The Birth of the Challenge

In the beginning of June 2009, I was reviewing the website which lists individuals who have run at least a mile per day for at least a year (over 40 years for some). Since I had just completed my second marathon and was running 6 days a week, I said "Why not?' and started my running streak. As I checked out the website further, I came across a list on the website that showed members who have ran the most counties in their state. It was at this time that I came up with my latest personal challenge of running a race in every county in Michigan. I did a little research to see if every county had a race and I found out that all 83 counties had a running race or triathlon. I will use this blog to update my progress throughout the state. I hope you enjoy reading about my exploits, struggles, and successes as much as I enjoy experiencing them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quick 5K Race Between Monster Mile Days

I had planned to run the Trot for the Troops 5K in East Lansing on Easter Saturday while Kelly and the kids were gone, but a huge mileage day on Good Friday and another huge mileage day planned for Easter Sunday had me reconsidering how I was going to run the race or if I was going to run the race at all. While the family was away, I really increased the mileage and on Friday met up with a couple fellow RUTsters and became an Ultrarunner. I met up Steve and Keith at the Waterloo Recreation Area and ran a 50K. Yeah, 31 miles. That was the furthest I ran in any day. It was a fun day on the trails, but also saw the importance of hydration. On our first 11 miles out and 11 miles back, we ran out of water and one us started getting dehydrated. I was also planning on meeting up with a large group of the RUTsters for a group run on Sunday at Island Lake Recreation Area. 5 or 6 of us were going to shoot for a 50K. I felt good when I got home Friday night and decided that I would wake up Saturday, jog 3 miles to see how I felt, and then decide if I would race.

My 3 mile test Saturday morning went well, so I decided to drive over to East Lansing and race the Trot for the Troops 5K. This race was being put on by the Arnold Air Society, a service organization of the Air Force ROTC, to honor those who have served our country in the past and present. The race was going to take place on the sidewalks along the Red Cedar River on the Michigan State University campus. The race was a relatively small race with 69 runners. We had a quick explanation of the course and we were off. Because I had run so much the day before, I eased into my race pace and did not really hit my stride until a half mile in. It was here that I passed a pack of 4 to 5 runners and settled about 20 yards behind a runner that was keeping a nice steady pace that I thought I could keep up. We had quite a bit of twists and turns, but I could see him and another runner ahead of him. I thought, "Not bad, I will take a third place." I continued to stay back about the same distance throughout the race, had a nice final kick, and finished 12 seconds back of the runner ahead of me with a PR time of 20:02. When I crossed the finish line I met the other finishers. Three of them. Yeah, the winner was so far ahead that I did not see him. He finished with a time of 17:09 and won by 1:31. Now that is fast. I ended up missing out a trophy by one place, but got an awesome dog tag for winning my age division. I was glad I decided to drive over.

I continued the monster mile holiday weekend by adding a 9 mile trail run on the way home and a Fartlek workout with my buddy Brian that evening. The run the next day was a nice slow long run day. 31 miles again at Island Lake with the Rutsers. I finished the week with 125 miles, my first 2 50K training runs, and a lot of fun.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Twinkie Run

Gallup Park in Ann Arbor was the scene for my latest and one of the most fun chapters in my MI Challenge to date. The April Fool's Day Twinkie Run sounded like a blast as I reviewed possible races to run in Washtenaw County. As I drove down to Ann Arbor, I thought about the fact that the race was held on April 1st and what an awful joke it would be to pretend to hold a race on April Fool's Day. I was extremely happy when I got to the race start/finish and saw the race organizers.

As the 30 runners started lining up at the start line, the race director Shawn went through the reason for the race. A friend and employee of Shawn's by the name of Jim Mong was struck with ALS and died last March. Through his passing, Shawn left behind a wife and a son in high school. Earlier in life, Jim was an all around athlete who played college football for Eastern Michigan before going into the army. Some of Jim's passions later in life was competing in triathlons, volleyball, and the senior olympics. Shawn wanted to organize an event that would include having fun and involved running, one portion of the triathlon. The Twinkie Run was born and the goal was to race money to support finding a cure for ALS.

The ground rules for the Twinkie Run were simple. The clock starts, runners eat one twinkie, run approximately 1.5 miles, grab another twinkie at the start finish line, and eat that twinkie on the second loop before crossing the finish line. After getting our twinkies unwrapped and Shawn giving a last few comments about the course, he started the race. By the time I took 2 bites, one of the runners was off. It took me between 15 to 20 seconds to eat my twinkie and I started running in the middle of the pack. I quickly passed most of the runners and found myself in 2nd place by the half mile mark. I was behind the 1st place runner by a great distance barely seeing him and the bike leading him around. I continued around to the start finish line and picked up my second twinkie. I started eating it and I thought that my first twinkie took a while to eat. This one took forever to swallow it all as I made the second loop. Eating also made it difficult to breathe. I finally swallowed the last bite with about a half mile to go. Now that I was able to breathe normally, I was able to pick up the pace again. I finished the the 5K in 20:07 and maintained 2nd place. The first place runner crossed the finish line in 18:36. No wonder I could not see him.

We had an enjoyable time cheering each runner cross the finish line and then enjoed the post race awards. Instead of passing out regular awards, the runners got various awards based on youngest runner oldest runner, etc. I ended up getting a box of Twinkies for traveling the furthest distance for the race. After eating the Twinkies during the race, I don't think I will eat another Twinkie for awhile. So, those little yellow sugar cakes are going to Nick and Jenna. This race is definitely one of the races that I would want to do again. A fun race with a great cause. It was nice to hear that the organizers are looking to hold the race again next year.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Home County PR

Well, here it is the end of the third month of my MI Challenge and I still have not run a race in my home county of Genesee. That changed Saturday morning with the Flushing Township Half Marathon. I ran this race in 2009 as my first and only half marathon. My time last year was 1:54:36. I was very confident that I could better that time, but was unsure how hard I wanted to push to better the time. I went back and forth the last couple days before the race on whether I should run a relaxed race and achieve a PR or push myself and make a huge improvement.

I decided that I would push for the best time I could. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was not sure if the weather would cooperate. I left for Flushing and the temp outside was 25 degrees with a forecast of 35 to 39 during the race. But, when I got to Flushing High School, it felt warmer and the wind was not too bad. I met up with Brian and Traci Montpas at registration and we made our way to the starting line. Brian lined up with the 5Kers, while Traci and I lined up with the half marathoners. Matt and Paula Antoniou, fellow RUTsters, headed up for Matt to run the half. We met up at the start line and chatted before the race. Matt was planning for a quick pace, so my race plan was to keep Matt in my sight for as long as I could.

The race started and I had a real good first mile, passing the marker at 6:54. I kept Matt and his white hat in sight for the next few miles. Shortly after the 5Kers turned off for the finish, I saw Paula for the first time cheering on the runners. I passed the 4 mile mark at a little over 28 minutes and that was the last time I saw Matt. I could not keep up the 7 minute per mile pace, so I scaled back my pace to just under 7:30 per mile. I kept the sub 7:30 pace through mile 9. My pace dipped for the next two miles, but I was able to pick up the pace for the final two miles. I closed in on the finish and saw the clock. It was in the low 1:34s and got extremely excited that I would be under 1:40. I made the final turn and had 30 seconds to make it under 1:35. I picked up the pace just to be sure and crossed the finish line at 1:34:44.

That finishing time gave me a PR of 19:52 and I now have my sights set on getting my time under 1:30. Not only did I set a PR, but so did Matt and Traci. Brian bettered his 5K time from last year's race, so it turned out to be a great race for all of us. Next race on the docket is a fun run in Ann Arbor on April 1st. It is a race where runners eat Twinkies in between laps around the park. That should make for a fun April Fools Day!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

St Patrick's Race

Kelly, the kids, and I headed over to the west side of the state this weekend so I could run in the Blue Lake Township Fire Department St Patrick's Day 5K. We decided to spend the night with Kelly's brother, Casey, in Grand Rapids on Friday night to break the trip up into 2 parts. It turned out to be a great decision because of the snow we got in Michigan on the first day of spring. It would not have been fun to drive nearly 3 hrs 2 weeks in a row before 5Ks. We arrived at the race and I picked up my bib with about 15 minutes to spare. As we were waiting, I noticed a couple that I recognized from the Mt Pleasant Half Marathon a couple weeks ago. We laughed about the goat on the course and how it really lightened up the middle of the race. According to the local runners, the course was not a PR course with a few large hills. My goal was to just run a strong race and notch up another race in another county.

We started out and a large group of runners started on the downhill first half mile real quick. I settled into a relaxed pace and felt good. As we approached the 1st mile marker, I decided to accelerate and pass the group of 7 to 8 runners that was ahead of me. After I passed them, I set my sights on the young runner next ahead. After passing each other back and forth, I finally put him behind me for good on a long downhill. I then turned to the couple that I recognized from Mt Pleasant. For the rest of the race, I did my best to catch them. With about a half mile to go, we ventured off the road and onto a small trail by a lake. This is where we hit the toughest part of the course. We ran up a hill that killed any momentum I had chasing the couple and I ended up finishing 20 seconds behind them. I finished the race in 20:11 and could not have been happier. I did get a new 5K PR.

I headed into the fire hall and they had a literal buffet for the runners while we waited for the runners/walkers to finish and the award ceremony to start. They posted the results and I ended up with 6th overall out of 90 runners and 1st in the 35-39 age group. The Overall Winner had a finishing time of 18:35, so I was not too far off the winning pace. All of the participants got ribbons, award winners got medals, and the winners got some nice trophies. Next up is my home county of Genesee for the Flushing Township Half Marathon next Saturday.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Race With A Mission

The latest chapter of my MI County Challenge had me out the door at 5:30 am to get to Alpena for the 9:00 am race. The 5K race, called Running With The Leprechauns, was held at the Thunder Bay Recreation Center and organized by the Dork Brothers Racing Team. As registration closed, it looked like we had 50 to 60 runners and walkers ready to take on the windy and potentially rainy conditions. We walked to the parking lot and the race director gave the pre-race instructions. He mentioned that the race was a fundraiser for a Mission Trip to Thailand. It is always nice to hear when the race fees (or portion of them) is going to a charity. I will talk more about the Mission Trip later, but now back to the race. He finished up by describing the out and back course and it seemed pretty straight forward.

All the runners got set and we were off. As we left the parking lot, we were going to turn onto the sidewalk. This was the only area in the Rec Center area that had ice, so I made a mental note about the ice for the return trip. How embarrassing would that be to fall 20-30 yards from the finish? I made it to the next turn and I guessed that I was around 10th place. 2 younger guys were way out front and then there was a second pack. I followed another runner through this pack and we quickly separated from the rest. I stayed behind the third place runner until one mile in. His pace started to slow, so I decided to pass and attempted to keep up with the front runners. They passed me on the return trip and both runners looked strong...and YOUNG. They didn't look that much older than Nick. I made the turn to head back and ran the second half alone. I looked at my watch and I was on pace to half my best 5K time since high school. I tried to maintain my pace for the rest of the race and did a pretty good job. I made the second to last turn and recalled the ice up ahead. I slowed a bit through the ice and then made the final turn. I crossed the line at 20:30. It was good for 3rd Overall and 1st 30-39 Male.

It felt great to run the time this early in the year. A lot of time and races to improve. I met up with the with the first and second place runners and we chatted for a bit. Both guys were from Alpena High School. Alex Guzman, a sophomore, won the race in 18:48 while his freshman teammate, Jacob Benson, finished only 9 seconds behind him. Over half the participants stuck around for the award ceremony whether they got one or not. Instead of medals, we got awards with an Irish theme to match the "Running With the Leprechauns" title. They were rocks with the word sham on them. Get it...Shamrock. Ha! My rock is proudly sitting next to my other awards and it definitely stands out from the rest.

As I mentioned, the proceeds from the race were going to a young girl who is preparing to go on a Mission Trip to Thailand. Saidee Jacobs is the young lady who will be going on a 25 day journey through Thailand. While there, she will travel through three rural villagers and stay with the villagers. She will visit schools, local clinics, several houses, village water sources, and other areas that need help. She will be teaching, running a camp, working in rice fields, building a library, putting in toilets at a school, and helping to repair the village's water holding tanks.Talk about a busy 25 days. The mission is sponsored by Rustic Pathways, but Saidee does need to raise money to participate. If any of you would like to help her, you can send donations to Dork Brothers Racing Team, c/o Mark Jacobs, P.O Box 301, Alpena, MI 49707.

It is always good to participate in a race with a cause. It turned out to be a great race. I got to help a girl get closer to her mission and run a race in another county. Now on to another 5K on the west side of the state...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Would Have Been PR and a Goat

Be careful who you are following; they may be lost also!

Those words kept echoing in my head as I ran the last mile of the IceCube Half Marathon on Saturday. I will get into the details of the last mile, but I want to set the stage for you. The IceCube Half Marathon started at the Runner's Performance store in Mt Pleasant and headed out of town. The roads were packed snow and ice once we left the Central Michigan University area. The weather was good and I started out the race on a good pace. Because of the snow and ice, my plan was to run just under a 8:30per mile pace and cruise to a new PR in the half marathon. The bar was not too high since I had only run one half marathon before.

4.5 miles into the race, I was right on schedule with my plan and I felt great. The 10k runners turned around a mile and a half back and the race really thinned out. I was about 1/4 mile behind the next runner and was ahead by about the same margin. This made for a pretty boring race in the early stages. We made a turn for the first out and back and things got better. It was nice to be able to talk to the other runners as they were going by. The next out and back was the best though. At Mile 7, I came across the most unique pacer yet. There was a goat running up and down the road with the runners. The goat would run alongside us until we met someone going the other direction and then the goat would switch and turn around. It was great and made everyone chuckle a little over halfway through.

Around Mile 10, it looked like the new PR was in the bag. I had run a smart race and the plan worked perfectly. A couple miles later, the PR disappeared. The guy ahead of me and I missed the sign to turn into the industrial park and continued straight down the road. I went about 3/4 of a mile before someone came and told us and we went back to where we made the mistake. Now that the two of us were back on the course, we came up on the 12 mile mark. I looked at my Garmin and it said 13.5 miles. I crossed the finish line at 2:01:14 and totaled 14.5 for the race.

All in all, I had a great time. It was fun running the back roads of Isabella County, running with a goat, and getting a few extra miles in during the run. The PR will just have to wait for the next half marathon. And the journey goes on...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

First Double - Lenawee and Monroe Counties

I attempted my first double race day of my 2010 MI challenge. The two races I targeted were the Frosty Five Trail Run in Adrian and the Lake Erie Muskrat run in Monroe. It looked like the timing would be perfect with the Frosty Five starting at 8:30, the Muskrat at 11:00, and the distance between the races around 55 miles. I just couldn't hang around the race long after crossing the finish line.

The Frosty Five Trail Run was run at Heritage Park just north of Adrian on a snow covered trail route through the woods. During the final race instructions at the starting line, the race director said this was the most snow they have had on the course in years. He followed that with his expectation that most people would probably run a personal worst with all the snow. The first quarter of a mile was run through a snow covered field where we were running 6 to 7 wide and jockeying for position. The runners moved into single file as soon as we hit the woods and that is where the fun began. Not being an experienced trail runner and running a second race in a couple of hours, my plan was to take it easy during this race and just gain some experience on the trails. That is just what I did. The snow was difficult, but the real killer on this course was the uphills, downhills, and running on the side of hills. The side of the hills was where I found the most trouble, slipping and sliding to the point where I went down 3 times. The only other time I went down was was when I ran too fast on a downhill, that had a sharp turn at the bottom of the hill. I did enjoy the experience and appreciated the course a lot. It provided spectators, Kelly and the kids in my case, to cheer on the runners. I got to see them at miles 1, 2 and 3.5. It was mile 3 that I tried to push the pace, but it seemed to work to my disadvantage. The more I pushed, the more I slipped. I backed off and tried to run more under control in miles 4 and 5 with good results. I finished mid pack at 54:02, but was happy with my race performance. I just need more time on the trails, especially snowy trails.

After the race, we jumped in the Aztek and hurried over to Monroe. I got to the registration table 10 minutes before the race, signed up, pinned my bib number on, and dropped my race race shirt off with Kelly. I got to the starting line with 2 minutes to spare just as the race director was describing the course.When he said that some of the course was icy, I thought "not again." Oh well, we moved to line and started at the horn by crossing the bridge. We then circled the lake on a paved path for most of the race. The conditions were thankfully better than described with only a few icy spots to deal with. I did not go out slow, but found myself still getting passed by a group of 5 to 6 runners before the first half mile. I kept that group in sight and started reeling them shortly after mile 1. I was running at a good 7 minute per mile pace and felt great. I passed the last of this group about half way into the race and ran by myself for the remainder of the race. I could see a couple runners ahead of me, but was unsure how man runners were ahead of them. I crossed the finish line at 21:26, which was good for 5th out of 82 runners and 1st in the Male 30-39 Age Group. I was ecstatic about the results because this was my second race of the day and was a little wore down from the trail race. Next stop, Mt Pleasant for a winter half marathon in a couple weeks.