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 30, 2010: Second Annual Jailbreak Marathon Weekend
As Hall of Fame baseball player Yogi Berra would say, “It was déjà vu all over again.” What I am referring to here was the weather last Friday and Saturday (April 23 and 24) at the second Jailbreak Marathon weekend in Wautoma, WI (forty miles west of Oshkosh, WI). To refresh everybody memories, the day before the run last year the temperatures were in the low to mid 80s. During the morning of the run, rain poured and temperatures dropped to the upper 40s. Last Friday’s temperatures were not as warm as from a year ago, but it was still in the mid 60s with some humidity. When I drove to Wautoma on early Saturday, it started raining pretty hard but at least the temperatures weren’t dropping. Once I got to the Waushara County Fairgrounds, the rain became more sporadic until the start of the marathon.
Another thing that hasn’t changed from last year was the enthusiasm and hospitality of the race organizers and volunteers. I was very touched that co-race directors Wade Pennau and George Peterman had remembered me from last year and taken the time to visit with me at length. The volunteers went out of their way to make all the participants feel welcomed. A unique feature of the Jailbreak Marathon is all participants received a post-race meal courtesy of the Wautoma Kiwanis Club. All events had increased numbers from last year: the marathon had 36 runners (24 in 2009), the half marathon had 67 runners (45 in 2009), and the 5K had the biggest increase with 170 runners, an increase of 40 from 2009. I was especially impressed that 34 of the 36 marathoners finished under 5 hours. The starts for the three events were staggered 30 minutes apart with my event, the 5K, starting at 9:00 a.m.
The 5K course is challenging but very fair. The first mile had some inclines before leveling off. The second mile was a gentle downhill followed by a flat portion. From the 2 mile marker to the finish, the runners had to go up a hill followed by a turn to the turnaround. From the turnaround, the runners go downhill into a turn back to the fairgrounds. Despite all the different course features, I ran my most consistent race of the year with a finish of 28:45. At the “Run4Home” in Appleton, I had a very slow first mile of 10:07. At Fitgers’, I got to mile 2 at 18:20 before finishing the last 1.1 miles in 11 minutes. At Jailbreak, my mile splits were 9:16, 18:36, and 27:58, basically a 9:18 to 9:20 pace. A month ago, I would have never thought I would finish a 5K under 30 minutes with all my issues so I am thrilled that my last two 5Ks were under 30 minutes and that I improved my time in all three of my 5Ks. My next goal as I prepare for my two half marathons in May is to try to run a sub 9 minute mile.
Well, that’s a wrap of my April full of 5Ks. I plan to write a blog tomorrow (Saturday, May 1) to recap the kick-off party of the Fox Cities Marathon held Thursday, April 29 at the Paper Valley Radisson in Appleton and preview the 14th Journeys Marathon weekend in Eagle River, WI. See you tomorrow!
April 17, 2010: Back-to-Back Big Time 5K Races
As I’ve mentioned sometimes in my Badgerland Blog, April is my favorite month of the year. The reasons are many: the first full month of spring, the start of major league baseball and the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs, the start of spring high school sports, and, finally, some of the year’s best weather for running. Not coincidentally, two of my favorite 5K runs are held in the month of April, and, this year, both events were held six days apart. The first one was the “Run4Home” 5K held on Sunday, April 11 at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton. The second one was, of course, the Fitgers’ 5K held earlier today in Duluth. I was originally going to devote two separate blogs on these events, but I think I can get enough info in with one entry.
The “Run4 Home” 5K is a major fundraiser for one of the running clubs I am a member, in this case the Fox Cities PaceSetters. For the first time in the nine years of the event, there is a major sponsor, in this case Scheels sporting goods store. On the day before the run, early packet pick-up was held at the store’s Fox Cities Mall location. Each participant received a voucher for a Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ game (I may go to one on Saturday, April 24), a Scheels’ key chain, and a Scheels’ water bottle. I think this is quite generous for a 5K run. Also, for the first time, chip timing (ankle straps) was used.
The course starts at the south parking lot and winds through a bike trail which loops around the Fox Valley Technical College campus. The runners then finally enter the stadium through an entrance in left field and run around the warning track to the finish at the first base dugout. In my opinion, the toughest part of the course is a bridge overlooking U.S. Highway 41. Runners have to be particularly careful of dips found at each end of the bridge. I remember almost falling one year after stepping in one of those dips.
Two past champions of the Fox Cities Marathon won the “Run4Home.” Neenah High School cross-country coach Mike Heidke (2009 FCM winner) won the men’s race in 16:01, and three-time FCM champion Sue Pierson won the women’s race in 19:00. I was able to talk to Sue and her husband Mike after the race, and I actually talked about last year’s Fitgers’ 5K with her. As far as my run, I finished with a chip time of 30:20. I was especially happy that my pace actually improved as the run went on. Surprisingly, I even had a strong finishing kick at the end!
I’m going to start my day at a Fitgers with a story that happened the evening of the “Run4Home.” I had a conversation with fellow runner and the very successful head girls’ basketball coach of Oshkosh West High School Nikki Sutter at an all-star game about my run that morning and the upcoming Fitgers’ race. I kidded Nikki that “I’ll just latch on one of those fast Duluth runners and shave at least a minute off my time.” Not knowing…
Guess what? That’s exactly what happened! I had a finishing time (on my watch) of 29:10, over a minute faster than my run at Appleton. I don’t what magic the city of Duluth has, but I have consistently run Fitgers faster than the “Run4Home.” I think the courses are quite similar, and I actually think the Fitgers’ course is a little more demanding with the stretch on the Lake Avenue bridge. I think a big factor is the large number of competitive runners at Fitgers. With 1,600 runners, you have plenty of company on the course. I don’t try to race anyone, but I know at Fitgers I run with more intensity than I do at other 5Ks. I think pride has something to do with it; I don’t want to hit the wall with all the people around me. Also, as I told people like Nikki Sutter and Sue Pierson last Sunday and am not afraid to tell this to anyone, Duluth has many of the best distance runners in the Upper Midwest. I always believe that fast people will inspire you to run faster, and this is definitely the case at Fitgers.
Speaking of fast people, I was lucky enough to visit with today’s champions Jeremy Polson and Katie Koski. I am also very proud to say that Katie is the only woman to have won both the Paavo Nurmi and Whistlestop marathons. I also got to visit with “my boss” at Northland Runner Kris and some of the other Northland Runner bloggers and contributors. I especially want to give kudos to fellow blogger Jen and contributor “Aims.” I was able to talk to Jen at length this morning, and “Aims” was nice enough to buy this “tightwad” a coffee. Glad to meet you both, and good luck with your upcoming events!
Finally, despite my times being slower than in the past, I still find plenty of positives with my two runs. Now I got to “stack up” some more positives with my next event, the Jailbreak 5K in Wautoma, WI on Saturday, April 24. Last year, I struggled with rain while running the half marathon. Hopefully, Ma Nature will bless the good people of Wautoma with nice weather! Take care, and my next blog will either be on Saturday, May 1 or Saturday, May 8. See you then and good running!
April 4, 2010: "Walking" the Extra Mile and Gearing Up for a Busy April
I want to begin this portion of my Badgerland Blog by wishing my fellow bloggers and readers of Northland Runner a very Happy Easter. I’ve been here in Saxon since Thursday night and will leave for Omro early on Monday. Since my last blog in mid-March, the weather has been warmer and dryer than normal throughout the Upper Midwest. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to any races or large group runs since the Neenah High School 5K in early March; however, that will change in a hurry next Sunday when I will participate in the “Run 4 Home” 5K at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton. On Saturday, April 17, I will be in Duluth for the Fitgers’ 5K, and on the following Saturday I will be Wautoma, WI for the Jailbreak Marathon events (I will run the 5K).
Since the diagnosis of my arthritis in February, I’ve been following the advise of my doctor and you by being smarter about my running. Although I haven’t done a long run since the Seroogy’s 15K Valentine Run in early February, I’ve been able to do two walks of 7 miles (about two hours) and one walk of 6 miles (about 100 minutes) in the last two weeks. On Good Friday, I ran 3 miles on the hilly Upper Road in Saxon followed by 10 to 15 minutes of walking. I thought I handled the hills very well, but I didn’t have much leg turnover on the flat portion of my route. Hopefully, I will be able to increase my actually running to 10 to 11 miles by Mother’s Day weekend in time for the Journeys’ Half Marathon in Eagle River, WI.
As far as my goals for the next three weekends, I really don’t have any as far as time goals. I just want to run a steady pace and be comfortable at the same time. Realistically, I don’t think I can match my times from last year’s Run 4 Home or Fitgers’. If I even come close, I would consider that a personal victory. The one thing that will remain from previous years is the enthusiasm and fun I have running with my many friends from both the Fox Cities and the Twin Ports.
I’m pretty curious on what the fields will be for both events and, like last year, will write down finishing times for the top competitors for both events and compare times. I still vividly remember last year’s Fitgers’ field when the top two women finished under 18 minutes and the top nine men finished under 17 minutes. Hopefully, this year’s fields for both events will be just as strong.
Finally, my dad and brother on their own fixed up my 1991 Timberlin Pathways mountain bike (bless them!), and I was able to go for a couple of short rides. If I have enough room in my Chevy Equinox, I might take my bike with me back to Omro in two weeks, which will be the time I will write my next blog to recap the Run 4 Home event and have a preview of the Fitgers’ 5K. Take care, and take advantage of this great April weather!
March 12, 2010: Knee Issues and Neenah's "Rocket Blast-Off 5K"
Hi Northland Runner readers! I’m back in Saxon to write another blog from Badgerland. I’m going to start this entry with a quote from University of Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan. In his autobiography “Another Hill to Climb,” Coach Ryan described his halftime pep talks to his team. “I always give them the spinach before I give them the steak.” In other words, he chews them out first for their mistakes and then praises them for what they did right.
In tonight’s blog, I’m going to give you the spinach first and then lavish you with a steak. On Thursday, February 25, I went to see my personal physician for my annual physicial examination at Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh. After some preliminary tests, I asked my doctor to test my knees. As I’ve mentioned many times in previous blogs, I’ve been fighting both leg and knee soreness. So he twisted and tested each knee, and both knees made a clunking noise. He then gave me his prognosis: I’m developing arthritis in both knees, more so in the left knee. He wrote me prescriptions for glucosamine chondroitin and fish oil. At this time, he said that the knees were structurally fine and didn’t recommend X-rays. Finally, he encouraged me to continue to do some running (and some cross-training) but also gave me this advice, “Be smart with your running.”
To be honest, I wasn’t surprised with my doctor’s prognosis. I knew my running has fallen off since last summer, but I was too stubborn to think I had serious leg issues. I thought with some rest my legs would come around by now but it just wasn’t happening. So now I have to eat my “spinach” and adjust my running program.
Now, I’ll go into the “steak” portion of this blog. Last Saturday, March 6, I went to Neenah High School to run in the 4th Annual “Rocket Blast Off 5K.” The event is a fundraiser for the boys’ track and field team, and the course basically loops around the high school campus. The start/finish line was held at the Memorial Park Pavilion, which is a beautiful building complete with a kitchen and bathrooms. The weather was perfect for the 10:00 a.m. start: temperatures in the upper 30s under sunny skis and no wind.
I had a nice talk with Race Director and Head Coach Kurt Krueger before the run and told him about my arthritis. He told me to keep my chin up because he’s going through the same thing. I appreciated his kind words, and at least I know I’m not alone. I also talked to Fox Cities Marathon Director of Operations Jesse Drake, and I kidded him that this may be the year that I won’t be “double-dipping (running two events)” at the FCM. He gave me similar advice about keeping my chin up and told me to keep him abreast with my situation.
As far as my run, I was quite pleasantly surprised with my one mile split of 9:25 and actually got to mile 2 under 20 minutes. However, I slowed down for the last 1.1 miles and finished with a time of 31:25, about a 10:05 mpm pace. Honestly, I was very happy with my run, especially for my first race after my recent diagnosis. Speaking of steak, I sure helped myself to a nice post-race snack of a couple of muffins and hot cocoa. I’m sure Coach Krueger was happy with the turnout of 82 runners and walkers. In my case, I was thrilled to finish the race pain-free!
In closing, I’m going have to adjust my race goals for 2010 accordingly. I still plan to run Fitgers’ and two other 5Ks in April and, as of now, will try to run the half marathons at Journeys’ in Eagle River and Cellcom Green Bay during May. However, I’ll have “to play it by ear” for the rest of the year. For sure, I’m not going to run any marathons in 2010 and will have to think long and hard before committing to running a half marathon in the summer or fall. However, when I do go to a race, I’ll make sure I’ll have the same fun as always. Really, that’s what running is all about. Enjoy this great March weather, and I’ll write my next blog during Easter weekend. Take care!
February 14, 2010: Cross-Country Skiing, a "Snow" Run, and an Olympic Salute
First of all, I want to wish all the bloggers and readers of Northland Runner a Happy Valentine’s Day. Per tradition in our family, I exchanged Valentine candies with my parents, sister, brother, and his family. Since I’m single and don’t have a “significant other” at this time, I really enjoy celebrating and sharing Valentine’s Day with my family.
I usually come home to Saxon for President’s Day weekend for a number of reasons including car work, dental work, taxes, etc. For fun reasons, I try to get some rare cross-country skiing in at one of the fine trail systems we have in the Hurley-Ironwood area, in this case the Wolverine Nordic Trails between Ironwood and Bessemer, MI. On Friday night I debated whether to go skiing or running on Saturday. Well, the skiing won out for two reasons: I needed to do some kind of cross-training to save my legs and I haven’t been on skis for two years.
The headquarters of the Wolverine Trails are located just west of the Grand View Hospital. The warming cabin is state-of the-art, complete with a waxing room, two dressing rooms, and a lobby with numerous tables. The Wolverine Ski Club maintains the trails system and warming cabin. For a bargain price of $8, skiers of all abilities get to test 32 kilometers of well-groom trails. When I arrived at the cabin around 8:30 a.m., there were two vehicles in the parking lot. Since the temperatures around the low teens, I just put on a couple layers of green Swix wax on my 1995 Fischer classical skis (no fancy combinations for simple me) and away I went. Since I haven’t skied for a long time, I just did three to four loops on the 2.2 Novice Loop.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous with bright sunshine and no wind. It was so peaceful out there in the woods, and I checked my form several times by looking at my shadow. My form was pretty typical for someone after a long layoff: very stiff. However, with the fast snow surface, I stayed in my downhill tuck very well and didn’t fall at all. When I was about ready to leave around 11:30 a.m., the parking lot was beginning to fill up really fast with skiers from Madison, Twin Cities, and the Chicago area. Depending on how my running is going, I might try to make it back to Wolverine in mid-March before the spring thaw begins and try the more advance trails, including a loop around Big Powderhorn Mountain.
Between 11:00 a.m. and noon today, I went for a run on what is known as the “Lower Road” here in Saxon. It’s a relatively flat stretch that parallels the Iron Horse snowmobile and ATV trail. What caught me by surprise that a heavy snow started to fall as soon I went out the door. I said to myself, “Snow or no snow, get running!” I decided to treat it like a interval run: run in one direction for 20 minutes and turn back and try to match that time or better it. When I got near the turnaround point, a bunch of snowmobilers on the Iron Horse stared at me while they were going in the opposite direction. They probably thought I was nuts, and they were probably right but I didn’t care. When I running back towards my parents’ house, the snow started to get heavier. But I became more focused and ran harder. By the time I got home, I matched my time at the turnaround! Even better, I had no leg or knee soreness. So, hopefully, this “confidence boost” will help me this weekend as I make another trip to Green Bay for another marathon training run.
Hey, I want to give a salute to Johnny Spillane of the U.S Olympic Nordic Combined team for winning the silver medal today, the first for the U.S.A. in this event. Also, his teammates finished fourth and sixth. I’m really impressed with the television analysis of Chad Samela, the head Nordic Skiing coach at Saint Scholastica. He really broke the event down so the casual viewer can understand what’s going on. It’s great to see the U.S. win a medal in one of the Nordic events, and I’m guessing this may not be the only one.
Finally, good luck to everyone who’s going to compete in the Birkie in two weeks. Well, time to watch the Daytona 500 again (two red flag delays totaling over an hour; you’re not missing much). Take care, and I’ll write another blog in mid-March.