Wild Life Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday, October 12th I ended up running a half marathon that I had signed up for just days earlier. I’m glad I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to run the race as it resulted in a new PR by nearly 2:30!

Matt had plans to go on a long weekend road trip with his dad, so I wondered what I could do for my solo weekend. I was interested in seeing some fall colors, and I wanted to run somewhere new for a change in scenery. I thought about going to a park where I haven’t run before, but then I decided to browse through RunMichigan.com to see what races were coming up. I had planned to run 13 miles on Sunday and there happened to be a few half marathons that day. The Wild Life Marathon in Concord looked appealing, and after thinking about it a little bit, I decided to go for it. The race course was mostly along a flat, paved trail, so I figured it would be nice and scenic. The “flat” part of the description gave me the idea that maybe I should actually try racing it rather than using it as a training run, and I also liked that it was USATF certified.

Following my last triathlon of the season in August, I decided to concentrate on running for the rest of the year. I started to follow one of Higdon’s half marathon plans with the thought of aiming for a race in early November. I’d been averaging 25-35 miles per week for the last couple months and had a pretty solid base, and I felt like my recent speed and tempo runs had gone really well. After running a 5k PR at the end of September and consistently hitting faster paces than I was aiming for during speed training, I realized that I should reevaluate my goals. I had been training for a 7:50 pace for a half marathon because that was the pace of my PR in September of 2013. I hadn’t run a half marathon since then, and that race had been in the heart of marathon training. As I aimed for a 7:50 pace during training runs, I kept finding myself running closer to 7:40. I had a feeling that I might be capable of running a faster half than I had thought, and maybe this race would be a good way to test my current fitness level.

Concord is just west of Jackson, which is around a two-hour drive for me. I knew it wouldn’t be ideal to make the drive the morning of the race, especially since my hips always hurt after I sit too long. I started to look for hotels for Saturday night and realized there was an evening football game at the University of Michigan. That probably explained why I struggled to find any decent hotels near the Jackson area. I found one further west in Coldwater, which meant I’d have about 40 minutes to drive the morning of the race – doable enough. Once I found that hotel, I committed to running the race. Since the race was just a few days away, I had missed the opportunity to register online, but I could do so on Saturday at the packet pickup.

I decided to make a few detours on my way out west and enjoy the beautiful weather on Saturday. First, I stopped in Ann Arbor and did a bit of shopping. Next, I headed out to Jackson for the packet pickup and registration at a Comfort Inn. For last-minute registration, I was really impressed that the price was $55 and I was still able to get a t-shirt. Most races warn that there is no guarantee of getting a shirt when registering so late, so I was happy to still get one.

I really like the design of this cotton t-shirt. It's one I'll definitely want to wear!

I really like the design of this cotton t-shirt. It’s one I’ll definitely want to wear!

I also like the fun design of the race's bib.

I also like the fun design of the race’s bib.

After the packet pickup, I drove to Concord to scope out the site of the race. I was hopeful that I could take advantage of the great weather and find some nice picture opportunities. I parked at the beginning of the Falling Waters Trail and was blown away by how beautiful it was. I definitely found the fall colors I’d been hoping to see!

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I walked about half a mile down the trail and knew I should probably head back to rest my legs. I was really excited about the race after seeing how beautiful the scenery was. It confirmed that I had made a smart choice to run this race!

I took the backroads through the country to get to my hotel in Coldwater and enjoyed more of the fall colors. It was a perfect day to listen to music in the car during a really pretty drive. I had some dinner, prepped my stuff for the next morning, and rested in the hotel room.

When I got out to my car the next morning, I was surprised to find it completely covered with frost. It was a cold but clear morning that was just right for racing. As the sun began to rise, it made for another pretty drive. Concord is a small town – the kind that has some four-way stops and a flashing light or two. The race started at a high school, and parking was available in both the high school and middle school parking lots. I got there about 45 minutes early and was right by the starting line. Although large races have their own appeal, I sure love the convenience factor of smaller races. I was able to hang out in my warm car until I went into the school to use a real restroom – another perk. I prepped my stuff in the car and did a brief warm-up jog before heading to the starting line. The marathon runners started five minutes before the half runners, and the start of the half came quickly.

A note about the following race pictures – Dane Robison from TimeFramePhoto.com took the pictures, and web-sized digital copies were generously donated by the race sponsors. Pretty cool!

That's me in the black and yellow shirt at the start of the race.

That’s me in the black and yellow shirt at the start of the race.

We ran from the school’s parking lot through a neighborhood, down a hill, then hit the Falling Waters Trail a mile into the race. That’s when things got good. The sun was out, but it was still foggy and cool. I wish I had a picture that showed how awesome the fog looked on the water with the sun shining down on it. It was also awesome to see the sun rays breaking through the trees and the fog. It was absolutely gorgeous. It put me in a great mood to start the race.

A pretty picture of the race's leader on the way out.

A pretty picture of the race’s leader on the way out.

I started the race a bit faster than I had planned because it sure didn’t feel like I was running at a 7:20 pace for the first half mile. Oops. I guess I got caught up in the excitement of the beginning. I was thinking more like 7:50-8:00 for the first mile, and I managed to calm down enough to hit 7:39.  I made sure to slow down more for the second mile to make up for it. The plan was to run on the conservative side early, pick up the pace gradually, and hopefully run a negative split. That approach has served me well for a 25k and my last half, so I figure it’s wise to stick with what works. I enjoyed the sights for the first half of the race, and also played the game of trying to catch the people in front of me. Since the marathon runners got a head start, there were plenty of people out on the trail. It’s not that I was trying to beat people, because I was really out there just to reach my own goals. Having people to catch is a good way to stay motivated, distracted, and it gives me something to work towards bit by bit. Although it was a small race, there were plenty of people around. The marathon runners broke off at some point, and things definitely thinned out. I always seemed to have someone ahead to work towards though. The second half of the race is when things can sometimes get more difficult, especially as I pick up the pace, so it helps to have little things that keep me going.

Racing along, feeling good.

Racing along, feeling good.

I wore a hydration belt with a 21 oz. bottle filled with GU Brew. I took sips here and there, probably only finishing half of the bottle by the end of the race. I ate three Honey Stinger chews between six and seven miles, and luckily it seemed like that combo was enough because my pace kept dropping as I went. I was thrilled with my splits and think the race played out as well as I could have possibly hoped. Knowing that my training was on track for a 7:40 pace, I hoped that I would successfully hit that as long as I had the endurance. After 10 miles, I got more aggressive with my pace because I still had the energy. The one downfall was the hill back into town. That climb was enough to do me in during the last mile, and I was really huffing and puffing by the end. Still – I managed to run a 7:27 mile despite that hill, and I was definitely happy with that after 13 miles!

I was thrilled with my splits!

I was thrilled with my splits!

The finish!

The finish!

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My official time was 1:40:46, which was good for a PR by 2:24! I was ecstatic.

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That time was good enough to place second in my age group. The first place woman passed me in the final stretch with a strong sprint, finishing just three seconds ahead of me. So close! I didn’t have anything left to give, and she was able to surge in those final moments. In addition to the general race medal, I received a cowbell for the age group award.

A medal for all of the finishers.

A medal for all of the finishers.

Age group award.

Age group award.

My cowbell!

My cowbell!

It took a few minutes for me to recover, and after racing so hard I knew a cool down jog would be wise. I ran around the parking lot for a couple minutes, got into some warmer clothes, then checked out the food. They had bottles of water, pretzels, apples, bananas, donut holes, and several kinds of muffins. The muffins were nice and big, and I picked both blueberry and chocolate. Great for replenishing the carbs after the race. There was a table set up for Coulings Creations, and they had extra shirts for sale. They had several different designs available for customization, and they printed the shirts on the spot! They had short sleeve, long sleeve, cotton, and technical. They were reasonably priced, so I ordered a long sleeve technical shirt. It was ready 10 minutes later. I thought this was a really cool feature to have at a race. Although I like the cotton race shirt, it was fun to have additional choices.

The extra shirt I bought.

The extra shirt I bought.

I hung out for a little bit, then started my two-hour trek home. Listening to my music while admiring the fall colors made the drive go by fairly quickly. The pain did kick in as soon as I got out of the car though…darn hips. Really, I recovered pretty well after this race though and I guess it’s a sign that my fitness is at a good place right now.

I loved everything about this race, especially the part where I got such a big PR. ;) I know it falls a week before the big Detroit and Grand Rapids races, but it’s one I would definitely recommend. Everything was extremely well-organized, the price was great, and the scenery was beautiful. It’s nice to try a variety of races, but I personally enjoy the atmosphere of a smaller race where I can wait in my car if it’s cold and I can park close enough to be at the starting line in 30 seconds. Little things like that help cut down on my stress level, and amazingly I didn’t get nervous at all before this race. I’m glad I made that spur-of-the-moment decision to run this race!

Janet

- Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Dig ‘Em Dash 5K Recap

When I first heard about the Dig ‘Em Dash 5k, I was definitely interested. Matt’s sister ran the race in 2013 and I was kind of sad we had missed it. I realized we would be in the Battle Creek area visiting family the weekend of the race this year, so it worked out perfectly.

Dig ‘Em is the mascot for Honey Smacks cereal, and seeing him featured in the race’s logo was enough to spark my interest in the race. Matt and I are big fans of Kellogg’s products and fun mascots. We have enjoyed running the Cereal City Classic 10k a couple times, which is now part of the Cereal City Stampede series along with the Dig ‘Em Dash and Binder Park Zoo’s Cheetah Chase.

This crew of mascots instantly made my day.

This crew of mascots instantly made my day.

The Dig ‘Em Dash was held on Saturday, September 27 outside the Kellogg World Headquarters in downtown Battle Creek, MI. It was a cool, sunny morning that was perfect for a race. Matt’s dad was kind enough to pick up our packets the day before, so that was one less thing to do when we got there.

The packet and bib. I love that Dig 'Em is on the bib.

The packet and bib. I love that Dig ‘Em is on the bib.

What a fun shirt!

What a fun shirt!

One of the busiest backs of a race shirt I've seen. They obviously weren't hurting for sponsors!

One of the busiest backs of a race shirt I’ve seen. They obviously weren’t hurting for sponsors!

We had received an email saying that they would have shirts from past races for $5, so we each got one of those. Several sponsors had tents, and Kellogg had a trailer filled with a bunch of fun products for sale. We stopped by after the race to get a few things.

Various tents and the trailer with Kellogg's shirts and other goodies to purchase.

Various tents and the trailer with Kellogg’s shirts and other goodies to purchase.

Before the mile race for the kids started, a slew of mascots arrived. This was definitely one of the highlights. How can you not smile when you see Dig ‘Em, Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Corny (the Corn Flakes rooster), the Keebler Elf, the Pringles guy, and Snap, Crackle, and Pop? I loved it.

The start of the kids' race.

The start of the kids’ race.

So many fun guys.

So many fun guys.

After the kids finished their race, Matt and I ran a short warm up and got ready for the 9:30 start. As the race began and we ran through the streets of downtown Battle Creek, the first mile featured enough of an incline to slow me down. I tried to run somewhere around a 7-minute pace and it didn’t come easily.

The route through downtown Battle Creek.

The route through downtown Battle Creek.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

I didn’t suffer too bad, but I didn’t feel great either. I did manage to pick things up right at the end and wondered if I’d hit a nice, even 21:30 as I approached the clock. Almost – my official time was 21:31.

My splits.

My splits.

My best 5k times have been just a hair under 22 minutes, so I was pretty happy to finally get under that by a more significant amount. It always varies whether I run a little short or long, but it’s nice to feel like I can start aiming for 21 minutes next. I’m counting this one as a new PR!

Mascots waiting to greet runners after the finish line.

Mascots waiting to greet runners after the finish line.

Lots of high-fives.

Lots of high-fives.

As expected, this race had lots of great Kellogg’s snacks waiting at the finish.

Just a few of the snacks offered.

Just a few of the snacks offered.

We checked the results and I found that I was 2nd in my age group of 30-39! A little bit later I was able to ask someone for my medal, and in the meantime I watched the finishers and the mascots. It was especially fun to watch them interacting with the really young kids.

This was just too cute.

This was just too cute.

My age group award.

My age group award.

With my medal and Dig 'Em.

With my medal and Dig ‘Em.

Matt and Dig 'Em.

Matt and Dig ‘Em.

This was a great race and hopefully we’ll make it back in the future. Maybe we’ll even attempt to run all three races in the series at some point.

- Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Oakland University Homecoming 4K Recap

Homecoming weekend at Oakland University has typically taken place in the winter, but this year it was was moved to the weekend of September 19-21. Matt earned a couple degrees from OU and works there now, so we tend to be fairly involved with campus activities. We went to a BBQ and caught some volleyball and football on Saturday. On Sunday, we participated in the 4K run around campus.

The Grizz statue on race day.

The Grizz statue on race day.

We enjoyed running the Homecoming 5K back in January 2011, but there has been no race to coincide with Homecoming the last couple of years. The campus roads are well-maintained during the winter and it was nice to race during the time of year when there are few races to choose from. However, it was so cold that tears ran down my face and froze, so I was looking forward to racing in more reasonable conditions this time.

A 9:30 start meant we didn’t have to wake up crazy early, and it was refreshing to have temperatures in the low 60s by the start of the race. We collected our bibs and cotton t-shirts in the O’rena lobby. It was nice to have the building open for the sake of having restroom facilities and a place to hang out before the start.

A cool race t-shirt.

A cool race t-shirt.

Although it was a little windy, it was a beautiful morning to run around the campus. The Grizz statue and the brand new Elliott Tower looked especially photogenic.

OU's new carillon tower.

OU’s new carillon tower.

Another photo of the Grizz.

Another photo of the Grizz.

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

Because this was a 4K, I figured I could try to run a little faster than my usual 5K pace. However, I had run 11 miles the day before and knew the campus hills wouldn’t make it easy. I had to laugh when Paul Rice, OU’s head track and cross country coach, said the race would be all downhill with the wind at our backs. I sure knew that wasn’t true! Luckily, the race did start downhill, providing some good momentum at the beginning. I lost most of that momentum half a mile into the race when I headed right into the wind. Once I made the turn out of the wind, that’s when the climb started. We probably climbed close to 100 feet through the second mile, and that was enough to slow me down significantly. The bonus is that there was only half a mile left after that, and we did get another downhill stretch before the finish. I finished in 17:39 and averaged 7:05 per mile. That was 10 seconds per mile slower than last weekend’s 5K at the Detroit Zoo, but this course and the wind made things more challenging, so I was still plenty happy with my time.

A loop around campus.

A loop around campus.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

My splits.

My splits.

Water, bananas, and bagels were available in the O’rena lobby after the race.

Post-race in the O'rena lobby.

Post-race in the O’rena lobby.

We were told ahead of time that they weren’t going to have an awards ceremony, so we could collect awards in the lobby when the results were ready. This was a pretty small race and both Matt and I were speedy enough to collect prizes. I was the first woman in my age group, and Matt was second in his age group. We were thrilled to find out that we received gift certificates to Runnin’ Gear! I’ll take that over a medal any day. :)

We really enjoy running around OU’s campus and we were glad that the Homecoming run made a comeback this year. Hopefully it will become a solid part of the Homecoming weekend tradition because we’ll certainly be back to run the race again!

- Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo Recap

On Sunday, September 14th, Matt and I ran the Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo 5K. We’ve considered the race in the past and finally decided to give it a try this year. We’ve been following Hal Higdon’s half marathon training plan, and the schedule included a 5K race for last weekend. We adjusted the schedule and moved the 5K race to this weekend instead. I really wanted to race a 5K to see where I stand with my training right now. I’ve been using training paces that correlate with my half marathon PR (from a year ago), but I haven’t been sure if I should speed up or slow down. This race confirmed that I’m on track and might even be able to aim for a faster goal.

I went to the zoo a couple days before the race to get our bibs and cotton t-shirts. It meant one less thing to worry about the morning of the race. It looked like the packet pickup and registration lines were pretty busy the morning of the race.

The race t-shirt.

The race t-shirt.

This race offered a 5K, 10K, a combination of both, and a fun walk. The 5K was the first race, beginning at 8:00. We knew that the race drew a pretty large crowd, so we got there about an hour early. We found the porta-potties, which luckily had no wait, then went back to the car for a few minutes to stay warm. It was only 45 degrees and we haven’t adjusted to the cooler temperatures yet! Although a little cold for standing around, we knew it would be perfect racing weather.

The race started on a service drive just outside the zoo. Matt and I ran through the parking lot, out the gate, and past the starting line for a half-mile warm up. With such a large crowd (over 1,500 people in the 5K), I figured we should line up early. I was surprised to find that most of the people had lined up well behind the finish line. We had no problem getting right up to the front. The race was chip-timed, but based on past results we knew that we should start near the front.

A beautiful morning for a race.

A beautiful morning for a race.

A few young boys came along at the last minute and stood right at the front. I know kids that age tend to start way too fast and fizzle out quickly, so I wondered how long they’d last. Not very long! One of them made it .15 before stopping to walk while the other two stopped even sooner. I know they have no sense for pacing at that age and hope the remaining three miles went okay for them!

Matt and I have run a 5K at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, and that race actually goes through some of the zoo. This race runs around the outside of the zoo and through the streets of Huntington Woods. The first mile was mostly along the service drive, and we got to run past a golf course for a little bit. The neighborhood portion of the race was nice and peaceful. This was a great course because it was flat and fast!

The 5K route.

The 5K route.

Not counting triathlons, the last time I was in “race shape” and really raced a 5K was in June 2013. I’ve hovered just above or below 22 minutes, so that was my goal for this race. I figured I shouldn’t run much faster than a 7-minute pace to start, so I consciously slowed down during the first mile after a quick start. My first mile split was 6:59, so I was right on track. Typically, by the time I’m halfway through a 5K, things get miserable. I start to question why I torture myself, I wish I was already done, and I have to convince myself that I really shouldn’t stop to walk. None of that happened during this race! My breathing was a little bit labored, but I actually felt pretty good. My second split was a 7:03 – still right around where I wanted to be. After that, I basically ran based on effort and pushed a bit more as I approached the finish. I saw that the clock was just under 22 minutes, so I pushed in hopes of staying sub-22. I did – by one second! My official time was 21:59.

My Garmin splits.

My Garmin splits.

Technically, my 5K PR is 21:57. However, my pace according to Garmin was 7:06 for that race. If I base it on my Garmin pace, this was a new PR. It’s the first time I’ve maintained a sub-7 pace for a 5K, so I was thrilled! I think this may also be the first time I really felt good for a 5K. I typically start fast and fade, feeling like I’m about to die by the end. I feel like I kept things pretty even for most of the race and still had energy to pick it up at the end. This race let me know that my training is going well and that I’m getting better at pacing.

The finish.

The finish.

Bottles of water, Gatorade, and bananas awaited us at the finish. Matt and I went to the car to get some warmer clothes, then we found a spot where a couple of big screens flashed through the age group results. I ended up placing first in my age group! It was my last day of racing in the 30-34 age group, so I wondered if I’d finish it off with one more award. I joked before the race that I didn’t stand a chance since our speedy runner friend Danielle was there and she’d certainly win the age group. Well, she was so speedy that she was the overall female winner – pretty awesome. That meant she won an award for being first place rather than getting an age group award.

My results.

My results.

