Traverse City Trip, Part One: The Race

This past weekend I traveled to Traverse City, MI with the Grand Valley State University Running Club (my school) for the Frozen Foot 5 Mile. We left at 5pm on Friday night with about 40 of us, all carpooling separately. I drove my car with four other people in it 160 miles north to TC. The roads on the way up were quite horrific- the middle of the highway was deep slush, it was raining, and the shoulders were not plowed. My tires slipped a couple of times, but nothing too disruptive.  It took us a bit over 3 hours to make a 2 hour trip, but we made it nonetheless.
We arrived to the Traverse City State Hospital (we had hookups in the adjoined restaurant for some awesome spaghetti dinner) around 8:45 or so. Dinner was served as soon as we stepped in, and I proceeded to eat myself into a food coma with spaghetti, meatballs, sugar cookies, brownies, garlic bread, and apple juice. Then a few more sugar cookies. Buhhh. I ate a ton. After dinner we all met up at our hotel, which was just across the street from the starting line the next morning. The food coma was hitting a lot of us, but we wound up all going to the pool and had ourselves a grand ‘ol pool party until midnight. Games of marco polo and sharks and minnows were played, and we fit all 40 of us into the 16 person hot tub. It was a pretty great time.

7:30 rolled around the next morning, and I went down to the lobby for some breakfast, which consisted of an apple. I eat pretty light before races. I also downed some coconut water, which is a pre-race ritual. I went outside to test the weather. It was about 40 degrees, which is obscenely warm at this time of year. However, the rain from the night before had coated the road in a fresh layer of black ice. I brought my “screw shoes” (sheet metal screws drilled into the soles like spikes for ice running) with me, so I actually considered myself to have a tactical advantage because of the ice.

We left for the race not long after this. It was a two minute drive to the start. I warmed up, stretched as usual. I decided last minute that I would wear just shorts and the GVRC singlet for the race. Before the start I downed a Hammer Apple Cinnamon gel- kinda like a breakfast pastry I must say. Not bad at all. I reconnected with a few fellow races from previous races, and we swapped stories quickly before the gun.

Bang.

We were off. I went straight up to the front group of two other people and stayed with them for the first mile. We were running right along the Grand Traverse Bay, so Lake Michigan was right over our shoulder. It was picturesque with rolling waves, some ice, and blue water as always. At mile one is the big “hill” in the course; maybe a 250 foot climb. My screw shoes came in big handy here, as I sped along up the hill. This combined with previous months of hill training for my MS Run The US relay came in handy, and I cranked on up to first place. I gained tons of space on the way down the other side of the hill, having awesome traction. I began loop two, a different loop than the first, in first place by maybe 20 seconds. At 5:34 pace, I was going for the course record, and had already tied my PR for a 5k during the middle of the race. All was going great. I approached a turn in the course, and followed the arrows that were painted into the snow on the sides of the road. Two miuntes later, I was back at the beginning intersection, right next to the finish line. My watch said 4.1 miles. It is a 5 mile race. Nobody was behind me. 

Wrong turn. Just like that. Race over. DQ. DNF. 

Turned out I was supposed to go straight, and the arrows in the snow were for the people coming BACK. It was a bit disappointing; the lack of course markings and people directing it- not a single person at any intersection to direct runners. Apparently, the guy in second place did the same thing twice, as well as a few other runners from our running club. The guy who ran in third, who is a great athlete- I’ve competed with him before-  wound up getting first because of mine and the other guys’ wrong turns.

It was a bummer, especially since the same group puts on an extremely well organized marathon in the spring- It is seriously phenomenal race organization. I was expecting this to be similar. But, what happens happens, nobody is perfect, and there is always a next time. I still had a great time with the team, the awards ceremony they put on was still fun, and everyone got bagels, cookies (yes, I ate more sugar cookies) and a mug afterwards, not to mention a cool hat for signing up. Next year, I’ll just have to remember to go the right way.

Read part two: the adventure continues!

See you on the trails!

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