Saturday, June 30, 2012

You're on vacation - go run!

On Friday I received next month's edition of Runner's World. I love receiving a new issue. I read it repeatedly, cover to cover.  I've learned so much by reading advice from other runners.  The magazine has an advice column called "Ask Miles" that I find provides helpful tips. This month a reader asked a question that I find particularly surprising. He or she asked if they could "bank" miles before going on vacation - effectively catch up on miles so you can take a break on vacation. 

I'm all for a break. Everybody needs a break from running sometimes. But for me, vacation is just not that time. I'd rather take a break from my monotonous four mile route I've run 1,000 times. Vacation is for exploring. It's for relaxing. Vacation is made for running.

Tomorrow we're leaving for a week's vacation, and I can't wait to go running.  I have a TON of running stuff I'm taking along. I'm registered for the L.L. Bean 10k in Freeport, Maine on the 4th of July.  I honestly can't imagine a vacation without running.

It's worth it to find room in the suitcase for all this running stuff.
I realize running on vacation isn't for everyone - to each his own. But as a runner I find few things as gratifying as lacing up my running shoes in a new place. I have been able to find new restaurants and interesting sites on a morning run. It's a great way to get a lay of the land. 

We've had a busy year, and we are so ready to get away. Whatever you're doing this holiday week, enjoy yourself. And go for a run! You'll never regret that you did. I'm off - vacation here we come! Now if I could get this blasted Go-Go's song out of my head...



Thursday, June 28, 2012

The blessing of running because so many can't

For those who don't know me well, it may surprise you to know I'm extraordinarily sentimental. I tear up instantly at some of the silliest things - every time I hear John Denver's Country Roads, when I line up at the start of a race, watching the Olympics (and even the trials it turns out), watching my Mountaineers run onto the field during a football game, any time I watch a wedding on television. This is a contradiction to my brash (often abrasive) candor the rest of the time. I'm a complicated lady.

I really do get misty eyed at the beginning of races. When I started the Detroit Marathon in 2010, I was so choked up that I was having trouble breathing. I had to force myself to calm down. Sometimes during a race I will see something that I find touching and I tear up again. During the Green Bay Marathon last month there was a woman with a shirt that said, "I run for all of my PT patients who aren't able." I immediately teared up and realized how blessed I am to have a body that lets me run. At one point during that same race there was a little old man in a motorized wheelchair at the end of his driveway ringing a cow bell for runners. (For the record I just teared up even thinking about this.) I'm running for you, buddy.

Last weekend I got the opportunity to participate in a 5k in honor of a little boy who passed away in 2005 at the age of six. I did not know Max, but I'd heard Max's Race was a great race. Little did I know I would feel so emotional. As I lined up at the starting line in East Lansing, I started thinking about Max, a little boy who contracted bacterial spinal meningitis at only seven months old and had seven surgeries in his short life.  I looked around at other runners, all of us ostensibly healthy, able people. And I said a little prayer to thank God that all of us were able to run in honor of Max and others who aren't able.

Max's Race was my third race of the Playmakers Race Series and my favorite so far. It ran through Michigan State's campus on a gorgeous morning passing all the big sites - Spartan Stadium, Munn Arena, and along the Red Cedar River. Most of the trail was tree-lined and shaded.  Prior to the race the crowd was joined by MSU's mascot, Sparty, and the Spartan cheerleaders. It was a very fun start.

At the start of Max's Race
I ran a solid race, finishing almost a minute faster than my last 5k. My goal of breaking a 25 minute 5k is still alluding me, but it's early in the summer. Max's Race was impeccably organized. There were TONS of volunteers all along the course, and they were awesome. They were cheering for runners, and guiding us along the way. I can safely say these were perhaps the best and most visible volunteers of any 5k I've ever done.

Sprinting to a strong finish
I don't often like to run the same race over and over, but I am adding Max's Race to my race calendar from here on out. On days where it's too hot or too cold or my body feels tired, I vow to stop thinking of my own struggle and think of how fortunate I am to be able to run. I will get out there because I am can.  Because I am thankful. Because I am blessed. Max's Race reminded me that there's more to running than just finishing in a good time or staying in good shape. Running is a state of mind, and we should all remember how blessed we really are.




Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Going Up North

Michiganders have this thing about going "up north" to their cottages or campsites. North is essentially north of Clare, Michigan (just a little past the geographical center of the state). If you stop to get gas north of Clare, you can buy a sweatshirt or a coffee mug that says "Up North". I'm not sure it's so much a destination as a state of mind. I've been up north three times this month, and each trip has been very fun and very beautiful. But I have to admit - I don't get the always going up north thing. Not that it's not incredibly gorgeous and there's lots to do, but I can't imagine spending every weekend driving three hours to get someplace else. The same place, every time. 

I realize this post will make me unpopular. Let me say again that I think it's lovely in northern Michigan. If I lived there, I'd be all about it. There are just way too many places I want to travel to that keep me from spending every weekend in the same place that's not exactly close to home.

In June I've been north of Clare three times - to Munising (I guess not really "up north" because the Upper Peninsula is its own entity), to Traverse City and this past week to Boyne Highlands for a meeting.  Boyne Highlands is a ski resort near the cities of Harbor Springs and Petoskey, both lovely northern Michigan towns. I had to run while we were there because I am still working through my 38 day summer run streak (this morning's run was 30 days in a row of running at least one mile). 

Boyne Highlands main lodge
My friend and I decided we'd run to the top of one of the ski hills. It wasn't that far - maybe a mile, but it was exhausting. It was unequivocally one of the hardest runs I've ever done. Totally worth it, but we decided to take the ski lift back down.
We ran up the dirt path on the left. Ouch.
It didn't look quite this steep on the way up.
Boyne Highlands has lots of activities in the summer - swimming, horseback riding, and one of my favorite summer activities -drinking gin and tonics. The bartenders at the lodge graciously added cucumbers as my garnish. It's my new favorite summer cocktail. The resort also has a zip line which was very fun. I'd never been zip lining before and it was awesome. I went down the hill upside down the second time - so exciting.

Getting suited up for zip lining.
We did have an opportunity one afternoon to spend a little time in downtown Harbor Springs, a town just a few miles from Boyne Highlands. It is a lovely downtown on the water with lots of shops and restaurants. It's walkable and has beautiful water views. I had been to Harbor Springs once in the fall on a blustery day with nearly sideways rain, so this helped rehabilitate my cold weather image of the town. We walked around a bit, looked in some shops, and enjoyed some ice cream as we sat by the water.

Some shots from downtown Harbor Springs

This is probably the last trip I'll take up north this summer - I think three trips in one month was a bit exhausting. Each trip was enjoyable, and each town I visited had its own unique appeal that encourages Michiganders to brave the traffic on US-127 and I-75 north every weekend. I think the rest of the summer we'll head south or east. Changing directions always keeps things interesting.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trust me on the sunscreen.

When I was in college in the late 90s there was a speech that was all the rave. The speech was written by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

In Morgantown, West Virginia it was played on the radio with music in the background. I nearly had it memorized. It was one of those speeches that sticks with you, and even 14 years later still resonates. But now, for me, one part of message is particularly clear: wear sunscreen.

Whether you're running, playing outside or just going for a stroll - do it.If you're going to be outside, you should be wearing sunscreen. In 2001 I had a suspicious mole removed that was melanoma. Luckily it was caught early, and the doctor able to get it all. I have family of friends who were not so lucky.  Eleven years and 5 additional suspicious (but luckily not cancerous) moles removed later, and I am a sunscreen fanatic. It's in my moisturizer, my make-up, my lotion, everything. When I garden I wear a hat that contains SPF 50. When I see people tanning or bragging about not wearing sunscreen I want to scream. Because you have one set of skin your lifetime. If the cancer doesn't scare you, the wrinkles should.
Floppy SPF hat is a must in Mexico.
 When I was younger I spent hours at the pool wearing tanning oil - you know Hawaiian Tropic. The good stuff. Sometimes baby oil. Ouch. I didn't wear sunscreen even once in my entire life until I had skin cancer. Now it's almost like a religion. So seriously people, my unsolicited advice remains: wear sunscreen.

And with that, I'd like to share Mary Schmich's eloquent words:

"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '98: Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wine and friendship extravaganza in Traverse City, MI

One of my closest girlfriends is getting married in about six weeks, so this past weekend we headed north to Traverse City, Michigan for a weekend of girl time, drinking and relaxing. There were six of us, and we left after lunch on Friday. I had planned a detailed weekend filled with tons of food and cocktails, and we were excited to get going.

Traverse City sits on the Grand Traverse Bay about 3½ hours north of Lansing and is a huge tourist destination in the summer. We stayed at the Grand Beach Hotel just outside of downtown, right on East Traverse Bay. The hotel was reasonably priced and had fantastic suites. Our suite had two king-sized beds, a queen-size pull out sofa and a large roll away bed - perfect for six girls. 

On Friday evening we had dinner at Fire Fly, a chic restaurant downtown with a wide array of menu options include small plates and sushi. Our group included a Gluten allergy and a vegetarian, and Traverse City had plenty of culinary options for us. Fire Fly was a huge hit that culminated in chocolate fondue.  We headed back after dinner to relax on the beach at the hotel (bachelorette parties in your 30s are much tamer than ones 10 years ago.)

Sunset over the bay -taken from the beach outside our hotel

Saturday morning I headed out early for a short run. I ran the Bayshore Half Marathon in Traverse City five years ago, but I am not otherwise familiar with the area for running. Our hotel was located on US 31, a busy road leading in the city. Unfortunately this did not bode well for running. There weren't a lot of sidewalks, and I found myself running through hotel parking lots. After a particularly annoying ankle twist stepping down off a curb, I cut my run short and headed back. (As a side note I hear there are lovely places to run in Traverse - they just weren't adjacent to our hotel.)

Breakfast on Saturday morning was at Greenhouse Cafe on Front Street. Front Street is Traverse City's main downtown drag where many restaurants and shops are located. It's an absolutely impeccable downtown with dozens of bars and eateries and a number of local shops. We built up a good base at Greenhouse Cafe (the eggs benedict was excellent) to prepare for our wine tour later in the day. We strolled around downtown a bit after breakfast. I love that Traverse City is so dog friendly - many of the downtown storefronts have water bowls outside for thirsty pups. I think Murphy and Izzy would approve.

Dog bowls outside a book store on Front Street

Later that morning we were picked up at the hotel by Traverse City Tours for a winery tour on Old Mission Peninsula. This particular peninsula has seven wineries, and we were able to tour six of them. I cannot rave enough about Traverse City Tours. While booking (via e-mail) they were efficient and very easy to work with. Our driver, Ellie, was absolutely lovely. We really enjoyed spending the day with her. One of my favorite things was her taking photos of us at each winery that were later e-mailed to me. They were so fantastic - I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a wine tour in Traverse City.

Our group outside Black Star Farms winery (taken by Ellie at Traverse City Tours)
The wineries we visited were each unique and delicious. I came home with 9 bottles of wine - totally worth it. My favorite winery was Bowers Harbor Vineyard. They had sparkling wine (a huge favorite), but they also have a dog that lives there - Brix,a Burnese Mountain Dog. I am a sucker for any business that has an animal resident. We learned that Brix was one of several dogs who had lived there, and each of the dogs had a wine named after him. I am now a proud owner of Brix sparkling wine.

Posing with my BFF Brix at Bowers Harbor
The best view of the day was from Chateau Chantal, a gorgeous winery sitting on a hill overlooking the bay. It has a huge patio and very large tasting room. It also had fantastic sparkling wine, so I bought some there as well. We stopped for lunch about half way through the tour at Peninsula Grill in an effort to soak up some of the wine we'd tasted. I'm a huge fan of Great Lakes Whitefish, and the Peninsula Grill's parmesan whitefish was among the best I'd ever had.

The incredible view from Chateau Chantal
After the wine tour we rested at the hotel and on the beach. We headed back downtown for dinner to Red Ginger, an Asian restaurant on Front Street known for its sea bass and martinis. I had the sea bass and it was delicious. The cucumber martini was also a good choice (I love a drink with a cucumber.) After our fantastic dinner we headed directly across the street to Phil's on Front for more martinis and witty conversation. 

Cucumbers in cocktails = delicious
The last stop on Sunday morning before heading home was Amical (again on Front Street) for brunch. I was very excited to eat there after looking at their menu. I had the French toast which was swimming in a cloyingly sweet raspberry whipped cream, so that was disappointing. Our service was also weird - the server was strangely passive aggressive with us. I would say Amical was my least favorite culinary experience of the trip.

I got home on Sunday and took a two hour nap to recover from the trip. It was a wonderful weekend celebrating friendship in a vibrant city.  Traverse City is really one of Northern Michigan's most celebrated cities for a reason. I'm thinking the next trip should include a wine tour of the area's Leelanau Peninsula, but I don't think my wine rack will be empty any time soon.
My treasures from Traverse City

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stopping to enjoy my town, 5k style

I've already discussed that this is the year for me to run the Playmakers Race Series. I'm giving the half marathons a little break to focus on my goal of breaking a 25 minute 5k. This weekend I ran the Capitol Bancorp 5k in downtown Lansing. The race started just a few miles from my house and literally steps from my office. My husband and I got there early...too early. I have a tendency to do this - I get anxious on race day, and we end up wandering around for a while before the race. 

The clock on Boji Tower. At this point we were still a half an hour early for the race.
We walked around a bit downtown. We're down there every day for work and frequently for socializing as well, but somehow just walking slowly and really looking at downtown was interesting. I noticed just how beautiful Downtown Lansing's architecture is.  I appreciated that there are significantly fewer empty store fronts than there were when I moved here six years ago. It was like I was seeing downtown for the first time instead of just rushing through it to the next destination.  It turns out Downtown Lansing is charming. It may not be perfect, but it's definitely made (and is continuing to make) huge strides.

Downtown Lansing architecture
I do a lot of races all over Michigan and elsewhere including Lansing. I ran Lansing's Capital City River Run the last few years and the inaugural Lansing Marathon half marathon in April. But something about being downtown before this race made me appreciate our downtown and the great running culture that exists in mid-Michigan. When I look for races on our travels I'm sometimes hard pressed to find out. In the summer in mid-Michigan you can have your pick of races in any given weekend.

Posing in front of the Capitol before the start
After warming up with our little walk I made my way over to the start line. It was a warm morning, although at the start I didn't think it seemed too bad. I started out quickly, and the race turned down Capitol Avenue in front of Michigan's beautiful Capitol Building.  

The first stretch of the race was shady and comfortable on Capitol Ave. Then we turned onto Washtenaw Street, and that's where this race got real.  There was no shade on Washtenaw or the rest of the course until we looped back onto Capitol (the race did the same loop twice). It was sunny and brutal. My first mile I ran in 7:50, a very fast mile for me. The second two miles were not so fast.

A half hearted/exhausted wave when I saw my husband.

Look at that view (the Capitol - not me)
This was my second race of the Playmakers Race Series, and I love that they have clocks at each mile. It also helped me realize how much time I dropped between mile one and mile 3.1. Ouch. I really need to work on some speed training to figure out how to reach my goal of running a sub-25 minute 5k. I finished in 27:19, which is a 8:48 mile. That's not too shabby, but it does show how much I slowed down in the last two miles.

I'm enjoying running some 5ks and getting better at a shorter distance. It's also quite fun to do a race and not feel sore and tired afterward. I do enjoy doing a race in Downtown Lansing, but I wish the course had explored more of downtown instead of doing the same loop twice. I find loops to be tedious and kind of boring. 

This race did help me realize it's always important to take a little time to enjoy the place you live. Look into the windows of shops in your downtown. Frequent the restaurants. Have a cocktail. Visit festivals and other events. And if you have a 5k, run it. Bring your kids, your spouse and your dog(s). It's your town. If you don't enjoy it, how can you expect anyone else to? 



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Running Munising

Every year I visit Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a work meeting for a couple of days. Last year I ran Houghton, Michigan, and this year we had a much shorter trip to Munising, MI. Munising is about 2½ hours closer than Houghton, and that gives you an idea of how huge the UP actually is. Munising sits on the shore of Lake Superior, and is most famous for its proximity to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Grand Island National Recreation Area.

Pictured rocks. Gorgeous!
We arrived in Munising late Wednesday evening, and first thing on Wednesday I laced up my shoes for a run. Our hotel was perched on top of a hill that didn't seem that steep until I was trying to get back to it. On the first day I headed east toward downtown Munising. Munising is a small town of around 2,000 people, but like many UP towns it has a quaint downtown.

The view of Lake Superior from my hotel balcony (a room I was upgraded to after a hotel mistake. Score!)

Downtown Munising
Unfortunately on my run I didn't get all the way downtown. The UP is frigid in the winter, but generally their spring and summer temps are mild to cool. That was not the case when we visited - it was warm and humid. I love that kind of weather, but it caused me to keep my runs short. 

Munising is an outdoorsman's dream with hiking, boating and basically any outdoor activity you can imagine. Their downtown boasts some charming local shops and restaurants in a short maybe mile stretch of town. 

We were fortunate to take a boat tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore while we were there, and wow. I'd heard it was amazing, and it lived up to its reputation. We were out on Lake Superior on a flawless summer day. The sky was cerulean and the scenery was just amazing. I couldn't quite get over how beautiful the water was. It was extremely clear - like something you'd see in the Gulf Coast only somehow prettier. We spent three hours viewing Pictured Rocks, and it was definitely something I'd recommend for everyone.

On my last morning in Munising I decided to run west away from town (and with hopes of a flatter course). The flatter course was not to be, but the scenery was tranquil. It was so quiet - the only thing I could hear was my breathing and feet pounding the pavement interrupted only by the rare early morning passing car. This time of year the trees were brilliantly green. Living in a city it is rarely quiet. I grew up in the country, and it's been a long time since I've heard such quiet. It was comforting and eerie all at the same time.

Munising is a great attraction. People come from all over the world to see Pictured Rocks, and that alone is worth the drive. We didn't eat out in Munising, but our meeting was catered by Sydney's, a local restaurant. The white fish was incredible, and their breakfast of French toast with delicious whipped cream was amazing. 

My family lives south, and generally when we travel we head in that direction. But every time I'm in the UP there's something that hooks me. It reminds me a bit of West Virginia with its small, charming towns, hilly terrain and natural setting. The main difference is we don't have one of the Great Lakes in our backyard in WV. It's really very beautiful, and it seems to me like you've all got a road trip to plan. Pack your running shoes!  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Addicted to hardware

I think any runner gets it - we like bling. Hardware. Medals. If a race has a good medal, I may do that race just to add it to my collection. Not all medals are created equally, and a good medal can make a huge difference in a ace. When I finished the Double Bridge Run 15k in Pensacola, Florida in February, I walked around aimlessly in the finishing area looking for medals. When I realized we weren't getting one, I was not happy. I didn't reach my goal time, the course was light on spectators, AND I didn't get a medal? Unacceptable.

I admit - my first half marathon spoiled me a bit in the medal department. In 2006 I ran my first half, the Nike Women's Half Marathon, and runners receive a Tiffany necklace. There are guys in tuxes at the end handing out those glorious little Tiffany blue boxes, and even with all my IT band pain it made my day.  I wear that necklace all the time. Best. Medal. Ever.

Cute guys in tuxes? Check.
Tiffany necklace? Awesome.
In the six years, one (well two-ish with Green Bay last month) full marathons, 10 half marathons, one 15k, and a bevy of 5ks and 10ks, I find myself looking forward to the medal and really wanting it to be nice. They are really hit and miss. My best medal (after San Francisco) is the medal from the 2010 Detroit Marathon. It's so unique, SO Detroit, and I just love it.

Awesome medal from the 2010 Detroit Marathon
The medal from this year's Lansing Half Marathon reminds me of the Detroit one, and I really like that one too.  

Modeling the medal from the 2012 Lansing Half Marathon
 I particularly like being surprised by a 5k or 10k that has a medal. It's unusual, but it's really fun to get more medals. We've also discovered that our Golden Retriever enjoys wearing medals. He seems disappointed when we take them off. It's not just about me people - it's about the dog!

The Murphster modeling my 2011 Capital City River Run Half Marathon medal
The medal from the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon this year is pretty solid as well.  Granted we only got through 15 miles before they called the race for the heat, but I was not leaving  Wisconsin without a medal around my neck.

It's always disappointing to do a race and get a chintzy medal. It shouldn't be...I realize that. But who doesn't like a little bling after a long run? Let's be honest...we all do. What's your favorite medal?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Being the Hare

I've come to grips with the fact that I'm never going to win a race. I don't do it for winning - I do it because I enjoy doing races particularly in a new place. That being said I've gotten progressively faster. My first half marathon in 2006 was in 2:35. My PR in April was 2:02. My first 5k was run in 29:50. My PR is 26:00. You get the idea. After shaving nine minutes off my half marathon PR in April, I decided I should break the two hour mark this past weekend. It didn't quite go as planned...

That's me - on the right.
On Sunday I ran the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon. I'd heard great things about the race, so I thought it would be a good one to try. My husband was out of town at a golf weekend, so I thought it would give me something to do. I have to admit I missed having my support system/paparazzo there.

This race was impeccably organized. It was one of the most well organized races I've ever done. There was lots of communication beforehand - I got tons of e-mails.  I went the day before to pick up my packet at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. I wasn't expecting a lot from the race expo, but there were a lot of exhibitors with local race info and great deals on gear (especially skirtsports, one of my favorites). The race shirt is pretty adorable too.

Yes - it's this cute.
Saturday morning I got up at 4:45 to get ready to drive to Ann Arbor (it's about an hour from Lansing). The race organizers suggested racers get there by 6:45 (the race started at 8:30). I was there right at 6:45 and easily found parking in downtown Ann Arbor. There was a line of school buses taking racers out to the start in Dexter.  The start was at Dexter High School which was nice because we could wait inside (it was slightly chilly) and also, more importantly, use the bathroom inside (it's the little things). Unfortunately I got to the school around 7:20, so I was waiting around for over an hour. One of the biggest downfalls to being bussed to a start is the wait.

The race started promptly at 8:30. In my goal to break the two hour mark I lined up right with the two hour pacer. I learned this is the first year this race had pacers, and for me they were both a blessing and a curse. The two hour pacer was very gregarious and had a great attitude. The race started and it was VERY crowded. I had several people nearly trip me because we were packed in so tightly. It started to thin out a little after the first mile, and I felt so good that I decided to leave the two-hour pace group behind. Hence my being the hare in this race review.

I was pushing HARD. There were clocks at every mile marker, and by consulting them and my watch I determined I was running about 8:20-8:30 miles for the first six miles. That's very fast for me. We ran through downtown Dexter, a charming little downtown, around mile 2, and I was pushing so hard that I couldn't even appreciate it. 

Downtown Dexter. Looks cute, but I barely remember it.
The course was hillier than I imagined. It ran on Huron River Drive right along the river. The views were beautiful, but as I got to about the 10k mark I realized I wasn't enjoying it. I was pushing so hard that what I love about a race - appreciating the scenery, interacting with the crowd (even though there weren't a lot of spectators) was passing me by. I was also pushing way too hard so I decided to slow down.

The views were pretty, but I have to admit it was a little boring. Lonely even. I like energy and spectators. Thankfully there were water stations at every mile in the second half, so there were spectators at the water stations. Around mile nine the two hour pacer passed me by. Quickly. I generally run too conservatively at first and have a huge kick at the end. I had the opposite experience in this race.

This was much of the course only during the day and not at sunset.

At mile 11 the 2:05 pacer came up, and I was determined to stick with him even though my legs were screaming. The last mile was up a hill onto Main Street in Ann Arbor. There were finally crowds and lots of energy, and I was pushing so hard to get to the finish that I didn't even really notice it.

I love downtown Ann Arbor. It has everything a vibrant city should have. It has leveraged its anchor institution - the University of Michigan - beautifully. On a random weekend you'll find downtown bustling with people. Even though I finished downtown in a great city, I was too tired to enjoy it. I slowly walked back to my car and headed home.

Downtown A2

Even though we ran through downtown Dexter and finished in downtown Ann Arbor, the race was decidedly rural and didn't really highlight what makes the Ann Arbor area great. In all fairness I basically knew this going in. While the course was beautiful, I'm not sure I would do this race again (even though it was very well organized). I need energy!

The final verdict? 2:05:33. In April I knocked 11 minutes off my previous PR in a 2:02 run. I thought I would be stronger this time, but it goes to show that slow and steady generally wins the race. Turns out that damn tortoise was right.   

How would I rate this race? B (I loved the organization. The course was a little quiet for me.)

How would I rate Ann Arbor and Dexter? As for both (even though the race didn't highlight them as much)