Latest reviews by Jeremy Heath
When I travel for a race, I always look for one that is super scenic. If I'm going to run somewhere new, I want to see the sites and take in the views! The North Olympic Discovery Half-Marathon definitely didn't disappoint.
The race is in the small town of Port Angeles. We drove up from Seattle (taking our first ferry too!) and the views on the drive were amazing. It definitely helped get us excited for the event. The expo was small, but easy to access, parking was a breeze, and we were in and out in minutes.
The half-marathon is a point to point race, starting between Sequim and Port Angeles. At the start, the weather was about 58 degrees and cloudy, with a chilly wind. So we wore layers until the last minute. But as soon as we were ready to start, the sun came out and warmed things up to a perfect low 60's. And the sky was a brilliant blue!
The course takes you along the Olympic Discovery Trail (don't worry road runners--it's a paved trail). The views were incredible. Imagine running through the woods, the smell of wet leaves, trees all around, wooden bridges--all while on a paved path. It really was the perfect path for any road runner who loves the outdoors. There were some "rolling hills" but only brief inclines that quickly evened out.
There were plenty of aid stations along the way, and lots of friendly volunteers. One aid station even had a whole Pokemon theme with full sized cut-outs of characters and everything. Was a lot of fun.
The last five miles is a stretch along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, right along the water. It was amazing to be running with the breeze coming off the ocean and seeing ships in the distance. A whole different scene then what I'm used to running the desert! The race finishes up at the City Pier in downtown Port Angles. Lots of post-race food, music, massages, the works.
And last but not least--THE SWAG! OMG, the SWAG! The medal was simple but elegant and I really liked it. But the 1/4 zip is seriously my new favorite. It's a dark blue with bright green trim. And it's not a heavy 1/4 zip, but rather light weight and yeah.. it's even got thumbholes. I'll definitely be wearing this finisher's shirt around.
Whether it's swag or scenery that sways your decision, The North Olympic Discovery Marathon events has it all and I highly recommend it!
I LOVED this race! Yes, I'll admit it was hilly. But the views are totally worth it! Let me break down all the reasons why you should put the La Jolla Half Marathon on your bucket list:
*EXPO. While inside the Hilton Del Mar, the La Jolla Half expo still packed a punch. All my favorites were there. And some great deals on gear! Super quick to move through and lots of parking nearby at the fairgrounds.
*PARKING. Fortunately we had a friend drop us off but getting to the start wasn't too bad b/c they knew where to go. I did see some major traffic getting to the start so some may not have had the best experience with parking that I did. That being said, the race offers FREE shuttles in the morning from the finish to take you to the start. As well as FREE shuttles from the finish *back* to the start after you're done. So all in all, they make the race-day logistics as headache-free as possible.
*SWAG. I loved the tech shirts and drawstring bags we received. But I also had to purchase one of the $25 trucker hats! They were so awesome I couldn't pass it up. Everyone complimented me on the hat and the expo ended up selling out of both designs b/c they were so cool. The finisher's medal was also very locally themed and an impressive design.
*AID STATIONS. The aid stations were well stocked and tons of volunteers at each. Huge barrels of water so no one would run out. And volunteers even held signs to let people know if they had water or electrolytes in their hand. Plus tons of high-fives really helped motivate runners.
*SCENERY. This is a big one. Worth every penny! There were hills, yes, but the beach views and running along the coast was incredible. Even the views as we climbed the big Torrey Pines hill were fantastic. I loved all the trees and the ocean smells. A race really worth slowing down to take it all in.
*WEATHER. The weather couldn't have been better. Mid-High 60s. Perfect running weather. A little cool near the water so it was perfect. I did change out of my sweaty clothes as soon as I was done though b/c I get cold quickly (I'm from the desert, so 60s wet is freezing to me when I'm not running lol). But the sun was shining and I could've spent all day enjoying the weather in my dry clothes.
*FINISH LINE. Seriously one of my new favorite finish line festivals! Local beer. Chips & Guac. Music. And a good amount of booths with my favorite snacks (like Nature's Bakery Fig Newtons and frozen Acai). All with ocean views from high on the cliffs. Truly a great way to finish a race.
**Only two things to note. There are some hills in the last mile of the race, so that can be a factor for some people. But I didn't mind them as much. There were also a lot of downhill so that can be tough on the legs. As long as you run smart, it won't be a problem. Also, I'm a picky beer drinker and not a fan of IPAs. That's all they had available, so a pale ale or at least variety would have been more welcomed, but I certainly still enjoyed what was there!
Overall I highly recommend this race. It's very well managed and part of the "Triple Crown Series" that offer some extra bling and more when you finish all three in one year. I am definitely considering doing the Triple Crown Series next year!
Put the La Jolla Half Marathon on your bucket list. You won't be disappointed!
This was my first ever Spartan Race, and I loved it! I opted to run the Super distance (8.5+ Miles, 20 obstacles) vs the Sprint distance (3+ Miles, 15 obstacles). I had a blast, but I have to tell you, I **trained** specifically for this race.
I attended an OCR-training gym, led by a coach who has participated in multiple OCR events. I worked on my grip strength, practiced tons of burpees, and did a lot of high-intensity workouts. And I **still** missed 5 obstacles. So, my warning is this: if you're signing up for an OCR race, train for it like you would any other event. Practice makes a huge difference between a tough race, and a fun one!
Now, that being said, here's the great things I loved about not just the Spartan Race, but the Spartan Race events in Arizona in general.
--VOLUNTEERS! The Spartan Volunteers receive a FREE ENTRY once they're done with their shift. So if it's something you're not sure want to shell out for, volunteer and you can use your entry for either later that day, or the next day. Or you can receive a code for a free entry at a different Spartan event. Pretty cool way to award volunteers and to ensure they show up! **Bonus**: Volunteers also get free parking all weekend AND free bag check!
--CROWD. The crowd around you and at the start know how to hype you up! From "I Am Spartan" chants to the "AROO" yelled throughout the day, the crowds really help give you that second, third, and fourth wind.
--WEATHER. It was chilly if you're in the first/early waves (usually for the elite or competitive participants), but perfect for any wave after 9am. It did get cold after we were finished, but there's thankfully a bag check where you could quickly get a dry change of clothes.
--BEER and FOOD! Beer tent (one free beer per participant) and food trucks were the the perfect way to celebrate after the race.
--OBSTACLES. The obstacles were actually a lot of fun. I mean, how often do you get to climb walls and do monkey bars while out on a trail run? I also don't mind wading through mud pits... but I know it's not for everyone. haha. Some obstacles ARE a challenge though. Even though I had trained I still failed 5 of the more technical obstacles (usually because my arms and legs were exhausted) and I had to do about 120 burpees total (30 burpees for every obstacle you don't complete on the first try).
--FREE PHOTOS! I love taking photos while out on the race courses. But in this case, I couldn't take my phone with me. Between all the rolling, crawling, and mud... there was no way it would survive. Thankfully, Spartan provides FREE photos within just a few days after the event. And they turned out great!
--THE COURSE. The 8.5+ course was hilly and technical, but if you stopped to look around occasionally it was a pretty scenic dessert single track trail through the McDowell Mountains. It was technical enough to make you focus on your feet, but not so technical that the trail-running newbie couldn't complete it.
--THE MEDAL. I loved the medal as a stand alone bling. But if you complete a sprint, super, and beast all in the same year, it creates a "trifecta" medal. Which now I'm seriously considering!
--THE MERCH. I rarely go all out wanting to purchase race gear, especially if the finisher's shirt is good enough. But not only was the finisher shirt awesome, they had some really sweet gear that sold out FAST. I managed to get some Spartan Shorts and an AZ Spartan Tech Tee before they were all gone. I'll definitely be working out in them as I train for another Spartan.
All in all, I loved the challenge of this race as well as the adventure behind it. The obstacles, while tough, made me feel extremely accomplished by the end! There were only two CONS of note:
--AID STATIONS. There were only a few aid stations with water and Cliff Shots throughout the course. For a normal race, that's suitable. But for a high-intensity workout like this race becomes, you need a little more. Thankfully, I brought my Orange Mud hydration pack with me and I highly recommend you bring one as well. (NOT a belt or bottles... these will inhibit your rolling and crawling. You need something like a bladder pack/vest to wear).
--RESTROOMS. I'm a guy so thankfully I could just pee in the bushes along the way. But had it been any other.. issue... I would have been S.O.L. The only porta potties on the course are for volunteers only, and they'll make sure you know that. So best to get used to using the bathroom outside, or go as much as possible before.
The Spartan Race Arizona was incredible and I highly suggest trying it out! If you're wary of the obstacles or distance, check into the Sprint distance. If you need something to kick your upper-body workouts and training into gear, this is certainly it. After training for a Spartan and completing it, I definitely feel like a better "well rounded" runner!
The Sedona Marathon is without a doubt one of the most scenic road races I've ever done. Last year (2016) I participated in the half-marathon. The hills were challenging but nothing too unbearable. The weather-perfect. So this year (2017) I took on the full marathon. Whole different ballgame!
Overall, it was was both one of my favorite, and one of the toughest, marathons I've ever done. Here are some of my favorite things about this race:
--Quick and efficient expo. While small, lots of volunteers that were quick and efficient and I was able to get in and out for packet pickup rather quickly. Some cool race-branded running gear available for purchase.
--Parking. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which was walking distance from the Start Line. However, there were plenty of shuttles and tons of parking available so it made getting to the race fairly easy. The crowds were large (record number of participants!), so I recommend getting there a little early.
--Start Line Area. Not only is this race scenic, but everyone took photos at the start line b/c it too was an amazing scenic shot! Mountains in the background, all the people bustling around. Insta-worthy. Plus, there were donuts/coffee for purchase if you wanted, and other booths to stop by if you wanted. You could also utilize the bag drop so you didn't have to walk to and from your car.
--Start Time. That's right, most marathons I've done start super early. This one started right at 9am! Means I could sleep in and not have to start out running in the chilly weather.
--Weather. It was chilly (mid 40s) as we stood around getting ready to start, but as with most races in AZ, it warmed up rather quickly. By the time I started it was in the 50s (perfect marathon weather!) and low 60s by the finish.
--THE SCENERY. In case you haven't picked up on this, the scenery at this race is spectacular. From the start to finish, it's absolutely fantastic. Red rock formations, trees, some of the mountains in the distance had snow... really amazing.
--The Course. It's out and back, so you get to doll out some high-fives to friends running the same distance as you. And also, you can see the half-marathon winners not only fly passed you, but also give them a fist-bump at their turn around spot.
--Trails! Another great part of this course is right after the turnaround for the half-marathon, the full marathon runners hit the jeep trails. It's packed dirt, so no need for trail shoes. But It's softer than pavement and so much easier on the legs! Plus, I love trail running and this made me feel right at home (although not technical at all so no worries if you're a trail-running newbie.)
--Volunteers. There were tons of great volunteers out there, many dressed in costume or just hollering at the top of their lungs.
--Aide Stations. These stations were pretty stocked for a full marathon. Tons of water and Gatorade, but also shock blocks, bananas, gels.. I took advantage of them and felt my nutrition was really on point.
--Finish Line. A wide finish line allowed friends to cheer me in before I hit the finish coral. Was a great final push to be able to high-five friends on that last .2 stretch.
--The Medal. The medals are always a corner "piece' of a pie. So if you do four years in a row, you have one solid circle. And you don't have to start back like many other races. Just make your races consecutive and you'll collect all you need!
--Awards. If you're an elite with swift feet (no matter what the challenge), Male and Female winners of each distance received a large stone plaque. As well as a bag of local coffee! I thought this was really unique and fun.
Now, all that being said. I still have some words of advice for YOU. **This race is not for the first-time marathoner**. ***This is not a PR course***.
It's a fantastic race. I love this race. But if you're looking for your first marathon or a race to finish 26.2 in record time, I'm sorry but this one's not for you. Here's why:
--The HILLS! While just enough for a "challenge" for a half-marathon. The hills were killer for a full marathon. You get *some* downhill, but for the most part it's a LOT of up on the way back. If you train on hills they may not bother you, but even then I wouldn't recommend it for your first marathon or for a PR. The finish is even uphill.
--Elevation. This race takes place at about 4500ft. While I did not have any issues with the elevation during the half-marathon, I did feel *some* of its affects during the full. It wasn't a "lung-buster" situation, but rather just enough to make climbing the hills that much harder.
That being said, that's how I felt about the full marathon. The half-marathon I would still recommend for anyone. I DO, however, suggest running the full marathon if you're looking for a new marathon challenge, or maybe training for an ultra-marathon. Or maybe you just want the bragging rights!
Only two downsides to this race that I wish to point out to Race Management (and in turn to runners).
1.) The Medals. I love them. I really do. But everyone gets the same medal with the same ribbon. There is a VAST difference between running the 5k vs running the full marathon. Even if it's just a different ribbon it would mean the world to us marathoners and we'd wear that thing proudly!
2.) Traffic. This race is open to traffic and many times runners would start running on the right, then move to the left, then back to the right again, all depending on where the traffic was coming from. I'm not sure whether it was the runners not staying where they should, or traffic going where they weren't supposed to. But either way, slightly scary when you're "out of it" and just focusing on one foot in front of the other. I'm not sure if the roads can be sectioned-off with cones, but I feel that would help keep runners on one side, and traffic on the other.
I enjoyed my time at the Sedona Marathon tremendously and will definitely be back. Will probably focus on the half-marathon next year. But I feel I might tackle that full again down the road. My friends and I had an absolute blast and it will most likely become a yearly tradition. I strongly recommend making it one of yours!
I've done the Rock n Roll Arizona half marathon almost every year now for the last 5-6 years. Always a blast, always a good time, and never disappoints. It's a fairly easy course with a hill or two here or there, but plenty of friends (including myself) have achieved a half-marathon PR on this course. There are always tons of volunteers, crowds, vendors, and swag. I really loved the medal this year, always enjoy the Arizona races that include kokopelli (The Southwest Indians’ Humpbacked Flute Player) in their swag/medal. Makes it feel more local.
The weather is always fantastic, although this year I was a little concerned about rain, but it ended up staying dry the entire time. Usually we're treated to some sunshine and low 60s at the finish, but this year it was mid-low 50s so was chillier this time. However, I always throw in a change of dry clothes and a light sweater in my drop bag and am fine to hang out at the finish line festival with friends without a worry about being cold.
This year the even had food trucks and vendors with coffee, etc at the finish line festival so that was pretty sweet! I may not have PR'ed this year, but still had a great time.
Two suggestions that I would offer to race management on areas of concern that I saw this year:
--I did come to one aid station that either the volunteers were lacking or hadn't made it there yet. They were still filling up cups and runners were grabbing cups off of the table and many were still empty. Fortunately, this was an aid station early in the race so for the most part wasn't a real issue.
--The burnt orange shirt color, while different, defiantly wasn't my favorite. I'd probably still wear it, but it's they typical "boxy shape" for men and isn't very flattering for the the average runner build.
This race always takes place on Martin Luther King weekend, so a great race-cation. And it's the perfect race to kick-off your racing season at the beginning of the year. I highly recommending joining me next year for the RnR AZ!