Monday, September 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing Wasn’t as Big as I Thought

After a summer of pain wrought of angry sun, hot temperatures, and humility filled humidity (like what I did there?), I got a good day to run. 

As I picked up my bib for the 50M, the 100M/k’ers were just beginning their adventures.  The weather was warm.  A few hours later, as darkness crept deeper and deeper into the earth, a rain began to fall.  Thirty percent chance of rain kept raining for the next six or so hours.  Instead of running, I was getting prepared to sleep.  Before I shut my eyes, my thoughts went out to the people who were still running.  

The course breaks down like this.  16.66M per loop.  50M’ers do 3 loops.  Each loop is really four sections which comprise two large loops separated by a dirt road.  The North loop is comprised of the first and fourth sections.  The South loop is comprised of the second and third sections and is the North part of the Poto Trail.  Each section is about 4 miles---ish.  The first section is single track horse trails.  This is the easiest section of the course—despite its several steep hills and difficult terrain—because it included some distance on a rails-to-trails trail.  The joy of the flat and easy path.  The second section is a dirt road to the midway point of the south loop (about 8M).  The third loop has the least amount of elevation change.  The fourth loop has the most amount of elevation change and hands-down the steepest hill.

The Redhead and I awoke early and made our way to Hell Creek Ranch for the 6am start of the 50M/k’ers.  I’ve previously discussed how hard trail running is for me; predictably, it isn’t any easier in the dark.  All the 50-something runners (and their headlamps) were of little help in navigating the path safely.  Not even three miles in I had tweaked both my left and right ankles.  Not long after that I slipped on a very muddy downhill and only avoided a face-plant because I ran into a tree—stopping my momentum.  Fortunately, I guess, I’ve rolled both ankles as often as the Pillsbury Doughboy had rolled…you get where I’m going…so, I was able to make some minor adjustments to my stride and the soreness slowly melted into the overall soreness the rest of my body began to feel. 

The first loop, despite the initial stumbles and darkness, was the easiest simply because I was fresh.  The first loop had lots of 100M/k’ers, plus we were finishing the first loop as many of the marathoners, half-marathoners, and the 5M’ers were finishing.  I just kept telling myself, “Make every loop its own story.”  The first story was titled ‘muddy.’   Very muddy and slick. 

As I finished the first loop I didn’t quite understand how they had organized the finish line and the keep running loop.  I figured I had to cross the mat to record my lap time.  I actually crossed the finish line and had to go back to where the Redhead and several other friends/family were there to cheer me on; I still had two loops to complete.  The Redhead pulled me away to help me change shoes/socks and give me some liquid supplies.  I then went out to chat-up the people who adore my fiancé enough to come and cheer me on ;).  Then off I went for the second loop. 

Leaving to start the second loop, I was walking as I tried to ingest some Gatorade, a Mt. Dew, and half a sandwich.  Right away I come upon an official photographer.  He sees me and yells “Come on and at least make it look like you are running.”  Quality.  I knew the second loop would be my most difficult as my pacers would be joining me on the third—and the number of other runners on the course was going to drop very quickly.  The good thing was that the day remained mostly cloudy but warm enough to dry up the trail, making the footing much better.  I was on a run 45min walk 15min routine.  I stuck to this for the first 25miles.  Then I switched to a run 15 min walk 5min routine.  I did that for an entire loop. 

There were some exceptions to the rule.  Walk up steep hills or down steep hills.  Walk after aid stations to allow for nutrition consumption.  During the second loop it seemed a lot of runners noticed the sock monkey I had hanging from my Camelbak.  Sock Monkey was polite and would say hi to other runners, and sometimes sing his favorite song.  Sung to the tune of Karma Chameleon and goes “Comeand comeand comeand comeand, Comeand eat fig leaves with me.  Sweet leafy figs.  Sweet leafy fiiiiiiiigs.  Live’n is easy when you are swings from the trees.  Cool jungle breeze.  Cool jungle breeze.”     

The song was muffled a bit because he was in a plastic bag.  I kept telling runners, much to the dismay of Sock Money—that the plastic bag wasn’t so much because he wanted to stay dry but because he was into that asphyxiation thing.  (Note: I think the real difference between running a marathon for me and running an ultra is that, in an ultra, I can say all of the things I’m not say during a marathon because I’m trying to preserve energy.)  And so the second loop went. 

Soon I was rounding into the camp and was excited to see more crew members there, including Buck and Bunny (my parents).  I changed shoes and socks but by this point I couldn’t eat anything solid more than a banana.  This meant the delicious bacon had to be left behind—like an unfortunate soul after the rapture.  FN2 

The Redhead was going to join me for the first 5ish miles of the last loop then trade off with my cuz Brian.  As we embarked on my last loop, I told her about the rules. 

·       Follow the 45/15 run/walk ratio 

·       Walk up and down steep hills

·       Only encouraging words unless talking to Sock Monkey

·       Don’t pass runners on the up part of a hill, it is considered rude (a rule I made up and sometimes ignored)

·       Always yell either “Hundies are for Heroes” or “You the Boss” to the other 100M/k’ers

·      Don’t look back to see how I am doing, the trail will punish you for it. 

One stumble taught her the importance of the last rule rather early on. Still, she did a great job of talking and keeping me distracted from the fact that I was sore and every step was a bit of a small ache.  The only real problem was that the South loop went in the opposite direction than she had anticipated, and this meant she had to run much farther than she had anticipated.  Still, she never complained.  Plus, I did get to point out my favorite part of the course to her. 

Finally, we found cuz Brian and he got to bring me home over the most difficult part of the course, the last six miles.  Cuz had an excellent shirt made for the occasion, and it included the part about being the ‘Official sponsor of the second trash bin after the third water station.”  Priceless. 
In the fourth section of the last loop, I did drop down to a run 10, walk 5 rotation but really just tried to run as long as I could until I needed a walk.  I knew I was on target for my 10 to 11 hour finish if I could keep this up.  And, thanks to the help of my pacers, I was able to do the third loop in the same time as I did my first loop.  Finishing—officially—around 10 hours and 40 minutes.  (3:30, 4:00, 3:20). 

Random things:  I couldn’t have done this without the love or support of the Redhead.  The course was marked with pink marking flags (think the small flags typically used to mark buried electrical lines).  In the last mile I picked one up and carried it in with me.  As I crossed the finish, I began to explain to the volunteer that there were thousands of these out there and that I had picked up several hundred of them but they were too many so I just threw them into the woods.  She missed the joke.  I got to sing “This is the song that never ends…” and it wasn’t started by me.  Changing shoes and socks every loop was my only good idea.  My feet are as undamaged as one could hope for.  I struggled with solid food immediately—despite my many McDonalds and Taco Bell stops during my training runs—causing me to almost puke a few times.  I never hit a wall or had a break-down.    Sock Monkey said some pretty awful things, but I said some terrible things back.  We always made up in the end.  Then we would sing together.  Seeing my friends and family was amazing and lifted my spirits.  Hundred milers really are heroes.  I only fell once.  I still want to do 100M.  I never got the chance to punch a deer.  The motivational cards many of you made for me were awesome and hilarious.  The winner of the 100M averaged a faster pace than any mile I ran.  Some people are born to run on tails, I’m more like a T-Rex at a tea party on the trails. 

Sock Monkey sans bag.  A note from Racer she snuck into in my Camelbak for an early training run.  I never took the note out.  And two plastic feet from my newhew.  He earned several of these for running during school.  I carried all of these for the entire 50M.  I'm going to give one plastic foot back.  I plan on giving the other back after I finish 100M. 
That is all for now. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Half 100M is Still Half Good

This brutal summer has taken its toll.  So, after long days of waffling back and forth like a politician, I am dropping down to the 50M race.  This is not only a defeat to my 100M goal, but also a moral defeat to the Redhead, who always championed I attempt the 50M first.  Sure, she made this recommendation out of love, some legitimate concern, and common sense—but I was awfully intent on ignoring all of the above for as long a possible.  I jest.  This is the right choice and the safe choice for me right now.    

Anyway, when I complete a 100M race after we are married, then she will finally have a husband worth bragging about--to a very small and select group of people who may actually care.   

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Black Bear and the Blue Bear

Two points: 1) I love words.  The ability of pastors, politicians, and poets all depend upon the ability to convey ideas dressed in words; and 2) you may wonder why I use the symbol of a blue bear.  It’s because of the wonderful story The 13 ½ Loves ofCaptain Bluebear by Walter Moers.

In Captain Bluebear’s adventures, one of my favorite parts is where he finds himself in a society that sees the ability to tell lies as a sporting events.  Stadiums are packed to listen to liars weave narratives.  I love the idea of people listening to oral fables, the way the Iliad and Odyssey were originally passed along. 

Work has taken me to the UP several times this summer, and I’ve had the chance to do a few trails runs up there.  One tail run was on the North Country Trail, or more specifically one of the wings of the trail that goes along the Black River (and through the Ottawa National Forest), and which features several beautiful North flowing falls.  I decided to take this 8M out and back from one of the falls as a little mini-trail practice. 

After reaching the beaches of Lake Superior I turned around and made my way back.  Now, one thing about trail running is that it requires a lot of looking down at the trail, or you fall.  So, you can imagine how my heart stopped when I looked up, so I could look down the path, and saw a black bear. 

I froze.  It rose up.

It looked down the path at me.  Then away. 

Then back.  And then it turned and ran off of the path. 

I’d say I was terrified, but it all happened so fast I didn’t have time to be scared.  By the time I realized how huge that bear was, it had already run off back into the woods.  So, I can say it wasn’t a near death experience, but I can distinctly remember feeling and hearing my heart begin to race after that moment of absolute stillness. 
Later, while retelling the story to the Redhead, she asked if it was a male or female bear.  I informed her, I didn’t look, I was being modest. 
In retrospect, after my somewhat-close-to-an-almost-near-death-situation, my favorite part is the idea of a black bear and a blue bear quietly crossing paths in a National Forrest—perfectly natural if you think about it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On Quite Roads

I’ve trained for enough marathons that the idea of a 23M long run causes no serious angst about my ability to finish it. I’ve run enough marathons that the threat of running 25M raises no concerns.  But there is something to be said about being in the moment of the marathon, and digging deep to bring you into mileage you have never covered before—or rarely cover.  Being in the moment, in a race, automatically puts you into a different place emotionally than any training run. 

Still, there was a time when training for your first longer distance race, that you silently crossed a distance you have never covered before.  The first time you hit 10M, or 15M, or 20M, is noted—at most—by a beep from your Garmin or perhaps a simple ‘Whoot.’  The motorists which may happen to be around remain ignorant of your personal achievement.  Best of all, these moments carry with them an emotional weight that lingers.  They become monuments which are forever erected FN1 as testimony of your ability; places you can mentally return to and draw strength from.    

As I prepare and train for my 100M race, I have this reoccurring thought: “Do people who have never run a marathon and who just easily finish a 5M run think running a marathon will be no problem?”  Because when I ran a 22M long run and I had that exact thought.  Later I got a lesson on the trails.  The two contrasting runs stood as pillars between which I needed to navigate my first ever longer-than-a-marathon run. 

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I’m most excited about when it comes to training for an ultra is that I get to eat ‘real’ food while training.  This is something you have to experience to fully appreciate, and I was little prepared for it myself. 

Loaded with several Gus and my Camelbak I headed out.  After 11 miles, I sweatily walked into a McDonalds.  The unsettling thing wasn’t that some people stared, it was that everyone stared.  Families out to enjoy a Sunday meal before/after church…and Spike smelling like a long run.  My order was simple enough, but my request for a cup of water was apparently too much.  The “Team Members” were more concerned with yelling at each other about who should get my cup of water than actually getting my cup of water.  Whatever, I still incorporated eating McDonald’s into a long run.FN2

Deeper into my run, I went past a carwash.  Several weeks prior the Redhead and I were at this same carwash, one the Redhead often frequents, and we noted a magnetic 26.2 sticker.  The Redhead noted that is looked like hers and wondered if it was (we were in my car).  Later that day we confirmed it was, in fact, her missing 26.2 oval magnet.  So, because I’ve a loving and kind runner, I swung by and picked up her magnet, only to continue my journey. 

Where I’ve struggle most in my initial ultra training is dealing with the highs and lows.  Specifically, running through the ‘lows.’  I was in a low from miles 16 to 20, as wave after wave of the rolling humidity kept draining me and making every tenth of a mile linger.  I did whatever I could to get myself to mile 20, my next scheduled walk break. Starting my walk mile, the humidity finally broke, the sky opened up, and I was caught in an extremely hard downpour.  At mile 21 I stopped at a gas station and grabbed a Mt. Dew and some water to refill my pack.  At that moment, I seriously considered calling the Redhead and telling her to come and pick me up. 

I’d hit the bottom. 

Fortunately, a bell then began to ring in my head.  “You love running in the rain;” my head reminded me.  This is a disaster so you might as well have fun.  And I did.  Were it not for the downpour that lasted the next seven miles, I doubt I would have made it. 

By mile 26 I had run through the ‘low’ and began to approach the ‘never before’ limit of my running.  Then, as I rounded a corner I’ve run countless times before, my Garmin let out a soggy beep and crossed to mile 27.  The cars sloshing through large puddles thought noting of me other than: “What is that moron doing running is crap weather like this?” But I continued, doggedly working towards the moment when my Garmin finally hit 30M. 

One more monument.  One more memory.  One more “I can” stacked away. 

FN1: That was for you buddy.

FN2: McDonald’s you say?  Yes.  It was early and the Taco Bell next store wasn’t open.  Plus, I figured I’d ease my way into eating more adventurous foods. 

Monday, June 11, 2012


Rails to Trails Does Not Equal Trail Running

Working title of post: ASPtJoF (Ass Stomped Plus the Joy of Falling)

Last weekend I ventured onto the Poto Trail as recommended by a few fellow runners.FN1  This was my first ever trail run unless you count running through my neighborhood, cutting through backyards, running through a house, and using a trampoline to bounce over a fence to get home before my sister.   

Seriously, I’ve never tried anything like trail running.  My several jaunts on Rails to Trails paths were useless as preparation.  The dramatic changes in incline, the unending altering of the trail from large rocks to partially unearthed roots to sand, the narrowness of the path, and the poison ivy was a lot to deal with for my first trail run.  So it figures I insisted on doing the entire 17.5M loop my first time out. 

Only, I went about 18.4M.  The trail is well marked—sorta.  I’m sure if I had gone with another runner familiar with the trail I could have avoided my several ‘lost’ moments; minutes standing in the middle of a three way intersection and attempting to recall the many tracking stills I’d developed growing up in the burbs.  The Poto Trail, while beautiful at times, can be confusing when a cross country skiing trail cuts across your trail and there are no signs to really indicate which way is correct.  Still, I muttered my way through.  Even more confusing is when you arrive at a fork in the trail and the large tree you encounter has a large red arrow pointing right.  Why is that confusing?  Because the large red arrow takes you off the actual path.  Here is my hint, if you find yourself on the Poto Trail and you hit said fork in the trail, ignore that particular arrow unless you want to find a parking lot.  

To make things worse, I tripped several times and ‘ate dirt’ twice—hard.  Admittedly, by the last five miles the best I could do was walk a quarter, run a quarter.  I was exhausted.  The canopy protected me from baking in the high 80s sun, but the warm temps combined with my 10M run in 85+ degree temps the evening before made this even more daunting than I ever imagined.  At times there was no recourse but to walk parts because running was too dangerous.  Anybody willing to ride that trail—and several bikers passed me—is insane.   

I was half expecting to run into Jareth the Goblin King and half expecting I’d found myself in Escher’s Ascending Staircase.  When I emerged I let out a triumphant but minimally audible “yeah!”FN2

Things I learned: Trail running has nothing to do with road running.  They are about as related as people are to gibbons.  Any attempt to trace some form of common ancestry between the two is blasphemy.  There are dangers in the woods equal to that of red hooded little girls.  Never run a difficult and unfamiliar trail alone; or at least don’t make a practice out of it.  My cell phone works while in the woods but if you call me I may not be my usual pleasant self.FN3  And finally, ordering a pizza and asking it be delivered to you at post number 11 on the Poto Trail is about as useless as calling the local Domino’s pizza in Muskegon and asking them to deliver a pizza to your 100 foot sailboat heading north to Ludington simply because you are on the night watch and bored and surprised you are getting service out on Lake Michigan.     

FN1: Thanks In Steph’s Shoes (I think) and congrats to Steph and her family for adding a new future long distance runner to the clan.

FN2: Purposely left uncapitalized for effect. 

FN3: Sorry my love. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

At Some Point You Have to Run, Not Read

Over the past six weeks I’ve done a ton of reading about ultras.  There is a lot of stuff out there.  Some information was extremely helpful, some good, most of it resembling general runner’s common sense, and a healthy dose of crap. 

Let’s focus on the crap.  The 10% rule.  First off.  It has to be the dumbest rule for running ever. I never once heard my track coaches say don’t increase your mileage by more than 10%.  In stark contradiction, we would often jump more than 40% and the team did not suffer a rash of injuries or tired legs.  In fact, we had very few injuries or tired legs as a team.  Is this simply because we were young?  Does the 10%R not apply to high school runners?  Or just high school runners who have not heard of the 10%R? 

I’ve always ignored this stupid rule.  I’ll continue to do so as I train for my ultra.  Point and case: two weeks ago I ran 21 total miles (a low mileage week comprised of a 3M run, two 4M runs, and a 10M run).  Last week I ran 44 total miles (a 10M run, a 12M run, and a 22M run). 

I’m not a freak of nature.  I’m not those rare injury free runners.  I’ve been injured before, but it sure wasn’t because I callously disregarded the 10%R.  I think runners are best suited to determine how much their body is comfortable adjusting up their mileage.  And if you feel comfortable enough to increase your mileage by 100% then do it. 

Now, to the running stuff.  All of my runs last week were on RtoT trails (nice and kind crushed limestone).  Of particular beauty is the NEST, a 71M trail that I was only able to run a small part of.  If you ever get a chance I strongly suggest you run this.  Strangly, as I begun to slow my runs down—aiming for an 8:30/M to 9:00/M pace—I’ve developed this awful habit of rocking my right hand.  What is up with that?   

Perhaps the best thing I’ve read from all the ultra info is this: “You are an experiment of one.”FN1  That said, my first major long run of my ultra training was a 20M to 22M run on the Lakelands trail.  This was the first time I incorporated the following things into a long run (or ever): wore recovery socks (like this excellent runner); carried a phone, carried toilet paper, and wore a Camelbak (first time ever).  Also, Sunday was the first time I ever attempted a long run where the weather was in the high 70s to begin the run. 

My approach was to incorporate at least one walk per 10 miles.  But to take two to three walk breaks.  Starting a long run at 5pm and heading directly west into the sun was not easy, but I need practice doing runs where I’m uncomfortable to begin with.  At mile 4 I had to stop in order to figure out exactly how to use the Camelbak, and then to retrieve my Yurbud which fell off.  At mile nine I slowed to a comfortable walk and emptied my shoes of the plethora of little rocks which had joined me for my run.  I resumed my run at mile 10.  At mile 15 I was feeling pretty tired, so I allowed myself a mile walk break at mile 16.  Then another at mile 20.  My walk times were 16min, 17min, and 17min.  Almost every mile I ran was in the 8:20 to 8:35 range except for my first two miles and mile 13; all run at an 8 flat pace ±3 seconds. 

That’s the good news.  The bad news.  I’m still running too fast.  I’m struggling to slow things down. I'm rocking my hand. I never felt it, but got a huge blood blister on my right big toe.  I ran out of water during my last walking mile.  I failed to bring any salt tablets.  Experiment of one.  I love making mistakes—so long as I learn from them.  And I’m excited about getting back out there and on a more challenging trail. 

Lastly.  I wobble back and forth as to how difficult this will be.  Sometimes I am overrun with the attitude of: “Eh, it is only one mile more than double digit miles.”  At other times I laugh and think: “How are you going to run 80 more miles?”   

FN1: I’d credit this but I forgot where I got it, and I’m not really willing to reread all of that awful crap to let you know exactly where I found this nugget of wisdom.  Deal with it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Next Big Thing


It’s stupid.  It’s absurd.  But it’s possible. 

Last year I toyed around with the idea of doing a 100M race after Boston.  But a nagging injury lead to my anit-Nitmos S.o.S. (Summer of Sloth) training program.  Sadly, this was the only ‘training’ program I’ve ever executed perfectly.  A training program that was so successful I carried it over into my fall and early winter training schedules. 

And if he can reuse the S.o.S. theme, I can repurpose it again.  Thus, I’m proud to announce my Summer of Stupid Slow, or S.o.S.S. 

This fall, before the Redhead and I tie the laces (go there now to check out some of our engagement photos if you so wish), I’m going to attempt to run 100 miles.  Now, you may be wondering, why?  It all harkens back to when I was in middle school and my friend Drew’s father used to tell us stories about how he and a few of his friends would do a 100 mile race when they were in their younger years.  He’d talk about how they would run and race against horses.  As relative studs on our middle school team, we were pretty sure nobody has ever run further than two miles, yet alone 100.FN1  But the story never left me.  Only after college did I discover that such races do in fact exist.

Sure, lots of people have told me I should attempt a shorter ultra distance before I do this.  Even internet experts and ultra-marathon professionals make this recommendation.  I scoff at you all.  I’m just excited about the idea of running to the Taco Bell one town over and ordering some tacos to go, then eating them on the walk part of my run.  I’m interested to find out if any of the fancy camel packs out there contain two bladders so I can fill one with water and one with Mt. Dew.  I’m excited about running at night and suffering from exercise induced flashbacks where I recall my time in Texas as an outlaw simply because I was trying to get justice for my brother’s ruined scooter.FN2  I’m eager for the moment when I see the sun rise after running for several hours through the night and I begin to cry…only to end up in a blubbering heap mumbling  “double rainbow!” 

One day I hope to tell my son and/or daughter and their annoying friends how I ran 100 miles.  I know they won’t believe me, mostly because I plan on lying to my children from the beginning.  Including telling them their mother is an evil alien robot that is going to harm them when they sleep.  What?  Isn’t the fun of having kids to battle with your spouse for the hearts and minds of those little DNA half-copies.  I digress. 

I’ll be doing some shorter races this year as well.  But the real goal is to slow it down and go long. (TWSS)FN3

FN1: Yes, in one of four middle schools in one of fifteen-ish towns in one county in one state, I would consider myself a relative track stud. 

FN2: What, is my Legend of Billie Jean to vague of a reference, should I have gone with a Balls of Fury reference instead? 

FN3: That is for you Adam. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Old Kent (Old Gregg) (Fifth Third) River Bank Run*

I have to say, I love me a 25K.  The distance is legitimate: longer than a half, shorter than a marathon.  The Redhead and I headed out to Grand Rapids to hang with Kevin and Jennie before the big race.  I had only run this race once previously, running with my awesome sister Emma.  That year the weather was terrible, including so much rain the course was altered. 
Fortunately for us, the weather, like the Dude, abided.**  Cloudy and warm, Kevin and I had a simple goal of getting into (or for Kevin, maintaining his status in) the 2 Hour Club.  The 2HC gets you a few nice perks including preferred seating, a different color bib, 2HC only gear check and restrooms.  The huge ego I’d get from making it in the 2HC would be solely provided by me. 

Or plan was to sit on the 7min pacers for as long as possible.  And, considering that, since the Lansing Marathon I’ve run exactly three times, this was a reasonable goal.  Sure, I think racing a 5K, pacing a few wonderful people in a sub 2 hour half marathon, and a 4M run with the Redhead is adequate practice to make the 2HC.   

Unfortunately, I lost Kevin early in the race.  I had to make a slight wardrobe adjustment at the start, and never really caught up to him.  I was pretty sure I had him in sight, but when I thought I had caught up, it wasn’t him.  Wrong tall white guy in a blue shirt.  Regardless, the crowd support was great and I hung with the 7min pacers for the first half of the race.  Then I eased it back a bit and enjoyed the run. 

I have to say, for the price, this 25K is way better than a half.  Cheaper, longer, extremely well organized, pace groups, and lots of quality runners. 

Now, for the next big thing…

* Yep, this again.*** 
** As part of my movie education of the Redhead, I made her watch this wonderful movie. 
*** I don't get it, how in the eff did Nitmos get all the credit in the word for using asterisks; like he invented them or something.  I'd use footnotes if Blogger would let me. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Because I Don’t Own a Pair of Pink Shorts

On Sunday I wore yellow.  I repeated my mantra of ‘fast’ as much as possible.  And I needed to be. After the Redhead’s second consecutive 5K win* I had to earn a metal or risk blowing the ‘perfect AG or better’ month we were having.  And this is no easy task given that I had run a marathon the week before (and not run since then) and because this is the Race for the Cure baby.  In Playmaker’s Race Series, this is one of the biggest races and draws in the fasties from all over the greater Lansing area. 

A quick aside; this race, like a few others in the Playmaker’s Series, is an afternoon start—specifically a 2pm start.  I hate afternoon starts.  I like to race early (say 8am) or later (around 7pm), but the hours between 10am and 4pm I hate.** 

After sleeping in, the Redhead and I headed to the L.  I grabbed my bib and started to stretch.  They had changed the course since I last ran it, and the new route is a bit if a winding mess.  Even though the Redhead ran her 5K the day before in freezing cold and received her award, I had a perfectly sunny day and high 50s weather.  Yes Michigan! 

I haven’t raced a 5K since 2009.  Seriously.  Since then I’ve run several 5Ks, but I haven’t targeted one as a ‘race’ effort.  They have either been 5Ks run at a slower pace with friends or family, or have been run the day after a 20 mile long run (see Corktown or Super Bowl).  So, I was nervous.  I had seriously forgotten how to race a 5K, only I didn’t figure that out until somewhere around mile 2. 

I crowded over to the starting line and thought…don’t kill yourself the first mile.  I killed myself the first mile.  That created two problems.  First, a crash reminiscent of a four year old crashing after finding and devouring a package of Fun Dip.  Second, the toll of the marathon a week after made my legs feel like jelly.***  You know you are having a bad race when, in your head, you begin to tell yourself how bad your race is.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit the next step of bad race day, which is when you actually begin to construct your post describing how bad your race was.  

During the second mile five people passed me.  During the third mile I was only able to pass two back.  My final time was smidge under 19.  Not bad, but not great.  Still, I managed a top twenty-five overall finish and, most importantly, snagged an AG to keep our precious household streak of race bling alive. 
And now, a few final notes about the marathon.  First, thank you all for your kind comments on my race recap.  For the first time ever, I had a palindrome for a bib number.  So, winds be dammed, I knew I was in for a PR that day.  Having read a few other race reports from other marathoner’s, it does seem that the wind pretty much owned everyone.  Eff you wind.  I really like my Lansing Marathon shirt.  Most of all, I loved going out the day before and doing some motivational chalking with Lam and the Redhead.  I’ll definitely do that again for my future marathons. 


 (Run thirsty my soft soft friends.)

* Yep, after winning the Lansing Marathon 5K she got another first place AG on Saturday! 
** Yes, that includes you Boston! 
*** So what if my 5K race recap is longer than my marathon recap. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Windstrong, Windtastic, Windderful: The Lansing Marathon Race Recap

The weather was beautiful. Mid 30s. But the wind was noticeable early. The Redhead was there to cheer Lam and I as we were preparing to run the inaugural Lansing Marathon. Before the race we heard several speakers expound positively about “Lansing’s first ever inaugural marathon.” *And somewhere deep in the Department of Redundancy Department buzzers were flashing wildly.*

Soon the race began and we were off. I, as expected, pretty much blew my race strategy early by going 6:40 for mile 4, and then backing way off with a 7:21 for mile 5. At mile ten I wanted to be 1:10:50. I was 1:11:10. And I was happy with that considering over 6 of the first ten miles were into a wind that was steadily gaining momentum. From there on out, I didn’t look at my watch again. I was running on feel and I was feeling good.

Between miles 16-20 the runners headed directly into an even stronger headwind as we ran through the MSU farms. And this part of the race really wiped me out. Several times I was actually blown back or off to the side during this stretch. I could tell I was working hard keep my pace. By the time I got to mile 22, I knew the extra energy expended during those several miles into the wind (reaching over 20mph) were starting to take their toll. The last four miles felt rough. I held on pretty well, but I could tell I was slowing down.

Still, I never stopped and felt I pretty sure I was on pace for a PR. So…how did I do? First, one quick caveat; there are some good things about getting older. Like…your BQ qualification time jumps 5 minutes. Or stays where it was a year ago. And so, I’m happy to say I accomplished two of my three goals, I got a PR and a BQ. A 3:08:xx. I was a little shy of my ‘sneak in under 3:05’ goal. After the race I checked my watch and saw I was on pace through 22 miles, but the last four, including several parts into an even stronger wind plus some natural fatigue were too much to maintain that sub 3:05:00 goal. Who cares, I’m still very very excited.

A few last things. On Saturday, after the expo, Lam, the Redhead, and I did a little motivational chalking on the course. You can check out some of our witty remarks. We even left little love notes just in case this guy decided to cheer on his fellow runners.

(Lam doing a little motivating)

(You get what you vote for)

On race day I was very grateful to see several friends cheering me on…including the legendary Nitmos. My sister Gunior and the Redhead were right at mile 26 to give me some final inspiration—which was extremely needed. Check out these awesome signs. Also, a special thanks goes out to Neophyte who ran the half and was there to help stabilize me after the race.

It was also a good day for the Redhead who not only got a PR but was the first female finisher in the 5K! Check out her amazing story.

I was sad to discover that Lam was unable to overcome his foot injury suffered a few days before his travels out here. He made the difficult but smart decision to DNF after courageously toeing the line and setting a great pace. Having had to make a similar decision myself before, I understand how he feels. I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with Lam. He shares a similar outlook on approaches and perspectives to running, and I’m am hopeful he will get his foot better soon and return to Michigan to visit us again!

My left foot has four blisters, one of which is rather large, while my right foot has one huge blister—not to mention a few other running related minimal but somewhat uncomfortable ailments. I used socks I had worn several times before and the same shoes I had used on all of my long runs. Still, by mile 15 I just had to admit to myself that I was going to be the proud owner of some painful blisters after the race. Later Sunday I was reflecting upon the sensation of running and knowing you are forming blisters. I think it goes something like this: Foot uncomfortable. Forget about it for a bit. Foot hurts and you are positive you have blisters. Forget about it. Pain returns and you wonder how you amazingly forget about it just a few moments ago. Forget about it once more. Pain back again and resumption of wondering how you ever managed to forget about it. Repeat until race is finished. Oh the joy of running.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Taper Post

I don’t typically share my race goals. Oh well, here they are. Based on a very select few quality long runs and tempo runs, I’m going to try and BQ and PR my previous marathon best of 3:09:xx. I’m mostly prepared to do this. But who knows. All I can say for certain is that I’m very excited about this race.

My race strategy goes like this. Run the first three miles at 7:00 ±3 seconds. Run the next three miles at 7:10 ±3 seconds. I then plan on running two of the next four miles the same way, two at 7:00 ±3sec and two at 7:10 ±3 seconds. This should put me at about 50 seconds above a BQ pace at 10M.

I’ve never intentionally run a marathon slower in the first half. Typically I try to build as much ‘bank’ time as possible and, like a teenage boy about to get shanked before a gym class full of coeds, I hold on for dear life.

But, all of my training on the third ‘official’ Lansing Marathon course has been between miles 6 and 22 or more. Also, I’ve been doing my long runs with a slow first few miles and then a 14M to 16M tempo run at pace goal. This has worked a few times. This has not worked a few times. But I’m going to try it.

At plus 50 seconds at the 10M mark, I’m going to try and average 7:00 per mile for the rest of the race—knowing that with some parts of the course I’ll be ±7 seconds per mile. This, of course, means two important things: 1) I’m going to attempt to pull off a slight negative split; 2) if I run perfect I’ll still be down a few seconds for a BQ. But I’ll let that figure itself out during the last 16M.

Now, for full disclosure, a few last things. I attempted to replicate this race approach with my 10M long run last weekend. Total FAIL. Seems trying to catch and pass the Redhead in the first mile coupled with running in the hot (but thankfully cloudy) Florida weather made this a total shit-show. Not the best of news considering my easy 4M run the day before under the angry FL sun was also a poop-performance. As of this morning, I cannot confirm the course is certified. For your own amusement, go look on their facebook page and see how many times people have asked that question and how it has not yet been answered.

Finally, I’m going to start a new marathon tradition. I’ve always loved seeing when someone has written something in chalk on the course. So, I’ll take a poll and ask you two questions.

What Should I Write?

Around Where Should I Write It?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A New Race Strategy

I struggle with racing. I’ve mentioned before how my two track coaches were hugely influential in my life. Both were Olympic caliber runners who were best friends since their time running together in college. They were also what you would call ‘old school’ (read: willing to verbally humiliate you and yell at you when you screwed up) and both were tremendously supportive and encouraging to the team as a whole and on an individual basis.

One of my favorite things a coach would say to me was “You’re too stupid to know you aren’t that fast.” My coach described me as a bulldog, I would just grab hold of the lead pack and hang on until I could try to outkick the pack in the last 200 meters. This was tremendously successful in races of middle distance, like the mile and the half, or during a 4x400 relay or 4x800 relay. (Note: I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that, some runners were/are so much faster than I am that I could never really latch on and run with them. Those runners were gone before I knew it.)

While I this was a successful practice to use when qualifying for the state meet or winning a medal at a prominent relay meet, this approach has caused me problems in the longer distance races. I’ve been able to, with some success, utilize this approach in the 5K. It is in the marathon where I have mixed results. If there is a pace group, it works. If there is no pace group, like Boston, it just doesn’t seem to work. Sure, other factors such as fitness and weather conditions will play a role; but it seems to me that, during the first half of every marathon I’ve ever run, I’ve dropped one to three ridiculously fast miles—fast being compared to my desired pace—as I’ve tried to chase down some particular runner. My ego says: “Not going to let that guy beat me to mile 6 or the marathon, or let that girl get to mile 8 before me.”

Win the battle, lose the war.

Sadly, this approach will apply—almost always—even when I’m running alone. Why? Easy, the watch and my expectations are enough to give me that attack and grind attitude. Last split was +15 seconds, next mile must be -15 seconds. Two things here: 1) intellectually I know it would be better to make up those added seconds over the course of four or five miles; 2) if I think ‘Go 30 seconds faster” (-15 to get to the desired pace and -15 to get even with the overall pace) I’ll almost always go 45 seconds faster. This results in tremendous swings in miles when the terrain doesn’t necessitate it.

So, this training session I’ve been trying something a little different. I’ve intentionally slowed down the first few miles of my long runs (1-3 miles for runs under 15M, 3-5 for 16-21 mile runs). Then I’ll pick up my runs to my desired pace for the remainder. Typically, I just try to run the entire long run at the desired pace. This sometimes results in going bonk at the end of a run. When I’ve followed my new strategy right I still end up averaging my overall goal pace. When I don’t I seem to drop a few killer miles in the first part of the run (splits about 15 to 30 seconds faster than desired pace) and then crash and burn at the end of the run.

There are no pacers for the Lansing Marathon.

So, the question is, can I let go of my ‘attack attack attack’ mentality for the longer races and find a more holistic and even approach?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The New(est) Lansing Marathon Course Description

The best way to describe the original route would be the ‘Cedar Street Route’ as 8 of the 26.2 miles were run on Cedar Street. The second course would be the ‘Delphi Route’ as the route went south on Aurelius Rd and then north on Pennsylvania to create a loop through much of Delphi Township. The newest route is best described as the ‘MSU Farms’ Route. This route spends significant time alongside or through the agriculture parts of the college (it was once called Michigan Agriculture College). Approximately 11 of the 26.2 are fielded miles. With the new course runners will be passing MSU’s beloved sheep farm. A place of particular horrors for me…as I learned the hard way never to run past that place in the spring without my shirt on. Oh the clippers, the clippers.

As Nitmos pointed out, I should be glad; I’ve been running these fields for years (both in undergrad and law school). The second route provided little in regards to shade, but long stretches of College Road produce good shade on the road (especially in the morning). Most of those parts have been removed. With the new course, there will be nowhere to hide from miles 15 to 21. And then not much after that. Also, the wonderful downhill you used to get after old mile 10 now become a .65M incline between mile 17 and 18. While this hill is not steep, it is long and difficult and without shade.

Here is the breakdown. The first six miles are the same, including the double hills going over the highway and then train tracks in mile 6. Then the course heads east along the first few farm miles. This east leg contains two hills, neither steep, and both about .2M long. Then the course gets flat for about 1.5M and then turns south. Here you encounter a longer and slightly steeper hill than in the previous few miles, but this hill is followed by a left turn and a pleasant downhill. You will then hit one more .2M hill, not remarkably steep, before you have several miles of flat-ish ground (nothing visually noticeable). This part includes running on a bike/running path that is paved.

The next noticeable hill is when the course turns left on Hagadorn and goes over the highway. Importantly, the 13.1M mark is in an industrial park with maybe three buildings (Atrium Dr.). So, don’t expect anybody there to reward you with being halfway done by cheering for you. From there, you have 4 miles of gently rolling hills before you hit the large hill in mile 18. Also included in this part is a very short but somewhat steep uphill as the runners head west on Willoughby and right before you go under the highway. I’ve already described the long difficult hill in mile 18.

After that, you run through more fields with no meaningful up/downhill. When the course heads south again on Aurelius, you will notice a smallish hill, and another after you turn west on Mt. Hope. From there, about mile 22, there are only four hills left. One as you run under a bridge just north of Potter Park Zoo (not much), a short but difficult one on Walsh, one heading north on South Washington, and one as you run on East Hillsdale Street during mile 26. I recommend you sell out up this hill. It is the last hill. When you turn the corner you still have some distance before you complete the race, but by then you should be able to see the finish and ride your momentum in.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Los Submarinos 5K Race Report

Today was the sixth greatest day of my life, today I ran for Twinkies.

While I’ve been playing up my frustration at the Lansing Marathon, my actual A-race of the season was this afternoon’s Ann Arbor Twinkie Run for ALS. I had prepared for this monumental race the way one would expect; I ran my 16 mile long run that morning followed by a hearty breakfast at Panera; after which I showered, put on a new set of running clothes, and headed to A2 to meet Racer there. As I entered the staging area I bellowed, “Where are you, you spongy, yellow, delicious bastards?!” ala Tallahassee. And then I saw it; the table filled with trays upon trays of those luscious crème filled “Los Submarinos.”

We were instructed to grab one and head to the start area; just as I was about to bite in to that little spongy brick of heaven a fellow runner warned that eating it before the race would cost me penalty of one minute. It was at that moment I aspired to become the first person in race history to finish with a negative race time via Twinkie consumption. Racer talked me out of this as we had planned to run the race together, but I now have a mission for next year.

It took me just over a half mile to eat the first twinkie as I tried to encourage my fellow runners by reminding them that this race was good preparation for the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Unfortunately discomfort was already high as was apparent in the lackluster response. Redhead would go on to utter, “You’re disgusting,” no less than thirty-six times over the course of the race.

As we reached the half-way point we were awarded our second twinkie; Racer passed on it, but I graciously accepted by shoving as much of it in my mouth as I could. My strategy was to pack my cheeks like a squirrel and hope it would melt without much effort. Minutes later I had the unfortunate experience of snotrocketing crème just as Racer ill-timed the question of what I wanted to do for dinner after the race.

We finished the race and were awarded a golden twinkie shaped medal, complete with three crème holes on the back. I searched the crowd for Twinkie the Kid to pick up my lifetime supply of Twinkies for my appearance fee, as discussed in my nonofficial sponsorship contract, but the race officials claimed to have no knowledge of this information. Weird.*

*Happy April Fool’s Day! This post was authored by the Redhead, but rest assure Spike did in fact happily consume multiple Twinkies at the race this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Clown with Mint Shakes and the U.P.

On Saturday I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald Run for the House. After having a previous run-in with the Clown,* I decided a good deed might fix our broken relationship. So I grabbed the megaphone and assisted at the Mile 4 water station. Or, as the residents and runners were informed: “The only non-prime number water station on either the 5K or 10K course!” And maybe a little “I hope you don’t suffer from Coulrophobia or you are not going to like the end of this race.” I only wish I had made a sign that said “Coulrophobia suffers begin alternate route here” and drew and arrow pointing away from the course. Obscure is the name of the game my friends.

This week I am away from the Redhead as work takes me to Marquette, Michigan. So, after my less than stellar 21M long run on Sunday, where my beloved Garmin wonked out, gave me the frozen screen of death and then reset only to have 1% battery, causing me to have to use it as a plain old watch, where I then had to stop and give directions to a guy who was miles away from where he wished to be, and finally where I lost two GUs that fell out of my new Brooks Sherpa III shorts. Yep, bad long run. These things happen.

And shortly after a quick shower I headed up to the west side of the U.P., a lovely 8 hour drive. Note, I saw an ad that said “End of the World 2M; Upper Peninsula 4M”

Before I left I found this and contacted one of their members for some route suggestions. It is by this means that I learned of the wonderful trail they have up here along the bay. Isn’t it awesome how helpful other runners can be! Yesterday I had beautiful skies and 45 degree temps and 30MPH winds for my track workout. Notwithstanding the crazy winds, the path was unbelievably picturesque. Today I took a 4M jaunt around Presque Isle. The park itself is a 2M loop and includes a significant climb. The entire path including one loop around the Isle gives you an amazing flat 9M journey—aside from the Isle.

*Insert your own clowns like it rough joke here

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Roll of the Dice

With five weeks before the Lansing Marathon, I am more nervous about this marathon than I’ve even been for any marathon. Every marathon except for Boston 10 I felt prepared with about five weeks left and was looking forward to my tapper in two weeks.* At this point in all of my previous training I had done at least two 20M long runs (typically 3), and this year I’ve only done one thus far. This time around I’m trying a two week tapper, only because starting late necessitated such a move.

My long runs have progressed in a positive manner every week, but the distances still seem formidable. If I had finished my 16M this week and though: ‘That was good I could have kept going for a few more miles;’ I’d be less worried. Instead I found myself thinking: ‘Ten more, NFW.’ And that is why this race seems like such a roll of the dice. Or, perhaps, I have insufficient training to gauge what to expect on race day. I anticipate I’ll be able to complete the distance, but underprepared to attempt to go for a BQ. I’ll have greater familiarity with the course than I have ever had. I’ll have had fewer miles on my shoes than ever before. In my favor, I’ve had the best winter/spring training weather any Michigander could ever hope for. Yet, my training times/splits have been slower than previous training sessions—especially considering my track workouts.

I’m improving, but I’m quickly running out of time.

* Go ahead, say it one more time, you are only training 14 weeks. Well, in case you didn’t know, Marathon Master Hal Higdon’s Boston Bound marathon training plan is only 12 weeks long so stop complaining.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Race Matters

So I went and had my little tete-a-tete with the LM race director. Before I had walked into the room I had already expended some time thinking about my concerns. Primarily, why does the race refuse to respond to emails, why does the route keep changing, and what assurances are there that this race is going to launch? I concluded, before I even uttered my first question, that I was unlikely to get the answers I was looking for. My expectations were accurate.

In brief, the answers go as follows. There are approximately 600 marathon runners signed up the just under six weeks to go. They are sorry they have had to change the route, but things come up and because it is a new race they are learning as they go. They do not believe the route will change again. They are confident the race will be certified and therefore BQ eligible. They are unsure why some emails have not been answered, as it is their goal to respond to all inquires. Again and again they stressed how they were learning as they go.

And I understand that things happen. I understand that sometimes a change must be made. I expressed that I’m not unsympathetic based on my own experience organizing races. But, I also said that what is most frustrating about all of these things is the lack of communication. If you change the course, then announce it—own it—don’t just subtly make the change and wait for people to respond.

So, I received the answers I expected. They did apologize. They insist they are doing the best they can. I’ve already signed up for the race. I believe the term is sunk cost. At some point before my conversation my anger was replaced by the realization that I can’t stop them from changing the route and that I’m running this marathon even if it is 26 times around a 1 mile loop. Maybe I’ll get a break this time and it will rain during the race, I’d be alright with that. In the end, it is all about the opportunity to race.

I had, for anyone who cared, taken the time to create a hills chart of the old (really the second) marathon course. I even drove the route last Friday and recorded it with a fancy HD camcorder I borrowed. All of that is useless. In another post I’ll update the course information.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Forget Anything Nice I've Ever Said About You

I was going to tell you about my 20M run and the awesome 5K the Redhead and I did on Sunday down in Corktown (Det!). But, I’m so mad right now I have to ignore all of that. Why? This morning, when I went to see if the Lansing Marathon had responded to my email (two weeks old) or my FB post asking about the official course—no response to either as of yet—I noted on the webpage that the ‘interactive map’ has changed. Not a bit, a ton.

This is an entirely different course. Are you fucking kidding me!?! Are you fucking kidding me!?! I’ll update soon. But right now I’m angry. Less than 7 weeks out. Needless to say, I’ll be attending the weekly sponsored runs this week so I can have a little face to face with the organizer
of this event.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lansing Marathon Preview: The Race Overview Part II

How does one set expectations for an inaugural marathon? After doing some serious thinking about it, I’ve come up with the following four factors that are strong criteria runners are likely to use when setting expectations for a new race. These factors are: cost (including travel costs, hotel, registration, etc), support by local community (including the local running community); how brand name the ‘big’ sponsors are; and the expectations/hype the race itself produces (including using the course as a selling point). If you feel some other factor is missing, by all means send me a suggestion and I’ll do some digging. Otherwise, I’ll assume you agree—at least tacitly. Also, I’m not claiming any inside knowledge here. I’m just a runner looking in from the outside. In fact, I’m no longer even a Lansinite, I live outside of the greater Lansing area now.

Cost: The cost to register for the Lansing Marathon is $100. I was able to secure a time limited coupon for $20 off. One benefit of a smaller marathon to those of the mega-marathons (say Boston or Chicago or New York) is a willingness to either: 1) offer coupons; or 2) offer a tiered pricing structure with increases in cost as the event draws near. Interestingly enough, the mega-marathons never have to offer discounts and never apologize for their high prices (i.e. American non New York Road Runners will pay $255 to register for the NYC Marathon—that means you Nitmos; and yes I know this because I’ve been rifling through your mail again). My initial response to seeing the registration fee for the LM was “Wow, $100, for a marathon in Lansing?!? An inaugural marathon at that?”

But, research shows this seems to be a common price-point for Michigan inaugural marathons. Compare: The Qualifier, $105 (new this year in MI and located in Mid-MI); Ann Arbor, $85 through May 31, $95 thereafter (also new this year); and Kalamazoo, $85 (new in 2011). While other established and respected Michigan Marathons registration fees are as follows: Bayshore, $90; Grand Rapids, $90 through May 15, $100 through August 15, $110 through September 30, and $120 until race day where it increases to $130 (if not filled); Detroit is $80 through March 27, $110 until June 5, and $125 thereafter; and Martian Marathon is $60 through March 14, then $70 through May 12, then $90. And, just for your edification: Boston and Chicago are $150, whereas the Earth Day Marathon is $50 and moves up to $80 closer to race day. The Cleveland Marathon’s pricing is $90 until February 29, $110 until May 13—but only $55 if you sign up a year out (i.e. in May 2012 for the 2013 race). Finally, the Sunburst Marathon (South Bend, IN) starts at $65 through Jan 31, $75 through May 30, and mail in and late registration costs $85.

The average hotel room in Downtown Lansing is about $120 per night, but Lansing does offer several seedy alternatives at a drastic price reduction—in case you subscribe to the ‘they all look the same when I’m sleeping philosophy.’ And, although Lansing does have a local airport, typically travelers will fly into Detroit and drive (almost 2 hours) to Lansing. Flights in and out of Detroit are fairly reasonable (as reasonable as airfare is these days) as DTW us a major hub.

Local Support: Honestly, the LM will not provide the type of spectator support you will get at Chicago, Boston, or NYC, but that doesn’t mean the community doesn’t support it. Lansing has a strong running community. In this local running community there is plenty of buzz for this race. Conversations abound between runners at the local running shop, on Daily Mile, and several people have routed the course on MapMyRun. But I’d be hesitant to say the LM has created any kind of sustained buzz outside of the running community.

With under 8 weeks until the Marathon, the lack of non-running community buzz may evidence a minimal crowd turnout on race day. There hasn’t been much by way of publicity from the Lansing State Journal outside of the front page article announcing the race, which is surprising considering the LSJ has a dedicated running page/feature. Although, two additional local publications, Health & Fit and City Pulse, included brief articles about the LM months apart.

Perhaps even more noticeable is the lack of publicity from Playmakers. There are no Playmakers sponsored training runs, or any sponsored runs on the course from Playmakers.* (NOTE: yesterday Playmakers announced it will be acting as a sponsor and will be handling some merchandise for the race) But the LM does offer training runs every Wednesday. Contrast this with the Detroit Marathon, which is already running ads in the newspaper and has several metro-Detroit running shops creating marathon specific training programs. Now, I recognize that comparing a well established marathon like Detroit and Lansing is not necessarily fair, but I can say—as an avid runner—that I’ve seen and heard just as much about the Ann Arbor Marathon as I have the LM.

Sponsorship: The main sponsor is Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. This is a big sponsor. Much better than Mary’s Fabulous Chicken and Fish or No-man’s Insurance Agency. As of now, there is not a major shoe or sporting outfitter acting as a sponsor. The remaining sponsors, as listed and in order, are: Two Men and a Truck, Emergent BioSolutions, Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority, Lansing Board of Water & Light, SERF, Ameri Insurance.

This list of sponsors makes me think the LM expo will be somewhat similar to the Capital City River Run (13.1M and 5K), and a step down from the Detroit Marathon or the Cleveland Marathon expos. Yet, perhaps on par with the expo you would find at the Martian, Bayshore, and Grand Rapids. If you have never been to one of these expos, a more detailed description is located at the end of this post. The lack of a major athletic sponsor can be troublesome unless you have a great local running store there to pick up the slack (i.e. Running Fit for Bayshore and Martian or Gazelle Sports for Grand Rapids), so I am very relieved Playmakers announced yesterday that they would be handling merchandising of this race.

Self Hype: The LM boasts an elite Kenyan with a sub 2:10 marathon time. Mr. Raymond Kiplagat Kandie will be blazing the course in what I’m sure he will consider cool Michigan April temperatures. This is pretty impressive. The LM webpage (and Healthy & Fit article) describe the course as ‘flat.’ Flat is always race hype for any marathon course because flat means easier to BQ. Ah…flat. The most subjective word in the running vernacular; even more so than ‘fast.’ I’ve done four training runs of substantial distance on the course thus far, and I would not call it flat. Chicago is flat. Is the course ‘flat’ compared to Boston or the Flying Pig (in Cincinnati)…sure. Does the course lack massive bridge climbs such as New York and San Francisco…yep. If you lived in the mountains, this course would seem flat. Perhaps if you lived and only ran in the hilly parts of Michigan (say certain parts of downtown Grand Rapids or outside of Atlanta—the elk capital of Michigan) the course would seem flat. But I wouldn’t call this course flat. Perhaps I would go with ‘gently rolling’ with a few meaningful climbs. But if you come in from out of town and assume it is flat, when you round the corner of Aurelius Road and Jolly Road right around mile 8 (and after the several medium climbs on Aurelius) your first thought will be: “Flat my ass.”

Back to the hype. The LM is doing some charity related work, but as usual that doesn’t generate a ton of hype (unless your event is so huge that sponsorship spots become coveted (i.e. Boston, New York, and Chicago). There is no ‘music on the course’ hype or a Flo Rida concert to hype the event like some other marathons. So, all in all, outside of the super fast Kenyan there is little to be hyped about. And, having traveled and lived on multiple continents, any hype about the beauty of Lansing and the surrounding community should be taken with a serious grain of salt. The course will offer some nice views, but I wouldn’t call miles 18 through 24 scenic (especially the part down Pennsylvania). Certainly more scenic than the Martian Marathon, and on par with what The Qualifier and Ann Arbor Marathon will offer, but not a picturesque as Bayshore or an novel as Detroit (a bridge and a tunnel and an island). Admittedly, I don’t really look at the scenery (crap, the two times I’ve done Boston I’ve missed several of the ‘must see’ spots).

In Conclusion: Comparing the cost, the local support, the sponsors, and the LM’s own hype, my expectations are that this marathon will be worth the value. This course offers an opportunity to be quick by not presenting any massive climbs, but enough elevation variations to provide a challenge. I’m doubtful that you’ll walk away from the expo with an awesome LM shirt (or other product) that your other runner friends will find awesome and be runner jealous, but you are unlikely to run this race for that reason. So long as you are not dependant on massive crowd support to carry you somewhere past the 20M mark, you will not be disappointed by the crowd support (or lack thereof).

Having served on a race committee for one of the larger Lansing 5Ks, I know how difficult organizing a race is. I can forgive the small errors or omissions I’ve pointed out, because I’d sooner have water on the course and volunteers present than an ‘interactive map.’ And I’m excited about this race.

A marathon is a major commitment. And most of us are of the one-to-four marathons a year runners. We invest a lot of time and energy into our training and want to exert as much control over the marathon as we do our own training. Alas, we can’t. So when we fork over $70, $100, or $225, we want to know that our money will guarantee an opportunity to have a great race. And, as we get to a point where we can see the end of training—we tend to begin to obsess about the race. This is where an inaugural race is at a disadvantage.

I believe this race will be good. Not great. But the overall experience will be good. There is something enjoyable about a smaller race, a smaller expo, a runner’s marathon (as I’ve heard people use to describe other marathons) where you can feel like you are in a race without having to dodge runners every mile of the race.


Michigan Marathon Expos: The best expo offered at any of Michigan’s marathons is the Detroit expo. It has a large selection of about 90 exhibitors, including major athletic brands. It all takes place in a major arena. National brands and companies set up shop, such as a Women's Running; even other marathons set up booths. The Martian Marathon takes place in a much smaller venue, and has far fewer exhibitors. There are a few local running stores that sell merchandise, but only one that really targets the race itself…and there are only a few variations of the race specific gear that is offered. While the Bayshore Marathon has its expo in a high school gymnasium, and has even fewer exhibitors, Running Fit offers an amazing variety of race specific gear (especially if you go to their store in downtown Traverse City—only about two miles away from the expo and close to several awesome places to eat your pre-race meal). But, aside from Running Fit, the Bayshore expo doesn’t have much going on. The Grand Rapids Marathon is located in the YMCA (where the race begins/ends). It is larger than Bayshore but somewhat smaller (fewer exhibitors) than Martian. It has a good selection of race specific gear, but no major athletic brand exhibitors.

*Playmakers does sponsor several training programs, but none are specifically advertized or directed towards the LM; that I’ve been able to find.