Brother on the Run: A Year of Races

A Year of Races – First Quarter

The race season in Michigan really gets going in May and June but never really stops.  Sure, the races get few and far between during the cold months of winter, but there are still races every month of the year.  That got me thinking – why not run a race in Michigan every month of 2016?  I couldn’t think of a reason not to sign up for races and get in a few miles even with snow on the ground.  We might be on fifth or sixth winter but that is not enough reason to stay indoors.

January – Freeze Your Fanny 5K

There is a whole series of races in the winter that take place in Bay City, MI.  Starting in December with the Ugly Sweater 5K and continuing into January with the Freeze Your Fanny 5K.  I signed up for the Ugly Sweater run with some friends and co-workers and despite chilly temperatures had a good run.  The Freeze Your Fanny takes place in the exact same location and seemed like a good recovery run following the Disney Marathon (just the week before).

This is a straight out and back, no frills, small race.  It was a very cold morning in January and while the snow wasn’t falling, there was enough on the ground including some localized ice patches.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who came out for the run – more than I would have thought based on the temperature.  Most people huddled inside for warmth until the last moment before the gun start but once the gun went off, people flew down the course.

I started out fast and probably a little too ambitious given that my knee (remember my Disney comments from the week before) started to hurt about three quarters of a mile into the race. Once I turned down my pace some and decided to take it easy, everything went really well.  I even placed in my age group (there were very few of us really) and got a medal for my efforts.  I had a good time, but this was about as small a race as you can find.

February – Mardi Gras 5K

The third in the winter running series is the same course and set-up as the Freeze Your Fanny.  I was able to convince my wife to come out for this one and even bring the jogging stroller along.  We lucked out on weather and had a nice and sunny day.  The temperature may not have peaked over freezing but it felt much warmer once you got going.

The race was again well put on and attended by more people than you might think would come out for a chilly winter morning run on the water edge.  There were even other jogging strollers and people with their dogs.  We ran into (almost literally) some high school friends of mine and were able to catch up quickly before the award ceremony.  I again placed in my age group (I swear there must only be three of us going to these things) but really was just happy to be out with my family.

For completing all three winter races, I got a special ‘award’.  In my mind I was picturing a hat, gloves, or even coffee mug.  I was wrong.  Each person completing all three events received a wine glass.  Maybe not my first choice but having since put that wine glass to good use, I cannot complain at all.

These races may not have been anything amazing or special but it is a great excuse to get out and do something in winter.  Spending too long indoors is obviously not good but neither is spending all winter running with nothing but snow drifts to keep you company.  To see so many people come up in the cold and get a run in reminds you that it is a community.

March – BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races

March was an odd month.  The weather was 60-65F the week before the BARC St. Patrick’s Day Races; it was maybe 35F the morning of the race.  This was my second year running the event and while I think there was more snow last year, I think this year was much colder.

This year 5,000 people had signed up to run the event making it one of the larger (if not largest) in the area – especially for the time of year.  You can never predict Michigan weather in March and this year was just plain cold.  Despite the frigid temperature, thousands of green and orange clad runners came to downtown Bay City in the early Sunday morning for a run.  The event offers an 8K, 5K, and Irish Double (running both races back to back).  I had done the Irish Double last year and set a 5K PR that held for about 9 months, so there was no chance of missing it this year.  With registration limited, I signed up early to reserve my place.

This was also very well put on race.  The streets are closed well in advance and a huge starting corral is set up for the participants.  Fences running the length of a block allow for plenty of spectators to cheer on their friends and family.  There are food vendors and stores are open to support the event.  The community comes together for the race and the parade that follows.

I took off in a mad dash with a co-worker for the 8K but had to fall off pace about half way through.  I really wasn’t worried about it though.  It allowed me more time to enjoy the architecture and old homes that stretch up and down the race course.  I really do like the course which is good because an hour after finishing the 8K, I was lined back up at the start for the 5K with my sister-in-law.  We did a run-walk through the 5K and had a really good time.  Seeing friends, co-workers, and more than one spectator enjoying a morning beer always makes for a good race.  We finished to cheers and our names being announced on the PA before scooping up some refreshments.  Along with the normal water and banana, there were sports drinks and sandwich cookies to enjoy.  We didn’t stay for the parade but instead took our high quality finisher medals and headed for somewhere warm.

So far, so good.  Three months into the year and three Michigan races underway.  I am not sure the temperature was above freezing for any of them but it was still a good excuse to get out and enjoy running.

Race Review: Detroit Free Press Marathon

Last week, my brother and I ran the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon. We had a great time! I paced the marathon for MarathonPacing.com and he ran his first marathon as a father. Here’s his take on the fun:

Detroit International Marathon Review

Last weekend, I completed my second marathon; once again running with Dr. Rachel.  A few months back,we had signed up to run the Detroit (International) Marathon – it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Expo

While Dr. Rachel worked a shift at the Pacer Booth, I had plenty of time to explore the expo.  The expo was pretty straight forward and the check in was well organized and fast.  I only waited a few moments before receiving my bib and gear check bag, which was very nice.  I spent the rest of the time wandering the different booths and scooping up bargains on new gear that I had been looking at for a couple weeks.  The highlight was the official marathon gear – the t-shirts, hoodies, and knit caps were fantastic.  Each came in a variety of colors to represent local professional and collegiate sports teams.  I spent more than I had intended but was happy.  The very end of the Expo had a massive TV wall showing a virtual tour of the race course.  I appreciated the chance to see the course before running it and got to meet some of the people behind Run Detroit.

The Race

It was cold.  Snow fell.

We showed up a bit early to the race to get into our corral and wait for the start gun; most people had the good sense to wait to the last moment to line up in order to stay warmer.  The corrals almost seemed more a suggestion than an absolute as people simply milled about and even some spectators were in the corral area.  While a little confusing, this really did not cause an issue and within 20 min of the first wave we were released for the long run ahead.

The start of the race was great and a lot of spectators had braved the cold to cheer on the runners as we made our way along the streets of Detroit.  Fairly early on, we came to the Ambassador Bridge and the first major uphill I had run in probably a year.  The pace slowed and the course narrowed making things a little compact for my liking but running across the bridge and into Canada was awesome.

Detroit Marathon Ambassador Bridge

As we crossed into Canada, we were greeted by cheering fans and clever signs.  Before the race, I had been told the Canadian fans were great and they really were – best sign: “Only one more country to go!”.  After a few miles in Canada, we took the tunnel back to Michigan.  Described as the world’s only underwater mile, the tunnel was a good change of pace and fun.

The rest of the course works its way through Detroit and across Belle Isle.  The International Half had started with the Full marathon and at mile 12.5 or so they split.  It was incredibly odd to go from running in a crowd to being one of ten people on the road.  Based on the race results, we had started with roughly 15,500 people but at the split only 3800 marathoners remained.  After running alone (I had fallen off pace and was left behind as Dr. Rachel continued on for her perfect pacing) for some time, the US only half marathoners started to catch up as we hit Belle Isle.  Belle Isle was tough, but this was mile 20-22.  Exhaustion was setting in, the pavement was tough, and the wind had picked up making the two mile stretch a real challenge.

The course finished along the Riverwalk area and was very nice.  After a few more bends, it was back to the combined start/finish line and a new full marathon PR (5:22)!  The post-race snack selection was not great but they had Mylar blankets and water ready for everyone handed out by smiling and happy volunteers.  I hadn’t mentioned them until now but the marathon volunteers were great.  This was a cold and cloudy day, but I did not pass a single person who seemed anything other than excited to be there to cheer on the runners.  These volunteers manned 18 water stations on the course meaning there was no need to carry a water bottle which was fantastic.

While the race was tough and I did not make my pace goal, I had a great time running Detroit.

Detroit Marathon Medal

The only thing better was the post-race Coney dog and fountain Vernor’s ginger ale.

Brother on the Run: All the Carbs!

Here’s the latest from the Brother on the Run – he’s training for a marathon and it’s getting serious. His mileage is increasing and he’s hungry. Really hungry. I know all runners can relate.

 

I was told that I looked absolutely panicked when the server tried to take the bread plate from the table.

Sitting at the wedding table with my young daughter, I had not had a chance to grab a roll before dinner.  The rest of the table thought is hilarious as I could only stare in horror as the bread left the table.  I had run 18 miles that morning; I needed some carbs.  Thankfully, the server was only taking the platter to refill it.  When it returned, I grab two rolls and more butter than any one person needed.  Did I mention the running yet?

The sad truth of my weekend was a very long run before a wedding out of state that we almost didn’t make.  As sad as it sounds, the need to get my miles in ahead of the upcoming Detroit Marathon put me into a panic on planning this trip.  The wedding was out of state, which means a long drive and an unfamiliar environment for running.  With a run of 16 to 18 miles planned (required) on Saturday, I had struggled to think of a way to fit everything in.  The easiest action would have been to miss the wedding.  Stop for a moment and consider how sad this idea is – skipping a wedding to get in a run?

Something in me had to be broken.  Miss the wedding for running.  That would be the worst excuse ever to miss a wedding.  Worst.  Ever.

Luckily for me, my wife talked some sense into me and we planned to drive to the wedding on a Friday so I could get my run in on Saturday morning.  In the week leading up to the wedding, I started looking online for running path and trails near the event.  I finally settled on the Prairie-Duneland trail out of Chesterton, IN.  As a part of the Rail-to-Trails movement, the path was paved and 10 miles from end to end with other connecting trails.   The trail was well enough maintained and wide enough for both bikers and runners to pass through.  There were numerous pavilions and frequent enough restrooms.  The biggest issue was crossing roads – many of these interchanges would have high brush that made it hard to note cars and trucks.  Thankfully, I missed the train crossing by about two minutes but that had carried a worry going into the back stretch.

The run went well enough except for losing track of the mileage and going out father than I intended.  I ended up missing meeting a friend for lunch but was able to get my run accomplished.  The wedding was wonderful and thankfully, the infant gave me a convenient excuse to skip dancing and leave early.  My legs were shot and there was no way I was staying up to shut down the event.  I had a recovery run in the morning to start planning.

How To: Race in Multiple Races

Back when I first started running, everyone I knew was training for one event. We would pick a race – a 10k, a half, a full, and train for that one race. We would build our training program around the race, run it, and then enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Lately, more and more people are choosing to run in back-to-back races. Some run multiple events in one day, or one weekend. Others have been planning seasons that include three or more events in a series. I’ve tried running in multiple events and I love it! I have run in Tampa’s Gasparilla Distance Classic several times – with four races in two days. I’ve run in Disney’s popular Goofy and Dopey race series, with 39.3 or 48.6 miles across multiple races. This fall, for the second year in a row, I will run four marathons in four weeks. This type of multiple event racing isn’t for everyone, but, if you’d like to give it a try, here are my top tips for multiple event racing success:

  • Plan your season around the events as a whole, rather than around one event. For example, this fall I will run four marathons in four weeks. My goal is to run four marathons in four weeks, not to run one marathon well, with a few extra after that. Planning to run only one marathon, then running four sets me up for disappointment, fatigue, and injury. Plan a training season around your goal – which is multiple events in the season.
  • When running in multiple events, you simply can’t train the way you do for a single event. your base fitness has to reflect the nature of your challenge. When building your base, build a base fitness that will prepare you well for the challenge at hand. This means I need to run high mileage multiple weeks in a row to prepare for my four marathons in four weeks extravaganza. Doing Dopey? Plan to run long runs back to back most weeks, with three to four consecutive days of running. Match the training to the specific challenges of your goal.
  • Let your body be your guide. When you’re striving for a new goal, it can be temping to push through aches and pains. Treat the body well, and listen to its cues. Achieving a multiple event goal requires a healthy, fit body.
  • Find a cross training activity that you enjoy. Engage in it often to prevent burn out and to recovery from bouts of hard running.
  • When you have multiple events in one day, practice running twice in one day. Learn how your body responds to multiple events and work on a rest/fueling/hydrating plan that mimics the specifics of your goal events.
  • When you have multiple events across multiple weeks, every event before the last is part of the training for the last event. Plan paces and race strategy accordingly. Remember that every event you run is preparation for the next, so a tough day or a poor performance is just part of the training process.
  • Learn to recover well and practice recovery throughout the training. Develop recovery strategies that suit you and will work within your goal time frame. Develop a long and short term view on recovery. Think of recovery not just as something done in the days or weeks after and event, but something done in minutes and hours after each event. What you do in the first few minutes after racing, and in the next several hours, can make a big difference. Develop a daily routine for recovery and wellness.  Practice season-long recovery strategies, too, including such as massage, foam rolling, and other body work. The quality of your next race depends on your ability to recover as well as you can in the time that you have before the event.
  • The goal after your first event is to be recovered enough to race again. When races are very close (hours to days), accept that some fatigue will be part of every event after the first. When you have a week between events, use that week to recover, rest, and prepare the body to race again. As the time between events becomes longer, expand the rest/recovery time and start to add in easy-paced running. Use the time between events to maintain the fitness you have, not to train.

Dopey

Racing multiple events can be exhilarating and can add a new challenge to the racing season for even the most accomplished runners. When planning carefully, runners can have great success (and a lot of fun!) running multiple events. Need help planning your multiple event calendar? Consider hiring a running coach. More information on training with Dr. Rachel Runs can be found above, in the Coaching tab.

Race Review: Peaks Island 5 Miler

Last weekend, a running friend and I went on a great running getaway! We built a little escape around the Peaks Island 5 Mile Race, a race held on a tiny island in Maine. We planned to drive up to Maine, stay near Freeport, then run the race and enjoy some time on the island. Our planning hit a little block, though, when it came to the race. There was precious little information available about the race and the logistics of the race. Luckily, we are an easygoing pair, so we were able to adapt. This review is going to be some review, and some information sharing. I hope that sharing my experience will help others who might encounter similar confusion.

First, you’ll need to take a ferry over from Portland for the race. There is parking right at the Casco Bay Lines terminal, but it’s significantly more expensive than local parking lots. Find a parking lot that offers all day parking for a flat rate. We did, and walked two short blocks to the terminal.

Cacso Bay Lines

Runners do need to pay for passage on the ferry, less than $10 each (and getting off the island is free). You’ll get tickets at the terminal, then wait in a little lobby for the ferry. We took the 8:30am ferry, a special ferry for the race. It would have been fine to take a later ferry, but we wanted some time to look around. The race starts at 10:30, so a 9:15 ferry would be fine. The ferry ride was lovely, breezy and full of gorgeous views. It lasted about 20 minutes.

Casco Ferry

We got to the race location, a local Lions Club. The Lions Club has a large, grassy area, and a small building with bathrooms and a stage. Packed pick up was efficient, with three staff to assist about 10 runners. We easily got our numbers and then explored. There is no gear check, but people bring their stuff and leave it on the Lions Club property. We saw people with coolers, blankets, and many belongings. No one seemed to mind leaving their things, so we did, too. The picnic table spots went early, but many people sat on the grass or brought their own chairs. It’s worth note that the website says no dogs are allowed, but we saw many people with dogs and dogs are welcomed on the ferry.

Peaks Island Lions Club

A short kids’ race immediately preceded the 5 mile race, so we watched the kid and warmed up. We took in the gorgeous bay views and generally had a great time before our 5 mile race started.

Casco Bay View

The Peaks Island 5 Mile Race course runs around the island itself. It includes lovely sea views, a section through a woodsy area, and several miles through neighborhoods on the island. The course map wasn’t available before the race, save for this little picture at the Lions Club, so the whole race was an adventure. I didn’t know what to expect, but was treated to classic Maine.

Peaks Island Road Race Course Map

Peaks Island Road Race Course Map

The organizers, the Maine Track Club, say that the race is flat, but it’s really more New England flat with just a bit of variation.

Peaks Island 5 Mile Race Elevation

Peaks Island 5 Mile Race Elevation

Overall, the course was nicely laid out, well marked, and mostly free of traffic despite the roads being open. The finish line was no-fuss, with just a small table and timing mats. Immediately after the race, finishers were treated to a cook out (extra charge, purchased ahead of time). Runners made advance purchase of tickets to the cook out and were able to enjoy lobster, chicken, or vegetarian meal options. We got the chicken, which was par-boiled, then soaked in BBQ sauce and grilled.

IMG_0024 IMG_0025 IMG_0026

Awards were given out to top finishers. It was a speedy race, with lots of fast times. Following the race, my friend and I toured the island and enjoyed the small stretch of sandy beach for beach glass hunting.

Peaks Island

Overall, we had a lovely time at the Peaks Island 5 Mile Race. The communication before the event was lacking and the website was nonexistent, but the race itself was well done, well organized, and a great family event. I would recommend this race as a fun destination race for a weekend getaway. We will be back!

Race Review: Mystic Half Marathon

Here’s the latest from my brother on the run, his take on a recent half marathon.

Race Review – Mystic Half Marathon: The Spectator Version

It has been a long time since I have put together an update for Dr.Rachel and this is in part due to my running dropping off some.  I had been skipping runs and avoiding working out for the better part of a month.  After setting a new 10K record in May, I had stopped running to let a sore foot heal and get some work done in the garden.

The closest I came to running was attending the Mystic (CT) Half Marathon as a spectator.

Mystic Half Marathon

After an exciting ride to the race event, complete with 911 call for a vehicle accident that happened in front of us, we arrived at the Mystic Village just in time for check-in.  The freeway exit to the parking lot was crowded and a bit chaotic.  The traffic split in a Y only to circle the parking lots and reach the same end destination.  While the parking could have been easier, we were able to get a great spot and unload.  Dr.Rachel bolted off to check in for pacing while my wife and I wandered Mystic.  There was a small expo set up with a decent amount of people milling about and enjoying the pleasant morning weather.  Announcements were easily heard and when the runners started to line up, the wife and I found a hill to watch the event.

I really though the launch worked well – racers split on two sides of a median and then combined at the start line.  From our 100 ft view, it seemed like the race start went off without a hitch and was well organized.  We had joined a number spectators across the road and had a great view.  Afterwards, we treated ourselves to breakfast and coffee because, hell, we weren’t running.

Having thought ahead, we had taken a camera phone picture of the race course.  This helped us to locate a few locations to watch the event unfold.  After breakfast, we wandered through the rest of Mystic and to the 6.5-7 mile markers.  This was hard to find actually and several of the crossing guards couldn’t direct us to the right intersection.  Luckily, a race volunteer was able to help us reach the 7 mile marker as the first male was coming through.  This was a great viewing spot for us and there was a decent crowd to cheer on the runners.

After watching Dr.Rachel pass by, we headed directly to the finish line.  This was a quarter mile walk for us and 6 mile run for the racers.  We win again!  With our chairs and snacks, we watched as the runners crossed the finish line – again, this was set up well and we had no trouble finding a location to sit.

The star of the day was a race volunteer at the finish line.  We lost count of how many runners he helped. Whenever a runner was struggling, he ran out to them, grabbed their hand, and then ran through the finish line with them.  It was incredible and he continued to do this until the very last runner finished the race.  In all, he probably ran farther that day than any of the race registrants but never lost his energy or enthusiasm for helping the racers.  It was truly awesome to watch.

The post-race events were a mild celebration and again seemed to be well done.  While I cannot speak to the medals or course, this race was a lot of fun for spectators.  My wife and I enjoyed our time at Mystic and would come back to watch the race again.

Running Safety

Lately, the news has been filled with cases of runners in bad situations –interactions with motorists that went poorly and stories of serious harm seem more common. In the majority of situations, runners have done everything they could to avoid harm, but we can never be too careful. Here are some of my favorite safety tips.

First, stay alert to your surroundings. I know many runners enjoy running with music piped directly to their ears through a variety of noise-cancelling headphones. It is safest to run without music, fully able to hear the world around you. If you must run with music, consider leaving one headphone out of your ear and keep the volume to the lowest possible level. This will enable you to hear things going on around you, and help you stay alert for dangers that may be difficult to see. You’ll also be a good running citizen when you can hear the instructions and prompts of those around you.

Run against traffic when on the roads, or on sidewalks when available. By facing oncoming traffic, you can observe the driving habits of cars near you. You can also react more quickly to danger you see coming.

Look both ways before crossing streets (and train tracks) and make sure the driver of the oncoming car acknowledges your right of way before entering the roadway. You may have the right of way, but you still need to obey traffic signals that apply to pedestrians. Cross only in designated crosswalks and be courteous of drivers. Consider using hand signals or pointing in the direction you wish to go. This lets motorists know where you’re headed next.

Wear bright clothing and clothing with reflective details for dusk and dawn runs. If you must run in very low light, wear a headlamp, or a vest with flashing front and rear lights. Vests with built-in LED lighting are inexpensive and easy to find on the internet. Wearing one if you must run in low light will make you significantly more visible to others.

Carry or wear identification. I use a RoadID, a small wrist band (also available as a shoe tag, ankle band, and comfort wristband on RoadID.com) that includes my basic information. At minimum, include your name, date of birth, and the contact number of someone who can help in the event you are medically incapacitated. I have a medical condition, so I’ve paid extra to obtain a RoadID with a special code that enables first responders to access my medical information online in the event I’m unable to speak for myself. In a pinch, you can write this information on the inside of your shoe.

Carry your cell phone, and a small amount of cash. You never know when you might need a ride, a tasty beverage, or a donut mid-run.

Vary your running routes. Run in familiar areas if possible, but try to avoid taking the same route over and over again. Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be home. I share this information with a loved one or fellow runner (who knows this is important). There are also several run tracking apps available that provide real time tracking for runners to be shared with individuals you identify. Among the most popular are the RoadID app and RunSafe. Both have alerts that can be customized for use in the event of an emergency. Run with someone when you can, or in populated areas.

RoadID app

Be cautious about where and how you post your routes on social media, including run tracking apps. If you run often enough, you’ll be tempted to start tracking your runs with GPS and posting them to Gamin Connect, Strava, Nike Plus, or some similar social sharing site. Be sure that your security settings are at least somewhat private, or don’t post runs that start or end at your house. Protect your personal information. Be wary about posting routes on other social media sites if your privacy settings are loose.

Be nice to other people. Avoid verbal altercations. Mind your manners and be a good citizen.

Carry something that makes noise, or practice whistling. You may need to get someone’s attention, or alert wildlife to your presence. Being able to make a loud noise is good.

While we can’t fully protect ourselves from the unknown, we can all take basic steps to reduce risks while still enjoying the sport we love. I hope that you stay safe out there.

On The Run: Des Moines

I’m on the run again, this time to Des Moines for the RRCA National Convention. I got in late last night, but was sure to get up early for a run along the Des Moines River with some running friends. I love running around a new city. There is simply no better way to see a new place than on foot. My group met early and ran toward the Des Moines River, where there is a lovely trail system. The paved trail goes along the river a ways, past a ballpark, over a very cool pedestrian bridge, and to a Japanese garden.

Spring in Des Moines

The flowers were in bloom and the weather was perfect for running. It was gorgeous! Later, we will take in some of the Drake Relays and I will run in the Hy-Vee Races. I can’t wait for a weekend totally dedicated to running!

Brother on the Run: Random Travel Running Moments

My amazing brother on the run has been traveling for work and has had a few hilarious runner experiences. In this post, he shares a few fun anecdotes. I know many of you can relate. Here’s Troy:

Running during a business trip can be a challenge or at least it can be for me.  Between the longer hours, tiny hotel gyms, and odd settings; getting a run in doesn’t always happen.  However, I tried during my last business trip to make the most of warmer weather and get a few runs in.  Oh Texas, always an adventure.

Pulled Over for Running

While staying near the Kemah (TX) Boardwalk, I tried to get 4-5 mile runs in every other day.  Unfortunately, this meant having a running day come during a monsoon – it was pouring rain and kept most people indoors.  I decided that I had a run to get and I was going to get it in.  Dr.Rachel has always pointed out that race day might not be perfect weather so training in sub-par weather can only help you prepare.

Fully dressed in running gear (half my stuff is fluorescent orange) including water bottle and Garmin I headed out for my 5 miles.  I was about half way through when a local cop pulled up to question me!

‘Was everything ok?’   ‘Did I need a ride somewhere?’ ‘Did I realize that it was raining?’

It was very nice of him to check on me (and I do appreciate it) but considering I have never been pulled while driving, being pulled over while running was a bit odd.  It took two days for my shoes to dry.

Most ‘Runner’ Thing Ever

After a hotel change, I was in a new city and still needing to log some miles.  I decided to do something new, something different for me.  I got dressed in all my running gear and headed to the local running store.  One question “where do you run?” was all I had for the clerks.  On The Run (Webster, TX) was great and showed me maps for both in city and trail runs in the nearby area.  I have never felt like more of a runner than going to a running store in a new city for course suggestions.

Bayou Trail Runs

The above conversation led me to the Armand Bayou trails in Pasadena, TX for a quick 5 mile run.  Not but 100 feet into my run a walker warned me about the trail ahead being ‘wet’.  It hadn’t rained for days so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way.  Mistake.  What was supposed to be a solid tempo run became some kind of crazy fartlek run where I sprinted for 100 yards and then walking through bogs and swamp pits in an attempt not to lose a shoe or fall in!  Trail runners probably laugh at this; this path is flat and covered with crushed gravel for the most part with only some slightly flood-ridden zones.  I just might not be much of a trail runner after all.

Treadmill or Beer?

I ended my trip back to the old standby: the hotel treadmill.  The particular chain of hotels I stayed at offer a cocktail reception once a week, a reception that just happened to fall right on my run night.  There is nothing like the joy of running 4 miles when, through the glass, I can see the other guests enjoying drinks and appetizers.  When I say 4 miles, I really mean 3.27 miles before I needed an ice cold beer also.  Running is hard, running when you could be drinking a beer by the pool is impossible.

Race Review: BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races

Race season has come to Michigan! Here’s a great race review from my brother on the run. Now that he’s conquered 26.2, he’s keeping his training going with several short races. Here’s his take on the BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races:

There are a number of early season races near to my home in MI that somehow are able to draw a crowd despite the chance for cold weather.  This year, I signed up for the Bay Area Runner’s Club St. Patrick’s day races held in Bay City, MI.  The race featured a 5K, 8K, and Irish Double – participants in the Irish Double ran the 8K and then 5K.  This was my first race following Disney. So, I did the logical thing and signed up to run the Irish Double.

March weather can be unpredictable in MI, with the 2014 race being about 14F (I am told).  Luck was on our side though and the day turned out to be relatively nice.  Credit must be given to the nearly 5000 people who showed up Sunday morning to run while their neighbors started grills and drank beer – yes, we saw multiple people with cases of Miller Light.  There is a parade that follows the races so most people are not there to watch the runners but to prepare for the parade.

The packet pick-up offered prizes to the first 750 in line and sure enough, the line was out the YMCA door and down the road when we showed up.  The volunteers and YMCA staff did a great job of leading people through the building to the packet location (and minor expo).  The only slight here is that some of the announcements were not loud enough or repeated frequently enough.  The expo featured only a couple of vendors, but had plenty of information and stands on upcoming races – we grabbed a pamphlet for everything.

Sunday morning weather was on the cold side, but we still headed out for the 9:00 AM race start time.  The course starts in Bay City, near the waterfront gathering on a street corner.  Parking was a free for all.  I had asked at the expo where to park and was more or less told that it was anywhere I could find a spot.  This is a pet peeve of mine – parking should be clearly marked and easy to access.  Had we only been running the 5K, I would have been worried about finding a parking place.  Going so early, we found something close to the race start/finish and piled out.  The race corrals were easy to find and plenty big to hold the 8K runners.

The race itself goes through the historic district of Bay City and features some impressive houses.  The course is flat, fast, and with very few turns – perfect for setting a PR.  Two highway lanes are provided so at no time did I ever feel crowded or have to dash through a crowd of people.  Water was provided and there were plenty of volunteers directing and cheering.  I think the course and set up was great and the volunteers seemed genuinely happy to be there.  My only complaint – there was road kill on the course.  Someone should have checked the path and taken care of this before we started the race (let alone clean up before the start of the 5K as there was plenty of time).  The finish area was great and staffed by more than enough people to direct, hand out food, and hand out medals.

The 5K followed a shorter version of the same path and was broken into a run and a walk division.  With my pregnant wife by my side, we started at the back of the runners and immediately before the walkers.  We both enjoyed the 5K course (save for road kill) and were pleased to see even more people showing up and cheering.  I was surprised when we reached the finish at the sheer number of people who had shown up – though the weather was about 15F warmer at that point.

Everyone who finished got a medal and those of us who did the Irish Double received two.  The medals are of high quality and look great.  The race t-shirts are made of impossibly soft cotton and while simple in design, were well thought out.  The swag for this race was great and with a relatively low entrance fee made for a great day.

Overall, I had a great time on this race and would probably run it again – staying afterwards for a beer with friends while watching the parade if situations allow (they did not this year).  It probably doesn’t hurt that I set a new 5K PR during the 8K run.  It was a great way to start the race season.