I flipped the Torque 200 yards off the dock. Much abashed, I got back
in and took a careful row out into Portage Lake. It was incredibly nice
of Terry Smythe, the head rowing coach at MTU, to let me take it out.
The boat cuts the water like a samurai blade, but I had to mince my
stroke to avoid going over again. I also went for a couple of great
runs on the trails around Tim's house. Hougton in the summer is a blast.
I drove to the marathon site in Munising on Saturday, stopping to work
for a couple of hours in the
Peter White Public Library
in Marquette. Peter White was the first
post master. Marquette is the biggest city on the UP, iron ore is still
loaded on the lake front there. I was glad to find a Target to load up
on sunblock, petroleum jelly and munchies for the race. I stayed in the
race hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Munising. It is a 10 minute walk
from the ferry landing for Grand Island and has spectacular views out
over Lake Superior.
Over the course of a 25 year project, fads and ideas come and go. The
current big idea is that running shoes are a scam that has disconnected
Man from his basic running nature. Vibram five finger foot gloves were
on sale in the lobby of the Holiday Inn and at least one person ran the
trail in them. Barefoot running and the five finger were popularized in
the recent book Born to Run
read the book last Spring and tried out the ideas. I started running
barefoot, which I have occasionally done when in a beach town.
Eventually I ran for a couple of weeks in minimalist 1970's design
shoes. I stopped my longstanding tradition of buying new shoes every
three months. I got terrible shin splits in late March and pulled a
hamstring, forcing me to withdraw from the Kentucky Derby Marthon.
Stupid book. Lesson learned: if something has basically been working
fine for over a decade, don't mess with it.
The upshot of the Spring disaster was that I got busy with rowing and
sailing, etc. and didn't run over 14 miles between March and August 1.
Thus I was concerned about my fitness for Grand Island. I struggled
through 12 miles in incredible North Carolina heat 8 days before the
run and then tried planned to forsake exercise race week (although the
temptations of Houghton got me out a bit). I ate a hearty meal of
macroni and cheese with tuna the night before. My goal was to
treat it as a training run but try and come in under 4 hours. As
indicated in the GPS data below, the run includes major climbs at 4, 8,
16 and 19 miles. When the going got tough, I walked. It was a fabulous
run. The views of the lake are incredible, it was a crime glance into
the deep clear water and keep on running. The turn off of the trails
onto the beach at mile 7 is breathtaking, although the mile on the sand
is hard. The course returns to the beach in the 16th mile. I was tired
enough to trip on a rock in the 19th mile, earning a red badge of
courage on my knee. The last couple of miles are on a rutted path mown
through grass, which was surprisingly wearing. On the whole, this was a
fantastic and easy run. My biggest mistake was wearing sunglasses. The
trail is mostly overgrown, the shades kept me from seeing both my
footing and the larger scene.
Here are some photos at the start:
The biggest logistical challenge was
whether or not to try for a shower in the hotel. The door said check
out at11, the race started at 7. I wasn't sure if I could run it in 4
hours, but I decided to risk it. I asked for a late check out at noon.
Although the start was only half a mile from the hotel, half
of that distance was over Lake Superior. One had to take the ferry
back. I finished at 11 and felt as miserable as ever after a marathon.
Just as I came through, the ferry horn blew and the boat pulled away
for the mainland. Rats! I staggered around a bit and followed many of
the other finishers in wading out into the cool lake. After a few
minutes in the lake I actually felt pretty good. The ferry came back
and I got on at 11:20. Unfortunately, the ferry had a capacity of 120
and they waited at the pier until it was full. It pulled away at 11:50.
I skipped the shuttle bus and, feeling unusually capable after a
marathon, walked up the hill to the hotel. 12:05, I doubted that my key
would work but there was no one at the front desk so I went to try. I
got in, the beds had been made and the floor vacuumed, but the bathroom
was still not cleaned. I took a shower, got to the front desk at 12:15
and checked out without even a scold! In short, nothing went wrong this
I had even been worried about making the 3:50 flight out to Minneapolis
and then San Diego, but I got to Marquette in time to relive my
youthful experience as a bus boy by having lunch at Big Boy.
Unfortunately they didn't have the old chilli mac on the menu, but the
spagetti with marinara was great. I sat next to a dentist from Palm
Beach on the puddle jumper to Minneapolis, Grand Island was her 35th
marathon. She was from the south but loves to ski, I am from the west
but love to sail. Her son was a brilliant mathematician in the Duke TIP
program and has just graduated Georgia Tech at 18. He wants to go to
grad school at Santa Barbara. She was amazed that I knew Santa Barabara
was strong in theoretical physics. An older gentlemen in the seat in
front of us asked about my Michigan Tech sweatshirt. He was a retired
plasma physicist from Berkeley, a 1960 graduate of MTU. He knew the
father of George Swenson, who was chair of ECE at MTU in the 50's.
George was the great radio astronomer/engineer at Illinois. The fellow
on the plane was going to his 50th MTU reunion next week, I told him to
say hi to Tim. A person cannot make this stuff up, the world conspires
to amaze us with connectivity.