Posts Tagged ‘orchard’

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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!

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#8 – Explore the Countryside

15 April 2007

Today I went for my weekend long run, choosing to explore some of the rural farmland here in west Michigan. I left home right at sunrise and the clear skies provided stunning views. Lots of wildlife crossed my path – deer, vultures, hawks, blackbirds, sparrows – but none were cooperative enough to pose for a photo. Fortunately the countryside itself doesn’t move nearly so quickly!

Out in the middle of nowhere I was surprised to come across a stash of water and Gatorade! Scribbled on the lid was “rungazelle.com“, a running club based out of the local running store Gazelle Sports. I figured they must be out for an organized training run. Since I had three liters of water on my back to use up, I didn’t touch their stuff… besides, I didn’t ask permission!

A couple miles later I was in the middle of some big, rolling hills when I spotted this picturesque farm. As I got closer I saw a sign proclaiming this farm to be 164 years old, having stayed in the same family since 1873! Pretty amazing. It’s such a great location that I’d want to keep it, too.

Across the street from the farmhouse was this view that that family has awakened to for the past 164 years. Yes, that’s my shadow in the low, morning sun.

Leaving the farm and descending a steep hill down into the Flat River valley, I crossed one of Michigan’s historic covered bridges, White’s Bridge. There’s just something really charming about these bridges, don’t you think?

The Michigan Historic Site marker describing White’s Bridge.

Climbing north from White’s Bridge out of the valley I was treated to this spectacular view of the Flat River. This is one of the prettiest views you’ll ever see (sorry, the into-the-sun photo doesn’t do it justice) and it’s visible from a simple isolated stretch of dirt road.

Continuing along the dirt road I passed by this interesting silo that has been converted into what looks kinda like a lighthouse. You can’t tell from this angle, but this silo is sitting on the bluff overlooking that stunning section of Flat River seen in the previous photo. If I ever own a silo someday, it would be this one.

Turning around, this is what I saw across the road from the silo – a flat, wide-open field. It’s amazing how the Flat River carved such a deep valley just a few hundred feet behind me yet left this stretch of land flat as a pancake.

I ran past cornfields, beanfields, hayfields, wheatfields, but my trek wouldn’t be complete without passing a Michigan apple orchard. Maybe I’m partial to them because my dad grew up farming apples, but I think they’re more picturesque than any other farm crop.

Speaking of farm “crops”, Michigan has its share of dairy farms, too. The sign says “Drink Milk for Vitality” and a glass of cold milk sure sounded good right about then – I was two and a half hours into my run at this point.

Here I am at the Flat River yet again, but several miles south of White’s Bridge now. This photo was taken from a modern vehicle bridge at the north end of Fallasburg Park in Lowell, Michigan. The North Country Trail has an access point just to the left of the photo’s field of view, but since I ran there last week I kept to the roads this time through.

My second covered bridge crossing of the day! Here is the Fallasburg Bridge, part of the park but at the southeast end. The sign says “$5 FINE For Riding or Driving on This Bridge Faster Than a Walk” – since I ran across three times while taking these photos, should I get fined $15? 🙂

This historical marker describing the Fallasburg Bridge.

Running up the hill away from the Fallasburg Bridge these four ducks crossed the road ahead of me. As I crouched down to get a duck’s-eye view, they started waddling towards me! It looks like the one on the right is the drill sergeant, quacking orders to the others to ensure they look good for the picture.

Moving just tad more quickly than those ducks were the RunGazelle folks nearing the end of their group run; about an hour earlier I had passed them up near that apple orchard, so I figure they were running about 1.5-2 hours. At this point I was three hours along but just as close to finishing as they were.

After taking that photo I ran less than five minutes before meeting Amanda, who was out for a long walk of her own. We walked the North Country Trail back to where she’d parked the car and headed home. Check out her blog, too, for some photos she took on her trek.

Where do you usually run? In town, near your home? That’s true for me – I walk out the front door with running shoes on and most of my runs don’t go far enough to take me into the countryside, but today’s 16 miler gave me the opportunity to bring the camera and see some new sights. Next time you’re up for a long run, I suggest you head “outward”, away from town, even if you have to drive a bit to get closer to the countryside. And don’t forget your pocket camera!