Twin Cities Training Update – 7 Weeks Out

Training for the Twin Cities Marathon began on June 1st, and now I’m less than two months out from running my second marathon. Hal Higdon’s training plan worked well for me when I ran the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2013, so I’m using one of his plans again. I’ve made some tweaks though, substituting his Tuesday workouts with those from the Hansons’ plan. Higdon rotates between tempo runs, hill repeats, and 800s on Tuesdays. I wanted something different this time and believe the Hansons’ workouts will give me some variety and make me stronger. I’m still not ready to commit to following their plan for the marathon, though I’ve considered trying it in the future.

The marathon training plan I've been following.

The marathon training plan I’ve been following.

As I typically do, I adjust my training when necessary and haven’t followed the plan shown above 100% of the time. When I created the schedule, I adjusted the Tuesday workouts for the first four weeks so I could concentrate on 10K-specific speedwork before racing the Corporate Cup 10K. I took a week off from speed following that race before starting up with the Hansons’ speed segment of the plan. The speed segment had me running repeats at a 7:00 pace, which is just a hair slower than my best 5K pace. I went to the track a few times and hit the treadmill a couple times when it was ridiculously hot outside. Between the heat and the lack of traction on loose stones, I couldn’t successfully pull off 5K speed on the trail. I’ve been using the Paint Creek Trail for many of my other runs though.

I love living so close to the Paint Creek Trail.

I love living so close to the Paint Creek Trail.

This week I began the “strength” segment of the Hansons’ workouts – repeats of 1-3 miles at a time at a pace 10 seconds faster than marathon pace. In addition to Higdon’s pace runs, I think these workouts will be extremely valuable when it comes to building race pace endurance. Getting through a workout of 6×1 mile at a 7:50 pace wasn’t a breeze, but I definitely felt strong after I finished.

The marathon pace runs I have done on weekends have gone really well so far. Last weekend I ran nine miles just under an 8:00 pace and felt great. I felt even better about my training when I followed up with 19 solid miles the next day. So far so good! My best long runs have been those that I’ve done very early in the morning. Sleeping in sure would be nice, but I know that the heat and sun drag me down when I start my runs too late in the morning. I’ve been heading out the door by 6:30 nearly every weekend morning and I love how peaceful it is at that time of day. I get motivated to run because I wonder how things will look in the early morning light. We live in an area that can be very busy and congested, but there are dirt roads and farmland just a few miles away. It’s like a whole different world, and I’ve enjoyed exploring some of those areas during my long runs.

It's worthwhile to wake up so early when I see sights like this.

It’s worthwhile to wake up so early when I see sights like this.

Seen on my run.

Seen on my run.

In order to figure out my goal marathon pace, I entered my Glass City Half Marathon time into Greg McMillan’s calculator. It told me that I could aim for an 8:00 pace and run the marathon in about 3:30. Even if I’m a few minutes off, it looks like I might have the potential to qualify for Boston. I’ve moved into a new age group since I last ran a marathon, and now my qualifying time is 3:40. Since I’m training for 3:30, of course I should try to be confident that I will hit that time. The realistic side of me knows that the marathon is quite a monster, and with only one under my belt, I still don’t know what to expect. I was about seven minutes off of my goal time in my first marathon, which I finished in 3:42. I’ve gotten faster since then, so I’m hopeful that I can at least pull off a 3:35. Hopefully that would give me enough of a buffer to get into Boston, knowing that people typically have to be a few minutes under the qualifying time to actually make it in. When I realized I might be on the verge of qualifying, I decided I had to order the Boston “Lobster Launch” shoes from Brooks to help motivate me. The Launch is probably my favorite shoe, and I couldn’t resist when I saw this special edition design.

Motivation to qualify for Boston!

Motivation to qualify for Boston!

In a couple weeks I’m going to run the Crim 10 Mile Race for my first time. It’s a huge race for this area and pretty much every runner I know has run it, so it’s finally time to give it a try. I don’t plan on truly racing, but I’ll probably give it a good effort. In the meantime, this weekend is my first of three 20-milers. With 10 miles to run the other day, it will be a 30-mile weekend. I plan on eating a LOT this weekend!

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Shermanator Triathlon Recap

The Shermanator was my second triathlon of the season and took place on Saturday, August 1st. Although it makes me think of the character from the American Pie movies, the race gets its name from the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center in Augusta, MI. Located between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, it’s also close to where Matt’s parents live. We were able to stay with them and spend a nice weekend together in addition to me doing the race.

With the Twin Cities Marathon being the top priority on my racing schedule, I’ve decided that I will only do triathlons on “down” weekends when it comes to marathon training. I don’t want to miss any of my really long runs. My training schedule cut back to a 12-mile long run the weekend of the Shermanator, versus 17 miles the week before and 19 the week after. I was okay with skipping a 12-mile run if I needed to recover from the race, but I actually felt fine and still managed to do the long run the following day anyway.

Matt and his dad were kind enough to support me despite the crazy early arrival time. We parked in the designated field and had a bit of a hike to get to the YMCA’s recreation center, where I checked in around 6:30 am. I wasn’t guaranteed a shirt because I registered a few days prior to the race, but luckily they had a table with some extras and I was able to get a shirt in my size. After I checked in, we had more walking to do to get down to the waterfront. I enjoyed the walk through the woods on the paved trails, where we passed things like an archery range, cabins, a band shell, and more. It’s a really nice center with a lot of activities for retreats and campers.

The band shell.

The band shell.

Very nice paths through the woods.

Very nice paths through the woods.

A large church group had their own section of racks in the transition area, and the rest were first come first serve. I chose a rack on the concrete so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting as much grass off my feet after the swim. The transition area was in the woods and it was a pretty setting.

The transition area.

The transition area.

I was happy to find a building with real bathrooms by the beach. They also had porta-potties, so I didn’t see anyone waiting in long lines. I went down to the beach to scope it out. The lake looked beautiful!

A great photo from Matt.

A great photo from Matt.

The swim would start through the gap on the right, and finish through the gap on the left, by the buoy.

The swim would start through the gap on the right, and finish through the gap on the left, by the buoy.

I wanted to get a feel for the layout, so I did a quick run from the beach up to the transition area. It was nice that they had mats on the grass, making the run a lot smoother.

The path from the beach up to the transition area.

The path from the beach up to the transition area.

Transition closed at 7:30, and the first of four waves started at 7:45. There were a couple of waves for the men first, then a couple for the women, with each wave starting about four minutes after the previous one. I was in the third wave, with women 45 and under. The water was a warm 78 degrees – warmer than the air.

People were told that they could hang back by the beach where it was shallow if they chose, because it got deep pretty quickly. I wanted to be up near the official starting line so I wouldn’t waste any time. I treaded water at first until I realized I could just hang onto the dock and save energy.

Matt took some pictures, including this one of the start of the swim.

Matt took some pictures, including this one of the start of the swim.

My pre-race nerves were especially bad because of stomach issues. It had been messed up since Wednesday afternoon and continued to bother me when I woke up the morning of the race. I didn’t want to back out of the race and figured I’d give it a try. I hoped I’d at least be okay for the swim and bike, but worried about the jostling motion when it was time to run. I wanted to be excited about the start of the race, but I was too conscious of the dull pain in my stomach. When it was time for my wave to start, there was no looking back!

After racing an Olympic triathlon last month, I was excited about the sprint distance because it would be so much shorter and faster. The Shermanator only had a sprint distance. The swim was 500 yards, so I didn’t bother with a wetsuit. I’d practiced swimming fast for 400 meters earlier in the week and felt confident. However, when I started the race, my legs felt tired from the start and I worried about how the rest of the race might go. I felt a little better as I went along. I was spoiled when I swam in the beautiful Lake Huron for my last tri. This was the typical kind of lake I’ve grown used to, where I could see a little bit in front of me, but not much. A few spots had some seaweed, but nothing bad. Although I was slower than I expected to be, it went okay.

On my way to the transition.

On my way to the transition.

The swim and run up the beach and through the grass took 10:54. I got through the first transition in 1:25, mostly slowed down by putting my socks and shoes on, and trying to get my thick, wet ponytail through my helmet.

Starting the bike portion.

Starting the bike portion.

The bike course started uphill, and I was already totally winded from the swim. I finally recovered after the first mile on the bike. We rode on some trails through the park and out to the main roads. I wouldn’t say the roads were rough, but not the smoothest I’ve been on either. The course had a few rolling hills that slowed me down, but nothing significant. I didn’t think about my stomach at all on the bike, so I felt pretty good at that point. Still, I’m never very fast on the bike. I peaked at 19.9 mph for one downhill mile, but averaged under 17.5 mph overall. I finished 10 miles in 34:28.

Elevation for the bike course.

Elevation for the bike course.

I flew through the second transition in 33 seconds. Like the bike, the run started uphill on the way out of the park. We ran on the paved trails, had a brief stretch on a gravel path, then went out to the roads. The first mile was pretty tough between tired legs from the bike and starting uphill. Nearly a mile into the run, I caught up to a woman who was wearing a bike helmet while running – something I’d never seen before. I wondered if it was her way of saving time. Just after I passed her, I heard her realize out loud that she still had it on. Apparently it wasn’t intentional!

I got through the first mile in 7:42 and the second in 7:49. After running my first couple miles under a 7:30 pace during last month’s Olympic tri, I was not impressed with myself. This was shorter and should be faster! This course did have enough small, rolling hills to slow me down a bit. I became more aware of my stomach during the run. I had a dull ache/cramp on my left side. I was extremely thankful that it wasn’t worse though. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t going to be my greatest day, but I was still doing it. I sped up to a 7:20 pace for the third mile, mostly thanks to flying down the hill that was so hard to climb at the start. I finished the 5K run in 22:56. The official results said I averaged 7:22 per mile, but my Garmin had my average at 7:37 per mile, with the course a little short at 3.02.

The elevation for the run.

The elevation for the run.

I finished the whole race with a time of 1:10:13. I had estimated that my time would be around 1:10-1:15, so I was pretty happy. I was also excited to see that I had placed as the sixth woman overall (out of 78), and third in my age group! The race had 154 finishers for the triathlon, 19 in the duathlon, six in the aquabike, plus a few relay teams.

2015-08-01 shermanator results

I usually need a couple minutes of walking around to recover after a race. This time was different though, because in addition to feeling wiped out from a hard finish, stomach pain came on literally seconds after I stopped running. I usually want food right away, but I was suffering. I grabbed a slice of watermelon and ate it as I hunched over at a picnic table. Despite feeling so bad, I knew I needed something after racing for over an hour. I was happy to see chocolate milk, which is my usual recovery drink. I didn’t feel like having a granola bar or yogurt, but I took some blueberries. Once again, I hunched over at the picnic table in pain. I thought it was interesting that I made it through over an hour of racing, but the second I stopped, things got really bad. Because I had won an age group award, it meant I had to wait around for the ceremony. Matt checked to see if I could get it early, but I couldn’t. I found a place to sit and tried not to move. Eventually they got to the awards, and we took off right after I collected mine.

Faking a smile even though I felt miserable!

Faking a smile even though I felt miserable!

My age group medal along with the great race shirt. Sure to be a new favorite of mine.

My age group medal along with the great race shirt. Sure to be a new favorite of mine.

It had been a long walk into the park, but it felt REALLY long on the way out as I walked while hunched over. I was so thankful to have Matt and his dad there to help with my bike and other stuff. Before we could get to the car, I felt nauseous enough to hit the bushes and get sick. The stomach pain stuck with me the entire day, and luckily I felt better the next day.

Aside from the stomach misery, it was a great experience. I realized after the race how much I liked the grouping of the waves. With all of the men starting before the women, I didn’t have them flying around me during the bike portion. In nearly every other race I’ve done, some of the men are SO much faster than me on the bike and it makes me feel even worse about my slowness as they zip by. I still knew I wasn’t fast, but it was nice that it wasn’t as blatantly obvious. Although a little challenging at times, it was a nice course. I hope to do this race again when I feel better so I can truly enjoy it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Caseville Triathlon Recap

I finally got around to racing my first triathlon of the year on Sunday, July 12 in Caseville, MI. It was my second time tackling the Olympic distance. When I did my first Olympic race last summer, I was in a stage of rebuilding a base in all three disciplines as my back recovered from a car accident in March. I had enough of a base to get through the distance, but I knew that I could do better with more training. I’ve been training hard this year and chose Caseville as my goal race for the summer.

Tri to Finish delivers a great race experience, so I browsed through their list when I tried to decide where to race this year. Caseville stood out for a number of reasons. I hadn’t been to Michigan’s “thumb area” before and was curious to check it out. Tri to Finish described the swim in Lake Huron as “crystal clear,” and the bike course along Lake Huron would have “picturesque views the entire way.” With the bike being my weak spot, I was especially interested in the smooth and flat course. I thought it would make a nice weekend getaway, so I was sold.

On Saturday afternoon, Matt and I drove to our hotel in Bad Axe – about an hour and a half north of us. We made a brief stop to drop off our stuff, then headed an extra half hour up to Caseville for the packet pickup. As we drove through the backroads, we were fascinated by the seemingly endless fields of wind turbines.

Packet pickup took place at the Thumb Brewery, where we also ate a nice dinner. My bib was good for free chips and dip – bonus! After dinner, we walked to the Caseville County Park to check out the site of the race. A band shell near the park was going to host a concert that evening, which ties into the official title of the race – Caseville Movin’ and Groovin’ Triathlon.

I was impressed by how large and nice the beach was.

I was impressed by how large and nice the beach was.

The water looked so nice I wanted to go for a practice swim!

The water looked so nice I wanted to go for a practice swim!

A beautiful evening for a walk on the pier.

A beautiful evening for a walk on the pier.

Although it was a beautiful night, I knew I should get off my feet and get back to the hotel. The next morning, we left the hotel before 6:30. I figured I should get in line for the porta-potties as soon as we got there so I wouldn’t be rushed right before the race. They only had two and probably could have used more. There were bathrooms in a building along the beach, but the building was locked when I got there. Of course someone unlocked them just as I finally made it to the front of the porta-potty line.

I got marked up and set things up in transition. Much thanks to Matt for being there to support me and for taking some photos!

Getting everything organized.

Getting everything organized.

The transition area.

The transition area.

Next, I got my wetsuit on. I’ve worn it a couple times in a lake to practice, but this would be my first time racing in it. I figured it would slow me down in the transition, but hopefully the buoyancy would help my swim enough to make it worthwhile.

Time flew by and the 8:00 start came before I knew it. The race offered sprint, Olympic, and half Ironman distances, plus a duathlon. The half swimmers started in the first wave, and a woman commented that it seemed like the Olympic group was the smallest. She was right – not counting a few relay teams, there were 42 Olympic finishers versus 88 in the sprint and 69 in the half. I was happy because it meant less congestion for our wave.

Everyone gathered for the start of the race.

Everyone gathered for the start of the race.

After the half swimmers started, those of us in the Olympic race worked our way through the water to a buoy, where we started about five minutes later. It was a relief to have very little congestion at the start, especially since plenty of the swimmers took off and left me in their dust!

The start of the Olympic swim.

The start of the Olympic swim.

The water was the perfect temperature and I loved this swim. I’m used to swimming in murky lakes with seaweed, so it was awesome to swim in crystal clear water where I could actually see in front of me. I could feel the buoyancy of the wetsuit, but I still didn’t feel especially fast. A couple times people came up along my side closer than I liked, so I’d hold up for a second and go around them on the outside to create some space. Otherwise, everything was great about the swim.

As I finished the swim and reached the beach, I realized that my legs weren’t going to allow me to run to the transition. I was very wobbly and made it to the timing mat with a time of 30:49 – pretty decent for me between the 1500m swim and “run” up the beach.

Next I had to worry about getting out of my wetsuit. The thing is about as tight as it can get. I ordered it online and apparently the sizing charts do not apply to me. Based on the measurements, the first one I ordered should have been good. It wasn’t, so I asked their customer service person what size to try next. The next one still didn’t fit, so I went up one more size. It was still awfully tight, but at least I could get it on, unlike the previous two. I was not going to make another return, so I decided to live with it.

It works great for the swim, but it sure is hard to get in and out of it.

It works great for the swim, but it sure is hard to get in and out of it.

I actually managed to get the left sleeve off around my Garmin, which was a problem during my practice swims. What I hadn’t anticipated was an issue with the timing chip on my ankle. We were told to wear the chip outside of the wetsuit, so I did. The ankle part of my wetsuit is so tight that I really struggled to get it off over the chip. I had used a safety pin in addition to the velcro to make sure the chip stayed on, so I couldn’t easily open it up and put it back on. I’m going to have to learn how to make that easier the next time around. I’ve read that some people cut a few inches off the legs, so maybe I should consider that?

I wasn’t out to win the race and knew that wriggling out of my wetsuit for the first time in a race situation would slow me down in the first transition, so I was okay living with my slow time. I threw on a tank top with my bib, scarfed a few Honey Stinger energy chews, put my socks and shoes on, got my helmet and sunglasses, and finally got through T1 in 2:47.

Then it was time for 25 miles on the bike. While I peaked with one 30-mile ride prior to my first Olympic triathlon, I did a number of regular long rides while training for this race. 35 miles was the longest I went, but I regularly rode 20-30 miles each weekend for most of the winter and spring. Just like every other triathlon I’ve done, the “real” cyclists flew past me throughout the bike course. They always make me feel like I’m standing still. Despite training more consistently on the bike, I’m still not a cyclist. I thought the flat course would help, but I didn’t go faster than 18.5 mph for any mile. The best I could manage was an average of 17.5 mph overall. I’ve tried to build my base more, but I haven’t pushed speed very much during training and I still haven’t tried clipless pedals. I’ve basically done enough to “get by” on the bike, so I don’t expect much. I really enjoyed the bike course because it took us out and back on a road near the shoreline.

20150712 - Caseville route

The bike took us out on Main St. / Port Austin Rd.

The shoulder was large and the road was fairly smooth, so it was great for a race. I enjoyed riding past campgrounds and lakefront cottages. At times we had really nice views of the water. At a certain point my inner thighs got sore from sitting on the seat for so long. I realized that I’d used padded bike shorts for all of my longer rides and hadn’t practiced long rides with tri shorts. The padding definitely makes a difference! In addition, I had strained my left thumb/wrist pretty bad a couple weeks earlier from gripping my handlebar too tight and for too long. I thought about it during the whole bike portion of the race, making sure I moved that hand around enough so it wouldn’t get irritated.

Coming back into the park.

Coming back into the park.

After spending so much time in the first transition, I was able to fly through the second transition in 37 seconds. I racked my bike, grabbed my fuel belt and hat, and ran.

Leaving the transition area for the run.

Leaving the transition area for the run.

There was a small hill on the way out of the park that drained me briefly, but the rest of the run was flat. I was pretty strong for the first two miles, then my pace dropped off a bit. The run took us out and back on some uneventful roads. We ran by farmland for a short stretch near the turnaround point. That part was out in the open and the sun was more noticeable. Luckily we didn’t run in that area for too long, because it probably would have worn on me mentally. I felt pretty tired by the halfway point and almost felt like I was in survival mode at times, but my pace was still decent. The fourth mile was my slowest at 8:05. Since I’d hoped to average at least 8:00 per mile overall and I was well under that, I remained relatively positive. The small hill I had struggled to climb at the beginning gave me a good boost on the way back down into the park, and I pushed to keep it up through the end.

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Finishing strong.

I finished the 10K in 47:58, averaging around 7:42 per mile. My run splits were 7:26, 7:28, 7:41, 8:05, 7:55, 7:47, and a pace of 6:52 for the last 0.23. I was excited to find out that I had finished the race in a even 2:48:00. It took me three hours to finish my first Olympic tri. Although this course was easier, I was still thrilled to improve my time by so much.

I did it! Well under three hours.

I did it! Well under three hours.

It took a few minutes of pacing around before I recovered enough to get some water and food. They had some non-appealing looking bananas and handed out a slice of pizza, but that was about it. Once again, I think I’ve been spoiled by the elaborate spreads of food that often follow running races. Most of the triathlons I’ve done have been lacking in that department. After working so hard, all I want to do is eat. I’ve learned to bring snacks of my own, plus I knew there was a Dairy Queen close by.

There was nearly an hour to kill before the awards ceremony, so I changed into dry clothes, snacked on my food, and waited. By default, I won an age group award since there were only two of us in the age group. Another woman in our age group had placed as one of the top females.

On the podium with the one other woman in my age group.

On the podium with the one other woman in my age group.

For my second place finish, I received a silver piece that magnetically attached to my medal.

The medal with the magnetic age group award.

The medal with the magnetic age group award.

The age group award attached to the medal.

The age group award attached to the medal.

It looks like I placed fifth out of 16 women. Apparently not many women participated in the Olympic distance. I didn’t care much about my placement though. I was just happy that I had improved my Olympic time by 12 minutes.

Overall, I loved this race and would definitely do it again in the future. When I signed up, I liked that the half Ironman was one of the possible distances. I’m not sure if I’ll want to tackle the distance at some point, but at least I got the chance to scope out a potential place to try it.

Due to marathon training that is getting pretty serious now, this may be my only Olympic distance race this year. If so, I’m definitely happy with how it went.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Corporate Cup 10K Recap

Several years ago I learned that there was a running club at work, so I joined the email list. Aside from running on one of the corporate teams for the Brooksie Way Half Marathon a few years ago, I haven’t really participated. When I received the initial email about this year’s upcoming Corporate Cup Relays, I was definitely interested. I had been interested in the past, but always had something else going on that day. This year, I decided to make it a priority. I have to admit that aside from representing GM, one of the biggest draws was the cool Chevy Running Club shirt!

I love this shirt

I love this shirt

The Chevy logo on the back

The Chevy logo on the back

The Corporate Cup Relays started back in 1987 and take place at Southfield Lathrup High School in Lathrup Village, MI. This year’s event occurred on Saturday, June 20. The event includes 5K and 10K road races, a 5K walk, field events (like long jump, high jump and shot put), and track relays. Teams are divided into three divisions based on the size of the company. Division I includes companies with 10,000 employees or more (GM, Ford, and FCA – formerly known as Chrysler), Division II ranges from 1,000-10,000 people (Autoliv, Valassis, Shinola, and ThyssenKrupp), and Division III has less than 1,000 people (AVL, Nissan, Takata). Teams also raise money for charities, which included the Dearborn Animal Shelter and the Special Olympics.

