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.
October 30, 2009: Controversy at Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon
Hi Northland Runner readers, I'm back after a month hiatis, and, boy, do I have a "truth is stranger than fiction" story for you. If you haven't heard yet, the top two female finishers were disqualified from the Lakefront Marathon held in Milwaukee on Sunday, Oct. 4. Cassie Peller of Franklin, WI was disqualified shortly after her apparent win when race officials learned that accepted water outside an authorized aid station from first a father and son and then from a former Marquette University teammate who came out of a van and ran with her for a short distance. The win was then given to Jennifer Goebel of Lombard, IL. . .for about 48 hours. On Wednesday, Oct. 7, she was disqualified for operating an iPod between miles 19 and 21. Not only both runners lost the $500 for winning the race, their finishing times were erased from the official results.
Before I put my two cents in, I want to give you some important details. The Lakefront Marathon is hosted by the Badgerland Striders running club, which I've been a member since 1994. The race director is Kristine Hinrichs, whom I've known for about ten years and someone I really respect. As you probably can tell from the first paragraph, the marathon is sanctioned by the USATF since there is prize money and will host a USATF national championship in 2010. Therefore, Kris, following USATF guidelines, lowered the boom on both Cassie and Jennifer by disqualifying them and removing their times from the results.
Now, how do I feel about this? First of all, I know Kris really agonized over her decision and probably had a sleepless night or two. I hope and pray I never have to face a similar situation at my Dogwood run. That being said, I agree with her about disqualifying them from the championship and taking back the prize money. However, I think their finishing times should have remained with the official results. In Jennifer's defense, she had no idea she was in the running for the win and took her iPod off immediately once informed she was in the top three. As far as I'm concerned, she was no different than all the other runners who used an iPod during the race. In Cassie's defense, she told a local newspaper (although I don't have the specific quote) that she had no idea that her friend would be out on the course with a water bottle. So if a finger should be pointed at anyone, it should be at the friend, not the runner. Therefore, I would give Cassie the benefit of a doubt and allow her time in the records.
Those are my thoughts; I would like to read the thoughts of Grandma's finishers and also officials. Since Grandma's is also a USATF event, maybe someone can share some more light on this controversy. You just read my opinion; I like to read yours. Happy Halloween!
October 1, 2009: Ashland's Two Big Race Weekends
As promised, I'm back in Saxon to discuss two big events coming up in Ashland the next two weekends in two completely different sports although they do share some things in common. The two events I'm talking about are stock car racing's Red Clay Classic which will be held this weekend at the ABC Raceway and, of course, the Whistlestop Marathon Festival which will be held on October 9th and 10th. It's very rare that one city can host two major sports events on back-to-back weekends, but the good folks of Ashland have pulled it off successfully for several years.
What do these distinct events have in common? First of all, both have been very successful events in their own right. The Red Clay Classic has been in existence since 1976 and at times has drawn anywhere between 175 and 225 stock cars from at least three states and Canada. Believe me, this is not an easy feat especially with other tracks competing for the same drivers. The Whistlestop Marathon has been going on since 1998 and also has drawn many participants throughout the Upper Midwest and Canada due in part to the runner-friendly course on the Tri-County Corridor. I say between the full marathon, half marathon, and the Cruisin' the Corridor 5K and 10 the Whistlestop now draws between 1,500 and 2,000 runners a year.
Another common thread is the economic impact for Ashland and the surrounding communities. I can predict with confidence that you can't find a hotel room in the City of Ashland for the next two weekends. Therefore, the motels and hotels of communities like Washburn, Hurley, Ironwood, Iron River, and Mellen will benefit from the overflow of requests of rooms. Also, local gas and convenience stores, restaurants, and discount stores will receive increased, welcomed business in what sometimes can be a slow time of year.
I guess another common thread between the Red Clay Classic and the Whistlestop is me because I may be one of the very few people who has supported both events. I've attend every Red Clay Classic since 1988 and, with the possible exceptions of the Paavo Nurmi Marathon and the Fox Cities Marathon weekend, is my favorite sporting event of the entire year. When I make up my vacation schedule at work at the beginning of every year, the first date I always mark off is the Friday of the Red Clay Classic. From 1998 to 2006, I competed in six Whistlestop full marathons and two half marathons. Although I've been unable to attend the last three Whistlestops due to other conflicts, I plan to attend the 2010 event which will be held hopefully on my 49th birthday!
The last correlation between the two events, believe it or not, is that the Cruisin' the Corridor 5K and 10K were actually an off-shoot of the Red Clay Classic. In 1994, the Vaughn Library decided to hold a running event as a fundraiser. The staff at the library decided to host it on the Saturday of the Red Clay to attract some people who would attend the races. Unfortunately, the only race fan who got out of bed to run a 10K was yours truly. However, that first Cruisin' the Corridor attracted an excellent, if small field: Dawn and Matt Long of Poplar, Glen Hill of Maple, Darrell Thompson of Hayward (who won his age group at last weekend's Birkie Trail 5K), and ABR Ski Trail's co-owner Angela Santini of Ironwood. What I remembered most about that event was I tried like crazy to break 50 minutes but couldn't quite do it. At the awards ceremony in the afternoon, I found out I won my age group although I think I was the only one in it. For the next three years, the event was moved to the weekend ahead of Red Clay, and numbers gradually improved. Since 1998, the Cruisin' the Corridor 5K and 10K have been an integral part of the Whistlestop Marathon Festival.
Perhaps in a future post, I will go in some detail about some of my past Whistlestops. Although the current weather forecasts say otherwise, hopefully, Mother Nature will cooperate and give Ashland some nice weather the next two weekends. Take care, and good luck to everyone at the Whistlestop!
September 26, 2009: Birkie Trail Run Festival (5K)
Hi everybody! I'm back to write my third and final blog of the weekend. I made the trip this morning to Fish Hatchery Road in Hayward to run in the American Birkebeiner Trail Run Festival and got there bright and early at 6:45 a.m. Although I didn't have to run until 11:30 a.m., I didn't want to be caught in traffic and arrive late to pick up my packet and T-shirt. Arriving early allowed me the chance to visit with several of the half marathon runners, including some readers of "Northland Runner."
As far as I know, the festival consisted of a half marathon, marathon relay, 5K fun run, and a poling or "trek" race. I observed that there was a pretty good range of runners from college-level runners to recreational runners like myself. Although I like to ski recreationally, I don't go to ski races so this is one of my rare opportunities to compete on the famous Birkie trail.
And I have one word to describe the hills on the Birkie Trail: RELENTLESS!! Wow, those hills are not only long but have very steep angles of ascent. I'll admit it; I had to walk up the majority of the hills. That's why I have to salute all the participants who did the half marathon and put up with 13.1 miles of up-and-down hills.
I accomplished my only goal of the 5K race: don't trip or fall down on the trails. I wasn't concerned with a time goal, but I was happy to break 36 minutes with a time of 35:23. I also realized that my body wasn't as sore as it usually is after a road race. Also, I was able to have a shorter cool-down and recovery period.
Also, I can't forget I got to meet fellow blogger Ron and contributer Shelley T. Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourselves to me, and Ron, you looked faster as a gazelle as you crossed the finish line!
Finally, my next blog will be Thursday, 10/2 when I discuss the two big October races in Ashland (stock car's Red Clay Classic and the Whistlestop Marathon festival) and the correlation they have to one another. Have a great week!
September 25, 2009: Kimberly Clark Half Marathon
As promised, this blog will be devoted to the Kimberly Clark Half Marathon held on Sunday, 9/20, in conjunction with the 19th annual Community First Fox Cities Marathon. This year, Kimberly Clark has replaced U.S. Cellular as the title sponsor. Another change is for the first time the half marathon and full marathon are run at different times. The half marathon started at 7:00 a.m. and the full marathon started at 8:00 a.m. With over 5,000 participants between the two events, I think this was done primarily to prevent congestion on the course. Although I completely support the decision, I did miss running with and cheering for the full marathoners.
My race can be summed up with a surpisingly fast first 6.9 miles and a predictedly slow last 10K. I've been fighting leg soreness all summer, and I knew that realistically it would be difficult for me to finish under 2:10. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was running an under 2 hour pace when I got to mile 7. However, the wall reared its ugly head for the second time in a week and I struggled to a 2:17:02 chip time finish.
When I checked my results on Monday morning at work, I read that my split was a respectable 1:02:44 at mile 6.9 followed with a 1:14:19 for the last 10K. Obviously, I hit the wall badly in the last 10K. When I checked out the times for several friends, I noticed that most of them were running negative splits for the last 10K. Even when I ran really well in full or half marathons in the past, I hardly ever run a negative split and that is something I would like to correct. If anyone has any suggestions, I sure would appreciate it.
I'm really proud of my half marathon shirt: Johnny Cash black with blue and silver lettering. I'm going to wear it tomorrow in Hayward for the Birkie Trail Festival. Also, our timing chips were disposable so I'm keeping both of mine for souvenirs.
Finally, I hope to visit with a lot of you tomorrow in Hayward. Again, if anyone has any ideas to help me get over the "wall," please let me know. My next blog may be either later this weekend or on Thursday, 10/2 when I recap the Birkie trail running festival and talk about the two "BIG" races that will be held in Ashland in October. Take care!
September 25, 2009: Wild Goose Chase 10K and Time Warner 5K
After chomping at the bit for four weeks, I'm back on my computer in Saxon to write about my month of running. I'll be writing two blogs this evening. The first one will be about a 10K I did two weeks ago and a 5K I did last Saturday as part of the Fox Cities Marathon events in Appleton. My second blog will be about the Kimberly Clark Half Marathon which I ran last Sunday.
On Saturday, 9/12, I drove the approximately 40 miles south to Waupun, WI to run in the second Wild Goose Chase 10K. The event was hosted by the Waupun Athletic Booster Club and the majority of the volunteers were members and parents of the high school cross country team. For a second year event, I was impressed with its organization. I received my t-shirt and bib immediately, and a table was already set for water and gatorade. When I got out of registration, the finish line chute was already set up complete with a multi-sport clock provided by the booster club. I can tell Race Director Matt Dickhut is a stickler for details because he had the mile markers broken down to a 1/2 mile!
The course itself is relatively flat and winds through downtown Waupun and a park on the northwest part of the city. All the intersections were well-monitored, and there was a volunteer on a motorcycle to check up on all the runners. The Sesame Street Cookie Monster would've had a field day at the post race feed with about ten different varieties of cookies.
The only constructive criticism I would provide is to start the run a little earlier. The 10K started at 9:00 a.m., and the accompanying 5K didn't start until 10:30 a.m. By the time I finished, the temperature was around 80 degrees. However, I overhead some volunteers saying that they will probably move the starting times for next year's race.
My race was the tale of two 5Ks. I did pretty well in the first half with a time of 26:10 when I got to mile 3, but I hit the wall big time after I left the water station. This would be a theme that would repeat itself eight days later in the half marathon. I made it to the finish line at 59:30. With the increasing temperatures, I was very happy to finish under an hour. Despite my slow second half, I had a great time at the Wild Goose Chase and will be back next year.
Last Saturday, 9/19, I ran in my sixth consecutive Time Warner Cable 5K Run, the opening event of the 19th annual Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races. I've really grown to enjoy this event, which jump starts my weekend at the FCM. The 5K set a record with 950 participants, and the event is run in a first-class manner including a P.A. announcer and pre-race music. For the third straight year, the event was held at Fox Valley Technical College.
I'm proud to say I ran probably my best race all year, and it wasn't from a time perspective. I always go into a race with the attitude if I can't run fast, at least run steady. When I got to the mile No. 1 marker, timer Matt Ebel (son of race director John Ebel) yelled out, "8:23." When I got to the mile No. 2 marker, Bill Simonsen (who would run the full marathon the next day) yelled out, "16:46." You get the idea. When I got to mile No. 3, I looked at my watch and it read, "25:09." I got to the finish line at 26:09 (chip time of 26:00). But for the first three miles, I ran at a dead-on 8:23 mpm pace! I've always dreamed about running this consistent of a pace, and it finally happened during a year where I haven't run really well at times. I have to admit I had an ear-to-ear grin from the end of the race until I got done with my shift as a volunteer at 3:00 p.m. Also, I didn't take off my finisher's medallion until I got home to Omro!
Well, that's a wrap on these two events. Talk to you again in a bit.