On Saturday, May 14 I did my first in-person 5K since September 2019. I tend to favor longer races at slower paces and don’t race 5Ks as often as I used to. During my last marathon training segment I only ran 5K pace for a couple of workouts. Sometimes 5Ks intimidate me more than half or full marathons because my training specifically targets those paces while I rarely target 5K speed. I’m simply not prepared to go that fast which makes them feel especially torturous! I know I could take it easy and not push myself to the max but I have a hard time not giving it my all.
I was willing to put myself through the worrying and agony to run the Dart Frog Dash 5K at the Toledo Zoo. A couple weeks earlier I got together with my friend Lisa for a run and visit to the Detroit Zoo. I commented that we should try to visit the Toledo Zoo too because it had been ages since I’d been. A day later Lisa sent me a message with info about a 5K there. It was $30 for the race plus admission to the zoo. Perfect!
The Toledo Zoo is close to two hours away from me but Lisa lives halfway between. I drove to her house then we drove together the rest of the way. We got there over an hour early because we both prefer to have the extra time. Plus, we had to walk a good half mile in the zoo to packet pickup at the aquarium, back to the car, then back into the zoo again.
20 minutes before the start of the race Lisa and I did a mile-long warm up run. It was a beautiful morning in the 60s but it was pretty humid. My hair made that especially obvious! It had been in the 80s for my last few runs so I was starting to adjust to the heat but I hadn’t dealt with humidity yet. As least this race would only be 20-some minutes long for me.
I was glad to hear someone announce that competitive runners should start at the front and people walking should stay near the back. I knew enough to line up near the front while also leaving a little gap because faster people should be in front of me. At 8:30 we were off!
A ton of people flew past me at the beginning. I figured a bunch of them should have filled that gap in front of me! I also had a hunch that I might catch some of them during the race. That included a couple of kids who started at the front. Too often I’ve seen kids rocket off the starting line at an all-out sprint. Then I catch them a quarter mile into the race when they’ve run out of energy. That’s exactly what happened at this race. I didn’t have a clue how to pace myself until I was in my late 20s or early 30s so I get it! I always feel bad when it’s clear they haven’t learned that skill yet and hope the rest of the race isn’t totally miserable for them.
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself since I hadn’t trained for that kind of speed. A few days before the race I decided I should try some quarter mile segments at 5K pace for practice and completed six of them. I was dying by the end so I hoped the race atmosphere would give me a boost somehow!
I ran the race by feel and glanced at my watch at times to see how it was going. I knew I wasn’t running a PR kind of pace, not that I expected I would pull that off anyway. The first mile was basically a straight shot down Broadway/River Road along the Maumee River. I ran the first mile in 7:12. We looped around a neighborhood, went back out to River Road, then branched off into a neighborhood that eventually led us into the zoo. I picked it up to 7:07 pace for the second mile. As expected, I passed a few people here and there who had probably started too fast. There were a few minor hills and rather than dreading them I told myself that’s where I’d catch some people. In the meantime, I was sweating like crazy. That humidity! It was kind of painful running so fast but I kept pushing through.
We had a straight shot on the zoo sidewalk at first but then we ran on the Tembo Trail. It was mostly a brick surface and it got tricky in spots. We actually went through some of the exhibit space but I was oblivious to any rhinos, hippos, or elephants at that point. There were a bunch of quick, sharp turns that slowed me down quite a bit as I tried to round them. I realized a girl was catching up to me so I just tried to move fast enough so I wouldn’t get passed! My third mile was 7:28. I was in the 7:10s until I got to that Tembo Trail section.
There was another nice straightaway where I could pick it up again until I had one more turn to make right before the finish. I was running close to a kid and thought I better slow down to make sure we didn’t cut each other off as we both tried to hug that last corner. Then I gave it everything I had left! I hit 6:48 pace for the last tenth of a mile.
No one passed me at the end, but when I saw the pictures after the race I realized how close the finish had been. Obviously the women were younger and not in my age group but I was still glad to place a little higher overall for women.
I was dying for a minute after I crossed the finish line but then I went back to the long straightaway to see if I could spot Lisa. Thanks to her red shirt I saw her and cheered as I took a few pictures. Then I went back to meet her at the finish.
I always look forward to post-race treats so I wasn’t especially excited that they only had water and bananas. No medal either, which is no big deal since I have too many as it is. Getting free admission to the zoo was a worthwhile perk so I was forgiving.
I checked the results and saw that I was the female masters winner and fifth woman overall! Pretty cool! I finished in 22:50 which was a little over a minute slower than my PR. I was happy with what I had managed to run without real preparation.
Lisa’s results hadn’t shown up yet so we went back to the car to change into dry clothes. I had brought a protein drink and some Picky Bars which helped make up for the lack of treats. Lisa’s results finally showed up and she was only about 10 seconds slower than her PR. Pretty impressive on a humid day with that tricky Tembo Trail segment! She was third in her age group so we went to look for awards before we explored the rest of the zoo.
We found a table where we each collected cool prizes. Because I was the female masters winner I received an envelope that gave me a zoo membership for a year! That membership also gives me 50% off admission to several other zoos I’ve wanted to visit again. I was pretty excited about that prize!
We spent a few hours walking around the zoo and it seemed like a perfect day. It was sunny and beautiful and we had fun exploring the whole zoo.
After we had been there for a few hours and it continued to get hotter we reached a point when we’d had enough. We got a little more antsy and started to move through the exhibits a little faster. I enjoyed taking some nice photos and we had a great time between the race and exploring the zoo. My watch said I had done more than 10 miles by the time we left for the day!
I’m really glad we did the race and it made me realize that I should try to do more speedwork this summer. It’s usually one of my least favorite kinds of workouts but it makes me stronger. It was nice to see how well I did at this race. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much if I trained for that kind of pace. It would also be nice to see what I’m capable of doing if I prepare. 5Ks don’t leave me beat up for days afterward like half or full marathons so maybe I should add them to the mix more often.
I am now a two-time Boston Marathon finisher and I’m still coming down from the high of an incredible weekend. Take away the actual race day and it would have been an amazing trip already. I had a blast in 2019 but had a challenging race due to the weather conditions. I really wanted a second chance to try to redeem myself with a better race. I was thrilled that I could go back and run again in 2022. After this year’s experience I understand why so many people return year after year. I would love to go back any time I can! It was such a great weekend that this recap is basically a short novel. I apologize in advance for the length and understand if you just scroll through for the photos!
Aside from not being able to celebrate Easter with my mom, I was happy the race fell during Easter weekend this year because it meant I already had Good Friday and Easter Monday off of work. I only used one vacation day for the trip to travel home the day after the race. My flight left Detroit at 7:30 on Friday morning and after a quick Uber ride from the airport I made it to my hotel by 9:30. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to stash my bags – they actually let me check in that early. Since I was going to pay a fortune for the hotel I suppose it was only fair! I was a couple blocks south of Boston Common which was a great location for walking to almost everything.
My mission for Friday morning was to stop at Marathon Sports on my way to the expo which opened at 11:00. When I saw the trees blooming in the Public Garden I had to take a brief detour. It was a beautiful day in the 50s and 60s with barely a cloud in the sky and I hadn’t seen anything blooming in Michigan yet. It actually looked like spring in Boston!
In 2019 I realized a good trick was to go to Marathon Sports where they have most of the same Adidas items the expo has minus the congestion and ridiculous lines. I stopped there first this time and bought a 2022 Boston Marathon hat. I went to the expo right when it opened and was surprised to walk almost a quarter mile around the Hynes Convention Center to find the end of the line to get inside. Although I’d had some moments when I wondered how it might work traveling solo for this race, I quickly realized that it was actually pretty great. Nearly half an hour of waiting? No big deal to me – it was a gorgeous day to wait outside and I was able to text some friends in the meantime. I didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining and I could just enjoy myself.
I collected my bib quickly then found my name on the wall of participants.
I glanced at the official merch area and confirmed that most of it was the same stuff I found at Marathon Sports. I could barely move in that area and I tried to get out as soon as I could! Fortunately the rest of the expo was more spacious.
I waited until the week of the race to order my celebration jacket. I wanted to be sure I’d actually make it to the race and earn that jacket. It was waiting for me at home after the race.
I purchased a shirt at one booth and wandered around collecting some free snacks and drinks. When I made it to the back end of the expo and heard people clapping, I realized Meb Keflezighi was speaking! I had no idea he’d be there so I settled on the bleachers to hear him speak. In the running world he’s a superstar and one of my very favorites. Hearing him talk about winning Boston the year after the bombings is still really moving nine years later. So many people lined up for a picture that I figured I’d try to catch him later at another panel.
I made a few stops on Newbury Street including a visit to the Brooks Hyperion House. Brooks didn’t have a booth at the expo but I knew they had rented a house and was happy to see that they had a lot of cool gear there. I left with a hat, shirt, and some free stickers.
Between the hat from Marathon Sports, the shirt from the expo, the stuff from Brooks, and the official race shirt, I figured I had more than enough gear.
I had also been very tempted by a limited edition Boston shoe from Brooks. After running the marathon I couldn’t resist temptation anymore and ordered them.
I went to check out Fan Fest at Copley Square Park where Meb was scheduled to speak at 4:00. It was my second time seeing him speak in one day but I’ll listen to him any chance I can get. He’s inspirational, an example of the power of positive thinking, and a role model who I admire very much.
Meb and Des Linden are two of my biggest running heroes and I was off to see her next. What a day! With a little internet sleuthing in the weeks prior to the race I had discovered that Des would be a part of a panel at the Brooks house and I grabbed a free ticket to ensure my admission as soon as they became available.
Des spoke with Melanie Allen of Brooks Running, Ted Metellus, director of the New York City Marathon, and journalist Shira Springer. They talked about subjects such as getting more people interested in running and increasing engagement with professional runners. It was a great discussion in an intimate setting. I was able to speak to Des for a minute afterward and she’s the best. It made me smile to hear a young girl outside exclaim, “This is the coolest day of my life!” I kind of felt the same way myself!
I think I walked a good eight miles on Friday by the time I grabbed some dinner and went back to the hotel. I knew I’d do a lot the first couple days and planned to back off and spend less time on my feet by Sunday.
I started Saturday with a 3-mile run. The big B.A.A. 5K took place around Boston Common that morning and I tried to plan a route that wouldn’t run into that course. I took in the race atmosphere for a few minutes when I finished my run.
The rest of Saturday was all about spending time with friends. Although it was a bit of a walk to the Fenway Park area it was another nice day. A few of us were going to the baseball game at 4:10 and met at Time Out Market to hang out for a couple hours beforehand. It was so great to see everyone and the time flew by much too quickly.
As we got ready to go to the game my friend Tara said she had a video to show me on her phone. She surprised me with a compilation of video messages from an amazing group of friends. There were some very sincere messages, some presented by adorable pets, and some that were absolutely hilarious. The video wrapped up with Tara “running” across the Boston finish line, where she had made a special stop the day before just to film it. I was overwhelmed by all of the love and couldn’t believe they did that for me. I let them know I would watch the video multiple times leading up to the race and that it meant the world to me.
We got to see a great Red Sox win and the ballpark’s organist even played a request for me. My friend Kristine said he took requests through Twitter. It was pretty awesome when he came through with some Tom Petty for me!
On top of all of that fun, I was shocked when I looked over my shoulder and saw my friend Kurt sitting a few feet away. We hadn’t coordinated at all and I couldn’t believe the chances!
Then a few of us grabbed dinner after the game. Only two days into the trip and it had already been a blast.
No shakeout run for me on Sunday because I didn’t want to take any risk of tweaking anything the day before the race. I figured rest would serve me better. Still, I had a couple events on my agenda.
I went to the Brooks Hyperion House for another panel at 11 am. The panel was hosted by Jeff Dengate, Runner-in-Chief at Runner’s World Magazine. I wanted to see him speak as well as Kevin Hanson, one of the brothers who owns the local Hansons Running Shops and coaches the Hansons-Brooks team of athletes in my area back at home. They were joined by Brooks athletes CJ Albertson and Brian Reynolds, plus Greg Meyer, who won Boston in 1983 and is also from Michigan. A lot of the discussion centered around preparing for the course and race day, favorite memories from past races, and some other fun stuff mixed in.
I see Kevin Hanson frequently when he supports his athletes as they train at Stony Creek Metropark, a place where I trained nearly all winter long. It was fun to chat with him for a few minutes and also nice to meet Jeff Dengate.
I grabbed lunch and spent some time off my feet since I knew I’d be standing for a while at Fan Fest for another panel that would start around 1:30. I’m glad I arrived early because five women from the 1972 inaugural women’s field were on the stage. Women have only been officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon for 50 years and those women were true trailblazers. They had fascinating stories and were so inspirational that I teared up a few times.
Another inspirational panel of women spoke next. They were members of the Honorary Women’s Team who were there to honor the women who ran 50 years ago. I was there to see Melissa Stockwell, a Paralympic triathlete who I’ve followed for years. She was joined by Verna Volker, who is working to bring visibility to Native women runners, Sarah Fuller, who was the first woman to play in and score in a Power 5 football game, and Jocelyn Rivas, who was the youngest woman to run 100 marathons. I’m glad my interest in Melissa exposed me to these other incredible women who all had awesome stories.
After a couple of nice days it had gotten pretty chilly and I was ready to get back to the hotel to warm up and get off my feet. Around 5:00 I went to the Panera near my hotel for a pre-race meal of mac and cheese, a turkey sandwich, and a bag of chips. I like to have a meal that is pretty tame but hopefully also filling enough.
After being so cold while walking around during the day I spent too much time worrying about how much I should wear for the race the next day. Fortunately a couple of runner friends talked some sense into me and helped reinforce what I already knew – that I didn’t want to get too warm. The nervousness and questioning always seems to hit the night before a race even when I know better. I finally got everything together and got close to seven hours of fairly decent sleep.
All of this excitement and I’m only getting to Marathon Monday now!
I ate one Picky Bar before heading out of the hotel around 6:40 am. I took warm post-race clothes to the gear check area then started a long walk to the Hilton near the convention center. Like I did in 2019, I reserved a spot on a bus that was chartered by a local running store. Having a chartered bus meant I could stay warm and comfortable on the bus rather than get dumped out at Athletes’ Village. Buses for my wave would start loading at 7:00. I thought that meant they’d gradually fill buses and surely I didn’t need to be on that first one. I got there about ten after and wandered around trying to figure out where to find the buses. After 10-15 minutes I finally accepted the fact that I must have been too late and totally missed the buses. Kind of crappy since I had paid for it but I guess it was my fault for not getting there earlier.
I didn’t even know how the normal buses worked so I had to pull up the participant’s guide on my phone to figure that out. The buses for my wave would leave at 8:15. I had nearly an hour until then and another mile to walk back. I didn’t get too bummed because I figured I was going to get to take in the full experience of Athletes’ Village and maybe that would be good. Being on my feet so much before running a marathon was the thing that had me concerned the most.
I headed to Boston Common for the bus loading area and found a big mob of people waiting. There were so many people we couldn’t even get into Boston Common. I guess it was a good thing I was early for THIS bus! While I waited I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle. I made sure to eat several times in the four hours between leaving the hotel and running the race. Sometime after 8:00 the crowd moved enough to get into the Common. More waiting until my wave was allowed to go to the buses. Then more waiting to get on a bus. I had waiting-themed song lyrics running through my head. “So tired, tired of waiting.” “The waiting is the hardest part.” SO much waiting which is one of the tough parts about this race. I just played on my phone, took in the atmosphere, and had to be patient. Eventually I got on a bus and it was nice and warm. It took at least 45 minutes to get bused out to Hopkinton and in that time I had another Picky Bar.
The chartered bus was extremely helpful in 2019 because it was a rainy morning. I got to stay dry on the bus and not worry about mud at Athletes’ Village. Fortunately the weather was pretty much perfect this year – 40s to 50s and clear. In addition to the sun I had my Salvation Army layer of clothes that kept me warm until I shed them before the race. I found a wooden fence to sit on and killed some time by rewatching the good luck video my awesome friends had made. At 10:00 I had my last Picky Bar.
At 10:20 my wave (#3) was allowed to start the .7-mile walk from Athletes’ Village to the start. More mobs of people moving slowly! Another bathroom stop along the way had me pressing my luck for my 10:50 starting time. I could start any time after my corral went off but I could be grouped with slower people. I was supposed to be in corral two and by the time I got up to the start they were on corral three. No big deal really and they let me right in.
After all of that waiting I was finally off! I’ve had it drilled into my head not to start too fast at this race. The first four miles are downhill and it’s easy to fly. Starting too fast could wreck the quads and make things bad for climbing the hills later in the race. In 2019 I didn’t even hit my goal pace going down the hills, let alone go out too fast. The weather was the main factor that time. I was slower than my goal pace this time too because of congestion. Maybe it would have helped if I had started with my proper corral? The course was so crowded I was slower than I planned to be. Getting stuck behind people got a little frustrating. I weaved around so much trying to find open spots that I knew I was bound to add extra distance to the 26.2 miles. It took several miles before it really opened up enough to move more freely.
I ran 3:52:15 in 2019 and my top goal this time was to redeem myself and run a better race. My body wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity we had that day and it kind of wrecked me. My goal is usually around 3:30 and I have only achieved it once in my previous eight marathons. With cooler temps and such a nice day it seemed like that goal could be achievable. Another top goal was to enjoy the crowds and the experience. I decided I should keep my phone in my pocket and take some photos and videos of the experience, which I never do during races. I knew how electric the crowd would be and the photographer in me wanted to capture some of that. As long as I achieved those top two goals, of course I also wanted to capitalize on all of my hard training and run the strongest race I could.
After the 2019 race I learned that Spencer the dog is an icon along the course. He was named the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon this year! I didn’t see him in 2019 so I was determined to see him this time. I read that he would be on the right side of the road around 2.5 miles into the race. I’m usually pretty serious about my races and never really stop for photo opportunities. I made an exception for Spencer though! I moved off to the side of the road when I saw him and realized a few people were waiting to pose for pictures with him. I didn’t want to stop too long so I snapped a couple quick pictures then got moving again. Maybe I sacrificed 10-20 seconds which wasn’t too much in the big picture and seeing him made me smile!
After the race I actually came across a video posted by Spencer’s owner that caught me taking photos. Too funny!
I stuck to the right side of the road because my friend Mandy was spectating with friends somewhere within the next mile. It helped that they weren’t in a big crowd so I could spot them, say hi, and get a quick high five from her husband. Seeing them made me smile and gave me a boost for a little while.
I got another boost 10 miles into the race when I heard my name. I looked over and yelled, “Bruce! You’re awesome!” Another high five from someone I knew from back at home. I had no idea he’d be there! I was glad I was on the right edge of the road at the right time to catch him. That surprise made me smile for a bit too.
Since I had prepaid for the expensive photo package I made a point of trying to mug for the race photographers whenever I saw them. I look kind of silly in some of them but I was trying to have fun!
There are a few lulls in the crowd here and there along the course but never for very long. One of my favorite things about this race is the energy of the crowd. They are INCREDIBLE. To have people screaming and cheering you on for nearly 26 miles? What an amazing feeling. They made me smile for most of the race and lifted me up so much. The Wellesley girls were a highlight last time and I made sure to shoot some video this time. Their screaming can be heard before they’re even visible.
There are always funny signs along the course and one of my favorites said, “Running is a mental sport – you crazy.” People often have “power up” signs that you’re supposed to swat for a boost of power. In what I assume was a twist on that, I cracked up when I saw someone holding a big Will Smith head. After the Oscars debacle it was HIS turn to get slapped and plenty of runners knew exactly what they were supposed to do!
People blared music like AC/DC which got me pumped, especially as I watched a runner in front of me slap the hand of a guy wearing the band’s shirt at that spot.
Having fun was such an overriding theme for me at this race. People say that after all of the hard work you’ve put in to get there the race is a celebration. I kept that in mind and numerous times I giddily thought to myself, “You’re running BOSTON right now!” I know it’s the ultimate goal for many and I am extremely grateful that I have been able to run this legendary race twice. I had a very unique feeling while I was out there. As I counted down how many miles I had left to go, I not only thought about how much closer I was to the finish but also thought about how much time I had left with this amazing experience. I didn’t want it to end!
One way I boosted my mental game was to think of all of the support I had. I am fully aware that this running stuff I do is pretty crazy and most people have no desire to torture themselves that way. Yet I received SO much support from family and friends that it was humbling. I started to list off everyone in my head individually and think about how they had taken the time to let me know they were pulling for me. I was just out there doing this running thing and it blew my mind to get so much love from so many people. I kept that in mind no matter how I was feeling.
Fortunately, I felt pretty good most of the time. It was sunny and even during the very early miles I wondered if I was getting too warm. Sometimes the crowd gave me chills though! Although it had been really windy the prior few days we lucked out and it wasn’t too crazy on race day. I kept some wise words in mind from one of the panels I had attended – if we faced a headwind, just think about how it would help cool us down. That was a good perspective and it was true. The race day conditions were about as ideal as I could have hoped for.
There are some rolling hills throughout the course but the four hills from miles 16-21 are the REAL hills. They feel especially significant because they come later in the race when the legs are tired. The first one or two I thought, “Eh, not so bad, I’ve got this. I did all of those hill repeats in training to prepare for this.” Heartbreak Hill is the final one and climbs for half a mile straight. That took some work, for sure. My pace clearly slowed for the segment with all of those hills. I held up though and did a great job battling them.
It’s such a huge relief to see signs that let runners know when they’ve made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill. It’s all downhill from there! There are a few minor rolling spots along the way that feel much more significant on tired legs but it’s mostly smooth sailing after that point.
I was able to maintain a very positive mindset the whole time. Running really IS a mental sport and even when I started to feel the bottom of my feet a bit more and became aware of my hamstrings working harder with those hills, I reminded myself that I was still holding up and continued to enjoy the electric atmosphere.
I followed my usual routine of grabbing a few sips of water at nearly every aid station while also supplementing with my own bottle of Nuun electrolyte drink. I ate Clif Blok chews with extra sodium every mile or two after the first 6-7 miles of the race. My stomach cooperated and although I had a moment here and there when I felt iffy, those moments passed and I still had energy to pick up my pace after I recovered from the hills.
Soon enough I had my first glimpse of the Citgo sign off in the distance. A while later it would pop up again and seem huge. It’s one of those significant markers on the course that makes you feel like you’re getting close. The crowd was on fire and if I held my phone up to capture video it got them even more fired up. It’s such an amazing feeling that makes me tear up even now thinking about it.
Eventually I saw signs and paint on the ground notifying us that we had one mile to go. I was going to give it everything I had left! Then came the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” Time to fly down the long straightaway to the finish line! Then it was a mix between a huge smile and being on the verge of choking up from the emotions.
Next came the honor of crossing that finish line.
Stopping afterward is brutal. Running for over 3.5 hours straight then coming to a total stop? That’s a shock to the system! Aside from some groaning and swearing I was fine though. No cramps or need for a wheelchair. As I watched other people get emotional it nearly got me too but somehow I avoided all-out tears.
I felt my phone going nuts. Again, it was amazing to receive SO much support! I glanced at the notifications on my screen and one popped up from my friend Mary Beth: “3:35:35! Amazing job!!!” I didn’t even know my time yet and that’s how I found out. Wait – I think I ran that EXACT same time in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. A check later confirmed that. How does that even happen?! Although the time might push it close to the limits of actually making the final cut, it was another Boston Qualifying time by 4:25! To BQ at Boston felt like the ultimate achievement. Clearly I shattered my first goal of running better than I did the first time I ran Boston. I ran a really solid time, finished strong, and most of all, enjoyed the whole experience. I felt pretty great!
I hit some photo stops after I received my medal and got a heat sheet, which I really needed as I began to cool down. I received a bag with treats then I really had to go to gear check to collect my warm clothes.
I was overwhelmed by all of the messages and decided to call my mom to fill her in first rather than try to respond to all the texts. Then I answered a few but knew I needed to get some food. I got some chocolate milk at 7-11 first and downed that right away. That’s my go-to recovery drink for carbs/protein. Then I went to Panera for a smoothie, muffin, and chocolate croissant to take back to my hotel. I was anxious to get back since I was getting really cold and my fingers were freezing.
I ate those treats then started digging into the post-race bag of goodies like Gatorade, some bars, chips, etc.
I turned on Debatable, my favorite music talk radio show on SiriusXM as I ate. Thanks to my great friends I got an on-air shoutout for finishing the race! My friends (and the hosts of the show) are the best. I spent forever going through messages before I finally showered and went to Ben and Jerry’s. Then I got pizza and cheese bread from Blaze Pizza. Things stiffened up if I sat down so walking around town felt better.
I went to bed much later than I should have because I still had to pack and get ready to leave early the next morning. I knew I probably wouldn’t sleep well anyway. Wow, was I right. Aching set in and I tossed and turned.
Despite feeling very tired the next day I also felt very accomplished. I was thrilled that I had “redeemed” myself and had run a much better race my second time in Boston. I was very happy to run such a good time on a challenging course. All of my hard training through another Michigan winter paid off. Most of all, I had a BLAST. I got to see some extremely inspiring speeches from some of my favorite athletes, I had so much fun hanging out with great friends, and I successfully executed my ninth marathon with a smile on my face most of the way.
For anyone who actually read all of this, thank you for your time. This marathon was such a special experience I wanted to remember everything about it. I didn’t want to skimp and leave anything out!
After running the Rock CF half marathon for my first time in 2019, I knew this was a race to keep on my radar. I ended up running virtually in 2020 when it didn’t happen, and 2021’s race didn’t happen either. I’m sure it was a great feeling for many people to have the race return in person this year on Sunday, March 20. What a perfect way to spend the first day of spring!
I only have four weeks until the Boston Marathon so I’m pretty deep in my training right now. My schedule called for either a long run or a 10K/half marathon race. I waited until a week before the race to see what the weather might do. A week ago it was a snowy mess around here and I probably wouldn’t have driven through that for over an hour to attempt to race. Fortunately, things looked more promising for race day so I signed up.
The last time I raced was when I did back-to-back trail half marathons on Thanksgiving and the day after. I don’t tend to race much during the winter because I worry that there could be slick footing on the race routes. Plus, marathon training is usually pretty intense and most races during the winter are 5Ks. I typically need more mileage than that. Rock CF is one of the first longer distance races that takes place in this area as we attempt to leave winter behind.
I was anxious to test the fitness I’ve built during this marathon training segment. I’ve been feeling good and I’ve had the feeling that I should have more potential in the half marathon than I’ve proven so far. I wanted to really go for it and I hoped I could finally land a new PR.
Despite the 8:00 start, I arrived in Grosse Ile extra early. The high school parking lot is a 5-minute walk from the start and racers are warned that it fills up early. I’d say people were still able to get spots around 6:45 or a bit later, but I got there even earlier to play it safe. The walk was more convenient to me than having to take a shuttle from the other parking areas. I walked to the middle school to collect my stuff then went back to hang out in my car for half an hour.
“CF” stands for Cystic Fibrosis, which is why lungs are a theme on the medal and race shirt.
When I got out of the car to head to the start, I heard someone call my name. It was Michelle, who I met last summer at a triathlon. Our paces are pretty similar and we’ve been Instagram buddies since that race. It was nice to catch up with her for a bit in the parking lot then again as we waited for the race to start.
I also ran into Jen, another Instagram buddy, and her husband. We’ve been following each other’s adventures for a while now but it was the first time we met in person. It was really great to see her and chat for a bit. This is a race where I always see a bunch of people I know. I think everyone who likes the longer races is anxious to get back out there. Plus, it’s a really great race.
I fought the typical pre-race nerves and although it was a little chilly in the 30s with some wind, I actually felt comfortable. I had driven through rain most of the way that morning so we really lucked out that things cleared up and we had a gorgeous race day. The start was kind of strange because none of us could hear anything. I saw some people outside of the gates with their hands over their hearts and I was afraid the National Anthem was playing while few of us racers realized it. I don’t know if speakers were facing the opposite direction or what, but there was no starting gun and suddenly we just started moving.
Once we got away from the school I remembered how nice the course is. Grosse Ile is an island so we got to run along the Detroit River for a good chunk of the race.
I made a note last time that the streets had a lot of rough patches. That hasn’t changed over the last few years. It was pretty nasty for several segments of the race and I watched my footing carefully. Aside from that, I tried to look up as much as I could to enjoy the waterfront homes and the view over the river. I took these photos during a cool down run after the race. It was especially gorgeous watching the sun rise over the water behind some pretty clouds.
It’s also pretty cool to see the Detroit skyline off in the distance. It’s tiny in the photo below, but the RenCen is visible from the east side of the island.
We branched off to the west 3.5 miles into the race and became very aware of the wind. It wasn’t anything too crazy but it was enough to make things more difficult for a mile or two. I slowed down by about 10 seconds for those couple of miles and I want to blame the wind! We got to the west side of the island and ran along the water again for about four miles. The wind was still there but at least we didn’t have to run directly into it anymore. It was fun to see a boat or two out on the water and I enjoyed running past a golf course too.
I wore my usual fuel belt with an electrolyte drink and I ate chews a few times after I hit the halfway point of the race to help keep my energy from waning. I ran this race more ambitiously than I usually do and I could feel how hard I was working. My usual routine for a half marathon is to run a little faster than marathon pace to start then I gradually pick up the pace. That usually leaves me with enough energy to make a strong push for the last few miles. This time I was really on a mission to get a PR. I knew that my PR pace was somewhere around 7:35. I figured I could aim to run that pace evenly the whole race. That’s how I ended up with my marathon PR this past fall. I knew it could backfire but I also knew I’d have to work if I wanted that PR. I started with a first mile of 7:45 then dropped below 7:30 for a couple miles. A couple miles were around 7:40, then back to the 7:30s for a few. Somehow I managed to keep it up.
We got to change things up a bit nine to ten miles into the race when we ran an out and back segment at the airport and went through the hangar. I enjoyed that part because I got to cheer for some friends who were going in the opposite direction.
When we got back out to the road again I told myself we should get a boost from a tailwind as we headed east. Maybe we did but it sure didn’t feel any easier. I just noticed that I was getting warmer as we ran directly toward the sun. After 10 miles I finally stuck my gloves in my pocket. I spent the next three miles of the race cringing because I was pushing so hard. I started to think that I ought to have a better 10K PR as well because it seemed like I ran a lot of this race at that pace. I kept worrying that I’d get hit with cramps or start to crash because of it.
As I ran next to a guy I was impressed that he recognized me. It was Rob, another one of my Instagram running buddies who I hadn’t met in person. I was oblivious because I was hurting so much with two miles to go. I was impressed that he was observant at that point! I was paying enough attention to recognize Michelle as I caught up to her in the late miles. Once again, we ended up running a race within about a minute of each other!
The course is basically flat but there are a few little hills in spots. Of course one of the hardest hills came toward the end when I was already dying! Somehow I kept pushing but it didn’t help that we also headed into the wind right as we approached the finish line.
I felt beat up but I didn’t crash – and I nailed that PR!
My prior PR was 1:39:43 which I ran in Toledo at the Glass City Marathon in April of 2015. It’s been seven years but I finally did it! I shaved 50 seconds off that time. Here’s how it played out mile by mile:
I’m still kind of in shock that I ran so many miles in the 7:20s and didn’t completely fall apart. As much as I felt like I was dying, my last couple miles were my fastest of the race other than one out at the airport! Age group awards went three deep so I didn’t win anything, but I’m really happy with how I placed in general. Although that’s nice to see, it’s really just a race against myself and I won that race this time. That’s what mattered most to me.
I had to stop for a picture and bang the gong in honor of my PR!
I collected a bagel and a couple cookies, grabbed my warmer clothes from gear check, then headed back out to the river for some “cool down” running at a much slower pace in hopes that it would save me from getting too stiff. When I got back I saw Jen again and some other friends like Kurt, who helped me get through my biggest long runs back in 2018 when we were both training for the Glass City Marathon. I love getting to catch up with a bunch of friends at this race.
Obviously I’m thrilled with the results. After I ran close to a PR on a very hilly half marathon course in September, I’ve been feeling like I should be capable of more on an easier course. I’m glad I was finally able to prove that, especially after sitting with the same PR for seven long years. Despite some recent years that have been pretty tough, plus getting old enough to be considered a “masters” runner, it’s nice to see that I’m still improving. I’m telling myself that I’m stronger than ever. This race is a sign that I’m in good shape heading into Boston as well. I still have a tough week or two of training left before I start to back down. Hopefully things continue in the right direction so I have a solid race there.
Although it’s hard to say that 2021 was a great year it was better for me than the prior two years so at least that’s something! From a running and triathlon perspective it was pretty awesome and I hit a bunch of new milestones. I ran the most miles I’ve ever run in a year. I ran 50K for the first time and even got a couple extra miles in for 33 total miles. I did a 1/3 Iron-distance triathlon which is the longest one I’ve done. I did a very adventurous 10-leg triathlon. As if all of that isn’t exciting enough, I FINALLY broke 3:34 in the marathon (where I’d been hung up for years) with a time of 3:28:55. Definitely a good year. Here’s a closer look at how the year played out.
As the pandemic raged on, I didn’t do any real races until June. Half of my schedule this year was already set thanks to deferrals from 2020. The Martian Marathon didn’t take place in person this year either so it was the one virtual race I did with a 5K / half marathon combo.
I had planned to run my first 50K in 2020 but it was canceled plus I got injured in the process of training for it. Fortunately my body held up this year and I was able to do the 6-hour Twilight Zone trail race in June. It was warm and humid but I made it through 33 miles in just under six hours. I had never run longer than a marathon so it was exciting to officially get into ultra running territory.
My body recovered so well that I was able to do a sprint triathlon a couple weeks later. I did one sprint in June and one in July.
I was really intrigued by the thought of a 10-leg triathlon and decided to give it a shot. It included segments of swimming across one lake while carrying running gear in a buoy so I could run to another lake, swim across, run again, and so on. I felt VERY accomplished after that race.
I figured if I could get through that race I could manage a 1/3 Iron-distance triathlon. The longest I had done was the Olympic distance so this distance fell between that and a half Ironman. The hills left me feeling pretty wrecked but didn’t completely break me!
In addition to the four triathlons I also swam a 5K. I did the race in 2019 and it was a fun challenge so I knew I had to try it again. My swim training wasn’t very impressive this year thanks to avoiding the pool for half of the year due to pandemic worries. I was slower this time but actually felt better. I’ve already signed up to do it again next August!
Aside from those adventures, I spent most of my time running. I ran a half marathon at the beginning of July and a 4-hour race toward the end of the month where I ran just under 25 miles.
In August I ran a 10-mile race then did my second half marathon of the year in September.
