Weeks 1-4 of Training for the Glass City Marathon

The Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH is my goal race this spring. I ran the half marathon there in 2015 and it’s still my PR. It’s close to home so I won’t have to take any time off of work to travel, and it’s early enough in the season that I should have time to recover and get ready for triathlon season afterward. I’ve been anxious to get back to the marathon distance after 2016’s hot and humid Bayshore Marathon was a bust for me. I ended up running about 20 minutes slower than I’d been hoping to run. I’ve been through injury and rebuilding since then, and I think/hope I’m ready to tackle a marathon again.

I still haven’t run the Boston Marathon, but ran a BQ time at the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon. I’m hoping I can pull it off again and actually go to Boston. When I got my BQ, I used Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon plan, but used the Hansons Marathon Method workouts on Tuesdays. Since that worked so well for me, I’m going to try it again. I’m tweaking it here and there, and won’t start the Hansons speed workouts until my sixth week of training. That’s when their beginner marathon plan adds speed. Prior to starting this training, I had been running four days a week. I’ve spent the last four weeks adjusting to running five days a week. The plan calls for six days of running, but I’ve chosen to ride the bike in place of a 3-mile run each week so far. I’m still trying to gauge if I will stick with that approach or try running six days.

I officially started training on December 18th and things have gone well so far. The main theme of my training has been coping with the winter weather. There was a record-breaking 12-day stretch at the end of December and beginning of January when the Detroit area did not get above 20°F. I’m not a big fan of cold, so it hasn’t been especially enjoyable. Fortunately, I have decent tolerance for the treadmill.

Here’s how the training has gone so far.

Week #1

The first week of training went pretty well because there wasn’t much snow and it wasn’t too cold. We have a hill that’s perfect for hill repeats right outside our door, so that was my first real workout of the training plan.

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Our local metroparks are awesome because they keep the paths clear of snow, so that’s where I’ll do the majority of my training. I did a 6-mile loop at Stony Creek Metropark one day.

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Stony Creek Metropark

I went to Indian Springs Metropark for my first marathon pace run. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off, but I ended up running each of the five miles 10-15 seconds faster than marathon pace. I’m sure as the miles and fatigue start to build, I’ll settle down a little bit.

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Indian Springs Metropark

My long run for the week was 10 miles, which is the same distance I had run the previous two weekends.

Totals for week #1: 31 miles of running, 10 miles of biking, 3 miles of swimming, and two strength/weights sessions around 45 minutes each

Week #2

I stuck with the treadmill Tuesday-Thursday mostly out of convenience, but also to avoid the cold. One morning it was -3°F. I was on Christmas break and was able to get all of my workouts done in the morning. A couple days I swam first then hopped on the treadmill next. Another day I did strength/weights first and followed up with a treadmill run. I got outside for my weekend runs and battled the cold.

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

My long run was 11 miles this week, and the real feel was 1°F. Brutal. Balaclavas annoy me because I don’t like having something over my nose and mouth when I run. Although I wore one, I spent most of the run playing with it. I’d keep it over my face until it annoyed me, then I’d pull it below my chin. When I did that, the mouth area froze and stiffened up, making it extra annoying when I covered my face again. On top of that, my bottle’s nozzle froze in less than an hour, so after that I had to stop and unscrew the top in order to drink my sports drink slushie.

Totals for week #2: 30 miles of running, 15 miles of biking, 3.25 miles of swimming, and one strength/weights session around 50 minutes

Week #3

More time on the treadmill. Once the snow hits, it’s not always convenient to drive to one of the parks after work for my run. Going to the gym to use the treadmill is often the easy way out, especially if I need to shower and go out somewhere when I’m done. I ran 4×800 one day, which is the first true speed workout I’ve done in a long time. I ran the repeats around 10K pace, and it was definitely challenging. The weekend was cold again and I couldn’t bring myself to attempt six miles at marathon pace outside when the windchill was below 0°F. The treadmill run went really well and marathon pace felt comfortable. I ventured out the next day for my long run. Luckily it was a back-down week and I only had eight miles. It was ridiculously cold and my bottle froze again before I was done, but I layered up enough to make the run tolerable. This was the first time I’ve had my eyelashes freeze!

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Totals for week #3: 30 miles of running, 15 miles of biking, 3.25 miles of swimming, and one strength/weights session around 45 minutes

Week #4

Hill repeats were on my schedule, and I was able to do those outside in our neighborhood again. I did a 5-mile tempo run at Stony on an extremely rare warm day. It was 50°F! Clouds of fog blowing off of the piles of snow made for a really scenic run.

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

It was super cold again by the weekend, so rather than fight the nasty windchill, I had another solid 6-mile marathon pace run on the treadmill. I braved the cold again for my long run, which was up to 13 miles this week. I’m so tired of the cold! The windchill was in the single digits and I hoped it was warm enough to avoid the balaclava. My face froze for the first half mile, but luckily I warmed up after that. I felt like I was dragging for most of the run, but the pace on my watch made it look otherwise. I felt a lot slower than I actually ran. Having the sun out for the first half of the run helped, but then it got cloudy and the wind picked up. I have a sore spot on my right kneecap following this run, and I hope it’s just a random tweak that goes away. I will worry about any little thing I feel and hope it doesn’t turn into anything that could derail my training!

