Cannonball Run Recap

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Back in November when everyone had Black Friday sales, I browsed through some triathlon websites to see if I could find any races I was ready to commit to that early. I was intrigued by a 3 Disciplines series called the Cannonball Run. It’s an aquathlon (or swim/run) that takes place in Saginaw, MI one Wednesday night in June, July, and August. Although I get enough biking in to manage my way through triathlons, I truly enjoy swimming and running. Cutting out the bike leg sounded like my kind of race!

I’ve done an indoor “aquadash” race using a pool and treadmill but have never done a swim/run outside. Saginaw is an hour and a half away which is pretty far to go on a weeknight. I knew that I’d get out of work early enough to make it on time though. The Black Friday sale allowed me to sign up for all three events plus a t-shirt for $45. I figured that was a good enough deal to go for it. If something came up and I missed one or two of them, it would still be a reasonable deal.

When Wednesday, June 12th rolled around, it was time for my first multisport event of the season. I had plenty of time to make the drive after work with a 6:30 start, even with a frustrating stretch of construction to battle along the way. I changed into my tri suit and ate an energy bar at a rest stop when I got closer to Saginaw and made it to the park with 45 minutes to prepare.

The race took place at William H. Haithco Recreation Area. Registration was by a pavilion in the park where I collected my bib, swim cap, timing chip, t-shirt, and some samples in a drawstring bag. Although 3 Disciplines is the event management company for the race series, the event is actually owned by Team ATP, a triathlon club. A good chunk of the people there were members of the club.

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The transition area was a big patch of grass with flags around it and people could leave their stuff wherever they chose. My nerves kicked in when I started to set my stuff up. Towels, swim cap, goggles, wetsuit, shoes, socks, hat, number belt, and hydration belt…I think I had everything. I have checklists to make sure I don’t forget anything but I’m always a bit anxious when I do my first multisport event of the season. It had been a while since I had dealt with my wetsuit. I used plenty of Body Glide on my lower legs in hopes that it would help me get it off more easily after the swim. I also remembered to put some on my neck to avoid chafing from the wetsuit. It took two races for me to learn that hard lesson last summer.

I had signed up for the long course race –  a 1500m two-loop swim and a 5K run. People could also do the sprint distance, which offered a 500m swim and 1.5mi run. The swim took place in a man-made spring-fed lake. I was relieved to see that the water was 72°. That meant it wouldn’t feel too cold, especially in my full wetsuit.

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I believe 16 of us chose to race the longer distance and our race started first. We lined up on the dock based on how fast we thought we would swim. First they asked for people who could swim 500m in 8-10 minutes, and I went near the back of that group. The race began at 6:30 when the first person jumped into the water. We may have been spaced out by five seconds or so. I haven’t practiced diving since I was a kid and I’m not allowed to dive into the pools where I swim. Without any practice, I didn’t think it would be wise to dive and possibly lose my goggles so I just jumped in. A little wind created some tiny waves. They weren’t very significant, but it was still a little more rocky than the pools that I’m used to. Thanks to the time trial start it didn’t get congested in the water. Someone cut in front of me at one point which was annoying but I never bumped into anyone.

In the open water I don’t really have a good feel for my rhythm or pacing. Things feel very routine for me in the pool and I’m a little thrown off in the open water. I hadn’t practiced in the open water at all this season, but I feel comfortable enough that I don’t worry too much. I was fine with spotting the buoys and aiming for them. It just felt a little weird to have my shoulders and arms constricted by the wetsuit and not know what kind of pace I might be swimming.

When I got back to the dock area after my first loop, I started to run into some of the sprint swimmers as I started my second loop. Not literally, but I had to make a point of going around a few people. I had to do that at the end as well when I was trying to push my pace as I approached the finish.

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I ended up swimming 1500m in 28:02. I predicted I’d be somewhere around 28:30 so I was happy with that time. I was wobbly when I got out of the water and couldn’t run to transition. I was so hung up on getting my wetsuit sleeve over my watch that I didn’t take my swim cap or goggles off until I was in transition. I realized I had forgotten to take my hair out of a bun when I went to put my hat on. Little things like that made me aware of my rustiness, and I just hope I remember those things so I have smoother transitions as I race more this summer. All of the Body Glide made my suit nice and slippery so I could take it off, but I still had to sit down to get my ankles and feet out. I sat down to get my socks and shoes on as well because I still didn’t have good balance. I got through the transition in 1:40.

I was pretty winded as I started the run. I’m used to being winded as I start the bike leg of a triathlon, but it felt a little harder for me to manage while running. I knew I wasn’t going to be capable of running my true 5K kind of pace and just did whatever I could.

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The run took us onto the road for a couple of out-and-back stretches, then we stayed in the park for the rest of it. The road had some stones, then there was a dirt path around the lake, and we ran on some pavement as well. The whole route was nice and flat. The out-and-back nature of the course allowed us to see other runners which is always a good distraction for me. When I got out to the far part along the lake, I kept wondering when the turnaround would come. A woman ran past me in the opposite direction and told me I should be able to catch her. I questioned that at first until I started to approach her a few minutes later and realized she was within reach. I’m typically more competitive with myself rather than aiming to beat other people. However, trying to catch up with her provided good motivation to keep myself running hard. Eventually I passed her and I felt strong by the end of the run. I thought it was supposed to be a 5K, but my watch came up with a little less than three miles. Either way, I was glad that my pace improved as I went and had an official run time of 21:46. My overall time was 51:27.

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It look a few minutes to catch my breath, then I got a granola bar, Rice Krispies Treat, fruit snacks, and some chocolate milk. I enjoyed chatting with the woman I had passed during the run. Despite finishing ahead of her, her overall time was actually better. With the nature of the time trial swim start you never really know where you stand overall. She had started behind me in the swim but swam a few minutes faster than me. It was a pretty small group of us who raced the longer distance and it looks like I may have placed right in the middle overall. I didn’t think I had to stick around for the awards ceremony which was good since I still had to drive home.

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I didn’t have any specific expectations going into this race which left me with a weird feeling after the race. I was glad I had done it but I didn’t have any feelings about either exceeding or not meeting expectations since I didn’t have any. The next morning when I reflected back on the race I felt proud and more accomplished. It was a pretty cool adventure to have on a Wednesday night. The logistics of driving there, making sure I had everything, dealing with transition, etc. could have kept me home in my comfort zone, but I got out and challenged myself to do something different. I’m looking forward to doing it a couple more times this summer and will be curious to see if my time improves now that I have a baseline.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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Flapjack 5K Recap

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A race that features a running pancake cartoon and all-you-can-eat pancakes at the end? Count me in!

The Flapjack 5K and Mile Fun Run took place on Sunday, June 2nd in Macomb, MI. I had actually planned to do a swim/run race in Ohio that day. When a pre-race email mentioned an E. coli advisory for the creek where I’d be swimming, I decided to bail on that race. Apparently some people still swam, but if it’s bad enough to issue an advisory, it’s bad enough to keep me away. At first I was bummed, but I knew my friend Carmen (visit her blog here) had planned to do a pancake run on Sunday. Since my schedule was open and it sounded like fun, I decided I’d join her.

The race has been around for 15 years and benefits the Kids Coalition Against Hunger. I signed up on Friday evening prior to the Sunday morning race and was still able to get a cotton t-shirt.

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I got there an hour before the 9:30 start and found Carmen in the elementary school’s gym where we picked up our packets.

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It was a sunny morning in the high 50s, and although it felt a little cool while standing around, I was sweating by the end of my mile warm up jog. This race attracted lots of younger kids and their families, and the morning started with a mile fun run about 20 minutes before the 5K. When it was time for our race to begin, I didn’t push very close to the starting line because it was clear that the kids were ready to blast off. I knew it was better to have them in front of me so they wouldn’t trip over me!

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Thanks to Greg Sadler for the great race photos.

I’ve done enough races to know that the younger kids might make it a quarter mile before it becomes hard to maintain the all-out sprinting speed. A few of them made it a little bit longer, and a few kids who were older ran solid races. The crowd thinned out pretty quickly as we worked our way through the flat neighborhood roads.

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This 5K was more intimidating to me than the half marathon I ran a week earlier. I feel more comfortable doing longer, slower endurance runs. Whenever I “race” a 5K I know it’s going to hurt. I push my pace to the threshold and just hope I can hang on. I had run some 400 repeats at my goal 5K pace a couple times in the weeks leading up to this race, and that had been the extent of my recent speedwork. I had no idea what I was capable of.

I ran by feel and my first mile was just under seven minutes. It was hard work and I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep it up. I kept hoping I wouldn’t crash hard. I could only see two women ahead of me but didn’t know if there were more out of sight. I caught up to one of them within the second mile and wondered if I could be the second woman. The other woman kept getting faster and there was no way I’d catch her. As the crowd spaced out, I wished there were more people around to motivate me not to slow down. Somehow I kept running strong through the end, but it sure was tough.

I managed to smile just in time for my finishing photo. If you look closely, you can see something stuck on the bottom of my right shoe. Somehow I picked up an arrow sticker from the road when I rounded a corner. It was pretty annoying to have that flopping around for at least a mile of the race, but I wasn’t going to stop to peel it off!

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I was pretty shocked and happy when I saw that I had officially finished in 22:16, especially since my distance was a little long. It was hard to hit tangents with all of the twists and turns through the neighborhood.

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I was surprised that my pace was so consistent…and that I maintained it somehow. When I do speedwork I typically consider 7:00 pace my 5K pace. I didn’t think I was in 5K shape so this was a really pleasant surprise. I was also happy when I saw that I was the second female and had won my age group. That’s one thing I love about smaller races – I stand a better chance at placing well!

2019-06-02 - Flapjack 5K results

I cheered for Carmen as she finished soon after me. Then it was time for pancakes!

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After the nice breakfast we went to collect our age group awards. There was a group standing around in front of the pancake poster where I wanted to pose. When I asked if I could get in there for a picture, one of the guys cracked me up as he posed with me.

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I thought it was fun that we received little bottles of maple syrup for age group awards. The clay pancake medals were pretty great too.

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Overall, it was a fun morning. I was pretty close to my ideal 5K speed and wasn’t expecting that at all. If I can already manage that kind of speed when I’ve barely put in the work, it gives me hope that I could have a promising summer of racing once I DO start working on it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

 

 

Bayshore Half Marathon Recap

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I love the Bayshore Marathon because Traverse City is a great place for a Memorial Day weekend getaway. It’s 3.5-4 hours away and the race provides a good excuse to visit beautiful northern lower Michigan. I didn’t sign up for this year’s race initially because I had the Boston Marathon scheduled for mid-April. I didn’t know if it would be ideal to try running a half marathon six weeks later. I’m usually pretty cautious about returning to running after a marathon and take the recovery process seriously.

When I saw that Gazelle Sports and Brooks Running had some Bayshore entries to give away on Instagram, I was excited about the thought of giving the race a try. I explained in my entry that I’ve had two rough races at Bayshore and hoped that maybe the third time would be a charm. I crashed and burned when I ran the half in 2012, resulting in my personal worst half marathon time. I was in the bathroom line for over half an hour and the race started while I was still waiting. By the time I made it to the start, I got stuck behind people running a slower pace. My pace fluctuated as I weaved around people to make up for the slow start. I developed a side stitch halfway through the race that I could not shake and ended up walking the last 5K.

Four years later I gave Bayshore a second chance when I signed up to run my third marathon. There had been snow a couple weeks before the race and my body definitely wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity that I faced on race morning. 70 degrees at 7:00am was not good and I ran a personal worst marathon time…until I beat it by running a minute slower at Boston this year.

I’ve been hoping to redeem myself with a good race at Bayshore and fortunately Gazelle and Brooks awarded me with free race entries for myself and a friend! I was able to choose the distance and hoped that the half marathon wouldn’t be too ambitious following Boston. The half marathon always sells out within a few hours, so I felt especially thankful. I gave my other entry to my half brother-in-law so he could run the 10K. He would be in town that weekend and usually likes to participate, but he didn’t sign up early enough and the race sold out. I’m glad the contest helped both of us!

After Boston, I took a week off of running. I dealt with IT band issues and other tweaks for a week when I started to run again. Then I spent a couple weeks doing easy runs four days a week and concentrated on rebuilding my mileage. A couple weeks before Bayshore I ran four miles at marathon pace within a 10-mile run and the pace felt pretty challenging. I did some 400 repeats a couple times to reintroduce a faster pace. Aside from that, I didn’t feel like my speed had come back yet and I wasn’t sure what pace to aim for at Bayshore. I peaked with six days of running and a 12-mile run a week before the race. That reassured me that at least I was ready to cover the distance.

The race was on Saturday, May 25th, and I took half a day on Friday so I could beat traffic and get to town early. I checked into my hotel then went to downtown Traverse City to load up on treats. Before I left work, my buddy Jeff wondered if Traverse City had any good donut shops I should check out. Thanks to his investigative work, I had to make a stop at Peace Love & Little Donuts. I knew I also had to get some salt water taffy at Kilwins.

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I took in the scenery by the water for a few minutes since I had some extra time to kill before my half sister and her husband made it to town.

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We met at the high school for packet pickup. The orange shirt is the official race shirt and I ended up buying an additional cotton shirt too.

I was tempted by many of the cool items for sale, but I managed to leave with just the one extra shirt.

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After grabbing dinner I thought I’d get my stuff ready for the next morning, but I was distracted for a little while first. My hotel was along the water and it was a beautiful night.

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I actually slept pretty well but I only got around six hours of sleep. Unfortunately I do that way too often so it didn’t throw me off too much.

I drove through lightning and pouring rain on my way to the school, which was only five minutes from my hotel. I got there before 5:30 and was able to find a parking spot easily. Because the half marathon runners take shuttle buses to the start between 5:15-6:20, we’re typically the first runners to arrive. Parking is more of a challenge for the 10K and marathon runners. That was especially clear after the race when I saw cars parked all over the grass and in any random free space they could find.

I debated how long I should wait before heading to the buses. I wasn’t in a big rush to go wait in a field in the rain. By 5:50 I finally headed out, equipped with an umbrella, rain coat, and a couple of plastic bags wrapped around each foot. I learned all of the tricks for dealing with a long wait in the rain at this year’s Boston Marathon. The bags worked for keeping my shoes dry.

I thought the bus ride would take half an hour, but it was more like 15 minutes. There was only one tent in the field where we had to wait and it was already pretty packed.

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I was thankful that I managed to squeeze in just under the edge of the tent. I had an hour and 15 minutes to wait and it was still raining. You would think at least a couple tents might be a good idea? Close to 3,000 people ran the half and obviously one tent couldn’t hold everyone.

I played on my phone to keep occupied until I figured I should get in line for the bathrooms. I allowed plenty of time so I would NOT repeat my 2012 issue of being stuck in line as the race started. I saw that some people had found a creative way to cope with waiting in the rain.

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We lucked out and the rain stopped at least 15 minutes before the start of the race. I left my extra stuff at gear check, did a quick jog around the grass, then lined up at the edge of the road near the 8:00 pace sign. I didn’t think I wanted to be that ambitious so I stayed a little further back. When the clock hit 7:30, we were off!

The course is mostly flat but the starting location had changed since I last ran the half in 2012. Now there was a big hill to deal with at the very beginning. You can see the climb up toward the trees in the photo below.

2019-05-25 - bayshore start

I was glad the hill came at the beginning when my legs were fresh. I was not expecting such a slow start though. The two-lane road was really congested and I could not get around people very easily. I guess it acted as a good warm up to keep me from starting out too fast, but I did get a little frustrated because I wanted to get moving.

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I didn’t know what kind of pace to aim for but thought somewhere around 8:15 might be ideal. I wasn’t too excited that I ran the first mile in 8:41. However, the downhills always help me much more than the uphills hurt me. I was able to break free from the crowd by the time we headed downhill and I was kind of shocked that I ran the second mile in 7:27. Normally that would have been way too fast that early in the race, but it was a pretty steep hill and I took advantage of my momentum. I guess it helped balance out the slowness of the first mile!

After the first couple miles we got to the good scenery. Aside from the flat course, the big appeal of Bayshore is running down the peninsula along the bay.

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Since the rain had stopped just prior to the start of the race, it was a very humid morning. It was around 60 degrees and some parts of the course were really foggy. That’s especially apparent in this photo of the cyclists leading the marathoners. Thanks to Bayshore for providing free photo downloads.

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Typically the humidity kills me, yet somehow it didn’t this time. Maybe it’s because the temperature didn’t climb too much while I was racing. Maybe it’s because I had done a number of afternoon runs on warmer days leading up to the race and was somewhat acclimated to the conditions. I told myself that although I might struggle under those conditions for a full marathon, I knew I could manage it for a half. It helped that there were a few spots along the course where I felt a cool breeze coming off the water.

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I hovered between a 7:50-8:00 pace for most of the race. When I glanced at my watch during the early miles, I worried that I was being too ambitious. After all, four miles at that pace had been a lot of work just a couple weeks earlier. I was running by feel and I guess that’s what I was feeling, so I kept rolling with it.

I’ve been stressed about a lot of things lately and hoped that wouldn’t seep into my race. Fortunately my mind was distracted for most of the race. Four to five miles into the race I started to see the marathoners on their way up the peninsula. I really enjoy watching the other runners. I saw someone wearing a ChadTough singlet, which meant that he was running for the foundation that’s fighting pediatric brain cancer. It reminded me that we’re all battling something and there are many bigger problems than what I may be going through. I thought about how all of us runners were out there being strong and fighting through whatever we may be facing, whether it was the physical and mental challenges of the race or something more. I kept reminding myself that I’m strong and didn’t let my mind dwell on my problems.

Aside from watching runners going the opposite direction, there aren’t many distractions during this race. There are a few spots with large spectator crowds, but much of the route runs past homes and the water. Some residents come out to cheer for the runners, and there was music playing in a few spots. I wish there was more music because I don’t run with my own, and I got especially fired up when I heard songs like Katy Perry’s “Roar.” The scenery was a nice distraction, of course. When I saw sunlight hitting the fog over the water in one spot, it was so stunning that I was tempted to stop for a picture. I didn’t want to mess with the good momentum I had going for me and just had to appreciate it in that moment.

After six or seven miles I told myself that even if I crashed later on, I had done a good marathon pace workout. I kept reassuring myself, “Okay, now at least you’ve gotten six miles in at marathon pace. Seven miles. Eight miles…” Somehow I kept it going, and when I hit nine miles, I figured I was in pretty good shape for the rest of the race. Soon enough I’d only have 5K left.

My mantra about being strong stuck with me in the later miles. It had felt so good to get little bursts of speed in when I had done the 400 repeats a couple times during training. I told myself I could do that now too. Once I get through 10 miles of a half marathon, I typically feel pretty comfortable making a push for the last 5K. It feels great to finish so strong, and fortunately I had it in me during this race. It wasn’t an easy effort but I was able to maintain it.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard someone call my name as I got closer to the school where we finished. It was my Twitter/Instagram running buddy Jeff and I didn’t know he was going to be there. That broke my pain face for a moment and made me smile.

I love finishing on the track and gave everything I had at that point. I heard my name again and knew that my half sister Karen was cheering for me. The photographer caught me giving a thumbs up to let her know that I had heard her.

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I managed to cross the finish line in an even 1:45:00. That meant I’d gone a little under since it took some time for me to cross the timing mat at the start. 1:44:17 was my official time.

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I managed to run faster than an 8:00 pace and was thrilled. It was several minutes slower than my PR, but based on my level of fitness coming into this race, I had exceeded my expectations. I was happy to find that maybe some of the fitness from Boston Marathon training was still in me. I hadn’t pulled off that kind of pace in Boston like I intended, so at least I did it at Bayshore!

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Shortly after making it to the post-race celebration area, my half brother-in-law Tom and my half brother Bob (who both ran the 10K) found me.

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I really look forward to post-race treats and Bayshore has one of the best spreads out there. I didn’t have enough room to carry all of the food I wanted! I could stick a bottle of water and chocolate milk in my tri short pockets, but then I had to make room for chips, a blueberry muffin, and one of the highlights – Moomers ice cream. I also collected some cookies and cookie bars along the way, trying to scarf them down so I could carry more. Like I said, I really enjoy treats after a race!

It was nice to spend time with family after the race. I appreciated that Karen and her mom came out to spectate and cheer for us.

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Everything was great until I got in the gear check line. I realized pretty quickly that it was going to take a while. However, I would have never guessed that it would take nearly 45 minutes!! It’s pretty obvious that things were not organized appropriately and the volunteers struggled to find many of the bags. When I finally made it to the front, I lucked out and the girl found my bag in an instant. The group crowded behind the tent in the picture below gives a little idea of how messy it got. Nearly as many people were also in line out of the frame of this photo.

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I hadn’t expected to be held up that long after the race. I was anxious to get back to the hotel and shower so I could meet everyone for lunch. We had a nice lunch at North Peak Brewing Company and didn’t have any wait to get in. It turned out to be a beautiful day in the 80s which was perfect for taking in the gorgeous scenery around Traverse City.

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The lighthouses at the tips of both the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas weren’t anything super exciting, but it was worth all of the driving for the pretty views along the way. Wineries, beaches, beautiful water – all of it was stunning.

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Once again, I was thankful that my hotel was along the beach. I was in heaven with these views!

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When I checked TripAdvisor.com for things to do around Traverse City, I came across the TART (Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation) Trails. Family confirmed that the trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay made for a nice bike ride. I had brought my bike and hoped to get a nice long ride in, so I got up extra early to allow enough time prior to checking out of the hotel. I parked at a trailhead and was able to ride out 14 miles and back.

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The trail is paved, flat, and peaceful. Once again I had a chance to enjoy some nice scenery.

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Heading home on Sunday made it possible to beat Memorial Day traffic, and the couple days I was there gave me enough time to squeeze in some good stuff around Traverse City.

Many thanks to Gazelle Sports and Brooks Running for the opportunity to do this race. It feels great to have finally redeemed myself with a good run at Bayshore. After such a fun weekend, I might be anxious to return again next year rather than letting a few years lapse in between.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Boston Marathon Recap

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It’s official – I’m a Boston Marathon finisher!! It was brutal and totally amazing at the same time. It was such a great trip that I will warn you in advance – this recap is a long one…

Since the race was on a Monday, I took Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off of work to enjoy the full experience. Matt and I flew out of Detroit at 6am on Friday and things got stressful for a few minutes during our layover in Baltimore. As we got ready to take off, we were notified that one of the engines wouldn’t start and we were going to taxi back to have someone look at it. I tried not to freak out at the thought of sitting on the tarmac for four hours. Fortunately things worked out and our flight arrived about 30 minutes later than planned. PHEW.

When we got to Boston we took a Lyft to our hotel downtown. It cost a fortune to stay there, but I sucked it up and paid for it anyway. I decided it would be ideal for pre- and post-race logistics, plus it would be the easiest way to enjoy everything I wanted to do in the city. We dropped our bags at the hotel, made our way to the subway, then went to the expo. We had to go through a security check to get into the convention center, then it seemed like an endless walk with trips up multiple escalators to get to the bib pick-up. All of the race volunteers I encountered the entire trip were amazing. They were so friendly, helpful, and encouraging. It was quick and easy to get my bib and race shirt. They had an area where you could swap your shirt for a different size, and sure enough, I wanted to size up. From there, we went to the main part of the expo.

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The bib pick-up and official merchandise areas of the expo.

The first area we saw had all of the official race merchandise. We were there early enough that the expo wasn’t even THAT crazy yet, but it was so congested that I started to lose my mind. I didn’t blame Matt at all when he said he had to get out of there and would meet me when I was done. I’m glad I had already ordered my celebration jacket by mail and had it at home.

2019 boston celebration jacket

I really like the colors of this year’s official celebration jacket.

I found a hat that I liked and tried to figure out where the checkout line began amongst the endless crowd of people. When I realized how far it snaked around the room, I decided I didn’t need a hat THAT bad and returned it to the shelf. I continued on and found the typical vendor part of the expo that had booths from a ton of different companies.

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Some scenes from the expo, including an awesome display of Dunkin’ Donuts-themed Saucony shoes.

Although it was still busy, I was relieved that there was more space and I could breathe. I found a friend who was working at the Generation UCAN booth and we chatted for a bit. I realized that I was pressing my luck to make it to Meb’s event by 1:30. I wanted to check out more of the expo, but I really wanted to meet him. I hustled through one of the aisles and came across a Brooks booth. I run in their shoes and love their products. Brooks runner Des Linden (seen in the photo above) trademarked the phrase “keep showing up” after her win at Boston last year, and Brooks had several items for sale featuring that phrase. I bought a t-shirt and jacket, figured that was probably enough, and decided I better get moving even if it meant missing a bunch of good stuff at the expo.

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The yellow shirt is the official race shirt, the jacket and t-shirt are from Brooks, and I found the hat I wanted at Marathon Sports.

Thanks to all of the time I waste on social media, I saw an Instagram post from Meb Keflezighi announcing an appearance at Eyes Over Copley from 1:30-2:30 on Friday. I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere else and an event at an optometrist’s office seemed like my best chance to meet him. He was there because they carry sunglasses from his sponsor Maui Jim. I got there around 1:45 and was relieved to find that it was a low-key event with people trickling through as he signed stuff.

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I got stupidly nervous because he’s one of my biggest idols. Meb has a positive mindset and approach to life that really resonates with me and he’s extremely inspiring. I have a couple of his books and took one of them for him to sign. He was as nice and genuine in person as I had expected. We were only a few hours into our Boston trip and it had already been amazing!

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After that, we went to the Marathon Sports running store on Boylston. I was happy to discover that they carried most of the official race merchandise I saw at the expo and got the hat I wanted. We went to Shake Shack, looked at some stores along Newbury Street, then went back to the hotel. We rested for an hour before taking the subway to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. Neither of us had been there before and it was one of those “must-see” things I knew we should do in Boston.

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By the end of the day we had walked 10 miles. I had planned on stacking our schedule so we’d be busiest at the beginning. I intended to back off and get more rest as race day approached. There were several seminars and other things I would have liked to have attended during the weekend, but there was only so much I could squeeze into the schedule. I didn’t need to completely wipe myself out before the race!

On Saturday morning I did a shakeout run. In case anything got tweaky I wanted to make sure I rested on Sunday. Our hotel was just east of Boston Common and I thought it would be a good place to start my run. I hadn’t realized that the B.A.A. 5K started there at 8am. Oops. With over 8,000 runners, my attempts at running through the Common turned to a scenic walk. After checking out the large crowd of runners I headed up to Beacon Street and to the Charles River path. It was fun to see runners everywhere I went. That held true for the whole weekend, of course. I was really in my element. :)

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Scenes from my shakeout run included Cheers, the Beacon Hill neighborhood, the B.A.A. 5K, and the Charles River path.

I enjoyed running around the very scenic Beacon Hill neighborhood on my way back. It helped keep my pace nice and slow since the brick sidewalks aren’t really ideal for running. It was pretty though!

Around noon we took a little walk to Faneuil Hall Marketplace / Quincy Market. We got some cookies and Ghirardelli chocolates then hit an Irish Pub for lunch.

Next on the agenda was a Samuel Adams Brewery tour. Runners could sign up for a free tour and receive a free glass by showing their race bib. That sounded good to me! That location is more about product development rather than production, so there wasn’t much to actually see. We learned plenty of interesting facts though, and of course everyone really goes for the samples anyway. We sampled Boston Lager, Sam ’76, and 26.2 Brew. We got to keep our glasses and I got my additional free glass in the store afterward.

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An enjoyable tour and tasting at the Samuel Adams Brewery.

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A free glass for showing my marathon race bib.

We took the subway back and ended up at the Hub Pub for dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy but we had a good time. We received more free samples of 26.2 Brew there – bonus! The highlight of our dinner was the door guy David. He was in control of the music and he dedicated James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” to all of the marathon runners. He sang along enthusiastically (and was actually good) as he worked his way around the room. His karaoke sing-alongs continued throughout the night ranging anywhere from Hall & Oates to Madonna. He was a riot.

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David was very entertaining at the Hub Pub.

I made sure to get decent sleep that night knowing that I probably wouldn’t sleep well the night before the race.

I spent most of Sunday morning getting my race outfit and gear ready. The only things on the agenda for Sunday were meals and a course preview talk. I carb loaded with a couple of muffins from Dunkin’ Donuts, which you can find on practically every corner in Boston.

We walked to the Beacon Hill neighborhood for a 2:00 course preview talk with Greg McMillan at an apartment he had for the weekend. McMillan is an author, coach, and extremely knowledgable resource when it comes to running. I’ve been using the McMillan Running Calculator for years to help predict training paces and race times I might be able to achieve. I watched all of his Boston Marathon webinars leading up to the race and they had been extremely helpful. He had a couple of course preview talks during the weekend, and I thought it might be especially cool to go to the one at his apartment. As I suspected, that one was extra intimate. There may have been around 15 of us squeezed into the main room for McMillan’s talk and slide show. He went through every step of race day from gear check to the bus ride to the wait in Athletes’ Village to the nuances of the race course. It was nice to talk through things and get feedback from him as well as others in the room who had run the race before. He mentioned that you’ll see some people during the race with their heads down who are throwing themselves a pity party, thinking about how their legs are tired and they don’t want to run anymore. I’ve learned how important the mental part of running is, so that part really stuck with me – no pity party!

We stuck around for a few minutes to talk to him and get some pictures, and he was extremely nice. Between meeting him and Meb, it had been a pretty special trip already.

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McMillan’s course preview talk. Thanks to Matt for taking the picture of McMillan speaking.

We spent a little time at the hotel afterward before walking to Panera for dinner. Rather than worrying about finding the right kind of restaurant and making a reservation, I stuck with something that I knew would work for me. A sandwich and mac & cheese from Panera has worked as a good pre-run meal in the past.

We went back to the hotel and the TV kept me distracted for a bit. As expected, I had a pretty restless night of sleep. Luckily I didn’t feel too tired when I got up at 5:45 the morning of the race. I had a Picky Bar and Honey Stinger cracker n’ nut butter bar for my first meal. I loaded up on sunscreen and Aquaphor, put on a bunch of throwaway clothes to keep me warm, then headed out into the rain just after 7:00. I made the short walk to the gear check area. There were no lines and it was extremely organized as volunteers stored our bags on specific buses based on our bib numbers.

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I was worried about thunder and lightning which was currently hitting Hopkinton, the town where the race would start. Luckily we “only” had pouring rain in downtown Boston at the time. I had a poncho with a hood plus a garbage bag poncho to stay dry. Because I’d worried so much about wet shoes, I actually found some cheap waterproof shoe covers on Amazon. I wrapped plastic bags around my feet for good measure as well. I looked completely ridiculous, but everyone else did too and it worked!

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From there, I walked nearly a mile to catch my bus. Because Boston is a point-to-point race, people who stay in Boston need to ride 26 miles out to the start. Most people use school bus shuttles located at Boston Common but I had signed up for a special charter bus located in the Back Bay area. I am forever thankful that my friend Karly informed me about the buses provided by a local running store. I had to pay $35 but it was worth every dollar. I rode to the start in comfortable charter bus that had a bathroom, and I could wait on that bus as long as I chose prior to the start of the race. The general shuttle buses dropped everyone else off at Athletes’ Village where they waited outside. The rain had stopped by the time we got there, but since it had been pouring all morning, the field where people had to wait was mostly a mud pit. I talked to some nice people on the bus and played on my phone to pass the time, which actually went by fairly quickly.

With all of the crazy logistics it feels like you go through one marathon of events before you get to the actual marathon. Gear check, buses, waiting in the village, walking to the start, etc. You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent agonizing over details and preparing for this race. I made sure I packed every combination of running gear I owned. I had to get clothes from the Salvation Army so I could stay warm and dry before the race. When I packed, there was still the possibility that race day would be a cold, windy, rainy mess like last year. By the time race day arrived, we managed to avoid rain during the majority of the race, it was humid, and in the 60s. I had to make sure I timed my eating just right. I woke up before 6am, yet I wouldn’t start running until nearly 11am. I had a couple bars at the hotel and ate another Picky Bar during the bus ride. I ate another Honey Stinger bar when I got off the bus an hour before I started the race. It worked – my stomach cooperated and I didn’t start the race feeling hungry!

Despite all of the crazy logistics, it was thrilling to finally be there. From our bus we were able to make a short walk to Athletes’ Village, where we went through a security check. Then we cut through the village to walk to the start with everyone else. I was SO thankful for my special bus when I saw that people had discarded old, mud-covered shoes on the sidewalks following their wait there.

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It was a little over half a mile to walk from the village to the starting line. Nearly 30,000 people ran the race and we were divided into waves that left at different times. For my 10:50 start I had to leave the village at 10:10. Again, lots of crazy logistics.

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A CVS parking lot just before the start was filled with portable toilets for the runners. I played it safe by making a last-minute stop there and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to wait more than a couple minutes. I made a point of going to the far end of the parking lot where the lines were shorter.

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There was plenty of nervous energy in the air. It all became very real when I got to Hopkinton and saw the sign in the photo above. Prior to that I’d spent almost all of my time and energy agonizing over logistics. I barely spent any time worrying about the actual run! I guess I thought about that enough as I went through a winter’s worth of training. Now it was time to break off into corrals based on our bib numbers.

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A couple minutes before the start I ditched my rain poncho. There were volunteers with bags to collect throwaway clothes. This race was extremely well-organized. I already mentioned how awesome the volunteers were, and one of them made me get all emotional right before the start when he told us how amazing all of us were. I was really about to start THE Boston Marathon. Wow.

Soon enough my wave was moving and it was time to pull it together. The photo below is one of the official race photos I was able to download in the package I purchased.

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The first thing that struck me was how cool it was to see a sea of bright colors in the pack ahead of me. Races are always congested at the beginning, but I’d been told that this one could be shoulder-to-shoulder through 16 miles of the race. Although there was some elbow-bumping now and then, I didn’t get too bothered by the crowd and I had enough space most of the time.

Goal number one was to keep myself under control. It had been drilled into my head that it was easy to start too fast because the first four miles were downhill. During announcements we had been warned that the first half mile was steep, and it was. I started at the back of my corral and made sure to take it nice and easy. I was kind of surprised to hit an uphill that felt like a decent amount of work within that first mile. I thought I’d be flying downhill out of control the whole time! There were more rolling hills within that beginning stretch than I had expected.

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A map of the race course with the elevation chart at the bottom.

I was pretty shocked to see that my pace was in the 8:30s for the first mile. I was aiming for 8:00 pace. I guess I’d been a little too successful in holding back. The next couple miles dropped to 8:20 pace and I kept wondering why I wasn’t going faster on the supposedly out-of-control downhill stretches.

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Maybe starting the race a little slower meant I’d have energy left at the end instead of crashing like I usually do. My pace fluctuated a little, but the fastest I went during the whole race was around 8:10 pace for miles six and seven. Pretty early on I came to the realization that I just wasn’t hitting the goal pace. Months ago I told myself that the main objective was to enjoy this race. Although I’d worked really hard to train for a specific pace, I wanted to have fun. It was time to shift goals. If the pace wasn’t coming, it was time to throw it out the window and just enjoy the experience.

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All of the rain before the race left a lot of humidity in the air. In addition, it was in the 60s. I was used to training in 30-40°. I don’t do well with heat and humidity, especially when I’m not acclimated AT ALL. I hit all but a couple of the aid stations and eventually I started to take one cup of water to drink and one to dump on my neck. Even though we barely got any rain during the race, I knew the choice to wear a tri top was smart as I continued to drench myself. At some point the sun came out which probably didn’t help much either.

It may be heavy and seem excessive but I was thankful that I opted to run with a hydration belt that held two 21 oz. bottles. I had GU Brew in one bottle and water in the other. I took the bottles out of the fridge by 7am, and later in the race the warm GU Brew wasn’t so appealing. I grabbed Gatorade at aid stations a couple times but just took a sip or two. I definitely prefer my own drink that is more diluted. Still, the extra bottles helped ensure that I stayed hydrated enough. From the fifth mile on I ate one Clif Shot Blok every mile. Since my stomach cooperated, I guess that fueling method seemed to work.

I wasn’t going to let the weather or anything else bum me out. No pity party. I knew that friends and family were tracking me and they were surely watching my pace decline. It’s not what I hoped for, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I knew they were pulling for me either way. I just hoped they wouldn’t think I was failing. I was still going to finish this thing. Any time I struggled, I reminded myself that I was actually running Boston. This was amazing. People had Boston Strong signs along the course which reminded me how lucky I was to be there, and it was also a reminder that I was tough enough to do this. I gave myself a lot of pep talks. I told myself that it took a lot of work to get to Boston and it was going to take a lot of work to fight my way through it. Marathons aren’t easy, but I’m tough and resilient. “You got this” was another common sign along the course and another mantra I used regularly. I told myself that my body was cooperating. Nothing was injured or hurt. I might be dragging, but I was fine. I could get through this. I even joked to myself that however long it might take me to finish, it just meant I was out there to enjoy the experience even longer. I certainly struggled and felt like I was trudging along at times because the conditions drained me, yet I was determined to enjoy it.

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I loved seeing the signs that announced our arrival into each town. The crowds seemed to be extra big around those spots, at the mile markers, and in the downtown areas. As we ran through Natick, I dedicated that part of my run to thinking about my half-sister Kathryn who had lived there, and who we lost in 2008. That chunk of my run was mostly filled with thoughts about family.

When I started to see road signs that mentioned Wellesley, I knew a fun part was coming. I was looking forward to the “scream tunnel” of women by Wellesley College. There was a point when a faint roar became noticeable, and a guy near me said, “You can hear them!” It was an awesome part of the race and I smiled during that whole stretch. The women had a variety of “kiss me” signs. “Kiss me, my boyfriend is in Ohio.” “Kiss me, I need my green card.” I laughed when I saw a guy taking a selfie as he received a kiss. It was pretty cool to see the legendary tradition in person.

Following a nice downhill, the Newton Hills began at mile 16 and continued through mile 21. When I see that my splits climbed into 9:00+ paces at that point and remained there through the end of the race, it’s clear that I didn’t handle the hills too well. I didn’t feel too awful on the first one, but for some reason the second one stood out as a bad stretch. I felt like I was really trudging along during this part of the race. I think it helped me mentally that I convinced myself to keep running even if it felt really slow. The crowd telling us that we could do this and that we were amazing really helped pull me through. It meant a lot to have so much support and the cheering certainly lifted my spirits. I couldn’t tell what hill we were on or when we got to the final one, but I was relieved when I saw a sign that said we were done with Heartbreak Hill. The rest of the course was supposed to be smooth sailing. Right…?

When I hit 22 miles I told myself that it was just like one of my 4-milers during training – a couple miles up the trail and back. That was nothing. Another mile down and I only had 5K left. Then we hit Beacon Street and it was really pretty. There were stretches along the course that didn’t have big crowds, but it was pretty much solid through the last few miles. That helped me and even made me smile through the suffering.

When I caught my first glimpse of the Citgo sign it took my breath away. It was another legendary part of the course. It doesn’t seem like it should be that exciting, yet the first sight of it really moved me. I knew I was getting closer. The sign faded out of view for a little bit, but it seemed huge when it popped back up. It was a landmark to keep running toward that would get me that much closer to the finish. People were pouring out of Fenway Park following the Red Sox game and they lined the streets. The energy was incredible. There were moments when I questioned if I’d really want to go through this again, but by this point I thought about how this race was absolutely amazing. I felt a few drops of rain in the later miles, but nothing significant.

I kept watching the crowd as we ran along Commonwealth. I didn’t know when Hereford was coming, but I thought Matt would be spectating from somewhere around Commonwealth and Hereford. I was so worried that I was going to miss him. He’d make the effort to go out there and cheer for me and I wouldn’t even see him. I kept scanning the crowd as I turned right on Hereford, and as I rounded the corner I happened to see him amongst the crowd. I grinned and waved excitedly to make sure he knew that I saw him. That made me so happy!

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A picture Matt took as I approached Hereford.

I was thrilled when I saw the photos taken by the official race photographers. Would you believe someone happened to be at that spot the exact moment I saw Matt?! I absolutely love the next two photos.

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Waving to Matt.

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Smiling because I’m so happy that I saw him.

Well, this was it – another famous part of the course. Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. The last two turns of the race. I was excited that I was almost there, yet this amazing experience was almost over. I heard that the last stretch of Boylston is longer than you think and seems to take forever. That was my time to soak in what I had left. The crowd was incredible. The street was lined with flags from all different countries. I was on the verge of getting emotional but made myself stop. I needed to breathe so I could finish strong. I threw my arms up in celebration and smiled as I finished. The photographers caught plenty of photos of that!

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What a great feeling – I was a Boston Marathon finisher. I thought maybe I ought to stop and stretch, but after doing so for a few seconds, I really just wanted to keep walking around so I could take it all in. I stopped to take a few pictures and had other runners volunteer to take some for me. I got a fist bump from one guy as he handed my phone back. There was a camaraderie amongst us – we had done it.

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I collected my water and got my medal. Time for another picture.

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I took a small Clif Builder’s Bar and then I was a bit unimpressed that our post-race treat bag just contained a package of Hawaiian rolls, chips, and Craisins. For such a significant race, the treats were kind of a letdown compared to practically every other marathon I’ve done. I knew I’d find some good treats on my own though. There had been a little rain as I got to the finish, but barely enough for me to notice. By the time a volunteer wrapped a heat blanket around me, the rain was coming down. It was time to get to gear check to collect my warmer clothes. My leg started to cramp as I tried to get some pants on, so I took it slowly. I’m glad I put a raincoat in my bag because it started to pour. I headed to the family meeting area and waited by the “B” sign as Matt worked his way there. I replied to a bunch of messages from family and friends who had been following along and were so supportive.

I had talked about going for treats at Shake Shack after the race but it didn’t seem so appealing now that it was pouring rain. I wanted to get out of the rain and back to the hotel. We made a stop at Dunkin’, because as I said, they’re practically on every corner. A donut and a muffin would suffice for post-race treats.

I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a crowd of clapping and cheering people in the lobby when we got to the hotel. How flattering and cool! Eventually I showered and surveyed the damage. I had one little spot that had chaffed under my arm, but no blisters or anything bad. I had some sunburn on my shoulder and back where I had dumped the water to cool off. I’m sure that had washed away my sunscreen. I didn’t feel too bad in general though.

We went to a bar where I got pizza for dinner. Back at the room I tried to polish off as many snacks as I could since I didn’t want to take them home with us. As dead tired as I was, I was too uncomfortable to sleep very well. We left the hotel at 5am on Tuesday morning and as expected, found an airport filled with runners. I joked with Matt that I didn’t belong because I wasn’t wearing a celebration jacket. People had been wearing them pretty much everywhere we went during the whole trip. I did wear my new hat to the airport though. :)

Once again we had a layover on our trip home, and that’s when the pain really hit. After sitting on one flight long enough to tighten up, quad and shin pain was very apparent as soon as I stood up. I may have groaned a hundred times throughout the day, but I was in pretty good shape a day or two later.

Well, here are the final stats for how my race played out. With an 8:00 pace as my initial goal, I was aiming for a time around 3:30. Since I’ve never run that fast and have run 3:34 several times now, I was really hoping I’d at least be in that range. 3:52:15 was a bit off, haha. That makes this my slowest marathon yet by about 45 seconds.

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My splits clearly show when I fell apart – the Newton Hills through the end of the race. It also shows that I did not run the tangents since I ended up with 26.46 mi instead of 26.2. I stayed on the left side of the road most of the time so I could get to each aid station without fighting my way through the crowd.

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The amount of support I received leading up to and following this race really struck me. The support along the course was incredible. Having people cheer for us as we walked into the hotel was pretty awesome. People at restaurants were excited for us. There was a feeling of excitement everywhere. In addition, I really appreciate how much support I received from family and friends who were rooting for me. Of course Matt receives the most thanks. I know it’s not easy to put up with my constant training. Running six days a week (plus swimming and weights), eating late dinners, scheduling things around my training, listening to me talk about it constantly, going on a trip that’s basically all about my race, etc. I recognize that it’s asking a lot of anyone and I’m very lucky that he’s tolerated and supported me through all of this.

I’ll be riding a high from this one for a while. While my time wasn’t what I’d hoped for and it was quite a battle at times to get through the run, running this legendary race was an amazing experience. Enough to leave me wondering if there’s any way I can resist doing it again next year. I know the weather is usually unpredictable and often bad for this race, but surely I could do better than I did this time? My time from November’s Indy Monumental Marathon does make it possible for me to go back in 2020… :)

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If you actually took the time to get through all of this, I thank you!!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

Rock CF Half Marathon Recap

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On Sunday, March 24th I went to Grosse Ile, Michigan for the Rock CF Half Marathon. It’s a race that has been on my radar for years and I’ve heard great things about it. It raises money to fight cystic fibrosis and offers a flat, fast course. It’s also one of the earliest half marathons of the year around this area. When I mapped out my training plan for the Boston Marathon, it called for a half marathon the weekend of this race. I figured it was a good excuse to finally get to it, and a $10 discount on Black Friday motivated me to sign up early. It would be a great way to test my fitness three weeks before Boston.

My friend Jeff realized he also had 13 miles on his training schedule the day of the race so he and his friend Don signed up as well. Grosse Ile is about an hour south of us. When Jeff offered to drive the three of us down there, it sounded like a good plan to me. In addition to the half marathon, a 10-mile run and 5K also took place. The race strongly encouraged us to park in a lot and ride shuttle buses to the middle school where our race started and finished. Parking wasn’t available at the middle school, but they did mention that the high school nearby had limited parking. We decided that we’d try the high school rather than ride the shuttles. We got there extra early to play it safe and there was still plenty of parking. That gave us time to pick up our packets and get ready for the race without feeling rushed. It was dark when we arrived and we walked 5-10 minutes on a back path in the moonlight to get from one school to the other.

We went to the middle school gym to get our packets, which included a shirt and a pair of gloves. Then we went back to the truck for a little bit where I got all of my race gear sorted out and ate a pre-race snack.

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I headed back to the school with a little more than half an hour to spare to make a bathroom stop before lines got long. After that I got distracted when I saw the beautiful sunrise over the Detroit River.

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We really lucked out with a beautiful morning. It was around 34 degrees at the start of the race with little to no wind. Because Grosse Ile is an island and much of the race is run around the exterior, I’ve heard that sometimes the wind has been a nuisance for runners in past years. I was thrilled that it wasn’t a concern this year.

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It was fun to run into several running friends before the race started. Some were planning on racing hard while some were using the race as a training run for another race. I fell somewhere in between. I hoped to run the first 10 miles at my goal marathon pace and pick it up for the last few miles if I had it in me. I lined up near the 1:45 pacer and ended up running just in front of them for the beginning chunk of the race.

During the pre-race talk the announcer said we should watch out for potholes on the course. That was wise advice because there were plenty of rough patches. I spent a lot of time looking down but really enjoyed the view when I looked up, especially on the east side of the island. I could even see the Detroit skyline off in the distance. There were a lot of nice houses across from the river. Taken from Google Maps, the picture below shows what the course looked like as we started the run, although the sky wasn’t quite as blue for us.

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I had never been to the island before so it was fun to explore. Aside from a golf course and airport, most of the course was residential. A few people came out to cheer for the runners, but it wasn’t a spectator-heavy kind of race. There wasn’t much entertainment along the course, but the aid stations were enthusiastic and groups from local schools had made some entertaining signs.

I was aiming to run an 8:00 pace to start and was 3-4 seconds under that for each of the first five miles. Most of that time I was near a guy who was steadily running the same pace as me. That’s one thing that’s nice about the race environment. While marathon pace workouts can sometimes seem intimidating to nail during training, it seems to come naturally during a race. Being around other people running the same pace sure helps.

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Sometime during the sixth mile I looked at my watch and realized I had sped up a little more than I intended. The guy I’d been running near must have increased the pace and I had kept up with his rhythm. I let that guy go as I tried to keep my pace under control because I didn’t want to speed up quite yet. Jeff and Don had started behind me and around that point they caught up. We talked for a minute and eventually I watched them drift further ahead. It was kind of nice to have them and another friend just far enough up that I could still see them. It’s not that I was aiming to catch them, but having people around who I knew gave me something to watch, which helped keep me distracted.

My pace got a little faster over the next couple miles, but I wasn’t too concerned because I often end up running 10-15 seconds faster than my goal pace when I’m doing marathon pace workouts. I was still within my usual range, but I did consciously try to slow down at times. By the time I’d run nine miles, I felt comfortable with speeding up. It was a good sign that I was still feeling good that far into the race, so now it was time to pick it up.

One big highlight of the day was getting to run through an airport hangar 10 miles into the race. I’ve never done that before and I thought the picture below was pretty cool. The race provided free low resolution downloads of our race photos which I really appreciated. They uploaded them really quickly too!

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I still felt pretty comfortable as my pace increased. I decided to start picking it up even more and caught up to Jeff and Don. We gave each other words of encouragement and I continued to push on. When I had a mile to go, it was time to give everything I had left. I nearly sped up to my 5K race pace. It’s something I manage to do whenever I run a successful half marathon and I’m still not sure how I pull that off. 5K pace feels rough enough during a 5K, so I don’t know how I do it 12 miles into a race! Having a woman on my heels who seemed to be suffering based on her constant moaning also motivated me to break away. By the time I hit the corral that sent us toward the finish line, I was really pushing. I managed to drop to a 6:33 pace for that last .1!

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At a minimum I’d been hoping to maintain an 8:00 average for the whole race, so I was pretty happy to average 7:46 and finish with an overall time of 1:41:36.

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Looking at my splits, I ran the race as ideally as I could have hoped. I was disciplined early, gradually picked it up, then still had energy left for a push at the end. I haven’t executed all of my half marathons that successfully, but I’ve done it a number of times now and it’s awesome to feel so strong at the end. A race like this makes me feel like the half marathon is my favorite distance. Everything just seemed to click!

Jeff and Don finished shortly after me and we got a group photo. They had done a long run the day before the race, so it’s great that they did so well on tired legs.

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2019-03-24 - medal

We chatted with some running buddies until I got cold enough to collect my warm clothes from gear check. I grabbed a bagel and a couple chocolate chip cookies to go, then headed back to the truck. We stopped for a nice breakfast as we headed toward home and refueled all of those calories (and more) that we had burned.

I’m really glad I finally made it to this race. Although it seemed like it would be a long drive to make, it wasn’t that bad – especially with good company. I really liked the course and it’s nice to know that they raised money for a great cause. Having such a solid run made it an even better experience.

After the race I looked back at my previous half marathons to see how this time compared. This race was just three seconds faster than a half marathon I ran in the Columbus area last year as I prepared for the Glass City Marathon. It blows my mind how consistent some of my race times have been. My last two marathon times were only five seconds apart! Considering how I ran a Boston-qualifying time at Glass City following that half marathon, I’m hoping this race means I’m in good shape for Boston as well.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

One Month Until the Boston Marathon

2019 boston celebration jacket

April 15th is approaching quickly and the excitement is building. It’s hard to believe that a month from now I plan to run the Boston Marathon for my first time. You would think that like most runners, as soon as I qualified I would have immediately jumped at the chance to go to Boston. For some reason it took me a little more time to come around.

Initially, Boston was never really a goal for me. I wasn’t much of an athlete as a kid. I dabbled in softball, basketball, volleyball, and soccer, but I didn’t last more than two or three years in any of them because I wasn’t very good. I stuck with swimming the longest, but still…I was average at best and eventually I didn’t see any purpose in continuing to swim competitively. I ran my first 5K ever at the age of 30 and my first marathon came a few years later. Luckily maturity taught me not to worry about whether I was competitive or not. Running made me feel strong and empowered and that’s all that mattered to me. It was a bonus when I discovered I was actually kind of good at it. Far from elite, but pretty decent for an average person. When I realized I was close to achieving a Boston-qualifying time, I figured it was a good goal to aim for. I didn’t really picture myself going to Boston though.

Easily overwhelmed by logistics and little details, I’ve spent too much of my life coming up with excuses not to do things. When I had the opportunity to go to China in high school, I nearly missed the chance. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go and had plenty of excuses. I didn’t know how I’d cope with the food as a picky eater, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of staying with a strange family for part of the trip, and most of all, it would cost a ton of money. Thankfully my parents were supportive, I was talked into it at the last minute, and of course it was an incredible experience. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to China, so I’m extremely thankful that I ended up going.

I did the same kind of thing when I first qualified for Boston – the excuses started rolling. The trip would cost a ton of money between the flights and outrageously-priced hotel rooms. I’d have to sit around in Athletes’ Village for hours waiting for the start of the race. It could be cold and the field could be a mud pit. The weather has varied from pouring rain and crazy winds to super hot. I had so many excuses.

I ended up getting a stress fracture so I couldn’t have run Boston following my first qualification anyway. I still aimed for another BQ in case I changed my mind. Eventually I pushed my stubbornness and excuses aside. I got over my hang ups and realized OF COURSE I should want to run Boston. I recognized what an honor it is that I even have the opportunity to go to Boston. There’s a reason everyone raves about the race and works so hard to try to get there. I needed to quit worrying about logistics, suck it up, and just go for it. I often struggle to push my stubbornness aside, but I’m working on it. I’m trying to recognize that I need to get out of my comfort zone. One way or another I’ll adapt and everything will be fine. Obviously tons of other people deal with the inconveniences so surely I can too. Running constantly pushes me to my limits and it’s extremely rewarding. I need to remind myself to get outside of my comfort zone when it comes to life in general so I don’t miss out on great opportunities.

I’ve tried to tackle all of my excuses about the race and put a positive spin on everything. Luckily Matt understands what a big deal this race is and has been very encouraging. It costs a fortune to stay in the heart of downtown for the race, but I know it will make the experience even more enjoyable. Who knows – this might be the one time I run the race so I may as well take in the full experience. I stashed money away for the hotel shortly after signing up for it last spring. That money is spoken for and I don’t have to worry about it. We booked the flights and even had enough miles saved up to cover it. We got tickets for a game at Fenway Park. I signed up for a special coach bus from a local running store that allows people to arrive at Athletes’ Village in comfort and style. Instead of taking the school bus shuttles and getting dropped off, I can choose to stay on the bus. That’s very reassuring in case the weather is bad or if I don’t want to sit around in a field. Bit by bit I’ve been chipping away at all of the logistics. It’s all coming together and I’m getting really excited.

Aside from all of the planning, of course there’s that whole aspect of having to train for the actual race through the winter in Michigan. At least this is one area where I don’t come up with excuses. I’m going to run year-round one way or another and it’s just a matter of how I’ll make it happen. I managed to train through the winter for the Glass City Marathon last year and knew I could do it again. Last winter I developed a problem spot around my left hip/groin that may have stemmed from too much treadmill time. The area gets tweaked if I push beyond 3-4 miles on the treadmill, so somehow I’d have to survive this winter without much help from the treadmill. Because Matt works at Oakland University, I was able to sign up for a semester-long membership at the rec center where there’s an indoor track. It’s 1/10th of a mile which is not ideal for long distances due to harsh turns around the corners. It’s still a great alternative to the treadmill and it doesn’t tweak my problem spot. When the weather has been ridiculously cold or there has been snow/ice/slush outside, it’s been a lifesaver.

20190119 ou track.jpg

OU’s indoor track

Other than short runs around the indoor track, I’ve spent most of the winter running around Oakland University’s campus or the local metroparks. OU keeps the sidewalks clear and salted for the students, so it’s one great option during the winter.

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In addition to the clear sidewalks, Oakland University is great for winter evening runs because the campus is well-lit

During the occasional thaw I’ve been able to run from home, but the conditions of the local sidewalks are usually too questionable for my taste. I know the metroparks plow and salt the paths and I don’t have to worry about wiping out. It’s become routine for me to go to Stony Creek Metropark straight from work for evening runs. I’m very fortunate that it’s only 10-15 minutes from home and I’ve spent most weekends there as well. Kensington and Indian Springs are great parks as well, but they are around 45+ minutes away so I only use them on weekends when I’m willing to make the drive.

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Kensington, Stony Creek, and Indian Springs Metroparks

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Running at Stony is enjoyable with this kind of scenery

Looking back, somehow I’ve managed to survive what I hope has been the worst of the winter. When the “polar vortex” rolled through with ice and sub-zero temperatures I had to tweak my plans a bit. Oakland University’s campus closed due to the weather at one point so I couldn’t use the indoor track. The weather made conditions unsafe for running outside so I decided it was best to skip a run. I missed a couple runs when I battled some sinus issues, and every now and then I’ve developed a tweaky ankle or something that tells me I should take a day or two off. I’ve accepted that missing a run here or there won’t make or break my whole training cycle. I have been brave enough to battle ridiculous temperatures a few times this winter, and it’s doable as long as I dress appropriately. However, whenever I have to breathe through a mask, I don’t find it especially enjoyable.

20190209 mask

I only have four weeks left in my 12-week training plan – Hal Higdon’s “Boston Bound” plan. I have followed his training plans in the past and they have served me well. This plan appealed to me because it specifically prepares for the hills of Boston. Most plans concentrate on speed work and marathon pace, but on top of that, Higdon also works in hill repeats. I’m used to following 18-week marathon training plans, so this was a bit different. It assumes that you already have a high level of fitness prior to the start of training. I was basically in training mode weeks earlier because I had to be ready to run 12-14 miles for a long run as soon as the official plan started.

Things have gone relatively smoothly and I just have to keep it up for one more month. I ran 18 miles for my long run a couple weeks ago and will go up to 20 this weekend. I’ll run a half marathon race next weekend that will test my fitness level and hopefully help reassure me that I’m good to go. Another 20-miler comes the following week, then the race will be here in no time.

I wavered about it quite a bit, but I even gave in and bought the official celebration jacket, seen at the beginning of this post. I wasn’t sure I really HAD to have it, especially for the price, but a 20% discount and my building excitement finally made me to go for it. I’m all-in at this point and can’t wait for the big day.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

2018 Recap

2018 race shirts

All of my race shirts from 2018

2018 was a pretty solid year for me in terms of training and racing. It is the ninth year I’ve participated in races. With 16 total races, it’s the most I’ve ever done in a year, topping last year by one race. I didn’t get any new PRs, but I did improve my times at a few races that I’ve done in the past. It was the first time I ran two marathons in a year, and I was fortunate enough to run Boston-qualifying times at both races by 5 1/2 minutes. That was enough buffer to successfully get into the 2019 race. I keep aiming for the goal of a 3:30 marathon, but 3:34 seems to be my sweet spot. I tend to be ridiculously consistent with my times, which was clear when I ran 3:34:25 in Toledo in April and 3:34:30 in Indy in November. Although the 3:30 goal continues to be elusive, I was thrilled to run two great marathons this year.

Aside from qualifying for Boston and trying for 3:30, I didn’t have many big goals going into this year. As usual, one of my goals was to remain injury-free. For the most part, I was successful. I’m super paranoid about the foot that had a stress fracture in 2016 because it set me back for quite a while in both 2016 and 2017. I took a couple of short breaks this year when my foot got achy, and luckily that was enough.

I wiped out when I was running on a mountain bike trail in mid-October, leaving me with an angry knee. It lingered for a bit and I took some time off to deal with that, but fortunately it wasn’t too serious.

One thing that has been problematic for me this year is my left hip/groin area. Back in March or April I started to notice that my leg would randomly lock up while walking. Somehow it has rarely been a problem when I run unless I use the treadmill. I reached a point where I could only make it 2-3 miles on the treadmill before it started to hurt. As a result, I’ve only used the treadmill seven times since April, and I think the longest I’ve pushed it was four miles. I haven’t had it officially diagnosed, but one doctor mentioned the possibility of a hip labral tear. I’m afraid I can relate to many of the symptoms. As long as I stay away from the treadmill, I’m mostly fine. I have a feeling that training on the treadmill so much last winter may have created the problem.

Otherwise, it was a good year. Here are some stats:

2018 stats

  • I swam nearly 152 miles
  • I biked 736 miles
  • I ran 1,858 miles
  • I had 71 weight/strength sessions, usually 45-50 minutes long
  • I did 16 races (with one being a 5K/10K double)
  • I ran 3 5Ks, 2 10Ks, a 6.75-mile run (when a half marathon was cut short due to heat), 3 half marathons, 2 marathons, 1 indoor swim/run event, 1 Olympic-distance duathlon, 1 sprint triathlon, and 3 Olympic-distance triathlons

I definitely had plenty of variety! Although I returned to several races that I’ve done in the past, I made a point of doing a bunch that were new to me. I believe this is the highest running mileage I’ve done in a year. Running two marathons certainly contributed to that. The more I run, the less I bike, so my biking segments during triathlons weren’t especially great. I’m okay with that though since I’d rather spend my time running. I’ve also enjoyed maintaining a regular swimming routine, aiming for at least a mile three days a week.

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A sampling of some race photos from 2018

Looking ahead to 2019, I’m excited to run my first big-city, major marathons. I’m registered for both Boston and Chicago. The Twin Cities Marathon is the largest one I’ve done and it had fewer than 10,000 finishers. Boston should have around 30,000 people and Chicago around 40,000, so it will be quite a change for me. I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere of both races. I’m sure I will hit plenty of shorter races before and after the marathons, and I’ll look forward to another summer of multi-sport events as well. I’m excited about a swim/run series that will occur a few weeknights during the summer. I can concentrate on combining my two favorite activities and subtract the bike segment! I’m also toying with the idea of finally trying a 5K open water swim. I’ve been intrigued by it for several years, and maybe this will be the year I finally do it.

2018 was a solid, fun year. I’m hoping for more of the same in 2019!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz