When Omahan Jodi Semonell went into last weekend’s 100-mile race, all she wanted to do was finish.
There was a 200-mile race three weeks later that she needed to recover for.
But as she toed the starting line, her competitive nature took over.
For the fourth year, Semonell was the top female finisher at the Hitchcock Experience Endurance Run at the Hitchcock Nature Center, which is about 10 miles east of Omaha’s Florence neighborhood. She finished with a time of 23 hours, 2 minutes and 9 seconds.
“Once I got there and started, adrenaline kicked in,” said Semonell, 47.
The ultramarathon, in its fifth year, was held Dec. 14 at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. Runners also could opt for a 50-mile race, a half-marathon or a 101K (62.7 miles).
The races are organized by the Greater Omaha Area Trail Runners group, also known as GOATz.
Jacob Gallagher won the 100-mile race in 19 hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds.
Of the 60 runners who signed up for the 100-mile course, 28 finished. Runners had to complete a 12.5-mile loop eight times around the nature center trails. The route has plenty of hills and some rough terrain.
For the 50-mile race, Jake Hegge of Onalaska, Wisconsin, finished first in just under eight and a half hours. Constance Garro of Omaha was first among the female runners, finishing more than four hours later.
Kaci Lickteig and Brian Labenz were the winners of the half-marathon.
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New this year was the 101K. Runners completed the half marathon and then came back later in the day to tackle the 50-mile race. All 10 participants registered for the feat finished. Nick Eitzmann of Lincoln finished in just under 14 hours. Jessica Walhof, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was the first female finisher in about 16 hours.
This year, she faced a strong, cold wind.
“You definitely had to cover your face,” she said. “Your eyes were watering. It’s painful wind.”
Other than that, the race went as expected. Semonell felt prepared since she has run the course before and regularly trains on the trails at Hitchcock.
This was her 10th 100-mile race. She sticks with them for the challenge.
Semonell will tackle a 200-mile race in Phoenix, Arizona, in early January and another 200-miler in Tahoe next fall. But Hitchcock was her first experience with the 100-mile distance.
“It will always have a special place in my heart,” Semonell said. “Seeing new faces, people who have never run 50 or 100 miles before, going at it for the first time, I just love to see that. I’ll keep showing up every year because this race is so special to me.”
This was Gallagher’s first time running Hitchcock. The Coralville, Iowa, native wanted to do a cold-weather race that was closer to home.
Gallagher, 25, said he had a good day on the course, sticking with proper nutrition and managing the hills. He struggled with his headlamp during some portions of the race. That made navigating the narrow trails and hills tricky at night.
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “You kind of know you’re in the lead, but it’s such a long race. You don’t know what could go wrong.”
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Float spas, where users are suspended in a salty bath, started popping up in Omaha in 2016. Spa-goers enter a private float tank nearly double the size of a bathtub. Hundreds of pounds of Epsom salt have been dissolved in the shallow pool of water so people float on top. Proponents say floating reduces muscle and joint pain, shortens recovery time from athletic training or injuries, relieves stress and increases creativity. Click here to read a World-Herald story on float spas.
If you've been dreaming of dribbling a soccer ball while encased in a plastic bubble, you're in luck. That trend made its way to Omaha in 2015. The game can be tough — experienced players tumble right alongside first-timers. Click here to read a World-Herald story on bubble soccer.
Local yogis can find their flow among a tribe of baby goats. Two dairies in Honey Creek, Iowa, started offering the classes in 2018. The goat yoga trend started in Oregon in 2016 and has since swept most of the country. The wandering goats add some levity to yoga, known for improving flexibility and decreasing stress. Click here to read a previous World-Herald story on goat yoga.
Kickball isn't just for kids. Adult kickball leagues have joined the mix of recreational sports in Omaha, much like sand volleyball and softball. The sport gets players moving, but it doesn't feel like a grueling workout. Some kickballers called it "exercise in disguise." Click here to read a World-Herald story on kickball.
Ballet-inspired workouts made their way to the Omaha area back in 2014. The city is home to handful of studios purely devoted to the workouts, which combine yoga, Pilates and ballet movements performed on a dance barre. Some local gyms and fitness studios offer the classes, too. Instructors said the classes are fun and motivating. Click here to read a World-Herald story on barre.
Rowing isn't new, but it's made a splash on the local fitness scene. The exercise machines had fallen out of favor thanks to treadmills, weight rooms and group exercise classes. But they've been reintroduced through fitness trends like CrossFit and Orangetheory. At least two local studios have debuted classes built around the machines. Click here to read a World-Herald story on rowing.
Participants — wearing minimal clothing — stand in a chamber that looks like an aluminum can and grows colder over two to three minutes using liquid nitrogen. The temperature drops to between negative 200 and 240 degrees. Proponents say the high-tech ice baths reduce inflammation, relieve pain, prevent injury, increase energy and speed healing. The practice also has been credited for cosmetic benefits. But some medical professionals are skeptical. Click here to read a World-Herald story on cryotherapy.
Exercisers bask in glowing orange lights and blaring upbeat music at Orangetheory Fitness. The metro area now is home to a handful of the studios, which got their start in Florida in 2009. During the classes, a trainer leads people through a circuit-style workout that rotates between treadmills, rowing machines and a strength area with free weights. Members wear heart rate monitors to track their efforts during a workout. Click here to read a World-Herald story on Orangetheory Fitness.
Pound classes debuted in Omaha in 2015. The classes are a full-body strength and cardio workout that simulates drumming. Exercisers pound the drumsticks in the air, against each other and on the ground while performing strength exercises like squats and lunges. Click here to read a World-Herald story on Pound.
Aerial yoga blends yoga poses with acrobatics. Yogis practice in hammocks, flipping upside-down. It incorporates stretching and strength exercises, cardio and meditation. Instructors say the class is good for the spine, alleviating pressure — although there are some risks, and the class isn't for everyone. Click here to read a World-Herald story on aerial yoga.
Heart rate monitors are a standard part of curriculum for some metro high school students. They've also made an appearance in several boutique gyms. Teachers at Mercy High School said wearing the monitors prep students for a lifetime of fitness. Click here to read a World-Herald story on the monitors.