Warm Up Columbus Half Marathon Recap

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There are two main reasons I ended up in Dublin, Ohio for the Warm Up Columbus Half Marathon on Sunday, February 18th. First, I was at the halfway point of training for the Glass City Marathon and Hal Higdon’s training plan calls for a half marathon race at that point. Second, there are very few half marathons around this area in the middle of February. The only half I found in Michigan was in Mt. Pleasant. That one sounds like a nice race, but a chunk of the course is on dirt roads. With all of the snow we’ve had lately, I worried that the dirt roads could be icy due to daytime thawing followed by nighttime refreezing. I came across the Columbus race when I searched for races in neighboring states. It would take 3.5-4 hours to drive there, which I considered doable. Higdon emphasizes that it’s not necessary to race a half on that specific day just because it’s on the schedule. I was curious to test my fitness level though, and hoped to turn it into a fun adventure.

I had never been to the Columbus area and didn’t know much about it. I know that it’s enemy country – home of THE Ohio State University. That meant I would NOT dare to wear any of my University of Michigan gear during the trip. Aside from that, I’d heard good things about the Columbus Zoo. Matt had to work and wasn’t available to go with me, but I was up for the solo adventure and a chance to take some fun photos.

I left home early on Saturday morning and got to the zoo before 11:00. Admission was half-off because half of the exhibits are closed during the winter. I knew to expect that, but it was still a bummer to walk past a bunch of empty exhibits. The zoo was not very busy and I’m sure the weather played a role. It was around 30°F but the real-feel was colder. I enjoyed the aquarium and reptile exhibits because I could warm up inside!

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One of the polar bears was pretty active, so that was a highlight for me. 

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After a couple hours, I was so cold that I reached a breaking point. I had gloves, but they weren’t thick enough and my hands were frozen. I had seen most of the open exhibits by then, so I’d had enough. I’ll have to visit the zoo again sometime when it’s warmer and all of the exhibits are open.

Early packet pickup took place at a Fleet Feet running store nearby, so I went there next. After I got my stuff, I went to see a waterfall a few minutes away from my hotel. I had checked TripAdvisor.com prior to my trip and it listed Indian Run Falls near the top of the list in Dublin, Ohio. It was beautiful! A short path through the woods takes you to various observation areas. I may have spent 20 minutes or so taking in the view from different vantage points. It had started to snow, and it made things look even more gorgeous.

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When I had almost reached my hotel, I got sidetracked when I saw a sign for an ice cream store. I hadn’t eaten much besides snacks all day so I was tempted. I had never heard of Graeter’s Ice Cream so I looked at Yelp in the parking lot before going in. It had great ratings, which was apparent when I saw the long line inside! They make their chocolate chips (more like chunks) in a special way and it tasted amazing. There are several locations around Columbus and one around Cleveland, so it will definitely be on my radar when I’m around either city in the future.

I settled at my hotel for a bit until I went out to pick up dinner. Noodles and Company is one of my standard pre-race meals and there was one close by. I spent the rest of the night relaxing while watching the Olympics.

I had chosen to stay at the host hotel which was located right by the start/finish line. There were a couple of other hotels along the street as well. Nothing beats the convenience of staying right by the starting line. We’ve done it for a few other races, and it’s always nice to have access to a real bathroom and head outside just minutes before the start of the race. I went out to my car 45 minutes early to make sure I was dressed appropriately. The snow from the night before hadn’t accumulated, but it left the roads wet. Since the temperature was around 30°F, there were a lot of slick spots. I had been debating if I could get away with shorts, but ultimately went with tights so I’d have a buffer in case I wiped out!

I went back outside 10 minutes before the start of the race and did a very short jog out on the road to test the surface. I didn’t even attempt to run in the parking lot because I slid around too much. The road wasn’t a whole lot better. There was a lack of traction in spots but I didn’t fall, so I hoped I wouldn’t during the race either.

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A unique thing about this race, which might be a deal-breaker for some, is that it involves multiple loops. One-mile loops. Around what is essentially an office park. That meant I would run the same course THIRTEEN times. I weighed the pros and cons prior to signing up. After I survived a 17-mile run on the treadmill the previous weekend, I figured I could surely handle one-mile loops.

The race offered 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon distances. A half might seem crazy enough, but looping 26 times would really be a challenge. Because the course was exactly a mile, the 5K and half runners started 0.1 miles from the finish, and the 10K and full runners started 0.2 miles back. We started three minutes before they did, so that helped stagger things a little bit. 

After some announcements, I took off with the 5K and half runners at 8:00. I remembered to hit my lap button at 0.1 miles so the splits would line up.

Photo: Robb McCormick Photography - https://www.robbmccormick.com

Race photo courtesy of Robb McCormick and Cap City Sports Media

The route took us counterclockwise on one side of the road past my hotel, by some office buildings, behind Graeter’s and Max & Erma’s, and by more office buildings. The highlight of the “scenery” was probably a man-made lake between office buildings.

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The course was measured from the left edge of the road, so I tried to stay there as much as I could. Traction was a bit of an issue for me for at least 2-3 loops. Every now and then I’d run along the curb where it wasn’t slippery, but it was at an angle that was not ideal for extended periods of running. Eventually the road began to dry out as people kept running on it. It helped that the sun came out as well.

I knew that congestion would be a big factor during this race. With over 400 people running the same one-mile loop on one side of the road, there’s no avoiding it. Around 100 people each ran the 5K and 10K, so a lot of the people cleared out before the later miles of my race. The half had the most people – 186 finishers. It looks like 50 people were strong enough (crazy enough?!) to run the full. There was one water/Gatorade stop just after the finish line. Of course that was the busiest area, so I really had to pay attention and dodge people there. I had my own bottle of GU Brew so I didn’t make any stops. I think one thing that distracted me from the monotony of multiple loops was constantly dodging people – and allowing myself to be dodged as well. Everyone was in it together and it’s just how it worked, so I didn’t let it bother me…aside from the one time when someone came to a dead stop in front of me at the aid station. I tried to veer away from the aid station during the following loops. It wasn’t always possible to stick to the left side of the road, but I sure tried, even if it meant running by the curb now and then as I passed people.

There weren’t any stretches of the route that bothered me, so that also helped me tolerate the loops. I noticed the wind a little bit on one stretch, but it was pretty minor. Although my watch shows that there was some change in elevation, this course was pretty much as flat as could be. No hills to dread with each loop!

The most excitement along the course occurred by the finish line. Music was playing and plenty of people gathered there to cheer. The aid station was nice and loud as well. The rest of the course was pretty mellow. A few people were scattered along the rest of the route to support friends or family members.

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For the most part, I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery. I was there to work. I didn’t have a specific goal for the race, aside from wanting to run hard. I figured at a minimum I wanted to maintain my goal marathon pace of 8:00 miles, but of course I hoped for better. The main goal was to see what I had in me halfway through my marathon training. I didn’t watch my pace too closely and mostly ran by feel. I managed to stay pretty consistent. I counted the laps and hoped I’d have it in me to pick up the pace during the later laps. 

Photo: Robb McCormick Photography - https://www.robbmccormick.com

Me in “work” mode – photo courtesy of Robb McCormick and Cap City Sports Media

Somehow my pace sped up gradually. I still don’t know how that just happens…but I’m glad it does! Once I counted the 10th lap, I told myself that after that lap I only had two left. I figured with less than 5K left it was “go” time. I really picked up the pace for the last couple miles, giving it everything I had left for the last mile. I was pretty tired by then and struggled a bit with fatigue. Aside from making my nose run, the temperature had been fine for me. However, the faster I ran the more I noticed that it was hard to breathe in the cold air. I pushed through and had a solid finish.

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Approaching the finish – photo courtesy of Robb McCormick and Cap City Sports Media

I didn’t realize that results were based on the gun time. I started about seven seconds back from the line, so the official results and my Garmin differed slightly.

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I was really happy with my time. Although it wasn’t a PR, it was the fastest half I’ve run in three years. It tells me that I’m really on track with my training.

I had to take a few minutes to recover after crossing the finish line. The cold air and my fast finish weren’t a good combo, so I had to try not to hyperventilate or have a coughing fit. Eventually I was fine.

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Water, bananas, and granola bars were supplied at the finish line. Bagels, pizza, and warm drinks were available inside the convention center part of the hotel. The pizza was really good. A couple people were available to look up results, and age group awards were on a table. I wasn’t quite speedy enough for one of those.

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Since I was done before 10:00 and checkout was at noon, I had enough time to go back to my room and shower before starting the drive home.

This is obviously not a destination kind of race. The route is not scenic or especially exciting. The name “Warm Up Columbus” mostly refers to warming up for upcoming races like Boston, the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, or in my case, Glass City. This race is great in those terms. It was well-organized and I was really happy with my experience. I might not go out of my way to run it as a goal race, but it was a great way to experience the race environment and test my current level of fitness.

This race also helped me realize what I still need to work on prior to the marathon. For one thing, the tips of my toes ended up hurting by the end of the run. They were sore, but luckily I didn’t have any blisters. When I double the distance, it could get ugly. I will try different shoes for my upcoming long runs and see if one pair is more ideal than another for longer distances.

I also need to make sure I hydrate enough. I only drank about 10 oz. of my GU Brew during the race. Just like the shoes, it worked fine for a half, but I have to make sure I drink a lot more during a marathon.

Other than that, I think I’m on track. A race calculator predicts that I can run a 3:33 marathon based on this half marathon time. I’m training for a 3:30 marathon, so I’m pretty close. I need a 3:40 to BQ, meaning I probably need at least a 3:37 to actually get into Boston. Here’s hoping the second half of training continues to go well and all of the pieces fall into place on race day.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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Weeks 5-8 of Training for the Glass City Marathon

Another four weeks has gone by and my training continues for Toledo’s Glass City Marathon. Coping with the snow has me rethinking how smart it is to train for an early spring marathon! While the extreme cold temperatures were more of a problem the previous weeks of training, snow has been the latest issue. It requires so much extra effort to run even if there’s just a coating of snow. I run on the treadmill most of the week, so by the weekend I’m dying to get outside. When I get outside, it’s a difficult slog through the snow that makes me want to get back to the treadmill. Still, I’ve managed to train through it one way or another. Here’s how the last four weeks have gone:

Week #5

I spent a lot of time on the treadmill during the week, but I did get outside for an easy run on Wednesday. I followed up with 10 miles on the bike in the basement, but I don’t think that was the best idea. I’ve been taking Mondays or Wednesdays off of running as I’ve eased into six days of running, and this was the first week I hit six days. From this point on, I’ll probably neglect the bike until the marathon is done. I’ll maintain my swimming routine, but juggling the bike with six days of running is a bit much.

Saturday’s 7-mile run at Stony Creek Metropark was wonderful. It was 39 degrees and sunny! It’s amazing how much your mood can change when the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

Sunday is when I had 14 miles on my schedule and I ran 11 miles prior to Chill at the Mills 5K – recap here.

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Chill at the Mills 5K in Rochester, MI

Totals for week #5: 36 miles of running, 10 miles of biking, 3.5 miles of swimming, and two weights/strength sessions (45 minutes for one, 20 minutes for the other)

Week #6

I dropped back down to five days of running this week because I was busy one night, and it probably helped keep my legs fresh for my first big speed workout from the Hansons training plan. Their beginning marathon plan starts speed work the sixth week and I’ve chosen to incorporate their Tuesday workouts into my Higdon marathon plan. The first workout was 12x400m on the treadmill. I started the first three 400s at 10K pace and felt good, so I kept increasing my pace for each set of three until I finished the last set at 5K pace.

It was warm enough for shorts for my Saturday run! The weather has been all over the place this winter. I ran the 8-mile loop at Indian Springs Metropark, aiming to do seven of the miles at marathon pace. I was too fast by at least 10 seconds per mile. It might seem minor, but I really need to work on slowing down. If I run like that during the marathon, it’s bound to backfire in the late miles.

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Indian Springs Metropark

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Indian Springs Metropark

I had a cut-back week for my long run, so I was down to 10 miles on Sunday. It was in the 30s and most of the snow and ice had melted, so I decided to run from home while I could. I knew the snow would be back the next day and I wouldn’t be able to run around town again for a bit. It was a gorgeous day in Rochester.

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Totals for week #6: 34 miles of running, 3 miles of swimming, and two weights/strength sessions around 45 minutes each

Week #7

Back to six days of running this week. It’s been a year since I’ve run 40+ miles in a week and it went well. I nailed another Tuesday workout on the treadmill – 8x600m repeats. Again, I started around 10K pace and kept speeding up to hit 5K pace for the last couple 600s. I also opted for the treadmill on Saturday when I had eight miles to run at marathon pace. The cold was back (real-feel in the single digits) and I did NOT feel like dealing with it. I feel comfortable at marathon pace when I can dial it in on the treadmill and just roll. I know I have to get a feel for running it naturally outside though.

By Sunday I was anxious to get outside for my 16-mile long run. It was a tough one, to say the least. We got snow the night before and it continued through my run. The path at Stony Creek Metropark was not cleared when I got there. I wore my trail shoes hoping it would give me more traction, but any gaps between the lugs on the bottoms of my shoes filled in with snow right away.

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

One cool thing about this run was that the Hansons-Brooks team was out training. Watching the pros fly by as if the snow wasn’t a factor inspired me. However, it seemed like the longer I ran, the more I struggled with traction. Even though there was just a coating to an inch of snow, running in those conditions was slow and draining. I felt pretty miserable at the end. It did not help ONE BIT that as soon as I finished and walked to my car, a truck finally came along to plow the path. Great timing. My legs were a little sore following this one and I developed a knot in my left calf that stuck around for most of the week.

Totals for week #7: 43 miles of running, 3 miles of swimming, and two weights/strength sessions around 45 minutes each

Week #8

Despite time with the foam roller and the stick, I couldn’t seem to work that knot out of my calf and it was pretty tender to the touch. I felt it for the first few steps of my runs this week, but luckily it faded as I kept going. I thought I might need to get a massage, but by Friday it finally loosened up on its own. I had 6x800m for my Tuesday workout and it went well. After spending all week on the treadmill, I was ready to get outside on Saturday.

We got a ton of snow on Friday and it continued on Saturday. I went to Oakland University because I know they plow the sidewalks. Some spots around the core parts of campus were totally clear, but other spots had enough of a coating to make me struggle again.

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Eight miles felt like a lot of work, and stopping for pictures of the scenery was the one saving grace. Working my legs extra hard as I trudged through the snow left me a bit sore, so I didn’t think I could do it for 17 more miles on Sunday.

Initially I thought I’d head to Stony and hope that the path was clear enough. I changed my mind when I saw the weather forecast, which called for more snow and even freezing rain. There was no way I would attempt 17 miles through that. It didn’t seem like 17 miles on the treadmill was a good option either, but I decided to try. I downloaded a bunch of episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Netflix and set my phone up on the treadmill to watch. Episodes are only 15-20 minutes long and he has a bunch of fun guests. It was a great distraction and I could just listen when it bothered my eyes to look down at the small screen for too long. I ended up on a treadmill that shut down every hour, so I had a brief break a couple times when I had to restart the treadmill. I broke it up into segments of 6.25 miles, 6.25 miles, and 4.5 miles. Mentally, that was easier than looking at it as 17 straight miles. Somehow I pulled it off! I went through a 25 oz. bottle of water, a 21 oz. bottle of GU Brew, and ate three Clif Shot Bloks every five miles. When I had to scrape a thick layer of ice off my car afterward, I knew the treadmill had been the right choice for me. Nonetheless, I’d prefer not having to do that again!

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Totals for week #8:  44 miles of running, 3 miles of swimming, and two weights/strength sessions (45 minutes for one, 30 minutes for the other)

Up next – a half marathon next weekend. I’m almost halfway through my 18-week plan and Hal Higdon’s schedule calls for a half marathon race. It’s not necessary to race, but I like the idea of seeing where I stand and what I’m capable of at this point. I found a race in Columbus, Ohio that sounds pretty interesting. I plan on going to explore a place I’ve never been and I’ll make a fun weekend out of it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz