Latest reviews by Ciara Doll

(2021)
"Fun on the 4th! "
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This was my first "mass start" since in-person racing returned -- and with the fun start and community atmosphere, this 5k made for a great holiday weekend event!

Pre-Run:
This is my 2nd time racing with Caren Ware Events, having run the Rodeo Run back in March. I signed up for this race online to run with my friend. The race was originally set to run in Anaheim, but since the race had been cleared to host a mass start instead of waves, it moved to Irvine Valley College to accommodate the larger crowd. This information was very clearly communicated by the race organizers and was much appreciated! While there was no pre-race packet pickup expo, there was a small expo set up the morning of that offered a number of future race registration opportunities and product samples. Parking was RIGHT next to the starting line (which you all know was a big plus for me!) As the crowds gathered and we got closer to the starting time, a FIFE AND DRUM BAND SHOWED UP! The band played along with live singers and a red/blue smoke bomb start!

The Race:
The course was one circular, flat, out-and-back circling the perimeter of the campus. There were a few fields before the first 0.5 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!

Post-Race:
Here's where my only complaint for this race kicks in. The race was advertised as a "Red White and Blue/BREW" race with the option to have a special beer-themed medal. I was under the impression that a post-race beer would be available after the run to match the theme, however that was not the case. (Not a huge deal, but I had signed up for the BREW medal and it felt odd to have a beer-themed medal without any other beer elements in the race, so I traded it in for a normal medal instead.) Upon crossing the finish, we all received a nice sliding medal and a flag t-shirt (in a very...bold pattern.. haha!) the band had returned and I made sure to get a photo with them in their colonial costumes!

Tips:
(I don't have any for this race! It was straight forward, well managed/supported, and had an easy course perfect for all types of runners!)

Final Thoughts:
Despite the confusion in the alternative themes, the patriotic race had a fun, festive atmosphere, easy course, and a well-organized group running the show! If you're looking to get your family involved in an annual holiday fun run, Caren Ware Events has a great 4th of July option!

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(2021)
"HARD Night Race with Beautiful Views! "
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This was hands-down the hardest half marathon I've run to date. The terrain was hilly, the course was dark, and the heat was unrelenting -- but the views! Taking place in the Nevada desert in summer heat, this day/night race is one-of-a-kind and not for the faint for heart!

Pre-Run:
I had originally registered for a spring race with Calico Racing, but I was unable to attend, so I switched my registration to Running with the Devil -- and the race management team was so nice and quick to respond! This is a smaller race team, so there is no large expo or pre-race day packet pick-up. 5k/10k/half marathon runners could register to run at either 7:30am or 7:30pm for a night run, while the larger distances only had a morning start option. Knowing desert heat, and looking for a unique running experience, I signed up for the night run. Unlike the day runners, night runners were required to wear BOTH a front and back reflective vest as well as a wearable lamp (or carry a flashlight). If you're staying in Vegas, the drive out to Lovell Canyon is simple to follow. It was easy to spot the race set-up right along the road, and parking was RIGHT AT THE START LINE! I picked my bib and shirt up, and we were on our way at 7:30!

The Race:
This course ran up Lovell Canyon Road into the desert for 6.5 miles before turning around and coming back to the start. For the first 4 miles, it is a deceptively tough steady incline before getting some relief with a few downward curves. The best part of the course came at mile 5 with a fast downhill curve into a valley. But, that steep downhill turn comes back to bite you on mile 7, as it is a HARD uphill climb. The ultimate reward came around mile 8.5, with a steady gentle downhill return to the finish line. In terms of nightfall, there was enough sunlight at 7:30 that I didn't turn on my vest light until about 8:15 or so. The road, while sparsely populated, does not officially close during the race, so there were times when cars would pass by. Being out in the middle of the desert is no joke -- even with the moonlight and a bright LED light, it was DARK! The temperatures did cool off a bit, and this year we had a exceptionally excessive heat wave with temps around 115 during the day. The night race did cool off a bit, but if you're not a Nevada-native, this can be really challenging to deal with -- especially without any wind to provide relief. The heat and low vision can really mess with you mentally here! The race organizers did a nice job with first aid assistance and PLENTY of water stops -- those were a real game changer!

Post-Race:
This post race was really special to me because I placed 2nd for the women's division of the night half! I received a lunchbox cooler (very convenient for storing things in this heat!) as well as a nice medal. The team had plenty of water and snacks available too! It was a small group, but I was impressed with all of the food and drinks they came prepared with for the racers! I actually got a bit light-headed due to the conditions, so I really appreciated all the aid!

Tips: (there's a bunch for this one!)
- It is HOT -- bring a water pack with extra water and don't pass up any aid stations if you are running without a pack. The night temps are deceiving and it's still hot out there! Especially without wind. Wear a bandana around your neck and dump water on it at each station to keep your neck and face cool!
- Make sure your light has enough batteries or charge to last you for the duration of the race -- mine was getting a bit dim toward the end!
- This road is a bit bumpy -- watch out for uneven ground, especially during the night race!
- Night runners are required to be reflective from BOTH the front and back!
- Pace yourself accordingly in anticipating of that tough climb returning up out of the valley
- Make sure your phone is with you and charged -- I was surprised to find that I had no cellphone service issues, even when out in the middle of nowhere. If you're concerned that you may need medical attention and can't locate a first aid station near you, you can use your phone to call the organizers! (They also paced the course often, so you are never truly without assistance!)
- If this is your first night race, or first high heat race, take your time, practice beforehand if you can, and watch your fluids!!!! (It's so important, I've put it on the tip list twice!)

Final Thoughts:
There's something so magical about being alone out in nature under the stars! As a Midwest transplant into a bustling city, being back out in the wilderness was a joy! But this one is no joke -- you really will believe you're running with the devil in heat like this!

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(2021)
"A Wonderful Return to SoCal Racing! "
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After a year of no in-person racing in Southern California, it was so refreshing to be back together and this event was a great way to kick it off! From the smaller crowds, rolling start times, and AWESOME belt buckle medal, Caren Ware Events put on a safe and fun event!

Pre-Run:
I registered for the race online. The race management team sent numerous emails detailing pre-race packet pickup, COVID rules for safe running, and general event info. I chose to pick up my packet on race-day morning since I drove down from LA. Because this race was themed, I chose to fully lean into it and I dressed up in an inflatable horse costume! The race management team had lots of fun photo backdrops set up at packet-pickup. Parking was PERFECT -- it was in the same parking lot as pre-race staging and there were plenty of spaces available! If you know me, you know my 3 pillars of race parking (easy to find, cheap/free, close to the race start) and this was one of those rare instances when all 3 happened!

The Race:
Up the road and around the corner from parking and pick-up was the race start. Runners were able to run anytime between 6:30-8:00 am. The course was a super straight-forward out and back loop along the waterway. 10k/5k runners ran the entire course together, with 10k runners continuing beyond for a larger loop. This course was a mix of concrete sidewalks and dirt pathways. Due to the altered race format, the pathways were shared with non-racers. This usually wasn't an issue, but there were a lot of bikers on the path during the 2nd half of the race, and some of them would ride a bit too close to runners. This is not at all an issue with the race itself or race management, but it is something to note if you're planning to walk, run with a stroller, or run/walk with pets (this race is both dog/stroller friendly). The first half of the course runs along the river -- it's more of a dried-up riverbed than a river, so the scenery isn't really remarkable until you near the golf course later down the path.

Post-Race:
The post-race festival started off with a BEAUTIFUL, themed medal (we had the choice between gold or silver at the finish line) that converted into a belt buckle! From there, the post-race festivities continued back over by packet pickup with the previously mentioned photobooths as well as a mechanical bull!

Tips:
- Parking is every runner's dream, but it does require a tad bit of side street weaving if you aren't familiar with the area.
- Try to plan on running earlier in the start time window to avoid the bikers and runners that share the road. They tend to arrive a bit later in the morning.
- There isn't a lot of shade on this route, so don't forget your sunscreen and a hat/sunglasses!

Final Thoughts:
Caren Ware Events hosted a wonderful, intimate and fun race that is perfect for all running levels and a safe racing experience for anyone itching to get back into SoCal in-person racing! Will definitely return for another event hosted by this awesome team!

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(2021)
"RaceMaker Productions is Back with Another Great Race! "
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I ran the 4 Hour Freeze with RMP last month and had such a good time I came back for this 5k! They modified the course to avoid the narrow out and back, making this one not only a more enjoyable course but increased the distance between runners for an even safer experience!

Pre-Run:
Parking was SUPER close to start, and everyone was socially distant. Packet pickup was quick, and due to new pandemic rules, the medals and sweatshirts were given out before the race. The medals were surprisingly large and the sweatshirt is super cozy! (Hint: I'm wearing it as I type this review :P)

The Race:
The race organizers kept the race small, and runners were assigned to "waves" of about 20-25 runners in each wave. Runners lined up in spaces to stay distant and were counted off by the organizers. The course started by the NCAA Headquarters and passed by the IUPUI campus before crossing the bridge and looping back around the other side of the river near the Indy Zoo. There was a short loop around the wide center bridge leading back toward the zoo, followed by a second short loop back in front of the NCAA Headquarters (back over the same starting path) before coming back to the finish. Due to COVID, there were no aid stations on the course, but there were plenty of water bottles at the finish!

Post-Race:
COVID prevented any sort of major festivities after the race, but the volunteers were there to play music and take pictures! The nearby parking made the post-race exit a breeze!

Tips:
- There is PLENTY of parking nearby, but both of the close lots are pay lots, so expect to spend money if you want to park near the start/finish.
- Don't forget your mask! Due to the cold, I recommend doubling it up with a warm buff to keep your neck warm too.
- Watch out for ice on the bridge! People are tempted to pass in this area since some runners slow up to go up the incline, but watch your step!

Final Thoughts:
RaceMaker Productions put on another safe and fun race! It felt so great to be out and run with others as a (socially distant) community! Highly recommend if you're looking for a safe in-person event!

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(2021)
"Casual Race, Nice Swag Bag, COVID Friendly! "
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This is a great race if you're a run/walker, new to running, easing back in, or running with someone who wants a more relaxing race experience. Beautiful day, friendly and encouraging course support, and a nice swag bag to top it off!

Pre-Run:
Registration was online and very straightforward. Because of work schedules, we weren't able to pick up our packets until race morning, and the organization was super accommodating to that! Parking was literally steps from the start, but the lot isn't super huge, so make sure you give yourself extra time! We lucked out and found one of the last spots left! We arrived about 30 minutes before the posted start time, but to our surprise, when we arrived, the race had already started! The race directors had decided to do a staggered start and allow runners to begin running as soon as they arrived. At first we were worried we had missed an email update, but once we learned what was up, we were glad they did! We went to the check-in booth and received our swag bags, which were surprisingly full of not just our race swag (more on that later) but also fun Valentine's Day candy treats!

The Race:
Instead of a classic chipped event, this low-key race opted for a manual approach. Runners would approach the start, a volunteer would call out our numbers, count us down, and launch us in the order we were ready. While this did mean that sometimes slower runners/walkers were ahead of faster runners based on their arrival to the starting point, the park was spacious and prevented any bunching up. The course itself featured 1 small loop around the start/finish, followed by 2 larger loops around the park. Conditions were VERY ICY and SNOWY. There were numerous patches completed covered in snow and ice that made running difficult. If you are out to blast through this course, I'd recommend spiked shoes! Due to it being a small, COVID-compliant race, there were no aid stations on the course, but they had plenty of water bottles at the finish! The mile signage was a bit confusing at first -- we passed Mile 2 before Mile 1 -- but when we passed a volunteer, he told us that accounted for the loop and we understood. Shoutout to the volunteers cheering us on, notifying us when to turn off the loop for the final stretch, and taking pictures!

Post-Race:
Due to the staggered start, we had a rolling finish as well. As we approached the finish line, volunteers would call our numbers and mark when we crossed the line so our times could be recorded. As for the swag -- this race featured a couple cool elements that I had not experienced at a race before! Instead of giving everyone the same swag, you had a choice between socks, a hoodie, a travel coffee cup, a beanie, or a blanket! I opted for the blanket and was surprised by how large it was! This was in ADDITION to the medal we all received! This race also allowed you to pick between 3 different medal designs -- how awesome! One featured the logo (my pick), another was a more simplistic silver heart, and the third was a photo frame medal!

Tips:
- Prepare for ice! The course has a few small hills, and with the ice on the pavement, it can be dangerous if you aren't prepared! If you're not planning to slow up on ice, wear proper shoes!
- This race is a staggered start due to COVID. If you want to start with the first wave, expect to get there well before the posted start time in case they plan an early release.
- This is a low-key race, so anticipate a good number of walkers and families with small kids out on the track. This race is dog-friendly, by the way!

Final Thoughts:
Loved the laid back atmosphere, COVID-friendly setting, beautiful park route and personalized swag bags! Overall, a wonderful time, despite the ice!

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