Latest reviews by Carolyn Gardner

(2017)
"Running with a side of wine"
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Finish line wine and vineyard views..I didn't need my arm twisted to run this event.

Santa Barbara wine country half is a beautiful yet hilly course with a post race wine tasting party.
This running event takes place just north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez valley deep the heart of wine country. The first half of the race is definitely uphill with a peak at about 7 miles on "corkscrew hill". The reward for reaching that peak is a killer vineyard view and a mostly downhill course to the finish.
Once you reach the finish line, grab your wine glass and head for the post race party. There are wine tastings, beer tastings and a nice park area to lounge in. This is a perfect race to run with friends but keep in mind, the post race party can get a bit congested.

What did I like:
**Loved the views!!
**The hosting towns were quiet accommodating to the running tourists. Its a very quaint area of California and definitely one I'll head back to. (The local coffee shop opened early for runners and were so patient with everyone needing their morning fix)
**I really liked the post race party, even though it got crowed it was fun and loved tasting so many wines.
**Packet pick up was seamless, there was even a race day pick up option (for an additional fee).
**Since it was a point to point race, shuttles were available to the start line and seem to run very consistently.
**Aid stations were well stocked.
**Free race day photos.

What did I wish was different:
**Post race traffic was packed, wish there was an easier way to navigate out of the area in a car.
**Would have been better if they expanded the wine tasting area to a larger space to accommodate the amount of runners.
**Not really a complaint, but this is definitely a route with rolling hills so make sure you are well prepared.

Overall I loved this race and will definitely be back next year to run with friends....and drink more wine.

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(2017)
"Sweet ride through San Diego"
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Hot Chocolate San Diego has won me over!

This is the first time I have run a Ram Racing event outside of Chicago (where they are headquartered) so I wasn't sure how the event management would be. Result..I had a blast!

Let me start by saying this course is pretty hilly, so you should either to plan for that challenge or do what I did and run it as a fun run with friends, then you can walk the hills with no guilt :) The 15k route takes you through downtown San Diego and all around Balboa Park which is the perfect backdrop for a spring race. I ran this race with a group of friends and we had such a great time catching up while stopping at the sweet stations for all the treats.

What did I like about this event:
**Packet mailing. While I love a good expo, I couldn't get to the expo so I took advantage of the option to mail. I got my bib and goodie bag a week before, which was so much easier than driving two hours for an expo.
**Tons of volunteer support. They were so prepared for the crowds that I had no line at gear check, or post race goodies. The aid stations were very well stocked with so many volunteers who genuinely seemed like they were having a blast.
**Race swag. Very nice medal and a killer hoodie. I will wear this hoodie everywhere!
**Nuun hydration. Nuun was on the course which meant the world to me.
**Post race party. Plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the chocolate spread. There was music and each runner received a tub of goodies with chocolate to dip the goodies in. My group was able to hang out there for a while very comfortably.
**Free race photos. What was even better, we received those photos hours after the race!
**Sweet Stations. On the course there were about 3 places you could stop and get a sweet treat..either marshmallows or chocolate. Of course we stopped at all of them.

What could have been better:
**Start corrals. I was supposed to be in the first corral, but it was too packed so we had to move back. There didn't seem to be much coordination of the corrals at the start.
**Parking. There were parking lots in the area, but all were at a cost. Street parking was pretty tight so I had to park in paid lot.

Overall I had such a good time at this event. It definitely a fun race for friends or challenging enough to get a good workout. It will be on my yearly calendar for many years to come.

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(2017)
"Head to the desert for family fun"
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The Palm Desert Half Marathon is a smaller event, with a huge following. This event had such a diverse crowd from pro athletes (Summer Sanders was running this year), to high school cross country athlete as well as tons of masters runners. While the overall event was on the smaller size (probably less than 1,000 total participants) there seemed to be a lot of local runners who had ran this event multiple times.
This very family friendly event has 3 distance options, 5K, Half marathon, a relay and a kid-dash. The event starts and finishes at the Civic Center Park with tons of free parking (with a beautiful view of the mountains and palm trees) and plenty of space to hang out after. I definitely see why local runners come back year after year to run the race.

Here is what I liked about the race:
*Free race day parking, easy in and easy out.
*Super easy race day packet pick up
*Great Family party atmosphere post race with a beer garden benefiting Martha's Village
*Tons of aid stations with ample volunteers
*Easy to navigate course, not to many twists and turns
*Nice swag, cotton t-shirt and very cool medal
*If you are properly trained, this course could easily give you a PR.

What could have been better:
*Really boring course, most of which was on the highway
*No crowd support, thankfully I came prepared with the Bib Rave Podcast to listen to
*Post race food, was fruit and cookies..but then again there was beer

Overall, even with a very boring course, I really liked this race. It's a well run event with a fairly moderate course. If you are local to the Palm Desert area, then definitely add this one to your list.

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(2017)
"Surf, Sand and the PCH. "
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This Surf themed race is one all SoCal runners should add to their race list. While being a pretty large event, it is run seamlessly and tons of fun.

The weekend kicks off with a beach front expo, which was very fun. There were tons of exhibitors, easy packet pick up and even a classic VW van auto show. While this was a pretty large event, they offered free parking for the expo which was huge benefit. Huntington Beach is a cool surfer town with lots to do, perfect for exploring after the expo.

The weather Gods were smiling down on runners with cloudy and cool conditions on race day, which was perfect considering the course doesn't offer much for shade. With both half and full marathon options, I thought the event was very well run. There were mile markers, alot of water stations and of course the beach front views. There was very little crowd support, but since it is such a big out and back event, runners were constantly keeping others motivated.

What did I like?
**Awesome expo and amazing swag. (tons of giveaways and free post race beer)Did I mention a medal as big as my head?
**Large corral areas which prevented clogging at the start line
**Free race day parking, with very efficient shuttles
**Relatively flat course, good for conquering a PR goal
**Cliff provided protein bars and gels on course
**Post race party was great, with both indoor and outdoor options

What did I wish was different?
**Limited hydration at water stops. Plenty of water, but some aid stations only had water
**Really boring course, I'm glad I brought music
**Large crowds made it challenging to meet up with friends before the race.

Overall I loved this race, and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun weekend.

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(2017)
"Grab your girl squad and head to the desert. "
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Simple, yet very well run race.

I heard about this race from Oiselle as a planned meet up opportunity for the Volée team and I am so glad I attended. This event is geared toward women with bright swag, a beautiful medal and tons of pre & post race photo ops.
With 5k, 10k and half marathon options, the race runs along the Arizona Canal Trail in Phoenix desert. The course itself it a bit uneventful but fairly flat (there were a couple underpasses that you went down and back up). Could be a good course to PR on, and if you are in the Phoenix area you should add it to your list.

Pros:
*Tons of race day parking
*Huge staging area for event, lots of room to meet up with friends before and after race
*Gorgeous medal and awesome jacket/pullover
*Post race food of bagels, fruit and drinks
*Easy to navigate course
*Race day packet pick up
*Nicely spread aid stations
*Post race raffle

Cons:
*No packet pick up the day before
*Boring course, no crowd support
*No shade on course (luckily it began before it got too warm)

Overall this is a great event for a big group meet up and to try and snag a PR.

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