RaceGrader - Authentic Race Reviews - Swim, Bike, Run

RACE REVIEWS

Posted by: on December, 27 2011

Here is a sampling of some recent reviews published on RaceGrader.  We encourage past participants to share their race experiences to help other athletes prepare for upcoming events.  Tips on the course, where to park, the registration process, etc...can all be very helpful.  To write or read a review of a particular race, just type the name of the race into “Find A Race” on the right side of this page.  Keep Racing!

Review of Father Joe's Thanksgiving Day 5K by

For a race that is really a family friendly "do-good feel good" race -- they do a GREAT job of making sure all the expected race day quality is still there for safety, timing, organizing. Great blues band to listen to afterwards and YES order a pie from the Academy kitchens for your holiday meal. Agree that the start is chaotic. Keep working on separating the walkers and strollers from the runners -- but hey -- be Thankful you are healthy and out there on such a beautiful course.

Review of Citrus Half Marathon by kmgrimes526

This race was a beautiful location with just enough rolling hills to keep it interesting. Course support was fabulous and the race medal and shirt were both very high quality. The race is coordinated by the Riverside RoadRunners chapter so it really does a great job of being runner-friendly. I ran the half marathon in 2014 which was the first time they offered that particular distance. I will be running the half again in 2015. The race starts and ends at the Arlington Sports Park which includes restrooms, lots of shade and open spaces, along with a great playground for the family to keep busy while waiting for a runner to complete the race. My top favorites of the race were running through the orange groves, the time spent in the historical Citrus Heritage State Park, and the fresh oranges at the finish. My only real con was that there wasn't much in the way, outside of the fresh oranges, at the finish to provide post-run fuel. I think there might have been some food truck vendors; however, I wasn't interested in anything other than a bagel or something similar. But the oranges were so great it almost made up for it. That and a stop at In-n-Out on the way home. 😉 All in all, I had a GREAT experience at this race and look forward to doing it again every year.

Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Palos Verdes Half Marathon by seanrunsit

Starting out, getting registered looked like a nightmare as we walked over to the tents. However, once we got there, it became apparent that the volunteers were ready to get us in and out as efficiently as possible. Since there were also groups for the 5k and 10k, we were organized accordingly and made plans to pick up my shirt and bag after the race. At first this seemed annoying, but as my friend and I walked over to the course, we realized we really didn't want to deal with either of those things anyway, until after the race. The course itself was nice. Beautiful views and hills, which we knew going in from a few years prior. Glad to see that it kept most of the pleasantries of the old half in PV, while adding a few new twists and turns. After, the food was good and the expo hub was nice. Some of the exhibitors seemed a little questionable, but overall there were lots of people hanging out, drinking free Sierra Nevada beer, and eating the brunch (surprisingly pretty tasty!). Overall, I would definitely run this race again. Lots of amenities and it was easy. When things are easy I'm on board 100%.

Review of Surfing Madonna 5K/10K and 10 Mile Beach Run by Lawlass485

This is going on my list of must do races. I did the 10K. It's a beautiful location, fun course, well organized event, plenty of food, water and parking (free). The medal is BEAUTIFUL! The 12:30 pm start time was perfect for driving there on the day of, parking, picking up my bib and shirt, visiting vendors. grabbing a snack and then having time to go back to my car, put everything away and get ready to run. It's an A+ Event

Review of Santa Monica RunFest by Scott Devine

In the City of Angels, people are known for changing their name (aka "rebranding") all of the time. Archibald Leach became Cary Grant. Sean Combs went from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy. And Prince became "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" (yup, for a while his name was symbol) and then thankfully finally went back to Prince. Well, having undergone an identity shift, the 8-year-old Santa Monica 5000 re-emerged this past Sunday as the newly christened Santa Monica RunFEST. I'm happy to say that even with the name change, the race retained its charm. With a myriad of distances to choose from: a 10K, 5K, untimed 5K "retro themed run," and a family friendly 3K, around 2000 people laced up their running shoes for some seaside scampering. This year I ran the 10K for the third time and joined 545 other finishers for a fun 6.2 mile jaunt through Santa Monica. REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration fees for the race were rather reasonable, with the 10K costing between $40-$50 (depending on when you sign up) and numerous discounts were available online. And with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, I felt fine with opening up my wallet to support the cause. Packet pick-up was on Saturday afternoon, located near the Civic Center in Santa Monica and the expo doubled as the "Wellbeing Festival" sponsored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. In addition to getting my shirt, bib and swag bag, I also got to peruse some non-running related vendors and picked up some nice free "first aid" supplies from the Red Cross (thanks). Parking was reasonable for the expo as the parking lot gave you the first half hour free. It seems I was there for exactly 31 minutes and ended up paying a whole dollar. Runners could also pick up their bibs/shirts on race day, but the swag bag was only for people showing up at the Wellbeing Festival. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Plenty of parking is available around Santa Monica for the racers. You had the choice of parking near the start of the race with beachside parking (expect to spend $10) or you could choose to park at one of the many structures near the finish line. I myself chose a structure right by the 3rd St. Promenade and ended up getting it for free. Not too shabby. T-SHIRT/MEDALS/SWAG The Santa Monica 5000 typically gave runners a cotton participation shirt and that trend continues with RunFEST. This year's shirt was green in color, featured a simple yet effective logo and was identical for both the 10K and 5K runners. Retro race runners did get an appropriate retro shirt. RunFEST did start a new tradition by giving all of the finishers a medal to celebrate their achievement. While runners got the same medal regardless of the distance run, it was a decent medal and a nice bit of bling to add to the collection. The race did give out another bit of swag in their bags (the Sketchers cinch sack also doubles as a basic backpack) as each runner received a running visor courtesy of race sponsor 2XU. Very nice. COURSE RunFEST features a point-to-point/out & back combo course. The 10K race starts near the intersection of Barnard Way and Ocean Park Blvd. and then loops north, heading up Ocean Avenue before turning onto San Vicente Blvd. At the mile 4 mark, runners turn around again and head back along San Vicente and finish on Ocean Blvd. near the Santa Monica Pier. One little bit of info worth noting is that even though the course feels flat, it actually has a gradual incline and decline. While the elevation change only ends up to be around 200' (spread over two miles), runners will probably notice that the final third of the race seems to be easier than the section that precedes it. This little tidbit might help racers adjust their pacing and help them finish a few seconds quicker. And for those of you who ran the Los Angeles Marathon, the Santa Monica RunFEST gives a chance to relive the final two miles of the marathon and perhaps enjoy the nice ocean view a bit more (let's face it, at mile 24 of a marathon I'm not overly aware of my surroundings). COURSE SERVICES Course services for the Santa Monica RunFEST are pretty basic, but sufficient. There aren't a ton of porta potties around, so you might want to find a place to stop at before your arrive in Santa Monica (I myself made a quick pit stop at a nearby McD's). The course itself featured a few water stops, but they were a little undermanned. Since the race is only a 10K, you might be better served to bring your own water. I carried two 8oz. bottles on my hydration belt and was able to bypass every water stop. The race did have safety personnel traversing the course on bikes and police officers monitoring the intersections to keep the traffic at bay. Basic mile markers were situated on the course, but be sure to wear your GPS as the only digital read-out is at the finish line. The race did provide runner timing (although not for friends/family members to monitor) featuring a shoe tag (which for some reason we were able to keep). I would suspect that next year the timing chips might be imbedded on the bibs. FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY The finish line services for the race were pretty basic, only some water available (no snacks) and I couldn't find any "finish photographers." The race did feature a post-race party located on the Santa Monica Pier where you could get some water, energy drinks and a few snacks from vendors (I scored a bottle of chocolate milk, which did hit the spot). They had a band playing in the background and race results were available (there was also an "extra cost" VIP party located further up on the pier), but you really didn't miss anything if you decided to skip the festivities. RECOMMENDATION I do enjoy the Santa Monica 5000/RunFEST or whatever it ends up being called next year. It's a nice no-stress race with a laid back feel and decent view of the ocean. The race doesn't feature many bells and whistles, but that's okay with me. This race doubled as my taper run for next week's LA Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and I had a lot of fun. I plan to be back in 2015.

Review of Newport Mesa Spirit Run by cheyneinman

This race has a lot of moving parts, and I thought it was executed perfectly. It offers more excitement than your traditional local 5k and for a great price. I really liked the course and the prizes were amazing. I will definitely be back next year.

Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Irvine by Scott Devine

RACE: Lexus LaceUp Irvine DATE: October 17, 2015 DISTANCES: 10K/5K LOCATION: Irvine, CA (Mike Ward Community Park) START TIME: 8:00am 5K/ 8:10 10K WEATHER AT START: 70 degrees FINISHERS: 10K- 229 5K-  480 Tie those running shoes for the first stop on the Lexus LaceUp 2015 race series. The series also includes races in Ventura (Oct. 24th), Palos Verdes (Nov. 14th) and Riverside (Dec. 6th). The Irvine race was a little different than the others in the series in that it offered only 10K/5K distances, whereas the other races also include the half marathon. The fact that racers were only running 10K or 5K didn't seem to dim anyone's spirits, as a festive bunch of runners gathered in the park on a Saturday morning for fun jaunt around Irvine. REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration costs for the entire Lexus LaceUp series are reasonable with rates that are below the fees charged on bigger corporate race series. For Irvine, rates on the 5K started at $25 for earliest of birds on their way up to $40 the day before race day. The 10K was a similar low price ranging from $45- $60 depending on when you signed up. In addition, Lexus had plenty of discounts listed on line (check out social media) as well as discounts offered by their "ambassador corps" (including yours truly). A discount is also available for runners who sign up for the "LaceUp Challenge" (running all 4 races in the series). The race offered packet pick-up the day before at one of the local running stores, but also allowed same day pick-up (at no extra charge... just be sure you get there early). As the race was a little bit of a drive from my home, I opted for the race day pick-up and it only took me 5 minutes to get my bib and swag from the great race volunteers. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Since the race was being held at a local park (Mike Ward Community Park), they had the lot reserved for the runners, along with an overflow parking lot at a nearby church for the latest of late comers. T-SHIRT/MEDALS/SWAG While the Lexus LaceUp Irvine 10K/5K was a more intimate affair than some other races, they certainly didn't skimp on the swag. All participants received a cool black tech shirt (with the race location on the sleeve) and a stylish "honeycomb-esque" shaped finisher's medal (5K had green ribbons, 10K blue ribbons). FYI, an extra medal will be awarded everyone who completes all 4 races in the LaceUp Challenge. For the Irvine race, early arriving runners also got a little extra bit of swag as Sierra Nevada handed out bottle openers (a nice sign of things to come after the race). And Lexus was on hand giving out some sweet water bottles to anyone who stopped by their water table before or after the race. And the race swag was presented in a neat reusable shopping bag (which is great now that supermarkets in CA charge for bags), which was a nice touch. And the swag didn't end there as all runners were given "free" race photos for Facebook (and to download), courtesy of Runner Buzz. In this age of paying $30 for a single digital race photo, free pics of your sweaty self are a very welcome perk. COURSE The LaceUp Irvine 10K/5K featured "out and back" courses. While both races started and finished at the same spot in the park, the 5K and 10K each basically had their own unique courses, which kept congestion to a minimum. The courses for the race basically took runners along the bike/running paths near the park and ran us along one of the municipal waterways (of course we're in drought-ridden CA, so there really wasn't any water to speak of). While it wasn't an overly stunning course visually, I enjoyed the route. Fortunately, we never had to cross any city streets as the bike path dipped under the surface streets, which also added a few inclines and declines to an otherwise flat course. In addition, the race featured an "open" course, which meant we did share the route with non-racers (aka other runners/walkers and bikers) but it never really presented any kind of difficulty or bottleneck. COURSE SERVICES For a 10K/5K, outside of signs pointing the direction, you typically don't need too much in the way of course services. Signs and volunteers lined the course at key points to make sure runners didn't make a wrong turn. For the 10K, the race provided a water/energy drink/snack stop at mile 2, which also doubled as the stop on mile 4. On races of this length, I carry my own water bottle, so I don't need to stop. But I'm also sure to wave and thank the volunteers as I run by. And as for the important porta potty question, the race featured a good number of porta potties (actually pretty nice ones as porta potties go) at the start finish/area. The course, however, didn't sport any additional porta potties, so runners had extra motivation to finish quickly... should nature be calling. Mile markers signs were posted at each mile, but the only timer appeared at start/finish, so be sure to bring your own GPS watch if you need to track your progress during the race. Runners all had B-tags on their bibs, which provided you race results and info on-line after the race was finished. FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY As we crossed the finish line, runners were greeted by volunteers and handed their race medals. After that, runners could go visit the finish line area which featured a few tents from local vendors and a nice car display from series sponsor Lexus. I was curious to check out their great SUV, but given how sweaty I was, I opted to be kind and not take a seat inside one of the pristine vehicles. One final great race perk: each runner got free brunch food from one of three food trucks. I opted for a "stadium dog" from Dogzilla. And to wash it all down... how about a free beer from Sierra Nevada in the beer garden? Now most people wouldn't think that chowing down on a chilli dog and beer at 9am is anyway to start the day. But after running a 10K, it was a bite (and drink) of heaven. RECOMMENDATION Since I'm one of the Lexus LaceUp Series ambassadors, I naturally have a personal interest in the series. But I enjoyed the LaceUp race experience this weekend. Some races, especially bigger ones with several thousand participants, can be overly complicated and a bit stressful. I liked the low-key and intimate nature of this race. I drove to the location, easily parked my car, got my bib/swag lickity split and had a nice casual run with several hundred other enthusiastic racers. And afterward I got to chat with friends and have a beer and some grub before getting on with my day. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. Looking forward to running the next leg in the LaceUp series (Ventura) next weekend.

Review of MK5K & 10K Run/Walk by lipservice

This is a fun race for the entire family and the proceeds go to a GREAT cause!!!! It's a MUST Attend!

Review of Rock N Roll Marathon/Half Marathon - Las Vegas by Scott Devine

RACE: Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon DATE: November 16, 2014 LOCATION: Las Vegas, NV DISTANCES: Marathon/Half Marathon/Half of Half Marathon/5K START TIME: 4:30pm WEATHER AT START: 51° and sunny... colder when the sun went down. FINISHERS: 25,172 (Half Marathon)/ 3208 (Full Marathon) "Viva Las Vegas" everyone! It was a busy night in "Sin City" as almost 30,000 runners shut down the famed Las Vegas strip, gambling that they could finish the latest running of the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon/Half Marathon. REGISTRATION/EXPO Registration fees for Rock 'n' Roll races are definitely on the high side and Las Vegas is one of their most expensive ones (guess it costs a lot to shut down the strip). Waiting until the last minute you can expect to spend over $150 for the half marathon. Fortunately, Rock 'n' Roll offers numerous discounts online (including $13 off of races each 13th of the month). And there is another option as you can sign up for the North American "TourPass" (unlimited Rock 'n' Roll races in the US for $449 in 2015). I registered for the Las Vegas race courtesy of the "TourPass 3-Pack" for $199. My 3-Pack also included the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon (in July) and Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon (in October). It's a pretty good deal, basically giving you 3 races for the price of 2. Unfortunately I can't comment on the race expo as I didn't arrive in Las Vegas until 2 hours before the race. From what I heard from other runners, the expo was fairly sizable and presented a good variety of vendors offering up their goods. I chose to pay for same day bib/shirt pick-up, which was available for an additional $40. That's a bit pricey for a basic service; clearly the high cost was designed to discourage everyone except for seriously "time crunched" runners. Since I had races on both Saturday and Sunday morning in CA, I had no option but to agree to pay the extra fee because runners had to pick up their own bibs (no sending friends/family in your stead). MEDALS/SHIRT/SWAG The Rock 'n' Roll series typically has decent bling and shirts (the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon tech shirt was a miss) and they kept that "more good than bad" trend going in Vegas. Given that there is a "lil bit" of gambling going on in Las Vegas, it makes sense that the bling would celebrate our love of giving our hard earned money to the casinos. This year's medal featured an overlapping trio of playing cards: the 11 of clubs, 16 of hearts and 14 of spades, showing the date of the race (I'm waiting for some blackjack dealer to pull out the 14 of spades). The medal also featured a red ribbon and the various playing card suits (the full marathon had a black ribbon). And bonus, the medal also glows in the dark! The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas race typically has black colored tech shirts and this year is no different. The shirt features the well-known "Welcome to Vegas" sign mashed-up with the race's "We Run The Night" slogan. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING For those traveling to Vegas you're visiting the land of taxis, so getting around shouldn't be a problem. If you drove to Vegas, odds are you parked at one of the casinos/hotels where you're staying. Parking should be free (don't worry, they'll get that back from you at the tables). Another option is to use the Vegas monorail (get yourself a day pass and you'll be fine). Or of course you could just hoof it along the strip (think of it as a warm-up). Be warned that the start line (Mandalay Bay) and the finish line (Mirage) are a bit of a ways apart, so be prepared to trek either before or after the race. I stayed at the Luxor, so I had quite the walk in the cold after the race. COURSE (HALF MARATHON) The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon features a basically flat "modified out & back" course as runners make their way down the main strip. FYI, this is one of only two nights a year that the strip is closed to traffic (the other is New Year's Eve). Runners are gathered into 42 different corrals (a big field of racers) and start near the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Initially, runners head south to the outskirts of the city, hanging a U-turn shortly after the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign (great photo op set up there). After that, runners basically head back up the strip past all of the popular casinos (MGM, Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Treasure Island... just to name a few) as they make their way toward the older part of the town. I have to say that running down the main strip of Vegas is a pretty sweet experience (talk about sensory overload). And the throngs of cheering fans/"gamblers taking a break" make it even better. Around mile 7, runners leave the strip and weave through a bunch of nondescript Las Vegas side streets. This is definitely not the highlight of the race as the bright lights of the strip are temporarily gone and your only illumination comes from street lights and some temporary generators. The meandering backstreets eventually lead runners to Freemont Street, but unfortunately only the full marathon runners get to run down the famed boulevard. The half marathoners turn just shy of the street and instead make their way back to the strip. The final 3 miles retrace your route on the main Las Vegas strip, passing multiple casinos and hitting the finish line around the Mirage. SERVICES The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon had solid services before and during the race. They had a nice pre-race area, complete with live music to help runners get in the mood to pound the pavement (and an elevated VIP area for those who wanted to pay extra). Multiple water/Gatorade stops were situated along the route as well as plenty of medical tents/areas. And MarathonFoto was out in force snapping photos all along the way (and thank you for placing multiple photographers at the "Welcome to Vegas" sign). Mile markers were present on the course, although the only digital clocks were at the start and finish line (bring your GPS watch). And runner tracking was available for friends/family so they could leave the warm casinos (and slot machines) in time to cheer you on at the finish line. FINISH/POST PARTY The finish line area for the race was basically a cordoned-off chute along the Vegas strip. On the upside, runners were given a plethora of things upon completing the race... water, chocolate milk, Gatorade, Powerbar wafers, chips, fruit and the much needed mylar blankets given the dropping temperatures (I took two). Some plastic bags to carry the snacks might have helped, especially with runners sporting chilled fingers at this point. On the downside, given the huge number of runners, the chute felt increasingly cramped. Rather than dawdle, I grabbed my snacks and quickly made my way out of the finish area. There was a post party with live music, but to be honest I was simply too tired and cold to hang around and party. Instead, I made a beeline for my hotel and a much needed warm shower. RECOMMENDATION I've run the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon twice before, in 2010 when it was still a morning race and again in 2011, the first year it was run at night (and an unorganized disaster). It seems that Rock 'n' Roll has fixed many of the shortcoming of that original nighttime race. The current incarnation of the half marathon/marathon is rather enjoyable. This is definitely one of the larger (and pricier) races you'll run with over 25,000 finishers in the half marathon alone. Nighttime races are not the norm and that novelty alone is enough reason to give the race a try. And if you're a fan of Vegas, this gives you another reason to check it out. Also, if you're one of those hardcore racers who want to to run two races in a single weekend... or even attempt two races in a single day (which I did)... this is a great destination. Viva Las Vegas... and Run on!

Review of Rock N Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon by Scott Devine

RACE: Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon DATE: October 26, 2014 LOCATION: Downtown Los Angeles DISTANCES: Half Marathon/5K START TIME: 7:00am WEATHER AT START: 61°/ Partly Cloudy FINISHERS: 7762 (Half Marathon)/ 1264 (5K) This year marked the 5th running of the LA Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon as thousands of costume-clad Angelenos lined the streets near the Staples Center for a pre-Halloween romp through the city streets. REGISTRATION/EXPO As part of the Rock 'n' Roll series, registration costs for the LA Rock 'n' Roll Half tend to be on the higher side, but there are plenty of ways around paying out through the nose. Of course, first of all you can always pay as early as possible before rates go up. In addition, you could choose one of the group deals that Rock 'n' Roll offers, either the season pass or the 3-pack of races for $199 (the route I went this year). In addition, Rock 'n' Roll likes to give discounts through social media (check your FB page) and they typically run a $13 off special for all of their races on the 13th of each month. The expo for the race was held at the LA Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Convention Center parking was $10 and there are also plenty of nearby lots for you to choose from. I decided to stretch my legs a bit and parked a few blocks away, saving myself the parking cost and instead fed a meter for far less. The expo itself is a decent size, with plenty of vendors on hand for you to check out the latest racing gear, sample some of the running grub available or sign up for upcoming races. And once again, the main sponsor for this year's race was the ASPCA, so their paw prints were all over the expo as racers stepped up to show their support for our four-legged friends. NOTE: Runners had to pick up their own bibs; no exceptions. MEDALS/SHIRT/SWAG The LA Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon seems to have planted itself firmly on the weekend closest to Halloween, so "things that go bump in the night" have become an ongoing presence, blended with the series' Rock 'n' Roll theme. Racers voted for the medal this year (from three options), which features a guitar-riding witch sailing over the LA skyline complete with a giant spider web in the background. The design is a bit busy, but still a decent bit of bling complete with a Halloween-orange ribbon (yellow for the 5K). And the Rock 'n' Roll series does have additional bling for those people running multiple races this year, including the "Cali Combo" and their signature "heavy medals." Racers didn't get to vote on the tech shirt, which is a shame because this year's edition felt like a step backward from last year's cool design. The 2014 shirt is white in color (sorry, I'm just not a fan of white shirts... I feel it's lazy) and featured a gray muted mash-up design of musical notes, speakers, palm trees and a witch (remember, it's Halloween) overlaid by an orange-colored outline of the letters "LA." In my opinion, not one of their better shirts (give the racers a say next year, perhaps). Racers were also given a black drawstring backpack, which doubled as a gear check bag. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Since the race begins near the Staples Center, parking is not much of an issue (as long as you avoid the street closures) and racers can park at the convention center or one of the nearby lots. But be prepared to spend anywhere from $10-$20. I chose to take the Metrorail downtown, parking at the Universal City lot and grabbing the Red Line train to 7th Street (about 1/3 mile from the start area). Round trip only cost $3.50 ($1.75 each way, plus $1 if you need a TAP card) or you can purchase a day pass for $7. The trip for me only took about 30 minutes on the train, about the same as driving downtown and finding parking, plus it's pretty stress-free. COURSE The course was the same as last year, featuring a modified "Out & Back" route. Starting at the Staples Center you head south on city streets, looping around the LA Coliseum and making your way back past the Staples Center around mile 6. After that, you head north through the 2nd Street tunnel, along Figueroa and Flower before a back & forth across the popular 6th Street bridge and then back toward downtown and the finish. The course itself is mostly flat with the only true incline being on the 6th St. bridge (and you do get to run back down it). I once again had an issue with the length of the course, as it seemed to be longer than 13.1 miles (my GPS came in at almost 13.4). Be sure to cut corners as tight as etiquette allows and don't weave too much, if you want to make sure you don't add too much length. NOTE: Be aware that your GPS will almost certainly lose its connection during your two trips through the 2nd St. tunnel. Fortunately, my Garmin recalculated shortly after emerging both times. SERVICES LA Rock 'n' Roll typically has decent course services at their races. Plenty of porta-potties were on hand at the start line and there were adequate water/energy drink stops (Gatorade Endurance was the drink of choice for 2014) manned by energetic volunteers. Gu gels were given out around mile 9 on the course. I also saw plenty of medical tents along with support personnel cruising the course on bicycles. I did have an issue with one of the services, as I signed up for runner tracking (along with a friend or two) and no one received any text updates. Not sure if there was a ghost in the machine (remember, it's Halloween) system wide or just a glitch with mine. FINISH/POST PARTY Rock 'n' Roll races also tend to have good finish line/post race activities. After receiving my finisher's medal from a volunteer I made my way along the chute and received a decent array of snacks, including: water, chocolate milk, gatorade, tiny bags of snack mix and bananas. Once again, no bags on hand to carry our post-race bounty, but maybe they'll get it right next year. The post party was located near the exterior of the Nokia Theater and featured a stage with music and a Michelob Ultra beer tent (each 21+ racer got a ticket for a free post-race brew along with their bib). There were also a few other vendors around giving out some swag as well as Rock 'n' Roll tent where runners could grab some last minute race merchandise. RECOMMENDATION This was my second time running the LA Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and it felt very similar (not in a bad way) to last year's race. I enjoy the runners in costumes as well as the downtown course. And while there is room for improvement... better job on the shirts next year please, it's a fun local race, well-organized and one that I plan to continue on an annual basis.

Review of Star Wars Half Marathon by Scott Devine

RACE: Star Wars Half Marathon DATE: January 18, 2015 LOCATION: Anaheim, CA DISTANCES: Half Marathon/10K/5K/Kids Run START TIME: 5:30am WEATHER AT START: 52° and mostly sunny. FINISHERS: 10374 Half Marathon (Sunday)/ 9195 10K (Saturday) A long time ago (okay, it was early Sunday morning) in a galaxy far far away (aka Anaheim)... Half marathon runners were out in full "force" (sorry, been stuck on Star Wars puns all week) for the inaugural running of the Star Wars Half Marathon. When you combine my childhood obsession with Star Wars (I had every Star Wars toy, including Star Wars bed sheets) and my adult obsession of distance running into one event you get something that excites both the big kid and the eternal 8-year-old inside me. REGISTRATION/EXPO Over the years I've spent countless amounts of disposable (and non-disposable) income on Star Wars toys/collectables/memorabilia. Heck my mom once joked that if they sold tauntaun poop I'd want some (I would have). So, this was one race I was willing to spend whatever was necessary. And a good thing too because Disney race costs are really "out of this world" (sorry). Granted it wasn't quite as much as the 17,000 that Luke and Ben Kenobi paid for a one-way trip on the Millenium Falcon to Alderaan, but $195 ($208 once you pay the additional "whatever" fees) is a steep amount of republic credits to part with for a half marathon. Now in addition to the Half Marathon, runners could sign up for the 10K or spend extra and do both the 10K on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday (dubbed "The Rebel Challenge"). As for the expo, like the Disneyland Half Marathon and Avengers race before it, the Star Wars Half Marathon expo was held at the Disneyland Hotel (Thu- Sat). Parking at the Disneyland Hotel is typically $17, but costs were waived for 30 whole minutes (not enough time to get your stuff to be honest). Now, I have a feeling that they weren't enforcing that policy but if you want to play it safe, my advice would be to park at Downtown Disney where you get a 3-hour grace period. And that can be stretched to 5 hours of free parking with purchase/validation at one of the sit down restaurants. They do enough races at Disney that the expo runs like a fairly well oiled machine (or should I say like C-3PO getting an oil bath that feels so good). You get your bib in a dressed-up subterranean portion of the parking structure and then head up to the hotel for your shirt and gear bag. The expo had a decent amount of vendors showing off their latest wares, and if you stopped by the PRO Compression booth on Saturday you could have said "hi" to yours truly. NOTE: Runners had to pick up their own bibs; no exceptions. Disney races do have one additional component unlike other marathons/half marathons. People go nuts for the Disney gear. In fact people line up for hours for the chance to pay premium prices (okay, over premium prices) for the jackets/shirts/hats/pins/toys/whatever Disney is selling. In the past hoarders have bought up all of the merchandise on the first day (to turnaround and sell for profit on e-bay) leaving us latecomers souvenir-less. Things were a little better this year as they restocked the shelves somewhat each day. Unfortunately, the one item I wanted, a "Star Wars Half Marathon" pint glass, was long gone when I showed up on Saturday at noon. MEDALS/SHIRT/SWAG If you've run a Disney race before, you know that they love their bling big and shiny. When I first saw the Star Wars Half Marathon medal I have to say I was a bit bummed. It seemed very muted. But then it hit me and I realized its utter genius. The medal was basically a replica of the one given to Luke and Han by Princess Leia after they destroyed the first Death Star. Okay, that's pretty friggin' awesome (my inner geek was smiling). Oh, and the ribbon on the medal was brown with text and featured a pattern that kind of looked like Chewie's fur (did you ever notice that in Star Wars he didn't get a medal... no wonder he roared at the end). The medals for the other races, including the Rebel Challenge were fun bits of bling and lived up to Disney's usual standard. As for the shirt, I have to say I was a little disappointed with it... not because it's a bad shirt (a long sleeve grey Champion shirt with Chewbacca on it). Not at all. But it's more like one of those "other" shirts you tend to buy at races in addition to the free race tech shirt. And given the home run done with the medal, Disney missed an opportunity here. Hoping they improve on it for next year. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Disney offers you several choices when it comes to transportation/parking for their races. If you stay overnight at most local hotels, be prepared to see an additional parking fee on your bill. And most will provide some sort of shuttle service to get you to the starting area. But if you were like me and made the hyperspace trek down to Disney in the very very a.m., be prepared to part with $17 to park in one of the Disneyland structures. COURSE This was the third Disney half marathon I've run in the last 5 months and I was curious to see if the course was going to be something new or a rehash of Disneyland (in Aug) or Avengers Superheroes (in Nov). And happily it did feature some new twists and turns. On the upside, it was a better course than the Disneyland half. On the downside, it wasn't as good as the course for the Avengers race. The course for Star Wars had elements of both a looping and an out-and-back route. As with all of the Disneyland-related half marathons, the race started (and ended) near the Disneyland Hotel. Runners quickly made their way toward Disneyland park, including running through multiple "behind-the-scenes" areas. At 1.75 miles you made your way into the actual park for a run around various popular areas including Fantasyland, Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland and Tomorrowland (of course) before exiting the park and then running all through California Adventure. Star Wars characters were present should you want to catch a snapshot with Boba Fett or some stormtroopers. By 3.75 miles, however, your jaunt through the "happiest places on earth" was done. The rest of the race took you away from Disney, down a few main city streets and around various residential Anaheim neighborhoods before heading back toward Disney in the last few miles and concluding at the Disneyland Hotel. Those expecting another run through Angel Stadium (as in several other Disney races) were in for a bit of a shock as it was absent from this course. I'm not familiar with the neighborhoods around Disneyland, so this was quite a bit of new (if unremarkable) territory for me. As is the story with all of the Disneyland halfs, the course is very anti-climactic. Once you leave the parks by mile 4 (which are a lot of fun to run through), the rest of the course is really like any other city race and honestly quite average. SERVICES Disney does channel its inner Trade Federation with its high prices, but for that amount you do get some good course services. The pre-race area is well laid out, complete with water, porta potties, video screens and host. And once you make your way to the starting area/corrals you get a whole new batch of video screens and two hosts who are way too chipper for 5:00am. NOTE: Oh and a plea to the RunDisney pre-race organizers. Please skip the incredibly cheesy pre-race skits that included your hosts... they were quite painful for everyone to watch. There's so many cool Star Wars-related things you can do (showing movies clips was a good idea) that are way better than this. And while we're at it, claiming your Disneyland ambassadors were "special guests" was a horrific bait & switch. Instead of bringing out some coolStar Wars characters (or perhaps one of the films' actors) just before the start of the race, we were subjected to "punny" banter from two of the most annoying women you've ever met (and remember it was 5am and most of us runners hadn't had caffeine yet). Yup, that pair should have definitely been tossed into the Sarlaac pit to be digested over 1000 years. Disney's solid organization continued onto the course itself. Water stations were well-staffed with volunteers and there were plenty of aid stations. Photographers from MarathonFoto were afoot capturing images of everyone decked out in their Jedi and Sith costumes. And for those unable to make the race, they were able to follow participants with free runner tracking. Disney usually does a good job with their mile markers (some races just have a simple banner) and this was no exception, as they had large "lightsaber inspired" markers complete with digital read-outs. The crowd turn out was decent and a special shout out for the Cos-players who gathered en masse to grace the course later in the race. It was a lot of fun to suddenly witness a a huge cheering line overflowing with stormtroopers, Sith lords, X-Wing pilots, rebel supporters and Mandalorian warriors. FINISH/POST PARTY The finish area (which also doubled as the pre-race area) was designed quite well, which is in keeping with Disney's well-proven ability to manage crowds. Runners were greeted by volunteers with medals and then led off to areas for water, finisher's photos and pre-packaged boxes of snacks. I would have hung around longer but, unfortunately I had plans back in LA (a good friend's wedding later that day) so I was "forced" to make a hasty exit. RECOMMENDATION This was my third high-priced half marathon at Disneyland in the last five months and while they were all fun; they were also very similar. The courses changed a little over the three races, but all basically had the same major elements: Run through the two Disney parks. See the characters specific to that race. Wait in line and take pictures if you want. Then run a very pedestrian stretch of Anaheim. Finally, head back to Disneyland. It really felt like the same race three times over, just with different "themes." In August it was all pure Disney; November was Marvel super-heroes; January it's all things Star Wars. Again, a fun time but I can't see doing all three again in the same year (especially without some serious kind of price break that almost assuredly won't happen). Now if you don't have problem with repetition and have the extra disposable income (or if you just absolutely love anything RunDisney has to offer), then by all means do the trifecta (and don't forget Tinkerbell too... doest that make it a "quadfecta"). As for me, I'm going to pick the "theme" I like best, run that race and skip the rest. And while I love Disney and Marvel superheroes (although at heart I'm a DC boy), nothing trumps Luke Skywalker & Company. I'll expect to be part of this Podrace again come 2016. May The Force be with you.

Review of Orange County Turkey Trot by chspensley

I have run a Thanksgiving Day race every year for as long as I can remember with varying experiences. This race was once of the best. I ran Dana Point the last three years and enjoyed the event but the race almost becomes an all day affair with all of the events and the number of participants. I was looking for an alternative race and I found one in this gem of a race. Parking was plentiful ($5) but at least you knew you could park relatively near the start line. Pre race was solid until the very willing and helpful staff was overwhelmed by the vast number of last minute registrations. Because it was the first year of the event I am certain they were surprised as the number of participants doubled and hour before it started. All that considered and with a keen eye on the charity the race supports I think the fact that they didn't turn anyone away was amazing. I am certain there will be cut offs next year but I think the desire for a good alternative to the mass crowds at Dana Point will sell this one out quickly. Easily the best shirt I have received this year, also the friendliest staff. The pumpkin pie was also a very nice touch. I have read the previous reviews and found a few pans to be a little unfair to this event as it was only it's first year - This event was only hindered by minor logistics. The race was fast and fun and the swag was wayyy superior to Dana Point for a lot less $$.

Review of Skyborne Half Marathon by ashleyspotts

My favorite race to date. It was my second half marathon, & a wonderful experience. It was logistically difficult because all the average price hotels in the area are total dives & there are not many places to eat after. Coming from San Diego county, the drive is nice & not too long. The shirt we got is my go to long sleeve shirt:). All the swag was great! It was such a tiny race! Which I love. It felt intimate. The course is breathtaking. If you're looking for a unique landscape or love the desert, this is a MUST. We ran through the windmills, up to San Gregornio & all the surrounding hills. The sunrise was beautiful. The light broke through the hills like poetry as we ran. It started off cool enough then got VERY hot towards the middle-end. Train in the heat for this! It was well supported with GOOD tasting electrolytes & water. The volunteers were some of the nicest! It was nice T shaped course that was a little more interesting than a typical out & back because of the weird shape. All the miles were marked! Love that! It was mostly flat with some small sloping hills. I would definitely recommend this race. I hope to do it again myself!

Review of Ironman Arizona by RaceGrader

Ironman Arizona 2014, Race Day Report, November 16, 2014, Tempe, Arizona (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by Race Grader. My name is Judy Graham-Garcia. I am 54 years old and live with my boyfriend Adam in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a quintessential New England town about 30 miles north of Boston on Massachusetts’ beautiful North Shore, where I do most of my training. Our town is famous for Ipswich Fried Clams and Crane Beach/Crane Estate. I moved to northern New England from the deep South almost 10 years ago; I am originally from the small town of Belton, South Carolina, but had lived in Augusta, Georgia, for 15 years before I moved here. I have three grown children and two adorable grandsons. I love the sport of triathlon, but more than the actual races themselves (which I do enjoy), I love the training journey. Triathlon changed my live, I love the community of amazing people that I have met and befriended through this sport. I am proud to be an Ironman…again! Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) 2014 race morning, Adam (my Sherpa, my love, my ‘coach’ when I let him be) and I woke up at 4am. I was still sick but started feeling better on Saturday evening when my fever broke; I ran a very low grade fever for almost 24 hours. I never checked it but the advanced practice nurse in me knows it was there; my heart rate was elevated from normal about 30 beats per minute. My body was fighting it hard. What if I got sicker or still felt like this on Sunday morning, what in the world would I do? Only I can be sitting in the recliner on Friday afternoon, not even two days before the big race, and notice that I am congested---what the heck, then by 9pm be running a low grade fever. Probably viral---I know---but emergency Z-pack just in case (which is taboo, no antibiotics for viruses, but just in case…). Couldn’t breathe---nasal spray---medicine for fever. How in heck is this happening to me? I had been taking Emergen-C for two weeks to help prevent a cold---airplanes are petri dishes, and I am sure that I was immunocompromised from stress---the stress of traveling, and the stress of training, and the stress of the actual upcoming race itself. We were staying at Adam’s family’s vacation home in Scottsdale, Arizona, so we planned on leaving home at 445am to be in the parking garage at the race site by 5am. I had decided to wear my gray Coeur chevron kit; Coeur clothing is so very fashionable and comfortable, the chamois pads are perfect. I was disappointed that I could not wear my Kick Cancer Betty kit as I am a breast cancer survivor, and I have a friend undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer now---as well as other friends with various cancer issues, themselves or their families. I had lost almost 30 pounds since I bought that Betty kit, and the shorts just did not fit quite right anymore. I would still wear my pink Cancer Sucks socks on the bike, though! I pulled my gray B positive pants over my kit and put on my Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) Finisher’s (2011) jacket, my throw away socks, and my 2014 Boston Marathon Adidas flip flops that I love. I would be warm in this until the time came to don the wetsuit. Adam prepared my steel cut oatmeal and ONLY one cup of coffee---I needed to plan on minimizing bathroom breaks because I knew I would certainly have to stop, it is my history. He also made me three peanut butter and banana (PB&B) sandwiches---upon arrival to the race venue, I would place in my Bike Gear Bag to eat after the swim; the other two would go, one in each, in the Bike Special Needs Bag and the Run Special Needs Bag---these are bags that you drop off down by Tempe Town Lake (TTL) on race morning, and they end up at the halfway point of the run and on the return loop of the three loop bike course (and even though you pass the Bike Special Needs Bag more than once, supposedly you can access it only once). These are the bags in which you put anything you might need during your race---but do not include valuables, because there is no guarantee that these bags will be returned. This race morning, I also had prepared two Ziploc baggies of Honey Stinger Energy Chews (ONLY cola flavored) with a few salt/caffeine tabs added to the baggies, one baggie to put into my bike bento box (a small zipped box on the top tube of the bike frame) when I checked on Uga (my awesome ride) before the race, and the other in Bike Special Needs Bag to refill my bento box around the halfway point. I had everything but the kitchen sink in those two Special Needs Bags---extra socks, blister Band-Aids, Carmex lip ointment, Rolaids for my heartburn, Aquaphor ointment if my feet blistered, Tylenol, extra Electrolyte Fuel System (EFS) gel, handkerchiefs. I also had my Ironman issued Morning Clothes Bag that presently contained all of my swim gear---my sweet wetsuit that I adore, tinted Aqua Sphere Vista goggles [best things ever for open water swimming (OWS)], Aquaphor ointment for my underarms & neck; Carmex for my lips; one energy gel for 30 minutes before the swim; Rolaids for the last minute since I do have reflux and even though I took my Prilosec earlier, I can still get heartburn when I am horizontal in the water for 2.4 miles); ear plugs to help conserve body temperature during a cold swim and also to keep the lake water from aggravating me; throw away socks for my feet to stay warm until I entered the water; neoprene booties in case the water temperature was 65 degrees or less and I would be permitted to wear them; my neoprene swim cap with a strap; my Ironman issued swim cap; and my Timex Ironman watch on my right wrist. My race timing chip had been strapped to my left ankle since I picked it up on Thursday! Adam parked quickly and easily in the parking garage that was a block away from the US Airways parking garage. So many cars were waiting in line to enter the US Airways garge for race parking---he decided it would be better to walk the extra block than sit in the traffic. I could always jump out of the car and let him park if we were running late, but we were fine for time. I really had to go to the bathroom by this point, and any of my triathlon friends know that ‘I POOPED TODAY’ before a race is a great thing. I spotted three little blue houses by the finish line as we walked up to Ironman Village but two were still locked up; there was only one person in line for the open one so I waited. I went in, success, and then as I was preparing to get out of there, I heard a guard screaming at the other folks now waiting in line, Adam included, saying these potties were for the finish and were not open yet, that there were potties for us down in the race transition area. Whew---lucky for me---that was behind me, literally. I was set with the bathroom. Most everyone pees in their wetsuits---that I would do if the urge returned. I do NOT poop in my wetsuit as I have heard some folks do, I am not quite that competitive ---which is one reason I do not want to volunteer as a wetsuit stripper/peeler LOL just wear gloves like we do in the medical tent if you sign up for that job! When Adam and I arrived in Ironman Village, we parted company, with plans to meet up prior to the race start so that I could give him my phone. I first went to my Bike Gear Bag and added the PB&B sandwich so that I would have it in swim to bike transition (T1) following the swim. I knew that I would be hungry when I came out of that 2.4 mile swim, and I did not want to start a 112 mile bike ride hungry. Then I went to my awesome Uga in the transition area---I put the Ziploc bag of Honey Stingers and salt/caffeine tabs in my bento box (ensuring that the Ziploc bag was OPEN in the bento box so that I could reach in and just start eating---no time for opening bags on the bike!); double checked that my water bottles were still full (I had a new Torpedo bottle system on the aero bars and one frame cage with a bottle); then took Uga from her rack to have air added to her tires. For a moment, I was sorry that I did not have my own pump, but I was just too nervous to deal with borrowing one and inflating the tires myself. I knew where the Tribe Multisport Tent (plug here for Tribe---they rock! See them in Scottsdale for all of your race week bike needs!) was located in the transition area from the day before when I checked Uga in, so I went straight there for air---it was a lot less painful than I had imagined once I realized that I was in the line for mechanical issues rather than air and then got into the appropriate line. I returned Uga to her spot where she would wait until I picked her up following the swim, and then I needed to go to my Run Gear Bag and drop my eyeglasses off. I did not know if I would want my glasses on the run, but I wanted to have them just in case. Finally, it was time to go to body marking, don my swim gear, and drop my Morning Clothes Bag off in transition. Full distance Ironman races are a bit different than other triathlons in that you do not set up your transition areas for T1(swim to bike transition) and T2 (bike to run transition). When you come into transition, you have your bag waiting---you grab your respective gear bag and go to a changing tent. Next, I found the body markers and had 3213 written on my bilateral biceps and my age as of December 31, 2014, 54, written on my left calf. I should also add that I had my Cactus Buddies Facebook group temporary tattoos on my left bicep and my right calf; this is how we would identify each other out on the course. I then went to the wall by transition, found a place to park myself and my swim gear, which was still in my Morning Clothes Bag, and called Adam. He was able to make his way to the wall by me and I gave him my phone. No pictures, not even me. I listened for the water temperature announcement, and I knew then that I could not wear my neoprene booties since the temperature was 66 degrees; we had missed the 65 degree cutoff. I put on the bottom of my wetsuit, made sure my timing chip anklet was under the wetsuit on my left ankle (again, I had put it on my ankle on Thursday at Athlete Check In and had not removed it---definitely did not want to lose that!), then put my throw away socks back on. I applied the Aquaphor ointment heavily to my underarms and neck and pulled on my wetsuit. I love my Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuit. We have been through some crazy swims together. I made sure that the wetsuit was pulled up securely under my arms and that I had access to the zipper string on my right side; that string is there if you need to get out of the wetsuit. I put it under the Velcro closure at the nape of the neck so I knew right where it was. I had my Timex Ironman watch on my right wrist so that I could put my Garmin on the left when I transitioned for the bike. I set the Timex to the chrono mode so that I could time my swim. I then put Carmex all over my lips so that they would stay lubed for that long swim, and I put on my two swim caps. I put my goggles on top of my head and tucked my wax ear plugs under my sleeve so that I could hear announcements just until I jumped into the water. I always use a neoprene swim cap underneath my race issued swim cap as the cooler water temperatures can aggravate my right Trigeminal Neuralgia (irritates the facial nerve in my temporal/right forehead area and it can be very painful during a flare up); I was a little disappointed that the water temperature was only 66 degrees and not 65 or below as now I could not wear my booties. One of my friends thinks that the booties slow her down, but I love my neoprene booties, and I think that by keeping my lower extremities as warm as possible during a long cold swim, I do not cramp as badly in cold water. I tend to develop some wicked Charley horses during long distance cold open water swimming (OWS). (Don’t I sound like a New Englander??? Until I open my mouth---) I am so very thankful for the cold ocean water that is only four miles from our home (the temperature never increases over the high 60s), the ten buoys that are placed there from Memorial Day through Labor Day that provide me with excellent sighting experience, and the 20 dollars per year Ipswich resident pass to access beautiful Crane Beach!! I began my walk to the water after a goodbye kiss to my guy---no pictures again---yep, I know that is impossible for Judy not to take a picture---but I was nervous. Period. I must have cried a dozen different times. I now had full wetsuit over my Coeur kit, and I put my swim gear along with my sweats, jacket, and shoes into my Morning Clothes Bag so I would have warm clothes at the finish. It gets cold in the desert at night, and I knew that I would finish late---yes, finish---no time to think DNF (Did Not Finish). The Morning Clothes Bag drop off was easy to find right in transition; however, in retrospect, I could have saved myself some stress if I had known ahead of time exactly where it was located. I had given Adam the extra gear retrieval ticket which is issued at Athlete Check In, in case he got bored, he could put Uga in the car after 6pm when transition reopened for bike removal. I began my walk to jump into Tempe Town Lake (TTL) and swim to the start line, about 120 meters. I knew exactly where to go on the dock beside the Swim Medical Tent. I had been there on numerous occasions, working as a volunteer at swim medical, racing in my DNF year 2012, practice swims both race years, and simply exploring the venue. On my walk out of transition, I noticed an athlete ‘traffic jam’ and heard an announcement that the lake water level was low and, rather than jump into the lake from the dock, we would need to go to the stairs at the swim exit and enter from there. This was taking a little longer to get everyone into the water. I saw a sign in the spectator crowd that had Lindsay Jacobs name on it; the lady holding it looked like her; it must have been her mother. There was no time for hesitation getting into the water like there usually is when you enter from the dock. The stairs were crowded and once you got onto the stairs, you did not have the option of hanging out. I removed my throw away socks and tossed them up against the fence. My timing chip was in place under my wetsuit on my left ankle, I put in my ear plugs, double swim caps, strapped the neoprene swim cap across my chin---not my neck unless I wanted nasty blisters, goggles in place, and down the stairs I went. I jumped; it was cold. I swam off to the side, took some deep breaths, told myself to relax, and then began an easy swim out to the start just past the Mill Street bridges. The swim to the start was probably an extra 70 meters so not much at all, probably a total of 190 meters, just a little farther than the usual entry spot. I never saw my good friends Dan Maguire or Lindsey Jacobs that morning; I hoped that they were OK and actually I was a little happy that my nervous self was alone with about 2700 strangers other than my virtual friends, Dan, Lindsay, and a few participants I had met at Athlete Check In. I made the short swim to the start line, and wisely, decided to position myself about four sixths of the way back. I wanted out of the way of the fast folks but ahead of that last one six of the crowd that swims like I bike and run. So if you divided the swim start crowd into six parts, I was in part five out of six (I learned this strategy from a local Arizona coach). IMAZ is a mass swim start---a washing machine---you tread water once you reach the start line until the gun goes off---it is cold.---no, it is not---it could be---one year I worked in the swim medical tent and it was 59 degrees in the water---yep---in Arizona. You see, TTL is not a lake per se, it is a river, part of the Rio Salado (Salt River) with a rubber bladder, man-made, contained, the water is stagnant, non-flowing, and the air cools off a lot faster in the desert at night due to the low humidity---so the water cools off, too. I do not care if the afternoon high is 85 degrees---it is mid-November---and it gets cold at night, and it is an arid climate that I am not acclimated to---and the heat leaves the lake. For those triathletes that live locally or those that have the means to arrive in Tempe nine days before the race, 4 Peaks Racing hosts a swim on the Saturday morning eight days before the race. The longest distance available is 4000 meters which is a tad bit longer than the 2.4 mile Ironman swim distance but is perfect for a feel for TTL. Their swim course (Splash and Dash) is different than the IMAZ swim course, but it is the same cold murky lake! If the pH of the lake water reaches 9.0, the swim will be canceled because of the potential for, or actual, growth of blue-green algae. I reached the swim start probably ten minutes before the race began. I do not know what time it was and I was not going to look, I already had my watch on the chrono view, and I was not playing with it. It was ready to begin in timing mode when the swim started, so I would just have to tread water and wait patiently. There was a jet ski hovering right in front of me, and several folks were hanging on to it, rather than treading water. I was fine treading water, plus I had the added flotation from the wetsuit. I felt like the wait was much longer than it should have been. I remember looking back under the double bridges toward the stairs, and there were still a lot of pink and green caps waiting to enter the water. We must be starting late, but I never knew if we were or not, I never looked at my watch, and I would not learn until much later that night that we did in fact have a five minute delay; we began at 705am so the race would end at 1205am. This would become very important to my race later. The gun went off; the swim was on. It was a battlefield, and I was disturbed because I realized that I was a female in a green swim cap and not in pink like the other females!! Oh the things we tend to focus on in these races. I was hoping that World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) did not have my incorrect gender on my registration, I had already had registration issues and did not appear on the original bib list, and therefore I did not have my name on my bib. But my gender really did not matter anyway because I would never place in my age group, much less get a qualifying slot to Kona (any Ironman’s dream)---but the number of participants in each age group does affect Kona slot allocation, and I surely did not want to mess with that for anyone! I swam defensively---I always do in OWS events. I would not take anything for all of the experience I have gotten over the years by registering for every OWS that I can get myself into! We are very fortunate in New England to have so many choices. OWS is nothing like swimming in the lane of a pool. And TTL is not a difficult sighting venue if you have experience---until---the sun rises. The swim goes about a mile east and up the lake---wear tinted goggles---they definitely help. And follow the crowd. My goggles did great in the swim---no leaks, no pressure points---swim caps were fine. I had my neoprene strap across my chin, not my neck, so no rubbing---and I just swam, and swam---bilateral breathing, every third stroke, minimal kicking, into the sun. I spotted the left red turn buoy at about the one mile point, and left I went. There are yellow sighting buoys periodically all the way to the first red turn buoy; the course is very well marked. Left I went at the turn, the swim still crowded, everyone bunching up at the turns. I was face down and feeling for bodies with my hands---watching for bubbles as I could not see anything in this water anyway. I got punched, kicked, hit, and scratched. (Ladies & gents, be nice to your fellow triathletes and trim your nails!), swam over, pushed under, but not too badly because I fight back. A couple of times, I just literally had to swim away from annoying people---anyway, I made the left turn to head back west in the lake for the final long one mile or so stretch (the shape of the swim is a rectangle), and I swam, and swam. I was probably at about the 1.5 mile distance when I noticed how rough the water still was. I was perplexed and this becomes important later---but I observed that the crowd had thinned out---the faster folks were long gone, the slower ones were behind---there were not enough swimmers around me to make the water this rough??? I felt like I was in a choppy ocean swim---which I love---but it definitely slows me down. The Ironman swim cut off time is 920am (WTC imposes several cuts that you have to make by certain times throughout the day to continue). I have never really worried about making that swim cutoff---what I was most concerned about in this swim, or any long cold swim, was the potential for leg cramps to occur, especially at the last turn, and, the exit---the IMAZ swim exit deserves special attention. You have to climb up those metal stairs---the ones we went down earlier today to get into the lake for the swim start. It is an ordeal---at least in my mind---and now even more so with the low water level. The bottom step is up out of the water. So you have to pull yourself up onto the step. This is where I say thank goodness for three things. First, the swim clinic, sponsored by wannatri coaching, which was held prior to the 4000m OWS that I attended eight days before IMAZ---there, I learned that if I start kicking at the final turn buoy with about a tenth or so of a mile left, it will help get the blood flowing back through my legs that are vasoconstricted from the cold water and compression of the wetsuit. Second, the practice swim the day before the race---that is where I learned to pull myself up by the rail as I exited and put my butt on the bottom step, spin around, and pull myself to a stand. (I was sorely disappointed eight days earlier when I realized that the 4000m swim was on the opposite side of the lake, and I could not practice the stair exit. I guess I should read the ‘race details’ section more closely when I register for an event!!) Third, Volunteers---you just cannot say it enough---IMAZ volunteers ROCK! They are positioned on the stairs, several of them---once I had my butt on the bottom step; they pulled me right up and out! I almost cramped, as I usually do, but it was very mild---I got my bearings and land legs back on, and continued (2.4 miles is a long time to be horizontal and then to start running to my bike); I also was cold. I looked at the clock and the time was 1 hour 35 minutes 44 seconds, wow, I’ll take that, sort of where I was hoping to be, and definitely better than I expected in the rough conditions of today---AND, the amazing Mike Reilly gave me a shout out when I exited the water!! Thank goodness for wet suit strippers…as I ran from the stairs I had my arms and torso out of the wetsuit; I then chose one of the most distant (from the stairs) peelers and sat down very carefully, paying special attention not to fall out, for them to pull my legs out---I once fell flat on my butt and herniated my L5-S1 disc---I can’t do that again!! Wetsuit off---vertical again---made a special note that my timing chip was still on my left ankle and did not come off with my wetsuit---that is why I put it on under the wetsuit---had my wetsuit over my arm (in love with my wetsuit almost as much as my bike Uga!), swim caps and goggles in my hand, lost the ear plugs and did not care, and off running I went to grab my T1 Bike Gear Bag---it iss a ‘long run’, expect your T1 time to be doubled---and there was Adam standing up against the rail as I ran past!! As I ran into the Bike Gear Bag area, I was screaming out my race number to the volunteers, and by the time I entered the Bike Gear Bag area, there was my bag---I took it from the volunteer and headed toward the Women’s Changing Tent---it was the second tent just past the Men’s Changing Tent---do not go into the wrong tent---lots of naked bodies---LOL! As I approached the tent, I ran into the pottie, then came out and sat in a chair outside the tent---I did not need to go inside the tent to change since I would continue the bike race in my Coeur kit that I had put on at home earlier and wore underneath my wetsuit. As I sat outside in a chair, an awesome volunteer helped me put on my black shrug---maybe this wasted a little time, I do not know, arm warmers would have been faster but I wanted my shoulders covered too, it was cold out of the water, and I felt like I needed this for the first bike loop (first out of three loops, about 37 miles). It is just hard to get clothes on a wet body, even after I had dried them off a little with my Ariel towel that was in my bag. I got the shrug on my left arm, threaded it under my shoulder straps, then right arm. Then I turned on my Garmin so it would detect satellites and put it on my left wrist, I turned the right wrist Timex Ironman watch to time of day mode. Pink Cancer Sucks socks on each foot and bike shoes; liquid EFS gel in my pocket; solid orange, of course, Bondiband (another brand devotion) on my head, helmet, sunglasses; pink Betty sweat band on my wrist to wipe my nose (regardless of what the fellow says about them slowing you down and being extra weight---whatever!!); cycling gloves, yep I’m a nerd---and throw away gloves over those. I was dressed perfectly and quickly enough, I then ate a half of my PB&B sandwich, drank a bottle of water, and off I I had to run through the changing tent to get to the exit for bike transition, shouted out my number so that the volunteer could grab my sweet Uga, ran her to the Bike Mount line, T1 time was 10 minutes 40 seconds, though I did not know that at the time, I just knew that it was about 851am and Uga and I were off on a three loop, 112 mile bike ride, through the desert, and I was thrilled to be on Uga before 9am, out in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, a course I was fortunately familiar with---and NOT ‘flat and fast’, as some folks like to say! (Don’t let me hear you say that, it could be dangerous!) The ride out of Tempe is about seven or so miles until you hit the Beeline Highway; once you make that turn onto the Beeline, you climb gradually for eleven miles to the turn around and head back down to complete one loop. The last four of that out portion of the loop prior to the turnaround of each loop is a small grind. The ‘flat’ course actually has a total elevation gain of 2577 feet for all three loops combined. As I headed out from transition on Uga, I was so excited, I failed to notice something very important---WIND---crazy wind---now it makes sense---rough lake water---it was all adding up---I had not checked the weather forecast---at all---since Wednesday. I heard an announcement at Thursday’s mandatory Athlete Meeting that I attended (the first of three that you can choose from, there were two more on Friday) that the weather for race day looked perfect with no wind. I just took that for granted. I was just thinking how thankful I was that the air temperature was cooling off; 85 degrees would have been hot for cycling in the afternoon when the sun is at peak, I do not care how dry and non-humid it is!! What I did NOT know was that along with the temperature drop in the desert down in the valley comes---the dreaded desert crosswinds! As I headed out onto the bike ride, I saw Diane Jackson sitting alongside the road watching the race and that distracted me for a minute; but after I went on for a few miles and made the turn onto Alma School Road, only six or seven miles into the course, a pancake flat leg, and my speed was only 10mph---seriously??? How could this be? Where did this wind come from? I started thinking---Adam and I had not even discussed the weather. I had avoided my Cactus Buddies group since earlier in the week because the race chatter was stressing me out. And even though I had met up with them Saturday morning before the practice swim for a group picture, I did not hear any weather discussions. Weather---me the weather stalker, for any race I do---ignorance is bliss---how did this happen? And what did it matter anyway that I did not know to expect the wind?? It did not matter---I turned onto McDowell Road and the wind force decreased---good---maybe it is just that one road. HAHA fat chance---then I was on the infamous Beeline Highway---wind in my face---bad wind---all the way to the turnaround in Fountain Hills---10mph---dig in---hard to eat and drink---last four miles out, grind---8mph---really? How could this be after I had gotten so strong training on the Computrainer? I only hoped I could make up this time on the return---since it is a descent. The return was fast---crazy fast---30+mph---wind bouncing poor Uga around---could not stay aero---afraid---held onto handle bars for dear life---no eating and drinking---but I finished the first lap in one piece---getting warm now---need to take off shrug---will stop at the bike aid station that is on the way out on each loop. I saw Adam as I was coming in on loop one and screamed out that the wind is horrible---he replied, what wind?!?! (I later learned that his reply was actually, It is a Northwest wind---however, as I soon would learn, that wind would only become worse as it moved from the Northwest to the Northeast). I saw Aaron from Tribe at their mechanic tent at the turnaround and yelled hi to him. Then back out on the second loop. Same wind---shucks---only worse---yep---worse---is that possible??? Why yes, it is happening---brutal---stopped at mile 40ish aid station and voided, removed shrug, filled water bottles (the volunteers did), talked briefly to volunteers---two young girls wanted to know how old I was LOL then off into the wind I went! Second loop---gradual climb going out the Beeline---shoot me---running nose---Uga jumping---giving it my all---wiping my nose on my wrist sweat (to the guy who said it adds extra weight POO POO I need to wipe my snotty nose). On every loop, there was a smell---it smelled like potties. It was after the aid station so I knew it was not our potties. It soon occurred to me that it was the landfill where I had flatted last weekend; the wind was blowing so hard that it was blowing all the stink around from the landfill! I continued pushing hard through the wind up the climb, got to make it back down to begin the third bike loop by 3pm---Ironman rule---no exceptions, not even by one second---go Uga go---do not want to get pulled from the course---plenty of time---I think---maybe ---yes---I will make it up on the return leg. Finally, at the crest for the turnaround---mile 56---halfway there---wondering if my friends that are tracking me will realize that I am really faster than doubling the first half time would indicate, as the first half consists of two climbs going out and one returning descent whereas the second half consists of two returning descents and one climb going out the Beeline---very good for me to know that the second half will be faster---boom! I was still able to do math---second return---wind completely out of control---totally afraid to let go of handle bars---decided to stop at Bike Special Needs, void, drink and eat half of my PB&B sandwich. That is where I met some awesome folks! They were amazing there at the Bike Special Needs station, and my bag was at the far end. As I approached, I shouted out my race number, the volunteers called it out down the line and boom, there was the bag, and the sweetest ladies (who I later found on Facebook!!!!) who had my bag ready, helped me with my sandwich, took my picture eating my sandwich with one of them, and told me that they had accidentally called out my number beforehand and had been waiting for number 3213 HAHA!! I whined about the wind, and off I went again on this crazy descent. I finished the second loop in plenty of time to beat the 3pm cutoff for the bike---I think it was around 230pm or so, and then back out into that darn headwind I went again for my third and final loop. I was so over it, I just prayed that I could make it to the Fountain Hills turnaround by the next cut/course sweep of 415pm. I stopped at the same bike aid station where I had removed the shrug on the second loop (close to mile 80 now), saw Lindsey Jacobs but could not give her a hug as I dared not lose my place in the pottie line---refilled my bottles---did not see the girls again that were curious about the old lady’s age at my last stop, they must have ‘changed shifts’ LOL---and back into the wind…just ready to hit that turnaround at the top of the Beeline. Somewhere along this stretch, another Cactus Buddy came up beside me and cycled along with me for a few minutes; she told me that the wind had been predicted by a meteorologist that belongs to our group---information that I missed by staying off of Facebook group for a few days, probably for the better. It is also at this point in the race where you start seeing the same people for many miles---all of us were doing the same pace, exhausted from the winds, and passing each other back and forth. It gets very aggravating at times. I made it up to the turnaround at 355pm, 20 minutes to spare before that 415pm cutoff---and now, my next point of concern per Ironman rules, I needed to be off the bike by 530pm. I have got this---unless I crash---unless I flat---unless a dog gets me---unless unless unless. There were flats everywhere I looked---folks---there are cacti in the desert---quills blow---onto the roads---and they were really blowing on this day in this crazy wind. Get Gatorskin tires and inject sealant into your tires---invest the extra money---you have already invested a small fortune to get to this point, so why not??? What I remember most about my final descent---other than the crazy fast speed and the wind, was the large number of cyclists climbing the Beeline up their third loop that could not possibly make the 415pm time cut---made me sad---very sad---it was a lot of people---trucks waiting to pick up the bikes---police picking up cones---preparing to open roads back up---boohoo---but I should be OK on this leg---SHOULD! Finally, I was back in before 5pm---boom---now, I had seven hours left to change clothes and run/walk a marathon---I got this! I hope---but lots can happen over a 26.2 mile run/walk after a long day of swimming and cycling. So do not get too overconfident at this early point. Nutrition plan was dead on my goal---I felt good---a little tired from being beat by the wind but pretty good! Now, I just needed to make the run cutoff points---Ironman rules include a midnight race cutoff---period---not one second over---17 hours is the maximum time allowed, and the race is over. I was back in bike to run transition (T2) by 5pm, (my total bike split was eight hours seven minutes 30 seconds, which I did not know at this time) simply thrilled that I had 7 hours remaining to change clothes and complete the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. I took a Celebrex; yes I did; it was 100 mg and I had taken one in the morning; the maximum daily dosage is 200 mg. I was fine; just wanted to do anything I could to prevent any potential inflammation. I decided to remove my Coeur kit bottoms and put on my Mimosa Sparkle Skirt. Sparkle Skirts had pulled me through a lot of marathons in the past couple of years, so I was certain that the time lost in changing into a Sparkle Skirt would be worth the comfort gained by having on fresh bottoms! I left the Coeur kit top on, grabbed my long sleeve Clemson Tiger Paw shirt and tied it around my waist; donned my running shoes, that of course still had the four charms and two wings that Adam had determined to be of negligible weight (you HAVE to know my boyfriend!), grabbed my Bondiband, IMAZ visor, Tylenol, Carmex, Clinique orange lipstick, yes, true story, at every race, usually in my bra, but this time in my pocket; Aquaphor, Rolaids, orange handkerchief, eyeglasses, and off I went. Oh, and I had a super sweet volunteer who helped me change in T2; she was amazing. I wish I knew who she was! I did not care about my Garmin anymore---I do not know why I did not take it off---I never looked at it once on the run---it just aggravated me, and I almost threw it down on the ground. It was not accurate on the bike. I did, however, care very much about my little Timex Ironman watch with the interval timer. This brand/style watch was my first running watch ever when I started ‘Gallowaying’ back in 2003. I trained for my first marathon ever with former Olympian Jeff Galloway’s program in Augusta, Georgia. I had my watch set for the marathon leg on run:walk intervals of 4:1---Jeff would tell me that, based on my pace, and the fact that I just rode my bike 112 miles, this is too much running. I probably should have been at 1:1---but I did not want all of the starting and stopping, it gets to be tough on my knees, hips, and back. I did most of my marathons at 4:1 so that was the pace that was in my brain, though. And anyone that has ever done an Ironman understands the significance of the mental component. I headed out on the run, and how well I know that there is a lot of concrete on this run. It is a two loop course around TTL, and a lot of it is on sidewalks. There are several places where the terrain changes and you run onto dirt and asphalt, but there is a lot of concrete. And concrete is hard---pounding on concrete generates a lot of forces through your bones, muscles, and joints, and especially through your spine. This was my only concern about making a revenge attempt at this particular Ironman---not the distances involved, but the impact of the concrete on my back. There were a lot of spectators when I headed out on the run; it was about 5.06pm; I think I saw Jeff from Tribe as I headed out of transition. As I began my long trek around the lake into the sunset, I was so happy---off my amazing bike, folks everywhere cheering us on, and out to the concrete I went. I do not know why, but I was surprised to see the Run Special Needs station very soon into the run. The run is a two loop course around TTL, & I knew it would be located about halfway; so it made sense I guess that this was where it should be located, but at that point I was like whatever, I did not really want my sandwich yet. Who knows why I was so confused about seeing it there within the first mile; I had been out there for a long time. I felt like my nutrition was still dead on, and there would be a lot of nutrition on the run course at every mile. I had my EFS liquid shots on me, and other than feeling a little thirsty, which I know is an important cue/indicator, or maybe even symptom, I felt good. After a couple of miles, running with 4:1, I noticed that my neck and shoulders were really sore from the bike. That was a rough bike ride; the wind beat me up. Even with all of my wind training---my hands were tired of white knuckling the handle bars---sort of like driving a car in a Boston blizzard or South Carolina thunderstorm. My eyeglasses were annoying me, so I took them off and put them into my front zipper pocket. I also saw Adam somewhere in this early stretch, at about mile three to four; I really do not remember where, I just remember that he had his camera in selfie video mode and he held it up and told me to say something and I was like hey to my friends, kiddos, not really sure what I said, but I just remember I wanted to get going, and I wanted him to go find a bar and watch football. The Patriots were playing the Colts at 630pm AZ time, and Adam is a very passionate Pats fan; there are some really cool restaurants and bars along Mill Avenue across from Ironman Village, so I knew he could find a sweet spot to chill. That is a plus about having this Ironman right by the Arizona State University campus! At this point, I did not know, of course, that I would not see Adam again until the finish line, but it was probably best, because even though I was nice to everyone that encouraged me along the way, I may have been a spitfire with my boyfriend in the latter miles---funny how we do that with those who love us most!! I decided to change my interval timer on my Timex Ironman watch to 2:1---this 4:1 wasn’t working; I was walking every hill/incline, geez they seemed like mountains, and they were not big hills. The volunteers at the aid stations were amazing; I saw the Super Heroes station where Adam and I had volunteered in 2013. One of the Mesa, Arizona, bike shops had a bacon station; I love bacon but I passed it by---it did, however, bring sweet memories of my Endurance Sports Connection friends which kept my mind occupied for a few minutes. Many of them were in Las Vegas running the marathon or half marathon at the same time that I was now out here running. By this time the sun set and it was dark and, of course, without the sun, the desert starts cooling. I guess I was colder than I realized, but I didn’t put on my long sleeved shirt yet. I got a lot of compliments on my Sparkle Skirt. The Tylenol pills were shaking in the container and one girl told me I had sparkles and jingles. I couldn’t respond LOL! I also had a headache---not a dehydration type headache but I felt like my headband and visor were squeezing my head. First I removed the visor and hung it on my race number belt; then I also took off the headband and stuffed it in my pocket---another plug for Sparkle Skirts---pockets for days, and the shorts do not slip. My hair was everywhere, but I had an elastic hairband around my wrist, so I pulled it back. I decided I would put the visor on within the last mile of my run so that I would have it on for the finish. The run aid stations were all well stocked with water, electrolyte drink, potato chips, pretzels, cola, chicken broth, gel, gel chews, fruits, and who knows what else. I took random stuff; I figured if my primary fuel on most of my long bike rides had been a lobster roll, then what could it hurt! I had my own gel; I mostly took their water, electrolyte drink, and cola. I think I only had chicken broth once when I got cold. I love cola at this point in a long day/race. I had my own salt tabs too, with caffeine. I did not know if I needed them. BASE salt tabs had a booth on the course; they rock!; but I was not sure if I should take theirs since I had my own, so I passed them by. But one of their guys did walk quite a ways with me on the second loop and for that, I am forever grateful. There are amazing people in this world and triathlon community; he is one of them. Miles ten and eleven were especially emotional for me because that is the point where I developed chest pain after becoming severely dehydrated and had to drop out of this event two years ago. I had made it past the devil; I could do this. I made it to the halfway point; I needed to be starting the second loop by 9pm, and I was fine. It was about 830pm. The next checkpoint was at the twenty mile marker by 1030pm, so I needed to cover 6.9 miles within a couple of hours. Unless I croaked, or developed cardiac issues, this would be manageable. I stopped at Run Special Needs, shouted out my number and that the bag had Clemson Tiger Duck Tape wrapped around it, and right away, the volunteers had my bag---smart way to tag your bag and make it easily identifiable among almost 2700 black bags! I grabbed half of my PB&B sandwich, and off I went. I did not need anything else in the bag. No blisters at all, I could not believe it. I continued on from those awesome volunteers, 13.1 miles to go---I could do it---how many times have I ran 13.1 miles. I just hit my 100 lifetime half marathons mark in September at the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival Half Ironman, which, by the way, is an amazing local (to New England) event in Southern Maine directed by an Ironman triathlete, Kat Donatello, who also raced at Ironman Arizona this year! And I had just ran my fifty-fifth marathon/ultra this year, too, I’ve got this---but I could hear my sweet Daddy saying to me, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” (we were part-time egg farmers back in the day!) I continued on after the halfway point with my half sandwich. It was good. I was hungry. I also noticed that now, rather than my shoulders and neck bothering me, I was getting lower back discomfort. I knew exactly what it was---it was the arthritis I have in my lumbar region in my facet joints. I know that pain. I know when it becomes inflamed. And it was beginning to bother me---a little---but this is not new for me. I took two Tylenols---probably like spitting in the ocean, but I took them. I could not take any more anti-inflammatories---I already had taken 200 mg Celebrex today, and I certainly did not want to blow out my kidneys or even further increase my already present risk of hyponatremia that is there simply because I am slow. This happens, sometimes my back bothers me, I have not had my back injected in over a year, and I have been stable, doing fine since a fall on my rear in 2010 that really threw me for a loop. Then, the next thing that really jumps out at me along my journey was mile sixteen. Somewhere around mile sixteen, I saw myself in a shadow under a street lamp, and I looked a little tilted to the left. Denial is a wonderful ego defense mechanism because my internal response to my shadow was, no you are not tilted, and it is just the angle of the light on my shadow. Ok, on I went. Got to get to mile twenty by 1030. I got this---I made it, I think around 1015. After mile twenty, I knew I was uncomfortable, but how many 10Ks have I ran, I will get it done. And I kept going. And I kept getting a little more uncomfortable. But not too bad, no symptoms other than arthritic discomfort and yes, I had a muscle spasm in my back. It was controllable. Mile twenty-three at 11.01pm, just a little over a 5K left---some guy came up to me and told me what pace I needed to maintain to finish, I think he said nineteen minutes per mile, but who knows. It was also around this time that I heard from someone on the course that the official finish time will be 1205 am since the race did not start until 705am because of the delay starting the swim with the low water level. I will say here that I have a prescription for a muscle relaxer, baclofen. But I only use them for extreme situations if I know my back is beginning to spasm. I have not taken one in a while. I never have run with them. They alter my mentation and make me very sleepy; I can only take one at bedtime---so no, I did not have them on me while I was running. It never dawned on me to take them with me. Well, all I can say was from mile twenty-three to twenty-four, my spasms got worse---and by mile twenty-five, I literally had to push with my spasmed muscles on the left to try and straighten up toward the right and keep moving. I was walking a lot. I had to void but knew I could not stop at a pottie again. I had probably already stopped three times on the run but very quick stops; the last stop, I was in such a hurry I peed all over my pretty Sparkle Skirt. I love running in the cold dark with a wet urine smelling skirt. I will just say that at this point, mile 25, was the first point in the entire race where DNF entered my mind---the real and very probable possibility. I decided that I would not enter the finisher’s chute if I could not finish. I did not want a medal for almost finishing. Finishing an Ironman meant finishing sub seventeen hours, and that was the only way I would cross that finish line and accept anything. I really could not believe that this was happening to me after such a long, tough day out there. I cannot mention every person I encountered during these last two miles, many of them have found me on Facebook from the videos and our most amazing Cactus Buddies group, but what stands out was---there was a girl, I think in a purple shirt. She walked with me awhile---I was ‘running’---her walk was faster. I remember thinking a couple of times that I wished she would be quiet---but in retrospect, she knew I was in danger of not finishing. She was relentless---she kept on with me---maybe at least for a half mile. She told me, I have to leave you to go check on my athlete who is just ahead of you, but I will come back and check on you. I never saw her again, but that is OK, what she did for me in those few minutes is immeasurable. Then there was a man---I remember leaning over on him---I could not go on, and then I asked him to leave. I was maintaining my forward movement, but at this point, was so close, yet so far away, because of my back spasms. So on I went, at this point, very, very crooked. The spasm was uncontrollable and I could not maintain my pace, and I was within a half mile of finishing. I do not think I have ever looked at my watch so much, but I did not know where my watch time was in relation to the official Ironman clock---was it off by two minutes, one minute??. I took the time to put my visor on but never put on my lipstick---imagine that, me?!? Then there was the guy following me down the road in his truck. He was to my right in the open lane. He thought I was going to croak. I must have been a crazy sight. Then there was the four minutes remaining on the clock guy. I know now who he is. He was in my face---tough & stern---he may have been the one who told me I was going to DNF if I did not do something to keep going. And then there was the two minutes left on the clock guy(s)?---I think that may have been the timers that you see running in at the start of my finish line video. They were screaming at me to go. Somebody was with me---I have no idea who it was---and the next thing I remember is whoever this person was walking with me said, I have to leave you now but you are in the finisher’s chute, and Mike Reilly is coming to get you! And I rounded the corner and thought about where Adam was and if he was seeing all of this craziness and how glad I was that he had not been out on the run course. And lights, blinded by lights, and music---loud, and lots of people banging things on the chute, and there was Mike Reilly, saying my name and age, and he took my arm and told me I had 45 seconds. I just remember looking up at the clock, like wow---this is too crazy, and a lady ran up to me, at the time I did not even know it was Meredith Kessler who had earlier won the Ironman female race. And then I was finished, and Mike Reilly leaned over to my crooked level as I was ready to go down to the left, and he said, Judy Graham-Garcia, You Are An Ironman! And the lady put the medal around my neck. And I heard a guy say we are medical, and he took my left side from Mike Reilly, and they wrapped me in Mylar blankets. I was done, I had made it by twelve seconds, I was the LAST OFFICIAL FINISHER. And then I saw Adam---he had been at the finish, he ran around to me. I was in a wheelchair with three medical guys. The one that helped me get my official finisher photograph also found me on Facebook. I wanted that picture; he asked me if I wanted the picture and I was like duh heck yeah!!! LOL! Anyone who knows me knows that I love my pictures. They pushed me in the wheelchair to the photography backdrop and helped me up; one of the guys had my left side and he stood me there, still holding me, and I said just be in the photo with me, he said no it is your picture. He said get in place and brace yourself for the picture and I am going to move away quickly and you will be standing on your own. He asked the photographer to be ready to snap. I stood there, slightly tilted, and I heard click, click, click. I just remember seeing Adam and the look on his face, disbelief with the entire situation, like the deer in the headlights look. I sat back in the wheelchair, already feeling better. The medical guys insisted on going by the finish line medical tent and I said fine, my friend Dr. Dave Carfagno is the medical director, and I would love to see him and let him know I finished---last. We took some pictures and talked briefly about my back; I just wanted to go home, and I knew I had muscle relaxers at home. Adam pushed me to the car, and we returned the wheelchair on our way out. By the time we got back to the condo in Scottsdale, I was able to stand myself up out of the car and go in and shower. We were back ‘home’ in about 50 minutes after I finished the race. Adam had already picked up Uga and my gear bags, and they were packed in the car when I finished. I probably should have eaten more when I got home, but I did not have a huge appetite. I just wanted to drink fluids and had already drank chocolate milk. It was all over, I had reached my goal. Sweet redemption. I was an Ironman X2! The morning after Ironman was a whirlwind. I found out very early from one of my daughters that my friend Lisa Rohr had posted an amazing finish line video that she had pulled from livestream. There were other videos out there. A lot of East Coast family and friends that fell asleep before I finished saw the videos. A lot of my East Coast friends were awake when I finished, whether retired, insomnia or nursing babies, there were a lot of middle of the night congratulatory remarks on my Facebook page! I was overwhelmed with all of the support, it was amazing, but all I wanted to do was get down to Ironman Village and buy an Ironman Arizona Finisher’s Jacket and find out if I could retrieve my Bike Special Needs and Run Special Needs bags---those are the two bags without guaranteed return, so I was careful not to include anything that I was unable to part with. However, I did have some socks; blister Band-Aids, and other items that if I could get back, would be great. Adam loves seeing the awards ceremony and Ironman Kona slot allocations for the most talented athletes, so we walked down to the awards ceremony. Lo and behold, there I was, on the video jumbotron, crossing the finish line, crooked, with Mike Reilly and Meredith Kessler. Mike Reilly, of course, as emcee of this Monday morning awards ceremony, announced that his voice was suffering on this post-race morning because of all of the ‘You Are An Ironman’ chants to the finishers, but especially to the last two ladies that he was screaming at---I said, that was me! I spoke with him after the ceremony and offered my most sincere, heartfelt appreciation for his support of me at the finish line, then had my picture taken with him. It truly was a defining moment in my life. Adam and I found my two Special Needs Bags; the second halves of the PB&B sandwiches were still in there LOL! Better to have and not need it than to need it and not have it. We waited in line to get into the merchandise tent. And there were no finisher jackets left, but I did learn that more were ordered. But just in case, I bought a very pretty purple finisher’s fleece that would be perfect to wear to the Purple Out Military Appreciation Day Clemson Football game on Saturday!!! Everyone who knows me well, or not so well, knows that I love Clemson. I LOVE CLEMSON---everything about it---but especially, as much as I hate to admit it, Tiger football. I graduated from Clemson---in 1988, the 10 year plan---yep---they gave me a second chance---after I dropped out in 1982 (the year I should have graduated), they let me return in 1986 with my first two children, one and two years old. And I graduated. Sort of like Ironman Arizona---back this year for unfinished business from two years ago---and I finished---I worked hard to finish at Clemson and at Ironman, and I love them both. So, what else could I have possibly crossed the Ironman Arizona finish line wearing, other than orange, and my Clemson Tiger Paw shirt?!?! Finishing an Ironman triathlon was a dream come true for me in 2011 at Lake Placid. I love seeing motivated triathletes take on this challenge. It is a huge commitment---temporally, financially, physically, and mentally. I wish that all of my friends who have this dream achieve it---but respect the distance. Do not minimize the effort that it takes to make it 140.6 miles within seventeen hours. Make sure you have the full support of your family members; relationships can and will suffer if this understanding is not up front and supported. If you train properly, you will miss social activities, training will probably become your lifestyle. But what a reward finishing an Ironman is, and not just the finish, but the entire journey! I guess the only other thing I should add is that I have decided that it is best if I put this distance behind me and be happy with two finishes. I do not ever want to go through another DNF again. Every year since 2012, I have entered the Kona lottery. I have spoken at length with Adam about what I will do in March 2015 if my name is selected in the drawing. I decided a few days ago that I think I will email World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) and ask them to remove my name from the lottery. The 70.3 distance a couple of times a year, and Olympic distance, is good for me; that is where I need to focus and improve. I had often hoped along my training journey that I could keep this up and get stronger and do an Ironman in a new age group. I thought about doing Ironman Maryland next year. But that is OK, I am happy, I did what I never in my life ten years ago would have thought possible. I am an Ironman. Times two. And, I am a Final Official Finisher, too!

Review of Temecula Wine Country Half Marathon by ashleyspotts

This was my first half marathon, and the experience could not have been better. The t shirt was lovely & the swag good. The whole course was stunning beyond words. Hot air balloons rose as we began. The mayor spoke at the start which was really, really neat. The pacers were on target & so helpful. The course was lovely. It was easy enough for a beginner, but still with hills for some challenge. We passed all sorts of beautiful homes, yards, vineyards, & many animals! It was quiet & peaceful. Weather was very nice for that time of year. It was well supported with aid stations, first aid, & porta potties. It was a moderate crowd which was nice. We weren't running over eachother, but it was well loved. Looking back after having done a few half's now, people seemed so generally happy to be at the race. It was mostly women...Maybe that's why. There was a neat comradery. Post race was nice. The complimentary wine & glass was awesome! There was band & some good booths. Only thing that was not great was the shuttle service back from the race. We waited forever & it was not clear where we were being picked up. Would HIGHLY recommend.

Review of Lake Forest Chamber 5K Elf Yourself by drecio01

Super fun and festive, family friendly! A great community event with great after race expo. Lots of good giveaways and food!

Review of Veterans Day Run - San Diego by mariemadeline

This race was by far the most unorganized race I have ever done. I participated in the race on November 8, 2014, but this listing if for last year's run. They did not give clear driving directions, and there was not enough parking for the runners. The post race was very lacking and the race crew was not very helpful when asked any questions. They advertised that the race was chip timed, and I had asked if there was a time limit, but they told me there wasn't. They did, however, stop recording race times at 45 minutes, even though there were still some participants that had not completed the race, and I was one of those participants. I e-mailed and messaged for 4 days, but received no response of any kind. I will never participate in a race organized by Race Operations, Inc., also known as Heavenly Racing. This company has an F rating at the BBB for not responding to any complaints. Stay away!

Review of Los Angeles Marathon by Scott Devine

RACE: Asics 2015 Los Angeles Marathon DATE: March 15th, 2015 DISTANCES: Marathon (Sunday)/5K (Saturday) LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA START TIME: 6:55am (moved up from 7:25am) WEATHER AT START: 69° and hot. FINISHERS: 21,589 (12,569 Men/9,389 Women) (Updated from 2014 Review) Hot! Hot! Hot! Mother nature seemed to take the spotlight at the 30th running of the Los Angeles Marathon. The 2014 race was one of the warmest on record and this year’s edition seemed hellbent on breaking that mark. A week before the race, the 26,000 participants learned the awful truth. We were going to apparently be running a marathon on the surface of the sun. As a result, the focus of the race race became more about “the experience” than going for fast times. And big kudos to the race officials for taking steps to minimize the heat’s impact. For starters they sent out numerous e-mails telling runners about the impending heat and how to best prepare. In addition, they increased the course support (improved water stops) and even moved the start of the race up 30 minutes in order for runners to get a few miles in before the heat hit. I have a feeling the marathon start time will permanently shift earlier. As it turns out, some lingering cloud cover helped shave a few degrees off of the temperatures, but it was still one of the hottest races I’ve ever run. And now the rest of the info… REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration costs for the LA Marathon are pretty standard for a big city race. And since the race sold out again this year (about a week before race day), it’s wise to purchase your spot early, lest you be relegated to being a spectator. Packet pick-up for the race was at the marathon expo located at the LA Convention Center. The LA Marathon has one of the better expos out there and it’s worth stopping by to check out the vendor wares and freebies. One little tip, rather than shelling out $15 for expo parking or similar costs at one of the nearby lots, just drive 3-4 blocks away and you can find ample meter parking (more cash for race souvenirs). TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Since the LA course is a point-to-point race, parking/transportation is a little complicated. Racers have the option of being dropped off or parking at Dodger Stadium (traffic can get a little crazy as the start time approaches; get there early). The other option (and better option in my opinion) is to park in Santa Monica and take one of the race shuttles/buses to the start line at Dodger Stadium. You can pay for a parking spot ahead of time (which is a good idea) and it will set you back $20, but the shuttle is free for all runners and it’s a pretty painless process. Although, be warned that the shuttles tend to run “early early” in the morning in order to guarantee you getting to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. I had a 4:30 am shuttle that got me to Dodger Stadium at 5:00am and ample time to relax (and then get anxious for the race to start). T-SHIRT/MEDALS For swag fans, the 2015 LA Marathon T-shirt featured a black shirt with light blue side panels and featured a retro “LA 30″ design on the front. It’s a more subdued look than last year’s shirt and it worked for me. As for the medal, this year’s design displayed a big “30” logo in metallic blue with the cityscape and finisher ribbon beneath it. A nice piece of bling to add to the collection. COURSE Back in 2010, the LA Marathon ditched its downtown course in favor of a point-to-point “Stadium to the Sea” path and it has transformed an average marathon into a destination race. It truly is a spectacular route that hits numerous LA Landmarks. Starting at Dodger Stadium, the course travels through Chinatown and parts of downtown before heading up into Hollywood and past the Chinese Theater. Then you head down Sunset Blvd and into West Hollywood before a jaunt along Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills and a turn toward the ocean. A quick run through the VA Hospital grounds (seemingly the toughest and least attractive part of the course) follows and then heads out onto San Vicente Blvd along residential streets before a final left at Ocean Blvd. The last mile of the course is run along the ocean and ends just a few blocks away from the Santa Monica Pier. It truly is a magnificent course that shows the heart of The City of Angels. COURSE SERVICES As mentioned before this year’s race was run in extreme heat and as a result the race’s already solid course support was improved even more. Water/Gatorade stops were at every mile (although they got a little less organized in the last few miles of the race). Cliff also was on the course, providing gels at various stops for runners. Medical personnel were even more present this year and I saw several of them tending to any downed runners along the course. The biggest shout out though has to go to the fans. Knowing that this was going to be a challenging race because of the heat, the citizens of LA turned out in force. And they all seemed to be carrying goodies. From water (in cups and squirt guns), to ice, to fruit and salty snacks, the fans and charity groups showed the runners just how much they love the marathon. One runner I passed told me he’d never seen so much ice in his entire life. I think I speak for all of the 26,000 participants when I say “Thank you LA for your love and support.” FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY The finish line for the LA Marathon was what you’d expect for a large race. After you received your medal, you were given a Mylar blanket (aluminum side out to reflect the heat as opposed to keeping it in) and access to various snacks and water. An incredible post race treat was the small hand towels soaked in cold water and available to each runner. After surviving a 26.2 mile run in a virtual sauna, being handed an ice-cold towel is an absolute slice of heaven. One little picky note is that racers could really benefit from bags to hold their post-race snacks. I know for a fact that my dexterity was totally off and holding three different bags of snacks and a bottle of water was a virtual impossibility (I again used my hat as a makeshift sack). I will say the final walk to exit the “secure area” was really long (or maybe I was just really tired). There were plenty of other amenities available such as “cooling buses” for overheated runners. And if you didn’t feel like hanging around the course once you have your medal in hand, the 3rd Street Promenade and beach were just a stone’s throw away (but please don’t throw stones, you might hit a runner or spectator). RECOMMENDATION Put simply, when I think of what a high-profile marathon should be, Los Angeles now comes to mind. With its wonderfully scenic “LA” course, fantastic fan support and other amenities, the LA Marathon deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as many of the other established A-list races. This is another race I’m more than a bit biased toward (it was my very first marathon), but it has been a near annual tradition for me since I first ran it back in 2009 and will remain on my “to run” list for every year to come. NOTE: Next year’s LA Marathon will be run a month earlier (Feb. 14th, 2016) in order to coincide with the Olympic Marathon Trials.

Review of Orange County Turkey Trot by belindakcarter

Had a great run that day! The course was perfect, and easy to follow. It was super fun, and the swag was awesome. Pumpkin pie, and goodies to pick up afterwards 🙂

Review of Great Donut Run by belindakcarter

Such a fun race! Loved the donut holes and whip cream shooters on the course! I'll be at the next one!

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