Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Race Report: Michigan 13.Wine Trail Half Marathon

Entire row to myself!
The drive back to Columbus was uneventful, just like the trip down, and I made it with time to spare to board my flight.  Ultimately, I was headed to Chicago, but I booked the trip to make a connecting flight in Atlanta.  Thankfully the flight down was relatively empty and I had an entire row to myself.  At least one good thing coming out of Columbus, lol (remember, I'm a graduate of the University of Michigan, and Michigan and the Ohio State University, based in Columbus, have a deep-seated rivalry that stretches past the football field into many other instances, for more than a century.)

Fifty Staters, pre race... (Photo by Jann Carlson)
We landed in Atlanta, and it was less than an hour connection - thankfully, the gate for the flight to Chicago was literally just across the way from where we deplaned from the first flight.  Upon landing in Chicago at 6:30pm, I headed out to the rental car shuttle pickup and got on the Avis shuttle to meet up with Dana, who had flown in earlier that day (she's a flight attendant) and had met up with her husband (a pilot who was on layover, also happening to be in Chicago).  We quickly got into our rental and headed off to Baroda, Michigan, another 1 1/2 hour drive south through the western and southern suburbs of Chicago, around Lake Michigan, through Indiana, into southwest Michigan.  We gained another hour upon our arrival, and made it to our hotel at roughly 9pm.  At the hotel, we met up with our running friends who had booked at the same hotel, Jann and Mike Carlson (who I had mentioned in my blog about the Boston's Run to Remember that happened back in May), for a quick tête-à-tête, which included wine, of course, then headed off to bed for our early morning the next day.

With my fun round bib number!
We rose in the AM, getting dressed and out the door in record time, and drove the twenty minutes to Baroda along back-country roads still bathed in the moonlight, as the sun had not risen yet.  There was nary a car in the road, but we soon realized that the roads weren't as flat as we had imagined in this part of the state.  We arrived in Baroda, trying to locate parking - an area that had been initially set aside for us didn't seem to be ready yet, so we just found our own parking across the street from where people were walking to to assemble for the race.

The startline
The sun began to rise and people began to mill about in the large open field along Baroda's tiny 1st Street, which dead ended at its southern tip.  It was a small race, but the set up for the start was very cute, with barrels decked out in wine and grape decoration.  There was a decent sized field, but it was mixed among those running the 5K and the half.  Before long, the runners in the half had begun to make their way to the start chute, and then at 6:30 on the dot, we were off, running in the open field   toward Hills Road to the northeast.  For this small stretch, we were on uneven terrain, a mix of grass and dirt, lightly damp from the overnight hours.  We quickly made our way to asphalt, and ran our way down Hills Road.  Just after the one mile mark, we turned left onto Singer Lake Road and headed north, passing vineyards as we continued northeastward to Lemon Creek Road.

In front of one of the wineries along Lemon Creek Road

Wine Trail Signage
We turned right onto Lemon Creek Road and traveled between grape vineyards and two wineries (Lemon Creek Winery and Domaine Berrien Cellars), where I noticed a five foot tall metal wineglass on the left of the road.  Having seen the course map, I knew we would return along this road in the opposite direction, so I made sure to make a mental note to stop here for a photo op on my way back. Because of the previous day's half, I had begun to utilize my intervals, to conserve my already tired legs.  From the 1 mile mark to the 2 mile mark, there was already a decent 100 foot climb, and then the hills began to roll continuously as we made our way further down Lemon Creek Road.  I would leap frog with several folks through these early miles as I continued my consistent intervals.  It was around 7am, and the sun was already giving us some problems, with temps beginning to soar into the 80s with high humidity - dangerous territory for runners.

Runners and drunks crossing...
At mile 4, we would turn right onto Burgoyne Road. Traveling south on Burgoyne Road took us past more grape vineyards, but also apple orchards.   This continued for two more miles, and at Burgoyne and Snow Road, we turned right at approximately the halfway point of the course. Snow Road had some consistent rolling hills, and then we turned right onto Lauer Road, a gravel road, taking us all the way back to Lemon Creek Road.  As we turned onto Lauer Road, there was a pretty steep downhill for a short period for roughly a quarter mile, and then we began the "big hill" climb at roughly mile 8 along gravelly Lauer Road.

When there was shade, we
appreciated it!
Passing yet another winery at the 8.5 mile mark, I was feeling the effects of the previous day's race and the brutal sun beating down on me.  The route continued north all the way to Lemon Creek Road, where we had earlier run, which marked the 10 mile mark.   I was quite winded and had slowed down considerably at this point.   We continued on west on Lemon Creek Road and at this point in time, I decided to stop and encourage some of the other runners with me for a photo op with the large wine glass statue, which several did.  Dana, who I had leap frogged with earlier on as we were on Burgoyne and Snow Roads, had caught up, and we took some selfies with the statue.  I, however, made the stupid idea of doing a hanging pose along the lip of the statue, which immediately caused my left calf to tense up and cramp, and I was rendered in some pretty ferocious pain for a few minutes.

Selfie with Dana! (Photo by Dana Pistole)

And... cramp.
We were at the 10.5 mile mark, and only had 2.6 miles left in the race, but I was having a really tough time running again.  I fought through it and continued on, and finally returned to Singer Lake Road, which was the 11 mile mark, where Dana had begun to slow as well.  We decided to walk off the last mile with some infrequent fartleks in between, and make our way back toward the finish on the long down hill to Hills Road.  We turned right onto Hills Road and realized that the final mile was within our grasp, and the two of us crossed the finish line together.  I crossed in 2:44:26, which with the unbearable heat and humidity (which, I had said earlier, started to take it's toll very early into the race), was a commendable feat, especially the day after finishing a fairly hilly half marathon in another state.  As we cooled down, we waited for Jann and Mike, who had a tough race themselves, and then celebrated our victories (Jann, in particular, for getting 2nd in her age group!) with wine, of course!  We returned back to the hotel to clean up, and then the four of us retreated off for a tasty Mediterranean lunch in St. Joseph before Dana and I returned to Chicago to take our respectable flights back home (of course, I had another connection in Cincinnati, then landed in Newark, then had to train and subway it back home).

Victory Headstand at 13.WINE!

Two medals, two half marathons.  Tired Jim!

I calculated 2,675 miles of flying, 500 miles of driving, and 26.2 miles of running for the weekend.  My 7th double of 2015 was complete!

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