Bayshore Marathon Recap

Third time is the charm? Not so much for my third marathon. I had high hopes leading up to the Bayshore Marathon after an extremely solid training segment. It was my first time following the Hansons Marathon Method and I felt strong and very prepared. Then I started to scope out the weather.

Forecasts during the week leading up to the race didn’t make race day look very promising. I worried about potential thunderstorms, heat, and humidity. I started to get pretty bummed out because it looked like I wouldn’t get to run to my potential and see how well the training plan had really worked. I do not run well in warm and humid conditions so I knew I’d have to adjust my expectations. Just two weeks earlier we’d run a 5K in the snow, then the weather did a total 180 and went into full-blown summer mode. It’s hard to spend 18+ weeks of hardcore training working towards one goal only to have the weather on one specific day mess it up. I knew I couldn’t go into the race with a negative attitude though.

I already qualified for Boston in 2017 with my time at the Twin Cities Marathon. I really didn’t have to worry about my time. I’ve been intrigued by people who are able to run multiple marathons within a short period of time, seeing as how it’s taken me a while to bounce back from my prior two marathons. I wondered if this would be a good chance to try slowing down and see if I could recover faster.

As much as I worried about the weather, I couldn’t change it. I was still excited that after 18 long weeks of training, the race was finally here and we had a fun Memorial Day weekend trip ahead of us. Matt and I got up early on Friday morning for a 3-mile shakeout run before I went to work for half a day. We started our drive to Traverse City just after lunch, beating most of Michigan’s “up north” traffic. It took about four hours or so. We hit a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, then went to the school for packet pickup, which was available from 5-9pm. We’d participated in Bayshore weekend in 2012 when Matt ran his first full marathon and I ran the half, so we pretty much knew what to expect.

Packet pickup takes place in a gym. I’d seen pictures of race-specific merchandise, but wasn’t sure where it was. Luckily we noticed the smaller gym on our way out where they had a bunch of gear.

Packet pickup

Packet pickup at Traverse City Central High School

Race merch

Race merch

Playmakers was there with a bunch of t-shirts, jackets, hats, and other things branded with the race’s logo. They had a good variety and some reasonable prices. I ended up getting a hat and a cotton t-shirt.

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In addition to the stuff I bought, of course I also got the official race shirt as a part of the packet pickup.

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A nice short sleeve New Balance tech shirt

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Matt’s 10K shirt

Marathoners also got a pair of thin Smartwool socks. When Matt ran the race in 2012, the socks had the race’s name on them. These socks were just plain socks off the rack.

We got to our hotel by 7:00. Hotel prices can be ridiculous because of both the race and because Traverse City is a hotspot for tourists in the summer. There’s no such thing as a discounted rate for runners. Hotels near the start can run over $300 per night! We were fine with a *somewhat* more reasonably priced hotel a couple miles down the road.

Bayshore is an extremely popular race. When it opens for registration on December 1st, anyone planning to run the half marathon needs to register immediately because it fills up in minutes. The full marathon and 10K take a little longer to fill, but eventually all of the events sell out. We know that it’s ideal to book a hotel before even signing up for the race because those go quickly as well.

The night before the race I ended up with maybe seven hours of sleep, minus the numerous times I woke up throughout the night. I wasn’t especially anxious, but I was concerned about how the weather might affect me. When I got up on Saturday morning, I had a Honey Stinger Waffle and some water first thing. I also ate a Picky Bar an hour and a half later when we got to the school. Those snacks seem to be enough to fuel me without upsetting my stomach.

As expected, traffic was slow getting to the school. Nothing too bad though. Parking was another story. The half marathoners have to take a shuttle out to the starting point for their race, so they have to get to the school before 6:15. The marathon starts an hour later, followed by the 10K at 7:30, so the non-half racers don’t need to get there quite as early. Parking seemed to be full by the time we got there, so we ended up creating our own spot on some grass.

Matt and I found some friends as we headed to the starting area. One great thing about running Bayshore is that a ton of other running friends are always there.

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The starting area on the grounds of Northwestern Michigan College

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Matt and I before the race

The morning was storm-free and mostly cloudy, but it was also warm and humid. It was about 70 degrees with humidity over 80% by the start of the marathon. Not ideal for me. I’ve been very lucky to run my other two marathons when it was 40-50 degrees. I knew I wouldn’t always be so lucky! I had successfully trained for a 3:30 marathon, meaning an 8:00 pace. I knew very well that if I aimed for that pace in the conditions that morning I would crash and burn. My new goal was to throw pace out the window and hope just to survive the warm morning. At best, I’d aim for an 8:15ish pace and see how that went.

I had no problem getting into the starting corral and the race started before I knew it. I didn’t have any issues with congestion and got off to a quick start of 8:08 for the first mile. I knew I wanted to dial it down though, and hit 8:13-8:18 for the next seven miles. I wasn’t really aiming for a pace and that’s what came naturally as I ran by feel. Within the first mile or so my face was already soaked and my sunglasses fogged up from the humidity. About a mile into the race is when we caught the first glimpse of the water – it was beautiful. The marathon is an out and back course along the shore of the East Grand Traverse Bay. You can’t go wrong with the scenery. Plus, it’s basically a flat course. It rolls a little bit in spots, but nothing very significant.

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There’s a reason this race is so popular

There aren’t very many access points for spectators along the course, so there isn’t a ton of spectator support. However, plenty of people set up outside their houses to cheer, play music, or even offer beer. A guy dressed like Will Ferrell playing the cowbell was pretty entertaining. The few spectator spots that are available are very energetic, and the aid stations are great.

One of the biggest boosts is watching other runners. The half marathoners run down the peninsula on the opposite side of the street, and I started to see them about six miles into my race. I saw Hansons runner (and author of the Hansons Marathon Method training plan I followed) Luke Humphrey go flying by in second place. It was a good distraction to watch everyone go by and pick out people who I knew. It was also fun to hear others yelling out to the people they knew. It’s a very encouraging environment. There was a little down period after all of the half marathoners went by, but soon enough I started to see the marathoners heading back down the peninsula. I saw them about 10 miles into my race. Again, it was fun to look out for people.

I felt okay through the halfway point and had settled into a pace in the 8:20s for miles 9-15. I was still running by feel, and I guess by then I was feeling a little slower. I had a 25 oz. bottle of GU Brew in a hydration belt and grabbed water at pretty much every aid station. I made sure to stay hydrated and didn’t feel like I was ever lacking there. I ate Honey Stinger Chews at a few points throughout the race, then switched to a few Clif Shot Bloks with caffeine later in the race. Fueling didn’t seem to be an issue.

By miles 16-18 my pace dropped into the 8:30s. The heat and humidity started to really drain me. From mile 19 on, my pace ranged from 9-10 minutes per mile because I started to take walk breaks. Nothing hurt and I didn’t cramp up or anything. I was just drained and didn’t want to run anymore. I typically don’t take my phone out during races, but decided to send a quick text to Matt. He had well over two hours to wait for me after he finished his 10K and I appreciated him being so patient.

Matt's post on Snapchat as he kept occupied waiting a long time for me

Matt’s post on Snapchat as he kept occupied waiting a long time for me

Taking the walk breaks meant I’d leave him waiting even longer. I let him know that I was fine but not feeling it and didn’t want to run anymore. He was encouraging and told me, “Keep going, you’ve got this.” I kept that in mind as I trudged along, and spectators echoed his words. I was so appreciative of the spectators and volunteers at the aid stations who provided words of encouragement. “You’ve got this, you look strong.” By a certain point, it seemed like I got into a cycle of running past people who had stopped to walk, only to have them run past me a few minutes later once I started to walk. A lot of us were struggling and it meant a lot to have people along the course encouraging us.

Since I really wasn’t aiming for a certain time goal anymore, I didn’t care what it took to finish the race. If walking made me feel better, I was going to walk. I knew that running would get me through it faster, so I tried to run as much as I could. I decided that I’d start walking through every aid station. It was a break to look forward to and it meant I’d get enough water down to stay hydrated. I kept telling myself that even if I was a bit slower, I was still going to finish a marathon. Some people were still on their way up the course, meaning they had even farther to go than me. I knew they were going to finish, and if they could do it, I could do it. It was especially inspiring when I saw a guide running with a blind person. They were going to finish this marathon too. It also gave me a boost when I saw an older guy named Harry (his name was on his shirt) with his knees taped up moving along slowly. He was smiling and I knew he was going to finish. I could do this.

As I got closer to the finish, I passed a house that had music blaring. Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance” was playing. It was nice to actually smile for a bit as I rapped along with the song in my head and watched the spectators dance. It gave me a boost for a few minutes. I still kept doing the run/walk thing right through the end. With about a quarter mile left, I was back on the campus and people lined the streets. They gave me another boost. I couldn’t just walk past them – I had to get moving again. I knew the finishing stretch on the track was coming up and I had to finish strong. As I entered the track, I saw all of the people in the bleachers cheering. I only had about 100 meters to go.

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Matt got this picture of me looking strong at the end

I raised my arms in celebration after I crossed the finish line, thinking, “Thank God it’s done.” I was way off of my goal of a 3:30 marathon, but knew that a time under four hours was still pretty darn good.

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I took a few minutes to pace around and stretch, and was relieved that I was actually in pretty good shape. After my first two marathons I had pretty bad IT band pain in my left knee that caused me to limp around. I realized that the tips of my toes hurt a little bit and probably had blisters, but otherwise I was fine. I got my medal and a bottle of water and found Matt waiting for me at the entrance to the post-race party. I hadn’t been too emotional during the race, but had a brief moment when I saw him. That’s when it must have sunk in that I had really done it and he was there being so supportive. I had been running six days a week for the last 18+ months, and at times the schedule seemed ridiculous. It meant passing up a bunch of things we may have done otherwise. It meant adjusting schedules to make my running fit. It meant lots of late dinners. Matt was very understanding and supportive through it all and I know how lucky I am.

With Matt after the race

With Matt after the race

With my medal

With my medal

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A closer look at the medal

Bayshore does not disappoint when it comes to post-race food. I look forward to eating lots of goodies after a marathon, and Bayshore does it right. I got a bottle of chocolate milk first, which is my go-to recovery drink. Then I went to check out the food. I got several kinds of cookies, a blueberry muffin, a bag of chips, a bag of pretzels, and the best thing of all – a cup of Moomers ice cream! I found a few people from work who had also run the marathon and we chatted about the difficult day. We saw Luke Humphrey and I congratulated him on his second place finish in the half, then let him know how much I had enjoyed following his plan…even if I didn’t get to truly put it to work thanks to the weather. We found our friend Karly who ran a great race and got her BQ despite the conditions! Eventually we headed out and went back to the hotel. I had a layer of salt on top of my layer of sweat and needed a shower pretty bad.

A little while later we headed out to downtown Traverse City. One of the perks of doing a marathon in Traverse City is being able to get some great post-race treats, and no shame in eating them with so many calories to replenish!

This doesn't show the caramel-covered Rice Krispie Treats we finished on the spot

This doesn’t show the caramel-covered Rice Krispies Treats we finished on the spot

We picked up a pizza and breadsticks and took them back to the hotel for dinner. We watched the Tigers lose a game miserably then watched a few things on Netflix.

I was surprised that I pretty much felt fine, even the next morning. The one exception was my left heel, which caused me to limp when I took my first steps in the morning. It had been fine after the race, but the plantar fasciitis that I’ve been dealing with since January was still very much there. I’ve gotten used to that misery though, so it wasn’t anything new. When I was able to take my bags down the stairs of the hotel without wincing, I knew it was a good sign. Stairs are typically miserable after running a marathon. I kept telling Matt that it felt like I hadn’t really run a marathon and it was a strange feeling. Though I wasn’t thrilled that my race was so much slower than planned, I had a feeling that it had worked in my favor in terms of recovering faster. I almost felt like I had just run a really LONG long run rather than a race.

The next day was beautiful, so we stopped by the beach briefly before heading home.

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An awesome view across from our hotel

We drove 3.5 hours straight through to get home, and that stiffened me up a bit. By Sunday evening my quads were a bit sore, and stairs became a little more difficult. However, I was pretty much good to go by Monday.

I swore that I would take a full two weeks off after this marathon no matter how good I might feel. Whenever I’ve jumped the gun and started running sooner than that, I’ve found out that I’m not fully recovered. The plantar fasciitis has been torturing me for months and I’ve been anxious to get away from the pain. I’m really hoping that some time off will help. I’ve been training so hard for so long that I need to give my body a little break.

During the late, miserable miles of the marathon, I told myself that running half marathons might be a much better idea. Of course now that I’m distanced from the misery, I’m thinking otherwise. I’m already starting to wonder about the next marathon. Am I crazy enough to put myself through the intense training schedule again soon enough to try a fall marathon? Should I try again for that 3:30 marathon that I know I’m capable of? Or should I run another marathon for “fun” at an easier pace?

I’ll give myself a couple weeks to see if I make enough progress with the plantar fasciitis before committing to anything. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a bit of downtime…something I haven’t appreciated for about half a year now!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @janetboltz





Prove It 5K Recap

I’ve been trying to avoid racing during marathon training in order to follow my training schedule as closely as possible. I made an exception last weekend when I ran the Borgess Half Marathon because it helped me get 13 of my 16 miles in for the day. I also made an exception for the Prove It 5K on Sunday, May 15. I had 10 miles on my schedule and a 5K really wasn’t ideal, but it was a unique race that I didn’t want to turn down.

The Prove It 5K took place at GM’s Proving Grounds in Milford, MI. For the first time, people had the opportunity to run around the high performance test track. The race was hosted by Trivium Racing and GM’s Chevy Running Club, which I am a part of. Proceeds went to the Dearborn Animal Shelter and Michigan’s Special Olympics. I had never been on the test track and thought it sounded like a very cool race.

A very cool bib for this race

A cool bib for this race

Milford is nearly an hour away from us, so we left the house around 6am in order to get there an hour before the race. We had been warned that the packet pickup and starting area were half a mile from the parking lot, so we needed to allow extra time to get back and forth. There were a couple locations offering an early pickup on Friday evening, but we waited until the morning of the race because neither location was convenient for us.

We were not thrilled to find a layer of snow on the car when it was time to leave home. It’s mid-May!! I had a terrible tempo run on Thursday when I crashed and burned because it was nearly 80 degrees and I couldn’t handle the heat. Now a few days later it was in the 30s and felt even colder with the wind. It was freezing when we got out of the car to head to the pickup area. We got our bibs and shirts then headed back to the car to stay warm.

Fun design, but I probably won't be wearing it without another shirt underneath!

Fun design, but I probably won’t be wearing it without another shirt underneath!

Once I got my bib attached and was ready to go, I still had time for a warm up run. With 10 miles on the schedule, I was determined to do as much as I could. Matt and I ran back to the starting area and I ran around enough to get a mile in before the race. Some of the track is banked a decent amount which made it a little awkward for running.

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Some of the Chevy Running Club

The Chevy Running Club took a quick group photo, then there was a pre-race talk about the course before the start. They said people were going to be split into waves of 250 people and it looks like just under 600 people ran the race. Matt and I were in the first wave. I didn’t have a plan for the race since I haven’t done any runs at 5K pace for seven weeks. My top priority right now is my marathon in a couple weeks and I didn’t want to get hurt by pushing too hard. Plus, did I mention enough yet that it was it was so darn cold?

The test track had some hills that I hadn’t anticipated. I ran 7:29 for the first mile, not feeling like that was especially easy. I must have warmed up and gotten a boost from some downhill stretches because I picked it up to 7:03 for the second mile. More uphill sections and fatigue made the last mile more miserable. That’s when I told myself that I prefer marathon pace over 5K pace! 

The hills weren't too extreme, but this wasn't a flat race track!

The hills weren’t too extreme, but this wasn’t a flat race track!

Our route around the test track

Our route around the test track

A picture of me (in blue) from Trivium Racing's Facebook page

A picture of me (in blue) from Trivium Racing’s Facebook page

I slowed down to 7:16 for the last mile but finished as strong as I could, aided by a downhill stretch. I was happy with my finishing time of 22:43, which is a little over a minute off of my PR. My time was good enough for first place in my age group! That meant sticking around for the awards ceremony, which was scheduled for about an hour later. 

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Post-race treats included bottles of water, cans of pop, a variety of packaged nuts, bananas, and a couple kinds of granola bars. We also received a cool glass after we crossed the finish line.

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Within 10 minutes of finishing I started a cool down run. I was still determined to get six more miles in that day. I ran back to the car, dropped some stuff off, then did some laps around the parking lot. Eventually I headed back to the track for the awards. I kept moving as long as I could to rack up the miles and to stay warm. I had time for about 4.5 miles. 

They awarded the top 20 people based on age grading, using age and gender to put people on a level playing field. In addition, they gave awards to the top person in each age group.

Posing with my award, from Trivium Racing's Facebook page

Posing with my award, from Trivium Racing’s Facebook page

A visor for winning my age group

A visor for winning my age group

We headed out after that and I ran a couple more slow miles once we got home. It may have been done in several chunks, but I managed to get all of my marathon training miles in for the day.

Though better weather would have made the day more enjoyable, it was very cool getting a chance to run around GM’s test track. Many thanks to the Chevy Running Club and Trivium Racing for making it possible!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @janetboltz

Borgess Run for the Health of It! Recap

Kalamazoo’s Borgess Run for the Health of It! was my first half marathon (in 2011) and I enjoyed it enough to return the following year for my fourth half. I decided to go back this year on May 8th, making it my tenth half. It worked perfectly with both marathon training and Mother’s Day plans.

Kalamazoo is about two and a half hours from us, but Matt’s parents live about 20 minutes away. We headed out to stay with them on Friday night after I finished running seven miles at home. I was ready to fall asleep shortly after we got there, then had to motivate myself to run eight more miles the next morning. I must still be in winter running mode because 60 degrees that morning seemed hot! At this point I’m three weeks out from the Bayshore Marathon and wrapping up my peak mileage week of the training plan – a total of 63 miles after getting through 16 on race day. My legs were tired for both Friday and Saturday’s runs, but I know that should be expected.

After Saturday’s run, Matt and I went to Wings Event Center for the expo. We were happy to see that they had our sizes for the 2012 race shirt, which is one of my favorites. With a deal of three shirts for $10, I got one and Matt got two. Gazelle Sports had some apparel and accessories for sale. I bought some Picky Bars and Clif Shot Bloks. Green Strides was there to collect old running shoes, which helped motivate Matt and me to clear out our large collection. Literally a garbage bag’s worth and then some! 

The expo at Wings Event Center

The expo at Wings Event Center

Gazelle's area at the expo

Gazelle’s area at the expo

Posing with the race shirt

Posing with the race shirt

I spotted Don Kern at a booth for the Grand Rapids Marathon and wanted to let him know how much I had enjoyed his book and the adventure continues… He’s the director of the GR Marathon (amongst others) and his book about his various running adventures is extremely inspiring. Maybe I will spot him at the Bayshore Marathon in a few weeks. He said he’ll be there to celebrate his birthday the day before and Bayshore will be his 300th marathon the next day. Pretty awesome!

Noodles and Company had a “buy one bowl get one free” deal for racers, so we got lunch there. Later we had a nice family dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day, then I got a restless night of sleep. Not because of pre-race nerves, but because that’s how I seem to sleep lately.

I didn’t get nervous this time because I planned to use the race as my long run. If I followed my training schedule, I was due to run 16 miles at an 8:42 pace. That’s well off of my half PR pace, which is around 7:35 or so. No pressure!

We got to the race site at 6:50 (just over an hour before the first race) without a problem and parked in a grass field near the starting corral. We relaxed in the car for 10 minutes or so, then it was time for me to hit the porta potty, gear check, then start a 3-mile warm up. It was in the mid-40s which felt a little cool to start, but it was perfect when I got moving. We lucked out with a beautiful day!

A pre-race photo with Matt, who ran the 10K

A pre-race photo with Matt, who ran the 10K

I finished my warm up and got in the corral with about 10 minutes to spare. I figured I might aim for around 1:50 and positioned myself appropriately. I worried I’d get cold or tighten up between my warm up and the start of the race, but I was okay.

The half and full marathoners started together

The half and full marathoners started together

The first couple miles went down the main road before we got to downtown Kalamazoo. The brief stretch through the pedestrian mall is always a fun and energetic stretch. Shortly after the 3-mile mark the half and full runners split. I had a sappy moment there because it was right by the State Theatre, which is where Matt and I met at a Verve Pipe show. After that there’s a stretch that’s a little more industrial, then a bit on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail and through a couple parks.

Nice scenery

Nice scenery

The half course is mostly flat, but has a few good downhill stretches and two tricky climbs uphill. The first comes after the 8-mile mark, and the second is about a mile from the end. I huffed and puffed a little, but kept going strong and recovered pretty well. I smiled when we ran down Random Road because I liked the name, and another fun moment was when a guy ran past his grandma’s house. He was in front of me when he started yelling, “Grandma! Grandma!” He ran up onto the sidewalk and stopped to hug her while she sat in a chair in the front yard, then told her he’d see her in half an hour or so. It was very sweet.

I did not plan on racing this and was pretty disciplined. My legs didn’t feel super fresh as I started, so 8:30-8:40 pace felt just right. I did hope to cut down as I went, and began doing so by miles eight and nine, when I dropped to the 8:20s. I think the surge kicked in when I got stuck behind a few people and couldn’t get around them. When I finally did, I kept rolling and my pace kept dropping. I didn’t really pay attention to my watch and just went with how I felt. I felt good and it made me feel stronger as I started to cruise past some people in the later miles. Running a cut down/negative split half marathon is always a great feeling for me. I love finishing strong. I managed to drop to my typical half marathon pace for the last full mile, and was happy when I saw Matt cheering for me along the final stretch. Though I didn’t have a real goal time, I was happy to slip in just under 1:50.

Concentrating on finishing strong

Concentrating on finishing strong

A shot Matt got as I approached the finish

A shot Matt got as I approached the finish

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After catching my breath, I grabbed a bottle of water and some chocolate milk. They had bananas and orange slices, but that was it in the way of food. That’s a pet peeve of mine. I always want food at the end of a race! I know Bayshore has goodies like ice cream, cookies, and lots more, so I’ll look forward to that in a few weeks. I was bummed by the lack of food at this race though. You could go to a food tent and buy a BBQ lunch, and even the beer garden required payment – no free beer ticket offered on the bib like so many other races. Oh well. I was thankful that Kellogg was giving out granola bars and a sizable sample of Special K with red berries. Matt and I hung around for about an hour, then headed out and grabbed lunch on the way home.

A post-race photo with Matt

A post-race photo with Matt

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Aside from the lack of food at the end, I loved everything else about the race. The weather has been perfect each of the three times we’ve run the race and it’s an all-around great experience. It was a good way to get my last 16-mile training run in, and gave me practice with fueling in a race environment. Now, I just have to double the race distance in a few weeks…

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @janetboltz

Training / Sightseeing in Colorado

A few weeks ago Matt and I went to Colorado for the first time. Prior to this trip I’d never been west of Minnesota, so I was pretty excited to see the mountains. Matt had the opportunity to attend and present at a conference in Denver, so I jumped at the chance to go along with him.

Just as it was climbing into the 70s at home, we headed right into a winter storm in Colorado. Luckily it was still raining when our flight landed and we made it to our hotel in downtown Denver before the snow started. Matt had a conference to attend on Saturday, and all I had on my agenda was to run 10 miles. I’m glad I was deep into marathon training during this trip. With 7-12 miles to run every day but one, I got to take in a lot of new scenery.

Our hotel was a little over half a mile from the Cherry Creek Trail, where I did several of my runs. It was perfect – paved, flat, and nearly 40 miles long. One of the nicest features was being able to run continuously through downtown without stopping for traffic. I was relieved to find that the snow had not accumulated and the path was just wet on that first morning.

The Cherry Creek Trail

The Cherry Creek Trail

I took the trail west and joined up with the Platte River Trail, which took me by Mile High Stadium.

Mile High Stadium

Mile High Stadium

I was kind of surprised by the number of homeless people under the overpasses along the trail, but plenty of runners and cyclists were also out despite the poor weather. It was a very wet and snowy run, but a good one.

I didn’t know if I’d react to the change in elevation, but it didn’t affect me at all. At home I typically run somewhere around 700-1,000 feet, and I ran at 5,100-5,300 feet in Denver. All of my runs during the trip were right on target pace-wise, so I was relieved that I never noticed any difference.

One great thing about running on vacation is getting to refuel with hotel breakfasts every day. Eggs, waffles, cereal, etc. I could get used to that!

I’d hoped to go hiking quite a bit during the trip, but the first day wasn’t going to be ideal for that. I decided it was a good day to bundle up and see the downtown. It was very wet and I had snow blowing in my face the whole time, but I still enjoyed it.

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Looking down at the Cherry Creek Trail on a very snowy afternoon

I got to see REI’s flagship store, which is huge and awesome. I also checked out the mile-long, pedestrian-friendly 16th Street Mall. It has a ton of shops and restaurants, so I scoped out some good places for us to eat throughout the week.

The sidewalks downtown were just wet all day Saturday despite the constant snow, but the snow had accumulated by Sunday morning. We were lucky that the downtown area didn’t seem to get hit as hard as many of the surrounding areas. I had 10 miles to run that morning and decided to venture out to Denver’s City Park.

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Denver’s City Park

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This blooming tree thought winter was over

Some sidewalks were in decent shape, but many were not. It was probably one of my sloppier runs this season – in mid-April!

Matt had a free day and we had originally planned to spend the day seeing the Rocky Mountains. We changed our plans when we realized how much snow there was. We decided a short drive to the Denver Zoo might work better for such a messy day.

A snowy Denver Zoo

A snowy Denver Zoo

A few people braved the weather…but not many! Our admission was half off, and I understood why as we walked around and saw that all of the concession areas were closed. We still enjoyed ourselves and the animals did a nice job of posing for some photos.

A sample of animals from the Denver Zoo

A sample of animals from the Denver Zoo

Boulder Running Company had a location just down the road from the zoo, so we checked that out next. I was very impressed. The store was huge and seemed to carry any brand I could imagine. They had a lot of things that I only seem to find online.

Matt was back to his conference Monday through Wednesday, so I was on my own for a few days. The weather had settled down by mid-Sunday and I was ready to venture out of the city on Monday. I was curious to see Boulder since I know it’s a hot spot for running.

I headed northwest on the highway out of Denver and my mind was blown as I drove over a peak and saw the mountains for the first time. The view was amazing! I couldn’t help but wonder if people who live there appreciate that view every day or if they’re so used to it that they don’t think twice.

As soon as I got to the park in Boulder, I had to take a picture with the mountains in the background. Though it’s not the most glamorous motel, the scenery sure is awesome.

Foot of the Mountain Motel in Boulder

Foot of the Mountain Motel in Boulder

I was relieved to find that the Boulder Creek Path was snow-free. With eight easy miles on the schedule, I headed out four miles then came back. Most of the run was flat and on a sidewalk that followed Boulder Creek. I passed by some of University of Colorado Boulder’s campus. It was a nice run, but it got better when I turned around and ran back towards the mountains. I loved the view!

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Boulder Creek Path

When I finished my run, I drove to Eldorado Canyon State Park for my first hiking adventure of the trip. Although it was snowy, a pretty decent path had been cleared for the first part of my hike. I saw a handful of people during my visit, but I was mostly on my own.

A somewhat clear path through Eldorado Canyon's Fowler Trail

A somewhat clear path through Eldorado Canyon’s Fowler Trail

Eldorado Canyon

Eldorado Canyon

The views were breathtaking. After hiking for a bit on one of the easier trails, I ventured to a couple others. I don’t think as many people had made it to those trails because there was a little more snow to walk through.

Eldorado Canyon

Eldorado Canyon

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Eldorado Canyon

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Trekking through lots of snow at Eldorado Canyon

Despite the snow, it was a beautiful day and a nice park to visit.

On Tuesday I started my day with a rainy run on the Cherry Creek Trail. I had a workout of 3×2 miles at 10 seconds under marathon pace, plus I ran two miles to warm up and two to cool down for a total of 11 miles. I was impressed to find that so many people were out before 7am. I realized that a lot of cyclists must use the trail to commute to work.

After my run (and another nice hotel breakfast) I drove to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The legendary concert venue is open to visitors until 2:00 on days when they have shows. It was amazing, as expected.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Working hard to clear all of the snow from the seating at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Shovelers working hard to clear all of the snow from the seating at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

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A view from Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Wednesday was my rest day, so no running. I decided to head to Golden to check out Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The scenic drive was half of the fun. Most of the parks I visited required a lot of driving through winding mountain roads. I was in awe most of the time.

After stopping at the visitor’s center, I started with one of the easier trails. I think fewer people had been on the trails at this park compared to those at Eldorado Canyon. There was a clear path to follow, but I’d take a few steps then one foot would sink way down in the snow. This happened continuously and made for a slow and challenging hike. I came across some women who had snowshoes and realized that was probably more ideal. I was talking to one of the women as we approached a spot where the path seemed to stop, even though we knew we hadn’t made it to the end. It wasn’t clear where the path continued, and as I watched the woman try to snowshoe her way through the deep snow, I knew we were all turning around and heading back.

A snowy path at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

A snowy path at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

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A pretty view at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

I tried a couple other spots in the park but the trails were even more snow-covered, and some spots weren’t cleared at all. It was a pretty park, but it’s probably better to explore with less snow.

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So much snow at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Next I went to Lookout Mountain, also in Golden. It was a very scenic drive through the switchbacks up the mountain. I was impressed by the cyclists riding up the mountain. I saw cyclists throughout our whole trip doing workouts on mountain roads. They are hardcore!

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The city of Golden from Lookout Mountain

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A view of the mountains from Lookout Mountain in Golden

I got moving early on Thursday morning because I had 12 miles to run, with nine at marathon pace. I went back to Cherry Creek and Platte River Trails for a solid run. Matt was done with his conference and we finally had a chance to explore beyond downtown Denver together for a couple of days. We planned to spend some time at the Rocky Mountains and stopped at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park along the way. It’s the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining. We didn’t go inside, but it was beautiful outside.

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The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park didn’t look so intimidating on this beautiful day

We were very lucky that our trip coincided with National Parks Week, which meant free admission! As expected, Rocky Mountain National Park was much busier than any of the other places I had explored during the trip.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park

There was plenty of snow that was packed down, sometimes to the point of being too slippery. Bear Lake was covered with snow, so you wouldn’t even know there was a lake there! We spent most of the time hiking to Alberta Falls, taking in the sights along the way.

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Rocky Mountain National Park on the way to Alberta Falls

Matt and I by Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Matt and I by Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

We had considered hiking to several different spots, but the snow made things challenging and it took a lot longer than we thought. We drove through the park a little bit and stopped a few times for photos, but we knew we had a long drive to Colorado Springs and didn’t want to get there too late. We’re definitely interested in going back to the Rockies in the future. It would be more ideal when the snow has melted and there’s better footing.

We chose a hotel in Colorado Springs that was close to the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail. That turned out to be a good choice. It was nice to get off the pavement and onto a trail made of crushed stone and dirt. I had seven easy miles to run on Friday morning and was lucky enough to have Matt join me for most of it. The elevation reached 6,000 feet there – the highest for any run during the trip. Still, it wasn’t noticeably harder for me than the run would have been at home.

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Pikes Peak Greenway Trail in Colorado Springs

Our next stop was the U.S. Olympic Training Center. They had tours starting every hour and I thought it would be a cool place to see. We watched a video at the beginning then took a walking tour of the facilities.

The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

The pool at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

The pool at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

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Weights and an indoor track at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

I was hopeful that maybe we’d see some Olympians training for Rio. Most of the areas were pretty quiet when we walked around. We walked into one area that had a few people running on treadmills behind glass. As I looked, I nearly squealed as I said, “Is that…Shalane? That’s Amy! Oh my gosh!” Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg, two of the Americans who will be running the marathon in Rio, were right there in front of us. I had watched the Olympic Trials race on TV when they qualified and knew exactly who they were. They were training in a heat and humidity chamber and getting feedback that will hopefully help when it comes to hydrating properly in Rio.

Olympic marathoners Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

Olympic marathoners Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

I was a bit giddy for the rest of the day after getting the chance to see them training. We were pretty lucky that we happened to be there on the right day at the right time!

Our last scenic stop of the trip was Garden of the Gods. A stop at the visitor’s center gave us an amazing view.

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Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Finally, a place where we could hike without snow!

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

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Matt photographing the mountains from Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods was fairly busy. We had to bypass a bunch of the parking lots because they were small and full. We stopped at a couple of spots, got in some good sightseeing, then called it good. We had to drive back up to the Denver Airport, return the rental car, then catch a shuttle to our hotel.

During the day I started to toy with the idea of running a double. I’d run seven miles early that morning and I had eight on the schedule the next day. We had to leave the hotel pretty early on Saturday morning and I wasn’t too excited about running on the hotel treadmill. I also didn’t think it would be a great idea to go out alone before the sunrise in an area I didn’t know. I thought it might be better to get the run in that night. Matt was supportive of my idea and even joined me for half of the run. We got out sometime after 6pm and it was a nice, sunny evening. I think it was the first time during the trip that it warmed up enough to wear a t-shirt for the run! Aside from that, it was the least exciting run of the trip. Our hotel was surrounded by nothing but fields of dirt. We had several blocks of hotels with a few restaurants mixed in. At least there were sidewalks and I could still see the mountains off in the distance.

Around and around the hotels

Around and around the hotels

Luckily I felt fine and felt accomplished after running 15 miles that day! I managed to run a total of 66 miles during our time in Colorado. It allowed me to cover a lot of ground and see a bunch of things I’m sure I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It was pretty nice to be on a vacation where I could concentrate on getting some good runs in, then keep my legs loose by walking around canyons and mountains the rest of the day. I sure could get used to that kind of lifestyle.

However, it’s back to reality now. We enjoyed our first trip to Colorado and definitely want to go back…hopefully when there’s less snow. I’m about three weeks out from the Bayshore Marathon now and feeling strong. This Sunday I’ll run my first race of the year – the Borgess Half Marathon in Kalamazoo. It was my first (and fourth) half marathon. I’m not tapering at all and I know I should NOT “race” it. I have 16 miles on the schedule that day and plan to use the race to get through most of those miles. I’m looking forward to getting back to the racing environment and getting some practice in before the marathon!

– Janet

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