Michigan and Wisconsin ~ Back to Back marathons
Marathons number 20 and 21 for 50 States for Sole – and numbers 34 and 35 in my lifetime.
Facing the unknown can be a scary thing – but during my 50 States for Sole campaign – facing fears, stretching beyond comfort zones, and diving in head first is all part of the adventure.
This time around, the unknown came wrapped up in a package marked “back-to-back marathons”.
There’s a first for everything, and this was my first crack at running 26.2 miles two days in a row – in two different states no less.
When I told people that I would be running a marathon in Marquette, Michigan on Saturday, August 30, and then another one on Sunday, August 31 in Minocqua, Wisconsin, the predominant response was two fold: “That’s crazy!” and “ How are you going to do that?”
I completely understood the first reaction – and quite readily agreed that it was crazy – and a bit scary as well. The second question boggles my mind, however, because I never think about “how” I’m going to do it – just that I AM going to do it. There is no “how”; there is only “do.” I can’t think of too many reasons other than severe illness, or physical injury or death, that would keep me from doing it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy – and having done so many endurance events in my life in a wide range of terrains and weather conditions, I know how truly raw and otherworldly uncomfortable it can get – but that’s not a good enough reason for me not to finish.
Often while I’m on the marathon course, I look around and literally breath in the scenery while reminding myself of how grateful I am for my physical and mental health, and how running has given me both.
I’m truly fortunate to be able to pursue this goal and run it down one mile and one state at a time. When my body is tired and every joint and ligament seems to be screaming at me at once, and the only thing angrier than my joints are my bowels, I keep moving forward and I’m thankful that I am able to do it and that Girls With Sole is my inspiration and motivation.
Every girl who feels pain from bullying, neglect, the stigma of mental illness, substance abuse, obesity, body image issues, or low self-esteem needs Girls With Sole and that SOLE motivation keeps me moving. The pain I endure while running will subside after a hot shower and a good night’s sleep – but without Girls With Sole programs, girls in need may never find their source of strength, self-esteem, and empowerment.
They may never make the crucial mind, body and soul connection – and the thought of THAT is a pain I can’t tolerate or endure.
Feeling scared because my body will be pushed to physical limits only makes the glorious feeling of achievement at the finish line that much more joyously golden. It’s a gift I’m able to give to myself and to others – that although relatively simple in nature – can also be truly life-changing to so many. This is what I do. This is what I CAN do that can make a difference. I believe that if I died while I was running you can bet that I died happy, sweating and smiling. (Not the way most people picture themselves going happily while sweaty and smiling, I know, but I’m not like most people.)
Driving to Michigan from Ohio would seem to be a fairly quick journey, unless you are me and you choose a marathon in the furthermost point of the state, located about 12 hours away from Cleveland. Some may say I’m a goof – or that once in a while I should actually pay attention to not just what state a race is in – but where, exactly, in that state it is located. Whatever – didn’t you hear me the first time when I said, “adventure?” I had never been to the Upper Peninsula and Presque Isle areas of Michigan before – and to prove it….just ask our waitress at The Navigator Restaurant in Munising, Michigan!
Tattoo Liz and I were driving along Lake Superior, admiring the beautiful scenery, and couldn’t help but notice that every other store front had a big sign alerting potential customers and weary travelers that they had Pasties. It was obviously a “thing” in the U.P., but one that neither of us could figure out. We kept pointing at the signs and laughing while wondering out loud what the hell Pasties were and why so many places carried them when there was nary a strip club in sight.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, so as we sat in our cozy booth in the nautical themed restaurant situated right on the water next to the Pictured Rocks Cruises Office and Gift Shop, enjoying our bacon, eggs and pancake, I asked our waitress what the heck a Pasty is. I quickly added that I knew what one was where I’m from (while gesturing to my boob area) but that I didn’t know what they were here.
She was a younger woman of about 25, blonde, and although to look at her you might think of a naive and innocent person, her hard smoker’s voice, and overall demeanor would suggest otherwise. She looked both hardened and new all at once. My question floored her a little bit, and she stepped back from the table and stood up straight, while closing her eyes and pressing her lips together as she tried to decide how to answer the question – perhaps without making me look like a complete idiot. With eyes still slightly closed, she started out with, “Well -it’s pronounced ‘pasty’.” (The way SHE pronounced the word made it sound less like another way to say really pale skin or Elmer’s Glue, and more like the opposite of the future.)
I loved how serious she was about it – without laughing or giving away what she was really thinking, she donned her best Poker Face and dryly explained that a Pasty is a pastry roll up-type sandwich filled with savory meat, potatoes, rutabaga and onions, that the minors ate because they were both filling and portable.
The Navigator won’t steer you wrong.
As we walked out of the restaurant, pleasantly full of both food and new-found knowledge, two ladies who were seated in the booth behind ours were walking out as well, still laughing their asses off at my question. They thought it was hilarious and let us know that people that lived below the bridge that brings you over to the UP are called Trolls. I guess Trolls like me don’t eat Pasties, and know too much about nipple coverage.
The long drive to the U.P. was SO worth it! Marathon number 20 in Marquette was absolutely beautiful and it was a point to point, downhill course to boot! With a net elevation drop of 1037 feet, we ran along the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, which is partially paved asphalt – but mostly crushed gravel. The temps were chilly for August, with a high of 63 degrees – and it rained for just about the entire race – but running along Lake Superior and around Presque Isle gave us some spectacular views to help keep our mind off the weather. (Well- that’s what I tell myself now, that I’m home, warm and dry.)
I finished the race in 4:28:04 and made the chilly walk back to the Girls With Sole Mobile with Tattoo Liz – both of us shaking with cold, and a bit worried about running another marathon in Wisconsin bright and early the next morning.
We made it to the hotel in Minocua, Wisconsin by about 3:30 in the afternoon. We ate dinner by 5:00 and were both sleeping by 7:00 pm! Our hotel was located about a block away from the town’s post office, which is where we needed to catch the bus to the race start at 5:30 am. Luckily for us they offered packet pick up on the morning of the race! The night seemed to fly by, and faster than a stripper can say Pastie, Tattoo and I were walking on the sidewalk in the dark to the post office.
Minocua is a cute town, that has a boardwalk-like atmosphere without the boardwalk. You can buy sundries (whatever those are), fudge and saltwater taffy, or shop for T-shirts and shot glasses until you drop.
Since it was another point to point race course, we climbed onto the school bus filled with tired looking runners. I assumed none of them (aside from me, Tattoo Liz, and a Japanese gentleman in his sixties who was doing his 667th marathon ) had run a marathon the previous day. After being dropped off in a nondescript looking field (This was the “No Frills Marathon”) we simply had to run 26.2 miles on the Bear Skin Trail back to the post office.
The morning was chilly but extremely humid. I stood at the starting line thinking about how tight my hamstrings were while dew the size of tear drops beaded up on each of my eyelashes. I swear; it was dew! I wasn’t crying, and hoped it would stay that way.
Since there were only about 100 participants and the race was so “No Frills” they started us by yelling “GO!”
I went – but not very quickly – and probably not the prettiest I have ever looked while running.
Remarkably, I ran out of my soreness by mile two, and I stayed in good spirits the whole race. My stomach acted up – but that’s gonna happen – so I rolled with it. The Bearskin Trail was a gorgeous mix of scenery with deep, lush woods and toadstools the size of a small dog. The air was heady with the smell of pine and I thought it odd that Wisconsin (in that part at least) looked and smelled like a Carolina pine forest instead of like Grampa’s Cheese Barn.
We ran on crushed, red gravel, and over wooden bridges. I have never seen so many ferns in the wild, and even caught a glimpse of a beaver looking up at me from the water. Granted, I was at mile 25 so it IS possible that I imagined the beaver….but I bet a lot more people out there would start running marathons if they knew how many Pasties and beavers they would encounter.
The volunteers on the course were extra nice, and proud to hand you anything you needed, including gum drops and homemade cookies in lieu of Gu or Shot Blocks. I had to laugh, even though it was really gross, when a woman who was smoking a cigarette was standing in the middle of the course at an aid station handing out cookies to the runners as smoke the same color as her hair billowed about her head. I’m certain that was the first time I ever encountered a race volunteer unabashedly taking hits from a cancer stick while handing out race nutrition.
Other than that…the scenery was pristine and beautiful. We sure got our fill of fresh air, trails, and running miles during those two days! I finished the No Frills in 4:38:32, and happily hobbled back to the hotel for a shower.
Tattoo and I jumped in the GWS mobile and headed home, arriving in Cleveland by 1:30 am. Since it was Labor Day on Monday, we had the whole next day to recover from the Labor of Love that is 50 States for Sole!