Latest reviews by Stephanie

(2018)
"Saintly Views!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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My husband and I were so excited to complete the Saints and Sinners half marathon for the 2nd year in a row. We had a wonderful experience last year (we both got PRs and placed 2nd overall!), so we were hopeful that this year's race would be equally successful! Here's a recap of our weekend:

EXPO:
The expo for the race is in a convention center in Henderson. Though the expo is quite small (one ballroom in the convention center), it's easy to find and has all of the essentials. The volunteers and race staff are incredibly friendly, too. In fact, the Race Director recognized us at the expo. She was so excited to see us back, that she took our picture, and posted it to Facebook saying, “This cool couple both finished in the top three for men and women and they’re back…watch out for these guys!” Talk about pressure to perform! This definitely made us feel valued and appreciated, since we had traveled across the country to attend.

PRE-RACE:
The race begins at a park, so we chose to use my in-laws' national park pass to get closer parking spots. The parking was plentiful and there were great pre-race amenities (i.e. porta-potties galore!) I like to warm up and do my own thing before races, so I didn't get a chance to enjoy the pre-race entertainment, but it looked very lively.

RACE:
CONS: The course is mostly downhill, but there are some tricky uphill spots to be aware of. At the start line I heard a woman declare that her goal for that day was 1:19. Since that’s my long-term goal (i.e. several years away!), I was instantly intrigued. I had so much adrenaline at the beginning, and with the downhill, I found myself keeping up with her. I decided I wanted to hold on as long as I could, so I could feel and experience my eventual 1:19 goal pace. This snap decision to ditch my plan was not the most well thought out decision. I went out way too quickly, with my first three miles clocking in at: 5:52, 6:02, 6:09. After the first several miles of steep downhill, at mile 4 there is a rather large incline. I'm convinced that this would normally not be a challenging hill, but after going down for a few miles, I had trouble surmounting this one. It is a bit of a confidence buster too, since the majority of the race still lies ahead. Then again at mile 8.5, there is a steady 1.5 miles of uphill. Again, because of the downhill portions, I found that going uphill at this point in the race was particularly challenging.
PROS: The scenery on course is incredible. The course winds along Lake Mead, taking runners through old railway tunnels used to create the Hoover Dam. It is exceptionally beautiful, and provides a wonderful distraction when you're feeling fatigued during the race.

OTHER:
Because you go through so many tunnels, GPS does not always work properly. Therefore, your watch may not reflect the correct distance covered or pace obtained. I found this out when I was chugging along, thinking I had over a mile left, and then saw a sign indicating that "You have ½ mile to go!"

FINISH:
I pushed myself to finish strong, with the goal of a course PR still in sight. I crossed the finish line in 1:28:08, a 3-minute PR from last year, 4th overall woman, and 1st in my age group. Matt got an overall PR and 2nd overall. Although I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t both up on the podium this year, it was still an incredible race, and an incredible experience. Also fun to note: at the finish line, you get to choose between the "Saints" or "Sinners" finisher chute. Both years that I've run, I have opted for the "Saints" chute. I thought that this was a creative way of infusing the theme throughout all aspects of the race. There were also "saints" (fruit, pretzels, etc) and "sinners" (cookies, donuts, candy, etc) snacks at the finish line. Again, I opted for the saintly snacks!

OVERALL: If you're looking for a winter half marathon in warmer weather, this is a great option. It's a fast and incredibly scenic half, with great race management. My only caution: don't underestimate the hills - they can be the devil!

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(2017)
"Overall Female Win!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This was my second Revel race. After a wonderful experience at the Revel Big Cottonwood half marathon in September 2017, my husband and I were eager to take on another half marathon. We signed up for the Revel Mt.Lemmon half marathon, and it did not disappoint. Here's some more about our experience:

EXPO and SWAG:
Though the expo was a little off the beaten path (held in an ice skating rink), it had all of the essentials and then some. We knew that this was the inaugural Mt.Lemmon half, so given that, we were especially impressed with the expo, particularly that they had Rapid Reboot compression boots to use (without a line!) pre-race. The swag for Revel races is wonderful. I received a long sleeve tech finisher shirt for an additional $5. I thought that this was well-worth the few extra dollars because I have SO many short sleeve finisher shirts. The shirts are high quality and came in Women's size XS!). This is a huge deal for me, because so often finisher shirts languish in my closet, because they are unisex or don't come in size XS. I also LOVE that they provided socks and throw-away gloves! The start of the race was a bit chilly, so the gloves really came in handy ;)

PRE-RACE:
The race starts at the top of Mt.Lemmon and has runners descend down 13.1 miles to the finish. Because of that, the race offered a shuttle to the top of Mt.Lemmon. We didn't have to wait long for the shuttle (which was a charter bus!) to take us to the top. There were TONS of porta-potties for use pre-race (which is always a concern for me).

