Latest reviews by Beth Nixon

(2021)
"Fly through the Vineyards"
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The Santa Rosa Half Marathon takes place in late August in the heart of California’s Wine Country. It’s a beautiful out and back course that starts at 7:30am (an hour after the full marathon start on relatively the same course) It’s location near the coast keeps temperatures cool (60 degrees at the start) despite taking place in summer. Race management is top notch with communication, registration, and overall organization of race details. I chose the bib mailing option for $15 dollars and my amazing swag was perfect when it arrived a few days before race day. And this race can brag about their swag… A finisher’s jacket, medal, wine tumbler, personalized bibs, and a bottle of wine! There were 978 finishers in the half marathon in 2021. Your finishing time could be found by scanning a code of the front of your bib! Pretty cool! Aid stations with water or Gatorade were plentiful as were spectators. The course starts on city streets then pops onto a bike path for 11 miles or so. Although there were thousands of runners in total, there was plenty of room to spread out on the bike path. I crossed the finish line with a new PR, 1:49:17 and immediately grabbed a soy protein drink box, granola bar, and water which were offered at the finish. The finisher’s medals are heavy, solid and beautiful! Drop bag location was centered in a convenient location and was well organized. Porta potties were plentiful with no waiting. After the race, beer tents host a festival with drink tickets for purchase, however each runner does receive one free beer. Most runners congregate in Old Courthouse Square for these post race activities. There was also a tent selling merchandise. I parked just a block away from the start in a free parking lot without much searching around.
I highly recommend this race if your looking for a fun, fast, well organized event!!

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(2021)
"Gorgeous downhill Race!"
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I've had my eye on this race for a few years! The draw of a gradual downhill race located in the beautiful PNW is hard to resist especially when it falls near my birthday! We flew into Seattle and stayed in Bellevue at one of the host hotels, Hilton Garden Inn. This proved to be a great location since it was less than an hour to the start line but still close to sightseeing in downtown Seattle. Bib pickup was in North Bend and was set to begin at 12 noon. Race management had a few hiccups which delayed this until 12:30 causing a line to wrap around the building. However, this was only a minor issue and management was otherwise top notch!! They were quite informative prior to the race, the swag was awesome, the food spread at the finish was over the top, and the free photography was some of the best I've seen! No masks were required at the start since vaccination proof was needed to register so it felt so good to be "back to normal" at the start line! The course is located at 2,500 ft in Snoqualmie Pass and is a gradual downhill losing 2,100 ft in total. It is a crushed, packed gravel, dirt trail which was muddy this year because of the light rain but easily run even by a road runner like me. It was a perfect 55 degrees and misty running through some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. The course, which was once a railroad route, features a pitch black tunnel at mile .6 which is 2.3 miles long!! I brought a flashlight that looks like a pen and fit easily into my pocket, but since I was in a pacing group didn't use it. The headlamps from other runners lit up the tunnel. Be careful upon entering the tunnel as it's quite uneven to start. It flattens out quickly and is a lot of fun especially with everyone hooting in excitement! It was a little cooler inside the tunnel with water dripping down and muddy puddles but what an experience!! Be ready for a photo when exiting! Then you will be impressed by waterfalls, trestle bridges, and deep forest views for the next 23 miles! Aid stations were every few miles and were well stocked with water and electrolytes. A few offered Honey Stinger gels. My Garmin was about a quarter mile off the mile markers, most likely due to the tunnel and gps signal in the mountains. I ended up with a PR and was so happy to add another state to my portfolio! I would definitely recommend this race to anyone looking for a PR or a BQ! And I'd love to run it again someday!

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(2021)
"Perfect for a PR!!"
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Coming for CA to race the April Fool's Half Marathon was not my original plan. This was a backup race when the Delaware Marathon was postponed. It turned out to be an amazing experience! Born and raised in NJ, I was excited to finally venture back to the Garden State for a real, live race! There were multiple times for packet pickup the week of the race, however traveling 3,000 the day before, I couldn't make it until the final hour. Knowing I was cutting it super close, I had contacted race management and they were happy to help me by making an exception and holding my bib until race morning if need be. We ended up arriving in time and were greeted by friendly race volunteers who gave us our swag bag. When race week came the weather was the only thing not falling into place. The forecast was light rain, wind gusts up to 30mph, and temps around 45 degrees. This was exactly what we woke up to on race morning. We stayed at one of the host hotels, The Atlantic City Marriott which was about a block from the start/finish line. I'd recommend doing the same. Another option is the Resorts Hotel and Casino which was where the runners congregated in the morning to stay dry and use the restrooms. The race was staggered with starting times due to Covid and I started in the first corral. We started on time at 7:40am and we headed down the Atlantic City boardwalk. I had concerns about running on the boardwalk especially in the rain, but it was a non issue. The wind however was whipping us all over, but mainly from the back for the first 6.5 miles. It was quite a scenic course with the ocean on one side and the hotels, mansions, and shops on the other. Lots to keep your mind off your pace or the wind. There were about 6 aid stations with your choice of water or Gatorade and lots of cheers from the volunteers. Free photos were taken at mile 3, 10, and the finish. Runners leave the boardwalk at mile 4 to run on pavement, straight and fast. At mile 6 was Lucy the Elephant, a small tourist spot in the town of Margate, which also signified that we were just about at the halfway point!! Wind, WIND, wind as we hit mile 6.55 and turned north. I told myself to keep going until you reach the boardwalk again on the out and back course, then until you reach the hotels again... The hotels seemed to block the wind a bit. Then easy running to the finish line! I ran my fastest ever half marathon coming in 14th (out of 134) (F 40-49) and 139 overall (out of 698) I believe the straight, flat, course contributed to my success as well as the cool weather and wind at our backs for the first half of the race. Many runners got PRs!! The medal was super cute and heavy! What a fabulous, memorable race!!! I would definitely sign up for this one again!!

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(2021)
"Sweet Race!"
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What a way to start off the new year! I ran the Allstate Hot Chocolate San Francisco 5k virtually in the beginning of January. I've always admired the swag from others who have run it so I decided this was my year to join in on the fun. Race management was extremely professional which made for an easy registration process. My race packet including bib, running jacket, medal, 2 packets of hot chocolate, a few chocolate pieces, a waffle, some nuun, and a packet of pain relief ointment arrived well before race day. To make the virtual experience exciting, my husband and I drove to the Golden Gate bridge so that I could do my "race" there. The bridge spans 1.6 miles so I did an out and back with views of the sunrise over San Francisco. It was gorgeous! I celebrated with the hot chocolate from my registration packet and took pictures of the finisher's medal on the bridge. Later, I uploaded my results to the live leaderboard with no issues and downloaded a few of my pictures to the live results page. Their web page was so cute offering "stickers" and overlays for photos! It was a memorable way to jazz up the virtual finish line. Since this was a virtual race there was no expo, parking, or course descriptions to address. The race, however, is all about the swag! The jacket is warm and comfortable and the medal actually contains real chocolate inside! I'd definitely recommend the HC series and I look forward to running in person next year!

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(2020)
"Beautiful, fast course!"
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Race this course if you want a PR! I arrived in Rapid City, SD a few days before the race and ventured to the bib pickup the day before the marathon. Since this was a COVID approved event, there was no expo the year I attended. However, Elaine, the race director was at packet pickup and was genuinely thankful for each runner that traveled from far and wide to run. She did an absolutely fabulous job of managing the event under the restrictive circumstances. We received a cute shirt, lip gloss, a few pins, and a runner's gel pack in our pickup bag, along with our bibs. I believe most years this race is a women's only event, however, this year exceptions were made to allow men the opportunity to run. We stayed at the Marriott in Deadwood the night before and had zero issues making the drive to the start line. There was plenty of parking for my husband so he didn't need to just drop me off, he stayed for the start. Leave it to 2020, there was a hiccup with the timing mat company and they actually didn't start setting up the start line until the time we were due to race. Usually, I wouldn't care but this year they were calling for record high heat, so I wanted to start as soon as possible in an attempt to beat the heat. The course starts on a packed gravel road on an incline for the first mile and then drops about 300 feet for miles 2-3. After that, it's easy running on a slight downhill, turning to black top around mile 5. The scenery is GORGEOUS-babbling brooks, wildflowers, deer, waterfalls! To my surprise the temps were quite cool too, but I knew as I dropped from 6,000 ft elevation into the canyon, the heat would be an issue. There were plenty of aid stations however, again because of COVID, they were not stocked. They offered only water and gatorade which was fine by me. There was one more hill at mile 12, but it didn't seem too bad. Around mile 17, I could feel the affects of the downhill on my quads but my main concern was that it was starting to warm up. Still, the views of rock formations in the Black Hills and the occasional cheers from the bikers (possibly stragglers from Sturgis the week before) kept me distracted. By mile 20, the heat was a definite factor. The forcasted high was 99 degrees which was totally usual and it reached into the eighties when we were running. The race management and volunteers offered to mist us frequently on course which helped slightly. Another point to mention was that they did not allow headphones this year. My legs were completely depleted by the finish line but I was just so happy to have run this marathon when so many had been canceled in 2020. I PR'd by 3 minutes even with the heat challenges. The medal was super cute and there were plenty of snacks provided in the brown bag lunch you received at the end. I loved the beauty of this course! I'd definitely run it again if I lived closer!

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