Running Mighty Mac


100_2327, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2014First, let me say, this is not yo’ mamma’s bridge walk, when 50,000+ people stroll across the Mackinac Bridge each year on Labor Day.  This is a 5.8 mile timed road race, most of which takes place 552 feet above the chilly Straits of Mackinac on the amazing feat of engineering, the Mackinac Bridge. This is the same bridge that is closed during windy weather, least its travelers be swept off into the water below. The same bridge where a Yugo driver met a watery grave in 1989. The same bridge where 400 or so drivers a year avail themselves of assistance from the Timid Driver program, too frightened to drive themselves across. Though the 5.8 mile distance is almost twice the mileage I’ve ever run, Best Husband and I accept the challenge and train to run Mighty Mac.

The day before the race we drive to Mackinaw City at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge,  so we’ll be ready to board the bus to cross the bridge at 5:30 next morning. Once we are settled in our hotel room, BH and I begin our pre-race rituals, for most runners, a cross between runner superstition, preparation, and nervous anticipation.

BH: Pin race number to front of T-shirt.

Me: After checking weather.com, lay out appropriate running clothes for the predicted weather, and affix race number.

BH: Lie on bed and nap.

Me: Lay out alternate running clothes in case weather turns out colder or warmer than predicted.

BH: Lie on bed and nap.

Me: Lay out running accessories – lucky socks, earrings, heart rate monitor and pre-race food.

BH: Continue to lie on bed and nap.

Me: Do pre-race manicure with favorite red polish.

BH: Well, you know.

Me: Stretch hamstrings and tight muscles while nail polish dries.

BH: Wake up from nap and ask if it’s bedtime yet.

It tuns out that BH is much more relaxed about this run than I am.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.

Next morning we rise early, wanting to be one of the first to get on the bus to take us to the start at the north side of the bridge. The enthusiasm among the runners as we board the bus is almost palpable. Mostly young people, in assorted neon, black tights and warm weather gear, as we expect it to be a little chilly that high above the straits, which only a month or so ago still sported ice floes. I capture the pink sky with my iPod  as the sun gets ready to peek over the horizon on our right as we cross the bridge on the bus.

And then, it’s showtime, Unlike most races where the runners congregate at the start line and take off all at once, this is a staggered start, since there is not enough room on the bridge to send off all the runners at the same time. We start off with the sun rising on our left, and a mild breeze coming off the water on our right. For this far up in Michigan in May, this is about the most perfect weather we could hope for. There are no mile markers, no cheering crowds, no water stations – just a few race monitors scattered across the bridge. It feels like we had just decided  to get up early one day and run across the Mackinac Bridge on our own.

But despite this idyllic setting, I’m having a little panic. I’ve never run this distance, and once you’re out on the bridge, the only way off is to finish. It’s a gradual uphill to the halfway point of the bridge, roughly 2.5 miles. From there, the rest of the way on the bridge is all downhill, then just a few blocks through the city and we’re done. I can do this. BH and I take off together, pacing each other, as we’ve decided to run this together.

As we pass the half-way point, I know I’m home. Still amazed at how well I’m doing, we speed up on the downhill side of the bridge. We finish the last few blocks through the city, still quiet this early in the morning, and bring it home, well under the time I predicted for myself.

Running Mighty Mac was by the far the most amazingly beautiful race I’ve ever done.  Will I see you there next year?

HG, BH and Mighty Mac in the distance.

© Huffygirl 2014

 

 

 

 

Why I will bike no more


Bike Helmet

I used to bike a lot. Not professional cyclist or racer, just recreational cyclist. Best Husband and I, once freed of the penury of child rearing, developed our own hobbies and interests and eventually invested in good road bikes. We’d spend hours out of every summer biking together, enjoying the scenery and companionship. I will miss biking, but I will bike no more. And here is why.

Flash backwards about four weeks ago. I’m sitting on the side of the road, a good vacation gone bad, with blood pouring out of my nose. One friend is holding my head steady while another is staunching the blood with tissues. Meanwhile horrified onlookers stand by while I’m sobbing and trying not to sob at the same time, shaking hot and cold and wishing I had never ridden my bike that day.

A fun bike ride with friends had turned into every cyclist’s nightmare:  a face first over handlebars freak accident. Soon  the ambulance arrives, and my husband and I ride to the barely adequate  urgent care clinic. Once there, a third-year resident who acts more like a third-year med student takes over my care. Everyone asks me the same questions incessantly, writes them down, but no one looks at the answers. My jaws are sloshing painfully back and forth and I finally motion for a clipboard. Then, holding my swollen eye open so I can see, I write a pretty coherent med list, allergies, and answers to all their questions, while the medical indifference swells around me. As I sit in the clinic bay, no blanket offered, I realize I’m getting woozy and faint, chilled and hot at the same time, and suggest they might want to think about getting me a blanket and starting an IV.

Later, I endure an ambulance ride across the Mackinac Bridge and farther south to get to the closest real hospital, about 45 minutes away. With my face and body throbbing, I convince myself that moaning softly and keeping my eyes closed will relieve the pain, since no one has offered to give me anything to soothe the awful  throbbing during what is normally a very pleasant drive.

After x-rays and CTs, it is confirmed. My face is broken. All of it. The orbits, the delicate maxillae, and my already somewhat crooked nose – smashed into shards of bone. A week or so later I have grueling surgery to put it all back together. The plastic surgeon using screws and plates, delicately reassembles the puzzle that had become my face. The shards of bone, now held in place with metal, have put my face somewhat back together, though it no longer feels like my face. Places that once were soft are now hard, metallic, crooked, numb. It is not a perfect face, though,it was a pretty ordinary face before. Time will tell if it becomes the face that I had before, or something close enough to it, or if it will remain a hideously skewed semblance of a face that makes polite people look away and rude people stare.

No one told me that I must give up biking. I had biked nearly 5,000 miles, with no hint of a serious accident, and chances are, could bike another 5,000 in my lifetime without incident. But, it somehow feels wrong, to take my patchwork of bones back out onto the road, where anything might happen in the blink of an eye. It seems like an insult to my surgeon, and to myself and my family for all we’ve gone through, to tempt that fate again. I feel grateful to have a face, to still have life, and to not have suffered more serious injury than what I already had. And so, I will bike no more.

© Huffygirl 2013

View from the end of summer


Two trees frame an azure pool,

One beacon guides us safely home.

One tree kisses the glowing sky,

And one moon rises over wherever we roam.

This is the end of my “View from the…” Michigan vacation photo series. I’ll be back to blogging my usual mix of musing, rants, photos, and satire by the end of the week. Meanwhile, I hope you check out this amazing photo story by fellow Michigan blogger,  White Pine Photo, of his once-in-a-lifetime climb to the top of the Mackinac Bridge. The photos are glorious – my heart was racing as I scrolled through, with palms as sweaty as if I were up there in person. This trip to the top of the Mackinac Bridge is a great wind-up to a pure Michigan summer. Just click the link below, or visit White Pine Photo from my Blogroll.

Climbing the Mackinac Bridge (whitepinephoto.wordpress.com)

1. Mackinac Island, bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

2. Round Island Lighthouse, Mackinac Island.

3. Lone tree, Mackinac Island, Round Island in distance.

4. Moonrise over airport, Mackinac Island.

 

© Huffygirl 2012