Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Traverse City Cherry City Festival of Race Half Marathon Report

For my 40th birthday I wanted to do something special.  My husband isn’t a huge fan of having people over and I’m not a huge fan of cleaning my entire house from top to bottom.  So rather than have a big party, I decided to run a half marathon.  The awesomeness of a half marathon cannot be overstated.  Long enough to be a challenge, but not so long that you can’t walk for a week.  (Marathon, I’m looking at you).  This would not be my first half marathon.  I had done one for my four year old’s first birthday, a month late.  And one for my six year old’s first birthday.  I think the half for my 2 year old’s birthday was a half a year late. (four kids will do that to you).

Because I am highly scientific I searched online for races on my birthday.  Fortunately my birthday was on a Saturday this year, so I had three choices in my state.  One was a trail run.  I was not as in shape as I would like, so a trail run is out.  The other was in Lansing.  Which I am sure is nice, but not really the sort of thing I was planning.  My husband’s 40th is the summer, as is our 10th wedding anniversary.  So, taking a trip for all three seemed like a really good idea.  I got my parents to watch my kids and we were off on our trip.

The drive up was lovely.  Not having my kids with me felt really weird.  Not good, not bad, just weird and different.  The night before the race was fairly uneventful.  Well aside from getting into a fender bender.  And having dinner at the world’s slowest restaurant.  It took us two HOURS to get dinner.  And we got the wrong food. In the end, I did feel bad for our waiter.  You could tell he was trying really hard and just having the worst day anyway.
One the bus up to the race.  The sunrise!

The sunrise over the Lake is lovely. Why am I up so early though?

The starting line for the half is in a vineyard, so we took a shuttle up to the start.   I had my camera and my number.  I had forgotten my hat.  I don’t wear a watch anymore because I don’t want to know how slow I’m running. I was feeling . . . ill prepared for my endeavor.  Then a couple sits down across from me and asks if this is the shuttle for the half.  Yes, I said.  It’s the only shuttle!  All the other races start somewhere else.

One of the few flaws of this race was that it started late.  There were people still getting on the shuttle to get to the start, so they held the race up for them.  I heard grumblings and I may have even said something myself.  However, I frequently have nightmares about getting to the starting line late and missing the race, so I was secretly relieved we were waiting for everyone.
I like the Rose Bushes by the grapevines.

Starting line.

My training for this race consisted of picking a 12 week beginner program and jumping in at week six. This means that, I did not train as much as could have.  Or probably should have.  So I decided this was a “fun” race, not a competitive one.  So I ran with my camera.  What could be more fun than that?  My husband was surprised by this decision.  Our approach to racing is a little different. Unfortunately, I have to admit, he was right.  I was bored by about mile 2.  That meant carrying my camera, in my pants for the next 11.1 miles.

Running through a cherry orchard.

The race, as I said, starts out in a vineyard.  It is a LOT of downhill, for the first two miles.  You know that old adage, “what goes up must come down.”  It works the other way too.  So I am running, much too fast, knowing that at some point, I am going to have to make it back up all those hills.  What I did not realize is that the “uphill” portion of the race is much longer than I expect.  After I got past the initial downhill, it was all uphill until about mile 8 or 9.  I kept thinking, “I will go slowly, until I make it to the top of the hill, then speed up on the other side of the hill.”  Turns out that doesn’t work when most of the race is up hill.  I also noticed that my back; which always hurts on long runs; felt fine.  This was a nice surprise.  For some reason my feet and my toes really bothered me.  I think, since most of my runs are pretty flat, that I wasn’t picking my feet up enough for the uphill.

For those of you who aren’t from Michigan, or who don’t spend a lot of time here, I can say that the area is beautiful.  Most of the race runs through neighborhood streets right on Lake Michigan.  One side of the road is beautiful houses; the other side is the Lake.  It was just beautiful.  And distracting.  I spent most of the race staring at the beautiful houses and scenery and not concentrating on my time nearly enough.  I should have had some coffee that morning so I could concentrate more on my race and less on the scenery.  At one point, I said to the runner next to me “The houses here are all so nice.”  And she responded “My parents used to live in that house right there!”

I'm running a half marathon, on my 40th Birthday!  That's Lake Michigan behind me.

Finally we got to the Traverse City sign.  Not long after I see my husband standing by the side of the road.  I tell him “you’re supposed to cheer for people” and he says “oh there you are!”  He runs with me for a little while.  I imagine him pushing me forward, toward the finish line.  Then I go under a bridge and he will meet me at the top. He never finds me again, because I ran faster than he thought.  I am still imagining him behind me, pushing me toward the finish line.  I get to downtown, and there are people on either side of the road.  Some are cheering.  For most of the race, the only spectators were handfuls of people standing in their driveway, drinking a cup of coffee.  I waved like a madwoman at them and got a “good job runner” in return.  But now it is the finish.  There are people on either side.  I can see the finish line but it is SO far away.  I imagine my husband pushing me more.  I try to open my stride and get it over with.  Over 12 miles behind me now, and I am reaching closer and closer to the finish, which seems further and further.  Finally, I cross the line, stomping the mat.  I hear my name, and see my time.  It was faster than I had hoped!  Woo!  I get some food and water.  Someone says they are out of cherries, so I don’t bother to look for them.  (Note to self, always look for the cherries).  The medal is gorgeous and I am so glad to be done.


My husband and I decide not to wait around for the parade.  He says “that’s what all these people are for.  They aren’t cheering for you; they’re waiting for the parade.”  It’s a good thing I have a good sense of humor.