• South Haven,
    United States
  • February
  • 3 miles/5K
  • Road Race
  • Event Website

Craig Simpson

Delaware, Ohio, United States
11 47
"Snow Dunes & a Frozen Great Lake"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management
Craig Simpson's thoughts:

What better place to go during a polar vortex than the Michigan Lake shore! Of course when we scheduled it, the return of the ice age was not on the docket for L's birthday weekend trip to South Haven. On January 30th in Ohio we had a windchill of -28 to go along with the couple of inches of snow on the ground. The following day we spent the entire day above zero, but not by much. Some snow was expected Thursday night, but nothing to significant for our trip on Friday.

Then again, the best laid plans don't always go as expected. Instead of an inch or two, we received about 5 inches. As L packed the car, I shoveled my car out of it's snow cocoon. The roads weren't awful, but not great. Heading north we could get up to 50 mph without too much issue, but having to dodge slower, sliding cars was nerve-racking on the portion of lanes that were actually visible. We did have the benefit of knowing the snow band that hit us had moved on and wasn't as significant to the north.

Once we reached I-90 in Toledo, the roads and sky were clear. Headed west through Indiana the aftermath of that week's snow & ice were scattered along the toll route. The center berm was loaded with a variety of overturned cars and trucks covered with a blanket of snow, jackknifed tractor-trailers and tracks left by vehicles that had slid off of the the last 24 to 48 hours. We were lucky enough to not have to driven through it a few days before.

Just past South Bend, when we turned north into Michigan, our first stop was Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Michigan. L had visited years ago and wanted a return trip. It was quite the spectacle as the sand dunes were covered in a thick blanket of snow and looked more like small mountains. We just happened to throw our saucer sleds in the trunk when we left and made sure to sled down the sand dunes before leaving.

It was also super cool to see Lake Michigan frozen over for what seemed like miles and walk about a half-mile into Lake Michigan before heading further north to our destination. Think of it as an ice desert, waves froze seemingly in place after arctic apocalypse. The hour or so drive north along the shoreline was a maze of ice and snow piles the size of me.

Aside from South Haven being a place L wanted to visit in general, this destination was also selected by her for the fact a 5k would be taking place on the same weekend. The race would be part of the 26th annual Ice Breaker Festival. On this weekend, according to the description, sleepy South Haven will fill up with locals and visitors checking out the amazing ice sculptures, tasting delicious chili, enjoying spectacular food and drink specials featured in the pub slide (a frozen pub crawl), cheering for your team at the cardboard sled race, and having fun ice skating, curling and FLINGING A FROZEN FISH...wait...what? Yup, for $5.00 a pop you can see if you can throw a frozen sucker fish the furthest with the winner taking home a cash prize.

This is not as easy as you think, the frozen solid fish has to be thrown underhanded and without gloves from a standstill position, Not to mention the snow you should dust off of it when it is returned from the previous throw. Several participants tried too hard directing it into the crowd, screams of laughter and horror would follow as onlookers parted like the Red Sea hoping to avoid being pummeled by frozen chum.

We stayed at a historic bed & breakfast called the Carriage House at the Harbor and overlooked the South Haven Harbor, which was also frozen over. The hub of the city was on the other side and left us a fantastic view from the third floor of the inn we were visiting. The proprietor, Suzanne Schloss, was more than happy to give a quick glance of the history of the place at breakfast - quite impressive. The lighthouse at the mouth of the Black River was, itself, covered with a thick casing of windblown ice.

The day we arrived it was still quite cold - in the teens - but the sun kept it bearable. We happened to stumble into Harbor Light Brewing Friday night and discovered they had only been open for eight days. The owners, Tom & Bill (the brewer), stopped to talk to us for quite some time. Bill, a runner himself, and I relayed some running stories. He even flipped me off, jokingly, when he ask about some of my most recent times.

A couple of great guys putting together a great place. Keep an eye out for this place as Bill's beers are outstanding. His IPA and Imperial IPA (which was just tapped that day) are worth the drive and visit to comfy South Haven. Give them a heads up on Facebook when you get the chance. They were expecting over a thousand patrons to visit them on festival Saturday. We did walk by that evening and you couldn't get in the door - congrats Tom & Bill!

Our race route start/finish line Saturday morning would be in the downtown area less than a mile from our bed & breakfast with the finish line visible from our window across the frozen Black River. It was sunny and the roads had a mixture of slush, snow and Ice - but it was hard to complain with the near 30 degree temperature.

At the gun I'm following a couple of area high schoolers and watch as they swerve back and forth trying to find the best footing. This was found most often in the tire tracks of the vehicle we were following. This made me all the more satisfied that I brought my Yaktrax on this trip to avoid the constant sliding and slipping.

The first mile, straight south, was a slow incline and I'm in third place. I feel consistent, the kind of consistent you want for a much longer race (6:17). Before turning right towards Lake Michigan another passes by, I don't feel as if I've slowed down and I'm comfortable with a longer stride as I simply want to maintain. We turn back north and I'm probably 30 to 40 seconds behind the leader as it is all downhill from here.

Dodging patches of ice, another cruises by and I push a little more to utilize the momentum (mile 2- 6:13). I'm not gaining on anyone, but they aren't disappearing either and cruising along the residential neighborhood by myself is comfortable and scenic with the piles of snow on cars, houses and trees. About 2 1/2 miles in we are running directly next to the shoreline in full view of the frozen lake, ice covered lighthouse and hungry seagulls floating about overhead - all glistening in the full sun.

A fast downhill to left into the lighthouse & pier parking lot and another drifts by (mile 3 - 6:01). We turn back right for the straight stretch to the finish and I hear footsteps behind me. I turn just enough to see him and, wanting him to push me, I yell at him, "Come on, let's go! Come on!" I stay just enough ahead of him as we sprint to finish sixth overall at 19:00 flat. I was first in my age group and I'm appreciative that they did their best to make me feel older by labeling my age group as 40 to 99. Really? 99?

A couple of congratulatory high-fives and I turn back to wait for L, who is attempting to avoid aggravating a tender ankle from the ice capades of running on ice covered dirt roads the week earlier. Moments later, L makes her way in and doesn't seem to be bothered by her ankle, finishing at 26:45 and fourth in her age group (one that encompassed a range of five years, not 60). For our age group placements, we each receive a glass mug etched with the Break The Ice 5K logo.

We went back to our lodging and crashed for a time before heading out the rest of the day & evening to enjoy the Ice Breaker Festival fun with the crowds of people braving the ice, snow and cold while it lasted as it reached near 40 degrees. For winning something during the festival (my old person age group), our B&B proprietor - Mrs. Schloss - gave us a $100 gift certificate to come back and stay with them in the near future.

Our return to Central Ohio on Sunday was swift, but tiring. Actually seeing Lake Michigan without ice up to the shoreline was cool. By the time we made it home, it was sunny and 55 degrees. A near 100 degree temperature change from just five days before. I went for a four mile run upon emptying the car in order to avoid missing the fantastic weather. It felt weird to not run with hand warmers, a hat, gloves, Yaktrax, a jacket or ear protection in February. It felt like spring...and I wanted more of it, but we will have to wait.

This was Super Bowl Sunday and many complained it was boring because it lacked offense - which is a bunch of crap. It was nice to see a defensive battle for once. Defense wins championships, keeps you focused and from letting your guard down. Though sometimes that guard needs to be loosened to allow people to get to know you, to know what you are all about. Then, and only then, will you be able to find someone who can speak your native tongue...


Sing to me baby in your native tongue
Sing the words of the wise and the young
Show me the place where your words come from
Love’s the language
Love is your native tongue

Feel your heartbeat bang the drums
Open up your eyes and fill your lungs
The same word from where the stars were flung
Love's the language
Love is your native tongue

My heart
Is a beating drum
My head
In oblivion
My soul
Such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend
Where did we go wrong?
My lord,
We forgot our song
My soul,
Such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

Sing it to me whisper into my ear
Accusers voices start to disappear
In the wind in the tongues of the flame
In my soul, in my one true name

Back before we learned the words to start a fight
Back before they told us that the haters were right
You spoke the truth, “let there be” and there was
Love's the language
Love is your native tongue

So sing it out, get loud
Louder than the voices in the crowd
Even when they try to drown you out
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

Sing it out, get loud
Louder than the darkness and the doubts
Louder than the curses and the shouts
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along

To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows

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