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May 20, 2017

Highland Loops 16 Mile Trail race review

Short Version 
Finished in 3:25:53.  New PR, this was my first 16 mile race 
Overall Place:  51/56
Men 40-49:  23/28 

Timed race #124

Planned this one as a slow training run since I didn't want to push myself to keep my hip healthy.  It's fun to run at the back of the pack!  Ran with a few friends that made it a much more enjoyable race since the time flew by.  What a great race this is.  Not only is the course awesome but the atmosphere is very friendly and the finish line party is incredible and one of the best I've ever been to for a race.  There is also a 7 mile option too if you are not up for the 16 miler.  This is one to put on your list for next year.  I know I'll be back.


Long Version
Registration/Packet Pickup/Start Area
Registration was online and very easy.  While the race did not fill up really quick, it did sell out so I suggest signing up when registration opens since the race limits the amount of runners.
Registration/Start area
Packet pickup was well organized and you just needed to give your last name to get your packet.  I got there fairly early - around 7:10am and the parking lot at the trailhead was already full so I parked in front of it on the street.  Worked out great.  We had plenty of time to socialize with everyone before the race started and I got to meet Dave's dog, Cooper.
A few of us before the start - Steve is smiling inside :)
The time went quick and the race was making announcements and doing the National Anthem for both Canada and USA before we started.
A few announcements before the start
They had a few waves go off and I went in the back of the second wave to keep things slow.  Worked out perfect.
We are ready to run - second wave
I posted the below statistics as I thought it was interesting that it shows we were climbing 47% of the time we race.  That's a lot of climbing - 158 stories worth according to my Garmin.  Speaking of which, the Garmin back in this area is never right.  I don't know if it's because of the tree cover or all the twists and turns but it was off about 2 miles as we ran over 16 miles compared to about 14 on the Garmin.  Check out that elevation too - 1,640 feet!  Pretty hilly race!
A few stats
Because the distance was off, so were the splits.  I wasn't really watching them anyway and figured I'd run the race between 3 and 3 1/2 hours.....and that is exactly what I did.
Here's a look at the elevation below.  Kind of hard to tell but not any super large hills but lots and lots of rollers for sure.
As you can see from the map, there are lots of twists and turns involved with the race.  The course is located at Highland Recreation area and its on the entire mountain bike trail consisting of A, B, C, and D loops.  The course did an excellent job having volunteers tell us where to go as well as good signage to keep us on track.  There is no way you could have gotten lost out there today.
Map of course
As mentioned, it seemed like we were always climbing pretty much from the start of the race.
Climbing pretty quick
 Dave started with us but finished quite a bit ahead of us.  We were enjoying ourselves the entire way.  It's really a very beautiful area out there.
A few switchbacks
The entire course is made up of single track which makes for a really good course.
Dave running with us for awhile
 No recent rain so things were very dry as well as the area drains pretty well too.
All single track course
It was a little crowded to start things off as it normally is for trail races but I didn't feel there were too many people out there at all.  In fact, I think they could have had many more if they wanted.
The downhill was fun!
Ed was having some fun out there today.  I would NOT recommend running and turning around at the same time on trails though.  You might be eating dirt.  He's a professional though and didn't fall.
Ed showing off.  Haha!
There was no shortage of hills on the course so keep that in mind.  It's one of the tougher trails in the area in my opinion.
Ed and Nikki climbing
 There were plenty of fairly flat areas - well, maybe just more runnable hills that flat.
Great day to be out on the trails

Cindy posing near an aid station
Of course, as we were getting closer to the finish, I was ready to be done.  It's not like I'm running these kinds of distances all the time unless I'm training for a marathon or 50k.  I happen to be training for a 50k in August in Marquette and this fit in well with how my plan has been going.  I just want to get to Marquette healthy.
Jeff and Ed working the trail
We even had time to have some fun on the trails.  Haha.  I think Cindy is happy on the trails, don't you think?
A little fun
Plenty of downhills as well with lots and lots of rocks and roots to jump over.  The course is quite technical.
Lots of roots and rocks

A little speed on the flats
I pretty much hung with Ed, Jeff and Cindy the entire race and helped make the time fly on the course.
Almost there

Lots of climbing
The weather was absolutely perfect.  It was not too cold and it was not too hot being about 50 degrees to start.  I wore a long sleeve tech shirt and seemed to be perfect for me.
The sun even came out today

Last big climb
As we neared the finish line, we sped up a little as we heard the music.  As we turned the corner to finish, the crowd went crazy.  Pretty awesome considering we were some of the last runners off the course.  Got to love the trail running community.
Right near the end
Aid Stations
There were several aid stations all stocked with water, oranges, GU, and fig newtons.  The course was also filling water bottles where needed.  Frankly, they could probably just go cupless since most people carry water with them.
Great aid stations
The volunteers did a great job helping us as we hit each aid station.  Plenty of aid stations and they felt perfectly spaced.
Volunteers were awesome
Finish Area
The finish area was the same place as the start.  It had plenty of space to hang out after the race.

Finish line (and start) 
Most of the runners hung out to eat and drink beer.  One of the sponsors had beer samples but you could also bring your own beer as well.  The food was fantastic and I have to say that it was probably one of the best race parties after a race.  The crowd was very welcoming and we got a great meal after the race.  I can only think of a couple races that ever put on a full meal for the runners and it's mostly after a full marathon or longer.  The finish line food alone would bring me back for another year.
I got to meet Cooper
I also got to play with Cooper, Dave's new puppy, who had lots of energy.  We even saw some horses come through the area since there are horse trails back there too.  As you can see from the crowd, many runners brought chairs to sit and eat and socialize.
A few horseback riders came through
For your race entry, you received a well marked and timed course with aid stations and great volunteers.  You received a cool custom bib with your name personalized on it.
Custom bib
The race packet had all kinds of stuff in it including a Trail Runner magazine, a deerfly patch which will come in handy soon on the trails as well as several coupons.  There is even a $20 off coupon for the Hungerford Trail races coming up in September which I may run!
Race packet
If you finished the race, you also received a finishers glass with the race logo on it.
Finisher glass
Everyone received a tech shirt as well and this appears to be a nice material and decent size so I'll definitely use it for training.
Tech shirt
The medals are an awesome design with their logo on the medal as well as a custom ribbon.
Medal with custom ribbon

Medal close up
I really like how they did the medal.  There is no sponsors on the front of the medal, however, they had the sponsor, River's Edge Brewing Co, on the back part.  What a great idea!  It's nice to see medals and shirts that don't have all kinds of sponsors all over them.  I realize they need to do this but I feel that it was very well done on this and shirt and glass.
Back of medal
The company did a great job with organization.  The website was clear with questions.  The race sent out emails with information for runners instructions.  The race had a Facebook page and you could ask questions or get updated information on it.  The start and finish area was perfect size with plenty of room to move around.  The parking was a little tight but it wasn't crazy plus cars cleared out, I'm sure, after the 7 mile race was finished too.  The course was well marked and the volunteers did an excellent job.

While I just met the race director, DJ, today, you can certainly tell that he puts his heart and soul into this race.  It's clear that he is a runner and most of the volunteers are runners and they know what runners want and followed through on those things at the race.  I'm sure I'll be back again for this one.  I'd highly recommend you sign up next year for it.  An outstanding trail race and nice to see a race with a different kind of distance and still plenty of challenge.  
I'm tired - happy to be finished!
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

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

May 14, 2017

No Wimps / Road Ends 5 Mile Trail Run race review

Short Version 
Finished in 52:45 (official time); new PR since this was my first 5 mile race 
Overall Place:  108/399 
Men 40-49:  15/32 
Men Overall:  79/171

Half Marathon #46 
Timed race #123 

This was my fourth time running the Trail half marathon but I've never run the 5 mile race.  Poto trails are about 70 miles from me so it's hard to go back there twice in a weekend but I had a great time.  I always love running the trail half and the five mile was a nice course as well and quite hilly.  Actually both races are pretty hilly but loads of fun!  This year the race had something called No Wimps Jr. Challenge which is running the half on Saturday and the 5 mile on Sunday.  If you have not run these before, they are worth checking out. 


Long Version Registration/Packet Pickup/Start Area 
Registration is very easy with Running Fit as they always have their own websites for each race and a place to register.  This year I was lucky enough to get two free bibs from some runners that could not run the races and just didn't want their bib to go to waste.  I transferred my name to them and ran both races.  It was just an email getting permission from the runners and a call to Running Fit to have them transfer the races to me.  Very easy. When I got to packet pickup on Saturday, they had a place for No Wimps people to pick up their bibs and shirts by last name and took minutes to get.  We did have to sign a release form prior to getting our packet too.  I don't remember doing this for their past events?  Usually you just click a button online but this time we filled out a form with emergency information as well.
Packet pick up
The start area is always well organized.  They have the start/finish by the bathrooms and near the lake.  They have the perfect place to set up and it's been the same every year that I've run the race in the past.  Why change something that works?
Start area
I stayed in my car mostly before the race but did come out and talk to a few people I knew before each race.  It was a bit chilly out but perfect temperatures for the race.  I went out in the second or third wave(I think) for both races.  You can see I got to start in the front for the five mile race.
At the front of my wave
There were still lots of people behind me as well.  All pictures are from the 5 mile race as I've already done past reviews on the half marathon and you can find them on the blog if interested under the Race Reviews tab.
People behind me ready to race!
The course for the five mile was really fun although a little bit taxing considering I ran a half marathon the day before.  There were certainly some hills to run on this course.  I showed 50+ stories of climbing and over 423 feet of elevation gain on my Garmin!  Yeah, it's hilly!
5 mile elevation
As you can see below, I has some quicker miles in the middle when it wasn't so hilly!
5 Mile map and splits
The half marathon the day before also had plenty of hills to run including 1,148 feet of elevation gain.  I can't remember how many stories the Garmin showed but I believe it was over 100!!!
Half elevation
My goal for the half was just to have fun but still push myself a little.  I didn't want to push too hard as my Hip Flexor had been giving me issues.  Fortunately for both races, the hip was fine.
Half map and splits
The five mile course starts off going into the parking lot to get to the trailhead.
A little run though the parking lot
We then head up to a large hill where as we make our way to the trails.
Hills for breakfast
Before we get to the trails, there's a dirt road that we run as well.  This helps clear out the trails somewhat but it was still fairly busy for the first few miles.  I never ran alone the entire time.
Onto the dirt
Then the trails hit us.  As you can see below, it was very hilly to start off but people were plugging along and still running up the hill.
Single track
It was nice coming to some flat parts where you could try and make up some time.  If you have never been on the Poto trails, you need to get out there.  They have some awesome trails there for sure!
Passing the water
There were many spots where you had some rollers too and made you continue to push to keep the same effort.
Not entirely hilly

Lots of rollers
Below is just before where the largest hill is on the course and it's a doozy too!  Most people walked it up.
A big hill coming
The course certainly didn't disappoint.  It made me wish that I lived much closer to these trails so I could run them daily.
Still climbing
We also ran on a few wooden bridges.  The one below is just before the finish.  I love running over bridges!
Over the bridge
Given it was only 5 miles, before we knew it, the race was over!  Frankly, I was happy to not be running a marathon or 50k (as these were option too today).
Aid Stations 
The race had one aid station that was more than enough (for me anyway) for this distance.  The volunteers were ready for us!
One aid station
Finish Area 
The finish area is well organized, and not a surprise, given the number of years this races has been going as the park is a great place to set up for a race.  The race had pretzels, bananas, cookies and oranges.  Everything was under cover in case it rained.
Bananas, oranges, cookies and pretzels
For your race entry, you received a timed race with bibs and a measured course.  Since I did the No Wimps Jr race, I received a bib for each race.  
You also received a cotton shirt for the 5 mile and a tech shirt for the half marathon.  I actually like getting cotton since I've got so many tech shirts.
Road Ends 5 mile shirt (cotton)
The tech shirts are a different brand so we will see how i like it.  It's much better than the A4 tech shirts the race used to get that feel like garbage bags so anything is a good improvement.
Trail Weekend shirt (Tech)
You get a medal for each race that you ran.  If you ran the no wimps, you also received an extra medal for three medals total.
Medals and ribbon

Close up
Running Fit does an awesome job at their races.  The course was well marked, the start/finish area was organized, the website had clear information.  I got my bibs from transfers from two runners at the last minute and the races communicated well to get the transfer completed. 

Overall, it was a fun race.  Im not sure I'd run the No Wimps Jr challenge again but it was fun to do.  I'm probably not ready for the Full No Wimps either.  I will, however, be back for the half again as it's a great course and a fun race to get your season started.  If you are looking to get into trail running, the 5 mile is a great course to get your feet wet and see what its like to run single track and hills.  I highly recommend any of the race options for the Trail Weekend!
A fun weekend!
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclosure:  I paid for my own entries and all opinions are my own.