Latest reviews by Justin Greathouse

(2017)
"I prayed for the Sag Wagon... I'm glad it didn't come"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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Sedona is an amazingly scenic place in Arizona. Between the iron-laced sandstone of the red rock formations, the natural/neutral colors of the architecture in the city, the snow and greenery, and friendliness of the people, it's a must do for locals or anyone visiting the state.

I had set a goal to do a marathon a month, following the footsteps of Angie Berka- and Sedona wasn't on my original plans (I had January covered with Rock N Roll, and February with the Phoenix Marathon). But, after seeing the challenge and all the excitement from BibRave.com reviews, I decided I wanted to try it.

If you have followed my journey at all, you know I don't do hills, and I'm not exceptional at distance running. My whole thing is just to finish, not to be fast. So, I journeyed up the hill the two hour drive at the end of January to get some hills in, and after just 10 miles I was toast... so my expectations were pretty realistic going into the race.

Packet pickup took place Friday night for most people, and Sedona put on a great event and pasta dinner for about $20. I would definitely recommend taking part in that event because I heard stories for days. I, however, had to teach and coach and couldn't get up the hill in time. I had to make other arrangements to get my bib and swag. Parking was very easy at the high school about a half mile away, and the shuttle picked people up about every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, it only sat 9 and there was only one running that I knew of. If I would have realized it was so close to the start I would have walked.

When I was dropped off, I got to walk vendor row where locals had set up tents of goodies. I wish I was running a shorter distance or faster time in order to check it all out and make purchases. I met up with other BibRave Pros and we took a selfie where I looked a fool as usual. Then, we all went our different ways. Marathon runners were first, so Jeremy, a killer BibRave Pro and November Project runner was somewhere toward the front. I made my way toward the back with 5:30 club (I would have went farther back if I could have).

We were off and running, and we made our way through residential neighborhoods before heading off to Dry Creek. The hills began about two miles in. Mostly downhill, but some pretty good uphills, too. We passed over a running creek, and then along some parking lots... the half marathon runners began to catch me and pass me. Yay! I want to note that every aid station had water, energy, and bananas, and most had Gatorade... the best aid stations ever! By the time I was at mile five, Chris passed me coming the other way for the half marathon. Zoooom...

After mile 6, the pavement ends and the dirt begins. This was my first time trail running. I learned that road shoes are not good trail shoes. After just about two miles, I could feel every single rock and pebble I ran over. No big deal, just 18 miles to go. I think I made it to about mile 11 and Jeremy was zooming back the other way... he looked strong still and was ahead of the 4:15 pacer. Holy cow! Every downhill I enjoyed reminded me I would eventually have to climb. At 4,000 feet, the elevation didn't bother me, but these hills were incredible. At the turnaround, you enjoy about 200 yards of downhill before having to go right back up it. I had plenty of energy- Glukos never let's me down. Unfortunately, I was enjoying serious cramps in both calves and my quad (my calves were a mess for about four days after this).

At about mile 16 I found a lady that was walking slowly- she was dirty and bloodied. She had fell at mile 15 and her arm was clearly injured. There were so few of us at the back of the pack that no one had reached the aid station to alert them of her injury yet. They did have ATV's driving on course to monitor, but the timing just wasn't with her. She made it to the aid station and I fear she got a DNF even after all she poured into it. My heart breaks for her.

At mile 19, I was seriously hoping the sag wagon would get me. Everything hurt. I think my downfall and the biggest reason for the extraordinary cramps was dehydration. I had drank a gallon of water in the 5 hours leading to the race and about another half during the race- but we all know hydration starts the days before (I didn't due to work and coaching), and by drinking so much water, I flushed my electrolytes (my water didn't include the usual Nuun).

The wagon never came, but I limped my way to the finish, along with another guy that never lost his running technique. Apparently the van to parking had stopped because a few people had been waiting for quite some time (we were slow in all fairness), so I just walked to the parking lot. So... would I do this again? No... not doing the marathon again without some SERIOUS hill training. I would do the half, though. My only frustration on the course was the car traffic kicking up dust as we were running, and later on it was ATV's kicking up dust, and that the finisher medal is the exact same whether you run a 5k or a full marathon. I hope the amazing people at aid stations, the awesome vendors, and the friendly atmosphere all make their way back next year!

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(2017)
"Arizona Rocks"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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This race marked the one year anniversary of running for me. I can't believe it's already been a year, while I can't believe it's only been a year, if that makes sense. So, now that I am a bit more versed, I can express myself a little better...

Packet pickup was smooth, as usual. I think I waited about 5 minutes total between the 5k and marathon lines. I really appreciated all of the volunteers. Parking wasn't bad on Friday, as I found a meter that cost me a buck for the hour.

As I entered the expo, I was able to find the Tourpass booth quickly, and so I picked up my pass for the year WOO HOO. I started to walk through all the vendors (I love this part), however there was no Nuun and no Glukos. I was soon sad, because I count on Glukos to get me through long runs. Luckily I had ordered some, but I was hoping to buy a box for a friend at the expo, as they always have a deal. I was surprised at some new vendors this time, specifically some dog food and treat brands. I don't own a pet, so hadn't really expected this to be a thing... but they were busy! There was no ProCompression this time, but there was a CEP booth with a 50% off rack, so that was cool. Without all my favorite stuff, I left without breaking the bank.

Saturday morning was the 5k, and parking was a breeze. There were a few choices, but I took the garage close to the start line because I'm lazy. The music was lively and the crowd was large. Getting to the corral was easy, and the race announcer kept people fired up. After an amazing national anthem, we were off and running. What I appreciate here is that the start was very wide and we weren't tripping over each other. I was using this rave as a shakeout for the marathon, and I was able to keep to the right without interfering with other runners. The course was typical for a Tempe 5k with a couple of turns, along the river, and over the bridge. The finish was fun and energetic, and the volunteers were amazing. I didn't hang out long after, but the party definitely kept going (yep, gave away my beer ticket again).

Sunday was marathon day. I have to admit I don't like starting lines that aren't near the finish... like not even close to the finish... Rock N Roll does a great job of lining up the start and finish along the light rail so transportation is relatively easy, but I just don't want to be bothered after a marathon. I want to get to my car and go home. At the start, parking was easy using the directions on the website (however, I saw several half marathoners in a panic realizing they were in the wrong place). It was also free for the first 1500 runners. There was plenty of space within corrals to stretch and prepare to run, and the streets were wide so there was no congestion. The race course is a bit coring as you leave downtown and race towards Camelback Mountain, but there are some quaint shops and buildings. The jog along Indian School is a long but gradual hill, but the residents are awesome and energetic. There were even a couple of margarita tables set up for Arizona!

Finally, you make your way to Tempe and the Salt River. After swooping over the bridge, you finish at Tempe Beach Park, and the music is pumping. I was well over five hours this year (I got to stay on the course longer for my money) and the crowd was still cheering. Bands were playing at the finish and along the course. High school clubs, cheer, and bands were volunteering their time. It really is a great time, and I was reminded why I love running so much- I saw a man run off course to bring a homeless guy cash. I saw someone pick up a fallen runner. A million thank you's to officers and volunteers. It's a community coming together while people push their mental and physical limits, and it's just fun to be a part of. Search for the story of the 73 year old grandfather who had help finishing the half. And check out the sweet medals ;-) See you next year!

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(2016)
"I'm Chocolate Wasted"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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Pre Race communication
Emails and emails and emails... only the pertinent information... is was great. They even send out a training plan beginning 9 weeks out- I was able to share this with friends joining the running community.

Expo
Packet pickup was simple. I hate that it is so far from me, be so goes it. I'm a Westside guy... When I arrived, parking was clearly marked, and signs pointed me where to go. There were a few vendors and some branded products (I scored some fuzzy pants for under $20). When I went to get my swag bag, I didn't get the visor, so I told them I should have. They were super nice and sent me to the information booth (there was no line... they were just following protocols). The information booth fixed the issue within about two minutes, and I was off to check out the remaining vendors (Ragnar was there and I SOOOOOO with I had a team).

Race day
On race day, I had 16 other people doing the 5k or 15k... Because of the way it is set up, I was able to see everyone and wish them luck. Unfortunately, the 5k people start first, and then obviously end first, so if part of your party is doing one race, and you the other, there is a lot of dead time...
The course cruised the streets of Scottsdale, and there were awesome and energetic volunteers at aid stations... they were so good... screaming out what they had (you knew your cup had marshmallows, not water) so you could continue running if you didn't want the good stuff.

This race was the day my half marathon, so I had set out a goal of 100 minutes. I left most of my group behind, but thought one of my former students was way ahead of me... so after I chugged some Glukos around mile 6, I picked up the pace. The course was nearly flat, so i wasn't hurting like I thought I would be, and with no other races until 2017, I decided to just let it rip...

