Mic Drop-Race Review of the Final Rock and Roll Raleigh Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Rock and Roll Raleigh Half Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro(ambassador), and check out BibRave.comto review find and write race reviews!”

Before I get into my review of the race, I wanted to share some thoughts about this race as it’s time has come to an end. Being a native North Carolinian, I was pumped when the Rock and Roll Marathon Series brought a race to Raleigh in 2014. I told myself I would run this race every year it was here, it is only right. You can imagine the heartbreak when I learned that after this year, Rock and Roll Series would not be returning to Raleigh. You may ask, why would a popular race pull out of a beautiful city after only 4 years.. A few different factors played a part in the decision.

1.    Participation dropped. The inaugural year in 2014, I remember talking to a police officer at the expo and he told me there were over 15,000 runners expected, from every state and several countries.This year there were only about 6,000. The inaugural year they had both half and full marathon distances, but through the years the marathon became less possible and it was dropped completely off this year’s schedule. This year only had half marathon, 10k, and half marathon relay(latter two were added this year)

2.    Businesses complained every year. Some local businesses, along with several churches in the downtown area would complain every year about the road closures. I guess it didn’t help that the races were on Sundays and always appear to happen around Easter time.

3.    Runners Complained. If you have ever visited Raleigh, NC you know that it is not the flattest place. There are hills on top of hills on top of hills, but don’t runners enjoy a challenge? Apparently not. The first year there were unfortunately 2 runner deaths on the course and numerous complaints about the marathon route. The next couple years they changed the route but the participation never fully recovered. They later added a 5k on Saturday to start a remix challenge weekend

I, like many people of the local running community, are sad to see the race go. For a lot of them, this race was their first half or full marathon. Bittersweet indeed. Now for the final review of Rock and Roll Raleigh.

EXPO
I decided to make my trip to the expo on my way home from work on the first day it opened. I got there around 5:30 and it was a pretty quick process to get my bibs and shirts. (part of it was probably because it was the first day and a lot of out of towners hadn’t arrived). I had already told myself that since this was the last year, I wanted to buy something to commemorate it’s final year. For the inaugural race, I bought a hat, that I still wear during runs so that was my first choice. They had hats, but sadly he hats did not have the year listed on them, only “Rock and Roll Raleigh Marathon & Half”. I got one anyway. I also purchased one of their 13.1 shirts that listed all the males or females that were running the half marathon. I thought that was cool idea, it who doesn’t like to see their name in print? As far as vendors, it was pretty light for an expo. The venue was huge but the vendors only took up about a quarter of the space. The vendors they did have were of quality, so you could still find some nice things.

Raceday #1
It was a remix challenge weekend and an extra medal was up for grabs, so you know I had to accept the challenge. Up first was a 5k on Saturday morning. It was a little chilly and rainy for a spring morning but we can’t control the weather. The 5k took place on Dorothea Dix campus, so both spectators and runners had to catch shuttles to the location. Having ran on this campus numerous times, I knew we would be in for some hills. I fought through the hills to a 19th overall finish and 2nd in my age group. Local news station even got me crossing the finish line. I had several people tell me they saw me on the 6 o’clock news.

Raceday #2
Finally it was time to toe the line for the RnR Raleigh half marathon for the last time. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at the start knowing that this would be the last opportunity for anyone to run the Rock and Roll series in NC. The weather was in the mid 30s, which in my opinion is perfect for a race. I was also eager to see this new course they had been advertising “supposedly” with less hills. Before I knew it, the horn sounded and we were off. Running through all the government buildings of downtown, running past the huge globe of the science museum and past numerous local establishments. After mile 2, I began to realize something…..THEY LIED ABOUT THE HILLS. There were just as many hills, if not more, than previous years. The whole race you felt like you were either going uphill or downhill, and I noticed the hills starting to get the best of some runners. I managed to keep a steady, I knew a PR on this course was not going to be in reach. Throughout the race, I noticed friends from my running family lined up and screaming their support. When I hit the mile 13 marker, I knew this journey was almost complete….BUT not before an uphill to the finish line. Smh. My finish time was 1:48:13 2 races, 3 medals and years of memories

Final Thoughts
If it was still an option, I would recommend everyone running it at least once. Yes, it is a challenging course but everyone should enjoy a little challenge. I will definitely miss this April race, and glad I was able to participate in it every year it was here. I can only hope, another race can step in and fill the void the Rock and Roll Series is leaving. Now I just have to wait for all my results to hit Athlinks. Join athlinks if you aren’t already a member, all race stats in one place. http://www.athlinks.com Rock On!

Fast, Flat (they say) & Fun-Tobacco Road Half Marathon Review

“Disclaimer: I received an entry to Tobacco Road Half/Full 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”

At last…we met again. I ran Tobacco Road Half Marathon for the first time back in 2016, so I figured it would be fun to revisit it. Plus it is a local race for me, and I always try to give all my local races a little love. So how did I fair….let’s find out.

Expo

The expo was modest size compared to some other races I have attended but it was well-organized for the most part. The had a long table with printouts has you walk up to the expo entrance to look up your bib number. Once you enter, bib pickup for the marathon and half marathon were clearly marked and there wasn’t a huge line waiting. I was running the half marathon, which was coined he Feetures Half Marathon. One of the perks for running Tobacco Road, was that every runner was to receive a free pair of feetures socks….well I didn’t get mine. This is one of the areas I think needs to be improved upon in the future. I spoke with other runners that didn’t get their socks, and it was due to it not being clearly marked and directions given once you picked up your bib. It would have been better if the individuals handing out the bibs would say something like “don’t forget to get your socks, they are located ….”. I didn’t recall seeing a sign, but I found out later that the table for the socks was beside the t-shirt pickup for the marathon. Apparently I walked passed it to pick-up my half marathon shirt, but as I mentioned, there was no clear signage there. I will be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit salty about missing out on the socks. Lol

Parking

Parking Passes are GOLD. The marathons start/end at a baseball park and parking is extremely limited. Mix that with the fact the park is located in the middle of a residential area, there is not any parking for spectators. If you plan to run this race, BUY A PARKING PASS EARLY. I was lucky enough that someone gave me one of theirs. The parking pass allows you to park about 100 yards from the start. They warn runners with passes to be parked by 5:30am(race starts at 7), yeah that is an hour and a half before the race but you can hang out in your car while you wait or hit up the potty before it gets crazy. Those runners that don’t have a pass and spectators, have to get to the race via shuttle. The last shuttle leaves at 5:30 for runners and it is about a 10 minute ride to the start.

Reputation

The Tobacco Road Marathon bills itself as being “Fast, Flat and Fun”, and for that reason it is usually a popular race. It is especially popular for marathoners looking to BQ, they say it is the perfect race. A quick sidenote, the winner of the marathon ran a 2:32 Sunday. Besides the BQ hunters, half marathoners also have a great shot of setting new PRs.

Course

90% of this race takes place on the American Tobacco Trail. The trail is mostly paved with some areas being tightly packed gravel. While the race is billed as “flat”, that is not entirely true. You are running on a road for the first 3 miles before you enter the trail, and that road is definitely not flat. Once you enter the trail, it is majority flat with a few small humps(not really large enough to call hills) sprinkled throughout. You are on a flat surface for a while until you exit out of the trail back onto the road at mile 10. From there you have to fight through the same hills you fought at the beginning of the race before finishing into the park.

Water Stops

There were plenty of water stops throughout the race. I would say they had a water stop every 1.5-2 miles. The water stops were equipped with water and some also had Gatorade.

Spectators

I can’t stress this enough…if you are a runner that feeds off of crowds/spectators, you will NOT have much of that for this race. This is the main reason, Tobacco Road isn’t one of my favorites races. Yes it is flat(mostly) and fast but I feed so much off of crowds, and you don’t get much of that with this race. I mentioned the race is mostly on a trail, and there is just no place for spectators to camp out. All you see is trees, other runners and the volunteers at the water stops. You will find a handful of spectators that will be cheering at openings when the trail crosses over the highway but that is about it. You will also see a few scattered spectators on the road portion(first & last 3 miles). Outside of that, the most spectators you will see are going to be on the final stretch heading into the finish.

How Did I Do

I really didn’t come into this race with any huge expectations. I only signed up 3 weeks prior and I was under the weather for a week between then and the race. My training wasn’t what I am used to, I typically train 4-5 days a week but I was only running 3 leading up to the race. The weather was almost perfect, low 40s I think. Once the race started, I didn’t feel too bad. I was clocking either 8 or sub 8 miles throughout,  but I also realized I wasn’t pushing myself very hard. Majority of the race, I found myself wedged in between the 1:40 pacer and the 1:45 pacer. I was nursing a cough and it began to bother me at mile 11 so I lost some momentum. Around mile 11.5/12 I was passed by the 1:45 pacer. So with that, also went my chance of PR. I stayed within striking distance of the 1:45 guy but I made the mistake of not checking my watch. As I was coming around the final curve and could see the finish, I saw the clock say 1:44. That means that 1:45 pacer was ahead of pace and if I had pushed, I probably could have PR’d. My PR is 1:43, I crossed the finish line at 1:44:34. With being sick and lac k of training, I was proud of my finish and who knows, maybe I will be back to fight Tobacco Road again. For now I’ll just sit back and wait for my results to hit Athlinks. http://www.athlinks.com

Recommendation

If you are looking for a PR, this is your race….ESPECIALLY if you are trying to BQ. It is mostly flat and you will put up a fast time. Just make sure you have some good running music, unless you like to listen to the trees.

Running Naked in just your Skin-SKINS DNAmics Compression Tights Review

“Disclaimer: I received a pair of Skins compression pants 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”

Let me start by saying, I am not a big compression pants wearing type of guy. I don’t know, maybe self-conscious about my “runner’s a$$”(although I have been told it’s nice). Lol. Although I don’t like to wear them, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. NC winters can get down to the teens at times and you have to have something in the closet to protect you on those winter runs. At the time, I had 2 pair made by 2 different brands and I was not crazy about either. Although they were both size Medium, one fit too snug and the other was too loose. Enter this opportunity to test out Skins new DNAmic pants. I hadn’t heard of Skins before, so maybe they could be the brand that changed my mind about compression pants.

Packaging/Eye Test

The DNAmic pants arrived in a cloudy see-through plastic pouch, complete with skins website and some of their social media hashtags imprinted on it. #RiseUP. For the eye test, I already told you I wasn’t a big fan of compression, well I am even worse when it comes to brightly colored compression pants. I like the more subtle, darker colors. The color I chose was specter mariner. The website made this color look somewhat mysterious, I couldn’t really tell if it was black or a shade of blue but either of those colors were fine. When I opened the package the pants looks black with some green design, I thought they were pretty funky. Imagine my surprise, when I first put them on and went outside….the color was actually a sort of tinted blue. I still liked the color, they passed my subtle test.

