Tag Archives: Holiday Hustle

Honored Beyond Words – But I’ll Do My Best


All I can say is – WOW. And thank you all so much.

Yesterday when I crossed the finish line at the Holiday Hustle 5K, I accomplished my goal of competing in every single event on the 2014 Running Fit calendar. It was a total of 23 events from January through December, including a snowshoe race, three triathlons, and six ultramarathons. Here’s the calendar (click it for a larger, more readable version):

Running Fit Calendar of Events 2014

No one has ever done this before, and throughout the year the wonderful staff at Running Fit Events cheered me on. And at each event I collected the little button pin. At each year’s Holiday Hustle, you bring your pins along, and the person with the most pins wins a prize. Since I had every 2014 pin, I was pretty sure I’d win, and I wanted to something more than just dump a pile of pins on them. So I put them on a posterboard along with some photos, to have something to display later in my man cave – when I get around to having one. So here’s what I made:

Collage - 2014 Running Fit races

Well, it received oohs and aahs from the staff, and they said they’d put it on display after the race. Little did I know how polite they were being, as they made an oblique reference to a “special award” for me.

So I ran the race, and got congratulations all round. Then they showed me what they’d prepared for me as the first-ever “Most Valuable Runner”. Not only had they come up with that awesome title, I had been out-postered! Check this out.

RFE poster - 2

And I got a couple of free race entries, too!

I was speechless. This has got to be about the coolest thing I’ve ever received. This is going up on a wall even if I never get around to that man cave. Thank you Randy, and Mandy, and Dawn, and Joanna, and everyone else at Running Fit Events for helping make this year so memorable for me. And special thanks to my family and friends who helped me reach the goal despite some challenges in other areas of life this year. I love you all.

Coming up soon, I will recap the year in running, cycling, and Aikido, including the highlights of a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience. And lowlights too – those are more fun to read, aren’t they. Until then, thank you all very much once again.


Going Green?

For someone from the center of all things maize-and-blue, green was quite a part of my life yesterday.

At the starting line, sporting the latest in upscale race fashion.

At the starting line, sporting the latest in upscale race fashion.

There was the holiday red and green of the Holiday Hustle 5K in Dexter. This run holds a special place in my heart, being my first race, the first race in which I won an age group award, and the first time I broke 20:00 in a 5K. Last year I served as a volunteer, and for some reason found setting up for a winter race to be fun, so I did it again this year.

I helped put up tents, string Christmas lights in the registration area, haul water to the finish area, and set up the finish chute – in between leaning over the heater in the warming tent. With the temperature unbudging from the low 20s and a steady wind, keeping warm was a real challenge. But the cold didn’t appear to hurt the spirits of the crowd of runners (nearly 1,100 finishers) and spectators.

The Grinch is smiling? Gotta be cold out.

The Grinch is smiling? Gotta be cold out.

Then there was the environmental “green” which already has a prominent place in our house, and in Ann Arbor in general. The plastic water bottles we handed out were prominently marked, “Made from Recycled Bottles” so at least some reuse of waste is going on, and we put out recycling containers, so many bottles will avoid the landfill a second time. Then there was this sign in the Joe and Rosie coffee shop, where I had lunch and my post-race peppermint mocha.

I understand the sentiment and support it...but really, can't we find a better way to phrase it?

I understand the sentiment and support it…but really, can’t we find a better way to phrase it in the A2 area? But see below…

Enjoy it, Tori and Sis....you're not likely to see this ever again.

Enjoy it, Tori and Sis….you’re not likely to see this ever again.

And how can I overlook a certain football game last night, as the Spartans knocked off the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten title. It was bittersweet for this house full of Wolverines, but heaven for my sister and my older daughter (the green sheep in the family). Congratulations, little brother! You done good.

Hey, what about my favorite type of green?

Hey, what about my favorite type of green?
(from wikia.com)

Well, the stock markets were closed yesterday, but here is a recent article from Marketwatch (an investment website) that suggests that we use our cash this season for other purposes than giving stuff to each other. And putting his money where his pen is, the author of the MW article is giving away everything he earns this month. “Every nickel. Every dime.”

Wow. How many of us are willing to do that? Sure puts a few chilly hours helping with a race into perspective. I’m not saying I’m going to follow suit, nor would I suggest that anyone else do so. But I will consider doing something more than we’d planned for. Go green!

“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.

Doing the Hustle! A Hollywood Ending After All

The Holiday Hustle in Dexter each December is my favorite race because it has marked several milestones for me:

  • First race (2008)
  • First race under a 7:00 per mile pace (2010)
  • First age group award (2011), on my 50th birthday
Santa paces the way.

Santa paces the way.

So it seemed only natural that if I was going to make my goal of a 5K finish in under 20:00 before I turned 51, the Holiday Hustle would be that race.  And as fate (and the calendar) would have it, I’d been given a second chance, as the HH was just before my birthday this year. Only I wasn’t sure I was up to it. After a 20:28 in the 2011 race with an untied shoe (“No Hollywood Ending, but a Good Show”) I’d gotten as close as a 20:10 in my 2012 5K races, but my result on Thanksgiving Day was a discouraging 21:05 (a half-mile hill at the end didn’t help). So I made sure I had extra rest before the HH. No fast running that week, and plenty of sleep the night before.

See those perfectly placed flag lines? That was MY work, baby!

See those perfectly placed flag lines? That was MY work, baby!

I also volunteered to help set up; it took my mind off the race itself for a while. There was plenty of work to do even for a first-time volunteer like me, and while the process may have appeared somewhat chaotic, everyone was laid back, stuff was put where it needed to be, and everything was up and ready before the crowds arrived. I had plenty of time left to grab a light lunch and get warmed up; some light exercises and dynamic stretches, followed by an easy one-mile jog. Then just before the start, a few short sprints (“strides” in racing jargon) to get my heart rate up and prepare for a fast start, and a Gu energy gel to give me a little extra fuel.

Holiday Hustle Starting Line 2012

They’re off! Yours truly, front and center.

I got off to a good start; too good, in fact. Here my Garmin saved me. At the quarter-mile mark it showed me running at a 5:41 pace; thrilling, but not sustainable. I backed off a bit and hit the one-mile mark bang on target at 6:20. Then the real fun began.

The second mile of any 5K is challenging, with the energy of the first mile past and too soon to feel the adrenaline surge of the final stretch. This particular second mile threw in some uphill stretches for added effect. With my body going all out and breathing painful, my brain made some helpful suggestions: How good it would feel to slow down. You’ll never keep up this pace going uphill. Remember Thanksgiving? Nope, we ain’t got it today, let’s try for the goal next time. Two things kept me going; there was no “next time” in this case, and I knew that around the 2.25  mile mark, it would be mostly flat or downhill to the finish. So when the uphill part ended, I hit it for all I had and held on.

For over two years I’d fantasized about approaching the finish line of a 5K and seeing “19:xx” on the clock. I’d always pictured it as charging toward the line while the seconds ticked steadily away – 55, 56, 57,… – then lunging desperately across while the crowd lustily yelled at me to “beat that 20.” Checking my watch at the 3-mile mark, I knew there’d be no such drama – it was in the bag! – but that didn’t make seeing the “19” on the race clock any less sweet. I surged across the line and hit the stop button on my watch. It agreed with my official chip time of 19:48.

The proof! (19:51 is the gun time - I was a couple rows back, so my chip time is 19:48.)

The proof! The clock (left) says 19:51, which is is the gun time – I started a few rows back, so my actual start-to-finish (chip) time is 19:48.

After a recovery consisting of a short cooldown and a large peppermint mocha, I returned to the race area to confirm my time and collect my award. I was announced as the 50-54 age group winner at the ceremony, but the online results next day showed that another 50-year-old had run an 18:31. Kudos to whoever you are, Jeff Rothstein. You’re an inspiration to me to keep improving. Hope you enjoyed your time as much as I enjoyed mine.

Two "over 50" runners celebrating their award-winning races.

Me and a fellow PR Fitness runner, celebrating our award-winning race. (Michael won the 55-59 age group.)