Kankakee River State Park, Over the River & Thru the Woods ….

I’m on a mission to run every trail in our area before the Huff 50K on December 28th.  Why?  Because it’s fun!!  Plus, I’d like to hope that one of these trails will give me a tiny bit of preparedness for the event.    Okay, probably not but at least I can say that I was out there, running real trails, and making an effort to prepare for possibly the most difficult thing that I’ve attempted so far.  I also know from a previous trail adventure involving the Grand Canyon and a group of pretty ladies that one of the most important things you can do beforehand is to prepare the feet/ankles and break in the shoes before show time.  Let it suffice to say that I think my shoes are officially broken in, if being dirty counts.   Now can someone just recommend a pair of insulated tights that will cover these LONG legs?? 

dirty trail shoes

So last Saturday, I met up with a few runners from the Kankakee River Running Club to run some backwoods trails at the Kankakee River State Park.   I say “backwoods” cuz well, you won’t find them unless you are lost following someone who knows where to look.  After running out of the parking lot, across a grassy area and then ducking under a gate, we found the semblance of trails.  Very rough trails. 

Kankakee River State Pk_ Trails_Nov 2013  Kankakee River State Pk_ Trails2_Nov 2013 

However, most of the time we were running thru area like this:

Kankakee River State Pk_ woods_Nov 2013   Kankakee River State Pk_ woods2_Nov 2013

We saw lots of cool things and the Kankakee runners were kind enough to stop and let me take a few billion photos.  I am a bridge lover and LOVE to find random bridges in the middle of nowhere.  I also like stairs.  A lot.  Who loves stairs while they run?  Me!!

Kankakee River State Pk_bridge & stairs_Nov 2013  Kankakee River State Pk_stairs_Nov 2013

We also passed the river several times and even found a teepee!  See Mike S, lounging on the frozen ground in the teepee.  And thanks to Jodie & Amie for stopping for a photo!

Kankakee River State Pk_ River_Nov 2013 Kankakee River State Pk_ Mike-TeePee_Nov 2013 Kankakee River State Pk_ Jodi-Amie_Me_Nov 2013

And my favorite part of the day, besides hanging out with new runners, was definitely when we lost the trail and had to climb thru a fence to continue the run.  So.Much.Fun. 

Kankakee River State Pk_ Fence_Nov 2013

I had an amazing day out at the Kankakee River State Park.  I loved the backwoods section as much as the beautiful paved trail that runs directly next to river.  More info on the easy to follow paved trail HERE

I encourage you to get out in the “off season” and make your next run an adventure.  No need to pound the same trail, every single day, change things up.  Have fun.  Leave the watch at home.  Enjoy the moment!

** Run the Trails ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Boston Run To Remember….

Boston Run To Remember_bib

Too sad to do much else other than run, the kiddos and I joined a local group, the Kankakee River Running Club for a Boston Run To Remember.

52 Adults and children participated.

Boston Run To Remember_group

Boston Run To Remember

Aby, Michael and I were content to just run and hang toward the back of the pack.  The response from the community, the local businesses, and the cars passing by was overwhelming as people cheered, honked their horn and showed support in any way they were able.

Boston Run To Remember_me-michael-aby bring up rear

We were happy to participate.  We were happy to show our support.  We were happy to do SOMETHING other than feel overwhelmed and powerless.

Boston Run To Remember_kids     Boston Run To Remember_me-michael-aby

I’m still sad.  I’m still overwhelmed.  I’m still not going to “say” anything about the tragedy.  However, I’m a runner.  I run.  That’s how I process things and this too will eventually be processed, even if impossible to ever understand.

** Run On ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Jingle Bell 5K Run – Kankakee, IL

There were a lot of reasons that I originally registered for the Jingle Bell Run but this weekend things changed.  As I’ve said before, time changes “almost” everything.


I was sick at the beginning of the week and by yesterday, Mr. Michael came down with a raging fever while I was out running.  Our fun-filled Christmas themed weekend, the one that I have looked forward to more than any other this entire year, bar the Shamrock Shuffle Weekend, disintegrated before my eyes. 

So yesterday, I came straight home from my run and held Michael pretty much the entire day, while hubby proceeded to come down with the creeping crude as well.  Awesome.  So at 4am this morn, I was laying awake holding my feverish baby seriously considering bagging my first race ever.  I didn’t want to go, everyone was sick.  I felt guilty about leaving but was giving one person a ride to the race and meeting many more on site.  Would it have mattered if I didn’t go?  Not really but I felt a bit of obligation.  I went. We had a large group of FNRC Runners.


We picked up the packets flawlessly.  Met the director of the Arthritis Foundation.  Met the Race Director.  Pinned our bibs to our shirts.  Waited around and socialized in the warm gymnasium and then returned to the car to do final preparations.  At this point, it was pouring rain and about 37 degrees.  My guilt was running high from leaving hubby and Michael home sick, Aby was feeling crappy and begging to go home.  Nicki didn’t want to run in the pouring, freezing rain mind returning home.  I literally put my head on my steering wheel trying to figure out the right answer.  Stay?  Go?  Time was ticking and the race was upon us and for whatever reason, I decided to stay and run even though I knew we all wanted to just go back home.

During my moment(s) of indecision, we about missed the start, and were standing in the grass when the gun went off.  Myself, Aby & Nicki are below on our way to the start.  Thanks Kim M. for all the F’N photos in this post.  If not for you, we would only see words on a page.  I appreciate your constant, unwavering support of all of us!  JingleBell_2012_me aby nicki

The gun went off, it took me a second to realize that the race was actually starting and we stepped onto the road to run.  It was then that I realized we were quite a ways from the start line.  Normally the poor positioning wouldn’t be a big deal because most chip timed races also have a timing mat at the start line but this one did not.  So we were on gun time but it wasn’t too big of an issue for us cuz we all felt like crap, were there primarily to be festive and run in our awesome Team Sparkle skirts, and support out friends and the the Arthritis Foundation.  No big deal, but a bit of an error on my part. 

Amazingly enough, the rain pretty much stopped at the beginning of the race and we were able to run without getting too wet.  The roads were wet but not unsafe.  We had to run thru dodge some puddles.  The route was on campus at the Shapiro Development Center so on closed roads that did not have vehicular traffic.  It was well marked, had 2 waters stops and diverse terrain.  We even went off road shortly and ran a non-technical trail thru a wooded area.  Kinda cool.  Definitely different.  I liked it a lot.


Plus, there were so many F’N Runners & Kankakee River Running Club members running, spectating and helping, that it was nice to see so many friendlies.  I run to run.  I show up on a lot of days knowing that I don’t have much to give but I go (and stayed today) because of all YOU who also got out there to support a good cause and take a small break from “real life”.  I went (and stayed) to support all of you, my amazing running family, in the only way that I could.  I ran.

And when it came time for awards, I was even more F’N proud seeing all my friends collect some bling.   From left:  Kate S (1st in age group), Maggie W (1st in age group), Susan M aka “Julie” (first overall female), Nicole F (2nd in age group), & Me (1st in age group). 

JingleBell_2012_award winners

And yes, we came home with some cool swag too.  A long sleeve cotton tee, a jingle bell, and a few other cool things.


The post race food options were amazing with everything from hot chocolate, cream of chicken rice soup to pizza.  A costume contest was held, a raffle, and they gave awards 3 deep in all the normal age groups.  It was a good turn out with with well over 400 people finishing the race and a great race in general.  If all goes well, I  hope to go back and actually race the Jingle Bell next year.  I love a well run, festive event where I see lots of friends.  Great job, Jingle Bell Run! 

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Fallen Firefighters 5K – Bourbonnais, IL

Yesterday was the first annual Fallen Firefighters 5K in Bourbonnais, IL. 



The race venue was at Perry Farms on Route 45.  Several races are held at this location each year but this my first time on site.  Although Perry Farms is best know for the Children’s Museum, Exploration Station, there are also 4 miles of trails with small rolling hills. 


The trails start, just off of Route 45 and circle the grounds, even dipping all the way down for a view of the Kankakee River.  Super cool, very scenic, and a place that I would love to run any time of the year.  I’ll definitely be going back.

The Fallen Firefighters 5K was a first time event but I was told the course is the same as another local race, the AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation 5K.  So if you have ran that race, the course was supposedly the same.  I never really read up on a race.  If it’s in my backyard close to home, and I want to run, then I go.  I don’t worry about the course or cost or location.  Therefore I was taken off guard a few days prior to the race when somebody asked me about Challenge Hill.  It was clearly noted on any info that could possibly be read about the race if one were to read such info but news to me.  🙂

….. the 5k run ….. course is fast and flat; with the exception of one exciting hill in the middle of the run that will challenge you; this hill is called Challenge Hill.

This “hill” was relatively early in the course, before the half way mark, and it is marked with a switchback.  For those who haven’t hiked the Grand Canyon aren’t familiar with switchbacks, they were designed to help people transverse mountains.  If you go straight up a mountain you would die fall backward.  However, if you go from side to side in a switchback like fashion, then although it will take longer (and increases the distance traveled) you will make it safely to the top with burning quads

Example of a switchback below.  I took this photo in the Grand Canyon in 2005.  This is a small portion of the South Kaibab Trail, leading to/from the Colorado River.  This is the way I hiked out of the Canyon.

Grand Canyon Switchback_South Kaibab Trail 

Challenge Hill has a switchback.  Although nothing to the above degree but a switchback nonetheless.  Challenge Hill just about killed me and Aby said that it tough too.  We both felt as if this was the toughest course we have ran which says a lot with her just coming off of Cross Country season.  Plus she is a very good hill runner.  I can’t say the same.  My speed and endurance are still low from the injury and hills just zap my momentum and energy.  I was totally dead, could have walked faster.

Otherwise, the course was pretty normal.  Part on the slippery wet trails, part thru a subdivision.   Everyone said the course was long.  I do pretty well running the tangents and measured 3.22 miles on my watch.  It would have been longer for those who weren’t able to hit the tangents.  There was a water station at the half way mark.  No potties on course but there normally aren’t on a 5K route.  No chip timing but the race was very well organized and had lots of volunteers directing traffic and helping us up the hill.

The cost was low at $20 for pre-registered runners.  Included in the cost was a cotton tee, can cuzzy, 2 first aid kids & a few pens. 

Fallen Firefighters_2012_lootl

For those wondering about the Cat & Mouse game between Aby and I…..she won as if that is a surprise to anyone.  She beat me by 34 seconds!  Our times were a bit off because of the hill course length but she ran a 25:52 & I ran 26:26. That gave us 2nd & 3rd overall female placements.  The race was very generous with the awards, going 3 deep for overall male & female placements, then 3 deep in age groups.  They certainly didn’t skip on awards and seeing as there were only 73 finishers, a lot of people walked away smiling with some bling around their neck.  

Elizabeth S from the Kankakee River Running Club snapped this photo of Aby running away from me early in the first mile.  I managed to stay pretty close to her until the hill.


To be honest, I had no idea we were so close to the front.  It was a nice surprise to find out we were 2nd & 3rd.  The first place woman was in front of Aby by two minutes so we were nowhere near her but apparently in front of the other ladies. 

This is definitely one that we will run again if our schedule permits.  Lots of support on and off course, great awards, great post-race snacks, great atmosphere.

Thanks to the Bourbonnais Fire Department and the Kankakee River Running Club for putting together a great race!  See you next year!

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com