Tri Del Sol Triathlon Recap

The front of the cotton race t-shirt

The front of the cotton race t-shirt

I was anxious to try another Olympic-distance triathlon after one race I signed up for got cancelled and another cancelled the swim. There are usually at least a couple races to pick from every weekend, and most of them are at least a couple hours away. I debated between a few before choosing the Tri del Sol Triathlon & Duathlon in Middleville, MI on Sunday, July 16. The first perk was that the Olympic distance was an option. It sounded like it should be a scenic venue, and it was for a good cause.

The race has been around for years and was recently purchased by the West Michigan chapter of myTEAM TRIUMPH. I first became aware of the group when I saw them participating in the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2013. This description from their website explains the program:

“myTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults, and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races.”

It’s pretty moving and inspiring to see people who would never be able to participate in a race get the chance to experience the excitement of race day thanks to “angels” who push them in a chair. I’d seen them participate in a running event, but it sounded like an even more awesome undertaking to do a triathlon. This race would be a great chance to see some incredible people in action.

Although I managed to drive two hours to Caseville on race morning last weekend, I decided two and a half hours was a bit much. I got a hotel in Grand Rapids the night before so I only had half an hour to drive the morning of the race.

Fortunately, the weather worked out. There’d been a chance of storms in the forecast, but it was mostly overcast and around 70 degrees for the race. The race took place at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin, which was a great setting. They used a grass field for parking and it was a short walk through the woods to get to the transition area.

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Camp Manitou-Lin

After dropping stuff off in transition and getting checked in, I went down to the beach. Wind/whitecaps had cancelled last weekend’s swim, so I was relieved to see a nice, calm lake.

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Barlow Lake

There would be a little bit of a hike from the beach up to the transition area.

Looking down toward the beach

Looking down toward the beach

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Up past the lodge to the transition area

A post-race picture of the transition area

A post-race picture of the transition area

The lodge had real restrooms which was a bonus. I was able to use one of the picnic tables outside to sit down and work my way into my wetsuit.

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A very nice lodge

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Transition closed at 7:40 and 10 minutes later myTEAM TRIUMPH started. It was pretty impressive to watch swimmers pulling the rafts.

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myTEAM TRIUMPH headed out for the swim. Photo courtesy of Tri del Sol’s Facebook page.

The pre-race meeting came next, then a couple waves of Olympic swimmers started at 8:00. The waves started five minutes apart, and I was in the group of Olympic women who went in the third wave. I’m always relieved when the swim starts in waves because it helps reduce the crowd and craziness. Even though I can swim just fine, I always have nerves before the swim. It’s probably a combination of the swim and the start of the race in general. I swam on the outskirts of my group to help reduce my nervousness even more. That worked, because I never ended up too close to anyone. In fact, at times I thought that I went TOO far out of the way. I worried that I was adding a bunch of extra distance. I got a little closer to the buoys for the second loop of the swim, but by then the fast sprint swimmers were out there and I didn’t want them to swim over me. The water was around 74 degrees and I got a little warm in my full wetsuit. The buoyancy definitely helps reduce my time, but I probably wouldn’t want to wear it in water that is much warmer.

Aside from swimming so wide and wishing I was done with the swim at the end of the first loop, the swim went really well. My time was 28:14 for what was supposed to be 1500m. Considering how I worried that I’d added a bunch of extra distance, I was pretty happy with my time. That time also included some of the hike up toward the transition area. I wasn’t really dizzy when I came out of the water, but I wasn’t prepared to jog yet either. Walking most of the way up to my bike didn’t help my already horrendously slow transition time. The timing chip was more low profile than it has been at other races, so at least the ankle of my wetsuit didn’t get snagged on that. Still, I never get out of my wetsuit very quickly. My T1 time was 3:36…not great.

Eventually I got started on the bike. Although 40K (24.8 mi) is usually the standard Olympic distance for the bike, this ride was listed as 23.04 mi. I’ve ridden courses that I consider rolling, but the rolling for this ride seemed to never end. It was challenging for me, and there were enough climbs/inclines to slow me down to a crawl numerous times. A few of the downhill portions were nice and fast, but I’m not sure they made up for my slowness the rest of the time! It seemed like I got passed by almost everyone. I got a comment from one guy about how I must be a fast swimmer. It was kind of a compliment, except for the part that implied that I clearly wasn’t fast on the bike…but I’m very aware of that.

It was a struggle and at times I questioned why I do this to myself. I also questioned if I ought to stick to sprints where the bike is usually around 12 miles. I tried to put a positive spin on it though. I told myself that I was doing this for me, not to beat people, so does it really matter how long I take if I’m up for the challenge?

A sample of the bike route from Google Maps

A sample of the bike route from Google Maps

I did enjoy some of the scenery, such as glimpses of Yankee Springs Recreation Area and some lakes.

I enjoyed looking at the houses along the lake on Gun Lake Road (photo from Google Maps)

I enjoyed looking at the houses along the lake on Gun Lake Road (photo from Google Maps)

My final time on the bike was 1:23:46, around 16.5 mph. Usually my bike to run transition is pretty quick, but I got tangled up for a minute trying to rack my bike. The bike next to mine was so close that I had a hard time squeezing mine in. My T2 time was 1:46.

Even after a challenging bike ride, my legs didn’t feel heavy for too long. I warmed up into the run pretty quickly, starting with a 7:49 mile. My second mile was slightly faster, then I hovered around an 8:00 pace for the rest. I typically don’t have a target running pace in triathlons. I end up running by feel and hope I can hang on! There was a little bit of rolling on the run course as well, though nothing that felt as extreme as it did on the bike. I loved running along a neighborhood road past lakefront homes. It was a really pretty area that provided good distraction. Another good distraction was seeing and cheering for other runners along the out and back course. When we got back to the YMCA grounds, we wound through the woods briefly before getting to the finish line. I tried to pick up my pace a little bit, though I didn’t have a whole lot left in me. I finished the 10K run in 48:51, an average of 7:52 per mile. I figured I might run somewhere around 50 minutes, so I was happy to be under that.

Stills from video shot at the finish line

Stills from video shot at the finish line

Here are the final stats:

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It’s hard to call this a PR since the bike distance was shorter than most Olympic tris and every race varies with the post-swim distance to the transition area. I’m really happy with my swim and run, and still have room for improvement with the bike and transitions. Regardless of my time, I’m glad I got out there and did another Olympic race. Although I may not have always enjoyed the bike portion, it was good to get that work in. As a bonus, I ended up third out of six in my age group, so I got an extra medal! They had little printers set up where you could type in your bib number and it printed your results. No waiting for an awards ceremony at this race – you just took the results to a table and they had the age group awards ready.

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I was happy about the age group award, but probably even happier about the post-race food. It seems like I always complain after triathlons that they don’t have enough food. Finally – a race that got it right!

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Plenty of fruit, muffins, bagels, cookies, popcorn, etc. I was happy that they had plenty of carbs! I didn’t have to resort to my own post-race stash of snacks like I have at a couple other races this season. After burning 2,100+ calories, I get very excited about food.

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I don’t expect these things to be easy, but this one was certainly a challenge. It turned out to be a great day, and myTEAM TRIUMPH did an excellent job hosting the race. Everything went smoothly, the YMCA venue was beautiful, the course was well-marked, the volunteers were great, and there was a good variety of post-race food.

I’m feeling a bit sore after this effort, so I’ll take a couple days off and ease back into things. Next up – the Shermanator (sprint) Triathlon in Augusta, MI in a couple weeks.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

Caseville Triathlon/Duathlon Recap

The front and back of the shirt. "The finish crowns the work."

The front and back of the shirt. “The finish crowns the work.”

The Caseville Triathlon on Sunday, July 9 was going to be my second triathlon of the 2017 season. Actually, a couple weeks ago the Sanford Lake Triathlon was going to be my second of the year. However, bad flooding in the area led to cancellation the day before the race. That race was hosted by Tri to Finish, who also hosted the Caseville Triathlon. Luckily they made it possible to transfer my registration fee from Sanford to Caseville. I loved the Caseville Triathlon when I did it in 2015 (recap here) and knew I wanted to do it again. Not only because I enjoyed it so much the first time, but also because racing the Olympic distance on the same course would allow me to see if my fitness had improved.

While I stayed in a hotel half an hour away the last time I did the race, I opted to save the money this year. That meant a 2-hour drive the morning of the race. I worried about deer on the backroads before sunrise (I only saw one) but otherwise it was fine because traffic was so light. Like last time, I was intrigued by the fields of wind turbines as I approached Caseville.

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I got to Caseville County Park around 6:30 for the sake of parking easily and taking my time getting ready. The transition area was open until 7:45, so I had plenty of time. When I got out of the car, I noticed that it was really windy. I wasn’t too excited about that! After I checked in and got marked up, I headed down to the beach.

A pretty morning

A pretty morning

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Lots of waves!

The windy conditions meant that the water was pretty rough. I was a bit concerned about trying to swim amongst all of those whitecaps. I have trained almost exclusively in the pool. I’ve been in lakes twice this year, and the conditions were as calm as could be. I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with it.

It turns out I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Ten minutes before the transition area closed there was an announcement that the swim was cancelled. I was torn. I’ve been swimming so much lately that I was excited to see how I would do…but not in those conditions. The people in charge of the race didn’t feel like it would be safe, and I agreed. Between the cancellation in Sanford a couple weeks ago and now cancelling the swim at this race, the season hasn’t gone quite as planned. All you can do is adapt!

This race had sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and duathlon options. The new plan was for the 70.3 racers to run a mile first, come back, head out on their bikes, then the other races would start. The Olympic people would also take off to run a mile, then the sprint athletes. Finally, the duathlon would continue as planned. After announcing the new “modified” format with the mile run in place of the swim, it was also announced that people could switch to the duathlon if they’d like. I decided that sounded like a good option. That way I’d get to do a race that was a standard distance rather than a weird modified one. It would be a typical sprint duathlon with a 5K run, 20K bike, and 5K run. I wasn’t too excited to face the wind on the bike, so cutting my bike distance from 40K down to 20K would be kind of nice. Especially since the bike is my weakness!

We were given extra time to adjust for the changes, for people to get out of their wetsuits, etc.

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People changing out of their wetsuits in the transition area and getting ready to start with a run

The 70.3 athletes headed out for their run while the rest of us hung out and waited for them to return before starting our races.

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I headed out for the first run with the duathletes without any specific goal. I put in a good effort but knew I had a second run coming later so I didn’t go nuts. Aside from one faster run last week, 8:00 miles have been about the fastest I’ve gone lately. I was pretty thrilled when I averaged a pace of 7:31 and 7:21 for the last two miles of the first run! Still not PR kind of speed for me, but faster than I’ve done in a year. I finished the first run in 24:10, which was a 7:48 average pace and a solid cutdown/negative split run. I think I actually ran a bit long, so my average pace was probably faster, but I messed up when I started my watch and all of the numbers were thrown off.

I realized that one major perk of a duathlon is fast transition times. Without the swim, I didn’t waste a ton of time struggling to get out of my wetsuit, drying my feet, getting shoes on, etc.

The bike was an out and back route along a main road with wide shoulders, so we didn’t really have to worry about traffic. The road follows the tip of Michigan’s “thumb” area with glimpses of Lake Huron at times.

A sample of some of the scenery, courtesy of Google Maps

A sample of some of the scenery, courtesy of Google Maps

I took in the scenery now and then, but mostly worried about what I was doing on the bike. After the turnaround, the wind was kind of frustrating. My speed dropped 1-3 mph on the way back versus what I had done on the way out. I ended up finishing the 20K (12.4 miles) in 43:05. That was an average of 17.3 mph – placing me right in the middle when it came to the bike results for everyone in the race. Not especially fast, which is pretty typical for me.

