Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Graduated. Not much happened last year in running but so ready for this year


As I told my friend and race director Michele Hartwig (Ornery Mule Racing) runners at the Kettle Moraine 100 trail race in Wisconsin ran almost as many miles in one day as I did in all of 2019.

I did work or volunteer at a number of events such as Shamrock Shuffle, Chicago Marathon, Wisconsin Marathon, Brydsong 10k/5k, Ice Age Trail 50, Kettle Moraine 100, DPRT races to name a few. I ran just one race and it was more of a hike at the Terra Sans Pave 5 mile put on by my good friends Bill and Michelle Thom (RunRace). I sadly did not go to Javelina Jundred 100 in 2019. My friend Steve who I normally crew and pace did the Arizona Ironman instead but he will be running Javelina in 2020 as will Matt Mundy and Jeni Goodwin.

So what did I do in 2019: In February I started the last year of a BA in Business Management at Benedictine University in Lisle IL along with 21 other students in a cohort for a full year finishing the last class at the end of February 2020. I am proud to say I am graduating with a 4.0 GPA and the highest honour they can give. I though will not be walking during the graduation ceremony as it is the same day as Ice Age Trail race and Hwy 12 aid station is calling again (year 8 I think)

This past weekend I did my first run in 3 months. It was short and slow but it was fun being out on the local bike trails (even if it was a paved path) and now I have a plan or goal to train for a trail half marathon and also to do one 20 mile pacing loop at Javelina this Halloween with Steve.

And as I have no college papers to write hopefully I have more time to write on this blog but please don't expect any scholarly research or APA style. Just Ian style.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Earth Day 50k trail race

Two days before the actual Earth Day Crystal Lake, a suburban in Chicagoland's northwest, held the annual Earth Day Trail Races. The MUDD runners group under direction of Ornery Mule Racing and race director Michele Hartwig have staged this race with distances of 50k, 15 miles and 5 miles for around 7 years. 

By Chicago area standards this is not an easy trail course due to the hilly terrain. It is a nice mix of single track and wider trails. Among the hills are sections of flat but one has to be careful to keep an eye on the surface.  Each loop is 5 miles long so those doing the 50k have to do six circuits of the course.
Photo by Debi Haas

I arrived early to volunteer at packet pick up. Many of the runners had picked up their supplies the night before but there was a steady flow of runners this morning. We had two tables set up divided by the three distances with a couple volunteers assigned to each distance. As the 50k was the biggest race they in fact covered one whole table. Runners supplied their name, the bib was pulled from the box, a nice reusable tote bag was given with a nice race shirt and other goodies and if they had ordered one a cool hat. There was also a supply of packets of wildflower seeds. Kim K was running the merchandise table where people could buy hats, buffs and sweat pants while they looked over medals and buckles for other Ornery Mule races. At the door was myself and Debi H guiding runners to the right race table line and answering questions. Race sponsor Running Depot had a table of display shoes and other running accessories set up. 

As the race started promptly at 8am Debi and I stepped outside to view the race start from a little distance. From where we were you could see the race started with a down hill. Yep a true dirt trail race which always seems to start up or down hill. Back inside we boxed everything up, loaded up a van and it was driven the short distance to the finish line.

The start finish line area was a hive of activity and set up. Beside the finisher arch and chute was tents for timing, a well stocked aid station and a few sponsor pop up tents. In the pavilion a grill was fired up to provide runners with food. Kim ran the merchandise table again while Debi and I manned the finishers awards. 

What race gives hand painted finishers medals from reused wood? Only Earth Day Trail Races. As each runner finished their race distance they got to choose whatever finisher medal they wanted. All had an Earth Day theme. Overall and age group awards were also made out of wood and really nice looking. 
     Photo by Debi Haas  

It was a joy to watch all the runners conquering the loop course as they came through the start/finish line area some heading out for another loop others done for the day. Sadly I had to leave before the 50k winners finished but did see the 15 miler winners. 

It was definitely a fun morning hanging out with Ed, Michele, Debi and Kim plus many others including Brandi who is such an inspiring ultra spirit. When I got home while working on some college papers I followed the Facebook postings seeing who had finished. 

