Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Running Traverse City

I love Traverse City, Michigan. I love, love, love it. It has everything a thriving community should have – a wonderful downtown, walkability, great restaurants, local shops, a beautiful setting right on the Grand Traverse Bay.  And if you run the Bayshore Marathon or Half Marathon you don’t see any of this picturesque downtown. 
I ran the Bayshore Half Marathon in 2007. It was my second half after San Francisco, and obviously it was very different.  We arrived in Traverse City the evening before the race and stayed at a random hotel. I honestly can’t even recall where we stayed, and I’m not sure it matters.  Everything about getting around Bayshore requires driving to various sites. There’s no walking outside from your hotel and right into the race start.
The morning of the race we met at Traverse City Central High School and piled into busses to head out to the half marathon start.  (The marathon is an out and back along the bay.)  It was a chilly morning (high 40s) but perfect, sunny running weather after a few miles.
I love small races, and I prefer the smaller half marathons I’ve done. Bayshore is certainly small and the crowds are smaller, but it’s a less intimidating race.  The problem with running along the bay and not through any part of town that it got a little boring.
The Traverse City residents were great and were out cheering and offering water, lemonade and (my personal favorite) strawberries. The race ended on the track at the same high school where we picked up our packets and loaded the buses.
Rounding the corner to the Bayshore finish
I enjoyed the race because it was low key and relaxed, but as a cityphile it’s very disappointing that you don’t actually see any of Traverse City. Like I said, it is a fantastic town.  After the run we headed downtown to scour the race gear and had a great dinner at The Blue Tractor (whose mac ‘n cheese is second to none).  I enjoyed hanging out downtown Traverse City way more than the race itself. It seems there could be a way to showcase more of the city during the race.
The Bayshore course is flat and pretty, but seeing more of downtown Traverse City would give it a huge boost for me.  When I run in a town I want to SEE the town.   
Good luck to my friends running the race this year  – Fred Schaible and Kyle Melinn running the marathon and Bethany Wicksall running the half. You’ll all do great – carb up at the Blue Tractor for me!
How would I rate the Bayshore race? B (take me downtown and it’s an instant upgrade)
How would I rate Traverse City? A (it’s got everything you’d want in a town!) 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Run Like a Champion Today

Next weekend marks the 25th anniversary of Sunburst Races in South Bend, Indiana. Last year some girlfriends and I headed down to run the ½ marathon.  I’ve got this thing about ending races in football stadiums so the “Hall of Fame to Notre Dame” race, heading from the College Football Hall of Fame and ending on the 50 yard line of Notre Dame’s stadium, was perfect.

The first hiccup with Sunburst was the race hotel, the Marriott in downtown South Bend. The location was excellent – literally out the door to the start. But the price was outrageous – over $175 for one night in Indiana. My husband still complains about the cost of that hotel, and the hotel itself was average at best.
Sunburst holds its expo outside the College Football Hall of Fame. It was lively and fun with lots of music and entertainment. I must say that the shirt for this race was not great. The design was cute, but it’s HUGE. I got a small, and I could belt it and wear it as a dress. It’s always disappointing to do a race and get an unwearable shirt.
the start- right outside our hotel

Race morning was beautiful, warm, and humid. The start was fun and festive in downtown South Bend. South Bend has a small but cute downtown.  The race ran through downtown a little bit and then branched out into neighborhoods for the most part.
and we're off!

The race then curled into a trail along the river which was scenic. There were people cheering everywhere, and at no point did you feel lonely on the course. Unfortunately there must have been a shortage of water because there was no water for about 2.5 miles between miles 7 and 9. With the high humidity that day it was a killer.
Late in the race (mile 12ish?) we got onto Notre Dame’s campus. I think the race could have been enhanced a bit if more of the course was on campus. The finish in the stadium was great. There was lots of cheering and entertainment, and it felt like a very grand finish. The fun finish (and a popsicle) almost made me forget about the humidity. 
finishing in Notre Dame's stadium

One very frustrating thing is at the end of the race there was also a walking event where walkers were coming onto the field parallel with the runners. As we went to get water and popsicles, we were battling the walkers for hydration. Don’t get me wrong – I am thrilled that so many people participated in the event. But when you run 13.1 miles in that type of humidity you shouldn’t have to battle a line with the walkers at the end.
my hard earned popsicle

Overall I enjoyed the race itself (with a few hiccups). Unfortunately I don’t feel like I saw any of South Bend as part of the course. In terms of running that town it was a little lacking. After the race my husband and I went around town and campus a little bit, and I wish we could’ve seen more of it during the run.
How would I rate the race? B (running out of water and battling walkers takes it down a notch)
How would I rate South Bend? C (I feel like I didn’t get to experience much of it and what I did see wasn’t much to write home about)

Monday, May 16, 2011

May showers bring flooded race routes

In theory it is spring time, although you wouldn't have known it this past weekend. On Saturday a girlfriend and I ran the Heart of Michigan Governor's Cup 10K. Last year this race proceeded in a torrential downpour, and at the start of this year's race it appeared it would suffer the same fate.
Running the 2010 Heart of a Spartan Race - so rainy!
The race began at Dunham's Sporting Goods store in the Frandor shopping center and ended in front of the beautiful Michigan Capitol Building.  Runners met on the Lansing Community College campus and took buses over to the start.

While the rain poured before the race, runners were huddled under a tent and in doorways to stay dry.  The 5K started around its scheduled start time, but the 10K course had to be re-routed and started 20 minutes late.

I have been running on the Lansing River Trail for several years. Anyone who runs the trail regularly knows it floods regularly in the spring. This year we had an extremely rainy spring, and the race course had to be re-routed at the last minute. Unfortunately this mean the 10K started 20 minutes late. After standing in the cold and rain I was very frustrated.

Despite the frustration with the delayed start I really enjoyed the course overall. It ran up MIchigan Ave and through a neighborhood to the river trail. The race continued on the trail for several miles before coming out onto Ottawa Street and ending in front of the Capitol.

There were no mile markers along the course, and I assume this was because of the re-routing. I must say the course itself was much better than last year, but because of the late start and seeming lack of course organization I was dissatisfied with the race overall.

The silver lining is that I set my 10K PR, beating my previous PR by more than two minutes. But next spring I'll have to find another 10K, because I think I'll take a rain check on the Heart of Michigan race.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Running with the boys

As I've mentioned several times I'm not the fastest runner. I run for me not because I'm ever going to win any awards. But last weekend, at the 1st Annual Kayla Stanford Memorial Run, I found myself running for girl bragging rights. 

A number of my co-workers were running the race, and I was insisting that I was going to beat the boys. Go big or go home, right?  The race was held on a gorgeous spring morning in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  A sizable group gathered to complete the run/walk.

Runners and walkers at the start
I started the race with two of my male co-workers refusing to let them get ahead of me. The run began on the grass soccer field at Ypsilanti High School, and to my surprise the entire course was on grass or trails through the woods. The woods were also quite hilly - surprise!

I've only done one trail run, and it didn't go well. Running on wooded trails, even for a 5K, is so much harder than running on a road or sidewalk. About half a mile in I was already breathing hard and trying to ward away pains in my sides. Fortunately the boys seemed surprised by the course too so I was able to keep up with them.

The last half mile or so one of my co-workers pulled ahead, but I was able to finish with the other one. It wasn't my 5K PR, but it was the hardest 5K I've ever done - and the most rewarding.

I am smiling, but it's fake
I am so proud to have run for such a wonderful cause. Kayla Stanford suffered from sudden cardiac arrest, but hopefully through the work of the Kayla Foundation many of those tragedies can be prevented in the future. To learn more about sudden cardiac death, visit the Kayla Foundation or American Heart Association websites.

I (mostly) kept up with the boys, and I'm already looking forward to the 2nd Annual Kayla Stanford Memorial 5K. But next year I'm training on trails, and the boys are going down.

With co-workers after the race


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A 5k for a Great Cause

It’s May which means it’s almost spring here in Michigan. Spring to me means one thing – 5k season. I’ll be honest, I’m not good at running a 5k. It’s not as though I’m the world’s fastest runner anyway, but the 5k distance baffles me. When I started running I was training for a marathon, and I’ve never been able to adjust to running 3.1 miles.

Despite my love/hate relationship with the 5k distance, I love the races. They are short, effective and quite often for good causes. This weekend I am running the 1st Annual Kayla Stanford Memorial 5k. As far as good causes go, this one is second to none.

 Kayla Stanford was just 12 years old in 2006 when she collapsed and died from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Her death was completely unexpected and yet 300 Michigan youths die annually from SCA. 

I didn’t know Kayla, but I work with her mother Kelly. She has worked for the last five years to raise awareness of SCA and to ensure that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are installed in Michigan’s schools. To date every school in the Ypsilanti Public School District has an AED because of Kelly’s efforts. 

In our workplace we have AEDs and are trained in CPR and in how to use the AED. According to the American Heart Association an average of only 6% of SCA victims survive without CPR or defibrillation. This cause is so important to save lives. All proceeds from the 5k will go to further the goals of the Kayla Foundation.

I can’t even comprehend the heartache SCA must cause a family, and the goals of the Kayla Foundation are so important to help prevent that heartache. If you are in the Ypsilanti area (or close by – it’s worth an hour or so drive) sign up for the race. It’s only 3.1 miles, and it’s really the least we can do.