My Profile

@Lani

San Leandro, CA Raving since 2014 Boston Marathon finisher, Marathon Maniacs #8951, Half Fanatics #3868 active 11 hours, 32 minutes ago

About Me

  • Running club(s):

    Trivalley Running Club, Beast Pacing, SAPsv Running Club, Team Muscle Makers for Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy

  • Rave race:
  • Race that's calling my name:
  • I run because:

My races

Organize, track & review your races and personal bests here.

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Half Marathon

Marathon

Ultramarathon

(Marathon &/or Ultra) + Half

Marathon + Ultra

Other

Personal Bests (20)

Race Distance Location Date Result
12 hr Henderson, NV Feb 18, 2018 51 mi
6 hr San Pablo, CA Jul 7, 2018 24 mi
89.9K Pietermaritzburg, South Africa Jun 10, 2018 10:46:02
50K Cool, CA Mar 3, 2018 7:42:33
Marathon Folsom, CA Dec 1, 2018 3:54:10
22 Miler Woodside, CA Aug 5, 2018 5:08:13
35K Orinda, CA Jul 1, 2017 4:28:26
30K Stinson Beach, CA Nov 11, 2017 5:37:35
26K Jenner, CA Jul 14, 2018 4:05:37
25K Salinas, CA Feb 4, 2017 3:05:34
15 Miler Tiburon, CA Apr 8, 2017 3:10:08
13.7 Miler Stinson Beach, CA Jun 17, 2017 3:41:51
Half Marathon Bass Lake, CA Oct 10, 2015 1:40:51
17K Watsonville, CA Aug 18, 2018 2:56:53
10 Miler Lake Buena Vista, FL 2007 2:10:40
12K San Francisco, CA May 15, 2016 1:11:16
10K Anaheim, CA Jan 16, 2015 50:45
9K Fremont, CA Sep 14, 2014 48:08
3.5 Miler San Francisco, CA Sep 7, 2017 31:33
5K Mississauga, Canada 2013 23:52

Future Races (0)

Race Distance Location Date Paid

Past Races (180)

Race Distance Location Date Result My Raves My Performance
Half Marathon Saratoga, CA Dec 8, 2018 3:35:32
Marathon Folsom, CA Dec 1, 2018 3:54:10
10K San Pablo, CA Nov 22, 2018 1:02:12
Marathon Fresno, CA Nov 4, 2018 4:12:55
Half Marathon Vacaville, CA Oct 20, 2018 2:35:38
5K Berkeley, CA Oct 14, 2018 27:01
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Oct 13, 2018 2:45:26
Half Marathon San Jose, CA Oct 7, 2018 1:56:50
Half Marathon San Ramon, CA Sep 29, 2018 3:31:46
Marathon Rodeo Beach, CA Sep 8, 2018 6:12:32
3.5 Miler San Francisco, CA Sep 6, 2018 32:55
Marathon Santa Rosa, CA Aug 26, 2018 4:07:43
17K Watsonville, CA Aug 18, 2018 2:56:53
Half Marathon Martinez, CA Aug 11, 2018 3:13:22
22 Miler Woodside, CA Aug 5, 2018 5:08:13
10K San Leandro, CA Aug 4, 2018 57:11
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jul 28, 2018 2:42:29
26K Jenner, CA Jul 14, 2018 4:05:37
6 hr San Pablo, CA Jul 7, 2018 24 mi
89.9K Pietermaritzburg, South Africa Jun 10, 2018 10:46:02
Half Marathon San Pablo, CA May 19, 2018 2:13:18
Marathon Fremont, CA Apr 28, 2018 5:00:30
5K San Carlos, CA Apr 22, 2018 40:46
Marathon Hopkinton, MA Apr 16, 2018 4:37:55
5K Boston, MA Apr 14, 2018 30:03
Half Marathon San Francisco, CA Mar 24, 2018 2:24:44
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Mar 17, 2018 3:04:23
50K Cool, CA Mar 3, 2018 7:42:33
10K Richmond, CA Feb 24, 2018 54:17
12 hr Henderson, NV Feb 18, 2018 51 mi
Half Marathon Palm Desert, CA Feb 11, 2018 1:59:47
25K Salinas, CA Feb 3, 2018 3:12:50
Half Marathon Pacifica, CA Jan 13, 2018 2:57:26
Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 7, 2018 4:23:35
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jan 1, 2018 2:30:11
10K Fremont, CA Dec 31, 2017 55:50
Half Marathon Saratoga, CA Dec 9, 2017 3:04:11
Marathon Folsom, CA Dec 3, 2017 4:16:02
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Nov 25, 2017 2:09:39
10K San Pablo, CA Nov 23, 2017 59:10
30K Stinson Beach, CA Nov 11, 2017 5:37:35
10K Walnut Creek, CA Nov 4, 2017 1:21:00
Half Marathon Vacaville, CA Oct 21, 2017 2:33:12
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Oct 14, 2017 2:09:27
Half Marathon San Ramon, CA Sep 30, 2017 3:44:25
50K Orinda, CA Sep 23, 2017 8:14:19
Marathon Snoqualmie Pass, WA Sep 17, 2017 4:00:21
3.5 Miler San Francisco, CA Sep 7, 2017 31:33
Half Marathon San Jose, CA Sep 2, 2017 3:10:06
Half Marathon Martinez, CA Aug 12, 2017 2:59:39
Half Marathon San Leandro, CA Aug 5, 2017 2:03:51
120 Mile Relay Soda Springs, CA Jul 21, 2017
12 hr San Pablo, CA Jul 8, 2017 48.98 mi
5K Concord, CA Jul 4, 2017 28:22
35K Orinda, CA Jul 1, 2017 4:28:26
13.7 Miler Stinson Beach, CA Jun 17, 2017 3:41:51
Marathon Snoqualmie Pass, WA Jun 11, 2017 3:59:31
Half Marathon Saratoga, CA Jun 3, 2017 3:21:33
Half Marathon San Pablo, CA May 27, 2017 2:01:19
Marathon Santa Cruz, CA May 21, 2017 4:22:46
Half Marathon El Sobrante, CA May 13, 2017 2:49:25
Marathon Fremont, CA Apr 29, 2017 4:25:06
10K San Carlos, CA Apr 23, 2017 55:20
Half Marathon Walnut Creek, CA Apr 15, 2017
15 Miler Tiburon, CA Apr 8, 2017 3:10:08
Half Marathon San Jose, CA Mar 26, 2017 2:01:21
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Mar 18, 2017 2:38:54
50K Mill Valley, CA Mar 11, 2017 7:48:21
Marathon Mesa, AZ Feb 25, 2017
Half Marathon Richmond, CA Feb 25, 2017
Half Marathon San Leandro, CA Feb 11, 2017
25K Salinas, CA Feb 4, 2017 3:05:34
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Jan 21, 2017
Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 5, 2017
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jan 1, 2017
10K Fremont, CA Dec 31, 2016
5K San Jose, CA Dec 18, 2016
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Dec 18, 2016
Half Marathon Walnut Creek, CA Nov 5, 2016 3:04:26
Half Marathon Vacaville, CA Oct 22, 2016
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Oct 15, 2016
Half Marathon San Ramon, CA Oct 1, 2016
Half Marathon Paris, France Sep 24, 2016 2:06:37
Marathon Rodeo Beach, CA Sep 10, 2016 6:39:22
Dumbo Double Dare (19.3 Miles) Anaheim, CA Sep 2, 2016
5K Anaheim, CA Sep 2, 2016
Marathon Snoqualmie Pass, WA Aug 21, 2016 3:58:23
10K San Leandro, CA Aug 6, 2016 52:04
30K Felton, CA Jul 30, 2016
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jul 23, 2016
12 hr San Pablo, CA Jul 9, 2016
Half Marathon Belvedere Tiburon, CA Jun 25, 2016 2:30:05
Half Marathon Richmond, CA Jun 19, 2016 1:57:57
30K San Francisco, CA Jun 11, 2016
Half Marathon Saratoga, CA Jun 4, 2016
Half Marathon Santa Cruz, CA May 22, 2016 2:04:24
Half Marathon El Sobrante, CA May 21, 2016 2:47:55
12K San Francisco, CA May 15, 2016 1:11:16
Marathon Big Sur, CA Apr 24, 2016 4:27:46
Marathon Hopkinton, MA Apr 18, 2016 4:34:56
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Mar 26, 2016 2:08:53
10K Livermore, CA Mar 12, 2016 1:27:11
Half Marathon Richmond, CA Feb 27, 2016 1:57:43
10K Castro Valley, CA Feb 20, 2016 1:08:23
Half Marathon San Leandro, CA Feb 13, 2016 1:58:35
Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 7, 2016 4:59:21
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jan 1, 2016 2:23:30
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Dec 27, 2015 2:27:35
Marathon Honolulu, HI Dec 13, 2015 4:35:31
Marathon Relay Folsom, CA Dec 6, 2015 3:39:45
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Nov 28, 2015 2:00:04
10K San Pablo, CA Nov 26, 2015 57:05
Half Marathon San Rafael, CA Nov 21, 2015 2:43:18
Marathon Sacramento, CA Nov 14, 2015 3:55:09
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Oct 17, 2015 2:29:39
Half Marathon Bass Lake, CA Oct 10, 2015 1:40:51
Half Marathon San Ramon, CA Oct 3, 2015 3:28:33
Half Marathon Antioch, CA Sep 19, 2015 3:03:33
Marathon Santa Rosa, CA Aug 23, 2015 4:21:57
Half Marathon Fulton, CA Aug 9, 2015 2:13:46
Half Marathon San Leandro, CA Aug 1, 2015 1:52:20
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jul 25, 2015 2:19:48
10K San Pablo, CA Jul 11, 2015 1:01:44
Half Marathon West Yellowstone, MT Jun 13, 2015 2:09:58
Half Marathon Wilson, WY Jun 6, 2015 2:00:31
Half Marathon San Pablo, CA May 30, 2015 1:56:31
Marathon Ojai, CA May 24, 2015 3:54:48
Half Marathon El Sobrante, CA May 9, 2015 2:29:00
10K Folsom, CA Apr 25, 2015 1:11:31
Half Marathon Vacaville, CA Mar 28, 2015 2:25:30
Half Marathon Livermore, CA Mar 14, 2015 2:30:47
Half Marathon Palm Springs, CA Feb 8, 2015 1:53:30
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Jan 24, 2015 2:02:29
10K Anaheim, CA Jan 16, 2015 50:45
Half Marathon Anaheim, CA Jan 16, 2015 1:52:14
Half Marathon Castro Valley, CA Jan 1, 2015 2:23:13
Half Marathon Fremont, CA Dec 27, 2014 2:27:28
Half Marathon Kissimmee, FL Nov 7, 2014 1:54:42
Half Marathon Carnation, WA Sep 20, 2014 1:59:44
9K Fremont, CA Sep 14, 2014 48:08
10K Anaheim, CA Aug 29, 2014 54:25
Half Marathon Martinez, CA Aug 16, 2014 3:05:38
10K San Leandro, CA Aug 2, 2014 54:39
10K San Pablo, CA Jul 12, 2014 1:00:36
Half Marathon Richmond, CA Jun 22, 2014 2:00:02
Half Marathon West Yellowstone, MT Jun 14, 2014 2:21:47
Marathon Oakland, CA Mar 23, 2014 4:21:40
10K Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 9, 2014 57:38
Half Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 9, 2014 2:11:51
Dopey Challenge (48.6 Miles) Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 9, 2014 4:29:25
5K Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 9, 2014
10K Brentwood, CA 2014 1:03:50
Marathon Buckeye, AZ 2014 4:21:20
Half Marathon San Leandro, CA Aug 3, 2013 1:50:54
5K Mississauga, Canada 2013 23:52
10K Fremont, CA 2013 58:54
Half Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL 2013 2:09:52
Half Marathon Anaheim, CA 2013 2:08:16
Half Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL 2013 2:14:12
10K Anaheim, CA 2013 55:14
Half Marathon San Pablo, CA 2013 1:56:31
Half Marathon Anaheim, CA 2013 1:55:07
Half Marathon San Francisco, CA 2013 1:58:04
Half Marathon Kissimmee, FL 2013 1:53:07
Half Marathon Santa Ynez, CA 2013 1:57:26
10K Weott, CA 2012
Half Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL 2012 3:46:09
Half Marathon Anaheim, CA 2012 2:55:08
Half Marathon Monterey, CA 2012 2:26:18
Half Marathon Anaheim, CA 2011 3:39:02
10 Miler Lake Buena Vista, FL 2007 2:10:40
Half Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL 2006 3:08:12
Half Marathon Anaheim, CA 2006 3:39:32
Half Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL 2005 2:21:05
1st Half Marathon San Francisco, CA 2005 2:44:35
Half Marathon Monterey, CA 2004 2:11:21
Marathon Lake Buena Vista, FL 2003 6:31:08
12K San Francisco, CA 1999 1:58:51
Marathon Honolulu, HI 1992 4:41:11
Marathon Honolulu, HI 1981 5:08:46

My Raves

California International Marathon (CIM)

California International Marathon (CIM)

The race starts in Folsom and finishes in downtown Sacramento, by the state capitol. This is a point-to-point course with a net elevation loss. There are a few uphill portions, … MORE

The race starts in Folsom and finishes in downtown Sacramento, by the state capitol. This is a point-to-point course with a net elevation loss. There are a few uphill portions, but nothing steep. The race offers free shuttle bus service from Sacramento to the start line. The USATF-certified course has minimal turns and is mostly on larger streets, making it a fast course.

PROS:

– Fast course
– Minimal number of turns on the course
– Most of the course is on wider boulevards; no bottlenecks
– Live runner tracking
– Lots of timing mats
– Mileage markers at every mile, plus at key kilometer distances
– Digital clock timer at many distance markers
– Great organization
– Very large finish area
– Free shuttles to start line
– Relay option for those wanting a shorter distance, or want a taste of the race without the full distance
– Chance to see some really fast elite runners (prize purse offered)
– Lots of race merchandise available for sale
– Very large race expo for some good shopping opportunities

CONS:

– Some bus drivers can get lost
– The 6:30 cutoff time may be too fast for slower runners/walkers
– Some aid station volunteers crowded into the course and make running through difficult
– Some areas in the last mile of the finish line have no crowd control and make running through difficult

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4

4 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Two Cities Marathon & Half

Two Cities Marathon & Half

In a nutshell, this is nice little local race. While there is nothing mind-blowingly amazing, this well-organized race offers a myriad of distances, and offers something for everyone. We were … MORE

In a nutshell, this is nice little local race. While there is nothing mind-blowingly amazing, this well-organized race offers a myriad of distances, and offers something for everyone.

We were in need of a marathon for this date, and the Two Cities Marathon fit the bill.

Bib pickup was held at a local church, which is unusual, but worked well for the size of this race.

THE START

The race start and finish for the marathon are around Woodward Park in Fresno. With fewer than 400 marathoners, the start area never felt crowded. There were ample porta-potties near the start, and the race offered pacers as well. They even had a couple of local radio hosts as announcers, which was unexpected and gave it a more professionally run feel.

There was plenty of parking by the park, but race organizers offered free bus shuttle service from various locations.

THE COURSE

The course stays on Shepherd Avenue for a couple of miles, heads down Willow Avenue and keeps going until you hit the town of Clovis. There are various turns and small loops around downtown Clovis, before you head back up Willow again. Just before you hit that start area again, you make a right turn and this time, head north on Friant Road for a roughly 10-mile out-and-back. The course runs along the edge of communities and golf courses, so the scenery is considerably different from the first half of the race. This stretch is also where they sneak in some hills. The outbound portion has a net downhill, which means you wind up really feeling the uphill as you’re coming back in the last several miles of your race.

There were spots along the course (especially in the first half) where there were groups of spectators cheering. Aid stations were also well spaced (every couple of miles) and they all offered water and sports drink.

BOSTON QUALIFIER

This race is USATF-certified and can be used to time qualify for the Boston Marathon. How BQ-friendly is the course? As a looped course, it’s not the fastest course. Having a long uphill grade as you head into your last 8 miles is pretty tough. In addition, there’s a fair bit of tight turns, especially around downtown Clovis.

As you run the second half, you run into half marathoners on the Fresno Half course, so they could pose more crowding issues with people running different paces than you.

But there’s actually a second problem that I think makes me not recommend this race as your BQ A-race: running into the huge pack of Gavin Gladding Memorial Mile walkers (including plenty of strollers and very young children) in the last mile created an artificial (and in my opinion, completely unnecessary) bottleneck. If your BQ time is between 3:40 and 4:20, consider yourself warned. In at least three occasions, I had to navigate left and right to avoid darting kids and large groups that overflowed and spread out into the running lane. If every second counted to try to make your BQ, having to deal with this in the final mile of your race would be a serious impediment. I was surprised that they didn’t just block off a lane on the other side of the road to have the walkers not even be in the way. You’ve been warned.

My bottom line? Yes, it’s certified so you CAN try to BQ. But if you don’t have much time to spare, pick a faster course, like the California International Marathon.

That said, this race makes for an excellent training run for CIM. It’s exactly a month before CIM, so you can count it towards your long run, and get a sense of how you’re feeling, without going all out.

SWAG and POST-RACE STUFF

For a smaller local race, they really do a good job with both the swag and post-race stuff. Marathoners, half-marathoners, and half-marathon relay participants all get a tech tee, a pullover hoodie (which you pick up after you cross the finish line), and a medal. The shirts and hoodies are the same for all distances. So is the medal, but the strap is different depending on what distance you ran. I came in 3rd in my age group, and rather than getting a medal, I got a coffee mug with “3rd in Age Group” printed on it (under the race logo). What a nice prize! I can actually use that!

The post-race area is in Woodward Park, and they turn the finish line area into one big party. There were local bands performing on stage, with lots of folding chairs and tables. The best part? Free pancake breakfast to participants. These aren’t five-star gourmet pancakes, but they were all being cooked on-site by all the teen volunteers, and they served up scrambled eggs, sausages, and pancakes. You can bet it hit the spot after running 26 miles.

If you had family members coming out to greet you at the finish, this is definitely a spectator-friendly event.

COURSES ON TOP OF COURSES

Many races offer different distances as part of their offerings, and most of them are staggered and held on different days to allow runners to sign up for more than one race (runDisney is famous for this). The Two Cities Marathon was completely opposite of this; they put on multiple events that all happened at the same time. On the positive side, this must make it a little easier on things like road closures. But it must be such a challenge to track so many events going on simultaneously.

For 2018, these are the races they offered. All of them used the same start line by Woodward Park:

1) Two Cities Marathon, 6:30 start.
2) Clovis Half Marathon, 7:15 start. Designed for runners only (no walkers)
3) Fresno Half Marathon Walk & Run, 7:30 start. Designed for runners and walkers both.
4) Fresno Half Marathon Relay, 7:30 start. The relay was two up with two legs.
5) 5K Run/Walk, 7:45 start.
6) Gavin Gladding Memorial Mile, 10:20 start. This event actually started by the 25-mile mark of the marathon and you walked back towards Woodward Park.

It’s interesting that you can choose the Clovis or Fresno portions of the marathon course to do the half marathon. It’s also interesting that the Clovis Half is described as being for runners only, and that walkers should sign up for the Fresno Half (especially since they seemed to allow the same amount of time to finish both half races).

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon

In a nutshell, this is a very accessible race that serves as a great entry into running events for the newer or infrequent racer. Experienced racers may want to run … MORE

In a nutshell, this is a very accessible race that serves as a great entry into running events for the newer or infrequent racer. Experienced racers may want to run this for the fast course, or use Rock ‘n’ Roll races as a reason to travel to different cities. The course is lined with musical bands and cheer squads, adding an entertaining and fun atmosphere. Each mile is marked with a big marker, and most of them also have a digital clock so you can see how long you’ve taken.

For those who have done runDisney races, the Rock ‘n’ Roll is kind of like Universal Studios to your Walt Disney World. Similar, but with some differences. The accessibility of the RnR races means this is a great race for a “friends weekend getaway” group event. And like runDisney, RnR provides different distances. And a Saturday 5K means you can participate in two races over two days, which can earn you a special medal of recognition.

EXPO

The expo is held on Friday and Saturday at the local convention center. I was told it would be HUGE…. but apparently for this year, it was shrunken by half, and a big part of the space was taken up with official branded gear. Perhaps because Brooks is a primary sponsor of the RnR races, I didn’t see a lot of vendors from its competitors.

The sheer amount of souvenir swag was pretty impressive, though, and almost matched runDisney in scale. If this was a special half marathon and you wanted to commemorate it, you could choose from shirts, hoodies, jackets, to mugs, stickers, and bags. I already own so much race gear I didn’t see a need to get anything beyond the official participant shirt, but I wound up finding a great backpack cooler that came with folding beach chair (the chair was incorporated into the backpack itself as a single unit). I plan to use this as my gear bag for future races.

PARKING/LOGISTICS/PRE-RACE/CORRALS

The half marathon starts at 8:00 and if you can get there by 7:00, you can find free parking at the SAP Center. This is a great deal, and the starting area is probably only a half mile away.

Although you are assigned a starting wave, this race is very lax and there are no officials to verify that you are in the right place (such is not the case for other large races). I was told the only RnR race where you are limited to your own wave is at their marquis race in Las Vegas.

Just be mindful that if you move forward ahead of your assigned area, those around you will be moving much faster. For everyone’s safety, move to the side of the course and let the faster runners pass. That way, you’ll avoid being pushed and jostled, and the faster people won’t trip trying to get around you.

THE COURSE

The half marathon course weaves through downtown San Jose and into the local community. There’s nothing particularly remarkable, except there are some neighborhoods with incredibly huge homes. With the high cost of housing in the Bay Area, I can’t even imagine how much these homes might sell for (but well in the eight figures, I’m sure).

The entire course is on paved roads, on wide roads. Even in the neighborhood communities, the course winds through bigger streets. At no time will you experience poorly chosen turns or narrow portions that cause bottlenecks. Other than the occasional crack or reflective road dot, there are also no hazards to trip over.

The highlight of the race is all the different musical bands along the course. I think they had one at least once a mile, and they were of all different types of music. If I had more time I would’ve stopped to take pictures, but I definitely appreciated this “race soundtrack.”

CHALLENGES/MEDALS/SWAG

The medal for the race itself was OK. It wasn’t too big. Interestingly, the straps for all their medals are much narrower than traditional ones. But RnR is known for its flashy medals as long as you’re willing to sign up for additional races or challenges. For example, if you ran the previous day’s 5K, completing Sunday’s 10K or half marathon gave you a third medal as a reward for the extra challenge of running back to back.

FINISH/POST-RACE

As you come into the finish, you are instructed to go one way if you were finishing the 10K, and the other for the half marathon. Both groups rejoined after crossing their respective timing mats, and you walked through the post-finish line area, where they provided you with water bottle, energy drink bottle, chocolate milk, and various packaged snacks. They still had a lot of inventory when I finished, so I can’t say how well-stocked they were for the duration of the race (I’ve been told they run out for the slower participants, unfortunately).

Speaking of a slower pace, as I was walking back towards my car, I saw that there were trucks going to the various band stages to start taking the stages down. And this was while the 3-hour racers were still finishing! I realize 3 hours for a half marathon isn’t going to set any world records, but that’s still a solid pace and well ahead of their cutoff time, so I was really surprised and somewhat disappointed that they thought it was OK to start turning the entertainment off while so many people were still on the course.

The race finishes by the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, and they take up the entire space for the race. They have large signs in the reunion area so you can meet back up with your fellow runners or with family/friends who came out to support you. There was a very large tent where they were selling all the race gear, as well as a very large stage where a band was performing. If you’re there with friends, this is a wonderful post-race area that encourages you to linger. They even had free beer for race participants.

All in all, it was a fun race. I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but I’m glad I finally had the chance to run a RnR race.

Footnote: One race shirt design particularly stood out, and it made a poor impression on me (as well as to everyone else, apparently). The design looked like a California vanity license plate that said “San Jose” on the top (where it normally says “California”) and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Jose” across the bottom — that is, this shirt was specific to THIS race. However, the main “vanity letters” across the middle said “RUN SOCAL”, as in Southern California. Somehow, some wires got crossed when they designed/ordered this shirt, because San Jose is part of the Northern California Bay Area, and is definitely not in SoCal!

When I looked through the merchandise tent at the post-race area, I saw that they were selling these shirts for 40% off. I guess nobody else wanted these mistakes, either. It actually managed to insult both Northern AND Southern Californians at the same time! I almost feel like I should have bought it just as a joke shirt, but I’ll be happy just posting a photo of the boo-boo.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
2
SWAG
3
My Media

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Brazen New Year’s Eve Half Marathon/10K/5K

Brazen New Year’s Eve Half Marathon/10K/5K

This is Brazen Racing's last race of the year, and it may or may not be on the 31st of December depending on what day of the week it falls … MORE

This is Brazen Racing’s last race of the year, and it may or may not be on the 31st of December depending on what day of the week it falls on. For 2017, it was ON the 31st, which means if you want to get their free “connector medal” for finishing both this, and the New Year’s Day race, you have to races back to back.

The Eve version is held in Fremont at Quarry Lakes. It’s partially paved and pretty flat, so course-wise it’s pretty straightforward and the view is meh. But they have a ton of space at the finish line area, so you can bring your family and they can hang out (maybe bring a camp chair?).

Tip: If you want to see all the crazy people who ran every single Brazen race in the calendar year, show up early. They have a special presentation for streakers, before the race. You can see how they are essentially one big running family. Hopefully it’ll make you want to sign up for some Brazen races yourself!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Surfer’s Path Marathon & Capitola Half Marathon

Surfer’s Path Marathon & Capitola Half Marathon

TL;DR VERSION: Surfer's Path Marathon and the Capitola Half Marathon are held at the same time, along the same course that starts and ends by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. … MORE

TL;DR VERSION:

Surfer’s Path Marathon and the Capitola Half Marathon are held at the same time, along the same course that starts and ends by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The marathon has a split personality; the first half, that runs with the half marathon, is a much larger race, but it shifts gears radically at the halfway point, and turns into a lonely weekend run. If you’re trying to choose between the marathon and half, go with the half.

EVENT INFO

The names may seem confusing (“Are there two races? Why are the names so different?”), but both races are held on the same day, start at the same time, and use the same course (most race events with different distances, but which start at the same time, have the same name, differentiated only by the distance; otherwise, most of them are on sequential days but not held simultaneously).

To make matters more confusing, the Surfer’s Path Marathon and Capitol Half Marathon both start by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, although neither race has “Santa Cruz” in its event name.

The half marathon is considerably bigger and more popular than the marathon, but marathoners get to enjoy the feel of a large race for the first half of the race. The start line is right on the main street, but the finish is on the beach on the north end, past the pier.

PRE-RACE DETAILS

Although the half marathon is pretty big, there is still a pretty small town feel to the race, and you notice it most at the bib pick-up area. Everyone, for both races, picks up their bibs at a pavilion by the beach in the town of Capitola. It would be a lot more convenient if they would offer bib pick-up in Santa Cruz, but it feels like they want to try to help the local economy by forcing participants to go there outside of the actual race. It certainly worked for us these past two years. Since it’s *SUCH* a pain to find parking right near the beach, once you find parking, you want to spend a little extra time wandering around. There isn’t a whole lot to see there, so we wind up getting lunch, or stopping for coffee. Capitola is a nice little beach town but it gets completely inundated, so be prepared to wait for parking, or park farther away at the official public parking lot a few blocks away.

THE COURSE

The course starts at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, heading south. The course navigates through Santa Cruz for a few miles until it gets out of the heart of town, and settles into a very nice path parallel to the shoreline. The route then winds into the hamlet of Capitola, where a mini loop threads around the main downtown area (near where you picked up your race bib the day before). You then head back northward again, passing slower runners as you start heading back to Santa Cruz.

