Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beer, Ice Cream, and Ironman Kona

Way back in May, my brother qualified for Ironman Kona by winning his age group at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix. He and my parents invited me to go, but it was the same weekend as my ten-year high school reunion (and was a lot more expensive to get to). So while I was drinking beer in Michigan, my brother was swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. That’s just crazy.

I woke up Saturday morning and opted to do a 10-mile run around the lake. If you had told me ten years ago that I would wake up the day after my 29th birthday to run 10 miles around Green Lake, and it would be “easy” because I was tapering for a marathon, I would have laughed in your face. But so it goes. It was a beautiful morning for a run, and I watched the sun rise over the lake.

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After I got back to the cabin, I checked my phone to see that I had won a swag bag from Garmin, including a Forerunner 910XT watch, for participating in their Twitter contest. They asked why I wished I was in Kona, and I answered that I wanted to be there to cheer on my brother in his first full Ironman. Nothing quite like winning a $400 watch, plus some shirts, a visor, and a silicone swim camp, to start the day off right.

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Abby was keen on spending Saturday checking out some breweries, and I was totally on-board with that plan, so we grabbed Ethan and Josh and headed to Bellaire, Michigan – the home of Shorts Brewing Co. The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous, and the winding country roads made me wish I had brought my bike. It was over an hour’s drive from Interlochen, and by the time we got there, we were hungry and thirsty.

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Abby and I split a flight since she was driving. Shorts had a HUGE selection of beers on tap with some very interesting experimental beers. One of our favorites was OMGWTFBBQ, a beer that recalled BBQ sauce with some spicy tomato, umami flavor. Their pumpkin ale was a disappointment, but their bourbon barrel IPA blew my mind. It was hoppy and vanilla/oak, which was crazy.

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Their food menu was pretty extensive as well, and we had some food to help us soak up the beer.

Something about the unseasonably warm day and driving through numerous little resort towns on lakes had me craving ice cream. Obviously the only option was a stop at Moomers, voted the Best Ice Cream Shop in America. Anything with cherries is pure Northern Michigan, but I opted for pumpkin gingersnap.

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And then Abby tried to feed her ice cream to the bizarre taxidermied animals.

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All the while, I was checking the Ironman website for my brother’s progress in the race. He made it out of the swim in 57 minutes, a huge achievement, and seemed to be kicking butt on the bike. We were most nervous about the run due to some underlying injuries, but everything was going well so far. I selected Right Brain Brewery for our next stop, mostly by blindly selecting it from our Traverse City Ale Trail map.

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The atmosphere was very cool. They had done an awesome job turning a big warehouse building into a funky, lounge-type place. There were little pockets with couches and coffee tables as well as more traditional bar-height tables and stools. They provided a stash of board games, darts, and other entertainment options. While the beer didn’t impress me, it would be an awesome place to hang out with friends.

Again, Abby and I split a flight. The strangest-and-yet-surprisingly-good-beer award of the day went to Schrute Farm Saison, a beet-flavored saison. It kind of tasted like earth. The other beers were pretty forgettable but not offensive.

Our former choir director had invited us to dinner, so we headed back to Interlochen. After dinner, Kiley had started the run a little too fast. The next splits I downloaded showed him slowing down, but it was apparent that he was in trouble. He couldn’t keep down any fluids while running and so was forced to walk if he was going to have a shot of finishing rather than ending up in the medical tent.


Abby and I stayed up drinking wine, chatting, and pressing “refresh” on the athlete tracker page until either a) he had dropped out or b) finished. Once he reached 20 miles, I knew he would finish. It was slow-going, but I finally got the text from my mom that Kiley was an Ironman in just under 10 hours and 18 minutes.


I was relieved and crazy proud of my little brother. Next week, at the Indianapolis Marathon, it would be my time to shine.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Reunion That Wasn’t

I had spent a long time getting excited for my ten-year high school reunion at Interlochen Arts Academy. Abby and I plotted and planned our travel, and I reserved a beautiful cabin right on the lake. Then we got the word that the reunion was cancelled because not enough people showed up. After some discussion, we decided to go anyway. So we wouldn’t have the “official” reunion stuff (which honestly didn’t sound that much fun anyway), but we would have a long weekend in Northern Michigan with the changing leaves and a few other friends from high school.

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Yep, that’s how we roll.

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Abby picked me up from the Detroit airport, and we headed northwest. We arrived in time to watch this beautiful sunset before heading to the grocery store and to the Hofbrau for dinner. Many years ago, the alumni visiting for their 10 year reunion told us, “When you guys are older, you’ll find out that the Hofbrau is actually a BAR!” And it is! With a phenomenal draught list to boot.

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The next morning, I got up and ran a few miles in the cool, crisp air before we headed to campus to walk around and sit in on some classes. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day. The mall was ablaze with color, and the lake was calm and clear. Over the past 9-10 years, Interlochen has built some new, gorgeous buildings including a film studies center and a new visual arts complex with galleries and studios. What was a gym/orchestra rehearsal space when we were there is now a beautiful library and music library. So some of that stuff was a little crazy.

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At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly (“when WE were here…”), it was funny to see students with laptops in class and Wi-Fi throughout campus. My first year, we had to individually pay for dial-up internet in our dorm rooms, and we had awful DOS-based computers in the basement to check our e-mail. Technology has come such a long way in ten years. Our second year, the school put internet connectivity in our rooms, and we all had LiveJournals and chatted after-hours via AIM. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time reminiscing.


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And now:

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It also happened to be my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it. One of the coolest things we did was take advantage of the photo archives, and the photo below of our dorm hall must’ve been taken on my 18th birthday, 11 years ago that day.

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We’ve come a long way!

Of course, being there with those kids made me totally sentimental and cheesy. I remember thinking that there was no way I would be happy doing ANYTHING besides being a classical singer. I couldn’t even imagine ten years from that day or envision that I could be doing something entirely different and yet still completely fulfilling. I never imagined that I would be married, an Episcopal priest, living in Nashville, or a runner. And I looked at these kids with all of this possibility in front of them and all of their youthful idealism, hope, and drive, and I missed part of who I was then. A lot at Interlochen has changed but a lot has stayed the same. It reminded me how thankful I am to have had such a formative couple of years there with talented and creative colleagues and gifted teachers.

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Here’s hoping another 10 years doesn’t go by before I return to the land of the stately pine!