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@Angela

San Francisco, CA Raving since 2014 SF Road Warrior active 1 week ago

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My races

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Future Races (0)

Race Distance Location Date Paid

Past Races (36)

Race Distance Location Date Result My Raves My Performance
Half Marathon San Jose, CA Oct 8, 2017
10K Richmond, CA Feb 25, 2017
Marathon Folsom, CA Dec 4, 2016
Half Marathon Berkeley, CA Nov 20, 2016
Half Marathon Folsom, CA Oct 23, 2016
Half Marathon Healdsburg, CA Oct 9, 2016
Half Marathon Half Moon Bay, CA Sep 18, 2016
10K San Jose, CA Sep 4, 2016
10K Danville, CA May 28, 2016
Marathon Eugene, OR May 1, 2016
Half Marathon Oakland, CA Mar 20, 2016
10K San Leandro, CA Feb 13, 2016
5K San Francisco, CA Dec 20, 2015
10 Miler Sunnyvale, CA Jun 28, 2015
12K San Francisco, CA May 17, 2015
Half Marathon Sacramento, CA May 2, 2015
Marathon Calistoga, CA Mar 1, 2015
10 Miler Foster City, CA Jan 18, 2015
Marathon Santa Rosa, CA Aug 24, 2014
2nd Half Marathon San Francisco, CA Jul 27, 2014
5K Mountain View, CA 2014
5K Rohnert Park, CA 2014
Half Marathon Berkeley, CA Nov 24, 2013
10K Berkeley, CA 2013
Half Marathon Oakland, CA 2013
10K San Jose, CA 2013
Half Marathon Calistoga, CA 2013
Marathon Ojai, CA 2013
Marathon Folsom, CA 2012
Half Marathon Healdsburg, CA 2012
10K San Leandro, CA 2012
10K San Leandro, CA 2012
Half Marathon Windsor, CA 2012
10K Castro Valley, CA 2011
Half Marathon San Jose, CA 2010
Half Marathon San Francisco, CA 2010

My Raves

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 1/2 Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 1/2 Marathon

This race was my 3rd half back in 2010 & I though it hardly seems possible I was back this year for my 20th! ***LOCATION*** San Jose, CA ***DATE*** Early … MORE

This race was my 3rd half back in 2010 & I though it hardly seems possible I was back this year for my 20th!

***LOCATION***
San Jose, CA

***DATE***
Early October (Oct 8, 2017 this year)

***PRICE***
Competitor shows only the current price rather than the entire fee schedule and I was not diligent enough to track the various price increases, BUT I can tell you that a) I paid $79.99 + $11.99 transaction fee (!?!) in March, b) the price has risen to $175 for last-minute expo registration, and c) they offered a limited 2018 pre-registration special race weekend for $59 (a price I consider actually reasonable for a half marathon).

Truthfully, the cost of Rock ‘N Roll races makes me a bit ill, but it is worth noting that RNR now offers a kind of refund insurance that covers things like illness, injury, pregnancy, etc. that might foil your race (I don’t see the amount listed on the website anywhere now, but one assumes it would be less than the cost of the race?), and you can also defer for $45.

***DEADLINES/SELLOUT FACTOR***
I feel like this race has sold out in the past, but as of the day before the race, there were still spots available if you signed up at the expo. (Online registration was closed on Friday, I think.) It makes more sense now why I saw promo codes floating around the internet a few weeks back.

***FIELD SIZE***
Half Marathon – 6,483
10K – 2,403
5K – 1,767

***STAGING***
The start is at Santa Clara and Almaden, just a few blocks north-west of Cesar Chavez Plaza, and the finish is pretty much at Cesar Chavez Plaza, so I was quite happy with my decision to stay at the Four Points Sheraton, less than a block from the finish. Yes, it’s an additional expense, but for a bigger, longer race, I really prefer not to have to drive and deal with parking or public transit on race morning if I can possibly justify it. (Also, more sleep!)

Gear check was maybe two short blocks away, and it was nice to see that they had several smaller banks of toilets scattered around the staging area rather than one GIANT PORT-A-POLLY GALLEY. I never had to wait to use them.

***PARKING***
As of 7:30pm the night before the race, the parking info page still said “Coming soon!” Oops. When I ran this race back in 2010, I didn’t stay within walking distance, and found it very easy to park in municipal public parking within just a few blocks of the start, and it was even free! (The caveat being that since I was driving & am paranoid, I arrived quite early & apparently beat the rush). I’m not sure if it’s that easy anymore, but there are definitely a BUNCH of large public garages in downtown San Jose as the staging area is right near the convention center. If you’re staying at hotel near the start (and there are MANY to choose from), you’re good; you’ll just probably have to pay. (Eg, I stayed at the Four Points Sheraton, a couple blocks from the start, and parking was $29/night.)

***THE COURSE***
Let’s just get this out of the way: The course is USATF certified, folks. People run Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying times on it. It is 13.1 miles. Your GPS is not God.

This course is pancake-flat, and actually has relatively few turns for an urban race. (Don’t let the elevation graph fool you, look at the scale.) Both times I’ve run this race there has been a pretty awesome crowd presence (see: urban races), plus there are the bands if you’re into that. (Personally, I’m not. You run by them so fast that you barely catch any of what they’re playing, and I don’t know about you but when I’m racing I’m a bit too preoccupied to pay attention to that kind of thing anyway.)

Aid stations were sufficient, well organized, staffed by super with-it volunteers, and–be still my beating heart–pouring real actual sports drink with real actual calories in it. Lemon-lime Gatorade 4eva. I carry my own gels but the later stations were handing some out along with maybe shot blocks or something, not totally sure.

***SWAG***
Not that I need more of them but I am happy to say that the tech T situation has much improved since 2010! This one actually fits, and doesn’t make me feel like I look like a can of Sprite if I wear it in public. And of course it wouldn’t be a Rock ‘N Roll race without a goofy rock-themed medal. (Then again I guess if you run a gimmicky race you can’t complain too much about getting a gimmicky medal.)

***AWARDS***
If you are super speedy, it might be relevant to your interests that there are prizes for male and female overall winners 1st-3rd, plus 1st, 2nd, & 3rd male & female in five-year increments. At 6,000+ runners, including a fair number of elites and pros, though, they were definitely not relevant to mine! (I believe the men’s race was won in 1:03:xx & the women’s race in 1:12:xx hoooooly Jesus! AND she was in my age group!)

***IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN***
– If you can swing the additional $$ I definitely recommend staying nearby as it is just so easy with the approximately 10 gazillion hotels within a five block radius. It saved me so much time & stress in terms of sheer logistics & variables to manage.

– The thing about this race is that yes, it’s a fall race, but just barely, and it’s still in San Jose, so it is unlikely to ever be particularly chilly (though it did rain a bit in 2010). The high this year was forecasted to be 87F, so although it was not super hot during the time I was actually running (8:00am start), it was full sun on asphalt so it felt warmer toward the end of the race than it actually was.

– Officially there is no race day packet pickup, but I overheard some race staff talking and it seems to me that they will definitely give you your bib on race morning if for some reason you weren’t able to get it at the expo, but they don’t advertise that fact since they don’t want 400 people going, “Pshhh, I’ll just be a slug & pick it up in the morning.” So be a good person & pick it up at the expo if you can, but don’t panic if disaster strikes.

***OVERALL ASSESSMENT***
You know, for all that I am not a fan of Competitor Group and some of the Rock ‘N Roll races have gotten bad reports in the past, I have to admit that this was a really great, really well-run and convenient race for me. My only complaints are that the website needs to be updated with key information (ie, parking, aid station info, etc.) in a few places and maybe put the trash cans a bit closer to the tangents. All in all, though, it’s a pretty great Bay Area option if you’re looking to run a fast race, and I can see why so many elites and other super speedy folks run it. No, it is not the cheapest race you could run, but I just took advantage of that $59 2018 pre-reg deal myself, which I think is pretty fair.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
SCENERY
1
SWAG
4
My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Victory Half Marathon/10K/5K

Victory Half Marathon/10K/5K

The Victory races are a fairly new addition to Brazen Racing’s portfolio, just in their second year, I think. Brazen is well known in the Bay Area for fun, reasonably … MORE

The Victory races are a fairly new addition to Brazen Racing’s portfolio, just in their second year, I think. Brazen is well known in the Bay Area for fun, reasonably affordable, and extremely well-organized events; most of them are trail races (including some real doozies!), but they host a few flat, paved events as well.

***LOCATION***
Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA

***PRICES***
For 5K/10K/Half:
– Until 1/07: $44/$51/$67
– Until 2/04: $49/$56/$72
– After 2/04: $54/$61/$77

***DEADLINE/SELLOUT FACTOR***
I believe there was race day registration at all distances this year. Some Brazen races sell out ahead of time, especially the shorter distances, but since this is one of their newer races I suspect it’s not as popular yet.

***PARKING***
Volunteers were directing traffic to two different parking lots, both free & within easy walking distance of the start/finish.

***STAGING***
The start/finish was set up right at the end of the road, with a row of race logistic/sponsor tents along one side and a row of port-a-potties (of which there were plenty) a little further down past the farther of the two parking lots. As with the other Brazen races, you have the option of local pre-race packet pickup on Thursday and Friday or race morning pick up. As always, the pick-up & t-shirt tables were well-labeled, well-organized, and efficient. I was able to do race day registration by credit card, which I appreciated. Free sweat check close to the start, though I parked close enough that I didn’t need it. These days they just set the sample bags out for runners to take if they want instead of handing them out with the T-shirts, which seems less wasteful to me. Volunteer photographers are stationed along the course & upload their pics for runners to download for free (love), not to mention awesome, enthusiastic, & hard-working volunteers all around.

***THE COURSE***
All three courses were *sort of* out-and-back, mostly along the water in Richmond, which I have to admit was pretty gorgeous. The 10K was a kind of lollypop with a dogleg. I ran 1.5 miles out & back on the course to warm up and was glad I did as there were a few spots that weren’t totally clear, but made sense after jogging it once. A couple spots were also on boardwalk rather than pavement, and since it had rained recently, the footing was a bit slippery, which was good to know. I think it’s fair to call at least the 5K and 10K courses flat and fast, & paved with the exception of the short boardwalk sections I mentioned earlier. I can’t speak for the rest of the half marathon course, which covered the 10K course but kept going past the 10K dogleg turnaround. The stretches of boardwalk were mostly fine for me, though I was glad I got out there and warmed up on it because it was a bit wet and potentially slippery. (I didn’t have any trouble with it during the race.)

***SCHWAG***
I think if you signed up online you got your choice of a cotton T for no extra charge or a logo T for a few extra dollars. Since I signed up on race morning I got the cotton shirt, which I actually DID take for once because it was kind of cool-looking. As with other Brazen races, there was an option to take a few dollars off your registration & go sans-shirt if you registered early. Hefty finisher medals for all distances; age group medals awarded three deep in each age/gender group in five year increments (less for the kiddies) plus bags of free samples if you want. Fantastic post-race spread (water, sports drink, juice, bagels, fruit, granola, cake, candy, etc.)

***BOTTOM LINE***
All in all, if you’re looking for something flat, fast, well-organized, & not outrageously expensive (if you register early), Victory is definitely a solid option.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

California International Marathon (CIM)

California International Marathon (CIM)

Do people still run West Coast marathons other than CIM? If so, I'm sure I don't know why. (WAIT. Is it the lack of big-headed cartoon characters???? Well, if that's … MORE

Do people still run West Coast marathons other than CIM? If so, I’m sure I don’t know why.

(WAIT. Is it the lack of big-headed cartoon characters???? Well, if that’s your bag….)

I kid, I kid.

Mostly.

***DATE***
Early December (Dec 4, 2016 this year)

***FIELD SIZE***
6174 Finishers. The cap is 7,500 plus the guaranteed entries (see below) and CIM always sells out, so this number of finishers seems awfully low to me. I wonder if that is partly due to the new deferral option.

***PRICING/DEADLINES/SELLOUT***
The pricing & deadline structure works a little differently than most other races I’ve run.
– “Re-Run” Registration Special: $89. Available to finishers only, immediately after the race. Limited to 500 registrants.
– “Re-Run” 2: $99. New for 2017, I think? Apparently the $89 “Re-Run” entries sold out super fast so they offered a second round at $10 more. Also limited to 500 registrants.
– Early Registration: $125 (1,001st registrant through May 18)
– Standard Registration: $139 (May 19 through July 13)
– Late Registration: $150 (July 14 to race sell-out)
– Guaranteed Entries: $175 (October 1 to October 16). Basically, if you’ve met the guaranteed entry standard in the last year (10 minutes slower than BQ times), you have this window to sign up even if the race is officially sold out.
– 200 Charity entries available $275 (Until sold out)

***EXPO***
At ~7000 runners, CIM is a reasonably big race (though obviously nothing like NYCM or Chicago), and the expo is fairly sprawling as well. It usually runs for two or three days, I think, usually closing at 5pm the day before the race. It’s held at the Sacramento Convention Center & involves many of the usual suspects–running shoe/clothing purveyors, fueling companies, booths for a variety of California races, car raffles, etc. Picking up my bib & shirt has always been super easy & straightforward, as has finding last-minute accouterments (like sunglasses).

***STAGING***
Incidentally, quite close to the Johnny Cash Bridge, where Folsom Blues Breakout Half started. I totally did not realize at the time that when I hit .2 miles or so into FBB Half, I was running right across the CIM starting line! Basically the shuttle buses park on the bridge, & the start is staged on Folsom-Auburn Road–starting line to the south, potties to the north, & gear check right across the road.

There have always been massive numbers of port-a-potties at this race, but for whatever reason this year those lines were LONG and SLOW. In the past I’ve stood in them for max 5 minutes, and this year it was over 20. So if I ever do the shuttle bus again, I will definitely get my butt out there before 6:30am.

The finish is at the State Capitol Building, which makes for a pretty background what with the architecture & giant Christmas tree. They also do separate finish lines for men & women so that the female winner can break the tape, which I’ve always thought was nice.

***BAG CHECK***
This was the first year I used the bag check, and it was quite easy to go up to the “bag yard,” have a volunteer take my bib number, & then go grab my bag for me. I assume there was food or something but I had absolutely zero interest whatsoever.

***LODGING***
Given that it’s a point-to-point course, you have two options: 1) Stay in Folsom near the finish, sleep in a little later, but find yourself showerless at the finish, or 2) stay in Sac within walking distance of the finish (super easy as there are many many hotels nearby) & do a late checkout, but be sad because you’re catching a 5am bus (or your friend/loved one’s car) to the start. Super creative options include #3) get a buddy or a group together so you can justify a reservation at each end, or #4) be lucky enough to have friends or family who live at one end or the other.

There are many perfectly fine hotels in Sac within walking distance of the finish line at the Capitol building, but this year we stayed at the Holiday Inn by the freeway, about 6 blocks from the finish, for $159 + $16 parking, which was nice but not super fancy or anything. It was also less than 2 blocks from one of the shuttle bus pickups, key since it was ~40F outside & I was not trying to walk a long way in the cold 2 hours before a marathon. There was a bit of road noise from the freeway that I was worried about but ended up not bothering me at all. Solid recommendation, though there are plenty of others. As always, I recommend making a hotel reservation as soon as you think you *MIGHT* want to run since they fill up fast & you can always cancel it.

***THE COURSE***
The course is gently rolling for the first 20 miles, basically flat for the last 10K, with a net down hill of ~300′ or so. There are a grand total of like six turns. That combined with the location & time of year, at least in my book, means your chances of fast, favorable race conditions are significantly better than in the vast majority of places. (I mean yes there was that one year there was a monsoon, but it was only one year. And yes there was the year it was like 15F at the start, but let’s just remember that everyone & their grandmother ran, like, 20:00 PRs that year & not get too worried about it.)

Now, let us talk about the hills. To be honest, I talk about the hills in this race differently depending on who I’m talking to. When I’m talking to people who train in relatively flat places I say, “There are near-constant, gentle rolling hills in the first 20 miles. None of them are long or super steep but you should know they are there and you should train for them, especially the downhills. Don’t go crazy on the uphills & prepare your quads for the descents so that you can enjoy that last flat 10K, less the freeway overpass at mile 21-22 (I forget exactly). Just be sure to do some hill training & you will be fine.”

When I’m talking to people who train in places like San Francisco where significant hills, up and down, are more or less an unavoidable part of your daily training, I say, “There are no hills in this race. You will be completely fine.” Personally I like the variation in terrain because it lets me alternate muscle groups without totally wearing anything out too early, but I’m also used to it.

