Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka

"My First Race in Texas"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2018 event took place on Saturday, December 1 at 9:00 am. (The full marathon started before the half and the shorter distances started after.) It was a sunny day, temps would climb to 75.

Registration: This is available online for around $75. You could also register on race day. Included with my registration was a bib, timing bracelet, a short sleeve gender specific shirt . If you didn't register by a cutoff, participants could chose from past race shirts or an awesome BOCO hat.

Expo/ Packet pick-up: There was no expo, just race day packet pickup and race day registration. This area was clearly marked with teardrop flags. The process was easy, no ID required.

Pre-race: The race is on a ranch or private property. It cost $10 to park, but you paid after you already found a place to park in the grass. There were port-o-potties set up. The National Anthem was played before the full marathon. There were announcements about the race course. No need for corrals, smaller race.

Race/Course: This is a trail race, but on a private ranch, the trail was created for the event. It was a series of loops in a figure 8.
-Terrain: The entire course is on trail or "Jeep" road. There were rocks, mud, creeks, dirt, cowpies, cactus, trees, stumps, sticks, etc.
-Elevation: There were no rolling hills, but there were ravines to climb in and out.
-Photographers: None. Participants were encouraged to post what they took and load to social media with a hashtag.
-Aid Stations: There was one aid station at the start/finish line. They had water and Tailwind, it was a cupless event. The aid station was beautifully stocked with food - chips, pickles, cookies, candies, fruit.
-Spectators: None, just the people milling about the start/finish
-Volunteers:There were volunteers at the start and finish area, and on my first loop I saw them in one spot on the course.
-Course markings: No mile markings. The course was marked with yellow papers with arrows and orange ribbons in the trees.
-Race tracking: NA
-Scenery- This is all on a ranch. There were views alongside a river, there was also cow pasture. Always something to look at.

Finish/Post Race: The finish was also the start, easy to spot with the inflatable arch. A medal and a bottle of water were handed to each finisher. Awards were held before I finished. A local trail club had a tent set up and there was a massage tent. No post race food except the aid station and food trucks you could pay for.

My Race: The goal was to finish, it was my first race in Texas. I enjoyed what the trails had to offer, and only managed to fall once and not into a cactus. I could have used some trail shoes. It was a little warm for me as I have transitioned into winter running. I finished with a time of 2:50 and a short distance of 12.6.

Overall: I believe this is the second year of the event. The trail was fun, and I have never run a Texas trail before so not sure what to compare that too. However, I have run MANY races and I would say there is a lot of room for improvement to make this a must run event.

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"Half #50! "
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

This is my third time running a distance at this event. My review may sound repetitive, but a great race is consistent!

The 2018 event took place on Sunday, November 11 at 7:10 am. (The full marathon started at 7am, and the wheelers started 5 minutes before each distance.) It was a cold, temps in the 20s and cloudy, eventually the sun would come out.

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. A virtual event bag was sent a few days prior to the race via email.

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 $5. If you wanted to walk, you could park downtown. 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.
*I was unable to attend the expo this year and took advantage of having someone else picking up my things. I sent a picture of my ID to my friend and they had no issues.

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.

There was no actual corral start, but there were pacers in the corral area you could line yourself up with. 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 I don't recall listening to the National Anthem. The corrals are also "back fed" meaning you enter in the back, so if you are faster you have to snake through the crowd to get to your pace area.

-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. (This is the thing I heard most about post race, does anyone read my reviews? Madison is hilly!)
-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. The first few were very organized with liquids in different cups. However, the last few were a mix of what was in each cup. The Volunteers were vocal as to what they had to offer. There were a couple stops with gels. The aid stations were also prepared for the cooler temps as they had ice melt thrown on the ground to prevent icy spots.
-Spectators: there were a few here and there. Most people on course were family of runners. It was colder, so might limit who was out an about, there were no spectator aid stations on the half route.
-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.
-Race tracking - App available to download to track runners
-Scenery- This course is different from the other races, it does not go down State Street or near any UW features, instead it's 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. There was a table with bottled water. Then a photo opportunity with the backdrop. If you wanted a foil blanket you could get one. Then you keep walking to snag an orange slice and banana. Then you could chose your bagged Panera lunch (ham, turkey, or veggie sandwich, bag of chips and a cookie.) There was a table to claim challenge medals and an area to snag a chocolate milk. There were tables here to sit and drink your beer. This year they had a radler available too, but the person ahead of me go the last one. Race merchandise was available for sale too.

My Race: This was my 50th half marathon. I just wanted to finish, I didn't have a training plan or any goal. I knew the course as I ran it last year. I was in it for the medal - they started a 4 year medal series last year and I have to complete it.

I struggled with what to wear. If this was January the race day temps would have been warm, however it's the first few cold days of the season. This issue had me walking to shed a layer halfway in the race.

I said this last year and I can say it again this year - I really did not care for this course. It was one of the more boring routes I've run in Madison, just running busier roads, so I welcomed the hills as something different.

I finished with a time near 2:20 on my Garmin, but because I used the facilities I had an official race time of 2:22, which is fitting as that is the time I ran my first half marathon.

If it were warmer I would have tried harder to get my hands on that Radler, but instead I went to sit in the car to get warm as I waited for some friends to finish the full marathon. Maybe this Radler is a hint for better beer in the future.

Also - I am not sure if it was an error on my part, but I failed to realize there was a challenge medal up for grabs for running the spring race events and the fall half marathon. I thought it was just for the fall full marathon. With the proper papers, I could have received another medal. Why is this important - I noted this on twitter and the race management sent me the challenge medal!!!

Overall: Before this race I counted and I have run over 10 races in Madison. I keep coming back, and I will be back next November, if not sooner. I also need to continue my medal series. This may not be the most scenic Madison route, but they know how to put on an event.

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"Inaugural Event"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The race took place Saturday, October 27 in Solon, IA, around Lake MacBride, starting at 8 am, with the 25k. It was a gorgeous fall day, temps to top out near 60 with the sun shining bright.

This race is the fall sibling to the spring event. The idea was to run the course in the opposite direction. However, with too much rain in the area weeks before, the spillway crossing was not possible. The RD came up with an entirely different route.This also made dropping to the 25k during the race not an option.

Registration: This was available online, and via paper form. Included with your entry is a unisex, quarter zip, bib & timing, well supported aid stations, finisher's medal.

Packet pick up/ expo: There is no expo for this race. You could get your bib at the running store the days before the event, or someone else could grab your things too. There was also pickup the day of the race, this is also the only time to get the timing chip that went around your ankle.

Pre-race: The location of the event allowed for ample on site, free parking. There is an indoor facility that had race day pick up and indoor bathrooms. In addition to grabbing a timing chip, participants were encouraged to get a reusable, collapsible cup, as the event was cupless. People milled about, laid back atmosphere. When it was time to start the race, people lined up, and there was a "GO." No National Anthem.

Race/Course: The 50k course was an out an back on the south side of the Lake, followed with an out and back on the north side of the lake.
-Terrain: crushed limestone, paved, single track trail, road shoulders, mud, gravel
-Elevation: there are hills, ravines. Prepare for them...however it's not the mountains, just be ready for some short climbs.
-Scenery: The leaves and time of year made for the perfect backdrop. There is a highway section, that wasn't as scenic, but the changing tree leaves could be seen on all parts of the course. The trail sections and near the water were gorgeous!
-Photographers: One official photographer who kept close to the start and finish area. Photos posts online after the event, I believe they are available for purchase. * I was only spotted at the start as they photographer was not around when I came through after my first 17 miles.
-Spectators: Not many people on the course. However all the aid stations provided pep & cheer!
-Course markings: the course was marked with pink flags or ribbons in the trees. There were no mile markers.
-Aid Stations: There were 2 stops on the first out and back, a stop at the start/finish, then another stop that you would hit twice on the second out and back. Well stocked with water, Tailwind, soda, chips, cookies, candy, gummy bears, sandwiches, pickles - and the volunteers were ready to fill bladders.
-Volunteers: Great group of people helping and cheering you into the aid stations, filling water packs. Anything that was needed, there was someone to help.

Finish / Post race: Easy to see with a timing mat and clock. Other participants were cheering in runners. A volunteer placed a medal around your neck, while another grabbed the ankle timing chip. There was a post race pot luck, all participants brought something to share.
*a lot of the food was consolidated and packed up when I finished, but I wasn't super hungry. There was fruit, cookies, remnants in crockpots, chips, etc.

My Race: I was only 6 days from setting a marathon PR, I didn't have any expectations but to finish before the 8 hour cutoff time. My super ambitious goal was to finish before the Iowa football game started, so I would see how it went.

Well, right from the start, I was almost the last person. There were only 35 ish runners in this distance, and it didn't bother me as I know people start too fast. However, I joined up with another runner and we ended up running the entire first out and back together. This was nice as I am not too familiar with the trails and I knew we had to do a couple loops in the woods. We walked the uphills, navigated the leaf covered tree roots and he took all the selfies!!

We came back to the start and finish and he noticed the course was going to be long. I noticed during that time, I had accidentally paused my watch and my mileage was different than his. We were in and out of that start/finish aid station and that is when I pulled away from him. It was lonely, but I just kept trucking along. I also knew I wasn't going to be back before the start of the game.

I made it to the turn around, and said hi to him and the sweeper, he was still well behind me. I was starting to struggle, but I knew I would finish. It also helps that the scenery, with the lake and the sun was stunning!!

At the start of the game, I called my husband and checked in with the score. We had already scored a safety.

I walked and ran to the finish line, consuming the oatmeal pie I snatched from the last aid station. That last loop on the asphalt was a joy. I came to the finish line with a 7:40 something, and a distance PR as the course was long at around 32 miles. I felt good too, except for a random blister that had formed under a toenail.

Josh was at the finish line with score updates, the Hawks were winning, but then as we waited for my running friend to finish, they tied it up. Spoiler alert: the Hawks ended up losing the game, they did better when I was running.

My friend finished the race, and as it turns out, Josh knows him. Seriously.... anyway, everyone finished before the cutoff. I grabbed an apple and drank some more Gatorade, and drove the 15 minutes home.

Overall: I really liked the fall answer to the spring event. I also liked the out and back in each direction, versus the reversed loops. The course was always different in my opinion. It's also nice to have an ultra sooo close to home. I am ready to run the spring event!

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"Perfect day for a PR"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2018 race was held on Sunday, October 21st. The half, full and marathon relay all started together at 8 AM. It was sunny and barely 30 degrees. Temps would warm to the 50's and it would get windy.

Registration: You could register online and as race day approached the fee increased. Race day registration was available at the expo. Included with registration was chip timing and a track jacket.

Packet Pickup / Expo: The expo took place at the Iowa Events center on Friday and Saturday before the race. If you could not pick up your things, it was easy for someone else to grab it for you. There was no race day packet pickup available. *I could not make it to the expo before it closed at 6pm on Saturday, my sister was able to grab my things and she enjoyed the expo as a non runner and before I received my stuff from her exclaimed there was "so much swag!"

Pre-Race: The race starts and finishes in downtown Des Moines. This means there are many places to park either by paying for a ramp or a free spot on the street. Port-o-potties lined the street perpendicular to the corrals. Gear check was set up. The corrals were self seeding by pace signs. Pacers were also available. I was in the back and could not hear the announcements or the National Anthem.

Race/Course: The race is a tour of Des Moines.
-Terrain: Paved. Some spots where asphalt could trip you up
-Elevation: There were some bigger climbs in the front half of the race, then flattened out.
-Aid Stations: There were A LOT of hydration stops. They each had water and Gatorade Endurance, however each stop was different in it's layout, had to check which liquid you would get. There were fruit stops with oranges and bananas. There were also Gu stops. A local bike club/store was mobile aid and had gummy bears, twizzlers and tissues. Also - there is a bacon stop!
-Photographers: I believe Marathonfoto was the official course photographer. There are free pictures on the app.
-Spectators: Spectators were thicker near the start and finish, then scattered throughout the course. Some spots were sparse, but they were not easy to access.
-Course Markings: Each mile was marked with a teardrop flag, and each race distance flag was a different color. There were timing mats.
-Volunteers: With so many aid stations, there were sooooo many volunteers. They were all happy and ready to assist. There were lots of law enforcement out on the course as we ran through some neighborhoods with some traffic. The volunteer who gave me my medal at the finish line even shook my hand!
-Medical: The medical stops on the course were easily marked with a tear drop flag. Multiple spots and the bike course support was also monitoring.
-Bathroom: So many port-o-potties on the course!!
-Scenery: This race while run through a city has lots to see, plus it's during "leaf looking" season. Running through downtown you see the sculptures, you run through some ritzy residential neighborhoods, there is the Blue Oval at Drake Stadium just before the halfway point, then you end up on a paved trail section, to then make the trek around Grays Lake.

Mobile App: There was a very easy to use mobile app available. This app allowed live tracking. It also had FAQ, picture filters, and anything you'd ever want to know about the race. Easy for spectators too.

Finish/ Post Race: The finish line was set up with an arch, timing clock and an announcer. Once across and after short walk a volunteer placed a medal around your neck (even a hand shake) then there were tables with bottled water and cups with Gatorade.

The post race food wasn't marked well. The post race beer party area was off to the side before the food, so it was easy to go there first. The beer area had photo opps and the results tent. The post race beer was the Same Adams 26.2.

Way at the end of the chute was the food off to the side. There were more bottles of water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, cookies, oranges, bananas, ice cream, yogurt, pretzels, chips and queso, and pulled pork sandwiches. Also there was security making sure the area was for runners only. There was no place to sit.

Overall: This was the first time I had ever run this race, even though it was my 29th marathon. It did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the course, the elevation was fair and the tour of Des Moines made it easy to enjoy. It's competitively priced and offers something other than the standard race shirt. I would definitely recommend this race.

My race: I didn't pick a training plan, but I did run the miles to be prepared for a marathon. All those long runs were in the heat and humidity, so when I woke up to feels like temps of 25 degrees, I wasn't sure what would happen. I did feel pretty relaxed too.

I lined up near the back, I didn't see any pace signs. Then it was time to I went. I met up with the 5:25 pace group and stayed with them until mile 2 when I saw a friend running the half marathon, so I ran with him a mile or so. Then I just pulled away. At mile 6 I needed to use the bathroom, and it was also the only time I checked my watch the entire race. After that stop I could see the pace group sign in the distance. and thought the 5:25 group passed me. I caught up with them to find it was the 5:10 group... and I felt good, so I passed them too. I just kept trucking along. I did think I could catch the 5 hour group, but that was just a thought. I let me music carry me through miles 15-18, then there was bacon and then I came to mile 20. This is where there was a clock set up and I could't believe the time I saw. Since runners are great at math, I about crapped my pants when I realized a PR was possible. I was confused too, as I never saw a 5 hour pace group, or any 4:XX pacers. I just told myself to keep getting to the next mile marker, just keep moving. After mile 24, I walked for the first time, it was a small incline, then I started running calf didn't feel I made sure to drink Gatorade one last time. I passed the 26 mile flag, and saw a group of friends before the final turn, slapped some high fives and saw the clock at the finish line. AHHHHHHHHHH, I was going to set a new marathon PR, and actually blow it out of the water by 10+ minutes. I shocked myself, I crossed in 4:48...and my official time is 4:43. It was hard to breath through the tears I was fighting back. In fact, I am still confused, I feel I missed a mile or something. I think it was just a day where everything came together, I put no pressure on myself, just to finish my race, and the weather played a huge part.

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"No Coast is the Best Coast "
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

A review of the 30k.
The 2018 race was held on Saturday, September 15th. There was a 45k that started at 8:00 and the 15k started with the 30k at 8:30am. It was a cooler morning, but warmed up quickly to a sunny, 90 degrees. *New for 2018 - start times were moved back an hour from previous years.

Registration: You could register online and as race day approached the fee increased. Race day registration was available. This year the soft cotton, short sleeve, unisex t-shirt was optional, as well as a BOCO hat. Included with registration was a bib, (ankle style) timing chip, and multifunctional headwrap.

Packet Pickup / Expo: There was no race expo, but there was a packet pick up held the Friday before at a local brewery. You could also pick your bib up the morning before the race. Someone else could pick up your packet.

Pre-Race: The race is held at Pleasant Creek State Recreation area, there were signs posted in the park to direct runners to the event. There was plenty of parking for everyone, but if you arrived early you got a closer spot. The race start/finish changed locations this year and the bath house was open to use. Timing chips were distributed at this time, they were an ankle bracelet. Last minute registration was open. Runners milled about and announcements were made throughout the morning. The National Anthem was sung live.

Race/Course: The race was a clockwise loop around the lake. each loop was ~15k. I ran 2 loops
-Terrain: Trail - rock, dirt, ruts, grass, sand, single track, open prairie.
-Elevation: not steep, but felt like we were always climbing or descending - lots of ups and downs
-Aid Stations: 3 on each loop, plus the one at the start/finish. Water, Gatorade on course. Paper cups available to drink from, or you could fill your own. Candy and snacks at start/finish aid and halfway point aid station.
-Photographers: nothing official, just pictures from volunteers and other participants, posted to social media for free
-Spectators: there were only certain areas to access the trail, so spectators were mostly friends, family & volunteers
-Course Markings: there were flags closing off other trail entrances, signs on course with arrows. No mile markers. The course is marked with permanent trail markers.
-Volunteers: very friendly and attentive, always a smile when you approached an aid station, and happy to answer a question. They were happy to fill water packs and assist with everything. Only saw volunteers at aid stations.
-Medical: There was an ambulance at the second aid station (I believe)
-Bathroom: bath house at the start and one on course at halfway point
-Scenery: the trail was out in the woods, and near a lake. Many things to see

Finish/ Post Race: The timing mat was strewn out, a timing clock and the remaining people, sitting at the tables, eating their post race food, were cheering you on. A “medal” was handed out along with a bottle of water and a cold rag as your chip was removed from your ankle. The medals were hand made from tree limbs that were cleared from the trail. All medals and awards were hand made.

The post race area was happening! There were grilled hamburgers, and hot dogs, watermelon, candy, chips, and much more. There was water, soda and I imagine there was beer somewhere. I had to get going so didn't stick around long. I also assume there was a an awards ceremony.

Overall: I will always try to do this race if I can. It always happens during the Iowa football season. The race is put on by runners for runners, everything is done right! The race is also part of the no coast trail series.

My race: I debated running the 45k distance this year, but I knew timing would be close, so I stayed with the 30k, which still had me pinched for time to get back to tailgate. I knew it was going to be a hot day, so I had been hydrating to prepare, I also ran with my pack. I ran my first loop in 1:57 and I knew I needed to keep the second loop around 2 hours to keep with my schedule. I was feeling ok up until this point, I just keep moving and walked the uphills. Then during the second loop, it was just hot, I was starting to "cook" so I slowed it down and made sure to stop and drink water and dump water on my head, and grab ice. I knew the course, and just decided I would do my best to get to the finish. Then with about 2 miles to go, I came upon a volunteer with a participant. The volunteer was going to get their car as the runner was throwing up and dry heaving. I asked if I could help, because that's what you do. So it was suggested I stay with the runner while help came in a car. This delayed me for about 15 more minutes or so. Looking back, I am grateful for taking this break, I was hot too. The worst part was waiting in the mosquito filled shade. I hope the runner is ok!.

I made it to the finish line, where they were cheering me in, which was awesome. I never looked up as the surface is grass and I didn't want to fall.

I didn't get the time I wanted, but everyone is safe and will run another day. I grabbed some animal crackers as I wasn't hungry, too hot to eat, and while people wanted to chit chat, I made the adventurous drive back to Iowa City.

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