Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo Recap

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.

Romeo always wants to be a part of the action, so of course he was there to photo bomb my picture of the race shirt

Romeo always wants to be a part of the action, so of course he was there to photobomb my picture of the race shirt

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 5k start

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 5k route

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!

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 5k finish

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 5k results

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.

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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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 5k finish2

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 10k start

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 10k finish

2017-09-10 detroit zoo 10k results.jpg

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo medal.jpg

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.

2017-09-10 detroit zoo party1

2017-09-10 detroit zoo party2

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:

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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.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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Crim 10-Mile Race Recap

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A photo I took at Crim in 2016

In 2015, I ran the Crim 10-Mile race for the first time and immediately understood why so many local runner friends run the race every year. I had a blast and was excited to run again in 2016. Unfortunately, a stress fracture left me sidelined and I could only spectate. I’m glad that I went to cheer for Matt and other friends because it was still an inspirational and fun experience to watch a race of that size. I was a bit heartbroken that I couldn’t participate, so it made me even more anxious to get back to the race in 2017. I was healthy and ready to go, and ran my second Crim on Saturday, August 26.

I really had no idea how to approach this race or what kind of pace to aim for. When I ran in 2015, I was in the middle of marathon training. I was averaging 50+ miles per week and was very familiar with what paces I could run for various distances. I’ve been averaging 25 miles per week recently and have not been targeting specific paces at all. I recovered from last summer’s stress fracture only to have the area flare up again in January. I’ve been extra cautious about speed and mileage since my return to running in April. I had done a couple of 10-mile long runs and one 11-mile run in the last couple months, but haven’t been doing any structured speed work. The only real speed I’ve done has been during my triathlons throughout the summer. I wondered if it was reasonable to aim for an 8:00 pace, simply because that had been my goal marathon pace last year.

I made sure to get to Flint nice and early the morning of the race. I parked around 6:30, which gave me an hour and a half until race time. I still had to pick up my packet and I was probably parked about half a mile away.

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The design on the front of this year’s shirt

After I got my stuff and made a bathroom stop, I went back to the car to get organized and to stay warm for a few minutes. It was a clear morning, just under 50 degrees with no wind. It was perfect running weather but a bit cool for walking around in a t-shirt and shorts beforehand. Crim has historically been warm and/or humid, so the awesomely cool weather was almost unheard of.

I met up with the Chevy Running Club for a group photo at 7:30. I was sporting the team shirt and ran for GM as part of the Corporate Challenge. We had nine teams of ten people – 90 participants! That’s the most we’ve ever had for Crim. Only about half of the people made it for the group photo. Several days after the race I found out that one of our teams won the Corporate Challenge for the fourth year in a row. We have some real speedsters!

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Some of the members of the Chevy Running Club

The amazing people who have run the race for 30 or more years get to start the race early.

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After watching their start, I did a brief warm up jog then waited in the corral for 10-15 minutes. Crim’s corral system keeps things nice and organized. People are placed based on their estimated finish times and reasonably-sized waves go off every 90 seconds or so.

2017-08-26 - crim start2.jpg

As I waited for the start, I still wondered what pace to run. I killed some time by playing with an app that estimates race times based on your current results. I ran a 45:50 10K at a triathlon the previous weekend. Based on that time, it estimated I could run 1:16:36. I’d been thinking of aiming for an 8:00 pace, but this told me I may be capable of 7:40 pace. Maybe I could push a little harder than I thought? Ultimately, I planned to run by feel, have fun, and see how it went.

I was in wave C and started a few minutes after 8:00. Although my hands were a little cold for the first mile or two, I couldn’t have hoped for better racing weather. We ran past the University of Michigan-Flint’s campus within the first mile. As a Wolverine, I got pretty pumped up when I heard the Michigan fight song over a speaker. That was the first of many moments that brought a smile to my face during the race.

Triathlons are the only races I’ve done this year, and people are usually scattered and spaced out during the run segment. Crim, on the other hand, is one big swarm of people. I felt energized being a part of such a large race once again. It was a big group run with a party-like atmosphere. The people of Flint come out to support the race and keep it pretty entertaining between their cheering and antics. Like the last time I did Crim, there was beer in front of one of the frat houses, there’s “Champagne Corner,” the guy who sings karaoke (and sounds great doing it) at the end of his driveway, people bouncing on a trampoline, etc. I had to laugh when I ran past one house where a group of people sat in the front yard with a “clap track” providing applause on a loop. There was a “band” named Kyle and the D-Bags, and I quickly realized the drummer and guitar player were only pretending to play along to a recording. As I ran just behind the 8:00 pace group, I totally cracked up when one spectator (who clearly didn’t understand pace groups) excitedly yelled, “Eight o’clock group! Yeah! Go eight o’clock runners!”

In addition to being entertained, I must have gotten swept up in the magic of race day. A couple of days before the race I struggled to finish the last mile of a run at an 8:00 pace. Yet somehow when race day rolls around, it becomes easy and natural. I’m not sure how that happens, but I love when it does. I think getting into a rhythm with other runners who are running a similar pace really helps. Part of it is about going with the flow. I ran an 8:06 mile to start, then the rest of my miles were 7:50 or faster. I’d glance at my watch occasionally and be surprised by the pace, but my breathing wasn’t labored so I kept rolling with it. I used my breathing and perceived effort as a guide, not my watch.

The Bradley hills are built up as one of the most challenging parts of the course, where several climbs come between miles five and six. I powered up them, and although I was breathing a bit heavily at the end of the third and final hill, I recovered quickly. I’ve made a point of including hills in some of my runs over the last couple months. Fortunately, living in Rochester *Hills* is good for training. Some of Crim’s hills seemed minor compared to the long, steep hills I’ve been running during training. When I ran Crim a couple years ago, I actually thought the rolling hills that came later were more difficult than the Bradley hills. Somehow I barely noticed them and they didn’t really bother me this time.

All around, I had a great run. After shaking off some tightness in the first mile or so, I felt strong and smooth. I consciously tried to pick up the pace the last few miles. When I looked at my watch for the 9-mile split, I realized I could hit 1:16:00 (my 2015 time) if I ran a 7:00 mile to finish. That motivated me to give it everything I had right through the end. I didn’t account for the extra 0.09 mi I ended up running, so I finished in 1:16:15 – so close. Only 15 seconds slower than my last Crim time!

2017-08-26 - crim results

Since I didn’t look at my watch much during the run, I hadn’t realized what a solid cutdown/negative split I had run. I was pretty excited about these splits!

2017-08-26 - crim splits.jpg

I’ve had some of my best racing experiences when I’ve started slow and sped up. I wasn’t aware that I’d done it so successfully during this race. I ran by feel and I guess this is what came naturally. Everything just clicked. I wish I could bottle it up and figure out how it happened so smoothly, then always execute that well!

I got some water, chocolate milk, a couple of granola bars, then noticed a free photo tent. I waited in line for five minutes or so and they texted the picture immediately. Pretty cool!

2017-08-26 - crim hap photo

I went to the post-race celebration area next, where I got a bag of sliced apples from McDonald’s on the way to getting my free slice of pizza and a drink. I ran into a couple of friends and chatted for a bit. Before heading home, I stopped by the expo and got a pair of shoes for 15% off.

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2017-08-26 - crim medal

I’m thrilled with the results of this race. I honestly didn’t know I had it in me. My 5K and 10K triathlon times have improved as the season has gone on, but I didn’t know if it would help me enough for the longer distance. I’m sure the cool weather gave me a boost. I guess triathlon training has really worked in my favor. I’ve been running four days a week, totaling 20-25 miles most weeks. In the past, I’ve been used to running five or six days a week, doing tempo runs and speed work, and running double my recent weekly mileage. I thought I was underprepared for this race, so I really shocked myself.

This race also reinforced what I’ve found in the past – that Greg McMillan’s McRun app does a great job calculating my potential race times. I ended up running 21 seconds faster than it estimated, so it was pretty darn accurate.

Crim was a great boost to my confidence. I have the Brooksie Way half marathon coming up in a few weeks, and now I realize that I may be more prepared for it than I thought. I hope to do a couple of longer runs before then so I feel more secure, but this race left me feeling confident that I’m getting my speed back. Now that the weather is cooling down and I’m probably done with tri season, I’m looking forward to getting back to running-only events again.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz