Latest reviews by Jeremy Murphy

(2018)
"Surprising Amazing and Fun "
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On Sunday, October 21, I enjoyed running my first full marathon within the state of Iowa in Des Moines. At 8am, we lined up 7000 or so strong (marathoners, half-marathoners, and marathon relay folks) to enjoy a grand tour of Des Moines, including some surprises. I was fortunate to be able to pick up my race packet 2 days early on Friday night. I had a little trouble finding the expo location at the Iowa Event Center but it was dark by the time I arrived in town. I was impressed with the expo, the race director spoke and explained to us that we would feel a little crowded for at least the first 2 miles or so until the half-marathoners are directed off to the left and the full marathoners to the right. I made a note of that and tried to watch for fast people passing with batons (that means marathon relay runners). I was impressed to see so many vendors and selections at the expo, including some I wasn't expecting like Oofos for example (make running sandals). And it was nice to see the marathoner jacket in the marathon bag which I thought I could wear if needed on the day of the race. I know you aren't supposed to wear anything you haven't worn before but one must stay warm during a cool breezy race as well. So although I tested the rest of my gear/clothing beforehand, only the IMT Des Moines Marathon 26.2 jacket was new. Arriving in town a few days early allowed me to run in Clive (near West Des Moines) to adjust to my surroundings a little more. Running in Iowa is very similar to Nebraska with some subtle differences.

On the day of the race, Sunday, I layered up, grabbed all my gear and my water, and drove off determined to park at Principal Park. Unfortunately, when I got near Principal Park, my route was blocked by police/route barricades. So I recalculated at ended up at a downtown parking garage at 8th and Mulberry. I highly recommend that you do not even try to go to Principal Park to park unless you leave super early. 8th and Mulberry is about 6 blocks away from the start. Just park at a downtown parking garage and you won't get redirected and a little lost like I was until I reached downtown.

*Weather was nice for the race-about 38-40 degrees for the start (that's PR weather for some) and it rose into the 50s. It felt quite a bit cooler due to the wind in spots. Prepare for a breeze. Bring some gloves but you might not need them for the whole race. Definitely want a hat and maybe a scarf/wrap of some sort.
*Surface: Mostly asphalt, there were some giant potholes and cracks in the road surface so be careful. Some of those hazards were not well marked either. The best surface was the lap run upon the Drake University track. That was a surprise, I didn't realize that was on the course. (The wind almost blew my hat off on the track but I grabbed it in time so prepare for that.) Make sure you have your number visible on the track as they call out peoples names when they enter the track stadium. I had my jacket zipped up until the chip mat on the end of the lap. I didn't realize they were going to do that. Surprise.

*Hills: Yes, there were some. Nothing too dramatic, gently rolling hills for the most part. There is a nice downhill between 16-17 where you can accelerate and make up some time if needed. The 4:10 pacer was kind enough to flag that for me.

*Hydration/Aid Stations: I was very impressed with the water stops and aid stations. My only frustration was in determining which cups were water and which were Gatorade (all were served in Gatorade cups). Some aid workers were more vocal about which, others I had to ask to be sure. I didn't carry water with me at all so I think I stopped at almost every water station except one. It seems like there were water stops every mile or two throughout the race.

*Food/Bacon? Yes, there was bacon. At mile 19, I was amazed to be offered bacon by someone and I told him you've got to be kidding me. He said, no really it's bacon and here you need the salt. Realizing he was right, I grabbed 2 bacon strips and devoured them. Then I had a craving for bacon which I could not find after the race. Yes, I will run for bacon. That was a fun surprise that made me smile and chuckle a little. It was well-timed too. I was happy to see some GU packets offered (I forgot my nutritional protein bars but remembered to take the salt tablets). I grabbed a few salted caramel gu packets and those worked well. They were also offering things like gummy bears, skittles, and M&Ms. And Kleenex/facial tissue was appreciated too (I forgot to grab it).
*Animals/Nature/Birds: The most amazing moment of this race was the bald eagle that appeared out of nowhere at mile 21 and was circling above us. A photographer was snapping it and I lost all sense of time and space. I just wanted to watch the eagle. We don't see them very often where I live in Nebraska. We saw other birds too but the eagle stands alone and circling over us, it seemed to affirm that we all belonged running this course. It was a spectacular moment. Unfortunately, my phone was dead and I could not capture it except with my memory.
*Can you find people you might know? Yes, I saw two people during the race that I met afterward and we greeted each other during the race.
*At the start: very crowded at the drop bag location (this is where my phone died). Allow extra time. I was barely able to move into the area of the start I wanted for positioning for my pace. Mostly I ran with the 4:10 group for much of the race until late.
*Chip race/mats: There is a chip mat at the half, 20 miles, and the finish. There was at least one other one I think. Maybe at the Drake track?
*Photographers: Yes, there are free photos you can get through the DMM app. Make sure you show your number so they can capture some photos of you. I just unzipped my Des Moines windbreaker whenever I saw photographers. One caught a photo with a nice blue background. The free photos were at the 20 mile and finish point for me. Marathon Foto/Photo has photos you can buy if you wish to do so.
*Support/Spectators: The support and spectators was impressive for most of the course. The trail part was a little thinner in numbers but many of us are trail runners so we can be self-reliant on those stretches. Good support around the lake at 21-23 miles or so. Very windy there in that vicinity so prepare to cover up and hold on to your hat.
*Medical/Bikes: Bikes circulated in front of us and back and forth to make sure runners were doing well. Medical staff were every few miles and I didn't really see anyone in any distress that I could tell.
*Des Moines Marathon app: I was obsessed with the countdown clock. I love keeping track of time like that and it was a good reminder how much time I had left to do x, y and z before the race. I think it's probably the best marathon app I've used for any race I have run. Very easy to use and people loved tracking us during the race (family, friends).

*Bathroom/port-a-potties: Plenty of these on the course every few miles. Didn't need one but it was good to know these were there just in case.

*Finish: Well marked with a colorfully designed arch and photographers on ladders on both sides. We could see about when the photographers were snapping photos. And it was fun to finish with someone near you even if it wasn't someone I knew. We'll always be in that finish photo series together.

This was a wonderful race experience for me. I ran with the 4:10 pacers, wore a 4:10 pacing bracelet. I did run-walk-run as that is how I train and race. My heart rate was a little elevated (and I was cold despite being layered up and wearing double gloves) for the first half so I had to be a little conservative early. Once we reached the Drake track, I was much more relaxed. I remembered my Dad and brothers had travelled to watch the Drake relays there so it gave me a family connection I wasn't expecting. And finally on the trail portion, I felt like I was back in my groove. By 20 miles, I was having a good experience (pretty zippy at 30k point), then I slowed down a little. Managing a recent glute injury, I was trying to avoid aggravating that problem. It became obvious 4:10 wasn't going to happen, then my goal shifted to 4:15. And finally I reset the goal at 4:30-4:35ish and landed at 4:34:42, just under my adjusted target pace. It was a fantastic relief to be able to finish a full marathon and still have energy to walk~slowly~and enjoy it. I knew I had given my all and a blood blister on one foot bore that out for me. I knew I lacked the speedwork needed to run much faster. And that's okay. Sometimes you run a marathon simply to finish and do your very best without a major time goal hanging in the balance. It's a lot less pressure to have some lower-pressure races like this.
*Food/drinks afterwards: I was happy to receive a bottle of water right after my marathon medal. The photographer snapped me holding it up. Then there was an assortment of cookies, bananas, chips, queso, pork sandwiches and Gatorade. And chocolate milk. The cookies were irresistible. It was sort of tough to find what we wanted here but we did find the Sam Adams beer area. And the PR bell which we were delighted to see and hear people ring.

PR bell: Yes, it was there and it was large and loud, the way it should be.

Photo areas afterwards: Yes, we got some great photos by the Des Moines sign with our names on it (also the car had our names on it at the expo) and the I Can Do this! sign was a great location for a photo after too.

High fiving friends during the race: Yes, I did enjoy this experience in the middle of the race. It is possible with friends passing on both sides in several locations too, giving us a great opportunity for that. And everyone gives each other energy with that exchange.

*Hospitality: I was amazed the warm (Hawkeye) hospitality I received as someone from Nebraska. And I think many people seemed to feel that too. Well done!

It's a good blend of urban and rural feel on the trail. Prepare for pleasant surprises. Enjoy the experience! I loved it and I think you will too!

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(2018)
"Good Firecracker Race"
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It's always exciting to run a race that is being held for the first time, especially on an historic freedom-filled day like July 4. Thanks to the co-sponsors, Fleet Feet Nebraska and CHI Health for bringing this new race to the community. The race is held at Ak-Sar-Ben Village and it's a 3 loop course. (Ak-Sar-Ben is Nebraska spelled backwards. Did you know that?) Each loop is roughly more than a mile. The course measures 3.17 miles so your watch will show a little longer than that at the finish. Once arriving, I picked up my bib and looked around at the location. The elevation is very flat for this course (Garmin measured about 23' climb for the entire course). The humidity was a little bit of an issue. Heat was slightly up but really it was the humidity that was the toughest challenge of this race. There were plenty of opportunities to capture the moment with a special-event Snapchat geofilter for the race so I tested a few snaps with that for the blogpost and to remember. There were roughly 350 or so of us running the race from what we were told. I'm not sure if that included the miler competitors or not. Some people may have run the mile with their kids after the 5k. That is a possibility. At 8:30, the race began and we rotated clockwise in the first loop. The security was good for the event. Streets were blocked off and there was no car traffic coming near us during the race. Only racers, fans/volunteers, and some designated bikers were on the race course. One thing I would definitely recommend is to wear/bring a hat/visor because there is little shade on the course except where trees block the sun in a few locations. I was glad to have a good shade running hat with me. It is a chip race so your time is adjusted by the time you cross the chip mats. You cross the mats three times (once on each mile lap). I didn't really have a specific goal for the race, just decided to run as fast as possible. I didn't train for it specifically. I entered a little late but was still able to enter online easily. There were water stops about every 1/2 mile on the course (roughly 1/2 mile from the starting line). I was carrying water with me so I didn't need to stop for it. But I did take walk breaks during the race to drink water. I noticed some of the sponsors did move around the course a little to cheer different people on and maybe catch us twice on one lap possibly. That was good. I tried to make the first mile faster because it seemed like the heat/humidity were increasing. So the first mile was 6:43. Second mile was a little slower, adjusting to humidity/heat/very bright sunshine: 7:40. And the last mile was 7:59 with a little burst at the end. I was disappointed at the finish that someone sneaked up on me and surged past me at the finish line. Didn't see him coming. My Garmin said 24:08 official time but at the awards they announced my time as 24:06. 7:27 pace overall (slower than a wanted but adjusted for hot/humid day, not bad). I stayed to cheer on some 5k runners as they streamed in after me. After the last 5k runner, they prepared for the milers. There was a mile race afterwards and we were encouraged to support the milers (especially the kids). So we supported them too. After both races, awards for age groups were given (top 3 in each age group and top winners overall for male/female. I was happy to receive 2nd place in my age group with a $15 gift certificate to Fleet Feet Nebraska and a free entry to a 5k in August coupon (sponsored by someone else). I made a point of thanking the CHI Health volunteers after the race too. I was impressed that we all received medals (all finishers), that's rare for a 5k. There was social media integration with Facebook and Instagram and Fleet Feet asked us to share our pictures on all those platforms, tagging them to raise awareness. Well done. It was a good race, well-run and supported, high energy among the race sponsors, volunteers, and participants. Great location for it too. There were plentiful food/drinks after the race from bananas, bagels, protein bars, water, and CHI Health was giving a way free CHI-branded items too. Free massages for people that needed it after the race as well. It was a good, family-friendly, memorable experience and I highly recommend you try this race on for size. You'll enjoy it. Wear your red, white and blue and enjoy the Fourth of July holiday as a family and bring your friends too!

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(2018)
"Quick and fun mile race"
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On July 8, I ran the Lincoln Mile race for the first time. It's a flat, out-and-back, hook-and-ladder shaped course. I was very happy to be able to run with my 40-something age group for the last time in a race before turning 50. If I remember right, the older age groups ran first so I was able to observe the 50s age group start and finish. Led by bikes, the leaders are able to break away and have some room. For the rest of us, it took about 1/2 a mile or so for us to have a little more running room. Until then, we were running in packs/groups. The course runs briefly north on 12th Street, then east on R Street before we run a few blocks south on Centennial Mall (aka 15th Street). Seeing the State Capitol is a highlight at the turnaround. Then we turn around the way we came and finish on 12th Street. I didn't train for this race distance. It was a bit of a speed test for me. I was hoping for a little bit faster. I ran a 6:42 officially (although Garmin/Strava tell me I ran a little longer than a full mile). 21st in my age group of 29 on tired legs. But having run a race (5k) that week already, it was nice to be able to run a shorter faster one just to see how fast I could run it. Afterwards, there are plenty of refreshments (water, Italian ice, bananas, bagels, etc.). I stayed to watch the runners in their 30s compete. Then there are younger runners and elite runners to watch as well. Overall, it was a well-run race and I highly recommend it. How fast can you run a mile? P.S. If you come early, you can easily run a warmup mile around Memorial Stadium area (that's where I ran mine). Also, packet pickup is pretty easy on the day of the event at Lincoln Running Company, only a few blocks from the start of the race. I waited to pick up my packet until the day of the race. The photo is of the men's winner finishing fast in the 50s age group.

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(2018)
"Hilly Hour of Trail Power"
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This is a fun trail race. I ran the new race distance (the 10k) in the January race this year. I've run the 5k trail race the past two years so there was 5k of surprises after the first 5k I was familiar with. The course was hilly (as expected) and a little muddy in spots. The snow was mostly melted but we did encounter it on the course. The new course is a 2 loop format. I didn't know what to expect on the second half of the course and didn't have time to scout it out ahead of time. The race begins in a rustic western-style location of Carol Holling Camp near Ashland, Nebraska. It's helpful to come early to make sure that you have everything, have a good idea of the weather and wind for layering. There are trees lining the course but they don't block a lot of the wind. Some trail hazards you will encounter on the 10k course will include snow, ice, mud, branches, large logs, and there was one point where we had to jump from one side of the ground to the other (just a few feet) crossing an empty riverbed. So practice your hurdling skills before you run this, you will need to hop over a few things. After 1 mile or so, there is a top of a hill near a cross and you pass by that cross again before you finish the first 5k. It's a helpful milestone as there are many twists and turns on the course map.

My goal for the race was to simply try to run it in an hour or less. That seemed reasonable given the unpredictable second half of the course.

Make sure before you run that you have your wristband already for drinks (they have some good microbrew beer). I love the hot foot meal served after this race. After a tough trail race, barbeque sandwiches and hot soup is mighty delicious.

I like to warm up on this course (about a mile or so) before I race it. That's what I did this year and it helped remind me what the first 1/2 mile of the course was.

I carried my own water in my OrangeMud vest. There are water stations about every 2 miles or so. I didn't need to stop for that.

Shoes: Definitely make sure you wear trail shoes for this. Other shoes won't work as well.

The 4th mile of this course is the most difficult with the steepest incline. It was my slowest mile. It's tough to accelerate in mud and there were parts of the course that you have to climb single file up trails/steps. Patience is helpful here.

After an uphill 4th mile, the last 2 miles are easier and downhill. You an hear the loudspeaker from the finish line pretty far away as you near the finish.

Reaching the finish line, you are on bricks (same surface you start on). Not for very long though. The rest of the surface is grass/trail.

It's a tough course to run the whole way without walk breaks. I did take some. I run-walk so that works best for me.

I did enjoy the stretch of the course where there is an out-and-back line so you can see the leaders returning in front of you and runners you might know for high-fives passing you by. That was planned well. It helps everyone to get a little more support. It's in the second 5k.

Reaching the finish line, I saw that I was going to at least be (barely) under 60:00 by Garmin. Then I got the official printout (chip) time which somehow was barely over an hour. Oh well. Close enough.

