Boston Marathon Recap

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It’s official – I’m a Boston Marathon finisher!! It was brutal and totally amazing at the same time. It was such a great trip that I will warn you in advance – this recap is a long one…

Since the race was on a Monday, I took Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off of work to enjoy the full experience. Matt and I flew out of Detroit at 6am on Friday and things got stressful for a few minutes during our layover in Baltimore. As we got ready to take off, we were notified that one of the engines wouldn’t start and we were going to taxi back to have someone look at it. I tried not to freak out at the thought of sitting on the tarmac for four hours. Fortunately things worked out and our flight arrived about 30 minutes later than planned. PHEW.

When we got to Boston we took a Lyft to our hotel downtown. It cost a fortune to stay there, but I sucked it up and paid for it anyway. I decided it would be ideal for pre- and post-race logistics, plus it would be the easiest way to enjoy everything I wanted to do in the city. We dropped our bags at the hotel, made our way to the subway, then went to the expo. We had to go through a security check to get into the convention center, then it seemed like an endless walk with trips up multiple escalators to get to the bib pick-up. All of the race volunteers I encountered the entire trip were amazing. They were so friendly, helpful, and encouraging. It was quick and easy to get my bib and race shirt. They had an area where you could swap your shirt for a different size, and sure enough, I wanted to size up. From there, we went to the main part of the expo.

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The bib pick-up and official merchandise areas of the expo.

The first area we saw had all of the official race merchandise. We were there early enough that the expo wasn’t even THAT crazy yet, but it was so congested that I started to lose my mind. I didn’t blame Matt at all when he said he had to get out of there and would meet me when I was done. I’m glad I had already ordered my celebration jacket by mail and had it at home.

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I really like the colors of this year’s official celebration jacket.

I found a hat that I liked and tried to figure out where the checkout line began amongst the endless crowd of people. When I realized how far it snaked around the room, I decided I didn’t need a hat THAT bad and returned it to the shelf. I continued on and found the typical vendor part of the expo that had booths from a ton of different companies.

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Some scenes from the expo, including an awesome display of Dunkin’ Donuts-themed Saucony shoes.

Although it was still busy, I was relieved that there was more space and I could breathe. I found a friend who was working at the Generation UCAN booth and we chatted for a bit. I realized that I was pressing my luck to make it to Meb’s event by 1:30. I wanted to check out more of the expo, but I really wanted to meet him. I hustled through one of the aisles and came across a Brooks booth. I run in their shoes and love their products. Brooks runner Des Linden (seen in the photo above) trademarked the phrase “keep showing up” after her win at Boston last year, and Brooks had several items for sale featuring that phrase. I bought a t-shirt and jacket, figured that was probably enough, and decided I better get moving even if it meant missing a bunch of good stuff at the expo.

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The yellow shirt is the official race shirt, the jacket and t-shirt are from Brooks, and I found the hat I wanted at Marathon Sports.

Thanks to all of the time I waste on social media, I saw an Instagram post from Meb Keflezighi announcing an appearance at Eyes Over Copley from 1:30-2:30 on Friday. I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere else and an event at an optometrist’s office seemed like my best chance to meet him. He was there because they carry sunglasses from his sponsor Maui Jim. I got there around 1:45 and was relieved to find that it was a low-key event with people trickling through as he signed stuff.

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I got stupidly nervous because he’s one of my biggest idols. Meb has a positive mindset and approach to life that really resonates with me and he’s extremely inspiring. I have a couple of his books and took one of them for him to sign. He was as nice and genuine in person as I had expected. We were only a few hours into our Boston trip and it had already been amazing!

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After that, we went to the Marathon Sports running store on Boylston. I was happy to discover that they carried most of the official race merchandise I saw at the expo and got the hat I wanted. We went to Shake Shack, looked at some stores along Newbury Street, then went back to the hotel. We rested for an hour before taking the subway to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. Neither of us had been there before and it was one of those “must-see” things I knew we should do in Boston.

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By the end of the day we had walked 10 miles. I had planned on stacking our schedule so we’d be busiest at the beginning. I intended to back off and get more rest as race day approached. There were several seminars and other things I would have liked to have attended during the weekend, but there was only so much I could squeeze into the schedule. I didn’t need to completely wipe myself out before the race!

On Saturday morning I did a shakeout run. In case anything got tweaky I wanted to make sure I rested on Sunday. Our hotel was just east of Boston Common and I thought it would be a good place to start my run. I hadn’t realized that the B.A.A. 5K started there at 8am. Oops. With over 8,000 runners, my attempts at running through the Common turned to a scenic walk. After checking out the large crowd of runners I headed up to Beacon Street and to the Charles River path. It was fun to see runners everywhere I went. That held true for the whole weekend, of course. I was really in my element. :)

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Scenes from my shakeout run included Cheers, the Beacon Hill neighborhood, the B.A.A. 5K, and the Charles River path.

I enjoyed running around the very scenic Beacon Hill neighborhood on my way back. It helped keep my pace nice and slow since the brick sidewalks aren’t really ideal for running. It was pretty though!

Around noon we took a little walk to Faneuil Hall Marketplace / Quincy Market. We got some cookies and Ghirardelli chocolates then hit an Irish Pub for lunch.

Next on the agenda was a Samuel Adams Brewery tour. Runners could sign up for a free tour and receive a free glass by showing their race bib. That sounded good to me! That location is more about product development rather than production, so there wasn’t much to actually see. We learned plenty of interesting facts though, and of course everyone really goes for the samples anyway. We sampled Boston Lager, Sam ’76, and 26.2 Brew. We got to keep our glasses and I got my additional free glass in the store afterward.

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An enjoyable tour and tasting at the Samuel Adams Brewery.

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A free glass for showing my marathon race bib.

We took the subway back and ended up at the Hub Pub for dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy but we had a good time. We received more free samples of 26.2 Brew there – bonus! The highlight of our dinner was the door guy David. He was in control of the music and he dedicated James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” to all of the marathon runners. He sang along enthusiastically (and was actually good) as he worked his way around the room. His karaoke sing-alongs continued throughout the night ranging anywhere from Hall & Oates to Madonna. He was a riot.

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David was very entertaining at the Hub Pub.

I made sure to get decent sleep that night knowing that I probably wouldn’t sleep well the night before the race.

I spent most of Sunday morning getting my race outfit and gear ready. The only things on the agenda for Sunday were meals and a course preview talk. I carb loaded with a couple of muffins from Dunkin’ Donuts, which you can find on practically every corner in Boston.

We walked to the Beacon Hill neighborhood for a 2:00 course preview talk with Greg McMillan at an apartment he had for the weekend. McMillan is an author, coach, and extremely knowledgable resource when it comes to running. I’ve been using the McMillan Running Calculator for years to help predict training paces and race times I might be able to achieve. I watched all of his Boston Marathon webinars leading up to the race and they had been extremely helpful. He had a couple of course preview talks during the weekend, and I thought it might be especially cool to go to the one at his apartment. As I suspected, that one was extra intimate. There may have been around 15 of us squeezed into the main room for McMillan’s talk and slide show. He went through every step of race day from gear check to the bus ride to the wait in Athletes’ Village to the nuances of the race course. It was nice to talk through things and get feedback from him as well as others in the room who had run the race before. He mentioned that you’ll see some people during the race with their heads down who are throwing themselves a pity party, thinking about how their legs are tired and they don’t want to run anymore. I’ve learned how important the mental part of running is, so that part really stuck with me – no pity party!

We stuck around for a few minutes to talk to him and get some pictures, and he was extremely nice. Between meeting him and Meb, it had been a pretty special trip already.

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McMillan’s course preview talk. Thanks to Matt for taking the picture of McMillan speaking.

We spent a little time at the hotel afterward before walking to Panera for dinner. Rather than worrying about finding the right kind of restaurant and making a reservation, I stuck with something that I knew would work for me. A sandwich and mac & cheese from Panera has worked as a good pre-run meal in the past.

We went back to the hotel and the TV kept me distracted for a bit. As expected, I had a pretty restless night of sleep. Luckily I didn’t feel too tired when I got up at 5:45 the morning of the race. I had a Picky Bar and Honey Stinger cracker n’ nut butter bar for my first meal. I loaded up on sunscreen and Aquaphor, put on a bunch of throwaway clothes to keep me warm, then headed out into the rain just after 7:00. I made the short walk to the gear check area. There were no lines and it was extremely organized as volunteers stored our bags on specific buses based on our bib numbers.

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I was worried about thunder and lightning which was currently hitting Hopkinton, the town where the race would start. Luckily we “only” had pouring rain in downtown Boston at the time. I had a poncho with a hood plus a garbage bag poncho to stay dry. Because I’d worried so much about wet shoes, I actually found some cheap waterproof shoe covers on Amazon. I wrapped plastic bags around my feet for good measure as well. I looked completely ridiculous, but everyone else did too and it worked!

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From there, I walked nearly a mile to catch my bus. Because Boston is a point-to-point race, people who stay in Boston need to ride 26 miles out to the start. Most people use school bus shuttles located at Boston Common but I had signed up for a special charter bus located in the Back Bay area. I am forever thankful that my friend Karly informed me about the buses provided by a local running store. I had to pay $35 but it was worth every dollar. I rode to the start in comfortable charter bus that had a bathroom, and I could wait on that bus as long as I chose prior to the start of the race. The general shuttle buses dropped everyone else off at Athletes’ Village where they waited outside. The rain had stopped by the time we got there, but since it had been pouring all morning, the field where people had to wait was mostly a mud pit. I talked to some nice people on the bus and played on my phone to pass the time, which actually went by fairly quickly.

With all of the crazy logistics it feels like you go through one marathon of events before you get to the actual marathon. Gear check, buses, waiting in the village, walking to the start, etc. You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent agonizing over details and preparing for this race. I made sure I packed every combination of running gear I owned. I had to get clothes from the Salvation Army so I could stay warm and dry before the race. When I packed, there was still the possibility that race day would be a cold, windy, rainy mess like last year. By the time race day arrived, we managed to avoid rain during the majority of the race, it was humid, and in the 60s. I had to make sure I timed my eating just right. I woke up before 6am, yet I wouldn’t start running until nearly 11am. I had a couple bars at the hotel and ate another Picky Bar during the bus ride. I ate another Honey Stinger bar when I got off the bus an hour before I started the race. It worked – my stomach cooperated and I didn’t start the race feeling hungry!

Despite all of the crazy logistics, it was thrilling to finally be there. From our bus we were able to make a short walk to Athletes’ Village, where we went through a security check. Then we cut through the village to walk to the start with everyone else. I was SO thankful for my special bus when I saw that people had discarded old, mud-covered shoes on the sidewalks following their wait there.

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It was a little over half a mile to walk from the village to the starting line. Nearly 30,000 people ran the race and we were divided into waves that left at different times. For my 10:50 start I had to leave the village at 10:10. Again, lots of crazy logistics.

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A CVS parking lot just before the start was filled with portable toilets for the runners. I played it safe by making a last-minute stop there and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to wait more than a couple minutes. I made a point of going to the far end of the parking lot where the lines were shorter.

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There was plenty of nervous energy in the air. It all became very real when I got to Hopkinton and saw the sign in the photo above. Prior to that I’d spent almost all of my time and energy agonizing over logistics. I barely spent any time worrying about the actual run! I guess I thought about that enough as I went through a winter’s worth of training. Now it was time to break off into corrals based on our bib numbers.

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A couple minutes before the start I ditched my rain poncho. There were volunteers with bags to collect throwaway clothes. This race was extremely well-organized. I already mentioned how awesome the volunteers were, and one of them made me get all emotional right before the start when he told us how amazing all of us were. I was really about to start THE Boston Marathon. Wow.

Soon enough my wave was moving and it was time to pull it together. The photo below is one of the official race photos I was able to download in the package I purchased.

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The first thing that struck me was how cool it was to see a sea of bright colors in the pack ahead of me. Races are always congested at the beginning, but I’d been told that this one could be shoulder-to-shoulder through 16 miles of the race. Although there was some elbow-bumping now and then, I didn’t get too bothered by the crowd and I had enough space most of the time.

Goal number one was to keep myself under control. It had been drilled into my head that it was easy to start too fast because the first four miles were downhill. During announcements we had been warned that the first half mile was steep, and it was. I started at the back of my corral and made sure to take it nice and easy. I was kind of surprised to hit an uphill that felt like a decent amount of work within that first mile. I thought I’d be flying downhill out of control the whole time! There were more rolling hills within that beginning stretch than I had expected.

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A map of the race course with the elevation chart at the bottom.

I was pretty shocked to see that my pace was in the 8:30s for the first mile. I was aiming for 8:00 pace. I guess I’d been a little too successful in holding back. The next couple miles dropped to 8:20 pace and I kept wondering why I wasn’t going faster on the supposedly out-of-control downhill stretches.

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Maybe starting the race a little slower meant I’d have energy left at the end instead of crashing like I usually do. My pace fluctuated a little, but the fastest I went during the whole race was around 8:10 pace for miles six and seven. Pretty early on I came to the realization that I just wasn’t hitting the goal pace. Months ago I told myself that the main objective was to enjoy this race. Although I’d worked really hard to train for a specific pace, I wanted to have fun. It was time to shift goals. If the pace wasn’t coming, it was time to throw it out the window and just enjoy the experience.

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All of the rain before the race left a lot of humidity in the air. In addition, it was in the 60s. I was used to training in 30-40°. I don’t do well with heat and humidity, especially when I’m not acclimated AT ALL. I hit all but a couple of the aid stations and eventually I started to take one cup of water to drink and one to dump on my neck. Even though we barely got any rain during the race, I knew the choice to wear a tri top was smart as I continued to drench myself. At some point the sun came out which probably didn’t help much either.

It may be heavy and seem excessive but I was thankful that I opted to run with a hydration belt that held two 21 oz. bottles. I had GU Brew in one bottle and water in the other. I took the bottles out of the fridge by 7am, and later in the race the warm GU Brew wasn’t so appealing. I grabbed Gatorade at aid stations a couple times but just took a sip or two. I definitely prefer my own drink that is more diluted. Still, the extra bottles helped ensure that I stayed hydrated enough. From the fifth mile on I ate one Clif Shot Blok every mile. Since my stomach cooperated, I guess that fueling method seemed to work.

I wasn’t going to let the weather or anything else bum me out. No pity party. I knew that friends and family were tracking me and they were surely watching my pace decline. It’s not what I hoped for, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I knew they were pulling for me either way. I just hoped they wouldn’t think I was failing. I was still going to finish this thing. Any time I struggled, I reminded myself that I was actually running Boston. This was amazing. People had Boston Strong signs along the course which reminded me how lucky I was to be there, and it was also a reminder that I was tough enough to do this. I gave myself a lot of pep talks. I told myself that it took a lot of work to get to Boston and it was going to take a lot of work to fight my way through it. Marathons aren’t easy, but I’m tough and resilient. “You got this” was another common sign along the course and another mantra I used regularly. I told myself that my body was cooperating. Nothing was injured or hurt. I might be dragging, but I was fine. I could get through this. I even joked to myself that however long it might take me to finish, it just meant I was out there to enjoy the experience even longer. I certainly struggled and felt like I was trudging along at times because the conditions drained me, yet I was determined to enjoy it.

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I loved seeing the signs that announced our arrival into each town. The crowds seemed to be extra big around those spots, at the mile markers, and in the downtown areas. As we ran through Natick, I dedicated that part of my run to thinking about my half-sister Kathryn who had lived there, and who we lost in 2008. That chunk of my run was mostly filled with thoughts about family.

When I started to see road signs that mentioned Wellesley, I knew a fun part was coming. I was looking forward to the “scream tunnel” of women by Wellesley College. There was a point when a faint roar became noticeable, and a guy near me said, “You can hear them!” It was an awesome part of the race and I smiled during that whole stretch. The women had a variety of “kiss me” signs. “Kiss me, my boyfriend is in Ohio.” “Kiss me, I need my green card.” I laughed when I saw a guy taking a selfie as he received a kiss. It was pretty cool to see the legendary tradition in person.

Following a nice downhill, the Newton Hills began at mile 16 and continued through mile 21. When I see that my splits climbed into 9:00+ paces at that point and remained there through the end of the race, it’s clear that I didn’t handle the hills too well. I didn’t feel too awful on the first one, but for some reason the second one stood out as a bad stretch. I felt like I was really trudging along during this part of the race. I think it helped me mentally that I convinced myself to keep running even if it felt really slow. The crowd telling us that we could do this and that we were amazing really helped pull me through. It meant a lot to have so much support and the cheering certainly lifted my spirits. I couldn’t tell what hill we were on or when we got to the final one, but I was relieved when I saw a sign that said we were done with Heartbreak Hill. The rest of the course was supposed to be smooth sailing. Right…?

When I hit 22 miles I told myself that it was just like one of my 4-milers during training – a couple miles up the trail and back. That was nothing. Another mile down and I only had 5K left. Then we hit Beacon Street and it was really pretty. There were stretches along the course that didn’t have big crowds, but it was pretty much solid through the last few miles. That helped me and even made me smile through the suffering.

When I caught my first glimpse of the Citgo sign it took my breath away. It was another legendary part of the course. It doesn’t seem like it should be that exciting, yet the first sight of it really moved me. I knew I was getting closer. The sign faded out of view for a little bit, but it seemed huge when it popped back up. It was a landmark to keep running toward that would get me that much closer to the finish. People were pouring out of Fenway Park following the Red Sox game and they lined the streets. The energy was incredible. There were moments when I questioned if I’d really want to go through this again, but by this point I thought about how this race was absolutely amazing. I felt a few drops of rain in the later miles, but nothing significant.

I kept watching the crowd as we ran along Commonwealth. I didn’t know when Hereford was coming, but I thought Matt would be spectating from somewhere around Commonwealth and Hereford. I was so worried that I was going to miss him. He’d make the effort to go out there and cheer for me and I wouldn’t even see him. I kept scanning the crowd as I turned right on Hereford, and as I rounded the corner I happened to see him amongst the crowd. I grinned and waved excitedly to make sure he knew that I saw him. That made me so happy!

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A picture Matt took as I approached Hereford.

I was thrilled when I saw the photos taken by the official race photographers. Would you believe someone happened to be at that spot the exact moment I saw Matt?! I absolutely love the next two photos.

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Waving to Matt.

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Smiling because I’m so happy that I saw him.

Well, this was it – another famous part of the course. Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. The last two turns of the race. I was excited that I was almost there, yet this amazing experience was almost over. I heard that the last stretch of Boylston is longer than you think and seems to take forever. That was my time to soak in what I had left. The crowd was incredible. The street was lined with flags from all different countries. I was on the verge of getting emotional but made myself stop. I needed to breathe so I could finish strong. I threw my arms up in celebration and smiled as I finished. The photographers caught plenty of photos of that!

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What a great feeling – I was a Boston Marathon finisher. I thought maybe I ought to stop and stretch, but after doing so for a few seconds, I really just wanted to keep walking around so I could take it all in. I stopped to take a few pictures and had other runners volunteer to take some for me. I got a fist bump from one guy as he handed my phone back. There was a camaraderie amongst us – we had done it.

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I collected my water and got my medal. Time for another picture.

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I took a small Clif Builder’s Bar and then I was a bit unimpressed that our post-race treat bag just contained a package of Hawaiian rolls, chips, and Craisins. For such a significant race, the treats were kind of a letdown compared to practically every other marathon I’ve done. I knew I’d find some good treats on my own though. There had been a little rain as I got to the finish, but barely enough for me to notice. By the time a volunteer wrapped a heat blanket around me, the rain was coming down. It was time to get to gear check to collect my warmer clothes. My leg started to cramp as I tried to get some pants on, so I took it slowly. I’m glad I put a raincoat in my bag because it started to pour. I headed to the family meeting area and waited by the “B” sign as Matt worked his way there. I replied to a bunch of messages from family and friends who had been following along and were so supportive.

I had talked about going for treats at Shake Shack after the race but it didn’t seem so appealing now that it was pouring rain. I wanted to get out of the rain and back to the hotel. We made a stop at Dunkin’, because as I said, they’re practically on every corner. A donut and a muffin would suffice for post-race treats.

I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a crowd of clapping and cheering people in the lobby when we got to the hotel. How flattering and cool! Eventually I showered and surveyed the damage. I had one little spot that had chaffed under my arm, but no blisters or anything bad. I had some sunburn on my shoulder and back where I had dumped the water to cool off. I’m sure that had washed away my sunscreen. I didn’t feel too bad in general though.

We went to a bar where I got pizza for dinner. Back at the room I tried to polish off as many snacks as I could since I didn’t want to take them home with us. As dead tired as I was, I was too uncomfortable to sleep very well. We left the hotel at 5am on Tuesday morning and as expected, found an airport filled with runners. I joked with Matt that I didn’t belong because I wasn’t wearing a celebration jacket. People had been wearing them pretty much everywhere we went during the whole trip. I did wear my new hat to the airport though. :)

Once again we had a layover on our trip home, and that’s when the pain really hit. After sitting on one flight long enough to tighten up, quad and shin pain was very apparent as soon as I stood up. I may have groaned a hundred times throughout the day, but I was in pretty good shape a day or two later.

Well, here are the final stats for how my race played out. With an 8:00 pace as my initial goal, I was aiming for a time around 3:30. Since I’ve never run that fast and have run 3:34 several times now, I was really hoping I’d at least be in that range. 3:52:15 was a bit off, haha. That makes this my slowest marathon yet by about 45 seconds.

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My splits clearly show when I fell apart – the Newton Hills through the end of the race. It also shows that I did not run the tangents since I ended up with 26.46 mi instead of 26.2. I stayed on the left side of the road most of the time so I could get to each aid station without fighting my way through the crowd.

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The amount of support I received leading up to and following this race really struck me. The support along the course was incredible. Having people cheer for us as we walked into the hotel was pretty awesome. People at restaurants were excited for us. There was a feeling of excitement everywhere. In addition, I really appreciate how much support I received from family and friends who were rooting for me. Of course Matt receives the most thanks. I know it’s not easy to put up with my constant training. Running six days a week (plus swimming and weights), eating late dinners, scheduling things around my training, listening to me talk about it constantly, going on a trip that’s basically all about my race, etc. I recognize that it’s asking a lot of anyone and I’m very lucky that he’s tolerated and supported me through all of this.

I’ll be riding a high from this one for a while. While my time wasn’t what I’d hoped for and it was quite a battle at times to get through the run, running this legendary race was an amazing experience. Enough to leave me wondering if there’s any way I can resist doing it again next year. I know the weather is usually unpredictable and often bad for this race, but surely I could do better than I did this time? My time from November’s Indy Monumental Marathon does make it possible for me to go back in 2020… :)

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If you actually took the time to get through all of this, I thank you!!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

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Rock CF Half Marathon Recap

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On Sunday, March 24th I went to Grosse Ile, Michigan for the Rock CF Half Marathon. It’s a race that has been on my radar for years and I’ve heard great things about it. It raises money to fight cystic fibrosis and offers a flat, fast course. It’s also one of the earliest half marathons of the year around this area. When I mapped out my training plan for the Boston Marathon, it called for a half marathon the weekend of this race. I figured it was a good excuse to finally get to it, and a $10 discount on Black Friday motivated me to sign up early. It would be a great way to test my fitness three weeks before Boston.

My friend Jeff realized he also had 13 miles on his training schedule the day of the race so he and his friend Don signed up as well. Grosse Ile is about an hour south of us. When Jeff offered to drive the three of us down there, it sounded like a good plan to me. In addition to the half marathon, a 10-mile run and 5K also took place. The race strongly encouraged us to park in a lot and ride shuttle buses to the middle school where our race started and finished. Parking wasn’t available at the middle school, but they did mention that the high school nearby had limited parking. We decided that we’d try the high school rather than ride the shuttles. We got there extra early to play it safe and there was still plenty of parking. That gave us time to pick up our packets and get ready for the race without feeling rushed. It was dark when we arrived and we walked 5-10 minutes on a back path in the moonlight to get from one school to the other.

We went to the middle school gym to get our packets, which included a shirt and a pair of gloves. Then we went back to the truck for a little bit where I got all of my race gear sorted out and ate a pre-race snack.

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I headed back to the school with a little more than half an hour to spare to make a bathroom stop before lines got long. After that I got distracted when I saw the beautiful sunrise over the Detroit River.

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We really lucked out with a beautiful morning. It was around 34 degrees at the start of the race with little to no wind. Because Grosse Ile is an island and much of the race is run around the exterior, I’ve heard that sometimes the wind has been a nuisance for runners in past years. I was thrilled that it wasn’t a concern this year.

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It was fun to run into several running friends before the race started. Some were planning on racing hard while some were using the race as a training run for another race. I fell somewhere in between. I hoped to run the first 10 miles at my goal marathon pace and pick it up for the last few miles if I had it in me. I lined up near the 1:45 pacer and ended up running just in front of them for the beginning chunk of the race.

During the pre-race talk the announcer said we should watch out for potholes on the course. That was wise advice because there were plenty of rough patches. I spent a lot of time looking down but really enjoyed the view when I looked up, especially on the east side of the island. I could even see the Detroit skyline off in the distance. There were a lot of nice houses across from the river. Taken from Google Maps, the picture below shows what the course looked like as we started the run, although the sky wasn’t quite as blue for us.

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I had never been to the island before so it was fun to explore. Aside from a golf course and airport, most of the course was residential. A few people came out to cheer for the runners, but it wasn’t a spectator-heavy kind of race. There wasn’t much entertainment along the course, but the aid stations were enthusiastic and groups from local schools had made some entertaining signs.

I was aiming to run an 8:00 pace to start and was 3-4 seconds under that for each of the first five miles. Most of that time I was near a guy who was steadily running the same pace as me. That’s one thing that’s nice about the race environment. While marathon pace workouts can sometimes seem intimidating to nail during training, it seems to come naturally during a race. Being around other people running the same pace sure helps.

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Sometime during the sixth mile I looked at my watch and realized I had sped up a little more than I intended. The guy I’d been running near must have increased the pace and I had kept up with his rhythm. I let that guy go as I tried to keep my pace under control because I didn’t want to speed up quite yet. Jeff and Don had started behind me and around that point they caught up. We talked for a minute and eventually I watched them drift further ahead. It was kind of nice to have them and another friend just far enough up that I could still see them. It’s not that I was aiming to catch them, but having people around who I knew gave me something to watch, which helped keep me distracted.

My pace got a little faster over the next couple miles, but I wasn’t too concerned because I often end up running 10-15 seconds faster than my goal pace when I’m doing marathon pace workouts. I was still within my usual range, but I did consciously try to slow down at times. By the time I’d run nine miles, I felt comfortable with speeding up. It was a good sign that I was still feeling good that far into the race, so now it was time to pick it up.

One big highlight of the day was getting to run through an airport hangar 10 miles into the race. I’ve never done that before and I thought the picture below was pretty cool. The race provided free low resolution downloads of our race photos which I really appreciated. They uploaded them really quickly too!

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I still felt pretty comfortable as my pace increased. I decided to start picking it up even more and caught up to Jeff and Don. We gave each other words of encouragement and I continued to push on. When I had a mile to go, it was time to give everything I had left. I nearly sped up to my 5K race pace. It’s something I manage to do whenever I run a successful half marathon and I’m still not sure how I pull that off. 5K pace feels rough enough during a 5K, so I don’t know how I do it 12 miles into a race! Having a woman on my heels who seemed to be suffering based on her constant moaning also motivated me to break away. By the time I hit the corral that sent us toward the finish line, I was really pushing. I managed to drop to a 6:33 pace for that last .1!

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At a minimum I’d been hoping to maintain an 8:00 average for the whole race, so I was pretty happy to average 7:46 and finish with an overall time of 1:41:36.

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Looking at my splits, I ran the race as ideally as I could have hoped. I was disciplined early, gradually picked it up, then still had energy left for a push at the end. I haven’t executed all of my half marathons that successfully, but I’ve done it a number of times now and it’s awesome to feel so strong at the end. A race like this makes me feel like the half marathon is my favorite distance. Everything just seemed to click!

Jeff and Don finished shortly after me and we got a group photo. They had done a long run the day before the race, so it’s great that they did so well on tired legs.

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We chatted with some running buddies until I got cold enough to collect my warm clothes from gear check. I grabbed a bagel and a couple chocolate chip cookies to go, then headed back to the truck. We stopped for a nice breakfast as we headed toward home and refueled all of those calories (and more) that we had burned.

I’m really glad I finally made it to this race. Although it seemed like it would be a long drive to make, it wasn’t that bad – especially with good company. I really liked the course and it’s nice to know that they raised money for a great cause. Having such a solid run made it an even better experience.

After the race I looked back at my previous half marathons to see how this time compared. This race was just three seconds faster than a half marathon I ran in the Columbus area last year as I prepared for the Glass City Marathon. It blows my mind how consistent some of my race times have been. My last two marathon times were only five seconds apart! Considering how I ran a Boston-qualifying time at Glass City following that half marathon, I’m hoping this race means I’m in good shape for Boston as well.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

One Month Until the Boston Marathon

2019 boston celebration jacket

April 15th is approaching quickly and the excitement is building. It’s hard to believe that a month from now I plan to run the Boston Marathon for my first time. You would think that like most runners, as soon as I qualified I would have immediately jumped at the chance to go to Boston. For some reason it took me a little more time to come around.

Initially, Boston was never really a goal for me. I wasn’t much of an athlete as a kid. I dabbled in softball, basketball, volleyball, and soccer, but I didn’t last more than two or three years in any of them because I wasn’t very good. I stuck with swimming the longest, but still…I was average at best and eventually I didn’t see any purpose in continuing to swim competitively. I ran my first 5K ever at the age of 30 and my first marathon came a few years later. Luckily maturity taught me not to worry about whether I was competitive or not. Running made me feel strong and empowered and that’s all that mattered to me. It was a bonus when I discovered I was actually kind of good at it. Far from elite, but pretty decent for an average person. When I realized I was close to achieving a Boston-qualifying time, I figured it was a good goal to aim for. I didn’t really picture myself going to Boston though.

Easily overwhelmed by logistics and little details, I’ve spent too much of my life coming up with excuses not to do things. When I had the opportunity to go to China in high school, I nearly missed the chance. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go and had plenty of excuses. I didn’t know how I’d cope with the food as a picky eater, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of staying with a strange family for part of the trip, and most of all, it would cost a ton of money. Thankfully my parents were supportive, I was talked into it at the last minute, and of course it was an incredible experience. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to China, so I’m extremely thankful that I ended up going.

I did the same kind of thing when I first qualified for Boston – the excuses started rolling. The trip would cost a ton of money between the flights and outrageously-priced hotel rooms. I’d have to sit around in Athletes’ Village for hours waiting for the start of the race. It could be cold and the field could be a mud pit. The weather has varied from pouring rain and crazy winds to super hot. I had so many excuses.

I ended up getting a stress fracture so I couldn’t have run Boston following my first qualification anyway. I still aimed for another BQ in case I changed my mind. Eventually I pushed my stubbornness and excuses aside. I got over my hang ups and realized OF COURSE I should want to run Boston. I recognized what an honor it is that I even have the opportunity to go to Boston. There’s a reason everyone raves about the race and works so hard to try to get there. I needed to quit worrying about logistics, suck it up, and just go for it. I often struggle to push my stubbornness aside, but I’m working on it. I’m trying to recognize that I need to get out of my comfort zone. One way or another I’ll adapt and everything will be fine. Obviously tons of other people deal with the inconveniences so surely I can too. Running constantly pushes me to my limits and it’s extremely rewarding. I need to remind myself to get outside of my comfort zone when it comes to life in general so I don’t miss out on great opportunities.

I’ve tried to tackle all of my excuses about the race and put a positive spin on everything. Luckily Matt understands what a big deal this race is and has been very encouraging. It costs a fortune to stay in the heart of downtown for the race, but I know it will make the experience even more enjoyable. Who knows – this might be the one time I run the race so I may as well take in the full experience. I stashed money away for the hotel shortly after signing up for it last spring. That money is spoken for and I don’t have to worry about it. We booked the flights and even had enough miles saved up to cover it. We got tickets for a game at Fenway Park. I signed up for a special coach bus from a local running store that allows people to arrive at Athletes’ Village in comfort and style. Instead of taking the school bus shuttles and getting dropped off, I can choose to stay on the bus. That’s very reassuring in case the weather is bad or if I don’t want to sit around in a field. Bit by bit I’ve been chipping away at all of the logistics. It’s all coming together and I’m getting really excited.

Aside from all of the planning, of course there’s that whole aspect of having to train for the actual race through the winter in Michigan. At least this is one area where I don’t come up with excuses. I’m going to run year-round one way or another and it’s just a matter of how I’ll make it happen. I managed to train through the winter for the Glass City Marathon last year and knew I could do it again. Last winter I developed a problem spot around my left hip/groin that may have stemmed from too much treadmill time. The area gets tweaked if I push beyond 3-4 miles on the treadmill, so somehow I’d have to survive this winter without much help from the treadmill. Because Matt works at Oakland University, I was able to sign up for a semester-long membership at the rec center where there’s an indoor track. It’s 1/10th of a mile which is not ideal for long distances due to harsh turns around the corners. It’s still a great alternative to the treadmill and it doesn’t tweak my problem spot. When the weather has been ridiculously cold or there has been snow/ice/slush outside, it’s been a lifesaver.

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OU’s indoor track

Other than short runs around the indoor track, I’ve spent most of the winter running around Oakland University’s campus or the local metroparks. OU keeps the sidewalks clear and salted for the students, so it’s one great option during the winter.

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In addition to the clear sidewalks, Oakland University is great for winter evening runs because the campus is well-lit

During the occasional thaw I’ve been able to run from home, but the conditions of the local sidewalks are usually too questionable for my taste. I know the metroparks plow and salt the paths and I don’t have to worry about wiping out. It’s become routine for me to go to Stony Creek Metropark straight from work for evening runs. I’m very fortunate that it’s only 10-15 minutes from home and I’ve spent most weekends there as well. Kensington and Indian Springs are great parks as well, but they are around 45+ minutes away so I only use them on weekends when I’m willing to make the drive.

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Kensington, Stony Creek, and Indian Springs Metroparks

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Running at Stony is enjoyable with this kind of scenery

Looking back, somehow I’ve managed to survive what I hope has been the worst of the winter. When the “polar vortex” rolled through with ice and sub-zero temperatures I had to tweak my plans a bit. Oakland University’s campus closed due to the weather at one point so I couldn’t use the indoor track. The weather made conditions unsafe for running outside so I decided it was best to skip a run. I missed a couple runs when I battled some sinus issues, and every now and then I’ve developed a tweaky ankle or something that tells me I should take a day or two off. I’ve accepted that missing a run here or there won’t make or break my whole training cycle. I have been brave enough to battle ridiculous temperatures a few times this winter, and it’s doable as long as I dress appropriately. However, whenever I have to breathe through a mask, I don’t find it especially enjoyable.

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I only have four weeks left in my 12-week training plan – Hal Higdon’s “Boston Bound” plan. I have followed his training plans in the past and they have served me well. This plan appealed to me because it specifically prepares for the hills of Boston. Most plans concentrate on speed work and marathon pace, but on top of that, Higdon also works in hill repeats. I’m used to following 18-week marathon training plans, so this was a bit different. It assumes that you already have a high level of fitness prior to the start of training. I was basically in training mode weeks earlier because I had to be ready to run 12-14 miles for a long run as soon as the official plan started.

Things have gone relatively smoothly and I just have to keep it up for one more month. I ran 18 miles for my long run a couple weeks ago and will go up to 20 this weekend. I’ll run a half marathon race next weekend that will test my fitness level and hopefully help reassure me that I’m good to go. Another 20-miler comes the following week, then the race will be here in no time.

I wavered about it quite a bit, but I even gave in and bought the official celebration jacket, seen at the beginning of this post. I wasn’t sure I really HAD to have it, especially for the price, but a 20% discount and my building excitement finally made me to go for it. I’m all-in at this point and can’t wait for the big day.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

2018 Recap

2018 race shirts

All of my race shirts from 2018

2018 was a pretty solid year for me in terms of training and racing. It is the ninth year I’ve participated in races. With 16 total races, it’s the most I’ve ever done in a year, topping last year by one race. I didn’t get any new PRs, but I did improve my times at a few races that I’ve done in the past. It was the first time I ran two marathons in a year, and I was fortunate enough to run Boston-qualifying times at both races by 5 1/2 minutes. That was enough buffer to successfully get into the 2019 race. I keep aiming for the goal of a 3:30 marathon, but 3:34 seems to be my sweet spot. I tend to be ridiculously consistent with my times, which was clear when I ran 3:34:25 in Toledo in April and 3:34:30 in Indy in November. Although the 3:30 goal continues to be elusive, I was thrilled to run two great marathons this year.

Aside from qualifying for Boston and trying for 3:30, I didn’t have many big goals going into this year. As usual, one of my goals was to remain injury-free. For the most part, I was successful. I’m super paranoid about the foot that had a stress fracture in 2016 because it set me back for quite a while in both 2016 and 2017. I took a couple of short breaks this year when my foot got achy, and luckily that was enough.

I wiped out when I was running on a mountain bike trail in mid-October, leaving me with an angry knee. It lingered for a bit and I took some time off to deal with that, but fortunately it wasn’t too serious.

One thing that has been problematic for me this year is my left hip/groin area. Back in March or April I started to notice that my leg would randomly lock up while walking. Somehow it has rarely been a problem when I run unless I use the treadmill. I reached a point where I could only make it 2-3 miles on the treadmill before it started to hurt. As a result, I’ve only used the treadmill seven times since April, and I think the longest I’ve pushed it was four miles. I haven’t had it officially diagnosed, but one doctor mentioned the possibility of a hip labral tear. I’m afraid I can relate to many of the symptoms. As long as I stay away from the treadmill, I’m mostly fine. I have a feeling that training on the treadmill so much last winter may have created the problem.

Otherwise, it was a good year. Here are some stats:

2018 stats

  • I swam nearly 152 miles
  • I biked 736 miles
  • I ran 1,858 miles
  • I had 71 weight/strength sessions, usually 45-50 minutes long
  • I did 16 races (with one being a 5K/10K double)
  • I ran 3 5Ks, 2 10Ks, a 6.75-mile run (when a half marathon was cut short due to heat), 3 half marathons, 2 marathons, 1 indoor swim/run event, 1 Olympic-distance duathlon, 1 sprint triathlon, and 3 Olympic-distance triathlons

I definitely had plenty of variety! Although I returned to several races that I’ve done in the past, I made a point of doing a bunch that were new to me. I believe this is the highest running mileage I’ve done in a year. Running two marathons certainly contributed to that. The more I run, the less I bike, so my biking segments during triathlons weren’t especially great. I’m okay with that though since I’d rather spend my time running. I’ve also enjoyed maintaining a regular swimming routine, aiming for at least a mile three days a week.

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A sampling of some race photos from 2018

Looking ahead to 2019, I’m excited to run my first big-city, major marathons. I’m registered for both Boston and Chicago. The Twin Cities Marathon is the largest one I’ve done and it had fewer than 10,000 finishers. Boston should have around 30,000 people and Chicago around 40,000, so it will be quite a change for me. I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere of both races. I’m sure I will hit plenty of shorter races before and after the marathons, and I’ll look forward to another summer of multi-sport events as well. I’m excited about a swim/run series that will occur a few weeknights during the summer. I can concentrate on combining my two favorite activities and subtract the bike segment! I’m also toying with the idea of finally trying a 5K open water swim. I’ve been intrigued by it for several years, and maybe this will be the year I finally do it.

2018 was a solid, fun year. I’m hoping for more of the same in 2019!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Shelby Township Jingle Bell Run 5K Recap

2018-12-16 - jingle bell shirt

Last Sunday (December 16th) I ran the Shelby Township Jingle Bell Run 5K. It’s a race that I’ve considered for years, but you could say that I’m a fair weather runner when it comes to winter racing. The weather hasn’t always been ideal for this race which is part of the reason I didn’t get around to it until this year. I run all winter long but I’m super paranoid about slipping. If I have any question about the conditions, I find a place that I know will be plowed and salted or I might run inside. Well, this year it was a little warmer with no snow or ice so I thought I should finally give the race a try.

I was able to register for the race on Saturday at the Hanson’s Running Shop in Utica. I was happy that I received a nice long-sleeved shirt even though I signed up at the last minute.

The night before the race I decided to scrounge up a festive outfit. I knew that some people dressed up for this race and I figured I’d get into the spirit of things. I can rarely convince Matt to sign up for races with me anymore, so I was able to use one of his fun outfits that he wore at a different Jingle Bell Run years ago.

It was sunny and clear the morning of the race but there were warnings about freezing fog in some areas of Metro Detroit. Luckily things seemed fine during my drive and I got to the race about an hour before the 9:00 start. I was directed into the lot right by the community center where the race started and finished. The building had nice bathrooms with no wait. I tried not to feel self-conscious because not as many people dressed up as I would have expected. There was a good mixture though. Some people went all out, dressed as Buddy the Elf or as a Christmas tree. Lots of people wore the race shirt. Plenty had some other kind of Christmas shirt or ugly sweater, a Santa hat, or other festive things. I knew I looked silly, but that was kind of the point.

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When I saw Lancelot, a mascot for the one of the local USPBL (United Shore Professional Baseball League) teams, I had to get a photo.

I ran a mile to warm up about 20 minutes before the race started. I started in a parking lot and found that it was kind of slippery. Sidewalks seemed to be salted though, so I was hopeful that conditions would be fine for the race.

When it came time, I lined up a few people back from the front of the crowd of 300-400 people. At some point I realized the National Anthem must be going. I couldn’t hear it and it was clear that most other people didn’t either since they were talking through it. I guess the speakers were facing the wrong direction for the runners! Fortunately the race directions were given via megaphone, so I could hear most of that talk.

2018-12-16 - jingle bell start

Photo courtesy of Michael Edward Photography

We ran through the parking lot and onto a drive where we had a quick turnaround almost right away. I heard some comments about how it wasn’t ideal to face a hairpin turn like that considering the surface conditions. The course was new this year which kept us from running through a golf course like they had in the past. A couple people around me seemed to be thankful to avoid that. Although I ran along a salted sidewalk when I warmed up, we ran in one lane of the road as we worked our way up Van Dyke. It was not salted and a little loss of traction now and then made me pretty tentative. The road was wet and it was hard to tell if there were slick spots. Since it was around 30ºF it was best to be careful. The rest of the route was along sidewalks that were mostly salted, but turns around some of the corners could be questionable, plus there was one other out-and-back hairpin turn.

2018-12-16 - jingle bell map

I was behind a couple of people who were running side-by-side and they really slowed down at every turn. Although I was cautious, eventually I got frustrated by how much they were slowing down and I hopped on the grass to go around.

I had no idea how to pace myself for this race, so aside from looking at my watch when I hit one mile, I had no idea what pace I was running. The Indy Monumental Marathon at the beginning of November had been my last race and I had not done any form of speedwork for quite a while. Knowing that I might sign up for this race, I tried a couple of quick quarter-mile loops around the pond in a park earlier in the week, but that was the closest I had come to running “fast.” It has probably been months since I’ve run anything resembling 5K pace. I’ve been concentrating on endurance lately – longer, slower runs. As a result, this race was pretty uncomfortable. Nothing hurt, but trying to maintain a fast pace for that long was a struggle because I wasn’t conditioned for it at all. I knew that going in but told myself it would be a good way to get some speed back into the mix. I haven’t been too motivated to try it otherwise.

I was pretty satisfied that I managed to run under 23 minutes for this race since I was totally unprepared. My official time was 22:46.

2018-12-16 - jingle bell splits

My best time is a little over a minute faster, but I knew I couldn’t expect anything close to that without training for it. According to my splits I managed to stay somewhat consistent despite feeling pretty miserable!

I got some Tim Bits (donut holes) and chocolate milk outside, then found lots of other goodies inside. They had some muffins from McDonald’s, cookies, granola bars, bagels, and more. I love when races have a nice selection of treats!

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I found the results and saw that I had placed 5th out of 45 in my age group of women 30-39. Respectable, but not worthy of an award. I stuck around for a little bit anyway because I was curious if I could win anything in the raffle. Eventually they announced that awards would be given outside. I walked past the table where I had entered the raffle and saw that they had pulled numbers and written them down. When I realized I hadn’t won anything and knew I didn’t need to stick around for awards, I headed home.

Even when I’m unprepared for the speed aspect of a 5K, I know that I can run the distance and will enjoy the race atmosphere. Despite slightly slippery conditions at times and feeling like it was a stretch to run as fast as I did, I enjoyed this race. Although I’ll probably wait until the last minute and monitor the weather like I do for all winter races, I’ll definitely think about returning to this one again in the future.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Recap

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Marathon #5 is in the books and it was a success! Because I’ve heard so many great things about the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, it’s been on my to-do list for years. When Matt told me that one of his buddies planned to make the 2018 race his final marathon, I figured it might be a good excuse to finally try it. I booked a hotel in downtown Indy way back in February just in case. Staying downtown is really convenient for big races, so I wanted to grab a good location early and I’d cancel it if we didn’t go.

Initially I thought I’d aim for the half marathon. I knew I would spend the summer doing triathlons. It can be tricky for me to juggle biking mileage with the heavy running mileage needed for marathon training. However, I’m really drawn to the challenge of the marathon. At the beginning of July I decided that I’d start following a marathon plan and see if I could keep up with it. If I could, maybe I’d try the marathon instead of the half.

I’ve truly followed the Hansons Marathon Method for one marathon, but it was hot and humid on race day and it was a rough day for me. Since that race, I’ve been anxious to try this plan again to see what kind of results I would get.

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Because of my triathlon training/racing, I didn’t completely stick to the plan. If I raced on the weekend, sometimes I’d skip the speedwork during the week knowing the race would help make up for it. The summer was so hot and humid that I altered or dropped my speed and strength workouts at times because of the conditions. At this point I have a pretty good idea what I need to do in terms of training, so I adjusted the plan as necessary while using it as a guide for most of the summer.

By the time August rolled around, I started to cut back on biking mileage in favor of running. When I’d successfully followed the plan closely enough for about eight weeks, I decided to commit to the marathon and I officially signed up for Indy. Despite the challenges with the weather, my training went really well…until I nearly blew it all just three weeks before the race.

I love training during the fall because it’s a good excuse to get out and see the fall colors. When I was out for a 16-mile long run in mid-October, I saw how beautiful the leaves looked at Stony Creek Metropark. Though I had planned to stick to the dirt roads around the park, the scenery drew me in to the mountain bike trails.

2018-10-14 - stony

I was running on one of the easy, non-technical trails and somehow I managed to wipe out. Maybe the leaves hid some rocks or roots underneath. Whatever it was, I went down hard. I had a gash in one palm, I scraped my other elbow, and I bashed both knees. At least it was dirt and not concrete? Somehow I managed to run through the pain for 12 more miles, mostly because it was my last long run and I didn’t want to skip it. I took one day off and my left knee bothered me a little bit for the next couple runs. I seemed to be in the clear until I ran up a few steep hills along a nature path the following weekend. It must have bothered my knee and sent me into a cycle of trying to run, having my knee hurt, taking a couple days off, then trying again. I was really stressed out when it hurt to push through a 5-mile run six days before the marathon. I had a pretty extreme taper period for the two weeks leading up to the race and wasn’t even sure if I’d make it to the starting line. I figured the Wednesday before the race would be my make-or-break run. My knee didn’t bother me for that 5-mile run, so I decided I’d rest until the race and give it a shot.

Matt and I took Friday off of work and drove to Indy, which is about five hours away. We got there around 2pm and checked into our hotel across from Lucas Oil Stadium.

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When I looked out the window at the stadium, the nerves suddenly hit. I was really there and the weight of what I was about to attempt sunk in. A marathon can be nerve-wracking anyway, but it hit even harder because I was totally uncertain about the condition of my knee and how extreme my taper period had been.

I was lost in my thoughts as we walked to the race expo, so luckily Matt was paying attention and saw our friend Carmen coming toward us! It was funny that we just happened to cross paths. Carmen was going to run the half marathon and it was nice to catch up with her for a couple minutes. We made it to the convention center and checked out the nice expo.

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I picked up my bib and race shirt, bought some cheap throwaway gloves, then browsed the official merchandise. There were several cool items, and I decided to get a nice jacket/hoodie.

2018-11-03 - indy shirt2018-11-03 - indy jacket

We were able to meet up and chat with Jen for a little bit, who was also going to run the marathon.

2018-11-03 - indy janet jen.jpg

We chatted with a couple other friends, and although it would have been nice to have dinner with Matt’s friend, I knew I needed to eat earlier than he was ready to. No screwing around with the schedule before a marathon! I wanted to eat just after 5pm and have enough time to chill at the hotel afterward. We went to a restaurant called The Ram, and a salmon and rice dinner worked well for me. We got some treats at the Nestle Tollhouse Cafe nearby then headed back to the hotel.

I got up around 6am on race day, which was Saturday, November 3rd. I had a Picky Bar and water for breakfast and took my time getting ready. One of the perks of staying downtown is having a bathroom at the hotel rather than dealing with lines for the porta-potties. I finally headed out just before 7:30, but I needed to hurry since the race started at 8:00 and our hotel was nearly a mile away. I half jogged, half walked my way to the gear check and dropped off some warm clothes for after the race. It was in the mid-30s and clear to start, and it would climb to the mid-40s during the race. I settled on shorts, a t-shirt, arm sleeves, and gloves, which worked perfectly for the whole race. I only had 10 minutes until the start, so I didn’t have much time to shiver before I got moving again.

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With over 4,500 people running the marathon and 7,400 running the half, there was a pretty big crowd. I couldn’t find the openings for the corrals, but eventually I saw people separating one of the gates enough to squeeze through. I was in the first wave and crossed the starting line about a minute after the race started at 8:00.

I went with the flow of the crowd and didn’t worry about my pace to start. I enjoyed running under a bridge and hearing the echoing voices of excited runners as we approached Lucas Oil Stadium. I started kind of slow, but that was fine with me. After a couple slower miles, I worked toward my goal pace of 8-minute miles. Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d aim for that pace anyway given my knee issues. The whole race was really an unknown for me at that point. I figured I’d still try to hit my goal and see how it went. For the most part, I ended up running the whole race based on feel rather than trying to hit any specific pace, but luckily my pace naturally hit 7:50-8:00 for quite a while.

I did feel my problem knee a little bit during the first couple miles but told myself it might fade. Luckily it did. I was able to get comfortable and take in the sights. We ran past the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, which is where the race logo comes from. The half marathoners split from the crowd about seven miles into the race, but I still had plenty of marathoners around to follow.

The course is billed as flat and fast, and it’s true. Any hills we hit were so brief and insignificant that I barely remember them now. There was a nice mix of streets in the downtown area, neighborhoods, and roads lined with trees and colorful leaves. Loud crowds of spectators were scattered at various points along course. It was cool to run past Butler University and an art museum, and musicians were located in a few spots.

I passed a guy who was playing “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty on the acoustic guitar. I got pumped up because I love Tom Petty. I happened to go by as he sang, “You never slow down, you never grow old.” As many times as I’ve heard that song, somehow that specific line really hit me at that moment and it became my mantra for the rest of the race. I kept thinking about the deeper meaning of that line and it was perfect. It might be kind of cheesy, but when so much of a marathon relies on mental strength, things like that help me power through.

I’ve learned that being on top of the mental game is one of the most important parts of the marathon. You can do all of the physical training and hard work, but it’s also critical to be prepared to handle the mental aspect. I don’t listen to music when I run unless I’m on the treadmill. I let my mind wander as I run, and when I’m out there for 3 1/2 hours, that’s a long time to have thoughts running around in my head. I thought about how the race is supposed to be a celebration of all of the hard work put in during training. It’s time to take it all in and enjoy the experience. Even though it’s kind of insane to do a marathon, I thought about how all of us out there are a special breed. We have such a tremendous level of will-power and drive. To voluntarily push through something like that, you have to be incredibly strong. I kept going back to that kind of thought process throughout the race to keep positive. I know that sometimes the body simply will not cooperate and it doesn’t matter how positive you might try to be. You can’t always talk yourself through it, but fortunately this time I could.

10 miles into the race I reminded myself that the Hansons Method talks about preparing you for the last 16 miles of the race. I told myself the race was just starting at that point. I was still feeling pretty strong. It looks like my pace dropped off slightly for miles 16 and 17, but then I kept moving pretty good until mile 21. That’s when my pace dropped to the 8:30s. I think somewhere around that point I hit a stretch of the course that felt like a grind to me. There weren’t any spectators, and although we were running near a river, I couldn’t see much of it from the road. I was thankful that they had placed a series of signs along that stretch with trivia questions about famous people from Indiana. That kept me entertained and distracted.

I felt my left IT band tightening up a little bit at one point, but I told myself that it happens during every marathon and I would be fine. Eventually my calves became the biggest problem. They felt sore and overworked. Once again, I threw a positive spin on things. I told myself that my muscles were getting so strong and built. I reminded myself that I had made it through a long run while my palm, elbow, and knees were destroyed, so surely I could do this.

Despite grabbing water at all but one water stop and supplementing with my 21oz bottle of GU Brew, I got pretty thirsty in the late miles. I really looked forward to the water stops. When I saw people walking during the late miles of the race, it was tempting to do so as well, but I told myself that I had goals to achieve and I couldn’t do it.

I kept grinding through, and soon enough I knew the finish was approaching. I saw Matt taking pictures of me which lifted my spirits. He yelled at me to sprint, and I pushed with whatever I had left as I rounded the corner to the finish line. That meant speeding up from an 8:45 pace back to my actual goal pace, but it was something.

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I crossed the line in good spirits and felt very accomplished. I muttered “holy crap” a few times, but I was still standing and somewhat composed. I got my medal, a finisher’s stocking cap, a bottle of water, chocolate milk, then found Matt along the side. He told me what my official results were according to the app.

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The obsessive part of me was thrilled that I had hit an even number of 3:34:30. It was just five seconds slower than my marathon in April. My goal has been 3:30 for years now, and it continues to be elusive so far. I’ve been within a 30-second range of times in the 3:34s three times now. And I’m totally fine with that. Although I still haven’t quite hit that A-goal, 3:34 is good for a Boston-qualifying time by over five minutes. I’ll take it! Not knowing what I’d be capable of based on my knee, I was ecstatic to still hit that time.

Here’s how the splits broke down. A slow start, around my goal pace for a big chunk, a slight slowdown followed by bouncing back, and the real breakdown came around 21-22 miles. When my “breakdown” is still mostly in the 8:30s, I sure can’t complain! I didn’t pay attention to my watch too carefully, so it’s a good feeling that I ended up running my goal pace for so much of the race naturally.

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I picked up some more snacks like potato chips, a Clif bar, and a chocolate chip cookie, got my warm clothes from gear check, then Matt and I went in a tent to get pizza. After downing a bottle of chocolate milk, I opted to pass on the beer tent. I attempted to sit in a folding chair that was sunk pretty low down into the grass, and almost immediately I felt like my left leg was developing a major cramp. I stood back up and was fine. Initially, I felt pretty good. The tips of my toes were a little sore, but otherwise I was in pretty good shape. Eventually I told Matt that he should go meet his buddy at a bar to watch a football game while I went back to shower. I’d meet back up with him in a bit.

I discovered a really nasty blood blister on one toe when I went to shower, but fortunately I didn’t have any other issues. I had a few snacks then headed back out to meet Matt. The tips of my toes slowed me down a little bit, but I wasn’t really limping…yet. Stairs were a little tricky to maneuver, and that got worse over the next couple days. I felt like walking around town would be a good way to keep from stiffening up. I knew it was inevitable, but I’d try to delay it as long as I could. Since we had never been to Indy before, I wanted to see the city. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to take advantage of it. We went up in the Soldiers & Sailors Monument (by elevator), stopped at a place for frozen yogurt, and walked along a canal.

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There were a lot of beautiful sights to take in, and I’m glad we wandered around. We got some pizza, then headed back to the hotel. At that point my step count for the day was absolutely ridiculous.

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When I finally settled, the soreness was pretty clear. The outer edges of both calves were tender to the touch. My left IT band/outside of my knee was tight like it has been after every marathon I’ve done. I managed to avoid a headache this time, but the general soreness kicked in and everything hurt. For a couple days, a groan came with every movement and I felt beat up. Now that I’m on the third day post-race, things are starting to improve. I know that the soreness fades within a few days, but the feeling of accomplishment sticks with me.

I had a great experience at this race and understand why so many people have recommended it. The weather was perfect, I really enjoyed the course, and we had a good time exploring the city. My body cooperated, and being on top of my mental game allowed me to enjoy even the most difficult moments. Now, it’s time for a bit of rest. I did a spring marathon, followed up with triathlon season and a couple of half marathons, and I’m due for some downtime. I plan to run my first Boston Marathon in April, so I need to make sure I’m fresh before I start that training segment. This marathon business is crazy…but I love it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

Brooksie Way Half Marathon Recap

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After racing the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon pretty hard, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ran the Brooksie Way Half Marathon in Rochester Hills a week later on Sunday, September 23rd. I would like to follow my Indy Monumental Marathon training plan as closely as I can, but I’m trying to listen to my body so I don’t end up with an injury. I considered the week in between the races a “limbo” week. Based on how I felt, I knew it wouldn’t be ideal to stick to the plan. There was a combination of feeling the need to recover from one race while also laying off enough to prepare for the next one. I didn’t do my strength or marathon pace workouts during the week, but still managed to run a total of 28 miles at an easy pace throughout the week.

I stopped by the expo at Oakland University on Friday evening. Because the fit for women-specific race shirts varies and doesn’t always work for me, I often opt for a unisex shirt. I was surprised to find that the extra small I had signed up for didn’t seem to be an actual option at the expo. I can imagine that had to throw off the availability of shirts later into the packet pickup process. I couldn’t have been the only one who signed up for that size, meaning a bunch of people probably ended up with shirts that had been allocated for other people. I ended up with a women’s shirt after all. I still miss the days when this race provided Brooks shirts. I really prefer the Brooks quality over the types of shirts they’ve used in recent years.

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I saved $15 when I registered for this year’s race thanks to receiving a coupon for being one of the first people to arrive at the expo last year. They did the same thing this year and also offered a coupon to people who donated canned goods at a Kroger table. Since it’s pretty likely that I’ll run this race again next year, I brought some food to get the discount code.

We had been warned that local roads would start closing at 6:45 on race morning, so we should arrive early. Traffic is usually bad getting to this race and construction on one of the main roads complicated matters even more. I am very fortunate that I come from the north because it seems like the majority of the people arrive from the south. Traffic from that direction was RIDICULOUS because there was really only one main entrance. I wanted to park in the lot closest to the start and was one of the last cars to get into that lot at 6:40 – an hour and 20 minutes before the start! Since I had to get there so early, I spent a lot of time playing on my phone in the car to kill time and stay warm. I ate one Picky Bar when I first woke up and had another one an hour before the start while I waited. Between the bars and eating a few Clif Shot Bloks halfway through the race, my fueling strategy seemed to work well.

Eventually I left the car to make a bathroom stop and to meet the Chevy Running Club for a group photo. Amongst the thousands of people I just happened to run into my half brother! We chatted for a bit before I went back to the car to shed my warm clothes. My tank top wasn’t especially warm, so I jogged around the grounds both to prepare my legs and to move around enough to stay warm. We were incredibly lucky to have a gorgeous, cool day. It was around 50 degrees and clear at the start. It was a HUGE improvement over last year when it was 70 degrees and humid to start.

The first wave of speedy people started at 8:00 and my wave followed a few minutes later. The wave start was very helpful and I didn’t have to weave around people much. There was a 1:45 pacer near the back of my corral and I started near him. I didn’t know if I could maintain that pace, but figured it was a good place to start. I had stuck with the 1:45 pacer at my race the week before, but that course was entirely flat. Brooksie is challenging because of the rolling hills that come in the second half of the race. As I suffered to finish in 1:44 at the previous race, I told myself there was no way I could manage that on the Brooksie course too. However, it was hot and humid at that race and it was nice and cool at this race. I figured I’d be ambitious for the first half of the race as it started downhill then see how things played out.

20180923 - brooksie start

I had a great experience running with the pacer at the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon because she hit an 8:00 pace right on the dot mile after mile. A couple miles into this race it was clear that I wasn’t going to stick with the pacer. I heard other people comment about how fast he was going as he kept getting further and further away. I figured maybe he was banking time on the downhill stretch to make up for slowing down on the hills later. My pace was in the 7:50s and I didn’t want to push it more than that.

I got into a pretty steady rhythm running with the crowd on the roads of Rochester Hills, and we hit the Clinton River Trail around the fourth mile. It all felt pretty comfortable and uneventful running a route that was extremely familiar to me.

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I always tell myself that the real hills start seven miles into the race even though I know there’s a bit of climbing once we come off of the Clinton River Trail. Sure enough, that first climb took some effort and was more significant than I gave it credit for. A quick downhill followed, but then there’s a gradual incline on the way to the hills. I was surprised to see that my pace that had been 8:00 and under had gone up to 8:19 on my way up Paint Creek Trail. Maybe some weaving and a little rolling in the Rochester Municipal Park got to me. I didn’t feel tired yet, so I was a little worried that I had slowed down that much before I’d gotten to the hard part.

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I knew that Matt planned to take some pictures somewhere around Paint Creek Trail, so I was happy when I spotted him. Then it was time for the hills. We live right by the first one so I’m very familiar with its difficultly. I run it regularly though, so I told myself I could grind through it. With almost every climb, there’s a downhill stretch that follows. I think the rolling actually makes it a really nice course. Although it takes work to get up the hills, I gain quite a bit of momentum when I come back down. At one point I remembered one of my encouraging mantras – the downhills help me more than the uphills hurt me. My average pace on the hills was actually better than the one slow mile through the park and on the trail! I still don’t know what happened to me there.

I drank about half of my bottle of GU Brew during the race and grabbed a cup of water here and there. It was a HUGE difference from the previous year when I went through my full bottle and suffered from thirst due to the heat and humidity. The weather was PERFECT this year. As I worked my way up one of the last big hills, I heard a spectator say, “This is your payoff for the summer.” It was true. Most of my summer training had been pretty brutal as I dealt with the heat and humidity, but I pushed through. I was extremely thankful to have a cool day where I could see all of my hard work pay off.

Once I finished the last big hill, I picked up the pace. I felt strong and it felt good to get moving faster. I was on a straightaway that lasted for a couple miles before the last couple turns that approach the finish. I knew that someone from work planned to cheer for me, so I was really happy to see him. I questioned if I could maintain the faster pace, but just kept rolling with it. The big group of cheering teenagers that manned the water stop in front of Adams High School helped keep me energized. My strongest half marathons that I’ve run have always ended with a really solid final 5K. I had stopped looking at my watch and didn’t realize how fast I was going, but I felt great.

Then I was pleasantly surprised when Matt rode past me on his bike. I thought he would take pictures near the trail and head back home. I found out later that the pictures hadn’t turned out very well. He didn’t want to let me down, so he was awesome enough to head out and try to get more! He caught me while I was in a good groove just before I approached the finish at Oakland University.

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As I made one of the final turns, I finally caught up to the 1:45 pacer. He was definitely ahead of schedule and I wonder if anyone had stuck with him. There’s a cruel uphill climb to the finish line, but I kept pushing with everything I had left. I was wiped out for a minute afterward, but thrilled with my fast finish.

20180923 - brooksie splits

Like I said, I didn’t look at my watch once I picked up the pace, and I had no idea I had picked it up so much. A 7:06 mile at the end?! I was pretty shocked when I saw these splits later. It’s always a great feeling to come in so strong. Despite the harder course, I actually ran a little faster than I had a week earlier. I guess that really shows what a difference 20 degrees can make for me. I was struggling and suffering as I finished the women’s race in 1:44 on a flat course, yet I got stronger as I went and felt great on this hilly course.

20180923 - brooksie results

Although this wasn’t a half marathon PR for me, it was a Brooksie PR by 2.5 minutes! It was my fourth time running the race and it was my best one yet.

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I was happy that Matt was there to help me celebrate, and we spotted our friend Carmen after she finished. She had an awesome race and her first PR in the distance in four years! I guess the great weather and some solid training paid off for both of us. It was nice to catch up with her for a little bit and celebrate how well it had gone.

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We were able to stash the bike in the back of my car, then Matt and I headed to the corporate tent. Since I ran as a part of the Chevy Running Club, I received two bracelets for the tent. The granola bar, chips, and Rice Krispies Treat I got at the finish were okay, but nothing compared to the catered meal in the tent.

20180923 - brooksie tent

It was similar to last year, with food and beer from Rochester Mills. I got some rolls, a salad, pasta, etc. I was especially happy because I got to enjoy it with Matt. I understand why he wouldn’t want to wait around from 6:40am on if he had ridden with me, so it was cool that he worked his way there on the bike and I was able to share my other bracelet with him.

I love running Brooksie because it’s the big hometown race. I get to see a ton of familiar faces and run the roads and trails that I know so well. I like representing the Chevy Running Club and catching up with some people I know from work and some who I just know thanks to the club. This is one of those races where I feel like I’m missing out on a big community celebration if I don’t participate. Although I always have a good time, it’s a bonus when the weather is beautiful and I run such a solid race!

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Running back-to-back half marathons so hard just a week apart took a lot out of me. This has been another “limbo” week where I haven’t exactly followed my training plan. I had to take a couple days off to recover, and I won’t attempt to run any kind of workout pace until next week. I have five weeks until the marathon in Indy and it’s time to crack down. I’ve had a great time racing throughout the summer and up to this point. It’s certainly helped me build my fitness and see where I stand. I’m feeling confident, but now it’s time to lay off the racing and stick with the plan. If things keep rolling like they have been, I’m looking forward to a solid marathon at the beginning of November.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz