Since I've been racing like crazy lately, I decided to put together some examples of things that work well in races and things to consider when choosing a race. Here’s some things that I’ve learned:
Size doesn’t always matter
A race doesn’t have to be big to be fun. I just ran a small half marathon in northern Michigan that was very well managed, provided great scenery and had great bling!
Local stuff is a great touch!
Pre-race communication is important
The companies doing it right are communicating with registrants, getting them pumped and excited about what they are getting ready to take on.
If you are thinking of creating your own event, check out Eventbrite!
What do YOU think makes for a great race experience?
This is one of my favorite races ever. Michigan is my “home” state, and I love to vacation in northern MI in the summer. Doing this race gives me the perfect excuse for a racecation. Charlevoix is a quaint small town about 45 minutes northeast of Traverse City, Michigan.
This is the 5th time I’ve ran the half here, and this year was the 10th anniversary of the race. Read last year’s recap here. I went up for a 10 day vacation – and the race fell on our last day there. I was so caught up in enjoying our last full day on the lake that I opted not to make the 40 min drive up for packet pickup the day before. I opted to pickup on race day, which was a piece of cake. In and out in less than 5 minutes! It’s just an outdoor tent by the water where you get a shirt, bib and goodie bag. There is one souvenir tent as well.
Communication leading up to the race was good. They were posting pics of the anniversary medal on facebook, which made me even more excited. Race day parking was a breeze as well.
I arrived just under an hour before the race and was able to buy coffee and use a real bathroom, hooray! Oh, and take in the views. Holy cow, Charlevoix is gorgeous!
Race day weather was sunny and 60. We lined up just before 7am and after the national anthem, we were off! You run past some pretty sweet homes near the water, and work your way east to the Little Traverse Wheelway, a paved multi-use path that goes for days. Unlike my normal routine, I didn’t take off too fast. In fact, I probably should have moved up just a tad more to the front. It took me a few minutes to get to the right speed and into the zone. My first mile was 8:46, which is way slower than I usually first start out. My second mile was 8:18 so I really was able to get settled into a good pace. My goals were to be under 2 hours, and ideally beat last year (1:58:05).
I remember last year that I took off very fast but ran out of gas by the half way point. I was so nervous that would happen this time. I had been vacationing for over a week and had been eating and drinking pretty much whatever I wanted. I had no idea what to expect in terms of performance. Just before mile 4 we start on the wheelway on the out and back course. Its very scenic and provides a great distraction. Half marathon walkers get to start early, so they were already coming back from the turnaround towards us.
By the halfway point I still felt good. I only stopped for one swig of Gatorade. I kept waiting for my energy to fade and so far it was doing pretty good. In the last 2 miles, there are a few minor “hills” and I was determined not to stop and walk like I did last year. I made it through without stopping! I knew my family was at the finish which is a rare treat, so I was motivated to stay strong and go for big strides. I came in at 1:56:23, which is my 2nd best time doing this race.
The medal is all about celebrating the 10th anniversary of the race. They incorporated a simulated Petoskey Stone pattern on it, which is Michigan’s state stone and native to the area. At the finish they had pizza and fudge (a northern Michigan specialty!) plus some chips and fruit. They have some cool breweries right by the finish, we we headed there to celebrate. Next year my goal is top 3 in my age group. I would only need to shave off about 3-4 minutes to do it. I can’t wait to come back and do this race again!
A hidden gem in the Pacific Northwest
"Disclaimer: I received a complimentary race entry for the North Olympic Discovery Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
The North Olympic Discovery Marathon is a point-to-point course on the Olympic Discovery Trail (an old rail trail) on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State from Sequim to Port Angeles. There is a 5k, 10k, half, full and relay option.
I saw the pictures of this race and immediately knew I had to sign up. I have vacationed in Washington State before, and knew that it was stunning. This race is a 2 ½ hour drive West of Seattle. The drive is amazingly green, with lots of bridge crossings and water views.
I arrived in Seattle on Friday and spent my first night at a friend’s house in the area. The next day, I made the trek over to the Olympic Peninsula. I can tell you that this area is kind of remote, but also worth the drive! They held packet pickup on Saturday from 11-6 and it was also available on race day. The expo was held at the host hotel, the Red Lion Inn, right by the waterfront. It also served as the finish line for the race.
I found a spot to do a quick shakeout run along the water, which my legs desperately needed after sitting in the car for 3 hours. The weather was around 78 degrees and humid. I then popped over to the expo. It was located on 2 different levels. You picked up your bib and bag downstairs at the hotel, then made your way upstairs to pick up your race shirt and see the vendors. There were about 12-15 local vendors at the expo. All in all, I was in and out in under 10 minutes. We received quarter zip longsleeve shirts for running the race.
Since it is a point-to-point race, they bussed runners to the start area. The half marathon that I was running didn’t start until 8:30 am, and the shuttles were running from 6:45-7:30AM. The shuttles picked up right across the street from the host hotel/finish line so everything was very conveniently located. Shuttles were very organized and on time. I had plenty of time to kill, I hung out on the beach for a little while and just took in the breeze before I had to hit the shuttle. I even found a coffee cart open near the busses. Score!
It was a short 10 minute ride to the start. The race started just outside the soccer fields in Sequim. They had water, Gatorade and porta potties ready at the start. There was also very limited parking at the start if you wanted to park there instead and be bussed back. They also brought in the local fire dept, who hoisted the American flag. Totally gave me goosebumps. The local marching band played the star spangled banner and we were off! I met up with my fellow BibRavePro Sarah. We ran down the rural road and after just one turn we were on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Course Elevation Chart
It was 70 degrees and 53% humidity at the start of the race. The course was partially shaded through the forest but completely exposed in other areas. We started a section of rolling hills that went off and on for the whole midpoint of the race. Some hills were quite steep. The last 3 miles were flat and followed the shoreline, offering great views.
There was plenty of water and Gatorade along the course, roughly every 2 miles or so. There were little markers along the way for each mile.
Finally, the finish was in sight. I came in just a few minutes past my 2 hr goal. It was 79 degrees and 50% humidity at the finish. I was beat!
The finish area, which was rather congested, was all along the waterfront. There was fruit, chips and salsa, fig newtons, bread, the most amazing yogurt parfaits with half frozen fruit (so refreshing!), ramen noodles, popsicles and coffee, lemonade an iced tea. Your race entry also gets you a free beer in the beer garden from a local brewery. However, that was very hard to get to, you had to walk all the way around, through the hotel restaurant and back out on the lawn of the hotel.
I only have 2 suggestions for improvement – I would move the start time up if possible, it really was quite late and made it more difficult to run in the heat. Secondly, I didn’t receive any pre-race communications at all. I started to second guess if they even had me on the list.
All in all, this was a very well organized, small town race with great scenery. If you have the chance to take advantage of it in the future, I highly recommend it!
On the hunt for the perfect fuel for training and racing –
"Disclaimer: I received samples of Generation UCAN to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
I have been looking for the perfect fuel for just about forever. I’ve been a distance runner for 18 years now, and I still haven’t developed a solid training fueling and nutrition plan. For the first few years I used gel packets which I hated. It was more psychological than anything. I would still run out of gas. I tried sport beans, but those just seemed like work. Then I got braces, so that didn’t work for me anymore.
I found a liquid that came in a pouch that I liked for awhile too. But that got expensive. Then I tried electrolyte tablets which I don’t mind. I just haven’t found anything that rocks my world. I got the chance to try Generation UCAN, which is something that I know lots of athletes use – even Meb!
The secret to Generation UCAN is SuperStarch.
What are the benefits?
I received an assortment of flavors and a shaker bottle.
I’m currently in the middle of training for multiple half marathons, then I start full marathon training next month. My weekly runs are between 3-6 miles, and long runs vary from 8-10 miles right now.
First, I tried the orange flavor on a hot 10 mile run. I had a few sips prior to the run, and drank about ½ to ¾ of the bottle during the run. I used the entire packet and it was unfortunately too sweet for me, like a sweet tart. Orange is naturally sweetened with Monk Fruit Extract. Energy level was fine though. I diluted what was left in the bottle and found it to be much better.
Next I tried the lemon flavor, which I assumed I would like, since I am a big fan of lemon. I used it on an 8 mile run and liked the flavor, it was not sweet. Again, felt good energy wise, but didn’t drink it ahead of time like it recommended. The texture is different than what I am used to also. It is thicker, you definitely don't feel like you're drinking water, it's more substantial than that, it's kind of milky.
I was intrigued by the idea of a chocolate energy drink. It’s nothing I have ever tried before. I had heard of people putting it in their coffee, and I’m a coffee fan, so I wanted to try it. First I tried it on its own (diluted) and it was like chocolate milk! Wow. Then I tried it in my coffee and I think perhaps I just didn’t get the ratio right. I can see how that would be good though.
I haven’t had a chance to try cran razz yet. I’m definitely going to try UCAN again once I start full marathon training in the next 2 months. That is when I really need the extra energy, not so much on a 6, 8 or 10 miler. Plus it’s getting hot as heck here in AZ, so I’ll end up needing to drink every last drop!
The cost of a 30 serving tub is $60. A 1-scoop serving has 60 calories, and 20 g carbs. I’m interested in trying their protein blend which comes in vanilla or chocolate, since I’m macrocounting these days and need all the protein I can get.
So for me, the jury is still out. I need it give it more of a try on a longer run, especially before my run, and see if that makes a difference.
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!