running

We just spent more than a week camping in gorgeous Indian Lake State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s in a tiny town called Manistique on the southern part of the UP and features all of our favorite things about camping: lake views, glorious sunsets, nearby attractions, trails and, in this case, great Internet/phone connections.

Our site, E-2, is not reserve-able online; you can only walk in and request it. It’s rather large, with some big trees for good shade, next to the bathroom (more on that later) and across from a couple of waterfront sites.

While not the best site we’ve ever camped on, it certainly met all of our basic needs and was a great spot overall. The two sites across from us saw a lot of turnover, so we had new neighbors almost every day or two. As for being next to the bathroom, it really wasn’t as bad as we expected and didn’t detract from our stay.

There are several public access areas (most have steps) that served as perfect spots to view each evening’s sunset.

Pro tip: The walk/drive/bike to the first set of bathrooms is totally worth it. The water was hot and adjustable, unlike the single shower in the other two sets of bathrooms.

As for running, I got a few short (3-5 mile) runs in, plus a 20 miler and a 16 miler.

For my longest run, I wanted to stay close so I could access our motorhome’s bathroom, plus cold water and Gatorade, and snacks. I knew it would take me five to six hours, so I didn’t want to be weighed down by tons of supplies.

After chatting with the friendly park ranger, I settled on running the campground’s trails, which were supposed to give me about a mile, plus a full circuit on the campground’s loop for another mile. Doing that would obviously force me to run 10 2-mile loops. Not ideal, but do-able, and convenient.

I tried to find another, nearby option, but everything I found was at least a 30- to 45-minute drive or farther.

I headed out at 6 a.m. for my first loop, heading to the trail head, my hydration vest and trail shoes on. I had sprayed myself with bug spray, grabbing a couple of the Deep Woods Off wipes, just in case.

The trail starts with about .2 miles paved, then turns into a typical mix of dirt and sand, with some pretty lake views, lots of shade and no people.

I was particularly pleased to see the tree coverage, knowing the temperatures would rise quickly and soon.

Until, that is, the state bird, I mean, mosquitoes started feasting on me. I figured that if I kept moving, I would be OK, so I ran more than walked.

Until, that is, the trail speed bumps, I mean, the logs on the trail. And by logs, I mean lots of rather large tree branches that someone probably thought would help with erosion or mud. But instead, they tripped me over and over. And over.

Did I mention that the mosquitoes would swarm me when I slowed down?

Feeling like a mosquito buffet, I walked as fast as I could, trying to also avoid a digger face-first into the dirt.

When I had a moment, I re-applied the mosquito repellent, but it just served as a seasoning, because the suckers (see what I did there?) just kept biting.

I was glad to leave the trail, but dreaded just running loops on asphalt around the campground, so I went back through the trails a couple more times with similar results. I have to say that I just gave up; the whole ordeal was just unpleasant and even slower than normal, even for this back-of-the-packer.

Instead, I ran the 1-mile campground loop 14 more times after changing into my road shoes. And again a few days later for 16 miles. Weee!

Not a favorite, but it certainly beat running loops in my neighborhood.

Pro tip: be prepared to run 1-mile loops, or plan ahead and find a nice trail you can drive to…and bring bear spray.

Other than running, I went fishing with el husbando at nearby Dodge Lake, about a 20-minute drive northeast of Indian Lake. Together, we caught about 10 smaller bass. Most other days were too windy for us to fish, even with our new Minn Kota motor.

The Indian Lake campground is also close to a cool attraction called the Big Spring. We had been here about five or six years ago, and were happy to visit again. Basically, you get on a raft that allows you to see a beautiful natural spring with greenish-turquoise water and the biggest trout I have ever seen. We took some home video, but I think you’ll rather enjoy this Under the Radar piece instead.

Pro tip: This spot is extremely popular and there’s only one raft, so you may have to wait. The park ranger suggested we go early in the morning or at 6 p.m. We opted for 9 a.m. and didn’t have to wait long, but a bunch of people showed up as we were leaving.

We also did a ton of eating while on vacation, as one does, including a ride into town to experience Clyde’s Drive In, which several friends and TripAdvisor recommended. It’s apparently a sister restaurant to the original on U.S. 2, just west of the Mackinac Bridge once you cross over.

We all enjoyed the burgers and fries. I’m not typically a coleslaw lover, but theirs tasted fresh and was delicious. The shakes were just OK. The portions were rather generous and I was just glad that I didn’t have to cook.

Ironically, we were originally booked to camp at Lake Gogebic State Park, in the very western UP, but made a last-minute decision to swing by Indian Lake in the off-chance they had an open site. I called ahead when we were just 7 miles away, and were thrilled to learn that they had three open sites.

I should note that the park ranger, Pat Nelson, was awesome. He was friendly every single time we saw him, offered great suggestions and tips.

As I mentioned before, we parked here a few years ago and had fond memories, but had been choosing to camp at our favorite sites at Muskallonge Lake State Park. We’re glad we switched it up a bit, and are grateful for such an awesome vacation.

What’s your favorite Upper Peninsula state park for camping? What about for running? (You may have to click on the “Continue Reading” button to leave a comment.)

Seven Lakes State Park

by lachicaruns on

We were booked at this campground near Holly last year, but had to cancel unexpectedly. I’m so glad we gave it another try!

It was a great place both for camping and running.

First, the camping. The campground is smaller than most other Michigan state campgrounds with just one loop. We stayed on site 3, right by the entrance, so there was a lot of traffic coming and going. That said, we had a lake view and easy access to the trail head.

The sites are very close to each other with few trees, so there’s no privacy at all. Our site had plenty of room for our motorhome and we had plenty of cord to reach the power plug.

We had great weather, so we spent a lot of time outside, including a nice fire (the campground fire wood was still pretty green, so it took some work to get the fire started) and bird watching. There was a particular red-winged black bird that gave us hours of entertainment as it swooped down to chase away anything or anyone who came close to its next near the water.

One of the nights, we were fortunate to catch the light from the sunset, turning the lake and its surroundings a beautiful shade of orange.

Despite the closeness, we didn’t have any issues with noise. And while the bathrooms were very old and dated, they were spotless. Pro tip: avoid the third shower from the road, as the shower head was barely a trickle.

We weren’t planning on fishing, so we didn’t bring our Jeep with the canoe. While we certainly could have fished from shore, the campsites are on a very small lake that was probably originally some sort of a sand pit and didn’t look fishy at all. As the name suggests, there were several other lakes nearby and we hope to check them out when we return.

We especially enjoyed the nearby trails, even taking our favorite Leonberger for a walk our first night. The following morning, we had heavy rain, so I got to sleep in and instead headed out for my 7-mile run at noon after consulting the trail map.

The trail is certainly beautiful, with some small hills, varying from dirt to sand to crushed gravel. I thoroughly enjoyed my surroundings, including lots of greenery, with a few flowers and lots of very active birds who didn’t seem too thrilled to have me come through.

I headed toward Dickinson Lake and made a mental note to return with the canoe and fishing poles. It definitely looked nice and weedy.

There were lots of people through the trails near the campground with lots of families out for a stroll, some with dogs on leashes. I saw a few runners, including a woman wearing a Run Woodstock race shirt.

There were mile markers where I expected them, except that the signage wasn’t always clear.

I even had to help an older couple find their way back to their car, a funny thought to anyone who knows just how bad I am with directions. We managed. For some inexplicable reason, there were also lots of stacked stones throughout the area, a practice that leaves me confused.

But back to the terribly marked trail.

Once I got away from the immediate campground area, the lack of clear directional help became quite frustrating and took a bit away from my enjoyment. I took to shoving odd-shaped sticks on the ground to help me find my way upon my return; a practice that saved me from getting lost several times.

Because I still got lost several times and started my run so late, I was pretty much overheating about halfway through my run, so I headed back right at 3.5 miles. By then, I had taken off my jacket and shirt, and was kicking myself for not bringing water or Gatorade with me.

I found a promising spot for water on the map, but couldn’t find it because of the aforementioned lack of proper signage. I had plenty of fuel and made a mental note not to leave without water ever again.

I did consider hiding out in this random shelter I found on the trail until the temperature dropped, but I thought better of it.

Overall, it was a great experience and I definitely plan to return, both to camp and run, to Seven Lakes. I am just hoping the next trip includes some water — for fishing and drinking on the run.

What’s your favorite Michigan state park for camping? What about for running? (You may have to click on the “Continue Reading” button to leave a comment.)

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Turtle Gloves to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

They’re soft, convertible and made in Michigan. What’s not to love?

When I got the Turtle Gloves’ Turtle-Flip midweight winter soft mittens to try because I’m a BibRave Pro, I wasn’t sure if they’d be warm enough for the Michigan tundra. In the end, I added hand warmers and ended up needing the mittens’ convertible features during my runs.

When they’re in their “regular” mode, the mittens have a pocket where you can put the hand warmer, making sure it’s right by your fingers, but not touching skin. This meant that my hand stayed warm when the temperatures were in the 20s. I’m always cold, so I think I need to order the Turtle Gloves’ warmer cousin, the weather protect heavyweight warm mittens for those days when we run in the teens.

The mittens allow you to flip the top, revealing your fingers for some temperature control.

And if you’re really warm, you can even push the mittens up toward your wrist. A fellow BibRave Pro has used them as arm warmers.

I mentioned they’re soft and they are the softest gloves I own. That was especially handy for the constant nose wiping that comes with the lower temperatures. They stayed just as soft after washing in cold water and hanging out to dry.

Because they’re made in Michigan, the company also carries Spartan and Tigers versions. Another set has reflective features and another the U.S. flag.

If you want to get your own set, you can use discount code TurtleBibRave for 15 percent off your order. You might also consider their fingerless gloves and mitten hoodies.

Do you have a favorite pair of gloves or mittens? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Disclaimer: I’m promoting the North Shore Half Classic as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Looking for an early-June half? Several runner friends have recommended the North Shore Half Classic in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Ill., on June 2. And because I’m a BibRave ambassador, you can use discount code BRNS19 to get a free surprise item.

Fellow BibRave ambassador and blogger Lisa Dretske ran the 5K and gave the race rave reviews.

“I really wanted to do this race initially because it’s in a pretty location,” she said. “You run through pretty neighborhoods. I also wanted a challenge and I heard this race was hilly.”

Dretske gave the race thumbs up for organization, pointing to well-mapped out routes and aid stations.

You can read her race review here.

Other runners have also given the North Shore Half Classic positive reviews on BibRave.com, with high ratings for aid stations, scenery, parking and race management.

One of those runners is Frank Nardomarino, another BibRave ambassador who’s run the race several times. In his BibRave.com review, he says it’s one of his favorites.

“Besides being wildly popular by the local businesses and runners, the course is just beautiful running through the beautiful suburb of Highland Park,” Nardomarino explains. “If you haven’t run this race before, you definitely need to add it to your list of must-dos.”

A few other race details:

  • The race offers pacers for the half marathon from 7-minute miles to 15-minute miles.
  • There is no packet pickup on race day, so plan accordingly.
  • There’s gear check and they even include small zip ties in your goodie bag to secure your bags.

Since I can’t travel for at least the next year (two kids in college at the same time will do that), reading these race reviews has made jealous of those who can make the trip. If you’re interested, check out the race site for more details.

Have you run the North Shore Half Classic or 5K? Were the hills as tough as described in the race reviews? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Detroit deja vu

by lachicaruns on

[Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank International Half Marathon on Oct. 20, 2019 as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!]

It was just over a year ago when I was celebrating signing up for the Detroit Free Press Chemical Bank Marathon. I was so excited to finally get to run such an iconic race. In the end, I got hurt and couldn’t even go cheer others on because Dr. Awesome benched me.

But I’ve spent this winter healing and cross training and am excited to sign up for the Detroit International Half. A lot of my runner friends have experienced this fun event and I expect several will run it with me come October.

Perhaps you’ll be joining us? Sign up today and use code 2019DETROCKS for 10 percent off!

Don’t want to run a half or a full marathon? No problem. There’s a competitive one-mile race and a 5K.

Want to really spend some quality time in Detroit? You can sign up to run more than one race during race weekend:

The Temptation: 1-Mile + 5K

The Wonder: 1-Mile + 5K + International Half-Marathon

The Supreme: 1-Mile + 5K + Full Marathon

The 5K and 1-Mile are on Saturday, Oct.19. The Full Marathon and International Half-Marathon are on Sunday, Oct. 20. As with all races, there are also lots of opportunities to volunteer.

I still plan to just run the international half. According to the race’s site, the course traverses “both downtown Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, crossing the border at both the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.” It’s the tunnel that most runners remember, with many later posting photos of themselves halfway between the U.S. and Canada.

If you’re considering the race, spend some time reading through the website for FAQs, in particular about the need for a passport since runners cross an international border twice. I already have my passport at the ready and you certainly have enough time to get one. A course map is available here. More information about the international requirements is available here.

Another important tidbit is that there’s a four-hour clock, which should be enough time for even those of us proud back-of-the-packers to make it back on time. The race does have pacers, and since both the half and full start at 7 a.m., you’ll be sharing them, so you can run with friends who are running the 26.2 miles for most of the race.

With such an early start, a lot of runners make a weekend out of the race. There’s certainly a lot to do in the Motor City — from casinos to the Detroit Institute of Arts to amazing restaurants — but you’ll want to make a hotel reservation soon if you want to stay downtown. One way to make the best of your stay is to join Detroit History Tours. I recently met owner Bailey Sisoy Isgro at an event and found her to be knowledgeable about the city — and a whole lot of fun.

No matter what race (or races) you choose, you’re in for a unique experience in an awesome city full of energy and lots of opportunities for fun.

Have you run Detroit? Any tips? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)