Monday, January 11, 2016

Citrus Heritage Half Marathon - Race Review



This past Saturday, January 9, 2016, I participated in the Sixth Annual Citrus Heritage Run (third annual with the half marathon distance) in Riverside, CA. This is my third year doing this race and it is truly one of my favorites! Need evidence? You can read my race reports from 2015 and 2014 - Part I and Part II. Okay, so a couple notes about the race - there is a 5k and Half Marathon option as well as a kids fun run. It is an out-and-back course next to the Arlington Sports Park in the citrus area of the city of Riverside (Southern California/Inland Empire area). The race is put on by the Riverside Road Runners and benefits their youth scholarship fund. We had gotten a significant amount of rain the week leading up to the race, and in their last email to participants they noted that they had an alternate, all-road, course plotted out for use if needed as the regular course (USATF certified) is partially on dirt roads. Thankfully, we dried out enough that they didn't need to go to Plan B, but I was thrilled to know that they had an alternate course in place so that the race could go on rain or shine. Alright, let's talk details!

We were greeted with an amazing sunrise!

Registration

The day of registration cost for the half marathon was $90, and prior to that was $85. I registered fairly early so I think I got early bird pricing. If I remember right I think it was about $80, but don't quote me as I don't know exactly. They have a great event website that includes all the details and is very well organized. Registration and packet pick-up at the event is very easy as well. You just look up your bib number and then stop at the tent to get the bib, then get your t-shirt at a different tent. Super easy and well staffed. I don't think it took us more than 5 minutes to do the entire process and it was very clearly marked and easy to know where to go.

Expo and Venue

I absolutely love this venue for races! It is held at the same sports park that the Hometown Heroes Honor Run is held at so it offers lots of great parking, real restrooms (they also have plenty of port-a-pots too), and a playground to keep the kiddies entertained while waiting. It's also very easy to get in and out of and offers plenty of room to get a good warm-up in. The expo is very tiny, but I really don't care about that anyways. They have several booths, some food trucks, and a DJ getting the participants pumped up and ready to run. I love it just as it is because it is so easy to navigate and never feels overwhelming.


Swag

Participants get a long-sleeved technical shirt. This year the shirt is gray and has the logo on the front. Last year's shirt was prettier and had more detail, but I still really like it and gray seems to be the "it" color for race shirts right now as my friend Sally just did a race that also had gray/silver shirts. There really isn't anything else outside of the shirt, although there are other race perks that I'll talk about in post-race celebration in just a few moments. :)

Sally and I pre-race...freezing our tushies off! LOL Starting temps in the upper 30's/low 40's. Okay, I almost feel guilty saying that 30/40 is cold when I saw plenty of my friends around the country in negative degrees! HA!
But that's SoCal cold...sorry!


Course

I have made no bones before about how nice this course is! I really do love it as it has the perfect mix of gorgeous views, challenging terrain/hills, downhills, and turns to keep it interesting. Beginning at the Sports Park you immediately get a nice downhill to get you started as you run along orange groves before heading into the Historic Citrus Park. This first section has some fairly decent hills and can really kick your rear if you aren't careful. Racers pass by several real restrooms that are open for use during this section, and the citrus park has at least two aid stations. After the citrus park it is back out into the orange groves after off-roading for a little bit. Several miles wind through the orange groves and this terrain makes runners really focus on footing - which I actually like because it keeps me focusing on that instead of how tired I am! After the orange groves it is up a long gradual hill overlooking a beautiful canyon to the halfway turnaround. From there you get the downhill for a bit which is SO NICE before turning towards residential streets to run the final 5k of the race. There are a few more hills on the final stretch and they still throw me for a loop because I just don't have anything left by then. HA! There are a lot of port-a-pots along the course and they have the streets closed to traffic (THANK YOU!!!!). There are a lot of lot of aid stations well stocked with cold water and gatorade, and at the halfway they had oranges (ohemgee so delicious!!) and plenty of GU in lots of flavors to choose from. The volunteers at the aid stations are amazing and have it down to a science as they let you know if they have water or gatorade as you are coming up. Lots of great signs, cheering, and helpful volunteers out on a chilly morning! Two of my favorite things about this course is that there is a section where you pass the front of the pack runners - that is so motivating to just see them flying by; and then there is another section where you pass the 5k runners as they make their way into the citrus park...so much fun to get to "mingle" with the other runners. Plain and simple, I'll say it again, I love this course. It is my favorite half marathon course to date.


Just after the starting line! There's nothing like seeing runners for days ahead of you!! I <3 it!

Medal

The medal is amazing every single year! High quality, perfect size, pretty to look at, fabulous ribbon. Take a look:

I love their medals each year and they are some of my favorites hanging on the medal rack. They definitely get this right every single year.

Here's a picture of me holding it so you can get some size perspective. It's not huge, but it's definitely not tiny either. I would say it is Goldilocks "just right".




My Gear

I wore the following:
Skirt Sports BBF Beanie in Pink Crush (on sale for $9.99 right now and I LOVE IT!!)
Skirt Sports Don't Sweat It Long Sleeve in Razz (I wore the Ambassador top that isn't available, but they have other awesome prints available!)
Skirt Sports socks (not currently available)
Flip Belt*

Fuel was Island Boost and GU Chomps (I alternated for a total of 4 times fueling during race)

*I'm struggling with a way to carry my new iPhone 6s Plus so I had to break out my FlipBelt. It did fit, with the case on if I really stuffed it in there, but I think I'm probably one of the only people on the planet that doesn't really care for the FlipBelt. I don't know if it's just my body shape, but they say that it won't ride up and will stay where you put it...nope, not for me. I would prefer to wear it around my hips, but it always makes its way up to my waist (usually taking my shirt with it risking flashing people) and that makes it difficult to get anything out of it. That's the other part of my dislike, you have to flip it over to keep items inside, but then you can't get anything out of it without flipping it back over and then you run the risk of items falling out. I lost my body glide during my marathon and a chapstick another run. One final thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have a waterproof layer so my phone case was all sweaty at the end of the run. Moisture + Phone = Bad Idea. Right? haha The only reason I'm using it right now is because I didn't have anything else that I could use for my phone. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!!

The clothes were all spot on and absolutely perfect. I have zero complaints about anything I was wearing outside of the Flip Belt. Skirt Sports is just the best. I'll have a 2016 discount code available for you very soon!

My Race

You guys - I had a really good race!! Coach Tiffany and I had decided prior to the race that this wouldn't be a PR push and would be an opportunity for me to just get out and run and see where I'm at so we can put together a great plan for my spring races. I knew I wanted to start off nice and slow so I didn't get tight legs/shins like I have in the past, I knew that I wanted to walk through the aid stations and take in some water/gatorade at each as I was not carrying any water on me this time (wanted to see how it went if I didn't carry my own since it wasn't a PR push), and I knew that I wanted to try to tackle the hills stronger than I have in the past. If I needed to walk them I would, but I would definitely try to not let them get into my head. So with those goals in mind, I started off slow, gradually geared up and didn't let the hills scare me. When we got to the first big hill I looked and it and said out loud "I LOVE HILLS!!! I'm going to totally run this thing right now! I eat hills for breakfast!" I don't know what else I said but I pretty much convinced myself up the entire thing and then I got to the top of this hill that I walked the previous two years and wanted to absolutely burst into tears that I DID IT!! I ran it and I didn't even feel like I was going to die. And the kicker? I didn't start walking at the top...I kept running right up the next hill, and right up the next one, and so on and so forth. For 10 miles I ran every single hill and I only stopped to walk through the aid stations. The mental boost from that...I can't even begin to tell you how good it felt.

Sally and I getting our groove on!
I took a brief moment of pause at the halfway point to take off my beanie and throw my hair into a ponytail as I was getting too warm. My gloves came off about 7 miles in. My sleeves rolled up about 8 miles in. haha Okay, so you know I ran strong for 10 miles but I definitely felt the fatigue really settle in at that point and I ended up taking some walk breaks during the remainder of the race. I was really feeling the fatigue in my hips and feet, so I started picking out a spot to run to, then would walk to a spot, and then start again. But I typically get tired much earlier than 10 miles, so I was thrilled. I finally headed to the finish line and kicked it into high gear to sprint to the finish line! I even got another gal to really pick it up because she could see me coming up behind her and she wasn't about to let me pass her! I told her she better get it if she didn't want me to beat her! We high-fives each other at the end of the race. LOL I just love that...the spirit of perseverance. She was a fighter and I salute that! Before I share my finish time for this race, I want to share my previous two finish times first.

2014: 2:53:20
2015: 2:59:01

And this year:
2016: 2:38:55

Guys - that's 20 minutes faster than last year and 15 minutes faster than 2014 on the exact same course!!! A 15-minute course PR!!!!!!!! Am I excited about that? HECK YEAH!!! And what's my overall half PR? 2:42 at the Tinkerbell in 2012. A flat course that I ran before my knee disaster! So not only did I get a 15-minute course PR, I also got a 4-minute half marathon PR. My work with Coach Tiffany is totally paying off. I said in my post on Instagram/Facebook that I don't do it very often as I tend to be very hard on myself, but I'm so proud of my effort on this race. I wasn't going for a PR, but I got one anyways. But more important to me than any numbers was that I ran those hills that beat me every other time. More important is that I felt great. More important is that I fueled and hydrated to plan. More important is that when my watch clicked off the miles I was shocked at how quickly it was going by. I feel like I won a mental battle on this run and that is the absolute most important. I'm gonna ride this runner's high for a while. LOL


Post-Race

The post-race amenities at this one are pretty good. They have bananas, fresh oranges, and Clif bars, full water bottles, and Gatorade along with bowls of chili from Farmer Boys (a local burger joint that is just now expanding to the Los Angeles area). They also had mylar blankets this year and had the beer garden back again. One of the best things about the beer garden? They had belly bars (those are the high tables) and bowls of pretzels on the tables. Nice touch!! (I didn't partake in the beer garden, but a nice gentleman was more than happy to put my ticket to use! hahaha)

Final Thoughts

Did you guys get the idea that I really like this race? *wink* I really do - I love this race. Gorgeous course with just enough challenge, great amenities, wonderful course support, lots of volunteers, great swag in a beautiful location at a perfect time of year. What more can you ask for? Seriously, you won't be sorry if you run this race. Hope that you'll join me in 2017 because I will definitely be back!!

Finally, I will also highlight that this is part of the Run Riverside Challenge series so I got some extra swag this one! Here's all the Run Riverside medals from 2015-16:


And here's all of them from the beginning of this series that began three years ago!

Half Marathon #7 is in the books! Run happy, or dance, or skip, or jump, or whatever, my friends!

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