Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Year of Running

So how did my 2012 go, my first whole year of running? First lets look at my mileage, courtesy of Endomondo.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Miles 29.41 17.43 54.76 89.78 70.63 57.20
Kilometers 47.33 28.05 88.12 144.49 113.67 92.05
# of Runs 13 5 14 15 16 10

Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Total
Miles 65.05 47.48 75.63 60.34 91.80 68.73 731.46
Kilometers 104.69 76.41 121.71 97.11 147.74 110.61 1,177.17
# of Runs 21 9 18 16 23 20 180

A number or things changed over the course of the year that may help explain the changes, although one of the most notable happened in November when +Bren took up running. I'm not quite sure why it affected my so much, but it obviously did. I ran a whole lot further and a whole lot more than before. Maybe it was seeing how inspired she has been with her running, maybe her running has encouraged me to find more time for my running, but either way, it inspired me to put in more miles than any other month.

Martin Parkway
Looking back, at the start of the year, running at all was tough, just due to it being winter, although not even a particularly nasty one. In January and February I was running at the weekends and trying to run maybe one or two evenings a week, weather permitting, which obviously wasn't very often. By the first week in March, the weather had started to get not too bad during the day and I decided to forego my walking at lunchtime regimen and convert it to a trying to run at lunchtime regimen. I work in the FMCC building, next to Ford World HQ and there is a path through the grounds of the office that I had been walking around, it then became my running track, much to the bemusement of others. I tried to run two to three days a week at lunchtime with varying degrees of success, in November, after getting bored with looping around the offices I started running around Dearborn a little.

On the 30th or March I signed up for what would be the first of around 5 or 6 half marathons for the year, the Martian Marathon on April 14th, so not too far in advance, but I thought, 'what the hell'. The actual day sucked, it was cold and wet, the course while starting nice, ended up being a long out 'n' back, boring as hell, but I finished, under two hours as well. The kids also ran the kids marathon that day, which was very cool.

We did eventually manage to go and visit our friends +Stuart & +Diana in sunny Colorado, I even managed a few runs with Stu and his buddy, +Chris, but no organised race, due to logistics, etc. Colorado was gorgeous and I can't wait to go again.

Richardson Center
Another big trip was when we went out to Pennsylvania for a race deep in the heart of Amish country, which ended up being a 5k on the Friday night, followed by a half marathon on the Saturday. Considering theses were my first ever days of back to back racing, I think I done ok, but the hills really and truly kicked my arse.

Another huge event for me was Danced With Dirt as part of a five man team running in a 100k technical trail race. Each member runs three legs of four to six miles each, with me both starting off and running the messiest leg. The final, awesome thing, was running in three races with my son, looking forward to running more with the kids.

Plans for next year

I want to run at least two, preferably three, marathons next year, possibly Lansing, Garden Spot Village in PA & I'd like to do the North Country Run in Manistee national forest. As far as half marathons go, I'd like to do Detroit & Bird-in-Hand in PA, and maybe others, but we'll see. the two races in Pennsylvania will qualify me for the Road Apples award, see here. In other races, I'm shooting for the Kona Triple Crown Award, which involves running the Shamrock 'n' Roll run in March, the Kona Run in June and the Wicked Halloween run in October. I will do other various runs as and when I find see fit.

I would also like to try and do some cycling and maybe try a duathlon at some point. There is a good one which involves a 5k run, followed by a 20k bike ride and finally a 5k run.

I want to try to do some more trail running, I ran Dances With Dirt and had a blast, so more of this, please.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

30th Fifth Third Turkey Trot; 22nd November 2012

Myself & Gordon before leaving home
Up bright and early on Thanksgiving morning for our second Fifth Third Bank Turkey Trot. Myself and Gordon were going to be picking up a friend on the way, but he lives very close by, so no big deal. The forecast was for very mild weather, so I opted for just regular running shorts and a short sleeved shirt, the only thing was going be the waiting beforehand and the walk back to the car after, but I'll take being cold then rather than too warm on the run. The drive downtown was kinda scary due to extremely heavy fog, but it didn't hang around for long.

We parked at a  lot that my friend Chris uses regularly, it was $10 but the Lions were in town and even the car park guys like to make some money once in a while, that's capitalism for you. We had a ~10 minute walk down to the starting line at Campus Martius, which was uneventful. We decided to hang around inside of the Compuware building and avoid the crowds and the cold.

Hiding with Chris in Compuware,
avoiding the cold.
With about 15 minutes to spare we decided to head down to the starting line, I guess we knew it was going to be busy but didn't quite realise just how busy. We started in the group called 'Blitzen' - expected 8:00 to 9:30 minute mile pace, but there was all kinds of runners around us that it didn't really matter, even more importantly they, it started 15 minutes ahead of the next group. There were an awful lot of announcements going on, but due to terrible acoustics we never understood a word of them. we then got the national anthem, just as the sun was rising over Windsor, which was kinda cool, and then we were off.

The start, as usual with these things was bedlam, with slow people and dog owners deciding that they should start at the front, and fast people that ended up at the back for some reason, the bottom line is that people are flying everywhere, while you try and dodge around others. The few streets at the start are quite tight and wind quite a bit, which makes for an overall interesting and slightly terrifying experience. The route is pretty much three long out and backs, with some messing around at the end. Much as I tend to not like the out and backs, the crowd (waiting for the Thanksgiving Parade) and the variety of runners with costumes, etc, make for an interesting race. Myself and Gordon both had inexplicably sore knees, but that is the joy in running I guess. We did stop at one point to see if Gordon could stretch and get rid of the pain, but to no avail and we kept on going.

What with this being the 30th anniversary of the race, the Parade company, that put on the race decided to give out medals and this was really killing the end. We rounded the last corner only to be met with a throng of people. So much so that we weren't even sure at which point we crossed the finish line, a disappointing end to a cool race. I'd say it took easily 10-15 minutes to actually get our medal and get inside for a snack. Snacks were very underwhelming, with some water, a cookie, a bagel and the worlds smallest banana. Chris was a little behind us a got nothing, again, very disappointing.

I did hear while trying to get to the end that there are more races on Thanksgiving morning in the US than any other day of the year and that the race in Detroit is the biggest of them all, at around 20,000 runners, so I'll cut them a little slack, but not too much.

I finished around 54:44, but to be honest it was a bloody mess at the finish line, I didn't even know where the line was it was so busy. According to the official stats, I was 91 / 384 in my age group and 1224 / 7695 overall, which I'll take quite happily. This race was never about doing a PR, it is just a cool thing to do on Thanksgiving morning and cooler to do with Gordon.

How Endomondo saw it -
How my Garmin saw it -

Looking up Woodward, to the starting line &
we were nearer the front...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The best present ever

So I turned 46 on 10th November 2012, no big deal, just another birthday, but this one ended up being a little different. Now I'm not really one for presents and don't really ask for much. From my kids I just like wee things, like a book or something, from my wife, same kind of thing, nothing fancy, but his year she went all out. Bren decided last week that she wanted to start running and on the day of my birthday, we ended going out together for the first run of her Couch to 5k plan. This is the best birthday present she could possibly have given me and I am rooting for her. I know that it is going to be tough, but I promise to be with her throughout this stunning task.

As usual I had to technologify the whole process and downloaded a c25k app from the Google Play store, the first one sucked and ended up going with this one from the guys at Over the past week and a half I have watched Bren go from being a very reluctant runner, to a avid running blog reader and writer too, although she is keeping it quiet right now.

Couch to 5k is a 9 week program, designed to take a coplete novice runner, from nothing to running for 30 minutes solid at the end. It starts as a run/ walk program, with increasing running duration and decreasing walking duration, three days a week. We have commited to do it on Saturday mornings, Monday nights and one other session midweek. I am super impressed that Bren has taken this on.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wicked Halloween Run; 28th September 2012

Very cool medal, nice lanyard
As soon as they announced that this one was coming again and that the medal & shirt designs were going to be different, I knew I was going to sign up for it. Plymouth is a great little town to run around and mid-fall is the perfect time to do so, what with the fall colors, etc. I also asked Gordon if he wanted to run this one with me and he was all over it.

Got up, bright and early on race day as usual. I decided that I'd continue with the shorts, although it was a little chilly, but wear a long sleeved shirt and gloves. We were going to pick up Gordon at his moms so we had to leave a little earlier than usual, but no big deal. We got to Plymouth about 45 minutes before the start, and got parked easily, I didn't get a chance to pick up race packets beforehand, so we headed there first, and it was mobbed, c'est la vie, it's always something. The line went fairly fast and we got them within 15-20 minutes or so. It was still damn cold, so we waited in the food tent until they called us to the start.

The panels are actually purple, dunno why they
came out blue in the picture
The race was running about five minutes late, due to the huge crowds now a packet pickup, not really a big deal but it was good to see the problem getting dealt with. We met up with one of my colleagues from work, just before the start, had a chat and then it was time to begin. One strange thing here was the lack of an actual starting line, sure there was a timing mat, but typically there is a big inflatable archway at the start, all very strange. I also noticed as we were starting to line up for the start that this 10k race was going to have pacers, 4 minutes apart, which was kinda cool. I decided that sitting behind the 48 minute pacer would be a good place to start, I was hoping for a sub 50 minute finish, which would be 1:21 minutes below my current PR, so no mean feat. Plymouth is a very flat little town so I knew that if I was going to PR anywhere, it was here.

The race started nice and fast, due to everyone spreading out next to their expected finish, probably the first time I have really experienced this one. I knew that a 48 minute finish was a little too keen, but if I could at least try and keep it in sight I might do ok. Gordon ran with me, only getting stuck a couple of times, we both felt pretty good, if a little chilly, but I knew that would soon go. Matt, who was running with us, decided to pull ahead after the first mile, but we found a good pace and kept with it, putting in a solid 7:55 for the first mile. The second went even faster at 7:41 and both myself and Gordon still felt good. We passed a couple of aid stations, only briefly pausing to grab a quick drink and keep going. The race progressed better than I hoped and I kept up the sub-8 minute splits, 7:57, 7:56. By the fourth mile I knew I was feeling it, but suspected Gordon still had some pace left in him so said he didn't have to wait back for me, he could get going if he felt up to it - he sped up gradually and was gone. The fifth mile was another solid sub-8, 7:54, but by the sixth I was feeling it, and just couldn't manage another sub-8, managing a 8:08. I attempted to speed up and finish strong, but I didn't have too much left.

PR my 10k by 2:10, also PR my 5k by 1:15 on this race too, kinda cool.

Kinda fuzzy pic of myself
& Gordon
I came in at 49:11, beating my best by 2:10, 25th out of 87 in my age group and 187 out of 1555 overall, a good solid performance and one to be proud of. Gordon finished in 47:57, 5th out of 23 in his age group and 142 overall, a great performance, beating his best by over 12 minutes...

How Endomondo saw it -
How Garmin saw it -

We got very cool medals to go with suitably black and purple long sleeved tech shirts. The snack line was nice and short, and better organised than last year.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Brooksie Way Half Marathon; 30th September 2012

This was another race that was getting arranged with the help of my company, Tata Technologies, in much the same way as last years Detroit Free Press Marathon relay team last year. This year the half was the longest was the longest distance under offer, which suited me down to the ground. My son, Gordon, had also started doing longer distances as part of training with his school cross country team, so he wanted to run it with me. This was going to be our first long run together so I was looking forward to it. Gordon also contacted one of his friends, Yu, from his middle school cross country team and he was going to be running with us as well. The plan for this race, what with it being Gordon's first half and his friends first race since the spring, was to finish and still be ambulatory.

Up bright and early at 6am, grab a quick snack and get ready to head out to pick up Gordon and his friend at his friends house and then a 45 minute up to the Oakland University for the race. The field was going be significantly smaller than at Detroit, so getting parked near the start line shouldn't have been a problem. Hmmm, not so much, one lane into the car park meant that what should have been a leisurely drive up, packet pickup and a wander around for 45 minutes before the race, became kind of hectic and rushed, not the best start, but hey, you have to play the hand you are dealt and not necessarily the one you want, right? Work colleagues wanted all the runners from the company team together for a group photo, which we missed, ho hum. Anyway, off to the start and we were ready to rock.

Conditions we absolutely perfect for the race, a little cool, beautiful blue sky. The course, recently voted one of the best fall half marathons in the US, was apparently going to be a little hilly, with a mix or road and trails with plenty aid stations throughout. We lined up near the back of the pack as it was bloody mobbed and we couldn't fit in anywhere else, it did mean that we were going to have to navigate the walkers, etc, but what the hell.

The first four miles went well, although it took a while for the pack to really start spreading out. I could tell that Yu was starting to feel it but didn't want to let on, he just asked if we could take a very short walk after a water station and kept on going from there. The following miles were interspersed with pleasantly wooded trails and rather long nasty hills. Every aid station became a progressively longer walk, but all kudos to Yu, he stuck it out and kept going, even when it became obvious that he was struggling.

Looking at the elevation profile before the race showed that while the first half was mostly downhill, it did mean that the second was obviously going to be uphill, and it was, quite impressively at some points, but we got there and took pleasure looking back down them afterwards. I felt good pretty much the whole race although I did experience some pain in my left inner calf after about 7 miles, which stayed there for the rest of the race, although didn't actually become debilitating  We got a view of the finish line with about 1/4 mile left to go and Gordon flew ahead of me, which I guessed he would as he had plenty left in the tank, I also cranked it up a notch and finished strong.

All in all a fun day, glad we did it.

Race Reflections

  • Beautiful course, nicely varied with trails, hills, etc.
  • Well marshaled 
  • Plenty of aid stations (almost too many, but you can never have too much of a good thing)
  • Lots of enthusiastic spectators
  • Lots of music, even a bagpiper at one point which was very cool
  • Running with my son was very cool
  • Extremely cool medal, very cool translucent inlay, the picture really doesn't do it justice.
  • Perfect weather
  • Parking sucked
  • Post race snacks very fairly under whelming

How Garmin saw it -
How Endomondo saw it -

Myself and Gordon, two generations of McWilliams
half marathon runners, kinda cool
Day glow green long sleeved tech shirt &
a particularly awesome medal

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dances With Dirt, Hell, Michigan - 22nd September


Going through some of the details for my next 'race', on Saturday. I'm running as part of a 5 man relay team in the 100k 'Dances With Dirt' in Hell, Michigan, an extreme trail run. Each runner runs three legs of between 2.4 & 6.9 miles, I'm running legs # 1 - The Stampede (4.79mi), 6 - This Sucks! (5.75mi) & 11 - Pure Michigan (2.5mi). The disclaimer has the word 'death' in the three times, the info pack, includes phrases like, 'please help the injured', 'decide how to best utilize or torture each runner', 'swamps may need buddy system'. Each leg is graded by what kind of issues you will come across, eg waist deep mud and how much poison ivy you will encounter, ie extreme. I'm a wee bit scared.

The Race

I had been wondering all week quite what I should take with me on this, my first Dances With Dirt. I didn't want to come across as the newbie and end up bringing too much, but the opposite would suck too. After much messing around, the decisions were made on the Friday night. I would bring my waterproof jacket and pants, snacks would be a couple of Milky Way bars, a couple of GU's, some Chomps, a couple of barbecue chicken breasts left over from a mid week dinner and water. I wasn't planning on eating it all, but better to have too much than too little. I also brought a couple of extra shirts, another pair of shorts and a two pairs of socks and a spare pair of running shoes (very old).

The morning looked like it was going to be pretty dank and bleak, the forecast was for storms and general nastiness. I got up, as planned at 5am'ish, got changed, made sure I had all my crap and decided that I may as well head out. I was meeting the rest of the team at a carpool parking lot about 30 minutes away, I knew I'd be a little early, but what the hell, just more time to get into the zone. Once I found the lot, no mean feat for me, it turned out to be extremely busy, just as well I decided to come early as I got one of the last spots, I guess it is a popular meeting area for competitors. A few minutes after I arrived, Jason, the team captain and guy responsible for asking me to take part in this event, pulled up in his van, I met the rest of the team and then were off. 

First Leg (The Stampede) - 4.75 miles; 284ft elevation; 44:38

Still totally unsure about how this whole thing was going to go down, it became time to take off the jacket and pants get ready to rock. I joined the pack at the starting line, about 2/3 of the way down. The rain had stopped for the moment, it was about 48F, so conditions not too bad. The gun went off and away we went. The race was a faster start than any I have run in before, probably due to everyone wanting to avoid the logjam at the back when we hit trails, by creating a logjam at the front. We quickly ran across a field toward the woods, the trail quickly narrowed and the hills started.

The trails were steep, full of exposed roots but dry. There were a few opportunities to pass people and some took them to pass me while I took some to pass other people. One solid place to pass people was on the uphills, I made a conscious decision to run the uphills. You tend to find, especially on the hills, that the really exposed root are in the middle of the trail, so some would walk around the outside, allowing me to use these roots as steps to help me get past fast.

Unfortunately, around mile 4, I started feeling a little pain in my left Achilles tendon, but kept on going knowing that I would be done in under a mile anyway, and would then have a few hours to try and rest up.

Coming from a road running background, I found it very tiring having to constantly look where I was placing my feet, due to the increased chances of rolling my ankle with ever step.

Elevation profile for 'The Stampede'

Second Leg (This Sucks!) - 5.53 miles; 196ft elevation; 58:36

After everyone had finished their first legs,it was time for me to start my second leg. I was starting at one of the local campgrounds and this was going to be the leg with the dreaded mud. One of my teammates told me not to wear my good trail running shoes and just wear the piece of crap alternate shoes that I brought with me, just in case. he also suggested that I tie them tight and consider double knotting them, just in case, all I could think of was, how bad could it really be.

The leg started by running through the campground for about 1/8 mile and then quickly up and into the forest and more of the same as my first leg, only more so. The Achilles tendon pain came back, almost immediately, but what the hell, I had to keep on going. The hills were steeper, the trails were much tighter with less opportunities to pass people, although when I called 'on your left', people would try and find a gap so they could let you past. There were more exposed tree roots and this time we also had low overhanging branches to contend with, it is a wonder more people didn't fall. After a few minutes on the trail, some Ultras were running in the opposite direction on the trail, and they were flying, after ~20 miles of extreme trails. At one point I fell in behind a couple of other runners that were doing about a 9:30 pace and followed them for a while, which I think helped me quite a bit.

At one point we took a sharp right turn, into some very dense forest away from a more established trail, I heard some voices not too far out and whaddya know, we were at the mud. The trail started getting muddy very fast until we came across a a river that had quite a few very messy people attempting to wade across. The water was a couple of feet deep, followed by another foot or so of extreme mud, very sticky and very nasty. I traveled through the 1/2 mile or so of nasty horrible, sometimes waist deep mud, with the same group, helping each other out along the way.

After the mud we had a mile or so of a 'rails to trails', gravel path and then a run down the side of the road toward a local school. This gave an opportunity to try and get some of the mud off the shoes, but not too much. The school had baths in which to try and clean up and baskets to dump your shoes into, which I duly did.

Elevation profile for 'This Sucks!'

Third Leg (Xodus) - 2.68 miles; 146ft elevation; 28:47

My third and last leg of the day was going to be very similar to my first leg only a little shorter with a little bit of a difference. More hills, more roots, more loose rocks, with a wee bit of marshland thrown in for good measure.
Elevation profile for 'Exodus'


Leg Planned Time Actual Time Difference
1 49:47 44:38 -4:51
6 1:06:27 58:36 -7:51
11 35:16 28:47 -6:29

General Observations

I loved it, I loved trail running, I loved being out in the woods, I loved the challenge of it, I loved finally having an altitude graph from my Garmin that was actually worth looking at.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bird-In-Hand 5k & Half Marathon

So Bren read the article about the Amish runners in Runners World a few months ago and suggested that I try it. Bren doesn't generally suggest runs, she more, kind of, puts up with them, but I had a feeling that this would be one she would be interested in. You see Bren, is fascinated by the Amish people and their way of life & this run, taking place in the heart of the Amish in south eastern Pennsylvania, would suit us both. It was going be quite a short, rushed weekend, but it was going to be worth it. There was also an option of going for the Fire Company challenge, ie run in both the 5k & the half, so I like a fool went for it.

We left home on the Friday morning, pretty much as soon as the kids got on their school buses. I suspected that I had bitten off more than I could chew and that we weren't going to manage to make the start of the 5k, bur we made good time and headed straight to the packet pickup area. I had already gotten changed in the car on the way over, so no messing around there. We parked right across the road from the area, but it was very busy. I was picking up for both races, but that was no hassle and everythting went very smoothly, if a little slowly.

Packet pickup line, not as bad as it looked
They were also having hot air balloon take offs in the field next to the expo area which gave us something to look at while in line.

As idyllic as it looked

The expo was quite small but had some cool stuff to browse, fresh Amish made food, a couple of stalls selling running shirts, shoes, etc, the new latest magic runners snake oil. As 6:15pm rolled around it was time to see the kids one mile race. We decided that it would be cool to watch as we had seen lots of little Amish kids with their numbers on, getting ready to run the race, boys in their long pants, with suspenders (braces) and little girls in their long plain dresses and aprons, many with either trendy running shoes or just barefoot. See below for a video of them towards the end of the race. Sometimes the embedded video doesn't show, can also be seen at

In with the new and out with the old

So I almost broke one of the cardinal rules of racing - 'nothing new on race day', ie race day is not the day to try anything out of your usual routine. My old New Balance MT10's were really starting to show their age and the many miles I have put on them, so it was time to go with something new, after much deliberation, I opted for the Skechers GoRun Ride, as worn by elite marathon runner Meb Keflezighi, but I'm sure he could wear anything and still kick my @rse. I ran two miles in them the day before the 5k, so no rules broken.

The 5k

The 5k was scheduled to start at 6:30pm,but I guess they were just totally overwhelmed by the number of people running the race and parking/ packet pickup was an issue for them. It was a beautiful location to stand a wait, so wait we did as there really wasn't much else that we could do, right. The sun was starting to go down, but with the continuing balloon launches, it did provide with a couple of nice photo opportunities.

Sometimes the smartphone can take a good snap
The race started about 10 minutes late, which wasn't too bad considering. While it was getting a little cooler, ~80F, it wasn't getting any less humid, I looked around at the many Amish people in the same race, boys, girls, men and women, none of them dressed down in any way, their only concession being the latest pair of running shoes, I wondered how hot they must be feeling.

And then we were off... I, rather inexplicably, managed to set a new 1 mile PR (7:29) and a Cooper (2.5km) on this one, with the hills and the mass of people, I was very surprised. Around mile two, the humidity and the hills, really started taking its toll and I hit the wall. I was ready to walk by the time I got to mile three but managed to drag myself over the line. I was in a pack of about four of five at the end and didn't have to energy to try and beat them to the finish line. I was just plain glad to be done and with a slight twinge in my Achilles tendon, not really looking forward to what the morning was going to bring.

Official results - 105/ 510 overall, 5/ 16 in my age group

Half Marathon

Up bright and early after sleeping like crap on an air mattress in a small tent, no snacks or drinks to speak of and it was time to head over for the start of the half marathon. Not my best ever pre race preparations, let me tell you. Once there we did manage to get some fresh sugar coated donuts before the race, but I don't recall Runners World ever saying how awesome these things are for your stomach either. But anyway, the time had come to get to the starting line and get this thing going. It wasn't as humid as yesterday, but it was early, confidence was not particularly high.

There was a field of just over 1,000 people in the race, which I guess is what happens when you get a story in Runners World. So, not unsurprisingly, the first couple miles were extremely congested, but thinned out eventually. The race meandered through the local Amish farming communities, growing mostly corn, beans and some tobacco. The hills were never ending, there were lots of spectators who would cheerfully shout that around the next corner was a nice downhill, not knowing that an bitter Scotsman merely thinks, that another downhill means that there is another uphill somewhere else.

There were a couple of times on the course where you could see quite far ahead, which can be a little demoralising, but it does change to being able to see quite far behind, which does make you feel a whole lot better. At one point an idiot in a 18-wheeler flew down the right hand lane of the two lane road we were running on. He was obviously pissed about the runners and proceeded to reverse into a farm driveway, ignoring the protests of the runners.

In the last 1/2 mile I got fed up having been passed a few times in the previous mile I decided that I would try and finish strong. There was one guy a few yards ahead, so I increased my stride and went for it. I passed him, made the turn into the field heading towards the finish line, looked back and I was clear. Crossed the line ~2:06, got my medal, plenty of snacks and focused on not dying.

It really was beautiful scenery to run through, I came to the realisation during this race that what I really don't like is running uphill, or downhill.

My official results, emailed to me, no less, kind of a nice touch;
Bib #:  300
Gun Time:  2:07:38.9 ( 9:41/mile)
Chip Time:  2:06:46.2
Overall Place:   430/1069
Age Group Place:  30/52 (Male 45 to 49)

The 5k & half marathon finish line
with obligatory Amish family

The much coveted award
Post race reflections/ how I learned to love the road apples

One of the many benefits of running in an area where many people travel in a horse and buggy is the opportunity to step in/on road apples. Between the guys that put on this race and another race in the same area, the Garden Spot Village Marathon, they decided that if you do both races, in the same calendar year, you will qualify for the Road Apple Award, in either 2D or 3D. The 3D version comes with real road apples stuck on the front, a must for any office or basement wall. I suspect I'm going to go for this...

Good Points
  • Fantastic aid stations and plenty of them, one even had mango sorbet to eat while running.
  • Random coolers containing ziploc bags of ice
  • Well sign posted and marshalled
  • Location, location, location, absolutely stunning
  • Lots of porta potties at the start, not waiting, ever
  • Lots of porta potties on the course

Bad points
  • No GU stations
  • The medal I received looked like I should be able to remove the outside and eat the chocolate inside, I saw other antique silver looking ones that looked way better. I suspect that they were overwhelmed and ran out of their original choice, I'll cut them some slack there.
  • The idiot in the eighteen wheeler that really didn't like runners, obviously nothing the organizers could do about that.

The original Runners World article, well worth a read -,7120,s6-243-297--14236-0,00.html

Cool news report about the Amish runners -

Official results -

As the Garmin saw it;

Race shirts; for the 5k, half marathon &
the firefighters challenge (on the back it says
'I ran the Amish Country 5k & Half Marathon)
Medal, like I said, the antique silver one was much nicer

Vella Shpringa - Gotta Run

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Milford Labor Day 10km, Milford, MI - 1st September 2012

This is the first race that I have done in back to back years. I knew pretty much what it was going to be like and what I was going to have to do.

Packet pickup was a breeze, but the expo was non-existent, apart from someone handing out free pizza vouchers. I got packets for both myself and Chris (, as we were going to be carpooling in the morning, there was no point in both of us heading out there the night before.

The following morning rolled around and it was looking to be perfect conditions, when I had run the race last year it was extremely hot and humid, this one seemed a lot more pleasant. I wasn't hoping for anything too much from this race, just wanting to run it non-stop and under 1 hour, apart from that nothing special.

Cool, one color tech shirt
We were called to the starting line and I decided that I should switch one my GPS. A wee aside, my trusty Garmin Forerunner 405, decided to die horribly on me a couple of days before the race. I have had some issues before, most notable during the Festival of Races half marathon in Mount Clemens, when it hung then rebooted on me. This timel, I went to grab it from my car, as usual, before my lunch time run and it just kept on rebooting. I had resigned myself to buying a new one, but on the advice of my buddy, Stuart, I thought I'd give Garmin a call. They offered to send me newly reconditioned device for $40, which is waaay less then I planned on spending, so great stuff. So I had a watch for my race, a colleague let me borrow his Garmin 210. Let me just say that the 210 is infuriating, not only did it take a while to acquire satellites, it also kept detecting multiple heart rate monitors, during acquisition, which I had to acknowledge, very annoying. I ended up starting my watch a good 0.15 miles into the race, but at least I had something.

The race started and we got off. I done so much farting about with my watch I forgot to wish Chris, all the best, but what the hell, we were off and running. A first mile of 8:18 was as good a start as I could have hoped for, followed with an 8:16, set me up quite nicely for the himalayas. Miles 3 and 4 were going to be the nastiest on the course and didn't disappoint. Last year, it was around 2.5 miles in that I started walking and I walked on and off for the rest of the race, this year, I wanted to run all of it, which I managed. The rest of the course rolled up and down with one rather nasty hill about 1/2 mile before the end. I felt good and apart from getting over taken by three people just before the end, I was very happy with my performance.

I came in at 54:09, which is about 7 minutes less than last year. I was 57/175, 8/18 in my age group and 43/88 of all males, all in all, a performance that I am proud of.

Post race, there were plenty snacks, free beer and a burger/ grilled chicken for the runners, all in all, a great day.

How Endomondo saw it -

Friday, August 10, 2012

Colorado trail running

Why, it's the state flag of Colorado, of course
So we had been planning on visiting our friends, Stuart ( & Diana ever since they moved out to Colorado 5ish years ago, but we have never actually gotten around to it. So, just after getting married, myself and Bren decided that we were doing it. We also took advantage of my Dad being here from Scotland, who is also friends with S&D, and decided that we would bite the bullet and drive over. It is approximately 1,300 miles door to door, so doable in about 22hrs.

On our first day in Colorado we went over to Golden to visit the home of my favourite beer, Blue Moon. While there we heard that Buffalo Bill's graveyard was to be found in the moutains surrounding Golden, so we decided to check it out, at about 7,500ft, I began to feel it, labored breathing, the whole nine yards.

I credit Stuart for really getting me running and this was going to be our first real chance to run together. We had planned to run with his friend, another ultra runner, Chris ( and then in the Beaver Creek 10k in Vail, Colorado. I don't think that I really noticed the altitude difference due to us driving over from Michigan and not flying, hence giving my body a little more time to acclimatize.

Beautiful view on our morning run
On the Friday morning at about 5:30am I dragged myself out of bed, got ready and joined Stuart for a pleasant run on a park fairly close to where they stay. What with this being Colorado and me being from Michigan, it was a whole lot more hilly than I planned on. I did manage to keep up with Stuart & Chris on the first leg, without too much of a problem. I was then asked to lead off on the second leg, which I did so, although I was really starting to struggle with the breathing and ended up asking the guys if we could pause for a couple of minutes, which we ended up doing. We covered three 'loops', totaling about 6.2 miles, the views were well worth and it was a helluva day. I survived, but the >500ft of elevation was way more than I was used to. See here -

The Friday morning run went so well, and because we decided to forego our Vail 10k, we decided that we would go for another run on the Sunday morning, on another one of Stu's regular routes, known as 'The Bluffs'. Again, up, bright and early, this time, no driving to the trail head, but starting straight from the house, it was another glorious day. This route was going to be a 1.6 mile run out, then a loop up, around then back down the bluffs, followed by the 1.6 mile straight back home for a total of >700 feet of elevation. We ended up walking two or three times on this run as I was really feeling the burn in both my thighs and my lungs, but it was well worth it. See here -

To conclude, it was a great trip, long overdue, to a beautiful place, to hang out with some awesome people, thanks very much to Stuart & Diana for their fantastic hospitality.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Strides for Soul 5k - 4th August 2012

I spotted this a few days beforehand and thought it might be kind of cool to do with the kids. I felt a little bad for not running with them at the Passion for Life 5k, earlier in the year, so I thought I'd make up for it with this one.

We registered on the morning or the race, with myself, Gordon, Liam & Iona running the 5k and my dad, unknown to him, walking. Registration was very simple, as the race was very small, we got a nice white t-shirt, one of the better ones, I'd say. The race was chipped for the start and finish, which was quite surprising for its size. I was a beautiful morning, and we were ready to rock 'n' roll. The first half mile went well, the roads weren't closed but the field was small enough that it didn't really matter. It was just about then that the kids started to struggle a wee bit, Liam was getting a pain on his foot that he has had for a week or so and Iona was complaining of stomach pains. The rest of the run was a mixture of long walks and short runs, purely dictated by the kids.

Finished at just over 52 minutes, Gordon met us at the finish line, where he told us about his very respectable 15th place (~25 minutes), papa finished a couple of minutes after us.

It was just great being out there with them, all I can do is encourage and support them and try to instill in them a positive attitude to exercise.

L to R - Gordon, Liam, Papa & Iona
White cotton shirt, footprints are silver, kinda cool, logo though

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Farmington Founders Festival Four Mile; 7/21/12

Me, finishing, just too fast for Bren

I pretty much decided to run this one at the last minute or the day before, which is kinda like the last minute. There was no online registration so I had to just turn up on the morning of the race and register, it was only $25 so no big deal. The course started in Shiawassee park in Farmigton, and meandered through a couple of neighbourhoods, south of Main Street before heading down the parade route, before finishing back in the park.

I don't have too much to say about this one, nice course, ok post race snacks and a very ordinary cotton t-shirt. I did want to stop and walk pretty much after the first half mile, but stuck with it until the end. I came in at 32:30 (8:08 pace), which I was pleasantly surprised with, which put me at 12/ 23 in my agr group and 90/ 222 overall. Why does my age group have to be some damn fast :-(.

It was very cool having my new wife, Bren, and my dad (currently visiting from Scotland), there at the finish line to greet me.

How Endomondo saw it -

Friday, June 29, 2012

Two weeks, post marathon - physiological after effects

Jings and what a couple of weeks it has been. It was always going to be bedlam, what with deciding to get married on the Saturday after the race, but jings 'n' crivvens.

So here goes... Since running the marathon, my whole body has just been out of sorts. I had the obvious feet problems, blisters, hacks, etc, to be expected. What I didn't expect was the hacking horrible cough that started racking my body within a day of so. The Monday morning after the race I acquired a cold sore on my lip, that refused to disappear, no matter what stuff I put on it, and I felt it coming fast and none of the usual stuff worked. I had a headache that appeared on the afternoon of the race and hung around in greater or lesser degree for about four days. I have a small sore that appeared on the corner of my mouth that just plain hurts. My teeth ached for a couple of days.

Now you could say that this was a just a coincidence and that I'm just plain sick, you could say that it was all wedding stress induced, but I would say 'piffle', to both those suggestions. I don't really get sick very often and this thing is kicking my @rse and the wedding hasn't been particularly stressful and we had a low key shindig in the back yard.

It isn't all bad stuff though. While I didn't seem to lose on single pound after the race, which consumed approximately 4,000 calories, since then I dropped, six pounds. I don't attribute this to my being sick, as I haven't lost my appetite, I'm calling this as one of the physiological after effects of the race.

I went out for a short run on the Thursday after and haven't been out since, mostly because I don't feel like running in >90F temperatures...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ann Arbor Marathon; 17th June 2012


So this is it, the big one. I'm starting the blog posting a little early just so I can post quickly, post race. Right now I feel totally underprepared for this, my training has not gone well and I am hoping for the best on the day. As it will be the middle of June the weather could be anything from mildly pleasant, to hot, sticky and very nasty.

The course looks like it was created by the Ann Arbor/ University of Michigan (UoM) tourist board as it tries to pass everything of note in the city/ university campus. Now don't get me wrong, I would certainly like to see the sites as I drag myself around, but what I really don't like is the classic 'lollipop' run. I really don't like seeing the people ahead of me after they have just run what I am about to and this course is full of them, it even has lollipops inside of lollipops, one lollipop you do at the very start and you get to do again at the very end. I will admit it is nice to see people just starting the bit that you have finished, but, not worth it enough to be on the receiving end. I like variety in a course, I don't like bit straight bits (this has them), running around with nothing to see (for example a shopping mall carpark, yup, you got it, for 1.5 miles), nasty hills (yup, those too). Run details can be found at

Packet pickup was a joke, What genius decides to do packet pickup inside of a shopping mall, on a Saturday, needless to say it was damn busy. They also failed to say that packet pickup was actually inside of the mall, all in all, most frustrating. The bib was also kind of unusual, it had a detachable section at the bottom, that the timing tab was attached too, seems like a strange place to put it.

The race

I finished, I survived and it was a whole helluva lot harder than I thought it would be, way worse than running two half marathons. I've run three previous half mrathons and a couple of ~10mile races, I thought that there would be a gradual slowing down, I thought the wall was a phrase created by people that under fueled or were badly prepared, and jeez, was I wrong.

The 'Big House' - largest capacity stadium in the US,
third largest in the world at  109,901
So here goes, I woke up bright and early at 5:20am, grabbed a couple of bananas and some water and hit the road, I wasn't completely sure where I was going to park so I wanted to get there early. I managed to get parked right outside UoM stadium, very close to the starting line. I got my crap together, and decided to find the portajohns and, as usual, they were mobbed. Now I don't know what kind of esoteric calculations go into working out how many you should have at a given event, but let me just say that there is never enough, and today it was startlingly 'not enough'. Plus the portajohns, were right round the other side of the stadium, which was really quite annoying. I got in line quite early and I still on made it to the starting line, just in time to catch the national anthem, and then we were off.

I found the 3:55 pace team at the start and decided to see how far I could pace with them for, this was never part of the grand plan, the pace just felt right, so I went for it. I knew I would never stick with them, I just thought it would help me. The race started as a gradual downhill into downtown Ann Arbor, followed by a trip through the very picturesque main campus of the University of Michigan, closely followed by a long slow downhill, through some nice established neighborhoods towards Huron Parkway. Huron Parkway is along undulating four lane highway that was going to be the start of the lollipop phases of the race. I've said before my feelings on running a lollipop, so I'll not say anything more about them, apart from 'bloody hate them'. The lollipops did show off more of the UoM campus and quite a lot of impressive buildings and facilities and I was feeling pretty good, tired but managing.

Can anyone see how nasty it was?
OK, so where did it all start to fall apart, well that would be around mile 10, when the hills started to take a toll on my legs and I started the run/ walk. Another running blogger once said that walking during a long run isn't a weakness, it's a strategy, and now it was mine. The hills started coming thick and fast and the introduction of walking took my pace from ~8:40 up to about ~9:30, not great, but manageable. What really did it was the hill on mile 14, the route was taking us through the UoM Nichols Arboretum, which then meandered up the side of a fairly nasty hill, I shortened my stride, kept my pace and tried working my arms, but 2/3 of the way up, it got me and my race changed drastically.

This was followed by another fairly pleasant section through the campus, before an long (~1.75 mile) lollipop down Washtenaw Avenue. Washtenaw Avenue rolls along quite pleasantly when driving and kicks your arse when running. The little hills just kill you when you knows there is a turnaround, at some point, and constantly seeing people coming toward you, knowing that have already made the turn and you still don't know where the damn thing is, gnaws away at your very being.

The next part was a long slow drag down South State St, towards, what was going to be probably the most boring part of the race, running around the outside of the car park at Briarwood Mall, the location of the previous days packet pickup fiasco. It was whole approaching this that I hit the 20 mile mark and for reason realized that I still have about 10k still to go, ie typically I run 10k's and today, after having just run 20 bloody miles, I was just about to start a 10k, mentally, this wasn't a high point for me... The mall run, at about  ~1.75 miles around, was fairly demoralizing, more and more runners around me were starting to take longer periods of walking, I was long past running on empty, but just kept on going.

Sweaty, sore and done
Leaving the mall I saw the poor sods, still going in, but I had my own problems to deal with right now, more damn hills, but thinking that I still had a chance to break 4:30, I broke out another GU, tried to focus on form  and decided to try and up my pace a little.  I could see the Big House in the distance and stopped feeling quite as crappy as I had done. Passing the stadium people were shouting that we were almost done, we started on a little downhill and I knew that I could do it, until I realized we are heading back up Main and up another bloody hill, and another lollipop, I tried to keep my momentum going but I was toast, and beaten. I climbed the hill and anxiously looked for the turnaround and had hoped it would be right there, but knew, in my heart, that I wasn't going to be that lucky. Main St is a very pleasant little stretch, when out bar hopping and socializing, but I will forever remember watching people sitting outside at lunch, while I try and convince myself that I'm not going to die trying to finish a marathon. But still only half a mile to go, I turned a corner and someone shouted 'it is just around the next bend', which it wasn't quite - hmm I must try and track him down and punch him, really hard. Still one bend later, there was the finish line, there was quite a gap between myself and the next person in front or behind, but I wanted to finish strong, which I did, and survived marathon #1.

Lots of good snacks, crappy pizza and lots of water.

Post race reflections

I fell into step with another runner around mile 13, a veteran of 20 marathons, who had another 2 planned this year, she said that this was a very nasty marathon and one of the worst she had seen for hills/ route, etc.

Sunday afternoon was fun, but sore. I took a long bath with a nice sandwich and a cold beer. I went out with my eldest son for a short (~3.5 mile) bike ride, which I think was a good idea.

Between Endomondo measuring high at 26.95 miles & my Garmin measuring low at 26.15 miles and the course being USATF certified (MI 12029 SH), hopefully at 26.22 miles, who really knows how far it truely was, but I'm taking it as my first full marathon.


Overall 312/ 605; 22/ 42 in my age group; first half I was #274 with a split time of 2:00:38.7 (9:13 pace), whereas the second I was #338 with a split time of 2:32:13.8 (11:37 pace), total time 4:32:52.5 (10:24 pace). It does take Einstein to see I dropped 64 places in the second half, jings 'n' crivvens.

I suspect the field was nearer 800 but the results only go up to 6hrs. Full results at

How Endomondo saw it -

How Garmin saw it -

Monday, May 28, 2012

Novi Memorial Day 10k; Novi; 28h May 2012

I had to do a race as the 28th May 2012 is a year to the day since I first started running, but as it was Memorial Day, the pickings were slim, but this was close by and early in the morning, so just about ideal.

Packet pickup was a breeze, at a local gym. There was no line and also no pretense of an expo, just get your stuff and go, so no hassle there.

The forecast was for 'hot, damn hot', which is a technical term used by meteorologists the world over meaning 'very hot' and it did not disappoint. The course, basically, headed south and meandered through a few small subdivisions, in a series of small lollipops (ie, out and back the same direction). The heat became a major factor in the race very quickly, as did the hills, what an extremely hilly race, probably second only to the Milford 10k in nasty hilliness. Now 136 feet/ 41.5m of elevation gain/ loss, doesn't sound like much, but it was very nasty. I pretty much ran the whole race with one particular girl, I would overtake her on the hills, she would then pass me on the flat, she had more left in the gas tank at the end as she left me with a few hundred yards to go, I guess, but shook my hand a thanked me at the end, I suspect we helped pace each other. The 5k walkers were finishing at the same time and seemed to be struggling with the concept of  'get out of the bloody way'. In summary, 'I survived', I went home, worked in the garden, drank beer and watched the sun go down.

Results; 12/ 18 in my group, 59/ 129 overall isn't up to my usual but man it was crappy out there.

Garmin -

Endomondo -

White tech shirt, don't like white tech shirts...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mission 10k; Indian Springs Metropark; 12th May 2012

So I was looking for a race for this weekend and this one caught my attention, with this high pressure sales pitch;
You just ran 3.1 or 6.2 miles, you deserve a real trophy to declare to the world how awesome you are!  All registrants will receive a custom designed quality belt buckle! The buckles have a antique silver finish to show off the best race swag in the area!
Slowing down at the end and
coming downhill, so there
So how could I possibly resist? There was no pre race day packet pickup, it was just a matter of, get there before the race, grab your stuff, get in the zone and go for it. I got up around 6:30am, which is standard for me on race days. I strolled down to the local 7-11 for a couple of banana, hung around a bit and decided to just get on the road. I arrived at about 8:15am, 45 minutes before the race, the place was pretty quiet and it didn't ever really get busier. The race packet had the usual ads, etc, along with a free GU and the belt buckle. You also put your name into a draw for free goodies afterwards.

The starting line was quietest I have experienced and everyone was just kind of milling about, waiting. We got going and there was very few walkers, etc, for a wee change. We started down and nice big hill, which, due to this course being an 'out and back', turned into as ass kicker just before the end. The course meandered through the park, paved the whole way. It was very scenic and I will definitely be back to run and cycle the trails in the future. What with the field being so small, and the course meandering, there were times when I couldn't see either the person in front or the person behind, it was really quite surreal.

My belt buckle and medal (for coming 3 in my age group)
The heat and humidity were up there during the race and at no time did I ever really feel comfortable, you know, I didn't ever really get in the zone. I finished the race in a reasonable time, although I would have lied a PR, you can't have everything. There was a good selection of snack, banana, cookies, water, Gatorade, etc. I got a medal for coming second in my age group, which is quite impressive until you realize that there were only three people in my age group, and the top three got medals, ho hum. They gave away a very good selection of prizes everything from vouchers for free pizza to, gift cards to local stores and Road ID vouchers. All in all, it was a good start to my Saturday and I may even do it again next year. Incidentally they are also having a 15k race called the Sasquatch Shuffle on the Friday before Halloween, beginning at midnight, the way will be lit by glowsticks, etc, I'm almost intrigued enough to register, maybe.

Official results are in; second in my age group, of three, 11/37 overall. Let's just say it was a small race, but done very well.

Here is how the Garmin saw it -

Here is how Endomondo saw it -

Friday, May 4, 2012

All signed up for my first marathon - Ann Arbor Marathon, June 17th 2012

In the year 490 B.C.E., Miltiade, a Greek general from Athens inflicted a serious defeat on the Persians in the plains of Marathon, a small village in the northwest of Athens. In order the convey the news of the victory, a Greek soldier, Phidippides, ran at a stretch from the battlefield to Athens. After delivering the news, he collapsed and died.

I finally done, this is it, the big one, the one I've been building up to, I've signed up for my very first marathon. Yup, all 26 miles 385 yards of it, yup, that's 26.22 miles, yup, that's 42.195 kilometers. Yup, I'm running my first marathon in the inaugural Ann Arbor marathon (, as I thought that would be kind of apt. Unlike Phidippides, I'm planning on surviving enough to enjoy a few cold ones later in the day, while I rest my weary bones.

I'm hoping for a sub 4 hour finish, but who the hell knows. According to the various marathon finish time prediction sites, based on my 1:51:51 on the Let's Move half marathon, I should be able to drag my sorry self in around 3:55 hours, but really, who knows. I've also heard so much about the dreaded wall, so the wheels may completely fall off the bus. Most stuff I've read pretty much states that prediction sites are mostly low, but depending on what distance you base them off and how much practice you do previously, they get closer. This one is pretty cool and provides a whole lot of detail -