Dr. J on Running

43 Charlevoix Marathon, Charlevoix, MI

21 June 2014

The desire to make up KY created the challenge of running 2 Marathons in 2 states on 2 Saturdays. My strategy called for much walking and little running, with finish goals around 6 hours. Thus, I ran Hatfield McCoy in 5:54 without GPS. 

I did not run a step in the week after KY. I walked twice to Spressos for a Dr.J - barista April named after me my traditional small cappuccino with almond milk. So, I prepared for MI with a 2-mile week. 

My new Timex Run Trainer came in the mail, and I declared it DOA. Even pressing the 4 corner buttons did not bring it to life. So, Marla shipped it back, and I bought a band for my old Timex Ironman 100-lap stopwatch. 

When I awoke on Thursday, I discovered with horror that United had cancelled my flight and rebooked me for Saturday night!? I contemplated driving to Charlevoix. I had 2 days to cover 600 miles. I located my passport - unexpired - for the Canada crossing. 

A 45-minute uncivilized discourse with a United phone agent got me seats on Delta for Friday morning. Rebooking hotel and car ate much of the morning. I stayed home and rested. My left leg hurt everywhere, and no position relieved the pain. 

I saw Agent Brian and my other bodies at the TSA PreCheck in Syracuse. Delta flew me First Class to Traverse City, complete with Bailey's in coffee. My leg felt so so OK. 

Traverse City calls itself the Cherry Capital of the World. It claims to produce all the tart cherries that end up atop sundaes. The airport gift shop offered cherry syrup, cherry wine, chocolate-covered cherries, dried cherries, cherry-flavored coffee, cherry jam, and souvenirs like cherry hats, cherry ties, cherry mugs, cherry glasses, cherry key chains, cherry bells, cherry calendars and cherry spoons.

It rained all day Friday, but the weather forecast for Saturday looked beautiful. I drove 50 miles north to Charlevoix – which the locals pronounce Charlevoy, picked up my bib and long-sleeve shirt, checked out the parking situation, sampled the local cappuccino, and returned to Traverse City for the night.

The first radio station that I picked up on the drive north identified itself as Smile FM. I learned quickly that Gaylord, MI, hosted the Big Ticket Festival – the largest Christian music festival in Michigan – that same weekend. Forty miles from Charlevoix, Gaylord was supposed to me my home for the weekend, had incompetence not screwed up my schedule.

I went to Outback Steakhouse for my pre-race dinner. I ate a sirloin steak, baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli and a third rack of ribs, which gave me 9 hours of sleep. I drove early to Charlevoix, and parked in the first spot south of the bridge, facing south for the eventual dash out of town. 

I mingled with a few Maniacs - including NY racewalker Alexis, TX Andy, OK Joe, FL Kelly and MI Sandy. The weather was perfect. I enjoyed a cappuccino at Simonsen's, and psyched myself for the race. 

A lone trumpet played the national anthem, and we went on our way. I started the stopwatch and a 14-minute repetitive timer. Like last Saturday, I planned to run to the next mile marker then walk until the timer goes off, and repeat 26 times. 

I ran tentatively the first mile, my first run since KY, and I took inventory of my aches and pains. Confident that there were a hundred runners behind me, I walked until the timer beeped. I passed some when I ran, and many passed me when I walked. 

The first few miles weaved through beautiful residential neighborhoods. Mile 4 to 5 followed a boardwalk over swamps, then we hopped onto a paved bike path all the way to the turnaround. The out-and-back course allowed me to watch the entire field on their way back. The thirteeners started 30 minutes after us, and their leaders passed me around just past the boardwalk.

WI Maniac #441 Hall-of-Famer Henry passed me around Mile 11 and informed me that there two women behind me. That's it? I pondered my first DLF (Dead Last Finisher) since my 1997 10:57 3,000-meter PR at Sunnycrest in Syracuse. Yet I stuck to my plan, and I reached the half in 2:51.

My adventure into minimalist running changed my running style from a heavy heal-striker to a light toe striker. However, walking required landing on my heel with my toes high, then rolling onto the ball of the foot. This subtle gait difference between running and walking brought on new pains that I had missed lately.

Nothing hurt while I ran, but a variety of acute localized pains came and went throughout the walking portions of my race. In no particular order, I felt pain in my left piriformis, both hip flexors, left outer hip on the I-end if the ITB, left quad, left hamstring, left calf, and both Achilles tendons. However, a sharp and sudden pain on the top of my left shin jolted me into panic. I rubbed vigorously the painful spot, then hopped onto the shoulder of the trail. The pain went away a few minutes later.

The significance of this list of aches and pains was what was missing – no shoulder pain, no knee pain, no ITB pain, and no plantar fascia pain. At my post-race massage, Angela resolved numerous trigger points the entire length of the front of my left leg. All that toe lifting while walking took a toll.

The turnaround revealed eventually that Henry was off by fifty percent – there were all of three runners behind me. With Paige, Henry and Deanna still in my sight, I shrugged off DLF jitters, and focused on the task at hand – checking off Michigan. So I ran when the timer beeped, and I walked when I reached a mile marker. This simply beautiful scheme allowed me to loiter at water stations and thank the volunteers, adjusting adaptively the run/walk ratio.

The sun came out and the shirt came off for a couple of miles along Lake Michigan. The vista was stunning with countless shades of blue in the calm waters. In stark contrast to Anchorage, the Charlevoix trail lacked any sign of wildlife – no deer, no rabbit, no snake, no squirrel, no chipmunk – I saw just a lone vole crossing the trail.

In the waning miles, I passed Deanna, then Maniac Henry, then Paige, and caught up with Maniac Joe with shoe problems in the last mile. I ran the last stretch for a 5:53 finish and my worst percentage placing ever, and checked off Michigan. Sadly though, the espresso machine at Simonsen’s had failed under the surge of the runners, so I drove south in search of a good cappuccino.

United incompetence plagued the return trip home. Dispatchers delayed the TVC-ORD flight by three hours for crew rest, then an additional hour for a Chicago ground stop. The ORD-SYR flight was delayed several hours because someone forgot to assign a crew to the plane.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed his 43rd marathon and 43rd state at Charlevoix. He holds United Airlines tickets for 4 of the remaining 7 marathons. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour

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