Latest reviews by A B

(2017)
"Scottsdale Sweet"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb screen shot 2017 12 17 at 10.34.20 pm

Packet Pick Up
This is always smooth in Scottsdale. Plenty of parking, although it is all the way on the east side (you know, in Scottsdale, where the race actually takes place). I'm about 45 miles away, and there are many options to pick up the packet. This year, you can even have it mailed to you. If you are running with friends, anyone can pick up your bib, provided you send some information along with them. The expo is full of sugar, a few local vendors and events, and so many volunteers... they are the best, as most are local high school students serving their community.
Race Day Parking
I got to the start with about two minutes to spare, as I hit several traffic jams on my trek. There was still easy and free parking. My friends all got there early, as instructed, and were closer to me, but we all made it.
The Course
The course was similar, but slightly adjusted from last year. There isn't much buzz or excitement along the course. On this particular day, I couldn't keep my legs turning, and wasn't sure why... it turned out I was on the cusp of being ill. There were many miles with nothing but runners, and so some additional cheer squads or other energy wouldn't have hurt. There are a few portajohns along the course, but not many. That said, there are scores and scores at the start. Aid stations are placed with different sugar spots along the course; chocolate, marshmallows, and candy corn this year. Shout out to the volunteers that make this happen, as about 90% are our youth and do a tremendous job of keeping everyone hydrated and energized when they approach.
Finish Line
The finish line is a great cheer section and the crowd really helps you find a kick beginning at mile nine. There are plenty of areas to meet your family and lots of room to spread out. There wasn't much offered other than water at the finish, but that is because...

Swag
The chocolate, banana, Rice Crisp, marshmallow, and pretzels await the finishers. There's also a cup of hot chocolate. I can never eat any of it except the banana, but I really can't eat anything after a run sans chocolate milk and bananas. The medal was different this year; all cities look the same, but there is a city-specific key chain attached. If you are a legacy runner (three of five years) you get additional swag. The bag is pretty cool to store shoes or dirty clothes, and the long sleeve shirt is better than the jacket and comes in very vivid colors this year; a fantastic upgrade.

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(2017)
"Another Perfect Running Day"
Overall
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Thumb screen shot 2017 08 28 at 12.21.26 am

This was so fun. One must take a shuttle in order to get to the start line, and the buses ran often. However, I did have to get up at 3:30 to be ready. I got to the start line around 5:30 and it was an amazing view. I put a bunch of photos on Instagram. I got to watch the sun rise with 7,000 other people. There were no official corrals, but instead people staggered themselved based on projected time. This worked REALLY well. I moved toward the back with 2:30 people even though I was hoping for a 2:20 finish... I was scared of the hills.
The course moved along the cemetery and the scene was unreal. Again, more photos on Twitter and Insta. From there, we moved along neighborhoods before moving to the coast and Harbor Island. YAY! WATER! The one thing I noticed here was how disrespectful other runners had been, as there were cups everywhere at the water station, and that's always something that bothers me. All these volunteers are not looking to work even harder, they are there to help, and runners should treat the situation with engendered gratitude.
I was rocking out with my Aftershokz, so I could hear several people commenting about how perfect the weather was as they stopped to take photos of the Navy ships and other boats along out trek. I did the same things and posted them on Twitter. It was awesome. I managed to run my fastest 10k ever and was done with it sub one hour, a first for me. My pace continued to be strong (thanks to training in AZ heat), until we hit mile 10. It is at that moment we turn to head toward Balboa Park, and make a 450-foot climb. My quads were on fire and cramped a bit at mile 12, so after a bit of stretching and whining, I left everything I had out there trying to get to 2:20. Alas, 2:23 was the finish., and I'm not complaining.

The finish area was full of food, free stuff, and fun. Parking was easy to access, and I was off and running for my five-hour drive home. San Diego, I'll be back!

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(2017)
"Unbelievable "
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This review will merge the Beer Run, 5k, and Marathon, as I completed the Big 3 Challenge and don't want to be redundant in my reviews.

Missoula is 1100 miles from home, but it was part of a larger trip. Travel is so important to me because I find that the more I learn about other people, other cultures, the more I understand perspective and what unifies us. I had visited Montana in the past, but only to see Glacier National Park. So, this time, I spent time in Yellowstone National Park, and again I was not disappointed. It was amazing; between bison, elk, and hydrothermal vents, it is always something special. I cannot recommend a trip here enough. If you are lucky, you will see wolves on the prowl or a beaver in the river.

Missoula is just a few hours from Yellowstone, and a few hours from Glacier. It is a massive converging of five valleys, and so the views are unparalleled. It is also the home to the Univ of Montana. The city is quite progressive in its social values, yet the buildings and infrastructure remind one of the traditions of the city.

There are countless bridges from which one can fish one of the rivers. Many people raft or wakeboard down the river, yet it is far from crowded. Nights are cool, yet days are warm. The sun doesn't set at this time of year until nearly 10pm, and it rises around 6am, yet it is light out long before.

At any rate, the beer run is free and open to all. It takes place during 5k packet pickup. It is a 3-mile course, and it was beautiful. I took photos of a deer drinking from the river a mere 15 feet away. The next morning is the 5k, and this year it featured Mike Wardian. Parking was easy on the streets, and at the end there was a massive farmer's market... it was an awesome treat.

Unfortunately, one must spend time at the expo again to pick up their half or full bib. While it went quickly for me (I was a male, finished the 5k in under 30 min, and running the full), there was a really long line for the women's half bib pickup. I understand the race management wanting us all to have to visit the expo again, but this made little sense for the runners. Both bibs should be able to be picked up at the same time, as we already ad to visit the expo the second day because it is at the finish line. I would encourage the director to either offer both pickups Friday, or to offer more volunteers for the women's half pickup.

For marathon day, parking at the stadium was easy if one arrived early as directed. There was also parking at the finish line, and it was all free. The start and finish were less than a mile apart, so wither way, it wasn't a burden (they did offer shuttles from finish to the stadium). I boarded the bus and was off to the start line. Fireworks were lit, and we organizes ourselves based on pacer time. It was very well organized and there were plenty of restrooms, etc. The first several miles were along farmland, and we watched the sun rise over mountains that made many of us stop for a photo.

Then, we ran along foothills that provided beautiful river views along with old growth forest. I had to pause to take it all in, even though I knew the cool temperatures were slipping away. Missoula was in the midst of record heat (highs of 101), but the morning was still in the 60's. Eventually, the course met up with the half course, and we began running through neighborhoods. I don't believe I've ever seen more charming homes. The residents of the city really make this part special. It is warm, and while there are water stations every couple of miles, it was the kind of heat that just zaps the energy from a runner. Here's where the residents were so special; scores of them put their sprinklers out for runners to run through and many even set up their own water and food stations. I was offered popsicles, oranges, even beer! Another guy had a truck of ice bags and he was dropping them off and offering ice to runners. This was everything one could have asked for when the body breaks down and the mind starts to think it can't be completed. Thank you, Missoula!

The finish line festival was not far from the actual finish, and there was some small bits of quinoa, 1/4 banana, cheese, and watermelon offered to runners. Again, one had to visit the expo to pick up the Big 3 challenge medal or partake in the food.

I got my extra medal and headed back to my car about a mile away. Again, they offered a shuttle, but after 26 miles, what's one more. I really enjoyed my time in Missoula, and I know next time I will want to fish. I loved the people, the shops, the restaurants, and the views. I highly encourage a racecation here and a visit to two national parks, especially as the glaciers are nearly gone from Glacier National Park... time is of the essence. Happy running!

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(2017)
"Perfect Weather, Amazing Course"
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I showed up to the expo on Friday, not long after it opened. I picked up my 5k and Marathon bibs and shirts. I wandered around the vendors, and definitely missed seeing Glukos, who was not there (however, their product was still on course). I bought a couple of items and snacks and then was off to enjoy the city. It is very expensive to park near the convention center ($20 on this day), so that is a bit of a turn off.

The marathon parking situation is always a bit tough. It is hard to find a spot at the finish line as it is a popular spot for tourists in addition to racers. That aside, the start line is energetic and spaced out well. It is a combination of half and full runners, but it is well-organized. The course meanders through some classic San Diego neighborhoods and provides glimpses of the city's culture. Then, around mile 20, it does get to the incline as one climbs the freeway before exiting towards downtown and ultimately the finish line.

Getting your finisher's jacket, heavy medals, and snacks does not take long and it is well organized. There is so much energy along the course and a ton of spectators (including coming out of their homes and providing some party stations).

This was my first marathon in 2016, and I was so glad to be back to enjoy the course and the city once again.

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(2017)
"New Course, Still Perfect Weather"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The expo is next to Century Link Field in downtown. However, that means parking is very difficult. I showed up on Friday and got my bibs for the 5k and the Marathon. Once I found parking, it was super easy to get everything I needed. I wanted to make a purchase, and as a tour pass holder, one is supposed to get faster access to the checkout, but i stood there waiting to be called on for almost 10 minutes with no one else in the tour pass line. Not a big deal, but its one of the perks promised by the loyalty program and it didn't deliver on this day.

The marathon course began at UW stadium, and parking was not too difficult. It was a speedy and flat course, cloudy and green, but no rain. After the split for the half, the course along the park is just beautiful. After a loop around the park, one meets up again with the half course at about marathon mile 13, and half mile 7. The course heads downtown and actually passes the finish before making an out and back along the freeway for about six miles.

There's not much support along those miles, but there is some neat scenery of downtown structures, ocean views, and greenery.

At the finish, one can gather their swag and finisher's jacket fairly quickly, and then decide how to get back to the start line. Many took the train, however I chose Uber because it is a short ride and I didn't have the legs to wait on the train and walk.

Bottom line, it's a 21-hour drive there, but I love the city and I love the race. I will be back.

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