The Dune Climb at the M22 Challenge (Grand Traverse Photography)

They say it’s wise to sign up for your next race soon after your last one. Whether you PR’d or not, whether that last race was amazing or something you’d rather forget, looking ahead will keep you motivated and help maintain your running momentum. I’d also like to add another benefit to putting something on your race calendar pronto: that next race can be very, very humbling. And we all could use a dose of humility every so often, can’t we?

I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page that I’ve been giving road biking a try. Thanks to a friend, I’ve had the use of a fantastic road bike, a Specialized Ruby for the past few weeks. Super lightweight and a smooth ride, this bike is just fun. Wearing my biking gloves and clip-on bike shoes (both remnants from my brief mountain biking days a few years back), I feel like a real biker. Look at me, I’m a runner AND a biker! Though apparently I have much to learn about the skills it takes to be a kickass cyclist.

A few months back, knowing it’d be smart to have something beyond the Bayshore Marathon to look forward to, I signed up for a local race called the M-22 Challenge. It’s just three years old, but this triathlon – a “run, bike, paddle” race – has grown each year, becoming a sold-out event. Knowing it would fill quickly, I made sure to sign up early. My friend Jen, who had participated the first two years, also got in.

I figured coming off the marathon I’d be in pretty great shape. Yeah, I knew I didn’t have much cycling experience, and OK, I’d never kayaked before. But I could do this. And, it’d be fun after all those months of hard marathon training.

Also, we all hear about the many benefits of cross-training. Nothing like signing up for your first tri to get you moving in that direction.

Kayaks ready to roll, the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes in the distance (Grand Traverse Photography)

So this weekend, just 14 days after tackling my first marathon, I became a triathlete! Let me re-phrase just a bit: a triathlete who yes, can run fairly fast for 2.5 miles, including up a 130-foot sand dune, but during the 17-mile race loop absolutely will get passed by other cyclists. A lot of cyclists. The kayaking? Well, I did find a groove in the final stretch of the 2.5-mile course, but I won’t lie: I fumbled with my paddle strokes and worried I’d lose my balance and tumble into the water much of the time. At least I bumped into only one other paddler, and she was nice about it. Finish time: 2:06:02.

Hmmm. So I guess qualifying for Boston doesn’t necessarily ensure athleticism in other sports, eh? Unless you’re the overall, three-peat female winner of this race, who a friend informs me later has done Boston a few times. Alright then.

But I had a blast, and I can laugh at myself, which is a pretty great trait to have, right? It did feel great to try something completely new and different – and it did whet my appetite for more tri’s, even though they scare the heck out of me.

The best part about this race is how stunningly beautiful it is. Seriously, even after living in northern Michigan for most of life, I’m continually in awe at the gorgeousness of this area. And the M-22 Challenge immerses you in the natural terrain, from the climb up the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and overlooking Lake Michigan, to the bike ride around two inland lakes, to the paddling on Little Glen, a clear body of water that is varying shades of emerald green and sky blue depending upon the weather.

Another highlight of this well-organized race: seeing two of my girlfriends kick it in and take second and third place in their age groups. Both Jen and Michele also finished in the top 10 females overall. I’m so proud of them.

Here’s a picture of Jen and her daughter Ella, who came out and braved drizzly cool weather to watch and cheer us on.

And here’s one of me and Jen, post-race:

On an unrelated note, I realized today that I’m just about to celebrate my one-year anniversary of starting this blog. I can’t help smiling thinking about how much I’ve accomplished since then: my first marathon and my first tri. And several other trail and road races in between. Thanks for stopping by and reading, and I hope you’ll keep coming back – I’ve got some fun things planned, with my running and cross-training and with this blog, and I’d love for you to be a part of it.

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