Tag Archives: dexter-ann arbor run

Friendly? Damn Right I’m Friendly!

The 43rd annual Dexter-Ann Arbor Run is this Sunday, and thousands of people will turn out to run and watch the 5K, 10K, and half marathon along the Huron River. The races all end in the heart of downtown, right next to the Taste of Ann Arbor festival, where local restaurants set up on the street with samples of their best stuff. Basically, it’s a day-long street party with running thrown in.

DXA2 2013 finish lineThe 2010 DX2 was my first-ever half marathon, and it remains among my favorite races due to the great turnout and positive energy everywhere. It’s one of the events that shows how strongly the Ann Arbor area embraces running.

And along those lines: Ann Arbor recently received the “Outstanding Runner-Friendly Community Award” from the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA)!

Ann Arbor Outstanding Running Community Plaque

What makes us so runner-friendly? One is our extensive and growing number of trails and multi-purpose paths, including the Border-to-Border Trail and a new trail opening this month in the Waterloo Recreation Area. Also, many local companies offer incentives or support for runners, and the Ann Arbor Track Club hosts races (like DXA2) and offers running scholarships. And runners are everywhere. On Saturday mornings it’s not unusual to see water stops for at least three large running groups, including, of course, PR Fitness.

Runners themselves are a friendly bunch, too. The groups I’ve run with have been, without fail, very welcoming. Want to run with us? Cool, come along. You’ll be asked what you’re training for, or how far you’re going that day, just out of curiosity. No one will think less of you if you’re not a racer, or are just starting a couch-to-5K program. In fact, people new to running often get the most encouragement. Joining a group was a big part of how I changed from an occasional, short-distance runner into a marathoner and beyond.

How about a big, sweaty group hug?

How about a big, sweaty group hug?

So, will I be at DXA2 like I’ve been every year since 2010? Well, no. I’m in Wisconsin this weekend taking part in a slightly more challenging race – the Kettle Moraine Trail 100. The start is 6:00 a.m. Saturday, and if all goes well I will cross the finish line sometime Sunday morning.

So why would I give up one of my favorite events to run for 24 hours or more on trails in the middle of nowhere? All I can tell you is there’s something about trail running that I find incredibly fulfilling, even as I splash through swamps and slog up and down hills, tripping on rocks and roots and getting incredibly sore.

Happy Trail Runners 2And trail runners are the most friendly and supportive people I know. I’ve written before how three runners walked me to the aid station when I bonked during a 50-miler last year. At Kettle I expect to hear (and give) lots of encouragement along the way. Does saying “Good job!” or the like to every runner I pass get old? Not so far. Never get tired of hearing it, either.

And the Kettle Moraine welcome email had these as the first two reminders to runners:

  1. No littering
  2. Help your fellow runners be successful

So in the minds of the race organizers, the two important things are: take care of the environment, and take care of each other. Sounds like a good recipe for life, doesn’t it.

Update after the race. If you feel like sending some emotional support, go right ahead. Make a new friend, or be kind to a stranger. I’m sure the karma will reach me!

In running, even the Devil is friendly!

In running, even the Devil is friendly!

Twin Peaks

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little bro and sister! Today they reached a certain milestone that I passed a couple of years ago. For the sake of propriety I won’t mention what it is, but anyone who remembers the original name of this blog (*) has a clue.

Why yes, they are my siblings. I've been told I look just like my brother.

Why, yes, they are my siblings. And I’ve been told I look just like my brother.

So as my brother and sister are twins, in honor of them the rest of this post will cover stuff in sets of two. So here are some highlights from the other two running events I had the previous week.

We’ll start off with the 41st Dexter-Ann Arbor run, where, by some odd circumstance, I found myself with two racing bibs. I must have been so eager to run it, I signed up twice. Or I have an evil twin somewhere. (And if I stole your bib, whoever you may be, I’m sorry. Really sorry. I mean that.)

Man, was it ever a beautiful day. As for my performance in the half marathon – it was a beautiful day. Learning from last year’s race, I prepared much more carefully, stayed hydrated, sucked down the Gu on schedule – and still finished a minute behind last year’s time. I overheated in the second half (it was pretty warm out there) and decided that a new PR wasn’t worth heatstroke. This time, anyway. So in place of a glowing race report, here are a few photos.

Look at that form!

Look at that form!

She looks all ready for something. I'm just not sure what.

She looks all ready for something. I’m just not sure what.

Got a double shirt shot here. Not sure which one is funnier.

Got a double shirt shot here. Not sure which one is funnier.

Michael, me, and Aaron. Have you ever seen a more handsome group of guys? (I mean behind us.)

PR Fitness bros: Michael, me, and Aaron. Have you ever seen a more handsome group of guys? (I mean behind us.)

The other event was the Wednesday evening shindig at the property of Running Fit owner Randy Step. Consisting of a 10K run on dirt roads followed by beer and pizza, it promised to be a fun, low-key event.

Until they brought the clock out.

Wait a minute. A timed 10K? With prizes? My inner greyhound began to stir. Or maybe it was the grey in my hair. Whatever the cause, I felt surprisingly good after the first couple of miles and opened it up, finishing third and getting a surplus Ann Arbor Marathon pint glass for my effort. Since I don’t have a photo of my triumphant charge to the finish, here are a few others.

The Head Goat himself leads us out.

The Head Goat himself leads us out.

Rocker Lemon James (in the green print) streaks to the finish. (Hmm...maybe not the right word.)

Rocker Lemon James (in green print) at the finish. (See her at Run Woodstock, or check out her gigs on her website.)

You have to cross a swamp to get to the beer. But the real trick is walking back in the dark, after the beer.

You have to cross a swamp to get to the beer. (But the real trick is walking back in the dark, after that beer.)

Amazing what some people will wear, isn't it.

Amazing what some people will wear, isn’t it.

Next up: Saturday’s “Uncle Sam Slam” 5K + 10K (yep, two races) at the Canton Liberty Festival. Then my first triathlon next Wednesday. Enough twos – on to the threes!


(*) Fitnessat50.net. Okay, no more clues.

“Half” Measures

As a competitive runner, there are two main factors I consider when planning a race: speed and endurance. Which one takes precedence depends on the distance. When I run a 5K race (3.1 miles), I don’t worry if I will finish, only how fast. I set a target pace for the first mile, then go all out for the rest. My 10K strategy is only slightly different – a target pace for the first half of the race, then everything I have left for the second half.

For marathon length (26.2 miles) and beyond, by contrast, my main goal is to cross the finish line upright. I set a target pace slower than even many of my “easy pace” training runs. While starting out too fast in a short race could hurt my finish time, doing so in a marathon could mean I don’t finish at all. “Hitting the wall” around the 20-mile mark is a well-known problem that has caused many a runner to DNF.

Unless you’re a world-class runner like Scott Jurek, who regularly wins 100-mile races, there is a particular race distance that represents the balancing point – where speed and endurance must receive equal consideration. For me, this is the half marathon. Perhaps that’s one reason it’s one of my favorite races (at least when I’m not actually running them).

My times in the half have steadily improved each year, and as I start to crack the top tier of my age group, I am naturally interested in running it fast. However, I need to rest properly beforehand, eat carefully to be properly fueled, and not push the pace too hard during the race. If I slip up on any of these, I won’t run my best. The distance guarantees that. So of all my races, this one needs the most careful planning.

For example, here is how I planned out a few races from last year or this year.

Holiday Hustle 5K, December 2012
Time goal: 19:59 or better

Holiday Hustle Starting Line 2012Lead up: 4:00 p.m. start, so sleep in. Light activity during the day.
Pre-race routine: 1 mile easy warmup, followed by light stretching and a few short sprints.
Fuel: Lunch 2 hours before start. One Gu at start. Skip water stop.
Pace plan: 6:20 first mile, run like hell for the rest.
Result: 19:48. Followed plan, but it would have been difficult not to.

Ann Arbor Marathon, June 2012
Time goal: 3:59:59 or better

Mile 19 - State Street - croppedLead up: Easy week before. Get enough sleep.
Pre-race routine: Get out of bed and to the starting line before the 6:30 a.m. start.
Fuel: Eat CliffBar on way to race. At every water station after mile 4, walk and drink. When sick of tepid water and Gatorade (mile 20) drink it anyway. Eat a Gu every 5 miles or so.
Pace plan: All miles around 9:00. Do NOT run faster than 8:30 pace.
Result: 3:54. Kept to planned pace (mostly). Good thing – it was hot and humid, and I probably wouldn’t have finished otherwise.

Martian Invasion of Races, Half Marathon, April 2013
Time goal: Beat previous half marathon PR of 1:36:59

Martian Finish - croppedLead up: No hard running for 3 days before race day. Carbo-load starting two days before. Get enough sleep.
Pre-race routine: 1 mile easy warmup, followed by light stretching and a few short sprints (but not too fast, just enough to get the heart rate up).
Fuel: Banana and Cliff bar 1 hour before start. Don’t drink much because I will only have to use the porta-potty (again). Get water or Gatorade at every second water stop. Have a Gu at miles 6 and 9, and at mile 11 if needed.
Pace plan: First mile 7:30. Second mile 7:15. Miles 3-10 around 7:05. Try to speed up for final 3.1, or hold pace if unable to. Final mile: push up the short steep climb, then go all out to the finish (downhill).
Result: 1:33:48, and so “on plan” it was scary.

And then there was this morning’s (Sunday) Dexter-Ann Arbor half. While it was by no means a disaster, and even was somewhat of a success, it didn’t go according to plan. I’ll share the lessons learned later, after I figure out what they are.