Aid stations are maybe every 2-2.5 miles or so for the first 20 miles, then more frequent after that (so basically, the perfect distribution). Now, this brings me to my one complaint about this year’s CIM, which is the sports drink issue. In the past it’s always been something with actual calories in it, like Gatorade or Ultima or something. This year there was only [expletive] [expletive] Nuun.

No. Just, no. You want to stay hydrated & have a few electrolytes during your yoga class? Fine. Bring a bottle of Nuun. If you’re running 26+ miles, you need something with some goddamn calories in it.

Let’s finish on a positive note. I love the spectators at this race. Love love love. They’re not constant, but there are pretty solid corridors at several points throughout the race, and they are among *the* most earnest, sincere spectators I have encountered at any race and they are absolutely screaming and cowbelling their hearts out for you, whether they know you or not.

***SWAG***
Long sleeve logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks (I assume?). I know some other marathons give you like fancy backpacks or duffel bags or furry ponchos or whatever, but this is how they keep the costs down and the focus on running a fast, competitive race rather than tourism.

***IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN***
– Reserve your hotel early. You can always cancel it.

– Make your dinner reservations early. There are lots of good restaurants but they WILL fill up with large groups on Saturday night. (We quite enjoyed Hook & Ladder & it was about a mile from the expo.)

– Train for the hills, if you’re not used to them.

– Don’t wear too many clothes. Yes, it’s cold at the start (except when it’s cold & wet) but people are always shedding clothes like maniacs 4-5 miles in.

***OVERALL ASSESSMENT***
Guys. You know my feelings on this. CIM is basically God’s gift to western marathons and if I had to run only one marathon for the rest of my life and forsake all others, it would hands down be this one, no question. Some people will tell you it is hilly and cold and boring and not as fast as everyone says but those people are lying liars. There are reasons people come from all over the country to run BQs and OTQs here. Ask the BAA. CIM is hands down the best marathon there is, the end.

(Even if they did pour f—ing Nuun this year.)

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Berkeley Half Marathon

Berkeley Half Marathon

**PRICES** It looks like the website now has only the most recent price ($110), and I don't remember what it was when I signed up or how many times it … MORE

**PRICES**
It looks like the website now has only the most recent price ($110), and I don’t remember what it was when I signed up or how many times it increased. Fail. It might have been like $80 in September & I think I had a discount code. If you decide to run this race, I recommend poking around the internet for Groupons, race ambassador promo codes, and other discounts.
**DEADLINES/SELLOUT FACTOR**
This year all three races sold out. I think the 10K went first and the other distances sold out closer to race day. (Weirdly, there was a “Race Registration” tent in the staging area. I’m not sure what that was about. Maybe early registration for next year?)
**FIELD SIZE**
4225 in the half, 1544 in the 10K, 1472 in the 5K
**THE EXPO**
The expo/bib pickup was Friday and Saturday at Berkeley Sports Basement. There is no race day bib pickup, but you can have a friend pick up for you.
**STAGING**
Race Start was on Milvia St. at Kittredge St., & the finish was just a block or two away, on Milvia at Allston. Bag check was in the Berkeley High School gym right by the start, and when the rain showed up it was REALLY nice to have an indoor area available after the race!
**THE COURSE**
The course was a big loop with lots of turns, a few steep-ish hills, and one nasty two-mile out-and-back section along the Bay. This year’s course was MUCH nicer than the first year I ran it, meandering through various parts of Berkeley. I’ve been told that in the second and third years the course actually wound through parts of the UC Berkeley campus, but no such luck this year. Some of the roads were fine but a not insignificant portion of them were chewed up and riddled with potholes. (Between this and the rain, I decided to wear trail shoes.)
Aid stations were every couple of miles with water and Nuun, which makes the second time I’ve run this race without any useful sports drink out on the course. Nuun is electrolytes; it contains no calories. This makes it next to useless in terms of distance running. One of the aid stations had chews and a few had granola bars of some kind, so there was that. But still. I don’t understand why so many races seem to be switching away from calorie-rich sports drink to low- or no-calorie drinks. It makes zero sense to me.
Pretty much everyone I know clocked a short course, starting at the mile 10 marker. The course isn’t certified, I believe, so it’s hard to say whether this was a GPS issue or a legitimately short course. Also there was definitely some sort of issue in that out-and-back section that will need to be sorted out, as well as the issue of the fastest 10K runners getting stuck behind thick crowds of half-marathon mid-packers. Either something went very very wrong with the 10K or someone just didn’t think the whole situation through.
**SWAG**
Long sleeves tech shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks and free race photos.
**IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN**
– Poke around for discounts from race ambassadors and other sources. They’ve usually been out there & you can often get ~$10 off or so.
– There is plenty of street parking along University if you get there a bit early, or you can be a good person & pay $20 to park at Berkeley High School (though I think it’s actually not closer). But do not repeat DO NOT pay any for-profit company $21 to reserve you a parking spot ahead of time. It’s a total racket.
– If you’re driving back toward SF after the race while it’s still going on, just remember you can’t take University or realistically anything south of that. Instead head up to Gilman & take that to I80 & the Bay Bridge.
– There are no super bad hills, but two reasonably long-ish ones that definitely take some extra work. Just know they’re there & adjust your time goals accordingly.
**OVERALL ASSESSMENT**
This race was fine, I guess, but I didn’t love it. The course is okay but not particularly fast or scenic, and there is some question in my mind as to whether it might be short. (Though, I think the course has been different every year, so who knows what future years will bring.) It’s not stupidly expensive, but not particularly cheap either (~$80-110, I think, maybe a little less with a discount), so the only real reason I can come up for running this particular race is that it’s nearby and the date most likely means cooler weather (though you could also get a downpour as we did). Due to all the turns, the few hills, the uncertainty about the distance, and the funkiness with the course in the out-and-back section, I don’t think I’d recommend this race for a PR/time trial course.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
3
My Report
SCENERY
2
SWAG
3
My Media

4 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Folsom Blues Breakout

Folsom Blues Breakout

**PRICES** $45-$75 depending on when you register. I signed up in February to get the $45 price and WOW what a deal! **DEADLINES/SELL OUT FACTOR** I don't think either distance … MORE

**PRICES**
$45-$75 depending on when you register. I signed up in February to get the $45 price and WOW what a deal!

**DEADLINES/SELL OUT FACTOR**
I don’t think either distance fully sold out, but the deadline to register was 10/17. The incentive to sign up early is really all about the early-bird price; I signed up in February, so getting the half for a whopping $45 made me feel a little better about springing for gas & hotel.

**FIELD SIZE**
1055 finishers in the half, 259 in the 5K

**LODGING**
There were special rates available for runners at several area hotels, as well as shuttle service to the start and back from the finish. I highly recommend staying at the Lake Natoma Inn directly in front of the finish line!

**THE EXPO**
I don’t think there was an expo per se, but there was packet pickup at Dick’s Sporting Goods two miles from the finish in Folsom 3:00-6:00pm on Friday and 12:00-5:00pm on Saturday. I was VERY happy to learn that race morning packet pickup was also available at Dick’s 6:00-6:30am, and parking/shuttle service to the start & back from the finish. (Also, there were donuts, bananas, and coffee at Dick’s. I love it.)

**STAGING**
The start was on Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge (aka the “Johnny Cash Bridge”) over the American River, which has some spectacular views of both the river and Folsom Dam. Buses dropped us off near the start, and one of them also served as the sweat check/gear drop and took everything back to the finish for pickup. (Gear drop mostly involved a folding table, a box of trash bags, and a bunch of sharpies, but for the size of this race that worked fine. Bags were organized in piles by bib number at the finish and I found mine easily just minutes after crossing the line.)

The finish was right in front of the Lake Natoma Inn, & was pretty well organized and easy to navigate as far as my experience went. The only slight issue I had was finding the bus back to Dick’s Sporting Goods, but it was fine once I remembered that I’d seen them on a particular side street that morning.

**THE COURSE**
This course was very nearly everything I want in a half marathon course. Smooth concrete roads. Closed course. Gently rolling, with nothing particularly steep or particularly long. A handful of aid stations serving something with calories in it. Not too many turns. Lovely fall foliage, with the occasional breathtaking view. Given the location and the date, it’s a pretty darn good option if you’re looking for a fast race.

Now, is it a time trial-fast course? Ehhhh probably not really. None of the hills are very big and it is slightly net downhill, but if it’s your last chance for meeting some kind of high stakes time trial standard, there are a couple of *slightly* longer uphills that could ruin your day. (For example, the winding approach to the bridge in the Nimbus Dam area that crosses the American River, and that really demoralizing last .2-.4 right before the finish.) I would still absolutely 100% consider it a good option if I thought I was ready to PR.

**SWAG**
Logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks & a free beer. (I don’t know what the beer was because honestly the idea of alcohol after running hard for 1.5+ hours is nauseating to me.)

**IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN**
– It didn’t sell out this year, but if you sign up early, you can save yourself some big bucks.
– Lake Natoma Inn. There is no question here. Just book it, as soon as you think you even *might* want to run this race.
– There is race morning bib pickup, but if you go ahead and get your bib the day before AND book the Lake Natoma Inn, you are basically guaranteed the smoothest race day experience possible.
– Get in the potty lines early.

**OVERALL ASSESSMENT**
I LOVED this event so much. A great course, super well organized, and $45 to sign up early? Yes please! Sure, if pressed, I can come up with a couple of TINY, WEE little quibbles, but in terms of the things I actually care about when I really, truly want to run a fast race, this one scores pretty highly.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3
My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Healdsburg Half Marathon

Healdsburg Half Marathon

It's important to note that there are two half marathons in Healdsburg in October that get referred to as the "Healdsburg Half Marathon." This one is put on by the … MORE

It’s important to note that there are two half marathons in Healdsburg in October that get referred to as the “Healdsburg Half Marathon.” This one is put on by the group Run Wine Country/Events With Sole & generally happens in mid-October. The other one, whose official title is Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon, is put on by Destination Races (the same group that does NVM) & usually happens on the Saturday before Halloween & has kind of a costume theme. I have heard lots of great things about the other one but never run it because it is a) more expensive & b) happens on a day I generally want to be staying up late doing spooky things in SF.

**PRICES**
Half Marathon: Before 5/1: $85, before 7/1: $90, before 9/1: $100, before 10/1: $110, after 10/1: $120, at Expo: $125
5K: Before 10/1: $40, after 10/1: $50

It makes me a little sad that this race (which was not super cheap to begin with) has gone up $10-$15 for the half marathon, but if you register super early it’s not awful. But man, I don’t know about $40 for a 5K.

**DEADLINES/SELL OUT FACTOR**
The half did not sell out in 2012 but apparently this year it did. Not sure when, though.

**FIELD SIZE**
700 finishers in the half, 206 in the 5K

**THE EXPO**
In the past the expo has been at the Kendall Jackson wine center with a smallish version of what you usually see at race expos (sunglasses, running clothes, reps from other races, local business, etc.) but this year it was in the start/finish area at Healdsburg City Hall & really just bib/shirt pickup & a table from Healdsburg Running Company. Since there wasn’t much to see or do there, turnover with parking was pretty fast & I was able to park right away just across the street, & got my bib & shirt in about five minutes, maybe less.

**STAGING**
The start and finish were across the street from the Healdsburg City Hall. In the City Hall parking lot was morning-of bib pickup, port-a-potties, water & Gatorade, post-race food, & the wine/beer tasting area.

**THE COURSE**
The half marathon course is a USATF certified loop that more or less follows mainly Dry Creek Road & W. Dry Creek Road. The start and finish were slightly different this year than in 2012 due to some road construction, but it wasn’t problematic at all. The last .75 mile or so before the finish actually ran along a very nice little path instead of on the road, which would have been too narrow for the start but was fine with people spread out at the finish.

Like I said, this is not an *easy* course, & in fact is probably the most challenging half marathon course I’ve ever run, but it’s really gorgeous, weaving through pretty fall foliage with some lovely views of vineyards & wineries if you have the bandwidth to appreciate it. It’s all on paved roads with at least one lane blocked off, though be aware that the pavement is a bit chewed up certain places, and because a lot of it is in one lane, those who are bugged by canted roads might have trouble. No super SUPER bad hills, but many not-significant ones up and down; be prepared for short-to-medium rollers non-stop.

I would call the course “partially shaded” as far as that goes. In 2012 it was a moot point since the race started a half hour earlier & we had cooler weather as well as mist & fog the whole time. This year it was still cool for wine country but full sun (60’s maybe?), so during the exposed stretches on the blacktop it definitely felt warmer than it was.

It is worth noting that there are fewer aid stations on this course (only four) than most half marathons I’ve run, which I just think has to do with where on the road it’s practical to place them. I don’t think they’re sparse enough to be a problem, especially if you’re aware of it going in (I was totally fine grabbing one cup each of water & Gatorade at each stop), but those who want more should probably plan to carry a bottle. Aid stations were roughly at miles 3.1, 6.2, 8.9, and 10.5

**SWAG**
Logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus your choice of a logo wine glass or pint glass. All bibs also came with a ticket for post-race food and a ticket for beer or wine tasting. (Don’t worry about your ID; your age is printed right on the bib. Which is weird.) Age group winners also get a free bottle of wine.

**IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN**
– Register early & save yourself up to $40.
– If you’re planning on getting accommodations in the area, do yourself a solid and a) book early, b) consider an AirBnB instead of a hotel, particularly if you’re with a group, & c) look in nearby towns like Geyserville, Santa Rosa, or Rohnert Park instead of Healdsburg proper, which can be rapishly expensive because wine tourism.
– Ironically, although my time from 2012 is STILL my current PR, I can’t say it is a PR friendly course. I still love it and find the hills to be a fun challenge and think it’s a great, well-organized even, but I would not recommend putting all your PR eggs into this particular basket.
– Plan for the sparse aid stations
– Weather-wise, plan for anything from cold, wet fog to bright warm sun. Fall in wine country — you never know!

**OVERALL ASSESSMENT**
I wasn’t sure how my memories of this race would hold up, but I really enjoyed it. It’s quite well organized and my favorite size of fun local race. I kind of wished I was *actually* racing vs. just doing a long run, because powering up & down those hills is really just a blast, even if I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do it at sub-1:40 again.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
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Half Moon Bay International Marathon

Half Moon Bay International Marathon

I ran this race with a friend as part of a long run while marathon training. It was pricier than I usually like to pay for a half ($95 I … MORE

I ran this race with a friend as part of a long run while marathon training. It was pricier than I usually like to pay for a half ($95 I think?), but it was well-run and gorgeous, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. I registered in June or July I think and the half did end up selling out sometime after that.

Parking was at 333 Airport Road & the start/finish area was .4 miles away at 371 Princeton Avenue. Officially the lot was scheduled to open at 6, but they opened at 5:40, which I appreciated. There were also shuttle buses running between the parking lot & start/finish area. Honestly it’s a pretty short, easy walk, but I am sure many of the full marathoners appreciated having the option to NOT walk .4 miles back to their cars.

This was not a huge race (617 finishers in the half, 173 in the full), so the staging area was pretty compact, with the start/finish, a few sponsor tents, first aid tent, bib pickup, toilets, & bag drop all within a few dozen feet of each other. It was pretty easy to figure out & there were plenty of volunteers happy to answer questions & direct you to whatever you needed.

The half marathon course was an out-and-back along a very nice, paved, virtually flat seaside path. Some parts were shaded but a lot of it was exposed. There were aid stations with water, sports drink, & sometimes gels maybe every couple of miles, and there were plenty of public bathrooms (mostly flush toilets) along the trail. (I believe the full marathon involves some non-technical trails and a few significant hills, because I accidentally ran part of it during my warm-up.)

It’s hard to think about it when you’re 45 miles or so into a 53 mile week, but I actually think this could be a decent PR course. It’s flat and paved, and although it’s kind of curvy (so you have to pay attention to tangents) there aren’t too many actual turns. It probably won’t ever be cold, but the fact that it’s right on the ocean & starts early means it’s unlikely to ever get terribly hot. (The high this year was 82° and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and it was still fairly comfortable by 9-9:30.)

Swag included a pretty nice medal, and maybe a shirt? I honestly do not know as I really just can’t with race shirts at this point. No one ever shoved one into my hands and I did not go looking for one. Also free snacks at the finish, and all the full-size Zola coconut waters you could guzzle. (I had one before the race and one after and at the time it was THE BEST thing I had ever tasted in my life.)

