Sunday, February 9, 2014

Guest Race Report: Groundhog Marathon and Half Marathon

You all know how I love a good guest race report. This is especially true at times like this, when I am not racing. It is great to get to live vicariously through my friends who are braver, more adventurous, more talented, or just plain crazier than I am. This is especially great when my friends are doing things I would never want to do in a million years, like running a half marathon in 6 inches of fresh snow and subzero temperatures. Here, let me let Leslie tell you about it.

I’m back, with yet another crazy race report.  Believe me, if there is a race with nearly impossible conditions, I can find it!  I love to mix things up, and I love challenges.   Last year was my year of the half marathon, with a few bike tours, open water swims and triathlons thrown in for good measure.  Mission accomplished, with a race to spare!    Now I find myself in 2014 looking forward to turning 60 and some new challenges.  Back to the trail I go!

My spring goal race is Outrun 24 (    Outrun 24 is a timed ultra, perfect for someone as velocity challenged as me.  The goal is to see how many miles you can finish is 24 hours, or before you collapse!   It  also means miles and miles and miles of training.     Miles and miles trudging through snow, slipping on ice and dealing with negative windchills.    Michigan has really outdone herself this winter!    I don’t own a treadmill and I don’t belong to a gym.   I train solely outside.   Fortunately, I’m blessed to live near a multi-use trail that is somewhat plowed during the winter.  By somewhat, I mean plowed, but not down to bare pavement.    

Seriously cool bling!
That brings me to the Groundhog Marathon (    What better way to get in a long one.   We’re talking aid stations,  camaraderie of like-minded winter warriors, some pretty cool bling,  as well as cookies, chili and beer!    How could I resist?   It sure had to beat looping around my neighborhood for 26 miles......or so I thought!    

I’ve been training in the snow for months now, a lot of time on one of those nice mostly plowed trails.  I can handle a snow drift or two.  The race course for Groundhog is on a paved trail.   Perfect!   Just like home, or so I thought.   What I didn’t realize is that Grand Rapids is not Lansing.   Lansing frequently plows their trails.    Grand Rapids does not, ever.    Uh oh!   82” of snow on the ground and more coming down.   Thoughts of a dog sled entered my mind.  

The Groundhog Marathon also offers a  half marathon, and a 1/6 marathon the evening before main the races.    Not wanting to miss out on a moment of fun (and additional swag), I signed up for the whole hog!    The course is a 4.4 mile loop.    Once around for the 1/6th, 3 times for the half, and 6 times for the full.  
With 6” of new heavy snow, headlamps aglow, and over 100 crazy people at the start, we were told to follow the snowmobile tracks (clever winter idea of course marking).  Off we went,  only to wonder about our sanity within 50 feet of the start.   The conditions were horrible.     

The “race” ended up with  pretty much everyone walking single file, and trying to stay upright. Imagine a long line of “racers” with their arms out, looking like they were trying to balance on a tightrope!   82” of somewhat packed and uneven snow, topped with the new snow that was not only slippery but icy as well,  made for some crazy footing. The race was not without some turned ankles, falls and broken bones. (Poor Ckat!!)   Not for the faint at heart!   Consensus from the majority of the 1/6er’s was to forget the race the next day.   It just wasn’t worth an injury.   I’m not so smart!

I woke up on marathon morning fully intending to skip the race (and be one of the smart ones).  As disappointing as a DNS is, I didn’t want to risk injury with some important races coming up in the next few weeks.  Lori and I have Green Swamp in March, after all!    After texting some friends, and plenty of second guessing (after all, I’d paid for the race and hotel), I decided to drive to the start, but go home if the good parking spots were taken (I didn’t want to park off site and take the shuttle, or that was my logic).   Not off the hook yet, I ended up with a great parking spot!   Now, what to do?    Cheer for the runners, perhaps?   Anyone that knows me, knows that was not going to happen.    

The gun went off and so did I, telling myself I’d do one slow loop, because  a DNF was better than a DNS.   I ended up dropping to the half marathon.    The conditions were that slow.   

Does that look like fun or what?

To put things in perspective, the overall  winner for the men (marathon) finished in 4:09:59, and the women’s winner was 5:45:45.The half marathon overall finish times were 1:49:05 (smart guy on snowshoes) and 2:33:54. Of the 200 runners registered for the marathon, 39 finished.    Of the 300 registered for the half, 223 finished (many were marathoners that dropped down).   I guess I got my challenge and more!   
Seriously awesome awards!!

If you are game for a little fun next winter, and don’t mind a PW (personal worst), are able to laugh at yourself and what Michigan weather can throw at you, pack up those YakTrax and consider Groundhog next year.   The race is well run with some very cool perks.   Who knows, it could be dry and sunny next year.   This is Michigan, after all.  

If you like this guest race report, here are some links to other popular guest race reports. Maybe you will get inspired. If you run a race that you would like to report on, please contact me. I love a good story!:

Guest Race Report: Michigan Runners at Columbia River Power Marathon (and "marathon" wine tasting in Walla Walla, Washington)   

Guest Race Report: Tough Mudder Michigan 2013

Guest Race Report: Detroit Marathon

Guest Race Report: Warrior Dash 2012

Guest Race Report: Mango Madness


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