Latest reviews by Ciara Doll

(2021)
"Freezing Fun at White River State Park! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2020)
"Challenge Run (5k & 10k) - A 10k Not for the Faint of Heart! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2020)
"Beach Run Beauty with No Sand in Your Shoes! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2020)
"A Great Day Despite the Perfect Storm"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my second year running the Dopey Challenge (all 4 races for 48.6 mile total). I'm reviewing this year to discuss JUST the marathon day rather than the entire weekend. All the weekend races started at 5:30am with the exception of the marathon, which was shifted up 30 minutes to 5:00am. For those staying on property, especially those staying at hotels with monorail access, the morning was relatively uneventful, however for many locals and runners staying off-site, an obscene traffic backlog occurred that delayed so many runners that the race was delayed an extra 15 minutes to allow more time for runners to make it to the corrals in time for the start. While a majority of runners, including myself, were at the start on time, a very large portion of attendees were forced to sprint to the start and jump in the last corral, starting their race off on a sour note. Overall, the first half of the race ran smoothly while the sun was down. We had received NUMEROUS warnings about heat advisories from the official social media posts as well as the race hosts and officials. That being said, when the sun rose, the game changed. I was in corral D and by the time I hit the half way mark, people were already passing out due to heat exhaustion. This year, the course was set to run through all 4 theme parks as well as Blizzard Beach, however due to the heat, the course was shorted and Blizzard Beach was cut out in order to bring the runners out of the heat sooner. These climate circumstances were totally out of Disney's control, but the volunteers and medial teams were OUTSTANDING. I've never run a race with so much support, both physically and emotionally. Not a single volunteer was negative about the weather and they stayed out until the sweepers crossed -- never losing their energy or spirit! Medical teams were prompt and caring to all athletes from mile 1 to 26! Despite the slightly shortened course (Blizzard Beach was about 2 miles) the race (and the weekend as a whole) had all the magic and excitement one can expect from Disney! Thank you volunteers and hosts for keeping our safety in mind -- it is for this reason and many others that I will continue to run races with RunDisney!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2019)
"Challenge Runner (5K & 10K) -- An Uphill Climb"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is my second time running at Universal Studios Hollywood. This race was the park's first time adding a 10k as well as a challenge run for completing both races. For those who have not been to the theme park, the park is situated among mountains, so these aren't small hills we're talking about here. This is a challenging course if you're running for time or if this is your first ever 5k/10k. Portions of the 5k, and a majority of the 10k were set on steep hills climbing back up to return to the starting line. At the start of both races, they had rangers walking around with baby dinosaurs for photo ops and along the course they had Dr. Hammond and Dr. Malcom as well as a dinosaur to meet around the half way point (the dinosaurs were different each day) but compared to the Minions run last spring, this race had considerably less photo ops. Despite the characters, there is always plenty to see around the park, including Hogwarts, the Jaws lagoon and the Bates Motel, so look around! Race registration includes a draw string bag, shirt for each race, pin, and medal -- as well as parking (making it a breeze to park in the adjacent lot and walk over!). If you sign up for higher (more expensive) race tiers, you can get additional swag, park tickets, and/or a VIP post-race breakfast. If you are a RunDisney Disneyland veteran, this race might help fill the Mickey shaped void in your heart, or if you're simply a runner who loves themed races, I highly recommending checking out a race at Universal Studios Hollywood!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.