Meet Debi Haas

The first time we met Debi was when she ran Frozen Gnome 50k with Stormy. She has been a regular runner & volunteer at Ornery Mule Races ever since. Debi host our Ornery Mule Racing YouTube page with Kim Kocher. We are sure appreciative of having her on the OMR team!

Age: 36



Westmont and Sandwich IL. I spent about equal time growing up in both towns.
Where you live now, and number of years you’ve lived in current state:

I live in Plano IL and have lived in IL all my life.


Husband Tim, and then my furry companions are my pups Loki (my running partner :)) and Sigyn, and felines Monk, Midi, Zoloft, and Eva.   

Occupation and how many years at job? 
Retail banking, most recently a Relationship Banker. Almost 17 years, and at the same bank!  It's hard to come to grips with where the time has gone in that respect! I have a degree in Human Services and planned to specialize in addictions counseling, but my career path has remained in banking for the time being.

When and why did you start trail running? 
I've always been an avid hiker. Growing up our family trips were always centered around hiking and nature, so it's been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started running at the end of 2009 after I joined the local boot-camp group at the YMCA to get into shape. They happened to do quite a bit of running I found out, and I became hooked. The trail running just kind of happened, and I honestly can't remember how it started, but the combination of these two things that I love so much became an immediate passion. 

What is your favorite distance to run? 

It's hard to choose! I really enjoy the 50 mile distance. It is enough of a challenge, yet typically allows for less recovery time than the greater distances. I do also love the 100 mile distance though. There is nothing quite like a 100 to really challenge your mind and body in so many different ways, and I enjoy discovering what I am capable of when I take on that distance.  I also really love seeing others push through hard places in a 100, it's awesome to know we are all striving for the same goal regardless of pace, and all dealing with different barriers but overcoming them too.

What race accomplishment are you most proud of? 

This one is really hard. I have a couple. I have never felt like I've been a particularly fast runner, or capable of qualifying for Boston. In 2013 when I was still running a few road marathons in-between my trail races, I managed to pull off a 3:36 (something) at the Fox Valley Marathon (and with a hydration pack on to boot! I think I was the only person at the race with one too, haha! Ultra trail mode!). It made me realize that anything is possible during your running journey, even when you are not expecting it. Each race is a new opportunity and you will evolve.  

Both of the hundreds, Kettle in 2016 and Superior in 2017, are also on this list because they were both races I felt very challenging in different ways, while they also taught me a lot about what I was capable of fighting through. I think when reflecting on achievements, for me, it just comes down to the mental battles I've gotten through or the unexpected wows.  I love being able to succeed in shutting off that part of my brain that tells me to quit when things get hard. I am so very thankful to have had these experiences, and without a doubt they have helped make me stronger in other areas of my life. Running is a great life coach!

What, for you, is the best part about volunteering at trail races?  

Watching people succeed. They may be fighting all kinds of other battles in life, but when they are in that moment they have a chance to let everything else go and feel really good about what they are doing. I think any given race can be life changing, and it's really special to be a part of that when you volunteer.  I also love supporting the trail communities. I race and then I give back. I think that is important. 

What have you learned from trail running?

 It helps me balance life. There is something about running through the forest that recharges your mind and soul. I love the peaceful feeling I find out on the trails and catching a glimpse of wildlife every now and then.

I've also definitely learned that you find wonderful people within the trail running community and it's a great place to forge friendships! I have met so many interesting and fun people through races and group runs. When it works out, my absolute favorite thing is to find another runner who has a similar pace at a race and just have a great conversation during the race.  There really is nothing better to make the miles fly by for me! One of my favorite memories of this was running Ice Age 50 in 2017 when a runner I'd never met from Wyoming and I had a similar pace and we just had a blast chatting and running the Ice Age course together for 45 miles. For the last 5 miles she tore it up and did amazing, while I had a moment and needed to slow down. I then met another awesome runner who finished that last 5 miles with me. We crossed the finish line and I made two new friends that day! Just one of the many things that makes trail running special. 

What advice would you give someone considering getting into trail running or racing?

Don't worry about your pace! I remember transitioning from road to trail and thinking "wow... that was slow", but trail running presents so many different components, terrain for one: roots and rocks to steep inclines and descents that require a lot more mental focus. I feel a good rule of thumb is that the trails will slow you down at least by a minute or two per mile, but embrace that this is your trail speed base and you will improve on speed as you adapt to the difference. Also, the trail running community is very welcoming! Do not be afraid to show up at a race or group run and give it a try!  

Do you have any goal/big trail races in 2019? 

 I'm heading back to Ice Age 50 in May to run the 50 mile distance for the 4th time. I took 2018 as a recovery/volunteer year after biting off a bit much in 2017, so I am setting my typical goals which consist of always #1, finishing, and #2 improving. I'd love to finish Ice Age in under 10 hours, but I'm not sure this will be there year for that as training has not been amazing. My current PR for that course is 10:42 I believe, so even improving a little would be cool. I'd love to run another 100, or a 100K in the semi near future too, but I haven't made any solid commitments on a specific race yet. I also plan on spending a lot of time at races volunteering throughout the year, so I hope to see many new and familiar faces out there! 

What is your favorite pre-race meal? I've tried just about everything haha, some friends and I even decided to have Jimmy Johns for breakfast before my first 100, jokingly hoping it would make us "freaky fast" ;). I think pizza or pasta and a glass of red wine is probably my favorite pre-race dinner. I don't eat much the morning of a race, maybe a banana or something small to kick start my energy for the day.

What is your guilty pleasure meal? 

Veggie pizza. Always. Although I don't always feel guilty... on of my many reasons to run ultra distances... more pizza! So let's say deep dish pizza. :)

Michele Hartwig