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Cool ice formations at Stony Creek Metropark

Totals for week #4: 33 miles of running, 10 miles of biking, 3 miles of swimming, and two strength/weights sessions around 45 minutes each

Totals for the first 4 weeks: 124 miles of running, 50 miles of biking, 12.5 miles of swimming, and strength/weights 1-2 times per week

Four weeks down, 14 to go! I hope the whole winter isn’t this miserable, but I guess I’ve managed to survive so far.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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2017 Recap

2017 janet

Looking back at another year of training and racing, 2017 was an interesting one. Things didn’t go as planned right off the bat, so it was another year of adapting and going with the flow. I spent the last couple months of 2016 getting back to running after recovering from that summer’s metatarsal stress fracture. I thought things were going well, so I started 2017 with hopes of running a spring marathon. When my foot went bad again two weeks into January, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I probably got too ambitious too soon and aggravated my foot enough to take three months off of running. That’s not how I wanted to start the year. I ran less than 1,000 miles this year. I haven’t seen yearly running mileage that low since 2012.

However, I swam 168 miles! I haven’t done anything remotely close to that as an adult. Since I couldn’t run and biking was iffy for my foot at times too, I had to do something to keep active. Swimming was a substitute for what I really wanted to do…until it became something that I really wanted to do too.

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Swimming was a big part of my routine this year

It’s hard for me to remember if I truly enjoyed swimming when I was younger or if it was just something that I had to do. I was a solid swimmer since I grew up doing it, but I was never fast. I didn’t win races and was average at best when it came to competitive swimming. By my early teenage years I decided that I wasn’t going to bother with it anymore. I finally returned to swimming in 2012 when I decided that I should try doing triathlons. My swim training was a bit spotty at times until this year. As soon as I realized I couldn’t run, I became determined to swim at least three times a week and work toward a good triathlon season this year. Even as I got back to running, I stuck with my swim routine and recognized that my overall fitness level improved because of it.

I eased back into running very slowly in April, and in May I did my first race of the year. Although the first part of the year hadn’t gone as I hoped, I made up for it the rest of the year. I did 15 races – the most I’ve ever done in a year. That was quite an improvement after only racing five times in 2016.

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All of my race shirts from 2017

Because I was so worried about reinjuring my foot, I kept my run training pretty unstructured. I worked on building a base and didn’t do any speed workouts. Most of the year I had no idea what kind of pace I was capable of running. I went into races hoping to have fun rather than aiming to beat past times. I didn’t plan very far ahead and often signed up for races just a couple weeks in advance. By racing so frequently in the second half of the year, races became a form of speed workouts for me and I saw improvement as the year went on.

I concentrated solely on multi-sport events May-August. I started my year of racing with my very first duathlon. My second duathlon was in July. It was supposed to be a triathlon, but the swim was cancelled due to rough water.

2017 tri lakes

I loved the beautiful sunrises over the lakes when I did triathlons this summer. The bottom photo is from Caseville, which turned into a duathlon thanks to those waves.

Although I enjoy swimming during triathlons, I discovered that I really like duathlons as well. Since running is my strongest discipline, I found that run-bike-run events play to my strengths. I may have to try more duathlons in the future. I also did three Olympic-distance triathlons and one sprint tri. My running pace improved with each race and I had a lot of fun. My bike segments weren’t noticeably better or worse than past years, but all of my work in the pool helped improve my swim times. I ended my tri season with a race in Ludington, MI. It was probably one of my favorite races of the year. I had never been there before and absolutely loved riding past sand dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan.

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The lighthouse was a very cool age group award.

A week after the Ludington triathlon, I returned to running-only races. I started with the Crim 10-mile race, where I ran a negative split and was only 15 seconds slower than the last time I had run it. It was a big boost to my confidence and I felt like I’d regained my running fitness. Racing so frequently seemed to work in my favor!

I kept things interesting for the last few months of racing. Although I did some races that were familiar to me, I also made a point of getting out to do some that had been on my radar that I’d never done before.

I had run a 5K at the Detroit Zoo once, so to change things up, I did the “Too Wild” challenge by running the 5K and 10K back-to-back. I ran new PRs for each distance! I felt ready to get back to the half marathon distance, and raced one in September, one in October, and one in November. The first one was the Brooksie Way, which was hot, hilly, and a bit rough for me. The second one (Grand Rapids) went a lot better, but it poured rain the entire time. The third one (the LeftOvers Trail Half) was a spur of the moment decision and went surprisingly well until I wiped out running down a hill. Prior to the trail half, I had completed the “Run-Eat-Run” challenge of running one trail 10K on Thanksgiving and another 10K the following day. It was the first time I had done a two-day challenge, so adding the third day was really something new. It was a fun way to wrap up my year of racing, and also gave my confidence another boost.

After pulling that off successfully, I decided I could consider a marathon this coming spring. I’m targeting the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH in April. That was my goal race when 2017 began, so hopefully it actually happens in 2018.

Here are some stats for the year:

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  • I swam 168 miles
  • I biked 1,960 miles
  • I ran 901 miles
  • I spent a good amount of time on strength/weights as well – usually one or two sessions per week of 45+ minutes
  • I did 15 races: two duathlons, three Olympic triathlons, one sprint triathlon, one 10-mile race, two 5Ks, four 10Ks, and three half marathons
  • Out of those races, a couple were unique challenges – a 5K/10K combo in one day, and a 10K/10K/half marathon in three days

Although the year didn’t begin how I had hoped, it ended up being a pretty solid year. Here’s hoping that 2018 is another solid year, and hopefully an injury-free one!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Scenery from Runs in 2017

I didn’t want to bog down my year-end blog with too many photos, so here’s a photo-heavy post on its own. When I’m out for a run, I’m always on the lookout for cool scenery. Here are several cool things I saw in 2017.

