Mark's Badgerland Blog
Greetings from my hometown of Saxon, WI! I'm going to write about running events throughout Wisconsin and the Western U.P. of Michigan; many of these events you may have never heard of but aren't too far away from the Twin Ports. I look forward to share my thoughts and experiences with you as both a recreational runner and race organizer.
November 26, 2008: Fall 5Ks and Thanksgiving Fun Run
Hi Northland Runner readers! I'm back after a two month "vacation." Actually, this is my first visit to my parents' home and my personal computer since the first weekend of October, and I'm looking forward to write about running again. Usually after I run a fall marathon (in past years Whistlestop, this year Fox Cities), I back off my running significantly. Some reasons (or excuses) are shorter days, less motivation due to fewer events, and, most importantly, my 47 year old body just needs a rest. However, I still was able to run three 5K events in the Fox Cities area that I'm going to discuss briefly here.
The first one actually occurred one block from my home. The annual Omro Fox Trot 5K run was held on Saturday, October 11 (same day as Whistlestop). Although the event is relatively small in numbers (about 50 total for the 5K and 1 Mile runs), the course is well supported with a water station at the Omro Police Station and two time splits. The course is actually one of the most demanding 5Ks I run all year with an incline just before mile 1 and a double-layer hill between miles 1 and 2 with another small incline right before mile 2. I actually got to the mile 1 marker under 8 minutes but my pace slowed down as the race went on. My finishing time was just under 27:30, which was OK because I only ran sparingly since my marathon. There was plenty of water, Gatorade, and bananas at the finish line courtesy of the local Piggly Wiggly.
My second 5K was a last-minute decision. I was planning to go to Saxon on the weekend of October 25 but the National Weather Service of Duluth was calling for lake-effect snow for the Hurley-Ashland area. Therefore, I canceled the trip home and drove that Saturday morning to Appleton for the Freaky 5K sponsored by the Appleton YMCA. The event was well-attended with about 150 runners and walkers. The course was much gentler than the Omro run with one steep downhill at the start immediately followed with one uphill; otherwise, the course was flat. Although my overall time was slower than at Omro (just over 28 minutes), I ran consistent 9:10 miles throughout the race so I was pleased with running a solid, consistent pace. The post-race buffet was really good with fruit, cookies, bagels, and even Starbucks!
My last 5K was the St. Joe's Food Pantry Run held in downtown Menasha on Saturday, November 1. What's unique about this run that it uses the Portsmouth scoring system. Basically, the runners are sent off in waves based on age, and the first runner crossing the finish line regardless of wave is declared the winner. It's pretty exciting when you start the race and almost immediately pass people left and right; then a few moments later people are starting to pass you left and right! The course is flat throughout with the runners making a loop around the Fox River Trestle Bridge. I finished my best time of the three 5Ks with a 27:16 time. Finally, the St. Joe's Run has the best post-race buffet of all my runs, bar none!
As most of you may be aware by reading my previous posts, I'm big on traditions. Tomorrow, I'm going to run with a lot of longtime friends in Ironwood, MI for the annual Thanksgiving fun run. I've been participating in this fun event since the late 1990's. The location has varied from year to year; for years, it was held near the ABR cross-country ski trails. This year, it will be held at the house of Will and Marianne Andresen in downtown Ironwood. The fun run usually has loops of six miles and four miles. I usually prefer the shorter loop so I can have first digs on all the food (usually pot luck)! This year, I'm bringing peanut butter bars. It's a great way for me to jump start my Thanksgiving day before eating turkey with my family and watching football.
Finally, I want to wish everyone (bloggers and readers) at Northland Runner a very happy Thanksgiving. I know many of you are going to participate in a run in Duluth on Thanksgiving, so good luck and please be sure to thank the organizers and volunteers who are setting aside part of their holiday to put on the event. Good running to you, and again Happy Thanksgiving!
September 26, 2008: Fox Cities Marathon Weekend (Full Marathon)
As I promised, here is my second post about my Fox Cities Marathon weekend. On Sunday, I ran in my 28th overall marathon but my first Community First Fox Cities Marathon. The weather was absolutely perfect: mostly cloudy skies with a starting temperature in the low to mid fifties. I arrived at the start line at UW-Fox Valley at 5:30 a.m. Although my start wasn't until 8:00 a.m., I got there early in part to watch the 6:00 a.m. start for the marathoners who plan to finish over six hours. I think this is a great idea, especially for older runners and marathoners who primarily walk the distance. I know the past two years the Paavo also has had an early start for six-hour plus marathoners, but I don't know of too many others in the Upper Midwest.
There were five wheelchair competitors lined up to start their competition right before the full and half marathons; however, one competitor was missing! About one minute before his start, he arrived but had problems getting his feet inside his strap. As he was struggling, the gun sounded and the P.A. announcer gave the order for everyone to proceed to the start line. In an act of sportsmanship, not one runner moved! Fortunately, Race Director Debbie Jansen and a couple of volunteers helped the competitor get his feet inside the strap and he went on his way under a thunderous ovation. That may be one of my best moments ever at a marathon.
The course goes through seven communities and end at Riverside Park in Neenah. For the most part, the course is flat but has a very hilly section at mile 11 at Kaukana. I ran under my first tunnel ever around mile 14 in the township of Darboy. The on-course support is tremendous with approximately 2,500 volunteers. At one time, the course ran over seven bridges, but I think this year there were only three.
I ran better at Fox Cities than I did at Paavo. My 10K split was very good at 54:04, and my 10 mile split was OK at 1:33. However, my pace started to slow gradually with a 2:09 half split, 3:48 at mile 20, and ended at 5:18. Although my finish was 12 minutes better than Paavo, I'm still struggling in the second half of races. I'm going to make some adjustments to my training next year and maybe run the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in May of 2009. Time will tell.
The medallion and finisher's shirt are beautiful. The shirt is made from a sports fabric with a white background and yellow and black lettering. At the packet pickup, we also received a long-sleeve cotton sweatshirt with a white background and green and black lettering. The medallion has the pavillion at Riverside Park engraved on it.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I classified September as a BIG race month. Well, tonight my dad, brother, and I are going to continue a family tradition by attending the 33rd Red Clay Classic stock car invitational in Ashland. For many midwest stock car racers, this is their BIG race. However, I am going to stand out from my fellow stock car fans because I will be wearing my brand new Community First Fox Cities Marathon t-shirt!
I'll try to write another post sometime in October. In the meantime, enjoy running in this great fall weather!
September 25, 2008: Fox Cities Marathon Weekend (5K Run and Volunteer Work)
Hi Northland Runner readers! I'm back again after a hiatis of a month. This is the first of two blogs on the Fox Cities Marathon events in Appleton. This blog will focus on the Time Warner Cable 5K Run (which I ran) and the Affinity Health and Fitness Expo (which I volunteered in the packet pick-up) held on Saturday, 9/20. The second blog will be about the 18th Annual Community First Fox Cities Marathon held on Sunday, 9/21 (which I finished my 28th marathon).
The Time Warner Cable 5K Run took place on Saturday morning at Fox Valley Technical College. The event has traditionally been held at UW-Fox Valley in Menasha, but construction there beginning last year forced a change to FVTC. I really enjoyed the old course, which included two hills. Despite the hills, I finished under 24:30 from 2004 through 2006. The course at FVTC is relatively flat and includes a portion on a bike trail between miles 2 and 3. Last year, I ran 25:00 flat and this year I ran 25:08.
The atmosphere is very festive with a P.A. announcer and music sound system, and of course there was plenty of good food. The event set a record with 894 participants of all ages. John Ebel is the race director, and this was just the start of a long weekend for him because the next day he was going to run in his 18th consecutive Fox Cities Marathon!
After the 5K, I volunteered for four hours at the Affinity Health and Fitness Expo. My main responsibility was to check in the 28 relay marathon teams. Basically, I gave them their packets, instructed them how to use their timing chip (an ankle strap), and directed them where to pick up their goody bags, t-shirts, and caps. I proudly wore my 5K finisher's medal (which has the RoadRunner engraved on it) to show the participants that I'm a runner, too. In fact, many of the volunteers are runners and most of them were going to participate in either the U.S. Cellular Half Marathon or the full marathon the next day. I want to give some kudos to longtime volunteer coordinator Sandra Thein, who works tirelessly with organizing the volunteer effort.
Well, that's a wrap of my first of two FCM posts. My second one will come later tonight or sometime on Friday. Take care!
August 29, 2008: September and October - The BIG Race Months
My three favorite months of the year are April, September, and October. April is at the top of my list because it's the first full month of spring and you can't beat a beautiful April day for running once the snow is all gone. Also, it's the month of the Boston Marathon and the start of baseball, outdoor track and field, and girls' high school soccer in Wisconsin. However, my juices really get flowing when September and October come around because of all the BIG races that go on in the silent sports world.
For runners, September and October have a variety of big time events. For me, I'll be running in the Cheesehead Half Marathon in Hilbert, WI (south of Appleton) on Saturday, September 6. Two weeks later, I'll be running in my BIG events when I will do both the 5K (Saturday, 9/20) and full marathon (Sunday, 9/21) at Fox Cities in Appleton. Since 2004, I've run both the 5K and half marathon but this year I'm going to compete in my first full Fox Cities Marathon. Although the Paavo Nurmi Marathon is my favorite single event, my favorite running weekend is the Fox Cities Marathon events.
For the majority of runners throughout the Upper Midwest, the juices will really be flowing two or three weeks after Fox Cities. On Sunday, 10/5, both the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee and the Twin Cities Marathon will be run. The Lakefront Marathon has really exploded in the last few years with the marathon field being filled up before July. Unfortunately, I've never had the thrill of running the TCM. Hopefully, I will be able to compete in one some year. One week later, the Whistlestop Marathon events will be held in Ashland on Saturday, 10/11 and the Chicago Marathon will be on the next day.
I consider all these events BIG races because of all the goal implications for runners. On relatively flat courses like Whistlestop and Chicago or a gradually downhill course like Lakefront, many runners will be attempting their first marathons. For many other runners, they will be either trying to qualify for Boston or attempting to set a P.R. In any case, no matter what your goal is, good luck and go get them!
Speaking of BIG race season, I can't forget to mention other major silent sports events like the Wisconsin Ironman Triathlon in Madison on Sunday, 9/7, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival on Saturday, 9/13, and of course the Northshore Inline Skating Marathon on Saturday, 9/13.
Before I get too fired up, I better finish up this post. I'll be running a long run on Saturday (13 to 15 miles) and enjoy the rest of the Labor Day weekend with my family. My next post will be either on Thursday, 9/25 or Friday, 9/26 to talk about my Fox Cities Marathon weekend and some other racing stuff. Good luck on your next BIG race!
August 9, 2008: Mark's Paavo
As promised, I'm writing a brief post about yesterday's 40th Paavo Nurmi Marathon. I'm glad to say I finished my 27th marathon and 14th Paavo. My Paavo can be dissected into two halves: the start through mile 19 and mile 19 to the finish. Frankly, I really struggled in the first 19 miles, especially the first 13.1 miles of the run (approximately 2:20). Although the temperatures were in the low to mid 50s, the sun was beating down on me pretty good and by mile 7 I was running 10-minute miles (I was hoping to run 9-minute miles).
However, by mile 19, I started to pick up my pace and was able to run the major hills at miles 20 and 21 and maintained my pace to the finish. I hope to build on my strong finish for the Fox Cities Marathon in September.
Finally, I was one of 18 people to receive a certificate for finishing 14 Paavos. This is something I'm very proud of and will frame the certificate. Also, the Paavo has my favorite post-race party, a picnic-type atmosphere at Ricelli Park. It's a great setting to renew friendships and make new ones! My next post will be during Labor Day weekend. Good running to you.