Tag Archives: Potawatomi

Trail Marathon Recap: No Wimps, Baby!

“I LOVE TRAIL ULTRAS – except when I’m running them.”

That’s how I described my relationship with long trail runs to someone running with me during Sunday’s 50K. It’s not entirely accurate – I enjoy experiencing being in the moment during one – but I also spend a lot of time fantasizing about it being over. That said, I had a great time at the Trail Marathon Weekend. And I got that No Wimps shirt and medal!

"No Wimps, Baby!"

Someone told me if you complete the No Wimps Challenge, you have to jump into the lake. Funny, nobody joined me. Wimps!

The vignettes below are from Sunday’s 50K. Saturday’s half marathon was fun but uneventful. I ran it easy so I could run strong on Sunday, and it was good prep for the 50K. (Not according to plan was tripping and falling twice, banging up my knee a bit, but I suppose it can’t all be sunshine and roses.)

(Note: See my previous post, if you haven’t already, for some awesome photos of the trail by fellow blogger Detroit Runner.)

What’s He Going to Do for His Second?

Some people start racing with something modest like a 5K, and then there are people like Ben. I met up with him at the halfway point of the second loop, and we got to talking. An experienced hiker (he’ll be hiking to Everest this summer), he thought a trail 50K might be good training.

Ben completes his first race ever - a little weekend trail 50K.

Ben completes his first race ever – a little weekend trail 50K.

“Yes, it probably would be,” I said. “So is this your first ultra?”

“It’s my first race,” he replied. Yes, a 50K was his first running race. Ever

And as a warmup, he’d run 26 miles on the trails on Thursday, so this was his second marathon in four days. He didn’t qualify for a No Wimps medal, but I wouldn’t have argued if he’d gotten one.

Blood and Guts

About four miles into the second 13-mile loop, I got to thinking how some of last year’s 50K finishers had looked like death warmed over, and by contrast, how good I was feeling. Then I passed a spectator. “Is this your third time around?” he asked. I confirmed it was, counting the loop the day before. “You have some blood coming from your right nostril,” he called after me.

I wiped my nose, which had been running more or less continually, and sure enough, there was some blood. Nuts. I slowed down a bit, but kept running – the nearest help was the aid station two miles ahead. But after a few minutes the bleeding stopped and I picked up my pace again. That, plus falling once more (on my right knee again – arrggh) was, fortunately, the extent of my injuries.

Goodness, How Delicious

The Friday before, another volunteer and I worked for over 90 minutes putting together about a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cutting them into quarters, and packing them in bags for the aid stations on Sunday. “Do we really need to make all these?” I asked one of the Running Fit crew.

“Oh, yes,” I was told. “We ran out last time.”

So I hope I can be forgiven for being annoyed on Sunday when I caught up to someone holding one of the pieces like he wasn’t sure he wanted it. “What’s the matter?” I asked him. He mumbled something about not being sure of its age or origin.

“Hey, I made that sandwich,” I snapped. “So eat it, darn it!”

And he did.


A perfect day - if you were running. Otherwise, it was a tad nippy.

A perfect day – if you were running. Otherwise, it was a tad nippy.

You’re Right, I’m Not

Final mile of the 50K, and I’m cruising on adrenaline to the finish line just a few minutes away. I’m passing lots of tired-looking people, and enjoying every minute of it.

“You’re making us look bad,” someone said as I caught up to a small group of struggling runners.

“It’s the final mile,” I said. “Rock it out!”

“Oh, no,” he said. “We’ve got six miles to go.” They hadn’t finished the second 13-mile loop yet.

“Sorry about that,” I replied as I passed.

There was a short silence. Then I heard from behind me: “You’re not sorry!”

I wonder what gave it away.

We’ll Meet Again

As I neared the end of the first 13-mile loop, some runners came up behind me. They sounded fresher, and I expected them to pass me. But at the next climb they dropped back, and I finished the loop ahead of them. “We expected to catch you,” one of them named Matt said at the aid station, “but you never slowed your pace. Nice job.” They then took off on the next loop while I was adjusting my gear, and I figured I’d seen the last of them.

Matt and I battle to the death - or the finish line, whichever comes first.

Matt and I battle to the death – or the finish line, whichever comes first.

18 miles later, with just a quarter mile to go, I passed a couple of runners. “YOU again!” one of them yelled. It was Matt. I’d caught up! “Well, let’s make it a race at least,” he said. It was on! We took off sprinting.

I was ahead as we crossed the final footbridge, but he kicked it in hard and beat me to the finish line. After finishing, we congratulated each other, and he thanked me for inspiring him several times during the race. I assured him it was mutual.

I collected my bling and sealed the deal with a dunk in Silver Lake. As it turned out, I won my age group by over half an hour.

I also saw Ben, wearing his 50K medal and posting “I’m an ultrarunner” on his social media pages. “Best post ever,” he said.

April 28 was Wear Your Medals to Work Day. (Hope you got the note.)

April 28 was Wear Your Medals to Work Day. (Hope you got the note.)

Over Hill, Over Dale, As We Hit the Poto Trail

Last year, I was working the finish line food tables at the 2013 Trail Marathon Weekend when a runner walked up. Shuffled, really. He looked like crap – tired, stiff, pale, and haggard. I could have killed him with a sneeze. But he was wearing TWO medals.

“What’s that all about?” I asked, pointing to them.

A different No Wimp. Looks way too chipper, doesn't he.

A different 2013 No Wimp. Looks way too chipper, doesn’t he.

“The No Wimps Challenge,” he said. “I did the half marathon on Saturday, and the 50K today.”

“That’s crazy,” I told him. I’d run the 5-mile Road Ends race that morning, and just those five miles on the trails had trashed me good. But by some miracle I’d finished in the top 10 overall, and I’d been wondering how the hell I was going to top that.

The runner got some food and staggered off, and left me there in amazement. Two long runs back to back on those trails. That was nuts. Totally insane. Impossible.

I had to have those medals.

Fast forward to April 26, 2014. Two weeks after running myself ragged at the Martian half marathon, I’m in the starting chute to run the half on the Potawatomi Trails. And 24 hours later, I’d be in that same starting chute for the 50K. No Wimps Challenge, here I come.

I'm in there somewhere. (Photo courtesy Detroit Runner)

I’m in there somewhere. (Photo courtesy Detroit Runner)

I’d lost count of how many people had called me crazy for signing up for this. Coach Marie, in particular, said it early and often. But she didn’t say no. (I’m sure she knew saying no was futile.) So we worked out a strategy – go easy on Saturday, then rock it out Sunday.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Pinckney Potawatomi trails, let me set the stage a little. Known affectionately (term used loosely) as “the Poto” (Paw-toh), they snake through the woods around Silver Lake, Pinckney, and Hell and are used for hiking, mountain biking, and running. Running Fit holds several races each year on the Poto, with the Trail Marathon being their oldest event.

Race routes are marked with flags. RF races use pink a lot. Also, women do most of the trail marking. Coincidence?

Race routes are marked with flags. RF races use pink a lot. Also, women do most of the trail marking. Coincidence?

The path is often single track (only wide enough for one bike or hiker at one time) and features challenging uphills and downhills, roots, stones, and, on wet days, fields of thick, sticky mud (Run Woodstock 2012). I’d been looking forward to it all winter.

Here are some on-trail photos of the races, courtesy of fellow blogger Detroit Runner. Click this link to read his half marathon recap and see even more awesome photos.

Climbing up the mountain, children...and lots more where that came from.

“Climbing up the mountain, children…” and lots more where that came from.

Did I mention there are roots and rocks on the trail? And for added fun, many are covered by leaves.

Did I mention there are roots and rocks on the trail? And for added fun, many are covered by leaves.

Downed trees are another feature of trail running. At least this one was cut - they aren't always.

Downed trees are another feature of trail running. At least this one was cut – they aren’t always.

To get over swampy areas, there are boardwalks. Sometimes.

To get over swampy areas, there are boardwalks. Sometimes.

Up next: Some of my memorable moments from the weekend, and how well my strategy worked out.

More Than Living

Last Friday I was working the registration table for the Trail Marathon Weekend, and a runner came up to get his bib whose last name matched a friend of mine I’ll call Alan. I hadn’t seen him in several years, but I’d been receiving annual Christmas greetings which included his latest adventures.

This runner was not Alan – too tall and too much hair – but perhaps he was family. I handed him his race bib and asked if he happened to be related to Alan. “Yes,” he said. “Cousin.”

“Great!” I said, pleased that I’d hit pay dirt. “Next time you see him, please tell him I said hello.”

Alan’s cousin was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “He’s actually passed.”

Well, that changed the mood pretty quickly.

Alan’s cousin said it had happened recently, a brief, sudden illness. I believed him, of course, but it still didn’t seem real to me. Later on I did a Google search and found Alan’s online obituary. He’d been only a few years older than I, active, running his company and raising a teenage son, and now he was gone.

During the Trail Marathon events I thought about how Alan had actively experienced life and encouraged others to do so. He’d taught team development all over the world and founded a company dedicated to safe, healthy weight loss and sleep improvement. He’d helped me grow personally and professionally; it was an unavoidable consequence of knowing him. And he was fascinated with “off the wall” stuff. For example, he’d attended Tom Brown Jr.’s tracker school, which, he told me, really raised his awareness about what was going on around him, and, conversely, taught him how to avoid being noticed if he wanted.

How do you choose to experience life?

Do you, like me, sometimes get so caught up in daily routines and activities that you lose the awareness that you are alive – living – and forget to be grateful for that gift?

Some people race cars, or jump out of planes, or live in caves, to regain touch with that sense of “alive-ness”. Running is one activity that does it for me. Last weekend I raced a total of 44 miles over 7 1/2 hours through the Pinckney-Potawatomi Trails. It was uncomfortable a good deal of the time, and painful at some, and yet I was there of my own volition, pushing through the discomfort and challenging my limits, and very much aware of my presence in the world at that moment. That’s one thing that Alan, among others, has helped me to do. Rest in peace, my friend.

And the races? Yes, I lived to tell the tale – a tale of ups and downs, dirt, rocks, and roots, a windy lake, and some remarkable fellow runners. All of which will be posted when the last of the photos come in. Stay tuned.