Ornery Mule Racing has a few more races in next two months. The Galena Trail Sky race in May and then in June they put on the famous Kettle Moraine 100. Hennipen 100 follows in October with plans for a couple other possible trail events in the works

Photo from Kim's collection. Debi, myself and Kim   

The hat in my volunteer tote. Photo by Art R

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ornery Mule Racing

My good friend Michele Hartwig hosts ultra running events via her project Ornery Mule Racing.  


Currently there are five events with distances from 5k to 100 mile and a timed event.

All are trail races from smooth bike cinder type trails to rugged trails of single track and hills and an Illinois version of a Sky run. All are well put on, with great volunteers, awesome SWAG and finisher mementos (medals, buckles etc) plus a great time. 

Come out and join the fun at one of these events.

Frozen Gnome Jan 12th. Crystal Lake IL  10k 50k  http://www.runfrozengnome.com/
Earth Day April 20th. Crystal Lake IL 5mi 15m 50k http://www.earthdaytrailrace.com/
Galena Sky trail race May 18th. Galena IL 4 hour 8 hour https://www.galenaskytrailrace.com/
Kettle Moraine June 1st/2nd La Grange WI100mi 100km 38mi 50k  https://www.kettlemoraine100.com/
Hennipen Hundred October 5th/6th Sterling IL 100mi 50mi http://www.hennepinhundred.com/

Come out to one or all of these events and see what it is all about. Registration is open for all besides Kettle Moraine which opens January 1st. Time to get your trail on

I intend to be at most of these events. See you there. 

(Logos owned by Ornery Mule Racing and the events)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Javelina adventure

The closest forest preserve to my home with dirt, grass and limestone trails is McDowell in Naperville. It is around 3 miles from home and has a couple good loops plus links to other trail systems. Being close to home I try and run it often as I can.

One of my favourite ultras is the Javelina Jundred held at McDowell near Fountain Hills in Arizona. It is around 1700 miles from home but I have been to the race 5 times to crew and sometimes pace my friend Steve Ochoa. Unlike like McDowell in Naperville this is a desert trail with miles off wide and narrow desert trails that range from smooth to sandy to rocky. Instead of trees there are cacti. And to my knowledge there is not river through it.

The wildlife is different. One has deer, coyote, egrets, herons, red tailed hawks, frogs, rabbits, turtles, squirrels and non venomous snakes. The other apparently has rattlesnakes, horses, cows, javelinas,  tarantulas, ravens, tortoises and wild hares. First was Naperville and I see all those. In Arizona I have only seen a hare!!

This was my fifth trip to Javelina. Over the years I have seen it grow from a small race to a big party. The race had to move a few miles to a new staging area three years ago changing the loop used. When I was there first time it was five 15 miles plus a small 9 miler at the end. Now it is five 20 mile loops, actually a 22 mile loop then four 19.5 loops. The new loop actually uses the same trails as the old loop but adds some newer trails in the mix.

Steve has three 100 mile finishes and a 100km finish. Last year he had to DNF after a hot race so was back to avenge that finish by doing the 100k again. Joining the run was Matt from LA. In 2008 and 2009 Steve, Matt and I crewed for Kelvin Marshal at Badwater 135 in Death Valley. Although I have seen Steve over the years this was first time since 2009 I had seen Matt although we had chatted via email over that time. It was almost like having the Badwater crew back again less Steve Hanes.

Steve, I and Matt (one lop to go for the lads)

I flew in from Chicago on Thursday and Steve picked me up at the airport. He had an Ironman Arizona captain's meeting to attend that evening so being the event manager I am I was excited to attend. Was an interesting meeting hearing what they would all be doing at the race in mid November. The car drive from Steve's house to Javelina HQ takes us along the Ironman bike course. Sat in front of us at the meeting was another guy named Steve who was also doing Javelina. We actually ran into him at JJ on set up day.  

At Steve's house his wife Toni had made us an awesome meal, curried veggies over white rice. Unlike last year we would spend two nights at the preserve, around 3 miles from race HQ in Steve's new RV. I got a tour of the home on wheels. Perfect for ultra races.

Bright and early on the Friday we got up early. Loaded a few last things into an already packed SUV to drive to Fountain Hills to meet up with my friend Mike who was a recent transplant to the area. Over the years I have worked many races with Mike from 5ks to marathons. He was also a runner but had never been to an ultra. He was very keen to help out including with set up at race HQ. Like last year we got a great spot for the canopy right by the parade track and then put up a tent right behind it. With Mike's help we was done very quickly. Thanks Mike. 

We hung around HQ for a little while chatting to other ultra runners until Matt and his wife Francine got in from LA then took the long drive to the race packet pick up. It was packed with runners, crew and friends but both runners got their stuff quickly giving us time to explore the vendors and sales. Time for a late breakfast. Mike had some errands to do but would be back the next day to watch the race for a few hours.

A trip to the grocery store for supplies then time to pack up my bag for the next two days and we all headed to the preserve. RV, SUV and rental car. The RV grounds had some great views of Four Peaks mountains that over looked the race trails. There was cacti everywhere. After dinner we sat around chatting about race then tales about Steve's old home in Clifton AZ. As the sun went down coyotes started to sing and then the stars came out. Having taken an astronomy class for a degree last year the skies now fascinate me. I laid back on a camp bench as Mars came into view, other stars started to shine and parts of the Milky Way came into view. The Moon then rose over Four Peaks before popping up high. I also caught a meteor screaming through the sky. What a sight.

Four Peaks as the sun set (behind camera)

After a surprising great nights sleep Toni drove us the 3 miles to race HQ. The 100 miler had already started and we saw them on the first trail section that paralleled the road. We lugged some bags and a cooler to the canopy where Matt and Francine were already waiting for us. Not long till the 100k start so we all headed up to the start ready for race time. Announcer and RD Jubilee was in fine form using the top of her van as an announcing stage.

Count down began and 275 runners headed around the parade track before turning onto the red trail single track. I'd see them in 4 to 5 hours.

Francine and I went back to the canopy to chat for a while and of course post photos to Facebook then she left for her nearby hotel while I got ready to hit the trails. Last year I did an out n back on the same trail but this time after heading out on the same trail I went through the Pemberton trailhead to where JJ used to be staged then took the red trail back in which is the first 2 miles of the race. This new to me section was really scenic and a great section to be on. The last 2/3 of a mile was more rugged and cut along a hill side. That last part I did last year in the dark when I ran out to meet Steve. Although I saw no animals on my 4.5 mile trek I did see a lot of birds and plenty of people either running, hiking and a few bikers. Definitely a great adventure playground. I could get used to these trails.          

Back at race HQ I hung out at the canopy, went for a coffee at the Gypsy Cafe and looked over the different vendors. It was amazing watching all the runners heading up the parade track to the start/finish and then head back out. At some point my Chicago friend Jeni came through. I ran/hiked with her back to her camp area where her parents were waiting. It was good to see them all again. Jeni's mother would be pacing her for a night loop. Once Jeni was ready I walked with her to the race aid station so she could refuel; water and food. Then Jeni started to feel woozy and dizzy. I got her to sit in the shade and ran to get her mother. We stayed with her for a little while, got her to drink a bottle of water. That really helped and she was ready to head out for loop two. I sadly did not see her again during the race but happy to report Jeni finished her second JJ and second 100 mile this year and in a PR. So proud of her. 

Not long after Mike came to the race site. Gave him a tour of race HQ which he was amazed at. So different than a 5k set up. Toni came down from the RV camp and Francine returned so we could all wait for Steve and Matt. Matt was first back followed by Steve. Both made sure they refueled fully and took a little rest time before heading back out.

Then it was beer time for Mike and I. Local Huss Brewing creates a special Javelina IPA each year for the race. It is not cheap at $5 a can but tasted really good. That brewery is one of Mike's local favourites. Mike stayed for a little longer before heading home. I think he enjoyed his first ultra. As he lives near by he hikes the trails in the area a lot and also does trail work with a local group.

Time for me to just rest and catch a nap or two. Francine was following Matt on his Garmin tracker so knew where he was and when to return. Before heading back she texted me "need anything from BK" "Vanilla shake and if they have it a veggie burger" Well both hit the spot, thanks Francine. 

Matt came in moving very well after 40+ miles, did the turn around and came to the canopy. He was dropping. His feet were killing him and he had blisters. Hmmmm, no you are not. Got him to sit and got some fluids in but he didn't want food. Some cooling was helping and then checking his feet he had one small side blister but they looked fine.  Toni, who is a nurse, popped the blister and patched it up. Deep down we all knew if Matt and Steve went out together on the last loop both would finish. Steve despite the normal ultra wear and tear was having a good smart and steady race. When he arrived he had a crowd of friends awaiting him. Like Matt we got him fueled up, feet cared for and ready for the next night loop and yes they headed out together leaving the friends to canopy party. Then I was on my own again to rest and nap and cheer runners on.

Stepping back a bit, just after sunset Patrick Reagan of Hoka won the 100 mile race for the second year. This time he ran much of the race alone winning by over 2 hours. Photo is after 3 loops I recall.

Matt and Steve's last loop was their slowest but given the heat of the day, the distance gone so far and Matt who had only ever done 50k plus was hurting after two loops this was to be expected. Francine and I were both following Matt via Garmin and therefore now Steve so we was ready when they hit the parade loop 61.75 miles done one .25 mile parade track to go. We joined them heading to the finish but cut out to try and catch photos of the glorious finish. Both finished in fine style and received their finishers buckles.  Congratulations Steve and Matt. Many photos ensured including climbing up on the finisher's podium.

Now it was time to head out for some sleep. Matt and Francine headed to their hotel while Toni, Steve and I headed back to the RV. In the morning after a great breakfast and coffee we went back to race HQ to pack up the canopy and tent catching the last few finishers get to their goals. So inspiring. Our camp was broken down in record time; guess we are pros at this after so many years.

All that was left was the drive back to Steve's house, unpack the RV and SUV, showers, food and a good cat nap.

Steve and Toni's cat Kuda

Just like last year and all the other years I had a great time at Javelina. I have watched this race grow to one of the largest USA ultras both in runner numbers and crew helping their runners. While it has a party atmosphere it is also laid back in parts and a great get together of ultra runner and fans. Some might think it would be boring to hang out at HQ but there are plenty of things to do if you make plans. I spent time with a trail run/hike of my own, walked around people watching and chatting to folks, cheered on the other runners, checked out the vendors and partook in some of the food and beverage vendors. HOKA even have a fun area set up. There was time to nap and listen to music plus Facebooking to prove I was there :-) Then of course looking after the runners. Ever year I hate leaving the race and also leaving Arizona. I really miss the desert, warmth and mountains. 

Big thanks to Steve and Toni for hosting me. Congrats to Steve and Matt for their 100k finishes. And also to my Chicago friend Jeni who PR'd the 100 miler 3 months after her last 100 mile race. It was great meeting Francine. Thanks to Mike for helping Friday and crewing on Saturday with me.        

I will be back.

Photos by Ian (me), Francine, Mike and Jeni's family. Javelina logo "owned by the race".

Websites of interest
https://aravaiparunning.com/network/javelinajundred/  race site
https://jenirunshappy.blogspot.com/ Jeni's site


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Terra Loopy San Avec Pave

Welcome to another Runrace production put on by the great RD team of Michelle and Bill Thom.

This team who are both ultra runners just love to put on races for the runners. They hold 50k ultra in two of the Palos Forest Preserve. Then there is their Chicago Full Moon 5k road race in Norwood Park to benefit MS. There is also the odd other races such as cross country events and even a winter ultra this past season.

September 8th was the 5th year for Terra San Pave I believe. Bill has designed this awesome 4k or 2.5mile loop that includes grass trails, dirt single track with roots, non-groomed limestone and more muddy dirt trails. Race distances to pick from are 1 loop (4k), 2 loops (8k), 4 loops (10 mile) and an 8 hour ultra where ultra fans run as many 4k loops in 8 hours. Race always as a unique T shirt and finishers get a nice year numbered pin.

I would be running the race for the second time although my third time there. In 2016 I volunteered at packet pick up then ran the 8k with my friend Penny. 2017 I had another event in the afternoon so volunteered again at packet pick up plus set up. This year I stepped up to 10 mile but also volunteered to hand out packets.

This race is really low key. Not many runners do it which is a suprise as it has so much potential to get a crowd (although the permit limits the race numbers). It is a cheap entry fee and the SWAG T is neat (as they are at all Runrace events). Everyone is so friendly. The race does clash with a few other local ultras so maybe moving it 2 weeks either side might work. Bill also does little PR besides his email list but I know many folks will post the race on their social media and blog sites. Spread the word people. Saying that the numbers signed up for the 8 hour ultra was a record.

Well this year the race got an entry from Mother Nature. The past week, has had been the case most this summer, we got a lot of rain. Many areas especially river basins areas got flooded and that was the case with the original Terra course. It crosses the Chicago River North Branch twice and use trails within the basin overflow areas. Although the water was a little down race day parts of the west part of the course were still flooded. Bill had to invent a new 4k loop all contained in 1/3 of the normal real estate. It meant that although we would get some dirt and gravel trails he would have to include a paved section (it had a gravel side to it) and a over extended parade grass loop.

This new course due to the pave and grass looping lanes section was challenging but Bill did an awesome job of getting exactly 4k course for us to use. Sure it was not the original fun course but at least we could race, run and hike.

My intention with this race was always to run it slow and include a lot of hiking. Currently training to pace my friend Steve at the Javelina 100 when I will do the last 20 miles with him, after he has ran 40 miles. I know Steve will be hiking some it and that uses different leg muscles than running. Saying that I need to train both.

After handing out the ultra packets for the 7.30am start ultra, next up was the 4k, 8k and 10 mile division that would start together. I got my packet and put my timing tag on my shoe to demo to others (ultra runners had an ankle strap timer) then close to race time got everything out of my car I would need. Waist pack with nutrition (and ID), water bottle in handheld carry, Clif Bar cap and running shoes.

New to me was the drink in my water bottle. They say never to use or do something new in a race. I broke that rule by using Tailwind for the first time. I had purchased some stick single packets at Peak Running in Downers Grove and wanted to test it. As this was more a training run with friends and an aid station plus I was back at race HQ each 2.5 loop if I decided to go with the different drink. I am lucky as I can "stomach" almost any race drinks. Not saying I like them all but rarely do I get issues except once when using the race supplied Cytomax at Powerman Duathlon. Tailwind was great. I used the lemon one and loved the taste. I do think one full stick was a little heavy for me so I diluted it after first loop and if I buy the pouch will use less mix which tends to be the case with most drink mixes I use.

So back to Terra. RD Bill said a few words when we took off over the grass heading north to the pave trail. Think that was a little over half a mile then we hooked into a gravel horse trail for a bit before returning to the pave. Nearing the backside of HQ we turned sharp right onto the old course (although we did this trail in opposite direction) and right away we could see the flooding on the part of the old course we would not be using.It looked bad. Apparently some horses went through and it is was around 2 feet deep. This part of dirt trail with rocks and erosion took us to Dempster St and onto the grass parade loop. And the tedious it came with. This was a mile of running in lanes Bill had created with coloured flagging basically going up and down to a certain turn point. At first it was a little confusing but we all figured it out and after a few loops a nicely trodden path was easy to follow. I guess this makes us all tougher runners by race end. Back to the start/finish, fuel up thanks to Paul at the water station then head out for another loop.

I did this 4 times. An ultra distance was 11 loops. Many did more.  Surprising the loop per my Garmin was exactly 2.5 miles although I think the parade loop made the Garmin a little crazy with all the ups and downs and by race end it read 10.2 miles.

I was happy to finish my longest run in a few years and although need to go longer at Javelina feel I am in a good place to get that loop with Steve.

Photo by Bill Thom 

Also doing Terra was my friend Jeni. She is returning to Javelina 100 again this year after her great run in the desert last year. Jeni recently finished Ohio's Burning River 100. Crewing and pacing Jeni will be her mother Kim who ran the Terra 10 miler. Kim and I along with runner Eileen ended up on a impromptu team and took 2nd place each winning a pint glass. My last Spotted Cow beer purchased after Ice Age Trail race tasted really good from it.

Jeni finishes another loop on her way to 8 hours success. Team Loopy (Kim, me, Eileen) with our pint glass trophies (Photo by Bill Thom)     

The race awarded finisher pins to all runners with the number of Terra's completed on them, I earned my 2nd year. There was pint glasses to all ultra runners, and medals went to overall winners going three deep in each division. RD Michelle provided some awesome deli sandwiches including veggie ones for those like me that partake in the veggie world. 

8 hour ultra runners with RD Bill (photo by Michelle)

I will be back in 2019. Hopefully the original course will be back but even if it is not it'll be a great time. Check out https://www.runrace.net/home.php for the Thom's other races and maybe I'll see you in Palos in November 


Friday, May 18, 2018

Ice Age Trail 50 mile

Just north of Chicagoland is one great expanse of forest preserves in Wisconsin known as the Kettle Moraines. It contains a variety of trail systems including parts of the legendary Ice Age Trail, Nordic trail, Emma Carlin/John Muir mountain bike trails among others. From home the trail head at Nordic is around 2 hours drive but well worth the journey

I have only ran one race up there; the North Face Endurance trail race (half marathon) but it is home to a number of other trail races including as Ice Age Trail 50 (50 mile, 50k, half), Kettle Moraine (100 mile, 100k, 50k, 38k), prior mentioned North Face (distance 5k up to 50 mile) and a few other smaller events such TBunk, Crusty 50k.

Many years ago I started volunteering at the Kettle Moraine 100 race at the Tamarack aid station that was captained by the Gorskis, Mary and Dave. They managed that aid station for the full 36 hours of the race as it was used 4 times by the runners (miles 5, 55, 65, 95). I used to go up around lunch time and stay overnight until the station closed next day. Sometimes I got in a loop of the 9 mile Nordic trail myself. It was a blast. I had heard about the Ice Age Trail before I ever went to the Kettles but as Mary and many of the KM runners and volunteers had ran it I got to hear many a tale of the race so decided to sign up for a volunteer at Ice Age around 8 years ago.

I was assigned to aid station 5 which is at the Hwy 12 crossing that year. The runners hit it at miles 17 and 26. Captained by Mary and Craig Hopper they have been there for many many years and have volunteers that come back year after year. Despite being a newbie to their crew I was welcomed as the long lost son eight years ago and have been back to help them every year.

Setting up the aid station before the runners arrive

We arrive around 7am to set up a hydration and food station. Drinks are poured, Heed energy drink is mixed, bowls and containers are filled with MMs, cookies (biscuits for my UK friends), pickles, potato salted snacks,bananas while PBJ sandwiches are made. This year we was a well oiled machine and everything was set up in record time. We also set up signage to indicate race distances and how far to next aid stations and set up a runners cone lane into the aid station. There was also a crew that handled the road crossing at Hwy 12 which is a busy 50 mph road through the Kettles. Yes runners have to stop to cross the road, traffic is not stopped. And new was a recycle bin.

This year the weather was damp and chilly but thankfully no rain during the race. It was probably perfect for trail running. Reports were the trails given the rain the day before were in good shape with just some mud and slick spots but nothing too bad. Although I don't know the finish times compared to previous years guessing the course for most was a tad slower as the lead guys came through around 4 minutes later than expected but hey they had done 17 miles on narily trails

Down the hill into aid station at mile 17

View that greets the runners at mile 17 into aid station

As normal I was charged with checking in the runners at mile 17 as they came down the hill in the photo above. Means basically writing down their bib numbers and arrival time of the day. Fairly easy gig until a big group of 20 runners comes in together in single file down the trail. Luckily I had help from Chicago Lakefront 50 and 50/50 race director Pat Onines who acted as bib number spotter and called out the numbers so I could write them all down. Only missed a couple out the 380 that hit mile 17. We had another team logging mile 26. Once last runner came through mile 17 I helped at the aid station with food and hydration until Jose the sweep came through. Just before then we tore the aid station down and loaded the tables, canopy pop ups, trash, left over supplies into the race van.

Then it was over to the start/finish line. This races is so awesome to volunteers. They give a parking pass if you need one for the day (WI State Park), a great volunteer shirt based on the race shirt and we get the same meal as the runners. Happy to report the meal is great and with veggie option and beer. If you can't run one year volunteer. Flatlanders general captained an aid station, or join me at Hwy 12 or just email the contact on the race website. 

I saw so many inspiring runners. Saw so many friends running the 50 mile and got so many hugs and high fives. If you want to run a spring 50 miler Ice Age Trail comes highly recommended but you have to sign up fast as it sells out; and then train as it is not an easy course especially so soon after the winter. I will be back in 2019. See you soon     

Photos by Ian Stevens (me)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Javelina 100 2017

As readers of my blog know I have a certain love of trail running and ultra races. OK my 2 or 3 readers. A number of race stick out in my mind as must be at such as Western States 100, Badwater 135, Ice Age Trail 50 and Javelina 100. I have either crewed, paced, volunteered or vacationed at all of these. Just something about them.

Over Halloween weekend I headed back to Arizona to crew for my buddy Steve Ochoa at this year's Javelina. Steve who lives about 45 minutes from the race site has completed the 100 mile 3 times and done the 100km as well. I have crewed/paced him 3 previous years and was excited to be back again. This year Steve was doing "just" the 100km. Yes 62 miles.

I arrived in Phoenix on Thursday evening giving us some time to talk race tactics including setting up a camp site, planning a trip to the race expo, last minute shopping and then getting to race HQ bright and early Saturday morning.

Race HQ at McDowell Preserve just outside Fountain Hills opened Friday at 7am for runners to set up tents and pop up canopies for the race weekend. Pop ups are free but there is a charge for the tents. The RD creates specific areas for where tents and pop ups can be placed as well as areas for rental tents, RV parking and car camping parking. There was also a race lane marked out which was a giant loop through the city that sprung up, sort of a parade loop done out n back each loop. Steve's set up consisted of both a pop up at front and a tent behind. We had some comfy lounging chairs, tables, coolers and inside the tent a sleeping cot. It was a similar set up to last year although due to a change in the HQ layout we moved slightly down the hill but hit a perfect spot.

After set up we headed to Denny's for a pancake breakfast and a lot of coffee then drove over to the race expo to get Steve's race pack and check out the race vendors and store. I got a couple JJ shirts including a "Let's Get Loopy" crew shirt. Most the vendors were race sponsors including Hoka One One, Run Far, iRun and Huss Brewing amongst others.

There would be two other runners and crew sharing our site, Scott Jacaway and David Simon. Scott and his wife Caryn meet us at the expo. Steve and I had previously crewed Scott at Badwater 135 along with Caryn. We would not see David until race morning.   

Got to chat with the JJ race announcer Jubilee and saw RD Jamil. Catra Corbett was volunteering at the expo before running the race which was just a few weeks since she did a 240 mile race in Moab. I have meet Catra a number of times so we chatted for a few minutes. She is a very popular ultra runner who is working on a book about her life; can not wait to read it next year.

                                                                     Jub and Jam Jam   

After a stop at Steve's house we hit a nearby grocery store, Winco to get supplies for the race. As crew I needed food and snacks but unlike last year I kept my supplies low instead of having to fly home with most of it, plus I had my favorite race food with me already. After that we all headed to a Chicago style restaurant for prerace carbo load. There was plenty of vegetarian fare on the menu for me.

On to race day. Steve's race started at 7am but as Scott was driving us to HQ with a 6am start we left at the crack of dawn, actually it was hours before dawn, arriving in plenty of time to finish setting up the remaining runners and crew supplies. Scott headed to the start line which was basically 200 meters up the path giving Steve and I a great viewing as the 600 runners headed out on the 100 mile course. David arrived for the 100km which started just one hour later but in daylight and not darkness like the 100 milers.

100 km starters
With all 3 runners on the trail plus plenty of other friends and folks I know (Jeni, Leah, Jen, Catra, Willem, David, Art and others) I decided to suit up and head out on the trails myself. My original plan was to head to the last aid station so I could fill up my water bottle although it was further than I wanted to go given I planned to pace Steve at night. The runners do five 20 mile loops. Well the first loop is 22 miles due to an extension on the green trail after that last aid station, with each remaining loop 19.5 miles. That meant I could run the blue trail out n back and not see many of the runners so not getting in their way

My run from race HQ (purple block) along the blue trail went well but around 2.3 miles in (AS was 3.7 miles away) I spotted the Pemberton trail head parking area and seeing a brick building ventured over to see if they had water. Once I got there I realized I was at the former JJ HQ staging area and yes there was water fountains and real bathrooms. I'd not need to go to the aid station now. Leaving Pemberton I headed a little further on the blue trail before turning around into the sun back to JJ HQ. The trail was awesome and scenic, all desert, mainly single-track with plenty of cacti and bushes I'd not see in Chicago.

As I got near the end of my run I crossed path with the first 4 runners including last years winner Zach Bitter who wished me a good run after I had called out to him. The third place runner HOKA's Patrick Reagan asked me how far ahead Zach was. Of course they still had almost 80 miles to go and yet it was race on.

With the hours going by I watched runners passing the crew area. Scott was first to arrive back, followed by David and then Steve. Once they were feed they headed out for another loop. Steve had plenty of time so took a short break to get over the heat from the first loop and change into lighter gear. Also coming through was friends Leah and Jen who were doing the 100 mile and Chicago's Jeni

Jen and Leah


Around noon David's wife, Shannon arrived. She was going to run with David on his 3rd loop to bring him home but first she delivered me coffee (yes Starbucks does deliver!!), thanks Shannon and we then hit the race store for merchandise followed by ordering a cooked on site vegan pizza from Freaky Brothers and a Javelina Joopy IPA from Huss Brewing, hmmm There was also a coffee vendor on site who I had ordered from after my run plus a smoothie/Italian Ice vendor. No crew would go hungry!! David's parents arrived a little later with David and Shannon son who was staying with them and a surprise guest visit by Gilbert who used to work with Steve and had helped me crew and pace Steve back in 2009. Awesome to see Gilbert again.

It was getting dark when David arrived just before his family would leave. Shannon got ready and headed out with David for her 19.5 mile loop. Steve's wife Toni and Scott's wife Caryn had also arrived around same time as everyone else. And my friend Jeni came through to complete her second loop. Like Jeni first loop I got to escort her through the parade loop back to her race site. It was a joy helping her get set for her return to the course. Jeni was heading out alone on her 3rd of 5 loops but she had pacers lined up for loops 4 and 5, her mother and her father-in-law.

Scott got back after 2 loops but had made the decision to drop from the 100. He was having feet issues from wearing old shoes during the week plus he had finished the Hennepin Hundred just 3 weeks before. We then heard via text that Steve was having a hard time due to the heat and was planning to drop when he got back although he was far out at the time. I was actually at the Squirrel Nut Butter HQ visiting my friend and Hennepin RD Michele when Steve got closer to retext us. Michele was preparing her runner to head out on course then we got to witness Zach Bitter finish his race in 2nd place. Spent a little time chatting race business with Michele. She has big plans for 2018 which I am excited about.

Back to Steve's HQ to find Toni and Caryn had gone for a walk along the trail to meet Steve on the course. Grabbing my headlamp and light I headed out to catch them up. It was fun being on this section at night. Seemed to be a bit more technical that my early morning trail run and not as flat but still very runnable. Got to see a number of runners in this section. Finally caught up to Steve about a mile or so out with Toni and Caryn so we escorted him back to HQ making sure he completed the full parade loop before declaring his drop to the timer.

Although Steve did not complete the 100km he still got in 42 miles for an ultra distance. Nothing to be upset about. Steve knows he can complete this race as he has done in the past and a few weeks on is already talking about a return in 2018.

Like we did last year we all headed back to Steve's house for a full nights sleep and showers. Toni prepared a awesome post run breakfast to refuel us and then it was time to return to race site to pack up camp. We got back just after the last finished in the 100 mile had buckled. Much of the race HQ looked different due to many already having left.

Jeni had completed her 100 mile journey a few hours before so sadly I missed her finishing but we texted each other. So proud of Jeni finishing her first desert 100 mile (not her first 100 though). You can read her report here 


David paced by Shannon on loop 3 completed his 100km in a personal record time.

Monday I sadly left Phoenix's warmth to journey back to cold Chicago. I have done this return trip before but this time I really didn't want to come home (although I was missing Laura). But I will be back to Javelina for sure.

These days there are many well organized ultra races and Javelina is easily on the list. The organizers do an amazing job from sign up, info, expo, race set up, course management, awards and more. The course for the most is very runnable although there are some narily sections. It can be warm even hot, it is Arizona after all, and the course has zero shade. If a runner, newbie or vet, is patient on the 1st and 2nd loop they can do well on the course as Jeni found out and Steve has over the years. Highly recommended 

Jeni: 100 mile desert finisher

Photos by Ian except Jub & Jam Jam (Aravaipa) and Jeni finisher (Jeni FB page)