Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka
Virtual racing is not my favorite thing, but the Elf Virtual Run looked like something fun to look forward to. The race is themed from the movie titled "Elf."
Registration for the 5k or 10k distance was available online for around $40. Included was a zip up red sweatshirt hoodie, a stocking hat, personalized bib and a finisher's medal. All items had the race logo. Proceeds from the race go to support the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
There were many emails from the organizer, Ram Racing. I knew when my registration was confirmed and when my swag was shipping. I was even informed about a issue with medals being held up in customs.
As per usual, virtual racing can be done anywhere, anytime. I received my sweatshirt, hat and bib and it was dated December 25th, so that is when I decided I would run the 10k distance.
As I mentioned I was looking forward to this event as something fun to do. I like the movie "Elf" and I thought it would be fun to dress the part. I made a hat, found some yellow tights, and dressed up a green hoodie.
I talked my husband into running this with me. We had our eyes on the weather as the wind chill was below zero. When it warmed up to zero, we headed out the door.
We decided to go downtown and back. This was a great decision! We hopped through the crosswalks and took photos next to Santa inflatables. As cars passed they honked, waved and even rolled down their windows and shouted "Merry Christmas!!" This was sooooooooo much fun!
I had a watch situation, so we used my husband's watch to make sure we hit the 6.2 miles. I have logged my time into the results page, and I can choose to get a finisher certificate and I can check the leaderboard through the post-race experience.
As I mentioned virtual events are not my favorite, but they are also what you make of them. There was nothing complicated about this, it had good swag, supports a charity and I had a great time!!
Recapping a virtual race can be difficult because everyone will experience something different. However, each event has something a little unique to offer
I had registered for the full marathon way back in February. At that time, it seemed possible that an in person event was going to happen. As the year went on things became more uncertain and at the end of August the in person event was cancelled.
There was an email highlighting the options to move forward with your race entry. There was transfer to the Million Mile Challenge, donate your entry, or defer your entry. The race organization is very prompt with emails. A Refund for the difference was available if you moved to the Million Mile Challenge.
I transferred to the Million Mile Challenge. I think this is something unique and motivated me to get those training miles in. This challenge just asks you to record your miles (through a link) in the hopes of reaching a total of one million miles. This option allowed you to end with the virtual race distance you registered for. Those who are registered for this also are eligible for prizes as milestones are hit. I actually won a race entry for the 2021 event. Included with this registration you also received a t-shirt and swag bag. The t-shirt had your name if you registered by a certain date.
The Challenge swag bag, including that coveted finisher medal, could be picked up in person at a drive thru event, or you could pay to have it shipped.
I had a tough time deciding where I was going to run this event, but a friend talked me into running in her town.
On what would have been race day, Saturday, October 17th. I made the short road trip to run on a “bike path." This paved trail connects communities with minimal street crossings, alongside a creek.
The weather was overcast and windy, maybe about 60 ish degrees. Fall was in it’s prime!
I have run sections of this path before, but much of it was new to me, so it felt like an adventure. (One of the things I miss about in person races, running somewhere new to me.)
The path offered some gorgeous fall scenery. My husband moved the truck along the route and took some photos.
There is also a photo contest for this event. In partnership with the app that is available and the Missouri Lottery if you post photos with all the correct hashtags #millionmilechallenge #everymilecounts & #molottery you are eligible to win a Garmin gift card. So, it was nice to have my husband help me out.
Around halfway a friend texted to join up, and about mile 10 the friend that planned the route met up with is. I didn't realize how much I missed running with other people. I really wanted to slow down the pace, but chatting and matching their pace, pulled me through. Thank you to them!
We came to the end of the bike path, where my husband was waiting with the camera. After some chatting, that was it. No medals, no beer, just a warm truck to crawl into. (We did stop at a Portillo's as we don't have one in our city, on our way home. That felt like a celebration.)
There was a link to submit my race results. It was very simple.
Fast forward to Thursday of the same week and my finisher swag arrived. There was a bib in amongst the the goodies, I don’t miss running with a bib, but it’s nice to have one. The bag also contained my finisher medal and million mile t-shirt. The t-shirt has my name on it. The bag also had all the things you might find at an expo, so it was a fun surprise to come home to.
Sure this was no in person event, but I made the most of my virtual experience. I think it’s important to make your virtual effort as close to race day as possible, otherwise you are just out running and it doesn’t feel as special.
Even though it would have been nice to have a medal in hand when I crossed the virtual finish line, I feel this event did the best they could. That’s what you should get from any virtual race recap. They provided options, they were transparent and they made it unique.
It can be hard to write a virtual race review, everyone will experience a different race day, however each race has something different to offer.
I registered for the Des Moines full marathon in late February. I was going to take on the full I-35 challenge. In early August, the race director made the decision to cancel the in person event.
An email was sent and the options to move forward were simple; defer to 2021 or run any 2020 event virtually. These could all be done through the registration page. If you selected to run an event virtually the window to do so was two weeks – October 16 – October 31. Then swag would be sent after that date.
The race provided many emails with all the information and instructions necessary. I opted to run the virtual event, however I transferred my entry to the half marathon. *I miss in person races, but if we don't support them when they have limited options, there may not be an in person event in the future*
The race also has an app to download for your phone. In addition to taking selfies or getting Motigo cheers, there is a place for virtual events, they kicked off the celebration with a virtual dance party. This is a fun way to engage participants.
I have run this event twice before. In 2018 I set my marathon PR and last year I took on the half marathon. The full marathon is a great tour of the city, the half just doesn’t cover as much real estate. I considered driving to Des Moines to run my virtual event, but the drive and getting lost had me stick close to home.
The night before the race I prepared all the things I thought I would need, however it’s that time of the year the weather could change at any minute. So who knows by the time I set out to run what I was going to need. I was also not feeling super motivated, so going through the motions to lay out my gear helped.
On Sunday, October 18th, which would have been the in person race day, I woke up early and checked the weather. It did not look good, but I like to run the virtual event on the same day the in person event should have happened. That’s what I registered for. I also eventually needed to get to work that day, so my window was small. The radar had some rain with snow behind it. I had my coffee and a toaster waffle while the rain went through, I would rather run in the snow. It also gave me more time to finalize my route.
I made a route that omitted some hills, but included a few things I wouldn’t mind running past. There was the George Floyd mural, the river and checking out Kinnick Stadium.
Nothing too exciting happened during the run. There were not many people out. I ran this event solo. I usually run alone, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I had to take all my own photos.
I was keeping an eye on my watch, and because all my devices are different I wanted to make sure to run just a tad over 13.1. It just so happened that the finish line was marked with an inflatable snowman, which made me smile.
I walked the remaining distance to my house and that was it. I did pick up a donut to celebrate.
*I rated the swag at 3 stars because I don't actually know what it feels like. Included with the virtual option I am to receive a short sleeve shirt, a finisher's medal and a neck gaiter. I am looking forward to it arriving*
I entered my results easily on the link provided. I was also able to enter my stats for the I-35 challenge. So, now I wait for the virtual window to close and my swag to arrive.
I wish I had something more exciting to share from my race day, but it really just felt like I went out for a 13.1 mile run. I did try to keep moving the entire way and with a half the day before, ran a respectable time. (around 2:29)
The organizers have done a great job in keeping participants informed and providing what they can through the app. It’s nice to have to prove you ran the race by submitting the results. I like this event, but I hope I am able to compete in person next year.
To leave you with a positive note, the organization was still able to honor their commitments. They were able to present a check for $25,000 to Special Olympics Iowa to support Special Olympic Iowa athletes, programs, and activities on behalf of IMT Insurance, all of sponsors. These are the things that are at stake when you opt to defer or ask for a refund. I am happy they were still able to make this donation.
California Coast 500 Mile Challenge.
The California Coast was a virtual challenge with choices to run 100, 250, 400 or 500 (or relay team) miles along the coast from Santa Monica to San Francisco. The race started in June and was to be completed by September.
I registered for the 500 mile distance. This gave me access to a third party app called PWR Lab to sync results from my Garmin. I was also given access to a FB group. Weekly emails were sent with challenges. A cotton short sleeve t-shirt and finishers medal were part of registration. 5% of every dollar spent went to partner organizations.
I would be logging walking and running miles using PWR Lab, however I had to set my watch to the run setting for the miles to sync. (Later I just edited the entry in my Garmin to walk.) There was also the option to manually enter your miles, but this option would not allow for your stats to be verified. Once I was familiar with the app it was cool to see where you stood with the competition, including an up to date map. *I preferred the syncing so I didn't have to remember to log my miles.
The weekly challenges were the best part as they made it more than just logging miles. These challenges consisted of logging miles before sunrise, 3 times a week, or bettering your weekly totals. They also came with a chance at a prize - including shoes! These challenges also provided a tool kit with badges to add to social media images.
Also as part of the weekly challenge emails were general updates and information about the towns you ran through when you hit that distance. When you went through a Bay it would tell you about that area.
The race deadline was extended an extra week due to the CA wildfires. With the walking, I completed the challenge early in August. My miles were not showing as additional miles in PWR Lab, but were still be counted in the weekly challenges. I had over 700 miles in this time frame - many due to another challenge at the same time, but also due to pushing myself with the weekly challenges.
The posts in the FB group were motivational and important information was not lost in the shuffle as it came in an email.
The wooden medal will arrive when the challenge is over, it looks to be cool.
The 2019 event took place on Sunday, November 10 at 7:10 am. (The full marathon started at 7am, and the wheelers started 5 minutes before each distance.) It was overcast, temps in the 30s and it was windy.
The race is part of a race series. You can complete distances at the spring "Run Madtown" events to earn an additional medal.
Registration: This is available online, and closes a few days before the race. However, you can register at the expo the day before the race. The price increased as race day approached. Included with my registration was a personalize bib with timing strip, a long sleeve gender specific shirt (very soft), along with a bag of flyers. Challenge participants received an additional long sleeve cotton shirt, a challenge sticker and a reusable bag.
Expo/ Packet pick-up: The expo was held the day before the race at the Monona Terrace. It's an event space, parking is attached for a fee. If you wanted to walk, you could park downtown and pay less. The expo was the only place to get your packet unless you paid extra for race day pickup. Someone else could have picked up your bib if you had a copy of their ID.
The expo space was small, but because everyone was into the smaller area, it felt busy. Many area vendors. These events always have a photo opp, a timing chip check and hydration stations.
Pre-race: The race starts and finishes at the Capital, which is the heart of Madison. Surprisingly enough on street parking is free, just blocks from this area, but arrive early before the roads are closed. Gear check was set up, and you could use any bag, just had to attach the number from the bottom of your bib. There were a long line of port-o-potties set up, with minimal wait. An information tent was near the back of the corral areas.
The starting corral was fenced off and back fed, so if you wanted up towards the front, you had to walk through everyone. There were pacers available to line up according to your pace. The marathon started first, with the half 10 minutes later, so you had to pay attention to what you were lining up for and where you were seeding yourself, as the corral system was the same for both race. There were some announcements and singing of the National Anthem.
-Terrain: The entire course is on pavement. There are spots that are new smooth asphalt, but other areas with potholes, nothing major, just pay attention. I also noticed some banked roads.
-Elevation: Madison has hills, they were on this course, the biggest being around mile 8-9.
-Photographers: on the course, and photos were posted the next day online FOR FREE!!
-Aid Stations: There were plenty of hydration stations on course, each had Gatorade- lemon lime, and water. It was water, Gatorade, water at each stop. Very organized! The Volunteers were vocal as to what they had to offer. I did not recall seeing any gels or food on the half course.
-Spectators: There were a few here and there, some fun signs.
-Volunteers:Friendly people on the course, there were law enforcement at the major intersections helping cars across the streets.
-Course markings: Each mile was marked with a sign. There were cones on the roads that were open to traffic, closing off just parts of the roads. Arrows were taped down to the roads at the turns.
-Race tracking - App available to download to track runners
-Scenery- This course is near the lake and through residential neighborhoods.
Finish/Post Race: The starting area is the finish chute, so the arch with a timing mat are easy to spot. Once across the line, a volunteer handed you a medal. Then you were handed a bottled water. If you wanted a foil blanket you could get one. Then a photo backdrop. Then there was the post race beer tent, you could exchange your bib ticket for a Mich ultra. (The area also had soda.) Then you keep walking to grab the post race food. The options were new for 2019: chili, mac and cheese or brat with potato salad - then you could grab a cookie. There was a table to snag a chocolate milk.
Then after you exited the finisher chute you could go grab a challenge medal at the gear check tent, or listen to some music under a tent, take some post race photos or purchase race merchandise.
My Race: I didn't have a huge goal, but to finish. I was committed to the medal, as it was year three of a 4 year medal series. I was also in town as the Hawkeyes played at Camp Randall the day before.
I really had a good race. What this means is I came across the finish line feeling good.
I say this every year - I really do not care for this course. There are a lot of things to see in Madison, and this course lacks those things. However, the course is different than the spring event, so you are not running the same thing. You do get some cool views of the lake.
I finished with a time near 2:18 on my Garmin, I'll take it. I caught up with a fellow pro in the first mile and chatted with them. Some locals saw my Hawkeye hat and chatted with me, thanked me for running in their town - and I heard lots of Go Hawks. Madison really is a cool place unless it's game day.
I appreciated the new food lineup for this year as I did not eat anything the entire race, just drank Gatorade. Also new was the option to purchase a non Mich Ultra. I don't care for it, so I asked for a soda this year, which was apparently for under 21.
Overall: As I said, Madison is a great place unless it's game day. They do a great job with their running events. I will be back to get that 4th medal.