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  • Why all runners should also be trail runners

    By Trevor Wood, Assistant Merchandise Manager

    As a runner, I want to do the best that I can whenever I race. How do I do that? Not only would I advise joining a training group or social running group, but I would suggest cross training, as it can only benefit you. People have this stigma that if you do other activities you may injure yourself along the way and ruin your running plan for that season. There is a slight chance, but if you’re smart about it you’ll only make yourself stronger. Plus, it’s a change of scenery (literally) and it works different muscles throughout your whole body!

    So what am I talking about? Well, I can go into the swimming, bicycling or crossfit/bootcamps of the world, but today I want to discuss running through the woods. Yup. Trees, fields, dirt, mud pits, bogs, gravel roads, all of the above. Trail running is not only a great workout, it can be a great stress reliever as you’re putting yourself into a different mindset. You have to pay attention to where you are placing your foot, but you’re also allowing your mind to be in tune with the environment around you. You can start to feel the breeze on your skin or the sunshine hitting your face. Heck, if it’s raining and there’s enough tree cover, you might just find a dry path to run on!


    I know, running trails might take some getting used to but once you do, you realize you can achieve anything. The constant climbs and descents with a flat path in between keeps your legs guessing at how they’re going to get worked out that day. You might decide to walk up the hills, and that’s okay. Either way, your legs are now having to utilize energy differently than they would on the asphalt. Which brings me to another point, the force your body experiences is lessened when running on softer ground! Guess what joints? You might like your runner’s body more after a few miles on dirt than you would after running on asphalt.

    Plus, here in Michigan in the fall and winter we have some pretty inclimate weather so it might be cold and wet, so what’s a good solution for those situations? GORE-TEX®! Here’s a brief blurb about this amazing product: GORE-TEX® products are durably waterproof and windproof combined with optimized breathability. So you can muster up the courage to run through puddles, and if it’s raining your feet will stay dry. This is perfect for trail running since the ground may be wet.

    If you are working up the courage to do a trail run, I encourage you to attend one of Gazelle Sports’ Dirty Herd runs which typically meet on the weekends. They are helpful to beginner trail runners and can offer some challenges to more advanced trail runners. Who knows, maybe you’ll love trails so much you’ll turn into one of those people who run races farther than a marathon… an ultra marathoner! Anyone want to do a 100 miler with me?

    Learn more here >>

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  • Learn to be your own cheerleader

    The Gazelle Sports Activator Blog Series is written by a group of passionate individuals, willing and eager to share their personal stories of trial and triumph. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is filled with ups and downs, lessons learned, successes and failures. Get to know them as they share their journeys—you might learn something new!

    By Eva Reiter

    In today’s post, I’d like to talk a little about the impact of using positive language during a run.

    When I began my distance running journey in 2012, and even now as I continue to grow in my training, I’ve learned something that can benefit many of us: when it comes to running, positive self-talk is crucial for success! I recently ran the annual LMFCU Bridge Run 10mile race in Grand Rapids with a long-time friend and running buddy, Amanda. Around the seven-mile mark, we started to feel the impact of the warm weather and our quicker pace during the last few miles.

    Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 3.57.16 PM

    So, we did something that shows just how useful of a tool positive self-talk can be during a rough run: we began to concentrate on positives in order to make the run more tolerable. We started by talking about all the people we run for (i.e., in their honor, because of the positive impact they’ve had in our lives, etc.) and ended up transitioning into all the times we had survived three-mile runs even when the cards were stacked against us. Some examples included when we had run in single-digit temperatures and when we completed a run after long shifts at work. I’m sure everyone around us thought we were totally nuts, but all this goodness worked! The last three miles of the race were not a PR for either of us, but we did survive it.

    The moral of this story is that positive self-talk is a free and easy way of enhancing your running adventures. We all have tough runs, but when it comes down to it, the way we cope with the rough moments are a true testament to our emotional and physical endurance. Keep in mind, as well, that positive talk isn’t just something you should do for yourself. If you run with a partner or group, encouraging others during the race and celebrating their participation is huge.

    So what’s my challenge to you? Start bringing intention to your self-talk practice and think about how your language can impact not only your performance, but the performance of those around you as well. What can you do to pump yourself, and those around you, up? Positive energy is infectious, so spread the love and enjoy the results!

    My name is Eva and I will be one of your friendly neighborhood Gazelle Sports Activators for roughly the next year. When I’m not marauding through the streets of Grand Rapids in obnoxiously bright high-vis gear that could melt the retinas of Medusa herself, I’m a just a “normal” young professional and a profoundly proud mom of a goofy dog named Howard. I’m excited to share some of my experiences with you over the next few months and hopefully provide some form of inspiration. If nothing else, I hope to at least leave you with a laugh or two. Because who doesn’t need a laugh?!


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  • A Parents Guide to Fitting in Fitness

    By Katherine Gutwald, RD

    As a mom of three, I understand how challenging it can be to maintain an exercise routine. Finding time for a shower can seem tough, let alone finding an hour or more for your favorite physical activity or class. Whether you’re working or full-time parenting, “me time” is rarely on the top of your to-do list.

    However, finding ways to get active even in the busiest of times is important for your physical and mental health. Many parents agree that regular physical activity improves their mood and causes them to be more patient with their families.

    Here are a few tips for all of you busy parents looking to incorporate exercise into your daily life:

    Make it family fun: Too often we think that exercise needs to be done at a gym away from our families, but it might not be realistic to carve out the time (or budget!) for regular visits to a fitness club. Instead, try including your children in your workouts. Pop in a Pilates, boot camp or Zumba video and do it together as a family. This prevents you from having to choose between spending time with your kids and getting your workout in. Plus, you reinforce the importance of physical activity early on, implementing healthy habits that your kids can carry with them throughout their lives.

    Walk it out: Family walks are a great way to get moving and spend quality time together. If any of your usual destinations (school, daycare, the store, a family member’s house) are close by, choose to hoof it instead of hopping in the car. Bring the stroller or let your kids ride their bikes alongside you. Adding weighted wristbands or anklebands can be a great way to increase the challenge.

    Be efficient: Between house chores, dance classes, soccer practice and meals, going for an hour-long run might be out of the question. But what about 15 minutes? There are plenty of super short, yet highly effective, calorie-torching workouts available online. Squeezing in one, maybe even two a day can make all the difference.

    Make a gym: You don’t need a home gym or expensive equipment to get a dynamic work out—you can make a gym anywhere out of ordinary objects and spaces. Use a sturdy household chair for step-ups or leg extensions, or bring your kids to the park and do jungle gym pullups or triceps dips on a bench.  There are endless possibilities!

    Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself! Some days it might be easy to fit in some physical activity, other days it might be completely impossible. But getting in the habit of incorporating movement into your routine will pay off—for you and your family!

    Katie is a registered dietitian with experience educating people about nutrition throughout the life cycle, including childhood, pregnancy and adulthood. She has a passion for healthy eating, active living and creating a good balance. She and her husband are busy parents to three kids.

    K Gutwald (1)

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  • The Transformative Power of Running

    by Elle Cheung

    The only thing I did in preparation for running the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon was sign up, and that was because I didn’t want to miss out on the MarathonHER “double bling.” The week of the race, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to Detroit. I figured out where I was sleeping two days before the weekend. I picked out my race day outfit the day before and ran in it once. (Yes, the shoes were new!) I’m not a running newbie, but boy, I was sure acting like one. It was almost as if I didn’t want to run the race!

    While in the start/finish chute, I started feeling apprehensive - not because I was nervous about the distance, but because as I looked around, I saw so much camaraderie. I’ve always been a “lone wolf” type of runner, mostly because I use my runs as a time to decompress. Just as I was thinking about how great it would be to talk to someone, I was lucky enough to find a friend, and we chatted about (of course) running. This eased my nerves, and before I knew it, it was time to race. It was 8 am, and temperatures were already inching towards 80 degrees. I found out later that the humidity was over 80 percent, which may have explained why I was sweating before the race even started. Once I crossed the start line, I knew there was no turning back. The first eight miles were bearable, and the rest were a blur as I pounded out the remaining distance with a toe blister that kept causing my foot and calf to seize up into a cramp.

    However, it’s not so much the race I remember as it is the finish - not my finish, but the finish of others. My finish was pretty anti-climatic. I tried my best to speed up as I crossed the final timing mat and a volunteer placed a medal around my neck. What I will remember most about this race is joining some of our Gazelle Sports Team Leaders in cheering on their run campers. Watching them cross the finish line was simply amazing. There were hugs, laughs, and yes, some tears.

    It reminded me of how awesome running is, and how it truly is a transformative activity, not just physically, but emotionally. I’ve let running become this thing to do, another item to check off my list. I tick off the miles in my training program each week while forgetting that it truly is an honor to be able to run. I may not always be happy with my pace or how I look, but I have big, strong legs that can carry me miles upon miles. I’ve met some swell people through running, many of whom have become close friends. I even started working at a run speciality store years ago because of my journey into the running world. And, to top it off, I first realized that I loved my (now) husband while we were running in an adventure race together.

    Today, as I add two new medals to my medal rack, I smile because they truly are very beautiful medals. But I also smile because I remember that running has changed my life. I can’t help but think of Dr. Seuss – “Oh, the places you’ll go!”


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  • The art of juggling (a.k.a. being a mom)

    By Allison Land

    The start of the school year usually means some added down time for busy moms with school-aged children. It allows moms a bit of time to sneak in that extra workout or focus a little more on their own health and training. However, when you’re a teacher with school-aged children of your own, like Erin Rylaarsdam, the advent of the school year means finding the time to balance your own training with school and life.

    Erin has been teaching for 18 years. She threw running into the mix a decade into her career after having her second baby. “I didn’t like how I felt or looked,” Erin said. “Someone invited me to be on their 5k team and I thought, ‘Okay. Here goes.’” Despite all of the challenges that come with balancing a family, as well as a teaching job, Erin has continued to run and train since that first 5k. She has completed a few marathons, plus numerous half marathons and 5ks.


    A member of Gazelle Sports Holland Run Camp, Erin finds time to fit it all in. “I try not to waste any time because I don’t want to have to come back to a task. I try to make a plan. Running group is great for me because those days are always on the calendar,” Erin said. Often times making that plan requires some forethought... bringing athletic clothing to school so she can run after school or getting up at 4 a.m. - a time many cringe at the thought of awakening - to get a run in before her kids wake up. In spite of the early hour, Erin has come to enjoy the time. “Those quiet hours, once you get out of bed, those are the most beautiful times of the day,” Erin said.

    The hardest part of making it all work is the mom-guilt sometimes associated with being so busy. When you juggle so much, at times something’s got to fall. Sometimes, despite a carefully balanced plan, things do fall by the wayside. “Usually, it’s the cleanliness of my house or the fullness of my pantry,” Erin said. But she has come to recognize running as a necessary part of her life. “It makes me a better person when I can have my time, too.”

    Overall, Erin finds that her children have embraced her running. “My kids know it’s important. They don’t throw a fuss when I go. When I have a race, they always ask to see the medal and want to know how it went. Sometimes I tell them even if they don’t want to hear!” she said, laughing. Her youngest has even gotten into the sport with her - running Girls on the Run and a couple of 5k races with her mother.

    Erin’s best advice for busy moms, runners and teachers alike? Be where you are. “Whatever I’m doing at that moment - whatever the task in front to me - I’ll do my best right there.” That means staying focused and being present - be it with her children, while running or teaching. “I just try to do everything 100 percent when it’s in front of me.”

    Erin has set her sights on the Detroit Free Press Marathon on October 15. She will continue to run and train, balancing her life, job and family one race - and day - at a time.


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  • Starting Out - What we can learn from new runners

    By Katie Weiler, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids

    Think back to when you first started running. Was it in middle school? Maybe high school? Or with a friend to stay in shape? It could be yesterday that you started, but regardless of how long ago it was, it is important to look back at why. Why did you fall in love with this crazy sport in the first place? The answer to this can help to drive you through the challenges you may face during training.

    I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with middle school cross country runners this summer and have learned a few things from them. Many are new to running. There are a handful that competed last year, but most have never run on a team before. My favorite part about spending time with them was their excitement. They would show up voluntarily on nights that were 80 degrees and muggy, and still be excited to be out there with their friends. Below I have made a list of my observations in my time with these new runners:

    • Running is a social sport: Most of the kids are joining the team because they have friends that are doing it, too. Running brings people together and allows you to make new friends, as well as have a workout partner to push you or pull you along when you begin to struggle. The social benefits of running are endless when you are able to have fun and be healthy in the company of others.


    • Overthinking is overrated: Pace, distance, mileage, etc. are not a concern for those who are just starting out. By not getting too focused on how fast they are running on every run, they are able to enjoy the company of others and save the fast stuff for workout days. Most of the kids did not have a watch. They simply ran on feeling. At times, leaving the watch at home and listening to your body on a run can be more rewarding than clocking splits for every mile.


    • Back to the basics: The most important part of every run happened before they started running. A short warm up, followed by dynamic drills set the stage early for injury prevention in these young athletes. Following the run, they would walk as a cool down and rehydrate, as well as stretch lightly. Building a routine of good habits early can help to prevent injuries or feeling tight later on. Evaluating how we warm up and cool down from a run or workout can help us see where improvements need to be made or added.


    Being in the presence of the young runners helped me to look at my own training and some of the stresses that come with running in a different way. I hope all runners, new or seasoned, can have a take away from looking back at the start and focusing on how simple this sport can be.

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  • The LMCU Bridge Run is the best race ever, and here's why...

    By Trevor Wood, Gazelle Sports Assistant Merchandise Manager

    Have you ever had a race that held a special place in your heart? Well the 10 mile Bridge Run (or 5k if you’d rather keep it shorter) is that race for me.

    I am a year shy of being over the hill at the ripe old age of 30, and I only began running five years ago. Working for a company such as Gazelle Sports insinuates that I am an avid runner, and a fast one at that, both of which are simply not true. I held out becoming a “runner” for the first five years of working at this amazing company. But then my schooling required me to have an internship, so I set something up to take video and capture stories of runners in Gazelle Sports’ training group for the 2012 Riverbank Run 25k. I got to interview and follow people of all ages, paces and backgrounds. Fast forward to race day. Watching those runners’ accomplishments over a dozen and a half weeks of training through a Michigan winter sparked something within me.

    I began training by myself with no support group to really push me past my goals. My goal for the fall of 2012 was to do the Metro Health Grand Rapids Half Marathon. But along the way, I’d also raced the Bridge Run. During the summer I raced a handful of 5k and 10k races, garnering somewhat decent times that surprised my colleagues who knew that I’d only recently picked up running. (I think they were just being nice.) The Bridge Run was my longest double digit mile race. It was a perfect sunny day and I just wanted to finish. I ran the 10 miles in just over an hour and 12 minutes which equates to around a 7:17 minute per mile.

    Okay, so now I’ve formed a baseline. I think that we all enjoy getting a personal best and beating our time at a race. The year is 2013 and the LMCU Bridge Run is on my checklist due to my inner desire to race better than the year before. The weather was iffy this year, and I finagled with my rain jacket wondering if the heavens were about to open up on us. We started off in Rosa Parks Circle and headed north towards Riverside Park, criss-crossing over a few bridges that span the Grand River. As we ran through the park everyone around me was cheering “Way to go, Kaitlin!” and I heard the cry several times as we rounded to the north end of the park and started heading back to the south entrance and back toward downtown. The girl named Kaitlin finally caught up to my side and we exchanged some short words of hello. We were both moving at an amazing speed hovering just below 7 minutes per mile. We ended up finishing at just under an hour and 10 minutes. Kaitlin turned out to be the love of my life, and the following year at the Bridge Run, I proposed to her a year from the day we met (and, trust me, carrying an engagement ring while pacing the 8 minute group and trying to figure out what I was going to say to my beloved at the finish line was quite the task!)


    Fast forward four years. This year’s Bridge Run will be the fourth year since my wife and I met, the third year since I proposed and  the second year I’ve paced. I think whether you’re stepping out onto the course of the Bridge Run for the first time or the 10th time, whether you want to find love, or just want to beat a previous year's race time, I know the Bridge Run will be a great time. They have one of the best running groups around town managing the race, RunGR, and the course is lined with all sorts of spectators. The pacers will help you cross the line at a faster time than what you think you can muster. Oh, and the weather - for some reason - seems to have been cooperating the last few years!

    Overall, the Bridge Run is one of the best races West Michigan has to to offer and I highly recommend it for all running types from new to seasoned.

    Sign up today!

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  • Gearing up for the long run

    By Rob Andro, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids Training Program Coordinator

    Every training program in existence has its challenges. Some are harder than others, and much of that difficulty lies in the runner. But “the long run” is a specter that haunts all marathoners, no matter their ability. The long run tests your physical fitness and your mental fortitude. You are running a distance so close to your goal distance, but without the pomp, or the crowd, or the support, or the finish line celebration. But it is a valuable practice test for all runners, and your job is to make it as worthwhile as possible. There are a number of things that can go wrong on race day, and long run day is your chance to shorten that list.

    “Nothing new on race day” is a common saying among runners. It is a lesson learned the hard way. Often. By even the most experienced runners. But here are three things to focus on:

    • First, what you are wearing is of critical importance. No matter the length of your race, chafing can and will happen. How do you minimize the risk? Start by avoiding cotton. As a fabric, cotton retains moisture, stretches when wet, and becomes abrasive.  Wearing wool or synthetic shirts, shorts and socks will minimize any chafing, and keep your sweat from weighing you down. There is nothing worse than finishing a run and feeling like your clothes are ten pounds heavier than when you started!


    • Second, only eat foods you know your body likes! Again, this is something you will need to test (probably more than once) on runs leading up to your race day. In fact, you should be pretty confident with your fueling strategy by long run day. Starting this testing process on long run often leads to issues that can cut the run short. The long run is your final test, not your first practice. Especially when it comes to what you are putting in your stomach!


    • Lastly, do everything you can to make the long run as pleasant as possible. If you aren’t running a route that mimics your race, find a route that is familiar and easy. Try to arrange to have friends join in (even your non-running friends can ride along on their bike!). The run will be tough enough, so don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. Unless you want it to be.


    Bottom line - you want to finish your long run feeling strong and confident that you are ready for your race. The mental hurdle is just as big as the physical one. So do everything you can to set yourself up for success, and let the boost of confidence carry you to your start line!

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  • Letting my Anti-Distance Running Inhibitions “Fly”

    The Gazelle Sports Activator Blog Series is written by a group of passionate individuals, willing and eager to share their personal stories of trial and triumph. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is filled with ups and downs, lessons learned, successes and failures. Get to know them as they share their journeys—you might learn something new!

    By Eva Reiter

    Today I’d like to talk a little about the event that turned me into a distance runner (or at least started my journey). In 2012, one of my good friends approached me about participating in the 2013 Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, I was running 3 miles at a time and was beginning to enjoy it. Before then, I had always identified myself as a “non-runner” and was haunted by the short runs we had to participate in during middle school gym class, where I always felt slow, awkward and incapable.

    When my friend started the convincing process, I immediately told her no. When prodded again, I said maybe to the 10K. Finally, after a lot of arm-twisting, I agreed to the race. The reason I agreed to the race was because I had started researching training plans (notably the Hal Higdon novice training program) and realized that these distance runs are about long-term preparation. Being an engineer by training and a self-proclaimed task-master, I realized that long-distance running isn’t about being some mutant human gazelle; it’s about consistency, mental endurance and dedication. I built up my weekly training sheets and got to work. Each week I went through many feelings on the spectrum, from frustration to joy, but I kept going; partially out of fear that come race day, I wouldn’t be prepared enough to finish.

    When race day finally came, thanks to my many weeks of training, I felt cautiously confident. I completed the race without any major issues and when it came down to it, I was more than capable of accomplishing something that just a few months prior, was not even on my radar as a possibility.

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    So what’s my challenge to you? Whether it’s a half marathon, 5K, triathlon or even just a run around the block, I encourage you to consider breaking down these goals and figuring out how you can defeat them. Finding allies in your fight and ‘positive enablers’ is a huge part of building your strength and confidence along the way. Good luck to you!

    My name is Eva and I will be one of your friendly neighborhood Gazelle Sports Activators for roughly the next year. When I’m not marauding through the streets of Grand Rapids in obnoxiously bright high-vis gear that could melt the retinas of Medusa herself, I’m a just a “normal” young professional and a profoundly proud mom of a goofy dog named Howard. I’m excited to share some of my experiences with you over the next few months and hopefully provide some form of inspiration. If nothing else, I hope to at least leave you with a laugh or two. Because who doesn’t need a laugh?!



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  • Is it time to replace my running shoes?

    Some typical questions among runners include: How often should I replace my running shoes? Are my running shoes too worn out? Can I get injured wearing running shoes that are too old? We all have these questions when it comes to our shoes and the truth of the matter is, most runners wait too long to replace their shoes.

    It would be great if there was one standard for measuring whether or not it was time to replace your running shoes, but unfortunately that is not the case. While there is a suggested mileage of 300 to 500 miles for each pair of shoes, this should not be your sole deciding factor. The durability of your shoe can depend on a number of different things: how you run, where you run, how often you run in the same pair of shoes and the type of shoe you wear.

    The 300 to 500 miles standard can be a great baseline when judging if it might be time to invest in a new pair of shoes but there are a few other factors that should be considered as well. First and foremost, listen to your body. If you are suddenly starting to feel aches and pains while running, take a look at your shoes. Your run may be starting to feel different because they are wearing down. To assess the condition of your shoes, flip them over. Is the rubber on the bottom starting to wear? This is typically the first area to wear on your running shoes, and if the mid-sole starts to appear through the rubber bottom, it’s time to replace them.

    Next, try the twist test. If your shoe is extremely flexible and can twist in any which way, it’s likely time to look for a new pair. The last area to really examine when trying to consider if it’s time to retire your shoes is the mid-sole. If the foam of the mid-sole is starting to discolor, has little cracks and stretch lines, it has become too compacted and can no longer absorb shock as well as it once could. Any of these changes to your shoes can impact both your run and your body. You do not want your shoe to be falling apart before you replace it, so look for these changes regularly.

    Another question you might have is when to replace your shoes before a big race. Again, you know your body better than anyone else, listen to it. We all know grabbing a new pair of shoes off the shelf and running a marathon the next day is not your best bet. While a long break-in period is not typically needed, a good measure of thumb is about 30 miles. This should give your body time to make any adjustments and ensure you are comfortable before your big race.

    All in all, the most important factor is how you feel. We all run differently and each shoe is different. Examine how you feel and how your shoes look after each run. If things start to feel off, it may be time to treat yourself to a new pair of shoes!

    If you have questions about your current shoes or finding the right pair to replace them, visit a Gazelle Sports store and talk to one of our trained staff members.

    Want to learn more? Check out this video:

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  • At Least I Didn’t Poop My Pants (or how many times can I write the word “poop” in a single blog post?)

    By Christina Morrow

    I’m not a nervous racer. I know there are a lot of people who get wound up before a race and worry themselves into a nauseous mess so when that gun finally sounds they’re about to pass out before they even take the first step. That’s not me. The biggest concern I have, and I think a lot of you share it, is whether or not I was able to poop in the porta-potty before the race. And if not, I know there are potties at regular intervals that will be there for me, so I still don’t get particularly worked up. If I did poop, then I know it’s going to be, at the very least, a slightly faster finish time.

    A couple weekends ago, I was in Munising, MI for the Grand Island Trail Half Marathon. (They offer a full and ultra if you swing that way, but I learned long ago my body revolts spectacularly if I try to go past 18 miles.) Many of us mainland Michiganders know and love the U.P., especially in summer. It’s the slightly backwards little brother (and I mean that as a term of deepest endearment, so don’t get your panties in a twist) that’s host to some of the most beautiful natural vistas in Michigan. The Grand Island Trail Half is an absolutely stunning 13.1 miles of surprisingly easy terrain (excluding that gorgeous and exhausting mile on the beach and the couple miles in the middle up those hills). It’s the kind of race where your finish time is a bit slower because you stopped to take some photos along the way. If you’re my dad, you try to post them to Facebook as you take them only to realize the cell service on the island is spotty at best.

    IMG_4428My dog, Ford, admiring our camping spot the day before the race.

    Lining up for the start of the race, I was feeling pretty good. I know you’re wondering about this: yes, I was able to poop. And though my stomach had been acting strangely the last few long runs, forcing me to pit stop more often than I normally would, I was fairly confident I was not going to poop myself or have to pull over and squat in the woods while trying to avoid poisonous plants I knew nothing about and contemplating whether or not forest rangers could arrest people for indecent exposure. (The bathrooms are spread thin on this race. If you can, I’d recommend the one around mile 4 on the beach. It’s an absolutely lovely open air wooden outhouse right off the water.)

    DSC_16112016 Post-race plunge into Lake Superior with my honorary aunt, Kim.

    At the gun, I took off at a solid pace, right where I wanted to be for most of the race. Thanks to an extended vacation the month before on which I deliberately left my running shoes home, I was in no way trying to PR for this race. All I really wanted to do was get the miles in to make up for some of the calories I planned to consume in beer and hot dogs later that day. I learned the hard way last year to go for the hot dogs at Johnny Dogs and not the pasties at Muldoons. You might kick me out of the state for this, but I am just not a fan of pasties. Feel free to email me at if it’s just that I’m eating them at the wrong places and you have an awesome pastie joint I need to try.

    Anyway, I was less than a quarter mile into the race, just starting to clear that starting pack and get into a good rhythm, when a shooting pain started in my back and continued to stab every step I took. I kept running, thinking the pain would work itself out and lessen soon. Instead, it increased to the point where it hurt to breathe. I stopped to walk a little, stretching a bit, hoping that would help. It didn’t. I tried running again, thinking there was no way I was bonking a quarter mile away from the start. That was supposed to happen at the finish, where you can force your body to go those maybe 500 steps to the finish line. But there was no way I was going to make it the nearly 26,000 steps it would take me to reach the finish. So I stopped. For the first time in the 10 years I’ve been casually road racing various distances, I did not finish a race.

    I think this happens to everyone at some point, some more often than others. At least that’s what I’ve heard from other people. Granted, normally a person covers some mileage before they bonk or scratch or succumb to the big, fat DNF. But I’ve always been able to pull through. I might slow down a good deal. Maybe walk a 15-minute mile or two. But I’ve always finished. And maybe it’s silly, but it felt like crap to turn around, as other runners passed by me with curious looks on their faces as I went back the way we had come. I felt like a loser. I didn’t even get to a single mile. As I walked back, each of the 500 steps sending a sharp pain up my back, I think I went through each of the five stages of grief and loss:

    Denial - I turned around a couple times thinking... I can push through this. I couldn’t.

    Anger - Boy, was I fuming. There were some NSFW words rolling around my head, for sure.

    Bargaining - If I could just make it to the beach, just four miles, I’d happily turn back.

    Depression - Would you believe it if I said it was just a single, solitary tear that stoically ran down my cheek as I walked back completely dejected?

    Acceptance - I got back to the finish line where my family and friends were planning to wait another couple hours before they’d next see us, and immediately went to the table where they had the cherry juice and organic fig bars for racers. Dammit, no matter what, I was still a racer and I was getting my cherry juice and fig bars. They’re the other half of the reason I run this race: epic natural views and awesome post-race snacks. It’s a toss-up whether I like the Moomers ice cream after Bayshore or the fig bars at Grand Island better, but you can now tell that I’m a food motivated runner. So I drank my juice and ate my bars and planned my comeback for next year.

    Three hours later, after watching a couple hundred other racers actually finish (not the best feeling in the world), we were back at our campsite. I had a cold beer in my hand and I was floating on a giant blow-up lounger after consuming half my weight in chili cheese dogs. My back still hurt, but I was floating on a giant blow-up lounger, beer-in-hand in the middle of a beautiful lake in northern Michigan with plans to take a pontoon boat trolling along Lake Superior to Pictured Rocks later in the day. I guess life really wasn’t so bad after all. At least I didn’t poop my pants.

    IMG_4450Pontooning with my bestie. He's impervious to everything, including waves that had others putting on those orange life preservers. Notice the trucker hat and Patagonia baggies - an absolute must for summers in Michigan.

    For more information about the Grand Island Trail Race visit (it does take them a while to update this for the next year):

    Christina is a part of the marketing team here at Gazelle Sports. When you can't find her at her desk in the creative cube crafting graphics and stories, she's normally off on an adventure with her husband, Nick, and dog, Ford.

    The three of us last year in Munising.

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  • Cross Country


    Champions are not born,

    Champions are made. 

    This was the saying on the back of our summer training T-shirts as we prepared for the cross country season. We had set a goal to be conference, regional, and State champions. We knew we would have to be in excellent shape, therefore it was imperative that we trained all summer long. Through the discipline of long hot summer miles, our bodies, minds, and friendships were strengthened. We were committed to do our best, not for ourselves, but for the team.

    Our team became conference champions, regional champions and third-place team in the state. We had pushed ourselves, And pushed each other, to become champions. Success was a great feeling but it was the deep bonds of friendship that made our cross country team champions forever 

    Cross country is an incredible sport that offers the opportunity to strengthen your body and your mind in ways that you may have thought were impossible. And it creates friendships that will last a lifetime.

    I hope you set your goals high this year to become a champion.   

    Keep Moving

    Chris Lampen-Crowell 

    Loy Norrix 1978

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