The Traffic: If you have never been to Traverse City, put it on your list. From wineries and breweries to breathtaking views, it's definitely a city worth visiting. If you have been to Traverse City, when I say the word "traffic", you know what I mean. On any given weekend, tourists from Michigan and beyond flock to this northern town in Michigan. Summer for us here begins Memorial Weekend, and the traffic is always an issue. Add in 6,000+ runners and their friends and families and traffic becomes a spectacle. Plan to get there early, and plan on not being in a hurry to get out of town after the race. There aren't many routes to access the start/finish of this race, and I can only imagine the melee it would appear to be from an aerial view.
The Weather: I had spent the previous week at our family cabin, which is located about an hour from Traverse City, and had seen the sunshine for about 70 minutes total that entire week. Race day Saturday had promised great weather, and it did not disappoint. The start of the race began with clear blue skies, temps in the upper 50's and calm waters. It gradually warmed up throughout the race, to temps in the low 70's, but with much of the course shaded, heat was not an issue.
The Half Marathoners: In addition to a marathon, Bayshore also offers a 10k race and a very popular half marathon race. The half marathoners are bused out to their start and then they have a one-way run to their finish. I knew several people running the half, and I was looking forward to passing them on my way out to the 13.1 mile turnaround. Just before Mile 7, the leaders of the half were headed toward me. Soon I saw Nick barreling at me. And then Justin. And then Matt. And then Jessica. And then the girl with the fancy pants from the restroom line earlier that morning. It was definitely a highlight of my race to see all of those runners in action and to exchange some high-fives with many of them.
The Oranges: Until about a month ago, I didn't venture out from my race fueling plan of water/gatorade/gels during races, but the heat of Rock and Roll Nashville this year changed my mind. In that race I ate every cold and refreshing thing that was offered to me, in hopes of cooling my body down. During Bayshore, when I came upon an aid station somewhere around Mile 8 and saw that they were offering orange slices to runners, I was elated. In fact, several aid stations on the marathon route offered oranges, and I partook of ALL of them. Oranges can be quite a mood lifter, especially in those later miles when you need a pick-me-up!
The Leaders of the Pack: After all of the half marathoners had passed me, the next thing I had to look forward to would be the leader of the marathon. It's always exciting to see that first runner heading toward the finish at a much higher rate of speed than I am. Around Mile 10, I saw the bicyclists clearing the way for the leader. But there wasn't one leader-there was a pack. There was a tightly knit group of men leading the way, with serious faces and their eyes on the prize. And if I was at Mile 10, that meant that they were already at Mile 16, and that was pretty damn impressive!
The Bloody Nipples: As I got closer to the turnaround, more and more marathoners were coming toward me, and I got to check them out as they passed. Some were smiling and some looked miserable. Some were walking and some were offering motivational words as we passed. Now I've seen bloody nipples before on men, but never, I mean ever, have I seen so many blood-stained shirts as I did in this race. This is a mystery to me. Men, is this unpredictable? Or is it something expected and you just deal with it? Why is it not preventable? If someone can offer me some answers regarding bloody nipples, I'm all ears.
The Disgruntled Runner: After I made the turnaround at 13.1, I started looking for other runners I knew who were running the full. First I saw Brian. And then Brandy and Anna. And then Kari. I yelled at all of them and continued on-I was feeling pretty good! I checked my watch and saw that I was at Mile 15. Already?! I turned to the man next to me and said, "We are already at 15-just 11 more miles to go!" The look he gave me was not a pretty one. In fact, I think he would have loved to slap me right in that moment. Sorry, dude. Just keep running.
The Poop: This is where shit got real. Literally. Moments after I had my awkward exchange with the disgruntled runner, I saw it. And I couldn't look away. There, in front of me, was a petite woman wearing black spandex shorts and yes, there was poop. Not only could I see the poop in her shorts, it was also running about halfway down her inner thighs on both legs. Really? I have never seen this before. I mean, I've heard of elite athletes doing this in a fight to the finish, but not a mid-packer. And definitely not on a course that had designated bathrooms every mile. She never stopped, and I eventually passed by, far to her right. I wish that was the end of the poop,but it is not. Around Mile 17, I noticed some poop in the road-a few spots here, a few spots there. And then I realized it was a trail. A trail of poop. Are you kidding me? I kept running, careful not to step in it, and then I saw her: A blonde girl running, with her legs almost completely covered in poop. I'm sorry, but I DO NOT COMPREHEND. She had not only chosen to poop while running for over a mile, but was continuing on her race with this literal shit show. A four hour marathon is impressive and all, but it's nothing to shit your pants over.
The Volunteers: In addition to running races, I also know what it's like to be a volunteer at a race. There is a TON of work that goes on behind the scenes to make race day run smoothly. The number of volunteers at this race was unbelievable. There were aid stations just about every mile along the course offering Gatorade and water and oranges and gels. During the first few miles of the race, I was happy to receive some water and a smile and carry on. But during those last few miles, I longed to see the sea of green shirts that indicated I was approaching an aid station. From start to finish, the volunteers at this race were exceptional. It's easy to lose focus as a volunteer when the half marathoners have passed and many of the faster marathoners have passed, but there was no sign of any of the volunteers wavering as the time wore on. The organizers of Bayshore are to be commended for all of their preparation and effort.
The Wanting to Die: There comes a time for me in every race where this happens to me. Whether it's a 5K or an ultramarathon, there is always a point where I feel like I can't go on. In this race, that happened to me at Mile 22. My pace had been gradually slowing, but not at an alarming rate, and I was okay with that. At Mile 22, though, I just wanted to be done. Or dead. Your choice. JUST MAKE IT STOP.
The Chafing: I pulled my head out of my butt shortly after my Mile 22 meltdown, and picked up my pace. Right about then, my shorts had other plans. For some reason, all of a sudden, something started to poke out of my right shortleg into my left inner thigh. Perfect! When I realized that pulling the legs down or raising them up didn't change the poking feeling, I was forced to just deal with it for the rest of the race. Whatever. (eye roll) I had been feeling some chafing along my bra line on my back for miles, so at least this chafing was keeping my mind off of that chafing.
The Track: During the last mile of this race, there are several turns before you get to the finish. Races like this always mess with my head. I always have a time goal in mind, and as I make those final turns, I am always wondering which turn will be the last turn and when I'll actually be able to see the finish line. The last turn for Bayshore is onto the track at Northwestern Michigan College-a quick turn to the left onto the track and then partway around to get to the finish. As I hit the track, the fans were there in full-force cheering me on in my final steps.
The Finish: As I headed down the track, on that final straightaway, the announcer called my name over the loudspeaker and I sprinted over the finish line, knowing that I made it in under four hours, which was my goal. With tears in my eyes, I accepted my finisher's medal from a boy about 13 years old, and I wondered if he "gets" it. If not, I hope he does someday.
The Chocolate Milk and Ice Cream: I am not much for post-race food. The bananas and water and pretzels and bagels and pizza are overrated in my book. But there's one thing I LOVE: chocolate milk. The thought of cold chocolate milk at the finish line fuels me the last ten miles of every marathon. It is completely amazing. At Bayshore, they also offer award-winning Moomers Ice Cream at the finish. I opted for Cookies and Cream, and I sat on a bench in the shade and devoured it.
The Puke and PR: I knew many people running this race, and I couldn't wait to hear their stories. For some, this was their very first marathon. For others, it was a chance to run with friends. And for others, it was a chance to PR. Two people I know earned personal best times in the half marathon after stopping to throw up on the course. That is the ultimate "puke and rally", right?!
The Sitting on the Toilet: With all of my recent ultra training, I've been slacking on my speed work, but I still had a goal of finishing in under four hours. I knew it would be tough and I knew it would hurt. When you're at a race that offers both a full and half marathon, you can always tell which runners ran the full by their walk. My whole body hurts after a marathon-my feet, my legs, my shoulders, even my skin. By the next day, most of those pains go away, but one always remains: my quads. Going up the stairs is fine, but do NOT ask me to go down them. And going to the bathroom? I'll bet when you've got to go, the thought of how your quads are helping you sit down and stand up from the toilet never crosses your mind. But on the day after a marathon, sitting down on the toilet is an EVENT. Once I get there I'm good, but then, at some point, I've got to get back up. One of these days I'm going to pull that towel bar right off the wall.
The Conclusion: It was exciting, it was tough, and it took everything that I had to achieve my goal. My seventh marathon did not disappoint, and I can't wait to run another one.