Latest reviews by Jenn Collins

(2016)
"More fun than you'd think!"
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The Icebreaker race series is held on the run/walk track at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 445-meter track runs indoors around the Pettit's giant ice skating/hockey rink complex. The Icebreaker series consists of a 5K race Friday night, a half marathon and marathon relay on Saturday, and a marathon on Sunday. The race also offers a "Gold Medal Challenge" for people who run the half marathon Saturday and the full on Sunday. I participated in the half marathon. 13.1 miles was about 48 laps around the track.

How does it work?

The track has three lanes. Runners use the outside lane and pass in the middle lane. The inside lane is for passing when the other lanes are occupied. This makes for a fair amount of bouncing around between the lanes, but rarely was there any sort of backup or clog. It actually works really well.
The race is chip timed with timers that attach to the runners' ankles. This part was actually really cool: as you pass the timing mat, you could see your name on the screen with your time for the previous lap. They also broadcast how many laps each runner had left on two huge, scrolling screens.

There is one incredibly well-organized aid station where you are allowed to stow one bottle which you label with your bib number. When you'd like your bottle, you call out your number to the volunteers and they'll pass it to you on your next trip around the track. You can then run a lap (or two, or whatever) with your bottle and pass it back to the volunteers on your next trip around.

Isn't it, like, boring?

No. Not at all. Each race is limited to about 100 people (more than that would be kind of a mess), so while you do spend a fair amount of time bouncing around people, that also gives you a chance to make small talk with the same people over and over, if that's your thing.

Headphones were NOT allowed, but when you registered you also got to add a song to the race playlist which would be broadcast during the race. It made for an interesting playlist: there were tons of songs that you'd expect like some Taylor Swift, Walk the Moon, etc. (I was surprised to find much of my current running playlist made the list - I guess we all run to the same tunes), but along with those were a fair amount of dad joke-esque songs about running and circles (You Spin Me Round, Round and Round, Legs, etc.). Overall, it made for a pretty great playlist. An announcer would announce runners by name as they got to their final five laps, and then again on their last lap. I never found myself bored. (Tired of running, sure. Achy and a little crabby, yes. But never bored).

Also, I need to mention that the medal this year was actually really great - it was a simple medal in primary colors with a bold logo.

Any negatives?

The air in the Pettit is very dry. That's necessary to maintain the integrity of the ice, but it does wear on your lungs a bit. I run at the Pettit regularly and I've found that taking a nice steaming hot shower soon after the race really helps with that. Also, because of this dryness you have to be really aware of your hydration levels. You might not feel thirsty, but you need to remember to drink.

Post Race

I'd be neglectful if I didn't mention the post-race cookies. Homemade sugar cookies are a beloved feature of this race and they are every bit as good as they are hyped up to be.

Overall, I had more fun than I thought I would. The race was a bigger challenge than I expected because while the terrain was perfectly flat, pacing can be a real challenge. I may not put this race on my calendar every year, but as it is one of the few races of this distance in January I am sure I'll run it again in the future.

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(2015)
"A great fun run/walk"
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The 2015 Santa Hustle took place on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning in December. We've had some pleasantly mild weather in Wisconsin so there was no snow on the ground, and while there was a bit of a breeze coming off of the lake, it was just lovely weather for a run. The race starts at Veterans Park on Milwaukee's beautiful lakefront and travels up and back Lincoln Memorial Drive. It is a flat, easy course with plenty great scenery to look at.

The race had two aid stations, but these weren't your usual water/gatorade stops. The first aid station offered chocolate chip cookies and the second aid station had M&Ms. Super fun!

PRE-RACE: I was running a little late and worried about missing the start time as I still had to find parking and go through packet pickup. Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. There's plenty of parking around Veterans Park, and packet pickup was smooth. Despite running late I ended up with plenty of time to enjoy the fun Christmas themed selfie stations, visit the live reindeer, and enjoy the pre-race Christmas music.

RACE SWAG: The swag, the swag, the swag! This 5K really outdid itself on the race swag. All runners got a super cute red half-zip jacket, Santa hat and beard. Most wore the half-zip, hat and beard for the run, which meant that the race was a huge sea of Santas running down the street. With over 1000 participants, it was really a sight to see. Some people wore some really creative costumes, too. I saw quite a few in Christmas colored tutus, a number of really nice looking Santa costumes, a gingerbread man, a Christmas tree, and my favorite: a really convincing Buddy Elf. The costumes and general Christmas cheer made for a really fun race atmosphere.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS: Running back from the turnaround point and seeing a huge red wave of Santas running was just fantastic. Trying to eat a cookie while maintaining a 9:00/mile pace was a new challenge for me. Free bacon at the end of the race was pretty cool too.

WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS RACE TO: This is an event for runners and nonrunners alike. There were plenty of walkers in this race, and there was absolutely no pressure to go out fast or even run at all (although you certainly could if you wanted to). I think this would be a really fun race to get a group of friends together for - runners and nonrunners alike - to go do before heading out to a nice brunch. It would make for a really fun, memorable pre-holiday get-together.

In all, this was a fun race experience. It was well-organized and offered great race swag. This isn't a race for a PR - this is a race to run just to have some holiday themed fun.

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(2015)
"Great, small-town Turkey Trot"
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I love big races. I love the excitement of a big expo, the roar of a crowd, the crush of people lining up in corrals - those are great races. But sometimes it is fun to do a small-town race and the Pewaukee Turkey Trot is a great Thanksgiving Day Race.

The race is a 5K run through residential areas of Pewaukee around Nettesheim Park. If you aren't familiar with Pewaukee, give yourself some extra time to find the park. Both Google Maps and Waze failed me and I ended up getting my bib five minutes before the race started because it took me forever to locate the race. But that was my own poor planning, and the fact that I could easily get my bib, sign my waiver, pin my bib and run my race swag back to my car and still make it to the start on time speaks well of how the race was organized.

I'm usually not a huge fan of race shirts - I have a million of them - but this is easily the cutest race shirt I have ever received. It is a brown t-shirt with a big, cartoony face of a turkey on it, and it says "Pewaukee Turkey Trot" on the front. The back is blank -not littered with sponsor logos or anything else. It is really cute - well done, Pewaukee.

The race route was surprisingly hilly. It begins with a nice downhill but there were some pretty big uphills along the way too, including one near the finish. It was a nice challenge.

There are plenty of Turkey Trots and Thanksgiving-themed races to choose from, but the Pewaukee Turkey Trot is going to be my go-to Thanksgiving race for a number of reasons. First, it was really inexpensive. Second, it started at 7:30 a.m. So many Turkey Trots start at 9 or 10, and if you are planning on guests for Thanksgiving, a later race just doesn't work out. Kudos to Pewaukee for accommodating those of us with busy days.

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(2015)
"Great inaugural marathon!"
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Running the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon was an absolute pleasure. I was stoked about finally having a race that really offers a true tour of Milwaukee. Rock N Sole and Brewers offer nice city views,but they are each have their limits. This race offered the best of both and a little more.

The marathoners and half marathoners run together at the start, up the lakefront, and through the earlier part of the city streets. The half marathoners depart on the Marquette Campus while the marathoners carry on into the city. I thought I knew all the best running routes in Milwaukee but I definitely found a few more at this race.

The one complaint I have is that there were no gels available on the course until Mile 19. That's way too long to wait. Of course, the race's Facebook page posted updates so runners would be aware of this, but it seems like they could have placed gels at an earlier station as well. There were certainly plenty of aid stations along the way.

Overall, a fun Milwaukee race. I look forward to trying the half marathon next year as I heard wonderful things about that course as well.

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(2015)
"Perfect First Ultramarathon"
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The North Face Endurance Challenge was my first ultra, and it was an ideal first step into the world of ultrarunning. The terrain was beautiful and varied without being too difficult. There were plenty of roller coaster hills and beautiful Wisconsin Ice Age Trail scenery to keep things interesting. The course was very well marked - I never once had a question that I was on the right track.

I really liked how the race start times were staggered. Even though an injury put me close to the back of the 50K runners after mile 14, I never felt alone in the woods because the marathon, which started after the 50K, had plenty of runners keeping me company.

The aid stations were friendly, fun, and incredibly well-stocked. I would have loved just one more aid station, but I can't complain about the six that were on the 50K course.

This is a race that's going on my calendar next year. I had a wonderful time on a beautiful course.

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