Latest reviews by Ben Lamers

(2018)
"Chilly Loops"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Trailbreaker offers races at the Full, Half, 10k, and 5k distances. I opted in for the 5k distance.

Packet pickup is available the day before the race, as well as the morning of. And it's pretty straightforward, you grab your bib and away your go. Runners who registered before 3/18 got a race shirt, and runners who registered after that date got a race branded thermal; which I thought was a better option anyway.

None of the races start at the same time, which I thought was kind of unusual. While the start times are staggered, it does make parking a little more of an adventure for the later races if you don't arrive too early to Frame Park. We were able to find a spot arriving about an hour before the start of the 5k.

The Full, Half, and 10k all start and finish at more or less the same place, but the 5k starts a little ways down the parking lot, before finishing with the other races. All races are a shotgun start with a ship timed finish. This isn't an issue for timing since it's a smaller race, but it could be something to be aware of.

The 5k course is two loops around Frame Park in Waukesha, which is simple enough. Still, it helps to know the course ahead of time. The park has both pedestrian and bike paths, which go to different areas, and the section around .5 and Mile 2 had no course marshals. Other than one or two pink arrows spray painted, there was no course direction. Like I said, not bad on a double loop, but it would be prudent to at least put a person or a sign on some of those turns.

Going into loop two, be sure to not cross the finish line. There is sidewalk going into the finish and one going around, take the one around. Coming into the finish, also be aware that you're done. With all bibs the same, the volunteers didn't know who was running what race and tried to direct me, and others, the wrong way. This could be easily solved with the different races having different colored bibs.

The post race area was inside, which was clutch on such a cold day. Lots of food, beer, and vendors were available for all runners and awards were done as top finishers in all four distances were completed. Overall and Age Group winners received a certificate for their accomplishment.

All in all, the Trailbreaker is a very well run race and event. It's a smaller event, which you could expect for a spring race in SE Wisconsin.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
""John is just trying to keep up with the Barkleys""
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Yes, the quote in this subject was actually said to me by a volunteer at the race. No, this isn't as gnarly as the Barkley (I imagine) but this 50k is no cake walk. Still, it's one of my favorite all-time races.

This year, I got down to Nashville a couple days before the race, so I was able to pick up my packet before the race at one of the local Fleet Feet stores. I chatted with John Hardin, the RD, about the course, and went on my way. This is your standard race store packet pickup. But after 8 hours of driving, I just wanted my bib and to get to my AirBnB.

Here I should mention that last year, the race shirt was one of my favorite ever. A dark, sleeveless shirt with the race logo. This year, we got more of the same with a dark green shirt with the logo. Awesome! I think the 12k runners got a red shirt. Or rather, there was a red version that someone obviously received.

Fast forward to race morning. You can camp out before the race if you want, but the rest of us arrive in the morning at the horse farm where the race starts, aka The Battlefield. If you couldn't make the one day of packet pickup, you can do so this morning. You'll also park in a field, so if it's muddy, be aware getting in and out could be a challenge.

Before the 50k, John gathers us to go over some things pre-race. Amongst those, asking why some of us came back more than once, and to not die on the course, because he doesn't want to drag our bodies out of the woods.We do the pre-race oath, John pounds a beer, and we're off to The Battlefield.

Once you dive into the woods, the climbing begins. Almost the entire first mile you're heading up, before descending and then climbing (the 43 PERCENT GRADE) the largest hill on the course at about a mile and a quarter. After getting up the hill, you get some runnable trail until you descend off trail to the river, back up, and then back down a trail to aid station one.

After Aid Station 1 you get the first three stream crossings of the race. And on a day where the temps rose into the 80s, that was a welcome part of the race. You get more climbing between aid station 1 and 2, and this is arguably the hilliest part of the course. Up and down. This year, there were more downed trees as well to make this more challenging. You head up a hill and into aid station two.

You've got one major climb from aid station two to three, but this section is mostly downhill. If you need to pick up time in the race, this is the section to do it. This year, it was a short jaunt to AS 3 as it was moved up due to mud on the course. Stock up as AS 3, because you're about to go off on a 9 mile loop full of hills, water crossings, and off-trailing before you come back to that AS.

Due to the heat, the volunteers had a make-shift AS in the middle of this loop, which was super helpful. Especially since I was already toast here.

Once you've fought back to AS3 (now AS 4) you're headed back to the start. And remember when I said the trail from AS 2 to 3 was downhill? Well, that means the way from AS 4 to 5 is almost entirely UPHILL.

Full disclosure, I cashed it in at AS 5 due to dehydration at this point. That, plus the exhaustion of having run the Cowtown three weeks before has beaten me down.

While I didn't make it to the finish, that doesn't jade my opinion of the race. This is still a top notch event, especially if you're looking for a challenge at the 50k distance. I'll be back, and would encourage you to give it a shot too. See you on the battlefield next year.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Texas Swag"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb 28423761 10156259702338793 7550879903669512602 o

I registered for the Cowtown almost as an experiment. I had the opportunity to get to Texas the weekend of the race, and decided to use the Cowtown as an opportunity to try some new things. New race-day breakfast, new in-race nutrition, new shorts, new sunglasses, and new shoes. Basically, I broke every rule of marathoning. But let's get to the review of the event.

First, let's talk expo. The Cowtown expo goes on Friday and Saturday and is held in the events center right by the start/finish line. This is relevant because bag check for the 5 and 10k were inside, but it also meant Sunday runners (Half, Full, Ultra) could sit inside before the start of the race.

I hit the expo after my shakeout run on Saturday morning. I watched the start of the 10k, and then headed inside to grab my stuff. And let me say, this was the greatest packet pickup experience I've ever had. Since it was early, and the races were going on, there were zero crowds at the expo. Zero. It was amazing. I could walk wherever I wanted, and look at whatever products and gear I wanted. If you've been to other large races and had to weave through throngs of people, you know how great this is. The only thing I didn't like (SUPER minor) was that the bib and shirts were at opposite sides of the exhibit hall. So if it was crowded and you wanted to make a quick getaway, that would have been impossible to do.

Fast forward to race morning. I can't comment too much on parking. I stayed at an AirBnB that was less than a half mile from the start line, so I walked it. Unlike on Saturday, the bag check was outside for Sunday runners, but it was very easy to use. We just had to zip tie (those were provided) our tag onto the race bag and give it to a volunteer. This might have been one of the best bag checks I've seen.

For the race itself, I was in Corral 1. I know a lot of races say they check bibs, but we've all been in races where folks bump themselves up a corral and that can create some early congestion. Not at Cowtown. They have multiple volunteers checking every single bib that tried to walk into the corral. I can honestly say I really appreciated this.

Side note, I ended up lining up right behind a female elite (they have different bibs) in the Corral. Intimidating? Yes. But still really neat.

The race course itself was really interesting, and was a great way to tour Fort Worth. We started off weaving through the Cultural District (which has some amazing restaurants by the way) before working our way into some parks before heading over to the Stockyards. The Stockyards are kind of the touristy part of the city, complete with brick roads for running.

From there we ascended out of the Stockyards into downtown Ft Worth. And by ascended, I mean we ran up a beast of a hill at Mile 9 to get into the city. The hill isn't overly steep, but it is literally the whole mile (and then some) so be ready to climb. We didn't spend too much time in the downtown area before going into the neighborhoods. Mile 13-23 are almost all in neighborhoods, and the TCU campus. You get a little secluded bike path time as well.

The last few miles runs you along the river trail before you turn back toward the finish. This is a weird comparison, but if you've ever run the Lincoln Marathon in Nebraska, this part has a very similar feel to the back half at Lincoln.

Overall, the crowd support at the Cowtown is excellent! While there are some solitary parts, there are folks watching and cheering you on for most of the race. Is it at the level of a big city race? No, but it has been the best crowd support I've seen in a smaller city marathon.

Oh, and the aid stations! Very good and VERY plentiful. Stations are about 1.5 miles apart, which I think is a bit excessive, but if the weather was hot, then it would have been great. The only complaint I have here, is that at some of the aid stations water was first and Gatorade at the back, then at some it was reversed. So we never know coming into the station which was which unless we asked a volunteer.

Now for the Swag. The participant shirt is honestly one of the ugliest race shirts I've ever received. I'm sure not everyone would agree with that, but a royal blue shirt with tie-dye side panels just doesn't do it for me. The tie-dye is too much! The finisher's shirt, however, is super nice; a plain red long sleeve. The cool thing here is that there are different finisher's shirts for the Half (purple), Full (red), and Ultra (green) so the race doesn't run into the issue of giving "Marathon Finisher" shirts to those who ran the half. I love having the actual race you ran on the shirt.

More importantly. This race had the literal best thing ever. You know how almost every marathon gives out those (in my opinion) worthless space blankets? Not the Cowtown. We got DISPOSABLE JACKETS. I mean, it feels like you're wearing a reusable grocery bag. But it's branded with the race and zips up. Basically, the Cowtown has given me the ultimate jacket to wear/throwaway before an early race. Every race should take Cowtown's lead and give these out.

Overall, there's a reason the Half, 10k, and 5k all make the BibRave 100 best in their categories. The race organizers at the Cowtown have their act together and out on a fantastic event. The race didn't go great for me (because remember I tried new everything) but this is a top notch event. Would return.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Cullen 8k"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb 27752639 10100880595371677 589057514378631328 n

Ran the Cullen 8k with my race team this past Saturday. It was a great event, as all of the events that are put on by the Striders are.

T-Shirt - Let's start here. I REALLY like the race shirt. A simply design on a long sleeve black shirt. The shirt is super soft, and an excellent fit. Would I wear it running? Probably not since it's cotton, but it will make for an excellent regular shirt. Plus it wasn't blue! I don't know about the rest of you, but I've gotten tons of blue shirts from races recently.

Aid Stations - Didn't stop at any of the aid stations because...8k. There was one on the course, and it was very well done. Lots of volunteers there, and since it's on an out and back, they actually move the aid station to the other side of the road for the back part! It's also placed at the top of the hill, so it's a nice benchmark to know where you are on the course.

Course Scenery is actually very good for a winter race. It helps that a majority of the race runs along the Menomonee River Parkway, which is a beautiful place to run at almost any time of year.

Speaking of the course, this one is a mixed bag. You definitely spend a lot of time on flat and fast roads. But there are a few hills that can catch you, one of which you'll get the opportunity to do twice. The trick here is obviously winter. We were fortunate to have a mostly cleared off course, with some slush at the start/finish.

Parking is pretty easy as well. You have the options to either park at the venue, or take the free shuttle into the race. Parking is limited at the start line, so I opted for the shuttle. Super easy and quick, not a hassle at all. I can't speak for anyone trying to park at the start line, but it looked pretty congested to me.

I can't speak much to the expo since our team captain picked up our packets. But it is help at Performance Running Outfitters, so I would imagine it's your standard running store pickup.

Overall, a very well run race by the Badgerland Striders. Plus, having a non 5k option to run in the winter is nice, so I love the 8k distance here! 10/10 recommend.

Loading Comments... Ajax loader

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2018)
"Winter Racing"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
Thumb image3

I had looked at running F3 the past couple of years, but now I that I made the move to Chicago, running it in 2018 became a no brainer. I wasn't overly enticed with the idea of running a Half this early in the year, so I opted for the 5k. Plus, not having run a legitimate 5k in quite some time, I wanted to see what would happen.

Registration was easy and straightforward, so we won't get into that too much.

I really like the idea of being able to pick up the race packet at multiple locations through the week leading up to the race. Most (all?) of the locations were at Fleet Feet stores in the Chicago area. My only complaint here, and this is so minor, is that there really wasn't an easy location for those of us in the Southwest Burbs. To avoid driving into downtown on the weekend, I opted for pick-up at the Deerfield store.

Packet pickup wasn't too busy when I got to the store, and the process was easy. Show your ID, and you get your packet. Plus, I'm always a big fan of wandering around running stores and all of the Chicago Fleet Feet locations are great.

Let's talk about the swag. I LOVE getting a light hoodie as the race shirt. I do a lot of my winter running (when temps allow) in these hoodies. So yeah, I was thrilled for that. It's also comfortable and looks good, which is always a plus.

The bag that all of the swag came in was nice as well. A few races give drawstring bags for packet pickup, and really, you can never have enough of those. The rest of the packet was mostly advertising and some discounts. Even though I rarely use any of it, I miss the days of races putting all kinds of stuff in our bag, so this was refreshing.

Leading into the race, the organizers were excellent about communication. There were a couple events also happening in downtown on race morning, and F3 Events did a great job of communicating those, and the road closures, to racers. Granted, this didn't affect those of us coming from the South too much.

Parking. The race offers parking in the North Garage at Soldier Field, which is super convenient. Never having to go outside before running a January race is clutch. The price of the garage is a little steep ($20), but for the convenience, I'll take it. Maybe I'm a little jaded after running my last two races on the Lower East Side in Milwaukee, where parking was a free for all, and a nightmare. If you're not all about paying $20 to park, you can always park in the city and walk to Soldier Field.

The gear check feature was nice, and basically allows runners to be able to leave their things in a safe place in Soldier Field while running. I've definitely just left gear sitting in a bag by a tree during a race before, so this is much nicer.

Racing itself was pretty straightforward. An out and back on the Lakefront path is easy to follow. There was one turn by Soldier Field that I honestly might have taken (we went straight) had I not been following those in front of me. Otherwise, I didn't notice much of the scenery since I was dialed in to racing.

Post race was solid as well. Bananas, water, bagels, and Kind bars were all available at the finish. Fortunately, the weather was nice enough that we were able to mill around the finish for a bit before heading back inside.

The post race party was at Kroll's, just a few blocks from the stadium. Unless you get turned around leaving the parking ramp, and about triple your walking distance. Whoops. I didn't mind moseying around downtown Chicago too much, but had it been colder, I would have. But this is the epitome of a personal problem. Overall, Kroll's was super accommodating to the bunches of racers coming to the bar/restaurant after the race. Plus, free beer is always nice.

Overall, this is an excellent event! It's definitely more geared toward the Half than the 5k. And that makes sense, how many Half Marathons do you find in the Midwest in winter? 10/10 would recommend.

Oh! And there are free race photos!!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.