musings on running, life, and everything in between

Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Race Recap

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I did the Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Race this weekend at Waterfall Glen (obviously) in Darien, IL. It’s right by Argonne Labs, as a point of reference. Waterfall Glen is a crushed limestone loop through forest preserve, which is just under 10 miles. It’s surprisingly hilly and rather pretty with open grassy areas, more wooded sections, and some small bodies of water. There are some horse riders on the trail at times. I’ve actually never seen one, but I’ve seen “signs” of their passing (ewwww). There are also a fair amount of mountain bikers and cyclists who share the wide path. I think there are some paths that are more grassy/”real” trail, but I’ve not done those sections so I have no idea. There are some offshoots of the main path that I don’t venture on for fear of running more than i need to, haha.

I actually had 16 miles on the training plan–10 at marathon pace, so having a 10 mile race on that day was fortuitous in terms of helping me work on the “race pace.” However, that also meant I had to tack on miles before and/or after. I decided to do 5 or so before and a short cooldown after.

I didn’t do the packet pickup (a friend in BFF did it for me), so I can’t speak that much to it. They offered it at three different locations in the Chicago metro area, which was pretty awesome/convenient, though. I was surprised, though, that when I got my stuff, it was just the shirt and bib. There weren’t even any safety pins, and as far as I can tell, no goody bag either (virtual or otherwise). Someone said that they thought all the money went to the Lagunitas beer afterwards, but as a non-drinker, that’s pretty disappointing. This was F3’s first year running the event (it’s been directed by a variety of other people before), so I’m a little surprised they didn’t offer a discount code for one of their other races.

Anyhow, I decided to do 5 miles before the race and headed out of my house around 5:30 (it’s about a 20 minute drive from home). The race started at 7:30, so I figured I’d give myself an hour and a half to get my 5 in, do my business (ahem), and line up for the start. It’s always vaguely paradoxically inspiring and depressing to get up before/with the sun (BTW, I got a new phone and the pics are so much better!). I figured I would be one of the first people at the race (except for the organizers obviously), but there was constant flow of cars pulling in when I got there. I did see alot of printed maps out (who deos that anymore?) as people were driving in, so I’m not sure what that was about… Also, the idea of standing around 1.5 hours before a race sounds awful. I decided not to run the same trail that the race was on to keep it novel or whatever, so I hit the roads (I also secretly hoped it wouldn’t be quite as hilly. Yeah, I was delusional). I didn’t see folks as I was heading out for the 5, but I did see alot more as I made my way back. I’m not sure if people were tacking on mileage or if they were warming up, maybe a bit of both. It was a very humid and somewhat warm morning at that time already, so I was pretty drenched by 7 am. Lovely. I also saw the port-a-potty line looked like a 90’s-style Ticketmaster line, so I got in it right away before even looking for my friends. I spent the entire 25 minutes before lining up waiting to get through the line. They need to work on that for next year. Anyhow, if you squint, you can seem me smack dab in the middle of the line with a blue tank and pink compression socks, grey hat, in front of a guy with a maroon shirt (one really nice feature of the race is free race photos! The watermarked ones are from the site. All others are my own).
Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Mile Race -81Because the loop itself is under 10 miles, the race had to start on the grass outside of the trail. There were pseudo-corrals marking people’s paces. They used these to do staggered start times to keep from overcrowding the path, which was good. It’s a little weird starting off trying to hustle by running on bump grass and then dodging under trees to dart onto the path. To accommodate the crowd, the start is at the area for the Argonne childcare center so there’s not really an “official” entrance there. With all the rain we’ve been having, it was a little muddy.

Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Mile Race -4I saw most of my the girls in my running group before the race and started with a bunch of them in the 10 minute corral. We were planning on running faster than that pace but didn’t feel like pushing our way up to the right section. We talked about our race plan, which was none. Ha. None of us could decide how much we were going to push it in terms of pace. Most of them hadn’t run the race or the trail before. We all went out with a “meh” in regards to time. I started out with Margaret, Corey and Amy (both who did Ragnar), and Emily. I ran with Corey and Amy for the first couple of miles and then pulled forward after some of the hills before mile 3.

So here’s the thing. People talk ALOT about Big Bertha and Waterfall Glen. What they don’t tell you is that Big Bertha is not just a single giant hill. It’s a series of rolling upward climbs over a half mile. It’s supposedly only 125 feet, but it feels like alot. Talking to the BFF girls afterwards, I forgot to warn them that. They did the same thing I did two years ago at my first run of the course. They held back because they kept waiting for a single giant hill all the way to mile 8 and then realized they must have finished it. Just to get a sense, here’s my Garmin stats. You can see the start of the climb right before mile 3. All in all, there’s just under 300 feet climbed and lost.


I started the race comfortably around 8:40’s and then just never seemed to budge from there, even though I felt like I was pushing harder. I ended averaging 8:42, and I swear it felt like I was doing race pace. I also kept checking my pace on my watch, and I thought it was pacing me ok. Sigh. This is what happens when you don’t wear a pace bracelet…Mile 7 was the only mile I got within spitting distance of race pace, so I am a bit frustrated and will need to consider what is going on.

The last part of this race that drives you mad is the finish. Again because the loop is short, they had you start on the grass and they have you finish on the grass. That ducking under the trees to emerge off the trail was even muddier by the time you got back. You also had to run back over the grass and even MORE to get to the finish line. If you’re not watching carefully, you don’t see that you have just under a quarter mile of weird bump, muddy grass to loop out and back towards the finish. It’s maddening to run parallel and past the finish to run back to it. In the pic below you can see a string of runners running parallel to the finish out to the far end of the field, and then you can run back down a dirt/gravel path to the finish.   I usually refuse to look at race photos because they are horrible (see the example below). I am tired, exhibiting my bad form of swinging my arms across my body, and look like I am not enjoying myself. This is not something I want to frame and look at to inspire myself about the joy of running. Ha. You can’t see it in this picture, but I finished right behind a couple that crossed while holding hands. The thought briefly crossed my mind to run between them. I know, I am an awful human being. I also didn’t have the energy to kick it in enough though I did steadily gain on them. If you want to see this cute, photogenic couple, though, here you go (

Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Mile Race -761

I’m not 100% sure this woman is the winner, but I think she was (if she was, she had a 1:05 time–compare to my 1:27). I love her picture. She looks like she’s having fun. I swear 90% of the finish pictures I flipped through looking for friends show running as a horrible, painful thing to do. Everyone is stopping their watch, grimacing, or looking completely fatigued. This lady, who I saw running the roads before the race and doing a cooldown on the trail after, looked fresh, joyful, and strong. She’s my role model.  Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Mile Race -382I also saw this photo which has an awesome shirt feature (the woman in the background). If you can’t read it, it says, “I run because I REALLY really like dessert.”

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The post-race was ok. It was buggy and everyone was soaked in their own sweat so we didn’t linger super-long. I didn’t even bother trying to get a massage. Laying prone for mosquitoes to feast on me seemed like a big mistake. There were some awesome popsicles from Johnny Pops, though, which were amazing. AND, we had time to get a cute, pretend-fancy pose photo with most of the BFF girls. 

I don’t remember getting a medal the last time I ran the race two years ago. These were cute, though. They were spinner medals, so the green tree in the middle actually spins around inside. It reminded me of that random time traveling watch thing Hermione uses in Harry Potter. Too bad, it isn’t. I could use one of those 🙂

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All in all, it’s a nice race and a good mixup from your traditional road race. I think they need to work on their port-a-potties before the race. Aid stations and volunteers along the course were great. If you do run it in the future, mentally prepare yourself for the series of climbs of Big Bertha and the weird longish run over the grass  and mud at the end!

In other news, I’ve been recruiting my kids to exercise alongside me. In my attempts to maximize cross-training time and time with children, I convince them it’s fun to do the videos alongside me. Usually they do the first 5 minutes and then just watch. To make it more interactive yesterday, I made them pretend weights to do alongside. Otherwise, they try to use my 5 pounders, and that makes me nervous as I envision squashed toes. The 3 y.o. is doing her fierce face like the women in the video (who she kept asking why they were so angry, haha). 

Also, because I got a new phone, I thought I would let my 5 y.o. use my old one for photos. He has a kiddy camera but it’s so grainy. Somehow he got it in his head to do timed runs back and forth in the house. He asked me to show him how to use the timer on the phone, and I thought nothing of it. And then he started running back and forth trying to beat his time. Ha.

Anyhow, have a great day everyone! It’s a hot sticky one, so take it easy.

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

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