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.
April 18, 2009: Mark's Day at Fitgers
I want to get the bad news out of the way immediately. First of all, I didn't get to visit with my "boss" Kris and many of the bloggers. Darn it!! Kris, I hope you can make it to Saxon for the Dogwood so we have some "running shop talk." The other bit of bad news was I spilled some cafe mocha from the Lakeview Coffee House on my t-shirt. Otherwise, I had an absolute blast!
There's a lot of good news I want to talk about. First of all, how about the quality of the field? It's amazing on how strong the women's field was with champion Amy Lyons and Jen Houck breaking 18 minutes and Katie Koski almost breaking 18 minutes. The men's field was also very strong with Jeremy Polson's winning time of 15:29 and the top nine men's finishers were all under 17 minutes. Using the "Run 4 Home" in Appleton for comparison purposes, the women champion's time was 19:25 and "only" the top four men finished under 17 minutes. Wow!
The biggest accomplishment for me was renewing acquaintances with running friends like Sara Cherne, Glenn Hill of Maple, "Bear" and Keith Moreland of Lake Nebagamon, Katie and Jess Koski, and Mike Benchina. I also met many new friends like fellow bloggers Shane and Eve, Jen Houck, Kelly Keeler (Kelly, I'm sorry but I forgot your married name!), and many others.
I want to thank all the Fitgers' volunteers and the Grandma's Marathon staff for their hard work and dedication. Everything went smoothly! The highlight of the day for me was when Race Director Scott Keenan took a moment to thank me for making the trip from Oshkosh and commended me for running hard. Scott, you're the best!
Oh, how did I do? For once, I made good on a prediction and finished under 27 minutes with a chip time of 26:34. I also beat my "Run 4 Home" time by over a minute, so it's just not fast people who run fast at Fitgers'!
Finally, a big "thank you" goes to the people of Duluth from this blogger from Badgerland. Thanks for showing me a great time! My next blog will be two weeks from now when I will write about the inaugural Jailbreak Marathon and Half-Marathon from Wautoma, WI (40 miles west of Oshkosh).
April 11, 2009: Mark's Trip to the Big City
As promised, here's my second post of this Easter weekend. By the way, I want to wish my fellow Northland Runner bloggers and readers a very Happy Easter. In a post last September, I listed April as one of my favorite months of the year. One of the main reasons is, when the weather's nice, you can't beat an April morning to go running. Today definitely fit that description. I ran approximately 12 miles here in Saxon, and the weather was perfect: sunny, no wind whatsoever, and temperatures in the low 40s. I even saw about five deer in the fields near U.S. Highway 2. What a great time!
Before I go in detail about my upcoming trip next weekend to Duluth for the Fitgers' 5K, I should talk briefly about two runs that will go on that same morning. The first one is the Norway (MI) Spring Classic 10K in the U.P. Although I never did that event, I know it always draws a competitive field of runners and the organizers do a great job making out-of-town runners feel welcomed. Also, I know there is a very steep, tough hill near the finish line. The other event will be the third annual Oshkosh Half Marathon and 5K. I think for the first two years the event has averaged over 2,000 participants for all events. There will also be a spaghetti feed on the night before at a church. So, if you are unable to be at Fitgers but in the vicinity of Norway, MI or Oshkosh, go check out these great events.
Now, some of you may be wondering why I would make the trek to Duluth instead of the Oshkosh event, especially since the route goes right pass my place of business (O'Neil and Associates). The most important reason is that Friday, April 17 is my nephew Tate's twelfth birthday, and Uncle Mark is not going to miss out on his birthday party on Saturday, April 18. Also, I always try to make it to one Twin Ports run a year if I can. Since I can't make to the Grandma's Marathon events, I always try to make it to the Fitgers' 5K if possible.
There still are some other important reasons why I'm making the trip to what I like to call the "big city." Since I'm now a Northland Runner blogger, I am anxious to meet my fellow bloggers and some of the readers of this site. It's always fun to exchange ideas and share experiences with fellow runners. Duluth has always been known in the Upper Midwest as a "hotbed" for great runners and cross-country skiiers. The list can go on and on: Jarrow, Rochelle Wurth, Scott Jurek, Rod Raymond, Jill Anderson, Jeff and Patrice Allen, Katie and Jesse Koski, Liz Holliday, and Diane Holliday-Welsh. Boy, how do I respect those guys and gals! I've been fortunate to have met most of them, and an event like Fitgers' gives me a chance to "touch base" with them and other Twin Ports athletes.
Boy, now I'm really fired up for next weekend! I should be at the Fitgers' complex around 7:00 a.m. Don't be afraid to stop by and say hi; I'll be wearing a "Run 4 Home" T-shirt, black pants, and black cap. During the run, I'll be wearing my "PaceSetters" tank top. Again, Happy Easter and I'll see you all next Saturday!
April 10, 2009: "Run 4 Home 5K" and Long Run to Oshkosh
No, it's not the Easter Bunny! It's just me back in Saxon writing another blog from Badgerland. This is the first of two blogs I'm going to be writing this Easter weekend. In today's blog, I'll be writing about the "Run 4 Home 5K" held last Saturday in Appleton and a 16-mile long run I did the next day from Omro to Oshkosh and back. Tomorrow I will focus on my upcoming trip to Duluth for the Fitgers' 5K and a couple of runs which will be held the same day that I won't be able to attend.
The "Run 4 Home 5K" is an annual fund-raiser for one of the running clubs I belong to, in this case the Fox Cities PaceSetters. This event is held, quite appropriately, at Fox Cities Stadium, which is the home of the Milwaukee Brewers' Class A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The start is held outside the stadium, and the runners merge onto a black-topped bike trail. The trail basically loops around Fox Valley Technical College and back to the stadium. The runners then go around the outfield warning track and finish at the first base dugout. The toughest part of the course is a foot bridge that goes over U.S. Highway 41 which the runners have to run twice. What makes the bridge even more challenging that there are two steep hills with bumps on each side. I almost tripped on one of those bumps as I was running downhill near the end of the run.
Two of the big perks of this event are a nice finisher's medallion and a voucher for a ticket to a future Timber Rattlers' game (I might go to a game the Tuesday before Fitgers'). A really nice post-race buffet was held in the stadium's picnic area on the first base side, which included bagels, cookies, plenty of fruit, and, yes, even hot dogs (hey, it's a baseball stadium)! Personally, I accomplished my goal of running under 9 minute miles (overall time of 27:38). Hopefully, I can use this as a springboard to break 27 minutes at Fitgers'.
Usually, I don't run the day after a race but I wanted to get in a long run before my first half marathon at the end of April. So I decided to run a loop from my place in Omro to the west end of Oshkosh and back home. I ran south two miles to County Highway E and then turn left onto Highway E straight to Oshkosh. If you like quiet farmland, this is the route because there isn't much traffic and you are surrounded by cornfields. There are a couple of horse stables on County E, so I did have a small cheering section. Fortunately, I wasn't all alone because I saw a fellow runner and a bicyclist on the route. The temperatures were in the low 40s under mostly cloudly skies.
At about nine miles, I turned from County E onto Oakwood Avenue (far west Oshkosh) for about one mile and made a left turn on Highway 21 for the last six miles back to Omro. The way back to Omro is a little hillier, but that wasn't much of a problem. What was a problem was a wind from the west that really started to slow me down at mile 13.1 (approximately 2:23). When I got to mile 14.1, the wind won over and I decided to walk the remaining 1.9 miles. I ran the 14.1 miles in 2:35:30, which is a little over 11-minute miles. For an early spring training run, I was very happy. With my 1.9 mile "cool down" run, I got in exactly 16 miles. I don't think I've completed a 16 mile run this early in April since the mid-90s, so for me this was a big accomplishment.
Tomorrow, I'll try to get in another long run, but I won't go in any great detail. Instead, I want to focus on the Fitgers' 5K Run and why I decided to go to Duluth instead of a run in Oshkosh where the mile 3 marker is located at my place of work. See you tomorrow!
March 27, 2009: Timing Chips and Some "Must" Reading
Hi Northland Runner readers! I'm back to write about the latest running news from Badgerland. The snow is basically all gone in the Oshkosh area. Right now in Saxon there is a couple inches on the ground after a brief "lake effect" snow shower. When I drove towards Saxon from Hurley, I paid particular attention to the shoulders of U.S. 2 because I plan to go on a 10-plus mile long run tomorrow. Luckily, the shoulders look pretty bare so I should have good footing tomorrow morning for my run.
When I was driving to work in Oshkosh this morning, I was thinking about some ideas for my blog tonight. I must have a good life if the first thing on my mind in the morning is my next running blog entry! Well, I'm going to offer my views on timing chips and then I want to discuss some very good articles in the latest issue of a regional sports magazine.
Last Saturday, I ran in a 5 mile run in Oshkosh hosted by RunAway Shoes and Fratello's Restaurant. Overall, I had a great time and actually ran pretty good (47:57) on a flat hiking trail that was snow-covered after an overnight snow. The only problem(s) I had was with my timing chip (hence the previous paragrph). The first problem I had was about ten minutes before the start when my plastic tie strap broke off! So I had to rush back to the registration area to get another strap. The other problem occurred two days later when checking the results only to find out my name was missing! Since there was no machinery available to authorize the chips, there was no way of knowing if there was a malfunction with the chip.
I wasn't overly concerned that my own name was missing; I already knew what my finishing time was from my watch and the overhead clock at the finish line. What did concern me was the lady who finished directly behind me had her name missing from the results as well! So I called the race director and explained the situation to him. Being a race director myself, the last thing you want is a name missing from your results or a runner listed with an incorrect time. So he told me he would investigate things and hopefully resolve the problem with the timing people. Hey, that's really all you can expect, and I was satisfied after our talk.
The type of chip used at that run was a flat, circuit-board type chip. I never felt comfortable with that type of chip; it's pretty bulky and usually flops around my shoe. I prefer the ankle-strap type chip used by White River Timing of Iron River, WI; easy to put on and easy to take off. Another type of chip I like is the spider-like chip that you can secure to your shoe with a plastic tie-wrap. That type of chip is used at the Journeys Marathon and Fox Cities Marathon.
The moral of this story for me is always have a backup plan. Fortunately, I had my watch on so I knew what my finishing time was. If you ever have a chip or timing problem, please inform either the race director or timing people of the situation. If they are made aware of the problem, then they can take the appropriate corrective action so the problem won't occur again. Like I said earlier, I wasn't too concerned that my name was missing from the finisher's list, but you don't want others to lose out on a recorded finish or an award because of an error.
Finally, I want to recommend a couple of articles from the April issue of Silent Sports Magazine. The first article is "April - The Runner's New Year" by Tom Kauffman of Madison, WI. I never met Tom, but I always enjoy reading his column. His articles have always been pretty insightful and provide good information for runners of all abilities. The other article is from a student from UW-Stevens Point about the growth of college running clubs. So please check them out.
My next blog will be two weeks from now when I will write about an upcoming 5K in Appleton and my trip to Duluth for the Fitgers' 5K. Take care!
March 7, 2009: Getting In The Miles Without Getting Any Speed
Well, I'm back again to talk about more running! Now, that we're into March, I'm starting to see more people running. According to KBJR's meteorologist George Kessler, March produces more snow than any other month of the year. March is also known as a transition month in which there could be a real mixed bag of weather. Yesterday, I drove from Oshkosh to Saxon in temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees and sunny weather. Tomorrow, the forecast for Northeastern Wisconsin (Green Bay and Fox Cities) calls for a mix of sleet and snow. Because of that forecast, I'll have to drive back to Omro later today. For Tuesday, that same area may get thunderstorms!
Since a person doesn't know what the weather will be from one day to the next, the best thing to do is to get outside and do some running "while the getting's good." Just like the title of my blog states, I've been able to get some really good miles in, including a 9 mile run two weeks ago in Omro and a 12-miler in Green Bay last Saturday. Conversely, my times on these runs have been very slow with a pace over 10 minutes-per-mile. On my 3.5 mile run this morning in Saxon, my pace was at about 10 minutes-per-mile.
Am I discouraged with my slow times? Definitely not! Do I wish my pace would be faster? Sure, but this early in the running season I would prefer to get a 10 to 13 mile run in at a 10 or 11 minute-per-mile pace than to run a 5K under 27 minutes. According to U.P. Road Runners Club President Fred Jacobs, he wrote in the club's newsletter "Running Amuck" that a runner generally runs at a pace about a minute a mile slower in the winter than she or he would in the spring or summer. Fred took in account road conditions, temperatures, precipitation, etc. I agree, because I usually run at my best late in the summer and early in the fall. A good example for me was last year. When I ran the Fitgers 5K on cold, raining April morning, I finished at 27:15. On July 5 at the Draggin' Tail 5 Mile Run in Lake Nebagamon, I got to the 5K marker at 26:12!
So I guess what I'm trying to say is don't be discouraged if you're not going as fast as you hope. Just keep getting out there when you can, and those times will eventually go down. Now, I just got to convince myself of that! Finally, good running to all of you, and I'll write my next blog during the last weekend of March. Take care!