Todd’s North Country Half Marathon Recap!

by Julie on August 28, 2012

in Healthy Living,Relationship,Running

Hi everyone!

Good news: I’m feeling a lot better! I woke up feeling like the end of my sickness was finally near!

I have quite the treat for you today! Todd, my boyfriend and Coast Guard guy is guest blogging about his North Country Half Marathon! He had quite the race and I can’t wait for you guys to read it. As a spectator and even though I was sick, I had a blast! I took a few pictures along the way… enjoy!

Todd right before the start… secretly rolling his eyes because his gf takes way too many pictures.

Hey everyone it’s Todd, Julie’s boyfriend.

I’m sure you’ve all read a lot about me, I know I have. Let me first tell you a little background information about myself before I get into the good stuff about the North Country Half Marathon in Wellston, Michigan.

Before joining the Coast Guard, about four and a half years ago, I was a pretty avid runner. In high school I ran both cross-country and track. In college, I ran on my own; training for a marathon and half iron-man before joining the Coast Guard. My longest run was 18 miles but I enjoyed the shorter 12-14 mile runs more.

Okay, so now back to the North Country Half.

Todd and I (obviously not wearing mascara and feeling sick – blah!)

I registered for this race back in December around the time I met Julie (trust me, I wasn’t trying to impress her by registering for a race). A few things stuck out for me about why I chose this race:

  1. It was on trails. According to the website it was all on trails. This was particularly exciting for me since I know that by running on trails it lowers the impact of your legs slamming into the ground while running. This would also add a challenge in that trails usually drain your energy faster too since your body has to work harder to push off the ground than it would if it were on pavement.
  2. Everyone who finishes gets a HUGE medal. Who doesn’t like getting a sweet medal for finishing a race? Especially the largest finisher medals out of any half marathon race in the USA. This was gonna be sweet no matter what.
  3. The race was in August. This meant that I would have a full 8 months to train for this bad boy. Even with my erratic and often uncompromising work schedule I figure I should be able to get into half marathon shape by the time race day rolls around.
  4. I was going to be doing this race with a couple of friends. Well maybe not actually doing the race but starting at the starting line with them and then meeting each other at the finish line. Which is still awesome. I mean the whole going up there and being able to start the race it’s always a good feeling when you’re traveling to a race and know a couple people. That kind of thing will definitely relax a person.

So, I think that everyone can pretty much agree that these are definitely quality reasons to sign up for a race that is over 6 hours away. Anything shorter than a half marathon wouldn’t have been worth the drive. Even with these sweet things that stand out. For anything less there would have to be some kind of other attraction to get me to do a trip for a race shorter than that.

After unfortunately having reason #4 fall through due to some professional conflicts, I was left doing the race alone (well I still had Julie, thankfully) Then there was the problem of actually training for the race. I ran consistently up until May and I even ran a 13.1 mile training run. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake at that point. However, I was only home for a few weeks this summer and there was no treadmill on my boat. I was struggling to keep up my training.

Finally, Race Day was here and we arrived at Manistee National Forest. After picking up my bib/tracking chip/gear, it was race time. I was finally starting my first official half-marathon race!

Waiting for the race to begin.

At 8:45, we were off and I quickly settled into my goal pace of a 10-11 minutes/mile. Apparently, there was a race day change that I missed since the first 1.5 miles were on a street and then we made our way into the trails.

Still at the beginning of the race, on the road.

After getting into the forest I realized very quickly what I had actually gotten myself into. Almost immediately we were climbing a hill. Which would be fine except that:

- I hadn’t run in forever

- It seemed like the hill wasn’t going to end.

Obviously, it the hill ended, but there was another one right around the corner. It was a constant struggle for the first 4.5 miles. It was almost as though the running gods were playing some kind of cruel joke on me for my lack of training. At the 4.5 mile mark there was an aide station which was much needed at this point. Other than the water/Gatorade/GU this was only the point in the race in which I was able to see Julie for a quick minute. How nice to hear someone telling you that you are doing a good job. At this point, I was still following my goal pace. Maybe a slightly bit faster than one would expect at this point but I’d been powering through with a small group of 4-5 people.

First aide station at mile 4.5ish.

After the aide station, the race resumed and so did the hills. Almost immediately there was another hill. I was starting to think that I didn’t sign up for a half-marathon but for a half-hillathon. I slowed my pace and lost the group I was with shortly after the first aide station. That’s when I probably got as lucky as I can on this race. There came two guys who I recognized from the beginning and were clearly on a running team with matching neon green shirts. I quickly allowed them to pass and then matched their pace. I enjoyed this new pace and continue to run with them through the next aide station at mile 6 and beyond.

In this picture, Todd didn’t realize that I was standing there, creepily taking pictures of him. Finally, he looked up and gave me a kiss before he ran again.

All the while we were all talking and pointing out obstacles or people moving at a quicker pace. Finally, a little after mile 9, I couldn’t take this constant assault on my legs with those never-ending hills and decided to walk.  At this point in the race, I was still on pace going just faster than an 11 minute mile pace. However my legs were nearly spent and I was starting to cramp up on my left thigh and right calf. Fortunately, an aide station wasn’t too far away and I was able to refuel on more Gatorade/water/and blueberries this time.

After the aide stop, I revised my goal time and resigned to walk all the big uphills and jog/run the down hills. The only problem with this was that almost every hill seemed large and I could still feel the pain of my legs fighting back against me and they started to cramp a little more.

At mile 11, I made a decision to walk the last couple miles. It is around this time that a man and his wife passed me. I started to jog trying to get to the next aide station and the man’s left foot hit a thick branch in the middle of the path and he fell to the ground. I stopped to see if he was okay and he informed his wife and I that he heard is ankle pop and could hardly put weight on it. I told him I could help him walk to the aide station, which was about a mile away. He reluctantly agreed with some encouragement from his wife. This was the longest mile of the race. I’m tired and in pain and helping this man walk too. As we are walking, I learned that they are James and Kim from Grand Haven, MI. This brings more conversation since the Coast Guard boat was just there a few weeks ago for a festival.

After arriving at the last aide station at mile 12, James insisted that no matter what he is going to finish the race, even if he had to crawl. I told them I was going to walk with them in case they needed a hand. Finally, after about 2 miles, I realized we were nearing the end of the race. This was encouraging and at the urging of both of them I jogged to the finish line. Finally the race was over.

Todd approaching the finish.

After finishing, a sweet little girl, who was volunteering as a race helper, guided me to a seat, took my race chip, and got me water and my medal. I was thoroughly impressed with the best post-race service ever.

His sweet medal. It was heavy!

All in all, I would definitely recommend running this race and will definitely consider doing it again.

However, there are a few things that everyone should know before signing up. First, at least four miles of the trails had sand. Second, the miles were not clearly marked. My last issue with the race was that it was about 14.5 miles instead of 13.1. That was extremely frustrating. A bonus is that the food after the race is amazing and included in your race registration. And yes they even had beer.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experience with the North Country Half Marathon.

I’m so proud of him and his first half marathon race!

I hope you enjoyed Todd’s recap! Have a wonderful Tuesday!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Crystal @EatDrinkCleveland August 28, 2012 at 8:38 am

LOVE this guest post! Way to go Todd!!!!
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Kevin Berridge August 28, 2012 at 8:50 am

Wow what a story! Sounds like a really difficult race.
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Susan August 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

Signing up for an unknown terrain w/ the hills is tough, but great story :) And I love that they had blueberries at the one aid station. I think that would brighten my day! And kudos to you for stopping and walking with the guy that fell. That’s got to be so frustrating to be so far into the race and have something like that happen. That’s an awesome medal!!!!
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Nidhi August 28, 2012 at 8:14 pm

That medal is sweet. Go Todd! Nice post!
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Sarah @ Cooker Girl August 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Wow Todd! Congrats! Good thing that medal is huge because you totally deserve it!
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karen sharpnack August 30, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Wow–you guys could tag team on a blog!

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