Marine Corps Marathon (2016) …..

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The 41st Marine Corps Marathon was held Sunday, October 30, 2016.  This is a race that I’ve heard so much about over the years.  It’s a “bucket list” race for many.  A “must do” for others.  Its called the “People’s Marathon” because they do not offer prize $$ to elite runners and they are currently the largest marathon which holds back on that cash prize.  This year there were 24,965 runners who finished (19,897 for the marathon, 5,068 for the 10K).  Its  advertised as a great race for first time marathoners.  Fifty percent of this race takes place on National Parks land.  Its organized and ran by the US Marine Corps with Marines marshaling the course, working the aid stations, cheering & encouraging runners. 

That’s what most people know about MCM.  Now the personal experience of it.  Marine Corps was my 34th marathon.  So, I’ve ran a few.  Some are super easy to navigate.  Others aren’t.  Anytime you add a big city into play, then the logistics will be more difficult.  This was no exception.  I drove to DC from the Ft Wayne IN area.  So we had a car.  This enabled us to pick  a couple ladies up from the airport.  Drive to the Expo.  Then drive to our hotel.  If you plan to fly to this race, plan to be dependent on Race/Hotel Shuttles, Metro or cabs/uber.  Everything is spread out and you can not plan on staying in a hotel then walking to the expo & to/from the race.  We did well driving BUT I drive in Chicago every week, traffic doesn’t stress me out AND I have a great group of ladies who all take part in navigating so that I can focus on driving. 

The expo was at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor (MD).  Isolated area, used for conventions & touristy stuff.  Shops, restaurants, Ferris Wheel, tours/cruises.  Expo was crowded but packet pick up was smooth.  We were able to quickly get our race bibs & packets.  However, if you wanted official race merchandise then the wait for that Brooks gear was 45 minutes to an hour.  We skipped the official merchandise.  Grabbed a few pics.  Toured the rest of the expo which was tight but a decent size. 

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After the expo, we left the car parked for a bit and had lunch and walked thru the National Harbor area.

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Back in the car to head to our hotel, which was in the Courthouse area, south of Rosslyn.  Initially I was concerned that we were too far out without Metro or shuttle service, both of which started after we needed to be at the start area.  But alas, we were in a great spot and able to hit the back security entrance for the marathon.  TIP – Pick a hotel in the Rosslyn area & you’ll be even closer to the finish (and back entrance for the race, which is at Meade Street & Marshall Drive).  

Race day started early.  Up at 4am.  Out of the hotel by 5am.  We walked to the race site & were “trying” to find that back security entrance.  Fortunately, we hooked up with a local couple while we were walking and they knew exactly where to go!  We were thru security and basically sitting at the start line by 5:40a.  Race started at 7:55a. The pre-race festivities, gear check & the main security entrance were all in the Pentagon North Parking Lot, which was about a mile south of the start.  We never did go down there since we had already walked 3+ miles by the time we got to the start area.  So we sat.  We were close to the start and close to a large group of potties.  It was a long wait but we had heard that it might take over an hour to get thru security so we had planned basically for an hour for security, an hour for the potty line & then a bit of extra time for walking & getting where we needed (including getting lost).  Always better to be early than late but the temps were cool in the morning.  About 48 degrees.  I was cold & my hands were numb by the time we started running and I was tired.

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The race started on Route 110 beside the Arlington National Cemetery, just north of the Pentagon, running north toward Rosslyn.  The first 5 miles were hilly but the majority of hills were in the first couple of miles.  I actually walked up my first hill in mile 2.  Hills aren’t my friend at this point.  I’ve had a damaged hamstring/glute for about a year now.  Its connected to my damaged back (ruptured disc) so I don’t stress when my body feels stressed, I just walk.  This was my 34th marathon.  If I feel like I need to walk, I walk.  End of story.

Race course was crowded.  No official “start corrals”, just signs to indicate that we should line up according to predicted finish times.  But most people didn’t do that.  The buzz in the air was all about the time limit to “beat the bridge” at mile 18.  Nobody wanted to start at the back and then have less time to get to “the bridge”.  Pretty chaotic as a result.  So we had a race course packed full of runners of varying paces and huge spectator crowds.

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Race moves thru Rosslyn, thru Thrifton Hill Park with fog hovering & onto Spout Run Parkway.  Very magical and one of my favorite areas of this race.

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After the Park we merged onto George Washington Memorial Parkway and ran beside the Potomac River to prepare for our first bridge crossing into Georgetown on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  You can see tiny runners on the bridge in the pic below.

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By this time, I was starting to see a pattern.  Aid stations were spaced pretty far apart for a road race.  Most major marathons have water stops between a mile to 1.5 miles apart.  At MCM, the first waters stop was at approximately 2.2, the next at mile 5.1, the next at mile 7.7.  These are approximations but I’m pretty close on the distance.  We had a total of 12 water stations for 26.2 miles.  Each water station had Gatorade Endurance and water, potties & medical was close but not always with the aid station.  

I’m starting to get thirsty about the time I leave Georgetown and head to Rock Creek Parkway, miles 6-8, but the views of the Potomac were awesome.  We passed the Kennedy Center but I missed it or couldn’t identify it.  Then the Lincoln Memorial, which I could barely see.  Those were miles 8-9.  Mile 9-10 passing the FDR Memorial.  Definitely couldn’t see that from my spot on course but we were by the Potomac & had a breeze and nice views of the river.  Still lots of spectators.  Mile 10-11 was the Wear Blue mile.  Emotional.  Both sides of Ohio Drive heading south toward Hains Point were lined with photos of fallen soldiers.  Name.  Age.  Rank.  So many under the age of 24.  Men.  Women.  Black. White. Hispanic.  People of our nation who fight for our freedom each and every day.

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Around Hains Point.  Mile 13-14 Jefferson Memorial (from the opposite side).  I can pick that one out.  J told me to take a pic so she could grab a breather.  Smile

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Then the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, DC War Memorial & Korean War Memorial – Miles 14-15.  I couldn’t see these from my vantage point on course.  If you didn’t know they were there (and I didn’t know their specific locations since I’ve only been to DC 2x previous) then you wouldn’t even know to look for them.  What I could mainly see was the Washington Monument at various points, thanks to its height, a course loaded with runners and streets/roads lined with amazing spectators.  The spectators never stopped, they lined the entire course.

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After passing the Washington Monument (and the WWII Memorial, which I couldn’t see from course), we entered the MCM Gauntlet.  This is the first cutoff point.  Runners must reach this section, around mile 15.5 by 12:38pm or they will not be allowed to run the National Mall campus which passes all the various Smithsonian buildings & the Capitol.  Possibly the coolest part of the course, so stay focused so you can get thru the Gauntlet. 

Mile 15 thru 18 is where you can get up close and personal with all the museums on the National Mall Campus, really see the buildings, their specific architecture and actually read their names if by chance you don’t have the layout of DC memorized.  I certainly don’t so I really enjoyed this section.  National Museum of African American History & Culture.

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DC War Memorial.  National Museum of American History.  Natural Museum of Natural History. 

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National Gallery of Art.

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US Capitol

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National Museum of American Indian, National Air & Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Castle (below), Holocaust Museum, US Dpt of Agriculture, US Dpt of Treasury.

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By this point, I was very thirsty.  I was getting cotton mouth between water stops.  I had Tailwind on me for nutrition and I was trying to be very careful and not take it all in as “fluid” vs using it as my fuel source.  Finally finished my Tailwind around mile 17 so I could use my bottle for water.  I was really behind the ball on fluids at this point and could only take so much in at one time.  I was using salt tabs too in order to help my water absorb.  I thought I was doing well.  I felt okay, was just thirsty, no sloshing tummy.

Mile 18-19 – Beat the Bridge.  Second & final cutoff.  Runners had to be to 14th Street bridge by 1:15pm or they will not be allowed to finish.  This section isn’t fun.  We hit the 14th Street Bridge and it was forever long.  We crossed the Washington Channel first, then over the East Potomac Park which we ran earlier for the blue mile, then we crossed over the Potomac River.  In all, we didn’t get off the bridge until after mile 20.

From 20-21 we looped the Pentagon area.  Nothing to see. I must have drank too much water at the previous aid station.  I got sick.  Vomited my water & Tailwind.  Nothing solid.  I didn’t feel bad, just couldn’t stop it from coming up.  I ate some pretzels to settle my tummy, grabbed a gel & refueled.  Off to Crystal City (miles 21-23).  Lots of restaurants and shops so there was a big crowd of spectators.  Fun area.  Then we were headed to the finish, past the Pentagon again (yes, super tired off seeing the Pentagon), past Arlington Cemetery & up a big hill to the finish at the US Marine Corps War Memorial, AKA the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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Cool medal featuring the Eagle, Globe & Anchor with a center piece that opens to reveal the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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Unique SWAG, a green thermal mock tee for cold weather & a 41st MCM patch.

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Overall a cool race.  Water stations & potties were spaced too far apart for me (and many others).  Four food stations and so many spectators who offered food to the runners that fueling should not have been an issue.  The route hit a lot of really cool things but there were a lot of things that were “advertised” that I couldn’t see from the run course.  I’m sure this entire race was a security nightmare for the Marines and I was impressed by how welcoming they were to us.  Very respectful, I’ve never been called “Ma’am” so many times in one day.  They did a great job with this race.  Very organized but not as easy to navigate as some venues.  Bottom line, each race is different.  If you are going to run a lot of races & travel to some, expect the unexpected.  Go with the flow.  Have a good attitude & just enjoy what the day gives you.  And expect a few “extra”  miles on your legs by the time you are finished with your race and back in your hotel.  We ran/walked 33 miles on Sunday.  Smile  Fun day but a whirlwind trip.  If you have MCM on your bucket list, I hope you have a few days to spend enjoying the area.  Lots to see & do in Arlington, VA & Washington DC.  Go, enjoy it!

** Run With The Marines ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Flying Pig Marathon …. A Pigcredible Race

The Flying Pig Marathon was my 32nd marathon.  Let it suffice to say that I know a good race from a bad one and I’d put Flying Pig at the top.  This was definitely one of the best races I’ve ran to date.  I’d go back to run the hills of Cincinnati anytime.  They did an amazing job with a lot of people, in very warm conditions.  Plus I’d like to shout out kudos to the communities, all of whom embraced this race as their own and were PROUD to showcase their town, their neighborhoods and they brought fun, food, music & games curbside for the runners to enjoy.  Incredible, Cincinnati, absolutely incredible.  Thanks for letting me run YOUR town.

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The theme this year was “Get Oinked for Life”.  As I understand it, they have a different piggy theme each year.  But the swag is always amazing.  This year they gave a gender specific tee, poster, gym bag (with yoga mat holder) & a buff at the finish line.  I’ve seen finisher hats in years previous but it was a buff this year.

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Nice sized expo with lots of Flying Pig logo’d merchandise.  I normally don’t buy much from the expo but I had a feeling this was going to be a great race so I grabbed a visor & an insolated water bottle, which was a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati.  

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Lots of piggy photo ops too.  If you didn’t get your pic with one of the many cool looking piggies, then really, can we even be friends?  Get excited, people!  Have some fun!  WhoooHoooo!  Me & Lindsay Glitter Girl on the Run leaving the expo on the right.  Pigs FLY in Cincinnati!  Yes, they do.  And thanks, Lindsay for being excited about all the cool piggies!  Smile

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This race was much larger than I anticipated so getting to the start & into the corrals on Sunday morning was a bigger process than I anticipated.  We had plenty of time but there were a lot of people (over 39,692 participants for the entire weekend)!  I said goodbye to Lindsay as she went into our corral.  Pre-race selfie with Lindsay below! 

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Her run plan was to crush the hills.  My run plan was to 1) not let the hills crush me, 2) have fun, 3) find some bacon, & 4) run with my friends!  So I went back a corral to be with friends and hope that they would walk up some of the hills with me!  Found Julie B at waiting for us at the entrance to Corral F!  Julie B, Tamyra & I walking up one of the bridge inclines around mile 3.  All smiles. 

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The sun was coming up.  The fog was lifting.  It was turning into a glorious day and we were all happy to be in Cincinnati to Fly with the Pigs!

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I found bacon immediately within the first couple miles (blurry pic but I was excited!!).  Then I found Elvis.  We ran in and out of Cincinnati several times.  Over 3 different bridges, past a few more. 

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Past Horseshoe Casino & into Eden Park.  The views in Eden Park were breathtaking.  It was hard not to linger and enjoy the view.  Most everyone was stopping for pics & I love to see that.  Runners ENJOYING the race vs zooming past all the cool stuff!

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We said goodbye to Eden’s park, passed under a cool footbridge & headed to the split for the half & full marathons.

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The split was huge.  There were 12,532 half marathoners (including walkers) and they split at an intersection with one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen (pic below).  Then the full marathon continued and had 3,861 finishers (including walkers).  I would like to note that the full initially had 4,737 registered runners.  Not sure how many bowed out or dropped to the half pre-race but the conditions got very tough and a lot of people were not able to finish.  I really hope that we didn’t lose 850+ people over that last half of the race.  That’s a big discrepancy in registered vs finished.

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After we dropped the half runners, we started to stretch out and head toward the neighborhoods.  There are a lot of races where I’d tell you to stick with the half.  So many races put all the sites & fun in the first half because the number of half runners always trumps the full marathoners by a lot.  They focus on those runners and then just stretch out the course for those of us who “have to” run the 26.2 distance.  Cincinnati was NOT like that.  There was plenty to see and fun to be had in the last half of the race.  Plus, I’ve honestly never seen as better proration of volunteers to runners.  Even the people who didn’t volunteer in an official capacity brought the party to the curb as we passed thru their neighborhood.

I’ve never ran a race with so much entertainment.  Live music.  Boom boxes.  Car radios.  Bubble Machines.  Mini Basketball stations.  Cheerleaders.  Singers.  Bands.  Children cheering and high fiving.  Mascots.  Fun, fun, FUN!

I’ve never ran a road race with so many food stations.  Bacon.  Need I say more?  Chocolate.  Hershey Kisses.  York Peppermint Patties (Pig Mints!!).  Graham Crackers.  Chocolate Graham Crackers.  Twizzlers.  Pretzels.  Oranges.  Watermelon.  Fruit cups.  Swedish Fish.  Pringles.  Trail Mix.  Candy.

I’ve never ran a race with the level of community support that I saw in Cincinnati.  Full on block parties.  Lots of drinking in the early a.m.  More piggy decorations than I knew to exist.  Beer shots.  Mimosas.  Margaritas.  Music.  Cheers.  Laughter.  Painted streets.  Encouragement galore.  And dogs.  If you love dogs as much as Cincinnati loves pigs, then you will be in heaven.  Big dogs.  Little dogs.  Old dogs.  Puppies!!  Fat dogs.  Skinny dogs.  Hairy dogs.  Friendly dogs.  Scared dogs.  LOL!  I loved the Cincy dogs as much as I loved the people!!   

The race stretched out.  Hill after hill.  Big hills.  Little hills.  But always hills. Hard race.  Don’t let all the fun deter from the hills cuz Cincinnati is know for hills more than fun.  There was over a 1000 feet of climbing and just as much descending (ironically not much  more climbing than in Olathe KS for the Garmin Marathon that we thought was flat & fast!).

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Our turnaround point was the Village of Mariemont.  Cute community!  By this time, I was soaked.  It was hot. Full sun.  I was dumping water on my head & I was drenched.  So, no pics by me but I grabbed this from the Mariemont Inn website because I wanted you to have a small taste of Mariemont.  The entire area was just this awesome. 

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By the time we got to Mariemont and were headed back to the City, the temps were soring and the runners were starting to suffer.  Some had been suffering for quite some time. I was hearing a lot of ambulance sirens.  I was worried about those around me. I was doing okay but going at a very pedestrian pace.  Lots of walking.  Lots of water intake.  Lots of electrolyte intake.  I hit every sprinkler and loved the Cintas station that set up with icy cold towels, dry towels and full water hoses with shower heads!  About the time things started to get really bad, race officials had gotten ice and were bringing it back to runners.  They had gators loaded with cases of water, huge bags of ice and were proactively headed from the finish back toward the runners still on course.  I was very impressed that although they had not planned for the higher temps, they were proactive and did what they could to help the suffering runners.  That’s a great race organization that is able to react quickly to a less than ideal situation. 

There were also about 30 bike support people on course who were watching the runners very closely.  They had supplies on their bike and would go get something a runner needed.  Med & aid stations toward the end were stocked with margarita shot blocks with extra salt, Coca Cola and things that we normally don’t see at road races.  I was very, VERY impressed with the Flying Pig Marathon.  I will definitely go back and run it again. 

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Registration for 2017 is now open.  You can register HERE for the May 7, 2017 marathon for $70 (or the half for $60) thru May 15, 2016.  Get Oinked for Life!

I’m headed into triathlon season now.  My next marathon will be on October 1st in Fort Wayne, IN.  The Fort4Fitness event that I’ve loved since its inception in 2008 is offering its first ever marathon and I can’t wait to run in my back yard and rock the run in Ft Wayne.  Flying Pig reminded me a lot of Fort4Ftiness in the way the communities come out to support the runners and that made me even more excited about the upcoming Fort4Ftiness Marathon.  I hope to see YOU in Ft Wayne on October 1st!

** Run Happy, All.  Have Fun & Enjoy ALL the Races.  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Kentucky Derby Marathon – 2016

I headed to Louisville last weekend to run my 2nd Kentucky Derby Marathon.  I love this race and it wasn’t difficult to talk me into a repeat visit.  I’m a huge fan of races in small towns where we can park the car at the hotel, then walk to packet pickup, dinner & the race itself. Its good for the runners AND spectators. 

MarathonMini Logo SPONSOR COLOR no year.eps

The expo is a nice size.  Not huge but a decent size compared to some of the smaller ones we have been to as of late.  Quite a few vendors to cover whatever you may have forgotten or to grab something special to remember your trip.  Packet pickup was quick and painless.  The full marathoners walked away with a gender specific tee & a hat for race swag. 

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Race day was just as painless.  The race started on Main Street about a block or two  from our hotel.  No gear check for us, so we just made our way to the corral and got in line.  Race started at 7:30a and we left the hotel at 7:00a.  Rain was on the forecast so we grabbed a selfie before we got wet.  Smile  Me, Katie & Julie M.  We tried  about 4 selfies.  I look equally as goofy in each one.  Yes, this is the best one.  No, I have no idea what’s going on with my hair.

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There are so many things I love about this race and I talked about a lot of them when I ran in 2014.  See that post HERE.  Race starts on Main Street and you run past all the local businesses, bars, restaurants, the huge YUM Stadium, the Louisville Slugger Museum and so much more.  The first miles of the race really showcase a lot of what Louisville has to offer, including the University of Louisville.  It weaves in and out of downtown.  Constant crowd support.  Neighborhood children out to cheer on the runners.  Good community support. 

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But honestly, everyone is just waiting for mile 8 and to enter Churchill Downs.  This was definitely a highlight for me last time and I was anxiously awaiting it once again.  By the time we got to this point, it was steadily raining on us and had been for a while.  So no pics from this round but I have some from 2014!

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We run into the entrance of Churchill Downs, thru the area where all the tents are located and I envision various vendors for race weekend, then thru the tunnels, under the track and into the back lots.  Pic below from 2014.

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Even though it was raining, there were still several horses out practicing when we ran thru.  It’s very cool.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Derby and this renewed my interest to make that happen.  Cool venue and I love running it.

Once we are out of the Downs, around mile 9, the half and full marathons split.  Although, I always enjoy the company of the half runners, and find it way easier to keep a slow steady pace when all of them are around, I was ready for a bit of solitude and for the road to open up.  The Derby Festival Marathon weekend is best known for it’s “mini” marathon (half marathon to anyone how doesn’t live in Indianapolis IN or Louisville KY).  There were 10,434 half marathoners and a mere 1,811 full runners.  So the road did in fact open up quite a bit as we said goodbye to the “mini” runners.  But we weren’t alone.  There were always people around and still a good number of spectators out, even for a rainy day. 

Now we were headed for Iroquois Park.  This is the hardest part of the race with lots of up & downhill sections but the scenery is spectacular.  I must say, I found this section particularly hard last time (2014) but it really wasn’t that bad this year, thanks to all the ridiculously hilly races I’ve managed to run over the last couple years.  There were some tough ups but I walked them.  And I found a surprising number of downhill sections which I don’t remember from last time!  The gentle rain made everything that much more beautiful and the road was wide open so that we could easily run the tangents up and down the hills and around the winding roads.  Very nice. 

After Iroquois Park, it was all downhill.  Like seriously.  I think we may have had 1 or 2 inclines after that but it was otherwise flat terrain.  We ran past so many amazing churches and historical homes, back thru the University of Louisville campus and we were headed back to the downtown area. 

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The aid stations were fully stocked and staffed, even with the rain.  They offered water, Gatorade & Cliff Shots in several spots.  Lots of potties and medical stations, if you needed them.  Plus spectators who came out even with the weather.  By the time we hit mile 23, it was a full on downpour.  I was happy to have a visor and just kept my head down and ran.  It was then that the rain finally penetrated my shoes as we could no longer see dips in the pavement but rather just splashed thru.  It didn’t dampen anyone spirits but there did seem to be a lot of people cramping and hurting in those last miles and I think it was a lot about the weather and the cool rain on their warm muscles.  Julie & I stopped 2-3 times to dig Biofreeze out of our bags for people who needed some assistance.  But alas the finish became visible and we put another marathon in the DONE column.  We even saw our friend Erica at the finish.  She killed her race and beat us by a few minutes (or more).  Smile  Julie, Random Dude, Erica & me.

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The Kentucky Derby Marathon is an awesome race.  Great spectator support.  Great community support.  Great course.  Great police/safety.  Great aid stations.  And its fun without too many crazy hills.  Put this one on your list if you haven’t already, it’s worth the trip to Louisville to run the Derby. 

The Derby Marathon was the first marathon of the weekend.  Yes, the second double marathon weekend of 2016.  We finished, showered, and drove to Cincinnati OH for the Flying Pig Marathon.  Come back tomorrow for that recap. 

** Run the Derby Marathon ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Shamrock Shuffle Weekend …. 2014 Edition

It’s not really fair to call this a race review because honestly, I’ve openly admitted a billion times that I think the Shamrock Shuffle is the BEST.RACE.EVER. 

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I mean where else can you chase down “little green men” and be considered sane?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  BEST.RACE.EVER.  And what’s better than 2 green guys?  Three, like we saw in 2013.  And what’s better than 3 green guys?  Well, the addition of a green gal, of course.  As a result, 2014 may be the BEST Shamrock Shuffle EVER cuz we now have 3 green guys and a green gal.  Thank you, mystery lady, it was super nice to see your addition to the group!  You can follow “The Green Guys” on Facebook HERE.

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In addition to chasing green people, there were a few more things to the 2014 Shamrock Shuffle weekend.  We started with the expo, which is super family friendly and busy over at Navy Pier.  My friend Nicki and I always take the kiddos on Saturday.  We spend the day “frolicking” at the expo, then hiking Michigan Avenue and the Lakefront path with our little monsters angels.   In addition to more candy than even MY children could eat, the expo also offered lots of fun in the form of a magic act, multiple dress-up photo ops, free food samples, free logo items, lots of “wheels” to be spun and people to meet.  The kids look forward to the expo each and every year and there is always a lot to capture their attention and lighten momma’s wallet.  We even took a friend of Aby’s this year to help with Mr. Michael enjoy the festivities.

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Sunday morning brought us SUNSHINE and coolish temps that quickly warmed up into the upper 30s, low 40s, by race time.  I met with some friends pre-race.  My Frankfort New Lenox Run Club (FNRC) members, Rebecca W – one of my fellow Emergen-C Ambassadors, my girl Nicki who goes to all the shorter distance races with me, and Kerry C who I’ve know for so many years and so thankful for our friendship!

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Then we were at the start corral’s and off and running before we knew it.  2014 brought us a three wave corral start, which I heard had a few hiccups, PLUS a new run course! 

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The new course was great and kept us closer to the Loop and Grant Park areas.  I liked the course a lot.  Fewer bridge crossings which are super hard on bad feet!   Wider streets.  More centralized location for spectators who want to see their runner more than once.  Great update for 2014!

As for my race, not the best but not the worst!  I finished in under 40 minutes and given my current schedule, lack of March miles, and the “few” extra LBS I’ve gained, yeah, I’ll take that as a win.  And as always, the Shamrock is a great kickoff to the  Chicago running season and let’s us all know what’s up in regards to our fitness. Good, bad or ugly.  Winking smile

There is always a huge post race party.  So if you didn’t like your race OR if you need to celebrate, maybe head over to the beer garden to drink a few beers listen to the band.    Here is a pic below of Maggie, Nicole, Judy & and I “listening to the band”. 

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Short of any “problems”, I’ll be ShamROCKing next year.  Maybe I’ll see you there?

Don’t forget to enter my raffle for RMHC – Ronald McDonald House Charities HERE.

**ShamROCK Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Dopey Challenge – Day 1

Despite a few minor snags with travel arrangements {due to weather}, I managed to get to FL with plenty of time to hit the expo, pick up the Dopey Challenge packets have a few beers, and be ready to run the 5K by this morning. Myself, Jason & Judy at the expo.

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As expected, the expo was packed but we did our best to look around, make a few unique purchases, grab all of our shirts, and get the boys skirted by Sparkle Athletic. All 6 shirts are pictured below. A green cotton tee for the 5K {which I got in Michael’s size}, a red gender specific long sleeve for the 10K, a navy gender specific LS for the half, a powder blue gender specific LS for the full, a black gender specific LS for the Goofy Challenge, and a white gender specific LS for the Dopey Challenge. I know a lot of people don’t like white but I was super happy with that being the color of the Dopey shirt. The color alone upped the chances that I’ll actually wear it. See the shirts below, along with the two bibs. We will be wearing the green bib for the 5K & 10K and the grey one for the half & full marathons.

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This morning started bright and early. We got up at 3:30 am (2:30 am Chicago time!) and hit the road by 4am. The race started promptly at 6:15am but that was the only thing prompt about the day. There was a lot of time spent getting into position in order to run the race, which gave us plenty of time to scout the crowd, pick out our favorite outfit, and find our friends. I’d like to send an unofficial shout out to the family who was dressed as the 101 dalmations, even the young tot was decked out in dots and had a dog collar. Then another favorite of mine was seeing young Belle {from Beauty and the Beast} who was dressed in her blue frock with white apron and she was even carrying a basket and a book WHILE she ran the 5K. Wow. That’s dedication to the charactor. As for myself and my friends, we were decked out in the Sparkle Athletic skirts and even the guys were good sports and joined the fun.

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We were in Corral B. There were only 5 corrals for the 5K with approximately 10,000 people running the event. I must say that I saw A LOT of Dopey bibs!! The race started in the dark with fireworks sending off every corral {yes, I missed the photo of the firewords}.

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We ran the majority of the race in the dark while attempting to be carful of footing and watching for slippery spots due to a light rain which fell prior to the race start. The majority of the 5K took place in and around Epcot. All the lights were on and everything was lit very well. It was a beautiful run, even if a bit crowded. Jason, Dawn, Judy and I at a prime photo spot.

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There were a couple spots for Disney Character photo ops too but the lines were pretty long, especially for Dopey. I bet the little guy never knew he was going to be so popular. 🙂 In all we busted thru Epcot for the 5K in about 29 minutes (with several photo stops). The pace was very random. There was a lot of weaving around people. It was exactly what I expected: super cool, crowded, fun, loads of amazing costumes, families everywhere run/walking, happy volunteers and beautiful sites. So far, so good.

As soon as we finished the 5K, the Dopey people were herded into a separate area to receive our bracelets.

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There is a bit of confusion as to what will happen next. Some say that we will accumulate a bracelet every day, for a total of 4 by the end in order to collect our Dopey Challenge medal. Others say that volunteers will cut off our 5K bracelets tomorrow and replace them with one which shows that we also completed the 10K. I’m not really sure and too lazy to look it up in our info booklet. Time will tell. I’m in no rush this weekend so just plan to take in as much as possible and not worry so much about details. 🙂

So that’s what’s happening so far in the Dopey Challenge arena. I’m off to take a nap now and attempt to recharge “my battery” a bit. I’m definitely tired from traveling and the new schedule, plus I’m having a few aches & pains due to a few snow related incidents that occurred at home before I left. I’m definitely not a 100% (or even close) and I felt it for sure today in the 5K. With only 3.1 miles down and another 45.5 miles left to run, I will be focusing on recovery quite a bit over the next couple of days.

** You May Be Goofy But I’ve GONE Dopey! ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Lansing Marathon Race Review & Personal Experience

First, let me start by saying that marathons are NOT easy for me.  In fact, they are damn super hard.  You won’t catch me signing up for Marathon Maniacs anytime in this century.  However, if you are a member of a “I hate marathons but run them anyway” group, then let me know cuz I’m sure I’d qualify for that one!

Why do I run marathons?  Not sure.  Let’s come back to that next week, ok?  After the swelling has subsided and Alexis has worked out my hip “issue” and the blisters on my toes have fully drained and I can walk without a hobble. Next week.  We’ll talk next week.

For now, let’s break down the 2013 Lansing Marathon, the only way that I know how via “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” method.  Smile

The Good

  • Nice, scenic downtown venue with restaurants and entertainment within walking distance of hotel.  

                                                                                             Lansing Marthon_capital

  • Free parking for expo and race.
  • Amazing Volunteers
  • Lively spectators.
  • Fully stocked aid stations with water, electrolyte drink, various snacks (oranges, m&m’s, pretzels)
  • Bathrooms scattered throughout the course
  • Start & Finish location next to the Lansing Center which allowed us to wait inside until just minutes before the start.
  • Well marked course, mile marker signs, police & volunteers to direct & protect runners.
  • Variety of race distances:  5K, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay & Full Marathon
  • Smaller race, good for PRs.  363 full finishers, 1187 half finishers.
  • Officials left the course open for as long as it took for everyone to finish all events.
  • Race Officials & National Guard (or some type of military crew), lined the finish shoot and gave the very last runner a standing ovation.  Nice touch.

Lansing Marthon_last finisher 

  • Great friends, F’N Runners & a nice Chicago crew were on location to run Lansing!  F’N Runners left, most of the Chicago crew right.

Lansing Marathon_ group

Lansing Marathon_chicago crew

The Bad

  • Original course had flooded so they had to reroute the course at the last minute.  Therefore, the scenic river trail running was mostly cut out and we were shuffled thru town, along highways, across train tracks & thru residential neighborhoods.  Not real exciting.
  • Broken up roads from winter weather, had to watch footing.
  • Hills.  Nothing insane but it wasn’t flat.  Lots of up and down rollers.  One long climb that wasn’t steep, just longish.
  • Expo was very light.  Not a lot of vendors, more of a packet pickup.
  • Race shirts were unisex and oversized.  Nice color, design and logo, just too big for most of us.

Lansing Marathon_shirt

  • Double loop course (due to it being rerouted).  Rough seeing the mile marker signs for the second half while hitting that first loop.  Rough knowing the first loop was tough and we had to tackle it again.
  • Train.  Many of us were stopped by a train; however, race officials have offered to adjust times accordingly.  If you were stopped, check the Lansing Marathon Facebook page HERE for details as to how you might get your time adjusted.

The Ugly

  • My race.  Hips started burning/hurting at Mile 8 and they still hurt 2 days post race.
  • Passing the finish line party as the half way mark of my already “ugly” race.
  • Knowing my friends were waiting on me for a long time.
  • Having to resort to run/walk to just keep moving.
  • Getting to Mile 20 slower than in any other of my previous 4 marathons.

Lansing Marathon_mile 20

  • Lonely second half of the race at the back of the pack.
  • Had to send an SOS message to my F’N Runners and have them come back to help/distract me.
  • Having a bad race on a perfect weather day.  Sad smile
  • Blistered feet/toes & bruised ego.

But none of that really mattered when I finally crossed the finish line.

Lansing Marthon_me finish   Lansing Marthon_me & sue  Lansing Marathon_medal

Official time is currently 4:48:59.  However, there is speculation that the time will be adjusted for the train that stopped the majority of us runners. If that is the case, and if they take off the 4 minutes that we waited, then my time will be 4:44, which ironically is also my bib number for the race.  Poetic.

Lansing Marthon_bib medal

Weather the time is adjusted or not, I really don’t care either way.  It won’t affect my real life in any way shape or form.  I do this for fun …..  even if I have yet to have a “fun” marathon.  I like the training.  I like that it pushes my limits.  I like that it takes me beyond my comfort zone.  And I like most of all, that it gives me a foundation for which I can work from moving forward.  I’m not at all deterred that I had a rough race, just more determined to make the next one better.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend the Lansing Marathon.  It’s a great race and ran very well.  Most of the items listed in the “bad” section were either out of control of race officials  (hello, flooding!!!)  or things which they are attempting to rectify.  Good race.  Good management.  Good people who care about you and your race experience.  I’d go back.

Lastly, let me shout out to my F’N Runners who ran so very, very well in Lansing.  Susan M won her age group and qualified for Boston (after running her first 50 miler just 2 weeks previous)!!!  Joe D hit a big PR for the half & took 5th in his age group, then came back to run almost all of us into the finish.  He may have registered for the half but he ran over 18 miles before it was all said and done by helping us.   April W smashed her previous half marathon PR by over 17 minutes!!  Kim B ran an amazing race and rallied the troops to come back to help me when I sent the SOS!  Keith G runs a marathon almost every weekend and he still managed to go sub 3:45!    Amazing runners.  Amazing people.  I am so happy to have shared the Lansing journey with all of them!

And thanks to all of you for your well wishes, happy thoughts and words of encouragement.  Good times.  Good friends. 

** Keep Running, At Whatever Pace YOU Can Manage ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

2013 Shamrock Shuffle 8K

It wouldn’t be fair to title this a “race review” since I’m clearly in love with the race.  I do understand that it’s not for everyone; however, it is definitely a tradition for me!  I love everything from the family friendly expo to the fast paced race thru the streets of Chicago.  Add in the green sparkle skirts, green men, and the amazing atmosphere and it would be hard to keep me away. The Shamrock is really a weekend event for me, not just a race.  I have friends who come from out of town and locals who go with to the expo for a full day of downtown shopping.  The expo was good this year with lots of stuff for the kids:  a magician, balloons, noise makers, sunglasses, candy and snacks galore!  There were a few things for the parents too from great deals on gear/shoes to naked men models from the Women Rock Chicago calendars.  (L to R:  Me, Pam, Mr. April, Amy, Mr. July & Nicki)

Womens Rock Models

Aby even made a shoe painting with Nike Free’s!

Aby Shoe Painting   Aby Shoe Painting_finished

And we came home with lots of loot.

Expo Loot

Sunday was race day.  The expo & downtown walking/shopping, plus my marathon training took its toll and my legs were definitely tired.  I knew this.  What I didn’t know was how that, plus my lack of speed training, plus my extra 6 lbs would effect my race time.  I can honestly say that this is the first event in a long time where I toed the line having no idea what to expect.  So I ran by feel.  Can’t trust the GPS watches downtown anyhow because one minute they say your running a 3:50 pace (right, I wish!!!) and the next it reads a 16:50 pace.  Total confusion.  If you “need” your watch, then go with a foot pod. The course was particularly crowded this year, possibly because I was running slower.  I did lots of weaving around.  The course had a detour, due to a jumper on one of the bridges over the Chicago River, but the course change was imperceptible and seamless.  As always, the Shamrock organizers did a fantastic job of running us thru the city streets as fast as possible.  I loved every minute of it and although I never ran particularly fast, I felt good, had zero foot pain and just enjoyed the moment. Last year I run just under 39 minutes even with a bit of a wardrobe issue.  I should have been faster.  So yesterday, as I was entering the 3rd mile, I flipped over to my time view in an effort to get under 39 minutes again this year.  I didn’t make it.  I finished in 39:23, officially a 7:56 pace although my weaving gave me a lot more real estate than the normal 8K distance so my Garmin pace recorded a 7:35.  Does it matter?  NO!  However, I was unofficially shooting for a 7:30ish average and to be honest, the race felt a lot more controlled that last year so I’ll take it as a win.  Smile My official goal for the 2013 Shamrock was to have fun and get a photo with the green me.  Guess who I saw as soon as I crossed the finish?

Green Men & Me

Hell, yeah!  Mission accomplished!  Let’s go grab some of that free beer now!  Thanks ladies for hanging downtown with me and sharing those beer tickets!  I had a blast.  My fellow lushes Shufflers from L to R (back):  Meg, Dawn, Michelle, Nicki, & Kerry.  Front:  April & Me.

AfterParty

Apparently we looked like we were having an amazing time because fellow Shufflers were giving us their unused beer tickets as they were leaving the Green Men found us again and took another photo with us.

Green Men_group

And they gave us their card.  Find the Green “Guys” on Facebook and “like” them cuz I know you already LOVE  them.  Fun times!!!

Green Guys_card

Until next year, keep on Shuffling! ** ShamROCK Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Other Shamrock Shuffle posts & photos hosted by the MagMileRunner blog hop:

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Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Chicago 2012 Expo Debacle…

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I’d like to preface this post with the fact that I honestly don’t like complainers.  I also don’t like to read blog postings constantly slamming events and race management.  The idea of managing and executing a big race is not easy and I fully acknowledge such and give them the appropriate amount of respect slack.  However, as a blogger, I believe I have a bit of a responsibility to tell “the reader” what’s up in the race arena. If we want to “go there”, I run more races in a year than some will ever run in a lifetime. So I know races, I know expos, I know that the only thing to expect is the UNEXPECTED but I too have limits.   So…..

How often does an expo get a post of its very own?  Not often unless one doesn’t have much else to do or say its really amazing or its really, REALLY bad.   Well, congratulations to RAM Racing for pulling a 2nd expo post out of me (I posted on last year’s expo HERE) …… and it wasn’t cuz it was amazing.  In fact, I wouldn’t even know if the 2012 expo were amazing because after I waited in line for 1 hour and 57 minutes OUTSIDE IN THE COLD, on my lunch “hour”, I was no longer amused by the chocolaty theme and just needed to leave.  

The 2012 Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Chicago race called for some changes.  To be honest, I’m not sure I would have registered but my girl, Nicky and I ran last year, we loved it, then spent the afternoon post race downtown bar hopping shopping.  So we she wanted a repeat.  Done.  Let’s do it!  Right? 

WRONG!  Things have gotten off to a bit of a rough start and I’m not even to the race yet.  Pam and I thought we’d pop over to the “new and improved” expo site in a Soldier Field parking lot at LUNCH to grab our packets.  Now, I go ALL THE TIME at lunch to pick up packets and while I won’t necessarily say I manage it all within my lunch “hour”, its usually close enough to make it happen.  Pam and I were excited as we stepped out of the cab:

Hot Choc_2012 w Pam at packet PU

Until we notice this massive line and about 40 port-o-potties lined up on the “other” side of the line.  Say what?  How far does that go down?  Are we really going to need those port-o-potties?

Hot Choc_2012 line 1 How much time do we have?  How long do you think that line will take?  Let’s see what Twitter is saying about this…..

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That BLANK white box would be where I was going to paste in all of our tweets to Ram Racing while waiting in line for our packets.  The tweets we composed while we were bored standing in line, freezing, in a parking lot.  However, they deleted “our” tweets off their Twitter account.   But they can’t delete the tweets from MY page…..

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 1:17 pm

@RAMRacing ….. In the horrid line for #HotChocolateRace packet pickup. Word is that Willy Wonka must be inside. Fact or Fiction?

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 1:25 pm

Thanks @RAMRacing for fueling us while we wait to get our #HotChocolateRace packets. pic.twitter.com/CiNMZIth

Hot Choc_2012 Aid Station 1

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 2:01 pm

Just reached aid station #2 at the @RAMRacing#HotChocolateRace packet pickup. 73 min in & long way to go. pic.twitter.com/zGU2XSP3

Hot Choc_2012 Aid Station 2Oh, and now we can see that the line is double deep.

Hot Choc_2012 Line 2  

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 2:47 pm

@michughes @RAMRacing I was 1 hr 57 min for packet pickup.

Wow, that was fun.  I waited.  I was cold.  I got “irritated”.  Pam had to go back to work. I was shocked that I had NEVER been to a more poorly ran packet pick-up.  I couldn’t get the phrase “time is money” out of my head.  I was irritated that somehow my time meant nothing to RAM Racing.  I considered sending them a bill at my hourly rate.  I considered sending them a bill at the hourly rate of the IronWOman surgeon standing next to me.  I considered leaving.  I decided to run the NYC Marathon NEXT year.  I finally got to the port-o-potties that provided a much needed wind break.  I was close.  I was FINALLY inside …… only to realize that there was another line to wait more.  AND THEN I picked up the packets.  One hour and fifty seven minutes.  Not even ONE minute was exaggerated and then I needed to wait in the cab line to head back to work so I could leave for my awesome commute home to get Toddler Man before his school closed up and/or called CPS on me.

Was it worth the wait?  Hmmmm ……. you have to be the judge of that.  This year the swag was a technical, gender specific hoodie.  I don’t like hoodies at all but this fits well and I think looks good.  It’s so much better than I anticipated.

Hot Choc_2012 sweatshirt

And they got my corral right, so that’s a major WIN in their column.  Cool bag too. 

Hot Choc_2012 swag

However, I’ve already decided that on principal alone, I personally need to sit out the 2013 Hot Chocolate Chicago race.  I hope they get their shit together cuz I really like this race.  Or I should say that I liked last year’s race.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring but I have to believe for my own personal sanity that the worse is over.

I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early RAM Racing.  I’m counting on you to bring me an amazing race experience.  Don’t let me down.  Screw up packet pick-up as badly as you did and that’s one thing, screw up the race that’s a whole ‘nother thing. 

I’m watching you.

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com

Sharmock Shuffle Expo 2012

It probably isn’t really fair for me to “review” the Shamrock Shuffle 8K since we already know this is the BEST.RACE.EVER. so I will just break the weekend into manageable parts.  I had a fun-filled weekend which was non-stop shamROCK.  I had so much fun with my visitors and the other ladies who hung out with us at the expo and on race day and I want to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to stop and say hi or meet up for a photo.  I know it was really chaotic but I appreciate seeing each and every one of you!

We started the weekend off with a bang with sush & hibachi on Friday night the Expo on Saturday morning.  We squeezed possibly one too many into the Suburban for the trip downtown on a cool, drizzly morning but made it safe and sound for the real fun.  As soon as we stepped in the door our group began to multiply.  I may have mentioned before I travel with a crew.   Even if I am “alone”, I always have my little ones and if I have other women, then they too are encouraged to bring their brood.  Back from left:  Lisa, Nicki, Kristina, April, Melissa, Jenny, & Jeanne.  Front:  Aby & I.

We walked around the expo and it was disappointing smaller this year.  Several of the booths that I was looking forward to shopping were not present.  The highlight by far was meeting the ladies at the Fort2Base booth.  They were super nice, we hung out there for a bit and Aby handed out flyers for their September 23rd race where they are offering a 3 Nautical Mile race (3.45 miles) and a 10 Nautical Mile race (11.5 miles).  In return they gave us a few of the leftovers from last year’s race which is super exciting to me because I have been coveting Maggie’s (MagMileRunner) half zip for quite some time!  According to Maggie and a few others who ran this last year, this is an awesome race and there are hot Sailors out on the race course cheering you on to the finish.  Something you single ladies might want to check out!  Plus the half zips are way cool and it’s an automatic PR if this will be  your first nautical race.  🙂 

Expo Loot:  Shamrock Shuffle shirt top (yes, it’s red…..enough said), Fort2Base half zips, green Shamrock Shuffle bandana, Strides for Families RMHC shirt, chapstick (x10), Sports Authority coupon, Vegetable Oil (strange but not as strange as the Oak Forest Fleadh vomit bag swag), and first aid kit.

I also met a group of the Chicago Running Bloggers but since I spent 2 seconds with them, it was difficult to retain all of the new names!  I look forward to meeting up with them again in the future when I can give them my full attention.  I also stopped in to talk to the ladies at the Ronald McDonald House Charities and scored one of their shirts.  Of course, they are still accepting charity runners for the Chicago Marathon if you need a registration and/or would like to help a worthy cause and raise some much-needed charity dollars.  If you are interested, I’ll be right there with you in a Team RMHC shirt on the start line of the 2012 Chicago Marathon!

Best expo find = PunkeeLove Headbands.  I was leery because I have purchased expensive, big name headbands at other expos that flipped out of my hair before I could finish a 5K but the PunkeeLove double strands, the green sparkles and the sales lady dressed from  head to toe in RunningSkirts.com adjustable piece under the band gave me the confidence to give it a try.  Half of me & Kristina showing off some PunkeeLOVE.

One more photo at the Expo and we were out the door for some shopping in the CHI.  Back left:  Me, Kristina, Brandi, Cathie, Lisa, Jenny, Jeanne, Nicki.  Front:  Michael, Aby, Rachel, Murphy, & Jack. 

Then we ventured onto Michigan Avenue for some shopping, lunch, Ghirardelli Chocolate, and sight-seeing.  The city was veiled in fog on Saturday and it almost seemed like we were on vacation somewhere exotic.

My favorite photo of the day:  Me, Michael (he’s smiling!!!) and Aby.

I also love this one of Nicki & Jack…..he looks like he just got away with something!

Brandi & Kristina:

Lisa & Rachel:

After a relaxing stroll along the lake, home we went to carb load relax & rest before race day.

Woooop!

Happy Running,                                                                                                                Amanda – TooTallFritz

Hot Chocolate 15K/5K (2011) Expo

I went over to Union Station on Thursday to pick up the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K packets for myself and two friends.

This is a stolen stock photo from the net, and let’s just say that things aren’t quite as clean and neat serene in real life as they are in this photo.  I feel bad for those who drove down specifically to pick up the packets because half the streets in the CHI are tore up with “road construction” and the other half are overly congested due to detours and well, uh, road construction.  In fact, just walking there was hell a challenge.  Once I finally got inside Union Station, there was even more confusion as to where I needed to go to get the packets.  There weren’t any signs until I was further inside and headed in the right direction, thanks to a flower vendor.  If you had your bib number(s), then things looked to be very smooth but if you needed them to look up a bib then the process was lengthy and tedious as you waited in line for one of two gentlemen to look up the number on an iPad.  However, I was there at lunch so this was a high volume time and I’m sure was probably better before and after the lunch rush. 

Apparently they messed up all the majority of the Corral Assignments but the volunteers were readily available to take care of the situation and it actually went very well, seeing as I didn’t have a spreadsheet of previous race times in my purse like they expected.

The jackets look awesome, fit well and are flattering.  The sleeves are a bit short on Ms. TooTall but not obnoxious and nothing that would prevent me from wearing it.  Possibly the best event swag that I’ve ever received with a close second going to the 2008 Pleasant Prairie Triathlon in Pleasant Prairie (Kenosha), WI where I received a super soft pullover fleece.  Plus there was a jacket exchange in case you ordered the wrong size.  Other than that, the expo was very small with few vendors and only one lady handing out Ghirardelli Chocolate squares.  I was able to get one square for each of my girls! 

Once I was able to review the packet, I realized it was empty included only our bib, a Chicago Athlete magazine, a coupon for Ghirardelli Chocolate, a coupon for Run Away Multisport and a map of the race day set-up.  I am certainly glad I grabbed the chocolate squares!  That being said, usually 98% of the contents of a large packet/goodie bag is garbage advertisements so I would rather get a good freebie, like this jacket, then a bunch of stuff to haul home and throw out I didn’t need.

Which race do you think has the best expo and more importantly, what is the best race SWAG (Stuff We All Get) you have ever received? 

More later on the actual race!

Good Luck to all of you who are racing/running this weekend!  Get out there and Make IT Happen.

Cheers,                                                                                                                         Amanda – TooTallFritz