Archive for the ‘5k’ Category

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#51 – Behind the Lens at the Irish Jig 5K

17 March 2008
Sunrise

Sunrise over Reeds Lake – I can’t believe folks are ice fishing after several days of 40+ degree weather!

One year ago I ran the 2007 Irish Jig 5K and surprised myself by notching a post-high-school PR. This year’s event would just be a training run for me, however, since my right hamstring is still not ready for any kind of speed.

Taking advantage of the relaxed pace I decided to carry a camera, inspired by the exploits of trail runner Scott Dunlap who takes photos during his races. One major difference between us is that when Scott ran a 5K just for fun, stopping to take photos along the way, he finished in 20:22! I can only match that time when being towed by a dog, and the 2008 Irish Jig saw me clock a pedestrian 28:53. But it was fun!

Gaslight Village

Downtown East Grand Rapids at sunrise.

I arrived before sunrise and had some time to wander around downtown East Grand Rapids to catch a couple photos of the beautiful morning. Sunny, yes, warm, no. Before the sun came up it was below freezing but once our part of the world got some solar radiation the air warmed to the lower 30’s.

Registration

Runners staying warm at the Irish Jig 5K registration.

After a while the chilliness motivated me to go indoors and join hundreds of other runners in the high school gym seeking out some warmth, or more importantly picking up our registration packets. Celtic Kilroy was already jamming away, keeping us entertained and setting a festive mood for the event.

Celtic Kilroy

Celtic Kilroy entertains the runners.

This year the Irish Jig was split into two races: a men’s race at 9:00 and a women’s race at 9:30. The guy next to me at the registration table was in a good mood despite being given a bib for the women’s race! Even though he checked the “M” box, he joked that from now on he’ll use his full name of “Patrick” instead of just writing “Pat” on the forms. Don’t worry, the volunteers got his gender changed in no time. 🙂

Starting Line

Green light indeed – runners waiting for the start of the race.

Around 8:45 I walked the quarter mile to the start line and did my best to keep my legs loose in the cold air. While doing a warm-up jog on a side street the race pack began moving forward! At first I thought I’d missed the starting horn but in fact they were just moving across the intersection to the official start line. I settled into position at the back of the pack just in time to hear the horn. We’re off!

After a quarter mile or so we turned to face directly into the rising sun. It did wonders for the ambiance of the race but it also made photography very difficult, especially with an inexpensive five year old camera. While making an attempt I heard someone shout behind me “Hey, Andrew’s taking pictures!” Who recognized me?

Dave Horne

Dave Horne smiling for the camera… while running backwards!

It was Dave Horne, one of my co-workers. He accelerated in front of me then turned around, running backwards and begging for a photo. Even though I couldn’t see the camera’s LCD screen due to the glare, I think Dave’s portrait turned out pretty well. Like me, he was nursing an injury (an achilles tendon that he partially detached from the heel bone while skiing – ouch!) and taking it easy. Unlike me, he’s very fast when healthy and still fast when injured; soon he was out of sight.

Around the one mile mark I noticed Don Kern running next to me. I first met Don at a book signing for Dean Karnazes two years ago – Don organized the small group of us that ran with Dean that night. Don is the race director of the Grand Rapids Marathon and an avid marathoner himself. I asked him what he was doing at a 5K and he assured me that he had a 17-mile run planned for the next day. He also told me that his “marathon a month” streak is up to 60 – five straight years of running at least one organized marathon every month! There’s a good reason they call him “Marathon Don”.

Shortly after chatting with Don I noticed a runner fly past in the opposite direction – the race leader! He was about 1/4 mile from the finish line. My watch read 11:00 and I was confounded; no way was someone going to set a world record in this event?! Then I remembered that almost 3,000 folks had signed up for the Irish Jig and I had started at the back, requiring a couple minutes before I reached the start line. Later I learned that the winner was Boaz Cheboiywo, who blazed an absolutely amazing 14:14, nine seconds faster than his winning time from 2007.

While trying to photograph the race leaders (unfortunately I was shooting into the sun and the photos didn’t come out well) another familiar voice called out – it was Lori Lenar, another co-worker who often spends her lunch break out running where we’ve often crossed paths on the sidewalks. We talked about the high number of women in the “men’s race” – it seemed like 20% of the runners were women. Laurie was a perfect example of why it can be a problem to split up a race by gender since she wanted to run with her husband and other friends.

Mile 2

The 2 mile marker… Just 1.1 to go!

Finally I reached the marker for mile 3 and once again I took a photo that didn’t turn out well… How does Scott Dunlap do it? I guess I have some learning to do about how to photograph while on the run. Somehow I resisted the urge to sprint to the finish but that was not easy – one of my favorite parts of a 5K is kicking the last 0.1 as fast as I can but my wisdom overcame my competitiveness, even when Lori dashed by vowing “I can’t let an injured runner beat me!”

By the time I returned the timing chip it was 9:31 and I was over a quarter mile from the start line, so I didn’t get a chance to watch the women take off. Luckily the half mile point was nearby so I booked over to that section of the course in time to get a photo of the race leaders. It’s amazing how much easier it is to take a photo when the sun is at my back and I’m not running!

Fast Women

The lead pack of the women’s race quickly approaching.

I wandered back over to the “feed zone” to grab some breakfast SWAG, then watched the finish of the women’s race. You can see how fast they were running – by the time they whipped around the corner into view I was barely able to get a shot of race winner Denisa Costescu as she flew by. She won in 17:33 to defend her title (she won the 2007 Irish Jig in 17:03!) with Laurel Park just nine seconds back. The two of them were well ahead of the rest of the field as third place didn’t finish until almost a full minute later.

Denisa Costescu

Denisa Costescu has the finish line – and victory – in sight.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to hang around since I was slated to staff the booth for 2 Feet 4 Paws and Vicky’s Pet Connection at the local community expo. Before leaving I made sure to grab a piece of cake – yes, the Irish Jig serves cake to its runners! I wore my new race shirt at the expo and about a dozen people recognized it and asked if I ran that morning. It was great to see that so many folks were out running!

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#44 – 2007 Running Statistics

1 January 2008

Ella at the Computer

Ella updating her running log – she was my #1 foster dog running partner back in 2006. 

Some people are bored by statistics but I am not one of them. If you are of similar ilk then you’ll enjoy this breakdown of my running for 2007, by the numbers:

1018.5 total miles
207 runs
156 hours
4.92 miles average per run

13 races
7 5K road
2 5M trail
1 5K trail with Haven
1 4M road with Haven and Beacon
1 10K road
1 26.2M trail marathon

788.9 miles on the roads
229.6 miles on the trails
193.2 pounds average weight
56 bpm typical resting heart rate

181.7 miles running with Haven
85.3 miles running with Beacon
53.0 of the above miles running with Haven and Beacon together
4.3 miles running with foster dogs
218.4 miles running with dogs

51 runs with Haven
24 runs with Beacon
14 of the above runs were with Haven and Beacon together
2 runs with foster dogs, Raven and Reese
63 total runs with at least one dog
30% of all runs were with a dog

Congratulations if you’ve scrolled down this far and actually enjoyed reading the stats. The dogs will appreciate your effort since I’m now going to share their own personal numbers, which also include hikes and other walks that I didn’t include in my running tally. Note that “swimming” means time spent playing fetch in water or accompanying Amanda and I while we waded in the river.

Haven
327.7 miles total
107.7 miles on leash
220.0 miles off leash
92 outings
65 hours total
9.9 hours swimming

Beacon
226.2 miles total
65.6 miles on leash
160.7 miles off leash
74 outings
52 hours total
15.8 hours swimming

Foster Dogs
7 of our 17 foster dogs went running – Amber, Raven, Honey, Reese, Betty, Annie, Teddy
51.3 miles total
18.8 miles on leash
32.5 miles off leash
16 outings
14 hours total
no significant swimming

If you’re wondering why Haven racked up 100 more miles than Beacon, there are two main reasons:
1) Beacon likes running, Haven LOVES running. However, Beacon makes up for it with almost 6 more hours of swimming because while Haven likes fetch, Beacon LOVES fetch.
2) Beacon’s pads become sore rather easily and there are several occasions where Haven is taken for a run in place of Beacon because his paws are still recovering. We think the cause is a combination of Beacon’s naturally thin pads and his somewhat stiff-legged gait; in comparison Haven is a very smooth and easy runner.

Yes, I love running with dogs!

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#43 – 2007 Summary

1 January 2008

A year of good news and bad news, so I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way. 2007 ended not as I’d hoped thanks to my hamstring injury but at least it’s getting better with physical therapy. The downside was that I didn’t run a single mile during all of December, the first time I’ve missed a whole month since I started running four years ago today.

The good news is that I had a great year of running yet again. I ran 13 races including a post-high-school PR in the 5K and then lowered that mark with the help of my dog. It was all part of 1018.5 miles underfoot in 2007 so despite the injury, I was happy to crack 1000 miles even if it’s just a number. One of my goals for the year was to run 250 times but I only reached 207; however, I probably would’ve hit my target if I’d been smart enough to not overtrain into an injury. Live and learn.

Another positive is this very blog – since writing reason to run #1 back in April (which has been one of the most popular articles) there have been over 5200 visitors to Why Run?, much more than I would’ve thought my writing would attract. Thanks for reading!

Looking forward to 2008 my first priority is to get running again. Before the hamstring acted up I was hoping to try for a marathon PR in May and do some serious training for a sub-4:00 finish. Hopefully I can still go for that, but right now the prime race on my radar this year is my first crack at the 100K distance in August. Aside from that event I’m still working on sorting out my race schedule but I won’t be racing as many 5Ks this time around.

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#41 – Not Running is No Fun

6 December 2007

I haven’t written much lately for a couple reasons:  1) Amanda and I have been busy starting up our new business, and 2) I haven’t been running.

The latter is significant because much of my blog is about my running and without that, what do I write about?  OK there are plenty of other topics, but also important is that not running can be depressing.  It frustrates me to no end that I haven’t been able to run – I missed all the good 50-degree weather in early November and now with snow and ice on the ground I can’t even ride my bike.  I’ve used the stationary bike at home a few times but that’s even worse than a treadmill.  I did get in a great long ride in mid November – 35 miles in 2.5 hours, and it was fun the whole way.  Since I don’t have clips on my pedals it’s hard for me to engage my hamstrings, which is good for my injured right one.

I don’t think I ever recovered from the Harvest Hustle and Doggie Dash, running 5K PRs on back-to-back weekends.  Or rather, I didn’t allow myself to recover.  I was feeling so strong after those races that my next couple workouts were faster than usual and after the second one my hamstring tightened up afterwards.  I took a couple days off and then ran a couple more 5-milers, the last one on Halloween, but it was still feeling tight, so I figured I’d be conservative and rest it for an entire week.

After the week off I ran a couple short runs under 3 miles with a day rest in between, and my hamstring felt no better than before!  Ugh.  So I took TWELVE days off with no running, although I did get some cycling in.  I ran on Thanksgiving day for 3 miles with Haven and my hamstring felt great!  No problems.  I took the next day off just to be sure, then ran 3 miles with Beacon and as soon as I got home and stopped running, my hamstring was more sore than it’s ever been and I was even limping for the rest of the day!  What the heck?

Partly I can “blame” Beacon.  We ran at what felt like a 9:00 pace but when I mapped it out afterwards I was alarmed to learn that he had pulled me to a 7:30 pace!  Still, it felt easy and I was paying close attention to my legs and never felt a twinge of anything until after the run.  Now I’m in the middle of another forced layoff and just hoping that my hamstring will actually heal.

Hopefully it is healing.  I haven’t felt any tightness in about a week and I’m actually considering running on it – very slowly and very briefly – sometime soon.  Yet there’s some trepidation because the last two times that my leg felt healed it turned out not to be, so maybe I should wait another whole week just to be certain?

I know that healing takes time, but what’s so odd to me is that my initial injury never felt anywhere close to serious.  Just a little stiffness in the hamstring; in fact I’ve had that before after some speed workouts.  It’s never hurt to the point that I couldn’t run without pain but I wanted to catch it early before injuries started cascading.  This has never felt like an injury that would’ve required more than a couple days to heal, yet here I am.

The good thing is that Amanda and I have been busy with 2 Feet 4 Paws so most days it’s easy to forget that I’m not running that day, but I can feel the effects.  It’s harder to wake up when I’m “not a runner” and food doesn’t taste as good when I haven’t been exercising.  Time heals all wounds and eventually it will heal this one, but boy is it tough having to wait!

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#36 – Running with the (Dog) Pack

23 October 2007

My favorite race of the year is Bailey’s Doggie Dash 5K, a cross-country run for owners and their dogs to benefit the Kent County Parks Foundation. It’s not a large race, usually drawing around 50 participants, but it’s very well organized and one of the best races around where you can run with your dog.

Haven and I first ran the Doggie Dash in 2005 as my first ever organized running event since high school. That year we finished 10th overall in 24:39 and won my age group by virtue of being the only one in my age group (after they pulled out the overall winner, who had tied the course record in 18:17). In 2006 we improved to 5th overall, dropping nearly two minutes off our time with a 22:42 finish and winning the age group, this time a “large” group of four runners. How would Haven and I fare this year?

Just last week I set a post-high-school 5K PR of 20:56 in the Harvest Hustle so I knew I was better prepared to keep up with Haven in this year’s Doggie Dash. But I also had a plan to use canicross tactics – rather than hold Haven’s leash in my hand, I instead tied it to a belt around my waist so Haven could help pull me along. Haven and I trained in this setup for a few weeks before the race to make sure we both felt comfortable. I learned that it was necessary to have some form of shock absorption so I clamped an automobile tie-down bungee between Haven’s harness and the leash – it worked like a dream.

Saturday morning arrived bringing perfect weather – mid 40’s, clear blue sky, and near-peak fall colors that yielded some stunning photos by Amanda. The Doggie Dash sports a Halloween theme with a dog costume contest judged by the local weatherman and registration SWAG handed out in trick-or-treat jack-o-lanterns.

I think Haven remembers previous races – when everyone began lining up for the start this year one guy took off on a warm-up jog and Haven must’ve thought the race had begun. Haven started screaming in anticipation as I tried to calm her down – it was so cute and she was getting lots of smiles from the crowd.

At last it was “Ready, set, GO!” and we were off! The race director pedaled a mountain bike ahead of the lead runner to give his dog something to chase, a very keen idea. Haven bolted full steam ahead and we quickly settled into fifth position. One of the most difficult sections of the course was the beginning because it was downhill and paved – with Haven full of energy dragging me downhill, it was all my legs could do to simply not let me fall flat on my face! My feet and legs took quite a pounding right off the bat.

Next we slogged through a scenic wide-open lawn that was saturated with water and then up a short road to a wooded picnic area. Just before reaching the one-mile marker Haven and I passed two racers who were fading after a quick start. 20 yards ahead was a guy who looked way faster than me but I sped up a bit to keep close to him so that Haven would have someone to chase.

She loved it, almost too much! Whenever we rounded a bend Haven tried to cut the corner inside the course flags – she wanted to intercept the runner we were chasing. I repeatedly had to remind Haven to follow the rules but she didn’t want to hear it. 🙂 Every turn we’d lose 5-10 feet on the guy ahead of us since I’d have slow up to pull Haven outside the marker flags, but then we’d hustle to regain the lost ground.

At the 1 mile mark I was shocked to see 6:20 on my watch! Haven was definitely doing her part and it was fun to still have the leader in sight although I knew it wouldn’t last. Down a slight hill the course turned off into a wooded section of singletrack for a 1/4 mile before heading out and around the beach playground. Here Haven kept trying to stop for a drink in the large puddles of water pooling in the sand. I obliged her at one of them and she tried to lie down in the water to cool off! Sorry Haven but we have to finish the race first!

After the beach we ran along a dirt road and then onto a paved loop that carried us through the park’s campground. We were still close to the #2 runner at the 2 mile mark – our second mile was run at a 6:30 pace! I was getting pretty excited but I also knew that one or both of us were going to hit the wall soon.

It wound up being Haven; shortly after the second mile we started losing contact with the guy ahead of us as Haven no longer had the energy to pull my weight. Running is hard when my dog isn’t helping! Haven and I ran side-by-side for the next half mile as her leash was now slack – she was just trotting but I was trying to run as hard as I could. Dogs were born to run; humans, not so much. 🙂

With about half a mile to go as we approached a long hill Haven began to fall behind. Going up the hill we reversed roles as I found myself trying to pull Haven along! I tried yelling “RABBITS!!” to her, a word that usually gets her all spooled up (she LOVES to chase rabbits) but she was to tired to care. Finally at the top of the hill we had just a 1/4 mile to go and I still couldn’t get her to pull even with me.

Even though I knew we were losing time quickly, this wasn’t my race – Haven was every bit a part of this effort and it wouldn’t be fair to speed up and drag her to the finish. I did keep the pace fast enough to maintain some tension – I figured I might as well help her out a bit without pulling so hard as to bunch the harness up around her head.

Finally in the last 100 yard grassy home stretch I tried another “RABBITS!!” but Haven was done, so we maintained our pace to the finish for a very satisfying 3rd place overall. Better yet was our time: 20:17! That was the second-fastest 5K I’ve ever run in my life, even though I had some help. My high school PR was 20:08 and my next-best teenage run was 21:13. Haven is my hero!

Seriously, Haven was the hardest-working dog at the race. Both runners who finished ahead of us had humans that were much more fit than I am while their greyhound-mix dogs were running alongside on a slack leash; i.e. the guys who beat us did so without the canine assistance that I needed. Some other dogs behind us were certainly pulling their owners, but at 195 pounds I was probably the heaviest human cargo to be mushed by any dog. Those greyhounds couldn’t have outrun Haven if I was dragging them down!

Post-race food was great – bagels, cookies, candy and cider for the humans and water and doggie biscuits for the canines. Naturally Haven got to eat first before I took a crack at the goodies as we watched the rest of the field finish with the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” blaring on repeat over the loudspeakers.

After everyone finished we were treated to a demonstration of frisbee dogs by Pawsitive Vybe‘s professional dog trainers Apryl Lea and Ron Sutton.  Spectacular show!  Six dogs (IIRC) displayed their talents and some of them were insanely good leapers and blazing runners.

Following the frisbee demo was the awards ceremony.  Some very nice handmade dog beds were raffled off and for the third year in a row, I didn’t win one.  One guy that did win a bed and a free pair of shoes was Ron Durham who drove all the way from the east side of Michigan.  The reason I mention Ron is because he adopted his golden retriever Kasey thanks to reading my blog!

Despite our 3rd place overall finish Haven and I wound up taking 2nd in my age group as the guy we’d been chasing for two miles is in my bracket.  In fact the overall winner Joel Bierling – who also won in 2005 and 2006 – is in my age group, too.  Men 30-35 were representin’ at the Doggie Dash!

There was no way I could’ve caught either of those fast runners, but in retrospect I probably could’ve helped Haven and I get a faster time if I’d managed Haven’s workload more effectively.  For the first mile there was nothing I could do but hang on for the ride, but mile 1.5 through 2.0 I should’ve quickened my pace a tad to ease the drag on Haven; that way she may have sustained her energy long enough to keep the both of us on the tail of the #2 finisher for another half mile until finally running the last half mile with a slack leash and not having to pull her.

Nevertheless, we ran an awesome race, had a ton of fun, and we’re already looking forward to the 2008 Doggie Dash!

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#35 – Winter is Near at the Harvest Hustle 5K

19 October 2007

Saturday, October 13 was a crisp morning, perfect for the upcoming Harvest Celebration in downtown Lowell. The opening act for the event was the Harvest Hustle 5K and I was signed up to race. 2007 was the 3rd annual running of the 5K and given that the course goes right past my house, I had to take part! Ironically I was completely unaware of the race for its first year, and last year I finally learned of it just two days prior so I merely spectated.

Complications began even before race day – Amanda was going to need our only car to volunteer with Vicky’s Pet Connection to assist at a Feral Cat Trap-In so I had to walk to the race! No big problem since the start was just a half mile away; in fact I jogged there to warm up. I did have to wear pants and a jacket in the chilly 40-degree air, which I left in my SWAG bag under a volunteer’s watchful eye at the registration area. Thanks!

While picking up my race bib I ran into Roger Bonga, a fellow Lowell resident but a much faster one – he’s a talented triathlete that I’ve seen at several 5Ks this year. He jokingly asked me if I was prepared to win; being a small race I was wondering if I could win my age group but as I would later find out, speedy Roger is in my age group… Doh!

By the time we started my hands were already painfully cold, but the rest of me felt pretty loose. The race begins with a half-mile straightaway due east into the rising sun before turning north to head up a steep, 80-foot-elevation hill. How cruel! But how fun, too. I passed three on the hill, the same hill I’ve run repeats on in the past for training. As I crest the hill I’m shocked to see Amanda standing at the corner with a camera! I guess she decided to be a bit late to volunteer so she could take a photo; I obliged her with a smiling wave.

West down the backside of the hill, which isn’t as steep, we then turn north for another long stretch through the old neighborhood of downtown Lowell. My hands were going numb already, but at least my brain and my legs were working. I realized that we were well past a mile – there weren’t any mile markers in this race – and I had no idea how fast I was going. At the end of the north-bound stretch is a small dirt road cul-de-sac for a turn-around. I spotted Roger solidly in third place; I was somewhere around the top 10.

Near this turn-around I was passed by a very young teenager and another guy about my age, and I could hear the breath and footsteps of a woman right on my tail. Heading south now I recalled on the course map that we should be turning west into a cemetery. The two ahead of me run straight, and I ask the lady if we’re supposed to turn. She confidently states that we should continue straight ahead and I figure she’s right; after all, who routes a road race through a cemetery when a neighborhood street runs right alongside?

Back at the next cross street the two ahead of me turn east, but by this point I know that we should be going west. I yell out to those two that they’re going the wrong way and they join the lady and me going the correct direction. I noticed that the volunteers who had been at that intersection directing runners on the way out had since disappeared. Later I learned that one runner went the wrong way and turned his 5K into a 4-miler… no fun.

The teenager, the guy, and the lady all decide it’s time to leave me in their wake. I still had no clue what pace we were holding but I was definitely feeling tired; I had to be close to max speed. The threesome had gained about 20 feet on me as we turned south onto the final long stretch, another half-mile street going due south. There was one more turn to the east but the finish line I knew had to be less than 100 feet after that turn, so finally I knew that there was just half a mile left to go.

I decided to push my luck early; usually I put in a strong finishing kick over the last 200 yards but this time I accelerated with the half mile yet to go and just hoped that I wouldn’t flame out. Within 100 yards I had regained the 20 feet to the threesome; once I pulled even I actually sprinted a bit to put some distance on them in the hopes that I would demoralize them rather than inspire them to hang with me!

Apparently my tactic worked – the sound of their footsteps faded and I was still feeling strong enough for a little kick to the finish. Just before hitting the intersection I went all out and leaned into the turn. Facing the finish line clock I was shocked to see the first two digits read “20”… no way! My previous PR was 21:07 back in March. Reflexively I sprinted the last 20 yards, glancing at the clock to confirm a new personal best of 20:56!!!

The lady finished a few seconds behind me as the first overall female, so I didn’t get “chicked” by anyone this time. When I saw her later walking a cute golden retriever, I went over to say hi to both of them and chatted for a bit. I told Tammy (the woman) and Gracie (the dog) about my plans for running the Bailey’s Doggie Dash 5K on October 20th with my dog Haven, and Tammy sounded quite interested so hopefully I can introduce Haven to Gracie this weekend. 🙂

Post-race food hit the spot: poppyseed muffins and apple cider. After hanging around to watch the rest of the runners and walkers finish, the organizers still hadn’t posted results. A volunteer informed me that they wouldn’t be posting results until later in the week on their website, but I wanted to at least confirm that I’d just run a PR. She agreed to check my time and confirmed the 20:56, but was very secretive about the results sheets, making me turn away while she looked them over. Weird.

Nevertheless, I had just run a PR despite not knowing my splits and having to conquer a big hill on the course. My other 5Ks this year have all been flatter, yet I ran this one the fastest! I’m just happy to have finally arrived under the 21-minute barrier.

The race was definitely fun – the local setting had some huge appeal, yet the organization left a lot to be desired. First, we started from inside the finishing chute, unnecessarily compressing the field. The roads weren’t closed to traffic, which was fine since nobody was out driving, yet a few runners and I did have to dodge a volunteer driving a gator cart driving in the middle of the street! Come on.

Of course the worst was that there were no volunteers directing traffic at several critical turns. Luckily even though most of the field (including myself) ran around instead of through the cemetery, the distance and terrain were the same so it made no difference. However, one runner missed another un-staffed turn and it wound up costing him an age group win.

After all of the participants had finished, it was another 30 minutes before the overall and age group winners were announced. How could it take them so long in a race with just 50 runners of widely-varying ability? They should’ve been able to post results in real-time as we finished. This race doesn’t use timing chips and has no need to, but I’ve run other races without chips that were scored quickly and easily.

I’ll certainly be back next year; I can’t pass up a race that runs past my house! Hopefully the organizers will work out their kinks and not continue to make rookie mistakes in the fourth running of the race. Once the brief ceremonies were over I had to jog back home, including running up that dang hill again! My legs were pretty beat by the time I staggered up my driveway, but I wasn’t done.

You see, I had to go join Amanda to help volunteer at the Trap-In. She had the car, which means I had to ride my bicycle on race-weary legs! It was brutal. 11 miles into a strong headwind the entire way. To make matters worse I forgot to check my tires and three miles into the ride I decided to add some pressure since the air was pretty low. My stupid portable bike pump broke and let all the air out instead! I had to force the pump onto the valve (it wouldn’t lock and seal) and manhandle some air back into the tires, which ended up being softer than before. A ride that would normally take me 45 minutes at a comfortable pace lasted over an hour. But I made it safe and sound, we raised lots of money for dogs and cats, and I was able to ride in the car at the end of the day.

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#33 – Run Races

8 October 2007

Finish of the 2007 Chicago Marathon

Photo from Wikipedia

The finish of the 2007 Chicago Marathon was absolutely THRILLING – here’s a video of those two runners sprinting for the finish. Ivuti wound up winning the race over Gharib by a scant fraction of a second. Can you imagine running your heart out for 26.2 miles and then having to sprint the last 1/4 mile? Wow. I love to finish races like this, by kicking hard for a short final stretch to nip somebody at the line, even though I’m never a contender for any placing.

Racing is fun. After all of my races – whether it’s a 5K or 50-miler – my mood is elevated for at least the rest of the day. I can’t explain why, but there’s something exciting about being part of a race and not just going for a run. Maybe that seems superficial, but for me it works.

Next up on my calendar is the Harvest Hustle 5K in my hometown; in fact the race course passes within a couple hundred feet of my house! The steep hill up which I sometimes run repeats is part of the opening mile of this race so it’s going to be a painful couple miles after making the climb.

Just a week later my dog Haven will be joining me for the Bailey’s Doggie Dash 5K, a race that I’ve run the two previous years. It’s always one of my favorites, if not my very favorite race. It’s such a treat to run a race with my most frequent training partner as well as meeting lots of other furry friends and their owners. Usually it’s a very scenic time of year but this year’s drought has stressed the trees into dropping their leaves early, so it might not be as pretty as in previous races.

Those aren’t the only two races left on my calendar for this year, but I still haven’t decided what else to run. Know of a fun event in Michigan?

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#32 – Fun and Frustration at The Bridge Run 5K

15 September 2007

Continuing my quest for a 20-minute 5K, I spent the morning in downtown Grand Rapids to race in The Bridge Run. The event sports both a 5K and a 10-mile run with most of the fast runners racing the longer distance, but that was fine with me. Under clear blue skies and unseasonably cool 45-degree temperatures the 10-milers lined up at 8am for the start of their race. I watched from the sidewalk since the 5K folks started at 8:10 and it was fun to see the speedy runners up close – you know, the ones who can run almost a 5:00 pace for 10 miles!

Soon enough it was 8:10am and I was running due north through downtown. I’m still no expert at pacing myself so I could only hope that I was hitting the 6:30 pace that I was targeting. The entire first mile is a straight shot north along a closed road, so it was a neat experience to run for so long in the same direction without having to navigate any obstacles like curbs, intersections, cars, etc. Unfortunately I never spotted the 1 mile marker so I couldn’t gauge my pace, but I later learned that it was at the turnaround.

Heading south now, the route carried us back along the road a ways before veering west across the 6th Street bridge and then down along the riverfront pathway. The mile 2 marker was at the entrance to the waterfront where I arrived at 13:50, a very disappointing 6:55 pace. I tried to speed up but my body wouldn’t have it – either I can’t run any faster, or the preceding two miles at that pace had ingrained that speed into my system. Shortly after the 2 mile marker an acute side stitch manifested itself and I got that fizzy/weezy feeling in my lungs. I was pushing as hard as I could.

Finally the finishing stretch came into view – it was about 100 yards of brick-paved street with barricades just like a big race despite there being just 700 runners combined in the two races. Stepping on to the bricks I accelerated into a finishing kick and noticed that I was gaining ground rapidly on the guy a hundred feet ahead of me. Involuntarily my legs flew into a full sprint (yes, I’m competitive) and I passed him just ten feet from the finish line. While that final kick was satisfying, seeing the clock read 21:33 was very disappointing.

For the time being I tried not to worry and focused on the food – a post race spread of 100% organic sustenance! I ate half an orange, an energy bar, two fruit-leather-type strips, an organic soda, and some water and enjoyed every bite and every sip. Organic food always seems to sit well with my stomach and taste buds! I didn’t have much time to enjoy it though as the elite 10-mile runners were due to finish soon and I wanted to grab my camera from the car to get some photos. I wound up jogging the half mile to and from the parking lot and made it to the corner of the home stretch just as the race winner, 2001 Michigan Runner of the Year Kyle Baker, cruised past. I hurriedly yanked the camera out of its case and managed to snap a shot just after Baker crossed the line as the #2 runner pulled into view.

I hung out at the finish for a while watching a couple co-workers finish the 10-miler while I chatted with another acquaintance. After a while I wandered around the food tents just taking in the crisp, sunny morning and watching more runners. Then my frustration set in as I thought about my race. In March I ran a 21:07 5K but since then have run four races at 21:26, 21:37, 21:45, and now today 21:33. I was hoping that today’s cooler weather would help, but apparently such speed was not in the cards for me. Once they posted the results I was even more vexed – I just missed winning my age group by 10 seconds! It’s not very often that I have a chance to win anything in a running race and this one had certainly been within reach.

Well, I tried. I have to wonder, though: 1) Couldn’t I have run 10 seconds faster? 2) Will I ever approach 21 minutes again? 3) Will I ever reach my 20 minute goal? 4) Did running a marathon a month ago slow me down? Hopefully all those can be answered with “yes”. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll be doing more speedwork…

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#31 – Cool Weather… Does It Speed Me Up?

10 September 2007

Letting the dogs outside at daybreak Sunday morning we were greeted by a loudly honking flock of geese flying overhead. They were flying south. Is summer over?

At least for today, it was. Setting out for our five mile run at work during lunch, one of my co-workers wondered aloud, not altogether jokingly, if he should’ve worn a long sleeve shirt. It was a “chilly” 63 degrees under overcast sky with the added benefit of a steady misting rain to keep us cool.

It felt great! We maintained a rather zippy 8:45 pace (yeah, for us that’s zippy) yet I had energy to spare. One co-worker is infamous for his love of hot-weather running – he never struggles even in 90+ humid degrees – yet today he didn’t have quite the pep that I did. I’m just the opposite – hot weather really wears me out but weather like today was almost perfect, especially the mist.

So maybe it’s true, that runners are faster in cooler weather? My goal this year is to run a 20-minute 5K but my confidence waned as summer wore on. After a 21:07 in March, my 5K races were all 21:30 to 21:45 with no trend to indicate impending improvement. I complained about this to Steve at Striders and he advised that I would become fast again as the weather cools down. Could it really make that much difference?

If today was any indication, it was a good boost for my confidence heading into this Saturday’s 5K – The Bridge Run. The forecast for this weekend is calling for morning temperatures in the 40’s, similar to when I ran my best 5K in March. Will the cool weather speed me up? I’ll find out in a few days…

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#25 – Michigan Apple Run 5K

14 July 2007

Among other things, west Michigan agriculture is well known for it’s fruit harvest, especially apples, blueberries, and cherries (in the north). In fact my dad grew up on an apple farm and used to train for track and football by running laps around the family orchard. Today, however, I would be running laps around the streets of Sparta, Michigan for the Michigan Apple Run 5K!

Hmm… wet roads, umbrellas, raincoats… Yep, it was a rainy morning! Good for the apple trees, and good enough for a race as well. One cool thing about this race is that dogs and strollers were allowed on the course provided they start at the back of the pack. Due to the weather I noticed how creative parents can be – the strollers all had various baggies, plastic sheets, and other waterproof set-ups to keep the wee ones dry. Speaking of “wee”, before the start I made the obligatory trip to the outhouse:

Nice of Amanda to photograph the event, eh? 🙂 It rained steadily throughout the registration but the volunteers were running a tight ship and nobody had any problems getting their bibs and SWAG bags, which contained apple juice, apple sauce, caramel apples, and even a half-gallon of apple cider!

As if by design, the rain reduced to a light mist just minutes before the national anthem was played as the racers waited at the line for the start. Before the anthem the organizers were playing some fun music: Springsteen and Queen! “Born to Run”, “Glory Days” and “We Will Rock You” were the songs I remembered hearing as I took my place at the start among 900 other runners. Despite not being a huge race, they were nice enough to provide mile-pace posts to help folks figure out how close to the front to line up. As a result the first half mile of the race, while congested, did not require much dodging and traffic maneuvers like so many other 5Ks.

Coming into today I wasn’t sure how well my race would turn out – earlier this week I had badly blistered my feet in an ill-conceived session of barefoot training on a high school track. Most tracks are soft rubber but this one had some spray-on type of protective coat that’s rougher than usual. Tuesday after my speedwork it felt like I was walking on little packets of ketchup and it hurt! Using safety pins from a previous race I drained my blood blisters Wednesday morning and took it easy on them all week (aside from a softball double-header Thursday evening). Before the race I put moleskin on the healing blisters and wound up having zero trouble with them.

I started off a tad easier than usual to gauge my fitness level and ran a 6:55 first mile that felt rather comfortable. Speeding up the pace a bit, I was shocked to see that I ran the second mile in 7:12! It felt like I was running faster but was 17 seconds slower! Perhaps their mile markers weren’t perfectly accurate? Anyway, I maintained my pace for half a mile then kicked it up a notch for the finish, running a 6:56 pace over the final 1.1 miles, good for a 21:45 finish. Amanda turned on the video to capture the nice burst of speed I mustered at the finish – that felt good!

Amazingly five minutes after I crossed the line it began to rain, and this time it came down hard. Amanda and I scurried to the tent to grab some recovery food and stay somewhat dry. While I was nowhere near winning my age group, it’s worth mentioning that those who did won very nifty prizes: a bottle of apple wine and a four-foot tall apple tree! That sure makes me wish I were a fast runner. Oh well, it was still a great race!