Tag Archives: ANIMALS!!

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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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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 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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My First Ultra: The Kal-Haven Trail Run

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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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Pre-Marathon Ramblings: Salt Lake City Edition

Full marathon number four is less than two weeks away, and like most everything else in my life, I’m in complete denial about it. My training has been adequate at best. I’ve had lots of high-mileage weeks; however, in the month of March I blew off many long runs. When all of your training partners get injured, and the weather is out to kill you, and not to mention all the fun of getting a divorce and starting life all over again, running a third 20 miler doesn’t sound so appealing.

My heart will also be heavy knowing that while I’m off running with friends half-way across the country, my entire family will be gathered celebrating Easter and my grandmother’s 95th birthday. I already missed everyone at Christmas, and I could use a good dose of Gudme dry-humor to lift my spirits. Also weighing on my soul is the incredibly difficult decision to re-home two of the cats Randy and I shared. Since I’m unable to take all three (and he’s taking none), it was my only choice. I feel better knowing that I have found some good places for them and they will be taken care of, but still, they were my family. It’s not something I’m going to get over any time soon. In fact, I’m crying as I type this.

I’ve been told two things recently by some very practical men in my life: 1) Focus on the positive, and 2) Happiness is a choice. In the midst of all the sadness there are many positive aspects of my life I’ve been ignoring: I’m able to run. I get to see one of my best friends in Utah that I rarely get to see. I get to keep one kitty, my first kitty, the one who reformed my “dogs only!” attitude. I have wonderfully supportive parents and friends. And last but certainly not least, I have someone in my life who I love and loves me back, inspires me to be the best version of myself, and most importantly puts up with my stress-induced mood swings. If you’re reading this baby: I love you and have no idea how you do it. You deserve a medal more than I do.

And as for happiness being a choice, this past year has taught me how true this really is. I doubt most of us wake up in the morning feeling amazing and stress-free and excited to go into work. If you do, go fuck yourself. Seriously though, we all make a conscious decision to put on our game faces and do the best we can. If we’re lucky something may make us laugh, or we’ll see a good friend, or there will be birthday cake in the office kitchen. Otherwise, all we have to depend on for our happiness is ourselves. I’m sure that if I keep trying to focus on the positives in my life, happiness will come more naturally.

Well, this really had nothing to do with my upcoming marathon, but sometimes you’ve just got to let it all out, you know? And whatever I left unsaid in this post will be demolished on the pavement of Salt Lake City. And if not, there’s always the Charlevoix Marathon. Or my first 50K in September. Or the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Good God, what have I done?!

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Into the Great Wide Open

Yesterday I went for a short run through Orion Oaks, which is a mix of shaded woods and open fields surrounding a lake. There is a also a dog park with an indoor restroom, which has saved my ass (literally) on several occassions. It is hands-down my favorite spot to run.

Yesterday as I ran through Orion Oaks I came upon a most unusual sight: A woman walking with a parrot perched on her hand. I slowed up as I approached the strange duo, fearing I may spook the bird. As I passed the bird, I heard it’s handler speak to it, “Good boy. Good boy, you’re behaving so well.” I had many questions: Does this woman walk her bird often? What is his name? Are his wings clipped, or is he just the most well-trained parrot ever? Can he say dirty words?

These questions remained unanswered as I was too shy to bother the lady; although, to be fair, if you’re going to walk a parrot through the woods of Michigan, you should expect a certain amount of curiosity. This run in with a tropical bird reminded me of past encounters with animals during my runs: The fat-ass raccoon who let me come so close to it I could pet it (but of course I didn’t), The seven deer laying in a field who rose to their feet when I took a picture, the wild turkey stampede at Stony Creek, horses on the Polly Ann Trail, and the rogue deer running like she stole something down 14 Mile road in Clawson who thankfully found grass instead of oncoming traffic.

Before running in locations such as Orion Oaks and Stony Creek Metropark, my only enounters with wildlife in suburbia were with with my car.  Running has given me a new appreciation for nature and the critters who inhabit it. The encounters are not always fun, like the time I learned the hard way that Orion Oaks was also a Massasauga Rattlesnake preserve. My non-running friends tease me often for my running obsession. Unfortunately, the majority of them who tease are also sedentary and in need of a new healthy habit. There’s a vast world out there beyond our living rooms, and as I left the lady and her feathered pet yesterday all I could think was, “Non-runners miss out on so much in life.”

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