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.
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 http://www.runrace.net/findarace.php?id=16317IL
Thanks for reading.
With Monica the 8k female champ at her first trail race.