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 5, 2012: Mark's 2012 Race Season - Lots of Charity Events and Fun
I can't believe it's been Thanksgiving since I've written a blog, but just think of it as my coming out of a long hibernation. I've been going out for some walk/runs three to four times of week, but I've been unable to attend many races. Fortunately, I've been to a couple of races in the past month I've going to discuss here, and I'm going to attend a very big race in Appleton next Saturday, May 12. However, I'm going to be selective on my races this year, focusing on run/walks for charity and maybe an event or two I've haven't been before. For the second straight year, I probably won't run in a half marathon or marathon but I won't rule out doing one in 2013 or beyond.
The first race I'm going to tell you about is the Second April Fool's 5K Run held on Friday, March 30 in Appleton. On Thursday, I made the trip to Orthopedics and Sports Institute (OSI) in Appleton from work in Oshkosh to pick up my packet. I got in and out within five minutes, so that told me immediately that organizers “were on the ball.” The weather was absolutely perfect, too, with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 50s. The only reason I'm bringing up Thursday's weather because the next day Mother Nature threw a double whammy on the participants: very light drizzle, wind from the North, and temperatures in the low 40s. Typical runner's luck!
However, we runners and walkers always adapt to changing weather conditions, right? I wore my bright yellow windbreaker and black running pants at the start line at OSI so I was plenty comfortable. The route was relatively flat with several turns. The finish line was at the Players Choice Sports facility near Appleton North High School. The big highlight after finishing was live music by a 5-piece rock band. The finish line food was pretty basic but good: bagels, orange slices, and bananas. The sports fabric t-shirt was beautiful with a yellow background with multicolor lettering. The race started around 6:00 p.m., my finishing time was under 45 minutes, and I was on my way home before 7:30 p.m. Overall, I had a great time and a good way to jump-start my weekend.
Two weeks ago (Sunday, April 22), I participated in the 5K portion of the 6th Oshkosh Half Marathon and 5K Run. Usually this event falls on the same weekend as the Fitgers 5K but I decided this year to stay close to home. Between both events, there were over 1,800 participants. The start line was on Main Street in downtown Oshkosh and the finish line was at the beautiful Leach Amphitheater right near the Fox River. We ran (or in my case, walked) with the half marathoners for the first mile, and then we went our separate ways. The weather was really comfortable with temperatures in the low 50s, and, most importantly, no wind! I had plenty of company during my jaunt, and Gloria West and her Midwestern Sports Events team were very generous with the finish line food. The best thing about starting a 5K race at 7:00 a.m. is I'm all done before 8:00 a.m.! Participating in an event like this and Fitgers in good weather is why I love April so much.
Finally, as I mentioned in my opening paragraph, next week I will enter the very popular St. Joe's Run in Appleton. Last year's event drew over 8,000 people, and all proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society. My friend Gary Agkuilian is the race director and one of the nicest guys I know in running. Gary loves to participates in endurance events, too, such as the Fox Cities Marathon and Birkie. In closing, I want to wish all the moms who read Northland Runner a very happy Mothers' Day and I promise it won't be another six months before I write another blog!
November 24, 2011: What Moves You?!
First of all, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. I just got back from the annual impromptu Thanksgiving run/walk in Ironwood, MI hosted by the Wil and Marianne Andresen Family. As we speak, the Turkey Trot run/walks(s) are being held in various Festival Foods locations in Northeastern Wisconsin. Also, I think there is a Thanksgiving run being held in downtown Duluth. So wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying some exercise and burning some calories off before the big dinner!
Today's blog entry is based on this year's theme for the Fox Cities Marathon, and I think that's a question every runner ask of herself/himself. If you substitute the word “moves” with “motivates”, the meaning of the question would be the same. What is it that gets us out there running day after day, week after week, month after month, and, for the majority of us, year after year? Whether it is heavy rain or snow or extreme cold or heat, why do we continue to go out there to run mile after mile?
For me, I have many different answers, and, sometimes, they change as I get older. When I ran my first marathon (the 1978 Paavo Nurmi Marathon) as a teenager still in high school, I did it for acceptance by my classmates and neighbors. Since I was cut in both basketball and baseball, I want to prove to people that I could do something athletically difficult. Well, I did finish just under 6 hours and nobody questioned my athletic ability again. The following year, after a very successful track and field season for Hurley High School, I finished the same Paavo Nurmi Marathon course in 3:23:35. To this day, that's been my P.R.
Then the following year I got out of running completely and went on a 12-year hiatus. So what “moved” me out of running for those 12 years? I just basically burnt myself out. I wasn't having any fun running and/or competing so I said to heck with it. So what got me back into running in 1991 and into 1992? It was an article in the Duluth News-Tribune in late July 1991 about Diane Holiday-Welsh and her exploits in cross-country skiing, running, and triathlons. What I remember most about the article was that she had said that she had never competed in any high school sports and gotten into sports sometime after college. I was starting to do some cross-country skiing and biking at that time, but, after reading that article, I started to get serious about staying in shape and began a running program. I've been lucky to have met both Diane and her husband Kevin several times, and I've told them about the article and how it motivated me. They also get a laugh when I call them my”heroes.” So the answer for getting back into running is following the example of another runner.
Although the example set by Diane and Kevin got me back into running, I now have to explain what has kept me into running since 1991 without burning out. The answers are many but are completely honorable. One is running to me is a big “adrenaline rush.” Being a stock car fan, I love being around a racing atmosphere. Running gives me that without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a stock car! Another answer is fellowship. Running has been a wonderful social outlet for me, and I've met many, many great friends. I've been very fortunate to have met so many great people in a clean, healthy environment. Another answer is charity; many running events, including my former Dogwood Run/Walk, support many great, worthwhile causes. Nothing beats getting an adrenaline rush and burning tons of calories while at the some time helping our fellow man.
Finally, I have one more answer to what moves me: fun! Since I got back into running, I've vowed to have fun no matter what my finishing time is or where I finish in a race. That is why I still run today and hope to continue to do until I leave this earth. Well, I just told you what moves me, so what moves you?! Please have a great Thanksgiving, and I'll have another blog during Christmas week.
October 1, 2011: Fox Cities Marathon (FCM) Festival of Races
It's been a while since I've posted, but I first had to find something to write about. Well, I found that something two weeks ago when I both ran and volunteered in the 21st Community First Fox Cities Marathon (FCM) Festival of Races.
On Friday, 9/16, I went to the marathon expo at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton to pick up my bib, T-shirt, and goody bag for the Time-Warner Cable 5K Run to be held the next day. For my $20 entry fee, I got a lot of “bang for my buck” with a nice book bag that included several goodies. My T-shirt had a gray background with orange and pink lettering. Since a portion of the proceeds will go to breast cancer research, on the bottom of the T-shirt is the phrase “Running for a reason!” and, appropriately, a pink ribbon.
The expo had various running store vendors and other suppliers. Some of the marathons that had booths included Cellcom Green Bay, Madison, and, I'm very happy to say, Grandma's, represented by Race Director Scott Keenan and Danielle (I'm sorry, but I forgot her last name). I was able to talk to them briefly and thanked them for making the trip to the Fox Cities, and I signed up for their raffle for free entry to the 2012 Grandma's Marathon.
On Saturday morning, I ran in the Time-Warner Cable 5K and finished in 41:33. Although I no longer am able to run 8:30 minute miles, I was definitely not lonely out there. With the race maxing out with 1,600 participants, I had plenty of company including beginning adult runners, kids, grand-parents, and great grand-parents who decided to run with one over-the-hill marathoner from Omro (me, if you haven't guessed already). And, you know what, I had so much fun that I wouldn't trade my experience that day for anything.
After replenishing myself with plenty of food and drink after the run, I decided to visit briefly with Scott Keenan at the expo before I started my four hour shift as a volunteer. We talked about running in general, but we both asked each other why most runners prefer the same events year after year and not try events that they may have never run before. We both came to the conclusion that travel and expenses are probably the biggest reasons. It may be hard to convince someone from the Twin Ports to drive five to six hours and stay at least one to two nights in a motel to compete in the FCM when there are events like the Twin Cities Marathon and Whstlestop that are only two to three hours away and probably not require an overnight stay at a motel.
Another factor that I brought up to Scott is the type of course that runners prefer. Although the FCM is a fair course and definitely not as hilly as the Paavo Nurmi or Journeys' in Eagle River, it's not an ideal course to set either a P.R. or a Boston-qualify time like Whistlestop or the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. In fact, several Appleton-area runners prefer to run the Lakefront or Whistlestop over the FCM in order to qualify for Boston. In my case, I was slow no longer what course I ran on, so I usually went to events where I thought I would have the most fun. That's probably I ran and finished 14 Paavos. Although it may be a tough, hilly so-and-so, I know my family would be rooting for me at the finish line because the Paavo was the only marathon they would attend. However, I can completely understand why runners would prefer courses where they would have a decent chance to achieve a specific time goal.
Speaking of goals, I wish everyone at “Northland Runner” the best of luck in achieving your goals in the many events that will happen in the next few weeks. My next blog will probably be around Thanksgiving. Take care, and good running!
July 30, 2011: Festival Ironwood Event and a Rare "Rant"
I had one of the more gratifying and fulfilling days of my life two weeks ago (Saturday, 7/16). In the morning, I participated in one of my favorite events, the Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll and held my last awards ceremony as points director of the “Run the Range” series. To top the morning off, I even won a medallion for placing second in my age group in the 2 Mile run! In the afternoon, I attended a family reunion in Saxon for my mother's family. Like any family, I've had minor differences with some of my relatives in the past, but all of that was forgotten over an afternoon of fun, food, and drink (non-alcoholic for yours truly). Man, did I have a great time!
I remembered in last year's blog that I had recommended the readers of “Northland Runner” to try the Festival Ironwood 5-Mile run some year. It would be a perfect tune-up for any half or full marathon. The course has major hills at miles 1.5, 2.5, and 4 near the Hiawatha statue. To balance out the course, there is also a major downhill past the statue where runners can pick up considerable speed. After taking a short left-hand turn, the last ¾ mile is a flat straight-away to the finish line at the big top tent. There is a also a 2 Mile run, in which I already mentioned I had won a medallion. Under the current circumstances, I was happy with my time of 27:35. I walked the first mile, and I tried to run the remaining mile once I got past the statue. I think my second mile was between 11:00 and 12 :00, which would be a big improvement for me. If I play my cards right, I may try to up my mileage by participating in one of the Fox Cities Marathon training runs before the end on Saturday, 9/10.
One of my best friends in the running community is race director Chris Bergquist, who has had the job since the race's inception in 1993. Her t-shirts always have a unique design, and she always go all-out on post-race food, door prizes, and awards. I usually try not to go out “on a limb” on my blogs, but I believe in this case it's warranted. The Ironwood-Hurley area has a pretty good number of active runners, with many of them participating in, and sometimes, placing in major half or full marathon events like Cellcom Green Bay, Journeys' in Eagle River, and the Paavo Nurmi in Hurley. However, when it comes to the Festival Ironwood, several of these runners are usually “no-shows.” I can't dictate other runners where to run or what to do with their race budgets, and yes I realize that sometimes a runner would want to be at an event but can't for a legitimate reason. However, the Festival Ironwood is most definitely a high quality event and should never be ignored or taken for granted. As a runner (now mostly a walker) who's been to his fair share of races, the Festival Ironwood definitely gives me the most bang for my buck.
Now I'll get off my soapbox and congratulate this years champions of the “Run the Range” series Leah Nikula and Alan Peterson. For Leah, this is her fourth series championship (2002 through 2004 and 2011). If there is a “comeback” runner of the year award, Leah would probably win that as well. She's overcome several injuries recently, and now is back in good form. Alan Peterson, who is currently running for Grand Valley State, has now won this third title (2008, 2010, and 2011). Two big highlights of his season were breaking the 16-minute barrier at the John Jarvi Jr. 5K run and beating perennial local champion Ryan Holm at the Sunday Lake Run. I also want to give a shout-out to series runner-ups Wil Andresen and recently retired Ironwood High School teach Eni Gregas. Finally, I want to congratulate the 16 women and 13 men who received t-shirts for participating in all four events. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this is my last year as points director for the series. Fortunately, some people have asked about taking over as points director, so there is a good chance the series may continue in 2012 and beyond. Once I get some confirmation either way, I'll put a notice up on “Northland Runner.”
Finally, I want to wish everyone, especially Northland Runner's Sam and Leslie, good luck in today's Voyageur Ultra-Marathon. Also, I enjoyed reading Kevin Pates column about the race in yesterday's Duluth News-Tribune. Take care, and I'll try to write my next blog at the end of August.
July 6, 2011: 4th of July Weekend Running in the U.P.
Growing up just west of Hurley in Saxon and still being an avid runner/walker, two “must” events on my running calendar are the Bessemer (MI) Hometown 10K and 2 Mile Run and the Wakefield (MI) Sunday Lake Run. Both events have long-standing histories and are integral parts of their communities' 4th of July celebrations. The Hometown Run, held on Saturday, July 2, has been in existence since the late 1980's while the Sunday Lake Run, held on the 4th of July, celebrated its 34th edition. Since 1993, I've been at each event approximately 15 or more times.
In the past, I would always run the Hometown 10K Run as a 'tune up” for the Paavo Nurmi Marathon and other half or full marathons. The 10K Run is very challenging with several inclines and hills at miles 2, 3, and 5. Another factor that has to be thrown in is the weather, which is usually very sunny, warm, and humid. This year's event was no different with starting temperatures in the low to mid 70s under sunny skies. Fortunately, both the 10K and 2 Mile courses are very well-supported with several water stations and sprinkler systems for runners who need to cool down. Most years I've been able to finish the 10K between 50 and 55 minutes; my Hometown Run P.R. was 49:50 in 1994. I still remember having an ear-to-ear grin that lasted at least a day after I had broken the 50 minute barrier.
For the second straight year, I decided to run the 2 Mile Run. Although the distance is more manageable for me, the 2 Mile Run is no piece of cake. The course has a hill soon after the beginning and another one at approximately 1.5 miles, and we 2 Milers had to navigate through the same finish as the 10K people. To get to the finish, I had to run on a straight-away before making a right-hand turn to the finish line at Bessemer City Hall. I ran with life-long friend Sue Kaffine for the majority of the race and finished just behind her.
The Hometown Run drew 384 participants, including 220 pre-registered runners. I was especially happy for Race Directors Lori Bennetts and Kristy Recla, who went out of their way to accommodate me with my “Run the Range” series sheets by setting me up with a table. They and their many volunteers also went all out to make all the participants feel at home. On one final note, the winner of the 10K Run was Donny Sazama of Proctor. I think the only other Twin Ports champions were Gregg Robertson and Kari Beasley back in the late 1990's. I think Kari still has the woman’s course record.
Another group of people who go out of their way to make their participants feel welcomed are Sunday Lake Race Director Clarence Dalbeck and the Fire on Ice Women's Hockey Team. The Sunday Lake Run has always been one of my favorite events for two reasons:
It's relatively short (2.8 miles) course with one complete loop of the lake.
It has a big post-race buffet (plenty of juice, sports drink, and lots of fruit and doughnuts).
Despite its short distance, the Sunday Lake Run is probably one of the more intense runs around with plenty of passing and fast runners. The men's run had two of the better runners in the U.P. with eventual champion Alan Peterson of Ironwood and sub 3 hour marathoner and Wakefield native Ryan Holm. Other notable entrants at Sunday Lake included ultra-running legend “Fast Eddie” Rousseau of Minneapolis and wheelchair champion Dean Juntinen of Mass City, MI.
One of my favorite running memories happened at Sunday Lake. It was 2002, and I was running so-so (maybe 8:30 mpm, maybe slower). Well, I got just past the Citgo station and all of a sudden I caught “lightning in a bottle” going to the last straightaway. I proceeded to pass about 10 to 15 runners to finish 22:07 (7:54 mpm). You should have seen the dropped jaws and facial expressions of the people I passed. I still shake my head when I think about it.
Like at Bessemer, the volunteer support at Sunday Lake was exceptional. I especially want to commend the Jim and Diane Oliver family of Ironwood for operating the timers and manning the finisher's board. They were able to get the approximately 225 to 250 tags on the board in an expedient manner, and members of the Fire on Ice wrote the times on the tags shortly thereafter. Being a race director myself, running a finisher's board can be very hectic and intense. I was really impressed with their work while being most accommodating to me and my job of compiling “Run the Range” points. Great job!
Finally, I hope all the followers of Northland Runner had a great 4th of July weekend. My next blog will be the weekend of July 16 when I recap the Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll. Take care, and good running!