Latest reviews by Laura Baumgardner

(2017)
"First Time Doing the 5K!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

T-Shirts/SWAG: Each runner gets a tech t-shirt, reusable Finisher water bottle at the finish line, and a free beer if you're 21+.

Aid Stations: None on course for the 5K, although it's not necessary for a 5K if you ask me. At the finish, there was water, orange slices, bagel pieces, bananas, and other snacks available for the runners.

Course Scenery: Running in Kettle Moraine State Forest immerses you in the beauty of southern Wisconsin. This time of year, the trees are still green but you get the vibe of seasons about to change. The 5K course gives you a taste and tempts you to sign up for a longer distance next year so that you can see more!

Expo: There is a booth where spectators and runners can buy food (pulled pork, pulled turkey, chips, fruit, potatoes, cookies, canned soda), the gear check tent, Kenosha Running Company, TNF Store AirStream trailer and tent where you can play bags and win swag, Skratch tent w/different flavors to try, two tents with foam rollers/yoga mats and ice bath tubs, and a tent for face painting and the 5K kids run.

Elevation: I felt like, for a 5K this had a decent amount of elevation changes. Not enough to discourage you, but enough to provide a challenge to all runners.

Parking/Access: Ottawa Lake is easy to get to from all directions. The race pays for everyone's parking fee so a blue tag is provided to all cars entering. Parking lots are numerous and close to the Start/Finish. Volunteers are aplenty and very good at directing you where to park.

Race Management: RD Nick Moore and the whole TNF ECS team put on such an amazing event. They make sure they have more than enough medics, PD, and volunteers to make everyone's race experience safe and fantastic.

This is a race that I will do every year, hands down. Highly recommend!

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(2017)
"Fantastic First Ultra Experience!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This was my very first ultra race. I was convinced I had to do this 50K after watching so many of my friends successfully complete it last year.

T-Shirts/SWAG: Gender-specific North Face tech shirts with WI displayed prominently in the front.

Aid Stations: First off, the volunteers are fantastic! Each aid station was stocked with PBJ sandwiches, chips, candy, salt, canned potatoes (tasted awesome dipped in salt!), Skratch electrolyte drink, water, and soda. The volunteers also helped people refill their water bottles and water bladders easily. Port-a-Pottys were at all aid stations. The ones that were located further out in the race had huge ice buckets with ice water in them and towels to help cool off runners.

Course Scenery: If you want to see the best of southern Wisconsin scenery, go running in Kettle Moraine State Forest. There is also a section that is on the Ice Age Trail (maintained completely by Ice Age Alliance volunteers!) that is so breathtakingly beautiful. Trail running at its best, right here!

Expo: The finish line party had great music, a North Face AirStream with merch in it, a shoe try-on tent, tents with ice buckets, mats, and rollers for the runners, a tent with food (runners got a free meal, spectators were able to purchase), and Kenosha Running Company also had a tent there with advertising for their upcoming trail races.

Elevation: After doing Dances with Dirt, the elevation for this race felt incredibly doable and tolerable. There are a decent amount of hills, but nothing that is overwhelming. Enough to challenge you but not enough to absolutely crush your spirit.

Parking/Access: Ottawa Lake is super easy to get to, not very far off the freeway in any direction. The race pays for everyone's parking passes for the day and there is more than enough parking for everyone.

Race Management: This is easily one of the best races I've ever done. If there are problems, no one participating can tell. Nick and his crew do such a good job putting on a super enjoyable event for runners and spectators alike. The volunteers are awesome. Everything about this race is just fantastic.

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(2017)
"First Marathon - Very Challenging!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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Packet Pick-Up: You could pick up your packet the night before or the morning of the race. You also had to turn in your waiver at that time in order to get your bib.

T-Shirts/Swag: All participants got a tech shirt that has a funny disclaimer on the back (I have a picture of mine included). All finishers got a medal, a free beer, and homemade food at the finish.

Aid stations: Each aid station was well-stocked with electrolyte drinks, water, and salty snacks. The ones set up for the longer distances also had PBJ sandwiches, chips, candy, SALT!, and soda. (You never realize how delicious Mt Dew is until you're running 26+ miles in the woods!) The volunteers were amazing and super encouraging, especially on this hot, challenging course!

Course Scenery: If you've never run in Devil's Lake State Park, put it on your list. It is absolutely beautiful. The woods are stunning and the views from the summit of the climbs are amazing. A great reminder of what a small spec humans are in the world.

Elevation: Holy cannoli. If you are up for a challenge with elevation, this is the race for you. There is a steep climb relatively close to the start that is a mile and a half (or so) long. And the marathon, 50K, and 50 Mile have to do it TWICE. Even the prairie sections had a decent amount of rolling hills. Welcome to Wisconsin, the land of sneaky elevation!

Parking/Access: Parking was literally right next to the start/finish line. Across the highway from the start/finish, there is a designated parking lot for spectators (and also the location of the Mile 20/25 aid station). Very easy to get to, especially if you camp at any of the nearby campgrounds.

Race Management: I think this race does a fantastic job of organizing this event. Trail events attract a different kind of runner so the post-race party didn't have tons of bells and whistles, but it was like a giant camping/cookout party for all the finishers.

To pick this race as my first marathon probably wasn't the best idea, but it definitely challenged me and prepared me for my first 50K. I would strongly recommend this race to anyone who is looking for a challenging course that has a lot of elevation!

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(2017)
"First CaniCross Event"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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Overall/Race Management: A great race! Brian and Kenosha Running Company put on awesome trail events that are fun and informal. No pressure on these trails! Just pure enjoyment!

T-Shirts/SWAG: A SWAG buffet is offered - water bottles, fleece blankets, hats, and duffel bags are some of the items available. I grabbed a fleece blanket that Arthur curled up in when we got back into the car.

Aid Stations: The course was a loop so there was one at the split for the next loop/straightaway to the finish. Water was available.

Course Scenery: The race was at KD Park in Burlington, a little off the beaten path but KRC marked the road so it was easy to find. The trails seem to be well-maintained and there was a beautiful lagoon to run around.

Elevation/Difficulty: A few hills posed a challenge but they weren't unbearable or undoable.

Parking/Access: Plenty of parking available!

Packet Pick-Up is race day. No race-specific shirts are given out but you can order XC Thrillogy swag when you're registering and they will have it ready for you at packet pick-up. Post-race party had corned beef and cabbage, two port-a-potties, an organic dog treat vendor that is local to the area, and some fire pits to keep warm.

This was my first CaniCross event. The runners w/dogs were allowed to start several minutes before everyone else. It was great to be able to enjoy trail racing with my running partner!

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(2016)
"Improved from last year!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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Lots of changes from last year!

T-Shirts/SWAG: all runners get a gender-specific long-sleeve tech shirt with thumb holes! Participants were able to switch sizes at the expo. Also given to each runner is a bag with tons of fliers in it that had discounts for local races and some local stores. I wish they would go to a virtual swag bag for this kind of stuff, since I just recycle most of it anyways.

Aid Stations: Each aid station was staffed with volunteer groups who had so much energy and were so motivating! Some of them had music and costumes and an encouraging word to share with each runner who grabbed some liquid! For the half, I thought they were perfectly spaced out and in fact, even though I carry water with me for each race, I only drank out of my water bottle twice.

Course Scenery: I love that the half course shows some of the best parts of Milwaukee! Growing up here, I feel that the kid of "mission" of this race to show off MKE is accomplished with the course! Old World 3rd Street (past Mader's German restaurant and Old German Beer Hall - which was open for business!), the Summerfest grounds, the Third Ward, around Discovery World and the Calatrava at the Art Museum - shows the best of what Milwaukee has to offer!

Expo Quality: I really wish they would find a bigger area to hold the expo. They have a lot of vendors and other races with booths but it's so crowded and the half marathon bib pick-up did NOT have good signage - last year there were signs with the bibs arranged by last name and while I'm pretty sure the bibs were arranged the same, everyone was in the same line and the volunteers were running every which way to get each person's bib. Another reason it needs to be in a bigger space: the kid's run is right before when the packet pick-up starts and it's so crowded in there with parents and the kids who ran, so it is literally wall to wall people with no easy way to move or get in and out. PLEASE FIND A BIGGER SPACE!

Elevation: They definitely added some hills this year! Some of them are those nasty gradual inclines that you don't necessarily notice until you're halfway up and your legs are screaming. Love the challenge!

Parking/Access: There was parking available in two structures near Veteran's Park along the lakefront (I parked in the O'Donnell parking structure and it was $8) or they opened lots right by the start/finish and of course, there's always street parking.

Race Management: Chris Ponteri, the RD, is pretty awesome and very active in the MKE running community. I truly believe he loves putting on this event and making it a wonderful experience for all the participants! I could tell, as someone who ran it last year, that he took the feedback and worked very hard to improve the race.

Some of the changes made:
- Coors Light was the alcohol sponsor this year and all runners could get a free Coors at the end. They also had some of the other Coors branded beer available for purchase. I would love for them to partner with a local microbrewery since we have so many of them in Milwaukee. I'll just be honest, I don't like Coors (or any Miller products, really) and it would be great to give the business and publicity to a LOCAL company (instead of a big corporation like MillerCoors)! Sprecher was also there with flavored sodas.
- Food trucks were there with a variety of options for runners and spectators to purchase.
- There was a climbing wall and a bouncy house which, I get was to make the Finish Line Party more family friendly, but it was kind of weird and random.
- The Start/Finish like was moved from the Summeriest grounds to Veteran's Park, which allows for a beautiful view of the lake and downtown.
- The Finish Line Party was nice, lots of picnic tables for people to sit and eat, plus a DJ to keep the vibe more party-like. I do think it was a little TOO spread out, and the tents for gear check were on the other side of the party from the finish line, which is kind of cruel to the runners who just finished to make them walk the whole way across just to get their stuff.
- Race photos are FREE! Every race should do this, let's just be real.

I think that MKE RunFest should look at other running festivals (such as Runner's World) to see how they do the whole "festival" concept. Nothing against 5K-ers but I think they should do the Kid's run, 1 Mile, and 5K on Saturday and do the two longer distances on Sunday.

It's fun to see how things improve from year to year and the changes that are made.

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