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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.


  1. Wow Jeff - I'm so glad you had a good time out there today. Thanks for the kind words, but I'm more happy you had a fun run with great people. The best part is, the rain held off! Please be sure to contact me at and we'll discuss all things race directing. Mind you I only have 2 years experience but I'll share anything I can to help you with yours. Days like today are a great way to kick off the summer. Peace to you - DJ

  2. Hey Jeff! I was right there running with you much of the race. I popped up in a photo or two with the orange hat on backward. Great coverage of a great race! As I know you sample a ton of races, I wanted to invite you to check out Livonia parkrun. It's our 5th anniversary June 3rd, so we're trying make it a special one. We run a free 5K every saturday all year.

    Keep up the awesome blog!

    Charlie Garnett

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