Hills, Humidity, or a Good Race: Pick Any Two

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Half marathon number four is in the books for me, and I can say that it was my hardest race ever.  That title really sums it up, and since I was forced to pick the first two, you can imagine that the last one was not anywhere close to being a reality. :/

The weekend started off pretty well. My husband and I drove out early Saturday afternoon, and it was nice to have some quality time, just the two of us. As we drove down I-94, I noticed a bunch of billboards for a place that sold supposedly “famous” chocolate truffles. I looked it up online and tried making subtle hints to stop, but my husband didn’t seem to be too enthusiastic. 😛

Once we arrived at the Super Eight motel, it was…interesting. Okay, I’m not going to lie.  I’m a hotel snob. So much so that when my husband found out where we were staying, his response was an incredulous, “YOU’RE going to stay at a Super Eight? Willingly?” 😉 I’m not going to say it was great, but it was what we needed, and it turns out that hotels on the west side of Michigan in the summer are kind of expensive.

After we checked in, we went to packet pick up, which didn’t turn out to be all that great. It was advertised as a “party on the papers” and we were invited to join in the fun when we picked up our packets. The party was actually kind of small, and it also cost five dollars to get in. :/ Okay, to be fair, it was a “suggested donation,” but I wasn’t really interested in paying five dollars to then go in and pay more to buy tickets to taste different wines and beers. I’m not sure if they had food available for free, but I really didn’t want to eat street fair food anyway, so we just picked up my packet and then took a couple of pictures of the town.



I was surprised at what a cute little town it was, and I realized that the “pavers” part was because the main road actually was a brick street. We ran into a couple from Grand Rapids who were in their early 50s or so, who were trying to find packet pick up. They, too, we’re confused by the fact that it looked like you had to pay five dollars to pick up your packet. (You didn’t; but you didn’t know that unless you asked someone, like me.)  After we finished talking with them, we walked back to the car in the ridiculous humidity, and then we drove the race route.

At which point I had a complete and utter heart attack. :O

Before I explain, you must first remember that I live in Monroe County, Michigan, the flattest farmland you can find.  So, while the rolling hills of vineyards and orchards were beautiful to look at, they were not so beautiful to consider running through. As we drove, I was gasping and occasionally cursing with each hill and valley. My husband made a crack about how it was a good thing I hadn’t ridden any roller coasters last month at Six Flags. I pointed out to him that he didn’t have to RUN UP any of the roller coasters!!

As we got closer to downtown again, it started to downpour, a little stray shower from out of nowhere on a very humid night. It was positively pouring, and as we drove by the party and saw everyone running for cover, my husband called out, “Take that for your five dollar donation!” He’s so rotten. 😉

We were planning to go to dinner, but I really wanted to do a wine tasting. I’d never done one before, and the idea certainly appealed to this wine-loving girl. When we were downtown by the “party,” we went into the winery that was in downtown Baroda, but it wasn’t what I expected. Basically, you ordered a glass of wine (for the regular price of a glass of wine) and drank it, and then I guess you decided if you wanted to buy a bottle, or buy yourself another glass of wine. *confused*

I wanted to give it one more try, and I had seen a lot of wineries while we drove the course (the race was called 13.wine, after all), so I asked Jay to go back to one called Lemon Creek Winery. Definitely a good choice!  Besides the cool decorations out front. 😉



Inside, we discovered that we could pay five dollars, have five tastes of wine, and even get to keep the class!


Now that’s sounds like a wine tasting to me!

After the wine tasting, we went over by the lake, to a town called Bridgman. Bridgeman holds a special place in our hearts because that was where we went for our first overnight trip together, camping, if you can believe it. (Still not sure how he convinced me to go camping. I must’ve really been in love. 😉 ) we explored the dunes for a little bit reminiscing about our trip 20 years earlier and marveling how things have really changed, and then we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant down the road. The restaurant was nothing to write home about, so I won’t. 😛

I didn’t sleep well Saturday night, but I did stay up and get a bunch of work done. Yes, I brought work with me on our trip. :/ I eventually did get some sleep, but I got up pretty early anyway. I had a banana and some water, but no coffee. (!!) No Starbucks in Stevensville. 🙁

Jason got up and drove with me to the race. I have discovered that attending races with my husband is a real test of our marriage. There is no one who hates mornings more than my husband, and the combination of his crappy attitude and my nervousness over a race don’t mix well.

I had him drop me off close to the start so that I didn’t have to walk as far, and then of course I immediately went straight for the porta potty’s. It was while I was standing in line that I suddenly realize something: I had forgotten my bib number! (I do this a lot, unfortunately.)

I texted my husband and asked him if he could look for it, but he was already almost to the race start. I then ran back to the car and frantically searched for it. It was nowhere to be found. By that time, Jason had gotten back to the car, and we continue to search for another few minutes, but it was getting dangerously close to the race start.

I decided to hell with that bib number and made a mad dash for the check-in tent to hopefully grab another one. When I arrived, totally out of breath, I told the woman that I was number 147, but that I had lost my bib, and could I please have another one? She looked at me and very matter-of-factly said, “No.” I was all like, “WTF?!” But then she started chuckling as she reached behind her and pulled out a bib number from a tray…#147! She explained to me that somebody had found it yesterday in the grass and had brought it back, and that they had been keeping it aside in hopes that I would come searching for it! How crazy is that?!

I thanked her profusely, and then hurried to the race start while attempting to put my bib number on.  By that time, my husband had made it back, so it was nice to get a kiss for luck before I started off. At that point, I was ready as I ever would be.


So, I think I forgot to mention something important about race morning.


How about 91% humidity? Is that important?

All week long, I had been stressing about the weather. After a surprisingly cool summer, it seemed that we were due for a late August humid wave, and of course it had to coincide with my race. We started right at 7:15, and within half a mile I was sweating. I even saw people walking after half a mile, that’s how muggy it was. There was a lot of walking/running going on for this race.

Besides the humidity, the views were pretty impressive.


You can’t really see it, because my phone doesn’t do it justice, but that’s the sun rising over a lovely Vineyard. I took that right when the race started.  I took another shot around mile 4 or 5.


It’s a shame that my phone camera just doesn’t do it justice. It really was quite picturesque. There were lots of rolling hills, and some that were just downright roller coaster-like.



I’m not going to lie: The race course was really difficult. I’m not used to any hills it all, and these hills were fierce. When you couple that with the humidity, well, let’s just say there was a lot of walking going on, by me and a lot of other people.

I had a few comments on the skirt, which always makes me smile. One guy as he passed me asked, “Isn’t that warm?” I kind of chuckled and said, “On a day like today, I’ll be warm with or without it, so I might as well have fun.” He laughed and agreed as he passed me by. But then, to my surprise, he slowed down again and turned to look at me.

“Are you Stephanie?” he asked.

I was quite stunned. I thought maybe he might know me from my blog, but the few times I’ve had somebody recognize me, they always ask me “Are you that loud redhead?” (Which I’m sure is a shock to anybody around us. 😉 )

I told him that I was Stephanie, and he said, “We met you yesterday! At packet pick up!” And then, to my astonishment, he added, “We found your bib!”

I laughed at that, and he explained that they’d found it in the grass as they were leaving. I thanked him, and then I told him that he could find me on the web if he wanted to check out my blog. He seemed surprised at the title (most people are, ha ha!), but he repeated That Loud Redhead three times to help him remember it. It’s moments and encounters like that that make racing fun. 🙂

I decided right around mile five that this was not going to be anything close to a record for me. (That’s also when I came up with the title of this post.) I started out thinking that maybe I could go 20 seconds per mile slower than my original goal pace of 9:50. That didn’t last more than about a mile, so then I began to think, “Well, maybe I can just do a sub-10:30. Add in a few more hills, and that idea went right out the window. So then it became a challenge to see if I could just do a sub-11. Yeah…no. :/ It was definitely not my day for a good race.

They did a pretty good job with the aid stations, although there was one three-mile stretch between about five and eight that had nothing, which was also when we had THE hill. The hill was so bad, it even had a handmade sign: “Stop whining about the hill. It’s great for sledding!”

I wished I would’ve taken a picture, but I was too mentally exhausted to think about it.

I walked a lot more than I ever have for a race before. I eventually caught up with another lady who was on a walk break, and we discussed the race. She was from Kalamazoo and was more used to the hills, but the humidity was killing her. Her pace was faster than mine, so I let her go on.

At the halfway point, there was a 90-degree turn, and there were some volunteers cheering on the runners as they directed us to turn. What seemed to me to be a family of three, mom, dad, and 10-ish year old son, clapped for me and called me “Miss Tutu!” That made me laugh. 🙂

On a straightaway after “the” hill, we were passed by a large group of bikers going in the opposite direction. A few of them gave nods and waves or calls of encouragement, but right after the bulk of the group passed me, I heard a biker laugh out loud and then he shouted, “147!!” At first I was like, “I know that number…why do I know that number…?” And then I realized it was MY number. I guess the guy liked my skirt. 🙂

Right before the turn at mile 10, I walked (again), but when I saw the volunteers ahead at the turn, I started running again. The thing about wearing something to make people notice you is that it encourages you to do your best. After all, if a volunteer is going to address you, you don’t want to be walking when they’re cheering you on. ;). I was surprised to see the Family of Three again, but I smiled when they called out, “Keep it up, Miss Tutu!”

I walked through all of the aid stations and took water each time.  I knew I needed the hydration that day, of all days. Right at mile 10 was another aid station, and after I took the water, I came upon a lady with a big bucket. She was pulling wet washcloths out of it, the cheap, thin, white ones you’d see in a low-budget hotel. (Maybe they were from our Super 8…) She asked me if I wanted one, and although I had a washcloth/sweatrag of my own, I figured it was wet, so why not. When I took it and put it on my neck, I gasped–it was ice cold!!

“It’s cold!” I exclaimed in shock.

“Yeah,” she replied cheerfully, pointing to the bucket. “It’s ice water.”

“God bless you!!!” I cried joyfully. And I wasn’t kidding…that ice-cold wash cloth was possibly the best gift I have ever been given. It felt So. Good. at that moment. Any other issues about the race and the hills and the three-mile stretch without water were negated with that one simple give-away. 🙂

Those last three miles were much harder than they should have been, considering the hardest hills were behind me at that point. I walked way more than I ever do, but I did the best I could given the circumstances. I did at least get to enjoy some funny signs posted all along the road by an old farmhouse. They were on the part of the route that was out and back, and the signs at the beginning were quite funny: “Catch the Kenyans!” “Never trust a fart!” And a bunch of others I can’t remember. On the way back, we hit that same house just before the mile 12 marker, and the back of the signs were equally funny. My favorite: “If you haven’t pooped yet, you’ve won!”

I told myself at mile 12 that I wouldn’t walk in that last mile, but my legs ignored my brain and I found myself walking at 12.5. :/ That alone should tell you how rough that race was. I was beyond hoping for a sub-11 by then, but I was just narrowly looking at a sub-11:30. That became my goal in the final mile, with an added goal of finishing in less than…gulp…2:30. That’s 20 minutes slower than my best half time, and a full 14 minutes slower than my FIRST half. 🙁

As I crossed the finish line, the Family of Three was there, calling out, “We came to cheer you across, Miss Tutu!” That made me smile, despite my exhaustion.  I was SO GLAD to be done. I grabbed my medal and the cold bottle of water my husband had waiting for me and then collapsed on the ground.


Later, I managed to find the energy to get my glass of wine.


We left the race soon after so I could quickly head back to our hovel hotel and clean up. Since Jay had to work Sunday night, I got to drive us home so he could sleep. 😮 The only good thing about me driving for 3 hours right after running a half-marathon is that I was in charge of navigation, and you what was going to happen if I was in charge, right?


Those are chocolates from the Chocolate Garden, the place whose billboards I kept seeing on the way up.  You knew I was going to get there eventually, right? 😉 I bought the nine-count box of all dark chocolate truffles, and they were as amazing as advertised.  I want to order more!!!

I also made an impulse buy while I was there that I think was absolutely necessary.



Later, after Jay went to work, I treated the boys (and me!) to burgers at Bagger Dave’s. I love a good burger, but the kind you get in restaurants aren’t usually diet-friendly, so I rarely get them. After running 13 miles, I not only got one…I loaded it up! 🙂


After that, it was home and to bed, because although I had planned on taking Monday off, I was kind of sort of begged to go to Ypsilanti and help do some training. :/  I could’ve said no, but it’s not in my nature, so I went.

So, that’s my race report. Overall, I do not foresee myself doing this race again. Don’t get me wrong, overall it was a nice race and I definitely liked the medal, shirt, and wineglass, which are all really top-notch, but even the cool swag is not enough to make this girl want to do those hills and that humidity again. 😛   I actually looked up the elevation gain when I got home (using my Garmin software), but I never look at that normally, so the number didn’t mean much to me.  I then went back and looked at my past runs to see what I normally do.  Turns out, when I run in my neighborhood (where I do about 90% of my runs), my elevation gain is about 18 feet.  Yeah, we’re pretty flat around here. 😉 If I have to go over a freeway overpass, it’s a whopping 35 feet.  With that as a baseline, here’s what the elevation was for this half-marathon:




Seriously?! Four hundred thirty-nine feet?!  No wonder I was dying!!!!!!  I think I am definitely a flat-lands kind of girl. 😛

Well, that’s it! (Finally!)  Thanks for reading my very overdue and very long race report.  I had a major deadline at work on Sunday night and I have been very busy, so I apologize for how long it’s taken me to get this up.

As a reward do you for making it to the end, I’ll share a little “Loud Redhead family” gem. Twenty years ago this past weekend, my husband and I went on our first overnight trip together (we were still dating at the time), camping at Weko Beach in Bridgman, Michigan.  While we were there, we used my camera’s self timer to take a picture on the still-unfinished walkway they were building above the dunes. I had that picture framed and kept it on my desk at work for many years, until pictures of my kids took precedence. Even though I hadn’t seen it in many years, that picture is still embedded in my mind, and when I realized how close we were to Bridgman for the race, I of course badgered my husband into going back and re-creating the picture, 20 years later. Because he loves me, he agreed.

It took me close to two weeks to find the original picture, but after tearing apart the house, I found it in a closet.  So here it is… my husband and me, then and now.




Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe how far we’ve come in 20+ years. 🙂

I’m going to be taking a break for a little while.  I have a lot going on and I need to take some time to focus on actually getting through my life instead of writing about it.  :/  Thank you for following along, and I promise to come back when things quiet down. Thank you for reading!

PS:  I published this yesterday and then realize I forgot to include the elevation gain data (which to me is really important!), and so I saved it as a draft again.  So if you saw it yesterday and then it disappeared, that’s why. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Hills, Humidity, or a Good Race: Pick Any Two

  1. McRuth

    1)I’ve run a hilly vineyard race before and they’re horrible, even if you’re used to running hills. You get extra credit for finishing strong with the additional heat and humidity!
    2)You and Jason look fantastic on the bridge – it would be easy to flip the pictures and believe that your picture now was 20 years ago and vice versa. Obviously the two of you, like good wine, improve with age. 🙂

  2. MountainHawk

    Love the recreated picture! You should take a third in another twenty years. 🙂

    The hills look beautiful, and would probably be even more so if you were driving along in a car instead of running. Kudos to you for surviving the race.

    Mmm…chocolate. Cute hybrid quote.

  3. joy

    Congrats on another half marathon under your belt! I always love reading your running stories. I have my first half marathon coming up in two weeks. You and your husband look younger now in the recreated photo! 🙂

  4. Katie

    You are a rock star! That elevation gain is crazy for us, who are used to 5-10 feet 😉 It sounds a lot like the Heartbreak Hill Half was for me. I remember getting a sponge from a bucket of ice water during a half before, and you’re right… It is like HEAVEN in that moment. Congrats on a great race!


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