I spent the summer concentrating solely on triathlons, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ran a really strong 10-mile race at the end of August. Triathlon season has wrapped up for me and that was the first “running-only” event I had done this year. The results got me excited to concentrate on running again, which prompted a visit to RunMichigan.com to create a list of potential races I might want to run through the end of the year.
Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo stood out because I had done the 5K in 2014. At the time, it had been a borderline PR for me and I remembered how much I loved the fast, flat course. They have a 5K, 10K, and a “Too Wild” combo that includes both. Since I had just raced 10 miles so successfully, I thought the 9.3-mile combo race sounded like a good challenge.
Sunday, September 10th was the day of the race and the weather was absolutely perfect. I got there pretty early and hung out in the car for a while since I had picked up my packet a couple days earlier. The 5K was first, and I warmed up with a half mile jog before lining up. I was happy to see pace signs to help organize the crowd.
48 degrees felt cool (but great) for the start of the 5K. I didn’t have a specific goal or a target pace. I just planned to run hard and see what happened. The course runs around the outside of the zoo, past a golf course, and through a nice neighborhood in Huntington Woods. It’s as flat as can be, and with few turns, it can make for a fast race.
I ran just above a 7-minute pace for the first couple miles and picked up after that. There’s a long, straight shot down Woodward right before the finish line. I used that stretch for my final sprint, forgetting that it was actually half a mile and that it was tough to sprint for that long!
I couldn’t believe that the clock had just turned past 21 minutes as I approached. My prior PR had been 21:31, so with a time of 21:04, I had shaved quite a chunk off of that. I hadn’t PR’ed in the 5K for three years, so I was pretty excited.
I got my medal and they handed out pre-filled water bottles. The zoo is on a mission to keep disposable bottles out of the environment, so it’s pretty cool that they had these.
They had Gatorade, apples, and bananas right after the finish line as well. I bypassed all of that because I had a specific fueling plan in mind with the 10K coming up next. The tricky part about doing a 5K/10K combo race is the downtime between races. The 5K started at 8:00 and the 10K started at 9:15. That meant I had almost an hour to kill. I had done a challenge like this once before, and it also took place on a cool morning. I ran that 5K really hard and the 10K felt pretty rough afterward. I was curious to see if the same thing would happen this time. I walked around so I wouldn’t stiffen up and went to take a picture with the famous water tower in the background.
I spent a little time in the car with the heat on and swapped my long sleeve shirt for a short sleeve one. I knew it was warming up and I wouldn’t need long sleeves for the longer distance. I had a few Clif Shot Bloks and water, hit the bathroom, then did another half mile jog to loosen up. I was relieved that the warm up jog didn’t feel too bad. It was funny to go through the routine again and line up for a second time.
The 10K felt a bit more labored, but it’s a tricky distance for me. It’s short enough to still run pretty hard, yet somehow maintain it for a longer time. My first couple miles were in the 7:30s, my next few were in the 7:20s, then I picked up through the end. The course started the same way as the 5K until we branched off on some other roads to add more distance, then we finished the same way. Although it was tough, it helped to have people around to keep me going.
Once again, I was pretty shocked and thrilled when I saw the clock. My 10K PR from a couple years earlier had been 45:16, so I had shaved five seconds off of that. Double PRs? Awesome! I felt pretty accomplished and like I had really earned the special “Too Wild” medal.
People who did the combo race weren’t eligible for age group awards in the individual races, and they didn’t have those awards for the challenge either. They posted the final results for the combo online the next day. Although I cared more about breaking my own records, it was cool to see that I was the second woman out of 79, and eighth overall out of 137!
One of the cool parts about running this race is getting free admission to the zoo afterward. They also have a post-race party with a band and a bunch of food. They had more fruit, granola bars, chips, pretzels, hot dogs, and burgers. I thought it was especially nice that they also had a black bean/veggie burger option.
After the meal, I spent 2-3 hours walking around the zoo with my camera. I am very fortunate to take photos of cars/trucks/parts for a living. The number of “fun photos” I’ve taken outside of work has dropped off considerably as running, biking, and swimming have taken over much of my time. It was nice to get the camera out and take some fun shots of the animals. Here are a bunch that I took:
I probably walked 3-4 more miles through the zoo. Although my legs were tired from racing so hard, I think I recover better if I keep moving.
I had a great day at the zoo and would definitely return to this race again in the future. It’s fun to combine a day of running with a walk through the zoo, and it’s for a good cause as well.
I’ve had some pretty good races lately and I keep surprising myself with my recent speed. When I PR’ed in the 5K and 10K in the past, I’d been running higher mileage with very specific speed workouts. The combination of swimming/biking/running plus racing often seems to be working in my favor. I’ll see how it works for me when I bump my distance up next weekend for the Brooksie Way Half Marathon.