Race Review: Illinois Marathon HALF Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon to run the half marathon distance to review 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!


I had the opportunity at the end of April to run the half marathon distance at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon and it was a fabulous event and race! Everything from the expo and packet pickup through the race itself and ending with the post race party was on point. I ran the marathon distance back in 2018 and nothing has changed in that time when it comes to the seamless running of the race. If there is a race you should run just for the finely run machine that it is, it is the Illinois Marathon. The course is nice and simple, perfect for getting that PR you might be striving for (full disclosure: I did not hit a PR in this race, but it is definitely attainable.) The race management and the volunteer staff are top notch and you receive some nice swag with your registration.

Expo Quality: Really nice spacing of the vendor booths with other races promoting themselves, a CPR area, some racing gear vendors and then the official Illinois Marathon vendor area full of some pretty nice merchandise with the race logo on it. Packet pickup was extremely quick and smooth. I was checked in and had my shirt and bib in minutes. Very efficient.

I also had the great opportunity to meet up with a fellow BibRave Pro, Nicki, just as we were leaving the expo after grabbing our packets and perusing the vendors.

Parking/Access: Easy drive into the parking lot on race morning with no problem getting to the start line (and bathroom) before the race start. And at the end of the race and when I was done with the post race party, easy exit back to my hotel.

Course Scenery: It wasn’t as nice as it was in 2018 but that’s because they had to alter the course due to a lack of volunteers and construction going on around the University of Illinois campus so that effected it a little bit. But, how can you not like a race that has you finishing while you cross the 50-yard line of a major college football stadium. It’s awesome! And when you get that PR, don’t forget to ring the heck out of the PR bell that is provided for all runners.

Elevation Difficulty: Minimal and that’s why it makes for a great course to get your PR. There are some minor hills on some of the course but nothing that will kill your racing mojo. Pretty flat for a huge part of it.

Aid Stations: Well stocked and well serviced by volunteers. Plenty of water to grab and on several of the tables, Nuun hydration to replenish the body as you chugged along the course. My only complaint was that the volunteers were doing too good of a job by filling the cups a little too high with water. The first two stations had me inhaling water up my nose as I was running and drinking at the same time.

Also, a fun moment during the race when I saw another fellow BibRave Pro, Lina, running ahead of me. I turned on some jets so I could catch up to her and ran a few miles with her; she was wise and steady-armed enough to grab a selfie of the both of us in motion!

Race Management: EXCELLENT! Constant updates from several months out all the way to the morning of race day. And the last few days they were not shy about sending out info in case of bad weather (which was in the forecast) and about where to go if necessary. Also, what other race do you see the race director get involved with runner directional control? Jan Seeley was out directing runners where to go on certain turns. That’s how much she loves this race and being in charge of how well it is run.

T-Shirts/Swag: An awesome soft cotton t-shirt representing this year’s race and 2020, which was when the cancellations began; a pretty sweet finisher’s medal, a nice nylon string bag that was used as your gear check back but will get many more uses down the road.

Bottom line, choose this race as a destination race if you’re looking for a spring race. You won’t be disappointed and I guarantee you’ll have a good time! and don’t forget the post race party! Tons of food options from pizza to chocolate milk to bananas, Kind bars, rolls, the list goes on and on. And then you go outside and get your free beer where you can also purchase food truck food if you like and get a free quick massage if you like.

Happy running!!

Illinois Marathon, I’m Coming for Ya

Disclaimer: I received a race entry to the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon to review 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!

I’ve been training and preparing mentally to run the half marathon in Champaign, Illinois this coming weekend. We’re just a few hours away from the start time and I am ready to go. I’ve been looking forward to this race for a while now for one particular reason: the chance to PR my half marathon time. I ran the full marathon here back in 2018 and, at the time, PRed my marathon time by over 25 minutes!! Now the question will be can I do it?

I’ve mostly been training in cool to cold weather. The only time it hasn’t been a cold and windy run was a couple of times when the weather was moderate and a bit warmer than 60 degrees and then the few times I ran on the treadmill. There have been some other obstacles during this training period. A small head cold that lingered for way too long, some allergies when that warmer weather hit and some plants started blooming and then a recent pain in my jaw which turned into a root canal. Lucky me, right? But I’ve plowed along the way and got in my runs, even scaling back on weekly mileage while adding some bike riding and swimming to give my body some new experiences while training for a race.

Of course, here we are, just over a day away, and there’s talk of severe weather possibly effecting the start of the race or the entirety of the race itself. Obviously, this does not please me or anyone else for that matter. Very frustrating that Mother Nature may quash everyone’s fun and goals but, of course, that would be out of my control. I will simply look forward to this goal race and hope that it goes off without a hitch.

Happy running! And make sure you go after your goals too!

Virtual Race Review: Minions Run!

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Virtual Minions Run to review 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!

When the opportunity to run a virtual race that was connected to the lovable Minions, I just couldn’t pass it up! I saw it as a great way to spend some time with one of my sons who doesn’t enjoy running that much but always is up for fun runs like this one here. I have to disclose that the real selling point for my son was the AMAZING swag that came with his registration. He loves the t-shirt and the medal is obviously a winner for him but it was the winter pom hat that was the clincher! Loves the pom hat and, for that matter, so do I!

The race being virtual made it easy to find a time for both of us to take on the 5K and we were able to do at a leisurely pace. I loved that we were able to run, jog, walk and talk the whole time. It made for a great bonding experience.

The virtual support was positive as well. I was emailed about the registration confirmation and delivery of my son’s swag packet. I was also informed of my medal being delayed and that it would be coming soon as well (I had registered much earlier than my son hence the difference there) and they were supportive on social media channels as well. I only give the race management section 3 out of 5 stars since I’m still waiting for my medal after being told it wouldn’t be long until it arrived. Otherwise, this was a very fun virtual race to participate in and I would certainly do it again, whether it be Minions or some other fun option.

Happy running everyone!!

UPDATE: Air Force Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Air Force Marathon to review 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!

So, my training for the Air Force Marathon half marathon has not been for naught! It just wasn’t utilized the way I expected it to. A few weeks back, the race went to an all virtual format. So…..that meant no traveling to Dayton, Ohio anymore since the race couldn’t take place in its normal course, the Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Federal regulations being stricter than normal city ordinances and whatnot made the race impossible to take place. So, I’ll be running my virtual half marathon sometime in the near future. But that doesn’t mean I sat on my butt this past Saturday, September 18, what would have been race day.

No, I chose to do a monster training run of 20+ miles to really tire out these legs, ha ha ha. The weather was nice and perfect for this type of run. My pace was right where I wanted it and my legs never died on me. It makes me extremely optimistic for when I take the plunge on my half marathon for the Air Force Marathon!

Stay tuned as I do my best to earn this medal!

Happy running!

Air Force Marathon Training

Disclaimer: I received a race entry to the Air Force Marathon to review 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!

The month of August has begun and my training runs for the Air Force Marathon continue each day. I will be running the half marathon distance in the race that takes place on September 18, 2021 in Dayton Ohio. I’ve been really looking forward to this race for a number of reasons, including the fact that it will be a travel race for me and it’s always exciting to visit somewhere new.

Now, as for my training…well, it’s been going up and down for the majority of the summer. I’ve been doing my best in keeping a variety of methods with preparing my body for the half distance. These include yoga, strength training, and, of course, runs of various distances. One thing I have NOT been doing a good job with: stretching and foam rolling. I can’t say that that has led to my issues in this cycle but I am confident that it didn’t help my situation. I had hoped performing yoga (and even that ended up getting missed for a few weeks) and doing more core strength work would help, but it only does so much.

So, on Father’s Day I ended up suffering a left hamstring pull or strain. Not sure how since I am very very good on being hydrated but I guess that day I just wasn’t enough. Maybe it was because I was rushing the run, I don’t know. What I do know is that my left hammy nagged and nagged for 10-12 days following where it limited my activity and none of my runs were in that time frame. Once it started feeling better (and that coincided with increased foam rolling…shocking, I know, haha) I picked up my miles for a week. Why just a week you ask? Well, because that’s when my RIGHT hamstring acted up, also for no real reason. It wasn’t as bad the left leg and I was able to smooth it over sooner. But then there was a camping vacation that took me away from training in general. I did get a couple long runs in there but it was still a pretty decent amount of time off.

So, as August starts to hit its stride, my hope is that I can get into a better flow of running and getting in those miles. But, even as I type that, I am cognizant of both my right and left toes hurting for an unknown reason. Not blister-hurt. More like they don’t want to flex and offer up some pain to the touch. Ugh….Anyway, I shall persevere and be ready to at least enjoy my time in Dayton.

Would you like to join me? Visit the Air Force Marathon website and register for your preferred distance! It isn’t too late and it you have already been training for a longer distance, you’re ready. If not, they offer up a 5K and 10K as well! Use code AFMBR21 to save 10% on your registration! I would love to see you there! And if you have any questions, please ask me and I will do my best to answer them.

Happy Running!

BRP Summit Review

This pandemic marches on but so do we all. And that’s why this year’s BibRave Pro Summit was a welcome reprieve from the same old weekend routines. Even if it was done virtually, it was still a blast connecting with the many runners and creative producers of our group as well as the management team. Many of these individuals are people I’ve never met in real life but some of the interactions you have make it seem like you run with them every week. It truly is one of the best reasons to be a BibRave Pro.

The summit took place from March 26-28 with various Zoom events and discussions taking place. I’ve included a screenshot above just to show the wide variety of discussions and “meetings” that took place. And this doesn’t even include the DEI session, which was extremely engaging and informative or the Saturday night trivia game that had everyone on teams and conversing in breakout rooms to come up with answers. There was also a Saturday morning runners scavenger hunt supported with audio clues that guided you on your quest. Simply a fun and interactive weekend.

I would be remiss to not mention the wonderful sponsors of the BibRave Pro Summit including Knockaround Sunglasses and Science in Sports Endurance Sports Nutrition. And I have been happily wearing the specially designed for the summit Blue Light Blockers that Knockaround created for us.

Now, the next time you see me or one of my awesome BRP’s sending out the all call that BibRave is looking for new Pros to represent the brand, fill out an application and see if you make it in. There is just so much fun to be had and with a great group of people. And these are just the virtual gatherings. Wait until things get back to normal and we are together in person again…woo, look out!

Happy running everyone!

The Race That Never Happened: The Kansas City Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Kansas City Marathon to review 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!

What to do when the race you train for and prepare to travel to simply gets canceled and all of it’s out of your control? Well, 2020 made that a reality for just about all races across the country. Many returned entry fees or deferred entries to their 2021 race but the Kansas City Marathon chose to do something different, something special and that stuck to their goal and mission of why they put on the race in the first place. They gave options. You could defer your entry to next year’s race. You could outright donate your fee to the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation, a non-profit group that not only organizes the Kansas City Marathon but also takes the lead in maintaining and selectively acquiring a diversity of amateur and professional sporting events for the city. Or you could transfer your registration over to their One Million Mile Challenge, a contest for all runners to participate in and collectively run one million miles all while reaching benchmark distances where the group would hand out prizes to random participants.

Yeah, it isn’t the same as running the streets of Kansas City, especially if you were planning a trip to the area for this monumental race. But, it’s a great way to keep your running base engaged and interested as well as planning to come back the next year for the race. This challenge allowed you to “race against” fellow runners to see who can get the most mileage, depending on the distance you selected. I say “get” because the challenge is still going on and you can still register for it if you want and gain a chance to win one of remaining benchmark prizes by being randomly selected. The extension for the One Million Mile Challenge runs through December 15 and costs $40 to register. There’s a mile tracker and you receive a race-branded t-shirt, a finisher’s medal, race bib, a digital finisher’s certificate, a Challenge finisher item and more!

I know I was disappointed by the Kansas City Marathon being canceled this year. I had very much looked forward to this destination race and exploring the city and surrounding areas for a few days. I hope the opportunity presents itself for 2021, because I almost certainly will be there. Until then though, this was a nice option put on by the race organizers who have been in constant communication through all of this and continue to do so while the Challenge has been going on.

I hope to see you as well on this course next year for an amazing experience in an amazing city with some very deep culture. Happy running!!

How Does One Train for the Unknown?

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Garmin Kansas City Marathon to review 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!

What do you do when you’re training for a race that in all likelihood will not take place on the date you are preparing for? This is the question I am asking myself (and attempting to prepare for) in regards to the Kansas City Marathon. It has yet to be canceled for this year and is scheduled to take place on October 17. Of course, I am still pessimistically hopeful that the race will be run and have been staying active throughout the spring and summer. And what do I mean by staying active? Maybe you think I just mean running and building up my base miles. Well, yes, I have been doing that although I have remained at a plateau for a few weeks now and hope to break that soon.

img_8627

But I’ve decided to change the norm for myself with my training and preparation. I wanted to give my body and overall fitness and athletic overall, if you will. So, in May, I bought myself a bicycle and started riding for the first time in 30+ years. It’s one of the main reasons my weekly running totals have plateaued; I’ve substituted runs for rides and I’m having a blast doing it! It’s a totally different way for me to get in some cardio AND is letting me give my legs and feet a subtle break from the concrete pounding they take on the roads. There have been a couple of weeks where I have matched running miles with biking miles and have added a brick workout per week to my training schedule.

img_9212

But that isn’t all that I added to my list of different ways to get my heart pumping and other muscles engaging. At my gym, I’ve used the rowing machine a few times and, when camping, I took my kayak out for a few lengthy paddles. Let me tell you something, you have no idea how exhausting paddling a kayak can be until you’ve done eight miles on a windy day out on Green Bay, lol. But, damn, is it ever a great way to build more cardio endurance.

c6090d06-c684-4eff-95d3-0a39113251bc

And speaking of the gym, I still go there frequently, now that quarantine is over and places have reopened. But I’ve been having a dilemma about my workouts lately. How much is too much? Or, to be more specific, should I be using less weight and more reps to tone my body rather than higher weight with normal rep amounts which may cause unnecessary bulk up? I have been adjusting my lifting sessions to reflect these thoughts and have dropped weight down. I mean, too much muscle isn’t the best when attempting long and grueling runs. So, with my training for this marathon, I have been altering a lot at the gym, also employing my resistance bands more often as well.

img_9412

But where does all this leave me? I’m still wanting and hoping to run the Garmin Kansas City Marathon in October so I keep plugging along with runs. And now bike rides. And weight training. And the occasional paddle. Will it all help out for a better end result? Who knows. I just hope I have the chance to see, as far-fetched as that may be right now. Such uncertainty really messes with one’s mind and the ability to focus on the prize. But what a lovely prize it will be if I have the chance to perform.

img_9328

Would you like to join me in the waiting game? It isn’t too late. Register for any distance at the Garmin Kansas City Marathon and use code BIBRAVE2020KCM and earn 15% off. And here’s a safety clause for you: should the race be canceled, you will have three options. One, you can defer your entry to 2021. Two, you can participate and run it virtually. Or, three, you can have your entry fee convert your registration fee to a donation to the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation and receive a charitable contribution receipt as well as 25% savings towards registration for the 2021 Garmin Kansas City MarathonNot bad, eh? Maybe we can run this race together this year or next year. I’d love to see you there!

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. I’d love to know how any of you out there train for the unexpected or if you have made alterations to your lifestyle during these crazy times.

 

As always, happy running!

Product Review: Extreme Fit Compression Socks

Disclaimer: I received a selection of Extreme Fit compression socks to review 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!

I’m going to come right out and say from the start that I liked these socks. They performed for me the way I expected them to perform. I know that may seem like something that should be obvious with a product like this, but it isn’t a guarantee, ever. Let me begin my saying I thought the level of compression in their running-orientated socks was on the mark. The sock never felt too tight and hugged against my legs and feet the way I wanted it to do. They are also a very soft sock in the feel and it’s as if you don’t even have anything on your feet. Now, Extreme Fit does offer two levels of compression in their socks. They have socks with 15-20 mmHg compression and socks with 20-30 mmHg. Now, what those numbers represent is how much compression the sock will provide for your legs and feet; a tightness level, if you will. So, for runners you would go higher and if you were wearing the sock for traveling or standing at your job all day, the lower number would work for you.

Screen Shot 2020-07-03 at 5.27.34 PM

As someone who runs both long and short distances, I found their runner socks to be topnotch and on par, if not better than some other brands out there. Another great option in the runner’s line of socks were ones that had extra amounts of reflective marks on them. Perfect if you are the early riser runner or the dusk runner where it may not be as easy to spot you. And I’m talking some seriously good reflective material.

I’m also a big fan of how many styles Extreme Fit offers on their website. And how they package some of their socks into solo options, 3-packs and even 6-packs! So many options with colors and designs; they even offer some socks with copper-infused fibers inside of them. You would be hard pressed to NOT find a style or color of sock on their site.

And who says that their socks are only for running or walking? Do you work in a hospital? Hair salon? Travel frequently on airplanes or train for work? Do you need compression socks for grocery shopping? Daily chores? Extreme Fit can benefit you with their product. I’ve used them myself when riding my bike, and I’m just relearning how to do that after over 30 years of not riding one.

Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 6.51.05 PM

And don’t think you’re limited to just socks with Extreme Fit. No way, no chance. They have calf sleeves. Arm sleeves. Ankle sleeves. Knee sleeves. Even specialized sleeves if you suffer from plantar fasciitis. They truly are in the business of helping their clientele feel better and perform better.

(Photo credit to https://www.extremefitusa.com/)

Extreme Fit is out to help you with their graduated compression options. Wouldn’t you like to reduce swelling and pain while energizing your feet and legs? All that and you’ll be supporting muscle recovery later. It’s worth it for your body and these socks are definitely a good option to try. And if you decide to TRY NOW, please use code BRP20 to receive 20% off your order of $50 or more. And they currently have a ton of options on sale so you will be making off like a bandit if you order now! Don’t hesitate, these are a great option if you require compression socks on your athletic journey. I’ve loved the pairs I’ve tested and have felt very comfortable in them as well as comfortable AFTER my runs or bike rides.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send them to me. I’ll be happy to answer them for you!

As always, Happy Running!

Race Review: Samson Stomp n Romp 5K

It’s a little late but here it is, my review of the Samson Stomp n Romp 5K held at the Milwaukee County Zoo on January 19, 2020.

What can I say about another year of running the Milwaukee County Zoo’s Samson Stomp n Romp 5K? Well, this was the 40th year of the event and it remains one of the most popular events at the zoo even though it takes place in January, in Wisconsin. This year provided some challenges though and that’s why I will review it again. I am giving the race an overall grade of five stars for overcoming weather and construction challenges while still putting on a fun event for adults and kids.

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 10.34.26 PM
T-shirt/SWAG: The race always does a long sleeve t-shirt and while that may not seem exciting, this year’s version had a nice touch for the 40 year anniversary. On the back were the temperatures for the every year of the race leading up to this year. Just really cool and fascinating to see how many years have been in single digits and how many were above 30 degrees (not many, lol).

Aid Stations: There is only one station and it always has water but I have to give it at least three stars because the volunteers are out there suffering in the cold to hand out that water.

Course Scenery: Five stars, of course! You get to run through the zoo, checking out the polar bear, elk, macaques, penguins and more. You get to listen to the sea lions barking from their enclosure. And this year, due to construction making a larger hippo exhibit, the course had to be altered and it was a welcome change in my opinion. I loved that the course provided a new way to traverse the race. Great job working with what they had to work with.

Expo Quality: Not really an expo, per se. Just a packet pickup at the zoo. But the staff on hand are nice and friendly and ready to answer any and all questions you may have. Or just banter with you about how cold it will be on race morning, haha.

Elevation Difficulty: There was still the tough incline that the race always has but where it once was before you passed the first mile, not it was in between the 2nd and 3rd mile, so a little more challenging at the point in the race. There were also the same two steep declines that the course always has but, similar to the incline, their location in the race was not the same as year’s past.

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 10.34.15 PM

Parking: Your bib and race confirmation is your parking pass into the zoo. Easy access and easy departure. No problems.

Race Management: They did a phenomenal job with this race. The overcoming of the construction to create a fun course that still reached the right distance was impressive. But even more impressive was that the city and zoo were hit with a nasty ice and snow storm a day before and the zoo had the entire course cleared off of both. There were very few spots that had ice that was dangerous and there was zero snow on the course itself. Bravo again for the zoo’s maintenance staff for having a safe event. Packet pickup was smooth. And the post race party/spread was just as nice as always. Apples, Gatorade, water, coffee, granola bars, strawberry milk, blueberry milk, a restaurant’s homemade tomato soup and another restaurant’s chicken and rice sample dish were all part of the post race spread that led to the handing out of awards. And, no, I didn’t age place this year. There’s always next year though….

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 10.34.06 PM

Happy running!