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.
December 31, 2009: 2009 Finale and 2010 Plans
I hope all of you at Northland Runner had a wonderful Christmas holiday. Despite the heavy snow that fell in the Twin Ports during Christmas, I hope everyone got to their destinations safe and sound. I had a great Christmas here in Saxon with my family. I got one running-related gift: a $80 gift certificate from Abelman's Clothing in Bessemer, MI. Since 1993, I've bought almost all of my running shoes from Bob Abelman and his staff. So on the day after Christmas, I went to Abelman's and bought a pair of Saucony's. I should get the shoes sometime after New Year's Day.
I went on my last run for 2009 yesterday here in Saxon. My route consisted of a 3.5 mile loop complete with four uphills, one downhill, an a final mile flat stretch. The roads were snow-packed but smooth, and I had no problems with my footing. I started my run at 7:30 a.m. and was able to see the sun rise. It was perfect running weather for late December: temperatures in the upper teens with a light breeze from the south. My pace was slow but steady at about 10 minutes per mile. During the winter months, I'm not really concerned with my speed as long as my pace is steady. Going for a Wednesday morning run sure beats being cooped up in an office cubicle!
Now I'm going to reveal my partial race schedule for 2010. My first race will be the Seroogy's Chocolates 15K and 5K runs on Saturday, February 6 in DePere. This is usually my first really "long" run of the year, and I usually run an under 10 minutes per mile pace. On April 17, I will back in Duluth to run the Fitgers’ 5K. Hopefully, I will renew acquaintances with many of you and perhaps make some new friends as well! On Sunday, May 16, I will run the half marathon at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon events. If you haven't heard yet, the 5K race will be replaced with a 2.62 mile "mini-marathon" to be held on Saturday, May 15. During the months of January and February, I'll try to make at least two to three of the Green Bay training runs (first one will be on Saturday, January 9).
Finally, I want to wish everyone at Northland Runner a very Happy New Year. My next blog will be either Saturday, January 23 or Saturday, January 30. Take care!
December 24, 2009: "Race for the Light" in Oshkosh and Christmas Thoughts
Although it wasn't a run, I won a big race yesterday. It was the race against Mother Nature to drive from Oshkosh to Saxon safe and sound. I left work in Oshkosh at 1:40 p.m. yesterday and, other than one gas stop north of Antigo, arrived home in Saxon at 6:10 p.m. Fortunately, I didn't see one raindrop, ice pellet, or snow flake during my trip. The forecasts from the National Weather Service and various television stations were correct: the bad weather didn't hit the Hurley-Ashland area until well after midnight. I don't have to drive anywhere until this weekend, so my car is going to stay put in my parent's driveway. If you have any travel plans during the holidays, please be safe and be aware of any changes in the weather.
Enough weather talk! This is the second year I'll be writing about a running event in Oshkosh called "Race for the Light." It was held on Saturday, December 5, at the Boys and Girls Club in Oshkosh. The organization hosting the event is the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, and all proceeds go to support Christine Ann. For the first time, awards for the top 5 male and female runners were donated by a separate sponsor. I'm not sure about the turnout, but I saw bibs upwards in the 800's and 900's. Despite the huge turnout, the race started exactly at 5:00 p.m. The organizers and volunteers deserve big kudos for running things so smoothly.
Although we ran in the dark, the streets of Oshkosh were completely bare (10 inches of snow would fall the following Wednesday). The course winds through Menominee Park alongside Lake Winnebago, and the park is completely lit with various displays and booths. A high school choir from Berlin, WI sang Christmas carols at the park's exit, and the last mile of the course consisted of three long straightaways back to the Boys and Girls Club. During the post-race feed, a madrigal choir from both Oshkosh West and Oshkosh North high schools sang Christmas carols. Although I finished a little over 30 minutes, I had a great time. For events like this, I'm not really concerned with my pace or finishing time. I'm just glad that my entry fee goes to a very worthwhile cause, and so many other people feel the same way that I do.
I want to wish my fellow bloggers and the readers of "Northland Runner" a very Merry Christmas. I got the best Christmas gift of them all: being with my parents, sister, brother, and his wife and two sons. Despite being a little older, we still have our health and are able to enjoy Christmas as a family. For me, that's the perfect Christmas gift. My next blog will be before New Years Day when I discuss my plans for 2010. Merry Christmas!
November 26, 2009: Thanksgiving Thoughts
Happy Thanksgiving fellow bloggers and readers of Northland Runner! The only bit of bad news for me on this Thanksgiving is I wasn't able to go to the annual Thanksgiving Day fun run in Ironwood, MI. When I got up at 5:00 a.m. this morning, about two inches of snow fell in the Hurley/Ironwood area and was still snowing hard. My sister Kay woke up with me and said U.S. Highway 2 was in bad shape during her drive home (she works the late shift at the Bad River Casino in Odanah). Therefore, I made up my mind not to make the trip and will instead run sometime Friday morning in Saxon.
I hope most of you were able to attend the Gobble Gallop today in Duluth. In the Green Bay/Fox Cities area, the Festival Food supermarket chain is hosting a series of Thanksgiving Day fun runs. It's great that so many people are including some running as part of their Thanksgiving Day celebration. A big thanks should go to all the organizers and volunteers who give up a portion of their Thanksgiving Day to put on these events.
My next race will be a week from Saturday (Dec. 5) at the Run for the Light 5K in Oshkosh. All proceeds will support the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services. Last year 488 people participated in the event, and, if the mild weather continues, I wouldn't be surprised if over 500 people will enter. Also, Midwest Events will be hosting the Noodleini 15K and 5K at West DePere High School just south of Green Bay. I won't be able to go, but please pass the word on if you know of someone who may be able to attend.
I want to thank everyone who responded to my blog about the DQs at the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. I got your message loud and clear: KNOW THE RULES! Since the marathon will host a USTAF championship next year, the elite runners may start in separate waves from the rest of the field. I think this will be a great problem solver.
Finally, I would wish everyone Happy Holidays. My next blog will probably be on Wednesday, 12/23. Take care!
October 30, 2009: Controversy at Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon
Hi Northland Runner readers, I'm back after a month hiatis, and, boy, do I have a "truth is stranger than fiction" story for you. If you haven't heard yet, the top two female finishers were disqualified from the Lakefront Marathon held in Milwaukee on Sunday, Oct. 4. Cassie Peller of Franklin, WI was disqualified shortly after her apparent win when race officials learned that accepted water outside an authorized aid station from first a father and son and then from a former Marquette University teammate who came out of a van and ran with her for a short distance. The win was then given to Jennifer Goebel of Lombard, IL. . .for about 48 hours. On Wednesday, Oct. 7, she was disqualified for operating an iPod between miles 19 and 21. Not only both runners lost the $500 for winning the race, their finishing times were erased from the official results.
Before I put my two cents in, I want to give you some important details. The Lakefront Marathon is hosted by the Badgerland Striders running club, which I've been a member since 1994. The race director is Kristine Hinrichs, whom I've known for about ten years and someone I really respect. As you probably can tell from the first paragraph, the marathon is sanctioned by the USATF since there is prize money and will host a USATF national championship in 2010. Therefore, Kris, following USATF guidelines, lowered the boom on both Cassie and Jennifer by disqualifying them and removing their times from the results.
Now, how do I feel about this? First of all, I know Kris really agonized over her decision and probably had a sleepless night or two. I hope and pray I never have to face a similar situation at my Dogwood run. That being said, I agree with her about disqualifying them from the championship and taking back the prize money. However, I think their finishing times should have remained with the official results. In Jennifer's defense, she had no idea she was in the running for the win and took her iPod off immediately once informed she was in the top three. As far as I'm concerned, she was no different than all the other runners who used an iPod during the race. In Cassie's defense, she told a local newspaper (although I don't have the specific quote) that she had no idea that her friend would be out on the course with a water bottle. So if a finger should be pointed at anyone, it should be at the friend, not the runner. Therefore, I would give Cassie the benefit of a doubt and allow her time in the records.
Those are my thoughts; I would like to read the thoughts of Grandma's finishers and also officials. Since Grandma's is also a USATF event, maybe someone can share some more light on this controversy. You just read my opinion; I like to read yours. Happy Halloween!
October 1, 2009: Ashland's Two Big Race Weekends
As promised, I'm back in Saxon to discuss two big events coming up in Ashland the next two weekends in two completely different sports although they do share some things in common. The two events I'm talking about are stock car racing's Red Clay Classic which will be held this weekend at the ABC Raceway and, of course, the Whistlestop Marathon Festival which will be held on October 9th and 10th. It's very rare that one city can host two major sports events on back-to-back weekends, but the good folks of Ashland have pulled it off successfully for several years.
What do these distinct events have in common? First of all, both have been very successful events in their own right. The Red Clay Classic has been in existence since 1976 and at times has drawn anywhere between 175 and 225 stock cars from at least three states and Canada. Believe me, this is not an easy feat especially with other tracks competing for the same drivers. The Whistlestop Marathon has been going on since 1998 and also has drawn many participants throughout the Upper Midwest and Canada due in part to the runner-friendly course on the Tri-County Corridor. I say between the full marathon, half marathon, and the Cruisin' the Corridor 5K and 10 the Whistlestop now draws between 1,500 and 2,000 runners a year.
Another common thread is the economic impact for Ashland and the surrounding communities. I can predict with confidence that you can't find a hotel room in the City of Ashland for the next two weekends. Therefore, the motels and hotels of communities like Washburn, Hurley, Ironwood, Iron River, and Mellen will benefit from the overflow of requests of rooms. Also, local gas and convenience stores, restaurants, and discount stores will receive increased, welcomed business in what sometimes can be a slow time of year.
I guess another common thread between the Red Clay Classic and the Whistlestop is me because I may be one of the very few people who has supported both events. I've attend every Red Clay Classic since 1988 and, with the possible exceptions of the Paavo Nurmi Marathon and the Fox Cities Marathon weekend, is my favorite sporting event of the entire year. When I make up my vacation schedule at work at the beginning of every year, the first date I always mark off is the Friday of the Red Clay Classic. From 1998 to 2006, I competed in six Whistlestop full marathons and two half marathons. Although I've been unable to attend the last three Whistlestops due to other conflicts, I plan to attend the 2010 event which will be held hopefully on my 49th birthday!
The last correlation between the two events, believe it or not, is that the Cruisin' the Corridor 5K and 10K were actually an off-shoot of the Red Clay Classic. In 1994, the Vaughn Library decided to hold a running event as a fundraiser. The staff at the library decided to host it on the Saturday of the Red Clay to attract some people who would attend the races. Unfortunately, the only race fan who got out of bed to run a 10K was yours truly. However, that first Cruisin' the Corridor attracted an excellent, if small field: Dawn and Matt Long of Poplar, Glen Hill of Maple, Darrell Thompson of Hayward (who won his age group at last weekend's Birkie Trail 5K), and ABR Ski Trail's co-owner Angela Santini of Ironwood. What I remembered most about that event was I tried like crazy to break 50 minutes but couldn't quite do it. At the awards ceremony in the afternoon, I found out I won my age group although I think I was the only one in it. For the next three years, the event was moved to the weekend ahead of Red Clay, and numbers gradually improved. Since 1998, the Cruisin' the Corridor 5K and 10K have been an integral part of the Whistlestop Marathon Festival.
Perhaps in a future post, I will go in some detail about some of my past Whistlestops. Although the current weather forecasts say otherwise, hopefully, Mother Nature will cooperate and give Ashland some nice weather the next two weekends. Take care, and good luck to everyone at the Whistlestop!