Sunday, September 29, 2013

Warrior Dash Michigan II 2013 Report

I know I'm way behind my report of the Warrior Dash Michigan II (Grand Rapids) which took place on September 21!  But here it is at last.

Due to a sore Achilles, the hubby did not run the race with me this year.  But I went on my own to have a fun 3.3 mile obstacle run.

In past years, we have parked our car at local parks or other nearby parking lots and walked into Millennium park.  This year, the roads to every possible parking area within a mile of the park were closed by the police.  I was forced to park in the race-provided parking lot, which cost me $10 and which took an excessively long time to exit after I ran.

The race registration and bag check, however, were well organized.  Since the hubby was not able to attend, I asked the registration desk for his race shirt and warrior hat.  I was a little annoyed that they would not give it to me without speaking to him on the phone to verify his registration information.  But I did eventually get the hubby's stuff after waiting in a second line and handing them my phone.  I also purchased a long sleeved hooded t-shirt for myself because it was actually a cute piece and only $10.

But on to the important stuff...the dash!

I would have to say that the course this year was just OK.  I think it did improve over last year.  There were some new obstacles that were interesting such as the heavy cargo net that you had to crawl under while climbing a hill and the arched ladder climb.  But I was disappointed by a few aspects of the course:

1. There were 2 or 3 very long stretches of running with no obstacles.  How this can happen in a race that his only 3 miles long is unclear, but I would have liked to see the obstacles more spread out.

2. I missed the really cool water obstacle from last year in which you got in the lake and had to pull yourself onto and over floating rafts.  In fact, there were no obstacles that took advantage of the lake at Millennium Park at all.

3. You never got dirty until the very end of the race.  There were a couple obstacles that sprayed water on you, but there was only one obstacle that got you into the mud at all.  My best memories of Warrior Dashes past are off getting absolutely filthy.  That did not happen this year.

I am excited that the Iron Warrior Dash came to GR this year.  This is much longer distance version of the race, which I believe they started to compete with events like the Tough Mudder.  I saw a few markers for turns on the Iron race course, but it was not clear where that race started.  It appears that it was going on at the same time as the many waves of the regular distance Warrior Dash.  I ran past several obstacles that our course never led us to do, which was actually kind of sad because they looked fun.  Maybe I'll have to try the Iron distance next year.  Though, if it is anything like the 3 mile course, I'd rather do the Tough Mudder again.

After finishing the race, I found a friend who had also finished just ahead of me and we indulged in our free post-race tall can of Miller Lite together.  I was sad to see that the bananas and granola bars that have been offered in the past were only being given to the Iron runners.  The only other food available was for purchase.  I also never found a shower setup on the race grounds and never saw another runner who looked like they had been able to rinse off.  Maybe I just missed the hoses, but if that's the case, they were not made very accessible.

I did really like the finisher medal.  It is one of the better medals that I've gotten for a run.  Medal/bottle opener.  Not to bad!

This post sounds like I'm criticizing the Warrior Dash pretty hard, but I did have a good time.  It's always a fun run and I think they are improving this new WD location each year.  It's hard to be awesome on your first few tries at a new site.  But I was disappointed by the absence of things that I have enjoyed at WD's in the past.

I certainly plan to do the event again next year, but I will plan ahead for some of the inconveniences.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Section on a Local Trail

One of the things that excites me most is exploring new trails or new sections of trail that I have not previously run, hiked, or biked.

Yesterday, I got a huge surprise when I was running one of my "home" bike paths and discovered a brand new section of path branching off from it.  I was planning on just a short run. And I didn't know how far this new section would go or where it would end up.  But I couldn't resist checking it out even if it added more time and distance to my outing.

It turns out that it connects the Paul B Henry Thornapple Trail to what used to the the eastern most terminus of the East-West Trail in Kentwood.  I love both of these lovely paved paths, so this made me skip and squeal just a little bit.

The new section boasts smooth fresh asphalt and I'm guessing almost a half mile of wide, beautiful boardwalk elevated over the marshy ground along the power line corridor.  Super cool!  

So I turned off from the Thornapple trail, ran the new connector, and then took Kalamazoo Ave back home creating a loop of about the same distance as if I had run the Thornapple trail between 44th and 52nd as an out-and-back.

I look forward to enjoying a new route this fall and will incorporate this section into longer bike rides and runs!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Running and Hiking in Edgewood, MD

I'm travelling for work again, and as always, I've been exploring the area for great places to hike and run.  As often happens, the area immediately around my hotel is no fun for running with busy, narrow-shouldered roads.  And it has taken some effort to find accessible hiking trails nearby.

Earlier this week, I first tried to visit Harford Glen Park off of Wheel Rd west of Hwy 24, which has a nature trail circling a reservoir for a 4.5 mile route.  It is an educational organization, which is really cool.  Unfortunately, it appears to be closed when school is in session.  I drove up to the entrance to be greeted by locked gates.  So disappointing.

Then, I tried a few separate times to find the trail head in Winters Run Park.  I did finally find a trail entrance along Philadelphia Rd near Fashion Way.  The trail here is more of a mowed grassy stretch along the creek than a dirt trail.  It looks like it's main purpose is to provide access to maintenance crews along the creek.  It was neat to see bamboo growing here, but the creek was a little smelly.  I wasn't a huge fan.  However, I only went as far as the I-95 bridge, and as I look at the Google satellite view now, I see that the trail continues north into an area called Winters Run Conservation Area.  It looks like the trail is accessible from the back of a Lowe's parking lot.  I need to check that out on my next trip.

Today, I decided to visit a couple parks after eating lunch, the first of which was Edgewater Village Park off of Hwy 40 near Emmorton.  This park hosts what looks to be a nice recreational building, but the park itself is a bit run down.  There is a pond with a decaying asphalt path running around it.  There were many neighborhood kids playing in the area, but I was hoping for something more wooded.

Flowers at the edge of the pond at Edgewater Village Park

Lastly, I drove over to Leight Estuary, which is another educational organization.  It is open about 4 days a week and has several trails through the woods for walking and bird watching.  There are about 2 miles of trails in total.  I was mildly annoyed by the large number of tiny bugs that seemed to adore buzzing around my eyes, but the park was very nice and had the rougher, hiking-friendly atmosphere that I wanted.  I was also impressed that the trails were well marked with signs and blazes.  I will definitely be back to the Estuary on my next trip to Edgewood.

Yellow Loop at Leight Estuary

Pier at the end of the Blue Loop at Leight Estuary

Yellow Loop at Leight Estuary