Writing Prompt: Roller Coasters

The buzz of a roller coaster and high-pitched excited voices approach me. In another second, the cars roar on the track above as they whiz by. I see hair flapping and feet kicking. An explosion of gleeful screams from the passengers quickly dies out as the ride continues down the track. I can’t help but laugh out loud, amazed and amused, feeling the fear and fun of the riders though I stand on the ground and they fly through the air.


I hated my first roller coaster ride. My father took me on the [Bluestreak](https://www.cedarpoint.com/rides/Roller-Coasters/Blue-Streak) when I was in elementary school. It was the oldest coaster at the park. And when the car came over the hill and the ride accelerated, I closed my eyes and held my breath and imagined I was somewhere else, anywhere else. And then someone, I don’t know who, maybe my mother (but that wouldn’t make sense because she never stepped foot on a roller coaster all of her life), told me to try opening my eyes and screaming. So the next time I was yanked onto a ride (I wouldn’t have gone willingly), that’s exactly what I did, and I was cured. Cured or cursed? Cursed with desire for speeding down twisted metal.

In the summer, the lines last for hours. Before smartphones, we made up words games to pass the time. When [Top Thrill Dragster](https://www.cedarpoint.com/rides/Roller-Coasters/Top-Thrill-Dragster) arrived, the wait time was three hours for a ride time of seventeen seconds. It was new and didn’t always perform perfectly. The car may make it over the one drastic 420-foot hill, but it may not; if not, the car comes [rolling backwards](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKzl7F1HXYA) to where it started, speeding down the hill it just climbed. We stand in the herd, waiting our turn, watching every car that goes up that steep incline, watch it slow down drastically toward the top, nearly crawling to reach the top. The whole crowd inhales together and holds that breath in their mouth until the car inches far enough for gravity to take it the rest of the way over the hump, plunging down down down, faster than a bullet. And we all cheer triumphantly.


When it is finally my turn, I lower myself into the car. My heart races and my palms sweat. I wipe my hands on my jean shorts and try to ration my breath. Most coasters, you can’t see what’s coming until you’re there. But I’ve had three hours to stare up at this monster and contemplate the speed, the height, the angle. Getting in that car, waiting for the thumbs up from the workers, pulling away from the loading platform never gets easier for me. But it’s too late. I’m in the seat. The car is on the track. The stoplight moves from yellow to green, and in an instant, I am hurled forward and shot into the air, screaming all the way.

Coming to [Cedar Point](https://www.cedarpoint.com/) is like coming home, and yet every time I visit, it feels like the first time. It still awes me with its colors, its sounds, its energy. It dares me to strap in, take a risk, get spun upside down and every other direction. I am a kid again here, a fearless kid who can take on anything. And even though I know I shouldn’t take on everything, especially if I want to keep all my food in my stomach, I feel that power of possibility, that power that says I will conquer.


*What’s your favorite coaster? What’s your favorite amusement park? Set your timer and write about it. Share your story in the comments below.*

Time Well Spent

So I did it. I posted 30 different things, 30 different adventures, 30 different days about Grand Rapids. It wasn’t easy, I’ll be honest. I had trouble coming up with ideas. I struggled to spit out words every day. I felt guilty spending money and gas on things around town. But I kept pushing through until the last day.

And was it worth my time to do it, in the end?

I suppose it depends. What was my goal, after all? Did I even have one?

I started this project the minute I entered the strange new realm of unemployment. I think I wanted to use this project to keep me occupied and keep my mind off the fact that I no longer had a job. I wanted a daily reminder to be positive and grateful, and focusing on the city I love so much was the perfect way to do it.


It’s really not easy being an American adult without a job. We place so much emphasis on our careers. I was in this situation two years ago when I graduated my Master’s program. And I didn’t handle it well. Without a job, I forget who I am. I feel like I have no purpose, like I am a burden on my hard-working husband and the home we’ve built together.

I wish I could say that this time has been different, but I’ve spent the majority of the last month feeling really anxious and overwhelmed as well as insufficient, undesirable, and unqualified at pretty much everything in my life.

There were many days I didn’t feel like I should be writing. I often talked myself out of it, convinced that it wasn’t worth my time. The only way I could persuade myself to keep at it was the promise I made to my readers. But I wondered, should I really be writing when there are jobs to apply for? Should I really be doing something FOR FUN when I should be doing something more productive? Is this time well spent?


This concept of “time well spent” is something I’ve been struggling with all month. Quitting my job left me with a lot of time on my hands. I made a list of all the things I should accomplish during my “sabbatical.” Of course the first was finding a new job. But there were other things: projects around the house, getting some writing published, finding some freelance opportunities. There was so much work to do. I should use this time wisely.

By focusing only on being productive, I forfeited other things I enjoyed as well, like going for walks or attending yoga classes or laying by the pool. Why should I get to have fun while my husband works his butt off? So I wouldn’t make time for these feel-good activities. The lack of feel-good activities left me feeling not very good indeed.

I finally realized that there had to some kind of balance. Yes, I should make time for looking for a new job and making some money with my writing. But I should also make time for things that make me feel good, that are fun for me, that make me smile. Because it’s true—all work and no play makes Jenny a very sad girl.

So yes, this project was time well spent. I actively and regularly wrote in August, which is more than I can say for July or June or any month before that. I had some good pieces of writing and I have some ideas I can build off of in the future. And it was fun to brag about, openly appreciate, and share my city with all of you.

No matter how long I’m in this limbo of unemployment, I will keep blogging about things that make me happy. I will go for walks and do yoga and lay by the pool as long as summer lets me. By doing that, I can stay positive, and if I can stay positive, I can make it through this transition period and whatever comes after. As long as I keep making time for myself, I can look back on this period of my life and know that this was time well spent.

Day 30: Hot Dogs

When it’s summer and you don’t want to cook, or when it’s late and you’ve had a few drinks, or when you just get that craving for a hot dog, Grand Rapids has plenty of options to satisfy your needs.

People almost always first think of Detroit when talking about Coney dogs in Michigan. But Grand Rapids has really thrown their hat into the ring of hot dog restaurants. It’s surprising how many places you can get a hot dog in the city and suburbs. But then again, who doesn’t love a good hot dog?

If you ask someone from Grand Rapids where to get a coney dog, there’s a 95% chance they will point you in the direction of Yesterdog in Eastown.

Yesterdog has been in the community for 40 years now. It is the restaurant they based Dog Years on in *American Pie,* and they shot portions of the film there. Heck, Obama has been Yesterdog. It’s a Grand Rapids institution and it’s known worldwide.

Blah, blah, blah.

I’ve tried really hard to keep this project positive. If I don’t like something, I keep it to myself. I want to promote Grand Rapids, not cut it down.

But I don’t like Yesterdog. There, I said it. As a native Grand Rapidian, I might get death threats for saying that. But I don’t like it.

It’s gross. It hasn’t been touched since it opened in 1976. Its walls are a stomach-acid salmon pink that makes you think about vomit. The wood floors and the booths are all scratched up.


Ordering at Yesterdog is like ordering at the Soup Nazi’s counter. There is a set of [rules](http://yesterdog.com/yester_rules.html) you have to follow. There are no special orders, no customizations allowed. I was so nervous the first time I ate there, I practiced my order over and over in my head while I waited in line so I wouldn’t get yelled at. It’s oppressive.


A lot of people would say that these qualities give it character. And again I say to you: blah, blah, blah.

Lucky for me, that’s not the only joint in town.

A year ago, I would have said Ritz Koney was the best place to get a hot dog. Its perfect location on Ionia Street was tucked along a lot of the city’s most popular bars, making it a convenient stop for a late-night snack. But it also had its own bar, so if you wanted a beer with your dog, all the better.


I’m a little biased toward Ritz Koney because I used to live a couple blocks from it, so it was definitely the hot dog restaurant I frequented most. Unlike Yesterdog, it was clean, comfortable, and had a wide selection of hot dog toppings.

Unfortunately for the Heartside community, Ritz Koney closed its doors this year.

No matter–there are still other options. In which case, I would say the best place to go for a weiner is the [Dog Pit](http://www.thedogpitgr.com/) on Monroe Center. Situated right across from Rosa Parks Circle in the heart of the city, it’s a convenient location for pretty much all events and festivals. It’s cheap. The dogs are 2 bucks and drinks and chips are 1 buck.


It’s small. It just a long counter and then booths and tables against the wall. And while they may take their time with the service, there’s none of the stressful pressure that you get at that other place. The dogs are good, the toppings are plentiful, and the atmosphere is relaxed. Really, what more could you ask for?


There are still plenty of places for me to try, even in the downtown area. One day soon I’ll have to give [Grand Coney](http://www.grandconeygr.com/), [One Stop Coney](http://www.onestopconeyshop.com/), and [Jonny B’z](http://www.jonnybz.com/) a try. But [like I said before](http://jenniferfurner.com/30-days-in-grand-rapids/), I’ve got plenty of time. I’m not going anywhere.

Day 29: Polish Festival

A few years go, my husband and I were invited to my brother’s girlfriend’s mother’s birthday party in Clarkston on the east side of the state. We all affectionately call her Mama (even my own mother calls her this); where my family is concerned, it’s easier to call her Mama than by her actual name, which is Polish and can be tricky for some people to pronouce.

The birthday party was done in extreme Polish fashion, which is something stupid a boring American ethnic-mutt like me would say. To Mama and her group of friends, the way they celebrate is the normal way to celebrate. But to me, a boring American ethnic-mutt, it was quite a culture shock. All of Mama’s guests spoke Polish. Most of them spoke Polish to each other. There was a lot of vodka. There was a lot of food. And there was a guitarist and dancing, and everyone sang songs in Polish. It was a great party, but I was definitely on the outside, watching more than participating.

As the years went on, I grew much more familiar with Polish culture. By the time my brother and his girlfriend got married, I could sing a majority of the words to “Sto Lat,” I knew what was in the Polish food I ate (spoiler alert: it’s all delicious), and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when someone grabbed my hand and brought me into a dancing circle.

I am so lucky that I get to experience the Polish culture on a regular basis. It’s nice to now be on the inside of this warm, fun, and friendly group of people.

So when it was time for the annual Polish Festival downtown, how could we miss it?

The weather this weekend was pretty gloomy. It was cloudy and drizzly a majority of the time. But lucky for us, the rain cleared out in the afternoon, so we went downtown for lunch.

We got a smorgasboard of delicious Polish treats, courtesy of [Polish Girl Catering](http://thatpolishgirl.com/). The kielbasa topped with kapusta (warm sauerkraut) was the perfect comfort food on a dreary afternoon. The pierogi and the golumpki (cabbage roll) were satisfyingly filling. We washed it all down with Warka beer as we tapped our feet to the music of a nearby Polish band.


The singer called out to the audience to see if anyone there was named Barbara, and there was a lady who raised her hand. So the band began to play “Barbara Polka,” and she got up with who I assume was her husband and danced along to “her” song while we all clapped to the beat.


With one last “Na zdrowie,” we finished our beer and walked away from the festival. The harmonic wheeze of the accordian followed us all the way to our car.

Day 28: College Campuses

I loved college. I loved college so much, I went back and got my Master’s. And now I TEACH college. So every late August, when it’s time to get back to school, I get to don my backpack and my thinking cap with the rest of them. It’s a ritual I’m happy to keep in my adult life.

There are two college campuses in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. One is the Devos (satellite) campus of Grand Valley State University (my alma mater) and one is the campus of Grand Rapids Community College (where I now teach). I’m an alum of one and a professor of the other.

Because of that, I get to enjoy the amenities of both. And I split up my day between them.

In the morning, I went to GVSU to enjoy the quiet and the solitude of the Steelcase Library. It was the week before classes started, and the campus was bustling with new students, but since they didn’t have anything to study yet, the library was empty. Tall ceilings, antique chandeliers, and a large stained glass window makes the room feel more like a church, and encourages silence, reflection, and reverence.


I always get nostalgic when I’m on this campus, because this is where I spent a lot of time with my husband. In our senior year, we would eat our breakfast of bagels and starbucks coffee in the Student Services building before heading in opposite directions to our classes. It’s a place where I’m comfortable, I’m familiar…I’m home.


Built in 2000, the downtown campus of GVSU is still young and fresh and beautiful, which also makes it stick out among the river’s skyline. It’s shiny and new and impressive. It keeps aquiring land and building new facilities from scratch, sprawling out along the riverbank. With its neon blue sign, it’s nearly impossible to ignore.


GRCC’s campus is much more integrated into its surroundings. If it weren’t for all the young kids with backpacks, it would be easy to miss.

GRCC’s campus had a more gradual growth, acquiring existing buildings one at a time. The buildings are all old and quirky. Many of them are built out of poured concrete, creating a hardscape of gray against the blue sky.


It is literally built into the city landscape; the college sits on the slope of large hill in the center of the city. Buildings have been cut into the hill to sit level, and slanted sidewalks leave students breathless as they struggle up the incline with heavy textbooks.


The campus is cramped; there’s nowhere to expand. So even though the facades of the facilities stay the same, the interiors are always changing, always updating, always evolving. As I would imagine the students are doing–while they may look as they did when they graduated high school, every year at GRCC changes their insides, updates their way of thinking, and helps them evolve into responsible and intelligent adults.

I haven’t been at GRCC long, but I’ve already learned to appreciate what it contributes to the city of Grand Rapids.

To ask me which college or which campus is my favorite would be like asking me to choose my favorite child. GVSU is like a newborn baby. It’s beautiful and perfect, but it’s just starting out. GRCC is like a teenager. It may have some years on it. It may not be so cute anymore. But it’s constantly figuring out what it is and adjusting to the world around it.

Lucky for me, I don’t have to choose.

*Photos of GVSU courtesy of their [website](gvsu.edu). For more information about GRCC, visit their [website](grcc.edu).*

Day 27: Historic Churches

I was raised Catholic. I was baptized, confirmed, and received my first Holy Communion in the Catholic church. I found myself a good Catholic man to marry in the Catholic church. But for a while now, church-going hasn’t been on my to-do list.

The church I grew up in was built in 1869. I’m used to the tall stained glass windows, the elaborate tabernacle, the ornate statues. My mother now attends a Catholic church that was built in 1958. It has one stained glass window. It has white walls and green carpet. It’s plain. It’s bland.

Granted, God probably doesn’t care what His church looks like as long as people in it are worshipping him. And that’s fine. But for me, it’s not a church unless it’s gilded, glamorous, and–most importantly–old.

Lucky for me, Grand Rapids has plenty of churches like that. So if ever I decide that I want to start spending my Sunday mornings in a pew instead of my comfy bed, I’m going to have plenty of options to choose from.


The Cathedral of St. Andrew, shown above, would be the obvious first choice, since it’s Catholic. It was built in 1876, and it has all the grandeur of years gone by. It’s tall and long and it has beautiful columns that support its domed ceiling. Stained glass windows line the aisle ways and the tabernacle is housed in what looks like a palace. It’s like my childhood parish on drugs. Which seems like a completely inappropriate thing to say about a church.

The Catholic faith and I haven’t really gotten on in recent years, though. I am pro-choice and I believe contraception can fix so many of America’s problems, and the Catholics don’t really agree with me. So if I were to make a second choice of where I might return to God, it would have to be the Fountain Street Church.


This church was built in the Italian Romanesque style in 1924 after a fire burned the previous 1869-built structure. It has all the charm of the past with all the tolerance of the present. Previously a Baptist church, as early as 1960, the church realized it didn’t want to be any sort of denomination. Now it brands itself as a liberal church and hosts the nearby community college’s diversity lecture series. They encourage their congregation to “engage in creative and responsible action in the world,” which is an idea I can definitely stand behind.

Neither of these two churches, however, are as old as St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, which was built in 1848 and is the oldest public building still standing, according to their website. Though it’s not as grand as St. Andrews or Fountain Street Church, its location is prime. Pearl Street dead-ends right into the church, making it hard to miss as you’re roaming around the city.


St. Mark’s might be the most prime location for parishioners, but Immanuel Lutheran Church has the most prime location for a view. Built in 1890, this church sits on top of the Medical Mile hill, making it easy to find no matter where you are in the city. It adds such a historical elegance to the modern, glassy hospitals that surround it.


That’s not really even scratching the surface of historic churches in the Grand Rapids area. I’m not even sure if we have any churches built after 1900. I suppose it’s a comfort for the worshippers of Grand Rapids to know that they are following the footsteps of the many faithful who came before them.

Day 26: Hudsonville Fair

When I started this project, I thought the best way to handle it was to stay within city limits. There are lots of suburbs of Grand Rapids, and to extend the scope of the project to Kentwood, Wyoming, Grandville, Plainfield, etc., seemed too overwhelming both for me and any potential readers.

But part of what I love and what’s great about Grand Rapids is its proximity to other resources. For example, the city is 40 minutes away from Lake Michigan. There are handfuls of beautiful beaches in suburbs like Muskegon, Grand Haven, and Holland. I just hop in a car and within an hour, I’m stretching out on the hot sand and admiring the blue waves.

As I said in my [Farmers Market](http://jenniferfurner.com/day-2-fulton-street-farmers-market/) entry, Grand Rapids is surrounded by rural and farming areas. And as a born-and-bred country girl, I find that comforting. Whenever I pine for hay rides and pumpkin patches and apple picking, I don’t have to go very far out of my way.

But one of the things I miss the most about country living is the summertime fair. I miss the bright lights of the midway, the clouds of smoke and the roar of engines of the demolition derby and the tractor pull, I miss the sweet taste of sugar-cinnamon fried dough, and I even miss the stink of the animal barns.

Lucky for me, I don’t have to drive the two and a half hours home to the field from whence I came. While there are plenty of fairs within an hour’s drive from the city, I always choose the Hudsonville Fair. It’s nearby–it’s less than a half-hour away–and it feels like the fair of my childhood.

So when my husband texted me Wednesday afternoon and asked if I wanted to go to the fair, even though it was gloomy and a chilly 60 degrees, I agreed.

It was the night of the tractor pull championships, so we got ourselves some tickets and some junk food, found an open space of bleachers, and donned our ear protection.


I will always prefer the demolition derby over the tractor pull. I like to see crappy cars slamming into each other and getting destroyed. My husband, however, prefers to see marvelous machines demonstrating their strength and endurance. Whatever it is that makes either of us want to spend our evening deafening our ears with the roar of engines and polluting our lungs with the smoke of oil and gas has to come from our hillbilly upbringings.


But I’ve got no shame about it. It’s fun. It’s nostalgic. It’s part of the American culture. And I like it.

When the competition was done, we walked through the animal barns, patting goats on the head and petting bunny paws. Then we wandered through the 4-H exhibits, admiring the creativity of children. We split an elephant ear that was pure sugar and grease, wiping our messy fingers on our jeans. And then we said good-bye to the fair, good-bye for now, good-bye until next year.


Day 25: Architecture

Grand Rapids is a relatively old town, and we’ve kept a lot of the original buildings in the city from the late 1800s and early 1900s, which I’ve always appreciated. We’re a city that values our heritage. Whenever I get the chance to take my time strolling around downtown, I’m always amazed by the beautiful architecture of yesteryear.


When I first moved here, there were free blues concerts held downtown every Wednesday night. These concerts were called Blues on the Mall. I was always confused by the term of “mall.” I assumed it was like the mall in Washington, D.C.–not a shopping mall in the way that I’m used to thinking of it but more as a public area with a lot of pedestrian traffic. Turns out that Monroe Avenue used to be the Monroe Mall, a pedestrian-only street full of department stores (so I guess it matched both definitions in that way). It has always been a shopping center for the city, the focal area of downtown Grand Rapids where residents would come buy their wares. And although it seems like it’s all one connected building, each store (or nowadays, restaurant) has its own unique facade.


Apparently, the building which houses Flannagan’s, a rather crappy bar usually reserved for frat boys from the local college, is also one of the oldest buildings in Grand Rapids and the only building to showcase the Victorian Gothic style of the late 1800s. Originally a rooming house, it has recently been restored and converted from office space back into living space.


I had the honor of working in McKay Tower when I was fresh out of college. Its inner walls are lined with marble and the old-fashioned mail chute greets you as you wait for the elevator. Originally a 3-story bank when it was built in 1911, it is now an 11-story office building that is recognizable in Grand Rapids’ skyline. Its big columns on the original bank structure reminds of Gringott’s in Harry Potter’s magical world.


It’s not easy finding information on the history of these buildings, which really only makes me want to dig deeper and learn more about these historic treasures that I passby on a regular basis.

Day 24: Kayaking the Grand

*This blog entry was written by fellow blogger [Karie Luidens](http://www.karieluidens.com/), a Grand Rapidian-turned-Seattleite. Hope you enjoy it!*

Growing up in New York, I never gave much thought to what goes on in West Michigan, but once I ended up living in Grand Rapids I realized how much there was to love. [Farmers markets!](http://jenniferfurner.com/day-2-fulton-street-farmers-market/) Art events! [Breweries](http://jenniferfurner.com/day-4-beer-city-usa/) and [bike paths!](http://jenniferfurner.com/day-17-biking/) I’d been living in the city for four years when my brother came to visit, and by then I was eager to show off my new hometown with a whirlwind tour of my favorite spots.

When I asked him what he’d like to see first, though, he asked if we could do something on the water. I hesitated—not much experience there. Happily, a quick search of our local options brought me to Grand River Kayak and Canoe. We clicked through their website together, picked a tour to book, and were able to hit the river just a few hours later!

[Grand River Kayak and Canoe](http://grandriverkayakandcanoe.com/) is run by Matt Clouse and has an inventory of eight kayaks and four canoes to rent. They offer several different itineraries, but regardless of which one you choose, you’ll find Matt at the designated launch point to get you started. He’ll set you afloat in the current, then drive his eight-passenger van down to the pick-up point, where he’ll scoop you out and give you a lift back to your car.


The process couldn’t have gone more smoothly for my brother and me. Matt met us in Ah-Nab-Awen Park at the time we booked and provided all the equipment we needed, from life vests to waterproof storage for smaller items to, of course, the kayaks and paddles. After a quick fitting and tutorial, he helped us step into our watercraft and push off from the grassy banks. That was that! Away we drifted.

There’s nothing quite like an afternoon of kayaking. For those who haven’t given it a whirl, imagine the best elements of a good bike ride: fresh air whips through your hair as you roll along at a speed your legs alone can’t attain. You perch comfortably on an apparatus that lets you steer and set your own pace. In other words, it’s a perfect way to soak in some sights while getting a little light exercise.


On the Grand River that exercise is particularly light: it flows smoothly and steadily, with just enough force to pull you along even if you take a break from paddling. Larger bodies of water are often rife with choppy waves, criss-crossing currents, and buffeting winds that force kayakers to work double-time with their upper bodies. Not so here—despite the city’s name, there aren’t actually any rapids in Grand Rapids. This may change going forward if the non-profit [Grand Rapids Whitewater](http://grandrapidswhitewater.org/) succeeds in restoring some whitewater to the Grand by modifying the dams upriver of the city. For now, though, the water that flows past the Grand Rapids Public Museum and under the famous blue bridge is clear, tame, and easily navigated by novices.


My brother and I appreciated that this easy flow freed us up to admire our surroundings. The first portion of our expedition took us through a wide canyon of glassy skyscrapers. The hotels and offices of the Grand Rapids downtown form a lovely skyline when viewed on land, but seen from the water they took on an extra level of drama, both towering overhead and reaching down to meet us through their rippling reflections. The scene was urban through and through.

Before too long, though, buildings gave way to trees. The traffic faded as the river carried us beyond city limits into the greenery of Hopewell Indian Mounds Park. Here, deciduous woodlands lined the river’s edge on either side; the only sounds were shifting leaves, bird calls, and the slap and splash of our own paddles. It was remarkable how quickly we seemed to leave civilization behind as the Grand River’s gentle curves obscured the view behind and ahead of us. We didn’t think to pack a picnic, but if you brought along some sandwiches, now would be the perfect time to sit back in your boat and enjoy a snack. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, of course, you can continue to put your back into it and propel yourself along more swiftly. This is your trip—you can set the pace.


After about an hour and a half of pleasant paddling, we rounded the last bend and saw the dock that Matt had described for us before we launched. There he was, right on schedule, awaiting our arrival. He waved us over and helped us step onto dry land and drag our boats up behind us. Before we knew it he was whisking us back up into the downtown area to drop us by my car. They really have it down to a science, saving you any extra hassle and freeing you up to enjoy the rest of your afternoon in the downtown area.

As for us, we’d worked up just enough of an appetite to go enjoy a burger at [HopCat](http://jenniferfurner.com/day-15-hopcat/) a few blocks away, rounding out an excellent day of enjoying what the city has to offer.

*If you’re interested in having your own adventure with Grand River Kayak and Canoe, visit their [website.](http://grandriverkayakandcanoe.com/)*

*To read more of Karie’s work, check her out at [www.karieluidens.com](www.karieluidens.com).*

Day 23: Michigan Titanium

Since my husband decided he wanted to be a triathlete, he’s jumped into organized races with both feet. Last summer, his first summer competing, he completed the sprint distance of the [Grand Rapids Triathlon](http://www.grandrapidstri.com/) in Ada, the [Millennium Triathlon](http://www.millenniumtriathlon.com/) in Grandville, and the [Detroit Triathlon](http://www.detroittri.com/index) in (you guessed it) Detroit. For him, it seems to have become a sort of addiction, a challenge that he wants to keep rising to meet.

After last summer, he did a half marathon last fall and a 25K this spring, and the Olympic distance of the Grand Rapids Tri. On Sunday, he attempted his first half-iron distance in the [Michigan Titanium](mititanium.com).


The weather really hasn’t been on his side in 2015. For the 25K and the Olympic Tri, he got rained on throughout. And Sunday was no exception. Four miles into the run portion of his half-iron distance, the sky opened up and lightning jolted all around the race site. All athletes were forced to stop and vacate the course immediately for their safety.

To say my husband was disappointed is an understatement. He had been training for this event all summer long. He was so close to accomplishing this new milestone in his athletic career.

But I have to admit, it’s almost laughable how uncooperative the weather has been this year in terms of athletic events. And I think in order to be an athlete in Michigan, you have to have a sense of humor. In order to be an athlete period, you have to have a sense of humor. Because when you get off your bike after a 56-mile ride, only to know that now you have to run 13.1 miles, you have to be able to keep your spirits up.

The people at the [Grand Rapids Marathon](http://grandrapidsmarathon.com/) embrace the importance of having a sense of humor. Just check out their [FAQ page](http://grandrapidsmarathon.com/information/faq/), where they keep reminding interested runners that, yes, the course is LONG (26.2 miles long to be exact) and, no, there is no whining allowed during the race. That race is next up for my husband, as he attempts to conquer his first marathon.


Photo courtesy of [MLive](mlive.com).

Spouses of athletes need to have a sense of humor, too. I’m preparing for the day when my husband approaches me and says he’s ready for the full-iron distance. I expect I’ll chuckle, as I did when he said he was going to attempt the half-iron distance. I find it amusing that anyone would want to work their body in that way for that long.

But at least I can appreciate that, if my husband insists on torturing his body in this way (there’s my sense of humor showing), there are plenty of opportunities for him to do so right outside our door. He’s accomplished so much in his racing career already, and we haven’t really left the Grand Rapids metropolitan area to do it. There are plenty of options for athletes here to push themselves in a variety of ways. So if this is the hobby my husband has chosen for good, I know that Grand Rapids can keep his thirst for racing satisfied.