cons: This is kind of a given since it is D.C., traffic trying to leave the race can be a nightmare. Roads are closed and it is very congested.

See you next year Army Ten Miler!!