Crim 10-Mile Race Recap

2019-08-24 - crim shirt

Saturday, August 24th was a beautiful day for the 43rd annual Crim in Flint, Michigan. This was my third time running the 10-mile race and the great experience reinforced why so many local runners make this race a yearly tradition. 2015 was the first year I ran the race. I had to watch from the sidelines with a stress fracture in 2016, and I returned to run again in 2017. I missed last year’s race but knew early in the season that I wanted to return this year. My training schedule for the Chicago Marathon actually called for 10 miles on race day so it fit in perfectly.

After training through another hot summer, I was thrilled that we lucked out with perfect weather for this race. Some years are hot and humid, and last year’s race had multiple delays due to storms. I guess it’s good that I happened to miss the race last year! The weather had been hot and muggy during the week leading up to this year’s race. My speed workout on Tuesday was not very successful because it was around 90°F in the afternoon. Fortunately the temperature and humidity dropped later in the week and I was actually shivering on race morning because it was in the 50s. Even though I’ve struggled to run fast paces most of the summer, I knew that training through the heat was making me strong. I hoped the cool morning would make me feel like I was flying.

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2019-08-24 - crim sunrise

I got to Flint a little before 6:30 so I could park easily, hit the expo, and still take my stuff back to the car. I usually luck out and find some discounted shoes at the expo and this year was the same. I couldn’t resist saving $20 on a pair of shoes.

I ate my second Picky Bar of the morning about an hour before the race, got everything ready, then decided a warm up jog would be a good way to stay warm once I left the car. I had signed up to be a part of the Corporate Challenge and represented the Chevy Running Club like I have in the past. The results are gathered after the race and various companies compete based on how their participants place. Our group was able to meet at Factory One before and after the race. I had never been there and enjoyed seeing a few historical vehicles on display in the big, open space.

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They had some snacks, but most importantly, there were real restrooms without any wait. We gathered at 7:30 for a group photo then I did another short jog to the starting line in time to see the start for the group of people who have run the race 30 years or more.

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I was in corral B and ended up finding several friends there. There was a 7:30 pace group nearby and I knew I didn’t want to start that fast, so I hung back a little from them.

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The wave start works really smoothly at this race. Shortly after the elites started it was time for my wave to go.

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I didn’t have a specific race plan but I usually do well when I start slow and gradually speed up through the race. I was a little above an 8:00 pace when I glanced at my watch during the first mile. I wanted to go a little faster than that and sped up enough to drop to 7:55 for the first mile. After that I kind of surprised myself. I was hitting paces in the 7:30s and even high 7:20s early in the race. I worried that 7:40s would have been smarter but just kept rolling with it. I wasn’t suffering and it seemed to be coming naturally. I just really hoped I wouldn’t crash and burn later as a result. I haven’t been running paces like that at all this summer. I think it was proof that the cool morning really did help.

Aside from running with such a large group of people, one of the fun parts about Crim is the entertainment along the way. Since I love the band Collective Soul, it was especially fun to hear their song “Shine” played by one of the bands on the course. The official entertainment is great, but the unofficial entertainment gives this race something special. You can always count on multiple beer stops and the Champagne Corner. Somehow I completely missed this, but apparently there was a greyhound-petting stop! I always love the guy who sings random karaoke songs at the end of his driveway. There’s the woman who bounces on a small trampoline. There are plenty of things to see along the course.

Although I did enjoy and welcome some of the distractions, I spent most of this race grinding away. I had to really work to hold onto the ambitious pace I had set in the early miles. I slowed down a little bit during the infamous Bradley hills portion of the race between the fifth and sixth miles. It was a relief when I got through them, but I remembered from the past that the rest of the course isn’t exactly flat. There are plenty of rolling hills that make things a bit challenging. I think it’s interesting to see that my heart rate didn’t spike during the Bradley hills but jumped for the remaining miles afterward.

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2019-08-24 - crim janet race

Usually I like to push the pace for the last few miles. However, I’d already been running that pace nearly the whole race! I just kept trying to hang on. When I was eight miles into the race I started to calculate how fast I would have to run to hit my PR of 1:16:00. It might be close. That helped motivate me to keep it up. I kept doing the math as I hit the ninth mile. That was my time to give a final push. I appreciated the spectators who cheered, especially when they read my bib and called out my name. I saw my buddy Don up ahead and knew I couldn’t quite catch him, but he gave me something to watch. For the most part I kept my head down, grimaced, and gave it all I had. Soon enough I made the turn and “hit the bricks” on the final stretch. It’s unique to finish on bricks at this race but it’s not the most even surface. I flew through the finish line and needed a couple minutes to recover.

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I received my medal then caught up with a few friends who finished a little before and just after me.

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2019-08-24 - crim medal

Eventually I checked my watch and saw that I had run 1:15:43! My official time shaved a second off of that so I had run an 18-second PR! Here’s how my splits broke down. I thought it was pretty funny to see how consistently I swapped between miles in the 7:30s and 7:20s. I’m not sure if that was due to hills or because I naturally adjusted to try to maintain the ambitious pace.

2019-08-24 - crim splits

I looked back at the previous two Crim races and was surprised to see that my 2015 race was actually fairly similar. I kept it a little slower for the first couple miles, but then I did nearly the same thing where I rotated between 7:30s and 7:20s. It blows my mind how consistent I am. Even four years later! Somehow I still managed a decent PR this time around though. Here are the final results:

2019-08-24 - crim results

After downing a bottle of chocolate milk and grabbing a granola bar, I worked my way over to the ring the PR bell.

2019-08-24 - crim pr bell

I was fortunate to have some good company during the post-race party, which included a slice of pizza. Eventually a band started playing and it got too loud to talk, so it was time to head out.

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I always find it interesting to look at my statistics and compare my races from past years. When I ran my previous Crim PR in 2015, it was also the year when I ran my current half marathon and marathon PRs. If I managed to improve my time in this race could I possibly have some other PRs in me this year? It surprises me because although I’ve done a couple of marathon-pace workouts this summer, I have really slacked off on true speed workouts. Most days it’s been too hot to pull it off and other days I’ve backed off due to racing so frequently. Racing several times each month has been a good substitute for workouts. I keep telling myself that I’m racing my way into shape this summer and it seems like the approach is working. I know I’m also building strength by running in the heat. It may not seem like it when I suffer through some of the miserable, sweaty runs, but speedy times seem to follow when the temps drop. I’ll be curious to see if I can keep rolling along and run a solid marathon in Chicago this October.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Swim to the Moon 5K Recap

Epic Races‘ Swim to the Moon 5K was a new crazy adventure for me. I’ve toyed with the idea of signing up for this race for years. The thought of trying a 5K open water swim was a challenge that I was pretty sure I could take on, yet I had reservations. My biggest excuse was that my goggles usually get too painful after a mile or so. How could I attempt three miles if I’d want to rip the goggles off my face? My hunt for the perfect pair of goggles has mostly been fueled by the goal of wanting to try this race. I’ve gone through so many different kinds and most of them either leak or hurt my face after a while. An old pair of Speedo’s Vanquisher goggles has been my best bet. I bought a new pair a couple months ago and found that they haven’t hurt me as much as my old pair. Making it through 2,000 m straight without tearing my goggles off finally reassured me that maybe this would be the year.

You would think I would have been more concerned about properly training for the distance. I’ve been working hard this year with this race always in the back of my mind but peaked at 3,200 m once in June and once in July. I aim to swim 2,000 m a few days a week and try to get a longer swim in during the weekend when I can, but I’ve been slacking on the long weekend swims lately. It can be hard to find time for long swims, bike rides, and runs during triathlon season without running myself into the ground. It’s also challenging when I end up racing nearly every weekend and still want to concentrate on building mileage for marathon training. I knew I’d be going into this race with a decent enough base but I would also be undertrained. I wasn’t going to let that deter me though. I knew I would be fine for at least a couple miles. If I needed to, I’d just swim some breaststroke to help me get through the rest. No more excuses!

After signing up I questioned why I am I driven to do these crazy things. I think a big part of it is knowing that I’m capable, so why not get out there and actually prove it? Hundreds of people participate in this event and pictures from past years have shown a whole variety of ages and body types. Some people are speedy, some are slower, but the bottom line is that they got out there and did it. Why not me? I didn’t expect to be competitive and figured I might place somewhere in the middle of the pack. My goal was simply to finish and experience that feeling of accomplishment.

On the Thursday evening before the race I watched a video conference with the race director (Eva Solomon) where she gave an overview of the event and answered questions. Hearing someone talk through an event always helps me feel more prepared and eases some of my worries. She went over questions such as how the rolling start would work, how people would seed themselves, what the water temperature was, etc. I also learned that there would be pancakes after the race. I am easily motivated by food and knowing there would be good post-race treats would help push me through the swim.

The race took place on Sunday, August 18th at the Pinckney Recreation Area in Gregory, MI. I arrived at Halfmoon Lake around 6:20 knowing that I needed to go to packet pickup and be on a shuttle bus by 7:00. We received a bag to use for gear check plus temporary tattoo race numbers to apply to our arms. They also had bins of different colored swim caps based on estimated finish times. That would help sort people into groups of similar paces.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon shirt

Aside from the 5K, people could also choose to swim a 10K, 1.2 miles, or half a mile. There was also an option to “double dip” and do one of the shorter distances after one of the longer swims. The 10K was due to start at 6:40 with swimmers taking off from the beach at Halfmoon Lake, but they started about 15 minutes late.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon 10k start

I got in line for the bus and rode to the 5K start at the Patterson Lake beach by North Star Reach – a camp for children with serious health issues. Then it was just a matter of killing time. I ate a few Clif Bloks and used a drinking fountain several times to try to make sure I was hydrated. I had a feeling that could be one concern during this race. After using the bathroom, applying sunscreen, and scoping everything out, I packed my extra clothes and sandals in the gear check bag and waited for the start.

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I waded into the water to see how it felt and realized the bottom was a little rocky in spots. The temperature was reported to be 78° which was perfect. There was a division that specifically allowed people to wear wetsuits but they wouldn’t be eligible for awards. The temperature was warm enough that I knew I didn’t want to wear a wetsuit. During the announcements we learned that more than $60,000 has been raised for North Star Reach to date – pretty awesome. One of the campers was there along with his parents and it was pretty moving to hear how thankful they were.

We were due to start about an hour after the 10K swimmers started. The whole idea was to wait for the fastest 10K people to arrive then start mixing the fastest 5K people with them. It was a good way to keep similar paces together. We cheered as the first 10K people arrived, gave them a minute or two, then the group of 5K swimmers who were considered “contenders” started. Thanks to Greg Sadler Photography for the official race photos.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon 5k start

Based on my pool times, an hour and a half would be the fastest I could possibly go. That’s only if I could maintain my one mile pace for three, which is already being optimistic. I thought 1:35-1:40 might be a good range. I found other people with the same color swim cap and stood near the back of that group. I watched as swimmers were sent in the water every three seconds to help avoid congestion. Eventually I worked my way up to the front, ran through the shallow part of the water, then started my swim. My swim photos sure aren’t glamorous!

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon swim start

The 5K was a point-to-point race through a chain of lakes. It was all good as I made it to the first buoy, but at one point a volunteer in a kayak had to tell me that I was headed the wrong direction. I thought I needed to go on the opposite side of the incoming 10K swimmers, but I should have veered off toward another buoy. Great way to start my race! I’m not sure how much extra time and distance I may have added on, but I was thankful for the volunteer and also glad that I didn’t have any real expectations in terms of my finishing time.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon map

When I made it to the next buoy a few swimmers had stopped and questioned where we should go next. Another person in a kayak helped direct us. After the first couple buoys I didn’t struggle too much figuring out where to aim for the rest of the race. Sometimes I just needed to do some breaststroke to scope things out and see where the other swimmers were headed. I knew that we had a tunnel to swim through, and it was basically just a spot under a bridge. We were told to swim single file there so the 10K swimmers could swim on one side while we were on the other. The tunnel wasn’t as long as I had imagined, not claustrophobic, and since we took it slowly, some people had fun with it and shouted out to hear their voices echo.

I got thirsty after a bit and was thankful when I noticed an aid station off to the side. I may have been swimming almost an hour at that point. It was kind of like a walk-up bar where I asked for a cup of water then a cup of Gatorade before heading off again.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I spent a lot of time appreciating the opportunity to enjoy the lakes. Aside from races I typically don’t get the chance to swim in lakes. If I don’t have a lifeguard available I’m not going to go out on my own. There were a few stretches with seaweed but most of the swim was really nice. Since my face was down in the water most of the time it was hard to completely take in the scenery, but I noticed some nice houses along the water. I figured it didn’t matter how long it took me to finish and I would just enjoy being out there.

There were a few times when people got a little too close for comfort. I expected it in the more narrow, congested spots and know that people swatting your feet or bumping into you is just part of open water races. When we were in big, open parts of the lake I got annoyed when people came right up next to me. Sometimes I stopped to do breaststroke for a minute, let them go by, then I swam over to a spot where I had more space. I did breaststroke occasionally when I was on the lookout for buoys and just to change things up for a minute. Later in the race I could tell that my arms were feeling it a little bit so breaststroke gave me a little reprieve.

Eventually I got hungry. I knew that fueling could be one tricky part about this race. I had a Picky Bar before I left home, another when I got to the parking lot, and a few chews right before I started. It’s kind of hard to do much during the swim though. I guess instead of my casual, leisurely pace I needed to swim faster so I would finish sooner!

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Aside from getting hungry and thirsty, I felt pretty good for most of the swim. I took it so easy that I really didn’t get very sore or tired. My biggest issue was pain from my right big toe. For some reason it kept bothering me and I figured I might have a cut. I tried to check it out a couple times but it was kind of hard in the water and I didn’t notice anything. I was aware of it for most of the swim and sometimes it hurt enough to really bother me. I switched to breaststroke when that happened and it helped a little. When I switched back to freestyle sometimes the first kick or two was bothersome, but then I managed to settle back into things.

One tricky thing about swimming versus running is that it’s not very easy to glance at my watch to see the distance. I didn’t know how long I’d been swimming or how much further I still might have to go. At one point I spotted a big blue arch off in the distance and knew that was the finish. I got excited because I had something to aim for.

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I picked up my pace a little bit and finally made more of an effort. Things were going well until a charley horse struck my left calf. The pain was agonizing. I’m glad it’s happened in the water a couple times before so I didn’t completely freak out. Still, it hurt SO bad. It wasn’t shallow enough to stand and I couldn’t use that leg for breaststroke kick, so I basically had to tread water. I hoped I wouldn’t have to call a kayak over. Somehow it faded within a minute and I was able to get back to swimming normally. I had a feeling dehydration had finally caught up to me because that’s typically the suspected cause whenever I get a charley horse.

I kept working my way toward the wonderful blue arch until the water was shallow enough to stand. I wouldn’t say I ran because I still wasn’t really in any hurry, but I splashed my way through until I got to the timing mat on the beach. Surprisingly I wasn’t wobbly or anything. I received my medal and walked up to the grass.

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I saw the tent with post-race food and went there before doing anything else. I didn’t even bother to take my swim cap off yet. Pancakes weren’t available at that moment but I got a grilled cheese sandwich and some chips. I kept going back to fill my cup with Gatorade since I knew I better re-hydrate. I also found a cooler with ice cream treats like mini Drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches. I stopped there a couple times.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon ice cream

I collected my stuff at gear check and finally took a look at my toe. Between wrinkled skin from being in the water so long and sand on the bottom of my feet, I still couldn’t see what was wrong. I wondered if maybe it had just been rubbed raw somehow.

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I went back to the food tent when pancakes were available and eventually I found my results posted on a van. I suspected I would finish somewhere in the middle of the pack and I was right – I was 8th out of 16 in my age group.

2019-08-18 - swim to the moon results

With 246 finishers (plus 26 in the wetsuit division), the 5K had the most participants. 161 (plus 7 people in wetsuits) did the 10K, 150 swam 1.2 miles, and 49 swam half a mile. Over 600 people did the race.

When I got home it was nice to get cleaned up. I was a little surprised by how much lake gunk was clinging to the inside of my swimsuit and to my skin. I finally got my feet cleaned up enough to see that I had a cut on the bottom of my right toe. It was almost like a papercut – just a little slice. I’m not sure when it happened, but maybe while I was walking around barefoot before the race or maybe on a rock when I ran into the water? I went straight to dark thoughts of hoping the water didn’t have any kind of bacteria to infect the wound and cause my toe to get amputated. I’ve obviously read too many scary news stories. Nothing has happened a couple days after the race so hopefully I’m in the clear!

A couple days after the race my left calf still hurts. It’s amazing that a charley horse can cause so much suffering after the fact. I felt very slight soreness in my arms, shoulders, and obliques, but that calf was my biggest casualty. It’s agonizing trying to work it out with the foam roller. I will probably just have to wait a few days for it to fade.

I had estimated that my time might be at least 10 minutes faster than it was but it really didn’t bother me. After so many years of thinking about this race I was pretty proud of myself for finally doing it. I may have taken a leisurely approach but I was able to enjoy the experience. Now that I have confirmed that I am capable of covering the distance, the next step is to train more and improve my time. If I drink some Gatorade prior to the race, more during the race, aim for the right buoys, and don’t cut my toe, surely I can shave some time off. I knew it would be a learning experience and fortunately I enjoyed myself enough to want to return and put those learnings to use in the future.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Sylvania Triathlon Recap

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On Sunday, August 4th I did my second Olympic-distance triathlon of the season in Sylvania, OH, which is just south of the Michigan-Ohio border. I received an email from RunToledo a couple weeks before the race about signing up in time to guarantee a t-shirt. That’s the first time I really looked into the details because I thought I was going to sign up for a race in Ann Arbor that weekend. I realized the Olympic race in Sylvania only cost $5 more than the sprint in Ann Arbor. Aside from the bike part of it, I usually prefer the longer Olympic distance. That helped me make the decision in addition to comparing the prices. I also liked that the Sylvania race said it had flat and smooth roads for the bike and flat and fast roads for the run.

It took around an hour and a half to make the drive the morning of the race and I arrived at Olander Park by 6:30. My event didn’t start until 8:00 but the sprint distance started at 7:30. Getting there early gave me time to eat, hit the bathroom, get set up in transition, and go scope out the beach.

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2019-08-04 - sylvania transition

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As the events began, I had plenty of time to kill at the beach. I was in the 10th wave for the swim start. The sprint distance had the most participants and was broken into seven waves. They swam 400m so I got to see plenty of them finish before I was even close to starting my race. I wanted to make sure I was hydrated enough, so I was glad there was a drinking fountain I could use a couple times to ease that worry while I waited. I planned to get into the water before my race but waited a bit so I wouldn’t have much downtime when I’d be standing around cold and wet. It was really nice that we could warm up in one part of the water away from the start, but it was close enough that I could work my way over when it was time to start. The water was reported to be 80.5° which meant we didn’t need wetsuits.

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The fast men and women were the first Olympic racers to start, followed by an open men’s division and then my open women’s division. “All My Life” by Foo Fighters played over the speakers while we waited which was the perfect music to get me fired up. I started all the way to the right of the crowd to avoid as much congestion as I could. Olander Lake was small enough that our 1600m swim was basically one loop around the outside of the lake. I managed to avoid congestion for a bit and did a little breaststroke when I needed to find a clear path. Unfortunately one of the times I tried to go around people I ended up in a patch of really tall seaweed. I had to move back over pretty quickly and find a different way! Other than a few moments of trying to navigate around people so I could maintain my comfort zone, the swim went really well. After having a lackluster swim at the Cannonball Run race last month I’ve been really hung up on trying to figure out what went wrong and hoping it wouldn’t happen again. Fortunately I was back to normal at this race and finished in 29:24.

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I’m not in the photo but it shows some of the run from the beach to transition

There was a bit of distance to run from the beach, across a couple drives, and into the transition area. It took me a minute to get moving comfortably back in the vertical position. My first transition time was 2:02, then off for 24.45 miles on the bike.

There was a little bit of traffic in the early miles but plenty of police and volunteers along the whole course to keep us safe. It didn’t take long before we were out on more peaceful country roads that were pretty smooth. There were plenty of farms to look at and the occasional cow or horse to grab my attention. I don’t think there was any significant wind in the forecast, but I noticed some on the way out. I kept telling myself that I had to get through half of it and then I’d have the wind at my back. When I finally did turn around I jumped from averaging around 17mph to 19mph. Although I didn’t keep that speed going for long, I was still moving a little faster than I had on the way out.

Eventually I still felt like I was dragging. It doesn’t help when at least half of the people pass me. I reached a point where I really didn’t want to be on the bike anymore. I think my helmet was a little tight and made me uncomfortable, my left thumb kept going numb, and I just wasn’t into it. I was riding along at a speed that was typical for me and I didn’t feel wiped out, but I wasn’t very excited about being out there and wanted to be done. I thought about how nearly an hour and a half’s worth of time on the bike would be enough time to watch a movie. Although it seemed like a smarter option at the time, I was glad I was out there pushing myself instead of sitting on the couch. I saw a woman in front of her house with a walker and reminded myself that I’m fortunate that I can do this. It’s not like I could quit the bike segment so I just had to get through it. The bike is always my least favorite part but the level of disinterest and desire to be done was higher than usual. I’m not sure if I’ll squeeze any other triathlons into my schedule this year, so I told myself after this it might just be swimming and running for the rest of the season.

I finished the bike segment in 1:24:27 and averaged 17.4mph. That’s typical for me so at least the mental struggles didn’t seem to affect me physically. I got through the second transition in 52 seconds and my legs had a tough time adjusting to running. Still, I managed to run a pace that was faster than it felt. We started with a loop around the lake before going out to the main road, into some neighborhoods, and past Lourdes University. Aside from the lake, the university, and some friendly volunteers, I didn’t notice much about my surroundings because I was working so hard.

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At one point I realized it was kind of warm and that was probably didn’t help. By 10:30 it was 75° and the real-feel was around 87°. No wonder it felt so tough! I’m glad the route was flat but I couldn’t keep my ambitious pace of 7:30-7:40 going for the second half of the run. I still did pretty well but it got harder and harder to maintain. I managed 7:50 for a couple miles, and eventually I felt like I was in survival mode as I slowed to an 8:00 pace. It sure felt like I was going a lot slower than that and I kept counting down how much distance I had left.

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When I rounded a corner and saw the finish ahead, I suddenly remembered that the run was 5.86 miles, not 6.2 miles like I’d kept thinking. What a relief to shave 0.3 miles off! I finished the run in 45:42 with an average pace of 7:48/mile. My final time was 2:42:27.

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2019-08-04 - sylvania janet finish

2019-08-04 - sylvania medal

I was really wiped out. I had to pace around for a while to settle down and I had moments when I started to get a little lightheaded. Not enough to actually worry, but I knew I’d really pushed it and needed some time to recover. I drank some water and eventually went to find the post-race snacks. Being a picky eater was a disadvantage, especially since I’m not eating much meat these days. That ruled out the more substantial stuff like hamburgers and hot dogs and left me with some pretzel sticks and chips. At least there was beer too. I had two beer tickets, but considering how I’d already felt a little lightheaded, I knew one would be plenty. I’m glad I’ve learned to always pack snacks of my own just in case. I had a Picky Bar handy in my transition bag and made sure to eat a few more snacks in the car before I left.

The awards ceremony started around 11:30. Results weren’t posted online until later. The printouts that were posted on a tent listed the fastest to slowest but didn’t sort by the age group results. I tried to roughly calculate how I did and thought I stood a chance at an age group award. I was right – I placed second in my age group!

2019-08-04 - sylvania janet award

2019-08-04 - sylvania award

Although I battled some mental and physical struggles during this race and felt like I was torturing myself at times, I still felt accomplished and proud of myself. When the run started to feel really difficult, I thought about my “keep showing up” shirt that I bought in Boston. It’s not always easy, but I’m going to keep showing up and fight my way through if it gets tough.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Loopty Loop Trail Run Recap

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I give full credit to my friend Lisa for getting me on board with this race. I told her to feel free to share info about any good races she sees and she certainly has done so. She shared a link to Move It Fitness’ Loopty Loop trail run a month before the race. People could sign up to run a 6.3-mile loop at Bloomer Park (in Rochester Hills, MI) for 4, 8, or 12 hours, or whenever they chose to stop. Lisa pointed out that they would have pizza and cake which immediately got our attention. One of their other races in June nearly drew us there for the same reason but we didn’t make that one. An easy way to attract me to a race is to offer good post-race food!

Loopty Loop hadn’t been on my radar because I thought I would either do a triathlon or swim/run race that weekend. Saving money has been a higher priority lately (but not enough to keep me away from racing altogether) and both of those races were far enough away to need a hotel. I would only get 3-6 miles of running out of those races and I had 16 miles on my training schedule for October’s Chicago Marathon. Loopty Loop would only be a few miles from home. I wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel, plus it would keep me on track with my running mileage. Lisa and I debated signing up until a week before the race. That’s when I had a 10-mile long run and decided to do part of the run at Bloomer to help me make a decision. Just after I left the park I saw Lori from Move It Fitness wearing this year’s Loopty Loop shirt. I figured it was a sign that I should go for it and Lisa and I finally committed to the race.

Since the park is so close to home, I stopped by the early packet pickup on Friday afternoon to get my bib and shirt.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop shirt

Saturday, July 27th was the day of the race. The 12-hour runners started at 7am while people running 4 or 8 hours started at 8am. The race started and finished at the Hilltop Shelter where there was a pavilion with picnic tables and bathrooms. Although I wasn’t running an ultra (any distance that’s longer than a marathon) plenty of people were. It was a new atmosphere for me. Some people set up tents since they would be there all day. Some runners had support crews hanging out with them and the tents also provided a good place to swap gear or rest in between loops.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop tents

Everyone gathered on a sidewalk a few minutes before the start for a pre-race meeting. If there was a minute left before your time would run out you could still start another loop and have it count. In addition, there was a “one more mile” loop you could add at the end if you wanted more distance but not a full 6.3-mile loop. As we prepared to start our race, it was exciting to see a couple of the 12-hour runners come through as they completed their first loops. I’m sure they appreciated having such a large cheering squad!

It seemed like there was a really friendly, laid back vibe all around. Most people didn’t seem too concerned about starting near the front of the group. Since there was plenty of space and I was a little worried about the narrow trails getting congested, I figured it was wise to start ahead of the crowd.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop start

As we took off into the woods there were a few stretches that were wide enough for people to pass fairly easily. However, most of the course was made up of flat, single track dirt trails. Within the first mile or so I passed a person or two and some passed me, but I was holding my own and it seemed like I had started in the appropriate spot. It was kind of cool to know that I was doing well, but I kept in mind that plenty of people were going to be running much further than I was going to and I’m sure they planned to take it easy. Right from the beginning I had the thought that maybe this would be the day I discovered a new kind of event that I would really enjoy.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop janet1

My breathing was a bit heavy for the first couple miles and I knew I should be careful. I didn’t want to get out of control too early. I only ran a couple miles that were faster than a 9:00 pace during this race and the first mile was one of them. Running on trails is completely different from running on roads. I don’t have any kind of goal pace like I do on the roads because there are so many twists, turns, climbs, and trip hazards. I just wanted to make sure I was running comfortably and that my breathing wasn’t too labored.

Aside from the fact that we were running multiple loops, this race was named appropriately because of all of the loopy turns we made along the way.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop map

One woman passed me in the first mile or two and remained within my sight for a while. Sometimes I lost her in all of the twists and turns and I reminded myself that I needed to pay attention. It’s easy to mindlessly follow someone else during a race. When I couldn’t see her, I needed to make sure I was paying attention to the turns. The course was marked really well with flags and signs but I still had to make sure I wasn’t so lost in my own little world that I’d miss a turn.

I didn’t take any pictures while running the race, but here are a few glimpses of the trails from my run there a week earlier.

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It was in the low 70s when our race started and my face was dripping for much of the first loop. I realized later that it stopped at some point. The humidity probably broke as the morning went on and it was actually a pretty nice morning for running. It really helped that nearly the whole course was in the shade.

The woman who was ahead of me gained enough distance that I was on my own for a bit. Eventually a couple of faster guys came along and I moved aside at an aid station so they could go ahead while I stopped for a few seconds to drink a cup of water. It was nice to have other people around and have someone to follow again. I made it through the first loop in 58:56. I had guessed that it might take around an hour per loop and I was right on track.

One great thing about running loops was having access to a bag drop area. After completing the first loop I ran just off the main path to my insulated bag with ice, swapped my half-empty bottle of GU Brew for a fresh cold bottle, then I took off again. 6.3 miles wasn’t enough for me to finish a full 21 oz bottle but it was nice to know that I wouldn’t run out if a grabbed a new bottle. I realized that the woman and the guys who had been immediately ahead of me took longer stops, so I was off on my own. I thought maybe there was the chance I was actually the lead female!

Although I came across some people to pass during the first loop who were probably doing the 12-hour race, it happened a lot more during the following loops. Some people were walking and some were jogging at a slower pace. Most people were really helpful and moved off to the side if they heard me coming so there would be enough room to pass. I usually tried to give people a heads up and ask if it was okay for me to come along and pass them on the left. I was very thankful and encouraging to the people I saw. I figured we were all doing something challenging and it’s nice to have that sense of camaraderie and know that we’re rooting for each other.

One thing I always worry about while running on trails is the risk of wiping out. I’ve done it a couple times and it’s no fun. I managed to come away from this race without hurting myself, but I did have one really close call when I nailed a root with my foot and thought for sure that I was going down. Somehow I managed to save myself but it got my adrenaline flowing for a few minutes. I kept telling myself over and over to pay attention and lift my feet. Still, I dragged my feet across some other roots and was lucky I didn’t fall when I took some awkward steps over a fallen tree.

Most of the course was flat aside from a couple of hills. Nothing too crazy, but one hill was a decent climb with some twists and it felt more challenging with each loop. It’s probably for the best that we weren’t warned about those hills ahead of time!

I had stopped for water at one aid station during the first loop and made a point of stopping at two of them during the following loops. I had plenty of GU Brew in my bottle but it was good to change it up and get some water too. I stopped for maybe 5-10 seconds to drink and made sure I threw the cups in the garbage boxes they had provided. It wasn’t like a road race where I could toss the cup to the side of the road and someone would come sweep it up. No garbage left behind on the trails! There were some treats for people to eat at the aid stations as well, but for my shorter distance I was fine with the Clif Shot Bloks in my pockets. I’m sure the food was helpful for the ultrarunners.

I came through my second loop with a split of 59:50 – only about a minute slower than my first one. I was pretty consistent if you account for my bottle swaps, water stops, and dodging a few more people the second time around. I still felt strong as I started my third loop. I kept toying with the idea of continuing for a fourth loop. I had a feeling that I was the lead woman for the 4-hour race and was pretty excited about that. I was feeling good and was really happy with how my run was going. Going into the race I told myself that I was there to do a long run. I wasn’t there to race. If I felt fine for two loops, I’d continue for a third and maybe go for the extra mile at the end. That would bring me to nearly 20 miles, which would already be four miles longer than my scheduled long run. I knew that it would require four loops to win the race, but I also knew that pushing to 25.2 miles would be a bad idea. I haven’t been battling any injuries lately and I’d like to keep it that way. Still…the thought was tempting. Toward the end of the third loop I could feel that my lower back was getting a little annoyed and knew I shouldn’t do anything stupid.

I finished my third loop in 1:01:24 and let a volunteer know that I was going out for the “one more mile” loop. I felt strong enough that I figured I’d fly through that. Then I realized that the mile loop was probably more challenging than any part of the main loop! There were some stretches with rocks and steep climbs that made me curse parts of the trail. I still finished strong and somehow I squeaked in with an 8:59 mile at the end.

I received a medal and chose a pair of finisher’s sunglasses.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop sunglasses

Then I saw Lisa, who had done two loops and the extra mile. She’d had a good run as well and had been hanging out near the finish for a bit. I also got to meet Jessica in person for the first time – a friend from Instagram who does some awesome ultrarunning. She was going for five loops and was taking a break in between.

Lisa and I talked about our races and were very thankful to dig into the awesome cake. I was starving!

2019-07-27 - loopty loop cake

Towne Square Pizza arrived 20 minutes after I finished and it was delicious. I had several pieces and downed a couple bottles of water as well.

2019-07-27 - loopty loop pizza

Lisa and I hung out for a while until I decided it was probably time to head home. I assumed I wouldn’t win anything since I didn’t do four loops, but thought I’d still stop to ask about the results. They told me that I was currently the top female until the others came in from their fourth loops. They confirmed that I probably wouldn’t get an award and was safe to leave, but if that changed they’d let me know. I let Geneva and Lori from Move It Fitness know how much I had enjoyed the race. The course was well-marked and easy to follow and I loved the whole experience.

I was pretty happy when I saw the official results the next day. My final time was 3:09:10 for 19.9 miles, which was an average pace of 9:30. Everyone who finished ahead of me completed four loops for a distance of 25.2 miles.

I was pretty curious how all of the numbers broke down in terms of participants and how far they ran. The 4-hour race had 55 finishers, the 8-hour had 22 finishers, and the 12-hour had 126. That was a total of 203 finishers. The 8-hour and 12-hour races were almost evenly split between men and women participants, but there were quite a few more women in the 4-hour race versus men.

In terms of distances covered:

4-hour – the top female ran 25.2, male ran 31.5

8-hour – the top female ran 37.8, male ran 50.4

12-hour – the top female ran 51.4, male ran 56.7

It’s pretty impressive to see how far so many people ran. There aren’t a ton of ultramarathons available around the area so I suppose this was a good opportunity for ultrarunners.

I said that maybe this day would be the day I’d discover a new kind of running event to love, and that was definitely the case. I really enjoyed this race. I’ve always said that I’m not prepared to consider an ultramarathon until I feel like I’ve mastered the marathon a bit more. I was solid through nearly 20 miles but I usually tend to hit some kind of wall soon after that distance. The whole atmosphere of this race was laid back and it was nice that I didn’t have expectations for my pace. I think this race should automatically go on my calendar for next year and hopefully I can aim for higher goals. Maybe I can prepare myself to go for four loops. Or maybe I’ll even be crazy enough to consider running longer? I’m not sure, but this event reaffirmed that I really enjoy endurance running. Many thanks to Lisa for informing me about this great race!

2019-07-27 - loopty loop janet

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Cannonball Run Recap – Round 2 of 3

I’ve had a string of solid races recently but sometimes I have one that reminds me that they’re not all going to be great. This was one of those. It’s not that it was bad, it just didn’t quite go how I had hoped.

There are three Cannonball Run races in the series – one in June (recap of that race here), one in July, and one in August. It’s the same course each time so it’s easy to compare the results from race to race. The second one took place on Wednesday, July 17th. Like last time, I left from work and made the long drive up to Saginaw, stopping at a rest stop to change into my tri gear along the way. I had a little more than half an hour to spare before the 6:30 start.

2019-07-17 - cannonball lake

We had a number of hot days and the water was so warm I wouldn’t need my wetsuit for the swim. It was around 81° outside at the start of the race and the water was around the same temperature. I knew I’d lose the advantage of the buoyancy, but maybe I’d pick up some time with a quicker transition since I wouldn’t waste time struggling to get out of the wetsuit. It would be interesting to compare how I did with the wetsuit at the last race versus without this time.

2019-07-17 - cannonball gear

I participated in the longer race again, which involves a 1500m swim followed by a 3-mile run. The longer race started first and people doing a 500m swim and 1.5-mile run would start somewhere around 10-15 minutes after us. It was a warm, sunny day and I was sweating just standing on the dock waiting for the start. I thought about how it might be smarter to keep doing loops in the lake and skip the run since it was bound to be uncomfortably hot!

Like last time we jumped in the lake one by one a few seconds apart. The water felt good and I didn’t have any thoughts about it feeling too warm. I noticed that the outside of my left leg was a little tight. For some reason I seem to notice that IT band when I start the swim during a lot of races. At times it felt like the lower half of my body was sinking and I wished I had the wetsuit to help keep me afloat. Other than that, it seemed like the swim went fairly well. I stayed on track with the buoys and didn’t have many run-ins with other swimmers. I realized that’s because most of the people were faster and had left me on my own! It did seem like the swim dragged on for a long time though. We had two loops and I told myself that maybe the first one would feel long and the second would fly by. It was a little tricky to spot one of the buoys initially as I swam toward the sun, so I slowed down a little bit as I tried to get my bearings. There were a few people to go around as I started the second loop where the people doing the shorter course had just started. Otherwise it was pretty uneventful as I finished the second loop and ran up the beach to the transition.

As I took off for the run, I remembered how winded I had felt when I did the race in June. I seemed to have a better rhythm from the start this time which was reassuring. Between being soaking wet and having a little breeze, I was happy to find that I didn’t get as hot as I thought I would during the run. My pace was in the 7:40s which is where it was during the triathlon I had done a few days earlier and I figured that must be my pace for multi-sport races. I caught some people during the run and also knew a couple of speedy guys would pass me when I saw them flying along during the early out-and-back stretches. I had a strong finish and felt like it had been a pretty good race.

I had received a t-shirt at the first race and knew that was good for all three races. It was a fun surprise to find that we all received a mug at the finish this time around.

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It was also fun to find that they had boxes of donuts from Tim Horton’s this time too. They also had granola bars, Rice Krispies Treats, fruit, and fruit snacks.

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While I ate my snacks, I checked my Garmin to see how I had done. That’s when I discovered that the race hadn’t gone as well as I had thought. I finished in 59:42 with a swim time of 36:40, a transition time of 0:59, and a run time of 22:03. The run was good – splits of 7:44, 7:41, and 6:38 (which was 7:34 pace since it wasn’t a full mile). I had the exact same run distance as last time – 2.88mi. A little shorter than the supposed three miles, but at least it was the same. That time was 17 seconds slower than last time, but it was also cooler outside last time. My transition time was 41 seconds faster this time without a wetsuit to deal with.

The swim time is what left me baffled. 36:40 this time versus 28:02 last time for 1500m. I’m usually around 31 minutes or so even when I do a casual pace for 1600m in the pool. How could I have been SO much slower? I know I felt like my legs were sinking at times, but aside from that, I didn’t feel horribly off during the swim. I realized maybe I should consider that I had raced hard during an Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday and was attempting to race again on Wednesday. That might be pushing it a little. My run was fine though, so what on earth happened to my swim? I was really bothered by it.

I placed fourth out of nine females last time and didn’t stay for the awards ceremony because they were just for the top three. I figured with a time that was over eight minutes slower I wouldn’t win one this time either. However, a couple of the fast women from last time didn’t race this time and I was the second female out of five. I was kind of hoping to hit the road since it was a weeknight and I had nearly an hour and a half to drive home, but I couldn’t complain too much about sticking around to get an award!

2019-07-17 - cannonball award

The next day I felt the need to look through all the statistics and see if I could figure out what had happened. I realized the swim had probably been long. Although I know I can’t rely on the accuracy of my watch for an open water swim, I had a distance of 1410m in June versus 1627m this time. That helped explain some of it. Plus, I noticed that a bunch of the people who had raced both times had swim times that were 3-5 minutes slower this time. Eight minutes slower for me was still really extreme, but it was what it was.

Even though I was frustrated that my swim time was so out of the norm, I knew I didn’t need to beat myself up. I got a good swim/run brick workout in regardless of my time. Racing a couple times within a few days probably isn’t ideal and I should accept that doing so might be pushing my luck. I’ve had plenty of running races where I’ve gone slower than I hoped. This time it hit me during the swim. It was still pretty cool to get out there for an adventure on a work night and I enjoyed myself. That’s what should matter most. When the final race of the series rolls around in late August, I’m hoping to end on a stronger note.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Caseville Triathlon

On Sunday, July 14th I raced the Olympic distance at the Caseville Triathlon – my first triathlon of the season. Caseville is in Michigan’s “thumb” area and it’s a beautiful place for a race. I did the Olympic distance there in 2015 and returned to do it again in 2017. That year Lake Huron’s water was too rough, the swim was cancelled, and I ended up doing the duathlon. I really enjoyed the race both times so it’s been on my radar each year. When TriToFinish offered a 10% discount on the 4th of July I decided it was time to commit to this year’s race.

I opted not to pay for a hotel and drove nearly two hours the morning of the race. I knew it was doable since I did the same thing in 2017. It didn’t take long before the sun started to rise and it was a really pretty drive.

I went out on the beach first thing to check on the water conditions. I was bummed when I saw the rolling waves and whitecaps. I figured the swim would be cancelled like it had been in 2017. All I could do was wait it out and see if they made an announcement.

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After checking in, I took my stuff to the transition area and set up my bike and run gear. I left my swim gear in my bag since I didn’t know if I’d need it yet. As I walked out of the transition area and headed toward the beach, I ran into my running/triathlon buddy Lindsay. She decided to switch to the duathlon when she saw the water. She had me debating if I should do the same thing. After all, when I initially saw the water I just assumed the swim would be cancelled. There still hadn’t been an announcement one way or the other and I wondered what I should do. If they cancelled it, the decision would be made for me. If they didn’t cancel it, would I really want to try swimming in those conditions? I was pretty wary, but at the same time, maybe I should use the opportunity to see what it’s like to battle rougher conditions and gain some experience. I was on the fence but leaning more toward braving the swim as long as it was an option.

7:45 came and went without any announcements and that’s when the transition area had been due to close. I think they were still checking everything out and trying to determine if the swim could be executed safely. Eventually I decided to put my wetsuit on and figured I’d just take it off if they cancelled the swim. A number of people were out in the water and I thought I should probably get out there too so I could see what I was in for. Temperature-wise, the water was perfect. I worried that I might swallow a bunch of water while breathing if a wave rolled along. I didn’t have any problems with that but it was hard to get any rhythm going as the waves kept rolling in. I’m sure I played in waves like those as a kid, but it’s been a long time since then and it’s different when you’re actually trying to swim.

Eventually they made an announcement. If we didn’t feel comfortable swimming we could switch to the duathlon. We could try going out in the water and if we felt uncomfortable, we could come back in and let someone know that we were quitting the swim. We wouldn’t get official race results but could still continue with the bike and run. They said that there were plenty of shallow spots we could go to where we could still touch the bottom. Lifeguards were out in the water in kayaks and there was a boat as well, so people would be looking out for us. I decided to give it a shot!

Half distance (70.3) athletes started in the first wave. Rather than starting men and women in separate waves like they typically would, everyone started together based on the race distance. A couple minutes after the half started, I joined the Olympic athletes in the water for our start. We worked our way out to a sand bar where we could stand. I always prefer wave starts that are as small as possible to ease congestion in the water. Results showed that 67 people finished the Olympic distance and I was a little worried that the waves would cause us to crash into each other even more than usual. I made sure to start at the edge away from as many people as I could.

We swam counterclockwise around a rectangular course for two loops. The waves kept coming on my left side as I headed out. They didn’t push me into anyone else or back toward the shore. Instead, it was just a matter of bobbing up and down a bit. I finally realized that I was exerting too much energy trying to fight them and I ought to walk/bounce through the water along the sand dune like most everyone else. It seemed like the cheap way out but the conditions were so screwy that I figured it was fair for us to do whatever it took to feel comfortable. I swapped between attempting to swim and jogging through the water until I reached the first buoy. Then we turned into the waves and the water got a little deeper. I mixed in some breaststroke at times when freestyle wasn’t working so well for me. It seemed like the waves weren’t as bad farther out and I was able to truly swim the second “L” shape of the rectangle. It was back to a mixture of whatever worked for the first “L” of the second loop, then more swimming. I reached a shallow spot as I approached the shore on my way to the finish and began to jog like a guy by me was doing. I thought I’d be proactive about getting my swim cap and goggles off early. Then the water got deeper. I had forgotten about the sand bar – oops. I kind of threw my cap back on until I got closer to the shore where it actually stayed shallow.

Usually I’m pretty wobbly as I jog out of the water and into the transition area, but this swim was so inconsistent and screwy that I didn’t have any issues. I had only swallowed water once, which is bound to happen to me during any race, and I never felt insecure or worried in the water. Aside from someone swatting my feet a couple times, I wasn’t too close to other swimmers and it all worked out reasonably well. I didn’t feel like I had really raced the swim, but I guess I got from the start to the finish and that’s all that mattered. I finished the 1500m swim in 26:34 which is on the fast side for me. Maybe the waves helped push me along and the aquajogging must not have hurt either.

As I tried to get my wetsuit off, a woman near me commented on how she could never get it off over the timing chip on her ankle. I’m glad I wasn’t alone! I struggled with the ankles a little bit, but I wasn’t as horribly slow as I have been at some races. I ate a couple of Clif Shot Bloks, then dealt with my socks, shoes, helmet, number belt, etc. – the usual transition stuff. I spent 2:13 in transition then took off on the bike.

The bike course was nice and flat with pretty views of cottages and the lake. The road was open to traffic but the shoulder is wide enough for at least two people to ride side-by-side. I just moved over a little if there was some sand or other debris at the edge. I noticed the wind at times but it didn’t seem to slow me down. I was pretty happy that I was cruising along around 17-18mph because that’s about the fastest I ever get. I haven’t been that fast out on the trails recently, but I guess the crosswalks and stoplights usually slow me down. The bike ride for Olympic athletes was a 40K. We went out 12.4 miles then turned around and came back. I spent plenty of time counting down the miles and calculating how much longer it might take me, but it never felt too bad. I finished the ride in 1:25:53, which was an average of 17.36mph.

I got a little squirmy on my bike seat at times but I didn’t really hurt until I got off and tried to run. Ouch. After the race I had the revelation that I’m used to riding that bike in my cushy bike shorts. The padding in my tri suit is minimal so it doesn’t soak up a ton of water, and that lack of cushioning left me a bit sore!

I flew through transition in 35 seconds and started the 10K run. Although I was a little warm and my face got really salty, the weather was pretty good. It has been especially hot and humid lately which has made my training runs pretty uncomfortable. It was somewhere around 70°F with lower humidity for this run which was more tolerable. Still, I appreciated the few short patches of shade along the route. Again, it was an out and back course. Since it was my third time doing this race I was plenty familiar with the course. Somehow I managed to maintain a pace in the 7:40s for the first few miles. The run is my time to try to catch up to the people who passed me on the bike. It was tough, but it helped to have people to aim for to keep me moving along. I slowed down to an 8:00 pace for the fourth and fifth miles as I started to tire out and lose momentum. I managed to get back into the 7:40s for the last full mile, and a downhill stretch back into the park always helps. I finished the 10K in 48:21 and completed the race in 2:43:35.

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Here are the final stats:

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I placed third overall for females! I was pretty excited about that. I was really wiped out after I finished and needed to pace around for a bit, then I sat in the pavilion for a few minutes. This one took a lot out of me!

Eventually I went to get some (wonderful) pizza and saw Lindsay. I thought maybe she’d be long gone since her race was shorter, but she had placed second in the duathlon and had to stick around for the awards ceremony. It was pretty cool that we both had such good races. We spent a while chatting until Lindsay realized they might be giving out some of the awards. We made it over to the beach right as they called her name. I had to wait a bit longer since they wanted to leave time for more of the Olympic athletes to finish their races. Lindsay stuck around and it was nice to catch up and enjoy the pretty day. Of course the waves died down AFTER the race.

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Then it was my turn for the podium!

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Later I was curious to see how this race compared to my 2015 race. I was excited to see that I had shaved 4 1/2 minutes off my time. Then I realized almost all of that was from the swim. Somehow this crazy, wavy swim must have worked in my favor. My first transition time was 45 seconds faster this year, so at least I’ve gotten a little faster getting out of my wetsuit. My consistency from race to race blows my mind though. My 2015 bike time was 1:25:51. This time it was 1:25:53. How do I do that?! My second transition time was only a couple seconds off between the two races as well. My run this year was a little slower, but only by 23 seconds. It’s cool that I got a little faster overall, but pretty crazy that I’m so consistent too. I sure haven’t improved on the bike, but I guess at least I haven’t gotten worse either?

I was really happy with how this race went. The swim sure made it quite an adventure and I’m glad I gave it a shot. It was a good way to gain experience racing in different conditions. It was nice to get back to doing a triathlon and now I’m anxious to do more. Before I do, I have another mid-week swim/run race tomorrow night – the second in a series of three races. I sure have been keeping myself busy this summer!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Muddy Mini Half Marathon Recap

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The Muddy Mini Half Marathon sounded appealing to me because it finishes at Fifth Third Field – home of the Toledo Mud Hens and their mascot Muddy. The Mud Hens are a minor league team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. It sounded especially cool to finish a race on the field’s warning track. I pulled the trigger when I received an email about signing up by a certain date to guarantee a race t-shirt in the correct size. I’d been debating if I should sign up and finally decided to just go for it. I’m really glad I did!

Toledo is an hour and a half away and I didn’t want to pay for a hotel room. That meant I had to wake up crazy early on race day, which was Saturday, June 15th. I left before 4:30 to make sure I could find parking and get to the packet pickup when it opened at 6:00. I also had to catch a shuttle to the half marathon start and didn’t know how long the lines may be for the buses. Everything was really easy and I didn’t need to be there so early, but I guess I’d rather play it safe and have time to kill so I don’t feel rushed.

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2019-06-15 - muddy mini stadium

After taking a walk around the outside of the ballpark I hopped on a shuttle bus that took me to the start in Maumee. Between Boston, Bayshore and this race, I’ve done several point-to-point races lately that require bussing to the start and then playing the waiting game. I was thankful that this time I got to wait in a nice downtown area by a church and some shops rather than on a damp grass field.

Also like Boston and Bayshore, there was rain prior to the start of the race. I may have had an hour or so to kill and luckily the rain didn’t start right away. I was able to find a bench on a sidewalk and play on my phone for a bit. 15-20 minutes before the 7:45 start the rain began to pick up. Some people took shelter by the church or other buildings.

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I wore a raincoat and sat in the rain until I was ready to unload my extra clothes at gear check, then I did a brief warm up jog around some parking lots. Most people weren’t very anxious to line up and opted to stay out of the rain until a few minutes before the start. When people did line up they left a big gap at the front. I realized someone was holding a 1:30 pace sign behind me, so maybe most people didn’t plan to run much faster than that. I moved back a little bit but was still surprised to be so close to the front. Oh well – if I was too slow people could just pass me. At least I wouldn’t get stuck in congestion like I had at the Bayshore half marathon.

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There was an out-and-back stretch to start the race that took us down a hill and on a road that ran next to a metropark. The rain wasn’t too heavy but it kept up for a little bit. Thanks to the lack of congestion and running downhill my time for the first mile was 7:45. That was a bit faster than I intended. I made an effort to slow down for the second mile. Going back up the hill helped me run the next mile 20 seconds slower. The hill wasn’t too significant though and the rest of the course was mostly flat.

After that, my pace sped up to the 7:45 range again for a while. I kept telling myself that I had just run a 1:44 half marathon a few weeks earlier. That averaged out to a pace in the 7:50s. I wasn’t sure I’d done enough work in the weeks since to set me up for something much faster, but maybe I actually did have more in me? Still, I wondered if running 7:40s could set me up for trouble later. Aside from the Bayshore half, I hadn’t done more than a mile or two at that kind of pace in training runs. I was running by feel though and somehow that pace didn’t feel too labored so I kept rolling with it. There were a couple guys running a similar pace for several miles so it probably helped me lock into that rhythm.

The temperature was in the low 60s. Whenever the rain let up I realized I’d rather have it back than cope with humidity. The rain was pretty much on and off throughout the race. I really appreciated the enthusiasm from the volunteers despite having to stand out in the rain. Police were also out in a ton of spots blocking traffic for us. Although there were very few spectators along the route, it was really nice to have the volunteers and police out there.

The course wasn’t quite as scenic as I thought it may be, but the gloomy day and my concentration on running strong may have distracted me a bit. We ran along River Road for much of the race and caught glimpses of the Maumee River in spots. I liked looking at some of the nice houses along the river. We ran past part of the Toledo Zoo but I guess that portion must not be very noticeable from the road because I completely missed it!

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After five miles my pace got a few seconds faster and I ended up in the low 7:40s and high 7:30s for the next five miles. I didn’t know where the speed was coming from! I thought about how great it felt though. When running comes naturally and it happens to be sort of fast too, it’s a good feeling. I thought about how I’m kind of good at this running thing and I’m lucky to have discovered that!

Of course it wasn’t a total breeze maintaining the pace and I was definitely working hard. Somehow I was able to keep it up and still managed to take my usual approach of speeding up for the last few miles – 7:31, 7:20, 7:12. I found myself grimacing more frequently in the late miles of the race as I kept grinding. When the 1:40 pacer passed me during the first mile of the race I wondered if there was any possibility I could catch up to him later. Now I could see him and he was within reach. He became my target. My PR is just under 1:40 so I knew it was possible. Could I actually catch up to him?

As I approached the ballpark I felt really strained trying to maintain a 7:12 pace. I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to speed up even more. The pacer was within sight but a bit too far out of reach. I went around the outside of the park and got to the tunnel that goes down to the field. The ramp was steep and turned a couple times, so I slowed down a little bit to manage it. It was pretty cool to run into the park.

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We got to run along the warning track on the way to the finish line.

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1:40:47 was my official time. I couldn’t quite hit 1:40 but I was pretty close. I ran several minutes faster than I did at Bayshore, ran a negative split, and I was only a minute off of my PR. I was thrilled!

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2019-06-15 - muddy mini splits

I found the 1:40 pacer after I finished and talked to him for a couple minutes. Although he didn’t have people around him to pace, I wanted to let him know that he gave me someone to chase and I appreciated that.

After rounding the warning track we had to head up the stairs for the post-race festivities. Although I was wiped out at the end of the race I guess I still had enough adrenaline to get up the stairs without a struggle.

I’ve found that most people are pretty friendly about taking pictures at races. After I offered to take a picture of one group, one of them offered to do the same for me.

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I ended up chatting with the guy who took my photo for several minutes. He told me this was his third race and the longest distance he had raced. His goal was to keep running the whole time and he had achieved that goal. I love sharing the excitement of accomplishing goals with other runners. I knew that he was proud and I congratulated him and encouraged him to keep it up.

I used one of the computers to check my results and it showed “DNF” – did not finish. Some of the results hadn’t loaded yet so I got some post-race snacks and figured I’d check again later. They had orange slices, bananas, and granola bars for snacks. I wasn’t impressed with the thin selection of food at first, but then I went to the party area in Hensville Park where they had beer, hotdogs, and chips. They also had a great band named Amelia Airharts. They won me over right away with a Tom Petty cover.

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I had signed up for text notifications from the race and received one with my finishing time. I didn’t have to worry about that DNF. I had already been excited enough about my speedy time, but I was pretty shocked to see that I had won my age group and had placed so high overall. I never place high enough for awards when I run half marathons. Most half marathons have more than 400 people though, so I think the smaller crowd gave me better odds.

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This sweet award is now proudly displayed on a bookcase with other prizes I’ve collected from races.

2019-06-15 - muddy mini award

Since I raced so well and won an award, of course I’m going to say I loved this race. I would definitely recommend it and may have to return in the future. I realized that I have run some of my best races in Toledo. My current half PR is from the Glass City Marathon in 2015. I ran the full marathon there in 2018 and used my time to get into Boston in 2019. Since I’ve had three solid races in Toledo I may need to race there more often!

I’ve run a few strong races in the last month which makes me feel better about my lackluster race in Boston. Although Boston didn’t play out how I had hoped, I’ve heard that one successful training cycle stacks on top of another. I think I’m seeing the results of that. My training for Boston was very successful and it seems like the fitness has stuck with me. It kind of amazes me that this race was so close to my half PR without “proper” training. I trained very specifically for that kind of speed when I achieved my PR. If I’m in the same neighborhood now without doing the workouts, it leaves me encouraged for what may come once I start doing more workouts. I hope to do a whole bunch of races over the next few months, so I may actually substitute those for my typical Tuesday speed and Thursday tempo runs. I’m racing my way into shape this summer and so far the approach seems to be working!

– Janet

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