Saturday, November 17, 2012

Universal Sole Trail Challenge

The New Leaf Ultra Runners today invaded the dirt trails of Cook County's Schiller Woods to run the Universal Sole Trail Challenge (fall edition). The race was only 5+ miles but what was a group of ultra runners doing at a 5+ mile run. Well a fast race and lots of fun with friends.

For a number of years Universal Sole had held a 5+ mile race on this course. I did it twice during that time. First year was a wet race with a flooded road tunnel underpass and a creek that leads to the Des Plaines River overflowing it's banks. Second time the course was dry which made for a course PR.

Universal Sole changed hands and the race took a break but this year RD Joel brought it back first with a summer version and today with the Fall edition back on the race calendar. When I heard Joel was bringing it back I knew this was a must do race. I first meet Joel, all to briefly when we both helped at the Palos Detonty 50k. I was charged with aid station set up and Joel did lead bike. At the time Joel worked for Clif Bar as Midwest area manager promoting the product at race expos and events. Last 3 years I've worked for Clif Bar at those events that Joel used to manage. Although he is not part of Clif Bar now he will always stop by the booth when Universal Sole have a booth at the same event. Always great to see Joel.

I offered to put the Trail Challenge race on the New Leaf Ultra facebook page and Joel was happy to get some ultra runners come to his event. I think there was around 12 or more signed up and one member who also coaches runners and triathlete got some of her students to sign up for their first trail race.

Joel went old school with a great cotton T shirt. Sure tech Ts have there place but I like a nice cotton T shirt for wearing after events or at home or when hanging out with friends is great to have in the collection. And it was red with a great logo.  I'll use the tech ones to train in. He also had a great option of subbing the T for a handheld water bottle or paying an extra $5 and getting both.

After listening to some fine 80s music pumping out of the PA and some race course information around 150 trail runners toed the line under the giant 312 Goose Island (beer) inflatable start arch. I lined up at the back with my blogger friend Kim (or Kimbot as she likes to be called, sometimes) and decided to be the very last starter.

                                          (photo by Steven courtesy of Kim)
We started across a flat wide field but soon hit a narrowing onto a trail that I think Joel had created for the race. It was full of leaves, roots, tree branches and what might have been a dry creek bed. After that we moved to a gravel path around the start area. After that the course followed dirt single and wide track widing around the whole preserve. Some of the single track had a little wetness to it but nothing of concerns. The only water and mud section was the tunnel under Lawerence Ave. which we hit going out and coming back. Joel and his crew had done a great job of marking the course with red flagging markers and at major intersections had either a course marshal (thanks volunteers) or a big arrow sign (thanks sign). No one should have got lost, no one. One water station on  the course managed by Kim's friend Erin (thanks Erin). We also hit that twice as it was by the tunnel.

I was at the back of the race from the start. Passed some people thanks to the speed Kim set in the first few miles. I knew at some point Kim would pull away from me, I was likely slowing her down but it was a fun two miles running with Kim. Kim is new to trail running but is a road veteran with many age group awards. This year she ran her first ultra at the North Face trail 50k in Wisconsin. Kim is a New Leaf Runner.

                                         Kim and I "leading" a pack (photo by Steven) 
My goal was just to finish. A certain lack of train this year as lead  my runs and limited races to have just finish thoughts. Secretly under one hour would be great and a Schiller Woods PR. The course was similar to my previous two times there if I am recalling the old course right, only so many trails there.

Although still near the back of the pack I finally finished in 57 minutes and 20 seconds around 8 minutes faster than last time I did a race on this course. I'll take that. Maybe not training works, nay I got to train.
Kim got a photo of me finishing with the great 312 Chicago (beer) start/finish arch.


Universal Sole have posted photos from the race on their Flicker account. Here is the link to one of Kim and I in first few miles (likely first mile or so)
Thanks again to Joel, Universal Sole, US staff, crew and volunteers, all the sponsors and a big shout out to those from my running group New Leaf Ultra Runners who proved they can go fast or long when it comes to running. Thanks all

If anyone is looking for more trail fun a new trail event group is putting on lots of trail races in the Chicagoland area. They held one at Schiller Woods a few weeks ago and have another in two weeks (I'll likely be volunteering depending on work) plus in 2013 they hit the trail running with many events from 5k to half marathon, all trail. Check out The Muddy Monk RD also ran today's race, great meeting you Art and thanks for bringing more trail races to Chicago area.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

DPRT Race Report 2012

Year three of the Des Plaines River Trail Races held in a north suburb of Chicago.

Year three that I have done one of the races

And as each year goes by the race gets better and better.

Two years ago this was my marathon come back race. It was held in May that year, 2010. In 2011 the RDs moved it to October and I did the half marathon as well as helping race morning a packet pick up. 2012 saw me doing the same again.

Unlike 2010 and 2011 I did basically no training this year. Sure I had plans for this year but life gets in the way at times so I did what I could for training but due to work and a touch of summer bronchitics it was not much. No worries I'd make the race a training run and have a good time watching other runners tear up the course on a very nice day.

RD's Ed and Terry are both Badwater, Marathon des Sables and multiple other ultra races finishers. A few weeks ago Terry directed a 165 mile stage trail race in the southern Utah and northern Arizona that received rave reviews Having been part of DPRT I am not surprised about G2G.

I offered to work packet/chip pick up before running my half. It meant an early morning as race HQ is an hour away from home. Arrived around 5.15am and helped Ed set up a few things before moving over to bib and T shirt pick up. The first 50 milers arrived right at 5.30am and then a steady stream followed. A great crew of volunetters had been recruited and we had very few lines despite a total of over 500 runners between the three distance (100 in 50mile, 200 in the marathon and 200+ in the half). I picked up my T shirt and bib before it got busy and then collected my timing chip when I was handing out chips.

Each race started on time and each race did a 2.5 mile out n back loop to the south and back to start before heading northwards to our respected turnarounds. For the half I lined up near the back but was still across the start in around 17 seconds. I don't think I had a good start but that was to be expected and given that I knew I could finish even if it was ugly and slow I plodded on and on. Each time I've ran this trail I marvel had how scenic it is. I also think I need to return to explore the other trails that go off from the main trail including some grass and dirt trails. Given a large number of intersecting trails Ed and Terry did an amazing job of marking the course with arrows, wrong way signs, mile markers, aid station ahead warnings. No one got lost nor should they. The aid stations were every 2.5 to 3 miles on the half course and everyone had been warned to carry a bottle or pack. Unlike big city marathons that water every mile or so DPRT are spread out like a big time ultra. DPRT is getting to be a big time race.

I loved seeing the fact marathoners come back and then the half runners. Seeing the half runner meant I was close to the New Leaf ultra group aid station. There was a number of NLUR there to greet me which of course meant it was time to hang around for a little. Sure it add around 7 minutes to my time but I was there to have some fun and enjoy the race. After taking in some coke, Brandi's famous vegan brownies I turned and left for home and the medal that awaited me. I knew it would be a slow time but as the miles went by I kept a fairly steady average pace with some walking breaks. My goal was just to finish. I guess another goal was to beat last years time but as I knew that would not happen I just went for a sub 3 and got it.

Another goal was to finish before the first 50 miler finished. They started 2 hours before the half so totally knew that would happen  but some of those 50 milers are fast. Upon finishing Ed presented me with a finishers medal to go with the awesome long sleeve black race T shirt.

Got a post race meal, found some MUDD/NLUR friends who had either ran, crewed or cheered runners while waiting for the first 50 miler finish. We all wanted to see Oswaldo Lopez finish first. Oswaldo won Badwater in 2011 with  MUDDer Juan Juarez crewing him. Juan had got Oswaldo to come to Illinois to run DPRT. The wait soon paid off with Oswaldo finishing in first place smiling as he finished.

Oswaldo hung around to get a meal but also to chat with all and pose for photos. Sure was a pleasure to have Oswaldo come to Chicagland and run the race.  

Juan, Carol, Oswaldo, me (photo "borrowed from Keith Daniels)

Next year I will training, not just for this one but for all. DPRT is highly recommended.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Trail races coming up

My next race is only a few days away, the Des Plaines River Trail Races on Saturday October 20th. I am doing the half marathon but also offered is a marathon and a 50 mile ultra. Care to join the fun? Website to sign up is The course is groomed limestone trail which is flat for the most part and follows the namesake river through the woods and meadows.

If you get there before the half starts I'll also be working packet pick up so say hello.

After that shooting to run some of a 32 mile fun run at Deer Grove with my ultra running groups. I'll be happy with 3 of the loops completed.

Week later is the Universal Sole Trail Challenge, 5.3 miles along another section of the Des Plaines River Trail system but in Cook County and nothing like the paved Lake County section. This one will include dirt single and wide track and maybe even wet feet if the creek leading into the river is up.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Universal Sole Trail Challenge (November)

Very fitting that one of my favorite Chicago running stores is again putting on a trail race in Chicago Schiller Woods on November 17th. Come out and run 5.2 miles (approx) on some single track and wider trail along the Des Plaines River. Universal Sole are known for grass roots running so also fitting is the cotton T shirt to all signed up runners, who needs yet another tech T :-)  Sign up now before fee goes up come October.

I did this race a few times under the old ownership. Paul, a friend of mine who I helped put on his DeTonty 50k a few times (did on course aid station set up). He held the Schiller Woods for a number of years and the two years I ran it the event was well put on. Paul sold the store to the current owner Joel. Joel is a former area Clif Bar manager a company I am a crew member for at many local expos. Joel always stops by the Clif Bar booth to chat with us; nice guy. Past few years he put on a trail race in Palos but this year he brought back the Schiller Woods Trail Challenge with a summer edition. Now he has brought back the fall edition and I intend to be there. I hope you sign up too. And for all my ultra buddies I am sure Joel would have no issue with you running it a few more times or more!!

Joel has some good sponsors lined up including Clif Bar, 312 Goose Island (beer), Fuel Belt and Saucony

Photo of me finishing the 2008 event:  (I've lost some weight since then!!)

Details about the US Trail Challenge Fall Edition ripped from the website with some minor editing on links:

It's back again for the fall! The Universal Sole Trail Challenge Fall Edition! Mark your calendars for November 17 as the season has changed on us. USOLE is proud to be re-introducing to the store’s race calendar a trail running competition to the Chicagoland area for the fall on Saturday, November 17! Universal Sole’s Trail Challenge Series will be a single path course design with fun and unpredictability still at the forefront! Get "Off" the roads and join us for this unique tail adventure!

Key Dates-Time-Location:
  • Race Day - November 17, 2012
  • Check-In 8:30am - 9:30am
  • Race Start - 10:00am
  • Post Race Party Start - 11:00am
  • Race Location - Schiller Woods Forest Preserve | WEST ENTRANCE GROVE #3 | 8400 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL
  • Check out the course on the website
  • Packet Pickup November 15-16, 2012 - 11am - 7pm
  • Universal Sole - Lakeview
  • Address: 3052 North Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 868-0893
  • We will have race morning packet pickup from 8:30am - 9:30am! It is encouraged for folks to pick up packet at Universal Sole!
Race Details
This will be a true cross-country style trail race with a mass start narrowing into the trail head. The course will be about 5.25 miles with varying terrain (mix of double and single track) making it fun and challenging all at once! Check out the course on website  All participants that sign up will receive a custom USOLE Trail Challenge event cotton t-shirt (men & women specific), a bowl (or two) of Will's Famous Chilli, a can of Goose Island 312 and all the trail running they can handle that morning!
  • Water and Gatorade at the Start/Finish area!
  • Clif Bars-Bagels for all runners at the finish.
  • Porta-Potties on-site!
  • Chip timing for all registered runners.
  • World Famous Will Bridge Chilli and Goose Island 312 Beer in the new cans for all finishers (Post Trail Race Party)!
  • Awards - Top 3 Male and Female Finishers - Top 3 Masters (40 and over) Male and Female Finishers

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lululemon's "I Run Because...........5k"

 I Run Because...........................5k

 A race on a Tuesday
 A free race
 A race in a favourite forest preserve

Why not.

Lululemon stores in Naperville and Oak Brook  held a 5k race on the scenic trails of Fullerburg Forest Preserve, a DuPage FP in Oak Brook IL. Lululemon is well known nationwide retail store for quality yoga apparel and merchandise and a small line of running and fitness clothing.  The race was being held on a Tuesday morning the day before the 4th of July holiday.

I was not scheduled to work until 11.30am that day so signed up for the race. Oh it was free with Lululemon and sponsors picking up the fee. I am sure a few folks had worries about a free race but if so they proved not a concern come race day.

A week before the race all runners received a detailed email including course map and parking information plus information of pre-race packet pick up. I attended the in store pick up in Naperville. Being a free race there was no race T shirt but we did get a nice Lululemon shopping bag, more like a reusable tote bag, a race bib number via sponsor RoadID, a few free samples and the normal paper ads which in this case were primarily yoga studio cards some with free class offers.

Tuesday morning I got up bright and early to drive to Oak Brook.  As Fullersburg has only a small parking area all runners were supposed to park at one of three off sites and walk about 0.85 miles to the race start. I parked at Graue Mill. The walk in made a nice warm up (and later cool down) along a scenic river side trail that we would be running very soon. Race day packet pick up was in full swing for the "sold out" event and different sponsor vendors were busy setting up. Found my friend Glenn who works at Lululemon. He was busy doing some of the set up in and around the vendor area but introduced me to his friend Jim. Jim is training for a half marathon later this year so it was good to hear how his training was coming along.

I then headed to near the start line and watched some runners doing a stretching routine before we all lined up. One of the Lululemon staff said some words then the starters horn sounded. Around two years ago I had ran another race on this very course so knew what was ahead of me. I also set up the Oak Brook half marathon course that uses 3 miles of the Fullersburg course. Luckily the 5k didn't use the big hill that the half uses. I don't run many 5ks. I fact in last 14 years I had ran four and 3 of those were dirt trail races mainly on mountain bike trails. My training this year has been lacking so the plan for this 5k was just to run a consistent pace including being steady on the hills. I really had no idea what time to shoot for so on a warm and humid day I just ran by feel and thought I'd adjust as I went along although I was wearing my Garmin GPS.

The start like any race was crowded but it quickly thinned out and I soon had room to run my pace and hold it. The course was on limestore trails for the first 2.2 miles and winded along both banks of the Salt Creek river under a canopy of trees. The first hill was a bridge that took us from the right bank to the left bank then a couple of other hills soon came up. There was an aid station around mile 1.8 but I had decided to carry my UD handheld as I do for most runs and races so passed through  without taking any. Shortly after we passed the dam take a short road bridge back to the right bank and ran passed the Graue Mill near where I was parked. A little brick path, some more limestone which was a little rutted before we hit a section of paved  trail which had the last hill. Finally we took the last turn on to a woodchip trail to the finish. I could hear the crowd and music playing and hopefully looked strong with the finish.

This ended up being my fastest 5k in 14 years. I was pleased with the effort and time. Sure I am still  a long way off my PR from 20 years ago but I'll take it. 31 min and 29 seconds (10'10 pace) on a hilly, warm and humid course. Off the 219 finishers 180 were female so I was top 40 male (32 actually).

The vendor section was handing out energy and smoothie type drink samples. There was a couple health service provides set up. Plus a nice spread of post race food. On the Forest Preserve Visitors Center overlooking the river Lululemon had set up a number of yoga mats and Aurora's Living Yoga lead 3 20 minute yoga sessions. I watched from the upper level. Two years ago I had taken a six week beginners yoga course at Living Yoga so it was great watching my yoga teachers putting on this session. I really need to get back to yoga, it is a great tool for runners especially those like me that never stretch.

I walked over to the awards. Top five male and top five female were presented with goody bags containing gift certificates for yoga, massages and to running stores. Then in an awesome touch they handed out similar to those that placed 25,50,100, 150 etc. Then, yeah there was more, they had around 25 raffle prizes of similar gift certificates from the sponsors.

So happy I signed up for this free event. It was well organized from sign up to race info to packet pickup, The course was well marked with great volunteers at all the intersections and turns. The sponsors were good and fitting for the primarily yoga running crowd and the post race food was just right. I loved being inspired by the yoga session and intend to use the gift certificate I was given by a runner who lived to far from the yoga studio she won it from, thanks number 50. The studio just happens to be Living Yoga .

Thank you Lululemon Naperville and Oak Brook. I'll be back next year    

(Lululemon Logo at top of report owned and borrowed from Lululemon, call it free PR)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 Soldier Field 10 miler

Last year I did the Solider Field 10 miler. These days I don't do many races and do even less on roads and paved trails preferring to stick to dirt trails and a little limestone. But Soldier Field was so well organized in 2011 I wanted to return and do it again.

Thanks to Clif Bar I received a race entry. Unlike last year when I was given a bib number in the speedy corral start and 7000+ people passed me I was assigned to the more sensible number 8. Unlike last year my training was not where I wanted it to be. I had done a couple 8 mile runs and one trail 20k race back in March but really was so under prepared for 10 miles on pavement and concrete although I knew I'd finish.

Last year I had set a goal of breaking 2.10 although deep down wanted 2.00. Back in the days I could run faster and my 10 mile PR is around 1.17. Guess I am getting older and some previous medical issues had changed the speed but at least I can do the distance and longer.  Last year I did 1.48. I knew this would not happen this year but could I break 2 hours?

Going into race day the weather forecast where all doom and gloom with hot humid temperatures forecast. Madison Marathon which was due to be held on May 27th changed in advance to a half marathon for all. I've ran in Death Valley in July when the temperature as been over 100 on my run and during the day hit 128 but Death Valley is a dry heat and I'd been heat training to crew at the Badwater 135. Chicago has had warmer temperatures this year but not to get ready to run 10 miles in the heat.

Race morning came and the warmer forecast had  replaced by thunder storms and bad rain. The temperature dropped to the 60s but the wind came up. Luckily the rain did not reach the race course, just large black clouds visible a few miles to the north, someone said it was raining in Evanston.

Dave and Dave (1/.Fleet Feet owner 2/. Chicago's best race announcer) held a start line ceremony to honour the military current, active and veterans which on this Memorial Day weekend was very moving.

The race started with the elite corral and then one by one each corral was sent on it's way. Being in corral 8 I had to wait 27 minutes to start but it meant a clear path due to the gap between corrals. The start was well organized and for an event of this size that would be running the narrow Lakefront bike path on the return journey spreading out corrals is the way to go. Just like last year I started way to fast hitting mile one in 9 or so minutes. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race. I slowed down and knew it was the best thing to do. Although I had that goal I mainly wanted to enjoy myself and have fun. We headed through McCormick place onto the service road for the big expo centre before hitting Lakeshore Drive in two south bound lanes. This road is normal crowded with traffic, today two lanes had 15000 runners (Sunday it held 20,000 cyclists when LSD was closed to all traffic but bikes). Just over mile 4 I heard a voice behind me "Hey Coach". It was my friend Sarah. I was Sarah's group leader when she trained for her first marathon and has called me Coach ever since (I love it). We gave each other a hug and then Sarah powered on to a good time. Finally we hit the turn around leaving LSD to join the bike path. And we hit the wind, and it was strong. I had to pull my Clif Bar running cap tight on to my head and the race number pinned to my shirt was trying to become a kite. The return was tough due to the wind, and the rising temperature and humidity plus I was not really ready for 10 miles on such a hard surface. But still I plodded on, made sure I got Gatorade at each aid station, refilled my handheld water bottle (a trial runner even uses them in road races!!) took a few walking breaks and was soon closing in on Soldier Field. Just after we returned past McCormick Place we moved to the road that runs a long Soldier Field's east side. There was a lot of people cheering on the runners. Security and volunteers directed us into the stadium via the players parking and through the players tunnel out on to the field. Across the grass (does that count as trail?) with the jumbotron showing us finish even though for the second year I did not see myself and across the half way line finish. I had a good look at the stadium from the field level. It looks very large from down there. After leaving the playing area we went through the inner part of the stadium and out into the corridors to collect a finishers medal, food bag, water and Gatorade and the finisher blanket.

That was tough for me as explained but my goal of breaking 2 hours happened with 1 hour 56 minutes and some seconds. I was happy given everything. I know if I train for next year (OK I said next year) and add some road running to my trail running I can totally beat both my Soldier Field times. I'll not get back to days past but that is not on the agenda

Just like last year this race was so well organized. Dave and his crew at Fleet Feet, all the volunteers, the staff at Soldier Field, the City of Chicago and all the sponsor especially Clif Bar (who I work expos for) are to be commended for an awesome race with a great theme and cause (Military Veterans/Active and also American Cancer Society). I'll be back

Race results can be found one the race webstie

I'll add photos when I get some but the finishers medal, race T shirt and finishers blanket are below (photo "borrowed" and copyrighted from/by Fleet Feet Chicago, thanks Dave!!)


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Getting the bike ready

Years ago I used to do a lot of road running and road biking. And I mean a lot. I used to do brick workouts; that is do a bike ride then go right out for a run. I loved doing duathlons. Not a swimmer so only ever done one triathlon (plus a reply - I biked). I once did the Chicago Powerman Duathlon which is a long course race.

Maybe that is what got me into ultra running plus picking up a copy of Ultrarunning magazine on a trip to Arizona one year. OK I've only done five ultras all 50k (well one was a 8 hour but I did 50k at it). Most ultras are held on trails rather than roads. Guess that is easier than closing down roads to traffic for hours. My first real trail run was at Wisconsin Glacial Trial 50k many many years ago. I trained for that race on the Chicago lakefront. Not the best type of training plan but it got me to the finish and GT50 is not an easy course for the Midwest. I loved it and went back the following year. Of course that is all Nikki's fault and maybe Mary's.

As mentioned I used to do a lot of road biking and running. I swear my marathon PR was due to an great year of biking that year. Think that was my Powerman year as well but I'd need to check and confirm.

With my discovery of trail running, that I still love to this day, I knew I'd end up mountain biking. After I moved from the Chicago lakefront to the western burbs I finally purchased that bike in 2003. A Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo. I got a good price on the bike from a good local store.

I purchased the bike right before winter 2003/2004 knowing I'd have to wait to ride until 2004, at least that was the plan. Sadly I got ill in early spring of 2004. Not really sure what I had but it was a nerve disorder in my legs causing me trouble with walking and some strong prescription medicine. It took six months to cure the issue and then I had to get my leg strength back. That I did but for some reason my bikes, the Gary Fisher plus a Specialized road bike sat gathering dust while I set about to get back into running with the goal of a return to marathons and ultras. That goal was achieved in 2010 when I finished both in the same year (you can read the reports elsewhere on my blog), but the bikes just sat there.

That is about to change. I still will be running and really want to do an ultra in 2012 but know cross training is what really works for me. Time to get the bikes ready. Few weeks ago I unlocked my mountain bike, gave it a good dusting and pumped air into the tires. I posted to Facebook and ChiAcycle group to get advise on what may and maybe not be needed for maintainance as the bike as sat for way to long. Got some great advice which I'll be doing very soon, just deciding on the course of "action". I'll soon be hitting the trails. Likely start off on the nearby Illinois Prairie Path to get the feel of biking again before trying the trails at Knoch Knolls. Doubt I'll get up to the level needed for Palos this year as I will be combining my training time between running and biking with running will come first due to ultra running plans. Mountain biking will play a big part of my crossing training plis something else I need get back to is yoga, one of the best recovery tools a runner can use.

Lastly before I sign off I have to give a BIG thanks and shout out to my friend Dave Johnsen. He noticed a comment at the end of my bike maintainance question about next getting a bike rack for my car. Dave had won a Saris Bones 2 rack in a raffle in a ride in the Ozark's a number of years ago. He already had a rack he used so this prize sat in his home unboxed and unused. Dave very kindly offered me the rack. I actually had not seen Dave in a number of years so he meet me in Wilmette this past week where I was attending a talk given by ultrarunner and author Dean Karnazes. It was great to catch up with Dave, just like old times. Thanks a million Dave. Once I get my biking back in gear we should ride my friend.

This is the Saris Bones 2 rack (photos from the Saris website)


Monday, April 23, 2012

More MUDD - The Earth Day 50k trail race

Part three of MUDD it appears by my current titles but this time slightly different, maybe the same.

Earth Day 50k was held Sunday April 22nd at Veteran's Acres in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The race was put on by Michele Hartwig and her MUDD running group which I am a proud member of. For this race I volunteered and before I go on this was a first class event.

Originally I had wanted to run this 50k but my lack of training this mild winter (what is with that) meant plans changed. I offered Michele my services for race day and was assigned to be on the timing crew.

I arrived at VA early and helped do some set up at race HQ before joining the time crew. Michele had a great bunch of timers lead by Steve Conn. There was not really much to do besides call out numbers and times. This crew was well polished, as were the aid station crew, the cheerleaders and the course markers.

There was around 70 plus people including relay teams signed up for this first time event  and I think close to that number of volunteers.  The course was a small mile loop (tacked on to first main loop) and five six mile (main) loops for a total of 31 miles. Most of Chicagoland is flat but out in the northwest are some nice hills as I reported a few weeks ago. Most of each loop was single track with maybe 1% paved, 20% wider grass/dirt/gravel trails and plenty of hills, roots, rocks and a little mud but plenty of MUDD.

Majority of runners were trail and ultra vets but there was also a nice showing of ultra virgins including a couple of ladies who originally had signed up to do the relay together but challenged each other to do the whole thing (and they did), way to go Jenn and Carina.

Race started with the National anthem played on the trumpet. Some runners went out on a blazing pace. Trey Robinson took the win in around 3:43 which on that trail system is flying. I heard he ran a 2:34 at Chicago marathon last year. Trey was 30 minutes ahead of the 2nd place finisher John Kiser but should add John's time was inspiring as he was close to double Trey's age. Way to go John. The ladies had a three way battle for honors between Shelley Cook, Karen Webber and Sarah Jurgaitis with Shelley taking the win in 4:48. Results are here:

Each finisher was award an unique finisher "medal", a round piece of wood from VA with a medal  mounted on it. Race champs and age group winners won wood logs with a metal plaque mounted on it, the champs was actually craved into the wood. Very unique.

Every runner also got a goody bag with a few items from sponsor including INOV-8 and a great T shirt with a simple design that says "Earth Day 50k", see the photo at top. Both aid stations were well stocked with ultra staples and the start/finish line AS had a bakery worth of goodies thanks to a number of runners and volunteers who had kindly supplied some treats.

Later in the day I got to run a loop of the course with a couple volunteers/crew members. This course was so well marked it was just about impossible to get lost although I knew one runner who did. Each turn was marked with a pie plate arrow and red/orange flags but I guess if you wasn't paying attention or in the zone a turn could be missed.

This was a great great day. Michele, Dorn who designed the course and created the awards along with all the MUDDs did an awesome job. There was nothing but smiling faces all race long and some amazing efforts. Next year this race will either sell out in record time or Michele will have to increase the number of runners allowed to run , you've all been warned. MUDD Earth Day 50k is a winner

One of my favorite photos from the race. (borrowed from Carrie's FB album). All smiles and Gnomes.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Another MUDD run but without the mud

It's always fun to run a new trail and have some great tour guides to show one around. It doesn't happen very often but today was one of those great days when I ran a new trail system and had a few great friends run with.

Today I headed north to Crystal Lake to Sternes' Woods and Veteran's Acres. These are two connected systems with miles of single track, wider cross country ski/hiking and a paved trail. These trails are the training ground for the MUDD runners.

Without a guide or good knowledge you could easily get lost on the interwoven trails. I've in the past searched for maps of these trails and they are very limited and basically no existent for the single track . Maybe that is a good thing as I was about to find out some of the trails are very hilly, and narily. But then they make for a good training routes for experienced trail runnerss and even newbies with some care.

My guides for the run was MUDD and NLUR runners Carol and Julie. We would run into Dorn about 1.5 miles from the finish, so I had three great guides for the morning

Carol and I at Hobbit Hut

Julie and I at Hobbit Hut
 Carol decided we would run the Frosty 50k loop which was around 5.5 miles. I was just happy to follow the pair as it was all new to me and I had no idea where we was going. First was a gravel service road out of the parking area which was also the first hill. Over the course of the next hour we dived in and out of some great single track with climbs that are unknown in Chicagoland with roots and rocks a plenty. We took a detour to one of the only remaining "Hobbit" hut that had been built and promptly decided it would make a great aid station for Earth  Day 50k in two weeks. The photos above were taken on Julie's phone (sure she will not mind me borrowing them). Back onto the trails and the next stop was the infamous Possum Toll booth. A rather large tree had fallen across one of the trails a while back. It was so big that a chunk had to be cut out of it to allow trail access. More single track including up and over some hills with some eroded old trails that are so steep no uses them these days.

Around 1.5 miles to go we run into Mr 100 mile Dorn who's out for a leisurely 3+ hour run for time on his feet. Dorn as a few 50s and 100s to run this year. Carol was having a leg issue so took the wider track back to her car while Julie lead and Dorn following took me to Legbone trail. Apparently one of the MUDD runners had found a deer leg bone on the trail during a run. He moved the bone off the trail but somehow it was back in the same location the next day. I didn't see the leg bone but this was a nice stretch of single track that I was able to run relatively fast. I am sure Dorn has never ran so slow.

Finally back at the pavilion where we started. What a great trail system. I loved every minute of it and hope to run it again in two weeks during the Earth Day 50k which I'll be volunteering at. I said this was a new trail system  but I've spent some time at the pavilion twice before. I voluntered at the Northwest 5/10 mile trail race and also "helped" 3 MUDDs run 100 miles there last year but neither time did I get out on the trails, now I have.

A BIG thanks to Carol, Julie and Dorn for running with me. Also thanks to the MUDD and Queen MUDD Michele for all they do for the trails. I'll see you all in two weeks.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mud Mud and more Mud 20k trail race

Mud and more mud. That is the best way to describe at least the first half of today's Rock Cut 20k trail race held in Rock Cut State Park in Rockford. Add in the hills, heat and water crossings made for one mean tough trail race. Sort of how RD Larry likes to set them up.

Today was the fourth race in the Rock Cut Survivor Series (or WSS as some call it). The W stands for winter. I did the whole series in 2007. A 5k (Dec), 10k (Jan), 15k (Feb) and 20k (Mar). Finish all four and you get awarded a long sleeve orange cotton T shirt. You can also do a solo race. Being a winter series you can expect and normally get snow and ice and for the March one a little mud as the snow as started it's annual retreat.

Northern Illinois and much of the Midwest is currently on a record breaking heatwave. Temps have been high 70s and edging into the 80s much of the week and well be next week. Sure it has been nice but this is not ideal weather to run in especially as we've had no time to get acclimatized to the heat.

Rockford also had some rain last weekend or just before I was told and this morning way before the race started a massive downpour passed through the area. Maybe RD Larry got on his batphone and ordered that storm. I drove through rain around Dekalb and the cloud band stretched northwards. The rainbow was a nice effect especially on St Patrick's Day, not that I looked for a pot of gold at the end.

Arrived at Rock Cut, got parked easily and registered for the race. $20 gets you a race bib number, marked course, some aid on the course, some after race food and the fast folks might win money. I've already mentioned the series T shirt. Chatted with a number of friends and familiar people. Norm always as a great story to tell or tale. The guy is in his 70s and beats me every time, awesome.

Noon plus a few minutes and after some RD Larry words the starters gun goes off and we move forward, then stop within a few 100 metres as the course hits the first section of singletrack. I always start slow and tend to taper off so was at the back of the pack and in no hurry. Finally we move on only to hit another bottle neck, all part of trail running. After that wait it was all smooth sailing

Well not really smooth sailing. See that rain a week before and on race morning had turned the first 6 miles into a mud bath that any hippo would be proud of. Some was slippery, some was shoe sucking, some was water logged, some was lengthy. For the most we got through it all even if it was slow going.

Around mile four I was following behind a runner and his son when he shouts out snake. I never saw it but having seen a turtle at McDowell the day before I was not surprised, the warmth as brought the reptiles out.
We then get to the powerline section. Does every trail race have this section, Rock Cut races do and I have non-fond memories of them from the HOBO races. We would hit the powerline section 4 or 5 times but for small sections before diving back into the woods for singletrack and mud trails. At mile 5 circling above the powerline I spotted 5 vultures. Turkey vultures that is.  Nice touch RD Larry.

My favourite section of any trail runs and races is the singletrack especially those created and designed for mountain biking. Rock Cut does not disappoint. These sections were mostly dry and mud free. Kudos to the MTB crowd that know how to build trails. I was able to fly along these trails and pick up a few places which was good as most of the MTB trails were at the end of the race.

I had a goal going into this race. Break 3 hours. Sure that is slow compared to the folks up front but would be good for me. The mud and the weather prevented that plus the lack of training this year meant I knew I would not be close so my second goal was to beat my time at the same race back in 2007. Of course the conditions were a lot different, sub in snow, ice and some mud in 2007.  Good news I bettered that time by just over 30 minutes. Given the heat I was very happy.

But back to the finish. As I got closer to the finish area I could hear lots of noise. Rounded the corner and saw a lot of folks wearing their orange series finishers shirts. Awesome sight. I ran past the car park and up the hill to the finish line with people cheering me in (thanks Julie B and Carol). Hit the stopwatch. Done.

Quickly refilled my bottle with cold water and grabbed some chocolate brownie like cookies. Talked to Larry who missed me finishing, he's a busy guy. Head back to the car and run into Norm and family. Norm's wife Joyce had finished her 5th WSS and was awarded a WSS hoodie and a lovely cake. Congrats Joyce. It was good seeing Kat back out on the trail. My legs were covered in drying mud, everyone's were. Grabbed a towel, clean socks and shoes to head to the lake to wash of the dirt and cool down, Hmm felt so good. Time to head ho me.

Larry's race get better each time. They are still grass root but something improves each time at the Rock Cut races. This time RD Larry had used surveyor flags as well as the famous pie plates to mark the course and corner. As well as the turns being marked with the plates there was a "corridor" of flags and at regular intervals along the trail flags used as confidence markers to know you was still on track. Nice touch.

Congrats to everyone that ran today, it was a tough mudder for sure. Thanks to RD Larry and his crew for all the hard work and big thanks to the volunteers. Those that got their orange shirt, wear it with pride.

Friday, March 9, 2012

New Road Shoes

Sure my blog is titled Running Off Road and I prefer to do most of my running on trails. But sometimes there is no time to head to the trails so I'll run on the roads around the neighbour
It was time for new road shoes.
Last year I spent six months volunteering in the Chicago office of the American Liver Foundation working on various aspects of their marathon, golf, and walk fundraisers. They surprised me with a really nice gift card to Universal Sole running store.
US are one of the top running stores in the Chicago area with expert staff. They are located in the Lakeview area of Chicago plus a small store in the Chicago Loop. I don't make it to Lakeview much these days even though I used to live there. This week I had a Crew meeting with Clif Bar to discuss the events for the up coming year. That meeting was scheduled to be within 2 miles of US so I had the opportunity to combine both into one trip especially as my work day was 4am to noon (special project). 
Was greeted at US by Jessica. I remembered Jessica from the Loop location when I visited with Joe from ALF. She asked me a bunch of questions about my running and checked out my foot plant. I tried on a few pairs of road shoes and decided to go with a pair of Nike Zoom Structure Triaxs (15). This was a surprise as I had not worn Nike's in around 15 years. I set my marathon PR in Nike's and the only time I've broken 4 hours in the marathon (I've done 9 marathons and 5 50ks). Back in those days I discovered Nike changed shoe design every six months, or so it seemed so I swore off Nike when the marathon replacement with the same model felt so different. Have to admit most running shoe companies seem to do the shoe design change way to often and quickly but Nike were the first one's they I came across.
Of course running shoes should NOT be purchased based on colour or price or model but by what works at the given time for what your goals and plans are.
I am happy with my purchase which thanks to ALF only cost me the tax. Now to see how they run not on a treadmill
Thanks ALF, Universal Sole and Jessica.

Photos copyrighted and borrowed from Nike and Universal Sole

Monday, February 6, 2012

Back to the Trails

Photo of McDowell Forest Preserve (not taken by me)

Back to the Trails. I think I used that title or line a while ago but it works again today.
January started well with some good cold runs but then I came down with bronchitics. Some good prescription drugs and within a week or so it was all clear but for some unexplained reason I didn't feel like running. Work including some early mornings or late nights depending on my schedule didn't help so figured it was best to take a little break.
I ventured back to Naperville's McDowell Forest Preserve. This preserve is my closest preserve with a trail system. I guess I run there a lot each year. Plenty of limestone, dirt, grass and a little singletrack and ventures through woods, along the DuPage River, crosses prairies and around a lake. You can even link to the Illinois Prairie Path to the north along a stretch of paved trail and then through Warrenville and it's Glen preserve.  Today I kept it short and easy. From the parking area I crossed the river via the road bridge in the preserve and took the limestone trail that winds north towards Mud Lake. In half a mile I took the wide grass trail through the woods and out onto a small prairie crossing before rejoining the limestone trail. Almost at the north end of the preserve by Mud Lake the limestone trail follows the river and then under Diehl and the interstate towards Warrenville or turn to the west and run along the lake back to another stretch of grass trail. That was the route I took which lead me back to the first section of grass trail. Along here I saw a big deer stag staring at me as I ran by. Soon I was back at the parking area but decided to venture of trail for a small dirt section.
It was great to be Back to the Trails.
I've still got a lot of work to do but if everything goes to my thought plan I'll be ready for a 20k in Rockford in five weeks then maybe just maybe the Earth Day 50k in April.
Thanks for reading. Now time to plan my tomorrow run :-)
PS There is a 10k race held each April. Starts on the roads but middle section uses the McDowell Trails.