Race Recap: Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon 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!”

 

In all of the years that I’ve lived in Florida, I have never been to Fort Lauderdale, but I am aware of the A1A highway and all of its appeal. This race drew me in with the promise of an oceanside run, though I was completely nervous about the heat as I was told there was no cover. Thankfully, the weather gods were in my favor because the heat would have surely killed me.

Pre-Race Communication was great, actually superb. I think I received a “final race information” email about 4 times. There was no way that people could say they didn’t know where to pick up their packet or what time the race started, that’s for sure.

Packet Pickup was easy. It was at the Broward County Convention Center, which you had to pay to park at (so annoying) but the hall was large and there were lots of great vendors.

 

Parking was a breeze for me as I opted for the VIP parking pass which allowed me to park near the finish line. I took the shuttle bus to the start line and after I got off I learned that there was free parking near the start. BUT- I think the $27 was well worth the money so that I didn’t have to worry about fighting with thousands of others to find a spot. The convenience of know that I had a place and could get to the start line on time gave me peace of mind. I do think it was weird that they didn’t drop you off closer to the start line and you had to walk the rest of the way, but whatever. 

The start line had SO MANY port-o-potties, which was great. I had the oddest experience, though, where a runner had a standoff with me when I hopped in the potty. She was convinced that it was “not my turn” (even though there were multiple lines for the port-o-potty) and decided that she would hold the door open and tell me to get out. Other runners started shouting at her that, yes, it was my turn and someone had to physically remove her from the potty door. That was so random and taught me that there’s a first time for everything.

The corrals were fenced off really well and there were pacers in place for both the half and the full marathon. There was a great big American flag hanging and they had an awesome saxophone player do a rendition of the national anthem.

Bag check was pretty cool since this is a point to point race, they had UPS trucks at the back of the running corral waiting to collect our bags and then they drove them over to the finish line. I brought along my goodie bag from the Expo because I knew that I’d need my Oofos after running 13.1 miles.

I was able to meet up with my fellow Bib Rave Pro Lisa for a quick chat and a Pro Photo before the race. We were both concerned about the heat and agreed that we weren’t necessarily running for time, but just to finish.

The course started closer to downtown, worked its way to the coast, we ran through a park and then made our way back to the coast. What a beautiful coastline to run on! There was water and BodyArmor all along the course, 2 first aid tents, and port-o-potties. There were some great locals that were giving out Twizzlers and around mile 10 a family was passing out beer in front of their house (no thanks).

Upon crossing the finish line, you received your medal (which is awesome!) and water. There were TONS of food options including Michelob Ultra beer, Barefoot Wine, BodyArmor sports drink, Bubba Burgers, and more. I opted out of eating anything that heavy at 9 am or drinking beer. I walked right back to grab my bag from the UPS truck, stretch out, and gulp down tons of water and a bottle of Body Armor. I did go back to grab a banana before heading back to my hotel.

There was this amazing sand sculpture made by the folks at Sandtastic.com, which was their rendition of the jellyfish medal. The line was crazy, stupid long to take a picture in front of it and I’m not one for lines, so I skipped that.

Even though it was ridiculously humid, it was overcast and I didn’t have to worry about the sun burning through my skin! 

Overall, it was a nice, quick getaway with my family- my kids got to enjoy the beach and I scored some great swag. Win-win for all parties involved.

 

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate Tampa 15K

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate Tampa 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!”

 

I have had my eye on the Hot Chocolate race series for a while now, so I was glad that I got the opportunity to try it out and see what all of the rave was about.

Pre-Race Communication was great. They emailed me to let me know that I forgot to pick a size for my pullover and they had a great training plan that you could choose to follow leading up to the 15K.

Packet Pickup was easy. It was at the convention center downtown, which I hate going to (mostly because you have to pay for parking). I had no trouble with lines, I was able to walk right up, show them my QR code and receive my bag. They even had an area for you to try on your shirt just in case you wanted to switch sizes, which I thought was very nice.

Parking was a breeze as there is ample parking in downtown Tampa. From parking garages to parking lots, I don’t believe that anyone would have had a problem finding somewhere to park their car.

The start line was right outside of the Tampa Convention Center and there were plenty of port-o-potties, bag check, and pre-race festivities going on. This is the first time that I have ever used bag check at a race, but I knew that I’d need my Oofos after running 9.3 miles. The bags were kept behind a fence, you had to place your bag check slip on it and they even had little zip ties to close your bag for you. That made me feel comfortable that my shoes would be safe.

I was able to meet up with my fellow Bib Rave Pros for a quick chat and a Pro Photo before the race. Kathy and I were even a bit matchy-matchy in our Bib Rave Pro gear as we both wore our Buff hats that day. Shout out to Michael’s wife for getting us the picture.

 

The course is gorgeous as you run along Bayshore Blvd. with great views of the Bay (aka Gulf of Mexico). The thing is, Tampa Bay gets pretty sunny and when the sun is beaming off of the water you can get pretty hot. Luckily for us, the weather was fairly cooperative, so it wasn’t ridiculously hot and there was an awesome breeze. It was a great day for running!

There was water and Nuun available at all of the aid stations AND they had sweet stations filled with M&Ms, marshmallows, and other sweet, chocolate goodness. I personally can’t run and eat snacks, but I know that those who can surely enjoyed it. They also had some awesome volunteers along the route telling people where to go and cheering us on, which was nice. There were first aid people bicycling along the course as well for those who may have needed help and I saw quite a few photographers out there.

The sweetest surprise for me? Was that photos were free! And were ready within HOURS of me crossing the finish line. That was amazing.

Upon crossing the finish line, you received your medal (which is awesome!), water, and WET TOWELS. I never knew how much I wanted or needed a cool, wet towel until I crossed that finish line. I am so happy that they had those available to us.

After picking up my bag, I head over to get my mug which included a cup of hot chocolate, biscuits, Rice Krispies Treats, a bag of pretzels, a marshmallow, and fudge. YUM! There was a DJ there playing music, plenty of photo opps with blow-ups, and stairs for you to have a seat on.

To me the swag was unbelievable. First of all, the mug was filled with goodness, but the medal was amazing! The medal this year had a keychain attached to it with the city name and year. AND? The pullover? I have never gotten a shirt like this in my very short running career.

 

 

I would absolutely do this race again, it was great fun.

Race Recap: St. Pete Run Fest

The St Pete Run Fest brought races back to Saint Pete. It has been a while since we’ve had half marathons here in Saint Pete, so I was excited to have an opportunity to run through this beautiful city.

Packet pick-up was easy. They held it at the Mahaffey Theater and it coincided with the Saturday Market, which allowed runners to do a little bit of shopping from local vendors. Some races have vendors at packet pickup, but there weren’t any vendors at the St Pete Run Fest packet pickup and I think it is because the Saturday Market was going on. I didn’t wait very long to be helped as they had multiple volunteers helping out with each distance. Relay runners get a timing bracelet to wear on your leg that you will pass on to your partner at the exchange point.

Parking in downtown Saint Pete is plentiful. There is both paid and free street parking as well as the Mahaffey parking garage (which is closest to the start) for $10.

Parking for relay participants, while they tried to make it as seamless as possible, was not necessarily the best. Runner 2 was supposed to drop Runner 1 off at the start line and make their way straight to Ferg’s to park. Well, my partner wanted to see me off and so when she tried to get to Ferg’s, the street was already blocked off and she couldn’t park at Ferg’s so she had to find street parking. After I exchanged with her at the relay exchange point, I was directed to drive to the Albert Whitted Airport and use my parking pass to park in volunteer parking. Well, I never quite found volunteer parking and so I went to the Mahaffey parking lot, showed them my pass and they were kind enough to let me park. There weren’t really signs for volunteer parking and so I didn’t know where to go. Relays that I have done in the past have had a bus that shuttles the runners to and from the exchange point. I think that would be a fabulous addition to this race so that runners aren’t worrying about exchanging cars, rushing to get to the parking place, and whether or not they’ll be able to see their running partner off.

I ran the first half of the race and the course was nice. I was hoping that we wouldn’t run over the brick streets that I ran over for The Getaway 5K and we didn’t. We weaved in and out of the streets of Saint Pete (lots of twists and turns), but the best part was being able to run through Tropicana Field (where the Tampa Bay Rays play) and around the outfield. We got a blast of air conditioning and I was able to make a restroom pit stop. There was also a DJ playing music on your way out of the field. I also ran past a marching band playing music, which was very cool.

There are tons of murals in downtown Saint Pete, which I think is part of the city’s charm and I do wish that we were able to run past some of the awesome murals during this race.

The exchange point was right outside of Ferg’s and I was able to get my medal and swag, grab the car keys and drive to the finish line to meet my partner. She says that her half of the race was beautiful but ridiculously hot (my half of the race was hot as well). There isn’t much shade on the course and while there was a 7 am start, I could have done with an even earlier start on this day. The problem with Florida is that the weather is so unpredictable- you don’t know if you’ll have breeze, humidity, heat- it is a toss-up.

The post-race party (expo) was amazing. Not only did you get a Tervis tumbler upon completion of the race, but you also got a towel, smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Outback/Carraba’s/Bonefish were present, I mean- they thought of it all! I was very impressed with the after party and the swag. The medal had a spinning pelican’s foot and was a nice size.

After the race, I did not receive an email telling me where to find race photos, so I had to go to the website and look under their FAQ section to grab the link for race photos. I did, though, get a postcard from the race directors wishing me happy holidays, which I thought was a very nice touch.

Overall, it was a great race that I would consider doing again.

Race Recap: Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade 5K

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was co-planning a surprise birthday party for a friend and used this 5K as a decoy to get her out and away from the house while her husband worked. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be freezing cold that day (“freezing” in Southern terms meaning 38 degrees) and all of the hills that Atlanta holds. My thighs are so much stronger now… or something like that.

Packet pickup was available two days prior as well as the morning of right outside of Colony Square. It was easy peasy- you received a shirt and race bib. No goodie bag or anything like that. They were giving away green sunglasses and green beads before the race for free that you could wear, though I wasn’t sure if the race organizers were doing it or if it was in preparation for the parade that would happen after the race.

Parking was readily available in local parking garages. I can’t remember the fee we paid, but the race directors did give out $8 off tickets that you could use when exiting the garage. So depending on how long you hung out after the race, you would just have to pay the balance.

There weren’t any port-o- potties, but you could walk into the Shops At Colony Square to use their public restroom and wait in the warm lobby until the race began.

The start line was right outside of the Shops At Colony Square. There were vendors taking St. Patrick’s-themed photos in front of the Midtown sign and promoters around for the upcoming Chips movie taking pictures and giving out swag (shirts and bags) as well. I wasn’t behaving very well before the race and… well. Fortunately, they uncuffed me in time to run. 😉

 

Let’s talk about the elevation.

I think it is safe to say that the course is not flat.

And clearly I don’t know much about regions because I had no IDEA that Atlanta was gonna hit me with all of those hills. Lord help my buns and thighs. It was no joke, so be prepared for that.

There was only one aid station just past the 2-mile mark and they had water.

I saw 1 photographer while running through Piedmont Park and that’s it. They posted the pictures in their Flickr album and on their Facebook page for free after the race, so that was nice.

Upon crossing the finish line, runners received their medal, there was also water, bananas and some bars available. Runners received a free beer from Reformation Brewery and there were two food trucks available for a price and one giving away food for free. (Guess which food truck I went to??)

Shout out to The Establishment of Atlanta— that goat cheese mac was on point!

On top of the food listed above, the post-race party included a live band playing music. Runners were able to sit and chill (truly chill, since it was so cold) on the tables and chairs out on the square and enjoy their post-race beer and food. Race directors also held a raffle to give away some small prizes, which was cool.

It’s definitely a race I would do again. Running through Piedmont Park was a treat as it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a small hometown race, but what a great vibe both before and after!

Did you run this race? You should post a review on Bib Rave. Check my review out here.

Distance: 3.20 miles
Finish Time: 40:45

Race Recap: Daytona Beach 1/2 Marathon Relay & Speedway Challenge

I was looking for a great girl’s weekend runcation where the best friend and I could catch up and run at the same time. The Daytona Beach Half was on my list of “someday runs” (yes, I have such a list) and what was great was that they offer a relay option. My best friend has never run a half, nor is she sure she ever wants to and I knew that my knee couldn’t quite handle one. So the relay was perfect for us!

This year was the inaugural year for the speedway challenge, which is the option to run both the half marathon and then lap the track with the 5K. Never one to turn down a challenge, I knew I wanted to do this as well. It would be a great time for us to walk, talk, and catch up.

Packet pickup was available the day before the race and the morning of at the speedway. I went the day before just to scope out the area, get a beat on what the parking situation was like, and let’s face it– waking up extra, extra early on race day to get my packet is really not my thing.

Parking was free and plentiful. They actually had runners pull up on the grass right outside of the speedway, so that was perfect. We were just steps away from the start line.

The potties at the start line were plentiful, but you needed to use your observant eye to find them. Right next to where we parked, there was one restroom and the line was very long. Upon asking an employee, we found out that there were a multitude (I’m talking 5+) other restrooms scattered throughout, so I was able to walk around and find a restroom with no line.

The start line was right on the track and again steps away from parking. What was great about this was that they had a car loop the track to start us off and as someone who is not very NASCAR-savvy, it was very cool to see (and hear) a race car in person.

We were told that the course covers “the speedway, to the beach, and back.” Since I participated in a relay, I only ran half of the course and my best friend was able to do the second half. I think she might agree that she got the short end of the stick because as we learned, the second half involved running over a bridge twice. Oops.

The first half of the course started on the track and then mostly ran through neighborhoods, nothing truly exciting to see there. The second half once crossing the bridge went on the beach for a bit, then circled back to the track.

Here is the elevation map from the first half:

I think it is safe to say that the course is not flat.

There were a good number of aid stations with both water and gatorade to drink along the course. The volunteers were great and very cheerful and supportive! Just past the 10K mark there was gatorade, water, fuel (in gel form) and potties for runners.

I believe I saw photographers in two or three spots along the route. Photos were made available two days after the event. The local newspaper was there and also shared some candids from the race, which was cool.

Upon crossing the finish line, half marathon runners received their medal, water, a Daytona race towel, and a freezing cold washcloth to cool off with.  They also had a time table available to receive a slip with your official time right away.

The post-race party included free eggs, sausage, cheese potatoes (which were SO DELICIOUS), bananas, and oranges. Runners also got free beer, but the line was too long for me so I just headed back to my hotel.

There were lots of race cars out and about available for photos. There weren’t very many vendors, though. I believe I saw two tents pitched with vendors there.

It was overcast this year, which was perfect because I can’t imagine how much more difficult the race would have been had the sun been out pounding down on us.

For the 3.1 “Lap the Track,” runners and walkers lapped the 2-mile track, exited the speedway for a short time outside before returning to the track for the finish. This portion of the course was pretty flat and if I had run it, I imagine that it would be a fast run.

Goodies for the speedway challenge included a jacket and a medal.  All in all, speedway challenge runners would have received: 3 medals, 1 race towel, 2 race shirts, and a race jacket.

This was my first time participating in any type of race challenge. I am glad that I chose to walk the 5K portion because my feet and calves were singing to me after my half of the half and we got some great best friend bonding time since we don’t get to see each other often.

The atmosphere of this race was so wonderful and I would definitely consider doing it again.