Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka

(2021)
"Explore Illinois Anywhere"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

The Virtual Criss Cross Challenge was created by the Illinois Marathon. There were various options to register for. There was the west to east route, covering 224 miles. The North to South Route, covering 435 miles. The double route, going both directions for 659 miles. There was also a team option.

Participants had months to cover the distance, beginning on November 5th. When I registered the ending date was the beginning of May, with registration closing in April. While registration has closed, the ending date has been extended through June.

While I was feeling "over" virtual races, I thought hey why not have a place to log all my miles over a period of time. I chose to participate in the 659 mile distance.

The event was very straight forward and easy to participate. Through the website and Race Roster you simply just entered the date, time of day, miles and overall time. If you wanted you could also submit a photo. This system kept track of all the miles you logged, walking or running. This system also had a leaderboard so you could see how you stacked up against the competition and a map so you could see where you were on the route.

The event also had webinars and informational live sessions on their Facebook page. This information was sent via email, so you knew when they were.

Swag was different for each challenge distance. For the double I received a pullover, a facemask, a beanie hat, a challenge token coin and a sample Nuun tablet. It shipped at the end of January.

The other highlight of the event was the very detailed guidebooks. There was one for the west to east route and one for the north to south route. These included tidbits of information about every town you would virtually run through. This guidebook was very thorough, all the history and pertinent information. It makes you actually want to go see these places in person. The state of Illinois should be proud, these guides would be great to pick up at a rest stop.

The challenge for me went by quick. I easily hammered out the west to east route in the month of November. I was doing another challenge at the time, so I was double dipping. I think I was one of the first to finish this distance on the leaderboard. (The leaderboard doesn't account for those who log more than required miles, and puts them in first.)

Then with the brutal winter that would never go away, it took me a while to finish up the rest of the challenge with the north to south route. I did finish the entire challenge on March 22nd. I did not finish first in this one, but I do believe I was in the top 100. It's nice to have the virtual competition.

This was a nice virtual challenge that honors the intentions of the Illinois Marathons. It's a great event and I am happy to take part and support them. While it would be nice for the challenge to sync to my Garmin, I could back log miles at any given time.

Now, maybe it's time to road trip to the places I virtually ran.

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(2021)
"Run for a cold one"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Run to Exile. Saturday, June 12, 2021. 75 ish degrees, sunny. Exile Brewery, Des Moines, IA.

Registration: Available online, until race day. The price tier was spelled out on the website, topped out at $50. Included was a short sleeve tech shirt, a post race beer, timing chip and pint glass.

Expo / Packet Pick up: There was no expo. You could pick up your packet starting the Thursday before at the local running store and then at the brewery on Friday and Saturday morning.

Pre-Race: There were 2 events taking place, and each race was at a different start time. So as each race started there were announcements and music on a loud speaker.. The 10k started at 8:45, with the 5k following at 8:56. There was a bank of port-o-potties set up. Parking was available on the street in the surrounding areas. The race encouraged parking in a specific ramp (3 blocks away) and it was free!

After an instrumental version of the National Anthem, it was time for the rolling start. A group of 10(ish) people were told to approach the starting line, encouraging the speedier participants to approach first. When that group got to the top of the hill (yes it started with a short uphill) the next group was to go. It was a combination of encouragement from an announcer and people just lining up in groups and going. It appeared to work well, no clustering. However, people do not pay attention and the 5k walkers were starting with the speedier 10k runners. When all 10k people were through, then the rolling start of 5k runners did the same.

Race / Course: Both courses started at the brewery, both being some version of a loop. The 10 split off and went around the lake. Each had some out and back sections.

-paved / asphalt
-roads were closed to traffic
-little to no spectators
-photographer at the start/finish
-one water stop for the 10k about mile 4.
-relatively flat
-Police at all major road crossings
-don't recall mile markers

Finish / Post Race: An Arch, timing mat, clock and announcer greeted people at the finish. The post race food was splayed on a table - bananas and granola bars. There were tubs of water bottles iced down. There were trash receptacles. There were 3 beer choices, a volunteer marked your bib and gave you one of your choice.

Results were posted on a TV screen from the race timing trailer, awards only for overall finishers.
There were tables set up in the brewery parking lot in addition to the outside brewery space. Plenty of room for everyone to have their space. The brewery also had breakfast burritos for sale.
There was a stein holding contest after the race.

My race: I was looking forward to my 2nd in person race in over a year, plus there was beer at the end. I was also a week out from a marathon, I didn't have many expectations but to just enjoy the race.

During the announcements it was noted there were not many 10k runners. Many thoughts ran through my head, but I knew I just had to run my own pace.

I really had an uneventful race. I was familiar with the course as it's part of the Des Moines marathon. As the temperature warmed up I think struggling with the heat was my only problem, which was minimal as I have been training in it. There was only one water stop, and I say it all the time, should have brought my own hydration.

I came to the finish line and felt good. close to an hour and a great for me pace. Anymore that is the goal, feel good when I am done. When I checked my results, I was third in my age group.

After the race it was nice to enjoy race day atmosphere again. We watched the stein holding contest and took it all in.

Overall: I think this race was a good combination of an actual event and still following what remains of CDC guidelines. The feeling of race day was there, but more laid back. I've actually run a few events by the same organization, and I will say I might like this one the best so far.

It's really hard to write a review in this time of current events. In Iowa the guidelines were dropped so fast, yet at the same time events couldn't make the same changes. I would suggest registering early to save on the price, but it's a laid back event with a chance to still be competitive.

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(2021)
"return to racing"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Red Shoe 5k. Sunday, May 2, 2021. 10:15 am. Sunny, 70 plus degrees. Location moved to City Park

Registration: Available online, then closed the day before the race. However you could register on race day. I think the price remained a flat $35. I registered a couple of days before race day, as the wording on the registration page still said it could go to a virtual event. The shirt option was sold out. I could add a pair of socks to my registration for $7.

Expo / Packet Pick up: There was no expo. You could pick up your packet days before at Scheels and on the day of the race at City Park. I received a bib with timing strip and a plastic bag full of items - including a drawstring bag, hand sanitizer, race map, notepad.

Pre-Race: There were 2 events taking place, and each race was at a different start time. So as each race started there were announcements and music on a loud speaker.. The kids dash started at 10, with the 5k following at 10:15am. There was plenty of free parking in the nearby lots, but the road to access them was never closed.

Participants were told to line up, encouraging walkers and those pushing strollers to the back of the pack. Social distancing was encouraged, but the race started on a sidewalk and not the road. The National Anthem was sung.

Race / Course: The 5k starts at City Park, then loops through a neighborhood and finishes back up in City Park. While the course is marked with some arrows, signs and chalk on the cement, I was never certain if the marked course was to be on the sidewalks or the roads.

-Mile markers
-paved / asphalt
-roads were open to traffic
-a few people were outside their homes cheering
-appeared to be a photographer at the start/finish
-one water stop, plastic bottles with a recycling receptacle near by
- there were hills
-Police at road crossings

Finish / Post Race: An Arch, timing mat, clock and announcer greeted people at the finish. The post race food was near a shelter: paper sacks filled with a banana, clementine and a granola bar. Bottles of water were set on a table. There was a tub of hard boiled eggs on ice. McDonald's provided apple slices, chocolate milk and I believe a juice box. There were containers marked for recycling or trash.

Results were posted on a TV screen from the race timing trailer, awards were available to pick up.

My race: While I am a little nervous for my first in person race in over a year, I have run this race or volunteered for this event throughout the years. I should be training for a marathon, so I ran to the event. This also meant I carried a hydration pack. I arrived with plenty of time to spare. I walked up to get my bib, which was super quick and easy. This area was not crowded at this time. It was encouraged through all pre race communication to wear a mask when in the park. I stuffed my bag of crap in my pack, and went to get away from the gathering crowd to log more miles. Well that didn't go as planned as I ran into a running friend and we started chatting, and before then it was time to start the race.
As we stood around listening to the announcements, it was hot! I tried to keep my distance from others while finding shade to stand in. This is when I felt a little uncomfortable, there were so many people and not many masks. We are all outside, but being my first crowded event, it was just weird. Starting on a narrow sidewalk didn't help and no matter how many times you tell slower paced participants to get to the back, it will never happen.
It was go time, I had a BUFF on my face to do my part, but the heat was tough, plus the start was a slow uphill. I did my best to keep going, and eventually lost my mask.
The first mile was also tough because the road we were running along side was not closed, but the sidewalk was soooo narrow and congested. Then we crossed a street and into a neighborhood with less busy streets, but again I wasn't sure if the marked course was on the sidewalk or in the street. I tried to follow the turns and what not so I could make sure to get a more accurate 3.10 measurement.
After I hit mile 2, I was toast. It was too hot for me and I had started way too fast. I was glad I had water with me. I slowed it down and took my time so I could make it to the finish.
I approached the finish and put my BUFF back over my face, the announcer even made some comment about it - well that is the rule around a crowd.
It was not my best time, but it was nice to be at an in person event again. I had a 31:17, which had me at 6th in my age group.
I did like that the finishing food was pre-packaged, except the hard boiled egg, which I passed on.
I did see more running friends afterwards and chatted with them. This is the part of these events I miss the most, and I need to be careful not to get to wrapped back up in that and keep my distance.
My biggest take away as in person racing returns, people are going to do what they want. I just have to stick to what I feel comfortable with. (this is no reflection of the race)

Overall: Great charity to support, but not a bucket list event. I really think this event feels so different year after year as the RD position changes hands so often.

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(2020)
"Spreading Christmas Cheer"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

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.

My race:
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!!

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(2020)
"Virtual DM in IC"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

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.

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