RACE:
There were scarcely any spectators on the course besides the hydration and medical tent volunteers. However, what the course lacked in crowd support, it made up for in scenery. Even though I had visited Tucson several times before, I had only seen Mt. Lemmon from a distance. So this was my first time up close and personal, and the mountain did not disappoint. I was completely captivated as the course spiraled, twisted, and curved down Mt. Lemmon’s saguaro cactus-spotted cliff faces. The course is almost entirely downhill (except for the last mile!), so as long as you run smart, you can do incredibly well. In my case, I knew that I needed to maintain a consistent pace for the first 12 miles, because I knew that the final mile would be difficult (especially after previewing the course the day before), but I didn’t realize just HOW challenging it would be. At that point, my quads were on fire, not adjusting at all to the altered elevation. I was trying to maintain my 6:30 min/mile pace, but I couldn’t do so. My pace dropped to 7:00 min/mile, and I had a sinking feeling I would not maintain my lead. As I came into the final stretch of the race I saw Matt and his parents, who cheered me on saying, “You got it – you’re going to win this!” I crossed the finish line with a 3 min PR of 1:25:22. I broke the “winner tape” and almost cried in excitement and elation. Matt and I embraced, and I discovered that he’d placed 2nd overall with an almost 2 minute PR. We couldn’t have asked for better collective races.

POST-RACE:
After the race we were excited to discover that the Rapid Reboot compression boots were also available for use! We used them and I seriously felt that they expedited our recovery. Other post-race perks included: Papa John's pizza, free race photos, and free entries into next year's race (our top finisher prizes!).

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(2017)
"Ready to Revel!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

My husband Matt specifically chose this race because of its fast, downhill course.

EXPO and SWAG:
The expo and swag were particularly impressive. I paid an extra $5 to receive a long sleeve tech shirt vs the typical short sleeve finisher shirt, and I was so thankful I did. The shirts are bright and vibrant, high quality and came in Women's size XS! This is a primary concern of mine, because so often finisher shirts are WAY too big for me. I am always bummed when I can't wear them post-race. I was also excited that they provided socks and throw-away gloves! The start of the race was a bit chillier than we anticipated, so the gloves were clutch.

PRE-RACE:
The day before the race, we decided to drive the course to help us solidify our race day strategies. As we ascended Big Cottonwood Canyon, I was completely mesmerized by the steep cliffs speckled with pine trees and the babbling streams cascading through the canyon. During our drive, we also discovered that the course was not entirely downhill. Right at mile 9, the course took an uphill turn, and then leveled off until mile 11. Luckily, after that, miles 12-13 were relatively downhill. However, this meant that we needed to strategically run the downhills to ensure that our quads could handle the uphill and flat portions of the race. So much for an easy, entirely downhill course! The race started at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, so the race offered a shuttle to the top. We walked about a mile from our hotel to the shuttle (which was a charter bus!) to the top. There were TONS of porta-potties for use pre-race (which is always a concern for me).

RACE:
The race itself was a bit of a blur for me. I flew through the first 8 miles, with my fastest mile clocking in at 6:12. Not surprisingly, by mile 9 my quads started hurting; I was fully feeling the effects of the downhill course! Normally, this would have caused me to become a bit defeated. But because the rest of my splits were in the 6:12-6:40 range, I knew that I could slow down a bit, and I would still PR. This kept me motivated for the last 3 miles, and I was elated as I crossed the finish line in 1:28:01.53 (with a 3 min PR!).

POST-RACE:
We didn't stick around for very long post-race, since Matt and I were both tired and needed to get ready for our flight. So, I can't speak adequately on this component of the race. However, I was thrilled that the race offered FREE post-race pictures that were automatically uploaded to my Facebook account!

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(2017)
"Run for the BQ"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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My goal for Spring 2017 was to obtain a Boston Qualifying marathon time. I registered for the Run for the Red marathon, my fourth stand-alone marathon, because the race met all of my criteria: race location (only a 45 minute drive – no hotel or air travel required!), course profile (net downhill), and time of year (late spring – cooler race day temperatures).

EXPO & SWAG:
The expo took place in Stroudsburg High School. It was easy to find parking at the school, and the expo had all of the essentials. It wasn't too snazzy, but had everything we needed. I was initially upset that my race finisher shirt was too big, but I was able to easily to switch to the correct size post-race. This is something I generally struggle with (shirts always seem to be way too large!), so I was thrilled that they helped me get the right size! The shirts for females also featured a cap-sleeve, which I thought was unique and an appreciated change from the normal short-sleeve finisher shirts.

PRE-RACE:
The pre-race accommodations for this race were great. Runners have full access to a high school, so we were warm and bathrooms were plentiful! Before the race, since I knew my only goal was only to BQ, I found the 3:35 pacer, and I immediately identified another group of girls who were also aiming to BQ. The pacers were nice, friendly, and welcoming and so were the other participants. In fact, I ended up running almost the entire marathon with a girl that I met at the starting line (which has NEVER happened to me before). I think that this is a testament to the friendly nature of the race and the participants.

RACE:
PRO: The course, although a net downhill, does feature some rolling hills towards the end. Initially I was concerned about these hills, but I found that they were so helpful for my quads! After the first downhill half, going slightly uphill for several portions ensured that I didn't burn out.
CON:My one caution with this course is that there were parts of the marathon that were a bit unnerving. The course was mostly on a 2-way mountain road, and only half of the road was closed off to traffic. That meant that there was only a line of traffic cones separating runners from oncoming traffic. Although I never felt like my life was in danger, there were a few crushed cones, which made me feel nervous at times.

POST-RACE:
The finish line was uniquely positioned on the Stroudsburg High School track, effectively transporting me back to where my love for running long distance began. As I entered the last 400 meters of the race, I found myself sprinting to the end, crossing the finish line in 3:30.10, with a PR and a BQ! I've never ended a road race on a track, and I thought that this was a really unique addition. And because the race ended on the track, runners congregated there post-race (even though official celebration tents were elsewhere). I also think it was nice for spectators to have access to bleachers to wait for their runners to cross the finish line.

OVERALL:
If you're looking for a fast marathon in late Spring, this is a great option. The race was well-organized, friendly, scenic, and best of all, afforded me with my much sought-after BQ!

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(2017)
"Rainy but Saintly!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

My husband initially stumbled upon this race when searching for “fast, downhill half marathon races.” We were immediately intrigued by the race day and location: a Saturday race in close proximity to Las Vegas. Perfect. We could spend the rest of the weekend celebrating our race successes (or drinking away our failures).

EXPO & SWAG:
The expo for the race is in a convention center in Henderson. Although the expo is quite small (one ballroom in the convention center), it's easy to find, parking is plentiful (and free!), and it has all of the essentials. My only complaint was with the finisher shirts. My shirt tore at the sleeve after just one use. While I was able to sew it up to fix it, it still put a damper on my experience.

PRE-RACE:
We woke up on race morning to windy, unseasonably chilly, and rainy weather. We donned some extra layers and arrived at the start, just in time to see the race officials disassembling the inflatable start line tunnel. With rain pelting us from all angles, we sprung from the car and frantically questioned everyone in sight, “What’s going on?” “Why are they removing the start tunnel?” “Is the race canceled!?” Our concerns were laid to rest when we got word from race officials that the race was ON! I waited in the car until just before the race to avoid the rain. I attempted to use the porte-potties, but unfortunately did not have enough time for my bathroom break pre-race.

RACE:
PROS: The rain slowed to a light drizzle as we made our way to the start tunnel (which was now fully raised!). My first few miles flew by, thanks to the (mostly) downhill course. I thought my GPS watch was damaged by the rain as I saw my splits: 6:21, 6:28, 6:36. I knew that I couldn’t sustain that pace for the entire race. Just as I was coaxing myself to slow down, I encountered a massive hill, perfectly positioned at mile 4. While in other instances this might have frustrated me, this was a welcomed surprise at this point in the race. Another perk of this course is that it is incredibly scenic. The course winds along Lake Mead, taking runners through old railway tunnels used to create the Hoover Dam. It is exceptionally beautiful, and provides a wonderful distraction when you're feeling fatigued during the race. I also appreciated that this course is very spectator-friendly. My in-laws (who drove 5 hours to cheer for us) were able to drive to several different points on the course and easily see my husband and I multiple times. This was huge for us, since I always feel so bad when family or friends travel and only see us pass by for a split second.
CONS: Right around mile 8 in the race, the mostly downhill course altered in elevation. The course demanded that we then run almost two miles steadily uphill to a turnaround point before proceeding downhill to the finish. At this point in the race, the uphill was not as well received by me. I was a bit tired, so covering the steady incline so close to the end was a challenge. Another challenge was that it was difficult to know my exact pace or mileage. Because the course goes through old railway tunnels, GPS does not always work properly.

POST-RACE:
At the end of the race, we had to choose to run through either a saints or sinners finish tunnel. I crossed through the saints tunnel, with a PR of 1:31 and as the 2nd overall female. Though I didn’t see Matt’s finish, he also opted for the saints tunnel. It was still a bit rainy at the finish, but there were bathrooms that we used to change into dry clothing. There were also saints (fruit, pretzels, etc) and sinners (cookies, donuts, etc) refreshments. I liked how creative they were in infusing the theme of the race throughout even the smallest elements of race weekend.

OVERALL:
Despite the rainy day and surprise hills, I was taken aback by the scenic course. I highly recommend this course to anyone searching for a winter destination race. Vegas is in close proximity, and the race takes place on a Saturday, so it's easy to turn this race into a weekend getaway, too!

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