When I originally sat down to document these thoughts, it was Monday afternoon, Memorial Day, and although I’d just then begun to move on to those tedious and slightly depressing “end of the weekend” chores… (you know – laundry, groceries, making a decision about whether to vacuum or try to keep “not seeing” the tumbleweeds of dog fur for another few days), I was nevertheless still basking in the happy glow of what was a really phenomenal race weekend.
I almost didn’t get a spot in the Traverse City Track Club’s Bayshore Half Marathon. By the time I got wind of the race, it had already filled to capacity. I had recently completed the Charleston Half Marathon, and I was eager to sign up for another race. I was listening to the Runner’s World podcast and editor, David Willey, was chronicling his “moonshot” attempt to finally run a BQ (Boston Qualifying) marathon. (He did.) After considering races all over the country, he settled on this race. It sounded perfect – not too hilly, beautiful scenery, long weekend, so obviously I wanted to sign up. I was a little bummed that it was full, but they had a wait list (What race has a waitlist???) so I figured I might as well add my name, and then I completely erased it from my memory.
So… when a surprise email arrived in April letting me know I could go ahead and sign myself up, I was SUPER excited. The timing was still great, but I didn’t want to go race if my husband didn’t get in too. Turns out, they have a very sophisticated waitlist system. I commend them for this. When you enter the waitlist, you let them know how many spots you’re waiting for, and they alert you when and if they have a spot for everyone in your group. (Presumably. At least that’s how it seemed like it worked.)
Half marathon weekend was here before we knew it, and despite some janky logistics for race weekend, we just willed it to happen. Traverse City, Michigan is a solid 7 hour drive on a good day. With holiday weekend traffic to the lake, you can count on 8 hours. And with a husband who’s less than a year into his new job, you can bet we didn’t get to call off early on Friday. We knew he would have to work until his last customer was through needing him, and there was a chance we might just arrive at midnight then have to rise bright and early for race day… We rolled the dice. And we got lucky. We were on the road in time to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Phew.
You know how it’s so rare that everything goes well on any given race day? You can count on so few things. Will you get a cold? Will the weather be crappy? Will you have an injury that keeps you from getting in your training? Will you eat the wrong thing the night before and have tummy issues while you’re running? This was not that race. This was the race where everything just worked the way it was supposed to.
We woke up on Saturday morning to clear skies, crisp air, and a still morning. After getting dropped off at the half marathon starting line on Devil’s Dive Road, we began the race with the only significant hill of the entire day. After running Kentucky’s Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon, this was a WELCOME change of pace. VERY WELCOME. By the time we descended the hill on the other side of Old Mission Peninsula, we were running along the coast, and we never left the edge of the water until the very final mile of the race. The crystal clear, brilliantly blue water sparkled in the early morning sun. (Did I mention how early the sun comes up there?) The smooth road wound from the center of the peninsula all along its eastern coast into the now very trendy center of town. It seemed that everyone on the entire peninsula was there for our benefit. Vacationers, weekenders, and locals lined up outside beautiful waterside homes with signs, independent bonus water (and sometimes beer) stations, kids giving high-fives, and Olympians cheering on mere mortals. (Yes, Desi Linden was literally standing on the race course with a sign. I’ve reached new heights of happiness.)
I start almost every race by telling myself, “Maybe I can just run for fun today and not worry about how fast I go.” And then, inevitably, I wind up a mile in, checking my pace, looking for the pace groups, concentrating on how many people I’m passing and whether or not I’m getting passed. This race was no different.
As per usual, I counted each mile I completed with a jelly bean. I felt good so I went ahead and pushed the pace a little bit in the early miles, trying to run by feel and avoiding making too-frequent glances down at my Garmin to check my pace. As long as I still felt good, I figured, I would keep it up. With each mile that passed, I figured I would look down to see that my pace had slowed, but as they crept by, I somehow kept managing to maintain. I’m so familiar with the feeling of losing that edge in the late miles of a race. So familiar with noticing that movement is beginning to feel too effortful. So familiar with the desire to see the same mile split on your watch but facing reality when it’s 30 seconds off. (Or more. Let’s be real.) So this time, each time I checked in, I just thought to myself, “Well, I managed one more mile at that pace. Who knows what happens next, but at least we got that one in the books.” I tried not to be hard on myself. I told myself that it would be understandable, forgiveable if I slowed down. I should expect to slow down, afterall.
And suddenly, with only two miles to go, I realized… I could finish the race at this pace. There was no reason that I should have to slow down over the course of two more miles. I avoided calculating a finish time to tease myself with a PR. Instead I focused all my energy on moving my legs and mentally pumping myself up by reciting over and over in my head a reminder that this race was a gift to myself and that I was lucky to be out there and lucky to be able to push myself and lucky to be feeling so good. When I finally approached the finish line and saw the clock glowing with plenty of time to clear a substantial PR, I found yet another burst of energy to glide across the line in hot pursuit of the promised Moomers ice cream.
This was an AWESOME race for several reasons: 1) cool t-shirt and tart cherry juice in my race packet, 2) BEAUTIFUL course, 3) well-executed wait list, 4) celebrity fans, 5) cool finish line on the high school track, 6) delicious ice cream afterwards, 7) fun town to enjoy later that day.
In addition to being a fun place to hang out, my husband found that the location served us in another very convenient way – you can go ahead and dunk your legs right into chilly Lake Michigan afterwards and enjoy a little “ice bath” action.
Would I do this race again? You better believe it. Here are some ideas for soaking up the local color while you’re recovering:
- Try some water sports – you don’t have to get in and freeze your ass off. Maybe some kayaking or fishing? Or you can always just sit kind of near the water and admire it like I did…
2. Consuming deliciousness. Try some North Peak brews at The Jolly Pumpkin. Or taste wine and enjoy great views from one of the many peninsula wineries, like Bonobo. Looking for something with less alcohol and more sustenance? How about a smoothie bowl at Brew downtown?
3. Selfies. (Just like everywhere else.) I love this retro t-shirt.
Happy running y’all!