 

Stony Creek Metropark is an awesome place to have so close to home. I do a lot of bike/run bricks there when I’m training for triathlons. It’s one of few places that gets plowed regularly in the winter. It also has some beautiful trails. I love Stony!

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Stony Creek Metropark

 

We are extremely lucky to live right by the Paint Creek Trail. Aside from the winter, it’s my go-to place for running, and I do plenty of bike/run bricks on the trail as well.

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Paint Creek Trail

 

In July, we went to Naperville, IL for a concert. I always love exploring new places when we’re out of town, and we found some great running spots in the nearby town of Warrenville.

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DuPage River Trail

 

Although we only live 30-45 minutes north of Detroit, we rarely run there. We stayed downtown one night after a concert (notice a theme?) and made sure to get a run in the following morning. We ran along the beautiful riverwalk and to the Dequindre Cut.

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The Dequindre Cut and riverwalk with the RenCen in the distance

 

We visited Cincinnati once several years ago and had a great run. When we went back to the city in October for…yep, another concert, I couldn’t wait to get out and run the following morning. There are several bridges that connect Ohio and Kentucky, so it was fun to say that we ran in two states!

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Bridges connecting Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, Kentucky

 

It’s only 10 miles from home, but I don’t get out to Addison Oaks County Park (in Leonard, MI) often enough. I wanted to hit a different spot to see fall colors during a run in October. Fall colors combined with early morning light made for some great scenery.

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Addison Oaks County Park

 

I’ve seen a lot of cool things over the last year and will make a point of running in some new locations in 2018 to see more fresh scenery.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Turkey Trail Trot / The LeftOvers Half Marathon Recap

My latest adventure was three days in a row of racing on the trails at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township, MI. When I went to the Brooksie Way expo in September, there were fliers with a discount code for the Turkey Trail Trot and LeftOvers Half Marathon. I stuck them on the fridge to keep them fresh in my mind. Since I haven’t been training for anything specific lately, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of races just for fun. I’ve been trying to do some races that have been on my radar that I haven’t done before. Although I usually go out for a run on Thanksgiving, I have never done a turkey trot race on the actual holiday. It was time to change that this year!

I thought the “run eat run” challenge sounded like fun, so I signed up to do a 10K on both Thursday and Friday. Move-It Fitness gives people the option to do 2.5 miles, 4 miles, or a 10K on both days. If you do the same distance both days, you get a medal each day plus an additional medal for the challenge. I didn’t care so much about collecting more medals, but I thought it would be something fun and different to do. I went to Tim Horton’s a couple days before the race for the early packet pickup. They requested canned goods to donate to the Rochester Area Neighborhood House, so I took a couple bags with me.

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The cotton shirt for people running Thursday and/or Friday

Stony Creek Metropark is only 10 minutes from home, so that made things nice and easy on Thanksgiving morning. The race started at 9:00, and I got there a little after 8:00. There was a pretty big crowd, which makes sense since I’ve read that Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year for running races.

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I thought it was pretty interesting that the announcements and starting line directions were made without a microphone despite the size of the crowd. Trail races seem to be a bit more laid back than road races.

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With 158 finishers in the 2.5-mile run, 210 in the 4-mile run, and 153 in the 10K, over 500 people participated. All of the races started at the same time, so they tried to organize people by pace. People aiming to run a 7-minute pace were told to line up at the front, and a woman stood at a spot to represent the cutoff point for that group. It was a chip-timed race, so the clock didn’t start for us until we crossed the line. People running an 8-minute pace went a couple minutes later, and I went with that group. Knowing that the trails are more challenging than roads and knowing that I had another day of racing coming up, I didn’t count on running sub-8 miles like I usually do for the 10K.

The start was a little challenging because people were so close together. Some parts of the trail at the beginning weren’t very wide. After watching one girl wipe out, I realized that I should back off the people in front of me so I had enough room to see the roots and patches of mud up ahead. I also realized that I should watch my footing carefully and look down pretty much the whole time. I run the trails at Stony every now and then, so I know that I need to be careful. It was even more necessary with all of the people around.

A photo from Move-It Fitness's Facebook page - I'm in the yellow

A photo from Move-It Fitness’s Facebook page – I’m in the yellow

Another photo from Move-It Fitness

Another photo from Move-It Fitness

It was about 32 degrees at the start of the race, so it was a bit cool and I battled watery eyes for a while. Aside from a small patch in spots, there wasn’t any mud to worry about. There were a lot of leaves on the trails, and sometimes they could hide the roots and rocks underneath. I knew that I should be careful, especially on several downhill stretches where I got some crazy momentum. I kept hoping that I wouldn’t fall!

Apparently they change the direction of the race each year, and this year we went counterclockwise. We hit a stretch called “The Pines” about two miles into the race. I had never run there before and really loved it. The only downside was that it was truly a single-track section and I was right behind three people and their dog. The woman in front of me told me to let her know if I wanted to pass, but I said I was okay. I wasn’t really trying to race and didn’t think it would be a big deal. The trail winds and zig-zags constantly for about a mile, and there are very few spots that are wide enough to try to pass a group. Eventually I got a little frustrated by the slower pace and finally found a spot where I was able to pass. They were totally cool about it, but I didn’t feel like there was an earlier opportunity to pass.

Once I got out of that section, I had a little more space around me for a few miles. Then I came up on the people walking the 4-mile race. I had to be vocal about passing, and everyone seemed to be friendly and willing to move over. There were hills scattered throughout the run, and some of them were kind of tough. However, the earlier hills were nothing in comparison to what came between miles five and six. There was a hill on the way up to the *real* hill, so I was already winded before I got to the worst part of it. Although I didn’t stop to walk, it felt like I was shuffling along slow enough that it could have been considered a walk. That part was brutal. Like most of the uphill stretches, a nice downhill section followed. That made for a speedy finish, and my official time was 53:14.

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My Garmin’s map of the route

My Garmin said there there was an elevation gain of 337 feet

My Garmin said there there was an elevation gain of 337 feet

They had water, bananas and some bite-size candy at the finish. I was surprised by the lack of food, but it WAS Thanksgiving and we’d have plenty of food later, so it was probably for the best.

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I saw that I had placed first in my age group, so I asked a woman in charge if they had any age group awards. She said it was just for bragging rights. I was relieved that I didn’t need to stick around since I wanted to get home and get ready for the day.

As if one day of  racing wasn’t action-packed enough, I went through the same routine the next day. The race started half an hour later and the crowd was much smaller. 36 people finished the 2.5-mile race, 51 did the 4-mile, and 47 did the 10K. That was 134 people on Friday versus 521 on Thursday. It was a few degrees warmer and the sun was out, so it was a pretty morning.

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The race was not chip-timed and we didn’t start in waves, so I got up near the front. I pushed harder during the first mile than I had the previous day because I wanted my space. I didn’t want to get stuck behind anyone in “The Pines” like I had on Thursday, and therefore I expected my time to be faster. Not getting stuck and running faster were my two goals for the day. I didn’t want to start out so fast, but I figured I’d slow down once I had some space. That method worked, and it sure helped that there was a much smaller crowd as well. I still came up on the walkers right around the time when the biggest hills hit, and once again, they were very nice about making room for me to get through. The last hill still sucked, but I toughed my way through it. I flew along to the finish again, with a final time of 52:26. I was almost 50 seconds faster than the prior day, so I was happy. My time was good for first in my age group again, and I was the second female overall thanks to such a small group for the 10K.

The color of my bib signaled that I had raced both days, so I received the additional medal for the challenge.

Medals for Thursday's and Friday's races

Medals for Thursday’s and Friday’s races

A woman at the end asked if I was coming back for the half marathon the next day. I said that I hadn’t planned on it and didn’t think I was conditioned for it. I haven’t been running consecutive days very often lately, let alone three days in a row on a challenging course.

In addition to the water, bananas, and candy they’d had on Thursday, on Friday they also had hot chocolate and cookies. I talked to a few other people who asked if I’d be back for the half marathon. I thought the two days in a row had been a good enough challenge, but the more people asked about the half, the more they put the idea into my head. By the time I got home, I decided that I’d sign up and go for it.

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I knew that I was crazy as Saturday turned into another day of deja-vu. Back to the same parking lot around 8:30 for a 9:30 start. I picked up my bib and shirt, caught up with my friend Carmen who was (smartly) running just the one day, then I went back to the car to stay warm for a bit.

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Thursday and Friday’s shirt was cotton while Saturday’s shirt was technical material

Saturday was actually pretty nice – around 46 degrees. There were a few moments of light rain before the start, but it was the warmest of the three days. Warm enough for me to go with shorts!

Saturday’s race was not chip-timed either, so I started near the front again. 111 people finished the half so it wasn’t too crowded. I started a little fast again to gain some space. I don’t like the feeling of running right on someone’s heels on the single-track portions, and I don’t want to think that I’m holding someone up behind me either. Once I had some space, I settled down to run a pace that felt more comfortable. I knew I should run as if it was a training run and not try to race – especially in the early miles.

In order to make the course long enough for a half, we branched off on one segment of the trail that we hadn’t run the other days. There was usually someone in front or behind me within the first 4-5 miles, but for a good chunk of the race I was on my own. That made it easy to run along at whatever pace I settled into.

I ran with my own bottle all three days, but utilized the aid stations this time for some water. I knew I wouldn’t place as the top female and didn’t really care about my time, so I always stopped to walk for a brief moment when I got the water. The brutal hill still sucked on the third day, but I got through the first loop of the course feeling pretty good. I was totally on my own as I started the second loop. At some point it began to rain a little bit, but luckily it didn’t last very long. When I got to “The Pines” I decided it was okay to stop and take a couple pictures. No one was coming behind me and my time didn’t matter anyway.

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11.75 miles is when things got ugly. As I flew down a hill and rounded a corner, I wiped out. It happened so fast that I don’t know if I tripped over roots, slid on leaves, or just had bad footing. I swore as I went down and was a bit startled as I sat up to assess the damage. I had dirt all over my hands and my left knee, which hurt. I had a little bit of blood on my right hand, but it didn’t seem too bad. A guy I had just passed was coming into view, so I wiped myself off and started to walk. I didn’t really want to walk it in, so I tried to run and felt good enough. I got moving, knowing I could stop at an aid station soon. When the woman there shouted out to ask if I wanted water or Gatorade, I yelled back, “Band-Aids?” They didn’t have Band-Aids, but luckily one of the volunteers had one napkin in his pocket. I poured some water on my hand, wiped it off, and it seemed like the cut was pretty minor. I held the napkin over the cut the rest of the way just in case. I heard the guy call in an injury, and I reassured them that I was fine. The woman told me that someone else had just twisted an ankle. I was thankful that at least I hadn’t done that! She reminded me that I didn’t have far to go, and I carried on. I am extremely thankful for the awesome volunteers who supported this race.

Other than one guy, I hadn’t seen any people for at least five or six miles. While I had stopped for a minute or two, a couple people came along and passed me. I wasn’t concerned with “beating” people, but seeing them helped motivate me to get moving. I gained on them when we got to the last brutal hill. The three of us seemed to take a similar approach of running as much as we could, taking a break to walk, then trying to run again. We swapped places a couple times depending on who was walking or running. Eventually I tried to push myself to keep running, got to the downhill portion, and took off…hoping I wouldn’t wipe out again!

I finished strong with a time of 1:59:06. That was good for 6th female, and 19th out of 111. Although I didn’t have a real goal going into the race, I hoped that I’d finish within two hours. Even with the downtime thanks to the wipeout, I still pulled it off.

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A photo from Move-It Fitness’s Facebook page

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Here’s what the elevation looked like for two loops. My Garmin said that there was a total gain of 801 feet.

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I went into the tent after the race, where I was thankful that they had hot chocolate and cookies again. I took some time to figure out what I’d done to myself. The blood on my hand was from a few minor scratches. The non-bloody injuries were the ones that hurt more. My knee was covered with dirt and didn’t look bad yet, but I knew it would get worse later. I realized that my right elbow hurt, so I rolled my sleeve up to reveal a scrape there. It wasn’t pretty, but I was hopeful that nothing was too bad.

I went back out and saw Carmen coming into the finish, so I took some pictures and cheered her on.

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The top male and female runners received a free Metroparks pass for 2018. They didn’t have any other prizes, so I didn’t stick around too long after the race. After three days of racing, I was ready to get home and rest.

The day after the race, I’m surprised that I’m not more sore. I thought for sure that the uphill climbs and flying down the hills would beat me up. I think running on the softer trail surface really helped. I also think my wipeout injuries are helping to overshadow any soreness from the running. My knee hurt a bit on Saturday, but isn’t too bad now. It hurts if I touch it and I’m sure it will turn into a really ugly bruise in the next few days, but it doesn’t feel like I did anything serious. I have a variety of other scratches and bruises, and my upper right arm hurts and aches as if I got a tetanus shot. I know there’s always a greater risk of injury on trails. I’m just thankful that it happened on the last day with just over a mile left!

Despite finishing bruised and battered, I feel pretty accomplished following this 3-day experience. I’m glad I chatted with other runners who gave me the push to go for it. It seemed like a crazy idea at first to go for all three days, but I knew that others were going to do the same thing, and I reassured myself that I was capable of doing it as well. It gives me a confidence boost that maybe I can consider running a spring marathon – something I’ve been questioning lately. In the meantime, I’m having fun kind of winging it. I still might squeeze in a holiday race or two before the year ends.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

 

Big Bird Run 10K

2017-11-12 - big bird shirt

On Sunday, November 12th I ran the Big Bird Run 10K in Roseville, MI. The race has been around for 39 years and I’ve considered running it several times but never got around to it. My friend Carmen has run the race many times and talking to her reaffirmed that I should sign up this year. Perks she listed included a flat course, a good shot at age group awards, and great raffle prizes.

The 10K was scheduled to start at 10:20, so the late start was another bonus. I didn’t have to wake up super early! I still got there a bit early because people running the 1-mile race started at 10:00, with the 4K following at 10:15. A volunteer motioned for me to park in a lot a short walk from the rec center where the race was based. When I got my packet I saw that there was plenty of parking right by the front door, so I moved my car closer. That was a wise choice because it made it easy to grab a hat at the last minute when it started to rain, plus I could get my coat to stay warm right after I finished.

The rec center had real restrooms and a warm gym where we could hang out beforehand. I found Carmen and her mom, and Carmen reminded me to submit the raffle ticket on my bib so I’d have a chance to win one of the many turkeys!

It was just under 40 degrees, and with a little bit of light rain, I opted to wear a jacket. I was a little warm during the race and probably could have gone without it, but I didn’t know if the rain would pick up. Luckily the rain was very minimal and didn’t last the whole time.

2017-11-12 - big bird 4k start

I lined up after watching the 4K racers (including Carmen’s mom) start. Carmen had warned me that it was easy to start too fast at this race, and sure enough, I did. I held steady for the first couple miles and it felt like an easy pace, but eventually I fizzled out and it was a harder effort the rest of the race. We started on a couple of busier roads, then the rest of the run was on residential roads and through a couple of parks. The course was totally flat other than the twisty climb up and over a pedestrian bridge twice. It definitely felt harder the second time, but the way down gave me a nice burst of speed. I also found a little bit of extra speed at the end when we had a straightaway of nearly a quarter mile. My official time was 46:56. It’s not one of my fastest 10K times, but I was happy enough with how it went.

