Latest reviews by Jessica Rudd

(2018)
"Revel in the awesomeness of Revel Mt. Lemmon!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I've been wanting to do a Revel race for some time now but my work/school schedule and finances kept getting in the way. About a month before the race I realized that work/school actually put me in a position to run Mt. Lemmon as I would already have to be in AZ for a conference and a good friend would be running the half. I flew into Phoenix, rented a car, and drove the easy 90 minutes to Tuscon. I was able to crash in my friend's hotel room (she was excited I was finally able to experience a Revel race - this was her 5th one) so the whole situation was win-win, even if I had just run Marine Corps 6 days earlier; I figured it was worth it to check off another marathon state. Before going into details I'll just say that Revel puts on an amazing race and it's a MUST DO event. I'm confident any of their races will be equally as awesome and I can't wait to do another one myself. Top notch course, top notch management, top notch service.
Expo: for a relatively small race the expo was mighty and awesome. Bib pickup is fast/easy. The race shirts are really nice and you have the option to pick different styles as well. I opted for the standard short sleeve, v-neck, athletic shirt but you can pay a little extra to get different variations including tank, long sleeve, or a soft fashion tee. The quality of all the shirts are very nice. You can also easily switch sizes and/or styles at the expo. After bib and shirt pickup there's the Revel store with tons of awesome swag for purchase. BEWARE: the product and designs are so awesome you'll want to give them all your money! I got a really cozy soft hoodie and a cool chain necklace with the revel logo (a mountain) and "I can do hard things" because...of course. Revel also has an app where you can earn points for registering for races and visiting various booths at the expo. When you accrue enough points you can earn free race registrations, training packages, swag, etc. They also pick people from within the app to win these prizes as raffles. It's definitely a great way to get people excited about all the Revel races and keep people coming back for more; there were many people at the race who were Revel groupies for sure. I know I want to be one. I got a much needed free neck and shoulder massage, had some fun in the photo booth with my friend, and then listened to the Revel coach, Paul, break down the course and strategy in great detail. This was very helpful since I hadn't had much time to consider the course besides 1) it starts at high elevation and 2) involves running downhill for 22-ish miles.
Race morning: Revel races start EARLY. Since they often involve running down mountain roads they bus you up there very early and there's no option to drive yourself or have someone drop you off at the top. The earliest marathon buses for Mt. Lemmon start at Mariposa resort at 4am. Yes, it's early, but the system works well. There's plenty of parking at the resort and then you can sleep on the bus for the hour it takes to get the start, i.e. you don't have to drive yourself up a dark, scary, winding mountain road at 4 am. For Mt. Lemmon this year, the first two bus loads of people were able to stay warm inside the community center at the start, although it did seem like most of the marathoners were able to get in the building. There were some restrooms in the community center and plenty of port-o-johns outside that had no lines. They also had a food truck with coffee and breakfast items for sale. It was around 40 degrees at the top with some wind gusts, but I felt warmer than expected when standing outside, maybe because there is no humidity. One of the great Revel perks is that they include throwaway gloves and heat sheet in your swag bag so you don't have to worry about finding throwaway clothes at home or goodwill before the race. I wore the heat sheet around my legs and had an Atlanta Track Club throwaway warmup jacket over my singlet. I spent most of the waiting inside but when I was outside I was very comfortable. The last buses up the mountain were a bit delayed so we started about 15 minutes late. Since Revel is responsible for getting everyone to the start it's easy for them to just start when everyone gets there so no one had to worry about missing the start, as long as they made it on the bus in time. We started at 6:45am, during a beautiful sunrise.
The course: the first 4 miles are uphill at 8000+ feet elevation. Not gonna lie, this hurt bad. Running at elevation is no joke. However, coach Paul reminded everyone the day before to be patient, after mile 4 it's easy to make up the lost time from the first 4 miles. Everyone has to drop the heat sheets before the start (the metal can mess up your timing chip) and then I shed the gloves and my throwaway jacket by time I reached the top of the 4 mile climb. From mile 4-26 it's a net 5500+ feet loss in elevation, with most miles losing 200-300 feet. If you train for downhill effort you'll fly through those miles. For me, I was not prepared to run downhill for that long so I flew until about the halfway mark and then started to die as my quads failed me. Since I wasn't really trained for this I kind of expected it but was still surprised by how difficult it was. Just take note: yes, downhill marathons can equate to PRs or BQs if you train smart specifically for those conditions, but it's not easy sailing if you're not prepared. It will hurt...a lot. The course itself is spectacularly beautiful. I mean, absolutely stunning. The road is essentially closed so there's no spectators except for the people you see every 2 miles at water stops, so you'll have the whole time just to take in the views and chat with other runners. Bring music if you don't like being alone with your thoughts. Water stops start at mile 3 and come like clockwork after that at every odd mile. Each stop includes water, powerade, and bathrooms. There are 12 stops and about 5 of them include stinger gels and/or fruit as well. The volunteers were really nice and helpful and the stops were always well stocked and staffed. The intervals between water stops made them great places to take a rest from the downhill onslaught and stretch a bit.
On course photos and videos: There are several places along the course where they take pictures and video. These are offered FREE after the race. They actually put together a video montage of your course highlights. I LOVE this added benefit and wish more races would roll photos into the cost of registration. Considering Revel marathons cost between $100 -$120 (pretty standard race pricing) depending on when you register, the amount of swag and services you receive is amazing, especially compared to other races. It's just really top notch service all around and an amazing value.
Post race: free beer (2 beer tickets but they gave us more), free pizza, free french toast (amazing!), music and chilling with other finishers. We basically hung out until they were closing shop and then took the shuttle buses back to our cars. Not much more you can ask for!

Final thoughts: I hope it's pretty clear from this extensive review that Revel Mt. Lemmon (and I suspect their other races as well) is a top notch event, with tons of awesome benefits, stunningly beautiful course, great volunteers, great race management, and a fast course (if you train for it!). I can't think of a reason why you shouldn't do this race.

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(2018)
"Run for a purpose at DAV5K Atlanta"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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Race Management

The DAV 5K is a national race series presented by DAV (Disabled American Veterans). These races are held to raise money and awareness of the issues that ill and injured veterans race every day. New this year, in order to give back more support to the programs & services that DAV offers, the DAV 5K no longer offered official timing and Veteran Branch of Service T-Shirts. If running a timed/certified course is a must for you then this race won't check those boxes, however it's a great way honor those who served while getting some fitness in. I'd rather see more services offered to our veterans so I think this is a great use of resources on the part of DAV. I also appreciated the transparency.

Pre-race info: This is where race management lost a star. I did not receive a single email from DAV5K after registering for the race. You have to get all the race and packet pickup information from the website/google search. I'm not sure if this was also a cost-saving measure but it made planning for the race a bit annoying, i.e. I only found out there was packet pickup on Friday on that same day. The information on the website was good though.

Race morning - you can park in the paid Piedmont park lot or find street parking. I opted for the paid lot to save time and it was easy ($6). Leaving the parking deck/park area in general was difficult since there are many walkers in the race and the roads were still partially closed when I left.The start area is a 5-10 walk/jog from the parking deck and included free Chik-Fil-A biscuits, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. It was freezing so hot chocolate was amazing. The race ceremonies include a presentation of the colors, pledge of allegiance (that was a first for me at a race), and the national anthem. The motorcycle honor ride starts first, followed by runners (who they tell to start in the front), and then walkers. Everything went off right on time, which was much appreciated on a cold morning.

The race - the course is the 5k loop around Piedmont park which I've run many times. The course would be more fun/pretty if they used the roads/paths inside the park rather than running on the road around the park but it does make for really easy course markings since it's just right turns around the park. There was one water stop and they were handing out whole bottles of water, which is honestly a bit useless if you're running but probably not necessary if you're running a 5k in cold weather anyway. Just something weird imo which loses a star for aid stations.

Overall, I thought the race was well-managed and made for a great recovery 5k for me after several weeks of hard races. It was certainly a great way to celebrate Veterans Day.

