Grand Blanc Chocolate 5K Recap

Matt and I went to Grand Blanc, MI to run the Chocolate 5K on Saturday, November 21st…the day when we happened to get the first major snow storm of the season. Perfect timing. I typically wait until the last second to sign up for races this time of year. It was still in the 60s and beautiful outside when I decided to register before the price jumped. Snow was not on my radar at that point and I was tempted by the cool shirt and promise of chocolate. I was harshly reminded how quickly the weather can change in Michigan. Honestly, it’s a good thing that I committed early. Had we waited until the last minute, we probably wouldn’t have gone and we would have missed out on a fun morning.

We ran this race in 2012 and knew we could expect a good time. You really can’t beat it – $20 for a long sleeve tech shirt, a flat course, and a ton of chocolate goodies after the race. I’d pay $20 for the shirt alone! I was especially happy when I found out they were high-quality New Balance shirts.

How cool is this Wonka-esque shirt?

How cool is this Wonka-esque shirt?

We’d heard all the hype about snow coming, so I was relieved that I didn’t see any when I woke up the morning of the race. It had started to accumulate a little on the grass by the time we left home though.

Grand Blanc High School is a great location for the race. It has a huge parking lot, large bathrooms, and plenty of space for people to stay warm beforehand.

It was snowing pretty steadily when it was time for the race to start, but we were lucky that it wasn’t sticking to the streets.

One positive is that the streets were just wet.

One positive is that the streets were just wet.

The race had 450 runners and around 120 walkers, so it was a pretty decent crowd. There was a gun start and chip finish. Though I was close to the front, maybe I should have moved up a little more. I got boxed in at times early on and did a bit of weaving to get around people, but things spread out soon enough. We ran on one of the main roads to start then spent the majority of the race running through a neighborhood.

I’m basically in maintenance mode at this point of the year and not doing much structured speed training, so I wasn’t looking to “race” this one. I wasn’t too excited to have snow blowing in my face and really didn’t care what my time was, but still tried to put in some decent effort. I kept telling myself that it was all worth it for the shirt and the chocolate fountain waiting at the end.

My official time was 23:23, which is almost two minutes off of my PR.

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My splits.

Matt and I didn’t linger at the finish line – we headed back to the school immediately. We had to walk for several minutes and cross a main road to get back to the school. We were anxious to get inside where it was warm and get to the chocolate!

You can see the snow blowing in front of Matt as it started to accumulate.

You can see the snow blowing in front of Matt as it started to accumulate.

The post-race goodies were set up in a gym, and we had hustled back fast enough to avoid the crowd. There were several stations set up.

Melted fudge for dipping marshmallows, pretzels, and Nilla Wafers.

Melted fudge for dipping marshmallows, pretzels, and Nilla Wafers.

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An assortment of candy.

The chocolate fountain with strawberries, potato chips, pretzels, animal crackers, and candy canes for dipping.

The chocolate fountain with strawberries, potato chips, pretzels, animal crackers, and candy canes for dipping.

We sat on the floor to enjoy our treats as the crowd began to grow.

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At some point there was an announcement that people could collect their awards, so we headed out to the lobby to see how we had placed. Matt had missed third in his age group by less than a second, and I was surprised to see my name at the top of my age group. I love that this race lets you collect the awards when you’re ready rather than waiting through a long ceremony. When I told the volunteers how I had placed, they gave me a couple treats.

Fudge, salt water taffy, and a chocolate turkey. I'll take that kind of prize over a medal or plaque any day!

Fudge, salt water taffy, and a chocolate turkey. I’ll take that kind of prize over a medal or plaque any day!

Knowing that the snow wasn’t stopping and that we had a 40-mile drive home, we headed out as soon as I got my award. Good thing we did, because the road conditions were starting to get iffy. We didn’t go much faster than 50-something on the highway and saw several cars in the ditch. Luckily, we made it home safely.