By the middle of the summer I started to train for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon that had been canceled in 2020. It wasn’t much of a surprise when it got canceled this year as well. I decided to try the Vermont City Marathon instead but then that one got canceled too. I was still determined to put all of my training to use for a fall marathon and kept hunting for a replacement. I chose the Indy Monumental Marathon as my third option which turned out to be a wise choice. After aiming to run a 3:30 marathon for at least six years, I was THRILLED that I came in a minute under my goal. With an 11-minute qualifying buffer it also assured me that I would be able to sign up for 2022’s Boston Marathon.
That probably should have been enough for the year but I couldn’t resist the challenge of running back-to-back half marathons on Thanksgiving and the day after. I got through it successfully then took recovery more seriously and didn’t do any races in December.
I accumulated a nice collection of shirts and medals after all of that racing!
As I already mentioned, I ran more miles this year than I’ve ever run – a total of 2,184 miles. For the first half of the year all of those miles helped me “Run the Mitt” – a fun challenge that included checkpoint pins for cities throughout Michigan as I worked toward a total of 1,035 miles. The more I run, the less I do everything else. When I was injured and couldn’t run for a chunk of time in 2020, I biked a ton. I went from 2,500 miles on the bike last year to 943 this year. It’s nice to change things up now and then but I was relieved that I could run more this year because that’s what I enjoy the most. This year I also swam over 86 miles and did 70 strength sessions. I do core/weights workouts in the basement for 45-minutes to an hour and usually have some adorable workout buddies there with me.
All of those miles allowed me to see a lot of great scenery. I love getting to combine my passion for running with my passion for photography. The last few years I’ve made a calendar with pictures I’ve taken while running and biking. Here are the 12 images that made the cut for my 2022 calendar.
I definitely had a lot of great highlights this past year. Looking forward, we’ll see if I finally get to run the Toronto Marathon in 2022. Boston Marathon training officially began during the last week of 2021 so that’s pretty exciting. Boston and Toronto are the main goals for the next year so hopefully this never-ending pandemic doesn’t mess with those plans. I keep thinking that I should try a half Ironman sometime. I don’t know if 2022 will be the year but I’m pretty sure I’ll find plenty of fun challenges that will keep me busy!
Three weeks after running the Indy Monumental Marathon I made the questionable decision to run back-to-back half marathons on Thanksgiving and the day after. It’s not only wise for me to take some time to recover after a marathon but my body often pushes back and won’t let me start back too quickly even if I want to. However, recently it feels like I may have reached a level where my body has gotten used to it. After running 33 miles at the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run in June I’ve managed to maintain good tolerance for long runs through the summer and fall.
I took a week off after the marathon and was surprised that I didn’t feel rusty at all when I ran again. The Saturday before Thanksgiving I ran 10 miles followed by eight miles the next day to see if I might feel up for trying 13 miles two days in a row later in the week. My body still felt fine so I decided to go ahead and sign up. Why two days in a row? Well, basically because Move-It Fitness offered that challenge and I’m always tempted by these crazy challenges. Once the thought was in my head I knew I’d want to go for it even if it wasn’t the smartest thing to do.
In 2017 I ran the Turkey Trail Trot at Stony Creek Metropark and really enjoyed it. The race takes place on the mountain bike trails that I like to run somewhat regularly. That year I signed up for the 10K Run Eat Run challenge – a 10K on Thanksgiving morning then again on Friday. That year they also had the Leftovers Half Marathon on Saturday. I hadn’t planned to run it but people told me I should come back and I couldn’t resist. This year the race offered 2-mile, 4-mile, 10K, and half marathon races on Thursday and Friday. In order to earn the Run Eat Run medal people had to run the same distance both days. The 10K probably would have been a smarter choice but I’m so drawn to the endurance events now that when the option is there I can’t help but go for it.
Although Detroit’s Turkey Trot may be the biggest draw around this area, I like the idea of only driving 10 minutes away to one of my favorite parks for a low key race where I don’t have to deal with big crowds or parking issues. It was nice to leave after 7:00 for an 8:00 start. The part that wasn’t so nice was that it was around 40° and raining. I told myself I would have gone out to run on my own anyway so it really didn’t matter.
When I did the race in 2017 I believe all of the distances started at the same time so it was especially crowded at the beginning. This time the 10K people lined up five minutes before the half marathon people, and the shorter races started half an hour later. I think that approach worked well.
It looks like 133 people started the 10K wave then 47 of us took off for the half marathon. We had an extra little loop early to add some extra distance before getting back to the same course that the 10K people ran. I’m in the blue jacket in the photo below.
My ultimate goal for these races was not to fall. Between wet leaves, mud, and roots, I knew it could be challenging. I made it through the 10K races fine last time but I wiped out pretty hard during the half marathon. I hoped not to do that this time.
For the most part the trail conditions weren’t too bad. We splashed a little in some areas because of the rain. There was one short stretch early on where the trail was completely covered with leaves. The stretch between miles one and two was the worst. One spot was an unavoidable mud pit! I was able to hop around one of the edges fairly successfully, but there was no good way to avoid either getting muddy, wet, or both. A couple other spots were fairly messy but the area seen below was the worst. It’s all a part of trail running though!
One of my favorite stretches came a couple miles into the race. That trail is called “the pines” and it twists and turns around a bunch of trees. The conditions were pretty good there but I started to catch up with some of the 10K people and sometimes it can be tricky trying to pass on single track trails. It was fine with good communication though. I just let people know I was coming up on their left side so I wouldn’t shock them and risk a collision. That’s the most courteous way to share the trails. A couple people thanked me for letting them know because there were some runners who didn’t.
The course was pretty easy until somewhere around 4.5 miles. That’s when the first climb hit.
That one wasn’t too bad, but I’d say about three more followed before getting back to the start/finish line. The last of the hills was especially harsh.
Then I got to twist and turn through some newer single track trails which are a recent addition for mountain bikers. I hadn’t run those before because I usually figure I should stay out of the way of bikers who could be flying through. That was a fun stretch then I continued through the finish line for a second loop.
The second time through wasn’t as crowded and I was on my own most of the time which made it easy to go my own pace. I knew I was pressing my luck by trying this challenge and I better not push myself. I was not attempting to race at all. Since no one was around, I made a few quick photo stops which helped reinforce my casual approach to the run. When I was nine or 10 miles into the race I could tell that a guy was gaining on me. I started to feel like I was being chased and I really wanted to minimize any pressure so I would keep things easy. Once we got off one stretch of single track, I kind of stepped aside to make sure he could go ahead for the next stretch of single track. Then I felt more relaxed again. The first hill this time around was tough and the hills that followed finally broke me and I walked a little bit. I told myself again that I was taking things easy and time really didn’t matter.
I made it to the finish line in 2:08:27 and most importantly, I made it through without falling! My watch showed somewhere around 13.4-13.5 miles each day so it may have been slightly longer than a half marathon.
I saw later that I had completed the first half in 1:01:55 and the second half in 1:06:31. Being around people at the beginning surely affected my speed during the first loop, then my photo stops and brief walks surely slowed me down during the second loop. In addition, I didn’t do such a good job of avoiding the mud pit the second time through. One of my shoes was soaked and I could hear squishing with each step for the rest of the race.
I collected my medal and stuck around briefly after I finished. They had some bottles of water and some sugar cookies. Not too many post-race treats since we had to leave room for big Thanksgiving meals anyway! I decided to buy a knit cap and a buff was thrown in as a bonus.
I’d spend the rest of the day eating and hoping soreness wouldn’t kick in to tell me it would be too ambitious to try this again a second day.
I seemed to feel good enough when I woke up the next morning and knew that unless something was really tweaked I was bound to return anyway. If I had to I’d even walk a chunk of the course but I would at least get out there and try.
Thanksgiving is supposed to be one of the biggest days for running events in this country. I knew the crowd size would drop on the second day and it definitely did. Across all of the events there were about 470 people on Thursday and 119 on Friday. Not everyone was necessarily back for the Run Eat Run challenge. I talked to one woman who had volunteered at the Detroit Turkey Trot the day before and came to do her own race on Friday. Only 17 people did the half marathon.
Although Friday was colder with some wind and a few snowflakes, it was better than rain! The ground hardened and most of the course wasn’t as sloppy as it had been the day before. One day wasn’t enough for the muddiest spots to suddenly disappear though.
I knew that I had to be careful because it could be a little too ambitious trying to do this again. Once I got to the race I realized my right hamstring was a little annoyed so I really wanted to take it easy. It helped that the crowd was much thinner and we ended up spacing out quite a bit although I was right behind one of the guys for most of the first loop. We caught up to some 10K people once again but only 46 people did that distance on Friday compared to 133 on Thursday.
After walking through some of the hills during the second loop the day before I just assumed it could happen to me this time too. Maybe it helped that I started slower. I ran 1:04:15 for the first loop this time versus 1:01:55 the day before. The first four miles of each loop felt pretty good before the hills began. Even though I was going so slow I probably could have been walking, I was able to power through the second round of the hills a little better on Friday than I had on Thursday. I finished my second loop faster than the first in 1:03:35. My finish time was 2:07:51. That was 36 seconds faster than the day before. If I hadn’t stopped for a few photos the day before my times may have been about the same!
I got another medal that matched the previous day’s, plus a Run Eat Run medal. Thanks to Move-It Fitness for capturing and sharing some photos of the action.
I got some hot chocolate, a granola bar, and some Christmas tree sugar cookies. As a few of us learned our overall/age group placings, we joked about how there was no one to compete with because we were the only ones stupid enough to do it. I had joked with Geneva, the race director, that she inspires me to do these stupid things. She has to go and offer back-to-back half marathons and I can’t resist doing them. I was told that I was the first place woman which was cool, but only four women did the half marathon! Still, I got another buff for my “achievement.”
When I got home I put my medals down to take some photos and it didn’t take long for Rusty to settle on top of them for a nap. I chose to think that he was tired just thinking about what it took to earn those.
It all worked out despite my worries that I was doing too much post-marathon. I know it helps that the trails keep my pace in check. They’re not easy though with those hills! The hamstring that was bothered before the race got through it just fine and isn’t bothering me now. I have a sports massage lined up which will surely bring a lot of problem areas to the surface though! I seem to have escaped unscathed but know that I really ought to take some rest days. I plan to take at least three days off and will likely ease back in after that. I only have a month to go before I’ll begin training for the next marathon!
The Indy Monumental Marathon was my eighth marathon and not to spoil the recap, but it was my best one so far. Apparently age isn’t slowing me down yet!
Although I had a great experience when I ran this race in 2018 I didn’t intend to return this year. I have run so few marathons that I’ve aimed to run a different race each time. The Boston Marathon is an exception if I can get there more than once. My initial plan was to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon this fall after COVID canceled the 2020 race. Border restrictions were still tight at the beginning of the summer and I knew very well that the race might not happen. Eventually they announced that there would only be a 10K which left me hunting for a new fall marathon. The Vermont City Marathon has been on my list so I signed up for that. No luck – they opted to drop the marathon distance in favor of a half marathon because it wouldn’t require as many medical resources as a marathon. By early September I still didn’t know what marathon I was going to do. I didn’t want to book then potentially cancel another flight, rental car, or hotel room so I wanted to pick a race that was closer to home. I knew a bunch of friends were going to run Indy, it was within driving distance, and I ran a great race there. I decided to break my loose rule about only running different marathons.
The race took place on Saturday, November 6th and I made the 5-hour drive on Friday. I checked into my hotel by Lucas Oil Stadium then walked to the convention center for the expo.
My visit to the expo was pretty brief. I got my packet, browsed some of the merch, then decided I really didn’t need more gear. I already had a hoodie from the 2018 race plus I was adding another official race shirt to my collection. I was tempted by a t-shirt that fans of the TV show Parks & Recreation would appreciate but I opted to just take a picture instead.
Friends were going to dinner at 7:00 so I chose to do my own thing because I didn’t want to eat that late. I wandered around town a little bit, took some pictures, then got a sandwich from Potbelly to eat at the hotel.
I woke up around 6:00 the next morning for an 8:00 start. I had a Mint Condition Picky Bar with some water, got ready, then ate another bar an hour later. The previous night I had spent some time debating what to wear because it would be in the low 30’s to start the race. Fortunately I chose correctly because I wasn’t too hot or cold during the race. The cool morning was perfect for running.
I left the hotel at 7:15 and jogged half a mile to the gear check area so I could have warm clothes waiting for me after the race. I made another bathroom stop first and was thankful that there weren’t any lines around the corner from gear check. I DID end up waiting in line for 10-15 minutes at gear check though. I didn’t expect to waste so much time there and then I found myself following quite a crowd heading to the starting corral.
I found a sign for the B corral which is where I needed to start. Gates lined the corral with no openings in sight. Maybe I had to walk to the very back of the corral to get in but it would have been a whole lot easier if they had openings by each letter. I remembered that had been an issue for me in 2018 as well. I waited to get through one spot where people had yanked the gates open just enough for one person to get through at a time. By that point I only had 5-10 minutes before the race started. I saw a couple of pacers with a 3:30 sign and gathered behind that group. I was aiming to run 3:30 (an 8-minute pace) like I had so many times in the past. I was hung up on a 3:34 PR and hoped the pace group would finally help me get there. I’m glad I heard the pacer explain his plan. He said that the first mile was going to be a little slow. Then they’d run a bunch of miles in the 7:50s. There would be a “hill” by mile 16 and they’d slow down for that. He said he was aiming to run 3:29:30. It sounded like a good plan for me.
Once the race started it took a minute to get moving. I really wanted to rely on the pace group and too many times in the past it hasn’t worked for me. Sometimes the pacers start too fast (or I start too slow) and I lose them right away. Sometimes it’s just too crowded for me to get to them. It was my mission to try to stay close. I was glad one of them kept holding the sign up high enough for me to see him. I worried he’d lower it after a bit and I’d lose him. There were over 9,000 people running together until the half marathon split off a little after the 7-mile mark. The roads were crowded! It had been two years since I’d run a marathon so I hadn’t run in a crowd that big in a long time.
I barely paid attention to any scenery during the early miles because I was so busy watching the ground and the pacers. Considering how congested it was I’m surprised that I ran 8:09 for the first mile. I thought it would have been even slower than that. The second mile was 8:00 right on the dot so I could tell the pacers were doing a good job. Somehow they hadn’t slipped away from me yet but it was a constant worry!
I had a fuel belt with 21 oz. of a Nuun electrolyte drink but I knew I needed to grab water along the way as well. I didn’t have any luck with the first few water stops. Sometimes I was in the middle of the pack and by the time I saw the tables there was no way I could cut over fast enough. I got pretty frustrated and realized I better forget about trying to run tangents. I moved to the outside edge where I figured at least I stood a chance. Even then, sometimes I’d be on one side of the road then the water stop would be on the opposite side! I was thankful it was cold and hoped that would help me from getting too thirsty. I ate my first Clif Blok five or six miles into the race and continued to eat one every 1.25-1.5 miles. Fortunately my stomach was never an issue and I didn’t get too thirsty so it all worked out.
It was pretty crowded until the half marathon runners split. I realized part of the congestion had to do with the pack of people following the pacers. Maybe it was more spaced out away from the group. I kept going with the flow and appreciated how the pack setting worked in my favor. It was easy to maintain a rhythm when everyone else was doing it. I didn’t have to think – I just had to follow! I put all of my faith in the pacers and they were right on target with their plan. My Garmin splits started to stray from the mile markers, probably from weaving so much to get to the water stops and trying to get behind the pacers. Sometimes I had to play catch up when the stops got too congested and the pacers got too far ahead. I knew if I was still behind the pacers I was on track.
Eventually I actually enjoyed some of the scenery like the bright orange trees lining the neighborhood roads. The sky was blue, there was little to no wind, and it was gorgeous. Some parts of the course were familiar since I ran the race in 2018. When we ran past Butler University I paid a little more attention and remembered how I really liked that area last time. There were lots of pretty spots along the course. The course is basically flat but there were a few spots with enough of a decline for me to be thankful that I didn’t have to work as hard to hold the pace. The pacer told us that the “hilly” part would seem like nothing to people who train on real hills. A couple spots required a little extra effort but it wasn’t anything too taxing. Nothing compared to what I’m used to!
Before we hit 20 miles I found myself a few steps ahead of the pace group. I didn’t feel like I was going any faster and I hoped I wasn’t pushing my luck. I knew that it had been pretty easy up to that point because it was so mindless following the pack. When I got ahead of them it was much more spaced out. I figured if they caught back up I’d just fall behind them and keep rolling. I could still hear them behind me for a while. It looks like my pace was just a few seconds faster than it had been with the group. After a few miles of doing that my distance from the group continued to grow. I was grinding a little more but nothing hurt and I was still able to maintain it.
Around 23.5 miles into the race we made a turn onto what felt like the final stretch. We could see the skyscrapers downtown and it seemed like we didn’t have far to go. In reality, that stretch was at least two miles. While it felt good making that “final” push for a bit, eventually it got tough because it lasted so long!
I heard a woman passionately yelling, “I got this! I got this!” I think she was saying it to some spectators she knew. Her mantra got into my head and I told myself the same thing. The 3:30 group was still behind me somewhere so it meant I was on track to really do this. I finally heard a spectator say that we only had two turns left. I knew we had a brief stretch down one road, another straightway, then the turn to the finish. I remembered my friends who told me to have “fun” at the race. This was supposed to be fun! I was going to hit my goal and that DID seem fun. I kept grinding away and grimaced through the last few miles but tried to smile too. I told myself that I was used to this feeling from workouts. I was used to pushing through when it didn’t feel easy but I could still nail that pace. I’m kind of surprised by how “comfortable” I felt for most of the race. By the end I tried to convince myself that I love how I feel when I run. Wasn’t this great? It didn’t really feel like it but I tried to convince myself to add a positive spin.
The spectators were loud and awesome as I got closer to the finish. I truly did smile because I knew that I was really going to do it. My 26th mile was actually the fastest of the race – a 7:40. I’m used to a strong finish when I run half marathons but I usually struggle and my pace falls off by the end of marathons. That didn’t happen this time! I didn’t know what kind of pace I was running at the end but I was giving it my all.
As I rounded the final turn I started to cry. I know that crying while running is not good because it makes me hyperventilate! I couldn’t hold back the emotions of knowing that I had FINALLY done it. I had been aiming for a 3:30 marathon for six years. I had finally proven to myself that the goal really WAS achievable. I was so ecstatic. I saw others crying after I crossed the finish line as well. It can be such an emotional place. I looked at my watch and realized I came in just under 3:29 with a time of 3:28:55. I actually finished a minute UNDER my goal! I waited for the 3:30 pacers to cross the finish line and went over to each of them to express my appreciation. All while still crying tears of joy!
When I saw my splits later I couldn’t believe how consistent they were, especially when broken down into 5K blocks. I give all of the credit to the pacers.
After I stopped my watch I started to get notifications. I had a text from my mom that I answered first, then I ran into my friend Pete. He had run an 8-minute PR and we caught up for a bit. Another friend Michelle finished a few minutes after Pete and she got a PR too. I collected my medal, a knit hat, and stopped for some photo opportunities too.
Eventually I had to load up on the treats like chocolate milk, a Clif Bar, chips, and a chocolate chip cookie. The heat sheet I received at the finish helped but I knew I should go to gear check for my warm clothes too. I was juggling texts from some great friends who had been tracking me then found the table with slices of pizza.
Before I knew it I had to work my way to Weber Grill to meet friends for lunch. It was fun to chat about our races and I think the Impossible burger and fries were a good way for me to refuel. I was stiff when I got up from the table after a couple hours and my legs had gotten achy while sitting there. Things weren’t too bad once I started to walk. I went back to the hotel to clean up and it wasn’t long before I was already thinking about dinner. My eyes felt heavy and my contacts didn’t feel very good so I passed on dinner with friends. Instead, I went out to grab pizza and cheesy bread to enjoy while relaxing in the room. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a post-race headache, blisters, or any other real issues. I even slept reasonably well! I still had the 5-hour drive back home the next day and it felt pretty rough when I got up after sitting so long. As long as I kept moving I felt pretty good. It was a good sign that I didn’t even struggle with the stairs!
Who knows how things would have played out if Toronto or Vermont had worked out but I’m glad I ended up in Indy. I’ve been very happy with most of my marathons but this was the first time I finally performed at the level I had trained for. I ran my first 50K (actually 33 miles) in June and maintained my endurance after that run. I did another race where I completed close to 25 miles, then I did five 20-mile training runs leading up to this marathon. In the past I may have maxed out with three 20-milers. Although my weekly mileage wasn’t higher than any other marathon training segment, I think maintaining that level of endurance made a difference. Like other training segments, I often found myself running 10 seconds faster than my goal pace during targeted workouts. That helped reassure me that I would be fine when I ran a bunch of miles in the 7:50s and didn’t hold steady at 8:00 the whole time.
I can’t believe I got a 5-minute PR and qualified for Boston again with an 11-minute buffer! I couldn’t resist – when registration for Boston opened on Monday morning I had to sign up. It won’t be confirmed until the end of November or early December but I’m pretty sure it will be my next marathon.
I know a lot of people struggle with post-marathon blues. I’ve taken a few moments to question what’s next. I surpassed my goal. Do I keep working to get even faster? If I keep venturing into ultramarathon territory will it make me stronger for marathons? If this is the fastest marathon I ever run am I cool with that? Is it satisfying to simply enjoy the distance by running different races? I honestly haven’t gotten too hung up on these thoughts. I’m still excited about what I achieved and the thought of returning to Boston. I’ve been pushing pretty hard for most of the year so it’s time to give my body a little time to reset and hopefully get rid of a little foot annoyance. In no time I’ll be back to training again!
Sunday, September 26th was the day of one of my favorite local races, the Brooksie Way half marathon in Rochester, MI. I live just off the course and know it well since I run its roads and trails on a regular basis. In addition to that, it was my sixth time running the actual race. A few things were different this time around because of the pandemic. Rather than having the expo inside Oakland University’s rec center with a bunch of vendors, this time packets could be picked up outside on the grounds of the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre. I made the quick stop on my way home from work on Friday afternoon.
One great thing about this race is that I didn’t have to wake up by 4am and drive an hour or more to get there like so many of my other recent races. I still got there somewhat early because I know traffic can be a problem. I’d rather make sure I can park fairly close and kill time by playing on my phone rather than potentially getting stuck on congested roads.
Around 7am I had my second Picky Bar of the morning which is my go-to pre-race food that works for my stomach. Then I headed out for a warm up jog on Oakland University’s campus. When I ran the race in 2019 I did a “warm up” run of seven miles so I could complete a 20-mile marathon training run for the day. This time I was determined to truly give my best effort and RACE. The mile and a half that I ran beforehand was just to loosen my legs. Plus, I know that there is a porta potty out on the 10K course that will have no line versus the ones back on the main grounds. It was also a good excuse for me to check out the incredible sunrise.
The weather was about as ideal as I could hope for. Temps were in the low 70s and the humidity was pretty bad for the 2019 race. That slowed things down and made it a more challenging day. 50° with plenty of clouds made things perfect this year. I was hoping that would result in a fast time for me.
By the time I got back from my jog and grabbed stuff in my car it was almost 7:40 – the time when I was supposed to meet up for a group photo. This was my first opportunity to race as a part of Stellantis’ running team (aka FCA, aka Chrysler) after joining the company in June of 2020. It felt kind of weird not to meet up with the Chevy Running Club that I had been a part of for so many years. I’m so thankful for this new opportunity though where I’m actually a direct hire with benefits instead of being a contractor who was never going to get hired directly. The two companies compete in a corporate challenge every year at this race and I was hoping I could make a good first impression on my new team and run fast enough to help us win the half marathon division. We actually had 40-some people running the various races so obviously not everyone showed up for the photo.
My half brother Bob was doing the 5K and he hopped into our photo since he used to work for Chrysler. Now he’s on GM’s team though, so we’ve essentially swapped spots. It was nice to catch up with him then a couple of other friends once I went to the starting corral. One of the things I like so much about this race is seeing so many familiar faces.
Just like many of the years in the past, the 8:00 start of the race was delayed by 15 minutes because there was traffic on the course. More time to chat with people while I tried not to get too anxious since I wanted to get moving!
I lined up a little behind the 1:40 pacer who must have taken off because I didn’t notice him once the race got going. I think I was actually running splits that would have kept me close to that group but it’s very rare that I find a race where I can actually stick with the pacer. I didn’t really know what my goal time was anyway. I knew that my best Brooksie time was around 1:43 so I wondered if I could get close to that.
My pace was between 7:32-7:35 for the first four miles. I thought maybe that was a little ambitious. I usually start a little slower and speed up as I go. However, when I ran the course several weeks ago during a training run it reminded me that the downhill start can be really beneficial. I ran those miles faster than I normally would during training and I was still fine during the late miles of that run. Usually it’s not ideal to bank time by running fast early to make up for segments where the race gets harder. It could backfire with some major struggles later in the race. I said forget that though and decided to go for it. Because of the nature of this course it doesn’t make sense to try to run at an even pace. I was going to take advantage of the momentum I had going downhill because I knew I wouldn’t be fast no matter what when the uphill segments began.
My friend Carmen had another friend who was running the half marathon and she was kind enough to come out and cheer for us along with some awesome signs. I didn’t know where she’d be so luckily she cheered loud enough to catch my attention around a mile or so into the race.
Shortly after I saw her I also saw my friend Jeff spectating. I didn’t know he’d be out there so it was a fun surprise. I saw a couple other people I knew throughout the course too and it always made me smile. Another bonus for such a hyperlocal race!
I ran the fifth mile in 7:29 and I hoped this approach of running fast early wasn’t going to come back to bite me later. During workouts that pace usually feels pretty challenging but it came naturally during the race. Things just clicked. Afterward I realized maybe I wasn’t getting too far out of control after all. My half marathon PR pace is around 7:35. It might be more ideal to aim for that pace consistently through a race instead of slowly easing into things and having energy for extra fast miles at the end. There are so many ways to approach racing and even after this many I still don’t know if there’s a truly right or wrong way to do it. I guess it’s part of the challenge that keeps things interesting.
After the fast downhill miles on the pavement we hit Clinton River Trail for a little over a mile and the asphalt and crushed stone surfaces didn’t seem to slow me down. I knew that once we turned off the trail things would get harder with the first incline. There’s a quick downhill afterward that takes us through downtown Rochester. I saw Jeff again at that point and told him that the easy part was over. A guy running near me jokingly said, “That’s not very encouraging!” I laughed and said, “Well, it’s true!” I think I’ve crossed paths with him while out running so I’m pretty sure he knew it too.
There was a quick segment on pavement through Rochester Municipal Park before we ran a mile on Paint Creek Trail with crushed limestone. Although the trail seems flat I know that there’s a slight enough incline and I started to slow down a little bit.
Somewhere around seven miles into the race the REAL hills begin with a straight shot up where we switch from the trail to roads. I live right by that first climb and ran it a few days before the race. It didn’t seem so bad then but it’s always a challenge during the race when I’m actually trying to go fast. I just kept talking myself through the tough spots by reminding myself how well I know the course and that I know what to expect. It definitely helped to have people out there encouraging us through the hills. I saw Carmen again which made me smile and she got a picture for me!
Somewhere around nine miles into the race I passed a spectator who was telling each woman what place she was. I think he said that I was the 16th place woman as I went by. I usually care more about how I’m doing in terms of my own personal goal rather than my overall placement but I was gaining ground on the woman in front of me and it was encouraging to think I’d jump to 15th place. It motivated me as I caught a few more women and kept counting myself one place higher. After all, I DID want to place well for the corporate challenge and the more women I passed the better my chances of moving up in my age group. Eventually I didn’t see any women in front of me that I could catch and I just hoped no one was coming up from behind to pass me!
There’s a fairly short stretch on a dirt road and most of the surface was in pretty good shape. It’s still a little hilly though and I was powering through and telling myself that once I got back to the pavement I would have a long stretch where I could fly. It still isn’t totally flat there either though and I grimaced at times as I kept grinding. I had been somewhere just above or below an 8:00 pace for the difficult miles which was actually pretty fast considering how hard it was, but I dropped back down to 7:40s then 7:30s for that straight shot before turning onto the final road. I wondered if I had picked it up too early and if I could actually maintain it. Jeff, who had traveled around to several parts of the course on his bike, was there again. He gave me some encouragement while I was just trying to hang on and I really appreciated him being out there.
When I turned onto the last road that would take us toward the finish I knew I had to keep pushing hard through the end. It was great to see Carmen there for more encouragement and I was excited to tell her I was going to have a PR for the Brooksie course! Then one last grind for the evil uphill finish.
I crossed in 1:40:22 and was pretty thrilled. I had shaved three minutes off my best Brooksie time. On top of that, I was less than a minute slower than my general half marathon PR and I ran that one on a totally flat course. I had no idea I could come close to that time on such a tough course!
I was pretty excited when I saw how well I placed in the race too. This was definitely my strongest Brooksie performance all around. Second in my age group meant I would probably be an asset to my Dodge Chargers team so one of my main goals had been achieved!
I got my medal, water, a granola bar, Rice Krispies Treat, and some chips before leaving the finishing area. I got some warmer clothes then headed over to the Team Challenge tent.
In the past we’ve been spoiled with some great catered meals in the Team Challenge tent but the pandemic spoiled that this year. Instead, we received a ticket for a free serving of mac and cheese from the House of Mac food truck.
I found the team leader from the GM running club and talked to him for a bit. It was my first time seeing him in person in a couple years and I broke the news to him that I had switched to the rival. It was really nice to catch up with him. Then I wanted to talk to the leader of my current team. I had met him the week leading up to the race but really didn’t know anyone else on the team. He talked about the achievements of some of the other members, including a woman who had recently run 200 miles. I definitely want to get to know some of these teammates!
While we were talking one of my running buddies from Instagram came over and introduced himself. Steve and I always seem to post pictures from the same local running spots yet we hadn’t met in person. It was really nice to finally meet him and chat for a while in person.
Later in the day I found a spot on the results page that listed the Team Challenge info. Sure enough, my second place age group finish helped my team come out on top! I’m glad I was able to contribute and be a valuable member of my new team. It’s actually the 11th year in a row that they’ve taken the win for the half marathon.
The following weekend a couple of Brooksie volunteers were back on the Meadow Brook grounds to hand out age group awards. I swung by and received a notebook and key chain. They also had boxes of old shirts for free so I grabbed a bonus one for this year’s race – as if I really need more shirts!
I’m really happy with the results of this year’s race and so thankful that we had perfect weather to help make it possible. I’m still in shock that I got so close to my half marathon PR. It makes me wonder what I might be able to pull off on an easier course right now. After having a couple of fall marathons cancel on me because of the pandemic, I finally decided on the Indy Monumental Marathon in early November. I’m hoping my third choice actually DOES happen. I ran the race in 2018 and my time got me into Boston, so I’m hoping I can capitalize on my current fitness level and pull that off again this year.
Yet another crazy race for me last weekend! I thought I’d be running the 20-mile race at the Med City Marathon in Rochester, MN on Sunday, September 12th. Instead, I ended up squeezing one more triathlon into the season. Gotta be adaptable during COVID-19 times when plans are constantly changing and anything can get canceled at any moment!
I had planned to see a band in Minneapolis over the weekend but it was canceled a few weeks ago due to COVID concerns. Although I had also signed up to run the Med City race while in Minnesota it didn’t seem worth the trip anymore. I wondered if I could find something else to do with the weekend and use the vacation days I had already scheduled. There was a concert I really wanted to see on Saturday near Dayton, OH. Then I saw that another band would be in Cincinnati a couple days before that. This triathlon was on my radar already and it was in Oxford – somewhere between Dayton and Cincinnati. Although I was intimidated when I saw how hilly the bike course was, things were falling in place with the concerts so I knew it would be a perfect chance for me to hit that race. I decided to commit just over a week beforehand.
I’ve thought about trying the half Ironman distance someday. I was intrigued when I came across Zoom Multisport Racing in Ohio because they offer the 1/3 Iron distance at a number of their races. I actually signed up for one a few years ago but opted not to make the trip when they announced that the lake’s E. coli level was high. I was glad that one of their events was finally going to work out for me this time.
Not counting the 10-leg triathlon I did this summer, this would be the longest standard type of triathlon I’ve done. I’ve raced the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 24.8-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run) many times but there aren’t many races that offer a distance between that and a half Ironman. This would be a nice spot in between with a 2000m swim, 34.5-mile bike, and 9.3-mile run.
I knew it wasn’t ideal that I’d only get 4-5 hours of sleep after being out late at a concert the night before but I’ve survived the lack of sleep plenty of times. Hueston Woods State Park doesn’t have many hotel options nearby so I drove nearly an hour to get to the park in the morning. It wasn’t easy leaving by 5:15! When I got to the park and opened my car door I was hit with a wave of bugs. They were so annoying I was almost tempted to turn around and leave! I really hoped they wouldn’t be an issue during the race or it could be miserable. I’m glad I was smart enough to bring my headlamp because most of the park was in the dark, but the bugs swarmed around the light. SUPER annoying. Fortunately the transition area wasn’t as bad and they faded as daylight arrived. The sun didn’t rise until 7:15 so we were in the dark until close to 7:00.
The race company used extra bike racks to help keep people spaced out in transition. It was nice to have the extra space with only two other people on my rack. At one point I saw someone with a wetsuit and wondered if they were legal. We were told in the days leading up to the race that the water was at least 80°. The cutoff for wetsuits is 78° so we probably couldn’t use them. I found a sign that said water was 75° and the race was wetsuit legal! It’s a good thing I had it in the car. With 2000m to swim I knew it would be very helpful.
Here I am looking awfully concerned as I tried to figure out how the swim course would work!
The duathlon started first at 7:00 and the 1/3 Iron distance started 15 minutes later. Our race had a pretty small group and we all started in the water together. I lined up second from the left because it made the most sense to stay close to the buoys and shorten my course. I was surprised by all of the people who would be adding extra distance to their swims by spreading out to the right, but I do understand wanting some space so they wouldn’t get stuck in the crowd.
In order to get to 2000m we swam a smaller 500m loop first and a 750m loop two times after that. We rounded the first buoys right away so there was a little congestion there but things spaced out pretty well after that. My biggest issue was dealing with a couple of guys who got too close to me. One guy was on the inside with the closer path to the next buoy yet he kept straying toward me on the outside. That forced me to swim farther away! I finally stopped for a couple seconds to let him go then swam to his other side. He and another guy continued to stray way off path. If they wanted to make their swim longer it was fine with me as long as they stayed out of my way! I believe one or two of the other race distances may have started while I was in the water but fortunately I didn’t encounter any congestion because of it. I was pretty surprised a few times when people came at me head on though! I stuck to the rectangular path around the buoys and did not expect anyone to be so far off that path that they came right at me!
On one side I enjoyed watching the sun rise and on the other I saw other athletes lining the beach as they waited to start their races. Here’s how things looked as the sun began to rise when one of the other groups prepared to start.
I’m not sure if the loops helped break things up but the swim seemed easy and flew by pretty quickly. I’m sure the wetsuit helped! The temperature was just right and I didn’t encounter any weeds at all. It was nice to feel so comfortable during the swim and I was kind of surprised to see 35-some minutes on my watch when I stood up. It usually takes me closer to 40 minutes to swim that distance in the pool. By the time I got through the grass and up to the transition area my time was 36:33 for the swim segment.
I went through my usual battle of trying to get my wetsuit off over my ankles. That wasted a little time in addition to wiping my feet, putting socks and shoes on, stuffing a couple of Picky Bars into my back pocket, etc. By the time I ran out of transition with my bike 3:41 had passed.
Time for the 34.5-mile ride. I knew that the hills would be challenging and I just hoped I could handle them. I don’t feel very secure riding on roads other than at a couple of local metroparks. I typically train on trails that keep me away from traffic and they’re mostly flat. In the week leading up to this race I made a point of adding a few hills to the mix but I knew it was probably too little too late. I also didn’t know if they were significant enough to prepare me for the hills coming in this race. I hoped I could manage well enough because I’d have to ride the same loop around the park four times. I hoped I wouldn’t spend the whole time swearing!
I really appreciated the great job Zoom did with the course. Vehicle traffic could only travel in one lane in one direction around the park while we rode the opposite direction in our own lane. Although I didn’t see a bunch of bikers during my first loop, after that it was clearly necessary to keep one lane reserved for us. Beginners, sprint, Olympic, and 1/3 Iron athletes all used the same loop so it got a little busy in spots. Sometimes there were three people wide as people passed at various paces. It was a big relief to just watch out for other bikes and not worry about cars coming from behind as well. I was annoyed a number of times when people zipped by without announcing themselves. It may not always be necessary, but it’s a common courtesy that is helpful when there are so many people on the road.
There were three climbs throughout the loop that were significant. The first one climbed 110 feet in about half a mile, the second segment was around 123 feet in 0.7 miles, and the third was similar to the first although it felt like the steepest one. I don’t think it translates in photos, but the hills felt long and steep!
The hills around home are shorter and not as steep so I really hadn’t trained properly. I was prepared for the distance part but not the climbing part. I tried to spin along the best I could before getting out of the saddle to crank my way up in a standing position. It made me breathe heavily but that felt like the most productive way for me to climb. One thing that reassured me is that most people seemed to struggle. It wasn’t just me! A number of people even walked their bikes up parts of the hills. After a couple rounds of the hills I realized that I kept swapping spots with the same people. I suspected that being lightweight helped me with the hills a little more, but once I rounded them, the bigger guys built up more momentum and passed me again. As I passed one guy I said I’d see him in a minute and he commented on the game of leapfrog we were playing!
I got through the first loop and didn’t totally dread having to do it three more times so I guess that was good. There were some steep downhill stretches that built up pretty major speed. When I move too fast I worry that I’ll go flying if I hit a bump on a curve. I lost some of that momentum as I cautiously braked part of the time. My watch claims I peaked at 30.5 mph and that was a bit much for me! By the time I got to my third loop the hills became more problematic. As I got out of the saddle to climb my quads started to burn. I didn’t have the energy left to pull that off anymore and would have to take a new approach. I’d spin along for a few seconds and feel like I was going about a mile per hour, get out of the saddle for a few seconds and grind until I couldn’t take it, then get back to spinning. By that point I started to question why we choose to torture ourselves like that!
Somehow I survived the whole ride and finished in 2:14:23. I was SO relieved to be done but wondered how I was going to run 9.3 miles on legs that were totally wrecked! I spent 1:13 in transition before heading out to run.
I had to cover three loops of a 5K course that was basically split into a trail half and a marina half. Soon after heading into the woods there was a climb up a surface with some loose stones. Ugh, more hills! I felt like I was doing more of a hike than a run at times but I tried to keep some semblance of a run going rather than taking any breaks to walk. After climbing that hill there was a paved, flat (yay!) stretch that went out and back. Next came a pretty steep downhill segment that required hopping around potholes in some pretty rough pavement. There was another short out and back part in a parking lot before having to get back up the steep hill. It was so brutal! Once I got out of the woods there was a long stretch of grass along the beach that took us toward the marina.
That was the first time during the day when I began to feel the heat. It may have been in the 70s by then and that part was out in the open with no protection from the sun. There were a few trees around the marina area at least, where we basically ran up and down a couple aisles of the parking lot before heading back to do it all again.
When I first started the run I had a faint hint that my stomach might cramp. I had plenty of water and an electrolyte drink during the ride and also went through two Picky Bars, plus I had a fuel belt with more of an electrolyte drink for the run. I ate a few chews throughout the run that had a little extra sodium as well. Fortunately I didn’t battle any cramps but I was drained enough by the run that I felt like I jogged the whole time and didn’t have an extra gear. I like to step things up during the run because usually it’s the strongest part of my race but I didn’t have it in me. I told myself that this was probably great for marathon training. Running on tired legs was good practice. I was able to give a little bit of effort during the grassy stretch as I approached the finish at the end of my third loop. It took me 1:29:07 to complete 9.3 miles and I finished the race in 4:24:58.
Wow, that was pretty brutal. They had wet towels so I placed one around my neck. I got a bottle of water, a protein bar, granola bar, and some trail mix. I thought I’d pose for a picture by a banner and discovered that my phone had bounced around so much in my waist pack that it locked me out for 45 minutes! There’s a “tap to wake” setting that I should have turned off. I was lucky that someone from Zoom actually offered to grab his phone, take a few pictures, then text them to me. Many thanks to Steven for doing that!
I packed things up in transition and chatted with a few people there. A couple of them were experienced with racing longer distances and confirmed my suspicion that a half Ironman race with a flatter bike course would probably be easier for me than this race was and that I could totally do it.
Even though the race felt pretty bad at times, I’m really glad I did it and I felt very accomplished. This race didn’t offer awards because “everyone is a winner.” Anyone who pushed all the way through certainly was! Still, I checked the results to see how I did and I placed right in the middle of our small group.
I was surprised to see that I was the fourth fastest swimmer! The wetsuit makes a world of a difference for me. Usually the run is my biggest strength but I placed ninth in the run. As usual, the bike was the weakest part of my race and I was 14th out of 18. I’m just thrilled that I managed to get through all of those hills despite my lack of proper training.
Now I’ll finally have to push myself to commit to a half Ironman/70.3 race next year. I’ve known that I should be capable of doing it and this proved that I have it in me. I may also have to travel back to Ohio in the future to do more races with Zoom because they did a great job. I’ll have to scope out some of their other options and see if I can find one with a flatter course! This was a great way to wrap up this year’s triathlon season.
Now it’s back to running-only races with a half marathon on September 26th and a marathon to come sometime after that. Once again, COVID has messed with my plans. Originally I was going to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon until it downgraded to a 10K this year. I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon instead, but that just downgraded to a half marathon. At this rate I think I’m going to stick with something local so I don’t spend more time booking a bunch of stuff that I just have to cancel. There are plenty of options and COVID can’t cancel all of them! I will find a fall marathon somewhere and put all of my training to use!
This weekend it was time for one of the most legendary races in Michigan – the 44th Crim Festival of Races. It was my fourth time running the race which is a low number compared to most of the runners I know! The race has a club of people who have done the race anywhere from 30-40+ years. People keep returning to this race because it’s always a memorable experience.
My 2020 entry for the race was deferred to this year because of the pandemic and I looked forward to getting back to it. I’m usually in the middle of marathon training when I run this race and that was true once again. It’s a good way to test where I stand in terms of speed and endurance at this point of my training.
It’s been warm and humid a lot lately and things were no different the day of the race. It was due to be in the 70s with humidity close to 100% at the start. At least it would be cloudy the whole time. The 10-Mile runners typically begin at 8:00 and the start was moved an hour earlier due to the conditions. It wasn’t going to be an ideal day for fast times but I actually didn’t worry about it. Because the weather has been so gross for running lately my body has had a chance to adapt. I used to think that I was bad at running in the heat and humidity but recently I’ve realized it’s more of an issue if I’m not used to it. I’ve had some rough race experiences when I’ve trained in cool conditions then the heat and humidity suddenly jumped without time for my body to adapt. I ran in the morning for a week leading up to this race and the conditions were pretty much the same every morning. It was like running in a sauna most of the time and I was always soaked by the time I finished. Although it’s been so gross outside, I haven’t been struggling through the runs. I even ran some miles at marathon pace and survived so I figured I should at least be able to manage that pace for Crim as well.
Around 5:45 I got to the parking lot I’ve always used and started a nearly half mile trek to the starting area. The race usually allows us to get our packets the morning of the race inside a building where there’s a big expo but that was canceled this year. Instead, they had us check in at tables in the parking lot where the post-race festivities would take place. It’s always fun to see how quiet it is first thing in the morning knowing that there will be crowds everywhere just an hour later.
I was happy when I received 1983 for my bib number. I had listened to the song “1983” by the band Neon Trees a couple days earlier so I thought it might give me good vibes. The song ran through my head many times during the race!
I made a trip back to the car to drop off my t-shirt, eat my second Picky Bar of the morning, and to get my stuff ready before heading back to the start for a bathroom stop. The lines were long but I would still have a few minutes to kill before the race started. My friend Lindsay spotted me and we chatted for a little while as we waited for the corral to open. When it did, I tried to hustle through the crowd.
The race originally had safety protocols in place to keep people spread out. They had us sign up for 15-minute rolling blocks of time so everyone wouldn’t go at once. When they shifted things earlier due to the weather, anyone could start the 10-mile race between 7-8am. I was a bit concerned that it meant we’d be back to starting in a large crowd and I’m still pretty wary about that. I was also concerned about getting caught behind slower people and starting slower than I hoped. The race usually puts people in starting corrals based on pace and with no guidelines like that in place I worried that it would be a free-for-all and could get messy. It’s kind of funny that things like that worried me more than the weather!
I was able to get closer to the start than I expected so pacing wasn’t an issue at all.
The route was a little different for the first couple miles due to construction. I didn’t notice too much because it’s usually the time when I’m just trying to settle into a good rhythm. I did miss running through the Flint campus of the University of Michigan though because in the past I’ve always gotten fired up when the marching band plays my fight song!
I saw plenty of familiar faces throughout the day which is one thing that’s always special about this race. So many of the serious local runners do this race. I was around a couple of guys for half the race who kept greeting people they knew and the best part was when one of the guys spotted one of his old teachers. He told him that he’d had him 40 years ago. The teacher asked what his name was and said, “Oh yeah!!” That made me laugh.
All of the usual folks in the community were out supporting the runners. The woman on the mini trampoline was bouncing around despite the heat. I always look forward to the guy who sings karaoke at the end of his driveway and he made me smile yet again. There was a donut table a couple miles into the race which may have been nice had I been walking, but I wasn’t going to take that risk while running! People had sprinklers going for us and I ducked through a few of them. I heard one of the marching bands play Toto’s “Africa,” and despite the heat, I actually got chills a couple times when I heard songs that must have triggered emotions. I was amused by people in front of a house who were drinking while standing in a baby pool where Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was playing. I ran by during some very appropriate lyrics:
I heard “200 degrees” and thought about how it pretty much felt that way! People cheered for us and told us not to stop, to keep going. Sometimes those kinds of things are especially meaningful when it’s a bit of a struggle to keep pushing.
I saw a runner down at one point with an ambulance approaching. That reminded me of something Lindsay said while we were talking before the race. She mentioned how she had dealt with heat exhaustion during a recent workout. I wanted to push myself during the race but NOT to the point of having a heat stroke. Even if I felt like I should give it everything I had, I better keep things under control so I didn’t get myself into trouble. As usual, I ran with my fuel belt that had a 21 oz. bottle with an electrolyte drink. That was enough to keep me hydrated and I actually didn’t need any of the water stops. I ate a couple of chews during the race too that had extra sodium.
Pushing the pace in the heat and humidity wasn’t easy but somehow I actually stayed pretty steady. The infamous Bradley Hills section did slow me down halfway through the race though. I told myself that I’m used to running hills and it wouldn’t be a big deal, but as I started up the first hill it felt a whole lot steeper! I powered through and when I recovered enough I ended up back at the same steady pace again. I usually like to pick up my pace for the last few miles but this time I didn’t do that until I had a mile left. Again, I didn’t want to overheat. I had to watch my footing on the uneven bricks leading to the finish but flew through that final stretch. Although I felt pretty miserable after pushing through those conditions for 10 miles, it also felt amazing being able to pick up the pace so much for such a strong finish. My smile was 100% forced just for the sake of the cameras though!
1:18:37 was almost three minutes slower than my PR from 2019 but we also had cooler and more ideal conditions that day. I was very content with these results. I keep aiming to run a marathon at an 8:00 pace (which I haven’t managed yet) and I would have been happy if I had maintained that for 10 miles. Going under that pace while it was so gross out left me satisfied.
I didn’t pay too much attention to my watch while I was running so I hadn’t realized just how consistent most of my splits were until after the race. Aside from warming up through the first mile, slowing down on the Bradley Hills, and flying for the last mile, somehow I guess I locked into a certain zone!
I also looked at my heart rate info and saw that I had clearly pushed pretty hard. Had I done much more I may have been pressing my luck.
After the finish line I received my medal and volunteers had cold, wet paper towels for us which was really helpful. I saw a guy at one point during the race who had body paint. Some of it was sweating off onto his shorts. I came across his photo while browsing through the official race photos and had to compare the before and after shots. It totally cracked me up and it paints a pretty clear picture about how sweaty it was out there!
I got a jug of chocolate milk and a Chewy granola bar then went to see what kind of food they had in the post-race area. There was a tent for beer or a soft drink, but the only options for food were a couple of food trucks.
In the past they had pizza but I guess that was another thing cut because of the pandemic. I didn’t really want what the trucks had so I went back to grab a popsicle. I didn’t hang out too long after the race and went to the car where I had another Picky Bar. I wanted to get something special after my solid race and maybe donuts were on my mind since they had them on the course. I detoured on the way home so I could hit a place called DK Donuts & Burgers in Oxford that my brother had recommended.
It was a good way to treat myself! I came home feeling really happy about how the race had gone. Of course it would have been nice to get closer to my PR time but that wasn’t realistic on a day with a heat advisory. Just going under marathon pace was an accomplishment for me. My marathon training plan has me run up to 10 miles at that pace a time or two and since I’ve already done it a couple times this summer I hope it’s a good sign for my fitness right now. Plus, now I realized that I CAN run well in the heat and humidity and being able to train in those conditions makes a world of a difference. When it cools down I should be even stronger!
I’ve been going big this summer with ambitious events. It was pretty intense doing both my first 50K and a 10-leg adventure-style triathlon. Swimming a 5K this past weekend is right up there. Although I did Swim to the Moon once a couple years ago, it was still intimidating and quite an undertaking. I had trained properly for the other big events but I knew I didn’t do enough to prepare for this one.
I took a lot of time off of swimming due to the pandemic. Gym hours were limited for quite a while so I couldn’t swim before work like I usually do. Even when the hours went back to normal, I didn’t feel comfortable going to the gym very often until I was fully vaccinated. I finally got back to my swim routine in May and basically had to rebuild from scratch. I resumed my routine of swimming 2,000m a few mornings a week but only did a handful of slightly longer swims. Training for a 50K in mid-June was the first priority, then I jumped into marathon training right after that. I also found myself racing most weekends which didn’t give me many chances to do longer swims during the weekends. Racing and marathon training were similar distractions leading up to 2019’s Swim to the Moon but at least I swam 3,200m a couple times, which I didn’t do this time.
I can give a bunch of excuses but the bottom line is that I didn’t train like I should have. My entry was deferred from 2020 and even though I wasn’t fully prepared, I knew I had to go for it. If things got ugly maybe I’d just have to mix in some breaststroke to get through it. I was confident I could at least finish.
On Sunday, August 15th I went to the Pinckney Recreation Area in Gregory, MI, which is a little northwest of Ann Arbor. I’ve been getting up too early too often lately and it caught up with me a bit during the drive when I left at 5am. No worries about falling asleep behind the wheel but I was uncomfortable and the hour and 20 minutes just dragged. I figured I’d wake up more when I hit the water!
The sun was just barely coming up when I got to Halfmoon Lake. I loved looking at the steam above the water as the sun rose. The water was calm and said to be around 78 degrees while the air was more like 60 degrees. I hung out near the beach and watched the 10K swimmers start around 6:40. Their swim was an out and back while the 5K was a point-to-point swim.
I have a hard enough time sighting the buoys in normal conditions. I can only imagine what it’s like through the fog!
After the 10K race began I caught a shuttle bus with other 5K swimmers where we all masked up because the pandemic has gotten problematic again. We were dropped off at Patterson Lake Beach where we would start our swim back to Halfmoon Lake. We had a number of porta-potties available and a picnic area near the beach where we lingered as we waited for the start.
I am thankful that they allowed us to have drop bags that they bused back to the start. It was a little chilly and it was helpful to wear warmer clothes until we were ready to go. We waited until the first couple 10K swimmers arrived and turned around before the 5K “speedsters” started our race. People who expected to finish in 1:10-1:30 were asked to line up next, and gradually other times were announced. With so many people gathered at the beach it was hard to know where to place myself since we went off one-by-one every few seconds. The race took me 1:50 in 2019 so I knew I would let plenty of people go ahead of me. Around 8:15 I finally headed out.
Despite looking at a map of our route and scoping out the buoys from shore, I was still a little confused about what direction to go beyond the first couple buoys. I didn’t know exactly when I should veer off after I got to the second one. Enough people were ahead of me so I could kind of follow them, but people were pretty spread out and it was hard to know who was following the ideal path and who was straying off-course. Eventually I settled in. Then it was usually a matter of getting to the next buoy and trying to spot the next one to aim for after that. Like many of the people, this time I used a small dry bag/swim buoy that was tethered to my waist. It didn’t bother me at all and it helped keep me visible – in case our bright yellow swim caps weren’t enough! I had my phone, keys, license, extra goggles, etc. in the buoy. The race encouraged the use of them and it made it easy to avoid running into people.
There are always bound to be a few moments when people get too close for comfort. One woman kept veering my direction which was pushing me further away from the best path to the buoy. I got annoyed enough to stop, let her go by, then I swam to her other side. It kept her out of my space and I was back on track with where I wanted to go.
Early in the race we went through a short tunnel. It’s a narrow spot that could get congested since some of the 10K swimmers are still going the opposite direction of the 5K swimmers. In 2019 I remember that it was a slower spot but this time there was a decent current there that moved us along pretty good. I only wish the current had lasted longer!
The water felt fine at 78 degrees but I had goosebumps at times. I’m sure the cool air temperature played a role in that. I’d rather err on the side of being a little cool rather than being too warm. Otherwise it was a perfect day to be out there. Greg Sadler Photography did a great job documenting the day, although I failed to mug for the camera and wasn’t especially photogenic!
Aside from simply finishing, one of my main goals for the day was to avoid cramps. I nearly made it to the finish in 2019 when I had a major cramp in my calf. It was agonizing and I had to tread water until it faded. I realized how important hydration was and knew dehydration had caused the issue. Last time I’m not sure if I missed the first aid station or if I just chose to skip it, but this time I made a point of stopping at both aid stations. The first aid station was a mile into the race and was on a raised surface. Since it wasn’t shallow enough to stand I hung on with one hand and drank a couple cups of water with the other. My legs started to drift under the platform and I scratched my right knee on it. I was thankful that the 2-mile aid station was in a shallow spot where I could stand. I had one cup of water there and two cups of Gatorade. That must have been enough because I didn’t cramp at all! Last time I also got pretty hungry by the end and hoped I could avoid that this time. I had a Clif Bar at home, a Picky Bar while I was driving, and a second Picky Bar just over an hour before the race. That combo seemed to work as well. I also had some of an electrolyte drink in a bottle leading up to the start.
Despite my lack of training for the distance I felt surprisingly good. After a while I noticed that my hands and wrists were stiff from swimming continuously for so long. I formed fists a few times to try to loosen them up and could really feel it then. Luckily it didn’t bother me too much. At times it felt like the swim was dragging on for so long and I wondered how much I had left. It was pretty much a straight shot for the last mile in Halfmoon Lake but I couldn’t see the finish. I kept trying to track the big orange buoys or the crowd of people ahead of me when I couldn’t see the next buoy. Eventually I got to a point where I saw people in different colored swim caps swimming the opposite direction. People could swim a half mile or 1.2 miles and it must have been some of those swimmers. I kept looking for the big blue Epic Races finishing arch!
Somehow I was able to keep swimming strong even at the end. I tried to put a little more power in my stroke and kept hoping a cramp wouldn’t hit.
Eva Solomon (the race director) made a point of saying that we should try to smile for our finishing photos. Finish line photos for running races usually look fun and exciting and the swim photos…don’t. Many of us look pretty wiped out as we trudge out of the water, half wobbling after standing up when we’ve been in a horizontal position for so long. I tried my best not to look like a disaster. Keeping my goggles on to hide my raccoon eyes was a very conscious decision! I didn’t know where the finishing photos would be so I’m glad I happened to spot Greg Sadler who gave me a thumbs up. That made me smile for a couple of his photos! This is my fourth race with Epic Races this summer and Greg Sadler and his team have always done an amazing job. I don’t especially like swimsuit photos but he did the best he could based on what he had to work with!
Goal achieved – I finished and I didn’t cramp! Once again I had made it through the three lakes.
I finished the race in 1:57:43. I had finished in 1:50:00 last time so I was a little bummed about that.
I reminded myself that it was quite an accomplishment to even complete this race. I shouldn’t have huge expectations considering how I had barely done half the distance during training. If I want to do better, I have to train smarter. Although I often place fairly well during running events, running is clearly more of a strength for me than swimming. I was never a fast swimmer as a kid which is what led me to quit the swim team by the end of middle school. It was all about competition and my times were not competitive so why do it? Despite my initial disappointment in my time at this race, I told myself that I approach swimming with a new perspective as an adult. Now it’s more about how it makes me feel strong and gives me a personal sense of accomplishment. I DID feel accomplished.
Epic Races always has great post-race food. I had some pancakes, mac and cheese, an egg and cheese wrap, and a peanut butter and granola wrap. They also had an ice cream cooler where I got an ice cream sandwich, then a bomb pop later before I hit the road.
Somewhere around 500-600 people participated between all of the events. One of the most impressive feats of the day had to be a guy who swam butterfly. I heard the announcer say a guy was approaching the finish who swam butterfly the whole time. The real kicker? He did the 10K! Amazing.
The day after the race my neck and obliques are a little sore from rotating to breathe and I have some general arm soreness. Between that and my slower time hopefully I will be motivated to train properly and improve next year. I definitely want to keep returning to this race. It’s very likely that I’ll be doing a bunch of races and training for another marathon next year too but I really need to find a way to squeeze some longer swims into my training schedule. For now I’ll be satisfied that I successfully pulled this off and that I felt pretty good while doing so.
Hello & Welcome!! I'm Kecia...a wife, a dog mom to 1 chocolate and 2 black labradors, a triathlete, a yogi, a lover of fitness and outdoor adventures. Come with me on my journey as I push my limits and cross new finish lines!!