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A race that starts literally blocks from my apartment? Count me in!

This is the first year I ran the Rip City Race for the Roses, benefiting Albertina Kerr. If you are not from Portland, you might not be familiar with Albertina Kerr, which has been a force for good in Portland since 1907. In short, Albertina Kerr empowers people with intel​lectual and developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and other social barriers to lead self-determined lives and reach their full potential. 100% of the profits from Rip City Race for the Roses go to Albertina Kerr–everything is covered by sponsors.

I registered for the race pretty late, at the expo for the Shamrock Run Portland. (Yeah, I know, I haven’t written about that one yet…but the expo was great!) If you register early, like right now, you can get the very best price for 2019. I don’t remember what I paid, but I registered at the last pricing tier and while it was more than I usually pay for a 10k, I knew all of the money was going to Albertina Kerr so I didn’t really care. This year, the race included a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and kids’ race. Since I was supposed to run Revel Mt. Charleston on Saturday, I opted for the 10k race.

Foot Traffic on Fremont hosted the packet pickup, which was a breeze. Volunteers had printed lists of names and bib numbers. After picking up my bib and declining the matched set of four safety pins (yay, Racedots!), I walked inside the store to get my shirt, which came with a lunch-bag-sized reusable bag (courtesy of Charles Schwab). Runners could pick up on Friday or Saturday, and when I went on Saturday there was no lines and it was very chill. Foot Traffic offered 10% off any regular priced merchandise for runners, which was a great deal–they have several Portland-specific running designs in stock, in addition to the full range of shoes and clothes and accessories and fuel you would expect from a technical running store. I noticed Foot Traffic carries designs (and the book!) by Another Mother Runner and while I’m not a mother myself, I know plenty of mothers who love to run.

I have to say, the race shirt is fantastic. While it isn’t a tech shirt, I honestly have scores of those and only wear them when I’m planning to sweat. The super soft grey shirt features a red print that looks like a runner and a rose, without any words, text, or other logos on the front. (All of the race sponsors are on the back.) In other words, it doesn’t scream I AM A RACE SHIRT!!! like so many race shirts do. I’m certain I will be wearing it on a regular basis.

pink roses from the finish lineThis year, the start and finish were in the plaza between the Moda Center (home of the Portland Trailblazers, or the basketball arena formerly known as The Rose Garden, much to the confusion of many a tourist trying to look at fancy flowers) and the home of the Portland Winterhawks. This was a great location to start a running event, convenient to public transit (MAX has a dedicated stop, and multiple buses stop nearby). It’s also just over two blocks away from my apartment, essentially allowing me to bedroll to the race. Seriously, I saw the first race started at 7:50 and I didn’t even get out of bed until 7:00.

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of pictures, as my iPhone 6 has a battery that drains faster than a perfectly clear stand pipe and I knew I’d be running Vi (not an affiliate link, but check my discounts page!) and Rock My Run on it during the race. The start/finish area featured a cute Rip City photo op; DJ; stage; booths for packet pickup, kids’ bib decorating, and some of the sponsors; two coffee trucks; a shaved ice truck (or as we called it in Michigan, a sno cone truck); finisher food and drink zone; and more. There wasn’t a line to pick up bibs, and there was a bag check area as well. Shortly after I arrived, I ran into my friend Holly, and we chatted until she had to leave to go walk the half marathon.

All of the courses were an out-and-back, and shared the same start and finish. From the Rose Garden, I mean Moda Center, area…we all ran a bit on the NE streets and then over the Broadway Bridge. Turning onto Hoyt, all of the courses ran through the Pearl District–which has changed SO MUCH during the 2008-2017 time period I wasn’t in Portland–the Northwest, and the Northwest Industrial areas. At the 5k turnaround, the 10k and half continued onward, and at the 10k turnaround the half marathon continued. I suppose some could argue it wasn’t a spectacularly scenic course, but I personally loved running through the ever-evolving urban Portland landscape. Along the course, volunteers manned aid stations that served runners both coming and going, and multiple areas had cheering squads (including one where the young women cheering must have been cheerleaders or Rockettes, since nobody can kick that high).

An announcer greeted everyone crossing the finish line (or at least by the time I finished my run-walk, the finishers were sparse enough that we were all greeted), and the Royal Rosarians and Albertina Kerr clients handed out medals and high-fives. Each finisher also received a rose. I walked over to the finisher zone; greeted by two brand ambassadors for Red Bull I happily accepted a sugar-free Red Bull on my way to the ID check for the mimosas. The finisher food buffet included bananas, oranges, Clif Bar protein bars, bagels, bread, peanut butter, cream cheese, granola, and bottled water. There were a few other things too, but I didn’t eat them so they are slipping my mind.

As I was noshing on my post-race snacks and sipping my mimosas, I had the great fortune to sit next to one of the Albertina Kerr race organizers. (This is my secret super hero talent: accidentally finding the most interesting people at the party.) I learned that my evaluation of Portland as somewhat hostile to to races is correct; from one year to the next, the cost to host this race–again, a fundraiser where all the proceeds go to charity non-profit Albertina Kerr–went up by a factor of ten. I don’t mean it cost $10 more, or even $10,000 more, but it cost 10x what they had been paying to hold the race. For any race, that’s terrifying. They had to raise the entry fee a bit, and scramble for sponsors to cover the cost of the event–one of Albertina Kerr’s major fund raisers.

The post-race eats were pretty fantastic. In addition to the mimosas, orange juice, bagels, and peanut butter, there were a variety of other snackables. It was nice enough to stand or sit around outside (minus the mimosas, thanks OLCC), but the tent also had plenty of room for runners to sit down and take a load off after the race.

Next year’s Rip City Race for the Roses is April 28, 2019. Learn more, and sign up at the website.

…Only It’s Not ALL Downhill!

When I say, “this race was tough for me,” what I mean is, “after I ate lunch, walked home from the hotel where the bus dropped off, and showered, I slept for 20 hours.” So I knew I wasn’t “trained up” for this race, but I figured since it was a Revel, it would be a lot like the Revel Mt. Charleston half marathon–all downhill. Um, nope. There were three pretty significant hills including a nasty climb up to mile 10. (Yeah, yeah, that’s what I get for relying on an infographic instead of looking at the actual course elevation profile.) I’m sure the additional elevation, particulate matter drifting from the wildfires (confirmed via the weather report), and total lack of sleep didn’t help. Some idiot in my apartment building saw fit to pull two alarms Thursday night after midnight, and in order to get to the shuttle to the starting line–which thankfully was just three blocks from my apartment–I had to get up at 2 a.m. to get dressed. That’s Disney early!

When I heard Revel was going to have a race on Mt. Hood, I signed up immediately. (This was at the expo for the Shamrock Run, back in March.) I had great experiences with Revel Mt. Charleston–and I ran the inaugural there, too–so a race in my backyard, ish, was a no-brainer. I’m NOT an early-morning person, and the bus ride turned out to be on a school  bus, but I was super glad the race started at 5:30 since Oregon is currently on fire and hot as hell.

Bling from Revel Mt. Hood!

Doing the Expo Early

Revel Mt. Hood‘s expo was in the Oregon Convention Center. (In a “aw, bless your heart,

These are NOT “flip-flops.” I am in love, a total convert, and trust me you need a pair.

you’re not from here” kind of way, this and the hotel from which the shuttle left were called “downtown” Portland in the promo materials.) The only thing wrong with the expo is that there was no signage on the MAX side, leaving the majority of us to either wander through all the halls and discover the Revel expo wasn’t in the same hall as the other race expos. Oh, and it was HOT inside, but I blame facilities for that, not Revel. The expo was small, which I think is the norm for Revel. Since I live two blocks away, I went to the expo right at 10 when it opened, to avoid the post-work crowds. No waiting for my shirt and bib, and the volunteers even put the bag-tag on the gear bag for us! I didn’t like the shade of purple on the women’s shirts as much as I thought I would, so I swapped mine out for a men’s shirt. Easy-peasy.

This year Revel partnered with Headsweats, and all runners scored a Headsweats cap with the Revel logo. Headsweats does a great job of drying out quickly, which is cooling (added benefit). A lot of my friends wear their visors, but since I’m two shades lighter than Caspar that would result in a burned scalp. Their stuff is great though, and I had no hesitation about wearing my new Headsweats Revel cap to the race (despite that “nothing new on race day” mantra). Super stoked to see this as a partnership, and I hope it continues into the future.

Per usual, the Revel swag bag included a heat sheet (because it’s THAT cold at the start) and a pair of gloves (really!); a G2G Protein bar; coupons for Papa John’s (the post-race pizza sponsor), Surf Butta, and LA fitness; and samples of Replaces SR (sustained release electrolyte tablets) and doTerra Deep Blue.

Walk over the timing mats on the ground, check the screen to see if your bib works. Smart set-up!

The partnership with doTerra? Ugh. WHY? Yes, THAT doTerra, the essential oil multi-level-marketing company. You know, the one that claims only doTerra has “therapeutic grade oils” (a term they made up that is not subject to any third party overview), the same one that was smacked by the FDA because they had “wellness advocates” making claims about the use for their essential oils that are not backed by the required factual evidence? Yes, that one. Listen, I like nice-smelling things as much as the next person, but I would rather have seen BioFreeze on the course instead of Deep Blue and no essential oils at the expo. Also, neither doTerra nor Revel warned that Deep Blue has almond oil in it–potentially very dangerous for those with nut allergies. Please, Revel, drop doTerra and stay away from MLM companies.

The expo, otherwise, had some cool stuff. There was a timing line to check that your timing chip worked, small Revel merch store (but none of the Scott James jewelry, boo), a temporary tattoo station, a big ol’ display of oofos (hooray!), and some running-related stuff. Since the course rules prohibited in-ear headphones, Aftershokz had a display. In case you missed it, I’m pretty much in love with mine. I got to try on the new Trekz Air model is SO LIGHT! The piece that connects the two side is much springier and thinner, too. I didn’t buy another pair (SO TEMPTED!) but only because I already have a pair of Trekz Titanium and I’m trying to be financially responsible.

Trekz Titanium are great, but these Trekz Air are like half the size and weight, and sturdy too!

I got to play with the MyoStorm Meteor production model, and I think it’s going to be pretty cool. It’s a vibrating, heating massage ball that can hit all sorts of spots your foam roller cannot. It’s just under 4″, and will be great for feet and hands, too. Sound intriguing? Sign up to learn when their KickStarter goes live using this link (which is an affiliate link). It reminded me of my TP Therapy Grid Vibe having a baby with the TP Therapy MB5 Massage Ball.

Myostorm brings heat, vibration, all wrapped up in a hand-held SMFR tool

Another thing that might be of interest to my peeps: a line of athletic supplements for keto athletes. It’s called Metcon. I’m not keto, but this intrigues me; because if you’re on a keto eating plan, but then bomb your body with carbs during a race or other event, of course your stomach is going to feel like crap. (Just like if you normally eat carbs and then suddenly stop and try to run a race.) Dan, the founder, was there at the expo to answer questions.  The Metcon line has four products: Start, Power, L Carn, and Keto-Rx. The Keto-Rx product is the fuel. It has BHB salts, and MCT oil is the main fuel source. Mixed with water, it’s a cloudy white color (no added colorands or other useless ingredients in this stuff). The advertised flavor is “natural strawberry,” but I thought it tasted more like a light coconut. It’s not overly sweet–to stay keto and paleo friendly, it is sweetened with stevia, not sugar–but it had a pleasant, slightly sweet taste. If I were a keto or paleo athlete, I would definitely use this. The products are made in the USA, gluten free, and free of banned substances (this last bit definitely matters to competitive athletes who are subject to drug testing, but from a quality standpoint, it should matter to you, too–unless you don’t want to know what’s in your supplements).

On the way out of the expo there was a photo booth, and two background pictures, with a bevy of props and signs. Oh! I almost forgot. The expo also had a checklist in the app, where you had to get a code from each of the sponsor vendors. All who finished the list were entered to win prizes!

Riding Clue-Free Sleep-Free Bus

When you’ve got a point-to-point course, shuttles are a critical component. Revel Mt. Charleston had two sets of shuttles, both of which were school buses. (That turned out to be fine, but wasn’t what I was expecting; school buses don’t have the suspensions to let me nap!) One set of shuttles left from the Sandy High School parking lot directly to the starting lines. Some folks chose to stay out near Mt. Hood, which is a gorgeous area, and Sandy was the designated parking lot. Separate shuttles took runners to the starting lines for the half marathon and the marathon start.

Here I am at Oh My God O-clock. Why no apostrophe in the caption, WordPress?

For a small extra fee, Revel also provided a shuttle from “downtown” Portland to the race (and back again). Separate full and half marathon buses loaded 2:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. at the Lloyd Center Courtyard by Marriott. Since I currently live about four blocks from there, this option was a no-brainer for me. I set out all of my race-day essentials, set my alarm for 2:00 a.m., and knew I’d have plenty of time to make it in the morning.

I had planned on taking a nap on the bus on the way to the start. Since we were not on tour coaches but on a school bus, no nap for me. That was DEFINITELY rough. Of course waking up at 2:00 a.m. was rough too. That’s Disney-race early, and I wasn’t even going to get a selfie with Mickey! I sat down on the bus, slurped up my Overnight Oats, and pretended to sleep. (I pretend to run, so I can pretend to sleep, right?)

Join Bain at @runrevel Mt. Hood 2019! Let's team up: register now for a great price, and maybe score extra perks? #halffanatic #marathonmaniacClick To Tweet

Ready, Set…

So I did my best to keep my eyes closed and tell my body that really, I was sleeping, on the ride out to the start. When we arrived at the starting line, the sun was still in bed, and the moon shone brightly above the starting line. I carefully stumbled off the bus and onto the road, and followed the other runners up a dirt road and into a field. I have no idea what the deal was with the field, but it was mown and not filled with cow-patties, so good enough for me. There were plenty of porta-potties, and since the starting line was remote they were all fresh (bonus!).

It was ridiculously cold and dark to be doing so, but after I used the porta-potties I diligently took out my sunscreen and sprayed on two solid layers. (It is easy to miss spots with the spray-on kind, and also important not to burn!) After they had dried sufficiently, I pulled on my beloved but slightly yellowed long-sleeved tee from the 2002 Great Columbia River Crossing, rolled up into my heat sheet like a little baked potato, and attempted to get a wee bit more shut-eye in the hour+ before the race.

It’s a little lonely being back in Oregon, since all of my crazy runner peeps are in California. At the same time, there are some benefits. I’m closer to the founding location of the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs, so there is a club photo before every race, even if it seems like a “small” one. At Revel, first we had the Half Fanatics picture. Then there was a banner swap and a personnel change, followed by the photo for the 100 Half Marathons Club, followed by the same and a photo for the 50 States Club.

Half Fanatics, reporting for duty

I’m not sure if the photos are a little blurry, or if the people were still a little blurry when they were taken, or maybe both? Seriously I am not a morning person.

100 Half Marathons Club, reporting for duty!

The Half Course Rocked!

After the photographs I made one last porta-potty stop, tossed my heat sheet, and handed my gear bag over to the truck. Then I joined the other runners in the short walk back to the road. Since I charged my watch but oops left it at home, and couldn’t use Vi because in-ear headphones were banned on the course, there wasn’t much to do to get ready to go. At o’dark-thirty, we didn’t have any amplification, so I don’t know if someone sang the National Anthem or not.

We had a sunny, gorgeous day, and river views, too!

Overall, I loved the half marathon course. I remember three significant uphill climbs though–unlike Revel Mt. Charleston’s half, which is all downhill except for the short jog to climb over the freeway overpass, this was a net-downhall, not an all-downhill. There was an uphill somewhere between mile 2 and 3 that was either not so bad or I was still asleep. (The Rum Gum helped, but clearly hadn’t kicked in yet.) There was a serious uphill to the mile 10 marker. Finally, there was another slow, steady climb from mile 11 to mile 12. At that point we were on the highway, and I know you  can’t move a road, but it just seemed rude to put a hill right there on the course! (Naturally I did my best to hustle up the hill while yelling “I call shenanigans!” and “Who put this hill here?”)

 

One of the amusing inspirational signs along the course

The majority of the course was on what I’d call rural residential streets. The roads were paved and in excellent condition, with a variety of dwellings that ranged from a full-time residence, to a fishing retreat, to an artist’s studio, to the family cabin, and everything in between. We had an entire lane closed off for our use with cones, and there were volunteers to direct traffic at every intersection. The vast majority of the course was shaded, which I definitely appreciated once the sun came up. (I did have a mini sunblock spray in my pack, which I reapplied at mile 11.) Due to the way the few roads are in this part of the world, it wasn’t really possible for spectators to show up at random points on the course. That made me kinda sad, because there were no puppies to pet. I did see one absolutely gorgeous dog, but he was absolutely NOT down with this constant parade of people (which might be the first time he’s seen a stream of runners down “his” road). The other dogs along the course were largely warning us to stay the eff out of their yards. I did see two itty-bitty kitties, but I didn’t want to encourage them to hang out on the road so I waved and moved on.

It is a horse, made of horse shoes!

At some point after mile 10, the course joined the marathon course on Highway 26. (I understand the marathon ran quite a bit of their course along Highway 26.) This wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t fantastic either. For some of the highway segment we were running on a generous shoulder, and for the section that had the smaller shoulder, we had one of the east-bound lanes closed off for our use. It was definitely safe, but Highway 26 is the major east-west road for a decent part of the state, so there were trucks and all manner of traffic whooshing by. I was glad that was limited to about two miles of the course, after which we turned down the road towards the finish line. This, again, was a shaded, residential type street area, though it wasn’t a major thoroughfare like the earlier part of the course. There were also more people out cheering in this area, since it was possible to walk in from the finish line.

Ah, the Finish Line!

A Revel finish line, in my experience, has always been great. There’s the usual clock, timing mat, photographer, announcer set-up. Oh, and did I mention that Revel gives all the runners FREE photos? True story. A day or two after the race, I had access to 30 photos with me in them (and that’s before I look at the mob scene photos, or the albums with runners who can’t be identified by their numbers). As a not-so-fast runner, I came in with a slow dribble of runners and not a mob, so I was announced as I crossed.

These are my post-run feet, feeling the ooooo

After grabbing my medal, there were volunteers to hand me a bottle of water and a chocolate milk protein shake. Then I slowly made my way over to the pizza table and grabbed a slice, and a donut, and a diet Coke (all part of the official finisher food). There were two backdrops with props and signs for photos (either yours, or via the photographers taking the free photos). The results tent printed out a card for each finisher, and those with Boston Qualifying times got a special luggage tag announcing it. The age group awards were additional charms to put on the event medal. I really like how the ribbon is looped on, giving the medal a distinctive look.

The Long Ride Home

Soon it was time to shuffle over to the shuttle for the ride back to Portland. I had cleverly tucked my oofos into my checked bag, so my feet could chill as I stood and sat and waited for the bus. There were fairly long lines for the shuttles back to Sandy, which ran on a loop (pick up, drop off, repeat). The location wasn’t conducive to running more buses (you couldn’t put two on the roadway on opposing sides and still have space for running safely). The bus back to Portland left at the top of every hour, so I had some time to chat with other runners.

Here comes the PSA for this blog post: if it has been more than two years since you last took a CPR and first aid class, please, go sign up for a class RIGHT NOW. The Red Cross has classes all over the country, many days and times–choose one that works and go sign up! On our bus on the way home, I was again trying to sneak in some nap time. Suddenly there was a loud, “Is there a doctor on the bus?” Fortunately, there were two medical professionals on the bus. I don’t want to invade the privacy of the runner who had the problem, but I will say both loss of consciousness and vomiting were involved. As the two medical pros took over care, the other runners got the bus driver to pull over, and another runner called 911 to get an ambulance.  When the EMTs arrived, it seemed like everything was fine–the runner had a family member with them, and the two left with the EMTs in an ambulance.

Frankly, when you don’t know what’s going to happen, a medical emergency can be a little scary. But if we didn’t have medical professionals on the bus, I knew what to do. When I heard the call for a doctor, my brain immediately turned on and I snapped to attention. Again, we were very lucky to have two medical professionals on the bus who jumped into action. But if they hadn’t been there, would YOU know what to do (beyond call 911, obviously)? If you were the one experiencing the medical emergency, wouldn’t you want someone on the bus who could take control of the situation? Yup, me too.

Final Thought: All Good on Mt. Hood

I was impressed with the inaugural Revel Mt. Hood half marathon, and will definitely sign up to run next year. (If you follow that link, you’re joining my team, Train With Bain.) In fact, I’m thinking about running ALL of the Revel races next year. After all, if Mt. Charleston and Mt. Hood are both great, I bet the others are too.

If you are looking for a net-downhill (note that’s not ALL downhill!) race with a rural,, pretty course that’s mostly in the shade, you should definitely consider Mt. Hood. If you don’t live in the area, you can either rent a space near Sandy or Mt. Hood and use the rest of the weekend for fishing or a cabin retreat, or stay in Portland and explore the city after the race. See you June 29, 2019?

One of my FREE race photos from Revel Mt. Hood!

 

Disclosure: I am a proud ambassador for Represent Running, the series that brought you the Inaugural Silicon Valley Half Marathon. Race ambassadors get some sweet gear and free race entries in exchange for promoting the races. (Of course I was so excited when I first heard about the race that I immediately signed up–seriously, did you see the swag?)  OH HEY, you can already register for next year. Don’t wait CLICK AND REGISTER!

After the heat of the San Jose Food Truck 5k, I was really glad the weather cooled off a bit–especially because the race didn’t start at o’dark-thirty. I also really liked that part. There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep in a big fluffy bed, and then NOT getting up before the sun to go run the race. (Well, maybe I should have run before the sun got up…SPF 30+ is no match for my vampire-like skin’s reaction to the sun.) At any rate, I strolled from the Fairmont to the starting line, glad to have opted for the downtown San Jose experience. (Also for the CREAM sandwich I ate the night before: birthday cake ice cream on two sugar cookies. NOMNOM.)

The Starting Line

All of the medals from the Food Truck 5k and Silicon Valley Half, including the bonus bling
A full weekend of bling! Food Truck 5k, inaugural SV half, Run 2.0, and the Valley Challenge

First I realized that my bib only had one dot–but it was supposed to have two. See, this weekend was chock full o’ bonus bling: a challenge medal for running both the San Jose 408k and one of the weekend events, and another challenge medal for running both days (the Food Truck 5k on Saturday and either the SV Half Marathon or the 10k on Sunday). One of the other Represent Running ambassadors pointed me to the problem fixer-upper tent, and a minor crisis was averted. (Do NOT get between me and my bling!)

After a bunch of clowning around at the starting line, I started to pay attention to the pre-race speakers. It may be kinda nerdy of me, but I enjoyed learning a little more about the work of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, the official charity of the race and its mission to prepare every student for college and careers, with a focus on STEM. If you don’t live in the area, you probably think of Silicon Valley as full of rich white guys–and it is, but there is also a sharp contrast between that impression and reality, which is that plenty of kids need help. It’s an expensive place to live, and there is food insecurity even among people who work “good” full time jobs. You can learn more about SVEF (and throw in some bucks!) here: https://svefoundation.org/donate/  There was also plenty of local love for bringing a big run back to downtown San Jose.

Out On the Course of the Silicon Valley Half

Mile 3 mile marker sign, with technology-themed icons
Innovation-themed sign at Mile 3

Speaking of a big run, San Jose has many running events throughout the year, but the Silicon Valley Half Marathon course was NOT a copy-cat course. Sure, it had some of the same streets, but the course itself as a whole was brand new. I particularly enjoyed the areas in the neighborhoods and near parks and schools. as it was quite warm and I needed shade! Every one of the water stops was fully staffed by great volunteers–this was not the kind of race where half of the water stop spots are filled by teens glued to their iPhones.

One of the fun things about an inaugural race is that you get to create all of the race stuff from scratch. Ordinarily, I don’t care about mile markers. (Frankly at most races they all look the same and are generic.) But there are lots of runners who selfie it up at every mile. So why not make the most of those selfies (since you know they’re going on Instagram)? The Silicon Valley Half Marathon made great mile markers, themed to various aspects of life in and around San Jose. Unless it’s a Disney race–where each mile marker is themed and plays music–I don’t take mile marker pictures…yet I have almost a complete set from this race.

Mile 10 mile marker featuring art, music, photography, sculpture
Art of all kinds celebrated at Mile 10

Given that it was hot, and I was feeling tired even after luxuriating in my fluffy bed at the Fairmount, I knew I was not gunning for a PR. I started with the intent to run about half, and walk the rest. For the first few miles, I was leap-frogging with the 3:00 pace group. Around mile 4, I decided to tag along. Mad props to Too Legit Fitness for providing amazing pacers. (Seriously, go follow Too Legit Fitness on Instagram.) While I ultimately decided to slow my roll at mile 7 or so, the pace team kept me going on the 3:00 pace up to that point. I’ve only ever run with one other pacer I loved so much, but this race had a team! Like not just one runner with a sign looking at his watch. I don’t have any official scoop here, but there were two women passing off the timing stick, and their gigantic fan club/run group. It was super motivating! Also, there were a few additional people from the pack who checked in with everyone else who was running, handing off a little snack here or a sip of water there to make sure that everyone was still moving forward.

Setting The Pace: Too Legit

Too Legit Fitness team, the pacers for the half marathon
Too Legit Fitness pacers brought their A game to the race.

The pacers were so awesome that after each pace team finished, the pacers went back out onto the course to cheer in more runners. This might not matter at all to you if you’re a sub-2:00 runner, but for those of us in the “back of the pack” (you know, the ones most races ignore and forget to feed, or let the sponsors pack up and go home before we finish?) it was a really great perk. Starting about a half mile from the finish line, there were pace team members cheering and jumping around. Some took the time to walk or run for a block or more with incoming runners. It was really cool to see the pace team out there, after running a half marathon, still out there encouraging everyone.

Mad props to the entire pace team (and apologies for anyone I missed): Nando Gonzales, Fernando Loera, Randy Pangelina, Melissa Yamashita, Jill Ahearn, Eric D. Sullivan, Earl Hooks II, Jackie Silva Torres, Sylvia Loera, and Jimmy Quilenderino. You can find them all on instagram.

Post-Race Festivities

After the race, at the Silicon Valley Half Marathon
Post-race music, food trucks, vendors, and more.

After the race, runners were treated to a post-race beer (actually I used mine to get sparkling wine–even better!) and live music. Lululemon provided little totes for each runner, which made it much easier to juggle the bling, banana, snacks, and bottled water at the finish line. The park was ideal for picnicking, and there were food trucks (and not the same trucks from the 5k but an entirely different set!). Plenty of runners brought their family and friends out to enjoy the music and food and beautiful day.

1

Elizabeth and Richard at he finish line party
Me and Richard hanging out at the post-race festival. Nice sunnies, no?

Other runner perks included a long-sleeve quarter zip (instead of a race t-shirt) that I just love (it’s a teal colored Leslie Jordan brand, super soft–you can see it on some of the folks in the starting line picture above), a sweet duffel bag, and FREE race photos, courtesy of race sponsor Amazon (who also had a photo booth on site, along with free sweat towels).

The park also had booths from all of the sponsors, and from local vendors selling both running-related items and items of general interest. Sparkling wine sponsor Barefoot had a booth tasting their new canned sparklers, in addition to beer and wine for sale at the beer tent. It made for a fun and relaxing afternoon.

On the plane home I started to think about the Silicon Valley Half Marathon 2019. Since the inaugural event had zero noticeable flaws, I’m sure word will get out and there will be many more runners in 2019. You should be one of them! Come join me–I’m going to register ASAP. (Note: you can actually register right now!)

Disclosure: I am SO stinkin’ proud to represent these races as part of the Represent Running Ambassadors. Yes, I do get to run the races for free in exchange for helping to promote them, but I signed up for the inaugural Silicon Valley Half Marathon before I was asked to return to the team. All opinions are my own–and you know I have plenty of them!

I’m behind some race reviews, but I could barely wait to start writing about the inaugural Food Truck 5k and Silicon Valley Half Marathon! (Yeah, yeah, it was over a week ago–I had some blog issues.) The Food Truck 5k was Saturday afternoon. My understanding is that it was originally going to be an early evening race, but there was some sportsball thing or event that kicked the start time up to 3pm. In any case, that was perfect for me, as it allowed me just enough time to sleep in a little bit, hop a flight from Portland to San Jose, Lyft to the Fairmont Hotel, check-in, unpack, change, and head over to the festival area to pick up my stuff.

Locals did have the option to pick up packets in advance at Sports Basement, which was always a fun choice for me when I lived in Alameda. Sports Basement offers a discount for runners on the day of bib pick-up, and since I always found something there I needed (and at a great price!), it was a win-win. Now that I’m in Portland, however, going to the Sports Basement pick up would have meant a day off from work and another night in the hotel. Yeah, I know, you feel so bad for me. Anyway, there were also some other pre-race-weekend events, including a run with Meb! (Do you feel bad for me now? Because I had to miss that?)

I was going to credit this one to @pavementrunner but since he’s in the photo…

One of the great things about running in San Jose, there are a ton of hotels within walking distance of any reasonable starting line–more if you rent a car, or are willing to take a car. For Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 2017 I stayed at the AC Hotel, which would have been a great choice for these races too. The SV Half host hotel was the Fairmont, and they gave us a screaming deal: it actually cost less to stay there than to stay at the AC! The Fairmont is one of the aging grand dames of the hotel world, and I loved staying there. My room was gigantic, the bathroom had both a shower and a separate bath tub, and there was a separate vanity and mirror outside of the bath room. Sure, there are some signs that the hotel wasn’t built yesterday–the USB outlet in my room did not work, and the bathtub spout had a hand-held shower permanently attached (because the actual shower was not enough showers for one room?) so I couldn’t take a bath, but it’s a great place. After the races and a much-needed shower, I met a friend for snacks and cocktails in the bar.

Day-of-event packet pickup was a breeze, and I got both my Food Truck 5k and my SV Half gear at the same time. (In hindsight, I should have waited until after the 5k to get my SV Half gear, as there was no bag check, but as an ambassador I had a little help.) There was plenty of parking nearby, though I had walked from the hotel. I had some time pre-race to walk around and see the vendors and race sponsors. Amazon had free sweat towels, and I wish I had grabbed one before the 5k so I could sweat on it (instead I thought, “oh, it’s one more thing to carry.” Silly me.) Amazon also sponsored free race photos all weekend and had a photo booth, so that was fun. After clowning around for some photos in the festival area–and checking out the food trucks to plan my post-race eats–the ambassador squad headed over to the 5k starting line to take more pictures.

Actually, we all walked OVER the starting line, heard a bunch of beeps, and wondered if the timing system thought we were running…then we looked up at the starting line structure and wondered why the letters were all backwards. (Yes, a bunch of social-media-fueled runners didn’t understand the selfie-setup.) Suddenly it was about time to start, and I was WAY too close to the front, so I sidled over to the right as far as I could get, and decided to hang there until the right group started to move past. (We didn’t have corrals for the 5k, but people did a pretty good job of self-selecting–it was impressive.)

OMG it’s 80 degrees!

The course was basically an out-and-back with a bit of a loop (running on parallel paths for a portion). Most of it was on a paved path through Guadalupe River Park and Columbus Park, though a small portion was on sidewalks and a street to get to and from the start/finish area at Arena Green East. I ran most of the first mile at a very easy (read: slow!) pace, did a run-walk for the second mile, and walked all of the third mile (with the exception of the last .1, of course). The heat was brutal and unexpected! I’d flown in from Portland, where it was in the 50s. The average temperature in San Jose in mid-April is in like 50-65 degrees. This year? It was 80! I didn’t run any of that third mile because my body–descended from two long lines of pasty-white people from northern climates–was like “NOPE!” I felt great after the run anyway.

Free race photos are my favorite!

Post-run, first I went to the Barefoot wine tent to sample their “refresh” spritzers. (No, not at all like a “wine cooler,” yuck. More like “wine with bubbles.”) Then I bought a glass of sparkling wine and I hit up Cielito Lindo Mexican Street Kitchen for some tacos. (The menu on the website does NOT do them justice–I ate two different vegetarian taco types, decorated liberally with verde, roja, and molcajete sauces.) It was only after I ate all three of them and the tasty, tasty hot sauces that I realized I should have put them on Instagram. Oops. Bad blogger! Other options for Saturday included Road Dogs, Akita-sushi, BBQ Kalbi, Curry Up Now, and Treatbot (ice cream–VERY popular that day!). Everyone was clustered under the trees and in the shade, but having a great time. In addition to many food options, sponsor booths, and vendors, there was live music! Starting at 1 and lasting until 7:30 p.m. we had Bird and Willow, Israel Sanchez Music, NOIYA, Casey Wickstrom, and Love District.

Will run for tacos.

Soaked to the bone with sweat, and sated by the street tacos, I headed back to the hotel for a much-needed shower and a wee nap. Then it was dinner and a cocktail, and off to bed to be well-rested for the inaugural Silicon Valley Half Marathon!

Want to read more about the Food Truck 5k? Check out additional reviews by The Ruminator , The Running Lushes, and Stephanie.

 

Disclosure: Bain here. I didn’t run Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans this year, so I didn’t write this post–it’s a guest post by fellow Rock ‘n’ Blog team member Gretchen Schoenstein! (I did write the headline, so don’t blame her for that, okay?) Gretchen ran this race as a Rock ‘n’ Blog team member (which means she didn’t have to pay the entry fee) but all of the content (including the pictures) and opinions are hers alone. Enjoy!

What better way to celebrate New Orleans 300th Anniversary than to run a Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon! RnR NOLA has got to be one of the most, if not the most, colorful race weekends out there. And the most energetic. And most beaded for sure. Those colors, that energy and of course those beads were on full, enchanting display this past weekend.

It might seem a bit odd to celebrate a city known for amazing food and drink to bring a bunch of runners to town to join the hometown runners–had more than one cab and ride-share driver remark on “y’all aren’t the usual crowd”–but where else are you going to celebrate your finish line with a sazerac than in the city that invented the drink?

For me, it’s a city I’ve been aiming to get back to to run since I first ran #RnRNOLA back in February 2011. Back then, it was only my 7th half marathon, and my 3rd Rock ’n’ Roll event. This past NOLA race was my 64th half marathon (54th RnR half!) and oh so worth the effort to finally get to run it in New Orleans again! It’s such a unique place to run–the history, the food, the people. Folks who are from New Orleans have a pride that is nearly unmatched for their city, and they’re so grateful to have all us runners come to town and not only enjoy a beautiful course that shows off some of the best parts of the city, but also make a point to really celebrate in a city that knows how.

You could sum up RnR NOLA for a lot of runners as: Run Hard, Play Hard!

And when I say run hard, here’s the great news, it’s not necessarily a hard run. Meaning, it flat, fast, and below sea level. Which is beautiful. You can’t help be hopeful and expectant for a happy finish time. Not only that, but the music along the course is unique to the city and some of the most dynamic you will hear on any course. ‘Kingfolk’ standing on the bed of a pick up truck playing vibrant New Orleans jazz while shouting and whooping it up with runners as the pass by? Yes please! Or how about looking up and around and seeing the history surrounding you in the churches, buildings, and homes architecture. And if you keep looking up, you’ll see beads just about everywhere.

Speaking of music–the speakers in the new mile markers signs? You have to hear them! Especially when you hear a song again along the way, like it’s your own soundtrack following you.

Run hard and you may just get a PR. Like I did seven years ago. Here’s the thing: it’s still my PR. And so I’d had aspirations of aiming for that PR again–ended 2017 races on an upswing, so why not? Well, the flu and pneumonia got in the way in January and February, so I had to shift my goal a bit. This you can do in NOLA. It’s a low risk, high reward kind of race. You can go for it, and this being the first of 12 halfs for 2018, I decided to get curious and use it as a way to kick the tires or test the water of what my body is capable of at the moment. Within the first few miles, I thought, hmmm, if I fight for every second I can on this course, I might just beat ALL of last year’s race finish times.

And so you take in the whole course, the amazing runners (eager in sequined skirts, green purple and gold shirts, sunglasses with the sun beaming) along the way like the woman running backwards, or the two guided blind runners inspiring everyone around them, Kathrine Switzer, or the Darth Vader wearing a Saints hat cheering people along. And the spectators? New Orleans might just have some of the best out there. So loud, so fun, so delighted to see us running towards them.

Speaking of seeing things coming – you cannot miss the NEW SIGNS along the course! New signs for water, gel and SiS support. I’d heard about these coming up but until you experience them you cannot begin to know how helpful they are. First, they’re super obvious from down the way, so you can much better navigate moving to the right or left or staying in the middle without tripping over runners making last minute decisions. The flow of runner traffic is much smoother through there.

Plus, seeing the signs way up ahead allowed me to finish a gel or make a thoughtful decision about water, yes or no? And if yes, which side? And also if yes, how much? My fueling was far better managed which made for consistency that I know helped keep my pace and health along the course.  These signs are a game changer. As always, there was stellar volunteer support at those water and gel stations–people working so hard to make sure runners have access to things they need–the determined commitment they have makes you shout out THANK YOU as you run by.

When you finish in City Park, it’s nearly an instant party. How could it not be? It’s New Orleans, c’mon! There were even food trucks nearby and I’ve never seen so many runners lined up for delicious offerings with Soul Offerings and Cowboy Mouth raging on stage–if you’re a food truck, you did extremely well serving a lot of hungry runners. That afternoon and evening, after everyone had crossed their finish lines, the bars and restaurants were buzzing with runners eating and drinking their way through the city; you could spot them, they had a hobble in their giddyup and a big smile on their face.

Oh, as for me? Just being in New Orleans and recalling some of the familiar course, including running down and back along St Charles Avenue, a bit along Magazine Street, down by the Mississippi river with it on your right and St Louis Cathedral on your left, past Cafe du Monde, and up onto Esplanade Avenue and entering into City Park past the huge fountains was worth the travel and the effort. And yes, I pushed myself because I could and because the course allowed it. And so, happily, I crushed ALL 10 of last year’s finish times by nearly three minutes. Couldn’t have done without the New Orleans course and the Rock ’n’ Roll support.

Happy 300th Birthday New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps rouler indeed!

About the Author. With half marathons being her preferred distance, Gretchen Schoenstein has run 64 of them since April 2010. In late 2006 she was unable to walk, diagnosed with a debilitating auto immune disease that resulted in doctors telling her she’d never run again. For 3.5 years she listened to them and then decided to run despite their protestations and laced up a pair of running shoes and hasn’t looked back, running 64 half marathons in eight years, with a goal of 75 total by the end of 2018. It doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges and flare ups, including being diagnosed with asthma, but as every step is a gift, Gretchen is grateful for every day she gets to run and every step she gets to take. 

Psst! Bain here. Why not follow Gretchen on Instagram and Twitter? Her handle is @rungrateful, in case those links are giving you trouble. You can also find her blog at iwonderwoman.com

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.

In New Orleans, bling happens

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.

Rock ‘n’ Royalty

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.

Missing our Hall of Famer, @matmilesmedals

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.

Me and “Gracie”

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.

Obligatory hurricane in a geaux cup

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.

Preventing waffle crush
This was voted “best race sign” by virtue of being all over social media pretty much instantly

 

Stately architecture
Enjoying this? Why not share with friends. 'Did you see these highlights at #RnRNOLA? @runrocknroll and @trainwithbain rocked it!'Click To Tweet
I found Touchdown Jesus!

 

Runner buffet with bloody mary bar

 

Fun fact! Milk punch = milk + half and half + bourbon = no pain for at least 2 miles #questionablehydrationstrategy

 

Mobile bunny-petting aid station

 

HQ for the Mystic Krewe of Hermes, the longest-running night parade krewe

 

Cheer signs both political and traditional

 

Beer and Wieners aid station

 

Bet you didn’t know NOLA has a vibrant Celtic music scene, and many Irish dance schools!

 

Mobile disco party complete with dancers, DJ, and a disco ball!

 

Finish line at the park–check out the tree canopy!

 

Parting airport shot with @funnerrunner (telltale signs of runners: @addaday roller, @sparklysoul headband, matching @runrocknroll shirts)

 

Note: For the 2015 and 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll series, I have been honored to be part of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team. The 2017 Rock ‘n’ Blog team applications have not yet opened, so I haven’t a clue if they will decide to keep me on. In the meanwhile, I bought a TourPass so I could start to rock my way in the direction of Hall of Fame (15 Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathons or marathons in a single year). Fingers crossed!

Compulsory 5K selfie

It started off quite innocently. At the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas half marathon in 2015 I suddenly had a desperate hankering for coffee. Coffee isn’t a standard offering at any race’s aid stations. As I wrote in my race recap, “Around mile 9 I really, really wanted coffee. I’d had my electrolytes, downed my EnergyBits, and my body (even Ouch) seemed to be demanding some caffeination. For the next mile or so, all of the potential coffee-acquisition opportunities were on the other side of the road, across traffic. Cruel world! Then I saw it: Oak Lawn Coffee.”

 

 

 

Overpass detail of local art

Seriously, Oak Lawn Coffee MADE MY RACE that year (and not just because they let me use the bathroom too). I was so happy to have a cup of very yummy coffee in my hands that I finished the race with a huge grin on my face…and made a similar coffee stop at Rock ‘n’ Roll  San Francisco that year. Then I posed at the finish line with the Nestle Quik bunny because a mocha is basically chocolate milk, right? #buildit

(It’s good I’m not a triathlete, as I’m sure this counts as “outside aid” which is strictly prohibited by the triathlon over-see-ing group.)

It continued into the zone of silliness at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 2016, where I was really, really hungry by the time I came around the corner to see Five Guys. (Pro tip: don’t order a large fries. For starters, the large is really, really large.) Not only was I laughing that I was walking the last mile or so of the race with a big ol’ french fries in hand, a lot of the spectators and other runners were laughing too. I laughed my way all the way to the finish line. As an adult, I think the ability to amuse yourself is seriously underrated.

Since this is a post about Arizona, here’s a picture of a succulent

Since I don’t run for time, a PR, or to podium in any way, I take full advantage of ways to make the race more fun. That’s why I do races–they are fun. When people ask me what my pace is, I literally tell them, “stop and pet the cute puppies.” If they ask again, I tell them, “approximately three puppies per hour.” (Having fun is serious business, after all.) I stop to take ridiculous selfies, just because I can. I run to the edge of the road and high-five the kids.

(Enjoying this? Why not click to tweet so your friends can read it too?) Red Rocks and Donuts in the Desert: @TrainWithBain does Rock 'n' Roll Arizona 2017 #RnRAZClick To Tweet
A huge part of why I like races is getting to meet new friends

Let me pause for a minute here, and explain WHY I do this. No, it’s not just to annoy the snooty fast runners who dislike that I’m not “racing.” (They seem to forget that the fact that I–and thousands of people just like me–do dozens of races a year, seriously driving up the demand for running events, and as a result there are more races for the fast people to win. Fortunately, most of the runners I’ve met are awesome and are not whining about how “back in the day” we all would have been swept and not given a tee-short.) Sure, in part it is because I can–and the fact that I can amuses me to no end–but there’s a deeper reason: I am a bona-fide Type-A, overachiever list-maker, to-do doer, check-off-the-things person. It serves me well at work (and sometimes when I’m cleaning house), but I know if I applied my natural tendencies to running I would quickly sap every last ounce of joy from running, and instead of relieving stress running would cause more stress. So I have forbidden  myself to get “serious” about running. Running is for fun only. Of course, your mileage may vary–and I do admire those of you who focus on that BQ or PR or other abbreviations.

A slightly blurry pre-5k shot of me and Jackie and flat-Jackie

Back to Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, since this is supposed to be a race recap. I had flown in late on Friday, so had to pick up my bib at the last minute (aka right before the race). A flock of volunteers were on  hand to assist with this process, there were no lines (did I mention we got there a bit late?), and I was quickly off to the starting line with my friend Jackie, aka my adventure running roommate. Jackie had to head to work shortly after the 5k, so she didn’t run. Of course technically neither did I, as I’d made a deliberate decision to stroll the 5k course and save some juice for the half marathon (remember, I did the Dopey Challenge the week before).

The 5k had a pretty good turnout of runners and walkers of all shapes, ages, heights, intentions, and experience levels. The weather cooperated, and I enjoyed looking at the desert in “winter.” Compared to the half marathon though, it was a much smaller race. For Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, all of the races finish in the same location.

Question, readers: if you voluntarily, randomly decided to cut two miles from a half marathon by just skipping them, would you still take the medal at the finish line? Would you wear the race shirt? Would you tell people “I did a half marathon” when you only did 11ish miles?

On Sunday, the half and the marathon start in two different locations, but merge just before the very end. The morning of the half it was a little chilly and threatening to rain, but I managed to stay dry. This was my first time doing this course–previously I did the full–and I really enjoyed it. Jackie and I were in separate corrals, so I don’t have any running pictures with her. I do, however, have this picture she took of several people who decided they didn’t want to go up the hill to the turnaround (and it wasn’t even a big hill–and the views from the top were gorgeous–and Jackie asked what they were doing because, of course, maybe they were injured or something, but no, they told her they didn’t want to walk up up the hill); as a result, they cut about two miles off from the course. On the road, as in life, cheaters gonna cheat, and some people are just not willing to put in the effort to actually do the job.

Epic Donut Selfie

I will always do my best to finish the race I set out to run, until I finish, or am yanked from the course involuntarily. (If you find me face down on the pavement, be a dear and pause my watch, ok?) But that’s because I actually like races. Oh, but this is supposed to be a story about coffee and french fries or something.

Last fall several skirt companies put out skirts with donuts on them. Donuts are something of a running joke–like a joke among many groups of runners–and I’ve been known to say #runalltheraces then #eatallthefoods so naturally I needed a donut skirt. (In case you want one too, head to Chase This Skirt on Etsy. Go like ’em on Facebook, too.) This has led to many donut-photo shenanigans because, you know, donuts after a race always seem like a good idea.

Have you every stopped for a snack during a half marathon? Would you? @TrainWithBain has and would!Click To Tweet
Post-race epic donut selfie with @crantina

If donuts after the race are a good idea–and extensive research has definitely confirmed they are–what about donuts during a race? Crazy, right?

That’s what I thought, as I was running down the road in Arizona, when I saw a donut shop right across the street. It was just sitting there, begging for me to befriend it. The open sign was on. I could imagine the scent of tasty donuts. After debating whether I should cross the street and grab a snack for about five minutes (good thing I’m slow, right?) when suddenly there was a  very long break in the traffic. No cars driving by, and no cars about to drive by for miles. Decision made.

I looked both ways–even though this was effectively a one-way street now (thanks, Mom)–and dashed across to Bosa Donuts. About the time I hit the front door a guy and the kid with him arrived at the door. He looked at me, decked out in race garb; he saw the bib, and gave me a quizzical look as he opened the door for me. “Life is short,” I said. “Choose joy! Eat donuts!” Bosa smelled like heaven should smell, and there was no line at the counter. As I politely asked for (runner brain kicked in, what is that thing called, the one there?) “one chocolate coconut donut, please” the guy and the kid arrived at the counter. “I’m buying,” he said to the lady behind the counter, and then turned to me, “get whatever you need.” I smiled and laughed, and explained that I only “needed” one donut. The lady behind the counter handed it to me in a bag.

I knew what I had to do:

Thank you, random Arizona guy!

As I took (much smaller than shown) bites and headed to the door, I noticed the puzzled looks from the folks sitting at the table eating their donuts. “Life is short,” I said. “Choose joy!” as I dashed out the door…and again looked both ways before I crossed the street.

Other runners were totally jealous of my donut (note for next time, I should get some to share) as it never occurred to them to get their own. Poor runners. I spent the next few miles laughing my butt off about my mid-race donut selfie, complete with actual donut. I couldn’t stop grinning. (Again with how underrated the ability to amuse yourself is.)

This is why I run, kids. JOY!

 

 

Update! Many of the sales, deals, discounts, and codes are good through Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday. I’ve made notes where I was able to verify the information; if there is no note about expiration, it might have just been a Friday thing.

Note: exactly ZERO of these are sponsored promotions, and exactly ZERO of the links below are affiliate links. (If that changes, I’ll make a note by the specific product or link.) Inclusion of a product/race/service on this list isn’t an endorsement, though I have reviewed many of these products. The information below comes from email sent to me, twitter, and instagram. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know!

APPAREL

2XU–verified still active Saturday
40% off site-wide
Selected products up to 70% off
www.2xu.com

Aaptiv (apparel and gear)
25% off with code BLACKFRIDAY
https://store.aaptiv.com

ABombApparel
45% off plus free swag with code blackfriday45
https://www.abomb-apparel.com/

Alo Yoga–verified still active Saturday
30% off full-price (up to 70% off sale) with code ALO30
www.aloyoga.com

Bombas–verified still live on Saturday
20% off site-wide with code HOLIDAY20
https://bombas.com

Brooks–verified still live on Saturday
30% off select styles
Spend $120 get a free holiday tech tee or holiday socks
www.brooksrunning.com

BUFF–valid through Monday
25% of everything with code CYBERSALE
www.buffusa.com

Chase This Skirt–verified still live on Saturday
30% off store-wide (no code needed)
www.chasethisskirt.com

Fellow Flowers–good through SUNDAY!
10% off when you spend $50  code Holiday10
15% off when you spend $100 code Holiday15
20% off when you spend $125 code Holiday20
http://fellow-flowers.myshopify.com/

Handful
Buy 2 regular-price bras, get a free scoop neck tank
$10 off a $50 purchase with code #ShopSmall (Saturday)
https://handful.com/

Inversion Junkies–good through TUESDAY!
BOGO leggings with code BLACKFRIDAY16
inversionjunkie.com/collections/leggings

Legend Compression–good through MONDAY!
20% off $50+
30% off $100+
40% off $150+
code CYBERWEEK16
http://www.legendcompressionwear.com

Mizuno
20% off with code WHYWAIT20
www.mizunousa.com

Nuu Muu (athletic dresses)–good through 11/29!
25% off with code THANKYOU16
https://nuu-muu.com/

Oiselle–valid through Sunday!
15% off orders of $100+
20% off orders of $200+
30% off orders of $300+
www.oiselle.com

PACT (organic cotton clothes)–valid through the weekend
30-70% off site-wide on Friday, no code needed
https://wearpact.com

Pavement Runner/WeRunSocial–ongoing!
Everything marked down to $16 or less
http://pavementrunner.com/shop/

Physiclo (compression with resistance!)
save 25% with code HOLIDAY25
https://physiclo.com

PopFlex Active–valid through 11/28!
25% off all clothes and mats with code blackfri
http://www.popflexactive.com

Pro Compression–valid through Saturday!
50% Black Styles with code BLK
Free shipping on orders over $20
http://procompression.com/black-to-the-basics/

Raw Threads–valid through 11/28
15% off site-wide with code BLACKFRIDAY
25% off orders $100+ with code BLACKFRIDAY25
Free shipping (no code needed)
www.rawthreads.com

Reebok–verified still active on Saturday
50% off the Black Friday Collection code BF50
http://www.reebok.com/us/black_friday_collection

Simply Workout
30% (more on sale items!) with code TURKEYDAY
25% off with code BIGDEAL25
www.simplyworkout.com

Skirt Sports–valid through MONDAY!
15% off everything code BLACKFRIDAY15
Free shipping with $40 minimum purchase
www.skirtsports.com

SLS3 (compression)–valid through 11/28
up to 80% off with code CYBER50
BF2016 for 50% off and free shipping (today only)
http://www.slstri.com/

Sparkle Skirts–MONDAY ONLY
Buy 3, Get 1 Free (limited to B3G1 collection, see link)
FREESHIP2016 (covers up to $15 shipping fees)
http://www.sparkleskirts.com/collections/b3g1

Spiritual Gangster–verified valid on Saturday
40% off with code NAMASTE40
https://www.spiritualgangster.com/

Thorlos–valid through 12/31
30% off select clearance
Buy 3, get the 4th free
Free shipping in the US
https://www.thorlo.com

Toe Sox–verified valid on Saturday
25% off everything with code BESTSALEEVER
www.toesox.com

BODY CARE

Bunny Butt Apothecary–to 11/28
(small business soap, body cream, and more–delicious!)
25% off with code BLACKBUNNY16
http://bunnybuttapothecary.com/

Out of Africa–through 12/2
(fair trade, sustainable, cruelty-free, and more!)
20% off with code THANKSGIVING20
http://outofafricashea.com

Sumbody–CYBER MONDAY ONLY
free shipping on orders $35+ and a gift with code CYBER16
www.sumbody.com

EVENTS

Coastal Trail Runs/Zoom
20% off races through midnight only code blkfriday20
www.coastaltrailruns.com

Divas Half Marathon & 5k Series–valid through 11/28
$5 off any race with code THANKS16
http://www.runlikeadiva.com/

FitFam’s Elfie Run (benefits Toys for Tots!)
20% off with code BLACKFRIDAY20
http://elfie.run/

Hospital Hill–MONDAY ONLY
20% off with code Cyber17 (not valid on the family pricing package)
www.hospitalhillrun.com

Livermore Half Marathon–valid through MONDAY
The Town’s Half Marathon
$10 off with code THANKFUL2016
(apologies for the ugly link below, but imathlete wasn’t doing me any favors)
https://www.imathlete.com/events/EventReg/EventReg_SelectType.aspx?fEID=37198&fNew=1&fsource=imAEOverview

Mad Marathon–SUNDAY AND MONDAY only
$60 for either the 2016 Mad Marathon or Mad Half
www.madmarathon.com

The Phoenix Marathon
$20 off with code BFRIDAY20 (full and half only) until 11/29
http://thephoenixmarathon.com

PIG RUN of Lake Nona–Lucky 7th!
$5 off with code TURKEYPIGGY
http://www.pigrunoflakenona.com/

Seasick Events: Coast to Crest and Carmel Valley Trail
The Coast to Crest race is set for May 6, 2017 while the Carmel Valley trail race is set for Sept 9th, 2017. Registration for 40% off, this weekend only. Register for both events at once and receive 25% off automatically, AND if you include the code “HOLIDAY” you will receive an additional 15% off…  A TOTAL OF 40% OFF*!! (Registering for one event saves 15% off that event.)
www.seasickevents.com

Spartan Races
25% off all races with code HOLIDAY
Sale on gear & apparel
www.spartan.com

Surf City–valid through MONDAY
$20 off the half or full marathon with code BLACKFRIDAYSCM
https://www.imathlete.com/events/EventReg/EventReg_SelectType.asp

Todos Santos Half Marathon–MONDAY ONLY
$45 half marathon with code GRATITUDE
http://www.runtodossantos.com

Willamantic Classic–MONDAY ONLY
$6 off any distance with code CYBER
Introducing the Hop TWO It Relay option for the Half Marathon!
Two person teams, with the handoff at the Jillson Square midpoint of the race, convenient one stop parking, running, AND cheering plus fun team finisher medals. $55 on Cyber Monday, price goes up to $60 after.
http://www.willimanticathleticclub.org/Willimantic_Classic.html

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FOOD & NUTRITION

Aloha
30% off site-wide wide code FRIDAY SATURDAY
aloha.com

Amazing Greens
50% off with code HOLIDAY2016 through Monday!
free shipping on orders $75+
https://www.amazinggrass.com/store

Amino Vital–valid through MONDAY
30% off with code HOLIDAY
www.amino-vital.com

Amrap Nutrition
30% off on Amazon.com with code AMRAP300

Banza (delicious chickpea pasta, made in Detroit!)
Buy one, send one to a friend! Select items, through Monday 11/28
Deal page is here

Bodybuilding.com
BOGO on select items
www.bodybuilding.com

BSN–cyber MONDAY!
15% off all BSN Edge products
http://www.gobsn.com/offer/cybermonday.html

Buff Bake
15% off site-wide
extra savings with code cybermonday
www.buffbake.com

Detour Bar–MONDAY ONLY
entire site 30% off (no code required)
http://www.detourbar.com

Direct Eats–new! Valid Saturday and Sunday!
save 10% (off $75), 15% ($150), or 20% ($200) with code BLACKFRIDAY
15% off selected products from small businesses
www.directeats.com

EAS
25% off select items
www.eas.com

EBOOST
40% off with code THANKS40; free shipping over $40
https://www.eboost.com

Energy Bits.–now through Monday
20% off with code BAIN
$5 shipping to the U.S. for up to five bags of bits
http://www.energybits.com

Enjoy Life Foods (great for those with allergies!)–to 11/28!
10% off site-wide, 20% off orders $50+, 30% off orders $65+ code THANKFUL
http://shop.enjoylifefoods.com/

Hammer Nutrition
Free ultra gel sampler kit with order, use code WS16E
15% off fuels
20% off supplements and accessories
30% off clothing
50% off clearance
http://www.hammernutrition.com/
(Not an affiliate link, but if you want to tell them I sent you, I would LOVE that.)

ieatprotein
30% off with code EAT30
www.ieatprotein.com

Inside Tracker— valid through MONDAY!
Best deal of the year on the Ultimate plan!
https://www.insidetracker.com/customer/onboarding/choose-plan/
25% off any other Inside Tracker plan with code BLRF25OFF
https://www.insidetracker.com/customer/store/create-account

Kuli Kuli (moringa super foods)
15% off with code GRATITUDE (ends Sunday)
https://www.kulikulifoods.com/products

MeStrength
25% off with code VeryMerryMestrength (case sensitive)
www.mestrength.com

No Meat Athlete (with friends!)
The Plant-Based Fitness, Meal Plan, Cookbook, and Habit Change Bundle for $95 (individually priced items total $1,000+)
https://go.nomeatathlete.com/nma-bundle-2016

NuGo Nutrition
25% off all NuGo bars, free shipping on orders over $50 with code THX4U (through 11/28/16)
http://store.nugonutrition.com/products

Nuun
20% off + free shipping with code OPTOUTSIDE2016
https://nuunlife.com/shop

Quest
Through MONDAY!
$5 OFF any orders $45 – $69.99
$15 OFF any orders $70 – $94.99
$30 OFF any orders $95 – $250
(limit $250 per household)
https://store.questnutrition.com/

Run Gum
25% off through Monday
$5 off an order of $50+
$10 off an order of $100+
$20 off an order of $200+
free standard shipping
https://getrungum.com/collections/2016-black-friday-cyber-monday

Penzey’s Spices
Love Boxes discounted (through 11/27)
$4 off Black Pepper ½ cup (through 11/30)
Vanilla discounted
www.penzeys.com

Seven Seas Teas
40% off with code GREENFRIDAY7
http://www.lovesevenseas.com/

Thrive Market
25% off everything
www.thrivemarket.com

Ultima Replenisher
All flavors and sizes discounted in their store on Amazon.com

Vega
All products discounted; spend $100 and get a limited edition Mizu bottle plus free shipping (limited number available, ends 11/27)
https://myvega.com/products/categories/all

Vegan Proteins–valid through MONDAY!
50% off all Plant Fusion proteins, code CYBER50
Free variety pack with any Protes purchase (no code)
2 Free Badass Cookies when you buy a box
Buy a $100 gift card, get $15 gift card free (good until 12/31)
http://www.veganproteins.com 

Youth H2O
60% off Bloomin’ Apple flavor (discount reflected in pricing)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QIVE4ES/?th=1

Yuve (vegan protein shakes)
25% off with code bf2016
https://www.getyuve.com/

GEAR

6 Pack Fitness
40% off site-wide, 20% off elite bags (no code needed)
20% off sauces and accessories (no code needed)
http://www.sixpackbags.com/

Believe training journals
30% off with code BELIEVERS
www.believeiam.com

FitBook
$49 BlackFriday Bundle
Spend $30+ get a free blender bottle with code BLACKFRIDAY
www.getfitbook.com

FitMark Bags
10% off $50+ with code BF10
15% off $100+ with code BF15
20% off $150+ with code BF20
25% off $200+ with code BF25
Plus a free gift with each order
http://fitmarkbags.com/

The Hollywood Trainer/Jeanette Jenkins
DVDs priced at 50% off!
http://www.thehollywoodtrainer.com/shop/

Kurgo (gear for your four-legged buddy!)
40% off everything with code CYBERSALE through 11/29
www.kurgo.com

Orange Mud–new codes valid through SUNDAY
15% off everything
Free headwrap with purchase
Free shipping (USA) or $10 shipping
Code: BKFDY
10% off $100+ with code SB10
15% off $150+ with code SB15
20% off $250+ with  code SB20
25% off $350+ with code SB25
30% off $500+ with code SB30
www.orangemud.com

Run Ink–through Sunday!
20% off the USA Race Chart with code INSTATURKEY
www.runink.net

SPIbelt–valid through MONDAY!
20% off with code HOLIDAY20
http://spibelt.com

The Color Run
50-60% off everything in the Color Run store
Free shipping for orders over $25
http://store.thecolorrun.com/

Trigger Point
30% off everything on the site with code NOEXCEPTIONS (through Monday, 11/28)
https://www.tptherapy.com/shop

TRX (suspension trainers and more!)
20% off all; 25% off $100+; 30% off $200+ with code BEST16
https://offers.trxtraining.com/black-friday-sale

TRAINING & COACHING & EDUCATION

Barre3–valid through 11/29
50% off barre3 online subscriptions and prop kits
http://shop.barre3.com/

Brett Hoebel
30% off the 20 Minute Body trilogy
http://20minutebody.com/discounts/fitfriend

IDEA 
40% off everything in the store with code FRIDAY40
www.ideafit.com

MobilityWOD
20% off Movement and Mobility 101 with code blackfriday2016
mobilitywod.myshopify.com/products/the-starrett-system-movement-mobility-101
Nathalia Melo-Wilson (trainer)
Monthly membership $5.99 with code melo1
Six month membership $29.94 with code melo2
Year membership $47.88 with code melo3
www.melomafia.com

Run Lean, Run Strong from RunningShoesGuru
save 65% until Monday
http://www.runningshoesguru.com/runlean-65off/

RunSmart Online–valid through 11/27
50% off downloads
Up to $200 off on run form analysis
Runsmartonline.com

Tracy Anderson Method
Spend $200, save 15%
Spend $500, save 20%
Buy 6 months streaming, get 1 free
www.tracyanderson.com

Vi by LifeBeam
Pre-order $199 today only (that’s $80 off)
https://www.getvi.com

Yoga Is… (online conference recordings)
25% off with code BLACKFRIDAY
https://by203.infusionsoft.com/app/orderForms/YOGA-IS-Online-Festival

YogaFit
15% off all 2017 yoga teacher trainings with code GIVETHANKS17
http://www.yogafit.com/

Xen Strength Yoga
30% off everything in the shop code holidayxen
http://xenstrength.com

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.

Fresh out of the package and ready for testing--instructions included!
Fresh out of the package and ready for testing–instructions included!

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.

The first try-on! NO seams. Wraps around the arch of the foot without squeezing. Cushion in the toe and heel. Sweat-wicking too!
The first try-on! NO seams. Wraps around the arch of the foot without squeezing. Cushion in the toe and heel. Sweat-wicking too!

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!).

Look, I'm on a roll! I crack myself up, but really, compression plus the Nano Roller is the best!
Look, I’m on a roll! I crack myself up, but really, compression plus the Nano Roller is the best!

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:

  • UV protections
  • cushioned toe and heel
  • moisture wicking material
  • breathability

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!

Click here to share the discount with your tweeps! bibsave15 scores you 15% off, courtesy of Legend Compression and BibRave!Click To Tweet

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.

Clean, dry, and ready to go!
Clean, dry, and ready to go!

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!

Have you tried compression socks?

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.

Wine tasting with Outcast wines? Don't mind if I do!
Wine tasting with Outcast wines? Don’t mind if I do!

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!

This is pretty much everyone who ran the half marathon. Not kidding.
This is pretty much everyone who ran the half marathon. Not kidding.

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.

Super cute cotton shirt, plus a Buff I bought for myself as a birthday present--it's ocean-themed!
Super cute cotton shirt, plus a Buff I bought for myself as a birthday present–it’s ocean-themed!

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…)

Flat Bain. Hey, if you know how this flat runner "selfie" got started, drop me a line, eh?
Flat Bain. Hey, if you know how this flat runner “selfie” got started, drop me a line, eh?

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.

Members of the BibRave Pro team goofing around pre-race. (You can tell which one of us is the old lady who hasn't mastered selfies.)
Members of the BibRave Pro team goofing around pre-race. (You can tell which one of us is the old lady who hasn’t mastered selfies. #doubletriplechin)

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!

My favorite on-runner sight at City to the Sea!
My favorite on-runner sight at City to the Sea!

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.

Perfect weather for race day!
Perfect weather for race day!

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.

Neighborhood dolphins, decked out for Halloween!
Neighborhood dolphins, decked out for Halloween!

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.

There in the distance, the finish line!
There in the distance, the finish line!

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.)

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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).

Until race day, I didn't know "Fluid" was a brand name (and not a generic for "some type of electrolyte beverage"). Post-race, I sampled the cinnamon vanilla recovery beverage--it is vegan and soy-free--and let me tell you, it tasted like chai. #nomnom
Until race day, I didn’t know “Fluid” was a brand name (and not a generic for “some type of electrolyte beverage”). Post-race, I sampled the cinnamon vanilla recovery beverage–it is vegan and soy-free–and let me tell you, it tasted like chai. #nomnom

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.

Foam rollers front and center, ice bath to the right!
Foam rollers front and center, ice bath to the right!

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:

race-ad

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.

Lunch! #nomnom
Lunch! #nomnom

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.

My favorite cow!
My favorite cow! 67 Cowlifornia Republic

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.

I knew about the one in Seattle--which Google says is coming down???--but not this one!
I knew about the one in Seattle–which Google says is coming down???–but not this one!

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!

Parting words of wisdom
Parting words of wisdom