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)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Run with the Lions 5k year 4

This 5k race put on by runners for the kids gets better every year. I write about this one after every race and again was not disappointed

The Run with the Lions 5k takes place at Warrenville's scenic St James Farm forest preseve at the end of April and I was there for my fourth year. This year a few of my Bolingbrook Fun Run Club buddies joined me and kindly hiked the course with me due to a possible IT band issue.

Picked up my race stuff on Wednesday at Longwood Elementary school. The race is a benefit for the school's PTA so they can provide activities for the kids that attend the school. They also encourage the kids to be a part of the race, either volunteering or running. The race stuff was another awesomely designed tech T shirt, a race bib and a bag full of sponsor info and coupons. There was also to be a medal upon finishing followed by sponsor food for refreshment at the end.

I get to races early and found myself parked two cars from Gladys, BFRC Pres. Funny I found she was parked there due to social media. Kristin, another BFRCer joined us in Gladys car and we chatted about a spectrum of things before braving the chilly day to head over to the start line. Start area photos were taken before the announce told everyone to go to the start line

BFRCer's Kristin, me, Gladys (photo by Gladys)

Left feet first (photo by Gladys)

We let the fast folks line up ahead of us and then joined the hikers. Right after the start the course hit a grass allee section then out to a wide grass section through a meadow then onto my favorite part a section of muddy single track that past the creek that runs through St James. That was the first 2/3 of mile. The rest of the course was the familiar groomed limestone trails that Du Page forest preserve install in most of their trail systems. Of course we joined on an up hill section but it was scenic as we went through a wooded area and around a few lakes. As I was familiar to St James having ran there a lot I gave Gladys a grand tour including pointing out the high school course cross trails

Gladys and I near mile 2 (photo by Kristen)

The course also took in part of the Illinois Prairie Path before rejoining the St James Farm trails for a loop by some of their famous buildings.

St James building (photo by Ian)

Gladys, Kristin and I finished strongly in a good time for three runners hiking the course. We high fived the school Lions mascot on the way in and a volunteer presented each of us a finishers medal, The medal is different every year and incorporated the race shirt.

After race food was provided by a number of the sponsors included soup, sandwiches, bagels  banana, potato chips and water. There was also a fund raising silent auction which had many awesome items to bid on. Hopefully they raised a ton of funds for the PTA.

Year four was another fine event and a great success for all. Thanks to Longwood PTA, all the volunteers, sponsors and runners/walkers. I will be back for year five and recommend you join me.

Race course (via Run with Lions 5k website)

(All photos and logo owned by Gladys, Kristin, Ian or the race) 



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saw Wee Kee Trail Race

Saw Wee Kee is a forest preserve park operated by the Oswegoland Park District on the border of Oswego and Yorkville. It was developed in part by the District and the CAMBr mountain bike group. Although not as many miles of trails compared to Palos or Kettle Moraine there are reported 7 miles of MTB trails. Some are wide enough for cross country ski type but much is narily single track.

Having always wanting to run this trails I took the opportunity to take part in the Districts annual trail run. A month before they had a flash sale so a group of runners from the Bolingbrook Fun Run Club signed up. We was not to be disappointed.

I arrived fairly early and got parked in the main small lot. Took a short hike down the last part of the course to see what the trail was like. The last 1/4 mile was flat although bumpy and not at all like the rest of the course as  would soon find out. Picked up my race bib and hung out with some BFRC (others would arrive later).

A few unique things about this race is the 4pm start but you can start any time between 4pm and 5pm, runners are sent off one at a time in 15 second intervals and the T shirt plus buff was given out at the finish (all shirts were preassigned so no worries about them running out of your size).

Two weeks ago I had hurt my knee running at Greene Valley. Going up hill is currently an issue and this race was a lot of ups and downs. I knew I'd have to hike much of it but as I just wanted to be out there exploring not an issue. I was probably in the last half to start as others must have lined up before I even ventured over to the start. The RD said some words about the trail course marking consists of pink ribbons hanging from trees and some trail intersections cordoned off. There was also a few course marshals and two aid stations, one we hit twice. She also mentioned one hill had a rope as it had rained heavily the night before. As it was most of the trails were dry and even dusty.

First half a mile was wider track that had some climb but not much. Soon we hit a mile long out and back section that was more narily single track including some rough climbs up and down. One large down/up hill was tough on my injured knee but I made it. Soon we hit a loop section, still single track and with some nice climbing and that rope hill. I was able to avoid the rope until the very top where there was a sort of lip to the summit. After that we ran some rocky down hill sections and had to cross a creek that was ankle deep with clear cold water; some might have jumped it but guessing most just plowed through as I did. Given the air temperature was 80s (yes in April) it was some what refreshing. Back to the out n back where I got to high five with five BFRC who had been the last to start. Got to the last aid station and was directed across the road to the 1/2 mile straight, flat and bump trail along the Fox River to the finish. My Garmin read 3.3 miles at the finish.

Was presented with a cool long sleeve blue tech T shirt trail run and green buff. Nice design on both. For refreshments they had chili from a local restaurant (told it was taste but I don't eat meat), bananas and water.  

Waited for the last BFRC runners to finish then we all pose for the traditional club photo.

(photo via Gladys, BFRC Pres)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Three upcoming November races

If you are looking for ideas for some race here are some ideas. I will actually be at all three of these.

November 12 (Saturday)  Paleozoic 50-Km and 25-Km on the trails of Palos Swallow Cliff forest preserve. Limestone trail although more rough than some county trails. One out n back loop for 25k, two loops for 50k. Finisher medals for those that finish. Good aid stations and neat T shirts

November 13 (Sunday) St James Farm Allee 5k on the limestone trails of St James. Scenic course passing meadows, forest, historic farm building. Runners pullover type tops to all signed up
November 24 (Thanksgiving Day) Winnetka Turkey Trot 5k on the residential streets of Winnetka. Great long sleeve T shirt perfect to wear at the family dinner that day!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Charlie Engle Book Tour

Wednesday night while the Cubs were busy losing to the Dodgers I ventured to Downers Grove to attend Anderson Bookstore author event with ultra runner Charlie Engle.

Charlie recently published his book Running Man which details his life from childhood through his recovery from drugs and drink to running across the Sahara plus many other running adventure to being unjustly convicted of mortgage crime to his new life upon release.

I had previously meet Charlie in 2009 after the Badwater 135 ultra in Lone Pine CA, just outside Death Valley and right in the shadow of Mt Whitney. Kelvin (the Aussie I had crewed for the second time) plus my fellow crew member Steve just happened to be in the same pancake breakfast house as Charlie and some of his crew so natural we all started chatting about the race. Charlie and I have also been Facebook friends for years and he says he recalls that Lone Pine meeting despite everything that has happened in his life before and since.


Drove to Downers Grove after work, arriving early but plenty of time to grab a coffee and sit outside to enjoy people watching before heading to the bookstore. Upon arriving Charlie was chatting with a guy who had just got back from running in Colorado and one of the bookstore staff. He saw me, said "Ian" and got up to shake hands and give a friendship hug. Joined in the chat about running and races. Charlie had just competed in Laz's Backyard Last Man Standing "event" running for a full 27 hours but sadly (or not) that is a DNF as only one person can actual finish. Saying that a few years ago the last two decided to call is a day together so no one was declared the winner, Laz wins!! Couple other people arrive including Flatlander and TJM host Scott who had interviewed Charlie a few weeks before. So although only a total of five people joined Charlie it was a great evening. He discussed the book, what was in it, things about his life including elaborating on the prison sentence time and also what the publishing process was like. He did touch on races and running but as Charlie had stated to us his idea was not just to write a running and race book but one that covered his life and could be of interest to everyone. I feel Charlie has another book out there ready to be wrote. He also read form the first chapter. I wonder if it is strange for an author to read his own words aloud to a crowd but then again he did the audio version plus musicians do the same when doing concerts.  Although he didn't do a QA as most authors would do he answered questions as he went along. There was a lot of chat and banter amongst all.

The 90 minutes went by very quick but was a great evening. I had actually already read the book having requested my local library obtain it (so if you are not sure it is on the shelf at Naperville Library) but I had always said if Charlie appeared at a book tour stop in the area I'd buy the book. Thank you Charlie for the great words you wrote for me. And thanks for taking photos with most of us there.

Charlie signing my book (well his book)

Charlie and myself (photo by Scott Kummer)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dick Pond Cocoa Run and Walk October 2nd, Danada FP Wheaton, IL

Next race I will at. Nice course along the groomed trails of Danada and Herrick Forest Preserve in Wheaton on the border with Naperville and Warrenville. Pass by meadows, wetland, through the trees and by a lake. Mostly flat with a few rolling hills in the woods.
8 mile run or 5k run/walk  
Super Cool jackets to all runners is the goody bag with cocoa and sweet treats at the finish line.
Race makes a good last tune up before the marathons in Chicago or Naperville.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Terra Sans Pave Trail Races

This weekend I attended my first Terra Sans Pave Trail Races being held for the 3rd year at Linne Woods, Morton Grove IL.

Although I had never been on these trails before I found out I had actually cycled through them on the North Branch Trail many times when I used to live in Lakeview part of Chicago. It made for an amazing 50 mile ride. Little did I know back then that there was a dirt and limestone trail system in the woods. Although it is not an extensive trail system there is enough combined with a little grass to make a really nice 4k (2.5 miles) loop.

Bill and Michelle Thom are the RDs for the event. Yes the same team that puts on the Paleozoic trail 50k and 25k each spring and autumn, and the Chicago Full Moon 5k road race.

For Terra there are four distances to pick from. 4k (1 loop), 8k (2 loops), 10 miles (4 loops) and the newly added 8 hour (as many loops as you can in the 8 hours). I signed up for the 8k. I also signed up to volunteer at packet pick up handing out the goody bags and timing chips.

Arrived early just after sunrise which is when the Forest Preserve opens up the gates and helped Bill and his fellow helpers unload cars full of race supplies. Got the 8 hour packets ready to hand out as their race started at 7.30am. Just before that time RD Bill gave a race talk and joined the ultra runners for the first loop. He had marked the course with flagging, plate arrows and orange spray paint the night before and wanted to check it was still in order. I heard a few runners comment that they liked doing the first loop with Bill. Wonder if they know he has done the ultra grand slam that includes Western States 100 a race he has done a few times over the years. This year he ran Vermont 100.

Then we set up the fueling/aid stations and got ready for the short distance guys. I did my own packet pick up and put on my timing chip so I could demo it to others. In total there was around 60 people signed up and most people claimed their goody bags (those contained a nice green T shirt and the bib) and timing chips. It was time to run.

My good friend Penny asked if she could run with me. I was worried I'd slow her down but she was just there to have a nice run. I was very happy to run with Penny and I got to hear many stories and we chatted about folks we have know over the years through the yahoogroup ChiAdeads (hello Kelly, Teresa, Buck, Dave and others).

The 4k course started out with a grass section that crossed the North Branch Trail, before going over a bridge turning to follow a single track dirt section with some roots, we passed the race HQ but in the woods before crossing a bridge to join a limestone trail. Unlike most limestone trails in Lake and DuPage counties these are not as well groomed or maintained so we had sections of mud, puddles and even foliage growing out of it. I was not complaining!! More single track, across a road bridge for the last one km to the race HQ, then repeat again (for my two loops). There was no hills but it was still a great course and I loved the wet and mud sections.

Course Map

There was 14 signed up for the 8k and 11 started. Penny and I ended up right at the back of the pack and were looped a few times by the ten mile runners and some of the ultra runners, probably the lead 8k runners too but we called it more trail time for our entry plus we was having fun out there enjoying the trail and chatting away.

Crossing the finish RD Michelle presented each of us a finishers pin with a number based on our Terra finishers: one in my case, 3 in Penny's.

Cool Bib and Finishers Pin

Bill and Michelle also gave some awesome post race food. As well as the normal cookies, MMs, bagels, candies (remember RD is an ultra runner hence normal for ultras) they also supplied beef brisket sandwiches, salad, coleslaw, salted chips and sodas. I don't eat meat but the salad sandwich I made was excellent. Others seemed to be enjoying their brisket
I really enjoyed the race and the trail vibe.  It was a nice scenic well marked course, plenty of free parking, with a good T shirt, neat bibs, good post race food and a nice finishers award - ultra distance runners got a medal I think and there was top 3 male/female awards (I was 4th male overall). In 2017 I will be back and depending on training and other events will do the 10 mile or even 8 hour. The permit limits the numbers which keeps it low key but still with competition. This year the race was about half full so has room for more and I honestly feel it deserves more and it will get more. The ultra was announced a month out thanks to an agreement with the FP and many ultra runners have expressed interest for next year. I am sure Kimmie and Colleen will be back for the ultra. 
I got to talk to a number of the other runners, trail and ultra runners are so friendly. We talked about races done and up coming - think I have a few new runners for DPRT in October. Even made some new Facebook friends thanks to the race. One in particular was a big surprise. One of my favorite bands is the British group the Mission. I've followed them for over 30 years since two members quit the Sisters of Mercy to form the new group. Seen them almost 20 times and have everything they released more or less. One of my fellow 8k runners, Monica, was getting her goody bag. Her husband and kids were there to support and I noticed he was wearing a Mission T shirt. That is something outside of a live concert I never see. We got chatting and found we had been at some of the same Chicago concerts and had both meet lead singer Wayne Hussey. Eli was happy to meet a fellow fan and has since sent me a link to another of his favorite bands which I was surprised to not have heard of despite the guest vocalist and guitar players being from bands I also like. Monica seemed happy he had found a new Mission friend so she doesn't now have to go to next year's possible USA tour!!
In November I will be running Bill and Michelle's Paleozoic trail race in Palos (Swallow Cliff/Sag). They offer a 25k one loop (doing that one) and a 50k two loop for the ultra dogs. And yes I am volunteering at packet pick up before. The permit limits the numbers. These races are more popular than Terra so if you are interested sign up soon
Thanks for reading.

  With Monica the 8k female champ at her first trail race.