Posts Tagged ‘michigan’

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#48 – Understand the Value of Snowshoes

28 January 2008
Haven waiting on the NCT

Haven impatiently waits for me as I struggle in the deep snow on the North Country Trail 

Even though I’ve lived in Michigan for almost 30 years of my life, I’ve never owned or even tried out a pair of snowshoes.  During my last run I really wished I was wearing some!

My plan for Sunday morning was to run 8 miles on the North Country Trail with Haven, trying to extend my long run from last weekend’s 5.6 miles in the snow.  We’ve been getting snow all week so it was no surprise that the trails were now coated in 7″ of fluffy snow on top of a 1″ layer of uneven crusty snow.

What did surprise me, however, was the difficulty of running on such a surface!  It’s been a long time since I ran in such deep stuff and boy does it ever suck away a lot of energy.   At first I was feeling frustrated by my apparent lack of fitness, being forced to walk several times to catch my breath.  Building back up after an injury is bad enough but I was starting to wonder if I was back to square one.

Haven, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly so encumbered by two clunky feet; her four paws slipped through the snow with ease.  You can see in the photo above one of the countless occasions where she would stop and wait for me, looking back as if to say “Aren’t you coming?”

Reaching a crossroad (2.8 miles) in 37 minutes, I realized that there was no point in stubbornly pushing on for 8 miles when I’m still trying to baby my hamstring somewhat.   Haven and I turned around and settled for a 5.6 mile run that took us 1:13, so at least my pace was consistent.

I bypassed the last 0.7 of trails in favor of a dirt road (i.e. packed snow) and oh my gosh did that feel great!   No wonder I was so frustrated – deep snow is tough.  I was feeling pretty good mentally knowing that my 5.6 miles was probably near equivalent to 8 miles of effort.

That mood was tempered a bit when I spotted a bright blue koosh pillow on the side of the road.  Marks in the snow made it clear that it had been tossed from a moving car, and it hadn’t been there when I ran by less than an hour earlier.  How annoying.

Not wanting to end my run on a sour note, I picked up the pillow and carried it home.  If I can clean it up, then Haven and Beacon will have another cushion for their frequent naps (as dogs can do so well!) and if it’s too dirty, then at least the road is free of one big piece of litter.

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#38 – Qualify for the Olympic Games

3 November 2007

 

Brian Sell approaching the finish line to clinch his Olympic berth.  Photo: NBC Sports The U.S. Olympic Trials were held in New York City’s Central Park earlier this morning and the results are in:

1st – Ryan Hall – 2:09:02

2nd – Dathan Ritzenhein – 2:11:07

3rd – Brian Sell – 2:11:40

All three of those guys have made the U.S Olympic team for the marathon. Congratulations! TV coverage of the marathon trials can be seen on NBC today at 2pm Eastern.

As a fellow Michigan runner, it’s great to see that two of those top three runners have Michigan connections: Ritzenhein grew up in nearby Rockford, Michigan and Sell trains in Rochester, Michigan as part of the fascinating Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.

Update:

The news wasn’t all good for Michigan runners. Ryan Shay, a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, collapsed early in the race and died. How awful. He had just been married on 7/7/07 this summer.

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#28 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

11 August 2007

Deep in the heart of central Michigan farm country is Sleepy Hollow State Park, a splendid network of trails surrounding Lake Ovid. A hundred or so scantily-clad folks congregated here this morning, drawn here by The Legend. The legend of Ichabod Crane? The headless horseman? How about a trail run?

Why yes, these people were runners, searching not for a lost head (although some would argue otherwise!) but rather a win, a personal best, or just an enjoyable run through the woods. I joined the crowd at the start line despite waking up late (6:00 am) for the one-hour drive, showing up with 15 minutes to spare. The Legend is actually two races: a 5-mile trail run and a 10-miler that begins ten minutes later. This race is hosted by Running Fit, the same company that organized the Road Ends trail run that I ran earlier this spring.

I was tempted to run the 10 mile edition since it scenically circumnavigates Lake Ovid but with the Fallsburg Marathon coming up next weekend I didn’t want to overdo it. My goal today was simply a 40-minute 5-miler, just as I’d done at Road Ends. Things started off pretty well as my first mile passed by in a surprisingly fast (for me) 7:14 and although I was feeling good, I knew that this was a bit too quick. Sure enough, mile 2 arrived at a perfect 8:00 pace and I concentrated on maintaining my rhythm on the winding dirt trails.

Compared to the hilly and rocky trails of Road Ends, the trails here at The Legend were much flatter (with one big hill) and features countless sharp turns and exposed tree roots. In fact I did stumble twice but managed to stay upright. My face also took a couple blows from overhanging tree branches and I had to duck dozens of others – I noticed that my shorter competitors did not require such maneuvering! My lower back is a bit sore now, presumably from all of the bending to duck the attacking leaves.

But that is what makes trail running so much fun! Mile 3 went by at a 8:07 pace but I was feeling very fatigued at this point. I never figured out why – perhaps the poor night’s sleep, or running five miles yesterday, or starting out too fast, or maybe the heat of a warm, humid morning? All of the above? Well it doesn’t matter during the race – no excuses – and by this time I was getting passed quite regularly, about a dozen times in all. I knew I’d slowed down a bit, but was appalled to see mile 4 arrive at a 8:50 pace!

What a downer. I was going to need a sub-8:00 final mile to break 40 minutes and I was still feeling like crap. It’s frustrating… I tried to speed up and I just couldn’t. Coming down the home stretch I did my best to turn on a finishing kick but that last mile proved to be too slow and I crossed the line at 40:20.

Results aren’t online yet but they were posted at the race – I finished 25th overall, 21st male, and 4th in my age group. I think there were about 50 runners in the 5 mile. The overall winner was Ian Forsyth, a former Michigan Runner of the Year who dominates most races he enters, and he finished in 27+ minutes! A 5:31 pace! I don’t think I can even run one mile at that speed!

Despite missing my time goal, it was still a great race. The trails were a ton of fun and there was a great spread of post-race food. Better yet, not only was my wife Amanda there but also my newlywed brother Ryan and his wife Megan, plus her mom Sue and her little dachshund Mini. I actually had a cheering section! Megan grew up in the area and used to work at Sleepy Hollow during high school. We had fun chatting in the shade as we watched the finishers from both races cross the finish line and occasionally indulged Mini with a bite or two of some of the food. 🙂

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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!