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

Race for the Border Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

Sunday, July 27th was the day of my second triathlon of the season and it was a good one. Race for the Border was presented by Tri To Finish and took place on Belle Isle in Detroit, MI. I’ve only been to Belle Isle once and that was 10 years ago. I thought the race would give me a good excuse to visit again, plus the course was said to be flat and fast – always a bonus!

A photo from my first visit to Belle Isle.

A photo from my first visit to Belle Isle.

The race offered three options: a super sprint triathlon, a sprint triathlon, or a sprint duathlon. My first triathlon this season was a super sprint and I was ready to race the full sprint distance this time. The sprint involved a 0.5-mile swim, a 12-mile bike, and a 3.1-mile run.

Matt was kind enough to wake up crazy early and come along for support and to take photos. All of the awesome race photos here are courtesy of Matt. We got to Belle Isle just after 6:00 am and ran into our buddy Jeff, a.k.a. Detroit Runner, who was doing the duathlon. I got my bib, a nice cotton shirt, and got marked up.

A cool design for this race shirt.

A cool design for this race shirt.

I took my bike to my assigned rack and was able to pick a spot on one end since I was there so early. That gave me plenty of room for my shoes and other stuff. Next, I walked over to the beach to test the water. It had been announced that the temperature of the Detroit River was 67 degrees. I still haven’t tried a wetsuit yet and was thankful that the water felt warm enough for me.

Not TOO cold...

Not TOO cold…

Following the pre-race meeting, we headed out to the beach for an 8:00 start. The super sprint athletes started halfway down the beach while the sprint athletes went out twice as far.

Testing the water for a few minutes before the start.

Testing the water for a few minutes before the start.

Out of the four triathlons I’ve done so far, I’ve been lucky enough to have a wave start for each swim. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but this race was my first chance to experience the madness of a mass start. Everyone had to line up on the beach and run into the water when it was time to start.

Just before the start of the race.

Just before the start of the race.

I believe 120+ people participated in the sprint triathlon. I tried to move down the beach as far as I could to get a little bit of space. Once the race started and I hit the water, it didn’t matter – everyone was headed toward the same orange buoy. I ended up rotating between freestyle and breaststroke because it was so crowded that I couldn’t get into a good groove. Arms and legs were everywhere! Like many of the other swimmers, I tried to get as close as I could to the orange buoy so I didn’t add unnecessary distance. In hindsight, it’s probably worth going out of the way just to keep out of the crowd.

Approaching the first turn.

Approaching the first turn.

Once I got around that first buoy, things opened up. I could finally swim without people all over the place. When I participated in my first triathlon this season, I felt pretty uncomfortable during the swim portion. I was not used to not being able to see where I was going. I made sure to practice swimming in the open water a couple times after that experience. I still didn’t get into a perfect rhythm during this swim, but I was more familiar with what to expect so I didn’t have as much of an uncomfortable adrenaline rush. Swimming through seaweed during one stretch wasn’t my favorite part, but there was nothing I could do about it except keep swimming! We swam a rectangular course that sent us with the flow of the current for a good portion of the swim. I didn’t notice any benefit if I did catch the current. However, I suspect that it must have helped because my swim time was much faster than I had expected.

Approaching the shore.

Approaching the shore.

My official swim time was 15:03, including the run from the beach to the transition area.

Done with the swim.

Done with the swim.

I wasn’t super speedy through the first transition – it took 1:47 before I headed out for two counterclockwise loops around the island. When I first considered signing up for this race, I was a bit skeptical about the bike course. It seemed like a lot of turns on the west end and I wasn’t so sure about looping in a circle around the fountain.

The bike course.

The bike course.

Sure enough, I wasn’t thrilled about the turns. Some of them were pretty sharp and I had to slow down quite a bit. It was hard to gain momentum during that portion of the course because I kept slowing down. I’m not super smooth on the bike as it is, so I’m especially cautious when it comes to sharp turns. That was just one small portion of the course though, and the rest was pretty nice. We used a bike lane for most of the race and the surface was good. As we came around the northeast part of the island and headed west again, resistance from the wind was very noticeable. As usual, I was quite aware that the bike portion was my weak spot as the speedy men flew by. I had hoped to do better than 17-18 miles per hour on the flat course, but no such luck.

I look much happier in the picture than I actually felt!

I look much happier in the picture than I actually felt!

My bike time was 40:47, and I made it through the second transition in 51 seconds. Time for the run – my best part!

Happy to be running!

Happy to be running!

The sprint athletes ran two loops of the T-shaped course. I didn’t really notice any heaviness in my legs off of the bike. I did notice that my breathing was pretty labored though. When I looked at my Garmin, I was surprised to see that I finished the first mile in 7:23. No wonder my breathing was so bad! I slowed down a little for the second mile, telling myself that I might not be real fast, but I’d keep running. I also thought about how the idea of doing an Olympic distance triathlon suddenly seemed a lot less appealing. If I felt so miserable within the first mile of the run, getting through six miles could be pretty nasty.

The run course.

The run course.

The out and back nature of the run course was kind of nice because watching the runners in the opposite direction helped distract me. I first noticed the heat as I ran into the sun on the way back to halfway point. Whenever I run multiple loops of a course, I always want to be done after the first. I kept pushing though and did what I could.

No longer feeling like the run was my favorite part...

No longer feeling like the run was my favorite part…

Both feet off the ground as I forced a smile for Matt!

Both feet off the ground as I forced a smile for Matt!

I finished strong with a time of 22:55. I surprised myself with that time because it’s only about a minute off of my 5K PR. I finished with a total time of 1:21:21. It was a relief to be done! I had no idea how I’d done overall because of the mix of people doing the super sprint, the sprint, and duathlon. I was happy with how things went though.

Another triathlon completed!

Another triathlon completed!

Nice medal.

Nice medal.

After collecting a bottle of water, I went to find the food. I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when I only found halves of bagels and bananas. I’ve gotten used to 5K races having a wider selection of food. After racing for nearly an hour and a half, I had hoped to find more. I guess in the future I ought to bring a Clif Bar or something just in case. I really need to refuel after that kind of effort, and the long wait for the awards ceremony combined with the lack of food got to me after a bit. I guess I should have stopped by the ice cream truck that was circling the island!

I found out that I placed third in my age group, so we had some time to kill before the awards ceremony. The Navy was there with a pull-up bar so I went over to do a few.

Pull-ups!

Pull-ups!

Finally the awards ceremony began and I received a bronze key chain for being third in my age group. Pretty cool!

With the other speedy women in my age group.

With the other speedy women in my age group.

Age group prize.

Age group prize.

Overall, this was a great experience and I’m really happy with how things went. Like every other race I’ve done, the run has been my strength while the bike has been my weakness. I have to keep working on my cycling despite really just wanting to run. Though I’m always a little critical of myself, I’m also thrilled. After more than six weeks off due to injury, I slowly restarted my training from scratch in mid-April. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to participate in triathlons at all this summer. After a race like this, I think I’ve been able to shake my uncertainty. The triathlon season is short, so I’ll continue to train hard and hopefully do another race or two within the next month or so.

Thanks for reading!

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Summer Sights

One thing I love about running and biking is getting to explore places I probably wouldn’t see otherwise. I’ve seen a lot of good scenery the last couple weeks, so this is a picture-loaded blog entry.

In order to make time for one of my long runs, I had to head out at the crack of dawn. As hard as it is to get up that early on a Saturday, I really need to do it more often because it was one of the most beautiful runs I’ve done. Stony Creek Metropark is just a few miles from home, so I ran from home to the park, ran a few miles on the mountain bike trails, then ran back home. The pictures barely do it justice, but the park was absolutely stunning in the early daylight.

I felt like I was in a storybook when I came across this spot.

I felt like I was in a storybook when I came across this spot.

 

I'll sacrifice some sleep for this view.

I’ll sacrifice some sleep for this view.

 

A gorgeous trail.

A gorgeous trail.

 

Another beautiful place I’ve run recently was Kellogg Forest in Augusta, MI. While visiting Matt’s parents for a few days, I wanted to run and bike around some places I’d never seen. Although Matt grew up just a few miles from the forest, he’d never run there. I’m really glad he mentioned it and we got the chance to explore the awesome trails together. I don’t run on trails often enough and should try to change that. It was very peaceful and we only saw a handful of people during our two runs there.

Part of the North Country Trail.

Part of the North Country Trail.

 

Surrounded by trees.

Surrounded by trees.

 

Softer ground is easier on the body but definitely more challenging.

Softer ground is easier on the body but definitely more challenging.

 

On my way into the woods.

On my way into the woods.

 

Maple Manor.

Maple Manor.

 

Another place we explored was the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. It’s a very nice trail that was great for biking.

Over the river.

Over the river.

 

A beautiful day for riding.

A beautiful day for riding.

 

Another bridge.

Another bridge.

 

On the way to the nature center.

On the way to the nature center.

 

Matt also led me on a bike ride through Fort Custer State Park in Augusta. The park has campgrounds, mountain bike trails, a beach, etc.

Another beautiful day for a bike ride.

Another beautiful day for a bike ride.

 

The beach.

The beach.

 

Taking a break to watch some kayakers.

Taking a break to watch some kayakers.

I often end up running and biking around the same areas due to convenience and lack of time, but I hope to work in visits to new places more often. Hopefully I’ll have more pretty pictures to share throughout the rest of the summer!

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

First Try Triathlon Recap

Last year’s First Try Triathlon in Linden, MI was my very first triathlon. I chose it because it was beginner-friendly and the “super sprint” distance (300 yard swim, 9.1 mile bike, 2 mile run) is a little shorter than a regular sprint. It was a great race for my first experience. The race offers both “first try” and “fast try” divisions. The first try is non-competitive and designed for true beginners. The fast try offers awards for people who are looking to be more competitive.

Since I’ve been working my way back from injury the last couple months, the “super sprint” distance was appealing and I knew I could participate in the fast try division. I chose to make this race my first triathlon of the year on Saturday, June 21. I knew I was ready for the distance, but I wasn’t sure that my training had been intensive enough yet to count on much speed. I knew the race would be a good way to gauge my progress and see what I had in me.

As I prepared for the race the night before, part of me couldn’t help but wonder why I voluntarily choose to put myself through things like this. I used checklists to keep everything organized, but I still worried about all of the things I needed to remember to take. Forget one thing such as a bike helmet or goggles and it means the race is a no-go. I also worried the logistics of the race, such as how to get through the transitions as efficiently as possible. The worrying combined with waking up ridiculously early on a Saturday to put myself through torture seems pretty crazy when I really think about it. Despite all of that, I love it and couldn’t wait.

The ridiculously early Saturday morning started around 4:45, and I was on the road by 5:20. Linden is a little less than an hour away and the transition area opened at 6:00. I wanted to get there early to check in and get a good spot in the transition area. I remembered that it was pretty full by the time I got there last year and I had to squeeze my bike into a spot. I was able to check in quickly near the beach, then I went back to the car to get my bike and other stuff. One thing I really like about this race is that parking is available right across the street from the transition area, making it easy to go back for my bike after checking in.

The check-in area.

The check-in area.

I prefer to have my bike on a rack by the transition’s exit, and that was no problem thanks to my early arrival. I chose a spot right next to a guy with a really fancy bike, so I suspected he knew what he was doing. We talked for a little bit and he gave me some good advice. I found out later that he did indeed know what he was doing – he was the overall winner of the race! He’s 61 years old and races nearly every weekend through the summer. Very impressive!

The transition entrance.

The transition entrance.

The transition area.

The transition area.

The transition area closed at 7:20 so I had some time to kill before then. It rolled around before I knew it and it was time to gather at the beach for the pre-race meeting.

The beach.

The beach.

People could warm up in the water before the meeting, so I went to see how the water felt. I didn’t get all the way in because it was only about 60 degrees outside and I was afraid I’d freeze once I got out. The pre-race meeting went over every aspect of the race, then the first wave of fast try men went down to the water. I really like the wave starts for the swim as it reduces the congestion and craziness. I was in the second wave, and I’d guess that there may have been 15-20 women. We had a couple minutes to get ready in the water then we were off!

I’ve only swum in open water a couple times – this race last year and one other triathlon. My lack of experience was apparent immediately. It’s not that I freaked out, but my style and breathing were terrible at the beginning. I’m still not really used to “sighting” when I can’t see anything through the sandy water and I have to lift my head to spot the buoys. I had no rhythm and took a breath on every stroke for nearly the first half of the swim. As the group spread out more, I finally got into a better groove. The second half of the swim went pretty well once I felt more comfortable. I’m happy to say that I stuck close to the buoys, unlike one race where I ended up swimming way off track. 300 yards is pretty short, so I was probably in the water for a little over six minutes.

The swim, including the run to the transition area.

The swim, including the run to the transition area.

The run up the stairs to the transition area is included in the swim time, and it’s a lot of stairs to run when you feel wobbly coming out of the water!

Quite a climb!

Quite a climb!

My swim time was 7:39 and I tried to hustle through the transition as I grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, belt with my bib, and put on my socks and shoes. I got through the transition in 1:44 and headed out on the bike. Since I was in the second wave, not many people were out on the course yet, but I always seemed to have someone in front to chase. A number of speedy bikers with fancy bikes and aero helmets came along and zipped right past me. They always make me feel like I’m barely moving. The course is relatively flat with a little bit of rolling.

The bike elevation map.

The bike elevation map.

Because it’s an open course, there were some cars to deal with, but it wasn’t an issue. Plenty of people were along the course to direct us and stop traffic at crossroads. It went pretty well, aside from the moment when a dog ran in front of me. It came out of nowhere and made me swear out loud. Luckily it was far enough in front of me and I didn’t have to slam on the brakes, but it still freaked me out. I finished the bike in 31:42.

I kept moving pretty good and made it through the second transition in 37 seconds. My legs usually feel heavy as I start the run, but I noticed a slight numbness in my feet for at least half a mile this time – something new for me. I kept a good pace as I ran along the paved trail, but my breathing was pretty bad. The first half of the run was a bit of a struggle and when I felt like I should have run a mile, it was frustrating to realize I’d only run half a mile. I knew it was a bit of a climb at the beginning, and when I look at the elevation map, now I realize why the first half felt so tough…especially right off the bike.

The run elevation map.

The run elevation map.

The last part of the race went through a wooded area, and it was a nice way to break things up. At that point I gained on and passed a woman who led by quite a bit on the bike. That helped motivate me to finish strong. I finished the run in 14:57.

With my medal post-race.

With my medal post-race.

It took a few minutes for me to recover from a tough run, and the other woman finished just nine seconds behind me. We congratulated each other on a good race, with me complimenting her on a solid bike portion and she complimented my run. One fun thing about triathlons is seeing how everyone has different strengths. It’s interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.

The post-race food selection included oranges, bananas, grapes, and some awesome buttered bread. I cheered people on as they finished and waited for the preliminary results. I knew I had shaved a few minutes off last year’s time, so I was already happy about that.

The finish.

The finish.

I was thrilled when the results came out – I had won my age group! I think I was even more excited when I realized I was the second woman overall. This race that was supposed to be a good gauge of where I stood let me know that I’ve made more progress than I had realized.

Results.

Results.

Splits.

Splits.

The awards ceremony came a bit later, and I think my favorite moment was seeing the kids. I am so impressed by the kids who participate in triathlons. I didn’t even know about triathlons at their age! Two brothers under the age of 13 won awards. They weren’t in the area, but when they heard their names they came running and collected their glasses – which the announcer joked that they could use for chocolate milk.

Age group award.

Age group award.

Technical race shirt.

Technical race shirt.

Medal.

Medal.

When I looked at last year’s results, I realized I improved in every area. I cut almost 20 seconds off my swim, two minutes off my bike, ten seconds off my run, and both transitions were faster. I really surprised myself and it’s motivation to keep training hard. My back did ache a bit through the day, but I felt relatively good.

Overall, it was another great race and I highly recommend it. It helped me realize that I’ve made great progress as I move past my injury, and I have more in me at this point than I realized. I’m excited to keep training through the summer, increase the distance, and hopefully do several more races.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography