Latest reviews by James Harris
My original plan was to run the full marathon in San Antonio completing Texas on the 50 in 50 map. I'm not going to dive into injury details but being unable to run for most of 6 of the last 8 months derailed any attempt at another 26.2. Having lost the entire fall race season, including an agonizing decision to forego the Marine Corps Marathon, we decided to take the trip to San Antonio. We had the trip planned and booked several months ago and were ready for some race weekend fun and action. Ironically, even though I have represented BibRave since February, due to injury this would be the first official race that I would run as a BibRave ambassador. It would be my sixth Rock N Roll event.
Rock 'N Roll Expos are renowned for their scale and variety of vendors and San Antonio was no exception. There were lots of friendly volunteers and no lines at the packet pickup stalls. Being registered for the full and knowing that finishing the half would be an accomplishment, I stopped at the solutions desk for guidance. As the half and full race courses were the same through 12 miles I was able to keep my full registration and corral. I could leave it to mile 12 on race day to decide.
I often find that race day logistics are easier when running an out of town race. Usually, we are at a hotel within walking distance from the start/finish. This also affords us the hotel facilities and a not-quite-so-crazy early wake up call. San Antonio fell into this category for us. Our hotel, along with many listed on the website, were all within proximity of the start line.
Having registered for the full with a targeted PR time of 3:50, I was assigned to corral 4. And, credit to the organizers they were actually enforcing the corral assignments...thank you! Even so, being such a large event the corrals were packed shoulder to shoulder. I only had to wait maybe 5-10 minutes after the national anthem before I was crossing the start line.
Seemed like it had been forever since I ran period and I felt the adrenaline surge as I crossed the start line timing mat. But, with my last long run being 3 months prior, my expectations or hopes were purely to finish. I knew a DNF was a distinct possibility, even if I took it easy, as I really had no idea how my back would hold up.
After running the first mile at almost "what I used to be able to run" pace I settled into a run/jog/walk pattern. As mentioned, this was a big race with thousands of runners. But, with the wide Texas streets of San Antonio, I never really felt crowded in for any length of time. The aid stations were plentiful, well stocked, and lined deep with well-wishing volunteers.
Around mile 4 the light fog that we had been running through dissipated and made way to a torrential downpour. Tropical driving rain lashed us and within 5 minutes we were soaked to the skin with water seeping from our shoes. Rain continued for another 20-25 minutes with parts of the course turning into urban streams. Having arrived on Friday night to almost 80 degree temps, I wasn't complaining about the rain cooled air. However, being drenched so early would present a challenge.
As for my back. Well, it started firing pain on me around mile 2 or 3. I knew it was going to happen but I figured as long as I could keep it manageable I would keep going. Around mile 8 or 9 my left foot had gone completely numb and I was seriously starting to hurt from lack of training. But, it was an almost hurt so good dichotomy and I wasn't stopping.
I continued my slow pace. In agony during my walk breaks, feeling better during the run intervals. Eventually, milepost 12 appeared and it was time to split. With my black bib designating me as a full participant, I got a couple sympathetic shouts of support from the full runners continuing the course. While physically I was at my limit and ready to head to the finish, I did feel a twinge of disappointment that I was not going to continue.
I hit the finish hard with an element of relief at completing my first race in almost 9 months. I had told Paula leading up to the race that a DNF after a couple miles would not be surprising. So, to make through 13.1 and add another half-marathon finish to the resume was a huge accomplishment. At least for this outing. Supplies were plentiful in the runner finish and recovery area. After gathering my RnR medal I grabbed some water, chocolate milk and snacks and headed to the closest place to sit. A wall in the La Villita courtyard where a pretty impressive band were rocking center stage. With my free beer in hand, I was well on the road to recovery.
This was a big race with some stars from the running world. The women's half was won by Olympian Desiree Linden and Meb Keflezighi was on hand as an ambassador to encourage all the runners.
I've really enjoyed just about all my RnR races over the year and I'm hoping that we return with BibRave at another rockin' event next year.
You can read the full report on my blog at http://www.50in50marathonquest.com/rock-n-roll-san-antonio-recap/
Thanks to BibRave and the Rock N Roll Marathon series for allowing me to represent at this great race. And, thank you to all my family, friends, and the running blogging/social community for your great support and well wishes.
I had originally planned to make the Downtown River Run my first full marathon of 2017. After training hard for 2+ months using the intense Hansons training method, I elected to drop to the half even though training was going well. My reasoning was that I wanted to take a shot at my marathon PR and felt that the altitude and hills would not provide a particularly good opportunity. This is a pretty tough course and with all my training at sea level around the Pacific Northwest, running and racing at altitude is a tough adjustment.
The race admin team quickly changed my entry - my wife dropped from the half to the 10K and they took care of both of us right away after a quick email exchange. Overall, in the weeks and days leading up the event, I thought the race director and team were very responsive and engaging through the various social media channels. This race is low key and not a big event by any means but we stuck with it because while it would not give me Nevada on our 50 State marathon challenge after electing to drop to the half, we had family driving in from Boise to meet us.
We enjoyed an easy Friday afternoon travel day from Seattle arriving in Reno to enjoy a fun happy hour at the great local Silver Peak brewery on the Riverside Trail. In fact we went back there on Saturday and again for our post-race celebration on Sunday. We stayed at the nearby Harrahs which was the host hotel for the race. Although, other than getting a room discount there was nothing to indicate that the hotel had anything to do with the race. It was located right next to the start line at the Reno Arch which made for very convenient race morning logistics.
We did not go to the expo - it was at a car dealership on the other side of the town and we had no intentions of renting a car just to pick up a race packet from a car dealership. My Dad, who was also running, picked up our packets on the way in for us. Another oddity was that the expo was only open until 1pm on the day before the race. Not very convenient for out of town participants but, to be fair, the race admin did confirm that packets not picked up would be available on race day at the start line.
Race day was cool at the beginning but bright sun with clear skies. Pretty much a perfect morning for running, though with a later start for the half at 8:15 it would warm up quickly. The full marathon started an hour or so earlier at 7:00 am. The 10K was supposed to begin at 8:45 according to the website but my wife said they started right after the half which took her by surprise as she had intended another visit to the host hotel facilities!
The course followed the scenic riverside area through Reno and several parks. Around mile 4 or so, there was a long uphill stretch on the side of a pretty big highway before we ran through some residential areas and into the park area that provided the big loop for the turnaround. There were several bridges to run over and at times we were afforded some great views of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. I had no real complaints about the course. There were several sections through residential areas that were blah and there was no crowd support until we got within sight of the finish line - also under the arch. Aid stations were adequate though at times it seemed they were spread a little too far out. And, no gels at all. Normally, I carry my own, but somehow I managed to forget all my gels and S-Caps so this became a problem.
I mentioned that I had a bad performance overall. After 2 miles, much to my surprise, shock, and dismay, I was gassed. I pushed through the first half as my pace gradually slowed before I had to take a walk break. By mile 10 I was so beat by the altitude and the hills, I practically gave up. Not too proud of this performance to say the least but that is my own doing. My training has been solid but I was not prepared for the challenge of this course. Having no fuel or gels didn't help. The full marathon course had to be changed due to flooding and they had to run 2 loops…I was so glad that I had moved down in distance! I don't think I could have gone around that twice.
*Course had some very scenic areas - I enjoyed criss-crossing the river over the various bridges and the park with the big loop for the turn around was nice and much better than just running alongside some cones and doing an immediate turn around.
*Leading up to the race the race team were responsive to all questions and requests.
*The shirts are very colorful and high quality but the sizing is off.
*Start and finish under the iconic Reno arch was cool.
*Not over-crowded at all.
*Discount from a local hotel.
*Free race photos - though I haven't seen a link to them yet.
*Website is really confusing and was out of date for a long while. The Downtown River Run is part of the Reno 5000 series so information is split between the 2 sites. The main site for the race really needs some improvement but they were very helpful via email and social media.
*Small race - this would be a positive for some runners. The half was not too bad but the full would get pretty isolated.
*If there was any announcements or playing of the national anthem prior to the start, I couldn't hear anything.
