I love the Bayshore Marathon because Traverse City is a great place for a Memorial Day weekend getaway. It’s 3.5-4 hours away and the race provides a good excuse to visit beautiful northern lower Michigan. I didn’t sign up for this year’s race initially because I had the Boston Marathon scheduled for mid-April. I didn’t know if it would be ideal to try running a half marathon six weeks later. I’m usually pretty cautious about returning to running after a marathon and take the recovery process seriously.
When I saw that Gazelle Sports and Brooks Running had some Bayshore entries to give away on Instagram, I was excited about the thought of giving the race a try. I explained in my entry that I’ve had two rough races at Bayshore and hoped that maybe the third time would be a charm. I crashed and burned when I ran the half in 2012, resulting in my personal worst half marathon time. I was in the bathroom line for over half an hour and the race started while I was still waiting. By the time I made it to the start, I got stuck behind people running a slower pace. My pace fluctuated as I weaved around people to make up for the slow start. I developed a side stitch halfway through the race that I could not shake and ended up walking the last 5K.
Four years later I gave Bayshore a second chance when I signed up to run my third marathon. There had been snow a couple weeks before the race and my body definitely wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity that I faced on race morning. 70 degrees at 7:00am was not good and I ran a personal worst marathon time…until I beat it by running a minute slower at Boston this year.
I’ve been hoping to redeem myself with a good race at Bayshore and fortunately Gazelle and Brooks awarded me with free race entries for myself and a friend! I was able to choose the distance and hoped that the half marathon wouldn’t be too ambitious following Boston. The half marathon always sells out within a few hours, so I felt especially thankful. I gave my other entry to my half brother-in-law so he could run the 10K. He would be in town that weekend and usually likes to participate, but he didn’t sign up early enough and the race sold out. I’m glad the contest helped both of us!
After Boston, I took a week off of running. I dealt with IT band issues and other tweaks for a week when I started to run again. Then I spent a couple weeks doing easy runs four days a week and concentrated on rebuilding my mileage. A couple weeks before Bayshore I ran four miles at marathon pace within a 10-mile run and the pace felt pretty challenging. I did some 400 repeats a couple times to reintroduce a faster pace. Aside from that, I didn’t feel like my speed had come back yet and I wasn’t sure what pace to aim for at Bayshore. I peaked with six days of running and a 12-mile run a week before the race. That reassured me that at least I was ready to cover the distance.
The race was on Saturday, May 25th, and I took half a day on Friday so I could beat traffic and get to town early. I checked into my hotel then went to downtown Traverse City to load up on treats. Before I left work, my buddy Jeff wondered if Traverse City had any good donut shops I should check out. Thanks to his investigative work, I had to make a stop at Peace Love & Little Donuts. I knew I also had to get some salt water taffy at Kilwins.
I took in the scenery by the water for a few minutes since I had some extra time to kill before my half sister and her husband made it to town.
We met at the high school for packet pickup. The orange shirt is the official race shirt and I ended up buying an additional cotton shirt too.
I was tempted by many of the cool items for sale, but I managed to leave with just the one extra shirt.
After grabbing dinner I thought I’d get my stuff ready for the next morning, but I was distracted for a little while first. My hotel was along the water and it was a beautiful night.
I actually slept pretty well but I only got around six hours of sleep. Unfortunately I do that way too often so it didn’t throw me off too much.
I drove through lightning and pouring rain on my way to the school, which was only five minutes from my hotel. I got there before 5:30 and was able to find a parking spot easily. Because the half marathon runners take shuttle buses to the start between 5:15-6:20, we’re typically the first runners to arrive. Parking is more of a challenge for the 10K and marathon runners. That was especially clear after the race when I saw cars parked all over the grass and in any random free space they could find.
I debated how long I should wait before heading to the buses. I wasn’t in a big rush to go wait in a field in the rain. By 5:50 I finally headed out, equipped with an umbrella, rain coat, and a couple of plastic bags wrapped around each foot. I learned all of the tricks for dealing with a long wait in the rain at this year’s Boston Marathon. The bags worked for keeping my shoes dry.
I thought the bus ride would take half an hour, but it was more like 15 minutes. There was only one tent in the field where we had to wait and it was already pretty packed.
I was thankful that I managed to squeeze in just under the edge of the tent. I had an hour and 15 minutes to wait and it was still raining. You would think at least a couple tents might be a good idea? Close to 3,000 people ran the half and obviously one tent couldn’t hold everyone.
I played on my phone to keep occupied until I figured I should get in line for the bathrooms. I allowed plenty of time so I would NOT repeat my 2012 issue of being stuck in line as the race started. I saw that some people had found a creative way to cope with waiting in the rain.
We lucked out and the rain stopped at least 15 minutes before the start of the race. I left my extra stuff at gear check, did a quick jog around the grass, then lined up at the edge of the road near the 8:00 pace sign. I didn’t think I wanted to be that ambitious so I stayed a little further back. When the clock hit 7:30, we were off!
The course is mostly flat but the starting location had changed since I last ran the half in 2012. Now there was a big hill to deal with at the very beginning. You can see the climb up toward the trees in the photo below.
I was glad the hill came at the beginning when my legs were fresh. I was not expecting such a slow start though. The two-lane road was really congested and I could not get around people very easily. I guess it acted as a good warm up to keep me from starting out too fast, but I did get a little frustrated because I wanted to get moving.
I didn’t know what kind of pace to aim for but thought somewhere around 8:15 might be ideal. I wasn’t too excited that I ran the first mile in 8:41. However, the downhills always help me much more than the uphills hurt me. I was able to break free from the crowd by the time we headed downhill and I was kind of shocked that I ran the second mile in 7:27. Normally that would have been way too fast that early in the race, but it was a pretty steep hill and I took advantage of my momentum. I guess it helped balance out the slowness of the first mile!
After the first couple miles we got to the good scenery. Aside from the flat course, the big appeal of Bayshore is running down the peninsula along the bay.
Since the rain had stopped just prior to the start of the race, it was a very humid morning. It was around 60 degrees and some parts of the course were really foggy. That’s especially apparent in this photo of the cyclists leading the marathoners. Thanks to Bayshore for providing free photo downloads.
Typically the humidity kills me, yet somehow it didn’t this time. Maybe it’s because the temperature didn’t climb too much while I was racing. Maybe it’s because I had done a number of afternoon runs on warmer days leading up to the race and was somewhat acclimated to the conditions. I told myself that although I might struggle under those conditions for a full marathon, I knew I could manage it for a half. It helped that there were a few spots along the course where I felt a cool breeze coming off the water.
I hovered between a 7:50-8:00 pace for most of the race. When I glanced at my watch during the early miles, I worried that I was being too ambitious. After all, four miles at that pace had been a lot of work just a couple weeks earlier. I was running by feel and I guess that’s what I was feeling, so I kept rolling with it.
I’ve been stressed about a lot of things lately and hoped that wouldn’t seep into my race. Fortunately my mind was distracted for most of the race. Four to five miles into the race I started to see the marathoners on their way up the peninsula. I really enjoy watching the other runners. I saw someone wearing a ChadTough singlet, which meant that he was running for the foundation that’s fighting pediatric brain cancer. It reminded me that we’re all battling something and there are many bigger problems than what I may be going through. I thought about how all of us runners were out there being strong and fighting through whatever we may be facing, whether it was the physical and mental challenges of the race or something more. I kept reminding myself that I’m strong and didn’t let my mind dwell on my problems.
Aside from watching runners going the opposite direction, there aren’t many distractions during this race. There are a few spots with large spectator crowds, but much of the route runs past homes and the water. Some residents come out to cheer for the runners, and there was music playing in a few spots. I wish there was more music because I don’t run with my own, and I got especially fired up when I heard songs like Katy Perry’s “Roar.” The scenery was a nice distraction, of course. When I saw sunlight hitting the fog over the water in one spot, it was so stunning that I was tempted to stop for a picture. I didn’t want to mess with the good momentum I had going for me and just had to appreciate it in that moment.
After six or seven miles I told myself that even if I crashed later on, I had done a good marathon pace workout. I kept reassuring myself, “Okay, now at least you’ve gotten six miles in at marathon pace. Seven miles. Eight miles…” Somehow I kept it going, and when I hit nine miles, I figured I was in pretty good shape for the rest of the race. Soon enough I’d only have 5K left.
My mantra about being strong stuck with me in the later miles. It had felt so good to get little bursts of speed in when I had done the 400 repeats a couple times during training. I told myself I could do that now too. Once I get through 10 miles of a half marathon, I typically feel pretty comfortable making a push for the last 5K. It feels great to finish so strong, and fortunately I had it in me during this race. It wasn’t an easy effort but I was able to maintain it.
I was pleasantly surprised when I heard someone call my name as I got closer to the school where we finished. It was my Twitter/Instagram running buddy Jeff and I didn’t know he was going to be there. That broke my pain face for a moment and made me smile.
I love finishing on the track and gave everything I had at that point. I heard my name again and knew that my half sister Karen was cheering for me. The photographer caught me giving a thumbs up to let her know that I had heard her.
I managed to cross the finish line in an even 1:45:00. That meant I’d gone a little under since it took some time for me to cross the timing mat at the start. 1:44:17 was my official time.
I managed to run faster than an 8:00 pace and was thrilled. It was several minutes slower than my PR, but based on my level of fitness coming into this race, I had exceeded my expectations. I was happy to find that maybe some of the fitness from Boston Marathon training was still in me. I hadn’t pulled off that kind of pace in Boston like I intended, so at least I did it at Bayshore!
Shortly after making it to the post-race celebration area, my half brother-in-law Tom and my half brother Bob (who both ran the 10K) found me.
I really look forward to post-race treats and Bayshore has one of the best spreads out there. I didn’t have enough room to carry all of the food I wanted! I could stick a bottle of water and chocolate milk in my tri short pockets, but then I had to make room for chips, a blueberry muffin, and one of the highlights – Moomers ice cream. I also collected some cookies and cookie bars along the way, trying to scarf them down so I could carry more. Like I said, I really enjoy treats after a race!
It was nice to spend time with family after the race. I appreciated that Karen and her mom came out to spectate and cheer for us.
Everything was great until I got in the gear check line. I realized pretty quickly that it was going to take a while. However, I would have never guessed that it would take nearly 45 minutes!! It’s pretty obvious that things were not organized appropriately and the volunteers struggled to find many of the bags. When I finally made it to the front, I lucked out and the girl found my bag in an instant. The group crowded behind the tent in the picture below gives a little idea of how messy it got. Nearly as many people were also in line out of the frame of this photo.
I hadn’t expected to be held up that long after the race. I was anxious to get back to the hotel and shower so I could meet everyone for lunch. We had a nice lunch at North Peak Brewing Company and didn’t have any wait to get in. It turned out to be a beautiful day in the 80s which was perfect for taking in the gorgeous scenery around Traverse City.
The lighthouses at the tips of both the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas weren’t anything super exciting, but it was worth all of the driving for the pretty views along the way. Wineries, beaches, beautiful water – all of it was stunning.
Once again, I was thankful that my hotel was along the beach. I was in heaven with these views!
When I checked TripAdvisor.com for things to do around Traverse City, I came across the TART (Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation) Trails. Family confirmed that the trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay made for a nice bike ride. I had brought my bike and hoped to get a nice long ride in, so I got up extra early to allow enough time prior to checking out of the hotel. I parked at a trailhead and was able to ride out 14 miles and back.
The trail is paved, flat, and peaceful. Once again I had a chance to enjoy some nice scenery.
Heading home on Sunday made it possible to beat Memorial Day traffic, and the couple days I was there gave me enough time to squeeze in some good stuff around Traverse City.
Many thanks to Gazelle Sports and Brooks Running for the opportunity to do this race. It feels great to have finally redeemed myself with a good run at Bayshore. After such a fun weekend, I might be anxious to return again next year rather than letting a few years lapse in between.