They Pulled out All the Stops: BCS Marathon Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry for the BCS 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! All opinions are my own.

When I attended school at Texas A&M (can I get an “a-whoop!?”), I had several friends slave away to run the BCS Marathon. I always thought it would be cool to run a half, but never, in a million years, did I see myself running a full.

Because I couldn’t even run three miles at the time.

Four years later, and I’m back to do just that. Funny how life works.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s cut to the chase. I’m here today to review the BCS Marathon in College Station, Texas.


Pre-Race

A turn of events caused us to be in Austin late Saturday before the race, so I actually wasn’t able to attend the expo. Head over to Live Slow Run Fast if you would like a better idea of what that was like.

I can provide more feedback on the pre-race morning experience. Being in College Station, parking is a non-issue. There are a variety of hotels close to the start line at Post Oak Mall, so I was able to sleep in until a glorious 5 a.m. alarm. We left our hotel around 6:15 and parked by about 6:25. It was just a short walk to the start line, where I met up with Jessica. I noticed there were plenty of porta potties as we made our way to the start line – there was hardly even a line!


The Gun Goes Off

Soon enough, it was time to run. Jessica and I ran together for the first 5 miles or so; it’s always a pleasure to get to run with a friend. We went our separate ways and it started to look like I just might be able to pull off a 5 hour marathon.

The route was scenic and ran all over the Bryan/College Station area. We ran through the historic neighborhoods, then moved on to downtown Bryan. Later on, we made our way out to the Tradition’s golf course, which offered more nature/scenic views. Finally, we ran back to campus as people started to hit the dreaded “wall.” It’s planned perfectly because student organizations come out to cheer people on and staff aid stations. And everyone wants to be near campus, so they are really excited!

I truly appreciated the pacers. At my first marathon, there were no pacers for the full marathon, which felt lonely toward the end. I’m sure it’s quite rare for a marathon so small (less than 1,000) to have pacers. The attention to detail really helped me stay motivated. The 5:15 pacer and I kept passing each other, and he was super cool. The marathon relay group also made the course feel a lot less empty, which was well-planned.

Aid stations were also fabulous. They all had water and Gatorade, as well as medical staff (with Vaseline for chafing). Every few aid stations, they offered food – Gu, orange slices, bananas, gummy candies, etc. The race was small enough that the stations weren’t crowded, either.

Personally, I didn’t hit the wall until about mile 21, because there were barely any hills. My race felt pretty great the whole way, but at mile 21, my leg started to cramp. I stayed the course, got some Tylenol and drank some Gatorade at the next [perfectly-timed] aid station, and was able to power through the rest of the race.

I had to make it up one last hill to the 26 mile marker, and then I sprinted back downhill to finish.


Finisher Party (and boy, was it time to part-ay)

The finish line crowd was also spirited, as was the announcer (who high-fived me). It felt like a much larger race. Immediately after crossing, I was able to find my husband and parents, who had come in from out of town. I received my beautiful medal, banged the PR gong (heck yeah, 20 minute personal record), and headed to the party.

The post-race party was filled with food and goodies. It was easy to find my finisher jacket, which was also pretty well-made. There were pizza rolls, beer, margaritas, breakfast tacos, the list goes on. It was just awesome. I also liked that there was a little bit of a walk back to the parking lot from Wolf Pen Creek, where the party was. It helped me to cool down, which I too often do not do.

Overall, I would recommend the BCS Marathon to anyone.

It’s almost as well done as the big ones, but with a small town heart. There is truly something for everyone. Plus, Aggies are very friendly, and that spirit proved true for this race.

However, due to the race occurring during the holiday season, I would personally appreciate a packet mailing option; yes, running a marathon is obviously a huge deal, but it’s the time of year where things come up. It would have been helpful to have a way to work that out.


Well, I did it, you guys! I ran my second marathon – the BCS Marathon. Did not know how I was going to make it at times, but I did. With a final time of 5:21:38, BCS was the fastest marathon I’ve run yet. It was also a great value for the price; marathons are expensive, but they pulled out all the stops, just like at a larger race.

Cheers to marathon PR’s in your old hometown.

Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon Recap and Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry for the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half 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! All opinions are my own.

As most of you know, I’ve been training for the BCS Marathon, with the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon as a bit of a benchmark midway through. This past weekend (October 16) I finally made my way up to College Station for the race. Not only did I look forward to seeing how my former home has changed, but also to experience a city that I haven’t seen yet on the run. 

Pre-race

The race did a great job of communicating updates leading up to the race, through emails and social media. They also ran several giveaways with their sponsors on Facebook, which kept race goers engaged with the page. Actually, this is incredibly smart, because if timely messages need to be communicated, any page must have an active audience for Facebook to push out content.

img_4099In terms of the expo, it was held at the Nutrabolt headquarters. There were only 4 booths in total, including Nutrabolt’s area and the race packet pickup – not exactly what I’d call an expo. While signup and packet pickup were easy, the expo wasn’t anything to write home about. However, since there is no other way to pick up your packet for this race, it must be done!

Side note: we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It was clean, comfy and a 10 minute drive from the race. The staff were also friendly and accommodating.

Racing time!

The race starts at 7, but it’s a good idea to aim to be at the start line by 6:30, if you are meeting people, no later than 6:45 if you are riding solo. Parking and walking takes an extra 10ish minutes. You must pass through the underground tunnel leading to the start line before 6:45 to make it on time (it’s part of the race course).

Porta potty lines were as expected; there are plenty for the number of race participants, but there is always a line. Anyway, there were tons of announcements and of course the national anthem, the Aggie fight song (whoop!), and a prayer. Just get there early if you want to chat or use the bathroom. Unfortunately, I was running late… between all of the announcements, Erica at Another Half Please and I couldn’t snag much of a pre-race conversation, but we did catch up the first mile of the race and afterward. The race started, and we were off!

The first several miles of the course, we caught a view of the most beautiful sunrise as we ran through campus. That always makes the early mornings worthwhile. The course itself was fairly flat, with mild hills. For this Austinite, the course wasn’t particularly challenging.

The race field was not too big, and not too small (about 650 total for the half). There was no crowding on the course. The aid stations were consistently every 1.5 miles, and they were staffed with pleasant, friendly volunteers. I did not see any long lines for porta potties either; just 1 or 2 people total in line at a time, so they had an appropriate amount. They even placed Gu’s appropriately at around miles 4 and 10, as wells as oranges and bananas. This is a nice touch and an area where the race excelled. Any race I’ve attended that has fuel on the course puts it at mile 7 – kinda late to start fueling for a half. At the end of the course, where the path winds through a residential neighborhood, volunteers stood throughout to guide runners (also much appreciated)!

Finishing strong…

In terms of my time goal, I tried not to set one until I felt it out. Race morning was sunny and between 71 and 75 degrees. I did well before the sun was overhead. I tried to push myself in the last half to see if I could at least finish between 2:25-2:30. The heat got the better of me and I had to finish conservatively. I ultimately finished at 2:36:12. Not Austin 2016 at all, but I’m happy to have finished uninjured and enjoyed the experience overall. The finish line was also inside Kyle Field, which was really neat. I didn’t stay in there long though, because I was ready to get out of the sun and into the post race party. 

My face after my husband found me, drenched in sweat!

Post Race – Time to party!

One of my favorite parts of the Nutrabolt Half was the post race party. Karbach beer was on tap (4 different types). It would have been nice to have a cider choice available, especially to serve gluten-free folks. However, I sat down with a wheat beer, Weisse Versa, which was refreshing and appropriate, as my time in College Station was the peak of my beer drinking days. For runners, they also had pretzels and bratwurst, complementing the Oktoberfest theme, in addition to the other runner food staples of bananas, muffins, etc. There was only a line for beer, which also made it easy to enjoy the party!

This recap cannot be complete without a note on the wonderful swag we received. Before the race, we received a nice Nutrabolt bag (similar to lululemon shopping totes). Inside the bag were a couple of FitJoy bars, and a large beach towel. After the race, we received a super soft, triblend finisher’s shirt, a ceramic beer stein and a sweet medal. Even though none of these pieces were super technical, they are actually pieces that I will use outside of running, which is awesome. I prefer to get a few quality pieces of non-running swag than one tech shirt/jacket that is not made well, because I’ll just never use it! I’ve been wearing the t-shirt to sleep in all week, actually.

Overall, it was worth the trip to Aggieland; I will absolutely make the trip back if given the opportunity in the future. Thanks again to the race director for making this possible. I’m excited to return to C-Stat for my 2nd marathon in December.

Today’s question – what was your hottest race experience?

Cheers to “fall” races in Texas (and the beers that follow)!

 

Training/Life Update: Free to Travel!

Man, oh man! The last 2 months have been SUCH a whirlwind. [I say this a lot, but] where has the time gone?! It’s currently April 10th, and I just finished the Cap 10K today. Once again, life has been crazy and I’ve been traveling a ton.

I honestly did not complete much formal training for the 10K. Really, I’ve only been running a couple times a week (at least 3 miles when I can get a short workout in and a 5-7 mile long run on the weekend). No real improvements to report, but I’m okay with that. The Cap 10K was my first ever 10K, so I was excited for the experience. It’s the largest 10K in Texas, with almost 20,000 participants. More on the race will come in an upcoming post.

Part of the reason for the absence of training updates/a consistent schedule is because I have been busy, busy busy, and traveling like crazy. So, instead of doing a training update, I’m going to spend time focusing on my travels over the past couple of months.

img_2732First, my trip to Waco and Magnolia Market! I took a day trip with some ladies I know through a mutual friend. If you’re not familiar with Magnolia Market, it’s the retail store owned by Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper. We arrived early on a Saturday, between 9 or 10, and were fortunate that the line was nonexistent. Inside was a shabby-chic decorator’s heaven. They even sell those custom signs you see on the show in practically every house they renovate. 

The market is all about the experience; I didn’t want to spend money on everything I saw, but I enjoyed the decorations and atmosphere (like this garden area – only Joanna could make salad look this pretty).

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After we had our fill (I bought a t-shirt and a cute milk glass vase), we grabbed brunch at Cafe Cappuccino, a local Waco spot down the way. I had the BEST sweet potato pancakes; highly recommend the place if you ever find yourself in Waco. Then, it was time to drive back to Austin. I can’t wait to come back to Waco when I have more time to explore, and a house of my own to decorate. Make sure you get to Magnolia Market early though – when we left, the line was wrapped around the block to the nearest stoplight.

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Then, in February, we went away for our anniversary to Cancun. I love all-inclusive, and this was no exception. It was the perfect temperature, the food was delicious, and the drinks were on point. One of my favorite parts of the week was our actual anniversary – we adventured into the water for a snorkeling excursion that was fantastic, and ended the day with a relaxing sunset massage.

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The only thing I would have changed was I wish we could have stayed a whole week, but I was so glad we got to go to begin with. That, and I was face down in the water so long for snorkeling that my backside got a bad sunburn (oops!). It was really nice to get away with no responsibilities. Just the beautiful white sand, crystal clear water, and of course, my wonderful husband.


Finally, my spring travels ended with a trade show in Chicago. I’d never been to Chicago and it was incredible. It reminds me a lot of New York City, but much cleaner and with friendlier people. I had a few hours off to explore one afternoon, so I got to walk from my hotel to The Bean/Cloud Gate. I looked like a total tourist, I’m sure, because I was taking pictures of the Magnificent Mile the whole time (see below). The architecture was just so cool – art deco details, classic sculptures, modern skyscrapers – there was a little bit of everything.

And then, there was the Giordano’s pizza. That was also fantastic. I’d sneak some back for every pre-race carbloading session if it were possible.

They even have a Garmin store – I’ve never seen one of those before!

Other than working and getting plugged into a church, that’s the majority of what I’ve been up to. I love to travel – it’s freeing to immerse yourself in another place – but I’m also glad to be home for awhile and continue settling in Austin.

Did you do any traveling this Spring? Where’d you go?

Cheers to exploring the world, through running and otherwise! 🙂

Exciting Times We Live in…

Hey y’all.

Fun updates ahead on what’s been going on with me lately – I have been working hard and have a couple of exciting opportunities to share (battling allergies/a cold this week, mind you, but still at it!).

  
First, I signed up for the Austin Half Marathon on February 14th, 2016! I am really looking forward to this race. There is an expo, and I have never been to one before. It will be the first time I have raced in Austin, and according to reviews on BibRave it’s a course with some nice scenery. It looks like the course is also a bit hilly, so that should be a fun challenge. Side note: I actually like hills because I feel like my knee doesn’t act up so much, due to the variation in muscle groups I’m using (sounds nerdy, but it’s true). We’ll see if I can squeeze out a PR, but I’m looking forward to it regardless.

  
Second, I was recently selected to join the 2016 BibRave Pro ambassador program, and I am kind of over the moon about that as well! As a BibRave Pro, I will have an awesome opportunity to try some new races and products, so I am super ecstatic about being able to share all of those experiences (with the training, racing and nifty products) with you. You should definitely check out BibRave.com… not every race is on there, but if you are trying to decide between two races, or you are on the fence about signing up for one, they have detailed, meaningful insight from other runners. Yelp and other review sites do not provide this information the same way, which is why I’ve been using BibRave as a resource for some time now. You also don’t have to have a blog to write race reviews on the site, so if you have done a couple of races and would like to share your feedback, that would be so helpful, especially as BibRave continues to grow and a variety of perspectives paints a balanced, accurate portrait of each race.

I have also been working on a gift guide and (wait for it) a GIVEAWAY! So, that’s what’s up… stay tuned for details within the next week or so.

Cheers to new opportunities in 2016! What are you looking forward to next year?