Latest reviews by Whitney Vestal
I think Hot Chocolate did the virtual thing well. I don't think many in-person events want to do a virtual instead, but the crew at Hot Chocolate did all the could to make your virtual experience fun. From the national anthem video, email communications, results, photos, and post-race "party," they made you feel like you were part of a real event, rather than just running on a regular day of the week. As it's reputation...the swag is AWESOME! The jacket is super nice this year (good quality and fit and has a removable hood!) and the medal is great!
2019 was the inaugural year for this race. I signed up because I love mac and cheese! The race is owned by people who own the Mac and Noodles food trucks and Hal Sports was hired to produce/time it.
T-shirt/swag - 5/5: Instead of a t-shirt, you got mac and cheese socks! I love this! The socks are great but also, I love swag that is anything but a shirt; have way too many shirts. There was an option to purchase shirts if you wanted one.
Aid stations - 5/5: I believe there were TWO water stations on this 5k course. When you don't even need one water station on a 5k, having two is great! I didn't stop at them but they seem well staffed.
Course Scenery - 4/5: For being in the middle of Denver, Wash park is actually really pretty. You can zone out and forget you're in the city! I'm not a fan of going into downtown Denver for races, but this park is okay!
Expo Quality - 3/5: There was no pre-race expo (it wasn't big enough) and the few booths they had on race day were set outside of the action. I feel a little bad for the sponsors. Most people were hanging around the finish line and the mac and cheese trucks, so those sponsors didn't get much attention. However, the finish line and mac and cheese trucks were great!
Elevation Difficulty 1/5: Wash Park is flat, flat, flat.
Parking/Access 5/5: We parked at the High School nearby which has plenty of parking and walked the quarter-mile to the race start! Not bad at all! I think there is parking in the park, but honestly, those lots may be farther from the start line than the high school just outside the park. I knew of the High School, so I just aimed straight there.
Race Management 5/5: The owners hired Hal Sports to manage. They are well known in the area and do a great job from set up, course set, emceeing, etc. It's managed very well and the course is clearly marked.
Overall 5/5: Overall this is a great event! Well managed, great theme, nice swag, course well marked, etc. I love that the swag is something different than a shirt. I also loved that you got a HUGE bowl of mac and cheese and fried mac and cheese at the end. I was totally expecting a small dinky bowl of mac and cheese but they exceeded my expectations. The finish line was super fun, lined with 10 different wild, wacky wavy dudes! I love those things and it was fun running through them!
Some other random notes:
-Photos are free! Woot!
-The theme was everywhere! The finish line was decked out, the colors repeated all over.
-There were fun facts about mac and cheese along the course!
-There is a HUGE prize purse for overall winners, so it brought a ton of super-competitive racers.
-There's a costume contest if you want to dress up as something mac and cheese themed
I'm trying to find something wrong I can write about, but I can't! Even though I LOVE mac and cheese, I really do, it is just another 5k at wash park. Same thing different theme. While this is the first race I have personally run at Wash Park, I know there are dozens of events that do the same start/finish, same course, and just have different logos! HOWEVER, I WOULD totally run it again because I LOVE MAC AND CHEESE, so I guess they really do have something going on, huh?
Copied from my blog. Yes, I'm a nitpicker.
T-Shirt/Swag – 5/5
I do love the swag of this race. The shirt is cute and fits wells and I love the medal! Rock n' Roll did a great job on the medal. It is very unique for Colorado; it's the flag with the Denver skyline and a Columbine (our state flower).
Aid Stations/Support – 5/5
They get another 5 our 5 on this one! For the 10k, there were three (I believe; there might have been one more...I can't remember) aid stations with water and Gatorade Endurance. They had plenty of volunteers handing out the drinks.
There was also great support at the end of the race. As soon as I finished I was handed my medal and a heat sheet (the wind was pretty chilly that day and once I stopped running I got very cold). The finish corral was lined with water, Gatorade Endurance, and snacks!
Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty – 4/5
The course was pretty fun. I wouldn't say it's my favorite course by any means, but definitely a great way through the city. There were parts of it that wound through random streets of Denver where I thought they could have chosen better streets (although being a race director myself, I'm sure this has everything to do with finding the correct distance with the streets Denver permits would allow the use of). The 10k course wasn't too difficult; there were two "big" hills that I think wouldn't have felt big if I was better trained. If I were from another state, this course would be a great way to see the city, that's for sure!
Expo Quality – 4/5
Okay, let me start by saying the expo at packet pick up (and on race day) was great. It was fun, plenty to do and see and new products to try. Picking up my packet and swag was quick and easy and holy-moly do they have a ton of extra swag items you could have purchased! The only reason this is not a 5 out 5 if because I had to pay for parking. I'm sorry, but I'm a firm believer that if I've already registered for a race (yes, this one was free for me, but I'm reviewing as if I paid for it), that it should include everything. Heck, I'd be fine if the race price increased by $5 if it means I don't have to pay for parking. It's the principal of the matter. I've already paid for a race and now I have to pay more money just to get my packet? I have always thought that was wrong and have experienced this with a few other events in the past.
Parking/Access – 2/5
I really wish they could find a start/finish area that had more free parking or at least parking closer to the area. You already read how I feel about added costs after registering for a race and this is no different. The race was at Civic Center Park in Downtown Denver and there's really not any large amount of parking anywhere near there. There are a ton of small lots and garages all around, but they all cost money and they all require walking. The closest lots that were less than a quarter of a mile walk were all reserved a few days before but they cost anywhere from $15 to $20. I found a lot for only $2 (go me!) but it was 0.75 miles away. On the way to the start, it was no big deal, but when I was finished with the race, it felt like a marathon's distance away and I was freezing walking back to my car. Rock n' Roll did advertise with Spot Hero, which I used to reserve my spot. This was the first time I've used it and it seemed to work out okay - there was a spot available when I got there and my car was still there when I got back! That part did help ease some nerves of race morning logistics so I didn't have to stress about finding a spot or carrying cash for parking.
Race Management – 5/5
It's a Rock n' Roll race, of course it's managed well! I mean, everything is organized, communication is spot on and the course is well marked. I don't think a big organization like this can afford to be lazy with any of the management side of things.
Overall, I think this race is a great way to experience Denver and I can only assume every city is like that. So many people travel for races and what better way to see a city than by running the streets. At the Denver race, even the 10k course was a great jaunt through the city as you pass iconic places like Coors Field and popular Denver streets. I bet the half marathon course covers even more of Denver's favorite sights.
I'm quite impressed with the whole Rock n' Roll theme. I have always heard good things from people and the appeal of the theme has always been there. It's a very unique thing to have a TON of bands on the course for you to enjoy as you run by. I also love that the rock n' roll theme, as well as the specific city theme, is followed through everything from the decor, to the music, to the swag designs. I love that there was a live band at the finish and wish I could have stayed longer to enjoy it. The finish line/expo looked really fun! I could totally see this as a great event to enjoy with friends/family and hang out for a fun Sunday morning.
So why a four out of five? Well, obviously the extra costs are one thing. When you have to pay to park at the expo and on race day, I think that's quite ridiculous. Also, there were not nearly enough port-o-johns. I waited for 30 minutes. That's a long time and there were TONS of people behind me. Lastly, I think the start corral could have been a little more organized. It was such a cluster to find how to get into the corral for one thing but it just wasn't big enough to fit all the racers. I got stuck on the outside of the barricades in the crowd and couldn't get into my corral until the race started and the crowded spread out just a bit. That part made me nervous as I like to start with my actual corral.
OH, and why aren't pictures free!?! Another added cost, geez! Get a sponsor to slap their logo all over the pictures and let racers have them free!
Copied from my blog. Be forewarned: I am a nit-picker!
Overall - 3/5
If it weren't for the amazing views, this race wouldn't have much going for it. I'm guessing the location itself is really the only reason people keep running this race. Yeah, sure, everything was organized and in place. Things were started on time (sans a huge production or announcement that we started). The course was marked and coned appropriately and safely. There was plenty of water stations. But, to me, those are all things that SHOULD go with ANY race. I have very little money and when I choose to spend my money on a race, I'd like it to be on the best event it could be. Yeah, I'm picky and have high expectations, but for $90 - $100, I expected a lot.
There was no bells or whistles with this race EXCEPT the constant view to distract you from running up so much elevation gain. The swag was alright (not being advertised ahead of time, I had no idea what I would get), there was no expo (none at packet pick nor at the finish line), there was bare minimum communication and the medal was, frankly, just a medal.
Also, on top of all that, photos were NOT free. I'm a little spoiled in Colorado I guess because almost every race I run has FREE photos for download. I've already paid this company $100 to run, $130 to stay in a hotel and now there's more money for photos of me. Geez!
The one other thing that made this event worth my money is the finisher food. They had OPTIONS! All the options. Bagels, candy, pastries, chips, chocolate milk, hot drinks and PANCAKES. You betcha, I got a pancake.
T-Shirt/Swag - 2/5
For being such a great location, the swag sure was 'eh. Seriously. The t-shirt was just the race name, same with the medal and there was virtually nothing in the goodie bag (except a flyer from their on-course nutrition, Hammer - which I tried and promptly spit out! That stuff is gross!)
Aid Stations/Support - 5/5
Like I said before, course marking and water stations are critical to ANY race. This one was no exception and they had plenty of water stations along the way, about every two miles or less. There was water and HEED (from Hammer) at all the stations and snacks as some (probably for the marathon distance runners). Due to the nature of a national park, there were restrooms throughout the whole course.
Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty - 5/5
I've already touched on this. The course scenery was GORGEOUS! I think this is the most scenic and pretty race I have ever run. The course followed the scenic drive of the National Conservation area which just so happens to be about 13 miles. How convenient for them! We had already driven this road a few times before race day, so I knew what to expect, but those hills just kept going and going and going!
Expo Quality - 1/5 (if that)
There was no expo. Not at the packet pick up and not at the race start or finish. It surprises me that this is the second race in less than a year that has virtually no sponsors. Don't they know they can MAKE MONEY from sponsors!?!?! As a race director/marketing coordinator for a running company, I know that, for fact, you can get people to PAY YOU to come to your race because you are bringing in a specific market of people, i.e. runners, and if someone has a product that appeals to that target market - it's a no-brainer! As a racer, I like expos because I like to see the lastest running gear, trends and local businesses.
Parking/Access - 4/5
There was no parking allowed at the start or finish of the race. Obviously, not everyone follows the "rules" and people still parked at both locations (and paid the National Park entrance fee) but because of this, the race provided buses to the start and from the finish and buses for the spectators to/from the finish for FREE from the host hotel. I think that is AMAZING and actually makes things easy. If we hadn't stayed at the host hotel, thinking like a local racer, It would have been just as easy to park at the hotel and get on the bus as well. There was another option if you were staying in a hotel near the Strip of Vegas for an affordable fee.
Race Management - 4/5
Even though I've knocked the company for not having all the bells and whistles, they still get a 4/5 for race management because things were in place and on time. It does take a lot of coordination to get the bus to and from the hotel to the race location and they did have all the info on the race website. The thing that knocks off one of the points is timing and post-race communication. It took three days to get our results and it wasn't until day three that anything was even acknowledged. There were no live results, even though it was chipped timed. When I looked later that evening after the race and didn't see results, I was a little irritated, but when I got back to town on Monday after climbing and there was STILL no results, I was bothered. I finally checked my emails and saw one email at noon saying the timer was working on results but there was a bug in the software. Then email #2 came at 2pm saying preliminary results were up, but they weren't 100% correct. And finally, email #3 at 8pm, a FULL TWO DAYS (not including race day) AFTER the race stated that the results were final and online. Being a race director and timer, I was irritated at the format of results as well, being a stationary PDF that you can't easily search. I know the systems they were using for timing and the software; plus the registration platform was on Run Sign Up which is so user-friendly that results could have easily been integrated and searchable by name. Oh well. There goes my nit-picking.
Would I recommend this race to a friend? Yes, because of the views. HOWEVER, if there's a competing offer (i.e. another race), run the other race and just visit the park separately.
copy and pasted from my blog:
Overall - 4/5 - I did enjoy this race for the most part. I could really see the locals having a blast at this event with all their friends and spectators cheering them on. A few things took away from my general experience; some race management related and some personal, as described further on.
T-shirt/swag - 4/5 - The shirt was high quality and fit well. The artwork was fun, I just didn't like the BIG plastic feeling of the sublimation. The medals was HUGE and a unique Halloween design.
Aid Stations - 5/5 - They were great! Each one had water and Gatorade. There was one about every mile with plenty of volunteers.
Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty - 5/5 - The course was easy with only one tiny hill. It was fun to run along the bridge where the cruise ships were pulling right into port. After the bridge, you wound around to a concrete and boardwalk trail that was along the beach with beautiful views as the sun rose.
Expo Quality - 1/5 - If that. There was not a real big expo beforehand (like those of Rock n' roll and such), but even at the finish line, there was barely anything except the food. Now, I didn't go to the after party that was at the local bar, so maybe there were some booths and vendors there. For most people, this probably isn't a low point, but I like expos and booths to see new running gadgets/trends and the local businesses.
Parking/Access - 3/5 - I stayed at a hotel right in Miami Beach. It was about two miles from the finish line and about 4 miles to the start line. They did have good instructions for parking on their website and in emails as well as a shuttle service from the finish area to the starting line (and vice-versa). I had already returned our rental car the night before (on purpose) and took an Uber to the finish area to catch the shuttle. I'm glad I did it this way because the Uber car would have gotten stuck in traffic trying to get me to the starting line.
When the bus dropped us off, we had a tiny walk to the starting line. Now, the starting line was right outside a parking garage that was open for parking. People were warming up and waiting in the chute while cars were driving in. SUPER DANGEROUS! There were a few police officers just telling cars to turn into the garage but no other way to block cars. I found it super curious the way they had an open lane of traffic next to so many racers. I know people aren't driving fast, but still!
Race Management - 3/5 - This is where I get to be the pickiest and only because I am a race director myself and notice things that not everyone notices. In addition to the parking/access situation, there were a few other things that took away points from this rating. First, I read online and in the emails that there was a bag drop so I brought a bag that I placed my small jacket and my cell phone in. Upon getting to the start line, I could not figure out where the bag drop was. I couldn't even see any booths for registration tents and there were no signs or any sort of communication. I asked the DJ, other runners and the kids at the water station. No one knew. I was starting to get concerned I'd have to run with my phone with nowhere to put it (my costume shorts did not have pockets). Finally, I overheard someone say they got their bib in the parking garage. To get there, the ONLY way to get there, I had to cross traffic, while police yelled at me to stay out of the way, walking alongside driving cars pulling into the parking lot, and around the corner were the tables for registration and alas... the bag drop!
That was a huge thing that made me give lower marks to the race management. Second, was just the advanced packet pick up. There were a couple of location and date options, and I chose the one that was closest to our hotel the day before the race. For a non-Miami beach resident, the traffic is HORRENDOUS. We had a hard time finding the Dick's Sporting Goods store even with the navigation on my phone. Then once inside the store, there was no employee or race person directing us to where to get my stuff (which was way in the back of the store). I would recommend investing in a lot more signage for ALL areas of their race from packet pick up to race morning.
And the third reason I score this part pretty low is that I had emailed the race directors about a month before the race to ask a question. I never got a response and found my answer, not on the website, but searching the visitor posts section of their facebook page.