After running, you can eat in the buffet with families and it's a wonderful lunch with great food, beer from the microbrewery and various raffles. Speaking of raffles, I did win a free year of beer from Empyrean Brewing Co (one of the sponsors) with a $20 investment in a raffle ticket. That was a pleasant unexpected surprise.

It's a wild, fun, exciting trail race to run. I highly recommend it. Be aware of the conditions of the course. And they have a 1 mile race for kids or people who just want to walk a mile if you don't want to run the 5k or 10k. So families can really participate in all three events if you have enough people. Some of the race volunteers did the 1 mile so they could be back in time to support us with the finish/lunch afterwards.

I highly recommend the race without any reservations. Bring your appetite and enjoy the scenery!

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(2017)
"Family Fun"
Overall
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Last Sunday, I ran the Lincoln Half Marathon (signed up for the full but changed to run the half: if you do have to change you can do it early online or just tell them at the expo) with my youngest sister. I have run this race many times as a local resident, both the full and the half. Sometimes I have changed my mind halfway through the race which one I am running and it's nice to have that flexibility. The expo was very impressive this year, with Dave McGillivray, director of the Boston Marathon giving a very inspiring keynote speech. It was a privilege both to hear him, meet him, and run with him (Dave ran the half). I was able to pick up my sister's packet at the expo the day before since she lives out of town (just had to show a proxy form and ID) and my sister was grateful for that. Also picked up mine early the day before. The expo is always very crowded so I like to get there early as possible in the morning and stay for a while to allow for shopping and connecting with other runners.

On Sunday, we arrived early for the race, about an hour early. We like to park in the elevated parking garage just west of Embassy Suites on 10th Street. Or you can park for free on the street but your car will be warm if it's a sunny day. We had no trouble getting a good parking spot and had about a 1/2 mile-mile walk to the start near Memorial Stadium. The Colisseum was open for restrooms, drinking fountains, and stretching/late packet-pickup. We were able to walk around and stretch a little bit. My sister and I were both in the green wave (waves by pace groups now). Shortly before the race, we walked outside to the start, wished each other well, and found our spots in the green wave of people. I think our wave was maybe the 4th one in the progression of 7-8 waves of a few hundred runners each. Keeping us a few minutes apart limits the congestion that I have noticed in prior years, especially early in the race.

Close to 7am, we began our journey. An unusual aspect of the race course this year was running south on 17th Street instead of 16th Street early in the race. Some runners were still confused and worried that we were supposed to be running on 16th instead of 17th. My goal for the race was to run close to 1:40. My hydration strategy was to carry my OrangeMud hydra quiver double-barrel vest so I didn't have to stop to receive water. I wore a 1:35 pace band knowing that I was not going to run the splits that fast for the entire race. Pacers were available and plentiful for the full and the half and some of the pacers were locals that I recognize from group runs. For the first 5k or so, the course runs south and then east on South Street towards Sheridan Boulevard. If you're trying to run this course fast, you will need to weave around people a little to find space for at least the first 5k. By then, it spreads out a little bit. Sheridan Boulevard is a beautiful point in the course with ample shade of trees and lots of spectators lining both sides of the street. Along Sheridan Boulevard, there is a water stop or two if you need one. Good place for pictures. After that, the hills begin eastward to 48th Street.

My heart rate began to spike a little at about 4 miles so I had to slow down from the splits I was running the first 5k. I walked a little more and more frequently to try to get the heart rate back down. There is a stretch of Sheridan Boulevard that is not protected from the sun. The most challenging part of this race was having it be a cloudless sunny day. This led to dehydration in some runners and we were all shedding hats and visors. I wore a visor but ended up carrying it half of the race. As I was struggling to get my heart rate under control, I recognized a 3:15 pacer from local group runs and he spoke to me and encouraged me to stay with his pace group. He also advised us to take it easy on the hills going up to mile 5. That is a very smart strategy. At about mile 5, there is a significant downhill all the way to the 10k point pictured below. At around 5 miles, I recognized Dave McGillivray running by wearing his Boston Marathon adidas shirt. I decided to try to keep him in sight as best I could to try to keep the pace faster. Most of us flew down that hill between 5 miles and 10k. There's a good water stop at 5 miles. Usually water is on one side and Gatorade on the other. I began drinking more water to stay hydrated. It's pretty easy to gain momentum with that downhill going all the way to 10k if you accelerate. At the 10k point, the course winds westward on the Boosalis Trail heading back towards downtown. There is a 10k chip mat so make sure you find it. This is a good area to see people you might know and to pick up the pace if you so desire. By this point, I realized that Dave McGillivray and I were passing each other back and forth. He was varying his pace and I was taking walk breaks. This stretch of the race seemed very warm. There isn't much shade until you reach hills near 10 miles or so. I realized my 10k split wasn't quite as fast as I was hoping but I decided to run the best race I could, my pace. I did pack a Mamma Chia energy pack and a few Clif Shot Shot Bloks. I did eat a whole sleeve of the ShotBloks and the Mamma Chia kept the hunger away.

The half course is mostly flat with the exception of the hills ascending to 5 miles and the more noticeable one before the 10 mile mark on 20th Street. At least the hills on 20th were in the shade. There is a great water stop/aid station at 10 sponsored by Bryan West Hospital and their staffers/volunteers. Good music along the course, both live and recorded. There was an Elvis impersonator, he's usually by the Federal Building on the normal course but was along 17th on Sunday. Funny signs and costumes (dinosaurs). Lots of kids wanting high fives and holding inspirational signs for friends/family. Good crowd support throughout the first half of the course. I drank a lot of water at around 10 miles and realized I was beginning to get a little dehydrated. By 11 miles, I realized I couldn't keep pace with Dave McGillivray anymore and let him surge to the finish. Runners behind me were discussing dehydration and I almost stopped here to check on one of them but the runner behind me offered to run with the straggler and help him finish. Good teamwork.

There was another water stop/aid station near 12 miles. Once you reach this point, you can see Memorial Stadium and know you're getting close. I tried to pick up the pace near the end, realizing I wasn't going to reach my 1:40 goal but a good effort for a warm cloudless sunny day. As we neared Memorial Stadium for the finish, something funny happened. A giant video board was playing Peter Gabriel's song Sledgehammer (appropriate for a marathon or half) and so I tried to capture that on Snapchat. When I waved at the screen though, I realized the screen was also interactive and showing runners while still playing Sledgehammer (multi-tasking). So it was funny to see myself waving at me;)

The final finishers chute is a little different. Single file to keep it orderly. The finish is at the 50 yard-line of Memorial Stadium, a sweet spot for Cornhusker fans. Flags were everywhere. Love seeing the military support at the finish and along the course. Many National Guard/military folks run/walk this in full rucksack gear. After I finished, I received my medal and key chain and waited for my sister still running behind me. My official time was 1:44, my second-fastest time on this course. My sister finished in 1:53, a great effort for her first half here. While I was waiting for my sister, someone from MyLaps interviewed me, telling me about the video/photos they captured of me entering the stadium and asking about the race. It's cool that you can scroll through about 16 free pics of you running from inside the stadium to the finish. They captured my sister finishing her race too. We finally found each other after my sis finished and began a very slow meander through the drinks and snacks lines. This area was extremely congested and maybe they can spread it out a little more somehow. Maybe we were all going through at the same time, I don't know.

One key thing you want to make sure not to miss is the Rita's Italian ice outside the stadium on your way out. Very delicious, especially after a warm, hot race when you're feeling dehydrated and hungry. Plenty of food and drink options: bagels, bananas, donut holes, water, gatorade, pop, and Italian ice. Don't skip the Italian ice. Overall it was a wonderful race experience for both of us and I highly recommend this race to anyone. Lots of families run it together: siblings, parents/kids. Make sure you do a little hill training before the race to be able to handle the hills but they aren't too challenging compared to the back half of the full marathon course (the Holmes Lake portion).

The widening of the Boosalis Trail has eased congestion somewhat that we used to experience but the first 5k of the race can get a little more clogged with people. A very enjoyable race experience. Well run and managed and well-supported by volunteers and fans. Thank you!

P.S. Watch for a more detailed account of the race later this week on RunningGrooveShark.com blog.

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