June 17

Inaugural Yellowstone Half Postmortem


We are still giddy over how much fun this weekend was. Overall, our inaugural Yellowstone Half was great. It seems that the vast majority of our runners had a great time, and we did too. Of course, as with any event, there are several things that can be improved. Our postmortem is a quick look at how the race went and what we can improve on. We will be sending out a post-race survey to all of our runners to get an in-depth look at your race experience, and we hope you will all give us your feedback. Here are a few things we have identified that we
intend to focus on to make 2015 perfect.

Communication About the Course

Two major speed bumps in our communication about this race were directions to the start line and our description of the course. While we provided a course aid-station guide, we did not provide a decent map that would direct runners and spectators to the course’s start and finish. I hope our Friday evening email helped. As far as we know, nobody got lost on their way to the start line, but we shouldn’t have allowed as much confusion as there was.

In describing the course, it seems we weren’t very clear there either. Some of you said it was harder than we described, and some of you said we exaggerated the technical aspects of the course. Our initial conclusion is that it is a “beginner trail run.”  Next year the language we use to describe the course will be more direct and clear. We also want to make a video of the course that should help future runners.

Recovery Station

We did not provide enough railing to clearly guide each runner back to the heating tent where the recovery food, water, and chocolate milk were. We apologize if any runners missed out on these provisions, or had trouble finding them. We realized we were lacking sufficient railing and tried to supplement with traffic cones, but it wasn’t as effective as we’d hoped. This will not be an issue in 2015.

Race Etiquette

We host a wide variety of runners at our events, from marathoners to first-timers. To make sure everyone has a great experience, we need to provide clear expectations on what running etiquette to follow. An example would be slower runners and walkers need to stay on the right, allowing faster runners to pass on the left, just like when driving on the freeway, etc. We’ve been discussing how best to provide these guidelines.

Let us know if we’re missing anything! Overall we are really pleased with how well everything went, but we are always working to make each of our races better than the last. We’re planning on sending out the post-race survey on Friday, so be sure to watch for that. Thanks to all of our volunteers! We couldn’t do it without you! And thanks to our runners.


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  • I have run several half marathons in the past, none on trail or any type of adventure run. I went into this race knowing it would be somewhat a combo of both. I usually place pretty high in most of my races, so I also went into the race with some expectations that I would do the same in Yellowstone. I definitely agree the race was much harder than I expected, but loved it. In fact, the adventurous part of going through fields, on rock and on trail, helped keep my mind off of the pain of the run :) In fact, I still placed in the top 10 for women and was thrilled (and a little surprised because I felt really slow)! I really enjoyed the run, the organization of it, and the course made me even more inspired to try it again. No doubt my knees and ankles hurt more than any other part of my body just from navigating the terrain, but the course was like nothing I’ve ever done before and this is a good thing. The only other thing I could mention as feedback – the awards ceremony was advertise at 10:45…but runners were all over the place and I didn’t hear any announcement that it was going on. I missed it, but not that detrimental since I still received my medal, but would have been nice to have more messaging around it (or maybe I was just so tired, I missed 15 different announcements which could have easily been the case…lol). Loved the medals, loved the shirts and also felt very fortunate the weather held out for us on the run! Thank you for bringing it to W. Yellowstone – will definitely do this again!

  • My family and I had a great time training and then running in this event. The slight sting of the price to late register was offset by the park pass I won from finishing 3rd. Thank you, it was a nice surprise. We went into the park late afternoon on Saturday to Old Faithful, and then went the other direction to Mammoth on the way home. We lacked the time to do the trifecta, but was able to take my wife and daughter to see some of the major attractions for the first time. I will be sure to get more use of the pass at some of the other parks the rest of the year!

    The course was mostly a fast, graded dirt road with a little section hidden stones in the tall grass that people are calling The Minefield. It caught me off guard, but I was able to hop through it quickly and then enjoy running along the river. Many trail runs have hazards like this, and sometimes worse if the weather has been bad. That’s were trail running and road running are a bit different. Road running gives you pretty much a consistent surface to run on, while mother nature and trails are constantly changing things up. I would have preferred more single track, rather than the long straight roads, to make the run a bit more interesting.

    The volunteers and parks department staff were great. Maybe it was on purpose, but could only find garbage cans in the tent. It would have been nice to throw the banana peel away, but could never find a trash can so I ended up carrying it for a while.

    Again, thanks for everything. The family are already trying to figure out the next race we want to do! Here is a Google Earth flyover from the GPS data from my watch in case anyone wants to relive the course. https://youtu.be/tZpU5xMjRSk

    • “graded dirt road with a little section hidden stones in the tall grass that people are calling The Minefield.”

      Are you sure you ran the same course we did? The Minefield was the section around mile 9 where the course went on a slight downgrade with ALL STONES AND NO GRASS ANYWHERE AT ALL. If those stones were “hidden” then I’m Cleopatra. ;-)

      • I remember there was some hard packed mud double track with grass and then the stones that came out of nowhere around 8 and half. It was a short section and then we hit the river right after. I didn’t stick around because I was having the best race of my life! :-) It’s too bad a few people took a tumble. My wife witnessed one of them, but it sounded like they dusted off and then took off. Hard core! Lani, don’t forget to bring your wings next time! :-)

  • This run was Amazing!! and I wouldn’t change a thing. I think the course was described well. It was described as a trail and to me a trail run includes hills, rocks and obstacles (the 12 miles of this trail was easier then the 3 mile trail for the Lake Powell race) I could have done another 13 miles. What is provided for the amount of money you pay is outstanding compared to a Disney run’s,and you can actually eat the food that is provided in the snack box, unlike the Disney snack box that is terrible and goes straight to the trash. Great Job with everything you do. I’ll be running 1 of your races every year instead of running Disney

    • Comparing a VacationRace to a runDisney race is like comparing apples to steering wheels. I’ve run every runDisney half marathon out there (as well as their full marathon) and I definitely agree the Disney races are getting pretty expensive. I’ve gotten pretty selective about which races I sign up for now, although I couldn’t pass up their inaugural Star Wars Half next January (but case in point, the 10K/Half Rebel Challenge cost more than $300!!!). They will keep raising prices as long as the races keep selling out in 2 hours like both the Avengers and Star Wars races did. They are great for beginners setting a goal to finish a half, but I think if you aren’t a big Disney fan or want to do a race with fewer than 20,000 other people, you need to choose a different event, like the ones VacationRaces puts on.

      Disney didn’t used to distribute those horrible snack boxes. That’s a relatively new phenomenon they started doing in 2013. Before then, they still gave out bananas, orange wedges, etc.. Someone on their staff must have decided they didn’t want to deal with produce or food that might go bad. Some of the snacks aren’t bad–hummus, crackers, etc… but they are insufficient after a half-marathon. The bananas and chocolate milk after the Yellowstone race helped SOOOOOO much.

      Thanks again for a really well put-together race.

  • I was so excited to make the journey up to Yellowstone and very relieved to have finished that course. Beautiful area, when able to glance around and wonder when Yogi was going to leap out at us. The open trails were good until they turned into tire ruts. This made passing or even running in the ruts ankle dangerous. Like the other comments before, partners were running two wide which made any passing on the trails difficult and I also was annoyed with the guy playing teen pop dance tunes destroying the sound of birds and pounding feet. Please people can you keep your music for your ears only. The longer grasses along the trails made me concerned about ticks (especially having to pass and go thru it). Wasn’t sure if the bugs would be active in those temps. Great job at the aid stations and their enthusiasm. Wish it was a little later in the month because I really wanted to do the Washburn hike. How was it decided which weekend? Weather factors? Less park people visiting that weekend verses the next few? Was difficult getting camping reservations in the park 2 months before. Now I know better to reserve once I register for the race. Warming tent great idea with the coffee and hot chocolate. I am definitely returning for next years race and training better for that hill! I hated that hill and the long incline hill prior to it. Thanks to all volunteers, staff, and racers for their hard work.

    • We take all of those things into account on deciding race weekend. Honestly, on a year with less snow pack, Washburn should have been clear. It was a heavy year this year so we weren’t too surprised to see some snow. The hotels and campsites are the biggest factor as to why we avoid the peak season. We did warn you to get your rooms or sites reserved soon. We will open registration a little earlier this year for that very reason. These parks are super popular so they fill up way in advance. Thank you for the input!

      • Washburn was clear for a hike, from Chittenden. Dunraven was drifted heavily, especially near the top, from what we could see. The only snow encountered was off in the trees, and the 13’+ drifts that were plowed through, making the road clear.

        • I just went off of the info put out the week before about the hike. Yes could have asked a ranger about the hike status but chose to complete the trifecta. Just means a new adventure for next years challenge.

          • That it does. We brought snowshoes just in case, and chose Chittenden after stopping to talk to someone at Canyon Village. I kind of wanted to snowshoe, but in hindsight, that would have been so hard, being that sore.

      • I was one of those that registered after knowing that the race was confirmed to happen. I was surprised that a one person tenter could only get into Bridge Bay Camp. Everything else was full and wasn’t going to leave hoping for a spot to open up last minute. I enjoyed traveling across the park, even with it being a 1.5 hr travel time. So thankful the race started at 8. Yes it’s a roll of the dice on trying to predict weather that far in advance for a race. The one bummer was the very poor cell phone/internet in the park. Never checked FB for up to the minute info on those challenges. So finding out about Lamar Valley was by word of mouth by a fellow racer. I didn’t see an email about it. Maybe all up to date info should be put out on every media. Was hoping to break free from electronic media (FB) and enjoy the simple natural park.

    • Honestly, I was floored to see all of the campgrounds with Full statuses, and asked the person checking us in about it. She didn’t really have a good answer, as I thought the cool weather would have deterred campers. We booked out months ago, so having a spot wasn’t an issue. I thought everything being full would have been just a little later in the season.

      • I guess I’ve learned my lesson from other races… since you can always cancel your hotel reservations, the first thing you do when you see a race announced, is to BOOK THAT ROOM! We wound up at one of the Best Westerns in West Yellowstone and it was very convenient, allowing us to walk to the start line.

  • This was my first half marathon, and it was amazing… I WAS someone who fell in the “minefield” of rocks…but I have fallen during training too…I survived…the course was Amazing and FUN….and inspirational… When I fell…3 or 4 people stopped to help me…and I jumped right up and started running again because I was trying to do my best time. I wanted to take a moment and THANK everyone for helping me, and I hope I didn’t appear rude… I was just determined. The friendliness of everyone from the event staff, volunteers and runners was uplifting and because of how great this experience was…I’m going to keep running them! THANK YOU for the FUN! :)

  • We loved the race; moreso now that it’s in the past and you rarely
    remember the hardships. I’m glad you have already identified some of the
    issues we encountered regarding actual starting area.

    While you were very clear about to show the elevation map including elevation
    change, it wasn’t until my legs & lungs were complaining that it
    dawned on me that we were in REAL altitude. I think it might be good to
    clearly state, in the EVENT description itself, that the entire course
    is in altitude, not just that there’s an elevation gain in the middle of
    the course. This may very well impact the travel plans for people. We
    got there on Thursday so we had an extra day to acclimate to the
    elevation, but I did suffer from a headache the first day… knowing
    that, next time I might consider stacking extra days onto the front of
    the trip rather than after.

    I train at sea level, so the altitude affected me greatly. Again, I know the info was in the elevation graph, but silly me, I focused on the elevation gain/loss, not on how high up the whole course was.

    I’m also not a trail runner, and that course is *NOT NOT NOT NOT* a “beginner trail course.” Parts of it are. But there is that one downhill section with baseball-sized rocks and stones that almost gave me a nervous breakdown. I’m pretty klutzy to begin with; I was very worried about twisting my ankle.

    I kept track: Around me over the course, I heard/saw eight people who tripped. Fortunately nobody fell, but hearing that “thud” made my heart skip a beat–how frightening. In a discussion with some of the other Half Fanatics club members who did the event, I found out at least two people did actually fall, and skin/bruise themselves pretty badly. A woman nearby yelled, “Plinko!” while we were going down the hill, and it’s exactly how it felt.

    We were lucky that the weather was wonderful. I realize that’s completely out of your control, but I also saw that West Yellowstone got hit with really bad weather in the days following the race. I can’t imagine how much tougher the course would be when it’s been raining (or IS raining, or snowing). All the dirt parts (especially the “parallel dirt tracks” along the incline, made by tire tracks) would’ve all been muddy and slippery, and the downhill rocky portion would have been slippery as well. I would’ve just wound up walking the entire course.

    There’s nothing wrong with truth in advertising. A video of some of the tougher portions (the tire track section, the Plinko section) would be VERY helpful for future participants. The late-breaking email blasts were helpful, but the event description itself should probably include info about varying weather conditions and thus what to pack, as well as how it might impact the course.

    All in all though, we were very pleased with the event. So much so that we made sure to get our Trifecta photos so we could get a discount for a future event put on by your group. Thank you!

    • Great input! We’ll try to make the course more descriptive. We thought we had done well enough (we WANT people to be informed about what to expect) but we’ll try to make things more explicit. We really love to get feedback.

  • First of all I LOVED this race! So beautiful! This was my first trail race so I was surprised too over how much time was added due to the rock minefield we went over.
    Staff all over was friendly and helpful and happy to be there. Definitely one of my favorite races.
    Only thing I didn’t like about this, was there was no way for your family and friends to check on your progress around the course. It would be good to have a way for the chips to register your progress, say a board you cross at certain points?
    Other than that, thank you for a great course! See you next year :)

    • We are working on that for next year Donna. There is some good technology out that should help spectators keep tabs on your progress. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Donna — When a race doesn’t have official tracking, one thing I’ve used successfully is the Find Friends app on my iPhone. I don’t know if they have something similar for Android phones, but your family/friends can view a print-out of the course map, and then view the app to track where you are in relation.

      “Minefield” is right. I’m just SO glad I didn’t fall. That was so scary.

  • I loved the race and did show up on time at the correct place thanks to the email! :-) I was sort of surprised about how much my time was affected by all those flippin’ ROCKS!!! Honestly, you had to look down for most of this course or there was an excellent chance you’d hit the dirt! (I did fall only once, caught myself another 5 times). The shirt, medal and expo were awesome, volunteers helpful, aid stations were excellent, and the scenery was (for the few snippets I took in while risking my legs to glance up) very picturesque. Runners on the course seemed, for the most part, to be courteous and observe the running rules of the road. Of course, there were some exceptions: pairs running side by side that impeded the flow of traffic (REALLY, do you have to be joined at the hip for the WHOLE race, even when someone’s trying to pass!//!!) and runners who would just stop in their place to take photos, even if they were in the middle of the trail. With all the weaving that had to be done to avoid the aforementioned ROCKS, a little extra flexibility is necessary. But, all in all, no real complaints. After all, it’s a forest…how can you pick up all the rocks? You can’t. And even if you could, the resulting holes where the rocks had been would be just as perilous.

    • On running etiquette: There was one fellow who made a wise decision not to wear his earbuds for the race, but apparently couldn’t live without his music anyway, so he was listening to his music from his PHONE SPEAKERS.

      Here I am spending $$$$ for this wonderful outdoor wildlife nature half marathon in Yellowstone, and it has to be interrupted by JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. Really?

      People, if you MUST listen to music, please wear one earbud. Please don’t hold your phone up and listen to the music from its speaker. Everybody ELSE around you can hear it!!

      • Did you run near the guy wearing bear bells at all? Mildly annoying, but funny at the same time.

        I *almost* wore my bear spray, just for the humor of it.

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