Tuesdays on the Run

Tuesdays on the Run Mackinac Bridge Labor Day RunThere are few things more emblematic to Michigan than the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the mitten state’s northern and lower peninsulas. The longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, the bridge sits about 200 feet above water level, allowing vehicles traveling across an amazing view of the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron connect.

Every Labor Day, the bridge also hosts more than 40,000 people who walk across the 5-mile span. This year, as a Michigan Fitness Foundation ambassador, I got to run with about 400 people ahead of the walkers and It. Was. Amazing. I’m sharing my experience in the hopes it inspires you to head over there next year armed with a few tips to make your trip even better.

My friend and running mentor Janet and I traveled to St. Ignace just over the bridge in the Upper Peninsula (or the UP) on Sunday, had a nice dinner lake-side, then sat on a bench at Bridge View Park and enjoyed the sunset while watching the light play on the Mackinac Bridge. Tip: There are lots of related events both at Mackinaw City in the lower peninsula and St. Ignace in the UP, so there’s more traffic than usual. That said, it was easy to move around and we easily found a table at the Driftwood Restaurant with lots of free parking, right across from the lake.

We spent the night at the Quality Inn, which is just a couple of minutes from Bridge View Park (near the festivities), had a nice breakfast starting at 5 a.m. and was super clean if a bit dated. Tip: Book way in advance, especially if only staying one night (the holiday means a lot of hotels have a two- or three-night minimum). You can stay at Mackinaw City and take a bus to the starting line, or stay in St. Ignace and take a bus back from the end of the walk/run. Tip: Bring cash, as there’s a $4 toll to cross the bridge, but it’s not yet set up to accept credit.

Runners were scheduled to arrive at 6:15 a.m., so we arrived at Bridge View Park and got free “princess” parking spot right at the park, meaning a very short walk to the starting line by the Mackinac Bridge Authority offices. We caught up with my Skirt Sports sister, Jessi, who walked with folks from the governor’s office.

Mackinac Bridge Run with Jessi

With Skirt Sports sister Jessi before the run.

Janet and I lined up with the runners, waiting for almost 30 minutes before we were given the OK to cross. Tip: The area is notoriously windy, so bring a light jacket or long-sleeve shirt. Unless you’re super human like Janet and cold doesn’t bother you anyway. (See what I did there?)

Sunrise from the Mackinac Bridge.

Sunrise from the Mackinac Bridge.

We soon saw the sunrise’s telltale orange-red-yellow hues in the background, making us especially grateful to have been given this opportunity. Tip: Walkers begin at 7 a.m., but you can arrive early enough to watch the sunrise. Also, there are port-a-potties set up at the beginning and end, but none on the bridge itself.

Heading toward the Mackinac Bridge.

Heading toward the Mackinac Bridge.

The wind made running a bit more challenging, but not so much that we feared we’d be tossed into the drink. Tip: Michigan National Guardsmen and women, and Michigan State Police were posted all across the bridge; Coast Guard vessels could be seen patrolling the waters, so we felt especially safe.

With the Mackinac Bridge's north tower in the background.

With the Mackinac Bridge’s north tower in the background.

We set out at a very comfortable place, reaching the mid-point easily but all up-hill. The bridge’s north lanes are blocked off to traffic, so there’s lots of room to run or walk, while still allowing for the occasional stop for photos. Tip: Definitely plan to take lots of photos. The view is gorgeous and changes with the sunrise.

If you look closely, you can see the lake under the bridge. Gulp.

If you look closely, you can see the lake under the bridge. Gulp.

As you can see in the photo above, part of the bridge has grates, giving it the flexibility it needs to withstand strong winds. Running on the grates was a bit nerve wracking, but yet another experience nonetheless. Tip: The grate’s holes are very small, so I wasn’t worried about losing my phone, but are incredibly strong to withstand the constant traffic, which even includes the area’s ubiquitous logging trucks.

My friend Janet enjoying the view.

My friend Janet enjoying the view.

I was fortunate to have such awesome company on this trip and was thrilled to run into a few other runner friends as well.

Mackinac Bridge Run with Janet and Elaine

Ran into a few runner friends, including Elaine.

 

Post-race pic with medal.

Post-race pic with medal.

After the run, we took a bus back to St. Ignace and were back in our hotel early enough to get a quick shower in before check-out. In the end, both Janet and I felt that the trip was worth the holiday travel challenges (did I mention more than 40,000 people participate each year?!) and worth repeating. Tip: The event is very family friendly with several generations walking together. We even saw one runner with what looked like a two-month-old baby in a jogging stroller.

Post-race treat. We earned it.

Post-race treat. We earned it.

Because we didn’t know whether the hotel would open up its breakfast before we had to meet up with the other runners, Janet and I swung by the now-famous Cops & Donuts in Clare on our way up to St. Ignace. The spot didn’t disappoint and neither did the donut I ate post-run. Tip: Make the detour to the bakery on the way up north. You won’t regret it.

Already planning next year's adventure.

Already planning next year’s adventure.

In the end, both Janet and I spent a significant amount of time figuring out how we could get back up north for next year’s Labor Day event. It was a fun experience with no hiccups, perfect weather and many memories that will stick with us. Two thumbs up, for sure.

This post is part of today’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up with runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice. Go check them out!

Have you ever participated in the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk or Run? Does your community have any similar events? Any tips to share? (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Tuesdays on the Run fall race scheduleBefore I became a runner, I bemoaned the end of summer as soon as the first leaf on the maple on our front lawn changed color. While I still am not happy about the upcoming drop in temperatures and shorter days, at least I have fall training and racing season as a consolation price.

The fall race calendar is the topic of this week’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up with runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice.

But how does a runner chico or chica find said races? Here are my favorite sources to find the best races to fill up my schedule:

  1. Other runners. As I continuously mention, I have made some awesome friends since I became a runner. And said friends like to regale me with stories about their race exploits, especially during our weekend long runs. I have learned about my most-favorite races (Gazelle Girl Half Marathon comes to mind) through my friends. Bonus: You get intel on things like which races fill up immediately and which ones have the best swag. Plus, it usually doesn’t take a whole lot to convince your runner friends to sign up with you.
  2. Running groups. I still mostly run with Team Playmakers and Black Girls RUN! and they both host races or running events. They’re a great source for race ideas, whether to participate or volunteer. Bonus: If your running group is hosting an event, you are bound to get the best course support on the planet.
  3. Runner bloggers. Want to race in a different state? Search your favorite runner bloggers’ sites; they’ve probably done a race recap or review, giving you lots of advice, photos of the course (and bling), and enough details to plan for things like where to meet your family/friends when you’re done. I learned about my first trail half — the Two Hearted Trail Half Marathon — from Detroit Runner’s amazing race review. I immediately added the race to my schedule when I read his review and next year plan to book the Grand Island event I read about on his blogBonus: Bloggers like to get into lots of details and post lots of photos.
  4. Running store. Much like running groups, our favorite local running stores often sponsor races and race series. Ours even sponsors an amazing trail series, including one run at a local cider mill where they make and sell delicious hard cider. Bonus: The potential to participate in fun, local races and, well, hard cider or local beer.
  5. Interwebs. Don’t knock a good ‘ole Google search or information on local races and race series. I learned about several other races (including a couple in Puerto Rico) by searching for half marathons in the winter. Fair warning: Huge rabbit hole. You may spend two hours clicking on different links before you realize it. Bonus: Sky’s the limit on location and type of experience.

As for my fall race schedule, it’s pretty slim because I’ve been hyper-focused on my big-deal-whoopie race, the Run Woodstock 50K ultra. That said, I’m running across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor day as part of my Michigan Fitness Foundation duties, running the aforementioned ultra the following weekend and finishing up my season with the yearly Turkeyman Trot on Thanksgiving morning. It’s been a great year for running and I’m grateful to have been healthy to enjoy it.

How about you: Where do you learn about races? What’s on your fall race calendar? Feel free to share a link to your blog post below if you’ve written about this topic.

For a person who’s not run very many races, I sure have enough of a collection of race shirts that I can wear a fresh one every day without repeats for a couple of weeks.

I have long-sleeve shirts, women’s fit shirts, tech shirts, cotton shirts and men’s size small shirts. I even have enough colors to match most any Skirt Sports skirt (a huge priority, if I’m being honest).

race memorabiliaToday’s Tuesdays on the Run topic is race memorabilia and it’s made me take stock of what things I keep to commemorate and remember my races. If you’re not familiar, Tuesdays on the Run is a weekly link-up with hosts runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice.

Although I do value and thoroughly enjoy a good-quality, tech shirt from my races, it’s really the race bib and medal that mean the most to me. I’ve actually kept all of mine, and this not-crafty chica even created a race medal and bib display so I can enjoy them in my office. I got ideas from the usual trusty source, Pinterest, but settled on the one I thought I could most-easily execute.

My crafty skills showcased in this race medal and bib display.

My crafty skills showcased in this race medal and bib display.

After each race, I’ve written in my time, just so that I can keep track of my progress. It’s rewarding to look back and see progress, however incremental.

I’ve only gotten an item that wasn’t a race shirt or medal at two races. One was a highlighter-yellow drawstring bag that I use for my running shoes when I pack my running gym bag; the other is my all-time favorite: jewelry. I got a really nice sterling silver race charm that I wear on a simple silver chain.

I got this sterling silver charm at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon.

I got this sterling silver charm at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon.

Talk about race swag! I would very much like to see more items like this one at other events. I know that some race series offer belt buckles, but I can’t imagine sporting that very often much like I don’t walk around with my race medals around my neck.

Overall, I keep signing up for races for the feeling of accomplishment, not specifically what I get at packet pick-up. That said, the items serve to extend that warm feeling for many years beyond race day.

How about you: what are some of your favorite items you’ve gotten at a race? If you’ve earned a race-related belt buckle, do you wear it? Feel free to share your blog post links below if you’re participating in the link-up.

Whether you’re a new or, ahem, more-experienced runner, there are few things more important to your success than the right running partner. But what makes a person good running-buddy material?

good running-buddy traitsHere are five traits that will make you a good running buddy:

  1. They listen. Whether you’re having a crappy day or celebrating a recent accomplishment, a good running buddy listens. Just like with any relationship, it’s a good sign when both of you can take turns talking about what’s going on in your life. Bonus points for a running partner who knows when to be quiet and when to provide solutions or feedback. Extra bonus points for knowing that what’s said on the run stays on the pavement.
  2. They share. I’m not talking about sharing running gear, but about sharing their experience. Some of my most-memorable runs were those times when a very-experienced runner shared some nuggets about training that helped me overcome an issue or that helped me prepare for a challenge. Bonus points for a buddy who also brings extra fuel to share on long runs.
  3. They pace. Some of my favorite running partners can hit a 12-minute-per-mile pace for 13.1 miles without even looking at their watch. I call a couple of them my personal pacers. Some are particularly good at slowing us down when we get to talking and speed up too much on long-run day and risk burning out too early. Bonus points for being a buddy who knows when to help you adjust your pace, whether that’s slowing down or doing some speed work.
  4. They’re consistent. As I’ve said before, I have the best running friends. These particular running friends will get up to run at 5:15 a.m. on a regular basis to help each other stick with our training plans. And since consistency is one of the most important aspects of my training, I appreciate that my running buddies support my running goals. Bonus points for running partners who run with you in inclement weather.
  5. They’re encouraging. The best running partners are the most supportive, whether they’re there in person or not. Some of my favorite running buddies spend inordinate amounts of time chatting with me online, answering questions, helping me anticipate potential problems and find solutions. Bonus points for not killing me in the process (even though I know you want to).

I’m not following the day’s theme for Tuesdays on the Run, the weekly link-up with hosts runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice, but I am linking up. Do go check out their posts and make sure to comment below.

What makes for the best running buddies? Are you fortunate enough to have some in your life? Feel free to share your blog post if you’ve written about this topic. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

gym bag running necessitiesEver try to run without your running shoes? Or without socks? How about with no sports bra?

Unfortunately, those are three essential things that I have forgotten when packing a bag for a post-work run. #fail

Let’s just say that I once found myself shopping for socks at a local Sears and only finding “athletic socks” that made my feet sweat and stink. Blech.

In the spirit of helping you avoid a similar horrible fate, here’s a checklist of running necessities you should include in your workout or gym bag (think head and shoulders, knees and toes):

  • Head: Hat, visor, headband, ponytail holder, bobby pins, and/or a brush or comb. Think, too, of headphones, sunglasses, a headlamp and ChapStick.
  • Shoulders: Sports bra, shirt (singlet, tank, T-shirt or long-sleeve tech shirt), a jacket if you need it, gloves in the winter, plus hand warmers, running watch/GPS tracker, RoadID and heart-rate monitor. If you wear one, remember your hydration vest, hand-held bottle or water belt/luggage. You may want to bring your cell phone, so make sure it’s charged, or grab an external charger (don’t forget your cord!).
  • Knees: Thinking above-the-knees here, technically. Wicking underwear, running shorts/skirt/tights/capris.
  • Toes: Socks, running shoes, orthotic inserts, Band-Aids or any tape you may use between or under toes to avoid chaffing.
  • Bonus: Deodorant and other toiletries if you plan to shower afterward, baby wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, dry shampoo, towel, clean clothes and a snack.

Feel free to add or remove things from the list, but do take a moment to make sure you have everything you need when packing your running or gym bag. Doing so will help ensure you have one less reason or excuse to skip a training day. And if you do end up forgetting, chalk it up as a rest day and try again after checking the list.

Running or race-day mishaps is the theme of today’s Tuesdays on the Run, the weekly link-up with hosts runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice. Hope you spend a few minutes checking out all of the other bloggers’ posts and/or sharing your own.

Would you add to the list of necessities for a gym or workout bag? How do you make sure you have everything you need?