By: Zach Ripley
Make Memories with Others
Before diving into this, I must reflect on something I have found to be of incomparable worth in every stage and aspect of my running journey (enter awkward middle school years reference).
Every experience is better when shared with people I know and love.
I’m obviously not the first person to realize this (running groups, teams, clubs, etc.). But what I have realized is that I don’t always make this happen, and I really should.
Three aspects of the community runner concept I’m articulating come to mind right away.
- Make it a family thing. In this case (Bayshore), my family (Andi’s parents, siblings, and all the accompanying little ones) vacations in or near Traverse City every year for the Memorial Day holiday, and many of us run some event or another at Bayshore (this time: George, mom (Robin), Sage, and myself all ran the half; Doni ran the 10k… and Andi would have run the half but for the injuries this spring). We have a blast with this. Other family members often come out to watch (if they can get the little ones up in time), and everyone is instrumental in making the day work (thanks, Caleb and dad, for holding down the fort and remaining kids!).
2. Anticipate friendly rivalries or competition. Hats off to Matt Melvin for making it a race despite aggressive tactics on my part (more on this later) and less than ideal circumstances. Ahead of time, I knew Matt would be in the race, and having competed previously (he also runs with some of the crew I used to race with at Playmakers!), I looked forward to the contest. This concept has been elevated by the near-saturation of Strava (you can find me under “Zach Ripley”) in the running world, something I quite enjoy because it helps me stay connected to my acquaintances and friends in the running world.
3. Do the running thing with others. Even outside of competition, and however frequent or occasional, connecting with other runners has a huge positive impact. For me, this falls mostly in the digital sphere (Strava, again) simply because my schedule makes running with others a bit tricky (I log most of my mileage starting between 5:30-6:00am and don’t leave myself much time for anything else in the morning). Still, some of my most memorable running moments were everyday runs with old friends or new running pals. (Couple more shout-outs here: Dave DeVries, Pete Mumbower, Griffin Bohannon, Morsi Rayyan, Jamal Ismail… so many more!)
The key, in my mind, is to make the running experience a community thing as much as possible. In my own experience and in that of a great many others, I have observed the powerful motivation, encouragement, and inspiration that results.
Now, back to Bayshore…
I do mind the rain after all.
That’s the last time I say out loud before a race, “I don’t mind a little rain.” Seriously. Never doing that again.
It was silly, in fact, how the weather went down. You see, when running the Bayshore Half Marathon, it is important to remember that the race is point-to-point and requires shuttling to the start in a bunch of school buses. Once at the start, you do what you gotta do before checking your bag and hitting the line.
No problem. Now insert the rain.
That shuttle bus thing? 3,500 runners all have to do it. So it takes a bit. All of that bit is spent waiting in line. With no umbrella (unless you’re George. Good thinking, George).
Then, of course, there is the harrowing 12 minutes on an old school bus so fogged up that you can actually taste coffee and Gatorade when you breath it in. Also, the bus driver can’t see. It’s not really a big deal, so long as he avoids driving into the lake on the one side or off the clifflike trench on the other.
Don’t forget that when you get off the bus, it’s still raining, and now you have to wait in yet another long line for a jon.
By the time I actually got to the start of the race, I had about 17 different notes to self ready to post.
All that aside, the race itself was quite sporting, though, so let me dig into it a bit.
I will always reiterate the importance of knowing the race you are running. For me, this involves some amount of scoping the competition (yes, Matt, even without an elite athlete bio). It also involves some race-time tactical choices if I am not confident from other sources about what to expect. More on that later, though.
My intent for this race was to run hard and win, assuming the running hard part worked and the competition did not run harder and win better.
It’s actually a fact that very rarely do I ever race with a goal time or goal pace. Aside from marathons (because it would be stupid NOT to have a plan for pace/time) and qualifying events, I run simply by effort and contest.
If you are familiar, the Bayshore Half starts on a 4% incline (appropriately, the road is Devil’s Dive). That incline is sustained, more or less, for one mile. For me, that was a perfect opportunity to implement my tactical evaluation strategy. I held back up the hill and just watched the other runners to see what would manifest.
Once over the hill, I had a good idea about who was hoping to contest the victory and used the downhill that followed (once again, about 4% grade for nearly a mile) to overtake the leaders and test the group. When possible, a downhill is a great opportunity for a little pressure on the pace because the return is far greater than the cost (as long as it is not so crazy that you are losing control).
The race very quickly turned into a duel with Matt Melvin, but he started fading around halfway (and later told me that his body wouldn’t respond to his attempts to keep the pressure). He still ended up second with a few minutes on third, salvaging a strong effort despite having to relinquish the victory.
From that point, it was a solo effort and an exercise in focus for me.
Everyone loves this course!
Setting multiple events to run on the same course at the same time is quite exciting. And it’s terribly inconvenient (for all the runners). Bayshore does that thing where multiple races finish simultaneously AND run the same final few miles (full, half, and 10k all run the same last 5k and finish).
Depending on the timing, that can be brutal. It meant that I (and reportedly several of the other half marathoners) spent a good amount of time weaving and dodging other runners. Admittedly, part of me enjoys that because it makes for an exciting twist to the final miles. However, it is horrible for the runner trying to hit a big PR or actually racing other runners.
If Matt had been with me still at that moment, things might have gotten dangerous. Think Lion King in that scene when Mufasa is rescuing Simba from the stampede.
Otherwise, the Bayshore races may very well be run on one of the most beautiful courses on the planet. The winding road with gentle slopes and intermittent views of Lake Michigan are amazing. It’s no surprise so many do run PRs there, especially in the marathon.
Do as I say, not as I do…
It should be noted here that my recent half marathon racing is exactly the opposite of what I would have recommended were I to have asked myself for advice on the matter. I’m on the return from a significant bout of training disruptions and nowhere near base levels of mileage, long runs, and workouts. To anyone in the period of rebuilding after injury or even just some general time off, avoid significant hard efforts.
That said, both of these races (take a look at the Flying Pig post from a couple weeks ago) were commitments made long before the fall/winter injury spree. Otherwise, I would never have done it.
So next up for me? A heavy block of some old-fashioned base training for at least 8-10 weeks before I start trying to scratch the racing itch again. I might hop into some things a couple times this summer, but the focus is now on the fall and, yes, another full marathon. It’s been 3 years, so some of the scars have faded and most of the wounds have healed.
Here’s to a healthy push toward the 2019 Chicago Marathon!
Also, we are interested in knowing whether you want occasional updates along the way. Interested in what Zach does for training? How he approaches workouts or long runs or recovery efforts? What he does to stay healthy or maintain general strength and mobility? Curious about any of the low profile races he jumps into? Share in the comments or hit us up on our social media! (Same goes for Andi! Let us know what you would like to see more.)