Saturday, June 11, 2016

volition america half marathon (elk grove) recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for Volition America Half Marathon (Elk Grove) 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!

When the opportunity came up to run Volition America Half Marathon in Elk Grove for BibRave (held on Saturday, June 4), I initially passed, since it was in a location that seemed farther from home than I'd rather drive. However, the team really needed someone run, and no one else was available, so I said 'What the heck.' I am SO glad that I did! What a GREAT race. You can read my shorter BibRave review here.

I had wanted to run Volition America Half Marathon in Chicago on September 11, and when I agreed to run Elk Grove, I asked if I could register for them both at the same time in order to be registered for the Double Duty Challenge (if I was being chosen to run Chicago for BibRave, that is). Luckily, Volition and BibRave are so awesome, they made it happen for me. I am very thankful to get to be a part of the BibRave community and to be able to run races on their behalf.

Registration was easy – you can go through the Volition America race page to get to the Eventbrite registration. During registration, you could choose to run the 5k, the half marathon, or one of the options for the Double Duty Challenge. These included the Double Duty Half Marathon (half marathon at both locations - Elk Grove and Chicago), Double Duty 5k (5k at each location), or the Doubly Duty 1 half marathon and 1 5k (you choose the distance you want to run at each race - a half marathon at one and the 5k at the other). If you had a promotional code (which I did, as well as anyone using the BibRave discount code I was sharing), you would just click on the enter promotional code link, a box would pop up, and then you enter it and hit apply. Easy to do.

They had two days for packet pickup along with race day. First option was at Road Runner Sports in Naperville on June 2 from 2–7, and then on Friday June 3 at Road Runner Sports in Killdeer 2–7. I originally was planning on doing race day (which began at 5:30 or 6 am), but I had another pickup to do on Friday for North Shore Classic on Sunday, so since I was only about 25 minutes from the Volition pickup, I decided to get it out of the way. I'm really glad I did. 

Packet pickup number 2 for the day complete!

At pickup, I was able to speak with someone who had been helping the director with the race. She asked if I was Heather when I went up to get my bib, as we had been chatting on Twitter and she recognized me (probably didn't hurt that I was wearing my BibRave Trucker hat), I said I was, so we introduced ourselves. I was able to ask her about parking, since the website said it was first come first served, and I wasn't sure if that meant it could fill up, and if it did, where would I need to go. I had never run this race and didn't know Busse Woods at all, so had no clue about anything. Luckily, she said there were plenty of spaces and it wouldn't be a problem, but they would have busses to drive runners from the back of the parking to the start line, so even if we were far it wasn't a problem.  

Also, the store had the Addaday Boomerang, which I had been searching for high and low at local running stores and could never find. It's AMAZING. Angie had one, which she let me try back at Fort 2 Base last year, and I was so envious I had started looking at every running store I went in. So glad to have that in my recovery arsenal. I also snagged two more tubes of the old Nuun formula. That's all they had left. Womp womp.

Anyway, at pickup I received a bib, shirt, and drawstring backpack. I was also able to grab my mom's too. I wish I would have tried on the shirt, or noticed that it was in fact a woman's cut, because when I put in a size at registration, it didn't seem like they were gender specific, so I did my unisex size, which is too small for gender specific. Rather than trying to deal with exchanging on race day, I figured since I was running Volition again in Chicago later this year, I would email and request a size change. Maybe if I ever lose the weight I'm planning on, the other size will fit ;) I received an email pretty quickly saying that it wouldn't be a problem to switch my size for September. Yay!

Friday night I did my usual laying out of the gear to make sure I had everything, took my 'flat Heather' photo, made my Generation UCAN Lemonade for the morning and tossed it in the fridge, and figured out directions. There wasn't an exact address for where parking was in Busse Woods, so I just dropped a pin in Google Maps app where the parking was and did directions from home to the dropped pin. It took us about 45 minutes to get there, no traffic problems at all. The website offered Ned Busse Preserve, E Higgins Rd and N Arlington Heights Rd in Elk Grove, and that race start is near the boat ramp and the south pool. This was enough for me to get exact location of parking for my directions.

Before the start.

We arrived at exactly 6am, were behind two other cars going into the Woods. When we were parked, we got out to get everything ready to go, and noticed a whole bunch of cars getting there. Not that it was packed or anything, but I feel we got there at the exact right moment to miss having to wait for other cars to park. They had volunteers helping cars to park, which was nice. Plenty of open spaces. According to the map, we had parked .5 miles away from the start line.

We noticed an indoor bathroom buildng near our car, so decided to see if that was open before finalizing our gear and heading to the start line. Mom went first, as I was finishing up my Generation UCAN (Lemonade was my favorite - you can read my review here). The bathroom was in fact open, so when mom got back I went. Again - perfect timing. No line when I got in, but there was one when I got out. It was nice to have indoor plumbing, and though no soap, there was running water. I had Moist Wipes and Anti Bacteria gel in the car, so no problem.

I sun sprayed and mosquito sprayed up, got on my Orange Mud back VP 1, got my bib on with my Race Dots, and then we walked to the start. I had a friend there with her daughter, and though I had just gotten to the race area and was about to look for her, boom, she was right in front of me. No looking needed haha. We chatted, and then it was time to line up.

Starting the half marathon.

The RD, Major Dan Rooney, USAFR F-16 Fighter Pilot, who started up the Folds of Honor Foundation (read more here), led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and then went on to tell his story and how Folds of Honor came to be. It was past 7am, and I had to go to the bathroom again. I felt a little disrespectful, but I could tell the story would be a minute (you can hear/watch the emotional story below), and there was no line for the porta-potties, so I ran over quick. Really glad I did, as I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it the whole race haha, and I'm not one who likes to stop for breaks at all when running, in fear it'll be too hard to get going again. I could still hear from the bathroom, and when I got back in spot, it was time for the National Anthem. The race started at about 7:12am.

There weren't a lot of runners, maybe 500 tops. I didn't know until after the fact that the race was supposed to be a 3:00 time limit. I'm glad I didn't know going in, because I definitely didn't finish in 3 hours and I would have felt stressed about that. I had assumed it was a 3:30 like a lot of other races, though I though I overheard someone say that they weren't sticking to that rule. I know there were a few others behind us, and it seemed like they let everyone finish, which I appreciate a lot.

Pretty scenery.

Course support was fantastic. There was an aid station approximately every 1.5 miles. I tried to keep track, but I lost count after a few miles haha. Each aid station had water and gatorade (different flavors—orange, blue, and yellow—but if you asked, the volunteer would let you know what they had in their hand). There were also one or two porta-potties along with the indoor bathrooms. Usually the aid stations coincided with the bathrooms, but they had the porta-potties too. All of the volunteers were friendly, energetic, and they all cheered us on or told us how great we were doing. I made sure to say thanks to all volunteers, cops, etc. out there. The race couldn't happen without them.

The runners were all friendly and supportive. There were two parts that were up and backs, and so many runners encouraged one another as they passed. So nice to see things like that. Also, runners that were not racers were cheering the racers on. Cyclists out on the path didn't run you over, but would let you know they were coming on your left, and how many. They also encouraged us along. I was running with my mom, usually next to her, but if I saw runners or cyclists coming at us, and knew a cyclist was behind, I tried to get behind her. The path wasn't super wide. There was one instance where I didn't notice the cyclist behind us, but he stopped, let the runners on the other side pass, and then went by. I apologized when I realized I was in the way, but he said it wasn't a problem at all and that we doing great. You don't get much of that in the city!

Running on bridges.

There were mile flags at each mile, and a few clocks here and there (couldn't figure out the reason as to when the clocks were there, but it was nice to have a few). Mile 9–11 seemed a bit off, but I had my watch so not a big deal. The course was well marked, any turn arounds or different paths usually meant there was a volunteer and cones/arrows.

Elk! This is only mile 3 or 4... look how sweaty I already am!

It was mostly cloudy, but the sun creeped out once in a while. It rained a little on and off around miles 7–12, but it felt so great I didn't mind at all. The race wasn't super hot, but it was very humid which gave me some trouble. I'm a baby when it comes to humidity, and my body just seems to shut down a bit when it gets too over heated. Humidity makes it hard because you're sweating bullets, but your body can't cool itself down because the sweat doesn't dry to help take some of that heat away. Woof.

Busse Woods had a good amount of shade, which I really liked. It's a paved path that has some beautiful scenery. Even some elks in there. I hope this race comes back there again next year. It's definitely on my list. I think I'll even pop out there once or twice for Chicago Marathon training. Will be nice to have some shade, but also practice running on pavement rather than trails all the time to help get me ready for race day. 

13 miles left. The entire mile was lined with motivational/inspirational signs.

At the finish line there were a line of about 4 military men and women on each side as you crossed the street, and i thanked them all for their service, while they thanked me back. I don't think I deserved thanks, but they were all so encouraging, it was a great way to push yourself to the finish. We received our medals, and then they had a variety of flavored Gatorade cups, bottled water, cups of Animal Crackers, cups of pretzels, bananas, and apples. 

At the finish line.

Right after finishing I saw a familiar face, but even more so, knew it was a voice I had heard so frequently. I went over to him and asked if he was the announced for basically all Chicago races, and he laughed and said he was. We introduced ourselves and chatted. I told him how I've seen/heard him at so many races and it was great to meet him. He asked what races I had coming up, and told me which ones he'd be at. I told him to look for me at Chicago Marathon, as it isn't crowded at all and I'd be easy to spot. Ha. Anyway, it was really cool to meet him and talk for a bit. Later my mom asked me if he was the announcer who got ours names right (there's one that does, and most don't). He is in fact that man, so thank you for the proper pronunciation! I'll have to mention that to him next time.

Free race photos would be available (a few days after the race), and they had a backdrop with a photographer still hanging around. We got our photo taken and it was starting to rain again. The beer on site was not one that I'm a fan of, and since there was a busy day ahead, we made our way back to the car. They still had buses out, which was cool, but we did our cool down on the walk back. I took some of my own photos, switched to my Oofos, and we were off.

13.1 miles done, 13.1 more to go tomorrow!

We stopped at Subway for some lunch to bring home, I showered and got ready for the parties ahead — our favorite local brewery's two year anniversary party and my uncle's birthday party. You can read a little more here in my Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3 recap if you'd like.
I really enjoyed this race, and loved that it benefitted such a great cause. Consider joining me in Chicago on September 11 for Volition America 5k or half marathon. Use code 'BibRave' to save 15%. I think it was very well organized, and other than the beer not being to my liking (if you know me, you know why), I don't have any complaints. I love a race that allows free race day pickup, and if I hadn't already been in the area the day before, would have utilized it, since it's not near me at all.
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