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)
"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)
"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 for a Girls Weekend!"
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Last weekend I ran the Asics Vine Body Sole half marathon in Saint Helena, California. Not far from Napa. I was lucky enough to have won a free entry from Running Loving Living. I was excited to run this race because of the hype I had been hearing on social media and because it is fairly close, just an hour and a half from my home.

I was a bit worried because I had run a half marathon just two weeks before, then gotten the flu in between, and had this half marathon, as well as Bay to Breakers 12k, the following day. More on that later.

The Vine Body Sole Adventure Begins

Friday morning I headed out first to San Francisco to pick up my Bay to Breakers race packet and second, up to Napa area to pick up my race packet for Vine Body Sole. It was a long day of driving.

I originally thought the race was in Napa and had planned on staying with a friend, but when I put in the address I realized the race and packet pick-up were about 30 minutes outside of Napa, in Saint Helena. No problem and actually closer to home for me.

I followed my GPS to the winery listed by Asics for pack pick-up and the expo. I arrived about a half hour before the expo shut down at 4 and it seemed a little dead. Oh well, I figured it was probably hopping all day and since I arrived at the end, they were already packing up.

I wandered in the front and through the 5 or 6 vendor booths to find packet pick-up. It was quick and I only had to wait for 3 people in front of me. Here I was handed a shirt, socks, bag and my bib. Then I was directed over to the shoe pick-up area where I was given a brand new pair of Asics. Their swag was definitely a perk! Though, if I had to pay the $250 entry fee on my own dime, I would have felt like I just purchased the "swag." Still, a pretty nice race perk. Not many give you free shoes.

Meditation

Asics was hosting training events throughout the weekend leading up to the race as well. I missed Sunrise Yoga due to my having to rush to San Francisco, but I headed over to Charles Krug winery to take part in the Guided Meditation portion of the evening.

I'm not going to lie. I suck at meditation or sitting still in general. So this was ok, but not my favorite. Asics, however, did a great job of setting up the room and making me feel welcome. I lasted the full 40 minutes and maybe felt slightly more zen after? I'm not completely sure.

Following meditation was a yoga session on the lawn. I was still getting over my flu and since I was tired I decided to skip out. In fact, instead of going to stay with my friend, I drove the hour and a half home to sleep in my own bed. It was only 5pm when I was done with meditation and packet pick-up, so I had plenty of time to mosey on home. Might have been a little crazy - but with Napa traffic. Going home was probably just as fast as trying to get through Napa!

Once I got home I ate, showered and got my race gear ready for the next morning. Then I went to sleep and got ready for my 4:45am wake-up call!

Race Day

Race morning I packed myself in my car and drove the hour and a half back to Saint Helena. When I arrived around 6:30am, there was plenty of parking at Charles Krug Winery, where the race would finish. But from here, I felt like I walked a mile to the start. In fact, I just made it before 7am, when all the runners were suppose to take off! Luckily, the announcements were a little late, so I had time to make it to the rest stop before the race. If I had to change one thing about the race it would be this long walk! Oh well, at least it warmed me up. Once I arrived, I snapped a few selfies and got ready to race and fight back my lingering cough for 13.1 miles.

Around 7:05 the race was off! Vine Body Sole was a small race, with only about 300 runners, so we ran on open roads, with a separate coned off lane for us runners. I know in Napa it is especially hard to get permits to close down the roads, so this was nothing unexpected for me. And with so little traffic at 7am, it was hardly a problem.

The race wound around back roads, through twelve different vineyards, up and down a few rolling hills and through gorgeous countryside. I really enjoy these smaller, friendly events. In fact, I heard a group of girls behind be saying how excited they were about this race being more laid back and about everyone having fun. It really felt like a relaxing girls weekend.

After a few coughing fits and multiple water breaks, I finally was nearing the finish! I sprinted hard on the road and then we turned into Charles Krug winery with about a half mile left of the course run on the dirt road through the vineyard. It was a welcome change for my tired legs.

After crossing the finish I was handed a bag of snacks and Hint water (one of my favorites!) and ushered to the finish line festival. Here I picked up my souvenir wine glass, medal and Asics branded bottle of wine. I myself am not a wine drinker, but I gave it to a friend who I am sure is enjoying it! The bottle itself was very fun - as it had a runner girl and Asics branding which made it unique.

I milled around the finish a bit. Grabbed some Zico coconut water, Starbucks coffee, water and snacks and then decided I was ready to get home, warm up, and rest up since the next day I would be running Bay to Breakers.

My Recommendations - Would I Run Vine Body Sole Again?

I loved the small town feel of this race and all the runner swag and perks. It felt very relaxed to me and like a fun girls weekend event. I would love to have had more of my friends running Vine Body Sole with me.

I would definitely run this again next year. What ladies want to join me?!

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