Tag Archives: Sleeping Bear Dunes

Feeling The Urge Again

A little less than two years ago, my wife and I were in Boston, walking to the marathon expo to pick up my race packet. It was a gorgeous sunny late morning, and along the Charles River people of all ages and body types were running on the path and over the bridge we crossed on our way.

I felt my body twitching, urging me to join in the fun. After a week of tapering, it wanted to run! I believe I actually began whimpering. My wife gripped my arm.

“Down, boy,” she said.

Thanks to her and the vestiges of self-restraint I had left, I saved my energy for the marathon, and even managed a negative split. (*) And that energy carried through to my other spring races, peaking with the Lighthouse 100 in June. A winter of hard training and running through cold and snow had paid off. It had been worth every bead of sweat and frosty step.

This memory came to mind because, finally, spring is poking its head up and temperatures are on the rise. And after a long, tough winter, I’m experiencing the “urge to run” once more.

Due to a nagging back issue, I’ve trained less hard in the gym this winter. And I’ve run fewer miles than usual, too. When it’s close to zero degrees outside day after day, and the roads and sidewalks remain treacherous, it’s tough to maintain motivation and consistent mileage. Thank goodness for PR Run Club. Without them, I’d have been strongly tempted to sit on the couch and bitch about the weather, rather than lace up and bitch about the weather while we climb a nice snow-covered hill.

Water stop at last Saturday’s club run. Thanks to Bin Xu for the photo!

But better weather lies ahead, and a few weeks ago Coach Paul and I established a rough plan for the year. Instead of going for a crazy-long distance target race, we’ll work on improving my speed, and trying to set new personal records (PR) at the 5K and half marathon distances. It’ll be a nice break to reset me for resuming long ultras in 2020.

That settled, I popped open the laptop and began signing up for events. Here are the ones I have so far, and why I chose them:

Potawatomi Trail Runs – early April

This event takes place at Pekin’s McNaughton Park in Illinois. The course is a ten-mile trail loop with rolling hills. Various distances are offered, from 30 miles up to 200, based on the number of loops to complete.

I chose this event because I wanted to get in at least one good spring ultra, and because a couple of my friends will be there, one attempting the 150-miler, and one for the maximum 200 miles. I decided 50 miles was enough to scratch my itch, which will leave me time to cheer on my friends and recover in time for my next event…

Trail Marathon Weekend – late April

From the “Poto” in Illinois to one in Michigan! Trail Marathon Weekend is on my list every year. It’s a beautiful trail that I never get tired of running on, and was my introduction to the “joys” of trail running.

At first I just did the Sunday five-miler, but in 2014 I upgraded to the “No Wimps” group: the half marathon on Saturday (one loop of the course), and a full marathon on Sunday (two more loops). You get a special “No Wimps” medal T-shirt and medal. Totally worth it.

Yeah, totally!

The two-day event is excellent for learning how to pace yourself. How should you run the Saturday half? Go slow and save energy for the longer run on Sunday? Or go all out for an award, and just grind it out the next day? I’ve done both, depending on my goals those particular years.

TMW also has a special place in my heart because it’s the first Zero Waste event I did with RF Events. It set the stage for what is now our fourth year working together.

Recycling makes runners happy! (“Happier”, that is.)

Sleeping Bear Half Marathon – October

We’ve camped in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area for many years, and I enjoy running and cycling on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. So when I found out there was a Sleeping Bear Marathon (and half), naturally I wanted in, but couldn’t make it work until this year. I signed up literally right after I’d chosen it, as it sells out quickly.

Not to be confused with the famous “Kick-Your-Asparagus” run in March as part of the Empire Asparagus Festival..

The course includes a climb up a rather large hill toward the finish, so I may not be able to accomplish a PR there. So my target race for that is:

Richmond Half Marathon – November

Billed as, “America’s Friendliest Marathon,” this is where I set my current half marathon PR in 2015 (1:32:43). In addition to a PR-friendly course and lots of friendly spectators, Richmond is home to my daughter Tori, So either way it will be a fine way to end the racing season. (Well, nearly, since I always run the Holiday Hustle in December.)

2015 Richmond half, finish line in sight!

That’s the race news so far. I’ll keep you posted!

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(*) “Negative split” is runner-speak for running the second half of a race faster than the first half. It’s indicative of good planning. It’s uncommon among recreational runners because the temptation is strong to run early miles too fast, when we’re feeling strong and invincible.

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Signs of the Apocalypse

I’M GIVING YOU FAIR WARNING.

During my wonderful vacation up north last week, I took some photos that suggest something “revelationary” is brewing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. No fire and brimstone or geese flying backwards, just a collection of little signs that cumulatively suggest – dare I say it – an omen. I haven’t been this worried about my spiritual health since the Harmonic Convergence, whenever that was.

This whole thing has me so shook up I took today off from training. (Okay, Saturday’s half marathon followed by a ten-mile recovery run yesterday also contributed.) While none of what you’re about to see is directly related to my training, I saw them all while running or cycling, so that’s good enough for me.

Here is the evidence. Decide for yourself.

Sign - Church of Christ - Beulah

This is in the lovely town of Beulah (otherwise known for The Cherry Hut) following a round-trip bike ride to Frankfort. Okay, a cute motto but otherwise unremarkable, right? But then I came across this while running the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail into Glen Arbor:

The small sign reads, "Sorry - No Room at the Inn".

The small sign reads, “Sorry – No Room at the Inn”.

I checked, but there have been no reports of a bright star overhead or three rich guys on camels. Yet.

Still skeptical? On the other side of Glen Arbor is this:

Sign - Wine at Gas Pump - Glen Arbor

Was there just an overabundant grape harvest? Or did Jesus just pass through?

Bemused, bothered, and bewildered, I stumbled into the Blue Caribou Cafe in Beulah after Sunday’s recovery run. After yet another ownership change, they finally saw the light and installed an espresso machine. And here was one more sign:

The sign reads, "Everyone should believe in something. I believe I'll have another coffee."

The sign reads, “Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll have another cup.” Sorry for the image quality. I believe I must have had too many.

So there you have it. Coincidence? The paranoid fantasy of this ultrarunner’s overheated brain? Or is someone out there trying to tell me something? Say, for instance, about my upcoming weekend at Run Woodstock?

Holding the Banner

Thus saith the Lord: TIE DYE IS AN ABOMINATION! And don’t even get Me started on those “Natural Runs”!!!

I’ll do my best to keep you all posted. And if New Jerusalem does descend and land upon me, I just hope they have a good running trail.