Rock CF Half Marathon Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz



One Month Until the Boston Marathon

2019 boston celebration jacket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OU’s indoor track

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

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

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


Kensington, Stony Creek, and Indian Springs Metroparks


Running at Stony is enjoyable with this kind of scenery

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

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

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz


2018 Recap

2018 race shirts

All of my race shirts from 2018

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

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

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

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

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

2018 stats

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

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

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A sampling of some race photos from 2018

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Shelby Township Jingle Bell Run 5K Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of Michael Edward Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz



Brooksie Way Half Marathon Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Detroit Women’s Half Marathon Recap

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I’ve been racing a lot lately as I continue to prepare for the Indy Monumental Marathon in November. Racing helps me get good speed or marathon pace workouts done more easily than when I do the workouts on my own. In addition, races have helped me get through the grind of running so many miles.

My first 16-mile long run of this training segment was scheduled for Sunday, September 16th. When I browsed through, I made a note that there was a half marathon at Belle Isle that day. The Detroit Women’s Half Marathon might be a good way to get through most of that mileage for the day.

In the past I’ve felt a little torn about the exclusivity of a women’s only race. I feel like running is such an inclusive sport that I don’t like the idea of excluding anyone. At the same time, I understand that women’s races are intended to celebrate women with an empowering, supportive vibe.

Way too many stories have been in the news lately about women getting attacked while running. It’s not fair that we can’t go out for a run by ourselves without worrying about our safety. I shouldn’t have to worry that it might not be safe for me to go to the track by myself. That running the pretty dirt roads alone could be a bad idea. That I have to look suspiciously at any guy who runs by me on the trail if it’s getting a little too late in the evening. That a pre-dawn run is just asking for trouble. 

When I heard that a local woman was attacked while doing a track workout on Labor Day, it hit way too close to home and I got really pissed off. It made me realize that I shouldn’t feel funny about this kind of race at all. In fact, I stopped hesitating and signed up for it while I was still fuming about the news. Maybe we do still need something that’s all about “girl power” now and then.

I didn’t make an extra trip to Detroit for the expo the day before the race, so I got my shirt (and the buff seen below) when I arrived early the morning of the race.

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Because I planned to run 16 miles total, I decided I would run three miles before the race. It was warm and the humidity was ridiculous – 99%!

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I started my run around 7:00, figuring I’d take it easy and finish with at least half an hour to spare before the race started at 8:00. It was beautiful to see the run rising over the Detroit River.

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Even the slow, easy run was enough to work up quite a sweat. This might be a tough day! I hit a porta-potty along the race course on my way back to save me the hassle of waiting in a long line near the starting line. I used baby wipes to get rid of some of the sweat, swapped my bottle of water for a fresh bottle of GU Brew, ate a couple of chews, then headed to the start.

I wanted to see if I could run all 13 miles around an 8:00 pace, which is my goal marathon pace. That meant I had a goal time of 1:45. I was pretty fortunate that there happened to be a woman pacer for that specific time, so I lined up right behind her.

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The pace felt easy as we started, so I made a point of staying behind the pacer. I didn’t want to start too fast while my legs were fresh and pay for it in the later miles. A woman pacing a 10K group was with us for the first few miles before splitting off where the races separated. Otherwise, there was a group of three of us sticking with our pacer Rebecca.

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It was nice to have people to run with and conversation to provide some distraction. There was some brief talk about carrying pepper spray, an alarm, etc. in order to feel safe while running alone or with a baby, and I have a feeling that it’s not a topic that comes up too often amongst men runners. Other than that, this was really like any other race.

Belle Isle is as flat as can be. After an opening stretch through the middle of the island, we ran a couple loops around the exterior before cutting back in on the way to the finish.

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It was nice to run by the Detroit River and see the RenCen in the distance, as seen in the picture below. The race was kind enough to provide free photos and the photographers got some great ones.

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When I hit 16 minutes right on the dot two miles into the run, I knew our pacer was doing an awesome job. She kept nailing the 8:00 pace mile after mile. I could tell when one of the women was starting to struggle based on her breathing, and she dropped from our group about six miles into the race. Three of us continued together for most of the race. The other woman’s pace increased over the last few miles, leaving me alone with Rebecca. I am extremely thankful that I had her there to keep the pace so consistent. All I had to do was follow along. The half marathon had just over 300 finishers, so this race was fairly small. There weren’t many people around us most of the time and I’m sure it would have been a struggle if I had run most of the race alone. Having people around helps me maintain a good rhythm and helps pull me along when things get difficult.

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I had a bottle of GU Brew in my hydration belt, but I knew it was hot and humid enough for me to supplement that with some water. Although I was sweating a lot, half of my shirt was soaked due to my lack of skill when it comes to drinking out of a cup while still running, haha. The heat certainly was a factor and made things challenging. There was a slight breeze when we ran east on the south side of the island. While it was refreshing, it also meant we had to fight the resistance. It was minor, but when I started to get tired, little things like that were noticeable.

I felt pretty solid through the first eight miles of the race. The Thursday prior to this race I was supposed to do a workout with eight of the miles at marathon pace. I kept my pace easy instead, knowing I would save it for the race. Once I hit eight miles at an 8:00 pace during the race, I said anything from that point forward would be a bonus. At least I had nailed my workout. The mental struggle began by the ninth mile. I started to count down the remaining miles and tried to convince myself that I could keep it up for four more miles. Things started to feel difficult by the tenth mile. When I’ve run really solid half marathons in the past, I’ve been able to pick up the pace for the last 5K. Our tenth mile actually was a little faster, but I wasn’t feeling strong enough to keep that momentum going. The heat was getting to me, my left arch was a little annoyed, and my calves were getting tight. I wanted to make that final push, but instead I started to venture into survival mode. At times Rebecca would get a few steps ahead and I just tried to hang on. At other times I’d get a few steps ahead, but felt the struggle. I told myself that I really wanted to maintain the 8:00 pace, and somehow I managed to keep going. It was hard though! By the last mile, I gave it everything I had left and pulled away from Rebecca. It was a really difficult grind, but somehow I dropped to a 7:29 pace for the last mile.

I saw that the clock was about to hit 1:44 and I pushed as hard as I could to beat it. My gun time was exactly 1:44:00, and my chip time was a few seconds under that. The race announcer made a comment about how my last name was pretty fitting as I “bolted” through the finish line. The announcers have actually commented on my name at the last few races I’ve done, and it kind of cracks me up.

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I was so concerned with beating the clock that I forgot to stop my watch, which is why the end of the race is cut off on these Garmin splits. It took a few minutes before I realized the watch was still running.

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I was super pumped that I had achieved my goal. Although this wasn’t a PR, I was so happy about the results that it may as well have been a PR. I told Rebecca that I had to grab her for a photo to give her credit for my excellent race.

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I’ve tried to follow pacers a few times but it has never worked out like this. Sometimes I want to start a little slow and roll into a race and I lose the group. Some races are so big that I haven’t been able to work my way through the crowd enough to stick with them. I felt like a pace group in one race was too crowded and congested, so I broke away. I’ve never followed a pace group all the way through a race. Rebecca was the perfect pacer for what I wanted to achieve in this race.

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This medal is especially cool because it has a charm that can be detached and worn on a necklace.

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I was very happy with the post-race food selection. I got some pancakes, a cookie, chips, and a number of other goodies. I also remembered that I had a piece of salted caramel chocolate from Sanders in my pocket, which was handed out at an aid station near the end of the race.

Because this was such a small race, I placed really well. I was second in my age group and the 12th woman overall! I typically don’t place that high in larger half marathons. Men were able to participate, and a few did, but they didn’t count in the age group results.

One thing I love about Epic Races is their “grab-and-go” approach to awards. I’ve waited an hour and a half after finishing some races this summer before I’ve received my award. Instead of waiting through a long ceremony, I was able to go to the prize table and choose what I wanted. They had a couple kinds of glasses and this water bottle, which I chose.

The more I thought about it, the more proud I was of my results. Although I didn’t do any specific pace workouts in the week leading up to this race, I ran my scheduled mileage so I would stay on track with marathon training. I ran seven miles on Friday, eight miles on Saturday, and the three miles before the race. I wasn’t exactly well-rested coming into this one. The heat and humidity were not ideal racing conditions at all, so the fact that I still managed to hit my goal pace in those conditions was huge. I realize now that I had to work a lot harder to make that happen.

Aside from being happy with my results, I was really happy with the race in general. I’ve done a few of Epic Races’ events and they always do a nice job. It was kind of cool to do a female-centric race for a change. The race announcer shared lots of inspiring stories about women racing that day who had lost weight, fought cancer, and turned their lives around in numerous ways. There may have been around 1,000 women there between the 5K, 10K, and half marathon. It turns out you don’t have to be a “girly girl” to appreciate a women’s race. In times like these, it was actually a really great place to be.

– Janet

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