Saturday, August 22, 2020

Crim Fitness Foundation 100K

In 1977, my grandfather founded the “Bobby Crim 10 Mile Road Race” to benefit the Special Olympics. To this day the race continues to raise money for the Crim Fitness Foundation, which now directs its efforts toward fighting the epidemic of childhood obesity and encouraging lifelong healthy habits among our youth. The race has taken place every August for the past 43 years…until this year. None of us could have foreseen the devastation and disruption that the COVID-19 crisis would bring, but it has fundamentally changed nearly every aspect of our lives. The Board of Directors, Race Committee and Race Team made the difficult decision to move this year’s Crim to a “virtual race.” The race typically draws a crowd of tens of thousands of runners and spectators, raising funds to support the Crim Fitness Foundation, showcasing Flint’s vibrant community to the world and providing a much-needed boost for downtown businesses. However, crowds of this size pose a serious health risk during a pandemic, and no race is worth risking anyone’s life.

I had the good fortune of growing up in a family that encouraged an active lifestyle, with a father who coached my youth sports teams, and a mother who made healthy, home cooked meals. I grew up in a community with an abundance of parks and trails and attended a school which offered a wide array of athletic programs. These opportunities provided me with a clear advantage, allowing me to develop lifelong healthy habits and earn an athletic scholarship to further my education. I strive every day to provide those same opportunities to my daughter, but many children aren’t so lucky. Many have parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet and, although they want to ensure their children have the tools to live a healthy lifestyle, other more pressing matters take precedence. They simply don’t have the time or resources to set a positive example through healthy diet and exercise, provide the opportunity for their kids to play youth sports, or cook nutritious dinners every night. Many school districts, especially in urban areas, have been forced to eliminate physical education and athletic opportunities due to the underfunding of our public education system, placing many children at a further disadvantage.

The Crim Fitness Foundation has worked to provide thousands of children with the knowledge and opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle through after school programs which encourage mindfulness, physical activity and nutrition education. A healthy lifestyle is a family affair, so CrimFit Adult Training Programs provide parents with guidance on their fitness journey and The Crim Fitness Foundation is continually working to ensure active families have places to enjoy the outdoors together through improving local trails and parks, as well as providing safe routes to school and bicycle-friendly streets. All these things add up to a quality of life and environment that have tangible socio-economic benefits. A healthy community encourages our youth to stay in Flint and help build our 21st century economy, as well as attracting energetic and creative people from everywhere to make Flint their home.

While this year’s HAP Virtual Crim is giving thousands of runners and walkers the opportunity to continue their commitment to the Crim, the community and their own health, the race’s lower pricing and simplification will result in a significantly reduced budget for the Crim Fitness Foundation’s many programs vital to the continued health of Flint families. The work that is funded by the annual Crim race is very important to me, which is why I have decided to run 100K (62 miles) from our state’s Capitol in Lansing to the Crim finish line in Flint to raise money for the Crim Fitness Foundation and awareness of the significant ways in which they help improve our community’s health.

The Crim believes that health and well-being is a fundamental right for everyone. Even so, today running is a privilege. I have the social and economic freedom to dedicate time each day to running, a freedom that many don’t have. Traits outside of my control allow me to run without fear - I don’t have the same worries that female runners and runners of color do when I step out the door. The ability to run ultramarathons is even more of a luxury. I seek out difficult challenges because I live a relatively comfortable life, and that is never lost on me. For many children, hardship is an inescapable reality they face daily, and I want to do what I can to level the playing field by working to provide everyone with equal opportunities. As a runner, the concept of giving everyone a fair start is important to me. Using my ability to run long distances to raise money for the Crim Fitness Foundation is one small way in which I can do that.

To learn more, visit crim.org/100k

You can also join me virtually! But don't worry, you don't have to run your 100K all at once. https://runsignup.com/Race/MI/Flint/100KforCrim

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lakelands Trail FKT

Some runners have a supercharged V8 for an aerobic engine - they burn hot and fast, their muscles gobble fuel and are able to put out a ton of power for a short period of time. That used to be me. However, as I put in more miles, I find myself running more like a Prius - quiet and efficient, able to hum along a steady pace for a very long time.

Today was my birthday and my wife said we could celebrate however I wanted, so I asked her to crew for me on a long run and she graciously agreed. I think she expected that is how I would want to celebrate. Today is also exactly one month out from the Crim Fitness Foundation 100K, where I will attempt to run from Lansing to Flint to raise $100K for the CFF, so it seemed like a perfect time to test my nutrition plan.

The Lakelands Trail is a 22 mile rail trail stretching from Stockbridge to Whitmore Lake. I ran it out-and-back for a total of 44 miles. There are quite a few easily accessible trailheads along the route for crew and I was able to see my wife 3 times along the trail (around miles 13, 21 & 31), which allowed me to travel relatively light compared to my last unsupported effort. I began at the Stockbridge trailhead shortly after 7am and carried a 10oz bottle in each hand, consuming 1,300 calories over the duration of the run. That's a few more calories than I would typically take in for a run of this distance, but I tried my best to follow my 100K nutrition plan. The route is roughly have gravel/dirt and half pavement, so road shoes worked fine.

Although this route has been on the FKT website for a while, I am the first person to attempt an out-and-back, so that record was a given. However, I was also able to set the one-way record on my way out, which was a nice surprise. Although, my one-way time is not particularly fast for obvious reasons, so I doubt it will stand for long.

It was a cool morning when I started and I was feeling good for most of the run, passing the 50K mark in 3:57, but as the day wore on the temperature rose to the upper 80's. I've been training at a pretty high volume lately so I wasn't sure how my legs would respond, but they held up well until my left hamstring began to cramp up around mile 35, I believe from dehydration. I was definitely taking in enough electrolytes, but  I was excited because I was making good time and failed to stop and drink some water at the last aid station, which was a mistake. I made a few brief stops to stretch out my hamstring and finished in 5:43:28.



Thursday, July 30, 2020

Manistee River Trail Party

While in northern Michigan, I decided to check out the "Manistee River Trail Loop" I've heard so much about. It includes a section of the North Country Trail, along with some scenic bluffs, solid climbs and beautiful views of the river. I was joined by Zach Sayre, Jonathan Alsip and Chaz Hornburg (who holds the FKT on this route).



Monday, July 20, 2020

Polly Ann Trail FKT

The Polly Ann Trail is a 37 mile trail stretching from Lake Orion in Oakland County to North Branch in Lapeer County. I attempted an "unsupported" FKT, meaning I would have to carry all of my nutrition and water because there were no viable water sources along the trail. I set off around 7am, carrying 48oz of fluid and 860 calories. The first 28 miles went very well, but the last 9 miles were like eating glass. I made the fatal mistake of failing to respect the trail. I thought, "I've ran further, I've ran more difficult trails, and I've ran in hotter conditions." But every ultra is difficult and challenging in its own way, and this trail was no different.

The first 20 miles or so were on very well groomed trails and even some pavement, which allowed me to make some good time. I passed the marathon mark in 3:15, putting me on pace to hit my goal time. However, apparently around the 28 mile mark I made a wrong turn because the trail abruptly disappeared. I checked the gps map on my watch and had to run through the woods to get back on track, crossing
two streams in the process.

I was feeling a bit defeated because I was now behind the goal pace I had set for myself, when I began the most challenging part of the trail. The last 8 miles or so consisted of unmowed and seemingly rarely traveled paths adjacent to farm fields. The grass and weeds were knee-high in most
places and there was little shade. The foliage made every step I took feel like a thousand tiny hands grabbing at my ankles and my pace slowed significantly. I ran out of water and the temperature rose to the mid-90's as the final stretch became a death march. I slowly made my way to the finish and the welcome sight of my wife with a cooler full of water and snacks, finishing in 5:11:22.





Saturday, June 20, 2020

Wadhams to Avoca Trail FKT


This is another trail that's a bit too short to be in my wheelhouse, but it ends near Lake Huron so it was a good excuse for a day at the beach with my beautiful wife. Plus, I saw a lot of rabbits on the trail, which I always enjoy


Tara dropped me off at the trailhead around 7 a.m. so I could try to beat the heat, but it was beginning to get warm by the time I finished. I ran this trail southbound, so the first 7 miles were gravel and grass before the trail turned to pavement. This route is closer to 12.5 miles than the 12 listed on the FKT website, which made for a fun surprise. There is minimal elevation change and I finished in 1:18:01. This is a "rails to trails" path and within the first few miles I crossed an old trestle bridge with a nice view of the surrounding area and a valley below. The final trailhead is about 3 miles before the actual finish, so after I finished I used the jog back to the car as a little cooldown.

I carried 8oz of Nuun Endurance and a gel, which was definitely overkill. I would typically run this distance without calories or water, but I've been training a decent amount so I wasn't confident that I have much glycogen stored up in my muscles or was properly hydrated to begin with. I wore the New Balance Fuelcell Rebels today because the outsole pattern provides a bit more grip than most road shoes, which was beneficial on the gravel.

After I finished we went to the beach for a while to cool off in Lake Huron before getting lunch in downtown Port Huron.

This is my fourth FKT in the past 14 days and the cumulative fatigue is beginning to catch up with me. It may be time to dial it back a bit for the next 3 weeks until the Dirty Burg 50K.

Monday, June 15, 2020

10x Lake Lansing Trail FKT

This is my home trail, quite literally. My house is only a few hundred meters from an auxiliary trailhead, and my childhood home is right next to a different trailhead. I grew up playing in these woods and I've logged a lot of good miles on this loop.


The Lake Lansing Trail has been a popular proving ground for local runners for decades and I recently snagged the FKT for a single loop. The "Ten Loop" variation is special because it's just slightly over a 50K, making it an ideal route for ultra runners to test their fitness. 

My Garmin is always unreliable in these trails, but according to the maps and other runners’ GPS data, this route is 33.5 miles with 1,700’ of elevation gain. I finished in 4:12:29.

During the run I took in about 750 calories and 50oz of fluid. I stopped at my car once to resupply around mile 19 and carried the GoPro for a bit.
I'm definitely still feeling the Sleepy Hollow Trail FKT I did yesterday, but I wanted to log some miles on tired legs. I was inspired by Chaz Hornburg's crazy 90 miler on the Potawatomi Trail yesterday.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Sleepy Hollow Trail FKT

This one was a family affair. Sadie and Tara played at the beach while I ran and we had a picnic when I finished. The trail was muddy and overgrown in spots, but that just added to the adventure and having my girls waiting for me at the finish made this my favorite FKT so far.

The official stats for the trail are 11.2 miles and 797' of elevation gain. I finished in 1:16:42.

This trail is notorious for flooding and the rainfall this week left it quite muddy with a few sections of standing water, but I've seen it much worse. The more challenging aspect involved the parts of the trail that were overgrown from lack of use. Sleepy Hollow State Park is typically a popular campground, but it has been closed all season due to COVID-19 and some sections of trail had narrowed considerably from overgrowth, while some parts had grass a foot high in the middle of the trail. A few trees down across the trail was evidence of less staff performing maintenance as well.

All of this combined to provide exactly the adventure I needed.

I went after a very flat, fast FKT last weekend, and I'm planning the same for next weekend, so it was good to get back to my roots with some real trail running. I'm planning to get back on the trails tomorrow for a longer effort. Logging miles on tired legs is an important part of my training.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Falling Waters Trail FKT

The lack of races has meant it's open season for FKTs.

The Falling Waters Trail is a "rails to trails" route stretching 10.5 miles from Concord to Jackson. I ran it out-and-back for a total of 21 miles in 2:16:18 to snag the speed record. The "Fastest Known Time" was previously held by Josh Sanders, a good guy and accomplished mountain runner for Salomon.

I usually seek out hilly, technical trails, but this one was flat and fast. It was a good litmus test before I begin training for my first road marathon this Fall. I began to feel the lactic acid buildup around mile 17, but I held it together enough to stay relatively close to my goal pace.

I ran this "unsupported," carrying 18oz of water (with Tailwind) and 2 gels, which seemed to be perfect. I was originally only going to take 10oz, but given the 94% humidity I called a last minute audible and I'm glad I did.

There were a few times today that I really wished I had a pack to run with so it would be easier to turn my brain off and slip into autopilot, but I suppose that's just one of the challenges of unsupported speed records.

The sun was at my back for the second half of this run, which was very beneficial because it allowed me to see my shadow. As I began to tire I could immediately see when my form started to break down (like my elbows flaring out a bit) and make the necessary adjustments.

It looks like some local 5Ks are taking place next week, so hopefully I'll have the opportunity to race again soon!

FKT Website (Falling Waters Trail)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Triple Potawatomi Trail FKT

"A Triple Poto breaks everyone... but in the end, some people are strong in the broken places."

The Potawatomi Trail is an iconic 18-mile loop in Pickney, MI (also winding its way through the town of Hell, which seems fitting) with around 2,000' of elevation gain per loop. A "Triple Potawatomi Trail" is exactly what it sounds like - 3 of these loops back to back to back. My watch lost GPS signal a few times, but still clocked it at 54.1 miles total, which includes running through a lakefront park that connects the trailheads at the start and finish.

I'm very honored to add my name to the list of runners who have held Potawatomi Trail FKTs - it has become a veritable "who's who" of Michigan endurance athletes. However, I'm not actually particularly pleased with my time - I was hoping the finish under 9 hours - but it was a good learning experience and I did what I needed to do to get the record. (Shoutout to my buddy Chaz Hornburg, a talented trail runner who held this record and will probably take it back from me.) I typically pride myself on refusing to walk during ultras (whether that's smart or not is debatable) but by the last loop I had slowed from 8:30/mile pace to 11/mile pace and was power hiking nearly every climb.

This was the warmest ultra I've run and I misjudged how much water I would need... but I learned my lesson. I ran the first lap carrying 20oz of water, the second lap with 32oz, and the third lap with 48oz. I used my car as a makeshift aid station so I was able to resupply every 18 miles and drank furiously at these stops as well. In total, I consumed about 140oz of water and 1,800 calories throughout the run. I believe that overall I drank enough water, but I just dug myself into a hole early by not drinking enough on that first lap and spent most of the next 36 miles playing catch up.

This is the second FKT I've set in the past week, so it seems like the 100+ mile weeks during "QuaranTraining" have been paying off. I've found that I typically do best in 50K trail races, but with everything cancelled I figured it's a good time to get out of my comfort zone, both on the short side (3.35 miles) and the long side (54.1 miles). Next on my "not in my comfort zone" list? Roads...


FKT Website (Potawatomi Trail)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Lake Lansing Trail FKT

This is the shortest FKT in Michigan at 3.35 miles with 176' of elevation gain. It's far too short to be in my wheelhouse, but it's a great single-track trail and I do a lot of my training here, so I gave it a shot. The previous FKT had stood for 4 years, but I barely snuck past and beat it by 10 seconds (finishing in 20:18). I'm not accustomed to these short, fast efforts and I was already feeling it after the first climb less than a mile in. I thought the record was out of reach and coasted for a bit, until some quick mental math helped me realize that I still had a shot. I was able to close with a fast last mile while avoiding stumbling on the many roots covering the trail, which is the real key to posting a fast time on this route. I'd like to try this again someday and break 20 minutes, but for now I'll go back to my preferred 30+ mile efforts.


FKT Website (Lake Lansing Trail)

Monday, February 24, 2020

Winter Loops 4hr

 Icy and muddy trails, a few falls and a devastating wrong turn in the last hour provided a good test of my grit at the Winter Loops 4hr. I clawed my way to 28.5 miles (and climbed 1,600+ feet), winning the overall title by 3 miles and setting a new course record in the process.

Sharing a 1.5 mile loop of single-track trail with 200+ runners added another challenge, as I found myself weaving in and out of other competitors for most of the race.

I'm pleased with how I responded to the challenges and I know my fitness is moving in the right direction, but I still have a lot of work to do if I want to be competitive with the pros at the Ice Age Trail 50 this May. I wasn't very happy with my training block leading up to my last 50 miler (Yankee Springs), which was condensed due to an injury, but I'm looking forward to a productive few months before Ice Age and planning to log some 100 mile weeks. I have yet to miss a podium in an ultra, and I don't plan on breaking that streak anytime soon.

Full Results

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50 Mile


My expectations are a moving target. A year ago, if you had told me I would complete a 50 mile trail race, I would have been ecstatic. Six months ago, if you had told me I would podium in my first 50 mile trail race, I would have been thrilled. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pleased with a third-place finish in the Yankee Springs Winter 50 Mile… however, it’s still the lowest I’ve placed in an ultra.

This was one of the more competitive ultras I’ve raced and took place on a fairly challenging course. The 5,142’ of elevation gain and loss punished those who weren't prepared and some of the rocky descents were perilous. The trail claimed it’s share of victims and the finish rate was around 60%. Many of those who dropped out were just worn down by the distance and terrain, but a fair number were very strong runners who went out too hard in an attempt to remain competitive in a fast field and it cost them.

I went out with 8 minute miles for the first 5k to establish myself near the front of the pack, but then quickly settled into a more methodical pace. I crossed the 19 mile mark in 5th place, averaging just under 8:30/mile. I was feeling fatigued far earlier than I expected so I was very happy to pick up my first pacer, Mark Ott. Mark has a ton of ultra experience and some very impressive 100 mile wins to his name, so I knew I was in good hands. He quickly assessed my condition based on my stride, calorie and water intake, and a few brief questions about how I felt. He set a pace that pushed me but wouldn’t break me and stayed about 5 yards in front of me, pulling me along. I had consumed less than 16oz of liquid during those first 19 miles, which Mark immediately recognized would be an issue later in the race if we didn’t adjust quickly. His periodic barks of “Drink!” kept me hydrated and I downed 50oz over the next 15 miles. As we hammered up some of the steeper climbs Mark offered reminders to pump my arms, and as we crashed down the hills he pointed out loose rocks and roots to avoid. We bounced between 4th and 5th place for a while before some of the leaders began to pay for their fast start as their legs failed them. When our time together ended 34.5 miles into the race, I was in 3rd place.


With 15.5 miles to go I picked up my final pacer, Ben Pankow. While Mark excelled at ensuring my body remained in working order, Ben did the same for my psyche. Ben was a standout runner for Williamston and CMU, an accomplished coach and is a very good friend. As much as he ensured I maintained a good pace and form (I heard "shorten your stride" and "relax your shoulders" more times than I could count), most of his duties involved supporting me mentally and encouraging a positive attitude. Around mile 36 I was struggling up a long climb when I ground out a hoarse “Ben…” between audible breaths. He turned around, and seeing the look on my face offered a soothing, “I know, buddy… I know.” He alternated between understanding and encouraging, and at times provided some much-needed tough love (as you can see in the video of my finish below, with Ben in the blue jacket breathing down my neck).





A race like this is a team effort, and I’m lucky to have an awesome team. Thank you to my crew (my dad, stepmom and beautiful wife), my pacers, my mom and stepdad for watching my daughter so we could stay in a cabin at the trailhead, and the volunteers and staff at Switchback Endurance for putting on a great race.


All in all, this was a good start to the 2020 season and I’m eager to continue pushing my limits. Congratulations to the champion Steve Lawrence and runner-up Chaz Hornberg. Next up: Winter Loops 4hr!

Full Results