Twin Cities Training Update – 7 Weeks Out

Training for the Twin Cities Marathon began on June 1st, and now I’m less than two months out from running my second marathon. Hal Higdon’s training plan worked well for me when I ran the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2013, so I’m using one of his plans again. I’ve made some tweaks though, substituting his Tuesday workouts with those from the Hansons’ plan. Higdon rotates between tempo runs, hill repeats, and 800s on Tuesdays. I wanted something different this time and believe the Hansons’ workouts will give me some variety and make me stronger. I’m still not ready to commit to following their plan for the marathon, though I’ve considered trying it in the future.

The marathon training plan I've been following.

The marathon training plan I’ve been following.

As I typically do, I adjust my training when necessary and haven’t followed the plan shown above 100% of the time. When I created the schedule, I adjusted the Tuesday workouts for the first four weeks so I could concentrate on 10K-specific speedwork before racing the Corporate Cup 10K. I took a week off from speed following that race before starting up with the Hansons’ speed segment of the plan. The speed segment had me running repeats at a 7:00 pace, which is just a hair slower than my best 5K pace. I went to the track a few times and hit the treadmill a couple times when it was ridiculously hot outside. Between the heat and the lack of traction on loose stones, I couldn’t successfully pull off 5K speed on the trail. I’ve been using the Paint Creek Trail for many of my other runs though.

I love living so close to the Paint Creek Trail.

I love living so close to the Paint Creek Trail.

This week I began the “strength” segment of the Hansons’ workouts – repeats of 1-3 miles at a time at a pace 10 seconds faster than marathon pace. In addition to Higdon’s pace runs, I think these workouts will be extremely valuable when it comes to building race pace endurance. Getting through a workout of 6×1 mile at a 7:50 pace wasn’t a breeze, but I definitely felt strong after I finished.

The marathon pace runs I have done on weekends have gone really well so far. Last weekend I ran nine miles just under an 8:00 pace and felt great. I felt even better about my training when I followed up with 19 solid miles the next day. So far so good! My best long runs have been those that I’ve done very early in the morning. Sleeping in sure would be nice, but I know that the heat and sun drag me down when I start my runs too late in the morning. I’ve been heading out the door by 6:30 nearly every weekend morning and I love how peaceful it is at that time of day. I get motivated to run because I wonder how things will look in the early morning light. We live in an area that can be very busy and congested, but there are dirt roads and farmland just a few miles away. It’s like a whole different world, and I’ve enjoyed exploring some of those areas during my long runs.

It's worthwhile to wake up so early when I see sights like this.

It’s worthwhile to wake up so early when I see sights like this.

Seen on my run.

Seen on my run.

In order to figure out my goal marathon pace, I entered my Glass City Half Marathon time into Greg McMillan’s calculator. It told me that I could aim for an 8:00 pace and run the marathon in about 3:30. Even if I’m a few minutes off, it looks like I might have the potential to qualify for Boston. I’ve moved into a new age group since I last ran a marathon, and now my qualifying time is 3:40. Since I’m training for 3:30, of course I should try to be confident that I will hit that time. The realistic side of me knows that the marathon is quite a monster, and with only one under my belt, I still don’t know what to expect. I was about seven minutes off of my goal time in my first marathon, which I finished in 3:42. I’ve gotten faster since then, so I’m hopeful that I can at least pull off a 3:35. Hopefully that would give me enough of a buffer to get into Boston, knowing that people typically have to be a few minutes under the qualifying time to actually make it in. When I realized I might be on the verge of qualifying, I decided I had to order the Boston “Lobster Launch” shoes from Brooks to help motivate me. The Launch is probably my favorite shoe, and I couldn’t resist when I saw this special edition design.

Motivation to qualify for Boston!

Motivation to qualify for Boston!

In a couple weeks I’m going to run the Crim 10 Mile Race for my first time. It’s a huge race for this area and pretty much every runner I know has run it, so it’s finally time to give it a try. I don’t plan on truly racing, but I’ll probably give it a good effort. In the meantime, this weekend is my first of three 20-milers. With 10 miles to run the other day, it will be a 30-mile weekend. I plan on eating a LOT this weekend!

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

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Shermanator Triathlon Recap

The Shermanator was my second triathlon of the season and took place on Saturday, August 1st. Although it makes me think of the character from the American Pie movies, the race gets its name from the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center in Augusta, MI. Located between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, it’s also close to where Matt’s parents live. We were able to stay with them and spend a nice weekend together in addition to me doing the race.

With the Twin Cities Marathon being the top priority on my racing schedule, I’ve decided that I will only do triathlons on “down” weekends when it comes to marathon training. I don’t want to miss any of my really long runs. My training schedule cut back to a 12-mile long run the weekend of the Shermanator, versus 17 miles the week before and 19 the week after. I was okay with skipping a 12-mile run if I needed to recover from the race, but I actually felt fine and still managed to do the long run the following day anyway.

Matt and his dad were kind enough to support me despite the crazy early arrival time. We parked in the designated field and had a bit of a hike to get to the YMCA’s recreation center, where I checked in around 6:30 am. I wasn’t guaranteed a shirt because I registered a few days prior to the race, but luckily they had a table with some extras and I was able to get a shirt in my size. After I checked in, we had more walking to do to get down to the waterfront. I enjoyed the walk through the woods on the paved trails, where we passed things like an archery range, cabins, a band shell, and more. It’s a really nice center with a lot of activities for retreats and campers.

The band shell.

The band shell.

Very nice paths through the woods.

Very nice paths through the woods.

A large church group had their own section of racks in the transition area, and the rest were first come first serve. I chose a rack on the concrete so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting as much grass off my feet after the swim. The transition area was in the woods and it was a pretty setting.

The transition area.

The transition area.

I was happy to find a building with real bathrooms by the beach. They also had porta-potties, so I didn’t see anyone waiting in long lines. I went down to the beach to scope it out. The lake looked beautiful!

A great photo from Matt.

A great photo from Matt.

The swim would start through the gap on the right, and finish through the gap on the left, by the buoy.

The swim would start through the gap on the right, and finish through the gap on the left, by the buoy.

I wanted to get a feel for the layout, so I did a quick run from the beach up to the transition area. It was nice that they had mats on the grass, making the run a lot smoother.

The path from the beach up to the transition area.

The path from the beach up to the transition area.

Transition closed at 7:30, and the first of four waves started at 7:45. There were a couple of waves for the men first, then a couple for the women, with each wave starting about four minutes after the previous one. I was in the third wave, with women 45 and under. The water was a warm 78 degrees – warmer than the air.

People were told that they could hang back by the beach where it was shallow if they chose, because it got deep pretty quickly. I wanted to be up near the official starting line so I wouldn’t waste any time. I treaded water at first until I realized I could just hang onto the dock and save energy.

Matt took some pictures, including this one of the start of the swim.

Matt took some pictures, including this one of the start of the swim.

My pre-race nerves were especially bad because of stomach issues. It had been messed up since Wednesday afternoon and continued to bother me when I woke up the morning of the race. I didn’t want to back out of the race and figured I’d give it a try. I hoped I’d at least be okay for the swim and bike, but worried about the jostling motion when it was time to run. I wanted to be excited about the start of the race, but I was too conscious of the dull pain in my stomach. When it was time for my wave to start, there was no looking back!

After racing an Olympic triathlon last month, I was excited about the sprint distance because it would be so much shorter and faster. The Shermanator only had a sprint distance. The swim was 500 yards, so I didn’t bother with a wetsuit. I’d practiced swimming fast for 400 meters earlier in the week and felt confident. However, when I started the race, my legs felt tired from the start and I worried about how the rest of the race might go. I felt a little better as I went along. I was spoiled when I swam in the beautiful Lake Huron for my last tri. This was the typical kind of lake I’ve grown used to, where I could see a little bit in front of me, but not much. A few spots had some seaweed, but nothing bad. Although I was slower than I expected to be, it went okay.

On my way to the transition.

On my way to the transition.

The swim and run up the beach and through the grass took 10:54. I got through the first transition in 1:25, mostly slowed down by putting my socks and shoes on, and trying to get my thick, wet ponytail through my helmet.

Starting the bike portion.

Starting the bike portion.

The bike course started uphill, and I was already totally winded from the swim. I finally recovered after the first mile on the bike. We rode on some trails through the park and out to the main roads. I wouldn’t say the roads were rough, but not the smoothest I’ve been on either. The course had a few rolling hills that slowed me down, but nothing significant. I didn’t think about my stomach at all on the bike, so I felt pretty good at that point. Still, I’m never very fast on the bike. I peaked at 19.9 mph for one downhill mile, but averaged under 17.5 mph overall. I finished 10 miles in 34:28.

Elevation for the bike course.

Elevation for the bike course.

I flew through the second transition in 33 seconds. Like the bike, the run started uphill on the way out of the park. We ran on the paved trails, had a brief stretch on a gravel path, then went out to the roads. The first mile was pretty tough between tired legs from the bike and starting uphill. Nearly a mile into the run, I caught up to a woman who was wearing a bike helmet while running – something I’d never seen before. I wondered if it was her way of saving time. Just after I passed her, I heard her realize out loud that she still had it on. Apparently it wasn’t intentional!

I got through the first mile in 7:42 and the second in 7:49. After running my first couple miles under a 7:30 pace during last month’s Olympic tri, I was not impressed with myself. This was shorter and should be faster! This course did have enough small, rolling hills to slow me down a bit. I became more aware of my stomach during the run. I had a dull ache/cramp on my left side. I was extremely thankful that it wasn’t worse though. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t going to be my greatest day, but I was still doing it. I sped up to a 7:20 pace for the third mile, mostly thanks to flying down the hill that was so hard to climb at the start. I finished the 5K run in 22:56. The official results said I averaged 7:22 per mile, but my Garmin had my average at 7:37 per mile, with the course a little short at 3.02.

The elevation for the run.

The elevation for the run.

I finished the whole race with a time of 1:10:13. I had estimated that my time would be around 1:10-1:15, so I was pretty happy. I was also excited to see that I had placed as the sixth woman overall (out of 78), and third in my age group! The race had 154 finishers for the triathlon, 19 in the duathlon, six in the aquabike, plus a few relay teams.

2015-08-01 shermanator results

I usually need a couple minutes of walking around to recover after a race. This time was different though, because in addition to feeling wiped out from a hard finish, stomach pain came on literally seconds after I stopped running. I usually want food right away, but I was suffering. I grabbed a slice of watermelon and ate it as I hunched over at a picnic table. Despite feeling so bad, I knew I needed something after racing for over an hour. I was happy to see chocolate milk, which is my usual recovery drink. I didn’t feel like having a granola bar or yogurt, but I took some blueberries. Once again, I hunched over at the picnic table in pain. I thought it was interesting that I made it through over an hour of racing, but the second I stopped, things got really bad. Because I had won an age group award, it meant I had to wait around for the ceremony. Matt checked to see if I could get it early, but I couldn’t. I found a place to sit and tried not to move. Eventually they got to the awards, and we took off right after I collected mine.

Faking a smile even though I felt miserable!

Faking a smile even though I felt miserable!

My age group medal along with the great race shirt. Sure to be a new favorite of mine.

My age group medal along with the great race shirt. Sure to be a new favorite of mine.

It had been a long walk into the park, but it felt REALLY long on the way out as I walked while hunched over. I was so thankful to have Matt and his dad there to help with my bike and other stuff. Before we could get to the car, I felt nauseous enough to hit the bushes and get sick. The stomach pain stuck with me the entire day, and luckily I felt better the next day.

Aside from the stomach misery, it was a great experience. I realized after the race how much I liked the grouping of the waves. With all of the men starting before the women, I didn’t have them flying around me during the bike portion. In nearly every other race I’ve done, some of the men are SO much faster than me on the bike and it makes me feel even worse about my slowness as they zip by. I still knew I wasn’t fast, but it was nice that it wasn’t as blatantly obvious. Although a little challenging at times, it was a nice course. I hope to do this race again when I feel better so I can truly enjoy it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Caseville Triathlon Recap

I finally got around to racing my first triathlon of the year on Sunday, July 12 in Caseville, MI. It was my second time tackling the Olympic distance. When I did my first Olympic race last summer, I was in a stage of rebuilding a base in all three disciplines as my back recovered from a car accident in March. I had enough of a base to get through the distance, but I knew that I could do better with more training. I’ve been training hard this year and chose Caseville as my goal race for the summer.

Tri to Finish delivers a great race experience, so I browsed through their list when I tried to decide where to race this year. Caseville stood out for a number of reasons. I hadn’t been to Michigan’s “thumb area” before and was curious to check it out. Tri to Finish described the swim in Lake Huron as “crystal clear,” and the bike course along Lake Huron would have “picturesque views the entire way.” With the bike being my weak spot, I was especially interested in the smooth and flat course. I thought it would make a nice weekend getaway, so I was sold.

On Saturday afternoon, Matt and I drove to our hotel in Bad Axe – about an hour and a half north of us. We made a brief stop to drop off our stuff, then headed an extra half hour up to Caseville for the packet pickup. As we drove through the backroads, we were fascinated by the seemingly endless fields of wind turbines.

Packet pickup took place at the Thumb Brewery, where we also ate a nice dinner. My bib was good for free chips and dip – bonus! After dinner, we walked to the Caseville County Park to check out the site of the race. A band shell near the park was going to host a concert that evening, which ties into the official title of the race – Caseville Movin’ and Groovin’ Triathlon.

I was impressed by how large and nice the beach was.

I was impressed by how large and nice the beach was.

The water looked so nice I wanted to go for a practice swim!

The water looked so nice I wanted to go for a practice swim!

A beautiful evening for a walk on the pier.

A beautiful evening for a walk on the pier.

Although it was a beautiful night, I knew I should get off my feet and get back to the hotel. The next morning, we left the hotel before 6:30. I figured I should get in line for the porta-potties as soon as we got there so I wouldn’t be rushed right before the race. They only had two and probably could have used more. There were bathrooms in a building along the beach, but the building was locked when I got there. Of course someone unlocked them just as I finally made it to the front of the porta-potty line.

I got marked up and set things up in transition. Much thanks to Matt for being there to support me and for taking some photos!

Getting everything organized.

Getting everything organized.

The transition area.

The transition area.

Next, I got my wetsuit on. I’ve worn it a couple times in a lake to practice, but this would be my first time racing in it. I figured it would slow me down in the transition, but hopefully the buoyancy would help my swim enough to make it worthwhile.

Time flew by and the 8:00 start came before I knew it. The race offered sprint, Olympic, and half Ironman distances, plus a duathlon. The half swimmers started in the first wave, and a woman commented that it seemed like the Olympic group was the smallest. She was right – not counting a few relay teams, there were 42 Olympic finishers versus 88 in the sprint and 69 in the half. I was happy because it meant less congestion for our wave.

Everyone gathered for the start of the race.

Everyone gathered for the start of the race.

After the half swimmers started, those of us in the Olympic race worked our way through the water to a buoy, where we started about five minutes later. It was a relief to have very little congestion at the start, especially since plenty of the swimmers took off and left me in their dust!

The start of the Olympic swim.

The start of the Olympic swim.

The water was the perfect temperature and I loved this swim. I’m used to swimming in murky lakes with seaweed, so it was awesome to swim in crystal clear water where I could actually see in front of me. I could feel the buoyancy of the wetsuit, but I still didn’t feel especially fast. A couple times people came up along my side closer than I liked, so I’d hold up for a second and go around them on the outside to create some space. Otherwise, everything was great about the swim.

As I finished the swim and reached the beach, I realized that my legs weren’t going to allow me to run to the transition. I was very wobbly and made it to the timing mat with a time of 30:49 – pretty decent for me between the 1500m swim and “run” up the beach.

Next I had to worry about getting out of my wetsuit. The thing is about as tight as it can get. I ordered it online and apparently the sizing charts do not apply to me. Based on the measurements, the first one I ordered should have been good. It wasn’t, so I asked their customer service person what size to try next. The next one still didn’t fit, so I went up one more size. It was still awfully tight, but at least I could get it on, unlike the previous two. I was not going to make another return, so I decided to live with it.

It works great for the swim, but it sure is hard to get in and out of it.

It works great for the swim, but it sure is hard to get in and out of it.

I actually managed to get the left sleeve off around my Garmin, which was a problem during my practice swims. What I hadn’t anticipated was an issue with the timing chip on my ankle. We were told to wear the chip outside of the wetsuit, so I did. The ankle part of my wetsuit is so tight that I really struggled to get it off over the chip. I had used a safety pin in addition to the velcro to make sure the chip stayed on, so I couldn’t easily open it up and put it back on. I’m going to have to learn how to make that easier the next time around. I’ve read that some people cut a few inches off the legs, so maybe I should consider that?

I wasn’t out to win the race and knew that wriggling out of my wetsuit for the first time in a race situation would slow me down in the first transition, so I was okay living with my slow time. I threw on a tank top with my bib, scarfed a few Honey Stinger energy chews, put my socks and shoes on, got my helmet and sunglasses, and finally got through T1 in 2:47.

Then it was time for 25 miles on the bike. While I peaked with one 30-mile ride prior to my first Olympic triathlon, I did a number of regular long rides while training for this race. 35 miles was the longest I went, but I regularly rode 20-30 miles each weekend for most of the winter and spring. Just like every other triathlon I’ve done, the “real” cyclists flew past me throughout the bike course. They always make me feel like I’m standing still. Despite training more consistently on the bike, I’m still not a cyclist. I thought the flat course would help, but I didn’t go faster than 18.5 mph for any mile. The best I could manage was an average of 17.5 mph overall. I’ve tried to build my base more, but I haven’t pushed speed very much during training and I still haven’t tried clipless pedals. I’ve basically done enough to “get by” on the bike, so I don’t expect much. I really enjoyed the bike course because it took us out and back on a road near the shoreline.

20150712 - Caseville route

The bike took us out on Main St. / Port Austin Rd.

The shoulder was large and the road was fairly smooth, so it was great for a race. I enjoyed riding past campgrounds and lakefront cottages. At times we had really nice views of the water. At a certain point my inner thighs got sore from sitting on the seat for so long. I realized that I’d used padded bike shorts for all of my longer rides and hadn’t practiced long rides with tri shorts. The padding definitely makes a difference! In addition, I had strained my left thumb/wrist pretty bad a couple weeks earlier from gripping my handlebar too tight and for too long. I thought about it during the whole bike portion of the race, making sure I moved that hand around enough so it wouldn’t get irritated.

Coming back into the park.

Coming back into the park.

After spending so much time in the first transition, I was able to fly through the second transition in 37 seconds. I racked my bike, grabbed my fuel belt and hat, and ran.

Leaving the transition area for the run.

Leaving the transition area for the run.

There was a small hill on the way out of the park that drained me briefly, but the rest of the run was flat. I was pretty strong for the first two miles, then my pace dropped off a bit. The run took us out and back on some uneventful roads. We ran by farmland for a short stretch near the turnaround point. That part was out in the open and the sun was more noticeable. Luckily we didn’t run in that area for too long, because it probably would have worn on me mentally. I felt pretty tired by the halfway point and almost felt like I was in survival mode at times, but my pace was still decent. The fourth mile was my slowest at 8:05. Since I’d hoped to average at least 8:00 per mile overall and I was well under that, I remained relatively positive. The small hill I had struggled to climb at the beginning gave me a good boost on the way back down into the park, and I pushed to keep it up through the end.

20150712 - Caseville run2

Finishing strong.

I finished the 10K in 47:58, averaging around 7:42 per mile. My run splits were 7:26, 7:28, 7:41, 8:05, 7:55, 7:47, and a pace of 6:52 for the last 0.23. I was excited to find out that I had finished the race in a even 2:48:00. It took me three hours to finish my first Olympic tri. Although this course was easier, I was still thrilled to improve my time by so much.

I did it! Well under three hours.

I did it! Well under three hours.

It took a few minutes of pacing around before I recovered enough to get some water and food. They had some non-appealing looking bananas and handed out a slice of pizza, but that was about it. Once again, I think I’ve been spoiled by the elaborate spreads of food that often follow running races. Most of the triathlons I’ve done have been lacking in that department. After working so hard, all I want to do is eat. I’ve learned to bring snacks of my own, plus I knew there was a Dairy Queen close by.

There was nearly an hour to kill before the awards ceremony, so I changed into dry clothes, snacked on my food, and waited. By default, I won an age group award since there were only two of us in the age group. Another woman in our age group had placed as one of the top females.

On the podium with the one other woman in my age group.

On the podium with the one other woman in my age group.

For my second place finish, I received a silver piece that magnetically attached to my medal.

The medal with the magnetic age group award.

The medal with the magnetic age group award.

The age group award attached to the medal.

The age group award attached to the medal.

It looks like I placed fifth out of 16 women. Apparently not many women participated in the Olympic distance. I didn’t care much about my placement though. I was just happy that I had improved my Olympic time by 12 minutes.

Overall, I loved this race and would definitely do it again in the future. When I signed up, I liked that the half Ironman was one of the possible distances. I’m not sure if I’ll want to tackle the distance at some point, but at least I got the chance to scope out a potential place to try it.

Due to marathon training that is getting pretty serious now, this may be my only Olympic distance race this year. If so, I’m definitely happy with how it went.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography