Latest reviews by Ciara Doll

(2021)
"EXCELLENT Post-Race Festival! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This small, community-focused race offers a personalized race experience while still delivering on high-quality swag! While there were a few setbacks with signage, the race was a great time!

Pre-Run:
I signed up for this race with my friend, and this time we opted to run with a few other running buddies, bringing our total group to 5. 4 of us ran the 10k, while the other friend ran the 5k. When we arrived, the main parking lot was full and there was a volunteer with a sign showing a map to reach a nearby overflow parking lot. While the volunteer and his map sign were helpful to start, there was a lack of signage around the area, save for one solo sign declaring "Additional Parking Ahead." We were instructed to park in a business park parking lot, but we ended up circling around the area for a while because the signs kept leading us down random back alleys toward gated off lots. Eventually, we got fed up and ended up parking in the next open lot we could find, hoping we weren't parked in an off-limits spot. (Ultimately, we were fine.) From there, we had a bit of a walk across an intersection and over a bridge to reach the starting area. Because of our parking delay, we ended up cutting it pretty close to the starting time, but fortunately we had just enough time to get our bibs and stretch a bit before the race!

The Race:
This course was a very straight-forward course...in theory. All 5k and 10k runners left the starting line and ran left along the bike trail path before making a U-turn and returning down the same path. 5k runners returned to the finish line while 10k athletes passed the finish line and continued on the path before reaching a final U-turn to return to the finish line. Here's where the problem came in. Unbeknownst to all the runners, the course's two aid stations were situated at the U-turn points, but there was no announcement or signage to indicate this, and the volunteer's themselves weren't aware of this either. So, this resulted in many runners, myself included, running PAST the water station and continuing down the path. Thankfully the runner ahead of us calculated the distance and realized the mistake, which alerted many runners to turn around (so technically we ran about 7 miles instead of 6.2!) On the way back, someone had notified the volunteers of the error and they were able to guide the remaining athletes to turn around at the proper spot. By the time we reached the 10k turnaround spot, we, along with the other runners around us, had assumed the next aid station would be the turnaround, however when we asked the volunteers to confirm this, they seemed unsure themselves. Between this, and the parking issues, I would say the one thing this race desperately needs to invest in is more signage.

Post-Race:
I signed up for this race expecting it to be a small post-race affair, but I was shocked to discover a very nice post-race festival instead! Runners received a large medal as well as a their choice of a shirt arm compression sleeves, or socks (runners selected their choice at registration). Multiple booths were set up offering a variety of goods and services, and the race organizers set up a "passport" game in which athletes visited each booth, received a stamp on a provided card, and then completed cards were entered to win prizes. All athletes also received a free beer! It should be noted that, while this race was not what I would consider to be "pricy," it does cost more than an average 5k/10k, and this partly goes toward hosting a high-quality festival. We all walked away with so many freebies and swag selections that we had to get a bigger bag to carry it all! Honestly one of my favorite perks of this festival was the professional photographer taking free (included I should say) photos at a Halloween-themed photo opp. We had a blast getting pics!

Tips:
- Give yourself a BIT of time to get there because the parking instructions weren't super clear.
- This course is a down-and-back, so watch out for runners coming from the opposite direction.
- If there aren't any turnaround signs present, ask the aid station volunteer (or better yet, a volunteer at the starting line) to confirm where the turnaround points are.
- Bring a bigger bag if you scoop up a lot of freebies and swag!
- Wear a costume!

Final Thoughts:
While we may have run a bit more than a 10k, this race provided a really nice blend of small-town vibes with a high-quality finish festival that honestly rivaled some larger races I've attended!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2021)
"A Finish To Make the Sports Fans Jealous! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This half marathon offers a challenging, yet forgiving course that hits the highlights of Pasadena and ends with an unforgettable finish line on the field of the famous Rose Bowl Stadium!

Pre-Run:
I signed up to run this race with my frequent racing friend, and this was our first time running any sort of race in Pasadena. This race was originally set for March, but was moved to September due to COVID. Typically, this race offers an expo, however the race directors opted to have a much more socially-distanced bib pick-up, occurring over numerous days and in multiple locations, forgoing the traditional expo atmosphere altogether. My friend and I went to pick up our bibs Saturday at the Rose Bowl Stadium pick up spot, and we were in and out in under 5 minutes. I was surprised to discover that, unlike previous years, we did not receive a shirt with our registration. (The website explicitly mentioned a shirt, so perhaps I might have missed them, but if I recall, I didn’t see anyone wearing a 2021 shirt at the race. The medal and bib design this year featured a beautiful, subtle vine and rose pattern; it's a shame there wasn't a shirt to compliment this cool design this year.)

On race day morning, we arrived following Google Maps, and discovered that, if you are coming from the west, all the major streets and ramps were completely closed. We anticipated that this would happen, however, with Google Maps obviously unaware of the closures, we were expecting to see police or signs directing us to the stadium. Instead, it seemed like most cars didn’t know where to go, and many people were making turns and circles all over the place in an attempt to make it to the stadium. We happened to spot a cluster of cars we kept seeing, and decided to follow them. Luckily, we were able to make it to the stadium parking lot in time, but we only had about 5 minutes to spare… a little too close for my comfort! I’d recommend building in extra time here, as the lack of signs can leave you circling the Rose Bowl area for a while. Once you make it to the stadium, there is plenty of parking available (for free!)

The Race:
As previously mentioned, this run was supposed to occur in the spring, but pushed to September due to COVID. September is still very much the summer season here in LA, and after running a SCORCHING Surf City two weeks prior, I was fully anticipating a hot and sticky run. Instead, we lucked out and wonderful, cool and overcast skies – the best weather a racer can hope for!

This race had two distances: the 5k and the half. Both races started at the same time, with a divided starting line. The 5k runners made a right just after the starting chute to loop around the Rose Bowl, while the half marathoners ran south on Aroyo before turning left and climbing the biggest hill of the course up California. Once at the top of the hill, the course starts to level out (relatively speaking), turning north on Orange Grove (running past the beautiful Tournament of Roses office). Around mile 3, the course turns down Colorado Blvd, running past Pasadena’s postcard-perfect shopping district. The course makes a short down-and-back down Arroyo Parkway, returning north and continuing east on Green St. After two short down-and-backs down Lake Ave and Wilson Ave (passing CalTech along the way), the course returns along this same route toward Orange Grove. The course then continues straight, crossing the Colorado Street Bridge (movie buffs may remember this bridge from La La Land!) and overlooking the landscape below. The course at this point starts to make a decline back down toward the Rose Bowl, finishing out the last three miles with a full loop around the golf course and ending on the field of Rose Bowl Stadium!

This course had plenty of water and medical stations, as well as an abundance of restrooms. Every single water station also had Nuun on hand. There were SO many spectators, running clubs, and organizations out to cheer on the runners! There were even a few music stages set up, complete with DJs and rock bands to entertain runners on the course!

Post-Race:
While basking in the thrill of finishing on the football field, runners received their (beautiful!) medals, along with plenty of snacks such as bananas and pretzels. Liquid Death was also on hand to provide water for all the athletes and since the weather was cooler than previously anticipated, multiple volunteers were on hand giving out nylon blankets to anyone who wanted them.

Tips:
- Anticipate all major roads and ramps near the Rose Bowl will be blocked on your trip to the stadium. So plan extra time, and take time the night before to research alternative routes down smaller streets to reach the parking lot.
- After the major hill at mile 2, this course is relatively flat. That being said, it’s not completely flat, so if you’re brand new to running hills, take some time before this race to practice – the small inclines can be deceiving! As the course slopes down toward the Rose Bowl, watch your footing – it’s easy to let gravity carry you away and stumble!
- The course has multiple turnarounds – watch for other runners around you as you take the turns.
- We lucked out with the weather this year, but had we not been so fortunate, this course doesn’t offer a ton of shade. Hope for the best, prepare for the worse and hydrate!

Final Thoughts:
This race is a highlight reel for Pasadena – offering beautiful views, a wonderfully encouraging spectator crowd, and an incredible finish! The course is tame enough for novice half marathoners while still offering a challenge (and numerous rewards) for even the most seasoned runner!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2021)
"Loving the Long Beach Luau! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

What a fun race! This 10k around the Long Beach Shoreline Marina offered beautiful views, great on-course support, and a festive pre/post-race party atmosphere that you can't miss!

Pre-Run:
My friend and I were originally signed up to run their first-ever half marathon, but a couple of weeks before race day, the organization notified us that the half marathon distance had been cancelled for unknown reasons. We were given the option to switch to the 10k or 5k with a refunded difference or a full refund and cancellation. Still wanting to run, we decided to switch to the 10k. We picked up our bibs on race day, and when we arrived, there was a paid parking lot just steps from the race start. The starting line was a festive and fun atmosphere, complete with a tiki stilt walker and a hyped announcer getting the runners amped up before the race! We arrived just as the 1st 10k wave was taking off, so I THREW my bag in the bag check area and dashed to the start!

The Race:
The course was a beautiful run starting by the Long Beach Aquarium and running through the marina and looped at the peninsula before coming back around and doing another short out-and-back down the beach, returning to the finish line. There were a few tight spots in the first mile (as well as a couple steps to run up/down) but the spaced out waves kept the course neat and sparse. The morning weather provided beautiful views of the marina, the Queen Mary Ship, and the beach -- a great spot to run if you're new to the Long Beach area! The course was full of cheering families and multiple aid stations with cheering volunteers!

Post-Race:
As we crossed the finish line, we received water and Ultima hydration along with a cute medal (complete with swinging hula skirt!). The 5k walking wave was just taking off as we finished, and there was a fun post-race festival in full swing with photo ops, lawn games, live Hawaiian music, merch stands, and food trucks! I'm usually one to head out not long after I finish to get home and clean up, but we stuck around for a bit because it was too fun to pass up!

Tips:
- Watch out for steps and sidewalk curbs in the first and last mile of the race. There is one moment where you will need to run up to steps, so for this reason, I wouldn't try to bring a stroller or pet to run with.
- Prepare to pay for parking! Parking cost about $6 for about 90 minutes.
- As you walk to/from your car, watch for runners and walkers, as the course and the sidewalk join up for a few yards in between the parking garage and the start/finish line.

Final Thoughts:
This fun theme, paired with the beautiful route and awesome post-race festival makes this race a must do and repeat!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2021)
"Spooky Fun with Fantastic Bling! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

If you've tracked my reviews, you know I've raced multiple times with Caren Ware Events now, and this Halloween race brought festive fun and one of the most unique medals I've ever received!

Pre-Run:
This is my 3rd time racing with Caren Ware Events, and I signed up for this race online to run with my friend. This race was set at Irvine Valley College, the same place we ran the 4th of July race this past summer. Caren Ware Events always does a great job clearly communicating info in advance, such as location changes, schedules of events, and other important information. Last time, my friend and I overestimated how much time it would take us to get to the race location from LA, and we ended up almost an hour too early. This time, we did the opposite and cut it SUPER close -- in fact we were technically one of the last people to cross the starting line because we were SCRAMBLING to get our bibs pinned on! The great thing about CWE races is that they're so welcoming and laid-back, so even with us rushing, we had plenty of time to run and finish! (Thank goodness for that close parking!!!)

Speaking of parking, my only note on it is that, when signing up for the race, we were told parking would be available for a fee, and that all runners must pay for it ahead of race day. When we arrived, there didn't seem to be any way to indicate which cars had pre-paid parking, or even which cars had any paid parking. I'm not sure if this was coming from campus police, or if this came from CWE organizers, but seeing that there were no tickets issued or parking attendants out enforcing the fees, it did sort of feel like we ate our pre-paid parking fee. Do I wish I hadn't paid? Yes. Can I promise that if you don't pay you won't get a ticket? No. So in the end, if you're the type of person who would rather be safe than sorry, maybe you use that $5 as a little form of race-day insurance.

The Race:
The course was one flat, out-and-back course circling the perimeter of the campus. There were a few fields before the first 1 mile marker that featured a charming farmhouse, but other than that, there wasn't much in the way of course scenery. There were two aid stations at the 1 and 2 mile markers. with friendly volunteers offering plenty of water! Part of the fun of a Halloween race is seeing all the participants in costume, and this event did not disappoint! We also saw many people running with their young children and even a few dogs on the course -- this race is truly an event for everyone!

Post-Race:
After the race, runners returned to the starting area where we all received HUGE pumpkin-shaped medals complete with a 3D running pumpkin man on a spring that "ran" when you shook it -- so cool! In the Halloween spirit, runners received trick-or-treat bags filled with post-run snacks too! There were plenty of Halloween photo ops set up around the area and a costume contest was held after the race winners were announced. I believe shirts were given out as well, however I think that might have happened before the race started, and since my friend and I were a bit late to the start., we probably missed them.

Tips:
- Give yourself a BIT of time to get there (don't do what we did and RUSH UP to the start!) and keep in mind that the only entrance into the parking area is off of Jeffrey Rd.
- Parking is listed on the website as "Required" however as far as I was made aware, there isn't really a clear way to enforce this rule or indicate which cars have paid for parking and which did not.
- Bring a costume!

Final Thoughts:
This Halloween race had a fun, festive atmosphere, easy course, and finished off with a really cool medal! If you're looking to get your family involved in a fun run, Caren Ware Events are a great choice!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2021)
"You Like Hills? Here's a BIG one!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This Labor Day 5.3 mile run is a challenging course that offers beautiful views and one hell of a hill workout!

Pre-Run:
I found out about this race while on the hunt for smaller distances to run while preparing for half marathon training. At a little over 5 miles, this is a great race for those looking to add it into their larger training plans. Registered runners are required to pick up their bibs prior to the race at the Road Runner Sports shop in San Pedro. NO EXCEPTIONS. This is a bit frustrating for anyone driving down from the main LA area, as this meant we had to drive up and down twice. I recommend making an afternoon of hanging out in or around San Pedro to make the drive more worth while. (This race, ironically, DOES offer race-day registration (subject to availability), which would of course allow for race day bib pickup....) Once we arrived at the shop, the bib pickup was very simple and quick. I was surprised to discover that we received no shirt for this race. The following morning, my friend and I drove down from LA, leaving extra time to arrive, and find parking. The race starts near the Port O' Call Village, where there is a large paid lot steps away from the starting line.

The Race:
The course for this race was one giant out-and-back. Runners ran along the water toward the bridge, before turning left onto the ramp leading up to the bridge. From there, runners climbed up the long suspension bridge, reaching the top and were rewarded with a downhill straightaway to the other side. The course continued straight before turning around and returning over the bridge, down the ramp, and back to the start. There were water stations on either side of the bridge, as well as numerous volunteers throughout the course.

Post-Race:
All finishers received a medal, and were greeted at the finish line with water, and cookies!

Tips:
- This course is almost all hills! If you have sensitive knees or are returning to running from an injury, be warned that this race might not be for you.
- Something I never thought I'd say here -- this bridge is HIGH. If you have a fear of heights and/or bridges, you might want to sit this one out!
- If you're not used to running downhill, be careful not to lose control of your footing! It can be really easy to let gravity carry you away and you could risk significant damage to your knees, or a very serious fall!
- If you're driving down from the LA area, or are looking to avoid paid parking lots, schedule in extra time to arrive and park!
- Since this race offers no race day packet pick-up, you'll need to plan time into your weekend to go to San Pedro and pick up your bib.

Final Thoughts:
My biggest complaint here was the lack of flexibility for those driving down from the LA area to have race-day pick-up. Despite this, the race is a fun, challenging event that offers a chance to push yourself outside of the 5k zone, push yourself on the hills, and admire the views from the unique vantage point of the bridge!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.