Race Review: Portage Winter Blast

  For the second year in a row, my wife Tina, and I went up to Portage, MI for the Winter Blast races.  This years event had a 5k, half marathon, and new this year, a 10k. 

Sunday morning, Tina and I woke up at 4:30 AM, after what I would consider a really good night sleep, we got ourselves ready and left the house at around 5:15.  After a quick trip home after realizing we left one piece of race gear behind (it’s been 6 weeks since we have ran a race, give us a break), we were off in our hour and fifteen minute drive up to Potage, MI.  If you have been around us in race day (ok, just me) you know we are usually at the race at least an hour early.  I don’t like surprises on race morning, I like to ensure I have plenty of time to warm up, get loose and use the bathroom (usually due to nerves, this happens 3-4 times before a race. 

For this race, I way over packed, and I knew I had.  The weather had changed so often over the last week.  Wednesday we were under a blizzard warning.  By the time Saturday came, temps reached the 50s and the temps by 8:00 when the races started were supposed to be about 40. I packed a thicker long sleeve mainly to keep warm during my warm up, a lighter long sleeve incase I decided it was too cold to just go with the singlet, and arm sleeves.  After my 1 mile warm up, I was already warm so I decided to go with the singlet and arm sleeves. I luckily kept a hold of my thin gloves that I received from the Veterans Marathon back in November (ended up losing then after I took them off after 3 miles during this half). Also wore my new 2XU VECTR socks, 2XU compression calf sleeves and my new Wool Buff to keep my head warm (I don’t have much hair on my head to keep me warm). 

With temps in the 40s, it was looking like a great morning to run except for the head winds out of the south.  The course primarily runs north and south.  Would have been fine with the winds out of the west.   
 Anyways, you can’t do anything about the weather, everyone has to deal with it.

My goal for this race was to get under 1:22:00.  To do so, I would need to run an average of 6:15.  In the days leading up to the race, my coach and I decided that on the miles into the wind, run 5 seconds slower than goal pace.  For the miles with the wind to my back, run 5 seconds faster than goal pace. The race started at 8:10 exactly and we were off! 

Last year I made the mistake of not knowing my competition and tried taking the early lead.  This year, I actually allowed others to start in front of me and forced myself to start off holding back.  The first mile was right into the wind and I was able to tuck in behind the lead pack. First mile, 6:19.  As close to a perfect opening mile as I could ask for.  Mile 2 consisted of rare east/west running. Still with the lead pack and running at 6:19 pace. Mile 3 the lead pack started to put some distance on me and I let them go.  At this time I was aiming for time, not for place.  A little more running into the west before heading back north.  Completed the mile in 6:16 

Right after mile 3, the course hits the bike path for the first time. There was some sharp turn but nothing like we would see later on.  Mile 4 was a little slower than I wanted with a little running into the south and those turns slowed me up, 6:22. Mile 5, a long stretch of heading north. This provided some relief and ability to stretch the legs out.  Mile 5 was completed in 6:10.  Briefly after mile 5 we got back on the road before getting back onto another bike path. Mile 6 in 6:11.

At this time, I am feeling alright despite running the last 4 miles alone (spoiler alert, I ended up running the rest of the race alone). Mile 7 involved a few more annoying turns and my legs were starting to feel it some. About half way through mile 7, we started running on the roads again. Mile 7,  6:20.  

  Mile 8 I was able to pick the pace up a little bit running north with a tail wind, 6:16.  Mile 9 is the last mile with a tail wind but there is a nasty overpass bridge to climb right before the mile mark, 6:20.  Really, I am no longer hitting the paces I want to anymore, but at this point, it’s respectable.   Mile 10 is when things started going bad. The initial feeling of running into the wind just sent a little shock into you, and it was also back to the bike path. Mile 10, 6:27.  Mile 11 is where the twists and turns started to throw punches at you. These really slowed me down. To make it worse, there was a bridge to run over that added another hill. Slowed me down enough to run a 6:47. Ouch!

Mile 12 was actually really uneventful.  Just straight south into the wind.  No real turns here. 6:30. Mile 13 had the last tough hill, right before the mile marker.  Not a big hill, but it was the placement of the hill. 6:35.  Crossed the finishline in 1:23:28, 1:01 faster than last year.  That leaves me at this time, on that day looking to be able to run a 2:54 marathon.  

 I ended up finishing 8th overall, which is where I ran all race long and 3rd in my division.  There were times that I thought I could catch 2 guys in front of me but they never fell back and I didn’t have the kick in the last two miles that I thought I would.  


As mentioned before, Tina ran in the 10k, and ran a new PR! Not bad for a late February race.  She has put in a lot more miles than she did last winter. Her time was 1:04:47.      

The shirts they gave to the half marathon and 5k runners were great. For the 10k, not so great.  You can read more about that Here    

Post Race Food

This was great! Mo’s Southwest Grill brought chips and Salsa as well as burritos.  They had water, juice, chocolate mild to drink, doughnut holes (had about a dozen red velvet doughnut holes), as well as bags of chips and other goodies. 


Looked like the age group awards were designed by young students which I thought was cool.  The medals were given to all half marathon finishers.  

Over all, for the cost of this race, this is a great event.  They do a great job of putting this on.   Luckily the weather was cooperative.  I think we will look into putting this race on the schedule for 2017! 



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