Latest reviews by Carolyn Gardner

(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)
"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)
"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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(2016)
"I got the trail racing bug at Whoos in El Moro"
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If you live in Southern California and you are looking for a trail race this must go to the top of your list!

Whoos in El Moro is a trail race with a 25K or 50k option that runs through the El Moro trails of Crystal Cove Park. The course has a ton of elevation, which means lots of climbing and tons of single track. The 25k takes a loop up mountains and down canyons throughout the Crystal Cove Park. The 50k, is the same loop, just out and back. An option of this race runs in spring (May) and fall (October) which are both perfect running seasons in SoCal. Anyone who has run this can tell you the course is challenging, but it is worth it to run right off the Pacific Ocean, with beautiful ridge views and ocean front breezes.

What makes this race so special is the race director, Molly Kassouf. She puts her heart and soul into these events and they are nothing short of wonderful. Molly gets to know all of the runners, either through weekly training runs, emails, and even social media posts. Then she delivers a race day like no other, with amazing aid stations, high level swag, post race party and AG prizes like I have never seen before. The best part though, she is there waiting at the finish line on race day to congratulate every single runner!

Pros:
**Race management that is personalized like nothing I have ever seen. The director takes so much pride in creating a community among the racers at her events, its no wonder people come back every year to run it. Molly seriously takes the time to get to know the runners, and makes sure each person has an amazing experience.
**The swag is killer. Samples from vendors, a beautiful t-shirt and a post race meal (think food truck burgers, yum). There was even a full taco dinner at packet pick up night.
**Aid stations stocked with everything. There was water, Carbpro, candy, food, nuts and first aid supplies at each aid station. Let alone the incredible volunteers that checked in with each runner. (when you reached the aid station you were checked via your bib number)
**The course is challenging, but the balance of high mountains to canyons make it worth it.
**There are weekly training runs, which allow you to get to know the terrain of the area trails pretty well. I went to one of these and wished I lived closer so I could go more often.
**The event is located across the street from the beach, which makes it perfect for a post race dip.

Cons:
**The race takes place at a national park, which means you have to pay for a daily parking pass, unless you have a national park yearly parking pass.
**This race brings out some pretty experienced fast trail runners (as well as runners of all abilities) which makes it tough to get an age group high placement.
**Like most trail races, the 25k didn't have a ton of runners, so there are periods of time you will run by yourself. Thank goodness the course was so well marked.

If you are looking for a spring or fall mid-distance race, I can't recommend this one enough. Overall this will go down as one of my all time favorite races. It was the perfect way to begin my trail racing journey and gave me the motivation to keep coming back for more.

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(2016)
"Pasadena Trail racing fun"
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If you are looking for a fun, local trail race in the Los Angeles area than you must add this one to the list!

This trail event offered 3 options, 5k, 10k & Half marathon, which meant there is a distance for everyone. The route takes you through a local park with varied trails and into the San Gabriel Mountains.

If you are new to trail running, this event to try. The 5K & 10K options didn't have too much of a degree of difficulty, yet offered the varied terrain trail runners love. The half marathon added a bit of technical trails and hills that lead to great mountain views.

The Pasadena Running Company offers this event in the spring and fall, and if you do both you get additional swag. Don't be fooled by the size of the race, there are some speedy runners who take advantage of this event to score a PR or AG placement.

Even though it was a smaller size race, the event was very well run. There was plenty of parking and space at the event location as well as great volunteers.

Pros: Race day pick up (as well as advance pick up options), amazing options of post-race food (although no beer), energetic start and finish line, pre and post race yoga, cool finishers medal and t-shirt, free parking.
Cons: No gear check, but since parking was abundant it wasn't a big deal to leave bags in the car. No crowd support (although quite typical for trail races).

Overall I really loved this event and plan on adding it to my yearly schedule.

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