Latest reviews by Lloyd Garcia

(2018)
"Fast times in the Rocky Mountain High"
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Thumb revel 2018

After 6 months of training, it all boiled down to this……changing my mind last minute and doing the half. So, to give a bit more detail, I had been training for a full marathon with the desire to use this race as a trainer for next year’s race. I want to qualify for Boston, but I’m going to wait until I’m 40 to do that, as it will be that much more obtainable. I turn 40 late this year, so 2019 is my goal year to qualify and then join other runners in 2020. As such, I wanted to run this race this year so I’ll be that much better next year when I (hopefully) BQ! However, due to a number of events, I never got many 20+ training runs in. I also have been going super fast up to that 13.1 marker. And though I want to get more full marathons under my belt, I was thinking that this race may be difficult to finish the full, but I would have a legitimate chance to PR. I haven’t PR’d since 2013 and since my surgery in 2015, I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to have a PR ever again. So, though I really struggled making this decision, I decided to just run the half instead.
So, how did it go? Well, I disappointed myself. I got very close to a PR. And though it was a great run, it was only my SECOND fastest race of my life. I got 1:36 and change making it a 7:22 pace. And for a consolation, I will say this is the fastest half in my home state by a long shot. Since I live in CO, I have competed in a dozen or so races. And, yes, many of them have also been downhill runs. Yet, with the altitude, it’s typical for me to run in the low 1:50s. So, to go from that to the 1:30s was surprising and satisfying. So, it’s not a PR, but it was a PR for my home state. And I’ll take what I can get!
What about the rest of the race events? Well, I should’ve started with the expo as I normally do. In order to afford this race, I volunteered for the expo. ALL DAY! I got there in the morning, and stayed right before it was over. I handed out bibs to other competitors. And this was a satisfying experience. I know a lot of other runners from facebook. Many of them, I never really talk to, but I do recognize their faces. So, it was great to meet people I’ve kinda known for years. Also, it was neat to see people in plain clothes one day and then recognize them the next day in their race outfits. The big problem was that standing on my feet all day did cause me some foot issues that I didn’t want the day before a race. But, in the end, that didn’t turn out to be a problem. The race director allowed me to get off a bit before the expo was over. So, I did see it. However, by the time I went through, some of the vendors were out of free stuff and a handful had already packed up. So, though it didn’t seem like the best expo, I feel it’s unfair for me to rate it as I didn’t “really” see it.
Then the course…..WOW is this course beautiful!!! It runs through the rocky mountains, so it’s a breathtaking experience….and not just due to the elevation. Ha. It’s also mostly downhill. For the half, the first 2 miles have a good deal of uphill portions, and then every step from there on is down. And the full does hit that spot during their halfway mark. Sometimes the grade is steeper than others, but that downhill really helps the time. There are also well seen mile markers. There were a number of strategically placed aid stations. And there were free race photos easily postable to facebook. They also had some of the best pacers I’ve ever seen hitting the mark within seconds. And it was super cold at the starting area, but they planned for that by giving everyone a free blanket and gloves with their swag bag. I can’t say anything negative about this gorgeous run.
The swag: The finishers medal was big. It was bulky and attractive; I really cannot complain about this. They also gave a runner’s hat to all. This is something I didn’t think I ever wanted until I got it. I even saw someone a week later with the hat on, so I was able to talk to her about the race. The race shirt was nice, but very plain. It had the Revel logo on the front where a pocket would be, but nothing else. There was nothing at all on the back either; no sponsors, no event date, just blank. The race name and details did appear on the right sleeve, but the font was roughly the same color as the shirt, so you can’t read it easily. As such, it appears you’re just wearing a plain shirt from afar. If you didn’t run the race or know what the Revel logo is, most people would have no clue this is a race shirt. Which in all reality, isn’t that bad of a problem. I will say the quality of the shirt is top notch. It’s very soft and comfortable to wear.
The finish area was awesome. On their bib, everyone got a coupon for a free: pizza slice, BIG French toast and a beer. I even saw some people trading. In addition there were mini donuts, bananas and water. I felt it was a very well run finishing experience. They even had a fun place where people could hold up PR and BQ signs to commemorate their accomplishment.
In the end, I highly recommend this race to anyone who is trying to go fast. Yes, the altitude can be a problem for some. But, it’s a fun race that is well organized. The people are top notch, and the guy giving out bibs for last names D-F is amazing! If you want to get a BQ or a PR, this is the race to choose. Just do yourself a favor and train for it by running downhills. The only comments I heard in the negative were from those who didn’t properly train for a continuous downhill event. Can’t wait to do this one and 2 others next year when I punch my ticket to Boston!

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(2018)
"Fun times in the land of Oz"
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This was my 27th state. I had been wanting to get Kansas crossed off for a while as it's a bordering state to me, and I'm poor. lol. But, which one? I was told about this one for years now. And, in all honesty, I've been putting it off for years so that I can complete it with a friend of mine who is an avid Wizard of Oz fan. But,after years of waiting, I finally just decided to sign up.
This was a huge themed race. Wizard of Oz was everywhere. There were cardboard cut outs of nearly every character at the expo and many others along the race. It was one of those races where so many people decided to dress up for the even in costume. One new friend of mine even made several changes and wore 5 or 6 outfits throughout.
The race was also sponsored by Garmin, so it's a great place for runners to journey to. The race started and ended at the Garmin headquarters. So, if you are as attached to your Garmin as you are your children, you really should view this as some kind of destination run! In fact, the best part of this race may have been that the event's start and finish line were right next to the covered parking lot of the Garmin building. So, there was plenty of close, free parking. How often can you say that about a race?!
This was a mid-level race as far as quantity of participants. There were only 1,800 people running the half. I'm sure there were many more doing the full, but it was pretty small compared to a RnR or something like that. However, it was much larger than some I have completed that had less than 100 runners. That is all to say the expo was kind of lacking. There were probably a couple dozen vendors. And many of those were just insurance companies. But, I got some decent swag. But, nothing too high quality like new racing equipment. The Gamin folks definitely didn't give free watches to all; hahaha.
The start of the race was good. As mentioned earlier, the parking lot was close by. It was cold, so I could actually hang out in my car for a bit. There were also plenty of port-o-potties with very short lines. It also had plenty of places to pose and get a good pre-race picture.
The race itself was fine. I have a habit of focusing on my run and forgetting to look around. So, I can't give a good description of the scenery. But, I can say it was a lot hillier than I had prepared for. I had looked at the course map prior (as I always do). And between the fact it appeared flat, Kansas' reputation and the elevation being 4K+ lower than where I live, I stopped running around my hilly neighborhood and focused more on treadmill running where I could run faster, flat runs in preparation. This was a big mistake. It's not that I haven't run races that had more inclines, it's just that I was unprepared for the few there were. I think there were about 5 good hills with 3 of those being difficult if you haven't trained for hills. In the end, I still got a good time of just under 1:45. I had a lot of help from the lower elevation.
Then, the after party began! They had a lot to offer. They had a live DJ. They had a truck that was giving several varieties of beers. There was also a local Mexican restaurant that was handing out margaritas. And who doesn’t want a margarita after a long race?! They had another tent that was giving out chicken sandwiches as well. So, as a fan of food and drinks, it was great. In addition to that, they also had a decent amount of vendors. Of course, the biggest was Garmin who had a place to get pictures converted to an MP4. It was a fun time all in all. I’m glad I did it.
The only thing I, personally, didn’t like about it was the race shirt/medal. This was “the year of Dorothy.” And as such, the shirt had a girl-shaped “Oz.” And the medal was that of a ruby slipper. It seems like most of the ladies loved it. However, it was feminine enough, that I will probably not wear the shirt again. But, that’s not a horrible loss as I have WAY TOO MANY race shirts in my closet already.
And to not, end with just the race, I also like to talk about the city. It was a good race to visit. It was my official Kansas run. But, it was in the Kansas City area. As such, I was able to make my way across the border and hang out in Missouri for the first time. I found fun to be had on both sides of the border. Probably the best place I spent was in the “Power and Light District” in downtown Kansas City, MO. My buddy and I also ventured to see the national WWI museum which had a lot of great information and history. I’m sure there are a lot of other good races in Kansas. But, I would highly suggest this one if you are looking for a great Kansas race experience!

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(2017)
"Fun distance "
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Thumb hot chocolate

Every year, I see many of my running friends post pictures of the Hot Chocolate 15K. I have never done that race for a variety of reasons. One is that I’ve never heard of that distance before. I also don’t like running events in Colorado in October. And it’s honestly not the cheapest event to get into. But, I always felt the medal and swag were top notch. And I really fell in love with the apparel they gave out. Instead of a typical t-shirt, they actually provided a nice pullover. So, I got some money from my job for the steps I take, and I figured this would be a fun way to spend that gift card.

The enrolment process was easy enough. It was a simple site to navigate through. They required you to prove your time to get into a fast wave. But, that wasn’t too much to ask, and it does prevent problems I’ve seen at other races. They also agreed to give me a (very small) discount for being a veteran. That was appreciated. As such, I wore my RWB shirt for the race itself!

The expo was okay. There weren’t a lot of vendors there; and the ones present weren’t that interesting to me. However, they did have a big fondue fountain in the center and provided you with marshmallows to get some dipped candy with. I was born without a sweet tooth, so I didn’t care for it, but the kids loved it! I was able to get the pullover I signed up for. It was better than I thought it would be; very high quality long sleeved pullover. It’s something I know I’ll be proud to wear for years.

Getting to the event was the worst part of this experience. There was no designated areas to park or busses bringing you to the event. As such, one had to get creative to get there. The even took place downtown Denver, right by the capital. It’s a busy area with construction. Between the lane and street closures, trying to get around was very slow moving. And finding available parking near the start line was difficult to say the least. I found a pay lot about 5 blocks away. The pre-race area was great though. They had more volunteers than were necessary. And there were a fair amount of port-a-potties. As such, I was able to get everything handled easily.

The race itself was great. It was a bit hillier than I had trained for. I live in Denver, so the elevation didn’t bother me. However, I know out-of-towners always have problems running a mile high. I always suggest to anyone who wants to run in Denver from sea level to come out a week early to acclimate oneself. However, no one ever listens to me; lol! I can’t say the course ran through any remarkable areas. It was all downtown which is pretty; but we didn’t run through any notable locations.

Upon crossing the finish line, I was handed a very large medal. I won’t say it’s the biggest medal I have, but it is bigger than most half marathon medals I possess. It even had a key chain attached to it. Perhaps I’ll use that someday. Then you proceeded to a booth where they gave everyone a sectioned plate in the shape of a giant coffee mug. Those compartments contained hot chocolate, fondue, pretzels, marshmallows and a banana. It was a neat tray to receive. However, it was discarded when I got home and couldn’t justify a thing to do with it. The after-race area was great. It’s in a historic part of the city that is beautiful and in the heart of downtown. They had many vendors there, several places to get pictures and even bounce castles for the kids! What they didn’t have was any alcohol. That made me sad, but the theme was hot chocolate not beer and margaritas.

All in all, I was satisfied with the event. The pullover and medal are very memorable. I even saw another person in a Bib Rave singlet! I was hoping she would write a review first; perhaps she will soon. I would recommend this race to others. I had a good time.

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(2017)
"Beautiful, downhill race"
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I should probably start out by saying I HATE full marathons. I do a lot of half marathons. I'm pretty confident on those and can do them quicker than your average runner. But, full marathons hurt. That said, one day I want to qualify for Boston. So, even though I'm a long way from doing that, I wanted to train on a fast course to get that in one day. And a downhill marathon seemed good to accomplish that goal. I had no beliefs that I could do it this year. But, I figured it would give me some experience that way I could do it in a few years, potentially.

So, I suppose I'll start out with the expo. It was kind of lame. I didn't really get any freebies. And I don't think there were more than a dozen vendors. Also, I was given a cotton shirt and was told that was the upgrade. I don't recall asking for an upgraded shirt, but the "normal" shirt was a tech shirt with a real cool design. I asked if I could get the non-upgraded shirt, and they accommodated that. So, I'm happy for this. I just find it strange on what they consider an upgrade.

The race itself required you to wake up super early. Since this is a downhill race, they had everyone park at the bottom of the hill, load up in busses and be taken to the top of the hill. But, the busses ran from 3:30 - 4:15 am. Since the race didn't start until 6, that required everyone to be up on the top of the hill freezing for an hour or more. I did another race like this in the past (Utah Valley) that had fire pits set up to help out. It would've been nice if they had something for that. The other problem with the top of the mountain were the bathroom lines. They could've spread them out differently. They had them lined up side to side in a long row (which is typical). But, there wasn't a lot of room for a waiting line. After about 6 people in line, it would cause you to fall off the back end of a cliff.

The race itself was fantastic! It took place in the Rocky Mountains and there was beauty to be seen everywhere. The elevation seemed to mess with a lot of runners, especially at the beginning which started over 10,000 ft. above sea level! And the decline was a struggle for many people, complaining about knee pain and sore quads. I had been training at a decline so that helped me a lot.

On a personal note, I did great! I got my first sub-4 hour marathon. That was a PR for me, and who doesn't love getting a PR?!??! I will say that I thought we went a different direction, and I trained for one big incline around mile 12. I was surprised on the course when we took a different route and had several inclines to do. None were that big or long. But, I wasn't prepared for them, and they took a lot out of me since I had primarily been training downhill. The aid stations were great too. They had water and Gatorade at all stations. And they even had flavored Goo at several stops. I don't think I saw a stretch beyond 3 miles that didn't have port-o-potties. So, everything that you needed was avail! Did I mention how gorgeous it was?!!?

The after event was above par as well. They let everyone have a free slice of pizza and cherry pie. They, of course, had your typical bananas too. I think I also saw a yogurt vendor handing out samples and the Muscle Milk truck was there to help replenish much needed protein. There was a beer garden where everyone got a free cold one. Free massages were avail (though the waiting list was very long). And they had a fun set up where you could take pictures of your friends holding up "PR" and "BQ" signs. Everyone seemed to have a good time. And, the finish medals were awesome! Big bling that was textured and raised. This is definitely one of my favorite medals I got anywhere!

Then comes my next big complaint: the parking situation. The end of this event was not near where we had parked our cars that morning. We had to take a bus to get there. But, do you think the bus stop was near the finish line? NO! We had to walk what seemed like a mile to get to the shuttles. And after running 26.2, walking a mile isn't exactly easy for us runners. I wish the parking could've been set up better logistically.

I know I made a lot of complaints. But, in the end, it was much better that I made it out to be. I enjoyed this race. I am happy with my PR. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to get into Boston. Just train for downhill running and elevation. And be prepared to be sore the next several days!

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(2017)
"Will I run another Disney race? "
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Thumb dark side

I was asked if I would ever do another Disney race. I’m not sure how to answer that right now. Years ago, I said I wouldn’t do one since they are so expensive. You can easily do 3 half marathons for the entry fee as just one Disney race. So, that was never on my list.

But, then my kids got older. My wife suggested taking the family to Disney World. My daughter (now 8) has watched Disney Jr. every day of her life probably. She loves all that stuff. My son (7) is also at that magical age where a trip to Disney would be amazing. Our youngest daughter is only 1, so probably won’t remember any of it, but would look cute in the pictures. At the same time the wife was suggesting this, I was getting pretty excited about the Disney acquisition of Star Wars. I’m a big Star Wars nerd, and the thought of doing a Star Wars themed race seemed over joyous. I heard good stories of the inaugural race, and the medals/shirts looked impressive. It should also be mentioned I have yet to run a race in Florida. So, I told my wife I would take the kids to Disney world IF we could do it on the Star Wars weekend, so I can cross another state off my list. And though it was an expensive entry fee, if I’m going there anyway, that becomes a way to save money on the traveling/lodging expenses. She agreed, so I broke my word and signed up for a Disney race.

How was it? It was pretty amazing! But, there were some frustrations too. I should start with the expo. It took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. I didn’t even know this was a thing. But, it’s a new part of Disney World. So, it gave me the chance to see something new for the first time. It had no rides or anything like that. It was just a great big auditorium, but it was still neat to say I saw it. Inside the expo, there was a DJ spinning some good music. My kids were dancing around and having a good time. I didn’t like that they made us park our stroller. They made us go into one hall to register and get our bib, and then go into a different building to get our t-shirt and experience the expo. And when you have a 1 year old with no nap, this becomes very frustrating. I also don’t understand why they couldn’t have just held everything in one location. But, I tried to scurry out of there quickly. I was surprised not to see any “Disney stuff.” There was no costumed Mickey Mouse there to see or anyone else like that. There also was a lack of freebies. I typically get a bag and fill it with wristbands, Gu, pens, snacks and all kinds of stuff I probably won’t use. Though most of that stuff I throw away, it’s always nice to get it and I do use some of it. The only thing I think I got there was GoGo applesauce for the kids. And since that’s a part of their daily intake, I guess that was nice to see.

The next two days were interesting. My family went to some of the Disney parks and saw people all over wearing t-shirts and medals from that day’s earlier race. I only signed up for the half marathon. That was my only desire at the time of registration. However, there was also a 10K the day before the half and a 5K the day before that. And there were bonus medals for doing all 3 of them. In fact, this was the “Dark Side Half.” In Disneyland, earlier in the year, there was the “Light Side Half.” And people who completed both in the same calendar year, got additional medals stacked on top. You had a chance to leave FL with around 6 new medals depending on how much you were willing to shell out to the Mouse. And though none of those races intrigued me when I signed up, I will admit I began wishing I had ran those other races. The medals were above average. And the shirts were pretty amazing!

Next, let me talk about the pre-race. I showed up an hour and a half early. I thought that would be plenty of time to get to my coral, have fun, hit the restroom, etc. In any other race, that would be a reasonable assumption. They had us park at Epcot (the finish line), and they bussed us to the Magic Kingdom where we started. They said they would not let anyone drop off their friends/family at the start line. I don’t fully understand the reason for that. But, since I was driving myself, I guess that didn’t matter. I walked towards the busses and got my pre-race lift in, like I do! The bus seemed slow, but I didn’t care; I was early! But, the bus didn’t drop us off near the starting line. I think I had to walk around a mile to get to my coral. During that time, there were some truly amazing things to see. There were stands where runners could stand next to characters like Darth Vader, Jaba the Hutt and Bobba Fett to get a fun picture. There was also a couple huge screens showing scenes from the Star Wars films. There was a fun, energetic atmosphere. But, there were also long lines for the restrooms that would block the walk towards the corals. It was crowded and slow. To make a long story short, by the time I finally got to the start line, my coral had already left. This is the first time that’s ever happened. And I spoke to several other people that later told me they had similar problems.

With that fiasco out of the way, let me try to explain the race. It was fantastic! I think it was the most fun running this race than any others. Due to the high temperatures and humidity in Florida, the start time was 5:30; long before the sun came up. There were places it was nearly completely dark at the beginning. One of these spots had a bunch of blaster noises, and it felt like you were there in the middle of a space battle. Another one of these dark stretches had ewok noises behind some trees. You could almost feel like you were on the moon of Endor. At times, we would run by big screens that had the movies playing on it. And there were so many people dressed up in costume. I felt like I was at a Star Wars convention with running attached to it! Also, pretty much every mile had a spot where you could run off the course and pose for a picture. They had characters, vehicles and backgrounds from the movies. I am trying to run sub 2 hour races in all 50 states, and I haven’t been as fast as I used to be. So, I tried to stay focused, but I wanted to stop to get a selfie next to some of this stuff. Every mile marker had a dark side character on the flag. I saw Darth Vader, Bobba Fett, Darth Maul, the Emperor and pretty much every evil character you could think of. They even had a couple characters I couldn’t immediately identify; so I think they may be from the upcoming film. They also let us run throughout many of the Disney parks. I ran on streets of Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot! One of my big complaints about Disney races is that park admission is not included. However, being able to run around Disney World is a nice consolation. They really spared no expense with the atmosphere of the race itself. For this nerdy kid/runner, I was in paradise!

As I finished the race, I got a huge medal. It had Kylo Ren’s face on it. That’s what I named my dog. So, it will go down as one of my favorite medals ever! They had stations to get your pictures at, but they wouldn’t let us take pictures with our own cameras. I found that to be a bit odd, but whatever. Then I got my free banana and powerade and tried to will myself back to full health. There was plenty of room to move around at the finish line area. And they had another fun atmosphere there. I spent way too much time looking for my free beer. I ended up asking people and they gave me an awkward look. Apparently, Disney doesn’t do free post-race beers. What’s with that?!??! Look at my post for the Route 66 race to see what a contrast these races were. Maybe it’s not a deal I should make. But, most races I’m in have something alcoholic afterwards. I felt kind of cheated after such a huge entry fee on that. Moving on, they had moved all those pre-race scenes to the finish line. So, anyone who didn’t have time to get their picture before, had the chance to get a picture afterwards with a beloved character. I ended up getting in line to have my picture with Darth Vader. It was a lot of fun.

After the race, I went back to my hotel to shower up, only to return to the Magic Kingdom later to meet up with my family. I was able to walk around with my medal and see others who had their medals/shirts on. We were able to give one another a nod and share a moment of comradery while still enjoying Disney with my family. It was a nice feeling. However, it continued to hurt every time I saw someone with that BIG medal for completing all the races. I feel that I missed a piece of this experience.

So, would I do another Disney race? I don’t know. I have now completed both Florida and California and I am trying not to repeat states. Unlike many of my running friends, I don’t have the income to go on numerous trips all over the place. I can only go on 2-3 racecations a year. So, to go back, I have nothing to gain. And there are so many great races in both CA and FL to run if I was to return. With the overpriced entry fees and LACK OF A FREE BEER, it seems crazy to justify another Disney run. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t satisfied. And it definitely doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the most fun races I’ve been in. I just don’t have a lot to gain by running another Disney event. But, here’s my conclusion: eventually my one year old will be older. She will be around the age of her brother and sister are now. When that time comes, the wife will probably want to drag me back to Disneyworld. If I’m in a better place in my life financially at that time, I may consider doing this race again. But, if I do it…..I’ll be doing all the races. I’ll be taking pictures alongside the course. I’ll plan differently. If I do this again, I’ll get all the medals, all the shirts and all the fun pictures that I missed out with this race. I just may be back to another race in a state far far away!

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