Latest reviews by Mai Khuong

(2018)
"Strip at Night"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I left for Vegas with a few friends on Saturday morning and drove 4 and a half hours to Sin City.  We easily picked up our bibs at the Health and Fitness Expo and bonus - we didn't even have to pay for parking! That's always a win in my book. There were again a lot of things to see and a lot of photo opportunities. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you probably saw some of them. One of the noteworthy things I saw and forgot to take a picture of was a wall where everyone could sign in neon sharpies. They later moved that wall to the course and so we ran by it and it lit up with everyone's messages. 

Race: This race has always been on my bucket list. Racing through the Las Vegas strip at night always seemed like an interesting concept and it was. We started off by the T-mobile arena and headed 2 miles south towards the airport before making a u-turn back towards the heart of Las Vegas. We passed by the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, which tons of people took selfies in front of, and they had lined parts of the race with the wall we had signed at the expo.

Since the messages were in neon, they lit up the course with our messages. That was very cool. Once we returned to the starting area, we ran an additional 5 miles north of the strip.We passed by all the big casinos and I was pretty much blinded by lights when I looked up. Towards the north end of the strip, we passed by the older casinos and even passed by the famous Pawn Shop seen on Pawn Stars. At mile 9, we made a u turn back towards the finish line and passed by Downtown Las Vegas, which from the outside looks like a huge carnival with a ton of lights. There were a good amount of fans cheering us along the route, but because Vegas is so busy, I barely noticed the people. Because I hadn't been running regularly, my legs suffered. My feet started hurting at mile 3, but because I wanted to finish so badly, I didn't care. I pushed on and after that second u-turn, I tried my best to not burn out.

Since the messages were in neon, they lit up the course with our messages. That was very cool. Once we returned to the starting area, we ran an additional 5 miles north of the strip.We passed by all the big casinos and I was pretty much blinded by lights when I looked up. Towards the north end of the strip, we passed by the older casinos and even passed by the famous Pawn Shop seen on Pawn Stars. At mile 9, we made a u turn back towards the finish line and passed by Downtown Las Vegas, which from the outside looks like a huge carnival with a ton of lights. There were a good amount of fans cheering us along the route, but because Vegas is so busy, I barely noticed the people. Because I hadn't been running regularly, my legs suffered. My feet started hurting at mile 3, but because I wanted to finish so badly, I didn't care. I pushed on and after that second u-turn, I tried my best to not burn out.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"It's the people that make the race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 6678

I would like to have said that I crushed this race, but then I'd be lying. Conditions were not the best, but I conquered another half marathon and that's all that matters. I also had a fantastic time at the expo so really, I have no real complaints. Without further ado, my race weekend report.

Saturday - I had a pretty difficult 3 mile shake out run in the morning, but shrugged it off and headed to the expo. I parked at the Old Town Trolley station and made my way down to the Convention Center for Bib pick up. I picked up my bib and made my way through the vendors stopping at the Nuun, HoneyStinger, and Orange Mud booth to name a few. After picking up all the necessities, I grabbed a nice lunch with friends and called it a day. Luckily, I had little problems sleeping early. :)

Race day - I woke up at 4 am and was out the door by 4:15 am. I parked at the trolley station again and made my way down with very no issues. From the trolley stop, it was about a 1.5 mile and a half walk up to the start, which was a nice warm up walk. :) I met up with friends and at 6:25 am, I crossed the start line. From the start of the race, I could feel that something was off. It was taking a lot more effort to run and when the sun came out around 7 am, I knew I was toast. I had forgotten my visor and my sunglasses so for a good portion of the race, I was squinting and wiping the sweat off my brow. Sigh.

The course itself was very fun. You start off fairly flat and then head downhill. Another mile later, you get some rolling hills. I saw the mile 4.5 bar with their assortment of alcoholic beverages. I ran the blue mile a little bit later, where volunteers hold up flags and there are posters of US troops that have fallen lined along the road. By mile 7, I was pretty much toast. My left foot was tingling non-stop and the ball of my right foot felt like a big blister was coming on. I started overheating and had to pour a few cups of water over my head to cool down and around mile 9, I started doing a run/walk. At mile 10.5, we hit the last really large hill and it was mostly downhill from there. Taiko drummers were performing at the top to keep us going and goodness, I needed every little bit of it. Running downhill was easier, but I was running out of gas.

Then, an angel by the name of Vanessa, came running by. She's not really an angel, but in this scenario, she was mine. :P Vanessa was someone I met through a friend and when she ran by me, she told me she'd run with me. I didn't want to slow her down since I knew she ran faster than me, but she insisted that she would stay with me. For the rest of the miles, she stayed with my pace and kept me going with her pep talks. I pushed when I didn't think I could anymore and was able to stay at a moderate pace. I crossed the finish line destroyed, but because of her, I was able to complete the course in under 2 hours, which was my original goal. Thanks to her, I finished it in 1:59:13. :)

I spent the next hour or so basking in the glory of my finish. Although it was warm during the course, it was perfect for when I was cooling down. I easily grabbed my gear and was able to just lay on the lawn and rest. :)

Not every race is going to perfect and this race was a perfect example of that. But I learned a lot from this experience. I learned that some days, you just have bad runs and some of those days are during races. But even on those days, you can still achieve a lot if you have the right people beside you. :)

Loading Comments... Ajax loader

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Big Sur Conquered"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 6163

And BAM, just like that, the Big Sur 21 miler has been conquered. :) I had a wonderful experience running Big Sur and despite my legs hating me oh so much right now, I'm sure they'll get over it and I can start running again soon. :)

Without further ado, my race report:

The Health and Fitness Expo: I flew into San Jose Saturday morning and rented a car to drive down into Monterey Bay. There was plenty of parking and as long as you could get out of the expo in one hour, there were no issues. :) I made my usual rounds. There were plenty of photo opportunities.

I found my name on a HUGE Big Sur poster and took an awesome expo photo in front of this ginormous sign. 

Thinking about it now, I should have known. Everything was so big. That should have tipped me off that the hills would have been the same. I stopped by the Motigo booth, where I talked to one of the Co-founders Dan. He was super cool and told me to open the app prior to the race to make sure all of my cheers were downloaded. I refreshed the app like a mad woman that day. Seeing more cheers being sent my way made me happy. :)

After grabbing my race swag and visiting the vendor booths, I quickly made it outside to sight see a bit. Then a massive headache came about and basically spoiled the rest of the night. Luckily, I passed out around 8 pm to get ready for my early wake-up call at 3:45 am.

Morning of: I was pretty worried the morning of the race. I had been experiencing stomach cramps for the past few days and was worried they'd make an appearance during the race. I was too scared to eat, but managed to gulp down some gatorade and had half a bagel with cream cheese right before the race. Everyone met at a pick-up location and was shuttled to the start line for our respective races. Since my race was 5 miles shorter than the marathoners, we started further along the course at mile 5.

RACE! The start of the race was actually a little anticlimatic. LOL. The reason being that the start line banner doesn't actually indicate the start. The timing mats were located 0.2 miles up a hill and that's where we officially started. So as we crossed the banner, most of us slowly stretched our legs up the hill. I even overheard a Pennsylvanian say that "Californians were really chill." When we hit that timing mat, we were off. I started my Motigo app, my Garmin (because if there's no data, did you really run it?), and was off. I started off pretty quickly.

The scenery was extremely pretty. I took a lot of videos and pictures and was just in awe from the hills and the greenery. :) We were running along the coast and I got these gorgeous views of the waves crashing against the rocks of the cliffs.

The course was marked for the marathoners and just the marathoners so we all laughed when we started running and already saw the 5 mile marker. :P Hooray! 5 miles done, 16 to go, right? The first few miles were a breeze.

I heard a few cheers and then later found out that the app had unfortunately crashed due to really really poor reception in the area. Seriously. Plan ahead to meet your loved ones at the finish line. There is barely any reception in the area and I'm pretty sure I ran 19 miles of it without any cell service. I ended up listening to my cheers at the finish line, which was still pretty awesome. :)

At my mile 5 (10 for the marathoners), we began our ascent (into madness, jk, only sort of kidding) up the massive hill. We ran up maybe 600 feet over the course of 2 miles? It was this intense trek up and honestly, I had no idea when it would end because the course kept winding and so I couldn't see the top. You'd turn and then see another hill. Seriously, I can't believe I complained about the La Jolla Half. That race was nothing compared to this one. Also, once you got higher up, the wind got stronger. LOL

At mile 7, we started heading down towards Bixby Bridge, where we got to see this awesome piano player! He was playing lullabies when I ran by. LOL. I took about a million photos of the area and continued the trek. Around mile 10, the first place male marathoner passed me by. LOL. They were fast. At mile 15, it started to sprinkle, which was actually kind of fun. I kept leap frogging with another runner for a few miles, but at the 2 last miles, she passed me. At mile 17, I started feeling pretty tired. I liked to think that running down hill was my strongest skill, but at mile 17, that was not the case. My knees started feeling the the impact from pounding on pavement up and down. My stomach felt very empty at mile 17 and I worried that I had not fueled enough and I'd hit the wall. Luckily, it didn't happen. and I managed to make it to 20.5. Mentally, I was done. I started walking, but soon after, another runner touched my back as he passed by to encourage me to keep going so I did.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:25:56 and a big smile on my face. :) I had conquered the hills of Big Sur. And I placed 80th/1010 overall. I had a blast and I'm sure once my legs recover, I'll be back for the marathon. 

Loading Comments... Ajax loader

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"So close, yet so far - A PR missed"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 5514

Going into this race, I had all of the typical jitters. I hadn't had any really good runs this week and I was still recovering from last week's race. I still had some tightness in my calves during my shake out run so I decided to join some friends at a spa day. I have no idea whether this was a good idea or not, but I spent a good hour and a half alternating between a dry and salt sauna room. LOL. I made sure to drink lots of water and I tried stretching out my legs a bit in the dry sauna.

The revelation I got from this experience was that I need to stretch. A LOT. God, I was hoping I'd never have to pick it up, but I think I will have to start doing yoga if I want to keep running and getting faster.

Anyway, Saturday went and I called it an early night at 8 pm. LOL. My race didn't even start until 9:10 am, but the more sleep the better. :) I'm not getting any younger, am I? :) I woke up got to the race around 7:45 am. My race was at 9:10 am, but since I had to pick up my bib, I decided to get there a little earlier. Parking wasn't too terrible. I parked maybe 4 or 5 blocks away and easily made my way to the start line where the bib pick-up was. If you time it just right, try arriving 30 or 40 minutes after the wave before yours and you may be able to get a spot from someone who just ran and is leaving. 

Also, if you live in San Diego and Carlsbad is a bit of a drive for you, pick your bib up the morning of the race. There are still vendors at the expo so you're not missing anything if you don't show up on Saturday for bib pick-up.

This 5k race is different in that it breaks up the divisions into 6 different start times. For the 30-39 year olds, the start time was at 9:10 am and the time will sometimes change based on the train schedule. You don't want to start a race and then get stopped by a train, do you? I don't. Despite them adjusting for the train schedule, there are times that you can get stopped by a train so my advice is to run fast until you pass the tracks. There are also no corrals in this race. There are min/mile signs and everyone essentially self selects into their pace group.

I started out at a 6:45 min/mile and was able to find a nice clear path fairly quickly. Unfortunately, because I started out so quickly, I was having issues regulating my breathing and my pace quickly dropped to a 7:30 min/mile. This wasn't bad, but because my breathing was getting very irregular, my calves started tightening up. I tried my very best to keep going since it was a short distance, but I couldn't maintain. I clocked my first mile at 7:15, my second at 7:47, and my final mile at 8:29. I clocked in unofficially at 24:27, which is about 45 seconds shy of my personal record set at last year's race. I keep checking Athlinks for my official results, but since I clocked it with my Garmin, I'm pretty sure I wasn't anywhere close to PRing. I'm disappointed, but hey, I got a great view of the ocean along my route. I kept forgetting to look up during the course, but when other runner friends called out my name along the course, it reminded me to enjoy the process. :)

TLDR? I didn't PR, but I still had a ton of fun connecting with my runner friends. Now, to prepare for my very first Ragnar Relay and the Big Sur 21 miler!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Accept no limits - Another PR baby!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb img 5474

Picking up my bib was a breeze. If you're willing to park a few blocks away and come when the expo first opens, you will have no problem finding parking. They were setting up for the St. Patrick's day block party in the afternoon so I made sure to get downtown before it got too hectic. At the expo, I picked up my bib and got my sweet pullover jacket. I'm loving this year's jacket. You can always count on Hot Chocolate to give you the best swag. After making my stroll through the expo and trying out their sweets, I called it a day and came back to rest my legs.

I woke up race morning with jitters. I was worried I'd get there late by trolley since it seemed like it only ran every 20 minutes and figured if I just went straight to the start line and just parked a bit further away, it'd be fine. Turns out, I was right! Parking on the street on Sundays in downtown is free and if you're willing to walk maybe half a mile away from the start, you can find parking pretty easily, assuming you've also come an hour before the race starts. I had a blanket in my car and slept for a bit before walking over to the start where I met up with a few people. Everything is pretty spread out and there are a lot of landmarks where you can meet people.

Let me tell you, this course is not easy in the slightest. I ran it two years ago and remember it being hilly. My memory deceived me. It was so much worse. LOL. :P I must be a masochist or something because after I finished, it didn't seem that bad. LOL

The race starts on a hill in downtown and for the first 2 miles, it's a steep incline. There are very short stretches where it flattens out or declines, but for the most part it's incline. After the sharp incline, you get a short break and you start a more gradual incline until mile 4. From mile 4 to 5.5, the course plays with your emotions. LOL. It goes up and down quite a bit. You think you're done with the hills, but guess again! LOL. After 5.5, you get a really nice break where it's just downhill for a good mile or so. The view is beautiful here. You get a great view of the Coronado bridge and you just think you can do anything at this point. At least, that's how I felt. 

Then you get to the last stupid big hill, which crushes your soul (I kid), and then you're back in downtown where you sprint to the finish and get your fancy schmancy medal and finisher's mug. :) The finisher's mug consists of hot chocolate, dipping chocolate, marshmallows, pretzels, rice krispies, and a banana. I inhaled that hot chocolate. Hehe.
I had all sorts of leg issues during the race. My ankles were hurting at the beginning and throughout the race, I was getting what I think was plantar fasciitis. It was a struggle, but I just kept breathing and pumping my arms on those uphill climbs. I also walked when I needed. It also helped to see friendly faces along the route.

Despite all the leg issues, I did manage to squeeze out a PR. When I crossed the finish line, I looked my time and thought 1:20:41 was an okay time. I hadn't run a 15k in over a year and I couldn't remember what my last 15k time was and based on how I felt crossing the finish line, I didn't think I did well. But LO AND BEHOLD, I was wrong! I had actually beaten my time by over 5 minutes! :) Thank goodness for Athlinks keeping a record of how I did previously. I was able to find my result from 2 years ago super quickly. :) Hooray!

Loading Comments... Ajax loader

Login or sign up to leave a comment.