Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monument Marathon Race Rating

Race: Monument Marathon
Date: September 27, 2014
Location: Gering, NE
Year Running: 3rd
Registration: $75 

Race Information
Size: 102 full, 315 half
Course Limit: 6 hrs
Min. - Max. Elevation: 3500 ft - 4800 ft
Min. - Max Temperature: 45-78
Charity Supported: Western Nebraska Community College
Airports: Denver is the nearest major airport with reasonably priced flights. Cheyenne is closer, but seemed to be much more expensive without saving that much drive time. Scottsbluff does have an airport with connections from Denver, but I think I heard these connecting flights are sort of iffy and caused people to miss the race last year.
Rental car: Required. Even if you got a flight into Scottsbluff, you need to be able to get around both Scottsbluff and Gering.
Host hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Scottsbluff. We stayed at the Super 8 because it was incredibly cheap and crazy nice for a Super 8. Most runners are local anyway, so I don't feel like we missed out on interacting with a bunch of other runners by staying somewhere other than the host hotel.
Communications: Good. My only complaint is sometimes the emails had minor discrepancies between themselves and the website. We ended up getting to the race super early because we weren't exactly sure when the shuttles to the start would leave. (I think the difference was only about 30 minutes, but every minute of sleep counts!)
Expo: At the community college. They had a good spread of vendors and freebies for a race this size. The volunteers were efficient, and everyone seemed very excited we had come to their race. I also thought have everyone mark their hometowns on a map.

They even added a little map of Europe for the two races from the Netherlands.
Other Activities: Pasta dinner. It was reasonably priced and run by a local business, but we had our hearts set on runzas, so we didn't go.

Race Day
Parking: Fine. We were some of the first people there, so I don't know what the situation was when all the halfers started arriving, but there were plenty of volunteers and cordons, so I imagine it went smoothly.
Shuttles: School buses took us from the finish at Five Rocks Amphitheater to the start at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. The ride was pretty short, and a race official personally greeted us once we arrived.
Bathrooms: Few but adequate. There was an indoor bathroom plus a few port-a-potties outside. For the small number of people, it was just the right amount.
On Time: Exactly on time.
Corrals: None, but not needed. We had an entire lane plus a very generous shoulder at the start, so there was plenty of room to spread out. (This is pretty important, despite what the field size suggests, because the first few miles are so steeply downhill that it's hard to perfectly predict your pace.)

Type: Point-to-point
Terrain: Concrete and dirt/rock - highways, side roads, dirt trail, and a bike path
Bathrooms: Every few miles, and there was never a wait. (However, I didn't go until about an hour after I finished, so I might not remember this perfectly.)
Crowding: None
Highlights: Scottsbluff National Monument

Course Support: Great. The volunteers were very enthusiastic, and I never had a problem getting my bottles refilled during the second half. The dirt trail and bike path near the end aren't really passable to vehicles, but there was a constant bike patrol. There were enough cyclists when I got there that some struggling runners were escorted all the way to the finish. The local tribe (I believe the Lakota?) also came to drum and sing in the final mile, which was really motivating.
Spectators: Few, but much of the course isn't conducive to spectating, plus the day was incredibly hot. The volunteers were all incredibly enthusiastic.
Local knowledge of race: Fair. A lot of the race is away from the main parts of the town, and Scottsbluff is apparently one of the most obese cities in the US, so I'm not surprised more people didn't know. I think the race is focusing its energies on advertising the race to runners rather than locals at this point, which is fair.

Food: Lots of options, I liked having multiple choices for salty and sweet. My stomach was feeling really icky from the heat and elevation, so I only managed chips and water, but there were lots more things to choose from.
Atmosphere: Calm, but that was fine. It was very hot, and all I wanted was to sit in the shade, which was possible, so I can't complain. The announcer was very enthusiastic, and the race officials made sure that a woman finishing the 50 States got congratulated by everyone in the finish area. (They also got the announcer to re-announce me after he first said I was from Mississippi!)
Party: Not really one, but the weather wasn't very conducive. There were food trucks setting up in the morning, so perhaps there was a more popping atmosphere when the halfers were finishing.

Shirt: Short-sleeve technical T-shirt. I was excited to get a woman's cut, but the shirts are very "boxy," and it seems like the woman's version is just less boxy, rather than actually shaped differently.
Kitty feet not included.
Medal: Really fun. I like how the logo and shape of the state were both incorporated.

Age Group Awards: Print of a local artist's watercolor of the bluffs. Really unique and fun to display.
The matting was fine, I'm not sure why this picture makes it look so askew.
Final Thoughts
  • This race is pretty new, but don't let it scare you! No one seems that enthralled with Lincoln, and most people straight up say Omaha is awful, so this is a great Nebraska alternative. Plus, the bluffs are amazing and keep this from being a race with nothing but corn for scenery.
  • The RDs genuinely want everyone to love their race. They were present at the expo and the start line and made sure special finishers were recognized at the finish. Additionally, I forgot to pick up my gear check bag, but they found it and mailed it back right away. I sent them a check for the shipping, but this wasn't even required. To me, that's really going the extra mile.
  • The one thing I don't understand is why the race starts so late! It was unseasonably warm, and the course is complete exposed. The race starts more than an hour after sunrise - even moving it back a half hour to hedge their bets against too cold and too hot would make a big difference.  (Though I still think it should start right after it gets light.)
  • My only other suggestions (which are pretty nitpicky) are to get the emails consistent (it's stressful to be given three different times for the shuttles to the start) and put gear check in a more prominent place. While I'm sure I mostly forgot my bag because I was pretty out of it, but I still have no idea where the bags were, even though we pretty much walked around the whole finish area.
  • 50 Staters: Yes. Nebraska doesn't have a lot of options, and this one is a ton of fun. Plus, being able to fly into Denver makes travel a lot easier.
  • Non 50 Staters: The race is really great, but not enough to travel significantly for on its own. However, if you're local or want to plan a trip to the Denver area or even South Dakota, incorporating this race would be fun.

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