Michele Hartwig and Ornery Mule Racing – iRunFar

[Author’s Note: This is the fifth of a 10-part series in AJW’s Taproom called Race Director Chronicles, where we profile the unsung heroes who make our sport’s racing possible.]

Michele Hartwig is among the hardest working race administrators within the nation. Because the proprietor of Ornery Mule Racing, Michele directs over a dozen races together with three marquee U.S. Midwest 100 milers, the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile, Midwest States 100 Mile, and Hennepin 100 Mile.

Veteran ultrarunner Chris Worden notes: “On the paths Michele brings a stage of enthusiasm you possibly can’t assist however respect. Whether or not I see her directing a 100 miler or operating a path race herself, she all the time appears to be smiling. I ran my first Ornery Mule Racing occasion final yr and rapidly noticed why their occasions have change into a number of the hottest within the Midwest. She places her coronary heart and soul into every part she does.”

I lately caught up with Michele after her whirlwind weekend directing the 2023 Midwest States 100 Mile and requested her some questions.

Michele Hartwig - finish Midwest States 100 Mile

Race director Michele Hartwig on the end of the Midwest States 100 Mile. All photographs courtesy of Michele Hartwig.

Andy Jones-Wilkins: How lengthy have you ever been directing ultrarunning occasions within the U.S. Midwest?

Michele Hartwig: The yr 2011 was after I determined to placed on my first ultrarunning occasion — Earth Day 50k in my hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois. I spent a yr engaged on race-day plans and dealing with the park to get the race allow. The primary yr of the race was 2012. The race course is on the paths I practice on each day.

AJW: What’s the most satisfying side of your work as a race director?

Hartwig: There are such a lot of issues I get pleasure from about race directing. These races all began as a result of I wished to ask individuals to run trails that I prefer to run on, competing in a method of racing that I get pleasure from. From singletrack forest, to flat and quick ultras, and timed occasions. I like every of those kinds of racing and I’m captivated with making a protected, enjoyable alternative for the operating group. It makes me so joyful to see new individuals fall in love with path operating, and study they’re able to issues they could have by no means dreamed of doing.

Ornery Mule Racing’s mission assertion is: “Kindness, group, and unusual individuals doing extraordinary issues.” I wrote this down as my aim a few years. It’s a mission that our group really connects with. There’s something actually particular about path runners and ultrarunners and this sums up this group from all around the globe.

AJW: What makes operating within the U.S. Midwest so distinctive and particular?

Hartwig: I’m a traveler, each journey I am going on contains path operating. Once I come again to the Midwest, I’m all the time reminded of why I like Midwest trails. I benefit from the wealthy filth singletrack trails, rolling hills, miles of thick forest with a wide range of bushes to stunning open meadows filled with wildflowers.

Working within the Midwest, we get to get pleasure from 4 seasons. I can run the identical trails daily of the yr and look ahead to the crops and local weather altering via the seasons. Winter has loads of superb days on the snow-covered trails that make the chilly price it. As soon as you might be within the forest, it takes the sting out of the climate.

I like visiting trails around the globe, however my coronary heart is with Midwest path operating.

Michele Hartwig - trail running

Michele Hartwig having fun with her native trails within the U.S. Midwest.

AJW: What are the three greatest challenges you face as a race director?

Hartwig: First, organizing and caring for the volunteers on race day. We work exhausting to get as many volunteers as we are able to on race day, after which we attempt to evenly distribute them to effectively run our support stations, park vehicles, assist runners throughout roads, and do all the opposite vital issues that should be completed on race day. It is very important me that the volunteers benefit from the race expertise and don’t really feel overwhelmed by what they’re doing.

Crowd administration is the following problem. It simply takes a few individuals parking poorly to trigger a race-day disruption that may change the way forward for the occasion. We wish as many support stations as potential to have crew entry, however when we have now continued issues at support stations, and it disrupts the group across the path, we have now to make them no-crew-access stations. We put up indicators, ship out parking directions, and do what we are able to to assist the crew make good parking selections.

Third, outdoors providers that I would like to rent are a reason behind race-day and pre-race stress. For instance, the Hennepin 100 Mile is a point-to-point race. We bus our runners to the beginning line, after which they run to the end the place their automotive might be ready. When the buses pull into the beginning line to drop off runners, it’s a tremendous feeling of reduction to see them arriving safely.

I wrestle with discovering firms to ship port-a-potties to our support stations. Port-a-potty firms would relatively ship to straightforward places. We’re asking for potties to be dropped off in the midst of nationwide forests, state parks, and rural areas. They don’t all the time conform to ship in every single place I ask, so it’s a fixed problem to seek out the perfect setup for the runners.

Michele Hartwig - finish 2022 Hennepin 50k

Michele Hartwig greets a finisher on the 2022 Hennepin 50k.

AJW: What adjustments have you ever seen within the sport because you started directing occasions?

Hartwig: Once I first began, I noticed only a few ladies on the race begin line, and the entire variety of entrants in a race have been all the time small. If there have been 50 individuals at the beginning line I might suppose, Wow, it is a large race. I like that so many new persons are being launched to the path operating and ultrarunning group!

AJW: What are you wanting ahead to most within the 2023 to 2024 occasion season?

Hartwig: I look ahead to each race that I placed on and we have now a race nearly each month. Our latest race, known as the Midwest States 100 Mile/100k/50k, first ran in 2022, was simply final weekend so I’m at present feeling lots of pleasure in what is going on there. The course is deep within the stunning Chequamegon-Nicolet Nationwide Forest. We use the enduring Ice Age Path for almost all of the course. This can be a 1,000-plus-mile steady path that meanders via Wisconsin. The native households that encompass this path have proven as much as assist this race. They weren’t essentially runners, however they love this path and assist the race as a method to welcome runners to their house trails.

Subsequent yr we have now locals from the world who weren’t runners earlier than that who are actually planning on operating the race. I like seeing new individuals including path operating into their lives, as each volunteers and as runners. This race has many runners which have made this a yearly custom. We’re engaged on a flannel shirt for three-time finishers, for which they’ll begin amassing patches for yearly they end a distance on the race.

This can be a quiet, old-school occasion that has an extra-special, grassroots group really feel. It jogs my memory of after I first began operating ultras. All of us camp collectively within the stunning forest, and spend the times earlier than the race collectively.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Scratch Brewing Company beerThis week’s beer of the week comes from Scratch Brewing Firm in Ava, Illinois. Maple Bark Lager is sort of a fall night in a bottle. Flavored with maple bark and a contact of maple syrup, Maple Bark Lager is a clean ingesting lager with a toasted malty end.

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