Sherman Lake YMCA AquaDash Recap

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On Sunday, March 25th, I participated in the AquaDash at the Sherman Lake YMCA in Augusta, MI. I have done the Shermanator triathlon there a couple times and really enjoyed it, so I knew I could count on this being another great event. When I first came across this race, it definitely stood out as one I wanted to do. It combined 20 minutes in the pool with 20 minutes on the treadmill. It would give me a little taste of multi-sport action a few months before it gets warm enough for tri season. It would also allow me to enjoy my two strengths in the triathlon while skipping my weakness – the bike. It fell during a “down” weekend for my marathon training, so I could get away with squeezing it into my schedule. Instead of running six miles on Saturday and 12 miles on Sunday as scheduled, I did my long run on Saturday and decided to call it good with whatever distance I’d run during the race on Sunday.

We had a nice visit with Matt’s family the day before the race and celebrated his dad’s birthday. We stayed with Matt’s parents and I only had a 10-minute drive to the Y in the morning. There were multiple waves and my start time was 8:45. I got there around 8:00, picked up my race shirt, then scoped out the pool and treadmill areas. The pool has a nice observation deck above it, so I sat there for a little bit and watched one of the earlier waves. People were doing different strokes and there was a variety of skill levels. I was especially impressed to see a younger girl. Several kids did the race and I think that’s awesome.

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Eventually I went to the locker room to get ready. I noticed that other women had laid their stuff out on the benches, so I did the same. Seeing as how our swim-to-run transition time was only five minutes, I didn’t want to waste any time fumbling with the combination on my locker.

I went out to the pool as the previous wave finished. They had big benches along the wall where I could leave my towel, and I gave a sheet to a volunteer who would count my laps. The pool had six lanes and my wave was full. One major perk that got me to sign up for this race was that each person had his or her own lane. Some races place two people in a lane and I would much rather have my own space.

When I saw that I had been assigned to the first lane, I was a little wary of being stuck by the wall. I was happy when I saw the lane though. It was actually wider than the middle lanes. Plus, the pool had really nice gutters so there was no splash-back. That’s a luxury I don’t have in my regular lap pool. My pool does not have gutters and it can seem like a wave pool at times, especially when swimming by the wall.

We had a few minutes to get in the pool to warm up once the other swimmers finished. I had just enough time to swim a lap and hear the pre-race instructions before it was time to start. It seemed like everyone blasted off much faster than I did, and I told myself that I just happened to be the slowest one in my wave. Something funny happened though. Within a few laps, at least half the people had switched from freestyle to breaststroke! Since I swam free the whole time, I started to catch up and pass some of the people. It didn’t really matter what everyone else was doing anyway since I had to swim my own race.

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Thanks to the AquaDash volunteers for sharing pictures!

One thing that threw me off was the water temperature. It was really warm. Within a couple laps I could feel my face burning. It felt nice when I got into the pool, but not as nice once I got moving. I’m not sure how accurately my watch measures the temperature, but it says that my gym’s pool is usually around 77 degrees and this pool was 84 degrees. It made me appreciate the cooler temperature of my normal pool, even if it’s a little cold when I first hop in.

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I don’t have much of a race mode when I swim, so I settled into my usual slow and steady rhythm. I’m used to swimming in a 25-meter pool, so the 25-yard pool made me adjust my rhythm slightly. Each length was only a couple strokes shorter for me. I knew that I should be able to swim a minimum of 45 lengths. I counted in my head as I swam and gave an extra push once I hit 35 lengths or so. That extra “push” meant maybe a second faster per length. I may have picked up the pace by a couple seconds for the last couple laps. Since I couldn’t hear any of the time warnings they yelled out, I snuck a glance at my watch a couple times. I saw 19:13 after pushing off the wall when I had completed 44 lengths, and I hoped I could squeeze two more in. I stopped when I came back to the wall and saw that I had three seconds left. Perfect! I waited for time to run out and got out of the pool. I was thankful that I wasn’t at the other end of the pool when the time expired. With only five minutes to transition to the run, I didn’t want to waste a minute.

The volunteer who logged my laps must have miscounted because my sheet said I swam 48 lengths and I counted 46. It was entirely possible that I could have counted wrong, so I didn’t question it at the time. When I looked at my watch’s splits the next day, it confirmed that I had done 46 lengths. I didn’t get too hung up on it though. When I saw the final results, I knew the 50 extra yards wouldn’t have affected my placing one way or the other.

When I got into the locker room, I dried off quickly, threw a t-shirt and tri shorts on over my swimsuit, got my socks and shoes on, then struggled to get my pool-soaked ponytail through the hole of my hat. I grabbed my iPod and water bottle and headed to the treadmill. I think they were a little lenient about the 5-minute transition because they seemed to wait an extra minute until we were all ready.

When it was time to start, I was frustrated that I had to crank the speed up from zero. I’m used to treadmills that give a few quick-start options, so I’ll typically start at a 10:00 pace and speed up from there. If there were any quick-start options on these treadmills, I didn’t know it. It was a long, slow drag getting up to speed. I was anxious to kick it right into gear! Eventually I made it to 6:58 pace and held that for about 13 minutes. Although I could feel that I was working really hard, I think I needed a mental break from the speed more than a physical one. I slowed down to the 8:20s for a minute, then decided I was ready to speed up again.

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It was all good until I managed to completely blow it by accidentally hitting the emergency stop button. The treadmill had a tray area where I had set a towel. I wiped my hands on it and the emergency stop was at the edge where my towel was sitting. It only required a slight nudge down to set it off. That cleared my time, distance…everything. A volunteer came by and I explained what had happened. I told her I’d just have to use the info from my watch. I had to crank the speed up from zero again, which took forever. I only had a couple minutes left, so I went as fast as 6:40 at that point. Soon enough, the 20 minutes were up.

Of course I was annoyed that I’d been such a klutz, but there was nothing I could do to fix it. I was thankful that at least I had my watch. I don’t always trust its accuracy on the treadmill, but I think it was somewhat on track during this race based on when the alerts went off for the first two miles. It claimed that I had run 2.74 miles, so the volunteer wrote that down on my sheet. I thought I’d been capable of peaking around 2.9 miles, so it was probably pretty accurate when you factor in my two slow ramp-ups from zero.

There was a pancake breakfast afterward, so I enjoyed some pancakes and a bowl of fruit when I was done. I saw that I was the top female so far, but some people were still racing. I had about an hour to kill between the end of my race and the end of the last wave. With only 31 participants, I figured I should stick around for the results.

Distances for the swim and run were combined and counted as a total distance in yards. Between 48 lengths and 2.74 miles, my total was 6,022.40 yards. That was good enough for me to place as the second woman overall. The fastest woman was in the final wave and swam 61 lengths and ran 2.85 miles (6,541 yards). As much as I wish I had won the top prize (a free entry to the Shermanator triathlon in August), I didn’t stand a chance against her! At least my mishap on the treadmill didn’t cost me anything. I placed first in my age group and received this award:

 

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It’s too bad I can’t really put it to use since I’m not from the area. All participants received a 10% discount on the Shermanator, so at least I can use that since I plan on doing the race again.

I really enjoyed this race and it was nice to put both my swim and run training to use. August was my last triathlon and I probably won’t do another until June, so I was happy to do some kind of multi-sport event in the meantime. I performed pretty much along the lines of what I expected from myself, aside from the part where I totally screwed up on the treadmill. It’s not the first time I’ve screwed up during a race and it probably won’t be the last. I guess now I have another thing to add to my growing list of race mistakes to learn from! Hopefully I’ll do this race again next year and try to redeem myself.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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A Month Until the Glass City Marathon

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Sunrise at Stony Creek Metropark

I’m approaching the end of my 14th week of training for the Glass City Marathon in Toledo and have about a month to go until race day. Things are going well, although tweaks, stiffness, and little pains have become more common. That’s one of many fun parts of marathon training. Nothing has been too serious or lasted more than a couple of days though.

This is the fourth marathon that I’ve trained for, and one thing I don’t remember experiencing before is night sweats. One week when my mileage had increased quite a bit, I woke up a couple nights in a row covered in sweat. A few days later I happened to come across an article about weird things that happen to your body when you run a lot, and night sweats was one of them. Pretty interesting! Luckily as your body adjusts to the training, that stops.

Aside from that, things have been pretty typical. I eat all the time, so I haven’t really been crazy hungry. I don’t think I’ve given myself a chance to get hungry since I’m always snacking on something. I’ve only gotten really thirsty a few times, and I think it has usually happened the day after a really long run when I didn’t rehydrate enough.

One tricky part of marathon training is trying to determine when I should run through the aches and pains and when I should take some time off. It’s important to become accustomed to running on tired legs. At the same time, I need to make sure that I’m not pushing through something that could leave me injured. I’ve only taken an extra rest day once in recent weeks. My legs weren’t just tired – my shins were sore and one ankle/shin felt tweaked and locked up. It wasn’t worth the risk, so I skipped a short run on an easy day. I’ve also had knee pain related to my IT band a couple times. It first popped up at the end of a 19-mile long run. It came back the next day a couple miles into my easy recovery run. It was bad enough to shut down the rest of the run. Since then, I’ve been extra diligent about doing hip/glute exercises, foam rolling, stretching, etc. and have managed to keep it at bay.

Getting off of the pavement is one way I try to avoid beating myself up too much. I keep the treadmill in the mix quite a bit. I’ve gotten out to the track a few times recently as well. The softer surface sure is nice, and I seem to hit faster paces more easily on the track.

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A warm & beautiful day on the track

 

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A not-so-warm or beautiful day on the track

I love running on our local rail-to-trails as often as I can, but they’re not ideal during the winter. They’re pretty sloppy this time of year. Once most of the snow had melted, I thought I’d give it a try. I found that the surface was all across the spectrum – totally dry and clear in some spots, damp and muddy in some spots, and patches of snow and ice in other spots. In those conditions, I usually only ventured out on easy days when I was willing to splash through mud. Luckily, the conditions have improved recently and I’ve been able to get out there more often.
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Paint Creek Trail is nice and clear for this stretch

 

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What most of Paint Creek Trail looks like throughout the winter…and why I stay away

I realized Macomb Orchard Trail (which is paved) is a good spot for some flat and fast miles when the unpaved trails are too sloppy. I’ve done nine and 10-mile marathon pace runs there in recent weeks. I still need to work on slowing down so I hit my actual goal marathon pace. It feels good to get through the runs a little faster than planned, but at the same time, running each mile a few seconds too fast will add up over 26 miles. I don’t want it to come back to bite me in the late miles of the race.
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Macomb Orchard Trail

 

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Macomb Orchard Trail

I’ve been able to hit my goal paces successfully for every workout, whether it’s been the marathon pace runs, speed work, or strength work. That assures me that I’m aiming for the right goal!

My long runs have gone well for the most part. Week #10 I ran 19 miles, and weeks #11 and #13 I ran 20 miles. The 19-mile run was not great. The wind was a steady 20 mph with gusts that were stronger, I chose a hilly route, and my IT band got angry by the end. On top of that, I had bad stomach/bloating pain that got worse throughout the run. As if running 19 miles isn’t hard enough when I feel normal! I made it through with a decent average pace, but it was a pretty miserable run.

Fortunately, my 20-mile runs were much better. Most of that was thanks to the company of my new running buddy, Kurt. I actually met Kurt thanks to Instagram. I found him because he had mentioned the Glass City Marathon. I saw that some of his paces were similar to mine, although he’s really a bit faster than me. He also seemed to have similar workouts. He sent me a message one week asking if I’d want to run our first 20-miler at Kensington Metropark. I’d already been thinking about going to Kensington, so it worked out perfectly. I’d never run there before and the change in scenery would be helpful. I run solo the majority of the time, so it was really nice to change things up and have some company. The miles went by quickly with someone to talk to, and it’s nice to have someone to keep you going during the rough stretches that can come and go during a long run. Because our first 20-miler went so well, we ran our second one together as well. Kensington is a beautiful park, but it sure is challenging. I thought Stony had some good rolling hills, but now I realize that Kensington’s got it beat! Hopefully Toledo’s relatively flat course will seem like a breeze after training on the hills. Next week will be my third and final 20-mile run, and hopefully Kurt and I do as well as we did the first two times.

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I’ve been very thankful for Kurt’s company for our 20-milers

This past week I remembered the concept of cumulative fatigue and learning to run on tired legs. With all of these miles adding up, even my easy days haven’t felt so easy. My shortest runs were five miles this week, and both Monday’s and Wednesday’s runs felt long and slow. They’re supposed to be slow, but I *really* felt it. Somehow my legs have still managed to pick up the pace on my faster days though.

Some new gear has kept training exciting. When I saw that I could get 30% off Garmin watches through work, I jumped at the chance to finally upgrade to the nice triathlon watch I’ve been eyeing. Now I can use one watch for both daily wear and all of my workouts. I also have heart rate info – something I’ve never had before. So far I haven’t used that information during runs, but it’s interesting to review afterward. Now that I’ve spent a week or two with the watch and have run a variety of paces, it seems like I’m hitting the proper heart rate zones. That’s reassuring.

With all of the miles I’ve been putting in, I realized I might need a new pair of shoes before the marathon. I just got my second pair of the Brooks Levitate and I’m looking forward to getting some runs in with these beauties!

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The Brooks Levitate will likely be my shoe of choice for the marathon

Aside from running a zillion miles, I’ve been keeping up with swimming three days a week and strength/weights once or twice a week. This weekend is a “down” week when it comes to mileage, so I’m going to squeeze a unique race into my schedule. It’s an Aqua Dash, which will involve 20 minutes of swimming in a pool then 20 minutes of running on the treadmill. I’m looking forward to getting a little taste of multi-sport action again, and having a chance to put my swim training to use.

I’m coming up on the home stretch now and just have to hang in there for one more month of training!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz