Monsoon Bear – 2013 Sleeping Bear Marathon Recap

While mother nature attempted to keep the bears in their den this past weekend, 400+ bears kicked off a wet Sunday morning with a great run from Empire, MI and along Lake Michigan for the 2nd annual Sleeping Bear Half/Full Marathon.  Let’s turn back a couple of days first….Susan and I rolled up to the cottage on Lake Leelanau Friday morning with the Baker family joining us.  Zach Baker and I had been watching the forecast all week as we both were ready and anxious for some decent weather for the race.  While the clouds where thick and provided light rain fall on Friday and Saturday we enjoyed the sights and surroundings that Leelanau county provides.  From multiple visits to Moomers Ice Cream to enjoying some excellent food and beverages at North Peak Brewing Company, the pre-race activities were a BLAST!

Driving through Cadillac, MI

Driving through Cadillac, MI

Calm afternoon on Lake Leelanau

Calm afternoon on Lake Leelanau

Delicious liquids during Friday night's dinner at North Peak

Delicious liquids during Friday night’s dinner at North Peak

Saturday evening we rolled to Empire, MI for packet pickup (at the Empire Township Hall).  From going to an expo for the past three years in Chicago for 45,000+ participants to lining up with just a handful of runners, this was exactly what I was looking forward too this year, a small marathon event.  After getting our bibs, a couple of shirts and meeting up with another Kalamazoo runner friend, Ken Brooks, we all strolled through the little village of Empire to the lake-shore to check out the big lake.

Packet Pickup

Packet Pickup

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Lake Michigan from Village Park in Empire, MI

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Inspiration Point overlooking Glen Lake

As we heard a storm approaching in the distance over Lake Michigan, it was time to head back to the cottage to set up for a huge pasta feast.  As we traveled back we drove the course as we wanted to see what the elevation truly looked like compared to the elevation that Baker and I had been examining all week.  It seemed alright from the car but later on Sunday we quickly realized that this course was no joke.

As we all hung out around the kitchen back at the cottage after dinner and chatted about life, races, training…it was time to set out the next day’s gear and get to bed for an early rise for a 7:30am start time.  Leading into that Saturday evening the forecast for Sunday morning looked more and more promising to a possible dry race day.  As the morning rolled around the forecast was reporting showers to not start until 10:30 am to 11am.  GREAT!!!  Dry marathon would be perfect but we all agreed and would be happy with a little rain as the humidity level was still pretty high thus the rain might help keep us cool.

5:15am alarm sounded off early and it was time to SUIT UP

5:15am alarm sounded off early and it was time to SUIT UP

The weather was looking good as we rolled into the village of Empire.  No rain + decent temps (60 degrees) + just a little humidity = perfect day to see if a PR was in store.  After a quick stop in the ‘loo’, we lined up and away we went.  I lined up not too much in the front as I didn’t want to go out too quickly with the faster crowd.  My overall goal was to take the run as feel but I wanted to make sure the first couple miles were a bit more honest to pace then I typically approach a marathon.  While settling into a pace and just before hitting the mile 1 marker, a couple of deer ran across the street.  This was a good distraction for me as it made me chuckle and relax as I knew that today’s run was about the environment that we’d be running through and to NOT focus on pace.  From here on for the first half I relaxed into a 7:15 pace for the flats and took any of the up-hills with an easier pace then let gravity do it’s thing on the down hills.  As I look back I may have taken the down hills a bit too aggressively.

The views along the course are truly a classic northern Michigan scene.  Winding roads that either cut through some dune bluffs or roads that take you up and down them.  The course also passes by Little Glen Lake.  Just think of the bluest ocean water you’ve seen that is settled in a small lake in Michigan that is surrounded by dunes and amazing forest landscape.

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Mother nature decided to add to the experience around mile 4 as the heavens opened up and BOOM, we were running through some heavy downpours of rain.  At first it didn’t bother me until we rolled into Glen Arbor as the shoes where starting to get a bit heavier as they were soaked.  As I was coming to the turn around point, the lead runner flew by then soon after Zach came by and was shoulder to shoulder with the another runner.  Soon after Zach passed I saw Ken.  I felt that I could maybe push a bit to reach up to Ken as he was about a half mile in front of me so I as I rounded the halfway point I took a quick glance at my watch and was totally in shock.  My first half was spot on my PR time for my half marathon pace.  I thanked the down hills for that.  🙂  I kicked a bit for a couple of miles through the town of Glen Arbor but then the wheels started to come off.  This stretch is basically flat and somewhat down hill but I just couldn’t keep the pace.

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Seems flat for most of it, but it’s not.

As I came up to an aid station on M-109 (around mile 18) I decided to try the Heed sports drink a try.  Leading up to now I was just surviving off of water and Roctane GU packets.  A quick guzzle of the Heed and away I went.  One word for it’s description….GROSS!  Holy crap that stuff was nasty.  Then to make matters worse I got to start to experience the course that helped my pace on the way out but now was going to be a killer workout to get back.  Wowza, the course on the way back just provided more and more rain and long, LONG up hills.  With my Rudy Projects glasses on my head as they didn’t suit me to well in the rain (might need to try to put RainX on them next time) and my music playlist set to ‘Dig Deep’ I pushed as much as I could to get through the hills.

A PR was definitely not happening that day but what a fun and challenging course to run.  I ended the stretch with an honest pace on Lacore Rd that pulled me across the finish line with a time of 3:28, 7th overall and 1st in my age group.  I was satisfied with the results as I did just finish a 100 miler just 4 weeks prior.  🙂  After finishing I was curious to see if my buddy Zach pulled off the time he was aiming for.  And he did!  Just as I thought that course was not a PR course, he proved me wrong.  AND he proved me wrong by running a sub 3 hour marathon plus finishing 3rd overall.  Ken rolled in with a solid time and in 4th overall place.  Overall race results – http://rftiming.racetecresults.com/results.aspx?CId=16365&RId=69

Summary…this race is a MUST to add to your bucket list of either half or full marathon to run.  Endurance Evolution puts on the event and they do an absolutely fantastic job.  Volunteer support to aid stations adequately stocked to a great spread of food at the finish, this group puts on a great venue.    Here’s a little blurb (click here) from a local news site that summarized their race.  I’m excited to see if they double their numbers again next and maybe introduce some Gatorade instead of Heed.  😉

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Ken (4th overall), myself (7th overall) and Zach (3rd overall AND a PR). Kalamazoo Area Runners representing.

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Gear on the Run

  • Shoes – Brooks Ghost 6
    • These are definitely my staple ‘go to shoe’s for marathons on the roads but after experiencing them in some solid rain for a couple of hours I do need to start to investigate road shoes that drain well.
  • Socks – Wrightsock Double Layer
  • Shorts – Salomon Short Tight
  • Top – INKnBURN Green Run or Die Tank Top
  • Music – iPod Shuffle jammed packed with great music!
  • Watch – Garmin 910xt
  • Glasses – Rudy Project Rydon

The rest of the weekend rounded out with fun adventures around Leelanau county sampling some great wines at the local vineyards, relaxing with some great friends, eating some amazing homemade meals and removing a dock.  Yup, real men remove boat and jet-ski lifts AND docks the day after a marathon.  🙂  Now it’s time to get back to some solid weekly mileage as the Bad Apple Ultra 12 hour is just around the corner.

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Another beautiful sunset over Lake Leelanau to end our Sunday evening

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Time to take out the summer toys 

Yes, Moomers Ice Cream is a staple when visiting this area.

Yes, Moomers Ice Cream is a staple when visiting this area.

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The drive home was anything from boring

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Bling from a great weekend

2 Comments on “Monsoon Bear – 2013 Sleeping Bear Marathon Recap

  1. Love the article. This was my first time running up here (I did the half) and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Even with the hills. Looking forward to hopefully make it there next year.

  2. Oh no! Ghosts in the rain are horrible! I found out on a training run. Wish you didn’t have to find out in a race. Maybe give the Brooks Launch a try. They are also a neutral high mileage shoe and do great in the rain! I wore them for an ultramarathon on a flooded course and had no problems.

    Thanks for this post as I am considering doing this marathon in 2014 along with Bayshore in the spring.

    Paula Antoniou
    Lake Orion, MI

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