Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rock N Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon

When deciding my race schedule for 2015, I knew that I wanted to get the Rock N Roll Cali Combo medal for running three races in California.  I ran San Diego, San Jose and finished up the medal with Los Angeles this past weekend.

We left Saturday morning to head up to Los Angeles for the expo.  This race didn't have the Remix Challenge option (running two races in one weekend) and I was a little disappointed with that.  This is my fifth Rock N Roll race this year and I'd done the Remix Challenge at the other four I've run.  After fighting our way through traffic (a two hour drive turned into almost four hours-- now I know why people say LA traffic is bad.)

The race Expo was at the Los Angeles convention center.  Bib pick-up was relatively easy-- there were several volunteers and not a lot of people picking up at the time we were there.  This was the first time at a RNR race expo that I did not have to wait in line for my bib.  The expo itself was a typical race expo-- I didn't need anything so I looked at the booths, but didn't see anything I couldn't live without.  I did stop at the LA Marathon booth and had a great conversation with one of the people working the booth-- when she learned that the LA Marathon in 2016 would be my first marathon, she gave me some great, honest advice.  She definitely made me feel better about the journey.  My only issue with the expo was that it felt very crowded-- there were a lot of booths crammed into a little space, which at times made it hard to navigate through the booths.

I woke up race morning looking forward to the race.  My past two races had mentally gotten to me and I decided to run this one with no Garmin, hoping that without seeing my pace or time, I might do better.  Since this was was also labeled as a Halloween race, I was looking forward to seeing all the costumes.  As we made our way to the corrals, I noticed a lot of people weren't dressed up.  The costumes I saw were fun, but I definitely expected to see more.  The corrals were organized and the race started on time.  

Flat Jenn ready to race! With all of my favorites!
I knew there had been a course change, but I didn't look at the original course map, so I went into the race unsure of what to expect.   I knew that it was a city run and it was just that.  The course is a little boring-- there wasn't a lot of crowd support, but the crowd support that was out there rocked it.  My biggest concern with this race was making sure I didn't fall-- it was a street race and I'm always nervous about pot holes and street markers.  Around mile 7, I fell into pace with two other runners-- I had been using them as my pacers for most of the race and it turns out, they had been using me as their pacer.  We began talking and found our run groove-- we ran together for about 5 miles and they definitely pushed me, which I loved.  Sometimes when you run by yourself, it's easy to become complacent and not push yourself.  I know I am capable of more and love when other runners push me to do more.

And then we hit mile 11.5.  Where did that hill come from?!?!  I pushed myself to the top, reminding myself to look at the race elevation chart next time.  After the hill, I found my groove and made my way to the finish. I went through the finish corrals and was excited that they had more than enough chocolate milk this time (they had run out at RNR San Jose by the time I finished) and I also enjoyed the iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. 

The Bling

This was the first time I stayed for any of the after show at a Rock N Roll race-- it was fun to see a little bit of Sir Mix-A-Lot's performance.  There was definitely a fun vibe in the crowd.  

Sir Mix-A-Lot
Overall I had a fun race experience, but I think that was more from the people than the race itself.  Nothing stands out as being overly bad or overly good about this race.  I'm definitely glad that I did it and I'd probably do it again. 

The Cali Combo Medal for running three CA races and the Roadie medal for running 5 Rock N Roll Races.

Did anyone else run this race? What are your thoughts.

Until next time, happy running!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Since I started running, the Nike Women's Run Series was on my Running Bucket List.  It is a lottery race and since I knew it was popular, I was pleasantly surprised that I was picked.  I had heard so many good things about this race and who doesn't like the idea of getting a Tiffany & Co. necklace at the end of a race.  

I arrived to San Francisco on Friday afternoon and after checking into the hotel, I was on my way to packet pick-up.  I was staying at the packet pick-up hotel and it was awesome to be close to the all the weekend activities.  I was a little disappointed with the pick-up-- although it was quick and easy, I was expecting more.  I had also planned to do the earring scavenger hunt that afternoon, but was quickly informed that all the locations were out of the earrings. I spent the rest of the day exploring San Francisco and did a little shopping.  

Packet Pick-Up at the Westin
The Nike Store posts the names of all the runners.  There were 4 of me! :) 
I love to shop!
Saturday morning started off with the Nike Run Club Shake-Out Run.  I signed up for the 7:30am run and headed over to check-in around 6:15am.  Being located across the street from the start, I arrived in a few minutes and the line had already started forming so I quickly made my way to the line.  We waited for about 20 minutes, then they began checking us in.  We were randomly assigned corrals-- I was in volt, so I found my way to the corral and waited for the run to start.  They had a running coach making introductions and announcing some of the pacers who would be running with us.  He was using a megaphone and if he wasn't facing your corral, you couldn't hear what he was saying.

I was lucky to be in the starting corral and running in the city was definitely a new experience for me.  I usually run in areas that are closed to car traffic, so I wasn't prepared for this-- I think we stopped hit every red light.  Slowest 2 miles I've ever run, but the coach and pacers in my corral were on point and kept us motivated.  

Once we found our way back to Union Square, it was a little chaotic.  I found myself standing in a line and had no idea what I was waiting for.  I ended up with a portable Verizon phone charger.  I then went to the food line-- I had a delicious fruit smoothie, an apple and a protein bar.  

After the Shake Out Run, I decided I want to try to get some earrings.  We had been told it would start at 10:00am-- I went to my hotel, changed and still had some time before it was going to start.  I decided to go check out the Nike Store again and once I got there, around 9:30am, I found myself in another random line.  That line turned out the be the line for the earring, which had started early.  I got lucky with this line, so I decided to try for a few more earrings.  I ended up with 4 of the 7-- I went to a 5th location, but after seeing the number of people in line, decided I'd rather explore SF then wait in a line.  
4 of the 7
The morning of the race, I woke up ready to go.  When I went to get dressed for the race, I discovered my tank had a huge stain on it (How did that happen?!)  Thank goodness I had a back-up outfit, so on to plan B.  With a 6:30am race start, I headed to the start line around 5:30am.  I like to be early so I get my bearings together before the race starts. Each corral had it's own entrance, gear check and restrooms.  This was definitely a plus.  

The race started on time-- I was towards the back of my corral, so we started a little before 7:00am.  I knew there were a lot of runners, so I expected a crowded race.  And I got it.  There were times they even changed the course for crowd control and traffic, directly runners in different ways before they merged back together.  I admit that there were times I was frustrated by runners who didn't appear to know race running etiquette-- coming to sudden stops,  weaving back in forth, groups running 4-5 wide.  I always expect this, but it seemed to be in abundance in this race.  The crowds also brought an abundance of chaos at the hydration stations-- each one was a mess.  I don't know if it was poor planning, poor training for the volunteers or lack of space, but each one was congested and unorganized. Eventually I stopped stopping for water.

This race was a mental battle for me.  I had some pain in my foot and I let it get to me.  I even turned my Garmin off so I could just run and try not to think about anything.  But there were definitely some high points in the race-- I loved the choir at mile 2-3, the waterfall, the park that smelled as some runners described, like "PineSol," and the view after mile 10.  This was probably one of the most beautiful courses I've run and I was not expecting that with this race. There wasn't that much crowd support but I loved seeing We Run Social at mile 8-- the Hi-Fives definitely helped me finish the last 5 miles.  I also loved the support at mile 10, which was all uphill-- I had been warned about the hill and it honestly wasn't as bad as I was anticipating.  

@PavementRunner and the We Run Social crew holding it down at mile 8

Mile 10
After the race was over, I proceed through the exit line.  The water in a reusable bottle and the post race snacks in a reusable bag were fantastic.  This was definitely a plus, as I had juggling my snacks after a run. I loved all the yummy goodies.  After the snacks I was off to get my necklace.  I had heard we get their from firemen-- mine was from a volunteer, however I could stand in line for 30 minutes for a picture with a fireman if I wanted.  No thank you.  I wanted a "Finisher's" item so I made my way to the Finisher's Boutique-- I waited in line for 2 hours!!! Yes, I know that's crazy, but I wanted a shirt and it was all part of the race experience.  Although Nike could have definitely had more people working this. Another poor planning moment on their part. 

Overall, I had a good experience, but I think this is a "one and done" race for me.  And that disappoints me a bit-- I wanted to love this race.  I wanted to be wowed by it.  And I wasn't.  

Has anyone else down this race?  What was your experience like?

Until next time, happy running.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rock N Roll San Jose Race Weekend

Life got a little busy this past week, so I'll be recapping the whole weekend in one post.  This was my first time in San Jose, so I was definitely looking forward to this race weekend and exploring a new city.

The Expo
This was my fifth Rock N Roll event and I've learned that not all expos are created equal.  I suppose it has a lot to do with location and the number of runners involved for companies to decide if it's worth being at the expo.  The expo for RNRSJ was small compared to some of the others, but some of my favorite companies were there. I was excited to see Mama Chia there-- due to the liquids limit for plane carry-ons, I couldn't bring any with me, so I was excited to get my weekend supply at the expo.  I also found a few other goodies to bring back to San Diego with me.     

The 5K
As part of the Remix challenge, the weekend begins with a 5K on Saturday.  Our hotel was conveniently located 2 blocks from the start line, so we didn't head over until about 20 minutes before start time.  I'm usually at the start area at least an hour before a race begins so this made me a little nervous.  But we had plenty of time and I had a chance to say hi to one of my running friends, Karla, before the race.  And then we were off.  The race started at time and it was your typical 5K course.  Because I'd never been to San Jose, I was intrigued by the architecture and obvious economical differences in neighborhoods.  I always find the beauty in the juxtapositions in one general area.  The finish line area was fun-- a band was playing some good music, they had free beer and I was able to chat with some people I'd met earlier in the morning.  I also had a change to meet Roger Craig-- I'm not a 49ers fan, but I respect the sport enough to know that this was a opportunity I couldn't pass up.  After the race, we were off to explore San Jose.

The race outfit-- you can't go wrong with We Run Social and ProCompression gear.
The Bling!

49ers legend, Roger Craig

The Half Marathon
Sunday morning brought the Half Marathon-- we were a little further away from the start line for this, but still close enough to get there with a 10 minute walk.  With an 8am start time, this was the latest I've ever slept in for a race morning.  

Rocked the #TwoPairDontCare Look for the Half!

I had been told this was a flat course and it mostly was.  There were a few elevation changes, although I wouldn't call them hills.  The course took us through several areas of the city and again I was fascinated with the differences in the neighborhoods and their differences.  

The race support along the course wasn't as much as I've seen in other cities, but the people that were out there were awesome.  Especially in the neighborhoods.  One house was handing out fresh fruit and it was delicious! The volunteers were also awesome-- I always appreciate the people who get up early to volunteer their time for us. 

Half Marathon and Remix Challenge Bling
Overall, this course wasn't bad, but it wasn't that exciting either.  It's a fun race and I'd run it again, but I would change a few things.  A 8:00am start time for a half-marathon seems a bit late.  It started getting warm, especially towards the end.  I don't know their reasoning for the later start, the 5K started 30 minute earlier the day before, but I'm sure they have reasons.  They also had run out of some of the refreshments by the time I had finished.  I'm not the fastest runner, but I'm also not the slowest and I was looking forward to the chocolate milk at the finish line.  (The had also run out of Power Bars, but I was't interested in those.)  I've never organized a big race, but since you know how many people are running, I would think that you would plan for that number.  I heard from other runners that they weren't monitoring how many of each people took, so several runners took multiple items.  I'm not sure where the issue was and overall it's something silly to be cranky about.  Maybe it will just encourage me to run faster for my next race so that I get my chocolate milk! 

Exploring San Jose
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I had never been to San Jose before this weekend, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  We stayed in walking distance of our hotel, but there were some cute areas around us.  We went to the San Jose Museum of Art (several exhibits were closed for new exhibit installations, so I wasn't impressed) and walked around.  

San Jose Museum of Art

After the 5K, we met up with Karla (@purple_kaye) for lunch at Ike's, a sandwich shopped based in Northern California.  I'd had never been there and my Home for Thanksgiving sandwich was delicious.  
When Instagram friends hang out in real life.

Exploring the city was fun.  We tried new restaurants, admired the street art and explored fun little shops.  The most fascinating part about the weekend was the visit from the Prime Minister of India.  I've never experienced anything like it-- from the media coverage to the intense security everywhere, it was fascinating to see everything in action. 

I'm looking forward to my next Rock N Roll event in Los Angeles later this month to complete my Cali Combo challenge.

Until next time, happy running!

Ultra Runner Crate

A few weeks ago, I went on Instagram to see if anyone I knew has tried the Ultra Runner Crate subscription box.  I was intrigued at the idea...