More energy, more awesome volunteers, and pretty soon we were at the Salt River Fields complex again. I hadn't seen the kid I thought was ahead of during the turnaround between mile 6 and 8, but I did see some of the rest of my party... So I assumed he was THAT far ahead. After I hit mile 9, rounding the final turn I gave everything I had left and crossed at 1:37, beating my goal. Turns out I had beat everyone in my party... but I'm telling you if it wasn't in my head that I had to go faster, I never would have made my goal... so I guess I'm glad I had an ego?

I had time to stretch and relax and there was NO LINE for my chocolate... just a bunch of really friendly volunteers serving up 550 gallons of chocolate.

So- expo... easy (and purchase was placed in last year's draw string bags... sweet)
Jacket/medal... still some of the best swag out there
Organization... serves as a model for larger races (hoping Vegas will be this good in Feb)
I included more photos on my blog, https://sites.google.com/site/running131forfun/hot-chocolate-15k-scottsdale

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(2016)
"2 states, 1 dam, and a whole lotta wind!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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Let's start with pre-race communications...
I heard about this race on BibChat, and was intrigued. Laughlin is a few hours away by car, but what a fun getaway for a weekend, I thought. I could partake in buffets, and run most of it off with 13.1 for fun.

Communication was really good- emails were plentiful and Mark, the race coordinator, works hard to make the experience feel personal. I did struggle to find exactly where the expo was via the website once I got to the Colorado Belle, but a simple Goolge search had me off and running with the site's VERY specific directions (enter here, take this elevator, etc.). I really appreciate that the expo was open late, as I was driving in after work. I hadn't been to Laughlin in 25 years... driving in at night was a really cool site; bright lights reflecting off the river, contrasting against the blackness of a desert night. Sorry- went off on a tangent reminiscing... if I had one suggestion for their amazingly informative site, it would be a separate page titled, 'Expo.'

The Expo:
So once I got into the expo/packet pickup, there was no line... but there were SO MANY volunteers and several people getting their packets. The energy was high, and the process was incredibly simple. What I really liked most, were the volunteers. There were people of all ages, making small talk and being sincere, adorable kids taking raffle numbers... it seriously felt like a small town affair where I already knew everyone. Beyond that, there wasn't much merchandise available, which can be viewed one of two ways... 1) it was nice not feel bombarded by commercialism where I was going to be pressured or harassed into buying things... or 2) it was a missed opportunity to pick up some last minute items or unique items if I had forgotten something (which I almost always do). Some gels, sponsored hydration options, belt, headphones, crazy socks... I wouldn't have minded a couple of tables from which to purchase (maybe even hosted by a High School club for them to raise capital... in keeping with the small town feel).

Race Day
I stayed at Harrah's along Casino Row. Close to the fun, and while all rooms are cheap (like everything was under $20 for the weekend), I am loyal to their brand. Directions were clear about parking at the local outlet mall to board a shuttle but to the start line (the local High School). I arrived on time to take the bus and it was a nice excursion bus, where I pictured it being a school bus in my head. We were dropped off, and I didn't know where to go, so I followed the crowd. We entered a hall back by the school cafeteria. There were far too many people, so I went back outside... and this is the part that had nothing to do with the race, but with nature; there were 30+mph sustained winds. Combined with sub 50 degree temps, it was really cold, and we had about 90 minutes to wait in it.
While they attempted to have food and coffee for all runners, the exceptional cold did cause them to run out of coffee, but there was delicious banana bread. There were also some porta pots, but they were in the parking lot rather than where everyone was congregated. In retrospect, using the cafeteria or larger facility at the school may have been easier to accommodate everyone, but we all lived and no one was upset... just chilly.

We started the 13.1 at 7:03, after a local HS student treated us to the national anthem (great job, young lady). We were off and running around the campus and the school track, within come confined areas at times, but terrific volunteers kept us all organized and safe. After about a mile, we began a steady incline that lasted about 2.5 miles.... whooooo was it a beast. It was a small enough incline that in most cases, the average runner could handle it, but we were also facing the 30mph headwind. I'm pretty sure some of the steps I took actually moved me backwards.

Along the hill, we experience the first of the hydration stations... each of these were hosted by a local club or group, and they were competing for a prize. Again, all of this added to the charm of the event. We got to about mile 3.5 and made a right hand turn, where it was a beautiful 3 miles of downhill. Yes. Oh yes. At this turn there were restrooms, but they were on the opposite side of the street... despite several members of my pace group saying they had to pee (the lines at the start were too long due to the extra coffee consumption and cold), no one wanted to cross the extra 100 yards to use them... a small opportunity for next time.

At the bottom of the hill (and there were several officers along the course as well as volunteers closing streets and flagging us the correct way), there was the Davis Dam visitor center- I used the restroom there as they were open and available. I was able to sun negative splits the first 6 miles, thank you downhill, despite the insane wind (thank you, Buff USA for keeping me warm those early miles).

Then we went up a very steep incline to cross the dam. The Dam Hill was worth the view of the colorado and Lake Mohave at the peak. There was plenty of energy with the volunteers and the race coordinator out there cheering everyone on. Seriously... everything feels so personal in this race.

Eventually, the torture of the climb is rewarded with more downhill (and wind blowing cones and signs away), but at this point there are less than 4 miles left. After crossing into AZ and back into NV, you're off on the river walk, cruising the Colorado River. This is a very neat area, and I stopped to take a few pictures of the palms against the river cutting through the dry desert. Before you know it, you're crossing a charming bridge, then down casino row, and finishing at the outlet... it's over. Easily, this could be a PR course, if the wind would have just cooperated.

After the finish, the medal was really unique and tied into the local feature of the event. There was a post-race celebration, but you had to go back to the Colorado Belle to enjoy it. There was free beer (I know many of you can do that after a run, but I can't... give me chocolate milk!). There was music and a raffle stacked with prizes. If I could change something, it would be that parking be available the the Colorado Belle so that we can partake and then not have to walk back to the car at the outlets, or have the party at the outlet where we parked. I'd also suggest casinos offer shuttles to the start line (I'd have paid for a shuttle not to move my car) but that has nothing to do with the race... just an opportunity for partnering casinos (and please open your Starbucks before 5am that morning... please).

Overall, everything felt intimate and local. Seriously, everyone was so friendly and genuine... and it felt like every aspect of the event was put on by some local part of the community. I hadn't been to Laughlin in 25 years... I will definitely be back.

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(2016)
"What happens in Vegas returns home with you and you share it with everyone!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was the most unique run I've had yet. Packet pickup was crazy... we got there about 15 minutes before opening Friday, and we were like number 3,000 in line. But once the doors opened, the line zipped through. We hardly waited at all for our packets, and we quickly made our way to the expo where we all bought too much.

On race day for the 5k, we parked at Circus Circus and made our way over. The course was rough and I did see several people fall as the first 1.5 was too confined (one land of a road). However, for the marathon, we were staying at Harrah's and parking was plentiful. What's more, we got to start early, and we had the entire road to run on. It was very open and passed every major Vegas landmark on the strip. Even the time in downtown wasn't bad.

We did get to a residential neighborhood that was very dark, not that it was unsafe, just couldn't see terrain. There was a section as we headed to the tents that had many homeless men sleeping on the streets, probably around mile 12? I had a pocket full of Glukos gummy packs I picked up at mile 8, so I placed them by him thinking maybe this guy would want them. I'm not a gummy guy anyway.

The course was pretty fast and flat. I started to cramp at mile 17 because I had done too much Vegasing...oops. It was really bad. Like I kept walking to stop it from crippling me bad. Eventually, it calmed down around mile 19, and so I would run/walk depending on what it would let me do. By mile 20, favoring the leg was affecting the other leg, and so I said screw it, and ran. I had plenty of energy and the weather was perfect.

There was a lady that I decided to use as my pacer once I caught her, as she looked stronger than I felt (I was in tears at moments from the stabbing pain in my hammy... which means all my marathonfotos look amazing...). We made a right hand turn around mile 23, and I was a mess of emotions. It hurt so bad, but other than my injury I felt great. I was noticeably limping apparently, as I was asked many times if I was okay (ya have to love runners). We picked up as we looped around, and I saw the mile 25 sign. Sobbing like an idiot, we continued to run. I moved to the right because I knew I had no kick; I couldn't extend my leg. But, this gave me the chance to give all the high fives. I love giving high fines on the course, especially to the little ones.

We crossed the finish, and all I could do was tap her on the shoulder and thank her for pacing me. She had no idea she carried me through the finish, but she sure did. I then went to get my phone for picture of the finish and end my Strava app, but the dang thing had turned off (my music quit long ago). So I looked at the clock and I was just over 5 hours, which was a new record for me. Only later did I realize I started 15 min after the clock, so I had to verify on the site... 4:47, my first sub-5!

Finding Heavy Medals, finisher jacket, and all the for was easy. Getting out of the finisher zone wasn't. It was also hard to find family that wanted to find me, because they couldn't get it. But on a day that started with Snoop Dogg at the start line, and finished marathon 5 with a PR, I didn't have the energy to complain.

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