Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka

(2018)
"the 10 year Anniversary"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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The 2018 event took place on Saturday June 23. This year they broke up the start with the first relay wave at 7 AM, the marathon at 7:15 and the second relay wave at 7:30. The weather was great for the summer, sunny, and a cool 60 ish to start.

This is my 5th year at the event and I ran it solo.

Registration: Available online for $85 or through mail entry form. Race day registration for around $100. Relay teams could have 2-12 members starting at $35 / person. Relay registration closes early, due to congestion at transition areas. Included with registration was the trail fee, race bib, shirt, bib timing chip, drawstring bag, & bracelet. This year relay teams received short sleeve tech shirts and marathoners received a singlet. *Unfortunately a sponsor named, "Gigantic," is printed on the back right above your butt.

Packet Pick Up /Expo: There was no expo. You could pick up your packet the Friday before in Dubuque or at the race start.

Pre-race: There was parking near the start, but gets crowded. Not a far walk to park elsewhere. A couple of port-o-potties on site. There is a required "team meeting" before the race, but it's just some pointers and words from military members. After this the National Anthem is sung live.

Then participants are encouraged to line up at their start time. Each wave is started with a cannon blast.

Race / Course: Entire course is run on crushed limestone, on the Heritage Trail. It is point to point from Dyersville to Dubuque.
-Elevation: flat, but paved sections and inclines /declines near major road intersections. Overall downhill.
-Scenery: There are a lot of corn fields and trees, sections with views of water and rock formations.
-The majority of the trail was shaded. The sunniest part is the first few miles
-Aid Stations: There were 6 legs & 5 exchanges for the relays, this is where the water & Gatorade stops were. Liquids were in a variety of cups from paper to plastic. Some of the stops had pretzels, Tootsie Rolls, and gummies. There were also roaming ATV's on course with bottles of water and Gatorade. The road crossings also had cups of water and Gatorade. *This event is advertised as military style, meaning you are encouraged to carry your own support, however it's better supported than many races I have ran.
-Course Markings: Each mile was marked with a sign.
-Volunteers: They were at the road crossings.
-There were port - o- potties at the exchange points. Marathoners got their own.
-Spectators: were in the form of relay teams at each exchange, there were also family members.
-Transitions: these were all crowded, since they opened up the race to more relay teams, it just seems to make these spots hard to get to, especially if you were driving a car for your team.
-Photography: There are some pictures on the website, but not advertised for having photos on the course. *I felt like I waved at a photographer 10 times, but sadly I am in the distance of one photo.
-Medical: There were atv's roaming the course with medical help. A tent at the finish line.

Finish / post race: After crossing the finish line, a volunteer placed a medal around your neck, handed you a bottle of water and placed a cold towel on the back of your head. There were tubs of chocolate milk, bottled water and bottled Gatorade. There was an announcer reading names as runners came in. The finishing area was spread out, there was one small tent with apples, grapes and cookies. A vendor with a brick oven was cooking pizza. There was a small "store" set up to purchase race branded merchandise. *When you are slow you get no pizza, as it's not monitored as to who gets it. If you didn't run, don't take the food.

NEW this year, beer! Each participant received a ticket for a post race beer, which included 2 craft beer companies. *This softened the no pizza situation.

Overall: I like this race, it's a nice option for a marathon in Iowa. It's flat and a great surface for running. It's a decent price too.

My race: I ran this a week after Grandma's marathon, but with a 56k trail race on the horizon, this was training. I started with the 5 hour pacer, but as much as I enjoyed the company I could only stick with him for about 10 miles. This is also when I realized I had a chaffing situation from HELL. I readjusted my pack after applying some chafe stuff (thanks Josh for crewing.) I did finish in a stellar time, but I finished. I felt ok except the chaffing. I like this race and I see next year it's the same weekend as Grandma's.

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(2018)
"splish splash"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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The 2018 event took place Friday June 15 at 6 PM. The race started just after a rain storm had passed through, the sun came back out and was around 70 and sunny, humidity started dropping.

Registration: This was available online starting at $35, and increasing to $45 until the 2000 registration was capped. I was participating as part of the Great Grandma's Challenge, as I was running the marathon the next day. Included with the registration was a bib, electronic timing, short sleeve gender specific technical shirt and fitsoks. As part of the challenge, you got a tote and an insulated tumbler/coozie.

Packet pick-up: According the rules on the website, you needed to bring your wavier with you (electronically was fine) or someone could pick up your stuff with a signed wavier. Pick up was located in the back of the expo hall with pickup for the other races. 5k runners needed to pick up their bibs by 5pm. Warnings were posted to be aware of heavy traffic patterns, as the parking situation traffic is a nightmare at this time of day.

Pre-race: There was parking available near the start/finish for $5. Due to the congested area, plan ahead. or park downtown Duluth and walk over. Real toilets were available at the convention center. Runners milled about near the "big red boat" or the William A Irvin, the freighter stationed in the harbor (to which the race is named after.) There was a lot of things going on near the start area, Clif had samples and a brewery was giving beer samples. There were announcements and music over the loud speaker, encouraged to line up according to the pace signs. Then National Anthem was performed live.

Race /Course: A loop around the Canal Park area.
-Terrain: it was all paved, however we were detoured around some rain puddles so that put us on the boardwalk along the lake. Typical potholes in some areas.
-Scenery: Start by the freighter, loop a little bit south to see some industry, but get to run the last mile along the lake shore.
-Course Markings: I was never confused as to which way to go, puddles were marked with volunteers. (Can't remember if miles were marked) closed to traffic
-Spectators: quite a few people cheering everyone on
-Aid Station: one around the 2 mile mark, I didn't stop
-Volunteers: plenty and always felt safe on the course
-Photography: can't recall anyone taking photos - never got an email they were available, but immediately received a finisher certificate and finisher video.
-Elevation: flat, no hills

Finish / post race: The inflatable arch clearly marked the finish along with a clock and timing mat. A volunteer handed you a finisher's medal. Chocolate milk, water, clif bars, and a variety of Old Dutch chips. Not a huge post race as the expo and events are still happening at the DECC.

Overall: It's a nice event to add to the weekend if you are in town. It would be a hard event to do as a stand alone as the logistics are a headache, unless you can get there early to not have to worry about getting your bib or parking on time. The price is a little steep, but you get a finisher's medal.

My Race: With the marathon the next day, I was not racing, but it was a shakeout. My usual 5k goal is sub 30. I was impressed with the new 5k route as I ran it in 2015, I like the portion where we get to run along the lake. I did find it funny all the people that avoided the puddles.... it's just water. I finished with a time near 30:15.

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(2018)
"Grandma Sings! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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The 2018 event took place on Saturday, June 16. The full marathon starts at 7:45 am. The starting temp was around 50 with some cloud cover, it was cool and a little humid.

Registration: This was available online, starting Oct 1, near $100 and increasing until the end of may, and when registration closed online June 1. There was no expo registration. There were opportunities to legally transfer bibs until a date in April. Included with registration was a bib, chip timing, and if you registered by a certain date a jacket. You have to earn the shirt along with your medal at the finish line.

There was also an option to add on VIP status a month or so out from the race, for an additional fee with additional perks.
*I ran the Great Grandma's challenge and received a tote bag and insulated tumbler/coozie

Note on lodging: Hotels fill up fast, and many require a 2 night stay. You can also stay at the U of M dorm rooms. Many hotels have shuttles to the race start.

Expo / Packet Pick-up: The expo was held at the Duluth Convention Center, or DECC. There were hours on Thursday and on Friday before the race You could also have your packet mailed to you for $25. Someone else could grab your packet with a signed wavier. The packet pick up was in the back of the convention hall, once you had it, the chip on your bib was checked. The bib was in a clear bag that doubled for gear check, also had some paper flyers. We also received a virtual bag via email. While the expo closed at 8pm, packet pick up was open until 11pm Friday.

The expo included many of the same exhibitors you would see at most larger events. Shoes, head bands, apparel, nearby races. It was a decent size, and seemed very busy. Many photo opportunities with back drops and cars.

Parking can be tricky, the adjacent $5 lots and ramps fill up fast, and causes some traffic backups on the Interstate. There is parking in downtown Duluth if you don't mind a walk across the Interstate.

Pasta party: For $14, tickets could be purchased ahead of time or at the gate. You could choose plain noodles, marinara sauce, meatballs, or gluten free noodles. Then you could have some lettuce, bread, ice cream, milk, or coffee. Your could get seconds, thirds; the servings were generous. Seating was round tables with family style serving of Parmesan cheeses, more bread and water. This closed at 9pm.
*This was the first year in a while I have not participated in this as the price has risen.

Pre-race: Participants need to take a shuttle bus or the train to the start. (Available near the DECC or your hotel.) The starting point had a lot of port-o-potties, but long lines. Bag drop was available, use the bag you got your packet in the night before, with a sticker provided. There were no pre-assigned corrals, but encouraged to line up by estimated finishing times or with pacers. There was music and many announcements over a PA. The National Anthem was performed live.

Race/ course: This is a point to point race, starting at Two Harbors,MN and ending in Duluth. Run along old Hwy 61, following Lake Superior.
-Elevation: FLAT! - ok so there is Lemon Drop hill at mile 22, but nothing steep (ok some flatlanders would say there are hills)
-Terrain: paved /asphalt surface, or in spots you can run on the narrow gravel shoulder.
-Course markings: each mile was marked with a sign and a balloon. There were some timing mats at certain markers. Near the end all turns were clearly navigable
-Aid Stations: Water and blue Powerade in separate paper cups, and at tables with signs. These started at mile 3 and continued every 2 miles. Many stops with wet sponges and ice. There were 2 fruit stops with oranges and bananas. There were stops with Clif gels. Spectators had unofficial aid of coffee, jolly ranchers, bacon, wine, beer, watermelon, pickles, ibuprofen and strawberries. So many volunteers!
-Spectators: All access points to the course had people with signs, ready to slap high fives. The businesses along the route had signs on their marquees. As mentioned above many spectator aid stations.
- Course Entertainment: garage style bands, polka music, string quartets, troll dolls, belly dancers
-MarathonFoto on course, mostly near the end, photos posted the next day
-Port-o-potties on the course, lots of them at the halfway point
-Scenery: Views of Lake Superior,and at the end you run through the main area of Duluth *this was a foggy year, so couldn't see as far, on a clear day you can see Duluth from around mile 10
-Volunteers / law enforcement, they were at every intersection and very energetic. There are so many volunteers that make this race possible. There were 11 or more aid stations, each had to have had 30-50 people, and they were all fully manned, you never had to fill your own cup. Top Notch!
-Road closed to traffic, entire width of road to run on. Open for 7 hours
-Medical stations - There were sweepers at a few medical points to drop out. *Thank you for the vaseline!

Finish: This was marked with an arch and timing clock. The announcer was catching names as people finished. Each side was lined with spectators, and bleacher seats available to purchase. Once you cross the finish line there was a volunteer with a medal and a bottle of water. Then you went to get your gender specific finisher’s shirt and a beverage ticket. From here you had to continue walking to get a heat sheet, then grab your gear bag. Then you could proceed to the finisher’s food: strawberries, orange juice, chocolate milk, apples, bananas, oranges, bagels, chips. There was a lot of food and things to hold.

Once through this area there was an alphabetized reunion area, or you could go to the beer tent to redeem your drink ticket for beer, wine, coffee or soda. The beer / party tent area also had live music and a video set up to view finishers. Grandma was on stage singing!!! She and her band were performing cover songs.
There was a results tent and merchandise tent. The after party tent is still going long after the finish, allowing everyone to celebrate!

My Race: I was back for my 4th Grandma's marathon, I can't keep away, this is a great event. I had my eyes glued to the weather weeks leading up to the race, and there was rain in the forecast as late as the night before. However, I was please to wake up and find no rain and 50 degrees...but I had not prepared as well as I should to run a PR...and since I had singed up for a 56k, I was using this as training. I really enjoyed every minute of this race, I took it all in. I listened to the polka music, I grabbed a slice of bacon, I used the bathroom (twice,) I even ran Lemon Drop Hill, I felt great!!! I never felt the need to walk just to get to the finish and I have been on that struggle bus. I think it also helps that I know what this race has to offer and how well it is organized. I did run with a pack and brought Gatorade as Powerade can be too sweet. I neared the finish and kept an eye out for my friend who was spectating, stopped for some photos and proceeded to the finish line. My finisher certificate said I completed the race in 5:18, while slow, I am happy with as I felt really good.

Overall: This race is one of the best. I have a hotel reserved for next year. Duluth plays host to a great event!

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(2018)
"thunder and lightning"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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The 2018 event took place Saturday, June 9 at 8:30 am, at the Keota Community Schools. The race was delayed after a storm passed through, it remained cloudy and another storm passed during the race. It was warm 70-80 degrees. All events 10k, 5k, and one mile started together.

Registration: Early rate was a flat $10 for all events with a guaranteed unisex cotton short sleeve shirt. The price increased and topped out at $15 for all events, shirts were first come, first serve. You could print out the registration form from the web and send it in, or register on race day. No online registration.

Expo/Packet pick-up: No expo. No bibs. No nonsense.

Pre-race: Plenty of parking on the school grounds or on nearby side streets. The school was open for access to the bathroom. Music pumping on a loud speaker provided by the local radio station van. Announcement made to line up. The National Anthem was a recording. 10k participants were told to line up on the left, 5k to the right with the mile.

Race/Course: For the most part the race was an out and back course on the west edge of town.
-Elevation: flat, one hill at the 10k turnaround, but nothing steep
-Terrain: all on the roads, some asphalt, some country highway, could run on the gravel shoulder
-Spectators: random family members only
-Aid Stations: water only, I believe there were 2, but with the weather, blowing them down, I can't confirm
-Scenery - cornfields and houses
-no photographers
-course marked with spray paint on the road
-Volunteers: There were law enforcement at the major road crossing and the fire department at the 10k turnaround. No volunteers on side streets, but not needed.

Finish/Post Race: There were cones set up at the finish line that was sprayed on the road. A volunteer pressed the split time on a stop watch, and another gave you a popsicle stick with your placement. Proceeded indoors to turn in your stick, so they could write down where you finished on a piece of paper. Bagels and bottled water available inside the school.

Once all finishers were in, the results were tallied and awards were handed out.

Overall: Excellent no hassle small town race, and the price....$15 for a race day 10k...can you beat that!?!?!??!

My Race: Where do I begin? The RD position had changed, and as it turned out, I knew the new RDs through social media, I couldn't miss race day. I left my home and the sun was shining, but when I arrived in Keota, it was cloudy and storms were popping up on the radar. I will run in the rain, but lightning is really scary. The race was delayed for a storm that popped up and passed through at 8 am. In this time, I discovered I was the only female running the 10k. Soooo.... I already won, lol, but when I toed the line, I set out to run my best.

I was already in last place, when the 5k runners were on their way back in, but I could see the 5 other 10k participants up ahead. I could also see another storm rolling in. This out and back section is flat and surrounded by cornfields, with a view as far as the eye could see. Then there was lightning and thunder, then the rain started, followed by lots of headwind and more lightning. Where or what what was I supposed to do? crawl into a cornfield? there was no shelter? The police or fire department did not come shelter us. When I made it to the turn around the RD caught up with us and asked if we wanted to continue. At this point, we had run through the worst, and if given a choice, I will not quit. So I carried on.

That was the scariest thing I ever have run through, random lightning strikes with no shelter. The RD should have got us earlier and canceled the race, however they did not have the keys to the vans to gather everyone and did the best they can with a sedan. I am also very surprised the fire department didn't get us. The visibility was also very bad and the road was open to traffic. Runners were running on the road.

With all that being said, I did come in second to last, I passed one person!!! Of course I won my division. With the weather situation aside, I will always try to come back to the race. I like the price and that there are no extra logistics to worry about. Plus the event is centered around a small community that loves their town, stay for the parade!.

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(2018)
"DAM! It's Over"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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This was the last Dam to Dam. The race went back to the 20k distance. A race management company bought the race and will move ahead under a different race name for the future.

The 2018 event was held on June 2. It was scheduled to start at 7 AM. (it was delayed a half hour) It was a downpour at the start, and the sun came out for a 70 degree finish.

Registration: Available online starting in March for only $39. This sold out within the first few hours it was open and they opened it up to 1000 more entries. Included with registration was a gender specific Brooks tech tee, Brooks socks, expo food / beer, post race beer, shuttle to the start and timing chip.
*Bib transfer was available for this using Facebook.

Expo/Packet pick up: This wasn't a big expo, but more like a pre race packet pick up party. There was free parking in a lot north of the Iowa Events Center, or you could pay to park on the street. There was one store with running gear to purchase. There was a meet and greet with former race directors. Posters to grab and giveaways.

Once you had your bib number, you just went to grab your bib, no ID required and they gave you a choice of sock colors. Then you could go pick up your t-shirt, where you had a choice of neon yellow, blue or black. Plastic bags were offered, but nothing was pre-packed.

There was a buffet of food set up inside the Events Center. This was not at any additional charge. There was cupcakes, cake, Powerade, soda, chips, candy, nuts, snack mix, sandwiches and more. Tables were set up to sit and eat. Outside there was live music and Coors Light and Smirnoff Ice, again at no charge.

Pre race: The race is point to point, and there is no parking at the start, so you must get to one of 3 bus shuttle locations, from 5:00 AM to 5:45 AM. Each location is different and provides their own logistical nightmare. The downtown shuttle location had traffic backed up on the major roads causing a delay. There was a mall location, and on the FB page it seemed there were no buses at the scheduled time.

There was a long line of buses at the starting location. Port-o-potties were available. A pre-race email said no bags on the bus, which makes me assume there was no gear check. There were no announcements until 7:23 AM, when they told us the start was being delayed a half and hour, and we would start in 7 minutes. I heard no National Anthem.

*This year the weather was crap at the start. There was a big storm passing through with lightning, heavy rain and wind. I sat on our bus for the worst of it. However, when I walked to the suggested pace sign in the starting area, it was a downpour. There is no place to take shelter on top of the dam, so we all just got wet. Once I was out of the bus I didn't see any lightning strikes, so I believe the half hour delay in the start was due to a busing issue, but I can't confirm.

Race/Course: The course is a point to point, from the Saylorville Dam to the Dam in Downtown Des Moines.
-Terrain: all paved, on country roads and city streets
-Elevation: Overall the course is down hill, but there are a few climbs along the way including one near mile 7.
-Aid stations: The email said there would be water along the way, but Powerade was also on course. There were many stops and a giant flag that said water near each one, but not all stops had the same order of liquids, and not all liquids were in the same cups each time. No food or Gu. Many stops had people in costume.
-Scenery: Iowa open roads to Iowa big city... nothing super exciting
-Photographers: They were on the course, I am assuming they will be available for sale in the future
-Course markers: each mile was marked with a giant flag, course easy to navigate
-Volunteers: intersections with marshals or police, very upbeat at aid stations. Also there were so many helping the buses unload at the start in the pouring rain.
-Spectators: There were a great spattering of them along the course with lots of fun signs

Finish/Post race: The finish line was at Cowles Commons in downtown Des Moines. Once you crossed the finisher mat it was a little chaotic. When I finished it was tough to get to a medal, people were everywhere. Finishers hanging immediately after the finish mat waiting for loved ones. Once through this there was option for a cup of water and a bottle of Powerade. Then a sign marked to exit. This was even more confusing as there were sooo many people and things were scattered about. Way over to one side was the food, in the back was the beer, and off to the other direction a place to take photos.

I went to the food area, which was a little hectic. There were no lines or process set up. There were a ton of options and I did not have enough hands to carry it all. Ice cream, chocolate milk, kettle corn, cookies, bananas, oranges, apples, pulled pork sandwiches, and dumplings. Then with your bib you could get a keg Coors light or a Smirnoff Ice, which they were not checking race bibs or taking tickets or any money. The other part about these things is that non runners were able to get these things too.

Overall: This has been quite a tradition in Des Moines, the race was even a half marathon for a couple of years. It's sad that it will be transitioning to something else. The $39 price was a steal for all the food and race amenities you received. However, with so many other events that do race day logistics a little bit better, maybe he change is what the race needs.

My Race: I didn't have a time goal or anything specific in mind. I was just running it as I knew it was my last chance to ever run it. The rain didn't bother me, I have run in all weather conditions and knew my gear would make it through. I made it to the finish in 2:17 as I ran a bit out of the way to a port-o-potty.

As an Iowa tradition this is an event to run at least once, but now that it's gone, I wish for the best in the future.

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