Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers International Half-Marathon 2012 recap

This time last year, Lil Sis and I made a fairly random road trip to the Detroit area and learned about their marathon that crosses the Canada-US border twice. I just had to return to do such a race.

Driving down, we saw glorious fall colours, something I’m apt to miss living downtown and with my nose to the grind stone these days. I stayed within the speed limit because just a short month ago, I got a speeding ticket (!!) between Kingston and Cornwall. How embarrassing. The border was about 30 minutes although there were 12 lanes open at the Ambassador Bridge. Everybody we saw was being asked to pop open their trunks but a shift change (or break) at our border guard’s booth meant I was relieved from figuring out where the lever was. Compared to last year’s difficulty, the chat with the border guard was easy… I’m coming into the US to run in the marathon!

The first order of business was to get to the expo which is what we stumbled into last year and learned about the marathon. I got Gu for $1 even and Sportbeans could also be for for $1, all regularly up to $3 at my Canadian source. I checked out every booth that sold slogans on a hairband or cap that says “26.2” or “Running, cheaper than therapy” but the merchandise often seemed like something I coould order at a t-shirt shop and not “official” gear. I wanted a Pandora-compatible Detroit marathon charm but it was $35!! Instead, I got some shoe charms from the Beecause booth.


I’m a funny loyal Marriotts Rewards member and reserved a room at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center and it happened to be the race hotel. I loved the buzz in the lobby which was palpable given it’s 70-storey hotel, the race hotel and a really high profile downtown hotel. Our room was on the 51st floor! Doing the whole marathon thing, got the marathon rate ($1 more than the best available rate), and my neighbours were all marathoners. Consequently, the night was quiet.

In the afternoon, we took in the University of Michigan-Michigan State football game at Ashley’s in Ann Arbor, then did some crazy Walmart shopping at their Belleville Supercenter, loading up on food and bath products exclusive to the US. It was late when we were heading back to Detroit and looking for a carb loading pre-marathon dinner. We had not gotten into to room all day so I just wanted to stay in. We ordered spaghetti and meatballs from the hotel bar, Volt, and ate it in the hotel room watching back to back episodes of Law & Order on TNT …  when else do I get to eat pasta in my pajamas and watch TV on my bed?!

There were so many things to prepare for for the next day for the marathon! Full up bottles with Powerade, pin on race bib straight, pin on second race bib received for “joining” a pace team, string bling charms on my runners’ laces, confer with MY about where to meet during my race and about how far she would pace me. Then there was the question about what to do with my passport. The packet pickup volunteer told me that he heard that I should bring it which I thought might be a new development, an incident at the border, related to why everything was being asked to open their trunks at the border; but I received an official marathon email saying all runners have been cleared for border crossing and did not need to carry a passport , but there was an off chance you’d get pulled aside and not having your passport would hinder you. I saw a premium product being sold at the expo–a secret pouch held by magnets or something–that I passed on. My passport-holder solution was to pin a ratty Ziploc bag to behind my race bib, and check every couple minutes that it was still there by feeling for it.

I slept for about five hours and woke up at 5:30 am. 7:00am start is damn early for a mid-autumn race–we’d be starting in pitch darkness–but there are special factors like the need to re-open border crossing points closed for the race. The first elevator doing down to the lobby was taking no more passengers as it was jammed packed with runners; a guy inside waved hello/goodbye to us. On the way to the start line, we passed by a block of charter buses filling up with drowsy runners getting a nice warm ride. They were the relay runners being deposited in Canada at their relay leg starts. An amazing sight, there were three lanes of eight buses parked nose-to-tail taking up the whole street. The start line was just a ten minute walk from the hotel and it lit up the whole area.

We arrived in time to hear the Canadian then the American anthems sung. I planted myself near the 4:30/2:15 pace bunny and waited for the countdown for each pace corral. I was in corral G and started around 7:16am.

The start was nice and very dense with runners as the marathoners and international half-marathoners started together. The first point of interest was getting to Ambassador Bridge, which was about 3 miles in. The on-ramp to the bridge was a giant loop and a popular place to stop and take a picture as you can capture the sweeping curving on-ramp with runners as well as runners ascending the bridge. Although I had my phone, I did not take a picture as I had a time goal!! I wanted to take a gel after my third intervals, but the back half of the third interval was uphill on the bridge and I used the break to recover my breathing instead of taking a gel. I took my caffeine-free Peppermint Stick special edition Gu gel after the fourth interval. Half the bridge was closed for the runners with the other half open to cross-border traffic going in the opposite direction. A friendly truck driver honked his horn to show his support, which elicited a wave of runners to throw their arms up in thanks. Thereafter, some runners would gesture to other truck drivers to honk their horn, but they were mostly ignored. As we came off the bridge, the fresh red-orange sunrise was burning off the morning mist over the horizon and I was grateful to catch a sunrise for once.

It was pretty boring in Windsor, but it was nice to see the people cheering us on in the waterfront neighborhood. I wish I had worn something to show I am Canadian to get more love in Canada.

The next point of interest was the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, the world’s only underwater one mile. There was a sign as we got to sea level marking the beginning of the underwater mile. The first part of the tunnel was great being downhill and all. I can’t help but think of the tunnel scene in the movie Independence Day. It got warmer towards the middle of the tunnel. Halfway through the tunnel, there is a line painted indicating where the USA-Canada border really lies in the middle of the Detroit River. As could be expected, there were waves of cheers as runners crossed this international border and set foot on US “soil”. I only wish the border was also marked off on the Ambassador Bridge when we had officially cross into Canada because I think people would cheer at that, too. I wouldn’t say I had a panic attack, or that I felt truly claustrophobic, but I felt intensely uncomfortable halfway through the tunnel and wanted to get out. I noticed a girl just ahead of me with a black knapsack and admired her ability to run with such a load and wondered if that was a setup by a need to carry her passport. Not too surprisingly when we exited the tunnel, one US border patrol officer made a signal to another and then pulled her off the course indicating that her bag was a problem. “Welcome Back to the USA” read the sign at the end of the tunnel.

Shortly beyond the highly congested section at mile 8 at the exit of the tunnel, MY was like a beacon waiting for me. She had been outdoors for about 1.5 hours and needed to start running to feel her fingers again. She was to “pace” me up until 20km and then zip to the finish line to meet me. There were no points of interest in Detroit for me to have the will to continue. I listened to Nickleback’s “When We Stand Together” on repeat a few times because it was so effective in Montreal to distract me. Then, since I was essentially at Long Slow Distance Pace, I flipped over to listening to an audiobook because that’s what I normally do during my LSD runs. The audio book carried me through the last 15 minutes at a turtle pace. MY tried yelling to motivate me but I dismissed her with a wave of my hand.

The hefty award winning medal has both countries’ flags on the strap and despite it all wore it proudly back to the hotel.

Pre-Race Nutrition – “Oats Congee”, 2 ibuprofen.
First mile – A little over 10 minutes, the 2:15 bunny was way behind me.
5K time – Around 31 minutes
Third Interval – Back half was all uphill on the bridge
Third rest break – Wanted to take a gel but needed to catch my breath
Fourth break – Took caffeine free GU. Should never buy caffeine free GU again as caffeine is effective on me.
10km time – Around 1:03
Mile 7 – The under water mile, I walked the last third after freaking out a little
15K to Mile 10 – 8 minute km walk
Mile 11 Marker – 1:50 in
No painful stitch from too much Powerade but was really sick anyhow after the race


Updated (September 22, 2014)
* Chip time: 2:24:48
* Place: 5,139
* Division place: 489
* Total gender: 5,818
* Total age group: 907
* 5K: 33:08
* 10K: 1:05:08
* 15K: 1:39:36
* 20K: 2:17:38

On this day..