Latest reviews by Catherine

(2017)
"Beautiful/Scenic Race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Salinas Valley Half Marathon is a small gorgeous run. Running through Steinbeck country, you are graced with views of vineyards and wineries.

Bib Pick up was available on Friday at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Farmer's Market. I worried about not being able to find it, but there were a few signs put up on the main road directing you where to go. Free parking was available in the garage not far down the street. The farmers market was small, I wouldn't call it an expo, but it was nice.

Goodie bags came with a shirt, bib, a calendar (August 2017 - August 2018) filled with BSIM race information (Salinas Valley half, Monterey bay half, etc.), and a souvenir wine glass. I found the shirt to be true to size - I'm a medium in everything and my medium fit great. The medal at the end of the race is a wine stopper, which is cute. Although I'll probably never know if it really works because what's leftover wine? ;)

I was a little surprised when I looked up directions and found the race to be about 30 minutes south of Salinas. I knew it began at the Soledad Mission, but didn't really think twice that the race wasn't in Salinas.

On race day, there was a lot for free parking near the race start at the Soledad Mission. Officers directed runners being dropped off to the other side of the road to not clog the parking lot. There were several busses at the finish line to take runners back to their cars. There was also a lot with free parking available near the finish line for spectators. Although it was almost a mile walk from this lot to the finish line, so post race walking to the busses/parking lot was a long walk.

The race begins at the Soledad Mission and finishes at the Pessango Winery. It's a very scenic route, with views of vineyards, wineries, and fields of crops. It was a foggy morning which was perfect for running. As the sun came out, the views got even better, but it did get warm. Thankfully there was a nice breeze. There were several pacers running with signs to help people stay on pace to finish at a certain time. People who lived along the course came out to cheer on runners, which was nice. In my opinion, the elevation wasn't too bad. I use both the Strava app on my phone and the Apple watch native fitness tracker, and they average out to about a 500ft gain in elevation. A few hills in the middle of the course before mile 10, but nothing terrible. And there were several downhills which was nice.

At every other mile there was entertainment or an aide station. Water and gatorade were offered at the aide stations, Gu was offered at two different race stations (I forget which ones but probably mile 5 and 11 ish?), and one station offered freshly cut strawberries. There were portable bathrooms at each entertainment stop or aide station. All of the people working at the aide stations were super friendly and encouraging.

The last mile of the course shared the road with spectators and runners that had already finished and were walking to the busses. It was nice because there were a lot of people to cheer you on as you neared the end. The announcer at the end was looking up peoples bib numbers to find their names and cheer them on as they came up the finish line. Crossing the finish line, you're handed your medal. There were buckets of ice cold water bottles right after that, and a shady area to relax for a few minutes. There was lots of post race goodies - fresh strawberries, chocolate milk, chips, bananas, etc.

The awards ceremony had already begun by the time I got there, but I did notice that age group winners received a huge bottle of wine. Runners over 21 were given a free beer as a part of their race registration and I think free wine tastings, but I wasn't feeling very well on race day so I skipped my beer and wine :( There was BBQ available for $11 and several tents with additional race swag available for purchase. There was also a recovery area in the shade with foam rollers.

There were photographers at several spots along the course. There was also a photographer for finish line photos, and she was so encouraging! The photos were up within 48 hours which was nice (because I'm super impatient).

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. It was beautiful and run very well. Great email communications reminding people about race day information and updates. I definitely plan to run this race next year and participate in the waves to wine challenge!

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(2017)
"Fun Fourth of July Race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

What a fun Fourth of July race! I missed the "expo"/bib pickup because I completely forgot about it over the holiday weekend, but it seemed most people chose to pick up their packets the morning of anyways. They did allow race day registration, but they only allow 1,000 runners combined between the 10k and the 5k - so as the race gets more popular, race day registration will likely not be possible.

Parking was easy, Costco was a block away and closed for the Fourth of July so everyone was told to park there. I got there pretty early, so I'm not sure how much the lot filled up.

The shirt is nice, cotton so probably nothing I'd wear running. The goodie bag came with a snack, coconut water, chapstick, and a coupon for free popsicles. The same popsicles were handed out as we crossed the finish line, which I was really excited about. There was also a free pancake breakfast offered for runners before and after the race, but I'm not a huge fan of pancakes and I definitely can't eat them before I run. There were free 5 minute massages offered after the race, but I didn't get one.

Probably the best part about the event was the announcer. He was hilarious, decked out in American flag clothes, and British!

Santa Cruz has great weather for morning runs. It was foggy and overcast, so a little chilly waiting around for the race to start. But it feels great once you start running. The 5k is mostly flat, a few gradual inclines. There were no water stations along the 5k route, so I can't comment on those (although it made me rate them). Medals are only given to the top 3 males and females in each age group.

It didn't look like there was a starting timer, and when you look at the results online everyone's race time is the same as their gun time. When they first posted the results, there was actually an error that showed all race times as 6 minutes off, but they re-posted the results with correct information.

Overall, it was a really fun race and I definitely plan to come back next year! Maybe I'll try the 10k.

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(2017)
"Fun Giant Race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first time running the local Giant Race and it was really fun. There was music at the start line, and the announcer was quite entertaining. Parking was really easy in the field/lot right next to the start line and across the street to the stadium. There were quite a few people walking, and several with strollers, that were hard to weave between at the start. It would've been nice to have split the start line with runners on one side and walkers on the other.
After the race was really fun as well. We finished on the field and were able to walk around. A lot of people were grabbing beer to sit around and hang out at the park, but I didn't run with my ID so I didn't join them. Also able to immediately check running stats at the tents/ipads.
Packet pickup was also very easy and convenient! Shirts are pretty cool looking and very comfortable. Definitely talking my friends into joining me next year!

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(2017)
"Love Running by the Beach"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I missed the expo and bib pickup because I got stuck in traffic getting over the hill (I sat in Los Gatos for an hour and a half before deciding to turn around), but I was able to pick up my bib the morning of. I got there early so parking wasn't a problem. Picking up my bib wasn't a problem either (I wasn't the only person picking a bib up).

Santa Cruz/Capitola has perfect running weather, slightly foggy and cool for the majority of the run. Then it burns off to beautiful sunny weather! Although it does mean you will need to wear something easy to remove mid run or something you don't mind dropping off along the way. And how can you not enjoy running along the coast! You don't run along the beach the entire race, but it's still a beautiful run. It's a little hilly, but not very difficult. Finishing on the beach is pretty cool, but I'm not the biggest fan of running in the sand.

Post race activities were fun, although I didn't stay long because I was packing to move the following weekend. Definitely doing this race again next year!

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