“Disclaimer: I received entry into The North Face Endurance Challenge Series to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
Saturday, October 3, 2015. Cloudy 50 degrees, windy. 7 am. Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin.
Saturday Races: 50 mile, 50k, Marathon, Marathon Relay, kids run. Sunday Races: Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, Kids 1k run. I ran the 50k and will be reviewing the events leading up to the race, the race, and post race.
Registration: This was available for quite a while online. Price started at $80 and increased to $115 on race day. The race was capped, and if it wasn’t sold out you could register on race day. You could transfer your registration to another distance. Included with registration was a bib with timing chip, a short sleeve gender specific tech shirt, finisher’s medal, post race hot food and a post race beer.
I registered with 183 days before the race, online. The race never capped and there was a tent with registration on site, shirts were still available, but may have to wait until end of race to claim, as they printed them on site. The shirts are nice tech shirts, but not race specific, so if you ran the 5k you got the same as the 50 mile.
Expo/ Packet Pick up: There was no expo. Instead participants were given a virtual race bag, and encouraged to pick up their bibs and shirts at three different area North Face Stores the Thursday and Friday before the race. To pick up your packet you had to have an ID, and you could pick up someone else’s with a copy of their ID. The store closest to the race (Brookfield, WI) had a speaker event on Friday night with North Face Athletes and the Race Director.
A group of us BibRave Pros attended the Speaker Event. There was standing room only, Each race has a different set of speakers, we were treated to Dean Karnazes, Dylan Bowman & Timothy Olson and a member of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Sarah; along with Race Director Nick Moore. Each was given a different question, and we were told about the course. Then it was opened to questions from the audience. Followed up by pictures or book signings.
I do like the virtual race bag, no paper waste, however this bag I had no use for, I think there was one race discount and the rest advertisements. The 3 location event pickup was easy, you grabbed a bib in order of pick up and it was assigned to your name in a computer.
*For this event I had met up with fellow pros Laura, Jeremy, Heather, and Kim. We said our goodbyes to Kim (she was doing real work) and all went out to dinner. I needed something bland, yet carbo-licious for a 50k. Laura (a local) suggested Marty’s Pizza. What a fun time! I ordered my plain pasta and the rest split a pizza. I’ve said it before but running or meeting running friends at a race is the best. We then said goodbye to Laura, and headed to our plush accommodations at a local hotel, as Jeremy and I were running the next day.*
Pre-Race: The race start/finish was at a Park. Parking was available, but had to pass through the park entrance and get a piece of paper for free parking. Closer parking was first come, first served. Car pooling was encouraged. There were park bathrooms (real) and many port-o-potties. There was no security or law enforcement that I saw. The area had tents with many stations: packet pickup / registration, bag drop, giveaway tents, beer tents, medical tents, food tents. In the center there were fire pits as it was a bit cool. Each day there were multiple races, and they all had different start times, with waves. The waves were to just get people to start so they weren’t in a clump as most running areas weren’t that wide. The announcer kept his high energy throughout the entire event, announcing each start and what was happening.
When I started there was no National Anthem, but it could have been played before the very first event.
*As I mentioned, I was surround by friends at this event. Jeremy wasn’t starting his race (marathon relay with Julia and Dylan) until 10 am, and Heather wasn’t even running that day, however they woke up early, even ordered a box of coffee, and went to the race start with me. We were at the nearest hotel, about 12 miles away, we made the mistake of just glancing at the race map on the website and driving to the wrong location, after a remembering there was a not about parking, we redirected to that address. We met up with fellow pro Brad, before the race too, he would be running the 50k as well.*
Race/Course: All courses were on the trails through the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
- Trail – single track, horse trail, rocks, grass, dirt, sand
- Hilly – nothing too steep, but overall rolling hills
- Aid Stations – 6 stops on the course, plus the finish. Chips, pretzels, potatoes, salt, oranges, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, m & m’s, skittles, water, clif shots, clif energy drink. Medical personnel. Signs for how far the next stop was. Energetic volunteers. Had to shout bib number to person keeping track of runners.
- Chip timing – there were no timing mats on course, but a system was in place to have updates sent via text, facebook and twitter
- Spectators – only a few spots to view runners on the course. If you were doing the 50 mile, your crew was allowed on course at spots. The few spectators (volunteers) were very friendly with lots of pep.
- Photographers – the were on the course in a few spots, post race photos were available for purchase the next day online.
- Course Markings – there were no mile markers. The course was marked with plastic ribbon, the ribbon in the same color of your bib was the course you were to follow. Any tricky spots on course there was a volunteer directing traffic.
- Bathroom – there was a port-o-potty at each aid station.
- Scenery – nice scenic trail, views of forest and prairie, some parts of course are on the Ice Age Trail.
- There was a 9 hour time limit for the 50k
I was setting out for 50k redemption. If you remembered I attempted my first 50k back in March, and there were just a handful of problems. I trained and was ready to conquer this distance. I ran with a hydration vest, packed with water, snacks and an am radio.
I started the race with Brad. It had been a while since he ran 50k, but he started strong and soon pulled ahead. I was just happy to finally be doing this.
From the start, I walked the hills, and just really tried to keep a good pace. However my pace was all over the board. There were times I was on the course alone, where I had to question if I was on the right path, always checking for the ribbons. Then there were spots there were other runners. The other runners were all so friendly, everyone that passed (yes I got passed a lot) said good job or keep it up.
When I was 4 hours in, it was time…time for some Hawkeye football. Iowa was playing in nearby Madison, and Josh was at the game. (Tracking via updates and Heather) I was advised about some stations to try, I found a good one and put in one ear bud. It was hard to listen to the Wisconsin call of the game, but I had a new push for the race. I was at mile 18 when the ball was kicked into play. It was at this moment I knew I would be able to finish this race.
I carried on, I had tough moments, but those usually came just as I was getting ready to hit an aid station. I didn’t care for the electrolyte drink provided, and I only carried water, it could have been my problem. I made sure to eat a banana and get some salt, I felt better after each stop.
The sections after mile 20 were really tough, seemed like the terrain started to roll more, and there was sand. I was even passed/startled by 2 horses that came up behind me, they passed but to only stop and do some circle manuevers ahead of me, which then I had to pass them, kinda made me nervous. There were also some hunters out on the trails, I was glad I was dressed in orange.
Half time of the game came and went, and I tried to do math with game time and miles left, as to when I would finish and the game would finish. The game was close, a classic B1G game, lots of defense, with some fumbles and interceptions thrown in.
Wisconsin had the ball, driving and they made it to the one yard line and turned it over, phew…still some time left, Iowa was leading 10-6. Iowa had the ball back, but didn’t do anything, so Wisconsin gets the ball back with around 3 minutes to go. I think I was at the last Aid Station at this point. They were not amused by the score, lol.
After this stop, Mark from the Pleasant Creek Trail run passes me, he was doing the 50 miler…yep passed by a 50 miler. We talked a bit…all while paying attention to the game. He motored ahead, I took my time listening to the game. I didn’t want to finish too early, or push to hard with a marathon coming up.
With the finish in sight, Wisconsin had a 4 and 2, they couldn’t convert. Iowa got the ball back, still leading 10-6… I crossed the finish line at the same time. I was handed a bottle of water and a finisher’s medal. There were 40 seconds left. I stood near the finish, before I even hit the food and listened to the Hawkeyes Buck the Badgers in Mad-town. Go Hawks!
At this time Julia, Dylan and Jeremy had finished their relay and were waiting with Brad (who had already finished) with Heather. They stared at me while I stood listening to my AM radio. After it was over I heard some cheers from them, and proceeded through the finish.
Post Race/Finish: Finisher’s were handed a bottle of water and a finisher’s medal, the chute took a turn to the finisher’s food. When it was stocked there were chips, clif bars, bananas, oranges, & almonds. There was catered hot food for 50 milers, 50k runners and marathon runners; it was a hot sandwich (turkey, veggie burger, pork) chili, fruit, potatoes, cookie, soda. If you ran a shorter distance the food was $12.
Awards were announced, and prizes were given. There was a beer area, ID’s were checked and runners could get a free beer with their bib. Sierra Nevada had 3 choices, on draft. If you recycled your water bottle, you could get a free pair of Repreve socks. There was a tent for post race massage and chiropractor. The North Face had a rolling station and giveaways. Participants and friends could hang out as they wanted.
I talked with an AG award winner, wasn’t impressed with the prize, no actual hardware. (Josh won his AG in the 10k the next day, and received a sticker and hoo-rag head wrap) The lack of food for all participants seemed tacky. The finisher’s medal was all the same, just the ribbon was different. (Heather’s 10k ribbon didn’t have the date or location on it)
Overall: For a longer distance race, great organization, fair trails, great for first timers, this race is worth it. The generic shirts and medals aren’t enough to keep me away from doing it again. Or maybe I was clouded in my opinion as I got to hang out with friends all weekend.
As I said the whole weekend I was able to hang out with friends. Those still in town, Josh and T went out for dinner at a local brewery. We had a fun time, even though Josh found some strange piece of metal in his food. Must have been the great day of racing, beer and Hawkeye victory. Jeremy was also introduced to cheese curds.
The event had 2 days of racing, on the Sunday, Heather, Josh, Laura, and Cass were running and I was able to cheer for them. It was a lot of fun seeing them all go out with a smile on their face, and finishing with a smile on their face. Once they were out I took advantage of the massage tent. We got to hang out some more after the race, visited Kim at the North Face tent again…then had to say our goodbyes.
Or did we…Heather wasn’t in a big hurry, so we had one more hurrah at the Coyote Canyon Salon & Grille in Eagle, WI.
So if you made it to this point, run at least one event with a group of friends. Hang out with them, enjoy dinner together and take lots of pictures. Life is short, have a fun time and make all the memories!
On to the next adventure, the Chicago Marathon.
Make sure to check out my review on Bibrave.com (the other pros will have their thoughts too)