Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15K San Francisco

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This weekend, I found myself in San Francisco for the Hot Chocolate 15K. Last year, I was in SF for the race and weather made it interesting. Interesting enough to where it was only a 5.9 mile race, instead of 15K.

I flew into SF Friday afternoon after adulting Friday morning. I got in around 530 PM and took a Lyft to the South San Francisco Conference Center, the same place where the expo was held last year. It was easy enough to get in, get my bib assigned, pick up my pull over and to search the expo. It was on the smaller side, same as last year. Plenty of local Bay Area races were there, as were supplements, etc. RxBars were there with free (full sized) samples and discount codes (score!). There was an area to try on spare HC15K pull overs and if you wanted to exchange sizes. I ended up going from a medium to a small. I spent 30 min total in the expo before heading off to the hotel.

I spent time at the hotel, got dinner and caught an early night. Saturday morning, I was up bright and early at 630 with no alarm and ended up going for a quick breakfast a small (think 5-10 table) restaurant across from the hotel I had found last year in SF. I ended up going to an Orangetheory Fitness class, coming back to shower and then going down to the Piers. I went around Fisherman’s Warf, The Ferry Building, Ghirardelli Square and watching some street shows while I was at it. After going to church and having dinner, I went and watched some good basketball. I also checked out Athlinks to see who else was running the race and what their goal times were to see if I’d be able to beat them (not competitive at all!).

Sunday morning, I woke up and got ready fairly quickly. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to wear since it was suppose to be 40s-50s, but I opted for long tights and a long sleeved base shirt underneath my Bibrave Tech shirt. I walked over to Union Square and the Westin, where there was a line at 620 for shuttles to Golden Gate Park. I probably waited 20 minutes total to board the bus. At one point, they were calling any 5k runners to get on (since their race started at 720 AM) so they could get to the start in time. My thoughts are it’s not my fault if you can’t time manage. It took 15-20 min to get to the start. After unloading I walked over to gear check and ended up meeting fellow Bibrave Pros Barb and Steph. Steph happened to be pacing the 15 min mile runners

I ended up adding some arm warmers, stopping for a bathroom pitstop and checking my gear before heading to the start. I was in the first corral so it wasn’t that bad of a wait. The 15K had corrals H-N (A-G was the 5K) and were let out ever 30-60 seconds to space things out. Pacers were in each corral, though got confusing because you could get pacers of the same time in different corrals (9 min/miles in H and I corrals for example). Race got started on time and off we went. The first 5K or so was in Golden Gate Park and on paved trails. A little bit of hill, but not anything terrible. after 5K, we headed out along some of the neighborhood roads with the outer portion being the ocean. Only in a coastal city can you say you have to watch for surfers crossing. It was a straight shot out before we U Turned and came back towards the park. After the 10K mark, we had a little bit more along the ocean before cutting back into Golden Gate Park for the last 2 miles and change. I can see why the course got shorten last year, because the winds at minimum would have been rough. The last 5K, my legs were tired and done. Not enough pasta the night before is what I’ll blame it on. Regardless, I ended up finishing in 1:25:51, which was a 4.5 minute PR for me. Too bad my trainer didn’t bet burpees with me.

On course, aid stations were every 1.5-2 miles. Water and Nuun were at every station. Not going to lie, not a nuun fan and wish it were a gatorade or Powerade. Also some sort of chocolate (chips, M&Ms, Marshmallows). Downside to aid station set up was they were only offered on one side of the road. I missed the first two chocolate stations because I couldn’t get over to get them.

IMG_6803

Post race, you were directed from the chutes back to the initial gathering area. Some vendors like Rx Bars, Make A Wish and some other tents. The only down side of the expo was the Gear Check and the Finisher Mugs were completely opposite ends of each other. I feel like I should have done the finisher mug first and then gear check, since gear check was closer to the exits toward the shuttles. Lines were quick for the finisher mugs. Be prepared for bananas, Rice Krispies, pretzels, hot chocolate and chocolate sauce.

