Tag Archives: plymouth

Cocoa Power: Kona Chocolate Run Recap

Just how powerful is chocolate? Witness the following.

Chocolate Run - 10K start

7:00 a.m. in downtown Plymouth, MI. 26 degrees and dull gray sky. Sensible people are still in bed or enjoying breakfast and coffee in a warm location. And yet over 5,200 people are standing outside, shivering in Spandex, gloves, and beanies, waiting to begin a 10K or 5K run.

Yes, today was the Chocolate Run, the final race in the series put on by the Kona Running Company every year. Along with some pretty snazzy gear, runners got a trip to the chocolate tent after their race, where they refueled with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bread, and pretzels with dipping chocolate, and, of course, a nice cup of hot chocolate.

The half-zip is a nice upgrade over the standard race shirt. And it's cat-approved.

The half-zip is a nice upgrade over the standard race shirt. And it’s cat-approved.

As usual, I volunteered my services as a pacer, which got me the same snazzy gear and chocolate tent visit without feeling like I needed to run my butt off. I was joined by  fellow PR Fitness runners Ray and Melissa for the 10K 50:00 pace. Our group was well represented, including the 6th place overall finishers in both the 10K and 5K, and many of our runners achieving personal best times (a.k.a. PRs). That’s the spirit!

She's run six Ironman triathlons but claimed holding the sign for a couple of miles was "too hard". Hmm....

She’s run six Ironman triathlons but claimed holding the sign for a couple of miles was “too hard”. Hmm….

The course is mainly flat, which makes it good for first-time and casual runners and made sticking to pace easy. It took about a mile and a half to fully warm up, but we had a good time chatting about Melissa’s Ironman experiences.

After the 10K and some chocolate, I took the 8 minute/mile pace sign and went off to the 5K. Thanks to the cold and a half hour wait before the start, I was a bit stiff at the outset, but I was grateful to be running relatively fast. And it was fun yelling at people to pass me in the final few hundred yards.

Chocolate Run - the goodiesA couple of logistical issues from last year were much improved this year. To cut down on crowding during the first mile, the runners were sent out in waves at ten-minute intervals. But the best improvement was the flow through the chocolate tent. Last year there was just a single line, and it got so long that many people gave up and went to the nearby coffee shops for their hot chocolate. This year there were two lines and the goodies were more pre-arranged so people spent less time getting their goodies.

Finally, a trip to Plymouth to pace a race isn’t complete without a good cup of coffee. Plymouth has many choices near Kellogg Park but my favorite is the Plymouth Coffee Bean, where in addition to a good latte they make sweet and savory crepes to order. Life isn’t just about chocolate, you know.

This is all that's left of my crepe when I remembered to take a photo. Yes, it was very good.

This is all that was left of my crepe when I remembered to take a photo. Yes, it was very good.

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

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.

Kona Run Recap: Cocoa Power

An event that combines running and chocolate? Sounds darn near perfect to me. No way I was going to miss Sunday’s inaugural Kona Chocolate Run in Plymouth. And it was over 60 degrees at race time. T-shirts and shorts in late November! Who cares if it rained a little?

Awww...

Awww…

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The final turnout was over 6,000 runners – an amazing turnout for a first-time local race. That’s what the word “chocolate” can do for you. And contrary to the “chocolate event = all women” stereotype, some men ran it, too. I think I saw both of them around mile 4.

The youth turnout was pretty good, too, although I’m not sure that all of them were enthusiastic about being there.
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Theresa and MeAs usual for the Kona races I was a 52:00 pacer for the 10K, and one of my regular pacing partners, Theresa (shown here) carried the sign while I took pictures. And as usual, we had fun bickering about whether we were on pace or not. Complicating things was no chip timing – everyone’s time was measured from the gun. Since we started back in the pack, our on-time pace meant we actually crossed the finish line around 52:30. Bummer for those who wanted to get a PR but didn’t line up near the start!

After the 10K I returned to the pacing area, to find out they needed someone to carry the “1st time” sign for the 5K. “When does it start?” I asked, only to hear the Star Spangled Banner being sung for it. So straight back to the starting area I went. So much for a cup of hot chocolate between events. And while we waited for the horn, it rained on us. Ah, such is the life of a volunteer.

Brave ladies, in more ways than one.

What would you do for chocolate?

The 5K was a challenge for me. Most of the “first 5K” folks ran pretty slowly or did a run/walk combination, and my legs kept begging me to step it up. But I talked to some nice people and got their pictures. One couple had taken up running due to their daughter, which is similar to how I started regular running. I assured them there was plenty of room for improvement, and that if they kept at it, they would really come to enjoy running. Eventually. (I didn’t tell them it took me about three years.)

Good stuff, if you can get to it.

Good stuff, if you can get to it.

I crossed the finish line a second time, and my job was done. Time for chocolate! Except the line into the tent o’ goodies was about a 5K long. (Did I mention that they had over 6,000 runners there?) Given that chocolate was involved, I’m amazed there wasn’t a tent-flattening stampede. Just goes to show you, runners really are a well-mannered breed.

I headed down the street to Espresso Elevado and got a mocha and chocolate chip biscotti. Several other runners were also there getting hot chocolate, heartily agreeing that it was worth a few bucks to avoid the line. And an actual restroom sure beats a porta-potty. So no complaints. Looking forward to next year – where I just might have to make myself invisible after the first race.

Oh, and how about this? According to the race results, Eric Stuber, age 50, finished the 10K in 35:25 (a 5:43 per mile pace). Not only did he win his age group, he finished first overall. That’s right – a 50-year-old won the 10K. Such is the power of chocolate.

I have a tempo run tomorrow. Hope these are enough.

I have a tempo run tomorrow. Hope these are enough.