Brandon's (and his family's)Big Adventures

We, as a family, press on towards the goal

Dances with Dirt Hell 50 something Race Report

Posted on September 25th, 2011 by Brandon

Dances with Dirt Hell 50 something Race Report

What the heck is the race course markers smoking when they marked the Ultra Marathon course for Dances with Dirt Hell?  I should have know there was something funny in the air left over from the Hallucination run just 2 weeks ago on some of the same trails.  I didn’t see any stoned hippies passed out in the woods, but it would not have been any surprise.  The race paperwork includes a liability waver that really means “Death or serious injury is likely”.  My kind of race.  For me its the second DWD race that I have ran in this year.  The first being DWD Green Swamp where I really enjoyed 50 miles of fun trail running with minor “Stupid” added into the course.  That was Heaven, This was HELL!

Darkness was upon us as we arrived at the Half Moon Lake public access, where there was less than a half moon in the sky.  More like a sliver hiding behind the clouds, but they can’t have everything perfect.  Fall temperatures made the morning cool and LED head lamps didn’t do a thing to warm up the area.  Ben VanHoose “The winner of DWD Green Swamp” joined me for the ride down and that had to be the best part of the entire adventure.  Ben volunteered at an aid station to pass the hours waiting for me.  As Ben left me to help, I stood around waiting for the pre-race jitters to start.  They never really did.  I ran into John Yohe a fellow barefoot runner at the start and wasted the next 25 minutes talking everything barefoot.  He agreed to run with me for a few miles with the understanding he could leave me in the dust at any point.

Barefoot John Yohe and I, Dances with Dirt

Barefoot John Yohe and I, Dances with Dirt

Start of DWD Hell 2011

Start of DWD Hell 2011

1 minute before the Start of DWD Hell 2011

1 minute before the Start of DWD Hell 2011

This ultra run started off like every race Running Fit puts on… No one at the start line.  We all hung back and moved up only when told to.  Its not like Grand Rapids where there are thousands fighting for a starting spot.  We all just gather and go.  Most people started out in their right spots because I never ran up on a slower group.  I was passed by like 20 people in 5 miles, but they just didn’t want to start further up front.  NOTE: I WAS THE SLOW GROUP!  John and I ran through Hell Creek Ranch together where I lost him when “Nature Called”.  Being this was the second time I lost track of John I just let him go on ahead.  I had used up too much energy catching up to him when I had to stop to drink Boost after the first hour of running.  Eight minute miles on road sapped me of a lot of go juice.  Losing John wasn’t so bad once I caught up to Jeremy Haggerman.  Jeremy was running his first 50 miler and him and I had gone to Lansing Community College together.  He was running well and I did my best to keep up with him when he was moving well.  We ran for about an hour and then he was gone too.  Running with people is what keeps me going well.

Unplanned "Stupid" on Dances with Dirt Hell

Unplanned "Stupid" on Dances with Dirt Hell

The trail to this point was a mix of trails, gravel road, and grass.  “Stupid” hadn’t really started except for a few bush whacking sections.  Ben was a blessing to see and after seeing him is where things started getting tough.  My nutrition for the day seemed to be working, but I couldn’t get my hips in check.  The hills of course don’t help, but I knew the wheels were coming off earlier today than ever before.  Running through Hell Creek Ranch for the second time messed with my brain.   I read the map so many times and didn’t remember that fact.  I didn’t stop long and was messed up even more when Bruce Langlois a Lowell resident came up past me in the aid station.  He is a fast marathoner who is now behind me, and now passed me.  Was I running that stupid before.

"The stripper pole" DWD Hell

"The stripper pole" DWD Hell

Sections like “The Striper Pole” met us just before Hell Creek Ranch.  I hope the video gives you a glimpse of just how “hard” this race was…  (Don’t look directly at the Man’s shorts in front of my camera)


After Hell Creek Ranch the only thing to look forward to is “The River” right?…  Coming down a hill and seeing people cross the river in front of you is great, then stepping in the cold water is nice, the first time.  The second time I almost fell in, and the Third time ended with a Leg Bone on shore!  What the Hell did I sign up for.  I justified it by thinking the trail freshly cut along the river was in place of running the river because its so cold out.  NOT!  After running through more trail followed by a muddy bog, you step back out into the river for a forth time.  Oh wait, its now 1/4 mile upstream against the flow to Hell, Michigan.

Name that Bone- DWD Hell

Name that Bone - Bank of River

"Stupid" bogg before you get to the river to wash it all off

"Stupid" bogg before you get to the river to wash it all off


You are greeted by a Man dressed as Satan and a not so attractive chick dressed as his girl friend.

Satan and His bride - Dances with Dirt Hell

Satan and His bride - Dances with Dirt Hell

The best part is all the people that were laid out as corpses in the aid station.. Oh those were real!  For the second time today I was asked where Gnarly my Ultra running Giraffe was.  It was sad leaving him home, but I was afraid of him getting muddy and wet from “Stupid”.  I changed socks, wrung out my Moc3′ s and restocked my back pack for the last 9 miles of my day.  I was sorta okay when I left Hell and headed for the trail.  It didn’t take long and the mental battle began.  I don’t know if it was demons that followed me, or just common sense.  As I ran/walked through more “Stupid” areas of deer trail that had been abandoned by the four legged creatures years ago do to how “Stupid” the trail were my mind collapsed on me.  What could I be doing at home?  What did I have to prove by running 50 miles wired shut?  Where could I find what the race director was smoking?  All these thought battled throughout the remaining miles.  I came into Silver Lake access without much hope, took two swigs of Coke, and then was cursed by the Porta John.  Sitting never helps in an Ultra despite the relief inside, the legs hated me for sitting.  I left the aid station without much hope.  The familier trails that I had ran in the spring didn’t help either.  As I ran the downhills, walked the uphills and whined to myself about my legs cramping up, the miles slowly trickled by.  There wasn’t anyone to talk to, and I was passed way more than my mind could handle.  I ran the last 5 miles in pure mental disarray.  I convinced myself that there was no point to running 19 more miles of “Stupid” after I had the choice to peel off and finish 50K.

I continued to run, and at no point anything about 50 miles seemed remotely a good idea, so my wife’s voice came through “Don’t do anything Stupid” and I listened (First Time for everything).  I ran hard to the finish and didn’t feel like a failure for only completing a 50K.  I finished 2 Ultra Marathon’s with my Jaw wired shut and it didn’t matter what distance they were.

Ben was there to great me and support me.  After picking up my unused drop bag at the 40 mile aid station we headed for home never looking back at my decision.  I was safe and headed home to have fun with the family and friends.  It was a great race and I would run it again just to see all the other “Stupid” I missed on the remaining 19 miles.
More stupid like this:

Dances with Dirt Hell Race Info can be found at: http://www.dwdhell.com

I ran the race in Soft Star Shoes- Moc3  They worked so well instead of changing into a pair of Vibram Trecs after running through the river I rung the out changed my socks and kept running in them.  I was sad that I didn’t get a chance to wear my Run Branca’s on the trail, but they will be there for me next time.

A full review of the Moc3 shoes will be on the blog in a few days.

Mercy Run – 8 Miles in Run Branca Sandals

Posted on September 25th, 2011 by Brandon

Mercy Run – 8 Miles in Run Branca Sandals

Run number 6 of 7 races with the wired jaw was the Mercy Run in Greenville, Michigan.  As a fund raiser for the homeless and hungry of Montcalm County I couldn’t resist to run this race.  It was also the inaugural race on the newly complete Fred Meijer Flat River trail that encircles the city of Greenville.  Everything about this race felt right going into it.  A hometown advantage of sorts since this is a community I have served as a Paramedic for over 8 years.  My wife and her friend Sara decided to run this as well the week leading up to the race.  Going into the race I figured there would be a lot of local runners, because I saw the entries at the Lowell Pink Quiver run and had heard about it for at least 2 months.  I was surprised at the small turnout.

Mercy Run - Greenville, MI

Mercy Run - Greenville, MI

We arrived 45 minutes early and walked into the Have Mercy center and was greeted personally by the Race Director and many of his awesome volunteers.  Do to the local papers article about raising food by running 50 miles they treated me like a celebirty including a photo with the race director and Bib #1 which was saved for me.  The attention was overwhelming, but appreciated.  I was also asked to sign my first autograph on a copy of the article that they had saved out as inspiration.  Their ministry relates to the food drive and they understand and live the need.  I appreciate them and what they do everyday to impact Montcalm County.

First Autograph

The race participants gathered at the end of the drive way and there were maybe 30 people starting the 8 mile race with a smaller group in the 5K fun run, and one relay team.  Being its first year the Race Director did a great job marking the course, timing the event, and having very cheerful volunteers.

Mercy Run Start - Greenville, MI

Mercy Run Start - Greenville, MI

Paved bike trail for 7 miles with a lap around Baldwin lake was the make up of the entire course.  One hill greeted us about 2 miles into the course and it was a welcome sight as it looked out over a beautiful field where some of the runners saw deer and other wild life.

Fred Meijer Flat River Trail - Open Field

Fred Meijer Flat River Trail - Open Field

Choosing a pair of shoes for this race was tough.  I wanted to run the race barefoot, but with so many unknowns and the fear of blisters from running too fast with bad form I choose to test out new foot coverings.  Run Branca running sandals are my second pair of running sandals this summer.  I found the sandals on another site where they were part of a giveaway.  I didn’t win the giveaway, but was interested in them to run in so I purchased a pair to try out.  I recieved the Run Branca Sandals on Friday and customized them to my feet just 8 hours before the race.  They come pre-laced and just need to be cut to the correct length based on a marker outline of your feet.  I donned them and tied them a little differently than advertized and toed the line.  The tread on the sandals makes them great for trail, but also great for asphalt.  After the intiall “Are you going to run in those?” people just saw the bottoms as I ran.  The feeling of running in sandals went away after about 1/2 mile.  It feels different in a good way.  The fresh air keeps the feet cooled and free.  There wasn’t the flopping noise that I so despised with the other sandals I tried this summer.

Run Branca Sandals- How not to tie them

Run Branca Sandals- How not to tie them

The thickness of the Branca’s is what makes them different.  They are made of 5mm Vibram Newflex sole which is the newest sole from makers of the five finger shoes.  The harder less flexable sole makes it perfect for sandals because it doesn’t take trade ground feel for protection, but also doesn’t flop under your feet.  It also wasn’t designed as a “rock guard” like the sole of the Five Fingers.  It just works.  As I ran the strap across the ankle worked well to hold the foot in place on the sandal.  Its flexibility does allow for some movement of the foot on top of the rubber sole.  This was the only area I had issues.  I tied the shoes behind the ankle leaving the top of my foot to move and that in turn allowed for too much movement.  My toes blistered the end of the sandals as they rubbed back and forth.  I will take responsibility for these do to not following directions for tying across the top of the foot which limits the amount of forward movement.

Run Branca Sandals - Traction

Run Branca Sandals - Traction

Run Branca- Back of Sandal

Run Branca- Strap across Back of Sandal

Run Branca Sandals- Minimalist Running shoe

Run Branca Sandals

Running 8 miles in the sandals seamed effortless.  Weighing only 3.8 oz’s is like running in socks and the sole protects your feet from the ground.  I would recommend them for running trail, roads, or beach.  They allow the feet to breath,  allow for more ground feel than many of the other minimalist shoes on the market, and will last a runner a long time.   They look better for the beach and other casual wearing as well.  The professional look and logo on the back make them look more like a commonly acceptable sandal and less like a cut piece of tire strapped to your foot by leather.

Finishing the 8 mile in 1 hour 1 minute was incredible.  Running hard for over an hour with my jaw wired shut is getting easier and with only one race to go it makes me ponder on how much faster I could be without the wires.  I didn’t win an age group medal or anything, but was very happy with the time and the experience of running for such a great cause.

For more information on Run Branca Sandals check out their website at http://www.runbranca.com/

Sarah edging out Emily at the Finish

Sarah edging out Emily at the Finish

Congratulations to Sarah for getting 3rd place in her age group!  It was her first 8 mile race.

Labor Day Bridge Walk 2011

Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Brandon
Brandon Mulnix

My family

LaborDayBridgeWalk 2011

 A family tradition has to start some where.  As a baby I was pulled across the mighty Mac in a wagon as my parents walked the 5 mile span.  My early memories only include a walk as a teenager where we camped the night before near Sault St Marie at a KOA campground.  The Mackinaw Fudge is what keeps those memories alive.  Shopping downtown with 10’s of thousands of others wanting the sugary treat.  Those memories were created so long ago.

 This year was my turn to make family memories.  Labor Day started early with me running the Mackinac Bridge as my family waited for me to finish.  They never seem to complain about waiting around for me.  I still wonder if the fudge shops opened up early, but I am too afraid to know the truth.  Our driver for the morning was my dad was listening to his doctor who begged him not to walk the bridge.  Upcoming knee replacement is scheduled for a week or two.  It was my daughter’s first time across the bridge and she seemed to enjoy the drive.  With the bridge walk in full swing traffic was heavy on the bridge, but dad got us safely across.  We were dropped off at the rest area and after a not so quick potty break we made our way to the start of the bridge.

 My mother was joining us for this walk, and tried pushing us to walk ahead of her, but we couldn’t leave her out of our sight.  The jokes about being away from “The Home” without permission entertained us as we walked amongst the 30 thousand “Michiganders”.  As we walked my daughter continued to look around and seemed to be enjoying the experience.  I was a proud daddy to share this piece of my childhood. 

 

First Mackinac Bridge Walk

First Mackinac Bridge Walk

With traffic picking up on the bridge, the bridge authority squeezed all the walkers into 1 lane of the 4 lane bridge.  This is when the pace slowed down.  The amazing people in wheel chairs or with walkers that did their best to keep pace inspired me.  Realizing they had a much harder time than I do every day.  Seeing the National Guardsmen along the bridge playing both Road Safety and Homeland Security made me remember the soldiers inAfghanistan.  Many of these guardsmen played their part of being serious yet nice.  Others made an impression by saying hello to almost everyone, and some gave high fives.  One soldier was lucky enough to be the poor sucker who got kissed on the cheek. my mother after I bet her she wouldn’t do it.  It now makes sense where I get my strange goofiness. 

women hugging soldier Mackinac Bridge

Mom hugging the soldier she kissed!

 Slowly we made our way up and over the bridge and down into MackinawCity.  Expecting to shop for a couple hours I stopped for a quick snack of Chocolate milk and boost at the car.  To my surprise the bridge took more out of mom and my daughter so the decision to head home without shopping was made.  We didn’t leave without Mackinaw Fudge.  I can’t remember all the flavors my wife and daughter picked, but I was happy to learn that Fudge can be frozen and eaten up to 6 weeks later.  My wired jaw will heal quicker knowing there is fudge at the end of the tunnel. 

 Overall our adventure to walk theMackinacBridgewas one of the highlights of my adult life.  The time spent with family is so important.  My daughter is growing so fast and now that school is in session the opportunities to create memories will be further apart.

 What is your last family adventure?

Pink Arrow Quiver Run – 10K Barefoot

Posted on September 11th, 2011 by Brandon

Pink Arrow Quiver Run – 10K Barefoot

 

Brandon Mulnix Family

My family

Pink Arrow Pride is a huge deal in Lowell,Michigan.  Over the past four years the community has raised over a million dollars by turning the town pink.  Last year one of their fund raising additions was adding the Quiver 5K.  A year later the organizer added a 10K and a kids run.  The community really showed up today to support this run.  With over 85 runners in the 10k and 244 in the 5K walk/run the organizers must be proud. 

Todd McMyler - Saranac High School

Todd and I went to High School together

 I signed up for the 10K earlier this week with the idea of running for the 4th consecutive weekend since my jaw surgery.  The night before my wife decided to run it as well.  My daughter would join us to run the 1K fun run.   To wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday does get old, but worth it when its for a good cause.  We arrived at 7:15am to so many familiar faces.  There were so many people running that I didn’t know ran.  Many signed up for the 10K!  My wife got registered and I picked up my packet.  I was hoping for a Pink shirt like the flier let on to, but it ended up being a white long sleeved.  As temperatures fall I will appreciate their decision for long sleeve.  As I walked around in my Invisible Shoe Sandals I got many of the same questions I got during the Labor Day run, “Are you going to run in those? (Insert a slight hint of judgment added in).  I took advantage of knowing most of the people who were asking and replied “No way I am not running in these I am running barefoot” (Insert Sarcasm).

 This race had many great attributes.  The first being a professional sound system that you could hear and a local Radio DJ to do the professional announcements.  The safety and course instructions were clear and planned out like they were reading a script.  The 85 runners gathered at the start line ready to run.  Hanging out at the start with people I see daily was really refreshing.  One girl stood out when she asked “Isn’t running barefoot not good for you?”  I appreciated the question, but didn’t know how to answer in an about to start manner. 

Pink Arrow Quiver 10k 2011

Waiting to start the 10K

 A number of local celebrities joined us in the race.  We had the Lowell Red Arrow Football coach, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, that one guy, my sister in law (in certain circles she is famous), and that guy who ran 50 miles with his jaw wired shut.  I was fortunate enough to run with the Football coach as we started and ran with him (around him) for the first 2 miles.  The course was asphalt for the first 3 ½ miles.  Some of the asphalt was horrible for my bare feet.  I found the road patches were the smoothest to run on.  It was a great learning experience since most of my barefoot runs are on smooth fresh asphalt.  By the time I got to the 2 mile turn around I decided to increase my pace and start working my way through the runners.  It was nice catching fast runners. 

 

Brandon Mulnix, Pink Arrow Quiver 2011

Narly Asphalt

The pavement paused for the next 2 miles as we ran on the WittenbachWege Center trails.  This is where the 5K walkers and the 10K runners mixed.  I was proud at how respectful the 5K walkers and runners were as we passed.  The sandy trails felt great on my feet and I used it to push my limits.  Passing so many 10 K runners really put a pop in my step.  The course had small inclines and lots of roots and rocks.  The largest hill on the trail was right before we popped out into the parking lot.  With only ½ mile to go I started to shift into a new gear.  By this point I knew I over ran my feet and I could feel blisters.  The last ½ mile was asphalt that went downhill into the Bob Perry Lowell Red Arrow football stadium.  Once my feet hit the rubber track the sprint was on.  I was able to finish in a reasonable time for me of 52:38 good for 24th place. 

 
I will give the Pink Arrow Quiver props for having the best post race refreshments, Chocolate Milk!  They had pints of it, and you could have more than one.  So I refueled on my favorite drink right now.  I enjoyed two pints while hanging out till my daughter was able to run the fun run.  She ran really well and again the Pink Arrow Quiver race spoiled the kids with lots of great swag. 

 I will make it 5 consecutive weeks of racing; I signed up to run the Mercy Run 8 Miler.  This is the first race on the new trail that encircles the Greenville,Michigan.  Join us!

Mackinac Bridge Run – Labor Day 2011 – Meeting Governor Rick Snyder

Labor Day in Michiganis all about the Mackinac Bridge.  As a little boy I experienced the bridge from the back of a wagon pulled by my parents.  A couple of times through my early years I walked it with my parents just for the Fudge at the end.  This year I was finally able to share the experience with my wife and daughter.

Brandon Mulnix

My family

Our original plan for the weekend was to bike across the state, but that was scrapped when I was picked to run the bridge.  Unlike most short distance runs I really got excited to run the bridge.  My goal from the start was to run it barefoot.  The number one question asked was “Won’t the grates hurt your feet?”  Thankfully the grates only take up the middle lanes of the 4 lane bridge.   Prepping to run the bridge didn’t take much.  I hadn’t planned on my jaw being wired shut, but that didn’t slow me down. With hotel prices being outrageous on the holiday weekend in Mackinaw we decided to stay inHoughtonLakewhich is less than two hours drive.  It wasn’t theCrownPlaza, but the prize was free and the time spent with family and friends was priceless.  The distance did require us to get up before 3 am.  We only had to make one stop on the way and that was to pick up my parents who opted to stay in a hotel about thirty minutes into the trip.  I thought we would be able to make only one stop, but there is nothing open at 3:30 AM inNorthern Michigan.  We finally found a 24 hour McDonalds, but they were not prepared to take care of one car, let alone the five cars that showed up at that time of morning.  You would think they would be prepared for the 30,000 people about to show up to walk the bridge.

Brandon Mulnix - Short Bus

Waiting for the bus to ride to the Upper Pennisula

After the longer than expected stop we got back on the road and made it to the Mackinaw Recreation center right at 5am and I was able to get my race packet which included my Bib, my shirt, ID Band, and coupons for dinner that I chose not to attend (carb loading with jaw wired shut is not possible).  The cool morning air was already starting to get to me as we stood and waited for the buses that would take us to the starting line.  While in line I was blessed to run into Michael Grant who I had the pleasure of running with a year ago during a winter training run.  Michael and I had the pleasure of catching up on the bus ride to theUpper Peninsulastart.  He told me of his 100 pound weight transformation and his Grand Rapids Marathon finish.  It was such a motivator as I readied myself for the race ahead.

Fellow Grand Rapids Runner

Fellow Grand Rapids Runner

The cool air really hit home as the 243 runners waited just off the shore line on the north end of the bridge.  Thousands of walkers were all ready there for their 7am start when we arrived at 5:45.  Our start wasn’t till 6:40 and many dressed as if they were running a summer marathon instead of a fall 5K.  The temperature was around 42 degrees!  We all huddled behind a sign that blocked the north wind and we waited.  I was on the lookout for Lt. Governor Brian Calley.  His wife had facebooked me the night before instructing me to look for him, because he wanted to chat before the run.  The Michigan State Police motorcade arrived about 6:30 and Governor Rick Snyder came walking up with Brian right beside him.  As the Governor went to the front of the pack to give a speech I was able to spend a few moments with my friend talking about his daughter and how she was recovering.  To have Brian take a few moments out of his duties to catch up really meant something to me.

Rick Snyder giving speech Mackinac Bridge

Pre-race speech by Govenor Snyder

Governor Snyder led the wheel chair racer and the Fitness Ambassadors to the starting line and sent them off for their less than 5 mile trek.  The organizers led groups of 20-50 out at a time to start the race and space out the runners across the bridge.  I stood around and waited.  Purposefully wanting to be in the last group, not knowing how it would be to run barefoot across the bridge and run fast with the jaw being wired.  My invisible shoes kept my feet from touching the ground which got me lots of questions.  “Your going to run in those?” with my response “Heck no, I am going to run barefoot”.  It was fun having conversations with people that couldn’t understand me, and thought I was nuts. As the groups took off I made my way over to the start.  Brian was back doing his civic duty next to the Governor.  I was surprised when he waved me over to introduce me to the Governor.  To be introduced as a family friend also made me feel special.  Photographing Brian’s family on more than one occasion would make me his photographer, but a family friend was cooler.  Rick Snyder shook my hand and smiled while Brian took my picture.  The only thing I regret was not getting someone else to take the photo and getting Brian in there to.  He is the one who introduced me, and is just as important as Rick is.  I wasn’t paying much attention to the group of runners I was with, but someone else told them to “GO” and they were off.  Before I knew it I was the only one left standing at the starting line.  I forgot to take off my sandals before getting out to the start, so I just reached down and took them off as I started to run.  The race was chipped time with no awards so I didn’t really care about when I started.  Dead last meant I had lots of people I could pass.  As I started to run I heard about 10 people say “He’s running barefoot” from the Governor’s direction.  I just laughed and ran.

Rick Snyder Brandon Mulnix Mackinac Bridge

Meeting the Govenor of Michigan

The Mackinaw Bridgeis cold at 42 degrees on your feet.  My toes were used to 60’s and 70’s over the past weeks, but the cold made it kind of nice.  I didn’t want to leave my feet on the cement very long.  My pace started out really fast.  The excitement of the morning had made its way to my feet and I started passing runners.  The first ½ is all uphill to the crown of the bridge.  Since I wasn’t caring so much about my time, at least that is what I told myself, I tried thanking all the soldiers lining the bridge.  That only lasted so long.  My breathing had picked up with the quick pace and sucking in oxygen was my only goal.  Clearing your airway is tough when you can’t spit.  I usually spit a couple of times in the first miles to clear out everything, but I didn’t have that option.  I did my best to blow my nose “farmers blow”, but that was tough as well.  I didn’t want to hit anyone and I didn’t want to get to close to the edge.  As I passed runners I heard a lot of “Oh my God, he’s barefoot”.  I questioned why God would care that I was barefoot, but appreciated the fact people were praying while running. One runner called me out, before I even passed her.  She said that she was about to be passed by someone running barefoot, because she knew the sound.  Later she revealed that her running partner ran barefoot or minimalist and it sounded differently.  So that is what natural running sounds like.  One guy wore Vibrams and said there was another guy he saw in the staging area with sandals.  Who would run in those I thought?  He then figured out it was me.  The soldiers lining the bridge were cool and were usually surprised to see me running by.  I argued that they were much more hard core by serving our country, but they yelled it anyways.  The bridge crested and the by the time I started the decent my feet were alive and I was feeling the smooth concrete.  I was surprised to see my sub 20 minute 2.5 mile split.  I felt like I was flying and my time reminded me of that.  A hot spot started to develop the pad of my right foot.  I assumed it was because I was running too fast.  I adjusted my stride length to adjust for the decent and the hot spot started to feel better. The last mile is totally deceiving.  Up ahead you can see the finish and the turn off, but you don’t really know how far it is.  I never really sprinted.  I kept one guy in my sights the last half, but didn’t really care to pass him.  Being a social runner and not being able to really talk to anyone kind of sucked, but it gave me time to think about the run.  The crowd at the finish line was incredible.  There were hundreds of people there to see us finish.  My watch said I finished in just over 32 minutes (results here).  The distance 4.3 miles according to Garmin.  I was trilled since my last 5K was over 26 minutes.  While waiting around for the other runners to finish I had the opportunity to answer a lot of questions about barefoot running.  The number one question: “Does your feet hurt?”  Nope, they felt great was the best answer I could come up with.   It was the truth.  Nothing feels better than running with bare feet.  Sure there is the occasional stone bruise, but I wouldn’t trade them for all the shine splints in the world.

Mackinac Bridge Run, Finishing photo

Barefoot finish photo

Being 6’3” also has its advantages.  As we waited for the runners to finish they formed us up into groups based on our wrist band color.  I was given the blue sign to hold, and I held it proudly.  Like any first grader would I held it up high, yelled out our color, and made sure we were all the same color.  Yes I am that obnoxious.  I also had the pleasure of standing in the background of every other team’s photo.  Yup I am that guy to.   Our photo was taken and as I walked away Wilx News 10 fromLansingput a camera in my face to ask me how the run was.  What is my luck? Stay tuned:  The Labor Day Bridge Walk 2011- A new family tradition?

Just give it to HIM?

Posted on September 1st, 2011 by Emily

 

What’s keeping you from your dreams?  Just give it to him.  Anything is possible!!

Transformation

50 Miles with my jaw wired shut- North Country Run Report

Posted on August 30th, 2011 by Brandon

50 Miles with my jaw wired shut- North Country Run Report

It is possible to run 50 miles with your jaw wired shut.  Before Saturday I could only find one person who was rumored to run the Leadville 100 with his jaw wired shut over 20 years ago.  Going into Saturday’s race knowing that very few people would ever attempt such a challenge I had a lot of anxiousness.  Running 50 miles is tough enough.  Running with your jaw wired shut is very strenuous on the body.  Before Saturday, ten miles is the longest I had ran wired shut and that was in March.  My body had healed well from Burning River 100.  The furthest I had ran in the past month was 3 miles, and that was in a 5K just days after surgery.

Early in the Race- Still Smiling - North Country Trail Run 50 Miler 2011

Early in the race

Normally before an Ultra I like to rest as much as possible, but after driving for 2 ½ hours to the race sight Emily, Roger, and I helped in whatever way we could.  Putting up a tent, starting the generator, and hauling supplies to the aid station kept us busy till after 9:30pm.  The three of us stayed at one of Roger’s friends rentals in Cadillac which made for a quiet nights sleep.  Not sleeping on the ground meant more relaxed sleep.  The six hours of sleep was much better than last years two hours.

Waking up fresh and ready to run we arrived just in time to get a great parking space (still can’t believe no one else thought of parking there) and started to mingle with all the friends who drove in to race.  The Hobby Joggas were there: Mark, Tony, Stuart, Rick, and Ryan all ran the marathon.  There was a bunch of new faces with them that all looked happy and ready to run.  The marathon started about 20 minutes before the marathon and with a course change this year it would be common to pass many of them on the first loop of the 50.  After about a mile the marathon runners paced and it would be the only time I got to see Roger run and he was in the top three.  The small group of ultra runners started to line up.

Lining up towards the back of the pack was the only option for me.  I didn’t want to be passed by a hundred runners who were running for a personal best of the win.  My goal from the start was to finish.  Starting in the back is always better because the people back there are cooler people.  We like to talk, and we could careless what our time is.  We run to have fun.  So without any announcement that I could hear, we were off.  The first little bit was to the end of the parking lot entrance and back on the pavement to spread out the runners a bit.  It was only about a quarter mile total before hitting the trail, but in that short time I was picked out of the crowd by the brother of Kristen Armstrong, one of my brides from two years ago (Got to love Facebook).

Gnarly chilling in my pack

Gnarly chilling in my pack

The only bad/good part of being in the back when starting a trail race is the width of the trail and the pure volume of runners.  With over 150 runners starting together, the trail packed up really fast.  Its good when it does this because it slows you down, but bad because you almost trip over people.  Slowing down also leveled the playing field for all the “Open Mouthed” runners and myself.  I was able to keep the pace with them for the first couple of miles.  I ended up with a group of “Medical Misfits” for a few miles.  One guy ran with a heart that couldn’t get over 130 beats per minute or his oxygen level would drop to under 80 percent.  Another guy was running just months after a valve replacement.  Did you know they don’t use pig valves that often anymore.. who knew?  They felt better after finding out I am a paramedic, but didn’t like my response of who was going to give them mouth to mouth after I passed out myself?

Beautiful Manistee national forest trail- North Country Run 2011

Beautiful Manistee national forest trail- North Country Run 2011

Ultras are a small world.  After surging ahead on the flats I started a conversation with a very nice guy (Tom Coleman) who come to find out was neighbors to Tim Adair, the guy I ran 80 miles with at Burning River.  We ran for a couple more miles together before I told him not to wait up for me.  His goal was sub 10 hours and I was an anchor.  He ended up around 10:45, sorry Tom L.

The wheels started falling off around the 20 mile mark.  I wasn’t dehydrated, but felt like I was hit by a train.  I had been drinking Boost and V8 throughout, but they were not enough.  Leg cramping started around that same point and I learned quickly that if I drank a Boost right after they started the cramps would go away.  I started drinking more Ultra in my water and that didn’t help.  I wasn’t able to level out.  GU Energy wasn’t an option unless I wanted to be a sticky mess.  Something about a syrup dripping down your numb chin doesn’t seem very smart while running.

Now the wheels were locking up, and the mind was starting to give up.  I arrived at the half way point just emotionally drained.  I felt like I had run my first 31 miler in the mountains of California and the 100 miles of Burning River together and it was only 25 miles in.  My wife took the brunt of my frustration when the chair was nicely placed in the shade about 20 feet off the trail.  I didn’t like how far away from the aid station and my bag it was so I took it out on those who only cared about me and getting me through the race.  I quickly relaxed and tried figuring out how my wife did in her first half marathon.  I rather have talked to her and Roger all day then to get back out on the course.  I didn’t want to move.  My legs, feet, chest, and abdomen all hurt.  I don’t know whether I just got out of the chair, or what, but next thing I know I am moving back down the trail and that’s when I lost it.

Just 10 yards past the 25 mile mark I cried like a baby.  I couldn’t control it and didn’t want anyone to see me.  I just kept walking and praying.  The thought of quitting left my mind after I remembered my verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13”.  On I trudged.  Thankfully there were a lot of smooth up hills and longer down hills.  I had to walk more than I liked because my stomach now wanted to slosh around and try to make me throw up.  Puking with my mouth wired shut isn’t an option.  There were not a lot of runners passing me at this point, but one older man (Jose) stood out.  Him and I kept yo-yoing positions all day long.  I couldn’t ever really run with him because when I felt good I ran much faster, but when I felt bad, He would catch up and pass me.  I knew he was on the trail near me and he always had a kind word to say.

My Run Amoc Shoes for the first 38 Miles

My Run Amoc Shoes for the first 38 Miles

Roger ended up being one of my angels on the course.  He traveled from aid station to aid station making sure I was okay.  The sight of a friend at the aid station picked up my deepening spirits and gave me something to look forward to.  I ran much of the middle of this lap alone and it was tough.  From being sick with a stomach cramps to leg locking muscle spasms do to a lack of sodium.  I experience more lows and deep depressions then I ever imagined.  I continued on even though I wanted to quit.   Aid station 5/13 would be the last time I would see Roger leaving me 9 miles to run alone.

Shortly after passing station 5 my legs went into complete muscle spasms in the middle of an uphill.  I could only stand in the middle of the trail and hold a tree, praying for them to let up.  I had just taken a Boost to prevent another low.  I was feeling pretty good going into the hill.  Thankfully Roger remembered a Gatorade G1 Before supplement.  I took it just after my legs looked up and my legs quickly came back.  I started to run again on the downhills and flats.  I did my best to continue on and the distance to Aid station 6/14 went by quickly.  As I arrived I asked if this was the aid station that had new legs.  Lisa Fine a runner who I would spend the rest of the race with laughed and seemed to enjoy a little humor this late in the race.  I did my best to get any sodium in I could and drank fluid to keep hydrated.  I caught up to Lisa on an uphill between 14 and 15 and I decided to run with her instead of running by myself.  She was in bad shape when I caught her.  She didn’t even really want to run the 50 miler, but decided to late to switch to the shorter marathon distance.  The miles went by a little easier while running with her.  Through 15 and 16 we ran just trying to get to the finish.  Somewhere in this trek Ben VanSoose met us coming back from the Start Finish line.  I stopped to talk with him, and decided it would be better to run with Lisa and make sure she made it to the end.  Daylight was quickly leaving deep dark shadows on the trail.  Ben ran back to meet with another runner and pick up trash along the way.  (He is an amazing man, with a huge heart).

Lisa started to run a little bit more towards the end.  I was becoming very proud of a women who I had only known for 7 miles, but had a huge heart to finish a challenge.  My memory of the course from lap one helped keep us positive and I started to see cars and campers parked near the park entrance.  On we ran.  I started to push her to run.  Telling her we were going to run into the finish.  I started to hear the cheers as we rounded the last corner and Lisa started to run harder.  I just continued to push her and she responded.  It was joy to see all the people still there to cheer us on.  As we neared the line I let Lisa go for the finish.  She earned it by being there for me.  If it wasn’t for the new trail friend my last miles would have been a lonely trek of self pity and misery.  Till the very end I hadn’t even seen her face.  She had lead the way down the trail to the finish.

My wife Emily and my friend Roger were there to witness me finish.  The race director stepped in to put the medal around my neck.  I just wanted to cry.  Knowing at that moment I could do anything.  I didn’t do it alone.  My wife supported me more than I could ever repay.  How many wives would allow their husband to run with a wired jaw.  The support of my friends Roger, Chris, Phil, and Tim who were there to see me finish and support me to the car.  My new trail friends Lisa, Tom, and Jim were a huge support along the way.  The aid station volunteers who did a great job supporting me even though there was little they could do.

A very important Thank You to all the people who pledged to donate one item for every mile I completed.  The list has over 60 names from all across the country.  It amazes me the generosity of oters.  The food is now being collected and I hope all come through and at least 3000 non perishable food items can be donated.

Lisa Fine and Brandon Mulnix at finish of North Country Trail Run 2011

Lisa and I after we finished

Thank you for the prayers, and support!

Read about it in the Daily News or Washington Post

Naked Foot 5K – Grand Rapids (I must be crazy)

Posted on August 25th, 2011 by Brandon

Naked Foot 5K -Grand Rapids(I must be crazy)

 Running 50 Miles must not be enough for me, because now I am signed up to run the Naked Foot 5K on Sunday in Grand Rapids.  I am a sucker for peer pressure and I caved when a number of runners who read this blog mentioned they might be running it.  It helped that there was a Groupon offer for $19.  Available to Midnight 08/25/2011

 So less then 11 hours after my anticipated 50 mile finish I will attempt a nice easy soft Barefoot 5K.  Merrell is the hosting sponsor and the race will be well attended by Barefoot runners from acrossMichiganand beyond.  It will be nice to run with like minded people that understand what its like to run “FREE”. 

 Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton will be there and that is worth the $19 in itself.  Ken has been running barefoot for a really long time and has a ton of experience and knowledge for it.  His passion for natural running is contagious.  Anyone who attends will be glad they did.  Jason Robillard author of the “Not Yet Best Seller” book “The Barefoot Running Book” will also be there to help guide the lost soles to the promise land of barefoot running. 

 Shoes are welcome (but it will be like wearing clothing in a nudist camp), and it’s a safe place for the Kids with a Kids fun run and 1 mile run. 

More information is available at: http://www.thenakedfoot5k.com/events/grand-rapids-mi/

Fallsburg “Who Cut the Cheese 5K” Wired Shut and Barefoot Race Report

Three days ago I woke up in the hospital with my jaw wired shut for the second time in 6 months.  Just days later I decided to run a 5K for the heck of it.  Over the past two years I have heard so much talk about the Fallsburg Marathon and 1/2 Marathon that I just wanted to be part of it.  I didn’t pay attention to when it was, so yesterday when I was visiting a local zoo a guy from Pittsburgh mentioned he was running the 1/2 Marathon and it got me thinking.  If I plan on running 50 miles next weekend, how do I know I can even go 3 miles with my jaw wired shut?  So I convinced my studio assistant to meet me at Fallsburg and we signed up to run the 5K this morning.

The Hospital Mile on Wednesday - Just hours after surgery

The Hospital Mile on Wednesday - Just hours after surgery

“I am running it for the T-shirt” I continued to tell myself.  In my mind there are no limitations, only excuses not to do something.  My jaw was not going to be my excuse.  After hanging around for an hour or so talking with Ben VanHoose and other ultra runners from the area I felt like I would be okay.  I know the course inside and out since I have trained here often over the past 2 years and its only a 5K.  It was only 30 minutes before the race started when I decided I wanted to run this trail/road race barefoot.  I hadn’t run any of the trails here barefoot before, but knew it would be less pounding on my jaw.  I was glad I did.

Jaw Wired and Barefoot

Jaw Wired and Barefoot

The race started with about 100-125 people.  Most were running the 1/2 marathon or the marathon, and I couldn’t tell who was in for the 5K.  A group of young guys started up front and took off like a shot out of a gun.  Those must be the 5K runners I told myself, no relieved that I didn’t have to worry about a great place.  I ran hard from the start, testing out how to breath through my nose and whatever parts of my mouth air could get through.  I stayed just behind the top group of all runners through the first mile.  A 7:58 mile, not bad, but I was pushing hard.  Trying to get the body moving with as little oxygen as possible.  The course became rockier and more technical so I slowed down a bit allowing other runners to get by.  A 9:20 mile for a hilly technical second mile.  I was starting to gasp for air.  Running on fumes by now.  The hills continued and the terrain turned to rocks then road.  I ran the center line of the road looking for any relief possible for my feet.  Not having ran much barefoot was starting to stimulate some new nerves.  It didn’t hurt as much as it started to chaff the bottom of my feet.  I didn’t want blisters going into next weeks run.  I finished the last mile in 8:56 which seemed really slow.  I didn’t care until I saw all the runners cut off to the left for the 1/2 and full marathon while I continued straight.  Only one girl in front of me and I was hyperventilating from trying to catch my breath.  I trudged on to finish in 26:21 3rd place overall, 2nd place in the Men’s division.

2nd Place Men- Fallsburg "Who Cut the Cheese 5K" - August 2011

2nd Place Men- Fallsburg "Who Cut the Cheese 5K" - August 2011

I was awarded a funny plaque for my 2nd place finish and a great towel to dry off with.  The T-shirt was cool and well worth the $20!  My assistant Karen came in just over a minute behind me to finish 4th overall and 2nd Women.  She had a PR and did an amazing job on a tough hilly course.  She should not have believed me that it was “an easy” course.

My Studio Assistant Karen- Ran a PR and got 4th overall

My Studio Assistant Karen- Ran a PR and got 4th overall

Overall I have confidence that if I slow down and enjoy the race next week 50 miles is doable.  Nutrition will be the toughest challenge, but I don’t like things that come too easy.  Next race North Country Trail 50 Miler

Pre Surgery 5K- Doesn’t everyone do this?

Posted on August 17th, 2011 by Brandon

Pre Surgery 5K- Doesn’t everyone do this?

The Car they recycled for the Metal!

You are probably reading this either while I am on the table getting my jaw fixed or after they have placed a small Yugo in my mouth to try to stabilize the unhealed fracture.  Before I went into surgery I decided to go for a run.  Not knowing when I would be running again after the surgery I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to feel the dirt between my toes.  I debated how far I should run before I stepped foot outside the door.  Running in the dark is scary enough, but running before surgery is fricken nuts!!!!  What could go wrong, if I trip and fall it will hurt my jaw and I am scheduled to have it fixed anyways.  If the jarring from running hurts my jaw, it will be fixed anyways.  So with nothing to lose the idea took flight.

Choice of distance was a tougher element .  I had all day to sleep after the surgery so what is a couple of hours of running right?  I debated whether or not to run to the hospital (23.2 miles) but I couldn’t drink any liquids after 4:30 and having to be there at 6:30 am would make that tough.  I didn’t want to go into surgery all dehydrated and hypoglycemic.  It would only take me 3.5 hours to get there, but I wouldn’t want to risk stinking out the operating room with my body odor.  What shoes would I wear to surgery anyways? 

I chose a 5K distance, but without shoes.  I need as much barefoot training as possible so nude it is.  My course leads me around Saranac, and down on the River Walk.  It is so cool to run this path in the dark.  The only light to illuminate my path was my head lamp.  I decide not to wear a watch.  Time doesn’t matter as much as breathes.  Breathing in the morning air to fill my lungs with clean fresh air will make me stronger.  The blood pumping to all my muscles will increase healing.  The joy of running will help my soul heal.

I hope I don't look like him!

 If you knew tomorrow you couldn’t run for the rest of your life, what race, distance, or place would you run today?

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