As we drove through our neighborhood, I loved how beautiful the snow-covered trees looked. I had to take a quick walk down to the Paint Creek Trail to scope it out.

It's hard to believe that it was 60 degrees a few days earlier.

It’s hard to believe that it was 60 degrees a few days earlier.

I was thankful that we didn’t have any other plans for the day, so we settled in and stayed warm while 12+ inches of snow piled up throughout the day.

Although the weather tends to be questionable for this race most years, it’s definitely a good one and I’m glad we did it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

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GALlop for Children 5K Recap

Matt and I enjoy supporting the Oakland University volleyball team, so when we saw that they were going to play at Cleveland State University on a Saturday, it sparked the idea of taking a weekend road trip. I was curious if I could find any good races in Ohio the day after the game. The one that stood out the most was the GALlop for Children 5K at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The race was only $20 and included a long sleeve tech shirt and admission to the zoo. It also benefited a good cause – the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Project. GALs for the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court are appointed to represent the best interests of children involved in abuse, neglect, and a variety of other situations. We thought it would be nice to support the cause and visit a zoo we’d never been to.

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Posing by the flamingos before the race.

The race took place on Sunday, November 8th, and it was a beautiful, crisp morning. The parking lot wasn’t very full when we got there 45 minutes before the start. I had looked for info about the race and it didn’t look like a huge event – a little over 100 people had run last year. I couldn’t find any info about the race route though. Matt and I have run two races at zoos. The Cheetah Chase at Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo took us through part of the zoo, while Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo took us through the neighborhoods outside the zoo. After checking in, I asked a volunteer where the race started. I was excited to find out that we would actually run through the zoo.

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The pavilion was used for packet pickup, post-race snacks, and awards.

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The race’s tech shirt.

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A closer look at the logo on the shirt.

We lingered near the start and found out that the half-mile kids’ run started first. A small group ran a quarter mile down the path and back. When everyone returned, the 5K runners were gathered and taken a short way down the path for the start.  A rock at the side seemed to mark the starting line. Our bibs didn’t have timing chips, so Matt and I lined up at the front.

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Where the race started.

A golf cart led the runners, and soon enough it was out of my view and I just followed the people in front of me. We hit a gradual hill fairly early and a more significant hill came a bit after that. I saw a few interesting birds and a horse-like animal, but didn’t see as many animals as I had hoped while running. Although the uphill portions slowed me down, a long downhill stretch had me flying enough to make up for it. We came back around to the start for another loop, but luckily the route was a little different and we didn’t have to climb the bigger hill a second time. We didn’t get the major downhill stretch either, but still had a nice downhill segment leading to the finish.

I treated this run as a fun run with some effort rather than an all-out race. I ended up with a nice negative split, finishing around 30-40 seconds slower than my PR. I was pleasantly surprised by that, and I was also a little bit faster than the 5K we ran at GVSU a couple weeks earlier. I think the downhills must have really helped my time.

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Our route through the zoo.

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My splits. I was happy that I sped up as I went.

I was able to catch a photo of Matt as he finished.

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They had told us at the start of the race that cookies would be waiting at the end, and they weren’t kidding. I had no idea how awesome the post-race spread would be. They had bottles of water, hot chocolate, coffee, apples, bananas…and cookies galore! They had over 20 varieties of homemade cookies and I was in heaven.

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Just a few of the many post-race cookies.

Nearly an hour and a half after the start of the race, they finally got around to awards. Matt was second in his age group and I was third in mine, so we each received something.

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Matt with his award.

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A closer look at my award.

Next, we took advantage of our admission to the zoo and walked around for a couple hours. Some areas were closed and we didn’t even try to get to everything, but we saw some fun stuff.

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A beautiful boardwalk.

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A beautiful lorikeet.

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A sleepy monkey.

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A sleepy koala.

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An entertaining lion.

Between watching OU’s volleyball team beat Cleveland State, running the 5K, then enjoying the zoo, we had a fun, action-packed weekend.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography