Latest reviews by Jenna Volden

(2018)
"Not a bad 5k"
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I'll try to keep this shorter than my review for the half. LOL, for expo info, please look at that review.

Easy to get to on monorail, just across from the SLS. Security check was quick to get through. Corrals were crazy full and no one was checking where you went in. It took a bit to get through all the corrals, which isn't surprising.

There was a lot of bob and weaving. I pushed the pace more than I usually would to get around walkers (please, sign up with your correct time so you are placed in the right corral).

The course was flat and there wasn't a lot to see right on it but you could look further out and see various hotels all lit up. It was basically an out and back with some running through a parking lot at the end. As we were going through the parking lot I heard someone say this was the worst course they have ever been to. I would disagree. It certainly isn't the best but I've had much worse (I can think of two I would say were worse off the top of my head).

I got through the finishing line and chute fairly quickly. I could not have the granola bars or pretzels they were handing out so I grabbed a banana. They actually gave us an entire banana, which was a nice bonus. Celiac/Gluten-free runner so I can't just eat anything.

I didn't stay for the after party but noticed the beer line was fairly long. Glad I didn't have to wait in that line.

Swag: T-shirt design was great. And I loved the 5k medal! It's a slot machine and the pull handle actually sticks out (I was worried it may break off when traveling but it did not!) It was pointed out to me that the 5k medal was dated 11/11/18 on the back even though the race was 11/10/18. I probably would not have noticed otherwise. Not sure if it was a mistake or they just dated all medals for the 10k/half/full date.

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(2018)
"Good for family fun, not for setting a PR"
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In 2017 I searched for a turkey trot that would be convenient for my family to get together at and run on Thanksgiving morning. Laveen was a great location for this. (Bibrave will not let me edit the year. I didn't realize I left it as 2018)

I liked that it was a small race with packet pickup the same morning. Since it started at a high school, there was plenty of parking. It was easy to get in/out of. For a smaller race, they put on a nice show. My three-year-old nephew had a great time running the kids dash.

The t-shirt was not my favorite material but it was a well-made shirt with a cute turkey design. It was made of the really slippery tech material.

I thought the course was great except it was short. I think it ended up being around 2.6-ish instead of 3.2. I apparently ran their 5K course averaging 9:42. I know I did not run 9:42 miles. My watch had me doing 11:36 pace, which is closer to what I normally run. The course was flat and took you around a park with a lake. I liked the route but wish it had been closer to 3.1

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(2018)
"Bucket List Race"
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When I first head about the Rock n Roll Vegas I was immediately interested in running the strip at night. I love having unique race experiences at least once. This did not disappoint!

I originally had signed up for the marathon but because of several factors, I decided to switch to the half. About two weeks before the deadline I emailed and had my race changed. When it came time to confirm our entries, I was still in the marathon. This is my biggest complaint on the race organization. I made sure to follow the deadline and give them all the information needed to switch and they did not follow through. I tried emailing and received no response. I sent a message on Facebook and was told they would have a HALF bib for me at the expo but they did not. I keep my bibs and I wanted to have the correct bib. It's slightly disappointing that I follow instructions and they mess up twice.

The expo was easy to get to by monorail. You could also park for free per the info they sent out. The expo wasn't busy at all on Friday afternoon and was quick and painless to get my bibs and t-shirts.

I had seen the t-shirt designs online and was super excited about them. They look really great in person and are of similar material as the other Rock n Roll t-shirts I have (which are some of my favorites).

As for the race, it was definitely worth it! I would recommend doing at least once. For me personally, once was enough. I followed instructions and went to the pre-run party to get to the corral. I was in the corral before the cut-off time. I was in the corral for almost an hour before I actually started. My legs and feet were already tired by the time I started (despite spending most of the day relaxing in my hotel room).

Turns out, many people didn't follow all the directions and hopped in the corral chute in several spots along the way. I was in the blue group and people in green and yellow were getting in. I was supposed to be in blue 12 but ended up somewhere in blue. I probably could have pushed forward more but didn't really care to.

I heard some people talking about their time. They said it would take them four hours. I thought, oh, they must be doing the marathon. I took a peek at their bibs, nope, half marathon. Please do not lie about your time when signing up. There is no way you would get in blue for a 4 hour half. These same people ended a few corrals/minutes ahead of me and I passed them in my first quarter mile. I get it, I'm not the fastest but I would never fudge my time that much just to get an earlier corral. I felt bad enough as is because I should have been a few corrals back but kept getting pushed forward.

There was some dodging and weaving early on, which is expected but once you got out of the start it opens up. Since the entire strip is shut down there is plenty of space.

The course, if not for the strip at night, would probably be fairly boring. You run out, turn around, run really straight for a while, turn around, and come back. It's really being on the strip and seeing all the lights and casinos from a point of view you normally do not get.

I also loved all the crowds. The sidewalks and overhead walkways are full of people watching and cheering. It really helps push you through, especially at the end when you are really tired.

The course between the strip and Freemont/Downtown has very little to offer. Not many crowds or sites. There were several wedding chapels (got to see a few people getting photos done) and apparently the pawn shop from TV. At least according to the people behind me and everyone stopping for a photo.

The Container Park has a praying mantis sculpture that erupts fire. Well, I did not know this and it scared the crap out of me (and I think a few others around me based on reactions). We could not see the sculpture and all of a sudden we hear "whoosh" and see flames coming from the roof of a building (from our perspective). We round the corner and look only to see the praying mantis all light up.

The finisher chute was almost a half mile long. I didn't get a thermal blanket from a volunteer. They were running low and I was like oh I'm not bad. I'll get out and get my clothes from family. Wrong! I got cold quickly but luckily one other tent (bubbas burgers I think) was handing them out too.

My biggest issue with Rock n Roll this year is the post-race snacks. Only the banana halves are gluten-free! I had this issue in Phoenix in January as well. I can't have the granola bars, Pringles, or pretzels they hand out. In previous years I have been able to have mandarin oranges, other brands of chips etc. As a runner/athlete with celiac disease, I can't have anything with gluten. Luckily we were able to get in early at the place we had reservations so I could eat something fairly quickly after.

Swag: The medal alone is worth it! This is probably my favorite medal ever. It is a roulette wheel with three cards (that move!). The cards indicate the distance (1, 3, 1 for the half). There's glitter too. It's extra. And I love it!

Overall/TLDR: Great race, fun swag, long wait times, lots of runners but not really crowded.

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(2018)
"This is for the fall/October race"
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The Estrella Cactus 5k is part of a series of six total races. They do three in the spring and then repeat the three in fall. There's a 5, 6, and 7 k. The series bibs spell out CACTUS while the medals spell out FLOWER so doing all six races make the most sense.

The Cactus Flower Run Series is all about being green. They do not have cups at the trail aid stations nor do they give safety pins for bibs. I love this. I use a hydration vest but they gave out a collapsible reusable cup at an earlier race and a bib belt. I love the bib belt, no more struggling with safety pins or putting holes in your favorite shirts!

The 5k is held at the Estrella competitive track. It's a little tricky to get to if you haven't been there before because it is a different entrance than the main park. You have to drive through the parking of PIR. There is a $7 entrance fee so be sure to have some cash (or a park pass). The parking lot is large enough to accommodate all the runners. The packet pickup and porta potties are all in the parking area and easy to get to.

The trail isn't too challenging and would be good for new trail runners. The rain left some larger rocks exposed and deeper ravines but for me, that made it more fun! The elevation isn't too bad, even for someone with asthma (myself). I have to walk some of the uphills.

The race is small. I think there were about 85-87 people. Some spots the trail is narrow so having fewer people is helpful in spreading out and/or passing. Even with around 80-ish people you can usually see someone ahead of you so you don't feel totally alone and can follow the trail. They do a good job of marking turns with cones and arrows. Super easy to follow.

I would definitely recommend this race and will most likely do the series again in 2019 if it fits my schedule!

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(2018)
"Lucky race for the fam"
Overall
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As someone who had never been to this location the email directions were a tad confusing. Luckily the health club staff was very helpful in sending runners to the right spot. Parking was limited, as you couldn't use the health club lot. I arrived early and was able to get a spot. I noticed a lot of people parking across the street as we got closer to the start time.

I love the tank top for this race (Kiss Me I'm a Runner) and the medal. The medal is huge and it contains both a bottle opener and coaster. It might be the fanciest I have ever got.

The route was fairly basic, nothing remarkable. The first part was a little narrow and I think the could have closed off more of the street for runners.

I didn't stay for the after party but I heard there was beer and doughnuts (neither of which this gluten-free athlete can have). The atmosphere was great and I heard lots of laughter and music coming from the party so I have to assume it was good.

Overall, a fun race and I will be back next year!

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