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Jun 3, 2013

Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon Review

Short Version:

Finished in 1:51:23(official time); no new PR
10 mile split:  1:23:28
Overall place:  749/2869
Overall pace:  8:31/mile
Overall men:  567/1458
Age Group(M40-44)  74/188
Race #45
Half Marathon #15(#4 in 2013)

An excellent race, nice weather for June, excellent course, well organized by runners.  A race I'm sure I will do again in the future.
Click to enlarge

Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very simple.  You went online to their website and registered.  You could also sign up and mail in your form - does anyone do that anymore?  The race has an excellent website which is very user friendly and ALL information is on the site.  It was very complete and answers any questions a runner would have about the pickup, race, locations, times, etc.  The race also has a Facebook Page, HERE, which was very informative as well as a Twitter page, HERE.

The race offered pickup the day before on Saturday and also race day pickup before the race right next to where you park in Ann Arbor.  I decided to make my way to Ann Arbor to see the expo.  The expo was located at a local high school in Ann Arbor.  It was a good location for the expo.  Very easy access off the freeway and plenty of parking.  There were also signs directing you all around to the expo but I did have a difficult time getting out of the parking area.

Skyline High School, Ann Arbor
As you made your way into the school, you were greeted with this sign below.  Very welcoming!

From there you made you way upstairs to the expo where another welcome sign was displayed by one of their sponsors.

You went down a hallway and they had all the runners race bib numbers.  All you needed to do was look up your name alphabetically and give the volunteers your number.
Wall of numbers
They had the maps for the courses up on a wall for you to review if you wanted but they were also on their website too.
Course Maps
The pre-registration table was ready for you to get your number.  I was there a little earlier than they said we could pick up numbers so that's why it looks empty.  A volunteer helped me and was very friendly.  He gave me my race bib and also a bag with the usually packet information/sponsorship information.  They didn't give you your shirt at this table.  You needed to make your way through the expo(which I completely understand) so that you could get your race shirt.  Very smart.
Packet pickup
For those that didn't already register, you could sign up right there.  I saw a few people filling out their forms in order to join in the race.  You could also transfer to another race or transfer your bib to another person.  The race was very flexible.
Expo registration
The race also hired Marathon Pacing to pace the half marathon.  I think it's a nice amenity especially if you are trying to hit a certain goal.  As I've said in the past, I've used pacers before, and they really help you stay focused and from going out too fast.  I didn't sign up with them but I did run with one of their groups to help keep me from going out too fast.
I also had an opportunity to meet with Doug Goodhue, one of the race directors for the race this year.  Doug is an incredible runner and has broken many records.  He's well known locally but also throughout the US as he's one of the top American age-group runners(M70-74).  You can see some of his amazing statistic HERE and I'm really happy to have met him.  In fact, he told me he ran Bayshore Half on Memorial Day weekend and won his age group with a 1:30:03 - keep in mind, everyone, he is 71 years old and could kick my butt!!! Haha!  He took the time to talk with me for a few minutes and I know he didn't have the time so I really appreciated it.
Doug Goodhue
As I strolled through the race expo, I saw Alan Whitehead, one of the best race directors out there today in our area.  He manages all the Kona races and was at the expo to promote his races.  We talked for a few minutes and I got to see a preview of the Kona medal and race shirt.  Very nice!
Alan Whitehead - Kona Race Director
The expo had your usual retailers selling merchandise along with numerous local races that are coming up in the late summer and fall.  In fact, there were three races that I'll be running this year that were at the expo including Crim, Brooksie Way and Detroit.  I'm sure the place got much busier but I was there around 11am and packet pickup was not supposed to start until 12 noon so the reason it looks like nobody is there.
Detroit - I'm running the half
Crim - I'm running this year
I also happen to see that Renewal by Anderson of Detroit was there with their booth but I didn't see Brandon who I know organizes runners to run for their team at many local races.  They are a huge supporter of the running community.
Brooksie Way - I'm running this year
Start area
Well this is one of the few times when the start area is completely different from the finish area since this is a point to point course.  First stop was in Ann Arbor to park the car.  From there, we got on shuttle buses to make our way out to Dexter.  Even though this was my fifteenth half marathon, it's still always scary to get driven to the start from the finish and see how far that it.  Haha!

The race was well organized in regards to the start area.  They told us to get there by 6:45am and that was just fine.  I got there about 6:15am and was pretty much on the first bus out to Dexter.  The busses were right next to the parking garage and made for a stress-free start to the race.
Half marathon bus 

We took the ride over to Dexter and was dropped off near the school in Dexter.  We had plenty of time to wait until the race started since it didn't start until 8:30am.  The race had water and coffee out for the runners which was a nice touch.  They had port-o-potties but we were also able to use the interior bathrooms which, of course, is a bonus in any race.
Water for runners
Coffee for runners pre-race
The race also had a drop bag area next to the school so you could keep your gear until the race started.  I didn't use it but they looked very organized.
School / great drop 
Inside the school, you could sit in the lobby or go into the gym.  While it didn't rain, it was nice to sit down and relax and, had it rained, we would not have been soaking wet pre-race.  This area was well thought out.
Runners in the gym
While I was waiting for the race to start, I had an opportunity to talk with Lisa from Run Fast Mama as well as talk to Jason, someone who follows my blog.  It always nice to meet people who follow the blog and always feel free to come up to me to introduce yourself.  I enjoyed talking with him about some upcoming races.
Runners in the school lobby
Runners outside waiting for the race
I decided to line up with the 1:50 pacer.  I wasn't really feeling it today and my knee was bothering me from a Bike ride at Stony on the trails last week so I just kept it easy today.  I'm beginning to think that 1:50 is not so much my easy pace anymore though since I lagged in the last couple miles.
Just before the start 
Runners behind me at the start
The course is an point to point race.  As discussed, we were driven out to Dexter and would run back to Ann Arbor.  Here's the map per my Garmin:
Map per Garmin
What I never realized was that there was a hill at about mile 7.5.  Actually the entire course is rolling hills.  No hills really too bad - even the two big ones here but they do wear on you especially the hill at 7.5 miles that I was not expecting.  Overall, a really nice elevation to run with some challenge on it as well.
Elevation per Garmin
As you can see from my splits, I really slowed down in the last couple miles.  That last hill really got to me and slowed me down.  Even with that, I really enjoyed the course.  I can imagine how hard this course would be had it been warm like it is some years.  We had reasonably good weather for the beginning of June and were lucky that it was not going to be in the 80's.

Note:  When I take pictures during the race, I don't change my pace or stop in the interest of safety.  I just keep running and I get what I can get from the pictures.  Some come out better than others but they give you a great idea what the course is like.

As we started the run, we took about a two mile run somewhat in a circle to head towards downtown Dexter.  It was fairly crowded that first mile but nothing more than any other popular race is.  I did feel that people lined up where they should have and since I was near the 1:50 pacer, most of the runners with that pacer were running the correct pace.  Given the almost 3,000 runners for the half, there was always someone with you along the entire course.

Our pacer was Bob and he did an excellent job the entire time.  He kept nice even splits.  His goal was to come in 30 seconds under goal pace and I believe that's what he did.(at least up to mile 12 where I lost them - or I should say they lost me)
We had pacer Bob and you can see him on the left holding the pace stick 
Already at Mile 1 
This is the turn towards downtown Dexter - very nice!
Mile 2 coming into Dexter
Dexter downtown - a very nice area! I'd like to come back to visit.
Another turn just past downtown
I put this picture of the railroad here because it made me laugh since I was at a recent race where some runners got stopped by the train.  There was no issues for that today at this race - thankfully.

Mile 3
Very nice area to run
Mile 4
You can see we are running next to railroad tracks to the right on the picture below.  Very nice area for a run.  Dexter is a really nice small town.

The below picture gives you an idea of the rolling hills that we faced on the run.  Not a flat course but then not extremely hilly either.  I couldn't get pictures good pictures but the Huron River runs along this as well so there is more water to see while running the course.
Mile 5
While the clock below was not working, I will say that there seemed to be more than the usual clocks out on the course.  You certainly could not say that you didn't know your pace.
Mile 6 - timing clock error 
I must have missed mile 7 when we were running the hill.  I probably was not paying attention since you could see the hill coming and I was not thinking about taking pictures.  Haha!
Mile 8 - I must have missed 7
Another railroad track
This part of the race was really very nice.  It was scenic and there was some shade as well to help you.  We also got a slight breeze sometimes which was really nice.  This was my favorite part of the entire course.
Gorgeous water - Barton Pond
Mile 9
You could also see the river here in the picture below on the left.  Very nice area for a run.  There was a steel bridge near here for people to walk over but it was not on this course.  I can imagine many runners our here running this area.
Pretty river
Mile 10 and a pace timing strip for a 10 mile split
More of the river - feels like we were out in the middle of nowhere - very relaxing
Trees were pretty and helped with shade
Mile 12 - my demise!  Oh well.
You will see in the picture below, port-o-potties.  The race had them spread throughout the course.  More than enough out there when/if you needed it.

Heading back into Ann Arbor.
Ann Arbor
Little bit of a hill here. Haha!
The race had fencing up about 100 yards or more from the finish area.  This was nice and kept spectators out of the way of the runners.  It was fun coming back into Ann Arbor.  There were lots of cheering fans to bring us in.

Close to finish
The finish line!
Aid Stations
The aid stations were well stocked with water and Gatorade as well as volunteers.  They had Gatorade on the left and water on the right.  They also separated the distance between the two so you didn't have runners running into each other from both sides.  This way people that didn't want to stop would be able to get through with no problems.  I thought it worked out quite well.  In addition, there were tons of volunteers at the aid stations and they were cheering us on.
Great signage to alert us(Gatorade/water)
Excellent volunteers

Finish area
Once you finished the race, you moved through a line to get a bottle of water.  After that, they had volunteers handing out the race medals.  The area was quite organized and had volunteers keeping runners moving through the finish chute.

Medals ready and waiting
I saw Andrea who gave me my medal.  We ran together at a race in Midland last month and she volunteered for this race.  She's the one in the bright yellow shoes.
Volunteers with medals
After you got your medal, you continued through to the race food.  The race had more water, gatorade, orange slices, bananas, bagels and pizza.  I'm not a big pizza fan in the morning but I know my running buddy(both of them) would have appreciated it - as most runners do.  Again, very organized area that kept people moving.

The race had two lines set up for the runners to keep things moving and it seemed to be set up perfectly.
Two lines
After you got out of the food line, there were lots of runners standing around and relaxing.  The entire area was blocked from cars so you didn't need to worry about traffic.

Next to the food area were the Age Group Awards tent along with the area where they announced the winners of the race and the first aid area.  There were also a few vendors in this area as well.  The parking garage in the picture below is where you parked so it was all very convenient.

First aid/expo area
Women's(Molly Watcke- 1:18:07) and men's(Clint Verran- 1:07:50) winner with the organizers
If you recall from my Bayshore spectator post, I saw Clint Verran win the Bayshore half and now he won this one too.  I decided to ask for a quick photo and introduce myself.  He is an incredible runner with the Hanson's team and you can read even more about him HERE.  It was great to meet him!

The first first thing I want to mention is that I signed up early for this race so I was able to get in for only $45.  If you had signed up at the Detroit Expo, it would have only been $40.  A real bargain for this race.  For that, you received an excellent course that was police controlled.  You received a nice tech shirt.  I'm not a big white fan but love when it's mixed with some color.  You also received a special spinner medal since it was the 40th anniversary of the race!  This also included the expo the day before along with a shuttle bus out to the starting point.  In addition, there was finish line food/party and instant race results by scanning the QR code on your bib.  I still can't believe you got all that you did for such an excellent value.

Nice Tech shirt
Sponsors on back
One thing I didn't realize is that the medal spins.  Very cool.  Check it out below.
Finisher's medal
Date/Sponsor(Ann Arbor Track Club)
It spins!
I like the medal so much, I made a video of it spinning.  It's a little basic but you get the idea.  Hah!  Here it is:

The race was very well organized.  Of course, it should be since it's run by the Ann Arbor Track Club and they've been doing this race for 40 years.  It's very clear that the race is put together by runners who know how to put together a race from a runner's perspective.  From the website, expo, communication, race day logistics, start area, finish area and everything in between, the organization was outstanding!  If I had to add anything, it would have been nice to have a few bands or DJ's out on the course for entertainment.

Would I do this race again?  Absolutely.  This was a class A operation through the entire experience.  I could see how this could be a much harder race had the weather not cooperated with us but, regardless of weather, its definitely a race I will do again.  If you have not run the Dexter to Ann Arbor races, put it on your list for next year.  You won't regret it.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. Great race recap! You get such great photos without stopping! I may have to try that when I'm out running and see a deer! Congrats on the great finish time!

  2. Great recap and congrats on your race. I'm glad you enjoyed Dexter-Ann Arbor!

    Without sounding too creepy - I was next to Andrea when she gave you your medal at the finish. I'm not in the pic you have of her, but maybe next time I'll have a chance to intro myself!

    1. Please do. If you see me at a race, introduce yourself! Thanks for volunteering!

  3. I thought about coming down. Had I known it was their 40th, I probably would have instead of staying home to mow the lawn. Sounds like they stepped it up for the anniversary, and it sounds like they fixed some of the finish issues from the year I did it (couldn't find water).

  4. Great racé report Jeff, thanks for all the details and photos!

  5. Dude, you took a thousand photos and ran! Doug is a really great guy, even if he runs fast. I see you got Greg and Jenni Everal at mile 10. I used to love that race, when there was beer at the end........... HA

    1. Haha. They can't ALL have beer Ken. Yeah, I'm getting used to carrying a camera but it does add some extra effort on a race of this distance.

  6. That looks like a really good event. I love races that are so well organised. Well done! The shirt and medal are very nice as well.

  7. Congrats! I'm glad you enjoyed it. This was my third year running it (although first time doing the half) and it always seems very impeccably organized and run. It sure was nice of the weather to cooperate!
    I finished myself in 3:05. A little slower than I had hoped for, but now I have a time to chip away at! Detroit Marathon half, here I come!

    1. Awesome. I'll be at Detroit too! Congrats on your first half marathon. That's awesome!

  8. Wow, that was a lot of pics. It's like I was running the race with you.

    We both did half marathons celebrating their 40th anniversaries this weekend. Random. You did well and I not the same.

    That's an awesome medal!!

  9. Great recap!! I love that route and drove it many times. I agree the weather could play havoc with the race. I'm putting this one on the list! Beautiful. Thank you!

  10. Very nice race report! :)

    In regards to the train tracks, there actually is a train that crosses those tracks early in the morning. This is why the start time is (imho) a little later in the morning; it allows all the runners to race the course without having to worry about stopping at any tracks.
    (I found that out last year as I was questioning the start time - iirc, it was 86* and blazing hot sun!)

    1. Thanks. That makes sense on the train and glad the organizers plan around it even if it means warmer temperatures.

  11. Congratulations! Sounds like a great race. Love the bling, too! :0)

  12. I found your blog while trying to pick my second half marathon, I ran this race- and didn't hit my goal as my IT band became my enemy during the last 3 miles. Would you say the Brooksie Way is as hilly as this? I'm debating between that and the new US only Half option for the Free Press.
    Hills and I are not friends.

    1. Wendy - Brooksie Way is a much harder and hillier course especially the last half of the race. Imagine mile 7.5 of D2A2 for 4 miles. .

    2. Glad to know, US Free Press it is!

  13. Great to spend some time chatting with you too Jeff and wonderful review! I too would run this race again next year, well worth it and so wonderfuly organized! Not to mention the gorgeous course and amazing volunteers!

  14. I just found this after discovering your site a few days ago. This race was my first-ever half, and it was a wonderful experience for me, so I REALLY enjoyed reliving it through your fantastic pictures. Thank you for taking the time to do such a thorough and enjoyable recap! (PS: The Mile 7 hill surprised me, too! :))