Brooksie Way Half Marathon Recap

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After racing the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon pretty hard, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ran the Brooksie Way Half Marathon in Rochester Hills a week later on Sunday, September 23rd. I would like to follow my Indy Monumental Marathon training plan as closely as I can, but I’m trying to listen to my body so I don’t end up with an injury. I considered the week in between the races a “limbo” week. Based on how I felt, I knew it wouldn’t be ideal to stick to the plan. There was a combination of feeling the need to recover from one race while also laying off enough to prepare for the next one. I didn’t do my strength or marathon pace workouts during the week, but still managed to run a total of 28 miles at an easy pace throughout the week.

I stopped by the expo at Oakland University on Friday evening. Because the fit for women-specific race shirts varies and doesn’t always work for me, I often opt for a unisex shirt. I was surprised to find that the extra small I had signed up for didn’t seem to be an actual option at the expo. I can imagine that had to throw off the availability of shirts later into the packet pickup process. I couldn’t have been the only one who signed up for that size, meaning a bunch of people probably ended up with shirts that had been allocated for other people. I ended up with a women’s shirt after all. I still miss the days when this race provided Brooks shirts. I really prefer the Brooks quality over the types of shirts they’ve used in recent years.

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I saved $15 when I registered for this year’s race thanks to receiving a coupon for being one of the first people to arrive at the expo last year. They did the same thing this year and also offered a coupon to people who donated canned goods at a Kroger table. Since it’s pretty likely that I’ll run this race again next year, I brought some food to get the discount code.

We had been warned that local roads would start closing at 6:45 on race morning, so we should arrive early. Traffic is usually bad getting to this race and construction on one of the main roads complicated matters even more. I am very fortunate that I come from the north because it seems like the majority of the people arrive from the south. Traffic from that direction was RIDICULOUS because there was really only one main entrance. I wanted to park in the lot closest to the start and was one of the last cars to get into that lot at 6:40 – an hour and 20 minutes before the start! Since I had to get there so early, I spent a lot of time playing on my phone in the car to kill time and stay warm. I ate one Picky Bar when I first woke up and had another one an hour before the start while I waited. Between the bars and eating a few Clif Shot Bloks halfway through the race, my fueling strategy seemed to work well.

Eventually I left the car to make a bathroom stop and to meet the Chevy Running Club for a group photo. Amongst the thousands of people I just happened to run into my half brother! We chatted for a bit before I went back to the car to shed my warm clothes. My tank top wasn’t especially warm, so I jogged around the grounds both to prepare my legs and to move around enough to stay warm. We were incredibly lucky to have a gorgeous, cool day. It was around 50 degrees and clear at the start. It was a HUGE improvement over last year when it was 70 degrees and humid to start.

The first wave of speedy people started at 8:00 and my wave followed a few minutes later. The wave start was very helpful and I didn’t have to weave around people much. There was a 1:45 pacer near the back of my corral and I started near him. I didn’t know if I could maintain that pace, but figured it was a good place to start. I had stuck with the 1:45 pacer at my race the week before, but that course was entirely flat. Brooksie is challenging because of the rolling hills that come in the second half of the race. As I suffered to finish in 1:44 at the previous race, I told myself there was no way I could manage that on the Brooksie course too. However, it was hot and humid at that race and it was nice and cool at this race. I figured I’d be ambitious for the first half of the race as it started downhill then see how things played out.

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I had a great experience running with the pacer at the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon because she hit an 8:00 pace right on the dot mile after mile. A couple miles into this race it was clear that I wasn’t going to stick with the pacer. I heard other people comment about how fast he was going as he kept getting further and further away. I figured maybe he was banking time on the downhill stretch to make up for slowing down on the hills later. My pace was in the 7:50s and I didn’t want to push it more than that.

I got into a pretty steady rhythm running with the crowd on the roads of Rochester Hills, and we hit the Clinton River Trail around the fourth mile. It all felt pretty comfortable and uneventful running a route that was extremely familiar to me.

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I always tell myself that the real hills start seven miles into the race even though I know there’s a bit of climbing once we come off of the Clinton River Trail. Sure enough, that first climb took some effort and was more significant than I gave it credit for. A quick downhill followed, but then there’s a gradual incline on the way to the hills. I was surprised to see that my pace that had been 8:00 and under had gone up to 8:19 on my way up Paint Creek Trail. Maybe some weaving and a little rolling in the Rochester Municipal Park got to me. I didn’t feel tired yet, so I was a little worried that I had slowed down that much before I’d gotten to the hard part.

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I knew that Matt planned to take some pictures somewhere around Paint Creek Trail, so I was happy when I spotted him. Then it was time for the hills. We live right by the first one so I’m very familiar with its difficultly. I run it regularly though, so I told myself I could grind through it. With almost every climb, there’s a downhill stretch that follows. I think the rolling actually makes it a really nice course. Although it takes work to get up the hills, I gain quite a bit of momentum when I come back down. At one point I remembered one of my encouraging mantras – the downhills help me more than the uphills hurt me. My average pace on the hills was actually better than the one slow mile through the park and on the trail! I still don’t know what happened to me there.

I drank about half of my bottle of GU Brew during the race and grabbed a cup of water here and there. It was a HUGE difference from the previous year when I went through my full bottle and suffered from thirst due to the heat and humidity. The weather was PERFECT this year. As I worked my way up one of the last big hills, I heard a spectator say, “This is your payoff for the summer.” It was true. Most of my summer training had been pretty brutal as I dealt with the heat and humidity, but I pushed through. I was extremely thankful to have a cool day where I could see all of my hard work pay off.

Once I finished the last big hill, I picked up the pace. I felt strong and it felt good to get moving faster. I was on a straightaway that lasted for a couple miles before the last couple turns that approach the finish. I knew that someone from work planned to cheer for me, so I was really happy to see him. I questioned if I could maintain the faster pace, but just kept rolling with it. The big group of cheering teenagers that manned the water stop in front of Adams High School helped keep me energized. My strongest half marathons that I’ve run have always ended with a really solid final 5K. I had stopped looking at my watch and didn’t realize how fast I was going, but I felt great.

Then I was pleasantly surprised when Matt rode past me on his bike. I thought he would take pictures near the trail and head back home. I found out later that the pictures hadn’t turned out very well. He didn’t want to let me down, so he was awesome enough to head out and try to get more! He caught me while I was in a good groove just before I approached the finish at Oakland University.

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As I made one of the final turns, I finally caught up to the 1:45 pacer. He was definitely ahead of schedule and I wonder if anyone had stuck with him. There’s a cruel uphill climb to the finish line, but I kept pushing with everything I had left. I was wiped out for a minute afterward, but thrilled with my fast finish.

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Like I said, I didn’t look at my watch once I picked up the pace, and I had no idea I had picked it up so much. A 7:06 mile at the end?! I was pretty shocked when I saw these splits later. It’s always a great feeling to come in so strong. Despite the harder course, I actually ran a little faster than I had a week earlier. I guess that really shows what a difference 20 degrees can make for me. I was struggling and suffering as I finished the women’s race in 1:44 on a flat course, yet I got stronger as I went and felt great on this hilly course.

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Although this wasn’t a half marathon PR for me, it was a Brooksie PR by 2.5 minutes! It was my fourth time running the race and it was my best one yet.

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I was happy that Matt was there to help me celebrate, and we spotted our friend Carmen after she finished. She had an awesome race and her first PR in the distance in four years! I guess the great weather and some solid training paid off for both of us. It was nice to catch up with her for a little bit and celebrate how well it had gone.

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We were able to stash the bike in the back of my car, then Matt and I headed to the corporate tent. Since I ran as a part of the Chevy Running Club, I received two bracelets for the tent. The granola bar, chips, and Rice Krispies Treat I got at the finish were okay, but nothing compared to the catered meal in the tent.

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It was similar to last year, with food and beer from Rochester Mills. I got some rolls, a salad, pasta, etc. I was especially happy because I got to enjoy it with Matt. I understand why he wouldn’t want to wait around from 6:40am on if he had ridden with me, so it was cool that he worked his way there on the bike and I was able to share my other bracelet with him.

I love running Brooksie because it’s the big hometown race. I get to see a ton of familiar faces and run the roads and trails that I know so well. I like representing the Chevy Running Club and catching up with some people I know from work and some who I just know thanks to the club. This is one of those races where I feel like I’m missing out on a big community celebration if I don’t participate. Although I always have a good time, it’s a bonus when the weather is beautiful and I run such a solid race!

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Running back-to-back half marathons so hard just a week apart took a lot out of me. This has been another “limbo” week where I haven’t exactly followed my training plan. I had to take a couple days off to recover, and I won’t attempt to run any kind of workout pace until next week. I have five weeks until the marathon in Indy and it’s time to crack down. I’ve had a great time racing throughout the summer and up to this point. It’s certainly helped me build my fitness and see where I stand. I’m feeling confident, but now it’s time to lay off the racing and stick with the plan. If things keep rolling like they have been, I’m looking forward to a solid marathon at the beginning of November.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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Detroit Women’s Half Marathon Recap

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I’ve been racing a lot lately as I continue to prepare for the Indy Monumental Marathon in November. Racing helps me get good speed or marathon pace workouts done more easily than when I do the workouts on my own. In addition, races have helped me get through the grind of running so many miles.

My first 16-mile long run of this training segment was scheduled for Sunday, September 16th. When I browsed through RunMichigan.com, I made a note that there was a half marathon at Belle Isle that day. The Detroit Women’s Half Marathon might be a good way to get through most of that mileage for the day.

In the past I’ve felt a little torn about the exclusivity of a women’s only race. I feel like running is such an inclusive sport that I don’t like the idea of excluding anyone. At the same time, I understand that women’s races are intended to celebrate women with an empowering, supportive vibe.

Way too many stories have been in the news lately about women getting attacked while running. It’s not fair that we can’t go out for a run by ourselves without worrying about our safety. I shouldn’t have to worry that it might not be safe for me to go to the track by myself. That running the pretty dirt roads alone could be a bad idea. That I have to look suspiciously at any guy who runs by me on the trail if it’s getting a little too late in the evening. That a pre-dawn run is just asking for trouble. 

When I heard that a local woman was attacked while doing a track workout on Labor Day, it hit way too close to home and I got really pissed off. It made me realize that I shouldn’t feel funny about this kind of race at all. In fact, I stopped hesitating and signed up for it while I was still fuming about the news. Maybe we do still need something that’s all about “girl power” now and then.

I didn’t make an extra trip to Detroit for the expo the day before the race, so I got my shirt (and the buff seen below) when I arrived early the morning of the race.

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Because I planned to run 16 miles total, I decided I would run three miles before the race. It was warm and the humidity was ridiculous – 99%!

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I started my run around 7:00, figuring I’d take it easy and finish with at least half an hour to spare before the race started at 8:00. It was beautiful to see the run rising over the Detroit River.

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Even the slow, easy run was enough to work up quite a sweat. This might be a tough day! I hit a porta-potty along the race course on my way back to save me the hassle of waiting in a long line near the starting line. I used baby wipes to get rid of some of the sweat, swapped my bottle of water for a fresh bottle of GU Brew, ate a couple of chews, then headed to the start.

I wanted to see if I could run all 13 miles around an 8:00 pace, which is my goal marathon pace. That meant I had a goal time of 1:45. I was pretty fortunate that there happened to be a woman pacer for that specific time, so I lined up right behind her.

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The pace felt easy as we started, so I made a point of staying behind the pacer. I didn’t want to start too fast while my legs were fresh and pay for it in the later miles. A woman pacing a 10K group was with us for the first few miles before splitting off where the races separated. Otherwise, there was a group of three of us sticking with our pacer Rebecca.

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It was nice to have people to run with and conversation to provide some distraction. There was some brief talk about carrying pepper spray, an alarm, etc. in order to feel safe while running alone or with a baby, and I have a feeling that it’s not a topic that comes up too often amongst men runners. Other than that, this was really like any other race.

Belle Isle is as flat as can be. After an opening stretch through the middle of the island, we ran a couple loops around the exterior before cutting back in on the way to the finish.

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It was nice to run by the Detroit River and see the RenCen in the distance, as seen in the picture below. The race was kind enough to provide free photos and the photographers got some great ones.

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When I hit 16 minutes right on the dot two miles into the run, I knew our pacer was doing an awesome job. She kept nailing the 8:00 pace mile after mile. I could tell when one of the women was starting to struggle based on her breathing, and she dropped from our group about six miles into the race. Three of us continued together for most of the race. The other woman’s pace increased over the last few miles, leaving me alone with Rebecca. I am extremely thankful that I had her there to keep the pace so consistent. All I had to do was follow along. The half marathon had just over 300 finishers, so this race was fairly small. There weren’t many people around us most of the time and I’m sure it would have been a struggle if I had run most of the race alone. Having people around helps me maintain a good rhythm and helps pull me along when things get difficult.

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I had a bottle of GU Brew in my hydration belt, but I knew it was hot and humid enough for me to supplement that with some water. Although I was sweating a lot, half of my shirt was soaked due to my lack of skill when it comes to drinking out of a cup while still running, haha. The heat certainly was a factor and made things challenging. There was a slight breeze when we ran east on the south side of the island. While it was refreshing, it also meant we had to fight the resistance. It was minor, but when I started to get tired, little things like that were noticeable.

I felt pretty solid through the first eight miles of the race. The Thursday prior to this race I was supposed to do a workout with eight of the miles at marathon pace. I kept my pace easy instead, knowing I would save it for the race. Once I hit eight miles at an 8:00 pace during the race, I said anything from that point forward would be a bonus. At least I had nailed my workout. The mental struggle began by the ninth mile. I started to count down the remaining miles and tried to convince myself that I could keep it up for four more miles. Things started to feel difficult by the tenth mile. When I’ve run really solid half marathons in the past, I’ve been able to pick up the pace for the last 5K. Our tenth mile actually was a little faster, but I wasn’t feeling strong enough to keep that momentum going. The heat was getting to me, my left arch was a little annoyed, and my calves were getting tight. I wanted to make that final push, but instead I started to venture into survival mode. At times Rebecca would get a few steps ahead and I just tried to hang on. At other times I’d get a few steps ahead, but felt the struggle. I told myself that I really wanted to maintain the 8:00 pace, and somehow I managed to keep going. It was hard though! By the last mile, I gave it everything I had left and pulled away from Rebecca. It was a really difficult grind, but somehow I dropped to a 7:29 pace for the last mile.

I saw that the clock was about to hit 1:44 and I pushed as hard as I could to beat it. My gun time was exactly 1:44:00, and my chip time was a few seconds under that. The race announcer made a comment about how my last name was pretty fitting as I “bolted” through the finish line. The announcers have actually commented on my name at the last few races I’ve done, and it kind of cracks me up.

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I was so concerned with beating the clock that I forgot to stop my watch, which is why the end of the race is cut off on these Garmin splits. It took a few minutes before I realized the watch was still running.

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I was super pumped that I had achieved my goal. Although this wasn’t a PR, I was so happy about the results that it may as well have been a PR. I told Rebecca that I had to grab her for a photo to give her credit for my excellent race.

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I’ve tried to follow pacers a few times but it has never worked out like this. Sometimes I want to start a little slow and roll into a race and I lose the group. Some races are so big that I haven’t been able to work my way through the crowd enough to stick with them. I felt like a pace group in one race was too crowded and congested, so I broke away. I’ve never followed a pace group all the way through a race. Rebecca was the perfect pacer for what I wanted to achieve in this race.

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This medal is especially cool because it has a charm that can be detached and worn on a necklace.

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I was very happy with the post-race food selection. I got some pancakes, a cookie, chips, and a number of other goodies. I also remembered that I had a piece of salted caramel chocolate from Sanders in my pocket, which was handed out at an aid station near the end of the race.

Because this was such a small race, I placed really well. I was second in my age group and the 12th woman overall! I typically don’t place that high in larger half marathons. Men were able to participate, and a few did, but they didn’t count in the age group results.

One thing I love about Epic Races is their “grab-and-go” approach to awards. I’ve waited an hour and a half after finishing some races this summer before I’ve received my award. Instead of waiting through a long ceremony, I was able to go to the prize table and choose what I wanted. They had a couple kinds of glasses and this water bottle, which I chose.

The more I thought about it, the more proud I was of my results. Although I didn’t do any specific pace workouts in the week leading up to this race, I ran my scheduled mileage so I would stay on track with marathon training. I ran seven miles on Friday, eight miles on Saturday, and the three miles before the race. I wasn’t exactly well-rested coming into this one. The heat and humidity were not ideal racing conditions at all, so the fact that I still managed to hit my goal pace in those conditions was huge. I realize now that I had to work a lot harder to make that happen.

Aside from being happy with my results, I was really happy with the race in general. I’ve done a few of Epic Races’ events and they always do a nice job. It was kind of cool to do a female-centric race for a change. The race announcer shared lots of inspiring stories about women racing that day who had lost weight, fought cancer, and turned their lives around in numerous ways. There may have been around 1,000 women there between the 5K, 10K, and half marathon. It turns out you don’t have to be a “girly girl” to appreciate a women’s race. In times like these, it was actually a really great place to be.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Sunrise Side Triathlon/Duathlon Recap

When I raced an Olympic-distance triathlon in Ludington in August, I wasn’t sure if it would be my last tri of the season. There are only a few races left once September rolls around, so I put them on my calendar and figured I’d play it by ear. The Sunrise Side Triathlon in East Tawas, Michigan has been on my radar for several years but I hadn’t done it yet due to weather and/or family plans. This year the weather stayed warm enough that I thought the water temperature should be reasonable with a wetsuit. Although it looked like things would cool down a little bit by the weekend, it seemed like conditions could be ideal, so I signed up for the race a few days beforehand.

The race was on Saturday, September 8th, and on Friday morning I received an email with this info:

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Even though I waited until the last minute to sign up, things STILL went wrong. Instead of swimming 1500m like I’d been looking forward to, I’d be doing a duathlon with a 5K run, 40K bike, and 10K run. I’d only done a duathlon once before, and like this race, I’d planned on doing a triathlon until the swim was cancelled. I did really well in the other duathlon and had been interested in trying another one, but I always want to swim when it’s an option. I figured this would be a good excuse to do another duathlon.

East Tawas is a nice little town up north and I was hoping I’d get to see some good scenery during the race. I stayed in a hotel in Oscoda on Friday night, which was about 15 minutes north of Tawas. It took nearly three hours to drive there after work, so I had just enough time to lay my stuff out for the morning and get to bed.

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With a pre-race meeting scheduled for 7:10, it was an early morning. I found a parking lot a couple blocks north of the transition area. The registration area was down by the beach, which was a few more blocks away. The sun was just starting to rise when I got there.

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It’s a lot easier setting things up in transition for a duathlon versus a triathlon. No need for a wetsuit, Body Glide, a towel, goggles, swim cap, etc. Just rack the bike, lay a couple things out, and that’s it. I spent a little time debating what I should wear. I was worried that the wind would cause me to get cold on the bike. It was nearly 60 degrees though and I felt comfortable standing around in transition wearing arm warmers. I decided that I’d probably get too hot once I was working up a sweat, so hopefully a t-shirt and shorts would work.

I jogged back down to the beach to take advantage of a building with decent bathrooms, plus it was a good way to warm up for the race. There were several wave starts and people doing the half-iron distance started around 7:30.

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The Olympic men started around 7:45 and the Olympic women started a little while after them. I appreciate the wave starts in the water, but it seemed a little silly to separate the men and women for the run when there were only 55 of us doing the Olympic distance. By the time my race started, I’d been standing around for nearly half an hour. That was enough time for my legs to stiffen up as I shivered a bit in the wind. My legs felt a little heavy as I took off for the 5K run. I’m in the orange in the picture below.

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Thanks to my Instagram buddy Jeremy, who shared this picture that a friend took

I was amongst the top 5-6 women to start the run and felt pretty good about that. During the first mile I glanced at my watch and realized I ought to be going faster, so I tried to pick up the pace. We started out on a road that ran parallel to the main road where I enjoyed looking at the variety of waterfront motels. After turning off of that road we mostly ran past trees and a few scattered houses. It was a flat out and back course, and on the way back I started to catch some of the people from earlier waves. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I managed to run a pretty nice negative split. I noticed that it took me a bit of time to warm up into the run. I’m sure that’s thanks to the fatigue of training for a marathon. By the end of the 5K it was a pretty tight finish for the women. It looks like I came in one second after the leader, and the next woman was just four seconds behind me. I needed that good placement in the run knowing that I would lose plenty of ground on the bike. My official 5K time was 23:56.

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I was able to transition quickly since I’m still haven’t taken the step to learn how to ride with clipless pedals. That meant I didn’t have to change into bike shoes. All I had to do was put my helmet on and run out the exit with my bike. I debated if I should grab gloves or anything else to stay warm on the bike but decided against it. That ended up being a wise choice since I was fine temperature-wise throughout the ride.

My T1 time was 34 seconds. My T1 times for triathlons are always slow, so obviously it made a big difference when I didn’t have to struggle my way out of a wetsuit and get into my socks and shoes. The quick transition helped me stay ahead on the bike for a little bit. I’m so weak on the bike that most of the women passed me eventually.

A lot of the course was pretty flat. I liked riding past one house that had a bunch of goats and another that had a horse. We made our way out to the Huron National Forest and spent most of our time there. We rode along a main road with trees lining each side and I noticed some signs for snowmobile trails. It was peaceful and pretty, and some rolling hills popped up here and there. I got out of the saddle to climb a few times when I struggled to keep moving at a decent pace, but there weren’t any really tough hills. I don’t remember the wind bothering me too much on the way out, but I sure noticed it on the way back. It got pretty annoying at times, but I managed.

While I had finished the first run in 10th place overall for the Olympic athletes, my bike time of 1:30:39 was good for 40th out of 55. It’s pretty clear that I’m a runner and not much of a cyclist!

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By the way, you may notice that there’s no elevation gain listed on any of my Garmin stats that I’ve posted here. I swear there were some hills on this ride! Unfortunately the elevation has gone bad on every Garmin triathlon watch I’ve had…and I’m on my third one right now. I won’t vent now, but it’s REALLY annoying.

I had another quick transition as I racked my bike, took my helmet off, and grabbed my hat. Not having to change from bike to running shoes sure helped, and I was out in 35 seconds.

The 10K run was the same as the 5K for the first half, but we went twice as far on the same road before turning back. The first mile was a bit slow as I dealt with tired legs after riding 25 miles. I felt slow for the first half of the run, but things seemed to improve as I headed back. That’s when I realized that the wind was probably a factor. The out and back course meant that I had plenty of people to watch heading each direction, and that kind of distraction is always helpful for me. I didn’t really have people to chase on my way into the finish like I did during the first run, but I still managed to pick up the pace. It was fun getting to finish on one of the main streets in town with a bunch of cool shops on each side of the road.

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I finished the 10K in 48:20, and my final time was 2:44:03.

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I walked past a table and received a medal. I thought it was kind of odd that it wasn’t hanging from a ribbon like most medals.

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(*Update* – a couple weeks after the race I received a ribbon in the mail. Maybe they mentioned it at the race and I missed it, but apparently they didn’t intend to hand out ribbon-less medals!)

I knew ahead of time that I shouldn’t expect much in the way of post-race food. There was going to be a dinner catered by Boston Market and an awards ceremony/raffle in the evening. They mentioned that there would be “light” post-race snacks. That consisted of bananas, trail mix, fruit chews, and lollypops. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and ate some trail mix while stretching my legs. Then I headed to the car because I got pretty cold. I’d been fine during the race, but I was pretty sweaty and the cold wind started to affect me. I realized that I left my warm clothes in transition and I only had a t-shirt and shorts in my car. Changing into those helped a little, and I sat in my warm car while I ate several snacks that I had brought.

Most races don’t want people going into the transition area while athletes are still racing. If someone is trying to run their bike in and head out for the run, it’s no good to have people lingering around and potentially getting in the way. I figured I’d have to wait a bit before I could get my jacket and track pants. Maybe if I kept moving I could warm up a little bit.

I went down to the beach where the swim would have taken place and took in some of the scenery.

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Based on how much I was shivering, I think they made the right call to cancel the swim. If I’d gotten on the bike soaking wet in those conditions, it could have gotten bad.

Eventually I went back to the transition area and saw that they were letting some people in, so I collected my stuff and made sure I stayed out of the way when half-iron athletes came and went. I knew it wouldn’t be smart to get ice cream when I was shivering, but I was ready for it once I got my jacket and pants. I browsed some of the stores that had the typical “up north” clothing and gifts, then I got some fudge and ice cream before heading home.

It looked like I had placed pretty well when they posted some initial results, and I confirmed it when I got home. It’s pretty typical to win some kind of age group award when I race the Olympic distance simply because there are so few people. Only 22 women did the Olympic race, and I was first in my age group. I was more excited that I placed fourth out of the women! I was 19th out of 55 overall.

I was kind of bummed because I didn’t think I’d end up getting my award. I didn’t want to pay for two nights at a hotel just so I could be there for the awards. By the end of most race days I usually have a headache and feel pretty wiped out, so staying for dinner and then driving nearly three hours to get home was not a reasonable option. I could have the prize mailed to me for $12 but didn’t know if it was worth it. I was really fortunate to find out that my Instagram buddy Jeremy had also done the race and stuck around for the dinner. He offered to collect the prize for me and get it to me somehow. I mentioned that one of my neighbors actually volunteers for 3 Disciplines (the race company) and I probably should have asked if she could grab it for me. He was kind enough to track her down and talk to her for me, so I was able to get my prize after all. I really appreciated both of them being so helpful! This fleece blanket is a pretty cool prize.

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Jeremy ended up winning a bunch of really cool stuff in the raffle. The race directors say it’s the biggest raffle of the year because they clear everything out for the end of the season. If I do the race again in the future, maybe it’s worthwhile to make a weekend out of it and stick around the extra day.

Although I would have preferred putting my swim training to use in the pretty lake, I still had a great race. I enjoyed my second duathlon and was happy to see that I placed well. I’m thankful that two running segments could help me compensate for my slow time on the bike. I realized that my legs were a bit more wiped out by swapping the swim with another run though. I’ve bounced back after all of my triathlons this summer and continued on with marathon training the next day. This time I woke up to a painful calf cramp in the middle of the night and I decided it would be wise to take the next day off to rest my legs. An extra rest day now and then is probably smart anyway.

It looks like this event will wrap up the multi-sport season for me. I did three Olympic triathlons, one sprint, and this duathlon. It was a pretty solid season and I had a good time. Although I’ll maintain my usual swim routine, I’ll probably drop the biking for now as I concentrate on running. I have a couple of half marathons coming up, but the Indy Monumental Marathon in November is the next big goal.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

Romeo Peach Festival 10K

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I’m about halfway through an 18-week training plan for the Indy Monumental Marathon, and between the building mileage and coping with a ridiculously hot and humid summer, it’s turned into a grind at times. I’ve found myself dreading my Tuesday speed sessions and Thursday marathon pace runs. Trying to hit the appropriate paces isn’t always reasonable when there are heat advisories and temps in the 90s. I’ve really had to drag myself to get out there many weeknights this summer. Construction everywhere has added 20-30 minutes to my evening commute, and sitting in stop-and-go traffic for an hour or more doesn’t leave me too energized either.

When I browsed through races on RunMichigan.com, I added the Romeo Peach Festival 5K/10K to my list. Running a race on a weeknight would be a first for me, but it could fit well into my training schedule. I waited until the week of the race and signed up when it looked like the weather would be perfect. It was due to be sunny, and the temps were actually going to drop to the 70s. After battling the 90s most nights, it sounded ideal to me.

Thursday, August 30th was the date of the race and I opted to do the 10K. I didn’t do speedwork on Tuesday because it was too hot, so this race would make up for it. The race started at 6:45 and I had to figure out what would work eating-wise before the race. I wasn’t going to try to eat dinner first, but I’m typically hungry every hour once the afternoon rolls around. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle right before I left work and was starving by the time I got home. I ate a Clif Bar at home and thought I’d be all set, but I got hungry again during my drive to the race. I ate a Picky Bar and that helped tide me over, but then I ate a couple of Clif Shot Bloks just before the race for good measure. I realize this makes me sound like I’m The Very Hungry Caterpillar, haha. Eating before an evening race was tricky for me to figure out, especially while I’m in marathon training mode and always hungry.

The race started at Romeo High School and I got there about 45 minutes early. The first parking lot was full, so I went to the next one and found a bunch of spots that had been painted. I hoped it was okay to park there because I didn’t know where else to go.

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I realized that some people were still painting, and it must have been seniors who got to personalize their own parking spots. The one below stood out to me, of course.

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I went to the packet pickup area to collect my stuff. I didn’t expect a shirt since I waited until the last minute to sign up. Races typically warn you that you’re not guaranteed a shirt unless you sign up by a certain date. They didn’t have any smalls left so I received a medium, but I’ll probably end up donating it because it’s too big…and because I have too many race shirts anyway.

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2018-08-30 - romeo peach fest shirt

After getting my stuff, I noticed that only two porta-potties were set up. I saw people checking doors to the school and they all appeared to be locked, so I don’t think there were any other options. The porta-potties had long lines that continued to grow, so I was thankful that I didn’t really have to use one. Two was not enough for a race with over 400 participants.

I did a warm up jog of just under a mile, figuring I’d get seven miles in for the day. The 10K started 10 minutes before the 5K, so I lined up with my group. After a few failed attempts with the starting gun, we were off!

I didn’t know anything about the race course. The website said that it was a challenging course so I was curious what I was in for. After a short stretch along a couple of paved roads, we ended up on rolling dirt roads for the majority of the race. That was a pleasant surprise because I enjoy running on dirt roads and don’t do it often enough. I kept myself distracted for a good chunk of the race as I looked for smooth and packed down sections of the roads for the best traction.

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It was peaceful, pretty, and I enjoyed looking at the nice houses and the golf course that we passed. I snapped back to reality at one point when I saw a car fly off of a side street. From my viewpoint, it seemed like the driver got awfully close to hitting the runner in front of me. Although there wasn’t much traffic, it was an open course and we didn’t have people along the course to warn traffic that we were out there. I realized I should be more cautious and be on the lookout whenever passing a side street.

85 people ran the 10K, and although I always had someone up ahead in sight, the crowd spaced out and I was on my own at times. Eventually our route met up with the 5K people, so that kept me distracted for a bit as I weaved around them. The 10K looped around a stretch of neighborhood that the 5K did not follow, but then our routes joined up again through the finish. It was no joke that this was a challenging course. There were plenty of rolling hills that kept me working hard, but luckily downhill stretches helped me recover. The race finished on a downhill stretch. I was excited until I realized it was steep enough that I had to slow down a little bit so I wouldn’t wipe out!

2018-08-30 - romeo peach fest finish

I didn’t have a real goal in mind, but kind of hoped I’d finish in 45-something. My official time was 45:36, so I was definitely happy. My watch came up short on the distance, but I don’t know how much to trust my watch these days. Maybe I did a good job of running the tangents?

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2018-08-30 - romeo peach fest elevation

I went to look for the post-race food, and wasn’t too thrilled when this is all that I found:

2018-08-30 - romeo peach fest food

Only bananas. At the Peach Festival. They didn’t have any kind of peach treats! It’s not that I was really craving peaches, but still. Aside from that, I was bummed by the general lack of food. It’s pretty standard to find bagels, granola bars, etc. at the end of a race. Since I hadn’t eaten a real dinner yet and had just run six miles, I’d hoped for something more than bananas and water. I only paid $20 for this race, which is on the cheap end for races these days, so that made me feel a little better. I’ve learned to bring food with me in case the post-race selection is a disappointment like this, so I headed back to the car to refuel. The race finished by a community center that was a short walk away from the start. Since I was sweaty and it was cool outside, I needed a jacket at that point anyway.

I had placed first in my age group, so I stuck around for the awards. I was happy about the age group win, but even happier that I appeared to be the third woman overall!

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The race didn’t have finisher medals, but I received a medal as an age group prize.

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I enjoyed the beautiful sunset before heading out.

2018-08-30 - romeo peach fest sunset

When I told Matt about the lack of food, he told me I should hit Dairy Queen. I thought that was a good idea, so I went to the DQ in downtown Romeo before heading home.

Although there are a few things that could use work, I enjoyed the actual race experience. It was a nice course and I wouldn’t mind running it again. This race was a nice way to break up the daily grind of training on the same routes doing similar workouts week after week. Instead of trying to run the fast pace on my own that night, it was good to get out in the race environment where it comes more naturally. If I do this race again in the future, I’ll know that I shouldn’t expect any peaches.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

Ludington Lighthouse Triathlon Recap

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When I did the Ludington triathlon last summer, it was my first time visiting the beautiful town along Lake Michigan. I enjoyed my time there and loved the race so much that I knew I wanted to return this year. I committed to this one back in February when there was a $20 discount, making it even easier for me to want to sign up so early. I made sure to scope out hotels super early as well. I signed up pretty late when I did the race last year and Ludington is a hot spot during the summer. My hotel options were very limited and I ended up paying too much for what should have been a cheap hotel 10 minutes from town. This time I opted for a non-chain hotel that was actually a reasonable price considering how it was nearly across the street from Lake Michigan. With everything booked nice and early, I had six months to wait for this race to roll around.

The race took place on Sunday, August 19th. Like last year, it happened to fall on a weekend when Matt and his dad took a quick trip to Minneapolis. I managed to have a good time on my solo trip last year, so although I would have preferred having Matt’s company, I knew I would still enjoy myself. While I ended up walking nine miles around Ludington State Park the day before the race last year, I decided it might be wise to rest my legs a little more this time. 

I got to town around 4:00 on Saturday and was thrilled that I could see the transition area set up just across the street. I picked up my packet then walked into the heart of the town, which was less than half a mile away.

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I bought some salt water taffy and other treats at Kilwin’s then headed toward the water. I found a nice park and marina and took in the gorgeous afternoon. I got pretty sentimental as I walked around the marina, which brought back memories of taking family boat trips when I was a kid. I thought about how I didn’t appreciate those trips as much as I should have. I also thought about how my dad probably would have enjoyed being there.

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I realized that it was getting late enough to grab dinner, so I drove to Mancino’s like I did last year and brought a sandwich back to the hotel. I watched some of the Tigers/Twins game that Matt and his dad were witnessing in person, then went out to watch the sunset. It was the exact kind of thing that would be featured in a Pure Michigan ad campaign: a nice walk out to the lighthouse with the waves crashing against the wall as the sun set, watching the SS Badger ferry go by. Aside from wishing that Matt was there, I couldn’t have asked for a better evening. 

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I was able to scope out the buoy setup for the next morning’s swim. I was extremely thankful that we would be swimming between a couple of breakwalls. While the waves were crashing on one side of the wall, the water was nice and calm on the side where we’d be swimming.

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As the sunset wrapped up, I headed back to the hotel to get all of my gear organized before eventually going to bed.

Staying in a hotel so close to the start was wonderful and allowed me to get a little more sleep, even if it was mostly restless sleep. I took my bike and other stuff over, then went back to the hotel to use a real bathroom. It sure beat waiting in the long line for a porta-potty!

It was a foggy morning with very little wind and temps in the mid-60s. I hoped the humidity wouldn’t bother me during the race. I was thankful for the gray morning when it came to the swim. Last year I struggled a bit to find the buoys on my way back to shore as I swam right into the sun. At least the sun wouldn’t blind me this time. 

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Between relays, a super sprint, a sprint, Olympic distance, aquabike, and a kaya-tri (kayaks in place of the swim), over 250 people participated in the race. I chose to do the Olympic distance, which had 55 people. I was able to spend a little time in the water during the pre-race meeting. The water was just above 70° and felt perfect. We gathered on the beach prior to the start of the race. The Olympic men started a couple minutes before my group of 18 women. We had a beach start, meaning that we ran into the water once the horn blew. The small group made for a nice start and I didn’t get tangled up with other people. Eventually I caught up to some of the men but I was able to make my way around them without any issues. Although there was no sun to battle, it was still a little tricky for me to see the buoys when I made the turn back toward the shore. I kept moving in what seemed like the right direction and hoped I didn’t veer off-course too much. Eventually I saw the buoys. I had a really nice swim and finished 1000m plus the jog up the beach in 20:07.

It was nice that the race had a couple of kiddie pools set up in the transition area where we could rinse the sand off of our feet. Despite that help, I had my typically slow first transition. Wearing a wetsuit for the swim adds extra time since I always struggle to get it off around my feet. I can step on the suit and try to yank my feet out while trying not to fall over, but that usually doesn’t do it. Eventually I usually have to sit or squat and roll the legs off over my feet. By the time I finished screwing around I racked up a T1 time of 3:25.

I haven’t trained especially hard on the bike this summer since I’ve concentrated more on training for a fall marathon. I rode 40 miles the weekend before this race and knew I would be fine covering nearly 25 miles, even if it wasn’t especially fast. I was looking forward to the scenic route most of all. Although the bike segment is my weakest, it was the scenery from last year’s ride that really made me want to do this race again. During the pre-race meeting they announced that the route had changed to avoid a road that had been chip-sealed. I was extremely thankful for that. There was a stretch of road that had been chip-sealed during my first tri of the season, and that part was jarring, slow, and totally miserable. I’m glad I didn’t have to go through that again. Volunteers and signs along the course made it clear where to go. 

The first part of the ride went through some wooded backroads where there are side streets with fun names like No Name Rd. The ride really became enjoyable when I hit the stretch that goes past a bunch of waterfront cottages. It’s a really pretty area along Hamlin Lake and I loved looking at the houses. A little distance-adding out-and-back stretch for the Olympic athletes kept things interesting. That road rolls and winds, providing a little challenge and variety. 

Then comes the best part of the race – the ride up to Ludington State Park past the sand dunes. There are dunes on both sides of the road and it’s a beautiful stretch. The sun showed up halfway through my ride, meaning I got to enjoy the gorgeous contrast of the blue sky against the dunes. I knew that last year I flew on my way up that road, but got hit with the wind on the way back. Even though the forecast showed very little wind, it must be different when you’re right by the water. Although not as bad as last year, I definitely did slow down once I hit the turnaround. Still – you can’t beat the view, so I loved it even when it became a little more difficult. There are some stretches going back toward town that must have slight inclines. I had to grind through at times, but there are few significant hills along the bike route. I finished the 40K bike in 1:23:13 with an average speed of 17.9 mph. I rarely get moving that fast so I was pretty happy.

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Although my first transition is always slow, I take care of pretty much everything then so that I fly through the second one. It looks like I may have had one of the fastest T2 times with 35 seconds. Maybe it balances out between the two?

There’s good distraction for the first part of the run where some athletes are on the way out while others are coming back in. The Olympic athletes branch off and run through part of a campground, along a paved path in the woods, a little stretch through a neighborhood, then back into the woods. When I glanced at my pace now and then, I was pretty happy. I had done a sprint tri a couple weeks earlier where my running pace was surprisingly slow compared to usual. This time my pace was more along the lines of what I hoped for and I felt strong. It surely helped that this race didn’t have hills like my last one. A lot of the course was in the shade, and if it was warm and humid, it must not have bothered me. My watch showed that my pace dropped off a little bit during a segment along a dirt path, but I felt like I started flying again once I hit the pavement. It’s a long, straight stretch back to the finish, and I pushed with all I had.

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When my name popped up for the race announcer, he made a comment about how I was “bolting” through the finish, haha.

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The run distance on my watch came up short, but I know it’s not always accurate, especially when running through the woods. My pace dropped off quite a bit for the fourth mile, so maybe my watch messed up there. I finished the run in 45:30, which comes out to a 7:20 average if it truly was a 10K. Marathon training must be paying off because that’s quite an improvement over some of the other times I’ve run this summer. 

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20180819 ludington run splits

My overall time was 2:32:49. I finished in 2:34:04 last year, so I improved by a little over a minute. My first transition time was a bit slower this year, but almost everything else was better. My swim time improved by 43 seconds, my bike time was 35 seconds faster, and my run was 20 seconds faster. I was very happy with those results!

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After receiving my medal and taking a quick moment to recover, I headed straight for the food. I got some trail mix, fruit chews, watermelon, and a waffle. I had placed first in my age group (out of two, haha) so I stuck around to wait for the awards ceremony. I was more enthused about placing fourth overall out of 18 women. I cleared my stuff out of the transition area and took my bike to my car, then waited…and waited. By the time I received my award, an hour and a half had passed since I finished racing. I know that’s how awards ceremonies work because they need to leave enough time for everyone to finish, and it’s like that at most races that I do. Still, it gets to be a bit excessive. It’s even worse for people who raced a shorter distance and had to wait much longer. Every now and then I do a race that allows people to collect awards from a table rather than going through a ceremony, and I definitely prefer that approach.

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20180819 ludington award

I still had nearly four hours of driving ahead of me and I was anxious to leave, but I HAD to make a post-race refueling stop at House of Flavors first.

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By the time I got home, my typical post-race headache was pretty bad, probably due to not eating or drinking enough during the drive. Aside from that, I felt great about the day and am glad I went to Ludington for a second time.

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– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Shermanator Triathlon Recap

2018-08-04 - shermanator shirt medals

On Saturday, August 4th I participated in the Shermanator sprint triathlon for my third time. The race takes place at the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center in Augusta, MI. It’s a beautiful setting and I had enjoyed it the previous two times I had done it. Since it is just minutes away from Matt’s parents’ house, it’s a good chance to combine racing with a family visit. Plus, I had done the AquaDash race there in the spring and received a discount code for this race. I couldn’t turn that down, so I committed to this race pretty early.

I had done two Olympic-distance triathlons at the very beginning of the season, then suddenly had a 2-month gap between triathlons this summer. My plans to do a bunch of races this summer suddenly changed when someone rear-ended my car in June. My bike rack was on the car, so not only was my car a mess, but I had to replace my bike rack. Between waiting for a loaner car to become available at the shop and then waiting for the work to be completed, there was a big chunk of time when I had no way to transport my bike. That meant I had to skip one race I had signed up for, as well as some others I’d been thinking about doing. Thankfully I was ready to go by the time this race rolled around.

The race started a little before 8am and I got there nice and early around 6:30. There’s a little bit of a trek from the parking area to the registration area, then from there to the actual race site. I prefer to have plenty of time to spare rather than feeling rushed. There was no power at the YMCA, so they had some generators to provide just enough light in the gym where we went through registration.

Although it was going to be a hot and humid day, it was a really nice morning in the mid-60s to start.

2018-08-04 - shermanator sunrise

I was able to find a good spot in the transition area on some pavement. I prefer that over the grass when it’s time to transition from the swim to the bike. I waste enough time in transition, so it helps if I can avoid getting extra grass on my wet feet when it’s time to put my socks and shoes on.

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After getting things set up, I went for a quick half-mile jog up the path where the bike route starts. I love the wooded setting.

2018-08-04 - shermanator woods

Eventually it was time for the pre-race meeting at the small beach area. A couple waves of men started first, with each wave spread out by four minutes. By the time my group of women started, some of the fastest men were already finishing. Watching the men was a good chance to make sure we knew how to do things correctly. For example, despite being told that the swim was a counterclockwise loop around the buoys, we watched several of the men swim to the wrong buoy as they headed clockwise. I think they finally realized it after reaching the first buoy, but of course they were way off track. As the men swam into the beach, they came in on the side of the dock where we were treading water and waiting to start. That made us realize that we were supposed to finish on the other side of the dock.

According to my watch, the water was around 77 degrees. It was perfect and I was fine without a wetsuit. For a 500-yard swim, I figured I’d waste too much time getting out of my wetsuit in transition so it wasn’t worth using it. I got bunched up with some other women to start, and got a little frustrated as I kept hitting feet with my hands and others hit my feet with their hands. I couldn’t get moving along how I’d hoped, but eventually things spread out and I got into a better rhythm. I had to remind myself to push since it was a short swim and I usually get a bit too relaxed. I have a much better feel for pacing myself in a pool than I do in the open water. I got a little caught up with people as I approached the end as well, but it was a pretty quick and smooth swim for the most part. I was breathing pretty heavily as I got out of the water, so I didn’t do much of a jog to the transition area. Between the swim and the trek up to transition, my time was 10:43.

I didn’t feel like I screwed around too much in transition, but I guess I’m always slow at putting on my socks and shoes, number belt, helmet, etc. Suddenly 1:46 had flown by.

The bike was up next. While already winded from the swim, it’s always a bit tough starting out uphill as we bike out of the YMCA property. I was pretty winded for the first mile or so. I struggled a little because I wanted to pass someone in front of me, but someone was lurking right behind me and I was sure they were going to come around, so I didn’t make a move because the path isn’t that wide. When we got out to the main road I was finally able to break free and start going my own pace.

The elevation changes aren’t too dramatic for the bike route, which is one reason I like this race. There are a couple of good climbs that left me out of breath, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ve pretty much only trained on flat routes this summer, so if I can handle the short hills, they must not be too bad. The riding surface is smooth, which is another bonus.

My main motivation during the 10-mile bike segment was to try to do better than last year. Believe it or not, my bike time was EXACTLY the same when I did the race in 2015 and 2017 – 34:28. How does that even happen?? I haven’t spent enough time training on the bike this year since I’ve been spending most of my time running. I wasn’t sure I could improve my time, but I kept pushing hard throughout the ride in hopes that maybe my bike time wouldn’t be the same for a third year. It wasn’t a significant improvement, but I did manage to finish about 21 seconds faster this time!

2018-08-04 - shermanator bike splits

2018-08-04 - shermanator bike elevation

My bike-to-run transition took about 30 seconds, and I took off uphill once again and was huffing and puffing to start. It was in the low 70s and sunny by the time I started the run. I didn’t think about the heat or humidity while I ran. I’m not sure if it was warm enough to affect me, but I was surprised that my running pace was quite a bit slower than I had expected. I ran a 7:54 pace for the first couple miles and I’m usually faster than that during a sprint-distance race. Maybe the weather did affect me without me realizing it, or maybe I had pushed just enough on the bike to tire my legs out a bit. I spent most of the run thinking about the rolling hills and how they were getting to me more than I had remembered in the past. Aside from the first hill at the start, none of the hills are that significant. I guess tired legs and a faster pace are enough to amplify even the smallest hills.

Aside from the hills, I was also distracted by the running surface. As you can see in the pictures below, the roads were pretty beat up. I always had to pay attention to my footing.

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I’m in the top right corner with the blue hat

Although I didn’t feel as strong as I had hoped during the run, it still went pretty well. When I hit the downhill stretch back toward the finish, I used the momentum and really flew. That explains how my pace dropped by quite a bit for the last mile!

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1:10:04 was my official finish time…according to my Garmin. It’s a good thing I didn’t mess up my watch during the race this time, because I found out later that they had issues with the timing system during the bike segment. Apparently the cords got unplugged and it really screwed things up. I realized something was wrong when I checked the results and mine looked really screwy. I didn’t have a finishing time and I didn’t show up on the results where I should have been. I waited in a line with other people who had realized there was an issue, and thanks to my watch I was able to provide my finishing time.

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One thing is for sure – I’m ridiculously consistent. My 2015 time was 1:10:13, and last year it was 1:10:02. Although I had a faster bike this time, my run was slower. A few seconds faster or slower throughout the different segments balanced me out so I was just two seconds slower than last year. Pretty funny!

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Since I was first in my age group, I stuck around for the awards and received an extra medal.

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Once again, I had a great experience at this race. I’m aware that hosting a race is a daunting process, and can only imagine all the logistical things a race director needs to think about. I wouldn’t think of dealing with a power outage and needing to use generators in order to get through registration. Dealing with the timing issues had to be a nightmare as well. Like I said, I’m thankful I didn’t fumble the buttons on my Garmin (like I’ve done at other races) so it all worked out.

After doing a couple of Olympic-distance races this season, it was fun to do a sprint. I enjoy the sprint distance, but when a longer distance is an option, I’m usually drawn to it. I know I’m up for the challenge and feel like it’s good to push myself with the longer races. Of course I can push myself during a sprint as well – it’s just a matter of going harder for a shorter period of time. It’s fun to change things up and do a variety of distances though, so I’m glad I got a sprint race in at the Shermanator.

I’m ready to get back to a longer distance this weekend, and will see how prepared I am to tackle the Olympic distance again in Ludington.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

Red, White & Boom! Recap

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On Wednesday, July 4th I ran the Red, White & Boom! race in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Matt really loves the Twin Cities and I’m lucky that he has exposed me to the area. We’ve visited multiple times over the years and keep coming back because we have such a great time. 

When we visited in 2011, we signed up for the Red, White & Boom! half marathon on a whim after searching for a race to run while in town. It was only my second half marathon at that point. Climbing to the highest point in Minneapolis mixed with temps in the 70s at 6:30am (and approaching 100 during the day) made it a rough one for me. Since then I’ve been hoping to try it again in hopes of redeeming myself and having a better experience. 

I always have a week off around the 4th of July, so when I saw that Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (my favorite band) were going to be in Minneapolis on the 3rd, it sparked the idea of another trip. Matt is too busy at work to take the full week off with me, but he agreed to take a couple days off so we could make the trip. I was really excited – combining our love for the band with a race in one of our favorite cities sounded like a great vacation.

Unfortunately, a couple things didn’t go quite as planned. Matt’s knee has been in bad shape lately and we knew he probably couldn’t try the 5K he’d signed up for. On top of that, while we were in the Detroit airport waiting for our departing flight we received an email informing us that the half marathon was cancelled due to heat and humidity. I was really bummed. However, the 5K would go on as planned and they added a 6.75 mile option. At least I could still do something. Like most races, Twin Cities in Motion has a no refund policy. They are going to offer a $25 discount for a few of their races over the next year to half marathon entrants. I’m not sure that I’ll get back to town to put it to use, but I’ll keep it in mind in case we come back for this race next summer. 

We flew into Minneapolis on Monday afternoon. One thing we love about the city is that we can take light rail from the airport to downtown. The downtown is very walkable with plenty of hotels. We stayed right by the concert venue and it was only a few blocks away from a light rail stop. We grabbed a late lunch at HopCat then walked a good mile or so to the packet pickup at a high school. One thing I love about this race is that they offer Brooks t-shirts. Some races provide cheaper shirts that I don’t like as much, so I really appreciate that Twin Cities in Motion gives out high-quality Brooks shirts.

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Crossing the Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River

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Red alert = extreme caution / potentially dangerous conditions

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We received this buff in our packets

We headed back and suffered a bit in the heat. There’s been a nasty heatwave at home and it was the same in Minneapolis. High temps combined with humidity made it a sweaty walk. We stopped by the Twins’ shop at Target Field for Matt.

Eventually we went back to the hotel, grabbed dinner later at a 24-hour diner, and enjoyed walking around town. We ended up walking at least 8 miles by the end of the day. Matt was able to manage it despite his knee issue, but it helped confirm that he shouldn’t try to run.

It was rainy and dreary when we got up on Tuesday, but luckily it cleared up enough to check out a mini golf course at the Walker Art Center. There was a rooftop course created by artists and we had a lot of fun.

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We also stopped by the Sculpture Garden outside the art center long enough to visit the famous cherry spoon.

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Evening rolled around and we grabbed dinner at a cool place next to the concert venue. Then we went to see Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at 7th Street Entry. I saw the first incarnation of the band back in ‘97 and have seen them many times since, but have never met the full band. We sprung for the pre-show meet and greet to finally change that.

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As always, we had a blast at their show. It was fun to see them in a new place, especially in a little room that only held 250 people. Standing on my feet for five hours probably wasn’t ideal race prep, nor was getting four hours of sleep that night. I knew I’d manage somehow, and I wasn’t quite as worried since I’d be running just over a 10K rather than a half marathon.

The hotel was 1.5 miles from the start of the race and I decided to jog there. I left just after 6am and tried to keep it easy so I wouldn’t be a sweaty mess before starting the race. That was difficult since it was already in the mid-70s with nearly 90% humidity.

When the announcement came out about the half marathon cancellation, I questioned why. They didn’t cancel the race when we ran it in 2011 and it had been just as hot. I realized the humidity mixed with the heat was the big factor this time. It was downright gross for running. I knew how bad it would be since I had suffered through a bunch of runs in similar conditions in the week leading up to the race.

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My patriotic shoes

I got to the start with 20 minutes to spare. I walked around a bit then sat and waited until it was time to line up for the 6:50 start. I had no ambition to actually “race” through the steam bath. In fact, the race decided not to award prize money or age group awards because they didn’t want to encourage anyone to push too hard. I figured I might run around an 8:00 pace at best, which is my goal marathon pace. I found that pace sign at the side of start corral and lined up there.

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I couldn’t hear any announcements or the National Anthem if they played it. At some point a horn blew and we were off. I had worried that starting the 5K and 6.75mi runners all at once might make things a bit congested, but the pace signs must have kept people organized and I didn’t have any problems with the crowd. It looks like around 2,000 people finished the 5K and a little over 1,400 people finished the longer race. Several people participated in a relay option as well.

The course seemed to be relatively flat aside from some climbs over bridges and mostly ran along the Mississippi River. The beginning of the race was more of a neighborhood setting while the second part of the race was more of a park-like setting before crossing the Stone Arch Bridge.

PowerPoint Presentation

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Half marathon entrants didn’t have to specify if we were going to run the 5K or 6.75mi race. We could do whatever we preferred and the timing mats would determine which distance we had run. I figured if it was really miserable I could always bail at the end of the first loop.

As expected based on recent runs, I was pretty sweaty after a mile and soon enough the sweat was dripping off of me. Fortunately there was a slight breeze along parts of the course. I wore a hydration belt and drank plenty of GU Brew with extra sodium to stay hydrated. I made sure that my breathing wasn’t labored and I didn’t exert too much energy. I was confident that I could continue on a second loop. 5K runners were told to stay to the left for the finish line while people running a second loop stayed to the right. We ran a second loop of the 5K course with a little extra distance added on Nicollet Island. With a mile or two left, I started to come across walkers from the 5K race. I had to do a bit of weaving through the end of the race to get around them. I am thankful that the Stone Arch Bridge is nice and flat, and I chose to give a big push across the bridge to the finish. That ended up being about three minutes of harder running, and since I’d been so conservative, I still had some energy for that final push.

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Although I glanced at my watch now and then out of curiosity, I really just ran by feel. It looks like I was pretty consistent aside from a slower fourth mile. I think that was when I climbed over a bridge and I was extra cautious about taking it easy.

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We received an email after the race that said the two-loop course will be independently measured and the distance will be reflected on the race’s results page. I ended up with 6.82 miles. I figured some of the extra distance came from weaving around people or not running the tangents, but maybe the course was a tad bit longer.

I received my medal and a bottle of water after the finish line, then worked my way through the line of treats. I got some chocolate milk, a Clif Bar, a popsicle, and a bag of chips. They had bananas, rolls, and hot dogs as well.

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You may notice that my face is bright red, so that popsicle was pretty nice. I dripped sweat all over my phone when I got it out to take pictures. I was drenched. There were some cooling stations with mist blowing from fans that I stopped to enjoy for a minute. I think it was a smart choice to wear a triathlon top and shorts. I was soaked enough that it almost seemed like I had been swimming, so the form-fitting tri suit was more ideal than dealing with a soaking t-shirt and shorts.

I think it was definitely a good call to cancel the half marathon. Although I was fine getting through an hour of running, a second hour could have gotten ugly. There’s no way for the skin to breathe or for the sweat to evaporate when it’s that humid and my body doesn’t handle it well. I’m actually kind of surprised that I managed to run as fast as I did in those conditions. It’s not worth risking the potential medical issues that could come along with people trying to push through the half distance.

There were plenty of fun post-race activities, including a pie-eating contest.

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I stuck around for a little bit before I began the trek back to the hotel, appreciating the sights of the city along the way.

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I walked half of the way and jogged a bit as I got closer to the hotel. Thanks to the early start, I still had plenty of time to get back to the hotel and shower before we checked out and left for the airport.

Although the weather conditions weren’t ideal and it’s a bummer that the race was shortened, I had a great time. Between the race, the concert, and the rest of our adventures around the city, Matt and I had another fun and memorable trip to Minneapolis.

– Janet

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