Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Disney Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Expo Fun

Last weekend, I had the superbly wonderful opportunity to represent Sparkly Soul again (like in October) at the inaugural Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon weekend. 

Disney expos are no joke - especially since this was slated to be a BIG race, being an inaugural one and all, we were prepping for some long days! Set up on Wednesday, 9:30-8 on Thursday, 8:30-8 on Friday, and who knows what crazy hours on Saturday. Because it was a multi-race weekend (5K on Friday, 10K on Saturday, half on Sunday), it was an extended expo as well.  I was only there for some set up, all day Thursday and most of Friday before heading out to Austin. 

(Seemingly) Unlike Rock 'n Roll, which is pretty relaxed in nature, runDisney expos have all kinds of guidelines and expectations of its vendors. First off, vendors are invited to participate in the expos - booths are hard to come by and are uber expensive, at that, so getting selected to have a booth at any runDisney weekend is a major deal

Vendors are fully expected to have their booth set up, product displays complete and be ready to go no less than 15 minutes before the doors open. You think this wouldn't be hard, but given the other expos I've worked at/seen, there are always vendors scrambling until the last minute, and even then some. We even had two staff members come fix our banner becaue it was drooping a little too much for their taste. 

We weren't allowed to wear jeans. Not that we did for Sparkly Soul at RnR anyway, but you saw no (if any) vendors wearing jeans at their booths. Again, it's a race expo, so who wants to wear jeans anyway? But you get my drift. 

We also weren't allowed to sit - like ever. Apparently at past expos, photos have been taken of vendors and sent to their company, being like, "Hey, tell your people that sitting isn't okay." The only reason a vendor should be sitting is basically to demonstrate how a product works to a customer. Fascinating, right?

But MAN runDisney expos are seriously amazing. I've only been to one Disney race, mind you, and I remember being totally excited and overwhelmed because it was my first big race and I had no idea expos took on such personalities! Yes, expos have personalities, and runDisney certainly lives up to the Disney name and hype.

I even got to drive through the 5K start line a few times, and walked underneath the finish line a few times while going back and forth from parking to the Disneyland Hotel where the expo was. Being around all the finish lines, race buzz and expo fun makes me REALLY excited for the Pixie Dust Challenge in May, my first west coast Disney race!

Did you run Star Wars this weekend? Do Disney expos live up to the hype of the Disney brand in general?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Team Rock 'n Blog 2015

I've been waiting for a bit to talk about this, if not just to get the year started, but y'all... I am so so so excited to officially put this out there! I've been chosen as part of the Rock 'n Roll race series' 100 bloggers to serve as part of the #RocknBlog team for 2015!

What does this mean, exactly? Rock 'n Blog members serve for one year on the team and our goal is to get everyone as pumped about running Rock 'n Roll events as we are! We'll let you know the latest and greatest news, host tweet-ups and other shenanigans for you at expos and races, and ensure you get some high-fives at the finish lines. Basically, we're in your face... all the time... about all things Rock 'n Roll. Stoked? I am. 

Here comes the tough part. I've only run 3 RnR races before: Las Vegas, Arizona, and Los Angeles. As part of the team, I get to run three races, both to experience them for myself and share the RnR love to new places and new faces, wherever I go! The question: where on earth do I go? My current thoughts:

San Diego (May 31) - home to the original RnR race, my lovely home during grad school (where I first attempted to run), and well... just a fantastic place altogether. This one's pretty much a done deal in my head. The real question: the full or the half? 

Seattle (June 13) - I would love nothing more to get away for a weekend, and even cross another half-marathon state off my list.  

San Jose (September 26-27) - San Jose is supposed to be a rocking flat course, and now is part of the Remix series, so you'd get an extra medal to boot if you did the 5K too! I'm all up for a challenge, so why not this one?

Brooklyn (October, TBD) - The RnR Brooklyn 10K is being reincarnated as a half marathon, currently slated for sometime in October. My sister lives there, it's my birthday month, it's a new race. I'm hearing "birthday present to self" up here! 

[images TBD! I can't wait!]

Los Angeles (October 25) - I had a blast at the RnR LA last year, and would love to do it again, if not for the extra heavy medal love at this point in the year! Why not get an extra piece of hardware? Further, if I manage to get up to San Jose too, I'd earn the Cali Combo medal for doing San Diego, SJ and LA all in the same year. MORE bling, you say? Done. 

If I can manage all these - and more, in my dreams - I'd even more of the heavy medal series. We know Rock 'n Roll is all about the bling and the new Heavy Medal series doesn't disappoint. Have you checked it out yet?

I'd love to add this baby to my collection!

So, tell me. Which have you run? Where shouuld I go in 2015?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Race Recap: Citrus Heritage Half Marathon

January 10, 2015 | Riverside, CA

I ran this race last year, totally and completely undertrained, and it dominated me - physically and mentally, I was just not in it last year. I stumbled to a 2:32 finish. This year, I was bound and determined to make it different: better, faster, stronger (cue Kanye). While I needed a long run for training miles anyway, I wanted to do better than an aerobic pace (because that would be slower than 2:32) and I wanted to prove that I had it in me, just to start working on that mentality as we get into long marathon runs. 

I love this race for a few reasons: local, supports local running groups and students, but awesome tech tees (long sleeve!), beautiful medals and a course you can't find many other places - where else do you get to run through orange, lemon, and grapefruit groves? 

I also love that you can do race morning packet pick up. This year's race was a little more bustling than last year's, so I loved to see that this race is already growing and gaining popularity. For just the second year of the half, it's always nice to see it picking up speed! Doug and I got there about 7, only to find out that they had already run out of my shirt size but that they would mail me one after the second order. Better than nothing, because I really loved these shirts! 

2015 half marathon medals. Glitter and spinners!
2015 5K medals, also glittery!
 Doug and I huddled around the start, talking to two women about the course (it ain't easy), saw Sandy walk by, and then it was just about go time. We started the half late, just over 5 minute (what's with late start times lately?), and then it was go time! Because I had run 2.5 miles in the morning, my watch hadn't reset completely, so not even .1 in, I had to stop to reset it. I only ended up being about .8 miles behind, but knew that, so I could at least keep track. 

Soooo much happier than last year!
Before even the mile 1 marker, Sandy found me again. She was trucking, trying to maintain a steady and mellow pace (compared to her normal speedyness!) due to all the challenges she's had with her knee lately. We talked about what her doctor would allow today, what I was trying to maintain (again, just kill last year's time and misery), and that we'd stick together. She reminded me of where the hills were and where the tough parts were. 

The long, gradual hill is up to the Citrus Heritage State Park - it's not a super steep hill, but a long, long, long grade up to the top. The 5K turns around at the top of the hill too, so it's kind of a beast. The perk, though, is that once you're at the top, it's an easy coast back down, through the groves and to the straight stretches to the start.

Somewhere around Mile 8, I learned that my watch was not only caught up to the .8 I was short, but we were almost .3 miles ahead  now! Um, what? After the race, Sandy found this:

Welp. That explains it! 
That aside, no course issues. I rocked those hills, I walked when I felt like it, and still came in with a super-satisfying finish. Sandy ran the last mile on her own, as I stopped to walk and shake out my knee for one last, long stretch. Did I mention the finish line is on an uphill? Rude! 

Sandy and I had a great time chatting for two hours. Despite being pretty bummed about her knee, I reminded her that it could be worse and at least she was still allowed to run, even if it was slower and easier than she was used to. It could always be worse. I haven't seen her since who knows when, so I'm glad we had a long time to catch up and talk about jobs, puppies, and all things running... duh! Thanks for a fun morning Sandy!

#21, done and done!
Doug's goal was to break 29 during his 5K. From the Reindeer Romp in December, he had rocked a killer 29:05 on a super flat course but was pretty mad he was so close, so he wanted CHR to be the place. The 5K course was straight up for the first mile (again, turnaround at the 1.5 on the top of the hill). Near mile 11, I got a text saying he didn't break 29 - I was bummed. Especially after the half, I knew he was ready to put work in and I wanted him to break his goal so badly! Turns out... he did! He freaking rocked and earned a 27:37 finish! Hell yeah, babe. Way to go! 

This year, they also had a beer garden sponsored by local Hangar 24 and Sierra Nevada. While I pretty much don't drink beer  harldy ever, and never after a race (chocolate milk, please), Hangar's Orange Wheat was de.lish.ous. Beer has never tasted so good after a half. 

Overall, I was really impressed with this year's race. They definitely took it up a notch and it showed. Some logistical snafus, but running .3 miles extra won't kill ya, especially when you're running 16 that day anyway. Desperately waiting for my race shirt now! 

Oh, and my time? Booyah! Take that, 2:32! 

- Race day pick up. Can't beat it. Ever.
- Awesome shirts. Plus for being able to be sent one instead of taking a size I don't want/won't fit/won't wear.
- Kick ass medals, again!
- Scenery. Smells. All the California prettiness. 
- Great volunteers. 
- Post-race party went up a notch! Bananas, Clif bars, chili! Beer garden! Love. 

- If you're looking for a race with course spectators everywhere, this isn't it. 
- Extra mileage mix up. Not a super biggie, but never fun when you've got 13.1 to run anyway!
- Would love to have some sort of legacy perk - especially as the race picks up size and popularity, maintaining a legacy status is always fun (i.e. getting our shirt size saved for us). 

Overall, I'm so glad I did this race again. A $50 early registration price tag didn't hurt either, so you bet I'll be signing up for 2016 again! If you're looking for extra fun, you can also ready Sandy's recap here

Are you a post-race beer drinker?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

On the Red Carpet!

... not really, but I wish. At least I was close! The People's Choice Awards was last night and Doug and I got tickets from my dad for Christmas. YES! You can buy tickets to these things! Random and awesome.

Once we got inside Nokia, we grabbed a drink and hung out on the huge bay windows that overlooked the red carpet and celebs' entrance... you know, far away from us normal people!We saw Adrian Greer, Monica Potter, and some crazy lady with giant blonde hair who I have yet to be able to identify.

Our seats were pretty incredible - though far back, we were in the first deck, so even though we couldn't necessarily see faces clearly, we knew exactly what was happening on stage. There were two huge monitors on either side of the stage that allowed us to actually see faces and identify people - or, in some cases, we'd turn to each other and ask, "Who?" Apparently we're getting old.

It was neat seeing what all went into the production of such a show. Before the show even started, one of the production folks came out, explained that we'd hear a countdown after each commercial break and that when he raised one arm, we'd need to cheer and applaud as loud and as enthusiastically as possible. At Nokia, the balcony has the best shot of making it on TV, as their secondary cameras are rigged up top.

Hooray Big Bang Theory!
 I was, admittedly, a little star struck, even though I was super far away from the folks I love, but being under the same roof is pretty cool, especially when you've never gotten to do that before! Yes, people, it's possible to live in LA and not see celebrities everywhere (not to mention the suburbs like me). :)

All in all, probably one of THE most random adventures we've gotten to be a part of but it was pretty dang cool! Now I might just have to look into being a seat filler for more awards ceremonies in the future...

Have you ever attended a star-studded awards ceremony? Or been a seat filler somewhere?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Race Recap: New Year's Race Los Angeles

January 3, 2015 | Los Angeles

The first race of 2015 is in the books! This was big for a few reasons: not only was this the first race of the year (that's always exciting), but it was also Doug's first half marathon! I probably geeked out over this way more than he liked (sorry babe), but I was just so freaking excited. I still am. 

As an ambassador, I worked the expo on Friday (hope I got to see you there!), and then of course raced on Saturday. Because this was my first NYR experience, I want to cover it all - I know there are tons of legacy runners out there who have lots of feedback and I definitely want to hear it below! Make sure you comment and I want to be sure to share it all with the race folks. 

The Expo
The Millennium Biltmore hotel is beautiful. We've met there a few times for some NYR events and photo shoots, and every time I walk in, I love it. Even more so at Christmas! But I digress. We spent 15 minutes walking around the first floor trying to figure out where we were going, because some arrows contradicted other arrows - only to find out that some hotel staff had moved one that would have directed us straight to the correct door. Oh well.

Party starters!
To me, the expo was underwhelming. I realize this is not a huge race (around 7,000 runners total for a 5K, 10K and half marathon), but I suppose in my head, I expected a little bit more. The cool part was that the expo itself was a lot of smaller, lesser known companies or local racing companies (like one of my faves, Renegade Racing). There are certainly advantages to locally focused races. 

Packet pick up was downstairs in the basement, essentially, while the expo was upstairs in a nicer, larger space. The basement felt... dank. It was old, and clearly isn't used super often. The space was large, so it worked, but could have used a lot more "sprucing up" to make it the exciting thing that packet pick up and expos can be! Monica and I, who worked the Information Table together, were brainstorming ways that the space could be brought to life and encompass the fun that this New Year's Race tried to embody. Namely: it's a New Year's Race! All the race volunteers at the expo should have like, new year's hats and tiaras and all the silliness that you see at a New Year's party! It adds a level of fun. 

Somewhere in the day, Doug, Jumah and Long came to get their stuff! Can't you see the excitement on their faces?

Soon-to-be half marathoners!
The Race
We got to downtown LA and parked right at 5 - while the ambassadors were invited to the VIP party at the Biltmore (re: warm hotel and pre-race food!), but I opted to skip it and head right to the race start to get settled with gear check and in our corral. We parked not even three blocks from the start line (foreshadow: this sucked after the race). 

We followed the corrals down towards where gear check should have been, only to eventually realize we had stopped in the middle of the line. Despite two large trucks, the actual gear check station wasn't super well-marked - and we were lucky that we ended up in the right line based on bib numbers (there were numbers printed on small signs on the top of the truck). Lucky catch. 

I was assigned Corral 3, Doug in 5, Long in 4, Jumah in 4, but we all started together in 5. It was already super crowded when we got in about 5:40 and we weren't even 'in' becauase the corral was literally overflowing. I wish there had been more corrals so they could be a little bit smaller in size. Even at under 7000 racers, that was still way too many people in one corral, since all 3 races started at the same time, in the same corrals. Luckily, when the gun went off and we actually crossed the start line, the congestion spread out pretty quickly. The plan was to run ahead to mile 5-ish, then wait for Doug, check in, and probably run the rest with him. 

Before even the mile 1 marker, the course takes you through the 2nd street tunnel, the same one that RnR LA takes you through - so I knew to expect to lose Garmin reception. And like clockwork, I did, so for the rest of the run after .84 miles, I was exactly .6 miles behind. At least I was able to keep track of that! 

It was a little uncomfortable running out of the bridge and seeing dozens of protesters regarding the Ezell Ford shooting/autopsy, and dozens of policemen lining the streets between the runners and protestors. My opinion aside, I felt kind of uncomfortable, especially as one woman was standing a foot from an officer, yelling and yelling and yelling in his face. It was a strange experience during a race and something I've certainly never witnessed before.

At any rate, I ran pretty solid until the first super nasty hill - walked a bit - and made my way up to the first layer outside Dodgers Stadium. 

Even as opposed to the Dodgers as I am (yep, I said it!), it was cool being up in the stadium, overlooking the city skyline. As I was taking photos of the skyline and taking it in, Doug caught up to me - apparently not that far behind the whole time! And from there, we tackled the rest. Through Dodgers Stadium:

And then... hills. All the hills. Once you think you're off them, you make a turn, and then you're running back up hill. You run down the hill, and there's a U-turn at the bottom telling you to go right back up to where you came from. I feel bad that this ended up being these guys' first half - what a tough course to tackle! 

I shuffled with Doug - sometimes I'd walk, and he'd shuffle on ahead and I'd catch up. Sometimes, I'd run ahead and then stop to walk and he'd catch up, and we played a sort of leap frog for the better part of the course. He runs with headphones on, so I yelled to him a lot: "Just a 5K left!" "TWO miles left!" "Hey babe... in a mile, you'll be a half marathoner!" I'm not sure which ones he actually heard, but as we powered through mile 12, I heard a lot of cursing to himself and asking "Where the f--- is the finish line?!" I just had to keep insisting it was right around the corner. 

I grabbed his hand as we turned the corner past mile 13 and powered in. Done and done. Doug's a half marathoner! 
This one will be ordered!

Being that this was my first year of the race, and the course has changed a little each year - with major changes this year as the course no longer ends at LA Live - I only have feedback regarding some of the logistics, not the actual course itself (minus the hills). 

- Awesome LA sights (City Hall, skyline, Dodger Stadium)
- Amazing volunteers freezing their hands for us at water stops
- Sweet medal (who doesn't like glitter?)
- If you're a legacy runner (I am not), an additional charm! (see Cons too though)
- Great, challenging course

- Not a con, just be ready for those hills!
- Running by/through some really sketchy areas. I didn't feel unsafe, but uncomfortable. 
- Dodgers roads especially were torn up - not the race's fault, but in some super dark areas, made me nervous to trip and twist my ankle
- Post-race wasn't marked in a way that could be seen - needs a lot more light
- Legacy charm was advertised as medal -- turned out to be far from a medal 

Alright, so lemme hear it! Did you run the NYR race this year? What did you think?

Because I served as an NYR ambassador this year, I was given a free race entry. All opinions are my own - and are real. Overall. I had an incredibly positive experience and am grateful for the year I had with NYR, and am hoping for a year 2! Thanks, Jive Live and New Year's Race crew!