Boston Marathon Recap

Post-race jubilation

April 17th was my third round of the Boston Marathon and it was just as much of a thrill the third time around. As running superstar Des Linden said during one panel I attended, Boston is the center of the running universe that weekend. Once again, I was in runner’s paradise and loved nearly every minute of it…except maybe some of those minutes spent on the bus anxiously waiting for the start!

My 2023 Boston Marathon journey began very early on Friday morning with a flight that left Detroit a little after 7am. When I got to the hotel, I was relieved that I could check into my room before 10am just like last year. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Boston that got up to around 80° – almost TOO hot for walking around!

Things were blooming and beautiful at the Public Garden

I stopped by Marathon Sports on Boylston to browse their gear before heading to the expo. They had a lot of cool stuff but I didn’t get anything yet. They gave me a pamphlet that listed locations for “pop-up shops” for brands such Asics, Brooks, Rabbit, Puma, and more. After I got to the expo and saw the lack of exhibits, I realized it was extremely helpful to know where I could actually go to find marathon-related merchandise.

I went to the expo shortly after it opened and it began with a slow crawl through a series of many lines in the convention center. Fortunately the line for my race bib was short. I couldn’t help but be wowed when I saw that they had packets for over 31,800 people.

Bib pickup

There were plenty of spots for photo opportunities so I had to take advantage of some of those.

Gotta pose with the bib!
Running hero Des Linden

As usual, the first area of the expo with the official Adidas gear was crazy. I glanced around briefly before I had to escape the mob of people. The rest of the expo was spacious and didn’t have a whole lot to offer. There were a bunch of exhibits but barely any of them had merch! The expo had a ton of awesome stuff in 2019. Understandably, it was scaled back in 2022 for post-COVID times. I was really disappointed to find even less stuff to browse this year.

There was a stage with a variety of panels throughout the whole weekend and the amazing Joan Benoit Samuelson was there as I walked through the expo. I stopped to listen to her for a bit until I thought about how much time I might be on my feet that day and figured it might be wise to keep moving.

Wise words from Joan Benoit Samuelson – a Boston and Olympic champion
The official race shirt that was provided with my bib

The Adidas area had the official jackets for sale but I’ve opted to hold off on that purchase for now. I won’t wear it much as the temperatures warm up and I’ve learned that I can snag one for half off if I wait until the summer. I will likely think about getting one then.

The 2023 Boston Marathon celebration jacket

I went to Newbury Street next to browse some of the pop-up shops. Nothing really stood out for me until I got to the Brooks Hyperion House. They had a bunch of cool stuff last year so I was excited to check it out.

The Brooks Running pop-up shop

Brooks is my go-to brand for running shoes and other gear. Their slogan is to “run happy” and they truly embody it. They put so much care into their shop with so many fun little details. They had snacks and a bunch of cool freebies like posters, stickers, pins, and even special Des and Hyperion House cookies!

As soon as you walk in, you can tell that the Brooks Hyperion House is a fun place to be
Free cookies and lots of other fun stuff
Des is the perfect spokeswoman for Brooks

I knew I wanted to buy a special Des Linden “Keep Showing Up” shirt, plus I walked away with a couple of free bags and lots of other goodies.

So much fun stuff from Brooks

I settled at the hotel for a brief snack break then went back out to Fan Fest to see Meb Keflezighi speak. He’s one of my very favorites and I love hearing him speak.

Meb speaking at Fan Fest

Then I went back to Marathon Sports and decided to get a quarter zip jacket to help me stay warm at the baseball game that night. As I left the store, I ran into my friend Steve from back home. We couldn’t believe the chances of running into each other like that with SO many people around! He was on his way to take some selfies at the finish line so I joined him.

With my fellow Rochester-area running buddy Steve

After that I went back to the Brooks house for a special live recording of the “Nobody Asked Us” podcast with running legends Des Linden and Kara Goucher. When I saw Kara’s social media post about her Boston appearances, I jumped immediately to grab a ticket for the podcast knowing that they’d disappear quickly. I was thrilled that I got a ticket, but as I waited in line to get in, I realized it didn’t actually guarantee that I would get a seat. The house is SO small and had very limited space. I ended up at the top of the stairs where I could see if I crouched down, but I figured that might be a bad position to hold for a hour with a marathon coming up. I mostly listened to the discussion and was totally fine with that because it was a great one.

Des Linden and Kara Goucher

I had plans to go to the Red Sox game next, and since I’d walk right past the convention center, I made another quick stop at the expo. As I went to enter, Steve was on his way out. We ran into each other totally by chance TWICE that afternoon. Too funny.

I discovered that the expo was way more mellow half an hour before it closed. I was able to get a hat in the Adidas area with barely any wait. I made time for one more photo stop with my new hat and jacket.

Plenty of cool backdrops for photos at the expo

It’s been a fun tradition to catch a game at Fenway Park each time I’ve been in town for the marathon. I enjoyed the game with my Boston-area friend Kristine and her son Jake last year and was thrilled that we were able to meet up again this year. As a bonus surprise, I got to see Meb a second time – throwing the first pitch!

Meb Keflezighi throwing out the first pitch
Hanging with my friend Kristine
With Kristine and Jake

After it had been so hot during the day, it got pretty cold during the game. All the more excuse for the cool Run BOS jacket I bought.

I had squeezed a lot of action into my first day and was pretty wiped out by the time I got back to the hotel. I had been up since 3am! I had signed up to do a shakeout run from the Brooks house with Des Linden on Saturday morning, but that 8am start didn’t seem like the best idea. I had gotten very poor sleep for most of the week and decided it would be much smarter to skip the run in favor of getting some sleep. I can’t do it ALL.

I went out for my own run around 10am on Saturday morning which allowed the crowds to clear following the big 5K race based out of Boston Common. It was a beautiful start to the day and I used my run to do some sightseeing.

I ran out to the harbor first
The Paul Revere statue with Old North Church in the distance
The General Hooker statue in front of the Massachusetts State House
A view of Beacon Street

That afternoon I returned to Fan Fest at Copley Square to see a panel with Des Linden and Edna Kiplagat which had a massive turnout. It was a great talk and I had to sneak out a few minutes early so I could catch the train to Cambridge for another event. I definitely packed in as much fun as I could!

Quite a crowd at Fan Fest
Edna Kiplagat and Des Linden

The T was very crowded and it took a bit for me to figure out how to go where I wanted to go, but eventually I made it to Lamplighter Brewing Co. – CX in Cambridge for a special Oiselle event. Oiselle is a running brand by and for women athletes that really concentrates on creating a supportive environment for women. It was another event that featured Kara Goucher, plus Lauren Fleshman was also there – another successful runner who helped create Picky Bars. I swear by the bars and am a Picky “AmBADASSador” so I jumped at the chance to see Lauren too. I shared info about the event with Steve and was glad that he made it and we got to hang out again.

Both Kara and Lauren are sponsored by Oiselle and have recently released memoirs about their careers in running. They had a great discussion that touched on their stories and how they’ve both stood up for what is right. Sally Bergesen, the founder of Oiselle, was also a wonderful part of the panel.

The Oiselle panel
Sally Bergesen, Lauren Fleshman, Kara Goucher, and Atsuko Tamura

We had a chance to mingle after the panel and I only wish I had more room in my suitcase so I could have brought my books for Lauren and Kara to sign! It was wonderful getting a chance to meet each of them. I brought the Picky Bar that sports Lauren’s name (Lauren’s Mega Nuts) and she didn’t mind my cheesy request to pose with the bar at all. Kara was so kind and amazing as well.

Such a pleasure to meet Lauren Fleshman
The wonderful Kara Goucher

I had a quick chat with Sally Bergesen as well and told her how much I appreciate what she has created. Aside from the great apparel Oiselle has to offer, the welcoming and supportive community for women is a whole other aspect that has been a great thing for the sport of running.

Oiselle’s Sally Bergesen

When I went to catch the T back to Boston, a woman asked me if I could help her figure it out. Her name was April and she knew I had come from the Oiselle event like she and her mom had. The way that community works basically meant we instantly became friends! I offered a quick charge from my external charger since her phone had died. That was enough for her to get back into her Uber app where she had ordered a driver right before her phone died. She offered me a ride back with them and I’m so glad I took her up on it. We shared stories about running and I was so excited to learn that it was her first time running Boston. She is from Florida and has run the Disney races that I desperately want to do some day. We exchanged info to follow each other on the race tracker and shared Instagram handles as well so we can keep in touch. Just another example of Oiselle bringing women together!

It was my plan to do all of the fun stuff on Friday and Saturday then get off my feet and chill on Sunday. There were several more panels that I could have attended but I limited myself to one that featured coach Kevin Hanson and six of his athletes who spoke at the Brooks Hyperion House. I shop at the Hansons Running stores and their partnership with Brooks is the whole reason I first tried Brooks shoes. I wanted to be there to support the local runners who I see all the time on the trail and at the metropark, and Steve was also there because he felt the same way.

Five of the six athletes would be racing Boston for the first time. We got to hear about how they had spent several days training on the course and what their expectations and concerns were. It was a great discussion and a nice chance to catch up with Kevin as well.

More fun at the Brooks house
The Hansons panel
Olivia Pratt, Jessie Cardin, Anne-Marie Blaney, JP Flavin, Wilkerson Given, Jack Mastandrea, and Kevin Hanson

It’s easy to stay distracted while having fun running around to panels, the expo, and other various events on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, things suddenly became a bit more real and the worries seeped in. Am I feeling that tweaky spot inside of my knee enough to be concerned? Which shoes should I wear in the rain? Do my “super shoes” have less traction and should I worry about sliding in them? 50s are great for racing, but could I get too cold in the rain if there’s some wind? Should I wear a light rain jacket? Should I wear gloves? Fortunately I have some great friends who are runners who could help talk some sense into me. Plus, Kevin Hanson reminded me that when it had been rainy for the miserable 2018 race that had so much carnage, it had also been much colder and windier. I told myself not to overdress and to skip the jacket. My super shoes should be fine. It would all be fine! I organized my gear for the race and determined that it was done, no more debating. That helped ease some nerves.

My “flat Janet”

I got a big lunch after the Hansons panel then only went back out to get a sandwich from Panera later in the afternoon. I made it to bed around 9:30 and actually got some fairly decent sleep.

Marathon Monday had arrived and I got up around 5am. It would be a long morning leading up to my start time at 10:50.

I left the hotel just after 6am to drop warm clothes at the gear check area. I was prepared with a raincoat from the Salvation Army but at least the rain hadn’t started yet. I had more walking to do to so I could catch my bus from the Back Bay area. A running store in Michigan charters buses which is an especially great perk when the weather is iffy. I missed the bus last year so I made SURE I was early this year. My timing was perfect because I ran into my friend Jeff’s girlfriend Jenni and we were able to sit together on the bus. It was great getting to catch up and have good company for killing some of the time.

Hanging with Jenni on the bus

As we arrived in Hopkinton we came to a stop but it wasn’t at Athletes’ Village as planned. The road was blocked and we weren’t moving anywhere. For a while I wasn’t concerned since I still had three hours before I’d start anyway. After waiting at least 20 minutes without going anywhere we finally got an update. We were actually CLOSER to the start where we got stuck. It was 0.3 miles to the start from there versus having to walk 0.7 miles from Athletes’ Village. We could just stay on the bus there and security would let us through without any issues. We’d miss out on the Athletes’ Village experience but I knew I wasn’t missing anything but crowds, porta potties, and the long walk to the start. This actually worked in our favor.

The reason our bus got stuck

Then it was just a matter of watching the clock. I groaned when some time passed and I realized I still had two and a half hours to go. Then an hour and a half. That downtime before the start of the race is almost painful. It was nice chatting with other people on the bus and realizing we all had our own current injury woes to share. I ate a couple Picky Bars and drank water to make sure I’d be fueled enough for the race. I also stood in the aisle at times to make sure I didn’t stiffen up from sitting so long…especially with my bad hamstring. It was nice to have a warm and dry place to wait but the bus was getting to be TOO warm for me. It began to bother my head and I was afraid I’d develop a headache. When I had nearly an hour to go until the start, I decided it might be a better option to head out into the rain than to grow more uncomfortable on the bus. I wished Jenni good luck and ventured out.

We were parked very close to the “last stop” collection of porta potties near the starting corrals so I headed there. I still had time to kill and worried about my shoes getting too wet from the rain, but fortunately it let up a little bit before the start of the race.

TONS of porta potties

I was in corral number two of the third wave and had plenty of time to make my way up there and shed my Salvation Army rain coat and track pants as we neared the 10:50 start.

Staying dry as long as I could!

The moment finally came and we were off! Slowly. When people talk about race strategy for Boston they always reinforce how important it is to hold back for the first few miles and not run down those hills too fast. If you do, they could beat up your quads and you’ll pay for it later when the uphill climbs hit. However, now that I’ve done this race three times I’ve found that it’s always so congested that I couldn’t run fast even if I wanted to. I’ve learned not to worry about slow starts at big marathons. It evens out eventually and maybe it’s a good thing to stay under control at the beginning.

Lots of people filling the road, plus a sign recognizing the 10-year anniversary since the bombings

I typically try to train for a 3:30 marathon which means running an average of an 8:00 pace. I’ve only pulled that off successfully at one marathon so far, which was in Indianapolis in 2021 where I ran just under 3:29. Otherwise, it seems like I often tend to finish around the 3:34-3:35 range. My training went well until sometime in March when I developed a pain on the inside of my right knee. That was on top of the left hamstring issue I’ve continued to run through since October. The knee issue caused me to miss three of my long runs, including two critical 20-milers. It took some time to regain some of the fitness I had lost in the couple of weeks I took off and I knew I ought to adjust my goals for this race. Instead of running an 8:00 pace I kind of arbitrarily decided an 8:15 pace might work. After a slower 8:33 first mile, I actually ended up running right around 8:15 for the next couple miles. I basically ran at a pace that felt comfortable and sustainable so maybe I really was on track with that estimated goal.

It was around 50° and felt perfect for running when it wasn’t raining. I didn’t mind some light rain but eventually it picked up. Prior to that, I pulled my phone out a few times to capture some photos and videos of the electric atmosphere. Despite having some kind of general goal to guide me in how to pace my run, one of my ultimate goals at Boston is always to celebrate the experience. It’s our day to feel like rockstars and the spectators that line the course definitely make you feel like one. I knew that my friend Jeff was going to be spectating somewhere after the 10K point and I was super happy when I spotted him and got to say hi.

Even in the rain, the people show up

The “scream tunnel” at Wellesley College is always a huge highlight of the race. The women are SO enthusiastic that I can’t help but pick up my pace. They’re located around the halfway point of the race and are such a welcome boost of energy.

The Wellesley girls are always a bright spot of the race with their signs and screams

My pace varied a little bit from mile to mile, but other than a couple miles in the low 8:20s, I was in the 8:10s for the first half of the race. Most importantly, my watch showed that I was averaging 8:16 overall. I was keeping things under control and although I may have been a second slower than the random pace I had chosen to aim for, I was clearly running a smart race so far.

I was especially relieved that my problematic hamstring didn’t flare up AT ALL. I’d been to six physical therapy sessions prior to the race and maybe it had already started to help! I had a few stiff spots, but the areas I had worried about didn’t give me any issues. However, I did experience some flashing before my eyes for a mile or two before I’d even reached the halfway point. I knew that it was a sign that a migraine could be coming. I went through a period years ago when I had some migraines. Then they just stopped and I haven’t had one for years. I was a bit concerned about how it might affect my race. I knew it wasn’t a good thing to see stars while I ran. I really hoped I wouldn’t faint! I hoped I wouldn’t have to try to finish a marathon with a pounding headache. As some wise people have said though, run the mile you’re in. Things come and go during a marathon. You might think you’re going to have to make a bathroom stop one minute, but five minutes later you feel fine. I was very lucky that when the flashing finally stopped, a migraine did not follow.

Throwing my hands up for the photographers

When the rain did pick up for a little while, all I could do was laugh it off. I thought of a quote from Jeff Dengate from Runner’s World magazine: “Rain or sweat, you’re gonna get wet.” I always look for some kind of perspective to keep me positive while I run. I’ve done plenty of training in the rain and it really was no big deal. I was a little concerned that I might get cold, and my hands did get a little rubbery in the later miles, but I was fine otherwise. I had wondered if my shoes would provide enough traction in the rain and fortunately they worked well enough. I just had to avoid any paint on the road which got especially slippery, but that’s the case no matter what kind of shoes I would have chosen. I heard some people mention a headwind after the race and I honestly didn’t even think about wind as a factor at all during the race. Running in wet shoes isn’t totally ideal, but the conditions seemed to work well enough for me. Cool rain is better than heat or humidity for me!

That smile is genuine and pretty much how I felt during the whole race
It was a bit damp out there!

I don’t listen to music while I race but I often have songs run through my head. One song that came to mind was “I’m Good” from the band The Mowgli’s since it had come up on a playlist when I got ready that morning. “I’m good, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good. Living life just like I should. Wouldn’t change it if I could, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good.” Throughout the race I kept telling myself, “I’m good!” Mantras really help my mental game during something as grueling as a marathon. 

I wore a Picky Bars AmBADASSador shirt for the race and that also gave me a boost. Now and then I’d think about that word on my chest and it was empowering to remind myself that I was a badass for doing this.

Those wet roads didn’t bother me!

I added a third mantra to the mix when I pulled my phone out to shoot video. I saw a text notification from my friend Carmen that said, “You are crushing it!!!” It made me smile and I kept telling myself that for the rest of the race. Big thanks to Carmen for giving me another way to stay positive!

When I got to the stretch of Newton Hills between 16-21 miles I thought about something one of the Hansons’ athletes (JP Flavin) had said the previous day. He said he knows he can run up and down hills and wasn’t scared of them. I thought of Ghostbusters and my mantra became, “I ain’t afraid of no hills!” It worked! I reminded myself of all of the hills I ran around home in preparation for the race. Of course I still slowed down as I climbed, and I learned from family and friends that the race tracker made it look like my pace had dropped dramatically enough to concern them! The mile to mile splits weren’t as dramatic on my watch though and honestly, the downhill stretches that followed were significant enough to help me regain momentum. The hills didn’t feel that bad to me and once I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill, I reminded myself again that I was crushing it. I went from an 8:41 mile at 21 back down to an 8:05 mile for 22. The fact that I was still going that strong that late in the race made me feel great.

The Citgo sign is significant because it’s around that point when we only have a mile to go!

I was successful in my goal of enjoying the experience. I know what a special experience it is to run THE Boston Marathon and I was extremely grateful the whole time. I loved the crowds and just kept smiling throughout the miles.

Working hard but loving every bit of it

I reached the underpass where we go downhill, but of course have to climb back uphill after that. Although people like to say that the race is all downhill after the Newton Hills, there are a few little sneaky ones to battle. I reached the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” point of the race just before the end and realized why some people refer to it as “Mount Hereford.” It’s not a significant climb but you definitely feel it when it comes that late in the race.

Making that final left turn onto Boylston
The crowd provides a great finishing boost along Boylston

It was time to give all that I had for that final stretch on Boylston. My watch told me I averaged 8:16 for much of the race and that average came down to 8:15 eventually. I believe I actually ran a negative split in Boston – definitely the sign of a solid race!

Flying along Boylston

I brought my pace down to 8:01 for the 26th mile! Since it’s hard to run tangents on a course that is so crowded, my watch told me that I ran 26.43 miles rather than 26.2. I picked up the pace to an average of 7:37 for nearly half a mile at the end. According to my Garmin stats, that was good for an average of 8:13 overall! Officially, it was a little slower (an 8:18 average), but I was pretty proud that I finished so strong.

Finishing strong

I was thrilled when I crossed the finish line because I knew I had run another BQ – a Boston qualifier!

Just after I crossed the finish line
A slew of Boston finishers
I need to run a 3:40 to qualify for Boston, so this means I did it!
My Garmin stats
My Garmin splits

I held it together during the race, but a minute after I finished the race the emotions hit and I shed a few tears. Once again, I had completed the Boston Marathon. For my second time, I ran a BQ AT Boston which is the ultimate. I had run a really smart race and felt great the whole time. It was the best feeling.

A little teary-eyed here
The third unicorn that I have earned

I took time to revel in the feelings of my accomplishment while also knowing I better try to warm up SOON. Coming to a complete stop while I was wet and it was 50° could turn ugly fast.

A heat sheet would help warm me up very slightly

I collected some extra layers at gear check but was still shivering and worked my way back to the hotel slowly. I made a quick call to my mom knowing that she had been tracking me. I let her know that I was thrilled with my race, I was okay, but I was cold and had to get moving so I would talk more later. I was humbled by all of the messages of support that I had received and wanted to get back to everyone. I had put myself in the challenging position of trying to check out of the hotel by 4:00 though. I finished the race around 2:30, collected all of the stuff at the finish line, then still had to make the SLOW walk back to the hotel. I thought about how funny it was that I’d been flying along minutes earlier and now I could barely walk!

I made it to the hotel by 3:00, downed some chocolate milk and a couple of protein bars, then had to get in the hot shower. My stomach was fine during the race but not so much afterward. It was pretty angry about what I had done to my body! I scrambled to pack up my wet race gear and everything else and get down to the lobby just in time to save myself from paying for an extra night. I usually leave on Tuesday morning but this time I needed to get back to work the next day. I joked that trying to pull off my quick exit with the flight then drive home, and surviving work the next day on barely any sleep might be more of an endurance event than running the race!

Once again, the entire weekend was an incredible experience. I will have to see if my qualifying time with a 2:42 buffer is enough to actually make it into the race next year. No buffer was necessary the last couple years – anyone who qualified made it in. I might be tempted to try to run a faster marathon before it’s time to register in mid-September, but maybe my time is good enough that I don’t have to worry. I’m already questioning that because I love this race so much that I’d love to return any time I have the opportunity. I’ll try to ride this high for a little while first though because I’m thrilled with how it all played out.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography


Rock CF Half Marathon Recap

Sunday, March 19 was the kind of day that made me question why I PAY to torture myself. Running a half marathon around an island on a cold, windy day with a real-feel of 10° didn’t seem like the best idea. Let’s be honest though – I’d be outside running somewhere even if I wasn’t doing a race and Rock CF is a great one that raises money for cystic fibrosis. The weather just made things more…interesting!

This was the third time I ran the race in person. I also have a medal and shirt from the 2020 COVID-era virtual edition of the race. I realized that this race has always acted as a test to see where I stand a month out from the Boston Marathon. I had a good run when I ran it for the first time in 2019 and last year’s race was a half marathon PR for me. I was curious how this test would go since I’ve been battling some tweaky spots that seriously derailed my marathon training for a few weeks. I’ll say that I didn’t quite ace this test, but it went well enough.

I missed several weekends of long runs thanks to my issues. I was really hoping that I could add some distance before and after this race to turn it into a solid long run day. Arriving at 6:30 for the 8:00 start allowed me to do so. I went to the middle school gym that acts as the home base for the race and collected my shirt with the cool shoes as lungs theme that they always have, plus a sticker and some gloves. Back to the car, then out to do a warm up run.

One thing I love about running Rock CF is getting to enjoy the gorgeous sunrise over the Detroit River. I ran out to the main road that runs along the east side of Grosse Ile where several other runners were doing the same thing as me. I ran out a mile then back to get to a total of two miles.

I had been worried about how cold it might be with the wind so I had plenty of layers on. I’m glad I ran a couple miles because that was enough to warm up and realize that I had overdressed. I had a buff over half of my face which was nice to start, but the wind wasn’t that bad and I didn’t really need it. I had a light layer of tights covered by pants and decided that I could swap to a single pair of tights. I also got rid of one extra shirt. Feeling ready to go, I started to run again since it was over a quarter mile between the high school parking lot and the start by the middle school. I continued to run out on the main road both to stay warm and to add more distance. I ended up with a total of 2.9 warm up miles so I would get at least 16 miles in for the day by the time the race was done.

I didn’t have much downtime between my warm up and the start of the race so I didn’t get too cold while I waited. At 8:00 we were off!

My ideal goal for the day was to see if I could run at marathon pace, which is usually around an 8:00 pace. I had missed three Sunday long runs in a row because of an issue around one of my knees. My first long run after that break was 15 miles the weekend before this race and I really dragged through it. I questioned if it could be too ambitious to hope for marathon pace but sometimes the energy of a race helps make it feel easier. This race would be a good guide to see how I might want to approach Boston after my snag in training. I had a big PR last year and I wish I could have truly “raced” this one, but I knew better. I needed to be smart, not cause the tweaky spots in my legs to flare up, and make sure I didn’t do anything that could jeopardize my race in Boston coming up a month later.

As we started to run north on East River Road, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of potholes. They had finally repaved the road! The roads were in terrible shape the two other times I ran the race. What a relief to be able to run on a smooth surface.

Things went pretty well to start. My pace ranged between 7:57 and 8:06 for the first six miles. A pace group made their way in front of me and I figured they might be running around the same kind of pace I was hoping for. I found myself lagging behind a little bit and eventually they got further away. I had to battle thoughts of how that was a pace I should be able to run easily. The competitive part of me wanted to run what I should be capable of running and keep up with them. I talked sense into myself though and knew that I wasn’t there to race all-out. No faster than marathon pace.

I slowed down for the second half of the race with my pace ranging between 8:10 and 8:20. I was a little frustrated because I’d really hoped I could pull off an 8:00 pace and realized I didn’t have it in me. It felt like I had to work fairly hard to even maintain the pace I was running. Marathon pace should feel comfortable and this felt like more effort than I’d hoped for. Rather than get frustrated, I took my usual approach of trying to put a sensible, positive spin on things. My previous long run had been pretty rough. I averaged over a 9:20 pace for that run. This was more than a minute per mile faster than that so it was a sign that I was improving. Maybe I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but at least injuries had faded enough that I could actually DO this. At the very least, my body was cooperating and I’d complete a 16-mile day.

The smooth surface of the road didn’t last all the way around the island, unfortunately. There were a few rough patches but still nothing as bad as the east side had in the past. Despite the cold, it was a pretty, sunny day. I couldn’t wait until the wind would be at my back though. The wind was noticeable enough heading toward the west and on the west side of the island to make my already challenging effort feel more difficult. I tried to look forward to running around the airport which I knew would come somewhere around ten miles into the race.

I was a little disappointed when I got to the airport and saw that we just ran an out-and-back stretch on the runway. In the past we got to run through the hangar which was a cool moment and a great spot for the photographers to capture fun race photos. Oh well! Shortly after I left the airport I came to a spot where music was blasting. Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” was playing and that helped lift my spirits for the couple of minutes that I could hear it. I don’t run with music very often and thought it could have been nice if I had it during this race considering the boost I got. There weren’t many music spots or spectators along the course which could have helped distract me from how hard it was to maintain my effort.

Eventually I made it back to the east side of the island and knew I was in the final stretch, even if that was at least a couple more miles. A friendly guy greeted me as we ran near each other and after the race I realized we had the same shoes. We both had last year’s Boston edition of the Brooks Launch which is sort of unique so I thought that was fun.

Mile 13 was around an 8:13 pace and I dropped to an 8:00 pace for the final stretch after that. I still didn’t push myself to the max, but it didn’t feel easy either. While I usually have a bunch of smiley race photos, I didn’t get any of those this time!

This was about the closest I could muster for a smile between feeling wiped out and running in the cold!

Here are the final stats from my Garmin. There was some elevation but the race is pretty flat. My watch had me averaging an 8:09 pace overall. I didn’t hit my goal of 8:00 but this was still pretty decent.

Here’s how my splits broke down. I stayed fairly consistent for the first half of the race, slowed down a little, then stayed fairly consistent in that range for the second half.

Here are the official results. 1:47:11 was my time which broke down to an 8:11 average.

When I got to the gym I ran into a couple of friends who I know from Instagram but hadn’t actually met in person. It was nice to meet in “real life” and hear how their races had gone. I collected a bagel and a chocolate chip cookie then headed over to the Athletico tent. They were working on people and I figured that might be helpful considering all of the issues I’ve been battling. I had to wait a little bit then had a great woman named Joan work on me. I told her about the hamstring issue on my left side which she confirmed, plus she also mentioned my hip flexor and QL. The QL isn’t really even on my radar, but whatever it is, she dug in and struggled to get it release like it should have. As I already knew, she suggested that seeing someone about these issues would be helpful. I finally had a physical with my doctor later in the week, got a prescription for physical therapy, and will see someone a couple weeks before Boston. That’s not enough time to solve my problems prior to the race but at least it will be a start!

I left the gym nearly an hour after I’d finished the race and dreaded going out into the cold with my sweaty, wet clothing. I figured jogging back to the car would help keep me warmer than walking. Since I didn’t feel too stiff I decided to keep it going and add more miles to the day’s total. My fingers were frozen and felt pretty bad until I made it a mile out then turned around. I realized I had been running into the wind and I felt much better on the way back. With two additional miles I managed to get 18 in for the day. Since I was worried about how I’d missed several big long runs for my Boston prep, getting 18 miles in gave me a little more confidence.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t nail marathon pace at this race and I realize that I may have to adjust my goal pace for Boston. Despite that disappointment, I was pretty happy that I’d managed to run 18 miles that felt SO much better than the miserable 15 I had run the week before. I had worried about losing some of my fitness when I took a couple weeks off but I had put in a solid nine weeks of training prior to that and I knew it wouldn’t completely fade. I’m going to look at this race as a sign that my fitness is building back and maybe I’ll still be in decent shape for Boston.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Dave’s 10-Miler Race Recap

Dave’s Running comes up with great race shirts. This shirt may be a new favorite of mine!

I don’t race very often during the winter because the weather can be so iffy. I’d rather not risk signing up for something then worry about possibly racing on an icy surface. I run outside all winter long but I’m usually pretty selective about choosing places where I can be sure I’ll have enough traction. Despite all of that, I still put winter races on my calendar so they’re on my radar just in case the weather looks promising.

I’ve considered running Dave’s 10-Miler in the Toledo, OH area for years but have never made it to the race. I had 11 miles on my training schedule for the day and knew that my friend Lisa had signed up so it seemed especially appealing this year. I checked the forecast a week before the race and it looked clear enough for me to finally go for it. So…of course the forecast changed.

It was dry at home when I woke up on race day – Sunday, January 22. The snow had started by the time I left though. It was supposed to be a two-hour drive in good conditions and I started to worry as my phone’s predicted arrival time kept creeping later. I planned to go to Lisa’s house first since she lives along the way and I didn’t want to make her late too. I got to her about 15 minutes later than planned and fortunately it all worked out, but the roads got a bit sloppy and driving was a little stressful at times. It reminded me why I usually don’t race in the winter – especially two hours away!

We both like to get to races at least an hour early so we have plenty of time. We had 45 minutes this time and realized we would still be totally fine. We just wouldn’t have any extra time to kill! A middle school was the home base for the race and parking around the school had already filled up so we had a short hike through the snow from a farther parking lot. It was a major bonus that we had access to the school where we could stay warm and use real restrooms instead of cold porta potties. Surprisingly there was no wait, then we got through the packet pickup process quickly as well.

A place to stay warm before the race

Then it was time to jog back to the car with our stuff and decide how to gear up for the race. I had brought a whole variety of options since I didn’t know what the course conditions may be like or if it would still be snowing. It WAS still snowing, but at least in Delta, OH the roads were mostly wet. I didn’t want to use spikes on clear pavement, but if there could be snow in spots, I thought trail shoes might be the best option for a little extra grip. I hoped a water-resistant jacket paired with a hat to keep snow out of my eyes would work as well.

We jogged back to the school then headed out to the starting line. I still had just enough time to spare to get an extra half mile in to warm up. The race is billed as Dave’s 10-Miler and Yeti 10K so we had to grab a photo with the yeti before we started.

Posing with the yeti
The snowy scenery by the starting line
Lisa and I starting the race with the yeti close behind

I didn’t have any specific goals for this race since I’ve been training for distance rather than pace lately. I’m several weeks into my latest marathon training plan and other than a couple sessions of running fast intervals for a minute at a time, I haven’t run any speedy workouts. I thought it would be nice if I could at least pull off 10 miles at marathon pace. That would be around an 8:00 pace and a 1:20:00 finish. A workout at that pace for that kind of distance is still about seven weeks away in my plan though so I didn’t know if it could be a little ambitious. I’d just get out there and see what happened!

Part of the course prior to the runners going through

Fortunately the snow wasn’t heavy enough to accumulate on the race course but it did blow in our faces for most of the race. I was thankful that the surface was fine though. There were a few spots with a little bit of slush and that was mostly avoidable. It DID look really pretty out on the country roads. It was a nice, flat course other than the four times we hit overpasses that took us over the highway.

I was a little fast for the first mile with a 7:33 split, then I ended up in the 7:40s for several miles. I was running by feel with an uptempo effort that I hoped would be sustainable for 10 miles. I slowed down to the 7:50s after the halfway point and really felt like I wanted to be done by the time I hit eight miles. Aside from the pace being a challenge, my shoes became an issue. Trail shoes weren’t really ideal since the road was pretty clear. I have really struggled to find the perfect trail shoe. I have some that are stiff which work great when 100% on the run is on trails with rocks and uneven surfaces. However, half the time I run on pavement for part of the run so I prefer a pair that is a little more flexible and versatile. The pair I wore worked for part of the run but eventually they started to rub my arches and it got pretty annoying.

I’m not in this photo, but this is what it looked like along the course

I managed to tough it out and kept hanging on, even picking up the pace a little bit for the last mile. Thanks to Dave’s Running for providing race photos!

A strong finish

I finished a couple minutes under 1:20:00 so that was a bonus!

My Garmin stats

My official time was 1:18:00 and I like that I actually finished on the dot with the even number. I ran a PR for 10 miles during the summer and this was four minutes slower than that but I was also more prepared for speed at that point. I’m definitely happy with the results of this race. I haven’t run that fast in quite a while, and to do so with snow blowing in my face and shoes that bothered me is a win.

The official results

I glanced at my watch when I hit the mile splits but I didn’t really try to speed up or slow down to any particular pace. Here’s how my splits played out:

My Garmin splits

After taking a minute to recover, I started walking back to the finish line to see if I could catch Lisa. I barely had time to get my phone ready for photos before she came through!

Lisa approaching the finish

Neither of us scored an age group award but both of us were happy with our times. When I looked at the results later I realized that the next couple closest women in our age group finished six minutes before me and we didn’t stand a chance against them!

I got a turkey sandwich and some chicken noodle soup which we were able to eat in the school’s cafeteria. Soup was definitely an appropriate choice after running in the snow.

Post-race treats

I really dreaded going back out into the cold to get to the car. We tried to jog to get there faster but my shoes continued to rub my arches and I couldn’t run anymore. We just had to swap to some dry clothes and crank the heat for a few minutes so I could get some color back in my hands.

Such a fun medal

I was thankful that the drive home was MUCH better than the drive there. In the end, it was a pretty fun day. I’m glad Lisa had also committed to the race because if I had planned on doing it alone there’s a possibility I would have bailed due to the weather. That’s one of the quirky draws about this race though – the weather is almost always unpredictable! It was a bit of a hike to drive a couple hours but Dave’s does a great job with their races. The shirt and medal featuring the yeti were especially cool. It really was a bargain to get the post-race snacks, cool swag, and a 10-mile race for $40…especially since I waited until the week before to sign up. It was nice to finally push my pace again and see that I have some speed in me. Most of all, it was great having a chance to catch up with Lisa and hang out for the day.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

2022 Recap

A photo from each of the 12 races I did in 2022

As I reflect back on 2022, I realize that I had a pretty solid year of racing. Many of the events I participated in were running races but I mixed in a couple of triathlons and a 5K swim as well. Here’s a look at how the year played out in terms of my race schedule:

All of the races I did in 2022

I ran three 5Ks in 2022 and although it’s my least favorite distance, I should probably reevaluate that opinion based on how well I did. I always feel like 5Ks are torturous because I don’t run that fast of a pace very often during training. It seems kind of backward that I feel more comfortable racing 13 or 26 miles than I do running three! I was awarded with a membership to the Toledo Zoo for a year when I was the female masters winner of the Dart Frog Dash 5K in May. I did a 5K/10K double in July and was the female winner for the duo challenge at the Atwood Races in Flint. I gave the 5K one last shot on Thanksgiving and won my age group. Maybe I ought to actually train for 5K speed and try to enjoy the distance a bit more since I tend to place pretty well!

I managed to collect two new PRs this year – one for the 10-mile distance at Crim where I shaved nearly two minutes off my previous best time, and one for the half marathon where I improved by 50 seconds at Rock CF. It took seven years to improve my half marathon time so I was pretty thrilled.

Banging the gong for a half marathon PR at Rock CF and ringing the PR bell at the Crim 10-Mile race

I returned to the Boston Marathon for my second time in April and had a blast. It truly is a runner’s paradise. It’s an amazing experience getting to run that legendary course while feeding off the incredible energy of the spectators nearly the whole time. On top of that, I attended so many great panels and events in the days leading up to the race. I was able to see three of my favorite athletes speak – all Olympians, and two of whom have won Boston in the past.

Meeting my heroes – Meb Keflezighi, Des Linden, and Melissa Stockwell

I ran a much better race this time than I did in 2019 and managed to get a Boston-qualifying time at Boston! I also got to hang out with some good friends from across the country and enjoyed my time in Boston so much that I decided I HAD to sign up for the 2023 race as well.

A big smile after a great race in Boston

Another high point of the year was completing my tenth marathon this fall in Toronto. I had signed up for the 2020 Toronto Waterfront Marathon and after a couple years of COVID cancellations I was finally able to run the race this year. I had concerns about my hamstrings going into the race and I held up pretty well for about 19 miles, but the rest of the race was pretty rough. Aside from a bit of suffering, I loved my time in Toronto and was happy to come away with another time under 3:40 and therefore another BQ!

I did an Olympic-distance triathlon in June and a 1/3 Iron race in July. The longer race went so well that I knew I should stop debating if I should try a half Ironman and just go for it. I signed up for my first 70.3 next June in Grand Rapids which will be a big step for me after toying with the idea for years.

I am proud that I did the Swim to the Moon 5K for my third time this summer because it always feels like a big accomplishment to swim that far. However, I was a little slower than I had hoped to be. I had higher expectations and was a bit disappointed that I didn’t do better. That has only fueled my motivation to improve and I’ve thought about that race every time I’ve hit the pool in recent weeks. Even though the next race isn’t until August, I’m already working hard to maintain my consistency and have been increasing my distance as well. Sometimes a disappointing race can be a good thing.

Here’s a look at my mileage and training time from the past year:

My running, biking, and swimming miles
That’s a lot of training time!

As usual, I concentrated on running the most and am pretty happy that I racked up 2,126 miles. I tried to balance things out with biking, swimming, and strength as well. Is it any wonder I barely watch any TV?!

I continue to build a ridiculous collection of race shirts and medals. Here are the latest additions:

A shirt from each race I did in 2022
The 2022 medal collection

Although things were pretty great from a racing standpoint, my lack of job security created quite a bit of stress this year. Threats of job cuts began in April and hung over me all year until it finally materialized just before the end of the year. It’s a good thing I have this means of stress relief. I joke that the need to relieve the additional stress is going to drive me to be an even more extreme athlete this next year! I’ve been done with work for a week, which would have normally been my holiday break anyway. So far I’ve been good about waking up as early as I normally would have to hit the pool and run. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and having the extra time has resulted in some longer swims. I am very determined to improve my endurance and speed for the next Swim to the Moon! I’m not sure how long my job situation will be questionable but at least training makes me feel productive and is a good way to channel some of my energy.

I officially started following a training plan for Boston this past week and it’s the first big goal to aim for in 2023. I better make sure I keep some biking in the mix now that I’m really aiming to do a half Ironman in June. I feel comfortable with the swimming and running aspects of that race but 56 miles on the bike is a bit more intimidating just because I neglect the bike in favor of running. I’m looking forward to finally taking on that challenge after years of knowing I should try to do it. I also have a 10-part triathlon on the schedule for the end of July. The Battle of Waterloo takes place every other year and I loved the run-bike-swim-run-swim-run-swim-run-bike-run adventure so much in 2021 that I knew I wanted to do it again in 2023. The 5K swim will come in August, and I’m still not sure what my big race will be in the fall. Another marathon or possibly even my second 50K? I’m getting a bit ambitious considering how I still have some problem spots following the Toronto Marathon that I haven’t been able to shake. I need to make sure my body will cooperate for all of these plans I’ve made! If it does, hopefully 2023 will be another great year of training and racing.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

The Mighty Gobbler 5K Race Recap

Photo courtesy of Susan Carolyn Photography

Thanksgiving is said to be the biggest day for running a road race in America. I’ve only raced on Thanksgiving a couple times but I felt the draw to be a part of the fun this year. The two times I have raced on Thanksgiving I stuck close to home and participated in a low-key trail race at Stony Creek Metropark. Part of me wanted to return to that race because I enjoyed it but I still have some tweaky spots lingering on my left side six weeks after the Toronto Marathon. A test run on the trails a week before the race confirmed that it would be too ambitious (and not very smart) to try to race through the winding ups and downs on that course.

One great thing about racing on Thanksgiving is that there are plenty of options. When I browsed the list of races posted on I came across The Mighty Gobbler 5K in Troy. It would take place a couple miles from my mom’s house which would make it easy to go see her afterward. Another thing that was especially appealing was that I knew the course would be flat. Even though my leg has issues, I’ve been able to run through it and flat conditions are ideal for me right now. I waited until a few days before the race when I saw that the weather looked good then signed up.

The 5K race was due to start at 9:00 with a 1-mile race starting half an hour before that. I got there an hour early to allow time for collecting my packet and to avoid any possible last-minute rush. The race started in a huge parking lot across from Somerset Mall by the old Kmart headquarters. I walked through the lot to the Lutheran Church of the Master next door to pick up my stuff.

A sticker that I got with my packet

It was in the low 30s so I hung out in my car until 15 minutes before the start, which is when I went out for a half mile warm up jog before heading to the start. Although it was a bit chilly it was a beautiful morning.

The crowd waiting to start behind me

I saw plenty of kids who looked anxious to take off quickly and tried to gauge a spot that would be appropriate for my pace. When 9:00 came we were off!

Photo courtesy of Todd Boone

As I suspected, some of the kids flew at the beginning. Also as I suspected, a bunch of them were already spent a quarter mile into the race from sprinting so hard. I was breathing pretty heavily myself and was worried about whether I’d be able to keep it up. I usually end up somewhere around a 7:00 pace for a 5K when things go well and I didn’t know if I could pull that off. A glance at my watch showed that I was around a 7:25 pace early on and that already felt hard enough.

We started on an office park drive until we got out to the main road. We got to run in one lane of Big Beaver for a brief segment until the majority of the race took us through neighborhood roads. I may have made it about a mile into the race when I felt like I’d been punched in the diaphragm. The pain just below my ribs stuck around for the rest of the race and for a little bit afterward. 5Ks usually feel like torture to me anyway because I rarely run that fast and the extra pain didn’t make it especially great. I told myself that it was “only” 20-some minutes of running and I could manage to suffer through that. I distracted myself for a brief moment when we ran past Beachwood, a swim club that I went to several times as a kid for swim meets. It was fun to think back to those days. That was about the only fun part! I like to push myself and see what I’m capable of but sometimes it’s a bit miserable doing so!

I had to slow down for a sharp turn from the neighborhood onto a sidewalk that took us down Coolidge and toward the final turn for the finish. A kid and a guy passed me in that stretch but there was only so much I had left in me. As I approached the finish line I kind of jokingly thought about how I was too close to the guy in front of me and that would mess up my photo!

Photo courtesy of Todd Boone
A closer crop because the photographer didn’t catch me individually

I was happy with my official time of 22:35, especially considering the chest pain I ran through. At first I was second in my age group until the winner was shifted to the female masters winner slot and I took the lead for the age group.

The official results
I started my watch a little early and stopped it a little late. A nice flat course!

I knew I started out slower than I’d hoped, but didn’t pay much attention to my pace after the first mile. I was kind of surprised to see that I got faster throughout the race and ran a negative split! I actually got down to that goal pace of a 7:00 mile by the end.

Splits from my Garmin

I collected a bottle of water and a Clif Bar then went to my car to get a coat. Within 5-10 minutes the chest pain started to fade. I have a feeling it happened due to the combination of the cold and trying to run so fast. People often ask me if my lungs can handle running in the cold. Usually I don’t even notice! When it gets below 20 degrees I usually wear something to cover part of my face and I’m sure that helps, but it was in the 30s for this race which isn’t that cold. I haven’t done any speedwork lately though. I probably haven’t run below an 8:00 pace in the six weeks following the marathon so aiming for a 7:00 pace in the cold may have been a rough combo for me. The only other time I recall feeling that kind of pain in recent years was when I returned to running after having food poisoning this past March. Getting sick had left me with that same feeling of being punched in the diaphragm. When I felt the same kind of thing during the race I wasn’t overly concerned that I was going to have a heart attack or anything, but it definitely made it uncomfortable!

The crowd gathered for the awards ceremony

Eventually it was time for the awards ceremony and I won both a glass and a scarf!

Posing with my prizes

A raffle took place after the awards. People received raffle tickets by bringing canned goods to the packet pick-up. I felt a little guilty about it, but I wasn’t brave enough to go to the grocery store in the couple days before the race so I didn’t participate. Instead, I headed to my mom’s house and it was awfully nice that she was just a 5-minute drive away!

My swag from the race

Putting aside the suffering aspect, I’m glad I was a part of the Thanksgiving tradition of running a turkey trot. It was nice to try a race that was new to me, and especially nice to be able to run a flat course. I favor longer distances and it seems like every time I run a 5K it reminds me that I really ought to prepare myself by doing more speedwork. My gradual return to running after the marathon and hamstring issues have kept me from wanting to run fast lately, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that I still pulled it off fairly well. I really didn’t predict that my hamstring would feel totally fine and my chest would be the source of pain!

This hamstring/glute (piriformis?) problem hasn’t kept me from running but I know I still need to get it worked out, especially since I’ll officially start training for the Boston Marathon by the end of December. I have my eye on a few potential Christmas/New Year’s races over the next month but will probably wait until the last minute to make sure the weather will cooperate. I’m glad I didn’t register for one recent race that got canceled when a slight coating of snow made the course too slippery. I actually went out and did a little bit of speedwork a few days after this race so maybe I can reduce my level of suffering if I try another short distance race!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Recap

Nathan Phillips Square

A week after I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2019, I watched a stream of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I was still on a high from my race and was already thinking about what my next fall marathon should be. Toronto’s flat, pretty course looked appealing. When I learned that a neighbor and her husband had just run the race and enjoyed it, I decided to go for it and signed up at the end of October in 2019. The 2020 race was canceled due to COVID and the 2021 race offered a 10K instead of the marathon. I was thankful that runners were allowed to defer their entries both times. I was determined to run the marathon whenever it actually took place. Nearly three years after I had signed up, I finally got my chance to run it on Sunday, October 16.

Marathon training went pretty well throughout the summer but then I got COVID a month before the race. I took five days off of running and was a little iffy for another week or two after that but got back on track and hoped it hadn’t messed up my overall training. Just as I got over the COVID hump, I developed a new pain in my right hamstring two weeks before the race. I raced the Ann Arbor half marathon the day after I first felt it and since it didn’t bother me, I thought I was fine. The next time I ran I realized I wasn’t fine. I’ve had some slight discomfort lurking in my other hamstring since the spring but this was a bigger problem. I took it easy for a few runs, took a couple days off, and got a massage. That spot was problematic when I did a weekend long run of 10 miles so I took four more days off. Taper time means there’s a reduction of mileage and intensity, but not THAT much rest. I discovered a bruise on the back of my leg five days before the race and Google made me worry that it could be the sign of a hamstring tear. Really, I think I just found the sore spot and massaged it enough to create a bruise. Either way, I worried that I might have to bail on the race. I did a test run the Thursday before the race and didn’t feel anything definitively bad enough to make me pull the plug. Maybe a little rest had helped. I would rest the next couple days leading up to the race as well. I didn’t feel very confident heading into the race and I hoped I was making the right decision.

One of the factors that made me choose this race is that the drive is just over four hours from the Detroit area. I headed out early on Friday morning so I could enjoy a little extra time in Toronto aside from the race. All of the border crossing restrictions tied to COVID had been dropped a couple weeks earlier and I had a smooth experience driving into Ontario. Smooth other than feeling extremely uncomfortable from sitting on that problematic leg for so long.

I drove straight to downtown Toronto and hit the expo at the Enecare Centre when it opened. It wasn’t a huge expo but there were plenty of booths and a few caught my attention.

One view of the expo
The official race shirt

I pulled up Google to figure out the exchange rate and realized that my money would go farther in Canada. That was a nice perk!

The exchange rate would be a bonus

Asics sold the official race merchandise and I bought a tank top for under $20. I stopped at a booth with running and triathlon clothing, browsed the Brooks Running booth, then headed out.

A tank from Asics
A photo stop at the expo with names of the participants behind me

Next I chose to explore a nice path along the water. I enjoyed the fall colors and pretty views of the CN Tower.

After that I drove 45 minutes or so to spend the rest of the afternoon at the Toronto Zoo. I got to see more gorgeous colors and had fun using my good camera for some fun animal photos. 

I stayed outside of the city on Friday night and went back downtown to see more fall colors on Saturday morning. I knew I shouldn’t do any heavy-duty hiking but I wanted to explore a little bit while I had a chance. I decided to check out High Park in the southwestern part of Toronto.

I found that the roads are closed to traffic on the weekends and it was a gorgeous park. In addition to being able to walk on the roads and sidewalks, there are a number of trails throughout the park as well. Fortunately the rain held off most of the time I was there.

It was a little early to check in at the hotel but I drove and parked by it then went to Nathan Phillips Square across the street. The ice rink is a big draw in the winter months but the cool Toronto sign makes it a nice spot to visit year-round.

Nathan Phillips Square

I spent some time wandering around the Eaton Centre mall and Yonge Street until I decided I better get off my feet. I checked in around 2:00 and was thrilled when I saw the view from my room.

An amazing view from the Sheraton

I booked the hotel last December and forgot that I had chosen the scenic view. I spent plenty of time taking photos as it turned from afternoon to night. I watched as tourists posed, wedding photos were taken, and as a march came down a road and into the square. Downtown hotels near the start and finish of a race are always a bit pricey but it was definitely worth it. Plus, the exchange rate helped!

Such a beautiful view

Before 5:00 I went out to get a sandwich and chips for dinner then settled in the room again, aside from a quick trip back out to the square to enjoy the sign while it was lit up at night.

I got my race gear sorted out then got a decent night’s sleep of about seven hours.

My race gear

Being so close to the starting line made things super easy in the morning. I still woke up a few hours early so I wouldn’t feel too rushed or stressed. I drank plenty of water, ate one Picky Bar first thing, then a second one about an hour before the race. I only wanted to pay for one night at the hotel and although I couldn’t have a late check-out time, they were kind enough to store luggage so runners could collect their stuff after the race.

Gear check was located down in the square so I headed out there a little after 7:00 to drop off my post-race clothes. I jogged around a little bit and didn’t notice any hamstring issues. I went to scope out the location for my starting corral to make sure I knew where I would be able to enter. Temps were in the mid-40s and I realized it was warm enough that I wouldn’t need gloves for the race.

Ideal marathon weather!

I went back to the room for a bit since the official start time was at 8:45. The convenience factor of a close hotel is wonderful and I waited until 20 minutes before the race to head to the start.

Enjoying the view one last time before heading out to race

When I entered my corral I saw signs for multiple pace groups but not a 3:30 marathon – the one that I wanted. There was supposed to be one but I never saw them if they were there. I’d just have to hope I could do it on my own.

One tricky thing about running a race in Canada is that the course is marked in kilometers instead of miles. I didn’t know exactly what my goal pace converted to in kilometers but figured a 3:30 marathon was close to 5:00/kilometer. Keeping track of multiples of five was an easy way to think about things. I still had my Garmin watch of course, but I know that the accuracy is often off in big cities where the signal can get blocked by the tall buildings.

We started in the heart of downtown and had plenty of spectators cheering in spots, especially by the University of Toronto. The first mile was a bit congested but then people spaced out enough that I had an easier time running my own pace. Since my legs seemed to feel okay I hoped I could actually aim for my goal of a 3:30 marathon. That meant running somewhere around 7:55-8:00 per mile. The first mile was 8:11 which was just right for the start. My next four miles came in at 7:45, 7:39, 7:49, and 7:42. I didn’t know if my Garmin could be off or if I should worry that I was starting a little fast. By the sixth mile I settled into 8:00s and a few 7:50s which was more of where I wanted to be.

I enjoyed looking at the shops as we ran through the city. One of the prettiest spots on the course was the out and back segment on Lake Shore Blvd. I took some quick pictures because my phone was easy to grab in my shorts pocket. I must have jostled it too much though because it locked me out by the time I had run 7-8 miles. No more photos after that!

Heading toward the expo center

There were some fall colors to enjoy and it didn’t take long before police escorts and video cameras came through on the other side of the road with the leaders of the race. I always love the added distraction of watching other runners. It makes me realize how many of us are out there doing the same thing with paces all across the board.

The leaders of the race on the opposite side of the road
Lake Shore Blvd.

On that stretch I went to grab chews from my pocket and one of my packets flew onto the road. I was moving too quickly and it wouldn’t have been ideal to run back against traffic to try to get them. I calculated that I should be okay with the remaining two packs of chews I still had if I ate one every 1.5-2 miles from that point forward. I’m glad I usually err on the side of bringing extras because that could have turned into a big problem.

We ran by an outdoor concert venue, a soccer stadium, and at times we had a view of the CN Tower. I loved seeing so many sights while running through town. Eventually we reached a spot where the half marathon runners made a turn while the rest of us kept going. My watch came in at 13.1 miles at the halfway point so it seemed like it was fairly accurate.

The course was basically flat other than some overpasses and few spots on a path that ran along the river. Any slight incline felt significant even when it really was pretty minor since the rest of the course was so flat.

The CN Tower is in the distance behind me

By the time I had run 16 miles my legs started to feel tired but I didn’t slow down yet. I went from an 8:05 pace for mile 18 to 8:24 for mile 19. That’s when things started to fall apart. I slowed down even more to 8:41 for mile 20, then 9:14, 9:16, and 9:17 for the following miles. The out and back stretches felt like they went on forever and I kept wondering when I’d be able to turn around and head back.

The eastern part of the course started to wear on me

I tried to appreciate the scenery to distract myself from the fatigue. I didn’t expect to see a bunch of film studios and thought it was interesting to run by that studio district. It was nice to run past a beach area and there was also a cute downtown area with lots of spectators. A bunch of people yelled my name since it was on my bib and told me I looked strong. That helped keep my spirits up a little bit. I didn’t feel strong but appreciated the encouragement.

I was cringing and swearing to myself by the time I had 10K left. While I had worried most about hamstring issues in my right leg, the outside of my left leg became a problem. I had a spot up by my glute and hip that hurt. I wondered how I could continue to drag along for nearly an hour. I kept counting down the K’s and calculated whether I could still pull off a Boston-qualifying time. I knew that even if I ran a 10-minute pace I should be able to pull it off and I hadn’t slowed down that much yet! It was motivation to keep moving. I told myself that if I could still manage to get a BQ time even while suffering that much it would be a big accomplishment. I also told myself I was lucky that I was even able to run the race since I had been on the verge of pulling the plug just a few days earlier. I was dragging but my legs still cooperated enough so I was thankful for that. 

I look much happier than I felt!
Time to head back!

When I reached the turnaround at the far east end of the course I had less than 10K to go. As I continued to count down the remaining distance I put it in terms of my regular training runs. Five miles to go? That’s just like running up to the cider mill and back. Three miles? That’s like running down to the park and back. I played these mental games with myself to try to get through it somehow.

Wishing that the end was closer!

It seemed to take forever to get back to the heart of the city. The CN Tower was visible for a while so that was a landmark to run toward. Any time I thought I’d try to pick up the pace it didn’t last very long because my hip/glute area made me swear and I’d back off again. I did manage to pick up the pace a little bit for the last full mile when I ran an 8:41.

Getting closer to the end

The spectators were great during the last mile. When I rounded a slight curve before heading to the final stretch, I got a little emotional from all of the cheering and was on the verge of tears. That messed with my breathing so I tried to settle myself down. I’m 10 marathons in at this point but the emotions can still hit me.

Some people have commented that I always look so happy in race photos. This proves that if I’m suffering and I don’t notice the photographer, I’m probably not so smiley!

My Garmin made it look like I ran a 7:10 pace at the end but it sure doesn’t feel like I picked it up that much! When I looked at my map after the race it was clear that the GPS jumped around in spots that should have been a straight line. That may have resulted in some inaccurate data.

I did not run through the middle of the arena like the Garmin map shows!

Somehow I forced myself to smile for the camera as I crossed the finish line!

Once I crossed the line I swore, which caused a guy next to me to say, “Oh no!” in shock. I felt totally miserable and could barely shuffle along. I walked past the medical area and kind of wondered if I’d need their help. Then my stomach started to feel upset and I figured I better move faster to get to a porta potty. I questioned if I would make it that long and went back to medical. I probably looked miserable enough when I asked if I could use one of their porta potties because they let me in. I was lucky my stomach was fine during the race because it sure wasn’t once I stopped. 

I went back to the finishing chute and found a place to stop and stretch my legs a little bit. A tear or two rolled down my cheek because I was in so much pain. It was tempting to have an all-out cry! Not due to the emotion of finishing so much as a release for all of the pain I felt. I may have felt worse than I did after finishing my first marathon. I didn’t feel this beat up after doing 33 miles at a 6-hour race. This one took a lot out of me and everything hurt from my hips to my calves.

After that I got a cup of water and a cup of Nuun but I don’t think they had any water bottles or chocolate milk for us to take. Just those cups at the finish. I got a heat sheet and wrapped it tight because I was getting cold and my fingers were a little tingly. I found a bench and settled for a bit to try to compose myself. I could barely stretch because everything hurt so much. I knew I better get moving at some point though and thought I ought to at least go to one of the picture spots where a very nice runner offered to take photos for me.

I’m blocking part of it, but one of the fun sayings for the race is “Choose TO Run”

The next stop was to get my warm clothes from the bag check. I put those on at a bench and felt a little better.

A perfect spot for photo opportunities
A pretty gold medal

With a little more recovery time I finally checked out my race stats. My official time was 3:38:25. That means I got a BQ by a minute and a half! That cut it a bit close but I’m glad I used that as motivation to keep going.

Official stats
Info from my Garmin
My splits

Eventually I worked my way over to the food where they had apples, bananas, Larabars, and a bag of chips. When I got through the line I looked over at the next booth and realized it was the same stuff. That was it?! After a marathon?? I’m always let down when there isn’t a variety of good stuff after a big race. I’ve been spoiled at several races this year hosted by Epic Races who offer pancakes, egg and cheese wraps, cookies, etc. THAT’S what I hope for after a race!

After burning 2,600 calories I kind of hoped for more

I had scoped out a Tim Horton’s across the street and knew that could be a good place to go afterward. I decided to start with a couple muffins and a hot chocolate. I got through one muffin and my stomach started to go bad again.

My post-race treats

I wanted to splurge and have something good to eat but was afraid my stomach was too iffy. I planned to drive home after the race and didn’t want to eat something too heavy that would set it off while I was on the road. I relaxed and ate my other muffin before I went to the hotel to collect my bags, then I headed to the car. While my right hamstring made the drive to Toronto very uncomfortable, I barely noticed that leg on the way home because my left leg made me squirm the whole time. It wasn’t fun driving the 4+ hours home but somehow I survived it with a couple of stops along the way.

I didn’t expect to sleep well that night and I was right. My legs were achy and painful and I had terrible, restless sleep. By the middle of the next day my stomach had finally settled enough to get treats like donuts and pizza. Aside from some soreness in my hamstrings and quads, I felt pretty normal by Wednesday or Thursday.

Now that the pain has faded I can look at the race more objectively. I’m really happy with my time of 3:38. Many of my races have been faster and ideally I want to strive to improve. I don’t want to question “where did it go wrong” because I know I ran a pretty great time. I guess the question is more about why I suffered so much at the end. For one, it IS a marathon. It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be all that surprising that running 26 miles might make me hurt! Proper training should help with that but the last few weeks of my training wasn’t ideal because of COVID and hamstring issues. Swimming had been a regular part of my routine until a month or two before this race. I got lazy about my strength training leading up to the race as well. Maybe weaknesses developed as a result that led to the issues. Maybe I spent too much time on my feet around town. Maybe I ran a little too fast early in the race and it messed me up later. There are a ton of factors to consider and it’s hard to know if any one thing made me struggle or if it’s a little bit of everything.

During the most difficult miles of the race I told myself that part of the “fun” of doing a marathon is knowing that I can get myself to do this even when it’s hard. Pushing myself through something extremely difficult says a lot about my dedication and perseverance and I should be proud of that. It’s not all about the time, although a good one is always a bonus. A little less suffering would have been nice, but I guess that extra pain makes it even more apparent what an accomplishment it was. I could start to get complacent now that I’ve done 10 of these things but I should recognize that it still isn’t an easy thing to do!

I’m usually anxious to return to running as soon as I think I feel normal again but I am going to be more cautious this time. If I start back too soon I might not get this hamstring issue under control. I might like to do some sort of turkey trot in November but I haven’t signed up for anything and shouldn’t rush back to racing. It’s a good time for a break and to return to cross-training that I’ve neglected lately. The next BIG goal will be my third trip to the Boston Marathon in April. I want to make sure I don’t have any issues when I start that training at the end of the year!

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

Ann Arbor Half Marathon Race Recap

My big medal in front of the Big House

I didn’t consider myself a runner when I was a student at the University of Michigan over 20 years ago. Sometimes I ran a mile or two around the indoor track at the rec center to stay in shape but that was the extent of my running. I did my first half marathon in 2011 and at some point in the years that followed I became aware of the Ann Arbor Marathon. I LOVE the city of Ann Arbor and thought it would be a lot of fun to race there. Weather, the timing of other races, or other things always got in the way. I finally signed up for the half marathon in 2020. That race should have taken place on March 22, 2020, but it was the first of many of my races that were canceled thanks to the pandemic. My first experience with the Ann Arbor Marathon was a virtual race around Stony Creek Metropark. Not exactly what I’d hoped for.

The race shifted to the fall in 2021 because COVID was still too much of a concern that spring. The switch must have been a success because it remained in the fall this year. A March marathon means there’s a possibility of ice or snow and that’s not a problem in the fall! I didn’t make it in 2021 and didn’t think I would this year either since I was scheduled to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon two weeks later. When my friend Lisa told me that she was going to run the Ann Arbor half a week before doing the Chicago Marathon, I figured maybe two weeks would be fine for me after all. Thanks to Lisa’s influence I signed up to do the race on Sunday, October 2.

The race had an 8:00 am start and I parked in a lot by Michigan Stadium around 6:45. Seeing the big block “M” at the stadium elicited my Michigan pride and got me excited for the day. Lisa and I both happened to arrive in the same lot at the same time and got to chat for a few minutes before I went to pick up my packet.

The race gave several options for the shirts and I chose a short sleeve tech shirt

It was around 50° so I left extra clothes at the bag drop to wear after the race. I had half an hour to spare and used half of that time to go for a warm up jog. I wanted to run to areas of the campus that wouldn’t be a part of the race course. My level of giddiness grew as I began to pass familiar spots. I went by Angell Hall and the art museum, cut through the Diag, and ran past the Law Quad. 

Memories came back and I thought about how much I loved spending four years of my life there.

I warmed up for 1.25 miles then went to the starting corral where the half and full marathon runners would start together. Right after I started I noticed Greg Sadler taking photographs. I’ve come to know him and love that Epic Races uses his services at their races. When I spotted him it motivated me to mug for the camera.

Thanks to Greg Sadler Photography

We did a little bit of climbing during the first part of the race and saw Michigan Stadium ahead in the distance. Not a bad way to start! There were some quick downhill segments too which was great for momentum but I wondered how my legs might feel later. I loved running past some of the campus buildings and dorms for the first couple of miles. There were some new buildings that didn’t exist back when I went there, and other parts of campus that I had never made it to. One thing I love about running is how much ground I get to cover and how much I get to see. I wish I had been a runner as a student because I probably would have seen so much more of the campus.

Thanks to Greg Sadler Photography
I don’t always have a big smile when I run…especially if I don’t spot the photographer!

We headed east of campus and out on the roads which were tree-lined and pretty. The sun came out and I enjoyed running past a golf course then by the Huron River. We ended up on the Border to Border (B2B) Trail which connects cities and parks throughout Washtenaw County. It was a nice paved path with beautiful scenery along the water. The leaves hadn’t changed much yet but every now and then I’d catch a random tree that was bright red. We ran 2-3 miles on that path which started to wear on me despite the nice scenery. I was more than halfway through the race and it was getting harder to maintain a fast pace. Running one long stretch got to me a bit mentally. I went back to Gallup Park and walked on the trail later to take some pictures because I really did love that area.

We ran past some soccer fields then I realized we were on the road I always used to take between central and north campus. Time for more reminiscing. I knew the climb by the medical center was coming and I wasn’t too excited about that. It definitely slowed me down for a bit but then it leveled off as we headed toward Nichols Arboretum. Normally it would be nice to run on the dirt path through that area. It was really pretty when I took some photos there toward the end of October in 2016.

The leaves hadn’t changed quite this much yet for the race

I knew that the Arb hill was supposed to be one of the toughest parts of the course and I kept wondering when that would hit. When it did, it helped contribute to me running my slowest mile of the race – the only mile where I was over an 8:00 pace.

I survived the worst of the climb then appreciated a garden area that had a number of entertaining Ted Lasso quotes on signs. Then we climbed a little more as we headed back toward the main part of campus. By that point there was only about a mile to go and I knew it was time for me to push it. We ran just east of the Diag again along the same route we took at the beginning.

After the hills had slowed me down so much I was glad that I was able to drop my pace significantly for the last full mile. A downhill stretch or two helped. I finished with an official time of 1:40:46. After he took some nice finishing photos, I got a high five from Greg Sadler.

Thanks again to Greg Sadler Photography and to Epic Races for providing photos for free!

I was pretty happy with my time. I even ran that exact same time in 2014 at the Wildlife Half Marathon in Concord, MI! I’ve run several faster races but the 1:40 range is really solid for me. Although I probably should have been more disciplined and held back a bit more because the marathon is the real goal, I knew I wanted to push. Realizing how challenging this course was made me even happier that I ran as fast as I did.

I swear the elevation felt harder than it looks
Official results
My Garmin splits

Epic Races has the best food and I was happy to get pancakes, an egg and cheese wrap, and a chocolate chip cookie.

I can always count on good treats from Epic Races
A nice photo backdrop and filter from Epic Races

Soon I found Lisa and her husband Anthony and we hung out for a bit until I went to meet up with my friend Beth who only lives a few blocks from the finish. I knew the Washtenaw Dairy was close to her house so I suggested stopping there. We ate ice cream and I got some donuts for later, then we went to visit with her family for a few minutes. One of her sons wrote and illustrated a haiku while I was there and wanted to give it to me.

Zachary is so sweet!

I wanted to make the most of a beautiful day in Ann Arbor and spent some time walking around campus.

Last weekend I was still concerned about lingering effects from COVID when I raced a 10K and did 20 miles for the day. Fortunately now that it’s been two and a half weeks since I first got sick, everything seemed fine for this race. What a huge relief. I think this race helped confirm that I should be in good shape for the marathon. It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away! No more racing until then. I’m sure time will fly by as I begin to taper. I will hope that all of these hills that I ran in my last couple of races has helped strengthen my legs and that the flat course in Toronto will feel like a breeze.

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

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

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
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

Swim to the Moon 5K Recap

Always looking to test myself with endurance events, my latest adventure was the Swim to the Moon 5K on Sunday, August 21. I first participated in the race in 2019 and it was my first 5K swim. After COVID forced a break in 2020, I returned for my second time in 2021. Since this was my third time I figured I should know what to expect and how to prepare, yet somehow it ended up being my slowest race of the three. 

The first time I did the race I typically swam up to 2,000 meters a few times a week and peaked with a couple of 3,200 m swims. I learned a couple of valuable lessons that first time. I needed to eat more beforehand to fend off hunger late in the race. A painful calf cramp in the final stretch taught me that I should stop at the aid stations along the course to avoid dehydration. I finished the swim in 1:50:00 and knew I wanted to train harder and come back to see if I could do better. The pandemic dramatically reduced my time in the pool so I lowered my expectations for the 2021 race. I finished almost eight minutes slower than my first time but at least I felt good the whole time. I told myself once again that I would train harder and work toward a better race in 2022.

Although I wasn’t always as consistent as I wanted to be, I swam 1-3 times each week and bumped my routine swim up to 3,000 m within a couple months of the race. I also did four longer swims in a lake this summer, ranging from 1:10:00 up to a peak of 1:43:00. I really thought I’d worked hard to prepare for the race.

As the weekend approached, the weather forecast was a cause for concern. We had a 50/50 chance of thunderstorms. A couple weeks earlier I went to a race that was canceled due to bad weather so I was worried it could happen again. I would be much more disappointed this time because I’ve really been working toward this specific goal. I feel for the race director who not only had to plan for every situation, but also had to try to reassure a number of concerned athletes. I received an email the day before the race telling us that multiple plans were in place. We may have to start early or late, the course may be altered, the distances may be shortened, and in the worst case scenario the race could be canceled. It gave me some reassurance that hopefully we would be able to do SOMETHING. I would head out there and see what happened.

The race was based at Halfmoon Lake at the Pinckney Recreation Area in Gregory, MI which is about half an hour northwest of Ann Arbor. It was storming when I woke up but an early email from Epic Races said that the radar looked good from 6:40 through noon so it was a go! I drove an hour and a half through the rain and arrived just after 6:00 when the rain basically stopped. We really lucked out. The 10K swimmers began their race around 6:40. In the past there has been fog over the lake at the beginning but the visibility seemed much better this time.

The race raises money to support North Star Reach, a camp for kids with life threatening, serious, and chronic medical conditions. 5K swimmers take a bus out to the camp and swim through a chain of lakes to get back to Halfmoon Lake. I lined up by 6:45 knowing that the last buses were supposed to leave by 7:00. We probably waited until 7:00 before a bus arrived and the line of people behind me was pretty massive. Really, there wasn’t a big rush because we would have to wait until the fastest 10K swimmers reached the turnaround point by us before the 5K would start, and that usually doesn’t happen until 7:45 or later. Once the bus drops us off all we can do is use the porta potties, pack our extra clothes and items in our gear check bags, and wait. 

I used the bus ride to eat my third Picky Bar of the morning and drank an electrolyte drink as well. After a last-minute bathroom stop I went into the water briefly to get the shock out of the way and to get my goggles situated. The water felt just right and was probably around 75-78 degrees.

Although wetsuits are common in triathlons they are not used very much in open water distance swim races. The wetsuit provides a clear advantage in performance and the idea is to compete without that advantage. There are actually very specific rules about what kind of swimsuits are allowed for this kind of race. There was a separate wetsuit division for each distance (which also includes 1.2-mile and half-mile options) and 49 people finished in those divisions, versus 493 finishers without wetsuits. It looks like a total of 274 people completed the 5K swim.

People seed themselves based on how fast they plan to swim and different colored swim caps indicate certain time ranges. I hung back with the people who aimed to finish just under two hours. With people entering the water one at a time every few seconds, I started about seven minutes after the first swimmers. Things worked well because I didn’t have any slower swimmers to go around and also didn’t have any faster people swatting at my feet. I made a point of trying to find some space so I wouldn’t be too close to others. I had a smooth start as I followed the crowd toward the first couple of buoys that marked the course. One strange thing that happened was that the tip of my left middle finger went numb. I have no idea why because the water felt warm enough and the rest of me was fine. It was something that annoyed me for at least 15-20 minutes before it finally faded.

For some reason I’ve always been thrown off by which buoys to follow once I get past the first couple at this race. I may have added a little extra distance to my swim until a guy heading the same way as me told me we should actually swim toward an orange buoy instead of the green one. When he kindly said, “You’re doing great!” it helped me feel a little less annoyed that I keep doing that. I stayed on track the rest of the race although I had my moments of trying to spot the next buoy off in the distance.

The remaining race photos are courtesy of Greg Sadler Photography

It’s always fun to swim through a short tunnel during this race. There is a bit of a current that typically seems to be in favor of the 5K swimmers heading that direction. It may not be as nice for the 10K swimmers on their way out though! At some point I spotted Greg Sadler, one of the race photographers. I know him and love that he gets a ton of great shots at so many Epic Races that I have done. I did breaststroke for a minute so I could say hi to him and let him know it was me. I was happy to see him and he captured that perfectly, as he always does!

My first 5K swim experience taught me to stop for drinks at the aid stations so I don’t get dehydrated, so I made sure to swim over to the first one that was a mile into the race. The next aid station was a mile away and it turned into a grind for a while as I swam along, wondering how long it would take for the next stop to pop up. It was really overcast which was good because I didn’t have to worry about getting too much sun, but sunnier days in the past have made the waterfront homes and other scenery stand out more to me.

When I finally got to the next aid station it was hard to switch from being horizontal to a standing position! I stumbled a little on my way over to get a couple cups of Gatorade. I figured I should get some electrolytes and it had worked for me the prior year. I usually have drinks that are a little more watered down and the sweetness of the Gatorade seemed to be a bit much. During the last mile of the race I began to feel like I could get sick and I suspect the drink was the cause. 

The last mile was rough in general. When I did longer training swims in a lake this summer I learned that as I grow tired I also tend to get cold. I reached a point when I was not only cold, but my arms were tired, my goggles were killing my face, and I felt like I could possibly get sick. That’s when I started to think that doing this kind of thing was awfully stupid! When I run I can usually keep a positive mindset but I was so over this swim and ready to be done. I tried to reassure myself knowing at the very least I’d finish and that would be an accomplishment. I wasn’t very confident that I’d improve upon my last two races and the finish line couldn’t come soon enough. Then I encountered a bunch of people with pink swim caps and realized they must be 1.2-mile swimmers who started an hour and a half after I did. They had reached their turnaround point and suddenly I was in the mix with a bunch of people who still had plenty of energy while I did not. I was already grumpy and didn’t want to worry about people getting too close to me. It also meant that I probably still had at least half a mile to go which would be at least 20 minutes at the pace I was going. I switched to breaststroke for brief moments when I didn’t want to do freestyle anymore and needed to give my arms a break. It was a struggle but I knew I had to keep going in order to end it!

When the water got shallow enough for me to walk into the finish line, Greg and his partner spotted me. I felt like hell so I give them credit for actually getting me to smile.

My official time was 2:04:19. Last year I swam 1:57:43 so it was a little disappointing that I was slower even though I thought I had trained harder. Doing a 5K swim is pretty ambitious for me no matter what so getting through it without having a kayak pull me in is a good thing.

I have learned that running is definitely my strength. Depending on who shows up, sometimes my times are competitive – at least in my age group. That is not the case with swimming. I do okay during the swim segments of triathlons but cannot compete when it comes to swim-only events. There’s a reason I quit the swim team after middle school! Still, I enjoy swimming and how it makes me feel strong even if I’m fairly slow compared to the stronger swimmers.

I was cold enough that I bypassed the food and went straight to the gear check to get some clothes. Epic Races always comes through when it comes to the post-race treats. I got pancakes, an egg and cheese wrap, some cookies, and an ice cream sandwich. I stuck around for a bit to take in the atmosphere and to take some pictures before heading home.

I can look at the race from a couple perspectives – it was hard and I hated it at times, yet I also felt proud and accomplished. During the difficult moments I kept asking myself why I do stupid stuff like this. I’m sure I’ll return though. I know I can do better and now I want to redeem myself with a stronger race. I still don’t know why I struggled this time despite doing more long swims during training than I had in the past. As I trained in the lake this summer I came to the realization that my pool times do not translate in the lake. It makes a BIG difference being able to push off the wall every 25 meters. There’s no additional momentum like that in the lake. While a mile typically takes me 31-32 minutes in the pool, I might be closer to 40 minutes in the lake! That’s frustrating but I guess I just have to keep working on it. 

I will continue to swim year-round but I’m kind of relieved that the pressure is off for now. I am likely done with multi-sport events for the summer and can focus exclusively on running for the rest of the year. The Toronto Waterfront Marathon is my big goal in mid-October but I have a number of races prior to that. Up next – the Crim 10-mile race this coming Saturday!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography