Latest reviews by Fallon C

(2017)
"Winding Through Wine Country "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half is a smaller half marathon that starts in Santa Ynez and ends in Solvang. It advertises a scenic course with a great wine tasting party at the finish.

Registration- was available online up until 3 days before the race. You can register with a wine glass or without if you want a lower price. There was also a 2 person relay option. You could also purchase an extra wine glass at registration time for friends and family.

Packet pickup- Bib pickup was available at the expo Friday from 12-6. If this didn’t work for you, they did have 2 other options available for a small fee. Early bib pick up at a running store in Santa Barbara on Thursday and race day pickup for and additional $15.00.

Expo- The expo was located in the parking lot of the Solvang Park. It was small with maybe 10 booths. Bib and shirt pick up were at the same table and there was a station set up to take pictures if you wanted. The largest booths were the race merchandise and race sponsor booths.

Transportation- As the race was a point to point- shuttles were offered from a variety of hotels to the start. You could also park at the finish and shuttle to the start and vice versa.

The race- The race started in Santa Ynez. After the National Anthem, we started about 5 minutes behind schedule. The beginning miles or 2 are through residential streets that are pretty narrow, the runners were pretty packed in. It looked cool but it you wanted to be fast you needed to be at the front of the pack- passing was tricky. Miles 1-5ish take you through neighborhoods, the houses are pretty and while there was little crowd support from people- the furry kind was surprisingly present. Goats, dogs, full size horses, miniature horses and even a pet goose.

Mile 5 brings runners into Los Olivos, a quaint little town. This was also the relay transition point (mile 5.8) so the crowds picked up a bit. Coming out of the town it was into more rural roads before running into the beast named Corkscrew Hill. From then on, we were running down back roads between vineyards. If you’re looking for pretty courses, here it was. Mile 12 brought us into Solvang and on to the finish at Solvang Park.

Finish- At the finish you were handed your snacks in a bag (thank you!) and a water then your medal. You had to get your wine glass from a booth across the lot which was a bit distracting but made sense if not everyone paid for the race and wine tasting.

Elevation-If you look at the elevation map, it looks like a gradual climb from mile 1 to 7 then downhill to 12 with a little bump then downhill to the finish. I disagree. It felt most flat through mile 6ish when we hit Corkscrew which was a zig zag beast of a climb. It had a decent downhill after that but then it felt mostly flat until 12 again. The hill at 12 wasn’t huge, it just felt big being at mile 12. Bear in mind, my watch shows an elevation gain of 700ft so flat is relative.

Course Aid- There were water stations with water and Nuun every 2ish miles. All were well stocked and well staffed with kids and teenagers. They were also very enthusiastic.

Swag- The race shirt was nice cotton shirt. Not tech but a form fitting shirt that I will actually wear again. The medal was different in that it would also hold your wine glass if was around neck. The wine glass was good quality with the race name on it.

Quirks- The finish line area/ expo is very small and there were a lot of people and booths packed into that area. A slightly bigger area would be awesome.

Race Pictures- the race advertised that race pictures would be delivered directly to your phone through facial recognition by uploading a selfie. At the time of this review, this has yet to happen. There is also no link on the race website to access pictures via bib number or name.

Overall- I really liked this race, the course was great and it was very well run. This is one that I would run again without hesitation.

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(2017)
"Lovely Livermore"
Overall
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Livermore Half is a smaller sized race with a great course.

Registration was available online right up to 2 days before race day. I registered in December for the March race and then didn’t hear anything for the longest time. That changed about a month before the race and then I received a minimum of 1 email a week leading up the race sometimes 2. This was helpful as they changed the start time of the half marathon to an hour earlier. The website was fairly user friendly but I could never get the half marathon course map to enlarge nor could I find an elevation profile for the course. I mentioned it at the expo and it was fixed that day.

The expo was in an outdoor plaza and fairly small. A few race booths, a merchandise booth and a couple other vendors. Bib pickup was organized by bib number and there was no wait when I was there. There was a snafu with the shirts. At registration, you were asked to pick gender specific sizing but the shirts were all men’s sizing and according to the volunteers helping me they all ran very large. I was lucky and my volunteer let me switch shirt sizes. The shirt was cute though.

There was plenty of parking on race morning- some of it was free and some was pay- it just depended on what time you got there. I didn’t have to use the portapotties but I had seen them lined up the day before and it looked like they had enough for this size race. The race started about 5 minutes late but that’s not too bad.

The course starts out through town taking you through neighborhoods for the first 3 miles. The 5k starts after the half marathon and runs alongside the half for the first 1.5 miles. This didn’t bother me at all but it didn’t seem like the best idea for the 5K leaders as they were heading back into the crowd of people running the opposite direction.

A little before mile 4, the runners head into a park and run the next few miles on a paved path. The path is blacktop and there is nature on both sides of the path, so in my opinion this was awesome. The path was narrower than the road so you could get stuck behind other runners and had to dodge and weave sometimes. Just past mile 6 and we were back out of the park running on the road. Miles 8 and 9 had the only real climbs of the course, overall this is fairly flat course- my watch showed an overall elevation gain of 290 ft. Mile 8 took runners off the road and back into another park with paved paths. This one was lined with vineyards. This continues through mile 11 where the course started to take you back into town. Another mile on another path then the last mile was on city streets to the finish. The course was a loop so it brought you back where you started.

Once through the finish line, you were handed your medal by a volunteer. There were also volunteers handing out bananas, chocolate milk and kind bars. You received a stemless wine glass as part of your swag but there was no one there so I grabbed that by myself. There were large water dispensers so you could refill your water bottles.

On course aid- there were aid stations every 2ish miles. They offered water, electrolytes and bathrooms. I don’t know what the electrolytes were because every station said something different. I always carry my own and drink water at the stations but I feel like there could have been more stations. I feel like there was a long stretch with no aid and I remember thinking it but I can’t remember what stretch it was.

In keeping with the wine theme, the medal can double as a wine stopper for your bottle. There was also a wine tasting event for all finishers with 13 different wineries. I do not know how the tasting went though as I was sick so I did not end up staying long enough to partake.

Overall, this was a great course and a good size. It is a race that I would gladly run again.

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(2017)
"Perfect weather and ocean views- yes please!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Registration/swag- Available online up until 4 days before the race. Prices ranged from $80-$130 for the half. With registration, you received a long sleeve gender specific race shirt, race cinch bag and a ¾ zip pullover.

Expo- Expo and packet pickup took place on both the Friday and Saturday preceding the race. The expo was in the parking lot of the Shoppes of Carlsbad so there was ample parking if a little congestion. The expo opened with Bib pickup by number and shirt pickup was in the back. The expo was mid-sized with 10-15 vendors.

Race- The course was an out and back but there a couple places that it deviated slightly so that it wasn’t as dragging as some out and back courses can seem. I am not a huge of fan of out and back courses but I really liked this one. The majority of the course ran along the ocean and was very scenic. The weather was perfect which helped contribute to a very picturesque course. There were only two real climbs on the course, one in mile 1 and one in mile 7. Other than that the course was little rollers to flat in elevation, if you were looking for a PR, this could be a good place to get to get it.

Aid stations were every 1.5 miles or so and were very well stocked and manned. All had plenty of people working throughout the race and I never experienced a table without any water or electrolytes. Water was in cups with Arrowhead on them and the electrolyte provided was Ultima and served in branded paper cups. Stations also had Vaseline for runners with very clear signs that specified it was not to be eaten.  I only wish there was more consistency in which came first- water or Ultima.

The course had more crowd support then I expected but it is not a crowd heavy race. The crowds did pick up towards the finish line. The finish line was located near the expo. There was an announcer calling out names as you finished. Once across the line you were handed your medal, then a mylar blanket and a bottle of water. From there you were funneled into a chute and handed a chocolate milk, paper bag with snacks and a coconut water. There were a couple of places to take finishers photos but they had really long lines.

Overall, this was a great race from start to finish, it is definitely one that I would recommend and would run again.

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(2016)
"Running the Bridge"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Lead up to the race- Registration was available online up until the race sold out. The race used IMAthlete for their software provider. Pretty user friendly. The race offered race day packet pickup or bib mailing for an extra cost. Both were very nice options if you were traveling. Communications emails were sent on a weekly basis increasing in frequency as the race grew closer. The emails covered the expo, start line/ time and finish line party. All of them were very informative and filled with helpful information.

Expo/ packet pickup- Packet pickup was located at the corner of Scott St and Marina Green Dr. Bib pick up was organized by bib number. The shirt tables were set up right next to the bib tables. There was a booth selling race merchandise and a booth from a local running store. There were a few other booths under the large tent but not many. Outside was a coffee truck and a Bark Thins truck. There were chairs, tables and games set up in the grass for runners and friends.

Race- The race started by the Municipal Pier and had tables set up for late pick up and bag drop. There were porta a potties available for runners but the lines were enormous, a few more would have helped. The race was scheduled to start at 7 and it started right on time after a few announcements and the National Anthem. There were pacers available but the signs were a little hard to read.

The course is amazing. It takes you through the Marina and the Presidio before looping up and around to the Golden Gate Bridge. Runners then run out the Eastern walkway before looping around Vista Point then down under the bridge on a trail and back up the other side. Runners return along the Western side of the bridge, looping off and under it once across. The route then takes you downhill and out to Fort Point before turning around to head back along a dirt track on the shoreline towards the finish at Marina Green. Notable- this course is not flat- my watch showed an elevation gain of 1200'. That said, the first 3 miles and last 2 are mostly flat, the hills are all in the middle.

Once crossing the finish line, you were handed a giant medal. Seriously, it's a beast and awesome. Here's where things get a little off- I hit the banana table only to be told there were no bananas. A volunteer handed me a Kind bar and another chased me down to give me a logo water bottle. Which was great but when I went to fill it up at the water stations they were out of water. I was a little disappointed.

My thoughts-
The course was amazing, to me it was all the things I wanted to see in San Francisco. I wish there had been less fog but race management has no control over that. :) The medal is amazing and I liked the touch of the reusable bottle. I like hills and dirt track so all of those things made me happy. I would imagine that on a clear day, the views would be amazing. Even with the fog, I have never seen so many people taking mid race selfies.

There were plenty of water stations but they seemed to be spaced out oddly. There was a long stretch from 5-8 with no water. 2 tables had troubles keeping up with the demand for water as well. It could benefit from a wave start as well. The bridge was amazing to run but bottle necked easily. It was hard to pass and numerous people were taking pictures too. A thinner crowd would have made for a smooth few miles. The only other downside it that parking in SF can be very pricey. Some information on places to park or a maybe a garage that had rates for runners would be great.

That said, I loved this race. The course was amazing. It was extremely organized. The medal was awesome. If you measure a race by repeat runners, this race had plenty. There were runners wearing race shirts from 2013 to 2015. I can understand why, it is a race I would love to run again.

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(2016)
"Rolling through the Vineyards"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
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Paso Robles Harvest Marathon serves as a fundraiser for the Paso school districts, all race proceeds go the schools. The race is organized by the high school athletic director and staff, the volunteers are students from the school's sports teams and coaches.

The race offers a half marathon, a 5K and a children's mile. Prior to this year, they offered a USATF certified Boston Qualifier marathon course. Due to road closure issues and low registration, the full was dropped from the schedule this year. Registration was available online and went from 70- 90, I believe.

Packet pick up was in the city park on Saturday from 10-7. There were 2 vendor booths- Costco and a local gym. From 4-9, they also had a live band as well as tri tip and a pasta dinner for runners to purchase. Registration included a technical tee with race logo, bib with timing chip, finisher's medal and free race photos. The only other thing included at packet pickup was a reusable shopping bag from the Running Warehouse.

Race started at 8:30 which is rather late for the area. The race started and finished at Le Vigne Winery, plenty of street parking was available for runners and family and organized by the football team. After a few announcements and the National Anthem the race started exactly on time. It’s a small race with a little over 200 hundred runners for the half. Aid stations were every 2 miles until mile 7. Due to an out and back section of a mile, the aid station at mile 6 was also at mile 7. From then on it was every 2 miles again with an extra station just past mile 12. Water and Gatorade was available at all stations and gels at the mile 6/7 station. All stations were adequately staffed.

The course is a giant loop on back country roads through scenic wineries and farms. There were 2 little graveyards as well. Course monitors were at every turn to ensure that no one was able to get lost. The course is not flat- it runs around 600 in elevation gain. Mostly rollers throughout but there was one long climb from mile 9 to 10.2. The roads are not fully closed so it is entirely possible that vehicles will pass you at multiple points along the course. While very scenic there is little no crowd support on course. Only the people working the aid stations are out there to cheer for you. I am used to both of those things but it is something to consider, there are long stretches where it is just you and the runner in front of you.

The finish line is back at the winery where you were presented with your medal and a full bottle of water. There was also a post race brunch going on next to the winery which smelled amazing. I believe there was also live music from a local band but when I finished they were announcing the Age Group awards. Overall male and female finisher were awarded with $500.00 as well as bottles of wine. The top 25 male and female runners were also given a trucker hat emblazoned with “CRUSHEDIT”. Top 3 male and female AG were awarded medals and the 1st place finisher in each group was also given a bottle of wine.

The race has always offered free race pictures, they were all uploaded and organized by bib number the next day- awesome!

Pros
Great local race with a hometown feel
Supports a great cause
Very scenic course (it rained this year and I still thought it was pretty)
Well organized aid stations
Free race pictures
Great finishers medal
Prompt timing results
Free pictures- Did I day that already?
Good awards for AG

Cons-
No prerace emails until 2 days prior- I was questioning if I had even registered
Minimal crowd support
Open Roads
Minimal swag for the non speedy

Overall it was a well run race and I am glad I was finally able to run it. I could have done without the rain for 7 miles but organizers have no control over the weather. :) I like smaller races and even the rain couldn’t detract from the scenery. I was not adequately prepared for that last long climb though. This is a race I would run again.

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