How to prepare for Lake Michigan RTS

By Autumn Lytle, Gazelle Sports Website & Technology Assistant

Have you ever noticed how runners are gluttons for punishment? The harder we run, the more our legs burn and the tougher the journey, the more satisfied we are at the end. We love a good challenge, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to be prepared.

It definitely wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for the race people call “the toughest race you’ll ever love.” The Lake Michigan RTS (Road, Trail, and Sand) 10K is not for the weak or the unprepared. This isn’t your typical 10K with smooth, flat roads as far as the eye can see. Despite making you question whether you can finish, it will leave you feeling like you just conquered the world. It’s far from easy, but what’s the fun in racing if it’s not going to kick your butt

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the Lake Michigan RTS 10k.

The road is easy, the trail is tricky, the sand is merciless
The race starts you off on a smooth, beautiful road and you may start to wonder what everyone was talking about, this race is so easy! Not. So. Fast. Use this time to get in the position you want to be in later on in the race, because once you reach the trail, the path narrows and you’ll have to take care in passing. The technical trail will keep you on your toes with roots, hills, twists and turns. Enjoy the cool of the shade and peaceful woods while you settle into your pace. Once the dirt starts to turn to sand, you’ll know you are close to the lakeshore. When you get to the lakeshore, try to run in the wet sand since it is much easier to run on than the soft beach on your approach.

The first dune is tough, the second one is TOUGH
It is important for you to know and accept that at some point, EVERYONE walks going up the dunes. The first dune will leave you winded, but you’ll probably be good to go after a few labored breaths. The second one is another monster entirely (especially if you didn’t know there were two dunes when you started this race…). There will be points when you might feel like crawling and all you can focus on is getting oxygen into your lungs and you may feel like you won’t make it- but when you do, it’s worth it. There will be people cheering you on along the way, and an aid station waiting at the top with  truly stunning views that you can’t get anywhere else. This works out very well, since you can pretend to admire the views while trying desperately to catch your breath.

Don’t worry about your time
Just don’t. It’s too stressful. And you’re not going to PR. Once you reach the dunes all bets are off, so take the opportunity to soak in the experience! Don’t spend too much time basking in the sun and sand though, because there is a 3-hour time limit.

Choose your shoes and socks wisely (you will get sandy)
The most important decision you will make regarding the Lake Michigan RTS is what you will be wearing on your feet. You still have a couple of miles to go after running along the lakeshore, and if you’re wearing the right kicks will help keep you blister-free. You will want to wear light and flexible trail shoes, such as:

The best sock advice? Don’t wear cotton! Cotton + Sand + Dirt + Wet = Unhappy, blistery feet. Get yourselves some lightweight running socks and your feet will thank you.

Dress to impress (and to avoid overheating)
When choosing your RTS race outfit, there is one word you need to remember: Breathability. Although Michigan weather is unpredictable, chances are it’s going to be hot out there. You’ll want to wear something light and comfortable. Here are some suggestions:


  • Capilene® Lightweight Tank Top by Patagonia ($29): For hot weather and fast-paced pursuits, our Capilene® Lightweight is our lightest-weight, fastest-drying and best-wicking baselayer. The fabric’s subtle grid pattern sits lightly and comfortably on the skin; the smooth outer face glides easily in any layering system. Highly breathable for high-exertion and warm conditions, the fabric is 100% recycled polyester is treated with Polygiene® permanent odor control.
  • Breathe Running Tank Cool by Nike ($35): keeps you dry, cool and comfortable with super lightweight fabric. A T-back design and drop-tail hem help you hit your stride with flattering coverage.
  • Aeroswift Shorts by Nike ($80): Delivers lightweight, breathable comfort in a quick-drying design. Its Flyvent waistband has large perforations to help keep you cool when things start to heat up.


  • Breathe Running Tank by Nike ($45): Delivers sweat-wicking management with Nike Breathe fabric and mesh panels for additional ventilation to help keep you cool and comfortable throughout your workout.
  • Endorphin Split Short by Saucony ($46): Your go-to short on race day is lightweight and breathable in an allover stretch fabric that wicks away the sweat. Includes waterproof back zippered storage pocket to safely store your essentials

Be ready for an epic cool down
After possibly the hardest yet most rewarding six miles of your life, the approaching finish line comes with a fantastic surprise: a fire hydrant cooldown. Now, this isn’t your typical backyard sprinkler that leaves you a bit refreshed for a minute or two. This is a straight-up downpour from an actual fire hydrant. It will leave you more soaked than the front seat of Disney’s Splash Mountain. It’s important to know what you’re getting into here, because it can be a little shocking if you’re not prepared for it!

Bring a change of clothes
If you ran the race right, you’re going to be wet and sandy afterwards. Although it’ll make you feel really intense, you probably don’t want to drive back in wet, sandy clothes (especially if you want to stop in downtown Holland to check out the farmer’s market for post-race treats or do some shopping at Gazelle Sports). If you don’t feel like bringing a whole change of clothes, at least bring something dry and comfy for your feet. Here are a few outfits that would be perfect for post-race activities