In both 2011 and 2013, Matt and I really enjoyed running across the Mackinac Bridge during the Memorial Day weekend. Although we’ve been to Mackinac Island several times, we’ve never actually run on the island. We finally made that happen on Saturday, June 6 when we ran the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 10K.
If you’re not familiar with Mackinac Island, it is located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Aside from the awesome fudge, the main charm of the island is that it does not allow cars. Bikes and horse-drawn buggies are the main modes of transportation.
Just under a four-hour drive for us, it’s a perfect weekend getaway. We left after work on Friday and made it to our hotel in Mackinaw City by 9:30 that night. Although we’d like to stay on the island one of these days, Mackinaw City is nice as well and offers more reasonable rates.
On the morning of the race, we caught the first ferry to the island at 7:30. Ferries were scheduled to leave every half hour, and we wanted to play it safe in case the boats filled up. The bottom of the boat was full, leaving us to sit up top in the open air. It was a beautiful morning, but it was no warmer than 50 degrees. Factor in the wind chill of the moving boat and it was pretty chilly. I was distracted by a nice view of the Mackinac Bridge at first, but then it was a long, cold 15-minute trip to the island. I think it took about 45 minutes for one of my fingers to thaw.
As we got closer to the start time, Matt and I headed out for a warm up. Like many other people, we posed for a picture together first.
After warming up, we ran back into the front of the crowd, giving us prime placement for the start. Between the runners and walkers, over 800 people participated. The start was in front of the Windemere Hotel, about a quarter mile from the school.
The race started out running through town, but it seems like we turned out of the main part of town in no time. Just over half a mile into the race we hit “the hill.” I was aware of the hill when I signed up for the race and knew it would definitely affect my time. Being aware of it didn’t make it any easier though! I started to huff and puff as I worked up the first part of the hill. I looked to the top and told myself I could do it. However, I didn’t realize that the part of the hill I could see at that moment was only the beginning. After a left turn, I could see that we had even more to climb. It was pretty rough. The hill was a mile long and beat me up pretty good.
Once we got past the hill, I started to enjoy the course again. It sure helped to hit a downhill segment next! We spent about half of the race running through Mackinac Island State Park, where the paved paths feature lots of trees and shade. We ran past the small airport’s runway as well, then came back around to the road that runs along the shore. I was excited to run along the water and enjoy the view. Trees lining the road separated us from the water at first, but soon enough the view opened up. However, no trees meant no protection from the wind. We ran right into the wind for the last couple miles, and that really made me struggle.
I didn’t have much left in me by the end. Nonetheless, I had a new PR of 45:52! I haven’t raced many 10Ks, and my old PR was several years old. My 5K and half marathon times had improved quite a bit in that time, so I knew I was due to improve my 10K time as well. This winter I made it a goal to finally “fix” my time. Starting in May, I concentrated on 10K pace workouts, something I’d never really done. With my target 10K race coming a couple weeks later, this race was kind of a practice to see how things were going. I had improved my time by 45 seconds or so despite the hill, so I knew I could do even better on a more forgiving course.
As my splits show, I was all over the place when it came to pacing. I flew along pretty good for the first half mile, but the hill slowed me down a lot after that. The hill continued into the second mile, but that’s when it leveled out a bit and the downhill started. The third mile was all downhill, so I felt great! I settled into a more reasonable (but probably too fast) pace by the fourth mile, then I hit the wind and gradually fell apart over the last couple miles. Still, I was happy with my time, finished first in my age group, and was the fourth female overall! Matt was third in his age group, so both of us earned a cool plaque.
The post-race treats included bottles of water, fruit, and granola bars. We wanted to spend some time on the island after the race, so we cleaned up a little bit in the school’s small locker rooms before they got too crowded with other people doing the same. It was nice that we could collect our awards without waiting for a ceremony. Though the temperature was great for running, it was a bit on the cool side for walking. Still, the sun was shining and the island looked beautiful. We took in the typical sights of people riding bikes and horse buggies roaming the streets. We did actually come across a few buggies during the race and had to make room for them!
With only a granola bar each to refuel after the race, we were starving in no time. We grabbed lunch then walked through town a little bit more, browsing through the t-shirt shops. Of course we had to get some fudge too. Sanders had fun flavors like dreamsicle, bumpy cake, and salted caramel fudge.
Eventually we’d had enough of the shops and I kept shivering in the cool breeze, so we headed back to Mackinaw City. I was happy to get a seat in the bottom of the ferry on the way back instead of freezing in the open air again.
After showering and resting in the hotel room for a bit, we grabbed dinner and walked around the stores in Mackinaw City. The city itself has plenty of stores with t-shirts, fudge, taffy, ice cream, and other treats. When we got back to the hotel for good that night, my legs were extremely restless between the race and all of the walking.
We had a 10-mile run on our marathon training schedule the next morning but knew we probably wouldn’t go that long. We ended up running six miles along the North Central State Trail. We’ve stayed at the same hotel a couple times in the past, and I was always intrigued by the trail that starts right outside the hotel. I was excited to finally check it out this time. The rail to trail runs 62 miles between Mackinaw City and Gaylord. It’s paved for a brief stretch in Mackinaw City, then turns to crushed limestone. If you go far enough south, you can catch glimpses of Lake Huron. We could see resorts and campgrounds through the trees for the first mile, then we kind of grew tired of the long straightaways. I think our legs had had enough for the weekend. Still, it was a nice trail and perfect that it was right next to our hotel.
Overall, it was a great weekend getaway. It was fun to finally run around the island, and the race gave us a good excuse to refuel with plenty of fudge and salt water taffy!
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