Race It: The North Face Endurance Challenge WI + A Race Entry Giveaway!

If you’re up for an adventure, you need to race this fall’s North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin. With distances ranging from 5k to 50 miles, all on the trails of the beautiful Kettle Moraine State Park, there’s something for everyone from trail running newbies to experienced ultrarunners.

Below, race representative Jeff Ball tells us more about this year’s event. For race specifics, visit our Featured Races page.


Can you give us an overview of The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin weekend?
The weekend kicks off with our GORE-TEX 50 Mile race on Saturday morning at 5am. It’s our longest race distance offered and is an excellent way to start the event. We also have a 50K, Marathon and Marathon Relay that day, along with a free Kid’s 1K Fun Run. On Sunday, we offer a Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and, again, a Kid’s 1K Fun Run. The weekend is a lot of fun as the trail community comes together – there are partner and sponsor booths with an excellent vibe to the event.

What makes this event different or unique?
These races are different in the sense that we have 7 different race distances to choose from, so there is something for everyone. We also try to make the event a place that you want to hang around at both before and after your race and meet new friends.

Is there anything new being offered or are there any changes from last year’s Challenge weekend?
The event will be the same in terms of the courses and routes each distance will run. We always try to improve upon the previous year’s event, so expect to see some improvements!

Can you tell us more the races?
All of the race distances will find most of the same trail conditions. There are short, but tough hills on a mix of horse trail and single/double track trails. The aid stations for the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon will have electrolyte drink and water available. The Marathon Relay, Marathon, 50K and 50 Mile aid stations will have electrolyte drink, water, soda, pretzels, chips, M&M’s, skittles, boiled potatoes and more to keep runners going.


All events have overall and age group prizes. The overall awards are given to the top 3 male and female per race distance. Age group prizes are awarded to the first finisher in each category. All runners will receive a race-specific tech t-shirt from The North Face. Depending on their race distance, runners will receive free beer and food.

Being a trail race, what should runners expect compared to a road race? Any trail racing training tips?
Runners should expect to find more hills and rugged terrain then they typically run on the roads. We suggest doing hill training and getting on the trails in their local area before coming out for the race so they are well prepared.


Are there any known elite ultrarunners or trail racers expected at this year’s event?
We haven’t heard who will be coming this year, but Tyler Sigl has won the event three years in a row so if he comes back again he will be the one to watch. Last year we had The North Face runner Dylan Bowman join us, and we may have another sponsored runner join us again in 2016 for the 50 Mile race.

Any other comments?
This event is a great chance to get more into trail running. We encourage everyone to join us for The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin in 2016!

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Jeff! Now for the part you’ve been waiting for – who wants to win a race entry? The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin is generously providing a race entry for one Keep Running MKE reader. To enter to win, answer the following Q in the comments section:

Which distance would you race at The North Face Endurance Challenge WI?

Best of luck to all who enter! We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, March 16.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!


*Winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize by emailing keeprunningmke@gmail.com. If the prize is not claimed within that time frame, we will select a new winner.

Race It: Lake Michigan Trail Marathon + A Race Entry Giveaway!

We’re just a few days away from September , which in our minds means fall – specifically fall running and racing. And one of the very first local distance races on the fall calendar is the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon.

When: Sunday, September 6; start time varies by event
Where: Sheridan Park, Cudahy
Cost: $90 for the 50k; $80 for the marathon; $60 for the half marathon; $20 for the 20-mile training run

Below, race director Chris Ponteri gives us an update on what to expect at this year’s race!


Can you tell us a bit about the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon? How many runners are you expecting at the event?

It’s a unique race; it’s urban yet scenic. One minute you are running on a trail through the woods and the next minute you are running on a bluff with a spectacular view of the Milwaukee skyline. We are expecting between 600 and 800 runners this year.

Have there been any race changes/updates since the race was announced at the start of the year?
We had hoped to use the Grant Park Beach, but the Lake Michigan water level is still high so we are going with the same route as last year.

It sounds like there is a distance for everyone. Can you go over the options?
We have a 50k ultra-marathon, a regular ole’ 26.2-mile marathon, a half marathon and a 20-mile distance.

The 20-mile training run option is really unique – can you tell us more about it and why you decided to include it?
It’s really meant to appeal to those training for a fall marathon like Chicago, the Milwaukee Running Festival or the Lakefront. It gives runners a race experience, but it’s not timed nor do they get finisher medals. The price is just $20 in advance and $30 the day of the race.

When is the deadline to register online? Can runners register on race day?
Online registration is open at www.lakemichiganmarathon.com through Sept. 3 and race-day registration is available beginning at 5 a.m. at Sheridan Park #1.

Are there any plans to expand the event in upcoming years, i.e. adding shorter distances, etc.?
I am definitely considering adding a 5k, but no guarantees on that.

Are volunteers needed? If so, who should interested people contact to learn more/sign up?
Believe it or not, we are all set with volunteers. We have some great groups helping out including the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the Friends of Grant Park, the Friends of Sheridan Park, Starting Line Athletics and the South Milwaukee High School cross country team.

Any other comments?
Many runners said last year’s race shirt was one of their favorites of all-time. This year we believe we have come up with something even better.

Thanks for chatting with us about the race, Chris! If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming race, here’s how you can connect:

Website: http://lakemichiganmarathon.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lakemichiganmarathon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lakemarathon

Who wants to win a race entry?
The Lake Michigan Trail Marathon has generously provided a race entry for one lucky Keep Running MKE reader.

To enter to win a free race entry, tell us in the comments section:

What is the most beautiful course you ever raced?

Best of luck to all who enter. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, September 1.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Local Runners Raising Funds for the Tom Bunk House

The MKE ultra and trail running communities grieved when Tom Bunk passed away in September after a long battle with cancer.

Known for his passion and dedication to ultra and trail running, Tom spent countless hours measuring, developing and marking courses, volunteering at aid stations and actively promoting the sport.  Not to mention setting numerous ultrarunning records of his own!

So it comes as no surprise that runners have banded together to honor Tom’s memory. Currently, funds are being raised to build Bunk House – a heated shelter in the Scuppernong Trails.

We recently chatted with Craig Swartwout, who is leading the fundraiser, about what building the Bunk House will mean to the ultra and trail running communities.

Can you tell us a bit about the fundraiser?
It’s for what we are calling the “Bunk House” for short. A heated shelter at the Scuppernong State Park to honor Tom and Lorraine Bunk and all of their contributions to ultra and trail running.

How much are you hoping to raise and how much have you raised to date?
We are hoping to raise $40K for the basic shelter, and anything over that we will use to add improvements – maybe running water, indoor toilets, etc. These are dependent on how much is raised and what decisions are made in cooperation with the DNR

We have verbal commitments for about $16K which we expect to have collected by the end of the year.

Why is there a need for this type of building at the Scuppernong trails?
Scuppernong only has pit toilets and no permanent shelter. Both the skiers (using the Scuppernong loops) and the runners (using the Ice Age Trail and Horse Trails) would benefit from the structure in the colder months.

Can you talk a bit about who Tom Bunk was and what he contributed to the running community?
Tom Bunk holds a number of age group records in various ultra events but it was his commitment to grow and support the sport and his dedication to helping new ultrarunners that really made him special. Tom was a tough but fair competitor that had great compassion for everyone he knew.

tom_bunk1Tom Bunk

He was instrumental in setting up the Glacial Trail 50 and the Kettle 100 and marked those trails, as well as the Ice Age 50, for around 25 years.

What was your relationship with Tom Bunk?
I was his friend and had the pleasure of marking trails with him and enjoyed the occasional game of golf as well.

Any other comments?
Tom was the kind of man that when he’s gone it leaves a big hole in many people’s lives.

Thanks for chatting with us, Craig! If you’re interested in learning more about the Bunk House or would like to contribute toward the fundraiser, you can learn more here:

Website: http://tbunk.breezellp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TomBunkScuppernongShelter

Wishing you all a weekend of fantastic running, and as always …

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Lake Michigan Trail Marathon

Get excited, MKE – we’re just a few days away from the inaugural Lake Michigan Trail Marathon!

Below, Race Director Chris Ponteri tells us a bit about the distance options and what to expect on the course.


Can you tell us a bit about the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon? How did you come up with the idea for the race?
The Oak Leaf Trail along the south shore of Lake Michigan is one of my favorite places to run. One day I discovered some of the dirt trails that connect the Oak Leaf to the wooded areas of both Grant and Warnimont Parks and thought it would make a good course for a long race.

What makes this race different/unique?
The varying types of terrain – paved surfaces, dirt, sandy beach, brick and grass all in one race.

Can you tell us about the different distance options?
We have a 50k, marathon and half marathon distance. We also have a 20-miler, but it is not a timed race; it’s more of a long training run for those who want to be a part of the race.

From what we’ve read, the course seems challenging – is a PR possible for runners?
I don’t think I would describe it as challenging; there are very few hills. It is definitely not a fast course since about a mile is on the beach, but not overly difficult either.

*After we interviewed Chris, it was announced the beach portion may not be used within the race courses. From a recent email: “Due to high-water levels, the beach portion of the course will likely not be used. There will be an alternate route heading north in Grant Park that will include both road and trail. We apologize for the late change, but the Lake Michigan water levels are as high as they have been in over a decade. The alternate route will make the course slightly easier (no running in the sand!) but not quite as scenic.”

Do runners need to bring their own hydration or are there water stations along the course?
We will have plenty of aid stations, usually not more than 2 to 2.5 miles apart.

Will overall and/or age group prizes be awarded?
Yes, we have prizes for the top 3 male and female overall finishers in each race (excluding the 20-miler) and also age group awards.

What do participants get with their race entry?
They get a nice tech shirt, a high-quality reusable race bag, and food after the race.

What goals do you have for the race in upcoming years? Any plans to add a shorter distance like a 5k or 10k?
Everything’s on the table! First-year races are a grand experiment. We could add distances next year or even take away.

If you could have anyone come run the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon, who would you invite and why?
I would invite Ben Gibbard (lead singer for Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service) to join us and then play a post-race concert. I know he has done some marathons and maybe even a trail 50k.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! There’s still time to get in on the action – race-day registration is available for all race distances. Will we see you on Sunday? 🙂

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Lake Michigan Trail Marathon Will Offer Two Course Runs

Mark your calendars, MKE – the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon is hosting two course runs in the upcoming weeks. This is your chance to get familiar with the race course and also enjoy some time with your fellow runners!


Here are the details for meetups:

Dates: Saturday, July 12 and Saturday, August 9

Time: 7 am

Location: Sheridan Drive, in front of the Patrick Cudahy statue

Details: Participants can choose between two options: the south loop, which is about 9.5 miles and the entire course, which is about 15.5 miles. Both courses will be marked and there will be water and sports drink at the start, 9,5 mile mark and the finish. Runners are encouraged to bring their own beverages for during the run. A course leader will run with the group, around a 9:00-9:30 min/mile pace.

For more information about the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon or the upcoming course runs, visit www.lakemichiganmarathon.com.

That’s it for today – We look forward to seeing you at the course runs!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know . . . Parker Rios

There are only five Wisconsinites who have run the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon and Parker Rios is a member of the group. He ran last year’s 135 mile race in scorching desert temperatures – and lived to tell the tale.

Below, he tells us about his fueling strategy, how he got through the rough spots and the most memorable moments of the race.


Parker Rios

Age: 47

Years running: 25

Favorite workout:  Any run I can sneak in!  Just happy to get out for a run any time I can…

Favorite distance to race: 50 milers because they can be entirely completed when the sun is still out AND 100 milers because around mile 80 is where the real challenge starts.

Favorite song to get pumped up pre-race:  Hmm, not sure I have a favorite pre-race song, but the Foo Fighters “Learn To Fly” is pretty good to get psyched up for a run. And Pearl Jam & Smashing Pumpkins are great at 3:00am – both can be like a triple espresso when you’re really dragging and falling asleep on your feet.

Favorite post-race treat: A 12 ounce can of Coke. And then a beer. This is Milwaukee, isn’t it?


At the Grand Canyon, running Rim to Rim to Rim

How did you get started with running?

I wish I had a good story to tell, but I don’t think I do. My earliest memory of running was in grade school. We had a 50-minute lunch break and my parent’s house was about ¾ mile from school. I remember running home as fast as I could each school day at lunch and timing myself on the kitchen clock. I think running as a young child helped build the inner desire that now exists as an adult. Although, having said that, I didn’t run in middle or high school, and was never on the track or cross-country teams.

There are a couple of reasons I keep running. The first is because I love how it makes me feel. Yes, there are days when I absolutely dread the thought of going out for a run, but once I get out and start moving I am so glad I found that motivation. It always feels great to return home from a good run. The second reason is that I love to be out on the trails experiencing nature and natural beauty – 99 percent of the races I compete in take place in just this type of locale. The experience and joy of being out on the trail cannot be easily described. The third is that I have been fairly successful in my running career and that success makes me want to challenge myself more.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

My training weeks are light. That’s just how life is with a family and a full-time job. I try to get in a run or two during the week, but often that just does not happen. As such, I utilize the weekend. But this too poses a dilemma. My wife and I have two young daughters and it’s hard to make the time for just myself. What has worked over the past three years is getting up at about 1:30am on Saturday and getting in a long run of about six hours when everyone at home is sleeping. I have used this time effectively for training for Arrowhead, Badwater and now the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

You are one of only a few people in Wisconsin to finish Badwater – is this throughout the history of Badwater?

I am one of four Wisconsinites* to have ever been accepted into and complete Badwater. The other three (Jason Dorgan, Mary Gorski and Darren Fortney) are all solid ultra-endurance athletes, and I am lucky to be included when those who follow Badwater speak of the Badger State.

Because Badwater is an “invite” only race, last year’s race was the first and only time I had applied and been selected into the race. Each year, Badwater limits the number of racers to 100 runners. Generally, they accept 50 “veterans” and 50 “first-timers”. The race director receives applications from runners from around the world. There is an extensive (multi-page) application process that also requires documented finishing times and races. There is a selection committee of five judges that score each application from all they receive. They then only send out 100 invitations to the highest scoring applications.

DSCN0328-MOne step at a time during the Badwater Ultramarathon

What made you sign up for Badwater? What types of ultra races had you done previously?  

Badwater has been on my running bucket list since I first learned of the race back in the early nineties. Over those years, the race has become exponentially more well know, and hence it became harder and harder for runners to get in. Additionally, over those same years, I significantly decreased the “road races” I was doing in favor of trail ultramarathons. However, in February 2013, I won the Arrowhead 135 mile foot race in northern-most Minnesota. Arrowhead and Badwater are the only two 135 mile races in the U.S. Following my Arrowhead win, I correctly figured that this particular performance would significantly help my chances of being selected to run Badwater. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over my 25 years of running ultras, I have completed every “standard” ultramarathon distance (50K, 50M, 100K, 100M, 135M, 24 hour timed races) and have been the overall race winner, at least once, at each of those distances.  In 25 years of ultra-running, I have probably completed around 125 ultras.

Can you tell us a bit about your Badwater experience?

I was really scared going into Badwater. The week before the race, temperatures in Death Valley were exceeding 130 degrees F and I had never even been in temperatures higher than the 90’s. The thought of running 135 miles in Death Valley temperatures was scary.  A lot of bad things can happen to the human body just sitting in the shade in those temperatures, and I was going to try to run 135 miles under the sun. I knew that the fact that I had a well-experienced crew was going to be a huge benefit, but they weren’t running, I was. That feeling of intimidation lasted well into the afternoon of the first day of the race, but it also made me want to be cautious with my early effort and kept me in tune with everything my body was feeling.  In the early miles of the race I took it pretty easy. I knew I wasn’t really “racing” this event, as my primary goal was simply to survive the distance, the heat and the elevation change and just finish.

Batch%201%20502-MRios before the race – 111 degrees outside!

There were a couple of times throughout the race where I hit some mental and physical challenges. Again, having a solid crew with me helped, but I had to find the strength/guts/grit to tough it out. At around mile 95 I had some significant leg pain and was reduced to walking for about an hour. Somehow my crew was able to get me back to an easy run. By mile 100 I was back moving well.

The last miles of the race are a 12 mile uphill climb to an elevation of 8,500 feet. The good news for me was that it was night and thus pretty dark. As such, I couldn’t see how tough this last section of the race really was. My body could tell it was difficult, and that every step was an uphill step, but at least I didn’t have to “see” how hard those last 12 miles really were.

What is nice about Badwater is that crew members cross the finish line with the racer. Badwater really is a team event with everyone working toward the common goal of getting the runner to the finish line. I would have been nowhere near as successful as I was without my crew!

Batch%201%20535-MOne of Rios’ crew vans at Badwater

Did you ever have any moments where you didn’t think you could finish the race? If so, how did you get through these rough patches?

There really was not a point where I thought I would not finish. There were, however, plenty of points where I mentally and physically was questioning whether or not I might have to walk the remaining distance. These points occurred at mile 60 (potential cramping), mile 95 (significant leg pain) and again around mental 110 (mental frustration). The idea of having to walk 75 miles, 40 miles, or even just 25 miles to the finish was not in my race plan, so I had to consciously dig for and find the motivation to somehow get into a jogging mode and progressing further at something faster than a walking pace.

Did you have a specific fueling strategy that you used during the race? 

The biggest fueling strategy for Badwater is staying hydrated. A racer goes through an incredible amount of water, sports drinks, soda, juices, etcetera. You MUST keep the body hydrated or a lot of bad things will physically happen. We had four big coolers in the support van full of drinks and always had at least one cooler filled with ice.  And not only is the water for drinking, but it is also used to keep you cool. It is very common to see a racer getting “sprayed” with water by a crew member while running or even physically getting their body INTO the cooler to ward off the heat your body is dealing with.

Besides staying hydrated, my other fueling strategy was the consistent use of “Vespa” every 2.5 hours. I have been using Vespa for over three years for both training and racing. Vespa is a liquid product that helps the body to burn its own fat for fuel. If the body can burn its own fat for fuel, then the athlete does not have to consume those fuel calories in the form of food. This is especially beneficial at Badwater because the stomach does not want to digest food in that kind of heat. But as I said, I use Vespa on every long training run I do. I have found that I can complete a 35 mile training run without consuming any food calories at all. With Vespa I can avoid using (and having to buy) gels, so-called power bars and all that other stuff.  I have turned numerous friends and other athletes onto Vespa and all have seen similar benefits.

What was your favorite moment during the race?

There were a lot of very memorable moments during the race. Over the course of the 135 miles I spent individual time on the road (miles) running with each of my crew members and I have great memories with each of them. That is pretty special to me. Additionally, crossing the finishing line with my four crew members and me all holding hands was very memorable as well. But probably the coolest memory comes from an event that occurred on day two of the race in which we received multiple “fly overs” from Air Force Fighter Jets. Near Death Valley is a U.S. Military Air Force base and, as I understand it, these jets come out each year on day two of the race and do the fly-overs to encourage and support the runners. Having those planes fly low overhead and hearing the noise from their engines was very cool and inspiring.

What makes a race like Badwater so appealing? Would you ever do the race again?

Badwater as a race is appealing solely because of its one-of-a kind type challenge. As I stated earlier, I no longer run “road races”, but the idea of running 135 miles through the intense heat Death Valley and the fact that race starts from the lowest point in the western hemisphere (Badwater Basin at 283 feet below sea level) to the highest point in the Continental U.S. (Mt. Whitney) makes it an incredible challenge.  Badwater is considered by many to be THE ultimate running challenge.

Unfortunately in December, 2013, the race organizers were notified that the governmental organization which controls and manages Death Valley National Park has banned all formal, organized, athletic competitions held within the park. So starting this July, the race course as it was originally created back in 1977 may never again be the same. As such, I don’t know if I will ever try to become an official Badwater race entrant again.

Yet, despite the current ban on organized athletic events, individuals are not prohibited from using the very same roads as the original race was held. In fact, when the “race” began in ‘77, it was NOT an organized event, nor was it technically even a “race”.  Rather, it was simply one individual challenging himself to see if it could be done. And this very same “spirit” still continues each July and August as a small number of individual runners (not associated with the official Badwater race) perform their own individual challenge leaving from Badwater Basin and head for Mt. Whitney. In fact, some runners have pushed the challenge beyond the standard 135 Mile Badwater and have done “Double Badwaters” (meaning running from Badwater Basin to the summit of Mt. Whitney at 14,560 feet then back to Badwater Basin) of 294 miles, and even “Quadruple Badwaters” of 588 miles.

Whether or not the ban of organized competitions in the National Park persists, in the back of my mind I am thinking about returning to Death Valley in July of 2016 to attempt my own “double Badwater”. This would be the summer that I am 50 years old.

What races are you planning on doing in 2014? Do you have any goals for these races?

My race plans for 2014 are as follows: John Dick 50K (Southern Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin) in early February, Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 Mile (Alaska) in late February, Ice Age 50 Mile (Southern Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin) mid-May, Kettle Moraine 100 Mile (Southern Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin) early June, Badgerland Strider 24-Hour Run (Germantown, Wisconsin) early September, and the Glacial Trail 50 Mile (Northern Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin) early October. For each of these races I have no specific goals or desired finishing times. I hope to simply finish and enjoy each run.

What are your favorite Milwaukee races?

My favorites are Ice Age Trail 50 Mile and the Glacial Trail 50 Mile. I enjoy the two 50 milers because while they are still a challenge, they can be accomplished with minimal training. And while they are the same distance and both held on trails, they are also very different. Ice Age has become a very well-known national 50 mile race with competitors coming in from around the country. Glacial, on the other hand, still remains more of a local secret and more low-key. Each race is phenomenal for its own individual reasons. Each has its own beauty with one being in spring and the other in fall and each holds its own challenge.

What are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?

All of my favorite local places to run are a short drive from Milwaukee. For runners in this area, we are incredibly fortunate to have both the northern and southern units of the Kettle Moraine within an hour’s car drive distance. There is Lapham Peak State Park 30 miles west of Milwaukee. There is also Scoppernong State Park 45 minutes southwest of Milwaukee. Additionally, one hour southwest of Milwaukee is the Nordic Trail System. All locations offer “loops” as well as access to the Ice Age Trail. Lastly, to the direct north, off of U.S. 45, is the Northern Kettle Moraine unit with numerous of access points to the Ice Age Trail as well.  I would encourage any local runner to make the drive and experience a run on these beautiful and scenic trails.

Thanks for chatting with us, Parker! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

*Note: Erika Gerhardt from Wisconsin also raced Badwater Ultramarathon in 2000.

Let’s Get to Know . . . Nikki McGuinnis

After retiring from roller derby, Nikki McGuinnis began running to keep her mind and body active. She quickly fell in love with the sport and in just a little more than one year, has already done a few 5ks and half marathons.

Read on to find out how she got into running, her favorite spots to run and her ambitious goals for 2014.

Nikki McGuinnis

Age: 41

Years running:  I am still a running newbie! I’ve only been running consistently since June of 2012, so 1 year and 4 months.

Favorite workout: I love running so that’s mostly all that I do for workouts. I pepper that with yoga and dog walks.

Favorite distance to race: So far I really like the longer runs … longest I’ve done right now is a half marathon so I guess that would be my favorite. I’m really looking forward to 2014, when I plan to run the marathon and 50K distances.

Favorite song to get pumped up pre-race:  I love Jay- Z’s “On to the next one” and Bjork is great! I’m not too picky about my music I just like to have background noise when I run. What gets me most pumped up for races is all the surrounding energy. Runner energy is contagious and amazing!

Favorite post-race treat:  Hmmm … any food. I don’t drink beer so I’m all about the foods. I really like comfort foods like mashed potatoes, bread and pizza. Anything bread related really. However, I eat the same no matter what so I guess I can’t really consider any of that a “treat”. Haha!

Must-have gear:  My music, some sort of anti-chafing product and Lululemon’s run speed shorts. Once I found those shorts I’ve never gone back to any other. They are the best!

brewers2013McGuinnis after the Brewers Mini Half Marathon

How did you get started with running?

I started running because I needed something to keep my body and mind occupied once I retired from roller derby. First I tried rock climbing which is fun, challenging and amazing but there’s an awful lot of prep involved. I wanted to do something that was less high maintenance. So I started running. I HATED every minute of it at first. Then something happened and it became physically easier for me and I began to enjoy the freedom and me time. I feel alive when I run and accomplished when I’m done. It has helped to calm my mind in a way that I’ve never experienced before. The plan is to run until I’m physically incapable of doing it anymore… so maybe when I’m dead.

What role has running played in your life?

Running has changed my life dramatically! I have learned so much about my limits (or lack thereof), as well as been embraced by the running community in a way no other sport has embraced me. I think that runners are some of the most amazing and nicest people a person could ever meet. I wish I would have started running in high school. Running is my church. It is my time to engage with the earth around me and give thanks for everything I have and everything I’ve been blessed with. It has replaced hours of sitting in front of the TV, as well as changed my eating habits because I no longer crave certain things but instead crave other things that are better for me. Running has given me goals that I consistently strive to achieve, as well as introduced me to really wonderful people.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Well I’m currently injured so I’ve not done much running the whole month of October. Typically though, I run 3-5 times a week in Lapham Peak on the black route, which is approximately 6.7 miles. If I don’t run all 5 days in Lapham then the other days are run around my neighborhood, which has some pretty great hills (aptly named “The Hills of Delafield”). I do my 6 or so mile runs there. Friday and Sunday are my rest days. Friday so that I have time to do something fun with my family and Sunday simply because it comes after my long run (10-18miles) on Saturdays. On Saturdays, I can often be found on the Glacial Drumlin Trail heading west towards Dousman because the trail is truly breathtaking. It is never very crowded and the foliage is such that most of the time you don’t even realize you’re right next to civilization. I am incredibly fortunate to live in Delafield where we have so many beautiful running options.

You’ve mentioned your love of running the Lapham trails – what do the trails provide that can’t be found on the roads?

Fantastic question! As I mentioned before running is my church. Trail running requires diligent attention to detail. I have to be fully engaged and present in the run where on road runs I just zone out and go inward to my life checklist … groceries, family needs, work things, etc.

When I run on the trails I am not doing anything else. I am communing with nature. I am watching my footfalls and listening to my body. There is nothing better than running trails … no road run can compare.

Do you have any tips for newbie trail runners?

  1. Pay attention to your feet! I have fallen more times than I care to admit because I was watching oncoming runners (pretty awesome falling flat on your face as other runners are coming towards you), fiddling with my iPod, or simply looking at deer or the scenery. It is important to note where you’re landing because there is always that odd rock (how I managed to injure myself this time), branch, root, or other debris that can injure or trip you up.
  2. Walk the uphills if you feel you need to. I think a lot of people think there is shame in walking the uphills, but in Lapham there is a hill that is 0.87 of a mile and it is a beast! I have run it completely before but really… it doesn’t affect one’s final time much if you’re walking the uphill compared to trying to run it and feeling like you’re dying inside after.
  3. Don’t be afraid to run the trails in the rain/snow. It is a whole different experience and a magical one at that! Nature is so amazing!

Some people prefer to train solo, while others always run with a friend or two. What is your preference and why?

I used to only run alone because I thought I was really slow and didn’t want to be a burden to another runner. Now, though, I love both ways for different reasons. I love solo runs because I don’t have to concern myself with keeping pace with another person. I can just fly and be free and not have to worry about either keeping up with someone or making sure I’m going slow enough for them to keep up with me. On the flip side of that, I love running with other people because (if they’re slower than me) it helps teach me patience and to love the easy run and (if they’re faster than me) it helps me to improve and push myself beyond what I would do if I was alone. I love being able to spend time with people in this way, too, because it’s about the only socialization I get outside of work. So going for a run with someone else is crucial because I get quality social time out of it.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?

The lakefront is wonderful and I love running through the neighborhoods on Lake Drive. Lake Park is pretty beautiful, too. Since I haven’t lived in Milwaukee for the past five years I pretty much don’t leave Delafield for running. Part of what I love about running, is that I don’t have to put a lot of preparation into doing it. I can just step out my front door and go. As I said before, I am very fortunate to live where I live because I don’t have to run near a lot of traffic or with any worries of being victimized on a trail. I can run at night, early morning, etc … without those fears because where I live, crime and the per capita population is pretty low. Outside of Milwaukee though, I really love running trails that are challenging. Devil’s lake comes to mind …

What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?

I loved the Rock ‘n Sole Half Marathon! Going over the Hoan Bridge was a really great novelty for that race. The Vince Lombardi Cancer Run/Walk 5K was so much fun! It is held on the grounds of the Milwaukee County Zoo and you get to run past all the animals! It was really a treat to do that one. The Brewers Mini Marathon is another amazing one! The race takes you past so many places that are special to Milwaukee. I am looking forward to doing the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in 2014, too, because that course sounds equally as breathtaking! I went to high school in Mequon so I know that area pretty well and am excited to run a race that will take me from Grafton to the Lake.


What are your running goals for the upcoming year?

I’ve got some pretty lofty goals for 2014. I’m planning on running my first 50K (Glacial 50K and/or Ice Age 50K) and my first marathon (Trailbreaker and/or Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon)… and more than one of each. I’m not planning any 5Ks just yet, but I really enjoy racing in races I’ve done before so I can measure my progress. Under this guideline, I will probably do the Vince Lombardi 5K and the Colorama 5K again. I’ve already got Rock ‘n Sole, Madison Mini and the Bear Trax 20K on my roster for next year.

Unfortunately, so many races don’t have their registration ready yet so I can’t be certain how my schedule next year will shake out. I’m signed up for the three races I mentioned and then I’ve got a whole list on my blog that I wish to run. Hopefully injury will stay away and I’ll complete all those goals. I really just plan to focus on distance and trail racing in 2014.

Thanks for chatting with us, Nikki! If you’d like to learn more about Nikki, you can connect here:

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