I have been able to improve my 5K and half marathon times by quite a bit over the years, but my best 10K time was from back in 2011. I rarely race the distance and it’s always kind of tortured me. Maybe that’s because I’ve never specifically targeted my training for a 10K. I decided to sign up for the Corporate Cup’s 10K road race to see if I could finally reach my potential and improve my time. After the Glass City Half Marathon on April 26, I had about eight weeks to prepare for this race.

Based on my time at Glass City and my 5K PR, Greg McMillan’s calculator said I should be capable of running a 7:12 pace for a 10K. McMillan’s calculator has been incredibly accurate for me when I train appropriately. I wasn’t sure what kind of workouts I should do, so I searched for 10K training plans and found McMillan’s eight-week plan. I was worried that it might be a bit ambitious for me, but I wanted to give it a shot. I didn’t follow the plan 100% since I needed to ease back into training after the half marathon, plus I threw in another 10K race a couple weeks before the Corporate Cup. I stuck to the plan for the most part though. When I successfully pulled off some of the harder workouts at 10K pace, it gave my confidence a huge boost. Maybe I could master the 10K after all!

Despite running some solid workouts, I was still pretty nervous about actually pulling it off on race day. The 10K was the first event of the day, starting at 7:45. It was a beautiful morning and the course was flat, so I hoped for the best. I knew I should be able to improve my 10K time, and I also aimed to place first in my age group. The scoring for the Corporate Cup’s 10K is based on age and gender, so the goal was to rack up age group wins. Other events included all divisions, but the 10K was just for Division I – GM (Chevy), Ford, and FCA. Between the three companies, 151 people participated. I was lucky that Matt was willing to come out and take photos during the 10K, and he got some awesome action shots.

Waiting for the start of the 10K

Waiting for the start of the 10K

The 10K started and finished on the track, with neighborhood roads making up the majority of the course.

Starting on the track

Starting on the track

It was fun to see a bunch of people I knew from work and talk about running with them. I’m sure many of us hadn’t realized before that we shared a love for running. It was also fun to encourage people in Chevy/GM shirts out on the course since we were pulling for each other as a team. Lathrup Village was a great place to run, with peaceful neighborhood roads and nice houses for distraction.

The 10K route

The 10K route

I was still smiley because this was early on!

I was still smiley because this was early on!

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Enough people ran this race to always have someone fairly close by. That always helps keep me going. When my pace slowed down by the third mile, I worried that I was starting to fall apart. I sped back up though, and I felt pretty good the whole time. In the past, I’ve almost always felt miserable when I’ve raced 10Ks. Running 10K-specific workouts during training sure made a big difference. By the time I hit the track for the final 300 meters, I was feeling pretty drained, but I still had enough energy for a final push.

Finishing strong

Finishing strong

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I had no idea how I had placed, but I knew I had a new PR! My official time was 45:16, shaving over 30 seconds off my time from my “practice” 10K on a difficult Mackinac Island course a couple weeks earlier, and nearly a minute and a half off my 2011 PR.

My splits

My splits

McMillan’s calculator had estimated that I was capable of a 7:12 pace, and I hit 7:13 – pretty close! Someone gave out small cartons of chocolate milk as we exited the track, and the GM tent had bagels, cookies, and some other snacks.

I went back to the track to cheer for teammates and took a few cell phone photos. It was definitely a friendly and supportive environment.

Lots of people in blue shirts cheering on GM finishers

Lots of people in blue shirts cheering on GM finishers

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this Chrysler dog prior to the 5K.

Representing Chrysler!

Representing Chrysler!

Some of the 10K runners also participated in the 5K, but I gave everything I had and was done for the day. I enjoyed watching the start of the 5K run.

5K runners

5K runners

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The 5K walk began five minutes later. It’s always fun to see the truly competitive walkers, who somehow manage to walk a 5K faster than many can run one. The GM guy in the front of the following photo won with a time of 22:18!

5K walkers

5K walkers

I stuck around long enough to see the first 5K runners finish, but left soon after. Although it would have been fun to watch the other events, the track events didn’t start until noon and were scheduled to run until 4:00.

A few days later I found out I was the 5th female overall and had placed first in my age group! That helped my team, who wanted three first place age group finishes for the women. Although the Chevy team had three top women, Ford did as well. Ford’s fastest woman placed 7th while Chevy’s was 18th, so Ford took the win in the 10K Women category.

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Ford took the overall win for Division I in the Corporate Cup, and Chevy placed second. I really enjoyed this race and the whole experience, and hope to participate again in the future.

Happy with my new PR and a successful 10K!

Happy with my new PR and a successful 10K!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 10K Recap

In both 2011 and 2013, Matt and I really enjoyed running across the Mackinac Bridge during the Memorial Day weekend. Although we’ve been to Mackinac Island several times, we’ve never actually run on the island. We finally made that happen on Saturday, June 6 when we ran the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 10K.

If you’re not familiar with Mackinac Island, it is located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Aside from the awesome fudge, the main charm of the island is that it does not allow cars. Bikes and horse-drawn buggies are the main modes of transportation.

Just under a four-hour drive for us, it’s a perfect weekend getaway. We left after work on Friday and made it to our hotel in Mackinaw City by 9:30 that night. Although we’d like to stay on the island one of these days, Mackinaw City is nice as well and offers more reasonable rates.

On the morning of the race, we caught the first ferry to the island at 7:30. Ferries were scheduled to leave every half hour, and we wanted to play it safe in case the boats filled up. The bottom of the boat was full, leaving us to sit up top in the open air. It was a beautiful morning, but it was no warmer than 50 degrees. Factor in the wind chill of the moving boat and it was pretty chilly. I was distracted by a nice view of the Mackinac Bridge at first, but then it was a long, cold 15-minute trip to the island. I think it took about 45 minutes for one of my fingers to thaw.

The Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge

Approaching the island

Approaching the island

Arriving so early allowed us to see the island in a way we hadn’t before. It was very peaceful before the bikes, horses, and swarms of people hit the streets. I really love the old-fashioned vibe of the island.
A calm street before all of the tourists (and runners) arrived

A calm street before all of the tourists (and runners) arrived

From the ferry docks, we walked a half mile to the school for the packet pickup. With such beautiful sights along the way, we enjoyed the walk.
A nice boardwalk along the water

A nice boardwalk along the water

A beautiful morning for the run

A beautiful morning for the run

Because so few people live on the island year-round, only one school building is needed for all of the kids in grades K-12. The packet pickup took place in the gym, and we hung out on the bleachers there for an hour or so since the race didn’t start until 9:30.
Mackinac Island Public School

Mackinac Island Public School

As we got closer to the start time, Matt and I headed out for a warm up. Like many other people, we posed for a picture together first.

The Mackinac Bridge is off in the distance behind us

The Mackinac Bridge is off in the distance behind us

After warming up, we ran back into the front of the crowd, giving us prime placement for the start. Between the runners and walkers, over 800 people participated. The start was in front of the Windemere Hotel, about a quarter mile from the school.

Gathering before the start of the race

Gathering before the start of the race

The race started out running through town, but it seems like we turned out of the main part of town in no time. Just over half a mile into the race we hit “the hill.” I was aware of the hill when I signed up for the race and knew it would definitely affect my time. Being aware of it didn’t make it any easier though! I started to huff and puff as I worked up the first part of the hill. I looked to the top and told myself I could do it. However, I didn’t realize that the part of the hill I could see at that moment was only the beginning. After a left turn, I could see that we had even more to climb. It was pretty rough. The hill was a mile long and beat me up pretty good.

The course elevation

The course elevation

Once we got past the hill, I started to enjoy the course again. It sure helped to hit a downhill segment next! We spent about half of the race running through Mackinac Island State Park, where the paved paths feature lots of trees and shade. We ran past the small airport’s runway as well, then came back around to the road that runs along the shore. I was excited to run along the water and enjoy the view. Trees lining the road separated us from the water at first, but soon enough the view opened up. However, no trees meant no protection from the wind. We ran right into the wind for the last couple miles, and that really made me struggle.

A satellite view of where we ran

A satellite view of where we ran

I didn’t have much left in me by the end. Nonetheless, I had a new PR of 45:52! I haven’t raced many 10Ks, and my old PR was several years old. My 5K and half marathon times had improved quite a bit in that time, so I knew I was due to improve my 10K time as well. This winter I made it a goal to finally “fix” my time. Starting in May, I concentrated on 10K pace workouts, something I’d never really done. With my target 10K race coming a couple weeks later, this race was kind of a practice to see how things were going. I had improved my time by 45 seconds or so despite the hill, so I knew I could do even better on a more forgiving course.

My splits

My splits

As my splits show, I was all over the place when it came to pacing. I flew along pretty good for the first half mile, but the hill slowed me down a lot after that. The hill continued into the second mile, but that’s when it leveled out a bit and the downhill started. The third mile was all downhill, so I felt great! I settled into a more reasonable (but probably too fast) pace by the fourth mile, then I hit the wind and gradually fell apart over the last couple miles. Still, I was happy with my time, finished first in my age group, and was the fourth female overall! Matt was third in his age group, so both of us earned a cool plaque.

Posing with the age group award

Posing with the age group award

Matt displaying the medal

Matt displaying the medal

I love how the medal shows our route through the island

I love how the medal shows our route through the island

The tech race shirt and medal

The tech race shirt and medal

The post-race treats included bottles of water, fruit, and granola bars. We wanted to spend some time on the island after the race, so we cleaned up a little bit in the school’s small locker rooms before they got too crowded with other people doing the same. It was nice that we could collect our awards without waiting for a ceremony. Though the temperature was great for running, it was a bit on the cool side for walking. Still, the sun was shining and the island looked beautiful. We took in the typical sights of people riding bikes and horse buggies roaming the streets. We did actually come across a few buggies during the race and had to make room for them!

White picket fences, beautiful homes, no cars...such a cool environment

White picket fences, beautiful homes, no cars…such a cool environment

Horses are everywhere

Horses are everywhere

With only a granola bar each to refuel after the race, we were starving in no time. We grabbed lunch then walked through town a little bit more, browsing through the t-shirt shops. Of course we had to get some fudge too. Sanders had fun flavors like dreamsicle, bumpy cake, and salted caramel fudge.

Great fudge selections (and other treats) at Sanders

Great fudge selections (and other treats) at Sanders

Eventually we’d had enough of the shops and I kept shivering in the cool breeze, so we headed back to Mackinaw City. I was happy to get a seat in the bottom of the ferry on the way back instead of freezing in the open air again.

After showering and resting in the hotel room for a bit, we grabbed dinner and walked around the stores in Mackinaw City. The city itself has plenty of stores with t-shirts, fudge, taffy, ice cream, and other treats. When we got back to the hotel for good that night, my legs were extremely restless between the race and all of the walking.

We had a 10-mile run on our marathon training schedule the next morning but knew we probably wouldn’t go that long. We ended up running six miles along the North Central State Trail. We’ve stayed at the same hotel a couple times in the past, and I was always intrigued by the trail that starts right outside the hotel. I was excited to finally check it out this time. The rail to trail runs 62 miles between Mackinaw City and Gaylord. It’s paved for a brief stretch in Mackinaw City, then turns to crushed limestone. If you go far enough south, you can catch glimpses of Lake Huron. We could see resorts and campgrounds through the trees for the first mile, then we kind of grew tired of the long straightaways. I think our legs had had enough for the weekend. Still, it was a nice trail and perfect that it was right next to our hotel.

The Mackinaw City trailhead for the North Central State Trail

The Mackinaw City trailhead for the North Central State Trail

A nice tree-lined rail to trail

A nice tree-lined rail to trail

Overall, it was a great weekend getaway. It was fun to finally run around the island, and the race gave us a good excuse to refuel with plenty of fudge and salt water taffy!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Glass City Half Marathon Recap

I am happy to report that the Glass City Half Marathon, my goal race for the spring, was everything I had hoped for. The weather was great for running, the course was scenic, and I hit my goal of running sub-1:40 for a new PR!

Matt and I looked at a number of races before deciding to run Glass City in Toledo, Ohio. Ultimately, I liked that it was somewhat close to home, the flat course would allow me to push for a new PR, and it fell fairly early in the spring – April 26th. I wanted to get a half marathon in early so I could really concentrate on triathlon training a bit more before that season begins. In addition, our friend Jeff had great things to say in his recap at DetroitRunner.com when he ran the race a few years ago, so I was sold.

Toledo is an hour and a half south of us, so we decided to drive down the day before and stay overnight so we could hit the expo. Plus, leaving the house at 4:30am on race day did not sound appealing! The race begins and ends on the campus of the University of Toledo. The expo took place in Savage Hall Arena and had plenty of exhibitors to browse through. I always enjoy a good expo, and Matt and I found some nice cotton t-shirts sold by Dave’s Running.

Shirts from Dave's Running at the expo.

Shirts from Dave’s Running at the expo.

Shirts we bought at the expo.

Shirts we bought at the expo.

The expo.

The expo.

The official race shirts. Different cuts and colors for men and women.

The official race shirts. Different cuts and colors for men and women.

We’ve found that Buffalo Wild Wings usually works for us the night before a race, so we hit one for an early dinner then headed to our hotel. The weather was going to be a bit cool compared to recent temperatures, so we agonized over what to wear the next morning. We watched a Red Wings game then went to bed early, but neither of us got the greatest sleep. I think I woke up pretty much every hour. Luckily, I felt fine in the morning.

Our hotel was 15 minutes from the campus, which meant leaving before 6am for a 7am start. We aimed to park in the same lot we used for the expo, but the traffic backup was ridiculous. I’m glad we brought a map with the parking options so we could go to plan B. After a short walk from the parking lot, we stopped so Matt could get a picture with the Pink Panther, mascot of sponsor Owens Corning.

Matt with the Pink Panther.

Matt with the Pink Panther.

It was a beautiful, clear morning, but it was cold. It was 37 degrees at the start, which was actually great for running, but a bit cool for standing around. We were able to stay warm in the arena, and they opened the upstairs area that had a bunch of bathrooms. I realized we didn’t have much extra time and rushed down to the gear check, then got in a quick jog around the parking lot to warm up. By the time we got to the corral, it was so packed that we couldn’t get in. The marathon had somewhere around 1,000 people and the half marathon had just under 3,000, with everyone starting at once. We found the opening to the “B” corral, which is where we belonged, then hung out by the gate to get in.

The start.

The start.

As we were about to start, people bunched together more and we were able to get in the corral. Just after 7am, we were off! It took about a minute for us to cross the starting line. I had trained for a 7:35 pace, and figured I’d aim for a 7:50 pace for the first mile. That did not happen. It was SO congested at the start. I tried to weave around people at the edge of the street, but it was too crowded. I kind of freaked out when I realized I was at a 9:00 pace half a mile into the race! I was able to get around some people enough to drop my pace to 8:11 for the first mile. Not exactly what I had planned, so I’d have to make up for it throughout the race. It thinned out enough after that for me to run a little more comfortably. The first six miles or so took us through some beautiful neighborhoods. The streets were lined with trees and the houses were really nice.

A view from Google Maps that shows what some of the route looked like.

A view from Google Maps that shows what some of the route looked like.

Aside from some fairly insignificant hills through the neighborhoods, it was all paved, flat, and fast. Spectators were scattered throughout the course, and I especially enjoyed seeing a couple of bulldogs with awesome underbites, and a couple of little superheroes next to an adult dressed as Gumby. A short portion of the race took us through Wildwood Metropark, which connected us to the University Parks bike trail about eight miles into the race. It was around that time when the half marathoners broke off from the marathoners. That’s also when I decided to pick up the pace. I was averaging somewhere around 7:38 pace and knew I needed to step it up a little bit if I wanted to hit my goal. I ate a few Honey Stinger Chews around the 5th and 10th miles to fuel, and a hydration belt with a 21 oz. bottle of GU Brew kept me from stopping at aid stations. I ran the 9th mile in 7:31 and stayed at or below that pace for the rest of the race. I think a little hill slowed me down a bit in the 12th mile and I worried that slight stomach cramping could become an issue as I dropped my pace, but luckily it faded. Somehow I dropped to 5K pace by the last mile! I guess that helped make up for the slow start.

One of the perks of this race was a finish in the Glass Bowl Stadium. After running 13 miles on the pavement, it was kind of a shock to hit the stadium’s turf. I was so distracted by thinking about the lack of traction and trying to sprint to the finish that I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings at that point. I finished in 1:39:43, which was good for a new PR by a minute, and I hit my goal of running sub-1:40!

Results.

Here are my Garmin splits:

Garmin splits.

I think it’s pretty interesting that even though my pace fluctuated throughout the run, I actually managed to hit the 7:35 goal pace I’d been aiming for. That made me especially happy! I’ve found that it’s a great feeling to have enough gas left in the tank to really pick it up at the end and finish strong. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath after I finished, then I looked at the Find My Friends app on my phone to see how Matt was doing. Training hadn’t gone as planned for him, so the race was kind of like a long training run for him. I managed to catch a shot of him flying along right before the finish line.

Matt finishing strong!

Matt finishing strong!

We got our medals and spent a bit of time taking in the atmosphere of the stadium.

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Glass Bowl Stadium

Glass Bowl Stadium

The final stretch before the stadium finish.

The final stretch before the stadium finish.

A photo together after the race.

A photo together after the race.

Since it was a bit cool out, we went to the gear check to get our stuff before checking out the food. We realized we had to backtrack to get our finisher’s mugs.

A glass mug to go along with "glass city."

A glass mug to go along with “Glass City.”

After walking around the stadium, watching finishers, and going to gear check, the food line had grown pretty long. It was worth the wait though – they had pizza, breadsticks, cinnamon bread, pretzels, Twizzlers, cookies, and other stuff. Once we made it through that line we waited for a while in the beer line. Each bib came with two free beer tickets. It seemed kind of funny to have all that food and the beer around 9am, but I was okay with it!

We ran into our friend Alexis who had to drop from the full marathon (see her blog about it here), so she and her friend Karly had walked the 5K. It was nice to see them and catch up even though things hadn’t gone as they planned. After chatting for a bit, we made the trek home.

This was a great experience all around. I’m especially thrilled that everything came together and I nailed my goal. Hal Higdon’s Advanced training program worked wonders for me once again. I stuck to the plan for the most part, but opted to run five days per week instead of six. On either Mondays or Wednesdays, I dropped the short, easy run and rode the bike or rested instead. Fridays were supposed to be rest days, but that’s usually when I did a long bike ride. I also added a swim most Saturday mornings before my runs. I did two 14-mile runs, and my weekly mileage maxed out at 37 miles two weeks before the race. I will probably continue to use Higdon’s plans in the future because they’ve worked so well for me.

Up next – back to triathlon training while also concentrating on 10K speed for a race in late June. Marathon training starts up in June as well, so it’s going to be a busy summer!

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Wake the Bear 5K Recap

On Saturday, April 18th, Matt and I went to Flushing, MI to run the Wake the Bear 5K. While browsing through races on RunMichigan.com, I came across this race. The idea behind the race is to wake the bear from hibernation after a long winter. My interest was sparked immediately when I saw an image of the bear. I hoped it would be featured on the race shirt, and luckily it was.

With the race featuring a bear like this, I couldn't resist.

With the race featuring a bear like this, I couldn’t resist.

Although the bear got my attention, we also liked that the race would benefit the Bread for Life Organization, which feeds kids in the Flushing area. Plus, the website said the course would go through Flushing Park, running over bridges, through the woods, and along the river.

I had a 3-mile pace run on my training schedule for the day, so it was perfect timing. Our current goal race is the Glass City Half Marathon, the weekend after this race. That meant I really shouldn’t race this all-out. I knew I’d be tempted to run faster than the half marathon pace my schedule called for, so I hoped to settle somewhere in between – maybe around a 7:15 pace.

Flushing is northwest of Flint, and about an hour’s drive for us. With an 8:00 am start, we left the house just after 6:00 am…pretty rough on a Saturday morning! It was a beautiful morning though and the perfect day to race. It was sunny and around 50 degrees when the race started. The race started and finished at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, and they had a DJ playing music to keep us entertained while we waited. They also had a bear mascot, so of course I had to get a photo with him.

The friendly bear.

The friendly bear.

Matt and I ran an easy mile to warm up first. This race featured both a 5K and 10K, and the 10K runners started first. It was a fairly small group.

10K runners waiting to start.

10K runners waiting to start.

About 10 minutes later, the 5K started. First, we had to roar to “wake the bear,” haha. With a gun start, Matt and I started at the very front. As we took off, I tried to stay disciplined with my pace. Since I’m training for triathlon season right now too, I rode 17 miles on the bike the night before. Tired legs helped keep me from taking off too fast! The first mile felt pretty easy at a 7:22 pace, so I was okay with speeding up a bit more after that. We ran along neighborhood roads, and I kept wondering when we’d get to the park to see the bridges, woods, and river the website had mentioned. I realized later that only the 10K runners got to run through the park. I believe this race has only been a 10K in the past, and this was the first year for the 5K. Although I’m interested in seeing the park, the flat neighborhood course was good enough. I’m usually distracted by the pain of running fast during 5Ks anyway! I sped up to a 7:13 pace for the second mile, then pushed harder for the last mile. I was breathing pretty heavy by the end, which makes sense when I realized that I ran the last mile in 6:59. My finish time of 21:42 was good enough to place as the first woman and fifth overall! Matt had finished just before me and was second in his age group.

My splits.

My splits.

We both had the course a little short, with my Garmin saying I ran 3.02 rather than 3.1 With a 7:11 average pace, I ran just a bit faster than my 7:15 goal pace. We had a ton of great food to choose from after the race. I was just interested in the cookies, and ate enough of those to negate any calories I burned in the race!

Apples, bananas, bagels...and a ton of cookies!

Apples, bananas, bagels…and a ton of cookies!

Since Matt and I had done so well, we stuck around for the awards. We waited at least an hour before the awards ceremony began. I was excited to place as the first female, but more excited that the bear was featured on the award that I received. I was glad that it was featured on Matt’s medal as well.

My super cool award.

My super cool award.

Matt and his age group award.

Matt and his age group award.

A closer look at Matt's medal.

A closer look at Matt’s medal.

It was a fun race and obviously a pretty solid one for both of us!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography