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Aug 9, 2015

Tahqua 25k race review

Short Version
Finished in 3:11:55 (official time); new PR because I have not run this distance - first 25k
Overall Place:  47/76
Overall Men:  34/46
Men 40-49:  13/19

Race #97 - First 25k

This is the fourth race of five that I'm running with Great Lakes Endurance this year.  The Tahqua 25k is a race everyone needs to run.  I've officially put this at the top of my trail race experiences.  The course is amazing and was one of the most fun and difficult to run.  I love the 25k distance and the technical areas of this course.  Tahquamenon Falls is an awesome area to visit and, if you like running trails, this is truly a gem.  This is a "must-do" race.  I went a little crazy on the pictures for this race but you will enjoy seeing that this is one you are not going to want to miss next year.


Long Version
Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration is very simple and completed via Active(dot)com through the race website.  All information about the race and logistics are on the website and very easy to use.

Packet pickup was from 3-9pm in Paradise on Friday evening at the Magnuson Grand Hotel.  It's one of the nicer hotels in the area and I've stayed there before a few years back.  As is typical for a race put on by Great Lakes Endurance, given the smaller size of the race, I was in and out very quickly.
Hotel Packet pickup 
Race instructions
 The race organizers are there and check you into the race and get you a race bib.  You also got to pick between two colors of shirts they offered.  I love that feature of their races and I've had a choice at all of the races I've done with them this year.
Race organizers
Race Area
Before packet pickup, I went to the Tahquamenon Falls campground to check in as it was starting to sprinkle and I wanted to get my tent up without it raining.  I'm glad I did since it did rain later on.  We were very fortunate because it was supposed to rain all afternoon, night and during the race and it ended up only raining a little in the afternoon and at night.  It turned out to be a perfect weekend to camp.
I had site 22
I had a different site than when I stayed here for the Two Hearted Half Marathon and this one was right next to the bathroom.  Some friends also stayed on my site too which was much more fun that being on the site alone.
Bathrooms across the site
Our Facebook running group met for dinner and had about 10 of us for dinner before the race over at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery at the upper falls.
Pre-race dinner with Sherri and Jeremy and others! (Photo by Han)
 We took a walk down to the falls after dinner so we could get a group picture!
Upper Falls
Group Picture after dinner - me, Han, Michel, Melissa, Josh, Sherri, Joel(Photo by Jeremy)
After dinner, we got some wood and went back to the campsite to enjoy a nice fire and have S'mores.  Sherri and Jeremy brought all the stuff to make them.  Sweet!  I ended up going to bed around 11:30pm and had an early rise but was enjoying the camping way too much to go to bed early.
Nice campfire
After the race, I took a drive up to Whitefish point and walked around the harbor.  It was beautiful!
Whitefish Point
Later, I also made it out to Debbie's cottage for a group party and we played some Running Pictionary that Steve from our running group made up.  Haha!  It was a lot of fun!
Post race Running Pictionary
We got a post run group picture by the water at Debbie's home and had a great time!  It was nice of her and her husband to host a party for us hungry runners!
Post race group picture
Start Area
Race morning was pretty early.  We had to get on the bus for the 25k at 6:15am as the busses were leaving for the start line at 6:30am.  I was up at 5am to get ready.  The race was a point to point race so you had to either take a bus or get to the start line from someone driving you there.
Busses to the start
After we got dropped off by the bus, the bus could not go down the road all the way to the start area so we had to walk the 1.1 miles down to the start line.  I have to say this was a first for me and it was quite an adventure to just get to the start line.  It was a fun experience getting there.
Ramon walking to the start
Fortunately, it was not raining and it was also not cold so it worked out perfectly.
1.1 mile walk to the start line
Once we got to the start area, the race had a couple port-o-potties there for runners and the line quickly formed.
Port-o-Johns at the start
I had asked Jeff, the race director, about how he came up with the start in this remote area.  He said he started from the Upper Falls where the finish is and ran back 25k.  There you have it.  Simple enough.  There was no timing mat at the start since it was a gun start plus there was no electricity in the area.
Start line
Runners were waiting for the 8am start.
Runners ready to run
We had some time until it started and I happen to know numerous people this time running the race so we had a chance to talk and get some great pre-race pictures.
Pre race picture for Team Ignite! - Me, Melissa, Erinn, Ramon
We had a fairly good size group of runners from my area running the race.  I'd like to take credit for them all coming.  Haha.  Well partial credit but was happy to see some familiar faces running today especially so far away from home.
Pre-race group picture - Han, Bob, Michel, me, Steve, Melissa, Josh, Joel
Jeff, the race director, did his usual announcements so that we didn't get lost.  We were to follow the orange flags on our right.  The course was marked really well.  We also had the North Country blue blazes we could follow too since the run was located on the trail.
Jeff, race director, giving announcements
With announcements done, we were ready to run.  You can see that it was a smaller race.
Runners in front of me
Runners behind me
I had no pace plans except not to get hurt.  This was my third trail race in three weeks with a marathon, half and now this 25k so I was just looking to enjoy myself and that's just what I did.
Splits, map and elevation per Strava
The course started out on the sandy, dirt roads and we made our way to the trail about 3/4 of a mile up the road.
Start on dirt road

Soon we were turning into the trails!  Yes, it looked beautiful starting out!
Turn onto trail
We were following the flags and the North Country trail.  We even saw some hikers as we started off (to the left in the picture)

Into single track
Parts of the trail actually looked like they were groomed here.  They were nice and wide to start off and appeared to be well traveled in this area.
Almost looks groomed!
As we got further into the trail, we saw more pine trees and lots of furns and the trail also became more single track and narrow.
North Country!  Josh running strong in front
We had some beautiful sites along the way like the marsh below.  It would have been nice to see a moose down in there as the County has some of the most moose sightings.
Mile one few by and I was thirsty for more trails as well as more water.  Haha!  Good thing we carry water bottles.  There are several aid stations along the way to fill up too.
Mile 1
There were parts of the trail there were somewhat wet but nothing bad.  You will get dirty and sometimes muddy as would be expected in a backwoods trail race like this.  It was exciting and so fun!
Bog next to us
I love running trails like below where it's wet, technical, woody and you need to watch your footing on every step.  I was in my glory with this!  It reminded me of parts of the Two Hearted course.
Fun parts to run
Soon we hit a couple switchbacks and this was an awesome surprise.  I didn't know we were going to run any switchbacks.  If you have never run switchbacks they help you get up the hills and are really fun.  You can see the runners ahead of me.  The runner in front is almost at the turn of the first hill.
Mile 2 was right on the switchbacks too.
Mile 2
There were some rolling hills but nothing extremely hard in this part of the trail and it was actually very runnable.  Of course, I once again went out way too fast.
Nice trail
It's nice to see the blue blazes on the trail so you had no worries you were going the right way.  While the course is also flagged by the race, a secondary symbol gives even more comfort.

Lake next to us
Mile 3
Soon, we were running some widetrack which was also nice through the pines.  So many pines in the area which is really nice and makes for some soft surface to run.
Two track
There were also areas of hardwoods in there like below and I love running under fallen trees.  The moss on the trail indicates it stays fairly wet.  Had it really rained hard this week, it could have been a really messy trail.  It was, however, pretty dry and easy running.
Fallen tree
Anytime I can run on pine needles, it makes for some soft landings.  I really enjoyed areas like below.
Steve running hard on the North Country Trail
I had caught up with Steve about mile 4 and we ran together for a little bit but I fell back some.  In this race, I also got caught up in the beauty of the trail and took way more pictures than I needed too.  Fortunately, my readers get to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Mile 4
We came upon a wet spot in the trail.  It's kind of blurry but I added it because this was the only spot on the entire course that was this wet.  It was fairly easy to get over this and not even get your shoes that muddy or wet.
Wet area
We were back at it on the single track.

