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.
July 31, 2009: Hodge-Podge of Topics
I can't believe it's the last day of July already! Hi Northland Runner readers, and I'm back on the computer after another two week "vacation." Like the title states, I'm going to discuss a variety of topics including my own training for the first of my two upcoming half marathons, an update of two upcoming runs in Northern Wisconsin in the next week, and, finally, a book "review" about a true-story homicide involving a running group in Green Bay.
First of all, my training is going OK but not great. I was able to sandwich two 10-mile runs between my Festival Ironwood 5 Mile race in the last two weeks. The good news is I was able to run 5 seconds a minute faster on my second 10-mile run. Tomorrow, I will try to get my last long run in before next Saturday's inaugural Paavo Nurmi Half Marathon. As of now, I have no idea on how many people have entered or about the quality of the field. I'm hoping there will be a good cross-section of runners from across the Upper Midwest, and I'm crossing my fingers that the Twin Ports will bring a good contingent. I'm not making any predictions about my own race because the course will be run on the second half of the full Paavo course, including the notorious hills of County Trunk C. If I'm able to run a 9:30 to 9:45 pace on my training run tomorrow, I think I might have a shot at finishing around two hours. I'll tell you how I finish next Saturday afternoon!
The other race I want to discuss will be held tomorrow in Park Falls, WI, which is 55 miles south of Ashland. The race is the 31st Evergreen 5K Road Run, and it's in conjunction with the city's Flambeau Rama celebration. I've been lucky to run the race three times, and the course is perfect for a strong hill runner. The course starts at the city hall and goes down and up a hill. Then you make a right hand turn and go up and down another hill. Then you make another right hand turn and go and down two more hills before the course flattens out. I remembered finishing 24:10 in 1998 (which is really good for me) and being surprised as heck when I was announced an age group winner. Although I wish this race would get more exposure in running publications and web sites because it is such a good race, the Evergreen 5K still gets a solid field of 150 to 200 participants every year (many with ties to the Park Falls area). Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this year's event because I'm attending the Iron County Fair in my hometown of Saxon.
Finally, I bought a book today called "Run at Destruction" and hopefully will be available in Duluth area bookstores. The author is Lynda Drews, and she tells the story of a love triangle between three of her running partners in the Green Bay area which ends in the homicide of her best friend. The editor of "Silent Sports" magazine gave a detailed review of the book, and the book includes quotes from Cellcom Green Bay Marathon Race Director Sean Ryan, Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray, and Track & Field News correspondent Sean Hartnett. On one last note, Lynda and her husband Jim helped to establish the Bellin 10K Run in the late seventies, and this year's Bellin field had well over 15,000 participants.
Like I said, this blog was really a "hodge-podge" of different subjects. Have a great week, and I will talk to you next Saturday!
July 18, 2009: Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll
Hi everyone! As I said yesterday, this blog will be devoted to the 18th running of the Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll. Chris Bergquist has been the only race director in the event's history, and I had learned a lot from both her and retired Bessemer Hometown Run's race director Paulette Schwartz on how to organize a run and tried to model my Dogwood run after their events. This year's Festival Ironwood run had something in common with last month's Hometown Run: unusually cool, wet weather. Chris even commented to some of her volunteers that this year's event was the first time she had to wear jeans instead of shorts!
The Festival Ironwood consists of a 2 mile and 5 mile run. I usually use the 5 mile run as a training run for the Paavo Nurmi marathon and other upcoming half or full marathon events. Like the Hometown 10K Run, the Festival Ironwood 5 mile run is very challenging with major hills between miles 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and 4 and 5. The course is very well supported with two water stations at miles 3 and 4 and time splits at miles 1 and 3. The last hill is especially tough for me because you actually turn into it halfway up instead of the bottom of the hill. I've always had problems accelerating up that hill and is one of the toughest I face all running season.
I told Chris before the run how beautiful this year's t-shirt is: yellow background with blue and red lettering. There were plenty of goodies for both finish line food and door prizes. Per tradition, the Festival Ironwood has additional, special awards such as earliest entrant, first entrant, oldest entrant, etc. I'm just guessing here, but I think the turnout was between 150 and 175 people.
My finishing time was 44:35, about a minute slower from last year's time, but there's definitely a silver lining. My first mile split was 8:20, but my pace slowed down to 26:45 at mile 3. After calculating my minute-per-mile pace at mile 3 and my finish, I ran consistent 8:52 minute miles for the last two miles. If I can run at this pace for the rest of my training, I should be in decent shape for my upcoming two half marathons.
Finally, I want to share a quote that definitely applies to me from past Boston Marathon runner-up Kim Jones, "Don't force your workouts. Run in the present, not how you ran 10 years ago or how you expect to run 3 months from now." In other words, I can't keep comparing my times for events from one year to the next; just focus on the here and now. Good running to you, and I'll write another blog from Badgerland in two weeks!
July 17, 2009: Fox Cities Marathon Training Run (Volunteer Work)
I'm back again after a two week "vacation" to bring you more running news from Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan. I really enjoyed reading the stories and looking at the photos from the Half Voyageur Trail Marathon, and I'm glad the runners were able to run in comfortable temperatures. In my almost 20 years of running, I've never done a trail marathon or an ultra-marathon.
On the same day as the Half Voyageur, I volunteered to man a water station for a Fox Cities Marathon (FCM) training run. I wrote a blog last year about the FCM training runs, but a lot of things have changed since then. First of all, long-time training run coordinator Ron Goodreau has retired; the duties are now ably handled by PaceSetters' running club president Kathy Jankowski and Sara Drierer. The training routes have also changed to an extent. The courses are now run on a major portion of the marathon course itself instead of the CE biking trail. Taking a cue from the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, the FCM gave the runners key chain "pull-outs" of the training routes for both the full and half marathons. The start/finish lines of the training runs have changed as well.
Another change from the past is that the water stations are individually manned instead of "self-serve" stations. I manned the first water station at the mile 2 mark. Each volunteer was given two Igloo coolers (water and gatorade), a garage can, a fold-up table, two garbage bags, and a package of cups. We were also given directions to our stations with ETAs (estimated time of arrivals) for the runners. To say the least, I couldn't have been more prepared.
The first runners arrived to my station at 7:15 a.m. for the first go-around with the last runners from the first wave arriving around 7:30 a.m. The half marathoners came back about 30 to 45 minutes later. The marathoners started to come back around 9:00 a.m. The last full marathoner came to my station at 10:15 a.m. There were approximately 60 runners on the course that day; the full marathoners ran 16 miles while the half marathoners did 8 miles. The highlight of my day was when one of the residents loaned me his lawn chair!
In closing, I had a great time but was yearning to be out there with my fellow runners. I got my chance the very next day when I ran 10 miles around Omro at about a 9:50 mpm clip. Hopefully, I will be able to participate in one of the FCM runs in August. My next blog will be tomorrow afternoon when I do a recap of one of my favorite events: the Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, & Roll. Good running to you!
July 4, 2009: Sunday Lake Run in Wakefield, MI
Happy 4th of July to all the readers and my fellow bloggers of Northland Runner! Many of us runners in the Upper Midwest like to celebrate the 4th by running in a race somewhere. There's no lack of great running events in our region today including the Mellen Bellringer (always a humdinger!), Draggin' Tail in Lake Nebagamon, the Pow-Wow 10K/5K in Tomahawk, WI, the Run for a Veteran in Mercer, WI and the one I attended today in Wakefield, MI - the Sunday Lake Run.
The Sunday Lake Run is just behind the Paavo Nurmi Marathon as the longest-running road race in the Hurley/Ironwood area. I think the first Sunday Lake Run was either in 1977 or 1978. The course is very simple; just run around the entire lake. The course is officially measured at 2.8 miles. Although the Sunday Lake Run is one of the shortest runs I compete in each year, it's also one of my most intense runs of the year. Sunday Lake is kind of running's answer to a drag race; you run flat out the entire race. Sometimes I'm more tired after Sunday Lake than a lot of the runs because of how hard I had to run.
The Fire on Ice women's hockey team sponsors the event, and they go all out on food, drinks, and door prizes. The pre-registration tables are well-organized with bibs and folded shirts placed in ziploc bags. The Wakefield VFW provided a honor guard for the start of the event, and a Wakefield high school student sang the national anthem. There's also an aid station on the course.
I ran pretty good for someone who's been running infrequently. I pushed the wrong button when I crossed the finish line, so my watch kept running for about twenty seconds. Although my watch said 22:50, I think I finished a little under 22:30. My finishing time last year was 21:45 (my best Sunday Lake Run ever), so I was pretty happy I was within the ball park of my 2008 time.
Finally, I'm going back to running some long runs, beginning a week from Sunday (7/11). My next blog will be two weeks from now when I will discuss some volunteer work for a Fox Cities Marathon training run and the Festival Ironwood Walk, Roll, and Run. Happy 4th of July everyone!
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!