Latest reviews by Haley Gonzales

(2016)
"Holy Hills "
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Wow. My first marathon in 9 months, and it was the HARDEST marathon I have ever run. And it isn't because I haven't run one in so long. It is because San Diego is HUMID and HILLY! With that being said, this course was a great challenge and I had a great time.

Let's start with the expo. It was at Road Runner Sports and was set up well. I went Friday afternoon so it wasn't busy at all. YES! Very well organized, good amount of vendors there and most everyone was helpful. The guy that got me my bib seemed very flustered, or didn't want to be there or something. But everyone else was pleasant. The swag we got was awesome! Pint glass, cool tank top and Knockaround sunglasses. We also got discounts if we bought anything from Road Runner.

Race day - getting to the start was pretty easy for me. My boyfriend drove me to the start. There was no where to park, only drop off runners. Everything was clearly marked and it went smoothly. If you wanted to park at the end (Green Flash Brewery) they had busses shuttle you to the start. Plenty of port o potties and areas to warm up. The start of the race started about 10 minutes late and was a little frustrating because there were so many runners and we were running on a narrow bike path. However, that cleared out pretty fast. Scenery was decent. To the right was the freeway (meh) and to the left was hills and canyons. The first 6 miles were rolling hills, mostly down hill so that was nice. Miles 7-9ish was through a neighborhood, still on the bike path and a little creek and I think a golf course. Miles 9-13 were through industrial areas, and HILLY! Oh my goodness...this was the hardest half I have ever run. But I liked the challenge.

The course was well marked, and traffic was well controlled. The aid stations were okay, well stocked but I would like more communication. The aid stations at the beginning didn't tell you what they have but towards the middle to end of the race they were calling it out. That is very helpful when you are running and not really paying attention to the fact that the cups are different. From mile 9 on they had aid stations at every mile. LOVE that!

Post race there was water in cups. I didn't see any bottled water. I prefer bottled water post race because the cups are just too small. Luckily I had my bf bring my water. They had small Larabars, bananas and chopped up bagels to eat and food trucks. The line for beer was really long so I skipped that - I also don't really like drinking beer that early in the day. But there were a ton of vendors at the finish line, food, drinks, corn hole game...lots of fun things to do.

Over all this race was well organized, a good challenge and you got some great swag. I'm looking forward to beating my time next year! I'll have to be training on more hills for that :)

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(2016)
"Great race to PR!"
Overall
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This is my first race in the City of San Diego & I loved it! Starting with the expo, it was a little crazy and kind of a small room for everyone to stand in line and get their bibs. They had some good vendors, but again the area was a bit small. I am not someone who really looks forward to expos so I didn't mind the smallness of it all.
Onto the important stuff: race day! I raced the 5k which starts at 7am pretty close to where I live, so it was an easy short drive for me. They did have busses transport people to the start line which I thought was pretty cool. There weren't a lot of people that raced the 5k, maybe 1,000? It was very well organized. They had waves, which was nice. I don't know I have ever been to a 5k that had that. There was water right before mile 1 and a little after mile 2.
The first part of the race is up a slight hill, then flat, then ALL DOWNHILL! I didn't PR this race, but lots of people do. I actually placed in my AG, and I pretty much credit that to the downhill. Due to injury I wasn't able to train as I usually do, but still placed. Thank you downhill courses! ;) My favorite part of the race is when you get to Balboa Park. That is the top of the hill and you can see all the way into Downtown San Diego, and you could probably see the ocean, but I didn't notice that. I was too busy thinking I was going to die. Once at the bottom of the hill you round a corner and get to see the finish, at that point I think it was about 1/2 mile away.
Running down the streets of any city is super fun! There were finally some spectators cheering once we got downtown, other than that there weren't too many people out for the 5k, they were probably waiting for the half marathoners! As you run down the chute there is a huge screen across the finish line so you and everyone else can watch you finish. I was handed a medal and water and then met up with my bf to head home. I think there was some kind of post race celebration, which I didn't take part in because I had to go due to other obligations. Too bad though, because I wasn't there for the announcement of my AG win!!

Finally, I have to say this race is very well organized, the volunteers were awesome and it was a very scenic & fast course. I am looking forward to the half marathon next year!

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(2016)
"My First Hot Chocolate Race "
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My first Hot Chocolate in the books! This was a very fun course, hilly and challenging but fun. The Hot Chocolate is definitely a themed race, which I guess I didn't realize. They actually give you hot chocolate at the end and chocolate bits along the course. There are a TON of runners here! Those themed runs are a big thing these days, which is great. They get people out and get them active! However, I have come to learn that they are not really my thing. It seems with these races, race etiquette isn't something that people really think about. You are assigned certain waves based on your start time and no walkers are supposed to be in certain waves. Nothing against walkers, but that is how the race is set up for safety. Well, in my wave (I believe I put that I was going to be about a 9-9:30 minute/mile) there were definitely people that should not have been there. The waves ahead of me too. I had a few people stop in the middle of the road and I ran into them. And this was before mile 1. If you have to walk before mile 1, you should be in the last wave. FYI, if you're a slower runner or you need to walk, go off to the right of the road. Think of it like driving.

Despite that, the race was very well organized and the volunteers did a great job. The course was very scenic and I had a good time. Plenty of aid stations, and they supplied Nuun and water which was a life saver for me because I forgot my salt tabs. The course starts on a hill and seems to be forever uphill, which was a great challenge. Around mile 6 there is a nice downhill, then again at mile 8ish. You end in Downtown San Diego with lots of spectators cheering you along. Then, what I think most people look forward to, is the chocolate. After you finish you get a large cup of chocolate with a banana, pretzels, rice krispy treat and some other goodies.

Personally, I don't think I would run another Hot Chocolate. But I know many people who will. And that is awesome! I love that there are races like this that motivate people, make it fun, and give people a reason to run. Keep it up Hot Chocolate! You're doing a great job. For the runners at these races, make sure you understand race etiquette and be in your correct corral.

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(2016)
"Beer and Running, what's not to love?"
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This year the Sac Beer Week was a bit more official. I am expecting it to grow even more next year. I believe there was about 250 runners in 2014 this year there was 500. This is a fun 5k put on by the Sloppy Moose Running Club and New Helvetia Brewery. I love Sloppy Moose Running club, and if you live in Sacramento and haven't checked it out, you should. Same with New Helvetia, good beer!

The race is not a closed course, but there were volunteers out there making sure everyone was safe, cones and signs so no one got lost along the course. The course is super fast, flat and takes you through some cool Sac neighborhoods. Maybe it is becuase I am from Sacramento and a little bias, but all around a good time. FYI I only have 1 star for aid stations because there wasn't one. For a 5k, do you really need one??

This year they shut down the street next to the brewery and had food, drinks, music, free massage, and free beer for the runners! Sacramento Beer Week has a lot of great events and this is one of them. I'd recommend checking it out next year for sure. I think it is only going to get better.

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(2016)
"Amazing views"
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This is my first trail race as a San Diego resident. The race was at the beautiful Mission Gorge Regional Park. This race really has everything. Amazing views, creek crossings, wildlife, challenging up and down hills. It was beautiful. Honestly, the beauty made up for what was lacking in other areas.

The start of the race was easy enough to find but parking is super limited. We parked about a mile away from the start and walked there. Which was not a big deal to me, but if there were more runners it could be a safety problem having so many people walking that far to the start and having to cross some major intersections.

The start of the race was pretty crowded but you go up a VERY steep hill within the first mile or so and the crowds really clear out. Before the race I really had to go to the bathroom but I didn't want to wait in line, and looking at the website I saw there was a bathroom at mile 1.2 and 6. I figured my bladder would be good until I reached mile 1.2. There was NO bathroom until mile 8.5!!! This race was a 15k, about 9 miles, which was actually closer to a 16k so when I got to mile 8.5 I thought screw it I'll just wait until the end. That sucked.

The race started at 8am and around mile 5 we started coming across mountain bikers and hikers. Luckily most of the people were really cool and saw we were racing so they stepped aside. Mile 7ish was an area that was almost a single track and we ran into so many people. I ran by a group of about 8-10 people with dogs so it was a little tough walking by them. Around mile 8.5, where the bathroom was, we ran through a parking lot. I didn't care much for that because I had to run around a few cars. And being a runner, I know people in cars don't always appreciate us.

That being said, mile 7 on was the flattest part of the race and so beautiful. I love creeks and rivers and getting to run a long a cree (and through it!), and cross cute little bridges, hope rocks...it was a lot of fun! This race is super technical and if you haven't at least hiked this area you're in for a tough race.

The end of the race was where my biggest disappointment came. Post race there was NO FOOD! They had some juice, oranges and bananas but the "hot breakfast" that was advertised was not there. I guess the food truck wasn't working. Which was no surprise. That food truck looked awful and maybe this was a blessing in disguise because I don't know if I would have wanted to eat the food.

While this race had a few things that could use some work it was definitely a good race! It was super challenging but SO MUCH FUN! The volunteers at the race were great. Aid stations seemed to be stocked well, I didn't stop at any. The people manning the course were great too. They cheered us on and really kept an eye on the runners. One had binoculars and I heard him talking to someone about a runner he was concerned about. I felt like it was well organized and we were taken care of.

Minor improvements needed, but I would run this race again next year.

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