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.
June 29, 2009: Dogwood 5K Run and 2 Mile Walk
Hi Northland Runner readers! As I mentioned yesterday, this blog will be devoted to the Dogwood 5K and 2 Mile Walk in my hometown of Saxon. Kris came to Saxon yesterday and will have a complete race recap and photos under the News section (Kris, thanks again for coming!). Unlike many of my blogs, I'm going to go in a different direction in this blog. I'm going to describe my day to you as a race director on the day of the event.
My race day began with a short breakfast of cereal and juice at 4:00 a.m. Every year, the first thing I do is to place the mile markers on the course. So, with my hazard lights on, I drove my car on County Highway B to pound the 1 and 2 Mile Markers into the ground. After that, I drove to the Iron County Fairgrounds to the 4-H building to unload the t-shirts and pre-registration bags from my car.
I have separate tables for the 5K race day registrants, 2 Mile race day registrants, and pre-registered runners and walkers. On the table for pre-registered runners, I have t-shirts, bibs, and safety pins put in ziplock bags (pretty simple but efficient). Behind the two tables for the race day entries is a table with folded t-shirts. In front of the t-shirts are the following labels: S, M, L, XL, and XXL. This makes it easier for the volunteers to grab the right t-shirt.
After unlocking the bathrooms and making sure the water's running OK, I drove home to pick up the coffee, orange juice, and bakery for the volunteers and sponsors. This is the very least I can do for them. Then I helped my day load the finisher's board on my brother's pick-up truck and brought the board to the post office.
Here's a brief summary of my day from 6:45 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.:
- Had brief meeting with registration staff
- Set up finish line with finish line people
- Loaded three coolers with ice and gatorade and two over-sized jugs with ice and water for the on-course water station
- Put three coolers in car and drove home to pick up two boxes of cookies and one box of bananas for finish line station
- Dropped off coolers and boxes at finish line aid station at the Saxon town fire hall
- Had brief meeting with finish line personnel
- Rushed back to 4-H building to see how registration is going
Guess what I found out when I got to the 4-H building? Doug Ratkowski, my primary timer, told me that one of the two timers borrowed from Ashland High School wasn't printing! Yikes!!! Doug told me that he would handle the problem and for me to worry about something else. So I went outside to greet some participants, and within five minutes Doug ran out and told me the timer was printing again. Yeah!!!
After avoiding potential disaster, I decided to drink some orange juice. At that point, Kris and his girlfriend showed up. After greeting them, I felt rejuvenated and also very relaxed. I got the runners together at 8:25 a.m at the start line and gave brief pre-race instructions. I gave the runners a 30 second countdown and used a two-way radio to communicate with my dad and Jason Brunello, who manned the 1 mile split. I started the runners right at 8:30 a.m. and the walkers precisely at 8:35 a.m.
So my day is done, right? Wrong! I had to rush to the finish line because I had to write each runner's place of finish on his or her's bottom tag. With only one minor hiccup with a wrong number on a tag, everything ran smoothly. After getting all the runners through the chute by 9:15 a.m., I took the paper from Doug's timer with all the finishers' times and order of finish and ran to the finisher's board to write the times on the tags. Thanks goodness Kris and the other volunteers were there to locate the tags with the finishing numbers; otherwise, I would have been there for at least two hours locating tags. With everybody's help, we got done by 9:30 a.m.
Then I had to rush back to the 4-H building to start the awards ceremony and raffle. The first thing I did was to thank the volunteers and my 11 sponsors. Without them, there would be no Dogwood run/walk (or any run for that matter). The next thing I did was to announce the winners for most participants in the walk and overall male and female champions. Guess who won the family participation trophy? The family of my primary timer, Doug Ratkowski! Another unique twist is the overall male and female champions were a brother and sister. Ben and Catie Cogger of Washburn were my champions with finishing times of 16:45 and 20:27, respectively. With the help of Marty Celeski of Ironwood, I handed out medallions with ribbons to all my age group champions. Next, I handed out a variety of door prizes including passes for ABR ski trails, several gift certificates, and running accessories from RunAway Shoes in Oshkosh. I got everyone on their way home by 10:10 a.m. I got my car loaded up with leftover t-shirts and registration stuff and finally locked the 4-H building by 11:00 a.m.
After taking a shower and had a light lunch, I went to the finisher's board and wrote down the results. I later typed the results and wrote a brief story for the Ironwood Daily Globe, Ashland Daily Press, Northland Runner, U.P. Road Runners' Club, and Badgerland Striders. After all that was done, I always buy pizza and Caesar's salad from the Liberty Bell in Hurley for my family. Today, I deposited the proceeds from the run at the Iron County Credit Union in Hurley. Now, I can just enjoy being a runner for the remainder of the year!
Before I became a race director in 1998, I never realized how tough and demanding being a race director is. What I just describe is just my race day responsibilities! However, I wouldn't give it up for anything, and I always make a point to offer to help other race directors when I go to other runs because I know what they go through.
Finally, have a great week and to the Canadian readers of Northland Runner I want to wish you Happy Canada Day. My next blog will be on the 4th of July when I will write about the Sunday Lake Run from strickly a runner's perspective!
June 28, 2009: Bessemer Hometown 10K Run
This will be the first of two blogs that I will write in the next two days. This blog will be devoted to the annual Hometown Run in Bessemer, MI held yesterday (Saturday, 6/27). Tomorrow's blog will be a brief wrapup of my Dogwood 5K Run and 2 Mile Run in Saxon.
Since 1993, I think I've missed only two Hometown Runs. The Hometown Run is traditionally one of the kickoff events for the Bessemer, MI, week-long 4th of July celebration and is one of the largest running events in the U.P. of Michigan with usually between 250 and 300 participants. I always like to use the 10K event as a "tune-up" for the Paavo and other half or full marathons that I run later in the year.
The Hometown Run has always been a good measuring stick of my fitness level because the course is so demanding. The course has several hills; although they are not very steep, they always seem to go into a turn. All those turns and hills can take a toll on runners once they passed the 5 mile mark. Usually, the Hometown Run is one of the hottest events I run in during the year. This year's event was a rarity: cool temperatures with light rain.
Despite being a challenging event for even good runners, the Hometown Run is one of the best organized events I attend every year. There's no lack of volunteers in Bessemer; all the registration tables were manned with multiple people. Pre-registered runners have their t-shirts folded with bibs on separate tables for the 10K and 2 Mile run events. Even the race day entrants are processed in a timely manner. There are four water stations for the 10K event, and there are time splits at miles 1 and 5.
For many years, Paulette Schwartz was the race director, and she really set a high bar for other race directors in the Hurley/Ironwood area. This year's co-race directors are Lori Bennetts and Kristy Recla, and I think they've done a fine job for their first year of filling Paulette's very large shoes.
I finished yesterday's race with a time of 57:45, which is a far cry of the 49:50 I ran in 1994! However, one thing that hasn't changed is that I always have a good time at Bessemer. See you tomorrow.
June 20, 2009: Quick Dogwood Update and Upcoming Schedule
Hi Northland Runner readers! First thing off the bat, I want to wish everyone who is participating in the Grandma's Marathon events the best of luck today. After my 11 mile run this morning in Saxon, I listened to Grandma's Marathon broadcast on 560 AM (is the station still WEBC?) with Kerry Robb and Carrie Tollefson. Did I hear correctly that two Americans won the full marathon? I look forward to hear everyone's stories here on "Northland Runner" in the next day or so.
I'm not going to take too much space on this, but a week from Sunday will be my Dogwood 5K Run and 2 Mile Walk here in Saxon. In a nutshell, we got all the major stuff taken care of (T-Shirts, trophies, food, gatorade, etc.); however, there are some loose ends we have to close within the next week (confirm all volunteers, get tire stands for the finish line, get ice for the coolers, etc.). Thank goodness I'm not a race director for a marathon! As I said in an earlier post, it always seems the last-minute stuff becomes endless, but things have a way to come all together every year once the starting gun goes off. I have my information listed for the Dogwood here on the website if anyone has any questions.
In other news, I made a change to my race schedule. This past week I decided to enter the half marathon at the Fox Cities Marathon instead of the full marathon. I just don't think I can get enough quality miles in to do well in the full marathon. At least in the half marathon, I can build my mileage slowly and in smaller increments. So by the end of 2009, I'll still be stuck with 28 marathon finishes.
Finally, my next blogs will be next Sunday, 6/28. The first blog will be devoted to the Hometown 10K and 2 Mile Run in Bessemer, MI. The second one will be about the Dogwood 5K Run and 2 Mile Walk in beautiful downtown Saxon, WI. Have a great week!
June 5, 2009: Plum Hill 5K Run for Leukemia and Back to Work
Have any of you had a run in which you didn’t run as fast as a previous run but you felt pretty good afterward? I had a run like that last Saturday at the inaugural Plum Hill 5K in Kaukauna, WI. The run is a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society, and, since I lost a friend to leukemia before last Christmas, I’ve gone out of my way to support them. The host of the event was the Plum Hill Restaurant, and I’ll have to make the trip back there soon to try their specialty, gelatto (Italian ice cream)!
The course was by far the most difficult I ran on this year so far. Immediately after the start, we made a left turn and ran up a steep hill (this hill is part of the Fox Cities Marathon course). Then, the course flattens out and then becomes a steep downhill past LaFollette Park. The course flattens out again until mile 2, which becomes a steep uphill over a bridge. For the last half mile, the course flattens out over the Veterans Memorial Park and becomes a slight uphill at the finish line at Hydro Park. Whew!!
I was really happy with my finishing time of 26:48, which is a minute slower than my John Jarvi time but matched my time from the Fitgers’ 5K. For a first-time event, the organizers did a first class job. I picked up my goody bag immediately, which included some coupons, a pen, and a key chain. There was a well-manned water station at the halfway point, and the finish line staff processed the finishers in an expedient manner (no chip timing). The post-race buffet included bottled water, cookies, bagels, bananas, and orange slices.
The turnout was really good with over 200 participants. Since there was also a 5K event in Oshkosh and the Fox Cities Marathon was beginning its training runs, I think the race organizers are more than happy that they were able to get that many people. For me, I only recognized about a handful of people so I got to run with a completely new crowd!
Starting this weekend, I’m now in my other role as race director of the Dogwood 5K Run and 2 Mile Walk here in Saxon. I’ll admit this is both the most gratifying and stressful time of the year for me. It seems that I never stopped worrying of every last detail. This weekend I’m going to call the majority of my volunteers to check on their availability and some donors. Next weekend, I’m going to pick up t-shirts, trophies, etc. The list is endless!
As a runner, my next race will be the Bessemer Hometown 10K Run on Saturday, June 27, in Bessemer, MI. During the next three weekends, I’m hoping to get some long runs in between 10 to 15 miles or so. Finally, I know many of you are “tapering” for Grandma’s, so I want to wish all of you good luck a couple of weeks early!
May 25, 2009: Big News Flash Regarding the Paavo Nurmi Marathon
First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day, especially the readers and bloggers who have either served our armed forces or have family members who have served our country. My dad is a member of the American Legion, and I'm going to the Memorial Day services here in Saxon and nearby Gurney later this morning. My own Memorial Day tradition is to go for either a long run or walk first thing in the morning. Since I just bought another pair of running shoes (Saucony), I went for an hour walk.
I got some big news from new Paavo Nurmi Marathon Race Director Rita Franzoi. She told me at the John Jarvi Run on Saturday that the Paavo will have for the first time a separate half marathon. This is official because the half marathon is listed on the entry form. Rita told me that the start will be at the halfway point at Gile and will end at the marathon finish line. Rita also said that the two-person and five-person relay teams will still continue and remain unaffected. More details should appear on the Paavo's official website, www.hurleywi.com.
For runners in the region, this is big time news because, for many years, the Paavo was one of the last holdouts to having a separate half marathon. Now, I think many people who were hesitant about running the Paavo in the past may change their minds because of the introduction of a half marathon. I think many top-level male and female runners may enter now just to try to become the first Paavo half marathon champions.
Finally, this news will definitely affect my running calendar. Instead, of running the full Paavo, I will run the half marathon. This will mean a lot less wear and tear on my body. I will still run a full marathon this year, but that one will be the Fox Cities in late September. Hopefully, I will be ready to go! Good running to you, and have a safe Memorial Day.