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.

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Tinkerbell Half Marathon Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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credit: runDisney

 

OC Marathon Race Review

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?