Race Recap: The Great Inflatable Race

On Saturday, June, 30 we participated in The Great Inflatable Race, held in Erie, Pa., along with some of our friends. We had done a different inflatable 5K with the same group of friends a few years ago and had been looking forward to doing another one.

Registration Cost: This race’s registration cost was $25 with an early-bird registration. The regular full price that’s listed on the website is $75; if we were paying that much we would have bounced and gone to another race, ha ha!

Packet Pick-Up: This was offered last night somewhere other than the race course location, or available before the race this morning. Because we were driving in from a short distance we did the race morning option. The pre-race info had instructed you to bring a copy of your registration ticket, which was scanned for the pick-up. There weren’t any numbers for this race, just a wristband that had your starting wave printed on it. The other goodies in the packet include a cotton t-shirt and a silicone-type wristband. One other note about the venue is that parking was $10 per car, cash (and they requested exact change).

Pre-Race: There was a DJ there who was playing music and trying to keep the crowd excited. That was probably a difficult job because people were taking their time on the obstacles and it was already over 80 degrees (we were in a 10am starting wave–it was about 10:15 when we actually got started and to the first obstacle).


Course: The course began and ended at the Lake Erie Speedway race track, and the middle part went through their grounds (we think). In the beginning and end, we were on asphalt pavement and in the middle, we were in fields with a path mowed and some mud from rain over the past week.

The obstacles were mostly slides that had hand grips and foot ledges to climb on, then a slide to go down. There were a few with large balls and other components to weave around, but not a lot of variety. We aren’t sure, but these obstacles seemed a little smaller than the ones that we had done in the previous inflatable race. Calling it a race is a bit of an overstatement, though! Most people were walking and that probably wasn’t due to the heat alone.

Some of the obstacles also seemed a little deflated, which made them tricky to navigate. We observed two injuries–one ankle sprain and one that looked like a knee/ankle issue. Between those two factors, we were pretty injury-cautious. In general, people were pretty good about waiting for others to get through obstacles before entering each of the elements.

The course was kind of marked with cones that were supposed to be one the left of racers. Even with those, it was a little confusing to figure out where to go. There was a water station that we passed twice on the course so that was nice, especially today. We forgot to set our distance trackers and we aren’t sure how far the course went–somewhere around 3 miles, but we’re pretty sure it was less than a 5K.

Finish Line: The finish line was in the race track’s inner oval (you can tell that we don’t frequent car races very often to know the lingo!). The final obstacle was called the “toothbrush,” and had some round hedge-like hurdles to roll over and then some upright bristle-like things to go through. After all of the slides, I was kind of hoping for a big slide that went fast. But the toothbrush was fun, too.

There were volunteers at the finish line handing out medals and water. Everyone had a choice for the color of the medal’s lanyard.

Post-Race: We pretty much just left after the race. There were some other inflatables around, but you had to pay extra to do those. There was also some merchandise but we didn’t look at that.

Weather: The temperature started in the 80s and was close to 90 by the time we finished. It was sunny and humid, but also had a breeze throughout so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a tank top, compression shorts, Nike running shorts, Darn Tough 1/4 crew socks, Newton Kismet shoes, and a running cap.

Violet wore a tank top, compression shorts, TJ Maxx brand running shorts, Pro Compression crew length socks, a MedSpec ASO Ankle Stabilizer brace (very good call on putting that on this morning!), Asics GT1000-4 shoes, and a running cap.


Race Recap: Gorges Ithaca Half

On Saturday, June, 16 we ran the Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon in Ithaca, NY. This was the third time we had done this race, and the second time that it had a point-to-point format that starts a bit north of Ithaca. From there it goes down the Black Diamond Trail to the Waterfront Trail and finishes in downtown Ithaca. New this year, the race incorporated a bag drop and a ride on the bus to the starting line was included in the registration.

Registration Cost: This race’s registration cost was about $65 for the early bird pricing. By the end, it was around $90 (but we had registered in the first wave). This is a bit high, especially considering that it doesn’t support any charities that we know of–but it’s also a nice event.

Packet Pick-Up: This was held at the Finger Lakes Running Company Store on the Ithaca Commons with three different times offered. Violet did the pick-up for both of us without any trouble. This year’s swag for the pick-up included a canvas tote bag and a cotton-blend t-shirt. The shirts are gender-specific and as is the trend this year: teeny, tiny; and non-technical (not that we’re getting bigger!). Violet asked about switching t-shirts and was told that we’d have to wait until after the race. The packet pick-up also included a flyer with the show-your-bib specials for around town.

Pre-Race: The buses started at 6:15am from a bus stop in the downtown area, with the last bus scheduled to depart at 6:45am. We both made use of the bag drop, mostly in order to switch our t-shirts. The bag drop was easy and located by the running store in the downtown area. We were in line for the buses by 6:40am but didn’t get on one until about 6:50am. There were some porta potties by the bus area for people who needed them.

We were dropped off about a “country block” from the start line. There were several porta potties there, too. We stood in line for those for quite a while until right before the race start.

Like last year, the race started very unobtrusively… where suddenly people were just on their way! We were toward the back of the pack and just went with the flow.


Course: The course begins out in a more rural area by some crops and goes about 1.5 miles before runners reach the Black Diamond Trail that connects Taughannock Falls State Park with Cass Park. The course goes for about 5 miles on the BDT, which is a bit narrower than a road and has a crushed limestone surface. Despite having about twice as many participants as last year, the course didn’t “feel” more crowded… that was a relief, especially on the BDT portion of the course! There are also a number of small waterfalls that you pass on the BDT and that trail is mostly shaded, with a gradual descent into Ithaca.

The course then goes on the Waterfront Trail from Cass Park to Stewart Park, giving runners a nice view of Cayuga Lake. One rough patch for the course was going through the Ithaca Farmers Market area because the course went through the gravel parking lot rather than on the paved Waterfront Trail.

After exiting Stewart Park, the course went through some of the Ithaca area–including by Ithaca Falls, one of the larger waterfalls in the area. The finish line is near the Ithaca Commons area in the heart of downtown.

Finish Line: The finish line was on a street, entering the Commons area. There was an announcer and volunteers on hand to give finishers a reusable plastic water bottle that was filled and their medals. This year, the medal is made from wood, painted, and attached to a lanyard… but it looks like it’s meant to be detached and used as a coaster. The lanyards have a clip that make them multi-functional (and they look more like a medal’s lanyard, whereas the Seneca7 lanyards definitely just look like a lanyard).

Post-Race: As has been the case previously, the post-race was one of the better events of the year. There was live music in one of the Commons’ pavilions… and more importantly, the food was good. There was a tent with water, granola bar-type things, watermelon slices, and freezer pops. (There had been yogurt there in the past and we kind of missed that this year!) For the other food, there were soft tacos with sweet potato salad or pulled pork with sour cream and cole slaw, and scrambled eggs. For other condiments, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and hot sauce were available. There was also Ithaca Beer Company beverages including three types of beer and ginger beer (the ginger beer is one of our post-race favorites)!

There were security personnel keeping people with cups out of the rest of the Commons. This was probably more for the beer than other drinks, but that was a little annoying at the end when we wanted to wander with our non-alcoholic ginger beer.

There were also complimentary massages available, and the post-race bag pick-up. The bag pick-up was a little confusing because the bags were held in a different location than they were dropped. However, we were both able to swap our shirts for a different size… and found that many others were looking to do the same.

Weather: The temperature started in the 60s and was in the low 80s by the time we were leaving. It was sunny and not too windy throughout the day, but we were glad to be running on the shaded BDT for the first half. It was a little hot in Stewart Park, but not bad… especially considering the cold, rainy/snowy races we’ve had earlier this year.

Apparel: Charcoal wore compression shorts with running shorts, a tank top, a running belt, a running cap, Darn Tough 1/4 crew socks, Brooks Pure Cadence 6 shoes, and she carried her Nathan handheld water bottle.

Violet wore Saucony compression shorts with running shorts, a tank top, Pro Compression crew-length socks, an elastic bandage on the recovering ankle, a running cap, Saucony Guide 10 shoes, and she carried her Nathan exo-shot water bottle.


Race Recap: Happy Half Marathon

On Saturday, May 12, we ran the Happy Half Marathon in Ellicottville, NY, held at the Holiday Valley Resort. This is in the downhill ski area in the southtowns of Western NY. We hadn’t done this race before, but had heard about it and thought it would be fun so we entered on a whim.

Registration Cost: This race’s registration cost about $80 (because we were in the late registration time, though the cheapest was about $55 and went up from there). Some of the entry fee is designated to various charities, which makes the hefty entry fee seem a little better.

Packet Pick-Up: This was held at the main lodge at Holiday Valley, so because of the distance for driving we did the packet pick-up in the morning before the race. This was organized by last name and was easy to get through. We were given our shirts, which are gender-specific cotton shirts. The registration had advised to size up if you didn’t want a tight shirt so we both did and were grateful for the warning. The swag bags also inluded some samples of hemp hearts, biofreeze, a keychain with a bottle opener on it, and some other items/coupons.

As a side-note: What’s up with all of these cotton shirts? The Skunk Cabbage and Seneca7 also had gender-specific cotton shirts this year (so lots of sizing up going on here)!

Pre-Race: The pre-race area was mostly in the lodge due to rain. There were restrooms available and other merchandise if you wanted to purchase it. There was an announcer and some volunteers around for the pre-race.

Course: The course begins and ends by the lodge, with it starting on a loop up through a parking lot. That was a little surprising but not a big deal. The rest of the course was on the side of the road with most of it on the shoulder. There were a few lane closures, but not many. There were several signs along the road with positive/funny messages–some better than others, but it was a nice thought. There were also some unicorn-headed volunteers around along with a couple of unicorn signs.

Some stretches of the course were on the shoulder of a highway so there was a lot of traffic going by,  which was loud and also gave a lot of roadspray from the vehicles–especially the big trucks. There were also some cars driving on the course, we think this was mostly from local residents going to and from their homes though they were driving a bit fast for the conditions. There was also a car and a truck with the race that were monitoring the course.

The lead runners had bikers with them. Parts of the course had two-way traffic for runners, but these sections didn’t feel overly crowded.

The course was described as having rolling hills. This seemed pretty accurate with some hills, but nothing overwhelming–we were a little worried because we were in downhill ski country. This ended up being fine.

There were a lot of water stops, all of which had water and Gatorade. One stop had Gu gels and bananas, so there were two times for those because this course was an out and back design.

Finish Line: The finish line was on an uphill–yay for Violet! There was an announcer, though he wasn’t announcing much by the time we finished. There were also volunteers handing out medals and mylar blankets. We were happy to get our glittery unicorn medals and just as happy to get the mylar blankets because it was raining.

Post-Race: There were some options for food and water right after crossing the finish line, with water, soda, cookies, apples, and little bags of chips. The beer tent was also outside and all participants were given two beer tickets (but you couldn’t swap these for coffee… what a bummer!). Inside, participants had the option of a hamburger and fries, meatball sub and fries, macaroni and cheese, or a fruit and yogurt parfait. We both went with the burger option and thought it was tasty.

There was a lot of room for sitting and eating, especially if you were ambitious enough to take stairs to the upper or lower levels. We went upstairs and found seating on our first try. It was nice that it was inside because it was pretty chilly and raining still.

Weather: The temperature was in the lower 50s with rain pretty continuously throughout the morning. There were some claps of thunder partway through the race–probably when we were about 6 miles in. We were grateful that it didn’t downpour and that we didn’t see lightning with the thunder. Also, there was no snow and it wasn’t too windy! Despite the weather, we both had fun 🙂

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of running tights, mid-winter socks, long-sleeved tech shirt, merino wool t-shirt, Pearl Izumi jacket, running cap, and Brooks Pure Cadence 6 shoes.

Violet wore capri-length compression tights from Old Navy, Pro Compression marathon socks, an elastic bandage on the recovering ankle, a tech t-shirt from a previous event, a Canari bike jacket, Smartwool liner gloves, a running cap, and Saucony Guide 10 shoes.

Race Recap: Seneca7

On Sunday, April 29, we ran in the Seneca7 with five other people. We spent a lot of time in our rented minivan, but enjoyed it.

Registration Cost: This one is a bit expensive (at $77/per person), especially when you factor in the cost of a van rental. Also, this takes a lot of preparation, starting with the 7am registration (that sold out within 3 minutes–lucky us!) going through getting the full team together. This is a challenge because registration is in October and a lot of injuries and other events can happen in the months that follow.

Packet Pick-Up: One of our teammates handled packet pick-up this year so from our perspective, it was great 😉

Pre-Race: This was a little chaotic, partly due to a long weekend paired with not knowing all of our team very well. We drove separately to get to a central meeting point and pick up our team. As it turned out, we had a bit later start than anticipated and Violet ended up dropping off our first runner at the start to sign in and be at the line in time. She then proceeded to the meeting place, but took a wrong turn along the way so that made a later meet-up.

Charcoal had the van and ended up getting to our meeting place a little late as well. Thankfully we had team swag that made it easy for us to spot everyone. Once the team got together, we rushed our second runner to the drop-off point to get on a bus to start her leg. After all of this, we went back to our meeting place to transfer gear from Violet’s car to the van. Whew.

Course: This is a relay race that starts and ends in Geneva, NY. The course is marked with little feet along the road and has volunteers at intersections, along with crossing guards (who watch you carefully and will give you penalties if you cross without permission). There is a course guide that all teams need to have in the vehicle at all times and that has helpful information about rules as well as the course and driving directions to get around the lake.

We had some time at the exchange points, but it wasn’t too bad. For the most part, we all sat in the van because it was cold and rainy–snowing at times. So we stayed inside unless we were running. Sorry, teammates! (None of us minded.)

As we noted last year, there weren’t a ton of porta-potties at the exchange points. This didn’t seem to be a huge problem. Some of the wineries that were at exchange points had real restrooms open so we were grateful for those. The winery that had free coffee/tea last year had run out by the time we got there so that was a bummer.

Finish Line: Our team gathered at the team reunification point (ha ha we finally got out of the van for this!) and awaited our final runner. We had enjoyed honking at and cheering for our runners as we passed them on the road so we were happy to finally cheer for one of our teammates in person, without the van’s horn. We then ran to the finish line together, along with our team mascot that we had strapped to the roof of the van in the morning. We received our team medals and had our photo taken by a volunteer.

Post-Race: We made it in time for food this year and got some freshly made vegetarian chili (meat was also available on the other side of the tent). The chili was good, but almost a bit spicy for people who had been sitting in a van all day… mostly eating M&Ms and some crackers/muffins/bagels. There was also juice and cookies, but they were out of cornbread this year.

Weather: This was another bizarre day for the end of April. We started out in the 30s, with some drizzle that turned to snow. It rained and snowed through the day, with the temperature getting up to the 40s. In the afternoon, the rain and snow tapered off and it wasn’t too bad.

Apparel: Charcoal wore running tights, mid-winter-type socks, a tutu, long-sleeve tech-type shirt, merino wool t-shirt, Pear Izumi jacket, and a running cap, with a headband and other team accessories. She wore gloves for part of the day. Her shoes were Brooks Pure Cadence 6… and she wore the same thing all day.

Violet started out with running tights from Target, a tank top, a midweight merino wool long-sleeve shirt from LL Bean, a Canari bike jacket, a tutu, headband, Pro Compression marathon socks, an elastic compression bandage on the recovering ankle, gloves, a fleece neck gaiter, and other team accessories.

For her second outfit of the day–for her 3rd leg and afterward, Violet wore compression capris from Old Navy, a tech t-shirt from a previous race, a 1/4 zip Columbia shirt, Pro Compression marathon socks (a different pair… extra points for changing those in a bathroom stall!), gloves, the Canari jacket, fleece neck gaiter, and team accessories. She wore Asics GT-1000s all day.


Race Recap: Skunk Cabbage Classic 10K and Half-Marathon

On Sunday, April 8, we ran in the Skunk Cabbage Classic 10K and Half Marathon. This race is held in the collegetown area of Ithaca, NY with the course featuring skunk cabbage blossoms partway through.

Registration Cost: This was about $20 for early registration, with the shirt optional for about $15 more. The cost was the same for the 10K and half marathon.

Packet Pick-Up: Violet picked up the packets from a local running store the day before the race. She had reluctantly contacted the race director about changing from the half marathon to the 10K due to an ankle injury (that wasn’t running related!) from about six weeks before the race date. This switch was done without problems at packet pick-up.

Pre-Race: We parked on the Cornell campus and walked to the starting area. Because Violet was doing the 10K, she got to have a cup of Gimme! coffee from the pre-race area before the start. Charcoal had to just start the half without additional coffee.

Course: The course for both races begins and ends on the Cornell campus, going up by some of the buildings and then into the nearby area. The course was well marked with mile flags throughout and there were several volunteers along the way at intersections. The 10K route is mostly an out and back with a turn-around, and is mostly flat.

The half marathon route is more of an out and back with more of a loop, with some sections overlapping with the 10K. This route is a bit more hilly, but also has the skunk cabbage blossoms in ditches. However, due to the blizzard-like conditions, Charcoal didn’t notice any skunk cabbage around. That said, this was the first race we had done that had nearly white-out conditions in some places.

Finish Line: The finish line is well-marked and had an announcer on hand. The 10K finishers don’t get a medal, but the half finishers are given those there too. It was a little tricky getting out of the finishing chute over to the building where the food/results were.

Post-Race: The post-race is held in a nearby building. When Violet came through after finishing, there were bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter to put on top, tortilla chips and guacamole or salsa for dipping, chocolate milk, Gimme! coffee (but that was about out), bananas, apples, and Ithaca Milk yogurt. However, most of this food ended up getting eaten rather quickly. There were apples, peanut butter, and chocolate milk left when Charcoal finished the half.

Weather: The temperature was about 27F, with the sky pretty overcast throughout (though Violet wore sunglasses and was grateful for the eye protection with the wind and sleet). The wind averaged 10 mph. There were a few instances of white-out like conditions with wet, heavy snow/slush/sleet throughout. This made the race a bit challenging.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of running tights, long-sleeved tech t-shirt, short sleeved merino wool shirt, 1/4 zip fleece-lined shirt, jacket, a Buff, gloves, and a Smartwool headband. she wore Brooks Pure Cadence 6 shoes and a pair of heavy-ish socks, like a mid-winter sock.

Violet wore fleece-lined running tights, a tank top, a mid-weight Merino wool long-sleeved shirt from LL Bean, with a Salomon x-country ski jacket, a brimmed running hat, Tifosi Wisp sunglasses with the regular smoke lenses, gloves, a Buff, and Pro Compression marathon socks, and a MedSpec ASO ankle brace. She thinks she had Asics GT-1000 goretex shoes that day.

Race Recap: Freezer 5K

On Sunday, December 10, we ran in the Freezer 5K in Buffalo, NY. This race is held in the cobblestone district of the city, with the course going down by the Canalside area.

Registration Cost: This was about $25 and the race supports the Police Athletic League, which has sports for inner city youth.

Packet Pick-Up: Last year, Violet picked up the packets before the race but this year we waited until race morning. The packet pick-up was held at Buffalo Ironworks, which is a bar near the race start/finish. This is a small venue that can get pretty crowded!

We arrived at about 10:30am for the 11:00am race start and went over to the packet pick-up right away. For the pick-up, it was fairly packed inside but we were able to make our way to the registration table to get our numbers.

One surprise was that Violet’s name was listed incorrectly on the list and the bib, but in a different way on both! Haha that was a first! That didn’t hinder picking up the bib (partly because she didn’t correct them). The bibs are festive and colorful this year so that was a plus!

The swag for this year included a cotton long-sleeved t-shirt, an individual serving of cereal (we both got Golden Grahams, yay!), and a sample size of a SoftLips cube lip balm. There were also Buffalo Sabres magnets in the bags and a wristband for beer at the after party.

Pre-Race: We waited in the car because it was crowded in Buffalo Ironworks and cold outside. In terms of pre-race info, we had gotten an email from the race director about the packet pick-up. The website is a bit confusing/poorly laid out.

Course: The course begins and ends near an arena in downtown Buffalo. It goes near one of the marinas and the Canalside area. It was a simple out and back type of loop–the same course as last year. There wasn’t a water stop on the course. There were volunteers at the one- and two-mile marks reading times as you went by.

Finish Line: The finish line is well-marked and has a long finishing chute.  The results are done with the lower portion of the bibs so we were instructed to tear that off while we were in the chute. There was water readily available at the end.

Post-Race: This is held in Buffalo Ironworks and was very crowded last year. It was also crowded this year, but not quite as bad–we think there were about 200 fewer registrants this year so that may have made a difference! There was beer, pizza, soup (chili and butternut squash bisque), rolls, cookies, bananas, apples, and chips.

Violet had remembered having full hands last year so she brought the plastic shopping bag from packet pickup in her pocket for the fruit and chips. That worked really well!

The venue had run out of paper plates for pizza, but there were napkins available. Also, there were people handing out the pizza and serving the soup, which was nice. As we mentioned above, there wasn’t much room in the facility… so we took our food and ate in the car.

Weather: The temperature was 28 degrees and rather brisk due to the wind, which was blowing at approximately 13 mph. It was overcast as well.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of holiday leggings, running shorts, Darn Tough socks with striped knee-length elf socks over them, a long-sleeved baselayer t-shirt, a short sleeved t-shirt, a hoodie, a neckwarmer, gloves, and a Santa hat on top. For shoes, she wore Newton Kismet 2 shoes.

Violet wore knee-length compression shorts, holiday leggings, a pair of Darn Tough lightweight socks with striped knee-length elf socks, a long-sleeved midweight baselayer t-shirt, a 1/4-zip fleece, a running jacket, neckwarmer, gloves, and a Santa hat.  She wore Asics GT-1000 shoes.

Race Recap: It’s a Wonderful Run 5K

On Saturday, December 9, we ran in the It’s a Wonderful Run 5K in Seneca Falls, NY (a.k.a., Bedford Falls). This race is held in conjunction with the Wonderful Life Festival and brings more and more people each year. We’ve done this race for several years and keep coming back.

Registration Cost: This race’s registration cost about $25 and most of the proceeds goes back to the Seneca Falls community via several charities and organizations.

Packet Pick-Up: In previous years, we’ve gone the night before to pick up packets and avoid some of the traffic congestion around the race area. This year, we opted to leave earlier in the afternoon (for the 4:40pm race start) and pick up our packets then. The registration area closed at 4:00pm.

We arrived at about 3:30 and got our numbers and shirts quickly and easily. They were organized and very easy to pick up, which was impressive with the number of registrants there were this year (more than 5,000!).

The swag for this year included a purple long-sleeved tech t-shirt and the number. In years past, there were jingle bells for shoes but we didn’t see those this year.

Pre-Race: There was a warming tent near the start line, though it was very crowded inside. Pace flags were located near the bridge where the race starts, but with so many people they were a bit superfluous. At the beginning of the race, we walked very slowly to get to the start and made our way over the bridge.

Course: The course begins and ends in downtown Seneca Falls–the start goes over a bridge that is similar to the famous bridge in It’s a Wonderful Life. The rest of the course goes through the town and there are several local people out cheering and enjoying fire pits and holiday festivities. There were two official water stops on the course (and a few places to stop for shots of various things along the way, too).

Along the way, Violet witnessed some very reckless stroller driving by an older gentleman. Hopefully the kid inside wasn’t too traumatized by getting almost tipped over at least once along the way! Dogs were officially not allowed this year due to insurance, but there were some along the course.

Finish Line: The finish line is on a downhill with several people all around. This year, the race officials were directing finishers to the community center gym for refreshments. In previous years, water has been available right at the finish line.

Post-Race: Violet went in to the community center for water and ended up with a couple of bananas, a cookie, and a cup of hot cocoa. That said, the line to get in to the gym took about 15 minutes just to get to the door. There were also bagels available.

This is one area where the race has really outgrown the location. Hopefully in future years, there will be some better options for moving people through.

Weather: The temperature was in the mid- to upper-30s and pretty nice for the race. Running with about 4,999 other people probably helped with the temperature 😉

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of holiday leggings, running shorts, Darn Tough socks with striped knee-length elf socks over them, a long-sleeved Smartwool t-shirt, a short sleeved t-shirt, a hoodie, a neckwarmer, gloves, a running cap, and a Santa hat on top. For shoes, she wore Saucony Guide 9 shoes.

Violet wore knee-length compression shorts, holiday leggings, a pair of Alaska Knits lightweight socks with striped knee-length elf socks (surprise, surprise), a long-sleeved Smartwool t-shirt, a 1/4-zip fleece, a running jacket, neckwarmer, gloves, and a Santa hat.  She wore her trusty Saucony Guide 9 shoes.