Last year my running sibling said "hey, let's do this race".
I said "It sounds hilly, are you sure it's not".
"It's not," I heard in response.
I was thinking "okay, you live with some nearby elevation, I don't, but there will probably be some hills".
Then in July I saw an email and race course info that said 4,000 feet of elevation change. I said "WHAT" to my screen and messaged my sibling. She said I was off.
Even as we were driving up to the town, she still said there's no way there's 4,000 feet of elevation change.
I am an optimistic person by nature, but I also am a realist, so I was internally spazzing about this race that had a reallllly long course limit due to the ultras going on at the same time as the half and marathon on Saturday, and the half on Sunday.
Oh, did I neglect to mention that we decided to do a *trail* marathon on Saturday, and a *trail* half marathon on Sunday. I mean, we are both Double Agents/Marathon Maniacs/ Half Fanatics.
The drive there took me longer due to a detour--don't all driving trips take longer than you anticipate?-- and a stop at REI that did NOT have Injinji tall socks. The sales guy didn't really want to help me anyway, since he had to interrupt his conversation for this lady who was just standing patiently waiting her turn to talk to the sales person in the shoe/sock department. I did get Tanka bites there, and the salt /electrolyte tabs so I guess the stop wasn't a failure after all.
The county roads in this part of Michigan are wide, and each intersection has a X network of wires overhead leading to a large street light illuminating the intersection. I thought this was really cool, except for all the wire/lines. I think parts of upper central Wisconsin had lights like that, but it has been a decade since I've been there.
We head to the race start area, even though we know we can't pick up our race packets because of the time. It was nice to see the parking area, and the sand. Someone I know told me that there is sand there, and to have gaiters for it. Thankfully we did!
In town to the grocery store (The Meijer was HUGE), and our hotel was nearby. The hotel was a great location, but spendy for what we received (basic hotel, breakfast we couldn't eat, and no pool). I reminded myself that it was supply/demand/ tourist town type of thing, and right before Labor Day, so ka-ching $$.
We set out our clothing for race day one and got some sleep which was interrupted by the alarm. Grabbed some hard boiled eggs, and headed out to the start area for packet pick up. While I have done a couple trail races before, I was still nervous. I've not done with this kind of elevation and was not sure of the trails. While the trail I did before was Woodside in California, with nice wide trails under evergreens (except for the bottle neck start area to thin out the group), this one had single track that was one foot wide, and single track that was wide enough for both feet, and then some nice area for an ATV to maneuver well, and "two track" (the local term--it's double track where I live) that was truck worthy. I was glad we got there early, to get a parking spot in the main parking lot. We picked up our packets and-wow- what stuff there was in there! I was expecting bib, shirt, pamphlet, and some local coupons. We got a t shirt, a technical shirt, a technical hoodie (Runner Inside design), coupons for food at the finish, a rootbeer float at the finish area, a sticker for the race, and coffee mug. My apologies if I'm missing something. That was for EACH race. We were doing Saturday and Sunday, so we go these X 2.
At the start of each wave/category, Race Director Chris had notes for us, and questions. My concern was getting lost, so I asked about flagging on course. I got some "seriously" comments from those around me, but every RD does something different. I found out that the flags would be pink for marathoners, and that they were frequently on course if a direction/turn was happening, but further apart if there was no other trail option/ we were on the same trail.
We started out and of course I ran a little bit past the spectators due to the energy of race day. We were thinned out in the little loop at the start, then spread out. First it was three of us together, then we gained a fourth person after a while. We hiked and hiked, stopped for pit stop stuff, got eaten by mosquitoes (they were really bad this day). Then we were on a skinny trail skirting the outside of a long winding up hill that looked like something out of Last of the Mohicans. What a gorgeous day to be outdoo---ouch, mosquito. There were tree roots on all the trails, so I was worried, since I can trip over a piece of gravel in the grocer's parking lot!
Our group of four was passed by the ultra runners in this area. They were very polite, but we still stepped off the trail while they passed. It was fine when it was one or two runners, but when it was twenty in the pack, or ten, it was a mosquito fest, and a time when the clock was still running for us. By mile 12 my hips were hurting from the pace I was going, and I was getting bitten more frequently, so I just kept walking when the others paused for a pit stop. I could still see them as I wound my way back and forth zig zag up the side of a hill. As I reached the plateau, I scared up two deer, the only wildlife I saw all day. The last half of this course had fewer (in my mind) long winding areas, and more constant undulating course layout of going up and then over 'rollers'. If this was a road for a car, it'd have been great for 'hill hopping'!
I took my phone out about the halfway mark. I slowed to take a gel, got some more out of my pack, and figured I'd take the phone out to do a photo and call The Mike to let him know my pace. Thus, this is the ONLY photo I have of the marathon trail.
|Pretty much the widest part of the regular trail system,|
not counting the occasional bit of double track.
The aid stations were fabulous. All staffed by Scouts and 4Hers. While I had some Huma, GU, and a Sunbutter sandwich on Canyon Bakehouse bread with me, at the aid stations the watermelon and oranges were a welcome break of sugar, vitamins, and fiber, and the carbonation of Coca Cola was great. Except, the HFCS Coke (and Tamoxifen) given me an urgency to pee. I just kept telling my brain that I really didn't need to stop. The mosquitoes finally lessened and I was able to make a stop without being lunch.
I was glad to have read the the race pamphlet part that it was pretty much downhill in the last mile of the race. Thus, I was perplexed when I kept seeing the "Caution Hill" signs and seeing a steep descent and having to go back up again when my Garmin was getting to 23, 24, 25 miles. I was on top of a hill when my watch was at 25 miles. I was like, "THIS IS IT. IT IS ALMOST OVER" and was SO happy. And then. . . it wasn't. My Garmin has never been off like this before. Sure, a tenth of a mile or so, but not this. I rolled into the last aid station when my watch said 26.2. I even showed the Scout dad --lol. The leader said that it was a mile or so to the finish. I continued run/walking along the top of the hill, saw some pink flags, and more pink flags, and was confused. It was a triangle on my side of the road with foot prints to the left/downhill and right/uphill of a boulder. There were pink flags across the road on the opposite side. I was perplexed. I was there for maybe a minute, if that, and an ultra came up behind me. He said we had to go to the right. I forget the term he used, but it was a tight lollypop. We went up this short hill with medium steepness, looped around at the top/flat area, and then came back down. From here it was ALL downhill. The road part was a bit steep for running down in my opinion, but those ultra folks did it so beautifully. It was like watching ballet on a hill! Then I laughed. There was a bench built into the side of the hill on this steep part! Once past this steep part with roots here and there, it was on to prairiescape and still a descent. I started running, knowing the finish was near, and hearing the spectators, and honestly, I had a hard time slowing down. I wasnt sure I was going to be able to stop past the finish line!
|I can't even get one "floor" on my Garmin for going up and down my stairs at home (12 stairs). |
There was a LOT of elevation on this course.
Garmin lied to me this day!
Oh, the finish was glorious. I was so excited to be finished. The medal is HUGE. I walked around with it tucked in my armpit due to the weight. I changed my shoes for Oofas and I walked, stretched, and then sat for a caricature and talked with some other racers, and spectators. I think everyone I spoke to was from Michigan, so they were shocked when I said I was not! I was a bit worried as to where my sister was, but I knew she had people with her. We had brought the cooler with us, so I had some chocolate milk, my Tanka bites. Then I had to sit, because my body started working the food rather than just going forward.
|Weighing in at 1#8oz|
We went out to eat at a local place with good food.
|gluten free bun toasted. I was hungry. I didn't trust the bread, but I needed my burger.|
|Returning to the hotel there was a deer family across the parking lot in the trees.|
|I think I'm ready for the night|
Then I stood up.
I almost fell over.
The legs that felt fine in the bed, were wicked sore upon standing!
We knew movement was the best thing for us though, so even though our bodies were saying 'no', our minds were telling us 'do this!'.
|Back for more!|
We were surprised that parts we expected on the half weren't there from the day before, and I was hoping to get a photo of that loooonnnng steep decline today, but that wasn't on the course either. We later learned that a tree fell overnight and blocked the route--I guess adding obstacles isn't a thing :)
|Most of the trails were like this, some were narrower with a definite 'gully' of sorts with the path being wide enough for one foot only.|
Strange how basically the same course can vary from day to day.
The second day we encountered no mosquitoes! It was definitely less humid as well.
|The lovely "Caution Steep Descent" yellow signs.|
When we got to the end of the main part of the course, and moved to do the lollipop up a steep hill, my sister said this was part of the ski lift area. Even without being someone who skis, I could definitely see the remains of the ski lift.
Thank goodness that is over! Longest marathon time and longest half marathon time for me.Somehow I wound up with more elevation than was suppose to be on the half course. Perhaps that was due to the redirect of the course from down trees.
When we started I realized I forgot to remove my ring. I am thankful the Camelbak has a closed hook within it and that is where I put the ring. It took several hours before I could put the ring back on. I never use to have this problem. I think there was only one half marathon (Chicago, 2012) where I had a little swelling. I'm putting this back on Tamoxifen again. I started that this Spring and it doesn't matter if I'm doing a 5k on the treadmill, or longer distance like these two days, my hands swell.
Since the chain sporting store I stopped at didn't have tall Injinji socks in stock, I wore my fun Halloween socks.
Before leaving the parking lot, we spied this sign. I *know* it is a fat bike, but the sign looks like a pair of binoculars :-) And now you cannot unsee that, can you?
The toes were dirtier than the day before!
Leukotape held! Thank you. Even with the blister being filled underneath, the tape held.
It also only came off after soaking the feet in the shower/tub.
We did some car sightseeing in Manitee and definitely would come back to see the town. This was a gorgeous looking day, and no matter how much I really wanted to get to the Lake, my body was NOT willing to walk that far, especially across sand.
salad . Thankfully my sister will eat blueberries (yuck).
steak and potatoes. It was a little rich, but so good.
Monday morning we could move a little bit but were quite stiff at the get go. Once we got to walking, we were doing well. After dropping my sibling off at the airport, I headed out of Michigan. I made my path based upon a billboard for Five Guys :-)
Five Guys never tasted as good as it did this Monday after a double weekend. It was SO good. They also loaded up the fries when they heard I did back to back races, and I honestly could not eat all!!
My driving attire for the legs. Injinji compression toe socks (purple of course), and my Oofos which made massaging the feet a little easier when driving down the road with the forward/back movement.
I still can't believe I hadn't posted this before now. I got caught up in various things. This weekend I'm heading to Tulsa for Route 66 Half on Sunday. First time I'll do that race without my running sibling. Instead, The Mike is coming along for a vacation weekend :-)