Golden Grizzlies 10K Race Recap

On Sunday, September 25 there was a bit of a void because my favorite local half marathon would have taken place. Unfortunately, last year’s 14th running of the Brooksie Way half marathon was the final one. Part of the course came within half a mile of where I live so it was truly my hometown race and I was really bummed to learn that it would exist no more. 

When I heard that Oakland University’s cross country/track and field programs planned to host a 5K/10K event on the campus that same weekend I made sure to hold the date. I always did the half marathon but Brooksie also offered 5K and 10K races that took place around the campus. I was extremely thankful that OU planned to keep the tradition going in some form so I wanted to be there to support it, especially with proceeds going to benefit the cross country/track and field teams.

The tricky part was that a 5K or 10K would be too short for what I really needed to run the day of the race. I was supposed to do my final 20-mile training run for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon that day. At some point it hit me that maybe I could actually run the Brooksie half marathon course on my own then run the 10K race afterward. I’ve added extra mileage before races in the past, like in 2019 when I ran seven miles prior to Brooksie to get a total of 20 miles. This would just be a *bit* more extreme! Luckily the 9:30 am start time would give me time to work with prior to the race.

I went to the school the day before the race to pick up my packet and was thankful for the option. That would be one less thing for me to squeeze into race morning. Then I just had to hope I could actually follow through with this crazy plan. One major wrench that had been thrown into the mix was coming down with COVID just 11 days before this race. I took five days off of running while I was sick and missed a half marathon I had signed up for in Detroit. I was convinced that I had gotten through the worst of it when I just had some lingering congestion and my resting heart rate had returned to normal. The day after my first run I had some tightness in my chest and my resting heart rate jumped. I took a day off of running then successfully ran a hard workout the next day. Chest tightness and a higher resting heart rate returned. I felt fine while I ran but I started to worry that running might affect my recovery. I was supposed to be at my final peak for marathon training and I really didn’t want to miss that important 20-miler. I hoped I wasn’t pressing my luck.

Where the race would finish several hours later

I decided to go for it and started my adventure from OU’s campus around 6:45 on Sunday morning. The race would start near the outdoor track which was a little further into campus than the usual starting spot for the Brooksie half marathon. That meant I would get somewhere around 14 miles which should take a couple hours. It was still dark and there was some light rain as I set out with my headlamp. I needed the headlamp for a few miles before it got light enough to stash it away.

By no means was I attempting to “race” the Brooksie course. I knew I might be pressing my luck by aiming for 20 miles so soon after having COVID. I tried to take it easy and ended up doing my typical long run kind of pace. Despite the gray, rainy morning, I enjoyed the scenery.

A deer in Rochester Municipal Park
A bit of fall color at Rochester Municipal Park

As I covered the course I thought about certain landmarks such as where bands would have been playing, where an unofficial beer table would have been set up, and where the high school kids cheered extra loud with just over a mile to go. I have many fond memories from the multiple years I ran the race and I’m going to miss it!

The rain let up, returned for a bit, then stopped again before I finished my pre-race run. I just hoped I wouldn’t freeze once I stopped since it was in the 50s and I was wet. Once I got back to the campus I saw a few scattered people doing warm up runs. I kept going until I reached the track area with 14.3 miles. When I added the 10K I’d end up with 20.5 miles for the day.

The Brooksie Way half marathon course with a little extra distance at the beginning and end. The hills in the second half gave me a workout!
A look at the track in the daylight after everything was set up

After a bathroom stop I went to the car to crank the heat. I ate a Picky Bar and changed to a dry shirt while I stayed warm. I decided to head out 15 minutes before the race would start. I felt awkward trying to walk so I wondered if I’d even be able to run! I definitely stiffened up while I sat in the car. The race would start on the road by the upper fields so I did a couple laps on the turf to get my legs moving again and to try to stay warm. The rain had cleared out and it would be perfect for racing.

A little bit of fall color on Oakland University’s campus

The 5K and 10K runners ran together for the first loop so there was a good crowd to start – over 400 people. When I hit the first mile with a pace of 7:21, I thought maybe my legs had more in them than I expected. I should have known better. I’ve run around Oakland’s campus a lot and I know how challenging it is. We had a downhill stretch for that first mile which gave me good momentum, but once we started to climb I definitely couldn’t maintain that momentum. There was no way I’d pull off my typical 10K race pace. I told myself that I could consider this a “fast finish” long run in hopes that I would at least end up faster than I went during the earlier 14 miles.

Running by Meadow Brook Hall. Photo courtesy of John Brabbs from RunMichigan.com

Even though I was not fond of the hills I recognized what a great course it was. Oakland has a really nice campus and we got to see many of the scenic highlights. During the first loop we went past the rec center, down a hill by the lower fields where they play soccer, baseball, and softball, past the athletic dome, on a dirt path that took us over to the historic Meadow Brook Hall, past the golf course, by the main entrance to the amphitheater, then back to the track. I have run around the campus many times over the years and have taken a bunch of photos. The photos that follow are from those runs rather than from race day.

The athletic dome
A challenging uphill stone/dirt path that goes from the athletic dome to the VIP parking area for the amphitheater
The barn near the main entrance to the amphitheater

The 5K runners turned off to finish on the track while the 10K runners continued for a second loop. The route changed a little bit for the second loop and we went around Bear Lake and by the clock tower before going back toward the rec center and down by the dome.

Bear Lake
The clock tower

Instead of running around the mansion we stayed on the road that surrounds the president’s house, then followed the main drive toward the track for the finish.

Up another hill near the president’s house
Another view alongside the property by the president’s house

I was very impressed by the number of student volunteers who kept us on the correct path at every possible intersection while also cheering for the runners. Sometimes first-year races can be a little iffy and have issues that need to be worked out. Heck, I did a race earlier this summer that has existed for years and still ended up making a wrong turn where they didn’t mark the course! I knew I could count on Oakland’s running program to do a great job and they really did. It was a nice surprise to be greeted with a fist bump from head coach Paul Rice after crossing the finish line. It made me think of the Grand Rapids Marathon where race director Don Kern greets each finisher. It was a nice touch.

Finishing on the track. Photo courtesy of Dave McCauley from RunMichigan.com
Photo by Dave McCauley

Although I would normally give everything I had left for a fast finish on the track, after 20.5 miles and all of those hills I didn’t have any extra effort left to give! My official time was 49:13. That’s on the slow side for me but I still averaged 7:55 per mile which is around my marathon pace. I considered that a solid finish for a day with 20+ miles.

The official results
My Garmin splits
The course map and elevation, which doesn’t look quite as extreme here as it felt!

After chatting with someone I knew I wandered past the various tents and stopped for a photo with Grizz.

Oakland’s mascot Grizz

I got a granola bar and some fruit chews at the finish line, but I knew the Little Donut Factory food truck was there and that’s what I REALLY wanted.

The Little Donut Factory
If I know that I can get donuts at the end of a race I am very likely to run it

This was a tough race and I know it would not be a PR course for me even if I came in with fresh legs. I still enjoyed it and it was nice to break up my long run by using the race for a portion of the miles. I will miss the Brooksie Way but it will be great if Oakland establishes a new tradition. Here’s how my day looked at the end:

Ignore the elevation readings since my Garmin watch has clearly gone bad

I was glad my body held up for 20 miles to give me that boost of confidence as I get closer to marathon day. I knew I was pressing my luck and it did catch up with me later. My sleep that night was awful and the next day I was pretty sore from all of the hills. I think I have mostly recovered from COVID at this point, but a few little things have lingered enough for me to be cautious about doing hard workouts. I’m glad I still have a couple weeks to go and I think I should still be in good shape for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. In the meantime, I have one more race to squeeze in with the Ann Arbor half marathon this coming weekend!

– Janet
Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Crim 10-Mile Race Recap

Ever since I ran my first Crim 10-mile race in 2015, I’ve tried to make a point of reserving a spot for it on my schedule each year. The race is a big one around this area and it’s always guaranteed that I will see people I know. This year was the 45th year for the Crim Festival of Races and on Saturday, August 27th I returned to Flint to run the race for my fourth time. It feels like that number should be higher because it’s become such a routine race for me to do around the end of August. Somewhere around 6,000 people participated across all of the events this year, with the 10-mile race drawing almost 4,000 people between the run and walk.

Since Flint is a 45-minute drive for me I’ve always waited until the morning of the race to get my packet. I usually park in a lot that is half a mile from the expo area. By the time I walk down there, back to the car, then back to the start, I’ve already done a mile and a half prior to the race. No big deal since I like to warm up anyway but this time I opted to go on Friday afternoon just to save myself some time in the morning. 

I ended up kind of pushing my luck on race day by arriving only half an hour before the start. I usually like to give myself more of a buffer because some of the roads close by 6:30, but luckily it all worked out. I jogged from the parking lot to the race area for a bathroom stop and still had about 10 minutes to spare. People who have done the 10-mile race 30+ times started first. They get extra recognition and a group photo, and it’s always inspiring to see them on the course.

While I waited for the start I looked at my Garmin splits from the 2019 race which was my PR for Crim. My average pace was 7:32 that year and the first mile was 7:55. I saw that I slowed down to 7:47 for the mile with the Bradley hills but still made up for it throughout the rest of the race. It was good to refresh my memory and remind myself that things balance out during the race. I didn’t need to worry about the hills or a slow start.

Last year the race implemented a rolling start to help alleviate concerns tied to the pandemic. They maintained some form of that this year by assigning starting times in 15-minute blocks based on estimated pace. I was able to start in the first wave of runners at 7:00 and it felt kind of weird that the crowd wasn’t bigger. The start of the race usually feels so massive! Of course less congestion and fewer people to weave through is a good thing though.

Thanks to Crim for the race photos

I glanced at my watch when I hit the first mile – 7:42. When I looked at the elevation later I realized that we climbed the whole first mile. 7:42 was pretty good for an uphill warm up mile. As I ran next to a guy he commented on what great weather we had. I said that if my hands were cold a couple miles into the race that was probably a good sign! It was clear, in the 50s, and I didn’t really notice any humidity. The guy said he was already starting a bit fast and I said maybe that just meant it would be a PR kind of day! I wondered if I was starting too fast myself after hitting a pace of 7:26 for the second and third miles. We had the benefit of some downhill stretches though. It was only the second race in my Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 shoes and I was curious to see if the “super shoes” with a carbon plate really might help me go faster. I always like to milk the momentum when I run downhill but have noticed that I feel especially fast flying down hills in these shoes. I also noticed the pounding sound of the shoes from some of the runners around me and realized I seemed to be running lightly and quietly. I hoped my shoes might work a little extra magic for me!

We ran past some frat houses around the campus of Kettering University and I was kind of surprised that people weren’t partying out front like they have often done in the past. The crowd support along the course has been pretty amazing some years and I’m not sure if we’re still in a slump as we work our way out of the pandemic. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a ton of support from spectators. It was nice to at least see the old standards I’ve come to expect like Champagne Corner, a woman bouncing on her mini trampoline, a beer stop, and a guy who sings karaoke from his driveway. I think they’ve all been there every year I’ve done the race.

I managed to run the fourth mile in 7:22 and the fifth in 7:20. That was pretty fast for me and I hoped I’d be able to maintain it. The real shocker is that after climbing the Bradley hills, one of the toughest parts of the course, I only slowed down to a 7:29! I must have really gained some momentum going downhill afterward because I definitely had to work on those hills and was over an 8:00 pace while climbing.

The course elevation

When I hit the halfway point of the race I knew I could be on track for a really good time if I could keep it up. I worried a little bit when I felt my problematic left hamstring during the eighth mile. Fortunately it was a momentary thing that didn’t linger. I didn’t do a good job of aiming to run the tangents during the early miles but it was on my mind the rest of the race. There was a 13-year-old kid near me at times during the second half of the race and I noticed that unlike many people around us, he ran the tangents as well. I always think about how I didn’t start running races like this until my 30s and I’m so impressed when I see kids who are so disciplined and accomplishing so much.

As I hit the 9-mile mark I caught up to the 7:30 pacers. I’m not sure how that worked since I was averaging 7:20s! That last mile was GO time and I picked up the pace even more. Music blared and crowds cheered in a couple spots. It gave me such a boost that it made me especially aware of how much I had missed that throughout the rest of the race. I could see the final turn up ahead and knew I’d have about a quarter mile left to give it my all. The last stretch of the race is always a little dicey on the uneven brick road. I was flying fast enough that it didn’t seem to bother me. My main thought was that I wanted to push as hard as I could and I hoped it wouldn’t give me a heart attack!

I saw the clock as I approached the finish line and couldn’t believe it was still under 1:14:00! My prior best had been just under 1:16:00. I crossed the line with an official time of 1:13:54 which was close to a 2-minute PR.

My official stats had my average pace a little slower because I didn’t run the tangents perfectly and added some extra distance. Anything in the 7:20s sounds good to me!

I grabbed water, chocolate milk, and a granola bar then ran into a friend who also got a big PR. I wandered into the post-race celebration area and found a place with a bell to ring to celebrate PRs and had to get a picture there.

When I saw a massage area I thought it might be a good idea to check that out. Although I felt fine at the moment, I was wary about my hamstring, plus the whole left side of my leg from my hip down to my knee always has issues. A student from UofM Flint worked on me and I had to let her know that she could use more pressure. I’m used to cringing my way through massages to feel like issues have actually been worked out. Sure enough, I really felt it in my IT band. I hoped the brief massage might help me from getting too sore later in the day.

I got my free slice of pizza and ran into another friend as I lingered around the team tents area. I’ve participated in Crim’s corporate challenge in the past, where Detroit’s Big 3 automakers race against each other. That’s another thing the pandemic has taken away the last couple years. The team leader from my work told people that we could meet by the tents to chat about our races even though we didn’t have our own specific tent. I met up with him and a couple of other guys and talked for a while before heading home.

Of course I’m totally thrilled with my results. A day or two before the race I had started to worry that I may have sabotaged it thanks to juggling too many things and getting too little sleep throughout the week leading up to it. I got less than three hours of sleep at the beginning of the week when I worked third shift followed by first shift, and three hours a few nights later after going to a concert. I knew that was not ideal so I’m really lucky that it all worked out. I suspect my fancy shoes helped, but my fitness and the good weather were probably factors as well. This race has been warm and humid in the past so it made a big difference to have such ideal conditions this year.

I’ve also found myself racing a little differently in recent years. Instead of starting slower and gradually speeding up throughout a race, lately I’ve locked into a faster pace early on and have realized I’ve been able to hang on. That approach has been a little scary at times as I’ve worried that I could crash and burn. I haven’t yet though and it’s resulted in some pretty solid races! This nearly 2-minute PR will help fuel my motivation as I approach my next marathon in mid-October.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography