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.

2015-04-26 - glass city medal

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

In Training Mode

I haven’t updated the blog much lately, but I’ve been working hard. Aside from running the Auto Show Shuffle 5K in January, I’ve been in pure training mode all winter. During the winter, I turn to two outdoor running spots – Stony Creek Metropark and Oakland University. Stony’s six-mile path gets cleared and salted throughout the winter, and OU does a great job clearing the sidewalks. Another nice thing about OU is the fact that it is so well-lit, so I can get away with running there during the dark evenings in the dead of winter.

Stony Creek Metropark

Stony Creek Metropark

A bridge near Stony Creek Metropark

A bridge near Stony Creek Metropark

Oakland University's campus

Oakland University’s campus

Although I get outside for most of my weekend long runs and the occasional weekday run during the winter, I turn into a treadmill warrior for the most part. I think the treadmill time has been very beneficial. My hips bugged me pretty regularly all fall, but they’ve been a non-issue this winter. Surviving the treadmill has also made me mentally tough. If I can keep myself going through 11 miles on the treadmill (which I did on an especially ugly mid-January day), I can do anything, right? Having so much control over my pace has also allowed me to get in some really solid speedwork and cutdown tempo runs.

My goals throughout the winter were to maintain enough running fitness to jump into half marathon training at any time and to build a base for triathlon season. Since February, I’ve been good about swimming at least a mile once a week. I could stand to get into the pool more often though. I’ve been good about building my cycling base – an area that was a bit lacking last year. I peaked with a 30-mile ride one time before an Olympic tri last year, but I’ve tried to get in a long ride of 30-35 miles nearly every week since late January. The additional time on the bike has introduced me to the joys of chafing, as well as feeling awfully squirmy after I’ve downed two bottles of water! I’m also getting some use out of our DVD collection.

I have a list of potential triathlons to sign up for, but haven’t decided on any yet. I feel like I’ll be more prepared for the Olympic distance this year. I’m still not sure I’m interested in pursuing the 70.3 distance…yet. 56 miles on the bike is pretty daunting when I’ve peaked at 35 miles. Running is still my main love, so if I start to enjoy the bike more, maybe then I’ll think about it.

I HAVE officially signed up for a couple of running races though. After debating between a lot of great spring races, Matt and I finally chose the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo at the end of April. It’s flat and fast, goes through a metropark and along a bike trail, and finishes in the University of Toledo Stadium.

Glass City will be the goal spring race

Glass City will be the goal spring race

Training has been going well, so I’ll see if I can beat my PR of 1:40:46. Maybe even go sub-1:40? I’ve been loosely following Higdon’s Advanced plan. Rather than running six days per week, I’ve been running five so I can get on the bike too. My typical week of training has looked like this:

  • Monday – Bike 10-15 miles, run 3 easy.
  • Tuesday – Run 7 miles total, speedwork day. Workouts like 6×800 at 5K pace, 4×1600 at 10K pace, etc.
  • Wednesday – Rest or bike.
  • Thursday – Run 6-7 miles total, typically a cutdown tempo on the treadmill. Start slow, increase the pace each quarter mile until I get to 10K pace, then slow down each quarter mile.
  • Friday – Bike 25-35 miles.
  • Saturday – Swim 1 mile, run on the treadmill. Either easy or a half marathon pace run. Warm up a mile, then run up to 5 miles at pace.
  • Sunday – Long run. I’ve run 13 miles a couple times and should peak around 14-15.

We also made an even bigger decision recently – we’re ready to try a second marathon. Matt’s first was the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City in 2012, and my first was Grand Rapids in 2013. We had seriously talked about running the Disney Marathon at the beginning of 2016. With thoughts of trying the Goofy Challenge (a half on Saturday followed by a full on Sunday), I thought maybe it would be wise to get a little more marathon experience before attempting something crazy like that. Pretty quickly, we decided on the Twin Cities Marathon.

Marathon #2!

Marathon #2!

It’s one that Matt has been interested in, and I’m definitely on board. Matt has family in Minnesota, and we’ve really enjoyed our trips to Minneapolis. It’s billed as “the most beautiful urban marathon in America.” I’ll probably start training in June, so there’s still some time before it will really sink in. I’m excited to give the marathon a second attempt!

In the meantime, Glass City is a month away so that’s the main goal right now. Then, hopefully some 5Ks and onto triathlon season!

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Auto Show Shuffle 5K Recap

This recap is a bit belated, but Matt and I enjoyed running the Auto Show Shuffle 5K on Saturday, January 17th. The race took place in downtown Detroit on the opening day of the North American International Auto Show. Aside from a triathlon on Belle Isle, I’ve never run in Detroit and thought this race would be a great chance to change that.

I always wait until the last minute to sign up for races during the winter to avoid slippery surfaces and other miserable conditions. When I saw that we were going to have a “heat wave” and warm up into the 30s the day of the race, I decided to go for it. I didn’t think about how the warmth would arrive by mid-afternoon, so it was actually pretty cold for the 8:30 start. We’re used to it though, so it just meant lots of layers. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful morning.

A view of the Detroit River (and Canada) from the riverfront.

A view of the Detroit River (and Canada) from the riverfront.

I was able to pick up our packets at the New Balance store in Troy a couple days before the race, so it was one less thing to do the morning of the race. We received long sleeve tech shirts. It’s not what I typically think of as technical because the heavier material of the shirt isn’t really good for wicking sweat. I might not wear it while I run, but I do really like the shirt.

The long sleeve race shirt.

The long sleeve race shirt.

The race started and finished in front of GM’s Renaissance Center – probably the most identifiable feature of Detroit’s skyline.

The RenCen.

The RenCen.

We had heard about issues exiting the designated parking garage after last year’s race, but we decided to park there anyway. It was cold enough outside that I didn’t want to park somewhere else and walk several blocks, and this specific garage has a skywalk into the RenCen. The RenCen is a beautiful building, and it was nice that we could stay warm in the Wintergarden area both before and after the race.

A beautiful view from inside the RenCen's Wintergarden area.

A beautiful view from inside the RenCen’s Wintergarden area.

To avoid the crowd, we ventured over to the food court restrooms. A woman there glanced at my bib and simply said, “Oooh.” The woman at gear check also commented on my bib. Why? Well, I ended up with number 666. I wasn’t thrilled, but luckily I’m not very superstitious and figured it would keep things interesting!

Matt said I was "Runnin' with the Devil."

Matt said I was “Runnin’ with the Devil.”

As we watched the sun rise over the icy water of the Detroit River, I was really glad we chose to run this race. A brief quarter-mile warm up made me aware that I wasn’t going to be especially speedy. I didn’t have any real goals for this race pace-wise, knowing the cold (and numerous layers) would slow me down. I was just excited to run along the riverfront and take in the scenery.

A picture-perfect morning.

A picture-perfect morning.

Gathering at the start.

Gathering at the start.

As expected, I really enjoyed running along the riverfront. About a mile into the race, we got to the Dequindre Cut – a really nice and wide paved path. I was impressed that the snow had been completely cleared and the path was totally dry. We ran out about half a mile on the path before turning around and heading back along the riverfront. The course was flat, but I didn’t feel like I had much speed in me. The cold air and congestion made it hard to breathe, so I gave it the best effort I could manage. I was surprised to finish in 21:40 – just nine seconds slower than my PR. However, my Garmin had the race a little short.

My splits.

My splits.

A number of people questioned the length of the course on the race’s Facebook page. The course was USATF certified, and the people in charge of the race said that running under several overpasses on the Dequindre Cut could have caused our watches to lose their signals in spots. I’m still a bit skeptical. My watch and the first mile marker were right on (prior to any overpasses), and I ran 7:14. Based on effort, I could feel that I slowed down as the race went on – reflected in my Garmin’s splits. Had the race been an accurate 5K, that meant I would have averaged a 6:59 pace. Starting with a 7:14 mile, I seriously doubt I sped up enough to drop my average to 6:59. Who knows though. I know the watches aren’t always accurate, and it’s fun to think that I was nearly on pace for a PR. I ran this race for the experience rather than aiming for a certain time, so it’s not really a big deal either way.

Matt and I finished within seconds of each other, so we got a few quick pictures outside the RenCen before heading in to get warm. I pulled my face mask down for most of the race, but this is how much we bundled up!

Matt at the end of the race.

Matt at the end of the race.

Not much skin exposed here!

Not much skin exposed here!

A nice medal for all finishers.

A nice medal for all finishers.

I enjoyed hot chocolate and a bagel in the Wintergarden area, and we stuck around for the awards ceremony. Awards were given to the top three men and women overall, and the top three men and women in the masters category. Neither of us were fast enough for those awards, but I was happy that I pulled off third in my age group and Matt placed fourth in his.

Runners gathered in the Wintergarden after the race.

Runners gathered in the Wintergarden after the race.

We hustled to the parking garage as the awards ceremony wrapped up, and I figured that we might beat a good chunk of the crowd. I was wrong. When we got to the parking deck, the cars were backed up for three levels. As I mentioned earlier, I’d heard that it had been a problem in the past. With only one exit open, it was a SLOW go trying to get out of there. Maybe next time it would be worth a hike through the cold from a different parking area to avoid that mess.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I hadn’t raced since October, so it was nice to get back to the race environment. I’m really glad we finally made it downtown for a run. I’d like to do more races downtown, and maybe one of these days we’ll try the Detroit half or full marathon to run even more of the city.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Looking Back at 2014

As the year comes to an end, it’s time to look back and remember the ups and downs. One of my proudest accomplishments was participating in my first Olympic-distance triathlon. It was the one racing-specific goal I had made for the year, and though training didn’t go quite as planned, I still met my goal.

Another fun thing I realized about this year is that I actually received an age group award (anywhere from first to third) for each race I participated in! I don’t put a lot of stock in age group awards because it all depends on how big a race is and who shows up. It’s still kind of fun though and I gathered a cool collection of awards.

2014 age group awards.

2014 age group awards.

Not everything about the year was great though, and the first half was a bit rocky. I started the year still battling an IT band issue caused by my first marathon in October of 2013. I wasn’t able to run more than four miles at a time throughout January. Fortunately, Dr. Erik Barazsu at The Active Fix in Berkley got me back on track. He really took the time to deal with my specific problems while some doctors take a more generic and less individualized approach. I am very thankful I found him and would recommend him to anyone in the Detroit area who may be battling injuries.

Just as I started to feel good about my progress, a car crash at the beginning of March totally derailed everything. A kid driving on a suspended license flew through a stop sign, nailed my car on the passenger side, and messed up my back.

My poor car was totaled.

My poor car was totaled.

I didn’t run for six weeks. It was a LONG and frustrating six weeks. When I did start back up, it was a very gradual process. As if my back wasn’t enough of a problem, my IT band flared up again. I had to get back to my hip and glute strengthening exercises, and I basically rebuilt my mileage from scratch.

Although I didn’t get to build as much of a base as I would have liked, I was still determined to participate in my second triathlon season. My first tri of the year came in June. It was one I had done last year, and I shaved two and a half minutes off my previous time. That gave my confidence a boost and let me know that I was getting back on track. A sprint tri in July went well, so I decided to go for it and try the Olympic distance in August.

Race for the Border Triathlon on Belle Isle in July.

Race for the Border Triathlon on Belle Isle in July.

The Island Lake Triathlon in Brighton was my third and final tri of the year. It was a challenge, but I made it through knowing that I’d want to tackle the distance again in the future. I am very aware that longer bike rides during training would be beneficial though. One glance at an Olympic-distance training plan made me realize how minimal my training time on the bike had been compared to what it ought to be!

Following tri season, I thought it would be fun to do some shorter running races. I started with the shortest I’ve ever raced – a mile. It was a fun new experience and I really didn’t know how to pace myself. With too much energy left at the end, it left me wanting to race the mile again. I was very happy with 6:25 for my first attempt.

A 5K at the Detroit Zoo in September was next, and it was probably the best I’ve ever felt during a 5K. I ran a strong, consistent race, and for once I didn’t feel like I wanted to die halfway through! I think it’s a race I’ll need to do again in the future.

Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo.

Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo.

I’d hovered just under 22 minutes for the 5K several times, so I was thrilled to finally drop my PR to 21:31 at the Dig ‘Em Dash in Battle Creek.

So many fun mascots.

So many fun mascots.

Coming off some solid races, I was curious to see what I could do at the half marathon distance. I’d been training with the intention to run a half marathon during the fall, but I hadn’t really targeted a specific race. A spur-of-the-moment decision in mid-October led me to run the Wild Life Marathon in Concord, MI. A cool morning on a flat, paved trail was the perfect way to capitalize on a solid training segment, and it led to a big PR (1:40:46).

A new half PR!

A new half PR!

I felt like it was a good way to wrap up my racing for the year, and I have been in maintenance mode since. I’ve been hovering around 30 miles per week of running and around 40 miles per week of biking. I’ve totally slacked off when it comes to swimming and will try to get back into that routine soon.

After the half marathon, I took time to continue troubleshooting my back issues. Months of going to the chiropractor helped, but it didn’t completely fix me. I’m mostly fine, but one area still flares up and aches when I do certain things. I tried going to physical therapy for the first time in October and was pretty disappointed with the experience. I feel like they had me do a bunch of their typical exercises, but they didn’t adjust for my needs when I made no progress. I tried another doctor who thought drugs would be a good fix. I always try to avoid that approach because I think it just masks the problem rather than solving it. I gave it a try though, and took muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories until they tore my stomach apart so bad I couldn’t handle it anymore. Side effects from drugs always seem to be worse than the original problem for me. I’m very frustrated with the whole medical field and don’t know what to try next. I’ve been getting massages lately and it’s been helpful, but I’m not sure it’s enough to fix the problem. It looks like something I’ll continue to worry about in 2015.

 

Here are some numbers from 2014:

– Nine races, including one mile, one 4K, three 5Ks, one half marathon, and three triathlons.

– 1,003 miles of running. I barely managed to break that 1,000-mile threshold. I was down several hundred miles from 2013 because I did not train for a marathon and because of the IT band / car accident setbacks.

– 1,472 miles of biking. I’m always talking about how I need to bike more if I want to get better at triathlons. Buying a stationary bike for our basement at the end of last year made a huge difference. I biked nearly 1,000 more miles than I did in 2013, but I’m looking to increase that even more in 2015.

– 34 miles of swimming. I was down several miles compared to last year, mostly because I’ve only been in the pool a handful of times since my last triathlon in August. I need to get back into the routine of swimming at least once or twice a week soon.

– 50 times of strength training. Down from 80 times last year. The car accident is partially to blame since weights cause my back issues to flare up, but I’ve been trying to keep up with at least one session per week.

 

Looking forward to 2015, I don’t have any specific goals yet. l’ve been toying with the idea of a spring marathon. I might want to spend the winter and spring really building towards triathlon season though. I know very well that marathon training would cause me to neglect the bike. If not a spring marathon, I’ll probably try to run at least one half and think about a full in the fall. I definitely want to do more Olympic-distance triathlons. I plan to spend a lot more time on the bike and really make sure I get in the long rides. I’ve been riding around 25 miles each weekend lately, and should build even more as I approach tri season. I also need to venture into the world of bike shoes. So far I don’t know a thing about bike shoes, so I need to educate myself.

Even if I don’t have many specific goals at this point, I know I’ll keep working hard and hope for a smoother year of training and racing in 2015!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Wild Life Half Marathon Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racing along, feeling good.

Racing along, feeling good.

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

I was thrilled with my splits!

I was thrilled with my splits!

The finish!

The finish!

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

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

A medal for all of the finishers.

A medal for all of the finishers.

Age group award.

Age group award.

My cowbell!

My cowbell!

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

The extra shirt I bought.

The extra shirt I bought.

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

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

Janet

– Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Dig ‘Em Dash 5K Recap

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

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

This crew of mascots instantly made my day.

This crew of mascots instantly made my day.

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

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

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

What a fun shirt!

What a fun shirt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The start of the kids' race.

The start of the kids’ race.

So many fun guys.

So many fun guys.

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

The route through downtown Battle Creek.

The route through downtown Battle Creek.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

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

My splits.

My splits.

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

Mascots waiting to greet runners after the finish line.

Mascots waiting to greet runners after the finish line.

Lots of high-fives.

Lots of high-fives.

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

Just a few of the snacks offered.

Just a few of the snacks offered.

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

This was just too cute.

This was just too cute.

My age group award.

My age group award.

With my medal and Dig 'Em.

With my medal and Dig ‘Em.

Matt and Dig 'Em.

Matt and Dig ‘Em.

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

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography