After this past week’s vacation full of wining and dining in Traverse City, I came home and ended the weekend with one of the
coolest hottest half marathons around – the 3rd annual Back to the Beach.
The short of it – Sunday just wasn’t my day. I ran about 10 minutes slower than I expected, finishing in 2:14:30. I was aiming for a 9:15-9:30 pace, but with all the walk breaks, I ended up averaging 10:15.
The race started at 8:00 am and was a 45 minute commute out to Stony Creek, so I left the house around 6. I’ve been trying to scale back what I eat before a run. During my marathon training, I was going crazy: Nutella, Honey and Banana sandwiches. They tasted amazing, but way too many carbs and calories than needed. Today, I stuck with a banana.
We (Anthony was volunteering and offered to drive) got to Stony at 7, with plenty of time to settle in. The start/finish is at the Eastwood Beach and as soon as I arrived, I started getting flashbacks of cross country invitationals during high school. So weird to be their now, over a decade later. I’m not the person that used to bring his sleeping bad and a box of donuts anymore. Anyway, packet pickup was a breeze, no waiting at all. In addition to the awesome shirt, I also received a pint glass with the race logo on it. Slow Joe, the race director, really knows how to give you the most for your money.
Anthony headed to his aid station and I ran into some friends. Mostly the couple GP Runners that were there and Let’s Move Jon, who just crushed the Martian with a BQing 3:05. With 10 minutes before the first wave, my body decided it was a good time to void its bowels, so I waited in a long line just minutes from start. Always good for the nerves, but at least I made it to the start in time.
While the course starts and finishes at the beach in Stony Creek, almost half of the course is outside of the park and a good third of it is in the woods. The course wastes no time heading for the hills of the Trolley Trails. From there we leave the park and run the perimeter on some dirt roads until we reach the Sheldon entrance. This is where I normally enter the park as it is where all the mountain bike trails are. The next couple of miles are in the woods and up a decent .5 mile climb before we spill out of the woods and onto the paved pathway taking us *ahem* “back to the beach”.
I headed out of the starting area, feeling pretty confident. Despite not running for a week, I was hoping that just aided in giving me well rested legs. I kept checking my pace and seeing around 9:00. I tried to slow down, but every time I checked my watch, I was still going well under 9:30. The Trolley Trails start right away. I’ve never actually ran them and they were harder than I expected. I was still keeping a 9ish pace on the hills and knew it would either make or break my time.
Three miles in, now on the half paved, half dirt roads, I started to notice my left foot going numb. Then soon after, it was completely numb. I adjusted my sleeves thinking that was the case, but no luck. Another mile in, I pulled the sleeves down to my ankles to see if that was it. Still numb. Great, it looked like I was going to be running like this for another 9 miles.
The aid station at the halfway point is sponsored by the local running club YPOM (Your Pace Or Mine) and is called The Oasis. They not only had water and Gatorade, but cold towels, beer and Jell-o shots. I figured, what the hell and took a shot. I also briefly spotted Daily Miler Laura passing out water with them.
After I crossed the timing mat, I took a seat on the ground and took off my sleeves completely. As soon as I was back on my feet, I felt my left foot again. Yay! or so I thought. Within 5 minutes the feeling was lost again. It must have been my shoe and the feeling returned because I took it off for a moment. With nothing I could do, I kept going.
Soon after the Oasis is the hill everyone dreads. Yes its a decent climb, but nothing to fret over. I’m pretty sure if my foot was better I could have ran it all, but I walked the second half of the climb. Not too long after, my foot came back with about 4 miles to go.
Not too long after the hill, is the end of the woods. By now, it was at least 9:30 and the sun was out with no clouds and no shade. Plus we moved from the nice soft trails to the hot, hard asphalt road. These were the hardest miles by far. The heat had caught up with me and no matter how much I drank, I couldn’t keep my hydration levels in check. This was the warmest day of running I have had in a long time, so my body isn’t accustomed to it. Just 3 weeks ago I managed 13 miles with Anthony on his race in Pinckney with only about 30 oz of water total. Today, I was easily going to double or triple that.
I also forgot that with warm weather comes “band-aid season” also known as nipple chaffing season. It wasn’t horrible, I didn’t even bleed, but at this point in the race every little nuisance was being amplified 10x.
I caught sight of a former co-worker, Dan at the mile 11 aid station and Anthony was at the final stop, only a half mile from the finish. There were a lot more stations than I expected, but they were needed in this heat.
The final half mile is the same as my old CC course, so I knew I was close when I saw a few grills and picnic tables. I sprinted into the chute and received my very cool finisher medal that spins. I couldn’t of been happier to be finished.
There were lots of tables set up with a large spread of bananas, orange slices, crackers, and bagels. I took a orange and bagel and headed to the line where they were offering massages. My right calf, which was probably compensating for the numb left foot, was extremely tight, so I decided to wait in line to have someone rub it. It helped a little but not enough.
The DJ that had been there from the start was still blasting away. It was one big after party with a beach within a few yards. Maybe next year I will plan to stay and have the family come and grill. It was a perfect day for it.
Lastly, I would like to mention that the volunteers at this race are awesome! And especially “Slow” Joe, the RD. Like I said before, he puts on an amazing race. Not only did we get a shirt, pint glass and medal for our entry fee, but the race also managed to raise $10,000 for Medals 4 Mettle. This tough race is definitely one I would like to do again!