Latest reviews by Stephanie Dunlap

(2019)
"First OC Marathon"
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Expo: Well organized and great vendors. Lots to see and do!

Race Day: It took me a few minutes to find the start line after I was dropped off at 5am. I may or may not have followed a couple of runners into a hotel because I thought they were going to the starting line, but I eventually made it to where I needed to be. Most of the time I do not warm up or stretch before starting a race. I figured the walk/jog to the starting line is sufficient enough.

When I arrived to the starting line, I could tell there were many more half marathon runners than full marathon runners. (There were 6818 half marathoners and 1551 full marathoners.) The full marathon started at 5:30am, whereas the half marathon began at 6:15am. As I made my way to the starting line, many of the half marathoners were deboarding the bus. Many of the marathoners were already lined up at the starting line. Since I knew it was going to be a slow race, I made my way to the back of the pack and found the 5:30 pacers.

I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking as I lined up with the 5:30 pacers... hopeful? delirious? insane? I ran a 6 hour marathon at the California International Marathon in 2017 and to do so I ran intervals of walk two minutes, run one minute. I thought the 5:30 pacers would maybe do intervals as well, but I was mistaken. Within the first few miles, I fell back behind the 5:30 pacers.

Off and on throughout the race, I texted my mom and husband to update them on my progress. At first, I had told them that I would finish at 11:30am (six hours from the start). At about mile 18, I informed them that I would be finishing closer to noon based upon my pace. I was so happy to see the two of them and my baby at the finish line when I finally finished!

This marathon was the first race in which I had serious thoughts on calling it quits. I was in a lot of pain due to a giant blister on the bottom of my right foot and several blisters forming on my heels (not to mention that nearly every muscle in my body was screaming at me). What made me continue forward was the fear of letting people down. I am not a quitter and didn't want others to think of me as such. Also, I have never dropped out of a race before and did not want to start now. I was physically able to continue, so step by step I continued on to the finish line.

The second half of a marathon is always hardest for me. You would think that I'd be happy that I am over halfway finished, but that is usually not the case. The excitement of starting the race has diminished and the reality that I still have 10+ miles to go hits me.

The OC Marathon was especially difficult in the second half. The half marathon runners had already split from the group and the course no longer had scenic views. Instead, the second half of the marathon course takes runners through neighborhoods and a river trail.

The race website states, "Marathoners continue into the heart of Orange County, Costa Mesa, passing by the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, around South Coast Plaza, and through the campus of Segerstrom High School. One more mile in Santa Ana before turning onto the Santa Ana River Trail for 1.5 miles before exiting at Gisler foot-bridge. Also new this year, runners will go through beautiful Mesa Verde neighborhoods and then the "Bird Streets", providing you with that much-needed support on the home stretch towards the OC Fair & Event Center."

At first, I didn't want to feel proud of my finish. It was so slow. BUT you know what? I AM proud. I completed a marathon, my 17th, just five months after delivering my baby. No matter how slow, I moved 26.2 miles. When I first finished my mom asked, "Are you glad you did the marathon?"

I replied, "Ask me in a couple of days." I wasn't ready yet to be glad I had completed the marathon. I was in too much pain. By Wednesday, however, I was running again and ready to sign up for my next race.

Overall, I'd recommend the OC Marathon.

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(2019)
"Scenic Utah"
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A few days prior to the race, I contacted the Ogden Marathon to see if there was any way I could pick up my bib Saturday morning prior to getting on the shuttle to the starting line since I was not able to attend the expo the day prior. They were very accommodating and allowed me to pick up my bib at 4am Saturday morning (hence the 3am wake up call).

I debated about taking a shower Saturday morning... would I be too cold if I took a shower? would I feel too dirty if I didn't take a shower? would I be too smelly on the 5pm flight home if I didn't take a shower? etc. Ultimately, I decided to take a shower. (I couldn't take a shower post-race because I would already be checked out of the hotel.)

After I picked up my bib at 4am from the GOAL Foundation office, I went back to my car and waited until it was time to load the shuttles to the starting line. The race website states that "Bus loading for the Full Marathon is from 4:45 am - 5:15 am". Previous experience tells me that it is pointless to be on one of the first shuttles to the race start line because then that just means more time waiting out in the cold. I, therefore, got on a shuttle (school bus) at about 5:15am. I was impressed by the number of volunteers who were friendly and helped direct everyone to where they needed to go.

I dozed on and off during the 45+ minute drive up to the starting line. Once I arrived to the starting line, I thought, "I should use the bathroom before the race starts." Sadly, it was sleeting (a mix of rain and snow) and the lines were extremely long to the porta potties (I seemed to have picked the slowest moving line). The lines, in fact, were so long that I, and many other racers, didn't even make it to the front of the line by the time the race started! I decided to ditch the line, start the race, and find a porta potty along the route.

I started the race wearing a rain jacket, but quickly ditched the jacket within the first two miles. I had every intention of wearing shorts for the race, but the night before I decided to wear capris and I'm so glad that I did. I am not well acclimated to the cold like many other local runners and probably would have frozen to death had I chosen to wear shorts.

For the majority of the 26.2 mile race, I ran without wearing headphones. I wanted to fully take in all sights, sounds, and the people running around me. I was so inspired by so many runners that I met while out on the course. One runner was a 64 year old woman who was running her 81st marathon. She started running in 1985 and is still going strong. Some other runners were three gentlemen who were all in their 60s. One gentleman talked about how he has done 24 full ironman races with his last one just two weeks prior. Wow! So inspirational!

Besides meeting inspiring runners, another part of the race that I loved were the views. The views along the course were amazing! The lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, rock formations, etc. were all so enjoyable to see and take in!

Taking the scenic (slow) route in a marathon has its advantages... there's plenty of time to take lots of selfies!

The weather ended up being fairly decent. It rained on and off throughout the first 10 miles, but the rain stayed pretty light. By the final few miles, the sun even peeked out from behind the clouds.

At the halfway point I was on schedule to finish the Ogden Marathon 30 minutes faster than the OC Marathon two weeks prior. Sadly, after the halfway point, I saw each mile pace get slower and slower. My lungs felt great and I felt great overall, but my feet were another story. I could feel a huge blister forming on the bottom of my left foot. I thought about stopping at a first aid station to see if they could do something, but decided that I'd be fine. I ended up finishing the Ogden Marathon about 17 minutes faster than the OC Marathon two weeks prior. Considering that the elevation was much higher in Ogden than the OC, I'm pleased.

Overall, I left Utah feeling quite impressed by the Ogden Marathon. The race was well organized, the course was scenic, there were free race pictures, the finisher's shirt had thumb holes (my favorite), and the volunteers were kind and helpful! I hope to be able to return to Ogden in the future.

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(2019)
"Iconic San Francisco Scenes"
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Usually, when I run a race in San Francisco I spend the night. Since I now have a baby, traveling looks a little different. I, therefore, made the 2.5-hour drive home Saturday evening and then turned around six hours later to make the drive back to San Francisco. What’s nice about driving to a big city at 3:30am is that there’s virtually no traffic! When I arrived to my prepaid parking space in San Francisco, I had to wait since they were out of parking spaces. How does a company (such as Spot Hero) presell you a parking spot, but then fills up the space leaving you without a parking spot? Fortunately, the attendant found a few more spaces in an adjacent lot. Parking in San Francisco can be difficult to say the least.

Rock n Roll San Francisco changed their starting line this year. Three days prior to the event, an email went out to all participants saying that there'd be wristbands for everyone to wear. At first, the wristband seemed like a cool idea, but in actuality, I’m not sure how great it turned out to be. 1) The bands were small and felt really tight on the wrist. Who wants to be wearing something tight on their wrist while running? 2) The colors were not synched properly. A group of people all in the same corral had different colors showing on their wristband. 3) The email said that the wristbands would “enhance your musical experience”. How so? I don’t recall experiencing any enhancement while out on course.

With the delay in finding a parking spot, I barely made it to the starting line after stopping to use the restroom. In the over 6,000 runners and the different start line procedure, I was able to locate my fellow Pro Compression people since we were all wearing the same California sock. We lined up and away we went!

Three weeks prior to Rock n Roll San Francisco, I ran the Shamrock’n half marathon with a time of 2:57:04. I ended up finishing Rock n Roll San Francisco with a time of 2:49:07. I was proud of this speed increase because I gained 142 feet at Shamrock’n and 1,471 feet at Rock n Roll San Francisco. I also stopped several times to take pictures along the course of RnRSF.

Some of my top highlights of RnRSF were running over AND under the Golden Gate Bridge, running in the Pier 39 area, and meeting up with so many of my running friends. Overall, I'd recommend this race.

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(2019)
"Well Organized and Enjoyable"
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I’m baaaack and it feels sooooo good! Although this was my second race postpartum, this was my first race in which I was able to vary my pace based upon how I was feeling… faster or slower. In my pre-race post, I mentioned that I expected to run an average of 14-minute miles. Well, I smashed that!

Race morning started with waking up at 4:15am. I pumped a bottle for my two month old baby, got ready, and was out the door by 5:03am.

I am notoriously bad at checking my fuel tank on a regular basis. (Don’t ask my husband about the time I almost ran out of gas while trying to evacuate our city that was at risk of flooding or the time I nearly ran out of gas in the middle of the Mexican jungle.) One hour into my trip my car alerted me that I needed to stop for gas. I found the nearest gas station and it was raining hard! I really thought that I would be running in the rain. Fortunately, the sky cleared up beautifully for the race!

One of my favorite parts about participating in races is running into (no pun intended) running friends. It was great to see fellow BibRave Pro Rory (@ckittiesprint) and fellow Pro Compression Ambassador Martinus (@300poundsandrunning) before the race started! (There were quite a few other running friends there, but sadly I missed them since I arrived barely in the nick of time… I did, however, run into one running friend, Catherine, out on the course.)

The race started in waves and I was wave two. I thought the starting area of the race was organized, well laid out, and entertaining. There was a DJ who was elevated high up close to the starting line who played some great music to get us all hyped.

As for the course, I enjoyed that it was a point to point course versus a looped course. For the course, its website states, “Start at SAP Center in Downtown San Jose. Head West on Santa Clara – Continue on The Alameda – Left on Randol – Right on Morse – Left on Naglee – Left on Park – Right on Hester- Right on Dana – Left on Naglee – Right on Garden – Left on Emory – Continue on Laurelei – Left onto Hedding – Left on Monroe – Right on Stevens Creek. Left on Santana Row – 8K = 4.97 miles.”

Two of my favorite parts of the course were the Memorial Mile and the Mariachi Mile. For the Memorial Mile, I was running low on energy, but once I saw those veterans and activity military members holding up flags and cheering us on, I felt reenergized! As for the Mariachi Mile, this was towards the end of the course and was also quite energizing. You can see the various Mariachis in my race recap video.

Before I knew it, we were rounding the bend to Santana Row and the race was done! The finish area was well organized and well stocked with volunteers who were passing out water bottles, bananas, and bags with a couple of snacks. The finish zone also had quite a few vendors along with picture opportunities.

Once I finished walking around the finish zone, I made my way to the free buses to drive me back to the starting line. It was easy to navigate around the finisher zone and to the buses since the signage was easily readable. Even the bus area was well organized with lines set up and plenty of volunteers.

Would I return to run the San Jose 408k? Yes, absolutely! Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, for sure!

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(2018)
"An Epic Finish line!"
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I was really looking forward to running the Giant Race in San Francisco! This race definitely did not disappoint. It’s difficult to believe that the race was already two weeks ago.

Although I normally choose to stay in a hotel when a race is over two hours away from my house, this time I decided to just drive down the morning of. What normally takes 2.5 hours to drive, took me a little under two hours to drive in the wee hours of 4 o’clock in the morning. A fellow BibRave Pro was kind enough to pick up my bib for me and a different BibRave Pro met me at the race starting line. (Thank you Barb and Sarah!)

I arrived at the race start at about 6am. I was able to meet up with Sarah, pick up my bib & other goodies, take what I didn’t need back to my car, and then make my way to the starting line. I had not realized how large of a race this was. I was glad I had given myself extra time and had arrived at the starting line early.

The race both started and ended at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. I had never been to the park before, so this was certainly a highlight of mine.

Before I knew it, the race started and off we went! From mile 1 – 4 I felt good. I decided not to follow a regimented run/walk pace, but instead more go based on how my body felt at the time. At about mile 4.5 things started making a turn for the worse because I had to use the restroom (even though I had already stopped and peed at mile 2.5). #pregnancyproblems

I didn’t find a bathroom until close to the turnaround at mile 6.5. I basically walked the whole rest course (from mile 4 to the end, mile 13.1). Besides feeling pregnancy discomfort in my belly, I also struggled with feeling discomfort in my feet during the race. I also experienced chafing despite wearing capris. My chafing was so uncomfortable that it made walking back to my car after the race quite unpleasant.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the race. Clear course mile markers, many volunteers out on the course to cheer on the racers as well as direct us, well-stocked aid stations, and organized starting and finishing festivities. A few highlights of the finish line included finishing at AT&T Park field, having access to a photo booth, and being given a bag in the food area to stash all of our goodies.

At 29 weeks pregnant, I knew going into the race that my time wasn’t going to be anything record breaking. What I am proud of is the fact that I didn’t finish last, I ran some of the course, and I finished.

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