From the monthly archives: "July 2012"


The early leaders charge off the start line Saturday in the Tri Cities Family YMCA Coast Guard Run 10K. MI Sport Online photo.

Greg Madendorp, 19, of Whitehall figured he’d left the competition in the dust at the 4-mile mark of the 6.2-mile Tri-Cities Family YMCA Coast Guard Festival 10K run Saturday.

Madendorp, who was second last year, was elated after finishing in 32:28 to outdistance the second runner to cross the finish line by over half a minute.

“I got my revenge this year,” Madendorp said. “I put in a pretty lengthy surge over those hills to break him. It worked and I just kept chugging along. I’m kind of floating on clouds right now.”

Greg Madendorp

Madendorp had certainly outdistanced the rest of the lead runners, but Kevin Kearney’s tardy start cost him a possible win. Kearny, 28, of Chesterton, Ind., started about 5 minutes after Madendorp and the other front-runners led the pack out onto the course. His 32:12 was the day’s fastest time, but race organizers initially decided he should be relegated to second for his late start and later removed his name entirely from the overall results.

For complete 5K and 10K results visit Classic Race Management.

Taylor Heath, 19, of Hanover, was second in 33:03.

Saturday’s combined field of 1,662 was the largest field in the race over the last six years.

There was no doubt about who won the women’s 10K. West Ottawa grad Amber Brunmeier, 23, outdistanced Nicole Michmerhuizen, 20, of Holland, by over 2 minutes. Brunmeier crossed in 36:12, Michmerhuizen in 38:19.

“I went out conservative,” said Brunmeier. “I ran with a lot of guys and that helped a lot.”

Brunmeier, who just finished her college running career at Western Michigan, doubled up at last month’s Kalamazoo Classic, winning both the 5K and 10K. She’s training for her first marathon later this year.

Blake Rottschafer, 22, of Spring Lake, won the 5K title by an thinner margin than the wispy mustache he’s begun growing for the upcoming cross country season at Hope College.

“Hopefully, we can qualify for nationals, that’s what this ugly mustache is for,” Rottschafer said. “ ‘saches for nashies,” Rottschafer quipped. “I’m growing it for team camp. I’ll show it off and shave it down and start growing another one with everyone else.”

Rottschafer’s 16:10 finish gave him a 5-second advantage over Ahmed Elmi, 19, of Grand Rapids.

Muskegon’s ageless wonder Greg Helmer added another top 10 finish in what has been a furious comeback season. Helmer, 40, was the men’s masters winner, finishing 6th overall in 17:31.

Women’s 5K winner Erin Clason, 34, of Grand Rapids got the victory as an added bonus. “I just came out to run with my little brother. He runs for Cornerstone, so I thought I’d come out and join him.”

Clason finished in 18:42 for the win. Paige Boldt, 23, of Grand Rapids, trailed Clason across in 19:03.

2009 Grand Cycling Classic winner Mackenzie Woodring of Einstein Racing, right, was forced to chase down early breaks to keep her hopes of winning Saturday alive. MI Sport Online photo.


Einstein Racing had a solid plan designed to deliver 2009 winner Mackenzie Woodring back to the top step of the podium Saturday in the Senior Women’s Pro Am race at the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic.

Halfway in, after about 22 laps of the tight, 8-turn, ¾-mile long circuit around the VanAndel Arena, Einstein’s plan was still holding together, more or less.

Outside a mechanical breakdown, there was really only one thing that could effectively end the three-time Paralympic medalist’s chances for a win.

On lap 23, it happened.

In the blink of eye, with just over 37 minutes left in the 1 hour, 15-minute National Criterium Calendar race, the field was effectively reduced from 36 possible contenders to just three.

Einstein’s 33-year-old leader from Belmont was not one of them.

Mackenzie Woodring

“I went with one of the breaks that I thought was the right combination, but it wasn’t. We were caught,” Woodring said afterward. “And then I went with another attack. It’s a gamble every time you go. You don’t know what’s going to stick and what’s not.”

By far the largest team in the field, national powerhouse Team Tibco to the Top sent rider after rider off the front in a series of relentless attacks from the first lap on. The constant need to cover Tibco’s attacks ground down underdog teams like Einstein and the pack quickly began leaking spent riders off the back.

Early on, Woodring and veteran teammate Johanna Schmidt, 38, of Traverse City, were forced to fight their way to the front of the race and drag one after another rider from No. 3-ranked Tibco back to the pack.

Top-ranked Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies helped keep the race together, until fateful lap 23.

When Optum’s Jade Wilcoxson, 34, of Talent, Ore., and Tibco’s Jennifer Purcell, 34, of Austin, Tex., slipped off the front, only Theresa Cliff-Ryan, the sole rider from No. 2-ranked Exergy Twenty 12 in the race, could make what turned out to be the winning breakaway.

“Cliff-Ryan just put the hammer down,” Woodring said. “I was sitting too far back to see what was going on.”

Theresa Cliff-Ryan

“I’m here by myself, my team couldn’t make it,” said Cliff-Ryan, 34, of Cedar Springs. “I wanted to get on the right break, but I couldn’t chase every one because I’d be too tired for the finish. I happened to get out on the right break and made it a one-on-one race against the top teams. It played perfect in my hands today.”

Just like that, Einstein could no longer hope to put Woodring in position for a winning sprint down the final, slightly uphill straightaway over the bricks on Ionia Ave.

And with a rider from both Optum and Tibco in the break there was absolutely no way their teammates were going to let anyone like Woodring slip away to chase the leaders down.

A gang of riders from both teams muscled to the front took control of the pack. They were going fast enough it was hard to get around them but not fast enough to catch the leaders. And there  were just enough of them to simply swarm any rider who tried to get away.

Not that Woodring didn’t try, but unlike Cliff-Ryan, she couldn’t find that perfect group of motivated riders who could reel in the three up front.

The gap to Cliff-Ryan, Wilcoxson and Purcell grew to 10 seconds, then 20, then 30. Then, they were gone for good.

Beyond that point, with a third of the race still to go, it was simply a matter of which two riders from the pack would nab the final two podium spots.

Once again, Tibco threw a wrench into the works, sending Lauren Hall and two or three others off the front of the pack. Hall’s charge became a solo breakaway as she dangled in the no-man’s land between the pack and the three leaders.

Only a full-out one-lap hammerfest by Einstein’s Schmidt kept Hall’s move from turning into a Tibco jailbreak. Schmidt clawed the pack back together and kept the field within striking distance of fifth place and the final spot on the podium.

“No one was going to pull them back, so I took the whole lap and brought them back. That’s my job,” Schmidt said. “I told those girls they owed me a beer for that.”

Johanna Schmidt

Woodring was more than willing to spring for the suds. “I told her, ‘I’ll buy you a six-pack.’ She’s an awesome teammate,” a grateful Woodring said at the finish, the salt stains whitening her black Einstein jersey leaving little doubt a disappointing mid-pack finish was not due to a lack of effort.

On a day when Cliff-Ryan sucked up every bit of luck the race had to offer, Woodring finished 13th.

The two teams which bullied the pack out of the race were, in their turn, victims of their own successful tactics. Wilcoxson and Purcell tried the ‘ol one-two on Cliff-Ryan over the closing couple laps, but there was no one there to help them when the defending national criterium champ rode them both off her wheels down the finish stretch.

As for Woodring, she’s already got a plan for her next race. “State championship tomorrow,” she said Saturday. “I’ll have time to recover. And I’ll be really opened up after today.”

It’s doesn’t take a genius to figure out Einstein’s team leader will be looking for a win at the state criterium championship in Milford.

Men’s races

In the men’s USA Cycling Pro National Criterium Championship, Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Kenneth Hanson, 30, of Santa Barbara, Calif., knocked Bissell Pro Cycling off the top of the podium for the first time since 2009.

Jelly Belly Cycling’s Charles Huff, 33, of Springfield, Mo. finished second and Holland’s Bradley White, 30, of United Health Care was third.

Bissell’s elite ABG-NUVO squad dominated the men’s Cat. 1/2/3 race, taking the top three spots after a race-long breakaway. Daniel Lam, 37, of Kalamazoo finished first, Nate Williams, 31, from East Grand Rapids was second and Josh Johnson, 20, from Ft. Wayne, Ind. rolling in third.

From complete results of visit: USA Cycling.





A pair of northern Michigan riders from Bissell’s elite ABG-Nuvo team will be making their pro debuts Saturday in USA Cycling’s Pro Criterium National Championship at the 6th Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic in downtown Grand Rapids.

Alex Vanias

Alex Vanias, 22, from Leroy, and Mac Brennan, 22, of East Jordan, will ride for defending national champion Eric Young of Bissell Pro Cycling. Vanias, Brennan and teammate Weston Luzadder of Indianapolis will all ride with the third-ranked domestic pro team for the remainder of the 2012 season.

The pro team sponsored by Walker-based Bissell, Inc. has been unbeatable in the company’s hometown race since Tom Zirbel won in 2009. Patrick Bevin took the title in 2010 and Young won last year.

Packs of close to 70 riders will rocket through eight sharp turns each lap around the tight, ¾-mile course for as many as 50 miles on the closed loop circling the Van Andel Arena.

In the Senior Women’s Pro-Am race, top-ranked Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies is fielding a powerful team, including 3rd-ranked domestic pro Jade Wilcoxson, in its bid to extend its 1,100-point lead in the National Racing Calendar standings.

Mac Brennan

Second-ranked Exergy Twenty 12 and No. 3-ranked Team TIBCO/To the Top will not make it easy on Optum.

And keep an eye on dark-horse Michigan favorite Einstein Racing. The feisty Traverse City-based squad has a few aces up its sleeve in 2009 Classic winner Mackenzie Woodring, 33, of Belmont, and 16-year-old Grand Rapids phenom Zoe Reeves.

Racing begins at 10 a.m. The 75-minute women’s pro-am race is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. and the 50-mile pro men’s national championship race at 3:30 p.m.

For complete info visit the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic website.

Once 300-plus pounds, Mitch Brouwer dropped 100 pounds and has finished around two dozen marathons since he began a walking program in 2008. Photo courtesy Mitch Brouwer.

The memory is still vivid.

“I was actually on a trip for work in San Francisco the first time I ran 3 miles in a row on a treadmill,” said Mitch Brouwer. “It was awesome, really exciting.”

Brouwer has never tired of the rush he felt that day four years ago in the fitness center of a San Francisco business hotel.

The only thing that’s changed is how far he’ll go to get it.

Starting at 3 miles, Brower kept adding distance until he finished a 10K (6.2 miles), piled on more miles until he ran a marathon (26.2 miles), pushed a little harder and finished a 50K (31 miles – “The hardest race I’ve ever done,” he says) and next month will run the North Country Run 50-mile ultra.

“I’ve had runs where I thought about stopping, but I like to finish too much. My First two marathons I almost hyperventilated at the finish. It was so cool. I couldn’t believe I did it,” said the 43-year-old business process analyst from Hudsonville.

What began as a simple walking program in answer to a weight-loss challenge at work has become a distance running Odyssey. He’s run something like two dozen marathons in the last four years and, in time, would like to run at least one marathon in all 50 states.

The only number that’s been going down is the 6-4 Brouwer’s weight. A couple bricks over 300 pounds in 2008, Brouwer shed an even 100 pounds, before regaining a few over last couple years.

 Stuck on a treadmill

There were no warning signs: no insanity in his family background, no strange obsessive uncle with an enormous collection of red yarn in a remote pole barn. Outside the physical exertion needed for chores on his family’s hobby farm, Brouwer never even really exercised as a kid.

By his late 30s it showed. “I was sick of being heavy. I was starting to think about my health,” Brouwer remembers.

It was then that Brouwer met Mr. Treadmill. Mr. Treadmill seemed like a nice guy, at first, but very soon Mr. Treadmill started demanding more and more from Brouwer.

It’s a classic story.

“I started by walking on the treadmill, but I got bored so I started running in little bursts,” Brouwer explained. The bursts got longer and closer together, then Brouwer discovered a running program online: “Couch potato to 5K.”

The gentle step-by-step program carefully guided him to his first taste of finish line success in San Francisco. “I started working on the program and my weight started coming down. It took me three months to run my first 3 miles,” Brouwer said.

He was hooked.

Lather, rinse, repeat

When Brouwer got home from San Francisco, he laced ‘em up and dashed down the front steps, ready to regain that awesome feeling of accomplishment. Within a mile he was doubled over, red-faced and gasping on the roadside.

“When I went outside, I couldn’t do it,” Brouwer said. “I’d go out way too fast. I couldn’t pace myself, the treadmill does that for you.”

Discouraged, but not deterred (that finish line feeling was just too good) Brouwer kept at it.

“(Couch Potato to 5K) talks about setbacks,” Brouwer explained. “If you have a tough week, you just go back and repeat that week.”

It took a couple weeks, but he figured out how to pace himself and set himself a goal of running the River Bank Run 5K.

But it was already too late to turn back. “My first race was a 10K,” Brouwer admits.

A sub-hour 10K, no less.

Brouwer kept up a 9:21 pace to finish the 2008 River Bank Run 10K in 58:09. More as one who feels blessed to have stumbled on a long-hidden talent he says, “A lot of people have a hard time getting under an hour.”

Like Forrest Gump, once he started, Brouwer just kept on running.

“I just kind of kept building miles, I didn’t know any better, and then a friend said we should run a marathon.”

You see a pattern here?

Shared experience

For Brouwer, where he runs and who he’s running with are more important that his time at the finish. Photo courtesy of Mitch Brouwer.

Training for the 2008 Grand Rapids Marathon, Brouwer discovered something that has kept him running mile after mile after mile.

As much as he enjoys that finish line feeling, Brouwer loves the social aspect of running much, much more.

Training with Sue Selders, a friend from the small couples church group he and his wife Tammy were members of, Brouwer discovered the fellowship runners share.

All that summer, Selders motivated him and he motivated her. “It helped quite a bit,” Brouwer says.

During the marathon that October, they stuck together most of the way, Brouwer finishing in 4:17:44, Selders in 4:37:50.

“After the marathon she kind of backed off, but I needed more,” Brouwer said.

He found it with the Mars Hill Running Group.

“I actually enjoy the training runs,” Brouwer says. “To me, being out there with friends, it’s like a social thing. Every Saturday we get together and run and we run during the week, too.”

Surely, it’s clear by now that Brouwer really, really, really likes running. The obvious conclusion is that running has become an obsession. NOT! A mania, maybe (more on that later), but not an obsession.

Brouwer hasn’t lost sight of what’s most important to him: Tammy, his son Kaden, 15, and daughters Lilli (11 in a couple weeks) and Celia (7 in a couple weeks).

Sure, there’s likely to be a run sometime during a family vacation, but its still a family vacation. “We’ll do a vacation around my running,” Brouwer says. “This weekend I’m doing the Grand Isle Marathon in Munising, then we’re staying up there for a week. This fall we’re going to Washington, D.C. as a family and I’m doing the Marine Corps Marathon.”

“I’ve got Tammy running, too. She’s done at least a couple half marathons and two fulls.” Brouwer said.

He’s a maniac, maniac

Two marathons in two days and three in week make Mitch Brouwer a 5-star Marathon Maniac. Photo courtesy Mitch Brouwer.

The one-time couch potato is now, officially, a Ruthenium Level (five out of a possible 10 stars) Marathon Maniac.

“Marathon Maniacs is a huge (nationwide) running group,” Brouwer explained. “They have different challenges for different levels of insanity. Just to become a member, to get one star, you have to run two marathons within two or three weeks. The maximum is 52 marathons in a year.”

The group’s saner!? members do things like run two marathons in two days or three within a week, both of which our man Brouwer has accomplished (hence his Ruthenium status).

Two months ago, Brouwer finished the Carmel, Ind., Marathon in 3:45.38 on a Saturday, drove to Toledo and, on Sunday, ran the Glass City Marathon in 4:14:39.

“I kept thinking the whole way through the second one, ‘This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,’” Brouwer said. “Someone who saw me said I looked like death at Mile 4. My goal was to get under 4 hours, but I walked way too much for that.”

A week later Brouwer was in Pinckney, finishing the Running Fit Trail Marathon in 4:44:29.

Brouwer set his PR for the marathon (3:24:54) at the 2010 Martian Marathon in Dearborn.

However, although he routinely runs a sub-8:30 pace for the marathon, time is no longer Brouwer’s master. “I used to have a lot of time goals, but when you have time goals it takes a lot of the fun out it. You’re just racing the clock all the time. I’d rather run how I feel than against a clock.”

And, please, no time-obsessed 5Ks. “A lot of people do 5Ks, but to do a 5K right, in my mind, you have to run until you want to puke and that’s not my favorite thing,” Brouwer says.

In the long run

Long term goals like the 50 state challenge, a 100-mile ultra and, maybe, an Ironman-distance triathlon aside, Brouwer is more interested in where he runs.

For Mitch Brouwer, the best part of any marathon is still the finish. Photo courtesy of Mitch Brouwer.

“I think about the places I want to run, running in Portland or in Seattle would be really cool, just because of the area. Hawaii, of course, and the one that sticks in my mind is the Great Wall Marathon in China where you run part of it on the Great Wall.”

Sure, he’s happy (and so is his doctor) that his weight’s down and his cholesterol levels are now all at safe levels.

But Brouwer’s never deviated from his primary goal. “It something about distance,” he said. “I don’t know what it is about being out there, but it takes me 5 or 6 miles to feel good when I’m running. Then, usually somewhere past 20 miles, it’s not so fun again. There’s always a point where you question yourself, why you’re tormenting yourself. It’s always overcoming that feeling and getting to the finish line – that never gets old.”