Who: Lesa and Me
Recall: Can't see the lake for the trees but who cares?
Overall: Great weekend with a fantastic marathon in the middle.
Rating: 5/5 carbs
Lesa is such a good sport. She not only puts up with my running shenanigans but is the best support team ever. This year she let me celebrate my 30th marathon by driving with me all the way up to Munising in the upper peninsula of Michigan to run the Grand Island Trail Marathon. I've had my eye on this marathon for a few years finally this year it all worked out.
After work on Thursday we drove 4 hours to Milwaukee. Along the way we finished a murder mystery audiobook, Still Life by Louise Penny that takes place in rural Canada. I really liked it.
Friday morning we hoped to go on a Laverne and Shirley tour of Milwaukee but it was German Days and we didn't want to fight the crowds. So we headed northward with a new audiobook, The Crossing Places by Ellys Griffiths, a murder mystery set in Scotland. We can't help notice that the corn of Illinois is replaced by tall trees in Wisconsin. As we drive through Green Bay, Lesa understands why they love their Packers so much—there's nothing else to get excited about in Green Bay. The forest become thicker in Michigan where we stopped for lunch here...
...the Swedish Pantry in downtown Escananba, MI.
Our course I carbohydrate loading with Swedish pancakes covered in spiced peaches. Lesa had the same but covered in strawberries. Inside, the restaurant's walls are covered in nicknacks. Very similar to a B and B in Still Life. We opted not for a new clock or an 'Uff Da" tile but we did purchase a couple of huge cookies.
"No, thank-you Escanaba!"
Little Bay de Noc at the upper end of Lake Michigan
We stopped for fuel and Lesa found the perfect yooper headwear. Yooper = in reference to things of the upper (i.e. UPer) peninsula of Michigan.
First speeding ticket in over 25 years. Uff da. Oh well, my heart is lightened as we pull into beautiful (?) Munising, home to one paper mill and 2000 people. We check intothe Holiday Inn Express which is only a quarter mile from the ferry to Grand Island. It's also were I pick up my race packet and Lesa buys tickets for the ferry and bus ride on the island that take spectators to three of the aid stations during the marathon. Not wanting to waste a moment of time in the Yooper, we set out to explore the streets of Munising and after two gift shoppes and one bookstores, we're done. We've seen it all. We pick up our tickets and the lady at the counter gushes over how pretty Lesa looks. Yes, I won the beautiful wife lottery!
Luckily, with nothing left to see in town, it's time to board our three hour tour (Lesa points out that the S.S. Minnow was schedule for a three hour tour as well) of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Amongst our group are no obvious millionaires with or without a wife, no movie starts, but there is a professor of Kinesiology (me) who will be of no use if we shipwreck.
The cruise is nice and peaceful. The boat is slow, 13 mph, but what else are we going to do in Munising? Here are some of the pictures we took from the cruise.
It's hard to see but right in the middle of the tree line is our hotel. Unfortunately we didn't have a lake view room but it's better than the Super 8 which is where we were going to stay until a room became available at the Holiday Inn.
On the left is Munising, MI and the land to the right is Grand Island. The ferry across to Grand Island is only half a mile.
The East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island. Constructed in 1868 and restored in 2000. I think it's privately own by the group of people who have houses on the island.
I got this picture off the internet.
The first major feature along Picture Rocks National Lakeshore is Miners Castle. There's a e walked out to it on Saturday after the marathon.
Lovers Leap but don't try it. The water underneath is only a few feet deep.
Rainbow Cave. Not as impressive as Rainbow Arch but what is?
With the surrounding earth washed away, a large root systems (left of the tree) extends over the water to the shore to keep the tree alive. Amazing.
Also found online, this picture shows the tree and it's lifeline root from the shore.
The sandstone that makes ups the pictured rocks extends from the UP south but underground into KY and back up into the LP. Glaciers may be slow but they can do amazing things.
A tree hanging on for dear life.
Sunset on Lake Superior
Kind of like Lake Powell but with trees.
Unfortunately, the batteries in both our phones died near the end of the cruise so we didn't get pictures of an amazing double rainbow. It was the most vibrant, brilliant rainbow I have ever seen and will never forget. These two rainbow pictures were taken in the Munising area and look like the rainbow we saw over the Pictured Rocks.
The cruise ended at 9:00 pm so we just grabbed Subway sandwiches and ate them in the room while watching Modern Family reruns. I also ate my huge cookie from the Swedish Pantry.
Ready to roll. The ticket stabled in the upper left corner is for the ferry ride.
We woke up at 4:00 am just because. I caught the 5:25 bus from the hotel to the ferry. I met runners from Michigan (of course), California and Arizona. Our ferry got us to the island only a few minutes before the start time of 6:00 but the race director gave us time to get ready. Lesa would catch a later bus and meet hopefully see me at one of the three aid stations on their route.
I was in the 6:00 start group, or the group for "special" (i.e. slow runners). We had a 1 hour head start on the real runners and half marathoner. There were about 160 total marathon runners and we must have been about 50 or 70 in our group. The first few pictures below were taken "on the run".
The course started on dirt roads like this...
...but most of it was on old double lane roads that were more like two lane running trails. This was taken on the out and back section on the thumb of the island to Muskrat point. The entire section was a canopy of trees. I never did see the lake on this section. In fact, I didn't see the lake much at all except for the beach portion (below) which surprised me. I expect more lake vistas but the shady course was cool (literally) and beautiful.
The most surprising thing was that the volunteers at the aid stations were decked out from head to tow in anti-mosquito gear. Poor Lesa's ankles are proof that they were thick. All aid stations were stocked with bug repellant.
All runners were required to carry a water bottle since there were no cups at the aid stations. Only pictures full of Hammer HEED ready to refill your bottle. And, it was nice to leave the aid station without the trail lined with discarded cups. In fact, littering was an automatic disqualification. Reconnect with the earth, is the marathons motto.
After the first aid station I picked up the pace. My goal was to reach the mile 16 or 17 aid station by 9:00 before Lesa and the other spectators who have to leave. I thought this was the only aid station they would be at so I hated for Lesa to endure the long waits and not be able to see me on the course. Well, my legs felt good so I was optimistic.
A ranger offered to take my picture with Trout Bay in background. I look like I'm hoping he just doesn't drop my phone in the sand. Sand? Yes, we ran on sand. In the next picture you can see the trail leading on to the beach and then a view of the beach we ran on.
Fortunately the sand was wet and packed making it somewhat easy to run on except for the nasty slope to the right. The flattest part was near the water so I did get my feet a little wet but it wasn't too bad. I'm just glad it was only for half a mile or less.
This borrowed picture from the web is what running that section of beach is like during sunnier times.
While waiting for me, Lesa snapped some gorgeous pictures around the island.
Lake Superior is cold even in July but Lesa was willing to get her feet wet. I'm sure while she was waiting she was singing, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot...or not. Assuming she was, I'm going to throw some lyrics underneath the following pictures.
"the big lake they call Gitche Gumee"
"The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay"
Note: this is not Whitefish bay but there is a Whitefish Point Marathon. Next year?
"Superior sings in the rooms of her ice-water mansion"
"The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead"
Finally, I appear at the mile 9 aid station where Lesa is patiently waiting with the rest of the spectators.
Wait, is that the wreck of the John Dudley Emmett?
I wasn't expecting to see her at the mile 9 aid station and she was too busy taking pictures to yell at me so I kept pushing forward to get to the mile 17 aid station by 9:00.
"Yes, I will go slow. You don't need to remind me."
At mile 12 I was passed by the fist runner from the 7:00 group. At mile 13 I was passed by the second runner from that group. I also started to feel a little pain from second toe on my left foot. It's the longest of the left foot toes. This is the first marathon in a pair of Salomon shoes I bought last fall. It will also be the last. Oh, well. Tally-ho.
These are the cliffs the sign above is referring to. Note the clear water below.
Between miles 4 and 16 the only people passing me were a few of the fast 7:00 runners. My legs felt great and I was close to a 10:00 per mile pace. The course is not near as hilly as the Tecumseh Marathon with really only four major incline. I did walk up the hills at mile 4 and 8 to save my legs for later and I also walked up the hills at mile 16 and 18 because I hadn't save enough. Plus, after not seeing Lesa at mile 17 I figured I better slow down a little (I know. It's hard to slow down from an already glacial pace but it was possible) over the last 9 miles.
The course peaked at mile 21 and I continued to feel good until a my calves started to twitch and then cramp up. Oh, well. I snapped this picture as I stopped to stretch them out around mile 23 or 24.
Shoreline on the west side of the island.
The bus got Lesa back to the finish just about 30 minutes before I sauntered in. She captured this picture of me 'flying to the finish'. Note the absence of blurring.
According to my iPhone I covered 26.2 miles before I got to the finish line. I'll trust the race director and not the GPS capabilities on a yooper island.
Just chilling my bones in the coldest but cleanest of the great lakes, and now my personal favorite. I went all the way under to wash off and to be able to say I was 'baptized' in Lake Superior. (So the lake does give up her dead) Not that it mattered to me, but it started to rain while I was in the lake. "Oh, there's lightening? Okay, I'll get out."
After my Lake Superior bath, I take my shoes off to find a large blood blister on the second toe of my left foot. Yuck. Time to retire the new trail shoes.
My poor Morton's toe partially covered.
[Morton's foot, Greek foot, "Royal toe", "LaMay toe", "Sheppard's toe" or Morton's syndrome, long toe is the condition of a shortened first toe in relation to the second toe.]
I slip on my comfy Chaco sandals (made in Michigan?) and we get in line for the ferry back to the mainland. The line is long. People say there wasn't a wait in years past. We're not sure if it's because of the rain or they are low on boats but we figure we'll have to have for 3-4 more round trips of the single ferry boat before we get off the island. Then a 12 year old kid asks us if we'd like a ride on a pontoon. Sure, I think. Is this a joke? No, just some nice guy who willing was helping transport runners and spectators on his little six passenger boat. But why did he ask us? We were in the middle of the line. I think he looked at me and figured I looked closest to death than any of the other runners in line so it would be best to get me off the island as soon as possible.
Finishers medal and shirt. Comments on marathon guide.com complain about under sized shirts (not this year) and cheap finishers medals. We'll they are hand made from wood but I'll take it.
It was about noon when we got back to the hotel and we had already check out so I washed up and changed in their restroom. I was not hungry at all so we drove outside of town to see pictured rocks from the mainland. We walked 0.6 miles into see Miners Falls...
...and then drove a little further to see Miners Castle.
The water below Miners Castle
Crystal clean water.
View from the lookout on Miners Castle
Annoying loud "water snowmobiles."
Panorama view from Miners Castle. In the distance is Grand Island.
I loved this icon. It looks like a snowboarder to me but it gets the point across.
Finally, I was hungry so we considered our Munising eating options and vetoed the popular Li'l Abner themed restaurant and opted for a local pizza parlor called Main Street pizza. Not too bad. We took the leftovers with us and hit the road. Lesa drove us through Green Bay and Appleton to Madison where we stayed the night before driving home the next day.
Lesa and me in Madison on the shore of Lake Mendota. Apparently marathons make my forehead grow longer. Not the best picture of Lesa, the LOML, who is a beautiful as ever.
Overall the marathon did not disappoint. The trail was easier than I expected and while there weren't as many views of the lake as I thought, the course was gorgeous. It would have been nice to have sunny skies for sight seeing but I can't complain about running a marathon in July in 50-60 degree temps and cloudy skies. The sight seeing cruise was a little long (neither one of us brought any snacks) but well worth it. The only down side was the limited eating options in Munising but that's a easy trade off for the incredible scenery.