Cannonball Run Finale Recap

When I started the Cannonball Run series in June, I wondered if it would really be necessary to write a separate recap for each of the three races. After all, it would essentially be the same race each time. Well, they all played out a bit differently and the series ended on a pretty great note, so here comes the third recap!

June 12th was the first race of the Wednesday night series (recapped here), July 17th was the second (recapped here), and August 28th was the finale. At the beginning of the week I questioned if I would even bother with the final race. I had signed up for the full series on Black Friday when there was a sale for $45 and I figured I had easily gotten my money’s worth already. I had just raced Crim on Saturday and have been putting too many miles on my car lately. Did I really want to make the trek to Sagniaw on a weeknight again? It can take as long as an hour and 45 minutes with traffic after work. On Tuesday night I decided I would pack everything for the race and see how I felt on Wednesday. I decided to go for it. I’d be doing some kind of workout anyway and it might be my last chance to swim in a lake this season.

I had to hustle after work because this race started at 6:00 – half an hour earlier than the other two races in the series. At least I had the routine down and tried not to stress too much when I got there with half an hour to spare. When I was about to put my wetsuit on and noticed marker on someone else’s leg, I realized I had skipped the body marking stop and had to run over to get that done. Aside from that I guess I wasn’t too frazzled.

2019-08-28 - cannonball park

Although temps in the 80s had me sweating through the previous night’s run, it was overcast, windy, and actually a little cold for the race. I heard conflicting reports about the water temperature which may have ranged somewhere around 72-74°. I probably would have been fine without a wetsuit but decided to try it. I know the buoyancy helps and my last swim in the series without the wetsuit had been a disappointment. Maybe it would help.

Like the last two times, my longer distance race of a 1500 m swim and 3-mile run started first. Our small group gathered on the dock where we jumped into the water one by one every few seconds. I hung back a little bit and hoped that the faster people would start ahead of me. It seemed to work out because I didn’t have many issues with congestion in this race. The wind created some ripples in Haithco Lake that were more noticeable in certain directions. I took in one mouthful of water that made me cough, but otherwise it was fine. I just had my typical issue of having no sense of pace in the open water. My rhythm in the pool does not translate to open water and I have no idea if I’m going fast or slow. I’m sure my wetsuit helped keep my lower half more buoyant, but I was still a little thrown off by the feeling of swimming in the full sleeves. Maybe at some point I’ll look into a sleeveless wetsuit. The swim seemed to go well enough as far as I could tell. My watch buzzed early during the swim and apparently I did something wrong. It was in normal watch mode when I got out of the water and it didn’t track my swim. Oh well! The official results said I finished the swim in 31:15. I made sure to put my watch in run mode so at least I’d know my pace for that portion of the race.

I spent 1:40 in transition, mostly trying to get out of the wetsuit. I don’t think I’m ever going to master that. I took the timing chip off my ankle because I really couldn’t get my ankles out of the damn thing. Eventually I got my act together and went out to run. I knew being wet and the cooler temps could help my pace. I was pretty excited that I kept my pace in the 7:20s the whole time. I didn’t run that fast in the other two races in the series. I knew that I could count on a distance just under 2.9 miles based on the last couple times. I was familiar with the course by now and pushed as much as I could at the end. I finished the run in 21:15 and my overall time was 54:09.

I had received a t-shirt when I got my packet at the first race. They handed out mugs as we finished the second race, and this time they handed out pairs of socks. That was a fun surprise!

2019-08-28 - cannonball socks

They had donuts from Tim Horton’s last time and I have to admit I was really hoping they’d have them again this time. They did! Since I was refueling after the workout AND having my dinner, I had a couple donuts, a couple donut holes, a granola bar, fruit chews, and chocolate milk. Maybe not the healthiest dinner, but I sure enjoyed it.

2019-08-28 - cannonball food

Results were posted and I placed first out of the five women in my race. I’m glad I was smart enough to bring a jacket and pants because I got pretty cold. Temps were in the 60s but I was wet, there was a breeze, and I had stopped moving. I got cold enough that my fingers started to lose color and go numb. I learned years ago that it’s fairly common for women and that it’s officially called Raynaud’s disease or syndrome. I’m fine while running but sometimes it hits my fingers later if I don’t keep myself warm enough. It usually happens in the winter though, not in August! It kind of blew my mind that I’d been so hot while running the night before and a night later my fingers were numb.

Awards were given out for that night’s race first followed by winners for the overall series. They got to first place for the women in the long course and said, “This is where consistency pays off.” Since I had shown up to all three races I suspected that meant I had won – and I was right! I received a cannonball award that was really heavy along with an envelope.

2019-08-28 - cannonball janet

2019-08-28 - cannonball awards

I was standing next to a guy who was also a winner in the overall series. I heard a surprised reaction from him when he opened his envelope and figured I ought to look at mine. I understood his reaction when I saw a check! There was a certificate that says next year’s race entry fee will be refunded if I show up to all three races, and there was a sizable check as well. Enough to pay for my entry fee, all of the gas I used to drive there three times, and then some. I was pretty blown away.

2019-08-28 - cannonball certificate

I stuck around for the raffle that followed the awards and it seemed like nearly everyone won something. I won a Cannonball Run mug with a Road ID gift certificate in it. I already had the mug from the last race so I asked around to see if anyone would like it and eventually I found a taker.

Looking back at the whole series, my fastest time was the first race. That time I had my best swim and was fourth out of nine women overall. The second race was my slowest and I placed second out of five women. I ran my fastest time in the third race and improved my swim time from race #2. I was first out of five women. What’s really funny is that my transition time in races #1 and #3 was 1:40. I wore a wetsuit for both of those races. Once again, my consistency is pretty crazy.

I don’t want to discount my actual racing, but I won the overall series simply because I kept showing up. Of course my effort helped, but sometimes being consistent counts too. Two of the faster women from the first race didn’t race the second two. Another woman who was ahead of me in the first two races didn’t show up for the third. It’s a good thing I didn’t give in to temptation when I considered skipping this race!

This series was a great experience. 3 Disciplines teamed up with the Saginaw triathlon club Team ATP, and the club did an amazing job hosting the series. I received a t-shirt, mug, and socks between the three races. They had nice awards at each race, and their cannonball awards were pretty awesome. I’m very appreciative that I can race for free next year if I make it for the whole series, but I really couldn’t believe that they awarded prize money as well. Huge thanks to them!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Crim 10-Mile Race Recap

2019-08-24 - crim shirt

Saturday, August 24th was a beautiful day for the 43rd annual Crim in Flint, Michigan. This was my third time running the 10-mile race and the great experience reinforced why so many local runners make this race a yearly tradition. 2015 was the first year I ran the race. I had to watch from the sidelines with a stress fracture in 2016, and I returned to run again in 2017. I missed last year’s race but knew early in the season that I wanted to return this year. My training schedule for the Chicago Marathon actually called for 10 miles on race day so it fit in perfectly.

After training through another hot summer, I was thrilled that we lucked out with perfect weather for this race. Some years are hot and humid, and last year’s race had multiple delays due to storms. I guess it’s good that I happened to miss the race last year! The weather had been hot and muggy during the week leading up to this year’s race. My speed workout on Tuesday was not very successful because it was around 90°F in the afternoon. Fortunately the temperature and humidity dropped later in the week and I was actually shivering on race morning because it was in the 50s. Even though I’ve struggled to run fast paces most of the summer, I knew that training through the heat was making me strong. I hoped the cool morning would make me feel like I was flying.

2019-08-24 - crim arch

2019-08-24 - crim sunrise

I got to Flint a little before 6:30 so I could park easily, hit the expo, and still take my stuff back to the car. I usually luck out and find some discounted shoes at the expo and this year was the same. I couldn’t resist saving $20 on a pair of shoes.

I ate my second Picky Bar of the morning about an hour before the race, got everything ready, then decided a warm up jog would be a good way to stay warm once I left the car. I had signed up to be a part of the Corporate Challenge and represented the Chevy Running Club like I have in the past. The results are gathered after the race and various companies compete based on how their participants place. Our group was able to meet at Factory One before and after the race. I had never been there and enjoyed seeing a few historical vehicles on display in the big, open space.

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2019-08-24 - crim factory one2

They had some snacks, but most importantly, there were real restrooms without any wait. We gathered at 7:30 for a group photo then I did another short jog to the starting line in time to see the start for the group of people who have run the race 30 years or more.

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I was in corral B and ended up finding several friends there. There was a 7:30 pace group nearby and I knew I didn’t want to start that fast, so I hung back a little from them.

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The wave start works really smoothly at this race. Shortly after the elites started it was time for my wave to go.

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I didn’t have a specific race plan but I usually do well when I start slow and gradually speed up through the race. I was a little above an 8:00 pace when I glanced at my watch during the first mile. I wanted to go a little faster than that and sped up enough to drop to 7:55 for the first mile. After that I kind of surprised myself. I was hitting paces in the 7:30s and even high 7:20s early in the race. I worried that 7:40s would have been smarter but just kept rolling with it. I wasn’t suffering and it seemed to be coming naturally. I just really hoped I wouldn’t crash and burn later as a result. I haven’t been running paces like that at all this summer. I think it was proof that the cool morning really did help.

Aside from running with such a large group of people, one of the fun parts about Crim is the entertainment along the way. Since I love the band Collective Soul, it was especially fun to hear their song “Shine” played by one of the bands on the course. The official entertainment is great, but the unofficial entertainment gives this race something special. You can always count on multiple beer stops and the Champagne Corner. Somehow I completely missed this, but apparently there was a greyhound-petting stop! I always love the guy who sings random karaoke songs at the end of his driveway. There’s the woman who bounces on a small trampoline. There are plenty of things to see along the course.

Although I did enjoy and welcome some of the distractions, I spent most of this race grinding away. I had to really work to hold onto the ambitious pace I had set in the early miles. I slowed down a little bit during the infamous Bradley hills portion of the race between the fifth and sixth miles. It was a relief when I got through them, but I remembered from the past that the rest of the course isn’t exactly flat. There are plenty of rolling hills that make things a bit challenging. I think it’s interesting to see that my heart rate didn’t spike during the Bradley hills but jumped for the remaining miles afterward.

2019-08-24 - crim hr

2019-08-24 - crim janet race

Usually I like to push the pace for the last few miles. However, I’d already been running that pace nearly the whole race! I just kept trying to hang on. When I was eight miles into the race I started to calculate how fast I would have to run to hit my PR of 1:16:00. It might be close. That helped motivate me to keep it up. I kept doing the math as I hit the ninth mile. That was my time to give a final push. I appreciated the spectators who cheered, especially when they read my bib and called out my name. I saw my buddy Don up ahead and knew I couldn’t quite catch him, but he gave me something to watch. For the most part I kept my head down, grimaced, and gave it all I had. Soon enough I made the turn and “hit the bricks” on the final stretch. It’s unique to finish on bricks at this race but it’s not the most even surface. I flew through the finish line and needed a couple minutes to recover.

2019-08-24 - crim finish1

2019-08-24 - crim finish2

I received my medal then caught up with a few friends who finished a little before and just after me.

2019-08-24 - crim medal2

2019-08-24 - crim medal

Eventually I checked my watch and saw that I had run 1:15:43! My official time shaved a second off of that so I had run an 18-second PR! Here’s how my splits broke down. I thought it was pretty funny to see how consistently I swapped between miles in the 7:30s and 7:20s. I’m not sure if that was due to hills or because I naturally adjusted to try to maintain the ambitious pace.

2019-08-24 - crim splits

I looked back at the previous two Crim races and was surprised to see that my 2015 race was actually fairly similar. I kept it a little slower for the first couple miles, but then I did nearly the same thing where I rotated between 7:30s and 7:20s. It blows my mind how consistent I am. Even four years later! Somehow I still managed a decent PR this time around though. Here are the final results:

2019-08-24 - crim results

After downing a bottle of chocolate milk and grabbing a granola bar, I worked my way over to the ring the PR bell.

2019-08-24 - crim pr bell

I was fortunate to have some good company during the post-race party, which included a slice of pizza. Eventually a band started playing and it got too loud to talk, so it was time to head out.

2019-08-24 - crim group

I always find it interesting to look at my statistics and compare my races from past years. When I ran my previous Crim PR in 2015, it was also the year when I ran my current half marathon and marathon PRs. If I managed to improve my time in this race could I possibly have some other PRs in me this year? It surprises me because although I’ve done a couple of marathon-pace workouts this summer, I have really slacked off on true speed workouts. Most days it’s been too hot to pull it off and other days I’ve backed off due to racing so frequently. Racing several times each month has been a good substitute for workouts. I keep telling myself that I’m racing my way into shape this summer and it seems like the approach is working. I know I’m also building strength by running in the heat. It may not seem like it when I suffer through some of the miserable, sweaty runs, but speedy times seem to follow when the temps drop. I’ll be curious to see if I can keep rolling along and run a solid marathon in Chicago this October.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Swim to the Moon 5K Recap

Epic Races‘ Swim to the Moon 5K was a new crazy adventure for me. I’ve toyed with the idea of signing up for this race for years. The thought of trying a 5K open water swim was a challenge that I was pretty sure I could take on, yet I had reservations. My biggest excuse was that my goggles usually get too painful after a mile or so. How could I attempt three miles if I’d want to rip the goggles off my face? My hunt for the perfect pair of goggles has mostly been fueled by the goal of wanting to try this race. I’ve gone through so many different kinds and most of them either leak or hurt my face after a while. An old pair of Speedo’s Vanquisher goggles has been my best bet. I bought a new pair a couple months ago and found that they haven’t hurt me as much as my old pair. Making it through 2,000 m straight without tearing my goggles off finally reassured me that maybe this would be the year.

You would think I would have been more concerned about properly training for the distance. I’ve been working hard this year with this race always in the back of my mind but peaked at 3,200 m once in June and once in July. I aim to swim 2,000 m a few days a week and try to get a longer swim in during the weekend when I can, but I’ve been slacking on the long weekend swims lately. It can be hard to find time for long swims, bike rides, and runs during triathlon season without running myself into the ground. It’s also challenging when I end up racing nearly every weekend and still want to concentrate on building mileage for marathon training. I knew I’d be going into this race with a decent enough base but I would also be undertrained. I wasn’t going to let that deter me though. I knew I would be fine for at least a couple miles. If I needed to, I’d just swim some breaststroke to help me get through the rest. No more excuses!

After signing up I questioned why I am I driven to do these crazy things. I think a big part of it is knowing that I’m capable, so why not get out there and actually prove it? Hundreds of people participate in this event and pictures from past years have shown a whole variety of ages and body types. Some people are speedy, some are slower, but the bottom line is that they got out there and did it. Why not me? I didn’t expect to be competitive and figured I might place somewhere in the middle of the pack. My goal was simply to finish and experience that feeling of accomplishment.

On the Thursday evening before the race I watched a video conference with the race director (Eva Solomon) where she gave an overview of the event and answered questions. Hearing someone talk through an event always helps me feel more prepared and eases some of my worries. She went over questions such as how the rolling start would work, how people would seed themselves, what the water temperature was, etc. I also learned that there would be pancakes after the race. I am easily motivated by food and knowing there would be good post-race treats would help push me through the swim.

The race took place on Sunday, August 18th at the Pinckney Recreation Area in Gregory, MI. I arrived at Halfmoon Lake around 6:20 knowing that I needed to go to packet pickup and be on a shuttle bus by 7:00. We received a bag to use for gear check plus temporary tattoo race numbers to apply to our arms. They also had bins of different colored swim caps based on estimated finish times. That would help sort people into groups of similar paces.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon shirt

Aside from the 5K, people could also choose to swim a 10K, 1.2 miles, or half a mile. There was also an option to “double dip” and do one of the shorter distances after one of the longer swims. The 10K was due to start at 6:40 with swimmers taking off from the beach at Halfmoon Lake, but they started about 15 minutes late.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon 10k start

I got in line for the bus and rode to the 5K start at the Patterson Lake beach by North Star Reach – a camp for children with serious health issues. Then it was just a matter of killing time. I ate a few Clif Bloks and used a drinking fountain several times to try to make sure I was hydrated. I had a feeling that could be one concern during this race. After using the bathroom, applying sunscreen, and scoping everything out, I packed my extra clothes and sandals in the gear check bag and waited for the start.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon 5k start2

I waded into the water to see how it felt and realized the bottom was a little rocky in spots. The temperature was reported to be 78° which was perfect. There was a division that specifically allowed people to wear wetsuits but they wouldn’t be eligible for awards. The temperature was warm enough that I knew I didn’t want to wear a wetsuit. During the announcements we learned that more than $60,000 has been raised for North Star Reach to date – pretty awesome. One of the campers was there along with his parents and it was pretty moving to hear how thankful they were.

We were due to start about an hour after the 10K swimmers started. The whole idea was to wait for the fastest 10K people to arrive then start mixing the fastest 5K people with them. It was a good way to keep similar paces together. We cheered as the first 10K people arrived, gave them a minute or two, then the group of 5K swimmers who were considered “contenders” started. Thanks to Greg Sadler Photography for the official race photos.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon 5k start

Based on my pool times, an hour and a half would be the fastest I could possibly go. That’s only if I could maintain my one mile pace for three, which is already being optimistic. I thought 1:35-1:40 might be a good range. I found other people with the same color swim cap and stood near the back of that group. I watched as swimmers were sent in the water every three seconds to help avoid congestion. Eventually I worked my way up to the front, ran through the shallow part of the water, then started my swim. My swim photos sure aren’t glamorous!

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon swim start

The 5K was a point-to-point race through a chain of lakes. It was all good as I made it to the first buoy, but at one point a volunteer in a kayak had to tell me that I was headed the wrong direction. I thought I needed to go on the opposite side of the incoming 10K swimmers, but I should have veered off toward another buoy. Great way to start my race! I’m not sure how much extra time and distance I may have added on, but I was thankful for the volunteer and also glad that I didn’t have any real expectations in terms of my finishing time.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon map

When I made it to the next buoy a few swimmers had stopped and questioned where we should go next. Another person in a kayak helped direct us. After the first couple buoys I didn’t struggle too much figuring out where to aim for the rest of the race. Sometimes I just needed to do some breaststroke to scope things out and see where the other swimmers were headed. I knew that we had a tunnel to swim through, and it was basically just a spot under a bridge. We were told to swim single file there so the 10K swimmers could swim on one side while we were on the other. The tunnel wasn’t as long as I had imagined, not claustrophobic, and since we took it slowly, some people had fun with it and shouted out to hear their voices echo.

I got thirsty after a bit and was thankful when I noticed an aid station off to the side. I may have been swimming almost an hour at that point. It was kind of like a walk-up bar where I asked for a cup of water then a cup of Gatorade before heading off again.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I spent a lot of time appreciating the opportunity to enjoy the lakes. Aside from races I typically don’t get the chance to swim in lakes. If I don’t have a lifeguard available I’m not going to go out on my own. There were a few stretches with seaweed but most of the swim was really nice. Since my face was down in the water most of the time it was hard to completely take in the scenery, but I noticed some nice houses along the water. I figured it didn’t matter how long it took me to finish and I would just enjoy being out there.

There were a few times when people got a little too close for comfort. I expected it in the more narrow, congested spots and know that people swatting your feet or bumping into you is just part of open water races. When we were in big, open parts of the lake I got annoyed when people came right up next to me. Sometimes I stopped to do breaststroke for a minute, let them go by, then I swam over to a spot where I had more space. I did breaststroke occasionally when I was on the lookout for buoys and just to change things up for a minute. Later in the race I could tell that my arms were feeling it a little bit so breaststroke gave me a little reprieve.

Eventually I got hungry. I knew that fueling could be one tricky part about this race. I had a Picky Bar before I left home, another when I got to the parking lot, and a few chews right before I started. It’s kind of hard to do much during the swim though. I guess instead of my casual, leisurely pace I needed to swim faster so I would finish sooner!

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon halfmoon swim2

Aside from getting hungry and thirsty, I felt pretty good for most of the swim. I took it so easy that I really didn’t get very sore or tired. My biggest issue was pain from my right big toe. For some reason it kept bothering me and I figured I might have a cut. I tried to check it out a couple times but it was kind of hard in the water and I didn’t notice anything. I was aware of it for most of the swim and sometimes it hurt enough to really bother me. I switched to breaststroke when that happened and it helped a little. When I switched back to freestyle sometimes the first kick or two was bothersome, but then I managed to settle back into things.

One tricky thing about swimming versus running is that it’s not very easy to glance at my watch to see the distance. I didn’t know how long I’d been swimming or how much further I still might have to go. At one point I spotted a big blue arch off in the distance and knew that was the finish. I got excited because I had something to aim for.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon finish5

I picked up my pace a little bit and finally made more of an effort. Things were going well until a charley horse struck my left calf. The pain was agonizing. I’m glad it’s happened in the water a couple times before so I didn’t completely freak out. Still, it hurt SO bad. It wasn’t shallow enough to stand and I couldn’t use that leg for breaststroke kick, so I basically had to tread water. I hoped I wouldn’t have to call a kayak over. Somehow it faded within a minute and I was able to get back to swimming normally. I had a feeling dehydration had finally caught up to me because that’s typically the suspected cause whenever I get a charley horse.

I kept working my way toward the wonderful blue arch until the water was shallow enough to stand. I wouldn’t say I ran because I still wasn’t really in any hurry, but I splashed my way through until I got to the timing mat on the beach. Surprisingly I wasn’t wobbly or anything. I received my medal and walked up to the grass.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon finish2

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon finish1

I saw the tent with post-race food and went there before doing anything else. I didn’t even bother to take my swim cap off yet. Pancakes weren’t available at that moment but I got a grilled cheese sandwich and some chips. I kept going back to fill my cup with Gatorade since I knew I better re-hydrate. I also found a cooler with ice cream treats like mini Drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches. I stopped there a couple times.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon ice cream

I collected my stuff at gear check and finally took a look at my toe. Between wrinkled skin from being in the water so long and sand on the bottom of my feet, I still couldn’t see what was wrong. I wondered if maybe it had just been rubbed raw somehow.

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2019-08-18 - swim to the moon medal

I went back to the food tent when pancakes were available and eventually I found my results posted on a van. I suspected I would finish somewhere in the middle of the pack and I was right – I was 8th out of 16 in my age group.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon results

With 246 finishers (plus 26 in the wetsuit division), the 5K had the most participants. 161 (plus 7 people in wetsuits) did the 10K, 150 swam 1.2 miles, and 49 swam half a mile. Over 600 people did the race.

When I got home it was nice to get cleaned up. I was a little surprised by how much lake gunk was clinging to the inside of my swimsuit and to my skin. I finally got my feet cleaned up enough to see that I had a cut on the bottom of my right toe. It was almost like a papercut – just a little slice. I’m not sure when it happened, but maybe while I was walking around barefoot before the race or maybe on a rock when I ran into the water? I went straight to dark thoughts of hoping the water didn’t have any kind of bacteria to infect the wound and cause my toe to get amputated. I’ve obviously read too many scary news stories. Nothing has happened a couple days after the race so hopefully I’m in the clear!

A couple days after the race my left calf still hurts. It’s amazing that a charley horse can cause so much suffering after the fact. I felt very slight soreness in my arms, shoulders, and obliques, but that calf was my biggest casualty. It’s agonizing trying to work it out with the foam roller. I will probably just have to wait a few days for it to fade.

I had estimated that my time might be at least 10 minutes faster than it was but it really didn’t bother me. After so many years of thinking about this race I was pretty proud of myself for finally doing it. I may have taken a leisurely approach but I was able to enjoy the experience. Now that I have confirmed that I am capable of covering the distance, the next step is to train more and improve my time. If I drink some Gatorade prior to the race, more during the race, aim for the right buoys, and don’t cut my toe, surely I can shave some time off. I knew it would be a learning experience and fortunately I enjoyed myself enough to want to return and put those learnings to use in the future.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Sylvania Triathlon Recap

2019-08-04 - sylvania shirt

On Sunday, August 4th I did my second Olympic-distance triathlon of the season in Sylvania, OH, which is just south of the Michigan-Ohio border. I received an email from RunToledo a couple weeks before the race about signing up in time to guarantee a t-shirt. That’s the first time I really looked into the details because I thought I was going to sign up for a race in Ann Arbor that weekend. I realized the Olympic race in Sylvania only cost $5 more than the sprint in Ann Arbor. Aside from the bike part of it, I usually prefer the longer Olympic distance. That helped me make the decision in addition to comparing the prices. I also liked that the Sylvania race said it had flat and smooth roads for the bike and flat and fast roads for the run.

It took around an hour and a half to make the drive the morning of the race and I arrived at Olander Park by 6:30. My event didn’t start until 8:00 but the sprint distance started at 7:30. Getting there early gave me time to eat, hit the bathroom, get set up in transition, and go scope out the beach.

2019-08-04 - sylvania finish

2019-08-04 - sylvania transition

2019-08-04 - sylvania beach

As the events began, I had plenty of time to kill at the beach. I was in the 10th wave for the swim start. The sprint distance had the most participants and was broken into seven waves. They swam 400m so I got to see plenty of them finish before I was even close to starting my race. I wanted to make sure I was hydrated enough, so I was glad there was a drinking fountain I could use a couple times to ease that worry while I waited. I planned to get into the water before my race but waited a bit so I wouldn’t have much downtime when I’d be standing around cold and wet. It was really nice that we could warm up in one part of the water away from the start, but it was close enough that I could work my way over when it was time to start. The water was reported to be 80.5° which meant we didn’t need wetsuits.

2019-08-04 - sylvania beach start

The fast men and women were the first Olympic racers to start, followed by an open men’s division and then my open women’s division. “All My Life” by Foo Fighters played over the speakers while we waited which was the perfect music to get me fired up. I started all the way to the right of the crowd to avoid as much congestion as I could. Olander Lake was small enough that our 1600m swim was basically one loop around the outside of the lake. I managed to avoid congestion for a bit and did a little breaststroke when I needed to find a clear path. Unfortunately one of the times I tried to go around people I ended up in a patch of really tall seaweed. I had to move back over pretty quickly and find a different way! Other than a few moments of trying to navigate around people so I could maintain my comfort zone, the swim went really well. After having a lackluster swim at the Cannonball Run race last month I’ve been really hung up on trying to figure out what went wrong and hoping it wouldn’t happen again. Fortunately I was back to normal at this race and finished in 29:24.

2019-08-04 - sylvania beach tunnel

I’m not in the photo but it shows some of the run from the beach to transition

There was a bit of distance to run from the beach, across a couple drives, and into the transition area. It took me a minute to get moving comfortably back in the vertical position. My first transition time was 2:02, then off for 24.45 miles on the bike.

There was a little bit of traffic in the early miles but plenty of police and volunteers along the whole course to keep us safe. It didn’t take long before we were out on more peaceful country roads that were pretty smooth. There were plenty of farms to look at and the occasional cow or horse to grab my attention. I don’t think there was any significant wind in the forecast, but I noticed some on the way out. I kept telling myself that I had to get through half of it and then I’d have the wind at my back. When I finally did turn around I jumped from averaging around 17mph to 19mph. Although I didn’t keep that speed going for long, I was still moving a little faster than I had on the way out.

Eventually I still felt like I was dragging. It doesn’t help when at least half of the people pass me. I reached a point where I really didn’t want to be on the bike anymore. I think my helmet was a little tight and made me uncomfortable, my left thumb kept going numb, and I just wasn’t into it. I was riding along at a speed that was typical for me and I didn’t feel wiped out, but I wasn’t very excited about being out there and wanted to be done. I thought about how nearly an hour and a half’s worth of time on the bike would be enough time to watch a movie. Although it seemed like a smarter option at the time, I was glad I was out there pushing myself instead of sitting on the couch. I saw a woman in front of her house with a walker and reminded myself that I’m fortunate that I can do this. It’s not like I could quit the bike segment so I just had to get through it. The bike is always my least favorite part but the level of disinterest and desire to be done was higher than usual. I’m not sure if I’ll squeeze any other triathlons into my schedule this year, so I told myself after this it might just be swimming and running for the rest of the season.

I finished the bike segment in 1:24:27 and averaged 17.4mph. That’s typical for me so at least the mental struggles didn’t seem to affect me physically. I got through the second transition in 52 seconds and my legs had a tough time adjusting to running. Still, I managed to run a pace that was faster than it felt. We started with a loop around the lake before going out to the main road, into some neighborhoods, and past Lourdes University. Aside from the lake, the university, and some friendly volunteers, I didn’t notice much about my surroundings because I was working so hard.

2019-08-04 - sylvania beach3

2019-08-04 - sylvania janet run1

At one point I realized it was kind of warm and that was probably didn’t help. By 10:30 it was 75° and the real-feel was around 87°. No wonder it felt so tough! I’m glad the route was flat but I couldn’t keep my ambitious pace of 7:30-7:40 going for the second half of the run. I still did pretty well but it got harder and harder to maintain. I managed 7:50 for a couple miles, and eventually I felt like I was in survival mode as I slowed to an 8:00 pace. It sure felt like I was going a lot slower than that and I kept counting down how much distance I had left.

2019-08-04 - sylvania janet run2

When I rounded a corner and saw the finish ahead, I suddenly remembered that the run was 5.86 miles, not 6.2 miles like I’d kept thinking. What a relief to shave 0.3 miles off! I finished the run in 45:42 with an average pace of 7:48/mile. My final time was 2:42:27.

2019-08-04 - sylvania results

2019-08-04 - sylvania janet finish

2019-08-04 - sylvania medal

I was really wiped out. I had to pace around for a while to settle down and I had moments when I started to get a little lightheaded. Not enough to actually worry, but I knew I’d really pushed it and needed some time to recover. I drank some water and eventually went to find the post-race snacks. Being a picky eater was a disadvantage, especially since I’m not eating much meat these days. That ruled out the more substantial stuff like hamburgers and hot dogs and left me with some pretzel sticks and chips. At least there was beer too. I had two beer tickets, but considering how I’d already felt a little lightheaded, I knew one would be plenty. I’m glad I’ve learned to always pack snacks of my own just in case. I had a Picky Bar handy in my transition bag and made sure to eat a few more snacks in the car before I left.

The awards ceremony started around 11:30. Results weren’t posted online until later. The printouts that were posted on a tent listed the fastest to slowest but didn’t sort by the age group results. I tried to roughly calculate how I did and thought I stood a chance at an age group award. I was right – I placed second in my age group!

2019-08-04 - sylvania janet award

2019-08-04 - sylvania award

Although I battled some mental and physical struggles during this race and felt like I was torturing myself at times, I still felt accomplished and proud of myself. When the run started to feel really difficult, I thought about my “keep showing up” shirt that I bought in Boston. It’s not always easy, but I’m going to keep showing up and fight my way through if it gets tough.

– Janet

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