2016: Ragnar Trails Northwoods

 Running events for the most part are solo endeavors — runner against the clock, runner against an older version of her/himself, and occasionally, one runner against another — irrespective of whether another runner knows about it or not. Relay events of the running kind have a knack for blending the individualist aspect with the concept of a team. Though the very reason I took to running many moons ago was to move away from team sports, there’s a part of me that enjoys the team concept every once in a while, necessary to instill a sense of accountability: that I need to do my part, and have the confidence that others on the team will do theirs. Being the runt of the litter when it comes to running, there is never a doubt about my teammates and the onus is always on me.

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2015: Mount Bohemia Trail Running Festival

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of Nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature’s sources never fail. … The petty discomforts that beset the awkward guest, the unskilled camper, are quickly forgotten, while all that is precious remains. Fears vanish as soon as one is fairly free in the wilderness.

— John Muir, Our National Parks (1901)

It’s not a snowcapped mountain, at least not year-round. Its highest peak, at least on the course, barely reaches 1,500 (yes, fifteen hundred) feet above sea-level with the basecamp stationed less than a thousand feet below the top. And yet this thing is called a mountain? When touching just 2,000 (yes, two thousand) feet has been a Sisyphean task even for the highest peak in the entire state, 1,500 ft doesn’t sound all that bad. Unlike the real mountains elsewhere, this one (with a handful of its siblings/cousins) is right in our own backyard. And quite importantly, it (and each of one its siblings/cousins) offers the same lessons my favorite wilderness prophet talks/writes about in his 1901 book.

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2015: Swedetown Trail Run

All of my familiarity with the Swedetown Tails, at least until the beginning of this Summer, had to do with cross country skiing as part of the The Great Bear Chase festivities. And by skiing, I mean my desperate attempts to stay upright and minimize the number of falls/wipeouts. With 25+ falls/wipeouts in 2014 (2:13:26 for 10k) and 7-8 more in 2015 (1:22:18 for 10k), it’s safe to say I have been on my behind and back more on these trails than I have standing up on my feet.

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2014: Looking back

Much like 2013, life in 2014 too has been great — I still have my dream job and live in a place that I love amidst people with whom caring is more than a 2-way traffic. Thanks in greater part to my friends in and out of this community, and their unexpected and unrewarded acts of kindness, 2014 became my first ever almost full running season. There wouldn’t be an almost in the previous sentence, and the progress towards the end of it would have been much greater had I not procrastinated too much over the first many months (as can be seen from the histogram of monthly mileage).

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2014: Mount Bohemia Trail Running Festival

Following the debacle in mid-July with Great Lakes Endurance folks in relation to the Grand Island Trail Half Marathon, the decision to not participate as a runner in the Porcupine Mountains Trail Half Marathon or any other race organized by the said folks ever again didn’t cost me more than a few brain cells. Contact me in person or in private, if need be, and I will gladly share the details and more importantly, the lessons I learned from the experience.

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2014: Blackrocks 5k and Marquette Half Marathon

I don’t have a specific reason or a story as to why I signed up for this race in early July, except that I was looking for half marathon events to get the count up to ten, and I wished to keep as many such events in the Yoop as possible. Marquette Marathon, not too far from being a home area event, seemed to satisfy all such requirements with the added bonus of a new point to point — mostly downhill — course, making it a very good candidate to test my legs in different conditions and potentially earn a new PR.

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2014: NPS Birthday Run 10k

From time immemorial to first week of May 2010, Isle Royale National Park was something that just existed in signs (boats, roadside and in Houghton county airport), in others’ travel journals hidden in the far — and sometimes dark — corners of the internet, in photographs, and often as a figment of my imagination. And one day, in a fine watering hole that a bunch of us frequented with more regularity than the four seasons winter of Yoop, dear friend Jaime asked Nils and myself if we’d be interested in going to The Island as part of the Queen’s crew. I don’t recall neither Nils nor I neither thinking much nor flinching before saying yes (well, it was more like YES!).

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2014: Ragnar Relay Great River with 200 Miles of SISU

 Every once in a while the child (or the childishness) in me gets the better of me, and the day of Breakers To Bay in May 2014 was one such occasion. I happened to see a handful of my friends proudly wearing their hard-earned tee shirts to run the aforementioned race, and talk in high regard about Ragnar Relay — sowing the seeds of thought in my head that may be, just may be, I could do it with consistent training over the next two months or so. Four more days of thinking later, some more of them wore it for the weekly Keweenaw Running Group run and to the post-run gathering in the Copper Island Beach Club. That was pretty much the last straw — next thing I knew I had signed up to participate in the 2014 edition of the Ragnar Relay Great River with team 200 Miles of SISU and had promised to run at about 10:45 min/mile pace.

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2013: Porcupine Mountains Trail Half Marathon

Whatever momentum I thought I had gained in recent months of running and participating in organized events, I lost at least parts of it since the 2013: XTERRA Marquette Epic Triathlon with Team Winston. Part of it was due to the busy-ness of the new school semester and the responsibilities that come with it while a really really big part of it is the good ole me finding ways to not run as frequently as I could. The only training run I did was a short 3 miler that took me up the Quincy Hill along the tram track, and hoped that prior trail run races would help carry me through this one. Looking through my logs, there was some silver lining running up this copper-ladden hill: my previous such attempt had taken 17+ minutes just for the hill climb; this one took less than 16 minutes for much longer distance before and after the hill climb. For what it’s worth, this race — Porcupine Mountains Trail (Half) Marathon — turned out to be the first of its kind, for me, that had a ceiling on the registration as well as on the time to finish the race.

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