Latest reviews by Juan J. Arrieta
I had been looking forward to this race for a long time, and the wait was well worth it, as it did not disappoint---It actually exceed my expectations in every way possible.
After flying into Louisville from Houston with my family, we got a rental car, drove and checked into our hotel, then headed to the Expo/Packet Pickup, which was held at Louisville Slugger Field in downtown. Parking there was ultra-easy and free, and I found the facility to be perfectly suited for the event, as it had ample, comfortable space, with a well-organized layout.
It only took us a few minutes in line to get our race bibs and post-race party bracelets. The packet also included a BUFF multifunctional headwear with the race logo. We were also able to pick up a couple of energy gels and bib tabs for the race at the Fleet Feet vendor tent as well as sample some Jim Beam Bourbon, the race's sponsor.
Race-day logistics and start line
The start line for this race was located on Main Street, right in front of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, between 5th and 6th Streets. There were plenty of reasonably priced parking options, and we easily found one at a parking garage on the adjacent block to the Center. The starting area was large and comfortable, with plenty of room to stretch and warm-up before the 8:00 am start.
The race offered a bag drop-off tent, but this time I decided not to use the service since my wife was there with me and she was able to take the backpack with my gear after I finished warming up.
Course & Support
The weather was picture-perfect for a race with temps in the mid 50s and beautiful, sunny skies. Once the race started, I followed my plan as drawn and made sure to take it easy and not run too fast over the first couple of miles. I focused being "in the moment", thankful for my health, for the beautiful day we were having, and simply enjoying the gift of participating in a real, in-person race again. The course was quite scenic throughout its 13 miles and I feel that it helped me get into a great groove from the beginning. The hydration stops were placed and spaced perfectly approximately every couple of miles or so, and even though I was carrying my own water, I supplemented it by grabbing 2-3 cups as I went by them. The volunteers there were super cheerful and helpful, and made me feel a rush of energy as I went by each one of them. By mile 3, I settled into an awesome feel and pace, and realized after doing some quick mental math that it could carry me within striking distance of my PR if I could just stay in that zone and close out strong. Thankfully, that feeling never left me, and the last 4 miles proved to be my fastest block of the race, carrying me to a new 1-minute PR at this distance.
Finish line and post-race party
The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing medals and helping out with the post-race hydration and nutrition tables, which were well stocked with fruit, energy bars, and electrolytes and spaced-out perfectly.
And as if the race itself had not gone awesome enough, the post-race party---appropriately named "The Bourbon Bash" was amazing. It was immediately adjacent to the finish line at Fourth Street Live! and it had great live music by the popular local band, The Louisville Crashers, as well as an ample variety of bourbon samplings, beer, pizza, and burgoo, a local style of stew I'd never tried before but that I absolutely fell in love with as soon as I tasted it.
I feel that this a high-quality race that deserves all the accolades it has received over the years. Race management did a great job organizing and delivering on every aspect from beginning to end, and I know that I definitely want to come back and experience it all over again, perhaps as soon as next year.
This race was switched to virtual this year due to COVID, but despite not being able to go run it there in person I found it quite valuable to run it virtually as it gave me something to works towards for this time of the year which helped me stay motivated to keep up with my mileage and overall fitness.
The race organizers were always involved and interacting with participants on social, and also went above and beyond by including a special/custom runner's box with items from Missoula and Montana in it in addition to the regular swag that is typically provided by most races. They were also great in emailing out consistent and informative updates about the race.
I mapped out a 13.1 mile route here in Houston that started at Hermann Park and went through Rice University, University of Houston, and back, and had a great time running it with 3 friends from my running club as well as a couple of family members. We took it easy and enjoyed the scenery, snapping pics of interesting spots along the way. Glad to have been able to participate virtually and looking forward to getting back to running it live in Montana in 2022. 🙏🏽💯🏃
This was a virtual event created as a way to remember Tony Banovich, an awesome human being who served as Race Director for the Missoula Marathon and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Run Wild Missoula. Tony was deeply dedicated to the running community, and his sudden passing left behind running shoes too big for anyone to fill.
It meant a lot for me to participate in this event because from the moment I had met Tony at the start of the BibRave campaign for the 2018 Missoula Marathon, he treated me like family. He communicated often with me and went out of his way to do things that made me feel completely welcome and appreciated as an important member of his team.
The virtual event consisted of running or walking 4.35 miles, which was the average daily distance of Tony's amazing 1,731 day run streak. It was a great way for me to set time aside to think of him and the example he set for all of us to follow.
Proceeds from the event benefitted nonprofit organization Run Wild Missoula and therefore support the Missoula running community which was such an important part of Tony's life. Registrants completing the challenge receive a commemorative pin embossed with the event logo, and nice memento of Tony and his legacy that will make a neat keepsake for many years to come.
For the last few months I've been participating in the Monthly Detours Program of the Texas Distance Challenge. The Monthly Detours feature custom 5k-10k virtual routes throughout the state. When the Detour location is announced each month, program directors publish a blog post describing it, its route, history, and nearby attractions. This has been not just a great way to add some motivation and variety into my running schedule, but also to learn about parts of the state I'm unfamiliar with and neat places to go and visit in hopefully the not too distant future.
For example, November's detour was Possum Kingdom Lake near Fort Worth. I had never heard of it before and learned all about it through the blog post published when it was announced to challenge participants.
The Possum Kingdom Detour challenge consisted of either running or walking 4.8 miles, which is the distance equivalent to Possum Kingdom's Johnson Peak Loop
When I completed that detour, I just went to the link provided by race directors and simply connected the results with my date, time, and distance from my Strava account, and a couple of weeks later received the challenge sticker and card from the race organizers. I have a neat collection already and it will continue to do so all the way through April 2021, when the challenge ends.
Besides the Monthly Detours, there are two other options you can choose from within the Texas Distance Challenge if you are interested in completing them either running or walking:
Solo Crossing: 814 individual miles
Team Crossing: 814 combined miles as a team
There are also options for cyclists to choose:
Solo Crossing: 814 individual miles
Team Crossing: 814 combined miles as a team
Solo Loop: 3,612 individual miles
Team Loop: 3,612 combined miles as a team
Regardless of which of these options appeals to you (or your friends), a neat feature of the program is that all miles can all be logged retroactively, meaning that any miles which you ran, walked, or cycled from July 1, 2020 can be counted towards your overall total in order to complete the challenge by April 30, 2021.
The swag you will receive first upon signup and then upon completion of the challenge is absolutely awesome and has been a nice incentive for me all along.
The California Coast 500 virtual challenge helped me have my strongest, highest mileage summer ever. I felt motivated and committed to keep cranking out the miles during our typical hot, sweltering summer here in Texas.
The challenge allowed participants to choose from a number of distances to run cumulative from June 8 until September 7: 100, 250, 400, and 500 miles. The miles would be virtually run on the Pacific Coast Highway on the California coast, from Santa Monica all the way to San Francisco.
All you had to do was log your miles manually at the event website or simply link up your Garmin/Polar/Suunto account to it and it would sync up automatically to it.
I opted for the 250 miles goal and that turned out to be perfect for me---challenging yet achievable. After having my strongest June ever with a 107 running miles, I was able to follow that up with another great month in July for a total of 110 miles. That then allowed me to recover a bit by lowering my weekly average mile some while staying active and not just shutting it down completely during the brutal August temps and humidity. It all felt very satisfying to do so.
The race website was great and had a super easy way to check your progress on an interface that would show your stats both on a table as well as on your virtual position along the California coast. The position of the runners in front and behind you would also be shown so that was a neat way to check how you were doing not just with your target mileage but others as well such as my fellow BibRave Pros who participated in the challenge.
However I believe that what I loved the most about the California Coast 500 were the weekly mini-challenges and accompanying digital badges. They were great for me because of the difference between them from week to week; I felt they kept things fresh and helped me have something new to look forward to each week. For example, I earned the POWER HOUR Shark badge (see photo) during one week by logging 60 minutes of running on July 16th, which also made me eligible to win a shoe & apparel package from @HOKAONEONE. I didn't end up winning the package, but it sure as heck motivated me to get those miles done, and ultimately that's what I truly wanted to do.
In all the years I've been running, not once had I logged 100 miles in a month during the summer. Not ONCE. I've thought about it and can only conclude that in the past I've just let the challenging heat and humidity during this time of the year get to me mentally and break my discipline. But this year, motivated primarily by this challenge, I was able to get past that mental block and put together those back-to-back months of over 100 miles each.
The swag was an AWESOME custom/handmade wooden medal as well as a great looking participant shirt, super soft and comfy and perfect for relaxing anywhere.
In conclusion, this was an outstanding virtual challenge to participate in and one that I'd gladly do again next summer.