Monday, March 4, 2019

Race Report: Glass City Marathon

I had a super early Saturday morning flight leaving at 6am, so after a 4:30 wakeup call, I grabbed my bags and headed out the door in an Uber headed for LaGuardia. There was a bit of traffic upon reaching the airport (much of the LaGuardia redevelopment work happens overnight, as to not disrupt regular traffic to and from terminals, and at 5am, it was winding down but minorly affecting the first flights of the day), but got into Terminal D with little hiccup.  Thanks to my TSA Pre and CLEAR benefits, I was through security quickly, and beelined straight to the gate, where I immediately boarded into First Class and promptly conked out for the flight to catch a few more z's!

With my old college buddies!
We arrived in Detroit at around 7:30 and with no real plans in place for another couple hours, I decided to stop into the Delta Sky Club to grab a quick bite to eat just to satiate my hunger, as well as wake up a little with a cup o' joe, before grabbing a shuttle to Hertz to get my rental car.  My plans for the day began in the Downriver town of Trenton, Michigan, where I would meet up with two friends from architecture school, both of whom I hadn't seen in about twelve years! It was great catching up with Kathleen, now an urban planner like me working in the Detroit Metro area, and Diana, a new mom and an architect with a firm also in the Detroit Metro area.

At the expo (Photo by Aaron Haydu)
After brunch (and several cups of coffee), I headed down across Michigan's southern border into Ohio, and straight into Toledo to pick up my bib for the Glass City Marathon at Savage Hall Arena on the campus of the University of Toledo. I would also meet with Aaron Haydu, Marketing and Communications Director for the marathon, as well as Clint McCormick, the race director, who I've been in touch with to secure the national anthem gig for the race. I'd get the lowdown on the logistics for race morning, as well as get a photo that would be posted on social media by Aaron later in the day in anticipation of my anthem sing on race morning.  I then checked into my hotel near Toledo's airport, while I waited for my friend Seth to arrive later that evening before heading to bed as we were waking at 5am on Sunday morning.

The startline!
Race morning was much like any other normal race morning; after begrudgingly getting myself up, changed, and out the door, we drove to campus and parked in the suggested parking lots nearest to the startline. We were out the door about 5:30/5:45, and situated on campus by 6; I decided to stay inside my car to keep warm until 6:30 when I joined other runners moving en masse toward the start area beside the university's Rocket Hall.  I made myself known to the announcer at the start stage while slowly getting used to the chilly 36ยบ temperature.  The sun wasn't fully up yet, but when it was, the temps would slowly rise throughout the day.  A little bit of delay led up to the convocation by a representative from lead sponsor Mercy Health Systems, then the Canadian national anthem sung by two young kids.  Then it was my turn.  With "and the home of the brave" reverberating through the speakers on the campus, I was able to complete my 44th state for national anthems!  After singing, I came off the stage and headed into the corrals to get myself ready for the race.

Running past the U of Toledo sign
We were already delayed about six minutes before we were all set to go, and supposedly, tradition has had the Mercy Health Life Flight helicopter fly overhead to signal the start of the race, but unfortunately, three private airplanes advertisers had decided to circle the area, marring this fun tradition.  I eventually made my way across the start mat, heading south along the slightly uphill Secor Road, before turning left onto Dorr Street, and left again past the University of Toledo sign at Douglas Road.  We were essentially covering the west, south, and east boundaries of the university over the first couple miles.

Sun rising over Dorr Street
Ohio Corgi!
We then turned left along Kenwood Boulevard, a nicely manicured residential road separated by a grassy median, in the neighborhood of Ottawa in western Toledo.  Here, about 2 1/2 miles into the race, I spotted a corgi out of the corner of my eye, and of course stopped to snap a selfie.  Hank would be my first corgi in the state of Ohio!  As we continued to travel west, we began to run into the village of Ottawa Hills, a fairly affluent bedroom suburb of Toledo.  We were surrounded by beautiful homes as we made our way through the neighborhood, turning left past the corner of Evergreen Road and Indian Road, seeing some faster runners turning the corner from the other direction.  We'd complete a 1.3 mile loop around to Brookside Road, taking us past lots of cheering spectators, including a guy gleefully playing organ music on his electronic keyboard. By the time we came back to the corner of Evergreen and Indian, we were 5 miles into the race.

Running along Kenwood Boulevard

Ottawa Hills
We followed Indian Road headed northwestward, until veering left along Forestview Drive deep into the heart of Ottawa Hills. The route following the winding residential path snaking us all around the neighborhood.  The half marathoners had been running alongside the marathoners up until the 8 mile mark.  Here, as signs directed marathoners to stay to the right and half marathoners to the left, I joked with runners that they should join us for another 18 miles... that it was their last chance to come enjoy some more miles, it'd be more fun!  Immediately, as we turned right, the course became much more lonely, as we weaved our way out of the residential neighborhood.  By the time we exited the village of Ottawa Hills, past Central Avenue, we had already run 8.5 miles of the race.

Wildwood Manor House
After crossing Central Avenue, we entered Wildwood Preserve Metropark, one of the twelve parks organized as part of the Toledo Metroparks.  The nature reserve was previously a family estate of Robert A. Stranahan, and in the 1970s, it was bought by the Metroparks system. We followed the path that wove through the bare trees, along what's known in this park as the Brown Trail, and running past the Wildwood Manor House, the 1938 home of the original owners, the Stranahans. The Georgian colonial style home is partially open to the public for free tours, while other buildings on the property are used as public restrooms, visitors centers, and offices.  As we ran past the house, and along a path demarcated alongside some metal barricades, I began to hear honking behind me, and it turns out, the marathon leaders were running hot through the preserve, along the trail that would actually be run on twice during the race.  The crazy part though - I was at the 9.5 mile mark of the race, while the extremely fast marathon leaders were 21 miles in!  The winner of the marathon would later set a blazing fast course record of 2:20:58!

The University Parks Trail
After hitting the 10 mile mark, we reached a point where a course marshal (who I'd later realize was my friend Laura, who I met in New Mexico back in September 2017) directed runners on their first loop to turn right, while runners on their second loop would turn left.  We'd then follow the University Parks Trail, an asphalt running and biking path, westward for the next 2.5 miles as we ran into Sylvania Township.  Along the way, we'd pass underneath I-475. I would end up running and leapfrogging alongside Susan, a runner from Toronto, over the next four miles, while she completed her 15 minute/1 minute intervals, and I did my 9 minute/1 minute intervals, at roughly similar paces.  It was nice to keep up a somewhat conversational pace while we soldiered on along this somewhat monotonous trail; it was nice, but not as pretty as the Monon Greenway in Carmel, Indiana (which I had run along a month earlier) in my opinion.

Entering Sylvania
Fun decorations along the course
We turned right off of the trail onto King Road, where we'd run along the right shoulder of the road, headed northward into the city of Sylvania.  I'd hit the halfway point of my race along King Road, reaching it in about 2:33.  Just after mile 14, we turned right onto Brint Drive, and here, I met Toni, from nearby Perrysburg, Ohio.  A seasoned ultra runner, we enjoyed each others company as we ra the next three miles together.  The course took us right along Woodland and Weldwood Lanes, past a funny front lawn decoration of skeletons "cheering" us runners on (including one who "didn't make it," per a poster next to the sprawled out skeleton figure) before following Vicksburg Drive southward (while seeing runners making their way around Olander Park next door).

Olander Park and its pond
We turned left onto W Sylvania Avenue and then into Olander Park to make a roughly 1.1 mile loop around its massive pond.  16 miles into the race, and my knees were definitely hurting, so much of this loop around the pond was walked.  Plus, we had to dodge some geese poop, evident from the large amount of them that made the pond their home.  The park is also the site of a 24 hour ultra marathon that happens over Labor Day weekend every year.  Before leaving the park, I made a stop to grab a selfie at the statue of Sy Mah, a Toledo runner who once held the world record for most marathons run at the time of his death in 1988.

The Sy Mah statue at Olander Park
Running through Wildwood Preserve
As we made our way out of the park, we turned left again onto Sylvania Avenue, and were met with some of the strongest winds of the day.  Basically, the next 2.5 miles were miserable, with the wind not letting up as we ran straight into the headwind coming from the east.  The views were also kind of boring, as we ran at first along the shoulder of what seems to be a busy road, before coming up onto the sidewalk.  At about 19.25 miles in, we made a right turn onto Corey Road, getting a little relief from the wind. It still blew, but while the wind wasn't as bad, I knew we were finally about to get some real relief from it as we made our way back through the Wildwood Preserve for the second time.  We ran along the Springbrook Regional Bikeway Connector along a nice wooden bridge over the Ottawa River and back onto the Brown Trail, as we retraced the paths we had run on some 2 1/2 hours earlier!

We exited the Wildwoods at around the 21.5 mile mark, and proceeded to run along the University Parks Trail once again, but in the opposite direction, having turned left this time.  But that turn also meant running right back into that wind that plagued me for those miserable 2.5 miles along Sylvania Avenue, following this fairly lonely path all the way back to the University of Toledo campus.  Clint had warned me that this was probably going to be the most frustrating part of the whole race, and he was right - it was probably just as bad as the Sylvania Road section, but seemingly much more lonely, as we were coming to the closing miles of the race.

Only 1.2 miles left to go!
We re-entered campus just before the 25 mile mark, with the winds gusting harder.  We wound our way through the campus, along sidewalks and through parking lots, eventually making our way to the Glass Bowl Stadium, which we could hear since the 24 mile mark.  I gunned it as we made the final stretch toward the stadium, then ran on the astroturf past the finish line at the 50 yard line to the cheers of spectators and runners alike as my name was announced, marking my fourth finish on a football stadium field (after Lincoln, Knoxville, and the Freedom's Run - not counting Green Bay, even though we did run around the warming track before the finish out in the parking lot) I crossed in 5:33:08, with my legs in a lot of pain, but I did it, checking off Ohio as my 44th state in the process!

Coming in to the finish! (Photo by Seth Kramer)
Victory Headstand inside Glass Bowl Stadium!
Hungarian Style Hot Dog lunch!
Seth was there at the finish to grab a photo of me finishing, and also did the honors of taking my headstand photo; we also got to see the finish of fellow 50 stater Karen finish her actual 50th state race, before we quickly made our way out of campus back to the hotel to take much needed showers and before our allowed 2pm late check out.  Seth and I parted ways, while I took my time to figure out my plans for the rest of the day as I wasn't flying out of Detroit until 8pm; I grabbed a late lunch at popular Toledo restaurant Tony Packo's to have their famous Hungarian-style hot dog, then drove up to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

My alma mater.. U of M!
I lived in Ann Arbor from 2002 to 2006, and going up to Ann Arbor, where I got to reminisce about my time on campus during my undergraduate years, was a lot of fun - SO much has changed since I graduated!  I made sure to check out as much as I could - the "Diag" on Central Campus; South University, where I lived for two years; and the Architecture school building, which recently had a new addition built onto it - before ensuring I had enough time to grab gas and make the half hour drive to the airport; I made it just in time as our flight began to board, and I headed home content, finishing yet another state on both my national anthem and marathon quest!

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