Caseville Triathlon

On Sunday, July 14th I raced the Olympic distance at the Caseville Triathlon – my first triathlon of the season. Caseville is in Michigan’s “thumb” area and it’s a beautiful place for a race. I did the Olympic distance there in 2015 and returned to do it again in 2017. That year Lake Huron’s water was too rough, the swim was cancelled, and I ended up doing the duathlon. I really enjoyed the race both times so it’s been on my radar each year. When TriToFinish offered a 10% discount on the 4th of July I decided it was time to commit to this year’s race.

I opted not to pay for a hotel and drove nearly two hours the morning of the race. I knew it was doable since I did the same thing in 2017. It didn’t take long before the sun started to rise and it was a really pretty drive.

I went out on the beach first thing to check on the water conditions. I was bummed when I saw the rolling waves and whitecaps. I figured the swim would be cancelled like it had been in 2017. All I could do was wait it out and see if they made an announcement.

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After checking in, I took my stuff to the transition area and set up my bike and run gear. I left my swim gear in my bag since I didn’t know if I’d need it yet. As I walked out of the transition area and headed toward the beach, I ran into my running/triathlon buddy Lindsay. She decided to switch to the duathlon when she saw the water. She had me debating if I should do the same thing. After all, when I initially saw the water I just assumed the swim would be cancelled. There still hadn’t been an announcement one way or the other and I wondered what I should do. If they cancelled it, the decision would be made for me. If they didn’t cancel it, would I really want to try swimming in those conditions? I was pretty wary, but at the same time, maybe I should use the opportunity to see what it’s like to battle rougher conditions and gain some experience. I was on the fence but leaning more toward braving the swim as long as it was an option.

7:45 came and went without any announcements and that’s when the transition area had been due to close. I think they were still checking everything out and trying to determine if the swim could be executed safely. Eventually I decided to put my wetsuit on and figured I’d just take it off if they cancelled the swim. A number of people were out in the water and I thought I should probably get out there too so I could see what I was in for. Temperature-wise, the water was perfect. I worried that I might swallow a bunch of water while breathing if a wave rolled along. I didn’t have any problems with that but it was hard to get any rhythm going as the waves kept rolling in. I’m sure I played in waves like those as a kid, but it’s been a long time since then and it’s different when you’re actually trying to swim.

Eventually they made an announcement. If we didn’t feel comfortable swimming we could switch to the duathlon. We could try going out in the water and if we felt uncomfortable, we could come back in and let someone know that we were quitting the swim. We wouldn’t get official race results but could still continue with the bike and run. They said that there were plenty of shallow spots we could go to where we could still touch the bottom. Lifeguards were out in the water in kayaks and there was a boat as well, so people would be looking out for us. I decided to give it a shot!

Half distance (70.3) athletes started in the first wave. Rather than starting men and women in separate waves like they typically would, everyone started together based on the race distance. A couple minutes after the half started, I joined the Olympic athletes in the water for our start. We worked our way out to a sand bar where we could stand. I always prefer wave starts that are as small as possible to ease congestion in the water. Results showed that 67 people finished the Olympic distance and I was a little worried that the waves would cause us to crash into each other even more than usual. I made sure to start at the edge away from as many people as I could.

We swam counterclockwise around a rectangular course for two loops. The waves kept coming on my left side as I headed out. They didn’t push me into anyone else or back toward the shore. Instead, it was just a matter of bobbing up and down a bit. I finally realized that I was exerting too much energy trying to fight them and I ought to walk/bounce through the water along the sand dune like most everyone else. It seemed like the cheap way out but the conditions were so screwy that I figured it was fair for us to do whatever it took to feel comfortable. I swapped between attempting to swim and jogging through the water until I reached the first buoy. Then we turned into the waves and the water got a little deeper. I mixed in some breaststroke at times when freestyle wasn’t working so well for me. It seemed like the waves weren’t as bad farther out and I was able to truly swim the second “L” shape of the rectangle. It was back to a mixture of whatever worked for the first “L” of the second loop, then more swimming. I reached a shallow spot as I approached the shore on my way to the finish and began to jog like a guy by me was doing. I thought I’d be proactive about getting my swim cap and goggles off early. Then the water got deeper. I had forgotten about the sand bar – oops. I kind of threw my cap back on until I got closer to the shore where it actually stayed shallow.

Usually I’m pretty wobbly as I jog out of the water and into the transition area, but this swim was so inconsistent and screwy that I didn’t have any issues. I had only swallowed water once, which is bound to happen to me during any race, and I never felt insecure or worried in the water. Aside from someone swatting my feet a couple times, I wasn’t too close to other swimmers and it all worked out reasonably well. I didn’t feel like I had really raced the swim, but I guess I got from the start to the finish and that’s all that mattered. I finished the 1500m swim in 26:34 which is on the fast side for me. Maybe the waves helped push me along and the aquajogging must not have hurt either.

As I tried to get my wetsuit off, a woman near me commented on how she could never get it off over the timing chip on her ankle. I’m glad I wasn’t alone! I struggled with the ankles a little bit, but I wasn’t as horribly slow as I have been at some races. I ate a couple of Clif Shot Bloks, then dealt with my socks, shoes, helmet, number belt, etc. – the usual transition stuff. I spent 2:13 in transition then took off on the bike.

The bike course was nice and flat with pretty views of cottages and the lake. The road was open to traffic but the shoulder is wide enough for at least two people to ride side-by-side. I just moved over a little if there was some sand or other debris at the edge. I noticed the wind at times but it didn’t seem to slow me down. I was pretty happy that I was cruising along around 17-18mph because that’s about the fastest I ever get. I haven’t been that fast out on the trails recently, but I guess the crosswalks and stoplights usually slow me down. The bike ride for Olympic athletes was a 40K. We went out 12.4 miles then turned around and came back. I spent plenty of time counting down the miles and calculating how much longer it might take me, but it never felt too bad. I finished the ride in 1:25:53, which was an average of 17.36mph.

I got a little squirmy on my bike seat at times but I didn’t really hurt until I got off and tried to run. Ouch. After the race I had the revelation that I’m used to riding that bike in my cushy bike shorts. The padding in my tri suit is minimal so it doesn’t soak up a ton of water, and that lack of cushioning left me a bit sore!

I flew through transition in 35 seconds and started the 10K run. Although I was a little warm and my face got really salty, the weather was pretty good. It has been especially hot and humid lately which has made my training runs pretty uncomfortable. It was somewhere around 70°F with lower humidity for this run which was more tolerable. Still, I appreciated the few short patches of shade along the route. Again, it was an out and back course. Since it was my third time doing this race I was plenty familiar with the course. Somehow I managed to maintain a pace in the 7:40s for the first few miles. The run is my time to try to catch up to the people who passed me on the bike. It was tough, but it helped to have people to aim for to keep me moving along. I slowed down to an 8:00 pace for the fourth and fifth miles as I started to tire out and lose momentum. I managed to get back into the 7:40s for the last full mile, and a downhill stretch back into the park always helps. I finished the 10K in 48:21 and completed the race in 2:43:35.

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Here are the final stats:

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I placed third overall for females! I was pretty excited about that. I was really wiped out after I finished and needed to pace around for a bit, then I sat in the pavilion for a few minutes. This one took a lot out of me!

Eventually I went to get some (wonderful) pizza and saw Lindsay. I thought maybe she’d be long gone since her race was shorter, but she had placed second in the duathlon and had to stick around for the awards ceremony. It was pretty cool that we both had such good races. We spent a while chatting until Lindsay realized they might be giving out some of the awards. We made it over to the beach right as they called her name. I had to wait a bit longer since they wanted to leave time for more of the Olympic athletes to finish their races. Lindsay stuck around and it was nice to catch up and enjoy the pretty day. Of course the waves died down AFTER the race.

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Then it was my turn for the podium!

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Later I was curious to see how this race compared to my 2015 race. I was excited to see that I had shaved 4 1/2 minutes off my time. Then I realized almost all of that was from the swim. Somehow this crazy, wavy swim must have worked in my favor. My first transition time was 45 seconds faster this year, so at least I’ve gotten a little faster getting out of my wetsuit. My consistency from race to race blows my mind though. My 2015 bike time was 1:25:51. This time it was 1:25:53. How do I do that?! My second transition time was only a couple seconds off between the two races as well. My run this year was a little slower, but only by 23 seconds. It’s cool that I got a little faster overall, but pretty crazy that I’m so consistent too. I sure haven’t improved on the bike, but I guess at least I haven’t gotten worse either?

I was really happy with how this race went. The swim sure made it quite an adventure and I’m glad I gave it a shot. It was a good way to gain experience racing in different conditions. It was nice to get back to doing a triathlon and now I’m anxious to do more. Before I do, I have another mid-week swim/run race tomorrow night – the second in a series of three races. I sure have been keeping myself busy this summer!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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Muddy Mini Half Marathon Recap

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The Muddy Mini Half Marathon sounded appealing to me because it finishes at Fifth Third Field – home of the Toledo Mud Hens and their mascot Muddy. The Mud Hens are a minor league team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. It sounded especially cool to finish a race on the field’s warning track. I pulled the trigger when I received an email about signing up by a certain date to guarantee a race t-shirt in the correct size. I’d been debating if I should sign up and finally decided to just go for it. I’m really glad I did!

Toledo is an hour and a half away and I didn’t want to pay for a hotel room. That meant I had to wake up crazy early on race day, which was Saturday, June 15th. I left before 4:30 to make sure I could find parking and get to the packet pickup when it opened at 6:00. I also had to catch a shuttle to the half marathon start and didn’t know how long the lines may be for the buses. Everything was really easy and I didn’t need to be there so early, but I guess I’d rather play it safe and have time to kill so I don’t feel rushed.

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After taking a walk around the outside of the ballpark I hopped on a shuttle bus that took me to the start in Maumee. Between Boston, Bayshore and this race, I’ve done several point-to-point races lately that require bussing to the start and then playing the waiting game. I was thankful that this time I got to wait in a nice downtown area by a church and some shops rather than on a damp grass field.

Also like Boston and Bayshore, there was rain prior to the start of the race. I may have had an hour or so to kill and luckily the rain didn’t start right away. I was able to find a bench on a sidewalk and play on my phone for a bit. 15-20 minutes before the 7:45 start the rain began to pick up. Some people took shelter by the church or other buildings.

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I wore a raincoat and sat in the rain until I was ready to unload my extra clothes at gear check, then I did a brief warm up jog around some parking lots. Most people weren’t very anxious to line up and opted to stay out of the rain until a few minutes before the start. When people did line up they left a big gap at the front. I realized someone was holding a 1:30 pace sign behind me, so maybe most people didn’t plan to run much faster than that. I moved back a little bit but was still surprised to be so close to the front. Oh well – if I was too slow people could just pass me. At least I wouldn’t get stuck in congestion like I had at the Bayshore half marathon.

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There was an out-and-back stretch to start the race that took us down a hill and on a road that ran next to a metropark. The rain wasn’t too heavy but it kept up for a little bit. Thanks to the lack of congestion and running downhill my time for the first mile was 7:45. That was a bit faster than I intended. I made an effort to slow down for the second mile. Going back up the hill helped me run the next mile 20 seconds slower. The hill wasn’t too significant though and the rest of the course was mostly flat.

After that, my pace sped up to the 7:45 range again for a while. I kept telling myself that I had just run a 1:44 half marathon a few weeks earlier. That averaged out to a pace in the 7:50s. I wasn’t sure I’d done enough work in the weeks since to set me up for something much faster, but maybe I actually did have more in me? Still, I wondered if running 7:40s could set me up for trouble later. Aside from the Bayshore half, I hadn’t done more than a mile or two at that kind of pace in training runs. I was running by feel though and somehow that pace didn’t feel too labored so I kept rolling with it. There were a couple guys running a similar pace for several miles so it probably helped me lock into that rhythm.

The temperature was in the low 60s. Whenever the rain let up I realized I’d rather have it back than cope with humidity. The rain was pretty much on and off throughout the race. I really appreciated the enthusiasm from the volunteers despite having to stand out in the rain. Police were also out in a ton of spots blocking traffic for us. Although there were very few spectators along the route, it was really nice to have the volunteers and police out there.

The course wasn’t quite as scenic as I thought it may be, but the gloomy day and my concentration on running strong may have distracted me a bit. We ran along River Road for much of the race and caught glimpses of the Maumee River in spots. I liked looking at some of the nice houses along the river. We ran past part of the Toledo Zoo but I guess that portion must not be very noticeable from the road because I completely missed it!

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After five miles my pace got a few seconds faster and I ended up in the low 7:40s and high 7:30s for the next five miles. I didn’t know where the speed was coming from! I thought about how great it felt though. When running comes naturally and it happens to be sort of fast too, it’s a good feeling. I thought about how I’m kind of good at this running thing and I’m lucky to have discovered that!

Of course it wasn’t a total breeze maintaining the pace and I was definitely working hard. Somehow I was able to keep it up and still managed to take my usual approach of speeding up for the last few miles – 7:31, 7:20, 7:12. I found myself grimacing more frequently in the late miles of the race as I kept grinding. When the 1:40 pacer passed me during the first mile of the race I wondered if there was any possibility I could catch up to him later. Now I could see him and he was within reach. He became my target. My PR is just under 1:40 so I knew it was possible. Could I actually catch up to him?

As I approached the ballpark I felt really strained trying to maintain a 7:12 pace. I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to speed up even more. The pacer was within sight but a bit too far out of reach. I went around the outside of the park and got to the tunnel that goes down to the field. The ramp was steep and turned a couple times, so I slowed down a little bit to manage it. It was pretty cool to run into the park.

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We got to run along the warning track on the way to the finish line.

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1:40:47 was my official time. I couldn’t quite hit 1:40 but I was pretty close. I ran several minutes faster than I did at Bayshore, ran a negative split, and I was only a minute off of my PR. I was thrilled!

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I found the 1:40 pacer after I finished and talked to him for a couple minutes. Although he didn’t have people around him to pace, I wanted to let him know that he gave me someone to chase and I appreciated that.

After rounding the warning track we had to head up the stairs for the post-race festivities. Although I was wiped out at the end of the race I guess I still had enough adrenaline to get up the stairs without a struggle.

I’ve found that most people are pretty friendly about taking pictures at races. After I offered to take a picture of one group, one of them offered to do the same for me.

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I ended up chatting with the guy who took my photo for several minutes. He told me this was his third race and the longest distance he had raced. His goal was to keep running the whole time and he had achieved that goal. I love sharing the excitement of accomplishing goals with other runners. I knew that he was proud and I congratulated him and encouraged him to keep it up.

I used one of the computers to check my results and it showed “DNF” – did not finish. Some of the results hadn’t loaded yet so I got some post-race snacks and figured I’d check again later. They had orange slices, bananas, and granola bars for snacks. I wasn’t impressed with the thin selection of food at first, but then I went to the party area in Hensville Park where they had beer, hotdogs, and chips. They also had a great band named Amelia Airharts. They won me over right away with a Tom Petty cover.

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I had signed up for text notifications from the race and received one with my finishing time. I didn’t have to worry about that DNF. I had already been excited enough about my speedy time, but I was pretty shocked to see that I had won my age group and had placed so high overall. I never place high enough for awards when I run half marathons. Most half marathons have more than 400 people though, so I think the smaller crowd gave me better odds.

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This sweet award is now proudly displayed on a bookcase with other prizes I’ve collected from races.

2019-06-15 - muddy mini award

Since I raced so well and won an award, of course I’m going to say I loved this race. I would definitely recommend it and may have to return in the future. I realized that I have run some of my best races in Toledo. My current half PR is from the Glass City Marathon in 2015. I ran the full marathon there in 2018 and used my time to get into Boston in 2019. Since I’ve had three solid races in Toledo I may need to race there more often!

I’ve run a few strong races in the last month which makes me feel better about my lackluster race in Boston. Although Boston didn’t play out how I had hoped, I’ve heard that one successful training cycle stacks on top of another. I think I’m seeing the results of that. My training for Boston was very successful and it seems like the fitness has stuck with me. It kind of amazes me that this race was so close to my half PR without “proper” training. I trained very specifically for that kind of speed when I achieved my PR. If I’m in the same neighborhood now without doing the workouts, it leaves me encouraged for what may come once I start doing more workouts. I hope to do a whole bunch of races over the next few months, so I may actually substitute those for my typical Tuesday speed and Thursday tempo runs. I’m racing my way into shape this summer and so far the approach seems to be working!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Cannonball Run Recap

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Back in November when everyone had Black Friday sales, I browsed through some triathlon websites to see if I could find any races I was ready to commit to that early. I was intrigued by a 3 Disciplines series called the Cannonball Run. It’s an aquathlon (or swim/run) that takes place in Saginaw, MI one Wednesday night in June, July, and August. Although I get enough biking in to manage my way through triathlons, I truly enjoy swimming and running. Cutting out the bike leg sounded like my kind of race!

