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Jun 28, 2014

Highland State Recreation Area

This morning I went out to the Highland State Recreation Area.  I had 17 miles on the schedule and the mountain bike trails are around 16 miles.  I'd never been out there before so I thought it would be fun to head out there and see what it was like.  I've been running Stony Creek mostly but you need to change it up once in awhile too.

The park "officially" opens at 8am but where the mountain bike trailhead is, there are no gates so you can pretty much run this whenever you want.  You do have to have your State passport otherwise I'm sure you would get a ticket.  I got there a little after 7am and there was only one car there.  There's plenty of parking too.  Probably at least 20 spots.  Maybe this would make for a great night run location too with the SEMR group?

View from where I parked
 The park has a few rules for the mountain bikers below before you get on the trail.
There was also a sign of the trail system so I could see what I would be running although I also printed out a map with markers on it too just in case I needed it.  My plan was to run the entire trail - A, B, C, and D and that is exactly what I did.
It's not Hunting season but I did hear guns going off
This is what you are confronted with as soon as you get on the trail.  Yikes technical already?  Yes, technical and hilly begins right from the start and does not let up at all throughout the entire trail.
The start of the trail
Each section had it's own little personality but it did start to blend in as I continued through the park.  The entire 16 miles is singletrack!  I was also trying to watch that I didn't hit any poison ivy too.  There were a few spots where the brush was right on you but, no fears, I didn't touch any and there was not any on the trail so you are good to go.
Hills are the theme
Here's a picture I took of the trail maps on the trail.  These are invaluable when out there and made it so easy to stay on track.  As you can see, there is a map(provided by the Michigan Mountain Biking Association) above but also a direction sign to what the next trail was.  In this case, I was heading to C or I could have taken B for a loop.  Having these out there really eases your mind because there would be nothing worse than getting lost out there.  Also, there were trail markers along the way.  I used the map to check what my next point would be so I knew I was on the right trail.  In fact, I never got off course at all.
Marked well
As you see below, this is what the typical terrain is.  I would say that it had a mix of highly technical trails with lots of roots and rocks.  It also had a few areas that were really hilly as well as some spots that were somewhat flat and you could run.  Actually you could run the entire course.
 I took this last picture as I did the trail then did another 1 1/2 mile out and back to get my miles in.  As you can see, hilly, rocks, roots so technical for sure.
Hilly and Rocky
I used my Garmin the entire time but it appears that I lost some signals for several miles.  Given that, instead of 17, I probably ran somewhere around 18-19.  As you can see in the map below, there is a straight part and this also showed no elevation.  Let me tell you that there is no straight parts out there and nothing with zero elevation either.  Oh well!
Map per Garmin
Yeah that elevation at 11 to 15 is not right.
As you can see above, the route is quite hilly with lots of elevation.  The entire run was like that and miles 11-15 were not correct on my Garmin.  I have to admit, at that point, it was almost 80 degrees and I probably would have been really happy with something flat - haha!  For whatever reason, it picked back up at mile 15 until I finished.  I think I probably ended up running more like 18-19 miles today.  Oops.

My entire run, I saw two runners and two bikers.  Seriously, for almost four hours being out there.  It was like your own park!  I know I'll be back for another run there and give the way the four routes are set up, you can loop a couple and you don't have to run the entire 16 miles of the trails.   If you have not been out there, I would say there's parts that are like the Poto and their are parts like Pontiac Lake.  A real treat to be out there and this is only about 10 minutes past Pontiac Lake so it's not really far from me.

Have you been to Highland Recreation Center?  Give me your thoughts.

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

Jun 26, 2014

Hydration - my new option

So I've been running with a water bottle for the last several years and it's gotten me through 74 races including 5 marathons and 26 half marathons.  I think the handheld water bottle is sufficient for most races, however, now that I've committed to running a 50k in October, I really don't want to run with an handheld for 31 miles.

Here's what I use now:
Clean bottle - runner
Let me say that while I know lots of people hate carrying a water bottle, it does not bug me that much.  I've grown used to it and it's an extension of me now.  If it had room for more stuff for a really long run and I was not going to run out of water, it's probably all I would use.  I love the Clean Bottle!  It's got room for a gel or two and my keys and I can go typically up to 13 miles without refill.  This will still remain my main way to hydrate on runs and races.

Since I want my hands free for the 50k, I decided I needed to go with some kind of hydration system.  I ordered an Orange Mud hydration system a couple weeks ago but it didn't work for me so I returned it.  I really like the concept too.   It sits on your back. Check it out:
Orange Mud HydraQuiver
It's actually a really high quality product with plenty of storage but the bottles leaked for me and it just was not a good fit.  My running buddy also ordered one too and loves his though.  They are coming out with a new handheld next year and I can't wait to see what that looks like.

