Latest reviews by Mai Khuong

(2019)
"Racing to beat the rain!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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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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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(2018)
"Aloha Honolulu...marathon"
Overall
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Elevation Difficulty
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The Expo

The expo itself is a bit different in that it caters to a LOT of Japanese people. If you weren't aware, the Honolulu marathon is a destination race for many many Japanese tourists. They even have a specific registration link to use when signing up. That being said, the selection of vendors is a bit more limited than what I'm used to. You will have your most important vendors there to get last minute nutrition or massages, but if you're used to a Rock N Roll expo or a World Marathon expo, you'll be disappointed.

Race Day:

We missed both of our first alarms, but thankfully I set a second one and  we woke up to that one. I had never scrambled out of my house so quickly for a race before. We were out of our AirBnB in maybe 20 minutes or less and past me was smart enough to stay close to the start line (Ala Moana) so we made it to the race with 15 minutes to spare.

Like Disney races, the Honolulu marathon releases the runners with an amazing fireworks display.

Fun fact: They accompanied the fireworks display with the song "Firework" by Katy Perry. 

With the release of the fireworks, I was off. My boyfriend and I had planned to stay together until at least mile 8 where the first big hill hits, but within 0.6 miles, he knew we were at different paces and told me to go on without him and that he'd be meet me at the finish line. After some more encouragement from him, I left and was making my way through the 26.2 miles.

Fact: The Honolulu marathon does not stagger their corrals. When they start to release the corrals, it is one big wave of runners crossing the start line. They also are not very strict about people lining up in the correct corrals, which means if you're faster, make sure to be as close to the front as possible. 

I did weave a bit at the beginning to pass the slower runners, but I also did not want to expend unnecessary energy and bided my time until the course cleared up a bit.

Fun Fact: It did not clear up significantly until mile 4. LOL

For the first few miles, we ran through Downtown Honolulu and saw a lot of Christmas decor. At mile 4, we ended up looping back near the start line and made our way into Waikiki. At mile 5, I saw Team BibRave and Aftershokz cheering us on and that squad kickstarted all of the feelings. LOL

Interesting fact: I normally do not have people cheering me on with the exception of a few races so when I see people I know cheering me on, I get really excited and happy. 

At mile 7, we start making our way around the base of Diamond Head and at mile 8, we make it up our first hill. From mile 7 to mile 10, we experienced crazy headwind. It made for a very unique and fun experience as I had never raced during such windy conditions and for a few brief moments, I really thought I'd fly away. LOL. At mile 12 or 13, I saw the first of many BibRave runners making their way back towards the finish line.

Fun Fact: From mile 11 to 15, you can see runners coming back as they make their way from mile 18 to 21.5. I was able to see the first place male and female runners this way.

With each BibRave runner I saw, the happier I got. :) Everyone appeared so strong and happy on the course that it gave me boosts of energy to keep going. At mile 15, I encountered my first sponge dipped in ice water and was over the moon. LOL. There had been warnings of runners getting heat stroke and I was adamant about staying cool even if that meant walking through every aid station and getting water.

At mile 17, I heard someone yell "BIBRAVE" from behind me and I turned around to see a total stranger smiling at me. LOL. I had no idea who he was at the time, but he turned out to be affiliated with BibRave and was just happy to be chatting with someone. :) Unfortunately, at that point, my energy was waning a bit and we parted when I stopped to take a few photos. I did pick up a bit of speed when I saw my boyfriend near mile 19.

I don't know when I developed a blister on the bottom of my foot, but I did realize it at mile 19 and knew that the last set of miles were going to be painful. I knew that my cheer squad would be at mile 20 so I walked for parts of mile 19 and made sure to look strong as I passed them at mile 20. Yes, there is power in a cheer squad. Never let them see you falter. LOL I kid.

For the next 5 miles, I hit the struggle bus. The sun had started to come out and mile 20-25 were a gradual incline that never seemed to end. There were even Taiko drummers there to keep us going. Luckily, the last mile and a half was primarily  downhill and I ran through the pain and ran it as fast as I could to finish with a time of 4:35:38.

Post-Race Festivities

Crossing that finish line felt like winning a million bucks. Okay, maybe not a million, but maybe $1,000. Haha. I grabbed my checked bag with my Oofos sandals and sat down to massage my legs and switch out of my shoes. I then grabbed my finisher's shirt and a Portuguese fried donut (Malasada) to munch on and waited for my boyfriend to finish.

Interesting Fact: Gear check is actually done the day before the marathon. This allows for less stress the morning of. 

How was my experience overall? 

I had a wonderful time running the race and although, there were some dark moments (mile 20-25), there were also a lot of wonderful memories that I will always have now. :) I highly recommend running this race if you ever get the chance.

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(2018)
"Redemption at RnRVegas!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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Health and Fitness Expo – Rock N Roll expos are large. If you’ve never been to one, be prepared. There a TON of vendors so choose wisely when deciding what to purchase or else you’ll rock around having dropped $100+. Bib pick up was extremely easy. I took a Lyft from the airport and was at the Convention Center in 15 minutes and then picked up my bib with no wait time.

Race Day (Pre-race) – Preparing for a night race is always tricky. Things to take into consideration:

Meals: Last year, I made the mistake of eating too early (10 am) and by the time I finished the race, I was starving and was grabbing anything the volunteers would give me to stuff my face with. This year, I tried to eat lunch a little later (12:30 pm) and hoped that whatever I ate would digest quick enough and not give me GI distress during the course (like during my Chicago marathon. Sigh). Fortunately, it worked, but I might have also upchucked a LITTLE bit of food during the course so I guess I will need to refine this a bit more. LOL.

Time on your feet: Time on your feet should be minimized for a night race. Knowing that, I still went out and ran 6 miles in the morning because I had a scheduled 20 mile long run for marathon training. LOL. In my defense, I did run much slower and tried to take it as easy as I could. After the run, I went back to the hotel and rested until it was time to get lunch and get to the start line. Even at the start line, I sat down and tried to rest and since I beat my course PR, I’d say it paid off.

Hydration: Holy moly is Vegas dry. I come from a fairly humid city so being in Vegas completely shriveled me up no matter how much water I drank (and I only drank water; no alcohol was involved). If you are going to run in the desert, drink up. It may be cool, but your body will thank you.

Gear Check: It’s a night race. It’s going to be COLD when you finish. You won’t feel it when you cross the finish line, but give it 10-15 minutes. You will feel it. So packing a jacket is a must.

Race Day (Actual race) – All day, I had been debating whether to race it or treat it like a training run. Since I ran 6 miles in the morning, I was worried that I’d hit a wall at mile 7. So I told myself to take it easy and run by feel. And crazily enough, I actually felt fine. I hadn’t raced a half since June so I was stoked be around other runners and was ready to cross that start line.

The course itself is fairly flat with a few minor ups and downs and you hardly notice them as the Vegas strip lights are pretty mesmerizing. I had seen them the night before, but running through the strip was another type of experience and you can bet I took it all in. The air was also cool and refreshing as I started to heat up.

The bands and DJs that were set up along the course also really helped my energy levels. I would hear a Bruno Mars song and I’d just start dancing, which gave me more energy to run faster. LOL I also really like Bruno Mars. LOL. At mile 12, I was losing momentum. The dry winds combined with the sweat stung my face and I was struggling. But then I ran into someone I knew and boom, I was back to it. :)

Honestly, I crossed that finish line feeling like a million bucks. I finished strong despite having run a total of 19.3 miles that day AND I beat my course PR. So maybe the secret is constantly running on tired legs?!?!

Official time was 1:54:45! Wheee!

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(2018)
"My first themed race at the Wonder Woman 10k"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Packet Pick up - Easy peasy. Drove down to SDCCU stadium, parked for free, and grabbed my bib with no wait. In addition to the race entry, the registration also came with a Wonder Woman racing tee, two Wonder Woman sweat cuffs, and a tote bag. The expo was small, but it was also packed with photo opportunities. If you love taking selfies, this is probably the race to do it at. :) Side note: They also have FREE RACE PHOTOS.

Race day - Since this race was more of a fun run, this race started at 9 am. This was very bad for me as I run very warm. I do well in very cold weather and just get destroyed when the sun comes out. :( I got to the race about an hour early and was able to park very easily for free at the stadium. Almost everyone was dressed up as Wonder Woman and there was even an occasional Batman or two. I even saw a mom who dressed up her four kids as various super heroes. Her cape read Super "Exhausted" Mom. :)

The course itself is not a very scenic route as it's only a 5k/10k. We ran around the stadium and out for a bit and there were two out and backs for the 10k. The course is not flat and actually had a surprising amount of hills considering how short the course was. My biggest mistake, as always, was starting out too fast. I was ready to PR and starting running too fast and gassed out a mile in. My calves started cramping, the bottom of my feet started tingling, and I started getting shin splints. I started run walking about 1.5 mile in and the experience was all very humbling. I have run marathons and yet, even a 10k can still destroy my self confidence. At mile 3 and 4, I had to stop to stretch because my calves wouldn't loosen up. At mile 4, I ended up needing Race Guards to spray BioFreeze and thankfully that helped and I was able to speed up a bit at mile 5 and 6. Both the 5kers and 10ker finish inside the stadium where you take a lap around stadium before crossing the finish line. Honestly, this would have been much more awesome had they differentiated the two distances. I had to weave in and out to avoid running into the 5kers who were walking towards the finish line.

Post - race party: I do have to give it to the organizers of the race. They definitely know how to throw a fun run post race party. They gave out donuts, ice cream, and bananas and of course, had a really fun band playing in the festival. And of course, everyone had to retake their photos with their medals. :)

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