Latest reviews by Cass Gunderson

(2018)
"Abominable Snow (and sometimes Mud) Race."
Overall
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Course Scenery
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As far as obstacle courses go, this one was definitely unique! It's a race designed for the snow, and balances between being a difficult course that runners can challenge themselves on while being approachable for first time obstacle course racers.

Let's start with the Pros:
+ Fun distance! I'm not sure what the total amount of distance was, but I want to say around 5-6 miles. I like that it's more than a 5K
+ Unique course - the course is on the ski mountain area of the Grand Geneva resort, and they utilize the terrain well (and there's almost always guaranteed to be snow, since they can make it!)
+ Over 20 obstacles
+ Great swag (shirt + beanie + medal)
+ Good post-race brews from a local brewery (with options)
+ Free pictures! Always a plus.
+ Virtual goodie bag (I love when races do this; I hate getting so many flyers that are going to waste, and the deals are actually pretty good)
+ People who do obstacle course races are usually a good crowd of people to be around, and this race was no exception. Everyone is generally very positive, friendly, and helpful.
+ Similar to a Tough Mudder (in a lot of ways), it's a team mentality
+ A good combination of strength & endurance challenges
+ Most obstacle races run into the challenge of racers bunching up, which causes long waits for obstacles. We ran into that a little bit, but not too much
+ Super fun inner tube slide down the mountain; would consider doing this race again just for that finish!
+ Several heat times to choose from, in morning & afternoon. For an additional $25, you can do unlimited laps of the course (not for the faint of heart)
+ Not a timed race by nature (obstacle course races rarely are), but the option to do so

Cons:
- Specific to this race weekend, it was unexpectedly warm and the course was a total muddy mess (nothing that management really could have done here)
- The parking and shuttle situation is a little crazy. The parking lot is massive (it's actually on a small airport) and is $10, and there's one (maybe two) shuttles getting people to and from the event. We waited in long lines for a shuttle to take us 0.6 miles; if we knew it was so close in the first place, we probably would have jogged over.
- As with all obstacle course races, I do get a little concerned for safety. People who sign up for these races (should) know what they are getting themselves into, but some of the obstacles (especially in the slippery January mud and ice combination) seemed a little dicey. I aired on the side of caution, but I wonder how many people suffered some (hopefully minor) injuries.

Overall, it was a really fun race. If you're into obstacle course races, doing one on a mountain in Wisconsin in January is a really unique take and I'd recommend it.

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(2016)
"Great race, needs a few improvements"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Overall, a great race in a different city (I'm from Chicago, so it gets old running the same routes!)

Pros:
+ Easy parking/access
+ I did race day packet pickup and it was seamless
+ Nice route throughout the city and along the lakefront path to finish
+ Great aid stations/lots of volunteers
+ Love long sleeve shirt swag!
+ Good amount of pacers and pacing groups, even/especially for a smaller race
+ Fun post-race atmosphere and set-up!

Cons:
- Race was delayed (but only 10-15 minutes)
- Need a few more porta-pottys at the start/finish! Lines were pretty awful
- I didn't even notice until the post-race e-mail, but the mile markers were wrong(!)

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(2016)
"First 50K, great race experience!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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I'm normally a road racer and I've never attempted a 50K before, so this race was something totally different for me and I loved it. Lots of rolling hills on the course but nothing I was completely unprepared for (though training for hills in Chicago is quite a feat in itself) - the scenery definitely helped distract me from the pain :)

Pros:
+ Very scenic, even though it's not by the ocean/mountains. I really thought most of the race was beautiful
+ Really awesome volunteers make parking/aid stations/packet pickup a breeze
+ Lots of photographers on the course
+ Trail runs = super casual and fun atmosphere.
+ Aid stations every 5-6 miles with delicious snacks (chips, crackers, potatoes, skittles, m&ms, soda, Tailwind, water, broth, pb&j sammies, gu)
+ Delicious post-race meal & beer! BBQ sandwiches, fruit, potato salad, soup - all provided with entry!
+ Fire pits for pre-race (if it's cold) and post-race
+ Quick and easy start (all the racers crossed the start line within the first 2 minutes, no long wait to start or long waves)
+ Small enough race that the porta potty situation remains pretty clean & easy to access before the race start
+ Parking is only a couple of bucks for spectators and free for racers.
+ Not super technical. I did wear trail shoes (it seemed most people did) and there were some loose rock/sand/grasses/single track areas, but nothing too crazy.

Cons:
- A little tricky to navigate your way there, but once you get there it's a small enough race that it is very easy to figure out where to go/park.
- I really wish there were mile markers on the course. There are occasional flags and arrows throughout so I feel like mile markers would be easy enough to add in during set-up (I'm just salty because my Garmin was 2 MILES OFF! And finding out I had 3.8 miles to finish instead of 2 at the last aid station was heartbreaking)

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(2016)
"Best 10K in Chicago"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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If you went to a Big 10 school (or are a huge Big 10 fan) and live in Chicago, this 10K is a must. It's GREAT for new runners and avid runners alike, and brings the BEST post-race party I have ever experienced (read: people actually STAY and drink beer and hang out/play games afterwards, not just grab a beer, drink half of it and head home).

Pros:
+ New course this year, I like it a lot better than the old one as it goes through more of downtown and starts and ends in the park (easier to get to than Soldier Field)
+ Great swag
+ 312 beer! Always a win
+ Such a great theme. People get so into it! Mascots are there, cheerleaders are there, there are tents for each school, etc
+ Easy packet pick-up
+ Seamless gear check
+ Swag is different for each school, which is great and makes me actually want to use it later at games/tailgates/etc! As an alumna, I love getting more Illini athletic gear and representing my school
+ Fun games afterwards like bags, football-themed workouts and a gigantic version of beer pong
+ Well-managed; all of the information you need is available to you and sent in reminder e-mails before race day
+ Free sausages! Like, a straight up lunch meal's worth served on a bun. I forgot to grab it this year and I am still upset with myself. I'm not crying, you're crying.
+ Great music, enthusiastic turnout, great race topped off with perfect weather. Really couldn't ask for much more.

Cons:
- The course remains pretty crowded throughout and the last half is on the lakefront path where you can probably only fit 3 people wide. Could maybe make this better through longer time between waves
- Too many Iowa fans... just kidding ;)

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(2016)
"Madison Half & Twilight Series review"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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Fun little runcation on Memorial Day weekend! I had never been to Madison but I know it is home to some pretty lakes, views, craft brews and ...hills. I convinced my boyfriend to run this 13.1 with me, and after the hill in the first mile (and the really steep hill around mile 10 - rude!), I am kinda glad we ran it slowly and I got to relax in the pace we were running in and enjoy some of the scenery.

Pros:
+ free race photos! We had a blast whenever we saw someone with a camera.
+ easy breezy expo - tiny and efficient.
+ name on your race bib and gender specific t-shirt for your swag
+ good scenery for the race. The race started and finished downtown by the Capital and was surrounded by good places to stop in for a bite to eat or a drink afterwards. A bulk of the last few miles are in a nature preserve - which some people weren't a fan of because it was a little hilly, but I appreciated the shade
+ beer at the finish line is ALWAYS a plus. Same goes for chocolate milk. Double points.
+ there was legit lunch, like a brown paper bag with a sandwich, chips and a cookie whhhhhat! I'm a sucker for free food, and I was pretty happy about it

Cons:
- no day-of packet pick up
- pay to park for the expo, but it was only a flat fee of $5, which isn't too bad. As others have mentioned, it was a little hard to navigate as an out-of-towner
- I was hoping for better beer at the finish line because... Wisconsin. Right?

Overall, I definitely recommend this race. It might not be the half you'll PR (in the summer heat and with some hills) but it is a well-run race in a neat city. You can read more about this race in my blog post here: http://asweatlife.com/2016/06/madison-half-marathon-recap-enjoying-race/

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