It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the day before the Bayshore Races in Traverse City, MI where I had registered to run the half marathon. The Bayshore Races have been deferred (or virtual) for the last two years due to COVID, several running friends and I were looking forward to running it in person this year. Unfortunately, I had injured my foot earlier in the year and had only two solid weeks of running at 25 mi/week, averaging 9-10 minute miles.
My niece had invited my wife and me to accompany her and her two children ages 2 and 4 to the Detroit Zoo and see the Dinosauria exhibit (a life-size exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs along an outdoor trail) that Friday. Friday was a beautiful day; temperatures in the mid-70s and sunny with a little breeze. We met at the zoo at noon and toured some animal exhibits. Then we went over to the Dinosauria exhibit for our 1:30 PM tour reservation. The kids enjoyed the exhibit, except the 2-year-old was a little apprehensive at times due to the tremendous size, movement, and sound of the dinosaurs. Afterward, we headed to the zoo playground to let the kids unwind. We all had a great time and we ended up leaving the zoo for our Traverse City Airbnb room at about 2:45 PM. We had told our Airbnb host that our ETA was 7:00 PM, which shouldn't have been a problem since it is about a 4-hour drive from the zoo. We also had 7:30 PM dinner reservations and were going to meet my son who lives in Traverse City for dinner.
Our trip started fine, but there were traffic delays as a thunderstorm crossed our path of travel. Google maps now showed an ETA well after 7 PM, but it alerted us to an alternate route which would save us about 15 minutes. Selecting the alternate route, we were almost back on track to make our ETA, but Google had kept suggesting additional alternate routes to save us a few additional minutes. I blindly followed Google's suggestions (while my wife double-checked what she could on a map). Luckily, we were able to reach our Airbnb in Traverse City a few minutes before 7 PM and walk to meet our son in time for our dinner reservations. After dinner, we walked back to our Airbnb and unpacked. I laid out my race clothes, set my watch alarm for 4:00 AM, and hit the sack at about 10:00 PM.
I woke up to the alarm at 4 AM did some stretching exercises, dressed in my race clothes, and had my standard pre-run breakfast of tea and cereal with berries. At 5:30 AM my wife drove me and dropped me off at the Traverse City High School. I picked up my bib at the packet pickup in the high school which had no lines since most people picked theirs up the day before. I pinned on my bib, used the restroom, and head to the buses which took me to the half marathon start in the middle of the Old Mission Peninsula. The finish for all races was back on the high school track. Someone pointed me to the line to get on the buses around the corner of the High School. There was about a quarter-mile long line of runners waiting to get on a bus. In the line, I talked with other runners all excited that the race was back and hopeful for a good race day. How I love the excitement and energy before the start of a race.
We arrived at the half marathon start area - a field with a big tent and porta-johns, with the temperature in the upper 40s but a clear and sunny sky. I put on some plastic booties over my shoes to prevent them from getting wet from the morning due on the grassy field. I texted some of my running friends to see if they have arrived yet; one was in line for the bus, and the other was being dropped off but was about 20 minutes away. There was then an announcement that the half-marathon start would be delayed by 15 minutes, from 7:30 AM to 7:45 AM since there were still runners at the high school that need to be bused to the start. I met my friend Paolo and we joined the 2-hour pace group at the start area, with both of us being unsure if we could stay with the 2-hour pace group due to our lack of recent training. I took a GU gel before the start and the temperature had now risen to the mid-50s and sunny, and what appeared to be a great day for the race.
The race was off with the first mile pretty much all uphill. I was determined to take it pretty easy because I had overdone it when I had run this half in 2019. The first mile was at 9:25 and Paolo had dropped somewhere behind me. Mile 2 was mostly downhill at 8:03. When running downhills, I try to take as much advantage of gravity as can without risking going out of control and possibly falling or running into someone from behind, and ended up passing several runners. After 2 miles we had reached the East Traverse Bay shoreline which consists of gently rolling terrain. This part of the race is very beautiful and the air temperature is kept a little cooler by being next to the water. During mile 3 my other friend Andy caught me and we began running together. He looked strong while I was just trying to establish a pace that I could maintain to the finish. Mile 3 at 8:47. We kept running together with mile 4 at 9:01, mile 5 at 8:54, mile 6 at 8:57, mile 7 at 8:58, and mile 8 at 9:00. But I was starting to struggle, it was getting warmer and I was not getting much water at the water stops, spilling most of my water as we ran through them, also the cups at the water stops seemed to be unusually small. I had a GU at mile 7, but somewhere between mile 8 and 9, I told Andy to go ahead without me. Mile 9 at 9:15. Mile 10 at 9:10. I began to struggle to keep running, mile 11 at 9:24, and mile 12 at 9:26, and just want to finish without walking. But now I see my friend Andy ahead walking and I am catching up to him, but then he starts running again and disappears into the field ahead. This happens a few more times on the way to the finish. It was almost like he is a mirage that I see and then disappears. Mile 13 at 9:28. I saw Andy again on the track during the last 100 yards to the finish but finished behind him by 16 seconds with an official time of 1:59:40. I am exhausted and glad to be finished, look for, but can't find Andy, then turn back to the finish line where I see Paolo finishing. We slap high fives and head to the refreshments and snacks; it is now in the upper 60s and sunny.
Paolo and I went together to the gear drop pickup area. There are lines of people all around the tent with the gear bags and we hopped into a fairly short line of maybe 10 people, but all the lines were moving slowly. My wife found us in line and joins us. I started to feel dizzy while waiting in line and dropped down to my knees sitting on the back of my heels to prevent myself from falling. I immediately start to feel better at the lower altitude but stay on my knees scooting forward as the line moves ahead. Paolo went a got us ice cream which helped me feel better. By the time I reach the front of the line I was able to stand up and retrieve my gear bag. I started drinking as much as I can find in the immediate area and seemed to be doing ok. After meeting up with Andy and friends we watched other friends finish the full marathon from the bleachers.
It was now past noon. My wife and I leave and headed back to our Airbnb. I showered, changed clothes, and we got lunch. I drank water and Arnold Palmers at lunch, but was still tired and feeling out of it. After getting back to our room and I pretty much rested in the bed the rest of the day and night. Thankfully I felt much better in the morning. I think I had ended up being very dehydrated, possibly suffering from heat exhaustion. In hindsight, I should have walked through the water stops to ensure I was getting properly hydrated, but on the bright side, my foot held up well and was not sore afterward.
About 15 yards from the finish line.