Crim 10-Mile Race Recap

This weekend it was time for one of the most legendary races in Michigan – the 44th Crim Festival of Races. It was my fourth time running the race which is a low number compared to most of the runners I know! The race has a club of people who have done the race anywhere from 30-40+ years. People keep returning to this race because it’s always a memorable experience.

My 2020 entry for the race was deferred to this year because of the pandemic and I looked forward to getting back to it. I’m usually in the middle of marathon training when I run this race and that was true once again. It’s a good way to test where I stand in terms of speed and endurance at this point of my training.

It’s been warm and humid a lot lately and things were no different the day of the race. It was due to be in the 70s with humidity close to 100% at the start. At least it would be cloudy the whole time. The 10-Mile runners typically begin at 8:00 and the start was moved an hour earlier due to the conditions. It wasn’t going to be an ideal day for fast times but I actually didn’t worry about it. Because the weather has been so gross for running lately my body has had a chance to adapt. I used to think that I was bad at running in the heat and humidity but recently I’ve realized it’s more of an issue if I’m not used to it. I’ve had some rough race experiences when I’ve trained in cool conditions then the heat and humidity suddenly jumped without time for my body to adapt. I ran in the morning for a week leading up to this race and the conditions were pretty much the same every morning. It was like running in a sauna most of the time and I was always soaked by the time I finished. Although it’s been so gross outside, I haven’t been struggling through the runs. I even ran some miles at marathon pace and survived so I figured I should at least be able to manage that pace for Crim as well.

Around 5:45 I got to the parking lot I’ve always used and started a nearly half mile trek to the starting area. The race usually allows us to get our packets the morning of the race inside a building where there’s a big expo but that was canceled this year. Instead, they had us check in at tables in the parking lot where the post-race festivities would take place. It’s always fun to see how quiet it is first thing in the morning knowing that there will be crowds everywhere just an hour later.

I was happy when I received 1983 for my bib number. I had listened to the song “1983” by the band Neon Trees a couple days earlier so I thought it might give me good vibes. The song ran through my head many times during the race!

I made a trip back to the car to drop off my t-shirt, eat my second Picky Bar of the morning, and to get my stuff ready before heading back to the start for a bathroom stop. The lines were long but I would still have a few minutes to kill before the race started. My friend Lindsay spotted me and we chatted for a little while as we waited for the corral to open. When it did, I tried to hustle through the crowd.

The race originally had safety protocols in place to keep people spread out. They had us sign up for 15-minute rolling blocks of time so everyone wouldn’t go at once. When they shifted things earlier due to the weather, anyone could start the 10-mile race between 7-8am. I was a bit concerned that it meant we’d be back to starting in a large crowd and I’m still pretty wary about that. I was also concerned about getting caught behind slower people and starting slower than I hoped. The race usually puts people in starting corrals based on pace and with no guidelines like that in place I worried that it would be a free-for-all and could get messy. It’s kind of funny that things like that worried me more than the weather!

I was able to get closer to the start than I expected so pacing wasn’t an issue at all.

The route was a little different for the first couple miles due to construction. I didn’t notice too much because it’s usually the time when I’m just trying to settle into a good rhythm. I did miss running through the Flint campus of the University of Michigan though because in the past I’ve always gotten fired up when the marching band plays my fight song!

I saw plenty of familiar faces throughout the day which is one thing that’s always special about this race. So many of the serious local runners do this race. I was around a couple of guys for half the race who kept greeting people they knew and the best part was when one of the guys spotted one of his old teachers. He told him that he’d had him 40 years ago. The teacher asked what his name was and said, “Oh yeah!!” That made me laugh.

All of the usual folks in the community were out supporting the runners. The woman on the mini trampoline was bouncing around despite the heat. I always look forward to the guy who sings karaoke at the end of his driveway and he made me smile yet again. There was a donut table a couple miles into the race which may have been nice had I been walking, but I wasn’t going to take that risk while running! People had sprinklers going for us and I ducked through a few of them. I heard one of the marching bands play Toto’s “Africa,” and despite the heat, I actually got chills a couple times when I heard songs that must have triggered emotions. I was amused by people in front of a house who were drinking while standing in a baby pool where Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was playing. I ran by during some very appropriate lyrics:

I heard “200 degrees” and thought about how it pretty much felt that way! People cheered for us and told us not to stop, to keep going. Sometimes those kinds of things are especially meaningful when it’s a bit of a struggle to keep pushing.

I saw a runner down at one point with an ambulance approaching. That reminded me of something Lindsay said while we were talking before the race. She mentioned how she had dealt with heat exhaustion during a recent workout. I wanted to push myself during the race but NOT to the point of having a heat stroke. Even if I felt like I should give it everything I had, I better keep things under control so I didn’t get myself into trouble. As usual, I ran with my fuel belt that had a 21 oz. bottle with an electrolyte drink. That was enough to keep me hydrated and I actually didn’t need any of the water stops. I ate a couple of chews during the race too that had extra sodium.

Pushing the pace in the heat and humidity wasn’t easy but somehow I actually stayed pretty steady. The infamous Bradley Hills section did slow me down halfway through the race though. I told myself that I’m used to running hills and it wouldn’t be a big deal, but as I started up the first hill it felt a whole lot steeper! I powered through and when I recovered enough I ended up back at the same steady pace again. I usually like to pick up my pace for the last few miles but this time I didn’t do that until I had a mile left. Again, I didn’t want to overheat. I had to watch my footing on the uneven bricks leading to the finish but flew through that final stretch. Although I felt pretty miserable after pushing through those conditions for 10 miles, it also felt amazing being able to pick up the pace so much for such a strong finish. My smile was 100% forced just for the sake of the cameras though!

1:18:37 was almost three minutes slower than my PR from 2019 but we also had cooler and more ideal conditions that day. I was very content with these results. I keep aiming to run a marathon at an 8:00 pace (which I haven’t managed yet) and I would have been happy if I had maintained that for 10 miles. Going under that pace while it was so gross out left me satisfied.

I didn’t pay too much attention to my watch while I was running so I hadn’t realized just how consistent most of my splits were until after the race. Aside from warming up through the first mile, slowing down on the Bradley Hills, and flying for the last mile, somehow I guess I locked into a certain zone!

I also looked at my heart rate info and saw that I had clearly pushed pretty hard. Had I done much more I may have been pressing my luck.

After the finish line I received my medal and volunteers had cold, wet paper towels for us which was really helpful. I saw a guy at one point during the race who had body paint. Some of it was sweating off onto his shorts. I came across his photo while browsing through the official race photos and had to compare the before and after shots. It totally cracked me up and it paints a pretty clear picture about how sweaty it was out there!

I got a jug of chocolate milk and a Chewy granola bar then went to see what kind of food they had in the post-race area. There was a tent for beer or a soft drink, but the only options for food were a couple of food trucks.

In the past they had pizza but I guess that was another thing cut because of the pandemic. I didn’t really want what the trucks had so I went back to grab a popsicle. I didn’t hang out too long after the race and went to the car where I had another Picky Bar. I wanted to get something special after my solid race and maybe donuts were on my mind since they had them on the course. I detoured on the way home so I could hit a place called DK Donuts & Burgers in Oxford that my brother had recommended.

It was a good way to treat myself! I came home feeling really happy about how the race had gone. Of course it would have been nice to get closer to my PR time but that wasn’t realistic on a day with a heat advisory. Just going under marathon pace was an accomplishment for me. My marathon training plan has me run up to 10 miles at that pace a time or two and since I’ve already done it a couple times this summer I hope it’s a good sign for my fitness right now. Plus, now I realized that I CAN run well in the heat and humidity and being able to train in those conditions makes a world of a difference. When it cools down I should be even stronger!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography


Swim to the Moon 5K Recap

I’ve been going big this summer with ambitious events. It was pretty intense doing both my first 50K and a 10-leg adventure-style triathlon. Swimming a 5K this past weekend is right up there. Although I did Swim to the Moon once a couple years ago, it was still intimidating and quite an undertaking. I had trained properly for the other big events but I knew I didn’t do enough to prepare for this one.

I took a lot of time off of swimming due to the pandemic. Gym hours were limited for quite a while so I couldn’t swim before work like I usually do. Even when the hours went back to normal, I didn’t feel comfortable going to the gym very often until I was fully vaccinated. I finally got back to my swim routine in May and basically had to rebuild from scratch. I resumed my routine of swimming 2,000m a few mornings a week but only did a handful of slightly longer swims. Training for a 50K in mid-June was the first priority, then I jumped into marathon training right after that. I also found myself racing most weekends which didn’t give me many chances to do longer swims during the weekends. Racing and marathon training were similar distractions leading up to 2019’s Swim to the Moon but at least I swam 3,200m a couple times, which I didn’t do this time.

I can give a bunch of excuses but the bottom line is that I didn’t train like I should have. My entry was deferred from 2020 and even though I wasn’t fully prepared, I knew I had to go for it. If things got ugly maybe I’d just have to mix in some breaststroke to get through it. I was confident I could at least finish.

On Sunday, August 15th I went to the Pinckney Recreation Area in Gregory, MI, which is a little northwest of Ann Arbor. I’ve been getting up too early too often lately and it caught up with me a bit during the drive when I left at 5am. No worries about falling asleep behind the wheel but I was uncomfortable and the hour and 20 minutes just dragged. I figured I’d wake up more when I hit the water! 

The sun was just barely coming up when I got to Halfmoon Lake. I loved looking at the steam above the water as the sun rose. The water was calm and said to be around 78 degrees while the air was more like 60 degrees. I hung out near the beach and watched the 10K swimmers start around 6:40. Their swim was an out and back while the 5K was a point-to-point swim. 

Photo courtesy of Greg Sadler Photography

I have a hard enough time sighting the buoys in normal conditions. I can only imagine what it’s like through the fog!

After the 10K race began I caught a shuttle bus with other 5K swimmers where we all masked up because the pandemic has gotten problematic again. We were dropped off at Patterson Lake Beach where we would start our swim back to Halfmoon Lake. We had a number of porta-potties available and a picnic area near the beach where we lingered as we waited for the start.

I am thankful that they allowed us to have drop bags that they bused back to the start. It was a little chilly and it was helpful to wear warmer clothes until we were ready to go. We waited until the first couple 10K swimmers arrived and turned around before the 5K “speedsters” started our race. People who expected to finish in 1:10-1:30 were asked to line up next, and gradually other times were announced. With so many people gathered at the beach it was hard to know where to place myself since we went off one-by-one every few seconds. The race took me 1:50 in 2019 so I knew I would let plenty of people go ahead of me. Around 8:15 I finally headed out.

Despite looking at a map of our route and scoping out the buoys from shore, I was still a little confused about what direction to go beyond the first couple buoys. I didn’t know exactly when I should veer off after I got to the second one. Enough people were ahead of me so I could kind of follow them, but people were pretty spread out and it was hard to know who was following the ideal path and who was straying off-course. Eventually I settled in. Then it was usually a matter of getting to the next buoy and trying to spot the next one to aim for after that. Like many of the people, this time I used a small dry bag/swim buoy that was tethered to my waist. It didn’t bother me at all and it helped keep me visible – in case our bright yellow swim caps weren’t enough! I had my phone, keys, license, extra goggles, etc. in the buoy. The race encouraged the use of them and it made it easy to avoid running into people.

Photo courtesy of Greg Sadler

There are always bound to be a few moments when people get too close for comfort. One woman kept veering my direction which was pushing me further away from the best path to the buoy. I got annoyed enough to stop, let her go by, then I swam to her other side. It kept her out of my space and I was back on track with where I wanted to go.

Photo courtesy of Greg Sadler Photography

Early in the race we went through a short tunnel. It’s a narrow spot that could get congested since some of the 10K swimmers are still going the opposite direction of the 5K swimmers. In 2019 I remember that it was a slower spot but this time there was a decent current there that moved us along pretty good. I only wish the current had lasted longer! 

The water felt fine at 78 degrees but I had goosebumps at times. I’m sure the cool air temperature played a role in that. I’d rather err on the side of being a little cool rather than being too warm. Otherwise it was a perfect day to be out there. Greg Sadler Photography did a great job documenting the day, although I failed to mug for the camera and wasn’t especially photogenic!

Aside from simply finishing, one of my main goals for the day was to avoid cramps. I nearly made it to the finish in 2019 when I had a major cramp in my calf. It was agonizing and I had to tread water until it faded. I realized how important hydration was and knew dehydration had caused the issue. Last time I’m not sure if I missed the first aid station or if I just chose to skip it, but this time I made a point of stopping at both aid stations. The first aid station was a mile into the race and was on a raised surface. Since it wasn’t shallow enough to stand I hung on with one hand and drank a couple cups of water with the other. My legs started to drift under the platform and I scratched my right knee on it. I was thankful that the 2-mile aid station was in a shallow spot where I could stand. I had one cup of water there and two cups of Gatorade. That must have been enough because I didn’t cramp at all! Last time I also got pretty hungry by the end and hoped I could avoid that this time. I had a Clif Bar at home, a Picky Bar while I was driving, and a second Picky Bar just over an hour before the race. That combo seemed to work as well. I also had some of an electrolyte drink in a bottle leading up to the start.

Despite my lack of training for the distance I felt surprisingly good. After a while I noticed that my hands and wrists were stiff from swimming continuously for so long. I formed fists a few times to try to loosen them up and could really feel it then. Luckily it didn’t bother me too much. At times it felt like the swim was dragging on for so long and I wondered how much I had left. It was pretty much a straight shot for the last mile in Halfmoon Lake but I couldn’t see the finish. I kept trying to track the big orange buoys or the crowd of people ahead of me when I couldn’t see the next buoy. Eventually I got to a point where I saw people in different colored swim caps swimming the opposite direction. People could swim a half mile or 1.2 miles and it must have been some of those swimmers. I kept looking for the big blue Epic Races finishing arch!

Somehow I was able to keep swimming strong even at the end. I tried to put a little more power in my stroke and kept hoping a cramp wouldn’t hit.

Eva Solomon (the race director) made a point of saying that we should try to smile for our finishing photos. Finish line photos for running races usually look fun and exciting and the swim photos…don’t. Many of us look pretty wiped out as we trudge out of the water, half wobbling after standing up when we’ve been in a horizontal position for so long. I tried my best not to look like a disaster. Keeping my goggles on to hide my raccoon eyes was a very conscious decision! I didn’t know where the finishing photos would be so I’m glad I happened to spot Greg Sadler who gave me a thumbs up. That made me smile for a couple of his photos! This is my fourth race with Epic Races this summer and Greg Sadler and his team have always done an amazing job. I don’t especially like swimsuit photos but he did the best he could based on what he had to work with!

Goal achieved – I finished and I didn’t cramp! Once again I had made it through the three lakes.

I finished the race in 1:57:43. I had finished in 1:50:00 last time so I was a little bummed about that.

I reminded myself that it was quite an accomplishment to even complete this race. I shouldn’t have huge expectations considering how I had barely done half the distance during training. If I want to do better, I have to train smarter. Although I often place fairly well during running events, running is clearly more of a strength for me than swimming. I was never a fast swimmer as a kid which is what led me to quit the swim team by the end of middle school. It was all about competition and my times were not competitive so why do it? Despite my initial disappointment in my time at this race, I told myself that I approach swimming with a new perspective as an adult. Now it’s more about how it makes me feel strong and gives me a personal sense of accomplishment. I DID feel accomplished.

Epic Races always has great post-race food. I had some pancakes, mac and cheese, an egg and cheese wrap, and a peanut butter and granola wrap. They also had an ice cream cooler where I got an ice cream sandwich, then a bomb pop later before I hit the road.

Somewhere around 500-600 people participated between all of the events. One of the most impressive feats of the day had to be a guy who swam butterfly. I heard the announcer say a guy was approaching the finish who swam butterfly the whole time. The real kicker? He did the 10K! Amazing.

The day after the race my neck and obliques are a little sore from rotating to breathe and I have some general arm soreness. Between that and my slower time hopefully I will be motivated to train properly and improve next year. I definitely want to keep returning to this race. It’s very likely that I’ll be doing a bunch of races and training for another marathon next year too but I really need to find a way to squeeze some longer swims into my training schedule. For now I’ll be satisfied that I successfully pulled this off and that I felt pretty good while doing so.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Battle of Waterloo: 10-Stage Triathlon Recap

I’ve been keeping busy with races this summer and thought my first 50K would be the craziest thing on the schedule. Then I did the Battle of Waterloo on Saturday, July 31st. The name comes from the park where most of it takes place, which is the Waterloo Recreation Area. It sprawls across Grass Lake and Chelsea, MI. I would consider this 10-leg triathlon to be an adventure race. It covers 42 miles with a 1.5-mile run, 20.5-mile bike, 0.45-mile swim, 4-mile run, 0.25-mile swim, 3.4-mile run, 0.7-mile swim, 3.3-mile run, 5.8-mile bike, and a 1.4-mile run. Got all that? In order to cover all of that distance, athletes need to carry swim and run gear with them. To think that I used to get hung up on the logistics and gear required for a normal triathlon. Now that seems like nothing!

I’ve debated signing up for this race in the past but the logistics were overwhelming and lack of correct gear kept me away. After I did the Ugly Dog Triathlon with Epic Races a few weeks ago I received an email reminder that the Battle of Waterloo was coming up. I realized I might actually be ready to try it. Last year I got my first dry bag/swim buoy to carry things while I swim at the lake. It tethers around my waist and I use it for my phone, keys, a little towel, and sandals. That bag wouldn’t be big enough for running shoes and I didn’t know how I’d carry it with me on the bike and while running if I did this event. It got me thinking and with a Google search I found that some buoys are bigger and come with backpack straps. If I had something like that I might be able to work through the logistical worries. I decided to order the buoy and sign up for the race!

I got the buoy the Tuesday before the race and knew I better try it out. I did a run/swim/run/swim workout at Stony Creek Metropark. As I started my run to the first lake I had to stop immediately because the bag was bouncing too much. I needed to tighten straps and inflate it to make it fit more securely. I made it to the first lake and it took me a good five minutes to transition from my running gear to swim gear. I had to deflate the bag enough to squeeze a bunch of stuff inside. Take the backpack straps off and put them in the bag. Take the waist tether out of the bag and attach it to the outside. Put socks, running shoes, sunglasses, hat, and handheld bottle in the bag. Get my swim cap and goggles out. Roll it up, clip it shut, and inflate it so it would float. I did a quick swim then had another slow transition back to running gear. During the second run the straps rubbed my shoulders and I knew I’d have to do something about that. Aside from the little annoyances, I realized it could work and it was actually kind of fun. I decided to try wrapping the straps with a pair of my running arm sleeves, which are essentially socks without the foot part. I pinned them on and although it looked silly, I hoped at least it would keep my shoulders from getting chafed.

Epic Races posted a couple of videos on their Facebook page. They had a pre-race Zoom meeting where I learned that Garmin watches only let you program five activities at a time. That was something I’ve never thought about. You mean Garmin didn’t think people might do a triathlon with 10 activities? In order to track myself I’d have to split it into two different segments. I also watched a video that demonstrated a swim through reeds and lily pads in one of the lakes. Had I known that was involved I’m not sure I would have signed up! However, they showed that it’s doable so certainly I could do it too. What was I getting myself into?

I got all of my race gear laid out the night before the race. Add my bike, a couple more bottles, and a few other things and I realized it didn’t look as overwhelming as I thought.

After doing both Tri Goddess Tri and the Ugly Dog Triathlon at Big Portage Lake State Park in recent weeks, I was getting to be very familiar with the hour and a half drive out to the area. I got to the park about an hour before the transition would close at 7:15. We really lucked out that it had cooled down, the humidity was low, the mosquitoes weren’t quite as bad, and it was a beautiful summer day for this crazy race.

71 people finished the “full battle” and 42 people did “half the battle.” We all started the run at once. I knew that the race was going to start with a course through single track trails that I had run for the other races. Always worrying about logistics, I wondered if it would be too congested. I started pretty close to the front and was relieved that people naturally began to space out based on their pace as we ran through wider stretches and up a slight hill to get to the trails. Once again, I was very appreciative that Epic Races uses Greg Sadler Photography who provided all of these great race photos!

There were a few moments when I passed someone or people passed me but it all worked out pretty well. Although the race didn’t track each individual segment because they would have needed way too many timing mats, I used my watch to keep track of my times. I got through the 1.5-mile run in 13:26. I ran to my bike, put my helmet and backpack on, then ran to the spot where we could start the ride.

20.5 miles didn’t seem too bad since Olympic triathlons have bike segments that are a few miles longer than that. Some of the course was the same as my last couple triathlons there so I knew I could expect a few rough spots on the roads. It seemed a whole lot worse than just a few spots though. It seemed like I spent the majority of the ride bouncing and rattling around on the road. I wished I had my mountain bike instead.

At one point I wanted to dodge a rough spot ahead but someone was coming behind me. It figures – I hit that rough patch and one of my water bottles went flying. I pulled over and ran back to get it. A little later I got rattled enough to launch my bottle again! Apparently I needed to bend that bottle cage for a more secure grip because it must have loosened. I’m already a bit slow on the bike so running back to collect my bottle didn’t help.

I tried to stay positive by telling myself I was just taking a nice ride to get to the beach for a swim. Once I got through this segment I’d spend the next six parts of the race either swimming or running. I finished the bike ride in 1:11:04. That averaged out to a little above 17 mph which is about my usual. We had a transition area where we racked our bikes and left our helmets. Then I ran down the road to get to the water. I wanted to say beach but there wasn’t one!

I knew from my trial workout that I was going to be slow with transitions. I was there to enjoy the challenge and told myself that I could take my good old time. I was just looking to finish and not trying to win the race. I swapped my gear on the grass and got in for a 0.45-mile swim across Clear Lake. I hit my watch which tracked a 6:07 transition. At least my first one was the slowest one of the day! To be fair, my watch makes it look like running from the bike area to the water was close to a quarter mile.

I had a really nice swim across Clear Lake aside from dealing with technical issues. I decided to lengthen my waist tether after my practice workout because the buoy was hanging a little too close to me. Well, lengthening it made it long enough to drift back to my feet. That made kicking a challenge and my left hip got annoyed. On top of that I realized I didn’t add extra air to the bag when I closed it. It had been inflated a good amount from my bike ride, but still. It may have created a little extra drag. There were a couple of things I’d need to adjust for my next swim. At least I had a few chances to learn and adjust along the way.

The swim took around 17:50 and my transition out of swim gear and into run gear took about 3:39. A little faster! Aid stations were available before and after each swim. There were extra aid stations in the middle of most of the run courses as well. Sometimes I’d stop for a cup of Gatorade or water, but I had my handheld bottle with an electrolyte drink and some chews so sometimes I’d just keep going. One of my biggest concerns was staying hydrated so I wouldn’t cramp during the swim so I tried to be smart about getting enough fluids. I ate a Picky Bar about an hour into the race while I was on the bike to get some extra calories, plus I finished a 21 oz. bottle with my electrolyte drink then too.

The next run was supposed to be around four miles. Most of the runs took us through trails and part of this one was shared with horses. A volunteer reminded us to be on the lookout, but fortunately it was just us running through there. I only had to watch out for sand, roots, and rocks. I’m not sure if it was actually four miles because 31:26 would have been a little fast for me to cover that on trails. A 4:13 transition time and then it was time to swim across Mill Lake.

Mill Lake was the one shown in the Facebook live video with the lily pads. It turns out lily pads weren’t the only thing to worry about. Almost immediately I found that the weeds were thick throughout most of the lake. I kept snagging them with my arms when I tried to swim freestyle. I got tangled in them and it made it hard to have a decent stroke. I wasn’t grossed out by them but I WAS annoyed! There was a volunteer in a kayak and I was struggling along slowly enough that I was able to chat with her as I tried to figure out how to maneuver through. A couple other swimmers were around me battling their way through as well. Eventually I tried some breaststroke and it seemed to be my best bet. Rather than stroking down through the water, my arms were just under the surface and I was able to glide through a little more easily. It never felt like I got a decent swim going but at least that segment was only a quarter mile long. The lily pads did make things interesting too. By the time I approached the shore I was feeling very grateful that my mom and dad made me take swim lessons and be a part of the swim team for much of my childhood. I didn’t always want to do it but it sure made me a good swimmer. I felt secure enough in the water even as I got tangled up. Another tricky part about these lakes was the footing getting in and out of the water. The bottom wasn’t always a nice sandy surface. Once I finally got out of the weeds I still had to navigate the rocky bottom that wasn’t especially easy to get through. When I hit my watch on the shore it said that segment took 11:43.

At that point the five-segment limit on my watch ran out. I had to wait for it to save that activity and I started a new one. The new one didn’t start with a transition time so it was recorded as part of my run time. My watch didn’t show any running pace for about 4:50 so I assume that’s how long it took for me to get rolling again. The aid station had bug spray and I decided I’d try some. My arm stung and I realized I had gotten a scratch from the weeds!

The run took us past some cabins in the woods and along the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. Again, I’m not sure if it was actually 3.4 miles because it took me 29:57 for that segment, minus five minutes for the transition at the beginning. That pace would have been a little fast for me on trails, but who knows – maybe I was faster than I realized? I knew the run was my strength so I tried to push the best I could. I kept passing the same people during the run segments. That’s when I was fastest but they’d make up the time and get ahead of me again during the transitions! I was often annoyed by my bag bouncing despite tightening the straps as much as I could. Sometimes I held the straps together with one of my hands to help minimize it. Either way it was doable even if it was a little annoying. 4:37 for my next transition then it was time to do the final swim.

Crooked Lake was the longest swim of the day at 0.7 miles. A few of the people in transition weren’t looking forward to that length. I was just looking forward to a nice swim minus the weeds of the last lake! I was also hoping that I wouldn’t cramp. I’d felt pretty decent so far but knew that some of the inclines on the trail runs had worked my muscles pretty good. I’ve had calf cramps in the water before and that was one of my biggest worries for the day. Since it was a fairly long swim there were more buoys to sight along the way. Sometimes it took me a moment or two to make sure I was headed in the right direction but I could usually tell based on the people ahead of me as well.

It was a much nicer lake than the last one and I enjoyed the swim. I spent part of the time reflecting on what a cool experience this was. Getting to run, bike, and swim was my ideal way to spend a beautiful summer day. I don’t get many chances to swim across a pretty lake like that so I soaked it in. And I didn’t cramp! The water got a little colder as I approached the shore but it was still reasonable. I finished the swim and my walk in to the beach in 28:53.

I’m not in the following picture but it shows what the transition area was like. We often started and finished at random little spots, not big beach areas. Volunteers set up chairs for people to change into their shoes and sometimes there were picnic tables too. I found myself a little more wobbly after swimming longer this time so it helped to sit at the table as I swapped my gear. It took me a bit longer with a transition time of 5:37.

It was time for our last longer run of 3.3 miles. A good chunk of the run was on dirt roads and there was a decent climb early on before going through a gravel pit. Right now it’s the only way to get around a closed segment of the road. It definitely gave us an interesting change of scenery. Greg Sadler took some cool photos there!

I’m glad he set up in the spot he did for the photos because right after I passed him and rounded a corner, my smile disappeared and I swore. “Are you kidding me?!” There was a pretty nasty hill on the way out of the gravel pit. It just seemed cruel after having done so much already by that point! At least one more tough hill came on the dirt road too and I had a few moments where I decided to walk. We ended up on a main (paved) road for a stretch before we got back to our bikes. The roads were open to traffic which is why it’s smart to run against the flow of traffic – I could see them coming and jump into the grass. Still, when a cop car came FLYING around a corner with the siren blaring it was a bit unsettling. The run took 33:18 and then I got to the transition area with my bike for the ride back to Big Portage Lake State Park. That was a quick transition in 1:37.

The final bike ride was only 5.8 miles. That was a huge relief after I’d hated so much of the 20.5-mile ride earlier. The final ride reminded me that sometimes I actually DO like riding my bike. The road was smooth and I got to see some horses as I rode past a place with stables. It was probably around noon by then so I was more concerned about sharing the road with traffic. I tried to stay aware and hoped that my big orange buoy made me extra visible! I was in a good mood as I rode back into the park. I was almost done with the race and I was still doing just fine! Only 20:21 for that bike ride where I averaged around 16.5 mph.

I had a quick transition of 1:09 as I ran my bike back to the rack, took my helmet and backpack off, put my race bib on, and grabbed a hat. The race announcer had a long day of trying to find enough to say as people gradually trickled in, and he had fun with my last name of Boltz, commenting on how I was going to “bolt” out of there for my final run.

The last run was essentially the same as the first one and 1.4 miles long. It was definitely more enjoyable getting to run without that buoy! There was one woman way ahead of me who was a really strong runner. I had seen her power up the hills on the dirt roads that were such a struggle for me so I knew I wasn’t going to catch her. I was basically on my own for the final run and feeling good knowing that I had pulled this off. I picked up the pace a little bit at the finish line and finished the run in 13:07. I was extra motivated to push at the end because I saw that the clock was just under five hours. I didn’t know what to expect but had wondered if it might take me 4.5-5 hours to finish the race. I was suddenly motivated to get under that 5-hour mark!

It was kind of cool to see that I did well despite my leisurely transitions and no expectations! Winning my age group meant I got a cool glass and coaster.

I was excited to check out the food table once I recovered for a few minutes. I got a cup of trail mix, a peanut butter and granola wrap, an egg and cheese wrap, and mac and cheese to start. I had a couple pancakes after that plus an ice cream sandwich. I burned over 2,000 calories so I knew I needed to eat a lot and they had good options.

In general I actually felt pretty good. For five hours of racing (maybe more like 4.5 minus my transitions) it didn’t beat me up that much. I ran 4.5 hours last weekend in the heat and humidity and that totally drained me. The weather sure worked in our favor for this race and I think it made a big difference breaking the activities into smaller chunks. I may have run close to half a marathon but it was no more than 3-4 miles at a time so it didn’t feel like that much to me. For something that appeared to be really ambitious and intimidating, I felt really proud that I successfully completed it.

I can’t help but think about things I could tweak. I might use my mountain bike for the sake of not feeling so rattled during that first ride. I don’t go a whole lot faster with my skinnier tires – it’s like I have one mode when I’m on the bike no matter what bike it is. I’d rather be comfortable and possibly sacrifice a little speed. One trick some people use is tucking their shoes in their jerseys and they swim with them. I’m not sure if I’m up for wet shoes unless I get a specific kind made for that. There are a lot of swimrun events in Europe so I could learn more about what shoes they use. There may be other ways to make things quicker and easier. I wasted a bunch of time trying to clip and unclip the backpack straps. The bouncing bag was pretty annoying. Maybe I consider some other kind of pack made for running that I could put in the buoy during swims. Then I wouldn’t waste time with the straps. Maybe I get a buoy that’s big enough for my shoes and just hold it during my runs and sling it around my shoulder when I bike. I may go through the race photos to compare the different methods people used. Either way, it’s a good sign that I’m already thinking about doing it again! Epic Races has been holding this race every other year. I guess I’ll see if they reach a point where they hold it every year. I’d go! I’m really thankful for them hosting such a complicated race and for doing such an awesome job making it run so smoothly. I enjoyed testing myself and although it may sound crazy and torturous to some, I had a blast!

– Janet

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