Latest reviews by Amy Penokie

(2020)
"The Year of Alternative Racing"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

DISCLAIMER: I received my race entry as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.

After so many years of wanting to run this race, when I signed up back in February, it was going to be part of my comeback from foot surgery. Little did I know that 2020 had other plans for us this year! While I wish I was able to run this race in Des Moines to get the true IMT Des Moines experience (and pairing it with the I-345 Challenge with the Kansas City Marathon), I was able to experience the Virtual race while running on vacation at our cottage in Michigan!

When the race decided that they needed to go virtual, an email was sent out to all registered runners giving them the opportunity to defer to 2021, or run the event virtually. No matter which option you chose, it was a simple process to make the changes. I opted to switch over to the virtual event for a few reasons... 1. I don't know if my schedule will allow me to make the trip in 2021 and 2. As much as I miss in person racing, we don't know when things will get back to racing as we know it and I needed to have a few things to keep me going!

The race did a great job of keeping everyone up to date, sharing information and keeping you motivated! With the virtual event, you had a 2 week window in which to complete your race. I decided to run my virtual event when I was on vacation in Michigan at out cottage. I wasn't shooting for any time and just wanted to get out and enjoy the day and enjoy the miles. I walked, I ran, I saw deer and eagles and enjoyed my day! The race also had an app to download for your phone. It gave you the opportunity to take selfies or get Motigo cheers. While I did not use this feature (limited cell coverage "up North" made this a little difficult, this is a fun way to engage participants.

The race kept everyone accountable by requiring you to upload proof of your "race". I entered my results easily on the link provided. I was also able to enter my stats for the I-35 challenge.

I rated the swag a 3 for this race at this time, because I have not yet received it. Swag was not being shipped out until after the window to report your results, so I'm eagerly waiting for it to arrive!

I hope that one day, I will be able to run this race in person! After seeing how they dealt with the craziness of 2020 and having a virtual race, I am definitely keeping this race on my radar to run in the future!

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(2019)
"The year of the "Oh Fudge""
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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Elevation Difficulty
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Race Management

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"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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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)
"Very humbling experience"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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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