Latest reviews by Amanda Schwenk

(2017)
"Lots of Rocking...Lots of Rolling"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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For this event, I participated in the Remix Challenge. This meant that I ran the 5k on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday to score an extra medal. Here's the breakdown of the weekend!

Expo: Very well organized, lots of vendors, samples, coupons, swag. It was also high energy with a DJ pumping music and volunteers passing out balloons and suckers. There's also a gaming area that had a Connect Four game, Cornhole, and a giant Jenga game. The only downfall is that it was held at the Convention Center and you either have to pay $15 to park or walk quite a bit.

5k: Free parking is available about a mile from the start line. The course is smooth pavement with some rolling hills. There was a live band performing at the finish line and they were pretty energetic. The course had a few spectators and a water station. At the finish line, we received medals and cheezits and water. The beer garden area was great! Loved that it was Michelob Ultra over craft beer (sorry craft beer fanatics). Pricing: around $50 if you wait until the last minute

Half Marathon: Parking was all jacked up. Either arrive by 5am or be prepared to wait in long lines or drive around looking for a spot and walking 2 miles to the start line. There were almost 40 corrals and the waves moved pretty quickly. Lots of porta potties and gear check was easy and organized. The course had a few small hills and some of the roads were a little messed up and had holes and cracks. I watched someone fall on their face and then I sprained my ankle on the 4th mile, so not the best terrain...but not the worst.

Course support: Lots of spectators, a good amount of bands, and plenty of water and Gatorade stations. Lots of cheerleaders and other cheering sections. Someone even set up a bar at the 4.5 mile mark. Around the 5th mile, you will come to the Wear Blue: Run to Remember mile which is super emotional. The mile is lined with flags and faces of the fallen. It's heartbreaking and moving all at the same time.

Finish line: You are met at the finish line with your medals and then a bunch of snacks and beverages. But no bags? I'm not sure why they couldn't splurge on small bags, because it was a pain to carry around a bunch of snacks after finishing a half marathon. The festival is also a couple of blocks away from the finish line which was annoying. The finish line area was super crowded and then you have to push through and walk down a hill into the festival area. The festival area consisted of a beer garden, photo ops, medical tent, and bonus medal pickup. This is where I snagged my Remix medal for finishing both the 5k and Half.

Swag: Besides snacks and drinks, we also received a tech tee, spinning medals, a gear check bag, and a credit card holder for your phone. The gear check bag is just a cheap plastic bag with a drawstring, so a little disappointing.

Course Scenery: You run through a few of the little towns within downtown and then end at Waterfront Park. Besides Waterfront Park, there really isn't much scenery. But a lot of the bands made up for the lack of scenery, including a disco tunnel towards the end!

Overall: I enjoyed my experience at this event (minus the sprained ankle). The parking situation really needs to be addressed before next year's event. And I hope they splurge for a real gear check bag rather than plastic since it's kind of a pricey event. Also, they should offer bags at the finish line so you aren't carrying around a bunch of stuff. The finish line area in general needs better organization. And the course could be slightly changed to include some more scenic areas.

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(2017)
"Flat course! Fun for all!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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This was my 3rd year doing this race and it always delivers! Last year, it was rainy and cold so I was excited that it was a warm and sunny day this time. The event is family friendly (includes a stroller division) and it benefits military families with children affected by autism. I ran with my running group, Stroller Warriors, and we had such a large team that the organization provided us a tent/table area with snacks. It was nice to have a meeting spot with my fellow mother runners.
Race breakdown:
Expo: Packet pick - up was the evening before at Woodstock Pizza or you could snag your bib the morning of the race. I had a friend pick my stuff up at Woodstock, but I heard the pizza was fantastic!
Pricing: Ranges from $25-$45, but they offer promo codes the months leading up the race so I paid around $30 which isn't bad for a 10k!
Parking: Free parking is available in lots surrounding the event. The later you arrive, the further away you will have to park. I parked about .5 miles away which wasn't bad because it gave me a chance to warm up on the way to start line.
Course: The 10k begins first, and the 5k starts about 30 mins later so that everyone finishes on the same course without congestion. The course is flat and goes around Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. The views are nice, but it can get a little boring if this happens to be your training spot. There were a few water stops and some energetic volunteers and cops directing traffic and cheering along the way. One downfall is that there were basically no spectators until the finish line, so you don't have that extra energy.
Post-race: Lots of vendors handing out a generous amount of products, samples, and coupons. There were a couple of contests that included: highest fundraiser, largest team, and best costume. Since the event was held during Easter weekend, they also provided an Easter egg hunt with an appearance by the Easter Bunny! My daughter loved this part of the event and talked about the Easter bunny for the rest of the day.
Swag: Everyone received a medal and a shirt. I scored some extra swag at the post-race party and there were lots of snacks and full-size drinks for everyone. There was also a beer garden, but I didn't check it out because I had my 4-year-old with me...but it was a packed area so I'm sure it was great!

Overall: I really love this event and would do it again! I like the cause that the race supports and I especially like that the race course is stroller friendly since I usually push my daughter during races. The post-race festivities offer bounce houses, coloring tables, and other fun stuff for the kids and family. This is a really fun event to run with your family and friends! Check out my blog for more details and pictures!

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(2017)
"Hill Yeah!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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I went into this race thinking that I would by angry by the end of it...but I was pleasantly surprised!

Expo: The expo was held at the Del Mar Hilton and had lots of vendors and opportunities to buy race day essentials. When you first walked in, there was a horse prop set up along with some other photo props. I signed the horse and then headed into the expo. There were plenty of volunteers guiding foot traffic which made it easy to find my bib and tshirt...then I picked up a few samples and chatted with a couple of vendors before heading out. There was also a spot to buy some La Jolla Half merchandise (I regret not buying a hat, they were super cute.)

Race Day Parking: There were two parking options: Park at the start line in Del Mar and take a shuttle at the end OR park at the finish line in La Jolla and take a shuttle back to the start line. The shuttles are free so it's really just a matter of how you want to work it into your schedule. I chose to park at the start line and park in the free dirt lot across from the Del Mar Racetrack. Surprisingly, parking was pretty easy and I was parked and ready to go by 6:30am.

Pre-race: The Porta-Potty situation really wasn't too bad. There were a lot of lines, but they moved pretty quickly. Then I dropped my bag off at gear check (also a short line) and headed over to my wave. The waves went pretty fast so it wasn't long before I was headed off to the hills!

Course: The first 5 miles are pretty normal and then you hit the massive Torrey Pines Hill. There are no water stations while you're in the Reserve, but there are lots of volunteers cheering you on and encouraging you along the way. After that, there is a steady climb before you finally hit some fairly flattish miles and descend again. Then you hit the 11.5ish mark and are greeted by another hill! Yay La Jolla! But what goes up must come down and you descend once again into some beautiful views before finishing out the last quarter mile or so on some flat terrain.

Course support: There were tons of volunteers, water/electrolyte stations, and Race Guards all throughout the race. As far as crowd support, there wasn't as much as I've seen in other races...but there were some people scattered throughout the course with signs, cowbells, and high-fives!

Course Scenery: THIS is why this race is so highly-rated by myself and others. You will not find scenery like this anywhere else! You get to experience all of the amazing parts of Del Mar/La Jolla and it's absolutely breathtaking! You get to run down the 101, through Torrey Pines State Reserve and along the boardwalk in La Jolla. It truly is an amazing and breathtaking experience!

Post-race: Once you cross the finish line, you snag your medal and food bag and then go off into the festival. It is a bit cramped, but you can find some open areas. The line for the beer garden wasn't too long and I got in pretty quick. Once you're in you are allowed 2 craft beers and then you can find a spot to relax for a bit. Afterwards, I checked out a couple of vendors, grabbed my bag that I had checked (super easy, no line), snapped a couple of pics and then headed over to the shuttle bus. There was a short line for the bus and they are nice and air-conditioned! The traffic getting out of La Jolla was a little congested (nothing new here), but once we hit the freeway it was a quick drive back to the start line parking lot.

SWAG! - The medal is a great quality and depicts a picturesque scene of La Jolla. I also love the tech shirt because of the color and the fact that it' s V-neck. The expo swag was nice too! I got some great nutritional samples, an acai bowl sample, headband, shoelaces, and a coupon for a free bike ride at a new Cycling place opening up soon. The post race swag included chocolate milk, coconut water, fig bars, and other food samples. Also, I always count scenery as swag and that was the best swag of all!

Overall, I really enjoyed this race and surprisingly enough I would do this again, even with all those challenging hills! It's also part of the Triple Crown Series, so if you want that extra bling then La Jolla is mandatory! Don't let the hills scare you, this course is totally doable and you won't regret experiencing the amazing views! :)

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(2017)
"Beautiful views with Amazing course support!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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Expo- same location as race event - a mall parking lot. Quick and easy with the option to shop or sample goodies. Here I picked up my cinch bag, long sleeved-tech shirt, and 3/4 zip jacket. Although I felt kind of weird receiving my "finisher" shirt without having actually finishing anything yet.
Parking - Awesome! Participants were able to utilize the mall's parking lot. Free and Easy...just like Sunday Morning (sorry, couldn't resist ;)
Pre-race - Lots of porta potties - even more runners...so it was a bit chaotic. Gear check was easy. The race waves were released quickly. I was in wave 6 and it only took me about 20 mins to get to the start line.
Race Course - mostly flat out-and-back with a few rolling hills. You'll start feeling it around mile 10. But most of the course runs along Hwy 101, so lots of beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean!
Course Support - This is where I would give this event 10+++ stars! Lots of bathrooms, medical personnel, volunteers, spectators. Hydration stations, including water, Ultima, and Vaseline at every other mile and at some points, every mile. I didn't even bring any of my own water with me and I felt fine. Tons of spectators cheering, high fiving, and holding signs. One lovely man even handed out tequila shots around mile 2 and he was the real MVP. Thank you, tequila man.
Post-race - At the finish, we received medals, nom-nom bags, chocolate milk, and mylar blankets. Not many vendors, only a handful compared to other racing events. Ballast Point was handing out free beer in the beer garden and there were no lines or crowds. I took advantage of the taco truck and grabbed a shrimp taco for about $4. There was also a Cryo mobile truck but I wasn't down to disrobe and drop $30 for $3 minutes of a dry ice bath. A photo booth area was set up since this race is part of the Triple Crown Series. If you're not familiar, the Triple Crown Series includes the Carlsbad half, La Jolla Half, and America's Finest City. If you run all three in one year, you get extra bling.
Pricing - Fair - $80-$150 depending on when you register.
Medal/Swag - not a ton of post-race swag, but the medal is large and has the date etched on the back which is a nice touch.
Overall thoughts - A fun race that I would definitely do again! I ran it with a couple of friends, but even if you ran it by yourself, you definitely wouldn't feel alone with all of the crowd support! I wasn't able to PR because of a toe injury that haunted me around mile 5, but you definitely could PR on this course.
Check out my blog for more details and more pics of this event! https://theswagmama.com

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(2016)
"Running for Food!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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Expo - Small expo at Road Runner Sports so it was easy in and out to grab bibs and shirts. They were selling tanks and other merchandise as well. Bill Rodgers and Meb Keflezighi signed autographs and took pics with the attendees! Sweet!
Parking - The event is held downtown near Embarcadero and Seaport Village so parking is always a little congested in that area. I parked almost a mile away and jogged to the start line.
Course - Both the 5k and 10k courses are mostly flat with scenic views around the marina and embarcadero. The 10k course had a section of an unattractive part of downtown, but it was brief. Also the 10k course became a confusing cluster of loops a couple of miles in. We had to ask volunteers a few times if we were going in the right direction. The volunteers were friendly and encouraging. I also pushed my daughter so I liked that the course was stroller friendly.
Post-race - After crossing the finish line, we received a bag of goodies and a medal. Then we were free to roam several tents that had samples and items for sale. The event had quite a bit of vendors, more than I've seen at any other race. We got a late start to the race and combined with our course confusion meant that we had to wait in longer lines at the vendor tables. Some tables were out of things which was a little disappointing. They had several fitness demos, raffles and contests occurring as well as a chance to test drive a Lexus.
The food tent (which is what is hyped up about the event) was pretty disappointing. It was just a small plate with two small samples on it.
Swag - I picked up a good amount of swag, although I could have gotten more if I had more patience to wait in lines.
Pricing- Ranges from $55-$165 depending on what events you want to participate in. They have a cocktail party Friday evening, followed by the race on Saturday and more food and fitness on Sunday. I only did the run so I'm not sure what the other days were like. They usually have a Groupon deal for this event with a significant discount so that's a plus. Also, they have ambassadors for each location that do ticket giveaways on their blogs so check there too.
Overall- I was pretty disappointed by the course (although it was fun to say that I ran in the same race as Meb and Bill) and I did expect a bigger bang when it came to the food. But I ran with a friend and we made the most of it. I also couldn't imagine paying full price for this event. If I did it again I would do the 5k so that I could avoid the confusing course and get to the post-race fun faster to grab more goodies.
You can find more details and photos about this event on my blog at theswagmama.com

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