We got to visit “Harbor Country” in Michigan this weekend for a church retreat. I always cringe at the word “church” because it doesn’t really fit the Unitarian Universalist service; it implies a Christian service, which it is not. In fact, when one of the camp folks asked about saying grace before our first meal at the site and all of us just kind of chuckled nervously and looked at one another. I might have said, “We’re not that kind of church.” Ha. We did discuss later that if our minister had been there, he probably would have said some secular humanist-type words about nature’s bounty and gratitude in being together.
Anyhow, this was my first time being at the Warren Dunes. We’ve done some biking in the area for the Apple Cider Century, but we’ve never been to the dunes (even my husband, who grew up in the Chicago area said he’d never been there). I should have read the signs a little more closely when it said “beach trail.” I thought it was a trail that ran alongside the beach. Well, it was that…but it was also all sand. Gloriously moody in its cloudy day but hard as hell.
The trail really was very pretty, but the sand was definitely hard to run in and draining. To give you some indication of the difficulty, it took an hour to run 4 miles (and the first mile was mostly paved). Also, those grasses were sharp running through them. The romance of running through the moody seaside (alright, lakeside) was broken into by my yelps. Every time I encountered a fork in the trail, though, I kept thinking of Frost’s “two roads diverged in the woods and I…I took the one less traveled.” Except if you read more closely in the poem, he actually says the paths are the same. And that was quite apropos as none of the trails seemed less sandy or hilly when they diverged. There is something about nature that always brings out my Frost. This next picture does not give the full indication of how steep this sand hill was. BRUTAL.
The obligatory running selfie. That running vest has been awesome for carrying water into unknown parts! I cut the beach trail a bit short. There was a trail that cut back into the forest about halfway through the beach trail. I had intended to run the whole trail, but I was so exhausted and planned on running at least 10 miles and knew I wouldn’t be able to if I finished the beach trail. I was pretty excited to get some non-sand running in. I also took at least 5 minutes to sit down on a stump and shake out the sand from my shoes and socks.
The run did get cut short. I still need to map out how long it really was. I know I ran for over 2 hours, but I forgot to turn my watch back on at one point so I’m missing some distance. I ended with something just shy of 9, but I think it might have been closer to 10. I was pretty pooped and just couldn’t force myself to reach some random number (I was shooting for 15). I figured 2 hours of running was pretty good. Still puts into question the whole ultra thing…I couldn’t tell if I was tired because the sand zapped me so much (duh) or if I was just tired overall and need to reconsider the ultra. Either way, it didn’t feel very fun to push myself to get more mileage for no real reason so I turned back. This whole listening to your body thing is weird, ha.
I did spend some time NOT running in the woods with the family, though. Here is the elusive Iseul Monster roaming the woods. I forgot to take a picture of my ridiculously sandy shoes on the beach, so here’s one of my hiking boots in the leaves.
And wouldn’t you know it? It was crystal clear skies the morning we were leaving. There is something so primeval about confronting a massive body of water. You can see this when kids launch themselves running into the water and running away. That push and pull. Amazing. I purposely kept people out of my picture. You wouldn’t know it, but I hiked down to the lake with a group of about 30. I like to seek out the quiet, though. This picture makes me want to hike forever.
Life can be pretty beautiful if we stop and look around. One of the themes of the retreat was letting go (cue Frozen). It made me think about running and the things we learn to let go along the way, whether it’s a distance, a time, a race. You have to learn to prioritize what’s important, re-evaluate the long view, be an…ADULT. I know. Go figure. Like I wrote before, it’s a hard balance of figuring out what’s pushing yourself to your limit and reach further and what’s pushing yourself too hard to the point of breaking. I think for endurance athletes, this definitely gets muddled. Anyhow, lovelies, hope the pictures gave you a pleasant start to your week.