Monday, April 27, 2009

Fireside at Norterra Adventure Run - April 26, 2009

As soon as I read about the Fireside at Norterra Adventure Run, I knew that this was a race I wanted to participate in because of the unique concept. Instead of all runners following a set course, we got to choose our own course to get to all five of the checkpoints. There were options to do the adventure run solo or in teams of two or three, with unique rules for the teams. The website explains this much better than I can, so check it out for the exact details of the event.

The home base for the adventure run was the Fireside at Norterra community center.

I couldn’t make it to the packet pick-up on Saturday, so I made sure to arrive early the day of the race. The race directors wanted the adventure run to be a green event, so all participants received a reusable water bottle in addition to the requisite t-shirt.

Participants were encouraged to bring the reusable water bottle on the run since there were no cups at the checkpoints/water stations. I did see some people running with the event water bottle, but a lot of people also brought their own camelbaks, fuel belts, and handheld water bottles. I used my Nathan fuel belt, although if I had known ahead of time that the “course” was so short (more on that later), I probably wouldn’t have bothered with wearing it.

While waiting for the run to start, I checked out two of the event sponsors who had tables set up. The first was Mountainside Fitness where I “won” a three month free membership. They look like nice fitness centers, but unfortunately none of the locations are very convenient to my house. The other table was offering samples of Verve Energy Drink. I didn’t want to drink something new before running, but took a can to try some other time.

I knew Chad, another reporter from Arizona Foot Races, was also going to be at the adventure run because of a recent post on his own blog. I made an educated guess as to who he was and introduced myself. Luckily I was right and with the start running late we had a chance to chat.

The start to the event was very informal. I’d guess there were about 50-60 participants and at about 8:20, the race director Brett Stewart spoke a few words then gathered us at the parking lot exit. With a three, two, one, go… we were off.

Prior to race day the course map was posted to the website with four of the five checkpoints shown. The fifth point was revealed on race day. I’ve added it to the map below. (Click to see the full size map.) I was a little surprised that they didn’t have maps available to hand out. I understand it was a green event and all, but unlike with the water they didn’t tell us to bring our own maps. Luckily I did have a print-out of the map with me.

I headed toward the purple/orange checkpoints first. The purple was at the top of an uphill climb. My tactic was to just run half the hill at a time. I veered off to get the orange mark first before combing back to the purple. Each checkpoint had two or three volunteers ready to mark our bibs with a colored marker. The participants were spread out enough that I never had to wait in line to get my mark.

Next I ran over to the other half of the course. I started with the red mark first. The green checkpoint was a little hidden. I got to where I thought I was supposed to be and didn’t see any volunteers. I actually stopped dead in my tracks to look at the map. (It's a bit hard to read a map while running... try it some time if you don't believe me!) Luckily another runner was behind me and yelled out to keep going. The checkpoint was just around the curve in a little park. I found out later that Terrance is a community director at Fireside at Norterra. No wonder he knew the course so well!

After getting my final blue mark, I ran back to the community center. Instead of a finish line, there was a finish table. The volunteers verified that I had all five marks and wrote down my name and time. I finished in a little over 37 minutes. The run was advertised as being about 5.5 miles, but my Garmin had it as 3.7 miles. Of course that would differ depending on which route a runner chose to take. I’m not complaining about the course distance. I thought the checkpoints were well spread out. Any farther away and it could get frustrating to run so far between marks.

One of the teams checking in at the finish table.

The post-race spread included muffins, cookies, fruit snacks, and bananas. Once all the participants had finished, it didn’t take too long until the awards ceremony. There were medals for the top three two-person and there-person teams. They also had something special for teams with kids under twelve, but I didn’t catch what it was.

The winners in the two-person team category. They were also the fastest finishers overall with a time around 20 minutes. In addition to a medal, winners received a $20 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods - one of the event sponsors.

Then it was time for the solo participants. There were a lot of speedy runners, but they were all male. So I was waiting anxiously to see whether they’d break up the awards by gender… and they did! There were only two solo females and I was lucky enough to place first! Here’s a close up of the “medallion of awesomeness”. (Sorry it's a little blurry.)

I had a chance to speak with Kristen Stewart, one of the event organizers. Originally they were planning to do a 5k, but were having a hard time getting road closure permits from the City of Phoenix. So they changed to the adventure run format, which ended up being a perfect fit with the Fireside at Norterra community. From my perspective, the first adventure run was a success and I had a great time. I hope that the word gets out and Kristen and Brett see an even bigger turnout for the next adventure run on November 15.


  1. Thanks Lisa, and congratulations on your first-place finish! We had an awesome time putting on this event and can't wait for the next one. Lisa will also go down in history as being the FIRST person to sign up for this race!
    Our website ( will have the winners' pictures and recap in the next day or so. Today, I made sure to publish a Wikipedia article on Adventure Run:

  2. I wanted to run this race too. It would have been great to meet the Stewarts (Tenacious B) and you. I already know Chad. I got to get this on my schedule for November.

    Congrats on your win!