Monday, October 25, 2010

Mackinac Island 1/2 Marathon: What the funk?

DSCF7690 Sorry all, but if you’re looking for an in depth race review or a detailed account of my performance, you won’t find it here. Because even though every race has a story, the story that begs to be told this time around is the one of the hotel. And I sort of feel obligated to tell it, mom to mom. After all, a good majority of you are moms and MI moms at that, and even if you’re not a MI mom or a mom at all, chances are you’re a runner and while I’d highly recommend you put the Mackinac Island Great Turtle 1/2 Marathon on your list for the sheer and utter beauty of the scenic, but be forewarned, somewhat hilly course, I would even more strongly recommend you do everything in your power to NOT stay at the Clarion hotel in Mackinaw city and I’m about to tell you why.

But before I do, don’t get your knickers in a bunch because of a fairly runningless blog post. For my thoughts on the race itself you can head over to Racevine and read my review here. And as far as how I did, well of course, I won’t keep those race results a big mystery (or force you to waste precious minutes digging it up yourself online like I know y’all would do anyway). I’ll weave that in here for you too because I’m cool like that ;-)

So the original plan with this 1/2 was to just take it easy and enjoy it. Count it as a lower mileage week amid marathon training and give myself a break. But due to a handful of the unexpected and a few more constraints on my time than I’d have liked, my 15 mile long run the weekend before the race wound up being 8. No big deal. But I figured, hey, since I’ve kind of sort of tapered why not try to PR? Why not indeed.

Two days prior to leaving for the race my nose started running. And we’re not talking a sniffle here or there. It was like turning on a faucet. I literally could not grab the tissues fast enough. Not exactly an ideal condition to set a personal record.

On Thursday, we headed out of town for the 4 1/2 hour drive to Mackinaw with my cold not getting worse really, but certainly not getting better. Then to my surprise, it snowed a little on the way Up North (FYI: In case you missed this in previous posts, Up North is the official term we Michiganders use to refer to any vacation spot in the state that is north of where we live, yet south of the Upper Peninsula. Once you’re talking a location in the Upper Peninsula, that we call the U. P. Stick with me kid, I’ll keep you up on all the hot trendy MI lingo. You’ll be getting another in a second). Now, I’d expected it to be cooler. But snow? Really? I hadn’t packed enough warm running clothes for that (because I never ever learn my lesson that weather people are really just kidding around most of the time when they give you the forecast and after 32 years of living in Michigan I still like to pretend that the weather here is somewhat predictable).

We had booked a suite at the Clarion in Mackinaw City rather than staying on the island, because it was far less expensive. We could get a suite for 1/2 the price and my parents could stay with us. Upon arrival, all things seemed just about as you would expect. The hotel was a little bit older, but the room looked clean and the staff seemed friendly and best of all we had booked a room right on the water. It was of course too cold to fully enjoy Lake Huron, but the view was spectacular nonetheless.

The heat was off when we got there and the room was a little chilly, so we switched it on and headed out for dinner at the Dixie Saloon (which has really terrific fish ‘n chips btw). When we got back, it was getting late and we were all tired from the drive so I didn’t waste any time prepping the girlies for dreamland. And here’s where it gets interesting. I kept getting a whiff of something. Something mildly unpleasant.

Repeatedly, I checked Tiger Baby’s diaper, thinking maybe she was the culprit, but there was nothing there. At one point I even asked my husband if it was him, he did after all have a little chili with dinner and well, you know how that goes. But he denied having any part in the mysterious odor and said he too thought he smelled something when we first got there. A little moldy maybe was his guess. I just figured eh, it’s an old hotel and its probably got a little funk to it or something. It wasn’t horrible and my kiddos had quickly fallen asleep in the other room of the suite. No big deal.

The next day the funk lingered and seemed to be growing stronger. I opened a window to try to air it out some and then we took off for a day of exploring in the city. My parents, as well as RunSis, Muffin Man and the fam, and some of our friends with their kiddos arrived later that day and we all went to dinner at the one Italian joint still open in town. Being that it was the last weekend of the year for tourists on Mackinac Island and there were record numbers of runners this year, the restaurant was majorly understaffed although they seemed thrilled to seat everybody. Let’s just say dinner took a looooong time.

When we finally got back to our room, it was way past bedtime for our little tykes and I was fully ready to get to getting them to bed. But the minute we opened the door, there was no denying the stench. Whatever stunk had gotten even worse while we were gone. Much much worse. I still went ahead with getting the kids ready for bed (which in hindsight was probably a mistake, we should have complained right then despite how late it was and how tired my girls were).

After the girls were tucked in, my parents, my husband and I went on a hunt in the other room to try to figure out where the offending odor was coming from, but it was hard to place. My husband for a little while was convinced it was some oranges we had brought, but oranges, even rotting ones (which ours weren’t) smell like, well, oranges. This smell did not any way resemble citrus to me, more like back when I worked at an ice arena and every once in awhile a little mouse would climb up into the pop (there you go. MI lingo for soda) machine because it was nice and cozy warm, then get stuck or lost never to be seen or heard from again, at least not until we smelled its dead rotting carcass. THAT is what it smelled like. Delightful to say the least.

But once again the kiddos were already asleep in the other room and we needed to be up somewhat early to catch a ferry to the island for the race. None of us were really up for a late night move. My parents assured me that they could handle the smell and my husband assured them that the stink was most likely the oranges and he had set them out on the balcony. Problem solved.

Unfortunately for my parents, my husband was SORELY mistaken. By the next morning, I could smell the wretched fumes, the minute I opened the door of my suite room even though the door of my parents’ room was still closed. It reeked. I had planned on eating in their room to let the girlies sleep a little bit longer, but that was just not going to possible, at least not if I wanted the contents of my stomach to remain IN my stomach.

So instead I headed over to the breakfast room where my parents already were. I joined them and of course, apologized profusely for their having to sleep in that disgusting room. I felt horrible about it. I was the one that picked the hotel, booked the suite, and put my daughters in the odor free room, forcing them to spend the night with the funk of God only knows what. They were of course gracious as always, but my Dad seemed more than happy to go down and try to get our room switched while my mom and I went back to Smellville to finish getting ready for the race. The hotel agreed to switch our room and even offered to have someone move our things while we were out.

Now, I wasn’t really too keen on that idea at first, I mean we only had about 1/2 an hour until we had to be out the door to catch the ferry in order to make the race and there was still a lot to be done. Packing up hadn’t been on the agenda, plus who wants somebody you don’t know moving your things around without your being there? But I also figured, none of us would be in the mood after the race to be hauling our luggage up and down stairs (no elevators, at least not in our building), what with my mom and I having just run 13+ miles and my husband and dad having wrangled our two little kiddos while we did so. So we took the hotel up on their offer.

Turns out the weather got on our side for the race, it was just about as perfect as it could possibly be at the start. Partly cloudy, mid 50’s. It was just gorgeous. And how could I NOT run full out in weather like that or at least give it a shot. I mean really, how often does that happen on race day? So I made a little pact with my mom at the start, I was going to go ahead and give it a full out effort for the first few miles and see how it went even though I wasn’t breathing so hot and if it didn’t work, then I’d walk until she caught up and run the rest with her. (BTW quit looking for me in that picture. That’s the start line and I started waaaaaaay in the back. )

And that my friends is just exactly what I did. I gave it about 4.5 miles or so, but I was just sucking wind hard the whole time. Now sometimes, when I start it takes me a little while to get my breathing under control, but definitely by 3 I’ve worked out all the kinks, breathing and otherwise, and I get into something of a groove. It just wasn’t happening and no (because I know you’re all thinking this) I didn’t start off way too hard this time. I just didn’t have it. So rather than spend the next 9 miles trying to convince my head that it was not stupid to keep pushing myself, I decided to enjoy the day, in particular, the scenery. So I walked until my mom caught up to me and then we finished together.

It was the best part of the trip. I think our finishing time was something like 2:45. I don’t really know though. We didn’t care. We were stopping and posing for pictures and chDSCF7700atting about everything under the sun. I quit checking my watch when I started walking and haven’t looked at it or the race results since. I was blessed to run in one of the most beautiful places in the state, if not the country, with one of my very best friends. I could not have asked for more out of that race.

But still, even run/walking or simply walking for that matter 13.1 miles is no easy feat, especially not on a fairly hilly course like that one. It’s exhausting and not just for us, but our families’ as well, who had the tall order of carting our stuff around and occupying all the kiddos (7 of them under the age of 6) while at the same time keeping them out of the way of the runners. Not the easiest task in the world. When the race was over, we were all ready to get the heck out of there.

And that we did, but by the time we waited around for a ferry and got back to Mackinaw, it was after 4:00 (fyi: that race starts at 11:30 AM which is part of the reason we got back so late, in case you’re wondering). So we headed straight for dinner, before going back to the hotel for our new room along with which came a new adventure.

**SIGH** Our new room was located immediately above the old. When my dad expressed some concern that whatever stunk below might woft up into our new room, the Clarion hotel manager assured him that our original room no longer stunk and that whatever had created the stench had been removed. He declined, however to tell us, exactly what that was.

I took the new keys, my mom and my girls, one of whom was about to explode if she didn’t get to a potty asap to the new room, while my husband and dad hung out in the lobby and tried to find a tire place (we were having issues, a valve/sensor was broken and needed to be fixed).

Once up there we were thrilled to discover the keys didn’t work. My mom and I both tried them each repeatedly. Every time the little green light flashed, there was a click, the door handle turned and nothing. It wouldn’t open. My mom took Tiger baby from me and I raced my potty dancing 4 old back through the progressively getting colder and rainier parking lot to the front desk, where with their TREMENDOUS customer service skills, they sent me back across the cold rainy parking lot to the pool to “the nearest bathroom” (place your bets on that one) so my 4 year old could stop squirming while they swiped 4 new key cards for me. After she took care of business, we ran back for the keys, then back again to the new room where the new keys again DID NOT WORK. Same thing. Green light. Click. Handle turns. Door doesn’t open.

Now, I’m starting to get annoyed at this point. It’s cold out. My kids wanted to get to the pool like I’d been promising all day. Tiger Baby was fidgety as all get out. We’d already had a stinky room and the inconvenience of having to pack everything up mid trip to move and the staff of the hotel apparently did not care how many times they sent a mom and her kid running across a cold rainy parking lot. But, I ran back. It’s not like I had a choice. There were no hotel phones to just call the front desk and I figured it’d be faster than looking the hotel up and calling them on my cell.

“These don’t work either.” I told the guy at the desk, who I’d later find out was the manager, and another guy standing nearby overheard and said disgustedly, “I just ran those for you.” I’m not sure exactly what he expected me to say at that point, it really didn’t change the facts any. He gave me keys. I couldn’t get in. So I just relayed the whole situation again. He sighed and ran me some new keys and started to hand them over to me at which point all I could think is “Really? Now why are these going to magically work if THE LAST 8 didn’t?” And the manager, who’d been on the phone but not talking finally interjected and said, “Well, you should probably go with her if it’s flashing green.” (You think?) Which brought another sigh from key runner guy, but reluctantly, he came with.

When we got back to the room, he held up a key and said, “Now, this is the first key I gave you.” He stuck it in. Green light. Click. Then pushed down really hard on the handle shoving the door open and looked at me like I’m an idiot or maybe a liar. I’m not really sure which, but I didn’t care. I was apparently competent enough to work the door below for 2 straight days, but suddenly the exact same kind of door was too complicated? I made him stand there while I tried it again. It worked. I thanked him. He left. Annoyed I’m sure. We’d have the same trouble a few minutes later getting out of the room too. The problem was the door sticks some, and you’ve got to push it really hard something that could have perhaps been mentioned after my first fail at entry.

So we got into the room finally and the first thing I noticed was that the window was open. (Cue the warning sirens) Now you tell me, for what reason in 40 degree cold rainy weather would the window need to be open for hmm…? But the room didn’t seem to smell and the girls were begging for the pool. So we didn’t dwell on it, I shut the window, changed the girls and headed over to the pool to let them wear themselves out.

At some point later that evening, my dad turned on the heat and immediately thought he might be detecting a faint but familiar smell. By morning, there was no ands, ifs or buts about it, some little critter or something had to have been being cooked in that heater. It was just awful. We packed up our things, but my husband decided to stop by the front desk to talk to the manager on the way out. He was told the manager wouldn’t be in until later, but as he headed back to the van, my husband spotted him and went back in.

Now really, we weren’t looking for anything and we were leaving anyway, but after three nights in two horribly stinky rooms and the inconvenience of having to move mid stay, you’d have thought the conversation with the manager would have had at least one apology and perhaps a we’ll look into it. NOPE. In fact, had it, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post. But instead it went a little like this:

“I was in both of those rooms. I’ll give you $20 off your bill” the manager told my husband, “But for the record, I don’t think your room stunk. The only thing we found in there was a dirty diaper.”

Ok now let’s just pause here for a second and be clear here. Wait, let me take a deep breath first. Inhale. Exhale. Ok let’s go…Is this dude actually suggesting that the stink we couldn’t stand was our own stink? Because I’m not sure why exactly our own stench would bother us. And by “found” did he mean in the trash can in the bathroom, you know, the bathroom that didn’t stink? Or that we’re like randomly leaving diapers around the hotel room? Because yeah, I see how that might make a room stink and probably be something that a two year would mess around with too, which is generally why I THROW THEM AWAY and not leave them lying around. As a matter of fact, ironically, just so our room WOULD NOT stink I threw the poopy diapers away OUTSIDE in a trash can. So unless he was talking about finding someone else’s dirty diaper somewhere in the room, I don’t really know what he’s talking about here. But since we searched that room thoroughly and found nothing, I don’t think that’s what he meant.

No, I think what he was saying was not only were we lying, we were actually so devious as to use our own child’s wet diapers to back up our story. Seriously?!

Listen, in a court of law I’d definitely be what one might consider a valid credible olfactory material expert specializing in pediatrics (if one existed). Why? Because I’m around the various odors my children make ALL THE TIME, and I can tell you with complete certainty that that odor was nothing that came from one of mine. Furthermore, I can tell you with nearly as much certainty that it didn’t come from ANY teeny tiny behind of the human variety. And if I’m wrong, the parents of that child should seriously be investigated as to what exactly they’re feeding him or her because it ain’t right.

And furthermore, Mr Clarion Manager, you’re position is completely illogical. You can not sensibly argue that that the first room did not stink, because you removed what stunk. HUH? Did it stink and something need to be removed or did it not stink? And what about the 2nd room hmm? Or are we just back to being overly sensitive about our own stink or that we’re some kind of wild diaper bandits randomly trying to scam money or free hotel stays or something?

And while we’re asking questions here’s a few more I’d like answered:

Do parents of infants & toddlers who wear diapers generally not allow their children to use them at your hotel? I mean we can’t be the only people changing diapers in your hotel. I know I’ve certainly changed them at other hotels and it didn’t sour the entire room. So why is the problem us and our kid and not your hotel room?

Are stinky diapers somehow heat activated and thus only truly stink once the heater is turned on? Because the rooms we were in didn’t stink until we turned on the heater. My kids diapers were present at all times.

Why is it exactly that the rooms the offending toddler and thus so too the perpetrating diapers were in most of the time, the back bedroom and the bathroom, were not stinky? But the room the toddler was hardly in at all did?

Why would a diaper removed from the first room the day before cause the second room to stink the next day?

If you didn’t think the first room stunk the day before, then why go to the trouble of moving us and why tell us something did stink and it was removed?

And perhaps the smoking gun, why was the window of the 2nd room open and the heat off on a cold rainy day when we opened the door?

I don’t know maybe I’m being too harsh and the dude needs to have his nose checked or something. And after all, some smells are sort of a personal preference. For example, my husband HATES the smell of parmesan cheese and I kind of like it. But there are some smells I’m pretty sure we can all agree on. This was more like, you get sprayed by a skunk on your morning run and when you get back home nobody seems to notice. Your kids, your husband, your dog, they just go on like it’s any other day not noticing your wacked out funky stank. Probably not going to happen.

And even if we are totally 100% wrong. Say we let 500 people smell those rooms and out of those 500 people the only 4 that smell anything are me, my husband, my mom, and dad. We can even go so far as to say that the other 496 people thought the room smelled fantastic, like a bouquet of freshly cut flowers or something equally as pleasant. We were the 4 that paid and spent 3 nights in those rooms, we were NOT happy.

How about using an ounce of people skills and instead of accusing us of creating mythological smells and whatever else exactly this manager was getting at, how about saying something along the lines of, “Gee. I’m so sorry that you did not enjoy your experience here at our hotel. Customer service is a top priority here at the Clarion and I guarantee you that I will personally check out both of those rooms myself. I was actually in them both yesterday and just did not smell what you seem to be smelling, but perhaps I missed it” (if he really thought that). Or, “you know, we thought we had found what was creating the smell, but perhaps we didn’t, especially now if you’re smelling it in a second room. Let me see, what I can do here for you. And where exactly again, did you say you think the smell was coming from, just so I’m certain I check the right place thoroughly.” Then go ahead Mr. Clarion Manager and give us that $20 which seems to be your standard go away and leave me alone rebate, since you gave it to us for nothing more than what you considered to be a big fat stinky lie.

Then, I wouldn’t have felt this obligation to rat you out to my running friends who might one day want to come out and race on Mackinac Island. Or my fellow moms, who might want to take their kids Up North for a weekend with some of the best our state has to offer. I would have just considered it to be some out of the ordinary weird freak funk, but you did your best to take care of an extremely unusual situation. But nope, that’s not really the way it went down now did it? So “for the record” I did think BOTH of the rooms at your hotel reeked. I do not appreciate being called a liar and brushed off with a $20 refund and I will not stay at your hotel again. And I’m kind of thinking, that now I won’t be the only one.

'Til next time...

P.S. I DO NOT feel that the customer service or condition of this one Clarion hotel is in any way reflective of Clarions or Choice Hotels in general. I’ve stayed at plenty of them and never had a problem even remotely close to this. I believe this was a limited problem to the Clarion Hotel in Mackinaw and quite possibly the result of it being the very last weekend the hotel was open.

P.P.S. **Deep breath** Now that that’s off my chest (thanks for the vent btw), I’m thinking it’s time for something fun. How about a giveaway tomorrow? Gift card anyone?


Laurie said...

Only if its a gift card to the Clarion hotel in Mackinaw! :)

There is nothing worse than complaining about something and basically being told that it is your fault. Sorry for the crappy hotel experience. Glad you enjoyed the race with your mom though!

RunMom said...

Laurie! You just took my angry little post and furrowed brow and made me laugh right out loud. It's people like you that are the EXACT reason why I love writing this blog. You guys are great! Thanks for the laugh!

Oooo and look (not that you can see this but) my captcha is gulater. Now I got 2 laughs out of your comment.

Holly said...

Thanks for the post! Hubz and I want to visit Mackinac some day. I'll for sure keep this in mind. Now we know why the hotel was deep discount! YUCK. I will say Hubz and I complained about ants in our room earlier this year at a hotel -- and got 50% off our bill. It didn't replace the GROSS factor but helped us feel better about our money spent on the room.


Fave part: "At one point I even asked my husband if it was him, he did after all have a little chili with dinner and well, you know how that goes."


JenniferLeah said...

awww~that "stinks" that the mr.hotel-manager was a jackbutt about it.

My parents visit family every summer out in Wisconson and they always go out to Mackinaw Island and it is SO pretty there! Sometimes they stay overnight off the island so I will warn them to STAY AWAY from the Clarion.

Thumbs up for turning the race into a wonderful day with your Mom :)

*~* *~* Tracy said...

That sounds really awful. I would write a letter to their corporate office requesting a full refund, even if it's gift cards to one of their other hotels. Bad customer service rankles me like nothing else!

I'm glad you had a nice run with your mom. That probably made the whole ordeal worthwhile. :)

Runners Fuel said...

Glad to see the weather worked put for you! Good job!!

runnanna said...

I am laughing out loud..great job of turning funk into funny. That was such a great run! I'm so glad I was able to relax, forget about the clock, enjoy the view, and really enjoy the run and the weekend with my family. Love you all ! P.S. Muffin Man tore it up! He is incapable of backing off...another pr for him!

Lisa said...

I love Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City, but there definitely are some rundown hotels there with less than competent staff (but I suppose that's true in many resort towns). Congrats on the race! I would love to run this one day. Also the Bay Harbor Half in Traverse City!

Have a great weekend!

Sue said...

A year late, but thank you for this post. We are booked at the Best Western for Oct 9th and I hope we have better luck there! How horrible for you all!