My heart rate just returned to normal. So, that’s nice.

I had the pleasure of traveling up to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton on June 12 for the kickoff of the 3 Dune Challenge, the premier new outdoor fitness challenge in Indiana.

Joining me for the celebration-and to try the challenge- was Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. Mark is much, much older than me, but in arguably better shape. We actually did the challenge twice. I beat him the first time (but that might have had something to do with him taking the wrong trail after the second dune). Whatever, a win is a win.

Bottom line: The 3 Dune Challenge is tough. Very tough. But we both did it, and it is well worth the experience.

To complete The 3 Dune Challenge, a person must run or hike a special 1.5 mile course at Indiana Dunes State Park, climbing Mount Jackson (elevation 176 feet), Mount Holden (184 feet), and Mount Tom (192 feet).

Some parts of the trail feature 40-degree slopes, making each step that much more challenging. In the sandy vertical climbs, it’s common to take two steps forward and slide one step back.

In fact, it was at the base of the second dune, Mt. Holden, where I swore I started to hear the immortal strumming of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Looking up from the base, the dune seems to go straight into the sky, with no end in sight. Stairway to Heaven?  Luckily it doesn't ascend that high, but it sure seems like it on the way up.

Let me put it this way, the third dune, Mt. Tom, features a 100-plus stair staircase to get to the top. So challenging was Mt. Holden, that the sight of such a long staircase was actually a welcome relief. Maybe it was this dune, that I actually started to hear Mr. Page et al. The memory is a bit blurry.

Those who conquer The 3 Dune Challenge are invited to stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, located about a mile south of the state park, to buy a shirt and pick up a free commemorative sticker or decal and postcards.

The challenge is designed to give local residents a fun challenge and to attract visitors from places like Chicago, Indianapolis and South Bend to experience the toughest fitness experience in the dunes and to be introduced to Porter County.

The kickoff party featured an amazing array of pizzas cooked by The Rolling Stonebaker food truck, which is based in Beverly Shores, IN. They serve up everything from the Purple Pig (thing barbecue sauce and pork topped with a cabbage slaw) to the Potato Head (a white base with potatoes and red onions).

We also enjoyed entertainment from guitarist and singer Chad Clifford, who is part of the popular Northern Indiana band The Crawpuppies, and who also owns Front Porch Music, a live music venue and music store in Valparaiso, IN.

Kicking off The 3 Dune Challenge by bursting through a tear-away banner was Boston Marathon runner Jeff Walsworth, a Valparaiso firefighter who owns Firehouse Subs in Portage.

The 3 Dune Challenge trail at Indiana Dunes State Park begins at the Nature Center and is rated as rugged in difficulty level, but the park has several other trails that are rated moderate and easy. So, groups that have people of different fitness levels can pick a trail that matches their ability.

There is no cost to do The 3 Dune Challenge and it can be done any day of the week. However, the park’s entry fee is $5 per car for Indiana residents and $10 per car for those outside of the state.

Indiana Dunes State Park, where The 3 Dune Challenge takes place, is located at 1600 North 25 East, Chesterton, which is north of U.S. 12 on State Road 49. The Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, where people can get commemorative stickers and shirts, is located about a mile south of the park at 1215 N. State Road 49 in Porter.

To learn more about The 3 Dune Challenge, stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, visit the official website, or call 800-283-8687. The 3 Dune Challenge is an initiative of Indiana Dunes Tourism in partnership with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Friends of Indiana Dunes.