Wednesday, September 28, 2016

hot chocolate 15k/5k chicago 2016

Disclaimer: I received an entry for RAM Racing Hot Chocolate 15k/5k Chicago 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 was very excited when Hot Chocolate race series released its Chicago date for the 2016/17 season. I ran it back in 2014, but then the past two years it was the same weekend as runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which has been a tradition for me for about 5 or 6 years now. So, it was disappointing to have to miss it. Well in 2016 I'm BACK! They switched weekends and it is now being held on Sunday, October 30! 

The race series offers both a 15k option and a 5k. In Chicago there is also a 2 mile walk you can participate in. I just registered yesterday for the 15k, because I like longer distances now (and if I'm going to take the time to drive into the city in the early morning hours and pay for parking, I want to make the effort and cost worth it) and the 15k gets a medal! You know I love my medals. 

There are two waves for the races – Wave 1 5k and 15k is at 7:30am and Wave 2 5k and 15k begins at 8:15am. 2 mile walk is at 9:15am. (All times subject to change)

I'm sure you've heard me say how RAM Racing always has great swag, and this race is no different. The Hot Chocolate medals are different and unique for each individual city, which I think is an awesome touch. They also had runners pick between two different options for the jacket this year – a color option and a muted option. I voted for option 2 because I'm a fan of color and it's hard for me to keep lighter colors clean (I spill a lot haha), but I did like both options regardless of what won. Option 1 had the most votes, so that's your jacket for the 2016/17 season. What do you think?

Chicago expo information:
McCormick Place | Skyline Ballroom | 2301 S King Dr | Chicago, IL 60616

Friday, Oct. 28th, 2016: 10am to 7pmSaturday, Oct. 29th, 2016: 10am to 6pm

Here is the Chicago course (though this can always change):

Post-race you can treat yo self to some delightful chocolate fondu with a vairety of dippers usually including pretzels and marshmallows. Who doesn't like to reward themselves with some tasty treats after a race? Bonus: their chocolate is nut and dairy free.

Hot Chocolate race series is all over the country and I have discount codes for most of them! You'll get a free visor at packet pickup using the code specific for the city you are registering for.

HC Chicago (10/30/16) - Code:BRHCCHI
HC Columbus (11/20/16) - Code: HCCOLBR
HC Scottsdale (12/4/16) - Code: ScottsdaleBRHC
HC St. Louis (12/11/16) - Code: HCSTLBR
HC Tampa (12/18/16) - Code: BRHCTAMPA
HC San Fransisco (1/8/17) - Code: BRSFHC
HC Atlanta (1/22/17) - Code: BRATLHC
HC Dallas (2/4/17) - Code: DALHCBR
HC Nashville (2/11/17) - Code: NashvilleBRHC
HC Las Vegas (2/26/17) - Code: BRVEGASHC
HC Seattle (3/5/17) - Code: HCSEABR
HC San Diego (3/19/17) - Code: SDBRHC
HC Philly (4/1/17) - Code: BRPhillyHC
HC Minneapolis (4/15/17) - Code: MinnHCBR

Head on over to Hot Chocolate 15k/5k website and find a race near you. Don't forget to register using one of the above codes to score a free visor :)

Connect with Hot Chocolate 15k/5k:
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Friday, September 23, 2016

bucktown 5k recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for RAM Racing Bucktown 5k 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!

Here's my shorter BibRave review.

Bucktown 5k has been on my radar since I saw their amazing swag in 2014 – sweatpants! Every year something unique and fun. I wasn't able to race in 2014 or 2015, so I was excited that in 2016 my calendar was free on the day of the race. This year they had runners vote between a vest and sweatshirt – the sweatshirt won out (which made me happy because it's what I voted for haha).

Packet pickup for the race was held on Thursday–Saturday:
Fleet Feet Deerfield
800 Waukegan Rd.
Deerfield, Illinois 60015
Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 4pm to 6pm

Fleet Feet Elmhurst
124 Schiller St
Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 4pm to 8pm

Fleet Feet Old Town
1620 N Wells St.
Chicago, Illinois 60614
Friday, September 16, 2016 - 10am to 8pm
Saturday, September 17, 2016 - 10am to 6pm

I popped into Old Town on Friday around 11:30. They had pickups for two races at the store that day and Bucktown 5k was in the back of the store. For whatever reason the scanner had problems grabbing the code from my phone, so the guy just looked up my info using my last name. Quick and easy. Pickup included a RAM Racing drawstring bag with your bib, sweatshirt, and safety pins.

Race day brought sunshine, temps in the upper 60s, and the usual high humidity. The race start was at 8:30am on Sunday, September 18 at Burr Elementary School Grounds (1621 West Wabansia (Wabansia & Marshfield), Chicago, Illinois). i knew nothing of parking in that specific area, so we left early and got there around 7am because let's face it, my anxiety is high when I don't know what parking will be like. Luckily, there was a good amount of free street parking nearby (and I saw a bunch of other runners getting out of their cars, so I knew I was in the right area and felt comfortable parking where everyone else was ha).

At the race site (and by the start) there was a good amount of portapotties. There were no lines when we got out there around 7:30 (we hung out in the car for a bit). Eventually Eric got there and we met up to chit chat, I met his friends Tim and Megan, we took some photos, wished each other luck, and headed to our corrals. The corrals went from A–K and were released every 2 minutes. It was a good size crowd – a couple thousand runners (5,000 maybe?).

The course took runners through Bucktown – a cute neighborhood with tree lined streets and lots of friendly folks out cheering on the runners. One family even had their own water table set up manned by the kids – very cute. The course was closed to cars and was set as a tow zone, though plenty of cars were still parked out on the street. This made running the course a bit trickier, as everyone had to go around the cars. 

Mom and I ran together doing our intervals – 40 seconds running 30 seconds walking. We weren't gunning for a PR, so just taking it easy and having fun. There were some parts on the course that were very congested (mostly the parts that were half the street so runners were going each way, and then also had cars parked), but overall not too bad. Runners want to make sure to watch their footing, as the streets of Chicago are filled with potholes and uneven bits (I might have rolled my ankle once or twice). Not the races fault, just something to be aware of.

After the race, we received bottled water, Nuun in cups, bananas, and a plastic bag filled with chocolate milk from Silk, a bag of mini pretzels, and a Nature Valley Chocolate Chunk Bar. The after party had a DJ going, a photographer taking pics of runners with the RAM Racing backdrop and podium, samples of Nuun, and other tents for runners to socialize and hang out.

Pros post-race! We don't look nearly as sweaty as we were ;)

Post-race Party.

I met back up with Eric and friends, took some final photos and chatted a bit more before heading out separate ways. Mom and walked down to Stan's Donuts for a post-run breakfast treat, and then stopped into Starbucks next door. Who did we see there? Eric, Megan, and Tim! haha. Small world. Anyway, we took our treats back to the car, drove home, and then ate. I went with that big one - it was a chocolate pretzel drizzle something or other (bear claw maybe)? Whatever it was. Delightful. I ate my other two donuts over the next two days. Yum.

I don't eat donuts often, so these are a real treat.

Get in my belly!

Other than few minor complaints about cars parked on the course and some potholes, it was a well-organized race and I love the unique swag they come up with every year. I also like that they involve the runners in the decision of what we'll get (voting for options). They did the same thing for Hot Chocolate this year, and though the jacket I voted for didn't get picked, I liked both options so was still happy :)

I'd definitely recommend this race and plan on running it again in 2017 if it fits in the racing and social calendar. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

ampla fly review

Disclaimer: I received an pair of AMPLA FLY 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!

You all know I love to test out products. Shoes are no different, but I'm especially intrigued by shoes that have a design based on a ton of research. The AMPLA FLY was designed and engineered by a world-renowned sports scientist and athletic industry innovator, Dr. Marcus Elliott. He utilized advanced technologies to capture more than 30,000 hours of athlete data over the last eight years. The AMPLA FLY is the first product from AMPLA Sport.

The AMPLA FLY is a running tool that empowers the efficient use of force. It encourages better mechanics, which provides a platform to help you run faster, run farther, and become the beautifully elastic athlete you were designed to be.

1. Speed - puts the foot in an active 'ready-to-spring' power position.
2. Ortholite - lightweight, odor resistant, and fully molded for comfort.
3. Eva - thin layer of springy comfort close to the foot.
4. Ampla Eva Lite - feather-like resilient cushioning.
5. Forcepower - 100% carbon fiber plate promotes optimized mechanics. The FORECEPOWER plate technology guides the foot to a better ground contact position, gathers force at mid-stance, and maximized for application at big toe push off.
6. Ampla eva power - light and resilient foam provides a smooth ride.
7. Solid and blown rubber - durable and lightweight traction and durability.

The AMPLA FLY can be worn as an everyday shoe if you wish. Just like all new shoes, you want to begin working them into your already existing shoe routine. Start off with shorter runs or speed work and temp days, switching back into your other shoes for longer runs.

The AMPLA FLY come in both black and red for men and women.

For mid- and forefoot strikers the transition from a training and speed work shoe to a marathon shoe will likely be easier. The AMPLA FLY is totally new technology, so you want to give your body time to adjust and not get too judgy too soon.

As I'm in the midst of marathon training, and generally don't have many short runs, which is when I tend to wear new shoes to break them in/get used to them, I would wear them for the last 1–3 miles of my medium runs (so if I had 8, I started off with switching shoes for the last mile, then the last 2, until I felt comfortable in them). I wore them for Rock the Night 5k, and they worked out great.

I thought that I would initially have trouble adjusting and that I would definitely fall in them (or at least trip once or twice), but never had any issues. They felt almost normal when I ran in them, though there was that extra spring in my step, so to speak. They didn't feel heavy or clunky, but I wouldn't say they are as lightweight as some of my other shoes.

I did notice that my form was improving and it helped my speed. I'm not at the level of speed work just yet, so I can't speak to that, but I know a lot of the other Pros loved them on the track, so if you're at the level, I'd suggest you read their reviews or hit them up with any questions.

Rock the Night 5k.

Rock the Night 5k.

My only real concern with the AMPLA FLY ended up being with my Plantar Fasciitis. When my weekly mileage gets a bump (as it has been these past few months with marathon training), my PF often flares up. It hadn't been too awful pain wise, just a bit uncomfortable, but I did notice it being more bothersome than usual once I got to about 3 miles wearing the shoes. So this led me to wear them only for the shorter runs. I know others have been able to wear them for 8 miles+, but it bothered my PF too much. I think that maybe due to the carbon plate was why the PF hurt a little more than usual, but I'm not a scientist or shoe expert, so can't say for sure. I did request a little more information regarding that, and when I get it I'll update this post :) I have heard from some other smart folks that it can be due to tight calves, so I've been trying to make sure to get my stretches and rolling done every day. Oh, and they are not made for trails, so don't wear them for that purpose.

Finishing Rock the Night 5k. Photo cred: Frank

Honestly, I'd say that the AMPLA FLY aren't going to work for all runners (isn't that what all shoes are like, though?). I definitely think if you are looking to improve your speed or form, that giving these shoes a shot is totally worth it. I'll continue to wear them for short runs, and maybe one day I'll be good enough to do speed work, in which case I'd definitely give them a try for that, as the Pros have raved about it. I know they are working on other models, too, so maybe those would work better for me and the type of runner I am. If you have more questions, they have a FAQ on their website – check it out. They retail at $120 and there is always free shipping. I got my normal running shoe size and felt they were true to size.

AMPLA FLY will be sponsoring #BibChat on Tuesday, September 20 at 8pm CT. Join in on the fun, answer some questions, chat with like-minded folks, and maybe win a prize! 

Connect with AMPLA Sport:

What the other BibRave Pros have to say:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

volition america chicago half marathon recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for Volition America Chicago Half Marathon 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!

You can read my shorter review over on

You may recall that back in June I had a weekend with two half marathons. It included Volition Busses Woods and RAM Racing North Shore Classic. Well, September brought me a similar weekend with RAM Racing Run Mag Mile Half Marathon and another Volition race - this time in Chicago.

I originally hadn't planned on the Busses Woods race, as it was about an hour from home and I didn't know the area well (and I had a half marathon that weekend already), but when BibRave needed a runner, I decided to step up. It would be a new challenge for me – two half marathons back to back in one weekend (as in one Saturday and one Sunday), but I figured if I could get through Dopey Challenge which included a half marathon and then a full marathon, I should be able to handle two half marathons. 

Anyway, my point is that since I decided to do Busse Woods, I wanted to also do Chicago so that I could participate in the Double Duty Challenge. This meant an extra medal. It was a little extra, but if you signed up for DDC, it registered you for either your choice of: half at both Busse Woods and Chicago, a 5k at both locations, or a combo of a half and 5k. There was also a PR Challenge – sign up for this, tell them your PR, and if you beat it, then you get another medal.

Chicago's race was held on Sunday, September 11. It seemed a very fitting day for this race, as it's very patriotic, and it benefits Folds of Honor. Read more here, but the short of it is that it is in organization that that honors the sacrifice of our fallen and disabled service members by supporting their legacy with educational scholarships. Great cause, and I was honored to run this specific race on that specific day and in a way, honor those that sacrificed their lives that tragic day.

Packet pickup for Volition Chicago was held on Friday at Road Runner Sports in Chicago from 3–7, Saturday at Road Runner Sports Wilmette 10a–2p, and then on race day morning at the race site (I want to say from maybe 5 or 5:30–6? but not sure).

I went in on Friday with my mom, as we did pickup for Run Mag Mile that day too, and the running stores are just a little over a mile apart. For me, pickup was easy. My mom had some issues, as her name wasn't on the list. We can't quite figure out if it had something to do with registering for Double Duty Challenge as a half and 5k or water. Thankfully, the volunteers working were very helpful and friendly in creating a bib for her and getting her her shirt and bag. I really appreciated how quickly they resolved the problem. My mom had her registration confirmation email too, so it was easy to let them know what day she had registered and what. 

Goody bags included a blue drawstring backpack with the Volition America logo and a zippered front pocket, a tech-shirt, your bib, and safety pins. We were probably in and out within 15 minutes. I also tried on my shirt there to check that it fit well and that I didn't need to exchange. It fit well so I kept it.

The race site was at Arvey Field, a well-known location for mom and I for races. We parked over at Soldier Field and walked over (maybe a 10 minute walk). The half marathon start was at 7 and the 5k at 7:15. We got there around 6:30 and headed to the portapotties. There were 2 lines for 12 toilets, and though they seemed long, they moved pretty quickly (bonus points: they had had washing stations with soap and water). From there I texted Mark, he had just left that area, came back quick to have a chat and wish each other luck, and then he was off to toe the line.

Around 6:55 we went over to the start line. Towards the back it was hard to hear anything from the RD or announcers, but eventually the National Anthem was played, mom and I wished each other luck, I went to the back of the line of runners, and we were off.

The course took us around Arvey Field on the sidewalk (which that first stretch gets a bit crowded, but once you turn the corner it widens a bit and people spread out), and then underneath the tunnel towards the lakefront path. The half marathoners went south around the aquarium, past Soldier Field, and down to about the 7.25 mile where the turn around was. Some points had the runners split so not all runners going out and back were on the same path, but I think mostly we were. It was nice though, because I could see Mark coming, take some photos of him running, and we high-fived / encouraged one another as we passed. There was also someone that yelled BibRave at me and I think my response was yeaaaaah! haha.

Things were going pretty well for me. I was holding a pretty quick pace using 45/30 run/walk intervals. The day before I had had GPS problems with my watch, and this day I had user problems... I somehow didn't start it at the start, and when I looked down about .25 miles in it was still on the start screen, so I was annoyed about that. Generally I could still figure out my pace since it wasn't too far off, but I was so excited to know exactly how I had been doing since the day before was so off haha. Oh well.

Mile 2 on the course was very special. It was the Blue Mile. Members of Wear Blue: Run to Remember were out there. They lined the course with photos of service members who had lost their lives during their service. All of these people were of some relation to someone out running the course – family member, friend, loved one. It was very moving. Then after the photos, the course was lined with men, women, and kids holding American flags and cheering on the runners. Inspiring.

After the turnaround, approximately 7.5 or 8 miles in, I started having shooting pains in my ankle/achilles area of my left foot. It was a sharp pain that was practically debilitating. I'm honestly shocked I was able to stay on my feet when it decided to hit while running. I started to walk a bit more to try and work it out, and when it felt better I'd get into a slower run, felt good, so went normal. Then it would come back. Ouch. I stopped a few times to massage and stretch, and eventually after about 2 miles it went away.

With less than a month before the marathon, I started freaking out internally a bit. Thoughts of tearing ligaments or tendons popped into my head and I was like this race is not worth sacrificing all the hard work I've put into my marathon training. If the pain didn't go away, I'd just walk the remainder, or stop if it was bad enough. Thankfully, my active imagination didn't become reality. At race start it was in the 60s, a nice breeze, so seemed like a great morning, but for me by mile 9 it was creeping into the upper 70s and with all sun – I was getting hot. There were about 8 aid stations on course that had both water and Gatorade. Even towards the back of the pack they were well stocked with product and cheering volunteers. Always appreciated. Sometimes, being on the slower end, some races run out of water or Gatorade, and you are left with nothing, so it's always great when races are prepared for even the slower folks.

No problem following this sign :P

I had been texting my mom occasionally throughout the race and she told me my friend was looking for me. I was a little perplexed. I knew she was talking about Mark, but I was like looking for me at the finish? I still have 3.5 miles to go haha, but then I thought maybe it meant he was out on the path, so kept my eyes peeled. Sure enough around mile 10, he caught up to me and then ran the rest of the race with me. What a friend. Honestly, that act of kindness, camaraderie, and friendship really meant a lot to me. It also helped to keep me motivated. It was a nice distraction to have someone to chat with, too. 

Once the half marathoners got back around the aquarium going north, they went on the lower path near the lake to the end of that portion (that was mile 12 marker), then turned around going south again, down the hill, west back under the tunnel, up a small incline, and a sharp right turn to the finish line.

Mom had seen us before hitting the lower path by the lake and then joined us back towards the finish. After the tunnel they went to cheer me on at the finish line while I ran the last .1 miles.

Wish I had known my face was in shadow. Oops.

With Lacie - she's awesome and did a great job!

All of the miles were marked with mile marker flags, and maybe four of them had clocks. At the finish line the announcer called out your name and everyone in the area cheered. I was finishing with an older gentleman who was so sweet, and I told him 'let's finish this strong' and he told me to finish ahead of him haha. I told him I didn't mind finishing together if he wanted. What a cutie.

2 more medals to add to the collection.

You received your medal and a bottle of water, oranges, bananas, and pretzels. There was a Volition backdrop with a photographer. Mark and I also ran into the guy who had yelled BibRave (and to Mark he yelled 'Daddy' haha) - turned out it was my twitter pal Nick! We took a photo, chatted, said our goodbyes to Nick, took some photos with Mark and I, I took a photo with the backdrop, and then we went to the after party area.

The after party had a DJ, some samples of Naked along with free shoelaces, sunglasses, and stickers, the Info tent where you went to get your Double Duty Challenge medal, Wear Blue, and a few others. I grabbed some Naked samples that were delightful and then went for my DDC medal. My mom, having issues with packet pickup and her name not in the system, also had trouble getting her medal. Since her name wasn't on the list, they took her info down and planned on mailing out her medal. I had met the Executive Director Friday (such a sweet woman), who found me after the race to see how everything went. I thought it was a great event, and told her so (as did Mark), but mentioned my mom not being able to get her medal. She took care of it right away and so my mom took her name off the list so they didn't send her a duplicate. I thought that was an awesome touch.

Finish line photo courtesy of Mark.

This was a great event, well-organized, great medals, great support, and a great cause. I highly recommend this race series and I'll be keeping my eyes open for 2017 dates.