*Host hotel - yuck. Sorry, but I had to walk through a smoke filled casino to even get out of the damn place. Not the fault of the race of course, but Harrahs is not a runner friendly hotel at all and it was the only hotel partner of the event with no other discounts available anywhere else. Even with the discount, this was an expensive stay on Friday/Saturday. Pretty sure this is the only race where I have smelled of smoke at a start line! There were even guests of the hotel smoking in the recovery area post-race. To me, this is horrible, sorry - gotta get that fixed.
*Expo - at a car dealership in the complete opposite direction of the downtown area and airport? Why not the host hotel?
*Shirts - sizing was way off and way too small. Both mine and my wife's are unwearable but they do look pretty :)
*Residential areas on the course were very boring and there was little to no hype in the town for this race.
*No gels at aid stations unless I missed them. No crowd support.
*Age group award was a cheap phone holder that wraps around the arm. I only know this because Dad placed in his AG!
My overall thoughts of this race:
The Downtown River Run has a ton of potential given the scenery and available facilities. Reno, while a beautiful location with some decent restaurants, was not a favorite destination for us. There really wasn't much to do in the city - our gambling/party days are far behind us and the smoky hotel was no fun. So, if you go, plan some other events…maybe we should have rented that car and gone to Tahoe for a visit. And, if you struggle at altitude on hilly courses be prepared for a tough day. This is much better suited to locals or those within driving distance - I honestly cannot recommend it as a destination race experience.
For a different perspective, check out a review of the full marathon from fellow BibRavePro, Steph who did a fabulous job as a pacer for the event.
Finally, the Seahawks Run At The Landing fit into the race calendar! This one has been on our radar for a while but timing has never worked out for us, until today! This race is very much a fun event and not one that I took too seriously. The 12K distance is, of course, based on the 12s...the official designation of us crazy die-hard Seahawks fans.
Given the non-standard type distance and the obvious fun-football themed spirit of this race, I wasn't really sure how to pace. I did not set any kind of time goals and decided to fit it in as my designated tempo run for the week.
I was unsure of the logistics in terms of parking and the layout of the area having never visited The Landing which is a sort of open-roof shopping/dining mall area with a few big box stores surrounded by the Boeing-Renton facility. Race communication, however, was excellent and they provided a couple of emails in the week leading up to the race that all the information that I needed in terms of parking, start-times, packet pick-up etc.
Packet pick up is held the day before the race at Dick's Sporting Goods but same day is available. We live quite a way from The Landing so went with day of race pick up. There was a small race day type expo with a few stalls but nothing much of note. This race has over 5,000 runners between the 12K and the 5K so we elected to arrive early...very early to avoid any congestion issues. I parked in the Target parking lot which worked out great, although getting there at 7am, 2 hours before race start we could have parked pretty much anywhere. The Starbucks inside Target was open so we hung out there doing the normal pre-race activities idling over coffee.
The race itself started promptly at 9am for the 12K with the 5K starting 20 minutes later. We were sent off by Blitz (the Seahawks mascot) and Kevin Pierre Louis - a linebacker for the 'Hawks to the tune of Bittersweet Symphony...the theme played when the Seahawks take the field - it's a Chariots of Fire moment if you follow the 'Hawks :) Some members of the Seagals cheerleaders were also on hand along with the Blue Thunder drum line.
Note - corral seeding is on the honor system so and the starting chute is quite narrow. I placed myself just behind the very lead group which was loosely designated as 6:00-7:00 minute pace as I was planning to run around 8:30'ish. There are a lot of walkers in this race and strollers and dogs are permitted so if you want to avoid some early bottle necks, you should self-seed a little faster than you might anticipate running.
The 12K course is beautiful running the rolling hills of Lake Washington Boulevard along the east shore of the lake to the Seahawks VMAC training facility. A circuit around the impressive building alongside the practice fields marked the turning point with the course heading directly back to The Landing. Keep in mind this course is not flat. There is one particularly tough hill around mile 6 (or 10K) but, overall it is certainly not an overly challenging course.
Aid stations were fine, though a little sparse...about every 2 miles. This race is obviously all about the 'Hawks and almost every runner has some kind of Seahawks shirt/hat/skirt/leggins/socks/face paint/helmet/wig/mask etc. Support between runners is also great with everyone cheering each other one...except for the guy wearing the Packers shirt :)
12K is 7.6 miles. For some reason I thought I would be running over 8 miles today so was pleasantly surprised as we left Lake Washington to see The Landing and the finish close by. Water, bagels, bananas, and organges were plentiful at the finish. The event medal was also very nice (same for both distances) as was this year's shirt which is a long sleeve technical hoodie. After hanging out in the parking lot and chatting with another runner, my wife and I both started to feel the chill so headed back to the car to make our way home.
- Super fun event centered on the 12s, Seahawks, and Community with proceeds benefiting A Better Seattle.
- Very nice shirt and medal (and bib).
- Plenty of parking (if you don't leave it to the last minute).
- Places to hang out pre-race.
- Reasonable lines for portables...we waited <5 minutes.
- Free race photos!
- Plenty of finish line food and water.
Could be better:
- 1 more aid station.
- A couple more players or coaches...would be nice if they wereout cheering us on a Sunday!
- Expo, but I'm getting a bit picky here...there were a few kiosks set up, we just didn't really check them out.
- Starting corrals a bit narrow.
If you're a runner, you live reasonably close, and you're a Seahawks fan, you need to do this race. Not necessarily every year, but at least once. Even if you are not a fan it is still worth coming out for a fun race experience that I would definitely recommend.
The Williams Route 66 Marathon was my 11th marathon overall in my 8th State with Oklahoma joining the ranks of Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Our trip to Tulsa was a relatively short racecation. We headed out on the Friday before the Sunday race and returned on Monday morning. It was, however, packed full of activities and events and we had a great time on one of our most fun trips of the year.
We had elected to stay at the host hotel for the event, the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tulsa. We arrived Friday afternoon after flying from Seattle to Dallas where we had time for lunch before our connecting flight to Tulsa. The hotel offered a great discount for the event and had a free airport shuttle. After an easy check-in, we headed out for happy hour and dinner at a local brewery/eatery. This has become a standard for us when we we are on the road and arrive a couple days before race day. It’s always fun to explore new downtown areas and sample the local restaurants and brews.
First, a few highlights
*This is a fabulous event that truly caters to the needs of the runners. The entire marathon weekend has something for everyone from the kids race to the 5K/10K Saturday runs to the half and full marathon main events on Sunday.
*Everyone associated with the event was so friendly as was just about everyone in the city of Tulsa. The city is truly welcoming to visitors.
*We participated in the blogging panel at the expo courtesy of the wonderful social media manager Cheryl Lawson, who made us feel so comfortable and welcome. Thank you Cheryl!!
*Tulsa can get real cold real quick! Overall, the weather was great for running but the the overnight lows dipped to about freezing so it was a cold start in the morning.
*Marathon Maniacs, Half-Fanatics, and 50-Staters – this race really is for you! There is a VIP staging area near the starting corrals complete with private portables, gear check, coffee, tables, chairs etc. And, a big post-race event/party complete with food, beer, and custom medals.
*This course is not conducive to PRs – it is continuous rolling hills. Oklahoma may be flat but Tulsa is not and if there is a hill in the city, this course has it! They are mostly rolling and not super steep but for 26 miles they are never ending.
*You can run the world’s shortest ultra at mile 26…I did and you should if you run this event. There are timing mats that time the “ultra” split so you can subtract it from your overall time. The Center of the Universe detour will net you an extra bling in the form of a really cool coin and a beer shot. Of course you run a couple more hills to get it but well worth the extra effort and everything hurts by then anyway.
The Hyatt was a block from the back of the starting corrals so we were able to enjoy a relatively late race-day sleep-in until 6am! We had noticed the rather dramatic change in air temperature on our walk around Tulsa on the way to the expo. Race day morning greeted us with a temperature of a couple degrees below freezing. We looked more like football fans heading to a winter game tailgate than marathon runners.
The Route 66 Marathon includes some extra recognition and events for the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics clubs including a very welcome private/VIP start line area and post-race party in addition to the custom medals. The waiting area with hot coffee, designated portables, and private gear check was much appreciated…mostly because it allowed us to keep our heavy layers for as long as possible! After the group photo, it was time to head to the designated starting corral and get ready for kickoff. I appreciated that they were actually checking the corral assignments and doing their best to insure runners were staged in the corral designated on the bib.
After a long race season, I had not really followed any kind of formal training cycle for Tulsa. This was the 6th and final marathon of the year and I had no illusions about even coming close to my 3:59 PR. I was determined to enjoy our final racecation of 2016 and experience the fun run party weekend. Realistically, I thought something around 4:30 would be an appropriate target that would allow me to finish relatively strong.
With all that in mind, I was determined to not go out too fast. After a short downhill to get the race started, I settled in around a comfortable pace of around 10:00. For the first 5 miles my pace varied only by 10 seconds. A portable stop at an aid station around mile 6 disrupted my rhythm but no real cause for concern. With a long way to go and no time to chase, I was not worried by taking a minute for needed relief.
The next few miles were not quite as consistent but were mostly run around 9:30, with a couple miles dipping below 10:00. The course was rolling hills throughout and while the downhills were most welcome, it was just a matter of time before we paid the price with another climb. The crowd support was fantastic with all kinds of block parties going on as we ran through one neighborhood after another. An enthusiastic group outside a gym were riding spin bikes and blasting music, high-fiving us as we ran by. At some point we ran by a TV station who had a camera and reporter on the sideline broadcasting. Admittedly, that might have been in the second half!
In terms of the race and performance, I continued to feel fine as we made our way back to the downtown area. The half-marathon and marathon course share essentially the same route until about mile 12.5. At that point the halfers , mostly smiling by now, veer off to the party at the finish line that we can hear in the distance. We looped agonizingly close to the finish block, made a right turn into a hill and a strong head-wind as we headed out into the second half.
The second big loop took us out into the north and east parts of Tulsa. Again, the rolling hills continued through the famed Cherry Street district, which I think might be famous for hills! Although there were some quiet sections, the support continued and my pacing stayed mostly consistent though slower as I settled on my target of a roughly 4:30 finish. Eventually, we made it to the scenic Tulsa University campus for a huge loop at the 20 mile marker.
After the tour around the University we exited around mile marker 21 and hit more hills. I recall a particularly long and arduous climb approaching mile 22. At the end of this section was another block party and “temptation station.” The hosts were screaming the runners on and offering encouragement in the form of beer shots! I finally succumbed…with everything starting to hurt, I took my first ever beer shot during a marathon, and it tasted spectacular! It was certainly a welcome change from gels and Gatorade.
The beer and a beautiful long downhill gave me the kick I needed to get my legs going again. The next 3 miles really were not too bad. I had a decent stride…well as decent as it can be after running 24-25 miles and I was still enjoying the race and being urged on by the crowds and aid stations.
Mile 26 brings the famed Route 66 Marathon optional detour and the opportunity to complete the World’s Shortest Ultramarathon. I was not going to pass up the challenge so made the turn into the detour and up a hill to the Center of the Universe monument. Where I was told to run down the hill on the other side, grab a beer, turnaround and then come back up for my “Ultra” coin! Under normal circumstances that would not have been a big deal but after 26 miles the detour hill seemed like a mountain. Glad I did it though. There were timing mats to allow for a marathon split in addition to total race time.
With the Garmin closing in on 26.8 miles (whose idea was it to run that extra bit anyway), the end had to be close. I thought I had been hearing the finish party forever and it seemed like we made another 10 more left and right turns. But finally, I hit the final dip under a railway bridge and back up the other side for the long stretch to the finish. The finish was packed with spectators and Bart Yasso of Runners World was screaming out the finisher names as we crossed the line. I was elated to be done and overall very pleased with my performance, pacing, and time.
After doing the usual photo bits and picking up a couple snacks, I made my way to the beer section before finding Paula at the Marathon Maniac/Half-Fanatic VIP post-race party tent, where there was more beer, pizza, and barbecue sandwiches. There was also a custom Maniac medal that they trade you for the one you got at the finish line. It’s the same medal but with the Marathon Maniacs custom ribbon. A very nice touch to an already very impressive bling that resembles a statue with an actual base for display!
Overall, this is a fabulous race that I highly recommend. Don't underestimate the hills but if you are looking for a super fun race party weekend and, especially if you are Marathon Maniac, Half Fanatic, or 50-Stater, this race is a must-do for your list. Along, with Missoula, this ranks as my favorite race experience of 2016 and definitely in my top 4-5 all-time.
