Disclaimer: The following review is based upon a mid-pack, slower, 40-something runner who was seriously congested, somewhat grumpy, cold then hot, and having to use her shirt as a Kleenex. So, not very objective IMO; your experience might differ.
As always, THANK YOU to my husband George for being my support, cheerleader and official photographer and to Coach Jennifer Lynn of Desert Endurance Multisport Coaching for being patient, kind, and answering my inane emails!
If you checked out my OUT SICK post, you’ll know I’ve been sick with a nasty, relentless cold leading up to this race. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to the race because a) I felt not so great and had low energy, b) STILL had mucho nasal congestion, c) thought I might die of a heart attack due to an unrealistic and irrational fear that colds lead to endocarditis, d) hadn’t run or done any workout, save a 30 minute walk, since the Houma Half Marathon two weeks ago and didn’t feel prepared, e) and I really didn’t have any cute cold weather running clothes, which IMO overrides any of the prior reasons. BUT, I put on my big girl pants AND my therapist hat and gave myself a good “Come to Jesus” talk, which truth be told, I was overdue for in general. And if I’m going to be completely honest, I was had at the chocolate and that medal! So, George and I headed to Scottsdale Saturday afternoon for a nice weekend getaway, which I’m glad we did because I had a nice time and I actually learned something about myself (I’ll get into that later).
One of the many HUGE HC 15K blow-up-things, welcoming us to the Expo
Expo/Packet-pickup: Once getting to the Scottsdale area, George and I headed right over to the Salt River Field where the Expo was being held. For those that don’t know, this is part of the Salt River Indian Reservation and also part of the multi-million dollar Talking Stick Resort and Casino in Scottsdale. Salt River Field is a beautiful stadium where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have spring training games and practice. I suspect this was a large enough venue with enough miles of running around it to be able to handle the estimated 15,000 participants. I guess that many people can’t resist the thought of paying to run almost 10 miles and getting chocolate along the way, which really speaks to the marketing genius of RAM RACING.
Notice the volunteer at the end of the bib pick-up–he was hamming it up because he saw me taking a pic.
Overall, this was a very well run and organized Expo and race. Bib pick-up was a breeze: no lines, friendly volunteers, technology check-in (just like showing an electronic boarding pass on the smart phone)! Lots of freebie food (some variation of chocolate, of course!) and a number of vendors. The best part was the “swap” of the sweatshirt we received–a separate station were there were sweatshirts to try on and then new ones to exchange for the right size! Really top-notch!
- Friendly volunteer handing out chocolate as we entered the Expo. 2. Free chocolate samples! Oh yeah! 3. Expo vendors, etc. on concourse of the stadium 4. HC volunteers making hot chocolate and other chocolate goodies! (Not pictured: me genuflecting in front of the chocolate makers)
Parking/Access and Weather: We stayed at the Residence Inn on Scottsdale Road, which made it very easy to get to the Salt River Field. Lots of traffic getting into the grounds, but with all the efficient volunteers, it really didn’t take that long. The morning of the race we were advised to get to the grounds (Salt River Field) by 7:00AM even though the race started at 8:15AM. George and I got there at 6:45AM because I was freaked out that there wouldn’t be enough parking for the projected 15,000 people. Not to worry though, because we got rockstar parking and then hung out in the truck (think Seat Heater) as it was COLD. Remember, people from Arizona break out the parkas at 65 degrees. HC race directors have it together by giving sweatshirts instead of t-shirts (I used it race morning, as did every other participant)! I’m sure it was difficult to distinguish individual racers, as we were all clad in out HC Hoodies; just as difficult to distinguish racers 30 minutes into the race as said participants had said Hoodies tied around their waists. As an aside, about a mile into the race I wanted to take my sweatshirt off, but didn’t want to stop. An added challenge was that I was holding my phone, but had nowhere to put it, as I didn’t have any pockets. So, what did I do? I put that disgusting, bacteria laden thing IN MY MOUTH and took off my sweatshirt! This is REALLY huge considering I’m the kind of person who washes her hands before going to the bathroom, lest I touch a part of my body with dirty fingers! I guess I’m a real athlete now!
1. Temperature at race time 2. Pre-Race American Gangster with George and Sarah
Cost: I can’t remember how much I paid for this race, but $75 somehow is on my mind. I checked upcoming HC races in other cities and it was $64 for the 15K, so the estimate of $75 might be high. Anyway, I got an awesome sweatshirt, tasty treats along the course, a TOTALLY AMAZING medal, and a HC plastic tub (mug) with chocolate goodies. Not bad, if I do say so myself! Travel costs were minimal, as I traveled from in-state. We stayed at a Marriott property on points, so I can’t advise as far as hotel costs. Although, the host hotels (according to the HC Scottsdale website) were anywhere from $92-$209/night. Obviously to fly to the Phoenix area, one would fly into Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. This airport is actually pretty close to Scottsdale (distance is relative in Arizona because we don’t think twice about driving 50 miles to work one way).
Pre-race: The most important part of any pre-race is (OF COURSE) the bathroom situation. Even though this was at a major public venue, the stadium and ground bathrooms WERE CLOSED to race participants! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! So I had to stand in line for the stinky, disease-harboring Porta-Potties (insert crying and vomiting emojis here). I made sure to get a handicapped Potty, which are just as stinky, but much larger than the average Potty, so I don’t actually have to touch anything except what is already on my person. These Potties are so large that George called it the Party-Potty. And it smelled like a party happened in there too (I took the liberty of inserting Bea Arthur below in lieu of an emoji).
Sing it Dorothy! I feel you.
Anyway, here’s some parting Potty shots:
Potties as far as the eye can see. And some guy crossing his legs in the universal gesture of praying to the Bathroom Gods to open up real bathrooms.
Starting corrals were very well-organized with the corral letter being on my bib. Announcements were made, we were herded into our corrals, and we waited for our corral to go. Then we were off!
- Corral K, as in you’re too slow so you gotta be in the back, ‘kay? 2. Starting line blow-up thingy.
Scottsdale Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Course
Course: Race Directors couldn’t have picked a flatter course, which is a difficult thing to do in Arizona. For people not harboring disease, I’m sure this is a perfect PR course. However, as I mentioned earlier, I still wasn’t feeling good and was still REALLY congested. Then, to add fashion insult to injury, when I got dressed race morning, I realized I brought the wrong shirt. By “wrong shirt” I mean I brought a silk-blend shirt from Banana Republic that I consider expensive and nice enough to wear to work. This shirt apparently and unfortunately looks very similar, especially in a NightQuil fog, to a Nike running shirt I own. Bummer. Especially since the Kleenex I brought on the run to clear my sinuses ran out at mile 1. So what did I use? Yup, that’s right my “good” silk work shirt. I quickly found out that snot does not dry quickly on silk, thus adding to my frustration (and embarrassment) with my cold.
Notice the discoloration on my right shirt sleeve and right shoulder/chest proving my point of snot on silk. Also notice the sweatshirt tied around my waist–the look 3000 other runners were sporting at this point.
Course support ROCKED! Course was well-marked and had numerous volunteers with flags along the way. A big shout out to the numerous safety offers along the course who were friendly and helpful. A special kudos to the police officer who took a group of runners’ photo on the course (not creepy, they asked him). Aid stations also ROCKED! Following the old adage of “everything new on race day,” I decided at the last minute to not carry any water with me, which completely went against everything I have ever learned being a Native Arizonan. Come to find out, I didn’t need water every half mile and water stations every 2 miles was completely sufficient. Also come to find out, I really like marshmallows while running! I found this out because every water station was also a “Sweet Station” with chocolate or marshmallow goodness! I mean, does it get any better than this?
Scenery consisted of human backsides and residential neighborhoods, with a few office complexes thrown in for variety. I suppose that one doesn’t do this race for the scenery though, just the chocolate and the medal!
Course summary through pictures:
Mile 1, so many people!
- Me in the standard issue HC gray sweatshirt and black tights wondering how I’m going to blow my nose. 2. Summary of the course scenery.
- One of the only cheerleaders on the course, bonus points for creativity. 2. After seeing this guy, I completely got rid of any pity party I was carrying. Although, I did have a fleeting thought to make a sign that said “Nasally Impaired.”
- Mile 5, I think. Here I was able to see who was faster than I. 2. Pretty sad when the most visually appealing thing on the course is an overpass.
- The worst part of the course. I dubbed it the Psychological Warfare stretch. You see, we turned a corner and I thought we were headed back toward Salt River Field, i.e. the Finish Line. But no, this road was a straight shot south with no end in sight and no scenery. In fact, I thought I was running back to Tucson. The only scenery was the runners coming the opposite direction. I wanted to cry. 2. The home stretch! I still wanted to cry.
- Never been happier to see the finish line! 2. The finish from George’s perspective
Post-race: Huge post-race festivities! I think there was a band or something somewhere, along with a few sponsors’ booths, but really I was so entranced with my medal, I can’t really recall much. In a post-race first, I ate the chocolate, banana, and hot chocolate that came in my HC mug (or tub as I called it). As with everything else with this race, post race was well-organized and well-structured.
Obligatory post race picture of ME, my post-race goodies, and another huge blow-up HC thingy! What post-race picture would be complete without snot stains on my shirt sleeves?
Swag/Bling/Shirts: As mentioned earlier, Hoodies were given instead of shirts. I really liked this decision, as the Hoodies were specifically designed for running and made out of quality material. I test-drove it right away, and liked it so much that I wouldn’t blow my nose on it. Pretty high testimony, really. The post race tub of chocolate goodness was also a good move, IMO. Finally, the medal was the coup de grace of the whole deal. What a beauty (large, solid metal, gold, high quality, with a removable medallion)!!!! This medal was the whole reason for me do to this race and it exceeded my expectations! I was a very happy runner as I hobbled to the parking lot!
By far the best medal and swag I’ve gotten at a race to date!
Final thoughts: Would I run this race again? Fo’ sho’ I would! Overall, this race was well-managed and organized from the pre-race communication emails, which included a training plan if needed, to the post-race festivities. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the medal and the “Sweet Stations” along the course. Was the chocolate theme and huge blow-up thingys a bit commercial and gimmicky? Maybe a little, but truth be told it hooked me and made the whole experience that much more memorable, enjoyable, and SWEET!
Things I learned from buckling down and running this race despite my nasty cold and equally as nasty attitude:
- I can actually exercise and run almost 10 miles with a wicked cold. Who knew?
- I can run with a cold and I won’t die from a heart attack. Shocker!
- I can run with inappropriate or incorrect clothing. Guess what? I still crossed the finish line anyway.
- I can run without having cute clothes, although I took inventory of everyone else’s cute running gear along the way.
- I can run while on DayQuil.
- I can run without two gallons of water strapped to my hip or back and not die from dehydration.
- I can run without my own Gu. In fact, I learned marshmallows are WAY BETTER than Gu during a race. I’m bringing my own marshmallows next race.
- I can run pretty far without training for two weeks. Although, my knees and IT bands beg to differ.
- I can take off a sweatshirt while running by PUTTING MY PHONE IN MY MOUTH and not freak out about contracting cholera or meningitis.
- Shirts make good Kleenex. Kinda.
… And what do you know? I finished almost exactly mid-pack in both my age group and overall.
Due to THE MEDAL, swag, hoodie, marshmallows (especially the toasted flavor), venue and location, general organization, “sweet stations,” gimmicky blow-up-thingys, and CHOCOLATE, I give this race four and 1/2 golden chocolate bars: