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Mar 25, 2013

Rock CF Half Marathon Race Review

Short Version:

Finished in 1:55:27(official chip time); no PR by design.
Overall place: 278/799
Age Group(M40-44) 33/65
Half Marathon #12
Race #41

This was a great race with wonderful organization and the best finish line food I've ever had at a half marathon.  Well organized, a great course, good weather, and nice finish on the high school track.  The plan was to pace my running buddy Kevin to a new PR, which he achieved!


Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very simple.  Since I was one of their race ambassadors, I just e-mailed in my race registration and the race director, Emily, got me signed up.  If I were registering, it would have been equally as simple since they use Hughesware for their registration process.  I've always had great experience with this company for race registrations.  The race also used them for volunteer sign ups as well.

The race had two options to pick up your packet.  You could go to their race expo on Saturday and pick up the day before or you could pick up that morning.  Because I am about 1 1/4 hours from Grosse Ile, I opted to just pick up that morning.  I'm really glad that they offer pickup that morning otherwise, it would be a deciding factor in doing the race.  Fortunately, they offer both options.

It was an extremely early start to the morning to get there.  I was up at 4am in order to eat something and get over to my running buddies home so we could go together.  Also, there are a couple logistics items that you have to be aware of with this race and the race director does an excellent job in communicating everything to you so there are no surprises.  The first is that you have to pass over a railroad on the way onto Grosse Ile.  Given that, you need to make sure you leave a little earlier in case a train stops you(it didn't for us).  Second, this race is on an island - Grosse Ile.  Because of that, you have to cross a bridge which could slow you down(again, it was not an issue).  Third, if you want to park in the school parking lot, you must get there before 6:30am or they start directing runners to the airport for a shuttle(we arrived a little after 6am).  As we walked into the school, there was a sign confirming all the start times.

They also had an information book with someone answering any of the runners questions.  Always a great idea.  It's amazing what runners ask.  If I'm not mistaken, the person sitting at the desk is Sandy.  I volunteered with her at the Solstice(now Kona) run last year at packet pickup.  Her and her husband volunteer hours of their time at these races.  Incredible!

The race was also selling Rock CF shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, hats, etc. with the race logo on them to raise more funds for Cystic Fibrosis.  Fantastic and a great cause.
As we made our way into the gym, this was our view below!  Wow!  We were pretty early but we(I) wanted to get into the school parking lot which was not an issue at all.  We were able to go say hello to Ty from This is how Ty Runs since she was already there very early as well.  In fact, you can see her in the picture below to the very left on the bleachers.  Ha!
Near empty gym
The race had all the packet pick up tables and the registration tables all set up and volunteers were working away.  Since there were very few people there, it was easy to get our packets and put them back into the car.  I was amazed they had everything sorted by race which made it very simple but also required more volunteers.  Since there were no shortage of volunteers, it worked great.  I will say that all the volunteers I met this day were super friendly.  It's clearly a hometown feeling race and the community of Gross Ile sure puts out the red carpet for us runners.
1/2 pickup
Relay runners pickup
5k pickup
Race day registration
Bib number area 
Bib numbers listing
 The race also had the course map out as well for the runners.  Check out that awesome course around the island.  I could easily see a full marathon here.
Course map
The race day packet pickup and registration areas were extremely well organized and could not have been any better.

While we didn't take the shuttle, I didn't really see it as that big of an issue.  The race offered race gear check(which is rare for a half marathon only) so you could check gear if you needed.  It would be waiting for your after the race.
Gear check
Probably the best thing about this area was that everything was located in the gym of the high school so the runners could remain in the gym and stay warm until about 10 minutes before the race.  Given it can be a little chilly at the start, this is a big bonus for everyone.
Could remain warm in the gym - bonus - plus massage after too
It gave us an opportunity to talk with other runners doing the race and meet up with a couple other local bloggers(Ty from This is how Ty runs; Stephanie from In Steph's Shoes and Josh from Clippin' Along) for a quick picture.
Left to right:  Josh, Kevin(@kmjones234), me(Jeff), Ty, Stephanie
Start Area
Literally about 10 minutes before the race started, we made our way over to the start line area which was next door near the middle school.  A gentleman recognized me who reads this blog so it was nice to meet him before we started the race so we talked on the way to the start.  Aren't runners so friendly?

The race had numerous port-o-potties at the start area(near the high school and the middle school) and also on the course as well.  There were more on the course that I even think were necessary but better to be safe than sorry.

The race did the National Anthem and Emily, the race director, did a short speech to announce they had already raised over $70,000 for CF.  That's amazing!  Here's a couple pictures of the start line area:
Start line
Behind us at the start - lots of runners!
After her quick speech, they announced the start, which was at exactly 8am and we were off!!!

The course itself is a great layout with a beautiful view of the water much of the time.  You get to run around the island of Grosse Ile which for the most part is flat and fast.  In addition, we got to run a short run through an airport hanger!  This was the second time I ran this event(I ran the inaugural event) and it was even better this year(third year)

While it was a bit cold for the beginning first couple miles, I quickly warmed up and it ended up being a fantastic run.  The wind came off the water a little bit but it really was not that windy.  I think it could have been much worse and was pleased with the weather that day.

Here's my splits for the course and also the course map according to Garmin.
Splits and weather at start
Garmin Map - Rock CF
Elevation = flat with a couple bumps
Please note that the pictures I take on course are taken while running and I don't stop so they don't always come out great.  I think I mastered the picture taking by the end of this race so they should be better in future races.  I hope these pictures give you a good sense of what the course is like.  This way, if you have not run this race, you get a better idea how it will be.
Right at the start
Still a bit crowded
Beautiful view - downtown Detroit is there in the upper right
Mile 1 - sorry so blurry
Mile 2
Smile 3
A little past mile three - the neighborhoods are beautiful
Mile 4 through a nice neighborhood on the water
next to some woods
A little dirt road(literally this is it so don't worry about this if you don't like dirt)
Five miles - on a decent pace
More water views
Old homes on the island are everywhere mixed in with new ones.
I ran up further in order to get this picture of Kevin and Josh running
The china home - Ok, not sure what it's called but it looked like out of china.
Mile 6
Mile 7 - still on water
View of the bridge back to the mainland and industry
This was where the relay teams split off - it looked very organized and they were calling out race numbers.
Running under a bridge
Mile 8
There were residences out and about around the course spectating but the spectators were minimal overall.  It kind of felt like we were on a group run.  Very enjoyable.  I did notice quite a few potholes on the road near the first couple miles but they seemed to get better afterwards.
Mile 9
This is the first time I've every run through an airport while at a race.  It was a great addition to the race course and something very unique.  I find it's difficult to find unique things on a course so I applaud the race staff for thinking of this great idea.  There were clowns chasing cheering us on as we entered the airport.

It was at this time that a race fan who was cheering on folks, yelled out, "Way to go, Detroit Runner"  I actually got a picture of her below before she yelled it.  If you are that person, thanks for the shout out and leave a comment here so I know who it was.  Ha!
At the airport
Inside the airport!  Cool!
As you got into it, there were planes - including a couple large ones I didn't get pictures of, and some smaller ones along with what I think was a green Lamborghini!  You can slightly see it in the picture below.
Cool car/airplanes
Mile 10 - still on the airport property
More airport facilities
Back out off airport property
Mile 11 
Back to the water view! Yeah!
Mile 12
Mile 13 - almost at the school
I love finish lines on the track.  It feels so cool to be out on the track and hearing the race commotion to help bring you in for a faster time.
On the high school track
The finish line on the high school track was a fantastic finish.  I love the nice setup and the cool race theme layered on the fences to bring you in!
Finish line
Aid Stations
The aid stations for the most part were high school kids volunteering.  They did an awesome job cheering you at the station and calling out water and Gatorade as we ran by.  They also had a gel product at one of the aid stations which I didn't try.  They did a fantastic job at each aid station and were working good as a team to keep the area clean of cups.

Finish area
The finish area was quite organized with the inflatable finish line in addition to the nice signs on the fencing.  It surely feels like a top notch race when you are coming into that finish area.  Volunteers were there to give you your medal, the track was right next to the high school so it was easy to get back to the high school, and there were also bathrooms right at the finish as well.  A great place for a finish.
The track finish is a bonus
All done!  Yeah!
After we finished the race, we got a quick picture and then headed back to the high school for the post race food.  This is the best part about this race!  I have never in #41 races seen so many home made cookies for the runners and again the volunteers were excellent.  The race had water and chocolate milk for us.  They also had Panera Bread bagels as well as bananas.  It's one of the few races where I probably gain weight after running 13.1 miles!  Haha!(kidding)  Superb!  And it's all inside too so you can get out of the cold, take a seat and relax in the warmth after become all sweaty from running.  I had some chocolate milk, a bagel and several cookies which were delicious!  No way was I wasting calories on fruit today - I wanted those cookies! Ha!

While we were talking with other runners, we were able to scan our race results from the QR code on the race bib to get immediate results.  This is a great feature that every race should provide.
Post race excitement
Post race cookies!  Look at all those.  Amazing!
With your race registration, you received a certified race course, course support including aid stations and police support to stop traffic.  A timed course with QR coded bibs so you could get immediate results.  You also received this cool sticker for Rock CF in your packet.  In addition, you received a long sleeve tech shirt with the race logo on it as well as a great medal.  The medal is a nice design with a great looking ribbon as well.
Tech shirt
Medal with Ribbon
The race is very well organized.  This started with the race communication which was outstanding.  If you didn't know what was going on as a runner for this race, you were not reading all the e-mail updates that the race director sent.  It kept us well informed.  I saw volunteers running around like crazy that day to make sure everything was going well and, the race director Emily, was also running around to make sure everything was handled properly and that everything went off without a hitch.  There seemed to be more than enough volunteers and they did an outstanding job and were so friendly.

This is certainly on the tops for organization when it comes to racing for a half marathon.  This was race #41(and half marathon #12) so I've had plenty of experience with other races.  From the registration, communication, directions, maps, volunteers, course, police support, start line, finish line and the great food, they did an excellent job.  On top of all this, it's for an excellent cause.  This is certainly a race that you want to put on your schedule for next year.  Given it's in the beginning of the season, it's fits into nearly everyone's race schedule and is a great half marathon to start off the season.
Left to right:  Kevin and I
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I received a complimentary race entry in exchange for this race review.  All opinions on this review are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.


  1. Hey Jeff, And this is why I love to run an event you are also in. You give detailed accounts that bring back things I may have forgotten. And I'm so glad you got pictures of the hangar and the clowns. (except I remember more clowns?) I was thinking the same thing you were that they could easily pull off a full marathon there, but this would mean more disruption for the neighborhood. Good stuff. (BTW, the medal picture I have on mine was taken just from googling 2013 rock cf half marathon medal, so, not sure why it's a different color)

  2. Great recap, and I agree --an awesome race! I love the photo of me in the empty gym. Too funny! You also apparently ran right behind my two of my friends, because their butts are in three of your course photos!

  3. I love your race reviews. So nice seeing you and meeting everyone! Wish we would have had more time to chat. Great job on pacing Kevin to a new half PR!!

  4. You were getting so good with your photos and then this! LOL, I wanted to be there but sleeping in won out!

  5. it was ME at the airport hangar. I sit on the Rock CF board and was in charge of the airport hangar for the race. Glad to know you enjoyed it and think so highly of the Rock CF half.

    1. Haha. Thanks for the shout out. I'm surprised you recognized me!

  6. Great job on the race! Glad y'all had good weather! Love that medal and those cookies look delicious!!

  7. Your race reports are so different to yours, ok my last report was a short one, but yours are so detailed about the race and nor really about your run. I see from the splits you guys only struggled for 2 miles near the end, so well past...

    1. Yes, I try to review the race based on what a runner would experience to see if its something they would like to try next year. As you said, only a small part is about my running. The last two miles were a struggle for my buddy but it was his fastest race. I tried to keep the motivation up but as you know it need to come within as well. He did a great job.

  8. Great recap as always. Love the pictures!!

    1. Jose - your Boston review is the one I've been waiting on all year. I can't wait!