Tag Archives: 10K

2020 Bigfoot 5K: The Snow Must Go On

“SUCCESS” CAN BE AN ELUSIVE BEAST, depending on how you define it.

Last Saturday was the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K/10K at Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City. Despite rain all the day before, the race went on as scheduled. I’ve run the 5K every year since 2014. I look forward to it until about three days before, when the “why did you sign up for this AGAIN?” thoughts show up.

Why the ambivalence? Because I much prefer a well-paced ultra to going all out for 3.1 miles. There should be no way I’d want to run in snowshoes. It’s the ultimate cardio workout, and even the 5K is REALLY. HARD. WORK.

Yes, I am as out of breath as I look. More, actually.

But dammit, it’s fun. And easy to learn. I’d never worn snowshoes before my first Bigfoot, and I fell a few times (eight? I forget) but had a good time. So I definitely recommend it for anyone who’s interested.

There are a few differences from regular running, footwear the most obvious. Snowshoes require a wider gait to avoid stepping on yourself and face-planting. And the singletrack gets narrow and thoughtfully runs through parts of the woods where branches poke up out of the snow, perfect for tripping on. On the plus side, good form is enforced because racing snowshoes are hinged in front, so the toe rises last and comes down first..

One key strategy is to establish a position where you can run your pace. Get stuck behind slower runners and you have to pass in the deep ungroomed snow, burning up your energy reserves. Conversely, give way to faster runners when possible so they don’t have to pass in deep snow.

So how do I define “success” at this race? For me it should be the same every year: run the best race I know how, with an age group award a bonus. And so it was until this year, when I became a victim of my own success, so to speak.

As I mentioned, I finished in the top 10 in the 2019 5K. But more significantly, I was second in the Masters category – both exciting and frustrating. What’s the big deal? Trevor, the Masters winner, got a Bigfoot statue trophy. And for second place I got a lovely mug with Hershey’s Kisses as an age group winner.

I could also have gotten a hug from this guy. Others did.

So there’d only been Trevor between me and that trophy. He’d beaten me by over five minutes, so I wouldn’t have caught him even with a JATO strapped on. But I was getting faster, right? Maybe this year I could close the gap, or maybe he wouldn’t show. I was cautiously optimistic.

It had rained all Friday, and Saturday temps were mid-30s (up from 14 below in 2019), so I was concerned about snow quality. The parking lot at the resort was icy and slushy, but on the trails the snow was in surprisingly good shape. I wore just one shirt under my wind jacket, a wise move as I was warm from the start. Some runners were even in shorts and T-shirts.

As usual, I went out hard to get a strong position on the singletrack. Once I got there I caught my breath and ran a strong steady pace. I was well behind the lead pack but I knew I’d have opportunities to gain some ground.

Sure enough, I passed a few runners on the wider tracks, and a few others had snowshoes issues and had to drop back. As we slogged up the monster hill back to the top of the ridge around the two-mile mark, I figured I was in good shape, maybe in the top 10 again.

The second key to a strong time is to stay upright. Falling down is painless (and comical) but it takes time to stand back up and get back on pace. During the toughest part of the course I kept my balance like a pro. Naturally it was on the final leg – wide, flat, well-groomed straightaway – that I tasted snow. Twice. A couple people shouted encouragement as they swept by me.

Then again, I could have fallen at the finish line! (She took it in good humor.)

It turned out not to matter much. I still finished in 30 minutes, 40 seconds, my best time by over a minute! And yet I dropped from #7 in 2019 to #20 this year, and from second place Masters to fifth. The warmer temperatures had brought more runners this year, and the good trail conditions led to faster times across the board.

So was I less successful than last year? Here’s how I’ve decided to handle it: celebrate my new best time, and train to do even better next year. And be grateful I’m healthy and fit, and can be competitive in this race. I shared the Kisses in my newest mug with my wife and friends who’d come to support me and help with race cleanup. They’re the best!

The Masters winner? Yep. Trevor, again. He also improved on 2019 by a minute. Hey, dude, have you considered trying the 10K? I mean, winning the 5K all the time has to be getting tedious…

BONUS: Here are some examples of northern Michigan humor.

Joy and Subterfuge: Wicked Halloween Run Recap

I WAS SURROUNDED BY SUPERHEROES, monsters, and even a refrigerator, but what impressed me most was a nine-year-old girl.

Pacing assignments at 7:00 a.m.

Pacing assignments at 7:00 a.m.

Last Sunday I paced the Wicked Halloween 10K, one of the races put on by the Kona Running Company. I enjoy pacing their events for many reasons – the large turnout, the cool shirts, a great location (downtown Plymouth, MI) and the energy of all involved. They are also unusual in providing pacers for 5K and 10K distances, something normally reserved for the half marathon and longer. But I hear compliments for the pacers at every event, so they’re onto something.

They also make a special effort to recognize first-time racers. I normally run the 52-minute pace, but they needed someone for the “1st Time 10K” so I took the sign. The pace would be easy; the tough part was finding first-timers, despite over 1,600 runners lined up behind the starting gate. There are plenty of first-time 5K runners at Kona races, but most 10Kers have already run some before. (Which leads me to wonder: where do people run their first 10K?)

Never mind "first time" - how does anyone run *at all* in those things?

Never mind “first time” – how does anyone run *at all* in those things?

Eventually I found a few near the back, and after congratulations and photos, off we went. But I got distracted looking at the costumes and lost them at some point. After futile attempts to find more first-timers, I declared a few people to be “Honorary 1st Time 10K” and ran behind them holding the sign. They didn’t seem to mind. Heck, they got some extra kudos from the spectators.

Wicked Halloween Run - Bearded Couple

One of the many cheering sections along the way - another nice touch.

One of the many cheering sections along the way – another nice touch.

At the water stop at the halfway mark, I tried again to locate some genuine first-timers. Finally, I found someone. Yes! My life had meaning again! Then I found a couple more – even a dog. And then I came across this young lady.

Wicked Halloween Run - Joyful Running

Kaney was running her first-ever 10K, but watching her I wouldn’t have guessed. Her pace was steady and her form was excellent. And she was obviously really enjoying herself . “This is what running is all about!” I wanted to say to the adults with her. “Having a good time!” And I did say it, actually.

Wicked Halloween Run - Finish.jpgI stayed with them the rest of the way, and got this photo at the finish. Another good event on another beautiful day. And downtown Plymouth is a fun place to wander around afterward, with small-town charm and at least two excellent non-chain coffee shops – the Coffee Bean and Espresso Elevado – easy walking distance from the park.

Looking forward to pacing The Chocolate Run in a few weeks!

Oh, yes, and here’s the refrigerator. This lady is known for her elaborate costumes!

Wicked Halloween Run - Refrigerator Costume

Fast Sharks and Loose Shoes: Run Scream Run Recap

Y’all can call me Shoelace.

Run Scream Run - Me with GladiatorLast Saturday was Run Scream Run at Wiard’s Orchards in Ypsilanti. RSR is one of those fall races that attract a lot of casual runners and even non-runners, like turkey trots and chocolate runs do. Despite the chill (about 36 degrees before race start) the turnout was large and even the ghouls and witches were in good spirits.

Here are some things about RSR that make it memorable, at least to those who participate.

It’s at a cider mill. Hard to pick a better place for a fall fun race, and you can bring the family, too. Now, Wiard’s is not what you’d call your typical small-town, homey cider mill. No mistake, they are a big time operation. Which is fine – they have a lot of products to offer, and they easily accommodated the 1,700 runners and the other visitors. I have to say, though, that the cider in their refrigerators was pasteurized and had a preservative in it. I can get that kind of cider at Meijer, so I passed on it. The cinnamon donut was excellent, however.

Costumes. While many runners don’t bother to dress up, there are many who do, and some folks really go all out.

Run Scream Run - costumes

Run Scream Run - costumes 3

The guy in the shark pajamas (to the right of Captain America) won the 10K. Dem land sharks move fast!

The guy in the shark pajamas (to the right of Captain America) won the 10K. Land sharks can run 5:30 miles. You have been warned!

Hmmm...some things may actually be too scary for this blog.

Hmmm…some things may actually be too scary for this blog.

The course. Wiard’s has a whole set of haunted attractions, and some of it gets incorporated into the race. The first was a run through the “Fear Barn” – new this year, and a few people were nervous about it. As it turned out, it was very early in the race, and as I was actually running, I was in and out before anything really happened. Biggghh deal!

RSR-Monster 2More interesting is the Haunted Forest, which is a quarter mile or so of dirt path in the woods flanked by decrepit (by design) wooden buildings and inhabited by various nefarious creatures with chain saws and the like. They typically don’t bother the faster runners, but if you’re jogging or walking – watch out!

And they post people in gruesome costumes at various points on the path – part paved, part grass, with many hiding places available. And just as I re-entered the main orchard, a zombie leaped up from the brush and yelled – and I jumped. He got me, all right! But with just a quarter mile to go, the shot of adrenaline was actually welcome.

Oh, and the “shoelace” part? As I got into the starting queue, I noticed that my left shoe seemed loose, and I carefully retied it. So, naturally, it was my right shoe that came untied at the 2-mile mark. At a longer race, I would have stopped and fixed it, but this was a 10K and I was running well and didn’t want to get out of my groove. So I ran the remaining 4.2 miles with shoelaces flapping. Fortunately, the shoe stayed on, and I finished 14th with another age group win.

Me with another famous "Shoelace", Denard Robinson. Except that he's bigger, probably better looking, has lots more hair and runs about seven times faster than I do, the resemblance is remarkable, don't you think?.

Me with UM’s famous “Shoelace”, Denard Robinson. Except that he’s better looking, has lots more hair and runs about seven times faster than I do, the resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?.

Kind of hard to believe, but I have no more “official” races until the Holiday Hustle on December 13. Just pacing the Kona races and fun stuff until then. The five races in six weeks sure went fast. I’ll let you know if I go stir crazy and sign up for something else!

Also memorable. Seen here: 2014 medal, 2012 age group award, 2014 award.

Also memorable. Seen here: 2014 medal, 2012 age group award (yep, it’s what you think it is), 2014 award.

The Perils of Pacing: Race Recap, ShamRock ‘n Roll

KARMIC RETRIBUTION. That must be it.

As payback for my perfect-weather Dances With Dirt race last week in Florida, Nature turned the polar vortex back on for this morning’s ShamRock ‘n Roll 10K. In another tweak of cruel irony, the race is part of the Kona Running series – hardly a name that evokes sub-zero wind chills.

But I’d volunteered to pace it, so I pulled on two pairs of tights, slipped a green shirt over my Heater Hog and wind jacket, and headed to Kellogg Park in Plymouth. And to my surprise (well, not really) the turnout was as strong as ever and the costumes just as wild. There were so many runners that wave starts were used for both the 10K and 5K.

I warned you.

I warned you.

Larry, the pace organizer (among other duties) gave us some advice before the start. “We know there’s black ice out there,” he said. “So don’t worry so much about sticking to your time. Just line up in the proper spot and be safe out there.”

I was grateful he said that. Because I apparently wasn’t done paying for the great experience last week.

Cold - No problem - we're PR Fitness!

Cold? No problem – we’re PR Fitness!

For the first time in a Kona race, I paced solo. Usually Larry assigns two or three people per time, but understandably he was a few pacers short today. So I took the 52 minute sign and assumed my place in the starting queue. The horn sounded at 7:30 and off we went.

I started in the back of the first wave, so I had to work through the crowd for about a half mile to get to my target pace of 8:23 per mile. And just as I was settling in, my right shoe came untied. I’ve run with an untied shoe before – even set a 5K PR that way – and my hands were numb despite the double gloves, so I stuck it out a while.

By the end of mile 2 my hands had thawed, so I pulled over. Procedure: Put sign down. Take off two sets of gloves. Tie shoe, with double knot. Put gloves back on. Pick up sign. Resume running, faster, so I can catch up. This wasn’t a problem for me, but it meant I was passing a lot of people. “I thought you were [already] ahead of me,” a woman said as I went by.

Now I felt guilty; the runners around me may not have been as fast or as fit as I am, but they were working hard. It couldn’t have been encouraging to see a pacer pass them. But it was only until I got back on target. As the end of mile 4 approached, I was just about there – and then my left shoe came untied.

This time I stopped right away and duplicated the above routine, except for jamming on the gloves rather than fitting them on right. And I was determined not to embarrass more runners, so I lowered the sign and took off in a sprint. After a bit I glanced at my watch to see when to slow down – and it had shut off. Battery failure.

Bundled up but rarin' to go! The 5K starts.

Bundled up but rarin’ to go! The 5K starts.

Now there was nothing for it but to make it look good. So I slowed down and just winged it, and headed toward the finish line with head and sign held high. And after all that, I finished at the 53:26 mark. Given I’d crossed the start line over a minute after the gun, I was remarkably close to target. Maybe the cosmic spirit likes me after all.

Right afterward, someone came up to me. “Thanks for keeping the pace,” he said.

“Hey, no problem,” I replied.

Me with another famous "Shoelace", Denard Robinson. Taught him everything he knows about running with untied shoes.

Me with another famous “Shoelace”, Denard Robinson. Taught him everything he knows about running with untied shoes.