Run United 2020: Virtual Marathon

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Today through October 18th I’m participating in the Run United Virtual Marathon (find my donation page here) as a member of Team Jeep. When I started my new job at FCA (Chrysler) in June, one of the first things I did was look into the company’s running club. This virtual marathon is my first chance to participate as a part of the team while also helping to raise money for the United Way. The purpose of the event is to help close the “Digital Divide” for students in southeast Michigan. The pandemic has forced many kids into a virtual learning environment yet they may not have computers or internet access. As if the pandemic isn’t making education challenging enough, I can’t imagine how kids can keep up with their schoolwork without having access to the technology they need. The United Way wants to help these students by providing them with the proper resources to keep their education on track. 

I’m not in any shape for a fall marathon as I cautiously increase my mileage following an injury that popped up in April. I did a couple of virtual races in March prior to being injured but have chosen to avoid signing up for anything else. I’m trying to concentrate on building a base while making sure my tendon doesn’t flare up again. However, this event seemed perfect. I can easily cover a total of 26.2 miles (hopefully several times!) during the next month and help kids in need while doing so. Plus, I’m excited to be a part of a team that is so enthusiastic about participating. Over 300 people are logging miles for Team Jeep!

I don’t feel comfortable asking for money, especially during a time that is so challenging for so many people. I was kind of wary about signing up for a fundraiser but we were told not to get stressed about that part. I figure even if I’m only able to raise a small amount it will help more than if I didn’t do anything at all. As little as $10 can help match students with tutors and $25 can help provide a student with internet access. If anyone feels inclined to give ANY amount, here is a link to my page:

https://p2p.onecause.com/rununited/janet-boltz‬

Hopefully we can play a role in assisting kids who need help. I’d be really grateful to anyone who has the means to contribute anything!


– Janet


Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

100-mile Bike Ride

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a cyclist but maybe I should rethink that now that I’ve completed a 100-mile ride. I typically think of myself as a runner who bikes sometimes. I use the bike to cross-train and so I can stay fit enough to survive the bike leg of triathlons where I really just want to swim and run. When I have a running injury I bike so I can get some kind of exercise. I still don’t use bike shoes, I don’t understand any of the mechanical aspects, and people at triathlons always tell me I’d be better off with a nicer bike. I’m pretty clueless as a cyclist, but as long as I can keep moving and cover the distance I guess that counts for something.

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A badge that came up in my Garmin app after riding 100 miles

My plan for this year was to get into ultra running, not ultra cycling. A suspected peroneal tendon injury (combined with the pandemic) changed all of my plans for the year. Several months without running followed by a very gradual rebuilding process caused me to turn to the bike. In order to feel like I was accomplishing enough, I went all-in on the biking.

I’ve learned that I have a need to constantly feel like I’m achieving something. I have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment (now called CliftonStrengths) a couple times through work. I just took it for the second time in May so its findings are fresh in my mind. Although it can be applied to my work habits, it also helps explain why I keep working toward various athletic goals. Achiever is one of my top strengths and according to the assessment, I feel like I have to achieve something every day in order to feel good about myself. Once I feel satisfied with one achievement an internal fire pushes me to do more. Maximizer is another one of my strengths. That theme deals with taking a strength and nurturing it, refining it, and stretching it toward excellence. The combination of the Achiever and Maximizer strengths explains a lot of my motivation and my tendency to keep pushing myself.

I started to rack up a bunch of 50-mile rides this summer. I rode 60 miles one weekend then bumped up to 62 miles another weekend so I could hit the landmark of completing a metric century ride. When I posted about that ride on Instagram a friend asked if I had considered riding 100 miles. Another friend said he was sure I could do it. The thought hadn’t entered my mind until they mentioned it. Once they got me thinking about it, it seemed like a challenge I ought to consider. I went up to 70 miles a couple weeks later.

The weather seemed perfect this past Sunday, August 30th. It was clear, around 60° to start, and it would only climb into the mid-70s later in the day. I hadn’t decided if I would aim for 100 miles but thought that I might try.

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Stony Creek Metropark

Knowing that it could be a long day, I started my ride at 7:30am. I drove to a parking lot along the Macomb Orchard Trail and rode less than a mile to get to Stony Creek Metropark. Although there is a paved 6-mile loop, cyclists who go faster than the recommended speed limit of 10 mph typically ride on the road. It’s the only place where I feel comfortable doing so. By including a stretch of road that goes up to the nature center, it’s possible to get a loop that’s just over nine miles long.

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A regular loop plus a trip to the nature center and back is about 15K

There are some sections that climb just enough to make me feel like I’m crawling. The nature center stretch makes things challenging. In addition to pushing up the hills it seemed like I was riding into the wind for the most challenging stretches. Stony is a good spot for a tough workout so I sure didn’t make things easy for myself. I added a couple of detours down a few drives to add a little extra distance and managed to complete just over 50 miles after five loops.

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The elevation chart for one time around the 9-mile loop I rode at Stony. I think it feels worse than it looks!

I didn’t feel the need to keep riding non-stop. I always try to enjoy the scenery and like to take photos along the way.

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Sandhill cranes at Stony Creek Metropark

Food stops were another good way to break things up. I ate a Picky Bar for breakfast that morning and had another when I took my first break after a couple hours. I’m thankful that they work so well for me and that I didn’t have any issues with my stomach throughout the whole day. I thought I better take advantage of a real bathroom where I could wash my hands while I was still at Stony. I was hoping I could avoid using the outhouses along Macomb Orchard Trail, especially during these COVID-wary times.

After leaving Stony I rode a short stretch of Macomb Orchard Trail to add some distance before stopping at my car. I ate another Picky Bar and swapped a couple of water bottles.

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What I needed to fuel me through 100 miles

The second half of my ride was on Macomb Orchard Trail. It’s flat and smooth which was a nice break after the hard workout at Stony. I made sure I rode 56 miles by that point so I could go out 22 miles to the end of the trail then back without having to add on at the end. I knew I would want to be done and not play around with adding extra distance!

I hit some wind as I headed north but knew eventually the trail would veer east so I tried to look forward to that. Between the wind and working my legs so much at Stony I didn’t have expectations for my speed. Although it would have been nice to hit at least 16 mph like I have for recent rides, I seemed to be stuck at an average of 15.5 mph. This goal was more about distance than speed though.

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Macomb Orchard Trail

I’ve spent so much time on Macomb Orchard Trail this summer that I knew where I would aim to stop for food breaks and counted down the distance until I’d get there. I rode 15 more miles before a stop to eat a few Clif Bloks in Armada where I admired a sunflower.

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A sunflower in the April Millsap Memorial Garden.

The trail ends in Richmond which is about seven miles from my stop in Armada. I had yet another Picky Bar and knew that I would “only” have about an hour and a half left. Somehow I was still okay! Although seat discomfort can be an issue for me, I lucked out and had a good day where it didn’t bother me too much.

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Macomb Orchard Trail

On the way out I laughed at an ear of corn that was in the middle of the trail. That’s not something I expect to see discarded on a trail. The trail literally passes through corn fields so it makes sense though. On the way back I made a point of stopping to take a picture.

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Macomb Orchard Trail

I continued for 12 more miles and stopped at a park in Romeo to eat my final Picky Bar. I really looked forward to those stops. Then I only had 10 miles to go! At the end I only had to loop through the parking lot one time to get to an even 100 miles, so I did a pretty good job at getting the distance right. After 6.5 hours of riding I was done!

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During the ride I thought about how an Ironman bike segment is 112 miles. I was still 12 miles shy of that, not to mention adding in 2.4 miles of swimming plus a marathon. As crazy as my ride seemed, it still doesn’t scratch the surface of that! I’ve always said that I haven’t been interested in trying an Ironman because I wouldn’t want to sit on the bike that long. I still don’t have ambitions to try an Ironman (yet…) but I feel more secure with the idea of trying the half-Iron distance. It’s something I’ve thought about for a few years and maybe I should try that next year.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel too bad when I finished. Since I parked near Dairy Queen I had to stop there for an Oreo Fudge Blizzard.

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This DQ Blizzard was amazing after my ride

I got a pizza soon after that. I had plenty of calories to replenish and I deserved some treats after such a big adventure!

In general, my legs didn’t feel too bad. After showering I felt really warm so I wrapped an ice pack around my neck to cool down. Later that night and into the next day my head bothered me a bit. I tried to stay hydrated but probably needed to drink more. I probably didn’t get enough sleep either. I didn’t feel too beat-up otherwise. Running a marathon for 3.5 hours wrecks me a whole lot more than 6.5 hours on the bike.

I may not run an ultramarathon this year and I didn’t get to race any triathlons, but I found a way to adapt and still fulfill that need for achievement. It’s especially meaningful since I don’t consider myself a very strong cyclist. I proved that I’m capable of more than I thought and that maybe some of those other aspirations that used to seem crazy aren’t so out of reach. Now that I’ve accomplished one big feat for the summer, I’ll have to see what the achiever in me decides to strive for next.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

Summer Update

Last summer it seems like I wrote recaps about racing almost every weekend. For obvious reasons this summer has been the complete opposite. I guess one good thing about being injured during the pandemic is that I don’t feel bad about skipping races since none of them are happening. I had registered for a bunch of races and the last couple that were still hanging on were finally canceled in the past couple weeks. Fortunately most of them gave the option to defer to next year. Next year is basically going to be a redo of what this year should have been.

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Rochester Hills placed a bunch of inspiring signs around local trails during the pandemic

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It’s hard to believe that I’ve managed to cope without running for three months. I had no idea that doing a long run on a banked dirt road would lead to such a drastic layoff. I still assume that my peroneal tendon has been the issue, all triggered by running on too much of an angle for one long run. At this point it seems like it would have been easier to bounce back from a stress fracture! I still really want to get back to running but have kept myself occupied in other ways. Biking, walking, weights, and a few swims have helped fill the void.

I’ve probably spent more time than ever on the bike these last few months. I typically want to “save my legs” for running and squeeze biking in when I can. I usually do just enough of it to help me prepare for the bike segment of triathlons. While I’ve ridden 50 miles a few times in past summers, that’s become my big goal workout most weekends this summer. I even rode 60 miles one day – the longest ride I’ve ever done.

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My ankle has been improving and walking has felt fine. I try to get out most evenings for a walk and tend to see a lot of wildlife. That finally inspired me to bring my camera equipment for some of the walks. I suppose that’s one more good thing that has come from this injury. I take plenty of nature pictures with my phone when I’m out running or biking but walking makes it much easier to lug the fancy gear around. I always seem to find deer, but it’s been fun spotting turkeys, ducks, and turtles as well.

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I’ve ventured out to some parks that I haven’t been to in order to keep things fresh. Since there aren’t many things to do during a pandemic, exploring the outdoors has provided some form of adventure.

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Independence Oaks County Park

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Independence Oaks County Park

I started a new job in June and have developed a habit of walking a mile or more during most of my lunch breaks. I’m working in the second largest building in America behind the Pentagon so it’s easy to get some good distance. One part of the building has three floors of office space that are great for walking. They even have maps that measure certain routes to encourage people to get moving. That part of the building is basically deserted since most people are working from home. There’s a skylight and it kind of feels like I’m mall walking! I make it more of a workout by adding flights of stairs into the mix. On nice days I’ve taken advantage of a little path outside as well.

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I’m thankful that I have everything I need for a solid strength/weights workout in the basement at home. I’ve been doing those workouts three times a week. I started doing a specific pull-up workout 11 weeks ago and I’ve made great progress. I’d already been doing pull-ups regularly but this has helped me improve. I maxed out at eight pull-ups when I first started the routine and now I’m up to a max of 11 or 12…depending on how hard I’m willing to strain at the end. The first week I did a total of 110 pull-ups specifically for that 5-day routine and after 10 weeks I was up to 177 for the week! Since I can’t achieve any running goals right now this is one way to aim for something.

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Gyms are still closed so I haven’t had access to a pool. I’ve been swimming in a lake at Stony Creek Metropark most weekends which has been nice. The park gets too busy later in the day so I avoid it during the week, but at least swimming once each weekend is something.

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In recent weeks I have gradually tried to reintroduce running. At first I mixed moments of jogging into some of my walks. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it bothered my ankle and I’d stop. I’ve started having better luck though and have truly run four times now. Unfortunately, part of my ankle was sore to the touch after the last run. I tried again a few days ago and could tell right away that it wasn’t going to work so I stopped. It’s been tough because I’ve lost all of my running fitness and it feels like my body has to relearn how to run. At the same time, it was so nice to finally do it again. I want to think I’m ready to make a comeback, but I’m being cautious and know I’m still in testing mode to see if my body will cooperate.

This weekend I added a new injury to the mix so my ankle will get a little extra rest. This is 2020 after all – it’s not really a surprise when another crappy thing happens. While walking in the dark a couple nights ago, I managed to bash my toe into the leg of the bed frame. It was enough for me to swear up a storm but it took a couple minutes to realize it was worse than a typical toe-stubbing incident. When I finally turned on a light I saw that I had tracked enough blood around the carpet to make it look like a murder scene. I’ve done this once before and know from experience that I’m going to have to get the toenail removed. Cringe-worthy, I know. So, that’s really going to suck and will also keep me from swimming in a lake for at least a couple weeks as it heals.

This year is a true test of endurance. Pushing myself physically makes me feel empowered and strong. It’s not lost on me that I probably work out so much for the sake of trying to feel good when so many aspects of life are a mess. I’m glad I have some kind of outlet. All I can do is keep carrying on and do my best to keep focusing on the positive things. I’m glad I can bike and walk and appreciate the outdoors while doing so. Hopefully I’m getting close to adding running back to the mix.

Janet

– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Rock CF Virtual Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday, March 29th I did my second-ever virtual half marathon, just a week after my first. I had planned to run the Ann Arbor Marathon and Rock CF half marathons on back-to-back weekends but COVID-19 changed that. Rock CF automatically turned into a virtual race with no other options available. I understood and was okay with that since the purpose of the race is to raise money for cystic fibrosis. Because I had signed up for both races, I was a part of the “March Mitten Marathon Madness” challenge. I received a bonus medal for participating in both races.

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By the middle of June I received my packet of Rock CF stuff in the mail. It included a long sleeve shirt, sticker, and medal.

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I ran my half marathon the day the race would have taken place and got in the spirit a little bit by wearing my shirt from last year’s race. For most of the run it was actually a little too warm wearing a long sleeve shirt because it was sunny, humid, and the temps were in the low 50s. I had accounted for a cooler real-feel due to strong winds in the forecast, but that didn’t hit until I had five miles left.

I ran all-out for the previous weekend’s virtual half marathon and was just 20 seconds slower than my PR. I wasn’t going to try that again a week later for this run. Initially, I had signed up for both races to help me get through long runs as I trained for a 50K anyway, so I told myself that this one was just a typical training run.

I mapped out a course along some dirt roads where I knew I could stay socially-distanced from others. I saw a few people along the way but not many. I started at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills, MI and ran most of the route in Oakland Township.

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The dirt roads were scenic and pretty.

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Some stretches were hilly which helped keep my pace disciplined. No attempts at racing this time.

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I enjoyed the scenery but it was hard to think of this as anything other than a typical training run. That’s part of the reason virtual races don’t appeal to me.

I was thankful for the downhill stretch for the last few miles, especially since that’s when I had to start battling the wind. 1:51:23 was a solid time for a training run. My splits show how my pace varied depending on the hills.

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Although doing this “race” felt pretty uneventful at the time that changed when I checked social media later. It was fun to see posts from a bunch of others about their runs. It connected everyone in a way and made it feel more special. We were all out there supporting Rock CF while doing a good workout. I enjoyed running the race around Grosse Ile in 2019 and hopefully I’ll get the chance to go back and do it the proper way again in the future.

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– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

Quarantine Injured

A few weeks ago I listened to an episode of the Triathlete Hour podcast that discussed how some athletes are “quarantine injured.” Some people are sitting too much while working from home, overtraining, or tweaking things by moving workouts inside to trainers and treadmills. None of those situations apply to me, but I changed my habits in another way due to the quarantine and now I’ve joined the ranks of those who are quarantine injured.

Today marks day 55 of quarantine due to COVID-19. My layoff from work began on March 20th and despite all of the various stressful aspects, I was thankful that at least I still had running. I wasn’t thrilled that my favorite running spots were suddenly crowded with people who wanted to escape their homes. It became clear that if I wanted to take social distancing seriously it wasn’t ideal to run on trails with swarms of people. Going out for runs turned into a stressful thing for me so my mission was to find places where I could avoid people and be alone.

I couldn’t resist when I saw a “Social Distance Running Club” shirt for sale from Dave’s Running Shop. It seemed fitting for me since I’m an introvert who happily runs solo 99% of the time anyway. Plus, Dave’s was donating $5 from each sale to partner with local restaurants to help feed Toledo-area frontline workers.

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I woke up early the first few weeks of quarantine and often went to the local dirt roads for my runs. It’s quiet and spacious out there so I didn’t have to worry about being around any people.

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I had a really nice 15-mile run on April 11th but the outside of my right ankle started to bother me that evening. I was too stubborn to skip my run the following day like I should have. I tried a few miles but knew I better cut it short when my ankle didn’t feel right. I questioned what happened and realized the crowned surface of the dirt roads had caused the problem. I run against traffic on the left side of the road and my right foot is often up higher where it probably pronates too much. Although I had been fine for all of my other runs, somehow that 15-mile run did me in.

I really worried that I could have a stress fracture. I had one in my foot in 2016 and now that’s where my mind always goes when something seems serious. I could pinpoint a spot on the outside of my ankle that was tender to the touch and it freaked me out. Biking in the basement seemed fine so I did that for the rest of the week. It didn’t bother my ankle and it helped keep me active. A week passed and it didn’t feel any better so I stopped biking in case it was delaying the healing process. I got into a routine of riding, questioning if that was a good idea, then taking a week off. The same thing happened with walking. I tried walking a mile or two around the neighborhood to see how it felt. Sometimes it was sore afterward, so I stopped and tried again a week later. I wore my walking boot around the house and spent a lot of time on the couch in hopes that it might help.

Now I’ve been dealing with this for over four weeks. I felt like I finally made some progress last week. Walks have felt better, I’m not taking two steps on each stair when I go down, and I don’t feel any strain when I do lunges. My ankle is still tender when I touch a certain spot though and I know I’m still not ready to run. Now I wonder if it might be a tendon issue. It’s not a great time to go to the doctor thanks to the virus, but I probably wouldn’t go anyway. Being unemployed with crappy health care means the doctor is an expensive last resort. I’m trying my best to be patient but I’m pretty bummed.

Most of my upcoming races have been canceled so I don’t have any pressure to train for anything right now. That’s not what motivates me though. I had been running high mileage and was excited that it seemed to be working for me. I hate knowing that most of that fitness has slipped away and now I’m going to have to gradually build back from scratch. Running has been one of my best ways to cope with a lot of stressful things that have happened recently. It’s been one way to help maintain some level of sanity. Taking running away not only leaves me more stressed out, it also takes away my main coping mechanism. It’s been really frustrating and difficult, to say the least.

I listened to another podcast, Work, Play, Love with Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas, and they covered this very topic. Jesse said it’s hard for him to go a day without exercise and feel balanced. Yep…I relate to that 100%. They talked about how exercise can be taken away and we need something else that brings a feeling of accomplishment. Lauren said we need more than one tool to cope with stress, whether it’s talking to friends, listening to music, reading, etc. I’m doing all of those things and trying really hard to fill that void. I’ve kept busy and have found plenty of distractions, but it’s still hard to simulate that feeling of empowerment and accomplishment I get from running.

I need to workout in some form or another. In addition to some biking, I’ve been doing strength workouts three times a week since the beginning of April. Prior to that I usually only lifted weights once a week. Obviously now I have more time. Last week I started using a stretch cord for some “dry-land” swim strength workouts that Triathlete Magazine shared. I’ll probably have three months off of swimming by the time I’m back in the water and will be starting over with that too.

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Hopefully these exercises will help me maintain some kind of swimming-related fitness. I also started doing a specific pull-up workout routine this week. I do pull-ups regularly during my strength workouts but I’m following a plan that will help build the number I can do.

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I followed this plan years ago when my friend Jeff shared it with me, but a car crash in 2014 messed up my back and I’ve been cautious about some exercises ever since. If I push too much it still makes part of my back ache. Maybe doing my strength routine three times a week has actually helped because pull-ups aren’t triggering the issue as much lately. It gives me something to work toward and it was fun to see the progress when I did it before. Hopefully my back will cooperate.

I’m doing my best to keep busy and enjoy this extended “vacation” while it lasts. I’m sure getting anxious to run and swim though. It’s hard to stay cooped up inside babying my ankle as the weather gets better. I’ve been through this before and know I’ll bounce back eventually, but I hope this ankle thing isn’t too serious and fades really, really soon.

Janet

– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

10 Years Since My First 5K

Today marks a pretty big anniversary – 10 years since I ran my very first race. I had no clue back then that running would become such a huge part of my life. I certainly didn’t have a blog about running at that point, but fortunately I took the time to write something about each race from the very beginning. It’s fun to look back at my first race experience and reminisce about my journey to becoming a runner.

I enjoyed being active as a kid and tried a bunch of sports but I was an average athlete at best. My only exposure to running as a sport was when we were forced to run a mile for time in gym class. We didn’t really build up to it by training and we certainly didn’t learn how to pace ourselves. As a result, it just felt like torture.

I played soccer in a recreational league for a few years in high school and wasn’t especially good but I enjoyed it. I suppose that’s when I first embraced running in some form. I felt strong when I ran whether it was the warm-up laps or running up and down the field during games.

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When I was in college I used the rec center fairly regularly and ran a mile or two around the indoor track while listening to my Discman. I didn’t consider myself a “runner” though. Five years after I graduated from college I joined a gym where I lifted weights and ran a mile or so on the indoor track two or three times a week. I had missed working out like I did in school and wanted to embrace a healthier and more active lifestyle.

When I took some online classes in 2008 I had to identify a variety of goals for one of the classes. A couple of my personal goals included running at least six miles per week and running my first 5K in the next year. It took a little longer than that but I still worked toward that goal. During the summer of 2009 I decided that I wanted to put the work in to become a better runner. That’s when I was finally brave enough to try running outside. I had been pretty insecure with my abilities prior to that. I worried that my breathing was bad and I didn’t think I’d last. I had a goal in mind though, and by the fall I had built up to running three miles at a time.

When spring rolled around I finally signed up for a 5K. I picked a small local race in Rochester, Michigan that was a part of the Earth Day weekend festivities. It was the RARA (Rochester Avon Recreation Authority) Run for the Planet 5K.

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It was a misty morning in the 50s and I was a little concerned because I hadn’t run in the rain before. I was also concerned because I chose to run without music even though I always ran with music. The sound of my breathing bothered me so I usually liked to drown it out. The race started a quarter mile down the Clinton River Trail so I thought I’d warm up by jogging to the start. I didn’t come across a starting line so I kept jogging. At some point I realized I must have gone too far and turned back. Everyone had lined up by the time I got back which made me feel kind of silly. I had planned to warm up a little but not that much!

When the race started I was a bit frustrated by the congestion of the crowd combined with trying to dodge puddles on the trail. We cut into Bloomer Park where the trails were pretty narrow, plus there was a steep, muddy hill to climb. I tried to work my way around people when I could, including some kids who had started really fast but lost some steam. A paved hill came soon after the muddy hill. My breathing was pretty rough at that point and I wished I had music so I wouldn’t have to listen to myself struggling. I didn’t really know how to pace myself and was kind of thrown off by having people around me. Eventually things spaced out a little more as we ran through Bloomer and out to some roads before we got back to the Clinton River Trail. I sprinted at the end and finished in 27:02 with an average pace of 8:43 per mile. I had guessed that I’d run somewhere around 27 minutes and I was right on.

I felt like I had done pretty well but wanted to try music the next time to drown out my breathing. I was already thinking about a next time so that was a good sign! They had water, bananas, and small samples of smoothies from Beyond Juice at the end. They were going to have an awards ceremony an hour and a half later. I didn’t want to wait that long, especially since I wanted to shower and come back to see a musician playing at the festival that afternoon. I had placed 42nd out of 90-some people and figured my time wasn’t good enough for an award anyway.

It turned out I was wrong. I was shocked to find out that I had placed second in my age group!

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I was really glad that I finally did a race. I liked challenging myself and felt good about the accomplishment. So, at the age of 30 my racing career began. Over the next couple months I did a couple more 5Ks then jumped up to a 10K. A year later I was ready for a half marathon. A couple years after that I ventured into the world of triathlon and also ran my first marathon. I got completely sucked into running and it became a lifestyle for me. I was driven by the desire to keep pushing myself to see what I was capable of. The feelings of strength and empowerment kept me motivated…and still do. Ten years ago I never would have imagined how many places I would go and things I would see thanks to running. I had never even considered the possibility of running marathons. I’m thankful for this whole new world that I discovered and am hopeful that running will continue to bring many more adventures in the future.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Ann Arbor Marathon Virtual Half Marathon Recap

2020-03-22 - ann arbor medal

Thanks to the coronavirus/COVID-19 I ran my very first virtual race on Sunday, March 22nd. The thought of doing a virtual race has never appealed to me. I already have a zillion race t-shirts and medals. They provide memories of experiences, and if the experience wasn’t anything special and I didn’t physically race at a certain location, they don’t mean much to me. However, we’re living during a time when all of the races are being canceled or postponed and there aren’t many options.

When I signed up to run the half at the Ann Arbor Marathon, I planned for it to be a training run that would help me build my mileage for the Twilight Zone 6-hour run in May. I went to school in Ann Arbor but didn’t run at the time other than a couple miles now and then on the rec center’s indoor track. I’ve thought about how it would be nice to see the scenery all over Ann Arbor and remind myself how much I love the town. I’ve considered the race for years and it finally fit in my schedule.

When the coronavirus started to shut everything down it became clear that this race would not take place. Epic Races was kind enough to offer a few options. I could defer my entry and run next year. I could transfer to one of their other races this year. Or I could do a virtual race. I didn’t want to defer to next year because I’m not sure what my goals may be next spring. I didn’t want to already lock myself into something that might not fit the schedule later on. I thought transferring to another race would be ideal. Eventually three more of my races were canceled or postponed. A ton of races are being rescheduled in the fall. If I transferred to another Epic race it could potentially conflict with something that hasn’t been rescheduled yet. That realization made me start to consider the virtual option.

Ultimately, my sympathy for all of these poor race directors is what made me choose the virtual option. They’re stuck with a bunch of useless shirts and medals. They’ve invested so much time, money, and hard work into planning these events. They’re in a really tough spot and I feel bad for them. Although it’s not too likely that I’d choose to do a virtual race otherwise, this was a unique situation and felt like it was the best choice. I switched to the virtual race a couple days before the “race day” and received my swag in the mail a few days later.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor packet

2020-03-22 - ann arbor shirt

In addition to the shirt, medal, bag, and sticker, I also received this Buff. I found Buffs to be useful this past winter when I frequently used them for headbands or balaclavas.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor buff

I decided to do my virtual race the same day that I would have actually raced. I chose to go to Stony Creek Metropark because I could run loops continuously without having to worry about stopping at crosswalks. I wore my new pair of Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes that are billed as a “speed” shoe.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor shoes

I have been concentrating on endurance for the last five months or so since I knew I wouldn’t be targeting any kind of speed at my 50K. I’ve picked up my pace a little bit during a few recent runs but I have rarely run anything much faster than marathon pace. I thought it would be a good chance to push myself but really had no idea what to expect. I had run eight miles at marathon pace earlier in the week. Maybe there was a chance I could try to do that for a half marathon? I thought that might be optimistic though.

It was a cool morning in the 20s with sun and fairly minimal wind. It was a great day for a good effort.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony2

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony1

I decided to do two 6-mile loops around Stony’s path and keep going an extra 1.1 at the end. I’d just do a cool down jog or walk it in at the end instead of doing an out and back where I’d have to stop and turn around. I opted to run two clockwise loops which meant that I’d start on the flat stretch rather than climbing up a hill at the beginning.

I didn’t have big expectations because the race atmosphere provides an energy that doesn’t exist when I run on my own. It’s easy to get swept up into a fast pace when there are a bunch of other fast people to follow. I took off and I think in addition to running the flat stretch for the first mile or so, I also had the benefit of running with the wind at my back. It was minor but it was still something. I kept looking at my watch during the first mile and wondered how I was running a pace in the 7:30s to start. I had only run about one mile that fast recently. I thought I could be setting myself up for a rough finish. Maybe I could pull off a 10K at that pace, but not more than double that distance.

I ran 7:28 for my second mile and 7:38 for the third. I thought I was really pressing my luck. I was averaging the goal half marathon pace I run when I’m in top shape and specifically targeting that distance. I realized that maybe the fast start had set a rhythm for me and somehow I was maintaining it. Things get more challenging halfway around the Stony loop though. I always feel the climb somewhere during the third mile through around 4.5 miles. Although the wind was minor, that’s where I could also tell that I was running against it. I slowed down a little bit but told myself that my pace would pick up once I ran downhill and back onto the flat stretch.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony elevation

One loop down after six miles. I just had to do it again and finish strong for a little bit extra. Once again, my pace was pretty good for the first couple miles of the second loop before I started to slow a bit. I knew the wind and hills would be hard for a stretch and I just had to fight through before I’d pick up the pace again. I also told myself that ideally I’d be around an 8:00 pace if I wanted to run marathon pace. I was already well ahead of that goal, so even if I slowed down through the end I should be able to manage that. I got through the harder segment, used the momentum of the downhill stretch, and had dropped the pace pretty good for the last mile of the second loop. Now I just had to push with everything I had left for an extra mile. Keeping it up for “just a mile” was pretty challenging at that point though. Most races end up a little bit long unless you run the tangent for 100% of the course. I decided to be extra nerdy and add that little extra to my run as well by going just over 13.1 miles. That way I could convince myself that I had legitimately run a full half marathon course.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stats

Pay no attention to the elevation information – it always goes bad on my Garmin triathlon watches and is totally inaccurate

1:40:04. If I had stopped right at 13.1 I would have gone sub-1:40! My half marathon PR is 1:39:43 which I ran at Glass City back in 2015. This was my second-fastest half marathon ever! Here’s how the splits broke down:

2020-03-22 - ann arbor splits

I was really excited when I realized how close I had gotten to my PR. How did I do that?? I managed to pull that off without a race environment OR proper speed training at the end of a 60-mile week! It convinced me that running such high mileage in preparation for the 50K must be working in my favor. Even though I haven’t been testing my speed lately I guess it’s still there. I must be building enough strength with my high mileage to go fast when I actually try.

Wearing some of my University of Michigan gear helped me get into the spirt of the race despite not getting to run in Ann Arbor. Running such a fast time helped me feel like this “race” was actually worthwhile after all. Although I may not have been too excited about the idea of a virtual race, we’re going through a unique time that will make this one memorable and it’s a bonus that I came away from it feeling so accomplished.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor janet

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Weeks 8-10 of Training For…??

Well, it’s amazing how much things have changed over the last few weeks. When I wrote my last blog on March 3rd I thought I was about to enter the racing season. Since then I’ve had four races get postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus, including my 50K. Canceled races are pretty minor in the big picture of everything going on though.

Life has already been challenging enough for me within the past year and it seems to keep piling on. A couple weeks ago I was completely crushed after having to let go of my sweet cat Romeo, then the following week I had to file for unemployment. Not great. I swear I won’t make this whole blog a pity party for myself because nobody wants to read that. Everyone is going through some kind of struggle right now. Running seems to be the one thing I still have going for me, so I’m going to embrace that and try to concentrate on something positive.

Week 8

I finally went back out to Paint Creek Trail for some of my runs. The surface is usually pretty iffy for a while as the winter season wraps up but I’d grown tired of pounding the pavement and running hills all the time. I was even willing to splash through the mud for some runs. Eventually the trail started to dry out but there are a lot of ruts from bikes and footprints that make the surface really uneven right now.

2020-03-04 - paint creek1

2020-03-05 - paint creek1

On Saturday, March 7th I participated in my first running event since October. Dave’s Running Shop hosted a training run called March Mayhem near Toledo, OH. They provided a race-like experience for $35 with a timed and marked course, a water stop, a shirt, pictures, and post-race treats. I thought it would be nice to run somewhere new, maybe put in a stronger effort, and hang out with my friend Lisa.

2020-03-07 - daves shirt

The distance was a little over 15 miles which happened to be the distance I had on my training schedule. It was nice to run on some crushed and paved paths around Pearson’s Metropark.

2020-03-07 - march mayhem janet1

They also offered a shorter route, and unfortunately I made a wrong turn and followed that route at first. When I realized that I was heading back to the start/finish, I turned around and tried to sort things out. I was supposed to run two big loops followed by a small loop. I had run the small loop plus some extra distance first. Oops. It was just a training run so it didn’t really matter what I did, and I finished with 15.9 miles instead of 15.25. I had a decent run and enjoyed the soup and grilled cheese sandwiches that followed!

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I wrapped up my eighth week of training with 13 miles the next day – a total of 51 miles for the week. I ran to a local park called Innovation Hills that Sunday and enjoyed checking out a pretty boardwalk.

2020-03-08 - innovation hills

 

Week 9

I was in a really dark place after losing Romeo. Somehow I was still motivated enough to get out there since I know that running is one of my best outlets for coping. Running is usually an uplifting, empowering thing for me, but not that week. My first run of the week was pretty much fueled by anger, resulting in eight miles at marathon pace. I haven’t run that fast for that long since October, but my disgust with everything happening in my life made it feel easy. I basically just went through the motions for the next few days and still ran, but I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t want to be stuck in my own head for 18 miles that Saturday so I ran with music, which I rarely do. It could only distract me so much but I ended up having a really strong run.

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I ran 11 miles the next day and finished the week with a total of 61 miles. I maintained my swim routine through the week, but by Friday the 13th I had a feeling it would be my last swim for a while. All of the coronavirus craziness really kicked in the day before and I figured I’d get one last swim in. At this point who knows how long it might be before I get to swim again.

 

Week 10

By the time this week rolled around pretty much everything got canceled or postponed. I knew March races like the Ann Arbor Half Marathon and Rock CF Half Marathon were bound to be affected. I hoped that races further in the future would still happen but day by day things continued to get worse. The Martian Marathon in April was my third race to get canceled/postponed. Surely we’d be okay by May and I could still run my 50K? Nope.

2020-03 - twilight zone

It’s frustrating, but obviously there are much bigger things going on right now. Fortunately all of the races I had signed up for were local. None of them were big destination trips and I can cope. Even the Boston Marathon and Olympics have been impacted, so my races seem pretty minor in comparison. There’s nothing we can do about it except adapt, hope we can get through this as quickly as possible, and see how it all plays out.

There’s another 50K in the same area five weeks later on June 6th. I decided I will jump back five weeks in my training plan and pick it up from there. That would extend my plan to a total of 21 weeks. Of course I have no idea if that race will get canceled too. If it does, at that point I can pull the plug and figure out what to aim for next. I know I need to give my body a break and shouldn’t keep grinding at this level all summer long. We’ll see if I even get a chance at a triathlon season this year!

With all of the coronavirus craziness, eventually my gym closed. I’m really thankful that I had already shifted my strength workouts to the basement at home. I can’t swim anymore, but at least I can maintain my usual weights routine. It’s heartbreaking not to have my little workout partner anymore though.

2020-03 - romeo weights

After ten weeks of training it felt like my fitness really came together. All of my weekday runs were really strong. I was hit with the blow on Thursday that I was done with work for the time being and would have to file for unemployment. I saw it coming so it wasn’t a complete shock. I ran off to the woods at Stony Creek Metropark that night with a million thoughts running through my head.

2020-03-19 - stony1

Just when I come out of one dark place and start to think that life can’t possibly beat me up anymore, something else comes along. At this point it’s almost gotten so ridiculous that I’m just numb to it now. I’m making my best attempt to look for the positive, and at least running has been a saving grace for me.

With everyone swarming the local trails to escape the boredom of being stuck at home, I decided to venture out to the peaceful, isolated dirt roads on Saturday.

2020-03-21 - dirt roads3

2020-03-21 - dirt roads1

The Ann Arbor Marathon would have taken place on Sunday. I decided to switch to the virtual option and ran a half marathon on my own at Stony Creek Metropark. Somehow I managed to run the second fastest time I’ve ever run for a half marathon! When I get the t-shirt and medal I think I’ll write up a separate blog for that.

2020-03-22 - stony1

I wrapped up the latest week of training with a total of 60 miles. It seems like building all of this endurance has been working in my favor. Now I’ll see if it pays off in a race environment at some point. I enjoy the grind of training most of the time and will continue running whether I have a race on the schedule or not. As I try to look on the bright side, at least I’m healthy and now that I have nowhere to go all day, I can run whenever I choose!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

Weeks 5-7 of Training for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run

I have three more weeks of training in the books for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run where I aim to run a 50K. As someone at work referred to it, my “super marathon.” Someone else knew it was considered an ultra marathon, but it was a fun reminder that although this is my reality, most people don’t know much about this crazy world of running.

Aside from coping with some snow, cold wind, and an ankle that was angry for a few days, my training has continued to go fairly smoothly. I finished February with 239 miles and am up to 449 miles for the year so far. I finally broke the 60-mile barrier for weekly mileage this past week. I have run more than 60 miles in a week a few times while training for marathons, but I believe the 65 miles I ran last week may be a new high for me.

2020-03-02 - February mileage

Although running is clearly my priority, I’ve managed to maintain some swimming and weight training as well

Week 5

I was scheduled to hit 60 miles for the fifth week of training and I made it to 59. The snow and ice melted enough to run around home a couple days, but I went back to Stony Creek Metropark the rest of the week. One or two of the runs had a real-feel in the single digits. We’ve been lucky that this winter has rarely been that cold. I had back-to-back 13-milers on the weekend. I ran one of them with a group and ran solo the next day. I thought I was a little on the fast side the first day then ended up a few minutes faster the next day. I haven’t been doing any speed or tempo runs so I guess it’s okay if I run a little faster now and then. My body must have felt the effects of the high mileage because I woke up with night sweats following the second 13-mile run. That usually happens to me at some point during marathon training and so far it’s only been the one night during this training segment.

2020-02-13 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

2020-02-16 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

Week 6 

I was supposed to run 61 miles the sixth week but only made it to 45 miles. That Tuesday night my right ankle/shin felt a little tweaky during my run. It seemed okay for a few miles so I thought I could run through it. Of course it really started to bother me once I got about three miles out from the parking lot at Stony. I ran one more mile but had to walk two. As if it wasn’t challenging enough to walk back with my angry ankle, I got really cold and the strong wind didn’t help. I was frozen and miserable by the end of that workout. I’ve experienced that tweaky feeling many times over the years where my ankle/shin area locks up. If I take a day off I’m usually fine by the next day. Since I pushed through it I was afraid I’d made it worse. I took two days off to recover and luckily that did the trick.

2020-02-18 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

2020-02-18 - stony3

Stony Creek Metropark

That Friday I did a test run and was relieved that I felt good enough for 8 miles. I ventured by one of the rail-to-trails, but they’re still too icy. I miss having flat routes like the trails for easy runs. Pretty much all of my paved winter routes are hilly. Hopefully the hills will make me stronger though!

2020-02-21 - clinton river trail2

Clinton River Trail

I went back to Stony for my solo 18-mile run on Saturday. Stony has been a good place for my long runs because I can stop at the car to swap water bottles as I rack up the miles. I went back for 13 miles the next day and did the first seven solo, then ran six with my friend Carmen. This week was a reminder that taking a couple days off will not derail my training, but trying to push through injury could. I still got my long runs in, and although I still didn’t break that barrier of 60 miles for the week, at least the tweak didn’t turn into something more serious.

2020-02-22 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

Week 7

I finally broke the 60-mile threshold for the first time during this training cycle with 65 miles for the seventh week. Monday is usually my day off but I shifted it to Wednesday to avoid running in the snow and ice that came that day. Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t great on Thursday either. There was a really strong wind that blew snow across the path at Stony. A tenth to a quarter of a mile was the longest I could make it at a time with clear pavement. When I found one clear stretch, I ran back and forth on that to rack up a couple miles. It was a slow run trying to fight the wind and run through snow drifts, but I got it done. At least it looked pretty.

2020-02-27 - stony1

Stony Creek Metropark

2020-02-27 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

2020-02-27 - stony3

Stony Creek Metropark

The path was almost totally clear on Friday but it was still pretty windy. I’ve grown tired of battling the wind lately.

2020-02-28 - stony1

Stony Creek Metropark

I had a huge weekend of mileage with 20 miles on Saturday and 15 on Sunday. I got a late start for Saturday’s run, but that was a good thing because it was a sunny afternoon and the temperature made it into the 30s. I treated myself to some new running shoes that morning. With all of the mileage I’ve been running I can always use more shoes, plus I was tempted to see what the new, lightweight Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes felt like. I didn’t think I’d run 20 miles in them for my first run but they kept working so I kept using them.

2020-02-29 - stony2

The new Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes

I ran 12 miles to start then stopped at the car. I swapped bottles and brought an Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me. It was my first time trying that during a run. I’m concerned that I usually get tired of eating chews during the late miles of marathons so maybe I should experiment with some of the things ultra runners eat. I ate the sandwich in quarters every 2.5-3 miles which seemed to work. I was tired by the end of the 20 miles, but I didn’t feel too beat up. Good thing since I had 15 more miles to run the next day. For that one I ran nine miles, swapped bottles, then experimented with eating a Honey Stinger Waffle for the last six miles. I ate a quarter of the waffle a couple times within the six miles and that seemed to work too. My legs were pretty tired and I had to fight through a strong wind to finish, but I successfully finished a 65-mile week.

I haven’t raced since the Chicago Marathon in October and will get back to it now that March is here. I’m not sure that I’ll really be “racing” so much as using the events to help me get my mileage in. I sure could use a change of scenery from Stony since I’ve been doing almost all of my training there. This coming weekend I plan to head to the Toledo area for a 15-mile March Mayhem training run that will be formatted like a race. I also have the Ann Arbor and Rock CF half marathons coming up later this month. I’m looking forward to getting back to the race environment and hope that having others around will help pull me along faster than I’ve been running recently.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Weeks 1-4 of Training for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run

twilight zone

I’m aiming to run my first 50K this year and have officially signed up for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run. It will take place at Addison Oaks County Park in Leonard, Michigan on May 2nd. Although it is not specifically a 50K race, I should be able to cover that distance (and possibly more?) within six hours. After running almost 20 miles at Move-It Fitness’ Loopty Loop trail run this summer, I decided I wanted to try another one of their loop courses for my attempt at 50K. The atmosphere of their events is really laid back and the people are super friendly. Running a 2.75-mile loop will make it easy to swap my water bottles, grab food, make a bathroom stop, or do whatever else I want to do within the six hours. The course is a mix of trail, dirt, blacktop, and gravel, and it doesn’t have any crazy hills or anything too technically difficult. An added bonus is that the park is close to home so I won’t have to travel far. I have a few friends who will be there as well so I’m looking forward to it.

My friend Jeff ran his first 50K last year and was kind enough to share his training plan with me. It comes from a Hal Koerner book that I probably ought to read at some point. I liked the look of the plan and decided to roll with it. Right now I’m being cautious to see how my legs handle the weekly mileage. I tweaked things a little to fit my schedule the first couple weeks and ended up with a total of 44 miles the first week, 47 miles the second week, 57 miles the third week, and 58 miles the fourth week. So far so good! I haven’t done much in the way of speed or tempo work. One day I ran six of my eight miles at marathon pace and that’s about the fastest I’ve gone. I’m more concerned about feeling comfortable with the mileage first. The weekly mileage for this plan is already around the peak of what I’ve run for marathon training and I’m only four weeks into the 16-week plan. Since I don’t have any kind of time goal for this race I’m mostly concentrating on building my endurance. Maybe I’ll pick up the pace on days when my body feels up for it. Some days my body has felt great running at an 8:30 pace, while a couple of days it felt like a struggle at a 9:30 pace. I’m listening to my body and trying to stay smart!

Compared to past years, this winter has been relatively great for training so far. I don’t think I’ve dealt with temps below 20°F yet. Some recent winters had stretches when the windchill was below 0°F and running was pretty brutal, so I’m considering myself pretty lucky. During the first week of training I was still able to use a snow-free Paint Creek Trail.

2020-01-15

2020-01-16 - 2

As expected, the snow came eventually. I tried trudging through the snow on the trail one day, but it was deep enough to make it a struggle.

2020-01-18

Fortunately, Stony Creek Metropark is close by and I can count on them to clear the running path. When the snow melts enough for the sidewalks to clear, sometimes I’ll run around home, but I’m basically living at Stony lately. There is some great scenery around the park and I regularly post pictures on my Instagram and Twitter pages if you’re interested in seeing more. Here’s a little sample of how beautiful Stony can be.

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2020-01-21 - 2

2020-01-23

2020-02-07

Although it’s a bit repetitive to run at the park nearly every day, I sure can’t complain and know I’m lucky to have such a great place to run. Sometimes I just have to fight through the fatigue and mental grind of training.

Since I need to eat a lot to fuel and recover from all of these miles, it’s perfect timing that I was just accepted as an amBADASSador for Picky Bars!

picky1

It basically means that I’m going to help spread the love about the great products they have. I’ve been a part of the Picky Club for around 2.5 years and I receive a monthly delivery of their bars, granola, etc. I’m pretty much addicted to the Ah, Fudge Nuts bars because it feels like I’m eating a healthier version of a brownie. The business is run by professional athletes (Jesse Thomas, Lauren Fleshman, and Steph Bruce) who recognize that athletes need products that are easy on the stomach with an ideal carb-to-protein ratio. Once I discovered that the bars made a great pre-run snack for me, I was hooked. I often eat them for my post-swim breakfast as well.

picky2

I also love the fun culture of the company so when I heard about the chance to be a part of this inaugural ambassador program, I jumped. There are a lot of other fun, active people involved and I’m looking forward to meeting some like-minded people through the program.

Well, that wraps up the exciting stuff going on with my athletic ventures over the past four weeks. Here’s hoping that the next 12 weeks of training can continue smoothly as I keep building toward this prospect of running 31+ miles!

Janet

– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography