Turkey Trail Trot / The LeftOvers Half Marathon Recap

My latest adventure was three days in a row of racing on the trails at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township, MI. When I went to the Brooksie Way expo in September, there were fliers with a discount code for the Turkey Trail Trot and LeftOvers Half Marathon. I stuck them on the fridge to keep them fresh in my mind. Since I haven’t been training for anything specific lately, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of races just for fun. I’ve been trying to do some races that have been on my radar that I haven’t done before. Although I usually go out for a run on Thanksgiving, I have never done a turkey trot race on the actual holiday. It was time to change that this year!

I thought the “run eat run” challenge sounded like fun, so I signed up to do a 10K on both Thursday and Friday. Move-It Fitness gives people the option to do 2.5 miles, 4 miles, or a 10K on both days. If you do the same distance both days, you get a medal each day plus an additional medal for the challenge. I didn’t care so much about collecting more medals, but I thought it would be something fun and different to do. I went to Tim Horton’s a couple days before the race for the early packet pickup. They requested canned goods to donate to the Rochester Area Neighborhood House, so I took a couple bags with me.

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The cotton shirt for people running Thursday and/or Friday

Stony Creek Metropark is only 10 minutes from home, so that made things nice and easy on Thanksgiving morning. The race started at 9:00, and I got there a little after 8:00. There was a pretty big crowd, which makes sense since I’ve read that Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year for running races.

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I thought it was pretty interesting that the announcements and starting line directions were made without a microphone despite the size of the crowd. Trail races seem to be a bit more laid back than road races.

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With 158 finishers in the 2.5-mile run, 210 in the 4-mile run, and 153 in the 10K, over 500 people participated. All of the races started at the same time, so they tried to organize people by pace. People aiming to run a 7-minute pace were told to line up at the front, and a woman stood at a spot to represent the cutoff point for that group. It was a chip-timed race, so the clock didn’t start for us until we crossed the line. People running an 8-minute pace went a couple minutes later, and I went with that group. Knowing that the trails are more challenging than roads and knowing that I had another day of racing coming up, I didn’t count on running sub-8 miles like I usually do for the 10K.

The start was a little challenging because people were so close together. Some parts of the trail at the beginning weren’t very wide. After watching one girl wipe out, I realized that I should back off the people in front of me so I had enough room to see the roots and patches of mud up ahead. I also realized that I should watch my footing carefully and look down pretty much the whole time. I run the trails at Stony every now and then, so I know that I need to be careful. It was even more necessary with all of the people around.

A photo from Move-It Fitness's Facebook page - I'm in the yellow

A photo from Move-It Fitness’s Facebook page – I’m in the yellow

Another photo from Move-It Fitness

Another photo from Move-It Fitness

It was about 32 degrees at the start of the race, so it was a bit cool and I battled watery eyes for a while. Aside from a small patch in spots, there wasn’t any mud to worry about. There were a lot of leaves on the trails, and sometimes they could hide the roots and rocks underneath. I knew that I should be careful, especially on several downhill stretches where I got some crazy momentum. I kept hoping that I wouldn’t fall!

Apparently they change the direction of the race each year, and this year we went counterclockwise. We hit a stretch called “The Pines” about two miles into the race. I had never run there before and really loved it. The only downside was that it was truly a single-track section and I was right behind three people and their dog. The woman in front of me told me to let her know if I wanted to pass, but I said I was okay. I wasn’t really trying to race and didn’t think it would be a big deal. The trail winds and zig-zags constantly for about a mile, and there are very few spots that are wide enough to try to pass a group. Eventually I got a little frustrated by the slower pace and finally found a spot where I was able to pass. They were totally cool about it, but I didn’t feel like there was an earlier opportunity to pass.

Once I got out of that section, I had a little more space around me for a few miles. Then I came up on the people walking the 4-mile race. I had to be vocal about passing, and everyone seemed to be friendly and willing to move over. There were hills scattered throughout the run, and some of them were kind of tough. However, the earlier hills were nothing in comparison to what came between miles five and six. There was a hill on the way up to the *real* hill, so I was already winded before I got to the worst part of it. Although I didn’t stop to walk, it felt like I was shuffling along slow enough that it could have been considered a walk. That part was brutal. Like most of the uphill stretches, a nice downhill section followed. That made for a speedy finish, and my official time was 53:14.

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My Garmin’s map of the route

My Garmin said there there was an elevation gain of 337 feet

My Garmin said there there was an elevation gain of 337 feet

They had water, bananas and some bite-size candy at the finish. I was surprised by the lack of food, but it WAS Thanksgiving and we’d have plenty of food later, so it was probably for the best.

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I saw that I had placed first in my age group, so I asked a woman in charge if they had any age group awards. She said it was just for bragging rights. I was relieved that I didn’t need to stick around since I wanted to get home and get ready for the day.

As if one day of  racing wasn’t action-packed enough, I went through the same routine the next day. The race started half an hour later and the crowd was much smaller. 36 people finished the 2.5-mile race, 51 did the 4-mile, and 47 did the 10K. That was 134 people on Friday versus 521 on Thursday. It was a few degrees warmer and the sun was out, so it was a pretty morning.

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The race was not chip-timed and we didn’t start in waves, so I got up near the front. I pushed harder during the first mile than I had the previous day because I wanted my space. I didn’t want to get stuck behind anyone in “The Pines” like I had on Thursday, and therefore I expected my time to be faster. Not getting stuck and running faster were my two goals for the day. I didn’t want to start out so fast, but I figured I’d slow down once I had some space. That method worked, and it sure helped that there was a much smaller crowd as well. I still came up on the walkers right around the time when the biggest hills hit, and once again, they were very nice about making room for me to get through. The last hill still sucked, but I toughed my way through it. I flew along to the finish again, with a final time of 52:26. I was almost 50 seconds faster than the prior day, so I was happy. My time was good for first in my age group again, and I was the second female overall thanks to such a small group for the 10K.

The color of my bib signaled that I had raced both days, so I received the additional medal for the challenge.

Medals for Thursday's and Friday's races

Medals for Thursday’s and Friday’s races

A woman at the end asked if I was coming back for the half marathon the next day. I said that I hadn’t planned on it and didn’t think I was conditioned for it. I haven’t been running consecutive days very often lately, let alone three days in a row on a challenging course.

In addition to the water, bananas, and candy they’d had on Thursday, on Friday they also had hot chocolate and cookies. I talked to a few other people who asked if I’d be back for the half marathon. I thought the two days in a row had been a good enough challenge, but the more people asked about the half, the more they put the idea into my head. By the time I got home, I decided that I’d sign up and go for it.

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I knew that I was crazy as Saturday turned into another day of deja-vu. Back to the same parking lot around 8:30 for a 9:30 start. I picked up my bib and shirt, caught up with my friend Carmen who was (smartly) running just the one day, then I went back to the car to stay warm for a bit.

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Thursday and Friday’s shirt was cotton while Saturday’s shirt was technical material

Saturday was actually pretty nice – around 46 degrees. There were a few moments of light rain before the start, but it was the warmest of the three days. Warm enough for me to go with shorts!

Saturday’s race was not chip-timed either, so I started near the front again. 111 people finished the half so it wasn’t too crowded. I started a little fast again to gain some space. I don’t like the feeling of running right on someone’s heels on the single-track portions, and I don’t want to think that I’m holding someone up behind me either. Once I had some space, I settled down to run a pace that felt more comfortable. I knew I should run as if it was a training run and not try to race – especially in the early miles.

In order to make the course long enough for a half, we branched off on one segment of the trail that we hadn’t run the other days. There was usually someone in front or behind me within the first 4-5 miles, but for a good chunk of the race I was on my own. That made it easy to run along at whatever pace I settled into.

I ran with my own bottle all three days, but utilized the aid stations this time for some water. I knew I wouldn’t place as the top female and didn’t really care about my time, so I always stopped to walk for a brief moment when I got the water. The brutal hill still sucked on the third day, but I got through the first loop of the course feeling pretty good. I was totally on my own as I started the second loop. At some point it began to rain a little bit, but luckily it didn’t last very long. When I got to “The Pines” I decided it was okay to stop and take a couple pictures. No one was coming behind me and my time didn’t matter anyway.

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11.75 miles is when things got ugly. As I flew down a hill and rounded a corner, I wiped out. It happened so fast that I don’t know if I tripped over roots, slid on leaves, or just had bad footing. I swore as I went down and was a bit startled as I sat up to assess the damage. I had dirt all over my hands and my left knee, which hurt. I had a little bit of blood on my right hand, but it didn’t seem too bad. A guy I had just passed was coming into view, so I wiped myself off and started to walk. I didn’t really want to walk it in, so I tried to run and felt good enough. I got moving, knowing I could stop at an aid station soon. When the woman there shouted out to ask if I wanted water or Gatorade, I yelled back, “Band-Aids?” They didn’t have Band-Aids, but luckily one of the volunteers had one napkin in his pocket. I poured some water on my hand, wiped it off, and it seemed like the cut was pretty minor. I held the napkin over the cut the rest of the way just in case. I heard the guy call in an injury, and I reassured them that I was fine. The woman told me that someone else had just twisted an ankle. I was thankful that at least I hadn’t done that! She reminded me that I didn’t have far to go, and I carried on. I am extremely thankful for the awesome volunteers who supported this race.

Other than one guy, I hadn’t seen any people for at least five or six miles. While I had stopped for a minute or two, a couple people came along and passed me. I wasn’t concerned with “beating” people, but seeing them helped motivate me to get moving. I gained on them when we got to the last brutal hill. The three of us seemed to take a similar approach of running as much as we could, taking a break to walk, then trying to run again. We swapped places a couple times depending on who was walking or running. Eventually I tried to push myself to keep running, got to the downhill portion, and took off…hoping I wouldn’t wipe out again!

I finished strong with a time of 1:59:06. That was good for 6th female, and 19th out of 111. Although I didn’t have a real goal going into the race, I hoped that I’d finish within two hours. Even with the downtime thanks to the wipeout, I still pulled it off.

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A photo from Move-It Fitness’s Facebook page

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Here’s what the elevation looked like for two loops. My Garmin said that there was a total gain of 801 feet.

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I went into the tent after the race, where I was thankful that they had hot chocolate and cookies again. I took some time to figure out what I’d done to myself. The blood on my hand was from a few minor scratches. The non-bloody injuries were the ones that hurt more. My knee was covered with dirt and didn’t look bad yet, but I knew it would get worse later. I realized that my right elbow hurt, so I rolled my sleeve up to reveal a scrape there. It wasn’t pretty, but I was hopeful that nothing was too bad.

I went back out and saw Carmen coming into the finish, so I took some pictures and cheered her on.

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The top male and female runners received a free Metroparks pass for 2018. They didn’t have any other prizes, so I didn’t stick around too long after the race. After three days of racing, I was ready to get home and rest.

The day after the race, I’m surprised that I’m not more sore. I thought for sure that the uphill climbs and flying down the hills would beat me up. I think running on the softer trail surface really helped. I also think my wipeout injuries are helping to overshadow any soreness from the running. My knee hurt a bit on Saturday, but isn’t too bad now. It hurts if I touch it and I’m sure it will turn into a really ugly bruise in the next few days, but it doesn’t feel like I did anything serious. I have a variety of other scratches and bruises, and my upper right arm hurts and aches as if I got a tetanus shot. I know there’s always a greater risk of injury on trails. I’m just thankful that it happened on the last day with just over a mile left!

Despite finishing bruised and battered, I feel pretty accomplished following this 3-day experience. I’m glad I chatted with other runners who gave me the push to go for it. It seemed like a crazy idea at first to go for all three days, but I knew that others were going to do the same thing, and I reassured myself that I was capable of doing it as well. It gives me a confidence boost that maybe I can consider running a spring marathon – something I’ve been questioning lately. In the meantime, I’m having fun kind of winging it. I still might squeeze in a holiday race or two before the year ends.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

 

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Big Bird Run 10K

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On Sunday, November 12th I ran the Big Bird Run 10K in Roseville, MI. The race has been around for 39 years and I’ve considered running it several times but never got around to it. My friend Carmen has run the race many times and talking to her reaffirmed that I should sign up this year. Perks she listed included a flat course, a good shot at age group awards, and great raffle prizes.

The 10K was scheduled to start at 10:20, so the late start was another bonus. I didn’t have to wake up super early! I still got there a bit early because people running the 1-mile race started at 10:00, with the 4K following at 10:15. A volunteer motioned for me to park in a lot a short walk from the rec center where the race was based. When I got my packet I saw that there was plenty of parking right by the front door, so I moved my car closer. That was a wise choice because it made it easy to grab a hat at the last minute when it started to rain, plus I could get my coat to stay warm right after I finished.

The rec center had real restrooms and a warm gym where we could hang out beforehand. I found Carmen and her mom, and Carmen reminded me to submit the raffle ticket on my bib so I’d have a chance to win one of the many turkeys!

It was just under 40 degrees, and with a little bit of light rain, I opted to wear a jacket. I was a little warm during the race and probably could have gone without it, but I didn’t know if the rain would pick up. Luckily the rain was very minimal and didn’t last the whole time.

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I lined up after watching the 4K racers (including Carmen’s mom) start. Carmen had warned me that it was easy to start too fast at this race, and sure enough, I did. I held steady for the first couple miles and it felt like an easy pace, but eventually I fizzled out and it was a harder effort the rest of the race. We started on a couple of busier roads, then the rest of the run was on residential roads and through a couple of parks. The course was totally flat other than the twisty climb up and over a pedestrian bridge twice. It definitely felt harder the second time, but the way down gave me a nice burst of speed. I also found a little bit of extra speed at the end when we had a straightaway of nearly a quarter mile. My official time was 46:56. It’s not one of my fastest 10K times, but I was happy enough with how it went.

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Carmen came through shortly after me with a big PR! You can read about her race on her blog.

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They had bagels and fruit in the gym, where they were giving out the awards for the earlier races. We checked the raffle board to see if our bib numbers were listed under various prizes. Carmen’s mom won a turkey! We realized we should find the results to see if we had placed in our age groups. I had won mine and Carmen was second in hers.

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I won a Michelob Ultra prize with a high-quality drawstring bag that had a windbreaker inside, plus a medal. Carmen won a nice plaque.

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2017-11-12 - big bird windbreaker

It took a while to get through all of the awards, but Carmen told me that it was worth sticking around through the very end. At that point they drew numbers until they gave away all of the unclaimed raffle prizes. We were especially interested in the one remaining turkey. After drawing numbers of a bunch of people who had left, Carmen’s number was called! She and her mom BOTH won turkeys! What a nice Thanskgiving for them.

Knowing that the race has been around for 39 years, I had thought it would draw a bigger crowd. It looks like 39 people did the mile, 105 did the 4K, and 169 did the 10K. It wasn’t a huge crowd, so it made for a nice, small hometown race. Hansons Running Shop supports the race, and their runner Mel Brender (who sold me some shoes a week earlier!) won the women’s 10K. They also provided the runners with a pair of gloves in the race packets. 

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It was cool to see a bunch of local running friends and run a nice, flat race with fun prizes. I just may have to return next year for the 40th year of the race!

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Romeo was attracted to my prize instantly

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

GM Global Facilities 5K Recap

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On Saturday, November 4th, Trivium Racing and GM partnered up to present a 5K at GM’s Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Since I work there, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. I wanted to be supportive of the Chevy Running Club and the charities that would benefit from the race – the Special Olympics and Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit. I signed up right away and even got Matt’s permission to sign him up…though he was very reluctant. He practically lives at work lately, has barely been running, and hasn’t had any desire to race. I was excited that we’d finally do a race together since it had been nearly a year since we’d done so.

The race started at 9:00 and we got there a little after 8:00. We got our shirts and bibs then went back to the car to stay warm. It was around 40 degrees with a light breeze, and I’m not used to the cooler weather yet.

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A nice long sleeve shirt

The shirt and medal feature a water tower, the Design Dome, and other architecture from the campus. The famous architect Eero Saarinen designed the Tech Center campus, which is a square mile. We only got to see a little portion of it during the race since we did a 1.5-mile loop twice. I’m sure it’s hard to shut down too many roads when some people still need to get to work, plus this loop was logistically ideal.

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Eventually we ventured back out into the cold. I was surprised that I only came across a handful of people who I knew from work. I knew that Marty, who recently retired, and his wife, Cheryl, would be there. We got to chat a little bit before the race. Rather than do the organized stretches and warm up with LifeSteps, I opted to do a warm up jog.

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LifeSteps led a warm up session with the Design Dome in the background

I started my jog along the lake and my eyes started to water instantly. I didn’t think 40 degrees should seem that cold! I think it’s a great temperature for a longer race like a half marathon, when I’m running a slower pace. Trying to run fast when it’s cold is tough though, which is why I made sure to get the blood flowing beforehand. Right before the start, I joined some members of the Chevy Running Club for a group photo.

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Once the race started, I noticed right away that my breathing felt labored in the cold air. It has been pretty warm until recently and apparently I’m not acclimated yet. Despite doing a warm up jog, my feet felt semi-numb for the first half of the race. I was surprised that I was so wimpy about the cold!

One great thing about the race route was that it was totally flat. They had music playing at one spot, a very enthusiastic woman giving high-fives and cheering in another spot, and a woman in a Cookie Monster onesie who made me smile.

As I finished my first loop, the announcer said that the second, third, and fourth place women were close to each other and that it would be quite a finish. I realized that meant I was in fourth place. The woman in front of me wasn’t slowing down, so I didn’t think there was a chance I’d catch her. However, the woman in front of her did slow down during the second loop. I normally think about running my own race and don’t worry about trying to beat other people, but knowing that I could get a prize for being one of the top three women helped motivate me to keep pushing. Eventually I caught one of the women and I knew I better finish strong because I didn’t know how close she might be behind me. Trying to run 5K pace is always a challenge, but dealing with labored breathing in the cold made it even harder. My legs felt fine but my lungs did not.

2017-11-04 tech center 5k - splits

My official finishing time was 22:12.9. They tracked both chip and gun start times, and for some reason mine was the same. I didn’t start at the front though, and it definitely took me a few seconds before I crossed the line. My chip time probably should have been more like my Garmin’s time, so I’m not sure what happened there. It’s only a few seconds so I don’t really care, but if that had cost me my third place finish I may have cared. Especially since the official times show that the next woman was only one second behind!

(Edit – A couple days after I wrote this I realized they used gun times for the overall winners and chip times for everyone else. They made an announcement about that prior to the race, but it didn’t really register with me because I didn’t think I’d be fast enough to worry about it!)

I looked pretty miserable in my finishing photos, so I’m going to try to forget about those. Matt and Marty looked pretty good finishing though!

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Matt with both feet off the ground, flying into the finish

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Marty finishing strong!

I grabbed a granola bar and some pretzels then went back to the car with Matt so we could crank the heat. We put some extra layers on and sat there for a bit until it was time for the awards ceremony. I got a pretty cool prize for placing as the third woman.

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Matt and Cheryl both won age group awards. They received a cool cup.

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We caught up with Marty and Cheryl and took some photos together before it got too cold for us.

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2017-11-04 tech center 5k - cheryl janet matt.jpg

Overall, it was a great race. A little over 300 people participated, which is pretty good for the first year. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do for the race in the future. They already mentioned doing it when it’s a little warmer next time, which sounds good to me. Although the combination of the cold and the struggle of running as hard as I could for three miles wasn’t especially fun at the time, I was pretty happy about the race later…when I was nice and warm. It always depends on who shows up, but I was pretty excited to be one of the top three women. I was also happy that Matt and I got to enjoy a race experience together. I hope it won’t be another year now before we race together again!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz