Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Race Review


For the second of my back-to-back races last weekend, I ran the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego half marathon. If you would like a more in-depth look at the self-titled #Fontana2SD challenge, search #fontana2SD on social media. This year was my fourth consecutive participating in the event – three times at the half marathon distance, once at the marathon distance – making it the most repeated race I have done.

Expo: A

All of the Rock ‘n Roll marathon expos have the same feel to them and I am sure that is not by accident. With the San Diego edition being one of the largest in the marathon series, it makes sense that the expo would be large as well. And it was. Lots of vendors are spaced out over lots of space in the convention center making packet pick up and any additional shopping a breeze. You will have to navigate the expo vendors even if you are just picking up your bib though because of the “one-way” traffic flow.

Prerace/Postrace: B

Another point-to-point race but this time if you want to utilize the shuttle service it will cost you an additional $5 per person. With so many races offering free shuttle service, it is hard not expect the same here especially given the fact that there are not many hotels near the starting line but too many to count near the finish line. This race makes every attempt to seed runners in corrals based on time and while it is done on the honor system, I find most people play by the rules.

The finisher’s chute was very long and even more crowded than in previous years. The race finished at a new location with better access to the ocean but getting out was a daunting task. While in the chute, runners are offered multiple options of beverages and snacks – so much so that I feel they are one of the best in this area. Once free from the chaos, there was a very large party in full swing. Rock ‘n Roll does a good job of getting acts to play at their after-race concerts and this was no exception.

The Course: A

The only thing which keeps this course from getting the top score is the lack of a run along the ocean. Being in San Diego, one would expect to spend some time along the waterfront but it is not there for the half marathon. (When I ran the full marathon in 2014, there was a segment along the ocean.) The course takes runners through historic commercial districts as well as neighborhoods with charm. The residents of the city come out for the event with unofficial aide stations – offing everything from Red Vines, to Gummy Bears, to tequila shots – adding to the vast amount of water stops along the way. There are several smaller climbs and downhill segments to keep runners focused on the task at hand but nothing overly challenging.

The Medal: B

The medal is on the smaller side for races of this size and price point. Other than the size, the design is nice and a good representation of the course and the city.

Overall: A

There is a reason I have participated in this event each of the past four years. From the expo, to the route, to the medal, to the post-race festivities, this event is positioned well for newer and highly experienced runners alike. If you sign up early, or catch one of the many discounts during the year, it is one of the better bang-for-your-buck races out there. A bit of warning for those who find themselves waiting until the last minute to sign up, the entry fee can get pricey as race day nears.


*Full disclosure: I am a member of the 2016 Rock ‘n Roll Rock ‘n Blog team. As a part of my involvement, I am gifted free entry into all Marathon Series races. However, no additional compensation was provided and the views expressed in this review are my own.


Fontana Days Run Review

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A group of friends and I decided to make the Fontana Days Run half marathon the first of back-to-back races in our self-titled #Fontana2SD challenge. You can search #fontana2SD on social media if you would like an in-depth look at the weekend’s activities. It was my second time entering the Fontana Days Half, having previously run in 2014, and all I really remembered about my first go-around was a no-frills, see-how-fast-you-can-run-down-a-mountain race where almost everyone set a personal best by several minutes.

I was not one of those who PRed that day, nor did I PR this day. Funny how that works out.

Expo: B

Truth be told, I am not sure there was even an expo for this race. There was an option to pick up bibs during a four-hour stretch Friday night but I had prior commitments so I opted for the free race-morning bib pick-up. It was a very easy process, from claiming my bib to picking up my race swag.  There really was nothing more I could have wanted.

Prerace/Postrace: B-

This race is a point-to-point run which starts up in the mountains and as such, it requires a bus ride to the starting line. This race is limited to about 1,000 entries so it is small and that made for easy travel to the starting line. There seemed to be plenty of school buses available to runners but there was a cutoff time for when they stopped sending people to the half marathon starting line.

The post-race food was nothing special but there were several food trucks available in the post-race village. I did not partake of the post-race party but it looked to be a good sized event even for a smaller sized race.

The Course: C

This event is the only one I have participated in which takes place entirely on the same road. Yes, you read that correctly. The road you start on is the one you finish on. Coming down the mountain there are some nice views but once you hit the bottom, around mile seven, there is nothing inspiring about it. It was akin to being on a lonely stretch of desert road which goes on as far as the eye can see.

The Medal: D

The medal will, without a doubt, be the smallest and cheapest looking medal I receive this year.

Overall: B+

I know, I know. Not one element of the race scored higher than a ‘B’ but here I am giving the race an overall grade of ‘B+’. What does not previously show up on my report card for this race is the intent of the event. This half marathon is all about speed! There is a reason it sells out each year and that is because the people who enter want to run fast and that is where this race excels. With a drop of around 2500 feet, most of which comes in the first six miles, runners are afforded the ability to run faster than normal without as much effort. Even after you reach the bottom of the mountain, the course is still a slight decline with only one small incline. An incline which would go unnoticed on most courses. If you are out to establish a new PR then I highly recommend the Fontana Days Run. If you are more interested in running a big race with lots of bells and whistles, you will be underwhelmed by this one.  There is no national anthem at the start, there is no starting gun, there are no gels on the course (there are water stations every 2 miles), there is no entertainment nor bands on the course, there are only a handful of spectators.  However if you simply want to run fast, Fontana Days is the race for you.

Tinkerbell Half Marathon Review


Expo: A+

Parking at Disneyland can be rough and getting to the Simba parking lot proved to be more difficult than it should have because of some errant signage but there was plenty of parking available. Bib pick up is underneath the actual expo and is very spacious. Plenty of computers are provided to print out race waivers and picking up your bib is very simple. The expo offers lots of vendor options as well as several events like guest speakers throughout the weekend.

Prerace/Postrace: B

Parking for the race is a whopping $18 per day! Keep that in mind when you sign up for one of the races at Disneyland. I arrived early enough that I had no issues getting into the parking structure. Post race runners are offered a bottle of water, small bottle of Powerade, and a prepackaged box of snacks. The box contained Oreos, a Luna bar, corn chips, a cheese sauce, and apple sauce. There is a stage with music being played but not much “entertainment” as I imagine they would like for runners to head over to the park for that.

credit: runDisney

The Course: A+

Full disclosure, I am not a “Disney” person. That being said, running through the parks offers a nice distraction from thinking about running 13.1 miles and most of the first half of the race take place within the parks. Once out in the streets of Anaheim, there is nothing super special about the course. There were plenty of water stations along the route. With just two short hills, from what I recall, I would say this course is one where going after a PR is a realistic goal. I would recommend this race for all skill levels.


The Medal: A+

One thing runDisney usually gets right is its medals and Tinkerbell is no exception. The medal is one of the better medals out there.



Overall: A-

This race ranks right up near the top of my list of races. The problem is runDisney charges a premium for its product and I just do not feel the race is better than any other well run half marathon. For fans of the Disney franchise, running through the parks and taking pictures along the route holds a certain value. But charging such a high rate for parking and cutting corners in the finisher’s area leaves a bit of a sour taste. One are where this race excelled was in photos! No longer outsourcing their race photography, they perfected the art of race photos. Action shots were available to download same day, well lit, large files, and in focus. I think all your race photos can be purchased for $39 (another added cost to an already expensive race) but in this case, it is money well spent.

credit: runDisney


OC Marathon Race Review


Last weekend I ran the OC Marathon. I had heard lots of good things about the race but never participated in the event myself. The following review is for the half marathon distance.

Expo: A-

Held at the Orange County fair grounds, the expo provided plenty of parking and space. Bib pick up was clearly marked and easy to get in and out of. Because there was so much space, the vendors’ area did not feel crowded as there was plenty of room to walk and shop at the same time. My only two knocks on the expo were having to pay $8 for parking and the limited hours it was open on Friday. I doubt the race has any control of parking costs and the website did warn attendees in advance about the cost and that it was cash only. I also would have liked the expo to open at noon on Friday because, due to Southern California traffic, 4 pm is not a fun time to be driving. It also forced most people to attend on Saturday which caused lots of parking traffic.

Prerace/Postrace: A-

Runners received an email informing them of which shuttle time slot they were scheduled for. Mine was 4:25 am. That made for a very early wake up call on race day. I encountered absolutely no traffic getting to the fairgrounds and boarded the school bus without a wait. There were plenty of buses to take runners to the start line. Again, I had to pay $8, cash only, for parking. Finishers had the option of water, chocolate milk, and Gatorade but the free food options were limited. The post race party was very large and spread out so while there were a lot of people hanging out, it did not feel overly crowded.

The Course: A

Runners were treated to some nice downhills at the beginning of the course. This allowed for quick miles without exerting much energy. Views of the ocean and coves were followed by lengthy runs through very affluent neighborhoods. If attempting to set a personal best at this race, beware there is a small section run on a sidewalk which makes passing people all but impossible and there is a formidable hill at mile 11. After reaching said hill, runners have great views of planes taking off from John Wayne Airport.


The Medal: A-

The medal looks similar, but not exactly the same, every year. I like that. It is a nice medal with the half marathon appearing to be slightly smaller than the marathon finisher’s medal. The medal is of good size and weight and is on par with other races.


Overall Grade: A

I really enjoyed the race and the course and can see myself running it again. I would recommend it to runners of all skill levels. If not for the really narrow sidewalk, I would have no problems saying this race was one to use to go after a new PR.

For a limited time, you can sign up for the 2017 race for $65.


La Jolla Half Marathon Review


Expo: B

The expo was held inside the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar Hotel. Parking was easy, and free. The hotel ballrooms felt cramped with vendor’s booths but bib pick up was quick and painless.

Prerace/Post Race: A

With the race being a point-to-point event, there were two options for runners. Take a shuttle from the finish line to the start line in the morning or take a bus from the finish to the start after the race. I stayed closer to the finish and opted for the first option. The shuttles were charter buses and not school buses so that was a welcomed surprise. Also, there were plenty of buses available so it was not a long wait. My only issue, and it was not a big deal, was the bus got me to the starting area 90 minutes before the race. That was a little too early for my liking but with a 20+ minute ride to the start, I am not sure it was avoidable. I did not utilize the shuttle post race.


Course: B+

The views on the course were as advertised. AMAZING! Starting in Del Mar, running along the Pacific Ocean, through Torrey Pines National Forrest, and into La Jolla was breath taking. So were the hills. Looking at the course profile, I knew there was a MASSIVE hill in the middle of the route with a couple of smaller inclines mixed in but I felt like I was climbing the majority of the morning. The course also ran down what seemed like a residential alley and there was a part where runners had to navigate over a median in the road.


Medal: A-

The medal is a good size, colorful, and represents the race well. It is one which will stand out on your medal display.


Overall Grade: B+

This course was most likely a one-and-done for me. I took the race easy as I wanted to capture photos along the way and was still soul crushed by the end. A steep hill around mile 12 was the final straw.

Have you run this race? What did you think?

My 15 Seconds

If you watched the US Olympic Marathon Team Trials earlier this month you surely noticed the 30-second ad from Brooks which aired a few times during the two-hour event. What may have seemed like just another shoe advertisement was actually a lot more than that. It represented the first time the Seattle-based company produced a television spot. And I was a part of it all.


Back in December, I was asked if I would be interested in being a part of the filming because they were looking for a few “runners” to give the spot a more authentic feel. The request came with only about three day’s notice and it would require two long days on set. I had an idea of what to expect since I have spent a lot of time around the television industry of late and was excited to actually take part in the project instead of watching from the sidelines.

Day one of shooting required me being on site at 4:30 am. It was well over an hour drive to the location so my day started super early. Luckily for me, they had breakfast catered and I was able to grab a breakfast burrito and coffee before heading to the makeup trailer.

I am not sure if it was a good or bad sign that it only took 30 minutes to turn me into death warmed over but I have to give credit to the makeup artists because I looked like a member of the walking dead. Since I was only an extra in the shoot, my time in the makeup chair paled in comparison to the principles of the shoot who spent upwards of four hours getting ready.

@runmeganrun and I. (photo: Brooks)

Luckily I was joined by a friendly face in Megan for the day’s work. We, along with a handful of other real actors, piled into a van and took the smallest trail of a road they could find to the top of a mountain before sunrise.

After running up the trail at least a dozen times, our group was done with its part. Back into the van and off to base camp we went where we waited until it was time to head over the second shooting location of the day.

Waiting. That would be the theme of the two days. A handful of rushed seconds of “action” would be followed by long periods of waiting for whatever was next.

Every now and then the director would call for some of the extras to come be part of the scene they were shooting but I guess I my stretching was not believable since I was only around for a couple of takes. It makes sense though, I do not really stretch before I run.

Everything shut down for lunch which was another delicious meal and then off to the final location for the day.


The production company basically shut down a residential road and it looked like World War Three had taken place. These were nice houses which people currently lived in but on this day the windows were boarded up, there was trash all over the road, and there was a car on fire.

For the final scene I traded in my zombie wardrobe for that of a survivor. Oddly, it took almost as long for makeup to turn me into a survivor as it did for them to kill me. Again, not sure what that says about my natural look.

Dozens of more “action” and “cut” calls later I was wrapped for the day. All told it was about 13 hours on set and “lucky me” I only had a two-and-a-half-hour commute back home.

For day two of filming I was able to sleep in. Call time was 5:30 a.m. and this time we were only shooting at one location.


For the most part, day two mirrored day one in that short calls for action were followed by lengthy downtime. I was a much larger part of the day’s filming during the second day. As it turned out, my role in filming was over around lunch time although I was not told I was released until around 5:30 p.m.

I am not sure I want to take up acting as a career despite having a wonderful experience.  Most of the time I was bored and I would not want to have to audition for part after part after part just in the hopes that I make the cut to be an extra with no speaking parts.

When the final product, a three-minute mini movie, was launched on the Brooks website, I was excited to see a few of my scenes had made the cut. I guess I am better at acting like a zombie than I am a runner. I guess I can eliminate being a runner from my list of career options as well.

From Where I’m Sitting

Late last year Chris Heuisler approached me about joining a team he was hand picking to volunteer at the US Olympic Team Trials. At the time he did not have many details but promised it would be an amazing experience and that we would have the best view of the races. Even before he finished asking I knew my answer.


Chris, you may know him as the RunWestin Concierge, is one of the nicest people you will ever cross paths with. He can be found at many of the Rock ‘n Roll  marathon series races and loves to meet new people. So much so that I swear he knows everyone!

Friday morning I made the trek to downtown LA to pick up my official trails gear as well as my Los Angeles Marathon packet since I was running my own marathon that weekend and let me tell you, the gear is very cool! Several times during Saturday’s trials I had people stop me and ask where I purchased the clothes I was wearing. As far as I know it was not sold anywhere and I did not see many people dressed in our “uniform” so I am not sure it ever was on sale.


The first job for “Team Awesome,” as Chris named us, was to get the athletes from the host hotel to the starting area. From there, we made sure the runners were able to access the warm up area as they prepared to run the race which would allow the top three men and women’s finishers to represent the USA at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. We would have other tasks during the day, both pre and post race but our real purpose was to provide the runners with directions and make sure they had what they needed.

Our final pre-race duty was to get the female hopefuls to the starting line.

Over 200 of the best women’s marathon runners in one place.

In the running world, speed is relative. What is one person’s personal best might be another’s training run. But the speed of an elite runner is unreal! To see humans running at a five-minute-mile pace, about 12 miles per hour if my math is correct, up close is jaw dropping. And I had a front row seat to witness this speed!

The men’s leaders at mile 20.

By the time I sat down, grabbed some lunch at the hospitality tent, and made my way back to the starting line, the men were closing in on the 20-mile mark. It was a two-horse race by that time and the leaders looked calm, cool, and collected.

After snapping a photo of the men’s leaders, it was time to start making end-of-race preparations and that meant making our way down to the finish line. There was no real drama as to who was going to win the race on either the men or the women’s side as Galen Rupp and Amy Cragg had build sizable leads over the final six miles to punch their tickets to Brazil. That did not stop the crowds of people lining the finisher’s chute to roar with excitement as the champions closed in on the tape.


Chris was right when he said we would have the best seat in the house. It was an amazing experience to see the best the US has to offer competing for the privilege to represent their home country in the Olympics.

Running is often considered an individual sport but when one is running for the entire country, then it becomes much, much more than that. I know I will be tuning in come race day to see how the marathon unfolds and will do so knowing they are running at speeds most people drive through a parking lot.