Ann Arbor Marathon Virtual Half Marathon Recap

2020-03-22 - ann arbor medal

Thanks to the coronavirus/COVID-19 I ran my very first virtual race on Sunday, March 22nd. The thought of doing a virtual race has never appealed to me. I already have a zillion race t-shirts and medals. They provide memories of experiences, and if the experience wasn’t anything special and I didn’t physically race at a certain location, they don’t mean much to me. However, we’re living during a time when all of the races are being canceled or postponed and there aren’t many options.

When I signed up to run the half at the Ann Arbor Marathon, I planned for it to be a training run that would help me build my mileage for the Twilight Zone 6-hour run in May. I went to school in Ann Arbor but didn’t run at the time other than a couple miles now and then on the rec center’s indoor track. I’ve thought about how it would be nice to see the scenery all over Ann Arbor and remind myself how much I love the town. I’ve considered the race for years and it finally fit in my schedule.

When the coronavirus started to shut everything down it became clear that this race would not take place. Epic Races was kind enough to offer a few options. I could defer my entry and run next year. I could transfer to one of their other races this year. Or I could do a virtual race. I didn’t want to defer to next year because I’m not sure what my goals may be next spring. I didn’t want to already lock myself into something that might not fit the schedule later on. I thought transferring to another race would be ideal. Eventually three more of my races were canceled or postponed. A ton of races are being rescheduled in the fall. If I transferred to another Epic race it could potentially conflict with something that hasn’t been rescheduled yet. That realization made me start to consider the virtual option.

Ultimately, my sympathy for all of these poor race directors is what made me choose the virtual option. They’re stuck with a bunch of useless shirts and medals. They’ve invested so much time, money, and hard work into planning these events. They’re in a really tough spot and I feel bad for them. Although it’s not too likely that I’d choose to do a virtual race otherwise, this was a unique situation and felt like it was the best choice. I switched to the virtual race a couple days before the “race day” and received my swag in the mail a few days later.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor packet

2020-03-22 - ann arbor shirt

In addition to the shirt, medal, bag, and sticker, I also received this Buff. I found Buffs to be useful this past winter when I frequently used them for headbands or balaclavas.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor buff

I decided to do my virtual race the same day that I would have actually raced. I chose to go to Stony Creek Metropark because I could run loops continuously without having to worry about stopping at crosswalks. I wore my new pair of Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes that are billed as a “speed” shoe.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor shoes

I have been concentrating on endurance for the last five months or so since I knew I wouldn’t be targeting any kind of speed at my 50K. I’ve picked up my pace a little bit during a few recent runs but I have rarely run anything much faster than marathon pace. I thought it would be a good chance to push myself but really had no idea what to expect. I had run eight miles at marathon pace earlier in the week. Maybe there was a chance I could try to do that for a half marathon? I thought that might be optimistic though.

It was a cool morning in the 20s with sun and fairly minimal wind. It was a great day for a good effort.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony2

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony1

I decided to do two 6-mile loops around Stony’s path and keep going an extra 1.1 at the end. I’d just do a cool down jog or walk it in at the end instead of doing an out and back where I’d have to stop and turn around. I opted to run two clockwise loops which meant that I’d start on the flat stretch rather than climbing up a hill at the beginning.

I didn’t have big expectations because the race atmosphere provides an energy that doesn’t exist when I run on my own. It’s easy to get swept up into a fast pace when there are a bunch of other fast people to follow. I took off and I think in addition to running the flat stretch for the first mile or so, I also had the benefit of running with the wind at my back. It was minor but it was still something. I kept looking at my watch during the first mile and wondered how I was running a pace in the 7:30s to start. I had only run about one mile that fast recently. I thought I could be setting myself up for a rough finish. Maybe I could pull off a 10K at that pace, but not more than double that distance.

I ran 7:28 for my second mile and 7:38 for the third. I thought I was really pressing my luck. I was averaging the goal half marathon pace I run when I’m in top shape and specifically targeting that distance. I realized that maybe the fast start had set a rhythm for me and somehow I was maintaining it. Things get more challenging halfway around the Stony loop though. I always feel the climb somewhere during the third mile through around 4.5 miles. Although the wind was minor, that’s where I could also tell that I was running against it. I slowed down a little bit but told myself that my pace would pick up once I ran downhill and back onto the flat stretch.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stony elevation

One loop down after six miles. I just had to do it again and finish strong for a little bit extra. Once again, my pace was pretty good for the first couple miles of the second loop before I started to slow a bit. I knew the wind and hills would be hard for a stretch and I just had to fight through before I’d pick up the pace again. I also told myself that ideally I’d be around an 8:00 pace if I wanted to run marathon pace. I was already well ahead of that goal, so even if I slowed down through the end I should be able to manage that. I got through the harder segment, used the momentum of the downhill stretch, and had dropped the pace pretty good for the last mile of the second loop. Now I just had to push with everything I had left for an extra mile. Keeping it up for “just a mile” was pretty challenging at that point though. Most races end up a little bit long unless you run the tangent for 100% of the course. I decided to be extra nerdy and add that little extra to my run as well by going just over 13.1 miles. That way I could convince myself that I had legitimately run a full half marathon course.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor stats

Pay no attention to the elevation information – it always goes bad on my Garmin triathlon watches and is totally inaccurate

1:40:04. If I had stopped right at 13.1 I would have gone sub-1:40! My half marathon PR is 1:39:43 which I ran at Glass City back in 2015. This was my second-fastest half marathon ever! Here’s how the splits broke down:

2020-03-22 - ann arbor splits

I was really excited when I realized how close I had gotten to my PR. How did I do that?? I managed to pull that off without a race environment OR proper speed training at the end of a 60-mile week! It convinced me that running such high mileage in preparation for the 50K must be working in my favor. Even though I haven’t been testing my speed lately I guess it’s still there. I must be building enough strength with my high mileage to go fast when I actually try.

Wearing some of my University of Michigan gear helped me get into the spirt of the race despite not getting to run in Ann Arbor. Running such a fast time helped me feel like this “race” was actually worthwhile after all. Although I may not have been too excited about the idea of a virtual race, we’re going through a unique time that will make this one memorable and it’s a bonus that I came away from it feeling so accomplished.

2020-03-22 - ann arbor janet

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Weeks 8-10 of Training For…??

Well, it’s amazing how much things have changed over the last few weeks. When I wrote my last blog on March 3rd I thought I was about to enter the racing season. Since then I’ve had four races get postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus, including my 50K. Canceled races are pretty minor in the big picture of everything going on though.

Life has already been challenging enough for me within the past year and it seems to keep piling on. A couple weeks ago I was completely crushed after having to let go of my sweet cat Romeo, then the following week I had to file for unemployment. Not great. I swear I won’t make this whole blog a pity party for myself because nobody wants to read that. Everyone is going through some kind of struggle right now. Running seems to be the one thing I still have going for me, so I’m going to embrace that and try to concentrate on something positive.

Week 8

I finally went back out to Paint Creek Trail for some of my runs. The surface is usually pretty iffy for a while as the winter season wraps up but I’d grown tired of pounding the pavement and running hills all the time. I was even willing to splash through the mud for some runs. Eventually the trail started to dry out but there are a lot of ruts from bikes and footprints that make the surface really uneven right now.

2020-03-04 - paint creek1

2020-03-05 - paint creek1

On Saturday, March 7th I participated in my first running event since October. Dave’s Running Shop hosted a training run called March Mayhem near Toledo, OH. They provided a race-like experience for $35 with a timed and marked course, a water stop, a shirt, pictures, and post-race treats. I thought it would be nice to run somewhere new, maybe put in a stronger effort, and hang out with my friend Lisa.

2020-03-07 - daves shirt

The distance was a little over 15 miles which happened to be the distance I had on my training schedule. It was nice to run on some crushed and paved paths around Pearson’s Metropark.

2020-03-07 - march mayhem janet1

They also offered a shorter route, and unfortunately I made a wrong turn and followed that route at first. When I realized that I was heading back to the start/finish, I turned around and tried to sort things out. I was supposed to run two big loops followed by a small loop. I had run the small loop plus some extra distance first. Oops. It was just a training run so it didn’t really matter what I did, and I finished with 15.9 miles instead of 15.25. I had a decent run and enjoyed the soup and grilled cheese sandwiches that followed!

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I wrapped up my eighth week of training with 13 miles the next day – a total of 51 miles for the week. I ran to a local park called Innovation Hills that Sunday and enjoyed checking out a pretty boardwalk.

2020-03-08 - innovation hills


Week 9

I was in a really dark place after losing Romeo. Somehow I was still motivated enough to get out there since I know that running is one of my best outlets for coping. Running is usually an uplifting, empowering thing for me, but not that week. My first run of the week was pretty much fueled by anger, resulting in eight miles at marathon pace. I haven’t run that fast for that long since October, but my disgust with everything happening in my life made it feel easy. I basically just went through the motions for the next few days and still ran, but I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t want to be stuck in my own head for 18 miles that Saturday so I ran with music, which I rarely do. It could only distract me so much but I ended up having a really strong run.

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I ran 11 miles the next day and finished the week with a total of 61 miles. I maintained my swim routine through the week, but by Friday the 13th I had a feeling it would be my last swim for a while. All of the coronavirus craziness really kicked in the day before and I figured I’d get one last swim in. At this point who knows how long it might be before I get to swim again.


Week 10

By the time this week rolled around pretty much everything got canceled or postponed. I knew March races like the Ann Arbor Half Marathon and Rock CF Half Marathon were bound to be affected. I hoped that races further in the future would still happen but day by day things continued to get worse. The Martian Marathon in April was my third race to get canceled/postponed. Surely we’d be okay by May and I could still run my 50K? Nope.

2020-03 - twilight zone

It’s frustrating, but obviously there are much bigger things going on right now. Fortunately all of the races I had signed up for were local. None of them were big destination trips and I can cope. Even the Boston Marathon and Olympics have been impacted, so my races seem pretty minor in comparison. There’s nothing we can do about it except adapt, hope we can get through this as quickly as possible, and see how it all plays out.

There’s another 50K in the same area five weeks later on June 6th. I decided I will jump back five weeks in my training plan and pick it up from there. That would extend my plan to a total of 21 weeks. Of course I have no idea if that race will get canceled too. If it does, at that point I can pull the plug and figure out what to aim for next. I know I need to give my body a break and shouldn’t keep grinding at this level all summer long. We’ll see if I even get a chance at a triathlon season this year!

With all of the coronavirus craziness, eventually my gym closed. I’m really thankful that I had already shifted my strength workouts to the basement at home. I can’t swim anymore, but at least I can maintain my usual weights routine. It’s heartbreaking not to have my little workout partner anymore though.

2020-03 - romeo weights

After ten weeks of training it felt like my fitness really came together. All of my weekday runs were really strong. I was hit with the blow on Thursday that I was done with work for the time being and would have to file for unemployment. I saw it coming so it wasn’t a complete shock. I ran off to the woods at Stony Creek Metropark that night with a million thoughts running through my head.

2020-03-19 - stony1

Just when I come out of one dark place and start to think that life can’t possibly beat me up anymore, something else comes along. At this point it’s almost gotten so ridiculous that I’m just numb to it now. I’m making my best attempt to look for the positive, and at least running has been a saving grace for me.

With everyone swarming the local trails to escape the boredom of being stuck at home, I decided to venture out to the peaceful, isolated dirt roads on Saturday.

2020-03-21 - dirt roads3

2020-03-21 - dirt roads1

The Ann Arbor Marathon would have taken place on Sunday. I decided to switch to the virtual option and ran a half marathon on my own at Stony Creek Metropark. Somehow I managed to run the second fastest time I’ve ever run for a half marathon! When I get the t-shirt and medal I think I’ll write up a separate blog for that.

2020-03-22 - stony1

I wrapped up the latest week of training with a total of 60 miles. It seems like building all of this endurance has been working in my favor. Now I’ll see if it pays off in a race environment at some point. I enjoy the grind of training most of the time and will continue running whether I have a race on the schedule or not. As I try to look on the bright side, at least I’m healthy and now that I have nowhere to go all day, I can run whenever I choose!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography


Weeks 5-7 of Training for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run

I have three more weeks of training in the books for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run where I aim to run a 50K. As someone at work referred to it, my “super marathon.” Someone else knew it was considered an ultra marathon, but it was a fun reminder that although this is my reality, most people don’t know much about this crazy world of running.

Aside from coping with some snow, cold wind, and an ankle that was angry for a few days, my training has continued to go fairly smoothly. I finished February with 239 miles and am up to 449 miles for the year so far. I finally broke the 60-mile barrier for weekly mileage this past week. I have run more than 60 miles in a week a few times while training for marathons, but I believe the 65 miles I ran last week may be a new high for me.

2020-03-02 - February mileage

Although running is clearly my priority, I’ve managed to maintain some swimming and weight training as well

Week 5

I was scheduled to hit 60 miles for the fifth week of training and I made it to 59. The snow and ice melted enough to run around home a couple days, but I went back to Stony Creek Metropark the rest of the week. One or two of the runs had a real-feel in the single digits. We’ve been lucky that this winter has rarely been that cold. I had back-to-back 13-milers on the weekend. I ran one of them with a group and ran solo the next day. I thought I was a little on the fast side the first day then ended up a few minutes faster the next day. I haven’t been doing any speed or tempo runs so I guess it’s okay if I run a little faster now and then. My body must have felt the effects of the high mileage because I woke up with night sweats following the second 13-mile run. That usually happens to me at some point during marathon training and so far it’s only been the one night during this training segment.

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

Week 6 

I was supposed to run 61 miles the sixth week but only made it to 45 miles. That Tuesday night my right ankle/shin felt a little tweaky during my run. It seemed okay for a few miles so I thought I could run through it. Of course it really started to bother me once I got about three miles out from the parking lot at Stony. I ran one more mile but had to walk two. As if it wasn’t challenging enough to walk back with my angry ankle, I got really cold and the strong wind didn’t help. I was frozen and miserable by the end of that workout. I’ve experienced that tweaky feeling many times over the years where my ankle/shin area locks up. If I take a day off I’m usually fine by the next day. Since I pushed through it I was afraid I’d made it worse. I took two days off to recover and luckily that did the trick.

2020-02-18 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

2020-02-18 - stony3

Stony Creek Metropark

That Friday I did a test run and was relieved that I felt good enough for 8 miles. I ventured by one of the rail-to-trails, but they’re still too icy. I miss having flat routes like the trails for easy runs. Pretty much all of my paved winter routes are hilly. Hopefully the hills will make me stronger though!

2020-02-21 - clinton river trail2

Clinton River Trail

I went back to Stony for my solo 18-mile run on Saturday. Stony has been a good place for my long runs because I can stop at the car to swap water bottles as I rack up the miles. I went back for 13 miles the next day and did the first seven solo, then ran six with my friend Carmen. This week was a reminder that taking a couple days off will not derail my training, but trying to push through injury could. I still got my long runs in, and although I still didn’t break that barrier of 60 miles for the week, at least the tweak didn’t turn into something more serious.

2020-02-22 - stony2

Stony Creek Metropark

Week 7

I finally broke the 60-mile threshold for the first time during this training cycle with 65 miles for the seventh week. Monday is usually my day off but I shifted it to Wednesday to avoid running in the snow and ice that came that day. Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t great on Thursday either. There was a really strong wind that blew snow across the path at Stony. A tenth to a quarter of a mile was the longest I could make it at a time with clear pavement. When I found one clear stretch, I ran back and forth on that to rack up a couple miles. It was a slow run trying to fight the wind and run through snow drifts, but I got it done. At least it looked pretty.

2020-02-27 - stony1

Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

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Stony Creek Metropark

The path was almost totally clear on Friday but it was still pretty windy. I’ve grown tired of battling the wind lately.

2020-02-28 - stony1

Stony Creek Metropark

I had a huge weekend of mileage with 20 miles on Saturday and 15 on Sunday. I got a late start for Saturday’s run, but that was a good thing because it was a sunny afternoon and the temperature made it into the 30s. I treated myself to some new running shoes that morning. With all of the mileage I’ve been running I can always use more shoes, plus I was tempted to see what the new, lightweight Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes felt like. I didn’t think I’d run 20 miles in them for my first run but they kept working so I kept using them.

2020-02-29 - stony2

The new Brooks Hyperion Tempo shoes

I ran 12 miles to start then stopped at the car. I swapped bottles and brought an Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me. It was my first time trying that during a run. I’m concerned that I usually get tired of eating chews during the late miles of marathons so maybe I should experiment with some of the things ultra runners eat. I ate the sandwich in quarters every 2.5-3 miles which seemed to work. I was tired by the end of the 20 miles, but I didn’t feel too beat up. Good thing since I had 15 more miles to run the next day. For that one I ran nine miles, swapped bottles, then experimented with eating a Honey Stinger Waffle for the last six miles. I ate a quarter of the waffle a couple times within the six miles and that seemed to work too. My legs were pretty tired and I had to fight through a strong wind to finish, but I successfully finished a 65-mile week.

I haven’t raced since the Chicago Marathon in October and will get back to it now that March is here. I’m not sure that I’ll really be “racing” so much as using the events to help me get my mileage in. I sure could use a change of scenery from Stony since I’ve been doing almost all of my training there. This coming weekend I plan to head to the Toledo area for a 15-mile March Mayhem training run that will be formatted like a race. I also have the Ann Arbor and Rock CF half marathons coming up later this month. I’m looking forward to getting back to the race environment and hope that having others around will help pull me along faster than I’ve been running recently.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

Weeks 1-4 of Training for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run

twilight zone

I’m aiming to run my first 50K this year and have officially signed up for the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run. It will take place at Addison Oaks County Park in Leonard, Michigan on May 2nd. Although it is not specifically a 50K race, I should be able to cover that distance (and possibly more?) within six hours. After running almost 20 miles at Move-It Fitness’ Loopty Loop trail run this summer, I decided I wanted to try another one of their loop courses for my attempt at 50K. The atmosphere of their events is really laid back and the people are super friendly. Running a 2.75-mile loop will make it easy to swap my water bottles, grab food, make a bathroom stop, or do whatever else I want to do within the six hours. The course is a mix of trail, dirt, blacktop, and gravel, and it doesn’t have any crazy hills or anything too technically difficult. An added bonus is that the park is close to home so I won’t have to travel far. I have a few friends who will be there as well so I’m looking forward to it.

My friend Jeff ran his first 50K last year and was kind enough to share his training plan with me. It comes from a Hal Koerner book that I probably ought to read at some point. I liked the look of the plan and decided to roll with it. Right now I’m being cautious to see how my legs handle the weekly mileage. I tweaked things a little to fit my schedule the first couple weeks and ended up with a total of 44 miles the first week, 47 miles the second week, 57 miles the third week, and 58 miles the fourth week. So far so good! I haven’t done much in the way of speed or tempo work. One day I ran six of my eight miles at marathon pace and that’s about the fastest I’ve gone. I’m more concerned about feeling comfortable with the mileage first. The weekly mileage for this plan is already around the peak of what I’ve run for marathon training and I’m only four weeks into the 16-week plan. Since I don’t have any kind of time goal for this race I’m mostly concentrating on building my endurance. Maybe I’ll pick up the pace on days when my body feels up for it. Some days my body has felt great running at an 8:30 pace, while a couple of days it felt like a struggle at a 9:30 pace. I’m listening to my body and trying to stay smart!

Compared to past years, this winter has been relatively great for training so far. I don’t think I’ve dealt with temps below 20°F yet. Some recent winters had stretches when the windchill was below 0°F and running was pretty brutal, so I’m considering myself pretty lucky. During the first week of training I was still able to use a snow-free Paint Creek Trail.


2020-01-16 - 2

As expected, the snow came eventually. I tried trudging through the snow on the trail one day, but it was deep enough to make it a struggle.


Fortunately, Stony Creek Metropark is close by and I can count on them to clear the running path. When the snow melts enough for the sidewalks to clear, sometimes I’ll run around home, but I’m basically living at Stony lately. There is some great scenery around the park and I regularly post pictures on my Instagram and Twitter pages if you’re interested in seeing more. Here’s a little sample of how beautiful Stony can be.

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2020-01-21 - 2



Although it’s a bit repetitive to run at the park nearly every day, I sure can’t complain and know I’m lucky to have such a great place to run. Sometimes I just have to fight through the fatigue and mental grind of training.

Since I need to eat a lot to fuel and recover from all of these miles, it’s perfect timing that I was just accepted as an amBADASSador for Picky Bars!


It basically means that I’m going to help spread the love about the great products they have. I’ve been a part of the Picky Club for around 2.5 years and I receive a monthly delivery of their bars, granola, etc. I’m pretty much addicted to the Ah, Fudge Nuts bars because it feels like I’m eating a healthier version of a brownie. The business is run by professional athletes (Jesse Thomas, Lauren Fleshman, and Steph Bruce) who recognize that athletes need products that are easy on the stomach with an ideal carb-to-protein ratio. Once I discovered that the bars made a great pre-run snack for me, I was hooked. I often eat them for my post-swim breakfast as well.


I also love the fun culture of the company so when I heard about the chance to be a part of this inaugural ambassador program, I jumped. There are a lot of other fun, active people involved and I’m looking forward to meeting some like-minded people through the program.

Well, that wraps up the exciting stuff going on with my athletic ventures over the past four weeks. Here’s hoping that the next 12 weeks of training can continue smoothly as I keep building toward this prospect of running 31+ miles!


– Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography


2019 Recap

2019 shirt collage

All of my race shirts from 2019

2019 was a year with some really high highs and some really low lows. Although the year was pretty great in terms of running, it was pretty rough otherwise. I am very thankful for the feelings of strength and empowerment that I get from running because it’s taken a lot of strength to get through this year. I don’t like to be vague but don’t feel comfortable putting too much personal stuff out there either. To put it simply, I’ve been trying to cope with a lot of negativity, stress, worrying, frustration, and feeling like the optimism has been drained from me. When I run, swim, and lift weights, I feel strong. I feel like I’m really good at something and it lifts my spirits. I know it’s not healthy to literally run away from life’s problems, but so many times this year I’ve wished I could be like Forrest Gump and just keep running. As a result, I may be on the path to becoming an ultra runner next year.

I like to think of myself as an optimist, or at least I strive to be, so I try to stay positive. I like to appreciate and be thankful for the things I have. A lot of really great things happened in 2019 and I’d prefer to concentrate on those things. I’m thankful that I had a pretty awesome year in terms of fitness and racing, so here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Of course one of the biggest highlights was running the Boston Marathon for the first time. I practically wrote a novel about it here so I won’t recap it again, but it was an incredible experience.

20190415 boston finish2

I followed up with the Chicago Marathon in the fall, so I ran two of the Abbott World Marathon Majors in one year. Prior to this year I had never run a marathon with more than 10,000 people. It was quite a jump to run two marathons this year with 30-40,000+ people! The big-city experience of running Chicago was pretty awesome as well. These custom coasters that I received for Christmas (made by are a really cool way to commemorate the two big marathons.

2019 coasters

Another exciting accomplishment for the year was doing my first 5K swim. I’ve been intrigued by the thought of trying Swim to the Moon (recap here) for years and I finally went for it. Swimming that kind of distance was a whole new challenge for me. I spent so much time over the years thinking about how I probably could do it and decided it was time to prove it to myself. I enjoyed it enough that I’ve already signed up to do it again next year.

20190818 janet2

Here are some stats for the year:

2019 stats

  • I swam over 131 miles
  • I biked 523 miles
  • I ran 1,847 miles
  • I had 71 weight/strength sessions (averaging around 40-45 minutes long)
  • I did 18 races (one was a 5K/10K double)
  • I ran two 5Ks, one 10K, two 10-milers, four half marathons, one 30K, a race with a four-hour limit where I stopped after 19.9 miles, and two marathons. I also did a 5K swim, three aquathlons (swim/runs), and two Olympic-distance triathlons.

It was my busiest year of racing ever. I enjoy the race environment and being around like-minded people who also choose to push themselves through this crazy stuff for fun. I’ve found that racing is a good way for me to get speedwork done when I lack the motivation to do repeats around the track – especially during hot summer afternoons. I was glad I had a chance to participate in a three-part swim/run series this summer. I love the challenge of triathlons but since I spend more time running, my endurance on the bike is usually pretty lackluster. It was nice to do some aquathlons where I could cut out the bike segment. I put in just enough training time on the bike to manage my way through a couple of Olympic-distance triathlons.

I had a lot of great runs and was happy to get another Boston-qualifying time in Chicago. I’m not sure if or when I’ll return to Boston, but it’s nice to know I have the option. I got a new 10-mile PR by 18 seconds at Crim this year, and shaved almost eight minutes off my 2013 Milford 30K time when I returned to that race on Labor Day weekend. I saw a lot of good results come from my hard work this year and added a bunch of cool medals to my collection.

2019 medal collage

Medals from each of my races (and one mug from a race that didn’t provide medals)

One turning point this year came when I ran the Loopty Loop trail run in July. I signed up for the four-hour race and went nearly 20 miles that day which was longer than I had planned. I still felt strong and realized that if I had kept going I could have been the female winner for the race. That made me want to return next year to see if I could pull it off. I was surprised to feel like I could have kept going when I was weeks away from targeting a run that long for Chicago Marathon training. I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of trail running where I didn’t have a goal race pace like I do on the roads. That run made me realize that I might want to try a 50K in 2020. It’s “just” five miles more than a marathon. I like the thought of running slower but going longer. I was pretty inspired by watching the people who were out there for the eight and 12-hour races. Stopping after three hours seemed wimpy compared to those awesome people!

It looks like a 50K this spring might be my big goal. That’s assuming my body is up for it and that I can stay injury-free. I have already committed to a bunch of races next year, including the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the fall, but a 50K would be a new thing to aim for. Although 2020 looks like it will continue to test my ability to stay positive, hopefully running will help remind me that I’m strong, capable of more than I think, and that I can push through.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz


Chicago Marathon Recap

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon medal

Last year after watching the broadcast of the Chicago Marathon I decided I wanted to give it a try. It looked fun to run through so many parts of the city with huge crowds of spectators, plus I knew some people who ran the race and they had a blast. Registration for the 2019 race occurred a week after the 2018 race took place so the excitement was fresh in my mind and I was able to guarantee my spot by submitting a qualifying time from another race. In the past I’ve been a little deterred by huge races with a lot of logistics to worry about. However, I’ve also realized that crowd support provides a huge boost and I knew I would enjoy the scenery of the city. I already had Boston coming up in April of 2019. Why not go big and do two of the World Marathon Majors in one year?

Training through the summer can often be challenging when there’s a workout or tempo run scheduled but it’s 90 degrees and humid in the afternoon. I’m lucky just to survive running at an easy pace most summer afternoons. This time around I raced practically every weekend and hoped the races could take the place of the speedwork and tempo runs that I barely did during training. My distance peaked with one 19-mile run and four 20-mile runs, so I was hopeful that I’d still put in enough good work to run a successful marathon.

There’s typically some level of freaking out that occurs before every marathon, but it’s usually something like a new ache or pain, the weather, or my pace. Instead, I was preoccupied with an infected right hand. I wiped out on a sidewalk while running a couple weeks before the race. I figured as long as my bruised toe and knee were okay, my torn-up hands wouldn’t stop me from running. It turns out my hand actually would be the biggest issue. A couple gashes on my right hand did not improve when all of my other scrapes did. I finally accepted that they were infected after a week had gone by and the pain woke me up one night. I went to the doctor the Monday before the race and was terrified by the thought of starting an antibiotic. I worried that drugs could destroy my stomach and I really didn’t want to deal with stomach issues during a marathon. I gave it a shot, but after a couple of pills my mouth and throat got really dry. Hydrating properly during a marathon is already a challenge without adding side effects from drugs. I decided I’d put the medicine on hold for a week and hoped that antibiotic ointment would at least keep things from getting any worse.

Since I knew how overwhelming the Boston Marathon expo had been, I wanted to get to Chicago’s expo as early as I could. I left the house just before 6 am, and with a couple stops along the way, the drive took about five hours. I made it to the expo at McCormick Place an hour after it opened – around 10 am Chicago time. That place is huge and it took at least 10 minutes of walking through the building to get to the expo. It only took a couple minutes to get through a security check, then it was pretty easy to get my bib and t-shirt.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon shirt1

A ton of vendors had booths and I wandered around to see if there was anything good. The aisles were fairly crowded and I really felt claustrophobic when I tried to browse through the official Nike gear. The area with the official gear at Boston’s expo had been really overwhelming too, but I didn’t think it would already be so bad an hour into the first day! Things were much more tolerable at a Chicago Tribune booth where I bought a cotton t-shirt, and at the Picky Bars booth where I spun a wheel for a free bar.

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2019-10-13 - chicago marathon shirt2

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon expo2

I was able to stay parked at the McCormick garage for only $10 by getting my parking validated. I took my stuff back to the car then used one of the free buses that shuttled people to a few different spots downtown. It was rainy, but luckily it let up enough for me to explore Millennium Park and see “the bean” for my first time.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon millennium park

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon bean

I thought the Art Institute of Chicago would make a nice stop on a rainy day and went there for a couple hours. It had probably been 20 years since I had been there and it was really nice to go back.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon aic

That museum has so many legendary works of art, with Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte being one of my favorites. It was fun to bring back very faint memories of pieces I had studied in art history classes so many years ago.

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I shuttled back to McCormick Place and dreaded facing Chicago’s Friday afternoon traffic at 4:00. I still had to drive to Naperville to visit my half sister Karen, her husband Tom, and my nieces Katie and Abby. I finally made it after an hour and a half or so and it was really nice to visit them. Tom is a great runner and was also going to run the marathon. He has run the race before and was able to answer my questions and told me what I could expect. It was fun to see some of Tom’s accomplishments on display in my guest room.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon tom medals

I did a 2-mile shakeout run on Saturday morning, stayed for lunch, then drove back to the city. Although it cost a ton, I thought it would be fun to stay downtown and knew it would make things much easier on race day. After I checked in, I headed out to the Magnificent Mile. I figured I’d check out the Nike store for another chance to browse through the official merchandise. It was a chilly but beautiful day and the sidewalks were packed.

The Nike store was really busy but it has multiple stories and I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I had been at the expo. I decided to give in and buy a nice running jacket. Employees were scattered throughout the store and could check people out so I didn’t have to wait at all.

I stopped at Panera on my way back, took dinner to my hotel room, then rested my legs for the rest of the evening. I went to bed around 10:00 and had a typical night of restless sleep. I got up before 4:30 and headed out by 5:30. My friend Jeff had told me how worthwhile it was to purchase access to the Balbo Hospitality Tent. He won me over immediately when he said there are separate bathrooms with no wait. That would be one less thing to worry about!

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon balbo2

The tent was within a mile of my hotel and I spent about an hour there. I got to go through a separate security check that was a breeze, and waiting in a huge, heated tent was wonderful. There were plenty of places to sit and a nice breakfast spread. Too bad I didn’t have anything because I didn’t want to mess with my usual eating routine. I took advantage of the gear check and left my post-race clothes there. A few special guests such as Steve Jones, Paula Radcliffe, and Deena Kastor said a few quick words too.

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2019-10-13 - chicago marathon balbo3

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon balbo1

I was in the “D” corral which was due to close at 7:20. I waited until 6:45, made a bathroom stop, then headed out. Having access to the tent made it easy to get to my corral because I didn’t have to go wait in the same line that most everyone else had to use. I went past the general gear check area and saw the ridiculous porta-potty lines. Wow. Although it was expensive, the Balbo tent had been worthwhile for me.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon fountain

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon race1

Since this race has over 45,000 people, I didn’t know how crowded the corrals would get. Getting there half an hour before they closed was more than enough and there was plenty of space.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon race2

It was sunny and temps were in the 40s which would be perfect for running, aside from a bit of wind. I noticed gusts now and then rather than a steady wind so luckily it didn’t bother me too much. It was a little chilly for standing around but I had bought a cheap fleece jacket at the Salvation Army to keep me warm until I tossed it a few minutes before the race. My feet were kind of numb but it wouldn’t take long for them to warm up.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon weather

It was pretty cool to hear introductions of the elite athletes and know that we were just behind them about to run the same race. This was the biggest race I had ever run in terms of pure numbers. Although Boston is obviously one of the most legendary races, the elite athletes were probably halfway done with their race by the time I started so I didn’t get to witness introductions. Boston had around 30,000 runners and this race had around 45,000. I felt the excitement in the air as the race started, but it took around 12 minutes before I actually crossed the starting line. Music over the speakers helped keep the energy level high.

I knew the race would be crowded and early on I wondered if I would actually see much of the city or if I’d spend most of my time watching all of the feet around me. As I was watching the ground I spotted a blue line and knew I had read somewhere that it marked the tangent. It became my mission to stick as close as I could to that blue line. I was glad I happened to be positioned in the right place because the course was pretty wide at the start and it was easy to be far away from the tangent. There was a 3:30 pace group and that was my ultimate goal, so I started to the left of them. I know I usually start slower though and have never been able to follow a pace group during a marathon. I saw them for a little bit but it didn’t take long before they were lost up ahead in the crowd.

Between going under a tunnel at the beginning and all of the tall buildings, I was very aware that GPS signals struggle during this race. I opted to hit my splits manually whenever I saw the mile markers. Still, the pace on my watch was all over the place and half the time I didn’t really know what I was running. I ran by feel and had an idea at each split that I was somewhere in the right neighborhood for my goal pace of 8:00 miles. I have run 3:34 three times now so I knew that realistically my pace has tended to average closer to 8:10. I didn’t worry much when I saw that I was a little slow. Even though I had a time goal to reach for, most of all I was looking forward to taking in the incredible experience.

The portion of a map below shows how much my Garmin jumped all over the place. Considering how those lines should be relatively straight, it’s no wonder I couldn’t get accurate info!

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon garmin map

The crowds were amazing. Having so much energy along the majority of the course was awesome. I had heard that some miles late in the race were kind of dead, and although some spots were a little quieter, it seemed like people were out pretty much everywhere. It was fun to see so many different parts of the city. There were stretches in the heart of downtown with skyscrapers and the Chicago River. There were some pretty tree-lined residential streets. We went through areas like Greektown, Chinatown, and Boystown. Boystown was especially entertaining with drag queens dancing on stages. We went by places like the Chicago Theatre, the United Center, and more.

18 CM Course Map-v1

It seemed like there was always something fun to look at when I wasn’t watching the blue line or trying to avoid running into people. The crowd thinned a little as the race went on but I always had people all around me. One thing that shocked me was the number of people I encountered who were going much slower than everyone else during the early miles. They probably should have lined up further back in the corrals. Of course I always come across some people who I pass and others who pass me, but most of the people generally run similar paces if they lined up in the proper corral, especially early in the race. However, a few random people out there nearly caused collisions because they were running SO much slower. They weren’t off to the side either – they were right in the middle. It was so crowded that sometimes I’d have to hit the brakes because I didn’t have room to move around them.

My main thoughts were about following the blue line, watching out for people, and trying to enjoy the scenery. I also spent some time thinking about all of the family and friends who were pulling for me. I had received a lot of kind messages from people prior to the race which meant a lot to me. I thought about each one and it really helped to know that I had a bunch of people on my side.

Karen, Katie, and Abby were on my mind a lot too. They went out on the course to root for Tom and me which was awesome of them. I knew that it had to be cold standing around in the wind trying to pick us out amongst the thousands of runners. I was on the lookout and worried that I’d miss them in the huge crowds of spectators. Somehow they managed to yell loud enough to get my attention at four spots along the course! I really appreciated them being there and making that kind of effort to catch us multiple times. It definitely gave my spirit a boost every time I saw them.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet run1

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet run2

I made it through the halfway point around 1:46 and knew that I was on track. I started to slow down a little bit after that, and a little more after the 20-mile mark. My legs were tired and I just reminded myself that marathons are hard but I should keep pushing. I started to see people dropping off who may have been cramping or injured. I know that it’s a possibility that could hit at any moment, but I was still doing pretty well so I should take advantage of that. I wasn’t sure that I’d hit 3:30 this time, but maybe I’d be consistent and run another 3:34. I told myself that I had goals to achieve and I should at least keep striving for another BQ.

The crowds certainly played a role in keeping me moving. There were so many neighborhoods that had their own different vibes. People played the drums in Chinatown. There was a neighborhood with Mexican music playing and people dancing. A guy running next to me shot video on his phone as he excitedly shouted back in Spanish. There were University of Illinois at Chicago cheerleaders when we passed that campus. Abbott, one of the official sponsors of the race, had a HUGE presence near the end of the race. They had music blaring and cheered so loudly that their energy was infectious at a time when I needed it the most.

I counted down my remaining distance and attempted to run the math for my pacing for a lot of the race. When I had 5K left I knew that I would be able to hold up through the end. Somehow I even managed to pick up the pace for the last mile or two. Usually once I start to slow down in a marathon there’s no going back, so I was pretty happy that I still had some energy left. It helped that there were signs along the way letting us know that we had 800 meters then 400 meters left. I knew I could push for that long. I was aware that there was a bit of a “hill” before the finish, which was basically just an overpass. For such a flat race, overpasses were as hilly as it got. Fortunately I had kicked into a solid finishing gear and powered up that stretch without too much agony. Then there was a turn around a corner and a quick stretch on the way into the finish line.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon post race3

I stopped once I crossed the line and realized immediately that I needed to keep jogging. After running for so long my body didn’t handle it well when I came to a sudden stop. I’m not sure if my chest was tight, if I had a little shortness of breath, or something else, but it worried me enough to get moving again. Eventually I seemed to be okay with walking and enjoyed the fact that I had completed my seventh marathon. I had run 3:35:35 and was very happy with that. I felt like I did all that my body could have done. I’ve run three marathons faster than that, but it was still good for another BQ by 4:25.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon stats

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon post race2

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon post race1

I collected a bag of snacks at one table and a free beer from Goose Island at another table. 2019-10-13 - chicago marathon snacks

I found people who directed me to the Balbo tent and all of the volunteers were so nice and congratulatory. I went to the gear check area first thing and got into my warmer clothes. Then I went to check out the lunch spread. It was pretty awesome.

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2019-10-13 - chicago marathon balbo5

I got a chicken Caesar wrap, pasta, chips, and some other snacks. The dessert table looked amazing and I stopped there a couple times too.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet city

Karen, Tom, and his running buddies went to a restaurant for lunch and I met them there.

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet karen

2019-10-13 - chicago marathon janet tom

I had planned on getting a treat at Shake Shack next, but once I saw the line I walked right back out. I settled for a piece of cinnamon cream cake from a corner bakery instead. I was surprised that I was able to walk at my normal pace and didn’t feel too beat up. Since I still felt pretty good, I decided I’d try to head home early. Sometimes I feel worse the day after the race and thought I could take advantage of this time when I still felt okay. I showered, ate more, then checked out. I was sure that I’d take the hit for another night at the hotel so I was thrilled when they didn’t charge me. That was a major bonus for leaving early. I had planned on taking Monday off of work so I slept in. I felt pretty miserable when I woke up the next morning and knew I needed to get up to eat and drink to get rid of a headache. Of course I was sore, but I was actually in pretty decent shape. The fact that I could go up and down stairs without any issues was a good sign. Since my employer doesn’t give me paid time off, I decided I was in good enough shape to put in half a day at work and I didn’t even find myself groaning all day like I normally do after a marathon. Maybe I hadn’t raced hard enough? :)

I really enjoyed this race and would definitely return in the future. Despite the frustration of GPS issues and battling the crowds, everything else was awesome. I loved spending time in the city and it was great getting to visit family as well. I’m going to keep striving for that 3:30 marathon but I’m not disappointed with my results at all. I know in order to improve I could analyze what I should do differently in training, with fueling, etc. Certainly I will consider all of that, but at the same time, I’m not going to beat myself up. Marathons are hard and I still ran a pretty great one. It’s always a thrill to get another BQ even if I’m not quite sure if/when I may return to Boston to put it to use.

I’m enjoying some downtime of being lazy and think I’m just about done with my stage of loading up on donuts, pizza, and anything else I want to eat. I seem to be recovering really well this time around and I’ll get back to running soon, but I don’t have any big goals on the horizon quite yet. I’m already thinking about what could come next though. Spring and fall marathons again next year? Do I return to any races that I’ve enjoyed in the past or keep trying to hit new races? So many options to consider. It’s a good sign that I want to keep going back for more!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Growler Gallop 10 Mile Recap

2019-09-29 - growler gallop medal

On Sunday, September 29th I ran the Growler Gallop 10 Mile race in Detroit, MI. My goal race is the Chicago Marathon on October 13th and this was the 13th and final race in my 18-week training segment leading up to the marathon. I’m used to racing frequently during the summer but this is the most I have raced as I’ve built up to a marathon. For the most part, rather than doing the speed/strength/tempo runs that my training schedule called for, I opted to run hard at the races instead. I wanted to do my last 10-mile marathon pace run during the Brooksie Way Half Marathon a week earlier but it was warm and humid and I only managed to hit my goal pace for 4-5 miles. I hoped that the Growler Gallop would be a good chance to make up for it.

I worried that I’d have to skip this race after I wiped out on a sidewalk while running early on Friday morning. I scraped and bruised my knee, and my hands were a bloody mess. My big toe began to hurt once I got home and later that night I realized it was bruised. I wiped out a few weeks before the Indy Monumental Marathon last fall and now I managed to do it again a couple weeks before Chicago. Torn up hands wouldn’t stop me but an injured toe could screw things up. I tried not to freak out too much and reminded myself that I took a lot of time off right before Indy because my knee was in bad shape. Even as I started that race I wasn’t sure it would hold up, but I ended up running a great race. Hopefully I’d be okay this time too.

I skipped my 6-mile run on Saturday to heal and play it safe. I took advantage of the early packet pick-up option at the Hansons Running Shop in Royal Oak. This race offered hooded sweatshirts in a variety of colors during registration which I thought was pretty cool.

2019-09-29 - growler gallop sweatshirt

My toe and knee didn’t bother me on Saturday so I decided to do an easy 2-mile run on Sunday morning to see how things went. The race had a 4 p.m. start which allowed me to do the trial run, get some rest, then run the race later. I was relieved that nothing hurt and figured I could give the race a shot.

Unlike Brooksie a week earlier, it was actually kind of chilly for this race. It was around 60 degrees plus it was pretty windy. It rained for most of my drive to Atwater Brewery in Detroit but luckily the rain let up until after the race. There was a lot across from the brewery where we gathered before and after the race. The band that was playing put me in a good mood when they did songs by Barenaked Ladies and Sister Hazel, a couple of my favorites. I hung out under a tent with one of my Chevy Running Club buddies for a few minutes. The wind was blowing so much that the legs of the tent had to be strapped to a fence so it wouldn’t blow over. This was going to be an interesting run.

2019-09-29 - growler gallop prerace

2019-09-29 - growler gallop start1

I have run so many hilly races lately that I was looking forward to a course that was as flat as can be. Although this race didn’t have hills to battle, the wind may have made things just as challenging. The course took us along Detroit’s riverwalk to start, along a main road, then onto Belle Isle. We ran directly into the wind for most of the first half of the race and it didn’t help that so much of the run was along the water. I love running around that part of Detroit but the dreary, windy day didn’t make it easy.

2019-09-29 - growler gallop map

Although I was chilly to start, it didn’t take long before I began to sweat. It also didn’t take long before I realized I had made a very poor choice in my selection of Band-Aids. The Band-Aids on my left palm stuck fairly well but I wasn’t so lucky with my right hand. I had five Band-Aids to cover my palm, three knuckles, and the side of my hand. As soon as I started to sweat a couple of the Band-Aids began to peel. I debated pulling them off but the gashes were deep enough that I knew I better keep them covered. My mind was preoccupied for most of the race with a combination of thoughts about fighting the wind and how I could keep the Band-Aids from falling off. It required scrunching my hand up in an awkward position. It made things tricky every time I grabbed the water bottle from my hydration belt. It was annoying but somehow I managed.

My main goal for this race was to hit my marathon pace of 8-minute miles the whole time and go a little faster if I had it in me. I didn’t have any real strategy – I just ran by feel. The wind definitely was a factor and two of the miles on the south side of Belle Isle were the hardest and my slowest. I’ve done a couple races on Belle Isle when the wind was very noticeable on one side of the island but not so much on the other side. I managed to stay faster than my goal pace despite the wind and told myself that hopefully it would give me a boost on the way back. Based on my splits I think it probably did help. I pretty much ran on my own for the last 3-4 miles of the race. I could see people up ahead, but nobody that I could catch up to. I worried about my stomach for the last mile or two but still finished fairly strong. Thanks to Trivium Racing for the finishing photos.

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Crim is the only other 10-mile race I’ve run. When I ran it this August, I started pretty fast and felt like I was grinding through and just trying to hang on for most of the race. This race didn’t feel easy, but I didn’t feel like I was pushing my limits to the extreme like I did at Crim. I finished this race just over a minute slower than my Crim time and was pretty happy. With a final time of 1:16:55 and an average pace of 7:42 per mile, I definitely achieved my goal for the day.

2019-09-29 - growler gallop results

2019-09-29 - growler gallop splits

I picked up some pretzels, trail mix, and granola bars and hung out in the post-race area for a few minutes before I went to the car for some warmer clothes. I was also very anxious to get rid of the Band-Aids that were barely hanging on. I had some extras in the car but they didn’t stick very well either since my skin was still wet. It didn’t help that the rain started again by the time I left the car.

328 people finished the 10-mile race and 634 ran the 5K, so there were plenty of people hanging out. We had tickets for two free beers so I collected those and was able to save them for later. My friend Lisa was kind enough to hang out for a few minutes while I waited for the awards. The tent that I had stood under before the race was falling over due to the wind, but it was good enough to provide some cover from the rain. I had placed first in my age group and won a 64 oz. growler! It came along with a coupon that said I could fill it once for free at Atwater Brewery through March.

2019-09-29 - growler gallop beer

2019-09-29 - growler gallop award

Between the sweatshirt, medal, the growler, post-race party, and nice course, this was a really great race. Aside from the wind, I’m glad the weather cooperated while we ran. I feel better now that I successfully ran my last 10-mile marathon pace run and didn’t feel too beat up after running it faster than planned. Chicago is approaching quickly and I’m hopeful that I’m on track for a good race.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Brooksie Way Half Marathon Recap

2019-09-22 - brooksie medal

Now that it’s officially fall, the Brooksie Way Half Marathon officially wrapped up my summer of racing practically every weekend. Sunday, September 22nd was my fifth time running the race around my great town of Rochester Hills, MI. As challenging as the course may be, it’s hard for me to resist running this one knowing that it’s happening half a mile down the road. Seeing so many running friends and familiar faces both participating and spectating always makes it a fun event.

2019-09-22 - brooksie shirt

I donated some canned goods at last year’s expo and received a $15 discount code from Kroger for this year’s race. I did the same thing again this year since it’s very likely that I’ll run the race again next year. My final 20-mile run for Chicago Marathon training was scheduled for the day of Brooksie. I figured I’d run seven miles beforehand and use the race to get through the majority of the distance. That meant that I probably wouldn’t really “race” this one, but there’s always that little bit of hope that I might have it in me. Spoiler alert – since this was my slowest Brooksie yet, nope, I didn’t have it in me!

Brooksie weekend was the peak of my marathon training with a total of 56 miles for the week. I was supposed to run 10 miles at marathon pace the day before the race but I took it easy. I hoped maybe I could save that kind of pace for the race. Saturday’s run was gross and humid but at least it prepared me for similar conditions on race day. Although humidity usually zaps me no matter what, being acclimated does help. It’s been warm enough lately that I’m still used to it. That 10-mile run reminded me that hydration would be a big factor. One 21 oz. bottle was barely enough for 10 miles, so maybe using my two-bottle hydration belt would be wise for Brooksie.

I followed through with my crazy plan of doing a 7-mile “warm up” run prior to the race and arrived around 6:15. As early as that was, I ran into a few people I knew right away. I was participating in the Corporate Challenge with the Chevy Running Club and ran into one of our team leaders. I helped him carry the team tent over to the field then told him I had to head out so I could get my miles in. I started my loops around Oakland University’s campus with a headlamp and glowing vest since it would be at least half an hour before the sun rose. Once I got onto the main part of campus there was plenty of lighting though.

2019-09-22 - brooksie clock tower

Oakland’s campus has a good amount of rolling hills but I kept my pace easy enough to manage them. Still, half a mile into the run the temps in the 70s plus the early morning humidity hit me. It was going to be a tough, sweaty day. I planned everything very carefully so my timing would work for the race. I figured the warm up run would take around an hour and I wanted half an hour of downtime prior to the race. I had scoped out a map of the 10K race route around campus so I knew where I could find a porta potty along the way. I was able to get one all to myself a mile from the start and avoided the long lines that had built by the time I got back. I arrived a few minutes before our Chevy group gathered for a photo then I went back to the car to clean up a little. I’m glad I was smart enough to bring an extra shirt since mine was drenched at that point. I was parked next to some local running friends who knew what craziness I was up to with my run before the run and we laughed about it.

2019-09-22 - brooksie start2

2019-09-22 - brooksie start

I came across my friend Jeff in the starting corral and he smartly advised that we should probably start closer to the front of our wave. At 8:06 we were off! It helped that we started downhill, but once I hit the first slight incline I could feel the weight of the two bottles on my waist. It would help keep my pace in check early and I knew they’d get lighter as I went. The race starts with a decline for the majority of the first five miles or so and I took advantage of that. I was able to run close to marathon pace even though my legs weren’t especially fresh. When things flattened out and we hit the first hill heading into downtown Rochester, I knew I couldn’t keep it up. I got 4-5 miles in at my goal pace then gave up on that plan. It was too warm and humid to maintain it and there’s no way I’d keep it going once we hit the “real” hills. Ultimately, I was there to get my 20-mile training run done. I adjusted my thinking and decided it was time to give up on trying to “race” and knew I should approach it as more of a training run. I just had to run whatever pace worked to successfully complete my last big long run and keep in mind that Chicago is the real goal.

2019-09-22 - brooksie janet trail

Even though the hydration belt may have seemed excessive, it was the right choice for me to wear it. I had one bottle of GU Brew and one bottle of water. I also ate one Clif Blok almost every mile and hoped that would be enough. I didn’t eat anything other than a couple Bloks between the warm up and the race because I thought it would be risky for my stomach. It was a relief knowing that I had plenty to drink whenever I needed it. Brooksie was similarly hot and humid a couple years ago and one bottle hadn’t been enough for me. I kept grabbing water along the course in addition to drinking from my bottle that year, but I was too thirsty and had a rough time. I think it really helped this time that I stayed hydrated enough.

Still, it got rough at times simply because course is difficult and the conditions didn’t help. The first half of the course is downhill or flat for the most part and the major rolling hills come in the second half. I’m very familiar with the course yet the first steep hill that comes around seven miles into the race felt so much harder than all of the other times I’ve run it this summer. There are plenty of times when I thought about how walking would probably be nice but I didn’t do it. Instead, I just felt like I was slowly trudging along at times. It was a grind so it was helpful to see the spectators along the way. I thought it was funny that right after I had thoughts of getting pizza for dinner I happened to pass spectators holding signs about running for a purpose with little pizza guys all over. There were several bands/musicians along the course and some enthusiastic aid stations as well. A marching band was there to give us an extra boost up that first bad hill. The students who line both sides of the street in front of Adams High School are always extra loud and awesome. With my name printed on my bib, it was fun to hear people shout my name and encourage me. One familiar face did that when I had a mile or two to go. Early in the race I had noticed a spectator who had been a DJ on the radio station 89X. When I saw him again later, he called my name since it was on my bib and told me I was doing great. I think I threw him for a loop when I responded, “Thanks Cal!” He and his friends laughed and that helped boost my spirits as well.

I didn’t really have it in me to pick up the pace for the last few miles like I usually try to do, but I did end up finishing fairly strong. That last uphill climb to the finish didn’t make it easy though!

2019-09-22 - brooksie janet finish1

I finished in 1:50:25, which was about two and a half minutes slower than my previous slowest Brooksie time. I typically don’t run seven miles prior to the race though! I managed to run an 8:26 average on a challenging course in difficult conditions to wrap up 20 miles, so I was plenty happy with my results.

2019-09-22 - brooksie janet results

2019-09-22 - brooksie splits

I collected water, chips, a Rice Krispies Treat, and a granola bar then found one of my Chevy running buddies. Since the post-race snacks are fairly minimal considering the distance we just ran, I’m thankful that I’ve always had access to the corporate team tent with catered food. Runners from all of the different corporate teams join together there and it’s fun to catch up with people after the race and hear how it went. There was salad, pasta, mac and cheese, bread, and beer. That was much more filling than my other post-race snacks.

Sometimes I question why I choose to continually return to a course that can be so difficult, but I love this race. It’s a community celebration with friends everywhere and sometimes the feeling of accomplishment is even greater when it’s so hard. It was fun to run alongside and chat with friends for brief moments during the race. Plenty of Chevy teammates were around and we often rooted for each other as we crossed paths during the race. I saw a woman I know from the gym cheering for people. I saw runners who I recognize from the trail out taking race photos. There was a friend handing out water at an aid station. I knew people all over the place which makes things fun even when it’s a struggle. When the weather has been nice and cool, I’ve actually had some pretty solid races at Brooksie. When the weather has been warm and humid, it seems to accentuate the difficultly of the course. I never know what I might get when I sign up, but I always have fun.

2019-09-22 - brooksie janet medal

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Prove It 5K/10K Recap

2019-09-07 - prove it medal1

Apparently the hills at the Labor Day 30K weren’t enough to scare me away from Milford because I returned the following weekend for more hills at the Prove It 5K/10K. I think NOW I’ve had enough of Milford’s hills for a while.

Trivium Racing‘s Prove It race took place on Saturday, September 7th at GM’s Proving Ground in Milford, MI. I don’t think I’ll ever forget running the 5K there in 2016 when it snowed on race day. In the middle of May. I’m especially scarred by that experience because I ran a miserable marathon two weeks later when it was 70° and humid to start and I was not acclimated for those conditions at all. I guess this race had a couple of rough weather days when it was held in May so they switched it to September this year. Fortunately the weather cooperated this time and it was 61° at the start.

This is another race that I signed up for partially because my friend Lisa put the idea in my head. I realized I had 10 miles at marathon pace on my training schedule and the 5K/10K double would fit perfectly. In addition, I thought it would be nice to represent and show my support for the Chevy Running Club at this race since they play a large role in making it happen. It’s also a pretty unique and cool experience to run around one of GM’s test tracks. Speaking of unique…check out this wild race shirt!

2019-09-07 - prove it cup

We also received this cup in our race packets

The 10K was a new addition this year and started first at 8:30. We couldn’t park right by the test track and it’s about half a mile from the parking lot to the start of the race. I saw Jordan from the Chevy Running Club and he let me know that our race packets were set aside under a tent for our group. We chatted for a bit and he was on board to do a warm up jog prior to the start. I was thankful that there was a bag drop area since it was a cool morning. I could leave my jacket and other stuff there rather than make the long hike back to the car.

2019-09-07 - prove it janet jordan

With fellow Chevy Running Club member Jordan

Jordan and I ran a quarter mile out and back and I definitely needed it to help loosen my heavy legs. We headed uphill to start which quickly reminded me what we were in for with this race. When I did it for the first time in 2016 I had expected a flat, round race track. I didn’t realize that it would have lots of twists and hills. I remembered that it was a challenging course but I didn’t remember how hard it truly was.

2019-09-07 - prove it 10k start

I dragged as we headed uphill at the beginning, but fortunately the downhill stretch that followed helped get me moving. I didn’t see it for long since it was ahead of the speedy runners, but how cool is it to have a Corvette lead a race on a test track?

2019-09-07 - prove it pace car

Many thanks to Trivium for providing a ton of great photos on their Facebook page. The photo below gives you an idea of what the rolling hills were like along this course.

2019-09-07 - prove it 10k janet

The track is banked in some spots. We didn’t have to run any extreme angles, but there were some areas where I made a point of running as close to the bottom edge as I could to try to find the flattest spot. I have enough tweaks on my left side that I didn’t want any of my issues to flare up by running unevenly along the banked surface.

Oh boy, those hills. Like I said, I remembered it was challenging but this was a lot harder than I remembered. Had I stuck with my training plan and actually run marathon pace maybe it wouldn’t have hurt so much. Of course I couldn’t help myself and pushed the pace, ending up a good 20-30 seconds per mile faster than I probably should have been going. The 10K was two loops around the course. I’d only run one loop in 2016 and I have a feeling doing multiple loops this time enhanced the difficulty. I tried not to think too much about how brutal a third lap would be for the 5K race that was coming next!

2019-09-07 - prove it map

Thanks to a pretty steep downhill stretch at the end at least I was able to finish strong and flew across the finish line.

2019-09-07 - prove it 10k finish

I was pretty excited that I was the second place female! My time was 47:23. Since the course was certified it was a little long, so I like believe my Garmin’s pace of 7:31/mile.

2019-09-07 - prove it 10k results

2019-09-07 - prove it 10k splits

It took a few minutes to recover from getting beat up by that course. Then I had about an hour to kill before the 5K started. I was sweaty and it was breezy and cool. It didn’t take long before I started to get cold. Somehow I had to avoid stiffening up with all that downtime. I talked to some of the Chevy people for a bit and had some water, then I jogged about a quarter mile to the porta-potties. I jogged back and tried to keep moving for a bit. My legs felt pretty heavy and I wasn’t feeling too confident about still having to race the 5K. I ate a few of my Clif Shot Bloks in between and figured I’d hold off on the post-race treats until I was totally done so I wouldn’t mess with my stomach.

The Chevy Running Club got a group photo prior to the start of the 5K.

2019-09-07 - prove it chevy running club

Then it was time to do it all over again. I was kind of dreading it!

2019-09-07 - prove it 5k start

2019-09-07 - prove it track

These pictures make the course look really cool. It really is a privilege to run on a test track like that. It hurt though! Once again, I made things harder on myself by running faster than I should have. I haven’t been doing speed workouts much during training since I’ve been racing so much, so I figured it’s okay to give a little more effort while racing. The uphill start was nasty the third time around but I was thankful every time I went downhill and regained a little speed. I realized I was among the top women again which was one thing that helped pull me through. I just had to keep pushing. Somehow my pace was only a little slower than it was during the 10K. It felt a whole lot worse though!

2019-09-07 - prove it 5k finish

SO happy to be done!

Again, I’ll go with my Garmin time since that makes my pace look a little faster. 7:33 pace for the 5K after running a 7:31 pace for the 10K. I’m pretty psyched about that. Plus, I placed as the third woman this time.

2019-09-07 - prove it 5k results

2019-09-07 - prove it 5k splits

Brutal, brutal, brutal. But I did it. It definitely was a good workout and I keep telling myself that all of this hill training is making me stronger. It sure better!

2019-09-07 - prove it medal2

Now it was time for trail mix, pretzels, and a granola bar. Plus an extra bar of my own and more later in the car before I left because I ran 10 miles and wanted lots of food. I stuck around for awards because they were giving out age group awards for each race, awards for the 5K/10K combo winners, plus age-graded awards. Age-graded results factor in age and gender and try to balance things so that everyone is competing on the same level. The same top people ended up winning almost every category. For the age-graded results I was 17th out of 324 for the 5K and 11th out of 162 for the 10K. I was the second female out of 29 for the double. Only the top winners were awarded in each category and the woman ahead of me in both races was in my age group. I didn’t get anything, but I was still pretty thrilled that I had done so well.

This one was really tough but also really cool. It was nice to see Lisa and her husband at yet another race and it was fun to catch up with people from the Chevy Running Club too. I’m finally taking a weekend off of racing this coming weekend but I’ll be back at it for the Brooksie Way Half Marathon on the 22nd. That will be another hilly one so hopefully these last two races in Milford have prepared me for it.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz




Milford Labor Day 30K Recap

2019-08-31 - milford 30k shirt

After running this race in 2013 (recapped here) I swore to myself that I would only return if I forgot how brutally tough it was or if I decided I wanted to torture myself. I still remember very clearly how difficult it was, so I guess I must enjoy subjecting myself to torture.

I’ve toyed with the idea of returning to this race several times but never followed through. This year my friend Lisa suggested the race. She hadn’t done it before and I warned her how tough the course is. Still…we discussed it so much that we finally said we may as well just sign up. We’re both training for marathons and would need to get long runs in anyway. Hot, humid, and hilly are the key words I used to describe 2013’s race. There’s no denying the hills, but the forecast actually looked cooler for this year’s race which was one factor that made me more willing to try it again.

I was training for my first marathon in 2013 and added enough distance prior to the race to make it my very first 20-mile run. Six years have gone by and I have run six marathons since then. I hoped that more experience and being a stronger runner would help me feel better this time around.

Saturday, August 31st was a beautiful morning in the 50s. It was a good sign that I was shivering before the race. The race starts and finishes at Baker’s Restaurant where there is a ton of parking. The race started at 8:00 and I got there about an hour early. Lisa found me when I took my t-shirt and bib back to the car and gave me a heads up that the porta-potty line was already pretty long, so I went over there right away. I was debating if I should run a little over 1.3 miles so I would make it to 20 miles for the day. The main road was so busy I didn’t want to try crossing it, plus the 30K cyclists were getting ready for the start of their race.

2019-08-31 - milford 30k bike start

I opted to run enough laps around the parking lot to get a mile in prior to the race. That would get me close enough to a 20-miler. We lined up on Milford Road which had more traffic than I expected on a Saturday morning. Since we started in one lane of the road it was a little congested at first. I was anxious to get moving a little faster and got around people when I could. Soon enough things spaced out. We ran along the road and into downtown Milford to start. I kept thinking that it was just the path that would get us to the dirt roads where things would get tough. There’s a pretty challenging hill or two along the way though.

2019-08-31 - milford 30k start1

2019-08-31 - milford 30k start2

Somewhere around five miles into the race we hit a big hill on the dirt road. I’d been moving along pretty well prior to that and slowed down a bit to grind my way through that one. I was surprised to run a couple miles just above 8:00 pace after that. I worried that I was going a little faster than I ought to be, but I guess downhill momentum must have helped. I was also kind of shocked to go at least a couple miles without an uphill climb. In my mind I had remembered horrendous hill after hill on the dirt roads. It actually wasn’t as bad as I had remembered. Sure, there were tough hills, but there were some pretty long stretches between them too. I made it halfway through the race and thought it was easier than I had remembered. I appreciated the peacefulness of the dirt roads and lots of shade. When we were out in the open the clouds looked really cool. I felt like I was in my element with “my” people – other people who are dedicated enough to get up early and push themselves through this crazy stuff for fun.

We got back to the pavement for a while and that part was unfamiliar and had totally faded from my memory. Somehow I only remembered the hilly dirt portions of the race. We spent some time running along curbs while there was a decent amount of traffic around and I didn’t remember that at all. I had a couple more miles that were faster than I meant to run, but I figured I was running by feel and I guess I felt pretty good. I had remembered this race to be so hard that I figured maybe the second half would really do me in. By the time I got to 14 miles I started to drag a little more. I was back on the dirt by then and some hills popped up again. My fuel belt had a bottle of GU Brew and I started to run low in the last few miles of the race. I made sure to get water at the aid stations and walked through a couple of those in the late miles to make sure I drank enough. Based on my split of 8:41 for mile 16, that must have been when I hit the worst hill. I barely made any progress as I attempted to run and decided it would be better to walk part of it. I had walked at least a couple hills in 2013 and knew it was coming at some point!

I felt a twinge in my left calf during the last few miles of the race. When it persisted it started to worry me. I’d had a charley horse in that calf a couple weeks earlier when I did the Swim to the Moon 5K. I wondered if something was still lingering from that. Maybe the hills and mileage had set it off. Fortunately I was still able to finish pretty strong. When I turned off the dirt road and hit the final stretch of pavement back on Milford Road, I told myself I was going to give it a final kick through the finish. It was a little over half a mile, but it felt farther than that at the pace I was trying to run. Still, I managed to smile!

2019-08-31 - milford 30k janet1

2019-08-31 - milford 30k janet2

I was happy because somehow the race didn’t feel as hard to me as it had in 2013. I’m sure the cooler temps helped a lot. Heat and humidity always make things rough and it sure doesn’t help when it’s already a challenging course. I think I was right that running many more miles plus having years of experience since 2013’s race made a big difference. There’s no denying that it’s a hard course. I rarely walk during races and one of those hills brought me to a walk both times. Even though I didn’t walk the others, some of them required a pretty slow grind. Still, I felt like I had a really solid run this time around.

2019-08-31 - milford 30k janet3

2019-08-31 - milford 30k medal

My official time was 2:34:02:

2019-08-31 - milford 30k results

My average pace was 8:16 per mile. I went into this saying that it would just be a training run, not a race. That pace is a little fast for a training run for me. You can see below that my pace fluctuated all over the place. Uphill climbs slowed me down but downhill stretches sped me up. Aside from the climbs and the final stretch, I never felt like I was pushing too hard so hopefully I didn’t push more during this run than I should have.

2019-08-31 - milford 30k splits

After I received my medal I went over to the Tri-Covery tent first thing. I noticed them before the race and knew that I should have someone work on my calf. I added my name to their list and they said it might be a 20-minute wait. I used that time to check out the food, which included a choice of hamburgers, veggie burgers, or a chicken sandwich. Beer too!

2019-08-31 - milford 30k finish

The therapist from Tri-Covery was great and may have worked on me for 10 minutes or so. He had me cringing in agony at times! He gave me a few tips for the calf and I appreciated the chance to have someone work on it.

I heard the announcer say Lisa’s name so I met her after she came through the finish line. Fortunately she didn’t totally hate me for not talking her out of the race. Even though it was hard, she and her husband were both glad they had done it. I hung out with them as they enjoyed the post-race food and it was only a matter of time before we had to go to Dairy Queen directly across the street. DQ’s proximity to the race may have been another deciding factor that convinced us to sign up for the race. As I always say, I’m very motivated by good post-race treats.

Although my calf was a little tender the rest of the day, I actually felt good enough after this race to run eight miles the next day without any issues. That’s a good sign for my marathon training!

I’m really glad Lisa and I convinced each other to run this one. As tough as it was in 2013, I knew someday I was bound to be tempted by the challenge again. It was 68° and humid to start in 2013, when I finished in 2:41:47 and averaged 8:38 per mile. It was 54° and pleasant this year and I finished in 2:34:02 with an 8:16 average. I improved my time by close to eight minutes! It was supposed to be a training run both times so I wasn’t really aiming for any goal, and I know I ended up a little fast this time. It’s still a great feeling to know that I improved so much. While I cursed the course and practically hated it last time, I felt much better about it this time.

I know it might seem extreme that I’m racing so frequently lately but I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. Since I needed to do a long run anyway, it was nice to get a t-shirt and medal, have aid stations along the way, plus a party at the end. I’ve spent most of the summer running easy all week instead of working in speed and tempo runs, then I put in the hard work during the races. I’m trying to be smart about listening to my body and take a rest day or two when I can tell I need it. I have six weeks until the Chicago Marathon and I’m hoping that this method will pay off on race day since I still have a number of races to go before then. Next up – a return to Milford for a 5K/10K double on Saturday.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz