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.
August 29, 2008: September and October - The BIG Race Months
My three favorite months of the year are April, September, and October. April is at the top of my list because it's the first full month of spring and you can't beat a beautiful April day for running once the snow is all gone. Also, it's the month of the Boston Marathon and the start of baseball, outdoor track and field, and girls' high school soccer in Wisconsin. However, my juices really get flowing when September and October come around because of all the BIG races that go on in the silent sports world.
For runners, September and October have a variety of big time events. For me, I'll be running in the Cheesehead Half Marathon in Hilbert, WI (south of Appleton) on Saturday, September 6. Two weeks later, I'll be running in my BIG events when I will do both the 5K (Saturday, 9/20) and full marathon (Sunday, 9/21) at Fox Cities in Appleton. Since 2004, I've run both the 5K and half marathon but this year I'm going to compete in my first full Fox Cities Marathon. Although the Paavo Nurmi Marathon is my favorite single event, my favorite running weekend is the Fox Cities Marathon events.
For the majority of runners throughout the Upper Midwest, the juices will really be flowing two or three weeks after Fox Cities. On Sunday, 10/5, both the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee and the Twin Cities Marathon will be run. The Lakefront Marathon has really exploded in the last few years with the marathon field being filled up before July. Unfortunately, I've never had the thrill of running the TCM. Hopefully, I will be able to compete in one some year. One week later, the Whistlestop Marathon events will be held in Ashland on Saturday, 10/11 and the Chicago Marathon will be on the next day.
I consider all these events BIG races because of all the goal implications for runners. On relatively flat courses like Whistlestop and Chicago or a gradually downhill course like Lakefront, many runners will be attempting their first marathons. For many other runners, they will be either trying to qualify for Boston or attempting to set a P.R. In any case, no matter what your goal is, good luck and go get them!
Speaking of BIG race season, I can't forget to mention other major silent sports events like the Wisconsin Ironman Triathlon in Madison on Sunday, 9/7, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival on Saturday, 9/13, and of course the Northshore Inline Skating Marathon on Saturday, 9/13.
Before I get too fired up, I better finish up this post. I'll be running a long run on Saturday (13 to 15 miles) and enjoy the rest of the Labor Day weekend with my family. My next post will be either on Thursday, 9/25 or Friday, 9/26 to talk about my Fox Cities Marathon weekend and some other racing stuff. Good luck on your next BIG race!
August 9, 2008: Mark's Paavo
As promised, I'm writing a brief post about yesterday's 40th Paavo Nurmi Marathon. I'm glad to say I finished my 27th marathon and 14th Paavo. My Paavo can be dissected into two halves: the start through mile 19 and mile 19 to the finish. Frankly, I really struggled in the first 19 miles, especially the first 13.1 miles of the run (approximately 2:20). Although the temperatures were in the low to mid 50s, the sun was beating down on me pretty good and by mile 7 I was running 10-minute miles (I was hoping to run 9-minute miles).
However, by mile 19, I started to pick up my pace and was able to run the major hills at miles 20 and 21 and maintained my pace to the finish. I hope to build on my strong finish for the Fox Cities Marathon in September.
Finally, I was one of 18 people to receive a certificate for finishing 14 Paavos. This is something I'm very proud of and will frame the certificate. Also, the Paavo has my favorite post-race party, a picnic-type atmosphere at Ricelli Park. It's a great setting to renew friendships and make new ones! My next post will be during Labor Day weekend. Good running to you.
August 1, 2008: 40th Paavo Nurmi Marathon
As I promised on Thursday, I am going to write a quick (and I hope quick) preview of the Paavo Nurmi Marathon, which will be held on Saturday, August 9. To my knowledge, it is the longest, continuously running marathon in the Upper Midwest with this year being the 40th anniversary of the event. This year will be my 14th running of the event.
I usually split the Paavo into five parts: the first half of the event, miles 13.2 through 15, County Trunk Highway C (miles 16 through 21), U.S. Highway 51 (miles 22 to miles 26), and Silver Street (the finish line). I've always loved running the first half of the Paavo; I wish the first half would be turned into a separate half marathon. It has some hills, but it also has a nice downhill after mile 12. The first half also goes through the towns of Upson, Iron Belt, Pence, Montreal, and Gile (the halfway point). The halfway point has a mile marker named in the memory of my longtime friend Danielle Ladwig, who died tragically at the age of 22 from a sudden illness. I know she'll be rooting for the runners in spirit.
Miles 13.2 through miles 15 has one hill near mile 14, which is the Harry Rizzie Mile named after the longtime WJMS radio announcer who covered many Paavos over the airways. Mile 15 has one incline but otherwise is relatively flat.
County Trunk C is where the Paavo becomes "THE PAAVO." There are major hills at miles 16, 18, 19, 20, and finally a double-decker hill at mile 21. Other than my PR finish in 1979, I've never been able to run up the hill at mile 16. Also, when I reach the second layer of the hill at mile 21, I keep telling myself why the course records set in the 1970s are still standing!
Miles 22 through 26 are relatively flat and a relief from the hills on County Trunk C. There is a hill at mile 25, which is near the Hurley cemetery, but I never thought of it as much of a big deal. Just to the right of the left hand turn onto Silver Street is the Ken Gustafson torch, which is always lit the night before the Paavo. Ironically, this year the torch will be lit on the opening night of the Olympics.
Finally, nothing beats running to the finish line on Silver Street. It's always great to see my parents, family, and life-long friends rooting me on to another Paavo finish!
There's my pre-race summary of the Paavo. My next post will be next Saturday afternoon after hopefully another Paavo finish. Good running to you!
July 31, 2008: Marathon Build-Up Run and a Tailgate Party!
Hi fellow runners! I'm back after a two-week hiatis. Briefly, I keep my personal computer at my parents' house in Saxon. Although I work for a great company (I write Oshkosh Corporation manuals for an independent company), I'm not allowed to blog at work. Therefore, I have to wait until I get to Saxon before I can continue my "Badgerland Blog."
This past Sunday I ran a 16 mile marathon build-up training run in Menasha, WI sponsored by the Fox Cities Marathon and the PaceSetters running club. The training run begins at the marathon start line at the UW-Fox Valley campus. The course goes two miles from Midway Road to Telluah Avenue, and then we take a left on Telluah and over a bridge where the first water station is located. At the four mile mark, we take a right turn to College Avenue (Appleton's equivalent to Superior Street). We then take the CE biking and hiking trail which parallels College Avenue until we reach the turn around point. Although the runners enjoy the CE trail a lot, the only drawback is there is very little shade on the trail. However, the trail is very safe to run on and there are additional water stations on the trail. Also, the trail has some hills on it, and I needed the additional hill training to get ready for the Paavo Nurmi Marathon on August 9.
The man who organizes the Fox Cities Marathon training runs is Ron Goudreau, who has finished all 17 Fox Cities Marathons. Ron has a good sense of where everyone is during the training runs and remains on the course until the last runner returns safely to UW-Fox Valley. Not only Ron sets up the water stations, he also serves as a "cheerleader," always cheerful and encouraging. Let me know if you know of someone like Ron in the Duluth area.
On Tuesday, 7/29, I went to Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton for a tailgate party hosted by the PaceSetters' Running Club. The party was pot luck (I brought salsa and chips) with the club providing soda, water, and beer. We had a picnic area reserved for us on the west end of the stadium. About 50 to 60 people attended with a mix of runners, spouses, kids, and friends. Conversations varied from the Packers and Brewers to the next big run or triathlon. After the tailgate party, we went inside the stadium to watch the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers play the Lansing Lugnuts in a Midwest League baseball game. It's a good way to get to know club members better in a setting away from running.
I am kind of curious to hear what runners in the Twin Ports do to socialize away from running. Do you go to a baseball game, go to a concert, or, heaven forbid, go to Superior Speedway on a Friday night? I like to hear from you guys on that.
Finally, I'm going on my last long run (maybe 10 miles or so) this coming Saturday before next week's Paavo. My next blog will be shortly after that run when I will talk about the 40th Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley. Good running (and partying) to you!
July 19, 2008: Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll
This morning I ran in the 16th annual Festival Ironwood Walk, Run, and Roll at the old Ironwood, MI, depot building. Chris Berquist has been the only race director in the event's existence, and she has made the Festival Ironwood into one of the U.P.'s premiere running events with entries consistently between 170 and 200 runners and walkers.
The Festival Ironwood consists of a five mile and two mile run. The 5 mile run is especially demanding, usually used as a tune-up for major area events such as the Paavo Nurmi Marathon and Whistlestop Marathon. The five mile course has major hills between miles 1 and 2, miles 2 and 3, and miles 4 and 5. The last hill goes past the famous Hiawatha statue once christened in the sixties by First Lady Lady Byrd Johnson. Although the last part of the course is a gradual, fast downhill, I never seem to make up the distance and time lost going up the last hill.
The five mile course also has two time splits and two well-staffed water stations. Chris does a great job with her awards ceremony, with plenty of door prizes and special awards for youngest participant, oldest participant, long distance participant, and earliest participant.
How slow did I go? I finished with a time of 43:18, about thirty seconds slower from last year's time. I set a pre-race goal of finishing faster than my Dragin' Tail time of 43:01. Didn't quite do it, but I still had a lot of fun which is always most important to me.
Finally, good luck to all of you at upcoming events such as the Voyageur 50 Mile Run and other runs both big and small. Good running to you!