Things to Know:
* Apparently it’s selling out now, so don’t wait too long to register.
* The fact that it’s an early start and takes place right on the ocean makes a huge difference temperature-wise, but still be prepared for full sun and moderately warm temps. It seems unlikely to me that this race would EVER be cold enough to warrant layers.
* There is race day bib pickup (I did not know this ahead of time & wish I had).
* There are shuttles between parking & the start. (Not that it’s that far, but it’s nice to know.)

I enjoyed this race and had zero logistical problems with it. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but it’s also gorgeous, and the flat, paved course & friendly weather makes it potentially a good PR course. I’d recommend it to anyone not on a tight race budget.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
4
My Report
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3
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Race to the End of Summer

Race to the End of Summer

I ran this race because I wanted to run a 10K and a half leading up CIM, and I especially liked the idea of running a short race early-on to … MORE

I ran this race because I wanted to run a 10K and a half leading up CIM, and I especially liked the idea of running a short race early-on to get a sense of where my fitness is. I went with this one because a) it fell in the right time frame, b) it was (relatively) close, and c) it was pretty flat with few turns.

There was a 5K, 10K, and half, with the start & finish for all three races was on Embedded Way, which dead ends right between NexTest & the Silver Creek Sports Complex. Most of the staging was set up towards the dead end. This was a pretty tiny local race (Half Marathon – 149 finishers, 10K – 131 finishers, 5K – 159 finishers), so staging consisted of the start/finish line, a handful of sponsor tents, & maybe half a dozen port-a-potties (which was plenty). You can still sign up or change distances at packet pickup (Friday or Saturday), but there is no race day registration (or packet pickup). You can run the 10K for $35-40 if you get in early; in the modern world of race fees, I count that as pretty reasonable. Note well, though–there was no race day bib/shirt pickup. You had to get it either in Sunnyvale on Friday or Saturday in San Jose.

No gear check but parking is just a few minutes’ walk away so it wasn’t really needed. Speaking of parking, there was loads of it available at both NextTest and SnapOn, neither of which were very far from the start/finish. (I was also grateful that they had volunteers standing out in front of the driveway waving flags because I might have missed it otherwise.)

All three courses began the same way–heading south on Hellyer, then right on Fontanoso (which kind of curves south and then east again), then another right to head west on Silver Creek Road, then jump onto Coyote Creek Trail just past the 1-mile mark. From there, the 5K & 10K were both out-and-backs along the trail/roads. The half course did something very windy & convoluted, going out & back on the trail for a while & then a whole bunch of other places (?) before heading back to Embedded Way.

I can’t speak for the half course, but I thought this was a pretty decent 5K/10K course. The local roads we ran on were closed to cars, wide, very nearly flat, and very smoothly paved. There wasn’t much shade on that part, but it was only the 1st & last miles so I didn’t mind it much. Coyote Creek Trail is fairly narrow, but after a mile of running, people were pretty spread out so it was never an issue, even with people coming back in the other direction. There were a couple of little dips & short inclines, but I would still call this course pretty flat. The paving was smooth and, best of all, the trail was almost completely shaded, which makes SUCH a difference when it’s full sun. The only iffy part of the whole thing was the spot where you jump on to the trail head from Silver Creek Road; the ground was a bit chewed up & rocky there so I’m glad I knew about it ahead of time because you really do have to watch your feet if you’re moving quickly. (It was maybe 10 yards total.) I didn’t use them but there were aid stations maybe every 1.5 miles or so with photographers & cheering volunteers.

Swag included a logo cotton blend T & pretty nice spinner medal. (The website said tech T, so not sure what happened there. Not that I care either way as I have an entire bag of old race shirts in my basement that are getting turned into rags or donated.) There were prizes for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd male & female at each distance (Coming in 2nd, I got a $25 gift certificate to Sports Basement, and I think the 1st place winners also got something extra, but no idea if the amounts were different.) Also I noticed while writing this that the website said 1st place winners in each age group were also supposed to get some kind of prize, but I didn’t know that at the race so whatever it was, I missed it. Oops.

Things to Know:
* It’s San Jose in the summer. The races start early enough & there’s enough shade on the course that it might be totally comfortable, but there is always the potential for a warmish race.
* No race day packet pickup. This is a complete mystery to me given how tiny the race was, and if you live 50+ miles from the closest pickup site, it’s inconvenient.
* They are serious about those start times! Don’t get carried away on your warm-up/pity party.

You never know what you’re going to get with small local races, particularly charity races, but I thought this event was very well organized and well run, and the 5K/10K courses were quite nice (with the exception of the one little chewed-up rocky place). Probably not *the* fastest courses in the history of ever, but plenty reasonable for running a good, solid time, and reasonably priced considering what has happened to road race prices in the last 10 years. (And if you’re into medals, there is a really nice one for all three distances.) I had a great time and would certainly recommend this event to a local looking for either a fun run or a solid fitness gauge.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
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3
SWAG
3
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Eugene Marathon

Eugene Marathon

* Very reasonably priced * Did not sell out * Nearly pancake-flat course with plenty of space, some shade, & a bit of scenery * Awesome spectators/volunteers/spirit groups * Just … MORE

* Very reasonably priced
* Did not sell out
* Nearly pancake-flat course with plenty of space, some shade, & a bit of scenery
* Awesome spectators/volunteers/spirit groups
* Just the right amount of swag (nice medal, tech T, & plastic water bottle)
* TIIIIINY expo (but seriously who cares)
* Pancakes!
* The bag check was a little crazy but ultimately it was fine

I 100% loved this race & if I was local I would probably run it every year.

DIFFICULTY
2
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5
My Report
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3
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4
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Bay Breeze Half Marathon/10K/5K

Bay Breeze Half Marathon/10K/5K

Man, this race has grown in four years! The staging area is a little more elaborate than I remember, with more tents and also big signs directing you where to … MORE

Man, this race has grown in four years! The staging area is a little more elaborate than I remember, with more tents and also big signs directing you where to go.

As with the other Brazen races, you have the option of local pre-race packet pickup on Thursday and Friday or race morning pick up. As always, the pick-up & t-shirt tables were well-labeled, well-organized, and efficient. Free sweat check close to the start. (Grab a garbage bag & get in line.) These days they just set the sample bags out for runners to take if they want instead of handing them out with the T-shirts, which seems less wasteful to me.

Prices have also gone up a bit since I ran this race last. $49 for the 5K, $54 for the 10K, $70 for the half. (You can also skip the shirt & deduct $5 from your registration, which is what I did.)

Race day registration if space (and it sounded like there was this year). Some Brazen races sell out ahead of time, especially the shorter distances, so it’s worth paying attention if you have your eye on something.

Parking is free on the road leading up to the Marina but limited, so get their early or car pool. I arrived at 7:15 & had a 10 minute walk to the start.

Volunteer photographers are stationed along the course & upload their pics for runners to download for free (love), not to mention awesome, enthusiastic, & hard-working volunteers all around.

The Course – Flat, fast, & paved with the exception of 80-100 yards of grass at the start/finish & the gravel around the turnaround. (Seriously, I do not remember there being so much gravel!) The trail is a bit on the narrow side, though runners are supposed to stay to the right since it’s an out-and-back course & all three distances share the same road. Fine for me EXCEPT after the turnaround when some people insist on running 2/3/4 abreast with their BFFS and sometimes the end where the early 10K runners end up sharing the road with people walking the 5K and, again, walking 2/3/4 abreast with their besties. It’s actually a pretty nice little path, mostly along the water and kind of pretty if you have any brain cells available to appreciate it.

Schwag – Cotton T-shirt is included in the registration price; $6 gets you a nice tech shirt; skipping the shirt saves you $5. Hefty finisher medals for all distances (which, btw, have definitely gotten heftier in the 4 years I’ve been away); age group medals awarded three deep in each age/gender group in five year increments (less for the kiddies), plus Fleet Feet gift certificates to the overall male & female winners for each distance. Fantastic post-race spread (water, sports drink, bagels, fruit, granola, cake, candy, etc. Valentine’s themed this year!)

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
My Report
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
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Miracle Mile & 5K Holiday Classic

Miracle Mile & 5K Holiday Classic

I decided to run this race at the last minute to see what kind of shape I was in. I really wanted an accurate course, so I felt like I … MORE

I decided to run this race at the last minute to see what kind of shape I was in. I really wanted an accurate course, so I felt like I was lucky to find a race that a) fit my schedule, b) was super close to home, and c) was USATF certified (ie, you know for a fact it’s exactly 5K).

The race was super small (~120 finishers) and plenty well organized for a tiny local race. Parking in Golden Gate Park was super easy, and the flush toilets by the Conservatory of Flowers were open & just a short walk away. The course was a nice lollipop from the Conservatory to Stow Lake, looped around the lake, & back–no sharp turns & maybe just a couple of short hills. Finishers received a logo cotton T and a metal UCSF water bottle, which was nice.

The race was chip timed, but there was only a finish mat & not a start mat, and my one complaint is that there must have been some other issue with the timing. I turned my stopwatch on when I crossed the start & off when I crossed the finish mat, but my official time was nearly a minute over that, which seems really strange. (I didn’t mind too much, though, since I knew the distance was accurate.)

Definitely a good option if you live nearby and just want to run a reasonably fast 5K (or mile) and see what kind of shape you’re in.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
My Report
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
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Sunnyvale 10 Miler

Sunnyvale 10 Miler

This race takes place in Baylands Park in Sunnyvale at 8am. I knew it would be a small race, but I was a bit surprised to see several race staff … MORE

This race takes place in Baylands Park in Sunnyvale at 8am. I knew it would be a small race, but I was a bit surprised to see several race staff wearing bibs. (Hurting for volunteers? Trying to fill out the field a little?) I was able to get my bib & shirt quickly with no problem, though, and the benefit of the small field is plentiful parking right by the start. (We were told it would cost $6 but there was no one taking money, so I guess it was free?) There were only two port-a-potties & realistically they probably could have used maybe 3-4; the really bad part was when the toilet paper ran out 20 minutes before the start.

As far as course difficulty, it is completely flat, BUT 90% gravel (hence my averaging to 3 stars). It’s a 5 mile out-and-back with two aid stations (so a total of 4 opportunities). The issue was that they were at 1.5/8.5 and 3/7, leaving a loooong stretch of nothing there in the middle. Given that it’s a summer race in the South Bay, in my opinion, a third one (maybe at the turn-around?) was much-needed. The course is not certified; I didn’t wear a watch but the people I ran with all clocked between 10.25 & 10.35.

Schwag includes a nice tech tee & post-race snacks. No photos and no medal for this race in particular, but the organizers advertised a series medal for running both this race as well as the Foster City 10-Miler in January. Alas, when I asked about it at the finish, no race staff could be found and no one knew anything about it. I think I paid $50 for this race (price ranged from $45-$75) & to be honest I don’t feel like I got my money’s worth.

DIFFICULTY
3
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3
SCENERY
2
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2
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American River Parkway Half Marathon

American River Parkway Half Marathon

This is a nice "big-small" race with a local feel (~1300 runners in the half, with a few more hundred in the walkers' half, 5K, relay, & wheel chair division). … MORE

This is a nice “big-small” race with a local feel (~1300 runners in the half, with a few more hundred in the walkers’ half, 5K, relay, & wheel chair division). It’s an inexpensive, all-volunteer charity race benefiting the maintenance of the Parkway, so don’t expect a lot of frills. Still, everything was well-organized and ran quite smoothly.

If a lot of scenery and crowd support and entertainment are important to you, this is probably not your race. The course is really just an out-and-back on miles of mostly exposed bike path without much too look at besides trees. (Though there were small musical ensembles every mile or two.) Also, it’s often sunny and warm in Sacramento this time of year, even early, so it’s important to be prepared for a hot race. But, if those things don’t bother you, this could be a good choice for an excellent price if you’re looking for a well-organized, small-but-not-too-small spring half.

DIFFICULTY
2
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4
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1
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3
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Napa Valley Marathon

Napa Valley Marathon

I'd been warned away from this race by a few people who'd run it & felt like the course was too canted & the weather too unpredictable for a serious … MORE

I’d been warned away from this race by a few people who’d run it & felt like the course was too canted & the weather too unpredictable for a serious all-out PR attempt, but after running it, I have to say I disagree. Yes, the weather *can* be hot or rainy, but it can also be great, and I felt like the course and overall organization were all very good.

ORGANIZATION: Everything about my experience went smoothly. The expo was easy (including wine tasting if you wanted), sweat check was a breeze, and both the start and finish were well-organized. Plus a million for being able to drop off your own special drinks for picking up at the aid stations and showers at the finish.

COURSE: Gentle net downhill with a few easy rollers. (I’ve heard people mention a big hill near the end, but I don’t remember any particularly large hills.) No turns, so as long as you keep track of when the entire road is open vs. just one lane, it’s easy to run good tangents. Aid stations every 2-2.5 miles.

If you’re really into spectators and scenery, though, this may not be your race. Silverado Trail is mostly inaccessible except for at a few points (though, man, I have to say the spectators certainly did show up at those points, which was awesome) and marketing aside, it’s not particularly scenic. (A lovely wooded country road, but there aren’t many visible vineyards & since it’s winter those that are mostly look like sticks in the ground.)

SCHWAG/PRICE/VALUE: A medal, long sleeve tech shirt, & pretty nice, good-size duffel bag. And at ~$100, pretty reasonably priced in my opinion. Based on the marketing, in the past this race had struck me as kind of a froo-froo dog-and-pony show race (wine country, duffel bag, expo at a spa, etc.), but it really isn’t. What you get for your $100 is a well-managed race, a good course, and not a bunch of bells & whistles, which is all the things I want and nothing I don’t.

DIFFICULTY
2
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5
My Report
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3
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5
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Foster City 10 Miler

Foster City 10 Miler

I'm kind of torn about whether this race should get 3 or 4 stars. If I could, I'd probably give it 3.5. See, the trouble is that how great of … MORE

I’m kind of torn about whether this race should get 3 or 4 stars. If I could, I’d probably give it 3.5. See, the trouble is that how great of a race it is depends on what you want out of it and what you expect, and how much what you want is worth to you money-wise.

PROS:
– good organization
– flat, fast, somewhat scenic course
– small field (a con for some people but I like small races)
– professionally timed/supported

CONS:
– little to no crowd support
– not much post-race action
– no medal
– no pictures
– kind of pricey for what you get

All I really wanted was a fast, supported course on which to run 10 straight marathon pace miles without stopping, so for my purposes, it was fine, but I know that for a lot of people, if they’re forking over $70-$85, they’re expecting a few more perks. (It sounds like part of the reason for the higher prices right now is the small field. If more runners signed up, fixed costs would be distributed among more people and the prices might go down.)

DIFFICULTY
1
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4
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3
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2
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Santa Rosa Marathon

Santa Rosa Marathon

You might ask, "WHY on EARTH would I EVER run a MARATHON in WINE COUNTRY in AUGUST?" My friend, here is why. * 6am start (which, in wine country, means … MORE

You might ask, “WHY on EARTH would I EVER run a MARATHON in WINE COUNTRY in AUGUST?”

My friend, here is why.
* 6am start (which, in wine country, means you stand an excellent chance of cloud cover, no wind, & temps in the 50’s for most of the morning)
* Incredibly reasonable pricing (especially if you register early)
* A nice, friendly course (a few gentle rollers here & there, but in general, pretty flat, & not many turns)
* Superb organization
* Small field (1657 finishers in the full in 2014)
* Nice swag (I seriously do not know how they put this race on so cheaply with all the swag)

So yes. I love this race & I will absolutely do it again. It seems to be growing in popularity so don’t delay too long!

DIFFICULTY
2
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4
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3
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5
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San Francisco Marathon

San Francisco Marathon

Since SFM is sort of my "hometown race," I kind of felt like I should participate in it in some way at some point. I've never been able to get … MORE

Since SFM is sort of my “hometown race,” I kind of felt like I should participate in it in some way at some point. I’ve never been able to get myself psyched up for the full, though, because a) it is a DAMNED hard course and b) it is not cheap. The 1st half has the appeal of going over the bridge, but a) the 1st half is the hard part, b) it’s STILL not cheap, and c) I can run the bridge any time I want (and more importantly, when I can pick my weather).

So instead I waited until I could get the sub-seeded discount on the 2nd half & ran that instead. It was fine, but the course is not that interesting, the late start can mean uncomfortably warm temps, & for all that it’s the “easier” half, there are still a lot of hills, so it’s not really PR friendly. I can see people wanting to run SFM as a destination race, but as a local it is NOT worth the money.

DIFFICULTY
3
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5
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2
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4
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Get Lucky 5K/10K

Get Lucky 5K/10K

This was my first race after recovering from a stress fracture. (My doctor had cleared me to run 3 miles without walk breaks, so why not?) It was a small … MORE

This was my first race after recovering from a stress fracture. (My doctor had cleared me to run 3 miles without walk breaks, so why not?) It was a small local charity race run by Santa Rosa Marathon, so I figured it would be logistically well-run, which it was. The course was basically just a 2.5K loop around a shopping mall outlined with traffic cones (5Kers did two loops, 10Kers did four), which was fine except for a few weird turns on the first lap (to make the distance work out, I guess?). It was small (224 finishers) and kind of expensive for a 5K, but hey, it’s a charity race, so whatever. Also you got a light hoodie, a small logo beer stein, and a mug of free beer after (St. Patrick’s Day theme), which, given that it was almost 80F at that point (11am start), was alright with me.

DIFFICULTY
1
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5
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1
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Spring Forward 5K/10K

Spring Forward 5K/10K

I ran this 5K because I had a hankering to race, but was coming back from an injury & did not want to invest much travel time or money into … MORE

I ran this 5K because I had a hankering to race, but was coming back from an injury & did not want to invest much travel time or money into a race that I knew I wasn’t all that prepared for. It was cheap, not too far away, fit into my schedule, I had a friend running, and hey, it was for a good cause, so why not?

It was basically exactly what I expect from a community 5K, with perhaps slightly more elaborate staging (it was in the Microsoft parking lot, & there were a couple of local bands & a DJ, & ladies serving pastries & bagels & OJ & stuff, so that was nice). The course wound through a local park, and the only notable thing about it was that at one point the course crossed itself (!) so that could have potentially been dangerous. My friend & I both clocked the course at a little over 3.2, but I kind of feel like that’s par for the course with local community races like this, and we did not get too bent out of shape over it. (Also, there were timing chips, but only a finish mat, not a starting one, so unless you start right at the front, know your official time will probably be a little off.)

I didn’t find out until after, but there was actually a podium ceremony with medals, and, hey, I managed 2nd in my age group, so that was kind of cool. I’d run it again if I just kind of wanted to run a 5K & wasn’t too concerned about a PR or anything.

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Berkeley Half Marathon

Berkeley Half Marathon

I ran the Berkeley Half in 2013, in its inaugural year. That first year, the course left a lot to be desired--about half the race running up and down along … MORE

I ran the Berkeley Half in 2013, in its inaugural year. That first year, the course left a lot to be desired–about half the race running up and down along a frontage road by the freeway, and a few stretches of either gravel or chewed up pavement. (I’ve been told they just hadn’t had time yet to get the permits to run through the nicer, more interesting parts of the city.) The course was point-to-point and the shuttle system that was supposed to take runners from the finish near the race track to the start was a mess. (My friends and I actually ended up walking the three miles back to the start because we had no other way to get there.) Besides that, though, the organization was good, there was a nice medal and long sleeved tech shirt, and the next year at SFM I got an extra medal for running both races within a year.

I didn’t run Berkeley in 2014, but it looked like the course was MUCH improved & ran through several more interesting parts of the city (although it was also probably a little harder). I would be willing to try this race again now that they’ve improved the course.

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Napa Valley Silverado Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Napa Valley Silverado Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

This race happens mostly on Silverado Trail, part of the same road as the Napa Valley Marathon, and thusly suffers from some of the same drawbacks. 1) Wine country can … MORE

This race happens mostly on Silverado Trail, part of the same road as the Napa Valley Marathon, and thusly suffers from some of the same drawbacks.

1) Wine country can get really hot, even in the morning, and the black top makes it worse because any direct sun is reflected back up at you.
2) The road is uncomfortably canted in a lot of places.
3) Not-so-gentle rollers. They might not be so bad if it weren’t for the canting, but with both, it can be tough on your legs after a while.

On the plus side, it’s a small race and was logistically well-run in my experience. As long as you’re not expecting fancy schwag (in 2013 we got a T-shirt and a very nice but small, more traditional medal) and know what you’re in for in terms of the course/weather, it can be a nice little local race.

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Hellyer Half Marathon/10K/5K

Hellyer Half Marathon/10K/5K

I ran this race in 2013 because a) I wanted an early March 10K, and b) it was Brazen so I knew it would be a small, well-done event. The … MORE

I ran this race in 2013 because a) I wanted an early March 10K, and b) it was Brazen so I knew it would be a small, well-done event. The out-and-back course winds along tree-lined (read: shaded) paved trails in Henry Coe State Park in San Jose, with the picnic space by the pond as a great staging location. There were a few small rolling hills but nothing ridiculous, so it worked out pretty well as a fitness gauge/time trial type race for me. I’ve only run it once so I don’t know if it’s a routine thing, but I won a Sports Basement gift card for coming in 2nd woman, which was unexpected and cool. It was a long drive for me and slightly pricier than usual (due to extra fees associated with using the park) so I probably wouldn’t do it again unless I just really wanted a 10K on that date, but it was a nice little race and if it’s close to you, it could be fun.

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Oakland Running Festival

Oakland Running Festival

I've run the Oakland Half twice now, and for all that there are a) lots of turns and b) GPS issues, it's earned a semi-solid place on my calendar of … MORE

I’ve run the Oakland Half twice now, and for all that there are a) lots of turns and b) GPS issues, it’s earned a semi-solid place on my calendar of PR-worthy half marathons. Both times the race has been well organized and the staging in Snow Park was perfect. I would not call the course particularly scenic, but it’s not boring, and Oakland definitely does crowd support like no other. Yes, there are a bunch of turns, but it’s almost completely flat (though ugggghhh the hill at the finish line is killer), and if it’s cool day, it an be a great PR race. (Yes, your watch will probably show 13.2/13.3/13.4, but I’ve been assured the course is USATF certified & it’s just due to some GPS issues, including, I’m sure, the tunnel you run underneath. If you have a slow mile 3, don’t panic; it’s probably just that.)

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The East Bay 510K (fka Let’s Go 510K)

The East Bay 510K (fka Let’s Go 510K)

I ran this race in its inaugural year (2013). I've run many Brazen events in the past and they are always well organized and managed, and Let's Go was no … MORE

I ran this race in its inaugural year (2013). I’ve run many Brazen events in the past and they are always well organized and managed, and Let’s Go was no exception. For me, though, the course was a big downside (the same giant hill at the beginning and end, lots of chewed up pavement, a gravel stretch, & finishing on the horse track). It was billed as sort of a not-really-a-road-race, not-really-a-trail-race, but for me, that left it in this unfortunate no-man’s-land in terms of enjoyability. Brazen has tons of great races & I’m sure I’ll continue to run many of them, but I probably won’t run this particular one again unless the course were drastically changed. Just wasn’t my particular thing.

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Mountains 2 Beach Marathon & Half Marathon

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon & Half Marathon

This is a laid-back, well-organized, no-frills race put together for runners, by runners. You want rock bands & expotiques & fancy jackets or jewelry or whatever? This is not your … MORE

This is a laid-back, well-organized, no-frills race put together for runners, by runners. You want rock bands & expotiques & fancy jackets or jewelry or whatever? This is not your race. If you want to run a reasonably priced marathon in a cool place put on by people who are on top of their shiznit, it might be.

It CAN be a fast course (an 11:00 PR for me), but there are a few caveats that I wish I’d thought better of ahead of time:
– You are running a MARATHON in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA around MEMORIAL DAY. Even with a 7am start, it is still likely to be warm and sunny towards the end (and full sun radiating off the pavement will make it feel even hotter than it is).
– A downhill course sounds cool in your heard, but it’s all between 6 & 20, and it is STEEP in places. I wish I had trained more on prolonged downhills because my quads were absolutely done by mile 21. If you don’t train for it, the grade will end up being your enemy more than your friend.
– More aid stations were needed in those last extra-warm miles.
– The last few miles are a giant out-and-back on the coast. Mentally that just sucked.
– TAKE THE EARLY BUSES. Because I signed up early, I got to take the later buses, which seemed like a perk at the time, but there was a lot of traffic getting those last buses into the start area and I came within minutes of missing the bag drop as well as the start.

But still, overall, I think it is a good race (as long as you’re aware of the challenges) at a reasonable price point and I hope they keep it small & simple & don’t try to cater to the froo-froo rock-bands-and-chocolate crowd.

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Windsor Green Half Marathon

Windsor Green Half Marathon

The race is part of a series of fairly small wine country races ("Run Wine Country" -- Windsor Green, Water to Wine Half in August, & Healdsburg Half in October), … MORE

The race is part of a series of fairly small wine country races (“Run Wine Country” — Windsor Green, Water to Wine Half in August, & Healdsburg Half in October), and they do a great job putting them on. Yes, there are a lot of hills on the course, but they’re (mostly) sort of large and rolling rather than super steep (though I do remember one quite steep one). The age group awards are bottles of wine and if you run all three races in the series, you get a bottle for that as well. Also, nice medals and some of my favorite race shirts.

The only down side to this race the year I ran it (2012) was that it was HOT. I mean it was probably only low 70s at that point, but we also had 70% humidity, full sun with no cloud cover, and no shade for long stretches, plus all the heat radiating back off the roads. Given that it’s late May in wine country without a particularly early start, I could see this being a general concern from year to year.

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Bay Breeze Half Marathon/10K/5K

Bay Breeze Half Marathon/10K/5K

I love this race (and its sister race, Summer Breeze, held on the same course in August). I haven't yet found a better course closer to home (San Francisco) for … MORE

I love this race (and its sister race, Summer Breeze, held on the same course in August). I haven’t yet found a better course closer to home (San Francisco) for a PR/time trial 10K, plus a) it’s not too big, b) the price is right, and c) it’s Brazen so I know it will be well run and well organized.

All three races are staged at the San Leandro Marina and, with the exception of a short stretch of grass at the start & finish and a small patch of gravel at the turnaround, the 10K out-and-back course is absolutely flat on a paved trail that runs through Hayward Regional Shoreline. (Read: no turns / tangents to manage.) Sure, if it’s windy, you can end up running into a headwind one direction or the other, but I’ve run this course I think four times now and there’s never been significant wind for me to feel like it was messing with my race.

Great organization, great swag. (See: Every review/race report of a Brazen event I’ve ever written.)

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Brazen Summer Breeze Half Marathon/10K/5K

Brazen Summer Breeze Half Marathon/10K/5K

I love this race (and its sister race, Bay Breeze, held on the same course in February). I haven't yet found a better course closer to home (San Francisco) for … MORE

I love this race (and its sister race, Bay Breeze, held on the same course in February). I haven’t yet found a better course closer to home (San Francisco) for a PR/time trial 10K, plus a) it’s not too big, b) the price is right, and c) it’s Brazen so I know it will be well run and well organized.

All three races are staged at the San Leandro Marina and, with the exception of a short stretch of grass at the start & finish and a small patch of gravel at the turnaround, the 10K out-and-back course is absolutely flat on a paved trail that runs through Hayward Regional Shoreline. (Read: no turns / tangents to manage.) Sure, if it’s windy, you can end up running into a headwind one direction or the other, but I’ve run this course I think four times now and there’s never been significant wind for me to feel like it was messing with my race.

Great organization, great swag. (See: Every review/race report of a Brazen event I’ve ever written.)

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Healdsburg Half Marathon

Healdsburg Half Marathon

I ran this race in October 2012 and it's still one of my fondest racing experiences. The race is part of a series of fairly small wine country races ("Run … MORE

I ran this race in October 2012 and it’s still one of my fondest racing experiences. The race is part of a series of fairly small wine country races (“Run Wine Country” — Windsor Green Half in May, Water to Wine Half in August, & Healdsburg), and they do a great job putting them on. Yes, there are a lot of hills on the course, but they’re sort of large and rolling rather than super steep, and for some reason that seems to have resulted in a lot of PRs for people I know who have run it (myself included–as of early 2015, that PR still stands). The age group awards are bottles of wine (though they gave me a non-alcoholic one for some reason–what the hell??) and if you run all three races in the series, you get a bottle for that as well. Also, nice medals and some of my favorite race shirts.

It’s important to note that there are two half marathons in Healdsburg in October that get referred to as the “Healdsburg Half Marathon.” This one is put on by the group Events With Sole & generally happens in mid-October. The other one, whose official title is Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon, is put on by Destination Races & usually happens on the Saturday before Halloween & has kind of a costume theme. I have heard lots of great things about the other one & went back & forth between which one to run, but in the end I went with the Run Wine Country one because it was significantly cheaper.

I loved this race & am really hoping to be able to run it again this year!

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California International Marathon (CIM)

California International Marathon (CIM)

It baffles me that people continue to like, run *other* marathons around this time of year. WHY? I mean, okay. If Sacramento is far from you, I can see why … MORE

It baffles me that people continue to like, run *other* marathons around this time of year. WHY?

I mean, okay. If Sacramento is far from you, I can see why you might pick something closer. And I guess sometimes you want to mix it up & get some variety. But if you are out west, actually trying to run a fast race & PR *while also* having a great time & not going broke, CIM is your race & I don’t really see why you’d ever sign up for anything else.

The course is gently rolling & net downhill. It’s really a race run for runners, by runners, so the organization & logistics are all about as slick as it gets, without a bunch of froo froo junk like rock bands & concerts & ridiculous swag to drive up the prices. Although the 7am early December start tends to result in either a cold or cold & wet start, temps tend to be just about perfect for running a fast race. I really cannot say enough good things about this race.

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Bad Bass Half Marathon/10K/5K

Bad Bass Half Marathon/10K/5K

I ran this 10K in 2011 and did NOT do my homework re: the course. It was on pavement until about 1.8 miles, at which time it went up an … MORE

I ran this 10K in 2011 and did NOT do my homework re: the course. It was on pavement until about 1.8 miles, at which time it went up an incredibly steep fire trail (Live Oak Trail), with the turnaround basically at the top of the hill. I ran for as long as I can but ended up walking the second half of the hill & trying not to die, then had to stop for a break at the top. So that was a rough surprise! The moral of the story: when you look at the course elevation diagram, LOOK AT THE UNITS. The end.

A Brazen event, so as always great organization, smooth production, nice shirts/medals/etc. I probably won’t run it again because crazy steep fire trails are not really my thing, but if they are your thing, maybe you’ll enjoy it.

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Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon (Kaiser Half)

Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon (Kaiser Half)

This is a GREAT race and I am actually really bummed that schedule-wise I haven't been able to run it since 2010. Why is this my go-to time trial course? … MORE

This is a GREAT race and I am actually really bummed that schedule-wise I haven’t been able to run it since 2010. Why is this my go-to time trial course?

* Superb organization
* Flat or gently downhill nearly the whole way
* Golden Gate Park = perfect for running
* Reliably friendly temps
* Not stupid expensive. It was cheaper ($45) before there was a medal so it’s not quite the crazy deal it used to be, but still. The price is reasonable/not absurd.

The only con I can think of is the out-and-back portion down the Great Highway and back near the end, which can be a little demoralizing if you’re not prepared for it (and if there’s going to be wind, it’ll be there). Still my top recommendation for a PR attempt, though.

About the 5K, though — I think it’s pretty much always been 3.2 miles, not 3.1 (the race organizers have been straightforward about this) and the year I ran it (2011) there is a giant hill in the middle. So, not a great time trial 5K. But the half! Definitely run the half.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 1/2 Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 1/2 Marathon

Full disclosure, here: I strongly dislike Competitor Racing Group and have sworn off Rock 'N Roll events for many of reasons, so I'm not exactly what you'd call an unbiased … MORE

Full disclosure, here: I strongly dislike Competitor Racing Group and have sworn off Rock ‘N Roll events for many of reasons, so I’m not exactly what you’d call an unbiased source of information. But, I will do my best to give a fair review of this particular race.

Yes, the stories are true. This is an *incredibly* flat course and, although there are a lot of turns, very PR-friendly as long as you run tangents well. And the benefit of paying $100+ for a half marathon run by a large corporation is extremely good organization. Parking is easy and you get a big medal and a big concert at the end.

On the other hand, it’s kind of a depressing course in terms of scenery (mostly strip malls and the ‘burbs, as I recall) and extremely noisy with all the bands and other groups out, which I found very distracting. (Of course, this will be a pro for many people. Don’t get me wrong, I like a little crowd support but the year I ran it was just unrelenting, and between that and the bands, I felt afterward like I needed to sit in a dark, silent room for a week.) And I have to be honest, it is just really hard for me to justify more than about $75 for a half.

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