Disclosure: I was able to attend Natural Products Expo West 2018 as Media Support because I am part of the New Hope Blogger Co-op. I paid the going press rate for my conference badge, and received absolutely no compensation (I paid for my hotel, meals, etc.) from New Hope 360, or any other company, in exchange for my attendance or coverage of Expo West. (I only had access to the press room for the blogger happy hour, too.) While I did receive product samples and swag from various exhibitors and companies, ALL opinions are my own. Per my integrity policy, all sponsored content or affiliate links will be clearly disclosed.
Natural Products Expo West—or Expo West as the insiders call it—is the biggest business to business trade show for consumer products in the “natural” and “organic” markets. (“Natural” is in quotes because it has no legal meaning when used to describe a product, or on a product label, in the Untied States. I opted to put “organic” in quotes because there are several organic standards including the USDA organic label and the Oregon Tilth organic certification, and I’m not necessarily referring to any specific organic protocol. Since too many quotation marks are annoying, just assume I put both in quotes from here on out.)
Attendees include grocers and retail outlets seeking the newest innovative products, marketing firms, businesses with products to sell, businesses still in the development stages, and all manner of business support services from importers and exporters to label makers to packaging companies to product formulators to third party testing laboratories and much more. At the same time, and in the same space, there is a big show called Engredea, where businesses and product manufacturers can learn and do business with the companies that make and process ingredients—literally everything that goes into a product from maple syrup to every kind of oil to stabilizers and emulsifiers and sugars and lentil flour and anything else you can imagine (as well as a bunch of stuff you only know about if you work in food production).
The companies that attend cover the entire range of consumer packaged goods brands. There are nationally-known names like General Mills, Kashi, Bob’s Red Mill, Clif Bar, and Now Foods. There are companies you’ve likely seen on Shark Tank, including Chapul (the cricket protein people), Ice Breakers candy, Jackson’s Honest (potato chips and other chip made with coconut oil), and Brazi Bites (Brazilian cheese bread). There are companies you may not have heard of yet, such as The Nutty Gourmet (they make the very best walnut butters ever—in my least humble opinion), Petchup (nutrition supplements for pets in the form of gourmet sauces), and Frill (a creamy and delicious frozen vegan dessert). There are kombuchas, colas, and coffee; food wraps, no-FODMAPs, and maple saps; pastas, pretzels, and probiotics. The products are vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, and carnivore; fresh, frozen, shelf-stable and every other possible form. As a result, you see attendees wearing attire that ranges from full-on lawyerly suits to shorts and Birkenstocks, polyester to organic cotton, tye-die to spandex.
The show currently takes up all of the available convention hall, meeting room, and hotel space at the Anaheim Convention Center and surrounding hotels. There are so many attendees that on Friday night Expo West crashed the Uber app, making hundreds and maybe thousands of people late to business dinners, public relations pitches, and social events. This is despite a sophisticated network of (free) busses to transport attendees from the Convention Center to Angel Stadium (there is nowhere near enough parking at the Convention Center, so many attendees park at Angel Stadium) or to dozens of hotels in the surrounding area. Hotel space near the
Convention Center sells out within minutes—more than 80,000 people attend the show, and companies often reserve blocks of rooms for those working the show on their behalf—and I met people staying as far away as Newport Beach because they couldn’t find any hotel or even an Air BnB that was closer (and not $1,000/night).
Expo West is broken down into several distinct sub-spaces. This year, Hot Products (meaning new or hot on the market, and not meaning “foods that you eat while they are hot” as I mistakenly believed during my first Expo West!) occupied the North Halls. The Arena, Convention Center Halls A through E, and the third floor had exhibitors, including Engredea. Thursday’s Fresh Ideas Marketplace (meaning innovative products, not salad bars and fresh produce as I thought my first year) is housed in a giant white tent near the Marriott. The main plaza between the Hilton and the Marriott had food trucks, multiple exhibitor booths, a stage with live music, and roaming promoters, while the smaller plaza near the North Halls had a few food trucks and additional seating. Finally, a section of the parking lot between the Hilton and Morton’s restaurant had food-truck style Expo exhibitors as well as a few food trucks, and more tables for lunching.
Outside of those spaces, there are also several other things going on in the Convention Center spaces. There is a pitch-slam where new products can pitch to established brands and companies (think Shark Tank, but without the made-for-reality-TV aspects). One of the medium-sized hotel ballrooms hosts a variety of speakers, including the designated keynote speakers. (This year’s speakers included Jennifer Garner.) The smaller conference rooms host educational sessions on topics from the most recent FDA regulations to the exploding market for CBD-based products, new studies regarding sleep and nutrition, and more. Some of these are sponsored by exhibitors, while others are not. In addition to these session, which are open to all attendees, there are also specialized tracks that serve as a business school crash course for entrepreneurs, and more. There is a sort of job fair too. Other on-site events include sponsored breakfasts, daily early morning yoga, private business meetings, and after-hours parties. I have no idea how much of the rest of Anaheim hosts additional, private/invitation-only events (which cover the range from happy hours to multi-course meals, and even branch out into a 5k race!).
Despite the app, website, and printed brochure, it can be overwhelming to navigate Expo West. It isn’t always obvious which hall a given booth is located in, and travel from Hall D to Hall A can take 30 minutes due to pedestrian traffic—even though they are attached to each other. The scale of this event is so enormous that even if you did nothing but walk the show floors’ spaces—something few people do, due to meals, meetings, appointments, lectures, speakers, and other events—you still couldn’t see everything in the show’s four days. This was my third year at Expo West, and I finally feel like I figured out the best way for me to cover the show as a blogger. (Which included: make appointment with brands I wanted to spend time with, make a list of priorities for booth visits, stick to my top product categories, and get to the Fresh Ideas tent BEFORE it opens.) Over the course of several posts, I’m going to share what I saw, tasted, and learned, with the goal to help YOU live YOUR best life now.
Curious about a particular type of product, a brand, or a trend? Drop a comment or shoot me a tweet, and I’ll make sure to cover it in an upcoming post.
Disclosure: For the past few years I have been a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, the ambassadors for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. I’ve tried to blog about each of the races I’ve run, but I do have a day-job and there are only so many hours in the day…and thankfully posting about every race is not a requirement. The 2017 has not yet been selected (applications close on February 22nd, so if you are interested click HERE for the application), but I did apply. Just in case you’re not already aware of any potential bias I may have.
Don’t skip this one. I almost didn’t go to Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans due to stress at home and at work (and travel is stressful too) but man I am glad that I did! My flight left Oakland unreasonably early, and I arrived around 1 p.m. Pro Tip: if you’re just jetting away for the race and coming back again, pack light–check the weather first, but always pack something warm and dry in case of rain.
Friday I took a brief nap before my roommate arrived. We stayed at the Aloft, which is within walking distance of the half marathon starting line and not far from the marathon starting line. It was just a short walk to the convention center–and then another 2k to get to the other side of the convention center (it’s HUGE). Just before the convention center we picked up free samples of Monster’s new “Mutant” brand soda. I think this is supposed to compete with Mountain Dew, as it is a citrus-flavored soda in the standard 20 oz. soda bottle and packs 115mg of caffeine. Before cracking the lid I read the label–it also packs 290 calories and 70 grams of sugar! No, no thank you.
The Expo wasn’t huge, but it definitely had a New Orleans flavor, and more local participation than I see at many Rock ‘n’ Roll expos. Of course the ubiquitous green, gold, and purple of Mardi Gras featured prominently, and local running clubs and events had booths. I appreciated the healthy New Orleans resources (New Orleans is known for great food, but not necessarily health food), the bakery sampling (looked like King Cake, but was really a tiny croissant filled with cream and covered in sprinkles). As a New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe has its king and queen, so did Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans, complete with a coronation, confetti, and beads.
Following the expo it was time to look for dinner. As I perused Urban Spoon and Google in what used to be the nook where the pay phones lived, a woman interrupted our discussion. “Excuse me,” she said, “are you looking for a place for dinner? Would you like some suggestions?” From a local? In a town known for amazing food? Heck yes!! We ended up at ___, which had a pan-Caribbean menu and everything from red meat to vegan dishes, plus a bar and amazing drink specials.
Like every other runner at Aloft, we too Lyft to the 5k. The location was perfect for a run, but less than ideal for actually getting there. One suggestion I’m sure LOTS of people made: provide transportation from central points in the various neighborhoods to the race start. We arrived as part of a convoy of Lyft and Uber and taxis. The starting line was just a short walk away. Also, it was freezing. I had packed for the weather that happened earlier in the week, and didn’t have an extra long sleeve for the 5k. Oops.
It was great to have Ann back to announce the races (she’d been out on maternity leave and while the guy who announced in her place was trying and did okay, he just wasn’t Ann). Prior to the race I ran into Derek, a Team RWB member who is continuing his quest to do a 5k every month, and my friend “Gracie” and her husband. The latter was something of a miracle, as we have repeatedly been at the same race but not managed to see each other. In lieu of trying to run any of it, I decided to walk to Gracie so we could catch up and have photographic rvidence of this monumental event. (Selfies or it didn’t happen, right?) The 5k was entirely within the park, whiich is freaking enornmous, The weather warmed up a little, but not too too much–my friends who ran were cold as soon as they stopped. The course passed by public art, a museum, and (of course!) music. I don’t claim to know what “the New Orleans sound” is, but I can tell you what the “I am a tourist here” music sounds like.
I took a shower and a nap while my roommate did the swim and bike sections of his triathlon preparation workout, and then we wandered off to grilled cheese and a Rock ‘n’ Blogger meet up. From there I played tour guide–despite the fact I hadn’t been to NOLA since I lived in Austin–and we walked the French Quarter, checked out the insane line at Cafe du Monde, and gawked at architecture. Tourist day, for certain. There were snacks, some down time, and dinner, and then it was an early night to bed for us.
The next morning came too soon, and it was off to the races–literally. There was what looked like a great turnout for the half marathon, with plenty of silly costumes and Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit. Miraculously, I saw Gracie again, and we started to walk the course together. Since I was still feeling tight and regularly seeing my sports med person, I didn’t want to try to kill it. This means I missed the mimosa “aid stations” but I can’t complain. I decided to Instagram as I walked the first six miles. Perhaps the rest of the story is best told in pictures.
My good friend Tina came to town to run the Golden Gate Half Marathon and when she mentioned it to her friend Jerry, he invited us to the 2016 Heroes Run. Since Tina and I are both fans of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Remix Challenges, we figured we would create our own remix–good friends + good cause + excuse to wear a silly costume = great event, right? Game on.
Good Friends. Tina and I met through Rock ‘n’ Blog, and she met Jerry through some other running-related event. I’ve found the vast majority of runners are good people, in that they are at a minimum encouraging and kind (though of course there are a few duds in every bunch). In general, I’ve found that any friend of a friend is bound to be a friend of mine, and Jerry was no exception. How can you not love a guy who will paint his beard green for a race?
One of Tina’s other friends was also at the race, and we strolled most of it together. I find it pretty funny that I went to a race that’s basically in my backyard and didn’t know anyone, but the girl from Calgary did.
Good Cause. The Heroes run benefits the Valley Medical Center Pediatrics. You probably think of Silicon Valley as an area filled with over-privileged, wealthy Google employees, but that’s just part of the story. Like San Francisco, Santa Clara County is economically diverse. As the cost of basic living expenses (like rent) rises, it gets harder for those on the margins to pay for basic human needs such as health care, and those that suffer the most are those least in a position to do anything about it: children. As the Heroes Run website explains:
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is the public, safety-net medical center for Santa Clara County, providing care to all regardless of ability to pay. As the largest provider of health services to low-income children in the region, SCVMC plays a leading role in the fight against health disparities in Silicon Valley.
To the side of the starting area there were several booths with information and treats from local health initiatives, the police and fire fighters, and local ballot measures (this was before election day, last weekend to get out the word). To add to the fun, the Santa Clara County police and fire fighters participate in the 5k run and an obstacle course, and compete against each other. Police and fire fighters stick around to cheer on the kids’ race, pose for pictures with current and vintage vehicles, and otherwise interact with the community they serve.
Excuse to Wear a Silly Costume. Costumes? Count me in! While I might not have the time to create elaborate outfits from scratch right now, I’ve got the basics in my costume boxes. Item, one bright red cape (originally created for a Thor costume, has also served as a skirt), plus a Superman tech shirt, plus my bright red shoes, and I’m a superhero!
Great Event! The day actually featured multiple events. The 5k wound through the neighborhoods filled with gorgeous autumn trees (about time, since it was November already), and accommodated both serious runners (there were awards) and walkers.
While there were plenty of kids seriously running with their parents, or walking the 5k, there was a separate kids’ dash for the smaller kids. That event ran around the edges of the park block, and took place after the main 5k. It was great to see so many kids out dressed as superheroes, and I really loved some of the mashups.
There was also an inflatable bounce-house type of thing, but it was extra large and had inflatable obstacles, like a wall to climb over and a bunch of tubes to push through. It reminded me of American Ninja Warrior for kids. As I mentioned previously, there was also an adult obstacle course. The main race had a competition between the police and the fire fighters. This appears to be a new feature, with a travelling trophy to the winners.
Overall, it was a really fun event. It was all-inclusive, with plenty of room for spectators, and friendly to people and families of all ages. I wasn’t in it to run the fastest or win a prize, but to have a good time (and pet the cute puppies, of course!). While I know the money went to a good cause, what I appreciated most was seeing so many parents and older siblings encouraging little kids to run, play in the inflatable obstacle course, and otherwise be active. It is the main reason I enjoy these community events so much.
Disclosure: I received a pair of Legend Compression socks for testing purposes because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.
If you’ve been following along, you know that socks are my jam. Even before I started running, I had two large dresser drawers filled with socks. (With the addition of compression socks, they have now spilled into a third drawer. Clearly it’s time to get rid of some t-shirts so I have more room.) Naturally I leaped at the opportunity to try Legend Compression socks.
By the way, if you want a concise, bullet-pointed, reader friendly review (plus pictures of the cute yellow socks!) you’re in the wrong place. Try BibRave Pro Casey‘s review instead. (BibRave Pro Janelle also did a less verbose review, but she picked the same aqua color that I did.)
See how those socks are leg-shaped and not tube-shaped? Yeah, that’s the mark of a quality sock right there. (Otherwise how could the compression be graduated?) They have the size marked on them, which initially made me worry I had two left socks. Nope! While I’m on the topic of shape, the “Wear 101” card that came with the socks is helpful in case you’ve never tried compression and I’m surprised other brands don’t include it. Basics: to put them on, bunch up the sock and get your foot in there first, toes then heel; then begin to pull them on from the bottom (as opposed to pulling on the top edge of the sock). To take them off, reverse the directions (don’t just yank on the toes!). Store flat with their friends. I’m used to struggling with compression socks, like they are a girdle for your calves, but Legend isn’t like that. BibRave Pro Chris also loved how easy they were to get on and off.
Legend is based in North Carolina. All of their compression performance socks, leg sleeves, and recovery socks are made in the USA. That by itself is a huge plus for me. Even better, the founder, John Thomas, spent 30 years working in the medical industry (where compression products are tightly regulated, unlike the sports products on the market) and ran the largest compression manufacturing facility in the world.
Compression socks are like a happy little hug for your legs. But don’t just take my word for it; BibRave Pro Chadd is also a compression lover, as is BibRave Pro Christine. Check out his blog for pictures of these unisex socks in black. BibRave Pro Nora is also a compression fan (she opted for a classic white, since Legend was kind enough to let us choose colors, while BibRave Pro Jen picked classic black.)
They are not just “tight socks” however. Think of how your blood circulates in your body, with arteries taking fresh, oxygenated blood from your heart to your muscles, and veins bringing back the “used up” blood. Veins are closer to the skin and less muscular than arteries, so they are more susceptible to a hug from a nice sock. Since the veins in your legs are helping to move blood back to your heart, they are working against the pull of gravity. When you work out or run, your muscles need more oxygenated blood (hence your pulse speeds up and your heart works harder), which means your muscles produce more de-oxygenated, used-up blood, and those little veins have to work harder. The theory is that giving those veins a little hug helps to give them a leg up (you know I couldn’t resist!).
From personal experience, I can tell you that compression also helps reduce the amount of movement in your legs. Okay wait, let me explain that… If you are a woman, you’re familiar with the difference between a good sports bra (keeps your breasts from bouncing all over the place) and a bad one (lets your breasts swing from side to side and bounce up and down); if you’re a man, you may have similar observations from seeing female runners. Compression socks basically do the same thing as a good sports bra, hugging your muscles and other tissues a little tighter to the bone, reducing the amount of bounce. I have big ol’ soccer player calves (they are strong and muscular, and while they prevent loads of cute boots from fitting, I love them for their strength), so I am a fan of compression.
The amount of compression in a sock is measured in millimeters of mercury. Legwear sold as medical grade compression is tightly regulated (no pun intended!) while the “recreational” flavor of compression is not regulated the same way. This is one of the reasons it matter that Legend founder John Thomas has a background in medical compression. (Think about it; if graduated compression helps, what if the compression is reversed or otherwise messed up? #BadNews) Legend Compression Performance Socks are 15-20 mmHG of graduated compression.
Other benefits of the Legend compression socks (the performance socks!) include:
cushioned toe and heel
moisture wicking material
I have really weird feet, so I prefer to run in double-layered socks and compression sleeves for long runs, but the Legend Compression Performance Socks were delicious for 5k and 10k. BibRave Pro Brie wore hers for trail running, where I’m sure I will also love them. I specifically appreciated the seamless toe construction (seams give me blisters). I also loved them for recovery. (Legend does make a separate compression sock for recovery.) Legend also touts greater power input (makes sense to me, since there is less jiggle!), increased oxygen levels and blood circulation, and reduced muscle fatigue. I don’t have a way to measure these items.
Legend Compression Performance Socks were great on my runs, and I loved them for recovery. (Cute, fit well, great for hopping on a plane a few hours after a half marathon.) Right now, you can get a discount on Legend compression wear from BibRave!
When you order your first pair, be sure to check out their sizing guide. BibRave Pro John agrees with me that they fit true to size (per the guide on their website). Don’t rely on sizing guides from other brands–I have a size 10.5 foot and wear a medium in another brand, but the large Legend socks were perfect for me.
Oh, final note: compression isn’t just for running! BibRave Pro Haley likes to wear hers when she lifts. Same benefits–increased circulation, “fresh” legs, comfort–plus they make a nice shin guard for your deadlifts. (I’m looking at you, CrossFitters.) Legend comes in lots of fun colors (BibRave Pro Jessica picked purple!) so grab more than one pair!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to City to the Sea half marathon because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.
This is a gorgeous little race! I’m surprised it isn’t bigger, but since no one has heard of it–seriously, when I checked into my hotel and asked for a late checkout because of the race the hotel staff said, “oh, there’s a race this weekend? What race?”–I thought the race was relatively new, like just a few years old. I found out after the race that this year was actually the 21st anniversary of City to the Sea. Pro Tip: go run it NOW before the entire world learns about it!
Pre-race communications. There were plenty of pre-race emails with information about race day and about San Luis Obispo. There is so much to do–wine, history, sports, beach–that I figured a ton of people probably chose this race specifically for a destination getaway. There is even a section on the race website called “Getaway Weekend.” If you’re looking for a couples’ trip, a family trip, whatever, there are plenty of options. I wish I had more time in SLO to explore. Maybe next time? Pro Tip: aim to spend Friday night and all day Saturday in SLO so you can check out some of the area’s other goodies.
Travel & The Expo. Initially I thought I’d fly, but Southwest does not fly into the SLO airport, so I decided to drive. It should have taken me about 4 and a half hours to drive from Alameda to San Luis Obispo, but there were three sets of funky traffic, including one along the 101 where I was driving 10 mph for almost half an hour, so I barely made it to the expo/packet pick-up. It turns out that was a good thing. First, I wasn’t in the registration system (and I’m honestly not sure if that’s my fault–I remember making an attempt to register but couldn’t find the confirmation email). No worries, one of the registration volunteers got me signed up.
Second, I didn’t have to wait to exchange my t-shirt. The women’s shirts are Next Level–a brand notorious for running small–the men’s shirts ran large. Next Level basically uses junior sizes (think middle school and high school girls) not adult women sizes, so I needed an XL and even so, it’s kinda tight. Tight enough that I’d have taken an XXL if it had been available. Hopefully I will still get some wear out of it, since it is a cotton shirt in a super cute color, with just the race logo on the front. Pro tip to all race directors out there: let a woman who is a runner order the shirts.
Third, I realized I had forgotten to pack socks, despite literally making a list and checking it twice. Oops. Running Warehouse was right there, and they had my beloved Wright’s Double Layer Socks. I also indulged in some run-treats for the race: Honey Stinger’s caramel waffle and cherry cola chews, and a Hammer gel in hazelnut chocolate.
‘Twas the night before… In the ideal world, I would have had Monday off from work–it is a federal holiday, making it the perfect weekend for a three-day racecation on Calif0rnia’s central coast–but I did not. So I had to cram my entire experience of the town into Saturday night and Sunday after the race. I chose the Courtyard Marriott for location and because I am a slave to my Marriott points, and they took great care of me (even though they didn’t know there was a race going on). Saturday night they had live music and a wine tasting with Outlaw wines. Hooray! I met up with SLOluckyruns for a pre-race pizza and catching up, made a quick trip to the treehugger grocery store by the pizza place for supplies and treats, and managed to get to bed somewhat early (after obsessing about parking and figuring out how long it would take to get to the start, setting an alarm…)
Pre-race routine. So glad I bought the socks–true story, there were none in my bag. (Somehow I also didn’t pack my RaceDots, even though I stared at them on the fridge and decided to put them in the bag with my snacks.) I also totally forgot that I’d packed a banana and peanut butter, so ended up not eating them, but I did remember to coat myself thoroughly in sunblock before heading out to the race.
Parking. I followed Google maps, which gave me the same directions as were on the City to the Sea website. Unfortunately, neither warned me that Marsh Street would be closed, and both explicitly instructed me to exit on Marsh Street. Fortunately Google maps is pretty quick to re-route. There were three parking garages identified in the pre-race information, but I couldn’t actually get to any of them from where I ended up. On the bright side, street parking is free until 1 p.m. so I just pulled into the first spot I found. Turns out I was one block from the start!
Race Start. My first impression was surprise at how small the race field was. Looking at the finisher results, there are times for 1352 runners (and 73 runners listed with no finish times, so I can’t tell if they are DNS, DNF, or timing chip malfunction). I was expecting more like 5000-6000 runners, not including the 5k (which started from another location). The results also list the town for each runner, and the vast majority came from right in the San Luis Obispo area, or within a few hours’ drive.
The start area of this point-to-point course had the typical amenities: bag check, information, and a giant row of porta-potties (plenty for all the runners, lines were short). The pace team was appropriately spaced leaving plenty of room for runners to self-seed. The race started about five minutes late (which was fine with me); I’m not sure if they had a sound system issue, but it was difficult to hear the pre-race announcements, and my corral did not hear the first half of the National Anthem. I thought the announcer said they would be starting the runners in waves (presumably based on the pacers), but the entire field started at once without any breaks. This meant that initially we moved forward towards the start line and then ended up in a stand-still clump waiting to pass over it, but that turned out to be fine as we had the entire street to ourselves.
The Best: The Course! Since I have a half marathon every weekend in October and most of November, with the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank half marathon next weekend, I was not out to set a PR on this course–but I’m pretty sure I could have. Add in my still-creaky hip and something funky going on in my left ankle, and my goals were simple: have fun, enjoy the course, finish without getting swept or injured.
As a point-to-point, there were not too many turns on the course, making it pretty speedster-friendly. The first stretch ran down Higuera Street, through and out of San Luis Obispo, and we had the entire street to ourselves. As we moved from downtown Higuera Street turns into more of a highway, even though it isn’t actually a highway, and we had half of the road (the other half was open to traffic). This was fine, as there was still plenty of room for all of us. The course runs parallel to the 101 for a time, then underneath it and through a greenbelt and park, eventually on to Shell Beach Road. It’s one of those courses where even though you know there is a road right next to you for most of it, it feels quiet, peaceful, and far from traffic. The last bit runs along the oceanfront (but it’s up–the ocean is like 20′ down from where you are running), then through some neighborhoods, and into the finish line and park.
I really enjoyed the downhill between the beginning and mile 7. The hill at mile 7, okay, that was okay. The big hill at mile 10, and the final hill at mile 12? Those were just a little too mean for my currently wimpy ankle. (Though really sincerely, if I had trained to run this for a PR, anticipating the hills at the end, it would have been d0-able since there was a long, slow downhill.) I was pleased to feel my hamstrings and glutes engaging–proof the focus I’ve put on training the back line of the body is paying off–though maybe taking an Orangetheory class (endurance day, surprise!) on Saturday morning wasn’t my best plan ever. Meh. I felt strong on the initial hills, but by the time I hit the last one at mile 12 my body was done with it.
The Best: The Volunteers! Every aid station was well-stocked with everything promised, including a bunch of friendly volunteers. There were volunteers at the few possible places you could have made a wrong turn, which I expected. There were also volunteers on the longer stretches who were just there to cheer–which I did not expect but found delightful! I’m told that California has a mandatory community service requirement to graduate from high school and that is why it is so easy to find volunteers for races here. (It might not be state-wide, it might just be certain schools. I’ve not investigated this.) One of the coolest things at City to the Sea is that every volunteer was engaged and IN the race. I didn’t catch any bored teens rolling their eyes while scrolling on their iPhones. There were cheers, high-fives, signs, costumes, instead. I can’t say enough about how great the volunteers were, in every way. I kinda wish I’d taken a picture to put here, but that might have seemed stalkerishly weird.
Race’s End. All good courses must come to an end, and while I did love the seaside finish I was ready for the course to end after the hill at mile 11. At the finish line every finisher received their medal, some decals, and a pint-glass sized cup from Running Warehouse (presumably for use in the beer garden). The race finished in a small park overlooking the ocean, and even though it was not a huge finisher festival, there was plenty to see and do.
The park has a built-in playground structure that is dinosaur-themed, so there’s that. To foster a more family-friendly vibe, the race also had a pretend obstacle course where a group of kids could race each other by jumping over “fire,” for example, and eventually going through a standing hula hoop. It was adorable, and the kids were LOVING it! (Again, it would have been stalkerishly weird to take pictures of others peoples’ kids to use in a blog post, so imagination will have to suffice.)
The finisher festival was set up mainly around the edges of the park. Cuesta College Athletics, the beneficiary of the race (which is reason enough to go run this!), had a booth. There were tables with chilled water and Fluid‘s electrolyte beverage (which is how I used my cup). Two local LuLaRoe dealers had set up a booth (but none of the Halloween designs I’m stalking).
Due to the usual state and local laws regulating alcohol (sigh), the beer garden was fenced off and had volunteers checking IDs on the way in. I didn’t go in–I went over to the massage and recovery area to borrow a chair and sit a bit–but that’s also where the band was. No problem though, you could hear the band just fine throughout most of the park. Also, the band–Makeover–was really good! It was an 80’s pop music cover band, and they sounded great. Everyone was really enjoying the music.
There was one area that needs improvement, as the corporate annual reviews would say, at the finisher area: food. Leading up to the race, each email had this in it:
I know it is a little fuzzy (it didn’t blow up well), sorry. Anyway, I was really looking forward to the breakfast burritos. Even though the burrito provider is clearly Central Coast Meats, the pre-race emails promised a vegetarian option too. My favorite post-race things are chocolate milk, champagne, and breakfast tacos (though obviously not mixed together). If I can’t have breakfast tacos, a breakfast burrito will definitely do. I’d been eyeing the tab on my bib for breakfast as I cleared the last few miles, so after checking out the beer garden, I went to look for the breakfast burritos. Only there weren’t any. I don’t mean there weren’t any vegetarian breakfast burritos, I mean there were no breakfast burritos at all. In fact the area where they had been handing them out was packed up and it took me a few passes to figure out that’s where the burritos used to be.
First, I feel compelled to point out that it is not my turtle speed that caused me to be deprived of a burrito. On the bus back to the start someone walked on with a breakfast burrito in her hand and offered it to anyone who wanted it. (It was pretty big, too. Not like an overstuffed Chipotle, but like a reasonably decent sized meal of a burrito.) Immediately all the women sitting around me remarked that they didn’t get breakfast burritos either. Curious, I asked when they finished–because at that point I assumed they packed up after 3 hours, which was the official course limit–and found out many of them finished around 2:40 or 2:45. Several told me that they were standing in line for a burrito when the burritos ran out.
Second, lest you think there’s no way you’d eat a burrito after all that finisher chute food, there was no finisher chute food. The breakfast burrito was not in addition to bagels, bananas, salty snacks, etc. but instead of them. No burrito, no food. Given that Cuban food isn’t exactly vegetarian-friendly by nature (though I did check the menu board), no on-site breakfast for me.
Transportation. The race entry fee included transportation back to the starting line (very important for a point-to-point course!). Unlike the San Francisco courses, this was part of the registration, not an added fee. Both a coach-style bus and a limo-type “short bus” transported runners back to the start. This ran seamlessly, with runners lining up to board as they were ready. The ride back was comfortable and climate-controlled, and the drop off was just around the corner (literally) from the start.
Post-race stroll. Since I had secured a late check-0ut from my hotel (shout out and mad props to the very nice people at the Courtyard by Marriott San Luis Obispo), I decided to walk around the area immediately adjacent to where my car was parked. First I went to LUSH, with the idea that I would buy a shower bomb (since my room had a super awesome shower, but no bathtub). Denied! Turns out LUSH only sells those shower things online, though I could have bought plenty of other goodies. Nope, I wanted Up The Wooden Hill. From there I went to Phoenix Books because I am a book junkie. (One entire wall of my living room is the library, and I have three piles of books in the bedroom.) I couldn’t find a website, but if you are in town you should visit! This is the book lovers bookstore, with used books packed onto shelves, lining the stairs, and in piles on the floor. I found a few gems to take home, and decided I should exit before I found more.
After a lovely shower at the Courtyard, a bottle of Gerolsteiner, and that banana and peanut butter I had forgotten to eat, it was time to check out. I decided to spend a few hours exploring SLO before the drive home.
I had a filling, delicious, vegetarian lunch at Bliss Cafe. It had the “hippy dippy” attitude and menu I expected–lots of explanations about Ayurvedic food, delightful art with Krishna on the walls–and my lunch was delicious. Bliss shares a building entrance with a few other shops, so I took time to explore them. First I bought some handmade earrings at the art gallery, and then I purchased some perfume from the hippy/pagan clothing/etc. store in the same arcade. (It’s not on Google Maps and I didn’t note the name–sorry!) Finally I went to Cowboy Cookie where instead of birthday cake I had a sprinkled sugar cookie bowl filled with birthday cake ice cream.
The last hour or so of my time in SLO, I strolled the rest of the street and took a look around. Sunday evening there were plenty of shops open, and plenty of things closed.
San Luis Obispo has a CowParade going on, which I love. (I can’t remember how this started, but I’ve seen cows and other animals on parade in various cities I’ve visited over the years. I think the first one I saw was Chicago?) You can’t see it, but the sign has a hotline to call to report injured cows. You can see the 120 cows in this parade–which are all over the cownty, not just in the city–through April 2017 and vote for your favorite. I also stopped in to browse multiple art galleries and shops.
Bubblegum alley had plenty of people taking pictures, so I had to wait my turn. Also, it’s a teeny bit gross…but the fifth grader in me was secretly pleased it exists. I really wish I’d had more time to explore (and a bigger stomach), but all too soon it was time to drive back home.
If you’ve run City to the Sea, why not take a moment to review it on BibRave.com? You know how great it is, and how much potential it has to be a huge destination race!
Yes, I’m really about to have another birthday. (Hey, it beats the only alternative, right?) The big day is October 9th, same as John Lennon, but of course I’m going to celebrate all month–pumpkin spice all the things! Trick or Treat! The beginning of soup season! In many non-California parts of the country this is also the beginning of race season. (California doesn’t really have a race season, and I’m pretty sure I could run at least one race every weekend without driving more than two miles from my house.) Naturally, I think you should celebrate my incarnation “with” me by running a race.
If you actually want to run in the same physical location with me, come out to City to the Sea in San Luis Obispo, where I will be running the half marathon as a BibRave Pro! This will be my first time running the race, and my first time to visit San Luis Obispo as well. The race features a mostly downhill point-to-point course, and I understand there may be breakfast tacos at the finish line. Check out all the perks and details on the race homepage. If you’re feeling less adventurous–maybe you’re celebrating my birthday on Saturday night?–there is also a 5k option. You can still use citytotheseabibrave to save $10 on your registration, but hurry because the race is this weekend! This is the link to online registration.
Naturally as soon as I committed to run City to the Sea, Represent Running set the East Bay 510k for the same day. This really bummed me out because this is my first year as part of the Represent Running team, and I wanted to run all of the races in person, though there is a virtual option so I can still earn the mega-bling. (Of course there is mega-bling!) It’s not to late for you to sign up, however, and if you use code REPRESENT2016ER you can save a few bucks for a post-race celebratory beverage. This year there are pre-race packet pickup events in San Francisco and in the East Bay. Head over to the registration site or to the race website for more details. While you’re there, think about how much you want that trifecta medal and register for next year’s San Jose 408k. See you at the Mariachi Mile!
If trails are more your jam, I highly recommend checking out the Honey Badger at China Camp State Park in San Rafael. (In fact if I had not already committed to City to the Sea, I’d be out on the trails with cowbells cheering you on and pointing you in the right direction.) You can choose a half marathon, 10k, or 5k trail party. Keep your eyes peeled for the hidden woodallions along the trail because if you find one you could score a sweet prize! (Past loot has included trail shoes, cases of beverages, headgear, and running supplies.) If you’re one of the first ten people to enter code BAIN, you also score $10 off your registration. All the details are over here.
Finally, however you choose to celebrate, keep an eye on the blog (or follow me on twitter) because giveaway-a-palooza continues all month. I’m a little behind on my ambitious goal to get 31 prizes up for the 31 days of October–right now you can enter to win The Long Run and Trailhead–but they are all coming. Future prizes include more books, race swag, charitable and sweet-smelling soaps, and goodies from IDEA World BlogFest and Natural Products ExpoWest.
Disclaimer: I received a swag kit to review and a free entry to The Color Run Sacramento because I am a BibRave Pro. (As always, ALL opinions are my own and I wrote my review all by myself.) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! Reviewing races on BibRave helps other runners plan their race schedules, and helps race directors make races even better!
In the world of the Serious Runners, there are MANY people who have strong opinions about The Color Run. I’m one of them. So when BibRave provided us with the opportunity to have a swaggy giveaway and help promote The Color Run, I was ALL IN. In my least humble opinion, here are the most important things to know.
Pro Tip: Plan Ahead! If you’re worried about inhaling too much color (for whatever reason) stick to the outer lane of the course, and wear a bandanna over your mouth/nose. If you plan to take pictures, cover your camera with a clean plastic bag (as that color is sneaky and will get everywhere). You don’t need massive race gear, but if you want to carry a water bottle, choose one that seals shut (so you can control whether it turns colors!).
The Color Run is the original, reliable, real deal. If you sign up for The Color Run, you’re going to have a run, as well as all the swag you pre-ordered. I mention this because over the past few years there have been a ton of imitation races that have not been responsible members of the running community. (If you are one of the people who got stiffed by the 5k Foam Fest, I’m so sorry. I promise, The Color Run is NOT like that!) I’ve done The Color Run and they deliver!
The Color Run is FUN (and colorful). Part of the joy of The Color Run is that everyone is there to have a good time–it’s okay to act like a kid! Everyone gets a packet of color to toss, and you have the opportunity to get more (you can buy them at the event, and when I ran the DJ at the starting line was tossing out packets too). The colors are basically non-toxic coloring agents and corn starch. If you missed the opportunity to play with these colors during the Indian festival of Holi–which you probably did, since it is a spring festival and took place in March this year (though I just learned the Krishna Temple hosts Color Festival events throughout the summer in various locations)–The Color Run is your opportunity! Unlike many of the color powders now used in India, The Color Run’s colors are made in the USA and do not contain heavy metals or other questionable ingredients. Common sense should reign, however, and you can take away this important safety tip: tossing color straight up in the air does not produce a cool shower of color, but instead guarantees it will fall straight back down into your face. Oops.
Pro Tip! Wear The Color Run white shirt to the event. The colors show up best on white. If you want to keep the color on your shirt after you wash it, spritz it with water to let the color soak in, then let it dry 100% before washing. Don’t use bleach (it is the anti-color).
The Color Run may or may not involve running. As the website explains, The Color Run is not a timed event. You don’t get a prize for coming in first. While some runners complain this isn’t a “real” run, I think those folks just need to relax! I am in favor of any fun, physical activity that gets people up off the couch and out into the world. One thing I really liked about The Color Run is that everyone could enjoy it. I saw singles and groups of high school students, college friends, adults of all ages, families, and parent-child teams. Personally, I think it’s a great sneaky way to get kids to exercise. 5k is still 3.1 miles, which isn’t really that far for any kid (they walk more if they go to Disneyland), but the permission to get messy and colorful is pretty much the opposite of what a kid associates with exercise.
Pro Tip! If you DO want to run, you should seed yourself accordingly: plant yourself at the very front of your wave. (To reduce the chance that anyone gets trampled, The Color Run uses a wave start to break runners into groups.) If you are planning to stroll (or roll!), hang out towards the back. The Color Run is like a mullet–serious in the front, party in the back.
The Color Run Tropicolor is coming to Baltimore on May 21! All the details are HERE and you should go register immediately. (I’m not in Baltimore or anywhere nearby, so I’m running in Sacramento.) Plus you can save $5 with code BRP16.
Pro Tip for Post-Race! Pack a post-race kit for your car. (Unless you want a tropicolor-mobile, in which case, ignore this tip.) Personally, my Color Run kit includes a gallon of water, face/body wipes, and a big beach towel to cover my car’s seats. The water is nice for rinsing off hands–I don’t trust wipes 100%!–which will turn brown when all the colors mix up on your hands.
Also, enter to win a Tropicolor Swag Pack from The Color Run. Don’t wait! It’s a short, sweet, swag giveaway. a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’ve joined Running With SD Mom for the “Try Out Thursdays” LinkUp. I tried The Color Run–and I’m committed to do it again!
Disclosure: I’m running the Buffalo Marathon with a comped bib thanks to the BibRave Pro Team.
When I signed up for the Buffalo Marathon last year, I was confident I’d push my marathon time below six hours. (Officially, the course has a six hour time limit. After that, you are detoured to sidewalks so they can re-open the roads.) I had plenty of time. While I’d never done a six hour marathon, I’d also never done a course that is fast and flat, so it’s just a matter of convincing my body to trot along a little faster. Naturally I had all sorts of issues including an overuse injury due to an imbalance in my hips/pelvis. Ugh!
My planning for this race is off in other ways too. I had also planned to write a long blot post with interviews from people who ran Buffalo in the past and while I started it, you haven’t seen it yet. I had planned to reserve at the host hotel, which is sold out. Ugh!
…I’m going to have a fantastic race anyway! Why? Because I run for fun. I do this because I enjoy it. After interviewing Greg Weber, the race director, on Runner of a Certain Age (that’s the podcast I co-host, check it out!) I know the whole race weekend is going to be a total treat!
The BibRave Pro Team got a surprise pre-race treat too: the opportunity to interview Meb! Meb Keflezighi is definitely one of my running idols. I know I’ll never be fast like Meb–I’m not devoted to training and I’m not built like Meb–but I have a deep admiration for the man. Sure, he’s a legend, but he’s also a sweet, humble, kind man. At every race event where I have seen Meb, he has graciously interacted with the crowd (and everyone wants a piece of Meb). He’s an Olympian in his own class, yet encourages fun runners to keep moving forward.
Since I tried not to hog this experience for myself–I put out a call on social media for interview questions and got just one in response–I’m sharing my mini-interview with all of you.
What memories do you have from running the NCCA Championships in Buffalo?
That was my senior year in T&F. It was my last time representing UCLA. I really enjoyed being in Buffalo and seeing Niagara Falls. I remember Western New York being a beautiful area.
Did you know Meb has already run in Buffalo? (Be like Meb. Come run Buffalo with us!) I’m excited to see Buffalo, as I haven’t been there since I was a very little girl–too young to remember. Speaking of memories, running is a great way to create them. When you ask a runner about notable moments in their running history, the competitive ones (i.e. not me!) often cite a PR, crossing the finish line, or a big win as their favorite running memory. My favorite running memories are not about these things. That’s what inspired my next question:
What is your favorite running memory that does NOT involve crossing a finish line, breaking a record, or winning an event?
Finishing Fourth Place at Olympics was not a record or a win. But my daughters and about 50 of my family members were there. We thought this would be my last Olympics. At one point I was in 21st place and was having a tough race. But I remembered I was there representing USA, not myself. I pushed to get to the finish and surprisingly finished 4th. Though I didn’t medal, it was one of my greatest memories.
Check it out! I have something in common with Meb! We both value family. My own favorite running memories are races I’ve done with my Dad. (For the record, he runs faster than I do. A lot faster.) Mom was never into running, and she barely got to see the very beginning of my running hobby. I remember Dad and I called her every mile or so from the Portland Marathon Course years ago. My first “big” race, in my mind, was the race I ran for the American Cancer Society’s Team DetermiNation in memory of Mom. That’s actually one of the things I love best about the runners I’ve met: so many of them run for charity, volunteer to help newer runners, or otherwise give back to their communities.
How do you give back to your community? How can other runners support that?
I’ve created the MEB Foundation. MEB stands for Maintaining Excellent Balance. It is about supporting and promoting youth health, education and fitness. We’ve had a lot of people run for the MEB Foundation at the NYC and Boston Marathons. If you are interested in running those races as part of TeamMeb.org. In addition to the MEB Foundation, I’ve been able to support many charity organizations, which is an important part of our sport.
I’m so thankful to Meb for taking the time to answer questions for the BibRave Pro Team. (If you’d like to read BibRave Pro Jen Skiba’s interview, you can check it out on her blog, Jen Runs Fast.) I’m also thankful to Meb for setting a great example of remaining humble even in the face of great success, and for giving back to his community and the world.
By the way, if you have not yet signed up to run the Buffalo Marathon or the John Beishline Memorial 5k (Saturday), GO SIGN UP NOW. The race is on course to sell out. As an added bonus, the very last person to register–that final registration that makes the race 100% full–will be FREE. Use code BRELIZ05 to save $5 on your registration.
Disclosure: I forgot to put this on my Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio post. Oops. I am a member of the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Blog team, and as a team member I am rocking a TourPass. Despite the name, being a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team does not obligate me to blog about each race (or do anything else in particular regarding race recaps). As always, all opinions–and every single word in this post–are exclusively mine.
When Briana and I first saw The Lone Star Legend at the Heavy Medals display in San Antonio, we knew we had to have it. The medal is about as Texas as you can get–shape of the state, check; Texas flag, check; a lone star, check–and since I frequently find myself running for shiny objects, I immediately declared “in.” Plus I ran the Dallas Remix in 2015 and figured it would be a good excuse to see friends and family.
Friday I got up entirely too early to fly to Dallas, catch DART from the airport to the hotel, and crash for a little bit. The nice thing about the Dallas Remix is that if you choose a hotel within walking distance of DART, you don’t need a car at all. After Briana arrived we had a quick bite to eat at the hotel and then headed over to the expo. I love the Friday expo, since there are almost never any lines when the marathon or half is on Sunday.
After picking up both of my bibs and shirts I did a quick cruise around the expo. (The Dallas expo was a little difficult to find, since an auto show had taken over most of the convention center and there were not a bunch of big signs. Fortunately, DART goes right to the convention center, and there was a parade of people with Rock ‘n’ Roll bags…so we all just made like salmon.) Like last year, I found the Dallas expo smaller than most Rock ‘n’ Roll expos. Sad to say, this year there was no Dunkin’ Donuts coffee! There was a ton of cute stuff for the race, but I’m trying to be fiscally responsible this year. My closet is basically filled with running clothing, and there isn’t much I need–so if I bought something, when would I wear it??
Then there was dinner. One of the things I really love about the Rock ‘n’ Roll series is that so many people with TourPass go from race to race. Last year I made a ton of new friends, and now I’ve always got a group to eat dinner with while I’m on the road. (In fact, I ate with a bunch of the same people again in San Francisco.) Dallas has a bunch of great, interesting places to eat all within walking distance of the downtown hotels. Finally there were the obligatory flat-me “selfies,” and there was sleeping, and suddenly it was time to get up for the 5k.
Since it was now Saturday, and I’d packed for the weather they were predicting on Thursday, the first step outside was sad–windy AND chilly! We headed over to the DART station when I saw my savior: 7-Eleven. They sell garbage bags! I had just enough time to buy a 12 pack and jump on the train, where I made some new friends. DART dropped us off right at Fair Park–though the station closest to the stadium, where the race started, was actually the next stop over–and we headed to the starting line. Lots of runners were huddled together, so it was time to make new friends. I actually met several people who were going to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas half marathon in the morning and then hop a plane to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mexico City half marathon in the evening! (They called it the Tex-Mex combo. Salsa not included.) By the way, you can hear a great race recap with one runner who first heard about Tex-Mex at the Dallas expo, signed up, and drove home to get his passport! Check out Runner of a Certain Age.
The course around Fair Park is not the world’s most exciting, but access to Fair Park is easy by DART or car. If you are a local, you’ve likely already seen all the things there are to see at Fair Park, and the course is going to be a bit of a yawn–think of it as a shakeout run for the half marathon. On the other hand, if you are a local with kids who are ready to do 3.1 miles, this is a great race since it has tons of parking, doesn’t require travel, and has all the party amenities of Rock ‘n’ Roll. (I did hear some people complaining about finding parking, but these were family/friends who came to pick up runners at the end of the race. This year there were several other large events going on in Fair Park that started around the time the race ended, so that may have contributed to the griping.) I saw tons of kids who were clearly running with mom and/or dad (or both!), and later proudly wearing the medals they earned. Start ’em young!
Personally, I liked running around Fair Park. This was basically the same course as last year, only run in reverse. The course itself is quite flat, and half nifty and half meh. This year the nifty part–the grand WPA-era pavilions and buildings, reflecting pool, carvings and murals–was first. The “meh” part is an out-and-back along the seasonal rail line that runs through the big parking lot on the back side of Fair Park. I’m not local, so I could be wrong, but I don’t know that there are any viable alternatives to this course, beyond turning it into a two-loop course. It seems like there just isn’t enough real estate to make 3.1 miles happen (evidenced by the “everybody gets a PR!” phenomenon caused by a course that everyone I talked to said measured quite short–2.7 or 2.8 miles vs. 3.1). I like the Fair Park location though, due to easy access via DART or car, plenty of parking, and convenient for those who planned their hotels around the half marathon location.
The aid stations had water (maybe Gatorade? I’m writing this a month later, and I don’t think I took anything but water, personally). At the finish line there were bananas, water, Gatorade, chips, and other snacks. The finish line also had a beer tent for those over 21 with the Rock ‘n’ Roll sponsor beer, which I think is Michelob Ultra again. (I don’t drink beer.) There was a concert, of course, with plenty of room to dance (and lots of the kids who ran their first 5k were dancing like little rock stars)
While I could have lived without the out-and-back section around the parking area, it’s tough to get 3.1 in within Fair Park itself, on paths/sidewalks wide enough to hold a race. Fortunately I ran into several other people I knew or had previously met, and got to say hi to Derek Mitchell on my way through that section, so I enjoyed it anyway. (When a race gives you lemons, add vodka!)
Bottom line: as I said on my BibRave.com review, this is not a “destination 5k.” While it is a fun event, and I enjoyed meeting other runners and using it as a pre-half marathon shakeout run, I would not have made the trip JUST for the 5k. If you’re local and want a party-like 5k, and don’t mind the course, this is a good choice.
The rest of Saturday was a whirlwind of activity. We took DART back to the hotel, with several bewildered locals curiously observing all the runners. I was still tired from Friday, so it took me forever to shower and put on clean clothes…and so I missed most of the epic #WeRunSocial meetup. I arrived just in time for the “we need photographic proof we made it” latecomers, ha ha! From there, Briana and I headed to BeautyCon Dallas, which just happened to be taking place at Fair Park. (More on that later.) From there, we made a trip to Target for warmer duds. Seriously, Target is my savior when it comes to changing weather and travel. If they don’t sell it, I can’t possibly need it. I scored tech fabrics on the clearance rack! Then it was off to another group dinner before hitting the bed early to get some precious sleep!
Sunday morning came WAY too early. (Why do races have to start so darned early??) On our way to the starting area I was still debating whether to check my jacket, but decided to keep both long-sleeved layers due to the WIND WIND WIND. I did eventually let go of my recycled heat sheet, but only because it’s hard to run dressed like a baked potato.
The course this year was NOT the same as last year. I’m sure the changes were based on runner feedback, because the Rock ‘n’ Roll series does take that seriously. The new route did not go over the torn-up and pothole-ridden roads, which made me happy. The start and finish were also in a different location, near Reunion Tower. I don’t know the city well enough to explain the rest of the course changes. While I was bummed to not run by Oak Lawn Coffee (where I enjoyed an epic mocha during last year’s race), I didn’t miss the roughed-up roadways. Note to runners: fill out those post-race surveys, and review your races! Race directors generally do want you to have a good race and enjoy it. If there is something you don’t like, point it out! Good race organizations do respond to critical feedback.
As I mentioned, race day was VERY WINDY. Like you could “lean in” it windy. Comically windy (but not funny as you ran into the wind and crossed the final overpass/bridge). It seemed like no matter which way the course turned, the wind was in my face, never at my back. I don’t know if the wind was the reason, but this year the course did not have the giant neon Texas-themed selfie stations, the Texas backdrops, or the bands with huge sets (like the one that had an entire BBQ joint, complete with smoker, in 2015). While waiting to jump into the corrals many runners huddled inside the nearest buildings to wait for their corrals to start. I was really hoping for warm as I made my way along the course. Nope.
In my experience–as a mid-to-back-of-the-packer–course support was up from last year, with more families and random cheering people than last year. Aid stations were on point and well-stocked, though as usual I wish half marathons put their first fuel option earlier on the course. On course entertainment included local cheerleading groups, bands, and other performers–including the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at the finish line!
About that “flat course”…the course was not truly flat, but it wasn’t technical or super challenging either (hills led up to, and down from, the bridges). The course was fairly flat, on balance. Just like last year, we ran over the almost-brand-new Margaret McDermott bridge, an architectural beauty that inspired hundreds of selfies. (I didn’t take them all, but I did have to dodge several people who came to a dead stop right in the center of the road.) While I assume the city’s whims played a role in course development (in case you’re not aware, host cities can pick and choose which streets they will let you close, and for how long, and place other conditions on the race permit), it seemed to me like the course was designed to show off many different aspects of Dallas. We ran through some areas that were clearly under urban renewal, and some areas that looked a lot like the suburban town I grew up in, complete with parks and ball fields. We ran over what are ordinarily heavy traffic streets and a freeway (literally over that one, as we were on the bridge), and down quiet neighborhood streets. I really like it when a race course tries to show all the facets the location has to offer.
Bottom line: I like this race as it gives me an excuse to see my extended family over the weekend. It’s also an early-season Rock ‘n’ Roll race, and one of my first opportunities to meet up with my runner peeps from other states. I’d be more enthusiastic about the race except for the WIND WIND WIND (which wasn’t an issue last year). Assuming I decide to try to go for Hall of Fame next year, I’ll probably be back.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Remix was my first Tour Stop of the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll season. Up next: San Francisco!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary bib to run The Double Your Luck Challenge because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here.Find and write race reviews at BibRave.com All opinions in this review are my own. (There is no “sponsored content” or advertorial here!)
While I originally planned to show up Friday night so I could check out the Sin City Shootout opening night parties after I picked up my packet, my elderly cat has been refusing to eat and is now on steroids…combine that with the week I was just out of town for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, and I didn’t want to leave the poor meow alone for more than a night. So I flew in Saturday evening. While the Tropicana was the official host hotel for the Sin City events, I had a friend in town who already had a room at Harrah’s, and I love me some free crash space. The main advantage of packet pickup on Friday is the ability to purchase the special Sin City Shootout mug, which comes with a slew of drink specials at the various affiliated parties over the weekend. There was no pickup Saturday, and I wasn’t about to go out drinking the night before a race, so no parties for me!
I got up early Sunday and went down to hail a cab. The one thing I disliked about this event is that there was no transportation provided, and facebook group or other way to arrange a ride share. The Sin City Shootout host hotel is the Tropicana, though I stayed at nearby Harrah’s. My taxi out to the event cost around $30, and I wasn’t the only one who took a taxi—it would have been nice to have a way to coordinate rides. Some people did drive, but since I was just staying overnight the cost of a car rental was crazy. There was ample free parking right by the start/finish, so locals scored a great deal.
While I had planned an hour before the race for packet pickup, I think it took more like 10 minutes. There was a line, but it moved rapidly. The Sin City Run packets were small but mighty! I really like it when a race packet has minimal paper (like flyers and stuff) and only runner-related items. Packets contained your race bib, a discount on EnergyBits, samples of gummy vitamins, Clif Bar minis, and samples of BioFreeze, in addition to safety pins. Unfortunately I didn’t get to pick up my shirt because two of the boxes of shirts were stuck on a UPS truck somewhere, so I’ll be getting mine in the mail. (They only had small, and I’m not small.) The shirts are cute, a grey basic cotton tee with the Sin City Run logo on the front. I know I’ll wear mine.
Initially, I was freezing cold—it was in the 40s, even though I’d checked the weather report and it said 60s!—and I really wished I’d brought a heat sheet or a long-sleeved shirt. Before the 5k, BibRave Pro Laurel (aka Running to Happiness) and I huddled in her car and had some BibRave Pro bonding time prior to the start. Both of us happened to wear our 2XU winter-weight Hyoptik compression tights, and I for one was VERY pleased for the warmth. For the 5k I pulled my Buff up like a balaclava to cover my neck and head, and give me a little extra heat-retention until the sun came out. Eventually the sun did come out, and I started to warm up quite a bit.
The course was flat and as I mentioned 100% blacktop. There was the most minor of downhills at one point in the course, but you really had to be paying attention to notice it. Both courses run through Sunset Park, a protected wildlife dune just past the airport. The 5k race course takes one loop around a portion of the blacktop-paved trails, and the 10k race takes that loop twice, plus a little mini-loop to add the mileage. (Given the layout of the trails, I suspect there were few options for adjusting the course length.)
For the 5k, I ran with Laurel. She was running 2-1 intervals at a pace of about 11 minutes/mile. (I think I remembered that right.) She was kind of kicking my butt, actually, but I wanted to try the 5k as a challenge. This seemed like a good idea for the first 2.6 miles or so, then I started lagging. Frankly, my legs were pretty leaden from last weekend’s running-of-the-Dopey. I made it anyway, of course, but my legs were very cranky.
Despite being right in the middle of Vegas, the race course seemed very nature-y and not particularly urban. I spotted at least two dozen bunnies, and during the 5k Laurel taught me that the ones I call Bunna-Bunny-Big-Ears are not bunnies, but hares. (Yes, I still make up names for cute animals I see while running. I blame the lack of oxygen to the brain.) Well, they might be blacktailed jackrabbits. But she also told me she learned that they can control their body temperatures with their ears. Very cool. I wish I could do that.
I was a little disappointed to not see any lizards while I was running, but it occurred to me that while lizards can be desert-dwellers perhaps they don’t like dunes?
The course had one aid station with water (and music and cheering) which each runner passed twice during the 5k run and four times during the 10k run. The course was marked on the blacktop with chalk, with cones and XXX where appropriate to make sure runners didn’t stray from the path. There were volunteers at every point where the course might have been even a little bit confusing, as well as at the few places where the course crossed a road open to vehicles. The volunteers were really great, cheering for every runner who went through the course. In the beginning this might have been so they could stay warm, but they kept up their enthusiasm even after the sun came out.
For the 10k, I decided to switch back to my usual 1-1 intervals (which later degraded to 30 seconds and 1:30 intervals) since my legs were just not feeling it. The sun came out, and the sky was blue, so it was gorgeous out, pretty much the perfect day for a run. I tried to photograph my new “friends” during the 10k but they wouldn’t hold still. Every time I heard a new bird I stopped to see if I could find him, since I’ve never lived in the desert. I’m not sure how to describe the landscaping, but it was a natural mix of yucca-like stuff, a few cactus, and the usual desert-like trees. I could see mountains (and snow!) in the background.
The finish line had someone to announce each finisher, which I thought was a nice touch for a smaller race. There is a single finisher medal for either 5k or 10k, though if you do both you get a bonus medal. The race medal is poker-chip-themed, and double-sided enamel. The bonus medal is also poker-chip-themed, and is a spinner. Both feature wide colorful ribbons. Overall, I thought these were executed beautifully.
A few steps beyond the finish line runners had an assortment of post-race snacks, including a beverage called rumble that I’d never tried before. (The vanilla maple is delicious.) Other offerings were water, bananas, Clif organic trail mix bars, pretzels, and tortilla strips.
As I wrote on BibRave.com, this is less of a “destination race” and more of a “race in a destination.” It was small but mighty! This is the complete opposite of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas runs (which are huge, urban, and at night). This would be the perfect race for someone who wants to go to a small but extremely well-managed event. This would make an ideal race for a friends’ getaway weekend; I could see combining running these events with a longer weekend in Vegas—maybe go to the opening parties Friday, see an afternoon show Saturday, run Sunday morning, and then head to a champagne brunch buffet.
After my race, I convinced Laurel to drive me back to Harrah’s. I grabbed a shower, changed clothes, and put almost everything back in the suitcase. I met my roommate down in the high-limit room, and we headed to lunch and caught up. (I had almost convinced her to run with me, but since she was in town for a poker tournament she quickly came to her senses and decided staying out late and getting up early were not a recipe for a winning poker tournament.) When we said goodbye, I stopped to get a fruity frozen drink (because hello, Vegas).