Ludington Lighthouse Triathlon Recap

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When I did the Ludington triathlon last summer, it was my first time visiting the beautiful town along Lake Michigan. I enjoyed my time there and loved the race so much that I knew I wanted to return this year. I committed to this one back in February when there was a $20 discount, making it even easier for me to want to sign up so early. I made sure to scope out hotels super early as well. I signed up pretty late when I did the race last year and Ludington is a hot spot during the summer. My hotel options were very limited and I ended up paying too much for what should have been a cheap hotel 10 minutes from town. This time I opted for a non-chain hotel that was actually a reasonable price considering how it was nearly across the street from Lake Michigan. With everything booked nice and early, I had six months to wait for this race to roll around.

The race took place on Sunday, August 19th. Like last year, it happened to fall on a weekend when Matt and his dad took a quick trip to Minneapolis. I managed to have a good time on my solo trip last year, so although I would have preferred having Matt’s company, I knew I would still enjoy myself. While I ended up walking nine miles around Ludington State Park the day before the race last year, I decided it might be wise to rest my legs a little more this time. 

I got to town around 4:00 on Saturday and was thrilled that I could see the transition area set up just across the street. I picked up my packet then walked into the heart of the town, which was less than half a mile away.

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I bought some salt water taffy and other treats at Kilwin’s then headed toward the water. I found a nice park and marina and took in the gorgeous afternoon. I got pretty sentimental as I walked around the marina, which brought back memories of taking family boat trips when I was a kid. I thought about how I didn’t appreciate those trips as much as I should have. I also thought about how my dad probably would have enjoyed being there.

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I realized that it was getting late enough to grab dinner, so I drove to Mancino’s like I did last year and brought a sandwich back to the hotel. I watched some of the Tigers/Twins game that Matt and his dad were witnessing in person, then went out to watch the sunset. It was the exact kind of thing that would be featured in a Pure Michigan ad campaign: a nice walk out to the lighthouse with the waves crashing against the wall as the sun set, watching the SS Badger ferry go by. Aside from wishing that Matt was there, I couldn’t have asked for a better evening. 

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I was able to scope out the buoy setup for the next morning’s swim. I was extremely thankful that we would be swimming between a couple of breakwalls. While the waves were crashing on one side of the wall, the water was nice and calm on the side where we’d be swimming.

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As the sunset wrapped up, I headed back to the hotel to get all of my gear organized before eventually going to bed.

Staying in a hotel so close to the start was wonderful and allowed me to get a little more sleep, even if it was mostly restless sleep. I took my bike and other stuff over, then went back to the hotel to use a real bathroom. It sure beat waiting in the long line for a porta-potty!

It was a foggy morning with very little wind and temps in the mid-60s. I hoped the humidity wouldn’t bother me during the race. I was thankful for the gray morning when it came to the swim. Last year I struggled a bit to find the buoys on my way back to shore as I swam right into the sun. At least the sun wouldn’t blind me this time. 

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Between relays, a super sprint, a sprint, Olympic distance, aquabike, and a kaya-tri (kayaks in place of the swim), over 250 people participated in the race. I chose to do the Olympic distance, which had 55 people. I was able to spend a little time in the water during the pre-race meeting. The water was just above 70° and felt perfect. We gathered on the beach prior to the start of the race. The Olympic men started a couple minutes before my group of 18 women. We had a beach start, meaning that we ran into the water once the horn blew. The small group made for a nice start and I didn’t get tangled up with other people. Eventually I caught up to some of the men but I was able to make my way around them without any issues. Although there was no sun to battle, it was still a little tricky for me to see the buoys when I made the turn back toward the shore. I kept moving in what seemed like the right direction and hoped I didn’t veer off-course too much. Eventually I saw the buoys. I had a really nice swim and finished 1000m plus the jog up the beach in 20:07.

It was nice that the race had a couple of kiddie pools set up in the transition area where we could rinse the sand off of our feet. Despite that help, I had my typically slow first transition. Wearing a wetsuit for the swim adds extra time since I always struggle to get it off around my feet. I can step on the suit and try to yank my feet out while trying not to fall over, but that usually doesn’t do it. Eventually I usually have to sit or squat and roll the legs off over my feet. By the time I finished screwing around I racked up a T1 time of 3:25.

I haven’t trained especially hard on the bike this summer since I’ve concentrated more on training for a fall marathon. I rode 40 miles the weekend before this race and knew I would be fine covering nearly 25 miles, even if it wasn’t especially fast. I was looking forward to the scenic route most of all. Although the bike segment is my weakest, it was the scenery from last year’s ride that really made me want to do this race again. During the pre-race meeting they announced that the route had changed to avoid a road that had been chip-sealed. I was extremely thankful for that. There was a stretch of road that had been chip-sealed during my first tri of the season, and that part was jarring, slow, and totally miserable. I’m glad I didn’t have to go through that again. Volunteers and signs along the course made it clear where to go. 

The first part of the ride went through some wooded backroads where there are side streets with fun names like No Name Rd. The ride really became enjoyable when I hit the stretch that goes past a bunch of waterfront cottages. It’s a really pretty area along Hamlin Lake and I loved looking at the houses. A little distance-adding out-and-back stretch for the Olympic athletes kept things interesting. That road rolls and winds, providing a little challenge and variety. 

Then comes the best part of the race – the ride up to Ludington State Park past the sand dunes. There are dunes on both sides of the road and it’s a beautiful stretch. The sun showed up halfway through my ride, meaning I got to enjoy the gorgeous contrast of the blue sky against the dunes. I knew that last year I flew on my way up that road, but got hit with the wind on the way back. Even though the forecast showed very little wind, it must be different when you’re right by the water. Although not as bad as last year, I definitely did slow down once I hit the turnaround. Still – you can’t beat the view, so I loved it even when it became a little more difficult. There are some stretches going back toward town that must have slight inclines. I had to grind through at times, but there are few significant hills along the bike route. I finished the 40K bike in 1:23:13 with an average speed of 17.9 mph. I rarely get moving that fast so I was pretty happy.

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Although my first transition is always slow, I take care of pretty much everything then so that I fly through the second one. It looks like I may have had one of the fastest T2 times with 35 seconds. Maybe it balances out between the two?

There’s good distraction for the first part of the run where some athletes are on the way out while others are coming back in. The Olympic athletes branch off and run through part of a campground, along a paved path in the woods, a little stretch through a neighborhood, then back into the woods. When I glanced at my pace now and then, I was pretty happy. I had done a sprint tri a couple weeks earlier where my running pace was surprisingly slow compared to usual. This time my pace was more along the lines of what I hoped for and I felt strong. It surely helped that this race didn’t have hills like my last one. A lot of the course was in the shade, and if it was warm and humid, it must not have bothered me. My watch showed that my pace dropped off a little bit during a segment along a dirt path, but I felt like I started flying again once I hit the pavement. It’s a long, straight stretch back to the finish, and I pushed with all I had.

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When my name popped up for the race announcer, he made a comment about how I was “bolting” through the finish, haha.

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The run distance on my watch came up short, but I know it’s not always accurate, especially when running through the woods. My pace dropped off quite a bit for the fourth mile, so maybe my watch messed up there. I finished the run in 45:30, which comes out to a 7:20 average if it truly was a 10K. Marathon training must be paying off because that’s quite an improvement over some of the other times I’ve run this summer. 