So onto stage 2 and hopefully the final stage.  I purchased another Hydration system by Camelbak:
Camelbak Marathoner
I just got it yesterday in the mail and I'll be testing it on a short 4 mile run this morning to see how this one works.  I'm hoping this is it and it has plenty of room for gels, snacks, phone and plenty of water.  I can't wait to try it out.  While it's much bigger than the Orange Mud type, there are some advantages such as more water and more storage but I'm sure it gets warmer wearing it too so we will see.  If all goes well, I'll be running 17 miles on Saturday and 8 miles on Sunday all on trails with it.  I need to get used to running with it so I can use it on all my long runs as well as my trail marathon in August.

So tell me, what do you use?  Handheld?  Place water bottles ahead of your route? A pack like Camelbak?  What do you like?

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

Jun 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday 6/25/14

Seen at my last race at packet pickup - a piece of the twin tower.
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Jun 24, 2014

Solstice Half Marathon race review

Short Version
Finished in 1:57:42(official time); no new PR
Overall place: 71/205
Overall men: 50/81
Men(40-44): 5/12(my last race in this age group)

Race #74

First time running the Glen Arbor Solstice Half marathon.  This was a well organized race with a well marked course.  This was a tough elevation and one of the largest hills I've ever run.  My goal was to keep my 1/2 road marathon sub two hour streak alive and I was able to accomplish that(just barely).  The weather could not have been better for a late June race.


Long Version
Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very easy as the race company has their own website and within minutes I was registered.   Total cost was $57 and they don't charge any online fees which is great!

My running buddy, Kevin and I, decided to make our way over to Glen Arbor on Friday evening to get our race packet since it was an early start with the half starting at 7am.  The packet pickup was at the Glen Arbor fire station and it literally took two minutes to get our packet.  The fire department had a piece of the twin towers outside their station which was very moving to see.

After pickup we decided to drive the course.  It's a nice course around the lake and while it does not have lake views the entire time, we could see the lake in parts.  We also got to see the huge hill at mile eight.  It scared us!  Hah!  The view from the top was incredible.  After the course preview, we drove into Traverse City to eat and ended up at Mackinaw Brewing Company for a little carb loading.  From there we went back to my cottage in Gaylord to get some sleep since it was going to be an early morning.
Pickup at the Glen Lake Fire Department
A piece of the twin towers
Preview of the top of the hill at 8.6
We had a really early start the next day since the race started at 7am.  We were set to get up at 4am!  It was freaking early but it took almost 2 hours to get over there so we had no choice.  We figured we would get a nap in later in the day so there were no worries.

We got there about a half hour before the start of the race and the race was getting things together.  There were only a couple hundred running the half marathon so we was a pretty relaxed starting area.  Things were very organized, they had plenty of port-o-potties and just a few minutes before the races, we got lined up and ready to run.  I love running smaller races like this.
On the way to the start
Port-o-potties with Kevin modeling
Getting the start area set up
People in front of me
People behind me
The course had over 400 ft of elevation gain so you could say that it was a hilly course.  I was feeling pretty good so I was able to keep my pace fairly strong.  I knew I was going to need to bank some time because that hill at mile 8 was going to kill me.  As you can see by the splits, I was right and was significantly slower in that mile than any other mile since I had to walk part of the hill as most runners I saw there were doing as well.  I was able to recover pretty well and actually ran my fastest mile of the race in the last mile.
Map per Garmin
Pace/elevation/Heart Rate per Garmin
Splits and weather

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 of what the course is like.

While the course map looks like you would see water all the time, you don't see it the entire race but there are parts when you can see some of it and then there are parts where you get some awesome views of the lake.  The Glen Arbor area is a really nice area to run but does have some hills too.
Just started
A little blurry due to the clouds
In a neighborhood first
Runners spreading out
The course was really well marked with arrows pointing our way.  There were hardly any course marshals out on the course and we only saw a couple police for the main intersections  Probably an advantage when there is only a few hundred runners and it's in Northern Michigan with less cars around.
Well marked course
Mile 2
Police support
Open course
Mile 3
Some hills
The course had a nice size hill a little after mile three.  We also got some nice views of the lake in this area too.
Good view
You can see more hills coming up below.

Most of the road we ran on were major roads that were open to cars so you needed to stay on the left side and watch traffic.  Many of the roads had large curves like you see below.

As we passed the car below, there was a little girl cheering for runners which was really cute.
Cheering from the car
Mile 5
Mile 6
Port-o-potty on course
Straight road
It was fairly overcast at the start.  When we got several miles in, the sun started coming out which was nice.  It was not hot at all so we really got lucky this weekend.
Sun was coming out
Mile 7
It looked like it was going to rain later but it never did rain during the race.  After the Sleeping Bear half last October(it was pouring), I was happy it didn't rain on us.
Mile 8 - entrance to Sleeping Bear area as well
Even though we got to see the big hill at mile eight, it was insane running it.  Yikes!  It was the longest and tallest hill I've ever run in a race.  Yeah, we don't have that many hills in Michigan so this was one of the big ones for me.
The big hill starts
And keeps going up
And going up and up and up
And yet still up
Our prize was at the top.  There were volunteers there cheering runners with cow bells and an aid station too but we got to see that great view of the lake we stopped at yesterday.  It was a really fun part of the race.
Finally at the top

Back to the views at the top of the hill
Now downhill
Mile 10
Continued downhill

We continued to see parts of the lake as the last few miles were better views of the lake.  Some of the homes around the lake were awesome!
View of lake again
Heading towards town
One of the best parts of the race were when we passed a bridge where you could see both sides of the lake.  You also got an awesome view of the Sleeping Bear dunes and I got lucky and got a nice picture of it while I was running.  While there were not many spectators, there were some driving around and honking and screaming out the windows.  Mile 11 also had some of the prettiest views I've ever had in a race too as you were coming around the corner.  If you've run Bayshore, it gave you some of that feeling but, of course, there were not as much lake views on this course.
View over the bridge(dune in the background)
Water on both sides
More pretty views at mile 11
I was getting a little worried about meeting my goal of sub two hour so I picked up the pace the last couple miles to make sure I got it.   Fortunately, the elevation was back to flat so I could go faster even though that hill took some steam out of me.
Another nice view
As we ran mile 12, we had to run down the left and as traffic cleared(which there was not much), we crossed the street to get to the next turn in the race.  You can see in the photo below that some runners had already crossed the street.
Mile 12
There was a course marshal near the end where we needed to go to help keep us going the right way as well.
Course marshall here
One more turn and we turned onto the street where we could see the finish line far down the road.
Almost to the finish
Mile 13
There was maybe a few dozen people at the finish cheering all the runners on and because I finished alone, I got a nice cheer from the people there which was a nice feeling.
Aid Stations
The aid stations were well stocked with Gatodade, water and they had GU at the aid station at the big hill.  They had several volunteers at each aid station and all of them did a great job helping us!  There was plenty of stuff for all the runners.
Top of Inspiration Point
Finish Area
After finishing, you would get your race medal and there was finish line good.  It was your fairly standard fair of bananas(although they were not ripe to eat), orange slices, and bagel pieces.  They also offered watermelon and was a nice treat after the race and something different.  The race was also selling shirts and sweatshirts with the race logo on it.  Had I knew, I would have brought some money to buy a shirt since they had a nice cotton one I wanted.  Alas, I didn't feel like walking back to the car to get money so I just skipped it.
Gatorade and Water
Bananas(green), oranges, watermelon, bagels
Selling shirts
Relaxing finish area
I paid $57 for the half which was a reasonable price.  For that, you got a well marked course with course support on the aid stations.  The course was open completely to traffic which always makes me nervous but they did have police support in areas and there is not a lot of traffics at 7am in Northern Michigan.

You also received a race tech shirt.  This one only has the race name on the back which is nice not to see a ton of sponsors on it.  It's made by A4 and unfortunately these shirts are not very breathable so they're not good for running.  In addition, they are almost always too big and this was a large as well.  I would prefer it if every race would buy brooks shirts because they size correctly and they are good quality.  At the very least, it would be nice for the website to mention the brand so you can choose accordingly.  Since Sleeping Bear had Leslie Jordan, I figured they would be the same but were not.  The shirts are a billboard for races so it's important to get shirts people will wear.  This shirt will get used when I bike so I do like them for that.  In fact, I've already used it for a ride.  I do like the color since it's something I don't have.

You also received a nice medal with a custom ribbon too.  I like the bigger medal of their Sleeping Bear race but this was good as well.  The bib is also a nice custom bib with the race name.
Race bib
Shirt front
Shirt back
Medal with ribbon
Medal close up

The organization was good.  They had clear instructions on their website with answers to your questions.  The start area was set up nicely as well as the finish area which was the same.  The course was well mapped and the distance was accurate as we past mile markers.  They should have never served bananas that were not ripe but, other than that, it was organized by a experienced race company.

Overall, it was a great race.  It was a challenging course and had some great views.  This is a great race to run if you are looking for a nice weekend away as I did for it.  The Glen Arbor area and the town is a nice area and it's nice and close to Traverse City too.  It's fun to say you ran around Glen Lake.  The race was well run and you were informed of any changes that occurred. 

While I enjoyed the race, I'm not sure I'd run it again but not because it wasn't a good race.  The only reason I might not run it again is that it's a whole weekend away and I'd like to get in a variety of new races if I'm going to go out of town.   Since I'm getting into trail running, I think I'd like to run the race company's trail race in April, the Traverse City Trail Running Festival.  I will be back for more of their races since they go a great job.
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note: Race entry was paid with my own funds. All opinions are my own.