Latest reviews by Laura M.

(2017)
"13.1 Wine Country Run = Fun, Fun, Fun!"
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As soon as I picked up my bib from the expo the day prior to the Livermore Half Marathon, I knew I was in for a mellow race with gorgeous scenery and tasty grape-based adult recovery beverages. The expo was small, well organized and very well attended- I easily grabbed my bib, snapped a selfie, and got ready to race.

There was some traffic getting into Livermore on race morning but I passed all the cars by and found convenient street parking about 5 blocks away from the race start. Since this race is in late March, the weather was slightly overcast and around 55 degrees which, for me, makes for perfectly cool race day conditions. The starting corral was congested as there were no pace partitions so as soon as they announced the start, everyone took off.

The first 5K of the race went through very a pleasant and pretty residential area of Livermore and we were greeted with several spectators, motivational signage (my favorite: "At Least You're Not at Work Right Now!") and high fives which really gave this sleepy area a lot of spirit and excitement! I pumped up my tunes, exchanging smiles with my fellow runners, and happily ran on down the road.

Right before mile 4, we entered a park and the scenery immediately changed from residential roads to a lush, green, mountainous backdrop- very beautiful! As this portion ran along paved, narrow trails, it was a area for passing as the sides of the trail were often tall, grassy areas or big mud puddles due to recent rainstorms. I trotted along as patiently as I could as we ran over bridges and alongside scenic creeks to the next water stop just before mile 6.

Shortly after mile 6, the scenery changed again to the classic wine country panorama- vineyards, vineyards, and more vineyards. Over, up, down and through the rolling Livermore hills and I was enjoying the scenery so much that I completely zoned out as I ran, the weather kept cool and it was so very beautiful! While it was somewhat hilly from miles 7 - 10, it wasn't too challenging and was a great break from the flats that first 10K.

Once I hit mile 10, the course returns to the residential, flat area of Livermore and my left calf began to severely cramp up, making it very hard to run, let alone walk! I was glad for the flat again and did my best to run/walk/limp towards the finish line.

This was my first half marathon since my injury last year and while I was more than happy to get back to 13.1 after 14 months, I was disappointed that my calf quit on me and my finish wasn't as strong as I would have liked... this time.

Crossed the finish line limping and making nasty faces which prompted 3 race staff to approach me and pull me into the medical tent so that the Dr. could take a look at my leg. He laid me down and massaged out the calf warning me that it may be strained and to take it easy the rest of the day. The pain somewhat abated, I proceeded to the first wine booth I saw- victory and wine were mine!

Really fantastic course during a temperate time of year here in the Bay Area. Loved the lush scenery and rolling hills, and I especially like the medal (not only is it huge but it doubles as a wine bottle stopper!) and the wine tasting expo (there were at least a dozen different wineries!) at the finish. Even if I wasn't a local, I would certainly travel to run this race again.

Thank you for a great comeback run, RunLiv, and I will see you in 2018!

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(2016)
"10.6 Miles Along the Ragged Edge"
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I've done nearly 90 road races and the Big Sur series is, by far, my most favorite of them all- from the expo to the course to the entertainment along the way to The Best schwag and recovery food and drink afterwards, I hope to continue doing Big Sur annually! They host a half in November in Monterey as well that is just as awesome, but this is the April marathon course- a point-to-point that is known to be one of the most challenging full road marathons here in the Bay Area (due to the elevation, headwinds, and constant photo ops). For this reason, I have yet to accomplish the full marathon as the 10.6 miler is just fine for me! (I have also done leg 1 of the relay for this race back in 2011.)

The best aspect of this race is the location- Big Sur and Carmel are gorgeous coastal towns and the entire course travels along Highway 1, which is known for its breathtaking, vast views of the Pacific Ocean. Running above while waves crash and break along rugged cliffs and beaches below- yes please!

The 10.6 mile race starts at mile 15.6 of the full marathon and since the highway is closed off, you must take a special shuttle to get to the starting line. I parked in a nearby parking structure, walked to the shuttle location, easily boarded and headed to the start, about 30 minutes away. After arriving and getting off the shuttle, I walked down a hill towards the bathrooms, coffee, and bananas and was greeted to live music! A band at 6:30am singing and pumping up the crowd was a very pleasant surprise!

Back to the top of the hill for the race start and off we went- as I was just recovering from a recent stress fracture, I promised myself to take it easy but there is something about the view, the aid stations every couple miles complete with orange slices and fresh strawberries, and the bands and cheer stations along the way, I ran so much more than I thought I would and had a FABULOUS time doing so!

Normally, I would review a race by going through highlights mile by mile but, in this case, it was all a happy blur and yes it is hilly but I was still sad to see the finish line- I just love this course *that* much! After crossing the finish, I received that very cool ceramic medal that only Big Sur Marathon is known for and aptly so- the race is just as unique and special as the medal (and oh how I love my medals!!!).

Despite how many people run this race, it is planned perfectly to accommodate each distance- the 10.6 miler finishes before the full so the recovery area isn't crowded, providing an easy path to post-race food, beer, and return shuttles. No lines, no problem!!!

While it is a more expensive race, I feel I certainly get what I paid for- a perfectly managed, beautiful course, with ample perks, and a view from the edge of California that one must see to believe. Thank you, Big Sur Marathon, for providing my favorite racing backdrop.

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(2015)
"Berkeley's One and Only 5K"
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Initially, I was raring to go for the half but suffering some foot pain after running Nike SF just a month prior (and putting off the decision as long as possible), I finally chose to downgrade to the 5K at the expo, the day before the race. Truth be told, I was an ambassador for the Berkeley Half in 2015 so even though the 5K was sold out, I was able to switch no problem.

Getting to the starting line was easy enough with a quick BART ride and short walk, the 5K began at 9:15am (yay!) and the half at 8am, so I was able to cheer in the elites with the rest of the crowd as we waited for our start. One of the great things about the Bay Area is our weather and November sees some of the best weather there is and by 9am, it was bright, sunny, blue skies, 70 degrees and steadily warming up.

The 5K begins by the local high school and library, and traverses a semi-residential area from mile 1-1.5 before a slight climb past then through the CAL campus. While the scenery the first half of the race isn't that thrilling (houses and businesses), it's a 5K so not long to reach the approach toward the campus then it's all the beauty of peaceful, fall-tree-lined CAL Berkeley.

The 5K has its own finish line on the campus and mile 2-3 is a nice steady, wide open downhill. 3.1 finishes with a fabulous medal and some great recovery snacks and a quick walk to the post-race festival at the 10K/half finish line at Civic Center park just a few blocks away. (I did not attend the post-race fest as my foot was hurting so I limped to BART and whimpered on home for some RICE time.)

Great course through a great city, the 5K is very kid and walker friendly and I just love running through that campus! After the hustle and bustle of the street, the serene beauty of the CAL campus is very motivating and helped me pick up the pace for the last kick to finish.

Of course I have a goal with the Berkeley Half now- to get that 13.1 done! Although I loved the race so much that I want to do the 10K as well as the half so we shall see what 2016 brings... no matter the distance, I WILL BE BACK!!!

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(2015)
"Great 10K in the 510!"
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As a northern California and Bay Area native, I aim to accomplish all the races in my backyard and the Let's Go 510K is one of those great little road races that has me coming back every year!

The race starts in Golden Gate Fields just as the sun begins to rise and right after a nice little hill, the course hugs the edge of the water through the first mile before following a flat and fast path around the Berkeley Marina.

Miles 3-4 loop Cesar Chavez park with a few slight rolling hills- accompanied by a beautiful bay vista view, these small hills really aren't that bad! Mile 4.5 returns to flat concrete, then to flat trail greeted by a very well-stocked aid station complete with water, electrolytes, pretzels, GUs, gummy bears and very encouraging and happy volunteers.

Following about a half mile of trail, the course spills back onto the concrete and follows Frontage Road past Golden Gate Fields for a final brief trail loop before a straight, flat, victorious 6.2 finish back at Golden Gate Fields.

After crossing the finish line and receiving my medal and bottle of water, I was also offered my choice of an It's It ice cream sandwich! I chose a coffee It's It, gobbled it up, took some selfies, watched the race horses, saw some friends, then easily found my car and drove home- thanks again, Represent Running, for such a great East Bay race! See you again in 2016!

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