Newaygo North Country Trail Section 8 – M-20 Trailhead to 3 Mile Rd.
By Bret Brummel
Distance: 2.95 miles
A week-long vacation in a foreign country took us out of our running routine. Looking ahead at the next section of the trail, I questioned my ability to complete an 8.5-mile trail run after taking a week off. Combine that with the high temperatures and humidity, I decided to shorten our next leg to 3 miles. That was a good decision.
The shorter distance allowed us to run on one of Anna’s assigned “fast” days during the week. She alerted me that she would be picking up the pace and I felt ready for the challenge. Crossing M-20 from the parking area, we headed through the trees onto the trail. It was a gradual uphill single-track trail and the pace Anna had set was quick. It felt great as we seemed to be flying up the hills. I’ve learned that every uphill section of the trail usually follows with a downhill of similar distance. The entire first half mile seemed uphill, so I was looking forward to the downhill that was sure to follow. Unfortunately, it only lasted a few hundred yards leading us to a bridge over the 2nd Cole Creek and a quick stop for a picture.
The second mile of the trail heads north, and the gradual elevation increase continued. The mature forest with the enclosed canopy made for an interesting view, but that did nothing to help close the gap that seemed to be increasing between Anna and me. I tried sprinting any downhill portion, but there wasn’t enough downhill for me to keep her pace. At the 2.25-mile mark, the trail just wasn’t fair. A steep hill sapped what little energy I still had in my legs. The gap between us quickly became 30 yards and there was no downhill in sight. Fortunately, we met two men on mountain bikes heading the opposite direction that forced Anna to stop so they could pass. I was able to get back within a respectable distance for our sprint to the finish. Unfortunately, I had little sprint left in me and the large gap returned.
I exited the trail onto 3-mile road only to hear Anna say between breaths, “That was all uphill… I wanted to stop so many times… I wasn’t far enough ahead of you to do that… you kept closing the gap... my legs are dead!” I guess my pace wasn’t that bad after all. I was glad it wasn’t only me that thought this section was tough. It was a great choice shortening this leg from the original 8.5 miles. I’d have never made it.