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: Air Force Marathon Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry into 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 this year I was supposed to run the half marathon distance of the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio on the Wright-Patterson base BUT, of course, thanks to the ongoing pandemic issue, the race sadly was moved to a virtual format. I appreciate everything the Air Force Marathon race organizers did and attempted to do to hold the race as scheduled even if in the end it wasn’t to be. They were very communicative throughout the entire process. I never felt like this was a surprise thanks to their constant updates. I hope to have another opportunity to run their race some day since it was looking to be quite the event!

I chose to run my virtual half marathon a week after the actual race would have taken place. It just worked out better for me that way. My run went well and I paced myself relatively well without stressing too much about time. Now, it certainly would have been a different scenario if it was live person race but it wasn’t. The organizers will be sending out race packets next month so I will look forward to my swag including the race medal to arrive then.

I think the socks would have been a hit at the actual race, lol.

Now it’s on to other challenges and other goals to chase. But I will be looking at the Air Force Marathon race in the future again. You can count on it!

Happy running!

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!

Race Review: National Sweetest Day Run

So after running my first trail race in 3+ years in September, I thought why wait to do another one? I knew a friend who had signed up for this race, which had 5K and 10K options as well, and was doing the half marathon, so I was excited to sign up and run a race with her. This trail race, like the one I ran in September, did not disappoint. No Killer Hill’s this time but everything about it was pretty good. I’ll outline it all right here.

Course Scenery: The trails were beautiful to run on. This course was more dirt trail than grass field running, which I prefer. Many trees were in full fall foliage colors while the several pines had dropped needles throughout the trail making feel softer, if only to the imagination. There was some water that we ran around but it wasn’t easy to see much of through the trees. I also liked that this course stayed on trails and never crossed over any park roads. There were also some rustic old barns and sheds (probably used as county park facilities now) scattered along the course. Just gave it a nice feel.

Elevation Difficulty: Like I said above, no Killer Hill’s but, whoa, there were many ups and downs, several that were sharp inclines and steep declines where you had to be careful with your gait going down. And the one killer that did come, of course, was at the end of the half marathon portion of the course. No lie, it was a brutal, steep incline that led up to the final half mile remaining. My calves still remember it well, haha.

Aid Stations: Due to the COVID-19 virus and safety precautions, there were no water stations on the course and you were encouraged to bring your own water.

Expo Quality: No expo for the same safety reasons. Bib and packet pickup were accomplished one hour prior to the race at the race location itself.

Parking Access: Easy to find and right next to the starting point of the race. My only beef was that it was a county park but charged $5 for the parking. Not a fan of having to pay to park for a race.

T-Shirts/Swag: Nice long sleeve tech shirt and a cool looking medal for finishing. I COULD have gotten an age group medal too but I came up just short by one place. Boo!

Race Management: Another great job by Silver Circle Sports with organizing this race and keeping everyone safe with social distancing prior to the race. The packet pickup was quick and efficient. The race announcer had a lot of energy (and we needed it, so damp and chilly that morning) and made people laugh before their waves took off on the course. Great volunteers offering support and guidance on throughout the course as well. This group knows what they’re doing. I would recommend running any of the races they sponsor; they truly do a good job.

Any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line!

Happy running!

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!!

Race Review: National Procrastination Day Run & Walk

Let’s start with this: I signed up for National Procrastination Day Half Marathon very last minute and on a whim/desire to just run a real race for the first time since January. How crazy and desperate was I? This was my first trail race since 2017 and I never, ever train on trails. At all. Seriously, never. Add in the fact that the half marathon distance for this race had a loop of three times going up a hill labeled “Killer Hill” and it definitely earned that reputation; holy cow was it steep! Now, this being a race taking place during the pandemic, social distancing and all that jazz, I’ll explain why I give this race 4 stars.

T-Shirt/Swag: You receive a pretty sweet long-sleeve t-shirt with the race name on it and a fun slogan on the back: You put the ‘pro’ in procrastination….I thought that was too funny! And the finisher medal they provided was a pretty nice medal. Post race didn’t have the usual fanfare of tons of people (they discouraged spectators, obviously) but there was some edible treats like Gatorade, pretzels and a granola bar that you could have on request.

Course Scenery: It was great. The race took place in a beautiful state park with wonderful trails and view points to look at while running; not to mention looking out from the top of Killer Hill. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything lengthy like this on trails so, for me, it was an amazing change of pace and I loved it. I’ll throw the Elevation Difficulty category into this section since they go hand in hand. My Strava app listed it as 1,102 feet of gain. So, yeah, it was a lot, lol. Not just Killer Hill either; there were some other inclines that were just tough where they were laid out on the course, but, of course, thankfully there were some declines too. Just gotta look out for those roots and rocks!

Parking Access: Easy and simple, except it required a park sticker otherwise you needed to pay five dollars, cash. Of course I drove in the vehicle WITHOUT the sticker AND failed to go to the bank the day before so I had no cash on me. Oops. Besides that, once inside, it was easy to find where to park and to get out after the race as well. Nicely organized….which leads to….

Race Management: Great job by the Silver Circle group who put on the race. They had had all the precautions in place so that there was social distancing for all runners as we queued up for the race. There were staggered start times for each wave of runners so there was no bottling up at the start or even during the race itself. I never felt too close to anyone on the course. You were required to have a face mask while waiting in the start line and post race if you were waiting for another runner to cross or just needed to stretch out. Now, I gave low scores to Expo Quality and Aid Stations but not because they were horrible. They really deserve an N/A since they didn’t exist for the obvious reason of COVID-19 and the risks having them before the race and on the course.

I enjoyed this race and the, albeit brief, event around it. The course was great; it was a nice return for me to a trail race. The race organizers and all of their volunteers were absolutely wonderful. Friendly and encouraging when crossing the road in the park (where there was a person slowing/stopping cars) and the gentleman running at the back of the pack cheering on those runners to the random volunteers just monitoring mile marker points also offering up kudos. They all were just a great group of people at a real life racing event and they made it enjoyable when it easily could have been a hassle. Bravo! If ever in the mood to “procrastinate” you should run this race when in Wisconsin!

Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question!

Happy Running!!!!!

Sponsor Review: Raley’s Supermarkets, SPONSOR of the Napa Valley Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a $25 gift card to review Raley’s Supermarkets 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!

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Now, that the Napa Valley Marathon is over it is NOT the time to neglect your body and all you did to prepare for that race. It’s been a week since you ran, so you need to make sure you not only rest but keep putting fuel into your body. Specifically, recovery fuel. And, yes, Raley’s can help you in that department as well. Visit their website to see how simple it is to find exactly what you’re looking for and how to spot it in the store. They have every category for you from Clean Label to Gut Health to Organic to Keto-Friendly. And everything in between too!

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Post marathon is an important time for the body. There’s a lot of recovery going on so be sure to take advantage of Raley’s nutrition strategist who provides the necessary tips and information to make your marathon experience not only enjoyable on race day but afterwards as well. I mean, you need to prep for that next marathon!

I hope you take the time to visit Raley’s website and utilize all the free information, tips and advice they offer as well as visit the store and stock your pantry with some great products that fit whatever need you may have in your dietary lifestyle.

Happy running!

The Journey to the 2020 Milwaukee Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Milwaukee 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, let’s start at where I’ve been and then move onto where I’m headed in my running life. Below you’ll see a pic of me just before entering double sports hernia surgery (with a faux fear face) and then a pic of me when it was all finished and I had awoken from the anesthesia. This all came about from over training throughout most of 2019 for various races, the final one taking place in November. Three days after that race, I was under the knife and being repaired.

 

The recovery stage was and has been difficult. I am not a patient man and the main restriction of no running was brutal. All I was allowed to do for the first two weeks was walk on a treadmill with zero incline. After the two weeks, I was allowed to lift weight restrictions (which were to stay under 25 lbs. total, so I didn’t lift at all) and do what was comfortable except when it came to legs. The remaining restrictions included no squats, no lunges, no core work at all and no planking. So I did a lot of upper body work and kept up with the walking on the treadmill and added slow bike riding at the gym.

 

Then after a month and half, I was allowed to run finally. No speed work but at least it was something other than walking. My goodness, was it ever a breath of fresh air to be able to run again. I started simple, on the treadmill and then slowly stretched it to the outdoors where the terrain obviously is less predictable. It was just nice to move the legs again and begin to think about training for specific goals as long as there were no setbacks with this new lifted restriction.

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Now here we are, two plus months from surgery. All restrictions have been lifted for both running and lifting. Yoga is back in my practice as is leg presses, etc. for leg day at the gym. Happiness is not enough of a word to express my feelings towards being back in the groove. It hasn’t been forever, but, I also know that this is just the beginning of a new runner version of me. I need to change my running gait to prevent this from occurring again. I need to build back up my endurance and stamina. The challenge has been presented and I am not ready to tackle it.

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So, how does that relate to the Milwaukee Marathon being held on April 11 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? I wasn’t sure where I’d be at this point in time but I said if I was ready, I would at least make a go at a half marathon knowing I wouldn’t be ready for a full. So Milwaukee it is! Training has been going well so far as I’ve started to extend my distances in runs from 6 miles to 8 miles to 11 as a high so far. Nothing too strenuous and I haven’t pushed myself too far at this point. I can say I’m excited to be training for this half. I ran the same race last year but did the full marathon and set a personal PR by over twelve minutes! I’m really hoping to improve my half PR this time! I’m excited to race the streets of Milwaukee again at an event that was really topnotch last year. The improvements that the new group running the race implemented were huge in making it a success. Everything from packet pickup to the race to the post race party were ideal. A really great time so I’m looking for round two of fun. And you should join me if you’re looking for a half marathon or a full where you too could PR your time. If I can do it, so can you! Visit the site, pick a distance (they also offer a 5K) and sign up! Use code “RUN15” to save 15% off your entry fee! And you have time because the next price increase isn’t until March 7, 2020. Need another reason to sign up. If you do the half or full distances, here is what you will get:

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A tech t-shirt, an awesome medal, a quarter zip fleece and a beer following the race. Not to mention a great post race party atmosphere that takes place right at the Fiserv Forum, the Milwaukee Bucks new arena. I hope to see you there!

Happy running!