Category Archives: Long Run

Running for Fun, and Feeling the Need for Speed

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As stated in my previous post, I came out of July with the need to fall back in love with running. In order to do so I signed up for a few races in August that I had always enjoyed running in the past, but that I haven’t been able to enjoy in the past few years due to a constant marathon training schedule (you aren’t going to waste your time running a fun 10K when you have 20 miles on your schedule). I also discovered some new races as well.

August was a great month for fun races, starting with the Advokate 10K in Rochester, Michigan. I’ve already stated why this race was so much fun in the past, and though I didn’t even come close to the 52:10 I ran there four years ago, I still had fun supporting a great cause, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The very next day I ran another 10K in town, the Milford Memories. It was decent enough, except for the fact that I run that route all the time for free. The Milford Memories is a big festival with art and vendors but unfortunately I had to get home to get ready for a 23 mile bike run with friends. Yeah, I kicked some ass that day.

Next up was an 11 mile trail race in Marquette, way up north in the Upper Peninsula. The rugged terrain of the UP made technical trails back home, such as Bald Mountain and Pontiac Lake, feel like an easy stroll through the woods. As difficult as it was, it was nowhere near as difficult as running the 50K going on that same day, which Shawn was able to finish while still in the upright position and without crying. I had fun watching the ultra runners come in after my puny little run (that took three hours!! rocks everywhere!!!!) and was amazed by how so many finished their runs looking like they’d just completed an easy 5K. I want to know the secret to not crying in ultras. Some 50 Mile runners crossed the finish line and strolled over to the food station without even collapsing. Oh, and speaking of food, the post-race spread was delicious burritos from a place called Border Grill in Marquette. Their Border Sauce is the stuff of dreams and I tried unsuccessfully to find a knock off recipe on the internet.

My next super-happy-fun race in August was the famous Crim Festival of Races. Four years ago I finished the 10 mile run in 1:25! This year, well, I took an extra 15 minutes. I spent that extra time drinking mimosas and beer found on the course. My only goal- consume all alcohol offered to me. Goal met. I stayed in Flint the night before and enjoyed a very tasty vegan burger at a bar called The Soggy Bottom, which would be the last place I’d expect to find vegan food. We also enjoyed a “Mystery Beer” off of the menu, which tasted like an amber, but the server wouldn’t give up the secret. I guess it’s iron-clad until the keg is tapped. Part of me still wants to call and see if it’s finished yet.

Last but certainly not least was the Milford Labor Day 30K on September 2nd. This race really shouldn’t be included in this post because 1) It wasn’t in August, and 2) It’s not at all fun. In fact, two years ago when I ran it I almost quit twice. It’s notorious for its relentless hills and the fact that it always seems to be 1,000 degrees on the day of the run. This year, we enjoyed some mild fall-like weather that helped me finish 15 minutes faster than two years ago. Finally, some improvement! When all was said and done, I actually had a great time running the “Milf” this year. Beautiful course, fun after party with Fat Tire beer and burgers, and it doesn’t hurt that I live less than 10 minutes from the start line. There was also an angel who appeared on the course distributing Oberon. You can see my new kittens, Luna and Luigi, modeling the medal in the photo above.

Running the Labor Day 30K somewhat successfully, I really want to give ultra distances a rest for the time being and focus on speed again. The only real races I have coming up are the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon and the Charlotte Marathon. I’d love to maybe break 2:10 for the half, and if the running gods allow, 4:40 for the full. My PRs in both distances are much faster than that, but I fear those days are behind me and it’s time to accept a new running normal. In order to reach these goals, I’m going to run with friends as much as possible. Looking back on my fast finishes from four years ago, I realize it was constantly running with my faster friends that got me there.

 

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HOLY CRAP I RAN 50 MILES

50 Miler End

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.

One Well

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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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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New Year, New Training!

We are now 12 days into the new year and I must say, it’s already off to a better start than 2014. Life is so much more enjoyable without divorce drama and a Polar Vortex to contend with. The short time I’ve been here in 2015 has mainly been spent working toward my two main goals this year: Swimming an open-water 5K and PRing the shit out of a Spring marathon, whether it be the Flying Pig or a different, local, race I may or may not register for that takes place at the end of March (*shifty-eyed glance*).

