Monday, December 21, 2009

Best of 2009... Marathon Medals Edition!

Best Marathon Medals of 2009...
I've taken all of my ratings from my 2009 Marathons (18 in total) and ranked them best to worst, with the top 5 taking the prizes*. I'll do a new "Best of" each day for the next few days, ending with "Best overall marathon." I've included pictures below to the "Best of" as well as the remaining marathons.... and I've thrown in a few from prior years as well. Links will bring you to the full race ratings. Hope you enjoy.
*Actual prizes can be redeemed in "cool points"

4c. Leading Ladies "It's All in the Bag- Purse" Medal (3-way tie for 4th place) 4.0/5.0
Date: Aug 16, 2009
Spearfish, SD
Overall rating: 4.3/5.0

Info: This seemed like a great design for an all-women's marathon- great slogan, a purse, a touch of pink. But, it is a little hard to read the lettering... brown and red may not have been a great combo.

 4b Vermont City Marathon Medal (3-way tie for 4th place) 4.0/5.0
Date: May 24, 2009
Burlington, VT
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0

Info: There is just something I love about this one... the size, design, and color, give it sort of a distinctive regal look. Some may think it's boring because it's just an emblem, but I liked it!

4a. OBX "Pirate Coin" Medal (3-way tie for 4th place) 4.0/5.0
Date: Nov 8, 2009
Overall rating: 4.8/5.0

Info: I gave this one the 4A of the tie because, if I had to choose, it would definitely be above the other two. I think I was sort of disappointed when I found out it wasn't the treasure map they had the year before. Still... a pirate coin is very cool!

3. Nashville Country Music "Ten Year Anniversary" Medal 4.2/5.0
Date: Apr 25, 2009
Nashville, TN
Overall rating: 3.2/5.0

Info: The X representing the 10-years, gave a little something special for those of us at the anniversary. This is a rock-n-roll marathon, so the guitars added an appropriate touch. Not for the weak... this medal is HEAVY- as thick as it is colorful!!!

2. ING Georgia "Skyline Spin" Medal 4.5/5.0
Date: Mar 29, 2009
Atlanta, GA
Overall rating: 4.1/5.0

Info: If you click on the picture, you'll have a better idea of how cool this is. The skyline actually spins and the color and design are awesome! I really love when the designer put effort into the laynard as much as the medal itself. Colorful, fun, different... love it!

And the Steph's 50 Marathon Challenge #1 rated medal for 2009 is.... *Drum roll*...

1. Walt Disney World "Mickey" Medal 4.8/5.0
Date: Jan 11, 2009
Orlando, FL
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0

Info: A medal as distinctive and fun as it's race... it's very tough to beat a Disney World Medal. These are new due to complaints that the previous design was overused... they kept the Mickey and have a colorful and fun lanyard. The back is actually velcro for our convenience. This was my first race for 2009, so the medal got a 4.8 in case something better came along... there's still hope for a 5.0.

3 Worst Medals of 2009
I like to call this years worst the...
"Where's my medal?"... "That IS your medal!"... "THIS?? Oh dear lord!" Awards!

3. Louisville Marathon's "Did I get this out of a cracker jax box" medal 2.6/5.0
Date: Oct 18, 2009

Louisville, KY
Overall rating: 2.5/5.0

Info: Images in picture are NOT bigger than they appear... you really can't get the total feel for the medal until you see it. That shiney coat on th top is paint... its actually plastic.

2. Erie Marathon at Presque Isle "I'm so breaking this before I get home" Medal 2.2/5.0
Date: Sep 13, 2009
Erie, PA
Overall rating: 3.8/5.0

Info: Sometimes "different" isn't always good. This medal is glass... and we're lucky I got a picture of it in one piece. It's kind of hard to read, and it's not the prettiest picture on the front. Great marathon.... not a great medal.

And the Steph's 50 Marathon Challenge WORST medal of 2009 is... *drum roll*...

1. Park City's "What exactly IS that" Medal 2.0/5.0
Date: Aug 22, 2009
Park City, UT
Overall Rating: 3.0/5.0

Info: I don't think there is much more required here except the picture... ick. I actually asked a person in the finish shoot where we got our medals. She told me I was holding it... I tried not to look too disapointed. Great Race... great area... poor medal.

Remaining Medals of 2009...
The "Betweener" Medals

Date: Jun 13, 2009
Williamson, WV
Overall Rating: 4.8/5.0

Info: The entire race weekend was about these two families... specifically these two men, so it was appropriate to have their faces on the medal. Very intricate and nice for such a small race.
Date: Jul 26, 2009
San Fracisco, CA
Overall Rating: 2.8/5.0

Info: This is a pretty good sized medal. The back of it, has little legs so that it can be turned into a drink coaster... that's pretty cool. It scored a little lower because the design is awfully boring for such a huge race!

Date: Jul 11, 2009
Baraboo, WI
Overall Rating: 4.2/5.0

Info: I love the little running devil on these. Cute medal, but my issue with this one was that the half marathoners took all the medals, and we had to wait 3 weeks to get ours. Definitely affected the way I scored. Oops. Also, I think they use the same medal for all the DWD marathons, but I could be wrong.

RI 6-Hour Ultra"6th Place???" Medal 3.7/5.0
Date: Nov 15, 2009
Warwick RI
Overall Rating: 4.9/5.0

Info: I thought for a first attempt at a medal (new race with a new race director) this was a pretty good job! I like the colors on the laynyard, it has the race logo on the front, waves and all, just nice. Bad side? People kept asking me if I got 6th place... some people are so dense.

Date: Oct 4, 2009
Portland, ME
Overall Rating: 3.8/5.0

Info:  This one is kind of little, but I like the whole State-shaped one-- especially for all the 50-staters that participated in this one!

Date: Sep 20, 2009
Boulder, CO
Overall Rating: 3.4/5.0

This is an unusual medal done well.

Date: Jun 6, 2009
South Bend, IN
Overall Rating: 3.0/5.0

Info: And this is a great example of a smaller medal done well. The entry fee for this race was pretty low, which usually means a bad medal, but this one wasn't too bad! I like the gold... it definitely stands out.

New Hampshire Marathon Medal 3.0/5.0
Date: Oct 3, 2009
Bristol, NH
Overall Rating: 4.0/5.0

Info: I liked this one because it also had a state on it and it was a big 50-Stater marathon. But the medal was a little dull other than that.

Northern Central Trails Medal 2.8/5.0
Date: Nov 28, 2009
Sparks, MD
Overall Rating: 2.9/5.0

Info: Picture Coming Soon....

Distinctive Medals of Stephanie's Marathon Past...
Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon
Cincinnati, OH
First weekend in May!
Info: Double-click on this one!!! Yes, that's a butt you see on the back-side of the medal. One of my favorite races (and not because I live in cinci) and one of my favorite medals. This one would get a 4.9, maybe even a 5.0 if it were in the 2009 ratings. Yes... it would be Mickey!!!!! The blue ribbon, is the half-marathon medal. It's a little bit smaller, and the lanyard is not as nice-- but then again its half the race!

Marine Corp Marathon 2007 Medal
Quantico, VA
Late October

Athens Classic Marathon
Athens, Greece
Info: This is my first marathon medal. The medal says (spelled in english) Klasikos Marathonos Athinon... Classic Marathon of Athens. There isn't anything too grand about this medal... which, surprisingly I can say the same about the very low-key race-- but it's pretty cool because its THE marathon. :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Northern Central Trails Marathon... Race Ratings!!!

Tagline: "Up hill both way, in the cold... with no shoes"
2009 Northern Central Trail Marathon

Registration Fee: $85 (Early Reg., $95 after)- The raced closed out before it reached late reg.

Overall Race Rating (weighted): 2.9/5.0
Average Calculated Rating: 3.17/5.0

~ This wasn't a bad race, but it definitely could use some work-- especially for the amount of money the registration is! Some of the race organization lacked a little and I felt the registration closed out a lot of runners-- they capped out the course, but they didnt get the whole path for the run either. The bikers on the course were a big problem and there was no GU. The swag was pretty cool... different from the normal: Jacket (albeit, not great looking), a pin, an OK medal.

Race Director: Let's place race director...
~What would I have changed if I were race director? The most important change I would make is to clear the bike path. Not only do the bikers slow down the runners, but it's not safe to have so many bikers on the course while a race is going on. GU or some sort of Gel could definitely be at one stop (2, since it is an out and back course). Instead of having tables on both sides of the course, make a longer water stop on one side or designate the right side for the out group and the left side for the runners coming back in the other direction.

Event Organization: 2.5/5.0 (now broken into 2 parts, see below as well) As far as "event organization" we'll go ahead and include things like Host hotel, website use, ease of travel to the event and to the actual race, etc.
Distance from Airport to Expo/Race: ~35 Miles
Rental Car Required: YES
~ To get to this race, you will likely fly into a Baltimore airport. If you fly southwest this can be a fairly cheap flight!!! I can see traffic being tricky depending on the day because you need to drive through Baltimore to get from the race to the aiport... but we lucked out and got there and back with plenty of time to spare! We did stay in one of the websites hotels (Crown Plaza) and had an excellent stay.. nice hotel, nice stay but they don't take breakfast orders until 7am (Even if the lady tells you they take them at 6am... grrr). The website is very basic, giving you a limited amount of information, but then again the race isn't huge so they only needed to communicate so much. There WERE some issues from closing out so early with mail-in registrations that I mentioned in a prior post.

Race Organization: 2.3/5.0
~ Race organizatoin wasn't great. There were no Gel Stops and the water stops kind of annoyed me... there were tables on both sides, which I'm sure was to be a convenience to the runners, but on such a small path, runners trying to go through got caught up behind runners that slowed or stopped. They also did not have the path cleared from bikers that were out for a ride... I got cut off a few times after crossing a street and entering onto a path. They DID have a sports drink at most, if not all, of the stops so that was a plus! Rest rooms were far and few between... but they were structures rather than port a johns, which was nice.

Once again, I asked to get my "State #" (21) somewhere on my race bib (21, 121, 221, etc) and they said they would try, but they gave me 22 instead. I mean C- for a little bit of effort, but thats not really the point of asking for 21. MB also asked for hers, and they didn't even come close.

Course: 3.0/5.0
~ I can see how this course COULD be appealing to some people... if you don't mind the long sloped uphill and still have the strength in your hamstrings after to fly back down, you're in good shape for this course. I found the course slightly annoying, as it went at so much of an incline for the first 14 miles that is started getting a little annoying around miles 8-10, but not enough of an incline up to feel like you were actually going downhill on the way back-- you just felt like it was flat on the way back. You end on an additional 1.2 mile of good sized hills to the finish. You were  shaded for most of the race if it happened to get hot and you had the option of going slightly off to path to run on softer ground, so that was a little plus.

Spectators: 3.0/5.0
~ There were a few breaks in the path where spectators could be. This is definitely a quiter crowd and a much more subdued race. There was a woman handing out gummy bears at one point and the relay pass-off point was a little more spirited (you go through that twice).

Pace Group: /5.0
~ DNE and didn't need

Runner/Corrals: 4.0/5.0
~ No corrals. Runners were pretty nice... quiet all around, but you could get some to chat if you felt like it. I think the first 14 uphill made the runners a little quiet as they started huffing and puffing toward the top.

Expo: 3.4/5.0
~ The packet pick-up was at a running store so we'll go ahead and call this the "expo." The store (Charm City Run) was not a bad size... you could get anything you needed-- GU, sports beans, bottles, clothing, shoes, etc. Prices weren't bad, but of course it wasn't like a real expo with the discounts. They did have a map of the courses and more information if you were looking for it.

Swag: 4.0/5.0
~T-Shirt: This was the 20th running of the marathon, so they had jackets instead of shirts. They are black jackets that look a little like a fireman's jacket and are almost as heavy. They had a hood with their track club name on the back and the race on the front. Where these jackets lack in appearence, they make up in warmth for the long cold winter runs. 4.0
~Medals: The medals were pretty basic, but they kind of had a shine to them that made them look plastic instead of metal. 2.8
~ Goodie Bag: The goodie bag itself was kind of cool... a red track club back-pack bag with double drawstrings. There was also a 20th anniversary pin inside... pretty cool! +.5
~ Race pics: I tried to avoid the camera this time... after my RI disaster pics. They weren't bad though... giving the runners abour 5-10 shots. A really good one at the finish.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Northern Central Trail Marathon... Post-Race Thoughts

Sorry, Sorry, Sorry not only did I NOT do a race Run-Down, but it's been like 4 days and I haven't posted anything about last weekends race.

Northern Central Trail Marathon ~ November 28, 2009
Sparks, MD
450 runners and another 36 teams of 2, participated in the 20th annual Northern Central Trail Marathon. Sparks, it just outside of Baltimore and the course is (mostly) on an out-and-back rail-trail aka bike path. This was my 18th marathon of the year (21st state) and final race for 2009!!!  Woohoo Happy to have completed every marathon I participated in and had some great times as well.

Expo & Area
The expo is run the day/night before at Charm City Run-- a running store in the area. If you need any last minute clothes/GU/sports beans, etc you're set... MB got a pair of gloves when we felt just how chilly MD was! At the expo you receive your 20th running commemorative jacket that you paid a little extra for this year... the jacket is very heavy (good for the cold) but left a little to be desired in styling.

The expo & hotels are not too far from Baltimore if you would like to explore the city. There are also a few large malls in the area to do a little shopping. We went to a Carrabas close to the hotel/packet pick-up, but there is a pretty good selection of dining options.

Race Morning
They suggest that you park at a nearby business park and take the shuttle a few miles to the race. If possible, I suggest trying to park at the school. When I finished I hurried to get my stuff and get on the first shuttle to take me to our rental car... made a quick dash back with the car to get MB-- we didn't want to miss our plane and didn't know how bad traffic would be getting out. Best to park on the Rd in front of the school if possible.

The Race
The course is mostly an out and back, with 14 miles out and cutting off a mile on the way back. Obviously, since I didn't do my Race RUN-down I knew very little about the actual course and worked out as normal through the week... including a very serious hamstring/Glute workout-- bad idea!! The first 14 miles are on a slight incline straight up. The incline was just steep enough to start annoying your hammies by mile 8/9, but not steep enough to feel like you were actually going downhill on the way back. :( All the work with no benefit. Ah well. The one issue I really had with the race was the number of bikes allowed on the trail while the race was in progress. I had a few cut me off trying to get through the path entrances. The end of the race is about a 1.2M uphill climb... ouch.

As I said, I was in a bit of a rush to get the shuttle to the car and bring the car back to catch MB. The shuttle was actually quite quick getting out and the traffic wasn't too bad getting back... much better than Boulder Backroads! The post-race food is in the school's large gym where everybody congregated. All I kept hearing about was "THE soup" that I was supposed to get... but every time I went up they had "just" run out and were heating up more :( ... if anybody is reading this and ran the race and got soup, let me know how it was! MB finished the race in great time and off to the airport we went!!

Post-Race Thoughts
This was far from one of my favorite races and I felt like I could have done a LOT better than I did... by mile 12 I was just plain annoyed by the course and started slacking majorly. On top of that I started feeling a little sniffly, which of course turned into a full cold over the next day and a half... Still have the cold and I've now decided I NEVER want to run in the north again until summer!!! Well... except for my race in Albany coming up in February. Hmmm...