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May 23, 2016

I Can 5k race review

Short Version
Finished in 27:42 (official time); no new PR
Overall Place:  5/41
Men 40-49:  1/4

Timed race #109

First year for this new 5k race.  They also had a Hike that was not timed.  This was organized by Boy Scout Shane Skelcy for his Eagle Scout project with Troop 360 of Auburn Hills.  The event benefited God's Helping Hands of Michigan that was organized to provide free food and clothing for those in need in the Southeast Michigan area.  What a great idea for an Eagle Scout project!  The race was well organized and timed.  They had finisher medals and food at the end as well as a raffle.  Your entry was free if you provided at least 5 cans for the charity.  What a great cause and I'm happy I got to participate.  Hopefully they will do this again next year.


Long Version
Registration/Packet Pickup
One of my running buddies, Josh, told me about this race.  He said you could run it if you brought at least 5 cans to the event as they were collecting food for a charity.  Awesome.  What a great idea.  I signed up on Eastside Racing Company, who was timing the race.  It was very simple to sign up.
Bald Mountain State Recreation Area
Race packet pickup was that morning.  The race start time was 9:00am and was delayed slightly to allow everyone time to get ready to start.  It was a beautiful morning for a race.  If you pre-registered, they had your name and bib ready for you.  One of the Boy Scouts helped take the cans from you as you approached packet pickup.  You also received a timing chip that goes on your shoe so it would be a timed race.  The packet also included a cinch bag as well.
Registration/packet pickup
Start Area
I got there a little early and waited in my car for a few minutes until start time.  The park there is very nice and works well for a small race.
Start area - start/finish
Before we started, they did a few announcement to talk about the course as well as to say thank you to all the sponsors of the race.
A few announcements by Shane Skelcy
As we got lined up, they did the National Anthem just before the race.  It was a small race, probably one of the smaller ones I've been to, but it was really fun.  I love running small races.
Ready to run (small race, I was at the front)
The course itself was a little out and back to the trail and then a loop on the trails.  The race said that the course measured long and my Garmin came in at about 3.3 miles.  I had no plans for this except I felt like I wanted to push myself and see how I could place given the small group.  I was happy to see I placed 5th overall especially since much of the course is run on trails.
Splits, Map, elevation

We ran through part of the parking lot and drive on asphalt to get to the trailhead.  I love watching the kids for the race as they have so much energy!
A little asphalt to start
I was going pretty fast for me and tried to keep up with some of the front runners.  I figured I do what I could to catch up to people once we got on the trails.
Great day for a race!
The race had volunteers in all the right spots including many of the turns.  The course marking were excellent and there was no confusion about which way to go.
Heading to the trails
We got to the single track and it was time to push myself.  The trail was groomed well so it was easy to pass on the left.
Single track
There were also some wider parts so it was easy to run a fast race even though it was on the trail.
volunteers on course
While I've run out at Bald Mountain before, I've never been to this part of the trail or the start/finish area so this was all new trails to me.  It's nice to run some new trails.
great area to run
The course had a few muddy spots on the trails but nothing too bad.  They were pretty dry overall except one place I remember splashing through.
A couple muddy spots
The course also had several spots with rocks and roots.
Rock and roots too
Overall, though, it was a fairly smooth trail.  This would be a great spot for any first time trail runners since it's not extremely hilly.
Marked very well
More trail markings
Since I was near the front, I didn't see many runners after this point as the front runners were way ahead of me.

Some hills as well
Great area!
We were at the end of the loop on the trail and had one last downhill before getting back to asphalt.  As I got to the end of the trail, the guys volunteering there said I was in fourth place overall!
Downhill portion
While it's hard to tell, the asphalt was an uphill portion coming back.  I had one girl pass me at the very end of the race to place 5th overall.
Heading back to the finish
More asphalt
 It was then back to the park to finish up.  A really nice 5k course.
Aid Stations
There was one aid station on the course which I didn't get a picture of.  I didn't stop for it since I wanted to keep up my pace.  There were two volunteers there giving out water.

Finish area
After the race, they gave you a medal and there was plenty of food for the runners/walkers.  They had pizza, bananas, donuts, water, and juice.  The race also did a raffle after everyone came in.  I think they had enough prizes that everyone walked away with something - that's awesome!  They collected over 860 cans for the charity plus monetary donations that would help get them to their 1,000 can donation goal.
Race results
For your race entry, which was to bring at least 5 cans, you received a chip timed, marked course.  You received a bib and a cinch bag from your packet.  If you gave 15 cans, you also got an additional tote bag.  If you donated 20 cans, you also received a race shirt.  I should have just brought more cans to get the shirt too.
Race bib
Part of the packet
For the raffle, I won a packet of Mel's Toffee, out of Rochester.  I've never had this before and it was incredible tasty!
Toffee from raffle
Everyone also received a finishers medal.  How awesome is that?  The medal is a homemade medal (which I assume the Boy Scouts made?).  It's one of the most unique medals I've received for a race and I've received a ton of them!  I love seeing homemade medals.  It makes for a really special race.
Race medal - awesome homemade medal
Medal close up
The organization of the race was great.  They had a place to register online.  They posted it on Runmichigan.  They had all details on a flyer so you knew where to go and what time.  The start/finish area was well organized.  Packet pick up was really easy.

Overall, this was a really fun race.  I loved the course!  The race was well organized.  It was for a great cause.  The medals, completely unexpected, were incredible!  The finish line food was great.  While I realize that this was for an Eagle Scout project, my hope is that they continue to put on this event on an annual basis.  You could tell that Shane Skelcy and his volunteers put a lot of hard work into making sure this was a fun and successful event.  I'm glad I got to be a part of it.
Another successful 5k
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclosure:  This entry was free if you brought cans to participate.  All opinions are my own.

May 21, 2016

Back to the Beach 10k race review

Short Version
Finished in 56:56 (official time); no new PR
Overall Place:  57/297
Men 45-49: 4/11

Timed race #108

While it's not a new race to me, I decided I'd do a race review on this since it's a new distance for me at this race.  I've run the Back to the Beach half marathon three times but I've never run the 10k course.  I actually wanted to run the half marathon but having a 25k race the day before had me concerned for the distance so I chose the 10k this year.  Another outstanding race put on by Joe Burns.  He really knows how to make runners happy and this is one of the races that is always really fun.  Great organization, he gives back to the community and overall an excellent event.  It sells out every year so keep that in mind for next year.


Long Version
Registration/Packet pickup
I registered online through their website and, as usual, was very easy.  Packet pickup was either at Hanson's Running Shop in Utica the week before the race or race morning.  I've always picked up my packet at Hanson's but it's also very easy to just pick up that morning if you are not from the area.
Packet pickup
Start Area
I got there a little early in order to see the half marathon runners start.  Their race started at 7:30am and the 10k was at 8:35am.  It's always fun seeing the runners start.  Joe was hard at work.  It also happen to be the coldest Back to the Beach races I've ever attended.  Usually it's very warm but not this year.  We even had snow that morning - crazy!
Joe, race director working hard to start the half marathon
The start/finish area is set up at Eastwood Beach in Stony Creek Metropark.  It's the perfect venue for a race and they had their sponsors all set up in the area.  We were able to use real bathrooms before the start as well.
Some of the sponsors
The race was getting the food set up for the runners which was various items such as pop tarts, bagels, granola bars, etc.
After race food
The race did the National Anthem with the Boy Scouts leading it off.
Boy scouts doing the National Anthem
With that we were ready to get in line and run.  The 10k had several corrals and I just jumped into the one with my sister-in-law and her friend.
The course is run on various surfaces including grass, trails, and asphalt.  I had no plans for this race since I had just run a 25k race the day before.  There were some hills, mostly in the trolley trails area, but nothing too large to worry about.  If you are new to trail running, this is a perfect first trail race to try.
Map, splits and elevation

We were off and running in what I believe was the third corral to go off from the start.
And we are off
I started out pretty strong and headed up the group for a little while.  While it was cold, it was nice and sunny out and the wind was not as strong as it was by the lake.
Follow the flags!
The course is always marked really well as seen below.
Well marked
We then headed onto the paved path as we made our way to the trolley trails.  As I continued, I caught up to the previous corral.
Onto asphalt
The Metropark police were there to help stop traffic for the runners.
Park police support
Soon we were on the trails.  The trolley trails are really nice to run and, while I run the trails at Stony probably more than most, I rarely come to these trails.  It's nice to get back on them and I really should run on them more for training.
Onto the dirt
Trolley trails
You can see that much of the trail is a widetrack, as well as single track, with some roots and stones but overall, it's a very runnable trail in the area.

Grassy area
One of my favorite things about this course is the various terrain.  I love that it switches up from grass to trails to asphalt and back.  It makes the time go by so fast.  Before I knew it, I was already at mile 2.
Mile 2
More grass
While it does not look like it below, this is a slight hill.  These ones always seem to get me.  After this we were back on the path to start running another section of the race.
Heading back
Not much asphalt to worry about if you don't want to run on hard surfaces.  It's quite minimal in this race.

Mile 4
The race really tries to keep this mostly on soft surfaces.

Soon we were running the opposite of the half marathon runners.

There was a little out and back that we had to go to in order to get back to the finish.
Mile 5

It was now time to run back to the finish line where we started the race.
Mile 6
We were finally "Back to the Beach" and you could hear some of the spectators cheering on the runners.  We were also mixed in, at that point, with the half marathon runners on the same course.
Almost Back to the Beach!

As we headed towards the finish, we crossed a timing mat where the race was announcing names as you ran to the finish.  I really like that part of races when they announce your name.  It makes for a special ending.
Announcer yelling finisher names
With that, we were finished.  The clock time below is for the half marathon.
Aid Stations
There were several aid stations but I didn't get any pictures.  They were stocked with the necessities so I didn't bring my water bottle to race with this time.  They also had a margarita aid station too near the end of the race.  Fun stuff!  The volunteers at this race are always great and cheering you on.

Finish Area
The finish area is the same as the start area.  One thing that was different this year is that the race used timing chips on the bibs this year.  In previous years, they used chips on your feet so it's nice to see they are doing this as it makes it much easier.  It was pretty windy and cold after the race so I didn't stick around too long.  Normally when it's warmer, I stay longer and talk to people but I was ready to get into a warm place.  I felt sorry for the volunteers as they must have been freezing!

For your entry, you received a custom race bib, a measured course with support (which did reflect short on my Garmin, however, that can happen in the woods).  A beach towel this year instead of a shirt!  The race also offered shirts for sale if you wanted one and they looked really nice too.
Custom bib
The beach towel was an awesome addition to the race.  It's the first one I've ever received at a race and it's nice to get something other than the 100 shirts I already have in my closet.  Also a really great idea given the beach theme.
Beach towel - first ever from a race
The medal for the 10k(as well as the 5k too) was awesome (the half is even better).  The design of this excellent and the custom ribbon is also really nice.  The size is good for a 10k and the quality is great.
Race medal and ribbon
Medal close up
The race offered age group awards for the top 5 runners in their age group and I was lucky enough to place fourth.  The age group award for the 5k and 10k were glasses.  The half also had either coolers or bags.
Age group award for 10k
A very well organized race.  The set up at Stony is the perfect area for a race and this is one of my more unique races given the various surfaces.  The website has all the information you could need to know.  The race sends out emails with information so you know what's going on.  The start/finish area are well planned.  The volunteers know what to do.  The races start on time.  Excellent job on everything!

Overall, this is one of my favorite races of the year.  I've run it 4 of the last 5 years and I wouldn't keep coming back to it otherwise.  Joe puts his heart and soul into this race and it's no wonder why this one sells out every year.  I love the course and the fact this is on my training grounds so I know the area really well.  I don't know too many people who have not run this race but, if you have not, this should be on your list for next year.  You'll be happy you did it and hopefully it will be a little warmer next year.  Haha!
Joe (race director) and I after my finish
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclosure:  I paid for this race with my own funds.  All opinions are my own.