Latest reviews by Jenny Nakamura
The SoCal Wine Country Women's Half Marathon & 5k had it's 5th anniversary this year. The challenging but yet runable course is at the Vail Lake Resort near Temecula, CA. I had the pleasure of running the race and volunteering with my husband at race packet pick-up and at the finish line.
Packet Pick-up: Available at Laces Running Store for a week before the race or between 6-6:45a on race day
Race distances: Half Marathon or 5k
Race Time: Half Marathon started at 7am, 5k I believe at 8am
Time Limit: 4 hours for the half marathon
Race Location: Vail Lake Resort near Temecula
Course: Beautiful, runable trail
Aid Stations: 4 aid stations on the course, 3 of which we saw twice. They had water, CarboPro & Gu.
Finisher's medal: Medals were from my friend Eric at Elevation Culture. Half Marathon medals had purple & green on them.
Shirts: A beautiful purple tech shirt with the same race logo as the medal.
Additional Swag: Logo'd wine glasses & a ticket for one glass of wine after the race.
Overall this was a fun and well run race. I would definitely do this again, hoping of course to have fresher legs. And maybe just a little sun ;).
You can read my complete race recap on my blog at
First off, I've run the Hot Chocolate 15k twice before in Phoenix/Scottsdale, so I'm familiar with the Hot Chocolate Brand. While it is a theme race, I don't truly feel like it's super themed. There were 2 girls dressed as Umpa Lumpa's but I didn't see anyone else in costume.
Race Entry - I received my entry through Bibrave so I didn't have to pay for it but it is an expensive race. The price for the 15k starts at $54 and then goes up to $74. They don't do any discounts that I could find, but they do give out an extra something if you use a code. This year the code was for a Hot Chocolate head wrap. I'm not sure why but I didn't get one in my packet, I was a little disappointed. Another year I got a tech hat.
Goodie Bag - One of the things that Hot Chocolate is know for is there awesome goodie bag. The first year I ran this race, I got a nice light jacket, then super nice zippered hoodie that I actually where a lot. This year we got nice and relatively thick zip up sweat shirts. The women's version had a light blue accent color and the men's an orange accent. Since I registered early enough, I was able to get mine with the location embroidered on. Unfortunately the zipper is broken so it doesn't close properly but it is a really nice jacket. I got a medium because I know they tend to run short in arms. I could probably do a small for the body but because I have long arms, I'd rather have a slightly bigger size. They also give you a nice reusable drawstring backpack gear bag. This year it was blue to match the jacket, but I've also got them in pick & purple.
Expo: Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the expo because I flew back into town on Friay and it closed at 6pm. And I was running a 50k on Saturday and didn't get back to town in time to get there. They did have an option to have your packet mailed to you, I believe it was $20, but I missed it because we received the times for the expo after the mailing cut-off. Fortunately one of the other BibRave Pros was able to pick it up for me.
Parking: Race Day parking in Downtown San Diego is always a little bit stressful. Since the race was near Petco Park, they had a few lots available for runners to park in. They did have on website that it would cost $15 cash so fortunately I saw that. My husband ended up parking on Harbor Drive and had a short walk over. There was barely any traffic over there.
Traffic: While this isn't a huge race, it is run downtown which means it is going to take a bit to navigate. The police were doing a great job but I'd recommend leaving a little extra time.
Starting area: The start/finish are essentially in the same spot - separated by one street. There were plenty of port-a-potties and the bag check was well manned. There was a merchandise tent, sponsor booths and the post race chocolate was in a separate spot so there was no confusion.
Corrals: Hot Chocolate has a corral system, which I agree with. I think though that they might have had some issues with putting people in the correct corrals. When I originally got my corral letter I was in Corral I, but somehow I was moved up to Corral H (the first corral) I stayed in my original corral just because I wasn't sure how my legs were going to like these hills after the 50k. But in looking at the website, it looks like the preferred (front) corrals were given to those who have run 11:30 avg pace or under in a previous RAM racing event. And since I ran a 1:24 in 2014 last time that put me up higher in the corrals I guess.
Sweet Stations: Hot Chocolate has unique sweet stations along the course. These are places were you can get a little sweet boost of semi sweet chocolate chips, strawberry marshmallows, M&Ms or chocolate marshmallows.
Aid Stations: There were 4 aid stations on the 15k course. They all had Nuun and water and were very well staffed and stocked. All the volunteers were great, cheering everyone on.
Pacers: Beast Pacing did the pacing for this race. I'm a little confused as to how the pacers were set up because I saw everything from 9:00min miles to 11:30min miles in my corral. During the race around mile 6 a guy with a 9min mile stick ran past me and at mile 7 I ran past a girl with a 11:00min mile stick. I ran a 10:17 avg pace so I should have been significantly behind the 9 min guy and quite a bit in front of the 11 min girl.
If you want to run with a pacer, I'd definitely look into it at the expo to make sure you are in the right place.
Course: The course itself is very hilly and definitely challenging. It went through downtown, near Balboa Park and on some of the same roads as the Rock n Roll Half Marathon. I've run a good portion of the course before so while I wasn't excited about the hills, I was familiar with them. I actually really liked the course, I didn't feel like there were any moments where I was disappointed. The finish was nice because it was pretty much all down hill from mile 8 on.
Finish line: Nothing spectacular but there were a few photographers out there. I did a little leap over the finish line, but there were a few people ahead of me so I don't know if they got it or not.
Photos: One of the things that Hot Chocolate does is offer free race photos. However I didn't see any photographers until the last 1/2 mile of the race so I would have been a lot more disappointed if my husband hadn't been running around getting photos of me.
Medals: The Hot Chocolate Medals are very nice. The first year I ran this race they didn't have a medal which I think was really disappointing considering the cost. They now do a unique medal for each city and this year for San Diego our chocolate bar was covered in roses with the Kissing Solider statue on it. I like it.
Finish line food: Hot Chocolate is known for it's sweet treats at the end of the race. They gave us Blue bowls this year with a cup of hot chocolate, a small rice krispie treat, pirouline cookies, pretzels and a banana with chocolate dipping sauce. It's yummy but not a ton of food. We also got a bottle of water and they had cups of Nuun at the finish.
All in all it was a surprisingly fun race. I actually like the course a lot better than the Phoenix/Scottsdale version and I'd definitely recommend it although I would also recommend signing up early.
You can see my personal recap of this race on my blog at http://runny-legs.com/2016/03/race-recap-hot-chocolate-15k-san-diego/. And my review of the 2014 Phoenix/Scottsdale version here. http://runny-legs.com/2014/12/race-recap-hot-chocolate-15k5k-phoenix/
This was my first year running a Revel race and they did not disappoint. My husband & I decided to run this race #1 because it is in driving distance from our home and we didn't really have anything else on our race schedule and knew a ton of people running this race.
We signed up under the MRTT group so we were able to save $5.00 through their group code and then you could get another $5 off if you announced that you were running the race on FaceBook.
Communication from race management was great and their website was very detailed. They even had tips on how to train for a downhill race.
The Expo: Friday from 10 - 8pm. We didn't get there until 7:20pm and the expo was pretty much over by that point. 80% of the booths were empty but we were able to get our bibs quickly and then they had a ton of shirts, they are one of the few races that said you could switch out your shirt if you got the wrong size. They, like the Phoenix Marathon, use Albion for their shirts.
T-shirts: For women they were pretty good sizing wise, I got a small and it fit me perfectly with no tight neck. For the men though, the shirts ran really big - the hubs got a small and it was huge on him.
Swag: Not much, but they did put in gloves and a space blanket to keep us all warm at the start lines.
Bibs: They were personalized and we even registered relatively late, maybe 6 weeks prior to the race. Blue for the half and Orange for the full
Race Day Packet Pick-Up: There was an option for packet pick-up on race day for an extra $20 - because there is so much traffic going into the LA area from San Diego, the hubs & I discussed we will probably take advantage of this next year so we don't have to rush to the expo after work.
Parking: Finally a race that gives you a pamphlet with parking information vs making you go to the website to see where to go. We had to be bused to the start so to eliminate issues with people going to the wrong start line, there were 2 different areas for parking. Unlike at the Phoenix Marathon, the marathoners got to park right next to the finish line while the half marathoners were a few blocks away. Since my husband ran the marathon, we got to park in the marathon parking.
Busing: There were a ton of buses, a mix of tour buses and school buses. For the marathon they ran from 4am - 5am, would take approx. 60 mins and for the half from 4:30a - 5:30am, which would take about 30 mins. Our bus driver didn't get lost like I heard a few of them did, but she did overshoot the starting line because someone stole the popups for the half marathon start line during the night.
Starting line: Lots of port-a-potties and they had water and Powerade at for us to keep hydrated. It would have been nice to have some bagels or something though since we had about 2 hours until race time.
Bag drop: There was one truck to drop bags, this was a small race. It was right before the start line.
Start: Since there were no pop-ups, it was very anti-climactic and in reality, I didn't even realize we had started until we saw people start running. There was no National Anthem or countdown or anything that I could hear to signify that the race had started.
Aid Stations: All the aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were awesome. They had water & powerade at all the stations, Gu at some of them and then I think at mile 4 there was so fruit. My only complaint, the oranges were cut in the wrong direction so they were hard to eat quickly, but that's so minimal lol.
Course: This is a beautiful course in the mountains, it went by really quickly. The first half of the course is a very steep downhill, while the 2nd half is a bit of rolling hills so it's decievingly difficult.
Finish line: They did a great job at the finish line. They had a lot of food & beverages for recovery. Water bottles, horchata, chips, granola bars, bananas & pie! When we went through they had apple, lemon and pumpkin.
They had a photo area where you could take your own photos and then at the results section, they gave us a card with our results on it. Showing our place, time and pace so that was really cool.
Photos: They offer free photos and they had signs on the course showing that there was a photographer coming up so we could get ready.
Medal: The medal was the same for both the half and marathon with the only differences being the ribbon color and that the medal said half marathon vs just marathon. It is huge and super nice. I was really impressed.
Other things: A nice thing about this race is that they offer you the ability to transfer your registration so if you are injured or just can't run, you can transfer your bib to someone else. I believe there was a $20 fee to transfer, but considering so many races won't let you transfer your bib, that's a really cool option.
All in all this was an awesome race and I know we are looking forward to going back next year!
I loved this course, it was definitely challenging and I unfortunately got altitude sickness and got my first DNF at mile 16. As a sea-level dweller with Asthma, it was definitely ambitious for me to try, but if you don't try, you don't know and I have no regrets.
That being said, I'm only able to review 1/2 of the race.
Expo: There were 2 locations for the Expo, either at the North Face store in Murray, UT or at the Park City Mountain Resort (start/finish line). It was nothing special, we received our bibs and a T-shirt. A virtual swag bag was emailed a few days before the race.
T-Shirt: Was a nice green color with Dirt, the original proving ground on the front. I was a little confused by it because it wasn't really a traditional race shirt but it fit ok. I got a women's medium and it was a little wide but over all fit wasn't bad.
Start/Finish Line: The start & finish were in the same spot at the Park City Mountain Resort and there was a ton of parking. There were a bunch of booths, including REPREVE Socks which gave out free socks to each runner. There was a tent set up for checking your results, a few other booths, a beer garden and a coffee station.
The course: It was an absolutely gorgeous course. We started off at about 6,800ft and at the highest point, Jupiter, it was almost 10,000ft.
The first half of the course was mostly single track with a few fire roads. At first it was really smooth dirt with a few branches here and there and of course lots of leaves on the ground, as we got closer to the major climb the trail turned a lot more technical, with lots of rocks. There were a few downhill sections that to me, were very precarious, but that was probably because I was after a lot of other runners.
This was truly one of the most beautiful places I've had the privilege to run in. I really wish I had been able to finish the race.
Volunteers: The volunteers were amazing. After I started getting light headed and feeling faint, I was at about mile 10.5. I walked back down to the aid station to get some advice. They were super nice, the medics asked me if I wanted some oxygen and they were joking with me about being from San Diego (literally at sea-level) and telling me that what I was feeling was altitude sickness. They told me that I had plenty of time, the cut off for the race was 6:01p and that if I wanted to try to continue, the sweeper, who was at the station at the same time, would get me there.
I started off and went another 4 or so mile up in elevation another 800 or so feet to Jupiter and where one of the volunteers was like, I was just about to go out and find you. Which was super nice of them to be keeping track of me.
I made it to the aid station 2.7 miles away before I had to call it a day. I was continuing to get lightheaded as I made my way down the mountain and while it was a tough call, I knew it was time.
My husband finished the course in about 6h15m and when I saw him, he said that it was not an easy course (and he's run a lot of 100+ mile ultra races) although it was beautiful and he was kicking himself for not bringing his phone to take photos.
Trail Marking: It was really easy to keep track of the trail. They had colored ribbons that matched your bib for each race. And big wrong way signs at turns. I only had one spot, near the first aid station were I was slightly confused, but other than that, it was really easy to navigate.
Medals: The medals are pretty generic North Face medals, it looked like all the races received the same medal just a different ribbon with the race name and date on it.
Overall, this was a fabulous race in a beautiful area of the country. I would definitely recommend it to anyone (just maybe train a little at high altitude first, lol).
This was my second year in the row running the first half marathon. This year it was our wedding race as last year my husband & I had our first date the day before and this year we would get married the day after.
My head wasn't really in the game, race wise, because of the wedding but I do enjoy this race.
Expo: Friday & Saturday at the Fort Mason Festival Center
Decent in size with a lot of vendors, we were able to sample a lot of food
It was a bit crowded when we got there and the bibs/shirts are at the back of the expo hall so you have to walk thru all the vendors to pick up your bib.
If you register early enough you can have your bib personalized and they had different colored long sleeve shirts for each distance. I got a orange shirt for the half and my husband got a red shirt for the marathon.
Race App: They had a race app, which was decent, giving you the option to track runners, it also gave you more info on the various activities surrounding the race.
Race Options: There are a lot of different distances that you can run in this race. Ranging from 5k to 2 half marathons and a marathon there is an option for every runner.
Start Time: The first half and the marathon started at 5:30a at the Embarcadero. There were UPS trucks for gear and a lot more port-a-potties than last year. I believe that the 2nd half started around 8:15a near the finish of the first half and then the 5k started at 7:45a again near the Embarcadero.
Course: The first half starts on the Embarcadero, goes down by Fisherman's Wharf, up a hill near Fort Mason, down to Chrissy Field, up another more intense hill to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then the best part of the race is going over the Golden Gate Bridge around the rest area and then back across. From there you run thru Golden Gate Park for a while and finish around the rose garden. Note on hills, this is a relatively hilly course, but the hills that are in the first half aren't the worst that SF has to offer. They are relatively runable.
Photographers: There were a lot more photographers on the course this year. Around Chrissy Field, on the bridge, at the finish line. They also provide free race photos, this year sponsored by Hoka One One.
Finish Line: There was a decent finish line party. You finish, get a bottle of water before walking around the finish line to get handed your medal, or if you got lucky there was someone willing to put it around your neck :), a custom SF Marathon race blanket, it's cold in SF :). The UPS trucks were there to get your gear (there was quite a line when I got there) and then there was an area to get your post race food. This year was much better than last year, I got 2 Perfect Bars, Muscle Milk, a banana and they had coconut water too. Last year was just muffins and box water.
When you run the first half, you are quite a ways from the start line so they have school bus shuttles there to transport you back to the starting area. They had a good set-up in that they had volunteers there to count off the runners and get the correct number of people on the buses before they took off. It was a decent trip back to the Embarcadero.
Medals: They had a similar sized medal to last year, the marathon is significantly bigger than the half and both had a nice picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.
All in all it was a great race with good organization and I enjoyed it. For more specifics on my race, check out my full recap on my blog at http://runny-legs.com/2015/08/teamseanandjenny-run-the-sf-marathon/.