Latest reviews by Jeremy

(2016)
"My New Favorite Half Marathon"
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The Sedona Half Marathon is easily now my new favorite half-marathon. Let me tell you why!

Sedona, Arizona is already a beautiful place with breathtaking scenery of mountains and red rock formations. Plus the weather makes it a fantastic place for a weekend getaway anytime of the year. Lots of cities boast this as well, but rarely do they deliver like the Sedona Marathon Events!

The expo on Friday was small but efficient, with plenty of signage and knowledgeable staff to help with any questions regarding race day logistics, etc. There were plenty of FREE race shuttles, the most I've ever seen for a race! They were being offered from multiple locations, no matter where you were staying. I chatted with a race official regarding shuttles and my hotel location, and he told us that honestly, we should could just drive to the start/finish and park there. Sweet!

We stayed at the Poco Diablo Resort, one of the host hotels. I've stayed at this one before during a weekend in Sedona and loved it. VERY dog-friendly (when you tell them you have dogs, there are special goodie bags awaiting your pups in the room). The Poco Diablo Resort is not walking distance to start/finish like some of the others, but it was a five minute drive tops. And worth it. They even gave each room of Sedona Marathon runners a $30 food voucher/credit at the resort restaurant!

Race Day was on Saturday and I loved the fact that not only was the start/finish close... but it wasn't until **9am**. No super early 4am alarms and no freakishly early shuttle rides. And sure enough, we pulled right up across the street from the start/finish and scored the best parking space of all time. No exaggeration there. It was the last spot closest to the expo and start/finish. Runners were walking by and even mentioned how jealous they were of our spot!

There was an abundance of porta potties and hardly ever a line to use them. I will say it was *COLD* to us Arizonans (30+ degrees), but by the time we started the race, it had warmed up considerably. I wore tights and immediately thought I was overdressed once I started running. Long sleeves and shorts would have been perfect.

Photos were being snapped EVERYwhere. The start/finish was on top of a hill and perched perfectly with red rocks in the distance. It was an out and back course so all distances (full/half/10k/5k) started and finished there. Each race started 10minutes apart, with the full marathon going first.

If all that isn't bonus enough... if there's only *one* reason you run this race... it will be because of the SCENERY! From the very start you have red rock formations, mountains, and trees all around. Suffice to say I had my phone out snapping pics at mile one. And I wasn't the only one. ;-) And it's like that the entire way. No running through neighborhoods or parks... just out on the scenic highway with breathtaking views all around.

I know Sedona is at 4,500ft elevation, but I never once felt like I was having trouble because of altitude. And I wasn't super trained either for this event. Coming out of injury and lack of training, I figured I'd struggle as a Phoenician runner used to flat and fast... but the elevation must not have been as dramatic as expected.

Now, there were definitely HILLS on this course, but more of rolling hills than large inclines. Just enough to slow you down and work those quads. Which, honestly, is perfect for this race. I don't recommend going to Sedona Marathon to PR, I suggest taking in the amazing scenery with your fellow runners.

The views had all runners in high spirits. Mind you, I'm a "friendly runner", but as I passed there were people laughing with me, and chatting and having a great time. It made the overall race atmosphere one of the best I've ever experienced.

It's an out and back course, so eventually at around mile 6.5 (for the half) you turn around and run back the way you came (uphills become downhills, but also vice versa!). Normally, I'm not a huge fan of this, however, because of the amazing views and positive race atmosphere I actually enjoyed it. I got to see the lead runners and we all were cheering them on as we ran. And when it was my turn to turnaround and head back, I started high-fiving and cheering runners as they were on their way to the turnaround. It was absolutely **fantastic*! I fed off of that energy and pushed it through to the end.

The aide stations were notably some of the best I've seen. Themed costumes, cheering crowds, and not just electrolytes and water.. but bananas, pretzels, cliff shots, etc. These are the same aide stations you hit for the full marathon as well, so I noted that if I ever did the full at Sedona (which even now I'm itching to do), they were well stocked for 26.2! The course was also very well marked for all distances and I never had to think "where do I go".

My only rough patch was the last stretch to the finish. Remember that amazing start line perched on the hill? Well.. it's also the finish line. So... a slight uphill climb to the finish. But at that point I was pumped so I pushed through to get up that hill and earn my bling!

The medal is pretty awesome, and comes designed so if you complete consecutive years, it makes one big medal. The only downside I found to the medal is *all distances* get the same bling. So whether you run the full or the 5k, you get the same medal. My suggestion to the race would be to customize the ribbon so at least there is some separation there.

All in all, this race was amazing and I can't recommend it enough. As soon as I returned home I was telling all my friends about my experience and how they would have to sign up for next year! Whether you're an Arizona native or looking for a race-cation destination, make sure to add the Sedona Marathon Events to your list!

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(2016)
"Lions, Tigers, and Bears.. oh yeah! "
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This is the perfect run/walk for the family! You actually run or walk THROUGH the zoo. How often do you get to say you saw "LIONS" on your run?!

The emcee at the start was fantastic. He had people cha-cha-ing before the race/walk began. There was coffee available at the start, a very nice touch on a chilly morning. Only two porta-potties available but the line moved fairly quickly. It was a smaller event, probably 500 or less. Also, there were so many volunteers and zoo employees in animal costumes it felt like Disney!

It's a looped course on the fairly flat pavement in the first section of the zoo.
Unfortunately, it is rather early and was chilly, so many of the animals were not out in their exhibit as I ran by. However, you have access to the rest of the park that day so as soon as you rest up after you finish, you can go enjoy the zoo with the family.

This event is not professionally timed, so there's no pressure to PR or to hurry and finish. There were more walkers than runners. Tons of families. The course was also extremely well marked. Signs were the largest I've seen for races and I was able to read them far in advance before I needed them. And even though it was only a 5k run/walk and 1k walk, there were at least 2-3 aide stations out on the course.

After the finish, there was a "finish line" party with everything you could think of... including coffee! There was a local bakery offering brownies and mint chocolate chip fudge bars... I'll admit I had two. For all the kids, there was a hula hoop contest, a bouncy house... really an awesome family-friendly event.

Want to introduce your family to a healthy lifestyle and have a fantastic trip to the zoo at the same time? This is the event to put on your calendar!

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(2015)
"Great Views and a few HILLY surprises!"
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Overall a great race. But don't let the large elevation loss fool you, there are still some hills to overcome towards the end of the race, no matter if you're running the full or the half! Here's my breakdown:

PROS:
--Cold at the start, but as soon as the sun comes up the weather is perfect. Bring old clothes to toss!
--Buses at the start, so you can stay and stay warm up until the last minute.
--Decent scenery. Mountain views on either side.
--Tech shirt is nice (runs a little large), and fun colorful medal
--Post-race food was pretty good for such a small race. Nutella and PB tortilla sandwich was ah-may-zing!
--Shuttles from host hotels were nice charter buses. So friends/family can sleep in if they'd like while you leave for the race.

CONS
--Early shuttles. You have to be on the shuttle super early (4:45-5:20am) and wait at the start until 7am. that's a lot of waiting and I always get tired during that time.
--Host Hotels were pretty expensive for the one night (however, I booked my room pretty late in the game so that may have something to do with it) There are other hotels cheaper nearby (where I stayed) and the drive to the shuttles weren't that bad.

All in all, I highly recommend this race if you're looking for something smaller but well organized with that "local race" touch!

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(2015)
"Intoxicating Trails and Welcoming Race"
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This race made the trails welcoming and the atmosphere of ultra runners and knowledgable athletes was contagious! It made me want to run my first ultra! There was no expo, and not much for a "virtual goodie bag"; however, at packet pickup they had a panel consisting of the Race Director and elite North Face athletes. It was the most engaging and informative panels I'd ever attended! You did get 10% off in the store as well when you attended.

The trails themselves were challenging, but not too technical. Rolling hills on the Marathon Relay course. But not the toughest route I've ever encountered. Had I been better trained, I could have flew on them.

Weather was cold, but perfect for running. Marathon Relay participants had to pass a chip strapped on our ankles. It wasn't too much of a hassle, but something more easily exchanged would have been helpful. There was lots of coffee, beer, bagles, bananas, etc at the Start/Finish/Exchange Area.

I only have two "negative" things to say about this race, one of those being getting to the starting line. There was no address for where we were supposed to go, just a pinpoint on a map (even that didn't have the address). So it was a guessing game. We eventually found our way there but it was more difficult than it should have been. However, that's an easy fix so not a major issue.

The only other thing was the cold. It was overcast, windy, and in the low 50s. And being used Arizona weather, I was FREEZING! However, the race made as many accommodations as possible for us, including small fire pits to stay warm. The weather was actually perfect for running. When I was on the course it was amazing. Only when I was standing around did I get cold. So moral of the story is... bring plenty of layers!

Parking was great. For the amount of people there I thought we'd be hiking quite a ways in but it was only about a football field's length away, so not too bad in my opinion. And lots of park restroom facilities and porta potties.

Overall I highly recommend this race. I can't wait to run another North Face Endurance Challenge Series Race! Maybe next time it'll be for a 50K! For a more comprehensive review and tons of photos: Visit my blog review HERE--> http://confessionsofanamateurathlete.blogspot.com/2015/10/my-north-face-endurance-challenge.html

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(2015)
"Hood To Coast-A Challenging Bucket-List Blast!"
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My Hood to Coast Relay Experience was amazing! A bucket list race I highly recommend doing with a group of friends.

Here's the breakdown on the PROS & CONS.

PROS
--Mt.Hood Scenery at the start was AMAZING
--Volunteers were the best I've seen. (dealing with storms/early morning hours and still loud, cheerful and helpful)
--Course legs labeled as "moderate" or "hard" weren't very difficult at all in my opinion.
--Amazing Finisher's Medal

CONS:
--Weather was pretty crazy. It never was too cold or too warm, but the Wind and Rain were difficult at times. I ran through a storm though, so this isn't necessarily a "common occurrence" and the race doesn't control Mother Nature!
--Difficult to get into. (I had the opportunity to run with Team Nuun. Others had to register WAY in advance. So be ready as soon as registration opens!)

All in all, a great race that I would definitely run again. You can read more about my entire experience and see tons more photos HERE---> http://bit.ly/HTCwithNuunPt2

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