Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Surviving the Capital City River Run Marathon

The start of the Capital City River Run Marathon
So I guess I'm running a marathon

In 2004 and 2006, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon . . . slowly. Since then my wife and I have added two kids to our family, and I went full-on dad bod. I found time to exercise here and there, but I never really got back to the fitness level I wanted to be at.

In December, I made a goal to run at least 20 minutes, or walk at least 30 minutes, per day. By early June, I had kept my goal and was increasing my running mileage to the point that running 10 miles was not too taxing. The farther I ran, the more I began thinking about my failures in the marathon.

I started reviewing training plans and looking up races in Michigan in the fall. Should I really try breaking that 4-hour barrier that eluded me in 2004? (In 2006, I had no illusions of breaking 4 hours, since my training was a diversion for my bar exam studies.) Did I want to wake up at, or before, dawn for months to fit my runs in before long days at work?

Yes, I decided I wanted to walk away from a marathon satisfied for once. I selected Lansing's Capital City River Run Marathon on September 18, and I made a training plan with a little more mileage than the ones I used in previous attempts.

Over the next three months, I did not miss a workout. I ran on vacation. I ran in the dark. I ran in the rain. I ran in extreme heat and humidity. I just ran.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Presque Isle: More than an Island

A view from Presque Isle
Presque Isle in Marquette is not an island. It's almost an island.

Or is it more than an island?

"Presque isle" means "almost and island" in French, and this peninsular park holds 323 acres of natural beauty. On a sunny Thursday morning, my family and I walked around the perimeter of the park. The park's road along the perimeter was closed to vehicular traffic, as it is for a few hours several times per week, so our daughters were safe to dart to and fro across the street without us worrying about cars.

Presque Isle's breakwater and lighthouse
We parked and began our walk near the Presque Isle breakwater and light, where we watched a couple of kayakers launch and a few people walk along the breakwater towards the lighthouse. The walk along the road is approximately two miles total, but we made frequent stops to appreciate the spectacular views of Lake Superior from the cliffs above the water.

The lighthouse in the distance

Friday, September 9, 2016

Running Marquette

Marquette Harbor Light
Sometimes the best way to see a city or new locale is to go for an early morning run. With only a few cars going by and almost no other pedestrians to get in your way, you can run through empty streets and paths absorbing your surroundings without distractions.

Sailboats in Marquette's harbor
Marquette is a great town to go for a run. It has multiple running paths in and near the city, including the Multi Use Path that follows Lake Superior's shoreline from Presque Isle through the city until it connects with the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

I took two morning runs while in Marquette. The first morning, I left our rented house near Northern Michigan University and ran north on Presque Isle Avenue toward Presque Isle Park. It started pouring about two minutes into my run, but I continued on and the rain slowed to a drizzle for most of my eight-mile run. A right turn onto Hawley Street brought me to a beautiful view of Presque Isle's breakwater and lighthouse.

Presque Isle breakwater and light at dawn

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Taste of Marquette

Downtown Marquette
I made my first visit to Marquette at the end of August and was impressed by this awesome city. Although it sits on the shores of Lake Superior and is surrounded by wilderness and amazing outdoor activities, Marquette offers great food, drink, and cultural attractions. This is not surprising since Marquette is the Upper Peninsula's largest city, with 21,000 residents, and it is the home of Northern Michigan University, the U.P.'s largest university.

One of the sculptures at NMU's sculpture walk
With so much to do, Marquette feels larger than it is. The areas near NMU and the downtown, with their residential streets, bars, restaurants, and shopping, reminded me of a hilly Ann Arbor. My family and I rented a small house on a residential street near NMU's campus. We could walk to the beach, downtown, the restaurants and bars on Third Street, and campus.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Les Cheneaux Views

Hills Point Docking's boathouse from the beach at Hills Point Resort
The Les Cheneaux Islands are one of my favorite spots in Michigan. This group of thirty-six islands just east of the Mackinac Bridge have long been an important place for my family. My dad vacationed there when he was young, then he and my mom took me and my siblings back every summer while we were growing up. Last year, I finally visited again for the first time in years, bringing my own kids along to experience the serenity and slow pace of these islands.

This year, we returned. We relaxed. We reveled in the beauty of our surroundings.

It's not just nostalgia and good times with family that bring me back. The tranquil waters and quiet shores bring peace to my soul and beckon my return.

Cedarville Bay
Blue skies and blue water
My dog keeping watch for ducks
Most of the islands are only accessible by boat, so boathouses act as garages for homes on the islands.

Wooden boathouses
Nice Front Yard!
The mornings are peaceful. I enjoyed morning runs on Hill Island and Island Number Eight and watching the sun slowly rise over the trees and water.

Sunrise over Flowers Bay
The end of Hill Island Road on a morning run
The islands provide some of my favorite sunsets in Michigan, whether I am on shore or on the water. The last sunset of my vacation was bittersweet because it will probably be at least a year before I can see these gorgeous skies again.

The sky at sunset (My 8-year-old daughter took this picture. Had to share)
Sunset reflecting off the water
Sunset on Hill Island
The southern end of the Islands with Lake Huron before us and the sun beginning to set