On Saturday, July 17th I did my second triathlon of the season. When I signed up for the race I didn’t realize it shared the same course as the Tri Goddess Tri race that I did a few weeks ago. I returned to Big Portage Lake State Park at the Waterloo Recreation Area in Grass Lake, MI once again. It’s hard to compare results from different triathlons because the distances can vary so much from race to race. For example, I did an 800m swim, 10.8-mile bike ride, and 2.8-mile run at this race. Sometimes the bike and run distances are a little longer for a sprint triathlon but it all depends on the location of the race and the best route that can be created. By racing the exact same course I would have a true comparison to see if I could improve.
Another bonus for racing the same course was knowing what to expect. Tri Goddess Tri was a real rust-buster after a couple years off and I felt more at ease this time. It wasn’t fun driving through the rain in the dark for the first hour of my trip, but the rain stopped half an hour before I got there and the rest of the day was clear. It was a relief knowing I wouldn’t have to worry about riding in the rain. However, the mosquitos were terrible! I’m glad I watched a video update from Epic Races a couple days before the race because they told people it would be smart to bring bug spray.
The main idea behind the Ugly Dog Triathlon is that it gives people a rare chance to do a triathlon that uses gravel roads for the bike segment. They had a bunch of different race options. People could choose the triathlon, duathlon, or aquathlon with either a 29-mile or 10-mile gravel bike ride. There was also a relay option and the Pretty Dog triathlon, which used the same swim and run courses but had a separate 10.8-mile bike route on the pavement. The largest event was the 29-mile gravel triathlon with 49 people. Pretty Dog followed behind that with 47 people. Somewhere around 150 people participated between all of the events. I opted to do the Pretty Dog because I’m not very secure on the bike and knew I wouldn’t want to worry about losing control on loose stones.
After everything was set in transition I went down to the beach and swam a tiny bit before the pre-race meeting. The water felt good and I was able to swim comfortably. I hoped that would continue during the race since I struggled a bit at Tri Goddess Tri. I guess nerves got to me after not doing a triathlon for a couple years. I was out of breath from the start, I was intimidated by all of the people splashing around, and it probably took me 5-10 minutes to get into a good rhythm. This time I decided to use my wetsuit and knew the buoyancy would help.
Before the race started I saw my buddy Jeff, aka “Detroit Runner,” who was also doing the Pretty Dog. My friend Lisa was there because her husband was doing the 29-mile Ugly Dog duathlon.
The Ugly Dog racers started first and went into the water individually every few seconds. When it was our turn I tried to line up somewhere just in front of the middle of the pack. I walked/ran through the shallow section and realized after a minute that I was breathing too hard. I didn’t want to start the swim totally winded and struggle with breathing problems like I did last time! Fortunately it didn’t mess me up. Once it got deep enough to swim I got into a groove.
I did a good job of staying on course with the buoys and this was one of the rare races when I didn’t do any breaststroke. I usually mix a little in when it gets congested by the buoys, if I get stressed, or if I struggle to spot the next buoy. I kept going smoothly with freestyle the whole time and didn’t have any issues. The wetsuit definitely made things easier. I finished the 800m swim (and run up to the transition area) in 18:05.
This was my first time racing in the sleeveless wetsuit and I loved it. I felt like my shoulders were too restricted in my long sleeve wetsuit. That suit is a bit tighter than I like. I always struggled to get the sleeve over my watch and to get my feet out of it as well. I got a larger size for the sleeveless suit and it was easier to take it off. My first transition supposedly only took 1:11 – much faster than I expected!
I used my mountain bike for Tri Goddess Tri because it had stormed the night before the race, I saw that some of the road surfaces were a bit rough, and I worried that things could be slick if it rained during the race. This time I brought my lighter bike with skinnier tires and figured it would make me go faster. I did okay with the rough patches of the road but at times I wondered if there was enough wind to slow me down because some stretches felt challenging. The ride went well and I finished 10.8 miles in 37:50. I didn’t see any photographers while I was on the bike course. They may have concentrated on the gravel riders at that time.
My second transition took 37 seconds and it was the first time I’ve taken a moment in the middle of a race to spray myself with bug spray. Since a good chunk of the run goes through trails I didn’t want to worry about the mosquitos.
The first mile of the run had a bit of pavement and I wanted to take advantage of the good footing to run faster but I could only do so much. I wondered if the trails would be sloppy after all of the rain. The surface was soft but I only slid a tiny bit on one patch and that happened to me at Tri Goddess Tri too. Last time there were branches to jump over or to duck under but it was cleaner this time. I managed to catch a few people during the run and finished in 22:45 for somewhere around 2.8 miles. My total time was 1:20:30.
I received my medal then went to check out the food. They had some puppy chow from Ugly Dog Distillery so I took a bag of that. They had a couple kinds of wraps – one with peanut butter and one with egg and cheese. Both of those were good and I got a couple of pancakes too. I found Lisa and hung out with her for the next hour or two. During that time I saw that I was first in my age group so I collected my award and Lisa took a picture for me. The glass and whiskey came from Ugly Dog Distillery too.
I left the race with quite a collection of stuff. The black things are toe warmers. Once it gets cold enough to need them I usually don’t ride my bike outside, but I guess it could be a handy thing to have if I ever brave the cold.
As Lisa and I hung out we watched for her husband. He was doing the 29-mile gravel ride so it took quite a bit longer than my race. It turned into a beautiful day and I loved watching an adorable puppy while we waited. One of the race photographers enjoyed it too and I knew I’d have to look for those photos when they were posted!
After Lisa’s husband got back from his ride and headed out to the trails, I said goodbye and went home. Then I took more time to analyze how I did in this race versus Tri Goddess Tri.
I shaved four minutes off of my time! Most of that came from the swim. Using the wetsuit surely helped. It also made a big difference that I swam comfortably the whole time and didn’t struggle with nerves, breathing, and feeling totally thrown off. My swim segment was over three minutes faster than last time. It looks like the other minute I saved came during my first transition. I was surprised by that because I had assumed I wasted some time taking the wetsuit off and I didn’t use one at the last race. I guess a slight difference between the races is that the transition area was much larger at Tri Goddess Tri. I had to run a lot farther to exit with my bike last time so maybe that added some extra time.
You would think that a lighter bike with skinnier tires would make me a lot faster than I had been on my mountain bike. According to the results I came in two seconds faster this time. I swear I seem to have a certain zone I hit when I’m on the bike and I guess it didn’t matter what bike I used. I couldn’t believe I didn’t go faster!
My second transition was one second faster this time. It’s funny that I was within three seconds of the time from the last race between the bike segment and the second transition. My consistency can be pretty crazy! The one thing I did slower this time was the run – I was 15 seconds slower. It’s fun to see how much I improved even it if was mostly because of the swim. I had been so disappointed that I struggled with it last time. I knew I was capable of more and I’m glad I proved that in this race.
Now that I’ve done a couple triathlons this season I feel like I’m on a roll. I hope to do at least one more this summer. A post-race email from Epic Races put a crazy thought in my head. They have a Battle of Waterloo race in a couple weeks that will be based out of the same park. That race is not a conventional triathlon though. It involves 10 different legs and starts with a run, then bike, then a swim, a run to another lake for a swim, etc. When I’ve thought about this race in the past the logistics of trying to carry shoes and other stuff while swimming seemed overwhelming and I didn’t have the right equipment. I’ve thought through the logistics a bit more and I might feel adventurous enough to try it. In the meantime, I have the Loopty Loop 4-hour run next weekend. I’m keeping busy this summer. :)
On Saturday, July 3rd I ran the half marathon at Volksläufe (German for “the people’s race”) in Frankenmuth, MI. Frankenmuth is a fun little town an hour north of me known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria.” Volksläufe has taken place on or around the 4th of July for over 40 years. Somehow I had never run this legendary race even though it has been on my to-do list for years. Too many times I was on the verge of signing up but decided against it when I saw the steamy forecast. After a week of hot, stormy days, we caught a break just in time for this race. I couldn’t resist signing up when I saw that it would be around 60° in the morning!
In the past the race has started at 8am but hot temperatures in 2019 pushed the start an hour earlier. Luckily they kept the 7am start this year. The earlier and the cooler the better! I’ve been training through plenty of hot, humid days recently so it was amazing to feel cold while walking around before the race began.
The race usually offers a 5K, 10K, and 20K. This year there was a half marathon instead of the 20K. It’s been three weeks since I ran 33 miles and although my recovery has gone smoothly, I hoped I wasn’t being too ambitious by signing up for a half marathon.
The 10K started at 7:00 followed by the half marathon at 7:10. I didn’t want to start at the front so I lingered a little bit behind the starting line but not many people came to fill that gap. Sure enough, a whole bunch of people passed me once we started. Oh well! We ran on the grass for a minute or two then a rocky path took us to the road. From there we headed out to some peaceful country roads. I was almost tempted to stop for a photo because it looked so pretty with sun rays shining through the clouds over the corn fields. It was pretty cloudy for most of the race which was a good thing since the race route doesn’t have much shade. I’ve heard that it can be a really tough race on a hot, sunny day.
I was a bit thrown off because I ended up running by myself pretty early in the race. A big pack of people took off and there was a huge gap. I felt like I was out there on my own watching everyone so far in front of me and I’m not used to that. Usually I can get into a groove with a pack of others who are running a similar pace. That’s one of the fun parts of racing – running with a big group of people. It felt like I was out there doing my own solo long run because there weren’t any spectators either. Even though I knew there had to be people behind me it felt like I was at the back. It was a little bit of a mental game and I had to reassure myself that there may just be a bunch of fast people. Maybe some took off too fast and I’d catch them later? I had to keep doing my own thing and not worry about it. Four miles into the race I finally had a few scattered people around.
I was surprised by surface of the roads for most of the race. They were really crappy! They were a bit cambered so I had to make sure I didn’t run on too much of an angle. I’m really cautious about that after cambered dirt roads created a lengthy tendon injury last year. The camber wasn’t too big of an issue but I constantly had to watch where I was going because of patches and uneven spots all over the roads. I took a screen capture from Google Maps to give an example.
I felt kind of slow during my first mile of the race. Sometimes I get swept up in the momentum and start too fast but I guess my body wasn’t up for that. I ran 8:22 for the first mile which actually isn’t that “slow” for me these days. I kind of hoped I could aim for goal marathon pace though, which is around 8:00 pace. Once I got past that warm up mile I managed to hit 8:00 a couple times but was actually faster than that otherwise. I’ve barely run that fast for a single mile in recent weeks, let alone for 13 miles. I’ve been more focused on endurance than pace lately and hoped I wouldn’t crash at some point because I was getting too ambitious. Somehow I kept it up though!
Seven miles into the race we hit a stretch of freshly-paved road. After watching every step for the prior hour it felt amazing to finally be able to run so smoothly! We crossed a cool old bridge around nine miles into the race. Ten miles into the race we hit some rolling hills. The race had been pretty flat up until that point. I kept grinding and they didn’t beat me up too much. Eventually we got to some more suburban areas and had a few spectators cheering for us. I still had enough energy left that I started to speed up a little bit when I had a couple miles left. It was fun when we got back toward the main part of town and saw stuff like this rocky part of the Cass River.
During the last couple miles we also started to mix with people from the 5K and 10K. It required a little bit of dodging to get around walkers at times. It was fun getting to run through the covered bridge with less than a mile to go.
I’d managed to keep my pace in the 7:50s pretty consistently for most of the race. When I started to push at the end I got down to 7:46 for the twelfth mile, then somehow I managed 7:19 for the last full mile! Maybe I had more in me than I realized and could have pushed a little more earlier. Still, it’s fun to finish with such a strong kick.
1:44:03 was my official time and I was pretty excited about it. My PR is just under 1:40 so I wasn’t close to that, but I felt really proud about running a pace that I haven’t been training for at all and somehow maintaining it for the whole race.
I was satisfied enough with my solid time, but it was a bonus to see that I had won my age group and was the ninth woman overall!
It took a few minutes to recover then I headed to the food table where I got some chocolate milk, water, and a granola bar. I knew that probably wasn’t enough food so I went back to my car to get a jacket and a Honey Stinger protein waffle.
I had to wait an hour for the awards ceremony to start and it took a while to get through all of the 10K people before getting to the half marathon. It was fun to see the winners though because this race drew a lot of local runners who I knew and a bunch of them collected awards.
Although I hadn’t run the race before I was very aware of the awesome steins that are given out as awards. The overall winners get really huge ones. My first place age group award was super cool. It’s something fun and unique to add to my collection of running prizes.
Once I got my award I figured I should take advantage of my time in Frankenmuth and explore a little bit while I was there. It turned into a beautiful morning!
I knew that I wanted to hit the bakery under the Bavarian Inn Restaurant because I’ve been there several times and they have some great treats. Time to refuel and reward myself for a good race with some goodies!
I stopped by a couple other shops including the SugarHigh Bakery. I may have overdone it with the sugary stuff but I couldn’t resist.
It was a successful race and I’m so glad I finally got around to doing this one. I had a lot of fun and I understand why it’s such a long-running, legendary race around this area. I’m excited that I came away with a stein of my own and it was fun to spend a little bit of time in Frankenmuth. It also gave my confidence a boost because I’ve just started training for an October marathon and feel like I’m well ahead of my training plan now that I’ve already covered half the distance at my goal pace. Hopefully I can keep it up and strive for another Boston-qualifying time this fall.
Race season is in full force now! After taking a long break due to COVID it’s great to get back out there. I didn’t know how I would recover from running 33 miles at the Twilight Zone 6-hour run on June 12th so I didn’t want to register for anything too soon after that race. A week later I felt pretty decent after a few runs and was confident enough in my recovery to sign up for the Tri Goddess Tri sprint triathlon on June 27th. After going nearly two years without doing a triathlon I was really anxious to get back to it.
Epic Races hosted this one and I have always enjoyed their events. There were times in the past when I questioned the idea of races that were just for women. I’ve done a few of them now and I totally understand what a great experience they can be. There’s a sense of camaraderie and support that makes them feel extra special. The women-only race seemed like it would be a friendly environment for returning to triathlon.
The race took place on a Sunday morning at Big Portage Lake State Park at the Waterloo Recreation Area in Grass Lake, MI. It’s an hour and a half away so the 7:30 start made it an early morning. I was more concerned about the weather than anything else. It rained so much on Friday night that many areas were flooded, including several highways. There were more storms on Saturday night and tornadoes hit a few areas around the state. I wondered if the lake would be flooded or in good enough shape for swimming. Would there be debris on the roads where we’d be biking? Could more storms hit that morning and mess with our race? The weather was decent enough first thing so all I could do was go and see what happened.
I got to the park around 6:15 and headed to the transition area with my stuff. They had planned for a contact-less packet pickup process because of COVID. Even though restrictions have been lifted, they still carried on with the plans and left canvas bags filled with our stuff at our assigned spots in transition. The women who were around my area were very friendly and we all admitted how rusty we were as we tried to remember things like which direction to hang our bikes on the racks. One woman was doing her first tri and everyone was great about answering any questions she had.
After situating most of my stuff I walked down to check out the beach and figure out how things were set up. “Only” half a mile of swimming suddenly looked more intimidating when I saw how far apart the buoys were!
There was a bit of distance from the beach back up to the transition area so I walked the path to see what I was in for. We’d run on both pavement and grass on our way up the hill.
I finished getting everything ready in transition and went down to the beach just before the pre-race meeting was due to start at 7:15. We were told that the water was 72° so I chose not to use a wetsuit. It would be warm enough for me. Sometimes I struggle so much to get my legs out of the wetsuit that I fear I’ll just waste a bunch of time in transition. I got in the water and it was cold at first but I knew I would be fine.
During the meeting on the beach I shivered partially because I was cold after getting out of the water but mostly because of nerves! I always get anxious before triathlons and having a two-year break from doing them didn’t help. People were asked to raise their hands if it was their first triathlon and there was a big cheer for all of the first-timers. Even more impressive was finding out that some people were over 50 years old and doing their first one, and some were even 60+! That was really inspirational and I could feel the welcoming and supportive vibes from the big group of women.
Rain hit for a couple minutes during our meeting but cleared for the rest of the race. The super sprint athletes got to start first so they could get a head start and clear the water before the sprint athletes started. We got to see that it was easiest for them to run through the water for a bit because it was so shallow. At first it seemed like the sprint athletes were going to line up by age group and try to sort our order based on pace while in line. That whole plan didn’t really go anywhere and soon enough I realized it was just a free-for-all and I may as well line up. It was nice that we didn’t have a mass start which can get pretty crazy. Instead, one person went in at a time every three seconds. It helped but there were still plenty of people around!
I love to swim but I kind of freaked out and my nerves went crazy at the beginning. I’m so used to the routine of the pool. I can see so clearly, I have a set rhythm, and no one is crowding my space. Lake swimming is practically the opposite! I’ve done it enough times that I had assured myself I would be fine but I wasn’t. I was breathing so heavily from the start that I was completely thrown off. I did a little breaststroke to try to calm myself down but it didn’t help much. By the time I got to the first buoy I chilled out a bit and was able to swim more normally. It always got more congested when we had to round the buoys and then it was a little tricky trying to dodge people. I didn’t have any issues with being kicked or having my ankles grabbed, but one woman couldn’t seem to keep a straight line and cut right in front of me which made me stop at one point. I knew it wasn’t intentional though. I was just thankful that I seemed to stay straight enough myself and could see where I needed to go. I thought I’d give a little extra effort during the final stretch back to the beach but the wind created a little more waviness in that direction. Between the swim and the run up to the transition area, it took me 21:21. I always feel like I’ve been through quite an ordeal by the time I finish the swim segment, which is probably evident in the following photo!
I spent 2:13 in the first transition which included a bit of a jog with my bike to the far opposite corner of the transition area where we had to head out. The bike ride was around 10.7 miles. Rather than using my bike with skinny tires, I brought my mountain bike. There was talk about some potholes during the pre-race Zoom meeting the prior week. That intimidated me enough to look at the street view of the course on Google Maps. It wasn’t bad but I saw enough rough stretches that I thought I would prefer thicker tires. On top of that, with all of the stormy weather I wondered if there would be debris on the road and if we might end up riding in the rain. All of those factors made me decide that I would feel more secure on my mountain bike. I’m pretty insecure on my bike as it is and don’t like getting rattled or worrying that I might get a flat tire. I didn’t have any big expectations for my first race in a couple years. I just wanted to get out there again and didn’t care if my time was a little slower because I used a heavier bike.
The roads were open to traffic but there wasn’t much out there and no cars came up behind me. I hit 19 mph for a few miles early in the race, probably when I hit downhill portions and had a tailwind! I was thankful for the thicker tires in some spots where the road was kind of rough because the bumps didn’t rattle me at all. I breathed pretty heavily for the whole ride and really pushed. I passed some people and some passed me. As a woman mentioned to me after the race, it was kind of nice not to have any men zipping by on their $15,000 bikes. There were a few speedy women with fancy bikes who came by without warning, but most were good about warning that they were passing on the left. The course had some climbs but nothing too dramatic. For the last few miles of the race I could tell that we had turned into the wind which made things more difficult. I finished the bike segment in 37:52. I averaged around 17 mph which is about the best I usually manage anyway, so I don’t think my mountain bike messed me up too much.
I spent 38 seconds in transition and headed out to run. I was still breathing really hard but I guess that’s how the sprint distance works. The distance is shorter meaning I push the pace more and that’s hard work!
We had some pavement to start then ran along a road briefly before turning onto a trail.
Because of all of the rain the trail surface was pretty soft. It was really sloppy with mud in one spot but not too bad in general. There was one area where I slid and reminded myself that I better watch out for slick muddy spots! Most of the trail was single-track and several spots had trees or branches down to jump over or duck under. There were some pretty good uphills and downhills and I kept breathing heavily the entire run. I definitely pushed myself! The run is where I gained back some of the ground I lost during the bike. I’m kind of in the middle of the pack when it comes to my bike speed but I felt really strong during the run.
I was pretty out of breath after crossing the finish line! I had pushed really hard and finished what may have been around 2.8 miles in 22:30. I received my medal and a bottle of water then paced around for a few minutes to catch my breath. I had my photo taken then went to check the results.
A volunteer pulled up my info and said I had placed fifth in my age group. Since they give awards five-deep I was able to pick something from the prize table. I chose a buff that I can use as a mask or headband in the winter.
I got a pancake, an egg and cheese wrap, trail mix, and a bar from the food tables. I went back to the beach for a few minutes because the sky had cleared and it looked pretty down there.
While I was on the beach I chatted with a nice woman about our races before heading home. I found the results on my phone and was probably more excited about my 16th place overall finish than being fifth in my age group!
Just like every other triathlon I’ve done, I did fairly decent during the swim, lost quite a bit of ground during the bike and ended up somewhere around the middle of the pack, then I killed it during the run. Knowing how well I do in the run always gives me a little boost.
I really enjoyed this race and it was a great return to doing triathlons. Epic did a great job and it’s a major bonus that we can download so many AWESOME photos from Greg Sadler Photography. As a photographer myself I recognize what an amazing job he and his crew did capturing us during so many different segments of the race. It definitely makes this recap more fun to scroll through.
Now that I’ve gotten back into race mode I can’t wait to do more. I had already signed up for another Epic triathlon next month called the Pretty Dog Triathlon. I had no idea at the time that it actually takes place at the same park and will essentially be the same race! It will be fun to see if I can improve. In the meantime, I’m bound to do another running race or two before then!
Following the successful completion of a 50K (plus a couple of bonus miles) I can now call myself an ultrarunner! My first attempt at the distance (31 miles) took place at the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Endurance Run at Addison Oaks in Leonard, MI on Saturday, June 12th. I signed up for the event in January 2020. COVID hit plus I got injured in mid-April so it was a bust. In a way, I’ve been training to do this run for two years!
Many people wonder why I’d WANT to do something like this. They don’t like to drive that far. They only run if someone is chasing them. I must be a glutton for punishment. I’ve heard it all. I could half-jokingly say that it’s a good way to run away from my problems. For real though, I’ve run seven marathons and I guess there’s a gradual progression of pushing to see what I’m capable of. In 2010 I found out I could do a 5K so then I tried a 10K. By the next year I was up to a half marathon. A couple years later I was up to the 25K and then a marathon. After a bunch of marathons I was ready to try a 50K. I’ve found that I have a knack for long-distance running and enjoy doing endurance events. I feel empowered and strong when I run and I guess I like to keep chasing that feeling. In 2019 I ran Move-It Fitness‘ Loopty Loop 4-hour trail race. I stopped when I hit almost 20 miles that day but it was my first in-person exposure to the ultrarunning atmosphere. Many people were there to run for eight or 12 hours. It was a laid-back environment with a lot of friendly people and I loved it. Although Twilight Zone didn’t specifically have a 50K race, I thought six hours would be enough time for me to accomplish that goal. It was another Move-It Fitness event so I knew it should be a great experience.
Like last year, I followed a 16-week training plan from an ultrarunning book by Hal Koerner. For the most part I just aimed to get the mileage in and didn’t do specific speed or tempo workouts. Occasionally I ran a little faster but my main goal was to get through the segment without getting injured. My weekly mileage peaked at 64 miles a couple times which is pretty similar to what I reach while training for a marathon. The longest training run was supposed to be 30 miles but I thought that seemed a little too risky. I chose to max out at 25 miles for my two longest runs. The majority of my weekday runs were 6-8 miles long. I had a few setbacks along the way like a sore IT band that turned into a hamstring problem, then some pains in my left foot. I took a week off at one point and my body cooperated fairly well otherwise. When lower back and hip issues popped up I realized a weekly visit to the chiropractor was necessary to keep me on track. I rarely get massages but went in for three sports massages/torture sessions during training as well. I was willing to do whatever I could to make sure I would be healthy when I got to the starting line.
On the morning of the race I had a Mint Condition Picky Bar at home then ate another when I got to the park a little before 7am. The park is only 15-20 minutes from home so I went there the previous day for the early packet pickup. The race was based out of a pavilion area that was a short walk from the main parking lot. We were able to park even closer in the grass across from the pavilion. A bunch of people set up tents because they were participating in the 12 or 24-hour races. Some had crew/spectators who hung out in the tents and it also gave the athletes a place to rest if they needed it. There was a bag drop area in the pavilion which I used for stashing some extra gear plus my insulated bag with six water bottles. I loved the convenience factor of being able to easily grab a fresh bottle when I needed to.
I had an hour to kill before the start of the race and was thankful for a building with a real bathroom that had a ton of stalls. No wait and I didn’t have to use a porta potty! I noticed some fog on the lake so I walked over there to take a few pictures. Eventually it was time for the pre-race meeting. The course was a loop that was around 2.55 miles long and people would run clockwise until 8pm, then the course would change direction. We learned where to go if storms should hit. Fortunately the forecast of afternoon storms didn’t materialize but people who were still running at midnight weren’t as lucky. It was in the mid-60’s at 8am with humidity around 80%. Even though it didn’t seem so bad at the beginning, it didn’t take long before it hit me. By 2:00 the temps were in the mid-80s with humidity close to 60%. Conditions were going to be challenging for a long day of running.
This was my first post-pandemic race and it was nice to feel like things were back to normal. We didn’t have to worry about masking up or anything like that. When it was time to line up in the starting corral most people lingered near the back. Based on my experience at Loopty Loop, I realized I probably belonged somewhere near the front. A lot of people were going to take it easy because they’d be out there so long.
I made the right choice because I was within the first five or six people as we found our rhythm on the course. We started on a paved path then branched off into the woods on a single track path that is typically just used by mountain bikers. The path was marked really well so I didn’t have to worry about making any wrong turns. I saw signs saying that the first stretch had two-way traffic and I wasn’t sure how that worked. We got out of that stretch and had a wider path with dirt and rocks before heading back to more single track. We were lucky that most of the race was in the woods where it was shady. Even if I sweated so much my sunscreen became ineffective, at least the shade should help. I made sure to use bug spray as well. I started with sunglasses to help keep bugs out of my eyes but they fogged up quickly because it was so humid. I got frustrated enough to take them off and put them in my running belt, and fortunately I didn’t have any issues with bugs in my eyes.
Nearly a mile into the race we ran out of the woods down a wide path and past an open field where I saw my friend Carmen! She had told me that she was going to come but I had estimated when I might hit the marathon distance and figured it might be best to show up in the last couple hours of the race. I was shocked that she was actually there at the beginning! I usually don’t have people offering to spectate in the first place, but I always figure it’s such an inconvenience because they’ll only see me for a few seconds here and there and be bored out of their minds. I couldn’t believe that Carmen was so kind to to do that for me. She even went to the park the weekend before the race to scope out a spot! I knew it was going to be a hot day and hoped she wouldn’t suffer out there. She was prepared with her umbrella for shade and had a bunch of fun and encouraging signs to cycle through.
She was there every single time I came around. Sometimes I’d joke with her that maybe she should leave for a few hours and go grab lunch or maybe run some errands…basically do anything else but wait for me for hours. She was such an awesome sport though. She always had a positive response about how she had a sandwich with her, she wasn’t that hot, she had a book, and she was there for the long haul. Not a hint of complaining! Of course it was a great boost to my spirit to know that I’d see her during every loop and it meant a lot to me that she was there.
A little over two miles into the race I got back to the point with signs about two-way traffic. It wasn’t really an issue during the first loop but every loop after that had people heading both directions. Even though it was a single track trail it worked out just fine. There was enough room to run in the grass to the side of the dirt path and make sure everyone had enough room. People were good about moving over. When I completed the first loop I was relieved that the course didn’t seem too bad hill-wise. My feelings on that changed with each subsequent loop though! The course was uphill for the first half and downhill for the second half. I REALLY started to feel that uphill climb during the six hours I was out there.
We came back to the pavilion at the end of each loop and could grab stuff at the aid station if we chose. I had a 21 oz. bottle of water in my running belt to start and was good with that for nearly two hours. I don’t think I made any stops during the first four loops. I think by the fifth loop I realized I probably should have swapped for a fresh bottle sooner. It was hot out and I knew I needed to drink enough. I made a quick stop at my insulated bag and grabbed a bottle that had Nuun endurance powder mixed with water for some carbs and electrolytes. The cold bottle was so refreshing! I made a point of grabbing a new bottle every hour or so after that. I brought six bottles and went through four or five of them during the race.
In addition to my bottles I also carried packages of Clif Bloks with me. I started eating the energy chews six or seven miles into the race. I wasn’t always good about keeping track of time but I aimed to eat one every couple of miles or sooner. Sometimes I was so cautious about watching the roots and rocks that I didn’t think about how it was time to eat again. A couple months ago I decided I should try the margarita flavor which has 3X sodium. I’m a salty sweater and I wanted to make sure I got extra salt into my system. Fortunately the flavor was fine for me – just another fruity gummy like the others I’ve used. An hour and a half into the run my stomach got a little annoyed, as it often does, but I was lucky and it didn’t last very long. My stomach was fine the rest of the run which was a huge relief, especially since I chose to experiment with some of the snacks at the aid station. I think the first thing that tempted me was a chocolate chip cookie. I kept thinking about my salt intake because of the hot day so I tried a few Pringles. My mouth was a little dry for those so I grabbed a cup of water to help. Another time I took a little piece of potato and rolled it on a plate that had salt. I know that’s a popular option for ultrarunners. I had a few bites of watermelon during a couple of other stops. Later in the day I had some peanut M&Ms and I think that was my favorite aid station treat!
I usually don’t handle the heat and humidity very well but can get through the half marathon distance fairly well. After that things tend to get more difficult. That held true for this race. When I was on the downhill stretch of the course I had a few mile splits that were under a 9:00 pace. Otherwise I was in the 9:00-10:00 range for the most part. I know trails slow things down because of all of the twisting and turning, plus having to dodge rocks and roots. I usually don’t have any kind of pace goals when I run on trails and my goal for the day was just to complete 50K. Mile 15 was the last time I saw anything in the 9:00 range. By mile 16 I saw my first 11:00 split. I was halfway through my quest to 31 miles at that point and the heat and fatigue were starting to affect me more. My split times started to creep up as I took advantage of the aid station. I started to use the pavilion as a little reprieve where I could stop and stretch and make sure I was eating enough. One of the volunteers said if I had a cloth I could dunk it in the icy kiddie pool they were using to keep jugs of water cool. I had brought a hand towel so I took their advice. I could feel how red my face was and the cool, wet towel felt great. The volunteers and race directors always asked how things were going and provided encouragement. Eventually I told them it was getting harder! I kept hitting milestones along the way though. I got through the half marathon point. Then I made it halfway to 50K. I got past the marathon distance so technically I was an ultrarunner! I kept telling them I could do this – I’ve got it. Even as I continued to slow down, I never felt defeated or doubted that I would hit my goal. I was hot and tired but doing pretty well otherwise. Plus, I was surrounded by people who would be out there for 24 hours and that was extremely inspiring.
I tried to keep running aside from my short breaks at the aid station. Each time I started a fresh loop I dreaded the uphill climb! At times it felt like I was shuffling along more than actually running, but I was still moving. I walked briefly when a strap from my running belt came loose, and several times I decided to visit with Carmen for a few extra seconds. She mostly got to hear me mutter things like “holy crap” when I stopped for breaks.
I knew I had to be careful about shuffling too much and swore several times when I snagged rocks or roots that could have caused me to trip. One of my mantras for the day was to lift my feet. Eventually I ran out of luck and wiped out. Luckily it happened on a flat stretch of dirt and I didn’t really get hurt. My elbow and knee had dirt burns but I didn’t break the skin. A guy in a jester hat was a few seconds behind me and I acknowledged my wipeout as he approached. He said that everyone gets one and I got mine out of the way. He also said that would get my adrenaline flowing!
One thing that I really loved about the race was the support and encouragement among the runners. Some people may have been there to compete, but I think most, if not all, were mainly there to achieve personal goals. Some people ran, some walked, some did a mixture of both. People ranged in age from 11 to 76. I had brief conversations with a few people about their goals for the day. I met one of my Twitter running friends for the first time and he was especially amazing. He is going to crew a runner at the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon next month where the temps will be really extreme in Death Valley. He ran a good chunk of this race with multiple layers to help train for the heat. Carmen and I talked to him later in the day when he took a break and he said he was going to go home to shower, attend his daughter’s graduation, then come back to finish the 24-hour race. He ended up completing 65 miles! Some people on the course told me that I was running really well or commented on how I was lapping them. I’d ask how long they were running and everyone said 12 or 24 hours. I informed them that I was “only” out there for six hours. That was nothing compared to them and they were doing great! I started to wonder if anyone else was running for six hours! The two-way traffic part of the course was a fun spot because after running so many loops, I saw the same people multiple times. A few guys always had big smiles on their faces and it was infectious. There were so many nice and inspirational people out there.
Over and over, I kept looping. Aside from battling the uphill stretches, the looped course didn’t bother me. Thankfully there were downhill stretches too. I spent so much time watching the ground that I didn’t get too preoccupied with the idea of running the same route so many times. If anything, it was helpful because I became familiar with certain areas that had roots and knew which spots had better footing. The heat and humidity would be a factor no matter what but I was extremely thankful that we spent most of our time in the woods. There were a few stretches that were out in the open but it usually didn’t take me more than a minute or two before I was back to the shade. Each time I got back to the pavilion area people around the village of tents cheered. As I started each new loop I looked forward to the kid who asked if I wanted to be sprayed by his water cannon. I looked forward to the two-way stretch where I’d often see the guys who were still running strong and we’d exchange encouragement. I looked forward to the stretch where I’d come out of the woods and wave to Carmen to let her know that I was coming. She was the only spectator out on the course and I know plenty of people appreciated her enthusiasm and signs. Although I understand why a looped course might seem hard to battle mentally, I actually really liked it.
I told myself that even if I had to walk I shouldn’t have any issue getting 31 miles done within six hours. I estimated that I might get through a marathon in roughly four hours then have a couple hours to spare for the remaining five miles. HA! I was a little too ambitious with the thought of the 4-hour marathon! Aside from the terrain of the trails slowing me down, the heat and humidity definitely kept me from pulling that off. I think I hit the marathon distance in 4:30-4:40. Eventually I realized that my loop times had increased to half an hour. I might not have much extra time to spare after all. That was extra motivation to keep running however slow my pace might be. Lap 11 is when I peaked with my slowest loop – 33:08. I had probably spent extra time at the aid station. Once I realized I didn’t have as much time as I thought I’d have, I managed to pick up the pace a little bit for my final two loops. In the end I had less than nine minutes to spare. I got it done though! I hit the 50K distance out on the course and by the end of that final loop I had completed 33.15 miles in 5:51:20.
I was pretty wiped out for a few minutes and knew I’d be sore later, but I was in pretty good shape after running for nearly six straight hours. Carmen and I took some pictures with all of my hardware after I recovered for a little bit.
As I suspected, I was the female winner for my race. The results were posted and I saw that 13 of us did the 6-hour race. I also saw that I had the top time/distance combo out of all the 6-hour participants! That gave my confidence a little extra boost! I received a medal for completing the race, a special keychain for getting through 50K, and a plaque for being the first female.
Pizza arrived so I ate a few pieces of that while chatting with Carmen and some other runners. Before I left I made sure to check in with Geneva, one of the race directors, to tell her how much I appreciated her hard work. Move-It Fitness does an awesome job creating a great race environment. The volunteers and everyone involved are the best. I have such a great time at their events that I know I need to do more of them! I’m signed up for my second Loopty Loop race next month and I’m looking forward to it!
By the time I left it was a beautiful, sunny day that kept getting warmer.
I like looking through the results to see how all of the stats broke down. 129 people participated in the event. Here is more info:
6-hour – 13 total participants – 6 women, 7 men. Top woman & man = 33.1 miles
12-hour am – 28 total participants – 13 women, 15 men. Top woman & man = 51 miles
12-hour pm – 5 total participants – 2 women, 3 men. Top woman = 35.7 miles, top man = 40.8 miles
24-hour – 83 total participants – 32 women, 51 men. Top woman = 81.6 miles, top man = 107.1. Two men ran 100+ miles
The leg soreness was pretty intense for a couple days after the race which led to a couple nights of terrible sleep. Now that I’ve had three days to recover I think I’m starting to round the corner. I was able to sleep last night and handle stairs without too much discomfort. I’ll give my body a well-needed break but know I’ll be anxious to get back to my workout routine soon!
Now that I’ve achieved this goal, what comes next? I always seem to have more races on the horizon so hopefully there won’t be any post-race blues. As I mentioned, I plan to run the 4-hour Loopty Loop race next month, assuming I recover smoothly from this race. Recovery can always be an unknown factor so I don’t want to sign up for anything too soon until I know that I can run without any issues. So far I’ve only committed to one triathlon in mid-July and would like to squeeze some more in this summer. I signed up for a 5K swim in mid-August and need to step up my swimming endurance to prepare for that. I also signed up for the Crim 10-mile race at the end of August. I had to defer the Toronto Marathon last year, and I guess I’ll see if that race happens this October. If so, I’m 18 weeks out from that race now and will likely start training soon. Plenty to keep me busy! For now I’ll give myself a little bit of time to enjoy achieving this goal before moving on to the next one.
Last year I hoped to participate in the Martian Invasion of Races in Dearborn, MI for my first time. The race was going to take place in April and I signed up for the 26K Milky Way Combo – the 5K followed by the half marathon. I deferred when the race couldn’t take place due to COVID, then the race turned virtual this year when it still couldn’t be held in person. We were given a window of May 1-8 to complete the virtual race and I went for it on the first day since I had 22 miles on my 50K training schedule. I typically don’t get too excited about virtual races because they feel uneventful to me, but it turned out to be a good way to break up my long run.
Saturday, May 1st was a great day for the run. I chose to start a little after 7am since I would be out there for several hours. The early start would also help me avoid some of the wind that would pick up gradually throughout the day. It was approaching 40 degrees and sunny with barely any wind to start – perfect running weather for me! I was comfortable in a long sleeve shirt and shorts with gloves for half of the run.
Stony Creek Metropark is one of my favorite spots and it was a great place to stage this adventure. I could run continuously and wouldn’t have to worry about stopping for traffic. Plus, I could park in a spot where I had access to a real bathroom and I could stop at my car between races to swap water bottles.
Between the 5K and half marathon I would rack up 16.2 miles. I could sandwich my races between 2.9 miles to warm up and 2.9 miles to cool down in order to hit my goal of 22 miles for the day. A loop around Stony’s main path is six miles, so the warm up and 5K added up perfectly. I chose to run a counterclockwise loop so I would finish with a flat stretch for the final mile of the race. I completed the warm up, stopped my watch, recorded those miles as one segment, then started fresh for the 5K. I didn’t want to race all-out and potentially ruin my legs for the rest of the run but I wanted to give it a little extra effort. A 7:00 pace is about the fastest I’ve run for a 5K when I’m in peak shape for speed, which I am not right now. I thought it would be nice if I could at least run a little under an 8:00 pace. I haven’t been doing any kind of speedwork and didn’t know what I could manage. I pushed myself and worked hard enough to be really happy with the results. I got faster throughout the run and ran a negative split. I may have thought the virtual experience would feel insignificant, but it lit enough of a fire for me to find that I actually can hit some faster paces than I have lately.
I took a bathroom break, went to the car to swap from water to a sports drink, and took a picture with my 5K medal.
After the brief downtime it was time to start the half marathon. I had no intention of “racing” it or aiming for any kind of pace. It would make up the bulk of my training run and bring me to a total of 19 miles by the end. I didn’t want to do anything risky that would make me want to quit before finishing the full 22 miles. I had mapped a route that would change things up a little rather than just running the 6-mile loop a couple times and then some. This time I went clockwise around the loop and branched off about a mile and a half in to head up the road along the golf course. That took me to the trails where I ran a mostly flat and easy stretch out to a dirt road. Sometimes the dirt roads can be sloppy and filled with potholes. I was thankful to start on a stretch that was smooth and in good shape. Shortly after I left the park I crossed paths with my friend Jeff who was running the opposite direction. That lifted my spirits for a little bit because I haven’t seen him for a while. I turned onto another dirt road that runs along the north side of the main part of the park. There are some rolling hills on the dirt roads that kept things interesting but didn’t beat me up too much. As I approached the end of that road the surface got to be pretty rocky. Whenever cars drove by on that stretch they kicked up a lot of dust which was kind of annoying. I was happy when I reached the entrance back into the park and hit the paved path again. I continued my clockwise loop until I branched off to run up the road to the nature center. That out and back stretch was good for adding a few extra miles. Sometimes that part can be a bit of a grind for me, and I really felt it when I turned around to head back and noticed the wind for the first time that day. It wasn’t too strong but it was enough to make things more challenging for a good chunk of my remaining miles.
I helped break the miles up a little bit by looking forward to food every couple miles. Since I had already run six miles before starting the half marathon, I ate a Clif Shot Blok to start. I used those for a while before switching to mini Honey Stinger Waffles for the rest of the run. The cool temps kept me from getting too thirsty and my 21 oz. bottle with Nuun gave me electrolytes and kept me hydrated. It seems like I usually go through periods during long runs when my stomach gets a little bothered, but fortunately anything I felt faded after a bit.
I ran an effort that felt sustainable and wasn’t aiming for a specific goal but I knew I should finish the half marathon in less than two hours. I thought it would be nice to be around 1:55-1:56 so I was satisfied when I finished in 1:54:25. My pace varied anywhere from 9:10 for one mile, my stretch on the trail, to 8:28, a mile when I had a pretty steep downhill stretch. It seems like an 8:42 pace is my most common sweet spot for long runs, so I was right on track with my 8:43 average for the half. 19.1 miles done! It was time for another stop by the car. Another water bottle swap and a picture with my 13.1 medal.
This time I had to stretch a bit before I got rolling again. I couldn’t raise my right leg very high without cringing and had to spend some time trying to work that out. I just had 2.9 miles to go! It was a rough go for the first few steps but got a little better. I went out 1.5 miles then back on a stretch that is mostly flat. The wind had me feeling cooler to the point that I debated pulling my gloves out again but I survived. I dragged a little more for the final miles and the swearing began, but I still held a decent pace. It was a major win because even though I was feeling justifiably wrecked as I finished 22 miles, nothing really hurt.
Success! I completed two races and a 22-mile training run! I’ve believe I’ve maxed out at 20-mile runs when training for marathons so this was the longest I’ve ever run during training.
I figured I should have some kind of celebration. I’ve been meaning to check out Bakehouse 46 in downtown Rochester for a while. I needed to replenish a lot of calories and eating some donuts and cupcakes seemed like a good way to do so!
I let Butters and Rusty examine my blow-up alien when I got home.
Rusty wasn’t about to let an alien invade his territory. It didn’t take long for him to defeat it with puncture wounds to the head.
Although I’d still really like to run a Martian race in person one of these years, it was actually kind of fun doing the virtual race. A 22-mile long run could have been overwhelming on its own so it was nice to break it up and have a few goals to achieve within the bigger goal. Now the biggest goal still lies ahead of me on June 12th. I’m hoping that my body will continue to cooperate so I can successfully run 50K during the Twilight Zone 6-hour race. Successfully completing this big adventure gives me hope that I will pull it off!
I usually like to write a post looking back at the year to remember all that I’ve accomplished. This year was so awful that I question if I really want to go there. Maybe it’s best just to keep moving without looking back. I decided I should still take the time to celebrate the fact that I simply found a way to survive this year. It’s probably good to document what this crazy year was like and hopefully I’ll be able to look back at this post in the future when things are much better. I usually try to be an optimist so I’m going to concentrate on some of the good things that came from this year.
This year involved a lot of extremes. In March I was running 50-60 miles per week with my first 50K on the horizon. By April I was injured and then had to cope through three months without running. I wanted to avoid the busy trails during the early days of COVID and spent a lot of time on the isolated dirt roads. I think the angled, uneven surfaces created an issue with my peroneal tendon. The injury led to the longest running layoff I’ve been through.
I get depressed enough whenever an injury keeps me from running during normal times. This time it happened during the early days of lockdown. I was already struggling my way through several big things at once and it became a pretty dark time. I couldn’t go anywhere or do much of anything to keep myself distracted. I couldn’t get that endorphin fix to lift my spirits. I was thankful that at least I have all of the equipment I need to do strength workouts at home so I could do something. I reached my peak pull-up fitness during that time!
I always had company from my best little buddy Romeo when I did strength workouts but lost him just weeks before the COVID lockdown hit. I miss him terribly and really struggled with the thought of having new buddies after him. At the end of September I came across a couple of sweet brothers who were in need of a home and I knew I could help them live their best lives. It turns out most animals like to hang out during workout time, so now Rusty and Butters join me sometimes just like Romeo did.
As I coped with being injured, I walked when I could but my tolerance was on and off depending on how my ankle reacted. This year I ended up walking a whole lot more than I usually do. When I started a new job in June I established a walking routine during my lunch break. I’ve been taking advantage of the long, empty hallways in the deserted parts of the building where I feel like I’m mall walking. I regularly climb sets of stairs during those walks too in hopes that it will build muscles that will help me when running hills!
Eventually biking seemed to work well enough without aggravating my ankle. It was a way to get outside and make me feel like I was accomplishing something. The feeling of accomplishment is one thing that really drives me to stay active and it helped lift my mood once I could get moving again. I tried to use biking to fill the running void. As a result, I biked more frequently and rode longer distances than ever. I ventured off to trails I’d never been to across the state for a change of scenery. As I saw what I was capable of I had to keep pushing the limits. Possibly my biggest accomplishment this year was completing a 100-mile ride before the end of the summer. For someone who typically just “gets through” the biking segment of triathlons, it was a nice change to fully embrace biking this summer.
I’m pretty bummed that my swimming routine suffered so much this year. I was dedicated to swimming at least three days a week until everything shut down due to COVID. I was off for over two months until the lakes warmed up enough in June. With no other place to swim, I did more open water swimming than ever.
By the end of September swimming outside wasn’t an option. The gyms were open again and I went a few times just to swim but the gym’s COVID-limited hours makes it tough for my schedule. Plus, wariness about whether it’s even a good idea to go has kept me away for the most part. I totally neglected swimming again by the end of the year. I’m not happy that I’ve lost all of the swimming fitness I had built up and that I’ll have to restart from scratch. I’ve basically accepted that I’m keeping busy with other activities for now and I’ll get back to swimming again eventually.
Initially I was sad that I couldn’t race this year. I had big plans to do my first 50K. I was excited to do some triathlons and was looking forward to going to Toronto for a marathon in the fall. As race after race got canceled I began to accept that this year was going to be a bust and figured next year will be a do-over year. I didn’t really grieve the fact that I couldn’t race because there was nothing we could do about it. Once I got injured I knew I probably couldn’t have done most of the races anyway. I love the environment of races but I don’t need them to stay motivated. I’m going to stay active no matter what because it makes me feel strong and accomplished. Later in the year some races found ways to hold in-person events safely but it wasn’t appealing to me at all. I was content just doing my own thing. Even though the races had safe protocols in place I had no desire to risk being around other people. The thought of having someone breathing near me at any point during a race stressed me out enough to not even consider racing as an option.
I went from the most races I’ve ever done in 2019 to basically no real races this year. I only participated in one in-person event this year. Dave’s Running in Toledo hosted a March Mayhem training run where I ran almost 16 miles. Although it was not a race, the marked course, aid stations, and post-run treats made it feel similar to a race. Otherwise, I ran two virtual half marathons. It was the first time I ever participated in a virtual event and only did so because I had already signed up for the events. I gave one a hard effort and was actually fairly close to my PR. The other just felt like an uneventful training run. I also took part in the Run United Virtual Marathon in September and October to raise money for the United Way. That was the first running event I could do through my new company. They did a great job of keeping us connected and I felt like a part of a team that was doing something good. Otherwise, virtual racing doesn’t really appeal to me. I had signed up for a whole bunch of races this year and deferred as many of the races as I could. Now a lot of my schedule is pre-determined for 2021…if we can get back to normal.
Here’s a look at some stats for the year:
I swam a little over 51 miles
I biked 2,500 miles
I ran 1,320 miles
I had 126 weight/strength sessions (usually around 45 minutes to an hour long)
I did two virtual half marathons and one month-long virtual marathon challenge
COVID led to the least amount of swimming I’ve done in several years. Only 51 miles versus 131 miles last year. Being injured for a few months dropped my running mileage quite a bit too. I was around 500 miles lower than the last couple years. Because my swimming and running volume was reduced, I had to keep busy somehow and made up for it with biking and strength workouts. 2,500 miles on the bike is huge for me. In comparison I only rode 523 miles last year! 1,960 miles was my previous high in 2017 – another year when I dealt with injury. It’s a given that if my bike mileage is high it’s probably because my running mileage is low! 126 strength workouts may have been a new high for me too. For several months I also did a 5-day a week pull-up workout. Although swimming, running, and racing were reduced this year, I found other ways to keep active.
While I’d like to come up with some hopes and goals for next year, after this year I’m still in the mindset of taking things as they come. If I don’t feel like it’s safe or worth the risk, I have no reservations about continuing to pass on racing for a while. I still hope I’ll get another shot at running 50K for the first time. Hopefully by June things will be safe enough to do so. I also hope that I’m not held back by any lingering ankle issues and that my body will cooperate. Hopefully October is far enough away that Americans will be welcome in Canada once again and I’ll get to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
I thought 2019 was one of the hardest years of my life but 2020 sure didn’t get much better. Even though this was a major bummer of a year, I survived and at least that’s something. There were a few saving graces this year. I’m still going to hold on to some shred of hope that next year will be better and I don’t continue my streak of nasty years!
From September 16th through today I’ve participated in the United Way’s Run United Virtual Marathon. I signed up because FCA (my employer) does a lot of work with the United Way, and Team Jeep put out the call for people to participate. It was the first running event I could join since starting at the company in June. The goal was to raise money to help bridge the “digital divide” by providing students in Detroit with laptops and internet access.
I was thrilled to see how successful this event was. Initially people were a little skeptical about attempting a virtual event and asking for money during the pandemic but we blew past all expectations. As I write this, over $173,000 has been raised with Team Jeep contributing nearly $133,000 of that total. That’s enough to equip 869 Detroit students with the technology they need!
What Team Jeep has done is pretty amazing and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team. We accounted for 51% of the participants in the event! Even though we may have logged our miles individually, the team leaders combined with the United Way and made it feel like we were doing something really important together. We had weekly video meetings that provided updates, advice, and encouragement. It definitely helped elevate the level of excitement.
Throughout the past month I ended up logging 125 miles. I got pretty close to covering the marathon distance five times! Not bad considering how injury kept me from running for much of the spring and summer. I’ve increased my mileage gradually and realized that my long runs were building enough that I *might* be able to aim for the half marathon distance by the end of this event. Prior to the pandemic (and the injury) the plan was to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon this day. Even though all of the plans changed, I’m glad I had something to aim for.
At 9:00 this morning there was a celebration on Zoom to cover all of our achievements and to pump everyone up for one final run. I headed out into some light rain and hoped my body would cooperate for 13.1 miles. I mapped a route that provided some great fall scenery along the way. I started out down Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Hills, passed Van Hoosen Farm, then went to Stony Creek Metropark.
While I was at Stony Creek Metropark I came across a number of people who were running their own virtual marathons. The Detroit Free Press Marathon would have taken place today so a lot of people were running that virtual event. On the cool morning with some rain, virtual event runners made up the majority of the people I saw!
I felt some tweakiness from my ankle halfway through my run. I took a little break for some photos and fortunately the issue faded and I was fine for the rest of the run. I ran a couple miles on the paved path, went past the golf course, then ran a little stretch of the mountain bike trails. The fall colors were beautiful and it reminded me why fall marathon season is so special.
I ran a short stretch on a dirt road outside of Stony and headed back toward Paint Creek Trail. When I had about a mile to go I admired a Jeep Gladiator that was pulling out of a drive across the street. I received a honk and a thumbs up thanks to my Jeep shirt! That made me smile and gave me an extra boost for the last bit of my run.
I achieved my goal and completed a half marathon! Covering the distance was enough for me and I didn’t view this as a virtual “race” or anything. I still completed it in a decent time and it was just nice to feel even more accomplished at the end of this event by hitting that milestone – a distance I haven’t covered since April.
With so much negativity and nastiness constantly dominating the news it was nice to be a part of something that was all about positivity, encouragement, and helping those in need. This is all about the kids in Detroit and it’s exciting to know that we’ve helped so many. A HUGE thank you to the friends and family who made donations. You’ve helped make a big difference for those who need our support. If there is anyone who is interested, you can still give here:
Today through October 18th I’m participating in the Run United Virtual Marathon (find my donation page here) as a member of Team Jeep. When I started my new job at FCA (Chrysler) in June, one of the first things I did was look into the company’s running club. This virtual marathon is my first chance to participate as a part of the team while also helping to raise money for the United Way. The purpose of the event is to help close the “Digital Divide” for students in southeast Michigan. The pandemic has forced many kids into a virtual learning environment yet they may not have computers or internet access. As if the pandemic isn’t making education challenging enough, I can’t imagine how kids can keep up with their schoolwork without having access to the technology they need. The United Way wants to help these students by providing them with the proper resources to keep their education on track.
I’m not in any shape for a fall marathon as I cautiously increase my mileage following an injury that popped up in April. I did a couple of virtual races in March prior to being injured but have chosen to avoid signing up for anything else. I’m trying to concentrate on building a base while making sure my tendon doesn’t flare up again. However, this event seemed perfect. I can easily cover a total of 26.2 miles (hopefully several times!) during the next month and help kids in need while doing so. Plus, I’m excited to be a part of a team that is so enthusiastic about participating. Over 300 people are logging miles for Team Jeep!
I don’t feel comfortable asking for money, especially during a time that is so challenging for so many people. I was kind of wary about signing up for a fundraiser but we were told not to get stressed about that part. I figure even if I’m only able to raise a small amount it will help more than if I didn’t do anything at all. As little as $10 can help match students with tutors and $25 can help provide a student with internet access. If anyone feels inclined to give ANY amount, here is a link to my page:
I’ve never considered myself to be much of a cyclist but maybe I should rethink that now that I’ve completed a 100-mile ride. I typically think of myself as a runner who bikes sometimes. I use the bike to cross-train and so I can stay fit enough to survive the bike leg of triathlons where I really just want to swim and run. When I have a running injury I bike so I can get some kind of exercise. I still don’t use bike shoes, I don’t understand any of the mechanical aspects, and people at triathlons always tell me I’d be better off with a nicer bike. I’m pretty clueless as a cyclist, but as long as I can keep moving and cover the distance I guess that counts for something.
A badge that came up in my Garmin app after riding 100 miles
My plan for this year was to get into ultra running, not ultra cycling. A suspected peroneal tendon injury (combined with the pandemic) changed all of my plans for the year. Several months without running followed by a very gradual rebuilding process caused me to turn to the bike. In order to feel like I was accomplishing enough, I went all-in on the biking.
I’ve learned that I have a need to constantly feel like I’m achieving something. I have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment (now called CliftonStrengths) a couple times through work. I just took it for the second time in May so its findings are fresh in my mind. Although it can be applied to my work habits, it also helps explain why I keep working toward various athletic goals. Achiever is one of my top strengths and according to the assessment, I feel like I have to achieve something every day in order to feel good about myself. Once I feel satisfied with one achievement an internal fire pushes me to do more. Maximizer is another one of my strengths. That theme deals with taking a strength and nurturing it, refining it, and stretching it toward excellence. The combination of the Achiever and Maximizer strengths explains a lot of my motivation and my tendency to keep pushing myself.
I started to rack up a bunch of 50-mile rides this summer. I rode 60 miles one weekend then bumped up to 62 miles another weekend so I could hit the landmark of completing a metric century ride. When I posted about that ride on Instagram a friend asked if I had considered riding 100 miles. Another friend said he was sure I could do it. The thought hadn’t entered my mind until they mentioned it. Once they got me thinking about it, it seemed like a challenge I ought to consider. I went up to 70 miles a couple weeks later.
The weather seemed perfect this past Sunday, August 30th. It was clear, around 60° to start, and it would only climb into the mid-70s later in the day. I hadn’t decided if I would aim for 100 miles but thought that I might try.
Stony Creek Metropark
Knowing that it could be a long day, I started my ride at 7:30am. I drove to a parking lot along the Macomb Orchard Trail and rode less than a mile to get to Stony Creek Metropark. Although there is a paved 6-mile loop, cyclists who go faster than the recommended speed limit of 10 mph typically ride on the road. It’s the only place where I feel comfortable doing so. By including a stretch of road that goes up to the nature center, it’s possible to get a loop that’s just over nine miles long.
A regular loop plus a trip to the nature center and back is about 15K
There are some sections that climb just enough to make me feel like I’m crawling. The nature center stretch makes things challenging. In addition to pushing up the hills it seemed like I was riding into the wind for the most challenging stretches. Stony is a good spot for a tough workout so I sure didn’t make things easy for myself. I added a couple of detours down a few drives to add a little extra distance and managed to complete just over 50 miles after five loops.
The elevation chart for one time around the 9-mile loop I rode at Stony. I think it feels worse than it looks!
I didn’t feel the need to keep riding non-stop. I always try to enjoy the scenery and like to take photos along the way.
Stony Creek Metropark
Sandhill cranes at Stony Creek Metropark
Food stops were another good way to break things up. I ate a Picky Bar for breakfast that morning and had another when I took my first break after a couple hours. I’m thankful that they work so well for me and that I didn’t have any issues with my stomach throughout the whole day. I thought I better take advantage of a real bathroom where I could wash my hands while I was still at Stony. I was hoping I could avoid using the outhouses along Macomb Orchard Trail, especially during these COVID-wary times.
After leaving Stony I rode a short stretch of Macomb Orchard Trail to add some distance before stopping at my car. I ate another Picky Bar and swapped a couple of water bottles.
What I needed to fuel me through 100 miles
The second half of my ride was on Macomb Orchard Trail. It’s flat and smooth which was a nice break after the hard workout at Stony. I made sure I rode 56 miles by that point so I could go out 22 miles to the end of the trail then back without having to add on at the end. I knew I would want to be done and not play around with adding extra distance!
I hit some wind as I headed north but knew eventually the trail would veer east so I tried to look forward to that. Between the wind and working my legs so much at Stony I didn’t have expectations for my speed. Although it would have been nice to hit at least 16 mph like I have for recent rides, I seemed to be stuck at an average of 15.5 mph. This goal was more about distance than speed though.
Macomb Orchard Trail
I’ve spent so much time on Macomb Orchard Trail this summer that I knew where I would aim to stop for food breaks and counted down the distance until I’d get there. I rode 15 more miles before a stop to eat a few Clif Bloks in Armada where I admired a sunflower.
A sunflower in the April Millsap Memorial Garden.
The trail ends in Richmond which is about seven miles from my stop in Armada. I had yet another Picky Bar and knew that I would “only” have about an hour and a half left. Somehow I was still okay! Although seat discomfort can be an issue for me, I lucked out and had a good day where it didn’t bother me too much.
Macomb Orchard Trail
On the way out I laughed at an ear of corn that was in the middle of the trail. That’s not something I expect to see discarded on a trail. The trail literally passes through corn fields so it makes sense though. On the way back I made a point of stopping to take a picture.
Macomb Orchard Trail
I continued for 12 more miles and stopped at a park in Romeo to eat my final Picky Bar. I really looked forward to those stops. Then I only had 10 miles to go! At the end I only had to loop through the parking lot one time to get to an even 100 miles, so I did a pretty good job at getting the distance right. After 6.5 hours of riding I was done!
During the ride I thought about how an Ironman bike segment is 112 miles. I was still 12 miles shy of that, not to mention adding in 2.4 miles of swimming plus a marathon. As crazy as my ride seemed, it still doesn’t scratch the surface of that! I’ve always said that I haven’t been interested in trying an Ironman because I wouldn’t want to sit on the bike that long. I still don’t have ambitions to try an Ironman (yet…) but I feel more secure with the idea of trying the half-Iron distance. It’s something I’ve thought about for a few years and maybe I should try that next year.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel too bad when I finished. Since I parked near Dairy Queen I had to stop there for an Oreo Fudge Blizzard.
This DQ Blizzard was amazing after my ride
I got a pizza soon after that. I had plenty of calories to replenish and I deserved some treats after such a big adventure!
In general, my legs didn’t feel too bad. After showering I felt really warm so I wrapped an ice pack around my neck to cool down. Later that night and into the next day my head bothered me a bit. I tried to stay hydrated but probably needed to drink more. I probably didn’t get enough sleep either. I didn’t feel too beat-up otherwise. Running a marathon for 3.5 hours wrecks me a whole lot more than 6.5 hours on the bike.
I may not run an ultramarathon this year and I didn’t get to race any triathlons, but I found a way to adapt and still fulfill that need for achievement. It’s especially meaningful since I don’t consider myself a very strong cyclist. I proved that I’m capable of more than I thought and that maybe some of those other aspirations that used to seem crazy aren’t so out of reach. Now that I’ve accomplished one big feat for the summer, I’ll have to see what the achiever in me decides to strive for next.
Last summer it seems like I wrote recaps about racing almost every weekend. For obvious reasons this summer has been the complete opposite. I guess one good thing about being injured during the pandemic is that I don’t feel bad about skipping races since none of them are happening. I had registered for a bunch of races and the last couple that were still hanging on were finally canceled in the past couple weeks. Fortunately most of them gave the option to defer to next year. Next year is basically going to be a redo of what this year should have been.
Rochester Hills placed a bunch of inspiring signs around local trails during the pandemic
It’s hard to believe that I’ve managed to cope without running for three months. I had no idea that doing a long run on a banked dirt road would lead to such a drastic layoff. I still assume that my peroneal tendon has been the issue, all triggered by running on too much of an angle for one long run. At this point it seems like it would have been easier to bounce back from a stress fracture! I still really want to get back to running but have kept myself occupied in other ways. Biking, walking, weights, and a few swims have helped fill the void.
I’ve probably spent more time than ever on the bike these last few months. I typically want to “save my legs” for running and squeeze biking in when I can. I usually do just enough of it to help me prepare for the bike segment of triathlons. While I’ve ridden 50 miles a few times in past summers, that’s become my big goal workout most weekends this summer. I even rode 60 miles one day – the longest ride I’ve ever done.
My ankle has been improving and walking has felt fine. I try to get out most evenings for a walk and tend to see a lot of wildlife. That finally inspired me to bring my camera equipment for some of the walks. I suppose that’s one more good thing that has come from this injury. I take plenty of nature pictures with my phone when I’m out running or biking but walking makes it much easier to lug the fancy gear around. I always seem to find deer, but it’s been fun spotting turkeys, ducks, and turtles as well.
I’ve ventured out to some parks that I haven’t been to in order to keep things fresh. Since there aren’t many things to do during a pandemic, exploring the outdoors has provided some form of adventure.
Independence Oaks County Park
Independence Oaks County Park
I started a new job in June and have developed a habit of walking a mile or more during most of my lunch breaks. I’m working in the second largest building in America behind the Pentagon so it’s easy to get some good distance. One part of the building has three floors of office space that are great for walking. They even have maps that measure certain routes to encourage people to get moving. That part of the building is basically deserted since most people are working from home. There’s a skylight and it kind of feels like I’m mall walking! I make it more of a workout by adding flights of stairs into the mix. On nice days I’ve taken advantage of a little path outside as well.
I’m thankful that I have everything I need for a solid strength/weights workout in the basement at home. I’ve been doing those workouts three times a week. I started doing a specific pull-up workout 11 weeks ago and I’ve made great progress. I’d already been doing pull-ups regularly but this has helped me improve. I maxed out at eight pull-ups when I first started the routine and now I’m up to a max of 11 or 12…depending on how hard I’m willing to strain at the end. The first week I did a total of 110 pull-ups specifically for that 5-day routine and after 10 weeks I was up to 177 for the week! Since I can’t achieve any running goals right now this is one way to aim for something.
Gyms are still closed so I haven’t had access to a pool. I’ve been swimming in a lake at Stony Creek Metropark most weekends which has been nice. The park gets too busy later in the day so I avoid it during the week, but at least swimming once each weekend is something.
In recent weeks I have gradually tried to reintroduce running. At first I mixed moments of jogging into some of my walks. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it bothered my ankle and I’d stop. I’ve started having better luck though and have truly run four times now. Unfortunately, part of my ankle was sore to the touch after the last run. I tried again a few days ago and could tell right away that it wasn’t going to work so I stopped. It’s been tough because I’ve lost all of my running fitness and it feels like my body has to relearn how to run. At the same time, it was so nice to finally do it again. I want to think I’m ready to make a comeback, but I’m being cautious and know I’m still in testing mode to see if my body will cooperate.
This weekend I added a new injury to the mix so my ankle will get a little extra rest. This is 2020 after all – it’s not really a surprise when another crappy thing happens. While walking in the dark a couple nights ago, I managed to bash my toe into the leg of the bed frame. It was enough for me to swear up a storm but it took a couple minutes to realize it was worse than a typical toe-stubbing incident. When I finally turned on a light I saw that I had tracked enough blood around the carpet to make it look like a murder scene. I’ve done this once before and know from experience that I’m going to have to get the toenail removed. Cringe-worthy, I know. So, that’s really going to suck and will also keep me from swimming in a lake for at least a couple weeks as it heals.
This year is a true test of endurance. Pushing myself physically makes me feel empowered and strong. It’s not lost on me that I probably work out so much for the sake of trying to feel good when so many aspects of life are a mess. I’m glad I have some kind of outlet. All I can do is keep carrying on and do my best to keep focusing on the positive things. I’m glad I can bike and walk and appreciate the outdoors while doing so. Hopefully I’m getting close to adding running back to the mix.
Hello & Welcome!! I'm Kecia...a wife, a dog mom to 1 chocolate and 2 black labradors, a triathlete, a yogi, a lover of fitness and outdoor adventures. Come with me on my journey as I push my limits and cross new finish lines!!