Skip to main content

The Fox Valley Winter Challenge Trail Series

Last month Fuzzy and I drove out to the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles for the first leg of a three-part race series. This first leg - inauspiciously named "Trail Race #1" - was a winter race that I've run twice in the past (though at the time it was named the "Hickory Knolls 5K Trail Adventure"). But last month it wasn't just a standalone race - it was part of a series of increasingly long (and difficult) winter runs.

This race series is called the Fox Valley Winter Challenge Trail Series and this morning we headed to the Oakhurst Forest Preserve in Aurora for the second race in the series (yes, Trail Race #2).

Unlike Trail Race #1, this race's basecamp didn't have a nice heated indoor space to hang out in beforehand - instead there was a little picnic shelter with a fireplace (going full-blast) where runners gathered before the race started:

The race kicked off a few minutes after 10am, in the middle of a snowy field. There were only about 300 runners, but the trail was mostly single-track (some pictures may make it look otherwise, but because of snow and ice there really was only one portion of the trail that was suitable for running) and at the starting line, runners spread out about fifty wide, making for an especially interesting start, with a wall of runners sprinting for the trail and then thinning down to one single line that was mostly maintained for the rest of the run.

The race director started things off with a handheld speaker attached to a microphone, telling us to watch out for ice and "natural obstacles" (there was a tree that had fallen across the trail midway through) and then launching us with "Runners take your mark...Go!"

I know I said something along these lines about six weeks ago when I ran the Frozen Gnome, but this was one of the hardest races I've ever done. If you've heard of a race described as "ankle work" then you know what this race was all about. Because of the heavy snow, followed by melting, followed by light snow that we've had recently, this was a tough course where you could never really be secure in your footing. At times you would start to feel like you had figured out a rhythm only to crash through some loose snow or slip on a patch of hidden ice. In other words, this race was exciting.

And if the snowy trail aspect wasn't excitement enough, there was a massive icy hill in the middle of the double-loop course (so you got to experience it twice). Luckily, the Austin Half Marathon had a few hills in it, so I was a bit more prepared for this than I would typically be after training in Chicago.

Since the temperature had warmed up to twenty degrees this morning before the race it wasn't as cold of a run as the last few that I've done and I ended up taking my hat off pretty early on. And then promptly lost it. I had written it off by the end of the race, but a few minutes after finishing, another runner came up with my hat yelling, "Anyone lose a hat?!" So, not to worry: hat recovered.

And here's what the finish line - a tough run through a beach-like patch of snow - looked like. Volunteers pulled your tag off of your bib and put it into order with the other finishers. Hardcore old-school manual recording. We'll see what the final race (Trail Race #3) has to offer!


Popular posts from this blog

Carrera de los Muertos 2013

I loved last year's Carrera de los Muertos so I had to sign up again this year.

I got a ride down to Pilsen with Fuzzy and Erica (because they're super-cool and because Pilsen is not the easiest place to get to from Lincoln Square without a car).

We got there with plenty of time to spare, which was lucky because we actually needed all that time to park the car and get a parking slip and all that. We ended up getting to the starting line just about five minutes before the race started. Luckily, the gear check for this race is impeccable and once I had my bag checked I think there was still about three minutes before start time. So I stood around looking at all the scenery: with the sweet costumes and bright purple race shirts, along with the (artistic) graffiti on a lot of the walls along the course, I think Carrera de los Muertos has to be the most colorful race in Chicago.

A Daily Guide to Chicago Comedy Shows in March

No preamble this month, let's just talk about comedy.

March 1: Meechie Hall Live Album Recording at Laugh Factory

Chicagoan Meechie Hall - who performs, hosts and headlines all over town (and has for over a decade) - is recording his first comedy album at Laugh Factory. Produced and hosted by weekly comedy showcase Stand Up Stand Up, this live recording event will feature opening acts Michael Robinson, Ed Towns and Jake McKenzie. And just to prove that he really is one of Chicago's hardest comedians working, Hall will be back at Laugh Factory later the same night for BYOB Podcast Live with some seriously excellent stand-up comic guests.

March 2: Sebastian Maniscalco: Stay Hungry Tour at Chicago Theatre

Last year Arlington Heights native Sebastian Maniscalco made the Forbes list of the world's highest-paid comedians for the first time, and accepted the accomplishment with humility and honest concern for the future: "I know things are good, but I'd hate to make the F…

A Daily Guide to Chicago Comedy Shows in April 2018

April 1: Character Assassination presents The Roast of Disney Princesses at Laugh Factory

The latest entry in the Character Assassination roast show series pits a collection of Disney princesses -played by Chicago comics - against each other. Starring Allison Dunne, Alex Kumin, Sarah Shockey, Gena Gephart, Audrey Jonas, Eunji Kim, Samantha Berkman, Stephanie Weber and Mandee McKelvey.

April 2: Comedy Overload Open Mic at Gallery Cabaret

A weekly open mic open to all forms of comedy that takes place at a sweet venue in Bucktown.

April 3: Shake 'Em Up Comedy Showcase at Shakers on Clark

This free two-hour comedy showcase is hosted by Darrick J and Nate Galloway. Comics get between four and 10 minutes each and the hosts let comedians know a bit needs work by hitting a bell and "shaking 'em up."

April 4: Comedians You Should Know at Timothy O'Toole's

Really you should be catching this weekly showcase at Timothy O'Toole's every week. This week's two hour …