Latest reviews by Amy Penokie

(2019)
"The year of the "Oh Fudge""
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After running the virtual option the 1st two years of this event, I was excited to be able to actually run the race this year! This 5k.10k play homage to the classic "The Christmas Story" Movie, which has been one of my favorites since I was a kid!

It's not that often that I will dive 8 hours to run a 5k (or in this case walk a 5k due to injury) but that is exactly what I did!

Packet pickup was right downtown, just feet away from the start line. We went down the night before the grab packets so we would have one less thing to do on Saturday morning. If you are looking for a true race expo, this is NOT it. Packet pick up, pictures with santa and a table at which you could purchase previous years shirts.

Race morning, you have 2 options for parking. Street parking a few blocks from the finish line (the House) or downtown. Thanks to a connection of my friend, we were able to secure free parking a few blocks from the start line! So we had a short walk to all the fun festivities!

Costumes everywhere! this is one of those races that a lot of people dress up for! Whether it be in Christmas attire or costumes relative to the movie itself. There were more "Pink Nightmares" in one place than I have ever seen!

Another cool part of this race is that, aside from the regular 5k and 10 races, there is also a Bumrpus Hound run, where your favorite pooch can run with me! There was no shortage of adorable pups everywhere!

As I mentioned the race starts downtown, and after meandering down a few streets, heads out over the river and into the historic Tremont District. If you are running the 5k, your race ends right in front of the Christmas Story House. If you are running the 10k, just before you reach the house, you get to turn left and run back downtown. From downtown there are buses available to bring you back to the house.

Since we were all doing the 5k , we headed to the house and were done!

After getting our medals, we wandered into the gift shop but quickly decided that we were NOT going to buy anything because the lines were too long. One perk of the race is that your entry includes entry into the Christmas Story House. Since Kelly and I had toured the house last summer when we were here, we skipped that... and it was a good thing... the line was down to the end of the block! Our friend Jessie and her husband went back the next day and didn't have any wait to get int! So if you have the extra time, go back on Sunday to walk thru the house!

the only downfall of the race was the busing back downtown from the house. The line for the buses was at least 3-4 blocks long! Instead of waiting in that long line, we opted to order a Lyft and pay for the ride back! We figured this saved us at least a half hour and were dropped off right outside the parking ramp where our car was!

Loved this race and being able to cross off yet another bucket list race!!

For more on the race and some pretty run pics, check out the blog post! http://ampdwellness.crazyhamster.run/oh-fudge-christmas-story-5k-and-shenanigans-in-cleveland/

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(2019)
"Cold, hilly and Mac & Cheese!"
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After running 62 half marathons, 25 of those in WI, this was the first time I actually ran IN Madison! I've run in the surrounding area but never a half right at the capitol! I've run through the city, but never on the streets surrounding the focal point of the Capitol. I am so glad that I finally had the opportunity to run this one!

Expo and Packet pickup: Since I was also working the expo, I had the opportunity to grab my race packet before they doors open, so I had zero wait. I do know that for those that came right when the expo opened, there was a short wait, but overall, the lines at packet pick up (when there were any) went quickly! Overall it is a small expo with a variety of vendors! If you forgot something at home, I'm pretty sure you could find it here!

Race Morning: Everything is set up on the corner near the Capitol! Ample port a potties along one of the side streets, a few vendors selling hot beverages and light snacks and gear check right near the start finish corrals! They start the wheelchair division just before 7am, the marathon promptly at 7am and the half at 7:10. The 2 courses run together are various points and it was fun to see the lead runners for the marathon come thru when we were at about mile 6. We would then see them again at about mile 8.5!

The course itself is hilly. If you know anything about Madison, it has its share of hills and I think this course hits all of them! Ok, maybe not ALL, but when I look back at my elevation chart from the 13.1 miles, it is pretty much all rolling hills! There are a few killer ones that pretty much all of us were walking up! Yes, one of them is during the last mile!

Finish line/post race: The finish line is the same as the start line! One of the best perks of this race however is the finish line food! Aside from the usual water, chocolate milk and banana's, you also were treated to Vegatarian Chili and GF cornbread, AMAZING mac & cheese and brats. The mac & cheese was some of the best I have had in a long time, so if that is available, you need to try some! (if you don't want it, I'll gladly take yours!).

Since Gear Check was right there by the corrals, my warm sweatshirt was easy to get to!

Overall, great race! One of the most scenic ways to see Madison and the surrounding area!

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(2019)
"Friends Fun and Ice Cream"
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This is the 2nd year I have run this race and I don't know what more I can say about it that I have not said before!

The race management team/family does everything that it can to treat it's runners right. With the EC marathon, it's like they try to treat each and every runner like royalty! For me, every time I head to EC for the half marathon, I feel like I'm coming home, even tho I have never lived in Eau Claire.

The Expo: A little bit of everything, no matter who you are! If you forgot anything at home, there is probably a vendor there that has it. But aside from race necessities and accessories, there is also a plethora of other vendors with all kinds of fun stuff! This year I picked up some granola (which came with an epic FREE coffee mug) and also samples a variety of other fun foods and beverages! Have kids that want to make their own cheer signs for mom, dad or whoever is running over the weekend? Stop by the Cheer sign booth and have them make their own sign!

Race Day: While there is no parking at Carson Park, the race does an amazing job of transporting all runners and spectators into the park. There is a parking lot at the bottom of the hill, from which you can walk up the hill to the festivities, or 2 different parking stops in town to catch one of the shuttles! They have shuttles starting at about 6am, and running constantly until about 3pm to get everyone where they need to be! The hotel I always stay at is just 2 blocks from the CVTC parking lot and in the morning, the bus heads straight to the start line, so you are there within 5 minutes. Please keep in mind that after the race, shuttles leave from the park and head to the Water Street lot first and then loop back around to the CVTC lot, so it does take about a half hour.

Start/Finish Line: is in the parking area of Carson Park and is laid out o give you everything you need on race morning! Plenty of porta potties in various location so I've never had to wait more than a handful of minutes. Gear Check is always a breeze! With ample stations to drop your gear, it doesn't take long to safely stash your stuff before the race!

This year I had a chance to meet up with a few other Bib Rave Pro's that were also running before heading to the start line with some girlfriends.

The Course: Scenery and bridges! The half marathon course crosses 11 bridges, runs through several parks and then some quiet neighborhoods. The community support for this event is also amazing! There are very few points along the half marathon course where there are not people out in yards or along streets cheering on runners. The best section by far the Blue Gold Mile. It starts when you enter the campus of UWEC where this year, we were again greeted by the infamous Blue Gold marching band. They are there, right when you need them, to get you through those last few miles of the race. After the band, you will find students from nearly every student organization out cheering on runners and sending the motivation and encouragement that you need!

After the BlueGold Mile, you enter the final few miles of the course and head back towards Carson Park. This year, we made a pitsop at Roadside Ice Cream and picked up treats to enjoy on the way back up the hill. The response from spectators and other runners was beyond epic! It's not every day that you can stroll across the finish line with great friends and ice cream!

Given the chance, I will be back in Eau Claire again in 2020 for the half marathon once again! Hope to see you there!

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(2019)
"By far the toughest race I've ever done, but love that I had the opportunity to experience it!"
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The midwest girl really didn't know what to expect with a trail half marathon in Texas! I've run trails before, but this race made any trail I've run before look like a cake walk!

The race is held at Reville Peak Ranch and has some of the most beautiful scenery in the area! Parking at the race is plentiful and they even have camping available the night before for those that want to take in the whole experience of the ranch. Since camping (sleeping in a tent) the night before a race was not my thing, it was hotel for me!

Packet pickup on race day as quick and easy! I will have to say that the shirts did seem to run a little small, but after the race there is an option to swap out your shirt if needed.

The course starts out on some single track through a nice shaded wooded area before heading out into the hills. Once you hit the aid station at mile 3-ish, the terrain starts to change! The course follows some beautiful trails that feature everything from crushed gravel, to rocks! Like I said, this was some tough trail and I ended up walking a lot more than I planned! I also took the time to take quite a few pictures along the course because this beauty needed to be captured!

There was a little confusion among some runners at the point where the course split around mile 6. The 8-miler went one way while everyone else went the other, but the 1st signs we saw only mentioned the Double Marathon, so we weren't sure if that was the way we were supposed to go. once we turned the corner, we found the signs for the half and full!

As I mentioned, I ended up walking a lot more than I planned but I was ok with that! there is also a very generous course limit, since there is the marathon and double (ultra) marathon going on at the same time - yes those folks were running this crazy course twice for the full and 4 times for the Ultra! Major kudos for those badass runners who completed that amazing feat!

The medal for this race was pretty sweet too!

Overall, this was tough! It took my a lot longer to finish this tough course, I struggled with the terrain and the heat, but I KNOW that I came out a stronger runner in the end for completing it! I am truly blessed that I had the opportunity to run this one!

So, if you are looking for a challenge, have a desire for amazing scenery and want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and reach new levels, give this race a look!

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(2019)
"Very humbling experience"
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I've looked at running this race for a few years now, and in 2019, it finally fit the calendar! The history and meaning behind this race was part of the draw for me. What an amazing thing to be part of!

This race is the sole fundraiser for the OKC Memorial. They are able to earn enough money from this event to completely support the memorial, so there is no cost to taxpayers, etc.

The run starts right in front of the Memorial with a staggered start. Every 5 minutes or so, another wave goes off. This was awesome as it really helped to keep congestion on the course down! I have run many other larger races that I feel like I am running elbow to elbow with other runners until mile 6. Never happened here!

Be ready fro rolling hills! No, nothing huge or monumental, but there are a bunch of them! The gals I fell into step with and ran 90% of the race were running strictly for fun (as was I) so we enjoyed walking up anything that looked or felt like a hill (yeah we were enjoying the day and the race, taking everything in). One of my favorite parts of the course was Gorilla Hill at about mile 8. We are talking everyone in the neighborhood out, inflatable, food and beverages! If there was a particular food you were looking for, chances are, someone was handing it out! The only bummer is that the half marathoners are running on the opposite side of the divided street so we missed out on some of the treats and the huge inflatable arch and fun pics of the HUGE inflated gorilla!

After turning the corner at the top of Gorilla Hill, you enter the Memorial Miles. The next few miles are a tribute to all those who lost their life that day. There is a separate banner for each individual lining the side of the route. The entire few miles is very humbling, emotional and so much more than I could have imagined. I learned how the girls I was running with were affected by the bombing, why they fun this race every year and it completely changed my feelings about the race.

Overall, the course was fun, the community support was amazing, the aid stations were well stocked and the finish line party was pretty fabulous!

One other fun part about this race is that not only did I receive a shirt with my race packet, but there was a second finishers shirt too! How cool is that!

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