Wear

I was anxious to see how they would fit, since I mentioned the issues I had with the other 2 pairs of pants I own. Pulling them on there was some resistance, which I expected(they are compressions after all) but I got them on fairly easily. After I got them adjusted in all the right places, they didn’t feel bad at all. I wasn’t getting the too loose feeling I had with my other pants nor did I feel like they were “too” tight. They were snug but the range of motion I needed, seemed to be fine.

They felt good going on, but the real test would be when I took them out on the trails to see how they held up. I took this DNAmic compressions out on several runs, with the longest being 14 miles and they performed PERFECTLY. It was probably the closest thing you can get to running around naked. (true story) They moved with you, and when I jumped in the shower afterwards….no surprise screams. Lol. That’s right, no chaffing whatsoever on my inner legs, etc.

Specs

So how did Skins appear to make the perfect compression with their new DNAmic line, take a look at some of the product details and specs on these amazing compressions.

*DNAmic is one of the 5 products from Skin that are the only high-performance apparel to take into account compression levels needed to increase oxygen delivery to active muscles while in motion. Skins call this dynamic gradient compression.

*SKINS worked with the scientific and industrial research organization in Australia to develop a device capable of taking multiple readings of the human body in motion. SKINS athletes were hooked up for the first time ever, and they were able to accurately measure compression on the muscles in motion-as they change shape with increased levels of oxygen-fueled blood pumping through them. This is relevant because all previous compression measurements have been carried out on athletes that are standing still.

Recommendation

Sooooooo, you remember that guy that didn’t like compressions at the beginning of this review?? Yeah, he left the building. These SKINS DNAmic compression hit the mark on every category for me. They had nice color options(even for us subtle color folks), they fit very comfortable and successful capture your range of motion with no post-run chaffing. What more could you ask for from compression pants? So did I convince you? Are you ready to grab your own pair? Well, you are in luck, use my code 20BIBRAVE and score 20% off any non-reduced items at www.skins.net.

My Chocolate Dream-Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte

“Disclaimer: I received an entry to  Allstate Hot Chocolate 5K/15K as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming Bibrave Pro(ambassador), and check out Bibrave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!”

I literally could hardly wait for this race. Not only was it my first race of 2018, but it was also my first time running a AllState Hot Chocolate series race. I had seen several running friends post about running the hot chocolate races, but I never had the opportunity since there was not one held in the state of NC. When I learned they were holding their inaugural one in Charlotte, NC, I jumped at the chance.

EXPO

I was sweating trying to get to the expo. I had about a 2.5 hour drive and due to things beyond my control, we left later than I planned. Due to the fact there was no race-day packet pickup, I had to make it in time.  In the end, all worked out fine, we arrived at the expo right before 5:30(expo closed at 6) The expo itself, wasn’t as large as many others I have attended in the past, but it served it’s purpose. Checking in was a breeze since all you had to do was pull up the barcode from your email, they just scanned right from your phone. Added perk was the little samples of hot chocolate you got on your way out.

Race-Day

Rain was in the forecast all week leading up to the race, but I was happy when the percentage dropped the night before. There was still some drizzle but I decided to walk to the starting line rather than driving.(about 1.5 miles from my hotel). At the start you are welcomed by giant inflatable marshmellow people and music. Since there was a 5k and 15k, the 5k folks were sent off at 7:45 with the 15k getting started at 8:05. Having a race began on time is always a huge plus.

The course itself was surprisly  HILLY. I had friends tell me that Charlotte was not that hilly, and they clearly lied. We encountered our first hill a mile in, and the fun just keep coming throughout the remaining 8 miles. There seem to be water stops about every 2 miles, which was plenty for a cloudy, rainy day in the 50s. The police presence was amazing throughout the course. Every intersection had a cop, which helped make it a safe experience for all the runners. Upon crossing the finish line, you are meet with some sweet looking medals in the shape of once-bitten chocolate bars. After you receive your medal it was a short walk to the post-race festivities. There we were greeted with a huge chocolate mug, and inside the mug was: cup of hot chocolate, rice krispy treat, marshmallow, pretzels, cookies and a warm section of melted dark chocolate for dipping everything in. It was AMAZING.

SWAG

The race has got to have the best swag I’ve received in a while. No regular t-shirts here, at the Allstate Hot chocolate 5k/15k you get a very nice fleece pullover to rock. I don’t know if the swag is the same during the hot months but a fleece pullover during the winter months is a definite welcomed sight.

RECOMMENDATION

No doubt about it, if you have the opportunity…RUN one of the Allstate Hot Chocolate races. It is a good distance, especially for runners that don’t want to take on a half marathon distance.  I promise, you will not be disappointed. I’ll be checking my results on Athlinks and seeing how my rivals performed.

Athlinks-Runner’s stats at your fingertips

Disclaimer: I am promoting Athlinks 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.

Let’s talk Athlinks! Never heard of it? Well you are in luck because I am about to school you to game. I was introduced to Athlinks about 2 years ago but one of my Instagram friends. She advised me to go sign up and guaranteed I would love it, and she wasn’t wrong. Athlinks takes the headache out of having to record/remember so many things, on top of some other cool features I love. Let’s explore shall we…

Race Results

You ever find yourself wondering, “I wonder what my time was when I ran my first 5k”? Athlinks has got you covered. Athlinks saves the results of EVERY race you have ever run, so you can go into your profile and scroll through to find that time you were seeking. Athlinks doesn’t automatically save results to your profile, but what it does is save those results in their database. Once you login to your profile, you will be notified that you have “unclaimed” results. You simply have to scroll through the unclaimed results that Athlinks believe are yours(I have yet to have them pull results that weren’t mine) and “confirm” them. Once you have confirmed the results, they are saved into your profile for you to view whenever you want. Not only does it pull your time, but it also tells you were you placed in numerous categories for the event. So instead of having to go back to the race website to research past results, you can pull up your Athlinks profile and quickly see that you were top 10 men in your age group for XYZ Half Marathon.

Friends/Rivals

Let’s face it, it just isn’t as fun if you can’t bring your friends along. So another great feature is your ability to find and follow all your running friends. After doing a quick search, you can find and follow your buddy. Your friend will be notified via email that they have a new follower, and will be able to return that follow with a click of a button. I love the ability to go in and check to see how my friends did on a race that you knew they had been training so hard for.

Respect the Rivalry
It may not be as intense as UNC/Dook or Michigan/Ohio State, but all of us have a competitive bone. It may be a small bone but deep down sometimes we just want to see how we match up with some of our friends. Thanks to Athlinks, you get to experience that with the “Rivals” feature. When you are following fellow runners and you happen to run the same race, they become your rivals. Athlinks has a separate “rivals” tab that you can go to and see how you stacked up against your friends in the same race. Athlinks lists your rivals and underneath them it shows your record against them in races. So if you and Cami ran the same race 2 times and both times you had a better result, it would show (2-0). This has got to be my 2nd favorite feature behind the lifetime statistics features. Periodically I go into my rivals tab to see how I am holding up. I have one friend I’ve never beaten, I’m 0-13. He always finishes in the top 10 overall in every race he does, so I don’t have high hopes of getting that elusive “1” on my side. Lol

Upcoming Races

Feature #3, Athlinks allows you to look up all your upcoming races. If you already know your race calendar, you can search and pull up those races in Athlinks. Not only that, but you can add yourself to the “starting line” of that race so when your friends view your profile they can see what races you are already signed up for. This also allows you to see if any of your friends are signed up for the same race, because it will show your friends pictures below the race and label it “Also running”.

Lifetime Statistics

This feature is my favorite. Athlinks keeps all your PRs for all distances in one separate area, so you can visit this tab and not only see your fastest half marathon or marathons, but it also lists other non-traditional distances like; your fastest 4 miles, 8k and mile. Along with the time it shows you what race you accomplished this PR, as well as the date of that race.

That’s it! Everything you could possible need, is at your fingertips with Athlinks. So what are you waiting for, if you haven’t signed up…DO IT NOW at www.athlinks.com.

Lastly, I am always looking for new rivals so feel free to follow me at: https://www.athlinks.com/athletes/253266080

Raise Your Hand if you enjoy Punishment-Hospital Hill Half Marathon

*Disclaimer: I received free entry to Hospital Hill Half Marathon race 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 review!”

Well, I must be a glutton for punishment because for the 2nd year in a row I have decided to take on the Hospital Hill Half Marathon in Kansas City, Missouri. Last year this race was a time of firsts; first time visiting Kansas City, first time racing in Missouri and first time having a race give you pajama bottoms instead of t-shirts and pancakes as post-race food. Outside of that, the course itself was VERY challenging and hilly but it had pretty good crowd support. My home state of NC is hilly but I believe Kansas City has North Carolina beat as far as hills, or at least as it comes to steep hills.

Outside of race activities, Kansas City, holds a lot of history. I was able to visit the African American Jazz museum, as well as, the Negro league baseball museum while I was there. I have friends there so, we all were even able to take in a Kansas City Royals game. Fun times, and I can wait to go back and tackle the “HILL” in June 2018. Stay tuned for discount codes for the race, in case you want to join me.

http://www.hospitalhillrun.com/

Ride Responsibility-Mizuno Wave Rider 21 Review

I was super excited to be given the opportunity to test out the new Mizuno Wave Rider 21s. I actually was fortunate enough to test the Rider 20s last year, so was interested to see what updates Mizuno has made.

COLORS
The new 21s come in 4 different colors for men; black, delta blue-silver, classic blue-black and quiet shade-silver. I received the blue-black color, which I prefer of the others. Running shoes should always be bright, and cause people to take notice when they see you running. I have never been a fan of black running shoes, they seem so boring. If I had to choose another color, I guess it would have been the silver color.

Features
Dynamotion Fit: creates an upper that moves with your foot seamlessly
Mizuno Wave: Wave sets the standard for running shoe technologies
X10 Outsole: Durable carbon rubber that allows for longer wear
Intercool: cool and dry. Offers great breathability. Ventilation system reduces heat and humidity build-up inside the shoe during a run

Design
With the Wave Rider 21, you receive a totally redesigned wave technology for a softer cushion and enhanced responsive feel. The new dynamotion fit features a triple zone engineered mesh for breathability, movement, and hold.

Wear
Enough of all the technically specifications, etc, what you really want to know is how do they feel/perform. All the technology in the world is out the window, if a shoe doesn’t feel good and perform well. I will tell you, right out of the box these Mizuno Wave Rider 21s were ready to roll. When I first slipped them on, the level of comfort was immediate. My feet felt snug in the shoe, even before I tied them up. The shoe was well manufactured and solid, with the right flexibility in the appropriate places.

TEST RUN #1
Surface: Road
The first day I received them, I took them out on a quick 3 mile run in order to test the feel. Although the run was short, I could feel the breathability and cushion on each of my foot strikes. I ran on a road since that is where the majority of my races take place, and the 21s handled the asphalt like a champ. I never had an issue with road work on the Rider 20s, so I wasn’t expected anything less for the 21s. The shoes are sneaky light. My pace on the 3 miles was sub 9, but it certainly didn’t feel that way when I was running. Sneaky fast shoes are the best.

TEST RUN #2
Surface: Trail
For my second test run, I took the Mizuno Wave Rider 21s on a 8 mile trail run to see how they could handle a different type of terrain. These Wave Rider 21s didn’t even bat an eye, as they successfully navigated through the dirt, rocks, etc of the trails. I feel in love with the foot strike of these shoes, it almost felt like they had springs in them. I finished the 8 miles and my feet still felt fresh, I didn’t experience any foot soreness whatsoever.

RECCOMENDATION
This is a no-brainer, if you are already a Mizuno fan, get this! The Wave Rider typically puts out a good product, the 20s were good but the 21s are Great. If you are not currently a fan of Mizuno, I would suggest you giving these a try. They are the same price point($120) as the majority of running shoes out there. Enjoy the ride.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mizuno. The opinions and text are all mine.

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I was super excited to be given the opportunity to test out the new Mizuno Wave Rider 21s. I actually was fortunate enough to test the Rider 20s last year, so was interested to see what updates Mizuno has made.

COLORS

The new 21s come in 4 different colors for men; black, delta blue-silver, classic blue-black and quiet shade-silver. I received the blue-black color, which I prefer of the others. Running shoes should always be bright, and cause people to take notice when they see you running. I have never been a fan of black running shoes, they seem so boring. If I had to choose another color, I guess it would have been the silver color.

Features

Dynamotion Fit: creates an upper that moves with your foot seamlessly

Mizuno Wave: Wave sets the standard for running shoe technologies

X10 Outsole: Durable carbon rubber that allows for longer wear

Intercool: cool and dry. Offers great breathability. Ventilation system reduces heat and humidity build-up inside the shoe during a run

Design

With the Wave Rider 21, you receive a totally redesigned wave technology for a softer cushion and enhanced responsive feel. The new dynamotion fit features a triple zone engineered mesh for breathability, movement, and hold.

Wear

Enough of all the technically specifications, etc, what you really want to know is how do they feel/perform. All the technology in the world is out the window, if a shoe doesn’t feel good and perform well. I will tell you, right out of the box these Mizuno Wave Rider 21s were ready to roll. When I first slipped them on, the level of comfort was immediate. My feet felt snug in the shoe, even before I tied them up. The shoe was well manufactured and solid, with the right flexibility in the appropriate places.

TEST RUN #1

Surface: Road

The first day I received them, I took them out on a quick 3 mile run in order to test the feel. Although the run was short, I could feel the breathability and cushion on each of my foot strikes. I ran on a road since that is where the majority of my races take place, and the 21s handled the asphalt like a champ. I never had an issue with road work on the Rider 20s, so I wasn’t expected anything less for the 21s. The shoes are sneaky light. My pace on the 3 miles was sub 9, but it certainly didn’t feel that way when I was running. Sneaky fast shoes are the best.

TEST RUN #2

Surface: Trail

For my second test run, I took the Mizuno Wave Rider 21s on a 8 mile trail run to see how they could handle a different type of terrain. These Wave Rider 21s didn’t even bat an eye, as they successfully navigated through the dirt, rocks, etc of the trails. I feel in love with the foot strike of these shoes, it almost felt like they had springs in them. I finished the 8 miles and my feet still felt fresh, I didn’t experience any foot soreness whatsoever.

RECCOMENDATION

This is a no-brainer, if you are already a Mizuno fan, get this! The Wave Rider typically puts out a good product, the 20s were good but the 21s are Great. If you are not currently a fan of Mizuno, I would suggest you giving these a try. They are the same price point($120) as the majority of running shoes out there. Enjoy the ride.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mizuno. The opinions and text are all mine.

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I was super excited to be given the opportunity to test out the new Mizuno Wave Rider 21s. I actually was fortunate enough to test the Rider 20s last year, so was interested to see what updates Mizuno has made.

COLORS
The new 21s come in 4 different colors for men; black, delta blue-silver, classic blue-black and quiet shade-silver. I received the blue-black color, which I prefer of the others. Running shoes should always be bright, and cause people to take notice when they see you running. I have never been a fan of black running shoes, they seem so boring. If I had to choose another color, I guess it would have been the silver color.

Features
Dynamotion Fit: creates an upper that moves with your foot seamlessly
Mizuno Wave: Wave sets the standard for running shoe technologies
X10 Outsole: Durable carbon rubber that allows for longer wear
Intercool: cool and dry. Offers great breathability. Ventilation system reduces heat and humidity build-up inside the shoe during a run

Design
With the Wave Rider 21, you receive a totally redesigned wave technology for a softer cushion and enhanced responsive feel. The new dynamotion fit features a triple zone engineered mesh for breathability, movement, and hold.

Wear
Enough of all the technically specifications, etc, what you really want to know is how do they feel/perform. All the technology in the world is out the window, if a shoe doesn’t feel good and perform well. I will tell you, right out of the box these Mizuno Wave Rider 21s were ready to roll. When I first slipped them on, the level of comfort was immediate. My feet felt snug in the shoe, even before I tied them up. The shoe was well manufactured and solid, with the right flexibility in the appropriate places.

TEST RUN #1
Surface: Road
The first day I received them, I took them out on a quick 3 mile run in order to test the feel. Although the run was short, I could feel the breathability and cushion on each of my foot strikes. I ran on a road since that is where the majority of my races take place, and the 21s handled the asphalt like a champ. I never had an issue with road work on the Rider 20s, so I wasn’t expected anything less for the 21s. The shoes are sneaky light. My pace on the 3 miles was sub 9, but it certainly didn’t feel that way when I was running. Sneaky fast shoes are the best.

TEST RUN #2
Surface: Trail
For my second test run, I took the Mizuno Wave Rider 21s on a 8 mile trail run to see how they could handle a different type of terrain. These Wave Rider 21s didn’t even bat an eye, as they successfully navigated through the dirt, rocks, etc of the trails. I feel in love with the foot strike of these shoes, it almost felt like they had springs in them. I finished the 8 miles and my feet still felt fresh, I didn’t experience any foot soreness whatsoever.

RECCOMENDATION
This is a no-brainer, if you are already a Mizuno fan, get this! The Wave Rider typically puts out a good product, the 20s were good but the 21s are Great. If you are not currently a fan of Mizuno, I would suggest you giving these a try. They are the same price point($120) as the majority of running shoes out there. Enjoy the ride.

Chicago Marathon-All the Love & Support You Can Handle

For the past 6 months I have been hard at work training for one thing….The Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I ran this race in 2016 and got a 45 minute PR, but since I was unable to get into NYC Marathon this year, I decided to give Chicago another go. I will say, the city as a whole really embraces this race, plus it is one of the World Majors.

I am a mentor for my area Fleet Feet, so it was cool that 4 other mentors were actually running Chicago as well. Of course I was the only one that decided to fly in on Saturday, when the race was on Sunday. All my other mentor friends flew in on Thursday and Friday, but I stuck with Saturday since I could avoid having to use a vacation day and Monday was a holiday. We flew in early Saturday morning, and hauled a Uber to our hotel. We stayed on the Magnificent Mile in the middle of everything, which was probably one of the best decisions I made. It was about 1.5 miles away from Grant Park and only blocks away from numerous eating establishments. Of course we arrived at the hotel at like 9am, so of course the room wasn’t ready. The bellman was nice enough to secure our luggage, and we decided to go ahead and head over to the expo to pick up my bib/packet. A welcomed change this year was the free shuttles that had leaving every 15 minutes at various points around Chicago, to take the runners to the expo and bring them back. We didn’t have that last year, and I think it caused a big headache with people trying to catch Ubers & Taxis. We arrived and the packet pick-up lines were well organized, I only stood in line maybe 10-15 minutes to get my bib. I walked into the expo and immediately walked up on a long line of people waiting to take a picture in front of the Chicago Marathon sign. I guess these individuals were unaware that the same sign was in 2 other locations within the fair. Nevertheless, I headed to the back to pick up my bag and participant’s shirt. This year’s shirts were blue, compared to last year’s neon yellow. There were so many brands selling Marathon branded gear: Nike, Skeechers,North Face,etc. I got a nice jacket from The North Face last year but this year nothing really stood out. Nike was the official sponsor so of course they had tons, but the amount of people in their area was ridiculous. I was fond of the half zip pullover they had that came in gray or red, but I didn’t want to stand in line. Luckily my hotel was about 2 blocks from the Nike store so I decided to wait and go to the store after we got back. We walked through the expo a little while gathering samples before heading back to the shuttles. We got back and it still was only about 10am, and the desk clerk said they would need at least to 1pm to get the room ready. We were hungry so we walked over to the dunkin donuts to great a breakfast sandwich and kill some time. We finished and it was right around quarter to 12, so we decided we would just go wait in the lobby for the remainder of the time. At about 12:15, I took a chance and walked up and asked if the room happen to be ready. Desk clerk looked at me and said our room wasn’t ready but since we were waiting, he would upgrade our room for free to a junior suite that was available. SCORE!! Thank you Inn of Chicago.

We relaxed in our room for a couple hours before heading out to find some lunch. Decided to hit up the California Pizza kitchen that was like a block away. I had some interesting tequila lime chicken pasta. Afterwards we walked to the Nike store…..AND IT WAS A MADHOUSE. There were so many people in there, they apparently had the same idea I did. They had Djs on several of the floors so the music was blasting everywhere you went, but it was definitely a fun atmosphere.  I went up to the running section to find the half zip pullover and they didn’t have my size anywhere. I was told it would be easier to order it online. I did manage to go ahead an purchase my “Finishers” jacket. I have a rule, I purchase the finisher’s stuff, but it stays in the bag until I complete the race. Runner’s Rule! Back to the hotel for a little more relaxing before dinner. We decided to head to Labriola for dinner. Good thing I made a reservation because the line was ridiculous when we arrived. All the runners trying to carb load. I settled on the “Worlds Best Spagetti and Meatballs” entrée. While it was pretty good, I don’t know I would go as far as to say it was the world’s best. Lol, just my opinion. We were back to the hotel by 9:30, I laid out my gear for the morning and was in bed by 10:15. The big day was a few winks a way.

I woke up on race morning around 4:30. I did all my race day routines, including writing all my mile inspirations on my left arm so I could see them each mile I complete. After getting dressed I grabbed by bagel, honey stinger and Gatorade, and headed out. The walk was about 1.5 miles, and it was kinda chilling out. After I was a few blocks in, I started running into more and more runners making the same trek. The starting gates opened up at 6, and I arrived around 6:30am. My corral wasn’t set to start until 8am, so the waiting game began. A lot of people were taking pictures of the sunrise over Lake Michigan or of the buildings that had messages using the office lights. One simply said “26.2”, which I thought was great. Around 7, I decided to go get in line at the bathroom. The lines were CRAZY, and I started hearing the phrase “PR the bathroom” being uttered because the start was approaching fast. I finally got through the line and got into my corral around 7:45, 15 minutes to spare. I started to prepare my running playlist I had coined for the marathon. I specifically chose a 4 hour mix, because I was going to try and finish under 4 hours. So if I was done while the playlist was still playing, I had completed my goal. We just had one problem, THERE WAS ZERO SERVICE IN THE CORRALS! This was not good. I had a few songs in my music folder but definitely not enough to last a full marathon. My hope was that I could start with my music library and hopefully by a mile or 2 the service would be available and I could start my playlist.

8 o’clock rolled up and we were off. I was being really cautious not to start out too fast and burn myself out. My pace seemed to be great but at about half mile in, I hear some familiar come through my Aftershokz. It was a lap indicator, I know we hadn’t traveled a mile. The familiar voice announced to me “Mile 1 5:38”. Oh hell no, that is wrong wrong wrong. So, apparently the service was interring with the garmin watches as well. From that point I knew I had to ignore the mile marks from my watch and only look at the time elapsed to gauge my pace. We reached the first water stop around 1.5 in and I pulled out my phone to try and fiddle with it to see if I could get my playlist up mid-run. Service was back and I ran on. I was doing super, hitting all my mile marks at desired pace or under. I was passing runners that were in corrals ahead of me and was passing several 3:55 and 4:00 pacers from other corrals. I was feeling great and was moving great with no issues. Around 11 oclock and I would say mile 18, the sun started to creep out. We knew it was supposed to warm up, but everyone’s hope was to get close enough to the end before the sun could take it’s toll. I started to hit every water stop and alternate between Gatorade and water to try and stay hydrated, I also was downing gels and energy blocks. Around mile 24, I began to feel something funny in my left calf. It felt like the beginning of a cramp but I wanted to fight through and hopefully keep it at bay. I couldn’t stop, I was still on great pace to finish under 4 hours and moving wonderfully. The heat had picked up quit a bit at this point and everyone began to slow down a bit. You could see it on all the runners faces, the sun was taking its toll. At mile 25, it happened. I got a cramp! The first time I have caught one in the middle of a race before. I tried to gingerly run through it, I went as long as I could before I had to stop and try to work it out. After a couple of minutes, it felt like it had passed so I started to run again. After another half mile it came back, and I was forced to stop again. I was beginning to get worried at this point because I was watching the time elapse creep up on my watch. I had about another mile and half to go, and about 17 minutes to do it. It was just not meant to be. I still had a chance up until the last 200m of the race, before I caught another cramp and had to stop. I hobbled across the finish line devastated, with a time of 4:01:13.  Although it was a 16 minute PR, all I could think about was how close I was to breaking 4 hours. 1 minute and 13 seconds! The force all the runners through the finishers areas, they don’t want anyone to stop. I got my medal, some water and a couple snacks. I was almost to the end of the finishers area when I just had to sit for a minute, I had no choice. As soon as I sat down, I got another cramp in my calf. As I was trying to work that one out, my other calf got a cramp too. So I am sitting there in serious pain, and another runner tells one of the volunteers I need help. Someone comes over to help stretch me out, but the problem was I was laying directly under the sun, no shade in sight.  He gets cramps out and I attempt to stand again, both cramps came right back and back down I went. I had not choice, they ended up bringing over a wheelchair and loaded me up to take me to the medical tent. First time being in there, but I immediately noticed it was much cooler in there. They put me on a cot and checked my vitals, everything was good. They asked me a bunch of questions I guess to make sure I was in the right frame of mind, and I got everything correct. I got loaded up with Gatorade, water and bananas while I laid there. They even massaged out my calves for me. After about 20 minutes I thought I was well enough to make another go at getting out of there. Walked super slow another mile to get to the runner’s meetup and finish line festivities. I was in no mood to celebrate so I hobbled on out the gate  and caught a ride back to the hotel.

I showered and gave myself a little while to be disappointed over missing my sub 4, then I headed out. I limped to the Nike store, where they were doing free medal engraving. The line was long, but it moved relatively fast and only took about 10 minutes for the engraving after you gave it to them. After getting my medal done, it was off to a post-race party with my Bibrave pro family. It was a great event, and was nice to meet a lot of fellow pros in person. We had food and drinks, and took lots of pictures. Absolutely love my bibrave family. Couldn’t leave Chicago without getting some deep dish pizza so on the way back to the hotel, we stopped and got some Lou’s to-go.

The next morning’s trip to the airport went well, and we got there in plenty of time. Turns out 4 of my fellow mentors were on the same flight, along with some other runners. Everyone was wearing the medals proudly. We all talked about our marathon experience on the way back, and before we knew it, we were landing back at home. As a whole, my experience at the Chicago marathon was unbelievable! While I am disappointed I missed my sub 4, I am grateful for the experience and being able to experience it with lots of my running friends. If you haven’t done Chicago yet, you is most definitely a MUST. It is flat for the most part with a few small hills sprinkled throughout. 40,000 runners and over 1 million spectators, the love & support is everywhere.

Philly Really Rocked-Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon race 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 traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Rock and Roll Philadelphia run weekend, and I enjoyed myself. I opted to drive from NC up to Philadelphia because I am rather fond of road trips, but due to some mis-scheduling, I ended up having to make this trip all by myself. Wasn’t sure how I was going to handle 7:30-8 hours in the car, but I have made a road trip to Jacksonville, Florida on several occasions in the past (7 hour drive) so I figured I would be ok. I rented a vehicle that turned out to be a Dook blue 2018 Toyota Camry. Loved everything about the car except the color, but I dealt with it. The trip up took almost 8.5 hours due to the dreaded Washington traffic. It never fails that traffic is always backed up in that area and for no apparent reason. My Waze app sent me on a detour so I got to see some of the countryside of PA headed into Philadelphia.  Wouldn’t you know it; I arrived in Philadelphia right at their RUSH HOUR. After leaving NC around 8:30, I finally arrived at my hotel around 4:20pm. After resting a few and admiring my view of the Ben Franklin Bridge from my window, I decided to head to the expo. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that my holiday had a free shuttle for guest that takes you anywhere within about a 1.5 mile radius, and the Convention Center (expo) was about a mile away.

EXPO

First thing I did upon arriving at the expo was head over to the register area. I was signed up for the half marathon, but there was also a 5k that was being run the day before that I had been back n forth about signing up for. Ultimately, I decided to do it. It was a remix weekend so by signing up for the 5K, I guaranteed myself 2 more medals. Let’s face it, we love the bling. I am a bling chaser. If we are being honest, I was a little disappointed in the “expo”. With it being Philadelphia, I was expected lots of vendors, booths, etc., but it wasn’t. There were vendors, but there seemed to be a lack of excitement and vendors seemed confined. The expos for Rock and Roll Raleigh and Virginia Beach were both better than Philly.

READING TERMINAL

The first thing I ate once I got into Philly was….a cheesesteak. I mean, you can’t go to Philadelphia and not try a cheesesteak. A coworker, who is from Philly, told me to check out Reading Terminal. Lucky for me, Reading Terminal was right across the street from where the expo was being held (Pennsylvania Convention Center). I walked in not knowing what to expect, just knowing I wanted a cheesesteak; I was completely overwhelmed. Reading Terminal is like a huge warehouse with nothing but food vendors. There was every different type of food you could want in there, from Asian, to pizza, cheesesteaks and desserts. The desserts looked AMAZING, but I just couldn’t afford to partake of any with the 2 races looming. I settled on a cheesesteak and tater tots from one of the vendors, and it was amazing. I decided to only eat half of it before I called for the shuttle to come back and pick me up. I finished the other half in my hotel room once I got back.

ROCK AND ROLL PHILADELPHIA 5K

Saturday morning welcomed the Rock and Roll Philadelphia 5k. I got up around 4:30, and ended up downstairs at 6am to catch a lyft. Unfortunately the free shuttle didn’t start until 7am, so I couldn’t take advantage of that luxury. I arrived down at the starting line at around 6:30, which came me a little time to look around. The start and finish line were right by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the same museum that Rocky famously ran up its steps during his training in the movie Rocky. There is even a Rocky statue right outside. (Of course I had to run up those steps before I left) The directors for the 5k were very organized, they had everyone in their corrals and the race started exactly at 7am. I had my mind set not to actually race this event, and to use it more as a training run for the Chicago Marathon.  The 5k was an out and back along the side of the Schuylkill Channel/River.  Beautiful scenic route, although it was more humid than what I envisioned for PA. The route was 95% flat with a small hill leading up to the finish line. I kept a steady pace for the first 2 miles, but I decided to push the tempo a little on the last mile. I finished with a time of 22:58, which was good for 5th place in my age group.

Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

The half marathon began about 100 yards away from where the 5K started the day before, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There seemed like close to 10K runners out there, as everyone began their pre-race routines. I think there were a total of 26 corrals, I was settled in comfortably into corral 6. Pre-race I actually ran into a couple IG friends that I had never met in person before, so that is always cool. The race started on time, with what seemed like a 2 minute break between corral starts. I started out pretty steady, I was not expecting for it to be humid in PA. I believe the humidity was around 90%, but I was prepared coming from NC where I had been trying in 95%-98% humidity.  The course first takes you down through the downtown area, pass all the famous museums before you turn onto Kelly Drive. Around mile 3, we began to see all the elite runners coming back towards us. I was able to catch a glimpse of Gavin Rupp, and a few other Olympians who were running the race. Kelly Drive takes you down the side of the Schuylkill River and you get to see all of these big expensive boathouses. That stretch is coined “Boathouse Row”. I had never see boathouses that big before. You run along Schuylkill into you reach mile 8, then you cross over the river and head back down the opposite side of the river. The course was 95% flat except for a few inclines and one decent size hill around mile 5. There were a few awesome bands along the backstretch that kept the runners pumped as they prepared to bring it into the finish. I tried my best to refrain from “racing” but I know I increased tempo the last mile. I ended up finishing with a time of 1:51, but my watch had me going 13.4 miles so my half time was probably somewhere around 1:49. Solid time. After finishing, I really had no time to sit too long since I had to be checked out of my hotel by 11am, and I wanted to make sure I got in a shower before driving back. I sat down and enjoyed a few of the finish line goodies, before picking up my remix medal and starting my trek back. My plan was to take an Uber back to the hotel but I neglected to think about one small issue…..I would be sweaty and stinky. Rather than stinking up some poor person’s vehicle, I decided I would just try to speed walk/walk back to my hotel. My navigation said it was about 1.6 miles away. Surprisingly I didn’t get many awkward stares as I was walking through the heart of Philadelphia in my running gear with 2 medals clanging around my neck. I reached my hotel around 10:20, and had time for a good shower before finishing packing and heading downstairs. I had hoped to catch the tail end of the free breakfast but they had already stopped by time I got downstairs. I jumped in my rental and put Philadelphia in my rearview window. Thoroughly enjoyed Philadelphia and I know I will be making a return trip, especially since I have family that leaves right across the bridge in New Jersey. Philadelphia is a nice city and the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon is a great race, I would recommend you adding it to your race calendar in the future.