' Adventures with FitNyx

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quatro Logiq Running Gear - Tried it Tuesday

Now that I run almost exclusively longer distance races, I'm always on the lookout for gear that helps me take all the gels, music, tissues, water, or whatever else I'll need to cover the mileage safely and (hopefully) quickly.  You can tell from all of my race photos that I'm clearly madly in love with my favorite running shorts that I wear to every warm weather half marathon, but they're shorts.  What if I want to bring some gear along on a cooler day?  Until recently, the only option in my wardrobe was to either wear the shorts under a longer pair of leggings (uncomfortable) or to wear a jacket with pockets in which my items would bounce around while I ran.  Well, I think I found a better solution!

Disclaimer: I received these items at no cost in exchange for my review.
As always, all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Quatro Logiq is an Australian company that is solving some of runners' biggest gear problems.  Though their catalog has several items I'm dying to try, I settled on testing out a very simple outfit for starters: a tank top and compression capris.  Doesn't sound flashy, but the big draw was the tank top, which is made with FOUR pockets along the back of the shirt into which I could tuck all my little running add-ons without needing bouncy pockets.  Plus, it's a compression fit, so I could easily wear it underneath a looser long sleeve without discomfort.  I ordered a medium tank top (I normally take small or medium in tops, so I erred up for compression gear), and a pair of large compression capris to go with, since I don't actually own any leg compression gear.

When my items arrived (very quickly despite the overseas shipping!) and I pulled my clothes out of the packaging, I was a little shocked.  The tank looked HUGE, and the capris looked TINY.  I seriously thought I received an XL top and XS bottoms!  Though skeptical, I pulled my gear on and found that my capris fit PERFECTLY despite looking absolutely impossible to squeeze into - I guess that's the joy of compression gear?  The top, on the other hand, was a little too tight even though it had originally looked way too big.  Then I realized the website uses European sizing, not American, and I probably should have ordered a large top.  It was still wearable, so I took the outfit for a test drive.

I'm IN LOVE with these capris.  They're such a great fit and they're probably the most moisture wicking item of clothing I've ever worn.  My first few runs in the QL gear were late summer evenings in slight heat and high humidity, which would normally have me dripping with sweat even in other wicking gear.  Not so in my QL capris, I was dry with no chaffing the whole way!  And even though they appeared so super small at first and I was worried that halfway through the run my waistband would be cutting into me, I never once felt like I was wearing anything smaller than exactly what I needed.  Definitely a major win!

The tank top is highly functional, too, even though I did experience some fit issues from not paying enough attention to the website's sizing.  There are four pockets in the bottom of the back of the shirt, and surprisingly, I had no problem reaching ANY of them to insert or remove items during my run.  All four pockets are the same size, but two of them have their openings stitched a little narrower to keep things like keys and money from popping out easily during the run.  Two of the pockets are full size, and could easily fit my Droid Mini phone while still in its case.  I could put the phone in and pull it out without having to stop running, which is exactly what I was looking for in a pocketed shirt.  I can also tuck gels into the pockets, and I bet you could fit one of those FlipBelt bottles into one too if you wanted to take a small water bottle.  Nothing in the pockets bounced, but I did have some issues with the shirt riding up a bit because of how tight it was.  Again, if you pay attention to the sizing, you probably can avoid this problem.

My gear has gone through a couple washes now, and I am happy to report no shrinkage and no damage to the material with a cold/cold wash cycle and hanging to dry.  I've had other wicking products pill up in the same wash cycle, so I was very pleased to see that these items held their shape, sizing, and quality with no issues.  I'd also like to mention that they sent me my items in a reuseable QL drawstring sack, which is a cute little bonus!

Since ordering this outfit, Quatro Logiq has actually added some NEW gear to their website!  I had my eye on their shoulder sleeves since the beginning (basically a long sleeve shrug that would pair perfectly with the tank top's pockets), but now I'm also interested in several of the sports bra designs they recently released, including one that has another pocket in the racerback straps of the bra.  I'm looking very forward to adding more QL gear to my wardrobe and can't wait to see what else they release in the future!

And of course, you can try it too!  Use promo code logiq15 to take 15% off your order at Quatro Logiq to find YOUR new favorite gear!

What's your gear-carrying solution for when you run or workout?  Have you tried compression gear in the past?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

AARD: What's your biggest fear with an event?

Today's AARD question comes from one of my fellow Sweat Pink ambassadors, Marsha A, who asks: "When do you begin to breathe easy?  It seems every race has that one thing you HOPE goes as planned and then you let out a sigh, either when the race is over or that "thing" (weather, etc) works out like you'd hoped...  What's your biggest fear about/with the event?"

That's a bit of a doozy, Marsha!  But the easy answer to my biggest fear about an event is having a major medical incident occur during the race.  I've had a few races during which a participant was either injured (like being hit by a car) or experienced a serious episode (such as a heart attack) and really, those are my worst fears.  I'm trained in CPR and first aid, and so far I've managed to keep my head in a crisis (even as a participant in a race witnessing a medical incident and taking control), but some day there's going to be something too big for me to handle.  I haven't actually lost a runner to a medical emergency yet, but there's a first time for everything and THAT is what I fear.

But as for beginning to breathe easy...  It's probably when I verify the top finishers.  For just about every race, I manually record the times of the overall winners, to check against my timing equipment to ensure everything is working properly.  Once I know my boxes are reading properly, the weight comes off my shoulders.  I've had every kind of problem you could have at a race: police not showing up (or worse, leaving early), major unannounced construction altering my route, running out of shirts, running out of medals, running out of food, horrible weather, portos tipping over in a storm the night before (grosssssss)...  I can deal with all of that, but if my timing equipment isn't working and the race has more than a hundred people, I'm screwed.  There ARE ways to adapt but I would definitely be panicking more than I have for anything else.

Do YOU have a question for a race director?  Itching to know more about the race planning process?  Looking for some tips or consulting for your own race?  Leave me a message - comments are great and emails work too!  And stay tuned for the next informative Ask A Race Director!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

AARD: How much time is needed to plan a race?

Today's Ask A Race Director question comes from Sharla W. who asks: "How far in advance do you have to start planning for a race?"

As with many of the questions I've been receiving, there is no one right answer to this question; instead, the answer varies depending on a few factors.  Longer distance races (half/full/ultra marathons) take more time than a 5k.  Destination events will need a broader marketing timeline than a little local event.  A full series of races might have an ongoing timeline, constantly requiring work on the next event and relying on routine marketing.  Venue choice might make for a longer permit process, and of course the race's goal number of participants should be considered as well.  But for the sake of information, let's narrow this answer down to two cases.

Hosting a local 5k usually needs about three to six months' worth of planning. It is usually the event permit and any police/ranger support needed for the proposed course that takes the most time, and in some cities the permit process may need to be done up to a year in advance.  Popular venues may also require an early permit, if only to reserve the intended date before another organization's event can secure the location.  Once the permit is in place, the rest of the process can be done in a few months.  Activating registration is simple, but marketing and selling sponsorships should be started at least three months prior to the event date.  Finding volunteers can be done in a pretty quick turnaround if the race supports a large cause or charity, and any swag orders (shirts, medals, etc) usually go in less than a month prior to the race.  Course creation only takes an afternoon, unless there's construction in your path.  Of course, the goals for a local 5k are usually smaller in scope than a national blowout event, so the timeline can be shortened to fit this scope.

They'll see everything!  They'll...
They'll see the big board!

A larger event, such as a destination marathon, requires considerably more time, especially if the race is in its early years.  At least one year of marketing is practically a must, and if the course is going through a major metropolitan area, permitting may need just as much advance notice.  Even for established races, next year's event is usually started immediately after completing the current year's event.  Securing sponsors, reserving the race date at the venue, and promoting the event can be an ongoing process.  Actual race day arrangements are made a month in advance or more, including placing orders for shirts, medals, food, and whatever else is needed for the race.

In the end, the time it takes to plan a race is heavily dependent on the event itself.  You want a larger crowd with a bigger scope, you need to plan for a much longer timeline than if you have a short local race that isn't going to go all-out every time.  Of course, all that said, I've seen races start planning only a month or two in advance and not only draw a large crowd, but pull together a really exciting event/post race, so there are exceptions to every rule!

Have a question you'd love to Ask a Race Director?  Send it over!  I'm happy to answer any and all questions, as well as provide assistance and consulting if you are interested in putting on an event of your own.  Stay tuned for the next installment of AARD, coming next week!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mill Creek Distance Classic Race Recap

After twelve long months, I have finally completed my goal of a half marathon each month for one full year!  My final race of this journey took me out to Youngstown for the annual Mill Creek Distance Classic, a race known for being incredibly hilly and challenging.  I'd already run a few crazy hilly races, so I figured, why not - let's end this mission with one last tough one!

After waking up waaay too early for another long morning race trip, we arrived at the park to find it chilly but clear and sunny - the perfect weather for a March race.  Though there was snow on the ground around the park, the roads were clear and dry.  I was a little bundled but not overly layered as I've been in the past for spring races.  We were more than an hour from home but I still saw several runners from the Cleveland area and chatted a bit with them before the start.  When we finally set off down the hill, I was feeling pretty good.  That changed abruptly about a mile later, as my insides started twisting for "that time" again.  Why do I always run races when I know I'm going to be suffering??  Fortunately there were well-placed portos and I was able to regroup a bit and get back to running, but I did have a few moments along the course where I was dizzy or sick and had to fight to keep moving.

The brutal hills didn't help, either.  I believe there were something like 22 hills along the course, and since it's largely an out-and-back, you get to go up and down some of them twice!  Suuuuper fun, guys.  Between the terrain and my body's rebellion, I was pretty sure I'd actually end up bombing this race.  But then my GPS chimed in and told me I was moving along pretty quickly.  Apparently some of the trail training I'd been doing through the colder months was keeping me in better shape than I realized.  And although the race was sometimes pretty sparse, there was always another person around when I needed a little oomph or pacing to keep me on point.

By the end of the race I was feeling much better.  Knowing I had already fought for so long helps, and made it easier for me to push up the last couple hills.  When I crossed the finish line in well under 2:30, I was nothing short of amazed!  Without running consistently I assumed the elevation changes and physical distress would have ruined me, but apparently I am even stronger than I realized.  That's a pretty great feeling!  Unfortunately I couldn't get an elated finish line photo with my hard-earned medal right away, though, because the race was OUT of medals.  They told me to wait a little bit and they'd bring more, so we hung out in the pavilion where they had a fireplace and some warm refreshments to keep our blood flowing while I waited.

Once I finally had my medal, it was time to hit the post-race pasta lunch hosted by a local restaurant.  Lunch was just basic pasta and bread but any full meal is a nice little touch after running 13.1 miles.  The place was a little hard to find and looked a little sketchy from the road, but apparently the restaurant is a popular higher-end establishment (and yet I don't recall the name, my bad).  We didn't stay long, just enough to stuff a couple platefuls down our gullets before heading back home, but we enjoyed the food and the whole experience.  The rest of the day was spent in well deserved nap mode!

Mill Creek Distance Classic Breakdown

Organization: While the race on the whole was well organized and a positive experience, I have to take some points away for not having all their finisher medals available at the finish line.  Sounded like someone left a box of them at the office or something, so I had to wait a good half hour after finishing to be able to get my finisher medal.  At least they didn't run out completely!  But the course was well supported with aid stations, which I didn't think I'd need due to the cold, but I just can't pass up an electrolyte at mile 8 with my heavy sweating problem.  Packet pickup was a snap and the post race gathering in the little pavilion was nice, though I probably wouldn't have stayed so long if I didn't have to wait for my medal...

The Course: As promised, the entire route was incredibly hilly.  I honestly can't remember a single stretch of road that was flat for more than maybe a tenth of a mile.  Winding, curvy hills, steep hills, long gentle hills...  If there was an elevation change in that park, we were running on it.  Despite the level of difficulty, though, the park itself was incredibly beautiful.  Early March isn't usually all that green, but enough of the forest was starting to awaken for us to enjoy the beginning of spring blossoming.  Challenging courses are becoming old hat for me (as much as they can) so I rather enjoyed the experience.  Have a much faster than anticipated finish time certainly helped leave a positive impression of the course, I must admit!

The Swag: This was a pretty cheap race, and is definitely one for which the swag speaks to the price.  While the course was well supported with aid stations and police where needed (a factor of the race value that is often overlooked), the race shirt is probably one of the most bland I've ever received and will probably end up in a donation bin before long.  It's a tech material but it's not high quality and the sizing was way off, so it's much too big for me to wear.  The finisher medal is also one of the most bland in my collection, but is at least fully customized to reflect the name of the race and the highlight bridge we crossed, so that's a kind of cool feature.  I'm certainly not complaining about the quality - if I recall correctly I paid maybe $35 for a half marathon?  The fact that I got ANYthing is pretty cool at that price, but I wanted to note my observations for anyone who might not have a million race shirts yet or loves flashy bling.

The Bottom Line: Actually, a great race!  Perfect if you're looking for a challenge, easy on the budget, small enough to let you do your "thang" while still having enough participants to warrant good support and attention to detail...  I wish Youngstown could be a little bit closer, but even with the drive, you can't beat this race for the price.  There's a good chance I'll be running Mill Creek again in the future!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Olde Girdled Grit Trail Half Race Recap

With only two months left to complete my goal of one half marathon each month for a year, February gave me an opportunity to shake things up a little bit.  Instead of a road race, I attempted my very first trail half marathon by taking on the Olde Girdled Grit course out in Concord, Ohio.

Lake Health Running Series' Olde Girdled Grit is actually an ultramarathon, full marathon, and half marathon.  Full marathoners complete the half course twice, while 50k ultramarathoners complete the full's two laps PLUS an extra section of trail for the extra distance.  I'm definitely not ready for anything more than a half right now, so I stuck to the single loop!  With the early morning chill and snowfall, I was definitely not looking forward to a few hours out in the woods.  The parks along the course, though, were absolutely beautiful under the light dusting of snow, and temperatures warmed rather quickly, making for a surprisingly pleasant winter run.

I won't pretend like I didn't struggle a bit with the steep hills and crazy woodland stairs - but then again, those are the PERKS of trail running, right?  Fighting my way up was a challenge, and the solitude I encountered along some sections of the trail made me wonder if I was even ON the course at a few points, but I persevered.  My favorite obstacle had to be the swaying bridge we crossed twice during the race!  Finding my footing on the icy ground had been hard enough, but putting me on frozen, swaying planks was just the cherry on top of an exciting winter trail run.  Gotta admit, I was pretty thankful for the wire mesh along the bridge, just in case...

By the last couple miles, though, I was feeling pretty spent.  My phone got too cold and died around mile 8, so I had no idea what my time was looking like, nor where I was in the course.  I assumed I only had a mile left, since the route I'd seen was largely out-and-back, and I was on the stretch of paved road on which the race had started, but then the arrows had me bypassing the turn back towards the starting line and I realized there was more left then I had thought.  I struggled with the mental game and worried that I wouldn't make it, but my friend who was also running (and had finished WAY ahead of me, as usual) came back out to run me back in, and that gave me the burst I needed to surge on to the finish!

I crossed the finish line in an unexpectedly good time for a trial half.  Considering the terrain and weather, my initial dismay at the clock display was quickly turned into a smile and point of pride - I'd actually run the trail half faster than I'd completed some road courses in the past!  And to add to my post race happiness, there was a veritable smorgasboard of snacks available: peanut M&Ms, Swedish fish, fruit snacks, trail mix, Nutty Buddys, energy gels...  Plus there was hot soup inside the pavilion!  I filled a couple cups with munchies, but actually went pretty easy on the snacking because we had Waffle House plans afterwards.  A well-earned breakfast after a great first trail half experience, the perfect way to end an exciting morning!

Olde Girdled Grit Trail Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: This is the third GCXC race I've tried, and it's the third time I've been impressed.  Previously, I've run their Hill Yeah! Half Marathon and the Rock Hall Half Marathon, each of which had a very different atmosphere.  The Olde Girdled Grit race was yet another facet of this company, which seems to have a solid grip on how to offer great running experiences to ANY type of runner.  Some of my friends handled the quick and easy packet pickup on race morning (it was too far away for me to get to early pickup at the local shoe store), the person starting the race was very clear on instructions for the three different course options, aid stations were well placed and manned by friendly cheerers (even though the cold made the water stops a little less necessary), and the finish area was laid out nicely (ie, excellent food access hehe).  There's nothing really to complain about other than the difficulty of the course, and I knew what I was getting myself into anyway!

The Course: Speaking of course difficulty, I've got to admit that I enjoyed the challenges I faced.  For a trail run, it was about as well marked as it could be, though I did have one or two moments at which I wondered if I'd missed a turn.  This was more likely due to the low number of participants (trail runs are limited to preserve the parks) spread out over considerable distance, and not due to poor marking.  Any time you're alone in the middle of the bleak winter woods, you're likely to wonder if you're lost!  The swaying bridge could have caused a problem for some people, since it's single file and is crossed in each direction...  If you're a lead runner trying to come back across, you could be held up by a slower runner who is crossing to head out to the course, or get stuck behind someone who is taking the bridge more cautiously than you might.  I don't believe I hit any particular congestion at this point, but I could definitely understand if someone expressed frustration with it.  Then again, it's a trail race, and single track isn't uncommon!

The Swag: I signed up for this race pretty late, and paid the highest price point at $75 for the half.  Having never run a trail half before, I didn't have much to compare the pricing to, but I do know this organization contributes to the local Metroparks AND to the Lake Health hospitals out of the proceeds, so while I bristled at the high cost I also shrugged some of it off as charity.  Earlier registration rates were much lower, so let's be honest - I did it to myself by waiting for the last minute.  In exchange for my fee, I got a fantastic trail course, all that delicious post race snackage, an awesome finisher medal (it's one of the heaviest I've received, too), and instead of a race shirt, I got a race backpack!  When you've been running for a while, you tend to accumulate waaaaay too many race shirts, and even the nicer tech shirts get old after so many.  It was refreshing to receive a different kind of race swag, and since it's a $40 retail priced Asics bag, I felt even less concerned about the steeper cost of the race.  Overall, I think I got a pretty good value out of this race, though I definitely wish I'd entered at a lower price point.

The Bottom Line: I don't think I could have asked for a better experience for my first trail half!  Originally I thought the February-ness of it would be miserable, but we lucked out and got the pretty side of Ohio's snow-kissed winter without having to suffer the bitter cold that usually accompanies those flurries.  My body faced some new obstacles but overcame them all, and I walked away with some cool new stuff.  Not sure I'd do it again because of winter's unpredictability, but I would definitely recommend this race to other runners, especially trail addicts!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Introducing: Ask A Race Director!

A long time ago, I wanted to start a series here to help answer questions I get frequently from the running community.  Entitled "Ask A Race Director", this series would be a way to help inform runners and racers, especially when it comes to some of the policies that leave participants scratching their heads - or worse, walking away angry.  Finally, it is time to start that series!

Welcome to Ask A Race Director, Volume 1!

My first question comes from Sharla W, who asked a great kickoff query: how did I first get into race directing?  Well, this answer is pretty closely tied in with my personal journey over the past decade or so.  I'll try to keep the backstory brief, if possible, including glossing over 20+ years as an athlete who hated running ("my sport is your sport's punishment" mentality) and years of study towards archaeology/art history that ended up useless, prompting a need to find a new career goal.  Those two items inform the story but aren't focal points.

My first job in the racing industry.

The heart of the story begins when I moved to Chicago after failing to find my calling in Columbus after grad school.  I took a job as an office manager for a research group, and found myself in charge of event planning as part of the many facets of the work.  Despite little experience and no training, I was able to quickly learn some of the tools and tricks of the trade.  Before long I was putting together events and conferences with great success.  When it came time to move on from that position, I started looking for another job that would allow me to keep planning events, including an actual event planning position.  I went through a few more office management type jobs, all the while continuing to build experience in different forms of event planning but constantly unsure if I was really in the "right" line of work.

During this time, my running hobby started to take off.  I was learning that competing against myself was the best way to carry on my athletic spirit, and dove deeper and deeper into the endurance sport world.  As I struggled with other aspects of my life, I found the running community to be the closest feel I had to "home" at the time, and wanted to be a bigger part of it.  Volunteering led to a couple part time paid race work opportunities.  The more I did, the more I loved it.  It became clear that I had found my calling.  When I moved back to my family home in Cleveland, the opportunity to become a full time race manager presented itself.

Not race directing, but the same happy dance I do after orchestrating
a successful event.  I WILL be directing this race NEXT year!

Call it kismet, call it dedication, call it whatever you like - I took to that job like a fish to water.  Spending every day putting together events can be challenging, exciting, hectic, and even boring sometimes, but when you go home saying "I love my job" even after your worst days, you're where you belong.  Event days are just the icing on the cake for me, though I must admit seeing events take shape and watching runners (friends and strangers alike) accomplishing goals, becoming healthier, making new connections, and having a blast is probably the BEST part of the job!

So that's my story, in a nutshell...  It was the right confluence of passions and joys, mixed with good timing and a lot of personal drive, that got me into the position I've enjoyed for the past few years.  I'm so thrilled to have the opportunity to change lives every day, to raise money for charities doing good work, and to have fun while I do it!  There's no better job in the world than being a race director!

My favorite customer ;)

Do YOU have a question to Ask A Race Director?  Want an explanation of a weird rule or procedure?  Curious about the inner workings of the racing industry?  Let me answer for you!  Leave a comment, shoot me an email, message me on social media, whatever works for you works for me.  And, tell me about YOUR dream job, too!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Brokeman's Winter Warmup 2017 Race Recap

(I ran this race seven months ago.  As I'm catching up on everything I missed on the blog, I'm going back to address as many of my 2017 races as possible - but I can't promise this is the most accurate recap as I did not write it while the experience was fresh in my mind!  I also apologize for the brevity compared to my usual recaps.)

I considered giving up on my goal of running a half every month for a year before running my January half.  A mix of frustration, sadness, sickness, and winter weather blues had me almost convinced that it was time to throw in the towel.  But then I realized it's only three more months, and I didn't spend all the time, energy, and (let's be honest) money on nine months of running only to quit in the fourth quarter.  So I signed up for the Brokeman's series Winter Warmup in Columbus and bugged a close runner friend of mine to join me, and we took the trip down to my old neighborhood to tackle another course.

We stayed overnight in a cheap hotel so we could sleep in on race morning, and were a little surprised to find ourselves less than a mile from the starting line!  By far one of the easiest race mornings I've ever had, complete with Tim Horton's and some excellent pump up jams in the car while we waited for the starting time.  The course was all within a metro park which made for a very pretty run, especially passing some of the park's water features and going under or over some very cool bridges.  Unfortunately the iciness of the cold morning (which thankfully stayed dry, despite super low temps) made some of those bridges dangerous, but otherwise it was an easy course.  I wasn't expected to run as much as I did, and was very proud to find myself at the 10k mark in almost record time!  But then the lack of training settled in and the second half of the race was a little more stop-and-go, bringing me to the finish in about average time.

The most notable thing I remember about the experience of the run was the "cup-free" course, which was thankfully explained in detail on the Brokeman's website so I knew to run with my own bottles.  Water stops only had big jugs of water and Gatorade for people to refill their personal bottles; no cups or other trash items were used.  While this policy is very green and good for the park, I honestly don't think I would ever emulate it in one of the races I manage, for a few reasons.  From the runner's perspective, running 13 miles with a water bottle isn't natural for everyone.  Many runners prefer to race unencumbered; this type of police messes with their typical race MO.  It can be a difficult adjustment.  Even though some people would say "but it's just water and they can still drink on their own schedule" - try getting a set-in-their-ways runner to change any aspect of their race routine and see how it goes!  On the other side of the policy, the literless aspect, I don't really think that's a major problem in most races.  Volunteers who hand out water also do an exceptional job of cleaning up afterwards at just about every race I've ever run, worked, or spectated.  I think I, personally, will continue to arrange races with the convenience of disposable cups on the course.  What do you think?

Brokeman's Winter Warmup Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: For a small company they were pretty well organized.  We walked right up to the table for packet pickup, there were plenty of volunteers who were very cheery and vocal, and communication was pretty solid!  Brokeman's Running Company puts on a handful of cost-efficient races across Ohio, most of which are full marathons, so they're no strangers to races.  I'm pretty sure they do their own timing too, making them a pretty self-sufficient company.  This race offered a few different distances so runners of all abilities could participate, and interestingly, each bib was marked with not only the distance but a map of the race course, printed up-side down for runners to read properly when they pull up their shirts to look!  Very clever, I've definitely never seen that before but it's a great way to help your runners stay on course!

The Course:  The Warmup was fully contained in a large metropark about a half hour outside of Columbus.  I loved the scenery but hated crossing the wooden bridges throughout the park.  On such a cold day, they were pretty iced up and there was little hope of the buildup melting.  The very long bridge we crossed twice (right before and right after the turnaround) was treacherous and many participants grabbed the handrails to inch along the curved bridge, afraid the ice and incline would lead to injury.  I carefully tried to pick my way across at a run, but had to slow up a few times for obvious ice patches.  In the spring and fall, I bet this course is stunning!  BIG points for the Swedish fish aid station, too...

The Swag:  Here's the thing about Brokeman's races: they're supposed to be cost-effective, with minimal frills to help keep the cost low.  As you can see, it's the smallest race bib I've ever seen (and I get a kick out of the late signups receiving bibs that say "procrastinator" instead of their chosen distance) but it's pretty cool that I could look at the route map during the race.  My "medal" is just a block of wood with a stamped-on image and a piece of twine as the ribbon; no one receives a shirt unless you want to buy one from their gear store.  This wouldn't be an awful setup, if the race were actually lower cost, but even the earlier entry fees weren't all that cheap!  While writing this, I've tried to look up the fee schedule for the race but this event's webpage doesn't want to load for me, so I can't give you an exact cost but I remember being shocked at how expensive this "cheap, no frills" race actually was.  With no police or city costs on such a well-contained course, and very economical swag, I'd expect a race called "Brokeman's" to be far less expensive.  This was one of the worst values for my money, of all the many races I have run!

The Bottom Line:  I'm glad I got a January half in, and the course was picturesque, but I wouldn't pay for this race again.  There are other races that give you more for your money, and I'm not sure I'm the biggest fan of the no-cup water stops.  I get the environmental impact, but it makes a lot of people have to run a different race than they maybe trained to run.  I'll pass for next year and look for something in a warmer climate with better value for next January.

How much emphasis do you put on a race's "bang for the buck"?  Will a nice or challenging course outweigh a lack of swag if you're debating between races at a similar cost?  Would you prefer a cup-free course or would you rather be able to grab your cup as you pass the stations?