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(2018)
"OOHRAH! You won't regret running with the Marines!"
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T-Shirts/SWAG
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When I first registered for Marine Corps it was simply because 1) I wasn't running NYC and 2) I wanted a fall marathon. The timing was right and I knew people loved the race but felt pretty neutral about the whole thing honestly, probably because I've been to DC and it's not my favorite place. Anyway, as the race approached I realized I was getting more and more excited, especially because I finally started having good training runs and I was doing the race with cool people. I went to the race prepared to run a 4:30 marathon but due to some stomach issues and my friend (first time marathoner) having MAJOR stomach issues, this never panned out. However, I LOVED the race as a whole. I'm glad my attitude about the whole thing came around eventually because it was a really fun race and I HIGHLY recommend it. Let's get to some details:
Expo: The expo was great IMO. There are free shuttles from two major metro stops to the convention center so, while no direct metro access, it was still easy to get there. Bib pickup was very easy and organized. The one disappointing this I experienced at first was a surprisingly slow assigned expected finish time which put me in a different corral than my friends. This was the first year they assigned corrals and I guess I didn't put the appropriate finish time when I registered. They flat out refused to change it. I decided to worry about it at the start and hopefully "sneak" into my friend's corral, although I had doubts whether they would be enforcing it anyway. The expo itself was really well organized and had good flow with wide aisles so, unlike other large expos (CHICAGO!) it wasn't nearly as claustrophobic. The key apparel sponsor is Brooks and they have a large store with plenty of extra swag you can buy. I ended up with the jacket and an awesome pair of gloves. There was a ton of nice stuff. Expect to spend $$$.
Swag: the big talk this year was about the AWFUL race shirt. The shirt is always a mock turtleneck (I think it's a marine thing) which is already pretty awful but I expected that. This year however, the shirt design just really sealed the deal of awfulness. Honestly, I don't want a picture of strangers across my chest. I actually used the shirt as my throwaway at the start to keep warm (it is quite cozy in all fairness) but I really wasn't expecting to keep the shirt anyway since I don't keep many race shirts. #SorryNotSorry
I expect there was so many complaints that this won't happen again. The medal, however, is badass and included this year a compartment with a challenge coin. Very cool.

Race morning: The race starts at 7:55 but the metro only opens as early as 6, probably later depending on which stop you use. Honestly, this is pretty sucky on the part of the metro but not much the race can do about it I guess. DC metro is pretty awful/confusing on a good day. We stayed in Alexandria, a few miles from the start, which made for an easy uber ride. We wanted to get there early so we go in an uber by 5:45 and were at the start by 6. We had no issues at this time. We just told the uber to get as close to Pentagon as possible and it worked fine, although you do have to walk probably .5 mile at least to the start area (not too surprising for a large city race though). I suggest planning to get there early and staying in Arlington/Crystal City/Alexandria is probably easier/more direct than staying in DC proper. It sounds like many people who waited for the metro were much more rushed and some people ended up starting after all the corrals had started. Don't do that. Get there early and it won't be an issue.

The start: There are UPS trucks for bag drop, tents to hang out in (including a non-denominational religious service), and tons of potties. However, if the lines at the potties are long in the waiting area, just head up to the start line corrals on the bridge/highway; there's even more potties lining the highway with no waits. As I said before, I was worried about starting with my friends. However, it ended up not being an issue because there was absolutely no enforcement of the corrals when we actually got to the start line so I still started where I wanted. I've been told the corrals were added to stem the fact that people suck at self-seeding. Even with the "corrals" this year, people were still pretty awful at self-seeding and the start is crowded as expected. It's a large race (~30,000 runners) so just expect crowds, especially at the start. The pre-race ceremonies include a skydiving team flying in with an American flag while someone sings the National Anthem. Very cool. One thing I really loved about the start was the line of soldiers in the first mile carrying all the flags of nations represented among participants at the race; 65 countries were represented this year which is something awesome to see at a very American race in the Capitol.

The course: the first 3 miles are net uphill and definitely make for a good warmup. After that I would characterize the course and rolling flats; very manageable. The course itself is beautiful, imo, heading into several awesome neighborhoods including Georgetown, Roslyn, central DC and the mall area, etc. You run by many monuments, Smithsonian museums, the Capitol, etc. It was pretty spectacular. At mile 12 you run the Blue Mile which honors fallen soldier. Several of their photos are accompanied by their family members. There TONS of American flags and it's a pretty emotional/motivating experience, more than I expected.

Support: first off, MARINES! Everywhere. I'd say maybe 75% of volunteers were uniformed Marines with local organizations, boy scout troops, etc, making up the rest. You can't go wrong when everywhere you look is Marines. They make great cheerleaders and aid station volunteers. It's incredibly motivating. I heard later that maybe some of them are actually marched from Quantico the night before for the race but I'm not sure if that's true. Of course, the highlight at the end is receiving the medal from a Marine. I messed up big time though by forgetting to get myself or my friend selfies with "our" medal Marines. Don't make that mistake; get your selfie! The finish is up one last hill to the Iwo Jima memorial which also makes for a great post-race photo spot. Don't miss it!

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(2018)
"Always an Atlanta favorite!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
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Parking/Access
Race Management

The Atlanta 10 Miler has become one of those yearly traditions for many Atlanta-area runners, much like Publix, Peachtree, and the Atlanta Half. It's well timed in the fall for typically good weather, and fall marathon/half marathon training runs. In fact, the Atlanta Half Marathon training program uses it as a 10 mile training run for their participants. For me, it was my last Saturday run before Marine Corps so the timing was perfect. The course is very hilly, even by Atlanta standards, but it makes for a good challenge to improve my time each year. Hills or not, everyone always seems to enjoy the race and the excellent course support and race management make it easy to see why.
Pre race:
- Packet pickup Friday and Saturday before the race. This year it was in a pop up shop at Atlantic Station near the start area. The pickup/shop was extremely well stocked with gear, ATC swag, and a Mizuno shoe trying station. The pickup process was very quick and well organized. Overall, it was like a mini-version of marathon major expo. Extremely well executed.
- Race morning: Atlantic station has plenty of parking in their giant underground parking deck, and the parking is free for the whole morning. I always get there early because I volunteer before the race so I never have trouble parking. However, it's highly recommended to get to Atlantic Station by 6 am since the roads into the parking deck and off the highway get backed up. Since parking is so close to the start area, you can just stay warm in your car until closer to race time.
-The course: hilly for sure so be prepared. However, there's some really fun elements. First, there's the race within a race called "Cardiac Hill Challenge" and it's a DOWNHILL 1 mile segment. The top 50 men and top 50 women down this segment get a really cool mug. What I noticed the most on this section were the awesome/hilarious signs of encouragement Atlanta Track Club had lining hill. I'm not sure if the signs were there in the past but they were awesome and very on point. In addition, Atlanta Track Club recruits local schools and organizations to man cheer stations along the course. The cheer stations plus the awesome volunteers at the water stops made for great course support. This race has the best course support, besides Peachtree Road Race. Water stops were approximately every 1.5 miles so I ran without my own water for once and it worked out well. Each stop was well organized with water first and powerade second. There was also a Cliff gel stop between miles 5 and 6.
- The finish: there was a downhill finish line this year, which was very much appreciated. The finish area had a ton of snacks including: water, powerade, bananas, cliff bars, cheezits, etc. There were also volunteers walking around the finish area handing out goodies such as massage balls and blinkies.

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(2018)
"Great improvements from my previous experience"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I ran this race in 2016, the first year it was offered in Atlanta. While it was a fun race, it needed some major improvements (you can read about that in my previous review from 2016). I didn't run it last year, but this year I actually live down the block from the start/finish at Grant Park so I couldn't pass up the chance to run a half marathon at my front door. I'm happy to report that much of the issues I experienced in the first year seem vastly improved. Even with major construction at the park there was plenty of parking in and around the park. I didn't have to drive, of course, but many friends who ran reported easy race morning parking and access. The race start was pretty low-key, which makes me wonder if the race is much smaller than it was 2 years ago, but this also meant plenty of port-o-johns for everyone and no long bathroom lines. It was a single wave start, but with the seemingly low numbers this was not a problem and it did not feel too crowded on the park paths for the first mile. The course winds through some nice Atlanta neighborhoods including: Grant Park, Inman Park, Little 5 Points, Virginia Highlands, Old 4th Ward, and several miles on the Eastside Beltline. The course is your typical hilly Atlanta course but still manageable. Water stops are every 2 miles and include water and gatorade, and very nice volunteers. Starting around mile 7 the stops also include some pickles, fruit, gels, etc. At the finish you get your medal (a nice one that also acts as a bottle opener of course!) and can use two tickets on your race bib for beer from Monday Night Brewing. Usually at races, the beer selection is limited but I was really surprised they offered a nice range including some sours (my fave!). For once I was able to drink a post-race beer because they had something I liked! The finish/post-race party area included the beer, a great snack table, some local vendor booths, and a fun photo booth. King of Pops also showed up, which made my freaking morning (although it wasn't free). A nice improvement this year from 2016 was that they now check IDs at packet pickup and give you a wristband ahead of time so you don't need to carry ID on race day. Overall it was a solid, albeit very hot and humid, race experience and I very much recommend if you're looking for a small feel race with some nice race perks.
Pros:
- Nice race course
- Consistent water stops with water, gatorade, and fuel (starting mile 7ish)
- Pace teams
- Option for t-shirt of tank top (I've actually been wearing the tank because it's cute - I almost never wear race shirts)
- Cool medal
- Lots of pre-race info/emails/communication
- Easy morning access/parking
- Good beer selection at finish

Cons:
- Packet pickup is still at Road Runner Sports (the sponsor) on Thursday and Friday before the race. Going there during the week is a major traffic nightmare. I really wish they would offer packet pickup at the store the weekend before the race since it would be so much more accessible

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