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My overall time was 2:32:49. I finished in 2:34:04 last year, so I improved by a little over a minute. My first transition time was a bit slower this year, but almost everything else was better. My swim time improved by 43 seconds, my bike time was 35 seconds faster, and my run was 20 seconds faster. I was very happy with those results!

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After receiving my medal and taking a quick moment to recover, I headed straight for the food. I got some trail mix, fruit chews, watermelon, and a waffle. I had placed first in my age group (out of two, haha) so I stuck around to wait for the awards ceremony. I was more enthused about placing fourth overall out of 18 women. I cleared my stuff out of the transition area and took my bike to my car, then waited…and waited. By the time I received my award, an hour and a half had passed since I finished racing. I know that’s how awards ceremonies work because they need to leave enough time for everyone to finish, and it’s like that at most races that I do. Still, it gets to be a bit excessive. It’s even worse for people who raced a shorter distance and had to wait much longer. Every now and then I do a race that allows people to collect awards from a table rather than going through a ceremony, and I definitely prefer that approach.

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I still had nearly four hours of driving ahead of me and I was anxious to leave, but I HAD to make a post-race refueling stop at House of Flavors first.

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By the time I got home, my typical post-race headache was pretty bad, probably due to not eating or drinking enough during the drive. Aside from that, I felt great about the day and am glad I went to Ludington for a second time.

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– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

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Shermanator Triathlon Recap

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On Saturday, August 4th I participated in the Shermanator sprint triathlon for my third time. The race takes place at the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center in Augusta, MI. It’s a beautiful setting and I had enjoyed it the previous two times I had done it. Since it is just minutes away from Matt’s parents’ house, it’s a good chance to combine racing with a family visit. Plus, I had done the AquaDash race there in the spring and received a discount code for this race. I couldn’t turn that down, so I committed to this race pretty early.

I had done two Olympic-distance triathlons at the very beginning of the season, then suddenly had a 2-month gap between triathlons this summer. My plans to do a bunch of races this summer suddenly changed when someone rear-ended my car in June. My bike rack was on the car, so not only was my car a mess, but I had to replace my bike rack. Between waiting for a loaner car to become available at the shop and then waiting for the work to be completed, there was a big chunk of time when I had no way to transport my bike. That meant I had to skip one race I had signed up for, as well as some others I’d been thinking about doing. Thankfully I was ready to go by the time this race rolled around.

The race started a little before 8am and I got there nice and early around 6:30. There’s a little bit of a trek from the parking area to the registration area, then from there to the actual race site. I prefer to have plenty of time to spare rather than feeling rushed. There was no power at the YMCA, so they had some generators to provide just enough light in the gym where we went through registration.

Although it was going to be a hot and humid day, it was a really nice morning in the mid-60s to start.

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I was able to find a good spot in the transition area on some pavement. I prefer that over the grass when it’s time to transition from the swim to the bike. I waste enough time in transition, so it helps if I can avoid getting extra grass on my wet feet when it’s time to put my socks and shoes on.

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After getting things set up, I went for a quick half-mile jog up the path where the bike route starts. I love the wooded setting.

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Eventually it was time for the pre-race meeting at the small beach area. A couple waves of men started first, with each wave spread out by four minutes. By the time my group of women started, some of the fastest men were already finishing. Watching the men was a good chance to make sure we knew how to do things correctly. For example, despite being told that the swim was a counterclockwise loop around the buoys, we watched several of the men swim to the wrong buoy as they headed clockwise. I think they finally realized it after reaching the first buoy, but of course they were way off track. As the men swam into the beach, they came in on the side of the dock where we were treading water and waiting to start. That made us realize that we were supposed to finish on the other side of the dock.

According to my watch, the water was around 77 degrees. It was perfect and I was fine without a wetsuit. For a 500-yard swim, I figured I’d waste too much time getting out of my wetsuit in transition so it wasn’t worth using it. I got bunched up with some other women to start, and got a little frustrated as I kept hitting feet with my hands and others hit my feet with their hands. I couldn’t get moving along how I’d hoped, but eventually things spread out and I got into a better rhythm. I had to remind myself to push since it was a short swim and I usually get a bit too relaxed. I have a much better feel for pacing myself in a pool than I do in the open water. I got a little caught up with people as I approached the end as well, but it was a pretty quick and smooth swim for the most part. I was breathing pretty heavily as I got out of the water, so I didn’t do much of a jog to the transition area. Between the swim and the trek up to transition, my time was 10:43.

I didn’t feel like I screwed around too much in transition, but I guess I’m always slow at putting on my socks and shoes, number belt, helmet, etc. Suddenly 1:46 had flown by.

The bike was up next. While already winded from the swim, it’s always a bit tough starting out uphill as we bike out of the YMCA property. I was pretty winded for the first mile or so. I struggled a little because I wanted to pass someone in front of me, but someone was lurking right behind me and I was sure they were going to come around, so I didn’t make a move because the path isn’t that wide. When we got out to the main road I was finally able to break free and start going my own pace.

The elevation changes aren’t too dramatic for the bike route, which is one reason I like this race. There are a couple of good climbs that left me out of breath, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ve pretty much only trained on flat routes this summer, so if I can handle the short hills, they must not be too bad. The riding surface is smooth, which is another bonus.

My main motivation during the 10-mile bike segment was to try to do better than last year. Believe it or not, my bike time was EXACTLY the same when I did the race in 2015 and 2017 – 34:28. How does that even happen?? I haven’t spent enough time training on the bike this year since I’ve been spending most of my time running. I wasn’t sure I could improve my time, but I kept pushing hard throughout the ride in hopes that maybe my bike time wouldn’t be the same for a third year. It wasn’t a significant improvement, but I did manage to finish about 21 seconds faster this time!

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My bike-to-run transition took about 30 seconds, and I took off uphill once again and was huffing and puffing to start. It was in the low 70s and sunny by the time I started the run. I didn’t think about the heat or humidity while I ran. I’m not sure if it was warm enough to affect me, but I was surprised that my running pace was quite a bit slower than I had expected. I ran a 7:54 pace for the first couple miles and I’m usually faster than that during a sprint-distance race. Maybe the weather did affect me without me realizing it, or maybe I had pushed just enough on the bike to tire my legs out a bit. I spent most of the run thinking about the rolling hills and how they were getting to me more than I had remembered in the past. Aside from the first hill at the start, none of the hills are that significant. I guess tired legs and a faster pace are enough to amplify even the smallest hills.

Aside from the hills, I was also distracted by the running surface. As you can see in the pictures below, the roads were pretty beat up. I always had to pay attention to my footing.

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I’m in the top right corner with the blue hat

Although I didn’t feel as strong as I had hoped during the run, it still went pretty well. When I hit the downhill stretch back toward the finish, I used the momentum and really flew. That explains how my pace dropped by quite a bit for the last mile!

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1:10:04 was my official finish time…according to my Garmin. It’s a good thing I didn’t mess up my watch during the race this time, because I found out later that they had issues with the timing system during the bike segment. Apparently the cords got unplugged and it really screwed things up. I realized something was wrong when I checked the results and mine looked really screwy. I didn’t have a finishing time and I didn’t show up on the results where I should have been. I waited in a line with other people who had realized there was an issue, and thanks to my watch I was able to provide my finishing time.

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One thing is for sure – I’m ridiculously consistent. My 2015 time was 1:10:13, and last year it was 1:10:02. Although I had a faster bike this time, my run was slower. A few seconds faster or slower throughout the different segments balanced me out so I was just two seconds slower than last year. Pretty funny!

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Since I was first in my age group, I stuck around for the awards and received an extra medal.

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Once again, I had a great experience at this race. I’m aware that hosting a race is a daunting process, and can only imagine all the logistical things a race director needs to think about. I wouldn’t think of dealing with a power outage and needing to use generators in order to get through registration. Dealing with the timing issues had to be a nightmare as well. Like I said, I’m thankful I didn’t fumble the buttons on my Garmin (like I’ve done at other races) so it all worked out.

After doing a couple of Olympic-distance races this season, it was fun to do a sprint. I enjoy the sprint distance, but when a longer distance is an option, I’m usually drawn to it. I know I’m up for the challenge and feel like it’s good to push myself with the longer races. Of course I can push myself during a sprint as well – it’s just a matter of going harder for a shorter period of time. It’s fun to change things up and do a variety of distances though, so I’m glad I got a sprint race in at the Shermanator.

I’m ready to get back to a longer distance this weekend, and will see how prepared I am to tackle the Olympic distance again in Ludington.

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography

 

Red, White & Boom! Recap

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On Wednesday, July 4th I ran the Red, White & Boom! race in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Matt really loves the Twin Cities and I’m lucky that he has exposed me to the area. We’ve visited multiple times over the years and keep coming back because we have such a great time. 

When we visited in 2011, we signed up for the Red, White & Boom! half marathon on a whim after searching for a race to run while in town. It was only my second half marathon at that point. Climbing to the highest point in Minneapolis mixed with temps in the 70s at 6:30am (and approaching 100 during the day) made it a rough one for me. Since then I’ve been hoping to try it again in hopes of redeeming myself and having a better experience. 

I always have a week off around the 4th of July, so when I saw that Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (my favorite band) were going to be in Minneapolis on the 3rd, it sparked the idea of another trip. Matt is too busy at work to take the full week off with me, but he agreed to take a couple days off so we could make the trip. I was really excited – combining our love for the band with a race in one of our favorite cities sounded like a great vacation.

Unfortunately, a couple things didn’t go quite as planned. Matt’s knee has been in bad shape lately and we knew he probably couldn’t try the 5K he’d signed up for. On top of that, while we were in the Detroit airport waiting for our departing flight we received an email informing us that the half marathon was cancelled due to heat and humidity. I was really bummed. However, the 5K would go on as planned and they added a 6.75 mile option. At least I could still do something. Like most races, Twin Cities in Motion has a no refund policy. They are going to offer a $25 discount for a few of their races over the next year to half marathon entrants. I’m not sure that I’ll get back to town to put it to use, but I’ll keep it in mind in case we come back for this race next summer. 

We flew into Minneapolis on Monday afternoon. One thing we love about the city is that we can take light rail from the airport to downtown. The downtown is very walkable with plenty of hotels. We stayed right by the concert venue and it was only a few blocks away from a light rail stop. We grabbed a late lunch at HopCat then walked a good mile or so to the packet pickup at a high school. One thing I love about this race is that they offer Brooks t-shirts. Some races provide cheaper shirts that I don’t like as much, so I really appreciate that Twin Cities in Motion gives out high-quality Brooks shirts.

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Crossing the Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River

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Red alert = extreme caution / potentially dangerous conditions

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We received this buff in our packets

We headed back and suffered a bit in the heat. There’s been a nasty heatwave at home and it was the same in Minneapolis. High temps combined with humidity made it a sweaty walk. We stopped by the Twins’ shop at Target Field for Matt.

Eventually we went back to the hotel, grabbed dinner later at a 24-hour diner, and enjoyed walking around town. We ended up walking at least 8 miles by the end of the day. Matt was able to manage it despite his knee issue, but it helped confirm that he shouldn’t try to run.

It was rainy and dreary when we got up on Tuesday, but luckily it cleared up enough to check out a mini golf course at the Walker Art Center. There was a rooftop course created by artists and we had a lot of fun.

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We also stopped by the Sculpture Garden outside the art center long enough to visit the famous cherry spoon.

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Evening rolled around and we grabbed dinner at a cool place next to the concert venue. Then we went to see Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at 7th Street Entry. I saw the first incarnation of the band back in ‘97 and have seen them many times since, but have never met the full band. We sprung for the pre-show meet and greet to finally change that.

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As always, we had a blast at their show. It was fun to see them in a new place, especially in a little room that only held 250 people. Standing on my feet for five hours probably wasn’t ideal race prep, nor was getting four hours of sleep that night. I knew I’d manage somehow, and I wasn’t quite as worried since I’d be running just over a 10K rather than a half marathon.

The hotel was 1.5 miles from the start of the race and I decided to jog there. I left just after 6am and tried to keep it easy so I wouldn’t be a sweaty mess before starting the race. That was difficult since it was already in the mid-70s with nearly 90% humidity.

When the announcement came out about the half marathon cancellation, I questioned why. They didn’t cancel the race when we ran it in 2011 and it had been just as hot. I realized the humidity mixed with the heat was the big factor this time. It was downright gross for running. I knew how bad it would be since I had suffered through a bunch of runs in similar conditions in the week leading up to the race.

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My patriotic shoes

I got to the start with 20 minutes to spare. I walked around a bit then sat and waited until it was time to line up for the 6:50 start. I had no ambition to actually “race” through the steam bath. In fact, the race decided not to award prize money or age group awards because they didn’t want to encourage anyone to push too hard. I figured I might run around an 8:00 pace at best, which is my goal marathon pace. I found that pace sign at the side of start corral and lined up there.

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I couldn’t hear any announcements or the National Anthem if they played it. At some point a horn blew and we were off. I had worried that starting the 5K and 6.75mi runners all at once might make things a bit congested, but the pace signs must have kept people organized and I didn’t have any problems with the crowd. It looks like around 2,000 people finished the 5K and a little over 1,400 people finished the longer race. Several people participated in a relay option as well.

The course seemed to be relatively flat aside from some climbs over bridges and mostly ran along the Mississippi River. The beginning of the race was more of a neighborhood setting while the second part of the race was more of a park-like setting before crossing the Stone Arch Bridge.

PowerPoint Presentation

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Half marathon entrants didn’t have to specify if we were going to run the 5K or 6.75mi race. We could do whatever we preferred and the timing mats would determine which distance we had run. I figured if it was really miserable I could always bail at the end of the first loop.

As expected based on recent runs, I was pretty sweaty after a mile and soon enough the sweat was dripping off of me. Fortunately there was a slight breeze along parts of the course. I wore a hydration belt and drank plenty of GU Brew with extra sodium to stay hydrated. I made sure that my breathing wasn’t labored and I didn’t exert too much energy. I was confident that I could continue on a second loop. 5K runners were told to stay to the left for the finish line while people running a second loop stayed to the right. We ran a second loop of the 5K course with a little extra distance added on Nicollet Island. With a mile or two left, I started to come across walkers from the 5K race. I had to do a bit of weaving through the end of the race to get around them. I am thankful that the Stone Arch Bridge is nice and flat, and I chose to give a big push across the bridge to the finish. That ended up being about three minutes of harder running, and since I’d been so conservative, I still had some energy for that final push.

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Although I glanced at my watch now and then out of curiosity, I really just ran by feel. It looks like I was pretty consistent aside from a slower fourth mile. I think that was when I climbed over a bridge and I was extra cautious about taking it easy.

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We received an email after the race that said the two-loop course will be independently measured and the distance will be reflected on the race’s results page. I ended up with 6.82 miles. I figured some of the extra distance came from weaving around people or not running the tangents, but maybe the course was a tad bit longer.

I received my medal and a bottle of water after the finish line, then worked my way through the line of treats. I got some chocolate milk, a Clif Bar, a popsicle, and a bag of chips. They had bananas, rolls, and hot dogs as well.

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You may notice that my face is bright red, so that popsicle was pretty nice. I dripped sweat all over my phone when I got it out to take pictures. I was drenched. There were some cooling stations with mist blowing from fans that I stopped to enjoy for a minute. I think it was a smart choice to wear a triathlon top and shorts. I was soaked enough that it almost seemed like I had been swimming, so the form-fitting tri suit was more ideal than dealing with a soaking t-shirt and shorts.

I think it was definitely a good call to cancel the half marathon. Although I was fine getting through an hour of running, a second hour could have gotten ugly. There’s no way for the skin to breathe or for the sweat to evaporate when it’s that humid and my body doesn’t handle it well. I’m actually kind of surprised that I managed to run as fast as I did in those conditions. It’s not worth risking the potential medical issues that could come along with people trying to push through the half distance.

There were plenty of fun post-race activities, including a pie-eating contest.

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I stuck around for a little bit before I began the trek back to the hotel, appreciating the sights of the city along the way.

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I walked half of the way and jogged a bit as I got closer to the hotel. Thanks to the early start, I still had plenty of time to get back to the hotel and shower before we checked out and left for the airport.

Although the weather conditions weren’t ideal and it’s a bummer that the race was shortened, I had a great time. Between the race, the concert, and the rest of our adventures around the city, Matt and I had another fun and memorable trip to Minneapolis.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

Corporate Cup 5K/10K Recap

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The Detroit skyline in the distance from a beach on Belle Isle

On Saturday, June 16th I represented the Chevy Running Club in the Corporate Cup Relays. GM competes in Division I against Ford and FCA (Fiat-Chrysler) every year in 5K and 10K road races, a 5K walk, field events including the shot put, high jump, and long jump, and track relay events. Autoliv, Nissan, and Shinola competed in Division II, and AVL made up Division III. It’s a fun chance to get together with fellow employees, raise money for charities (Special Olympics Michigan and the Dearborn Animal Shelter), and literally have a healthy competition. Despite being a contract employee, I’m eligible to participate along with co-ops, interns, and retirees.

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I ran the 10K at the 2015 Corporate Cup and had a great time so I knew I wanted to do it again. The events took place at a school in Southfield in 2015, but that school closed and the events shifted to Berkley. Unfortunately, the 5K and 10K races were cancelled in 2016 when the city of Berkley decided it didn’t want to deal with the road races. The same thing happened in 2017, so while the track and field events occurred in Berkley, the road races moved to Belle Isle in Detroit. I couldn’t participate in 2017 because I was out of town, but I was excited to get back to it this year. I’ve only been to Belle Isle a couple times and was glad I had an excuse to get out there again.

2018-06-16 - corp cup janet

I got there just before 7am as it started to rain for 20 minutes or so. I put a raincoat on and went to the GM tent to get a new team shirt and my race bib. We were lucky that the rain stopped before the 10K started at 7:45, but humidity hung in the air and it was around 70 degrees.

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Overlooking the Detroit River

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Looking over to Canada

I signed up for both the 5K and 10K races. When I browsed through last year’s results, I thought I might stand a chance at winning my age group in both distances. Teams are scored based age group placings and I thought I’d do my best to help GM by aiming for age group wins in two events. I’m very loosely following a half marathon training plan right now and it actually had a 15K race listed on the training schedule for the weekend, so that was all the more reason to do the double!

2018-06-16 - corp cup 10k start

10K start

The 10K race was only for Division I, so GM, Ford, and FCA runners participated. I didn’t know what kind of pace I could expect to run since I haven’t done much in the way of speed training lately. I started with a 7:33 mile and slowed down after that. It usually takes half a mile or so before the heat and humidity affect me, but then it hits me hard. My body doesn’t handle those conditions very well. The weather combined with my lack of speed training made it feel like this 10K dragged on forever. The island is about as flat as it gets, so at least that helped. It seemed like we were constantly winding around curves which made it a bit tricky to run the tangents. Even though I tried my best to run the shortest path, it seemed like the course was running a bit long. The end of this race couldn’t come soon enough, and I spent most of the time wondering why I had thought it would be a good idea to run the 5K next. I made it to the finish eventually, then shook my head and muttered about how it had been brutal. When I realized that my watch said I had run 6.52 miles rather than 6.2, it’s no wonder it felt extra long! I may not have run the tangents perfectly, but I couldn’t have done THAT bad of a job. Talking to several people confirmed that the course was probably long.

2018-06-16 - corp cup 10k stats

I had about 25 minutes to kill before the start of the 5K. I got some water, paced around for a little bit, chatted with some GM people about the race, then walked to a shelter building that had actual bathrooms. I was pretty soaked and tried to get some relief by drying the sweat off of my face and neck.

2018-06-16 - corp cup 5k start

With the 5K run due to start at 9:00 and the 5K walk shortly after, the crowd had grown quite a bit. Some people were still wrapping up their 10K, so we got started a few minutes later. As soon as I started running, I could tell right away that the downtime between races hadn’t magically refreshed my legs. I started with a 7:38 mile then naturally settled into the 7:40s for the next couple miles.

The sun had broken through the clouds a bit but not enough to make the temperature jump much. At least I noticed a little breeze at times, which I hadn’t during the 10K. Some of the route was the same as the 10K but a little bit was different. Having some different scenery and more people around helped distract me. I liked seeing people in wetsuits getting ready to swim when we ran past a beach on the north side of the island. Between swimmers, bikers, and runners, it seemed like plenty of people were out training or just staying active. I did a triathlon there once four years ago and it definitely seems like a good location for triathlon training. I really ought to make an effort to go there more often.

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When my mind wasn’t distracted enough by the scenery, other people, or trying to run the tangents, I thought about getting through the race whatever it took. That made me think of the song “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons, so that got stuck in my head for a bit. Lifehouse has a song with the same title, and that ran through my head next. This race wasn’t going to be one of my more outstanding efforts, but hopefully it would be good enough to help my team.

It became clear to me that the 5K was going to run a bit long too. I didn’t have much to give at the end of the race, but managed to drop my pace to 7:11 for the last quarter mile. Instead of 3.1 miles, my watch came up with 3.26. Double that and you get the 6.52 that I ran for the 10K, so I guess at least the courses were consistently long for me?

2018-06-16 - corp cup 5k stats

I wasn’t as wiped out as I was when I finished the 10K, but I was glad to be done for the day. I walked over to the GM tent where I grabbed a bagel, granola bar, and bottle of water. I chatted with several GM people who I had never met but whose names I recognized thanks to Chevy Running Club’s online community. Part of the fun of participating in the event is getting to meet some new people who are happy to talk about running!

Around 10:15 we gathered for a group photo. Then some people headed out to Berkley for the track and field events that would run through the afternoon. On my way out I saw a table where initial results were posted. I had placed first in my age group in both events! I talked to another GM woman who had done the same. Regardless of how the races had gone for me personally, my top goal was to help the team and it looked like I had achieved that goal.

20180616 AM Chevy Team Picture

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For 9.78 miles total, I’m pretty happy with my 7:42-7:43 pace. I’m surprised that I was so consistent between the two events. Double my 5K time and I was just one second over my 10K time! Typically my 5K pace should be a bit faster than my 10K pace, but I couldn’t pull that off this time. Knowing that the weather really dragged me down, I’m satisfied that I managed to do as well as I did. As much as I try to train through warm and humid conditions, my body never really acclimates to it. I definitely do much better on cooler days.

Official results came out a few days after the race. I placed 45/135 overall and 1/4 in my age group for the 10K with my time of 50:13. I placed 69/210 overall and 1/5 in my age group for the 5K with my time of 25:07. The highest placing four women in the 10K and five women in the 5K counted toward the team scoring. Chevy placed second in Division I for the women in both the 5K and 10K, third for the men in the 5K, and second for the 10K. With the afternoon events factored in, Chevy finished third overall. I’m glad I did my part to contribute and wish we had placed higher, but it’s really about the camaraderie, having fun while being active, and raising money for charity.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

 

 

Island Lake Triathlon Recap

On Saturday, June 2nd I did my second triathlon of the season. The Island Lake Triathlon took place at Island Lake State Recreation Area in Brighton, Michigan. I did the Olympic distance there in 2014 and 2017 and enjoyed it enough to do it again. The rolling hills make it a good challenge and the park is a great place for a race. I knew that I’d need to do a long bike ride during the weekend anyway, so why not sign up for the race and get a good ride in there? Although I had just done an Olympic triathlon six days earlier, I was anxious to do another. I recovered quickly from the other race and the weather forecast looked cooler and more enjoyable for this race.

I left home at 5am in order to get to the park at 6am. That gave me a little over an hour to do everything before the pre-race meeting. Since we’ve had a heatwave with highs around 90 degrees for the past week or so, I was relieved that rain had come through the night before and things cooled down. It was overcast, in the mid-50s, and pretty chilly with a little bit of wind. My biggest question was whether it had cooled down enough for us to use wetsuits. The water temperature had been 79 degrees the day before the race. That’s one degree too high for wetsuits according to USA Triathlon rules. I was thrilled when I saw a sign at the packet pickup area that said the water was 75 degrees and the swim would be wetsuit legal! I was glad I’d be aided by the buoyancy and speed of the wetsuit. Who would have thought that there would be concern over the water being too *warm* this early in the season though?

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Kent Lake

I love the design of the shirt and was happy that the packet included a couple of goodies from Clif.

2018-06-02 - island lake shirt
2018-06-02 - island lake packet

I set things up in transition and thought getting into my wetsuit would help keep me warm, but I still continued to shiver.

2018-06-02 - island lake transition

At 7:15 the transition area closed and the pre-race meeting began. Nearly 500 people participated between all of the events – Olympic, sprint, super sprint, duathlon, relays, etc. The Olympic distance had 133 finishers and we got to start first. An email sent a couple days before the race let us know that seaweed had been a big issue in the lake. There were several paragraphs about the various benefits of seaweed, reminding us that it was a good thing. I appreciated the sense of humor about the situation. As a result, the swim course was altered a bit to help us avoid the worst of it. Instead of two loops, the Olympic athletes would swim three 500m loops. Last year we had to get out of the water and run around a marker on the beach between loops, but thankfully we didn’t have to do that this year.

The Olympic men started first at 7:30 and the women followed a few minutes later. The water was warmer than the air so it felt great. I’m in the middle of the photo below, keeping my body down in the water to stay warm.

2018-06-02 - island lake swim1

The group spaced out eventually and I didn’t get kicked or beaten up despite some initial crowding. I grabbed a little bit of seaweed and got a piece in my face at one point, but it really wasn’t bad and it was mostly close to the beach. I felt comfortable during the swim and was always distracted as I looked for the next buoy and made sure I didn’t run into people. Thanks to Epic Races and Greg Sadler’s team for the free photos. Sometimes race photos can cost $15 or more a piece, so it’s a big perk to get some great shots for free.

2018-06-02 - island lake swim3

I didn’t practice swimming in the open water this year before jumping right into racing. Fortunately, I seem to have the hang of it after several years of doing triathlons and it has naturally come right back to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that my new wetsuit would rub my neck. When I showered after last weekend’s race, I felt pain shooting from the skin on the back of my neck. I didn’t feel anything during the race, but it was clear that I’d done something. I thought my wetsuit sat lower on my neck and couldn’t be the cause. I realized pretty quickly during this race that I was wrong. Once I was in swimming position I felt it rubbing the area that was still raw. I’ll have to try Body Glide all over my neck next time in hopes of solving it.

2018-06-02 - island lake neck

Eventually I started to catch a few of the men during the swim. Before the race I was concerned that some of the faster men would swim over me by the time I hit the third loop. I thought the other waves of swimmers started late enough that I’d avoid them, but that became the biggest issue. As I finished my second loop, it was congested enough by the buoys near the beach that some people stood up and walked around them, so I did too. I didn’t want to keep swimming and crash into people. After I rounded the buoys and started to swim again I got caught up in a crowd of at least one other wave. As seen in the picture below, there were people from the red, pink, blue, and purple waves all mixed together.

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It really turned into a mess when I approached a set of buoys where the purple wave needed to turn left while I needed to go straight. I was caught in a sea of purple caps and had to work my way out. I thought I’d push harder during the final loop, but I kept getting stuck in groups of people. There would be three people swimming side by side, and I either had to squeeze between them or hesitate, give them room, then work my way around them. I was a little frustrated because I wanted to finish strong, but it just wasn’t possible with so many people around. After the race someone mentioned how he did an Ironman where 1,700 people all had to run into the water at once, so obviously this was nothing compared to that! I was happy with my time of 29:04 for 1500m, but it left me wondering how much better I could have done if I could have really pushed through the end.

The transition area was right next to the beach and it was a quick walk/jog up from the water. It was still in the mid-50s and it would only feel worse while I was wet so I figured I should wear something warmer on the bike. After I got out of my wetsuit, I tried to get into a quarter-zip jacket but I couldn’t get it on. I kind of wiped off, but not enough to keep me from getting tangled up. I looked around and saw that most everyone else was leaving the transition area in just their tri suits, so I decided to ditch the jacket. I had debated wearing gloves but left those behind as well. After all of that screwing around, I managed to spend too much time in transition as usual – 3:01 this time.

I knew what to expect from the bike course since I had done the race a couple times before. The road surface is good and I like that the course keeps us on the roads within the park. There’s a nice mix of rolling hills to keep it challenging. Some of the uphill stretches slowed me down to a crawl, but I could make up for it on some of the fast downhill stretches. Olympic athletes had two loops of the out and back course. Watching the people who were riding on the other side of the road provided a good distraction.

2018-06-02 - island lake janet bike1

2018-06-02 - island lake janet bike2

I did the best I could, which really wasn’t all that good. I spend more time running and swimming than I do biking, simply because I enjoy them more. As expected, that means my bike skills are lacking. I lost plenty of ground that I’d gained during the swim once people flew past me on the bike. I’ve been informed at both races this season that I could be faster if I got a better bike. Maybe one of these days, but for now I’m not up for investing a minimum of $2,000 for a new bike. One guy informed me that I might be able to get something decent for that low. Of course most of the athletes have even pricier bikes.

The air felt crisp during my first loop, but I think I had enough adrenaline flowing to stay warm. I started to get cold by the second loop. It was manageable, but I wished I had gloves. I finished the 40k bike in 1:28:31, which averaged out to 16.8 mph.

I probably could have made it through the second transition faster if my hands hadn’t been so cold. I really struggled to get my thick ponytail through the hole of my running hat since my hands were half numb. Still, 50 seconds was decent enough.

Onto the run! Now the overcast sky and mid-50s felt PERFECT. It was nearly 30 degrees warmer during my run at last weekend’s triathlon so this felt nice and refreshing. I knew that the run started up a steep, grassy hill, and that part is always tough. Once I recovered from that, I felt pretty good. Aside from a stretch of grass at the beginning and end of our two loops, we ran on a paved path with a few little climbs, but nothing too bad. Part of the run was through Island Lake and the other part was through Kensington Metropark. Like on the bike, watching the people on the out and back route provided a good distraction.

2018-06-02 - island lake janet finish4

My first and fourth miles were around an 8:00 pace, probably thanks to climbing that grass hill. The rest of my miles were somewhere in the 7:40s. I was really happy with that pace since I haven’t been running very fast lately. I’m sure the cool temperature played a big role. I was surprised that I felt so good and wondered if that meant I should be pushing harder. I just kept rolling with it and enjoyed it, deciding that I’d try pushing harder during the last mile. There was a steep, grassy downhill stretch on the way to the finish where I picked up a lot of momentum. I was probably pressing my luck there and was lucky that I didn’t wipe out!

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I finished strong with a time of 45:59 for what was supposed to be 10k. When I heard people at the end questioning the length of the course, I checked my watch. It said that I had run closer to 5.9 mi rather than 6.2 mi. If it had been a true 10k, that meant I would have run a 7:25 average pace. I doubt the run would have felt as enjoyable or that I’d be smiling so much if I had actually run that pace!

2018-06-02 - island lake results

2:47:26 was about a minute and a half faster than my time last year. Factor in a shorter run this time around and I was probably in the same neighborhood.

2018-06-02 - island lake janet finish

2018-06-02 - island lake medal

I enjoyed the post-race food options, especially the pancakes. They also had little cookie bars and brownies, bags of chips, bananas, and a freezer with ice cream sandwiches. Before I left I ate the little Clif bar we received in our packet, and I also bought a smoothie from a coffee/food truck that was set up in the parking lot. Plenty of good options for refueling. They talked about a beer tent, but I never made my way over there.

2018-06-02 - island lake tent

They had computers set up so people could check their results. Since I was third in my age group (out of six) and they gave awards to the top five, I won something. I thought it was pretty cool that I could pick from any of the things on the table.

2018-06-02 - island lake awards

Since I had won a glass last year and didn’t need a duplicate, I chose a hat.

2018-06-02 - island lake hat front

2018-06-02 - island lake hat back

I had a great day and hope to keep returning to this race in the future. It’s challenging enough to keep things interesting but enjoyable enough that I finished with a smile on my face. I’ll take a couple weekends off but will probably try to get one more triathlon in later this month.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Seahorse Challenge Triathlon Recap

Sunday, May 27th was my first triathlon of the season – the Seahorse Challenge in Climax, Michigan. I’ve been anxious to get back to triathlons and viewed this race as a good rust-buster. I didn’t put any pressure on myself because I know that I’m far from peak fitness at this point. I wanted to refresh my memory about everything that goes into the triathlon, get a good day of work in, and just have fun.

2018-05-27 - seahorse shirt

The race took place at Cold Brook County Park, which is between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. It’s about 20 minutes away from Matt’s parents’ house. We joined them for a nice dinner on Saturday, then Matt’s dad was kind enough to drive the bike course so I could see what I had coming.

I got to the park around 6:45 on Sunday morning for the 8:00 start. That gave me time to do everything at a leisurely pace so I didn’t get too stressed out. I had gone through all of my checklists about what to do, where to put things, etc. It all came back to me pretty quickly as I set things up in the transition area. I’m glad I did a brief warm up jog with chews stuffed into the back pockets of my new tri suit. If they hadn’t popped out while I ran, I probably would have forgotten I had put them there and they would have gotten soaked during the swim. It was also a good way to learn that I need to stuff them deeper into the pockets so they won’t fall out. That was one potential disaster averted.

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2018-05-27 - seahorse lake2

It was a beautiful morning. I had initially worried that the lake would be too cold this early in the season. A few really warm days leading up to the race meant that the water temperature rose to a pleasant 69-70 degrees. That was the temperature of the air at the beginning of the race as well. Although it was nice for the swim, it meant things would get uncomfortable when it came time for the run.

Rather than ease into the triathlon season with the sprint distance, I went straight for the Olympic distance. At this race, the swim was listed at 1500m, the bike was 42k, and the run was 6.5 miles. Based on my training, I knew I wasn’t prepared to “race” on the bike and was doubtful that I had regained much running speed a month after doing a marathon. I had covered each of the individual distances in training though, so I knew I could pull it off. I figured I’d go big and make it a good training session, if nothing else.

Announcements began at 7:45 and the Olympic men started at 8:00. I was relieved that they had separate wave starts for the men and women. My wave was pretty small and it helped ease my nerves. We got in the water and started a couple minutes after the men. I wore my full wetsuit and the water felt great. The buoys were on our left, but I started off to the right to avoid the crowd. I cut diagonally toward the first buoy and stayed on track the whole time. When people got too close for comfort, I did some breaststroke, figured out where they were going, then regained my own space. I may have lost a little time by doing so, but it kept me from worrying about any collisions. I felt really comfortable during the swim. I reminded myself that all of my consistent pool time prepared me for a solid swim. Olympic athletes had two loops and I never reached a point where I got tired or wished I was done. It was a boost to my confidence whenever I passed one of the men who had a two-minute head start. I knew they’d catch me during the bike, but at least my swim was pretty solid!

When I made my last turn around a buoy and had a straight shot to the end, I finally told myself that I should power through with my arms like I do during pull buoy sets in the pool. My lower body gets so much buoyancy from the wetsuit that it almost feels as if I’m using a pull buoy. I tend to get into a nice, comfortable rhythm when I swim during races and I need to make a final push sooner. When I got out of the water and started my trek up the grassy hill to the transition area, I knew I didn’t have it in me to run.

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I moved along the best I could as I stripped out of the top half of my wetsuit. Between the swim and the hike up to the transition area, I finished in 30:29. That was good for 4th out of 14 women, and 25th out of 65 total.

As usual, I took longer than most people in the first transition. I don’t know how 3:18 flew by so quickly, but getting my legs out of the wetsuit probably took a big chunk of that time. I semi-dried my feet, put my socks and shoes on, grabbed my energy chews, put my helmet and sunglasses on, and headed out for two loops of the bike course.

2018-05-27 - seahorse bike

Aside from one left turn, the course was all right turns and very easy to follow. There were some rolling stretches that definitely slowed me down. I didn’t have high expectations for my ride. I took a break from the bike during marathon training and only got back to it a few weeks ago. The bike rides I have done outside have been flat, so I didn’t exactly prepare myself for any climbs. Aside from my struggles with slowness, most of the ride was pretty nice. We passed a lot of farmland and had a decent amount of shade. I absolutely hated one stretch that ran a mile or two because of the road surface. Matt’s dad referred to it as “chip seal.” It looked like there was a nice, smooth surface underneath, but there was a rough, crappy surface on top. Fortunately none of it kicked loose, but it was not ideal for riding. I hated it even more during the second loop. I was thankful for one stretch of especially smooth road when we rode parallel with the highway.

I drank GU Brew and some water, and ate a few Clif energy chews 18-19 miles into the ride. Whenever someone passed me, I tried to think positively. It meant that my swim had been strong enough to hold them off that long. Eventually almost everyone in the race passed me. I finished in 1:33:53 with an average of 15.89 mph. I usually don’t average much better than 16-17 mph. I was 12th out of 14 women on the bike, and 61st out of 65 overall. When I say that the bike is my weakness, I’m not kidding! It’s clear that I’m not on the verge of going pro, so my placement really doesn’t matter. I’d like to do better, but the fact that I’m out there pushing myself makes me proud enough.

My second transition helped make up for my slow first one, and I began the run after 38 seconds. For the first half mile I was mostly distracted by the numbness in my hands. Gripping the handlebars tightly on rough surfaces took a toll on me. Eventually the numbness faded and my thoughts turned to how difficult the run course was. We started on a paved road that had a pretty good climb. Half of the course was a mix of grass, dirt, roots, and mud. It was nice to get out of the sun and onto the trails, but it was not an easy course.

2018-05-27 - seahorse run

There were a few boggy stretches out in the sun where the heat hit me the most. It was 80 degrees when I started the run around 10:00 and it kept climbing from there. The combination of the heat and running a tough course on tired legs led to quite a bit of swearing. It was especially bad every time I hit a hill, and there were a bunch of them. With a two-loop course, we crossed over one swampy stretch four times. The mud in that spot was bad enough that a couple of boards were placed on top to try to help us get through it. Eventually I succumbed to walking up most of the hills because I was too wiped out to attempt running them. I took brief breaks for a few gulps of water at some of the aid stations as well. I had a fuel belt with a bottle of GU Brew, but the cold water was helpful. Whenever I tried to wipe the sweat off my face I could feel that it was coated with a layer of salt.

The run is usually where I feel the strongest but on this day it was more of a jog. I did my best to keep plodding on and finished in 56:10 with an average pace of 9:03 per mile. Although I felt like it was a bad run for me, everyone else had to deal with the same conditions. I ended up 3rd out of 14 women and 26th out of 65 overall in the run.

2018-05-27 - seahorse finish

I was wiped out by the end and relieved when a volunteer handed me a cold, wet towel and told me to put it around my neck. That really helped.

My final time was 3:04:25. I was 7th out of 14 women and 43rd out of 65 overall. I didn’t have huge expectations coming into the race and I certainly didn’t surprise myself with one of my best performances. Really, I didn’t care so much about my placement anyway. I was glad that I had gotten out there and pushed myself through a challenging race.

2018-05-27 - seahorse medal

Eventually I made my way to the food table and enjoyed some watermelon and a waffle. One of the volunteers recognized me because we’re neighbors! I see her occasionally when I head out to the trail for my workouts. It was fun to run into her and officially meet.

There was a raffle just before the awards ceremony and I ended up with a gallon of Gatorade Endurance Formula.

2018-05-27 - seahorse gatorade

The overall winners received a cool seahorse and age group winners received plaques. I’ve done several of 3 Disciplines’ races and they typically have cool awards. They do a really nice job with the whole race experience.

2018-05-27 - seahorse awards

There were only two of us in my age group and I placed first. I don’t put much stock in age group awards at triathlons because there are usually so few people in my group, but it was still fun to come away with this keepsake.

2018-05-27 - seahorse janet award

It’s a good feeling to have everything go fairly smoothly for my first race of the season. I still have a lot of work to do on the bike, but that’s pretty much always the case for me. I was happy to feel so good during the swim and it was nice to see that I placed pretty well there. As bad as I felt during the run, I still placed well there too. Considering how I just did a marathon a month ago and have only returned to heavier training for a couple weeks, I’m definitely satisfied with these results.

I felt good when I swam and ran the next day, so this race didn’t take too much out of me. I’m already prepared to do it again and signed up for another race this coming weekend. The tri season is short so I’m going to try to make the most of it!

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz

Glass City Marathon Recap

2018-04-22 - glass city janet2

Sunday, April 22nd was the day of my fourth marathon – the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio. 18 weeks of preparation lead up to one big day and it’s never guaranteed that things will go as planned. I became very aware of that when it was 70°F and humid to start my third marathon – 2016’s Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan. Although I still had a relatively good experience, that marathon was kind of a bust for me. I do not cope well with heat or humidity and I ran 20 minutes slower than planned. Fortunately, I can put that race behind me now that I’ve run another successful marathon. It’s a really good feeling when 18 weeks of hard work comes together and pays off, and that’s what happened in Toledo.

I ran the Glass City Half Marathon in 2015 (recap here) and it still stands as my current PR for that distance. Obviously, I had a great race. That was a big deciding factor in choosing to run the full marathon in Toledo. The course is flat and fast and the weather has been great both times. The conditions were so ideal this year that several course records were broken!

Toledo is an hour and a half from home, so I chose to stay at a hotel in town the night before the race. I went to the expo first, which took place at the University of Toledo’s Savage Hall Arena.

2018-04-22 - glass city expo
Dave’s Running Shop had some nice merchandise, so I bought a cotton shirt from them.

2018-04-22 - glass city shirt2
I probably prefer the cotton one over the official race shirt, which is pretty thin and a brand I’ve never heard of. At least it fits and I do like the design.

2018-04-22 - glass city shirt1
I brought dinner back to the hotel where I settled in for the night. I debated what to wear as I re-watched the Boston Marathon that had taken place earlier in the week. It provided great inspiration and got me fired up for my own race.

As expected, I didn’t sleep very well. At first, my mind wouldn’t shut down. Eventually I fell asleep, but then I was constantly jolted awake by doors slamming in the hallway. Apparently my neighbors weren’t aware or didn’t care how loud the doors were because it seemed to happen all night long. Part of me was tempted to return the favor when I woke up at 4:30am.

I had a 15-minute drive to the University of Toledo campus and got there by 5:45 for a 7:00 start. It was a breeze parking in a huge lot about five minutes south of the starting line. It was in the mid-30s, so I stayed warm in the car for a bit before venturing out to the bathroom line. It only took a few minutes, so then I hung out near the gear check area until I was ready to hand off my warm clothing and head to the corral.

I had read an article about two guys who were hoping to break a world record for two people running tandem in a costume, so I was very entertained when I came across them in the starting corral.

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As if running a marathon isn’t hard enough without that additional challenge! Their goal time of 3:30 was the same as mine, so I was lucky enough to see them a few times on the course. I couldn’t find any info about whether they were successful. The results show that one guy finished just under the record time but it looks like the other guy didn’t finish the race. I’m not sure what happened, but I saw them at one point more than halfway through the race and I give them credit for making it however far they went!

I found a few friends in the starting corral and lined up behind the 3:30 pacer. Throughout training I’ve run my marathon pace runs a bit faster than my intended 8:00 pace, so I thought staying behind the pacer would keep me under control. In the madness and congestion of the start, the pacer took off and I never saw him again. My first mile was 8:17, which was probably a good way to ease into the race. I realized as long as I didn’t catch up and pass the pacer, things would be fine because it meant that I wasn’t going too fast.

For as much time as I spent worrying about running too fast, somehow I naturally ended up right where I wanted to be. I had a few 7:57 miles in a row, then I spent a good chunk of the race hovering just above an 8:00 pace. I was very happy that halfway through the race my average was around 8:03. Although I trained to run a 3:30 marathon, my biggest goal was to qualify for Boston. My BQ time is 3:40, so I knew I needed to run at least 3:36-3:37 to actually get into the race. I spent plenty of time trying to do math in my head to assure myself that I’d make the cut even if I slowed down.

Although my feet were semi-numb for the first few miles, I warmed up and the conditions were perfect. It was probably in the 40s for most of the race and clear. The wind picked up a bit as the race went on but it didn’t bother me much, aside from the occasional strong gust. It was cool enough that I actually kept my arm warmers and gloves on through the first 20 miles.

I enjoyed running through the pretty neighborhoods, through a metropark, and along a paved trail. There were a couple spots with slight hills, but nothing too major. There was some entertainment scattered along the course, and the aid stations and relay handoff areas were full of excitement. This isn’t a spectator-heavy race, but a good number of people came out to cheer for the runners. I really appreciated the people who brought their dogs because they always made me smile.

At one point I heard a guy comment to his buddy that he was starting to feel it. I didn’t want to hear it and decided at that point that I wasn’t going to acknowledge negative thoughts. I was going to stay positive and kept telling myself, “I’ve got this. I’m killing it. I’m going to BQ.” At one point when I told myself I was a badass for doing a marathon, I passed a sign a minute later that said the same thing. It made me smile and helped reinforce the positivity.

It wasn’t always easy though. Things became noticeably more difficult by the time I made it through 20 miles. I had run a few miles here and there that were in the 8:10s, but by mile 20 I started to run some 8:20s and 8:30s. It was around that time that I passed my buddy Kurt. I really felt for him and wished there was some way I could pull him along, but he was struggling with some pains. At one point I became aware of my left knee, which is where I feel it when my IT band gets angry. Luckily it didn’t become a real issue. I felt a spot rubbing under my left arch, but that didn’t get too bad either. My stomach was a little bothered in the later miles, but somehow I was able to run through it without having to stop. Tired legs became the biggest issue, combined with the long, isolated stretch of the University Parks Trail that I had heard would be a mentally tough spot. It was several miles of a straightaway with few spectators or distractions. I came across people who were walking and told myself that I was going to keep fighting and keep pushing. I’ve had races where I’ve felt so miserable that I had to incorporate a run/walk method to get through the end, but somehow I was able to keep going this time. Although 20 miles was the point when I started to hit a wall, I never hit it hard enough to really crash. I kept monitoring my overall time and average pace, but avoided looking at my current pace after 20 miles. I knew that I had slowed down but I wanted to maintain a positive mindset. I kept counting down the minutes and the miles to convince myself that I was getting there as I struggled through the last few miles.

Eventually I got close enough to see the football stadium where we’d finish and had a couple of brief emotional moments. I pushed them aside so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed, but I knew that I was going to pull it off and got excited. Even though I could see the stadium, we still had a little ways to go. I wasn’t running with anyone, but there was a sense of camaraderie in my mind. It was kind of comforting to be surrounded by people who I knew were feeling it as much as I was. We were all in the same boat and we were almost there. As we got closer to the entrance to the stadium, the crowds of people lining the streets grew. They gave me a boost of energy, and I smiled and pumped my arms as I ran across the finish line. Usually it’s a semi-fake smile as I suffer in pain, but this time it was a genuine smile. I had gotten that BQ by over five and half minutes, giving me plenty of buffer to ensure that I should make it to Boston.

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I was 24 seconds off of my best time, so although it wasn’t a PR, I was in the same neighborhood. For three out of my four marathons I’ve found that my final times tend to average about 10 seconds per mile slower than my goal pace. I’m fine with that though!

Here’s how my splits broke down:

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A friend had finished about 15 minutes before me and he spotted me in the finisher’s chute. We chatted as I attempted to stretch a bit. I didn’t have anything left in me, but I didn’t feel completely shot or miserable either. I collected my medal and paced around the football field for a bit.

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Since Toledo is the “Glass City,” finishers received glass mugs on the way to the post-race celebration.

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The wind had picked up and I started to freeze, so I went to the gear check for my warm clothes before getting some food. They had fruit, granola bars, cookies, pizza, pasta, breadsticks, and more in the food tent. They also gave us a couple of beer tickets. After I ate I went to the massage tent and waited for a while. I’ve never had a massage at a race, but thought I should try it because the knee/IT band pain got noticeably worse as time went on. I don’t think the massage helped much, but it was worth a try. Eventually I started the long trek back to my car. My car was on the other side of campus, but I figured I could use a good walk to keep my legs from stiffening up anyway. I was surprised to find that I felt fine walking and even going upstairs.

I stopped for a smoothie during my drive, then was greeted by chocolate cream pie, a cookie cake, and a nice card from Matt when I got home. Knowing what a long and boring day of waiting it would have been for him, I had told him not to bother going with me to the race. He had been very understanding and provided plenty of support over the last 18 weeks of my crazy training schedule, and I didn’t feel the need to make him sit there for a good five hours just waiting for me to come across the finish line.

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A headache kicked in later that evening, I found a couple of blisters on one foot, and my knee made stairs difficult. I moved slowly whenever I got up from sitting on Monday, but I didn’t have a noticeable limp and survived my day at work. The knee problem faded and I had some general leg soreness on Tuesday, but felt normal again by Wednesday.

It feels kind of weird to be done after spending the last four and half months working toward this race. The ultimate goal was to get to Boston and it looks like I’ve achieved that goal. This is actually my second time qualifying for Boston, but injury kept me from signing up for the 2017 race. At that point I actually wasn’t convinced that I was ready to go yet. I was a bit freaked out by all of the logistics, like spending a fortune between flying and a hotel room, having to wait around for hours in the athletes’ village before the start of the race, dealing with the potentially challenging weather that seems to hit that race so often, etc. I’ve come around over the last year though. I’ve tried to convince myself to go with the flow more and not to worry so much about the logistics. It seems like everyone who does the race raves about it and somehow they manage to deal with the inconveniences. Surely I can too. I’ve realized that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to go to Boston and I should take advantage of that opportunity at least once.

I should probably take a break from doing another full marathon until Boston in hopes that I’ll be injury-free this time around. I’ve taken this week off of running so far and will ease back into things. I’ll keep celebrating this successful race and my Boston qualification for a little bit longer, knowing that triathlon season is looming next on my radar.

– Janet

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