Race Review: Samson Stomp n Romp 5K

It’s a little late but here it is, my review of the Samson Stomp n Romp 5K held at the Milwaukee County Zoo on January 19, 2020.

What can I say about another year of running the Milwaukee County Zoo’s Samson Stomp n Romp 5K? Well, this was the 40th year of the event and it remains one of the most popular events at the zoo even though it takes place in January, in Wisconsin. This year provided some challenges though and that’s why I will review it again. I am giving the race an overall grade of five stars for overcoming weather and construction challenges while still putting on a fun event for adults and kids.

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T-shirt/SWAG: The race always does a long sleeve t-shirt and while that may not seem exciting, this year’s version had a nice touch for the 40 year anniversary. On the back were the temperatures for the every year of the race leading up to this year. Just really cool and fascinating to see how many years have been in single digits and how many were above 30 degrees (not many, lol).

Aid Stations: There is only one station and it always has water but I have to give it at least three stars because the volunteers are out there suffering in the cold to hand out that water.

Course Scenery: Five stars, of course! You get to run through the zoo, checking out the polar bear, elk, macaques, penguins and more. You get to listen to the sea lions barking from their enclosure. And this year, due to construction making a larger hippo exhibit, the course had to be altered and it was a welcome change in my opinion. I loved that the course provided a new way to traverse the race. Great job working with what they had to work with.

Expo Quality: Not really an expo, per se. Just a packet pickup at the zoo. But the staff on hand are nice and friendly and ready to answer any and all questions you may have. Or just banter with you about how cold it will be on race morning, haha.

Elevation Difficulty: There was still the tough incline that the race always has but where it once was before you passed the first mile, not it was in between the 2nd and 3rd mile, so a little more challenging at the point in the race. There were also the same two steep declines that the course always has but, similar to the incline, their location in the race was not the same as year’s past.

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Parking: Your bib and race confirmation is your parking pass into the zoo. Easy access and easy departure. No problems.

Race Management: They did a phenomenal job with this race. The overcoming of the construction to create a fun course that still reached the right distance was impressive. But even more impressive was that the city and zoo were hit with a nasty ice and snow storm a day before and the zoo had the entire course cleared off of both. There were very few spots that had ice that was dangerous and there was zero snow on the course itself. Bravo again for the zoo’s maintenance staff for having a safe event. Packet pickup was smooth. And the post race party/spread was just as nice as always. Apples, Gatorade, water, coffee, granola bars, strawberry milk, blueberry milk, a restaurant’s homemade tomato soup and another restaurant’s chicken and rice sample dish were all part of the post race spread that led to the handing out of awards. And, no, I didn’t age place this year. There’s always next year though….

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Happy running!

2019 Samson Stomp n Romp 5K Review: Better Late than Never

Another year of running the Samson Stomp n Romp 5K and another year where Mother Nature decided to show off who’s the boss in winter time. Two weeks prior to this race, the temperatures were in the 40s and there was sunshine. The morning before the race, there was a snow storm that brought in 7 inches of snow and then a freeze blew into the area. Race start temperatures? 3 degrees. With a breeze. Ugh!!

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This year I had to give the race management a five star rating. Why? Sure, there were plenty of reminders to sign up for the race via e-mail and all social media channels as well as the necessary information for packet pickup. But more importantly, the zoo grounds crew staff had this course almost spotless for a hug stretch of it. If I didn’t live nearby, I wouldn’t have guessed that it had snowed so much the day before. Amazing work! Also, with your registration you received free parking and free access to the zoo for the day, so go run and then have some fun!
I give five stars to the aid stations not because I needed to use it, but, because they were out there, offering water and cheering runners on. That is some incredible volunteer work. Standing, not running, around and cheering. Brave souls to do that in three degree weather.
The swag was the customary t-shirt that they have every year but this year it was a bit underwhelming with a weak front design and nothing on the back. The gorilla overall and age-place awards are cool (my yet to be achieved goal) but not everyone gets one of those so I can’t include that in my opinion of the swag.
Nothing for the expo because there isn’t one; just packet pickup.

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The course scenery was fun as usual but was a little sparse compared to normal. I imagine the ice cold temps kept some of the animals inside, but there were still enough of them outside to look at while running by. Also, this course, for just being a 5K, always challenges me with the various elevation changes from going up to down and then the finish which goes uphill as well. A challenge that is always fun to take on.

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All in all, it was another chilly Samson Stomp but I will crazily be back next year, I am sure. I mean, I need another chance to get one of those gorilla trophies!

2018 Samson Stomp n Romp

Another year has arrived and with it another Milwaukee County Zoo Samson Stomp n Romp 5K, an annual race that helps support the zoo and its conservation efforts. I love the cause for this race (I’m a big animal person and love zoos that don’t just show off animals but do other things to protect and help them) and I love that you get to run through the zoo for the course. What I don’t love is how the weather always manages to stick it to ya for race day. Yeah, I know, it’s January and it should be expected, but, this year was just an unfair tease. The Thursday before the race it was 55 degrees outside. Race day that Sunday, small reality check as the start time temp was 8 degrees. Like I said, not fair. But, at least the course was clear (thanks to that warm weather) and there was no snow or ice.

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I went into the race this year hopeful (but also realistic) that I would place in my age group so I could win a sweet gorilla trophy but this wasn’t to be the year. I just haven’t hit a point in my training yet where I can compete with some of the speed guys out there. I was still around 4+ minutes off from being able to place. It’s frustrating but I am hopeful that I will hit that mark at some point; it is a goal to get one of those trophies, no matter how silly it may seem. And my mark, 23:20, was nothing to scoff at and for me, is pretty good.

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As for the race itself, well, it was cold. A lot of heavy breathing with that sharp cold air hitting the lungs and your breath puffing out into the air like you’re watching an old NFL Films game recap. Like I said, you get to run through the zoo and there are plenty of animals to view/look at as you run by. Noticeable to me this year were the penguins, polar bear, seals, caribou, tiger, camels and Japanese macques on their special island. I love getting to see the animals as I run by. I can only imagine they are wondering what the hell we are doing out there in the freezing temperatures. The course starts and finishes in the same place, so what is a downhill sprint to start the race is an uphill climb for the end, something that I always grimace at when I round the corner heading towards it. After you finish, you head to the zoo welcome center and enjoy some water or Gatorade, granola bars, coffee and yogurt bites. There is no medal for this race but that’s also how the zoo is able to put all the money from registration towards the animals.

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You do get a long-sleeve shirt though, so there’s that 🙂 And it’s a quality cotton shirt as well which can be saved for years or gathered up and made into a runner’s quilt.

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If you have the chance to run this race, a simple 5K, I recommend that you do. It’s fun. It’s for a good cause. And you make new friends…all grousing about the cold, haha.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I’d love to answer or banter with you!

Happy running!