Latest reviews by Mai Khuong

(2019)
"A local favorite!"
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T-Shirts/SWAG
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Yes, that's right. You read that header correctly. In 5 years almost to the day, I have completed 25 half marathons plus some other races and it all started with Rock N Roll San Diego.

It gave me such a good experience the first time around that I kept choosing to run it again and again and two days ago, I completed it for the 4th time.

Looking back on it, I really believe the reason I continued to race half marathons was because of this race.

Rock N Roll San Diego just knows how to put on a good time and after having a ton of pre-race anxiety, this was just what I needed.

Let's summarize shall we? :)

Pre-race: I stayed with friends that lived close to a trolley station and at 4:30 am, we were out the door to get to SDCCU stadium. We then took a 15 min trolley ride to the Little Italy trolley stop and briskly walked about a mile to the start giving us a nice warm up. We arrived, gear checked, my friends did their porta potty thing, and chit chatted for about 30 min until the start of the race at 6:15 am.

Race:

The start - The race started on time, but due to there being so many corrals, it took quite a bit of time to release everyone. I was in corral 8 and I started at 6:30 am. This year, they had a new design to release runners more slowly. They had gates that funneled everyone through narrower paths so only a 10 runners or so could be released and get a running start to the official start line. This made the first 0.25 miles easier to run through because there weren't as many runners to maneuver around. I appreciated them, but I think others were annoyed.

The course - Starting out, I was a bit nervous. My plantar fasciitis still wasn't terribly better and although I was running through it, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to complete the race. Fast forward two miles and everything started to move more quickly. My plantar wasn't acting up as much and when we entered Hillcrest, I could see all the drag queens in colorful wigs and boobs screaming up and down for us. LOL. It's one of my favorite parts of the race. Then up and down we go for a mile or two before we hit the blue mile, where runners are encouraged to wear blue to remember our fallen military heroes. I had run through this section the past three times I ran it and this was probably the first time I truly looked at the photos and honestly, it tugged at my heartstrings seeing all those young men and women who were killed in action.

Shortly after, the unofficial alcohol stations starting popping up and every year, I swear more and more start popping up. I counted maybe 4 or 5 houses that brought their A game (and by A game, I of course mean Alcohol). Some neighbors were providing shots of whiskey, some donuts and whiskey, some were handing out beer, and some were making some unidentified drink. :) I did not partake as I did not want to throw up, but seeing them definitely brought a smile to my face. I even saw a Doctor Who themed alcoholic station!

The latter half of the race was kind of a blur, but I do remember how I felt at different parts of the course in previous years.

At mile 1.5 where I started out too fast one year and had forgotten about the rolling hills.

At mile 7 where I had started walking and crying because it had gotten so warm.

Around mile 11 where I had seen a friend and she ran with me the rest of the way encouraging me to continue.

At mile 12.5 where I had run with a friend for her first half marathon and she was so in the zone, I told her to keep going without me.

And of course at the finish line, where I had finished 3 times prior.

It's hard for me to put into words how I felt during the race, but maybe the word that best describes it is JOY.

I started this race with the sole intention of trying to finish. I had no time goal and no expectation to run fast. And then I went out, enjoyed the course, even played some Pokemon Go, and ran my 6th fastest half marathon (Official time: 1:58:50). If that's not a win, I don't know what is. 

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(2019)
"A 5k, Meb Keflezighi, and Pizza Oh My"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
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Bib Pick Up - Bib pick up was super easy. I opted to pick up my bib on Friday at Fleet Feet San Diego because it was on my way home and there was a 15% discount on their items, so I decided to also purchase some Superfeet for my inflamed fascia. :)

Race day - I arrive about an hour before my race and I find sweet street parking a few blocks from the start line. I met up with my male friends who were running the race before (Men's 39 and under race) and wished them good luck. Then, I stretched out my legs, took my infamous jumping photo, and got ready to run. While stretching, I spotted Meb Keflezighi and was starstruck. LOL. He was at the expo on Saturday signing autographs and since I couldn't attend, I was pretty bummed. BUT luck was on my side because I saw him and I got a picture with him!

The start of the race went pretty much as expected. I started out too fast and got winded a mile in. LOL. I felt extremely out of shape, but pushed on. My fascia was doing okay and wasn't overly upset at me and when it did decide to hurt, I walked. I did take my time and I finished in 27:07. :)  Not a bad time considering.

Post - Race: The energy of this race is amazing. Probably because it doesn't start super early. After crossing the finish line, I met up with friends ANDDDDD spotted Meb again and this time, he was signing people's bibs/medals/ribbons so you know I had to get mine signed. He was so nice and patient taking pictures and signing things for us.

The Carlsbad 5000 will always be one of my favorite races. It's short, sweet, and over in less than 30 minutes. :) And there's free beer at the beer garden. I didn't drink, but my friends did and afterwards, we headed over to Pizza Port for amazing pizza. I had an amazing time and honestly, I can't wait to do it again next year. :)

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(2019)
"Running Injured to get that Hot Chocolate"
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And BOOM, I finished the Hot Chocolate 15k this past weekend and oh my god, I was in a bit of pain. Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

On Saturday, I did a short 3 mile shake out run in the morning. My heel was still hurting so I picked up OS1st foot brace compression sleeve. It was recommended to me by the running coach so I decided to give it a shot. I then picked up my bib at the expo, got my sweet new jacket that came with registration, and talked to my favorite vendor peeps (Aftershokz, Honeystinger). I then ran a few errands and foam rolled, massaged, and stretched my legs for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning, I woke up early, put on my foot brace compression sleeve, took 2 Advils to alleviate any potential inflammation, and out the door I went. I felt okay at the start of the race, but that quickly changed about 1 mile in the race. For those of you who don't know, the Hot Chocolate 15k in San Diego is a challenging course. It makes you earn that chocolate and honestly, it's not terrible if you trained for it...or aren't injured.

The start of the race begins on a hill and for almost the entire race, it's rolling hills. And much like the hills, my emotions were also up and down. Due to my heel issues, my legs tried compensating in other ways, resulting in overuse of other muscles. This caused way more pain than I'd like so throughout the entire race, I seriously doubted if I could finish. In retrospect, I pushed myself harder than I should have. Every time I walked, I saw my 17+ min/mile pace and panicked that I wouldn't have been able to finish. I ended up finishing around a 10:30 min/mile pace so really, I had nothing to worry about.

I saw friends along the course and on two separate occasions, I burst into tears because I was so happy to see people come out and support me. I was mentally and physically in pain and seeing familiar faces made the race more bearable.

The race is a great one. The energy is high and the course is challenging enough that you'll really feel like you've earned that chocolate. :) I love the jacket this year and honestly, who wouldn't love chocolate at the end of the race.

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(2019)
"Racing to beat the rain!"
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T-Shirts/SWAG
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It doesn't rain too often in Southern California so I would like to first say that the Surf City 2019 race was an anomaly. The first time I ran it a few years ago, it was bright and warm and not dreary like this year's race was. That being said, the energy levels were still rather high at the expo as well as at the race itself. The race announcer was extremely upbeat and was able to get me excited despite the overcast and the possibility of rain. Luckily for us, it only sprinkled very briefly and stayed dry for most of the race.

The expo - It's held outside every year at the Huntington Beach parking lot. I fortunately found free street parking and was able to mosey around for a few hours talking to vendors and other runners. The announcer there was also really upbeat and I almost forgot about the rain pounding down on the tent for a bit. LOL The expo itself is maybe midsize. Nowhere near as big as a runDisney or a Rock N Roll expo, but also not small.

Race organization - I super appreciated all the emails the race organizers sent out. Due to the rain, they assured us that the race was going to happen rain or shine. They also sent out maps of the parking situation so we would know where to park and shuttle over. There is also a lot of free parking, which I was super happy about. The last thing I want to do on race day is pay for parking.

Course - The course is primarily an out and back along the beach. If you're a local, this is not super impressive, but if you're not from a beach city, I'd highly recommend doing this. Just bring a visor or sunglasses as the sun (if it's out) will hurt your eyes. The course has slight rolling hills so do be prepared for that. It's mostly flat, but it's not Chicago flat.

Course support - Aid stations were plenty so you're never left without hydration.

Swag - Their medal is unique in that it's shaped like a surf board. You also get a nice technical long sleeve tee. I don't keep that many race shirts, but I really do like theirs. I've even kept the one from a few years ago too. :)

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(2019)
"Racing in the Rain"
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T-Shirts/SWAG
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Hooray! Half marathon #23 is in the books and boy was it an interesting one. It was my first time racing in pouring rain and woo, was it fun! The aftermath was not. LOL

Going into the race, I had no idea there was a chance of rain. I mean, I live in Southern California. We get rain maybe 5-6 days out of the year. Apparently, this last weekend was one of those weeks. 

Bib Pick-up: Bib pick up was easy peasy. The location was at a community park and was extremely easy to find. It's also where you meet up for the start of the race so you get an idea of where everything is during bib pick up. I picked up the bib, race shirt, and was off to get some dinner and sleep for a 6 am wake up time. :) 

The Race: The weather forecast mentioned 70% chance of rain at 8 am, but when I drove to the start line, there were no rain clouds in sight. In fact, it was just a beautiful morning by the lake...surrounded by lots and lots of high school kids.

A portion of the race proceeds goes back to the local high schools so it made sense that a lot of the participants would have been the high school students. Unfortunately, having so many high school kids surrounding me completely threw me off my game. LOL. My friend and I joked that we'd get smoked by these kids and I of course, being the competitive person that I am, didn't want that. So I, stupidly started out too fast at the start.

Below are my thoughts throughout the race. Feel free to laugh at them: 

#1: Oh, what a beautiful morning. Man, this race is efficient. It's 8 am and we're off. 

#2: Hmm, there's the 2 hour pacer. They're going awfully fast, but I think I can swing that pace.

#3: Woohoo! I reached the 2 hour pacer. I wonder if I can catch the 1:50 pacer. Oo, I see the 1:50 pacer. Yoohoo!

#4: Wait! SLOW DOWN GIRL! A 8 min mile this early in the race is too fast. 

#5: Oh crap, my legs feel heavy. WHYYYYYY? Stupid me. Why did I think I could PR? I'm gassing out. Okay. The goal was to enjoy the process and try not to die. I guess I'll try and do that. Oo, pretty course. 

#6: Ack. I hate my allergies. I can't breathe. I hope no one thinks it's gross I spit on the course. I'm trying to not hit anyone. 

#7: Wow, this race is really well organized. There are a bajillion turns, but there's someone at every turn directing. Go race course organizers!

#8: UGH, don't walk Mai. Don't you do it. You know the moment you walk, you're going to keep run walking and that slows you down a lot. Don't do it.

#9: Okay, you're almost at 6 miles. At 6 miles, take a little walk break. 

#10: Hmm, I'm at 6 miles, but that's not even at the halfway mark. God, I'm such a wimp. Let's just hit the halfway mark and then you can walk. 

#11: Okay, I'm at the half way mark now and I think I can keep running without walking. Maybe let's try and get to 8 miles. oO, pretty river. 

#12: Well, I'm at 8 miles and I only have 5 miles left. Maybe I can run to 10 and then take a break? 

#12: I guess if I only have a 5k left, I should just keep running. 

#13: Oh what? It's RAINING? Oh well, it's just a light sprinkle. I'll be fine. 

#14: OH SHIT. IT'S RAINING HARD. I can't see. So much water on my face. Is that sweat or rain? I can't tell anymore. Wait, can I feel my fingers? Nope. Can't feel my fingers. LOL. Wait, I see a photographer! Smile girl smile through the rain! There are free race photos! Smile til you can't no more. 

#15: OMG, I SEE THE FINISH LINE. PUSHHHHHH! 

Post Race

#16: THAT WAS AMAZING. I got my pretty medal and OH HEY FRIENDS! OH AND FOOD! YASS!!! POTATO CHIPS? HOORAY!

#17: Crap, I am freezing. Oh, you're going to give me a free shirt to keep me warm? Thanks Kona Brewing Co. You're the best. Okay, get to the car. OH WHY WON'T IT STOP RAINING? LOL

Too long didn't read? I started out too fast in the race, gassed out, then played mind games with myself to prevent myself from walking, and then froze to death when it started pouring. LOL

Truthfully, the race was extremely well organized and I really appreciated the atmosphere of a smaller race. The views were really pretty and the rain was an interesting way to end the race. Too bad, it took me a few hours to actually warm back up and regain feeling in my toes and fingers. 

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