Latest reviews by Whitney Vestal

(2018)
"The Views Make Up for All the Rest"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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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.

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(2017)
"Fun! Great course and swag! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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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. 

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(2016)
"I did the 10k! (It wouldn't let me add a distance)"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

In 2016, I did the 10k (the Baby bear). What a fun race, bringing back cross country memories. Within the first mile you go through a water crossing and come out of the river to meet sand and start climbing mt. carbon. Yes, it's a challenging race, but the views are wonderful and the event makes it worth it. The low-key atmosphere make it feel like you're in the mountains and I think, gives it a great touch.

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(2016)
"6 Different race, one great event"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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I finally got to do the whole series last year! If you sign up for the whole series, you get to choose from doing 1 mile on the first event and increasing to the 10k by the last event or all 5ks or a mix and match. I did a mix and match. I did 1 mile, 2 mile, 5k, 4 mile, 5k and 5k. Each race is set up the same (minus the distances) on Thursday evenings so you know what to expect. This is a smaller race because it's made for newbies or people trying to PR; a large amount of people would make this intimidating for newbies. Everyone, from the racers, staff to the volunteers are so encouraging and that's what it's all about! I highly recommend it. If you register for the package you get a tote bag and t-shirt. At every race you get a unique pint glass!

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(2016)
"A race to repeat!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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I've done this race about 7 times and will continue to keep doing this race! This is saying something because I hate crowds. The race gets more participants than any other I've been to but they organize the waves spectacularly. Whenever you register, you get great info on where to go, when and how to get there. The only thing I rated low was parking/access....this is because even though they communicate it well, it still takes a lot of planning and organizing to get to the race. I've done this event with different friends, significant other and my Mom, all on different occasions, all starting at different times and have always had a great time. The swag is always great and you have a lot of options to choose from. After the race, you get a lunch box filled with all sorts of goodies and a beer! Need I say more? But I will. If you stay, there's a great Memorial Day celebration filled with paragliders jumping from planes as well a fun booths to visit and get some free stuff!! It's pretty awesome!

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