Comfort Races

I must say, it feels good writing a post that is running/fitness related instead of dead pet related. That being said, I really don’t have much to post in regards to my running since I barely did any of it in July. Truth be told, due to the constant vet visits and care that go into taking care of sick and dying pets, and not to mention the stress and heartbreak, I only ran a total of 15 miles in the month of July.

But Laura, your second 50 miler in North Country is only a couple of weeks away! Yes, thanks for the reminder you jerk. I am fully aware of how unprepared and unmotivated I am to tackle another 50 miler, so sadly, I have decided to be a DNS. Instead, I will be running 40 fewer miles as I tackle the Crim Festival of Races on August 26th. This brings me to the title of this post.

Four years ago was one of the happiest and most successful in my running history. I was setting personal records left and right and was able to enjoy some really fun races associated with some great memories with friends, which is why I now refer to them as  “comfort races”. Like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes, these are races that are just plain fun and make me feel warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. As I put myself through another round of 50-mile training in preparation for North Country, I realized I was burned out. Running wasn’t fun anymore. I wanted to be the runner I was four years ago when running felt effortless and it was something I actually looked forward to. I needed to run more comfort races.

The AdvoKate 10K in Rochester is one such comfort race for me. The AdvoKate is held in memory of Kate, a young girl who passed away from pediatric brain cancer. No that is not at all a “comforting” thought but the race does raise funds for one of my favorite charities, St. Jude’s. My friend Andrea and I had a tradition going for two years where we would run the AdvoKate and then drive to Clarkston to enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch at the Union Woodshop. Sadly, Andrea is in graduate school in Ohio and couldn’t join me this year. However, seeing those familiar pink balloons at the start line and running through my favorite trails in my favorite city was enough to bring back so many great memories of miles spent with my friend. Four years ago I set my 10K PR of 52:10 at this race. I surely did not run that fast this year but I enjoyed myself and that was my only goa.

The Crim 10 mile race in Flint, Michigan, was another favorite that I participated in four years ago. Along with my friends Andrea and Mary Beth, we travelled to Flint the night before to run the Michigan Mile and have some fun downtown. We had a blast that night exploring the all important Expo, getting a free meal because a restaurant accidentally poisoned MB with a buttered bun (she has a lethal dairy allergy), getting beer from a toothless lady, and making up one of MB and mine’s most enduring inside jokes- The Beefberry. The race itself was a blast too, with crazy fun spectators and some beautiful scenery that I was not quite expecting from Flint. The race after-party was a blast as well with more beer tent fun and listening to some great live music. I’ve been wanting to run the Crim again ever since but have always had a conflict. I am so excited to be able to run it again this year, despite knowing I’ll also be DNS-ing North Country.

Speaking of happy memories, I hope to make some more by running some new-to-me races in the coming weeks- the Milford Memories 10K this coming Sunday, and the Marquette Trail 11 Mile Race the week after. Having logged so many long runs all year, it’s been very liberating running short distances and having so much of your day left. My husband will be running the 50K in Marquette and I look forward to a vacation filled with all the beauty the Upper Peninsula has to offer.

Is there another 50 miler in my future? I’ve been toying with the idea of running The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50 Miler in January. I was so motivated to tackle another 50 after the Indiana Trail, but that motivation quickly faded when I realized I’d be training solo this time, and in the heat and humidity. For now, I’m enjoying the short runs. Plus, as a friend recently told me, “You have already have your 50! Why the hell would you want to do another?!”

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Widget

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“I can’t believe this is happening to us again.”

This was a phrase that Shawn and I have repeated many times since that awful morning on July 8th. That was the morning we learned that our kitten, Widget, was sick. In case you hadn’t read my previous post, we had just put down our beloved cat Beans just five days before.

We repeated it again on July 17th, when we had to bring Widget into the vet to say our final goodbyes, exactly two weeks to the day after we said our final goodbyes to Beans.

“Are you familiar with how the procedure works?” the vet tech asked us as we sat in the “Comfort Room” in the vet’s office, while Shawn held our ailing kitten in his arms. Yes, unfortunately we were all too familiar with the procedure. And we couldn’t believe this was happening to us again.

Days after Beans passed, Widget spent most of his time sitting on the couch and looking out the window. He missed his big brother, we thought. Then he started eating less of his food. He’s growing up and starting to graze more like a normal cat, we thought. Then on the morning of July 8th he refused to eat at all and began to throw up white foam. My paranoia brought him right into the vet’s office where it was found he had a fever and a very low red blood cell count. A week of hell followed as we went from treating a possible infection or possible autoimmune disorder, squirting liquid medicine in our poor kitten’s mouth morning and night. We had been granted a few days free of forcing a cat to tolerate medicine, now we were back in the game.

After about nine days we knew Widget was getting worse. He no longer ate willingly and we were force feeding him baby food through a dropper. He could barely walk anymore and was nothing but skin and bone. On Monday morning, July 17th, Shawn brought him into the vet for another check up. The doctor agreed it was time to say goodbye. I rushed home from work to join my husband’s side in the “Comfort Room”, and we ended the suffering of our poor, barely 4-month-old kitten.

When you have no definite answers, your mind will run wild with theories. Was there something in our house poisoning our cats? I googled everything from radon poisoning to lead poisoning to sulphur poisoning and none of the symptoms matched. Could I have brought home some exotic toxin from Hawaii? Did he get bit by some insect? Should we have got a second opinion? Did Widget die needlessly? I ended up reaching out to the shelter that we had adopted Widget from, asking if they knew of any mysterious illnesses his siblings may have been diagnosed with. At the time I called, the shelter had heard nothing. Then, this past Friday, they called me back with some devastating, yet oddly comforting news.

Widget’s sibling had suddenly died. The diagnosis was FIP- Feline Infectious Peritonitis. FIP is caused by a common virus that over 80% of cats get exposed to. However, in rare cases, the virus mutates and causes FIP. FIP is untreatable, incurable, and fatal. Most cats die within weeks if not days. Common symptoms are the refusal to eat, anemia, and a fever that will not go away with antibiotics, all of which our Widget had.

I say this awful news was comforting because at least now I have an answer. At least now I know that we were fighting a losing battle and we did everything we possibly could.

Widget lived a happy and spoiled little kitten life. He got to make two trips up to Lake Charlevoix. He would calmly sit on our laps as we sat next to bonfires or sat outside on the deck. He had a huge cat tree all to himself and would snuggle between Shawn and myself to sleep at night. We used to joke that we never wanted to see him get big, never knowing the true weight of our words.

Beans was my first cat, but Widget was my first kitten. He was sweet and cute and calm and loving and jumped on my lap anytime I sat on the couch. He was my “snuggle bunny” and the house just feels so damned empty without him and Beans.

I’m getting by, but the grief has ways of showing up unexpectedly. I was in the grocery store recently and a song came on that I had once danced around the living room to while holding Widget in my arms. Of course I started bawling while everyone else in the toilet paper section walked on oblivious to my pain.

I know we will one day welcome a special new kitty/kitties into our home, and some of that emptiness will dissipate. I just still can’t believe this happened to us, again.

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Beans

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This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write, but I feel like if I don’t, I might have a breakdown. Not to say that I’m functioning too well right now; I’m in the stage of grief where the shock has worn off and reality has sunk its sharp claws directly into my heart: my best friend, my faithful companion, my baby boy, my kitty Beans, is dead.

Beans’ health, while showing signs of slight decline since January, took a steep nosedive as soon as I got home from my work trip to Hawaii in late May. After being hospitalized and treated for a UTI and pancreatitis, we thought he might recover with medication. However, there was the matter of him having swollen lymph nodes through his entire illness. Best case scenario: the swelling was due to throwing up frequently. Worst case (and more likely) scenario: Beans had cancer. The only way to confirm the cancer was through surgery, and there was no way I was putting him through further pain and suffering than necessary. Besides, at just eight pounds, the surgery alone could’ve killed him. After a month of him not responding to his medication, continuing to lose weight and not eat, I made the painfully difficult decision that humanely euthanizing my poor baby was better than allowing him to starve to death. I decided that if nature didn’t have its way by July 3rd, I’d take Beans in.

How do you prepare for the day you know your pet is going to die, at your hands no less? Well, first you run with a friend. Then, you allow your dying pet to do whatever the hell he wants all day; in Beans’ case, I let him outside and allowed him to feel the grass. His health was so bad at this point he couldn’t even jump, let alone run, so a leash wasn’t necessary. I just followed closely behind him as he slowly made his way around the yard, down the driveway, and inspecting the neighbor’s bushes. I constantly picked him up and smothered him with kisses. I gave him chest rubs. I held him close to my chest in the car ride to the vet’s office and his limp body didn’t fight back.

“You did everything right by Beans”, the vet told me before the moment. You know the moment I’m talking about. I won’t go into details because that time in that room with Beans as he passed is sacred to me. I will admit I whaled like a wounded animal. I was a wounded animal.

I didn’t request his ashes because I didn’t want to think of Beans as being trapped in a box forever. Was that the right thing to do? I have been questioning every moment and every decision I made since Beans got sick. What could I have done differently? Was I attentive enough? Was it all my fault because we got a new kitten? Should I have taken him in sooner? Should I have let him hang on longer, maybe a miracle could’ve saved him? These are questions I’ll wrestle with forever I’m sure. Along with these demons, I did come home with Beans’ paw print pressed in clay that we baked when we got home. I still marvel at how tiny that paw print looks compared to the large personality Beans had.

Everyone loved Beans. Every doctor and vet tech that ever treated him told me how handsome and friendly he was. Every friend who stopped by our home was greeted by Beans; he was not the type of cat to hide upstairs. He wanted to be involved in everything. I’ll never forget waiting in line to pick up Beans from the Pets Hotel where he was being boarded when we went on a cruise in February. I overheard one of the employees telling a couple who was picking up their dog, “You know, I just started here, and I never thought I liked cats. But there is this one cat we have with us named Beans, and he is just the coolest cat ever.” He was.

Ten years ago, I wanted a pet. I was living in a tiny apartment and though I preferred dogs, a cat would have to do. Word got around my office that I was reluctantly thinking of bringing a cat into my home. My office manager at the time just so happened to be taking care of a stray in her neighborhood. “He’s a good kitty and could use a good home” she told me. He was delivered to me on December 15th, 2007 with a red bow on his carrier. The night before I had bought every item in the cat isle at Target. We were suspicious of each other that first night. Beans mostly hid in the cat tent I had purchased (I went a bit overboard at Target), while I wondered if he would like me, and vice versa. The next morning I woke up to Beans next to me in bed. He pawed at my face and gave me his first meow. In that moment, I became a crazy in love obsessed kitty momma.

Beans was by my side through every move to every new home; the poor guy lived in five different residences in his nearly ten years with me. He stuck by me through my divorce and instantly accepted his new daddy Shawn. “Accept” is a weak word, Beans was straight up in love with Shawn. As cute as it was, I had to remind him frequently, “you’re sitting on his lap? Who feeds you and cleans your litter box after all?!” Beans had Black Kitty Healing Powers, I swear to God. Not only could he cure any emotional crisis by jumping on my lap, but he once healed me when I had the flu. Seriously, stay with me here- I was up all night hacking up a lung. Beans eventually jumped onto my chest and began what I can only describe as “turbo-purring”. Ever time I coughed, he purred stronger. The vibrations from his body helped calm me enough that within a few minutes, I finally drifted asleep. Tylenol Cold and Flu had nothing on Black Kitty Healing Powers.

I write this two days after Beans’ passing. I write this because it’s a more constructive way to deal with my grief than pacing around the house sobbing, touching every spot Beans ever lay down on thinking I can feel his warmth. I write this because I need to get it all out, not just as a catharsis, but because I want the world to know what a special cat Beans was. I want it recorded into history (or just WordPress) that Beans was the greatest cat who ever lived and he took a piece of my heart with him to Kitty Heaven.

Mommy loves you Beans. Thanks for being mine.

 HAWAII, KITTENS, AND AGE GROUP AWARDS, OH MY! (or, what I’ve been up to since my 50 mile race)

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Our newest medal model, Widget

After my 50 mile race on April 29th, May arrived and flew by in a flash. Though I only logged about 80 miles of running that month (my lowest monthly mileage since 2012), I guess I had a few good excuses.

First was my trip to Hawaii. OH MY GOODNESS WHERE ARE ALL THE PICTURES?!?!?! Well, though I was in paradise, it was nonetheless a business trip in paradise. I took some pictures but the business at hand left little time for exploring outside of the Honolulu city limits. That’s not to say I didn’t have a blast. Waikiki is full of great shopping, bars, restaurants, and beautiful ocean views. Though the weather was perfect for outdoor running, the amount of tourists and some scary, sun-fried locals made me cautious about running outside by myself. Alas, all the miles I logged while in Hawaii were on the hotel treadmill. Shout-out to Maui Brewing Company for having some delicious beers, and to the person who invented the Mai Tai.

The morning after I landed in Michigan, after sleeping in until 11am because I had just flown through a billion different time zones, Shawn whisked me away to a belated birthday brunch (oh yeah, I had a birthday while in Hawaii). Suspiciously, he grabbed our cat carrier before we departed. We had been casually looking at kittens available for adoption but suddenly I realized Shawn’s longing for a kitten was serious. He had something up his sleeve. After having lunch at the New Hudson Inn (they stopped serving breakfast at 11am, jerks), Shawn drove us to a local Pet Supplies Plus that was having an adoption event. Long story short- Laura spots black kitten, Laura holds black kitten, Shawn and Laura walk out with black kitten. Black kitten is now Widget.

During the joy that comes with raising a kitten, the first week Widget was in our home, I unfortunately missed some issues going on with our existing kitty, Beans. Shawn mentioned he didn’t eat much while I was in Hawaii but I selfishly attributed it to him being anxious that I was away. After Widget’s arrival Beans began to eat less, rarely use the litter box, and hid away from us. After the first couple days I blamed it on stress from the new kitten. But by mid-week I was concerned. He began vomiting regularly and showing absolutely no interest in food. He stopped purring, meowing, and acting like his normal cheerful self. By Thursday night I decided he needed immediate help and took him to the emergency vet in town. After examining him until 1:30am, it was found Beans had Pancreatitis, a UTI, and a possible mass showed up on an X-ray. My poor baby kitty had to spend all of Memorial Day weekend in the hospital recovering while Shawn, Widget, and I went up North to my parent’s home in Charlevoix for the first time in a year. It’s been over a week since Beans has been home, and I wish I could say he’s made a 100% recovery. However, he has a follow-up appointment tomorrow to find out for sure about that possible mass. In short, I’ve been an absolute mess. I blame myself for him getting sick and I just want my normal chatty, affectionate, goofy, kitty back.

