Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back from Vacation

I actually take those. Unbeknownst to most there is a time in a man's life when he's got to step away from the mundane work life and head out on a trip. And this past week I did exactly that. I had no computer and no internet access so I'm frantically updating everything from the past week.

A few months ago I decided to visit some friends in northern Michigan along the shore of Lake Michigan in a little town called Charlevoix. It's a very beautiful town and host to a lot of incredibly rich people. Their summer vacation homes are in Charlevoix so it's a huge tourist trap. By the way, if you ever land on that side of Michigan, you're a tourist if the locals call you a "fudgie" or a "cone sucker". It's really pretty funny.

The whole long weekend is documented pictorially here. This blog entry will more or less serve as the narration to the story. Cozy up with some hot cocoa and a blanket. Here we go.

I left last Thursday for the trip but instead of taking the usual route through the [impossibly beautiful] Upper Peninsula, I decided to do something different and take the S. S. Badger Carferry across Lake Michigan to Ludington and then drive North along the shore to Charlevoix.

All I have to say about the carferry is "very cool." It's like a floating factory. The thing is huge.

While on board I met some very interesting people who were on job interviews from NYC in both the twin cities and Wisconsin. They were both interviewing for teaching jobs at universities and were so nice they bought me a very refreshing lemonade. It was so refreshing in fact that I fell asleep and got completely sunburnt lying on the outer deck of the ship. It was funny looking too. My legs were red to the inside of my shins and white as a ghost on the outside of the shins. Not sure how I was sleeping to make that happen but there I was. A Batman villain.

After 3.5 hours on the ferry it pulled into Ludington, we unboarded, and I began the 3 hour drive to Charlevoix. It was all uneventful except for the beautiful shoreline and untamed wilderness as far as the eye could see. Very different from the city life. I almost really miss it a lot and would, in a sense, give up the convenience of city life to have that again.

When I got to Charlevoix, the first thing I did was get to my friends house (many indoor pictures included), unpack my stuff, and take a trip along the shore on my bike. There was an awesome old torn town nuclear power plant I wanted to check out but ran out of time. I headed back and took some pictures of the town... including the bridge that no fudgie can be without. The weather was amazing and I was seriously ready to take on anything.

On Friday, I spent some more time on my bike but then headed down to Traverse City to watch the local minor league team, the Beach Bums, take on... uh... some other team. But most importantly, I was meeting up with a high school friend of mine who I haven't seen in as much time. It was great to see him and I've already got his IM so we won't have to wait another 12 years to be in touch. In fact, the next time I'm around in the area I plan on doing some biking with him. Which means I now need to save up for a dirt bike as well as a triathlon bike. Can we say Powerball?

Saturday was the real meat of the weekend. Saturday morning was the second running of the "Run Charlevoix" marathon. This was the second time I'd done it (going for a no miss record here) and it was a great time to run into yet some more friends. A college friend of mine came up to run the half marathon and the rest of my friends were also running the half. This was, for all of them, their first half marathon. Each of them finished so all I can really say is: CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done!

This marathon is unique [read: shitty] in that it's an out-and-back. TWICE. That's right folks. When you get to the half marathon point, you're actually at the end of the race but have to turn back around and run the course again. My friends and I spent a very long time discussing, at length, how this race could very easily be run better and some of the mismanagement of the organization that puts it on [unabridged letter will follow sometime soon. Stay tuned.] but let's not dwell on that now. My only main comment is if they change the course to start in Harbor Springs and run to Charlevoix, they'd have a much more beautiful course. And, it's doable because the distance from Harbor Springs to Charlevoix is... drum roll please...

27.1 miles.

It's unclear to me how it could be more perfect.

The run was okay though. I used this as a training run and an experiment. See, since my last marathon, I've done virtually no running. All I've been doing is cross training. And lots of it. I wanted to see how much biking and swimming would maintain marathon stamina.

The answer: Not much.

By the half marathon mark I was in pain I hadn't felt in recent memory. I had to pull off a Hal Higdon walk-run to finish the race. My feet and every other part of my body was in severe agony by the end of the run. In fact, I had to have a random stranger help me finish the run because I was going to stop and walk the last 3 miles. So, for those of you who were wondering if you can keep your marathon shape by cross training... not so much.

Nothing replaces the long runs. So please don't even try it. If you're a triathlete and interested in doing marathons, don't fool yourself. You need to do the long runs on the weekend. So I say... train for an Ironman competition. You may as well.

One interesting, sad, and noble thing did happen to me on the run. On the way back from the second turn around, somewhere near mile 22 or so, I ran into this guy who looked like he was stoned. He was headed out for the second turn around so I stopped him and asked how he was doing. He could barely hold himself up against the railing at that point when he told me his fingers were tingling. The poor kid was dehydrated from the insane humidity and heat as well as sorely depleted of electrolytes. Enough was enough. I told him to turn around and walk with me to the next station, that he should live to fight another day. And literally that's where he was. The passer-byers gave us their water so he would have something to drink and I kept walking and talking with him for at least a good 3/4 mile before a race official came with a radio and more supplies for the kid. I'm glad he was found when he was otherwise it could have been a much worse outcome for the guy. After I saw he was safe I took off and kept running my race. Later an ambulance came screaming by and I knew it was for that guy. Hopefully he learned a great lesson about his first marathon. Too bad he didn't finish it but something tells me he didn't put in nearly enough time or long runs to make the race (look who's talking.)

The rest of the weekend I spent swimming in the unbelievably clean, clear, and beautiful Lake MIchigan and Lake Charlevoix.

It was a fun weekend and a great vacation. Thanks to my friends for putting up with me. I can't wait for next year.

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