Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka
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.
The 2019 event took place on Sunday, October 20. The half marathon starts at 8:00 am, with the marathon, then the 5k follows. It was a beautiful fall day, sunny and temps around 50-60 degrees.
*I ran the marathon last year and was excited to check out the half.
Registration: This was available online, and the price increased up until race day. You could also register at packet pick up, no race day registration. You could also transfer races at the expo. Included with registration was a bib, chip timing, bag pre-stuffed with samples, and a distance (& gender) specific finisher's jacket. There was an option for a VIP package too. A Virtual bag was sent via email.
Expo / Packet Pick-up: The expo was held at the Iowa Events Center. Parking was $10 on site or metered street parking was available. This was open on Friday and Saturday. If you were not able to get your own packet, someone else could get it for you. No race day pickup. The bib was in an envelope and they put it in a pre-stuffed clear bag, and then waited in line to get jacket. the bag doubled for gear check.
The expo itself had a handful of vendors, including race branded merchandise. I was on a time crunch, so after I transferred races, I walked through quickly. I registered to win a free entry and purchased a new hat. It was easy to navigate.
Pre-race: There were Port-o-potties near the starting chute. The chute was back fed, and you lined up with the pace you would like to run. If you wanted to run a fast pace, you had to snake through people. The National Anthem was performed and some announcements were made. There was parking on the street for free, or ramps were available.
*I had the opportunity to pop a tent in a parking area near the race. This allowed me a place to hang before and after the race. I was also able to keep warm clothes in this area and I did not need to use gear check.
Race/ course: The half starts in downtown, then runs out to Water Works Park and Gray's Lake.
-Elevation: Flat! Strava had 144 ft of climb, I don't recall any steep climbs
-Terrain: paved /asphalt surface
-Course markings: each mile was marked with a teardrop flag. There were some timing mats at certain markers along with a clock.
-Aid Stations: There were many aid stations on the route and each had water and Gatorade. However the drinks were not well marked, maybe one aid station had 2 different colored cups. The drinks were mixed in the stops, some volunteers shouted which drink they had, but some just stood there and I had to ask them. There was also bicycle support, they roamed the course with supplies including tissues and candy.
-Medical: there were flags that noted these stops and I saw them at least twice.
-Spectators: There were many spectators near the downtown area, which is the starting miles and finishing miles. There were a few in the middle miles, but energetic.
-Entertainment: Lots of on course music! Rock bands, solo acts, symphony bands, and DJs.
-Photography: MarathonFoto was on course, images available for a fee the next day.
-Port-o-potties on the course - I didn't need to use one, but I remembered seeing people waiting to use them.
-Scenery: Lots of city streets, but running across the Gray's Lake bridge is cool.
-Volunteers / law enforcement: The course was always safe, all intersections with law enforcement.
Finish: Also the starting line. It was marked with an arch and timing clock. The announcer was catching names as people finished. Each side was lined with spectators. The idea was you got a medal and bottle of water at the finish line. The medals were distance specific and they opened up like a locket. (If you did the combo challenge, they fit together.) Then the chute was long enough to have an area for post run photos. From here you could take a left turn to the post race food, or go straight through to the music and beer.
*I happened to finish the half marathon, just seconds before the lead marathoner. This created a bottleneck at the finish line. I crossed the finish line to a crowd of people holding up their phones, wanting to take a photo. I had to go find the half marathon finisher medals.
I did not access the post race food as the line was a half block long when I finished. If I remember from the past year, they do offer more than just a banana. I did easily access a Sam Adams beer.
My Race: I originally registered for the full, but I just hadn't trained for it, so I was running my 5th half of the year, 56th overall. I knew the weather and the course were the perfect conditions to do my best. I started the race and a friend running her first marathon caught up to me, so the first 3 miles before the races split went by quick. Then I was off to Water Works park, and it was where the half marathon had an out and back section, so I was able to cheer for my friends. I was feeling good, maybe a little confused with the aid station offerings, but I also took an orange and found some vaseline from a biker. I just kept cruising to the finish line. As I mentioned above my finish line experience wasn't the best, volunteers just needed to separate the course better and keep people out of the way. However, I pushed stop on the watch and had a time near 2:16, which is my best this year. I also went back and looked at my splits, to which I ran negative splits. I also just felt really good, no aches or pains. I wasn't up for waiting in the food line as I knew the tent where my things were had donuts!!! It was nice to have the tent, many people stopped by to chat too.
Overall: This is a nice Iowa race. The price is comparable to other area races, the on course music was great, transferring was easy. I will say the full marathon shows you more of the city, but the half is perfect for setting a PR. I do know that aid stations and finishing chutes are easy fixes. I hope to see a different option for race photos in the future. If this fits in my schedule I will try to run it again.