Latest reviews by Karen

(2017)
"Fun and Beautiful Race through SF"
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Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the Hot Chocolate run San Francisco as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I’ve run a lot of races and this one had a lot of firsts for me. Let me preface by saying that San Francisco generally has perfect race weather. Cool temperatures, a mild climate and a perfect place for running. This was not a typical San Francisco race.

Northern California has pretty much been in a drought for years and I can’t really be disappointed by rain. However, we happened to received the worst rain and wind storm we have had in years the very weekend of the Hot Chocolate race. Driving down on Saturday before the race there was an eerie calm and I thought for a moment that the weather network may have been wrong.

After packet pick-up, the group of friends that I was staying with went to dinner at the Cliff House restaurant and when we exited the wind and waves were starting to pick up. That night the storm continued to grow and even with the ear plugs my roomie generously shared with me, I could still hear the wind and rain pounding outside our hotel. It didn’t get any better by morning. It was one of the worst storms I have seen.

But runners are built of resilient stock.

Runners in general are built tough. What we do isn’t something the majority of people do. Runners seem to like pain and suffering and the best runners thrive off of it. So even in bad weather, when ordinary people wouldn’t show up, runners do. They make it happen. In fact, just about 10,000 of us showed up for the big race, undeterred by wind, rain and fallen port-o-potties.

The 5k race took off as scheduled. I was running the 15k. Due to such high winds and waves along part of the 15k course, for our safety the race directors shortened the 15k to a 5.9 mile race. I don’t think anyone was too concerned about this. There were cheers at the start when the shortened course was announced.

I have only ran through one other similar storm. The worst part of running in a storm isn’t the run itself, it’s the waiting before and after the race that chills you to the bone. For this race, I was dropped off at the start with my friend running the 5k. She started 45 minutes before my race began, so I was standing in the cold for an hour and a half before I actually took off (since we arrived about 45 minutes before her start).

There was hardly any shelter at the start. After huddling in a tent set up as a store with a mass of other people, my friend and I decided that we would be better off braving the wind and rain. We weren’t huge fans of being sandwiched in the middle of 100’s of other people with no room to move. When it came time for my friend’s race to start I walked her over and cheered her on. Then I went to wait under some sheltering trees where I met a few girls to chat with about the race. 45 minutes later I was off and running!

I actually enjoy running in the rain. It was a blast and everyone was so upbeat. Soaking wet or not, racing is just fun! Racing through Golden Gate Park is also beautiful and with so much rain the waterfall was gushing. Plus, I felt so accomplished and fierce after finishing. Not everyone would be able to finish a race like this and my friend and I both prevailed.

After being soaked and running with soggy shoes and raindrops dripping down my face, that hot chocolate at the finish tasted amazing! And my medal will always be dear to my heart because of the memories of persevering it holds.

The race management team was great. They were faced with amazing environmental challenges and overcame them while still putting on a fun, safe event. I felt respected and taken care of and my hat is off to the Hot Chocolate Race SF staff! I hope to do another one of their races in the future.

Of course I can’t forget to mention the swag! I love the hoodie that everyone receives at the race and the hot chocolate, fondue, banana, and treats at the finish were well worth the cost of registration. I can’t wait to do another Hot Chocolate race in the future, maybe in a new city!

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(2016)
"Fun race finishing along Pismo Beach!"
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Last weekend I traveled down to San Luis Obispo for the City to the Sea Half Marathon. I drove down the day before and picked up my race packet at Running Warehouse. The expo was fun and there were good discounts on running items at Running Warehouse. I only stayed for a few minutes because I didn't need new gear and wanted to go check out the beach! But I appreciated how nice and quick packet pick-up was.

I went to bed early and woke up Sunday morning ready to race. My dad dropped me off at the start, about 30 minutes before the race began. It was easy to get to the start and there were plenty of places to hydrate and Honey Bucket toilets for people to use. This race thought ahead and there weren't huge lines like there often are.

The race itself was great. The weather was perfect, 50-60’s at the start. And the course consisted of a lot of flat ground and fairly gradual rolling hills. I am a big fan of rolling hills because my legs don’t suffer as much from the repetitive pounding in the same motion.

We ran through the city of San Luis Obispo, down side roads, along the freeway for a bit, then turned onto a local trail and finally finishing the last few miles with views of the coast and the beach. I really liked finishing right near the ocean and having views of the coast during those final miles.

The race finished at Dinosaur Park, Pismo Beach. I was able to finish in 1:55:39. I haven’t been able to run my sub-2 hour races in a while, so I was so happy to see this finish time! Part of this I contribute to my training and coach, the other part I contribute to the weather and the great course. Everything about this race felt right.

City to the Sea provided great swag. The race shirt was super soft and actually cute (though you want to size up ladies!), they provided a huge finisher’s medal, Running Warehouse cup and breakfast burritos for all finishers. There were also venders, massage areas and foam rolling stations. I felt super pampered and appreciated.

I will most likely run this race sometime in the future (and beat my time!)

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(2016)
"Best Race in Oregon! "
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May 1st was the first of my half marathons planned for this year. I chose the Eugene Half Marathon for many reasons:

-It's in my home state of Oregon, just south of my hometown.
-The race finishes on historic Hayward Field (home of Olympic champions)
-It's a cool May race

The expo

I drove down to Eugene Saturday afternoon. I arrived to pick up my race bib, gear and volunteer at the soles for souls booth. A great charity that gives your old, slightly worn shoes to people in need. Pretty cool. I also dropped off a few pairs of my own shoes. The expo was easy to find and navigate.

I finally met one of the other ambassadors, Monica, and we had a blast chatting about the upcoming race. She was running the full (and she got an awesome PR the next day!)

Following my volunteer duties, I headed out to stay with a friend from high school. It was so good to catch up!

The morning of the race came quickly. I headed to the start at 6am. Parked my car and boarded the bus to the start. I met a fun woman who was run/walking her first ever half! We chatted race strategy and parted ways at the start.

I met Karena at the start line - the lucky winner of my Eugene Half Marathon race entry giveaway a few weeks back. We took a quick selfie and were on our way. Pardon the sleepy eyes!

I started slower and tried to pace myself. I had worn a long sleeve over my tank since it was cold at the start but I quickly regretted it and had to tie it around my waist for the second half of the race. The course itself was beautiful. It went all through back roads in Eugene, over the river and was relatively flat. The weather was also gorgeous and perfect for that morning and post race.

I honestly loved every minute on the course and that doesn't happen often! Running to the finish, about a quarter mile out, I spotted the Nike Eugene NRC Pacers cheering us on and recognized a few friendly faces. It was great to have them push me to the finish with their cheers!

The finish was on Hayward Field and you get to run 200 meters on the track to the finish line. It's a pretty amazing feeling, to run where running legends ran before. I highly recommend this race to anyone who has a love for the history of running and track. It is inspirational.

The finish line itself was well organized with volunteers helping out and ushering us through to the finish festival where I got pancakes and a massage. That is the way to finish any race! A big thanks to sponsor, Krusteaz!

After scarfing down my pancakes and more water, I waited for a few friends to finish the marathon and we planned our post race brunch. Yes - we went out for more food! I also got to meet Tim, from BibRave, in person! It was fun to chat about how the program works and learn more since I just became a BibRavePro a few months ago.

What I loved about the Eugene Half Marathon

I loved the people here and the excitement on course. You can truly feel why they call this TrackTown. Everyone is excited for you to run and to cheer you on to the finish. The energy is electric.

This year was also the 10 year anniversary of the race and the medal was very well done. I am excited to display this one! Solid work!

I also loved the course and how flat it was. I am even considering running a marathon here in the future - maybe. No promises yet!

In my opinion, this should be a bucket list race for anyone who loves running and wants to visit the home of legends and be steeped in history. I really hope I can come back next year!

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(2016)
"Great Race in the Bay!"
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On July 10th I ran the Represent Running Across the Bay 12k. I was selected as an ambassador for these races earlier this year and I have loved both I have participated in. The first one I raced was virtual, and this race was in San Francisco.

I drove down the morning of the race. I met friends at Starbucks in Fisherman's Wharf before the race to pick up my bib and take some photos. Then it was off to the buses. The race begins with a bus ride from the finish area to the start line in Sausalito.

The buses were quick and efficient and got us to the start on time. There was a short walk to the beginning and fairly long lines for the restrooms. I took my time and made it to the start with a few minutes to spare. Just enough time to snap a photo with a few of my fellow ambassadors, start my GPS and begin the run.

The course itself was beautiful. It incorporated my favorite parts of the Bay Area. We ran through a part of Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge (they closed off the bike lane for us to use), and down through the Marina Green area to the finish.

There was a slight hill at the start, going up the the bridge, so I would recommend that you train a few hills before running this race so you can power up to the bridge. The bridge also has a slight incline and then you run down to the water on the Marina and all the way past Fort Mason to the finish at Aquatic Park/Fisherman's Wharf area. There is a slight hill before the finish, running above Fort Mason, then you can cruise downhill to the finish! Waiting for you at the finish is an awesome medal.

At the finish there was a goody bag, plenty of sponsors giving out great snacks ( I may have eaten two frozen Sunshine Juice Bars - coconut was delicious!), and great buys from the race sponsors. All in all it's a great race, great swag and amazing views of the Bay! Perfect summer race.

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(2016)
"Fun SF Race!"
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Bay to Breakers reached its 105th year of running. I was lucky enough to get to run and represent Smarty Pants Vitamins! (Disclaimer, I received a free race entry from them, no other compensation with given). If you are looking for some tasty, gummy vitamins, check them out.

The race itself is always an experience. I ran it four years ago and was excited to run it again this year. One of my awesome friends, Amanda, came with me and ran her first race ever! Since she is coming off knee surgery, and I had run a half marathon the day before, we took it easy.

Packet Pick-up

I headed to San Francisco early Friday morning for Packet Pick-up at Pier 39. It was a breeze for me. I had our race packets within a few minutes, there were no lines. I then proceeded to the expo where there were plenty of vendors giving aways snacks, gear and sampling products. This expo is one of the best I have been to for swag.

I would definitely recommend going early. As I was told that Saturday there was a line blocks down the street just to get in the building to get your packet. People had to wait hours just to get in! Avoid the lines and get there early!

Race Morning

Since I live two hours North of San Francisco, we woke up at 4am in order to drive to Marin County to catch the shuttle to the Bay to Breakers start line. This is the easiest and most convenient way from the North Bay to get to the start of Bay to Breakers and avoid crazy San Francisco traffic and parking. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and hopped on the charter bus just after 6am. The bus departed at 6:20 to get us to the start.

Upon arriving we had a bit of time to spare so we snapped photos, used one of the many Honey Bucket's on course and headed to our corral 45 minutes prior to the start. This is where the fun began.

Tortillas (thrown like frisbees) were flying high in the air and beach balls were also tossed around. Let the party begin! While I was representing Smarty Pants Vitamins, and racing in their singlet, others had dressed up in very fun costumes. Still others had chosen to go in their birthday suit. Brave! This race definitely doesn't have a lack of crazy.

Promptly at 8am the race began and we began our trek across San Francisco. We really couldn't have asked for a better day in San Francisco. The sun was out and we were warm at the start.

We dodged in and out of the crowds and tried to run as best we could without tripping on the many walkers and costumed runners. At some point we decided it might just be better to join them, than to try to dodge everyone.

As it was Amanda's first race and first time ever running 7.4 miles, we started running and then implemented the run/walk method. Run a quarter mile, walk a quarter mile.

We also, of course, had to stop for numerous photo opps! Needless to say, this Bay to Breakers race was more about the experience than getting a personal best. And I really preferred it that way. It made for an awesome time for both of us and a great first race for Amanda.

The last few miles were a bit of a struggle, but when we saw the finish line we sprinted in! Luckily, the last few miles are downhill - good course choice! :) Success! We crossed the finish line and snagged that race medal.

As a perk of running for Smarty Pants we avoided the madness and crowds at the finish (40,000 people ran) and were treated to brunch at a special VIP area just for the Smarty Pants team. It was awesome. I loved the fruit, cheese, and of course vitamins! They also had some fun lawn games to play.

After enjoying ourselves here for a while, we then headed back to the bus to be chauffeured back to our car. The bus was efficient and soon were were back North of the bridge.

Bay to Breakers Race Rating

This race is always exciting and full of energy. I know I will be back for many years to come and hopefully bring many more friends to run as well! The swag (shirt, medal, expo, free race photos) are great! And the race itself is a fairly easy run, with just a few hills. The finish is almost all down hill - thank goodness!

I give it an A for organization and experience. Definitely a must-do race. I hope I see you there next year!

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