Tuesday, June 30, 2009

06/28: Pictured Rocks Road Race

I thought I was registering for a trail 15K and somehow wound up in a mostly road half marathon - the Pictured Rocks Road Race, in and around Munising, Michigan. I suppose my attention to detail could use a little attention itself but sometimes these little glitches are fate's way of getting us in the right place at the right time. Though mostly, like in this instance, they're just random screw-ups.

The organizers oversell the toughness of this course, which features two major hills and a bunch of reasonable ones, but not by much. Bad Idea Hill, so called because the longer you spend running up it the more time you have to consider other, more profitable, ways you could be spending your time, starts maybe a half-mile into the race and finally crests maybe a quarter-mile past the first mile marker, although it teases you with intermittent plateaus along the way. It reminded me of the little brother of the killer 29th Street hill in Wheeling's Ogden Newspapers 20K, only with more shade. The second hill, on a trail late in the race, is like running up a sand dune. A twisty-turny sand dune, with foliage.

The organizers also seem very intent on ferreting out potential cheaters, perhaps because of issues in the past. Two or three times I passed curmudgeonly people checking bib numbers as runners went by. We wore chips - really uncomfortable ankle-bracelet chips like we were all under arrest or in the Witless Protection Program, perhaps because the race started next to the Alger County Jail - so I'd think they could just put down additional timing mats at those locations. The chips were also unavailable the night before the race so everybody had to pick them up in the morning, which caused the start to be delayed ten or fifteen minutes. I wasn't a big fan of the chip in this race partially because it wasn't large enough to make it a necessity and partially because with no starting mat, from a runner's perspective I don't see the point. For me the chip's main advantage is to accurately track me from start to finish, not from where I happen to be standing when the race starts to the finish.

I least I think I'm probably in the clear of any accusations of cheating in this race, which I 'ran' in 2:14:10. I was okay through seven miles - about 8:45 pace - but I was also toast, with one major sand dune left to climb. It was a long, slow crawl to the finish.

I ran with an mp3 player, which is probably the first time I've done that in a race this year. While it definitely helped distract me from how horridly I was running, it also may have slowed me down on the trails where strolling along while tuning out was kind of nice. The tunage got off to a weird start; a priest said a prayer and then they started the race and I started my player. Which started up where it ended off the last time I used it, at the end of a Belle and Sebastian song: "But if you are feeling sinister / Go off and see a minister / Chances are you'll probably feel better / If you stayed and played with yourself."


kmilligan72 said...

I thought it was a nice race run by nice people. I guess I assumed that the people checking bib numbers were checking for our safety...I didn't think about the cheating issue. As far as opening the race in prayer, we do that around here and I for one can use all the prayer I can get! I hope you enjoyed the beautiful scenery. It was my first time running this half, but consider it to be a challenging, but gorgeous course.

Mike said...

It was a nice enough race although I'd have been happier if they made it a 15K and cut out the second killer hill.

I've done other races that opened with a prayer; I've just never then immediately turned on my mp3 player and heard such relevant skepticism. I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition.