Monday, January 8, 2018

Featured Running Event of the Week - AshleyCan Race Series


Going to do something a little different to start the season.  We are going to focus on a series of races (and other events).

The AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Race Series....and more.

The AshleyCan Foundation raises money to find a cure for Childhood Cancer, and to raise awareness of this terrible disease, and to help qualified families who have been impacted.  All of the money raised from these events goes to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, other pediatric cancer efforts, and to qualified families impacted by this disease.  No profit is made from these events, the volunteers are not paid, and the Foundation Board is not paid.

These are all excellent races - and events - and are all very well organized.  The Board and their wonderful volunteers put everything they have into these events to make them successful.  If you live anywhere near the Bourbonnais/Bradley/Kankakee/Chicago Southland/Chicagoland area, I HIGHLY recommend you check out one - or more - of these events.  It's a great cause, and the events are great as well.

Details about the foundation and the events can be found at www.ashleycan.org, along with a Contact Us option.

2018/2019 Season Running/Walking Events.  Races (and walks) of all different lengths and courses!

Sunday May 13 - Mother's Day 5k Run, 2 Mile Walk, Kids Fun Run - Perry Farm, Bourbonnais, IL
Saturday June 2 - Inaugural 24 Mile Walk For A Cure - TENTATIVE
Saturday July 7 - Ashley Forever 5k/10k Run, 2 Mile Walk - Hickory Creek-LaPorte, Mokena, IL
Sunday Sep 9 - Ashley Forever Half Marathon/10k/5k, Family Fun Run - Bourbonnais Municipal Center, Bourbonnais, IL
Tues Jan 1 2019 - New Year New Cure 8k - Bourbonnais Municipal Center, Bourbonnais, IL

Other great events

Friday Mar 9 - JamNight - Live Music and Prizes - Glass Tap, Steger, IL
Saturday June 16 - Inaugural 15/25/50/75/100 Mile Bike Ride - TENTATIVE
TBD - Charity Motorcycle Run

For TBD/TENTATIVE items, check webpage link above for further details as they are announced.

This is an important cause, and these are great events!




Thursday, January 4, 2018

Featured Live Artist of the Week : Jeff Givens and The Mugshot Saints


Over the Holiday Season, I had a chance to catch Jeff Givens & The Mugshot Saints performing in Joliet at a Toy Drive Benefit.  I hadn't seen them before, though I had recently been listening to their most recent CD, "Bleeding Ink".

I try not to categorize original bands, because each band is their own band, they have their own sound and their own dynamics.  But if I absolutely had to categorize this band, it would be Pure Americana Rock.  There are elements of new country, old country, Mellencamp, southern rock, and good old fashioned rock & roll.  Some songs lean towards one style, others towards another, and some a perfect blend of all of them, or some combination of them.  It's a blend of everything that is good about music. 

The live band consisted of a bass guitar, a 6-string guitar, drums, a frontman/lead vocalist, and a female vocalist taking lead on some songs and harmony on others - and always keeping the frontman in check (and I mean that in a totally fun way).  Speaking of keeping Mr. Givens in line, he's actually fine, but they are a fun band, and he gets up there telling some awesome stories between songs, and being funny, and Jennifer sometimes has to reel him back in.  But, that's part of the fun of their live show - it's the interaction on stage.  This band IS a family, and it completely comes through in a very positive way.  Not just in their playing, where they seamlessly follow each other's leads perfectly, creating a perfect blend of instruments, but also in between songs when they chat to the audience.  Every member plays off of each other perfectly, and it's just like watching a bunch of good friends, or a family, having fun on stage.  And, it's contagious.  All of that brings out something that is very critical in music, that some bands miss, and that's emotion.  You can feel the songs, feel the music.  That's not an easy thing to accomplish.

Now to the music, their originals sound just as good live as they do on the CD, and that takes, not just talent, but a tight cohesive band on stage.  They also played covers, including some surprises like a Dolly Partn cover, Santa Baby, and Run Run Rudolph.  On their other covers, instead of the same-ol-same-ol, they pick some deep cuts from well known artists, which was quite refreshing. Oh, wow, I forgot to mention on some songs, they even have a harp.  No, not that giant string instrument...a harmonica a true blue Chicago blues sound!!!  The harmonica blends in perfectly with the rest of the music and comes and goes as needed, perfectly.  Anybody familiar with music knows that it takes effort to make it look effortless.  Watching this band, it all looks natural and effortless, though I full-well know that comes from dedication and practice and honing their craft.  This band, every member, is part of a well-rounded accomplished tight band of friends.

The band currently has three CDs out - Bleeding Ink (their current one), Midnight in Muscle Shoals, and Bourbon Cowboy.  I would suggest picking up all three, all produced by band member Jason Botka.

Picked up a new saying that night, by the way, "Holla & Swalla" - raise your drinks, give a hollar, and drink up!!!

PS.  Gotta love a band that wrote an entire song about Jimmy's in Da Heights.....






Saturday, December 30, 2017

Local Live Music Guide - 2018!!!


This is only a guide - always check with the venue or the band to confirm.  This is live music - things can definitely change.


1/19 - The NATU Band - Timbuku Saloon, Decatur, IL
1/19 - Big Boppers & Guests - Mama & Me's Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
1/20 - Big Boppers & Guests - Mama & Me's Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
1/20 - The NATU Band - The Boar's Nest, Athens, IL
1/20 - Iron Horse, Hayden Thompson - Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago, IL
1/20 - Epic - Hollywood Casino, Aurora, IL
1/20 - Jim Peterik's World Stage - Wentz Hall at North Central College, Naperville, IL
1/20 - Kashmir - Q-Bar, Glendale Heights, IL
1/26 - The NATU Band - Full Horse, Maroa, IL
1/26 - Time Bandits - Tracy's Tavern, Clarendon Hills, IL
1/26 - Kashmir - Rivers Casino, Des Plaines, IL
1/26 - Big Boppers & Guests - Mama & Me's Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
1/27 - Big Boppers & Guests - Mama & Me's Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
1/27 - Jeff Givens - 3 Monkeys, South Chicago Heights, IL
1/27 - The NATU Band - Firewater Saloon, Chicago, IL
1/27 - Kashmir - Theater For Performing Arts, Munster, IN
2/2 - Low Voltage - Mainstreet Bar & Grill, Hopkins, MN
2/3 - The NATU Band - 5th Quarter Sports Bar, East Moline, IL
2/3 - Groove Candy - 5th Quarter Tap/Press Eatery Room, Homewood, IL
2/10 - Dennis DeYoung - Genesee Theater, Waukegan, IL
2/10 - Jeff Givens & The Mugshot Saints - Grape & Grain, Homewood, IL
2/10 - Charlie FoxTrot - Rod & Gun Club, Bruceville, IN
2/10 - The NATU Band - Mama Lucy's, Hazlehurst, GA
2/10 - Kashmir - Austin's Fuel Room, Libertyville, IL
2/13 - Big Boppers - Chicago Heights West Golf Course Banquet Hall, Chicago Heights, IL
2/17 - Jeff Givens & The Mugshot Saints - Friendly Tap, Berwyn, IL
2/17 - The NATU Bad - Castle Theater, Bloomington, IL
2/23 - Kashmir - Smokestack Brew, Mishawaka, IN
2/24 - Kashmir - The Forge, Joliet, IL
2/28 - Phil Angotti & Friends - Montrose Saloon, Chicago, IL
3/9 - 2nd Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Jam Night - Glass Tap, Steger, IL

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Featured Live Event of the Week - "A Christmas Story : Live"


Yeah, I know, we are normally on hiatus, but being Christmas and all..........
Spoiler-free review
A Christmas Story Live was shown live on the Fox Network on 12/17 (and hopefully will be sold on DVD at some point) and filmed on the famous Warner Brothers Lot in Burbank, California.
Some personal background. Years ago, a film called “Scrooged”, a modern day adaptation of A Christmas Carol had a plot centered around the live filming of A Christmas Carol. I always thought that was a really cool idea and would love to have seen that as a real thing, not just a fictitious plot in a movie. Background part 2 – A Christmas Story is my absolute, hands-down, favorite Christmas Movie ever. Ever.
So, I was very excited to see this come true. Admittedly, I also was concerned, I didn’t want anything to even remotely tarnish the memory of my most favorite Christmas movie. So, I went in with excitement, and hesitation. And I was NOT disappointed.
I don’t want to say much, because I don’t want to spoil the experience in any way, as I hope people will have the opportunity to view it later, perhaps on DVD or rerun or both. But I do want to say – the crew did an OUTSTANDING job turning a backlot in sunny California into the cold winter town of Holman, Indiana. Within minutes, the viewer would easily believe this was filmed on location.
The major, and most glaring difference (no spoiler) between this and the movie is that this was also part-musical. And guess what....it worked!!! The musical numbers fit perfectly.
The script stayed true to not only the original movie, but also to the chapter in Jean Shepherd’s book, and was an excellent vision of both, without being a rerun of either.
The choice to cast Matthew Broderick as the narrator (or grown-up Ralphie) was simply genius!!! I can’t even imagine it being done by anybody else after watching it.
The cast was tremendous and talented and engaging to watch. I’d like to tell you about some clever nuances, but I won’t as I don’t want to bring any spoiler to this review at all.
For some reason, for me, the ending, after they had dinner, was particularly touching, I can’t put my finger on it, but like the original movie, this will also live in my Christmas memories forever.
Some would say that I might be one of the toughest critics of this venture, being that it is my favorite Christmas movie and I have yearned for such a concept since seeing Scrooged. So, with that in mind, I would have to say, I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend the viewing of this should it come around in some repeat fashion – and if it becomes available on DVD, it’s worth the purchase!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Our long-standing Holiday Tradition - Erika Amato's "A Merry Little Christmas"



[We first published this in December of 2014, and we republished in December of 2015, and again in December 2016, and again this year] 

Why do we keep republishing this?  Because in my honest opinion, this is the best Christmas CD I have ever - ever - ever owned.
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In the past, we have focused on Live Performances in this feature - but this week we are going to focus on a CD and a singer.

I have only seen Erika Amato perform live in a stage version of Flashdance - and on TV on stage at "The Bronze" with her band, Velvet Chain.  I was uber-impressed both times!  Heck, if it wasn't for that show at "The Bronze", I never would have discovered Velvet Chain.

About a year or two ago, I purchased a solo CD that Erika did called "A Merry Little Christmas" - which is available online here (the official Velvet Chain/Erika Amato webpage).

This is BY FAR THE BEST Christmas album I have ever heard since I was a kid.  It's not fair to compare this to the Christmas albums of my childhood, as those will always have a special place in my heart and will always bring back memories.  But, "A Merry Little Christmas" by Erika Amato is the best collection of Christmas songs I have heard since then - hands down - period - no discussion!

It's not just the selection of songs, but Erika's amazing, dare I say it - Angelic- voice coupled with amazing music, that makes this CD great.  The CD consists of absolutely beautiful (a word I only use when absolutely necessary, like now) music and an amazingly beautiful voice that just becomes one with the music.  It's like music+singer=perfection.

The sound is a great combination of classical and jazz - and even some rock, with piano, strings, brass, and probably instruments I am not trained enough to appreciate.  I can't say this enough, absolutely perfectly arranged around and together with Erika's absolutely amazing - angelic - voice.

It's not just the obvious talent that shines here, but the Christmas feeling is embedded in the music and the vocals.  It's not just some singer covering Christmas tunes - it IS Christmas.  The Christmas spirit can be felt within these songs - these songs bring Christmas to life.  There is no way to listen to this CD and not be filled with the Christmas spirit.  No lie - I could play this CD non-stop from Thanksgiving until New Year's and never grow tired of it - never.

My personal favorite (thought they are all my favorites, but if I had to choose) is "Christmastime Is Here", a song many will recognize from the Charlie Brown Christmas movies. It is probably the best rendition I have ever heard and is done with complete respect for the original.  (Of course, I won't lie - the Charlie Brown version will always be my most favorite - but WOW does this come close to replacing it in my heart!)

Songs on the CD :
White Christmas
Santa Baby
What Child Is This?
Merry Christmas Darling
Carol Of The Bells
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
Silver Bells
Christmastime Is Here
O Holy Night
The Christmas Song

Again - this is available online at the Erika Amato's official site

Merry Christmas everybody!!!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Local Live Music Guide - December Edition


This is only a guide - always check with the venue or the band to confirm.  This is live music - things can definitely change.

12/1 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Jeff Givens & The Mugshot Saints - Jaxx Bar, Glendale Heights, IL
12/2 - Charlie FoxTrot - Main Street Pub, Robinson, IL
12/2 - Rockingbirds - Johnny's Bar, Dearborn, MI
12/2 - Modern Day Romeos - MT Barrels, Schaumburg, IL
12/2 - Kashmir - Brat Stop, Kenosha, WI
12/5 - Big Boppers opening for Carpenter's Cristmas Show - Freedom Hall, Park Forest, IL
12/7 - Big Boppers - Grape & Grain, Homewood, IL
12/8 - Dear John - Ballydoyle's, Downers Grove, IL
12/8 - Acoustiholics - Suzy's Bar & Grill, Yorkville, IL
12/8 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/8 - Hed(pe) at Dark Days of Christmas - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
12/9 - Adam's Jam Night - Carola's Hansa Clipper, Chicago, IL
12/9 - Sniper - Finnegan's Pub, Dyer, IN
12/9 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/9 - Kashmir - Twisted Rose, Algonquin, IL
12/10 - Falstrom & Friends - 1 Fine Tune, Homewood, IL
12/14 - The What5 - Fitzgerald's Nightclub, Berwyn, IL
12/15 - 4th Annual Night Ministry Christmas with the Beatles Glove Drive feat. Danny Donuts & Crabby Road Band, Yellow SubMorons, Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band, Meet The Beatles - Harry's Sports Bar & Grill, Countryside, IL
12/15 - White Phoenix - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
12/15 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - Jeff Givens & The Mugshot Saints (Toy Donation Party) - Chicago Street Pub, Joliet, IL
12/16 - The Ides Of March - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
12/16 - Liquid Monday - Bottom's Up, Lansing, IL
12/16 - Kashmir - Redemption Nightclub & Lounge, Crestwood, IL
12/16 - Traditional Andean Wind Instruments w/ Jose Luis Contreras - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL
12/22 - Epic - Hollywood Casino, Joliet, IL
12/22 - Kashmir - Diamond Joe Mississippi Moon Bar, Dubuque, IA
12/22 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/23 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/23 - Rockingbirds - Father Saylor's Knights of Columbus, Allen Park, MI
12/23 - Kashmir - MT Barrels, Schaumburg, IL
12/27 - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session - Melody Mart, Homewood, IL
12/29 - Epic - MT Barrels, Schaumburg, IL
12/29 - Jeff Massey from Steepwater Band - J. Martin's Tap, Steger, IL
12/30 - Kashmir - Park Theater, Holland, MI
12/31 - Kashmir - Ballydoyle's, Downers Grove, IL
1/5 - Low Voltage - Dugout Bar, Mahtomedi, MN
1/20 - Jim Peterik's World Stage - Wentz Hall at North Central College, Naperville, IL
2/10 - Dennis DeYoung - Genesee Theater, Waukegan, IL
2/10 - Charlie FoxTrot - Rod & Gun Club, Bruceville, IN
3/9 - 2nd Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Jam Night - Glass Tap, Steger, IL

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Featured Live Artist of the Week - "Marie Christine"


Yes, I know this is normally our Holiday Hiatus time - but some entries just need to be written.


This particular BoHo Theatre presentation took place at the Theater Wit, located in Chicago’s Lake View Neighborhood.  The Theater Wit has 3 theaters within the building.  On this evening “Marie Christine” was performed in Theater 1, which has about 10 rows on inclined seating.  The chairs are theater quality comfortable chairs, and the sightlines are great from any row.  My guess, the back row is at most 10 yards away from the stage.  The Theater Wit itself was a great venue, polite workers, bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic offerings, and patrons can pre-order their intermission drink, and it will be waiting for them during intermission.

Now, onto the play.  In order to give the best representation of the story, I will borrow from the BoHo Theater website :

Set in the twilight years of the 19th century, this dark musical chronicles the journey of Marie Christine, a racially mixed woman imprisoned without a trial to face death. From her jail cell, she recounts her journey from a genteel life of privilege in New Orleans Creole society through love, betrayal, and incomprehensible vengeance, to her final tragic fate. Inspired by the Medea myth, this tale of dark magic and raw emotion is loosely based on the life of real-life voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau.

As for the specific performance – amazing and spectacular – are the words that come to mind.  The cast is around a dozen people, some of them playing multiple characters, especially when the setting switches from New Orleans to Chicago.  Although the eye recognizes them by appearance, they do an excellent job, immediately, becoming the new character, and there isn’t any “wasn’t he or she so-and-so 5 minutes ago”.  THAT takes talent.  The set stays the same for the entire show with various props moving in and out (by the performers as part of the scene) as needed, but not many.  The performers do a great job setting the scene with music and words, where one can actually see the open field or the ballroom or whatever in their mind.  An added clever touch was the location of the live musicians.  Instead of being off to the side, or in a pit (this place doesn’t have a pit), or hidden behind a wall somewhere, they are carefully placed behind a wall with open doors.  So, when the play starts, the doors open, and the musicians (dressed in black) are there – but not there.  Patrons can see them if they want to, they are in plain sight, but simultaneously, they are not there and in no way distract from the scene.  It’s a very clever approach.

The show has some moments of chuckles and even a couple of real-life laugh-out-louds, but is primarily a serious and dramatic musical.  Great references to Chicago, and anybody who understands the inner workings of Chicago, will find that portion especially amusing and real.  To be quite honest, within the first 10-15 minutes of this 2 hour performance, I was fully vested in the main character and found all of the characters to be very believable and real.  It wasn’t difficult to actually feel for the characters, and that speaks volumes about the performers.


The sound and lighting were superb as well, the entire crew deserves the same kudos that the performers and musicians receive.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Local Live Music - Nov/Dec Edition


This is only a guide - always check with the venue or the band to confirm.  This is live music - things can definitely change.

11/9 - Love, Chicago : A Benefit Concert for Mexico & Puerto Rico, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL
11/10 - HandGrenades - Mac's Bar, Lansing, MI
11/10 - Time Bandits - Tracy's Tavern, Clarendon Hills, IL
11/10 - Krewella - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
11/10 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/11 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/11 - Time Bandits - Old Town Pub, Crestwood, IL
11/11 - Susan Williams Band - Porkchop, Glenwood, IL
11/11 - 95th Street Band - Slapshots, Midlothian, IL
11/12 - Finding God in Popular Music - St. Raymond de Penafort Parish, Mount Prospect, IL
11/17 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/17 - Snow Leopard Love Affair, Underclass, Big Sky Hunters, Feedback Friends - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
11/18 - Sniper - Mister Mo's, Palos Heights, IL
11/18 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/18 - Cornerstones of Rock - Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL
11/18 - Charlie FoxTrot - The Port, Bridgeport, IL
11/22 - Low Voltage - Mainstreet Bar & Grill, Hopkins, MN
11/22 - Kashmir - Q Sports Bar & Grill, Darien, IL
11/24 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/25 - Sopro's Annual Thanksgiving All-Star Blues Revue - Cheers, Midlothian, IL
11/25 - Cornerstones of Rock - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
11/26 - Old School Jam Night - Lynwood Skating Rink, Lynwood, IL
11/29 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
12/1 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Charlie FoxTrot - Main Street Pub, Robinson, IL
12/2 - Modern Day Romeos - MT Barrels, Schaumburg, IL
12/8 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/8 - Hed(pe) at Dark Days of Christmas - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
12/9 - Sniper - Finnegan's Pub, Dyer, IN
12/9 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/9 - Kashmir - Buddy & Pal's, Crown Point, IN
12/15 - 4th Annual Night Ministry Christmas with the Beatles Glove Drive feat. Danny Donuts & Crabby Road Band, Yellow SubMorons, Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band, Meet The Beatles - Harry's Sports Bar & Grill, Countryside, IL
12/15 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - The Ides Of March - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
12/16 - Liquid Monday - Bottom's Up, Lansing, IL
12/22 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/23 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/27 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
12/29 - Jeff Massey from Steepwater Band - J. Martin's Tap, Steger, IL
12/29 - Kashmir - The Forge, Joliet, IL
12/31 - Kashmir - Ballydoyle's, Downers Grove, IL
1/20 - Jim Peterik's World Stage - Wentz Hall at North Central College, Naperville, IL
2/10 - Dennis DeYoung - Genesee Theater, Waukegan, IL
2/10 - Charlie FoxTrot - Rod & Gun Club, Bruceville, IN
3/9 - 2nd Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Jam Night - Glass Tap, Steger, IL


Monday, October 30, 2017

Seasonal Hiatus has begun


For you regular readers, you knew this was coming.

