• Eagle,
    United States
  • October
  • 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, 50K, 50 miles, Relay
  • Trail Race
  • Event Website

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Chicago, Illinois, United States
15 2
"Best Ultra Ever! (But Also My Only Ultra Ever)"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management
Kate 's thoughts:

This race marked my first-ever official ultra (I did devise a sort of ad-hoc ultra up Western Avenue for my friends, back in May, that took us the full length of Western plus a little additional to equal 30 miles for a friend's 30th at her behest ... I may have the best running friends ever), and so I might be biased, but I thought the race organizers did a terrific job, and I would highly recommend this race to anyone considering his or her first ultra.

Here's why:

- The volunteers were fantastic. It says a lot about a race if it inspires people to wake up before sunrise on a Saturday to be unfathomably kind to total strangers for hours, in this case in unseasonably cold weather, for no pay. These volunteers were so supportive and so friendly; they buoyed my spirits every time I passed an aid station.
- Speaking of, the aid stations were more than well-stocked. Everything you could have wanted was on hand, including chews, gels, candy, potato chips, actual potatoes, broth, electrolyte-filled liquids, water... and they refill your hydration system for you, so you don't have to struggle with that at mile 45.3.
- The scenery was incredible. I had camped in the southern unit of Kettle Moraine before, but never explored the trails in any depth. Every time I made it up one of the many hills, I forced myself to stop and appreciate the view. It's a gorgeous, well-maintained state park, and I felt unbelievably lucky to be running it.
- Spectating is easy. My husband met me at every spectator station with no problem, and we were able to drive to the start of the race without any hassle. (If you camp in the Ottawa Lake campgrounds, which we did the night before and the night of, you can walk to the start/finish area. We drove because it was cold and I'm a huge baby.)
- Dean Karnazes was there to give out high-fives as we crossed the starting line, AND I saw him again at an aid station and on the trail. Running behind a running legend was very, very cool (although short-lived; he is, unsurprisingly, much faster than me.)

The swag wasn't much to speak of, but I gave it 3 stars because our packets did include a free pair of socks and because they were more minimal and environmentally friendly than most race-day bags. I appreciate not having to go home with a bunch of stuff I don't want and then have to discard. The T-shirts are blank at packet pick-up, but they screen-print them with your distance (at no additional charge), if you don't mind waiting until race day to receive the printed shirt.

Expo is rated 2 stars because there wasn't one, but the folks working packet pick-up were incredibly friendly.

In sum: Run this race if you've never run an ultra before. The small field ensures individualized attention, but the dedicated volunteers cheer for you as if you're in a big-city marathon.

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