I’ll admit, I’ve been a terrible slacker on my long runs lately. I really have no valid excuse other than “I don’t feel like it.” I have a great guy and fluffy cat at home, making it way to cozy and difficult to take a three-hour run on a Saturday morning. However, now that I have that “sub 4-hour marathon” itch again, I’ll be forcing myself out the door more from now on. You don’t get fast eating caramel corn and perusing Twitter all morning long.

Still beats the treadmill.

Whatever it takes

One area where I have not been slacking is swimming. I logged over four miles of swimming last week, more than I swam in the entire month of December. I really enjoy my swim workouts. I feel my kick getting stronger and my stroke getting more efficient, even though I’m still getting passed by large old men on the regular. Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I ordered some new goodies on clearance from SwimOutlet.com to reward my new swimming obsession, which included a new pink bathing suit and swim cap. Well, the swim cap already has a hole in it and the suit is cut high on the hips and makes my butt look like biscuit dough exploding out of the canister. Not exactly the motivation I was looking for.

Speaking of my exploding butt, I’ve decided to make a really big concerted effort to cut out the junk. Yesterday at the store I bought a bunch of power greens, berries, lean chicken, sweet potatoes, and other things that I usually buy and throw away after they’ve gone rotten in the fridge. But not this time! I have a new pink bathing suit that I need to fit into (and am too lazy to return)! More dinners at home will be the next step, which is easier when you have a boyfriend who makes amazing homemade chicken noodle soup.

More long runs. More swimming progress. Don’t eat crap. Easier said than done. I get lots of inspiration reading the training plans and progress of others and really enjoy all of your blogs. Hopefully you all can do the same reading my incoherent ramblings. Even if you aren’t inspired, there’s a chance I’ll post a picture of my cat every once in a while.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Show me your Playlist!

One of the many things I love about running is the chance to be out in nature on my own with nothing keeping me company but my favorite tunes. I’m a huge music nerd and would trade in watching TV for listening to my iPod any day. While I’m an alternative/industrial/metal girl at heart, music I listen to on my run is a different story. I learned during my first marathon that it’s not particularly pleasant to have Trent Reznor scream at you when you’re wilting in the humidity and contemplating jumping into the Detroit River to end it all. Since then, my running playlists have been full of fun, upbeat, and danceable tunes that I’d most likely be embarrassed to have play in my car with company. Without further adieu, I present to you my running Playlist, appropriately titled on my iPod as RUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1) Running (Adam Lambert)

2) The Walker (Fitz and the Tantrums)

3) Applause (Lady Gaga)

4) Bangarang (Skrillex)

5) The Beautiful People (Marilyn Manson)

6) Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones)

7) Burn it Down (Linkin Park)

8) Came Back Haunted (Nine Inch Nails)

9) Carried Away (Passion Pit)

10) Closer (Tegan and Sara)

11) Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) (Foster the People)

12) So Whatcha Want (Beastie Boys)

13) Sure Shot (Beastie Boys)

14) I Got Mine (The Black Keys)

15) Safe and Sound (Capital Cities)

16) Groove is in the Heart (Deee-Lite)

17) Tongue Tied (Grouplove)

18) What’s on your Mind (Pure Energy) (Information Society)

19) Heavy Bells (J. Roddy Walston & The Business)

20) Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)

21) The Phoenix (Fall Out Boy)

22) My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Fall Out Boy)

23) My Body (Young the Giant)

24) Coming of Age (Foster the People)

25) Best Friend (Foster the People)

26) Dancing on my Own (Robyn)

27) Roar (Katy Perry)

28) Sexy Bitch (David Guetta feat. Akon)

29) Starships (Nicki Minaj)

30) Stronger (Kelly Clarkston)

31) Birthday (Katy Perry)

32) Fire Woman (The Cult)

33) She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult)

So there you have it. I used to have a much longer list of over 60 songs, but damn you Apple for putting the “edit” and “delete playlist” buttons SO EFFING CLOSE TOGETHER. You can see mixes of pop, classic rock, metal, modern alternative, and 80s New Wave. My two favorites are Groove is in the Heart and Fire Woman; for some reason these particular songs light a fire under my ass and make pain and fatigue disappear.

So tell me readers reader! What’s on your playlist? What songs get your legs and soul moving? What’s the most embarrassing song on your list (mine is Skrillex, no doubt)? Or are you one of those complete weirdos who listen to nothing on a run?

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Making New Goals and Fighting Old Demons

A peculiar and unexpected thing happened to me as I ran the Fifth Third Riverbank 25K in Grand Rapids on May 10th. No, I didn’t shit my pants again. That’s almost expected these days. What happened was I cried for the first time during a race. These weren’t tears of pain, but rather boredom. I was literally bored to tears. After mile 8 something broke down inside of me and I began to hate every minute of that run. Physically, I was fine! I was averaging sub-nine minute miles up to that point. My mind, however, was done. It was my third long-distance event in three weeks and I was finally experiencing what all the wise people around me told me I would: Burnout.

Obviously I had some plans to adjust. Now that my house was sold and I could finally close the chapter in my life titled “Divorce Drama”,  I no longer had the need to run away. The first decision I made was to drop down to the Half Marathon in Charlevoix. I felt like a loser, but my running soul needed a break from training plans and long runs. I needed to ENJOY running again. I also decided to stick to my planned 50K in September. Trail running will be fairly new to me and I’m looking forward to the challenge (and not having to worry about speed). I can’t wait for long, leisurely, runs with friends out on the trails all summer long, with my nifty new pink Camelback that some really awesome guy bought me for my birthday.

So far I’m two weeks in to my “Don’t Follow a Plan!” plan, and I’m happy to report my love of running has returned. I’ve been doing a lot of morning runs before work and I love how a good pre-dawn jaunt sets the rest of your day up for success. Well, for the most part anyway. Another peculiar thing has been occurring as of late that has me concerned. Maybe it’s the less miles run per week paired with my ravenous appetite, but my once dormant bulimia has tried nudging its way back in to my life. The voices telling me that I’m fat and worthless and need to fill the void with food to be immediately expelled are back inside my head. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve had a relapse in the past week.

Eating disorders, like alcoholism, are never “cured”, you just learn to better control them. You may be wondering why I’m sharing this information  (hey, I am the girl who’ll talk to any willing party about poop after all). The main reason is to hold myself accountable. I need to regain that control I had over bulimia for years after letting it take my life and happiness hostage for so long. I don’t want to go through that again, or put my loved ones through that again. I may also need to seek professional help to correct my disordered eating patterns lately. I think a visit to a dietician would be beneficial, perhaps I can find one with experience working with eating disorders.

All is not lost, oh dear strangers of the Internet. Despite my recent troubles I am experiencing levels of happiness in my life I never thought possible. In fact, I think it speaks to my newly developed confidence and strength that I’m able to recognize an emerging problem and fix it right away instead of letting myself drown like I would in years past. I have a lot to be excited about in the coming months (TRAILS! SUNSHINE! MEDALS! KITTIES! MY MANLY MAN-MAN*!) and I can’t let that bitch bulimia ruin the fun.

*The word “boyfriend” sounded silly when describing a 30-year-old man, so this is the best descriptor I could produce

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Random Thoughts: February 2014 Edition

Though the winter weather continues to hold Michigan by the blue, shriveled, balls, at least we can rejoice that we are one month closer to the promise of spring. With so much chaos occurring around me I felt it would do my spirit good to focus on some of the highlights of this past month, in no particular order:

1) Salted Caramel

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Salty and Sweet: the flavor combination of the gods. Those who know me well know that I’m a peanut butter whore and will put it on or in just about anything. However, this winter I was introduced to the wonder that is salted caramel. I first tried it in the form of GU during my long runs, and sorry Peanut Butter GU, but I have a new favorite. The Salted Caramel GU goes down smooth and tastes like melted caramel candies. I’ve been rationing the packets I bought like they were Salted Caramel Crack.

Due to the success of Salted Caramel GU, I decided I should try actual salted caramel in a non-running gel form. Thankfully Sanders here in Birmingham has several salted caramel candies to choose from, including chocolate-covered salted caramel hearts for Valentine’s Day. Holy crap are they amazing. I intend to eat an entire bag the next time PMS rolls around. Salted caramel, will you be mine forever? XOXO

2) Undie Running

Me and Andrea and our totally unplanned matching animal hats

Me and Andrea and our totally unplanned matching animal hats

This past Saturday, despite overloading on salted caramel, I participated in the second annual Cupid’s Undie Run Detroit. Thousands of Detroiters took to Woodward to run one mile in their underwear, in 20 degrees. The event raised over $2 million for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which is awesome. What’s even more awesome is being able to walk around Detroit in your underwear without getting arrested. Fine, I’ll come out and say it- I hate wearing pants.

Joining me in my undie running adventure was my buddy Andrea who ran with me last year. This year the event was held at the Fillmore in order to hold more people, which did raise more money; however, the house-party in your underpants atmosphere of last year turned into a creepy, club-like setting. I would think twice about running next year without a male escort. All of that aside, RUNNING IN YOUR UNDERPANTS IS THE BEST!

3) The Nike Training Club App

In an attempt to gain a six-pack before the above mentioned Undie Run, I downloaded the Nike Training Club app for my iPhone. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, ranging from 15-minute ones that target specific muscles (the Sculpted Arms workout hurts so good), to 45-minute long circuit training routines. What I love most about this app is that anyone with a pair of free weights and a few feet of space can get in a killer workout. Every workout you complete earns you points toward different levels, some of which include bonus workouts. One bonus workout I completed was Paula Radlcliffe’s Marathon Prep Workout, which should’ve been titled, “Do Lunges Until You Beg for the Sweet Mercy of Death”. My new goal is to fit in at least three Nike Training Club workouts a week. I may not have a six-pack yet, but I am definitely seeing more definition.

The weather forecast is asking us not to get used to the warmer temperatures coming our way, since the rest of February will be back to polar conditions. I guess this is just the new normal here in Michigan. Oh well, I think with my balaclava, Salted Caramel GU, and burgeoning six-pack, I’ll make it out alive (seriously though, is more snow really all that necessary?).

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Going all the Way

Before I get started on my intended post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I had the honor of meeting ultra-running superstar Scott Jurek over a week ago. He gave a presentation at VegFest in Novi on April 21st and stayed around to greet fans and sign books. I tried writing a recap of the event but I hate writing recaps. I’m not a journalist, I’m just an idiot with a WordPress account. Just know that Scott is extremely nice and inspiring and everything you’d hope he’d be in real life. I got my copy of Eat and Run signed and ate many delicious vegan cookies.

The message that Scott inscribed into my book, “Dig Deep”, may sound cliched, until you actually have to do it. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m currently training for my second marathon on June 22nd. Marathon training is all fun and games until the really long runs pop up on your training plan. This weekend I had an 18-miler planned. My biggest obstacle wasn’t finding the time, or any physical injury. It was that voice in my head telling me I couldn’t do it.

Last year when I was training for my first marathon, I probably only fit in four runs longer than 13.1. Each run ended in tears, frustration, and Bacardi. I tackled 16 miles last week with no issues. But 18 miles? My little pea-brain somehow processed that number as far more impossing, eventhough it’s only two more miles. Though I’m a stronger runner than I was last year, my confidence was still shaken by memories of last year’s training disasters. “You’re not going to make it the entire 18 miles. You’re going to give up. You’re going to get bored. You’re not good enough” was my mantra all weekend.

The morning of the run didn’t show much promise. I was supposed to meet up with some Your Pace or Mine buddies at 7 a.m. Some minor family stress had caused me to stay up too late and drink a bit more than I should have. My right knee had a dull pain and I worried about furthering the injury. On top of all that, the two cups of coffee I drank weren’t doing their job. I chugged Pepto Bismal and cried to Randy to find me any reason to call off the run and crawl back into bed. “See how you feel in 15 minutes,” he told me. I went into the closet to put on my running shoes. When I came out, Randy had found the Rocky Theme on his phone and was blasting it for me. “YOU CAN DO THIS!” he shouted. With a send off like that, how could I give up?

I met up with my friends on time and just started running. Physically I felt fine, but mentally I just couldn’t imagine myself completing the entire run. After six miles, I announced that I’d be happy with 12 miles and that I’d turn around and run home. The group wasn’t having it. “You are going to finish this run! We will bully you into finishing!” I fought against the nagging thoughts with any positive ones I could muster: “My knee isn’t hurting.” “I think it’s finally Spring.” “I don’t feel like I have to shit my pants!”

Had I been running alone, no doubt I would’ve thrown in the towel way too early and felt like a failure all day long. Instead this awesome group of ladies pushed me out of my comfort zone forced me to realize that I, Laura, could in fact finish this run and be a proper “Marathoner”. I “dug deep”, as Scott told me. Plus the group’s sense of humor was just as sick as mine, and time flew by before I had a chance to complain.

Our bodies are capable of so much, yet a negative outlook has the power to kill all of that potential. Confidence has never been my strong suit and that’s not something that’s going to change overnight. However, I’m going to start practicing positive visualization before challenging runs. It sounds silly, but I’ve read that simply imagining yourself completing your goals on race day has tremendous benefits. And if I happen to imagine crossing the finish line and running into a giant tent full of Bacardi, kitties, and gorgeous men waiting to rub my feet, that’s my business.

Whatever works, right?

 

 

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My First Marathon, and Why I Hate Black Cherries

My alarm went off at 3:15, and for the first time in years I didn’t hit snooze. It would have been pointless, anyway, seeing as how I had only slept one solid hour that night. I went downstairs, made coffee and oatmeal, and sat in complete denial that I was about to run my first full marathon,The Detroit Free Press Marathon, in four hours.

Fast forward to mile 17. My legs are screaming. Blisters plague my feet. I have terrible heartburn, gas, and my stomach is killing me. The scenery at this point is nothing but old buildings plastered with graffiti and there are no volunteers to cheer us on. I feel alone and bored on top of the immense fatigue. I call Randy, telling him that I was done.

“What’s wrong? Did you get hurt?” he asks. I can barely form thoughts at this point. “It’s just…hard,” I whimper.

“Well, your dad and I are at the 30K aid station. We’ll meet you there.”

This gives me enough motivation to run the mile and a half to see them waiting for me. Randy promptly gives me a hug. My dad tells me to walk with them for a while to calm down. I tell them about my stomach problem, and how I had to sacrifice over 15 minutes waiting in line for port-a-johns because of it. This was far more difficult than I had planned on, and I didn’t think I could finish. Randy tries his best to tell me how great I’m doing, and how proud he is of me, but it falls on deaf ears.

“You’re coming on Belle Isle now,” my dad says. “It’s really pretty there. You’ll have fun. It’s just a few miles then you’re in the home stretch. Randy and I will be waiting for you at the end of Belle Isle to check on you.” Begrudgingly, I agree to go on.  Thankfully Belle Isle starts with a gradual decline and I catch a little bit of a second wind (more like a second breeze). At the end of the Belle Isle loop, I see Randy and my dad waiting as they had promised.

“You’re doing great!” they yell.

“No I’m not! But I’m finishing this damn thing!”

And finish, I did. I hardly broke any records, but I got that damn medal. Did I do as well as I had hoped? Not at all. Could I have pushed myself harder? Most likely. Every run is a learning experience, and I came away with several lessons to improve my next 26.2:

1) Just because you don’t feel thirsty, don’t ignore the aid stations: The chilly weather in the fist half of the race was deceiving, and I didn’t take my first drink of water until mile 10. Huge mistake. They say if you feel thirsty, it’s too late. The last six miles of the race I had to chug water at every aid station to make up for my stupidity.

2) Don’t try anything new, even a new flavor, on race day: At one point earlier in the race I pulled out some Clif Shot Blocks. I noticed that I had bought the wrong flavor. Black Cherry, eh? No big deal. My stomach turned immediately upon trying them. So sugary and tart. Blech. Soon after my digestive issues started. I couldn’t even drink Gatorade for the rest of the race because the sugar was upsetting my stomach so badly.

3) Your legs run the race, but your mind gets you over the finish line: Regarding my terrible attitude at mile 17, I am reminded of the horrific scene from “The Never Ending Story” where Artax the horse sinks into the Swamp of Sadness (every child of the 80’s knows this scene and was subsequently scarred for life). A marathon is as much a mental battle as it is physical. Cheering volunteers can only do so much. I’m not sure how to work on improving my “state of mind” while running. Any advice would be appreciated.

Now on the fun aspects of the race. Yes, looking back on my 5+ hours of torture there were some moments that made me smile:

1) The man dressed as Minnie Mouse

2) The polka-themed aid station handing out PBR

3) The entire city of Windsor for being the best cheering section in the entire race

4) Any time a volunteer/spectator called you by your name. Hearing “You’re doing great, Laura!” does more for your soul than a generic, “You’re doing great!”

5) Seeing my friend Andrea cheering me on at mile 26, and being the first person to shout, “You’re almost there!” who I didn’t want to kill

The beauty of running is that there is always another race, and I can’t wait to try another marathon next year stronger and better than before. I don’t know what is it about running that makes people forget about the pain, fatigue, falls, the “trots”, etc., and keep racing. All I know is that along with the pain, nothing has brought more joy to my life than running.

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