TRAVERSE CITY — Jordan Desilets was enjoying the Cherry Festival 15K race Saturday — and then he hit McKinley Hill.
“It was really nice and pretty until you hit that stupid hill,” the 33-year-old Pinckney resident said laughing. “Holy cow, man. Thankfully, I drove the course (Friday). We conserved going out and then I hit that hill and I think I went from a 5:10 pace to a 7:05. I knew it was coming. I figured everyone else is going to run it slow, too, so I kept my cool and trucked up real slow. It’s a mile up. It plateaus for about 200 meters to give you a break, but you cross that main road and you’re going up and up and up again.
“And then coming down was probably just as hard because it’s so steep. It pounds your legs. You’re literally leaning back and putting the brakes on the whole way. If the course was backwards it would be a tough climb up, but you could fly down the other side.”
Despite those struggles, Desilets still claimed victory in the festival’s signature race in 48:54.18, more than a minute ahead of Dearborn’s Ian Kazaam, who was timed in 50:06.54. Grand Rapids’ David VandeBunte came in third in 50:51.09.
For Desilets, it was his first Cherry Festival race.
“It was fun,” he said. “It’s beautiful here. I was looking for a reason to come up here.”
Actually, the reason he was here is because he’s vying for Michigan Runner’s top award.
“It’s (15K) part of the Michigan Series this year,” Desilets said. “If you win enough races in the Series you get Michigan Runner of the Year. I think this will put me in third place now. If I go and win the Mackinac Island eight-miler (Sept. 6) I’ve got a shot at taking the title home.”