I’ve done an indoor “aquadash” race using a pool and treadmill but have never done a swim/run outside. Saginaw is an hour and a half away which is pretty far to go on a weeknight. I knew that I’d get out of work early enough to make it on time though. The Black Friday sale allowed me to sign up for all three events plus a t-shirt for $45. I figured that was a good enough deal to go for it. If something came up and I missed one or two of them, it would still be a reasonable deal.

When Wednesday, June 12th rolled around, it was time for my first multisport event of the season. I had plenty of time to make the drive after work with a 6:30 start, even with a frustrating stretch of construction to battle along the way. I changed into my tri suit and ate an energy bar at a rest stop when I got closer to Saginaw and made it to the park with 45 minutes to prepare.

The race took place at William H. Haithco Recreation Area. Registration was by a pavilion in the park where I collected my bib, swim cap, timing chip, t-shirt, and some samples in a drawstring bag. Although 3 Disciplines is the event management company for the race series, the event is actually owned by Team ATP, a triathlon club. A good chunk of the people there were members of the club.

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The transition area was a big patch of grass with flags around it and people could leave their stuff wherever they chose. My nerves kicked in when I started to set my stuff up. Towels, swim cap, goggles, wetsuit, shoes, socks, hat, number belt, and hydration belt…I think I had everything. I have checklists to make sure I don’t forget anything but I’m always a bit anxious when I do my first multisport event of the season. It had been a while since I had dealt with my wetsuit. I used plenty of Body Glide on my lower legs in hopes that it would help me get it off more easily after the swim. I also remembered to put some on my neck to avoid chafing from the wetsuit. It took two races for me to learn that hard lesson last summer.

I had signed up for the long course race –  a 1500m two-loop swim and a 5K run. People could also do the sprint distance, which offered a 500m swim and 1.5mi run. The swim took place in a man-made spring-fed lake. I was relieved to see that the water was 72°. That meant it wouldn’t feel too cold, especially in my full wetsuit.

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I believe 16 of us chose to race the longer distance and our race started first. We lined up on the dock based on how fast we thought we would swim. First they asked for people who could swim 500m in 8-10 minutes, and I went near the back of that group. The race began at 6:30 when the first person jumped into the water. We may have been spaced out by five seconds or so. I haven’t practiced diving since I was a kid and I’m not allowed to dive into the pools where I swim. Without any practice, I didn’t think it would be wise to dive and possibly lose my goggles so I just jumped in. A little wind created some tiny waves. They weren’t very significant, but it was still a little more rocky than the pools that I’m used to. Thanks to the time trial start it didn’t get congested in the water. Someone cut in front of me at one point which was annoying but I never bumped into anyone.

In the open water I don’t really have a good feel for my rhythm or pacing. Things feel very routine for me in the pool and I’m a little thrown off in the open water. I hadn’t practiced in the open water at all this season, but I feel comfortable enough that I don’t worry too much. I was fine with spotting the buoys and aiming for them. It just felt a little weird to have my shoulders and arms constricted by the wetsuit and not know what kind of pace I might be swimming.

When I got back to the dock area after my first loop, I started to run into some of the sprint swimmers as I started my second loop. Not literally, but I had to make a point of going around a few people. I had to do that at the end as well when I was trying to push my pace as I approached the finish.

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I ended up swimming 1500m in 28:02. I predicted I’d be somewhere around 28:30 so I was happy with that time. I was wobbly when I got out of the water and couldn’t run to transition. I was so hung up on getting my wetsuit sleeve over my watch that I didn’t take my swim cap or goggles off until I was in transition. I realized I had forgotten to take my hair out of a bun when I went to put my hat on. Little things like that made me aware of my rustiness, and I just hope I remember those things so I have smoother transitions as I race more this summer. All of the Body Glide made my suit nice and slippery so I could take it off, but I still had to sit down to get my ankles and feet out. I sat down to get my socks and shoes on as well because I still didn’t have good balance. I got through the transition in 1:40.

I was pretty winded as I started the run. I’m used to being winded as I start the bike leg of a triathlon, but it felt a little harder for me to manage while running. I knew I wasn’t going to be capable of running my true 5K kind of pace and just did whatever I could.

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The run took us onto the road for a couple of out-and-back stretches, then we stayed in the park for the rest of it. The road had some stones, then there was a dirt path around the lake, and we ran on some pavement as well. The whole route was nice and flat. The out-and-back nature of the course allowed us to see other runners which is always a good distraction for me. When I got out to the far part along the lake, I kept wondering when the turnaround would come. A woman ran past me in the opposite direction and told me I should be able to catch her. I questioned that at first until I started to approach her a few minutes later and realized she was within reach. I’m typically more competitive with myself rather than aiming to beat other people. However, trying to catch up with her provided good motivation to keep myself running hard. Eventually I passed her and I felt strong by the end of the run. I thought it was supposed to be a 5K, but my watch came up with a little less than three miles. Either way, I was glad that my pace improved as I went and had an official run time of 21:46. My overall time was 51:27.

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It look a few minutes to catch my breath, then I got a granola bar, Rice Krispies Treat, fruit snacks, and some chocolate milk. I enjoyed chatting with the woman I had passed during the run. Despite finishing ahead of her, her overall time was actually better. With the nature of the time trial swim start you never really know where you stand overall. She had started behind me in the swim but swam a few minutes faster than me. It was a pretty small group of us who raced the longer distance and it looks like I may have placed right in the middle overall. I didn’t think I had to stick around for the awards ceremony which was good since I still had to drive home.

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I didn’t have any specific expectations going into this race which left me with a weird feeling after the race. I was glad I had done it but I didn’t have any feelings about either exceeding or not meeting expectations since I didn’t have any. The next morning when I reflected back on the race I felt proud and more accomplished. It was a pretty cool adventure to have on a Wednesday night. The logistics of driving there, making sure I had everything, dealing with transition, etc. could have kept me home in my comfort zone, but I got out and challenged myself to do something different. I’m looking forward to doing it a couple more times this summer and will be curious to see if my time improves now that I have a baseline.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Flapjack 5K Recap

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A race that features a running pancake cartoon and all-you-can-eat pancakes at the end? Count me in!

The Flapjack 5K and Mile Fun Run took place on Sunday, June 2nd in Macomb, MI. I had actually planned to do a swim/run race in Ohio that day. When a pre-race email mentioned an E. coli advisory for the creek where I’d be swimming, I decided to bail on that race. Apparently some people still swam, but if it’s bad enough to issue an advisory, it’s bad enough to keep me away. At first I was bummed, but I knew my friend Carmen (visit her blog here) had planned to do a pancake run on Sunday. Since my schedule was open and it sounded like fun, I decided I’d join her.

The race has been around for 15 years and benefits the Kids Coalition Against Hunger. I signed up on Friday evening prior to the Sunday morning race and was still able to get a cotton t-shirt.

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I got there an hour before the 9:30 start and found Carmen in the elementary school’s gym where we picked up our packets.

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It was a sunny morning in the high 50s, and although it felt a little cool while standing around, I was sweating by the end of my mile warm up jog. This race attracted lots of younger kids and their families, and the morning started with a mile fun run about 20 minutes before the 5K. When it was time for our race to begin, I didn’t push very close to the starting line because it was clear that the kids were ready to blast off. I knew it was better to have them in front of me so they wouldn’t trip over me!

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Thanks to Greg Sadler for the great race photos.

I’ve done enough races to know that the younger kids might make it a quarter mile before it becomes hard to maintain the all-out sprinting speed. A few of them made it a little bit longer, and a few kids who were older ran solid races. The crowd thinned out pretty quickly as we worked our way through the flat neighborhood roads.

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This 5K was more intimidating to me than the half marathon I ran a week earlier. I feel more comfortable doing longer, slower endurance runs. Whenever I “race” a 5K I know it’s going to hurt. I push my pace to the threshold and just hope I can hang on. I had run some 400 repeats at my goal 5K pace a couple times in the weeks leading up to this race, and that had been the extent of my recent speedwork. I had no idea what I was capable of.

I ran by feel and my first mile was just under seven minutes. It was hard work and I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep it up. I kept hoping I wouldn’t crash hard. I could only see two women ahead of me but didn’t know if there were more out of sight. I caught up to one of them within the second mile and wondered if I could be the second woman. The other woman kept getting faster and there was no way I’d catch her. As the crowd spaced out, I wished there were more people around to motivate me not to slow down. Somehow I kept running strong through the end, but it sure was tough.

I managed to smile just in time for my finishing photo. If you look closely, you can see something stuck on the bottom of my right shoe. Somehow I picked up an arrow sticker from the road when I rounded a corner. It was pretty annoying to have that flopping around for at least a mile of the race, but I wasn’t going to stop to peel it off!

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I was pretty shocked and happy when I saw that I had officially finished in 22:16, especially since my distance was a little long. It was hard to hit tangents with all of the twists and turns through the neighborhood.

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I was surprised that my pace was so consistent…and that I maintained it somehow. When I do speedwork I typically consider 7:00 pace my 5K pace. I didn’t think I was in 5K shape so this was a really pleasant surprise. I was also happy when I saw that I was the second female and had won my age group. That’s one thing I love about smaller races – I stand a better chance at placing well!

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I cheered for Carmen as she finished soon after me. Then it was time for pancakes!

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After the nice breakfast we went to collect our age group awards. There was a group standing around in front of the pancake poster where I wanted to pose. When I asked if I could get in there for a picture, one of the guys cracked me up as he posed with me.

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I thought it was fun that we received little bottles of maple syrup for age group awards. The clay pancake medals were pretty great too.

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Overall, it was a fun morning. I was pretty close to my ideal 5K speed and wasn’t expecting that at all. If I can already manage that kind of speed when I’ve barely put in the work, it gives me hope that I could have a promising summer of racing once I DO start working on it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

 

 

Bayshore Half Marathon Recap

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I love the Bayshore Marathon because Traverse City is a great place for a Memorial Day weekend getaway. It’s 3.5-4 hours away and the race provides a good excuse to visit beautiful northern lower Michigan. I didn’t sign up for this year’s race initially because I had the Boston Marathon scheduled for mid-April. I didn’t know if it would be ideal to try running a half marathon six weeks later. I’m usually pretty cautious about returning to running after a marathon and take the recovery process seriously.

When I saw that Gazelle Sports and Brooks Running had some Bayshore entries to give away on Instagram, I was excited about the thought of giving the race a try. I explained in my entry that I’ve had two rough races at Bayshore and hoped that maybe the third time would be a charm. I crashed and burned when I ran the half in 2012, resulting in my personal worst half marathon time. I was in the bathroom line for over half an hour and the race started while I was still waiting. By the time I made it to the start, I got stuck behind people running a slower pace. My pace fluctuated as I weaved around people to make up for the slow start. I developed a side stitch halfway through the race that I could not shake and ended up walking the last 5K.

Four years later I gave Bayshore a second chance when I signed up to run my third marathon. There had been snow a couple weeks before the race and my body definitely wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity that I faced on race morning. 70 degrees at 7:00am was not good and I ran a personal worst marathon time…until I beat it by running a minute slower at Boston this year.

I’ve been hoping to redeem myself with a good race at Bayshore and fortunately Gazelle and Brooks awarded me with free race entries for myself and a friend! I was able to choose the distance and hoped that the half marathon wouldn’t be too ambitious following Boston. The half marathon always sells out within a few hours, so I felt especially thankful. I gave my other entry to my half brother-in-law so he could run the 10K. He would be in town that weekend and usually likes to participate, but he didn’t sign up early enough and the race sold out. I’m glad the contest helped both of us!

After Boston, I took a week off of running. I dealt with IT band issues and other tweaks for a week when I started to run again. Then I spent a couple weeks doing easy runs four days a week and concentrated on rebuilding my mileage. A couple weeks before Bayshore I ran four miles at marathon pace within a 10-mile run and the pace felt pretty challenging. I did some 400 repeats a couple times to reintroduce a faster pace. Aside from that, I didn’t feel like my speed had come back yet and I wasn’t sure what pace to aim for at Bayshore. I peaked with six days of running and a 12-mile run a week before the race. That reassured me that at least I was ready to cover the distance.

The race was on Saturday, May 25th, and I took half a day on Friday so I could beat traffic and get to town early. I checked into my hotel then went to downtown Traverse City to load up on treats. Before I left work, my buddy Jeff wondered if Traverse City had any good donut shops I should check out. Thanks to his investigative work, I had to make a stop at Peace Love & Little Donuts. I knew I also had to get some salt water taffy at Kilwins.

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I took in the scenery by the water for a few minutes since I had some extra time to kill before my half sister and her husband made it to town.

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We met at the high school for packet pickup. The orange shirt is the official race shirt and I ended up buying an additional cotton shirt too.

I was tempted by many of the cool items for sale, but I managed to leave with just the one extra shirt.

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After grabbing dinner I thought I’d get my stuff ready for the next morning, but I was distracted for a little while first. My hotel was along the water and it was a beautiful night.

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I actually slept pretty well but I only got around six hours of sleep. Unfortunately I do that way too often so it didn’t throw me off too much.

I drove through lightning and pouring rain on my way to the school, which was only five minutes from my hotel. I got there before 5:30 and was able to find a parking spot easily. Because the half marathon runners take shuttle buses to the start between 5:15-6:20, we’re typically the first runners to arrive. Parking is more of a challenge for the 10K and marathon runners. That was especially clear after the race when I saw cars parked all over the grass and in any random free space they could find.

I debated how long I should wait before heading to the buses. I wasn’t in a big rush to go wait in a field in the rain. By 5:50 I finally headed out, equipped with an umbrella, rain coat, and a couple of plastic bags wrapped around each foot. I learned all of the tricks for dealing with a long wait in the rain at this year’s Boston Marathon. The bags worked for keeping my shoes dry.

I thought the bus ride would take half an hour, but it was more like 15 minutes. There was only one tent in the field where we had to wait and it was already pretty packed.

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I was thankful that I managed to squeeze in just under the edge of the tent. I had an hour and 15 minutes to wait and it was still raining. You would think at least a couple tents might be a good idea? Close to 3,000 people ran the half and obviously one tent couldn’t hold everyone.

I played on my phone to keep occupied until I figured I should get in line for the bathrooms. I allowed plenty of time so I would NOT repeat my 2012 issue of being stuck in line as the race started. I saw that some people had found a creative way to cope with waiting in the rain.

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We lucked out and the rain stopped at least 15 minutes before the start of the race. I left my extra stuff at gear check, did a quick jog around the grass, then lined up at the edge of the road near the 8:00 pace sign. I didn’t think I wanted to be that ambitious so I stayed a little further back. When the clock hit 7:30, we were off!

The course is mostly flat but the starting location had changed since I last ran the half in 2012. Now there was a big hill to deal with at the very beginning. You can see the climb up toward the trees in the photo below.

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I was glad the hill came at the beginning when my legs were fresh. I was not expecting such a slow start though. The two-lane road was really congested and I could not get around people very easily. I guess it acted as a good warm up to keep me from starting out too fast, but I did get a little frustrated because I wanted to get moving.

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I didn’t know what kind of pace to aim for but thought somewhere around 8:15 might be ideal. I wasn’t too excited that I ran the first mile in 8:41. However, the downhills always help me much more than the uphills hurt me. I was able to break free from the crowd by the time we headed downhill and I was kind of shocked that I ran the second mile in 7:27. Normally that would have been way too fast that early in the race, but it was a pretty steep hill and I took advantage of my momentum. I guess it helped balance out the slowness of the first mile!

After the first couple miles we got to the good scenery. Aside from the flat course, the big appeal of Bayshore is running down the peninsula along the bay.

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Since the rain had stopped just prior to the start of the race, it was a very humid morning. It was around 60 degrees and some parts of the course were really foggy. That’s especially apparent in this photo of the cyclists leading the marathoners. Thanks to Bayshore for providing free photo downloads.

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Typically the humidity kills me, yet somehow it didn’t this time. Maybe it’s because the temperature didn’t climb too much while I was racing. Maybe it’s because I had done a number of afternoon runs on warmer days leading up to the race and was somewhat acclimated to the conditions. I told myself that although I might struggle under those conditions for a full marathon, I knew I could manage it for a half. It helped that there were a few spots along the course where I felt a cool breeze coming off the water.

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I hovered between a 7:50-8:00 pace for most of the race. When I glanced at my watch during the early miles, I worried that I was being too ambitious. After all, four miles at that pace had been a lot of work just a couple weeks earlier. I was running by feel and I guess that’s what I was feeling, so I kept rolling with it.

I’ve been stressed about a lot of things lately and hoped that wouldn’t seep into my race. Fortunately my mind was distracted for most of the race. Four to five miles into the race I started to see the marathoners on their way up the peninsula. I really enjoy watching the other runners. I saw someone wearing a ChadTough singlet, which meant that he was running for the foundation that’s fighting pediatric brain cancer. It reminded me that we’re all battling something and there are many bigger problems than what I may be going through. I thought about how all of us runners were out there being strong and fighting through whatever we may be facing, whether it was the physical and mental challenges of the race or something more. I kept reminding myself that I’m strong and didn’t let my mind dwell on my problems.

