QUICK INFO updated 3/17/17
A thank you to race director Bubba Gaeddert for helping me with some of the info in this review. Always enjoy coordinating with race organizers!!
Yes, there is a full marathon to cover here, but to appease our Heartland 39.3 Series folks, only the half marathon will be previewed. HOWEVER, I do include some notes about the full marathon route at the end that should suffice. Really the first half of the full marathon route is...well..the half marathon route. More on that later.
Like Rock the Parkway, for the fifth year, the Garmin Half is the second in the Heartland 39.3 Series, a three-half-marathon series run over the course of five weeks.
On to 39.3 #2 - the Garmin Half Marathon...
Friday, April 21, 2017, 10am-9pm
Embassy Suites-Olathe Conference Center
10401 S Ridgeview Rd, Olathe, KS 66061
Saturday, April 22, 2017 (race morning), 6-6:30am
At race site, in finish line festival area.
NO day-of registration (only pick-up)
This hasn't changed from 2016. Packet pick-up still takes place at the Olathe Conference Center inside the Embassy Suites on Ridgeview Road in Olathe (address above, map below). The expo stays in place as well. Given Garmin's title sponsorship (and the fact they're only miles down the road), you can bet there will be a Garmin presence there with plenty of goodies to purchase (albeit at likely no discounted prices).
I've never really had any problems with parking and pick-up. And given the long availability of pick-up (9 PM!!!), there really shouldn't be any foot traffic issues (except for maybe about lunch time or at 5pm).
Race Day Parking
I just finished laughing aloud as I wrote the "Race Day Parking" title. 2016 was a disaster. Even organizers would agree (by now, at least). Last year's parking situations had many participants go so far as to demand refunds (as far as I know, none were given). Given the start/finish line location last year (at the opening to the hotel parking lot) in relationship to the actual parking areas (the hotel parking lot at lots located along the route), early finishers ended up waiting several hours just to leave. Stand-still.
Personally, I ended up waiting for 90 minutes to leave, decided to ditch my car, and walked 2 miles to a friends house down the road. I hitched a ride from there. It was that bad. There was one parking lot north and west of the start/finish area that were lucky enough to be able to trickle out, but that was it. Everyone was S.O.L.
This year, lessons have been learned, and revisions have been implemented. The start/finish line is now located out on Ridgeview Road, a fair distance south of the hotel, and just south of 106th Street (where the overflow lots were last year, which were utilized...for about half of the participants and spectators). Yeah, this leads to a walk to and from the start/finish, but it also frees up outgoing cars from all parking lots to being able to utilize the K-10 highway entrance (from which you can travel anywhere).
Presumably, at least. Let's hope it works out in practice. I still have a walkable house nearby in-case.
Also new this year is a nifty Google-powered interactive map showing ALL of the parking lots, ALL of the logistical extras (start/finish corral, porto-potties), and even the planned flow of traffic to/from the race. It's obvious they've put in the brain power this time around.
Here's the moral of this too-far-dragged-out story: To get to the race, get to the Ridgeview Road exit from either eastbound or westbound K-10. To exit the race, follow parking gurus along the planned route (which is mapped) to the K-10 entrance from Ridgeview Road. That's it.
A note, however, for arriving to the race: The map appears to presume all incoming traffic will be coming from K-10. In 2016, there were nearly 8,000 participants in all events, plus spectators. All events have the same start time. How do you suspect that exit will look come 6:15 race morning???
Other than the start line moving locations, and a short addition to the route (to make up distance for the start/finish line moving up the road), nothing's really changed from 2016. However, if you didn't race in 2016, things have changed quite a bit from years' previous.
Here are the basics for the 2017 route...
As stated before, runners start on Ridgeview Road, south of the Embassy Suites. 106th Street is an in-road south of the hotel that runs in to several parking lots on both the east and west sides of Ridgeview. According to official maps, the start/finish line will be SOUTH of 106th Street (just north of College Blvd), presumably to allow better traffic flow out of these parking lots (as many will be open to participant/spectator parking).
The route begins south-bound on Ridgeview, through College Boulevard. Both of the climbs on route are along Ridgeview, the first between College and 119th St about a half mile from the start. Average grade is at 3%, with a maximum of 5.5%, and the climb lasts about a half mile, with the 1-mile-marker near the top. There is a false-flat halfway up as well, just flat enough to provide 10 or so seconds to catch your breath. The climb is followed by two quarter-mile descents with a small speed bump between at about 119th St.
Halfway between 119th and 127th/Harold on Ridgeview comes the second of the two climbs, near the North Ridge neighborhood. This also comes in at half a mile, this time at 3.6% average grade, reaching 5.7% in spots. Mile 2 hits nearing the top of the climb, and is just short of the right-hand turn on to southwest Kansas City Road. Past 2.5mi, the road hits a few bumps, but is a net decline.
Nearing mile 3, half and full marathoners turn right on to Kansas City Road, at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop, followed quickly by another right on to Nelson Road. Nelson turns slight right due-north. Runners will trek it's entirety, passing mile marker 4 on the way, before coming to mile marker 5 at the intersection of Nelson and Northgate. Runners will turn left on to Northgate heading southwest, where the road begins to slowly start to slope upward again.
Runners will also run the rest of Northgate until it turns due-south and changes to N Kansas Ave, mile marker 6 en-route. Approaching mile 7, runners turn right on to Spruce, then the next right turn heading north on Iowa. This entire stretch is a slow and steady uphill -- likely not noticeable immediately, but approaching mile 8, may start to reveal itself in achy legs.
Northbound on Iowa is a 2-mile trek, passing mile 8 on the way and beginning to flatten out. At mile 9, just past 119th Street, Iowa curves westward as it enters a neighborhood. Runners will cut through this neighborhood, using 116th Terrace and 117th Street before coming out the west side on to Lone Elm. The northbound run continues to College Boulevard, mile 10 en route. At College Boulevard, the route turns eastbound. This is where the road turns back downward, with a relatively rapid decline through mile 11.
The above elevation profile shows a bump in the road, followed by a significant climb through to the finish. Though there is a net uphill from mile 12 to the finish, the profile is likely inaccurate due to the roads passing over the Mill Creek Bridge (Google Earth elevations often measure the terrain, and ignore bridges running over that terrain). Keep your cadence up, because there's only about a tenth of a mile left after Ridgeview Road.
If you're a marathoner, I haven't forgotten about you. According to official maps, the split is new this year (well...sorta). In 2016, full marathoners would run on the jogging path to the side of the road, and turn left down to the Gary L Haller Trail (Mill Creek Trail), while half marathoners stayed on the road.
This year has changed. The split comes at Ridgeview: half marathoners turn left to the finish, and full marathoners turn right back on to Ridgeview. Don't worry - you don't have to run the route again. The neighborhood to the south of the Ridgeview/College intersection actually has trail access. Organizers have utilized this. To get there, just past the right-turn on to Ridgeview, full marathoners turn right on to 114th St to enter the neighborhood, then take a right on to Millview. Trail access begins here.
If you're familiar with the Gary L Haller/Mill Creek Trail, OR if you've run the Pilgrim Pacer half or full marathon, you'll be familiar with these next miles. Full marathoners continue north on the trail all the way to where you would turn right to access Shawnee Mission Lake (just past mile 19), then turn around and head back.
From here, things hadn't been changed from 2016. Marathoners don't access the neighborhood again to get to the finish. Instead, runners will take the ramp from the trail up to College Blvd (same as last year), and continue on to Ridgeview to the finish. All said, the trek along the Mill Creek Trail is a gradual decline (with a few bumps in there) to the turn-around, and then a gradual incline to the College Blvd exit. But be wary of that College Blvd ramp -- it's quite steep. And, coming in at nearly 26 miles, will be painful.
That's really all there is to it. Feel free to leave any feedback you might have. Otherwise, I'll see you at the start line.
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