Our bibs allowed us free admission to the zoo for the day, so we went in and sought out the post-race party area. Although the fun walk through the zoo still hadn’t started, we were able to help ourselves to the food. They had tons of hot dogs, chips, and granola bars. It was kind of funny to eat a hot dog at 9am, but it sure tasted good. There were several picnic tables outside as well as a large tent with a ton of tables inside. Some of the sponsors had tents, and a band played as well.

Eating hot dogs early in the morning.

Eating hot dogs early in the morning.

After our snack, Matt and I walked around the zoo for an hour and a half. For the most part, only people who had run the 5K were walking around while we were, so it was nice to enjoy a calm and quiet atmosphere. One of the highlights was probably watching the seals twist around in circles and swim upside down.

It seems like everyone always has to take a picture in front of this fountain.

It seems like everyone always has to take a picture in front of this fountain.

The awards ceremony started at 10:30, so we worked our way back by then. They announced the overall and masters winners but not the age group winners. That was kind of nice because it saved a lot of time. I’m glad I was standing right next to the table where they handed out the awards and got over there quickly. After I collected my award, I saw that there was a ridiculously long line behind me. We checked out the penguins next then headed home.

What a cool medal!

What a cool medal!

We were really glad we did this race and it was a great experience overall. There was a nice, speedy course, a great post-race party, and a fun walk around the zoo. We’ll definitely keep it in mind in the future!

A picture in the car after the race, with Matt sporting free sunglasses courtesy of Moosejaw.

A picture in the car after the race, with Matt sporting free sunglasses courtesy of Moosejaw.

- Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

Naperville Last Fling Mile Race Recap

Vertical Horizon playing Naperville's Last Fling festival.

Vertical Horizon playing Naperville’s Last Fling festival.

Thanks to the band Vertical Horizon, I ended up racing a mile for the first time on Labor Day. When I saw that the band was scheduled to play a festival in the Chicago-area suburb of Naperville, IL, it sparked the idea to visit family who lives there for the holiday weekend. I looked for more details about Naperville’s Last Fling and found that the festival featured a mile race on Labor Day. Tom, my half brother-in-law who we’d be visiting, is a great runner so I asked him about it. He’d never run the race but he was interested in trying, so he signed up. Matt and I hesitated to register in advance because I’d been having some problems with my right hip. I took three days off of running in the week leading up to Labor Day, and the first run back was pretty painful and frustrating. I took another day off and luckily I was okay for my next two runs. Since I got through 90 minutes of running the day before, I figured I’d survive a mile.

The race started at Naperville North High School, and we got there about an hour early. Matt and I registered on the spot, so we filled out forms and got in line. There was one line for pre-registered people and one for day-of. Each line moved slowly, but ours was REALLY slow. We were in line for half an hour! Tom got through his line eventually and went out for his warm-up run while we kept waiting. One of the biggest issues was that we had to stand and wait as a woman typed in the registration info for each person. We didn’t expect t-shirts since we signed up the day of the race, and sure enough, they ran out of extras by the time we got up there. When I saw the green cotton shirts, I knew it would probably end up stashed in my closet anyway. Tom was kind enough to give his shirt to Matt.

Race t-shirt.

Race t-shirt.

After we finally got through the line, Matt and I went out for a warm-up mile. We ran half a mile down the road and sidewalk, trying to dodge people getting ready for the Labor Day parade that would follow the race. We didn’t see any porta-potties by the start and it seemed like no one was going in the school, so we figured it wasn’t open. Teams were practicing around the back of the school, so maybe some doors were open in the back. We finally found two porta-potties a quarter mile down the road. It was kind of odd and frustrating that it was so difficult to find any, and a guy in the parking lot jokingly asked if he might get in trouble for going there since we couldn’t find any other options.

After our warm-up, we lined up for the start of the race. I knew it would be a mad dash at the beginning plus it was not chip-timed. With a gun start, I wanted to be close and lined up about four people back from the front. We waited for the 9:15 start, but realized people were still in the registration line. Everyone was frustrated as time ticked by. Someone in charge finally showed up ten minutes late and tried to yell out some directions. Without a megaphone, few people could actually hear her. Luckily we could hear the signal for the start and we took off.

As expected, the start was a total cluster. Plenty of kids lined up at the front, and the inevitable trips and wipeouts occurred. Aside from coming to a complete stop to avoid stepping on a girl who was on the ground, I managed to dodge most of the mess. I was able to run my pace with minimal weaving. I didn’t really know what that pace should be though since I’ve never really raced a mile. The McMillan calculator said I could run a 6:22, so I hoped I could at least finish in 6:30. I settled in around 6:35-6:40 for much of the race and figured I’d speed up at the end. Aside from a very slight uphill portion at the start, the race was pretty flat. We ran down one road for most of the race with a couple turns near the end. The final turn came about .15 from the end. The finish was downhill which made for a strong finish. I kicked into a super sprint for that segment and finished in 6:25.

I had been averaging around 6:40 up until the last stretch and managed to drop the average to 6:25 within the last .15. That tells me that I should have sped up sooner or maybe I was too conservative the rest of the time because I had WAY too much kick left in me for the finish. I really had no idea how to pace this race, so it was a learning experience. I was just a few seconds off McMillan’s estimate of 6:22, time I probably lost when I stopped to dodge the girl who was down on the ground. I’ve had great luck with McMillan’s calculator in the past, and once again, it was right on.

They had water, bananas, and juice for finishers. They also had a computer set up where you could enter a bib number and it printed a small receipt with finishing info. It said I was first in my age group of 30-39 and Tom was second in his. I found out later that I was actually third in my age group. Two of the women ahead of me received awards for being in the top three overall, meaning they were not included for age group awards.

My age group award.

My age group award.

We waited a while for awards, but the rain that held off for the race suddenly came down in sheets before they got to the awards. Some of us retreated to a parking deck while the rain was especially heavy. Eventually we got our awards, then we did a cool down mile back to the car. I was glad that my hip held up for the race because all of the downtime must have made me stiffen up. The pain got pretty bad for the cool down jog. The parade had begun, so we had to run through the middle of it a couple times to get back to the car.

A post-race photo of Matt, me, and Tom.

A post-race photo of Matt, me, and Tom.

I’m glad I finally tried racing a mile, but if we happen to be back in Naperville for another Labor Day weekend, I’d avoid this race. Apparently the race has been held for years, so I’d expect things to run a lot smoother than they did. I question why they had such a major issue with the registration and packet pick-up process. I know a lot of people signed up the day of the race, but they probably should have had more volunteers to man the table. The late start and lack of bathrooms also bothered me. Matt had issues because he knew he finished faster than the time they listed for him. Looking at the results, he saw that a guy placed in front of him even though Matt knew he had passed him. The timing company was able to sort things out based on photos taken at the finish.

Overall, too many factors made this race a bit of a disappointment. The course and the race itself were good, but the rest of the experience was not great. I was happy with how I ran, but now I’m anxious to race a mile again to see if I can do even better.

- Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

 

 

 

 

Island Lake Triathlon Race Recap

Well, I did it – my first Olympic-distance triathlon! A 0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike, and a 6.2-mile run. It was difficult, but I enjoyed it and definitely hope to tackle the distance again in the future.

Sunday, August 17th was the day of the Island Lake Triathlon in Brighton, MI. The same race is presented in the spring, summer, and fall at the Island Lake Recreation Area. I had never been to the park before and arrived around 6:00 for a 7:30 start. It was still pitch black outside and the park did not have lights. I hadn’t thought about that, but plenty of people were prepared with headlamps and flashlights. The registration tents had lights and I managed to make my way over without tripping. I was thankful for a building with real bathrooms that also had lights. Soon enough, the sun began to rise and it made for a beautiful view.

An awesome view of Kent Lake.

An awesome view of Kent Lake.

I liked the setup for this race because the parking lot was right by the transition area, and the transition area was a very short jog from the beach. Some races are more spread out and I definitely prefer having everything close together.

The transition area.

The transition area.

I missed the pre-race talk about the swim portion, so I found a woman with the same color swim cap who was kind enough to explain the route around the buoys. From the shore it looked like a big mess of buoys out in the water, so it was good to get some clarification. Around 300 athletes participated between the sprint and Olympic distances. A little less than one-third did the Olympic race. I was VERY thankful for a wave start. It lessens the stress and madness that come along with everyone starting all at once. The Olympic men started first, and the Olympic women followed three minutes later. I believe the sprint waves began about five minutes after that.

I got in the water about 10 minutes early to warm up a little bit. The race started in the water which I prefer over races that start on the beach. At 71 degrees, the water was just right for me…as long as I kept moving. I still haven’t tried a wetsuit, so I did get a little cold when I drifted around waiting for my turn to start. The men took off, then all 24 of us Olympic women waited for our turn. I will say again how much I prefer wave starts! With such a small group of women, I didn’t run into anyone and no one ran into me. My last triathlon involved a mass start and I was very frustrated because it was a big, congested mess. I swam breaststroke for several minutes because it was too crowded to do much else. That was not a problem at this race and I was able to get going right from the start. We did two triangle-shaped loops around the buoys while the sprint athletes did one. It looks like my Garmin was somewhat accurate this time.

The swim.

The swim.

I felt very comfortable during the swim. After feeling very out of my element during my first tri of the season in June, I realized I really ought to practice. I’ve done several open water swims since then and it’s made a huge difference. Looking back after this race, I think I may have been a bit TOO comfortable. It wasn’t until the final stretch that I even had the thought that I might want to pick up my pace. I guess that helps explain why my time was quite a bit slower than I expected. Combine that with lackluster training the last couple of months, and it resulted in a swim time of 37:59 (including the short jog through the grass to the transition area.)

I took my time during the first transition as well. I was a little wobbly after I got out of the water, and with such a long race ahead of me, I wasn’t in a big rush. I didn’t put much pressure on myself to be speedy for my first Olympic tri. It was more about experiencing the distance and seeing how things went. I ate a few Honey Stinger chews and stuffed the rest into my tri suit, then finally left the transition in 2:24. It was an overcast morning, and there was a tiny bit of rain during the first part of the bike. My sunglasses were already foggy before the rain hit, so my visibility was a bit limited for at least 20 minutes. I’ll have to figure out how to avoid the foggy glasses because that was kind of annoying. Like the swim, the bike route was two loops for the Olympic-distance athletes. The course took us on main roads throughout the park. Although it was an open course, there was very little traffic to worry about.

The bike course.

The bike course.

The course was a bit rolling which was nice, but also pretty difficult at times. Each time I climbed to the top of a hill, my legs were pretty shot for the next minute or two. I started to get hungry as I got around 20 miles or so. I’ve neglected to practice any form of nutrition on the bike during training and I know that’s not very smart. I suspected I’d get hungry at some point, so I threw a pack of Honey Stinger chews in my tri suit during the first transition. I tried several times to grab them out of the back of my tri top, but for some reason I couldn’t find them. I’m awkward enough on the bike as it is, so I fumbled around briefly then gave up. I’d just have to eat during the run. I knew the bike was my weak spot, and I was disappointed as my average speed dropped below 17mph as I neared the end of the bike portion. One of these days I hope to get faster! Although the hills were tough and I wasn’t very fast, the bike went pretty well and I managed to get through nearly 25 miles of riding just fine. My bike time was 1:28:27. I’d estimated that it would take me about an hour and a half, so I was right on.

Next, the run! This is usually my strongest part of the race, but I had no idea if I’d have anything left after two hours of racing. I got through the second transition in 55 seconds. I grabbed my bottle with GU Brew and a second pack of chews since I didn’t know where the first ones had gone. The run course started in a grassy field that led up to a paved path. To get to the path, we had to climb up a pretty steep hill. After 25 miles on the bike, that was pretty ugly. My legs felt heavy enough and that hill wrecked me right off the bat. I managed to run the first mile in 8:17 despite dropping and going back to pick up my pack of chews twice. I guess I’m not only awkward on the bike! I finally figured out what happened to the first pack that I couldn’t find while I was on the bike. Rather than stuffing the chews into a pocket on the back of my tri top like I had intended, I must have stuffed them down the back of my shorts. Not into a pocket, but into the actual shorts. I didn’t notice while I was on the bike, but I suddenly realized what happened as things got uncomfortable quickly during the run. I finally ate something, drank some GU Brew, and luckily I didn’t have any cramping or stomach issues. I still know that I ought to practice with nutrition next time around.

The run course.

The run course.

The run course was nice and scenic. After the brutal grassy hill, the paved path and boardwalk along the water were pretty nice. Still, any little hill felt huge. On the way back, we veered off the path and ran a grassy cross-country portion for a mile or so. It included one extremely steep drop, so I was thankful for the volunteer who was stationed there to warn us. As I wrapped up my first loop, I dreaded the fact that I’d have to run up that one hill again. I walked for a few seconds as I approached the top, but then I made myself keep running. A couple stretches of the run course really made me want to walk, but somehow I resisted. I’d looked forward to the run portion of the race, but I sure didn’t feel capable of racing. I am SO glad it was overcast during the run. I think the sun really would have done me in. I ended up averaging just a little faster than my marathon pace. I finished the run in 50:37, good for a final time of 3:00:19. I had estimated that the race would take around three hours and it did!

I was pretty wiped out at the end, so I paced around for a few minutes. I always look forward to food at the end of a race, so I went to scope things out. They had yogurt, bags of chips, and fruit snacks. There was one granola bar left as well, so I took that. I was pretty disappointed in the lack of food. My watch said I had burned 2,131 calories. I was ready to refuel, and a bag of Fritos and a granola bar weren’t going to get me very far. My last triathlon also slacked on the post-race snacks, so luckily I learned that I should bring something just in case. I’m glad I brought a Clif Builder’s Bar with me this time. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by great food selection at running races. I love finding things like bagels, cookies, burgers, beer, etc. at the end of races. Sometimes there’s so much food at the end of a 5K that it’s ridiculous, considering how I’ve only burned around 300 calories. When I burn over 2,000, that wide array of food sure would be nice.

I gathered my stuff from the transition area, ate my snacks, then went back for the awards ceremony. This race was kind enough to hold separate ceremonies for the sprint and Olympic races so the sprint athletes didn’t have to wait around too long. Because there weren’t that many women in the Olympic race, I figured I stood a decent chance at an award. I ended up placing first (out of three) in my age group – good for a bottle of wine!

My age group award!

My age group award!

A closer look.

A closer look.

Handing out awards.

Handing out awards.

In addition to the age group award, I got a medal and t-shirt for participating in the race.

I worked hard for this one!

I worked hard for this one!

Race shirt.

Race shirt.

I headed out after the awards ceremony and started the trek back home. I knew I had to eat more, so I stopped at Panera for a bagel and a cookie. Typically, Panera’s display of calories for menu items makes me think twice about actually buying stuff. This time? 440 calories for a chocolate chip cookie? Excellent! I figured it was a good step toward refueling those 2,000+ calories I had burned!

Overall, I’m very happy with how this race went. I had questioned whether I was really trained enough to even attempt the distance, so I didn’t have huge expectations going in. Aside from swimming a bit slower than I would have liked, I was pretty much on track with my expectations. I’m really glad that I gave it a shot. Although things felt pretty tough by the end, I knew right away that I’d want to try another Olympic race. Next time around I hope I can come into the season with a solid base already built rather than starting from scratch in mid-April. I’m thrilled with how this race went, but I know I have even more in me. This race will probably wrap up my triathlon season for the year, and it’s a great way to end it!

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Upcoming Races

A couple weeks ago I decided to sign up for an Olympic distance triathlon. It was a goal of mine at the beginning of the year and I’m sticking to it. March’s car accident (in which I was t-boned) derailed many of my racing goals for this year. Six weeks off and a very gradual rebuilding phase was quite a setback. Thoughts of a spring half marathon went out the window. My back still bothers me at times and is not 100% yet, but it’s not holding me back (much) anymore. I’ve been able to successfully race a super sprint and a sprint triathlon this summer. I debated for quite a while whether I should really consider doubling the distance. Ultimately, I decided I’d give it a shot.

Island Lake Triathlon

Island Lake Triathlon

I signed up for Island Lake Triathlon’s summer Olympic distance race on Sunday, August 17 – a 0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run. The race takes place at the Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton, MI. I feel like my run training is on track, as I’ve averaged 25-30 miles per week recently and have run as long as 12 miles. I’ve been swimming once a week lately with no speed work, so I’m lacking a bit there. However, I’ve practiced in the open water several times recently. I usually swim at least a mile each time I swim, so I’m not concerned about that part. The water temperature is reported to be 71 degrees, so once again I will manage to get away with not having a wetsuit yet. As usual, it’s the bike that I worry about the most. I looked at a training plan for the Olympic distance and laughed when I saw the bike training. No wonder I’m no good on the bike! I definitely spend too much time running and not enough time on the bike according to real training plans. I’ve been biking 10-15 miles a couple times during the week, and my longest weekend ride was 30 miles. I still haven’t gotten brave enough to try bike shoes and I know that would make a difference too.

I should be able to get through the distance, so that’s pretty much all I’m aiming to accomplish. I don’t have any major goals for my time. I’m guessing the swim might take about half an hour. The bike portion might take nearly an hour and a half unless I manage to step things up. I hope I can finish the run in 50 minutes. My 10K PR is around 46 minutes and I really don’t know how I’ll feel after racing for two hours before that. It might take almost three hours for me to finish this race. That makes me realize that I’m taking on a pretty big challenge, so hopefully I’m up for it!

Now that tri season is winding down, I decided it’s finally time to figure out a plan for the fall. I would really like to target a fall half marathon and possibly chase a new PR…or at least get close. I’ve been winging it this summer and have signed up for races only a couple weeks in advance. I’d like to have a specific goal for the fall. I came up with a list of races and determined how many weeks I’d have to follow a real training plan. Matt and I went through the list and decided that the Naperville Half Marathon looked pretty good. We have family in Naperville, which is a Chicago-area suburb. One of our family members ran the full marathon last year and plans to do so this year as well. The race takes place on Sunday, November 9, meaning we can start a 12-week training plan on Monday. Perfect!

Naperville Half Marathon

Naperville Half Marathon

Knowing that we have 12 weeks to train makes me feel like I have enough time to really make this a goal race. After following Hal Higdon’s advanced plan for my first marathon last year, I realized how much I enjoyed following a structured plan rather than piecing various plans together myself. I plan to follow Higdon’s advanced half marathon plan this time.

Hidgon's advanced half marathon training plan

Hidgon’s advanced half marathon training plan

Since I’ll be putting in a pretty good effort on Sunday with the triathlon, I might alter the first week of training so I can recover properly. I’m looking forward to starting a structured plan again.

In addition to the half marathon, I’m hoping we’ll do a few other races this fall. There’s the Dig ‘Em Dash in Battle Creek, MI on Saturday, September 27. We’ll probably be in town to visit family that weekend, and who doesn’t want to run a race that involves this guy?

Dig 'Em Dash 5K

Dig ‘Em Dash 5K

I also came across the Grand Rapids Bridge Run on Sunday, September 14. The 10-mile race goes through downtown Grand Rapids, crosses some bridges, runs along the Grand River, and through some parks. Between the 25K River Bank Run and the Grand Rapids Marathon, Matt and I have really enjoyed racing through Grand Rapids. This sounds like another fun one that we may aim to run.

Grand Rapids Bridge Run

Grand Rapids Bridge Run

There’s a fall colors run across the Mackinac Bridge, and plenty of other fun races to choose from as well. We’ll see how many we manage to fit into our schedule…and budget! In the meantime, tomorrow’s race is going to be a big one and will probably wrap up the tri season for me this year. It should be quite an experience!

- Janet

follow me on Twitter @reidphotography