Aside from watching runners going the opposite direction, there aren’t many distractions during this race. There are a few spots with large spectator crowds, but much of the route runs past homes and the water. Some residents come out to cheer for the runners, and there was music playing in a few spots. I wish there was more music because I don’t run with my own, and I got especially fired up when I heard songs like Katy Perry’s “Roar.” The scenery was a nice distraction, of course. When I saw sunlight hitting the fog over the water in one spot, it was so stunning that I was tempted to stop for a picture. I didn’t want to mess with the good momentum I had going for me and just had to appreciate it in that moment.

After six or seven miles I told myself that even if I crashed later on, I had done a good marathon pace workout. I kept reassuring myself, “Okay, now at least you’ve gotten six miles in at marathon pace. Seven miles. Eight miles…” Somehow I kept it going, and when I hit nine miles, I figured I was in pretty good shape for the rest of the race. Soon enough I’d only have 5K left.

My mantra about being strong stuck with me in the later miles. It had felt so good to get little bursts of speed in when I had done the 400 repeats a couple times during training. I told myself I could do that now too. Once I get through 10 miles of a half marathon, I typically feel pretty comfortable making a push for the last 5K. It feels great to finish so strong, and fortunately I had it in me during this race. It wasn’t an easy effort but I was able to maintain it.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard someone call my name as I got closer to the school where we finished. It was my Twitter/Instagram running buddy Jeff and I didn’t know he was going to be there. That broke my pain face for a moment and made me smile.

I love finishing on the track and gave everything I had at that point. I heard my name again and knew that my half sister Karen was cheering for me. The photographer caught me giving a thumbs up to let her know that I had heard her.

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I managed to cross the finish line in an even 1:45:00. That meant I’d gone a little under since it took some time for me to cross the timing mat at the start. 1:44:17 was my official time.

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I managed to run faster than an 8:00 pace and was thrilled. It was several minutes slower than my PR, but based on my level of fitness coming into this race, I had exceeded my expectations. I was happy to find that maybe some of the fitness from Boston Marathon training was still in me. I hadn’t pulled off that kind of pace in Boston like I intended, so at least I did it at Bayshore!

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Shortly after making it to the post-race celebration area, my half brother-in-law Tom and my half brother Bob (who both ran the 10K) found me.

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I really look forward to post-race treats and Bayshore has one of the best spreads out there. I didn’t have enough room to carry all of the food I wanted! I could stick a bottle of water and chocolate milk in my tri short pockets, but then I had to make room for chips, a blueberry muffin, and one of the highlights – Moomers ice cream. I also collected some cookies and cookie bars along the way, trying to scarf them down so I could carry more. Like I said, I really enjoy treats after a race!

It was nice to spend time with family after the race. I appreciated that Karen and her mom came out to spectate and cheer for us.

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Everything was great until I got in the gear check line. I realized pretty quickly that it was going to take a while. However, I would have never guessed that it would take nearly 45 minutes!! It’s pretty obvious that things were not organized appropriately and the volunteers struggled to find many of the bags. When I finally made it to the front, I lucked out and the girl found my bag in an instant. The group crowded behind the tent in the picture below gives a little idea of how messy it got. Nearly as many people were also in line out of the frame of this photo.

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I hadn’t expected to be held up that long after the race. I was anxious to get back to the hotel and shower so I could meet everyone for lunch. We had a nice lunch at North Peak Brewing Company and didn’t have any wait to get in. It turned out to be a beautiful day in the 80s which was perfect for taking in the gorgeous scenery around Traverse City.

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The lighthouses at the tips of both the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas weren’t anything super exciting, but it was worth all of the driving for the pretty views along the way. Wineries, beaches, beautiful water – all of it was stunning.

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Once again, I was thankful that my hotel was along the beach. I was in heaven with these views!

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When I checked TripAdvisor.com for things to do around Traverse City, I came across the TART (Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation) Trails. Family confirmed that the trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay made for a nice bike ride. I had brought my bike and hoped to get a nice long ride in, so I got up extra early to allow enough time prior to checking out of the hotel. I parked at a trailhead and was able to ride out 14 miles and back.

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The trail is paved, flat, and peaceful. Once again I had a chance to enjoy some nice scenery.

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Heading home on Sunday made it possible to beat Memorial Day traffic, and the couple days I was there gave me enough time to squeeze in some good stuff around Traverse City.

Many thanks to Gazelle Sports and Brooks Running for the opportunity to do this race. It feels great to have finally redeemed myself with a good run at Bayshore. After such a fun weekend, I might be anxious to return again next year rather than letting a few years lapse in between.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Boston Marathon Recap

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It’s official – I’m a Boston Marathon finisher!! It was brutal and totally amazing at the same time. It was such a great trip that I will warn you in advance – this recap is a long one…

Since the race was on a Monday, I took Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off of work to enjoy the full experience. Matt and I flew out of Detroit at 6am on Friday and things got stressful for a few minutes during our layover in Baltimore. As we got ready to take off, we were notified that one of the engines wouldn’t start and we were going to taxi back to have someone look at it. I tried not to freak out at the thought of sitting on the tarmac for four hours. Fortunately things worked out and our flight arrived about 30 minutes later than planned. PHEW.

When we got to Boston we took a Lyft to our hotel downtown. It cost a fortune to stay there, but I sucked it up and paid for it anyway. I decided it would be ideal for pre- and post-race logistics, plus it would be the easiest way to enjoy everything I wanted to do in the city. We dropped our bags at the hotel, made our way to the subway, then went to the expo. We had to go through a security check to get into the convention center, then it seemed like an endless walk with trips up multiple escalators to get to the bib pick-up. All of the race volunteers I encountered the entire trip were amazing. They were so friendly, helpful, and encouraging. It was quick and easy to get my bib and race shirt. They had an area where you could swap your shirt for a different size, and sure enough, I wanted to size up. From there, we went to the main part of the expo.

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The bib pick-up and official merchandise areas of the expo.

The first area we saw had all of the official race merchandise. We were there early enough that the expo wasn’t even THAT crazy yet, but it was so congested that I started to lose my mind. I didn’t blame Matt at all when he said he had to get out of there and would meet me when I was done. I’m glad I had already ordered my celebration jacket by mail and had it at home.

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I really like the colors of this year’s official celebration jacket.

I found a hat that I liked and tried to figure out where the checkout line began amongst the endless crowd of people. When I realized how far it snaked around the room, I decided I didn’t need a hat THAT bad and returned it to the shelf. I continued on and found the typical vendor part of the expo that had booths from a ton of different companies.

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Some scenes from the expo, including an awesome display of Dunkin’ Donuts-themed Saucony shoes.

Although it was still busy, I was relieved that there was more space and I could breathe. I found a friend who was working at the Generation UCAN booth and we chatted for a bit. I realized that I was pressing my luck to make it to Meb’s event by 1:30. I wanted to check out more of the expo, but I really wanted to meet him. I hustled through one of the aisles and came across a Brooks booth. I run in their shoes and love their products. Brooks runner Des Linden (seen in the photo above) trademarked the phrase “keep showing up” after her win at Boston last year, and Brooks had several items for sale featuring that phrase. I bought a t-shirt and jacket, figured that was probably enough, and decided I better get moving even if it meant missing a bunch of good stuff at the expo.

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The yellow shirt is the official race shirt, the jacket and t-shirt are from Brooks, and I found the hat I wanted at Marathon Sports.

Thanks to all of the time I waste on social media, I saw an Instagram post from Meb Keflezighi announcing an appearance at Eyes Over Copley from 1:30-2:30 on Friday. I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere else and an event at an optometrist’s office seemed like my best chance to meet him. He was there because they carry sunglasses from his sponsor Maui Jim. I got there around 1:45 and was relieved to find that it was a low-key event with people trickling through as he signed stuff.

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I got stupidly nervous because he’s one of my biggest idols. Meb has a positive mindset and approach to life that really resonates with me and he’s extremely inspiring. I have a couple of his books and took one of them for him to sign. He was as nice and genuine in person as I had expected. We were only a few hours into our Boston trip and it had already been amazing!

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After that, we went to the Marathon Sports running store on Boylston. I was happy to discover that they carried most of the official race merchandise I saw at the expo and got the hat I wanted. We went to Shake Shack, looked at some stores along Newbury Street, then went back to the hotel. We rested for an hour before taking the subway to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. Neither of us had been there before and it was one of those “must-see” things I knew we should do in Boston.

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By the end of the day we had walked 10 miles. I had planned on stacking our schedule so we’d be busiest at the beginning. I intended to back off and get more rest as race day approached. There were several seminars and other things I would have liked to have attended during the weekend, but there was only so much I could squeeze into the schedule. I didn’t need to completely wipe myself out before the race!

On Saturday morning I did a shakeout run. In case anything got tweaky I wanted to make sure I rested on Sunday. Our hotel was just east of Boston Common and I thought it would be a good place to start my run. I hadn’t realized that the B.A.A. 5K started there at 8am. Oops. With over 8,000 runners, my attempts at running through the Common turned to a scenic walk. After checking out the large crowd of runners I headed up to Beacon Street and to the Charles River path. It was fun to see runners everywhere I went. That held true for the whole weekend, of course. I was really in my element. :)

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Scenes from my shakeout run included Cheers, the Beacon Hill neighborhood, the B.A.A. 5K, and the Charles River path.

I enjoyed running around the very scenic Beacon Hill neighborhood on my way back. It helped keep my pace nice and slow since the brick sidewalks aren’t really ideal for running. It was pretty though!

Around noon we took a little walk to Faneuil Hall Marketplace / Quincy Market. We got some cookies and Ghirardelli chocolates then hit an Irish Pub for lunch.

Next on the agenda was a Samuel Adams Brewery tour. Runners could sign up for a free tour and receive a free glass by showing their race bib. That sounded good to me! That location is more about product development rather than production, so there wasn’t much to actually see. We learned plenty of interesting facts though, and of course everyone really goes for the samples anyway. We sampled Boston Lager, Sam ’76, and 26.2 Brew. We got to keep our glasses and I got my additional free glass in the store afterward.

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An enjoyable tour and tasting at the Samuel Adams Brewery.

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A free glass for showing my marathon race bib.

We took the subway back and ended up at the Hub Pub for dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy but we had a good time. We received more free samples of 26.2 Brew there – bonus! The highlight of our dinner was the door guy David. He was in control of the music and he dedicated James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” to all of the marathon runners. He sang along enthusiastically (and was actually good) as he worked his way around the room. His karaoke sing-alongs continued throughout the night ranging anywhere from Hall & Oates to Madonna. He was a riot.

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David was very entertaining at the Hub Pub.

I made sure to get decent sleep that night knowing that I probably wouldn’t sleep well the night before the race.

I spent most of Sunday morning getting my race outfit and gear ready. The only things on the agenda for Sunday were meals and a course preview talk. I carb loaded with a couple of muffins from Dunkin’ Donuts, which you can find on practically every corner in Boston.

We walked to the Beacon Hill neighborhood for a 2:00 course preview talk with Greg McMillan at an apartment he had for the weekend. McMillan is an author, coach, and extremely knowledgable resource when it comes to running. I’ve been using the McMillan Running Calculator for years to help predict training paces and race times I might be able to achieve. I watched all of his Boston Marathon webinars leading up to the race and they had been extremely helpful. He had a couple of course preview talks during the weekend, and I thought it might be especially cool to go to the one at his apartment. As I suspected, that one was extra intimate. There may have been around 15 of us squeezed into the main room for McMillan’s talk and slide show. He went through every step of race day from gear check to the bus ride to the wait in Athletes’ Village to the nuances of the race course. It was nice to talk through things and get feedback from him as well as others in the room who had run the race before. He mentioned that you’ll see some people during the race with their heads down who are throwing themselves a pity party, thinking about how their legs are tired and they don’t want to run anymore. I’ve learned how important the mental part of running is, so that part really stuck with me – no pity party!

We stuck around for a few minutes to talk to him and get some pictures, and he was extremely nice. Between meeting him and Meb, it had been a pretty special trip already.

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McMillan’s course preview talk. Thanks to Matt for taking the picture of McMillan speaking.

We spent a little time at the hotel afterward before walking to Panera for dinner. Rather than worrying about finding the right kind of restaurant and making a reservation, I stuck with something that I knew would work for me. A sandwich and mac & cheese from Panera has worked as a good pre-run meal in the past.

We went back to the hotel and the TV kept me distracted for a bit. As expected, I had a pretty restless night of sleep. Luckily I didn’t feel too tired when I got up at 5:45 the morning of the race. I had a Picky Bar and Honey Stinger cracker n’ nut butter bar for my first meal. I loaded up on sunscreen and Aquaphor, put on a bunch of throwaway clothes to keep me warm, then headed out into the rain just after 7:00. I made the short walk to the gear check area. There were no lines and it was extremely organized as volunteers stored our bags on specific buses based on our bib numbers.

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I was worried about thunder and lightning which was currently hitting Hopkinton, the town where the race would start. Luckily we “only” had pouring rain in downtown Boston at the time. I had a poncho with a hood plus a garbage bag poncho to stay dry. Because I’d worried so much about wet shoes, I actually found some cheap waterproof shoe covers on Amazon. I wrapped plastic bags around my feet for good measure as well. I looked completely ridiculous, but everyone else did too and it worked!

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From there, I walked nearly a mile to catch my bus. Because Boston is a point-to-point race, people who stay in Boston need to ride 26 miles out to the start. Most people use school bus shuttles located at Boston Common but I had signed up for a special charter bus located in the Back Bay area. I am forever thankful that my friend Karly informed me about the buses provided by a local running store. I had to pay $35 but it was worth every dollar. I rode to the start in comfortable charter bus that had a bathroom, and I could wait on that bus as long as I chose prior to the start of the race. The general shuttle buses dropped everyone else off at Athletes’ Village where they waited outside. The rain had stopped by the time we got there, but since it had been pouring all morning, the field where people had to wait was mostly a mud pit. I talked to some nice people on the bus and played on my phone to pass the time, which actually went by fairly quickly.

With all of the crazy logistics it feels like you go through one marathon of events before you get to the actual marathon. Gear check, buses, waiting in the village, walking to the start, etc. You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent agonizing over details and preparing for this race. I made sure I packed every combination of running gear I owned. I had to get clothes from the Salvation Army so I could stay warm and dry before the race. When I packed, there was still the possibility that race day would be a cold, windy, rainy mess like last year. By the time race day arrived, we managed to avoid rain during the majority of the race, it was humid, and in the 60s. I had to make sure I timed my eating just right. I woke up before 6am, yet I wouldn’t start running until nearly 11am. I had a couple bars at the hotel and ate another Picky Bar during the bus ride. I ate another Honey Stinger bar when I got off the bus an hour before I started the race. It worked – my stomach cooperated and I didn’t start the race feeling hungry!

Despite all of the crazy logistics, it was thrilling to finally be there. From our bus we were able to make a short walk to Athletes’ Village, where we went through a security check. Then we cut through the village to walk to the start with everyone else. I was SO thankful for my special bus when I saw that people had discarded old, mud-covered shoes on the sidewalks following their wait there.

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It was a little over half a mile to walk from the village to the starting line. Nearly 30,000 people ran the race and we were divided into waves that left at different times. For my 10:50 start I had to leave the village at 10:10. Again, lots of crazy logistics.

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A CVS parking lot just before the start was filled with portable toilets for the runners. I played it safe by making a last-minute stop there and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to wait more than a couple minutes. I made a point of going to the far end of the parking lot where the lines were shorter.

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There was plenty of nervous energy in the air. It all became very real when I got to Hopkinton and saw the sign in the photo above. Prior to that I’d spent almost all of my time and energy agonizing over logistics. I barely spent any time worrying about the actual run! I guess I thought about that enough as I went through a winter’s worth of training. Now it was time to break off into corrals based on our bib numbers.

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A couple minutes before the start I ditched my rain poncho. There were volunteers with bags to collect throwaway clothes. This race was extremely well-organized. I already mentioned how awesome the volunteers were, and one of them made me get all emotional right before the start when he told us how amazing all of us were. I was really about to start THE Boston Marathon. Wow.

Soon enough my wave was moving and it was time to pull it together. The photo below is one of the official race photos I was able to download in the package I purchased.

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The first thing that struck me was how cool it was to see a sea of bright colors in the pack ahead of me. Races are always congested at the beginning, but I’d been told that this one could be shoulder-to-shoulder through 16 miles of the race. Although there was some elbow-bumping now and then, I didn’t get too bothered by the crowd and I had enough space most of the time.

Goal number one was to keep myself under control. It had been drilled into my head that it was easy to start too fast because the first four miles were downhill. During announcements we had been warned that the first half mile was steep, and it was. I started at the back of my corral and made sure to take it nice and easy. I was kind of surprised to hit an uphill that felt like a decent amount of work within that first mile. I thought I’d be flying downhill out of control the whole time! There were more rolling hills within that beginning stretch than I had expected.

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A map of the race course with the elevation chart at the bottom.

I was pretty shocked to see that my pace was in the 8:30s for the first mile. I was aiming for 8:00 pace. I guess I’d been a little too successful in holding back. The next couple miles dropped to 8:20 pace and I kept wondering why I wasn’t going faster on the supposedly out-of-control downhill stretches.

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Maybe starting the race a little slower meant I’d have energy left at the end instead of crashing like I usually do. My pace fluctuated a little, but the fastest I went during the whole race was around 8:10 pace for miles six and seven. Pretty early on I came to the realization that I just wasn’t hitting the goal pace. Months ago I told myself that the main objective was to enjoy this race. Although I’d worked really hard to train for a specific pace, I wanted to have fun. It was time to shift goals. If the pace wasn’t coming, it was time to throw it out the window and just enjoy the experience.

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All of the rain before the race left a lot of humidity in the air. In addition, it was in the 60s. I was used to training in 30-40°. I don’t do well with heat and humidity, especially when I’m not acclimated AT ALL. I hit all but a couple of the aid stations and eventually I started to take one cup of water to drink and one to dump on my neck. Even though we barely got any rain during the race, I knew the choice to wear a tri top was smart as I continued to drench myself. At some point the sun came out which probably didn’t help much either.

It may be heavy and seem excessive but I was thankful that I opted to run with a hydration belt that held two 21 oz. bottles. I had GU Brew in one bottle and water in the other. I took the bottles out of the fridge by 7am, and later in the race the warm GU Brew wasn’t so appealing. I grabbed Gatorade at aid stations a couple times but just took a sip or two. I definitely prefer my own drink that is more diluted. Still, the extra bottles helped ensure that I stayed hydrated enough. From the fifth mile on I ate one Clif Shot Blok every mile. Since my stomach cooperated, I guess that fueling method seemed to work.

I wasn’t going to let the weather or anything else bum me out. No pity party. I knew that friends and family were tracking me and they were surely watching my pace decline. It’s not what I hoped for, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I knew they were pulling for me either way. I just hoped they wouldn’t think I was failing. I was still going to finish this thing. Any time I struggled, I reminded myself that I was actually running Boston. This was amazing. People had Boston Strong signs along the course which reminded me how lucky I was to be there, and it was also a reminder that I was tough enough to do this. I gave myself a lot of pep talks. I told myself that it took a lot of work to get to Boston and it was going to take a lot of work to fight my way through it. Marathons aren’t easy, but I’m tough and resilient. “You got this” was another common sign along the course and another mantra I used regularly. I told myself that my body was cooperating. Nothing was injured or hurt. I might be dragging, but I was fine. I could get through this. I even joked to myself that however long it might take me to finish, it just meant I was out there to enjoy the experience even longer. I certainly struggled and felt like I was trudging along at times because the conditions drained me, yet I was determined to enjoy it.

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I loved seeing the signs that announced our arrival into each town. The crowds seemed to be extra big around those spots, at the mile markers, and in the downtown areas. As we ran through Natick, I dedicated that part of my run to thinking about my half-sister Kathryn who had lived there, and who we lost in 2008. That chunk of my run was mostly filled with thoughts about family.

When I started to see road signs that mentioned Wellesley, I knew a fun part was coming. I was looking forward to the “scream tunnel” of women by Wellesley College. There was a point when a faint roar became noticeable, and a guy near me said, “You can hear them!” It was an awesome part of the race and I smiled during that whole stretch. The women had a variety of “kiss me” signs. “Kiss me, my boyfriend is in Ohio.” “Kiss me, I need my green card.” I laughed when I saw a guy taking a selfie as he received a kiss. It was pretty cool to see the legendary tradition in person.

Following a nice downhill, the Newton Hills began at mile 16 and continued through mile 21. When I see that my splits climbed into 9:00+ paces at that point and remained there through the end of the race, it’s clear that I didn’t handle the hills too well. I didn’t feel too awful on the first one, but for some reason the second one stood out as a bad stretch. I felt like I was really trudging along during this part of the race. I think it helped me mentally that I convinced myself to keep running even if it felt really slow. The crowd telling us that we could do this and that we were amazing really helped pull me through. It meant a lot to have so much support and the cheering certainly lifted my spirits. I couldn’t tell what hill we were on or when we got to the final one, but I was relieved when I saw a sign that said we were done with Heartbreak Hill. The rest of the course was supposed to be smooth sailing. Right…?

When I hit 22 miles I told myself that it was just like one of my 4-milers during training – a couple miles up the trail and back. That was nothing. Another mile down and I only had 5K left. Then we hit Beacon Street and it was really pretty. There were stretches along the course that didn’t have big crowds, but it was pretty much solid through the last few miles. That helped me and even made me smile through the suffering.

When I caught my first glimpse of the Citgo sign it took my breath away. It was another legendary part of the course. It doesn’t seem like it should be that exciting, yet the first sight of it really moved me. I knew I was getting closer. The sign faded out of view for a little bit, but it seemed huge when it popped back up. It was a landmark to keep running toward that would get me that much closer to the finish. People were pouring out of Fenway Park following the Red Sox game and they lined the streets. The energy was incredible. There were moments when I questioned if I’d really want to go through this again, but by this point I thought about how this race was absolutely amazing. I felt a few drops of rain in the later miles, but nothing significant.

I kept watching the crowd as we ran along Commonwealth. I didn’t know when Hereford was coming, but I thought Matt would be spectating from somewhere around Commonwealth and Hereford. I was so worried that I was going to miss him. He’d make the effort to go out there and cheer for me and I wouldn’t even see him. I kept scanning the crowd as I turned right on Hereford, and as I rounded the corner I happened to see him amongst the crowd. I grinned and waved excitedly to make sure he knew that I saw him. That made me so happy!

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A picture Matt took as I approached Hereford.

I was thrilled when I saw the photos taken by the official race photographers. Would you believe someone happened to be at that spot the exact moment I saw Matt?! I absolutely love the next two photos.

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Waving to Matt.

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Smiling because I’m so happy that I saw him.

Well, this was it – another famous part of the course. Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. The last two turns of the race. I was excited that I was almost there, yet this amazing experience was almost over. I heard that the last stretch of Boylston is longer than you think and seems to take forever. That was my time to soak in what I had left. The crowd was incredible. The street was lined with flags from all different countries. I was on the verge of getting emotional but made myself stop. I needed to breathe so I could finish strong. I threw my arms up in celebration and smiled as I finished. The photographers caught plenty of photos of that!

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What a great feeling – I was a Boston Marathon finisher. I thought maybe I ought to stop and stretch, but after doing so for a few seconds, I really just wanted to keep walking around so I could take it all in. I stopped to take a few pictures and had other runners volunteer to take some for me. I got a fist bump from one guy as he handed my phone back. There was a camaraderie amongst us – we had done it.

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I collected my water and got my medal. Time for another picture.

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I took a small Clif Builder’s Bar and then I was a bit unimpressed that our post-race treat bag just contained a package of Hawaiian rolls, chips, and Craisins. For such a significant race, the treats were kind of a letdown compared to practically every other marathon I’ve done. I knew I’d find some good treats on my own though. There had been a little rain as I got to the finish, but barely enough for me to notice. By the time a volunteer wrapped a heat blanket around me, the rain was coming down. It was time to get to gear check to collect my warmer clothes. My leg started to cramp as I tried to get some pants on, so I took it slowly. I’m glad I put a raincoat in my bag because it started to pour. I headed to the family meeting area and waited by the “B” sign as Matt worked his way there. I replied to a bunch of messages from family and friends who had been following along and were so supportive.

I had talked about going for treats at Shake Shack after the race but it didn’t seem so appealing now that it was pouring rain. I wanted to get out of the rain and back to the hotel. We made a stop at Dunkin’, because as I said, they’re practically on every corner. A donut and a muffin would suffice for post-race treats.

I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a crowd of clapping and cheering people in the lobby when we got to the hotel. How flattering and cool! Eventually I showered and surveyed the damage. I had one little spot that had chaffed under my arm, but no blisters or anything bad. I had some sunburn on my shoulder and back where I had dumped the water to cool off. I’m sure that had washed away my sunscreen. I didn’t feel too bad in general though.

We went to a bar where I got pizza for dinner. Back at the room I tried to polish off as many snacks as I could since I didn’t want to take them home with us. As dead tired as I was, I was too uncomfortable to sleep very well. We left the hotel at 5am on Tuesday morning and as expected, found an airport filled with runners. I joked with Matt that I didn’t belong because I wasn’t wearing a celebration jacket. People had been wearing them pretty much everywhere we went during the whole trip. I did wear my new hat to the airport though. :)

Once again we had a layover on our trip home, and that’s when the pain really hit. After sitting on one flight long enough to tighten up, quad and shin pain was very apparent as soon as I stood up. I may have groaned a hundred times throughout the day, but I was in pretty good shape a day or two later.

Well, here are the final stats for how my race played out. With an 8:00 pace as my initial goal, I was aiming for a time around 3:30. Since I’ve never run that fast and have run 3:34 several times now, I was really hoping I’d at least be in that range. 3:52:15 was a bit off, haha. That makes this my slowest marathon yet by about 45 seconds.

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My splits clearly show when I fell apart – the Newton Hills through the end of the race. It also shows that I did not run the tangents since I ended up with 26.46 mi instead of 26.2. I stayed on the left side of the road most of the time so I could get to each aid station without fighting my way through the crowd.

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The amount of support I received leading up to and following this race really struck me. The support along the course was incredible. Having people cheer for us as we walked into the hotel was pretty awesome. People at restaurants were excited for us. There was a feeling of excitement everywhere. In addition, I really appreciate how much support I received from family and friends who were rooting for me. Of course Matt receives the most thanks. I know it’s not easy to put up with my constant training. Running six days a week (plus swimming and weights), eating late dinners, scheduling things around my training, listening to me talk about it constantly, going on a trip that’s basically all about my race, etc. I recognize that it’s asking a lot of anyone and I’m very lucky that he’s tolerated and supported me through all of this.

I’ll be riding a high from this one for a while. While my time wasn’t what I’d hoped for and it was quite a battle at times to get through the run, running this legendary race was an amazing experience. Enough to leave me wondering if there’s any way I can resist doing it again next year. I know the weather is usually unpredictable and often bad for this race, but surely I could do better than I did this time? My time from November’s Indy Monumental Marathon does make it possible for me to go back in 2020… :)

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If you actually took the time to get through all of this, I thank you!!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

Rock CF Half Marathon Recap

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On Sunday, March 24th I went to Grosse Ile, Michigan for the Rock CF Half Marathon. It’s a race that has been on my radar for years and I’ve heard great things about it. It raises money to fight cystic fibrosis and offers a flat, fast course. It’s also one of the earliest half marathons of the year around this area. When I mapped out my training plan for the Boston Marathon, it called for a half marathon the weekend of this race. I figured it was a good excuse to finally get to it, and a $10 discount on Black Friday motivated me to sign up early. It would be a great way to test my fitness three weeks before Boston.

My friend Jeff realized he also had 13 miles on his training schedule the day of the race so he and his friend Don signed up as well. Grosse Ile is about an hour south of us. When Jeff offered to drive the three of us down there, it sounded like a good plan to me. In addition to the half marathon, a 10-mile run and 5K also took place. The race strongly encouraged us to park in a lot and ride shuttle buses to the middle school where our race started and finished. Parking wasn’t available at the middle school, but they did mention that the high school nearby had limited parking. We decided that we’d try the high school rather than ride the shuttles. We got there extra early to play it safe and there was still plenty of parking. That gave us time to pick up our packets and get ready for the race without feeling rushed. It was dark when we arrived and we walked 5-10 minutes on a back path in the moonlight to get from one school to the other.

We went to the middle school gym to get our packets, which included a shirt and a pair of gloves. Then we went back to the truck for a little bit where I got all of my race gear sorted out and ate a pre-race snack.

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I headed back to the school with a little more than half an hour to spare to make a bathroom stop before lines got long. After that I got distracted when I saw the beautiful sunrise over the Detroit River.

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We really lucked out with a beautiful morning. It was around 34 degrees at the start of the race with little to no wind. Because Grosse Ile is an island and much of the race is run around the exterior, I’ve heard that sometimes the wind has been a nuisance for runners in past years. I was thrilled that it wasn’t a concern this year.

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It was fun to run into several running friends before the race started. Some were planning on racing hard while some were using the race as a training run for another race. I fell somewhere in between. I hoped to run the first 10 miles at my goal marathon pace and pick it up for the last few miles if I had it in me. I lined up near the 1:45 pacer and ended up running just in front of them for the beginning chunk of the race.

During the pre-race talk the announcer said we should watch out for potholes on the course. That was wise advice because there were plenty of rough patches. I spent a lot of time looking down but really enjoyed the view when I looked up, especially on the east side of the island. I could even see the Detroit skyline off in the distance. There were a lot of nice houses across from the river. Taken from Google Maps, the picture below shows what the course looked like as we started the run, although the sky wasn’t quite as blue for us.

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I had never been to the island before so it was fun to explore. Aside from a golf course and airport, most of the course was residential. A few people came out to cheer for the runners, but it wasn’t a spectator-heavy kind of race. There wasn’t much entertainment along the course, but the aid stations were enthusiastic and groups from local schools had made some entertaining signs.

I was aiming to run an 8:00 pace to start and was 3-4 seconds under that for each of the first five miles. Most of that time I was near a guy who was steadily running the same pace as me. That’s one thing that’s nice about the race environment. While marathon pace workouts can sometimes seem intimidating to nail during training, it seems to come naturally during a race. Being around other people running the same pace sure helps.

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Sometime during the sixth mile I looked at my watch and realized I had sped up a little more than I intended. The guy I’d been running near must have increased the pace and I had kept up with his rhythm. I let that guy go as I tried to keep my pace under control because I didn’t want to speed up quite yet. Jeff and Don had started behind me and around that point they caught up. We talked for a minute and eventually I watched them drift further ahead. It was kind of nice to have them and another friend just far enough up that I could still see them. It’s not that I was aiming to catch them, but having people around who I knew gave me something to watch, which helped keep me distracted.

My pace got a little faster over the next couple miles, but I wasn’t too concerned because I often end up running 10-15 seconds faster than my goal pace when I’m doing marathon pace workouts. I was still within my usual range, but I did consciously try to slow down at times. By the time I’d run nine miles, I felt comfortable with speeding up. It was a good sign that I was still feeling good that far into the race, so now it was time to pick it up.

One big highlight of the day was getting to run through an airport hangar 10 miles into the race. I’ve never done that before and I thought the picture below was pretty cool. The race provided free low resolution downloads of our race photos which I really appreciated. They uploaded them really quickly too!

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I still felt pretty comfortable as my pace increased. I decided to start picking it up even more and caught up to Jeff and Don. We gave each other words of encouragement and I continued to push on. When I had a mile to go, it was time to give everything I had left. I nearly sped up to my 5K race pace. It’s something I manage to do whenever I run a successful half marathon and I’m still not sure how I pull that off. 5K pace feels rough enough during a 5K, so I don’t know how I do it 12 miles into a race! Having a woman on my heels who seemed to be suffering based on her constant moaning also motivated me to break away. By the time I hit the corral that sent us toward the finish line, I was really pushing. I managed to drop to a 6:33 pace for that last .1!

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At a minimum I’d been hoping to maintain an 8:00 average for the whole race, so I was pretty happy to average 7:46 and finish with an overall time of 1:41:36.

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Looking at my splits, I ran the race as ideally as I could have hoped. I was disciplined early, gradually picked it up, then still had energy left for a push at the end. I haven’t executed all of my half marathons that successfully, but I’ve done it a number of times now and it’s awesome to feel so strong at the end. A race like this makes me feel like the half marathon is my favorite distance. Everything just seemed to click!

Jeff and Don finished shortly after me and we got a group photo. They had done a long run the day before the race, so it’s great that they did so well on tired legs.

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We chatted with some running buddies until I got cold enough to collect my warm clothes from gear check. I grabbed a bagel and a couple chocolate chip cookies to go, then headed back to the truck. We stopped for a nice breakfast as we headed toward home and refueled all of those calories (and more) that we had burned.

I’m really glad I finally made it to this race. Although it seemed like it would be a long drive to make, it wasn’t that bad – especially with good company. I really liked the course and it’s nice to know that they raised money for a great cause. Having such a solid run made it an even better experience.

After the race I looked back at my previous half marathons to see how this time compared. This race was just three seconds faster than a half marathon I ran in the Columbus area last year as I prepared for the Glass City Marathon. It blows my mind how consistent some of my race times have been. My last two marathon times were only five seconds apart! Considering how I ran a Boston-qualifying time at Glass City following that half marathon, I’m hoping this race means I’m in good shape for Boston as well.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz