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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
After chatting with someone I knew I wandered past the various tents and stopped for a photo with 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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s that point in the summer when I have a bunch of races lined up – four within five weeks. Despite knowing that I tend to prefer slower, long distance endurance events, for some reason I chose to torture myself by signing up for a 5K/10K double. A $5 discount and the promise of donut holes is really all it took. Those perks convinced me to go to Flint on Saturday, July 30 for the Atwood Races.
This is an event I’ve considered in the past because it is presented by the Crim Fitness Foundation. I have run the legendary Crim 10-miler numerous times and plan to return for this year’s race in a few weeks. I thought it would be nice to run part of the Crim course for a little practice.
Most of the time I’m in marathon training mode and I don’t concentrate on speed very often. Although the 5K and 10K distances should seem like a breeze based on all of the mileage I run, it’s the speed factor that intimidates me. As long as I’m challenging myself, the shorter the race, the faster the pace. I told myself that sometimes it’s good to get outside of my comfort zone to see what I’ve got. I had my first speed workout in quite a while scheduled for the Tuesday before the race so at least I got my legs moving extra fast one time leading up to this event.
The 10K started at 7:30 so I arrived at Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium about an hour before that. It was kind of refreshing that it was in the 50s first thing in the morning. I was actually shivering! I’ve gotten used to running in the afternoon when it’s been in the 80s and 90s so it seemed like it was going to be a great day for racing.
After waiting in a line for the packet pickup, I got to the front and was told that people running the duo race should go to another table. One with no wait. It would have helped if they had a sign or something, but oh well.
As race time got closer I ran from the parking lot to the roads around the stadium for half a mile to get my legs moving. As I waited for the start, I lingered close to the starting line but left plenty of room in front of me, assuming faster people should come fill that gap. There weren’t many people who were anxious to start at the front and I figured they’d just have to pass me!
We started up a slight hill then had a few rolling hills. As I flew downhill I reminded myself that the downhill segments help me more than the uphill segments hurt me. This was the first time I used the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 shoes for racing and I felt like I flew down the hills. My friend Lisa has a pair and told me that she keeps getting PRs while using the shoes. I have a cheaper pair of Hyperion Tempo shoes that I really like for racing but I resisted spending the money for the fancy “super shoes” with the carbon fiber plate…until I saw them discounted by $50. I finally caved and was curious to see if they would actually help my times.
I noticed the blue line on the road that marks the Crim 10-mile course a few times throughout the race. A few parts of the course overlapped with Crim’s course, including a segment of the Bradley Hills. That’s the area with the steepest climb during Crim. Although the hills slowed me down, I was glad to get a little practice on them before running the big race later in August. Plus, there was a nice decline after that which helped make up for slowing down on the hills. Then we ran on the smooth, paved Genesee Valley Trail for a bit. At that point I kept swapping spots with a couple guys in front of me. I’d pass them, then they’d speed up and pass me. We did that for a bit until I gained a little more of a lead as the path continued through a park by the Flint River.
A guy ahead of me asked a volunteer where he should turn but the answer wasn’t very clear. He made a left while I got the impression that I was supposed to continue straight until I reached a cone that marked a turn. I yelled to the guy in front of me to come back. At that point, everyone else in the race was so far ahead that I didn’t have anyone to follow. I could see a guy way up in the distance crossing a bridge and figured I’d end up there eventually. Prior to the one volunteer who didn’t direct us very well, the turns were pretty clear. There were signs in some spots that marked the 10K course and cones in other spots.
I made it to the bridge and saw police blocking traffic up ahead and assumed they were there because the course headed that way. It was a bit of a climb uphill to reach them and I had to ask where to go because nothing was there to mark the course. They told me I was supposed to go back where I just came from and make a turn on Bluff Street. I was extremely frustrated because it added an extra quarter mile to my race. Several people had followed me up the hill so I had to tell them to turn around and go back to Bluff. All of us who had missed the turn were pretty mad and yelled amongst ourselves that there hadn’t been anything telling us to make that turn. No signs, no cones, no people. A map of the course had been posted and we’re always told to study it so we know where to go, but I’m not familiar with the area and the rest of the course had been marked so clearly I didn’t have to worry about it. I was pretty annoyed, especially when I looked at my watch at 6.2 miles and knew I would have had a new PR – just over 45 minutes. There was one more stretch of path along the river before we got to the stadium’s parking lot. I ran into the stadium and finished on the turf just after the 50-yard line with a time of 46:41.
I was greeted by a volunteer who asked how it went and I complained about the part of the course that hadn’t been marked. Someone else must have complained and she said she thought the race director had been made aware of it. I hoped so! This has happened to me in the past and is bound to happen again in the future. It’s frustrating but not terribly uncommon. People have been misdirected while running marathons as they to qualify for the Olympic trials, so obviously this was a minor inconvenience compared to that. I didn’t have anything riding on this race other than hoping to get a new PR.
The two guys I had traded spots with a few times during the race finished soon after me and we commiserated with each other. I found out they were both running the duo so I’d see them during the 5K as well. In the meantime, I got a cold, wet towel which was helpful. Even though it was cool compared to the heat I’ve been running in, I had worked hard and was still pretty hot.
Then it was time for my reward – donut holes from Blueline Donuts. I collected a few but chose to refrain from enjoying them until I was done racing. I ate a Clif Shot Blok or two because I know those sit well with my stomach while running and I wasn’t sure I could say the same for the donuts. So, I stashed them in my car.
I had close to 45 minutes to kill until the start of the 5K and that’s where things are tricky with these combo races. How to spend the downtime? I wanted to conserve energy but I also didn’t want to get too stiff. I spent a chunk of time on the field after the race chatting with people. I found my results and saw that I was the second woman in the 10K! The girl in front of me was super fast and once the race started I never saw her again. She beat me by eight minutes. I was relieved when I saw the results because obviously there was no way I would have caught her even if I had run the proper distance. The missed turn didn’t make me lose a spot to any of the women. I was still ahead of the next woman by a minute. Although I was annoyed that I didn’t get that PR I could have earned, it didn’t seem to mess with my placement in the race.
I killed a few more minutes at my car then decided it was time for another jog. I went through the same routine a second time – out of the parking lot and onto the roads around the stadium. While I had only run half a mile before the 10K, I did a mile before the 5K.
As I waited for the 9:00 start, I was surprised again by how far back most of the runners stood. No one wanted to be at the front! I figured I had done pretty well in the 10K so I may as well start toward the front for this race too. I chatted with my two new friends from the 10K. We had all finished within a minute of each other so I thought we could end up near each other for much of the 5K as well.
The guys took off in front of me as we started up the same slight incline we had run for the 10K. I caught them by the time we got a bit of a downhill. I decided I was happy with my fancy super shoes. I won’t say they made me dramatically faster but they may have helped some!
I had assumed since we wouldn’t climb the Bradley Hills for the 5K course that maybe it would be easier. Instead, we ran up a hill into a cemetery and it sure didn’t feel easier. There was quite a bit of winding with some ups and downs. As it was, I didn’t know how much speed I’d have left in my legs after pushing so hard for the 10K. After I got past the initial climb my pace was around 7:00 or faster so it seemed like I was on track for a good 5K. The cemetery slowed me down to a 9:00 pace for a minute, then it was still another minute or two before I got back to a faster pace. I still had it in me though! I may have cringed most of the way but I kept pushing.
This time we turned at the bridge rather than adding distance in the park like we had for the 10K. When we got to Bluff Street there was a van parked in the middle of the road and two volunteers there to tell us to turn. We definitely didn’t have that during the 10K! Maybe they heard enough complaints to make sure it was obvious for the second race. I was convinced that although maybe I should have known the course better for the 10K, it’s not like I had missed anything that signaled where I should have turned. I made a point of looking during the 5K, and minus the van and volunteers, there wasn’t anything marking that turn.
Back onto the turf for the finish once again, and my official time was 21:59. I JUST broke 22 minutes, which I don’t think I’ve done since 2015. It wasn’t an easy course either, so I was especially proud. On top of that, I was the first female finisher!
This time when I went to the donut area I was able to enjoy them right away. I am very motivated by good post-race treats and these were worthwhile.
I scanned my bib again and eventually I was able to see the results for the 5K but nothing came up for the duo race. The timing people said that awards would be sent by mail. That was pretty anti-climatic! I guess now I just wait and see if a surprise pops up in the mail one day. I really lucked out that the speedy woman from the 10K didn’t run the 5K because I wouldn’t have stood a chance. Placing second in the 10K and first in the 5K meant I had probably won the duo. Several days after the race those results were finally posted and confirmed that. My total time for the duo was 1:08:39 which good for first place by several minutes! 58 women and 59 men participated in the duo.
It’s pretty fun to actually win a race but I always have the disclaimer in the back of my mind that it all depends on who shows up that day. I was really happy with how I ran since I was pretty close to my fastest time for each distance if I ignore the bonus quarter mile that added over a minute to my 10K time. I think my recent training mileage plus running through the heat of the summer has made me strong. It’s always a dream to get acclimated to the heat then have it suddenly cool down for race day. This race also reminded me that even though running that fast can be painful enough that I usually avoid it, I have that potential in me. It encourages me and makes me realize that I might be capable of even more if I do more speed workouts. Although I’m usually pretty wary about running the shorter races, I usually come out of them wanting to see if I can do even better. Now I want to run another 10K to see how I’d do at the proper distance. I want to run another 5K that has a flatter course.
I have a swim/run race this coming weekend and a 5K swim a couple weeks after that. Then it’s back to Flint for the Crim 10-mile race. Getting a little taste of the course for the Atwood Races has me especially anxious to see what I can do this year.
On Sunday, July 10 I did my second triathlon of the season – the Toledo Triathlon at Maumee Bay State Park. The race was presented by Zoom Multisport Racing and it appealed to me because they offered the 1/3 Iron distance which is pretty unique. I covered that distance at one of their races last September and it was a great challenge that’s longer than an Olympic triathlon but not quite a half Ironman. I’m still convinced I’ll do a half Ironman at some point but it probably won’t happen this year. In the meantime, I’m always looking to push the limits of my endurance and this was a good test.
The 1/3 Iron race I did last year was held in southwestern Ohio and it was a tough course. There were several steep hills during the bike ride which involved looping the course three times. There were some tough hills on the run course as well and I was pretty beat up by the end. When I saw that the Toledo course was FLAT it sounded wonderful! I had to wake up super early with an hour and 45-minute drive but I could do it without a hotel which was a bonus for saving money.
We really lucked out with a beautiful day that ranged from the 60s up to around 80° throughout the race. The first thing I did when I got to the park was stop to admire the sunrise over Maumee Bay/Lake Erie. I had an hour to spare so I didn’t feel rushed and I always love to catch a beautiful sunrise.
The race had a beginner triathlon, plus sprint, Olympic, and 1/3 Iron distances. People could also opt to do a duathlon for any of those distances, a swim/bike, swim/run, or even a couple of longer distance swims. There was an option for pretty much everything and plenty of participants across all of the events. Aside from the few who chose to swim 3,000 or 5,000 meters, my group of 1/3 Iron athletes was the smallest. Only 13 of us signed up to cover that distance – and there was only one other woman! We had a couple of bike racks which meant we each had plenty of space for our stuff.
The duathlon started first and I went down to the water for a couple of minutes before our 7am race meeting. We used a small inland lake for our swim segment and the water was 75° – wetsuit legal. I’ll take any extra buoyancy I can get. I saw a sign at packet pickup that said the course was changed and we’d cover four loops instead of three. I learned why once our meeting began.
The lake had so much seaweed they couldn’t send us on the course they had planned. The best bet was to keep us close to shore. We’d swim 250 meters out on the deeper side of the shoreline, round a buoy, then come back on the side closer to the beach. In order to cover 2,000 meters we’d go out and back four times.
There were some concerns with this approach. There was plenty of seaweed on the deeper side of the course marked by the orange buoys on our left so it was best to stay as close as possible to the yellow buoys on our right. However, after the first people rounded the far buoy and headed back we had to be on the lookout to avoid head-on collisions. Rather than the usual rectangular or triangular course that keeps people spaced out, we swam an out and back route. If everyone kept the yellow buoys on their right it shouldn’t be an issue but sometimes people cut as close as they can or veer off-path. We were told to sight often. I often lift my head every other breath to watch for people anyway and there was no way I’d skimp on that this time. Our group was small to start but eventually sprint and Olympic athletes would join us in the water and it would get a lot more crowded.
I’m pretty sure most of us who participate in these crazy things are used to being adaptable anyway. Seaweed, waves, wind, rain, dehydration…we often battle some kind of adversity during training or racing and just have to find a way to cope. It’s all a part of it!
I hung toward the back of the group as we started the swim. That was a smart move because it felt like everyone took off and left me behind! I reminded myself that I was there to do my own race, whatever pace it may be. The water was calm and felt great so that was one thing working in our favor. The first loop went pretty well with so few of us in the water. Once I had to worry about collisions it got a little more tricky. On the way back I wanted to stay as close to the buoys as I could because we were in pretty shallow territory. At the same time, I worried about people heading toward me. When I was extra cautious I swiped the sand at the bottom with each stroke as I swam closer to the beach. On the way out, I snagged my share of seaweed during some of the loops. At one point I needed to go around someone and didn’t want to get too close to oncoming swimmers so I went toward the deeper side. The seaweed was intense! It was practically up to the surface of the water and so thick I could hardly do a freestyle stroke through it. Watching out for people coming at me might be a better option than going through that seaweed.
At some point I lucked out and realized there was a guy just ahead of me who seemed to be swimming the same pace. I wasn’t quite close enough to draft off of him but if I stayed in the same path I didn’t have to worry as much about crashing into someone. He would be the buffer ahead of me which eased my worries a bit. Really, it all worked out just fine. Keeping my mind so active probably made the swim go by quickly because the 43+ minutes didn’t seem that long.
I headed into transition with an official swim time of 43:12.
I racked up a transition time of 3:04 as I went through my usual battle of trying to get the wetsuit off over my feet before getting the rest of my stuff together. I was kind of surprised to see a bunch of bikes still on the racks because I had been convinced I was one of the slowest in our group. I was actually seventh out of thirteen in the swim.
I took off on my bike for three loops of the rectangular course. At the beginning I worried that I’d make a wrong turn somewhere because I didn’t see any other cyclists out there to follow. We had been warned that the beginner race would make a left turn for a shorter course and we should NOT turn there. When I came to the first left turn I questioned the cop if everyone should turn there and he said yes. I hoped he was right! Later I saw the section where the beginners would turn and the signs made it clear that it was just for them. Phew, no more worrying about that.
When I made it to the southern stretch of the rectangular course I realized there was just enough wind to make it more difficult. I wasn’t looking forward to doing that several times. It wasn’t anything major but the stretch was somewhere around four miles long and I found that my speed dropped to 14-15 mph for a few of those miles while I’d been around 16-17 mph otherwise. I just told myself the wind would be at my back for the northern stretch. That was a good thing because when I turned onto that segment of the road the surface wasn’t quite as smooth. The pavement had a little more texture to it but it didn’t impact my speed. The first loop was just over 11 miles and then I knew what was ahead for the next two rounds.
I ate a Picky Bar soon after completing the first loop and did the same after the second loop. I seemed to hydrate well enough between a bottle of water and one with a Nuun electrolyte mix.
Eventually I saw a few more people scattered throughout the course. One of my biggest pet peeves is when cyclists don’t warn as they pass and most people did not. It happens all the time during training and racing to the point that I half-jokingly tell myself it’s a sign that I’m not a “real” cyclist because I seem to be too courteous compared to the speedy people! At least no one snuck up behind me at times when I’d swerve around loose stones in the road or some other hazard. I like to give people a heads-up and always thought that was kind of a rule of the road. I saw people out there as young as 11 and as old as 81 and I usually like to add a “good job!” when I let them know I’m passing. It’s always so inspiring to see the range of people out there.
I was thankful that the course was so flat and smooth. Aside from the area where the headwind slowed me down, the ride was pretty nice. Most of the area had farmland and the traffic was minimal. Police were stationed at intersections and did a great job of keeping us safe. After three loops I rode back through the park, finishing with a little over 32 miles and a time of 1:58:24. Tenth out of thirteen for the bike – no surprise to me since it’s always my weakest part of the race in comparison to others. I averaged 16.4 mph which is pretty solid for me though.
The second transition took 52 seconds then I went out for three loops of the run course. Again, I was pretty excited that it was FLAT! First we ran on a paved path around the inland lake where we swam.
Each time I had to get a little gruff with the geese who hung out on the path as they hissed at me.
At least they didn’t get aggressive. We passed a small marina then ran past the beach along Lake Erie.
We continued on a path that took us back to a rock-lined breakwall with a small lighthouse out in the distance.
I loved the scenery and thought about how beautiful the run course was. There was a turnaround point and we headed back toward the small lake to complete the 3-mile course.
I averaged just under an 8:00 pace and wondered if I would be able to keep that up for nine miles. While I wasn’t a fan of any wind on the bike, I was thankful for it during the run. The sky was clear and I’m sure I would have gotten pretty warm without the breeze. I felt like I found a good groove as I ran. While some people were visibly struggling, I felt strong. I kept drinking my bottle of Nuun in hopes of staying hydrated enough and ate a few Clif Bloks as well. My pace went just over 8:00 for a couple miles but I kept it just under otherwise. After 2,000 meters of swimming and 32 miles on the bike I was pretty happy to maintain my typical marathon pace. The looped course worked well for me because I knew what to expect and I knew how much I’d enjoy the scenery each time. Although it took some effort to maintain the pace by the end, I still felt pretty strong.
I finished the run in 1:11:55 which was good for the third best run time out of my fellow 1/3 Iron athletes.
As always, the run segment helped me compensate for my slower bike time! My final time was 3:57:27 – seventh overall.
This race was a few miles shorter than the other 1/3 Iron race I did so I can’t really compare my times. The flatness of this course versus the hills on the other course made a huge difference. I still felt pretty good when I was done and was happy with how it went.
I grabbed some Fritos, trail mix, and granola bars as I quickly downed a bottle of water. I had some additional snacks in my car as well. After I took all of my gear back to the car I wanted to enjoy the park a little longer. It was such a beautiful day and I loved the run course so much that I wanted to take pictures.
By the time I got home some of the fatigue, dehydration, and stiffness hit. It’s always deceiving when I feel fine after the race because it’s bound to catch up with me at some point. Even though this race took longer than my typical marathon, the variety of swimming, biking, and running kept me from feeling too beat up. I was back out there for a 10-mile run a couple days later!
I love doing this kind of stuff and I’m glad I had such a great experience with this race. I believe it’s the first time Zoom has held a race at that park and I would certainly do it again if they return. I don’t know yet if I’ll fit another triathlon into my schedule this summer but I enjoyed this one so much I’m anxious to do more. I have a swim/run race and a 5K swim coming up in August so at least I have a little variety left while the weather allows.
The Island Lake Triathlon has become a favorite early-season race for me over the years. I returned to race the Olympic distance for my fourth time on Saturday, June 4. The race was presented by Epic Races and I can always count on them for a great race day experience. I had it on my calendar as my first potential triathlon for the season and finally committed a couple weeks before the race. The season is short and I was anxious to get out there!
I took a short break from running after the Boston Marathon in mid-April then gradually worked back up to my usual routine of running 5-6 days per week. I can always expect the run to be my strongest segment of any triathlon. I swim year-round, although I’ve been a little disappointed in my consistency for the past couple years. Still, I usually make it to the pool at least twice a week, I’ve been getting enough distance in, and I did an open water swim the week of the race so I could practice with my wetsuit. I knew I might not be as fast as I’d like to be but I should be good for the swim. I concentrated on running so much leading up to Boston that I basically neglected the bike until a week after the race. I knew I better step up if I wanted to get ready for a triathlon six weeks later. I peaked with a 40-mile ride so I knew I would be fine to cover the race distance. My bike routes were flat aside from a few hills here and there. I didn’t do much prep for a course with rolling hills but I knew I’d done enough that I would be able to get through it.
Even when I know I’m ready, nerves always kick in the night before the race – especially when it’s the first race of the season. So much gear and so many logistics to think about. I’ve made plenty of checklists over the years to make sure I have the gear and routine down, but I still spent a chunk of time gathering everything as I reassured myself on Friday night.
Island Lake Recreation Area is in Brighton, MI. I hit the road around 5am on race day so I would get there an hour before the transition area was due to close at 7:15. It was a clear morning around 50° and the water was 74°. I worried a bit about trying to spot buoys since we’d be swimming directly toward the sun, but with the cool temps and no wind everything else seemed pretty ideal.
I collected my packet by the beach, sorted things out in the car, then took everything over to the transition area.
I really liked that the transition area was organized based on race distance and age group. Usually we’re organized by race number or it’s first-come-first-serve. Racking our bikes with other people in the same age group worked really well. I don’t get too hung up on the competitive part of the race but it’s still nice to see where I stand. After the swim people can see if anyone has headed out for the bike segment yet, then later see how many have returned their bikes and gone out to run. Plus, it was nice to chat with other women in my category before the race. We weren’t squeezed in too tight either which is always a bonus.
I made a bathroom trip then it was time to get into my wetsuit. I had a few minutes to get in the water before the pre-race meeting at the beach and it felt just right. I kept shielding my eyes from the sun as I looked at the course. I didn’t know how I would find those buoys with the sun in my face! Aside from that concern I really didn’t battle any nerves before the race.
All of the race photos that follow are courtesy of Greg Sadler Photography and his team. They even get in the water to get some great shots! I love that Epic Races gives us free downloads of these awesome photos as a part of our race registration.
I had plenty of time to wait for the start of my race because each person started individually about three seconds apart. I prefer that method SO much more than a crazy mass start. My age group was literally the last one to start for the Olympic race. That gave me the opportunity to watch the other swimmers and make sure I knew where I was supposed to go. Despite temps in the low 50s somehow I didn’t freeze as I waited. I started 11 minutes after the first person went. I was glad I wouldn’t have to worry about many people grabbing my feet as they came from behind other than a few of the lead swimmers. They had time to start the second of their two loops while I waited to start my first!
Sometimes my breathing is bad with the excitement of the start of the race but fortunately I felt comfortable throughout the whole swim. Being spaced out really helps. I believe the buoys remained in place after a sprint triathlon that took place on Wednesday night. We had been told that the weeds were pretty bad and I think they wanted to take advantage of a route that minimized going into the weeds. I barely noticed weeds so the route they used definitely worked.
We were supposed to get 1500m from our two-loop swim. At first I basically followed the crowd until I got close enough to actually spot the first orange buoy. The sun didn’t make it easy on the way out but I managed just fine. I was thankful that the other races (sprint, mini-sprint, etc.) wouldn’t start until the last Olympic athlete started the second loop. The last time I did this race we had to swim three loops and there was MAJOR congestion with everyone in the water by the time I did my third loop. It was so much easier this time. I had moments when I caught up to people who veered my direction or when I had to pause for a few seconds to get some space, but otherwise things were pretty smooth.
When I approached the beach at the end of my swim and the water got shallow enough, I stood up to wade through the rest and saw Greg Sadler taking photos. He has photographed so many races that I’ve done and we follow each other on Instagram so he recognized me and gave me a nice greeting. He got a good smile out of me when I normally would look beat up coming out of the water!
I didn’t have the energy to run up the grass to the transition area but did my best. Another woman in my age group showed up soon after me and commented that the swim must have been short. I briefly glanced at my watch when I started my T1 time and then it hit me that it said 20:47. It should take me closer to half an hour to swim 1500m and there’s no way I was that fast. After the race when I looked at my Garmin stats and converted yards to meters I realized I swam my typical pace of 2:00/100m for a total of around 1,050m. Maybe we should have done three loops again this year!
As usual, my first transition time was pretty slow – 3:59. I always struggle to get the wetsuit off and over my feet. One of the people who works for Epic Races jokingly (I think!) said to everyone in general, “This is a race. Your transition is part of your time! Get your socks on!” It made me laugh because I knew I was racking up a bunch of time.
With temps in the low 50s I worried that being wet on the bike would cause me to freeze so I added a long sleeve shirt. I had full-fingered gloves that I intended to wear as well but didn’t realize I had totally forgotten about them until I was out on the course. Oh well! Luckily I didn’t get too cold. Maybe I could have survived without the shirt too but I didn’t get too warm so I guess it was fine.
The bike course was two loops and was supposed to be somewhere around 24 miles. After racing the course several times in the past I knew exactly what I was getting into with the rolling hills. There are a few climbs that are a little challenging but they don’t last too long and there are plenty of fast downhill stretches to make up for it. I was prepared for people to whiz past me like they always do since the bike is my weakness. That didn’t happen much which was a combination of me getting a good head start from a decent swim, and the fact that my age group was last to start so a lot of the fast people may have already gotten well ahead of me.
I had to keep my mind busy while I was out there for nearly an hour and a half. I told myself I was just out there doing my thing, enjoying a nice day, and that everyone was a badass for doing this. So many people have looked at me in bewilderment when I’ve explained going out to swim, bike, and run and then told them the distances I would cover. However fast or slow each of us went, we were all pushing ourselves to do something special.
Sometimes I feel like I’m out on my own by the second loop when all of the fast people have passed and I’m lingering behind. This time it seemed like I always had someone to watch in front of me or heading the opposite direction though and it may have helped mentally.
I had some sips of water from one bottle and drank about half of my bottle with a Nuun electrolyte mix. I think the cool temps kept me from getting very thirsty. I knew I better eat something too and pulled a Picky Bar out of my jersey pocket during the second loop. I picked a bad time for it though. I quickly realized I was on a patch with seals running across the road that rattled me every few seconds. I started to squeeze the Picky Bar up to get a bite, then each bump shook me enough to squeeze the bar further out of the wrapper and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop it. In no time my bar was on the road and I only got one bite out of it. I still had the wrapper so I was glad I didn’t litter. I had a couple packs of Clif Bloks in my pocket too so at least I had something else. I knew I better wait until the road was smoother!
After an hour and 28 minutes I finished my ride. I got off the bike at the dismount line and someone asked how it was out there. I kind of hesitated wondering how I should answer. “Alright?” That made them laugh so I added, “I’m not the best biker!” Once again I got through a ride without a flat tire and I averaged my typical speed. I suppose that’s enough to consider it successful!
I was shocked as I ran my bike into transition and saw my friend Lisa! I asked what she was doing there and of course she said she was there to cheer for me. I had no idea she was coming so that was pretty awesome. She looked at my past race times to figure out when she might be able to expect me. My transition spot was close to the edge so I was able to talk to her while I racked my bike. Thankfully I’m usually pretty quick during the second transition (48 seconds) since I just had to take my shirt and helmet off and grab my hat. I told Lisa the worst part was over. She said the rest would be easy and I said now I “only” had about 50 more minutes.
Next it was time for two loops of the run. In the past we’ve always started out by running up a steep grassy hill. I was kind of thrown off that flags routed me a different way and I almost wondered if I was going the right direction. I ended up on the paved path and knew I’d follow that into Kensington Metropark before hitting a turnaround. I was shocked when I looked at my watch and saw that I ran the first mile in 7:25. My legs felt heavy and numb and I guess they were so numb I went faster than I realized. The numbness must have worn off after that because I didn’t keep it up!
The run is my time to try to catch up for my slowness on the bike. It always gives me a little boost when I’m able to catch people and it keeps me going strong. I also kept distracted because so many people were out there heading both directions. It was such a gorgeous day that plenty of people were out for walks or bike rides on the same path so there was some weaving involved.
Island Lake’s path connects to Kensington’s under the highway. On the way back there’s a decent climb after coming out of the dark. On tired legs it felt steeper than it was and slowed me down a bit. I wasn’t too excited about doing it again during the second loop.
I got to the point where we turned down a short, steep hill where I had to be careful about my momentum so I wouldn’t wipe out on the grass and roots. Then there was a stretch in the grass near the beach before turning to go up that grassy hill that I dreaded. It almost felt like I slowed down to a walk but I kept grinding. One more loop before I made my way to the finish. I saw Lisa off to the side and waved as she took some pictures.
Next I mugged for Greg Sadler who took a nice series of finishing photos.
I had to recover for a few minutes after my strong finish. I chatted with Lisa and also caught Greg for a minute or two when he wasn’t busy shooting other finishers. According to my Garmin the course was a little shorter than the anticipated 6.2 miles.
I’m always curious to see how my run splits break down. I started fast, slowed down, but still finished strong. I was pretty happy to average 7:45 per mile.
Here’s how the whole race broke down according to my Garmin.
The official results changed a bunch of times as more people finished. They continued to change over the next couple days as certain things must have been sorted out and I think this shows the final standings? Somehow my transition times got messed up and my bike split wasn’t broken out separately, but I know my Garmin is close, give or take a few seconds.
Either way, I showed up as third in my age group all along which was good for a prize. I could choose a water bottle or coaster and I chose the coaster.
I always figure it’s best if people don’t spectate my races because there is so much downtime. Since Lisa is a runner she was smart and used the downtime to get eight miles in. It made me feel better that she was able to enjoy the park too and use that extra time efficiently. It was so nice to have her there and we had a chance to hang out for a bit after the race as I sampled nearly all of the treats that were available. In addition to the great race photos, I can always count on Epic Races for the best post-race food. Pancakes, egg and cheese wraps, mac & cheese, cookies, ice cream sandwiches, etc. I get SO excited about good food after a race and they do it right. I kind of cringed at the price when I signed up for the race but triathlons involve a lot more than typical running races and the food and free photos certainly made it worthwhile.
Lisa asked how I felt about the race. I didn’t have any specific expectations going in or certain goals to achieve so it’s kind of tricky to nail down. I was definitely happy though. I knew I wasn’t going into the race in peak shape and doubted I would PR. Typically it’s hard to compare triathlon times because the courses and distances can vary so much. I can’t even compare this one to the prior three I’ve done on the same course because the swim distance was clearly shorter. I think the bike segment is the easiest to compare because that route didn’t vary at all. I rode just under 1:27:00 in 2017, but this time and the other two times were 1:28-something. At least I was in my usual territory. Things went smoothly and that was my biggest measure of success.
I keep thinking that I want to try a half Ironman someday but still don’t know if I’m there yet. Even if I don’t do one this season I’ll surely try to get more Olympic races in and maybe another 1/3 Iron race like I did last summer. I love the adventure and feeling of accomplishment from doing these crazy things.
On Saturday, May 14 I did my first in-person 5K since September 2019. I tend to favor longer races at slower paces and don’t race 5Ks as often as I used to. During my last marathon training segment I only ran 5K pace for a couple of workouts. Sometimes 5Ks intimidate me more than half or full marathons because my training specifically targets those paces while I rarely target 5K speed. I’m simply not prepared to go that fast which makes them feel especially torturous! I know I could take it easy and not push myself to the max but I have a hard time not giving it my all.
I was willing to put myself through the worrying and agony to run the Dart Frog Dash 5K at the Toledo Zoo. A couple weeks earlier I got together with my friend Lisa for a run and visit to the Detroit Zoo. I commented that we should try to visit the Toledo Zoo too because it had been ages since I’d been. A day later Lisa sent me a message with info about a 5K there. It was $30 for the race plus admission to the zoo. Perfect!
The Toledo Zoo is close to two hours away from me but Lisa lives halfway between. I drove to her house then we drove together the rest of the way. We got there over an hour early because we both prefer to have the extra time. Plus, we had to walk a good half mile in the zoo to packet pickup at the aquarium, back to the car, then back into the zoo again.
20 minutes before the start of the race Lisa and I did a mile-long warm up run. It was a beautiful morning in the 60s but it was pretty humid. My hair made that especially obvious! It had been in the 80s for my last few runs so I was starting to adjust to the heat but I hadn’t dealt with humidity yet. As least this race would only be 20-some minutes long for me.
I was glad to hear someone announce that competitive runners should start at the front and people walking should stay near the back. I knew enough to line up near the front while also leaving a little gap because faster people should be in front of me. At 8:30 we were off!
A ton of people flew past me at the beginning. I figured a bunch of them should have filled that gap in front of me! I also had a hunch that I might catch some of them during the race. That included a couple of kids who started at the front. Too often I’ve seen kids rocket off the starting line at an all-out sprint. Then I catch them a quarter mile into the race when they’ve run out of energy. That’s exactly what happened at this race. I didn’t have a clue how to pace myself until I was in my late 20s or early 30s so I get it! I always feel bad when it’s clear they haven’t learned that skill yet and hope the rest of the race isn’t totally miserable for them.
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself since I hadn’t trained for that kind of speed. A few days before the race I decided I should try some quarter mile segments at 5K pace for practice and completed six of them. I was dying by the end so I hoped the race atmosphere would give me a boost somehow!
I ran the race by feel and glanced at my watch at times to see how it was going. I knew I wasn’t running a PR kind of pace, not that I expected I would pull that off anyway. The first mile was basically a straight shot down Broadway/River Road along the Maumee River. I ran the first mile in 7:12. We looped around a neighborhood, went back out to River Road, then branched off into a neighborhood that eventually led us into the zoo. I picked it up to 7:07 pace for the second mile. As expected, I passed a few people here and there who had probably started too fast. There were a few minor hills and rather than dreading them I told myself that’s where I’d catch some people. In the meantime, I was sweating like crazy. That humidity! It was kind of painful running so fast but I kept pushing through.
We had a straight shot on the zoo sidewalk at first but then we ran on the Tembo Trail. It was mostly a brick surface and it got tricky in spots. We actually went through some of the exhibit space but I was oblivious to any rhinos, hippos, or elephants at that point. There were a bunch of quick, sharp turns that slowed me down quite a bit as I tried to round them. I realized a girl was catching up to me so I just tried to move fast enough so I wouldn’t get passed! My third mile was 7:28. I was in the 7:10s until I got to that Tembo Trail section.
There was another nice straightaway where I could pick it up again until I had one more turn to make right before the finish. I was running close to a kid and thought I better slow down to make sure we didn’t cut each other off as we both tried to hug that last corner. Then I gave it everything I had left! I hit 6:48 pace for the last tenth of a mile.
No one passed me at the end, but when I saw the pictures after the race I realized how close the finish had been. Obviously the women were younger and not in my age group but I was still glad to place a little higher overall for women.
I was dying for a minute after I crossed the finish line but then I went back to the long straightaway to see if I could spot Lisa. Thanks to her red shirt I saw her and cheered as I took a few pictures. Then I went back to meet her at the finish.
I always look forward to post-race treats so I wasn’t especially excited that they only had water and bananas. No medal either, which is no big deal since I have too many as it is. Getting free admission to the zoo was a worthwhile perk so I was forgiving.
I checked the results and saw that I was the female masters winner and fifth woman overall! Pretty cool! I finished in 22:50 which was a little over a minute slower than my PR. I was happy with what I had managed to run without real preparation.
Lisa’s results hadn’t shown up yet so we went back to the car to change into dry clothes. I had brought a protein drink and some Picky Bars which helped make up for the lack of treats. Lisa’s results finally showed up and she was only about 10 seconds slower than her PR. Pretty impressive on a humid day with that tricky Tembo Trail segment! She was third in her age group so we went to look for awards before we explored the rest of the zoo.
We found a table where we each collected cool prizes. Because I was the female masters winner I received an envelope that gave me a zoo membership for a year! That membership also gives me 50% off admission to several other zoos I’ve wanted to visit again. I was pretty excited about that prize!
We spent a few hours walking around the zoo and it seemed like a perfect day. It was sunny and beautiful and we had fun exploring the whole zoo.
After we had been there for a few hours and it continued to get hotter we reached a point when we’d had enough. We got a little more antsy and started to move through the exhibits a little faster. I enjoyed taking some nice photos and we had a great time between the race and exploring the zoo. My watch said I had done more than 10 miles by the time we left for the day!
I’m really glad we did the race and it made me realize that I should try to do more speedwork this summer. It’s usually one of my least favorite kinds of workouts but it makes me stronger. It was nice to see how well I did at this race. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much if I trained for that kind of pace. It would also be nice to see what I’m capable of doing if I prepare. 5Ks don’t leave me beat up for days afterward like half or full marathons so maybe I should add them to the mix more often.
I am now a two-time Boston Marathon finisher and I’m still coming down from the high of an incredible weekend. Take away the actual race day and it would have been an amazing trip already. I had a blast in 2019 but had a challenging race due to the weather conditions. I really wanted a second chance to try to redeem myself with a better race. I was thrilled that I could go back and run again in 2022. After this year’s experience I understand why so many people return year after year. I would love to go back any time I can! It was such a great weekend that this recap is basically a short novel. I apologize in advance for the length and understand if you just scroll through for the photos!
Aside from not being able to celebrate Easter with my mom, I was happy the race fell during Easter weekend this year because it meant I already had Good Friday and Easter Monday off of work. I only used one vacation day for the trip to travel home the day after the race. My flight left Detroit at 7:30 on Friday morning and after a quick Uber ride from the airport I made it to my hotel by 9:30. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to stash my bags – they actually let me check in that early. Since I was going to pay a fortune for the hotel I suppose it was only fair! I was a couple blocks south of Boston Common which was a great location for walking to almost everything.
My mission for Friday morning was to stop at Marathon Sports on my way to the expo which opened at 11:00. When I saw the trees blooming in the Public Garden I had to take a brief detour. It was a beautiful day in the 50s and 60s with barely a cloud in the sky and I hadn’t seen anything blooming in Michigan yet. It actually looked like spring in Boston!
In 2019 I realized a good trick was to go to Marathon Sports where they have most of the same Adidas items the expo has minus the congestion and ridiculous lines. I stopped there first this time and bought a 2022 Boston Marathon hat. I went to the expo right when it opened and was surprised to walk almost a quarter mile around the Hynes Convention Center to find the end of the line to get inside. Although I’d had some moments when I wondered how it might work traveling solo for this race, I quickly realized that it was actually pretty great. Nearly half an hour of waiting? No big deal to me – it was a gorgeous day to wait outside and I was able to text some friends in the meantime. I didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining and I could just enjoy myself.
I collected my bib quickly then found my name on the wall of participants.
I glanced at the official merch area and confirmed that most of it was the same stuff I found at Marathon Sports. I could barely move in that area and I tried to get out as soon as I could! Fortunately the rest of the expo was more spacious.
I waited until the week of the race to order my celebration jacket. I wanted to be sure I’d actually make it to the race and earn that jacket. It was waiting for me at home after the race.
I purchased a shirt at one booth and wandered around collecting some free snacks and drinks. When I made it to the back end of the expo and heard people clapping, I realized Meb Keflezighi was speaking! I had no idea he’d be there so I settled on the bleachers to hear him speak. In the running world he’s a superstar and one of my very favorites. Hearing him talk about winning Boston the year after the bombings is still really moving nine years later. So many people lined up for a picture that I figured I’d try to catch him later at another panel.
I made a few stops on Newbury Street including a visit to the Brooks Hyperion House. Brooks didn’t have a booth at the expo but I knew they had rented a house and was happy to see that they had a lot of cool gear there. I left with a hat, shirt, and some free stickers.
Between the hat from Marathon Sports, the shirt from the expo, the stuff from Brooks, and the official race shirt, I figured I had more than enough gear.
I had also been very tempted by a limited edition Boston shoe from Brooks. After running the marathon I couldn’t resist temptation anymore and ordered them.
I went to check out Fan Fest at Copley Square Park where Meb was scheduled to speak at 4:00. It was my second time seeing him speak in one day but I’ll listen to him any chance I can get. He’s inspirational, an example of the power of positive thinking, and a role model who I admire very much.
Meb and Des Linden are two of my biggest running heroes and I was off to see her next. What a day! With a little internet sleuthing in the weeks prior to the race I had discovered that Des would be a part of a panel at the Brooks house and I grabbed a free ticket to ensure my admission as soon as they became available.
Des spoke with Melanie Allen of Brooks Running, Ted Metellus, director of the New York City Marathon, and journalist Shira Springer. They talked about subjects such as getting more people interested in running and increasing engagement with professional runners. It was a great discussion in an intimate setting. I was able to speak to Des for a minute afterward and she’s the best. It made me smile to hear a young girl outside exclaim, “This is the coolest day of my life!” I kind of felt the same way myself!
I think I walked a good eight miles on Friday by the time I grabbed some dinner and went back to the hotel. I knew I’d do a lot the first couple days and planned to back off and spend less time on my feet by Sunday.
I started Saturday with a 3-mile run. The big B.A.A. 5K took place around Boston Common that morning and I tried to plan a route that wouldn’t run into that course. I took in the race atmosphere for a few minutes when I finished my run.
The rest of Saturday was all about spending time with friends. Although it was a bit of a walk to the Fenway Park area it was another nice day. A few of us were going to the baseball game at 4:10 and met at Time Out Market to hang out for a couple hours beforehand. It was so great to see everyone and the time flew by much too quickly.
As we got ready to go to the game my friend Tara said she had a video to show me on her phone. She surprised me with a compilation of video messages from an amazing group of friends. There were some very sincere messages, some presented by adorable pets, and some that were absolutely hilarious. The video wrapped up with Tara “running” across the Boston finish line, where she had made a special stop the day before just to film it. I was overwhelmed by all of the love and couldn’t believe they did that for me. I let them know I would watch the video multiple times leading up to the race and that it meant the world to me.
We got to see a great Red Sox win and the ballpark’s organist even played a request for me. My friend Kristine said he took requests through Twitter. It was pretty awesome when he came through with some Tom Petty for me!
On top of all of that fun, I was shocked when I looked over my shoulder and saw my friend Kurt sitting a few feet away. We hadn’t coordinated at all and I couldn’t believe the chances!
Then a few of us grabbed dinner after the game. Only two days into the trip and it had already been a blast.
No shakeout run for me on Sunday because I didn’t want to take any risk of tweaking anything the day before the race. I figured rest would serve me better. Still, I had a couple events on my agenda.
I went to the Brooks Hyperion House for another panel at 11 am. The panel was hosted by Jeff Dengate, Runner-in-Chief at Runner’s World Magazine. I wanted to see him speak as well as Kevin Hanson, one of the brothers who owns the local Hansons Running Shops and coaches the Hansons-Brooks team of athletes in my area back at home. They were joined by Brooks athletes CJ Albertson and Brian Reynolds, plus Greg Meyer, who won Boston in 1983 and is also from Michigan. A lot of the discussion centered around preparing for the course and race day, favorite memories from past races, and some other fun stuff mixed in.
I see Kevin Hanson frequently when he supports his athletes as they train at Stony Creek Metropark, a place where I trained nearly all winter long. It was fun to chat with him for a few minutes and also nice to meet Jeff Dengate.
I grabbed lunch and spent some time off my feet since I knew I’d be standing for a while at Fan Fest for another panel that would start around 1:30. I’m glad I arrived early because five women from the 1972 inaugural women’s field were on the stage. Women have only been officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon for 50 years and those women were true trailblazers. They had fascinating stories and were so inspirational that I teared up a few times.
Another inspirational panel of women spoke next. They were members of the Honorary Women’s Team who were there to honor the women who ran 50 years ago. I was there to see Melissa Stockwell, a Paralympic triathlete who I’ve followed for years. She was joined by Verna Volker, who is working to bring visibility to Native women runners, Sarah Fuller, who was the first woman to play in and score in a Power 5 football game, and Jocelyn Rivas, who was the youngest woman to run 100 marathons. I’m glad my interest in Melissa exposed me to these other incredible women who all had awesome stories.
After a couple of nice days it had gotten pretty chilly and I was ready to get back to the hotel to warm up and get off my feet. Around 5:00 I went to the Panera near my hotel for a pre-race meal of mac and cheese, a turkey sandwich, and a bag of chips. I like to have a meal that is pretty tame but hopefully also filling enough.
After being so cold while walking around during the day I spent too much time worrying about how much I should wear for the race the next day. Fortunately a couple of runner friends talked some sense into me and helped reinforce what I already knew – that I didn’t want to get too warm. The nervousness and questioning always seems to hit the night before a race even when I know better. I finally got everything together and got close to seven hours of fairly decent sleep.
All of this excitement and I’m only getting to Marathon Monday now!
I ate one Picky Bar before heading out of the hotel around 6:40 am. I took warm post-race clothes to the gear check area then started a long walk to the Hilton near the convention center. Like I did in 2019, I reserved a spot on a bus that was chartered by a local running store. Having a chartered bus meant I could stay warm and comfortable on the bus rather than get dumped out at Athletes’ Village. Buses for my wave would start loading at 7:00. I thought that meant they’d gradually fill buses and surely I didn’t need to be on that first one. I got there about ten after and wandered around trying to figure out where to find the buses. After 10-15 minutes I finally accepted the fact that I must have been too late and totally missed the buses. Kind of crappy since I had paid for it but I guess it was my fault for not getting there earlier.
I didn’t even know how the normal buses worked so I had to pull up the participant’s guide on my phone to figure that out. The buses for my wave would leave at 8:15. I had nearly an hour until then and another mile to walk back. I didn’t get too bummed because I figured I was going to get to take in the full experience of Athletes’ Village and maybe that would be good. Being on my feet so much before running a marathon was the thing that had me concerned the most.
I headed to Boston Common for the bus loading area and found a big mob of people waiting. There were so many people we couldn’t even get into Boston Common. I guess it was a good thing I was early for THIS bus! While I waited I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle. I made sure to eat several times in the four hours between leaving the hotel and running the race. Sometime after 8:00 the crowd moved enough to get into the Common. More waiting until my wave was allowed to go to the buses. Then more waiting to get on a bus. I had waiting-themed song lyrics running through my head. “So tired, tired of waiting.” “The waiting is the hardest part.” SO much waiting which is one of the tough parts about this race. I just played on my phone, took in the atmosphere, and had to be patient. Eventually I got on a bus and it was nice and warm. It took at least 45 minutes to get bused out to Hopkinton and in that time I had another Picky Bar.
The chartered bus was extremely helpful in 2019 because it was a rainy morning. I got to stay dry on the bus and not worry about mud at Athletes’ Village. Fortunately the weather was pretty much perfect this year – 40s to 50s and clear. In addition to the sun I had my Salvation Army layer of clothes that kept me warm until I shed them before the race. I found a wooden fence to sit on and killed some time by rewatching the good luck video my awesome friends had made. At 10:00 I had my last Picky Bar.
At 10:20 my wave (#3) was allowed to start the .7-mile walk from Athletes’ Village to the start. More mobs of people moving slowly! Another bathroom stop along the way had me pressing my luck for my 10:50 starting time. I could start any time after my corral went off but I could be grouped with slower people. I was supposed to be in corral two and by the time I got up to the start they were on corral three. No big deal really and they let me right in.
After all of that waiting I was finally off! I’ve had it drilled into my head not to start too fast at this race. The first four miles are downhill and it’s easy to fly. Starting too fast could wreck the quads and make things bad for climbing the hills later in the race. In 2019 I didn’t even hit my goal pace going down the hills, let alone go out too fast. The weather was the main factor that time. I was slower than my goal pace this time too because of congestion. Maybe it would have helped if I had started with my proper corral? The course was so crowded I was slower than I planned to be. Getting stuck behind people got a little frustrating. I weaved around so much trying to find open spots that I knew I was bound to add extra distance to the 26.2 miles. It took several miles before it really opened up enough to move more freely.
I ran 3:52:15 in 2019 and my top goal this time was to redeem myself and run a better race. My body wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity we had that day and it kind of wrecked me. My goal is usually around 3:30 and I have only achieved it once in my previous eight marathons. With cooler temps and such a nice day it seemed like that goal could be achievable. Another top goal was to enjoy the crowds and the experience. I decided I should keep my phone in my pocket and take some photos and videos of the experience, which I never do during races. I knew how electric the crowd would be and the photographer in me wanted to capture some of that. As long as I achieved those top two goals, of course I also wanted to capitalize on all of my hard training and run the strongest race I could.
After the 2019 race I learned that Spencer the dog is an icon along the course. He was named the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon this year! I didn’t see him in 2019 so I was determined to see him this time. I read that he would be on the right side of the road around 2.5 miles into the race. I’m usually pretty serious about my races and never really stop for photo opportunities. I made an exception for Spencer though! I moved off to the side of the road when I saw him and realized a few people were waiting to pose for pictures with him. I didn’t want to stop too long so I snapped a couple quick pictures then got moving again. Maybe I sacrificed 10-20 seconds which wasn’t too much in the big picture and seeing him made me smile!
After the race I actually came across a video posted by Spencer’s owner that caught me taking photos. Too funny!
I stuck to the right side of the road because my friend Mandy was spectating with friends somewhere within the next mile. It helped that they weren’t in a big crowd so I could spot them, say hi, and get a quick high five from her husband. Seeing them made me smile and gave me a boost for a little while.
I got another boost 10 miles into the race when I heard my name. I looked over and yelled, “Bruce! You’re awesome!” Another high five from someone I knew from back at home. I had no idea he’d be there! I was glad I was on the right edge of the road at the right time to catch him. That surprise made me smile for a bit too.
Since I had prepaid for the expensive photo package I made a point of trying to mug for the race photographers whenever I saw them. I look kind of silly in some of them but I was trying to have fun!
There are a few lulls in the crowd here and there along the course but never for very long. One of my favorite things about this race is the energy of the crowd. They are INCREDIBLE. To have people screaming and cheering you on for nearly 26 miles? What an amazing feeling. They made me smile for most of the race and lifted me up so much. The Wellesley girls were a highlight last time and I made sure to shoot some video this time. Their screaming can be heard before they’re even visible.
There are always funny signs along the course and one of my favorites said, “Running is a mental sport – you crazy.” People often have “power up” signs that you’re supposed to swat for a boost of power. In what I assume was a twist on that, I cracked up when I saw someone holding a big Will Smith head. After the Oscars debacle it was HIS turn to get slapped and plenty of runners knew exactly what they were supposed to do!
People blared music like AC/DC which got me pumped, especially as I watched a runner in front of me slap the hand of a guy wearing the band’s shirt at that spot.
Having fun was such an overriding theme for me at this race. People say that after all of the hard work you’ve put in to get there the race is a celebration. I kept that in mind and numerous times I giddily thought to myself, “You’re running BOSTON right now!” I know it’s the ultimate goal for many and I am extremely grateful that I have been able to run this legendary race twice. I had a very unique feeling while I was out there. As I counted down how many miles I had left to go, I not only thought about how much closer I was to the finish but also thought about how much time I had left with this amazing experience. I didn’t want it to end!
One way I boosted my mental game was to think of all of the support I had. I am fully aware that this running stuff I do is pretty crazy and most people have no desire to torture themselves that way. Yet I received SO much support from family and friends that it was humbling. I started to list off everyone in my head individually and think about how they had taken the time to let me know they were pulling for me. I was just out there doing this running thing and it blew my mind to get so much love from so many people. I kept that in mind no matter how I was feeling.
Fortunately, I felt pretty good most of the time. It was sunny and even during the very early miles I wondered if I was getting too warm. Sometimes the crowd gave me chills though! Although it had been really windy the prior few days we lucked out and it wasn’t too crazy on race day. I kept some wise words in mind from one of the panels I had attended – if we faced a headwind, just think about how it would help cool us down. That was a good perspective and it was true. The race day conditions were about as ideal as I could have hoped for.
There are some rolling hills throughout the course but the four hills from miles 16-21 are the REAL hills. They feel especially significant because they come later in the race when the legs are tired. The first one or two I thought, “Eh, not so bad, I’ve got this. I did all of those hill repeats in training to prepare for this.” Heartbreak Hill is the final one and climbs for half a mile straight. That took some work, for sure. My pace clearly slowed for the segment with all of those hills. I held up though and did a great job battling them.
It’s such a huge relief to see signs that let runners know when they’ve made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill. It’s all downhill from there! There are a few minor rolling spots along the way that feel much more significant on tired legs but it’s mostly smooth sailing after that point.
I was able to maintain a very positive mindset the whole time. Running really IS a mental sport and even when I started to feel the bottom of my feet a bit more and became aware of my hamstrings working harder with those hills, I reminded myself that I was still holding up and continued to enjoy the electric atmosphere.
I followed my usual routine of grabbing a few sips of water at nearly every aid station while also supplementing with my own bottle of Nuun electrolyte drink. I ate Clif Blok chews with extra sodium every mile or two after the first 6-7 miles of the race. My stomach cooperated and although I had a moment here and there when I felt iffy, those moments passed and I still had energy to pick up my pace after I recovered from the hills.
Soon enough I had my first glimpse of the Citgo sign off in the distance. A while later it would pop up again and seem huge. It’s one of those significant markers on the course that makes you feel like you’re getting close. The crowd was on fire and if I held my phone up to capture video it got them even more fired up. It’s such an amazing feeling that makes me tear up even now thinking about it.
Eventually I saw signs and paint on the ground notifying us that we had one mile to go. I was going to give it everything I had left! Then came the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” Time to fly down the long straightaway to the finish line! Then it was a mix between a huge smile and being on the verge of choking up from the emotions.
Next came the honor of crossing that finish line.
Stopping afterward is brutal. Running for over 3.5 hours straight then coming to a total stop? That’s a shock to the system! Aside from some groaning and swearing I was fine though. No cramps or need for a wheelchair. As I watched other people get emotional it nearly got me too but somehow I avoided all-out tears.
I felt my phone going nuts. Again, it was amazing to receive SO much support! I glanced at the notifications on my screen and one popped up from my friend Mary Beth: “3:35:35! Amazing job!!!” I didn’t even know my time yet and that’s how I found out. Wait – I think I ran that EXACT same time in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. A check later confirmed that. How does that even happen?! Although the time might push it close to the limits of actually making the final cut, it was another Boston Qualifying time by 4:25! To BQ at Boston felt like the ultimate achievement. Clearly I shattered my first goal of running better than I did the first time I ran Boston. I ran a really solid time, finished strong, and most of all, enjoyed the whole experience. I felt pretty great!
I hit some photo stops after I received my medal and got a heat sheet, which I really needed as I began to cool down. I received a bag with treats then I really had to go to gear check to collect my warm clothes.
I was overwhelmed by all of the messages and decided to call my mom to fill her in first rather than try to respond to all the texts. Then I answered a few but knew I needed to get some food. I got some chocolate milk at 7-11 first and downed that right away. That’s my go-to recovery drink for carbs/protein. Then I went to Panera for a smoothie, muffin, and chocolate croissant to take back to my hotel. I was anxious to get back since I was getting really cold and my fingers were freezing.
I ate those treats then started digging into the post-race bag of goodies like Gatorade, some bars, chips, etc.
I turned on Debatable, my favorite music talk radio show on SiriusXM as I ate. Thanks to my great friends I got an on-air shoutout for finishing the race! My friends (and the hosts of the show) are the best. I spent forever going through messages before I finally showered and went to Ben and Jerry’s. Then I got pizza and cheese bread from Blaze Pizza. Things stiffened up if I sat down so walking around town felt better.
I went to bed much later than I should have because I still had to pack and get ready to leave early the next morning. I knew I probably wouldn’t sleep well anyway. Wow, was I right. Aching set in and I tossed and turned.
Despite feeling very tired the next day I also felt very accomplished. I was thrilled that I had “redeemed” myself and had run a much better race my second time in Boston. I was very happy to run such a good time on a challenging course. All of my hard training through another Michigan winter paid off. Most of all, I had a BLAST. I got to see some extremely inspiring speeches from some of my favorite athletes, I had so much fun hanging out with great friends, and I successfully executed my ninth marathon with a smile on my face most of the way.
For anyone who actually read all of this, thank you for your time. This marathon was such a special experience I wanted to remember everything about it. I didn’t want to skimp and leave anything out!
After running the Rock CF half marathon for my first time in 2019, I knew this was a race to keep on my radar. I ended up running virtually in 2020 when it didn’t happen, and 2021’s race didn’t happen either. I’m sure it was a great feeling for many people to have the race return in person this year on Sunday, March 20. What a perfect way to spend the first day of spring!
I only have four weeks until the Boston Marathon so I’m pretty deep in my training right now. My schedule called for either a long run or a 10K/half marathon race. I waited until a week before the race to see what the weather might do. A week ago it was a snowy mess around here and I probably wouldn’t have driven through that for over an hour to attempt to race. Fortunately, things looked more promising for race day so I signed up.
The last time I raced was when I did back-to-back trail half marathons on Thanksgiving and the day after. I don’t tend to race much during the winter because I worry that there could be slick footing on the race routes. Plus, marathon training is usually pretty intense and most races during the winter are 5Ks. I typically need more mileage than that. Rock CF is one of the first longer distance races that takes place in this area as we attempt to leave winter behind.
I was anxious to test the fitness I’ve built during this marathon training segment. I’ve been feeling good and I’ve had the feeling that I should have more potential in the half marathon than I’ve proven so far. I wanted to really go for it and I hoped I could finally land a new PR.
Despite the 8:00 start, I arrived in Grosse Ile extra early. The high school parking lot is a 5-minute walk from the start and racers are warned that it fills up early. I’d say people were still able to get spots around 6:45 or a bit later, but I got there even earlier to play it safe. The walk was more convenient to me than having to take a shuttle from the other parking areas. I walked to the middle school to collect my stuff then went back to hang out in my car for half an hour.
“CF” stands for Cystic Fibrosis, which is why lungs are a theme on the medal and race shirt.
When I got out of the car to head to the start, I heard someone call my name. It was Michelle, who I met last summer at a triathlon. Our paces are pretty similar and we’ve been Instagram buddies since that race. It was nice to catch up with her for a bit in the parking lot then again as we waited for the race to start.
I also ran into Jen, another Instagram buddy, and her husband. We’ve been following each other’s adventures for a while now but it was the first time we met in person. It was really great to see her and chat for a bit. This is a race where I always see a bunch of people I know. I think everyone who likes the longer races is anxious to get back out there. Plus, it’s a really great race.
I fought the typical pre-race nerves and although it was a little chilly in the 30s with some wind, I actually felt comfortable. I had driven through rain most of the way that morning so we really lucked out that things cleared up and we had a gorgeous race day. The start was kind of strange because none of us could hear anything. I saw some people outside of the gates with their hands over their hearts and I was afraid the National Anthem was playing while few of us racers realized it. I don’t know if speakers were facing the opposite direction or what, but there was no starting gun and suddenly we just started moving.
Once we got away from the school I remembered how nice the course is. Grosse Ile is an island so we got to run along the Detroit River for a good chunk of the race.
I made a note last time that the streets had a lot of rough patches. That hasn’t changed over the last few years. It was pretty nasty for several segments of the race and I watched my footing carefully. Aside from that, I tried to look up as much as I could to enjoy the waterfront homes and the view over the river. I took these photos during a cool down run after the race. It was especially gorgeous watching the sun rise over the water behind some pretty clouds.
It’s also pretty cool to see the Detroit skyline off in the distance. It’s tiny in the photo below, but the RenCen is visible from the east side of the island.
We branched off to the west 3.5 miles into the race and became very aware of the wind. It wasn’t anything too crazy but it was enough to make things more difficult for a mile or two. I slowed down by about 10 seconds for those couple of miles and I want to blame the wind! We got to the west side of the island and ran along the water again for about four miles. The wind was still there but at least we didn’t have to run directly into it anymore. It was fun to see a boat or two out on the water and I enjoyed running past a golf course too.
I wore my usual fuel belt with an electrolyte drink and I ate chews a few times after I hit the halfway point of the race to help keep my energy from waning. I ran this race more ambitiously than I usually do and I could feel how hard I was working. My usual routine for a half marathon is to run a little faster than marathon pace to start then I gradually pick up the pace. That usually leaves me with enough energy to make a strong push for the last few miles. This time I was really on a mission to get a PR. I knew that my PR pace was somewhere around 7:35. I figured I could aim to run that pace evenly the whole race. That’s how I ended up with my marathon PR this past fall. I knew it could backfire but I also knew I’d have to work if I wanted that PR. I started with a first mile of 7:45 then dropped below 7:30 for a couple miles. A couple miles were around 7:40, then back to the 7:30s for a few. Somehow I managed to keep it up.
We got to change things up a bit nine to ten miles into the race when we ran an out and back segment at the airport and went through the hangar. I enjoyed that part because I got to cheer for some friends who were going in the opposite direction.
When we got back out to the road again I told myself we should get a boost from a tailwind as we headed east. Maybe we did but it sure didn’t feel any easier. I just noticed that I was getting warmer as we ran directly toward the sun. After 10 miles I finally stuck my gloves in my pocket. I spent the next three miles of the race cringing because I was pushing so hard. I started to think that I ought to have a better 10K PR as well because it seemed like I ran a lot of this race at that pace. I kept worrying that I’d get hit with cramps or start to crash because of it.
As I ran next to a guy I was impressed that he recognized me. It was Rob, another one of my Instagram running buddies who I hadn’t met in person. I was oblivious because I was hurting so much with two miles to go. I was impressed that he was observant at that point! I was paying enough attention to recognize Michelle as I caught up to her in the late miles. Once again, we ended up running a race within about a minute of each other!
The course is basically flat but there are a few little hills in spots. Of course one of the hardest hills came toward the end when I was already dying! Somehow I kept pushing but it didn’t help that we also headed into the wind right as we approached the finish line.
I felt beat up but I didn’t crash – and I nailed that PR!
My prior PR was 1:39:43 which I ran in Toledo at the Glass City Marathon in April of 2015. It’s been seven years but I finally did it! I shaved 50 seconds off that time. Here’s how it played out mile by mile:
I’m still kind of in shock that I ran so many miles in the 7:20s and didn’t completely fall apart. As much as I felt like I was dying, my last couple miles were my fastest of the race other than one out at the airport! Age group awards went three deep so I didn’t win anything, but I’m really happy with how I placed in general. Although that’s nice to see, it’s really just a race against myself and I won that race this time. That’s what mattered most to me.
I had to stop for a picture and bang the gong in honor of my PR!
I collected a bagel and a couple cookies, grabbed my warmer clothes from gear check, then headed back out to the river for some “cool down” running at a much slower pace in hopes that it would save me from getting too stiff. When I got back I saw Jen again and some other friends like Kurt, who helped me get through my biggest long runs back in 2018 when we were both training for the Glass City Marathon. I love getting to catch up with a bunch of friends at this race.
Obviously I’m thrilled with the results. After I ran close to a PR on a very hilly half marathon course in September, I’ve been feeling like I should be capable of more on an easier course. I’m glad I was finally able to prove that, especially after sitting with the same PR for seven long years. Despite some recent years that have been pretty tough, plus getting old enough to be considered a “masters” runner, it’s nice to see that I’m still improving. I’m telling myself that I’m stronger than ever. This race is a sign that I’m in good shape heading into Boston as well. I still have a tough week or two of training left before I start to back down. Hopefully things continue in the right direction so I have a solid race there.
Although it’s hard to say that 2021 was a great year it was better for me than the prior two years so at least that’s something! From a running and triathlon perspective it was pretty awesome and I hit a bunch of new milestones. I ran the most miles I’ve ever run in a year. I ran 50K for the first time and even got a couple extra miles in for 33 total miles. I did a 1/3 Iron-distance triathlon which is the longest one I’ve done. I did a very adventurous 10-leg triathlon. As if all of that isn’t exciting enough, I FINALLY broke 3:34 in the marathon (where I’d been hung up for years) with a time of 3:28:55. Definitely a good year. Here’s a closer look at how the year played out.
As the pandemic raged on, I didn’t do any real races until June. Half of my schedule this year was already set thanks to deferrals from 2020. The Martian Marathon didn’t take place in person this year either so it was the one virtual race I did with a 5K / half marathon combo.
I had planned to run my first 50K in 2020 but it was canceled plus I got injured in the process of training for it. Fortunately my body held up this year and I was able to do the 6-hour Twilight Zone trail race in June. It was warm and humid but I made it through 33 miles in just under six hours. I had never run longer than a marathon so it was exciting to officially get into ultra running territory.
My body recovered so well that I was able to do a sprint triathlon a couple weeks later. I did one sprint in June and one in July.
I was really intrigued by the thought of a 10-leg triathlon and decided to give it a shot. It included segments of swimming across one lake while carrying running gear in a buoy so I could run to another lake, swim across, run again, and so on. I felt VERY accomplished after that race.
I figured if I could get through that race I could manage a 1/3 Iron-distance triathlon. The longest I had done was the Olympic distance so this distance fell between that and a half Ironman. The hills left me feeling pretty wrecked but didn’t completely break me!
In addition to the four triathlons I also swam a 5K. I did the race in 2019 and it was a fun challenge so I knew I had to try it again. My swim training wasn’t very impressive this year thanks to avoiding the pool for half of the year due to pandemic worries. I was slower this time but actually felt better. I’ve already signed up to do it again next August!
Aside from those adventures, I spent most of my time running. I ran a half marathon at the beginning of July and a 4-hour race toward the end of the month where I ran just under 25 miles.
In August I ran a 10-mile race then did my second half marathon of the year in September.
By the middle of the summer I started to train for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon that had been canceled in 2020. It wasn’t much of a surprise when it got canceled this year as well. I decided to try the Vermont City Marathon instead but then that one got canceled too. I was still determined to put all of my training to use for a fall marathon and kept hunting for a replacement. I chose the Indy Monumental Marathon as my third option which turned out to be a wise choice. After aiming to run a 3:30 marathon for at least six years, I was THRILLED that I came in a minute under my goal. With an 11-minute qualifying buffer it also assured me that I would be able to sign up for 2022’s Boston Marathon.
That probably should have been enough for the year but I couldn’t resist the challenge of running back-to-back half marathons on Thanksgiving and the day after. I got through it successfully then took recovery more seriously and didn’t do any races in December.
I accumulated a nice collection of shirts and medals after all of that racing!
As I already mentioned, I ran more miles this year than I’ve ever run – a total of 2,184 miles. For the first half of the year all of those miles helped me “Run the Mitt” – a fun challenge that included checkpoint pins for cities throughout Michigan as I worked toward a total of 1,035 miles. The more I run, the less I do everything else. When I was injured and couldn’t run for a chunk of time in 2020, I biked a ton. I went from 2,500 miles on the bike last year to 943 this year. It’s nice to change things up now and then but I was relieved that I could run more this year because that’s what I enjoy the most. This year I also swam over 86 miles and did 70 strength sessions. I do core/weights workouts in the basement for 45-minutes to an hour and usually have some adorable workout buddies there with me.
All of those miles allowed me to see a lot of great scenery. I love getting to combine my passion for running with my passion for photography. The last few years I’ve made a calendar with pictures I’ve taken while running and biking. Here are the 12 images that made the cut for my 2022 calendar.
I definitely had a lot of great highlights this past year. Looking forward, we’ll see if I finally get to run the Toronto Marathon in 2022. Boston Marathon training officially began during the last week of 2021 so that’s pretty exciting. Boston and Toronto are the main goals for the next year so hopefully this never-ending pandemic doesn’t mess with those plans. I keep thinking that I should try a half Ironman sometime. I don’t know if 2022 will be the year but I’m pretty sure I’ll find plenty of fun challenges that will keep me busy!
Hello & Welcome!! I'm Kecia...a wife, a dog mom to 1 chocolate and 2 black labradors, a triathlete, a yogi, a lover of fitness and outdoor adventures. Come with me on my journey as I push my limits and cross new finish lines!!