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

In what may be a once-and-done race, my friends and I ran the Detroit Free Press/TCF International Half Marathon.

Packet pick-up was smooth and easy. My friend Janet and I parked right on the TCF Center (formerly known as Cobo) roof. We (OK, really, Janet) had looked up our bib numbers, so we walked right in to registration and got our bibs and swag bags right away.

The place was very well organized, with a couple of spots with the race logo set up for perfect photo taking. The booths had everything from race gear to running shoes to medal hangers.A selfie of the chica, wearing an orange sweatshirt in front of the expo with people milling in the background

A photo of people at the expo. Many wearing running gear and most everyone carrying the race swag bag.

Everything went so well that we were able to make it to an early dinner with our friend Michelle at Slows Bar B Q in Midtown before heading to our hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton in Dearborn (wouldn’t recommend), for the night.

A selfie of this chica, wearing an orange head band, with my friend Janet next to me, at the start of the race. We're both smiling.

Unfortunately, the hotel didn’t have coffee available for us, but we were able to hunt some down at a Starbucks close to the start line (corral M). Crisis averted.

Another selfie of this chica, showing my orange BibRave headband, at the start line.

We joined the back of the pack and the race started right on time. It wasn’t long before we saw the Ambassador Bridge.

A photo of the Ambassador Bridge, about four miles into the race. It's early and overcast.

Thankfully, Janet let me know that it would be several miles *after* we saw the bridge before we would actually be on it. It still was cool to see it early in the race. The next few miles included a big loop right next to a highway. Meh.

We finally got on the bridge and headed to Canada.
A selfie of this chica, wearing the orange Bib Rave headband, in front of the Ambassador Bridge. The sky is a bit orange in the background.

Because we started in the back of the pack, we easily stopped for lots of pictures.

The top of the Ambassador Bridge with an overcast sky.

The weather was perfect for a race, with temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s, with no wind and, thankfully, completely dry.

The view of Windsor from the Ambassador Bridge. Lots of tall buildings. The sky is overcast. The river is seen a bit on the right side.

The view was amazing. Even the long line of portable toilets was a welcome sight. Unfortunately, we were parched, but the aid station had run out of cups. Boo.

A row of about a dozen blue portable toilets with only three people standing outside. Most of the Ambassador Bridge spanning Detroit and Windsor, from the Windsor side.

The Canadian side went straight into a neighborhood, with lots of trees, apartments and houses.

A view of the Detroit skyline from the Windsor side. There are a couple of runners in front of us. A better view of the Detroit skyline from the Windsor side, with the RenCen on the right and Cobo on the left of the frame. Three people are walking in front of us.

We didn’t see a lot of spectators by the time we came through, but the course continued to have good signage. We saw the sweeper bus a couple of times, but picked up the pace and left it behind.

I had heard about the “underwater mile” — the tunnel that connects Windsor and Detroit, but didn’t know what to expect. Well, it allowed us to run down a bit of an incline, so we liked that a lot, until we reached about halfway where we saw the U.S. and Canadian flags. Lots of people stopped to take pictures to commemorate the mid-way point.

Inside the tunnel, with about a dozen runners behind us. It's a bit dark, but there are lights near the ceiling. There's a yellow divider line on the road. A selfie of this chica with the U.S. and Canadian flags behind me on the wall at the spot where you cross from one country to the other.

Once we neared the end, we were greeted by customs officers who cheered us on and gave us high-fives.

The rest of the race was uneventful…until I tripped on a pothole and skinned my knee pretty badly. Kudos to the medical tent team at the finish line for hooking me up with some ice.

Janet (on the left) and this chica on the right, at the finish line, holding up our medals. We're both smiling. You can see the finish line in the background and sponsor logos on the bottom of the photo. My leg, propped up on a white, plastic chair and an ice pack on my knee.

While I certainly enjoyed the race and recommend the experience, the timing in October means doing a half or a full just a month after my favorite race of the year (Run Woodstock 50K) and I just don’t think my body can handle the extended training schedule.

But if you want to be able to say you ran in two countries, and did an underwater mile, keep your eyes peeled for next year’s registration.

Have you run Detroit? Would you do it again? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

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 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 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, 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 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.)