Archive for November, 2012

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Thanksgiving is a very big day for running races in the United States. Here in Detroit we have the Fifth Third Turkey Trot. It is the largest road race in the U.S. on Thanksgiving day. This year was the 30th anniversary and for the first time they offered medals to all finishers of the 10k, 5k, and 1 mile races. Last year there was an incredible 20,000+ runners that took to the streets of Detroit to take part in it. After running the 10k in 2011 I knew I wanted to come back and run it again. I learned last year that this definitely wasn’t a race to enter in hopes of getting a personal record. The course is extremely crowded, there are tons of walkers, people with strollers, and people walking and running with their dogs. Since a PR was out of the question, I had to come up with a way to challenge myself, but still go out there and have a good time. After all, this is a fun run.

While having a few drinks with my 2 closest friends, the idea hit me. I was going to run backwards for the entire 5k. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but it sounded like a lot of fun. I had never run backwards in my life. The next thing I needed to do was find a friend to run with me and help navigate. I knew if I ran solo it would be insanely difficult to weave thru all of the other runners so I needed an extra set of eyes. My friend Jessica agreed. She isn’t really a runner, but she did her first race earlier this year when we ran the Warrior Dash together. Neither of us trained at all. She did absolutely no running recently, and I didn’t even train myself to run backwards. It was going to be a huge challenge for both of us, but we welcomed it with open arms.

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We lined up at the back of the slowest corral not knowing what kind of pace we would run. Immediately upon starting the race, there was an enormous traffic jam. This was going to be tough. We had to weave our way thru tons of walkers and slow runners. I really couldn’t believe it, but we were actually passing a lot of people. The runners had mixed feelings about seeing someone running backwards for the race. Some of them cheered, high-fived me, and shouted “Go backwards guy!”. Not everyone was that supportive though. I had a few people call me a show-off. I was kind of taken back by that. After all of the races I’ve done, I’ve never had people say negative things to me. I wasn’t running to make others look bad. I just wanted a challenge.

Within the first 1/4 mile my quads were on fire. My legs can handle very high mileage, but they were almost instantly rebelling. My neck and my eyes were hurting from looking over my shoulder constantly. I now knew just how hard this race would be. If it started to hurt that quickly, it was only going to get exponentially worse. I kept moving backward (or forward depending on your perspective) and continued on. Jessica and I started to develop a good system for navigating. At first she would say “go right, go left” but that didn’t work too well. She started pointing in the direction I needed to move. That was a much better system. Things got much smoother as we gained some experience and the crowd spread out a little bit. Now I just had to grind thru this race and deal with the pain.

About half way thru the race my legs were dead, my neck was kinked, and my eyes were severely fatigued. Turning around and running forward was not an option though . I committed to this and I was going to finish it no matter what. As we got close to the end we ran into an enormous traffic jam right before the finish. The last tenth of a mile was jammed. Everyone was waiting to cross the finish line. Somehow the race staff and voluteers were not moving the crowd along fast enough. We ended up waiting about 5 or 6 minutes to finally cross the finish line and claim our hard earned medals.

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It was finally over! I actually made it without falling. We went inside Cobo Hall to get some post-race refreshments and meet up with my friend Jason from my running group. He also ran the 5k, but he ran solo. Jason, his wife, and I went to the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade but Jessica had to leave after the race.

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We hung out along Woodward Ave. and watched the parade, sharing our individual experience with that day’s race. After having a few beers, the parade was almost over so we went on our way.

What I learned…
Running backwards is tough! The next day the pain really set in. I haven’t hurt that bad since my first full marathon but I do not regret going into the event without training. It was an incredible experience and a load of fun. Maybe next year I’ll run the 10k backwards!

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A little over a year ago I realized that I only knew a few people that shared my passion for running. I wanted to be able to connect with people who had the same mentality as I do. I came up with the idea to create a Facebook group for my few runner friends. A forum for us to share our stories, ask for advice, and learn from each other. It was a private group (to keep out the spammers) but anyone was allowed to invite others. I had no real expectations for the group or what it would become. I just wanted to be able to talk to people like me.

Even in the early stages, it was a fun crowd. We finally had people we can relate to. In time the group started to grow. Whether they were a 5k hopeful or an ultra runner, they were all welcome. It seemed like every week or so a new person was added. Connections were made and friendships started to blossom. Since many of us live in southeastern Michigan many of us started doing races together. The biggest event we had so far was this September at Run Woodstock. There were about 10 of us out there. We had a few doing the half marathon, 2 people doing their first 50k races, me doing my first 50 miler, and one taking a shot at his first 100 miler. Scott (doing the 100) and his pacers and crew came from Chicago to join us. It was a truly amazing experience. Not only were many of us doing distances we never thought possible, but we had a chance to get together and finally meet.

I’ve watched my friends evolve as runners, becoming faster, stronger, healthier, and happier. I love witnessing these changes and I can’t help but wonder that if it wasn’t for our group, where would we be? Would any of us be at the level we are now?

The group now has about 75 members from all over the US as well as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. I am inviting all of you out there to be a part of our team. If anyone reading this would like to join, just let me know. I will be happy to add you. You may be able to request an invite by clicking here. Thanks to all of you for reading and showing your support.

Tim

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I’ve only been running for 2 1/2 years, and in that time I’ve earned a few medals. They’ve just been piling up on my mirror one by one, not even highlighting some of the nice ribbons they hang from. Like any other runner, I’ve worked very hard for each of those and they should be displayed in a much better way. For about a year I’ve contemplated getting a medal hanger but all of them that I’ve found were severely over-priced. The nicest hangers I saw were made by Allied Medal Displays, but the couple of them I wanted were priced between $60 and $80. Although they were very nice, I would have to spend almost $200 to display everything. There had to be a different way – Something more cost effective.

I came up with an idea to simply use 2 hooks and a dowel in between. I didn’t want it to look cheap, but after all, the display should highlight the medals rather than the rack they hang from. I went to my local Lowe’s to take a look at some ideas and hopefully see something that would work. It almost made sense to start with the dowels and find one that would be strong enough without being too thick. They had some 3/8 inch dowels made of oak that looked pretty nice and they were certainly strong enough. Only $1.19 for a 36 inch cut. That’s a great start, so I grabbed 2 and searched for the hooks. That place is enormous, and it’s hard to find anything so I ended up asking an employee where they were. I have to say, he was pretty rude. He didn’t even stop walking past me as he told me where to find them. That attitude didn’t make any sense to me. Anyone that knows me would agree that I’m very friendly when I approach people, and this case was no different. Maybe he was really rushed on other tasks. Next week is the kickoff of holiday shopping season and I’m sure he had a million things to do, but that’s still no excuse.

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Okay… I’m done venting now. Back to the hooks. I scored a 6 pack of some 3/4 inch cup hooks with a shiny brass finish for only $1.18. The dowels fit perfectly. This brought the grand total to $3.77 with tax. At that price I can scrap the whole idea if it looks bad.

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I cut the dowels in half and screwed the hooks into the wall. I think it’s a huge improvement over the way it looked before.

TOTAL COST: $3.77

TOTAL MAN HOURS USED: 10 MINUTES

I’d say this was completetly worth it. Hopefully my idea helps someone out there.

Tim

I started a new Facebook page for my blog. Check it out and don’t forget to “LIKE” it. Thanks to all of you for your support! Happy running! 🙂

http://facebook.com/timsrunningreviews

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On November 4, 2012 the 7th annual Bloomer Boogie 5k race was scheduled to take place. Each year it is held at Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills, MI. It’s a beautiful park that is perched atop a hill overlooking the Clinton River. The course is set on the mountain bike trails that snake up, down, and across the hill. I ran this race last year with my friend Gen. It was her very first race, so I ran with her to keep her motivated and have a little fun along the way. This year I decided to go back and run it solo. Although most of my races are spent running with friends and having as much fun as possible, I decided to go out there and give it all I’ve got. Even though I do a lot of races, I rarely enter them with a competitive spirit. This time it was different. I had been in somewhat of a funk over the past few weeks due to personal issues, and really needed something to give me a boost of confidence.

My brother was flying in very early that morning, and I needed to pick him up at the airport at 6AM. I only get to see him a couple of times each year since he lives in Santa Monica, CA. I was really happy to have him there for my race. He’s such an inspiration to me.

After picking him up at Detroit Metro Airport, we stopped for coffee and then headed to Bloomer Park. The day started with the temperature at a mere 34 degrees. Frost coated the ground, and there was a gentle breeze adding a slight chill to the already cold weather. I knew this race was a small event, hosting only 92 runners the prior year. I figured this year there would be about 100 runners or so, which gave me a great chance for my best overall finish ever. My previous best finish was 11th place overall, so I really wanted to make the top 10 for the first time.

Although I’m considered by my running friends to be a “fast” runner, the 5k distance was definitely not my specialty. I spent the entire spring and summer this year training for my first 50 mile ultramarathon, which I successfully completed back in September. So, literally all of my running over the past 6 or 7 months was focused on distance rather than speed.

As we lined up for the start, I couldn’t help but be a little bit nervous. I had somewhat high expectations for myself, and also wanted to make my brother proud. I started out very fast. After the first half mile, my running app on my phone (Strava Run for Android) announced my pace at 6:56. This made me even more nervous. Thoughts started to race thru my mind as jetted along. Did I start out too fast? How long would it take for me to die out? There’s no way I can keep this up. But I kept pushing.

After mile 1 I heard my next pace announcement of 7:07. I was elated to hear that, but with over 2 miles remaining anything could happen. By this time the runners were pretty spread out. I knew I was in a good position, but was only able to see one guy in front of me. I didn’t really pay attention at the start, so I really had no idea what my exact place was. The terrain in this section had a lot of small rolling hills and I could feel my lungs burning. I saw my brother at the first water station. He looked so proud, which gave me the motivation to keep blazing along.

A short time later I heard my 2 mile announcement at 7:12. I started to feel strong, almost unstoppable at this point. My doubts started to fade away and my confidence took a huge boost. With just over a mile remaining, I knew I had it in me to finish close to this pace. I started to get closer to the only other runner in sight. Either he was dying out, or my pace had gotten slightly faster. Either way, I felt great. There was a short section of the trail that widened out, so I saw that as a great opportunity to take his position.

Mile 3 at a 7:07 pace. I could feel the finish line getting close now. At this point the afterburners kicked in and I took off sprinting to the finish. As I crossed the finish, I was greeted by my brother and a race official holding a medal. She said “Great job! You were really flying!”.

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I found out that I placed 2nd in my division. This was only my second time placing 2nd, so that was a really big deal to me. I asked the race official if she knew what my overall place was, but she wasn’t sure. I would have to wait a little bit before the results were posted. My brother told me he thought I might have actually made the top 10, but I had to wait it out and see. I took this time to eat a couple of bananas and granola bars that were being served at the pavillion near the finish. My brother and I went to my car so we could warm up for a little bit. A few minutes later I could see a man taping sheets of paper up on a wall. I anxiously ran over to get my official time and place.

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As I approached the lists, my name stood out right away. I actually did it! I placed 7th overall. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. I would have been extremely happy with 10th, but I exceeded my goal by quite a bit. This is exactly what I needed.

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PROs
*Beautiful course
*Small crowd, no traffic jams on the course
*Well-marked trail
*Very friendly, encouraging volunteers and race staff

CONs
*Little crowd support
*No photographers on course

The bottom line:
If you enjoy small events and beautiful fall scenery then this is a great race. Although this was a trail race, the course was fairly easy. No big ascents or descents.