Latest reviews by Angie Maske-Berka

"Another half marathon..."
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2019 race was held July 21. It was overcast, temps in the 70s and very humid.

I first ran this race in 2014 and was looking forward to a return to the event.

Registration: Available online and at the expo. In the price range of $100 plus. Included with your fees were a short sleeve, gender specific, tech tee; timing chip, bag with goodies, finishers medal & post race beer.

Expo: The expo was held at the McCormick Center. Parking was pricey, but you could take the bus or taxi.. It would be quite a walk from downtown. This venue is huge, there were signs pointing you the direction to the expo. It was easy to pick up your bib and get your shirt, there was even a shirt exchange for the half.

The expo was on Friday and Saturday. I attended on Friday afternoon and it seemed not as busy. Vendors with samples and photo opportunities. There was an ID pre-check, you could get a wrist band for quicker post race beer. *I did not want to wear the paper band for a couple of days.

Pre-race: There were a lot of people milling about Columbus St. There were port-o-potties and gear check was available with the bag you received at the expo. Parking would have been available near downtown Chicago, which is pricey. There were 12 corrals, the bib numbers reflected your placement, I did not notice anyone checking the bibs. However, I entered a corral after mine, a minute before that corral started. The 10k also started with the half. The National Anthem was sung live and then the corrals were started, about 2 minutes between each.

Race / Course: The race twisted through downtown Chicago and then south and back.
-Terrain: all paved surfaces and bridge grates, but many cracks and man hole covers to watch out for. It also rained a bit, combined with the humidity it made for slippery spots. There was also McCormick Tunnel - it's the easiest way to get from point to point, but always dark and lots of chances to trip on uneven ground.
-Elevation: It's Chicago, for me that means flat, but there are overpasses and bridges with some a little elevation.
-Volunteers: There are a ton of volunteers that make this event possible. They were all busy doing their best to keep up with their duties.
-Aid Stations: There were stops with hydration (water and Gatorade Endurance) and some were getting behind. Some stops had sponges and some with SIS gels.
-Medical: There were medical tents with ice and supposedly salt. I also saw lots of medical personal on the course.
-Entertainment: There were a few brass type bands downtown and "acts." The first rock n roll type band was just around mile 6. Then a few more bands on the way to the finish.
-Spectators: I felt they were out in full force. Even some with their own make shift water stops.
-Photography: many on the course and available for purchase a day later.
-Course: Each mile was marked, and the turns were easy to figure out. There were split timing mats. There were a lot of turns, and running through downtown Chicago always plays havoc with the GPS.
-Scenery: Running through downtown allows you to see the city and some of the sights. Then there is the loop that goes out south and back north. While it's always nice to run along the lake for the views, with this many runners I appreciate the width of the streets and not the LFP.

Finish: The finisher arch was easy to spot in the last half mile. Once across the finish line a box of water was handed to me, then a medal was handed to me. I had to go find the wash clothes and the bottled Gatorade. Then I was able to follow the food line to find, Pringles, granola bar, crackers, banana and pineapple juice.
*apparently there was chocolate milk?

Post Race: After the finisher's chute we were encouraged to move along and go to the post race party / family reunion area. En route to this area there were vendors with free samples. Once to the party area there was a stage with a band performing, the beer tent (Michelob Ultra was the post race beer), medal engraving and many more sponsors with samples. Not many areas with shade.

My Race: I did not specifically set a goal for this race, just to finish. The weather leading up to race day had been abysmal, so training was rough. I met a friend and hopped into a corral late, then I was off. The 10k split was in the first mile, so it was nice to lose some of the crowd. I really had to watch my footing as I found the entire course very slippery, especially the grates on the bridge. When I ran in 2014 I was disappointed with the lack of "a band every mile." So going into this year I knew not to expect that, so I was surprised at the amount of musical variety on the course. I ran into friends I knew on course, and was soaking wet from humidity early on. I don't have anything special or exciting that sticks out for my race until I came out of the stinkin McCormick tunnel. I saw a person being attended to by paramedics and I hope they are ok. This was about mile 11.5 so it kind of shook me up for the rest of the race. When I turned on to the last street, the finish line felt sooooo far away. I did finish with a time of about 2:28, which I will gladly take!

Overall: RnR races are expensive, but you get a cool medal. I would imagine each city has restrictions on what make race day possible. This also leads to inconsistencies across this race series, as each city can't offer the same race day experience. Chicago does its best, but I would like to see a bigger headlining band and I still want more rock n roll.

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"New course for 2019"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2019 event took place on Saturday, June 29. This year brought a few new changes to the event. It would not start and finish at the same place, creating an out and back course. There was a half marathon added to the marathon and relay options.

The marathon started at 6:30 am and the relay started in waves after that, ending with the half marathon starting at 8 am. The temperature combined with the humidity and dew point were a recipe for some HOT conditions.

I have been running this event in some for since 2014. This year I won entry.

Registration: Available online for $85 or through mail entry form. Relay teams could have 2-12 members starting at $35 / person. Relay registration closes early, due to congestion at transition areas. (I believe all registrations were closed early, topping at 1500 participants for all races.) Included with registration was the trail fee, race bib, shirt, bib timing chip, drawstring bag, & bracelet and protein bar.

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: Parking was in a nearby lot, with a shuttle to the start and finish. Only one relay car per team was allowed to park near the start/finish. Parking was free. There were port-o-potties in this lot. Participants were told of a meeting before the race, but it's just some pointers and notes about the course. 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. We ran out/back for 3 miles in one direction, then hit the limestone for the remainder of the distance.
-Elevation: flat, but paved sections and inclines /declines near major road intersections.
-Scenery: There are a lot of corn fields and trees, sections with views of water and rock formations. Run by the base of a ski resort.
-The majority of the trail was shaded. This didn't allow for much air movement.
-Aid Stations: Each relay exchange was an aid station that provided Gatorade, water, restroom, grapes, pretzels and gels. The volunteers at each road crossing had mini bottles of water, cups of water and Gatorade. Near the end of the race an ATV roamed the course with bottled water and medics, they also placed coolers of drinks on the trail in the last few miles.
-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.
-Spectators: were in the form of relay teams at each exchange, there were also family members.
-Transitions: these were all crowded, it just seems to make these spots hard to get to, especially if you were driving a car for your team.
-Photography: There were photographers on the course, and pictures were sent via email for FREE download the next day!
-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 food truck was cooking pizza. There was a small "store" set up to purchase race branded merchandise. There was the beer tent. There was an additional food option this year - pork sandwiches, chips and a pickle. They also had tickets on the bibs to redeem food, which I appreciate!!

My race: I ran this a week after Grandma's marathon, but I always do. I was prepared to take it slow, especially with the heat. I started with the 5:30 hour pace group, but as much as I enjoyed the company I could only stick with him for a tiny bit, then I was with the 5:15 group... then I ended up with the 5 hour group. I just keep plowing forward, until about mile 10, then that is when those paces groups eventually all started passing me. At mile 12 I really wanted a beer. The turnaround came and I ate some grapes. I switched to the waslk a quarter mile, run 3/4 mile plan. I met up with people and chatted, just took my "sweet ass time" as I told a person I was texting. The course has an 8 hour time limit and I didn't need to be a hero. I came across the finish around 6 hours, my slowest one yet, but hey I didn't feel extra miserable. I don't remember when I drank so much liquid. I regrouped with some friends and had that beer!! I ate some chips and a pickle and was on my way.

Overall: I guess I don't mind the changes to the race, but I do miss running from point to point. 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.

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"My 5th Grandma's"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

I have been writing reviews for this event since 2014 (when I ran the half.) Little has changed, but the weather.

The 2019 event took place on Saturday, June 12. The full marathon starts at 7:45 am. The starting temp was around 50, some sun. This was the best weather yet!

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.

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 9pm, 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.
*This year I worked a vendor booth at the expo. It was busy and a few full days of talking and being on my feet.

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.
*I did not have time to participate in this.

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. The corrals were back filling, so if you want to get up front, line up early. 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, a balloon and a spray painted marking on the road. 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! (I always miss the grapes provided by an Italian restaurant.)
-Spectators: All access points to the course had people with signs, ready to slap high fives. On the northern parts of the course, residents came out to cheer at the ends of their driveways. 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
-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 great weather year, which meant scenic lake views.
-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. Even the DOT LED sign had a message for the runners.
-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 - $10. Once you cross the finish line there was a volunteer with a medal and a tiny 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: chocolate milk, bananas, bagels, chips. *I love the post race strawberries and this year there were none in the finisher's only area.

The PR skillet, was after this area in the alphabetized reunion area. From there 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. A band was 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!
There was a fruit truck set up in the area, you had to play a game to get a voucher for the fruit, I finally found my strawberries!!
*The post race beer selection is massive. They bring in O'dells and Alaskan beers, in addition to Bud Light and a cider. This year they had a sour!!

My Race: I was back for my 5th Grandma's marathon, I love this race! My training plan was mostly relying on the fact that it was my 30th overall marathon, vs actually getting in quality runs. With the sprained ankle in February and all the expo hours, I was just happy to have a finish.

I woke up on race day to a spectacular sunrise, I knew it was going to be an excellent day! As per usual I did run with my pack and brought Gatorade as Powerade can be too sweet. I ran into people I knew at the start, and on the course. As I neared the finish, I saw my friend cheering me in. Then I spotted another friend coming in to finish his first marathon, so I ran the last few bits with him. My finisher certificate said I completed the race in 5:15, faster than last year!! I will take it. As I write this, I feel really good.

Overall: This race is 43 years old, they know what they are doing. If you are looking for a marathon, add this one to your list!

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"only $10"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2019 event took place on Friday, June 7 at 7 pm. It was sunny and 80 ish degrees.

Registration: You could submit a printed our pdf via mail to register. There was also race day registration. The cost of this race is $10, and $20 if you wanted a shirt (guaranteed by a certain date.) The price never increased. For $10 you got a bib, chip timing and wooden nickel for a post race beverage. If you wanted the shirt, it was a unisex short sleeve tech shirt.
*accurate course and free photos posted online too

Expo/Packet pickup: There was no expo. The community center was open before the race to register or pick up your bib and things.

Parking was free, anywhere you wanted - on the street, the bank parking lot, etc. There were flushing toilets available in the community center.

Pre-Race: There was a one mile race held an hour before the 5k. A few minutes before the 5k, the RD thanked everyone that helped put on the race, gave a few course directions, and then the National Anthem was sung live.

Race/Course: The course was through the town of Blue Grass
-Scenery: nothing really cool to see, residential, small town business
-Terrain: the course was paved, or on asphalt, which is hot after an 80 degree day. The main stretch into town was recently repaved - nice a smooth section.
-Elevation: FLAT! There was one hill - Garmin had 62 feet of gain
-Spectators: For such a small town race, there were quite a few families and people cheering everyone on.
-Aid Stations: 2 water stops. They were all different though. The first stop was sponsored by the convenience store so they supplied 16 oz plastic bottles of water, the second stop was in someone's front yard - they served in paper cups and you hit it twice.
-Course markings: The course was closed to traffic with cones. I don't recall mile markers, but it was clear where you should be running
-Photographers: a hobby photographer was in 3 spots.
-Volunteers: The local fire department and law enforcement officials had this race course closed & safe! Not much more need for volunteers except the water stops.

Finish: The finish line funneled so that you would cross a timing mat. There were bottles of water, popsicles, and all the cookies. The results were quickly posted, and you could get individual printouts.

Post Race: Awards were given out once everyone had finished the race, inside the community center. This is also where the wooden nickel could be redeemed for a post race beverage - think every lite beer you ever wanted- and soda.

My race: I was surprised with my pace for this one. I am marathon training, so I have neglected any speedwork. My 28:48 was good enough for 6th place in my AG. It was hot, but I did my best!

Overall: DO THIS RACE! $10, chip timing, beer, 3.1 miles, photos, flat...what more do you want?

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"The Arboretum is BACK!"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The 2019 half marathon took place on Sunday, May 26. It was overcast and nice 50-60ish degrees. Race start at 7:00 am

Registration: Available online and at the expo, with increasing prices as the race neared. Included was a bib with your name, finisher's medal, timing chip, post race beer, gender specific short sleeve tech shirt, and free race pictures.

*you could also register for the Conquer the Capital Challenge, which would earn you an additional medal and hoodie, if you ran the 10k the night before.

Expo/Packet pick up: The expo was held at the Monona Terrace. Parking was on-site in a ramp for a $5 or on the street at a meter. There were also other events going on here. With the proper paper work someone else could grab your packet. There was a place to check that the timing chip worked on the bib.
*Will call or race day packet pick up was available for a fee.

The expo was small. There were area running stores, local race booths and places to make signs. There was race specific merchandise and information. There were even water coolers provided. The expo was the day before the event, you could register too.

Pre race: Plenty of FREE on street parking blocks away. Port-o-potties lined up on the street. The race started and ended at the State Capitol. The National Anthem was sung before the events. Corrals were self seeding, and pacers were available.

Race/Course: A tour of Madison.
-Terrain: all paved streets.
-Elevation: There are hills, especially a surprise after you leave the arboretum.
-Aid stations: There were many on the course, all with water and lemon lime Gatorade. There was a stop with bananas.
-Scenery: The course was back to touring around Camp Randall, The Kohl Center and the Arboretum where I spotted many turkeys.
-Photographers: FREE pictures from various locations on course
-Course markers: each mile was marked, course easy to navigate
-Volunteers: intersections with marshals or police, very upbeat at aid stations . There were some side streets with no one, so had to be alert for cars.
-Spectators: There were a great spattering of them along the course with lots of fun signs
-Tracking: there was an app 'Race Day Events" that you could download to track runners and find race day information.

Finish/Post race: The finish line was under the starting arch. Photographers there to snap a memory. A volunteer placed a medal around your neck. Then you were given a bottle of water. There were orange slices and bananas and more food which was already bagged up from Panera - a sandwich (meat or veggie) chips and a cookie and chocolate milk.

Once out of this area, you could take photos with the back drop and if you did the challenge, grab your Conquer the Capitol Challenge medal. From here you could go to the beer area to redeem your free Michelob Ultra, where there was also a massage / sports therapy tent. You could also just camp out on the Capitol grounds.

Overall: I liked that the course went back to the arboretum this spring. It's just a more scenic route. Madison offers a great event for the price.

My Race: I am no where close to racing a half marathon, so with the 10k the night before I was using the combination as training for my next marathon. I wasn't necessarily on the struggle bus, but I wasn't having the best race ever. I had to stop after mile 4 for the bathroom, I had to walk the steep hill. However, I found a friend from Iowa in the last mile and we chatted to the finish. I had a time near 2:30.

I will be back for more medals in November as this challenge and that event will give be the Conquer the Capital half and half title!

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