There’s just something about the 25K race distance. A tad longer than a half, yet not nearly a marathon. Running these miles — 15.5 to be exact — is definitely a challenge in its own right.

I’ve run a handful of 25Ks over the years, my first being the Fifth Third River Bank Run (my first-ever road race) with more recent ones including the Run Vasa and the Tahqua Trail Run.

It’s been awhile since I’ve tackled this distance, which is why I am especially excited for the Vineyard to Bay this August in Leelanau County. In addition to offering a 25K, the second annual event includes a 2-person 15K/10K option as well as a 5K run/walk. So if you’re not up for running 15.5 miles, you and a friend can split the distance and sign on for the relay (you’ll just need to decide who will run the longer of the two distances) or the 5K. Whichever distance you choose, the courses promise scenic views of the countryside and West Grand Traverse Bay. And there’s wine!

The 17K mark of the 25K race course ~ Black Star Farms.
The 17K mark of the 25K race course ~ Black Star Farms.

MRG is partnering with race organizers — look for a special reader discount at the end of this post — and I recently caught up with race director Ross Deye to get the low-down on this year’s event.

How would you describe the Vineyard to Bay? What kind of race experience can runners expect?   

First and foremost I think it offers a variety of looks throughout the race. You have the six vineyards which are beautiful in the late summer/early fall.  Secondly, you have a great view of Grand Traverse Bay when descending Hill Top Road and again once you finish. Finally, nearly half the 25K is on the Leelanau Trail, which is a nice change of pace from just running roads. There’s also variety in how far participants choose to run, be it a 5K, 10K, 15K or 25K. We are trying to provide something for everyone without it being too much of an organizational issue and I think we’ve accomplished that.

How is this year’s event shaping up?

We have more preregistered this year, which is a sign we did enough things right in the inaugural race last year to get people back. The biggest change is having the finish down by the bay instead of the Suttons Bay track. We liked the traditional feel of finishing on the track (think Olympic Stadium marathon) but having the option to jump in the cool waters of the bay after a summer race trumps tradition. We also upgraded to chip timing, the course will be USATF certified, and relay teams will have an easier time getting from start to exchange to finish with parking allowed at the relay exchange zone. Plus I think participants will be happy with the upgraded all finisher’s awards from Sporck Tileart and the age group awards — bottles of wine from Boskydel Vineyard!

The inaugural Vineyard to Bay was in 2014.
The inaugural Vineyard to Bay was in 2014.

What’s one cool thing about the 25K? 

The 25K starts at over 800 feet elevation and ends at less than 600 feet with two major down hills. Now, I got myself into some trouble last year by suggesting the course is easy, which it is not. But, if you look at the elevation levels on the course map, mile two and mile nine have long down hills. (think McKinley Hill at the Cherry Fest 15K or Inspiration Point Hill at the Glen Arbor Solstice Half, but downhill!)

Please tell us about the relay options and the 5K…

The relay offers two popular distances for those wanting more than a 5K but aren’t quite ready for a half marathon or 25K. Partnering up is always fun and there is usually one who is in better shape and more willing to take on the 15K leg — the more challenging of the two sections of the course. The 5K is downhill and fast with an 80 foot drop in elevation, ensuring fast times. Plus, it’s almost entirely on the Leelanau Trail!

Expect scenic views of vineyards, orchards and West Grand Traverse Bay.
Expect scenic views of vineyards, orchards and West Grand Traverse Bay.

Any training tips to offer up for these races? 

That’s a difficult question to answer since runners are into doing these events for different reasons. Some are racing and others are just wanting to participate. For most, I go back to variety and the need to work on different things to reach one’s potential. Without a plan, it’s too easy to go out each training day and run the same number of miles at the same pace on the same familiar route. It’s better to have over-mileage days and under-mileage days. If you want to average 6 miles per training run, do 8 miles one day to build endurance and 4 miles the next day as a recovery. The addition of speed work and a long distance day will also help in reaching one’s potential from 5K to 25K. I’d also have them check out for more on my thoughts about training. Like I’ve always said, plan your work and work your plan. I for one need a structured plan to follow in order to train properly and I think many others do, too.

Let’s talk wine: how are area wineries involved?

We have five wineries on board so far and hope to add a few more before August. All play an important part in the success of this event. Shady Lane Cellars and Big Little Wines are each sponsoring an aid station. Boskydel Vineyard is providing bottles of wine to age group winners. Black Star Farms is offering both a place for packet pickup and sparkling juice for age group winners under 21. Brengman Brothers at Crain Hill Vineyards is the staging area for the start of the 25K and relay and will have their large event tent set up for race day packet pickup and registration. In addition, Peter and Michael Laing of Big Little Wines (big brother, little brother) teamed up for the 15K/10K relay last year. For a bite to eat, you can’t go wrong with either the Hearth & Vine at Black Star Farms or 22 Wines & Vines at West Bay Shore Village. A few favorites for those making a weekend trip? Kayak the Crystal River in Glen Arbor, beach it at Good Harbor Bay between Glen Arbor and Leland, and check out the view of Lake Michigan and inland lakes atop Sugarloaf Mountain north of Cedar.

The view at the 14K mark.
The view at the 14K mark.

Anything else you’d like to add, that you’d want runners to know about? 

Just that entry fees are not only going to put on what we hope is a quality event, but proceeds benefit both Suttons Bay Public Schools and TART Trails. As with most school districts in Michigan, Suttons Bay Schools has had to do more with less. They provide the majority of the volunteer help needed on race day and have been very supportive. TART Trails is going gangbusters in adding to their already extensive trail system in Leelanau County. They are very supportive of us using the Leelanau Trail. With the Heritage Trail on the other side of the peninsula being extended, Leelanau County has become much more accessible for families to enjoy recreational activities such as biking, hiking, running, snow shoeing and cross country skiing.

Ready to sign up? Use the code MRG4V2B for 10% off your race entry. This is good for any event. Register here »

Ross Deye.jpgRace Director Ross Deye if a lifelong runner and current high school running coach: “Before the Toledo Roadrunner Club was officially formed, I’d go with my brother to their informal weekend running events at the Metroparks. That led to joining my high school track and cross country team, a couple seasons of college running, and then the road racing circuit after college. Once I started coaching in the early 80s, my competitive days as a runner were over. I continued to train with my teams for years and really love the coaching aspect of the sport. But I can’t coach forever, even though the student-athletes and their parents in Sylvania, Ohio and at Traverse City West High School where I currently coach have been tremendous to work with. Directing a race seems like a good way to transition out of coaching yet stay involved with distance running, an activity I’ve loved for over 40 years. I hope my experience over the years translates into an event all participants feel is well worth it.”


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