If you’re doing the half, you run past the Beach Boardwalk, past the pier, then take a left turn onto a short path that leads to the finish line. If you’re doing the full version, you don’t turn. Instead, you keep going up, from Beach Street to Cliff Drive. At this point, the feeling of the race changes drastically. Where the course used to have course marshals and safety cones, the back half of the marathon lacks most of this, especially along the shoreline stretch. You stay along this road for three miles until you reach Natural Bridges State Park, at which point you move away from the shoreline and start running on narrow paths, including some unpaved portions that are relatively flat and non-technical trail.

This segment, which includes some out-and-back as well as a loop, totals about seven miles, and adds a completely different dimension to the race. There is one portion, as you and start heading back, where you can see the beach below. As I was running past, I saw a perfect wave–glassy, tubular–great surf! The view was breathtaking, and was the best scenery in the entire race (at least for me).

AID STATIONS

The aid stations are pretty plentiful, but are pretty basic. Most of them just consist of folding tables and volunteers offering cups of water or sports drink. A few of them also had energy gels.

One big issue is that there is no signage letting you know that an aid station is coming up. This means you could wind up on the wrong side of the street and either have to run across, or skip an aid station. A big standing easel with a sign that says “AID STATION AHEAD” on the side of the road that the station is at, would go a long way (especially if there was a big sign saying if they had gels at that station).

The stations were placed in locations that were convenient, but they were not easy to remember. They were located at miles 1.5, 3.8, 5.5, 7.3, 8.7, 11.6, 13.3, 14.8, 16.5, 18.8, 21.5, 22.8, 24.4, and mile 26 (yes, 0.2 miles before the finish line…why?!?). There’s really no easy way to know where these are in advance. If they are at least at the same place as some mile markers (like “mile 3, mile 5”), you could.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love aid station volunteers. They are out there because they want to help, and I have done my own share of aid station volunteering. The issue was never with the volunteers. It’s that the aid stations were hard to find, had no signage, and except for a couple of places where you kind of assumed they HAD to have an aid station, almost impossible to predict. This was particularly true once you headed to the full marathon segment of the course, after the half participants finished.

GOODIES/BLING

All participants get an event- and gender-specific tech tee. The design on the back was the race logo and the year, and it differed depending on the race you signed up for. The front of the shirt said Surfer’s Path on the left chest area, which was strange, because that was not the name of the race for the half marathon. It would have been better if it had the name of both races on the front.

Unfortunately, this year’s shirts were all white, so I won’t be wearing this anywhere. As soon as you sweat, you can see through these white shirts, and they don’t provide much SPF either (plus, white tech shirts get stained so quickly and they are generally hard to get totally clean and white again, and let’s not even start on those ugly arm pit stains).

Race finishers get a pretty nice looking medal with the race logo. The logo includes a surfboard. Unfortunately, the finisher’s medals are pretty small (maybe only about two inches in diameter?). I am not a fan of those huge pizza pan-sized monster medals, but these are definitely on the smaller side.

If you were drawn to this race because of the surfboard medals, be warned that these are not like the famous surfboard medals from the Surf City Marathon down in Southern California.

The overall winners and age group winners actually get some really nice plaques (the age group ones look like wooden VW vans). Unfortunately, here again is another sign they have a tight budget; they only recognize age groups in 10-year, rather than 5-year increments (so a 30-year-old has to compete against a 39-year-old in the same age group).

POST-RACE INFO

Before I talk about AFTER the race, I should mention the actual finish line. It’s the same for both the marathon and half. You turn off the street down a path that opens up to… the beach. As in, fine sand. Yes, you and your tired legs/feet get to run the last 20 yards or so of the course on dry, fine sand. I always think there’s something just a little bit sadistic about this.

You run through the finish line right onto the beach, and you get your (tiny) finisher’s medal. For the last two years, post-race snacks have been given to us in the form of a grocery bag with various snacks in them. I believe the bags and the snacks in them are courtesy of a local supermarket, and they were things like a banana, a granola bar, and small bag of chips.

This beach area is also where they make their award announcement for winners. Unless you’re willing to just plop down on the sand, there isn’t really a lot of space on which to sit and hang out. They did, however, have a massage tent set up.

CAVEATS

I ran the Capitola Half Marathon last year and wanted to know what the Surfer’s Path version might be like this year. The main thing you need to know is that the second half of the marathon feels like a totally different race because you are no longer running with the hordes of half marathoners.

On one hand, you might enjoy the solitude and relative quiet after you leave the half participants behind you as you head onto Cliff Drive. However, aside from the periodic aid stations, there is NO SIGN that there is a marathon going on. This stretch is extremely popular with joggers, walkers, bicyclists, and dog walkers. This is THEIR turf, and with the wide sidewalks, they’re used to the area being safe. That means people are often not paying attention, and many certainly won’t care if you’re trying to finish a race. This is mostly just an issue of inattentiveness though, so all you have to do is yell out and let them know when you need to pass. But you will still occasionally run into people who are on their phones and won’t notice. Just be patient. Be careful too, though.

One lady was completely engrossed in a phone call while she was walking her dog, and her dog was sniffing something on the other side of the sidewalk, so the leash was essentially creating a rope barrier across the width of the sidewalk. The leash was hard to see because it was a retractable wire-type, and the other pedestrians even tried to warn her that I was coming through.

So essentially, the back half of the marathon is very lonely, feels unsupported (except for the aid stations), has essentially nobody cheering. There are no course markers or signs, and you’re on your own to have faith to stay on the road. The portion near the northern section is a little better, but the stretch in the middle can get mentally tough.

TIPS

I never wear earphones during a race, but you might consider wearing one for those really long and lonely stretches. If the weather report says it’ll be sunny, make sure to wear sunscreen as well. There’s almost no shade on this course.

My biggest tip for you though, is to pass on the full marathon, and just run the half. You get all the fun of the race without the boring stretches.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

4 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Wildcat Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Wildcat Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

EVENT INFO For your convenience the following is my description from last year, which still applies for 2017: If you're looking for a challenging but scenic trail race, the Wildcat … MORE

EVENT INFO

For your convenience the following is my description from last year, which still applies for 2017:

If you’re looking for a challenging but scenic trail race, the Wildcat Half may be for you. The course quickly starts with an uphill that serves as a little appetizer of what’s to come. Outside of a short segment on an unmaintained paved road, the rest is a combination of unpaved and single track trails.

You find two substantial uphills on this course, and they will feel like they go on forever. Fortunately with a little patience and willingness to walk up the toughest portions, you’ll get through them just fine.

[Added for 2017: There are a few really noticeable uphill portions, and they are both at the start and end of the race… which doesn’t really make sense since that portion is an out and back. Essentially, there’s about a quarter mile of relative level trail at the start of the race, and then it quickly starts going uphill. On the way back, after you go past that long downhill portion, you get to visit aid station 2, which marks the turn onto the big hill. This big hill does seem to go on forever, and it’s really only until the last mile or so that you can start really heading downhill.]

There is also a small water crossing, but it’s over a narrow brook and you can easily step on a rock to cross, without getting wet.

Sam the race director warned us about a big swath of mud around mile 9, but it turns out most of it was dried. Unfortunately, the dried mud was very uneven, making for some real ankle-twisting fodder. I rolled my ankle twice (fortunately I wasn’t injured) but it does require you to keep your eyes peeled. I’ve started wearing high-contrast yellow lens sunglasses and they help me make out the bumps on the trails better now.

Near mile 10 is a steep downhill segment to watch out for, if you’re timid about unpaved downhills like me. If you are, just head to the edge of the trail and walk down the grassier sections to avoid slipping.

The uphills may be challenging, but you will be rewarded with some beautiful views. You get to cross a few cattle guards (if you don’t like stepping over them, there are side gates you can use), and you’ll get to see some cattle on the hills.

Brazen Racing puts on some of the best trail races around, and you can’t go wrong with Wildcat. It traverses the hills of Tilden Park (on the East Bay) — what a great way to spend Saturday morning.

AID STATIONS

The half course includes four aid stations, all equipped with water, sports drink, jelly beans, M&Ms, and all the other great energy boosters Brazen always provides.

GOODIES/BLING

Finisher’s medal: Brazen always rewards every finisher with a beautiful finisher’s medal that is specific not just to the race, but to that year’s race. No generic race medals, or an undated version with the date just printed on the lanyard. This race was no exception.

This year’s medal was pretty huge! Much larger than their normal medals. Apparently this was unintended.

Age group medal: If you are fast enough to earn an age group medal, Brazen made a custom version specific to this race. If you find out you won an age group but didn’t get an AG medal, let them know so they can get it to you.

For this race, the age group medals were made of wood and were really pretty awesome. It was unlike any age group medal Brazen gave out before, and people were very happy with them.

Race shirt: Gender-specific shirts were available in male, female, and youth sizes, and you could choose between tech fabric and cotton versions. 5K and 10K participants get a cotton shirt and half marathoners get the tech, although 5K and 10K folks can pay extra to upgrade to a tech shirt.

You can pick up your shirt before the start of the race so you can wear it for the race–or if you’re like me, change into it after the race so you have a clean shirt to wear when you go and have brunch after the race.

POST-RACE INFO

Brazen is known for generous post-race snacks. Lots of fruit, bagels, chips, cookies. They won’t replace a sit-down protein meal, but it’s perfect for a quick refueling after a race. As always, they offer It’s-It Ice Cream sandwiches (pro tip: Look for the white styrofoam coolers by the post-race food tables. There is usually a volunteer there who will hand you one; it’s free–just ask!).

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5

4 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Western Pacific Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Western Pacific Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

EVENT & COURSE INFO The race starts at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area and takes you along Alameda Creek. The start/finish area is at the picnic area, with lots of … MORE

EVENT & COURSE INFO

The race starts at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area and takes you along Alameda Creek. The start/finish area is at the picnic area, with lots of green space and lots of parking. This is a good race to bring your entire family out to; parts of the course are on unpaved dirt/gravel but there’s nothing difficult about this course other than fighting mental boredom.

The course runs along Western Pacific Trail, which was part of the old Transcontinental Railroad. There are no trains or even train tracks to run alongside on this race, but the course is flat as a pancake and feels straight as an arrow, making it feel like YOU’re the locomotive chugging along. Truth be told, this isn’t the most scenic or exciting race from Brazen, but its marathon is USATF-certified if you want to try to use it to put in a fast finish to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

For the full marathon, the course continues along Alameda Creek, past Coyote Hills Regional Park, and turns around right before the trail hits the water.

There are occasional “elevation changes” on the course by way of underpasses. A lot of the course is also under shade, although there is still quite a bit out in the open. There are also several miles of paved path, but enough unpaved portions that if you’re used to wearing gaiters on trail runs to keep the pebbles out, you might want to wear some for this race as well.

For the 2017 race, the weather was on the warm side. For those running the full marathon, it got awfully warm. The course started feeling pretty warm and lonely once you got out by the Coyote Hills area. By this point, you completely lose any tree cover. With all the rains this year, the grasses on the side of the path were really tall so you didn’t have much of a view at all. Plus, there were a whole lot of flying gnats buzzing around trying to land on your face.

AID STATIONS

Those of us who run Brazen races get pretty spoiled because the aid stations are so great. Most of them have pop-up tents, and folding tables laid out with a ton of options for refueling (everything from water and sports drink to cookies and candies).

They had seven aid stations, and due to the way most of them were available for both out and back, full marathoners had access to 12 aid stations.

GOODIES/BLING

Finisher’s medal: Brazen always rewards every finisher with a beautiful finisher’s medal that is specific not just to the race, but to that year’s race. No generic race medals, or an undated version with the date just printed on the lanyard. This race was no exception. 5K, 10K, and half marathoners got a medal with a train on it. Full marathoners got a separate medal that was round… and was also a coaster.

Age group medal: If you are fast enough to earn an age group medal (given to the top three finishers for both women and men, in 5-year increments), Brazen made a custom version specific to this race. If you find out you won an age group but didn’t get an AG medal, let them know so they can get it to you. For this race, age group winners got medals with an old locomotive train on it.

Race shirt: Gender-specific shirts were available in male, female, and youth sizes, and you could choose between tech fabric and cotton versions. 5K and 10K participants get a cotton shirt and half marathoners get the tech, although 5K and 10K folks can pay extra to upgrade to a tech shirt.

You can pick up your shirt before the start of the race so you can wear it for the race–or if you’re like me, change into it after the race so you have a clean shirt to wear when you go and have brunch after the race.

POST-RACE INFO

Brazen is known for generous post-race snacks. Lots of fruit, bagels, chips, cookies. They won’t replace a sit-down protein meal, but it’s perfect for a quick refueling after a race. As always, they offer It’s-It Ice Cream sandwiches (pro tip: Look for the white styrofoam coolers by the post-race food tables. There is usually a volunteer there who will hand you one; it’s free–just ask!).

CAVEATS

If you’re looking for a fast Boston qualifier, there are other faster races… but with minimal elevation changes and turns, this is faster than many others. The course can get pretty boring and hot, as well. But if you’re looking for a straightforward, low-stress course put on by a great professional organization and staffed with a lot of enthusiastic and supportive volunteers, give this one a try. If the full marathon seems a bit too daunting, consider one of the shorter races.

TIPS

If the weather is going to be sunny, make sure to wear sunscreen. I typically don’t wear earphones, but for this race it might actually work out for you. Keep the volume low enough that you can hear people–but there are no technical or single-track portions that require any tricky maneuvering.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
2
SWAG
5

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Hiller Aviation Museum Airport Runway Run

Hiller Aviation Museum Airport Runway Run

Hiller Aviation Museum, located a few miles south of SFO in the town of San Carlos, is part of San Carlos Regional Airport. The Airport Runway Run is a fundraiser … MORE

Hiller Aviation Museum, located a few miles south of SFO in the town of San Carlos, is part of San Carlos Regional Airport. The Airport Runway Run is a fundraiser for the museum. 2017 was the first year they put the race on. Perhaps because of this, the run was smaller and simpler, and was missing some things you might expect from more established races. However everything ran smooth, and people had a chance to run right on the runway tarmac, something an airplane fan would get a big kick out of.

PRE-RACE DETAILS

Everything was set up on museum and airport grounds. There was plenty of free parking, and bib pick-up was held in the lobby of the airport/museum. They had different tables for 5K and 10K distances, and participants could pick up their race shirts at the same time they picked their bibs, which meant a lot of the participants got to wear their shirts during the fun run.

THE COURSE

The race started right next to the tarmac, then made small loop around one of the runways, before it went past one of the buildings and onto an access road. Participants then left this road and went down a paved bike path. 5K participants turned around roughly 1.5 miles out, while the 10K participants kept going until they hit Whipple Road. At that point, then turned left and crossed a pedestrian bridge and ran down an unpaved walking path for another mile and a half before turning around and heading back on the same course, in reverse.

The course did not go back onto the runway, but instead, stayed on the access road past the museum, then turned right into the back of the museum. The finish was at the entrance to this area, and you wound up right where you started.

AID STATIONS

There was only one aid station for this course, and it was before mile 1. This gave everyone a chance to hit the aid station twice, including the 5K participants. Unfortunately for the 10Kers, this was not the best position for an aid station, and there were no stations out in the far end; a second aid station would have been helpful.

GOODIES/BLING

This was a very lowkey operation. All participants got a tech tee, but it was not gender specific, and I couldn’t tell if there were any kid size shirts. This race did not give out any medals. Age group winners (in 10-year increments, not 5) got a ribbon (the kind you get on your art entry at the fair).

POST-RACE INFO

The back lot area had been converted to a big area for participants to enjoy. There were tables, and many booths from local vendors. There was also a “playground” set up for young children. Also, they had opened up the museum, and it was free for participants to visit. The museum, while small, is full of a lot of airplanes and all things plane-related.

CAVEATS

This is a very lowkey and small race, mostly because this was the very first time the museum put this race on. However registration fees were very low, and it was very family-friendly. A lot of 5K participants brought their kids and they did the fun walk with the whole family. For those who like airplanes, this really is the perfect race.

HOW WOULD YOU IMPROVE THE RACE?

If the museum decides to offer this in the future, I hope they consider adding a second water station for the 10K runners. Mile markers would also be helpful, and I would be willing to pay a higher fee if it includes shirts that are gender-specific (the shirt I got is too long for me). I don’t think not getting a medal would be a make-or-break deal for me, although it would be nice.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS RACE?

If you live somewhere closer to San Carlos or you are an airport/airplane fan, this is a nice little race I would recommend. And since this is a fundraiser for the museum, you’ll be helping the museum by signing up.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
3
SWAG
2

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Zoom Ayala Cove Run

Zoom Ayala Cove Run

QUICK BITS Put on by Bay Area trail racing organization Coastal Trail Races, Ayala Cove was a charming little race on Angel Island that offered something for everyone, with the … MORE

QUICK BITS

Put on by Bay Area trail racing organization Coastal Trail Races, Ayala Cove was a charming little race on Angel Island that offered something for everyone, with the three distances of 5-miler, 10-miler, and 15-miler races, with all versions taking runners up to the summit of Mount Livermore.

PRE-RACE DETAILS

This is the second time I’ve run a race on Angel Island, and it really makes for a great experience. You have to catch the ferry to get there (and Coastal Trail Races hired a ferry run just for runners), and wait a bit for the race organizers to set up the start area before the race starts.

Registration was very reasonable (5-miler: $35; 10-miler: $40; 15-miler: $50), which included a gender-specific tech tee and finisher’s medal for those who finished. The race was based on gun time and was not chip timed.

The race fee did not include the cost of the ferry ride; that was an extra you could add on to your registration, or pay when you picked up your bib at the docks.

Unfortunately, the weather was wet and bitterly cold right while we were waiting, but the weather turned nice as soon as we took off.

THE COURSE

The course was set up as three loops along different loops: The summit, middle, and perimeter loops. All distances got a chance to hit the summit; the 5-milers just did the summit loop. The 10-milers did the middle then summit loops, and the 15-milers ran the perimeter, then middle, then summit loops. The perimeter loop was the most boring because it’s essentially the paved perimeter road around the island, but fortunately the 15-milers got that one out of the way first.

AID STATIONS

The single aid station was located by the start area, so you were encouraged to be somewhat self-sufficient with your own water. The aid station was stocked with fruit, salty snacks, sports drink, and water.

GOODIES/BLING

Finisher’s medal: The small rectangular medal had the race logo on it, but the medal did not list the year. Instead, the date “2017” was printed on the pink ribbon. HOWEVER, I originally got a medal with a generic pink strap, with no year printed on it. Without the year, there was no way to know what year it was for, so I went back and asked the medal distribution volunteer if she still had any left with the year on it. She was kind enough to trade it for my blank one… and then she proceeded to give the blank one to the next finisher!

I’m guessing Coastal Trail Races plans to reuse the same medal for next year’s race, and wanted to keep costs down. The pink design was cute, but the generic undated medal was a bit of a disappointment.

Race shirt: Gender-specific tech shirts were available. It looked like the men had a choice in colors, while the women only had one. Either that, or they ran out of the second color for the women (if that’s the case, again maybe the race organizer was trying to keep costs down by minimizing extras/waste?). Since I ran the 15-miler they may have run out of the second color by the time I finished.

The shirts were not available for pickup before the finish.

POST-RACE INFO

Post-race food was looking really sparse by the time I finished, and I was not the last finisher by any means. Some other race organizations make it a point not to put out all the post-race food right away, to make sure later finishers can enjoy the same food experience, but they seemed not to do that for this race. I think I was able to snag one orange slice at the end, but nothing else (the trash bags were very full and food trays were all empty). I had to go to the cafe near the boat dock and buy my own snacks to get some calories.

TIPS

I like that even the 5-milers get to go to the summit. In a lot of races with multiple distances, the shortest distances usually don’t get to go to the summit, so this was nice. If I run this in the future, I think I will just sign up for the 10-miler. I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth (a 5-miler is almost too short for me to go through the hassles of getting to Tiburon at the crack of dawn to catch the ferry). That way they won’t run out of shirts and post-race food when I finish.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

Charming but feels like a small-time operation. Not really looking for a really slick professional setup, but it felt like there wasn’t as much attention paid to small details as I’m used to with other local trail races. That said, the course is wonderful, and the view is breathtaking! It’s a fantastic run and a great excuse to visit Angel Island. If you can make it a day, go visit the museum and hang around to enjoy lunch at the cafe!

BEST/MOST UNIQUE FEATURE?

Spectacular views. Bring your camera!

HOW WOULD YOU IMPROVE THE RACE?

Please don’t give out undated generic races medals. Also, why not just give out the race shirts when you pick up your race bibs before you get on the ferry? That’s less stuff to carry on the boat, and people can wear it for the race (or take it back to their parked car in Tiburon).

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS RACE?

Yes, but only the shorter distances unless you are very fast and can get to the finish before they run out of post-race food.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
5
SWAG
2

1 member marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

Hellyer Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Hellyer Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Brazen shows agility once again to accommodate flood conditions with an adjusted course on this flat, fast -- and this year, gnat-filled -- course. EVENT INFO Hellyer is one of … MORE

Brazen shows agility once again to accommodate flood conditions with an adjusted course on this flat, fast — and this year, gnat-filled — course.

EVENT INFO

Hellyer is one of the few races Brazen Racing holds in San Jose. And although the race isn’t a “road race,” the entire course is on a paved bicycle path, making it historically a fast race (compared to their trail races with lots of elevation).

This year’s race was a little unusual for a few reasons. Both the Livermore Half Marathon as well as the Rock and Roll Half Marathon San Francisco were held on the same day as Hellyer. Combined with the recent floods at Coyote Creek and the resulting course change, this meant the race had fewer participants for 2017 than last year.

THE COURSE

Due to the recent floods in Coyote Creek, Brazen had to adjust the course considerably. Normally, the course turns right from the starting area at the Silver Creek Sportsplex and heads down the trail by Coyote Creek, but this year’s race only had a short spur of left than a mile, before participants (for all distances) made a U-turn and headed back out towards the other end of the course. [Brazen had to make a far bigger adjustment for the race it just held the previous weekend, when they had to move the Badger Cove 5K/10K/Half from Del Valle in Livermore, to Wildcat Regional Park in El Sobrante near San Pablo.]

Because of this extreme shortening on the first segment, the half marathon course required participants to complete the out-and-back TWICE, making for a really crowded path at times, with 5K, 10K, and half marathon participants heading in both directions at the same time. Although “On your left!” was heard often, most people seemed to take things in stride.

One thing about all the water; there were a lot of little flying insects on the course. Other than the gnats, though, this course was flat and fast.

AID STATIONS

One huge benefit to the out-and-back-and-out-and-back course was that participants got to pass aid stations a total of 10 times, a special treat. As with standard Brazen races, the aid stations were well-staffed (and Hellyer has a lot of young students who volunteer) and offered water, sports drink, and carby snacks for quick pick-me-ups.

GOODIES/BLING

Finisher’s medal: Brazen always rewards every finisher with a beautiful finisher’s medal that is specific not just to the race, but to that year’s race. No generic race medals, or an undated version with the date just printed on the lanyard. This race was no exception.

The theme of this race is “Alice in Wonderland.” For this year, the shirt and finisher’s medal featured the Cheshire cat.

Age group medal: If you are fast enough to earn an age group medal, Brazen made a custom version specific to this race. If you find out you won an age group but didn’t get an AG medal, let them know so they can get it to you.

For this race, the age group medal featured the White Rabbit, running.

Race shirt: Gender-specific shirts were available in male, female, and youth sizes, and you could choose between tech fabric and cotton versions. 5K and 10K participants get a cotton shirt and half marathoners get the tech, although 5K and 10K folks can pay extra to upgrade to a tech shirt.

You can pick up your shirt before the start of the race so you can wear it for the race–or if you’re like me, change into it after the race so you have a clean shirt to wear when you go and have brunch after the race.

POST-RACE INFO

Brazen is known for generous post-race snacks. Lots of fruit, bagels, chips, cookies. They won’t replace a sit-down protein meal, but it’s perfect for a quick refueling after a race. As always, they offer It’s-It Ice Cream sandwiches (pro tip: Look for the white styrofoam coolers by the post-race food tables. There is usually a volunteer there who will hand you one; it’s free–just ask!).

GENERAL THOUGHTS

If you live in the South Bay and don’t normally sign up for Brazen Racing races, this is a great option for you. [Summit Rock is in Saratoga and Trail Hog is in San Jose, but both courses are on unpaved trails with hills.] Since the entire course is on a flat, paved path, it’s stroller-friendly and is a good way to get a feel for what a Brazen race might be like. A good portion is covered in shade (from trees) and although there isn’t much of a view, the trail is very peaceful.

If you’re used to the huge road races, you will love the personal intimate and friendly feel of a Brazen race.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
2
SWAG
5
My Media

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Badger Cove Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Badger Cove Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

QUICK BITS This race is normally at Lake Del Valle in Livermore, but due to flooding, the East Bay Regional Park District and Brazen Racing determined that the location would … MORE

QUICK BITS

This race is normally at Lake Del Valle in Livermore, but due to flooding, the East Bay Regional Park District and Brazen Racing determined that the location would not work for the race this year. With just days to go, Brazen nmade the decision to change the location of the race to El Sobrante, near San Pablo. Although this caused some people to have to cancel their race plans, most people took it in stride and had an enjoyable race.

Brazen gets lots of kudos for working very hard to get the word out about the last-minute change.

THE COURSE

With the venue change came an obvious course change. The race essentially was a simplified version of their Wildcat race (held later in the spring), through Wildcat Regional Park. The half marathon course started with a big hill for the first mile, and although the course is definitely hilly, this particular course is an out-and-back, which meant any uphill you trudged up on the way out, you went down on the way back. The course had an elevation gain of roughly 2,000 feet with max elevation at 1,100 feet.

AID STATIONS

There were three aid stations on the course, and with the out-and-back route, meant you wound up passing each of them twice (for a total of six station stops). As with all Brazen aid stations, they were well stocked, with water, sports drink, and carby snacks like jelly beans and cut up fruit.

GOODIES/BLING

Finisher’s medal: Brazen always rewards every finisher with a beautiful finisher’s medal that is specific not just to the race, but to that year’s race. No generic race medals, or an undated version with the date just printed on the lanyard. This race was no exception.

Age group medal: If you are fast enough to earn an age group medal, Brazen made a custom version specific to this race. If you find out you won an age group but didn’t get an AG medal, let them know so they can get it to you.

Race shirt: Gender-specific shirts were available in male, female, and youth sizes, and you could choose between tech fabric and cotton versions. 5K and 10K participants get a cotton shirt and half marathoners get the tech, although 5K and 10K folks can pay extra to upgrade to a tech shirt.

You can pick up your shirt before the start of the race so you can wear it for the race–or if you’re like me, change into it after the race so you have a clean shirt to wear when you go and have brunch after the race.

POST-RACE INFO

Brazen is known for generous post-race snacks. Lots of fruit, bagels, chips, cookies. They won’t replace a sit-down protein meal, but it’s perfect for a quick refueling after a race. As always, they offer It’s-It Ice Cream sandwiches (pro tip: Look for the white styrofoam coolers by the post-race food tables. There is usually a volunteer there who will hand you one; it’s free–just ask!).

GENERAL THOUGHTS

I’ve been running Brazen races for a few years, and this is the first time they had to change the venue at the last minute. Considering all the logistical issues they must have faced, I was very impressed at how smoothly things went. Sure, there were some things they couldn’t change… for example, the race shirts still say “Del Valle.” But if you didn’t know that they had to move the race, you wouldn’t have noticed. The start/finish area, course, and aid stations looked completely normal, and everything ran smoothly.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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Javelina Jundred 100m/100K Trail Runs

Javelina Jundred 100m/100K Trail Runs

RunnyLani's RaceRaves Review of 2016 Javelina Jundred (as spectator/crew) INTRO Located in McDowell Mountain Regional Park north of Fountain Hills, Arizona (its nearest city is Phoenix), Javelina Jundred (pronounced "Havelina … MORE

RunnyLani’s RaceRaves Review of 2016 Javelina Jundred (as spectator/crew)

INTRO

Located in McDowell Mountain Regional Park north of Fountain Hills, Arizona (its nearest city is Phoenix), Javelina Jundred (pronounced “Havelina Hundred”) is a 100-mile (and 100-kilometer) trail running race held annually on the weekend leading right up to Halloween.

“JJ100” is one of the more well-known of the 100-mile races for a few reasons. The race director encourages a fun party atmosphere due to it being held near Halloween. He offers various costume awards in addition to the standard finisher awards. The 100-miler is also a qualifier for the famous Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, and both the 100-miler and 100-K races are qualifiers for the famous Ultra Trail Mont-Blanc held in Europe. In addition, for a trail race, this course has a relatively flat elevation map, making it an attractive option for those looking to minimize the amount of climbing done for many trail races.

Finally, the course uses a 20-mile loop (five times around for the 100-milers, three for the 100-Ks), making this race tremendously easier for runners’ support crews. While point-to-point ultras may require the use of a support van, the loop allows crews to set up camp at the primary timing mat (at “Javelina Jeadquarters,” of course) and just wait for their runners to return back every 20 miles.

The 2016 edition celebrated its 15th anniversary, and for the first time, completely reconfigured the Jeadquarters area. Rather than a very tightly packed area where spectators and crew had to jostle elbows, the area was completely expanded out into a huge expansive campsite. In addition to the rental tents (which were available in the past), the Jeadquarters layout created a guided track. Runners ran into camp, ran along the guided alley to the start/finish line, crossed the timing mat to get properly credited, then reversed course and ran back past the timing mat, back through the guided alley, and out of camp.

Support crews set up EZ-up tents and picnic chairs all along this alley, and runners could choose to stop at their own stations either heading in to the timing mat, or heading out on the way back onto the race course.

I attended this year’s race not as a runner, but as support crew for my husband, who was tackling his very first 100-mile distance. This review covers my experience at Javelina Jeadquarters, and includes tips for those thinking of doing Javelina in the future, with a focus on those who plan to be support crew (or pacer).

TENT RENTALS

When you sign up for the race, you also have the ability to pay for tent rentals. Tents come in a few different configurations (large tent, smaller tent; cots; sleeping bags).

As a reminder, make sure to take everyone into account when you figure out how many tents, cots, and sleeping bags you need. Although they may have extras, it’s best to get the count right from the beginning. For example, don’t just rent a cot and sleeping bag for your support crew person. If you are a racer, you also need a cot and sleeping bag to use Friday night, the evening before the race.

For 2016, the tents were arranged based on the configuration you rented. As you checked in and got your parking pass, they gave you a big sticker with your name and what you had rented. You then stuck this sticker on a tag hanging from the tent, and that’s how you claimed your tent.

Rental tent check-ins started at 7:00 am on Friday. Although you don’t have to arrive exactly at 7:00, the earlier in the day you show up, the better spot you will likely be able to snag.

SUPPORT CAMPS

In addition to your rental tents, your support crew should come prepared with some type of shade structure. An EZ-Up tent from Costco is probably your easiest bet, but a smaller Sunbrella or other shade structure can also do. In a pinch, bring some camping chairs to mark your territory, and bring an umbrella (since you’ll be doing a lot of sitting around in the sun).

Support crew who were teamed up to help multiple runners or who had experience crewing, had some pretty nice camp setups. We brought a campstove to brew fresh coffee and make a pasta dinner on Saturday night; we saw other people with camp stoves, as well as portable adirondack chairs and various other comforts. Don’t forget; as crew, you will be spending the next 30 hours in your support camp, so make it comfortable.

BIB PICK-UP/EXPO

The expo and bib pick-up were held in a small convention center hall at the We-Ko-Pa Resort, which is a hotel adjacent to a tribal casino in nearby Scottsdale. Here, you can buy all sorts of JJ race souvenirs, as well as check out booths from other vendors and races.

BEER MILE

On Friday afternoon, there is an unofficial “beer mile” race at Jeadquarters. Essentially, participants drink a can of beer, run a quarter mile, drink another can of beer, run another quarter mile, and so on, until you run a mile. You’re expected to bring your own beer, and most of the participants were there as pacers or crew (only three of the participants were racing the next day). I’m not one to encourage drinking and running, but at least it’s only a mile. I guess.

FOOD VENDORS

For those looking for food, Freak Brothers Pizza sets up shop and sells wood-fired pizzas for the entire duration of the weekend. In addition, another vendor sold kettle corn and frozen slushies. There are no rules against cooking your own food though, so some people brought or made their own (for example, I cooked dinner for the support crew on Saturday evening).

RACE TIMES

The 100-miler starts in the predawn hour of 6:00 am on Saturday, and the 100-K starts at 7:00 am an hour later.

There are two time cutoffs for this race: the 100-milers who finish by 6:00 am on Sunday are recognized with a big belt buckle for finishing in under 24 hours. 100-milers and 100-Kers have a firm cutoff of noon Sunday to finish in under 30 hours. Those who do are rewarded with a smaller finisher belt buckle; those who cannot finish in under 30 hours chip time are not included in the official finishers’ roster.

WEATHER/HEAT/DROP-OUTs

This year (2016) in particular, there was a terrible heatwave that happened just over race weekend. Temperatures soared to 93 F at Jeadquarters; racers report their GPS watch logs showing many of the trail locations hitting over 105 degrees (due to valleys trapping heat, the sun reflecting off the ground, etc.). It is perhaps for this reason that this year’s race had a profoundly high drop-out rate. Of the 574 participants in the 100-miler, only 285 finished.

The race organizers even tried to discourage runners from giving up on the 100-miler before race weekend. In the past, those who felt they couldn’t finish 100 miles were allowed to downgrade on the fly to the 100K race and be listed as a official 100K finisher, and earning the 100K finisher’s buckle. For the first time this year, they did away with this downgrade option; runners who couldn’t finish the 100-mile distance were classified as DNF (“did not finish”) on the roster, and were not allowed to take home a 100K buckle.

Regardless, the blistering heat sapped even the heartiest of runners, with racers having various heat-related issues (there were a few ambulance runs made on race day).

TIPS FOR CREWING

You’ll want to work with your runner to figure out what they will need when they come in, but the general philosophy is that this should be like a NASCAR pit stop — with a VERY fast pit crew taking care of things very quicly — rather than a way for the runner to sit down and take a rest. The longer they rest among friends and family, the harder it will be for them to leave for their next lap.

Try to bring as much gear to set up your crew camp as you can. The most important thing to bring is a shade structure. Next to that, folding picnic chairs. Everything else is extra. We brought a folding table and a camp stove, and our camp supported four runners, with a total of five support people (three of whom were also serving pacing duty for the final laps). Some of the support people didn’t stay at camp, but instead, went back and forth to buy ice and water so that we were never out of supplies. We also brought battery-operated holiday lights to string on our shade structure, and added other decorations to add to the party atmosphere. A few of us even dressed in Halloween costumes (at least until the heat got to be too much). There really aren’t many ultra races where the crew get to have this much fun, though (but it’s only as much fun as you make it! — so bring decorations!).

This race allows pacers only after the runners will be on the course in the dark. Pacers are required to sign a waiver form but do not get their own race bibs. However, pacers are welcomed at all the aid stations along the course, and are allowed to eat aid station food as well as get ice and water.

ELECTRONICS/CELL COVERAGE

We were told by various people in advance that the entire course has cell coverage, although we did hear from some people that they discovered some dead zones. We have Verizon, and had no issues whatsoever.

If you and your racer have iPhones, enable the iOS-native Find Friends app so you can track exactly where the racer is on the course. Although the distance is as the crow flies, it will still give you a general idea of how close they are and when you might need to start reconvening at your camp to be ready to provide crewing duties.

Even without Find Friends, there are other livestream apps you might consider (like RoadID). Using these apps may use up a lot of energy of the phone battery, though, so you need to be ready with back-up batteries and chargers.

At minimum, bring all your electronics fully charged. In addition, buy an external battery power bank — the bigger the storage capability, the better. We brought two 20,000mAh batteries with us; they were the size of iPhone 6S models but weighed about three times as much. Each, however, were good for at least six full charges of dead smartphones.

If you aren’t sure the racer’s phone will last a lap, they can use a battery phone case (such as Mophie Juice Box or the new ones from Apple). We actually brought two Mophies and swapped them out on every lap so the phone was never low on battery.

Just know that there are NO power outlets at camp (that we could find). Those that are available, will likely be reserved for race officials or race volunteers, so you are mostly on your own for charging your electronics.

Finally, be aware that most GPS watches will not last long enough for a 100-mile race when you have it actively tracking a workout.

The key here is to consider buying a model that lets you charge the phone while it’s in tracking mode. These tend to be the more expensive, advanced models, but if ultras are in your future, they may be worth the investment. For us, we purchased a Garmin fenix 3, which my husband was able to charge successfully while on one of the loops (he looked like a Star Trek Borg with a cable coming out of his watch and running into his hydration vest, where it was connected to a small external charger battery).

GENERAL THOUGHTS

A lot of people really love this race, and attend multiple times. I’m not entirely sure my husband wants to do it again, but he’s still very fresh from race weekend (and likely won’t form any firm thoughts until much later). The new camp diagram makes this event very spectator-friendly, which I expect might make this an even more popular race in the future (especially for runners who want to bring out family members to help them crew). The looped course is a double-edged sword, though. While it’s very convenient for crew, it is also a big temptation for runners to stop at camp and simply stop continuing.

If you’re looking for a race with a lot of personality (there are flashes of Burning Man in the way the camp feels) and you’re looking for a fun 100M or 100K, this one is definitely worth a look.

Just be warned that heat could play a very big factor. Oh, and rattlesnakes. And bees (who love to swarm around the aid stations).

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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Disneyland Paris – Val d’Europe Half Marathon Weekend

Disneyland Paris – Val d’Europe Half Marathon Weekend

RunnyLani's RaceRaves Review of Disneyland Parks Half Marathon DETAILS: Those who wanted to expand their list of half marathons to beyond the U.S., and/or wanted to get a little taste … MORE

RunnyLani’s RaceRaves Review of Disneyland Parks Half Marathon

DETAILS:

Those who wanted to expand their list of half marathons to beyond the U.S., and/or wanted to get a little taste of Disney running magic overseas, had a chance in September with the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon.

Unlike the Disney theme park races in California and Florida, the French version was organized by Disneyland Paris, rather than runDisney. runDisney was apparently brought in as consultants, but because it was not run by them, this event had a distinct flavor all its own.

THE EXPO:

Unlike the huge convention center hall fitness expos you are used to with Disneyland or Walt Disney World races, the Disneyland Paris expo is both sparse and small. The good thing about this is that the line isn’t terribly long, and you can grab your bib pretty quickly.

There were very few vendor booths, although there were a few from other European races.

Probably the biggest surprise was the official merchandise. Historically one of the most important elements of a runDisney race, it seemed like the merchandise was sparse, and (to be completely honest), not of very high quality, and not very nicely designed. I usually wind up buying at least one or two little souvenirs, but this time I found nothing of interest at all.

THE RACE:

Physical description:

The half marathon course winds its way through both Disneyland Paris and Studios parks for the first miles. The middle of the course goes through some nice roads through the countryside (since Disneyland is kind of in the middle of nothing), and you finish up near the resort hotels.

Because this race is held in Europe, you get kilometer markers instead of mile markers (there were over 20 of them). It’s a good thing I had my own GPS watch, or it would have felt odd passing by marker 20 and not feeling tired yet (whereas back home, marker 20 tells me I’ve go 6 miles left for a marathon).

Corrals:

They had four corrals, which is very few compared to the dozens back in the U.S. runDisney races. That said, they segmented each corral so that they released people in waves (each corral had at least three separate waves). There was no special designation for which wave you got to go on in a corral; it was just simply whereever you were. Although this wound up taking a while, I think everything kind of settled into a comfortable spot so there seemed to be less incentive for people to try to sneak into a faster corral.

They had some announcers at the front, but I have no clue what they were saying. I think they were saying things in both French and English, but I was not near any speakers so I really had no idea what they were saying.

Highlights:

There were an impressive collection of Disney characters with photo meet-and-greet opportunities within the parks. I think there were maybe two or three per kilometer, which is way more than in the U.S. runDisney races. Not only that, but many of the meet-and-greets included a many characters from a movie (such as Carl, Russell, and Dug from UP! or Jasmin, Aladdin, and Genie together.

In addition to the huge number of characters, there were so many cast members out cheering the participants on. They were in big groups, all clapping, cheering, and yelling “Allez Allez Allez!” (essentially, “Go go go!”), and they looked like they were truly excited and happy to be cheering us on. Seeing them so cheerful made me want to keep waving and smiling back at them.

Aid stations were very plentiful, and they offered either water or sports drink. Somewhere in the middle of the course, they also offered real food — the kind you don’t see on a runDisney race course. I think I remember seeing bananas and breakfast cereal bars, although I think there were additional items as well.

Cautions/Heads-ups:

One thing I was curious about was how they would manage security. Not to worry. For the race itself, they physically set up road blocks on every single street that could feed into the course, and these were patrolled by police (and someone told me they also saw some military police as well).

The course itself was generally safe, although there was a stretch that was unpaved (you ran over gravelly grass), for the most part, the streets are wide and you won’t get lost on the course. However, things that I thought were hazards were not properly marked. For example, I saw a lot of corners and such that should’ve had a safety cone in front of it. My husband, who ran the first portion in the dark because he started in a faster corral, said two people slipped and fell running through the Moteurs… Action! stunt show area. He said they had monster-sized dots on the ground that were slippery and hard to see in the crowds (he thinks they should’ve had someone calling out a warning, or safety cones).

MEDALS

The race medals were beautiful. The half marathon medal shows Mickey running in front of the Disneyland Paris castle. The other medal I got, the “Castle to Chateau” medal (for those who ran a U.S. runDisney half marathon or marathon as well) is worth the price of admission, with the castle in the center, and the U.S. and French flags on its sides.

SHIRTS

The shirts were dark gray and said “Disneyland Paris 1/2 Marathon.” Interestingly, the shirts were by European size, which are a size smaller than the U.S. sizing, so I wound up trading mine for one size up.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS RACE?

The best part about this race is that it’s held at Disneyland Paris. If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Paris and you like the idea of tucking in a half marathon to your schedule AND you also like Disney, this has just that right combo for you.

TIPS

They do things differently for this race. For one, you are required to have a form signed up by a doctor to say that you’re fit enough to do this race. I suspect this is some kind of rule for French races, although it may be for other countries in Europe. If you’re in generally good shape, it shouldn’t be a problem at all, but it’s something you need to take care of before your trip. They were quite fussy about needing to get all the paperwork squared away.

Maybe because this was the first time they put this race on, but communication was pretty sparse and hard to understand at times. We decided it would be easier if we just purchase a hotel/race package from an authorized travel agency… well, it turns out there were only a very small handful of authorized agencies you could work with (including just a single one for U.S. travelers), but Disney didn’t actually provide this information beforehand. If you lucked out and already had a working relationship with one of these authorized agencies (or you knew a friend of a friend who did), you could have signed up for email notifications… but there was no easy way to sign up online, so people spent hours on the phone trying to talk to an agent during the first few days. It was quite chaotic and stressful, and I think completely avoidable. They’ve already announced this race for next year, so here’s to hoping they learn from all their lessons and improve on the process.

If you wanted to just make your own hotel reservations, you had to wait for race registration to open up some months later… but again, not nearly as much information so a lot of people were left in the dark.

Would I do this race again? Not on your life. I’m really happy that I got to do this inaugural race. I enjoyed the course, and I had a pleasant enough time (re)visiting Disneyland Paris. However, it’s PARIS. Come on! The minimum package the travel agency offered was a three-night package. There are two Disney theme parks there, but it’s maybe a day and a half’s worth of time, at most. If you’re interested in this race, I don’t want to talk you out of it. But this is most definitely a one-and-done for me. There is nothing pulling me back to do it again.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
My Media

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Headlands Marathon, 50, 75 & 100

Headlands Marathon, 50, 75 & 100

The Marin Headlands offers some of the best trails for running, and this race takes advantage of some of the most popular routes. The trails are generally runnable, but be … MORE

The Marin Headlands offers some of the best trails for running, and this race takes advantage of some of the most popular routes. The trails are generally runnable, but be ready for some big hills and a couple of technical single-tracks where you have two-way foot traffic. The weather along the ridgeline near the switchbacks before Golden Gate Bridge can get pretty nasty.

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

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Tunnel Vision Marathon

Tunnel Vision Marathon

QUICK BITS - USATF-certified marathon is eligible as Boston Marathon qualifier. - Gentle downhill course offers a chance for faster times (with some caveats) - Small race with friendly organizers … MORE

QUICK BITS

– USATF-certified marathon is eligible as Boston Marathon qualifier.
– Gentle downhill course offers a chance for faster times (with some caveats)
– Small race with friendly organizers and volunteers
– Unpaved bicycle trail course puts less shock on the body, and is not technical
– Most famous for the 2.5-mile pedestrian tunnel at the start of the race; you won’t run through anything like this on any other marathon

EVENT INFO

[If you want to run this race specifically to qualify for the Boston Marathon, scroll down to the section labeled “COURSE CAVEATS”.]

The Super Tunnel Marathon is the newest sibling in the Tunnel series; added in 2016 in response to popularity of the Light at the End of the Tunnel (held in June) and Tunnel Light (held in mid-September) races.

This is a popular course and in the last few years, has seen the addition of the Jack and Jill Downhill Marathon, put on by a different race organization. [This review is for the Tunnel race only, and does not reflect any evaluations of the Jack and Jill race, which I have not run.]

Although Super Tunnel is brand new, since the race director has been offering the Tunnel races for many years, this has a feeling of a seasoned race. The race website looks like it came straight out of the 1990s, but is perfectly functional and you can register for the race just fine.

One of the pluses for this race is that it’s USATF-certified, so your official time is valid as a Boston Marathon qualifier. If you don’t want to wait until right before the registration for Boston opens in mid-September, running this race versus its later offering (Tunnel Light) is a good option. For those who can manage two marathons within a month, you could run this one, then run Tunnel Light a few weeks later to see if you can improve your time (to either qualify for Boston, or to improve your placement for Boston if you already qualified).

The focus is not just on Boston hopefuls, however. This is a beautiful and scenic race that offers a wonderful view. If you are a slower runner or walker, the gradual downhill means you can enjoy the distance without completely wearing yourself out from going uphill. If you think you might take longer than five hours, this race offers an early start option; start one hour earlier, and you get an extra hour on top of the 6:30 time limit (that means you get 7 hours 30 minutes to hike this downhill course).

The starting area is a nice little open parking lot by the course trailhead, but race organizers strongly discourage participants from going there directly. Instead, you are encouraged to park at a lot near the finish line; they offer a free shuttle bus ride to the start line.

The finish area in North Bend has limited hotel options–what we did was to stay in the Seattle/Bellevue area and drive to the parking area early in the morning. The early start was at 7:00, and we caught the 6:00 shuttle from the finish area and got there in plenty of time to watch the early folks take off (this meant we left our hotel at 5:30; not terrible for a morning race). The regular race start is 8:00.

The shuttle bus from parking lot to the race start was around half an hour.

PRE-RACE DETAILS

This is an extremely low-key trail race. There’s no fitness expo or early bib pick-up. You don’t even get your bib before the shuttle ride. You just catch the shuttle, show up at the starting area, and get a bib. In fact, they don’t even assign you a bib number until you show up; it’s that low-key.

Race organizers are very good about communicating all this information, and as race day nears, you will get a couple of emails providing last-minute details.

THE COURSE

The most unusual part of this course is the beginning, where you run through almost two and a half miles of the Hyak Tunnel, a narrow tunnel wide enough to fit a car. There are no lights in this tunnel, so you will be running through pitch blackness; race directors strongly urge you to bring some form of light.

I wore my baby headlamp that clamps onto my visor bill, as well as a $1.00 WalMart light, and these sufficed ONLY in lighting the runners ahead of me–and I used the runners in front of me to guide me forward. Had I been the only one running, my lights would have been pretty weak.

Once you leave the tunnel behind you, the rest of the course is all on an unpaved bicycle path that’s on a gradual downhill. Think of it as essentially a fire road with mostly packed gravel. There are a few slightly looser spots but nowhere is there anything remotely technical on this trail course, unless you count the inside of the tunnel (since you can’t see where you’re going, and you’ll be stepping through some puddles and such).

The course is beautiful, and there were three bridge overpasses you run over. The whole area is just magnificent, with lots of tall green trees. Coming from Northern California with its years-long drought, seeing so much green (and breathing the fresh air) was just spectacular.

The course is not closed for the race, so you’ll periodically come across other hikers, mountain bikers, and even some rock climbers.

Mile markers looked like they were laminated cardstock sheets posted on orange safety cones, but there are so few distractions on the course that the markers were always very visible and easy to read.

The Tunnel races always have official pacers (people who hold up signs of what time they expect to finish by, so that if you stick with them, you can finish at around that time).

AID STATIONS

Aid stations are small and spread out, but very very friendly, with always a smiling face, always helpful; just not a lot of extras. Some had porta potties. A few official bathrooms along the trail. The race website lists 10 aid stations; they are roughly 2-3 miles apart. The site also spells out exactly what to expect at each one (water, gatorade, Clif Shot Enery Gel, etc.).

If you don’t want to slow down too much to hydrate at the aid stations, consider bringing your own water source, whether it be a bladder backpack or a bottle in your hand. I relied just on aid stations and I’m sure I was dehydrated by the end of the race.

BLING

Goodies are plain but solid. You get a finisher’s shirt at the finish line, and they are gender-specific tech shirts. You also get a nice smaller finisher’s medal with a custom lanyard. They do not give out age group awards, but you can view the results to see how you placed. It’s a small race so if you’re relatively fast, you have a good shot at placing in your age group.

POST-RACE INFO

The post-race area included plenty of water bottles, volunteers handing out medals, a big spread of food, a tent to pick up finisher’s shirts, an area to get your gear bag, plus the best area for me — the massage tent. They actually had three massage therapists set up, and Todd, who helped me, was fantastic. They charged $1 a minute.

For a small race, these folks put out a pretty good spread at the finish line. In the shadows of Seattle and the headquarters for Costco, the smorgasbord is thanks to a trip to the warehouse store. We enjoyed lots of watermelon and cut up fruit, sheet cake, potato chips, cookies, sodas, water, and much more. The highlight was hot chili! OK so may they came from big cans at Costco, but after running a full marathon, a cup of chili feels much more substantial than just sweet or salty snacks. It’s something you’ll find at an ultra-marathon race, but not often for a marathon. For me it was a welcome treat (and they provided all the fixins as well; sour cream, chives, tortilla chips!).

COURSE CAVEATS (BQ RUNNERS: READ THIS!)

If you are running this race to BQ and every second counts, heed these caveats.

#1: Pacers: There are inherent issues with the pacer time offerings, because unlike some BQ-focused races, times butt right up to actual qualifying times, rather than giving you a cushion of a couple of minutes (that is, 4:00 instead of 3:58, etc.). Offered for this race were 3:15 (BQ for M40-44), 3:30 (BQ for M50-54), 3:40 (BQ for M55-59; W35-39), 3:50, 4:00 (BQ for W50-54), 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:00.

As you can see from this list, only four of nine pacers were tapped to meet exact Boston qualifying times. These pacing times are fine for those who simply wish to meet these finish times, but seeing as this is prominently marketed as a Boston qualifier, be mindful that your desired pace may not be offered.

For example, my BQ time is 4:00, but I did not want to finish *AT* 4:00 because that would not be fast enough to meet the cutoff. For me, the optimal pacer would have been 3:57 or 3:58. Without one, my next option would have been a 3:55, but that pace was not offered at all. This meant that in order to stay ahead of the bare minimum, I would have needed to stay with the 3:50 pacer, considerably faster than anything I would normally be able to keep up with.

This may just be a matter of pacer availability, but having more pacers would have been helpful (for example, more BQ-time pacers and fewer slower pace times).

#2: GPS: Do not rely on your GPS watch to keep track of you while you run in the tunnel. If your GPS watch has the ability to track you via shoepod or you can mark the miles manually on it while in the tunnel, do so. Make sure you start your watch when you start the race, and verify, before you turn around the corner and head into the tunnel, that it’s found the GPS satellites and that it’s working.

Even then, expect your GPS mileage to be considerably off. This course is heavily shaded, with lots of turns around mountainsides.

The only TRUE thing you should rely on, is your TIME ELAPSED stat. If seconds matter in your finish time, wear a pace band (or write the times on your arm) that shows mile markers with total time passed. This is the best way to rely on whether you are on track.

#3: The TUNNEL: This course is not technically difficult, but the tunnel is disorienting, and it will be very hard for you to keep track of your pace. If at all possible, find other runners (or a pacer) going around your pace, and stick with them through the tunnel. The darkness of the tunnel could cause your pace to vary.

You are given the option to check your flashlight in with a separate gear bag at the end of the tunnel. Should you choose to check your light here, you can put it in your bag in the dark while you run, and volunteers will catch your bag as you toss it to them–but my recommendation is to you wear a headlamp and keep it on your head after the tunnel so you don’t have to stop to drop off your bag.

Also, aid station #1 is at this same location. It’s immediately outside the tunnel, so if you aren’t expecting this, it’s easy to miss your chance at getting some water. Just be ready; the tables are to your right.

#4: “GRADUAL DOWNHILL COURSE”

The race describes it as a “fast downhill course” and with the combo of prompt notification to the BAA of race results, this course is designed for the BQ runner in mind. That said, this downhill course is deceptive.

Yes, it’s a wonderful gradual decline. The course is never technical, the downhill never steep. There is maybe a 20-yard stretch that’s a very slight rolling uphill, but everything else outside the tunnel is a downhill.

But.

The course isn’t paved. While unpaved and compact gravel means less wear on your joints, it also means you need to be mindful where you step so you don’t take a gravely misstep.

You also can’t afford to stop to take pebbles out of your shoes, so gaiters are a must. The race website recommends Dirty Girl Gaiters; while I like them, I prefer UltraGam gaiters from Etsy. They offer a wider range of prices, and their down-facing hook is much easier to remove than the up-facing hook Dirty Girl uses.

The gravel takes a toll on you. That, with the added extra speed of a downhill course, means you MUST train for hills. This course is gradual, but still. Train for the downhills–your quads will get a definite workout.

TIPS — Based on my experience, here are my personal suggestions:

– Bring your own water to help augment what’s offered at the aid stations.

– Bring your own fuel if you want something other than Clif Shot Energy Gels.

– Wear a headlamp for the tunnel, then leave it on your head and don’t bother checking it in so you can avoid slowing down your pace if you’re trying to meet a finish time goal.

– Wear a pacing wristband or write down key mile splits on your arm; do not rely on your GPS to track you after the tunnel correctly.

– Wear a pair of gaiters around your ankles to avoid pebbles from getting into your shoes.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

This race is all it’s cracked up to be. It’s both a trail race, but not technical–and also fast. That downhill course is deceptive, though; definitely train for it. I wound up with a severe charley horse on my left calf that almost incapacitated me in the last five miles of the race. I stopped a few times to massage it out and was able to keep running, but at a much slower pace. I was fortunate to have enough of a cushion from earlier in the race that I was still able to make my BQ time, but my finish time was considerably slower than had I not had a calf that seized up on me.

I’ve never raced with a cramp that bad before, and I suspect it was due to an angry piriformis (pain in the glute for me) and my leg compensating for this with a slightly altered gait, and pushing for a faster-than-normal pace because the downhill course let me push myself. Add to that, that I was probably dehydrated, and I consider myself fortunate that I still BQed.

If I run this race in the future, I will know a lot about what to expect. Without the charley horse, I’m sure I would’ve finished at least a few minutes faster.

All in all, though, this is a wonderful and unusual race. The tunnel is a real experience, and different from anything I’ve run before. The volunteers were all friendly and supportive, without exception. Things were low-key but run very smoothly.

I would definitely recommend this course. If you’re trying to find a small certified Boston qualifier that’s fast point-to-point course with a gentle downhill, definitely give this a consideration.

On the other end of the finish clock, this is also a very hiker-friendly race. With the early start option and the gradual downhill, you can really enjoy the scenery and you should be able to make the cutoff time as long as you keep moving at a reasonable clip.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4
My Media

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Brazen Summer Breeze Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Brazen Summer Breeze Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

THE COURSE: Summer Breeze is one of two races that Brazen Racing offers along the San Leandro Marina Bay Trail. All three distances (5K, 10K, half marathon) start at Marina … MORE

THE COURSE:

Summer Breeze is one of two races that Brazen Racing offers along the San Leandro Marina Bay Trail. All three distances (5K, 10K, half marathon) start at Marina Bay Park. The 10K and half marathon head southward; the 10K, down roughly over three miles, and the half, extending not quite to the San Mateo Bridge, and back. The 5K starts by going around a 1-mile loop around the pedestrian walking path along the water first, before heading out onto the main trail course before turning back to the park.

The entire course is on the trail; no car traffic at all. There are a number of 90-degree turns, but the flat course yields some pretty fast times. When the weather’s clear and there’s no fog, you can see across the bay to San Francisco. That wasn’t the case on this date, but you still get to run right along the shoreline, so it’s still quite scenic.

About two miles into the 10K and half course, the trail becomes unpaved. The ground is all packed gravel and not at all technical, but you can still wind up with pebbles in your shoes.

The temperature is rarely hot for this race, which is good. But for August, it can get pretty chilly; you will want to bring layers to wear before/after the race. Depending on the weather, there is always some bit of wind, and it can get a little strong at times. Good when it’s a tailwind, not when it’s a headwind. If you’re trying to set a personal record with this flat course, don’t forget to account for the winds.

For the half marathon race, Brazen offers official pacers, courtesy of the Tri Valley Running Club. Paces start at 1:30 and go up by 5- or 10-minute increments and give you a great way to finish near a specific time without having to go crazy trying to calculate your pace in your head. The pacers are generally very good about getting you to the finish line on time. [Full disclosure: I’ve paced before through the club.]

AID STATIONS:

5K: 1
10K: 3
Half marathon: 5

Some of them also have porta-potties. In addition, the park by the starting area has a restroom with flushing toilets.

As with all Brazen races, the aid stations are staffed full of helpful volunteers, and you can choose between water and sports drink, as well as snacks for fuel including cut up fruit, and carby snacks like gummy bears and M&Ms. Many of the aid stations also offer packets of gel (if you want one and don’t see any, ask).

POST-RACE INFO:

Finisher’s medal: Brazen always rewards every finisher with a beautiful finisher’s medal that is specific not just to the race, but to that year’s race. No generic race medals, or an undated version with the date just printed on the lanyard. This race was no exception.

Race shirt: Gender-specific shirts were available in male, female, and youth sizes, and you could choose between tech fabric and cotton versions. For this particular race, the graphic on the shirt was a cute egret. The image didn’t match the medal (at some of their races, they do). 5K and 10K participants get a cotton shirt and half marathoners get the tech, although 5K and 10K folks can pay extra to upgrade to a tech shirt.

You can pick up your shirt before the start of the race so you can wear it for the race–or if you’re like me, change into it after the race so you have a clean shirt to wear when you go and have brunch after the race.

Brazen is known for generous post-race snacks. Lots of fruit, bagels, chips, cookies. They won’t replace a sit-down protein meal, but it’s perfect for a quick refueling after a race. As always, they offer It’s-It Ice Cream sandwiches (pro tip: Look for the white styrofoam coolers by the post-race food tables. There is usually a volunteer there who will hand you one; it’s free–just ask!).

Additional info:

Pre-race bib pick-up was available at Road Runner Sports in Berkeley on Thursday, August 4th (3pm-7pm) and Friday, August 5th (11am-3pm). The late pick-up tie on Thursdays means you can pick up your bib even if you have to work during the day.

Race day pick-up is also available, for both bibs and race shirts.

There is ample free parking all around the park; however because this is a pretty big race for Brazen, the official lots for the park will fill up pretty quickly. Fortunately there’s plenty of street parking as well as adjacent lots. Just don’t park at the golf driving range, which is reserved for golfers.

OVERALL

This is actually one of my favorite Brazen Racing races. It’s in my neck of the woods so I’m very familiar with the course. But I also think this race is a great example of everything Brazen does right. This race is the perfect entry into Brazen Racing races. It’s an easy fast, flat course that gives you just a little taste of “trail racing” on the unpaved portions. The course is scenic, and you start and end at a beautiful little park right by the bay that you can visit anytime for a little outdoor picnic.

If you’ve never done a Brazen race before, this is a really fun one to try. They also have the exact same race that they offer earlier in the year (called Bay Breeze) as well.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
My Media

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Angel Island 5 Miler & Half Marathon

Angel Island 5 Miler & Half Marathon

I'm not going to kid you here; this is a very simple race with a pretty low-tech operation. You get no timing chip or timing mat, and -- GASP -- … MORE

I’m not going to kid you here; this is a very simple race with a pretty low-tech operation. You get no timing chip or timing mat, and — GASP — you get no finisher’s medal! That’s a rarity these days, when every dinky little race offers some kind of bling.

But the race organizer is very good at communicating exactly what you’re getting with this race; it’s pretty plain with nothing fancy… but, in turn, you get to enjoy some of the BEST views in the entire Bay Area!

PRE-RACE DETAILS

Your race registration fee includes round-trip ferry transportation from Tiburon to Angel Island and back (your race bib serves as your “ticket”). Not only that; they reserve a ferry just for race participants before the race, and you get access to the island well before the public shows up.

Bib pick-up is offered only on race day, starting an hour before the ferry leaves. There’s no issue with crowding though; for the 2016 race there were only about 100 people between the 5-mile and half-marathon races.

When you pick up your bib, you also get your race shirt. The shirts we got were from Greenlayer (who prints a lot of race shirts). It was a single-color silk screen but I was pretty happy that they went with a nice shirt. This one will get regular rotation in my workout wardrobe.

The race organizer and all the volunteers actually ride the ferry out with you. What this means is that it takes them 15-20 minutes to physically set up the start line. Again, nothing fancy here, but the start is in the open picnic area near the visitor center at Ayala Cove.

They didn’t have an official gear drop; they just told us we could leave our bags on nearby picnic tables. We left our bag on a table our friends were already using, since I felt bad just hogging up picnic tables when we weren’t going to be there for a while. Since they don’t have a lot of spare volunteers, they don’t have anyone minding your gear bag, so if you’re the type to get paranoid about people stealing your bag, make sure not to leave valuables in it.

THE COURSE

Both the 5-mile and half marathon races start next to the picnic tables near the visitor center at Ayala Coven then go up the bike path. The path opens up onto Perimeter Road, which both races turn left onto. About 3/4 mile up the road, the 5-milers head up onto North Ridge Trail. I believe the course then takes Sunset Trail (not sure, since the race webpage has a map of the trails without all the trails labeled, and I didn’t do the 5-miler).

The half-marathoners continue on Perimeter Road all the way around the island, back to the start line area, then head back up the bike path. Instead of turning left on Perimeter Road, the half-marathoners cross the street here to head up Sunset Trail going in the opposite direction of the 5-milers, and this is where the trail portion of the race starts.

The half course then goes onto Fire Road, which appears to be the main unpaved trail that goes around the island (above Perimeter Road).

For the half participants, Perimeter Road is 5.5 miles, and the unpaved trail portion is 7.5 miles. Perimeter Road is a big paved street on which there are cyclists, tour trams, and Segway tourists (yes, I’m not kidding; when they passed me, I raised up my hands and yelled, “YOU’RE CHEATING!” — which got a chuckle from them).

Essentially, the half race is half paved, half trail. The paved portion isn’t all that great, except that there’s a ton of benches, and the view is breathtakingly spectacular. Did I mention that the view is great? As you go around Perimeter Road, you are treated to a 360-degree view of the entire Bay Area, and it is a REAL treat. Sutro Tower? Check. Golden Gate Bridge? Yep. Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge? Check check. Oh hey! The Pink Triangle they just installed earlier in the morning for Pride Weekend is also right up there by Sutro Tower!

As long as the weather’s clear on race day, you are in for a treat! Take lots of photo stops and take selfies to your heart’s content along Perimeter Road.

When you get back to the start line after the paved portion, you get to your first aid station. And by that, I don’t mean a “first aid” station where you see a medic. This is your first and only aid station. But they have some solid snacks (banana bread–yum!), as well as water and power drink.

WARNING: Bring your own bottle to stay hydrated, because the first loop is 5.5 miles, but the second is 7.5 of no aid station, no water faucet. You are out on your own out there, so carry your own water.

Once you head up into the trails, it becomes a real trail race. Nothing too technical here, although most of it is single track. And once the ferries start running, you will encounter a lot of hikers. The hikers I passed though, were all VERY friendly and nice. Some of them even applauded and cheered me on as I ran past.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

I’m really glad I finally had a chance to run around Angel Island. But now that I have a sense of the trails here, I think I could just do this on my own without signing up for a race. The shirt is nice, but this particular race has minimal support. There WERE definite benefits. Watermelon slices at the aid station were great, the shirt was nice, and the reserved ferry for racers was a big plus. I’ll just have to decide if that’s worth the registration fee.

That said, this race is worth doing, at least once. The views are spectacular, and doing this as a race is a great excuse! And all the hikers will make room for you to pass because you’re there wearing a race bib. Win!

One word of caution: If you are a slower runner or a hiker/walker, I am going to strongly encourage you to sign up for the 5-miler instead of the half. That Perimeter Road is really boring if you have to walk it (and the course doesn’t veer off of it, so you won’t have time to go visit all the interesting structures like the immigration center), AND because it’s paved, it gets pretty warm. Worse, you have to keep watching out for the tour trams.

If you do the 5-miler, you get to go right up to the trails, and in my opinion, that’s where it’s far more interesting. And you get PLENTY of time to finish the 5-mile race while the half folks are still out running.

There’s one other reason I recommend the 5-miler for the slower folks. If you are a slower half marathon participant, you risk coming back to the finish area… and the finish line might be gone!

I was scheduled for a long run this weekend, so after I finished the race, I went back out and ran Perimeter Road again. As I was coming back from running the additional 5.5 miles, I happened to come upon a lady who was on the last bike path portion of the course, still wearing a race bib. I asked her if she was finishing the half, and she said she was. So I told her we could finish up together! As I was running down towards the finish line, I saw…. no finish line. I raised my hands and said, “We got a finisher here!!! Finisher here!!!” hoping to catch the attention of the official race folks who must surely still be sticking around (right)… but nobody around the picnic tables looked up. Hmm…

So it turns out, all the race folks had packed up and left! Fortunately for this person, she had her cell phone, and her friend was waiting for her at the cafe by the ferry stop, so all was well.

I looked at my watch and saw that she finished at about 3 hours 50 minutes. That’s slow, but I know plenty of folks who do walk/run intervals who finish about that time. So I was a little surprised that there was no one left, since the instructions never mentioned a cut-off time. I’m also glad she hadn’t fallen and gotten hurt or something… maybe a race director can tell me if this is considered normal? I didn’t know races left runners on the course.

So if you’re on the slower side, sign up for the 5-miler. You get to enjoy the best views and will get back in plenty of time to enjoy the watermelon slices and banana bread!

…and take lots of pictures!!!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

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Marina Bay Riveter Half Marathon

Marina Bay Riveter Half Marathon

I ran the inaugural version of this race three years ago. Compared to it, the race has gotten much better. There were no egregious issues this time (at the inaugural, … MORE

I ran the inaugural version of this race three years ago. Compared to it, the race has gotten much better. There were no egregious issues this time (at the inaugural, they had no water at the finish line; we were told the water distributor never showed up, but to me that’s not really excusable because race directors need to have back-up plans for anything that could cause medical issues like that), although things are still rough around the edges.

The good:

1) The swag is pretty good. The inaugural race shirt was dye sublimated and pretty awesome (we still wear it) but they’ve since switched to the cheapest shiny tech fabric that’s silk-screened, but it is gender-specific. However, the finisher’s medal is pretty hefty and substantial, and you get a string bag AND a neck gaiter! Not many races give you a string bag much less a neck gaiter. I don’t even think those were listed at their website so they were a very pleasant surprise.

2) If you did the 5K, 10K, or finished the half-marathon by a finish time of around 2:15 or so, there was a TON of post-race food right near the finish line area. The race director here I think did something really clever; he got a lot of food and beverage sponsors for the race, and had them set up tables to provide free samples as your post-race fuel. When I came through, they had bottles of almond milk (coffee flavored; yum), coconut water, rehydration fruity water, “hint” brand water, granola bars, oatmeal squeeze packs, “bai” brand fruit juice, samples of Tillamook ice cream, and more I don’t remember. It was essentially a smorgasbord.

The vendors were VERY liberal giving out the goodies. The only down side is that I don’t think they were setting anything aside for half-marathoners who took longer than say 2:15 or so. By the time the 2:30 folks were coming in (and that’s not a really slow pace in the big picture; that’s a 12-minute-mile pace), a lot of the vendors were running low on stuff.

That’s what happens when the vendors just load up their tables and it turns into a free-for-all. Maybe set some aside for the slower folks for next time?

3) They actually had a race announcer/emcee, which was kind of nice.

4) Ample free parking all around.

5) Tons of aid stations (every 1.5 miles?), all well-staffed and equipped with both water and power drink. Some had fuel gel packs. Some of the aid stations had porta-potties as well.

6) Pacers: They used Tri-Valley Running Club pacers for 9 finish times, and they are pretty spot-on about meeting their time. If you want to finish at a specific time, stick to a pacer and you’ll do great. This is not something all road races provide, so it’s a big plus.

The Bad (or as I call it, the “still rough around the edges”)

1) Early bib pick-up was available the day before the race, but only for a 3-hour window (10 am to 1 pm). This window was so short there was no way we could pick up our bibs in advance. Maybe in the future, have it available until late afternoon for folks who have to work, or have other obligations?

2) Day-of-race bib pick-up: The race email warned us the line may be long, so we showed up early. The pick-up table had only one person working it, and the line was incredibly slow for a couple of reasons. The table was also accepting day-of registrations, which take a while (and it looked like the person was not multi-tasking. They also did not have a paper print-out of the list of people’s names and bib numbers. Instead, they had three laptops at the table, and you were expected to type in your name and look up your bib number. If the race director just printed out multiple sheets of this information and taped it up outside, people would walk in knowing their bib numbers and it would have been a little smoother.

The person was supposed to also grab their race shirts, but the line was getting so long that they were telling us to come back after the race. However they did not note anywhere who picked up their shirts and who didn’t… could you imagine coming back and having them run out of your size?

Fortunately for us we came back after going upstairs to use the restroom, and a second helper was there distributing the shirts.

[As an aside, speaking of shirts–the volunteers all got a different shirt that was a different color. These volunteer shirts were in open boxes upstairs on the way to the restroom. The boxes were unmarked, and runners were walking by just grabbing them.]

3) There were no signs of any toilet paper in the porta potties at the starting area. I don’t know if they ran out early, but that’s just crazy. I don’t know how much extra toilet paper costs but let’s stock a ton of extra rolls.

4) The course. I’m actually listing this under the “bad” section because, while it’s generally scenic and the course is pretty flat, it has a TON of out-and-back segments, especially on the way back. There are other races along this course (including the Brazen Racing’s Victory Half) and they just extend the course out farther. Instead, you’ve got all of these dinky spurs; I suspect it’s designed that way so they don’t have to pay for extra road closures or police traffic monitors out towards Costco.

But what it means is that although this course is flat, it’s not as fast as you might expect. There were at least six places where you had to make a hard 180-degree turn around cones. At each of those, you have to slow down.

General thoughts:

I think they ironed out a lot of the issues they had since their inaugural race. I don’t think they’ve quite worked everything out, but those things to me are more minor annoyances than anything else. If you’re looking for a flat course with nice scenery, this is a nice small race with shorter distances so everyone in your group can pick their favorite distance.

The Bay Area is FULL of great races, though, so competition’s pretty tough for race organizers to put on a successful one that’s really organized well and runs really smoothly. Maybe one day they’ll get there with this race.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5

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Wildcat Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Wildcat Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

If you're looking for a challenging but scenic trail race, the Wildcat Half may be for you. The course quickly starts with an uphill that serves as a little appetizer … MORE

If you’re looking for a challenging but scenic trail race, the Wildcat Half may be for you. The course quickly starts with an uphill that serves as a little appetizer of what’s to come. Outside of a short segment on an unmaintained paved road, the rest is a combination of unpaved and single track trails.

You find two substantial uphills on this course, and they will feel like they go on forever. Fortunately with a little patience and willingness to walk up the toughest portions, you’ll get through them just fine.

There is also a small water crossing, but it’s over a narrow brook and you can easily step on a rock to cross, without getting wet.

Near mile 10 is a steep downhill segment to watch out for, if you’re timid about unpaved downhills like me. If you are, just head to the edge of the trail and walk down the grassier sections to avoid slipping.

The uphills may be challenging, but you will be rewarded with some beautiful views. You get to cross a few cattle guards (if you don’t like stepping over them, there are side gates you can use), and you’ll get to see some cattle on the hills.

The half course includes four aid stations, all equipped with water, sports drink, jelly beans, M&Ms, and all the other great energy boosters Brazen always provides.

And as with ALL Brazen races, you are rewarded at the end with a wonderful finisher’s medal (that matches your race shirt), and a smorgasbord of wonderful post-race snacks. From cut up fresh fruit (watermelon, orange slices, bananas) to pastries, cookies, chips, to the now-famous It’s-It ice cream sandwiches, you will have no trouble refueling after the race.

Brazen Racing puts on some of the best trail races around, and you can’t go wrong with Wildcat. It traverses the hills of Tilden Park (on the East Bay) — what a great way to spend Saturday morning.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5
My Media

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Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

You've probably heard of this race, even if you're not from the San Francisco Bay Area. You've probably heard stories about naked runners, beer kegs on wheels, and lots of … MORE

You’ve probably heard of this race, even if you’re not from the San Francisco Bay Area. You’ve probably heard stories about naked runners, beer kegs on wheels, and lots of costumed runners. Well, the beer kegs are now gone off the course (thanks to a pretty stringent crackdown in recent years against alcohol)–although there are plenty of spectators who will be happy to share some booze with you–but the naked runners and costumes are all still alive and well in this iconic race!

STARTING CORRALS/CROWDS/TORTILLAS

The course starts in downtown San Francisco, near the financial district. With almost 30,000 participants, they separate people out based on their anticipated finish time. The corrals take up several blocks, and to keep themselves entertained, people bring bags of small corn tortillas and fling them out like frisbees. Yes, I’m not kidding. You’ll feel torn between feeling bad so much food is being wasted while there are hungry homeless people in the city, and getting excited and in the mood for a wacky race.

For us, there was a fellow whose costume was a basketball hoop with a photo of Steph Curry on it (I mean, the guy had on a pole construction he wore with a couple of backpack straps, and the hoop was tall enough to be almost regulation height–I’m serious!), so people were trying to toss their tortillas into the hoop. How hilarious is that?

[I have to give credit to the clean-up crew because when we went back to the area after the race, it was spotless; not a tortilla crumb in sight.]

One problem you will run into: There is no actual pace verification by the race organizers. Are you a walker but you want to start way up in the front? You list that you can run all 12 kilometers (that’s just shy of 7.5 miles) in under an hour (that would be a 8:30-minute-mile pace; quite fast–if you ran that fast, you would KNOW you could run that fast). Ta-da! You get to queue up in the front corral as a WALKER… right amongst the super fast runners. Personally, I think this is very dangerous (DON’T DO THIS, please, for your own safety).

We were honest about our pace, and I was floored at how many people were just leisurely walking (many, walking several abreast… some were even holding hands or linking arms). I tried to avoid a case of Red Rover but that first mile or two was a nightmare for me since I was actually trying to run at a running pace. You’ve been warned.

NAKED RUNNERS:

So you’ve heard how the race has naked runners? No, THEY ARE NOT NAKED; they are wearing shoes!!! OK, some of them are even wearing a piece of yarn around their middle (“See officer? This is my outfit.”), which I find hilarious.

Here is the GENERAL rule of thumb about naked runners:

– The more hairier they are, the more likely they will be running naked.
– Many of them have a natural awning over the toolshed, so to speak, so you can’t see the wobbly bits.
– If you are a runner/participant in the race, the only thing you will see is a lot of full moons. Unless you stop and turn around, or keep looking sideways, you will not see any wobbly bits because you will only see the butts of any naked folks in front of you.

But yes. There is a fair number of naked runners. I think it’s just like Burning Man. Some people have a natural impulse to strip and run around naked given a convenient opportunity.

And no, while there ARE some naked women participants, the men FAR outnumber the women.

COSTUMES:

Aside from the “naked costumes,” you will see a ton of people in zany costumes. There is a caterpillar category for teams, and they will typically dress up in some themed costume, which is fun to see. People also dress up (solo or with friends in a group theme). A couple of memorable ones this year include a life-size Totoro (and by “life-size” I mean at least 15 feet tall!), a couple of people dressed as those wacky arm flailing guys you see at tire stores (just google “wacky waving inflatable tube man”)–they converted a couple of collapsible circular hampers for their costume. Every so often, they’d both stop and flail their arms up in the air; it was hilarious!

We also saw a lot of people dressed as Prince since he had just passed away (or Prince-themed outfits with “purple rain” and so on).

You’ll also see a lot of spectators cheering from the sidewalks, who are also dressed up in costume. I thought that was terrific.

That said, as a runner, you will not see a whole lot of costumes. Most of them, you will see their behinds (like the naked dudes) unless you keep stopping and turning around.

On the other hand, one of our friends sat out the race but spectated instead this year, and she saw a TON of costumes. It turns out that–if costume-watching is your thang–grabbing a comfy spot and being a spectator may be the best way to enjoy this race!

ODD DISTANCE: This race is longer than a 10K, which is 6.2 miles long. Instead, it’s 12 kilometers, which is just shy of 7.5 miles. The course ends along the seashore, on the other side of Golden Gate Park. If you are not accustomed to going longer than a 10K, be prepared for both the extra distance as well as that Hayes Street hill.

EXPO:

For 2016, race organizers moved the race expo from Fort Mason to Pier 35. This seemed like a good idea–make a day of it by walking around Fisherman’s Wharf and carb-loading with some Boudin bread after you pick up your bib. Right? Except they were strictly monitoring capacity in the venue, and forced people to wait in this queue that extended from Pier 35 all the way down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area; crazy! If you sign up for this race and they hold the expo at Pier 35, go early and make sure to give yourself plenty of time.

As for vendors inside the expo, it was an odd combination of organic food products and “healing crystal” people (you know what I mean). There didn’t seem to be nearly the number of reps from other races (there were a few), and a very very small representation from fitness clothing companies/stores. I had to wonder if this was because the race is now sponsored by Zappos, and Under Armour supplies all the official race gear (as in, other clothing shops would just be competition?).

Speaking of race gear, the race shirt this year left… a lot to be desired. The design looked pretty amateurish (it looked like a Rubik’s Cube), which was OK, but the shirt fit was terrible. I rarely run into problems with race shirts, but the collar on this for the women’s cut was super big, and the shirt cut was also very strange. I tried it (even after putting it through the wash to see if the thick silkscreen would soften up a bit so it wouldn’t feel tacky)… and it went immediately into the clothing donation bin. What a disappointment.

HAYES STREET HILL:

We ran this 15 years ago, back when we didn’t run as much. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed as I looked up that hill on Hayes and thinking, “Well they weren’t kidding about this really tough hill.” Thanks to better conditioning and regular trail runs, I was able to tackle the hills just fine this time. So here’s my tip: To avoid feeling intimidated by 4-5 blocks of an uphill, do a little practice on your own hills as part of your training for this race.

OVERALL:

If you don’t live in the Bay Area and have never done this race, I think this is a great bucket list item. You will not find another race quite like this. A good chunk of the city turns out to cheer you on, there’s a lot of costumes and general wackiness. It’s a really fun one to sign up for with your friends.

If you live in the area, I don’t think I’d recommend it as something to do every year… but the Bay to Breakers is an iconic San Francisco race that’s almost as famous as other iconic SF things, like “the most crooked street,” Ghirardelli, or the Golden Gate Bridge. Do this race and savor the experience as a souvenir of this wonderful, wacky place!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3

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Big Sur International Marathon

Big Sur International Marathon

I had heard how great this race was, but never ran it until I had a chance to participate in their "Boston 2 Big Sur" challenge, designed for Boston Marathon … MORE

I had heard how great this race was, but never ran it until I had a chance to participate in their “Boston 2 Big Sur” challenge, designed for Boston Marathon finishers to turn around and run this race just days later.

The people who put on the Big Sur series of races really know their stuff. This is a popular destination race that brings people from everywhere (for 2016, every U.S. state except South Dakota, apparently), and it’s easy to understand why. But because of its popularity, race organizers switched to a lottery system for 2016. Fortunately, they have many lottery categories, and you are allowed to apply for every category you qualify for (such as first-timer, local runner, and so on). If you’ve never run this race before, the first-timer lottery is probably a good way to get in; once you’ve run this, you can’t ever apply with that category anymore.

Some notable things about this race:

The expo is in Monterey but the race is not (but this gives you a chance to enjoy sightseeing around Monterey, visit the world famous aquarium, and have some chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf).

The expo isn’t huge, but they do offer quite a bit of race-specific gear. Since ASICS is a major sponsor, most everything is from them, so you know the quality is good. Shirts, jackets, hats, visors, and even socks… they had something for everyone.

The course is northward, along Highway 1, which hugs the twists and turns of the beautiful Big Sur coastline, until it hits Carmel. If you aren’t staying in Carmel, you get to take a shuttle back to the Monterey area.

The marathon is the flagship race but they conduct a marathon relay, 21-mile hike, and 10.9-mile run along the same course on the same day. If you want to travel with friends and family, they might be able to sign up for various distances and also participate in a race that day.

They have to shuttle everybody on buses around 4:00 am. This is early, but the buses have to drive an hour down Highway 1 in the dark and get you there safely. Just try to nap on the bus and you’ll get there in no time.

The starting area is very congested, but wave start (for 2016, they had three waves and you were on an honor system to stand near your general pace) is organized and runners spread out very quickly. They also had official pacers for the race (from Team Clif Bar) and they do a great job of getting you to the finish line in the time that’s on their signs.

The mileage markers on the course are entertaining. Each one is painted with something amusing, and gives you something to look forward to as you run through the course.

The course is somewhat hilly and there is a two-mile uphill segment but those used to trail races will not have any issues with the course. For me, the toughest part was the really strong winds. The course is known for being windy, but this year it was apparently much stronger than usual. I’d look on the side of the course and periodically see people’s hats stuck in the weeds.

The medal is made of ceramic, and in my opinion, is the best in the entire running industry. Where most other races just have metal medals, these ceramic medals are simple, humble, yet beautiful. They’ve been using the same artist for years, and the lady does a beautiful job. If for no other reason, do this race just for the medal. Even better, each of the different distance offerings for this race gets their own specially designed finisher’s medal. Oh, and the Boston 2 Big Sur finishers get a special medal, too. Trust me, I covet that one.

If you do this race as part of the Boston 2 Big Sur challenge, you get access to a hospitality tent after the race. They served some hot food and provided tables and folding chairs… talk about being treated like royalty!

This is an excellent race. The organizers really know what they’re doing.

If you’re looking for a vacation race that offers the challenge of a full marathon distance, where the destination has some great sightseeing opportunities, where the course is unique and memorable, Big Sur is for you!

Note: The same folks also put on a half-marathon in November, called the Big Sur Half Marathon, but the course does not at all overlap the full marathon. The half starts near Fisherman’s Wharf, runs through downtown Monterey and hugs the coastline of Monterey. The half is a fast and flat out-and-back course, and is wonderful in its own right, but don’t mistake this full marathon with the half. (But the half also rewards you with one of their wonderful ceramic medals, so win!)

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5

2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

 

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