More ferns
The sun started to come out which was a nice site and happy that we didn't have rain for the entire race.  I do admit that it would not have bothered me that much since it was warm enough.  Sometimes rain makes the course interested but it does not do well for pictures so I'll take the sun.

The course is somewhat difficult to mark given some of the foilage on the trails.  Since much of it is single track, you just keep running.
Well marked
Soon we were at the first aid station to fill up.  I skipped it since I had not drank that much water by then yet but it was nice to have it there.
Aid ahead
 There were more hardwoods in the area as we reached the seven mile mark on the course.
Mile 7
There were also some open areas like you can see below.  Fortunately, I saw runners much of the race.
Open area
There were several larger hills but I'd have to say that the largest was the one below.  I did walk the hills and ran down hill to try and keep pace.
To the right of the trail was a nice lake.  It's difficult to see it but it's there.  I love running past bodies of water while out on the trail.
More ferns and pines - such a beautiful part of the trail
Mile 8
The trail below was interesting and was cut into the side of the hill.  There was a drop off to the left of us and was really fun to run this part.
Drop off left of trail
Below there was a stream running through and I stopped to get a picture from the trail above.
We came upon a massive tree right next to the trail.  This thing must be over 100 years old.  It was huge!
Huge tree on trail
We also got to some of the technical parts with lots of roots as you were running downhill.  I was fortunate enough not to fall at all during the race but I saw lots of runners who did fall.
We past a gorgeous pond right next to the trail!
As we got to the campground, there were stairs we had to run up to the campground.  This ran through the campground where I was staying at the lower falls.
Stairs to campground
I had no idea that the trail was this close to the campground.  I'll have to make it a point to run this more next time I'm back in the area.  There were some campers that were cheering us on as we ran through the campground which was really fun to see them helping us.
Portage Campground - where I was staying
Heading to the lower falls
Soon we were running towards the Lower Falls area which is when the really fun part of the trail was beginning.

Lower falls parking

To the falls
Below is one of my favorite trail signs of all time.  Respect the area and trails that you have!
Great sign
We ran right next to the lower falls as you can see below.  Wow!  I knew this course was going to be epic and I was right!
Lower Tahquamenon Falls
We made our way back to the trail.  This was just after the last aid station as the last six miles of the race there was no other place to have an aid station.
Heading back to the trail
It was quite hilly in this area and the technical portion of the course.  It started off with a few roots and got much, much harder.  Lots of walking for me was involved.
Hills and roots
Lovely area - one of my favorite types of trails - pines and needles
There were also lots of stairs.  I'm not sure the exact amount.  I think I took pictures of every staircase we had to go up.  I would bet at least 100-150 steps and after running for so long made it really difficult.  Don't underestimate the power of the stair.  They wear you down!
There were also roots like you have never seen on a trail before.  The beauty of the trail was incredible and jaw dropping.
Roots for stairs
After running 10 miles, the theme was stairs and roots for the next six miles.  My butt still hurts just thinking about the stairs.
Mile 10
Hills and stairs
The race had the course marked out well in this area and no chance of getting lost at all.
Course markings

At some point, the stairs were almost comical as you got more and more tired.  At least the variety of the stairs made it interesting as some were built into the trail like below.
Stairs - seeing the theme here?
It truly was one of the most beautiful and tough trails I've ever run in a race.
The tree roots were incredible.  At this point, you really needed to make sure you were picking up your feet so you didn't fall.  It also slowed you down too.
Massive roots
The boardwalks were really fun to run and helped us get some speed in without the worry of falling or tripping on a tree root but they were short lived.  We were right back to roots soon enough.
The river ran to the left of us on the trail and it made for a beautiful trail run.  It was really difficult because you wanted to look around at the beauty of the area but you could not take your eyes off the trail.  One look could have meant falling on the trail.  I stopped much of the time to take the pictures as I could not run this course and take pictures at the same time - at least not in this area of the course.
Four more miles and we were done.  The finish line was at the upper falls.
River trail
Hearing the falls and the river as you were running made this so relaxing too.
More roots and boardwalks were incredible.  This is the most technical course I've ever been on.  I know some of the runners had this race as their first trail race and I commend them on choosing such a difficult trail.
I know when I run this again that I'm going to need to train more on stairs.  Fortunately, I have a trail in my area that has stairs that would be perfect for training
By the time we hit mile 11, there were more stairs.  I laughed as we got to this mile marker as it always seems like mile 11 is a difficult mile for me in races.
Mile 11 stairs
The technical portion was relentless and you needed everything in your power to keep moving and not falling too.
Yes, more stairs
The below picture gives a great look at what runners were dealing with as they ran up a hill.  The roots were all over the place and made for a much slower pace - at least for me.
Very technical
Areas like this you could run down, which I did, but you still needed to be really careful not to trip and hit yourself.
Cut out for tree
Also, nobody wanted to fall down a flight of stairs like the one below.  That sure would have hurt!  Slower pace it was for me.
Down stairs
The course had the river, the roots and the blue blazes below.  You could run a portion of this!  Haha!
Dropoff to the left
There is nothing like running next to a rushing river and hearing the sounds.  It was truly a great day to be in the woods and on the trails.
River on the trail
Giant roots
Beautiful area
There were a couple of muddy portions but even these were not bad.  I suspect that this area is probably always a wet area but we could get over them very easy.
The boardwalks were fantastic.  Some were straight and could be run and others were wobbly.
NCT boardwalks
Trees growing to the water
More mud to keep things interesting but nothing that trail runners couldn't handle.  Keep in mind, this is a trail race and you do get dirty and muddy.  This is no road race!
More mud
Three more miles until we reached the upper falls.  I think my picture taking was slowing me down.  I felt like I was running faster than what my pace was showing but all the stopping to take pictures was worth it.  There were not many runners around anyway so I was not slowing anyone down.
3 miles to the upper falls
There was a tighter singletrack area where it was somewhat overgrown and so fun to run with two walls of shrubs next to you.
Tight area
Mile 12 was here and the roots did not stop.
Mile 12
The beauty of the water helped keep my mind off running and the fact that this was really a very difficult trail.
Lots of jumping around to avoid the roots really took a toll on your body as you were moving forward.
More technical
Even more so, the stairs going down and up was so tough after so many miles of running.
Down stairs
For me, the stairs really could not be run at this point and I was happy to just get up them walking.  My heart rate skyrocketed in some parts and really slowed my pace.
Up stairs
River views
I was happy to see stair rails in some spots so that you didn't fall.
Down stairs
The wavy boardwalks were interesting to run over.  I love that the park keeps them as natural as they move which makes it much more fun in my opinion.
wavy boardwalks
More technical
Really stairs?
I started to get excited as I reached the 13 mile point.  Of course, I'm usually excited to see this because I'm normally running a half marathon and going to be finished.  Oops.  Not today, 15.5 miles for the 25k today.
Mile 13
The stairs were really getting to me.  Hah!  I've never run this many stairs ever in a race.  Actually, I've never run this many stairs even in training.
Big stairs
Some of the tree roots actually looked like little logs they were growing out of the ground all over the place!
Hard technical area

down again
I remember walking this trail back in 2011 with my family but I didn't remember how tough it was.  Of course, I had not run 13 miles by that point either and I was not running with the family.  This was really a hard finish.
Up again
I stopped to take in the beauty of the trail periodically and to catch my breath!
Cool tree
This was a crazy part of the trail.  Down stairs, over board walks, up stairs and to the technical parts.
Stairs and boardwalk
I was really happy to see mile market 14.  Ha!  Almost there!
Mile 14
I took the picture below after I had run/walked up these stairs.  I had to stop for about 30 seconds to catch my breath and almost puked right there on the steps.  I've not gotten sick during a race before, and I didn't today either, but I needed the 30 seconds just to get my breath back so I could continue.
I went up these!
I turned and looked up and saw the trail below.  Haha!  More roots to run over but at least I could feel like I could continue with the race.
Crazy technical
I powered through the rest of the stairs.
I made it.  Okay, it was not the finish but there were no more stairs and the rest was fairly easy running to the finish.
North Country Trail

Almost there
Some of the last part of the trail was not easy as the footing was not flat but it was something that I could deal with it since I was happy to be completed with the stairs.  Ha!
Tough area
Back to the single track again and some flat grounds to head towards the finish.
Single track
Through this pond area and were were almost there with a short turn into the finish!  Woohoo!  I was happy to be done.  One of the most technical and difficult courses I've ever run and I loved every single minute of it.  In fact, I decided after running the first mile of this race, I needed to come back again!  Once again, Great Lakes Endurance did not disappoint when it came to the course.

Aid Stations
There were several aid stations where volunteers were there to fill your water bottle with Heed or water.  They were also checking your bib number to make sure all the runners got off the course safely.  A great idea in the interest of the runners.
I told everyone to smile!
Aid 2
Finish Area
The finish area was at the upper falls near the parking lot.  You finished, were able to get your time right away and then get some food that the race offered.  I talked for a few minutes to the race organizers about how awesome this course was.  I've been wanting to run this race for several years and, after running it, I wish I had come sooner.  I've put this on my number one best trail course ever.
A tired runner
For your race entry, you received a marked course.  You also received a race bib with race results immediately following the race.  Transportation by bus was provided as well to the start line.
Race bib
You received a tech shirt with the race name and I love this shirt.  The logo is really nice and it's not a giant symbol on your entire shirt.  The Great Lakes Endurance shirts have become some of my favorite training shirts.
Tech shirt front
As usual, there are no sponsors on the shirt and I hope the race can keep it that way.  I love the Great Lakes Endurance logo on the back of the shirt too.
Tech shirt back

The race does a great job with their website and giving runners updates on Facebook when needed.  They send a detailed memo with all the race details before the race which is really important as it has everything that the runners need to know in order to be ready for the race.  The course was well marked.  The finish and start lines are well planned - even this race, where it was unusual to walk to the start - and I think made it fun!  The tahquamenon area is always an amazing place to vacation.  A 25k is a nice distance as it does not kill you and you can still enjoy time with your family after the race or for the weekend.  As I observe runners who are panicked sometimes, it is usually because they didn't read all the packet information, didn't make it to packet pickup, or didn't pay attention.  Read the packet and ask questions at packet pickup and you are sure to have a great time at these races.

Overall, this goes down as my favorite trail course that I've run.  The variety of the trail throughout the course was incredible.  There were some easier parts in the beginning and some serious challenges at the end.  I've never run a more technical course.  I didn't feel this was a fully runnable course for me at the end but that really does not matter to me.  I want to be able to find courses that I can enjoy the beauty of the area.  Great Lakes Endurance has proven they know how to find fantastic trails and you can be assured that you will love every minute of the experience.  This is a fantastic race to see the Tahquamenon Falls and trails in the area.  The bottom line is this is a race that every trail runner will really enjoy - fast or slow, it will challenge everyone.  If you need a reason to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this would be a great one.  Up next for me is the Porcupine Mountains Half Marathon in September also put on by Great Lakes Endurance.  I cannot wait!

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

Disclosure:  I received a discounted race entry in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a particular opinion other than an honest one.


  1. Great report with wonderful pics. The paths looks very challengin but the scenery is special. Congrats on the finishing time. The finishert-shirt was well deserved.

  2. Congrats & Thanx 4 All The Photos!!! Cheers

  3. Looks like the kind of race I would run...

  4. Great Review. You captured the essence of this trail run perfectly. A well organized and mapped out small town trail race with lots of roots and stairs, but just enough to make you want to come back for more! Love all of the photos and narrations!