I just got done writing this race report and I figured I should start by apologizing for this post being so long and for the lack of photos to keep your attention. GLR isn’t really an event for spectators, so finding decent photos is a challenge. Also, this race is unique and deserves some explanation.
This last weekend (July 15th-17th) I returned home to Michigan to run Great Lakes Relay (GLR). GLR is a race across the upper portion of the Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The start is approximately in Oscoda, MI on Lake Huron and the finish is on Lake Michigan at Empire, MI. The total mileage for the race is usually somewhere around 275 miles. There are about 60 legs and the distance for each leg can vary from 2 miles to just about 10 miles. The race takes place over 3 days, but this is not 3 days of continuous running. Each day we start running at 6am. After your team finishes you have the opportunity to take a shower at a local high school and then everyone camps at designated areas. Each team consist of 10 runners (well, should consist of 10) and each runner must log 24 miles for race. There are two categories, mixed and open. To run in the mixed division the team must have at least 4 girls. GLR does reward your team for having masters or female runners. Female runners get a 10% handicap. The master’s handicap system is slightly more complicated. Starting at 40, the runner gets 1% handicap and then 1% more for each year after 40. The handicap takes jumps at 50, 55, 60, etc. Unfortunately, the handicap doesn’t help my team, but it is still important to us because this means that teams that are behind us could technically be beating us do to the handicap system. As for how the teams travel during the relay, each team is allowed to have 3 vehicles (generally stocked with PB&J, pretzels, Gatorade, and water). I think that should cover the basics of GLR.
GLR is an awesome race, but it does have a lot of challenges. This race is run in what seems to be the middle of nowhere (I thought I lived in the middle of nowhere until I ran this race). Paved roads are a rare sight and seasonal roads are much more common. Just in case you are wondering, a seasonal road is just a road that isn’t plowed in the winter, but after many years of driving on these seasonal roads I would say that they don’t do much of anything to the roads. Then just to make things easier, a lot of the roads do not have signs. Also, a lot of the exchanges are done where the trail we run on crosses a road. These crossing are almost impossible to spot because the trail is single track and usually barely visible. Now you may be wondering how each team manages to navigate to each exchange. The answer is that the race director has made some very specific directions for the vehicles that require the constant use of the trip meter. If you don’t follow the directions then you are almost certainly going to get lost, or even create a traffic jam for the 200ish vehicles by going the wrong way. This is why there are significant penalties for being off route. There are even some sections that only allow one vehicle per team to go to and they must have a certain color sign. The penalty for being on the wrong road, going the wrong way, stopping at the wrong spot, not showing your team number, or not having the right color sign is 2 hours. So driving is a very important part of the relay and my team learned the hard way early on. I remember our first year, on the first day, and within the first hour we took a wrong turn right into a race official and were presented with our first 2 hour penalty.
Navigation is also a major issue for runners. Getting lost is actually a pretty big part of the relay. Most teams will keep track of how long their team has been lost for. The course is not marked with arrows or signs, and certainly not mile markers. If the race director is able to get the proper permits the first two days are mostly on the shore-to-shore (STS) trail. Usually, we are allowed on the trail every other year and this was one of those years. STS is marked with blue dots on trees. I will admit that they have slowly been adding more blue dots, but there are still nowhere near enough. Also, it doesn’t help that the dots aren’t permanent. They will of course fade over time and other natural events will cause them to disappear. I remember getting lost one year and the only way I managed to find the right path was by getting lucky and spotting a blue dot on a fallen tree. I’ve been pretty lucky over the years and the longest I have been lost for was probably about 30 minutes. There have been other people on my team that have been lost for up to 1.5 hours. Then when not on the trail, some of the directions look like this:
Continue straight for a total of 2.15 miles to a T in the road.
At .6 mile the road turns to the right.
At .7 mile go left at the Y (still on Blair Town Hall).
At 1.5 miles you come to an intersection with a pine tree in the middle, continue straight for another .75 mile to T in road.
Turn left at T for 1.4 miles to the exchange at Vance (no sign).
If I remember correctly, these directions don’t even contain all of the Y’s and side roads that you pass, so sometimes you just need to make an educated guess and hope for the best. This was much harder of a challenge in the past, before the increase in the number of runners using a garmin. You would just have to have a good feeling of your pace and guess when you would reach .7 miles. Sometimes you would reach a road with a minute to go on your expected time. Are you running faster than expected? Is there another road just up ahead (almost certainly)? Do I turn or continue? Then you choose and just hope you’re not lost.
I must admit that it is very hard to explain GLR, it is just kinda one of those things you need to be there for. I hope that explanation hasn’t bored you and you have a bit of an understanding of what GLR is. There is a lot more I could talk about, but I figure I should move onto my team and the results.
I have been going to GLR with my team for 8 of the last 9 years (missed one year due to a trip to Europe). This started because my High School Coach wanted to run it and needed a team. He also wanted his runners to stay in shape over the summer so GRL was perfect to help motivate people to run. We eventually had to split into two teams (now I think there may be three), with one team being the fast team. After a few years we have settled on the name Thundering Pickles. This year the team captain was unable to run because his second kid was due the week of the race (we gave him a hard time about that). So this year the team consisted of some of my old high school cross country teammates and then some random runners that we know in Michigan.
Now for my results. I had a relatively short weekend and only ran 25 miles. The first run was 5.9 miles on STS. The trail was not much of a trail. There was so much growth that the trail was barely visible. I was mainly just running from blue dot to blue dot. There were also a large number of down trees. Occasionally I would have to hurdle or duck under one, but most of the time I would have to take a short detour around it. If the distance was right then I was well under 6 minute pace, but the distance just didn’t seem right. I think I was probably right around 6 minute pace though. Next, I ran the first leg of the race the second day. Another 5.9 miles, but this time it was on a narrow back road. There were rolling hills and plenty of sand. I did enjoy having some people to run against because towards the front teams the gaps between teams can get very large and if you don’t run one of the first five legs then you may never see another runner (while racing at least) for the rest of the day. This run felt pretty good and I averaged just under 6 minute pace. The second run of the day was an awful 5.4 miles. At this point during the race we were on the section of the STS that sees a lot of horse traffic. In these locations, the single track trail is very easy to follow because it is pretty much a one foot deep trench cutting through the forest. The only problem with this trench is that the bottom of it is sand. So this section of the race is a lot like running on the beach except it isn’t flat. Every now and again you can get out of the trench and run along the edges of the trail, but this is risky. You will be forced back into the trench by a tree or all the undergrowth. The risky part is that the edges are generally very soft and you are very likely to slide back in, risking your ankles or even a fall. I averaged just under 7 min/mile pace on this leg. I didn’t feel too bad about that because everyone loses time on the trails on the second day. The third day I started with a familiar 5.4 mile leg. I ran it twice before and one year I got lost. I had a pretty good idea where I went wrong and felt that I knew the directions now, so I thought it would go well. Luckily, my teammate before me decided to drop a sub 5 minute mile and catch one of the front teams. This meant that I would have someone to run with. The run has some pretty significant hills and a lot of sand, but not as bad as the STS trail. The person that started with me gained a bit of time on me, but I still averaged just under 6 min/mile pace. My last run was just a 3 mile run on narrow road over some rolling hills. No problem right? That is what I thought until after the first mile. After that mile I just felt like the last 4 runs hit me all at once. I ran 5:57 for the first mile, then barely held on for a 6:17, and I worked as hard as I could to finish with a 6:27. A terrible run for a relatively easy route, but I was glad to be done. The temperature was already around 90 and still rising. Overall, I was happy with my performance. The goal is to one year average 6 min/mile (that is usually close to the winning pace) and I am definitely getting closer. I just need to find a way to compensate for that trail portion then not die the last day.
As a team we did very well. We took 5th which is very good. We also did relatively good with directions and were only lost for about a total of 1.5 hours. The average pace for day 1 was 6:42 for 95.25 miles, day 2 was 6:55 for 100.7 miles, day 3 was 6:08 for 77.55 miles, and total average pace was 6:37 for the 273.5 miles. For comparison, the winning team had an average pace of 6:04. The front teams are usually college teams (such as Eastern Michigan and the University of Michigan) and college alumni teams. This year the winning team was the University of Michigan alumni team called M-10. Results (in excel format) here.
The Medved Cure for ALS 5k was this last weekend and I was looking forward to this race. I had been feeling very well the two weeks prior to this race and felt that I had a really good shot at finally being in the 16’s again after about 1.5 years. My workouts haven’t been very fast lately because I have been focusing on just increasing my mileage, but I was feeling strong.
The race started just outside Frontier Field and then just loops out around downtown and finishes inside of Frontier Field. I was told that the course was changed a bit from last year; apparently the number of turns was reduced. The course looked like it could be fast, there was only 19 feet of elevation change between the highest and lowest point. Also, there was a good turnout of almost 700 people.
The first mile was surprisingly easy. Before the race I spoke with Josh Harter and he said that he was aiming for around 17. So I stayed with him for the first mile. I thought that I may have been going a little fast because Mike was not that far ahead of us. We went through at about 5:24 and I believe Mike was around 5:20.
The 1 mile mark was a turning point for me during this race. At the Chase Corporate Challenge I went out at a 5:20 then slowed to a 5:40. The only reason I managed a good time is because Matt caught me and pulled me along. So during this race I made an effort to speed up. I was sad that Josh Harter did not go with me because this meant that I was going to have to try for under 17 on my own. Speeding up after the first mile is hard work. I thought I managed to actual do it, but I really only held pace. This did help me pass two people in the second mile and for a short while I was actually starting to catch Mike. He must have just lost his pace for a bit because he quickly recovered and started pulling away again.
There was no one at the 2 mile mark to call out splits, which didn’t help because I was aiming for even splits. There was one runner that looked like he could be in my reach so I just decided to try and chase him down. I reeled him in for the entire third mile and I managed to catch him just before entering the field. I made sure to pass him with a short burst of speed to try and discourage him from staying with me. This is just because I am lazy and I really didn’t want to fight him off at the end. I continued to gap him as I rounded the field. Then after all this work to secure my place I turned the final corner and saw the clock at 16:43. This ruined my plan to not sprint at the end, but it was a very good thing that I did. I crossed the line at 16:59 and took 6th overall. While I did not break my goal by much, I can finally say that I am back in the 16’s.
After the race I talked with Mike who finished 5th with a time of 16:38. He was a little disappointed with this time, especially after running a 4:30 mile recently. I am guessing that he is just coming down off of his peak from training for the mile and he will probably start dropping his 5k time again soon. Mike and I both received a $15 gift certificate to Medved for being 1st place in our age groups (although, the two who won the race were in my age group, they were removed for being the overall winners).I was very happy with this race and am excited to see how the rest of the year goes.
This was my first time running the Chase Corporate Challenge. First, I will start with the fact that this is a 3.5 mile race. This is very confusing for me. I have never heard of this distance being run, but it is apparently what they have been doing since the race’s beginning. Also, this fact is not the easiest to remember while running a race.
The week leading up to this race was very exciting for me. I finally felt like I was starting to get back into shape. I was definitely looking forward to the race after managing a [email protected]:40 workout. Then the 14mile long run with Mike on Saturday did seem much harder than usually, but by the time Tuesday came around I was feeling pretty good. Lately I haven’t been too thrilled with my races or workouts. I don’t really know how to explain it, but this race I felt ready for. I felt that this would indicate the start of me going after my 5k PR.
The weather in the afternoon was very nice. There was a little bit of wind and the sun was out. Shortly after arriving at the race Mike handed me one of the University of Rochester cross country jerseys that he managed to retrieve. While I do think the RKR jersey has the best logo I have seen, Mike and I decided that it would probably be better to wear UR jerseys because we were on the UR team after all. Then we headed down to the tent area, which I will refer to as “the mud pit” due to the week of rain leaving the ground very wet, and we meet Ryan. Ryan would not be running the race today due to an injury that he is coming off of, but it sounds like his training is about to pick up again which is good news.
Navigating the mud pit without getting the socks wet proved to be impossible. Mike’s girlfriend Karyn decided to switch to sandals and eventually barefoot turned out to be the best option. Luckily I brought extra socks, and lucky for Mike that for some reason while packing I decided to bring two extra pairs.
When we got to the start I was definitely surprised by the number of people, the official number being 8,962 people. I rarely run in races this large, so it was very interesting to see. Before the start Mike spotted Matt. Matt was just starting to run again after taking an easy week following his trail marathon (see “Two race reports for the price of one!” for Matt’s story). He told us that he would be taking it relatively easy. Mike and I wished him luck and found a spot at the front. We were then spotted by Jeff Bigham (I think the jerseys gave us away), one of the other UR team members. He said that he was aiming for 5:20-5:30 pace which was perfect for me, that gave me someone to look for.
Once the gun went off a member of the Corning team took off. He took a commanding lead right out of the gate. Most guys that I see do this crash after the first mile. Surprisingly, this guy did do pretty well, he didn’t win, but he still ran a very good time. Other than this one guy I would say the start went well. Mike crossed the first mile in 5:10 and I followed a few places behind at 5:20. This seemed like a perfect start to the race.
After the first mile, the field really started to spread out. I managed to pass a small group then I started to settle into my pace. I should have tried going after the next guy, but I was just in one of those pockets where there is no one pushing me from behind and the guy up ahead seemed too far away. Then I heard someone say something like “good job Chanse” from behind. I was disappointed that someone had caught me and I wasn’t able to tell who it was. Then to my surprise, Matt pulls up beside me. I asked him what the hell he was doing here because he was supposed to be running “slow” (in fewer words of course). He was apparently feeling pretty good and we crossed the two mile mark at 11 minutes. A bad second split, but I could tell that Matt and I were picking up the pace.
Matt and I managed to catch a couple of people who I wasn’t even considering catching after the first 1.5 miles. Around the 3 mile mark I started to lose Matt. Now this is where the 3.5 miles becomes important. I realized that a 3.5 mile race is run the same as a 5k race, but that small difference is very important. I reached the first corner after the 3 mile mark and I started to really pick up the pace. I was ready to sprint coming off of the corner. This is because in a 5k the finish would be right around that corner. To my disappointment, there was no finish line after the corner. Although demoralized, I only let up a little bit, but Matt still catches me. While I was happy that he was up there with me, I was not looking forward to a kick. After entering the final stretch I managed to pick it up a notch and crossed the line just before Matt. I was very happy that Matt was feeling good today because he definitely prevented me from settling into an easier pace.
Overall, I would say it was a good day for RKR. I finished in 19:26 and Matt was at 19:28. Mike did seem a little disappointed and felt that he should have gone after the guy in front of him. He still ran a very good time of 19:02. The race went very well for the University of Rochester. Jeff Bigham crossed at 19:34 and Mike Hoffman (we didn’t know he was on the UR team until the finish) ran a 19:38. I won’t list off all of UR times because we did have 318 people on our team. Mike and I were part of the mixed team and we took first in our category.