Monday, September 22, 2014

Muddy Monk Four Stars

The Chicago Flag is one on my favourites. Four red stars and two blue bands. The stars are for historic Chicago events or parts of the City history while the blue bands are branches of the Chicago River but you can read more here:

Muddy Monk is Chicago's favourite trail running series. The good Monk holds trail races of 5k to 50k on a variety of trail surfaces with as little paved as possible. They give out some nice SWAG, think T shirts, beer glasses, finishers medals at longer races, some good food after and a general old school with the modern touches races. That is my type of race.

This weekend found me running the Four Stars 4 mile race at the Old School Forest Preserve. The preserve is right next to the Des Plaines River Trail system so although the trail was new to me driving in I saw trails and trailheads familiar that I had ran before.

Head Monk, Art had set up an out and back course. In a road race I'd not like this but when you run trails they tend to look and feel different going the other direction so this was 2 miles out, turn around and head back. But Art and his devilish ways had a plan for this course.

I arrived early and got parked easily although even late comers would have no issue getting parked here due to the abundance of parking. Checked in at race HQ receiving a nice tech shirt and my number bib. Finishers award was a beer glass - mentioning that now as the shirt and glass are in this photo borrowed from Muddy Monk (not my race number).

Plenty of time to wait for the race start so I decided to check out the first half mile of the course which was a loop from the start along a grass meadow and up (this is the evil part) a sled hill, down the other side, back to the start before heading out onto the main trail system. Climbing to the top of the hill a number of people were out doing hill repeats and a group doing an outdoor boot/cross training session with some coaches. Climb done went back to start and chatted with RD Art and another runner discussing his new 50k (to be ran during his December race) then back to the car to listen to some Chicago music, "Smashing Pumpkins". While sat in my car saw a number of Bears, Blackhawk and Cubs shirts (one Sox) and at least five wearing Chicago Fire (MLS) jerseys including myself!! Others came in pizza, winter vortex (very clever), Book of Moron cast (think it started in Chicago).

Time to run

Start line was right by the HQ pavilion under Muddy Monk inflatable arch. Art said a few words and then fired the gun/horn/whistle/voice, don't recall the GO. Started nearer the back to let the fast kids get a clear start or not charge by me. Following the shrub line and red flags we headed toward the hill I had summited a little while ago. It was a good climb. Of course I knew we'd climb again at the end. Back along the other side of the meadow then out onto the limestone loop. Course was relatively flat, shaded in places thanks to the forest of trees. The markings consisted of blue signs with arrows and red flagging, very easy to follow. Being slow it was not long before the leader was spotted coming back to me and it was great to see a female out leading the race (she went onto be overall winner). The turn around by the preserve entrance was also the aid station with volunteers handing out water. I always carry a bottle of water whatever the distance or event so didn't need any. Then back to the start. Now I could see who was behind me and was surprised there was more than I thought there would be. Getting back to the race HQ the finishers were getting their post race beer, dogs, snacks, checking out Muddy Monk merchandise and generally chatting with each other or cheering in the slow runners like me. Of course we still had the meadow loop to do with the sled hill which seemed twice the size now. The climb up was also from the other direction (being out and back) and the climb was longer while the run down was more rutted. Got that down and headed for home. Felt good and run in with arms up. I had a goal given the lack of running this year and beat it by over five minutes. It was a soft goal but hey we all need one.

A volunteer handed me a finishers beer glass and I grabbed a can of Chicago Finch wheat ale. As I had to drive home and had errand that afternoon plus the CARA Ready to Run 20 miler to work at the next day saved the can for Sunday evening (the wait was good, nice beer). Found RD Art after the race, thanked him for Another great Muddy Monk and then had to leave for home. Art was running the CARA event Sunday then running the Four Stars after with a Muddy Monk season ticket holder who was out of town Saturday but wanted to do the race. Nice touch RD.

Four Stars was an enjoyable race and fun which is what it should be about. I'll post results link when Art posts them

Photos "borrowed" from Art and Muddy Monk who own the copyright if there is one

Race start from the sled hill, we climber this twice during the race. I had a climb before.

The finish

 Further races can be found at the website including the mentioned 50k which Art should have more details in the very near future including sign up. Given it is Cook County things take time for course approval and he wants to make sure it is done before going live.