On August 13th I headed north to Lake Padden, Washington with Wifey for our first steps in the world of trail endurance running. The Hamster Endurance Race is a trail run where competitors elect to compete in one of four time classifications; 6,12,24, or 32 hours. Having completed 9 marathons and 30+ half-marathons Hamster represented my first trail event. I was looking forward to the race though don’t mind admitting I was a bit nervous taking on this kind of challenge for the first time.
The course, by trail/ultra standards is quite tame consisting of 2.6 mile loops around the lake – but as I was soon to discover, tougher than just about any mainstream road race! There was one climb and two short but fairly steep downhills on each circuit. The terrain varied from gravel, packed dirt, rocks and a few tree roots here and there to dodge. There was also a short paved section through the park areas. Not that I have any experience with trail runs, but I’m speculating that this would not be considered a technically challenging course by any means. Each 2.6 mile loop had about 250 ft of elevation gain (and subsequent loss).
Upon arriving at race check-in, the first thing that struck both of us was the laid back atmosphere. Being a loop course there was a runner recovery station under a covered pavilion in the park area with all kinds of food, drink, hydration, and nutrition. We found a nice spot on the lawn to set up our chairs and gear bags. As we were putting everything together we enjoyed chatting to several other runners around us and getting their perspectives, goals, and advice! This was a small event with just under 70 runners in total across the 4 classifications. Everyone was very personable and engaging.
Weather at the 8:00 am start was wonderful with the sun sparkling over the lake and the temp hovering just below 60 degrees. We knew that this would change over the next few hours. My goal was to maintain as constant of a pace as possible and I realized that I should not even think about attempting my normal road speed. A couple other runners clued us in on the steep hill about a mile into the course and advised us to not even try to run it, but adopt a power walk up each climb.
At 8 am we were sent on our way…the math was simple, 2 laps per hour would net 5.2 miles, multiply that 6 and I complete my 50K within the 6 hours. One important note was that only completed laps counted so at the end of the race there was no partial credit. For the first 3 hours everything went to plan as I completed 15.6 miles through the first half of the race.
However, it only took an hour or so for me to realize that trail running is a completely different beast. I had elected to use my Glycerin road shoes – major mistake. After a while the rocks and exposed tree roots on the course started to have an effect as the loops continued. By road standards this was far more technical than anything I had ever attempted. And, the cool early morning sparkling day turned hotter as the sun rose. By the end, we were running in 85-90 degrees and this roadie had been taken to school!
I ended my race at 5:41 because I would not have made another complete circuit in my 6 hour limit. At the four hour marker as the sun continued to beat down I knew that the 50K was not likely. My feet and legs were hurting like nothing I had ever experienced in any previous marathon. The one major climb was getting longer and steeper each time and the downhills were shredding my hamstrings and knees. But, with the temperature approaching 80, I was not going to settle for anything less than a marathon. And, with a new goal in mind, I adjusted my recovery time support the new target. This resulted in at least 5 minute breaks as I recovered and adjusted after each loop. My total moving or run time was actually 5:03 (11:33 average pace), but on the flip side it indicates I took 38 minutes in the runner recovery area during the race. I’m guessing that’s probably not very good!
Overall, I was real happy with the experience at the Hamster Endurance Race. I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed with my overall result. But, settling for another 26.2 on a tough course in the middle of summer is still an accomplishment. This was my 10th marathon in total, 5th in 2016 and 3rd in 2 months. Additionally, I’ve broken ground on the trail circuit and am looking forward to getting that 50K added to my running resume sometime in the future. I have a much better idea of what to expect next time.
Despite the challenges of running 26+ miles on a trail the change from the road was a great experience. There was none of the normal stress often associated with larger events and race setup from a runners perspective was a breeze. The friendliness of the other runners was something that we both noted as well. We chatted with several others setting up near us pre-race. During the race I chatted with quite a few runners on the occasions that we passed each other. Everyone was very supportive and friendly and happy to chat for a couple minutes to break the monotony as the distance built.
I would absolutely recommend this race and, schedule permitting, we will be back next year. The volunteers and race organizers were fabulous and all kinds of food and drink options were made available to the runners.