2017-11-12 - big bird splits

Carmen came through shortly after me with a big PR! You can read about her race on her blog.

2017-11-12 - big bird carmen janet postrace

They had bagels and fruit in the gym, where they were giving out the awards for the earlier races. We checked the raffle board to see if our bib numbers were listed under various prizes. Carmen’s mom won a turkey! We realized we should find the results to see if we had placed in our age groups. I had won mine and Carmen was second in hers.

2017-11-12 - big bird awards1

I won a Michelob Ultra prize with a high-quality drawstring bag that had a windbreaker inside, plus a medal. Carmen won a nice plaque.

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2017-11-12 - big bird medal

2017-11-12 - big bird windbreaker

It took a while to get through all of the awards, but Carmen told me that it was worth sticking around through the very end. At that point they drew numbers until they gave away all of the unclaimed raffle prizes. We were especially interested in the one remaining turkey. After drawing numbers of a bunch of people who had left, Carmen’s number was called! She and her mom BOTH won turkeys! What a nice Thanskgiving for them.

Knowing that the race has been around for 39 years, I had thought it would draw a bigger crowd. It looks like 39 people did the mile, 105 did the 4K, and 169 did the 10K. It wasn’t a huge crowd, so it made for a nice, small hometown race. Hansons Running Shop supports the race, and their runner Mel Brender (who sold me some shoes a week earlier!) won the women’s 10K. They also provided the runners with a pair of gloves in the race packets. 

2017-11-12 - big bird gloves

It was cool to see a bunch of local running friends and run a nice, flat race with fun prizes. I just may have to return next year for the 40th year of the race!

2017-11-12 - big bird romeo bag

Romeo was attracted to my prize instantly

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

GM Global Facilities 5K Recap

2017-11-04 tech center 5k - medal

On Saturday, November 4th, Trivium Racing and GM partnered up to present a 5K at GM’s Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Since I work there, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. I wanted to be supportive of the Chevy Running Club and the charities that would benefit from the race – the Special Olympics and Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit. I signed up right away and even got Matt’s permission to sign him up…though he was very reluctant. He practically lives at work lately, has barely been running, and hasn’t had any desire to race. I was excited that we’d finally do a race together since it had been nearly a year since we’d done so.

The race started at 9:00 and we got there a little after 8:00. We got our shirts and bibs then went back to the car to stay warm. It was around 40 degrees with a light breeze, and I’m not used to the cooler weather yet.

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A nice long sleeve shirt

The shirt and medal feature a water tower, the Design Dome, and other architecture from the campus. The famous architect Eero Saarinen designed the Tech Center campus, which is a square mile. We only got to see a little portion of it during the race since we did a 1.5-mile loop twice. I’m sure it’s hard to shut down too many roads when some people still need to get to work, plus this loop was logistically ideal.

2017-11-04 tech center 5k - map

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Eventually we ventured back out into the cold. I was surprised that I only came across a handful of people who I knew from work. I knew that Marty, who recently retired, and his wife, Cheryl, would be there. We got to chat a little bit before the race. Rather than do the organized stretches and warm up with LifeSteps, I opted to do a warm up jog.

2017-11-04 tech center 5k - lifesteps

LifeSteps led a warm up session with the Design Dome in the background

I started my jog along the lake and my eyes started to water instantly. I didn’t think 40 degrees should seem that cold! I think it’s a great temperature for a longer race like a half marathon, when I’m running a slower pace. Trying to run fast when it’s cold is tough though, which is why I made sure to get the blood flowing beforehand. Right before the start, I joined some members of the Chevy Running Club for a group photo.

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Once the race started, I noticed right away that my breathing felt labored in the cold air. It has been pretty warm until recently and apparently I’m not acclimated yet. Despite doing a warm up jog, my feet felt semi-numb for the first half of the race. I was surprised that I was so wimpy about the cold!

One great thing about the race route was that it was totally flat. They had music playing at one spot, a very enthusiastic woman giving high-fives and cheering in another spot, and a woman in a Cookie Monster onesie who made me smile.

As I finished my first loop, the announcer said that the second, third, and fourth place women were close to each other and that it would be quite a finish. I realized that meant I was in fourth place. The woman in front of me wasn’t slowing down, so I didn’t think there was a chance I’d catch her. However, the woman in front of her did slow down during the second loop. I normally think about running my own race and don’t worry about trying to beat other people, but knowing that I could get a prize for being one of the top three women helped motivate me to keep pushing. Eventually I caught one of the women and I knew I better finish strong because I didn’t know how close she might be behind me. Trying to run 5K pace is always a challenge, but dealing with labored breathing in the cold made it even harder. My legs felt fine but my lungs did not.

2017-11-04 tech center 5k - splits

My official finishing time was 22:12.9. They tracked both chip and gun start times, and for some reason mine was the same. I didn’t start at the front though, and it definitely took me a few seconds before I crossed the line. My chip time probably should have been more like my Garmin’s time, so I’m not sure what happened there. It’s only a few seconds so I don’t really care, but if that had cost me my third place finish I may have cared. Especially since the official times show that the next woman was only one second behind!

(Edit – A couple days after I wrote this I realized they used gun times for the overall winners and chip times for everyone else. They made an announcement about that prior to the race, but it didn’t really register with me because I didn’t think I’d be fast enough to worry about it!)

I looked pretty miserable in my finishing photos, so I’m going to try to forget about those. Matt and Marty looked pretty good finishing though!

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Matt with both feet off the ground, flying into the finish

2017-11-04 tech center 5k - marty finish

Marty finishing strong!

I grabbed a granola bar and some pretzels then went back to the car with Matt so we could crank the heat. We put some extra layers on and sat there for a bit until it was time for the awards ceremony. I got a pretty cool prize for placing as the third woman.

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Matt and Cheryl both won age group awards. They received a cool cup.

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We caught up with Marty and Cheryl and took some photos together before it got too cold for us.

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Overall, it was a great race. A little over 300 people participated, which is pretty good for the first year. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do for the race in the future. They already mentioned doing it when it’s a little warmer next time, which sounds good to me. Although the combination of the cold and the struggle of running as hard as I could for three miles wasn’t especially fun at the time, I was pretty happy about the race later…when I was nice and warm. It always depends on who shows up, but I was pretty excited to be one of the top three women. I was also happy that Matt and I got to enjoy a race experience together. I hope it won’t be another year now before we race together again!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Grand Rapids Half Marathon Race Recap

2017-10-15 - grmarathon medal

The 2013 Grand Rapids Marathon was my first marathon, so of course it was a memorable experience. Little did I know that this year’s half marathon on Sunday, October 15th would end up being unforgettable in a different way. It was definitely an “experience.” Thanks to less than ideal weather conditions, I’m sure this one will remain pretty fresh in my memory for years to come.

I actually signed up to run this half in 2016. I thought I’d use it as a training run as I worked toward running the Richmond Marathon. When I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my foot in August last year, it was clear that I wouldn’t recover soon enough to run either race. The Grand Rapids Marathon is one of few races that provide the option to defer to the following year. I opted to pay the $25 fee to do so and this race was on my calendar for over a year.

One big reason I enjoy the Grand Rapids Marathon so much is because of Don Kern, the race director. He has a positive attitude and a great outlook on life that really resonates with me. When I considered signing up for the marathon in 2013, the humorous FAQ section on the website caught my interest and made me laugh. He sends newsletters every week as the race approaches, and they become daily updates when the race is 10 days out. He shares inspirational stories from his past marathons as well as tips to help alleviate any pre-race worries. Don has run over 300 marathons and has a lot of great stories to tell, many of which are documented in his book and the adventure continues…. It’s a great read about the adventures of an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things – such as setting the world record for the fastest time to complete a marathon on each continent.

As the race day approached, I fell into the habit of obsessively checking the weather forecast. It didn’t look good. It looked like it would rain, and it could be cool and windy as well. As people began to worry about the weather conditions for this year’s race, here’s what Don had to say:


“So here’s the deal. In case of bad weather, the race will be held OUTDOORS!

Ever run in the rain before?

Some people are asking me about if it’s possible the race will be canceled because of weather. 95 degrees. -25 degrees. Deluge thunderstorms. Wind. Rain. Fog. Whatever. We’ll cancel if there’s a disaster of Biblical proportions. Otherwise, plan on this thing happening. We’ve had 12 years of nice weather. What if one year we don’t?

Always remember–there’s more in you than you think. More strength. More determination. More guts. It’s all in there. Make it happen.”

 

Don’s advice helped me relax. He was right – I’ve run in the rain before and it was fine. Rather than going into the race thinking it was going to suck, I adjusted my mindset and looked at it as an adventure. As Don pointed out, if the weather was bad, we’d have a good story to tell. Boy, was he right…

Grand Rapids is more than two hours away from home, so I headed out the day before the race and stayed at a hotel. The drive out there was kind of miserable as it rained steadily the whole time. I went to the expo at the YMCA for the packet pickup. A pair of socks was included along with the long sleeve shirt. I found a nice short sleeve Brooks shirt that I bought as well.

2017-10-15 - grmarathon race shirt

2017-10-15 - grmarathon expo shirt

I walked around a mall for a bit, got my standard pre-race dinner at Noodles and Company, then settled in at the hotel for the night. Although I had come to terms with whatever race day conditions we faced, I still kept following all of the updates. A video was posted of Don out at a flooded spot along the race course.

2017-10-15 - grmarathon puddle

It was turning into an obstacle race at this point! We might have a few steps through a monster puddle, but we’d survive.

Although the forecast still didn’t look good, it was in the mid-60s and the rain had stopped when I headed out the next morning. Since the “velocity-challenged” racers were due to start at 7:00, I got to a parking lot by 6:45 to avoid dealing with road closures. I took a bag with post-race clothes to the gear check tent, jogged around a bit, and lined up in the corral. I happened to turn around and see one of my online running buddies Pete right behind me, so we chatted for a few minutes.

2017-10-15 - grmarathon start.jpg

We’re lucky that the rain held off prior to the race so we stayed dry and warm. As the National Anthem began, the first drops of rain came. Over the next couple minutes, a few drops turned into a steady rain just as we were about to start. I looked at the girl next to me and we both just laughed and shook our heads. I was thankful that it was warm enough and I was smart enough to wear my triathlon outfit since this was practically a duathlon! I can imagine it would be annoying to have a wet t-shirt and shorts weighing down on me for 13 miles.

In addition to the rain, we had a pretty strong wind to deal with as well. Shortly after we started the wind blew the rain sideways and I heard someone comment that it felt like pellets. This was going to be an interesting one!

I was soaked within the first few minutes. Although I tried to go around most of the bigger puddles, I realized it really didn’t matter. It’s not like I’d end up more wet than I already was. I used Aquaphor all over my feet and wore Injinji toe socks, so I hoped that my feet wouldn’t turn into a mess of blisters. We ran around some streets in downtown Grand Rapids to start, and one stretch through the busy part of town had a lot of spectators cheering us on. I give the volunteers and spectators a ton of credit. At least we got to keep moving and stay warm, while they were standing there getting cold and wet.

After five miles or so of running through the streets downtown, we veered off onto a paved path through Millennium Park. When I ran the full marathon, I really enjoyed running a long stretch of Indian Mounds Road. It’s lined with trees that can be really pretty at this time of year. However, the half marathon turns before hitting that stretch. I didn’t notice scenery much during this race, with the exception of one short area 9-10 miles into the race. We finally got some nice fall colors in that spot versus mostly green everywhere else. I realized that I had forgotten about the hills along the course. I mostly view this race as “flat and fast” but it does have a few little climbs to keep things interesting.

Pretty early into the race I knew that I’d roll along without any big expectations. I hoped that I’d run faster than I had at the Brooksie Way half a few weeks earlier, but that was the only real goal. I didn’t feel especially fresh or fast, aside from a part around the ninth or tenth mile when there was enough of a downhill stretch to help speed me up. The rain didn’t bother me all that much, and it came and went a few times. During the few brief moments when it wasn’t raining, I noticed that my face was pretty warm. The temperature dropped throughout the day, and it’s probably for the best that it was a little warm. I’d rather not be cold in the rain and wind!

Don had announced at the beginning of the race that they had been able to clear up most of the “lake” about seven miles into the race. By the time I got there, it had been raining for nearly an hour and was pretty flooded again. Someone was making a great effort to reduce it by sweeping it and using a pump, but our feet were completely submerged for several steps.

I had to hold onto my hat a few times thanks to the wind, but it didn’t seem to affect me too much until the end of the race when everything felt hard enough as it was. I didn’t look at my watch very often, but I seemed to be averaging somewhere around an 8:00 pace as far as I knew. I didn’t realize that I had a few faster miles mixed in during the second half of the race that helped me end up with a negative split. I felt like most of the run was quite an effort, but mostly sustainable. The last few miles felt more labored though. It’s understandable considering my training.

I normally like to follow a training plan for the half marathon that requires speed work and tempo runs. I’m normally used to running a specific race pace. However, I’ve been cautious this past year because I feel little tweaks occasionally from the foot that I injured. It’s been a year – how long can this linger? I’m very thankful that I’ve been okay running up to the half marathon distance, but it’s still frustrating. Most of my runs have been at an easy pace aside from racing every few weeks throughout the summer. I’m surprised that I was able to sustain an 8:00 pace for so long when I haven’t been running it during training. The end of the race felt hard, but somehow I kept going and even sped up a little. This wasn’t one of those races where I started slow, sped up, and felt strong through the end though. I battled the rain and wind and managed to keep going, but I didn’t feel great. Here’s a picture from the final stretch when I didn’t see the photographer:

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When I knew there would be a photographer at the finish, I faked a smile. The above picture reflects how I felt more accurately though, haha.

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I finished in 1:43:47 – around two minutes better than my time at Brooksie. Goal achieved! It’s clear that the heat and hills of Brooksie were more difficult for me than coping with the pouring rain.

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Here are my splits:

2017-10-15 - grmarathon splits.jpg

As if I haven’t raved about Don Kern enough already, another awesome thing he does is greet every person at the finish line. He’s there to shake every last person’s hand, and I think that’s pretty awesome. Especially in those conditions.

2017-10-15 - grmarathon don kern finish.jpg

I was thankful for the heat blanket at the finish, because once I stopped moving I started to get cold. Although the frozen custard available in the food line looked good, I knew it wouldn’t be the best idea for me. I opted to grab a bagel, granola bar, apple, fruit snacks, and chocolate milk. I thought the chocolate milk would be a good way to get protein and refuel. I decided that was more important than the post-race beer, which I didn’t think would mix well in my stomach after a whole bottle of chocolate milk.

2017-10-15 - grmarathon beer tent

Eventually I went to the gear check tent to get my clothes. I was shivering by that point and my hands were getting especially cold. The race starts and ends by the YMCA, and they are kind enough to let the runners use the locker room. I got a post-race picture prior to changing.

2017-10-15 - grmarathon janet

You can’t tell from the picture, but I was totally soaked. During a triathlon, at least you have the benefit of drying off a bit thanks to the wind on the bike. Not this time! I started and finished totally soaked. I felt much better when I got into some dry clothes, but my hands were bad enough that I had to sit in the car with the heat on for a while before they got back to normal.

Looking back at the experience a week later, yes, it was hard and kind of sucked at times. But it was a memorable adventure, and having accomplished the race in such challenging conditions makes it that much sweeter. I had moments during the race where I smiled at the ridiculousness of voluntarily running 13 miles in the pouring rain. I also had moments where I was just trotting along, not quite suffering but not feeling great either. I feel good about the actual results of my race, but it also means more to me in the bigger picture. This race was a great reminder to keep a positive attitude, be adaptable, and try not to worry so much. The fact that it was so ridiculous and impractical is part of what made me enjoy it. It all worked out, and believe it or not, was actually pretty fun.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz