Duo at the Ledges

Race Name: Duo at the Ledges
Distance/Type: Half Marathon
Race Location: Grand Ledge, MI
Race Date: July 6, 2013

Finish Time: 2:28:52
Finish Place (Age Division & Overall): 16/16 & 182/206

Mark’s Finish Time: 2:20:30
Mark’s Finish Place (Age Division & Overall): 12/13 & 165/206

This was our first time running in the Duo of the Ledges Half Marathon.  Unlike most races we enter now-a-days, which have to have an awesome tech shirt and medals — we picked this race based solely on it’s location.  As you fellow runners know, racing is not a cheap sport by any means.  Sure it is free to head out each day on the sidewalks and open roads for your practice runs; however, once you start figuring in the cost of running shoes, clothes, race entry fees and travel expenses it can add up quickly.  Specially when both you and your better half run, which means most of the expenses are doubled. 

Since we needed a half marathon to fit into our training and this was the closest half marathon — this is the one we picked. 

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Our race bibs and the tech shirt we got with our race entries.

Mark and I headed over to Playmakers in Okemos on Friday to pick-up everyone’s packets.  (As always, Playmakers does an amazing job with their packet pick-up process.)  That evening Mark and I tried to spend the relaxing and headed to bed around 9:45 pm, knowing that we were going to have a super early morning.  

On Saturday we woke up to our alarm going off at 4:15 am — UGH, yes, that’s right — 4:15 am!!!  We got ready, had some breakfast and headed out the door towards Grand Ledge, which is about 30 minutes away from Mason.  When we arrived at Grand Ledge High School it was still pretty dark and none of the parking lot lights were on (bummer).  It was a little bit of a cluster trying to get my running shoes on, our bibs pinned, and our race belt all ready to go in the dark but we managed.  Mom and Dad met us right there at the high school and also finished getting ready. 

After we were all set we took off towards the starting line to find the restrooms and gear check our one bag we were all sharing. (Yes, a race with 200 people had a gear check and it was awesome!) The line for the bathrooms wasn’t very long so I decided to wait and make sure I was going to start the race with an empty bladder.  After all four of us hit the bathrooms and checked our bag we began to stretch and get ready for the start. 

Mark and I before the race.

Mark and I before the race.

Mark, myself, Mom and Dad before the start of the race.

Mark, myself, Mom and Dad before the start of the race.

The race started out on one of the side street in downtown Grand Ledge and was just a “gun” start.  For being a half marathon this is one of the smallest races I have ever ran in — including all the 5k’s I have done.  With only 206 runners it was a pretty small field and even with a gun start everyone was able to make it across the “starting line” within 10-15 seconds of the “ready, set go!” we got! 

The pack took off from the starting line and 200 yards in I had to remind Mark that we needed to set our own pace and not run with the pack.  I could feel that we were running a tad faster than our goal pace and knowing we had 13 miles left ahead of us I knew we needed to slow down or we would be in trouble towards the end of the race. 

Miles 1 and 2 went great. We ran a 10:10 and a 9:45 mile (respectively) and then came the first water station a little bit past the 2 mile marker. For the first time ever that I remember I broke one of the cardinal rules of drinking water while running. Instead of slowing sipping, I downed the entire small dixie cup of water in one big gulp.  I am not sure if that was the cause of my issues for the next 5 miles or if it were something else, but the next 5 miles were the wort 5 miles of my life!

Mark and I at mile 2.

Mark and I at mile 2.

I literally felt like I was dying as I ran miles 2-8.  It felt like my stomach was being twisted over and over again, while a boxer was constantly slugging away it at the same time.  I was able to push through the pain for miles 2 through 5; however, around mile 6 it really started to take a toll on me.

Around 6.5 miles I asked Mark for my package of Chomps and forced myself to down at least 3/4 of them along with a few small sips of water. Within minutes I felt like that had been a horrible decision and my stomach pain got worse.  After we hit the 7 mile marker I could no longer physically run. It hurt — and I mean — it hurt!  I finally looked at Mark, asked him for the cell phone from the race belt in case I needed to call for help and told him to go ahead without me.  As much as I love running our races together — I felt horrible about holding him back that badly and knew I wanted him to finish better than I would. My loving husband gave me this look like I was crazy for wanting him to leave me in that condition, but I promised I would be okay and told him again to go.  He gave me a quick kiss, told me he would see me at the finish line and took off running.

I pushed myself through mile 7 which felt like death.  At this point I had been pasted by three younger runners, a very elderly gentlemen who was doing a run-walk, and a very elderly lady also doing a run-walk.  Finally I decided that the next time I saw a race worker I was going to ask if they could get me a ride back to the starting line and I was going to take my first DNF (Did Not Finish) ever. It was a relieving feeling knowing that I was making the right decision to pull myself from the race as I knew something was not right.  At this point I had been pasted by three younger runners, a very elderly gentlemen who was doing a run-walk, and a very elderly lady also doing a run-walk. 

Then came mile 8. As I passed the 8 mile marker my stomach pain suddenly started to subside quickly.  I decided to try my hand at running to see if the pain came back and took off in a slow jog.  Not only did the pain not come back it continued to quickly subside. The relief felt amazing and I was able to seriously pick-up my pace.  Over the next two miles I passed every single person who had passed me while I walked, plus a few more.  I ran miles 8 through 11 with an average pace of 10:05 miles! Heck yes!!!!!!  Miles 12 through 13 I ran a little slower because I began to have massive pain in my right knee.  At that point I was not going to let anything stand between me and the finish — anything!!!! 

I rounded the corner downtown Grand Ledge and saw the finish line in sight.  I could hear the theme song to “Rocky” booming from the announcers booth, which just happens to be one of my favorite running songs of all times and I took off as quickly as my legs would take me towards the finish line.  Hearing my name and hometown called as I ran down the finisher’s shoot was one of the greatest sounds I could hear!  I crossed the finished line and within 5 feet gave my Mom a high-five and a hug as her and my Dad were standing right there waiting for me to finish. 

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Meghan at the finish line!

A volunteer handed me my finisher’s medal along with two bottles of water and I began to look around for Mark.  Unfortunately, Mark did not get to see me finish.  He finished 8 minutes before me and had headed into the building for some food and water thinking he had about an hour before I would cross the finish line.  Little did he know just how tough his wife really was and how hard she could physically push herself! The instant I saw him, we gave each other a massive hug and he told me how proud he was of me!  I think I was more proud of him though, as that was his very first half marathon. 

Mark at the finish line!

Mark at the finish line!

Mark, myself, Dad and Mom after we all finished!

Mark, myself, Dad and Mom after we all finished!

This, by far, was the most physically and mentally challenging race I have ran to date.  I am incredibly proud of myself for pushing myself to the finish line.  I have heard plenty of runners talk about how one day you will have a bad race.  For me, it took 3 years to experience a bad race but it finally happened.  I am just happy that I had enough strengthen to push myself through it.  (Which brings up the fact that my next article I have decided to write about having a “bad race” and what you can do to help you push through to the end, along with when is the right time to call it quits!)

The race volunteers this morning were all amazing.  All 100+ of them!  The race organizers had more than enough water and food pre-race and post-race for all the runners.  For a half marathon the medals were lacking compared to most other races, but overall it was a good race and I am glad we ran it.  It is not a race that we will make sure is on next year’s list of “must run races”; however, in the future if we are ever looking for another close (and cheap) half marathon this is one we would do again!  

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The Kona Run

Race Name: The Kona Run
Distance/Type: 10 Miles
Race Location: Northville, MI
Race Date: June 8, 2013

Finish Time: 1:42:45
Finish Place (Age Division & Overall): 25/39 & 525/652

Mark’s Finish Time: 1L42:45
Mark’s Finish Place (Age Division & Overall):  35/37 & 524/652

Since becoming a runner three years ago I have continually heard about the Solstice Run in Northville, MI.  It is an annual 10 mile race which always sells out and from everything I have heard is an amazing route to run.

Earlier in the year Mark and I ran the Sham Rock n’ Roll 10k and when looking at the event’s website they had bought the Solstice Run, renamed it the Kona Run, and it was now part of the Kona Triple Crown Series.  Mark and I knew that we wanted to run the Triple Crown races — which means you have to run in the Sham Rock n’ Roll, Kona Run and the Wicked Halloween Run (any distance), all in one year and you qualify for the special Kona Triple Crown medal! *Bonus*

So, when entering into the races Mark and I decided we just run the 10k in all three races.  For a few minutes we debated on whether or not we should run in the 10 miler at the Kona run; however, initially we decided just to register for the 10k.  Easy, right?  Well — then two things happened: 1) We decided to register for the Space Coast Marathon in December and 2) my Mom & Dad decided to run the Kona 10 miler and encouraged us to run with them.  Looking over the race website I noticed they have a strict time limit for the 10 mile race — all runners must maintain at least a 12 minute mile (up to the 8 mile marker) in order to finish the race.  Mark and I’s seven to eight mile training runs have average 10:15 miles, so we could do 12 minute miles right? Sure we could!!  So, we decided to switch events to the 10 miler.  (Note: These are some of the best race event organizers I have ever worked with! Switching us to the longer race was so easy and they were great about it, even though we had already been registered for the 10k for two months!)

Speed forward to the Thursday before race day.  My Mom and I had been trading phone calls working out who was going to run down to Northville on Friday to pickup all our packets when it happened — she starts laughing and asks me if I have seen the race elevation chart yet.  “Well, I have heard it is a semi-hilly course but I am not seen the actual elevation chart yet” was my response to her — but now I was interested to see what was in store for us! I hopped onto the computer and a few clicks later there it was —

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For many of you out there this chart wouldn’t phase you. For me it was a slight moment of panic and nervous reaction.  Living in Mason we have quite a few nice hills to practice running on, and Mark and I always try to work them into our training routes so we are no strangers to running hills. However, running eight to nine straight miles of hills was going to be a challenge. I knew instantly this was going to be a challenging race for both of us; however, I knew we could do it! Both of us love to challenge ourselves and have the ability to mentally and physically push our bodies to reach the goals we’ve set.

Knowing that both Mark and I run the best when we totally pig out the day before on a protein heavy meal I immediately began to plan dinner for Friday night. On the menu – bacon, shrimp, baked cod, white rice and ice cream.  

Saturday morning finally arrived with our alarm clock going off at 4:45 am. (That’s the one drag about race morning is how early you always have to get up!) We finished packing our race bag, quickly ate our breakfast, and headed out the door a few minutes later than we had intended to.  At 6:00 am we arrived at my parents house, filled up our water bottles and quickly headed out towards Northville.

30 minutes later we arrived in Northville, parked the car and walked down to Northville Down Race Track where the start of the race would take place. 

The starting gate in the middle of the track!

The starting gate in the middle of the track!

We took a few minutes to hit the bathrooms and stretch before we all went to watch the start of the 10k race, which began 20 minutes before our race. Then finally… it was time!

Mark, Mom, myself and Dad at the starting gate for the Kona 10 Mile Run!

Mark, Mom, myself and Dad at the starting gate for the Kona 10 Mile Run!

We ran the first 1/2 mile of the race around the race track (I really enjoyed that, seeing I grew up on a horse farm) before heading out on a beautiful route through Northville.  Right after leaving the horse track we were greeted by the first (of many) hills on the course.  Mark and I tucked our heads and up the hill we went, seeing the 1 mile marker as we crested the top of the hill and Mark called out that we had ran the first mile in 10:45.  Our goal was to do 10:30 miles, so doing a 10:45 with the massive hill we had just ran I knew we were right on pace.

Miles 2-6 went by without a hitch — and we average between 10:15 and 10:22 miles all while constantly running either up or down hill. (Trust me, I like downhills much better than up hills, lol!) Then came mile 7 — mile 7 was mentally and physically challenging for me. I could tell that we were moving at quite a good pace and I forced myself to push on. Once we hit the 8 mile marker Mark called out that we ran the 7th mile in 9:45. “Holy Crap” is exactly what was going through my mind!  A half mile into 7th mile the course looped around the block and we saw my Dad who was 1/2-1 mile ahead of us — giving each other high-fives as we passed.

A little after the 8 mile marker the courses all merged together — the 10 mile, 10k and 5k courses.  Mark and I laughed with a few of the 5k runners (they were only 1.25 miles into their race) about how energetic they all looked compared to us 10 mile runners. There were a lot more 10k and 5k runners than 10 mile runners, so the course got pretty crowded at this point.

My knees were starting to ache, but I forced myself to continue and we did mile 8 and 9 with an average pace of 10:20 — and then we only had 1 mile to go.  At this point we ran down a slight hill and headed off towards downtown Northville and Ford Park where the finish line was.  Like many other races I’ve run — the last mile always seems to take the longest.  Running through Northville there were tons of people standing along the streets cheering everyone on. (Note: To the two jerks were decided they were going to take a walk down the middle of the street for no reason in front of us… not cool, NOT COOL!) 

Eventually we ran down and around into Ford Park with only 200 yards remaining to the finish line — and here is where I got pretty disappointed.  The path to the finish line was just a little trail about 3 to 4 feet wide. The finish shoot was incredibly narrow and there was no more than 5 to 10 feet of space after the timing mats for runners to slow and stop before they would run into a crowd of people. Because there was over 1,000 runners trying to finish both Mark and I had a hard time finishing our best — and both of us almost plowed into the large group people standing so closely behind the finish gate.

We grabbed our medals; however, there were so many people and there was no order to anything it took us 15 minutes to find the water/banana/bagel station.  After we both grabbed some water and a bagel we took off to find my Mom and Dad who finished shortly before we did.

Myself, Mom, Mark and Dad after finishing the Kona 10 Mile Race!

Myself, Mom, Mark and Dad after finishing the Kona 10 Mile Race!

I am so proud of our finish time – 1:42:45 which equates out to 10:17 miles!  That’s 13 seconds per mile faster than our goal pace!

The finish area in Ford Park (Northville, MI).

The finish area in Ford Park (Northville, MI).

The entire course was so beautiful and a race we will keep in mind for future years. Mark and I cannot wait until October when we run the Wicked Halloween 10k in Plymouth, completing the Triple Crown and getting our extra medal!

Mason State Bank 5K

Race Name: Mason State Bank
Distance/Type: 5k
Race Location: Mason, MI
Race Date: May 3, 2013

Finish Time: 31:04 
Finish Place (Age Division & Overall): 16/33 & 357/786

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Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love the little town of Mason that Mark and I live in. It is such an amazing town with beautiful parks, a historic downtown, great public safety services and we have tons of festivals and parades to enjoy all year long.

A portion of historic downtown Mason.

A portion of historic downtown Mason.

This year was the 25th annual running of the Mason State Bank 5k. I was hoping to run this race last year, but since I am nursing an injury I got while running in the Flying Pirate Half Marathon I was not able to. This year, there was no way I was going to miss it. I mean, let’s be honest… How can you miss a race where the starting gate is only three blocks from your front door? Plus, all of the proceeds of the race go to the Mason Public Schools Foundation!

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Welcome sign for the Mason State Bank 5k. Directly behind the sign is the start/finish line on Maple Street.

One thing that I love about this race is how it is a night time run which means I do not have to get up extremely early in the morning. I normally run all my training runs after work, except my long runs on Sunday’s which Mark and I do together in the morning before he goes to work — so racing in the evening is always fun for me.

The Mason State Bank 5k is one of Playmaker’s Greater Lansing Race Series for 2013.  For Mason being a little town they have an amazing turn out at the race with over 780 runners!! The beginning and end of the race are on Maple Street right next to the beautiful historic Courthouse.

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The starting and finish line of the Mason State Bank 5k.

I took off for downtown around 6:20 pm –and once there I jogged around a few blocks to warm-up and then found a place the stretch towards the end of the starting gate. This is one race I doubt Mark will ever be able to run with me, since he always has to work the event — and I was hoping I would be able to at least see him before the race. With 5 minutes left till race time Mark was busy and I was not going to interrupt him so I took off and went to line up.

Waiting for the race to begin!

Waiting for the race to begin!

 The race began at 7:00 pm exactly. It took me about 30 seconds to get across the starting line. We took off down Maple Street, headed down towards Rayner Ponds, ran a loop back through the subdivision and shot back out Columbia Street, down to Barnes Street where we headed back up a “hill” towards the finish line on Maple Street.

As I talked about in my article “The Basics of Running: Speed Training“, I have never been a very fast runner. I have gone through the past three years of running with the mind set of: Just make it across the finish line. My finish time has never been that important to me. Although I normally finish with a somewhat respectful finish time, I know for a fact that I can do better! Well this year is different! I am working very hard to improve my speed. The one thing I have not publicly told anyone — but my Mother — is that this year, is my year to PR.  I am really hoping that I can set new PR records for 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon. (I was able to knock one distance off that race when I PRed the Martian Invasion 10k earlier this year, knocking 5 minutes off my finish time!!)

I was REALLY hoping that I would able to set my new 5k PR during this race! My current PR for a 5k is 28:46, which means I had to run faster than 9:10 miles in order to set a new PR. Was it possible? Yes, as long as I was able to really push myself!  My training runs have been between 10:45-10:00 miles, so I knew racing at a 9:10 pace was possible.

When the race began I took off on the slight downhill on Maple Street and knew   I was going to have somewhat of a rough race. My legs felt like jello (oh, no!), my strides were awkward and choppy, and I was struggling to keep the pace I wanted since I was having the urge to run with the crowds. (I can tell you from experience running with the crowds NEVER ends well!) Luckily I was able to calm myself down and settle into a nice steady pace.

I hit the 1 mile mark at the clock read 10:15. I knew it took me 20-30 seconds to get across the starting line when the race began, so I knew I was close to where I needed to be in order to PR. About .25 miles after the 1 mile marker when the loop course came back together I noticed Mark driving the lead car come around the corner with the race leader right behind him. Mark stuck his yellow folder out of the window and waved at me as I ran/he drove by.  From 1.5-2.0 miles I struggled maintaining my breath, but I pushed myself on.

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Mark in the lead car!

I hit the 2 mile marker and the clock read 20:00 flat. Although I had knocked time off from the first mile, I knew that running the next 1.1 mile (with a large hill at the end) faster than 8:46 was almost impossible. I hit me like a lead balloon that I was not going to PR this race and that really took the wind out of my sails. Ugh! I beat myself up for the next 200 yards then told myself I was not going to throw away a respectable finish time just because I was not going to PR. So I put my head down and pushed on.

I ran by Steve who was at the corner of Columbia and Rogers but he was too busy talking to notice me. The next block at the corner of Columbia and Barnes I saw Don who pulled out his camera and snapped a picture of me waving at him. I rounded the corner onto Barnes and took off up the hill towards the finish line. Let me tell you what, I was mentally swearing the whole way up the hill! 🙂 With 1 block left on the hill I looked up towards the top and noticed Mark standing up there waiting to watch me finish. I waved — he waved — and I pushed on rounding the corner onto Maple Street while Mark stood there clapping and cheering me on. As I ran those last 20 yards towards the finish line the PA announcer announced my name and my town (Meghan Reckling from right here in Mason!). I smiled and pushed myself the final few feet across the finish line. Although I did not PR — having a finish time of 31:04 means I ran 10 minute miles which for me is great!

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Finisher Photo from the Mason State Bank 5k.

I grabbed a bottle of water, took a few minutes to stretch and headed back down where I had last seen Mark standing. He had moved down the block and was getting ready to lead the Kid’s 1 Mile Run so I stood there and cheered on all the kids running.

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The start of the Kid’s 1 Mile Run.

Overall the Mason State Bank 5k is an amazing race! I know, I know — since it is in the town I live in and run through every day, of course I think it is a great race! Definitely a race I will be running on a yearly basis.