Monday, May 16, 2022

RunShowUSA coming to Chicago's Rosement Des Center in June


Coming to Chicago's Rosemont DES Center on June 4-5 is The RunShowUSA.

Proud to announce I am an ambassador for the 2022 The RunShow USA expo being held in the Chicago burb of Rosement at the Des Convention Center, June 4-5. Please join me the event that will feature experts in running, celebrity runners, runner workshops, runner booth to pick up anything and everything runners. Click on the link above to get more details and click on this link to get a free weekend pass (parking not included)

Stop by to hear speakers talk about all things running including Gary Robbins, Sally McRae, the Miravator, Henry Ward, Galen Rupp and Carl Lewis and many more.

Visit vendors at their booths both local and national attendees

Get running advice from the experts including how to, injury recovery, nutrition, training tips, screenings clinic, information on races and training programs

Shop for running products including Hoka One One, Coors, Nathan Sports, ASICS, Altra, Fleet Feet and more. The list is growing weekly

Information on races from Ornery Mule Racing, Fleet Feet Sports, Badwater and others

Back to it: Ice Age Trail 50 volunteering


     (photo/logo owned by Ice Age Trail 50)

Past two years for events have been different. Honestly not sure how else what call it but different. Most events including those I loved being at were cancelled, postponed, moved once, twice, three times.....when they came back first it was the smaller races or races that could limit their numbers or restructure their format. One local trail ultra for example, that was canceled in 2020 was held over 3 days in 2021 to limit runners each day and the results combined. End of 2021 saw many events being held and a congested calendar as early year events were moved to the end to join the traditional end of year races. Most runners took it all in stride just happy to be back. I was lucky to volunteer at a few events in 2020 and 2021 all held with caution and safety. When not running or hiking trails, I can be found volunteering to help runners meet their ultra-goals.

Ice Age Trail 50 is held in Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine. Nearest town is La Grange not far from Whitewater. It is held in May each year and hosts a 50 mile, 50k and half marathon all on single track and double trail.  In a normal year the race draws around 900 runners. Like most spring 2020 races it was cancelled then the makeup date in the autumn went the same way. Finally in 2021 the race happened but pushed back to September. Two and half years had passed since the last Ice Age Trail 50 yet finally it was a go, but the numbers were down due to deferment allowed or other races that clashed with it. And I volunteered.

Fast forward six months and Ice Age Trail 50 was back to its May calendar date and a normal sized field of runners. I think I had to be one of the first to volunteer as not much could keep me away. Around 10 years ago I had reached out to the race's volunteer coordinator wanting to help at the race I heard about. Angela assigned me to the aid station at Highway 12 and I was welcomed by long time aid station captain's Mary and Craig with open arms. I have returned every year and that was the case in 2022.

(photo by Ian Stevens) 

Arriving early the race van had dropped off the supplies and everything was set up very quickly. One canopy for hydration drinks (Heed, coke, water, mountain dew) and the other for nutrition (PB sandwiches, MMs, bananas, gels, salty foods). We set up a runner's coned path from aid station to guide them to the road crossing. The runners hit this aid station at miles 17.3 and 26.3 so at each point we check them in with me along with Pat and Beth charged with the 17.3 mile as they came down hill into the aid station. 

                                                            (photo by Ian Stevens) 

On a hot day that no runner had time to acclimatize too we were surprised to see the first runner arrive at mile 17.3 in two hours followed by the second runner 2 minutes later. The second at mile 17.3 would return a while later after a marathon in first place and go on to complete the course as a returning champion.  The female winner arrived in 4th place and moved up to 2nd place overall leading it appears start to finish and another returning champion. The heat took its toll on many runners with a number dropping at 17.3 and more at 26.3 while others just slowed down and soldiered for more trail miles.

Having not done much running myself in the past two years I am totally inspired by these ultra trail runners but then I always am. Many friends were running, many runners I remembered from years past and crews I recognized. Mixed in with the familiar faces were plenty of new to the distance, the race or even trails. It is a joy to see and I will be back in 2023

For anyone thinking about volunteering do it. Ice Age Trail is a great race to spend some time helping overs. This race treats runners very well and the same goes for the volunteers who get a volunteer T shirt (based on the runners T), a meal back at the race finish HQ, a free day parking pass if one is needed and priority entry for the following year if you decide to run. Most races run on volunteers including road, paved, trail and distance from 5k to well even 3100 miles (yes there is one in New York). Many races have a charity nonprofit element or give back to the local community. Go on volunteer for a race.

Race results: 2022 Ice Age Trail Run (





Saturday, May 16, 2020

Carpe Diem 100 mile challenge

This year is definitely different. After completing my degree in February I was looking forward to getting some normality back into my life. COVID19 changed all that. I am still working and just got back into running but all the events I had hoped to attend are one by one being cancelled or postponed. Concerts and sports are doing likewise. Life really is strange

But in it's place running races have turned to virtual events and bands are performing online while the German Bundesliga just restarted the season even if it was without fans

My friend Colleen runs Carpe Diem events putting on a number of races in the Chicago North Shore area. I help her when I have time but especially at her popular Winnetka-Glencoe Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. Colleen is also an ultra runner and is currently doing a virtual run across Tennessee, an event put on by the legendary Laz of Barkley Marathons fame.

Colleen decided it would be fun to have a virtual event with an attainable goal for kids, family and other runners and reward their effort with a sweet T shirt, a medal and some mileage bonus prizes for the kids. She created the Carpe Diem 100 mile challenge to run and walk over 3 months. It all starts Monday June 1st. I am signed up and looking for the challenge to motivate me back to running regularly as my goal for 2020 is pacing my buddy Steve at the Javelina 100 in Arizona over Halloween. Will you join me?



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
Earth Day April 20th. Crystal Lake IL 5mi 15m 50k
Galena Sky trail race May 18th. Galena IL 4 hour 8 hour
Kettle Moraine June 1st/2nd La Grange WI100mi 100km 38mi 50k
Hennipen Hundred October 5th/6th Sterling IL 100mi 50mi

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  race site Jeni's site