Saturday, September 28, 2013

FWFA Marathon Results (Or: Mark's Little Race)

1/4 overall

Fat Ass races are low-key events that have no entry fee, no timing chips, no race shirts, nor fancy finishers medals. With marathon entry fees going up, especially at bigger races, there has been a boom of these types of races around the country. These smaller, more personal races are more for the purity of the run. They can be just as fun and memorable as any big time race.

As I near my 100th career marathon(+) I decided I want to start my own Fat Ass race and bring people from around the southern Michigan area to a beautiful part of Jackson, the Falling Waters trail. I had figured out that there was a simple (read: almost impossible to get lost) 13.1 mile out and back section of the trail. Add that it was late September so the temperature was perfect and the trees had started to turn color and you got yourself a perfect set of race conditions.

My day began at 5:30 am with Misty and I going to setup the aid stations for the race. Since it was free, I went cheap on the supplies. At the 3.5/8.5 mile point I put a small table with a gallon of gatorade and a gallon of water with some cups. A similar station was placed at the the 6.55 mile turn around. We then headed to the start finish line to setup a table for people’s contributions to the event. I had asked for people to bring what they could for post race food. We ended up with a good variety including cookies, pretzels and apple cider.

For an 8am start, the first people showed up around 7:25. I hand made 2”x3” ‘race bibs’ out of some tarp I had lying around. I am trying to make this race a little different and fun. The runners seemed to enjoy it. A little after 8am, I explained the route and how simple it was and we took off.

As an added incentive to make the race more interesting for me personally, I ran it barefoot. I have been doing barefoot/minimalist running for a little over a year now and never run more than 14 miles barefoot before, but I knew that this would be a great first marathon sans shoes. The course is on paved trail the entire way, but this asphalt was is good condition so it was not that bad. Every once in awhile, I would wander off the trail and run along the grass next to the trail to give my feet a little break from the hard asphalt. The problem was that, while it was soft, the grass was high and it was hard to see sticks and rocks so I was running very cautiously. In the end, I ran a total of 3-4 miles on the grass. I was pleasantly surprised that I had only 2 quarter sized ‘wounds’ on the balls of my feet, that was it. Of course it slowed me down, but I was quite happy with a 3:31 finish time.

In order to get a few more attendees, I had both a half and full marathon distance. Misty was kind enough to hang at the start/finish and make sure that people got their finishers medal for the half marathon and hold down the finish line until I came in later. She is such a sweetie.

With the idea of trying to make this free race ‘unique’ I decided I wanted to make homemade finishers medals that were still fun. The design I settled on was a poker chips with hole drilled in it, the race information put on it by hand with a permanent marker and a twine lanyard. Memorable and cheap, all at the same time :)

The last finisher came in only 35 minutes after me, so I was able to get home pretty quick after that. It helps that the starting line is less than 2 miles from my house. The total cost to me to put on this race was less than $15, which is just fine. There were fewer people than I had hoped, but those who came were very happy with the event. I hope to do it again in the spring time.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Woodstock Mellow Marathon Results (Or: A Crappy Trail Race)

2/114 Overall
1st Masters

 2 years ago I ran the marathon at this ‘festival’ in 3:42. Yup, that race was horrible with it raining most of the 24 hours before the race. I won it, so that took some of the this-course-is-really-crappy sting out of the experience. This time, the course was dry, but in some ways, it was worse. I am not planning on running it again, just so ya know...

 Woodstock is a actually a weekend long party with music and people camping out and trying to get the whole woodstock feel. While people are chillin’ and listening to 1960’s music, there are races going on. Lots of them. The following race distances happened during the course of the 3 days:  1 mile, 5K, 5 mile, 10K, 10 mile, half marathon, full marathon, 50K, 50 mile, 100K, and 100 mile. All had different start times and were run on two different loops with some parts of the loops overlapping. That meant you were never alone for too long. You would think that would be good, well it wasn’t if you were trying to run it fast. 

 About 60% of the course was on single track with lots of rocks, roots, stumps. So not only was the trail crappy (some people like such a challenge, I do not) there were 100K and 100 mile runners on the trail who had been running for hours, so they were going slower than me so I had to keep slowing and asking for permission to go around them. That was more than frustrating, not because I thought the were in my way, it was just frustrating that I had to be rude saying ‘On your left’ about 3126 times during the race. I felt like I was being rude, trying to pass them to get a good finish time. 

 After the first loop I was in the lead by at least 300 m, which was the farthest could 'look back' at any point. My lack of serious marathon training did catch up to me as I was passed by two people at mile 15 and 17 respectively, though I did not slow THAT much. Well, until I fell down.... As with my last race, someone in front of me who should have finished before me took a wrong turn on the course and was disqualified. I learned my lesson to study the race course well before a race. Other still need to do that I guess. You never know when you will be the lead dog (or nobody near by) and if you don't know where you are going, you just might get DQ'd (or run long) because you took a wrong turn. 

A few days before the race I had been running on the road in my VFF’s and came down wrong, jamming my big toe pretty bad, a condition I later found out was turf toe. Such an ailment has been know to keep NFL football players out of games. Yeah, it hurts, but it wasn’t stopping me, of course. About a week before the race I had smashed my other big toe and it was still not 100% either. You don’t know how important your big toe is to your running form until you injure them. So as I was running this rocky/rooty course I was paying more attention than I wanted to on the ground in front of me. This task removes the enjoyment of running trails, being able to look at the trees and such. In the first 21 miles, I only stumbled (slightly) 3 times, never actually falling. At mile 21 I hit a rock and went down hard jamming my big toe on a mostly hidden rock. Again. I actually did cry out in agony and the next 40 steps were very very tender.

 It was the kind of injury that knew would be ‘ok’ in a few minutes, but it slowed me down because now I would spend the last 5 miles looking exactly 3 feet in front of me trying to not trip yet again. It is amazing how un-fun such a run is. I knew my place was pretty much set and I just wanted to finish without getting seriously injured, so I was not that upset with the resultant pace, but the reason for the slowing was frustrating. 

2nd and 1st place finishers
 After I crossed the finish line with my handstand, I chatted with Matt, the 31 year old winner who came in 4 minutes before me and was actually a really nice dude. We chatted afterwards for a good 10 minutes talking about running ultras, the course, etc. That was cool. It was completely different than my last race a few weeks ago (where I also finished second) where the winner had no intention of talking to me or any other racer that day. 

 As a big local race, I had many many friends who were running the races offered or helping out others as crew. I tried to chat with as many as I could throughout the day, but due to the varying start times, I only got to chat with ~10 of them. I only hung out for a little while afterwards, having some food and listening to the tunage, watching people occasionally cross the finish line to cheers from audience listening to the band. 

I will never race here again. I hate the course because of the constant tripping hazards and crowded trails, and am not a huge fan of the entire setup (so many races on top of each other) but I might come back as a crew member or pacer. I could handle that. There are plenty of races within a reasonable drive, so it is not like I am going to miss it.