written by Joshua Vork, Gazelle Sports Holland Assistant Store Manager and Committee Member of Lake Michigan RTS
As the golden sun of a mid-July morning kisses your sweaty skin along the Lake Michigan shore, you will be faced with a decision: to feel the soft sand under your feet or to take some of the beach with you for the second half of the race. Put another way, when you come to the realization that you will be spending the next five to fifteen minutes climbing a sand dune, do you opt to keep your shoes on or take them off?
From my favorite spot on the course, atop the infamous double dune, I watch the long line of participants begin their ascent. The leaders make their attempt to run up, believing nothing will slow them down, not even an extra two pounds of sand in their socks and shoes. But as the line progresses, and the runners transition to climbers, I notice more and more people with their shoes in their hand and their feet in the sand. The front runners ask “Why would you slow down to take your shoes off?” Most others ask “Why wouldn’t you?”
The first year I ran, I thought myself to be among the front runners (I was not). I thought myself to be someone who would run up the entire dune (I did not), and so I thought it would be a waste of time to stop and shed my footwear. By the time I finished bounding down the backside of the dune, however, I had changed my mind. Sand filled my shoes, squeezing my feet from every angle and I was forced to decide whether to take thirty seconds to empty them or to run the next two and a half miles with sand trying to push my feet out of the shoes. For me, the comfort of sand free shoes was easily worth the time. I was in no position to win the race, nor my age group and, so, I chose comfort over speed – and did not regret it.
When my second running of Lake Michigan RTS came around, I knew what to do. When I turned the corner to face the initial dune, I pulled off to the side of the course, and immediately transitioned my shoes from feet to hand. I climbed the full double dune smiling as I felt Lake Michigan’s sand underfoot. That’s part of what makes this event so special and so unique: your race time really doesn’t matter, so let yourself enjoy it as much as possible.
I would encourage you to kick off your shoes, dip your toes in the sand, and soak up the sun as you traverse up the double dune. Or don’t. The choice is yours!