Sunday, April 28, 2002

Running Fit Trail Marathon (Michigan)

April 28, 2002
Marathon 19, State #13 (Age 33)
Pinckney, Michigan


Up in Michigan there is a trail marathon run among the thin, bare trees, through swamps, and over rocky trails.  Affectionately called The Beast, the Potawatomi Trail has claimed more than a few runners.  The race director's motto is "No Wimps"  because he doesn't want to hear any whining about skinned knees, bruised shins, and muddy countenances.  Expect them. Despite the seemingly harsh attitude (meant in jest), the warm campfires at the aid stations and the camaraderie among the runners mark the true spirit of the race.  [Craythorn and Hanna]

Characterized by constant hills, muddy trails, and elevations ranging from 300 to 1,200 feet, Michigan Trail's double loop course begins along silver lake in the Pinckeny Recreation Area just 20 miles north of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Quickly funneling onto the narrow, rocky and hilly Potawatomi Trail, runners huff and puff past dense woods, through occasional swamplands, and over several bridges.  Sixteen lakes, fields of wildflowers, and budding trees help runners cope with the unrelenting hills.  Race organizers ring a bell signaling the last lap - if you're doing the full marathon, the bell tolls for you.  [Craythorn & Hanna]

Five aid stations dot the loop providing almost everything you may require:  water, electrolyte replacement drink, GU, bananas, cookies, petroleum jelly, first aid (always a few falls) and cozy campfires.  Usually in full party mode, aid station volunteers provide the bulk of your external encouragement along the course.  At the halfway point and the finish, runner's families are often on hand picnicking along Silver Lake.  [Craythorn and Hanna]

The entry fee does not include a T-shirt.  If you would like a shirt, you must pay and extra $8 to $25 depending on the type of shirt desired.  Marathon finishers receive commemorative awards, as do the top five runners in each age group.  Men under 3:00 and women under 3:30 receive a $100 gift certificate.

In keeping with the spirit of the race, you must find your own way to the start.  Runners considering the race are clearly resourceful enough to handle this detail.  The roving time time limit requires you to maintain at least a 6-hour pace at each of the aid stations, or you will be forced to withdraw from the race.

Many of the participants enjoy the weekend of camping built around the marathon.  If that seems just a bit too rustic for your tastes, head to Ann Arbor, the Berkeley of the Midwest.  Home to the huge University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is an eclectic college town filled with restaurants, bars and crunchy people.  [Craythorn and Hanna] 

Also be sure to stop at Cabelas off of Route 23 just over the Ohio border.  This is a great hunting and fishing outdoor store filled will animals from around the world in real life settings!

The official accommodation is the Crooked Lake Campground in the Pinckey Recreation Area.  If you prefer a roof, try the Ramada Inn in Howell.  (517)546-6800.  [Craythorn and Hanna]

Homeyra and I choose the campground.  Their is a couple mile drive down a dirt road to get to the camp ground.  There are many runners that stay in the campground as well as mountain bikers.  It was raining so instead of starting our own campfire, we shared with another couple that already had one going.  We picked up Salmon and Macaroni and Cheese for a delicious dinner.  Our new friend made Hobo-Stew!

Register or pick up your packet at Running Fit, 123 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  You may also take care of this on race morning near the start from 7:00 a.m. to 7:50 a.m.  One of the race highlights is the legendary Saturday evening race meeting and campfire held at 7:30 p.m. at Crooked Lake Campsite on Silver Hill Road.  Hear lies and stories about the race at at this irreverent gathering, which also features storytelling and trivia contests.  The raging bonfire should encourage you to new heights of exaggeration.  Campers at Crooked Lake can enjoy pizza loading party delivered to your campsite.  Perhaps the most popular post-race activity involves a visit to the chiropractor.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Shamrock Sportsfest Marathon (Virginia)

March 16, 2002
Marathon 18, State #12 (Age 33)
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Providing intense excitement for runners crossing the finish line, the Shamrock Sportsfest Marathon - celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2002 - uses one of the few indoor finishes in North America.  Held in Virginia Beach, VA, Shamrock boasts an extremely flat course through this resort area, turning around in Fort Story.  Marathon week includes a world class 8k, a terrific expo, a rocking beach party Saturday night, and enough free beer to intoxicate the Irish Army. [Craythorn and Hanna]

Starting in front of the Virginia Beach Pavilion Convention Center on 19th Street, the Shamrock Sportsfest Marathon's out-and-back course heads straight toward the oceanfront.  Just before reaching the beach (mile .75), the course turns right on Atlantic Avenue for 1 mile.  Turning north, the route proceeds on the Rundee Loop with views of the Rundee Inlet and the beach's bungee jump.  Miles 3 and 4 travel along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk past cafes and, in nice weather, springtime beach goers.  Before the end of the boardwalk, the course takes you back to Atlantic Avenue for 6 miles, providing great views of beautiful beach homes and bungalows, and then turns toward False Cape State Park.  As you run through Fort Story army base (miles 10-18), lok for the country's oldest lighthouse and its contemporary replacement.  Exiting the base, runners retrace their steps to the Convention Center getting an opportunity to eyeball their competition.  [Craythorn and Hanna]

Without a doubt, the finish before thousands of spectators inside the Convention Center provides the race's greatest excitement.  The 12 aid stations along the course carry water and electrolyte replacement, and medical assistance is available newar miles 13 and 16.  A trolley collects the tired and injured.  [Craythorn and Hanna]

On the way out of town on towards the Army base and back there are only a few spectators scattered, so from mile 8 - 21 there is very little cheering except for the turn around point around mile 14.  The run along the boardwalk both on the way leaving town and returning brought many tourists into the action.

There was massage for $5, fruit, water, and Gatorade at the finish.  There was a runner check for belongings conveniently accessible after the race near the finish line.  Since the finish line was in the Convention Center, the marathon expo was still going on at the conclusion of the race.

There are never enough men's bathrooms or port-o-johns, but I was able to find a shorter line at the hotel a short distance down 19th from the start line.

All runners got a long sleeve tee and all finishers got a completion metal (pictured below) and parchment certificate.  The top five runners n most age groups receive a custom cultured marble award, while the top five overall finishers earn tasteful etched marble awards.  The top five overall runners also take home price money.

The Shamrock Housing Bureau offers a lodging clearinghouse for Sportsfest participants complete with special rates.  Just call the below number and they will make your reservations for you.

Toll Free Shamrock Reservation Hotline: 1-866-SHAMROCK (1-866-742-6762)

Somehow I lucked out with my lodging.  I called and made reservations for Best Western which was about 2 miles from the start.  Every hotel is close.  When I checked into my hotel they didn't have my name, so I told them I was with the Sportsfest.  The told me my room was compted and I've yet to receive a bill for my two nights stay.

The elite runners may be offered travel expense, free lodging, and complimentary entry.  I got off my plane and noticed a guy holding a Shamrock Sportfest sign for elite runners for transportation to the expo from the airport.  I asked if he had extra room and ended up with a free shuttle to Virginia Beach from Norfolk Airport.

There is also a world-class 8k and masters 8k (both with prize money), the 5k walk, and the Children's marathon (26.2 yards).  Corporate team also competed in the open 8k event.  Several world records have been set on the 8k course.  They even had a 26.2 mile walk, I started catching up with the walkers about mile 8 and they were spread out across the rest of the course.

It's no surprise the main attraction in Virginia Beach is the Beach.  Naval buffs may want to explore the Virginia Marine Science Museum, and nearby Norfolk, the East Coast's largest U.S. Navy port.  Learn about Colonial history at Williamsburg, about an hour drive north of Virginia Beach.

The temperature's average is 52 degrees, but a fluke day this year provided above 80 degree temperatures.

This is a completely flat course at sea level and should be perfect for a PR.  Fluids on the course were very spread out, so I would suggest carrying your own water as a backup.  The trolley service in town hadn't started yet because it was too early in the year.  A car isn't necessary because cabs are easily accessible.  There is also a bus line that goes through town and the way I got back to the airport, but it was a two hour ride to go only about 25 miles.  Ugg.  Surfers gather on the southern end of the beach near the Lighthouse restaurant which I recommend!  Yumm