Island Lake Triathlon Recap

Island Lake Triathlon on Saturday, June 3rd was my first tri of the season and my first since August 2015. I ran a marathon at the end of May in 2016 and thought I’d run another that fall (until a stress fracture altered those plans) so I bypassed triathlons last summer to concentrate on running. The stress fracture in my left foot occurred at the end of the summer last year, and I thought I was good to go as I rebuilt my running base through the late fall and winter. I reached a point where I must have pushed too hard and my foot started to hurt again in mid-January. I knew I had to take a break from running again, so that was the tipping point I needed to steer me back toward triathlons. I hadn’t been in the water since my last triathlon, so I worked my way into a routine of swimming a mile three mornings a week. I got on the bike three days a week as well. I’ve only been running again for a couple months now, and have built back up to four days a week. My training has been pretty solid and well-rounded between the three disciplines, so I’ve been anxious to get back to the race environment.

Island Lake was a good race for me to target because it was one of the first triathlons of the season in the area. It had been my first Olympic-distance triathlon back in 2014 and I felt ready to tackle the distance again. Olympic involves a 1500m swim, 40K (24.8mi) on the bike, and a 10K (6.2mi) run. Element Events had hosted triathlons at Island Lake in the past, but the race company shut down this year. Luckily, Epic Races stepped up to host a race there this year. Island Lake Recreation Area is a great venue in Brighton, MI. The swim occurs in Kent Lake, the bike travels along the park’s main road, and a paved trail is used for the run.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for race day. It was around 57 degrees for the start of the race, and around 70 when I started the run. There was a mix of sun and clouds, and there was little wind.

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The sun rising over Kent Lake

Between the fog on the water and the sunrise, the lake looked beautiful

Between the fog on the water and the sunrise, the lake looked beautiful

The packet pick-up and transition area opened at 5:45, and I got there just before 6:00. The park is an hour away, so it was a very early morning. Fortunately, I’m used to it thanks to my routine of crazy early weekday swims. I had plenty of time to get my stuff situated in the transition area, use the bathroom, get into my wetsuit, and test the water. I think I heard that the water was around 70 degrees. Whatever it was, it felt totally comfortable to me. The pre-race meeting at the beach started around 7:15, and all of the Olympic racers (results show 84 people) started the first wave of the swim at 7:30.

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The Olympic-distance athletes getting ready to start the swim (photo thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races)

Most of the crowd gathered near a buoy on the right side, so I tried to distance myself by starting on the other side. As much time as I spend in the pool, it’s never the same in the open water. I always worry about the swim because of the crowd. Starting on the other side helped, but eventually I got stuck in the crowd when it was time to make the turn around the first buoy. At times it was tricky to spot the first buoy because I had to look into the sun. For the most part, the swim went pretty well. However, one side of my goggles leaked which was annoying. Also, my left IT band was tight so I felt like my kick was a bit restricted for at least half of the swim. I stopped a couple times when people got too close to me so I could move away from them. I like my personal space in the water and stress out when people get too close. One screwy thing about this swim was that the Olympic athletes had to get out of the water at the end of the first loop, run around a buoy on the beach, then get back into the water for the second loop. I’ve done two loops of a swim before, but have never gotten out in between. I used that chance to try to fix my goggles as I waded back into the water. I also stopped a few times throughout the swim to recompose myself and make sure I could see the next buoy. Rather than really pushing myself to swim well, I just wanted to maintain my composure and get through it. It wasn’t until I turned around the last buoy that I decided I should try to swim harder. I ended up with a time of 26:46 which kind of shocked me. It’s faster than I ever do that distance in the pool, and at times, I felt like I was kind of screwing around and taking my time. The wetsuit must really make a difference!

Finishing the swim. Not the greatest photo, but the others were REALLY bad. (photo thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races)

Finishing the swim. Not the greatest photo, but the others were REALLY bad. (photo thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races)

I knew I could expect to be dizzy coming out of the water. I think I was okay when I got out after the first loop, but I did tip over in the water one time as I came out at the end. I took it slowly as I stripped out of the top half of my wetsuit and jogged up the grass to the transition area. My first transition time of 3:28 shows that I REALLY took my good old time. I started to take my wetsuit off while standing up, but I was wobbly enough that I chose to sit down. My wetsuit is so tight that I can never get it off over my ankle timing chip. I took that off, got the suit all the way off, then put the chip back on. I dried my feet, put my socks and shoes on, ate several Clif Shot Bloks, threw on a tank top, number belt, sunglasses, helmet, etc. then jogged my bike out of the transition area. I viewed this race as a good way to ease back into triathlons and didn’t worry too much about time, but I probably ought to make some kind of effort to speed up in the future!

Like the swim, the bike and run were two loops for Olympic athletes.

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Since I had done the race in the past, I knew that the bike route had some rolling hills. I’ve done a number of training rides at Stony Creek Metropark to get practice with the rolling. There were a few spots that were challenging, but nothing too bad.

The night before the race, the latest issue of Triathlete Magazine came in the mail with actress America Ferrera on the cover. It couldn’t have come at a better time. America (from shows like Ugly Betty, Superstore, etc.) started doing triathlons over the last couple years and had a great interview in the magazine. This portion really stood out for me:

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Cycling is my weakness and I always beat myself up when I’m on the bike. I tell myself that I suck on the bike, that I’m so slow, etc. It’s always amplified during triathlons when the super speedy men FLY past me on the bike. America’s words really resonated with me. I don’t need to compare myself to others and I don’t need to talk to myself that way. I’m out there doing a frickin’ triathlon, and that’s pretty awesome. I told myself that I should remember her words during the bike portion of this race, and I did. I didn’t let myself get negative. Instead, I watched the speedsters go by and told myself that they were some awesome athletes, and I was out there doing the same thing as them. I took in the scenery of the park and tried to enjoy myself. I felt like I was “tooling around” rather than racing because I don’t feel like I ever achieve race mode on the bike, but so what? I was out there having a fun adventure. I had nearly an hour and a half to think while I was out there, and a couple songs by my favorite band (Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers) ran through my head. This might seem cheesy, but the line “Here’s to life” from their song Mekong stuck with me and kept me positive.

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

I finished the bike in 1:26:56 and did a little better with my second transition time, exiting in 42 seconds. The run is typically my strength, but that’s been a little questionable lately as I’ve eased back into running the last couple months. I’m not back up to the mileage or speed that I’m used to, but I’ve run as far as seven miles recently and knew I could at least do the distance. An 8:00 pace is around my marathon pace when I’m in shape, and that’s the fastest I’ve gone lately. I hoped that maybe I could pull off 8-minute miles for a 10K in a race environment, but I really just ran by feel. Again, since I’ve done this race once before, I knew what to expect. The run starts out up a grass hill that’s brutal, especially right off the bike. At least I was mentally prepared for it. After that, the run rolls along on a paved path and a segment of boardwalk. There are a few gradual climbs that are tough, but some downhill stretches as well. Like the bike, I didn’t beat myself up. I told myself that after the tough parts, there would be downhills that would help. At the end of the first loop and right before the finish during the second loop, there’s a pretty drastic downhill grass portion where I worried a little about turning an ankle the wrong way as I flew down it. Here’s how my splits looked:

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My watch had me at a distance of 6.37 and an average pace of 8:02. Right where I hoped to be! I finished strong with a final time of 2:49:01.

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

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My final results

The finish line

The finish line

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I did it!

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I paced around for several minutes to recover, then checked out the food. On par with other triathlons, there wasn’t much.

The food tent

The food tent

They had bananas, bags of chips, sample size Clif Bars, and peanut butter/honey wraps. The latter was something I haven’t seen at a race, and they were pretty good. I’ve gotten spoiled by running races that have a buffet of goodies at the end, and the triathlons I’ve done never seem to have that. Knowing that, I had a yogurt drink back at my car for a quick fix of protein.

I checked the results but didn’t see my name. Eventually I talked to one of the staff members. The list showed four women in my age group, and prizes went five deep. He said he would give it to me, and I hoped I actually deserved it! He gave me a nice glass.

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Glasses on display with the race shirts

Later in the day I contacted someone because my bib number showed someone else’s name. They fixed it quickly, and it turns out I was fifth out of five in my age group. When I did this race last time, I was 11 minutes slower and first in my age group. It all depends on who shows up!

I was pretty happy that I had shaved 11 minutes off of my prior time at this race. Most of that time is thanks to my swim. Maybe getting in the pool more often really has helped. Plus the wetsuit, which I didn’t have in 2014. My bike time was slightly faster too. This was my third time tackling the Olympic distance, and my second race was a minute faster than this one. That one was a totally flat course though, so I’m glad to see that I’m right on track with where I’d like to be.

When it comes to nutrition, I think it worked out for me because I didn’t get hungry during the race. I had a Picky Bar when I first woke up, then a second one a couple hours later when I got to the race. I also ate a few Clif Shot Blocks closer to the start of the race, then a few more right after the swim. I had one bottle of GU Brew on the bike and a few sips of water. I ate a few Honey Stinger Chews a couple miles into the run and drank water. That all seemed to work for me for race fueling.

Matt knew that I had burned a lot of calories (2,200 according to my watch!) so he was awesome and had some post-race treats at home. Two of the cupcakes were for him. :)

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Chocolate cream pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company and cupcakes from Rockin’ Cupcakes – yum!

I came home with a nice cotton race shirt and medal, plus I bought an extra shirt that they had for sale.

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I’m really happy with the whole experience and would definitely do another one of Epic Race’s events. If I can avoid reinjury, hopefully I can continue to improve my running fitness. I’m sure I can push myself to swim harder. I’ll continue to train on the bike so I stay comfortable with it, even if I don’t get much faster. The triathlon season is only a few months, and I hope to do a bunch of races this summer.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and on Instagram @janetboltz

Women Who Du Duathlon Recap

On Saturday, May 13th I participated in my first duathlon. I’ve been training hard for triathlon season but have to wait until June before many local races pop up. The lakes in Michigan are much too cold before then. I swore I’d avoid doing triathlons with pool swims after doing one that was a congested mess. In the meantime, I’ve been anxious to test my training and get back into the multi-sport race environment.

When I came across a listing for the Women Who Du Duathlon, I was intrigued but unsure about the idea of a women-only race. I had a lot of the same feelings expressed in an article by Kathleen McAuliffe that was posted on Runnersworld.com recently – “I Thought Women-Only Races Were Sexist. Then I Ran One.” Women Who Du’s website talked about celebrating women, how it was about more than the competition, and it didn’t even have official timing. It didn’t have any super girly themes like some of the “goddess” races I’ve seen, which haven’t really appealed to me. I figured why not at least give it a try? It sounded like a perfect environment for easing back into a multi-sport event, which I haven’t done since 2015.

The race was in Battle Creek, Michigan, which is a little over two hours away. We have family there so I thought it would be perfect to integrate the race into a weekend of visiting. I found out recently that they’d actually be out of town, but I’d gotten excited enough about the race that I still wanted to do it and was willing to make the trip. I’m used to waking up super early most mornings anyway, so I was okay with leaving the house at 5:30 on the morning of the race.

Few people were on the road that early on a Saturday, so it was a peaceful and enjoyable drive. I listened to music and loved seeing the fog floating above fields along the road as the sun rose. When I drove past the race site and saw one porta-potty, I decided to continue a mile up the road to use a real bathroom at Meijer since I had plenty of time to spare. Race parking was available at a church that was right next to Woodland Park & Nature Preserve – the site of the race.

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I got there around 8:00 and the race started at 9:00. It was a really small race with somewhere around 30 participants. I waited until the last minute to sign up for the race and only had the option to pick an XL shirt at that point. The woman at check-in had some extra mediums, so she gave me one of those. I figured I was lucky to get a shirt at all since I had signed up so late. The medium was still a bit too big, and the really wide scoop neck looks ridiculous on me. It’s too bad because I like the logo!

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I realized that I didn’t need much prep time for a duathlon. I racked my bike in the transition area, left my helmet and a hat, then there was nothing left to do! Triathlons definitely involve more gear and organization of “stuff.” I did a quick jog to warm up, then lingered around the start to wait for the announcements. We really lucked out with beautiful weather. I worried that it could be a little cool for the bike, but 55 degrees at the start was actually perfect. I was comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts the whole time.

This race had a first run of 1.2 miles, roughly 8.5 miles on the bike, and a second run of 3.1 miles. Both runs were on trails in the park. We had to follow red arrows that were spray painted on the ground the first time and white arrows the second time. I’m not great at following the routes when running trails, so staying on the right course was one of my biggest concerns.

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Luckily I went the correct way for the first run. The trail was a little congested as we started, but I was able to get where I wanted to be after a couple minutes. The trails were a mix of dirt, grass, and woodchips. The grass was damp, so I was glad I opted to wear my Gore-Tex shoes. I haven’t been running on trails like these at all lately, so the rolling hills were a good challenge. I finished the first run with 1.3 miles and averaged an 8:30 pace.

I did this race for the sake of getting some practice, and it was clear that I needed it when I got to the first transition. I biked in my running shoes, so all I had to do was put my helmet on and go. I managed to snag one of the straps up in my helmet when I put it on the first time, so I had to fix that and try again. Several times I got my pedal stuck on the bike rack. So, what should have been a few seconds turned into a 36-second transition. I need to work on becoming less awkward!

I took off on my bike and the ride was pretty good for the first four or five miles. My legs felt fine transitioning from the run to the bike, and vice versa later. I started slowly then hit 16 mph for a couple miles and got near 18 mph for the fourth mile. I rarely seem to do much better than an average of 16-17 mph. The roads didn’t have any shoulders, so it’s a good thing the traffic was really light. There were some rolling hills that made me work at times, but nothing too crazy. After one turnaround, I got to see a bunch of women riding the opposite direction. People were super friendly and cheered each other on. I’ve experienced that in plenty of races, but it did seem like this race was extra supportive in that sense. At one point I was riding near another woman as we approached a police officer. I pointed to the right and asked if that’s where we went. I had looked at the course map and thought that’s where we were headed, but the officer stuck his thumb out and pointed to the left. So, that’s the way we went. Eventually we came to a main intersection that wasn’t marked at all. There were no arrows on the ground and no volunteers to tell us where to go. We both stopped and tried to figure it out, then headed one direction for a little bit. I stopped to check a map on my phone, but I can be directionally challenged so I didn’t really solve anything. We headed the opposite direction for a little bit but realized that wasn’t right either. We finally committed to one direction and eventually I knew that it had to be wrong. We came back to the race site from the south when we should have come from the north. Of course the people in charge of the race looked pretty shocked! At that point, what could we do? We racked our bikes and headed out for the run.

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The map on the left is the actual race route. The map on the right shows what I did.

The other woman was a faster runner, so I was pretty much on my own. We were supposed to run a small loop a couple times then a big loop a couple times. One volunteer was stationed at a key spot to direct us for the loops. However, I got mixed up by the arrows on the trails. At one spot there was a white arrow pointing straight, so I followed that. I didn’t realize there was also an arrow pointing to the right and I should have followed that one the first time around. The straight arrow was intended for the final portion of the race. Instead, I ran back out to the start of the race, realized what I did, then headed back in. That added close to an extra quarter mile to my run. Oops! Luckily, that was my only screw-up for the run. The map below shows the second run.

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The trails were pretty, but at times it caught up to me that I wasn’t in shape for trails. As I’ve eased back into running the last few months, I’ve kept a lot of my runs flat and easy to make sure my troublesome foot is okay. There were a couple of grass hills that especially got to me. When I made it to the biggest one on my second loop, I told myself, “I don’t want to do this hill again!” I had already screwed up the bike and had basically DQ’ed, no one else was around, and it really didn’t matter how I did. I was very tempted to walk, but I didn’t give in. I continued on and things were fine after the hill. I got to the end and had averaged 8:35 for 3.3 miles. I was happy enough with my running paces for the day. I haven’t been doing any kind of speedwork lately so I couldn’t have hoped for much better. As I crossed the finish line, I smiled and shook my head. I was glad I had done it, but knew my race wasn’t totally legit.

Here’s the breakdown from my Garmin. Aside from being short, my bike split was obviously affected by stopping several times to figure out what went wrong.

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As I crossed the finish line, I received this Motivate Wrap.

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There was a table full of fruit, so I got some strawberries, blueberries, and granola to start. At least I had something healthy to help offset the wonderful chocolate treats. Since there were so many more treats than participants, we were encouraged to take at least two. I had a brownie pop and a chocolate-covered marshmallow. Good stuff!

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After the race, the other woman who went off the bike course and I talked with one of the guys in charge. We clarified what had happened and how we’d been misdirected. We had both placed in the top three technically, but obviously there was some hesitation in truly accepting that. Neither of us stuck around for the awards because we knew it wasn’t right. I explained to the guy that I was there to have fun and wasn’t there to be competitive anyway. I had fun, so it was all good.

I’ve read plenty of horror stories about people going off course during races. Most of the people I’ve read about actually had something riding on it – like potentially winning a race or getting a BQ. The stakes were obviously not so high for me, which is part of why I really wasn’t bothered by it. The lesson I’ve learned from reading those stories is that people are supposed to know the course. I usually figure that I won’t be a leader in a race so it won’t affect me. A small race without many people to follow is trouble for me. I’m good to go if I can follow someone mindlessly, but when I don’t have anyone to follow and I need to be aware of where I’m going, it’s bad news.

Ultimately, it’s on me. I need to know where I’m supposed to go. It stinks that the police officer sent us the wrong direction. However, the police are there to make sure we’re safe and I can’t just assume that they know the course. Maybe this experience should teach me to study race maps more thoroughly. Maybe it should teach me to defy authority, haha. I did look at the map ahead of time and kind of knew that I was supposed to go the other way, but figured the officer knew better. I should trust my instincts! I can’t change what happened, but I can learn from it and hope to avoid making the same mistake again in the future.

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Since I was just a few miles away, I had to make a stop at Sweetwater’s Donuts before heading home. I did share some of these with Matt. :)

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Overall, I had a fun day. The drive wasn’t so bad and I think it was worth the trip. Now I’m looking forward to June when I can add swimming to the mix and get back to doing triathlons.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Triathlon/Duathlon Training

As triathlon season gets closer, I’ve started to gear some of my training days toward skills that I’ll need on race days. I just started doing a few bike/run bricks over the last couple weeks. I haven’t done any of those since my last triathlon in 2015. During the first one my hip abductors and shoulders were sore for the first mile of the run. The second time was more typical of how I usually feel – heavy legs to start the run and feeling like I’m crawling when my pace is actually faster than it feels. I had forgotten about that aspect of running off the bike. I was pleasantly surprised that I ran faster off the bike than I have during any of my runs since I’ve returned to running over this last month. My problem foot has been fine during all of my runs so far, which haven’t gone past four miles at a time yet. My foot still aches at times, especially if I’ve been on my feet a lot at work. It’s enough to still keep me on edge, but not enough to keep me from short runs every other day or so.

There’s a duathlon that’s on my radar in a few weeks, so today I decided I should try a run/bike/run workout. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that combo. I went to Stony Creek Metropark and it was a beautiful day. Warm enough but not hot, and luckily the wind wasn’t 15-25 mph like it has been the last couple times I’ve been out on my bike!

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I started by running a mile, rode just under 19 miles on the bike, then ran three more.

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It kind of gave me some transition practice, but obviously I didn’t move very quickly since I took three to four minutes. It wasn’t exactly a race-specific kind of transition though. Of course I won’t have to get my stuff from the car and worry about getting my bike out of the bike rack or locking it back up. I took the first mile of running pretty easy, so I felt totally fine when I got on the bike. I’m still not thrilled with my cycling skills though. I had a new dilemma today. As I rode over a bridge and there was a transition in the pavement, my bike bumped just enough for my water bottle to go flying out of the cage. I was able to stop and go get it, but it happened again on a different bridge a few minutes later. Sorry to the woman hiking in that area who must have heard the f-bomb I shouted. Not so much luck that time – my poor Camelbak bottle went flying down into the creek. Part of the issue is that I’m so awkward on the bike that I’m afraid I’ll fall off if I reach down to my lower cage while I’m riding. I’m seriously uncoordinated and have terrible balance on the bike. So, I probably look like a dork with a cage mounted up by my handlebars. Having the bottle upright probably isn’t the most secure method. It works for me though, or at least it always has up until today. Luckily I had another bottle on me, and that one survived the rest of the ride. Maybe the one bottle has a tighter fit and I’ll have to stick with that. It was pretty frustrating but probably good to get out of the way during training. I sure hope I figure it out now so it never happens in a race! Aside from that, it was my typical ride. I don’t seem to ever improve beyond an average of 16-17 mph. I’m very aware that the bike is my weakness, especially when a big group of “real” cyclists flew past me. Stony is a good place for me to train because there are rolling hills and I need that kind of workout.

I had the heavy leg feeling as I started my second run, but nothing too bad. I did end up going much faster than I thought though, averaging close to an 8-minute pace. I’ve been doing a lot of 9-minute or slower miles lately as I’ve been cautious about my return to running, so that was much faster than I expected. It’s what came naturally, though I was breathing pretty heavily. Aside from the whole water bottle incident, it was a good workout that reassured me that I can pull off the duathlon in a few weeks as long as my foot cooperates between now and then.

In addition to training, I’ve also been picking up some new gear. My schedule of swimming at least three days a week has done a number on my swimsuit, so it was time for a new one of those.

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Can you believe the suit on the left used to have colors similar to the one on the right?!

I also ordered a pair of tri shorts from Coeur Sports recently. I follow several women, like the awesome Caitlin Constantine at Fit and Feminist, who are Coeur ambassadors and have nothing but great things to say about their products. Coeur’s shorts are known for the “seam-free chamois” that provide a comfortable, chafe-free fit. I saw that there was going to be a Coeur “trunk show” at Level Multisport in Birmingham, MI, so I went to that yesterday. The women were very friendly and knowledgeable, plus there was a 20% off sale and treats like fruit and cookies! I got another pair of shorts, ordered a new tri top, and was able to pick a free gift. A pair of compression socks were one of the options, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were free.

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Between getting some new gear and having some productive training, I’m getting more and more anxious to get the season rolling.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Approaching Triathlon Season

After a weekend that felt more like summer than spring, I feel energized and have been thinking about the upcoming triathlon season. This IS Michigan though, and I know we may not be totally in the clear weather-wise quite yet. I vividly remember being very annoyed that it snowed when I ran a 5K in mid-May last year.

However, the nice weather has become more frequent and I went for my first outside bike ride of the year last weekend. I’ve been riding 15-25 miles inside three times a week for a while now and was curious to see how I would do outside. I took my bike to the Macomb Orchard Trail, which is paved, flat, and runs 23.5 miles from one end to the other. I thought maybe I’d go for 30 miles, but as I rode along I decided maybe I should push all the way to 40. Beautiful weather and a lot of pretty scenery made it easy to keep going.

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The first 20 miles were really nice, but battling 15-25 mph winds on the way back made the second half of the ride more challenging. Still – I finished 40 miles which was the longest I’d ever ridden. That ride made me question if I’d want to tackle 56 miles on the bike for the half Ironman distance one day. We’ll see if I get that ambitious at some point.

In the meantime, running is the questionable factor. I’ve been thinking about doing some Olympic-distance triathlons and know I should be able to handle the nearly 25-mile bike distance for those races. I’ve got the swimming down since I’ve been swimming a mile three days a week. I’m used to running being my strength in the triathlon, so it’s a bit odd for that to be the weakness right now.

I’ve been very frustrated by lingering complications from the stress fracture in my foot. After reaggravating it in January, I took nine weeks off of running. I really didn’t want to get stuck in the boot again, so I took time off and hoped it would be enough. Week after week went by, and it took that long before my foot felt reasonable enough to try running again. I was still a bit weary, so I went to a sports medicine doctor and had x-rays taken. They didn’t show a thing. I don’t know if that’s reassuring though. X-rays don’t always show stress fractures, and the doctor couldn’t see any calcification or any sign that I’d even had one. I had gone to a podiatrist when I initially injured my foot, and both the fracture and beginning of the healing showed on those x-rays. I didn’t go back to that doctor because I didn’t like his approach of sending everyone out the door with Superfeet insoles. I think they might help some people, but I hated them when I tried them once in the past and I’m not convinced I need them. All I know is that my left foot still does not feel as normal as my right foot, and there are still occasional aches and feelings of discomfort. I did some run/walk intervals as I reintroduced running, and over the last week or two I’ve gotten back to continuous runs of up to four miles.

I’m going to be very cautious and my ultimate goal for now is simply to be able to run the 10K distance involved in Olympic triathlons. The sports medicine doctor talked about increasing endurance or speed but not both at once. Maybe that’s what did me in earlier this year. Right now my approach for the summer is to go out and have fun doing triathlons. I want to get back out there and enjoy the adventure of doing them rather than aiming to go as fast I can. I’m sure when I’m actually in the race environment I’ll want to push, but I’m not putting that pressure on myself going into them. I still haven’t registered for anything since I’ve just gotten back to running and need to see how that goes. I have plenty of races on my radar though. Sprints, Olympic…maybe even a duathlon before the water is warm enough for triathlons? I hope my foot will cooperate because I’m anxious to get out there!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

The Dreaded Injury Cycle

I really thought I was back on track. I thought I’d been smart about easing back into running after recovering from the summer’s metatarsal stress fracture. I tried to follow the “10% rule” of not increasing my mileage by much more than 10% per week. I still felt little tweaks in my foot now and then while I ran, but it wasn’t painful and I had been told that it was normal to feel something during the healing process. I gradually reintroduced a bit of speed, building up to 6×800 at 10K pace. I made it up to six miles at marathon pace, and a long run of 10 miles. I figured I should be in the clear since I’d run over 30 miles per week for a couple weeks and had built back up to running five or six days a week.

I typically ran outside a day or two a week, but spent most of my time on the treadmill to play it safe. That made it easy to bail if things went wrong. Of course things went wrong when I decided to venture outside for an 8-mile run and was four miles from home. I’d had a few cringe-worthy moments for a step here and there during some recent runs. They turned into swear-worthy moments during this particular run and I’m usually not much of a swearer. In between cursing my foot, I spent the second half of that run thinking about new goals. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run a spring marathon now. Instead of getting depressed, I knew it was more constructive to think of something else to aim for. Maybe I’d just run a shorter distance? If my foot was bad enough though, I knew it meant I’d have to take more time off of running. Feeling the pressure to follow a training plan for a specific race wouldn’t be smart. By the end of the run, I had decided that my new goal was to get back to doing triathlons.

I did some triathlons during the summers of 2013-2015. I didn’t do any in 2016 because I followed a pretty intense training schedule for a late spring marathon, then had planned to get back into similar training for a fall marathon (before I got injured). I had enjoyed concentrating solely on running for a while since it’s my strength, but I also like the challenge and variety of triathlons. I tried to view the setback with my foot as an opportunity to get back into tris.

I got into the pool the next day after not swimming at all for nearly a year and a half. I knew it might take some time to get back into the groove, but didn’t think that first swim would suck SO bad. It was all good for about four lengths, then I got pretty winded and my arms got really tired. I couldn’t swim freestyle for more than six lengths at a time without having to take a break. I had been used to swimming a mile non-stop in the past, so this was quite a blow to my confidence. The positive is that my stroke, breathing, and flip turns all came back to me naturally. I was motivated to get back into the pool to try again, knowing that I could do better. Luckily, things felt normal by the second swim and I swam 400m intervals without stopping. I guess that first swim had been a shock to my system!

I've traded the running shoes for swim gear recently

I’ve traded the running shoes for swim gear recently

Of course I still had to test my foot. I took six days off of running then tried an easy three miles, but it still wasn’t good. Now I’ve gone three weeks without running and don’t think I’ll be trying anytime real soon. I’ve been taking it easy and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster the last few weeks. Sometimes it really worries me, and other times it seems fine. At first, my foot hurt enough that I limped while walking. I worried that I had refractured it and would need the boot again. It was even iffy at times in the pool, so I’d use the pull buoy more and avoid kicking. I REALLY didn’t want to use the boot again. I really didn’t want to go back to the doctor again if I could help it either. I haven’t found any specific painful spots like I could when I originally fractured my foot. Over the last week I’ve been a little more hopeful because it hasn’t bugged me as much. It hasn’t been painful, but when it’s uncomfortable and bothers me it’s pretty disconcerting.

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My view of the Paint Creek Trail from the last time I was able to run

No more “testing” my foot for now. I better lay off the running until it feels normal. Sometimes it’s even questionable for biking so I’m trying to be smart and cautious. In the meantime, I’m keeping busy by doing core/weights for 45 minutes two or three times a week, biking for an hour or so at least a couple days (if my foot is up for it), and I’ve been in the pool at least three days a week. I use the elliptical every now and then, but I don’t really enjoy it. I’m so used to running taking up the majority of my time, and it’s interesting to see how balanced things have looked in my training log this year. It’s kind of sad to see no running at all in February though.

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2017-02-12-february-workouts

I get excited to ride the bike because it means I’ll have some quality TV time while I ride in the basement at home. I’ve managed to catch up on the first two seasons of the show Schitt’s Creek, and I’m in love with it. I’m working on Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream documentary now and am looking forward to my next ride so I can keep watching it.

The pool gets a bit too busy for my taste if I go after work, so I’ve been dedicated (crazy?!) enough to hit the water at 5am during the week. When I think about how crazy it is, I look at the people who are there earlier than I am and think at least I’m not there as early as they are! It all comes down to going to bed early enough, so it’s not that unreasonable when I’m smart about getting to bed. During the week I give myself enough time to get a mile in, and I’ve done as much as a mile and a half on the weekend. I’ve never been a fast swimmer, but as an adult I now appreciate all of the years my parents put me through swim lessons and made me swim on the swim team. It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but I like the fact that I CAN do it, and I always feel accomplished after I’m done.

I hope I can get out of this injury cycle soon. Like I said, I thought I’d been smart, but I probably ended up pushing just a little too much. I’m familiar with the process of starting from scratch and know I can make a comeback like I have before. I just have to figure out that fine balance of volume and intensity when I start running again and hope this doesn’t happen all over again. Of course I’m really bummed that I can’t run since it’s what I want to do the most, but I’m looking forward to getting back to triathlons (assuming at some point I’ll be able to run). The best way to keep my spirits up is to remember to be adaptable. Rather than concentrating on what I can’t do, I’m excited to see how I can progress in new ways.

– Janet

Follow me on on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

2016 Recap

Reflecting on 2016, I agree with the general consensus that it was not a great year. When it comes to running, things didn’t go as I’d hoped. I only participated in five races. My previous low for a year was eight races in 2010, which was the year I started racing. This past year I ran one 5K and walked one 5K (due to injury), ran one 8K, one half, and one full marathon. No PRs for me, unless you count the 8K since I’ve never done one before. No triathlons in 2016 either.

The year started off great as I followed the Hansons Marathon Method for the first time to prepare for the Bayshore Marathon at the end of May. I peaked with a total of 244 miles for the month of April and felt extremely strong. Training went as well as I could have hoped and I really enjoyed the plan. When it was 70 degrees and extremely humid to start the marathon, I knew things weren’t going to pan out because I do not do well in the heat. My third marathon was my slowest yet, but I was happy to finish in less than four hours considering the conditions.

Not my best race, but I still finished my third marathon

Not my best race, but I still finished my third marathon

I took a couple weeks off then got back to training, with plans to run the Crim 10-mile race in August, the Brooksie Way Half Marathon in September, the Grand Rapids Half Marathon in October, and the Richmond Marathon in November. I didn’t get to do any of them thanks to a metatarsal stress fracture in my left foot, which was diagnosed in mid-August. That pretty much screwed up the rest of the year. I spent five weeks in a walking boot and did not run at all for about nine weeks. I basically started from scratch in mid-October, with a few ups and downs as I gauged what my foot could handle. I ended the year on a strong note, hitting 30 miles per week for the last couple weeks, and just recently reintroduced some speed and tempo runs.

A recent shot from Stony Creek Metropark

A recent shot from Stony Creek Metropark

While 2016 was not ideal, I like to approach things with a positive perspective. Although there were a few depressing stretches here and there, I typically try to go with the flow and adapt when things don’t go as planned. I’ve never had a stress fracture before and I viewed it as a learning experience. I’d been dealing with plantar fasciitis in the same foot since the start of the year, so maybe time in the boot was good for that too. It was interesting to walk a 5K rather than run it, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid when I participated in the March of Dimes and a Crop Walk. Doing it in a walking boot made it especially interesting! Since Matt still ran Crim, I got to take the race in as a spectator for a change. It was extremely inspiring and uplifting to watch a race of that size.

It was a great experience to watch this sea of people starting the Crim

It was a great experience to watch this sea of people starting the Crim

 

My stats for 2016

My stats for 2016

Despite the injury, I finished the year with 1,329 miles of running. I’d say that’s respectable enough! I biked 504 miles and also hit the weights quite a bit at the gym.

It’s fun to look back at the year and realize how many highlights there were. Our trip to Colorado in April was definitely a big one. I was fortunate enough to run in Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs during the trip.

Boulder Creek Path

Boulder Creek Path, where I was fine with the elevation, but the scenery took my breath away!

Little did we know that we’d get to see two of the USA’s Olympic marathoners at work when we took a tour of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

I was pretty excited to see Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan during our Colorado trip

I was pretty excited to see Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan during our Colorado trip

I enjoyed having the opportunity to run around one of GM’s test tracks for a unique 5K in May.

Here I am (in blue) running around the test track in Milford, MI

Here I am (in blue) running around the test track in Milford, MI

Even though the stress fracture kept me from running the Richmond Marathon in November, I’d healed enough to pull off the 8K. Matt and I got to meet both Bart Yasso and Desi Linden during the trip!

 

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With Bart Yasso, “Chief Running Officer” of Runner’s World magazine

Despite living in the same area, it took a trip to Virginia for us to get a picture with Desi!

With Desi Linden, Olympian marathoner

My mileage was reduced for the second half of the year between marathon recovery and the injury, so I wasn’t tied down by a training schedule. That made it easier to get back to our habit of going to a lot of concerts, and we saw a ton of great ones last year.

Green Day in a theater (rather than their usual arena setting) was one of many great concerts we caught this year

Green Day in a theater (rather than their usual arena setting) was one of many great concerts we caught last year

We also made it to Las Vegas for the first time. I’m thankful that I was still able to cover a lot of ground despite being stuck in a walking boot.

2016-vegas

A few of the many sights we saw on the Vegas strip

When I look back at these highlights, 2016 sure had plenty of redeeming moments. Looking ahead, I’m hopeful that I’ll run my fourth marathon this spring. I had qualified for this year’s Boston marathon, but didn’t sign up this time around. I’m still being cautious as I build my mileage, and I’m not committing to anything too soon. I got burned by that last year when I paid for a bunch of races that I couldn’t run and had to eat the cost. I’m thankful that the Grand Rapids Marathon has a deferral option, so I’m signed up for that half in October.

Right now, I’m targeting the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH for my spring marathon. I won’t have to take time off of work because it’s close to home, it’s in April and temperatures should be cool, it offers a flat course, and I enjoyed the half when I ran there in 2015. My mileage isn’t high enough yet to jump into the advanced Hansons training plan, but I might consider using their beginner plan or adjust things to meet somewhere in between. I love how the plan worked for me last year and want to give it another shot. Maybe I can requalify for Boston and actually go in 2018?

Even if I don’t have certain goals set in stone, I have things I’d like to accomplish in 2017. I also know that sometimes it’s best to play it by ear. I need to make sure I stay injury-free and take it from there. Here’s hoping for a solid year with more races and fun adventures!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Anthem Richmond Marathon 8K Recap

When my hot and humid spring marathon didn’t go as planned, I was anxious to give it another shot and started looking for a fall marathon. I learned that Matt’s brother Dan had signed up for his first marathon – the Richmond Marathon. I was excited for him and was curious to learn more about the race. It is billed as “America’s Friendliest Marathon” and has a pretty flat course – two things that made it sound pretty appealing to me. It takes place on a Saturday and I realized I had that Friday off for Veterans Day. We would be able to travel and I wouldn’t miss any work. The mid-November race gave me enough time to recover from the last marathon and start a new training segment. We don’t see Dan very often and thought it would be nice to be there to support him. It sounded like the perfect race for so many reasons, so I signed up for the full and Matt signed up for the half. We booked one of the downtown hotels offering a race rate and booked the flight to Virginia.

Unfortunately, my plans for a fall marathon didn’t go as planned. One day in early July my ankle locked up after I pushed too hard between a fast bike ride and a fast walk. It was bad enough for me to take a couple weeks off. When I did try to run again, my ankle still wasn’t quite 100% and I swore my way though a couple miles. Although my ankle healed after that, I started to develop pain in my other foot. By overcompensating for the ankle issue, I ended up with a stress fracture in my other foot. I didn’t get it officially diagnosed until late August. I knew all hope was lost and I wouldn’t recover soon enough to run the marathon. I was pretty upset at first but knew I couldn’t do anything about it. We couldn’t get a refund on our flight, so at the very least I’d go cheer for Matt and his brother. The race also had an 8K option, so I was hopeful that I could recover enough to pull that off.

I spent five weeks in a walking boot and took three more weeks of recovery time after that. I eased back into running very slowly a month before the race. I’d lost most of my fitness and was very cautious because I didn’t want to risk re-injury. It wasn’t all smooth, but I reached a point where I could comfortably run three miles every other day. I dropped down to the 8K and felt reassured when I got through a four-mile run a few days before the race.

We flew from Detroit to Richmond on Thursday night, and a shuttle got us to our hotel by 10:00. We walked a few blocks to Capital Ale House for food since we didn’t have time for dinner before we left.

After only five and a half hours of sleep, we woke up early to head out for a run on Friday morning. I saw a tweet that Bart Yasso (Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World) was planning a shakeout run from the host hotel a few blocks away. It was definitely worth sacrificing some sleep. We met in the lobby with a handful of other runners and Bart took us out for a tour of some scenic spots along the canal that cuts through downtown.

Running with Bart Yasso (in the white shirt)

Running with Bart Yasso (in the white shirt)

We had a beautiful morning for our shakeout run

We had a beautiful morning for our shakeout run

We ran at a very easy, conversational pace. It was awesome getting to chat with Bart. I have sworn his name many times while doing his infamous Yasso 800s speed workouts, but he is the coolest guy and has a ton of great stories. Speaking of great stories, it was fun to meet and talk to the other runners as well. One woman had come all the way from New Zealand. I enjoyed chatting with Derek, a guy who is close to wrapping up 50 marathons in 50 states within the year. We stopped for group photos a couple times. When Bart takes a selfie with other runners, it is fondly referred to as a “Bartie.” We ran a little over three miles and it was a great way to kick off the race weekend.

Matt and I are in the back row of this

Matt and I are in the back row of this “Bartie” – courtesy of Bart Yasso

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After showering, we headed out to Virginia Commonwealth University. Matt has a high school friend who is an assistant coach of VCU’s women’s basketball team. Their season opener was that morning, so we walked the mile and half or so down Broad Street to the arena, which took us through the first chunk of the next day’s race route. I’m glad we had an excuse to visit VCU because I didn’t know anything about it and didn’t realize it was such a large school with over 30,000 students. A bunch of local schools had taken field trips to the game, so it was pretty amusing to see thousands of kids screaming for VCU.

VCU's women playing at Siegel Center

VCU’s women playing at Siegel Center

During our walk back after the game, we ran into Keith Hanson and his wife and talked to them for a few minutes. Keith is one of the coaches of the Hansons-Brooks team, a group of professional runners who train in the area where we live. One of their runners (an Olympian!), Desi Linden, was scheduled to speak at the expo and run the 8K the next morning. Matt and I took a shuttle to the expo and made it just in time to see Desi and Bart Yasso speak. They discussed the race and held a question and answer session. Someone asked Desi what her mantra is during a race. She says to herself, “Calm, calm, calm. Relax, relax, relax.” It’s a good one that I may have to try myself.

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Desi Linden and Bart Yasso speaking at the race expo

Despite living in the same area, it took a trip to Virginia for us to get a picture with Desi!

Despite living in the same area, it took a trip to Virginia for us to get a picture with Desi!

As the talk wrapped up, Matt’s brother Dan and his girlfriend Heather arrived. We walked through the expo together and bought a few things. I love the logo on the official race shirt, but I don’t like how it fits me so I bought another shirt that fits better.

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The official shirt

I love the logo on this shirt I bought at the expo

I love the logo on this shirt I bought at the expo

Dan and Heather had driven to the expo, so we all went back downtown together to find a place to eat. Of course that proved to be difficult because it was prime time. I went into Penny Lane Pub to put our name in and waited behind a group that was ahead of me. Several minutes later the old Irish owner came out. He said there wasn’t a table in the house. I couldn’t hear everything he said, but he didn’t take names and gave everyone a business card. It was very odd! We tried a couple other places but they had long wait times, so we went back to the car to try somewhere out of the downtown area. I thought maybe we should try Penny Lane again first since they didn’t seem to have a list! This time the owner said there would be a long wait and there were 100 people in front of us, but took us back to a table. We were very confused, but we finally got some dinner.

At some point there was a major blow-up between a customer and the old man. The customer had been sitting at the table next to us for a while. He was pissed that they couldn’t move people around so his group could all sit together. The owner yelled that the guy came in with 12 people and no reservation and couldn’t expect to sit together. The customer yelled back about how he’d pay for his drinks but not the food. There was plenty of swearing on both ends. A waitress tried to get the customer to talk to “the younger version” of the old man, but there was no reasoning with him. He continued to yell until he finally walked out. Eating there turned out to be quite an experience!

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We had an odd but very memorable experience at Penny Lane!

Matt and I walked back to our hotel and I was a bit concerned that my watch said I ended the day with 12.3 miles. We did a LOT more walking than we probably should have the day before a race.

The race times were staggered on Saturday morning, with mine starting first. The 8K started at 7:00 and I left the hotel about 20 minutes before that. Staying in a hotel near the start of a race is SO ideal. I didn’t have to stress about parking, porta-potty lines, etc. I had about a 10-minute walk, dropped my stuff off at the bag check, and weaseled my way up to the correct corral. It was a perfect morning for racing – in the mid-30s and clear, with a little wind but not enough to really bother me. I felt just right in shorts, a long sleeve shirt, and gloves.

2016-11-11-richmond-marathon-start

Lined up for the 8K

I had no idea how to approach this race since most of my recent runs had been slower than a nine-minute pace. I only looked at my watch when I hit the mile splits, taking it by feel. I started out jogging and gradually got faster because I felt okay. The route was a mixture of the downtown, some of VCU’s campus, and neighborhoods. It was a quiet run with very few spectators until we approached the finish. It was pretty and peaceful as we ran through the neighborhoods.

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A sample view of the course courtesy of Google Maps

Bart Yasso had taken us to the finish line during our shakeout run, where he showed us that we would finish downhill. We didn’t realize that the downhill stretch was so much longer than we could see. My pace had picked up quite a bit in the fourth mile, but I really flew for the last few minutes of the race. I used the momentum from that hill for all that it was worth.

A very helpful downhill finish

A very helpful downhill finish

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My splits

I was thrilled when I checked my watch and saw how much of a negative split I had run. Of course that’s a lot easier when I start out jogging and end down a major hill, but it was nice to see that I do still have those 7:00 and 8:00 miles in me after running so slowly for the last month.

I collected my medal and water then headed to the gear check.

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Gear check was kind of a disaster. The gear had been separated into trucks based on corral time. That meant that as everyone from the first corral finished, they all lined up at the same truck. Volunteers at the other trucks had nothing to do while one truck was completely swamped. Since it was in the 30s, people were anxious to get into their warm clothes. I appreciate the volunteers for their hard work, but I feel like things were poorly organized. Maybe gear should be separated based on last names to help distribute the crowd a little better?

It was around 7:45, meaning Dan was probably just about to start his marathon and Matt and Heather were about 15 minutes into the half. That meant I had a lot of time to kill. I went to the post-race area and got a bagel and muffin. I wandered around for a bit and heard some announcements. I was just in time to see the top five female winners receive their awards. Desi Linden and Cally Macumber from the Hansons-Brooks team had both placed.

Three of the top five women in the 8K

Three of the top five women in the 8K

Soon the wind started to bother me and I got really cold. My hands were freezing and I easily had an hour to kill before Matt and Heather finished, so I went back to the hotel room. I was thankful that it was a short walk from the finish area. I relaxed for a bit, had some more snacks, and put on warmer clothes. It was kind of cool that I could look out at the finish from our room.

Overlooking the final stretch of the race

Overlooking the final stretch of the race

Matt and I use the Find My Friends app, and it really comes in handy at races when we want to track each other. I followed Matt’s progress and headed out when I knew he was getting close.

This shows the hill pretty clearly as Matt flew to the finish

This shows the hill pretty clearly as Matt flew to the finish

Matt finished in an impressive 1:42. He hadn’t followed any structured training and didn’t do many longer runs yet still managed to finish with a great time. Races have been a struggle for the last couple years due to exercise-induced asthma, but it seems like Matt finally found the right doctor who got him on the right medicine. It was a relief that he didn’t have any breathing problems this time!

I was able to find Matt in line for the gear check, which was at least three times longer than it had been for me. Like I said before – kind of a disaster. He got some cool swag for finishing the half, including a finisher’s hat and fleece blanket.

Matt's wearing his cool new hat

Matt’s wearing his cool new hat

Soon we found Heather, who had finished with a speedy 1:50 despite battling an achilles injury. We decided that we should try to catch Dan at the 16-mile mark of his race, but we didn’t know exactly when to look for him. We realized after a few minutes that we were too late and he had already passed. Matt and Heather still had to get their post-race food, where pizza was now an option for them. It wasn’t there for the 8K runners, but I suppose I didn’t really need it at 7:45 in the morning anyway! Matt and I headed back to the hotel room for a little bit because we still had an hour or so before Dan would finish. Dan texted Heather a couple times so we had a better estimate. When we looked at the tracking results we saw that he kept getting faster!

Matt went out to find him a little further up the course so he could run with him briefly. I went out to the hill so I could catch him coming into the finish.

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Dan on the last stretch

Matt and I found Heather and Dan and congratulated him on finishing his first marathon. He finished in 3:40 and ran a negative split! That’s an awesome time and I still wish I could master the art of a negative split during a marathon. Of course he hurt, but he was in relatively good shape. We hung around the post-race area for a little bit before heading out for more substantial food.

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These dogs hanging out in the post-race area were the cutest things

It was a bit of a walk, but we made it to the Southern Railway Taphouse for a nice lunch. We went back to our hotels after that and relaxed for a while until we were ready for dinner. Rather than attempt to battle crowds downtown again, Matt was smart enough to suggest that we try the VCU area. Dan and Heather picked us up and we ended up at a small, laid-back place called 821 Cafe. We didn’t have to worry about any owner/customer fist-fights breaking out there! We parked just in time before an anti-Trump rally passed right in front of us. The VCU students had staged peaceful marches each of the three nights we had been in town.

VCU students protesting

VCU students protesting

When we got back to the hotel, I could barely keep my eyes open. I had only run five miles that day, but had walked seven on top of it. We’d had a great but long day.

We flew home on Sunday morning and talked about what a great trip we’d had. Despite my initial frustration that I couldn’t run the marathon, this turned out to be a perfect trip. We had a blast doing Bart Yasso’s shakeout run and seeing the sights of downtown Richmond, checking out a basketball game and VCU’s campus, hanging out with Dan and Heather, eating at a bunch of good restaurants, and taking in the whole experience of the race day. It’s nice to get away from home and see new places and pack so much fun into one long weekend.

Thanks for reading if you actually made it through this whole thing!

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz