Monday, October 12, 2015

October 3, 2015, Bruckelaufe Half Marathon, State #25, Frankenmuth, MI

After a decent night's sleep, I woke up for the Bruckelaufe race and went through my usual pre-race routine. The coffee from Tim Horton's worked out just fine as a morning pick-me-up-and-get-me-going measure. My usual breakfast of champions, oatmeal, chia seeds and (Michigan) blueberries sufficed nicely. Although, I have to say, my stomach wasn't very hungry, and as such it wasn't easy to finish it all, but I managed.
Breakfast of champions, or at least non-frontrunners. 
I left the hotel and made my way to Heritage Park to the starting line. It wasn't very crowded, despite my late departure time from the hotel. I decided to wait as long as possible to leave my room, as it was only about 45 degrees out and quite windy. I figured it would be better to hang out in my warm room rather than the cold outdoors. 
Starting area selfie.
The start of the half marathon was on the grass along the Cass River, a very picturesque spot. This race started with a prayer (a first for me at any half marathon) and then the National Anthem. Right after that, the starting gun went off and the crowd of runners surged onward!
Gorgeous sunrise at the race start. 
Starting line runners.
We ran a loop around Heritage Park before exiting along the road and out to the main street via the Zehnder's Holz Covered Bridge, our first bridge of the 13. The next bridge was immediately after...a concrete, flat bridge on the main road...nothing fancy to speak of, but a bridge nonetheless. We veered in to a residential neighborhood and then out in to the farmland nearby. I was quite surprised at the expansive farmland in this region. I didn't really think of Michigan as a large farming area, but we ran past several corn fields along the race. The area was rural and lovely.
The third bridge was another flat concrete road bridge, but the fourth one was a surprise iron trestle bridge down a dirt road. When we turned down the dirt road from the paved road, I was a bit apprehensive due to the "Dead End" sign at the top of the road. I wondered where we'd end up. The answer was running over this lovely little bridge literally in the middle of nowhere. There was a small picnic area near it, so it must be a sweet little place to hang out in the summer time.
The temperature was quite perfect for racing, but I wore long pants and a long-sleeved half zip and winter cap anyway. I was plenty warm along the way, and since the wind was so strong, I was glad I dressed warmly. Most of the first part of the race had the wind at our backs, so that was good, and by the time we hit the halfway mark and started heading back to the finish area, it was warming up a bit, so the wind (although strong) wasn't killer. Somewhere around mile 4 or 5 a gentleman named Bill Hart caught up with me and we had a nice chat. He complimented me on my strong pace and asked about my running. I told him that I was on half-marathon #25 in 25 states and that Michigan was a big milestone for me. He was so friendly and nice, asking me about my journey. He told me that he was a runner with a local running club and invited me along to join them for lunch after the race. I told him that I'd check in with him at the finish line, but that I'd be glad to join in the fun. Thanks to Bill's chat, suddenly I found myself at mile 6, nearly halfway. And somewhere in that stretch, we ran past some alpacas. You never know what you're going to see when you are out running!
Bill got ahead of me, and it was fun to watch him chat with other runners along the way. He is just one of those friendly folks who truly enjoys talking with others. He is a fantastic motivator on the course...someone who helps you along and keeps you strong without you even realizing it. I kept up with him the best I could. We traversed through more farmland and made a cute detour through an actual farm and its pumpkin field, rooster coop, horse pasture and fields. The race alternated between paved roads and dirt/gravel roads in some of these farm/rural areas. I'm no trail runner, so I'm not all that used to gravel underfoot, but I did my best.
We were somewhere between miles 9 and 10 when I caught up with Bill again. We were both still running pretty strong. I didn't know what my time was, but I felt good with plenty of energy left to finish. I ended up passing him, and we promised to meet up at the finish. The last few miles were flat, and even though the wind was still strong, I didn't feel like it was as much of a hindrance as it was in Fargo. As I ran on and made my way closer in to town and the finish area, I ran over a pedestrian bridge at the River Place Shops. Just around the corner from there was the covered bridge again, and not far past that was the finish line.
Pedestrian bridge at shopping area.
I ran on in to Heritage Park thinking that the finish line was on the main road, but alas, at the end of the road we had to run a lap around the grass of the park to finish. As I turned the last corner and saw the time clock, I could see I'd finish in 1:53 something. Not bad. Not my best, but it was a time I was happy with. I crossed the line and headed in to the sports pavilion there for finish line food, stretching and results.
Some of these smaller races don't have instant online results. They rely on computer printouts on paper that they post on bulletin boards and update constantly as finishers cross the line. I posted my unofficial results on Facebook as "1:53 something." My husband texted me shortly thereafter to tell me he couldn't find my official time online. I told him they were posting paper results. I went to check my official time, and to my utter disbelief, there was my name as #2 finisher in my age group! 
Wow! Second place in my age group!
I placed high enough to win an award! Woo hoooooo! I was so excited! Just then, I bumped in to Bill and told him my good news. He introduced me to some of the other runners from his group and updated me that they were meeting up at the Frankenmuth Brewery for lunch. I'd be there, I told him.
I stretched out, met the local Frankenmuth High School mascot, a large eagle, and then waited for the awards. I won a nice growler from the brewery as my 2nd place trophy. Hot damn!
Meeting the Frankenmuth Eagle.
My beer growler trophy. Not filled with beer by the way.
I walked back to my hotel to shower up and then met the Cass River Runners at the Frankenmuth Brewery for lunch. What a lovely group of people. Bill's wife, Jeanette was there, along with other runners...Danielle, Vicky, Marcia, Brenda, Gordy, and a real "character" of a guy as Bill described him, Riley. 
Exterior view of Frankenmuth Brewery.
The Cass River runners at lunch.
Riley McLincha was a true renaissance man, having kayaked/ran to Niagara Falls from Frankenmuth, run marathons while dribbling 3 basketballs, achieved Guinness World Record fame for memorizing pi to the greatest number of places, playing music and performing as Johnny Appleseed, writing his memoirs in a published book, and singing the National Anthem at this morning's race. He was so much fun to talk to...everyone was, and I had a delightful time sharing lunch with them. Here's a link to his Runyaker blog: Lunch consisted of a couple of farmhouse ales and a bratwurst sandwich. I figured I had to order some German food while here in Frankenmuth.
My new pal, Bill Hart from Frankenmuth.
Dog signs at the Frankenmuth Brewery.
Dog taps at the Frankenmuth Brewery.
We said our goodbyes after lunch, vowing to meet up at another run sometime (either in Frankenmuth again or perhaps in Kentucky...). I left the brewery and spent some time in the Frankenmuth Historical Museum. The museum features information about the fifteen original German Lutherans who came to the area as missionaries to convert the Native Americans. It is actually a really lovely little museum with lots of artifacts and photographs of Frankenmuth and its early inhabitants. They also had a special exhibit about the Grimm brothers. I didn't realize Jakob Grimm was a librarian.
Scenes/photos from the historical museum. 

I spent the remainder of the afternoon checking out little shops up and down the main street. I bought some Michigan mittens that are super cute, as well as some souvenirs for my family. I also stopped at a local cupcake shop and had them doctor up a cupcake in honor of my 25th race. It was delicious! I went back to the hotel to rest for awhile and do my laundry before checking out the huge Christmas shop in town, Bronners.
Celebratory cupcake!
The cupcake really wasn't as big as my head. Camera trick here.
Michigan mittens.
Bronner’s claims to be the “World’s Largest Christmas Store,” and according to a statistic I read at the Frankenmuth History Museum, it is the size of five football fields. The outside of the store is nearly as decorated as the inside, with larger than life (or sometimes life-sized) statuary, lights, Christmas music playing and even a “Silent Night” chapel on the grounds. Inside I was met with miles of Christmas decorations. I walked around for about 40 minutes or so, selecting a few new snowman ornaments to bring home to my family for our snowman tree. It was pretty overwhelming in there after awhile…so much to see, and I’m sure I would’ve spent much more money had I walked through the entire facility. It was like the Yankee Candle Headquarters back home, but on steroids.
One outside view of Bronner's Christmas store.
Outdoor decor...maybe a parade float? 
Life-sized Nativity scene.
Silent Night chapel on the Bronner's grounds.
Altar inside the tiny chapel.
Stained glass window in the chapel.
I headed back to my hotel to park my car, then I walked a few doors down to Prost, a wine bar/charcuterie for dinner. I ordered up a delicious plate of charcuterie and a glass of wine, and I enjoyed every bite. I chatted with a nice young couple who sat next to me at the bar. It was a perfect ending to an exciting day. 
Over the bar at Prost.
Back at the hotel, I did my best to organize all my clothes, race paraphernalia, souvenirs and carry on items, as my flight was out early the next morning and the airport was an hour and a half away. I checked the online results of the race, and although my official finish time stayed the same 1:53:35, I was listed as 3rd place in my age group now. Hmmmm? How could that be? Well, I took a look at the listing and noticed the first place woman in the 40-44 age bracket was also the overall first place winner for women in the entire race. My guess is that the race organizers didn’t allow winners to “double dip” in the prize pool, so with that, I’m standing on my 2nd place finish. (Even third place would have been a thrill, so it really didn’t matter.) I have my 2nd place growler trophy to show for my efforts. 
Thank you to Frankenmuth, MI for a monumental halfway milestone race, and thank you to the Cass River Runners for being so welcoming to an outsider who enjoys your sport. Most especially, thank you to my wonderful husband and kids for their unending support. I love you guys! Here’s to the next 25!

Shirt, bib number, finisher medal and 2nd place growler.
Michigan card.

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