Latest reviews by Karen Poole

(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 Nor Cal Race with Awesome Swag!"
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Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Bank of Marin Run Fest 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!

Last Sunday I ran my last race of May at the Bank of Marin Run Fest. It's been a busy month of 4 back-to-back weekend races - two half marathons, one 12k and one 10k. I am happy to have a weekend off over Memorial Day! It's been fun, but my body needs a little rest.

Back to the race! I heard about this race through BibRave and was excited to give it a try, as it's not too far from me and a straight shot down the freeway. The race offers multiple distances - so it's great for running groups, offices and families. There is a half marathon, 10k, 5k and relay challenge. I chose to do the 10k distance with one of my friends. I was using this as a race to pace her to her first ever 10k finish.

Race Morning at Bank of Marin Run Fest

For the second week in a row, and third race, I had a 4am wake-up call, on a Sunday! I just should have been more responsible and went to bed before midnight the Saturday before. However, it was all worth it. This was a great race.

After waking up just before 4am, I threw on my race gear and headed to meet my friends I was carpooling with (save the environment you know). Luckily, her boyfriend was driving, so I got to relax a little.

On the drive down we got coffee and I ate a delicious blueberry muffin fresh from the farmer's market in town the day before. Yum, pre-race food! We arrived at the race about 45 minutes early and had plenty of time to park (there was plenty of close parking at the college right near the start and finish) pick up our packet, and race t-shirt and get ready to run.

I was really happy to see the quality of the race shirt, bag, and water bottle. Great runner perks! It's really handy to have a reusable bag for after the race too. Especially with all the vendors at the race. I got a lot of bars and new drinks to try out.

The Run Itself

The run started at 7am. It kicked off with the National Anthem and some motivational words from Dean Karnazes, a local ultra marathoner. It was a smaller race than I expected, so the start line wasn't too crowded. I actually really liked that. A nice change from my Bay to Breakers experience the Sunday before.

The start was perfect weather, just a little below 60 degrees. I felt a rain drop or two, but none after the first mile. The course for the 10k started with a small hill and continued with a steady down hill and fairly flat course for 3 miles out. At the turn around point I realized the entire three miles to the finish would be up those same downhills from before. I mentally prepared myself for the climbs.

I was pacing my friend Alex to her first 10k finish, so I stuck with her and encouraged her the full three miles back. There was a long, slow climb and then a steep hill to the finish. Once you are about 0.3 miles away, you run around their sports field at the college and straight to the finish. I've never been more excited to see a finish line!

I ended up coming in 4th in my age group - not bad. Now I kind of wish I had pushed myself - I may have gotten 2nd place. There's always next year!

At the finish we were treated to a sweet finisher's medal, Nuun and water. After a short walk across the field to the parking lot, we were surprised with a lot more sponsor gifts. All the booths were giving out drinks, bars, passes to fitness studios and sunglasses. I stocked up on some hydration and food staples. There was even a Snack Shack! Here they gave away full size samples of their bars and you could look at art from local artists. It was pretty cool. Obviously I'm excited to eat. But hey, I deserved it at this point. I'd already been up for 5 hours, run 6.2 miles, and it was only 8am!

After hanging out at the race finish for a while, snacking on everything in sight, and chatting with exhibitors, I, of course, had to involve myself in the Orange Theory Fitness Rowing Challenge. I was the strongest girl that had participated yet - woohoo! Those weight sessions are paying off!

All in all - this race was one of the best I have been to this month as far as organization, ease of packet pick-up and sponsor swag at the finish. Everyone also seemed really excited to be there and be involved which is a huge plus!

I absolutely plan on running this race again. It lived up to the "Run Fest" name! Maybe I will even try the half marathon next year. Stay tuned!

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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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(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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