Sunday, June 10, 2018

Whitefish Point Marathon Race Report

The Route from Paradise to Whitefish Point and back

If you want to get to Paradise, you have to go through Hell first. Or at least nearby. As we drove past the Pinkney expressway exit, I mentioned to Lady Adventurer Debbie that that’s where Hell is. But we didn’t stop there; it was Paradise or bust.

The sign informing us that “31% of Michigan traffic deaths are caused by not wearing seatbelts,” gave us pause. Lady Adventurer stated that it must be safer to not wear them. I had a rough time trying to explain what I thought the sign was really trying to tell us.

After a bit more than seven hours, we made it to Paradise. At the race check-in, I learned that over eighty runners were expected to toe the line in the morning; more than last year. I joked with the volunteers about how I didn’t like these huge, crowded expos.

Dan in Paradise
Dinner was at Camp 33 Brewery at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Afterward, we had a nice walk on the trails to visit the falls that we’d seen thirty years earlier. I suggested the ‘Nature Trail’ for our return. Lady Adventurer expressed her concern about mosquitoes. “How bad could it be?” asked I. The answer came in one word: clouds. The rest of this story (it involves running and slapping at our heads) is left to the reader’s imagination.
Tahquamenon Falls

Now it’s race day morning. After pouring myself some Magnuson Grand hotel coffee, I notice that the sunrise over Lake Superior is stunningly beautiful. I go out into the cool morning air to take some pictures and learn that the mosquitoes, lots of them, are also awake. For the second time in ten hours, I’m donating blood here in the U.P.

After dousing with deet, I jog over to the start/finish area. It’s a mile from the hotel. I love these low-hassle races. The Whitefish Point Marathon course will take me from Paradise to Whitefish Point and back. Whitefish Point is near the location of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s now home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, where we had visited on an earlier trip. They play that song – you know the one – over and over and over. I used to like it. The plan is for Lady Adventurer to meet me there at mile 13+, and hand me some gels, then drive back to meet me at mile 20, and then the finish.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy...

We shall see about that part where the lake never gives up her dead.

My early miles are at about 8:45 pace. Based on my recent history, that’s too fast. But it’s cool and I’m feeling pretty good. My Achilles isn’t even talking to me yet.
Early on. Still have spring in my step.

I reach the half-way point at around 1:55. I see Debbie at Whitefish Point as planned. There are clouds of mosquitoes around her, the volunteers, and the rest of the spectators. I ask her for a second deet dousing. Despite the skeeters, Whitefish Point is pretty darn spectacular. Even though the course has taken us to the north along the shore, I haven’t been able to see a whole lot of the lake because of trees and some homes. It’s a pretty course, nonetheless. And the shade from the trees is cool.

It’s mile 20, and I’m still doing well, although the old Achilles is indeed now talking, and it’s not saying nice things. My time is 2:55 or so, but my pace has started to slow just a little.

I see Debbie at mile 21. I’m slowing more. This will be my final sub-nine minute mile. Now each mile gets a little bit tougher. Funny how that happens.

Finally, the finish line looms. I complete the journey in 3:55, good for an 8:59 overall pace. This isn’t too awful, especially compared with the debacle at the Cleveland Marathon a few weeks ago. But it would have felt better with even pacing.
The Finish

After cleaning up, Debbie and I return to the finish area for a pasty and the awards ceremony. The pasty, by the way, is not the thing strippers paste on their nipples, but a U.P. specialty consisting of ground meat, potato, and rutabaga, all baked in a pie crust and served with gravy. It had been about forty years since we’ve had one, and we will be okay if another forty go by before next time. Debbie says she understands why they haven’t caught on in other parts of the country.

The awards go on for over an hour. There are so many door prizes that nearly all the runners wound up with something. I got another t-shirt and an ice-pack. I also won a hand-painted rock for placing second in my ancient ten-year age-group. The 61-year old kid who won the AG was well ahead of me. On top of the rock and my stone necklace in lieu of a finisher medal, I received a BQ (Boston Qualifier) coffee mug.

Lady Adventurer and I return back to Whitefish Point one more time for an afternoon walk in the adjacent bird sanctuary. It sure is a scenic spot, and we had a nice walk. Until the skeeters chased us back out of the woods.

Whitefish Point
This morning, whilst I was running, a whitefish whom I'll call Willie swam in Lake Superior. This evening, Brown Fisheries Fish House in Paradise cooked and served him to us. Fish don’t get much fresher. Or tastier. Boy was that a good way to end the trip!

Sunrise over Gitche Gumee

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Bad and the Ugly

Keen observers will note that I left out the Good. I have nothing personal against 'good,' per se. It's just that there ain't much of it these days. On the other hand, things could also be worse. Maybe the subject of this post ought to be the Bad, the Ugly and the Could have been Worse. Yeah, that works, don't it?

Take today's long run. Please. It was bad, ugly, but yes, it could've been worse. With the next marathon a week and a day away, I needed to get one long run in, and it hadn't been possible last week with the half-marathon and all. It was today or never.

The trouble was that I've been running a lot. Not well, mind you, just a lot. Not a day off since a week ago Friday, and that includes the half and the quickie. Been tired on and off. On today.

Did I mention the humidity? It was oppressive yesterday; a wee bit less so today. But I was sweating a little, and when running partner Debbie Scheel was done, at 7 miles for her, 12.4 for me, I was done as well. The trouble is that I still had five and a half to go.

A drastic slowdown occurred, but I trudged on and managed to get up to my planned 18.

It wasn't pretty. But you knew that.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Medina Half Marathon

Things weren't boding all that well. There was that painful experience at last week's Cleveland Marathon. And then there was the lingering pain and de-training that went along with the step-ouch, step-ouch routine. In fact, I began to wonder whether I ought to run this race, and the next one, a marathon in Michigan, at all.

So expectations weren't extremely high. But the Medina Half Marathon is nearly a home-town race, put on by my home-town run club. I wanted to at least make an effort.
Early in the race, on the bike path

And I did. I went out with the 1:50 pace group. This seemed somewhat ambitious, given last week's debacle. But then, I'd done that 1:49 a month ago.
Medina Lake, the prettiest part of the course

I couldn't keep up with them. By about half-way, I was beginning to fall behind. Now, I wasn't overly concerned, but I didn't want to lose focus completely. I wanted to maintain a pace that was at least respectable. The good news was that I wasn't hurting. Much.

On the bricks, approaching the Square for the finish

I did manage to keep from dying completely. Even though I slowed some, I at least kept it fairly steady. I finished in 1:53. And the best news is that I was still mostly pain-free. Tired, sore, beat-up. But pain-free.

I may go to Michigan after all.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cleveland Marathon, 2018 Edition

It's raining as I park the car. Since I'm here an hour and fifteen minutes before the start, I'm not concerned. I can just sit in the car a while, and let it subside.

I sit in the car a while. The rain doesn't subside. It's not coming down all that hard as I jog the mile over to the start.

When I arrive at Ontario Street by Quicken Loans Arena, I see the familiar (it was about the same last year) throng of people. I bump into Larry and Christine Orwin. CJ will be running, and they brought some friends. We chat whilst in the porta-potty line. My friends are running well these days, and I'm happy for them. I tell Larry how my Achilles is killing me, and I probably shouldn't even be here. In fact, I'm sure that I shouldn't be here. It was silly to sign up, but hope (that things would get better) springs eternal.

Soon thereafter, I am in my assigned corral, and the horn goes off. It hasn't stopped raining, but no one seems to mind. It's actually refreshing. It takes me a minute and a half to get to the starting line from so far back.

As much as I do enjoy the light rain, my Achilles begins to make itself well quite known by about mile five. By about mile ten, I still feel it, but despite that, I'm also running fairly well. I'm holding to a nine-minute pace. It would be nice - very nice - if I can only keep to this pace for the remaining sixteen miles.

The rain stopped for good after the first hour or so. I had been worried that it would get humid, but instead, it cools off a bit. This is about as good as it gets for a marathon in late May. I've lost count of the number of times I've done the Cleveland Marathon. It takes place in my Fair City; the place where I attended high school and college; the place where I've spent at least some time working; the place where my family likes to go for entertainment and sustenance. For some reason, some folks don't care for this race, but I think it's just fine. I think it's wonderful to see all the familiar sights and even a few new ones. And it's peachy to see so many running friends.

I see several such friends near the 17.3-mile turn-around. Some are spectating, and some are running. I stop for a porta-potty break on a couple occasions. Although quite necessary, this proves detrimental to my performance. I'd held the nine-minute pace through mile sixteen, but now things don't look so wonderful. Besides the lost time, the Achilles pain is now in the awful zone. I suppose a steady pace with no stops may have been better (had that been possible), but we will never know for sure, now will we?

Every step is painful in the waning miles. I catch up with Tom Bieniosek at about mile 25. This is surprising since I had been ahead at the turnaround. We surmise that he probably passed me whilst I was indisposed. I ask if he is trying for a Boston Qualifying time. He thinks our age group's standard is 4:10 or better; I had thought it was 4:15. (I later learn that it is indeed 4:10, and we have no chance; 4:15 or so is still doable, however.) Tom tells me to go on ahead, even though I'd try to cajole him into staying with me. (I later learn that he still finished ahead of me based on chip time. Oh well.)

My finish time is 4:13 and change. Even with the five minutes spent in stopped mode, this is still pretty lousy. But it's nowhere near as lousy as I feel.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mother of all Races 10K

I don’t know how to dress. The weather forecast is saying that it may be very cold, very warm, or somewhere in between. Furthermore, there may be rain, sleet, snow or bright sunshine. I opt for middle-of-the-road-ish attire: a black tech t-shirt, black shorts, black socks, and my union-jack Brooks Launch kicks. It works out rather well: I feel pretty comfortable during the protracted warmup, and early on in the race. It’s only in the later miles that I begin to feel warm. But by then I’ve got bigger issues.

Those bigger issues include Achilles pain and the fact that I am the world’s slowest runner, age be damned.

The start and finish are at Northwest High School. The first half of the race is on roads. We run through and beyond the quaint village of Canal Fulton. I maintain a slightly slower than eight-minute pace. I would have to do better to get to the finish in under fifty minutes. That has, for some reason, become a goal. (In a small voice, I remember when the goal was to get under thirty-eight.)

Much of the second half of the race is on the towpath. It’s pretty down this way, although of course, it is in my neck of the woods as well. I think that now is the time to pick that pace up. Fifty is still within reach, isn’t it?

It’s not. I slow down on the last hill, a mile from the finish. Not that I would have made it anyway. My time is 51 and change. That’s pretty darn stinky. And it doesn't bode well for next week's Cleveland Marathon.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tuff Ten Trio

For several weeks now, my training has consisted of a ten and a twenty on consecutive weekend days, and three consecutive mid-week ten-milers. This allows me to take Monday and Friday off. Just to add the proper qualification, I should add '-ish' to everything. But in general, I've been reasonably consistent about it. And 'sixty-something miles a week' has a nice ring to it; certainly better than fifty-something.

But here's the thing: even at roughly the same pace, those three tens are tougher than the ten and the twenty. Much tougher. Why is that?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Something Stupid

Something Stupid is the title of a song by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. It's also something I'm really good at doing. It usually gets started in some corner of my brain, with thinking that goes something like this:

I am running relatively well these days. I had a pretty good long run over the weekend, and a decent Yasso speedwork session today. Therefore, it's time. Time for something stupid.

One might argue that registering for the Paradise, MI Whitefish Point Marathon, which takes place June 9 was pretty stupid. But wait: there's more. Now I'm thinking about the Cleveland Marathon, which is about eleven days away. And this is not to mention that I might also consider a shorter race this weekend as well.

Stupid enough for you? Bet you can't wait to ask, "How did that work out for you?"

Whitefish Point Marathon Race Report

The Route from Paradise to Whitefish Point and back If you want to get to Paradise , you have to go through Hell first. Or at least n...