Summer Update

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

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

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

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

2020-07 bike

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

2020-07 deer

2020-07 animals

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

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Independence Oaks County Park

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Independence Oaks County Park

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

2020-07 fca

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

2020-07 pull-up

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

2020-07 swim

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

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

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

Janet

– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Rock CF Virtual Half Marathon Recap

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

20200329 - michigan mitten medal1

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

20200329 - rock cf shirt

20200329 - sticker

20200329 - rock cf medal1

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

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

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

20200329 - rock cf map

The dirt roads were scenic and pretty.

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20200329 - rock cf roads2

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

20200329 - rock cf elevation

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

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

20200329 - rock cf watch

20200329 - rock cf splits

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

20200329 - rock cf janet

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

Quarantine Injured

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

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

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

2020-05-13 - social distance shirt

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

2020-05-13 - dirt roads2

2020-05-13 - dirt roads1

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020-05-13 - stretch cord

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

2020-05-13 - pullup

2020-05-13 - max pullup workout

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

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

Janet

– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

10 Years Since My First 5K

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

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

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

world cup 94 shirt

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

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

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

2010-04-25 - shirt 4x6

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

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

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

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

2010-04-25 - award overall

2010-04-25 - award closeup

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

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Ann Arbor Marathon Virtual Half Marathon Recap

2020-03-22 - ann arbor medal

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

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

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

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor packet

2020-03-22 - ann arbor shirt

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor buff

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor shoes

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

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

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2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony1

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

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

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony elevation

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stats

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

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor splits

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

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

2020-03-22 - ann arbor janet

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Weeks 8-10 of Training For…??

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

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

Week 8

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

2020-03-04 - paint creek1

2020-03-05 - paint creek1

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

2020-03-07 - daves shirt

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

2020-03-07 - march mayhem janet1

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

2020-03-07 - march mayhem janet3

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

2020-03-08 - innovation hills

 

Week 9

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

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

 

Week 10

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

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

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

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

2020-03 - romeo weights

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

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

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

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

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

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

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

2020-03-02 - February mileage

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

Week 5

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

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

Week 6 

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

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

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

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Clinton River Trail

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

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Stony Creek Metropark

Week 7

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

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

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

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Stony Creek Metropark

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

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The new Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

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

twilight zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janet

– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

2019 Recap

2019 shirt collage

All of my race shirts from 2019

2019 was a year with some really high highs and some really low lows. Although the year was pretty great in terms of running, it was pretty rough otherwise. I am very thankful for the feelings of strength and empowerment that I get from running because it’s taken a lot of strength to get through this year. I don’t like to be vague but don’t feel comfortable putting too much personal stuff out there either. To put it simply, I’ve been trying to cope with a lot of negativity, stress, worrying, frustration, and feeling like the optimism has been drained from me. When I run, swim, and lift weights, I feel strong. I feel like I’m really good at something and it lifts my spirits. I know it’s not healthy to literally run away from life’s problems, but so many times this year I’ve wished I could be like Forrest Gump and just keep running. As a result, I may be on the path to becoming an ultra runner next year.

I like to think of myself as an optimist, or at least I strive to be, so I try to stay positive. I like to appreciate and be thankful for the things I have. A lot of really great things happened in 2019 and I’d prefer to concentrate on those things. I’m thankful that I had a pretty awesome year in terms of fitness and racing, so here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Of course one of the biggest highlights was running the Boston Marathon for the first time. I practically wrote a novel about it here so I won’t recap it again, but it was an incredible experience.

20190415 boston finish2

I followed up with the Chicago Marathon in the fall, so I ran two of the Abbott World Marathon Majors in one year. Prior to this year I had never run a marathon with more than 10,000 people. It was quite a jump to run two marathons this year with 30-40,000+ people! The big-city experience of running Chicago was pretty awesome as well. These custom coasters that I received for Christmas (made by Goneforarun.com) are a really cool way to commemorate the two big marathons.

2019 coasters

Another exciting accomplishment for the year was doing my first 5K swim. I’ve been intrigued by the thought of trying Swim to the Moon (recap here) for years and I finally went for it. Swimming that kind of distance was a whole new challenge for me. I spent so much time over the years thinking about how I probably could do it and decided it was time to prove it to myself. I enjoyed it enough that I’ve already signed up to do it again next year.

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Here are some stats for the year:

2019 stats

  • I swam over 131 miles
  • I biked 523 miles
  • I ran 1,847 miles
  • I had 71 weight/strength sessions (averaging around 40-45 minutes long)
  • I did 18 races (one was a 5K/10K double)
  • I ran two 5Ks, one 10K, two 10-milers, four half marathons, one 30K, a race with a four-hour limit where I stopped after 19.9 miles, and two marathons. I also did a 5K swim, three aquathlons (swim/runs), and two Olympic-distance triathlons.

It was my busiest year of racing ever. I enjoy the race environment and being around like-minded people who also choose to push themselves through this crazy stuff for fun. I’ve found that racing is a good way for me to get speedwork done when I lack the motivation to do repeats around the track – especially during hot summer afternoons. I was glad I had a chance to participate in a three-part swim/run series this summer. I love the challenge of triathlons but since I spend more time running, my endurance on the bike is usually pretty lackluster. It was nice to do some aquathlons where I could cut out the bike segment. I put in just enough training time on the bike to manage my way through a couple of Olympic-distance triathlons.

I had a lot of great runs and was happy to get another Boston-qualifying time in Chicago. I’m not sure if or when I’ll return to Boston, but it’s nice to know I have the option. I got a new 10-mile PR by 18 seconds at Crim this year, and shaved almost eight minutes off my 2013 Milford 30K time when I returned to that race on Labor Day weekend. I saw a lot of good results come from my hard work this year and added a bunch of cool medals to my collection.

2019 medal collage

Medals from each of my races (and one mug from a race that didn’t provide medals)

One turning point this year came when I ran the Loopty Loop trail run in July. I signed up for the four-hour race and went nearly 20 miles that day which was longer than I had planned. I still felt strong and realized that if I had kept going I could have been the female winner for the race. That made me want to return next year to see if I could pull it off. I was surprised to feel like I could have kept going when I was weeks away from targeting a run that long for Chicago Marathon training. I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of trail running where I didn’t have a goal race pace like I do on the roads. That run made me realize that I might want to try a 50K in 2020. It’s “just” five miles more than a marathon. I like the thought of running slower but going longer. I was pretty inspired by watching the people who were out there for the eight and 12-hour races. Stopping after three hours seemed wimpy compared to those awesome people!

It looks like a 50K this spring might be my big goal. That’s assuming my body is up for it and that I can stay injury-free. I have already committed to a bunch of races next year, including the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the fall, but a 50K would be a new thing to aim for. Although 2020 looks like it will continue to test my ability to stay positive, hopefully running will help remind me that I’m strong, capable of more than I think, and that I can push through.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

Chicago Marathon Recap

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon medal

Last year after watching the broadcast of the Chicago Marathon I decided I wanted to give it a try. It looked fun to run through so many parts of the city with huge crowds of spectators, plus I knew some people who ran the race and they had a blast. Registration for the 2019 race occurred a week after the 2018 race took place so the excitement was fresh in my mind and I was able to guarantee my spot by submitting a qualifying time from another race. In the past I’ve been a little deterred by huge races with a lot of logistics to worry about. However, I’ve also realized that crowd support provides a huge boost and I knew I would enjoy the scenery of the city. I already had Boston coming up in April of 2019. Why not go big and do two of the World Marathon Majors in one year?

Training through the summer can often be challenging when there’s a workout or tempo run scheduled but it’s 90 degrees and humid in the afternoon. I’m lucky just to survive running at an easy pace most summer afternoons. This time around I raced practically every weekend and hoped the races could take the place of the speedwork and tempo runs that I barely did during training. My distance peaked with one 19-mile run and four 20-mile runs, so I was hopeful that I’d still put in enough good work to run a successful marathon.

There’s typically some level of freaking out that occurs before every marathon, but it’s usually something like a new ache or pain, the weather, or my pace. Instead, I was preoccupied with an infected right hand. I wiped out on a sidewalk while running a couple weeks before the race. I figured as long as my bruised toe and knee were okay, my torn-up hands wouldn’t stop me from running. It turns out my hand actually would be the biggest issue. A couple gashes on my right hand did not improve when all of my other scrapes did. I finally accepted that they were infected after a week had gone by and the pain woke me up one night. I went to the doctor the Monday before the race and was terrified by the thought of starting an antibiotic. I worried that drugs could destroy my stomach and I really didn’t want to deal with stomach issues during a marathon. I gave it a shot, but after a couple of pills my mouth and throat got really dry. Hydrating properly during a marathon is already a challenge without adding side effects from drugs. I decided I’d put the medicine on hold for a week and hoped that antibiotic ointment would at least keep things from getting any worse.

Since I knew how overwhelming the Boston Marathon expo had been, I wanted to get to Chicago’s expo as early as I could. I left the house just before 6 am, and with a couple stops along the way, the drive took about five hours. I made it to the expo at McCormick Place an hour after it opened – around 10 am Chicago time. That place is huge and it took at least 10 minutes of walking through the building to get to the expo. It only took a couple minutes to get through a security check, then it was pretty easy to get my bib and t-shirt.

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A ton of vendors had booths and I wandered around to see if there was anything good. The aisles were fairly crowded and I really felt claustrophobic when I tried to browse through the official Nike gear. The area with the official gear at Boston’s expo had been really overwhelming too, but I didn’t think it would already be so bad an hour into the first day! Things were much more tolerable at a Chicago Tribune booth where I bought a cotton t-shirt, and at the Picky Bars booth where I spun a wheel for a free bar.

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I was able to stay parked at the McCormick garage for only $10 by getting my parking validated. I took my stuff back to the car then used one of the free buses that shuttled people to a few different spots downtown. It was rainy, but luckily it let up enough for me to explore Millennium Park and see “the bean” for my first time.

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I thought the Art Institute of Chicago would make a nice stop on a rainy day and went there for a couple hours. It had probably been 20 years since I had been there and it was really nice to go back.

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That museum has so many legendary works of art, with Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte being one of my favorites. It was fun to bring back very faint memories of pieces I had studied in art history classes so many years ago.

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I shuttled back to McCormick Place and dreaded facing Chicago’s Friday afternoon traffic at 4:00. I still had to drive to Naperville to visit my half sister Karen, her husband Tom, and my nieces Katie and Abby. I finally made it after an hour and a half or so and it was really nice to visit them. Tom is a great runner and was also going to run the marathon. He has run the race before and was able to answer my questions and told me what I could expect. It was fun to see some of Tom’s accomplishments on display in my guest room.

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I did a 2-mile shakeout run on Saturday morning, stayed for lunch, then drove back to the city. Although it cost a ton, I thought it would be fun to stay downtown and knew it would make things much easier on race day. After I checked in, I headed out to the Magnificent Mile. I figured I’d check out the Nike store for another chance to browse through the official merchandise. It was a chilly but beautiful day and the sidewalks were packed.

The Nike store was really busy but it has multiple stories and I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I had been at the expo. I decided to give in and buy a nice running jacket. Employees were scattered throughout the store and could check people out so I didn’t have to wait at all.

I stopped at Panera on my way back, took dinner to my hotel room, then rested my legs for the rest of the evening. I went to bed around 10:00 and had a typical night of restless sleep. I got up before 4:30 and headed out by 5:30. My friend Jeff had told me how worthwhile it was to purchase access to the Balbo Hospitality Tent. He won me over immediately when he said there are separate bathrooms with no wait. That would be one less thing to worry about!

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The tent was within a mile of my hotel and I spent about an hour there. I got to go through a separate security check that was a breeze, and waiting in a huge, heated tent was wonderful. There were plenty of places to sit and a nice breakfast spread. Too bad I didn’t have anything because I didn’t want to mess with my usual eating routine. I took advantage of the gear check and left my post-race clothes there. A few special guests such as Steve Jones, Paula Radcliffe, and Deena Kastor said a few quick words too.

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I was in the “D” corral which was due to close at 7:20. I waited until 6:45, made a bathroom stop, then headed out. Having access to the tent made it easy to get to my corral because I didn’t have to go wait in the same line that most everyone else had to use. I went past the general gear check area and saw the ridiculous porta-potty lines. Wow. Although it was expensive, the Balbo tent had been worthwhile for me.

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Since this race has over 45,000 people, I didn’t know how crowded the corrals would get. Getting there half an hour before they closed was more than enough and there was plenty of space.

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It was sunny and temps were in the 40s which would be perfect for running, aside from a bit of wind. I noticed gusts now and then rather than a steady wind so luckily it didn’t bother me too much. It was a little chilly for standing around but I had bought a cheap fleece jacket at the Salvation Army to keep me warm until I tossed it a few minutes before the race. My feet were kind of numb but it wouldn’t take long for them to warm up.

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It was pretty cool to hear introductions of the elite athletes and know that we were just behind them about to run the same race. This was the biggest race I had ever run in terms of pure numbers. Although Boston is obviously one of the most legendary races, the elite athletes were probably halfway done with their race by the time I started so I didn’t get to witness introductions. Boston had around 30,000 runners and this race had around 45,000. I felt the excitement in the air as the race started, but it took around 12 minutes before I actually crossed the starting line. Music over the speakers helped keep the energy level high.

I knew the race would be crowded and early on I wondered if I would actually see much of the city or if I’d spend most of my time watching all of the feet around me. As I was watching the ground I spotted a blue line and knew I had read somewhere that it marked the tangent. It became my mission to stick as close as I could to that blue line. I was glad I happened to be positioned in the right place because the course was pretty wide at the start and it was easy to be far away from the tangent. There was a 3:30 pace group and that was my ultimate goal, so I started to the left of them. I know I usually start slower though and have never been able to follow a pace group during a marathon. I saw them for a little bit but it didn’t take long before they were lost up ahead in the crowd.

Between going under a tunnel at the beginning and all of the tall buildings, I was very aware that GPS signals struggle during this race. I opted to hit my splits manually whenever I saw the mile markers. Still, the pace on my watch was all over the place and half the time I didn’t really know what I was running. I ran by feel and had an idea at each split that I was somewhere in the right neighborhood for my goal pace of 8:00 miles. I have run 3:34 three times now so I knew that realistically my pace has tended to average closer to 8:10. I didn’t worry much when I saw that I was a little slow. Even though I had a time goal to reach for, most of all I was looking forward to taking in the incredible experience.

The portion of a map below shows how much my Garmin jumped all over the place. Considering how those lines should be relatively straight, it’s no wonder I couldn’t get accurate info!

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The crowds were amazing. Having so much energy along the majority of the course was awesome. I had heard that some miles late in the race were kind of dead, and although some spots were a little quieter, it seemed like people were out pretty much everywhere. It was fun to see so many different parts of the city. There were stretches in the heart of downtown with skyscrapers and the Chicago River. There were some pretty tree-lined residential streets. We went through areas like Greektown, Chinatown, and Boystown. Boystown was especially entertaining with drag queens dancing on stages. We went by places like the Chicago Theatre, the United Center, and more.

18 CM Course Map-v1

It seemed like there was always something fun to look at when I wasn’t watching the blue line or trying to avoid running into people. The crowd thinned a little as the race went on but I always had people all around me. One thing that shocked me was the number of people I encountered who were going much slower than everyone else during the early miles. They probably should have lined up further back in the corrals. Of course I always come across some people who I pass and others who pass me, but most of the people generally run similar paces if they lined up in the proper corral, especially early in the race. However, a few random people out there nearly caused collisions because they were running SO much slower. They weren’t off to the side either – they were right in the middle. It was so crowded that sometimes I’d have to hit the brakes because I didn’t have room to move around them.

My main thoughts were about following the blue line, watching out for people, and trying to enjoy the scenery. I also spent some time thinking about all of the family and friends who were pulling for me. I had received a lot of kind messages from people prior to the race which meant a lot to me. I thought about each one and it really helped to know that I had a bunch of people on my side.

Karen, Katie, and Abby were on my mind a lot too. They went out on the course to root for Tom and me which was awesome of them. I knew that it had to be cold standing around in the wind trying to pick us out amongst the thousands of runners. I was on the lookout and worried that I’d miss them in the huge crowds of spectators. Somehow they managed to yell loud enough to get my attention at four spots along the course! I really appreciated them being there and making that kind of effort to catch us multiple times. It definitely gave my spirit a boost every time I saw them.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet run1

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet run2

I made it through the halfway point around 1:46 and knew that I was on track. I started to slow down a little bit after that, and a little more after the 20-mile mark. My legs were tired and I just reminded myself that marathons are hard but I should keep pushing. I started to see people dropping off who may have been cramping or injured. I know that it’s a possibility that could hit at any moment, but I was still doing pretty well so I should take advantage of that. I wasn’t sure that I’d hit 3:30 this time, but maybe I’d be consistent and run another 3:34. I told myself that I had goals to achieve and I should at least keep striving for another BQ.

The crowds certainly played a role in keeping me moving. There were so many neighborhoods that had their own different vibes. People played the drums in Chinatown. There was a neighborhood with Mexican music playing and people dancing. A guy running next to me shot video on his phone as he excitedly shouted back in Spanish. There were University of Illinois at Chicago cheerleaders when we passed that campus. Abbott, one of the official sponsors of the race, had a HUGE presence near the end of the race. They had music blaring and cheered so loudly that their energy was infectious at a time when I needed it the most.

I counted down my remaining distance and attempted to run the math for my pacing for a lot of the race. When I had 5K left I knew that I would be able to hold up through the end. Somehow I even managed to pick up the pace for the last mile or two. Usually once I start to slow down in a marathon there’s no going back, so I was pretty happy that I still had some energy left. It helped that there were signs along the way letting us know that we had 800 meters then 400 meters left. I knew I could push for that long. I was aware that there was a bit of a “hill” before the finish, which was basically just an overpass. For such a flat race, overpasses were as hilly as it got. Fortunately I had kicked into a solid finishing gear and powered up that stretch without too much agony. Then there was a turn around a corner and a quick stretch on the way into the finish line.

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I stopped once I crossed the line and realized immediately that I needed to keep jogging. After running for so long my body didn’t handle it well when I came to a sudden stop. I’m not sure if my chest was tight, if I had a little shortness of breath, or something else, but it worried me enough to get moving again. Eventually I seemed to be okay with walking and enjoyed the fact that I had completed my seventh marathon. I had run 3:35:35 and was very happy with that. I felt like I did all that my body could have done. I’ve run three marathons faster than that, but it was still good for another BQ by 4:25.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon stats

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2019-10-13 - chicago marathon post race1

I collected a bag of snacks at one table and a free beer from Goose Island at another table. 2019-10-13 - chicago marathon snacks

I found people who directed me to the Balbo tent and all of the volunteers were so nice and congratulatory. I went to the gear check area first thing and got into my warmer clothes. Then I went to check out the lunch spread. It was pretty awesome.

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I got a chicken Caesar wrap, pasta, chips, and some other snacks. The dessert table looked amazing and I stopped there a couple times too.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet city

Karen, Tom, and his running buddies went to a restaurant for lunch and I met them there.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet karen

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet tom

I had planned on getting a treat at Shake Shack next, but once I saw the line I walked right back out. I settled for a piece of cinnamon cream cake from a corner bakery instead. I was surprised that I was able to walk at my normal pace and didn’t feel too beat up. Since I still felt pretty good, I decided I’d try to head home early. Sometimes I feel worse the day after the race and thought I could take advantage of this time when I still felt okay. I showered, ate more, then checked out. I was sure that I’d take the hit for another night at the hotel so I was thrilled when they didn’t charge me. That was a major bonus for leaving early. I had planned on taking Monday off of work so I slept in. I felt pretty miserable when I woke up the next morning and knew I needed to get up to eat and drink to get rid of a headache. Of course I was sore, but I was actually in pretty decent shape. The fact that I could go up and down stairs without any issues was a good sign. Since my employer doesn’t give me paid time off, I decided I was in good enough shape to put in half a day at work and I didn’t even find myself groaning all day like I normally do after a marathon. Maybe I hadn’t raced hard enough? :)

I really enjoyed this race and would definitely return in the future. Despite the frustration of GPS issues and battling the crowds, everything else was awesome. I loved spending time in the city and it was great getting to visit family as well. I’m going to keep striving for that 3:30 marathon but I’m not disappointed with my results at all. I know in order to improve I could analyze what I should do differently in training, with fueling, etc. Certainly I will consider all of that, but at the same time, I’m not going to beat myself up. Marathons are hard and I still ran a pretty great one. It’s always a thrill to get another BQ even if I’m not quite sure if/when I may return to Boston to put it to use.

I’m enjoying some downtime of being lazy and think I’m just about done with my stage of loading up on donuts, pizza, and anything else I want to eat. I seem to be recovering really well this time around and I’ll get back to running soon, but I don’t have any big goals on the horizon quite yet. I’m already thinking about what could come next though. Spring and fall marathons again next year? Do I return to any races that I’ve enjoyed in the past or keep trying to hit new races? So many options to consider. It’s a good sign that I want to keep going back for more!

– Janet

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