Disclaimer: I received entry to Bigfoot Trail 10K as part of being a BibRave Pro. All opinions are my own. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Traveling out of town to run a race is one of my favorite pastimes. I love exploring different destinations with fresh scenery, meeting new people and running in a new place. And bringing a friend with you makes the overall experience even better!
My friend, Tavia, and I ran ran our first official trail race at the Bigfoot Trail 10K on June 25, 2016. Tavia lives in my the same town as my parents in the Chicago area and we met a few years ago when I joined a local running group for the summer. We try to run together whenever I come home to visit. I was thrilled when she agreed to accompany me to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to run this race.
Lake Geneva is a resort city situated on the northeast bay of Geneva Lake on relatively flat ground, with some steep hills and bluffs. Settled in the 1830s, it has been a popular getaway for tourists from nearby Chicago and Milwaukee areas for over 150 years. As such, there are several beautiful resort hotels in the area.
Tavia and I decided to make the 2 hour drive to Lake Geneva the night before the race. Unfortunately, we found it difficult to secure a hotel in the city of Lake Geneva for just a one night stay. Since this was prime season, most of the hotels require a two-night stay. Those that offered a one-night stay were $279 per night! Not something we could afford. We broadened our search and found an inexpensive hotel about 10 miles outside Lake Geneva in a tiny town called Richmond, IL.
We had little expectation for the hotel or the town of Richmond. Neither of us had been there before and we were just hoping to find a place to eat the night before the race. We happened upon an Italian restaurant called Paisano’s in the little downtown area and decided to give it a go. It turned out to be the best meal either of us had eaten in a very long time! I had the eggplant parmesan and Tavia ordered a delicious pasta dish. We even met the owner who personally checked in with all the patrons to make sure we were enjoying our dinner. It was such an amazing experience that Tavia plans to bring her husband back there for dinner one day!
The next morning, we got up early to pack up the room. Although the race started at 8:30, we needed to pick up our packets and we knew parking was going to be limited near the start. Check out was at 11 and we didn’t want to be rushing from the finish line to get our belongings back at the hotel, so we just brought everything with us.
Getting to the Big Foot Beach State Park only took us about 15 minutes, but figuring out where to park was not easy. For out of towners like us, simple signs would have been very helpful. In fact, we met up with many runners who were unsure of where to go exactly. The website stated that parking would be limited inside the park so the local high school would provide more parking. However, the high school was about 1 ½ miles from the start line and there were no shuttles to pick up runners. For those running the 5K, walking to and from the race would double their distance for the day! Luckily, we found some other runners who thought we could get closer, so we followed them around to the parking area. It cost $5 to park the car but we were right at the start/finish line.
Packet pick-up was easy and there were a few tents of local vendors there selling some goods. The main event for the weekend was the triathlon that followed on the next day so most of the goods and race set up were geared toward that. There were plenty of porta-potties for all the runners as we waited for the race to start. I met up with Lisa, a fellow Bibrave Pro from Wisconsin, who is a veteran trail runner. It was so great to chat with her before the race and hear about her trail running experience.
It was a very informal gathering at the start line. The director shouted some garbled directions through a megaphone that were difficult to understand. Something about a two-wave start and fast runners go first. Tavia and I did not want to get in anyone’s way as this was our first ever trail race so we moved back to the second wave. Lisa was in the first wave so we got to cheer her on as she started.
The course was a 5K loop, with the 10K runners repeating it twice. I really loved that set-up because I got to see the same beautiful course twice and take photos of things I might have missed the first time through. The terrain varied throughout the race and included grass, woodchips, concrete, dirt and even gravel. It was a very wide trail so Tavia and I got to run next to each other the entire time. There were some deceptive hills within the course that definitely challenged us! We took in the beauty of nature as we ran through the forest preserve and stopped for photo opportunities as much as possible. Both water stops on the course were fully stocked and playing fun music every time we ran by. The later start combined with rising temperatures to make a hot and humid day so we were relieved to have such plentiful hydration on the course.
As soon as we crossed the finish line, we were given small towels that had been sitting in kiddie pools of ice water. They were wonderful! We were also given a small, prepackaged bag of food that included a chocolate soy milk. We saw a sign for a beer garden, but it was absolutely empty, which was disappointing. However, seeing as these trail races were not the main event, I can see how organizers decided to save the big party for the triathlon the next day. There were no finisher medals provided, but awards were given to the top 3 male and female finishers.
Overall, it was wonderful introduction to trail running. It was challenging, but not too technical where I felt completely out of my element. The wide course enabled me to enjoy the experience with a friend and the atmosphere was full of positivity and encouragement which I have come to value more than any prize at a race. I look forward to more trail running in my future.