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

We, as a family, press on towards the goal

2nd Half Marathon – Grand Rapids

Posted on October 19th, 2011 by Emily

This past Sunday I ran my second in my life half marathon in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I look back over the past 32 years of my life and am amazed at the depth of change from just this past one year.  Who would have thought I’d run a half marathon?  Who would have thought I’d be a runner at all?? Certainly not myself!! And yet, here I am, a runner, a half marathoner.  It still blows my mind.

Sarah and I signed up for the Grand Rapids Half Marathon on August 14th.  That’s exactly 9 weeks that we had to train for this crazy adventure.  We had run only 3 mile runs ever and no longer.  13.1 miles is a few miles longer than 3 if you weren’t sure about that.  We knew that too, so we searched the internet for a 9 week training program for a 1/2 marathon.  We found one that would *probably* suit our needs and fit into our schedule pretty well.    Sarah was awesome and took the time to create a pretty fun and motivational calendar.

We did the first month of training pretty well.  I proudly crossed of the days that we ran the scheduled amount.  I added the days we walked miles too.  Just for fun.  It felt awesome to see our accomplishment and cross off the days and see just how many miles we had finished every week.  The long runs were difficult and less than fun, but we did them nonetheless.  I dreaded them for nearly the entire week but once they were over I did have a huge sense of awesomeness right along with the quad pain and general leg fatigue.  I remember our first 6 mile training run and how I dreaded it for days before.  Again, who would have thought I’d run a half marathon? ?

I ran the Quiver 10K on September 10th, and then Sarah and I ran the Mercy 8 mile run on September 17th.  After that eight mile run my knee was no longer happy to be a runner.  It was insisting I stop torturing it.  So the long runs were out.  Sarah, her sister-in-law Bridget, and I were planning a 12 mile training run and I set out on it only to turn myself back towards home after a mile and a half or so.  Sarah and Bridget finished the 12 on their own.  The longest I ran between September 17th and this past Sunday’s 13.1 was 3 wimpy miles, if that. Instead there was a lot of walking.  It was just pathetic.  And I was getting extremely worried that this 1/2 marathon was going to end tragically.  I had no idea how I’d make it that far with my knee hurting as much as it was.  I did end up waving the white flag of surrender and going to Hadley Clinic where Scott (the owner) was able to show me how to work out my muscle issues with a rolling pin and a softball.  It helped even though I only had three weeks left before the race.

Race day came, Sarah, Bridget and I lined up in the last 1/4 section of the runners.  It was EXTREMELY chilly out at 7:45 when we lined up in the chute.  Thankfully I was wearing my Zensah arm and leg sleeves.  A jacket would have been way too much once we started running and it would have driven me nuts if I ended up tying it on my waist.  I don’t have a long sleeve technical shirt or else I probably would have chosen to wear that.  (Don’t get me started on how disappointed I am about the Grand Rapids Marathon changing to short sleeve shirts this year….. Their long sleeve shirt was one of the major reasons I was geeked to run this race.) The arm sleeves I ‘borrowed’ from Lily ended up being the best part of my running attire.  Well, those and my sparkly piggy tales.  :)

About 3 miles into the 1/2 my knee started hurting me.  I wasn’t surprised at all but I wasn’t going to let a little knee discomfort (*read extreme knee screaming*) get me down.  Sarah, on the other hand was battling her own demons, which was shocking since she never seemed to have bad days like I frequently had.  We were in desperate need of motivation about 9 miles into the 12 and, thankfully, we got it.  The motivation that helped us the most were the spectators that were ‘different’.  The ones that stood out and were obviously having fun.  The ones with loud, peppy, fun music.  The one with the Rockband air guitar.  The ones with fun signs.  Those ones were the best motivation that we were in desperate need of.  Which made me think of how I’ve spectated in the past and what I’m going to do differently in the future.  In fact, here’s a list of Marathon Posters you’ll see me sporting in the future.

“In our minds, you’re all Kenyans.”

“Your feet hurt because you are kicking so much butt!”

“Your legs will forgive you…eventually.”

“Don’t stop — people are watching.”

“That’s not sweat, it’s your fat cells crying.”

“If it was easy, I would do it.”

“Run like you stole something.”

“This is easier than labor and delivery.”

“You’re not slow. You’re just enjoying the course.”

“Stop reading this and keep running!”

“Puke and rally!”

“Don’t worry, toenails are overrated.”

“Run like someone’s chasing you.”

“It’ll feel better when it stops hurting.”

“Mortuary ahead….look alive!”

“If I ran it, by God, you can, too.”

“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.”

“Staying up all night making this sign was hard too.”

“You are NOT almost there.” (seen at mile 1)

“The end is near.”

“What path does a crazy runner take through the woods? A Psycho Path!”

“Hurry, we’re cold!”

“Toll booth ahead. Exact change only.”

“What’s your favorite part of Star Wars III?”

“Run Total Stranger, Run”

“Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na (Chariots of Fire).”

“Free Piggyback Rides”

“It’s OK to cry”

“You’re running the wrong way”

“Bus station, —–> That way.”

“Think of how many calories you get to eat today!”

?”I’m a total stranger, but I am SO PROUD of you!”

“Running is a mental sport and we are all INSAINE!”

and my favorite….

“Worst parade EVER.”

Anyhow, back to the run….

At one point, somewhere around mile 11 or 12 we took a minute to walk and rest our leg muscles only to have a very rude awakening when we started up again.  Our quads, calves, shins, feet and especially gluteus maximus’s were in serious pain.  As Sarah perfectly described, it felt like someone was clawing their way out of the back of our pelvic bone or butt bone, tearing our pelvis’ apart.  Yeah,  it was painful.  So we decided that walking was going to be very minimal from here out.  It just hurt way too bad to start running again.  Besides, we only had less than a 5K left to run.  We could totally make it to the end now.

As we rounded the last corner and we had the finish line in sight we started to get a little bit emotional.  Sarah had warned me that she was probably going to cry at the finish line and she warned me of the impending hug there too.  Thinking about our huge accomplishment together had me starting to feel extreme sadness that it was almost over and happiness that we had done something so huge.  I told Sarah that I was getting emotional, she admitted that she was too, but it made it to hard to breathe so we stuffed those feelings down until a later time and pressed on.

We got to about 50 yards before the finish line, and there was only one lady in front of us before the finish line.  Throughout the last half of the run we were deciding who we needed to make sure to pass and beat to the finish.  The one chick in the white who ran weird,  the one guy in the green that had a walk/run form, the foot scuffing old lady, the hard breather, the guy who looked to be in extreme pain, the really big lady in blue, the really tall chick in pink, and the one with 13.1 on her back.   We lost track of a few of those runners along the course and we are sure we conquered all but two people.  But here we were at the finish line and there there was only one lady in front of us right then so Sarah said, “Let’s take her!”  and we took off in a sprint to the finish line to finish our 1/2 just a few seconds in front of her.  That felt awesome to have beat one more runner, one last one at the last possible time.

I didn’t even have the time to look over at the clock and see our time.  I had no idea how long it took us to run the 13.1, I just knew we were finished.  WOOHOO!! Huge smile.  No tears, no hugs, just a humongous sense of accomplishment and excitement.

I must say running my second 1/2 marathon was much more enjoyable because I had someone to run with the entire time.  Someone to push me when I needed pushing and someone for me to push when she needed it back.  I’m so thankful to have Sarah as a friend and as my favorite running partner.

Anyhow, here’s a few pictures of the awesome day because I’m sure you’re super bored from reading my race report.  :)

Here we are keeping warm in the car before the race.  Brandon joked about me writing on the back of my shirt, “I’m here for the 13.1 mile wet t-shirt contest.” It stopped raining, thankfully!

Bridget, Sarah, and I pre-race.  Getting ready to line up and freeze for a few minutes before the start.

Here we are crossing the finish line.  Sarah’s husband, Robert, caught us AT THE EXACT moment we went across the mat.  How awesome is that.  Official finish time 2:46:46.

The Bling!  :) Best Bling EVER!

Brandon and I after he finished.  We rock.  Just sayin’.

Here’s me. All cute.  Wearing my bling, Zensah Sleeves and my favorite SweatyBand.

I have to say, I’m super proud of my bling.  Can you tell?

Here’s my awesome marathon family.

Lily was able to run the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Grand Rapids Kids Marathon on Saturday where she finished the last 1.2 miles with all the other kids.  She was VERY proud of her accomplishment of running the entire way. Many thanks to Jennifer who allowed Lily to join her family to do the marathon while we photographed a wedding. This was her third time doing the kids marathon and she loved every minute of it.  :)

Yup,  we are the Mulnix’s (Mulni) and we’re a running family.

Eight Days till Grand Rapids Marathon

Posted on October 8th, 2011 by Brandon

Eight Days till Grand Rapids Marathon

Its only eight days till the running of the Grand Rapids Marathon and again I am not ready.  Its not that I can’t run the distance, or that I feel I am going to fail.  Its the little things.  I signed up for the race after my wife decided to run the 1/2  with her friend.   I don’t know what it is this year, but I don’t look forward to this race.  Life has been so busy and I have only been able to put in aobut 10 miles of running over the past two weeks.   I just haven’t felt the “Oh boy I am running a marathon Joy”.   Where does that “JOY” come from? 

After running about 7 miles barefoot this week I made the decision to just go for it and run as far as I can barefoot.  I don’t have a time goal other than to run faster than last years 4:30. 

How do I get the Joy back?

Mercy 8 Mile Run – Emily

Posted on October 6th, 2011 by Emily

Brandon signed up for the September 17th Mercy 8 Mile Run in Greenville and mentioned it to me.  I figured it came at a great time for Sarah and I because we were scheduled to run 10 miles that weekend.  An 8 mile race is somewhat equivalent to a 10 mile run since you generally push yourself harder during a race.  So I signed us up.  =)

We rode together, Robert and Sarah, Brandon and I up to Greenville, it was a nice brisk morning for a run.  Brandon was instantly a celebrity, they saved race bib #1 for him, cut out his Daily News article and had him sign it, and took pictures with him.  *Awkward*  We waited around for the race to start and a few more people to show up.  Turn out was quite small but it wasn’t advertised much, so that’s expected.  Sarah and I started in the back because that’s just easier that being passed constantly.  We’re runners, but we’re kinda slow ones.

There was a guy who was running RIGHT BEHIND US and I figured it was the ‘sweeper’ or ‘bike’.  Since the 5K started shortly after the 8 mile run, we weren’t quite sure.  But he stuck right behind us and uncomfortably close.   Once we got to the 5K turn around and he was still right behind us, we knew the answer.  Sarah joked before we started that we were going to come in last place, I agreed that we probably were since it was such a small race, so we were prepared for our fate.

Being the guy was so close, talking was nearly impossible because it would have felt pretty odd talking about personal stuff, or even life stuff, with someone within hearing distance.  So we barely talked besides to say, “This is a nice trail.”  “Which way do we go?” or “It’s such a nice morning for a run.” “Are we done yet?” And finally, “He’s KIDDING right?” When there was a guy who said we were at mile 5. He wasn’t kidding…. *sigh*

For some reason my Nike+ has a hard time calculating distance around water or trees.  It told me a LONG time before now that we were at mile 7.  I knew from our past runs to not listen to it, but I figured it was somewhat right.  Oh no.  It was VERY wrong.  By the time we were done running my Nike+ said that we had gone 12 miles, not the 8 that everyone else had done.  It sure did feel like 12 miles though.  By it telling me that we were at mile 7 so early it messed with our psyche pretty bad.  We thought we were much further along than we were for a very long time.  At one point we saw our running friend Ben and his Dad who had waited around to cheer us on.  That was super awesome and encouraging and took our minds off the length of the run for a minute or two.

We did really well though and walked once when we crossed the road because we had to wait for traffic, we walked when we crossed over a bridge because I was very tired, and I walked once more when we went under a road towards the end.  Which is pretty well because if it wasn’t for the ‘sweeper’ guy being so uncomfortably close (which at one moment he was running in between us…) we would have walked much more, we would have ran slower, and we would have finished much later than we did.

When we saw the tent at the finish line we were VERY excited.  It was almost over.  =)  Once we got there I purposefully slowed down a step so that I came in last.  I figured if I were ‘last place Emily’ from the Quiver run, I might as well keep my losing steak going and finish last here too.  Sarah, did the opposite, she purposely tried to keep right beside me so that we could finish together.  I think that’s pretty funny.  She’s a great running partner. We finished in 1:32:39 (an 11:34 mile pace) which is pretty good considering the 1:17 (12:49 pace) that I finished the 6 mile Quiver just the week before.

Turns out she’s such a great running partner that she got 3rd place in the 20-29 women’s age group.  That’s a pretty tough age group to get any place in.  I didn’t get a medal like Sarah did, but I did place 5th in the 30-39 women’s age group.  We rock.

Last place Emily strikes again.  (Although I really wasn’t last place in the Quiver.)  Thank the LORD the Grand Rapids 1/2 Marathon is HUGE and it’s going to be tough but I’m almost sure we won’t be last place finishers there.

NOT Last Place Emily – Lowell 10K Quiver

Posted on October 5th, 2011 by Emily

So, a while ago, September 10th to be exact, I ran the Lowell 10K Quiver run to benefit breast cancer and the Lowell Pink Arrow Pride.  I decided last minute to run it with my sister.  Somehow, however I’m not quite sure, I was talked into ‘pacing’ for her.  Only problem being that she runs a 10 minute mile and I run around an 11:20 – 12 minute mile.  No big deal right?  It’s not THAT much faster than I normally run….. Oh how very wrong that turned out to be.

So we started out by the football stadium and ran straight up a very long, quite good hill first thing.  That was lovely. Then down turned down Vergennes toward Parnell.  I did pretty well considering we were running quite a bit faster than I normally run, but that only lasted a short time.  I got to where it was hard to talk and run, then the 10 minute mile pacer passed us and my sister asked me if I could go any faster.  Truth was, I was DYING going as fast as we were already, there was NO way I was able to go faster and complete the whole 10K run.  So I had two options, run faster and not be able to finish, or run slower and no longer run with my sister.  I didn’t want to choose either, but I went with the second option and my sister went on while I took a short walking break.  There were quite a few runners of the 10K that had already turned around at Parnell and were headed back to the Wittenbach center when I finally did start to run again.  I’m sure I looked pathetic to them.  Oh well.

I wasn’t sure if I was in last place, but I didn’t want to waste time looking back.  The opportunity to see how I was doing came soon enough when I finally made it to the turn around point.  Nope, not last place, *whew*.  But third to last.  *YAY*.  There was a runner in front of me who I could tell was struggling and my goal was to make it to her and ask if she wanted to run together.  (Wow, wouldn’t that be bold of ME.)  So I took off running and was slowly catching up to her when I was passed, *sigh* and now in second to last place.  Apparently the lady that passed me had the same goal in mind, because when she got to the person in front of me, they took off together.  BUMMER.  Oh well, at least she has someone to run with.

So it’s just me and another slow runner behind me and I’m determined to NOT let that lady pass me.  Somewhere along here, which was before Wittenbach Center my knee started hurting a bit.  So I decided to run/walk the rest of the distance.  By the time I got up by the school again the 5K runners and walkers and all the 10K runners were turning to go back down to the track.  I saw Brandon and yelled “LOOK AT THAT GUY!!! HE’S RUNNING BAREFOOT!!”   =)  I knew he’d appreciate that.

The Wittenbach Center had me a bit concerned that the direction peoples had turned me the wrong way, but I finally caught up with a set of walkers way in the back of the woods.  Those two ladies in front of me were no where to be seen. After getting out the woods I started back over to the high school and the cop on the corner was chatting with a volunteer when they yelled at me, “Hey, there’s a cheater in front of you!!”  Apparently someone had cut across the field, but they were unsure if it was a real runner or not.  I guessed it wasn’t because I hadn’t seen anyone in front of me for quite a while.

Finally I reached the start line only to be told that the finish line was 1/2 way around the track.  CRAP.  I want to be done.  But I kept on,  Brandon cheered me on when I got to the football field, which was encouraging.  I ran over that finish line, dead, but with a sense of accomplishment.  I had finished a 6.2 mile run, alone, and wasn’t last….

HOWEVER, the Quiver peoples mixed my time up with the person who came in behind me (THANKS FOR THAT) and put my results as finishing in 1:32 and not the 1:17 that I actually did.  *ugh*  That super sucked because this was our town.  The town we do business in.  The town we have friends in.  The town we go to church in.  And there it was my results being LAST PLACE online.  And many of my friends competed in the run with me, so I knew they would be looking at the results online too.  What do you do when you look at the results for the races you’re in?  Look at the first place Male and Female and their times.  Your time, and oh yeah, the time of the person who finished last…. Oh well.  Maybe the lady who finished behind me was encouraged by not being in last place.  Maybe it was just what she needed to keep her running going.  I guess I’ll take it for the team if it did anything to encourage her and her journey.

I was not last place Emily in this run.  However… the Mercy run I did a few weeks later, that’s a different story.  =)

Do you wear those shoes with the toes?

Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Brandon

Do you wear those shoes with the toes?

I get asked this question nearly every time I admit I run barefoot.  How did those shoes become so synonymous with running barefoot?  I do run in Vibram shoes once in awhile, but I really enjoy shoes with less support.  My favorite time to wear the “toe shoes” is when I am climbing trees and mowing the lawn.  I also plan on wearing them when I run a trail run in two weeks do the “Shoe Sucking Mud”.  I like my Soft Star Shoes too much to lose them in the mud. 

 I do like the fact that the shoes are starting to go main stream.  One of my favorite actors of the Lethal Weapon movies, Danny Glover, wore a pair of shoes recently in Francethat really ticked off the fashion police.  Read about their distaste for the shoes here:, Toe shoes, Danny GloverI don’t know about the “Evil Reign”, but toe shoes do stand out when in public.  While running or walking in them I get more questions about them then I do about barefoot running.  I enjoy the opportunity to interact with people about minimalist running, but it does get distracting.  Now if only Lady Gaga would wear them…

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?

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:

Kids just being kids- Running Naturally- Warning Adults might not appreciate this

From the awesome people at the Natural Running Center

I dream of a place where kids can just run free.  No restraints from adults who’s science “Knows what is right for them”.  The kids look so natural running barefoot and they should!  I am so glad their are people that still appreciate the simple things in life.

Adults are probably watching this video with horror at the dangers of running in the street, the germs, the dangers of running barefoot.  The kids are just watching say “how cool is that”  I always dreamed of running barefoot in the middle of the road.

Adults, what is stopping you from running like a child again?

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

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