Latest reviews by Ben Lamers

(2018)
"Copper Mountain 50k"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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What. A. Race.

Seriously, the whole Under Armour race day experience at Copper Mountain was fantastic, regardless of if you were running the 5, 10, 25, or 50k races.

I got out to Denver the Tuesday before the race, partly to give my body time to adjust to some altitude, and to see some friends. If you're flying into Denver, Copper Mountain should be about a 1.5 hour drive from the airport, but it'll take you closer to two hours because of traffic on I-70.

Packet pickup for the race is offered for most of the afternoon beforehand, and also on race morning. I grabbed my packet the day before, mostly since I could. There were a few booths from Under Armour and Fleet Feet set up, but don't come to the expo expecting to find and buy all the things. It is a nice little village for runners, though, and had way more post race (more on that later).

Quickly, let's talk about the race shirt. First of all, it’s an Under Armour hoodie, so you can't get much better than that. I've already worn mine a few times. It's very plain, so don't expect any over the top designs, with a logo on the back, and the logos for each mountain series race on the sleeve. I would've liked something to indicate Copper Mountain specifically on it, but that's fine.

I ran the 50k, which was the first race to start off at 7am. If you’re staying in Copper Mountain, which most people do, it’s super easy to get to the start. Just about all of the hotels are within walking distance. We got lined up in the starting chute, and away we went!

As with any large trail race, the start can get a bit congested as everyone is navigating their way onto the single track. It wasn’t too bad, but you could get bottled up on some of the switchbacks going up the mountain. But this was only in the first quarter to half mile, so it was no big deal at all.

The way up the mountain is a little over a 10k (by my Garmin) and there is only one aid station on the way up, and then another at the top. There are five Aid Stations set up on the course, and you pass one twice, so it’s kind of like 6. One of them is about 1k from the finish, though. If you’re doing the 50k, there is an AS at the Start/Finish line, so you can restock for your second loop there. All AS had water, powerade, and various fueling items. Aid Station 2, at the top of Copper, had the most things for you.

While the course winds you around jeep roads and single track, it is SUPER easy to follow. The course was extremely well marked, and included the occasional mile marker. On any corner that might have been a question, there was a volunteer there.

The post race area was rockin. Literally, there was a band. I didn’t explore the area much, because I was spent after the race, but I know they had various recovery items including foam rollers, stretching areas, and post-race massage. Oh, and each runner received a free beer, obviously the most important thing.
I absolutely loved the experience of this race! Super challenging course, but if you’re gonna run a tough race what better place than here. A couple days later, I was actually looking to see if the other two UA Mountain Running races fell into my calendar.

Highly recommend this bad boy.

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(2018)
"Run For The Zoo 2018"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

It was a double race weekend for me for June 2 and 3 with the Run For The Zoo being the second run for me.

Runners had three options for Packet Pickup: Friday or Saturday at Lincoln Park Zoo, or the morning of the race. I went down to the zoo on Saturday and the packet pickup was super quick, maybe one of the quickest I’ve ever done. There’s really no expo for this race, just your bib and race shirt. But since the location is the Zoo, you can mosey around there for a while.

On race morning, the 5k started at 7:30 and the 10k at 8:15. Parking is available at the Zoo, but you’ll need to get there super early to snag it. There’s also street parking, but that fills up super quick. I ended up parking in Lakeview and walking back to Lincoln Park for the race. Basically, if you want to park close, get there early. Roads begin closing at 4:00am and will completely close around the race at 7.

Packet pickup was super busy on race morning, enough so that some runners needed to scramble a bit to get to the start. The rest of the start area was very easy to navigate. Plenty of bathrooms, and an extremely quick and efficient gear check.

The 5k operates on a wave start, and I think the 10k did as well (but I’m not sure). Either way, the start was all very smooth.

Looking at the map, I thought the 10k looked incredibly confusing. It was filled with two out and backs, and crossing over one corner at least twice. We also passed the start line 3 times. And while it was a confusing course design, there were more than enough course marking and volunteers to make this a non issue. Major kudos to the race in this regard.

A majority of the race is run along the lakeshore path and other trails in the area. I would say the course is about 60-40 pavement and crushed gravel. We didn’t really run through the Zoo itself except for the last mile or so. This was a fun weaving area. The only negative was running over the boardwalk (which I love) but due to some rain the light before, it was VERY slick and with a lot of corners we had to be careful to not biff it.

The post race area was in the Zoo itself with plenty of food and water available. Runners did have the option of grabbing a free beer. But I needed to get on the road, so I passed this up. We did get a coupon for a free coffee at Peet’s though!

All in all I was thrilled with this race. Very well organized, and really nothing I would change. I did notice that it would be possible, with the start times, to double the 5k and 10k. This could be a fun challenge that the race could officially have in the future.

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

Signed up to run the Father's Day 5k on a whim the week of the race. It was a good opportunity to get another race in, and try and go for the age group sweep with my Dad.

Like all Silver Circle Event races, packet pickup is super easy. Runners can either get their bib and shirt ahead of time at In-Step in Delafield, or the morning of the race. I opted for the day before, just for ease the morning of. Like I said, an easy process. I was torn on the shirt of this race. I LOVE the powder blue color, but I'm not a huge fan of the giant logo on the front, or the quote on the back. Thus the 3 star rating there.

Parking could be an adventure for this race. Most runners drive to the park, and park at the start finish line. It is $5 to do this, though. Being cheap, my Dad and I parked at the nearby Lannon Park (fo free y'all) and walked to the start. This is about a half mile (if that) walk to the start, not bad at all.

Separate paragraph here to note. INDOOR BATHROOMS. Amazing.

The 5 and 10k both get started at once, and the first 200m or so is a bit cramped because of it. Quickly, we turned onto the trail and it was instant mud. Overall, the first half mile or so was a swamp after the rains from the night before. As lots of runners were dancing around the outside of the muddy puddles, I said "F it" (hope there were no kids around) and charged right down the middle. Never saw those runners I passed again.

A majority of the rest of the race is light rolling hills, predominantly on double track grass. You could easily get by wearing road shoes in this race, no question. Around mile 2, you hit the dirt and rock again with more light rollers. There is also an aid station just past the second mile marker if you need it.

The course sends you in one big loop, you pass through some more slow muddy spots, and turn back toward the finish. Unless you opt to run the 10k, then you pass an aid station and head back out to do it all again! The finish takes you right back to the start line on the pavement.

It's also worth noting that Silver Circle's trail series has some of the best post race food around. You can't beat watermelon, right?

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(2018)
"Soldier Field 10"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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Elevation Difficulty
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Race Management

I signed up for the Soldier Field 10 basically on a whim. As in, the Thursday afternoon before the race. So my pre-race experience was a bit condensed, to say the least.

Because of my late sign up, I was basically required to attend packet pickup at the Fleet Feet location in OldTown. Had I signed up in advance, like a normal person, I could’ve done pickup at the Fleet Feet in Elmhurst, which would’ve been WAY more convenient for this suburb dweller. Bib pickup was super quick at Fleet Feet though, and I was pretty happy they had me in the system about 20 hours after I signed up (I’ve had issues with late sign-ups at other races).

Fast forward to race morning, and an early 7am start. Of course, that meant an early wake up call to drive to Soldier Field. Fortunately, there’s virtually zero traffic at 4:30 in the morning, so I zipped downtown real quick. And parking was SO easy that early. Oh, and it’s free if you are there early enough to park in the SF lots.

Around 15-20 minutes before the race, runners are ushered into Soldier Field for the start. I thought this was the coolest thing ever, since we got to walk through the tunnel onto the field. As a football fan, that was so epic.

The race starts and we run through some for SF tunnels (which throws your watch a little) and out onto the road, down through McCormick Place and south. The turnaround is a smidge before the 5 mile mark, and the way back is pretty much entirely along the Lakeshore Path. The only part of the course we overlap as runners is going in and out of Soldier Field and back to finishing on the 50.

The post race “tailgate” area was pretty neat. Live music, one free beer for runners, and other booths and the such after the race. If I was planning to stay downtown, I could’ve hung out there for a while.

Now let’s talk SWAG. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the race shirt. I liked the design, it’s nice and simple, just not the feel of the shirt itself. I’d wear it around, but probably not while running. The medal, though, was awesome! Big, classy, and showcasing that this was the 15th year of the event.

Yes, it was a bit warm this year, but I really liked this event. Plus, how many 10 mile races are floating around out there? RAM Racing always runs an awesome event, and this one was no exception

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

I signed up for the Humboldt Mile a while back, looking to notch and official mile time, because it's all about what shows up on Athlinks, right? Most mile races in nearby cities (Des Moines, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis) are all week night runs, making it difficult for an out of towner to randomly show up. When I stumbled upon this one in Chicago, and on a weekend no less, I went in for it.

Packet pickup was originally going to be Saturday-Friday at either Nike Running Bucktown or Sip of Hope (depending on the day). That changed to only during the week at night, but packet pickup on race morning was added, so I opted for that. Quick and easy, plus a coupon for a free coffee at Sip of Hope AND a free coffee right there before the day. Can't get much better than that...if you're a coffee drinker.

The race is held in Humboldt Park along with, what seemed to be, endless amounts of baseball games. Most entrances to the park were blocked off (because, you know, we were running) but street parking is plentiful in the Humboldt Park area. I managed to snag a spot about 100m from the start line. Perfect.

Runners were asked to go into a Wave Start based on running ability, but I saw no enforcement of that, just go where you thought you should be. And most runners did, I had no issues with it at least. The RD said some words and we were off.

The course is pretty simple, it's only a mile after all. Down, take a left, and back up to the finish; all contained within the park. Water and various post-race snacks awaited at the finish. If you were up for it, if you ran Wave 1 quick enough, you would have time to jump back into Wave 3.

In case you were wondering, the course is USATF certified and has chip timing as well.

Oh, and can't forget about the swag! The shirt is a nice design, text saying Humboldt Mile with the Puerto Rican and Chicago flags in back of it. Plus it's a Nike shirt! Basically worth the entry fee right there. I could've done with a color other than white, but who cares, it's a nice shirt.

All in all, I really liked this event. I might not have had a great race personally, but this was super organized, and super convenient being an 11am start on a Saturday.

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