|The Route from Paradise to Whitefish Point and back|
If you want to get to Paradise, you have to go through Hell first. Or at least nearby. As we drove past the Pinkney expressway exit, I mentioned to Lady Adventurer Debbie that that’s where Hell is. But we didn’t stop there; it was Paradise or bust.
The sign informing us that “31% of Michigan traffic deaths are caused by not wearing seatbelts,” gave us pause. Lady Adventurer stated that it must be safer to not wear them. I had a rough time trying to explain what I thought the sign was really trying to tell us.
After a bit more than seven hours, we made it to Paradise. At the race check-in, I learned that over eighty runners were expected to toe the line in the morning; more than last year. I joked with the volunteers about how I didn’t like these huge, crowded expos.
|Dan in Paradise|
Now it’s race day morning. After pouring myself some Magnuson Grand hotel coffee, I notice that the sunrise over Lake Superior is stunningly beautiful. I go out into the cool morning air to take some pictures and learn that the mosquitoes, lots of them, are also awake. For the second time in ten hours, I’m donating blood here in the U.P.
After dousing with deet, I jog over to the start/finish area. It’s a mile from the hotel. I love these low-hassle races. The Whitefish Point Marathon course will take me from Paradise to Whitefish Point and back. Whitefish Point is near the location of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s now home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, where we had visited on an earlier trip. They play that song – you know the one – over and over and over. I used to like it. The plan is for Lady Adventurer to meet me there at mile 13+, and hand me some gels, then drive back to meet me at mile 20, and then the finish.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy...
We shall see about that part where the lake never gives up her dead.
My early miles are at about 8:45 pace. Based on my recent history, that’s too fast. But it’s cool and I’m feeling pretty good. My Achilles isn’t even talking to me yet.
|Early on. Still have spring in my step.|
I reach the half-way point at around 1:55. I see Debbie at Whitefish Point as planned. There are clouds of mosquitoes around her, the volunteers, and the rest of the spectators. I ask her for a second deet dousing. Despite the skeeters, Whitefish Point is pretty darn spectacular. Even though the course has taken us to the north along the shore, I haven’t been able to see a whole lot of the lake because of trees and some homes. It’s a pretty course, nonetheless. And the shade from the trees is cool.
It’s mile 20, and I’m still doing well, although the old Achilles is indeed now talking, and it’s not saying nice things. My time is 2:55 or so, but my pace has started to slow just a little.
I see Debbie at mile 21. I’m slowing more. This will be my final sub-nine minute mile. Now each mile gets a little bit tougher. Funny how that happens.
Finally, the finish line looms. I complete the journey in 3:55, good for an 8:59 overall pace. This isn’t too awful, especially compared with the debacle at the Cleveland Marathon a few weeks ago. But it would have felt better with even pacing.
After cleaning up, Debbie and I return to the finish area for a pasty and the awards ceremony. The pasty, by the way, is not the thing strippers paste on their nipples, but a U.P. specialty consisting of ground meat, potato, and rutabaga, all baked in a pie crust and served with gravy. It had been about forty years since we’ve had one, and we will be okay if another forty go by before next time. Debbie says she understands why they haven’t caught on in other parts of the country.
The awards go on for over an hour. There are so many door prizes that nearly all the runners wound up with something. I got another t-shirt and an ice-pack. I also won a hand-painted rock for placing second in my ancient ten-year age-group. The 61-year old kid who won the AG was well ahead of me. On top of the rock and my stone necklace in lieu of a finisher medal, I received a BQ (Boston Qualifier) coffee mug.
Lady Adventurer and I return back to Whitefish Point one more time for an afternoon walk in the adjacent bird sanctuary. It sure is a scenic spot, and we had a nice walk. Until the skeeters chased us back out of the woods.
|Sunrise over Gitche Gumee|