Swag: Everyone got a pull over from the expo and then a HC medal post race. Not a fan of the medal this year. Last year, the city was incorporated more on the medal. This year, it was a generic HC medal with a key chain attached. Almost felt like a way to ‘save money’ without personalizing the medals. I’ve done HC races in Minneapolis, Columbus, Seattle and San Francisco and medals were more city specific in years past comparatively speaking

Overall, glad the weather behaved this year.  Had a good time getting a new PR and meeting up with some Bibrave Pros. I was able to compare my time from prior 15ks (whether it be Hot Chocolate Series or other 15Ks) on Athlinks based off what I knew my time from this year to be. I could add my own time, but I’m still waiting for my results from this year to post (hang tight, sometimes it takes a bit for results to show up!). I really wish you’d get a good tour of San Francisco with this race. All I feel like we got was Golden Gate Park and the Ocean. There’s a lot to see in SF that you don’t get to see on this race if you’re coming from out of town. Also wish they’d have Powerade on course and go back to fun medals for each city like they have in the past.

 

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Race Review Dallas Marathon- The Monkey Off My Back

Marathon #9 is finally in the books. This past weekend, I was in Dallas for the Dallas Marathon (and 10K, more on that later). How I ended up on Dallas, I have no idea, other than I figured it would be warmer than the Inland Northwest. I spent most of the first part of the year doing races every other weekend and then took most of July and all of August off of racing for a mental break and focused mainly on cross training and weight training. I started picking up the training trail again Labor Day weekend, while still cross training and weight training.

With working every other week, training got a bit tricky. I ended up contacting a former trainer of mine, who came up with a training schedule working around my work schedule and with the races I was already signed up for and keeping in mind I was doing the Dallas 10K the day before the Marathon as part of the BMW Dallas Marathon Series (more bling and free stuff, what can I say). Speed work, spinning, weight training and trying to gain muscle while marathon training (because it makes perfect sense to do endurance training at the same time as attempting to gain muscle) took up most of the last 3-4 months.

Friday, I headed out to Dallas and arrived mid afternoon. I took an Uber to my hotel downtown and checked into my hotel. I walked over to the convention center afterwards (about 1/2 mile away) and picked up my bibs and shirts for the weekend. As I was finishing up with shirt pick up, the fire alarm went off and the entire building was evacuated. Initially, I think everyone thought it was a false alarm, but things kept getting drawn out. I went across the street to a sports bar and got some food, and could still see people waiting outside to get back into the convention center (there was a video game convention going on at the same time). I eventually walked back over because I wanted to check out the rest of the expo, but found out that there was a bomb threat that essentially had the entire building shut down. Ultimately, the rest of the expo was shut down on Friday because the building was still being cleared by Dallas PD and it was a long process. People were less than thrilled, but what can you do.

After the 10K on Saturday, I was able to go back over and explore the expo. I got some gear and wandered around for a little bit before heading back to the hotel. I went for some lunch, stayed off my feet for a bit and headed to 4 pm mass at a chapel 1 mile from the hotel before finding dinner and calling it a night.

Bright and early (around 630 AM) Sunday morning I woke up and changed, had some breakfast and headed to City Hall, where the start of the race was. I had a bag I ended up checking with some extra food and post race change of clothes, just in case. I initially tried to use to the porta potties, but the lines were long and the B corral was set to close at 8 AM so ended up running to try and get into them. The routes in weren’t that great, you had to cross a street that was limited flow due to gates and then security was checking bibs to make sure you were entering the proper corrals. Announcements were done and we got words of encouragement from Shalane Flanagan and Meb. At 8:10, corral A was sent off and 7 minutes, corral B was let loose.

The course itself had some hills, but we didn’t see them until after the first 10K or so. It didn’t seem too horrible, but I also had some pretty decent hills in the PNW that serve as a reality check. The first 8.5-9 miles, the half and full marathon were side by side in downtown Dallas, Uptown, Oaklawn, Highland Park, etc. Around mile 9, we split and things definitely thinned out. We got a bit of a downhill and headed towards White Rock Lake. As I was passing miles 10-11, the leaders were already on their way back towards the finish. I hit mile 11 and realized that we’d be hitting an uphill on our way back when we hit mile 20. I wasn’t looking forward to that. I was hitting good paces and crossed the half marathon point at 2:03. At that point, I was thinking I’d likely PR, but I still felt like I had another race in itself to finish. We looped around the White Rock Lake and I was keeping a pretty steady pace. By the time mile 20 rolled around, my legs were starting to stiffen up some, but I also didn’t want to stop moving and make things worse. Whomever thought hills between miles 20-21 of a marathon was a good idea, is insane. I slowed down a little bit in order to get through it and by the time I got through Mile 22, I knew I had a PR in the bag (I was still sub 4 hrs at that point). I crossed the 24.7 mile time sheet at 4:02 and at that point, was in the home stretch. The last mile and a half, I kept the 4:15 pacer in sight and passed her at the finish. Ultimately, I finished in 4:16:28, 16:30 better than my 2012 Chicago Marathon time and a PR that I’ve been trying to break for 5 years. Better yet, I get Burpees out of my trainer (5 for every minute I PR’ed by….I should have asked for more!).

Water stops: every 1-2 miles, really kind of depended. Had water and gatorade for the most part

Post Race: the finisher chute had you get medals first, then water. If you completed the Marathon Series (either the 5K/10K on Saturday and the Half/Full on Sunday), there was a tent where you checked in, showed the black wrist band you received after finishing your Saturday race and your finisher medal from Sunday and you picked up your series medal and Jacket. Afterwards, you picked up food (in a box) and a finisher shirt if you did the marathon. I wasn’t a fan of the boxed food. It had Edamame trail mix, oreos and tortilla chips. I really wanted a banana or an orange and some Chocolate milk, but the only carbs I saw was iHop Pancakes. There was beer at the finish, which doesn’t work for me and I’ve never been a fan of. A bunch of people were asking for chocolate milk and bananas at the finish, so it’s something I would look at for next year.

Overall, a decent race and a good course. I think the expo needs to look at letting people pick up for other people, especially if people are coming a distance to pick up bibs or if people are working and can’t get to the expo. There also needs to be more than one corral entrance. Having to go around fences and then through gates on one side really made no sense to me and there was a bottleneck of people trying to get in. Having food on course would have been helpful….something with salt or carbs, especially for the marathoners. And can we look at some bananas and chocolate milk for the finish???? A fun time, though, and I finally got the monkey off my back and my trainer doing Burpees!

Rock n Roll Vegas 5K

Race weekend started out with a bang last night with the RnR Vegas 5K. I’m running the Half Marathon for Bibrave later today, however, I paid to run the 5K since I was in town anyways.

I got into town from Tucson (conference and CME type things for the job) Friday night and took an Uber from the airport to my hotel. I got to share it with a military vet who was coming off a near 2 week work trip and got to enjoying some conversation for 15-20 minutes. After checking in and walking around a bit, I settled on the hotel restaurant before calling it a night and watching Stanford beat Washington in football.

Saturday morning, I couldn’t sleep past 6 AM and ended up finding an early breakfast. I walked around the High Roller a little bit and then headed over to the expo to pick up my bibs at the expo. The line was curling around the convention center since it didn’t open until 9 AM, but once we were let in, it was pretty easy flowing. Bib pick up were separated by race and then number. After getting my half bib, I got my 5K bib and my wristband that lets me get my remix medal after the half marathon tonight for doing 2 races. I explored the expo, made the mistake of stopping at a vendor with 40% off nike and the Garmin vendor. Things were picking up and I ended up heading back to the hotel hotel and watching the OSU-Michigan State game and torture my trainers a little bit with a RnR shirt I found

A slight alteration to my shirt from the expo. #runner #weightlifter #twoproblems

A post shared by Christine (@cginpnw) on

After finding some lunch and roaming Caesar’s Palace, I changed and took the Monorail to the start of the 5K by the SLS Hotel. The monorail was packed and a group of us got luck when the back car of one of the trains was completely empty. After getting off at the SLS stop, we weaved our way through the casino and to the start. We had to go through security and anyone with water had to dump it out since the Goo Goo Dolls concert was in the post race area and they didn’t want outside beverages in. After getting through, I checked my bag (I brought some food since it was so late and some long sleeved stuff, expecting it to be cold post run). I caught up with fellow Bibrave Pro Justin for a quick picture and headed off to Corral 4.

Race officials were making sure people weren’t jumping up corrals and making sure things were spread out. My corral was off within the first 10 minutes or so, probably less. I was trying to weave in and out of people who were clearly in the wrong corrals but got in faster corrals because they wanted more time to finish. The course itself was fairly lit, though I wish it had some more light to it. It was an out and back course, primarily down Sammy Davis Jr. Drive with a small detour down Wilber Clark Di West. You didn’t see a whole lot of the actual strip and was more of here and there things if anything. Since it was dark with some lighting, I was nervous about not seeing a pothole or something. There ended up being 1 water station at mile 2 before we headed back into the Las Vegas Grounds. The last 1/3 of a mile was winding through uneven pavement in the grounds before before heading through the finish line. Plenty of announcing, water and medals at the finish with some bananas, some sort of organic bar that looked funky and pretzels. I got my bag and threw on my long sleeved stuff and noticed that there were corrals still starting with people who finishing and chilling out.

I met up with Justin and cheered on finishers as they came through. I hung around for the Goo Goo Dolls before leaving around 8 because of being hungry and cold.

Overall, it was an OK race. I’ve heard it was better than last year, but I feel like you don’t get a lot of Vegas out of it. The cost is another thing to be aware of. I feel like I paid in the $40-50 range a few months ago for it and that’s a lot for a 5K. I feel like it could be better lit and rerouted so you’re not running circles for the last 1/3 of a mile. A good warm up for the half tonight though!

Race Review: Carrera de los Muertos Los Angeles 5K

I was in Los Angeles 2 weeks ago for RnR Los Angeles and ended up finding the Carrera de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) 5K.  Carrera de los Muertos is a way of remembering those have passed and that was well shown at the race.

The race itself was on a Saturday and took place at Olvera Street in downtown LA. I registered last minute, so I ended up paying $55, which is high for a 5K race. I arrived at 715 AM via Uber. Olvera Street is next to Union Station, which was fun to see. It took me 5 min or so to find bib pick up and it was an absolute disaster. I stood in line for 30 minutes to get my bib because they were assigning bibs as you checked in and were scanning QRS codes that were given during registration. Simple solution should have been to have anyone who was preregistered through a certain date, should have been assigned a bib before pick up. I feel like this would have decreased wait times greatly pre race (quite frankly, I’m not getting to a 5K that starts at 8 AM at 645 for packet pick up). When I tried to get my shirt, they were out of smalls, so I had to wait until after the race to get my shirt when more smalls had shown up.

The race itself was suppose to start at 8 AM. At 755 AM, we got the announcement that the race would start at 830 AM so people could finish getting there bibs. Seriously? Second recommendation for packet pick up: have an option to pick up day before the race, not a week before the race. I ended up looking at some of the displays set up remembering those had died. I then tried getting into the start area, but it was so overcrowded. We finally did get started, but there was a lot of walkers in front who shouldn’t have been. The course itself was out and back, fairly flat and the only hill was when we were going over a bridge in Mission Junction. It took me less time to run the race than it did to 1) get my bib and 2) wait for the start. The course itself was also short by ~.15-.2 miles.

Overall, not a fan of the race. Something needs to be done about packet pick up because assigning bibs on race day for a fun run essentially isn’t working. Having the race start half an hour later because pick up was a hot mess is an issue. It was such a mess, I’m not sure I’d go back for it.

Race Review: Rock N Roll Los Angeles

Marathon training is in full force and cooler weather is descending on the Island Northwest. This past weekend, travel took me to Los Angeles for the Rock n Roll LA Half Marathon. After taking care of things at home Friday morning, I left Friday afternoon and got in shortly after 6 pm. I ended up taking SuperShuttle to the LA Live district in Downtown LA ($15 rather than a $60 Uber…WTF) and got situated in my hotel. It happened to be Comic Con as well, so there were people swarming the place with costumes. Nothing like getting on the elevator and running into someone in full costume with a prop taller than you are with blades attached. I found dinner at the hotel and chilled the rest of the night

Saturday morning, I found a 5K a few miles away (different blog post for a different day) and afterwards, came back and showered before heading to the LA Convention Center (1/2 mile from where I was staying) to pick up my bib. There was no wait at all for me and I was able to get through and get bib, shirt etc in less than 5 minutes. I met up with a family friend, Amy, and we ended up having brunch before she headed back home. I spent part of the early afternoon watching the OSU game in the lobby before watching part at a bar and the second half at the hotel. I couldn’t leave until the game was over because OSU decided to play flawless in the 4th quarter and beat Penn State by one. Due to the amount of swearing, I went to 5 pm mass and then dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Bar and Grill. I had a nice little chat with a fellow runner, though she was in town for a concert

Sunday morning was race early. I was up by 545/6 and changed before heading to the start at 620. Like any good runner, I made another bathroom pit stop and missed out on getting a pre race picture with Mai and Justin, two other Bibrave Pros running. I got tucked away in corral 5 with the gun going off at 645 AM. After about 5 minutes, I was off with the rest of my corral. The first mile and a half, we were with the 5K before they headed back at their turn around. We continued on to USC, past the Museum of Natural History and the Coliseum before heading back towards downtown. After mile 5, the 5K runners peeled off towards the finish and we continued on. We turned on to Wilshire Blvd, where there was an occasional sketchy area and plenty of homeless people lining the streets. We ran through McArthur Park and Koreatown before heading back to Downtown LA.

The course itself had some hills (primarily around 6/12), though not terrible. My garmin somewhere between miles 5-7, miles seemed to be further apart. My garmin was hitting miles 1/3 of a mile before the actual mile marker, despite on course comparison from the garmin and course map being the same. I ended up running a 2:03:54, where if the course was long, I would have been on track for my 3rd Sub 2 hr of the year.

Afterwards, I passed through the finish, grabbed some chocolate milk and food and hung out as people continued to finish. I met up with fellow BRP Mai post race. After grabbing a shower and checking out of the hotel, I grabbed some brunch before heading to LAX to catch my flight home.

Overall, course was ok, but not a whole lot of people out supporting. Weather was perfect, 60s and overcast and there were plenty of aid stations and plenty of costumes. I wish they’d double check the course length though because plenty of us were hitting 13.6 miles on course

 

Race Review: Craft Classic Phoenix

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Road Runner Sports Craft Classic Phoenix as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

It only took 7 years of distance running to knock Arizona off my Half Marathon list. The funny thing is, my first marathon was in Phoenix back in 2010. Small world and a little backwards thinking! I got into the Craft Classic Half through Bibrave and ended up making a weekend trip of it. I was able to get a direct flight into Phoenix and got in around noon on Friday. After picking up my rental car, I went to the Road Runner Sports in Tempe for packet pick up and lunch.

Packet Pick Up/Expo: Friday from Noon to 7 pm at Road Runner Sports Tempe and Saturday from 10-4 at Road Runner Sports Scottsdale. You could pick up for other people with their ID. No race day pick up, which would have been nice for people driving in. You got a coupon to shop at RRS at, your bib, shirt and a beer pint glass

Cost: depended on how many people registered. As more people registered, cost went up. The half was anywhere from $75 to $105.

Race Day Parking: I arrived early and was able to park close to the start. You could park at the post office, the River of Time Museum or at retail parking.

Race Start: 630 AM off of the Ave of the Fountains

Race Day: I met up with Emily, a fellow Bibrave Pro who lives in the Phoenix area. I had also met up with her on Saturday for brunch after a running a 10K (I’m smart like that). We chatted a bit and then lined up at the start. There were pacers, every 10 minutes from 1:30 that I could see. The half marathon started at 630 AM and the 5K started at 7 AM. The half course started out relatively flat, and I was really hoping for a sub 2 hr race. The first 3 miles were comfortable, and that was appreciated. Then mile 4 showed up and all of the hilliness that decided to come with it. I felt ike it was all up hill from mile 4.5 to at least mile 6. By the time you got to the down hill, you thought the worst of it was over and then more rolling hills decided to rear its head. You figured out very quickly you weren’t likely to PR this course. It got to the point where legs got tired in a sense. It did warm up pretty quick, but we also got a nice breeze going, although it nearly knocked off my visor. The last 3 miles seemed flat to me (or at least that’s how I like to think of them). I ended up finishing just under 2:09.

Aid Stations: every mile or so. Water and nuun were available at each station, as were porta potties. I wish powerade/gatorade were available over nuun, as I don’t know it works all that well (though some people swear by it). Honey Stinger gels were available at some of the aid stations.

The Finish: right by the start. As you crossed the finish, you were given your medal. Plenty of water and nuun again. Only bananas and oranges to eat. Food trucks were available, but you had to pay for the food. I really wish they would have had some sort of food with carbs and chocolate milk. I get it’s a race with beer at the end, but I think having some food with substance and something cold to replenish the muscles would have been huge, especially given the heat. Each runner got a free beer, each additional was $5. My beer went to Emily, fellow Bibrave Pro.

Overall, a decent race. I would recommend doing some hills to prep for this race. I think that powerade/gatorade would have been a better on course option and some more food of substance and chocolate milk post race would be awesome! If you’re in the area, definitely worth checking out the race.

 

Race Review Das Frank Kush Footrace 10K

This past weekend, I escaped the coldness of Spokane and the PNW (we had trace snow going into Friday the 13th) and went to Phoenix for the Craft Classic Half Marathon (another blog post for another day). In all of my insaneness, I figured why not look for another race for Saturday. I ended up finding the Frank Kush 10K on Saturday. I got in early Friday afternoon, and initially went to pick up my Craft Classic bib at Road Runner Sports in Tempe. Turns out, the Frank Kush packet pick up was at the same place. After I grabbed some lunch, I got my bib for the 10K and headed to the hotel.

Saturday morning, I was up around 630 and headed down to breakfast at the hotel after I got changed. I left around 720 and was there and parked by 740. It started at Tempe “beach” which was less of a beach if I’ve ever seen one. If you couldn’t make it to packet pick up Friday, there was an option to get your bib and shirt race morning. To get to the start, you had to walk through Oktoberfest, and it was a little difficult to find if you weren’t familiar with the area.

The 10K started at 8 AM and the 5K started at 810 AM. The 10K course started along the lake (or river?) and went out about a mile and a half or so and came back 1/4 a mile or so. At that point, we met up with the 5K and went over a bridge to the other side of the lake and continued on our route. We stayed with the 5K runners for a bit and then we separated again. The 5K turned towards the finish and we kept going until we got to Priest Road. We turned on Priest and then again onto Rio Salado towards the finish. The finish was right inside the Beach park area where Oktoberfest was set up, however, it was easily seen.

Kush Course

Overall, the course was relatively flat. There were minor hills when we were going over bridges and such, but nothing to cry foul about. I ended up finishing in 55:50, about 10 seconds off a PR (grrrr). After the race, you got a beer mug and a free beer if you chose to get it (I’m not a beer fan and it was 9 AM). I hung around for a little bit and ended up leaving around 915 and met up with a fellow Bibrave Pro for breakfast. Afterwards, I ended up heading back to the hotel to shower and regroup for Craft Classic in the morning.

 

 

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