Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K Recap

It feels like I haven’t raced in a long time…it had only been since the end of September, but it felt like a long time. I’ve only run a handful of times since then, let alone race, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when we signed up for last weekend’s Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K.

It’s a little bit of a drive for us to get to Grand Blanc, but we figured it would be worth it to run a race that has “Chocolate” in the title. They sure weren’t messing around with the chocolate aspect of the race!

Yes, this was waiting for runners after the Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K. Yum.

We registered a little bit in advance of the race, and paid $17 each including a long-sleeve technical shirt. The shirt is white and fairly thin (it’s pretty much see through), and I’m sure it’ll come in handy on cool-weather runs. We had no problem finding the packet pick up (inside a high school), and the volunteers directed us to the start line. The start line wasn’t very organized; in fact, we didn’t even know where the actual start line was until about a minute before the race started. After getting our bibs, we just found the crowd, and right around the time the race was supposed to start a volunteer had everyone move down the road a little ways to the start line (which I don’t think was actually marked). It was time for the race to start when we were being instructed to move to the start line, so I knew it wouldn’t be starting right on time. Luckily it started just a couple of minutes later, and all was good. We lined up near the front, but not quite at the front because there were several high school- and college-aged runners who appeared to be (and were) faster than us. The race benefited Grand Blanc High School’s track and cross country teams (the alma mater of Olympian Geena Gall), and we were glad to see a lot of young runners participating.

The front of the Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K race shirt.

The back of the Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K race shirt. Chocolate is the answer! Who cares what the question is?

The start went smoothly – it was a small race, so it wasn’t terribly crowded and I didn’t have a problem weaving my way around others when necessary. My first mile went fairly well considering my lack of racing (and running in general), but I didn’t have to worry about passing others for very long. My first mile went pretty well, but then my pace started to tank and I was on the wrong end of any passing that was taking place. I didn’t expect much in terms of speed in this race, but I also didn’t expect my second mile to be 20 seconds slower than my first mile…yikes! After the first mile, it felt more like I was doing a moderate run rather than racing. I’m just not in racing shape right now, and I realized very quickly that I’m also rusty in the mental aspect of racing. I wasn’t planning to take this one easy, but I also wasn’t expecting to be threatening my PR…I certainly didn’t have anything to worry about in that regard, haha.

Almost 3:00 off of my PR. :/ This was before I knew I had won my age group.

My third mile was a little faster than my second mile, but still not where I was hoping to be. The biggest thing I noticed regarding my lack of recent training is how winded I felt, even before the halfway mark. I feel like I lost ground over the final two miles, though I was able to kick a little bit over the last couple hundred meters or so. I just wish I had used that extra energy a little earlier in the race! The course was a little long based on my Garmin distance, but some of that extra distance was definitely due to me not running the tangents effectively. I didn’t know where the finish line would be, but I knew that if it was near the start line the race would be much longer than 3.10 miles. Fortunately, the finish line was closer than that and my Garmin registered the total distance as 3.17. I had been afraid it might be even longer if we had to run back to the start line. I turned in my timing chip and went to look for my wife to let her know the finish line would be coming up soon. I couldn’t find her…she must have crossed the finish line when I was removing my timing chip, and I definitely underestimated her finish time. She was very close to a PR, and it sounds like she ran a great race. I enjoyed the course, which was mostly through neighborhoods and was fairly flat. There were a couple of rolling hills, but nothing major, and they added a nice variety to the course. There was a little crowd support in the neighborhoods, but nothing major. I don’t expect much crowd support from small, local 5Ks though, and I appreciate any support I do receive. There wasn’t any water offered along the course, which didn’t bother me because I don’t drink during 5Ks, but at least one water stop is common in virtually all 5Ks as many runners and walkers would like the option to have a cup or two of water or sports drink along the course. There were cups of water available at the finish line, but no sports drink and nothing to eat at the finish line. We figured there would be more to drink and running-specific snacks like bagels, bananas, etc., back at the high school. No such luck though, as I didn’t see any water or sports drink at the high school, and only chocolate-related snacks to eat. While I certainly have no complaints about chocolate treats, I like to have the option of having more “running-specific” food right after a race.

After we finished, we headed across the street to the high school to check out the chocolate fountain and other chocolate-related goodies they had for participants. The chocolate wasn’t heating up as quickly as they anticipated, so there was going to be a little wait for the chocolate and I decided to go stash some stuff in the car in the meantime. When I went back to the high school, my wife let me know that we had both won our age groups. I couldn’t believe it! I could believe that she won her age group, but I was shocked that I had won mine. I found out later that there were only five people in my age group, so that certainly worked in my favor. I don’t feel like I deserve any kind of award for running almost 3:00 slower than my PR, but hey, I’ll take it! Plaques were given three deep for each age group, and each age group winner received a box with chocolate goodies and a gingerbread cookie. Very cool. A local running store, Bauman’s Running & Walking Shop, offered to engrave name plates for free in their store for those who received plaques, which I think is a great touch. The chocolate eventually heated up, and it was well worth the wait. There were Rice Krispies Treats, marshmallows, strawberries, banana slices, pretzel rods, and chocolate chip cookies to dip in the chocolate, as well as a table with some bite-sized candy and Larabars.

Great post-race goodies at the Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K.

We hung around the race site to have some chocolate, and then we headed over to Bauman’s to get our plaques engraved. We got another pleasant surprise when we arrived at Bauman’s and saw that they were making Belgian waffles for race participants, with maple syrup, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips available. We discovered that several local businesses were offering free goodies to race participants in the hours following the race, so we made another couple stops and then headed home. Another fun race, an unexpected age group win, and a bunch of chocolate = a pretty good day.

Age group plaque and goodies from the Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K.

Age group plaque from the Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K.

I hope all of my American readers had a great Thanksgiving holiday and were able to spend some time with family and/or friends. I have a lot to be thankful for, including the ability to run, incredibly supportive family and friends, and awesome blog readers and commenters. Thank you all.

Chip time: 22:16
Garmin time: 22:16 (3.17 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 7:02/mile
Overall: 25/276
Gender: 22/89
Age group: 1/5
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 7:17 (mile 3)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:47 (mile 1)

Did you run a Turkey Trot this year? If so, how did it go?

What did you do for Thanksgiving (my American readers)? Do you have annual traditions or does it change each year?

Posted in Injuries, Racing, Running | 6 Comments

Faster Than a Turtle is on Facebook

Hey everyone…I just want to let you know that Faster Than a Turtle is on Facebook.

I’ll be posting some content there above and beyond what I post here on the blog. Please feel free to check out the page (and click the “Like” button if you like it).

I hope you’re having a great weekend. Happy running and racing!

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Brooksie Way 2012 Half Marathon Recap

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the Brooksie Way Half Marathon and 5K, and it was the second year in which I’ve participated in the Brooksie Way. I set my half marathon PR in this race last year, back when I was in decent racing shape and improving my times in nearly every race I ran. This year has been a different story in terms of my running progression, with no PRs mostly due to injuries and a lack of quality training, although I did accomplish a big goal of mine by running my first marathon in May (so I guess I do have one PR this year, by default). The Brooksie Way is a local race that has grown a lot during its five years, and I was very excited to run it again this year. I’m very familiar with the course, its scenery, and its final six miles of rolling hills. While the hills kind of suck during the race, I really do like the course.

I haven’t been running many miles because of a lingering hip flexor/glute/hamstring injury (though it’s mostly just my hamstring hurting these days), so I was well under the fitness level this year that I was at for last year’s Brooksie Way. I figured I’d be fine making it through the race; I just knew it wasn’t going to be an all-out PR effort. The only running I did in the seven days immediately preceding the race was a four-mile shakeout run the day before the race. Based on that run, I knew I should be OK running the race and I set a target pace of between 8:00-8:15/mile. That was in the same range my wife was planning to run, so we decided to run together.

I couldn’t make it to the expo this year, but I was told it was pretty similar to last year. It’s held in a three-court gym in Oakland University’s Recreation Center, and it’s pretty easily accesible with a lot of space and exhibitors. It can also be a wallet drainer, with plenty of general running gear and Brooksie Way gear available (and not all of it at bargain prices). My wife had no problem getting our packets, and she decided to not shop at the expo this year…we did get a bunch of stuff at last year’s expo though. I really like the Brooksie Way race shirts. Last year they gave us a long-sleeve red Brooks technical shirt, and this year they gave us a similar shirt, except in a bright green that’s perfect for low-visibility running.

The logo on the left chest of the 2012 Brooksie Way shirt. The shirt is actually a brighter green than indicated in this poorly white-balanced photo.

My bib for the 2012 Brooksie Way.

Since we ran this race last year and don’t live too far from the course, we didn’t have any problem deciding when to leave and where to park. We parked about an hour before the race, and had no problem parking, though traffic was definitely starting to pick up by the time we arrived. We used a secondary parking lot, so we were able to avoid most of the race-related traffic although we wouldn’t have been able to avoid it at all if we had arrived more than 15 or 20 minutes later. We hung out in the car, used the wonderful Porta-Potties, and waited to meet Jennifer after her pre-race run. She was running 21 that day as part of marathon training, with the half marathon just being part of that training run…very impressive!

We jogged over to the start area from the parking lot (maybe a 5-minute jog), and it was very smooth navigating through the start area and checking our gear. It was a little chilly early in the morning, but the conditions for the race were great. I’m willing to put up with being cold before the race if it means I won’t get too hot during the race! Before long, it was time to find a place in the start corral and get ready to run. We saw Jeff and Josh in the start corral – they were both planning to run in the same general pace range as us, and it was great that we got to see them before the race started because it can be so difficult to find people after race. Luckily the race started on time this year; last year it was delayed a couple of times to accommodate late arrivals.

The start line for the 2012 Brooksie Way.

Another great turnout for the Brooksie Way.

As expected for decent-sized races like this, the first half mile or so was very congested, and runner traffic remained fairly thick through the first mile or two. We did our share of dodging slower runners and trying to find running lanes that had a little bit of space, and that went pretty well considering the size of the race. Crowd support was very good, and spectators lined most of the first few miles. We started out conservatively and settled into a steady pace after the first mile – I actually ran the same pace for miles 2-4 without trying to be that consistent or even realizing it until after the race. If I could only run that steadily during workouts (though at a much faster pace), haha! We ran a little faster than our overall goal pace over the first five miles, taking advantage of the net downhill on the first part of the course. It was great seeing a dailymile friend, Rebecca, along the course on the third mile. Unfortunately, she couldn’t run it this year, and it was awesome of her to come out with her kids and cheer for the runners.

We slowed down a little bit after the fourth mile and stayed at a comfortable pace. The course is very scenic, especially the stretches along local trails, the first of which we hit a little bit before the four-mile mark. After a little more than a mile on the trail, we worked our way through downtown Rochester and into the Rochester Municipal Park. We hit the 10K mark in the park, and then turned onto the Paint Creek Trail where we passed the halfway mark. We were only on the Paint Creek Trail for less than a mile, but it was a scenic mile and the clam before the storm on this course. Right after passing the 7-mile mark, we left the trail and turned onto Tienken Road, which marked the beginning of the hilly portion of the course…unfortunately, the hilly portion lasts for most of the rest of the course.

I felt like my wife might have started to get a little tired as we got closer to the Tienken hill, but that hill seemed much easier for me this year than it did last year. Because I had done very little hill training (or intense training at all) leading up to this year’s race, I attribute the hill not seeming as bad for me to the fact that I wasn’t racing this year. A tough hill seems a lot more tolerable when you’re running up it more slowly and when you’ve been running more slowly in general for the previous seven miles. I’m sure I would’ve been cursing the hill again if I had been running all out for seven miles before hitting it!

After cresting that hill, we had a few miles of roller coaster-like hills. Nothing too steep up or down, but enough to really wear on one’s legs regardless of pace. My wife was a little bit behind me on this stretch of the course, but she never got more than maybe 20-30 seconds behind. She had some doubts about her ability to get a PR in this race, but she was well ahead of PR pace through the halfway mark and had a bit of a cushion heading into the difficult part of the course. That cushion got smaller throughout the hilly miles, but her PR was still in reach as we got to the last 5K. It started to feel like crunch time as we got to the 11-mile mark, part of a two-mile stretch down Adams Road. While the rolling hills on that stretch are smaller than the hills over the preceding four miles, they seem bigger on beaten up legs.

Thanks to Rebecca for getting this photo of me at the finish! The photo is great, but I look like hell! I’d like to think that in normal race mode (and without stomach issues), I’d have a midfoot strike and would be pumping my arms like a sprinter, haha.

My hamstring had been bugging me throughout the race, with a dull pain that was constant but more of an annoyance than a hindrance. By the 10- or 11-mile mark, my calves started to hurt, and I was just hoping they wouldn’t cramp. I’ll blame that on only having a few runs of more than 10 miles from June to September, and on this probably being my longest run in the Brooks PureFlow, which have a lower (4 mm) heel-toe drop than the shoes in which I had done my long runs over the last couple of years. The crowd support continued to be good on the second half of the course, when we really needed the extra boosts. The race organizers also provided entertainment at several points along the course, which I always enjoy. Even though we only get to hear a few seconds of each band, musician, or DJ, it does make a difference…at least it does for me! All of the entertainers were good and much appreciated, and I was especially glad to see Stephen Clark playing again this year.

My calves held up, luckily, and I was able to speed up a little bit over each of the last few miles. The only problem I had toward the end of the race, other than hoping my calves weren’t about to be shredded, was that my stomach acted up with just over a mile to go (and, of course, right after I passed the last set of Porta-Potties). I was just in “get me to the finish” mode at that point, so I didn’t care about having a good kick to the finish line. I tried to have a strong finish, but sprinting up the slight hill to the finish line wasn’t in the cards for me. Unfortunately, in my haste to finish due to my stomach, I had to put a little ground between my wife and me. I was hoping she had enough energy left to push through to a PR, and I was thrilled when I heard her name announced as I was crossing the finish line (there was a timing mat on the approach to the finish that I believe activated the timing chips so the announcer could see the names of approaching runners and call them out several seconds before they finished). I knew that if she was that close to me, she had a new PR with time to spare!

The finisher medal from the 2012 Brooksie Way.

The finisher medal from the 2012 Brooksie Way, with a little light shining through the stained glass-like leaves.

Because my stomach was bugging me, I didn’t get any food at the finish line. I can’t remember what they had available…I don’t think it was the worst post-race snack selection, but I don’t think it was the most spectacular, either. I got my finisher medal, then I grabbed a water and a sports drink because I’m always thirsty after races. This year’s Brooksie Way finisher medal is very cool, in the shape of a “5” for the race’s fifth anniversary and with some colored leaves designed to look like stained glass. After a few minutes, I found my wife and we found Jeff and Josh, who both ran very successful races. We then wandered around the race festival for a little while and met up again with Jennifer at the team tent, where we got some snacks. We left a little while after that, tired and glad to have another race in the books.

Chip time: 1:45:28 (gun time: 1:45:56)
Garmin time: 1:45:29 (13.07 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 8:06/mile
Overall: 398/2779
Gender: 317/1410
Age group: 53/215
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 8:28 (mile 8)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 7:33 (mile 13)

Posted in Injuries, Racing, Running | 4 Comments

Brooksie Way Bib

I got my bib for Sunday’s 2012 Brooksie Way bib…I’ll probably be wearing a red shirt. Good luck to all the participants, and please say hi if you see me!


Posted in Racing, Running | 3 Comments

Catching Up

Yikes. This unplanned blogging hiatus has been much longer than I realized.

I’ve caught up with the following race recaps from this summer. All three were small, but fun, races.

  1. Strut for the Strays 5K
  2. Rhonda Walker Give and Get Fit 5K
  3. Rochester Rotary 10K 9K

My next race is the Brooksie Way half marathon this weekend. I ran this race last year and would have loved to try running a faster time this year, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for me. I’ve been dealing with upper leg pain for almost six months now, and my hamstring has been causing me the most trouble recently. Some runs are mostly pain free, and others are fairly painful. My mileage has been much lower than I would like as I’ve tried to find a balance between staying (somewhat) in running shape and not overworking my injured leg. I plan to take some off from running after the Brooksie Way, but I’m not sure yet how much. I guess I’ll be getting reacquainted with cross training very soon…

My training has been so-so. I’ve been running at least a few times a week (most weeks), but I haven’t been doing long runs. I’ve topped out between 8-10 miles over the last couple months, with most of my runs ranging between 4-7 miles at a variety of paces. I’ve been very happy with some of my paces (usually on the shorter runs) and ability to run cut downs, while on other runs I feel like my feet are stuck in cement. But things could definitely be worse, and I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to keep running/jogging throughout the summer despite the injury.

I’m not sure yet what my race plan will be for the Brooksie Way, and I might not decide until just before the race starts – or maybe not until after it starts. I really doubt (I mean really, really doubt) that I’ll be close to my PR in this race even if I can run it hard, and I’ve already been mentally preparing myself to not get disappointed at running a slower race. The injury has just kept me from logging as many miles and quality workouts as I need to set PRs right now, so I’m resigning myself to being happy just running the race and hopefully keeping my pace consistent throughout, especially over the final six miles which seem like nothing but rolling hills. I might run with my wife, and if so, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to accompany her as she sets a PR like she did at the Borgess Half Marathon earlier this year. Regardless of whether I run with my wife or strike off on my own to see how much racing my hamstring can handle, I’m planning to enjoy the overall experience and the scenic course that incorporates a college campus, paved roads, dirt roads, trails, and plenty of hills. It will be great to see Stephen Clark‘s band The Trending Topics playing again this year, and I’m really looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new friends at the race this year. Let me know if you’ll be running in the 2012 edition of the Brooksie Way this weekend.

Happy running, and good luck to all of you who are training or racing this weekend!

Posted in General, Injuries, Running | Leave a comment

Rochester Rotary 10K Recap

My wife and I wanted to run a race within a few weeks of the upcoming Brooksie Way half marathon to get some practice running in a race environment while (ideally) maintaining a steady pace. We had considered doing the Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo 10K, but we had a conflict that day so we decided to try the Rochester Rotary 10K, a smaller race that didn’t conflict with our schedule.

It was a little chilly the morning of the race, and we were both split between wearing short sleeves or long sleeves. I tend to favor short sleeves if I think there’s any chance I’ll get too hot during a race, so I went with short sleeves. It ended up being a good decision because it warmed up nicely between the time we left home and the time we finished the race. I ran about 1.5 miles for a warm up, then met my wife near the start line to get ready for the race. It was a pretty small race, so there were no problems at all figuring out where to go and picking up the bibs, timing chips, and shirts. There were some issues with the bibs though, as the numbers we were originally assigned – numbers 2 and 3, respectively – were not available and we got replacement numbers (and corresponding timing chips). The woman in charge of the race marked down our names and numbers so she could verify that we showed up properly in the system after we finished. Some other runners had an issue where two or three of them had been assigned to the same number, so they had to scramble to get the replacement numbers sorted out and assigned correctly, but I think it ended up working out OK in the end for everyone.

The race started at one of the entrances to the Rochester Municipal Park and ended along a sidewalk within the park, not too far from the start line. There was a 5K and a 10K run concurrently, but the race was very small so the combined start wasn’t crowded at all. I had no idea what pace to run, so I ran with my wife and hoped to help pace her to a steady race. Stupid me forgot to take my Garmin out of power save mode until the race actually started, so my time and distance were off a little bit. I ended up using my wife’s watch data for the distance and the official results for my time. The finish was chip timed, but the start was not otherwise I would’ve just waited behind the start line until my watch acquired a GPS signal.

The race started just outside the park and wound through downtown Rochester putting the runners and walkers on the Clinton River Trail less than a mile into the race. The Clinton River Trail is a pretty flat former railroad with nice scenery. We stayed on the trail for a couple of miles, turning around where it changes into the Macomb Orchard Trail at the Oakland/Macomb county line. We retraced most of our outbound route on the trail, turning back toward downtown on the connector to the Paint Creek Trail. While we were told there would be water at the two-mile mark, we didn’t see any. Maybe that was for the 5K runners and walkers, whose route had turned off the trail and were on their own part of the course by the two-mile mark. When we reached the turnaround in the 10K race, we saw a case of water on the ground, but the case wasn’t opened yet (it had heavy plastic wrap covering it) and no table for water cups or anything. I didn’t mind because I don’t usually drink anything during 5Ks or 10Ks, but I know a lot of people like to have at least three water stops along a 10K course.

We were running pretty comfortably, averaging in the 7:30s, and as we approached the turnaround we saw two other runners who had already turned around and were well ahead of us by that point. That was it. The 5K route had turned off toward the Paint Creek Trail around the one-mile mark, and from that point on we hadn’t seen or heard any other runners from our race (the two leaders were already out of our view by that point). So we were in third and fourth place approaching the halfway point, and when we turned around there were some other runners not too far behind us. My wife and I have both dealt with nagging injuries all spring and summer, so neither of us was in all-out race mode. But we at least wanted to maintain our respective positions and not get dropped like a sack of potatoes during the second half of the race. We kept a pretty steady pace for the fourth and fifth miles, and I felt like maybe my wife could approach her 10K PR time as we turned off the Clinton River Trail and headed toward the Paint Creek Trail and back to the park. I was pushing the pace a little bit to keep the PR within reach, but trying to not push it to the point of making it intolerable for her.

All was going well when we hit the five-mile mark and the first (and only) water stop. There was a short uphill section coming up that my wife hates, and I figured that once we hit that section we would have less than a mile to go and could pick up the pace for a strong finish. Then we were directed into the park where we realized the finish was less than 100 meters ahead. So much for a strong finish when the finish line is right about where you want to start picking up the pace to lead to your kick! According to my wife’s Garmin, we ran 5.57 miles, which is just short of 9K. At least she got her PR…for a 9K, haha. I don’t know how the course was measured that poorly, but we were pretty disappointed with it being a full 1K short, and we did run the correct route. Oh well – there was nothing we could do about it, so we promptly went for a two-mile cool down. The people working the race were very nice and apologetic for the mix up with the bibs, and I don’t think any of the people with whom we spoke after the race were responsible for the short course. Based on the results, I think the 5K course may have also been short (unless there’s an unheralded runner in the area who went from the 21:00s in July to a sub-14:00 in September).

Other than the course being short, my only other problems with the race were the lack of snacks at the end (no bagels, bananas, etc. . . . just some water and Gatorade) and the tendency of volunteers along the second half of the race to not tell runners ahead of time when they needed to turn. There weren’t signs for those turns; we relied on the volunteers to direct us for each turn on the second half of the course. I’m not a speedster by any means, but when I’m approaching the last part of a race, the last thing I want to do is put on the brakes because I went a few feet past a turn before the volunteer who was standing there watching me approach told me to turn there. Those aren’t big issues, but I do appreciate being clearly told (or having clearly marked signs) where I need to turn at least a few seconds before I get to the turning point!

This was another case where we were happy to support a local organization, and we told ourselves that the lack of amenities just meant they could use more of the registration fees for their charitable endeavors. I don’t need Big Gulp-sized water bottles along a 10K 9K course or a buffet at the finish line, but I do appreciate at least a couple of water stops along the way and a snack or two at the end. We had a good time though and I enjoyed the scenic route. It was a nice training run on a beautiful day, it helped my wife realize that she’s probably in better race shape than she thought, and we saw dozens of ducks congregating at the edge of the park after the race . . . not a bad morning at all.

Chip time: 42:05 (5.57 miles)
Pace: 7:33/mile
Overall: 3/18
Gender: 3/14
Age group: 1/7

Posted in Racing, Running | 3 Comments

Rhonda Walker Foundation Give and Get Fit 5K Recap

Here’s another “better late than never” race recap from the summer . . .

My wife and I wanted to run a second race in July, and while we wavered between a 5K and a 10K, we decided to run a 5K because both of us had been dealing with lingering injuries and running reduced mileage throughout the summer. We saw ads for a 5K/10K supporting the Rhonda Walker Foundation, a charity founded by local TV news anchor Rhonda Walker that helps empower inner city teen girls.

The t-shirt logo from the Rhonda Walker Foundation Give and Get Fit 5K/10K.

The race started and ended in a big parking lot across the street from the Somerset Collection, an upscale mall in suburban Detroit. The weather was perfect for running, and the packet pick up was well organized and went smoothly. Rhonda Walker was making the rounds among the crowd before and after the race, and she was very approachable and gracious; another local celebrity, Mojo from the local radio morning show “Mojo in the Morning,” was Grand Marshal. We weren’t familiar with the route ahead of time, except from looking at a map that showed it going through some neighborhoods and around a park and school. It looked like it would be a pretty peaceful route with no busy streets and minimal traffic.

Thanks to Rhonda Walker for graciously taking the time to chat and pose for photos even though she had plenty going on all morning.

We gathered in the start corral after doing some warm up strides, and got ready to race. As we were getting ready to start a few minutes after the scheduled time, an announcement was made that the 10K would be starting first, so the 10K runners and walkers were to move to the front of the corral. We weren’t aware until then that there would be separate starts, but no big deal. We waited a few more minutes, then the 5K started. There were volunteers directing us out of the parking lot and into the neighborhood, and there were some signs in the ground directing us where to turn. All was going smoothly to this point.

Then we got to a park and a school about halfway through the race and there were no more volunteers. There were still a few signs, but not as many as there had been earlier in the race and not in the most ideal spots. I had no idea where to go, and I wasn’t alone. It was a fairly small race with many walkers, so the runners had become pretty strung along by this point and it wasn’t as simple as just following the person in front of me. Once the course started to lack directions, a guy running near me and I were basically lost and just kept running until we saw a sign. We had no idea we were supposed to run across a school parking lot then turn onto a sidewalk and double back in the direction from which we had just come. When we got back into the neighborhood, we had no idea where we were supposed to turn.

We just kept running around the neighborhood until the distance looked reasonable (we didn’t want to hit the finish line at a ridiculously short distance like 2.6 miles). Then we figured out where to go to exit the neighborhood and head toward the finish, and I realized I ran around the neighborhood too much because I’d be well over 3.1 miles. Oh well. I encountered a few other racers in the neighborhood, and all of them were lost, too. I finally made it to the finish line after running 3.54 miles (per my Garmin) in 23:32, for a 6:40 average pace. I was hoping to run at a pace closer to 6:20 or 6:25, but with all of the confusion and the stopping and starting along the second half of the course trying to figure out where to go, I can’t complain. I was very happy that my hamstring didn’t bug me during the race, though it was sore after the race. My wife had the same problems with poor markings along the second half of the course, and she ran approximately the same distance I did despite us running vastly different routes over the last couple miles of the race.

There was a health expo in the Somerset Collection following the race, so we hung out there while we waited for the award ceremony. Detroit City Council President (and former local TV news anchor) Charles Pugh was on stage greeting award winners; he ran the 10K and spoke to the crowd about losing a lot of weight recently through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise. It seemed like the results would be a disaster due to running almost a half mile extra, so my wife and I were shocked to learn that we had won our respective age groups – we had absolutely no idea until they presented the awards. I guess everyone was in pretty much the same boat with the course issues, so our age group placements must have evened out in the end due to most of the other runners running too far as well. It was pretty frustrating having the course be so poorly marked, but we were happy with the age group awards and tried to keep in mind that we were supporting a good cause. When we registered for the race, we thought it was at least the second year for the race and thus expected it to better organized at the start and be better marked. But we found out just before the start that it was the second year for the expo and the first year for the race. I’m sure they will learn from this year’s mistakes and mark the course better next year, as this has the potential to be a very good race in a nice suburban area.

My age group medal from the Rhonda Walker Foundation Give and Get Fit 5K.

With some of the other age group winners from the Rhonda Walker Foundation Give and Get Fit 5K.

Chip time: 23:34
Garmin time: 23:32 (3.54 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 6:40/mile
Overall: 6/122
Gender: 5/50
Age group: 1/14
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 7:06 (mile 3)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:27 (mile 1)

Posted in Racing, Running | 1 Comment

Strut for the Strays 5K Recap

This race recap is very late, but better late than never . . .

My wife and I planned this race around a weekend visit to the other side of the state in July (yes, this recap is that late). We are animal lovers and like supporting organizations that help animals when we can, so we were happy to support the Humane Society of South Central Michigan by running this race. I was thrilled that my dad decided to go with us and walk it (the walk was also a 5K and was concurrent with the run).

A cool dog statue at the animal shelter.

We got to the Humane Society (where the race started and finished) at least a half hour before the race started because we hadn’t registered early. The registration process was a breeze, so we had plenty of time to stretch, warm up, and check out the shelter’s decorations before the race started. I was pumped to see a mascot in a dog costume walking around…I love simple, cheesy stuff like mascots in dog costumes. The start line was right in front of the Humane Society, so we had no problem finding it or getting lined up a few minutes before the race started. This race didn’t have timing chips and didn’t have a lot of participants, so I lined up near the front without any problems (and without feeling like I was cutting anyone off). I had no idea of what to expect, so I figured I’d try to start strong and hold on for as long as I could.

Mascots rule!

I started out at the front, and after the first quarter or half mile I was comfortably in third place. And that’s how it stayed for the rest of the race. I was very happy with how I ran considering my lack of speed work all summer and my reduced mileage since injuring my leg around Easter. The only drawback to running in a smaller race like this one is that having my place pretty much wrapped up within the first mile is that I didn’t push myself as much as I probably would have if there were people near me in the last mile of the race. I wasn’t going to catch the two guys in front of me, so I just tried to hold on and not get passed by anyone. There was a turnaround about 1.3 miles into the race, and I saw that there weren’t any other runners too close to me at that point (and nobody who looked like they were running at a much faster pace than me). So at that point, I focused more on maintaining my pace than trying to catch the guys in front of me. When I passed my dad somewhere before the two-mile mark, he said I was probably about 200 meters in front of the next person, so I figured I was OK to just keep up what I was doing for the rest of the race. While most of the race was run on flat roads, the last quarter mile or so was on a nice wood chip-lined trail that had a lot of turns. I really liked the trail, and it would’ve made things pretty interesting if there was a group trying to sprint for position at the end of the race. While I failed miserably at maintaining a steady pace, I didn’t totally tank and my hamstring didn’t affect my running. I think I was just not conditioned enough to maintain my pace after the first mile.

A neat cat statue at the animal shelter.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t push it too much because my hamstring was hurting quite a bit while I was warming up and stretching before the race. It didn’t bother me at all during the race though (luckily), so I was able to run a bit faster than I thought I would immediately before the race. It didn’t feel like a third-place overall type of effort, but I’ll take it! There were some good snacks after the race, including some goodies from Kellogg’s . . . we were in the Cereal City, after all! There were some issues with the women’s results, but I think they eventually got things straightened out. They originally told my wife she finished second or third overall for women, but she didn’t think that was right and a couple other women came forward and said their times were faster. I guess that’s one of the downfalls of not using chip timing, but it seemed to have gotten straightened out fairly quickly. My medal is attached to a dog collar instead of a ribbon, and I think that’s a really neat and unique twist to the awards. I enjoyed the race, was happy to support a great cause, and am very glad that my wife and my dad both participated, too.

The t-shirt design and front & back photos of my Strut for the Strays medal.

Official time: 20:06
Garmin time: 20:06 (3.04 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 6:36/mile
Overall: 3/114
Gender: 3/??
Age group: N/A
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 6:57 (mile 3)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:17 (mile 1)

Posted in Injuries, Running | 1 Comment

Run 2 Read 5K Recap

I took 12 days off from running after the Bayshore Marathon, and just resumed running a few days ago on a reduced schedule similar to the one I was on in the weeks leading up to Bayshore – runs done by time (instead of distance) at an easy or comfortable pace. No speed work or other running for me until at least the end of this month. As a result, I didn’t have any races on my schedule for the foreseeable future, other than maybe a couple of short local races to run at a training pace (rather than at race pace).

However, there are some smaller local races this month that might fit in my training/recovery schedule as long as I treat them as training runs rather than races so I don’t risk aggravating my hip flexor/glute/hamstring. One of those races is the Run 2 Read 5K and 10K benefiting the Macomb Literacy Partners and the Oakland Literacy Council. I first heard about this race via Twitter a couple of months ago, but I didn’t commit to it because I didn’t know when I’d want to race again after my first marathon, especially if my injury hadn’t healed prior to the marathon. My first post-Bayshore run, an easy 20 minutes on Thursday, went well. My next scheduled run was 30 minutes on Saturday – the day of the Run 2 Read races – and I thought it would be fun to run the 5K and then add on whatever time I needed to get to 30 minutes as a cool down. As difficult as it can be to resist the temptation to try for a PR every time I race, I knew that I would need to exercise discipline and not run all out if I want my leg to heal sometime this year. So I decided to run the 5K at a moderate pace that was faster than an easy run, but nowhere near race pace.

The race was held at Stony Creek Metropark, which is one of my favorite places to run. Even better, most of the race was run on scenic trails within the park rather than on the less-scenic paved path that circles the park’s lake. I think running on the softer surface of the trails helped make up a little bit for the faster pace, as my legs felt OK during and after the race. I definitely notice the difference in surfaces when I’m running with an injury or significant soreness. I think there were between 150-200 runners and walkers total for the 5K and 10K. Because I decided so late to run the race, I had to register on site before the event, and that process went very smoothly. The race shirts were gray cotton with a red logo and red lettering for the sponsor names. Luckily there were still some available for race-day registrants. The volunteers and race officials were extremely friendly and helpful, everything seemed very well organized, and there were periodic announcements letting runners know what time the National Anthem would be played and where runners needed to go prior to the start. The race was chip timed, but there wasn’t a timing mat at the start line, so all times were gun times. There were some late arrivals still approaching the start line after the race began, so their times were based on the gun time and not when they actually crossed the start line.

The front of the race shirt.

I wasn’t sure what to expect while running, as I haven’t done any speed work or even tempo runs in about two months, but it went well under the circumstances. My pacing was uneven, with my mile splits varying by almost a minute (yikes!), and I felt a little winded at a couple points during the second half of the race. My first mile was the fastest, my second mile was the slowest, and my third mile was somewhere in between. My average pace for the race was almost halfway between my 5K PR pace and my marathon pace (a few seconds closer to marathon pace), which I’ll accept as a decent pace for what was supposed to be an easy/comfortable run. I definitely labored more than I would have liked (and much more than I would have if I had been able to do speed work recently), but I don’t think that’s abnormal when running faster than I have for several weeks. It was weird running more than a minute per mile off of my PR pace, but it was nice to run faster than an easy pace for a change. Even better, I managed to finish fourth overall, fourth among males, and second in my age group! I got a nice certificate of completion for finishing, as well as complimentary tickets to Cranbrook House and Gardens for placing in my age group. That’s a very cool prize, and we’re looking forward to using it. We haven’t been to Cranbrook in several years, and it’s a very scenic place that we should visit more often. My wife has taken some great photos of Cranbrook on previous visits. The post-race snacks were pretty standard; since it was a short race, I just had a banana and a bottle of water before I did my cool down run to get to my 30:00 total for the day. When I returned to the race area after I finished my cool down, I made a beeline for the Hudsonville ice cream trailer I had seen before the race. They gave me a very generous scoop of ice cream, and it was a great post-race treat.

My certificate of completion.

A photo my wife took at Cranbrook.

Post-race ice cream is awesome!

The course was very scenic; after running on a paved drive for close to a half mile, we turned on to the trails and stayed on either trails or grass for the remainder of the race. It was a moderately challenging course due to a few hills. The hills were a little challenging, but they weren’t brutal, and were nothing out of the ordinary for a trail course. The only thing that frustrated me along the course was the lack of signage. There were signs posted where the 5K and 10K branched off or where runners and walkers had to turn, but I would have liked to see signs at every trail intersection, even when we didn’t have to turn. Fortunately, I assumed correctly that we were to go straight on the trail if there was an intersection and no sign was posted. It wasn’t too big of a deal, but since it was a small race and thinned out once the 5K and 10K runners separated, there was a considerable stretch where I was running alone and could have taken a wrong turn. But it all worked out, and I enjoyed the course. I mentioned the signage issue to a volunteer after the race, and I hope it will be corrected for next year’s run. This was only the second year this race was run though, and I’m sure that’s just one of the growing pains. Overall, I thought the race organizers did an excellent job, and I’d certainly be willing to run it again. I had a lot of fun and was very happy to support a great cause. I’m looking forward to getting back to 100% and hope to race some 5Ks and 10Ks later this summer.

Gun time: 22:43
Garmin time: 22:42 (3.08 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 7:24/mile
Overall: 4/100
Gender: 4/44
Age group: 2/18
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 7:49 (mile 2)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:55 (mile 1)

Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?

Temperatures are in the 90s here this weekend. What adjustments, if any, do you make when you run in very warm weather?

Have you ever run a race knowing ahead of time that you were going to run at an easier pace rather than run all out? If so, how did you keep yourself from running too hard?

Posted in Injuries, Running | 6 Comments

Happy National Running Day

Happy National Running Day! In honor of this “runners’ holiday,” many runners have been posting responses to the question, “Why do you run?”

On the most basic level, I run because I can. I know many people aren’t physically able to run, and I remember this often. I’m very fortunate to have the ability to run, and I try to take advantage of this gift as often as possible. Of course I run for myself, but by running because I can, I’d like to think that in some small way I’m also running for those can’t run.

I started running for health reasons. For me, running is the form of exercise that gives me “the most bang for my buck.” I was able to lose a lot of weight by combining consistent running with better eating habits and cross training (for me, cross training is primarily bicycling and lifting weights). But running is the form of exercise I enjoy the most and do most often. Running allows me to clear my head, and I’ve found that I’m often very relaxed after I finish running. Running also allows me to explore new areas. Once I had been running consistently for a while and built a solid mileage base, I was able to run farther and explore trails, parks, roads, and neighborhoods that were new to me. In the “early days,” however, any deviation from my planned route that meant extra distance just sounded too daunting for me to even try. Since my wife began occasionally joining me for runs a couple years ago (and subsequently began running consistently, too), it has become an activity/sport we’ve grown to share. We’ve run races of various sizes and distances together…well, we usually don’t run together, but we run in the same races). We’ve run very close to home and we’ve run spur-of-the-moment hundreds of miles from home while on vacation. We’ve run everything from 5Ks to half marathons together, and most importantly, we’ve had a blast (almost) every mile of the way.

With my wife after I finished the Bayshore Marathon. I don’t know if she realizes how much her patience and encouragement helped me survive my first marathon.

I won’t even try to list all of the reasons why I run or the benefits I get from running, but such a list would be very long. Whatever running means to you personally, I hope you enjoy National Running Day and appreciate every mile you’re fortunate enough to run throughout the year.

Happy after running the 2011 Brooksie Way Half Marathon!

What are one or two of the ways in which running has changed you?

Do you have any specific reasons for running, or do you run “just because”?

Are you celebrating National Running Day by running or doing anything special? Is it even acknowledged/celebrated outside of the United States? “National” implies that it’s just a United States thing, but I have no idea if it has caught on elsewhere and maybe become more of an International Running Day.

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