This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a trail race and my first race of 2021. After a year of canceled races in 2020 due to the pandemic, I have been hesitant to sign up for any races but on Thursday I came across an email from USOLE about their annual valentine’s trail race. I have done this race in the past, so I figured why not give it a shot. USOLE Trail running races have become a popular race series for Chicago runners looking for a new challenge and great for people wanting to get off the roads and enjoy some of our beautiful trails The USOLE Valentine’s trail challenge is a n annual 5-mile race in Schiller Woods in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. This year trail race was shortened to 3.1 miles due to extreme weather conditions (below zero temps and windshields). Due to COVID-19 restrictions this race was cap to 50 participants with two options racing, The Saturday and Sunday race brought the bravest runners for a challenging course and less than ideal conditions due to hazardous weather and icy roads. Last week, we were hit with a winter storm that brought significant snow accumulation leaving the trails covered in snow and ice.
Sunday morning had temps below zero at -7 degrees, the race start was changed to 10am to allow for warmer temps for the runners and volunteers. The race started promptly at 10 am with about 30 brave runners ready to give this race a chance. IT was a beautiful sunny morning perfect for a winter run. We had fresh snow on the trail from the night before, the first few yards on the trail were soft and made for a difficult start for me. Race organizers had suggested runners wear proper winter running gear including yaktrak and/or trail running shoes which was absolutely necessary for today’s run. Trail running on the snow is challenging and really tough on your ankles and legs, I was cautious with each footing and careful not to fall since I was being followed by a group of runners. The pressure was on to keep on moving forward so I did not have time to think about the cold, my only goal was to finish. The schiller wood trail is a single-track courses 1.55 miles out and back, due to the pandemic there was no aid stations on course but the wonderful volunteers at the start t and finish were terrific. They also had a photographer on the course which took some fun pictures of this magical day on the trails.
After the race, runners were rewarded with the famous chili , granola bars, chips, fruit, and other tasty refreshments. Despite the cold frigid temps, runners gather at the finish line to celebrate the opportunity of racing after a year of canceled events. It was a great to see the spirit of hope in the running community. We were all happy to be there and be able to do a real race. The awards included tope five overall male and female award tiles. Congratulations to Jodi Bohl for taking the female overall win and Michael Cramarosso for the male overall win. The five top male and female received cute award tiles all participants received a custom USOLE trail challenge long sleeve running tech hoodie. Thank you to USOLE for the fun, safe and well-organized event. I look forward for the next trail challenge.