Latest reviews by Mark Davidhizar

(2018)
"Beautiful course along Lake Michigan "
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Last weekend, Tina and I made the trip up to Holland, MI for the 5th annual Holland Haven Marathon. This was our first time running this race, and first time ever visiting Holland.  As many times as I have been in the Holland area, I always just seem to drive on by.  We sent 2 nights in Holland, arriving on Friday and leaving after the marathon on Sunday.  For it being only 2 hours from home, we have been missing quiet a bit.  Its a small town but has a lot to offer.  There are many shops in down town along with restaurants and bars.   Starting in early spring and ending in the fall, every Saturday there is a farmers market with many vendors. Not far outside of town is the Lake Michigan shore and Holland State Park.  If you like in the Midwest and looking for a great place to visit along Lake Michigan, Holland is a great option.  If you come, bring your bike.  There are bike paths all over the place.
The race was held on Sunday, September 9th, just a day before the start of Boston Marathon registration.  So really, this is one of your last chances to run a BQ before registration opens up.  You could gamble and try to find a marathon the following weekend, but it is a possibility that Boston could be filled by then.  From what I heard, registrations were the largest of any year the race has been held.
Packet pickup was located at the down town Marriot Hotel.  It was quick and easy.  No expo.  Just go in, give them your bib number, get your bib and shirt, and you are done. less than 5 minutes and were back to your hotel room.
The course starts outside of Grand Haven at a local Elementary School and runs along the shores of Lake Michigan to Holland.  While I say that it runs along the shore, it does get pretty close, but you really do not get very many views of the lake from the course.  There are houses and tress on both sides of the course which blocks your view of the lake.  While you don't get a view of the lake from the course, consider it a blessing because there is some blockage from the wind if it were to be strong. The whole course, except for the last half mile, was run on a bike path.  Rolling hills are a common theme for the first half of the course with a mostly flat course the second half. Some miles early on were tougher than others.  Miles 7-9 were probably the toughest on the course but really still no where near as bad as in other courses that I have ran on.

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(2018)
"How Far Is 10 Nautical Miles???"
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Who has heard of running 10 nautical miles?  Who knew that there was a difference between a nautical mile and a regular mile?  The Fort 2 Base race features 2 race distances, 10 and 3 nautical miles.  I am not 100% on what the the exact distance of a 10 nautical mile race equates to in real miles, but it is over 11 miles.  Anyways, 2018 marked my first time running the Fort2Base run, and given that it is the first time that I have heard of a race using nautical miles, this would be a new distance PR.

Registration opens at on January 1st.  Fees to register started off at $40 for the 10 nautical mile race and go up to $90 race weekend.  For the 3Nautical mile race, fees started at $25 and went up to $45 on race weekend.  There was also discounts for active military, veterans, and dependents. 


Packet pickup was held in four different locations in the week leading up to race day in the Chicago area.  You could also pay an extra $10 when you registered to have your packet ready for you on race day.  If you were staying at the host hotel, you could also have your packet waiting for you when you checked in at no additional cost.  


The race is a point to point race, starting just south of Fort Sheridan, running around the neighborhood where military families from all branches live, around the parade grounds, and then from miles 3.25 to  about mile 9 was on mostly shaded bike paths.  The course finished at Foss Park  just North of the Naval Station Great Lakes. The course is supposed to measure 11.5 miles (roughly) but when I ran, my Garmin measured 11.22 miles.  I went back and looked at the course map and it looks like everyone missed a small loop a the beginning of the race. Which makes sense why the mile markers were off so early from the start of the race.  But no matter, it was a great course.  I enjoy running around the parade grounds as well as on the bike paths.  There was a couple of less scenic portions to the course, but I believe that you will have that at about any race, especially the longer distances.  
This was also the first year, I believe, for this race not to finish on the Naval Base. We did get an explanation that it was because a new Commanding Officer began his service on the Base this past June and there were also some security issues (a bus driving to the wrong part of the base) last year during the race.  Due to this, the race was asked not to finish on the Base this year.  It sounds really promising however, that the race will probably finish on the base in 2019 (fingers crossed). 
With this being a  point to point course, runners are bused out to the starting line.  The buses run run 5:00-6:15.  The race starts at 7:00.  I felt this information was very well publicized by email, social media, and on their website.  But as you can imagine, obviously some did not read the information and were late getting to the buses.  The race was delayed by a few minutes.  The race director thanked all who were present on time for the buses  for reading the information and doing as they were asked.  She didn't sugar coat her frustration of the other runners, and I do not blame her at all. 


If SWAG is your thing, then Fort 2 Base has you covered.  Let start with what you get at packet pickup.  First, they give you a pretty sweet 1/4 zip long sleeve shirt.  On a day like race day, its not a shirt you are going to wear right away.  But come fall, it will become one of my favorites for sure! Also, in the race bag was a nice luggage tag to put on your bags next time you travel.  Obviously the shirt is more appreciative, but also the little useful things are nice to get as well. 
Also when you think of SWAG and what a lot of runners want after they finish a tough race is a finishers medal.  This year, is the first year of a 3 year medal series.  this years medal features the tower at Fort Sheridan which runners ran by in the first couple miles of the race when going around the parade grounds. Next year will be the tower from the naval base.  The third year will feature a ring with a star and anchor on it.  All three medals will stack on top of each other.  


Awards were given to the top 3 overall in each race (male and female) as well as top 3 in each age division.  I honestly do not know what was given to the overall winners since I missed that part of the awards presentation, but the age group awards were a coffee mug with the race logo on it and said "Age Group winner."  I appreciate when a race gives an award other than a trophy or a medal, but instead gives something that is useful like a mug.  


A couple recommendations for runners if you are thinking about running the Fort 2 Base in 2019.  First off, if you are thinking about running it, do it.  Its a great race.  Yeah the distance is different than usual but its a great, well run event.  If you are traveling from out of town, stay at the host hotel.  It was no more than a 10 minute drive from when you load to get onto the buses to get to the starting line. Plus, if you want, the hotel will provide a shuttle of their own, to the buses.  The hotel was also very welcoming.
The aid stations at the course were also great and very supportive.  There was water and Gatorade at all the aid stations.  I don't believe that Gatorade was supposed to be at every station but with the heat on race morning, they made sure every runner had what they needed. The volunteers and course marshals were great as well.  Law enforcement was also at every street crossing ensuring runners safety as well. 


This race is awesome.  I know that a lot of people were upset when it could not finish on the Naval Base, and maybe I would have been disappointed to had I ran this race before, but I thought it was a great event.  The volunteers, as stated earlier, were awesome.  As you finished the race, you were greeted by members of the Navy along the course and soldiers were there to give you your finishers medal.  Proceeds for this race went to the USO and the Navy Ball.  I believe that it changes from year to year where the funds go, but it goes back to the military in some fashion every year. If you are thinking of running it and are disappointed that you will not be able to complete the 3 year medal series, don't let that stop you.  All three medals make a great stand alone medal as well.  Registration will open January 1st, 2019.

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(2018)
"Improvements are being made. "
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This is the the I believe 5th year in a row (Maybe its more than 5, I am not sure any more) that I have run the Elkhart County Fair Parade 5000. Typically on race day, it is a bright sunny day with temps in the 90’s. Which typically is my go to excuse for why I never run well in this race. But this year was different. Temps were in the mid 70s, with some sun and a threat of rain. Now mid 70s isn’t exactly cool for running, but it does lessen the impact of my excuse and for this race, is really great weather.
This race is run along the parade rout for the Elkhart County 4H fair so there are a lot of people along the course watching. The race is limited to 400 people, and this year, the number of registered runners did not hit that number. I am not sure as to why as the weather was as good as it will ever be. The race is also held on the first Sunday of the fair and starts roughly at 1:20pm (notice I said roughly, more on that later). You have to go to the fair grounds before the race, pick up your bib and shirt, and then either do a warm up to the start line which is probably a 2-2.5 mile run from the fair grounds, or you can take the shuttle bus.
As I mentioned, the race is scheduled to start at 1:20, or as soon as the roads are clear, and this includes trains. We are allowed to line up about 5-10 minutes before the race starts. And we wait, and wait, and wait. Finally we get word that we are waiting for a train to pass by. The race route crosses 2 sets of railroad tracks. I have been stopped at both sets of tracks in races in the past. The train we were waiting on was on the first set of tracks. So once that one goes by, we should be all set to go. Once they get the all clear, the race begins.
At about the 3/4 of a mile point, I heard the dreaded noise none of us wants to hear at this race, the train horn. Yep, another train. Goshen, where this race is held, is known for its trains. They just built a overpass to get over these tracks, but the course does not go on the overpass for whatever reason. It would be a nasty hill for a 5k race, but still better than having to stop.
Once we entered the Horse track, we had to run passed the finish line and then run a full lap around. By the time we were passed the finish line, it felt like my shoes weighed 5 pounds heavier. it was getting tough. I ran the third mile in 6:41. There was just no traction on the track.
Overall, the race was handled well. They have tried many times over the years to work with the trains to get them not to cross during the race, but they simply don’t care and just carry on with their business. Maybe the fair will decide to use the over pass in the future but I kind of doubt that will happen.

The race, for the second year in a row, gave out tech shirts to all participants. This is an improvement from the cotton shirts of the passed and the logos are looking better than in the past as well.
The one thing they need to work on is the awards. I now have the same small, cheap medal for the past 3 years. very generic. But for $25 registration fee, I cant complaint too much. Also, if you want to run this race in the future, pre register for the race. there is no race day registration.
One other thing they did differently this year was pull bandits off the starting line and off the course. This years bib was plain white with black numbers. First time they actually went with this. I did witness the race director kicking out a group of 5 or 6 runners who had what looked like past years bibs with the timing company logo on it. Some other runners told me they witnessed more of this before the race started. Nice to see races taking action.

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(2018)
"5th time running this race. Will keep coming back"
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I have run the Randy Miner Memorial Run in all 5 years of its existence since being brought back after probably 20 years of it being away.  Back in the days of me being in middle school (Yes, it has been that long ago), the Etna Green County Run was held on the morning of the 4th of July every year.  The race was organized by a distant relative of mine, Randy Miner (I believe he was my mom's cousin, not sure what the correct relationship is to me). Then, in 2014 (I Think), my friend Todd Hoffer, who has always looked up to Randy Miner, brought the run back a few years after Randy passed away.
Since Todd has brought the race back, the race has been held on the second Saturday of June in the afternoon (as much as I continue to try to convince him to move it to the mornings).  His reasoning is sound, as there are quiet a few other local races in the morning, and it gives runners the rare opportunity to do 2 races in one day.  But man, the heat can be a killer.  He have seen the heat index near 100 degrees in past years.  This year, on the way to the race is the small town of Etna Green (Can you even call it a town?) I thought maybe for a change we were going to catch a break in the weather.  It was over cast the whole drive there and the temps were in the low 70s.
The four mile run started at 5:00.  There was a nice breeze coming out of the west, so the wind would be in our face for the first half, which in with the summer heat, I didn't mind at all. 
The course is 4 mile loop in the country, so don’t expect any shade but it is s true Indiana country run.
If you need a reason at this race to stick around for all the awards to be handed out, its for the door prizes.  The grand prize every year has been a 50 inch flat screen TV.
While this race is hot every year, the local running community shows up for it.  Probably becasue of the man who puts it together.  Basically the money that comes in from the race, goes right back into the race.  Todd is always trying to build the running community in whatever way he can while remembering his friend Randy Miner.  Its not the biggest race you will ever run in, but it is the biggest little race you will run in. Todd also spends a lot of time creating his own overall awards for all races.

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(2018)
"New Course, Faster times "
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This year, they moved the race back from mid April to late March to hope for cooler weather. In mid April in Indiana, the weather can get a little too warm. I ran the marathon in 2016 and I was able to run a course PR of 3:02:12 but it got warm that day and could have probably gone sub 3 on a better weather day. So for 2018, the race was moved to March 31st. To mark the occasion, registration fee for the first few days of registration was $31 for either the marathon or half marathon.
For the first year, the expo was held at Carmel High School Field House. There was enough space for bib pickup and the vendors who was present. It did seem bigger than at previous locations.
one of the interesting things that Carmel did this year was they took your goal time that you submitted when you registered, and made you a custom pace band that you could put on your wrist during the race. The swag for this years race featured a good looking race shirt as well as a sweet finishers medal.
This was also the first year of a new course for this race and I really liked it. I thought it was better than years past and if you avoided a lot of serious weaving, you should be able to run pretty close to the exact distance. Race date for next years race is March 30, 2019. Registration has not been opened yet but I look forward to seeing if they offer a similar discount as they did for this years race. If so, look for me to sign up for the full marathon in 2019. The earlier race date worked out well this year as temps were perfect for a marathon, cool but windy as well. Everything with the race went off without any problems and the changes that were made were awesome. Look forward to coming back in the future.

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