Race Review: Rock 'n' Roll Liverpool

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock n Roll Liverpool 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!

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous traveling to Liverpool for the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon in the immediate aftermath of the horrible terrorist attack in Manchester just a few days prior to the race. Ireland has deep, intimate connections with both Liverpool and Manchester and my community felt a tremendous amount of grief for this tragedy. But I needn't have worried as the local Liverpool community was absolutely prepared and ready to host this amazing event.

I took a 7am flight out of Dublin on Saturday morning. (It's only about 35 minutes to fly to Liverpool!) I didn't need to check any bags so it was super smooth sailing through the airport. My flight was full of Irish runners heading over for the race. I knew they were runners as several were actually wearing singlets and running clothes on the plane. At first, I thought they were just super excited to be heading over. I didn't realise they were actually RUNNING the 5k at 9am! I hadn't signed up for the 5k as I didn't think I could get there in time for the start. It turned out I totally could have made it there in time, even flying out on the morning of the race! I'll know better for next year. 

Public transport to City Centre Liverpool was super easy...and cheap! For £2.30, I took a bus straight to Albert Docks where the expo and 5k were located. While I was bummed to not be running the 5k, I did get the chance to explore the expo before it got really busy. I listened to a couple speakers and visited with some vendors, a few who are actually former or current Bibrave Brand Partners! 

I used AirBnB for my accommodation and it was perfect for me. It was within walking distance to the start and finish line, which was really convenient as I would not be able to take my bag with me to the race due to increased security measures. 

The race itself was so much fun. I really enjoyed the course. There were definitely a few hills throughout, specifically a long uphill drag around mile 4, but the second half had several downhill stretches which were greatly appreciated. The last 4 miles are right on the coast into a decent headwind. I had been warned that this could be a difficult section of the course, but it wasn't too bad. There were a lot of switchbacks and u-turns along this area as we followed the course back toward the finish line at Echo Arena, which could be problematic if you are gunning for a PB. I was just enjoying the race so it didn't bother me. 

The finish line area was unique to me. After collecting your medal and snacks, they usher you through a tunnel right into Echo Arena, where you can collect your bag if you check one. I thought this was fabulous because there were plenty of INDOOR toilet facilities available! You could also change your clothes if necessary and just clean up in general. Loved that! 

I thought it was interesting that the marathon started an hour later than the half marathon at this race. In my opinion, I always give precedence to marathon runners in races. They are going twice the distance and deserve fully stocked aid stations along the way. Instead, the half marathoners went first, which meant that marathoners finishing over 4 hours completely missed the concert after-party. Perhaps the organisers felt that since there were considerably more half marathoners than marathoners, they would cater to that population. I feel disappointed for those who did not have the opportunity to experience the Rock and Roll after party because they were still running because that is what makes the Rock 'n' Roll Race Series so unique. 

Overall, a fabulous experience and I would love to visit Liverpool again next year!

Race Weekend: Rock 'n' Roll Liverpool

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock n Roll Liverpool 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!

Living on an island requires a slightly different approach to planning a racecation! In America, I had no problem hopping in a car and driving 10 to 12 hours to run a race in another state. I enjoyed driving through the vastly different landscapes of the United States. In Ireland, driving internationally is still an option, it's just not as practical as it was in the States. Instead, I have discovered RyanAir- an airline with a bare-bones approach to travel that often offers flights to the UK for as little as €20 return! Sounds like the perfect option for a short flight across the Irish Sea!

I fly direct to Liverpool where several options of public transport are available to take me to the city centre, where I've booked a room via AirBnB. The expo is right next door to Echo Arena, and close to Albert Dock, the vibrant heart of Liverpool's historic waterfront and home to the Beatles Story, the world's largest permanent exhibition purely devoted to the lives and times of The Beatles. I can't wait to check it out!

I also plan to pay homage to the home stadiums of both my sons' favourite English Premier League teams: Anfield, home of Liverpool FC and Goodison Park, home of Everton FC. Yes, indeed, we are a house divided! 

Liverpool is very accessible from Ireland, as well as the UK. As a port city, taking my car to Liverpool on a ferry is an option, and something we might do as a family this summer. For now, I'm excited to tour this city by running the half marathon and enjoying the fabulous culture it has to offer!

Race Review: Bigfoot Trail 10K - Lake Geneva, WI

Disclaimer: I received entry to Bigfoot Trail 10K as part of being a BibRave Pro. All opinions are my own. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Traveling out of town to run a race is one of my favorite pastimes. I love exploring different destinations with fresh scenery, meeting new people and running in a new place. And bringing a friend with you makes the overall experience even better!

My friend, Tavia, and I ran ran our first official trail race at the Bigfoot Trail 10K on June 25, 2016. Tavia lives in my the same town as my parents in the Chicago area and we met a few years ago when I joined a local running group for the summer. We try to run together whenever I come home to visit. I was thrilled when she agreed to accompany me to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to run this race.

Lake Geneva is a resort city situated on the northeast bay of Geneva Lake on relatively flat ground, with some steep hills and bluffs. Settled in the 1830s, it has been a popular getaway for tourists from nearby Chicago and Milwaukee areas for over 150 years. As such, there are several beautiful resort hotels in the area.

Tavia and I decided to make the 2 hour drive to Lake Geneva the night before the race. Unfortunately, we found it difficult to secure a hotel in the city of Lake Geneva for just a one night stay. Since this was prime season, most of the hotels require a two-night stay. Those that offered a one-night stay were $279 per night! Not something we could afford. We broadened our search and found an inexpensive hotel about 10 miles outside Lake Geneva in a tiny town called Richmond, IL.

We had little expectation for the hotel or the town of Richmond. Neither of us had been there before and we were just hoping to find a place to eat the night before the race. We happened upon an Italian restaurant called Paisano’s in the little downtown area and decided to give it a go. It turned out to be the best meal either of us had eaten in a very long time! I had the eggplant parmesan and Tavia ordered a delicious pasta dish. We even met the owner who personally checked in with all the patrons to make sure we were enjoying our dinner. It was such an amazing experience that Tavia plans to bring her husband back there for dinner one day!

The next morning, we got up early to pack up the room. Although the race started at 8:30, we needed to pick up our packets and we knew parking was going to be limited near the start. Check out was at 11 and we didn’t want to be rushing from the finish line to get our belongings back at the hotel, so we just brought everything with us.

Getting to the Big Foot Beach State Park only took us about 15 minutes, but figuring out where to park was not easy. For out of towners like us, simple signs would have been very helpful. In fact, we met up with many runners who were unsure of where to go exactly. The website stated that parking would be limited inside the park so the local high school would provide more parking. However, the high school was about 1 ½ miles from the start line and there were no shuttles to pick up runners. For those running the 5K, walking to and from the race would double their distance for the day! Luckily, we found some other runners who thought we could get closer, so we followed them around to the parking area. It cost $5 to park the car but we were right at the start/finish line.

Packet pick-up was easy and there were a few tents of local vendors there selling some goods. The main event for the weekend was the triathlon that followed on the next day so most of the goods and race set up were geared toward that. There were plenty of porta-potties for all the runners as we waited for the race to start. I met up with Lisa, a fellow Bibrave Pro from Wisconsin, who is a veteran trail runner. It was so great to chat with her before the race and hear about her trail running experience.

It was a very informal gathering at the start line. The director shouted some garbled directions through a megaphone that were difficult to understand. Something about a two-wave start and fast runners go first. Tavia and I did not want to get in anyone’s way as this was our first ever trail race so we moved back to the second wave. Lisa was in the first wave so we got to cheer her on as she started.

The course was a 5K loop, with the 10K runners repeating it twice. I really loved that set-up because I got to see the same beautiful course twice and take photos of things I might have missed the first time through. The terrain varied throughout the race and included grass, woodchips, concrete, dirt and even gravel. It was a very wide trail so Tavia and I got to run next to each other the entire time. There were some deceptive hills within the course that definitely challenged us! We took in the beauty of nature as we ran through the forest preserve and stopped for photo opportunities as much as possible. Both water stops on the course were fully stocked and playing fun music every time we ran by. The later start combined with rising temperatures to make a hot and humid day so we were relieved to have such plentiful hydration on the course.

As soon as we crossed the finish line, we were given small towels that had been sitting in kiddie pools of ice water. They were wonderful! We were also given a small, prepackaged bag of food that included a chocolate soy milk. We saw a sign for a beer garden, but it was absolutely empty, which was disappointing. However, seeing as these trail races were not the main event, I can see how organizers decided to save the big party for the triathlon the next day. There were no finisher medals provided, but awards were given to the top 3 male and female finishers.

Overall, it was wonderful introduction to trail running. It was challenging, but not too technical where I felt completely out of my element. The wide course enabled me to enjoy the experience with a friend and the atmosphere was full of positivity and encouragement which I have come to value more than any prize at a race. I look forward to more trail running in my future.

Race Review: Hospital Hill ReRun 2016 - Kansas City, MO

Disclaimer: I received entry to Hospital Hill ReRun as part of being a BibRave Pro. All opinions are my own. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I started off the summer of 2016 with a trip to Kansas City with my good friend, Sara, to run the Hospital Hill ReRun event. I have never run this event before so I was thrilled for the opportunity take a little road trip with Sara and meet up with a fellow (Super)Bibrave Pro, Angie.

Hospital Hill ReRun includes two events run on consecutive days: a 5k on Friday evening, followed by either a 10K or half marathon on Saturday morning. I was ran the 5K + half marathon and Sara ran the 5K + 10K.

We made the 6 hour drive from Norman to Kansas City early Friday morning. It was a great getaway for me as I was in the middle of purging and packing for our move to Ireland. It was such a great set-up as the expo was at the host hotel where we were staying, which was just two blocks from the start and finish lines of the race! All we needed to do was park the car and we had everything we needed within a short walk.

Since this was my first Hospital Hill, I was not sure what to expect. I knew that this race has a very long and distinguished history as the longest running race in Kansas City, spanning back 42 years. I knew the course was going to be tough and that the accomplishment of finishing was known as “Conquering the Hill”. Race organizers reward this accomplishment with awesome medals and swag. Each runner received a short sleeve and long sleeve shirt for participating in the ReRun event. 

The expo had a super-hero theme and lots of vendors were there. I don’t normally buy too much gear at expos but I found a pair of Oiselle Roga shorts for super cheap that I just HAD to buy!!

After meeting up with Angie at the expo, the three of us changed quickly and headed out to the 5K start. It was such a fun, friendly atmosphere. Families lounged around the plaza, there was music and even a post-race BBQ for all participants! And, there was post-race beer. Not just a watery light beer, but a choice between two different craft beers. Yum!

The 5K route started off straight up a long hill and I got my first look at why this race had earned it’s name! The first hill was about 1K long, immediately followed by a short downhill. This pattern repeated for the entire race as there were not any real flat stretches along the route. The temps were hot and humid but the 2 aid stations were fully stocked and there was a misting station at one point.

We enjoyed our post-race beer but skipped the BBQ and opted for pizza and salad across the street, which was much more conducive to my plant based eating. It was a beautiful night to sit outside and just visit together with Angie and Sara. I asked Angie tons of questions about being a Bibrave Pro so I could learn from the master!

The next morning, we walked the two blocks to the start line and realized right away it was going to be a hot and humid race. I was a little achy from the 5K the night before and really just wanted to run well and not injure myself! Sara and I lined up together since the 10K and half marathon shared the course for almost 4 miles. But just like the 5K, the hills started right away and there was very little talking to be had on the course. I was so sad to see her turn off at the split!

I kept a steady pace as best I could, but the hills were relentless. Hamstrings and glutes worked overtime getting up the hills and quads took a beating on the way down. I took a few walk breaks around mile 10 and wondered how people could possibly run a PR on this course!

I overheard the pacers talking about the Hospital Hill at mile 12. There were so many difficult hill already, it was hard to imagine exactly what this last hill would be like. Well, it was short, steep and impossible for me to run up at this stage of the race. I actually laughed out loud and decided to have some fun with it.

The finish was a welcome sight and I happily accepted my medals. I was so completely drenched and started catching cold despite the hot and humid conditions. Luckily, we were so close to the hotel that I walked to the room, quickly showered and changed, then returned to the post-race celebration that included more beer and a pancake breakfast! Angie, Sara and I enjoyed the atmosphere and stayed around the finish line until the last runners finished. The volunteers formed a “Tunnel of Love” to welcome the last runners into the finish and it was a privilege to be a part of that.

Overall, it was a fabulous event and although the course was easily one of the toughest I’ve ever run, I’d definitely come back to Kansas City for this event if I were in the States.

Race Review: United Relay of America: White Route - Oklahoma City, OK

In 2013, I participated in an amazing event called One Run for Boston. One Run For Boston made running history by becoming the first ever non-stop relay to run across America from Los Angeles to Boston. Over 2000 runners helped complete the 3300 mile journey and raised over $90,000 for victims of the tragic bombing at the 2012 Boston Marathon. For my leg of the relay, I ran 12 miles at 2 am in the small Oklahoma town of Binger. Six friends and I drove 2 hours from our home in Norman to the hand off area in the middle of a dark highway where the only building in sight was a local bar called the Road Rash Saloon! (Seriously...it’s a place!) We had such a wonderful adventure that I knew I would absolutely do something like this again in the future.

Fast forward to February 2016 when I received an email message from James Hay, one of the founders of One Run for Boston, informing me about a brand new event that would be taking place in the spring. The United Relay of America is the world's first non-stop relay setting off from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles and meeting in New York City. The idea was to have all three routes create an unbroken chain of runners across the USA, all raising money for various charity partners. 

After looking at the map of each of the three routes, I saw that White Route would be running straight through Oklahoma City on the night of May 21st. I quickly signed up for the stages as I knew that I could convince my running group to join me! 

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Lucky for me, my crew of Runhers are always up for any crazy running adventures I have up my sleeve! We decided to commit to three separate legs of the relay through OKC for a total of 20 miles. We chose two different charities to support with our running: Arms Around the Child and Girl Rising. We felt strongly about both of these causes and asked all participants to donate to the charities no matter how many miles they decided to run with us. Although we ran three different stages of the relay, each stage was a unique experience. We had a total of 24 participants throughout the night with 8 of them staying for the entire night of activity.

White Route - Stage 200: The first leg was 6 miles long, and started at 10:40 pm. We met at the Chesapeake Boathouse at 10:15 pm to get decked out in our glow-gear. Since we knew we were running through the night, we thought we’d have some fun with our reflective gear!

I decided to ride my bike as support for all the runners for the first leg because I knew my body was not ready for 20 miles of running. With marathon training season starting up soon, I had no interest in injuring myself! The United Relay White Team had two amazing support crew leaders named Mikey and Fran. They were instrumental in coordinating the baton hand-off between stages. They stayed with the baton for the entire cross-country route! I had been following them on social media leading up to our stage and knew they were both from England. I really wanted them to know how much I appreciated their nonstop support so I got them each a little something to remember their time with us in Oklahoma.

Fran and Mikey wearing their Oklahoma gear! #Boomersooner #thunderup

Fran and Mikey wearing their Oklahoma gear! #Boomersooner #thunderup

Three awesome runners were passing the baton to us after running about 20 miles before us. They decided to join us for another 6 miles along the Oklahoma River, bringing our group to 8 runners and me on my bicycle. It was a beautiful night for a run and the river path was completely deserted. I was happy to bike along different runners, holding supplies and providing support as needed.

It was kind of eery biking along the path at this hour of night. We were the only people out there and it felt both exhilarating and a little bit scary as it was not the safest part of town to be late on a Friday night! We had enough runners where everyone was able to run with at least one other person, which made it more enjoyable for all.

White Route - Stage 201: The second leg of the relay was considered a group stage 5K. Several runners decided to take a break from this leg to rest their legs for the final 10 mile leg and we picked up a few new ones. We took this opportunity to take the baton on a tour of downtown OKC, making an intentional stop at the Oklahoma City Memorial to share an integral piece of history with Fran and Mikey.

White Route - Stage 202: Our final leg of the relay was 10 miles straight east. We rotated Runhers again and even gained a couple Runhims! This part of the relay was scheduled to begin at 2:00 am and would wind through a pretty rough part of town. We had a few support vehicles that leap frogged us through the night. We also contacted the local police departments in Oklahoma City and in neighboring Midwest City to inform them of our route so they might be on the look out for us. To our surprise, we had an officer meet us right as we entered Midwest City at about 2:15 am and he escorted us for the remaining of our relay! It was such an amazing gesture and really enabled us to enjoy the adventure of running through the night on what would normally be a very busy street on a Friday night.

We arrived at about 4am to pass the baton back to Fran and Mikey so they could carry it to the next runner for us. We crammed into our support vehicles and drove back to our meeting place at Chesapeake Boathouse to pick up our cars and head home for some sleep. While most of the runners headed home as soon as possible, I was too hungry to sleep! So myself and two other RunHers made a stop at IHOP to refuel before heading home. I finally got to bed around 6:30 am and managed to sleep a couple of hours before my kids needed my attention. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being Run-gover! But as tough as it was to get through the day, I would do it again all over for the adventure shared with my girls night.  

Happily Rungover after an all night running adventure!

Happily Rungover after an all night running adventure!

Curious about other BibRave Pros’ experiences with the United Relay? Check out their blog reviews here:

Angie  |  Cassie  |   Samantha  |   Amy  |   

 

 

 

OKC Memorial Marathon - Truly a Run to Remember

April showers bring May flowers. Sure…but in Oklahoma, April also brings a wide array of unpredictable weather conditions that are not always suitable for running a marathon. The last time I ran the full marathon at OKC Memorial Marathon was in 2011. That year, the race was delayed an hour as freezing rain and hail pelted the course. Last year, the race was delayed for over 2 hours as 26,000 runners took cover from severe weather (i.e.: tornados). This year, I could not have asked for more perfect weather. Temperatures hovered in the 50s with cloud cover and a cool breeze. It was a perfect day to run a marathon.

The goal for this race was to support a friend as he was running his first marathon ever. This would be a first for me as I have only ever run marathons alone. We discussed our race plan a few days before the race so that there would be no unspoken expectations of each other. The plan was that if I fell off pace, he would go ahead without me since this was HIS race. I have run marathons before and would be fine on my own. Otherwise, I would stay with him the entire way no matter what the outcome. We felt confident that a 4:00 goal time was realistic for us and so lined up with the 3:55 pace group.

The first few miles of the race were very crowded, which actually worked in our favor because we could not run faster than 9:30 per mile even if we tried. There’s a steep overpass at mile 2 that I knew we’d have to go easy and not let the crowd carry us up it too fast. At mile 3, I took my first Honey Stinger gel pack. I had eaten breakfast 2 1/2 hours prior to this and was wanted to make sure I didn’t burn through my glycogen stores too quickly. A RunHers Support crew was waiting for us at mile 6. We took a quick break as we each took about 15 EnergyBITS with coconut water. After a quick hug, high-five and photo-op, we settled into our groove again quickly.

The next 8 miles seemed to fly by. I took another gel at mile 10 and another handful of EnergyBITS at mile 14. I was feeling great and my friend was looking strong. We were cruising comfortably with the 3:55 pace group through the half-way mark. We were greeted with another steep overpass hill at mile 17. I knew that this was our last “major” hill and then all we had to do was maintain our pace. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the wall for my friend. I could tell he was not going to be able to maintain the pace but I didn’t want to discourage him from running his own race. As I took inventory of my own body, I was pleasantly surprised to assess that I felt great. I had no stomach issues and my legs felt strong. With less than 9 miles to go, I had a lot left in my tank.

After a quick bathroom stop, we fueled again through the mile 20 water stop. We each took our EnergyBITS and washed them down with some Powerade. At this point, I knew we were not going to be able to catch up with the 3:55 group. The sun was starting to peak through the clouds and I knew things get dicey once the sun starts beating down on runners. Although we kept a 9:00 per mile pace while running, we walked through the water stops in order to regroup and refuel. At mile 24, my friend had his first experience with acute cramping in his legs, so we stopped for a bit as he stretched a bit on the side of the road. He was in the throes of his marathon battle and I did my best to encourage him while also joining him in cursing the day we signed up for this race. With less than 2 miles to go, we pulled it together and finished the race in 4:13:30.

Finishing this race was exulting! I had never felt this good at the finish of a marathon! My parents and husband were waiting for us at the finish line. They have all shared the load of peeling me off the ground of a finish line after I pushed too hard or got too dehydrated. Many a time, one of them has watched me be dragged to the medic tent or hooked up to an IV. Their worry for my health is completely justified, and I wanted to prove to them that I could take care of myself enough to run marathons safely. So for me, the look of shock at how much energy and color there was in my face was priceless…better than any time I could have run that day! I had taken such good care of myself during the race so I could stay with my friend that I could FINALLY enjoy the finish line more than I even had before! THIS was a PR for sure.

It was such a privilege to be a part a first time marathoner’s journey. I got to see the journey through his eyes and remember why I started running marathons in the first place. I used to think it was about the pride of accomplishing such a feat…and it is! But it’s also about the arduous journey of 26.2 miles (for which you can never completely be prepared) and celebrating the finish with family and friends. No matter how fast I want to go for my next marathon, I don’t want to ever forget the feeling I had at the finish of this one.

The Upside of a Disappointing Finish: Chicago, IL

I ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. The first 16 miles were absolutely incredible. Everything was clicking, it felt easy, I was present in the moment. When I felt my thoughts drifting ahead to the finish, imagining what it was going to feel like when I reached my goal of breaking 4 hours, I caught myself. I brought it back to the moment, one footstrike at a time. In fact, I was in such an awesome zone, that I hardly even remember miles 6 through 14! I remember passing the half way mark and thinking, “Already half way done?? No way!” I was doing this!

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