Race Recap: Universal Sole 2022 Valentine’s Trail Challenge


As is the tradition, the February edition of the Universal Sole Trail Challenge featured conditions that delivered on the expectations set by the word “challenge” in the name. Last week’s thaw and hard refreeze turned the beautiful snowy track to ice. In an email to participants, race director Joel Feinberg urged everyone to use studded shoes or YakTracks. I was one of the small percentage that did not heed this advice, with predictable consequences.

Conditions at Schiller Woods- photo credit, Sharon Walbert

Held at the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve, the race featured 117 people running the lollipop shaped course for 4.6 miles through the woods along the Des Plaines River. The temperature hovered in the low teens that felt like single digits with the wind.

One of my teammates quipped before the race that his goal was “to stay upright.”

I retorted, “What is your B goal?” I would regret those words. For most of the race, I could find decent footing along the sides of the trail where the snow had not totally changed to ice. At several points, however, I had to cross the center of the trail where no such footing existed and at mile 1 ¼, I fell trying to cross. I was relatively uninjured, and with wounded pride continued the race, even managing to increase my pace for the last two miles. I have since ordered spikes for my trail shoes.

Speaking of spiked shoes: at one point, I saw race winner Nicholas Robertson flying down the center of the ice like he was on speed skates. He finished the 4.6 miles in 29:23. On ice. The top female finisher Elizabeth Scharle came in at 40:30.

Happy Participants (author upper left)- photo credit, Sharon Walbert

Like all Universal Sole events, the Valentine’s trail challenge featured a great post-race party with chili, beer, music, and “world famous raffle.”

Don’t miss the last Universal Sole Trail Challenge race of the season an 11-mile monster at Bullfrog Lake in Palos on April 2ndRegister Here



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While Todd was a swimmer throughout childhood, he led a mostly sedentary, career-focused adulthood until the age of 45, when he fell in with a crowd of triathletes, runners and cyclists. Under their influence, Todd embraced the adventure that is endurance sports, completing his first full distance Ironman race in 2019. When not obsessively poring over his data on Strava and Training Peaks, Todd can be found in the kitchen cooking food to fuel athletic endeavors for him and his wife Sharon, also a runner. Oh, and can't forget the cat.


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