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.
May 30, 2011: 14th John Jarvi Jr. Memorial 10K/5K Run
I've been telling friends that this year is “the spring that never got started.” Mother Nature has especially been hard on the weekends, and this past Saturday was no exception for the 14th John Jarvi Jr. Memorial Run in Ironwood, MI. Heavy rain fell in Ironwood from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m., and temperatures were very cool in the low 50s. I'll admit it; I didn't have the stomach or nerve to walk or run under those conditions. Fortunately, approximately 130 to 140 people braved the conditions to honor one of the great ambassadors of running in the U.P. of Michigan.
Although I decided not to run, I stayed pretty busy. Since the Jarvi Run is the first event of the 2011 “Run the Range” series, I set up my table and sign-up sheets and gathered names for the series. The numbers are comparable to last year's totals: 19 women and 14 men. I'm a little surprised and disappointed that we were unable to get more high school and college age runners in the series. On the positive side, we were able to get more beginning adult runners in the series. Also, I think most, if not all, of the participants should make all four events to get their series T-shirts.
After the start of the run, I helped Festival Ironwood Race Director Chris Bergquist and long-time volunteer Ron Eyer with putting up tags on the finisher's boards. What makes this job especially difficult in rainy conditions is the ink on a wet tag fades and becomes really hard to read. So to remedy this, the finish line people wrote the runner's finishing number on the back of the tag, and then I rewrote the number on the front before giving the tag to Chris and Ron. If you haven't been a finish line volunteer before, it can be very hectic and sometimes you have to improvise and “think on the fly” to solve problems. Fortunately, we got all the tags up around 9:40 a.m., and I was able to tabulate points for the series within ten minutes. I was on my way home to celebrate my nephew Bobby's high school graduation from Hurley High School by 10 a.m.
All of this year's Jarvi winners have ties to the Ironwood High School Cross-Country program. The 5K champions were 2010 “Run the Series” champion Alan Peterson and current Ironwood High School runner Jessica Gering; 10K winners were Ben Noren and current UW-Eau Claire cross-country skier Carolyn Andresen. I want to thank Ironwood High School Cross-Country coach and race director Ben Schamndt and his teams for putting on a great run under trying weather conditions.
Finally, I want to wish everyone at “Northland Runner” a safe and happy Memorial Day. My next blog will be around the 4th of July, and, hopefully, you will again read my blog from a runner's perspective. Take care, and good running!
May 14, 2011: 29th Sole Burner 5K Run/Walk for Cancer
Before I go into today's topic, I want to apologize to everyone for not being able to attend this year's Fitgers 5K Run. When I got up that Saturday, we already had two to three inches of snow in the Hurley area. When I found out from the National Weather Service website that the Twin Ports was under a Winter Weather Advisory, I had no choice but to cancel my trip. Although I hated to miss out on Fitgers, I also didn't want my car to end up in a ditch somewhere between Ino and Iron River. Hopefully, I can make a trip to a Twin Ports event later this summer.
The only positive I could take out of my cancellation was that it motivated me to enter an event that I never entered before: the Sole Burner 5K Run/Walk in Appleton held last Saturday, 5/7. If I didn't mention this before in one of my blogs, I always try to enter at least one new event a year. The main reason I've never been able to participate in the Sole Burner is that it usually falls on the same weekend as the Journeys Marathon events in Eagle River. Since Journeys has been moved to this weekend, my schedule was finally freed up and I sent in my entry two days after Fitgers.
The Sole Burner has a lot of things going for it. First of all, the Sole Burner has been running for 29 years now, making it one of the oldest running events in Northeastern Wisconsin. Also, it is also one of the larger events in the entire state of Wisconsin with this year's edition having over 8,000 participants. In addition, all proceeds go the American Cancer Society. It also doesn't hurt that Race Director Gary Akgulian is one the nicest guys you will ever meet. Finally, the Sole Burner has one of the tougher finishes I've ever run, the notorious “Hill of Hope.”
When I arrived in downtown Appleton last Saturday, I was able to park in a ramp reserved for all participants about two blocks from the Start/Finish Line at City Park. Despite the large number of participants, getting in and out of downtown Appleton was no problem. I was able to get my tag with attached plastic chip immediately, and I had enough time to talk briefly to both Gary and chief timer John Ebel, who is also the race director of the Time-Warner 5K Run/Walk (which is part of the Fox Cities Marathon weekend). I also had time to talk to some of my friendly “arch-rivals” including Lori and Duane Dissen of Little Chute and Oshkosh West Girls' Basketball Coach Nikki Sutter. However, it's hard to call them rivals when they are always beating me!
I decided beforehand to walk the course, and that turned out to be a good decision for yours truly. Although the course goes around the beautiful campus of Lawrence University, it is also very demanding with several inclines including the Fox River Bridge. The most difficult part of the course is the previously-mentioned “Hill of Hope.” What makes the “Hill of Hope” so difficult is that it is a double-deck hill that turns between the first and second levels. On the second level, the angle of ascent is very steep. Fortunately for all participants, the course flattens out for the last 1/3 of a mile. I was more than happy with my finishing time of 43 minutes. Even if I were in good running form, I would have probably finished no better than between 27 and 30 minutes. The post-race spread was really good with a variety of fruit, breads, and cookies. Hopefully, if my knees come around, I'll try to run the SoleBurner next year.
Finally, my next blog will be two weeks from now when I will write about the 14th John Jarvi Jr. Memorial Run in Ironwood, MI. Take care, and good running!
April 9, 2011: "Run for Home" Events and Fitgers Preview
As most of you who follow “Northland Runner” may know, April is my favorite month of the year. For many of us in the Upper Midwest, April is usually the 'kick-off" month of the race season for runners. Fortunately for me, I'm within driving distance of most of these races from either Saxon (my hometown) or Omro/Oshkosh (where I reside/work). I'm going to devote most of today's blog to the “Run for Home” events held on Sunday, 4/3 in Appleton, WI. Near the end of the blog, I'll write a little about next week's Fitgers 5K in Duluth.
If you read my previous blogs of the “Run for Home”, you may remember it strictly as a 5K run. This year, a 10K was added. Personally, if I were the almighty “Lord of Running,” I would have planned for a year before adding a longer distance race to a well-established existing race. However, despite the shortened timetable from the initial decision last fall to Sunday's race, everything went off pretty well. The one thing you can never prepare for as either a runner, volunteer, or race director is the weather, which to be blunt, was miserable.
To steal the classic line from the old “Matchgame” television show, “How bad was it?” The weather was so bad I had no regrets about being strictly a volunteer who got to watch race from the comfort of a nice, heated van! The weather during the race went from rain to a rain/snow mix to sleet and back to rain. The wind wasn't too friendly, either, gusting anywhere between 15 to 25 mph. I ran in two Whistlestop marathons that weather was a major factor (2001 – heavy rain; 2006 – very cold after a snowstorm), and neither day was as bad as it was on Sunday.
That's why my hat goes off to the 454 people (154 in the 10K; 303 in the 5K) who competed in the “Run for Home”. I was especially inspired by the “back of the pack” runners who persevered 6.2 miles despite the terrible conditions. Although they're not ready to take on a Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher, they showed the same type of heart and determination. That should be a reminder to me that, despite my travails, I still can go out there and put one foot in front of the other.
In previous years, the turnout has been anywhere from 600 to 800 people. Although weather played a big part in the smaller turnout, I think another factor was the fact there was a first-time race in Appleton two days before on April Fool's Day that had well over 800 participants. As a recently “retired” race director, I know how difficult it is to set a date that would make everyone happy but I think some advanced communication between organizers would've been helpful. Since most of us runners don't have “unlimited” racing budgets, maybe something can be worked out for next year and beyond so more people can attend both events. Hopefully, by next year, I'll be able to participate in both.
One event that won't be lacking for participants will be next week's Fitgers 5K. I've been lucky to be a part of several Fitgers 5Ks since my first one in 1998, and I still get cranked up about going to Duluth for that one race. Usually, Fitgers has one of the finest racing fields for a 5K in the Upper Midwest, bar none. I know several of my running friends in the Fox Cities (some who are Boston qualifiers) have asked me about the quality of the fields at Fitgers. I like to compare the fields at Fitgers to the ones you would find at a major ski race like the Birkie or Mora Vasaloppet, or in my case, a stock car invitational like the Silver 1000 or the Red Clay Classic. You know you will probably see the best of the best, and you also know the competition will be fierce and exciting.
Finally, I hope to see a lot of you next weekend at Fitgers. This may be my only visit to the Twin Ports for a road race this year, so be sure to stop over and say hi. Take care, and see you next weekend!
February 20, 2011: It's Been A While
It's been a long time since I've written a blog entry for Northland Runner, but I think now's a good time to get the “Badgerland Blog” going again. A lot has happened since my last blog during Whistlestop weekend. I had to discontinue the Dogwood Run/Walk in Saxon due to various reasons, but at least we have enough in the “kitty” to keep the Dogwood Scholarship going for a few more years. I also decided to scale back my race schedule significantly for 2011. For the first time since 1992, there is the very strong possibility I may not run either a half or full marathon. As of now, I may enter only short events. Fortunately, one of them will be the Fitgers' 5K on April 15. There's no way I'm going to miss that one.
Although I'm going to take a hiatus from running major distance events, I still find time to run or walk plenty of 5K events. One of them was the Seroogy's Chocolates 15K/5K held last Saturday, 2/12, in DePere, WI. This event just grows in popularity I think, in part, it serves as a “kick-off” event for many runners in the Fox Valley. For an early season event, it's extremely well organized with plenty of perks like a Seroogy's Meltaway Bar (I haven't eaten mine yet) and a block of cheddar cheese shaped as a heart. The long-sleeved t-shirt had a beautiful multi-color design, and the finish line food provided by Seroogy's was exceptional.
My timing chip was a plastic strap that looped around the shoe laces. It's easy to put on and is not cumbersome. The only point of criticism I had with the event was the placement of the timing mats at the start line. All the runners had to make a right turn from the Shopko parking lot onto U.S. Highway 57 to hit the mats; very unusual. I think the reason why is the DePere Police Department didn't want to entire highway clogged with runners at the start. However, like all good runners, we adjusted to the situation without a hitch.
The 5K course is basically a loop around St. Nobert's College (training camp home of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers) and back to Seroogy's. Although I did a combination run/walk, I had plenty of good company with me and even finished with a kick! I was really happy with my finish, so there is some optimism going into 2011.
I'm going to wrap up my blog entry by wishing everyone a great 2011 running season, no matter how small or big your goals are. Also, I want to wish everyone who's going to participate in next week's Birkie good luck. Take care, and I hope to see everyone at Fitgers'.
October 9, 2010: Whistlestop Marathon Weekend
Today has definitely been a busy birthday so far and will continue to be busy tonight. This morning I ran in the Whistlestop half marathon from Moquah to the Bay Area Civic Center in Ashland. This evening, I am going to have a birthday dinner at my parents' house and attend a harvest festival for my dad's church. I would say I've been having a great birthday.
I’ll start my Whistlestop weekend with last night’s spaghetti feed and fish boil. Right away, I want to say the Whistlestop volunteers did a wonderful job the entire weekend. From packet pickup to the finish line festivities, the volunteers were on top of everything and treated all of us great. My dad Bob was nice enough to go to the feed with me as my “co-pilot.” We were lucky enough to cross paths with our own Shelly T. and Sam, and I wished them good luck. I probably needed the good luck more than they do, and I hoped their speed would rub off on me. We also met fellow Fox Cities PaceSetters member Steve Engle, who recently became a member of the 50 States and D.C. marathon club, and Ironwood area runners Ken and Leah Nikula. The spaghetti was pretty good, and Dad definitely enjoyed the fish bowl. We left the feed around 6:00 p.m.
I got to the Ashland Annex parking lot around 5:30 a.m. and soon met with Kristen Pond and Brad Bacher of Merrill, WI. We rode the bus together to Moquah and were among the first people at the start line. We met up again with Shelly T. as we picked up our timing chips, and when we went inside the town hall we saw none other than fellow blogger Eve. I’m glad that Kristen and Brad were able to meet some other members of “Northland Runner.” I also talked to a couple from Madison in the town hall, and they told me that they’ve been past participants of the Oshkosh Triathlon.
I’ll summarize my run in one paragraph. On my two long runs, my pace was approximately 12:30 mpm. I got to mile 5 at 54:50 (a little under 11:00 mpm), mile 8 at 1:31:10, mile 10 at 1:59:45, and the finish line at 2:44:49 for a final 12:33 mpm pace. Under the circumstances, that was the best I could hope for. Maybe I should have done either the 5K or 10K instead, but I wanted to run in the half marathon on my birthday. I will buy new running shoes in two weeks and hopefully that will help my knees. I was happy for both Brad and Kristen because I thought both of them ran really well. I sure enjoyed the finish line food, and I thought the chili was a big-time bargain.
Finally, I’m crossing my fingers that Sam and Tonya Thompson will already have qualified for the Boston Marathon. It’s great when runners strive for and achieve big-time goals. Good running to all of you, and I’ll try write another blog in two weeks. Take care!