Burton Hot Chocolate 5k Race Recap

On February 15th, Matt and I headed up to Burton (near Flint, MI) for the Hot Chocolate 5k. When chocolate is part of a race’s name, it immediately grabs my attention. I found the race on RunMichigan.com when I was looking for races coming up soon. I’ve been anxious to get out and race, having not done so since October’s marathon. My IT band has been getting better and I’ve reached the point where I know I can at least make it through 5k without it flaring up. I waited until a couple days before the race to register when I was convinced the weather conditions should be reasonable. It has obviously been a rough winter when I consider just above 0 degrees to be “reasonable.” Most importantly, we’d had a day or two since it had last snowed. I was hopeful that footing would be decent enough.

One perk about running this race was a noon start. Even with a 45-minute drive we had plenty of time to sleep in. We lucked out with a nice, sunny day. The sun lifted my spirits, but it was deceiving because it was still plenty cold. I wore two layers each of hats, shirts, mittens/gloves, pants, socks, plus a jacket. Bentley High School was the base for the race, so we were able to use indoor restrooms and hang out in the gym to stay warm beforehand.

Bentley High School's gym

Bentley High School’s gym

Packet pickup in the gym, and a warm place to wait for the start of the race

Packet pickup in the gym, and a warm place to wait for the start of the race

We collected our race packets, which included a long sleeve cotton shirt, a few Valentine’s Day candy hearts and mints, and a nice gel ice pack. That was something I haven’t received in a packet before and I’m sure I’ll put it to use. It’s not only large, but it’s also the kind that doesn’t freeze solid, allowing flexibility for spots like shins (the spot I tend to ice the most).

The race shirt

The race shirt

Gel pack

Gel pack

We went for a warm up jog around the parking lot about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I ran just under half a mile before heading to the starting line. We figured we should start pretty close to the front, especially with a gun start. The race started right at noon and we were off.

The start of the race

The start of the race

Pretty early into the race we got to a pedestrian bridge that took us over I-69. The spiral climb up was the only real elevation change throughout the otherwise flat course. Luckily there was a lot of salt on the bridge, leaving no worries about slipping. Certain stretches on the neighborhood roads were a different story though. Some spots were a bit snowy and I had to be cautious, so I was glad I chose to wear trail shoes with a little more traction (Merrell Mix Master Tuff). For the most part, the roads were in good shape. I was fine temperature-wise, but my eyes were watery for a bit and I didn’t really enjoy having tears running down my cheeks when it was so cold.

I felt pretty good for the first half of the race. Since I’ve been building my miles back up slowly as I’ve been coming back from being injured, I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough to attempt running at my 5k PR pace. I figured I would be okay running closer to my 10k pace, and that happened to be the pace I naturally hit for the first couple miles. Halfway through the race I encountered my usual 5k mental challenges. I didn’t want to run so fast anymore, questioned why I put myself through this, calculated what my time would be if I slowed down, etc. My breathing was pretty labored and I’m sure the cold didn’t help. As I approached the bridge over I-69 on the way back, I could see Matt up ahead. He saw me and slowed down enough for me to catch up after I crossed the bridge. He pushed me to finish strong and we crossed the finish line together. My official time was 23:43. When I looked at the results on the race’s site, there were a few pictures of the finish (as well as the one of the start seen above). There was an option to download the pictures for free! I don’t see that very often and really appreciated it. Here are a couple pictures from the finish.

Finishing together

Finishing together

Finishing strong

Finishing strong

Garmin splits

Garmin splits

Although my legs didn’t feel wrecked, my breathing was pretty bad and I needed to walk around for several minutes to recover. Once I felt okay, we headed inside. The school’s cafeteria had cups of hot chocolate and bowls of marshmallows we could scoop up into our drinks. They had little trays with a few small pretzels, graham crackers, a big marshmallow on a toothpick, and a bag of apple slices from McDonald’s. Women at the end of the line poured a big scoop of fudge into a spot on our tray. It was a really good post-race treat.

The cafeteria after the race

The cafeteria after the race

Yum!

Yum!

We sat in the cafeteria for a while and wondered when they might mention awards. Nothing was happening in the cafeteria so Matt walked around to see if he could find anything. He finally figured out that awards were at a table in the gym. I was a little frustrated that no one said anything because the gym was down the hall and there was no reason we would have gone back in there. Matt realized we could scan our bibs to see our results and we were both age group winners! We were excited to get cool little medals, then we were able to start the trek home.

Age group winners!

Age group winners!

Cool medal

Cool medal

Race stats

Race stats

We both really enjoyed this race. Neither of us considered ourselves in peak race shape, but it was nice to get back out there and enjoy the race environment again. I saw this race as a way to measure where my current fitness level is coming back from injury. I was really happy with how it went, though it’s clear that I need to work on speed endurance more. I felt good, but I know I have more in me. I’ve just worked my way back up to 20 miles per week again and have slowly reintroduced speedwork the last few weeks. One of the most important things for me was to get through the race pain-free. I’m sure it helped that the course was so flat, and luckily the climbs up and down the pedestrian bridge didn’t seem to bother my IT band. Though I would have told you otherwise halfway through the race, it was nice to get back to racing again.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Advertisements

Rebuilding a base

After running a total of 37 miles in December, I was pretty happy to make it up to 69 miles in January. One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with an injury is how slow it can seem to rebuild the base mileage. I’d prefer to maintain a base of 20-30 miles per week, but that just wasn’t possible when I could only run three miles at a time a few times a week. I’ve increased my mileage gradually over the last couple of months as my IT band has become more cooperative. I’m up to four days of running per week now and have finally gotten close to 20 miles per week. Crossing that line back into the 20s makes me feel more secure and like I’m heading back towards where I want to be.

My IT band recovery has been going pretty well. ART has made a difference and I’m now going in for treatment every two weeks or so. I think the hip/glute/core rehab exercises have made a huge difference. I’ve been doing things like side leg raises, clamshells, squats, exercises with a stability ball, etc. on a regular basis and it seems to be paying off. I’ve been running pain-free for the most part, but I’m not totally in the clear yet. I realized that the hard way when I attempted to run five miles at Stony Creek Metropark recently and couldn’t pull it off. I’ve been trying to run on flat stretches as much as I can. The flattest stretch at Stony tends to be really windy at the beginning, and we went on a day when the wind was especially brutal. I thought it might be best to avoid that stretch and head up the hills instead. Even gently rolling hills make a difference with a sensitive IT band, and I guess it doesn’t take much to set me off. I had decided to go out halfway and run back, which was a mistake. I was feeling overly confident because my knee hadn’t hurt for weeks. I’d been smarter for other outside runs because I’d never go more than a mile or so away from the car in case the pain started and I had to quit early. Well, I started to feel my knee after three miles, meaning I still had two miles to go. I managed to push through four miles, but the pain got bad enough that I had no choice but to walk. When it’s windy and 10 degrees outside, it’s no fun to walk a mile to get back to the car. That was a frustrating run for me and made me realize that I still need to be cautious. I was smarter during a run at Stony yesterday and stuck mostly to the flat stretch, adding a little bit of hills towards the end of the run. The pain still caught up to me eventually, but I made it through 6.75 miles – my longest run in recent months.

Regaining a solid base has allowed me to reintroduce a little bit of speed. I’ve taken that slowly as well, starting with some 400s at 10k pace one week, then 800s at 10k pace the following week. Last week I rotated between 800s at 10k pace and 400s just below 5k pace, making it through three of each before I’d had enough. So far so good! I’ve been on the treadmill for the most part, which is the only way I’ve been able to get good enough footing to pick up the pace. The few runs I’ve done outside have been on the slower side due to spotty footing. It seems like the snow has been non-stop this winter and I’m extremely cautious about slipping. I really don’t like to run on slippery and snow-covered sidewalks, and doing so while my IT band is iffy probably isn’t ideal. Smart layering has helped me feel fine running in the ridiculously cold temperatures – it’s really the footing that bothers me the most.

The treadmill is really getting old, so I’ve tried to get outside for a run each weekend. When I heard that a ton of snow was coming last weekend, I was frustrated. I really didn’t want to attempt six miles on the treadmill, but knew things would be really messy on Saturday and Sunday. Matt and I debated whether we should try a run late on a Friday night while it was still clear. It had been a long day on my feet at work, followed by dinner and a basketball game. Tacos and a couple of monster sugar cookies aren’t my typical pre-run meal, so I didn’t know how well that would go over. We didn’t get home until after 9:00 at night and I was pretty wiped out. A run didn’t seem ideal, but neither did running through the snow or on the treadmill the next morning. Knowing that Oakland University’s campus is well-lit, we knew we could get away with a nighttime run there. We viewed it as an adventure and figured we’d cut it short if we didn’t feel up to it. Oakland’s campus has some rolling hills, which I’ve been trying to avoid. We managed to find enough sidewalks and empty parking lots to get the mileage in while also keeping it relatively flat. We had headlamps, but didn’t need them for the most part because nearly all of the areas had enough light. I’d been aiming to run six miles and luckily my knee held up. We finished the run sometime after midnight and we thought it was a pretty fun and different kind of Friday night date. It’s definitely not our typical running time! One of the best parts was sleeping in the next morning, seeing a ton of snow out the window, and knowing we didn’t have to go anywhere. Instead, I hopped on the bike in the basement in the early afternoon and got in a workout without having to venture out in the snow.

Speaking of the bike, I’ve been trying my best to ride three days each week. I’m not always successful but have been pretty good. I’ve made it up to 22 miles for one long ride and I try to ride at least half an hour each time. I love having a bike in our basement because watching TV keeps me distracted. I watch anything from the news to Seinfeld to concert DVDs and it really helps the time go by.

I’ve also been pretty good about swimming twice a week. I’ve been getting up crazy early to swim a mile one morning during the week, and I get in a longer swim during the weekend. I’ve built up to swimming two miles the last few weekends, and I feel like I’ve definitely improved. I’m sure swimming twice a week has made a big difference, versus the one weekend swim I used to do each week last year. I’ve been working in some speed, doing 8x50m repeats at first, then bumping up to 100s. The last couple weeks I’ve done 8x100m repeats and felt pretty good. I’ve been trying to get some brick workouts in as well, even doing the full swim/bike/run thing a couple times. I realized today that I probably need to fuel better when I do that though. After swimming a couple miles and biking 10, I got on the treadmill for a few miles. Things were all good for the first mile, but then my stomach cramped up. Every now and then I get stomach cramps that I can’t run through, and this was one of those times. After a mile and a half I had to call it quits. I drank a few sips of water between sets while swimming and drank fairly often on the bike, but maybe it wasn’t enough. I’d been working out for a good 1:45 when I had to quit running, and I probably need a sports drink or some kind of snack to fuel that kind of workout. I guess training is a good time to realize these things.

I’m trying to get enough solid workouts in for all three sports because triathlons are my ultimate goal this summer. The first race that I’ve actually signed up for is coming in mid-March. That’s when our local Life Time Fitness has its yearly indoor triathlon.

Life Time Indoor Tri

Life Time Indoor Tri

When I did the race last year, it was my first attempt at doing any kind of triathlon. I loved it and I’m curious to see if I can improve on last year’s time. I’m not feeling confident that my run is fast enough yet, so hopefully working harder on biking and swimming lately can help make up for it.

In the meantime, I keep eyeing 5ks each weekend. For the most part, the weather and poor footing have kept me away. One of these weekends maybe I’ll finally decide at the spur of the moment to go for it. There’s a hot chocolate 5k in Burton next weekend that I’m considering now. It starts at noon, involves chocolate, and it might be a little warmer – definite perks.

I have a couple more things to update that tie in with my last post about strength training. First, I’ve been sticking with the pull-up workout I talked about and it’s going really well. I’ve been doing it for a month now and have already been able to do a few more reps than I could do when I first started the workout. Matt started doing the workout as well, and it’s fun to encourage each other and see how we improve. Second, I finally found a way for all of the time at the gym to pay off – literally! Matt and I went to Oakland University’s homecoming basketball game a couple weekends ago. There were a lot of different activities, including a push-up contest. I was really excited about that because it’s right up my alley! Orthopedic Spine and Sports had a table outside the gym where people could do push-ups to win a pizza or gift card. The male and female winners would get $25 gift cards, and anyone who did at least one push-up would be entered to win a pizza at halftime. I was thinking more about the pizza, but was curious how many push-ups the female leader had done. 35 was the number to beat and I figured that would be pretty rough since I usually stop at 25, with 30 probably being the max I’ve ever done. I had to give it a shot though, and immediately I realized that their setup made things easier for me. They had a foam block on the floor to make sure everyone’s chest went low enough. I usually go low enough for my nose to touch the floor, so I didn’t have to go quite as low as I’m used to. It allowed me to squeeze in a few extra push-ups, and my arms finally gave out after 36. That was good enough to take the lead, and apparently I hung on to it since I got a call the next week to pick up a $25 Visa gift card! I was so excited. It’s not too often I come across a push-up contest, let alone one that earns me money!

Even if I’m not quite where I want to be with running right now, mixing it up with weights, swimming, and biking is keeping things fresh. I’m sure all of the other activities have helped me maintain a level of fitness that helps make up for running fewer miles. Hopefully my IT band will continue to improve, and in the meantime, I’m satisfied that I’m nearly up to seven miles considering how I struggled to hit three just a couple months ago.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography