From the get-go, we know it’s going to be an extra sweaty run. “Might as well strip down now,” I say to Juliette as we stretch next to a tree that provides the parking lot’s lone sliver of shade. “Yep, it’s a hot one,” she answers.

It’s just past 10 a.m. when we start out on the familiar loop on the west side of Traverse City that winds through downtown neighborhoods and the old state hospital grounds. Clear skies, sparkling sun, temps already in the high 70s. It’s on runs like these that comfort absolutely trumps any insecurity I may be feeling and I’m down to the sports bra.

I’m thanking myself soon enough as not even a mile in, we’re dripping like ice cream cones. I’m reminded how warm I get running, even in much cooler weather, so this is no surprise. I can’t help wonder how my runner friends in warmer climates manage.

Still, this is what you get when you run mid-morning or later come summer in northern Michigan, and there’s a part of me that digs the intensity. Passing through a neighborhood alley that’s bustling with garage sales, people glance over at us with what I’m sure is pure envy. Look at those runners, those fit athletes, out running on this beautiful morning. Here I am at a garage sale…wish I was doing what they’re doing… Well, that’s what I’d be  thinking anyway if I were them.

It’s similar to running outdoors in the winter, icy winds slapping your face — these kinds of extreme conditions somehow make me feel especially alive on runs. Juliette, I have a feeling, however, wouldn’t necessarily agree. Hitting an incline a couple miles into our run, I ask if she wants to veer off the gravel road we’re on and follow a few trails to catch some shade. She gives me her you’re-nuts look that I love — more hills? And we should do  that why? — and suggests a flatter route through side streets. Alright. But I’ll give her this: she does come up with the best possible way of finishing our run, which is to head straight for West Grand Traverse Bay and dive right in.

Talk about feeling alive. We’re practically melting into the concrete when the bright blue of Lake Michigan comes into view. I’m laughing as Juliette informs every passerby just how stifling this run has become. “It’s hot!” she shouts in the direction of an older gentleman walking toward a doctor’s office and a woman (not dripping with sweat) out for a leisurely stroll under a canopy of trees. They don’t say anything back. Surely, they believe we’re crazy. Which only makes me smile more.

We need to cross a busy road to get to the beach, and it feels a little like Frogger making our way over, but once we do we hurriedly take off socks and shoes…and run into the cold water clothes and all. It’s my first post-run dip into the Bay, surprisingly enough. Why I haven’t done it before, I’m not sure. The water is freezing, instantly numbing my toes, but it’s so refreshing, so opposite of the heaps of sweat we’d been moments before, that it’s invigorating. We can’t help whooping and hollering just because it feels so good and because we can. Walking barefoot back to our cars a bit later, the mugginess envelopes us, drying our sopping clothes.

My kind of ice bath ~ Grand Traverse Bay June 2010

Just how crazy am I? Anyone else love a run (at least every now and again) that pits your body and mind against the elements? And if so, do you have any post-run rituals like bolting into Lake Michigan that make it all the sweeter?

* Thanks to photographer Pete Morawski for the great thermometer pic.