A day at the New Buffalo beach–and pool party, part deux

For this first week of cross country practice my family has continued living in Michigan.  That means a daily commute of about 1 hour and 20 minutes—longer if traffic is bad coming home—each way.

The first Saturdays of the season before cross country meets begin give us some opportunities for special team events.  Next week we will run from Loyola Beach in Rogers Park to the Bahai Temple in Wilmette—our annual Bahai run.  After a summer of scouting out locations, we decided to bring the team to Michigan on Saturday for a new special running event, our first “New Buffalo Run.”   At least a small part of the plan was to save myself an early Saturday morning return to Chicago after my Friday evening commute.

The older boys drove themselves to Michigan.  The younger boys came on a school van with my assistant Steven Bugarin, which left Ignatius around 9:00 AM.  The plan called for a meeting at New Buffalo’s beach and then an out and back run up Marquette Road and Lakeshore Road.  We had considered other routes—including routes that were not on pavement.  But these are relatively untraveled roads—with lots of runners and bikers—and there is a lot of shade.  The weather for us turned out to be great—right around 80 for the day, a little bit cooler in the morning for the run—but if it had been a scorcher, this still would have been a better running option than the sunny Chicago lakefront.

But the run was only part of the plan.   As I floated the idea of organizing this trip over the summer, Molly Durkin, mother of our senior Jack Durkin, stepped forward with an invitation to the team for lunch and a beach and pool party after the run at their nearby Grand Beach home in New Buffalo.

So 23 of our boys gathered in New Buffalo for a full day of running and team building on Saturday.  Six of the boys ran 11 miles for the day, with the others running between 4 and 9.  Most of the boys stretched themselves out to a longer run than what they had run the first few days of practice.  So in terms of running, we accomplished something.

But everything didn’t go smoothly.  We forgot that this was Ship and Shore weekend in New Buffalo, so the main drag Whittaker Street was closed down—complicating the easy driving directions I thought I had given everybody.  We scrambled and made a new meeting spot away from the beach, which we decided would be too hard for the boys to find with the new traffic arrangement.   The improvised location worked out fine.  Then my plan had been to ride my bike to move up and down the line of boys to keep track of them on the run, which would allow me to give them splits and point out the mile marks; my rear bike tire flatted 10 minutes into the run.  Note to self:  Next summer bring chalk and mark the road ahead of time, just in case—and use the mountain bike, which never flats.

Finally, when we returned to the school van after the run, the right front tire was flat.  Coach Bugarin pumped the tire up again temporarily with a small electric compressor, and he was able to get the van to the Durkins.  So we were safe and still more or less on schedule, and we got the boys to their lunch date.  We called the weekend engineer on duty at Ignatius, Dan Hernandez, who quickly arranged for the A-1 tire service from Michigan City to come and fix the tire right at the Durkins.   We had planned on leaving New Buffalo at 2:30 Chicago time, so that the boys would be back at school by 4:00.  The only real problem resulting from the tire debacle was that we ran a little bit behind, leaving the Durkins at 3:15.

I was a bit apprehensive about the day as it unfolded, in part because its planning had some selfish motives.  I saved myself a commute by bringing the team to Michigan.  But as the first boys finished the run, they were smiling.  They quickly grabbed a Gatorade, kicked off their shoes, and headed over to the beach to wait for the boys still running.   I watched them later scrambling around on some small dunes by the parking lot.   “That run was everything I hoped it would be,” said junior Ray Lewis, who ran his easy 8 miles in under an hour, with a return trip that was faster than the out trip.  Other boys said they really appreciated the shade, and it was fun to run in a different place.  The Hardings grocery in Three Oaks had the big 24-ounce bottles of Gatorade on sale for just a dollar that morning, and those big bottles were a big hit, as I hoped.   Some of the boys happily cooled off from the run with a quick dip in Lake Michigan.

Then it was on to the Durkins—and a lunch spread of barbecued chicken or pork sandwiches, blueberry pie and cobbler, fresh fruit, and potato chips.  Also, of course, there was more Gatorade.

The boys didn’t waste lots of time eating—although they ate plenty–before they were down to the beach at Grand Beach.  They had brought frisbees.  The Durkins had set up a beach volleyball court—smart parenting by Jack’s father, Sean.  That kept most of the boys busy.

But after a lot of volleyball, we noticed at some point that a few boys were missing.  “The sophomores are gone,” said one of the seniors with a shake of his head.  And the errant sophomores had enrolled a couple freshmen in their crew.

A look through the telephoto lens of my camera found them at the far end of the beach, where they had climbed a large breakwater wall.   “Should they be up there?” I asked Sean Durkin.

“Well, no,” he said thoughtfully–and calmly.  “As long as they don’t jump into the water from up there—“

It was five-minutes of muttering and head-shaking to walk down there and get them off the wall.  I just waved them down when I got close enough to get their attention.   They got down quickly, so they must have known they were doing something they weren’t supposed to do.

A woman on the beach with her family seemed to be watching our boys–and the events as they were unfolding—with some interest.   Turns out, she was an Ignatius graduate.

She smiled when she said to me, “Boys will be boys.”


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Filed under coaching, cross country running, parenting, running, teaching

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