In the midst of Beans’ illness, I ran my first race since my 50 miler, the Miles For Mankind Half Marathon in Westland, MI this past Saturday. I finished in a time of about 2:13ish, which while slow, was still my fastest half marathon time in over three years. To quote our current president: Sad! But it also gave me hope that faster times are ahead. Since this was a small race, my completely non-impressive time was somehow enough for me to win 3rd in my age group. I got a lovely green ribbon that you can see modeled by my Widget.

Before I knew it, May was completely over and June was upon me, leaving 13 weeks until my next 50 miler. I’m happy to report that in addition to the 13.1 miles I ran in Westland, I was able to log 48 total miles this past week. My butt is officially in gear. I have a lot more “life” being thrown at me lately- a sick kitty, a busy job, a house, a husband who sometimes appreciates having me around, but I’m determined to rock North Country in August.

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HOLY CRAP I RAN 50 MILES

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I mean, can you think of a more fitting title? You read that right, my tens of readers- I, the Rum Runner, ran a 50 mile Ultra Marathon, The Indiana Trail 50 (actually it’s officially called the Indiana Trail 100 and all the merch had that printed on it despite there being a 50 mile and 100K and I found that super annoying).

“But isn’t that what you’ve been training so hard for since early January? Why do you act so surprised?” you are probably thinking to yourself (as well as “Why do I care? I have things to do”). When I look back, running for a very long time is what I trained to do. Actually FINISHING a 50 mile run for the first time is almost next to impossible to prepare for properly. I almost quit dozens of times. I was in immense pain. I felt angry. I felt frustrated. I felt hysterical. I sobbed into the arms of a complete stranger. It was miserable and horrendous and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

I won’t try to give a play-by-play of 14 hours of running. What I will do is break my experience down only the most important facts:

  • Poops taken? One
  • Shoes worn? Two, of course! One for each foot!
  • No smartass, I meant pairs of shoes! Only one pair, my Salomon Speedcross trail shoes.
  • How many blisters did you end up with? Only about two mild ones, despite wearing the same pair of shoes AND socks the entire run
  • Areas chafed? Surprisingly none, not even the usual offenders like the thigh chub rub and butt crack. The one application of Body Glide held out the entire run.
  • What the hell do you eat when running 50 miles?! For me, lots of cups of chicken noodle soup and flat Coke. That’s about all my stomach would tolerate. Once it let me eat a small piece of PB&J. My stomach did NOT like anything sugary, however, like candy or fruit. I also drank too much Tailwind in the beginning of my run which resulted in horrible tummy distress and eventually to my singular poop.
  • Tell me about the course! Okay! It was a very pretty state park with rolling hills and trails in the woods that were pretty technical without killing yourself. You only had to look out for the odd roots and rocks. But oh, was there ever MUD. The dirt in this park was mostly clay and the rain in the preceding days had turned most of the second loop of our run to a muddy, slippery, mess. There were at least five straight miles where running was just not an option.
  • Speaking of rain, how was the weather? Looking back, the weather was kind of perfect in terms of running. The temperature stayed around 50-55 the entire run which made it easy to dress for. There was some rain in the middle of our run but it wasn’t a downpour. However, towards the end of the 50 either it got colder or my body just quit functioning properly and I began shivering uncontrollably. Thank goodness for my rain coat.
  • Tell me about the aid station and volunteers! Let me tell you, The Indiana Trail 50 was more like a strolling buffet in the woods than an Ultra Marathon. Just kidding there was nothing easy about a single moment but those aid stations were STOCKED with goodies I couldn’t eat. Burgers, pierogis, bacon, donut holes, chocolate covered coffee beans…all that was missing was pizza and a nacho bar. The volunteers were amazing people. After about mile 30 the pain and fatigue pretty much turn you into a toddler unable to walk steadily or speak full sentences. Thankfully, the volunteers treated me as such. “Hi there you look so strong! Do you want me to fill up your water? Do you want a cookie? Does someone need a nap?” Okay I made that last part up but my point is they were super attentive and I couldn’t have made it to the finish without them.
  • Why the hell did it take you so long? Hey! Did you read the part about the mud? Also, from mile 39 until the end, every step became a small battle with my mind. At that point I was mentally exhausted and hating life. When my mind betrays me like that, it’s difficult for me to overcome and think positive and move fast. The last five miles of the race were pure hell. That’s when my anger turned to despair and I began randomly crying. At this point I was the last of my friends left on the course and I was feeling sorry for myself on top of the pain. I shuffled along in agony until Shawn found me a quarter mile away from the finish line, held my hand, and ran me in to the finish. It also took me so long because my lying-ass friends told me this was a FLAT RAIL TRAIL COURSE so there was no need to train on real technical trails. LOL!!!!!!! Fuck my friends. Also I’m just slow and dumb to begin with.
  • Why the hell would you want to repeat this hellish experience? Because I know what to expect now. Everyone tells you it will be hard but you won’t know how freakishly painfully hard it will be until you do it. Remember your first time running a marathon and you swore never again and then the pain went away and then you became determined to run another one faster and now you’ve done 13 and you’re not getting any faster but you just keep signing up for marathons like an idiot? Oh wait that’s just me. Now that I know what to expect in a 50 miler, I can plan better to prevent those rough times and, I don’t know, maybe run on a trail or two with some hills. Also, I kind of have no choice since remember that I am registered for the North Country Trail 50 in August.

Not to sound too corny, but I became a different person after running my 50 miles. I feel a certain confidence in my every day life I didn’t have before. My brain is probably thinking, “Well she went to hell and back, maybe giving a presentation in front of 50 people isn’t the worst that can happen.” I am actually looking forward to training for North Country and hopefully shaving a good hour off of my Indiana finishing time. I think 50 milers, if life allows, will not be a two-and-done occurrence for me. But nothing longer, that would just be stupid.* On that note, I’ll leave you with this joke:

How does a runner get through the woods?

On the psychopath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*I once swore I’d never run a marathon too

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My First Ultra: The Kal-Haven Trail Run

Kal Haven Finish

Emil Zatopek, winner of four Olympic gold medals, once said the following: “If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” I love this quote because it’s impossible to run a marathon and not learn something new about yourself. You will find strength you never knew you had, tenacity to push through pain that once would’ve made you quit. Marathons are a beast that will change the way you feel about yourself forever. Ultramarathons are a monster that will cause you to experience about 3 different lifetimes and even cause you to fantasize about a life where you never have to run again.

On Saturday, April 8th 2017, I officially completed my first ultramarathon, the Kal-Haven Trail Run. This race is advertised as 33.5 miles but according to my watch and everyone else I asked, it’s technically over 34. The entire run is held on the Kal-Haven Trail, a pancake flat rail-trail which runs from Kalamazoo to South Haven, Michigan. In terms of ultramarathons, it’s an easy one. I already mentioned it’s pancake flat, and pretty much the only terrain you have to look out for is sticks and branches on the trail. I knew going in to this race it would be flat, but good Lord did I underestimate how flat it was. You would think that would make the run easy, right? Well 34 straight miles of using the same exact muscles with not even a rolling hill to help break up the monotony tore up my leg muscles more than I would’ve imagined. But, more on the pain later.

I arrived in Kalamazoo the night before and stayed in a hotel for free thanks to my Hilton Honors points, the one perk of travelling so much for work last year. I enjoyed dinner at a new brewery in town, One Well Brewing. It had been written up as one of the best new breweries in Michigan, and in a state where breweries are getting a bit out of control in my humble opinion, that was enough to get me through the door. I ordered a flight and there wasn’t a bad beer in the bunch- a delicious IPA, amber ale, even a jalapeno flavored beer. I also ordered a pizza with no cheese because, duh, I didn’t want my stomach to be upset for my run. Jalapeno beer is totally fine before an ultra though.

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Pictured: Carb Loading

I woke up the morning of the race feeling oddly well rested and ready to go. I ate a gas station Clif Bar and horrible hotel room coffee with powdered creamer, grabbed a banana from the lobby breakfast, and went on my way to the Kal-Haven trail head. As I picked up my packet I was oblivious to the daunting fact that I was about to run the longest distance of my life up to that point. At least the weather forecast was looking perfect- chilly to start but warming up to the 50’s and sunny for most of the day.

The first few miles of the race were like any other run on a rail trail similar to the ones back home, such as the Paint Creek Trail or the West Bloomfield Trail. It was very pretty and full of trees. And it stayed like that, for miles and miles and miles and miles. What I’m trying to say is it was a bit monotonous. Oh yeah, and did I mention no hills? By mile 17 I was surprised at how sore and beat up I felt. Luckily there was a huge aid station marking the half way point full of pretzels, fruit snacks, bagels, bananas, and PUPPIES! Yes, I met a beautiful pit bull puppy named Beans, just like my baby kitty. Receiving puppy kisses from Beans gave me a burst of energy that lasted until mile 24.

It was at this point that I ran out of motivation. After 24 miles of running a straight line through trees, with no friends to talk to and no music, I was just plain bored and couldn’t find the mental strength to run through the pain. I texted my husband while fighting back tears letting him know how tough this run was. He told me to stay strong and keep going, and of course texted a photo of our cat Beans cheering me on like he does for every race. With his encouragement in mind I hobbled along for two more miles then ended up walking most of mile 26. Mentally, I was done with this race. I questioned why I was a runner. I beat myself up for my lack of speed. I told myself no way in hell I was going to run the 50 miler in April and that I wasn’t good enough to be a runner so I was going to just quit and start taking spinning classes. I was excited imagining a life of sleeping in on Saturdays and having toenails.

Then, magically at mile 30, a third (or fourth?) wind came upon me. An inner voice appeared and actually started pushing me along instead of keeping me down. “Don’t think about how far you have to go, think about how far you’ve come.” This random thought became my mantra as I pushed along for the last four miles, going from over 13 minute miles to 10:50’s. Yes, that is super slow, but at that point I felt like I was flying. “You are going to finish, probably not as fast as you wanted but you will finish and no one can take that from you.” I really wish this encouraging inner voice would show itself more often, like at work meetings. I guess it only shows up when I’m under tremendous physical stress.

Well, I did finish, but not before cursing the course for putting the ONE HILL right before the finish line. Bastards. After grabbing my medal I looked for my friend Angie who I was sure finished long before me. By “looking”, I mean I sat on the ground in pain and waited for her to find me. When she finally did I learned she had finished AN HOUR before I did. She is truly a beast and is going to rock her upcoming 100 miler. I was just happy to finish 34 miles in 7 hours and 10 minutes.

Despite the miles of agony that plagued me during the Kal-Haven Trail Run, overall this race motivated me even more for my upcoming 50. Despite how happy I was to be done running I actually felt like I could tackle another 16 miles. Kal-Haven proved that I can push through extreme pain, fatigue, and boredom and finish with a smile on my face. The miles may not be pretty or fast but they will be my own to be proud of forever.

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Unlucky #13: The Ann Arbor Marathon

Way back in 2014, I was in great shape and setting PR’s like a champ. It’s been nothing but a sharp nosedive from greatness since, but I do marvel at my accomplishments three years ago. In March of 2014 I set my half marathon PR of 1:50:10 at the Ann Arbor Half Marathon, a very hilly course that in no way should have inspired record-setting speed from me. To this day I have no idea how I pulled that off; to put things in perspective, I returned to run the Ann Arbor Half in 2015 and finished more than 35 minutes slower. Hoping to redeem myself, I did register again in 2016, but after a fun night out with Shawn I woke up race day morning with a hangover, looked at the freezing temperature, said “fuck that”, and got back into my warm bed.

I had never skipped out on a race due to laziness, and guilt inspired me to do something pretty stupid at the end of last year- I registered for the FULL marathon in Ann Arbor as my penance. Never mind that the full was a double loop (ew!) and in March (when Michigan’s weather goes on the rag). Not only would it make up for my misdeeds, but training for a March marathon would inspire me to get my butt out the door during the most miserable months of the year.

As you’ve read in previous posts, I joined up with friends who were training for a 50 miler on their weekend long runs to train for Ann Arbor. A gentle twist of the arm saw me signing up for the 50 miler as well, and now Ann Arbor went from “Early Spring Marathon to Keep me Motivated” to “A Mere Training Run”.

The weather leading up to Ann Arbor wasn’t terrible- pretty mild and no snow or ice. In fact, the Friday prior to the marathon was set to hit 75 degrees! Oh but in typical schizophrenic Michigan fashion the temperature would drop to 40 the next day. The forecast for race morning called for just shy of 40 degrees with a 90% chance of rain. Lovely. I kept checking my weather app hoping that through sheer positivity I could change the weather, but alas, I don’t have X-Men capabilities after all.

The night before the marathon my parents came over to see the new house and of course no visit from mom and dad would be complete without a visit to a local dive bar. Long story short, I ate a lot of bad food and drank a lot of rum. I could barely sleep thinking of everything that would surely go wrong the next day- I wouldn’t make the cutoff. I’d get drenched. I’d have to poop 50 times. When my alarm went off after a solid two hours of actual sleep I almost began crying, that’s how little I wanted to run. Thankfully a friend from the ultra training group was using the marathon as a training run as well, and accountability saw me make my way to the starting line.

Conditions the first half of the race weren’t bad- I even took off my gloves and rolled up my sleeves. As horrible as weather conditions are for Ann Arbor, you can’t deny that it’s a lovely and scenic course. It takes you through the University of Michigan’s campus, through riverfront parks, and through the Arboretum. Thankfully my tummy was on it’s best behavior and the Tailwind Nutrition was keeping my energy steady. Dare I say it, I was enjoying myself! Then, magically on cue, as soon I started my second loop of the course, the rain began to fall.

The rain started as a mist and I thought, no big deal. Then Mother Nature laughed at my arrogance and it began to pour. Areas of the course became nothing but puddles which aren’t as easy to hop around after 17 miles of running. The Arb was nothing but mud. And remember how I said it was not even a high of 40 degrees? I was absolutely miserable. At one point the Five Hour pace group leader ran up to me and asked, “You’re running slow, are you okay? Taking in enough calories?” First of all, fuck you for asking such a condescending question. Second of all, I answered a bit more diplomatically, “I’m running a marathon in the rain, I’m as good as I can be.” Mr. Happy Asshole replied, “Well I’m running a marathon in the rain too! Stick with me and we’ll finish together!” UGH. I had really wanted to finish in less than five hours but the prospect of having to listen to him for the next seven miles was enough to make me walk and accept defeat.

When I finally finished I was a soaking and shivering mess. The Mylar blanket handed to me was soaked as well but I took it anyway. In all, I finished marathon #13 in just over 5:11, which given the weather and course conditions and the fact I had run 31 miles in the week leading up to this marathon (and it was just a training run after all), I was pretty satisfied. Thankfully I was smart enough to pack a change of dry clothes and my training buddy had an office in town where we could get changed.

To put it in perspective how cold I was driving home, it took me 20 minutes to work up the courage to leave my heated truck and walk into my house. When I finally did, I spent most of the rest of the day on the couch watching comedy specials on Netflix. I treated myself to a victory Bloody Mary and lots of peanut M&M’s.

A2Marathon

My penance having been satisfied, that night I swore off running Ann Arbor ever again. However, an urge to return and break five hours has been nagging me since. I never claimed to be a quick learner.

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The Lost Year

As my tens of loyal readers surely noticed, I didn’t publish a single post to The Rum Runner in 2016. I previously discussed that this was due to having a travel-intensive job that drained most of my excess energy. In fact, I thought I would just abandon my silly little blog all together. When I had the urge to write a few weeks ago I had fun looking back on all my previous posts and reliving some fun (and some painful) memories. It’s truly hard to believe that I’ve been recording my musings on running for five years now!

That being said, I realized recently that I sold myself short regarding my running accomplishments last year. In addition to many miles logged on Hampton Inn treadmills, I completed three marathons in three new states:

  1. The Walt Disney World Marathon (as part of the Goofy Challenge), Florida
  2. The Wisconsin Marathon, appropriately in Wisconsin
  3. The Tucson Marathon, Arizona
Arizona

MB and me in AZ

I won’t go into mega details since I’m terrible at writing exciting recaps. In fact, I’m pretty terrible at writing anything exciting. But you know who DOES write awesome recaps? My friend MB over at Run All The States! There you can read about our shared adventures, and her solo ones, which I’m sure she’ll be doing more of because my husband is all “smart” with money and has put his foot down on doing any out-of-state marathons for a while because we bought a house and we’re adults and he’s a BIG MEANIE (just kidding of course, but I’m itching for an adventure).

I didn’t set any PRs with these marathons, unless number of poop stops during a marathon counts as a special PR. Darn Disney and their early-ass wake up calls really messed with my system the entire weekend. Wisconsin offered a great course the first half of the marathon, then saw us running on shoulders of main roads the second half. Also featured on the second half was a brick wall of wind pushing against me. Tucson had a pretty boring course as well with even more miles run on shoulders of main roads, only these weren’t closed to traffic! Another thing all three of these runs had in common was a complete lack of beer. After running the Route 66 Marathon in 2015 I’ve just come to expect booze every few miles to help kill the pain.

Other running highlights from last year:

  • Visiting one of my best friends in Salt Lake City, Tracy, and running the SLC Half Marathon. It’s such a beautiful course and I’d love to return to run the full again.
  • Subjecting myself to more trails- I ran three trail half marathons and one four-hour timed run on a loop in Bloomer Park. I have learned that trails are hard and make me hungry. Boy I can’t wait to run 50 miles of trails soon (that was typed in sarcasm font).
  • Running the Brooksie Way and actually pushing myself to a challenging pace on such a beautiful fall day in Michigan. I love this half marathon so much.
  • Completing my very first Detroit Turkey Trot! It was also my first 10K in a very long time that I finished in an hour. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

So despite the missed races and long runs and time with friends and family due to my job, I guess upon reflection that 2016 wasn’t the complete disaster I remember it to be. Also, those hotel points and SkyMiles will prove very handy when I’m allowed to travel again. Honestly, what I am looking forward to most this year is more miles and fun with my running friends.

 

 

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I’m Alive!! And Stupid

Hey there kids! I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I updated this vibrant and widely-read blog. Actually, I can believe it- I pretty much decided to abandon it after taking on a very travel-intensive job last year. Well, I left that job and after leaving a pretty crummy year behind, I’m actually optimistic for the year ahead. When I’m happy, I feel like writing about it.

I guess last year wasn’t that crummy. I did after all marry the love of my life. However, as previously mentioned, I had to plan our wedding through many business trips that took me away from home, friends, and running. I spent most of my year as a resident of Hilton hotels all over Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Texas. I also lost my grandma, that was pretty shitty! Oh and a reality television star was elected president. As John Oliver said, f*ck 2016.

Let’s not dwell on the negative and turn to the positive instead. I recently took on a new job where I will be in ONE PLACE ALL THE TIME. I love my new team and the work I will be accomplishing with them. Soon Shawn and I will be closing on a new home in New Hudson, MI! We will be living within running distance of so many parks (Kensington and Island Lake!) and trails (Huron Valley Trail!), as well as living within running distance of a few breweries. I tell ya, life doesn’t get much better than that.

Thank goodness I will soon be living in a quiet and runner-friendly neighborhood, because I certainly have some running to do. At the end of last year I registered for the Ann Arbor Marathon to keep myself motivated throughout the winter. I decided to tag alone with some friends who were training for a 50 miler on their long runs in order to train. Well of course I soon got talked into REGISTERING for the 50 miler, The Indiana Trail run in Albion, IN. Oh and I’ll be doing the Kal Haven Trail run (around 34 miles) on April 8th to train for it. Oh haha and did I mention I had already signed up for another 50 miler, North Country, at the end of August?!

So yeah, I’m stupid, but I’m also excited. After trying unsuccessfully to train for speed for two years now I decided if I can’t run fast, I’ll run long. I’m looking forward to posting more about my Ultra adventures as well as all of the awesome places to run in my new city. Also, I need to break out my old bathing suits since I’ll be really close to Island Lake and really have no excuse not to do a T Rex Triathlon this summer (because I’ll have so much time, right?!).

In addition to my upcoming running adventures, I’m also looking forward to embracing a healthier lifestyle. Actually I’m not eating healthier at all, but I’m looking to drastically cut back on drinking. After a booze-soaked cruise last week, I’m determined to drink as little as possible in the coming month. This may not sound like a daunting task to most people, but I am the Rum Runner after all. Getting used to sparkling water instead of red wine with dinner and giving up shower beers after a long run will be tough. However, I know my life and running goals will be easier to achieve without them.

Thanks for reading! Happy 2017 and happy running!

 

 

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Back to Basics

Yesterday the doctor confirmed what I’d already known (and have known) for months years now: I am very anemic. While this is information that concerned doctors have been warning me about since the age of 16, it’s usually something I ignore like the stubborn idiot that I am. For example, it’s probably not good to be gasping for breath after climbing one flight of stairs, or blacking out whenever you stand up at work. Believe it or not these are symptoms that I’ve learned to live with over the years, and even laugh at. However, once my running became affected, I decided to start taking better care of myself. According to the doctor, my current hemoglobin level is 7. A normal level is 12. As he put it, I’m running on a half-empty tank of gas.

It’s no secret my race times have drastically slowed in the past year. I used to blame my accident (that whole getting hit by a car thing), but now I’m not so sure. I think it’s more of a combination of health, too many long distance races, running alone, and abandoning speed work and strength training. I’ve been unhappy lately with my slow running and that ever-increasing number on the scale, so it is no wonder that this article I read resonated with me so well:

Crossing the Finish Line 25 Pounds Lighter

In the above article, the author talks about how years of running marathons and eating as though she could justify every empty calorie lead to a steady weight gain, and slower race times. She took charge of her health and running progress by training for a mile race (yes, one singular mile), eating cleaner, and training with weights. Obviously, training for shorter distances means more sprinting and speed work, which we all know burns more fat. She lost the weight and beat her mile goal as well.

I was completely inspired by her progress. Why had I been treating marathons as the be-all-end-all of race distances? A fast 5K, and even mile, takes lots of hard work and training as well. Also, there’s no way I’m ever going to get faster running slow, long, distances every weekend. I made a goal then and there to train hard for a 5K. My 5Ks lately have been disastrous, with average times around 29 minutes. I’m thinking a realistic yet challenging goal would be sub-26 minutes. I’ll be following this plan by Hal Higdon to get myself there, as well as incorporating more weights in my week, oh and taking my iron pills like a good girl:

Hal Higdon’s Advanced 5K Plan

Being the impatient and impulsive creature that I am, I decided to start working towards this goal NOW, instead of waiting until next spring/summer when there are literally 50 5Ks any given weekend. Thanks to RunMichigan.com, I was able to not only find a winter 5K that’s exactly 8 weeks from now, but also a mile race in Milford on November 28th as well! Granted, both are marketed as more “fun” races, but I’ll be having fun kicking so much ass. You know what else is fun about smaller distances? Smaller registration fees! I’m sure my boyfriend is happy to hear that.

But Laura! Don’t you have two winter marathons to train for as well? Yes, unfortunately. I figure I can train for both by still doing a long run on the weekend, but not killing myself mileage-wise during the week. Hopefully the extra speed work will contribute to faster marathon times as well.

I’m excited for a new and refreshing running goal. If all goes well I can work towards a 5K PR in 2016, and get back that running mojo that once allowed me to run a 50-minute 10K on a 85 degree day in August (I still can’t believe I did that!!). Also, if I sign up for any more full marathons for 2016 you have my permission to stab me repeatedly.

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