Last weekend I realized that I hadn’t actually registered for the Mount Baldhead Challenge (The Beast) in September. So I (The Badass) went to the website, and read the announcement that the 15K had now become a 12-miler and some change. “Well that’s not a 15K then,” Jessica (aka The B*tch) said when I texted her. I’m going to do it. I have my heart set on running this multi-terrain race, but this means that the distance has increased, and when I checked the map, the amount of trail running has increased as well.
Now this race was already hard. The first time I ever ran it, I had just started back running that year. I was choosing races that would help me increase my distance. I didn’t know enough to look at elevation or terrain or anything else. While standing in line at the porta-potty, I asked a fellow racer if he had ever run it before. “Yes!” he said. “This is my favorite race. It’s supposed to be the toughest 15k in the country! (or did he say Michigan?).” I was shaking in my running shoes.
I ended that race dead last. The cop car with lights flashing followed me across the finish line. And I was hooked. I ran that race 3 more times – once in a pouring thunderstorm. The course takes you through scenic Douglas and Saugatuck, along country roads, up, over and through the beautifully wooded dunes of Lake Michigan, and just about the time you get really tired, you climb 302 steps to the top of the dune called Mount Baldhead.
So now it’s two miles longer. And I’m quite a bit older. Jessica has increased my mileage and the elevation of my runs. The bluff in Saint Joseph features a staircase that climbs about 75 steps from the beach into town. For the past two weeks, I’ve been adding a hill running/stair climbing training run. And, I’ve been running trails. This week, she told me I should come to Saugatuck and start practicing on the race course.
The Goal: Run for 75 minutes and then climb Mount Baldhead 4 times. (I’m sure that Okie B*tch is thinking of wimpy Florida dunes. She has no idea that Lake Michigan dunes are beasts.)
The Reality: Ashok and I took off and discovered that even the elevation of the roads in this area is very hilly. In town, it’s pretty flat, but when you get to the dunes, it’s like running in East Tennessee. I’ll be climbing that beast twice. Maybe I’ll work up to four in the next month. Maybe ….
I was surprised at how strong I was running the roads. Even though they were hilly, I kept up pretty well. Ashok did great, too and enjoyed playing in the ditches to cool off between intervals. Deer and squirrels kept her prey instinct occupied. It rained on and off, and the temp was a comfortable 50 degrees. I felt like I was on vacation with all the woods and water areas.
No dogs were allowed on the stairs, so I tucked her away in the car and started my climb. No way I was going to run them. Even walking, I had to stop and catch my breath several times. But I got up to the top, caught my breath, took the long walk down and did it again. I told myself I could try 3 if I thought I could make it, but my legs were so wobbly after 2 ascents, I thought I’d better call it a day. There will be plenty of time for stair climbing in the next three months.
Now I’m really excited. I hope to be in better shape for this race than any of the previous ones. I always trained on roads and hoped for the best. I never trained on the course ahead of time. And I look forward to spending more beautiful Sunday mornings atop Mount Baldhead while the view – and the climb – literally takes my breath away.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to take a nap.