Thanksgiving is said to be the biggest day for running a road race in America. I’ve only raced on Thanksgiving a couple times but I felt the draw to be a part of the fun this year. The two times I have raced on Thanksgiving I stuck close to home and participated in a low-key trail race at Stony Creek Metropark. Part of me wanted to return to that race because I enjoyed it but I still have some tweaky spots lingering on my left side six weeks after the Toronto Marathon. A test run on the trails a week before the race confirmed that it would be too ambitious (and not very smart) to try to race through the winding ups and downs on that course.
One great thing about racing on Thanksgiving is that there are plenty of options. When I browsed the list of races posted on RunMichigan.com I came across The Mighty Gobbler 5K in Troy. It would take place a couple miles from my mom’s house which would make it easy to go see her afterward. Another thing that was especially appealing was that I knew the course would be flat. Even though my leg has issues, I’ve been able to run through it and flat conditions are ideal for me right now. I waited until a few days before the race when I saw that the weather looked good then signed up.
The 5K race was due to start at 9:00 with a 1-mile race starting half an hour before that. I got there an hour early to allow time for collecting my packet and to avoid any possible last-minute rush. The race started in a huge parking lot across from Somerset Mall by the old Kmart headquarters. I walked through the lot to the Lutheran Church of the Master next door to pick up my stuff.
It was in the low 30s so I hung out in my car until 15 minutes before the start, which is when I went out for a half mile warm up jog before heading to the start. Although it was a bit chilly it was a beautiful morning.
I saw plenty of kids who looked anxious to take off quickly and tried to gauge a spot that would be appropriate for my pace. When 9:00 came we were off!
As I suspected, some of the kids flew at the beginning. Also as I suspected, a bunch of them were already spent a quarter mile into the race from sprinting so hard. I was breathing pretty heavily myself and was worried about whether I’d be able to keep it up. I usually end up somewhere around a 7:00 pace for a 5K when things go well and I didn’t know if I could pull that off. A glance at my watch showed that I was around a 7:25 pace early on and that already felt hard enough.
We started on an office park drive until we got out to the main road. We got to run in one lane of Big Beaver for a brief segment until the majority of the race took us through neighborhood roads. I may have made it about a mile into the race when I felt like I’d been punched in the diaphragm. The pain just below my ribs stuck around for the rest of the race and for a little bit afterward. 5Ks usually feel like torture to me anyway because I rarely run that fast and the extra pain didn’t make it especially great. I told myself that it was “only” 20-some minutes of running and I could manage to suffer through that. I distracted myself for a brief moment when we ran past Beachwood, a swim club that I went to several times as a kid for swim meets. It was fun to think back to those days. That was about the only fun part! I like to push myself and see what I’m capable of but sometimes it’s a bit miserable doing so!
I had to slow down for a sharp turn from the neighborhood onto a sidewalk that took us down Coolidge and toward the final turn for the finish. A kid and a guy passed me in that stretch but there was only so much I had left in me. As I approached the finish line I kind of jokingly thought about how I was too close to the guy in front of me and that would mess up my photo!
I was happy with my official time of 22:35, especially considering the chest pain I ran through. At first I was second in my age group until the winner was shifted to the female masters winner slot and I took the lead for the age group.
I knew I started out slower than I’d hoped, but didn’t pay much attention to my pace after the first mile. I was kind of surprised to see that I got faster throughout the race and ran a negative split! I actually got down to that goal pace of a 7:00 mile by the end.
I collected a bottle of water and a Clif Bar then went to my car to get a coat. Within 5-10 minutes the chest pain started to fade. I have a feeling it happened due to the combination of the cold and trying to run so fast. People often ask me if my lungs can handle running in the cold. Usually I don’t even notice! When it gets below 20 degrees I usually wear something to cover part of my face and I’m sure that helps, but it was in the 30s for this race which isn’t that cold. I haven’t done any speedwork lately though. I probably haven’t run below an 8:00 pace in the six weeks following the marathon so aiming for a 7:00 pace in the cold may have been a rough combo for me. The only other time I recall feeling that kind of pain in recent years was when I returned to running after having food poisoning this past March. Getting sick had left me with that same feeling of being punched in the diaphragm. When I felt the same kind of thing during the race I wasn’t overly concerned that I was going to have a heart attack or anything, but it definitely made it uncomfortable!
Eventually it was time for the awards ceremony and I won both a glass and a scarf!
A raffle took place after the awards. People received raffle tickets by bringing canned goods to the packet pick-up. I felt a little guilty about it, but I wasn’t brave enough to go to the grocery store in the couple days before the race so I didn’t participate. Instead, I headed to my mom’s house and it was awfully nice that she was just a 5-minute drive away!
Putting aside the suffering aspect, I’m glad I was a part of the Thanksgiving tradition of running a turkey trot. It was nice to try a race that was new to me, and especially nice to be able to run a flat course. I favor longer distances and it seems like every time I run a 5K it reminds me that I really ought to prepare myself by doing more speedwork. My gradual return to running after the marathon and hamstring issues have kept me from wanting to run fast lately, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that I still pulled it off fairly well. I really didn’t predict that my hamstring would feel totally fine and my chest would be the source of pain!
This hamstring/glute (piriformis?) problem hasn’t kept me from running but I know I still need to get it worked out, especially since I’ll officially start training for the Boston Marathon by the end of December. I have my eye on a few potential Christmas/New Year’s races over the next month but will probably wait until the last minute to make sure the weather will cooperate. I’m glad I didn’t register for one recent race that got canceled when a slight coating of snow made the course too slippery. I actually went out and did a little bit of speedwork a few days after this race so maybe I can reduce my level of suffering if I try another short distance race!
A week after I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2019, I watched a stream of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I was still on a high from my race and was already thinking about what my next fall marathon should be. Toronto’s flat, pretty course looked appealing. When I learned that a neighbor and her husband had just run the race and enjoyed it, I decided to go for it and signed up at the end of October in 2019. The 2020 race was canceled due to COVID and the 2021 race offered a 10K instead of the marathon. I was thankful that runners were allowed to defer their entries both times. I was determined to run the marathon whenever it actually took place. Nearly three years after I had signed up, I finally got my chance to run it on Sunday, October 16.
Marathon training went pretty well throughout the summer but then I got COVID a month before the race. I took five days off of running and was a little iffy for another week or two after that but got back on track and hoped it hadn’t messed up my overall training. Just as I got over the COVID hump, I developed a new pain in my right hamstring two weeks before the race. I raced the Ann Arbor half marathon the day after I first felt it and since it didn’t bother me, I thought I was fine. The next time I ran I realized I wasn’t fine. I’ve had some slight discomfort lurking in my other hamstring since the spring but this was a bigger problem. I took it easy for a few runs, took a couple days off, and got a massage. That spot was problematic when I did a weekend long run of 10 miles so I took four more days off. Taper time means there’s a reduction of mileage and intensity, but not THAT much rest. I discovered a bruise on the back of my leg five days before the race and Google made me worry that it could be the sign of a hamstring tear. Really, I think I just found the sore spot and massaged it enough to create a bruise. Either way, I worried that I might have to bail on the race. I did a test run the Thursday before the race and didn’t feel anything definitively bad enough to make me pull the plug. Maybe a little rest had helped. I would rest the next couple days leading up to the race as well. I didn’t feel very confident heading into the race and I hoped I was making the right decision.
One of the factors that made me choose this race is that the drive is just over four hours from the Detroit area. I headed out early on Friday morning so I could enjoy a little extra time in Toronto aside from the race. All of the border crossing restrictions tied to COVID had been dropped a couple weeks earlier and I had a smooth experience driving into Ontario. Smooth other than feeling extremely uncomfortable from sitting on that problematic leg for so long.
I drove straight to downtown Toronto and hit the expo at the Enecare Centre when it opened. It wasn’t a huge expo but there were plenty of booths and a few caught my attention.
I pulled up Google to figure out the exchange rate and realized that my money would go farther in Canada. That was a nice perk!
Asics sold the official race merchandise and I bought a tank top for under $20. I stopped at a booth with running and triathlon clothing, browsed the Brooks Running booth, then headed out.
Next I chose to explore a nice path along the water. I enjoyed the fall colors and pretty views of the CN Tower.
After that I drove 45 minutes or so to spend the rest of the afternoon at the Toronto Zoo. I got to see more gorgeous colors and had fun using my good camera for some fun animal photos.
I stayed outside of the city on Friday night and went back downtown to see more fall colors on Saturday morning. I knew I shouldn’t do any heavy-duty hiking but I wanted to explore a little bit while I had a chance. I decided to check out High Park in the southwestern part of Toronto.
I found that the roads are closed to traffic on the weekends and it was a gorgeous park. In addition to being able to walk on the roads and sidewalks, there are a number of trails throughout the park as well. Fortunately the rain held off most of the time I was there.
It was a little early to check in at the hotel but I drove and parked by it then went to Nathan Phillips Square across the street. The ice rink is a big draw in the winter months but the cool Toronto sign makes it a nice spot to visit year-round.
I spent some time wandering around the Eaton Centre mall and Yonge Street until I decided I better get off my feet. I checked in around 2:00 and was thrilled when I saw the view from my room.
I booked the hotel last December and forgot that I had chosen the scenic view. I spent plenty of time taking photos as it turned from afternoon to night. I watched as tourists posed, wedding photos were taken, and as a march came down a road and into the square. Downtown hotels near the start and finish of a race are always a bit pricey but it was definitely worth it. Plus, the exchange rate helped!
Before 5:00 I went out to get a sandwich and chips for dinner then settled in the room again, aside from a quick trip back out to the square to enjoy the sign while it was lit up at night.
I got my race gear sorted out then got a decent night’s sleep of about seven hours.
Being so close to the starting line made things super easy in the morning. I still woke up a few hours early so I wouldn’t feel too rushed or stressed. I drank plenty of water, ate one Picky Bar first thing, then a second one about an hour before the race. I only wanted to pay for one night at the hotel and although I couldn’t have a late check-out time, they were kind enough to store luggage so runners could collect their stuff after the race.
Gear check was located down in the square so I headed out there a little after 7:00 to drop off my post-race clothes. I jogged around a little bit and didn’t notice any hamstring issues. I went to scope out the location for my starting corral to make sure I knew where I would be able to enter. Temps were in the mid-40s and I realized it was warm enough that I wouldn’t need gloves for the race.
I went back to the room for a bit since the official start time was at 8:45. The convenience factor of a close hotel is wonderful and I waited until 20 minutes before the race to head to the start.
When I entered my corral I saw signs for multiple pace groups but not a 3:30 marathon – the one that I wanted. There was supposed to be one but I never saw them if they were there. I’d just have to hope I could do it on my own.
One tricky thing about running a race in Canada is that the course is marked in kilometers instead of miles. I didn’t know exactly what my goal pace converted to in kilometers but figured a 3:30 marathon was close to 5:00/kilometer. Keeping track of multiples of five was an easy way to think about things. I still had my Garmin watch of course, but I know that the accuracy is often off in big cities where the signal can get blocked by the tall buildings.
We started in the heart of downtown and had plenty of spectators cheering in spots, especially by the University of Toronto. The first mile was a bit congested but then people spaced out enough that I had an easier time running my own pace. Since my legs seemed to feel okay I hoped I could actually aim for my goal of a 3:30 marathon. That meant running somewhere around 7:55-8:00 per mile. The first mile was 8:11 which was just right for the start. My next four miles came in at 7:45, 7:39, 7:49, and 7:42. I didn’t know if my Garmin could be off or if I should worry that I was starting a little fast. By the sixth mile I settled into 8:00s and a few 7:50s which was more of where I wanted to be.
I enjoyed looking at the shops as we ran through the city. One of the prettiest spots on the course was the out and back segment on Lake Shore Blvd. I took some quick pictures because my phone was easy to grab in my shorts pocket. I must have jostled it too much though because it locked me out by the time I had run 7-8 miles. No more photos after that!
There were some fall colors to enjoy and it didn’t take long before police escorts and video cameras came through on the other side of the road with the leaders of the race. I always love the added distraction of watching other runners. It makes me realize how many of us are out there doing the same thing with paces all across the board.
On that stretch I went to grab chews from my pocket and one of my packets flew onto the road. I was moving too quickly and it wouldn’t have been ideal to run back against traffic to try to get them. I calculated that I should be okay with the remaining two packs of chews I still had if I ate one every 1.5-2 miles from that point forward. I’m glad I usually err on the side of bringing extras because that could have turned into a big problem.
We ran by an outdoor concert venue, a soccer stadium, and at times we had a view of the CN Tower. I loved seeing so many sights while running through town. Eventually we reached a spot where the half marathon runners made a turn while the rest of us kept going. My watch came in at 13.1 miles at the halfway point so it seemed like it was fairly accurate.
The course was basically flat other than some overpasses and few spots on a path that ran along the river. Any slight incline felt significant even when it really was pretty minor since the rest of the course was so flat.
By the time I had run 16 miles my legs started to feel tired but I didn’t slow down yet. I went from an 8:05 pace for mile 18 to 8:24 for mile 19. That’s when things started to fall apart. I slowed down even more to 8:41 for mile 20, then 9:14, 9:16, and 9:17 for the following miles. The out and back stretches felt like they went on forever and I kept wondering when I’d be able to turn around and head back.
I tried to appreciate the scenery to distract myself from the fatigue. I didn’t expect to see a bunch of film studios and thought it was interesting to run by that studio district. It was nice to run past a beach area and there was also a cute downtown area with lots of spectators. A bunch of people yelled my name since it was on my bib and told me I looked strong. That helped keep my spirits up a little bit. I didn’t feel strong but appreciated the encouragement.
I was cringing and swearing to myself by the time I had 10K left. While I had worried most about hamstring issues in my right leg, the outside of my left leg became a problem. I had a spot up by my glute and hip that hurt. I wondered how I could continue to drag along for nearly an hour. I kept counting down the K’s and calculated whether I could still pull off a Boston-qualifying time. I knew that even if I ran a 10-minute pace I should be able to pull it off and I hadn’t slowed down that much yet! It was motivation to keep moving. I told myself that if I could still manage to get a BQ time even while suffering that much it would be a big accomplishment. I also told myself I was lucky that I was even able to run the race since I had been on the verge of pulling the plug just a few days earlier. I was dragging but my legs still cooperated enough so I was thankful for that.
When I reached the turnaround at the far east end of the course I had less than 10K to go. As I continued to count down the remaining distance I put it in terms of my regular training runs. Five miles to go? That’s just like running up to the cider mill and back. Three miles? That’s like running down to the park and back. I played these mental games with myself to try to get through it somehow.
It seemed to take forever to get back to the heart of the city. The CN Tower was visible for a while so that was a landmark to run toward. Any time I thought I’d try to pick up the pace it didn’t last very long because my hip/glute area made me swear and I’d back off again. I did manage to pick up the pace a little bit for the last full mile when I ran an 8:41.
The spectators were great during the last mile. When I rounded a slight curve before heading to the final stretch, I got a little emotional from all of the cheering and was on the verge of tears. That messed with my breathing so I tried to settle myself down. I’m 10 marathons in at this point but the emotions can still hit me.
My Garmin made it look like I ran a 7:10 pace at the end but it sure doesn’t feel like I picked it up that much! When I looked at my map after the race it was clear that the GPS jumped around in spots that should have been a straight line. That may have resulted in some inaccurate data.
Somehow I forced myself to smile for the camera as I crossed the finish line!
Once I crossed the line I swore, which caused a guy next to me to say, “Oh no!” in shock. I felt totally miserable and could barely shuffle along. I walked past the medical area and kind of wondered if I’d need their help. Then my stomach started to feel upset and I figured I better move faster to get to a porta potty. I questioned if I would make it that long and went back to medical. I probably looked miserable enough when I asked if I could use one of their porta potties because they let me in. I was lucky my stomach was fine during the race because it sure wasn’t once I stopped.
I went back to the finishing chute and found a place to stop and stretch my legs a little bit. A tear or two rolled down my cheek because I was in so much pain. It was tempting to have an all-out cry! Not due to the emotion of finishing so much as a release for all of the pain I felt. I may have felt worse than I did after finishing my first marathon. I didn’t feel this beat up after doing 33 miles at a 6-hour race. This one took a lot out of me and everything hurt from my hips to my calves.
After that I got a cup of water and a cup of Nuun but I don’t think they had any water bottles or chocolate milk for us to take. Just those cups at the finish. I got a heat sheet and wrapped it tight because I was getting cold and my fingers were a little tingly. I found a bench and settled for a bit to try to compose myself. I could barely stretch because everything hurt so much. I knew I better get moving at some point though and thought I ought to at least go to one of the picture spots where a very nice runner offered to take photos for me.
The next stop was to get my warm clothes from the bag check. I put those on at a bench and felt a little better.
With a little more recovery time I finally checked out my race stats. My official time was 3:38:25. That means I got a BQ by a minute and a half! That cut it a bit close but I’m glad I used that as motivation to keep going.
Eventually I worked my way over to the food where they had apples, bananas, Larabars, and a bag of chips. When I got through the line I looked over at the next booth and realized it was the same stuff. That was it?! After a marathon?? I’m always let down when there isn’t a variety of good stuff after a big race. I’ve been spoiled at several races this year hosted by Epic Races who offer pancakes, egg and cheese wraps, cookies, etc. THAT’S what I hope for after a race!
I had scoped out a Tim Horton’s across the street and knew that could be a good place to go afterward. I decided to start with a couple muffins and a hot chocolate. I got through one muffin and my stomach started to go bad again.
I wanted to splurge and have something good to eat but was afraid my stomach was too iffy. I planned to drive home after the race and didn’t want to eat something too heavy that would set it off while I was on the road. I relaxed and ate my other muffin before I went to the hotel to collect my bags, then I headed to the car. While my right hamstring made the drive to Toronto very uncomfortable, I barely noticed that leg on the way home because my left leg made me squirm the whole time. It wasn’t fun driving the 4+ hours home but somehow I survived it with a couple of stops along the way.
I didn’t expect to sleep well that night and I was right. My legs were achy and painful and I had terrible, restless sleep. By the middle of the next day my stomach had finally settled enough to get treats like donuts and pizza. Aside from some soreness in my hamstrings and quads, I felt pretty normal by Wednesday or Thursday.
Now that the pain has faded I can look at the race more objectively. I’m really happy with my time of 3:38. Many of my races have been faster and ideally I want to strive to improve. I don’t want to question “where did it go wrong” because I know I ran a pretty great time. I guess the question is more about why I suffered so much at the end. For one, it IS a marathon. It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be all that surprising that running 26 miles might make me hurt! Proper training should help with that but the last few weeks of my training wasn’t ideal because of COVID and hamstring issues. Swimming had been a regular part of my routine until a month or two before this race. I got lazy about my strength training leading up to the race as well. Maybe weaknesses developed as a result that led to the issues. Maybe I spent too much time on my feet around town. Maybe I ran a little too fast early in the race and it messed me up later. There are a ton of factors to consider and it’s hard to know if any one thing made me struggle or if it’s a little bit of everything.
During the most difficult miles of the race I told myself that part of the “fun” of doing a marathon is knowing that I can get myself to do this even when it’s hard. Pushing myself through something extremely difficult says a lot about my dedication and perseverance and I should be proud of that. It’s not all about the time, although a good one is always a bonus. A little less suffering would have been nice, but I guess that extra pain makes it even more apparent what an accomplishment it was. I could start to get complacent now that I’ve done 10 of these things but I should recognize that it still isn’t an easy thing to do!
I’m usually anxious to return to running as soon as I think I feel normal again but I am going to be more cautious this time. If I start back too soon I might not get this hamstring issue under control. I might like to do some sort of turkey trot in November but I haven’t signed up for anything and shouldn’t rush back to racing. It’s a good time for a break and to return to cross-training that I’ve neglected lately. The next BIG goal will be my third trip to the Boston Marathon in April. I want to make sure I don’t have any issues when I start that training at the end of the year!
I didn’t consider myself a runner when I was a student at the University of Michigan over 20 years ago. Sometimes I ran a mile or two around the indoor track at the rec center to stay in shape but that was the extent of my running. I did my first half marathon in 2011 and at some point in the years that followed I became aware of the Ann Arbor Marathon. I LOVE the city of Ann Arbor and thought it would be a lot of fun to race there. Weather, the timing of other races, or other things always got in the way. I finally signed up for the half marathon in 2020. That race should have taken place on March 22, 2020, but it was the first of many of my races that were canceled thanks to the pandemic. My first experience with the Ann Arbor Marathon was a virtual race around Stony Creek Metropark. Not exactly what I’d hoped for.
The race shifted to the fall in 2021 because COVID was still too much of a concern that spring. The switch must have been a success because it remained in the fall this year. A March marathon means there’s a possibility of ice or snow and that’s not a problem in the fall! I didn’t make it in 2021 and didn’t think I would this year either since I was scheduled to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon two weeks later. When my friend Lisa told me that she was going to run the Ann Arbor half a week before doing the Chicago Marathon, I figured maybe two weeks would be fine for me after all. Thanks to Lisa’s influence I signed up to do the race on Sunday, October 2.
The race had an 8:00 am start and I parked in a lot by Michigan Stadium around 6:45. Seeing the big block “M” at the stadium elicited my Michigan pride and got me excited for the day. Lisa and I both happened to arrive in the same lot at the same time and got to chat for a few minutes before I went to pick up my packet.
It was around 50° so I left extra clothes at the bag drop to wear after the race. I had half an hour to spare and used half of that time to go for a warm up jog. I wanted to run to areas of the campus that wouldn’t be a part of the race course. My level of giddiness grew as I began to pass familiar spots. I went by Angell Hall and the art museum, cut through the Diag, and ran past the Law Quad.
Memories came back and I thought about how much I loved spending four years of my life there.
I warmed up for 1.25 miles then went to the starting corral where the half and full marathon runners would start together. Right after I started I noticed Greg Sadler taking photographs. I’ve come to know him and love that Epic Races uses his services at their races. When I spotted him it motivated me to mug for the camera.
We did a little bit of climbing during the first part of the race and saw Michigan Stadium ahead in the distance. Not a bad way to start! There were some quick downhill segments too which was great for momentum but I wondered how my legs might feel later. I loved running past some of the campus buildings and dorms for the first couple of miles. There were some new buildings that didn’t exist back when I went there, and other parts of campus that I had never made it to. One thing I love about running is how much ground I get to cover and how much I get to see. I wish I had been a runner as a student because I probably would have seen so much more of the campus.
We headed east of campus and out on the roads which were tree-lined and pretty. The sun came out and I enjoyed running past a golf course then by the Huron River. We ended up on the Border to Border (B2B) Trail which connects cities and parks throughout Washtenaw County. It was a nice paved path with beautiful scenery along the water. The leaves hadn’t changed much yet but every now and then I’d catch a random tree that was bright red. We ran 2-3 miles on that path which started to wear on me despite the nice scenery. I was more than halfway through the race and it was getting harder to maintain a fast pace. Running one long stretch got to me a bit mentally. I went back to Gallup Park and walked on the trail later to take some pictures because I really did love that area.
We ran past some soccer fields then I realized we were on the road I always used to take between central and north campus. Time for more reminiscing. I knew the climb by the medical center was coming and I wasn’t too excited about that. It definitely slowed me down for a bit but then it leveled off as we headed toward Nichols Arboretum. Normally it would be nice to run on the dirt path through that area. It was really pretty when I took some photos there toward the end of October in 2016.
I knew that the Arb hill was supposed to be one of the toughest parts of the course and I kept wondering when that would hit. When it did, it helped contribute to me running my slowest mile of the race – the only mile where I was over an 8:00 pace.
I survived the worst of the climb then appreciated a garden area that had a number of entertaining Ted Lasso quotes on signs. Then we climbed a little more as we headed back toward the main part of campus. By that point there was only about a mile to go and I knew it was time for me to push it. We ran just east of the Diag again along the same route we took at the beginning.
After the hills had slowed me down so much I was glad that I was able to drop my pace significantly for the last full mile. A downhill stretch or two helped. I finished with an official time of 1:40:46. After he took some nice finishing photos, I got a high five from Greg Sadler.
I was pretty happy with my time. I even ran that exact same time in 2014 at the Wildlife Half Marathon in Concord, MI! I’ve run several faster races but the 1:40 range is really solid for me. Although I probably should have been more disciplined and held back a bit more because the marathon is the real goal, I knew I wanted to push. Realizing how challenging this course was made me even happier that I ran as fast as I did.
Epic Races has the best food and I was happy to get pancakes, an egg and cheese wrap, and a chocolate chip cookie.
Soon I found Lisa and her husband Anthony and we hung out for a bit until I went to meet up with my friend Beth who only lives a few blocks from the finish. I knew the Washtenaw Dairy was close to her house so I suggested stopping there. We ate ice cream and I got some donuts for later, then we went to visit with her family for a few minutes. One of her sons wrote and illustrated a haiku while I was there and wanted to give it to me.
I wanted to make the most of a beautiful day in Ann Arbor and spent some time walking around campus.
Last weekend I was still concerned about lingering effects from COVID when I raced a 10K and did 20 miles for the day. Fortunately now that it’s been two and a half weeks since I first got sick, everything seemed fine for this race. What a huge relief. I think this race helped confirm that I should be in good shape for the marathon. It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away! No more racing until then. I’m sure time will fly by as I begin to taper. I will hope that all of these hills that I ran in my last couple of races has helped strengthen my legs and that the flat course in Toronto will feel like a breeze.
On Sunday, September 25 there was a bit of a void because my favorite local half marathon would have taken place. Unfortunately, last year’s 14th running of the Brooksie Way half marathon was the final one. Part of the course came within half a mile of where I live so it was truly my hometown race and I was really bummed to learn that it would exist no more.
When I heard that Oakland University’s cross country/track and field programs planned to host a 5K/10K event on the campus that same weekend I made sure to hold the date. I always did the half marathon but Brooksie also offered 5K and 10K races that took place around the campus. I was extremely thankful that OU planned to keep the tradition going in some form so I wanted to be there to support it, especially with proceeds going to benefit the cross country/track and field teams.
The tricky part was that a 5K or 10K would be too short for what I really needed to run the day of the race. I was supposed to do my final 20-mile training run for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon that day. At some point it hit me that maybe I could actually run the Brooksie half marathon course on my own then run the 10K race afterward. I’ve added extra mileage before races in the past, like in 2019 when I ran seven miles prior to Brooksie to get a total of 20 miles. This would just be a *bit* more extreme! Luckily the 9:30 am start time would give me time to work with prior to the race.
I went to the school the day before the race to pick up my packet and was thankful for the option. That would be one less thing for me to squeeze into race morning. Then I just had to hope I could actually follow through with this crazy plan. One major wrench that had been thrown into the mix was coming down with COVID just 11 days before this race. I took five days off of running while I was sick and missed a half marathon I had signed up for in Detroit. I was convinced that I had gotten through the worst of it when I just had some lingering congestion and my resting heart rate had returned to normal. The day after my first run I had some tightness in my chest and my resting heart rate jumped. I took a day off of running then successfully ran a hard workout the next day. Chest tightness and a higher resting heart rate returned. I felt fine while I ran but I started to worry that running might affect my recovery. I was supposed to be at my final peak for marathon training and I really didn’t want to miss that important 20-miler. I hoped I wasn’t pressing my luck.
I decided to go for it and started my adventure from OU’s campus around 6:45 on Sunday morning. The race would start near the outdoor track which was a little further into campus than the usual starting spot for the Brooksie half marathon. That meant I would get somewhere around 14 miles which should take a couple hours. It was still dark and there was some light rain as I set out with my headlamp. I needed the headlamp for a few miles before it got light enough to stash it away.
By no means was I attempting to “race” the Brooksie course. I knew I might be pressing my luck by aiming for 20 miles so soon after having COVID. I tried to take it easy and ended up doing my typical long run kind of pace. Despite the gray, rainy morning, I enjoyed the scenery.
As I covered the course I thought about certain landmarks such as where bands would have been playing, where an unofficial beer table would have been set up, and where the high school kids cheered extra loud with just over a mile to go. I have many fond memories from the multiple years I ran the race and I’m going to miss it!
The rain let up, returned for a bit, then stopped again before I finished my pre-race run. I just hoped I wouldn’t freeze once I stopped since it was in the 50s and I was wet. Once I got back to the campus I saw a few scattered people doing warm up runs. I kept going until I reached the track area with 14.3 miles. When I added the 10K I’d end up with 20.5 miles for the day.
After a bathroom stop I went to the car to crank the heat. I ate a Picky Bar and changed to a dry shirt while I stayed warm. I decided to head out 15 minutes before the race would start. I felt awkward trying to walk so I wondered if I’d even be able to run! I definitely stiffened up while I sat in the car. The race would start on the road by the upper fields so I did a couple laps on the turf to get my legs moving again and to try to stay warm. The rain had cleared out and it would be perfect for racing.
The 5K and 10K runners ran together for the first loop so there was a good crowd to start – over 400 people. When I hit the first mile with a pace of 7:21, I thought maybe my legs had more in them than I expected. I should have known better. I’ve run around Oakland’s campus a lot and I know how challenging it is. We had a downhill stretch for that first mile which gave me good momentum, but once we started to climb I definitely couldn’t maintain that momentum. There was no way I’d pull off my typical 10K race pace. I told myself that I could consider this a “fast finish” long run in hopes that I would at least end up faster than I went during the earlier 14 miles.
Even though I was not fond of the hills I recognized what a great course it was. Oakland has a really nice campus and we got to see many of the scenic highlights. During the first loop we went past the rec center, down a hill by the lower fields where they play soccer, baseball, and softball, past the athletic dome, on a dirt path that took us over to the historic Meadow Brook Hall, past the golf course, by the main entrance to the amphitheater, then back to the track. I have run around the campus many times over the years and have taken a bunch of photos. The photos that follow are from those runs rather than from race day.
The 5K runners turned off to finish on the track while the 10K runners continued for a second loop. The route changed a little bit for the second loop and we went around Bear Lake and by the clock tower before going back toward the rec center and down by the dome.
Instead of running around the mansion we stayed on the road that surrounds the president’s house, then followed the main drive toward the track for the finish.
I was very impressed by the number of student volunteers who kept us on the correct path at every possible intersection while also cheering for the runners. Sometimes first-year races can be a little iffy and have issues that need to be worked out. Heck, I did a race earlier this summer that has existed for years and still ended up making a wrong turn where they didn’t mark the course! I knew I could count on Oakland’s running program to do a great job and they really did. It was a nice surprise to be greeted with a fist bump from head coach Paul Rice after crossing the finish line. It made me think of the Grand Rapids Marathon where race director Don Kern greets each finisher. It was a nice touch.
Although I would normally give everything I had left for a fast finish on the track, after 20.5 miles and all of those hills I didn’t have any extra effort left to give! My official time was 49:13. That’s on the slow side for me but I still averaged 7:55 per mile which is around my marathon pace. I considered that a solid finish for a day with 20+ miles.
After chatting with someone I knew I wandered past the various tents and stopped for a photo with Grizz.
I got a granola bar and some fruit chews at the finish line, but I knew the Little Donut Factory food truck was there and that’s what I REALLY wanted.
This was a tough race and I know it would not be a PR course for me even if I came in with fresh legs. I still enjoyed it and it was nice to break up my long run by using the race for a portion of the miles. I will miss the Brooksie Way but it will be great if Oakland establishes a new tradition. Here’s how my day looked at the end:
I was glad my body held up for 20 miles to give me that boost of confidence as I get closer to marathon day. I knew I was pressing my luck and it did catch up with me later. My sleep that night was awful and the next day I was pretty sore from all of the hills. I think I have mostly recovered from COVID at this point, but a few little things have lingered enough for me to be cautious about doing hard workouts. I’m glad I still have a couple weeks to go and I think I should still be in good shape for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. In the meantime, I have one more race to squeeze in with the Ann Arbor half marathon this coming weekend!
Ever since I ran my first Crim 10-mile race in 2015, I’ve tried to make a point of reserving a spot for it on my schedule each year. The race is a big one around this area and it’s always guaranteed that I will see people I know. This year was the 45th year for the Crim Festival of Races and on Saturday, August 27th I returned to Flint to run the race for my fourth time. It feels like that number should be higher because it’s become such a routine race for me to do around the end of August. Somewhere around 6,000 people participated across all of the events this year, with the 10-mile race drawing almost 4,000 people between the run and walk.
Since Flint is a 45-minute drive for me I’ve always waited until the morning of the race to get my packet. I usually park in a lot that is half a mile from the expo area. By the time I walk down there, back to the car, then back to the start, I’ve already done a mile and a half prior to the race. No big deal since I like to warm up anyway but this time I opted to go on Friday afternoon just to save myself some time in the morning.
I ended up kind of pushing my luck on race day by arriving only half an hour before the start. I usually like to give myself more of a buffer because some of the roads close by 6:30, but luckily it all worked out. I jogged from the parking lot to the race area for a bathroom stop and still had about 10 minutes to spare. People who have done the 10-mile race 30+ times started first. They get extra recognition and a group photo, and it’s always inspiring to see them on the course.
While I waited for the start I looked at my Garmin splits from the 2019 race which was my PR for Crim. My average pace was 7:32 that year and the first mile was 7:55. I saw that I slowed down to 7:47 for the mile with the Bradley hills but still made up for it throughout the rest of the race. It was good to refresh my memory and remind myself that things balance out during the race. I didn’t need to worry about the hills or a slow start.
Last year the race implemented a rolling start to help alleviate concerns tied to the pandemic. They maintained some form of that this year by assigning starting times in 15-minute blocks based on estimated pace. I was able to start in the first wave of runners at 7:00 and it felt kind of weird that the crowd wasn’t bigger. The start of the race usually feels so massive! Of course less congestion and fewer people to weave through is a good thing though.
I glanced at my watch when I hit the first mile – 7:42. When I looked at the elevation later I realized that we climbed the whole first mile. 7:42 was pretty good for an uphill warm up mile. As I ran next to a guy he commented on what great weather we had. I said that if my hands were cold a couple miles into the race that was probably a good sign! It was clear, in the 50s, and I didn’t really notice any humidity. The guy said he was already starting a bit fast and I said maybe that just meant it would be a PR kind of day! I wondered if I was starting too fast myself after hitting a pace of 7:26 for the second and third miles. We had the benefit of some downhill stretches though. It was only the second race in my Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 shoes and I was curious to see if the “super shoes” with a carbon plate really might help me go faster. I always like to milk the momentum when I run downhill but have noticed that I feel especially fast flying down hills in these shoes. I also noticed the pounding sound of the shoes from some of the runners around me and realized I seemed to be running lightly and quietly. I hoped my shoes might work a little extra magic for me!
We ran past some frat houses around the campus of Kettering University and I was kind of surprised that people weren’t partying out front like they have often done in the past. The crowd support along the course has been pretty amazing some years and I’m not sure if we’re still in a slump as we work our way out of the pandemic. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a ton of support from spectators. It was nice to at least see the old standards I’ve come to expect like Champagne Corner, a woman bouncing on her mini trampoline, a beer stop, and a guy who sings karaoke from his driveway. I think they’ve all been there every year I’ve done the race.
I managed to run the fourth mile in 7:22 and the fifth in 7:20. That was pretty fast for me and I hoped I’d be able to maintain it. The real shocker is that after climbing the Bradley hills, one of the toughest parts of the course, I only slowed down to a 7:29! I must have really gained some momentum going downhill afterward because I definitely had to work on those hills and was over an 8:00 pace while climbing.
When I hit the halfway point of the race I knew I could be on track for a really good time if I could keep it up. I worried a little bit when I felt my problematic left hamstring during the eighth mile. Fortunately it was a momentary thing that didn’t linger. I didn’t do a good job of aiming to run the tangents during the early miles but it was on my mind the rest of the race. There was a 13-year-old kid near me at times during the second half of the race and I noticed that unlike many people around us, he ran the tangents as well. I always think about how I didn’t start running races like this until my 30s and I’m so impressed when I see kids who are so disciplined and accomplishing so much.
As I hit the 9-mile mark I caught up to the 7:30 pacers. I’m not sure how that worked since I was averaging 7:20s! That last mile was GO time and I picked up the pace even more. Music blared and crowds cheered in a couple spots. It gave me such a boost that it made me especially aware of how much I had missed that throughout the rest of the race. I could see the final turn up ahead and knew I’d have about a quarter mile left to give it my all. The last stretch of the race is always a little dicey on the uneven brick road. I was flying fast enough that it didn’t seem to bother me. My main thought was that I wanted to push as hard as I could and I hoped it wouldn’t give me a heart attack!
I saw the clock as I approached the finish line and couldn’t believe it was still under 1:14:00! My prior best had been just under 1:16:00. I crossed the line with an official time of 1:13:54 which was close to a 2-minute PR.
My official stats had my average pace a little slower because I didn’t run the tangents perfectly and added some extra distance. Anything in the 7:20s sounds good to me!
I grabbed water, chocolate milk, and a granola bar then ran into a friend who also got a big PR. I wandered into the post-race celebration area and found a place with a bell to ring to celebrate PRs and had to get a picture there.
When I saw a massage area I thought it might be a good idea to check that out. Although I felt fine at the moment, I was wary about my hamstring, plus the whole left side of my leg from my hip down to my knee always has issues. A student from UofM Flint worked on me and I had to let her know that she could use more pressure. I’m used to cringing my way through massages to feel like issues have actually been worked out. Sure enough, I really felt it in my IT band. I hoped the brief massage might help me from getting too sore later in the day.
I got my free slice of pizza and ran into another friend as I lingered around the team tents area. I’ve participated in Crim’s corporate challenge in the past, where Detroit’s Big 3 automakers race against each other. That’s another thing the pandemic has taken away the last couple years. The team leader from my work told people that we could meet by the tents to chat about our races even though we didn’t have our own specific tent. I met up with him and a couple of other guys and talked for a while before heading home.
Of course I’m totally thrilled with my results. A day or two before the race I had started to worry that I may have sabotaged it thanks to juggling too many things and getting too little sleep throughout the week leading up to it. I got less than three hours of sleep at the beginning of the week when I worked third shift followed by first shift, and three hours a few nights later after going to a concert. I knew that was not ideal so I’m really lucky that it all worked out. I suspect my fancy shoes helped, but my fitness and the good weather were probably factors as well. This race has been warm and humid in the past so it made a big difference to have such ideal conditions this year.
I’ve also found myself racing a little differently in recent years. Instead of starting slower and gradually speeding up throughout a race, lately I’ve locked into a faster pace early on and have realized I’ve been able to hang on. That approach has been a little scary at times as I’ve worried that I could crash and burn. I haven’t yet though and it’s resulted in some pretty solid races! This nearly 2-minute PR will help fuel my motivation as I approach my next marathon in mid-October.
Always looking to test myself with endurance events, my latest adventure was the Swim to the Moon 5K on Sunday, August 21. I first participated in the race in 2019 and it was my first 5K swim. After COVID forced a break in 2020, I returned for my second time in 2021. Since this was my third time I figured I should know what to expect and how to prepare, yet somehow it ended up being my slowest race of the three.
The first time I did the race I typically swam up to 2,000 meters a few times a week and peaked with a couple of 3,200 m swims. I learned a couple of valuable lessons that first time. I needed to eat more beforehand to fend off hunger late in the race. A painful calf cramp in the final stretch taught me that I should stop at the aid stations along the course to avoid dehydration. I finished the swim in 1:50:00 and knew I wanted to train harder and come back to see if I could do better. The pandemic dramatically reduced my time in the pool so I lowered my expectations for the 2021 race. I finished almost eight minutes slower than my first time but at least I felt good the whole time. I told myself once again that I would train harder and work toward a better race in 2022.
Although I wasn’t always as consistent as I wanted to be, I swam 1-3 times each week and bumped my routine swim up to 3,000 m within a couple months of the race. I also did four longer swims in a lake this summer, ranging from 1:10:00 up to a peak of 1:43:00. I really thought I’d worked hard to prepare for the race.
As the weekend approached, the weather forecast was a cause for concern. We had a 50/50 chance of thunderstorms. A couple weeks earlier I went to a race that was canceled due to bad weather so I was worried it could happen again. I would be much more disappointed this time because I’ve really been working toward this specific goal. I feel for the race director who not only had to plan for every situation, but also had to try to reassure a number of concerned athletes. I received an email the day before the race telling us that multiple plans were in place. We may have to start early or late, the course may be altered, the distances may be shortened, and in the worst case scenario the race could be canceled. It gave me some reassurance that hopefully we would be able to do SOMETHING. I would head out there and see what happened.
The race was based at Halfmoon Lake at the Pinckney Recreation Area in Gregory, MI which is about half an hour northwest of Ann Arbor. It was storming when I woke up but an early email from Epic Races said that the radar looked good from 6:40 through noon so it was a go! I drove an hour and a half through the rain and arrived just after 6:00 when the rain basically stopped. We really lucked out. The 10K swimmers began their race around 6:40. In the past there has been fog over the lake at the beginning but the visibility seemed much better this time.
The race raises money to support North Star Reach, a camp for kids with life threatening, serious, and chronic medical conditions. 5K swimmers take a bus out to the camp and swim through a chain of lakes to get back to Halfmoon Lake. I lined up by 6:45 knowing that the last buses were supposed to leave by 7:00. We probably waited until 7:00 before a bus arrived and the line of people behind me was pretty massive. Really, there wasn’t a big rush because we would have to wait until the fastest 10K swimmers reached the turnaround point by us before the 5K would start, and that usually doesn’t happen until 7:45 or later. Once the bus drops us off all we can do is use the porta potties, pack our extra clothes and items in our gear check bags, and wait.
I used the bus ride to eat my third Picky Bar of the morning and drank an electrolyte drink as well. After a last-minute bathroom stop I went into the water briefly to get the shock out of the way and to get my goggles situated. The water felt just right and was probably around 75-78 degrees.
Although wetsuits are common in triathlons they are not used very much in open water distance swim races. The wetsuit provides a clear advantage in performance and the idea is to compete without that advantage. There are actually very specific rules about what kind of swimsuits are allowed for this kind of race. There was a separate wetsuit division for each distance (which also includes 1.2-mile and half-mile options) and 49 people finished in those divisions, versus 493 finishers without wetsuits. It looks like a total of 274 people completed the 5K swim.
People seed themselves based on how fast they plan to swim and different colored swim caps indicate certain time ranges. I hung back with the people who aimed to finish just under two hours. With people entering the water one at a time every few seconds, I started about seven minutes after the first swimmers. Things worked well because I didn’t have any slower swimmers to go around and also didn’t have any faster people swatting at my feet. I made a point of trying to find some space so I wouldn’t be too close to others. I had a smooth start as I followed the crowd toward the first couple of buoys that marked the course. One strange thing that happened was that the tip of my left middle finger went numb. I have no idea why because the water felt warm enough and the rest of me was fine. It was something that annoyed me for at least 15-20 minutes before it finally faded.
For some reason I’ve always been thrown off by which buoys to follow once I get past the first couple at this race. I may have added a little extra distance to my swim until a guy heading the same way as me told me we should actually swim toward an orange buoy instead of the green one. When he kindly said, “You’re doing great!” it helped me feel a little less annoyed that I keep doing that. I stayed on track the rest of the race although I had my moments of trying to spot the next buoy off in the distance.
It’s always fun to swim through a short tunnel during this race. There is a bit of a current that typically seems to be in favor of the 5K swimmers heading that direction. It may not be as nice for the 10K swimmers on their way out though! At some point I spotted Greg Sadler, one of the race photographers. I know him and love that he gets a ton of great shots at so many Epic Races that I have done. I did breaststroke for a minute so I could say hi to him and let him know it was me. I was happy to see him and he captured that perfectly, as he always does!
My first 5K swim experience taught me to stop for drinks at the aid stations so I don’t get dehydrated, so I made sure to swim over to the first one that was a mile into the race. The next aid station was a mile away and it turned into a grind for a while as I swam along, wondering how long it would take for the next stop to pop up. It was really overcast which was good because I didn’t have to worry about getting too much sun, but sunnier days in the past have made the waterfront homes and other scenery stand out more to me.
When I finally got to the next aid station it was hard to switch from being horizontal to a standing position! I stumbled a little on my way over to get a couple cups of Gatorade. I figured I should get some electrolytes and it had worked for me the prior year. I usually have drinks that are a little more watered down and the sweetness of the Gatorade seemed to be a bit much. During the last mile of the race I began to feel like I could get sick and I suspect the drink was the cause.
The last mile was rough in general. When I did longer training swims in a lake this summer I learned that as I grow tired I also tend to get cold. I reached a point when I was not only cold, but my arms were tired, my goggles were killing my face, and I felt like I could possibly get sick. That’s when I started to think that doing this kind of thing was awfully stupid! When I run I can usually keep a positive mindset but I was so over this swim and ready to be done. I tried to reassure myself knowing at the very least I’d finish and that would be an accomplishment. I wasn’t very confident that I’d improve upon my last two races and the finish line couldn’t come soon enough. Then I encountered a bunch of people with pink swim caps and realized they must be 1.2-mile swimmers who started an hour and a half after I did. They had reached their turnaround point and suddenly I was in the mix with a bunch of people who still had plenty of energy while I did not. I was already grumpy and didn’t want to worry about people getting too close to me. It also meant that I probably still had at least half a mile to go which would be at least 20 minutes at the pace I was going. I switched to breaststroke for brief moments when I didn’t want to do freestyle anymore and needed to give my arms a break. It was a struggle but I knew I had to keep going in order to end it!
When the water got shallow enough for me to walk into the finish line, Greg and his partner spotted me. I felt like hell so I give them credit for actually getting me to smile.
My official time was 2:04:19. Last year I swam 1:57:43 so it was a little disappointing that I was slower even though I thought I had trained harder. Doing a 5K swim is pretty ambitious for me no matter what so getting through it without having a kayak pull me in is a good thing.
I have learned that running is definitely my strength. Depending on who shows up, sometimes my times are competitive – at least in my age group. That is not the case with swimming. I do okay during the swim segments of triathlons but cannot compete when it comes to swim-only events. There’s a reason I quit the swim team after middle school! Still, I enjoy swimming and how it makes me feel strong even if I’m fairly slow compared to the stronger swimmers.
I was cold enough that I bypassed the food and went straight to the gear check to get some clothes. Epic Races always comes through when it comes to the post-race treats. I got pancakes, an egg and cheese wrap, some cookies, and an ice cream sandwich. I stuck around for a bit to take in the atmosphere and to take some pictures before heading home.
I can look at the race from a couple perspectives – it was hard and I hated it at times, yet I also felt proud and accomplished. During the difficult moments I kept asking myself why I do stupid stuff like this. I’m sure I’ll return though. I know I can do better and now I want to redeem myself with a stronger race. I still don’t know why I struggled this time despite doing more long swims during training than I had in the past. As I trained in the lake this summer I came to the realization that my pool times do not translate in the lake. It makes a BIG difference being able to push off the wall every 25 meters. There’s no additional momentum like that in the lake. While a mile typically takes me 31-32 minutes in the pool, I might be closer to 40 minutes in the lake! That’s frustrating but I guess I just have to keep working on it.
I will continue to swim year-round but I’m kind of relieved that the pressure is off for now. I am likely done with multi-sport events for the summer and can focus exclusively on running for the rest of the year. The Toronto Waterfront Marathon is my big goal in mid-October but I have a number of races prior to that. Up next – the Crim 10-mile race this coming Saturday!
It’s that point in the summer when I have a bunch of races lined up – four within five weeks. Despite knowing that I tend to prefer slower, long distance endurance events, for some reason I chose to torture myself by signing up for a 5K/10K double. A $5 discount and the promise of donut holes is really all it took. Those perks convinced me to go to Flint on Saturday, July 30 for the Atwood Races.
This is an event I’ve considered in the past because it is presented by the Crim Fitness Foundation. I have run the legendary Crim 10-miler numerous times and plan to return for this year’s race in a few weeks. I thought it would be nice to run part of the Crim course for a little practice.
Most of the time I’m in marathon training mode and I don’t concentrate on speed very often. Although the 5K and 10K distances should seem like a breeze based on all of the mileage I run, it’s the speed factor that intimidates me. As long as I’m challenging myself, the shorter the race, the faster the pace. I told myself that sometimes it’s good to get outside of my comfort zone to see what I’ve got. I had my first speed workout in quite a while scheduled for the Tuesday before the race so at least I got my legs moving extra fast one time leading up to this event.
The 10K started at 7:30 so I arrived at Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium about an hour before that. It was kind of refreshing that it was in the 50s first thing in the morning. I was actually shivering! I’ve gotten used to running in the afternoon when it’s been in the 80s and 90s so it seemed like it was going to be a great day for racing.
After waiting in a line for the packet pickup, I got to the front and was told that people running the duo race should go to another table. One with no wait. It would have helped if they had a sign or something, but oh well.
As race time got closer I ran from the parking lot to the roads around the stadium for half a mile to get my legs moving. As I waited for the start, I lingered close to the starting line but left plenty of room in front of me, assuming faster people should come fill that gap. There weren’t many people who were anxious to start at the front and I figured they’d just have to pass me!
We started up a slight hill then had a few rolling hills. As I flew downhill I reminded myself that the downhill segments help me more than the uphill segments hurt me. This was the first time I used the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 shoes for racing and I felt like I flew down the hills. My friend Lisa has a pair and told me that she keeps getting PRs while using the shoes. I have a cheaper pair of Hyperion Tempo shoes that I really like for racing but I resisted spending the money for the fancy “super shoes” with the carbon fiber plate…until I saw them discounted by $50. I finally caved and was curious to see if they would actually help my times.
I noticed the blue line on the road that marks the Crim 10-mile course a few times throughout the race. A few parts of the course overlapped with Crim’s course, including a segment of the Bradley Hills. That’s the area with the steepest climb during Crim. Although the hills slowed me down, I was glad to get a little practice on them before running the big race later in August. Plus, there was a nice decline after that which helped make up for slowing down on the hills. Then we ran on the smooth, paved Genesee Valley Trail for a bit. At that point I kept swapping spots with a couple guys in front of me. I’d pass them, then they’d speed up and pass me. We did that for a bit until I gained a little more of a lead as the path continued through a park by the Flint River.
A guy ahead of me asked a volunteer where he should turn but the answer wasn’t very clear. He made a left while I got the impression that I was supposed to continue straight until I reached a cone that marked a turn. I yelled to the guy in front of me to come back. At that point, everyone else in the race was so far ahead that I didn’t have anyone to follow. I could see a guy way up in the distance crossing a bridge and figured I’d end up there eventually. Prior to the one volunteer who didn’t direct us very well, the turns were pretty clear. There were signs in some spots that marked the 10K course and cones in other spots.
I made it to the bridge and saw police blocking traffic up ahead and assumed they were there because the course headed that way. It was a bit of a climb uphill to reach them and I had to ask where to go because nothing was there to mark the course. They told me I was supposed to go back where I just came from and make a turn on Bluff Street. I was extremely frustrated because it added an extra quarter mile to my race. Several people had followed me up the hill so I had to tell them to turn around and go back to Bluff. All of us who had missed the turn were pretty mad and yelled amongst ourselves that there hadn’t been anything telling us to make that turn. No signs, no cones, no people. A map of the course had been posted and we’re always told to study it so we know where to go, but I’m not familiar with the area and the rest of the course had been marked so clearly I didn’t have to worry about it. I was pretty annoyed, especially when I looked at my watch at 6.2 miles and knew I would have had a new PR – just over 45 minutes. There was one more stretch of path along the river before we got to the stadium’s parking lot. I ran into the stadium and finished on the turf just after the 50-yard line with a time of 46:41.
I was greeted by a volunteer who asked how it went and I complained about the part of the course that hadn’t been marked. Someone else must have complained and she said she thought the race director had been made aware of it. I hoped so! This has happened to me in the past and is bound to happen again in the future. It’s frustrating but not terribly uncommon. People have been misdirected while running marathons as they to qualify for the Olympic trials, so obviously this was a minor inconvenience compared to that. I didn’t have anything riding on this race other than hoping to get a new PR.
The two guys I had traded spots with a few times during the race finished soon after me and we commiserated with each other. I found out they were both running the duo so I’d see them during the 5K as well. In the meantime, I got a cold, wet towel which was helpful. Even though it was cool compared to the heat I’ve been running in, I had worked hard and was still pretty hot.
Then it was time for my reward – donut holes from Blueline Donuts. I collected a few but chose to refrain from enjoying them until I was done racing. I ate a Clif Shot Blok or two because I know those sit well with my stomach while running and I wasn’t sure I could say the same for the donuts. So, I stashed them in my car.
I had close to 45 minutes to kill until the start of the 5K and that’s where things are tricky with these combo races. How to spend the downtime? I wanted to conserve energy but I also didn’t want to get too stiff. I spent a chunk of time on the field after the race chatting with people. I found my results and saw that I was the second woman in the 10K! The girl in front of me was super fast and once the race started I never saw her again. She beat me by eight minutes. I was relieved when I saw the results because obviously there was no way I would have caught her even if I had run the proper distance. The missed turn didn’t make me lose a spot to any of the women. I was still ahead of the next woman by a minute. Although I was annoyed that I didn’t get that PR I could have earned, it didn’t seem to mess with my placement in the race.
I killed a few more minutes at my car then decided it was time for another jog. I went through the same routine a second time – out of the parking lot and onto the roads around the stadium. While I had only run half a mile before the 10K, I did a mile before the 5K.
As I waited for the 9:00 start, I was surprised again by how far back most of the runners stood. No one wanted to be at the front! I figured I had done pretty well in the 10K so I may as well start toward the front for this race too. I chatted with my two new friends from the 10K. We had all finished within a minute of each other so I thought we could end up near each other for much of the 5K as well.
The guys took off in front of me as we started up the same slight incline we had run for the 10K. I caught them by the time we got a bit of a downhill. I decided I was happy with my fancy super shoes. I won’t say they made me dramatically faster but they may have helped some!
I had assumed since we wouldn’t climb the Bradley Hills for the 5K course that maybe it would be easier. Instead, we ran up a hill into a cemetery and it sure didn’t feel easier. There was quite a bit of winding with some ups and downs. As it was, I didn’t know how much speed I’d have left in my legs after pushing so hard for the 10K. After I got past the initial climb my pace was around 7:00 or faster so it seemed like I was on track for a good 5K. The cemetery slowed me down to a 9:00 pace for a minute, then it was still another minute or two before I got back to a faster pace. I still had it in me though! I may have cringed most of the way but I kept pushing.
This time we turned at the bridge rather than adding distance in the park like we had for the 10K. When we got to Bluff Street there was a van parked in the middle of the road and two volunteers there to tell us to turn. We definitely didn’t have that during the 10K! Maybe they heard enough complaints to make sure it was obvious for the second race. I was convinced that although maybe I should have known the course better for the 10K, it’s not like I had missed anything that signaled where I should have turned. I made a point of looking during the 5K, and minus the van and volunteers, there wasn’t anything marking that turn.
Back onto the turf for the finish once again, and my official time was 21:59. I JUST broke 22 minutes, which I don’t think I’ve done since 2015. It wasn’t an easy course either, so I was especially proud. On top of that, I was the first female finisher!
This time when I went to the donut area I was able to enjoy them right away. I am very motivated by good post-race treats and these were worthwhile.
I scanned my bib again and eventually I was able to see the results for the 5K but nothing came up for the duo race. The timing people said that awards would be sent by mail. That was pretty anti-climatic! I guess now I just wait and see if a surprise pops up in the mail one day. I really lucked out that the speedy woman from the 10K didn’t run the 5K because I wouldn’t have stood a chance. Placing second in the 10K and first in the 5K meant I had probably won the duo. Several days after the race those results were finally posted and confirmed that. My total time for the duo was 1:08:39 which good for first place by several minutes! 58 women and 59 men participated in the duo.
It’s pretty fun to actually win a race but I always have the disclaimer in the back of my mind that it all depends on who shows up that day. I was really happy with how I ran since I was pretty close to my fastest time for each distance if I ignore the bonus quarter mile that added over a minute to my 10K time. I think my recent training mileage plus running through the heat of the summer has made me strong. It’s always a dream to get acclimated to the heat then have it suddenly cool down for race day. This race also reminded me that even though running that fast can be painful enough that I usually avoid it, I have that potential in me. It encourages me and makes me realize that I might be capable of even more if I do more speed workouts. Although I’m usually pretty wary about running the shorter races, I usually come out of them wanting to see if I can do even better. Now I want to run another 10K to see how I’d do at the proper distance. I want to run another 5K that has a flatter course.
I have a swim/run race this coming weekend and a 5K swim a couple weeks after that. Then it’s back to Flint for the Crim 10-mile race. Getting a little taste of the course for the Atwood Races has me especially anxious to see what I can do this year.
On Sunday, July 10 I did my second triathlon of the season – the Toledo Triathlon at Maumee Bay State Park. The race was presented by Zoom Multisport Racing and it appealed to me because they offered the 1/3 Iron distance which is pretty unique. I covered that distance at one of their races last September and it was a great challenge that’s longer than an Olympic triathlon but not quite a half Ironman. I’m still convinced I’ll do a half Ironman at some point but it probably won’t happen this year. In the meantime, I’m always looking to push the limits of my endurance and this was a good test.
The 1/3 Iron race I did last year was held in southwestern Ohio and it was a tough course. There were several steep hills during the bike ride which involved looping the course three times. There were some tough hills on the run course as well and I was pretty beat up by the end. When I saw that the Toledo course was FLAT it sounded wonderful! I had to wake up super early with an hour and 45-minute drive but I could do it without a hotel which was a bonus for saving money.
We really lucked out with a beautiful day that ranged from the 60s up to around 80° throughout the race. The first thing I did when I got to the park was stop to admire the sunrise over Maumee Bay/Lake Erie. I had an hour to spare so I didn’t feel rushed and I always love to catch a beautiful sunrise.
The race had a beginner triathlon, plus sprint, Olympic, and 1/3 Iron distances. People could also opt to do a duathlon for any of those distances, a swim/bike, swim/run, or even a couple of longer distance swims. There was an option for pretty much everything and plenty of participants across all of the events. Aside from the few who chose to swim 3,000 or 5,000 meters, my group of 1/3 Iron athletes was the smallest. Only 13 of us signed up to cover that distance – and there was only one other woman! We had a couple of bike racks which meant we each had plenty of space for our stuff.
The duathlon started first and I went down to the water for a couple of minutes before our 7am race meeting. We used a small inland lake for our swim segment and the water was 75° – wetsuit legal. I’ll take any extra buoyancy I can get. I saw a sign at packet pickup that said the course was changed and we’d cover four loops instead of three. I learned why once our meeting began.
The lake had so much seaweed they couldn’t send us on the course they had planned. The best bet was to keep us close to shore. We’d swim 250 meters out on the deeper side of the shoreline, round a buoy, then come back on the side closer to the beach. In order to cover 2,000 meters we’d go out and back four times.
There were some concerns with this approach. There was plenty of seaweed on the deeper side of the course marked by the orange buoys on our left so it was best to stay as close as possible to the yellow buoys on our right. However, after the first people rounded the far buoy and headed back we had to be on the lookout to avoid head-on collisions. Rather than the usual rectangular or triangular course that keeps people spaced out, we swam an out and back route. If everyone kept the yellow buoys on their right it shouldn’t be an issue but sometimes people cut as close as they can or veer off-path. We were told to sight often. I often lift my head every other breath to watch for people anyway and there was no way I’d skimp on that this time. Our group was small to start but eventually sprint and Olympic athletes would join us in the water and it would get a lot more crowded.
I’m pretty sure most of us who participate in these crazy things are used to being adaptable anyway. Seaweed, waves, wind, rain, dehydration…we often battle some kind of adversity during training or racing and just have to find a way to cope. It’s all a part of it!
I hung toward the back of the group as we started the swim. That was a smart move because it felt like everyone took off and left me behind! I reminded myself that I was there to do my own race, whatever pace it may be. The water was calm and felt great so that was one thing working in our favor. The first loop went pretty well with so few of us in the water. Once I had to worry about collisions it got a little more tricky. On the way back I wanted to stay as close to the buoys as I could because we were in pretty shallow territory. At the same time, I worried about people heading toward me. When I was extra cautious I swiped the sand at the bottom with each stroke as I swam closer to the beach. On the way out, I snagged my share of seaweed during some of the loops. At one point I needed to go around someone and didn’t want to get too close to oncoming swimmers so I went toward the deeper side. The seaweed was intense! It was practically up to the surface of the water and so thick I could hardly do a freestyle stroke through it. Watching out for people coming at me might be a better option than going through that seaweed.
At some point I lucked out and realized there was a guy just ahead of me who seemed to be swimming the same pace. I wasn’t quite close enough to draft off of him but if I stayed in the same path I didn’t have to worry as much about crashing into someone. He would be the buffer ahead of me which eased my worries a bit. Really, it all worked out just fine. Keeping my mind so active probably made the swim go by quickly because the 43+ minutes didn’t seem that long.
I headed into transition with an official swim time of 43:12.
I racked up a transition time of 3:04 as I went through my usual battle of trying to get the wetsuit off over my feet before getting the rest of my stuff together. I was kind of surprised to see a bunch of bikes still on the racks because I had been convinced I was one of the slowest in our group. I was actually seventh out of thirteen in the swim.
I took off on my bike for three loops of the rectangular course. At the beginning I worried that I’d make a wrong turn somewhere because I didn’t see any other cyclists out there to follow. We had been warned that the beginner race would make a left turn for a shorter course and we should NOT turn there. When I came to the first left turn I questioned the cop if everyone should turn there and he said yes. I hoped he was right! Later I saw the section where the beginners would turn and the signs made it clear that it was just for them. Phew, no more worrying about that.
When I made it to the southern stretch of the rectangular course I realized there was just enough wind to make it more difficult. I wasn’t looking forward to doing that several times. It wasn’t anything major but the stretch was somewhere around four miles long and I found that my speed dropped to 14-15 mph for a few of those miles while I’d been around 16-17 mph otherwise. I just told myself the wind would be at my back for the northern stretch. That was a good thing because when I turned onto that segment of the road the surface wasn’t quite as smooth. The pavement had a little more texture to it but it didn’t impact my speed. The first loop was just over 11 miles and then I knew what was ahead for the next two rounds.
I ate a Picky Bar soon after completing the first loop and did the same after the second loop. I seemed to hydrate well enough between a bottle of water and one with a Nuun electrolyte mix.
Eventually I saw a few more people scattered throughout the course. One of my biggest pet peeves is when cyclists don’t warn as they pass and most people did not. It happens all the time during training and racing to the point that I half-jokingly tell myself it’s a sign that I’m not a “real” cyclist because I seem to be too courteous compared to the speedy people! At least no one snuck up behind me at times when I’d swerve around loose stones in the road or some other hazard. I like to give people a heads-up and always thought that was kind of a rule of the road. I saw people out there as young as 11 and as old as 81 and I usually like to add a “good job!” when I let them know I’m passing. It’s always so inspiring to see the range of people out there.
I was thankful that the course was so flat and smooth. Aside from the area where the headwind slowed me down, the ride was pretty nice. Most of the area had farmland and the traffic was minimal. Police were stationed at intersections and did a great job of keeping us safe. After three loops I rode back through the park, finishing with a little over 32 miles and a time of 1:58:24. Tenth out of thirteen for the bike – no surprise to me since it’s always my weakest part of the race in comparison to others. I averaged 16.4 mph which is pretty solid for me though.
The second transition took 52 seconds then I went out for three loops of the run course. Again, I was pretty excited that it was FLAT! First we ran on a paved path around the inland lake where we swam.
Each time I had to get a little gruff with the geese who hung out on the path as they hissed at me.
At least they didn’t get aggressive. We passed a small marina then ran past the beach along Lake Erie.
We continued on a path that took us back to a rock-lined breakwall with a small lighthouse out in the distance.
I loved the scenery and thought about how beautiful the run course was. There was a turnaround point and we headed back toward the small lake to complete the 3-mile course.
I averaged just under an 8:00 pace and wondered if I would be able to keep that up for nine miles. While I wasn’t a fan of any wind on the bike, I was thankful for it during the run. The sky was clear and I’m sure I would have gotten pretty warm without the breeze. I felt like I found a good groove as I ran. While some people were visibly struggling, I felt strong. I kept drinking my bottle of Nuun in hopes of staying hydrated enough and ate a few Clif Bloks as well. My pace went just over 8:00 for a couple miles but I kept it just under otherwise. After 2,000 meters of swimming and 32 miles on the bike I was pretty happy to maintain my typical marathon pace. The looped course worked well for me because I knew what to expect and I knew how much I’d enjoy the scenery each time. Although it took some effort to maintain the pace by the end, I still felt pretty strong.
I finished the run in 1:11:55 which was good for the third best run time out of my fellow 1/3 Iron athletes.
As always, the run segment helped me compensate for my slower bike time! My final time was 3:57:27 – seventh overall.
This race was a few miles shorter than the other 1/3 Iron race I did so I can’t really compare my times. The flatness of this course versus the hills on the other course made a huge difference. I still felt pretty good when I was done and was happy with how it went.
I grabbed some Fritos, trail mix, and granola bars as I quickly downed a bottle of water. I had some additional snacks in my car as well. After I took all of my gear back to the car I wanted to enjoy the park a little longer. It was such a beautiful day and I loved the run course so much that I wanted to take pictures.
By the time I got home some of the fatigue, dehydration, and stiffness hit. It’s always deceiving when I feel fine after the race because it’s bound to catch up with me at some point. Even though this race took longer than my typical marathon, the variety of swimming, biking, and running kept me from feeling too beat up. I was back out there for a 10-mile run a couple days later!
I love doing this kind of stuff and I’m glad I had such a great experience with this race. I believe it’s the first time Zoom has held a race at that park and I would certainly do it again if they return. I don’t know yet if I’ll fit another triathlon into my schedule this summer but I enjoyed this one so much I’m anxious to do more. I have a swim/run race and a 5K swim coming up in August so at least I have a little variety left while the weather allows.
The Island Lake Triathlon has become a favorite early-season race for me over the years. I returned to race the Olympic distance for my fourth time on Saturday, June 4. The race was presented by Epic Races and I can always count on them for a great race day experience. I had it on my calendar as my first potential triathlon for the season and finally committed a couple weeks before the race. The season is short and I was anxious to get out there!
I took a short break from running after the Boston Marathon in mid-April then gradually worked back up to my usual routine of running 5-6 days per week. I can always expect the run to be my strongest segment of any triathlon. I swim year-round, although I’ve been a little disappointed in my consistency for the past couple years. Still, I usually make it to the pool at least twice a week, I’ve been getting enough distance in, and I did an open water swim the week of the race so I could practice with my wetsuit. I knew I might not be as fast as I’d like to be but I should be good for the swim. I concentrated on running so much leading up to Boston that I basically neglected the bike until a week after the race. I knew I better step up if I wanted to get ready for a triathlon six weeks later. I peaked with a 40-mile ride so I knew I would be fine to cover the race distance. My bike routes were flat aside from a few hills here and there. I didn’t do much prep for a course with rolling hills but I knew I’d done enough that I would be able to get through it.
Even when I know I’m ready, nerves always kick in the night before the race – especially when it’s the first race of the season. So much gear and so many logistics to think about. I’ve made plenty of checklists over the years to make sure I have the gear and routine down, but I still spent a chunk of time gathering everything as I reassured myself on Friday night.
Island Lake Recreation Area is in Brighton, MI. I hit the road around 5am on race day so I would get there an hour before the transition area was due to close at 7:15. It was a clear morning around 50° and the water was 74°. I worried a bit about trying to spot buoys since we’d be swimming directly toward the sun, but with the cool temps and no wind everything else seemed pretty ideal.
I collected my packet by the beach, sorted things out in the car, then took everything over to the transition area.
I really liked that the transition area was organized based on race distance and age group. Usually we’re organized by race number or it’s first-come-first-serve. Racking our bikes with other people in the same age group worked really well. I don’t get too hung up on the competitive part of the race but it’s still nice to see where I stand. After the swim people can see if anyone has headed out for the bike segment yet, then later see how many have returned their bikes and gone out to run. Plus, it was nice to chat with other women in my category before the race. We weren’t squeezed in too tight either which is always a bonus.
I made a bathroom trip then it was time to get into my wetsuit. I had a few minutes to get in the water before the pre-race meeting at the beach and it felt just right. I kept shielding my eyes from the sun as I looked at the course. I didn’t know how I would find those buoys with the sun in my face! Aside from that concern I really didn’t battle any nerves before the race.
All of the race photos that follow are courtesy of Greg Sadler Photography and his team. They even get in the water to get some great shots! I love that Epic Races gives us free downloads of these awesome photos as a part of our race registration.
I had plenty of time to wait for the start of my race because each person started individually about three seconds apart. I prefer that method SO much more than a crazy mass start. My age group was literally the last one to start for the Olympic race. That gave me the opportunity to watch the other swimmers and make sure I knew where I was supposed to go. Despite temps in the low 50s somehow I didn’t freeze as I waited. I started 11 minutes after the first person went. I was glad I wouldn’t have to worry about many people grabbing my feet as they came from behind other than a few of the lead swimmers. They had time to start the second of their two loops while I waited to start my first!
Sometimes my breathing is bad with the excitement of the start of the race but fortunately I felt comfortable throughout the whole swim. Being spaced out really helps. I believe the buoys remained in place after a sprint triathlon that took place on Wednesday night. We had been told that the weeds were pretty bad and I think they wanted to take advantage of a route that minimized going into the weeds. I barely noticed weeds so the route they used definitely worked.
We were supposed to get 1500m from our two-loop swim. At first I basically followed the crowd until I got close enough to actually spot the first orange buoy. The sun didn’t make it easy on the way out but I managed just fine. I was thankful that the other races (sprint, mini-sprint, etc.) wouldn’t start until the last Olympic athlete started the second loop. The last time I did this race we had to swim three loops and there was MAJOR congestion with everyone in the water by the time I did my third loop. It was so much easier this time. I had moments when I caught up to people who veered my direction or when I had to pause for a few seconds to get some space, but otherwise things were pretty smooth.
When I approached the beach at the end of my swim and the water got shallow enough, I stood up to wade through the rest and saw Greg Sadler taking photos. He has photographed so many races that I’ve done and we follow each other on Instagram so he recognized me and gave me a nice greeting. He got a good smile out of me when I normally would look beat up coming out of the water!
I didn’t have the energy to run up the grass to the transition area but did my best. Another woman in my age group showed up soon after me and commented that the swim must have been short. I briefly glanced at my watch when I started my T1 time and then it hit me that it said 20:47. It should take me closer to half an hour to swim 1500m and there’s no way I was that fast. After the race when I looked at my Garmin stats and converted yards to meters I realized I swam my typical pace of 2:00/100m for a total of around 1,050m. Maybe we should have done three loops again this year!
As usual, my first transition time was pretty slow – 3:59. I always struggle to get the wetsuit off and over my feet. One of the people who works for Epic Races jokingly (I think!) said to everyone in general, “This is a race. Your transition is part of your time! Get your socks on!” It made me laugh because I knew I was racking up a bunch of time.
With temps in the low 50s I worried that being wet on the bike would cause me to freeze so I added a long sleeve shirt. I had full-fingered gloves that I intended to wear as well but didn’t realize I had totally forgotten about them until I was out on the course. Oh well! Luckily I didn’t get too cold. Maybe I could have survived without the shirt too but I didn’t get too warm so I guess it was fine.
The bike course was two loops and was supposed to be somewhere around 24 miles. After racing the course several times in the past I knew exactly what I was getting into with the rolling hills. There are a few climbs that are a little challenging but they don’t last too long and there are plenty of fast downhill stretches to make up for it. I was prepared for people to whiz past me like they always do since the bike is my weakness. That didn’t happen much which was a combination of me getting a good head start from a decent swim, and the fact that my age group was last to start so a lot of the fast people may have already gotten well ahead of me.
I had to keep my mind busy while I was out there for nearly an hour and a half. I told myself I was just out there doing my thing, enjoying a nice day, and that everyone was a badass for doing this. So many people have looked at me in bewilderment when I’ve explained going out to swim, bike, and run and then told them the distances I would cover. However fast or slow each of us went, we were all pushing ourselves to do something special.
Sometimes I feel like I’m out on my own by the second loop when all of the fast people have passed and I’m lingering behind. This time it seemed like I always had someone to watch in front of me or heading the opposite direction though and it may have helped mentally.
I had some sips of water from one bottle and drank about half of my bottle with a Nuun electrolyte mix. I think the cool temps kept me from getting very thirsty. I knew I better eat something too and pulled a Picky Bar out of my jersey pocket during the second loop. I picked a bad time for it though. I quickly realized I was on a patch with seals running across the road that rattled me every few seconds. I started to squeeze the Picky Bar up to get a bite, then each bump shook me enough to squeeze the bar further out of the wrapper and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop it. In no time my bar was on the road and I only got one bite out of it. I still had the wrapper so I was glad I didn’t litter. I had a couple packs of Clif Bloks in my pocket too so at least I had something else. I knew I better wait until the road was smoother!
After an hour and 28 minutes I finished my ride. I got off the bike at the dismount line and someone asked how it was out there. I kind of hesitated wondering how I should answer. “Alright?” That made them laugh so I added, “I’m not the best biker!” Once again I got through a ride without a flat tire and I averaged my typical speed. I suppose that’s enough to consider it successful!
I was shocked as I ran my bike into transition and saw my friend Lisa! I asked what she was doing there and of course she said she was there to cheer for me. I had no idea she was coming so that was pretty awesome. She looked at my past race times to figure out when she might be able to expect me. My transition spot was close to the edge so I was able to talk to her while I racked my bike. Thankfully I’m usually pretty quick during the second transition (48 seconds) since I just had to take my shirt and helmet off and grab my hat. I told Lisa the worst part was over. She said the rest would be easy and I said now I “only” had about 50 more minutes.
Next it was time for two loops of the run. In the past we’ve always started out by running up a steep grassy hill. I was kind of thrown off that flags routed me a different way and I almost wondered if I was going the right direction. I ended up on the paved path and knew I’d follow that into Kensington Metropark before hitting a turnaround. I was shocked when I looked at my watch and saw that I ran the first mile in 7:25. My legs felt heavy and numb and I guess they were so numb I went faster than I realized. The numbness must have worn off after that because I didn’t keep it up!
The run is my time to try to catch up for my slowness on the bike. It always gives me a little boost when I’m able to catch people and it keeps me going strong. I also kept distracted because so many people were out there heading both directions. It was such a gorgeous day that plenty of people were out for walks or bike rides on the same path so there was some weaving involved.
Island Lake’s path connects to Kensington’s under the highway. On the way back there’s a decent climb after coming out of the dark. On tired legs it felt steeper than it was and slowed me down a bit. I wasn’t too excited about doing it again during the second loop.
I got to the point where we turned down a short, steep hill where I had to be careful about my momentum so I wouldn’t wipe out on the grass and roots. Then there was a stretch in the grass near the beach before turning to go up that grassy hill that I dreaded. It almost felt like I slowed down to a walk but I kept grinding. One more loop before I made my way to the finish. I saw Lisa off to the side and waved as she took some pictures.
Next I mugged for Greg Sadler who took a nice series of finishing photos.
I had to recover for a few minutes after my strong finish. I chatted with Lisa and also caught Greg for a minute or two when he wasn’t busy shooting other finishers. According to my Garmin the course was a little shorter than the anticipated 6.2 miles.
I’m always curious to see how my run splits break down. I started fast, slowed down, but still finished strong. I was pretty happy to average 7:45 per mile.
Here’s how the whole race broke down according to my Garmin.
The official results changed a bunch of times as more people finished. They continued to change over the next couple days as certain things must have been sorted out and I think this shows the final standings? Somehow my transition times got messed up and my bike split wasn’t broken out separately, but I know my Garmin is close, give or take a few seconds.
Either way, I showed up as third in my age group all along which was good for a prize. I could choose a water bottle or coaster and I chose the coaster.
I always figure it’s best if people don’t spectate my races because there is so much downtime. Since Lisa is a runner she was smart and used the downtime to get eight miles in. It made me feel better that she was able to enjoy the park too and use that extra time efficiently. It was so nice to have her there and we had a chance to hang out for a bit after the race as I sampled nearly all of the treats that were available. In addition to the great race photos, I can always count on Epic Races for the best post-race food. Pancakes, egg and cheese wraps, mac & cheese, cookies, ice cream sandwiches, etc. I get SO excited about good food after a race and they do it right. I kind of cringed at the price when I signed up for the race but triathlons involve a lot more than typical running races and the food and free photos certainly made it worthwhile.
Lisa asked how I felt about the race. I didn’t have any specific expectations going in or certain goals to achieve so it’s kind of tricky to nail down. I was definitely happy though. I knew I wasn’t going into the race in peak shape and doubted I would PR. Typically it’s hard to compare triathlon times because the courses and distances can vary so much. I can’t even compare this one to the prior three I’ve done on the same course because the swim distance was clearly shorter. I think the bike segment is the easiest to compare because that route didn’t vary at all. I rode just under 1:27:00 in 2017, but this time and the other two times were 1:28-something. At least I was in my usual territory. Things went smoothly and that was my biggest measure of success.
I keep thinking that I want to try a half Ironman someday but still don’t know if I’m there yet. Even if I don’t do one this season I’ll surely try to get more Olympic races in and maybe another 1/3 Iron race like I did last summer. I love the adventure and feeling of accomplishment from doing these crazy things.
On Saturday, May 14 I did my first in-person 5K since September 2019. I tend to favor longer races at slower paces and don’t race 5Ks as often as I used to. During my last marathon training segment I only ran 5K pace for a couple of workouts. Sometimes 5Ks intimidate me more than half or full marathons because my training specifically targets those paces while I rarely target 5K speed. I’m simply not prepared to go that fast which makes them feel especially torturous! I know I could take it easy and not push myself to the max but I have a hard time not giving it my all.
I was willing to put myself through the worrying and agony to run the Dart Frog Dash 5K at the Toledo Zoo. A couple weeks earlier I got together with my friend Lisa for a run and visit to the Detroit Zoo. I commented that we should try to visit the Toledo Zoo too because it had been ages since I’d been. A day later Lisa sent me a message with info about a 5K there. It was $30 for the race plus admission to the zoo. Perfect!
The Toledo Zoo is close to two hours away from me but Lisa lives halfway between. I drove to her house then we drove together the rest of the way. We got there over an hour early because we both prefer to have the extra time. Plus, we had to walk a good half mile in the zoo to packet pickup at the aquarium, back to the car, then back into the zoo again.
20 minutes before the start of the race Lisa and I did a mile-long warm up run. It was a beautiful morning in the 60s but it was pretty humid. My hair made that especially obvious! It had been in the 80s for my last few runs so I was starting to adjust to the heat but I hadn’t dealt with humidity yet. As least this race would only be 20-some minutes long for me.
I was glad to hear someone announce that competitive runners should start at the front and people walking should stay near the back. I knew enough to line up near the front while also leaving a little gap because faster people should be in front of me. At 8:30 we were off!
A ton of people flew past me at the beginning. I figured a bunch of them should have filled that gap in front of me! I also had a hunch that I might catch some of them during the race. That included a couple of kids who started at the front. Too often I’ve seen kids rocket off the starting line at an all-out sprint. Then I catch them a quarter mile into the race when they’ve run out of energy. That’s exactly what happened at this race. I didn’t have a clue how to pace myself until I was in my late 20s or early 30s so I get it! I always feel bad when it’s clear they haven’t learned that skill yet and hope the rest of the race isn’t totally miserable for them.
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself since I hadn’t trained for that kind of speed. A few days before the race I decided I should try some quarter mile segments at 5K pace for practice and completed six of them. I was dying by the end so I hoped the race atmosphere would give me a boost somehow!
I ran the race by feel and glanced at my watch at times to see how it was going. I knew I wasn’t running a PR kind of pace, not that I expected I would pull that off anyway. The first mile was basically a straight shot down Broadway/River Road along the Maumee River. I ran the first mile in 7:12. We looped around a neighborhood, went back out to River Road, then branched off into a neighborhood that eventually led us into the zoo. I picked it up to 7:07 pace for the second mile. As expected, I passed a few people here and there who had probably started too fast. There were a few minor hills and rather than dreading them I told myself that’s where I’d catch some people. In the meantime, I was sweating like crazy. That humidity! It was kind of painful running so fast but I kept pushing through.
We had a straight shot on the zoo sidewalk at first but then we ran on the Tembo Trail. It was mostly a brick surface and it got tricky in spots. We actually went through some of the exhibit space but I was oblivious to any rhinos, hippos, or elephants at that point. There were a bunch of quick, sharp turns that slowed me down quite a bit as I tried to round them. I realized a girl was catching up to me so I just tried to move fast enough so I wouldn’t get passed! My third mile was 7:28. I was in the 7:10s until I got to that Tembo Trail section.
There was another nice straightaway where I could pick it up again until I had one more turn to make right before the finish. I was running close to a kid and thought I better slow down to make sure we didn’t cut each other off as we both tried to hug that last corner. Then I gave it everything I had left! I hit 6:48 pace for the last tenth of a mile.
No one passed me at the end, but when I saw the pictures after the race I realized how close the finish had been. Obviously the women were younger and not in my age group but I was still glad to place a little higher overall for women.
I was dying for a minute after I crossed the finish line but then I went back to the long straightaway to see if I could spot Lisa. Thanks to her red shirt I saw her and cheered as I took a few pictures. Then I went back to meet her at the finish.
I always look forward to post-race treats so I wasn’t especially excited that they only had water and bananas. No medal either, which is no big deal since I have too many as it is. Getting free admission to the zoo was a worthwhile perk so I was forgiving.
I checked the results and saw that I was the female masters winner and fifth woman overall! Pretty cool! I finished in 22:50 which was a little over a minute slower than my PR. I was happy with what I had managed to run without real preparation.
Lisa’s results hadn’t shown up yet so we went back to the car to change into dry clothes. I had brought a protein drink and some Picky Bars which helped make up for the lack of treats. Lisa’s results finally showed up and she was only about 10 seconds slower than her PR. Pretty impressive on a humid day with that tricky Tembo Trail segment! She was third in her age group so we went to look for awards before we explored the rest of the zoo.
We found a table where we each collected cool prizes. Because I was the female masters winner I received an envelope that gave me a zoo membership for a year! That membership also gives me 50% off admission to several other zoos I’ve wanted to visit again. I was pretty excited about that prize!
We spent a few hours walking around the zoo and it seemed like a perfect day. It was sunny and beautiful and we had fun exploring the whole zoo.
After we had been there for a few hours and it continued to get hotter we reached a point when we’d had enough. We got a little more antsy and started to move through the exhibits a little faster. I enjoyed taking some nice photos and we had a great time between the race and exploring the zoo. My watch said I had done more than 10 miles by the time we left for the day!
I’m really glad we did the race and it made me realize that I should try to do more speedwork this summer. It’s usually one of my least favorite kinds of workouts but it makes me stronger. It was nice to see how well I did at this race. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much if I trained for that kind of pace. It would also be nice to see what I’m capable of doing if I prepare. 5Ks don’t leave me beat up for days afterward like half or full marathons so maybe I should add them to the mix more often.
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!!