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Glen Arbor, Michigan

M22 Challenge

June 7th through June 9th, 2013

Friday, June 7th, 2013 - 66/49°, Mostly Sunny

    After a busy morning watching Samantha graduate from elementary school, it was finally time for our long-awaited weekend trip to Glen Arbor for the M-22 Challenge. Tara & I had been looking forward to a weekend away, and after loading the car it was finally time to depart. We left the house just after Sam, Drew, and Jayden got off the bus for the last time this school year. By 12:30pm we were on the road, ready for some peace, quiet, and relaxation.

    Since we had a busy morning at school and at home getting ready, we didn’t have a chance to get a bite to eat. We agreed to eat at Taco Bell for lunch, and since McDonald’s was right next door we headed there for drinks (large pops are only $1, and they serve Coca-Cola instead of Pepsi). We only made one other stop on our trip, and that was at a rest area to take care of some business likely caused by our prior stop!

    Before we knew it, the clock read a little after 4:00pm and we were in communication with Jeff & Becky about the motel. We pulled in to the McCahill’s Crossing Motel and Dairy Bar parking lot around 4:30pm to check in, and then made our way to our cozy little room. Jeff & Becky had already arrived, so they filled us in on all the little details as we worked on unpacking our weekend’s worth of belongings into our room.

    Being the day before the race, we knew that we had to check-in and pick up the race packets for Jeff & I. We rode along with Jeff & Becky as we headed to the M-22 store in Glen Arbor for registration. We also spent some time browsing the store for a bit, even purchasing a M-22 sticker to place on the back window of our car. Once we were done here, it was time to head off to the boat wash area, which we quickly breezed through since Jeff had previously power washed the kayaks at home. From there we drove to the staging area, where we located a spot to leave our bikes and kayaks for the night, prepared for our use in the morning during the race. We met up with Jeff’s secretary, Vicky, as well as her husband Mike and their daughter Amanda. Vicky and Amanda would be participating in the race with us, and they needed to know where their bikes and kayaks were (Jeff had brought all of the race equipment up with him, since they didn’t know if they were going to make it to Glen Arbor in time).

    After showing them were everything was located and introducing everyone and catching up for a moment, Jeff, Becky, Tara, and I decided to head into Traverse City so that Jeff and I could load up on carbs for the race in the morning. We headed to Olive Garden (despite the best attempts of the GPS to deliver us to the Holiday Park campground!) for dinner, filling up on pasta and bread. While we were in Traverse City, we swung in to Meijer to pick up some grocery items for tomorrow, as well as a new bike helmet for me (you know, since mine was safely stowed away – at home, in the garage!). After dinner and shopping (such a romantic evening, I know!) we headed back to the motel. All told, there are four rooms in this motel complex. Between Vicky’s family, Tara & I, and Jeff & Becky we took up 75% of it! Since we had to get up early the next morning, we all had the lights out by 10:30pm tonight. I cannot comment on any extra-curricular in-the-dark activities in either room, however!

Saturday, June 8th, 2013 - 70/43°, Mostly Sunny

    We all woke up around 6:00am this morning, with the intention of leaving for the staging area between 6:30-6:45am. After mostly sleepless nights by both Jeff and I, we were dragging our tales a little, however. Jeff said he was fairly nervous about the race, so that kept him from sleeping well. I wasn’t as nervous as he was (it was his first race, after all), but I had a hard time adjusting off of my second shift work schedule. After all, I was used to getting home at midnight and then going to bed, not going to bed before my work shift even ended!

    By the time we were all dressed and ready for the race, it was closer to 6:50am by the time we left the motel. We wound up parking at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in the lot at the bottom of the big sand dune that we would be climbing and descending during the race later this morning. All was quiet and empty now, but that would be changing in a little over an hour!

    After getting some last minute race directions from the staff, it was time to start the race. They sent us off in waves, with the “experts” going first, and then by age in 10 year increments. We started our 2.5 mile run shortly after 8:00am. All was going well for me to this point… I had gotten off to a good start and was feeling pretty well overall. I ran up about ¼ of the sand dune before it became too much for me (and the rest of the pack of people surrounding me). I walked up the rest of the hill and across most of the path to the descent area. I bounded down the hill as best as I could without running into people for falling down myself before reaching the bottom. Tara was at the bottom of the hill taking pictures, so I handed her my headphones and frozen up MP3 player before I continued on. Unfortunately I wore these mesh-type running shoes, which turned out to be a really bad idea in the sand. My toes were so jam-packed that I couldn’t stand it, and I had to stop along the side of the trail and dump them out. I think I had enough sand in there to fill a sand box! Unfortunately, as I was emptying my shoes, Jeff managed to not only catch me but pass me by. Without the sand weighing me down, I was able to continue comfortably running to the staging area once again.

    I was coming in to the bike staging area just as Jeff was walking his bike out, but that was the last I saw of him until the race was complete. I felt as though I got off to a pretty good start, despite being passed by a fair amount of people on road bikes on the first medium sized hill we climbed. On the downward half of that hill I passed most of them back, so I was feeling pretty good about my results so far. Unfortunately that didn’t last for me either, as I was feeling a constant pull from behind. I had messed with my brakes earlier in the week in an attempt to get my rear wheel to turn easier, but I guess it wasn’t as successful as I had thought. While dealing with this issue I spent much more time than I should have enjoying the scenery along the route. I noticed several nice houses, streams, and other things that I could envision photographing. Needless to say, this did nothing to help my time. I wound up stopping along the way to completely disconnect the rear brakes (hoping that I wouldn’t desperately need them later!). Maybe I have a bent rim or something, but it did seem to help a little. Of course I had a new issue to deal with now… the brake calipers sticking out and hitting my calves as I peddled. I had to adapt to a bow-legged riding stile to avoid scratching up the backs of my legs too much. There was one giant hill that everyone seemed to be walking up, and I was no exception. I did manage to pass three people while walking, however, which probably is about 1/20th of the amount of people who passed me while riding! By the time I returned to the staging area, my legs were beat (and slightly beat up!). Thankfully no legwork was required for the final section!

    I managed to push my kayak to the edge of the water without any issue. Although Tara had hollered at me to take off my shoes, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go barefoot on shore (either before I got in the kayak or after I got out), so I kept them on. Besides, this part of the race was one of the reasons that I decided to wear my “crappier” pair of running shoes (they aren’t really in terrible shape, but they aren’t overly comfortable either. In fact, I had to wear preemptive bandages on my heals because I knew they would give me blisters…) in the first place. I was paddling along the first leg of the triangle feeling decent about my efforts. Aside from an occasional pull to the right (ok, frequent pulls to my right), I was making steady progress – and most importantly, not being passed as I paddled along. Unfortunately for me, I must have leaned to far to one side, and over I went. It kind of all happened in slow motion to me, and it brought back flashbacks to my younger days when I rolled over my car. I did manage to slide out of the kayak without getting trapped under water, so that was good. I was also relieved that I had given my MP3 player to Tara earlier, crappy as it is. Anyway, I did my best to turn the boat back over, but there was quite a bit of water already in it, and I couldn’t quite touch bottom where I was at. I dragged the boat towards shore a ways as people paddling by asked if I was ok. One gentlemen did go for help (there was a sheriff’s boat on the water for the race, you know – to stop any speeders!), so at that point all I could do was wait it out. It felt like an eternity though, so I continued trying to turn the boat over. I managed to get some of the water out once I reached a point where I could get my feet on the lake bottom, but I couldn’t figure out how to get back in. Finally a man in a kayak (I never did figure out if he was part of the race or part of the ‘Rescue Rod’ team) came over and helped me climb back in. At the same time the sheriff’s boat arrived, but as it turned out their help was unneeded. The other man in the kayak even had a pump to pump out as much of the excess water as he could so that I was carrying around as much extra weight (my own body contains enough of that!). I managed to finish the rest of the course by staying upright, although I won’t deny that there was at least one other really close call along the way!

    I ended up crossing the finish line in two hours and way too many minutes. I look at it this way – I have nothing to do but improve upon my time for next year, right? If not, oh boy… I am in trouble! I met back up with Tara, Jeff, Becky, Mike, Vicky, and Amanda (who took first place in the under 20 age group, by the way) and we refueled by trying out the various foods supplied to us. We stood around and watched the awards ceremony take place and marveled at just how fast some of the people completed the race. Needless to say, they have nothing to worry about from me! Once the ceremony was over, we took a quick photo under the finish line before heading off to locate our boats (when the contestants neared the finish line in their kayaks, they were able to pass them off to volunteers who would place them in a second staging area for you as you ran across the finish line). Everyone easily found their boats, except for Jeff, whose boat and paddle somehow managed to find themselves in a completely different area than everyone else’s. Once everything was located and fully accounted for, we loading the bikes and kayaks onto the trailer for the return trip home.

    All of us headed back to the motel to get cleaned up. Mike, Vicky, and Amanda headed home, hauling the trailer with the bikes and kayaks on it with them. Jeff, Becky, Tara, and I showered (separately, and in our own rooms!) and took a moment to rest.

    Before we knew it we were feeling hungry again (gee, can’t imagine why, right?), so we loaded into the Enclave and headed to Leland to see what sounded good for lunch. We settled on a restaurant called The Cove. Although the food was decent, I don’t think that it is anything that I will be rushing right back to have again. After eating the ladies wandered through some of the shops in Historic Fishtown while Jeff and I rested our weary bodies under the warmth of the sun. On our way out, we stopped at the Grand Traverse Distillery so that we could purchase some cherry vodka for later in the evening.

    Once we had our beverage in hand for later tonight, we made the drive to Traverse City next. We headed to the downtown area and walked up and down the streets, wandering in and out of the various shops. Besides a souvenir M22 road sign for me to commemorate the race, we restrained from purchasing anything else too extravagant, instead settling for some delicious chocolate covered caramels with sea salt on top.

    We next headed to the North Peak Brewing Company for dinner. The food here was good, but the main attraction (for everyone else, anyway) was the beer. Tara even asked for a sample of one of the beers on the menu, and when the bill came it cost us a quarter! Who’d of thunk it? After a relaxing meal, it was time to head back to the motel.

    There was a campfire ring at the motel for our use, but nobody had thought about bringing supplies for a campfire. That meant one last stop for a lighter and some fire starters (as well as a soft drink to mix with the vodka). Once we were back at the motel we settled in around the fire for a while, doing our best to keep the wet wood lit. We enjoyed an adult beverage or three (except for me… I treated myself to a bottle of Coke) and snacked on some miscellaneous food items. By the time the clock struck midnight the effects of a long day were beginning to hit us, so we decided to call it a night. I’m sure that the lack of dry wood in the fire didn’t help to keep us awake and moving anyway.

Sunday, June 9th, 2013 - 78/46°, Mostly Sunny

    Despite a restless night of sleep on Friday and an exhausting day on Saturday, I was unable to sleep in at all this morning. I awoke around 7:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I did my best to quietly pass the time by messing around on my cell phone (with what little cell signal we had, that was no easy task) until Tara finally woke up around 9:00am.

    Once she was up and moving we took turns showering (yes, took turns – even if we wanted to there would be no showering together today… the shower stall was barely big enough for one of us, let alone both of us!) and gathering up our belongings so that we could put them back in to the Enclave.

    Everyone was feeling hungry this morning, so we decided that it would be ok to check out of the motel and then find someplace to eat a breakfast. With a recommendation from the employee at the McCahill’s Crossings Dairy Bar, we decided to dine at the Western Ave. Bar & Grill. The weather was even so nice that we decided to eat outside on the patio, right along M-22 where Jeff and I had biked almost 24 hours earlier (closer to 25 hours ago for me, however…).

    Once we had all finished our breakfast, we decided to head back to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. We stopped at a few of the various points along the way and took in the view. We didn’t dare venture down the 450’ dune to Lake Michigan, however! I must say, this was one area that had changed dramatically since Tara & I were here last. No longer was the hill a straight climb to the top – instead, about 80% of the way up the hill began to gently slope towards the peak. Not that it would make the climb any easier – by the time you reached this point of the hill you’d likely be pretty tired anyway. Also, the “Steep Bluff” sign was no longer at the top… I can’t help but wonder what happened to it?

    With the scenic route complete, we decided that it was time to head back to the motel to pick up our car. At this point we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. Jeff & Becky headed off towards Sutton’s Bay, while Tara & I made our way into Traverse City and the Mission Point Light. We spent some time wandering around the dry part of land that used to be covered in water, marveling at just how low the lake levels have become.

    Once we had decided that we had spent enough time on the peninsula, it was time to make the long drive back home. We managed to leave the Traverse City area around 2:30pm, and drove without any issues towards home. We did end up meeting up with my parents, who had watched our kids for the weekend, at Red Robin in Flint so that we could celebrate with Samantha’s birthday dinner. We arrived around 6:00pm and enjoyed our meal. With our bellies full, we completed the drive home to unpack and catch up all that the kids did over the weekend.

Trip Summary

    Even though I was highly disappointed in my race times, I had a lot of fun and cannot wait to do it again next year. Of course, that is if I can afford it! I’ll need a fancy new lightweight bike, and a long kayak (perhaps with outriggers to keep me upright!), and… well, a lot more practice would probably help me out some too.

    Aside from the tiny motel room (I could literally sit on the bathroom sink as I went to the bathroom), I really enjoyed where we stayed for the weekend. It was close to pretty much everything that we needed to do over the course of our three days in town, and it was a quaint little motel with a “dairy bar” located right next door. Although we didn’t make use of their services, it was really quite tempting. My only real complaint about the motel is that the beds weren’t overly comfortable – which isn’t exactly what you are looking for when you have to spend 2 ½ hours of your day racing. A sore back does little to help those efforts!

    I also enjoyed the time we spent wandering around Traverse City. I had never been to the downtown area that we toured, and I had also never ate at any of the restaurants that we frequented this weekend (with the exception of the Olive Garden, of course, but even a visit there is a rare occurrence for our family). It had been quite some time since I had been to Leland’s Fishtown area, and although I didn’t find a lot to do there, Becky and Tara seemed to enjoy browsing the shops.

    I must say that despite the hard work that Jeff and I put in on Saturday morning (and in the months leading up to this event), I found this to be an extremely enjoyable, relaxing weekend. It was nice to be able to spend time with some of our dearest friends, and it was amazing to spend so much quality time with my lovely wife. I can’t think of a better way to do so than to be away in a beautiful location, when the weather is perfect, and when I get to spend every moment by her side. Thank you Tara for making this weekend so special for me!


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