Monday, December 28, 2015

santa hustle indy half marathon recap

Disclaimer: I received a free race entry into Santa Hustle Indy to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

I haven't been to Indianapolis in years, and so when the opportunity to go there for a race came up, I decided to take a road trip with my mom like the good old days. I've done the Santa Hustle Chicago 5k the past three years, and always had a good time, so being able to do a half marathon to finish out my 2016 race season, and in a different city, seemed like a fun time. If you want a short and sweet review, check it out on BibRave, but really, you should read my very thorough and personal recap here ;)

The event is held in a bunch of different cities throughout the end of November through December. Adrenaline Sports Management is the company that presents the SH in all of the race locations. They began on November 22 with a 5k and half marathon in South Portland, ME (New England), Chicago and Milwaukee 5k on December 5, Indy and Sevierville (Smokies) 5k and half marathon on December 13, and finishing off with Cedar Point and Galveston 5k and half marathon on December 20. 

They also offer a virtual race, which is still open for registration, and is available from November 21 – December 31. You can do 3.1 or 13.1 miles, your choice, your location, any duration of time, during those designated dates. All runners receive a shirt, hat, beard, and bib prior to their run, and upon completion and proof of run, half marathon participants receive a finisher medal and 5k participants receive a certificate.

Registration is through eventbrite, which ended up being pretty cool. In your confirmation email, you have a QR code that can then be added to your iPhone Wallet. At packet pickup, no need to have a printed copy, they just scan the code from your phone. Yay for the environment!

The course.

Since Indy is about a three hour drive, mom and I decided to spend the night in the host hotel. It was a little on the pricey side, especially when you added in parking fees, but I think it was worth it. When we arrived in Indy at about 5pm, traffic was pretty backed up to get to the hotel. On the hotel website it mentioned parking entrances on two different streets. Well, the first turn was so backed up I decided to try the other street, but it was a one way. This meant a bit of driving around to get back there, and to my dismay, that entrance was closed. So, I drove back to the other one. Traffic was very backed up in the right line, but I assumed parking would be on the left, and that lane was empty. The parking lot entrance said it was full, but I had seen some cars leaving on the other side, so I attempted going in anyway. Luckily, I caught some guys leaving and took their spot.

What everyone got in their packet along with a bib.
Half Marathon runners received a finisher medal.

We went to the front desk for check-in, and our hotel guy was very helpful and nice. I hadn't seen on the website (SH or JW Marriot) about late check-out for runners, so asked the gentleman if they were offering it. Now, the race didn't start till 9, and if you recall I am slow. I thought if there were corrals, we might not even start till 9:30, and then might not finish and get back to the hotel until 1ish. So when he said that we could do late check out, and if 1 was ok, I grimaced and asked if it would be too much to ask for 2. He smiled and said it wasn't a problem. Being able to shower post-race before trekking home made the hotel worth it, in my opinion. Especially when race day ended up being 60 degrees and 85% humidity. Oh Midwest weather, you so crazy.

Packet Pickup at the JW Marriott Hotel - in an Exhibitor Hall.

After bringing our bags to our room, we headed to packet pickup. This was being held in the conference rooms, so we took the escalators up (there was also SH signing directing you, which I found helpful), along with at table with hot chocolate near the escalators. Thoughtful.

Pickup was so easy. You headed to either the half marathon or 5k table, they scanned your code, gave you your bib, and then you headed over to the 1/4 zip jacket table where you got your jacket, santa beard, and hat in a red bag.

They also had their Santa Store set up, so you could purchase older SH gear (the different shirts over the years), or get a fun sweatshirt, t-shirt, etc. They had a lot of cute items. Pickup was held from 12–7 at the hotel, but they also had race day pickup (without that extra $30 fee other races charge), which I always appreciate. It was nice to know that if we got stuck in traffic and missed pickup, we could get our stuff on race morning.

After pickup, we headed next door to TGIFriday's for dinner. It was a bit of a wait to get a table, so we sat at the bar instead. I ordered a yummy pasta/chicken dinner. After dinner, it was time to get our gear ready for race morning. The temps were unseasonably warm, but I didn't know what the morning would really hold. I brought pretty much every option possible just in case - shorts, capris, pants, base layer long sleeve, t-shirt, tank, winter hat, gloves, tech hat, Buff, arm sleeves. Did I miss anything? I don't think so. 

Deciding on running clothes options, view from our hotel room,
dinner, flat Heather.

I took a shower and then tried to get to bed early, but I was basically up most of the night unable to sleep. That's par for the course when I'm not in my own bed. 

I got out of bed around 7:30 to start getting ready. I decided on my BibRave shirt, a pair of Oiselle shorts, and a Sparkle Athletic skirt. I left the arm sleeves at the hotel, figuring I'd take them off pretty quickly anyway. I also brought my Santa beard and hat. I filled up my water bottle and dropped a tablet of Cherry Limeade Energy Nuun, and put on my Orange Mud Hydra Quiver Vest Pack. This would be my first long run/race with the pack, so I was excited to see how it held up. (Post-race thoughts: Loved it. Plenty of pockets for all my stuff, and easy to grab the bottle. No chaffing or bounce issues.)

I'm really glad I brought my own hydration, seeing as it did end up being upper 50's-mid 60's at the start and finish of the race. I was pretty sweaty, so having electrolytes with me was a good call. I never would have expected to be so sweaty wearing barely any clothing in mid-December in the Midwest. It didn't quite feel like a Christmas race, since it was such nice (?) weather, but I think generally the mild weather helped people come out, be active, and have some fun.

Pre-race shots.
Bottom left: Caroline and I.

It was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the starting area, which was at Lucas Oil Stadium parking lot. There they had packet pickup (from 7:30–8:45 am), gear check, reindeer, photo opportunities (lots of cute little signs and those  funny photos that you put your head in... I don't know what they are called). They also had inflatable Santa and a snowman, which a lot of people were taking pictures with.

I met up with Caroline, a fellow BibRave Pro, and chatted a bit before race start. She was doing the 5k, which started at 9:30. It was so great to finally meet her in person! We laughed at how we were in our orange while in a sea of red. She ended up having a hilarious photo taken during the race, which made it look like Santas were chasing her. (You can read more about Caroline on her blog – check out her Santa Hustle Indy 5k recap; or, you can read the BibRave Pro Spotlight I interviewed her for).

A  volunteer/worked came up around 8:50 and let us know that runners should get lined up in preparation for the half marathon start in 10 minutes. I wished Caroline luck, and mom and I went over to the corrals. You didn't have to submit time, just line up according to the pace signs. They went up to 12m/m (I think), and then had a 'all walkers' sign at the back.

We always start towards the back, since we do intervals and are slower anyway. This race was much smaller than I was expecting. I'm so used to the giant races in Chicago (even the Santa Hustle 5k was a couple thousand runners), and that corrals would be sent off every few minutes. Instead, we were all let loose at 9:00am sharp. This was completely fine, because we were running on wide streets, so easy to keep congestion at bay. Even when the course thinned out in places (only one lane blocked off for runners), the racers had spread out enough that again, no problems.

There were SO MANY police officers working the roads, keeping us runners safe and traffic under control. I really appreciated how well they did stopping cars in time for runners to cross major intersections. Never once did I have to slow or stop to allow cars to get out of the race path. Not that I blame anyone when this happens, but just saying how amazing the Indianapolis (and surrounding burbs that we ran through (I'm not very clear on the area, so not sure who's jurisdiction/town we were in when, but pretty sure it wasn't Indy the whole time...)) officers were wonderful. I thanked them all as we ran by, and most heard/gave a 'you're welcome' response. There were plenty that even shouted out 'way to go' and other cheers to the runners as they went by. Fantastic people. There were also a bunch of signs pointing the direction, so I think even if you weren't in a crowd, it would be really hard to get lost. You'd have to be paying 0 attention for that to happen.

Mom and I in the start corrals, some sights during the
beginning of the race, signs pointing you in the right direction.

All of the volunteers at the stations were great too. Energetic, friendly, supportive. There was only water at the 5 aid stations, which again was fine with me because I had Nuun with me, but it was a little confusing because they had Sport Drink flags up. I think sometimes being in Chicago I get spoiled with the water stops, where 8 is usually the regular count for a half marathon. I'm a heavy drinker when I run, which is why I don't like to rely on the race - I like to have my own with me so I can drink when I need. I did take water at a few of the stops, since I fished mine haha. At about mile 1 there was a cookie stop (again, glad I had water to help wash them down), and then mile 5.5ish was the candy stop, which were little cups of mini m&ms. Yum.

Mile markers, Candy Station, fun signs.

The course was nice. It was a treat to get some new scenery. I'm so used to the Lake Front Path that, as beautiful as it is, can get a little boring. The course was mainly flat, with about three uphills, if memory serves correct.

Scenes passed during the race.

At the finish line, you got your medal, bottled water, and then they had Clif bars cookies, and Clif trail mix bars. After a half I usually like to eat a banana, so a little disappointed there weren't any, but not a deal breaker. I knew we'd go out for lunch after showers anyway. I was very happy with our time – it was almost a PR! Only needed to shave off a little less than 2 minutes. I wasn't even trying for it (just there having fun with mom), so it's good to see some results from the training this year. Hoping to break that 3 hour mark (finally) this upcoming year.

Headed back to Lucas Oil Stadium to cross the
finish line and get our medals.

Anyway, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed some Starbucks (so glad they were still open), where I also got myself a Justin's white chocolate peanut butter cup, then took our showers and finished packing up, and checked out of the hotel.

Spinner medal, goodies handed out post-race,
Justins and Starbucks treats for myself before lunch.

We ventured out into the city in search of lunch. We ended up at Steak n Shake... their fries are so good. The service, not so much. I wanted to order a shake to go, but the waitress never came back to our table after taking our initial order. I didn't feel like hailing her down, so we just headed out. The drive home was a bit rough, it started pouring about 20 minutes in, and never stopped. Boo. We made it home safely, though. And my legs felt great, thanks to my 2XU compression tights. Anyway, it was a great time.

Top: The JW Marriot Hotel
Bottom: Wandering Indy in my 2XU 7/8 tights and my BibRave hat.

Santa Hustle Indy was a very well organized and fun race. I would recommend it to anyone that lives in the area, and even anyone willing to travel. I think it's good for a PR or if you are just starting out and getting your feet wet in the racing world – a good time can be had by all!

Side note: if you are interested in any Orange Mud or 2XU gear, I have discount codes to share with you!
Orange Mud: BIBRAVE = 15% off
2XU: BIBRAVE20 = 20% off (expires 12/31, so get on it!)


  1. I didn't get to do a holiday themed race this year! This one looked fun! I love the swag you got for running!

  2. I'm so glad that I got to meet you! I enjoyed hearing about your experiences on the half route as well :)

  3. I LOVE how bold they went! Such an adorable family with such expressive kiddos!
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