the 100 mile version in the Golden State, the Mid-Western States Endurance Run). It certainly has taken on the flavor of a family reunion of my trail running friends. Even with a good number of familiar faces missing in action this year, the weekend offered a lot of what I’ve come to learn: trail running etiquette and friends that are competitive while being the kind, cooperative, caring and the very embodiment of the said etiquette. It’s a retreat away from the grips of electronic communication-overloaded civilization and nudging us to have humane conversations, and a lovely little platform to learn from the immovable mountains and never-stop-moving runners alike. The weekend also almost always offers something new, and with lessons about my own self and new friendships, this year wasn’t any different.
Great Turtle Trail Run Half Marathon was one of those events that got on my bucket list during the early formative years of my running … like 5 or so years ago. Around those days, I had wanted to do every half marathon within 6-8 hours of Houghton, if not anywhere and everywhere. I let life get in the way and I put this event on the backburner of bucket list items. Then again, the stove in those days had so many backburners that it was too easy to forget what I had on them … and needless to say, I forgot all about it. That is, until a week or so ago when Stephen Eles brought it up in a conversation, explained the course profile and expected low temperature and encouraged me to sign up!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.