It is the first time in my life that I have
had the opportunity utilized the opportunity to participate in organized running events on back to back weekends. It is also the first time in my life that I have had the opportunity utilized the opportunity to participate in the same organized running event for a second time. Of all the organized running events that I have participated in so far this year — 5 mile Breakers to Bay, 10k Hodag Run and 6k Mt. Baldy Summit Run — Journeys Half Marathon (in Eagle River, WI) and a 10 mile Hancock Canal Run (@CanalRun) were the only ones I had actually planned to take part in.
Journeys Half Marathon, and had been training for it too. But then came the news, through the grapevine of Upper Peninsula, that Hancock Canal Run had an expanded menu from this season, and that it would include a half marathon as well. For as much as it has been a bucket list item to successfully complete a half marathon, getting an opportunity to do so right in my own backyard, potentially with a lot of friendly faces from the awesome community I am so fortunate to live in, and to have a chance to sleep in my own bed the night before — made it a no brainer of a task to sign up and train for the Canal Run.
One final thing stood in the way — will I get some commemorative bling for completing the half marathon? Yeah, sometimes I’m childish like that. The good fortune of knowing the race director in person took care of it in no time! Their decision to hand out completion medals made it even easier of a decision to bypass the Journeys Half Marathon (in spite of having paid big bucks for registration). As such, I am happy to report that this has been the only event of 2013 that my mind wasn’t looking for an excuse to get out of it. The training — while not with as much religious fervor as one would expect — included the following goals:
- Finish the race and not be the last one to do so.
- Finish the race at 12 min/mile pace and keep a consistent pace through out the course.
- Keep the walking, not counting in the vicinity of and through aid stations, to a mile or less.
Lessons learned from every one of the previous races so far, I made sure I ate and slept on time all through the week, stayed off alcohol for two days prior and to go with the same cushiony pair of shoes (thanks to Nancy and Josh). I believe a really good cardio work out as a result of 700+ ft hill climb as part of 6k Mt. Baldy Summit Run (thank you Michael Young!) and two really good carb loading meals (lunch at Rodeo Mexican Kitchen; Melissa‘s home made dinner with Joel, Matt, uncle n’ aunt at MJ residence), a full night of sleep in my own bed and a quick breakfast in the morning prepared me well for this much awaited event. After the exchange of pleasantries with friends and friendly faces [Amy (@AmyUpNorth), Joel, V, Mark, Travis, Katie and Coach Wittenberg], and carefully listening to the instructions from the event organizers (Mr. Tervo, Kate), I moved to the back of the pack as with every race so far.
For the second time in as many months, a dear friend and colleague, Nancy (@itcrd) chose to sacrifice her own time and pace, and run with me the entire way to help achieve my goal. She provided invaluable information as to when I should take the Gu (Tri-Berry Energy Gel) and fed me with candy to keep me going the entire length of the course.
Just past the 9 mile mark or so, I desperately wanted to walk for a while — as I had done in every single race so far. And then I saw Amy Roberts [Run Like The Finn: Daily Mining Gazette news clip; Photos] walking the 10 miler with her friends. Coupled with the fact that someone was sacrificing their time for my sake, this was all the motivation I needed to put any thoughts of walking to sleep, suck it up and continue to run. Conquering the hellish hill in the last mile or so, albeit at less than snail’s pace, made way for running through the sprinklers. As if on cue, the energy seemed to boost out of nowhere with the finish line in sight (I thank Nancy, again, for timely intake of fluids and energy gels).
Timing was a courtesy of Superior Timing, and my pace throughout the race was gradually consistent — as indicated by the speed and elevation spectrum below (thanks again to RunKeeper app on my iPhone and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress). With an official time of 2:38:48.4, I finished 10th (out of 11) in my 30-34 age group, 59th (out of 62) amongst males and 119th (out of 125) overall.
I am not happy with the not so strong finish — starting out with ~10 min/mile for nearly first 6 miles and then finishing at 12:06 min/mile, 6 seconds/mile slower than the goal. But I am happy to have finished the race, not be the last one to do so and supremely happy with the fact that I did run the entire length of the course, except in the vicinity of and through aid stations — achieving two of the three aforementioned goals I had in mind.
While I do not believe in handing out participation certificates for every one, I will certainly cherish the commemorative medal I received — it’s a thing of beauty. Something I will cherish even more is the mystique of this community that was at its glorious display. There always seemed to be a familiar friendly face cheering on just around every bend and corner — volunteers (Evan Hendrick, Nate Larson, Doug Polzein, Mike Abbott and more), brockit crew snapping photographs, Mix 93.5 calling the live action on air, and many many friends (mom and dad Becker, uncle and aunt Kral, Julie, Michael, Kim, Jess, Becky, Brandy and more) — making it more than worthwhile to have passed on other half marathon opportunities elsewhere and opting this to be my maiden one.
There have been many friends and mentors [Amy, Amy, Chris, Daddy 750 and Amanda, Dr. Suits, Dr. Weidman, Nils, Louisa and Jesse, Julie, Nancy and Josh, Randy, Rebecca, Sam, Toni, the Boissevains (Margi and Paul), the Carlsons (Abby, Josh and Justin), the Griffis (Adam, V), the Handlers (Christine, Rob, Shannon, Stephen), the Lehtos (Tammi and Chris), the Resslers (Dee and Tom), the Richards (Carrie and Bob), the Vendlinskis (Andi, Jim, Rick), the Vertins (Melissa Becker and Joel), the Youngs (Christine and Michael), and the Zerbsts (Kristen and Ron)] that have constantly been sharing their wealth of knowledge and encouraging me to run — often in a friendly tone and at times in a much needed not so friendly tone. Thanks be to them all and to the good Lord above.
Rest of the weekend
Saturday included driving out to Aura to be part of the 37th Annual Aura Jamboree and hanging out with Bradfish-Conner-Erickson-Ladd-Stenvig families on the shores of Lake Superior. It also marked the first time ever that I camped on back to back weekends. As painful as were my sore body parts, they did provide quite a bit of entertainment to just about everyone involved through out the weekend. A trailor – thanks to Melissa, Joel and Matt – is captured in this Sunday night video just outside The Fitz (please bump up the volume, otherwise I’ll look drunk).
2013 so far has been the most productive year when it comes to running – never have I run this much ever before in my life. I hope to God that this Canal Run half marathon will serve as a stepping stone for many more, and may be even a full marathon some day.
Thanks be to
the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.