I had another quick transition after the bike, then headed out for the second 5K run. My legs didn’t feel too bad, but there was one hill to climb on the way out of the park that was more of a struggle the second time around. The rest of the run was flat and went pretty well. I didn’t pay much attention to my watch, but saw that my pace was in the 7:30s for a good chunk of it. It was a good effort and I was breathing heavily yet able to maintain it somehow. I came up to a guy when there was a little more than a mile left, and he commented that it was good for him to have someone to pace with. I noticed his calf said he was 15 years old and I was pretty impressed. Triathlons weren’t even on my radar when I was 15. He said he’d been doing them for several years. We chatted for a while and it was a good distraction. It’s fun to meet new people at races and hear some of their stories. I’m not sure how I kept up a conversation at that pace, but eventually I picked up the pace a bit more and concentrated on finishing strong. The hill that was a struggle on the way out was awfully nice to fly down on the way back. From that point on, maybe about a quarter mile, I hauled as fast as I could. I gave everything I had through the finish. I had another negative split, running 7:38, 7:34, 7:24, then sub-7 for the last little bit. My time was 23:43, with an average pace of 7:39. Like the first run, it looks like I ran a little long (3.18 mi) which made my actual pace closer to a 7:27 average…even better! I was proud of myself for running the second 5K faster, and pretty happy to see those kinds of paces. Without any real speedwork lately, I wasn’t sure I still had that speed in me. Especially after running and biking for an hour first!

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Here’s the final breakdown:

5K Run #1 – 24:10 – 7:48 pace
T1 – 0:30
20K Bike – 43:05 – 17.3 mph
T2 – 0:24
5K Run #2 – 23:43 – 7:39 pace
Total – 1:31:50

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After I received my medal and bottle of water, it took a few minutes of pacing around to settle down. They had bananas at the finish line, but I knew there should be some other food too. At first, this is all that I found:

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A table with a few packages of assorted creme cookies. That was it?! I’m still really disappointed that nearly every triathlon I do lacks a variety of food at the finish. I went to my car to eat snacks I brought with me since I’ve learned to expect it. I saw someone with a paper plate a little bit later, so I asked if there was more food. At some point they put pizza out. Unfortunately, my stomach didn’t feel great and I didn’t think pizza would help, so I stuck with my food.

Because I had started my watch too early and ended it too late, I didn’t know what my final time actually was. When sheets with the initial results were posted, I didn’t see my name. I kept checking my age group and figured I should be listed based on the other times. I talked to the woman who was posting the results, and after a minute she called my name and told me that I was listed in the top three women! I just assumed I’d be listed in my age group and it didn’t even cross my mind that there were overall winner results that I should check. I was pretty excited that I had placed third overall for women in the duathlon!

Eventually they started the awards for the sprint and the duathlon, and this is what I received:

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It’s a really nice stone award that came with a stand to prop it up on a shelf. I can also contact Tri to Finish next year for 25% off of my race!

Although I was bummed that the swim was cancelled and I didn’t end up doing the Olympic distance, Tri to Finish did a great job adjusting on the fly and creating a great race day experience. I think switching to the duathlon was a good move for me. Since the run is my strongest of the three events, the duathlon probably plays to my strengths the most. The more running there is, the better I do! Although the duathlon went so well, I enjoy swimming and I’m anxious to do another triathlon soon. I’m scoping out more races and hoping I can make an Olympic one work soon now that I’ve had two failed attempts!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Island Lake Triathlon Recap

Island Lake Triathlon on Saturday, June 3rd was my first tri of the season and my first since August 2015. I ran a marathon at the end of May in 2016 and thought I’d run another that fall (until a stress fracture altered those plans) so I bypassed triathlons last summer to concentrate on running. The stress fracture in my left foot occurred at the end of the summer last year, and I thought I was good to go as I rebuilt my running base through the late fall and winter. I reached a point where I must have pushed too hard and my foot started to hurt again in mid-January. I knew I had to take a break from running again, so that was the tipping point I needed to steer me back toward triathlons. I hadn’t been in the water since my last triathlon, so I worked my way into a routine of swimming a mile three mornings a week. I got on the bike three days a week as well. I’ve only been running again for a couple months now, and have built back up to four days a week. My training has been pretty solid and well-rounded between the three disciplines, so I’ve been anxious to get back to the race environment.

Island Lake was a good race for me to target because it was one of the first triathlons of the season in the area. It had been my first Olympic-distance triathlon back in 2014 and I felt ready to tackle the distance again. Olympic involves a 1500m swim, 40K (24.8mi) on the bike, and a 10K (6.2mi) run. Element Events had hosted triathlons at Island Lake in the past, but the race company shut down this year. Luckily, Epic Races stepped up to host a race there this year. Island Lake Recreation Area is a great venue in Brighton, MI. The swim occurs in Kent Lake, the bike travels along the park’s main road, and a paved trail is used for the run.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for race day. It was around 57 degrees for the start of the race, and around 70 when I started the run. There was a mix of sun and clouds, and there was little wind.

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The sun rising over Kent Lake

Between the fog on the water and the sunrise, the lake looked beautiful

Between the fog on the water and the sunrise, the lake looked beautiful

The packet pick-up and transition area opened at 5:45, and I got there just before 6:00. The park is an hour away, so it was a very early morning. Fortunately, I’m used to it thanks to my routine of crazy early weekday swims. I had plenty of time to get my stuff situated in the transition area, use the bathroom, get into my wetsuit, and test the water. I think I heard that the water was around 70 degrees. Whatever it was, it felt totally comfortable to me. The pre-race meeting at the beach started around 7:15, and all of the Olympic racers (results show 84 people) started the first wave of the swim at 7:30.

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The Olympic-distance athletes getting ready to start the swim (photo thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races)

Most of the crowd gathered near a buoy on the right side, so I tried to distance myself by starting on the other side. As much time as I spend in the pool, it’s never the same in the open water. I always worry about the swim because of the crowd. Starting on the other side helped, but eventually I got stuck in the crowd when it was time to make the turn around the first buoy. At times it was tricky to spot the first buoy because I had to look into the sun. For the most part, the swim went pretty well. However, one side of my goggles leaked which was annoying. Also, my left IT band was tight so I felt like my kick was a bit restricted for at least half of the swim. I stopped a couple times when people got too close to me so I could move away from them. I like my personal space in the water and stress out when people get too close. One screwy thing about this swim was that the Olympic athletes had to get out of the water at the end of the first loop, run around a buoy on the beach, then get back into the water for the second loop. I’ve done two loops of a swim before, but have never gotten out in between. I used that chance to try to fix my goggles as I waded back into the water. I also stopped a few times throughout the swim to recompose myself and make sure I could see the next buoy. Rather than really pushing myself to swim well, I just wanted to maintain my composure and get through it. It wasn’t until I turned around the last buoy that I decided I should try to swim harder. I ended up with a time of 26:46 which kind of shocked me. It’s faster than I ever do that distance in the pool, and at times, I felt like I was kind of screwing around and taking my time. The wetsuit must really make a difference!

Finishing the swim. Not the greatest photo, but the others were REALLY bad. (photo thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races)

Finishing the swim. Not the greatest photo, but the others were REALLY bad. (photo thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races)

I knew I could expect to be dizzy coming out of the water. I think I was okay when I got out after the first loop, but I did tip over in the water one time as I came out at the end. I took it slowly as I stripped out of the top half of my wetsuit and jogged up the grass to the transition area. My first transition time of 3:28 shows that I REALLY took my good old time. I started to take my wetsuit off while standing up, but I was wobbly enough that I chose to sit down. My wetsuit is so tight that I can never get it off over my ankle timing chip. I took that off, got the suit all the way off, then put the chip back on. I dried my feet, put my socks and shoes on, ate several Clif Shot Bloks, threw on a tank top, number belt, sunglasses, helmet, etc. then jogged my bike out of the transition area. I viewed this race as a good way to ease back into triathlons and didn’t worry too much about time, but I probably ought to make some kind of effort to speed up in the future!

Like the swim, the bike and run were two loops for Olympic athletes.

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Since I had done the race in the past, I knew that the bike route had some rolling hills. I’ve done a number of training rides at Stony Creek Metropark to get practice with the rolling. There were a few spots that were challenging, but nothing too bad.

The night before the race, the latest issue of Triathlete Magazine came in the mail with actress America Ferrera on the cover. It couldn’t have come at a better time. America (from shows like Ugly Betty, Superstore, etc.) started doing triathlons over the last couple years and had a great interview in the magazine. This portion really stood out for me:

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Cycling is my weakness and I always beat myself up when I’m on the bike. I tell myself that I suck on the bike, that I’m so slow, etc. It’s always amplified during triathlons when the super speedy men FLY past me on the bike. America’s words really resonated with me. I don’t need to compare myself to others and I don’t need to talk to myself that way. I’m out there doing a frickin’ triathlon, and that’s pretty awesome. I told myself that I should remember her words during the bike portion of this race, and I did. I didn’t let myself get negative. Instead, I watched the speedsters go by and told myself that they were some awesome athletes, and I was out there doing the same thing as them. I took in the scenery of the park and tried to enjoy myself. I felt like I was “tooling around” rather than racing because I don’t feel like I ever achieve race mode on the bike, but so what? I was out there having a fun adventure. I had nearly an hour and a half to think while I was out there, and a couple songs by my favorite band (Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers) ran through my head. This might seem cheesy, but the line “Here’s to life” from their song Mekong stuck with me and kept me positive.

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

I finished the bike in 1:26:56 and did a little better with my second transition time, exiting in 42 seconds. The run is typically my strength, but that’s been a little questionable lately as I’ve eased back into running the last couple months. I’m not back up to the mileage or speed that I’m used to, but I’ve run as far as seven miles recently and knew I could at least do the distance. An 8:00 pace is around my marathon pace when I’m in shape, and that’s the fastest I’ve gone lately. I hoped that maybe I could pull off 8-minute miles for a 10K in a race environment, but I really just ran by feel. Again, since I’ve done this race once before, I knew what to expect. The run starts out up a grass hill that’s brutal, especially right off the bike. At least I was mentally prepared for it. After that, the run rolls along on a paved path and a segment of boardwalk. There are a few gradual climbs that are tough, but some downhill stretches as well. Like the bike, I didn’t beat myself up. I told myself that after the tough parts, there would be downhills that would help. At the end of the first loop and right before the finish during the second loop, there’s a pretty drastic downhill grass portion where I worried a little about turning an ankle the wrong way as I flew down it. Here’s how my splits looked:

2017-06-03 - run splits

My watch had me at a distance of 6.37 and an average pace of 8:02. Right where I hoped to be! I finished strong with a final time of 2:49:01.

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

Thanks to Greg Sadler/Epic Races for the photo

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My final results

The finish line

The finish line

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I did it!

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I paced around for several minutes to recover, then checked out the food. On par with other triathlons, there wasn’t much.

The food tent

The food tent

They had bananas, bags of chips, sample size Clif Bars, and peanut butter/honey wraps. The latter was something I haven’t seen at a race, and they were pretty good. I’ve gotten spoiled by running races that have a buffet of goodies at the end, and the triathlons I’ve done never seem to have that. Knowing that, I had a yogurt drink back at my car for a quick fix of protein.

I checked the results but didn’t see my name. Eventually I talked to one of the staff members. The list showed four women in my age group, and prizes went five deep. He said he would give it to me, and I hoped I actually deserved it! He gave me a nice glass.

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Glasses on display with the race shirts

Later in the day I contacted someone because my bib number showed someone else’s name. They fixed it quickly, and it turns out I was fifth out of five in my age group. When I did this race last time, I was 11 minutes slower and first in my age group. It all depends on who shows up!

I was pretty happy that I had shaved 11 minutes off of my prior time at this race. Most of that time is thanks to my swim. Maybe getting in the pool more often really has helped. Plus the wetsuit, which I didn’t have in 2014. My bike time was slightly faster too. This was my third time tackling the Olympic distance, and my second race was a minute faster than this one. That one was a totally flat course though, so I’m glad to see that I’m right on track with where I’d like to be.

When it comes to nutrition, I think it worked out for me because I didn’t get hungry during the race. I had a Picky Bar when I first woke up, then a second one a couple hours later when I got to the race. I also ate a few Clif Shot Blocks closer to the start of the race, then a few more right after the swim. I had one bottle of GU Brew on the bike and a few sips of water. I ate a few Honey Stinger Chews a couple miles into the run and drank water. That all seemed to work for me for race fueling.

Matt knew that I had burned a lot of calories (2,200 according to my watch!) so he was awesome and had some post-race treats at home. Two of the cupcakes were for him. :)

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Chocolate cream pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company and cupcakes from Rockin’ Cupcakes – yum!

I came home with a nice cotton race shirt and medal, plus I bought an extra shirt that they had for sale.

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2017-06-03 - shirt

I’m really happy with the whole experience and would definitely do another one of Epic Race’s events. If I can avoid reinjury, hopefully I can continue to improve my running fitness. I’m sure I can push myself to swim harder. I’ll continue to train on the bike so I stay comfortable with it, even if I don’t get much faster. The triathlon season is only a few months, and I hope to do a bunch of races this summer.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and on Instagram @janetboltz

Women Who Du Duathlon Recap

On Saturday, May 13th I participated in my first duathlon. I’ve been training hard for triathlon season but have to wait until June before many local races pop up. The lakes in Michigan are much too cold before then. I swore I’d avoid doing triathlons with pool swims after doing one that was a congested mess. In the meantime, I’ve been anxious to test my training and get back into the multi-sport race environment.

When I came across a listing for the Women Who Du Duathlon, I was intrigued but unsure about the idea of a women-only race. I had a lot of the same feelings expressed in an article by Kathleen McAuliffe that was posted on Runnersworld.com recently – “I Thought Women-Only Races Were Sexist. Then I Ran One.” Women Who Du’s website talked about celebrating women, how it was about more than the competition, and it didn’t even have official timing. It didn’t have any super girly themes like some of the “goddess” races I’ve seen, which haven’t really appealed to me. I figured why not at least give it a try? It sounded like a perfect environment for easing back into a multi-sport event, which I haven’t done since 2015.

The race was in Battle Creek, Michigan, which is a little over two hours away. We have family there so I thought it would be perfect to integrate the race into a weekend of visiting. I found out recently that they’d actually be out of town, but I’d gotten excited enough about the race that I still wanted to do it and was willing to make the trip. I’m used to waking up super early most mornings anyway, so I was okay with leaving the house at 5:30 on the morning of the race.

Few people were on the road that early on a Saturday, so it was a peaceful and enjoyable drive. I listened to music and loved seeing the fog floating above fields along the road as the sun rose. When I drove past the race site and saw one porta-potty, I decided to continue a mile up the road to use a real bathroom at Meijer since I had plenty of time to spare. Race parking was available at a church that was right next to Woodland Park & Nature Preserve – the site of the race.

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2017-05-13 - transition

I got there around 8:00 and the race started at 9:00. It was a really small race with somewhere around 30 participants. I waited until the last minute to sign up for the race and only had the option to pick an XL shirt at that point. The woman at check-in had some extra mediums, so she gave me one of those. I figured I was lucky to get a shirt at all since I had signed up so late. The medium was still a bit too big, and the really wide scoop neck looks ridiculous on me. It’s too bad because I like the logo!

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I realized that I didn’t need much prep time for a duathlon. I racked my bike in the transition area, left my helmet and a hat, then there was nothing left to do! Triathlons definitely involve more gear and organization of “stuff.” I did a quick jog to warm up, then lingered around the start to wait for the announcements. We really lucked out with beautiful weather. I worried that it could be a little cool for the bike, but 55 degrees at the start was actually perfect. I was comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts the whole time.

This race had a first run of 1.2 miles, roughly 8.5 miles on the bike, and a second run of 3.1 miles. Both runs were on trails in the park. We had to follow red arrows that were spray painted on the ground the first time and white arrows the second time. I’m not great at following the routes when running trails, so staying on the right course was one of my biggest concerns.

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Luckily I went the correct way for the first run. The trail was a little congested as we started, but I was able to get where I wanted to be after a couple minutes. The trails were a mix of dirt, grass, and woodchips. The grass was damp, so I was glad I opted to wear my Gore-Tex shoes. I haven’t been running on trails like these at all lately, so the rolling hills were a good challenge. I finished the first run with 1.3 miles and averaged an 8:30 pace.

I did this race for the sake of getting some practice, and it was clear that I needed it when I got to the first transition. I biked in my running shoes, so all I had to do was put my helmet on and go. I managed to snag one of the straps up in my helmet when I put it on the first time, so I had to fix that and try again. Several times I got my pedal stuck on the bike rack. So, what should have been a few seconds turned into a 36-second transition. I need to work on becoming less awkward!

I took off on my bike and the ride was pretty good for the first four or five miles. My legs felt fine transitioning from the run to the bike, and vice versa later. I started slowly then hit 16 mph for a couple miles and got near 18 mph for the fourth mile. I rarely seem to do much better than an average of 16-17 mph. The roads didn’t have any shoulders, so it’s a good thing the traffic was really light. There were some rolling hills that made me work at times, but nothing too crazy. After one turnaround, I got to see a bunch of women riding the opposite direction. People were super friendly and cheered each other on. I’ve experienced that in plenty of races, but it did seem like this race was extra supportive in that sense. At one point I was riding near another woman as we approached a police officer. I pointed to the right and asked if that’s where we went. I had looked at the course map and thought that’s where we were headed, but the officer stuck his thumb out and pointed to the left. So, that’s the way we went. Eventually we came to a main intersection that wasn’t marked at all. There were no arrows on the ground and no volunteers to tell us where to go. We both stopped and tried to figure it out, then headed one direction for a little bit. I stopped to check a map on my phone, but I can be directionally challenged so I didn’t really solve anything. We headed the opposite direction for a little bit but realized that wasn’t right either. We finally committed to one direction and eventually I knew that it had to be wrong. We came back to the race site from the south when we should have come from the north. Of course the people in charge of the race looked pretty shocked! At that point, what could we do? We racked our bikes and headed out for the run.

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The map on the left is the actual race route. The map on the right shows what I did.

The other woman was a faster runner, so I was pretty much on my own. We were supposed to run a small loop a couple times then a big loop a couple times. One volunteer was stationed at a key spot to direct us for the loops. However, I got mixed up by the arrows on the trails. At one spot there was a white arrow pointing straight, so I followed that. I didn’t realize there was also an arrow pointing to the right and I should have followed that one the first time around. The straight arrow was intended for the final portion of the race. Instead, I ran back out to the start of the race, realized what I did, then headed back in. That added close to an extra quarter mile to my run. Oops! Luckily, that was my only screw-up for the run. The map below shows the second run.

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The trails were pretty, but at times it caught up to me that I wasn’t in shape for trails. As I’ve eased back into running the last few months, I’ve kept a lot of my runs flat and easy to make sure my troublesome foot is okay. There were a couple of grass hills that especially got to me. When I made it to the biggest one on my second loop, I told myself, “I don’t want to do this hill again!” I had already screwed up the bike and had basically DQ’ed, no one else was around, and it really didn’t matter how I did. I was very tempted to walk, but I didn’t give in. I continued on and things were fine after the hill. I got to the end and had averaged 8:35 for 3.3 miles. I was happy enough with my running paces for the day. I haven’t been doing any kind of speedwork lately so I couldn’t have hoped for much better. As I crossed the finish line, I smiled and shook my head. I was glad I had done it, but knew my race wasn’t totally legit.

Here’s the breakdown from my Garmin. Aside from being short, my bike split was obviously affected by stopping several times to figure out what went wrong.

2017-05-13 - duathlon times

As I crossed the finish line, I received this Motivate Wrap.

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There was a table full of fruit, so I got some strawberries, blueberries, and granola to start. At least I had something healthy to help offset the wonderful chocolate treats. Since there were so many more treats than participants, we were encouraged to take at least two. I had a brownie pop and a chocolate-covered marshmallow. Good stuff!

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After the race, the other woman who went off the bike course and I talked with one of the guys in charge. We clarified what had happened and how we’d been misdirected. We had both placed in the top three technically, but obviously there was some hesitation in truly accepting that. Neither of us stuck around for the awards because we knew it wasn’t right. I explained to the guy that I was there to have fun and wasn’t there to be competitive anyway. I had fun, so it was all good.

I’ve read plenty of horror stories about people going off course during races. Most of the people I’ve read about actually had something riding on it – like potentially winning a race or getting a BQ. The stakes were obviously not so high for me, which is part of why I really wasn’t bothered by it. The lesson I’ve learned from reading those stories is that people are supposed to know the course. I usually figure that I won’t be a leader in a race so it won’t affect me. A small race without many people to follow is trouble for me. I’m good to go if I can follow someone mindlessly, but when I don’t have anyone to follow and I need to be aware of where I’m going, it’s bad news.

Ultimately, it’s on me. I need to know where I’m supposed to go. It stinks that the police officer sent us the wrong direction. However, the police are there to make sure we’re safe and I can’t just assume that they know the course. Maybe this experience should teach me to study race maps more thoroughly. Maybe it should teach me to defy authority, haha. I did look at the map ahead of time and kind of knew that I was supposed to go the other way, but figured the officer knew better. I should trust my instincts! I can’t change what happened, but I can learn from it and hope to avoid making the same mistake again in the future.

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Since I was just a few miles away, I had to make a stop at Sweetwater’s Donuts before heading home. I did share some of these with Matt. :)

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Overall, I had a fun day. The drive wasn’t so bad and I think it was worth the trip. Now I’m looking forward to June when I can add swimming to the mix and get back to doing triathlons.

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

Triathlon/Duathlon Training

As triathlon season gets closer, I’ve started to gear some of my training days toward skills that I’ll need on race days. I just started doing a few bike/run bricks over the last couple weeks. I haven’t done any of those since my last triathlon in 2015. During the first one my hip abductors and shoulders were sore for the first mile of the run. The second time was more typical of how I usually feel – heavy legs to start the run and feeling like I’m crawling when my pace is actually faster than it feels. I had forgotten about that aspect of running off the bike. I was pleasantly surprised that I ran faster off the bike than I have during any of my runs since I’ve returned to running over this last month. My problem foot has been fine during all of my runs so far, which haven’t gone past four miles at a time yet. My foot still aches at times, especially if I’ve been on my feet a lot at work. It’s enough to still keep me on edge, but not enough to keep me from short runs every other day or so.

There’s a duathlon that’s on my radar in a few weeks, so today I decided I should try a run/bike/run workout. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that combo. I went to Stony Creek Metropark and it was a beautiful day. Warm enough but not hot, and luckily the wind wasn’t 15-25 mph like it has been the last couple times I’ve been out on my bike!

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I started by running a mile, rode just under 19 miles on the bike, then ran three more.

2017-04-23 - stony route

It kind of gave me some transition practice, but obviously I didn’t move very quickly since I took three to four minutes. It wasn’t exactly a race-specific kind of transition though. Of course I won’t have to get my stuff from the car and worry about getting my bike out of the bike rack or locking it back up. I took the first mile of running pretty easy, so I felt totally fine when I got on the bike. I’m still not thrilled with my cycling skills though. I had a new dilemma today. As I rode over a bridge and there was a transition in the pavement, my bike bumped just enough for my water bottle to go flying out of the cage. I was able to stop and go get it, but it happened again on a different bridge a few minutes later. Sorry to the woman hiking in that area who must have heard the f-bomb I shouted. Not so much luck that time – my poor Camelbak bottle went flying down into the creek. Part of the issue is that I’m so awkward on the bike that I’m afraid I’ll fall off if I reach down to my lower cage while I’m riding. I’m seriously uncoordinated and have terrible balance on the bike. So, I probably look like a dork with a cage mounted up by my handlebars. Having the bottle upright probably isn’t the most secure method. It works for me though, or at least it always has up until today. Luckily I had another bottle on me, and that one survived the rest of the ride. Maybe the one bottle has a tighter fit and I’ll have to stick with that. It was pretty frustrating but probably good to get out of the way during training. I sure hope I figure it out now so it never happens in a race! Aside from that, it was my typical ride. I don’t seem to ever improve beyond an average of 16-17 mph. I’m very aware that the bike is my weakness, especially when a big group of “real” cyclists flew past me. Stony is a good place for me to train because there are rolling hills and I need that kind of workout.

I had the heavy leg feeling as I started my second run, but nothing too bad. I did end up going much faster than I thought though, averaging close to an 8-minute pace. I’ve been doing a lot of 9-minute or slower miles lately as I’ve been cautious about my return to running, so that was much faster than I expected. It’s what came naturally, though I was breathing pretty heavily. Aside from the whole water bottle incident, it was a good workout that reassured me that I can pull off the duathlon in a few weeks as long as my foot cooperates between now and then.

In addition to training, I’ve also been picking up some new gear. My schedule of swimming at least three days a week has done a number on my swimsuit, so it was time for a new one of those.

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Can you believe the suit on the left used to have colors similar to the one on the right?!

I also ordered a pair of tri shorts from Coeur Sports recently. I follow several women, like the awesome Caitlin Constantine at Fit and Feminist, who are Coeur ambassadors and have nothing but great things to say about their products. Coeur’s shorts are known for the “seam-free chamois” that provide a comfortable, chafe-free fit. I saw that there was going to be a Coeur “trunk show” at Level Multisport in Birmingham, MI, so I went to that yesterday. The women were very friendly and knowledgeable, plus there was a 20% off sale and treats like fruit and cookies! I got another pair of shorts, ordered a new tri top, and was able to pick a free gift. A pair of compression socks were one of the options, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were free.

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Between getting some new gear and having some productive training, I’m getting more and more anxious to get the season rolling.

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

Approaching Triathlon Season

After a weekend that felt more like summer than spring, I feel energized and have been thinking about the upcoming triathlon season. This IS Michigan though, and I know we may not be totally in the clear weather-wise quite yet. I vividly remember being very annoyed that it snowed when I ran a 5K in mid-May last year.

However, the nice weather has become more frequent and I went for my first outside bike ride of the year last weekend. I’ve been riding 15-25 miles inside three times a week for a while now and was curious to see how I would do outside. I took my bike to the Macomb Orchard Trail, which is paved, flat, and runs 23.5 miles from one end to the other. I thought maybe I’d go for 30 miles, but as I rode along I decided maybe I should push all the way to 40. Beautiful weather and a lot of pretty scenery made it easy to keep going.

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The first 20 miles were really nice, but battling 15-25 mph winds on the way back made the second half of the ride more challenging. Still – I finished 40 miles which was the longest I’d ever ridden. That ride made me question if I’d want to tackle 56 miles on the bike for the half Ironman distance one day. We’ll see if I get that ambitious at some point.

In the meantime, running is the questionable factor. I’ve been thinking about doing some Olympic-distance triathlons and know I should be able to handle the nearly 25-mile bike distance for those races. I’ve got the swimming down since I’ve been swimming a mile three days a week. I’m used to running being my strength in the triathlon, so it’s a bit odd for that to be the weakness right now.

I’ve been very frustrated by lingering complications from the stress fracture in my foot. After reaggravating it in January, I took nine weeks off of running. I really didn’t want to get stuck in the boot again, so I took time off and hoped it would be enough. Week after week went by, and it took that long before my foot felt reasonable enough to try running again. I was still a bit weary, so I went to a sports medicine doctor and had x-rays taken. They didn’t show a thing. I don’t know if that’s reassuring though. X-rays don’t always show stress fractures, and the doctor couldn’t see any calcification or any sign that I’d even had one. I had gone to a podiatrist when I initially injured my foot, and both the fracture and beginning of the healing showed on those x-rays. I didn’t go back to that doctor because I didn’t like his approach of sending everyone out the door with Superfeet insoles. I think they might help some people, but I hated them when I tried them once in the past and I’m not convinced I need them. All I know is that my left foot still does not feel as normal as my right foot, and there are still occasional aches and feelings of discomfort. I did some run/walk intervals as I reintroduced running, and over the last week or two I’ve gotten back to continuous runs of up to four miles.

I’m going to be very cautious and my ultimate goal for now is simply to be able to run the 10K distance involved in Olympic triathlons. The sports medicine doctor talked about increasing endurance or speed but not both at once. Maybe that’s what did me in earlier this year. Right now my approach for the summer is to go out and have fun doing triathlons. I want to get back out there and enjoy the adventure of doing them rather than aiming to go as fast I can. I’m sure when I’m actually in the race environment I’ll want to push, but I’m not putting that pressure on myself going into them. I still haven’t registered for anything since I’ve just gotten back to running and need to see how that goes. I have plenty of races on my radar though. Sprints, Olympic…maybe even a duathlon before the water is warm enough for triathlons? I hope my foot will cooperate because I’m anxious to get out there!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

The Dreaded Injury Cycle

I really thought I was back on track. I thought I’d been smart about easing back into running after recovering from the summer’s metatarsal stress fracture. I tried to follow the “10% rule” of not increasing my mileage by much more than 10% per week. I still felt little tweaks in my foot now and then while I ran, but it wasn’t painful and I had been told that it was normal to feel something during the healing process. I gradually reintroduced a bit of speed, building up to 6×800 at 10K pace. I made it up to six miles at marathon pace, and a long run of 10 miles. I figured I should be in the clear since I’d run over 30 miles per week for a couple weeks and had built back up to running five or six days a week.

I typically ran outside a day or two a week, but spent most of my time on the treadmill to play it safe. That made it easy to bail if things went wrong. Of course things went wrong when I decided to venture outside for an 8-mile run and was four miles from home. I’d had a few cringe-worthy moments for a step here and there during some recent runs. They turned into swear-worthy moments during this particular run and I’m usually not much of a swearer. In between cursing my foot, I spent the second half of that run thinking about new goals. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run a spring marathon now. Instead of getting depressed, I knew it was more constructive to think of something else to aim for. Maybe I’d just run a shorter distance? If my foot was bad enough though, I knew it meant I’d have to take more time off of running. Feeling the pressure to follow a training plan for a specific race wouldn’t be smart. By the end of the run, I had decided that my new goal was to get back to doing triathlons.

I did some triathlons during the summers of 2013-2015. I didn’t do any in 2016 because I followed a pretty intense training schedule for a late spring marathon, then had planned to get back into similar training for a fall marathon (before I got injured). I had enjoyed concentrating solely on running for a while since it’s my strength, but I also like the challenge and variety of triathlons. I tried to view the setback with my foot as an opportunity to get back into tris.

I got into the pool the next day after not swimming at all for nearly a year and a half. I knew it might take some time to get back into the groove, but didn’t think that first swim would suck SO bad. It was all good for about four lengths, then I got pretty winded and my arms got really tired. I couldn’t swim freestyle for more than six lengths at a time without having to take a break. I had been used to swimming a mile non-stop in the past, so this was quite a blow to my confidence. The positive is that my stroke, breathing, and flip turns all came back to me naturally. I was motivated to get back into the pool to try again, knowing that I could do better. Luckily, things felt normal by the second swim and I swam 400m intervals without stopping. I guess that first swim had been a shock to my system!

I've traded the running shoes for swim gear recently

I’ve traded the running shoes for swim gear recently

Of course I still had to test my foot. I took six days off of running then tried an easy three miles, but it still wasn’t good. Now I’ve gone three weeks without running and don’t think I’ll be trying anytime real soon. I’ve been taking it easy and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster the last few weeks. Sometimes it really worries me, and other times it seems fine. At first, my foot hurt enough that I limped while walking. I worried that I had refractured it and would need the boot again. It was even iffy at times in the pool, so I’d use the pull buoy more and avoid kicking. I REALLY didn’t want to use the boot again. I really didn’t want to go back to the doctor again if I could help it either. I haven’t found any specific painful spots like I could when I originally fractured my foot. Over the last week I’ve been a little more hopeful because it hasn’t bugged me as much. It hasn’t been painful, but when it’s uncomfortable and bothers me it’s pretty disconcerting.

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My view of the Paint Creek Trail from the last time I was able to run

No more “testing” my foot for now. I better lay off the running until it feels normal. Sometimes it’s even questionable for biking so I’m trying to be smart and cautious. In the meantime, I’m keeping busy by doing core/weights for 45 minutes two or three times a week, biking for an hour or so at least a couple days (if my foot is up for it), and I’ve been in the pool at least three days a week. I use the elliptical every now and then, but I don’t really enjoy it. I’m so used to running taking up the majority of my time, and it’s interesting to see how balanced things have looked in my training log this year. It’s kind of sad to see no running at all in February though.

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I get excited to ride the bike because it means I’ll have some quality TV time while I ride in the basement at home. I’ve managed to catch up on the first two seasons of the show Schitt’s Creek, and I’m in love with it. I’m working on Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream documentary now and am looking forward to my next ride so I can keep watching it.

The pool gets a bit too busy for my taste if I go after work, so I’ve been dedicated (crazy?!) enough to hit the water at 5am during the week. When I think about how crazy it is, I look at the people who are there earlier than I am and think at least I’m not there as early as they are! It all comes down to going to bed early enough, so it’s not that unreasonable when I’m smart about getting to bed. During the week I give myself enough time to get a mile in, and I’ve done as much as a mile and a half on the weekend. I’ve never been a fast swimmer, but as an adult I now appreciate all of the years my parents put me through swim lessons and made me swim on the swim team. It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but I like the fact that I CAN do it, and I always feel accomplished after I’m done.

I hope I can get out of this injury cycle soon. Like I said, I thought I’d been smart, but I probably ended up pushing just a little too much. I’m familiar with the process of starting from scratch and know I can make a comeback like I have before. I just have to figure out that fine balance of volume and intensity when I start running again and hope this doesn’t happen all over again. Of course I’m really bummed that I can’t run since it’s what I want to do the most, but I’m looking forward to getting back to triathlons (assuming at some point I’ll be able to run). The best way to keep my spirits up is to remember to be adaptable. Rather than concentrating on what I can’t do, I’m excited to see how I can progress in new ways.

– Janet

Follow me on on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz