Latest reviews by Ciara Doll

(2021)
"A Finish To Make the Sports Fans Jealous! "
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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!

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(2021)
"Loving the Long Beach Luau! "
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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!

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(2021)
"You Like Hills? Here's a BIG one!"
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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!

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(2021)
"No Joke -- The Hardest 5k in LA!"
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Holy cow -- what a course! This hilly evening run takes you up, and down, and up, and down, and up again until your knees are begging for mercy. This is a challenging run for those looking to push themselves, and for those who love taking in the views of urban LA!

Pre-Run:
I found out about this race through a recommendation from a friend of mine. I signed up, and perhaps rather foolishly, I was under the impression that this run offered two events: a hilly 5k, or a 282-step stair climb. In actuality, this 5k course culminates with a stair climb! I still would have signed up regardless of the events, but for those who have bad knees or are looking to return to running after an injury, this race is NOT for you! That being said, I arrived on race day to find that all the roads leading to the top of Baldwin Hill were closed off for the race, which meant parking was a bit of a nightmare. I had arrived early to anticipate this, but even so, I found myself rushing a bit toward the end for fear that I'd miss the start. The closest parking is in a TINY paid lot at the bottom of the hill. I was fortunate enough to snag a spot, but the unlucky ones ended up circling around for a while scoping out possible streets parking spots. The race started at the top of the hill, which meant we were all in for a hike to the top before the event even began. At the top at the Nature Center, there were volunteers and tables set up for check-in, late registration, and bag drop-off. Once checked in, the starting line was a few yards over in the parking lot.

The Race:
Oh man, how do I describe this course? Runners start from the top of the hill and run around the winding, zig-zag dirt pathway all the way to the bottom of the hill. This part of the course is practically a trail run -- so watch out for uneven surfaces and tight pathways! The course even crosses over on itself at one point (not an issue at the start, but you'll understand why this was a bit tricky later on). Once runners reach the bottom, the course switched from dirt to road, and runners ran up the main road from the bottom to about 60% up the hill. The course then turned right and became even NARROWER as runners ran along the outer field of the baseball diamond before returning to main road. From there, runners finished the hill, and then looped back onto the dirt pathway from the beginning, zig-zagging down (almost) to the bottom before turning left and taking the 282 STEEP stair climb alllllll the way back up to the top for the finish. WHEW! As runners completed the dirt pathway for the second time, they had to dodge runners who were climbing the stairs, as the stairway cuts right through the dirt trail, which led to some near-collisions as runners were spread out along the route and having to cross numerous times at these intersections of trail and stairway.

The course was lined with multiple volunteers helping direct runners, as well as water stations. As runners climbed the final stretch, volunteers were cheering runners on, and the MC at the finish line was on the mic hyping the crowd up as well!

Post-Race:
All finishers received a shirt and medal, as well as having the option at registration (for an added cost) to sign up for the post-race taco and beer party. The finish line had plenty of water as well as sponsors offering post-run flavored sports drinks, and nutritional juice shots. I opted out of the taco party, but runners who chose to participate were directed to the outdoor picnic area set up just beyond the starting line area. It was really cool to finish at the top of the hill and take in the sights overlooking Culver City and greater LA!

Tips: (there's a bunch for this one!)
- This is a HARD course. Use your best judgement when signing up and remember to take it easy if the hills and stairs start to cause you any (bad) pain!
- This is a trail/road hybrid course. Watch out for uneven surfaces, rocks/roots, and narrow pathways. (And wear a pair of shoes that you don't mind getting dusty!)
- If you're not used to running downhill (especially on a steep course such as this), 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!
-This is an evening run, so take that into consideration when planning your hydration (as well as your parking!)
- Make you to add EVEN MORE additional time than normal to walk up to the top of the hill to check-in.
- Pace yourself! This race will test you! Don't get carried away on the downhill, and remember, you've got 282 steps to factor in between you and the finish!

Final Thoughts:
With a course this difficult, this 5k truly earned it's daunting nickname. If you like a good challenge, this is definitely the race for you! You'll be rewarded with beautiful views, swag, and maybe a taco or two!

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(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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