We will begin our seasonal hiatus effective today, the night before Halloween!!!!

We will be back with Running Blogs and Live Music/Artist Blogs in January.

We will still post some updates to the Local Live Music scene during this time, though.

There might be some stuff between now and then - but until then - enjoy the Holiday Season!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Sniper


Finally, after numerous hit-and-misses, I got to see Sniper live and in person.  I had planned to see them many times, but things never worked out.  But this time it did, and it was perfect, an early autumn evening outdoor concert at a local bar.

This band is so prepared, they even built the stage for the event!!  (seriously)

Sniper is a hard rocking 4 piece band, with a bass guitar, lead/rhythm guitar, drums, and lead vocalist/frontman.

This is a band that stays true to the hard rock formula of the 1980s, powerful vocals with an energetic frontman, awesome lead solos with an energetic guitar player, featured drums solos with a hard hitting drummer, and an energetic bassist who loved going out into the crowd.  (Okay, so the bassist wasn't the ordinary 1980s/1970s stand in one spot bass player)

Speaking of going out into the crowd, this band probably makes the best use of cordless instruments an microphones than any local band I have seen in a while.  Throughout each and every song in every set, at least 1 of the band members was rockin out in the crowd (except the drummer.....yet).  The bassist would walk right up to people and slap out some awesome bass lines, the lead guitarist not only went up to people in the crowd and displayed his guitar playing, but the stage couldn't contain him, I think he spent most of the time in front of the stage moving around.  And the lead vocalist, always mixing it up with the audience, singing with them, going up to them, and putting on a show.  Not just a vocalist, but that classic 80s frontman as well.  High energy output from each member of the band, it was more than music, it was also a show. 

But, it's not just the showmanship, this band can play!  Awesome recreations of songs from the 80s and 90s and 70s that we all know and love.  When playing covers, there is definitely pressure to do it right - and they did it right.  All of the songs played perfect tribute to the original songs, many spot on, and some with minor twists that the band threw in, which is always a welcome change!

I can't remember the entire set list, but I do remember a segment where they went from Judas Priest directly into an extended jam version of Radar Love and seamlessly into War Pigs!  Radar Love to War Pigs - now that's variety!   One surprise was when this 4-piece hard rock band broke into a song from a local legendary band, The Ides of March.  That's right, this hard rock band was about to play Vehicle.  (Chicagoans know the significance of that song and that band in music lore)  And you know what, without the use of a horn section, this band PULLED IT OFF!!!  I admit, I was curious as to how such a strong Chicago-horn style song would work without horns - and with only 2 guitars (one being a bass) - but you know what - they rocked it!!!!!  Very cool to have seen/heard!!

Definitely a fun-night-out kinda band.  Between sets the band didn't go hide backstage or in their vehicles (no pun intended) - but rather sat at the bar and did shots with people and drank beers and met people and mingled with their audience.  A great band to book for that fun-night-out type event!!




Monday, October 23, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week : The People of Endurance Running


So, this is more of a generic article about Endurance Events in general.  These tend to be known as 4-hour, 6-hour, 8-hour, 12-hour, 24-hour, 48-hour timed events.  The goal of these events is not get from point A to point B.  But, rather, how many times a person can get from point A to point B in a given time frame.

One beauty of endurance racing is that it is great for beginners, like even brand new runners, it's great for walkers, it's great for speed runners, and it's great for consistent-pace runners - and anything and everything in between.  Why?  Because a participant can complete 1 lap and stop or complete 120+ miles and stop.  However many they want to attempt, they can attempt.  However many they complete, they complete.   People can walk 30 minute miles, or run 10 minute miles.  It doesn't matter.

And that's because there are two major aspects of Endurance Running.  1) Challenging yourself - what can you do, what do you want to do, challenging your physical and mental and emotional being  and 2) the camaraderie.  And the camaraderie is the topic of this particular post.

All of these events have a "tent village" or "staging area" or "support area" (called different things).  This is where each participants sets up a "home base" - it's where their food and water are, it's where their support team is, it's where additional clothing is, and, in some cases, it's where they catnap or just sit down for a while.  This is one part of the camaraderie.  Everybody in "tent village" is there for the same common goal - endurance racing.  Doesn't matter WHY they are racing or what THEIR goals are - they all share the same common bond of challenging oneself.  But the talk isn't just about running this particular event, it's about other races, it's about horror films, it's about baseball or football, it's about music - you name it, it's being talked about - before, during, and after the race at various times in "tent village".

Then, there is the unique aspect of "on-course conversations".  Yes, even in street sprint races and marathons and trail races, runners talk.  But the sheer length of an endurance events, often times leads to 1-lap (3, 4 miles) conversations with "strangers" (for lack of a better word).  Someone may catch up to someone or happen to match a pace, and they talk the entire lap - about the event, about other events, about movies, about cars, or whatever.  After a few steps, there is always an introduction/exchange of names, and it goes from there.  Friends are made as the event is in progress.  Some people run/walk the entire event with a friend or friends as well.  It's a time to spend 4,6, 24 hours with friends.

Then there is the 3rd level of camaraderie - the unsung heroes - THE VOLUNTEERS and/or RACE DIRECTORS.  These are the people who learn your name and recognize you after 1 or 2 laps (or less).  These are the people that cheer you on as you pass by - or as you stop for food or water or both.  These are the people, that legitimately, 100%, sincerely ARE rooting for you.  They want to see you meet your goal - whatever it is.  And they will try to help you any way possible, within the rules of course.  They ask how you are doing - if you don't seem all peppy, if things aren't going well, they say "how can I help?" and they mean it.  They will pour a Ginger Ale for you, not make you pour it.  They will tell you what items are on the food table, and hand it to you, not make you grab it.  They will motivate you with sincere comments - or they may even suggest "it's ok to rest for a few minutes, then go back out and get it".  They will talk to you - and listen - and legitimately care about your race.  How are you doing?  What is your goal?  How close are you to it?  Etc etc.  Some endurance races have one manned station - some 3 or 4 per lap - it all depends.  But regardless, they are there rooting for the runners, not just guarding food and water.  They will joke with you and laugh with you, they will encourage you, they will cheer for you.  These are the totally unsung heroes, of which no endurance race would be worth attending, if these people were not there.

Speaking of the food - not all endurance races are the same - but they all try.  Some have a constant supply of pizzas brought in for HOURS, some have awesome restaurant hamburgers, some grill burgers and brats on the spot, some have various "wrap" sandwiches, some have the great PB&J, some have nuts and M&Ms, some have fruit and veggies and slices oranges, and cut up bananas.  There is SO MUCH effort that goes into these food stations - they just don't throw food out there and make the runners "deal" - this food is sliced and diced and wrapped and prepared and ready to grab and go!!!  Plus there is water, and pop, and gatorade (or similar) drinks.  Some even have music!!

As I mentioned earlier - two key aspects of Endurance Racing.  1) Challenge yourself  and 2) The People - the camaraderie.  And in my opinion, if #2 didn't exist, then there is no point of even attending the event.  Challenging oneself is great and important and tough and gut-checking and fun and exhilarating.  But without people and camaraderie - what's really the point of it all?


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday - Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - HandGrenades


So, I just returned from Detroit earlier this week - so I decided (just like last week) - I'll post a TBT post - this one from 2014 (reprinted unchanged)

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Sitting here watching the Bears vs. Lions on TV - while they are at Ford Field in Detroit - it helped me decide today's Featured Live Music Artist of the Week.

Based in the Detroit Metro Area - THE HANDGRENADES

The best way to describe this band's musical style is with adjectives, not with a genre: melodic, guitar-driven, impressive harmonies, evolving, energetic, fun, astounding lyrics, and with one noun - ROCK & ROLL.   This is rock-n-roll in its most pure form, it's all about the music, it's fun, it's contagious - it is everything Rock & Roll is meant to be.

Originally a 4 piece (2 guitars, bass, drums), now a 5 piece with the addition of keys, the band members shift between instrumental roles during the show, as some move from lead, to rhythm, to bass guitar.  Although every aspect of the band is impressive, they are most certainly defined by their harmonies - a modern-day much-heavier Beatles in that area.  But, make no mistake, just because they have Beatle-like harmonies - this is far from being "a band that sounds like the Beatles" - this is an original new band with their very own unique sound.

They are now on their 3rd full-length CD, plus an earlier EP/demo.  The band writes the songs from music through lyrics.

But even more than the music is the STAGE PRESENCE!  And man, it is a presence!!!  A very cool inside lit bass-drum with the red glowing HG is the centerpiece of the stage.  Speaking of drums, and I've told him this to his face, the drummer beats the living daylights out of those drums!!!  Rumor has it he has actually broken cymbals!!  But, the sound that comes out is forceful, full, and driving - just like the guitars.  The guitars drive the song along, pushing each song onward, and bring pure energy to the forefront!  And the vocals, on top of all that, with the amazing - dare I say "perfect" - harmonies put the whole package together.  I saw these guys cover "This Boy" (or is it "That Boy") by The Beatles, and I think HG did it better than the actual Beatles!!!

So, now we've established the sound - full, driving, forceful, melodic, harmonic, energetic, and fun.  And that FUN translates to an on-stage presence that is captivating.  This band never stops moving, never stops playing, never stops singing, never stops smiling, never stops laughing, never stops HAVING FUN.  Every song is a 200% effort, that somehow looks effortless, yet fun.  You can clearly tell the band is having just as much fun making the music as the crowd is having listening to it.

They have another quality which is only present in few bands - chemistry.  All that moving around on stage and jamming - and they are all in-sync with each other - both musically and physically.  They are a cohesive unit (using a football term, since I am watching the Bears/Lions game while writing).

The best way to truly appreciate their music - buy it.  The best way to truly appreciate them on stage - go see them.  This band has a long great future.  This is a band that on a 1-10 scale, gets an 11.

Their only drawback, from what this Chicagoan can see, they actually enjoy watching football played INDOORS!!!

(ps - with no disrespect towards the new members, I admit, I do miss founding member, Tom)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Emerging From The Tunnel (formerly "Why Do I Run?")

So, I self-deleted one of my own posts the other day - because when I read it, I thought it painted running in a bad light - which was NOT my intent at all. I love running, I love every thing about it, the friends I have made, the people I meet, the challenges of it - physical, mental, and emotional. I was afraid my post painted it negatively - and I didn't want to do that to something I enjoy so much.
It's back - and it's still long-winded. Because I thought, why should I pretend something true didn't really happen? What if other runners have experienced the same? What if i was just me and nobody has ever "been there"? Regardless, to hide the truth, is to deny the truth. So here is the story once again - re-titled - "Emerging From The Tunnel" (yeah, so I'm not good with titles)

What I'm about to say was true when I was just starting with 5Ks, but it happened around Mile 2.  As my distances got longer, this would happen at Mile 5, or Mile 7 - and now, in the Half Marathons, somewhere between 11 and 11.5 miles.  But it's the same feeling, it just gets more magnified with the longer distances.

Grab something to drink, find a comfy chair, because as you know, I'm long-winded.

So, the race starts off in the early morning, maybe a runner is nervous, maybe not.  All runners are excited, the adrenaline is pumping, the race starts, and "it's on".  You got this - you know that because random strangers are yelling that to you.  And YOU know it - you are ready to conquer this event.  Miles pass, you notice some great scenery, maybe even first-time-ever-seen scenery, you notice the camaraderie among the runners, you notice those awesome random strangers on the sideline cheering you on, you read their funny signs "I'm just trying to cross the street"  "A parade this long and still no candy"  "Keep running, no time for Walken (with a picture of Christopher Walken)" and so on and so forth, you hear the cowbells, you hear "You got this", you even hear - I kid you not - "Go you random stranger you".  It's exciting, you are running, your adrenaline is peaking, you are having fun - YOU GOT THIS.

Then, well, maybe you don't got this.  Maybe you just want to pull over and find a short cut and not finish.  Maybe you realize your friends are right - you are crazy.  Maybe you realize, even if you quit now, you still have to find a way to travel 4 or 5 miles back to where your gear is checked and your car is parked.  Maybe you realize, this wasn't such a good idea.  Maybe you think - you know my goal doesn't matter, who cares if I don't finish, who cares if I miss my personal goal time - and I don't care what people think!  You have reached "that dark place".  Every runner reaches it during a race, especially long races - even the best of the best mention it.  It happens, for some it's Mile 20, some, like me it's Mile 11 in Half-Marathon.  Doesn't matter when it happens - it happens.  This is, as Survivor once sang in their song "Burning Heart", "it's you against you".

Forget the physical pain, that's probably happening too, by the way.  Muscles you didn't even know you had are now getting tense or fatigued.  Your body suddenly seems to forget how to put one foot in front of the other as you barely get your foot off the ground and feel the sole scraping a rock you would have cleared by 6-inches 10 miles ago.  Maybe your lungs are on fire, and you are probably hot and thirsty and tired.  But, seriously, all of that can be overcome with increased training and preparation.  That's not the "dark place" - that part is no fun - but it's nothing compared to "that dark place".

That dark place is in your head - literally - it's you against you.  Every thought in your head is about quitting, who cares about the goal, "just walk it", "pull over, who cares".  Maybe, just maybe, you don't got this, despite what that stranger with the cowbell is telling you at this very moment.  You actually reach a point where maybe you don't like this encouragement, maybe you want to say "don't talk to me" or "enough with your signs" or "You know what - I don't got it - stop telling me I do".  You want to lash out, lash out with no valid reason.  Maybe you are getting annoyed by that great camaraderie from earlier - why is this person running so close to me? It's a big street, get off of me.  Even though they are 11 feet away from you.  Or maybe somebody is behind you and you are thinking "geez, buddy, just pass me, stop pushing me".  When in reality he is probably thinking "why is this person in front of me so close to me - big road dude move".  Suddenly, it's that "dark place".  That band, from earlier that inspired you with "Eye Of The Tiger" - well maybe you want to unplug them.

Now, NONE of these people deserve those thoughts - they are there to encourage you - believe it or not, these random strangers really ARE rooting for you.  Believe it or not, you might be inspiring them or motivating them, maybe you are why they start running next week.  But even if you don't inspire them, they are standing outside in the heat or cold or wind or whatever, and they really ARE rooting for you.  They are playing music for you, they made signs to cheer you up, they shout motivational things to you.  They do not deserve those "dark place" thoughts you might be having - but you are human - you are having those thoughts anyhow.

And THIS my friends, THIS is the time, when you WIN the race.  It's not the finish line, it's not the clock, it's RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.  This is when you win the race.  This is when you win the battle and you exit that dark place like exiting the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel into a sea of light and cheering strangers.  This is when you win - this is the moment that defines you.

You feel miserable and tired, but you see that kid on the side with his hand out for high-fives, and you drift over to high-five him.  You see that funny sign, and you somehow manage a smile or a thank you or a funny comment back, even though you don't feel much like smiling.  You see the volunteer Police Officer and you say "Thank You Officer!".  Even though you can barely speak.  THIS is what winning is about.  This is when, despite every dark thought you just had - YOU GOT THIS - you really do!  You fight those inner thoughts and you overcome.  You win, because you realize, no matter how awful you feel, those random strangers, those volunteers they deserve to know that you really do appreciate them.  You put your concern for their feelings over your own "misery of the moment".  This is the precise moment when you won the race.  This is when you KNOW, just like that random stranger is shouting to you, YOU GOT THIS.

You fought "you against you" and you won.  This is why people have that "happiest person on the planet" smile when they cross the finish line - this is why grown adults are seen crying as they cross, tears of elation (well, and perhaps some physical pain as well).

But this is the challenge - this is why I run.  I don't run to finish the race first, I don't run to beat that lady or that gentleman, I don't run to win a medal for my age bracket, I don't run for the free beer (ok, maybe that helps).  I run for that challenge - the "you against you".   The challenge isn't always "that dark place", in shorter races it's the challenge to raise the bar of my finish time or to run negative-splits, but the challenge is still there.  I have a shirt from a race that says "Challenge Yourself".  That is why I run - to challenge myself, yes physically, but mostly mentally.  It's not mind over matter - it's attitude over bad attitude.  It's wax on-wax off!

So, if you ever wondered what that half-dead totally-exhausted runner - with the largest smile on his or her face sitting over there with a towel around their neck and a water bottle on their forehead might be thinking - it might just be all of this.  (or it could be, "where is the free beer line?")

(Final note, don't get me wrong, I also have made tons of great new friends and meet new people at every event - and that's a huge reason too)








Monday, October 16, 2017

Featured Running Event of he Week - Detroit International Half-Marathon


So, how many events can one participate in, in TWO countries, in the same event.  I'm sure there are a few, but two of them are the Detroit International Marathon & Detroit International Half-Marathon. 

This marathon course, offers two distinct Half-Marathons as well.  It's not uncommon for a Marathon to offer a Half option - but this offers two different Half options - an International Half and a US Only Half.  The International Half starts with and at the same exact time as the full Marathon and runs from Detroit, USA to Windsor, Canada and back.  The US Only Half, actually starts a full 3 1/2 hours later, and picks up at the 13 mile mark and runs the entire marathon course, finishing at the same finish line as the Full Marathon and International Half.  One thing this does is creates an element where no runners will ever feel alone on the course, because shortly after the International Half peels off - the US Only half joins in.

I ran the International Half, so that's all I'll really be able to write about.  However, I knew 3 runners in the full and they had lots of great stories to tell about the neighborhoods and Belle Isle, which I did not get to experience.  Based on what they told me, I fully intend to return next year and run the US Only Half.  I still have no desire to run 26.2 - and kudos and congrats to those that do run Fulls!!!

This is definitely one of these races where I don't want to say too much, because I feel that the exploration and surprises are what makes this race so enjoyable to run.  To talk about this race in detail would be to include spoilers, which I will not do.  But I will give you an overview.

First, the volunteers at the aid stations and spirit stations were PHENOMENAL.  Many many many thanks to the hundreds (probably thousands) of volunteers.  Also many many thanks to all of the Police Officers and Border Patrol Agents that were out there.  Not only were they providing valuable services, but they were also providing much encouragement.  And many thanks to the race organizers who made sure aid stations were plentiful (as were porta-potties), the race started on time, the finish was organized, and all that jazz too!!!

The Half leaves downtown Detroit, only a rock's throw from the Cobo Center and short jog from the Renaissance Center.  As with all large runs, it starts in waves, but it will be crowded for all 13.1 miles (and for all 26.2 from what I hear).  The race runs south out of downtown into a light industrial area, which is still lined with spectators all the way to the bridge entrance area.  7:00am in October is still dark in Detroit, but that did not dissuade any spectators from coming out in full force, including live bands and acoustic guitar players, scattered all over the course.  The route then winds around and enters the Ambassador Bridge, which is at least a mile long (maybe more) and has a long incline, which is followed by a long decline and suddenly the race is in Canada.  The course then runs along the river for most of Canada before heading back to Detroit - via the famous tunnel!  Or as the shirt sold at the Expo said "The world's only under water 1 mile run".  Upon returning to Detroit, the course runs along riverfront drive (might not be the right name for the street) and goes under the famed Cobo Center.  It then heads out past where Tiger stadium used to be, and then through a nice neighborhood called Corktown.  The course then turns and goes over some busy roads and back into downtown with a loop back to the finish line, and a long home stretch with cheering spectators on both sides. 

This was probably the largest (in attendance) race I've ever attended, though Chicago's Hot Chocolate draws 10s of thousands, somehow this just seemed more crowded.  At all times, runners need to look around before slowing and also check blindspots before "changing lanes".  It was truly a pleasure to be part of such a large world-class style event.  (Nothing is wrong with smaller events, just different)

There are so many very cool things I can say about spectator participation along the route and/or scenery around the course, but I don't want to give out any spoilers. Seeing it is more than half the fun.  I really wish I could tell you about the people and scenery and the surprises, but that's where the fun lies.  I will say this - if I took away just three memories of the event (though I took away about 3 dozen) - they would be 1) The Bridge  2) The Tunnel and 3) The Spectators.

Okay, I really have to include this, it's not a spoiler, but it has to be said - the people of Detroit and Windsor are great great great people!  So thankful to have them lining almost the entire course!

For those wondering about the border crossing logistics.  Runners participating in the Full and International Half must present Passport, Passport Card, or Enhanced ID, to pick up their bibs.  Bibs must be worn on the front, near the chest.  Any bibs on the legs or backed risk being stopped by Border Patrol Agents.  Backpacks and Camelbacks and even large liquid containers are prohibited on the course, but there are PLENTY of aid stations and runners can easily keep hydrated that way.  All aid stations have both water and Gatorade.  Border Patrol watches on both sides of the bridge and both sides of the tunnel - and there are PLENTY of them - and they see all.  I witnessed at least two calling out to runners "You, in the green - bib?" and the person (who had taken his shirt off earlier) produced the bib.  My friends in the Full said they even saw two officers chase a runner, instead of stopping him, as he unrolled his previously removed jacket, which had his bib.  I also so two people with backpacks stopped, and were asked for their passports.  Even in the wake of all the recent terrible things in the world, I never felt unsafe during this event - not once.




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Throwback Thursday : The Rockingbirds - Featured Live Music Artist of the Week


We don't usually do Throwback Thursdays - but seeing how we will be in The D for the Detroit International Half Marathon, seemed fitting to feature a local Detroit band.......


The Rockingbirds, from "The D" (Detroit), are the featured live music artists of the week.


The Rockingbirds are a 4-piece classic rock band.  And not just a typical classic rock band.  Many bands play all the most well-known (and sometimes overplayed) classic rock hits, which is fine, that's a good time too.  But this band plays some of the deep cuts.  And not just from 5 or 6 famous bands, but from across the 60s and 70s, and even 80s.  To be honest, I didn't even know them, BUT, the bulk of the crowd did - and that's what counts!  And this is what makes them a great cover band - they bring back songs that you might have forgotten about, songs that aren't played 10 times a day on the local classic rock station.  But, of course, they also play songs that are very well known.  A great variety.

I do recall songs from CSN, Stephen Stills, Beatles, Traveling Wilburys, Hollies, Eagles, Outsiders, Steely Dan, Badfinger, and others.  I wish I could remember the entire set list, but I was busy enjoying the show - not taking notes.

The band is in the process of changing out guitarists, as long-time member, Tom is leaving and the newest member, Tom is joining.  Yep, Tom's spot is now being played by Tom.  The new member, Tom, was a former member of Detroit based band The HandGrenades and current member of Beatles Cover Band - Mister Mustard.

I was fortunate to see the band play with both members, half the set with Tom - and the other half with Tom.  The band was great in both incarnations.  They all exhibit my favorite characteristic in a musician - they love what they are doing and they love music.  And it is obvious - it comes across in their stage presence and in the music itself.

They happened to be playing at a local K of C, where they knew many of the audience, and that added to the night as well, as they interacted often with the crowd, in fun ways.  In addition - they supplied the crowd with a duffle bag of percussion items to play along!!  Not just a sing-along but a percussion-along!

The band lists their hometown as Allen Park - but they can be seen throughout the Detroit area.  Well worth checking out!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - "Aiport Races"


Two years ago, I took a shot and submitted this as an article to 3 different running newsletters/blogs.  It actually got picked up by 2 of them, but not the third.  So, I figure, now is a time to print it here, as I’ve given the other 2 blogs enough time to circulate it on their sites.

So, at one point, there were 4 different “airport races” in the Chicagoland area, that I was aware of.  I managed to run in 4 of them.  The 5th one, a 1-mile sprint, called “Run The Runway, took place at Joliet Regional Airport.  Due to other race conflicts, I was not able to participate in that one.  But here is a breakdown of the ones I did get to run.  Some of these are still active events, some are on hiatus, always google first, to see which ones are still going on.

MIDWAY AIRPORT
“Midway Fly Away 5k”
Southwest Chicago
Date : Usually in September
Distance : 5k
Open to walkers : Yes

The pre-race/post-race of this event takes place in the Southwest Airlines hangar.  Parking is directly across the street from the hangar and is free with race bib.  Inside the hangar sits a Southwest Airline jet for viewing and photo-ops.  Due to FAA and DHS regulations, there is a very bright yellow line that participants can not cross.  Wayne Messmer, of Chicago Wolves/Chicago Blackhawks fame has been the singer of the National Anthem inside the hangar to start the event.  The course starts/ends just outside the hangar and runs along access roads around the border of the airport property.  At one point, the course actually exits airport property and does an out-and-back on a local Chicago sidestreet.  The course returns to airport property, and bibs must be visible for re-entry.  The course then begins to head back towards the hangar on the same perimeter access roads.  The race is chip-timed.  There are several raffles and silent auction opportunities during the post-race event.  And, being an airport, the course is naturally quite flat and fast.  All the while, planes are arriving and departing overhead.

O’HARE AIRPORT
“O’Hare 5k On The Runway”
Northwest Chicago
Date : Usually in September or October
Distance : 5k (though, some years also a 10k)
Open to walkers : Yes

The pre-race/post-race takes place near Economy Lot G in the Department of Aviation parking lot and there should be plenty of available parking there.  Parking is free for those with a race bib.  Like most races there are plenty of sponsor/health tents set up including a donut/hot coffee food truck.  There was also a group Zumba/stretching warm-up class prior to the race.  The race starts on an access road just inside the airport property, as runners have to pass through a gate from the pre-race event onto the access road.  The course runs on two driveable access roads for a short time before heading towards a runway.  Runners then traverse a long distance on one runway before turning onto a crossing runway for a period of time.  Runners then make a sharp turn of less than 90 degrees onto another runway towards a taxi-way.  At this point in the race, there is a giant airplane parked alongside the course.  Runners can peel off from the course and get a photo-op in front / nearly under this plane on an actual runway.  The course almost takes runners directly under the wing of the jet.  Participants then begin the trek back to the finish line essentially following the same path taken out.  The race is chip-timed.  The post-race party includes a live band and food trucks serving lunch faire.  A flat and fast course. And, all the while, planes are arriving and departing overhead.

CHICAGO EXECUTIVE AIRPORT (Palwaukee Airport)
“Run The Runway At CEA”
Wheeling, IL
Date : Usually around the 4th of July
Distance : 5k (and 1 mile walk)
Open to walkers : Yes

This event takes place at the former Palwaykee Airport, now called Chicago Executive Airport or CEA.  The event consists of a 5k and a 1 mile walk.  The 5k is open to walkers as well, and there is an established time-limit.  Parking is on the property and free.  The pre-race/post-race takes place near one of the many hangers, with several planes parked on the parking lot and in a row along the taxi-way.  Planes ranging from single-seat props to 30+ seat jets are on display.  All planes are available for viewing before and after the race.  The course starts out immediately on a taxi-way and makes a turn onto a runway.  Runners then peel off of the runway to run the perimeter of a few hangars and then back to the runway.  The course then hairpins, sending runners the opposite direction on the runway for a long straight-away.  The course then heads onto some taxi-ways, makes a couple of turns, places runners within sight and sound of the finish line – only to make a turn away from the finish and back up another taxi-way before making a hairpin back towards the finish line.  After the race, the parking lot perimeter is lined with operating food trucks for the annual CEA FoodTruck and Airport show.  Lunch and breakfast are available at the food trucks, and runners do receive a coupon for some free items.  The race is gun-start/chip-finish.  The course is naturally flat and fast with long straight-aways.  The airport is not active during the run, as the runners are using the main runway for the event.

CHICAGO-ROCKFORD AIRPORT
“Rockford Airfest – Run The Runway”
Rockford, IL
Date : Usually in June
Distance : 5k (and 1 mile competitive run an a kids run)
Open to walkers : The 5k is – the 1-mile is not

The pre-race/post-race takes place outside a remote hangar with an adjacent parking lot.  There is plenty of parking, and the parking is free with a race bib.  Runners could sign-up for both the 1-mile and the 5k event.  The 5k is open to walkers as well, with a time limit.  This event is one of those rare evening runs, which is certainly welcome in the summer months.  The race starts as the sun is setting and ends just before it actually gets dark.  By the time awards are presented, participants will need headlights to get home.  The race is actually part of the Airfest event, and that means that some of the runners are actual members of the F-22 Raptor Air Team and THE Blue Angels Flying Team.  Both of these groups went out and ran the kids back to the finish line during the kids race – in uniform – something the kids will always remember.  In addition, their jets are parked along the final mile of the course for runners to pass as they complete the race.  The course itself is 100% on runways.  It starts heading one way on a runway, then hairpins and heads the other way, and turns onto a crossing runway and does the same.  Basically the course is almost like an X or a + sign.  Racers finish the final mile on an access road, running past a couple of parked jets and then the Blue Angel and F-22 Raptor planes down the final stretch.  This course consists of basically 4 very long straightaways and some hairpins – a true runway run.  However, it’s not completely flat and fast.  The main runway actually has an uphill grade for half of the course – and a downhill grade for the other half.  The race is gun-start/chip-finish.  The airport is not active during the run, as the main runway is used for the event.



Monday, October 2, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Mother Road Half Marathon


The Mother Road Half Marathon takes place on America's Mother Road - Route 66.  This event is 1 of 3 events that occur simultaneously.

There is a 5k, which starts and ends in Joplin, MO - and runs a portion on Route 66.

There is the Half-Marathon, which starts in Baxter Springs, KS and ends in Jopin, MO - and runs at least 95% on the actual Route 66.  Two states for the price of one.

There is the Full Marathon, which starts in Commerce, OK, runs through Kansas, and ends in Jopin, MO, with at least 95% of the actual Route 66.  Three states for the price of one.

I ran the Half, so I really can only comment on the Half, but I'm sure most of what I say will apply to the other events.

The 5k is an out-and-back, and the Half and Full are Point-to-Point races.  The event picked up runners either at the finish line, or at 2 different hotel district areas, and transported them to the starting lines.  The buses then took people back to the hotel district stops after the race.  So, those staying in hotels, simply had to walk to one of 2 pickup locations to get to the start line.  Can't be simpler.  5k runners had to go to the actual start/finish line, as their event was a an out-and-back.

Once at the start-lines, there were sports therapists there to do any "tape work" that needed to be done for any runners.  In addition, there was a gear check, so runners could still bring all of their pre-race fuel or sweatshirts or whatever, right to the start, and then have it transported to the finish line for them.  This of course was very handy - as many runners bring tape and fuel and even outer layer clothes for the pre-race routine.

The Half started at Baxter Springs High School, which was unlocked for the runners.  This gave everybody access to indoor plumbing (which was good, because it was still dark outside pre-race).  In addition, there was plenty of seating in the gymnasium and in a lounge filled with comfy chairs.  Pre-race announcements were made in the gym where everybody could hear.  The weather was perfect, but had it been cold or wet, this would have been very much appreciated.  (It was appreciated anyhow, though).  The race started with the National Anthem followed by "The Runner's Prayer for the Knees", which is actually a serious prayer, thanking God for the day, for the fellowship and for the runners' health, including a humble request to look over the runners during the race and to give thanks for the volunteers and police officers working the event.

The Half headed north from there, and from this point on, the half and the full shared the exact same route.  The route primarily followed KS 66, which a slight variation to get around a high traffic area.  The entire race took place on the streets, no paths, no trails.  The Kansas route when from Baxter Springs through Riverton and then through Galena.  In Galena the course when directly through the old downtown and even on the less traveled "Old Route 66" to exit the town.  While in the town, there was even a keyboard soloist, which inspired all of the runners.

The course then rejoined the main Route 66 to cross the state line and finish at the Athletic Center in Joplin.  Parts of the course consisted on fully closed roads, while parts had the runners running against traffic on the shoulder, with the right lane blocked off.  This allowed cars to cheer as they drove by - and they did - some even ringing cowbells.

The scenery of Old Route 66, plus some general open fields, and an excellent sunrise made for an enjoyable race for all participants.  Along the way, from start to finish, spectators were cheering from the side of the street, from their porches, and from their cars.  The community definitely got into this event in a very positive way.

As for technical aspects of the race, there were hydration stations approximately every 1.5 miles (give or take based on terrain) - and port-a-potties probably every 2 miles (as an estimate).  There were PLENTY of volunteers at the aid stations.  There were also a few stations which also were staffed with medical personnel, and I recall seeing a medical vehicle driving along down one of the main routes with its hazard lights on looking across the field of runners.  Each and every intersection was well staffed with Police Officers and Community Services Officers, and there was never a concern related to safety in regards to vehicles.  The race was chip start/chip finish.  In addition, pacers were set up by finish time (so instead of trying to figure out a minute/mile pace, the runner just had to find the target finish time).  The pacer I hooked up with for some of the race was energetic, friendly, talkative, and motivational - everything one could ask for in a pacer - and, of course, was on pace.

A most excellent return of the event, which had been dormant for a few years.  Here's to more successful years ahead!