Latest reviews by Ciara Doll

(2021)
"Casual Race, Nice Swag Bag, COVID Friendly! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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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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(2021)
"RaceMaker Productions is Back with Another Great Race! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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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)
"Freezing Fun at White River State Park! "
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My first in-person race since Feb 2020!!! RaceMaker Productions put on a safe, fun, and friendly event in one of my favorite places to run in Indy -- White River State Park! They did such a great job with this COVID-friendly event that I ran with them again for the LoveStruck run! This race has an interesting approach -- you could sign up to run the 5k, or you could sign up to run the 50k with the idea that you could run either the 50k, or however many miles you can/want to in 4 hours.

Pre-Run:
I registered for this race a couple days before, and because of this, they had run out of sweatshirts/medals. The organizers were super nice and notified me that they had ordered more and would be mailing them out to those who registered later when they arrived. 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 (for those who registered far enough in advance) were given out before the race.

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. From there, the course completed a short out and back down along the river before coming back up to the finish line. The out and back was a bit narrow and since it doubled back on itself, there was some slight bottlenecking happening. I ran with this organization for the LoveStuck run after this race, and they did make adjustments to the course to eliminate the out and back and give more room for runners -- much appreciated! 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:
Loved the enthusiasm, COVID-friendly setting, and small, staggered starts! Overall, a wonderful time!

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(2020)
"Challenge Run (5k & 10k) - A 10k Not for the Faint of Heart! "
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This fun race celebrating Chinese New Year features multiple events, including a 5k/10k challenge run, a bike race, and dragon dancers! LA natives are no stranger to hills, but this 10k course was TOUGH! Wonderful pre-race atmosphere with dancers, music, and celebrating all around! Slight communication issues could have made this a 5-star race, but with that being said, I still highly recommend it!

Pre-Run:
I signed up online and opted for race day packet pickup. I had originally signed up for the 5k, but I couldn't resist myself and I signed up for the Challenge that included the 10k too. I was easily able to upgrade my registration upon arrival. If you're from LA, this isn't surprising -- parking is tough. Numerous cars were circling nearby like hawks trying to find open spots, and many ultimately settled on pay lots. While LA isn't known for a robust public transit system like NYC, there IS a station really close to the start/finish, so if that is an option for you based on where you're coming from, I'd recommend using it!

The Race:
This was a pretty popular race, but that being said, there weren't massive waves of runners at the start. We were all released at once, with faster runners toward the front and slower runners/walkers in the back. The course ran through Chinatown and around Dodger Stadium. There were plenty of aid stations and the temps picked up quickly making for a HOT 10k. Upon finishing the 5k, most runners had about 30 minutes to hydrate and stretch before turning right back around for the 10k -- and this is where the challenge really kicked in. This 6.2-mile course had about 4 miles of non-stop, unrelenting, STEEP HILLS zig-zagging up above Dodger Stadium to deliver some beautiful views of DTLA stretching all the way out toward Santa Monica. There were points where runners were collectively sharing in the groans of this course (which was oddly comforting and encouraging)! But what goes up must come down, and the back half of the course is a FAST DOWNHILL. If you're not used to running downhill, be careful here because it's easy to lose control and mess up your knees on those back miles! After circling down around the back of the stadium, the course picked up with the end of the 5k course and came back through to the finish line.

Post-Race:
My favorite thing about this race is how the shirts and medal(s) are themed to the zodiac animal of the year. This year was the year of the rat, and honestly, this tech shirt is one of my faves! My only complaint here was a bit of miscommunication for the Challenge runners. When we crossed the finish line to collect the second medal, we were first told that there weren't any second medals -- it was one medal regardless of the races you run. Another volunteer told us that wasn't true and directed us to a Guest Relations tent to pick up our second medal. A number of runners believed there were actually 3 medals -- 5k, 10k, and a challenge one. We got lost and had to ask 2 other volunteers before we were finally directed to the right tent. There, we were told there were, in fact, more medals for challenge runners, but it was just a copy of the first medal -- no challenge one at all. It was a bit disappointing that the medals were identical, but I went home and took a Sharpie to mine to distinguish the 5k from the 10k. Not a big deal, but some clarification on both the website as well as from the volunteers giving directions would have been helpful!

Tips:
- This is a course of HILLS. If these aren't your cup of tea, this race isn't for you! If you're planning to take on the Challenge and you're not trying to go for a PR, I recommend taking the 5k easy and saving the bulk of your energy for the 10k.
- It may seem chilly in the morning, but the heat picks up quickly, and you're gonna be sweating out everything you have on that climb!
- If you have the ability to take the train, DO IT. Parking is not easy around the start/finish!

Final Thoughts:
Chinese New Year is such a fun time in Los Angeles, and this race is the perfect way to celebrate it with live music and dancers! If you're looking for a challenging and rewarding run near DTLA, this is a great race to check out!

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(2020)
"Beach Run Beauty with No Sand in Your Shoes! "
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Love running at the beach? This race has about 10 miles of uninterrupted shoreline views! Awesome race atmosphere and support you'd expect from a RunDisney-level of racing for SoCal to enjoy!

Pre-Run:
Registration was online and very simple. I decided to come down the day before for packet pickup and to check out the expo and I'm SO glad I did! I ended up learning back so many new races and picked up some awesome swag there -- anything you can think of, they've got it! Honestly, it was one of the best expos I've been to up there with the RunDisney events. On the race morning itself, I got up early and made sure to give myself time for parking. Assume a few things when you arrive: your parking will not be close, easy to find, and free. You will get about two of those if you're lucky!

The Race:
Classic, big corrals. The race hosts spent the morning hyping up the crowd and getting us all excited! (It's that kind of optimistic attitude that makes for a fantastic race start!) We were lucky in that we had a foggy start -- it brought the SoCal temps down a lot and made for a refreshing starting line! The first part of the course started through town and straight along the beach. From there, we had about 3 miles winding through some local neighborhoods before winding back up on the main road. From there, it was an out and back along the beach, heading back over our starting path to finish back at by the pier.

Post-Race:
A HYPED team of volunteers cheering as we crossed the finish line, followed by an awesome surfboard-style medal, photo opps galore, and a BEER GARDEN. Amazing all around! My only recommendation would be to increase the size of space roped off for the garden -- it got a bit tight in there at times.

Tips:
- Give yourself PLENTY of time for parking. Many lots are underground, tucked behind buildings or off the main road. It was a bit of a challenge to find, and don't expect to find any for free! ARRIVE EARLY. Worst case, you have too much time on your hands and you can explore the expo area, stretch, or fuel up!
- The race morning may start cooler, but expect the temps to rise quickly, and wear your sunscreen!

Final Thoughts:
I live in Los Angeles now, and I never get tired of celebrating the SoCal surf cuture. If you're looking to get out of the LA area for a race, or if you're traveling in from out of state, this is a great race to choose if you're looking for beautiful beachfront views, a pretty flat course, and great race support!

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