Tag Archives: Bad Habits

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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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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Fighting the Fat Kid

One of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood was from my fourth grade gym class. It was the mile run day for the President’s Challenge, that horrible week during the year when your fitness was measured and I of course came up short in everything. As I recall I was already 110 pounds at age 10 and my idea of fitness was running to the cupboard to sneak a few Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies before dinner. The one area of the President’s Challenge where I excelled was the sit-and-reach, which measured flexibility. I was always number one in my class, the only advantage of being blessed with short legs and a long torso. Enough of what I was good at, now on to the cringe-inducing mile run…

The mile run was eight laps around a spray-painted loop in a field behind our school. Granted, it’s not like we had Nike technical apparel to change in to. I was most likely running in some uncomfortable skirt and sweater that my mother picked out for me. Anyway, fat kids in skirts don’t run fast. In fact, I came in dead last out of my entire class. I was so slow that everyone was done while I was finishing my final lap. Imagine being a fat kid with a perm (thanks, mom!) and having all your classmates stare at you as you huff-and-puff. To add insult to injury, my shoe fell off as I rounded the final corner. To this day I can still see the 25+ faces of annoyed school children watching me hop on one foot to my tear-filled finish.

Fast forward 21 years to last Saturday. I was attempting my second sprint triathlon in Lexington, Michigan. I hadn’t done any real training and the last time I swam was at my last sprint tri in September of last year. For some reason the waters of Lake Huron terrified me and I immediatley panicked when the gun went off. I couldn’t control my breathing, ended up swallowing a bunch of water, and threw up on myself. Lovely. Luckily the rescue kayaks had swimming noodles for idiots like myself. I took one after a few feet of flopping around erraticaly. While I wasn’t dead last to get out of the water, I was surely the only person under the age of 50 with a security blanket noodle. My ego was decimated. As I ran back to the transition area, I couldn’t help but recall my earlier embarrassing moment in athletic acheivement.

Every day of my life is a struggle against Fat Kid Laura. In my late teens to mid twenties I fought back in unhealthy ways by starving myself and smoking and eventually developing bulimia. At the age of 27 I started training for my first half marathon and finally found out that I was a decent runner after all. I fought against Fat Kid Laura by training and enjoying races, and every once in a while winning my age group. Running has given me more self-esteem than any other aspect of my life. However, there are moments like the Lexington disaster when Fat Kid Laura comes back in full force to destroy my confidence.

It’s easy for me to not feel good enough. I see girls with nice boobs and I feel inadequate. I see girls with good careers and feel I have nothing to offer. I struggle with the math while studying for my Series 7 and I feel stupid. These feelings can utterly consume me if I don’t fight back. So I failed my swim portion miserably in Lexington. I’m not throwing in the towel and letting Fat Kid Laura win this round. I am determined to let Kick Ass Adult Laura reign victorious. On Monday I participated in a tri training group and I even signed up for private swim lessons to improve my technique and efficiency. A bit extreme maybe, but Fat Kid Laura is a tough bitch to beat.

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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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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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The Big Come Down

This weekend was my first attempt at a run longer than the half marathon distance. My previous long run of 13.2 was technically longer, but it was supposed to be a 14-miler, and I crashed and burned so badly it was a run hardly worth celebrating. I assessed the damage when I got home: I had waited too long in the day, and ran in the sun in an exposed course. Coupled with bar hijinks from the night before, it was no wonder I failed.

This time I did everything right. I was talked into joining a group run with some Your Pace or Mine runners on the Paint Creek Trail at 6am. The leader, Sue, assured me that I wouldn’t slow anyone up. She was running double sixteen mile days all weekend in preparation for an ultra and told me if anything, I’d be pacing her. I ate a big carby meal the night before and went to bed early. I was going to KILL this run! I kept up with the group for the first six miles until disaster struck.

Since I wasn’t able to, ahem, “relieve” myself before the run, my stomach started acting up at mile seven. When that finally calmed down my shin started screaming. Soon I didn’t even notice my shin because my hips were screaming louder. The other runners were so far ahead at this point they were out of sight. The only runner trailing me was Sue, who had already run 48 miles in the previous two days. This was a huge blow to my confidence. Toward the end of the run a spontaneous whimper came out of my throat, as if my body had run out of healing options and crying was the only thing left.

When I finally got back to my car, some of the other runners were still hanging around the parking lot. “How was your run? Are you okay? What happened out there?” They all asked. I hate pity. I’ll tell you what happened: you’re all experienced marathoners/triathletes and I’m not as strong as you! I told you all I was slow! And to the girl who is also training for her first marathon and claimed to be slow, but kept up with the group the whole time, fuck you! Fuck you lots!!!

Okay, I didn’t say that. I just blamed my stomach and shrugged my shoulders and got in my car so I could get as far away from these people as possible before the tears came. They didn’t come, at least not until that night.

I kept my hurt feelings from Randy when I got home. After walking around the Renaissance Festival in the hot sun for four hours (my bright idea!), and drinking plenty of mead, I was spent. As we sat watching TV that night, I just started bawling. I told Randy about my disastrous run and how I doubted I could complete a marathon after all. Why was I forcing something that wasn’t meant to happen? I’m not a good runner, and today’s run permanently sealed my fate. All my life I had just wanted one thing to be really good at, and running sure as hell wasn’t it. After my bulimia running had made me feel heatlhy and stong, now I was feeling weak again. Maybe my family was right, running was a waste of my time which would be better spent making grandchildren.

After trying to console me repeatedly with all of my accomplishments thus far, Randy finally said, “Don’t worry about everyone else. Just run your own race. I’m proud of you. Now be proud of yourself.” For a man who can barely spell, Randy sure can be smart sometimes.

Run my own race. Don’t run for the approval of others. That’s exactly what I needed to hear. Overcoming this doubt has made me more determined than ever. Every run is a learning experience and I already know what I need to do differently next time. Number one change: run by myself.

I’ll leave you all with a quote from one of my favorite movies. If you know it, you win my undying respect and admiration:

‘It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

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These Colors Do Run

Try explaining the idea of The Color Run to an outsider, I dare you. “Basically it’s a 5K and you wear all white and people squirt colored powder all over you…” When I tried explaining The Color Run to my mother, she gave me a blank and confused stare that I took to mean, “So THIS is the crap in my daughter’s life that’s getting in the way of grand-babies.”

The Color Run in Ypsilanti on June 22nd reunited me with my Warrior Dash partner-in-crime, Christina “Swiss” Herrick, and Andrea Hudak, one of my best friends from high school. Our pre-race preparation consisted of polishing off four carafes of Sangria between four people, on empty stomachs. I have no recollection of dinner afterwards. There are several pictures now posted on Facebook of me making out with a ketchup bottle. Not one of my prouder moments…

I woke up in the morning with less than five hours of sleep and a throat that felt like sandpaper. I chugged a Gatorade but that barely made a dent in my hangover-induced thirst. I put on my tutu and sunglasses and prayed to God that I didn’t contribute to the spraying of color with my own spraying of vomit.

Despite my brown-bag blues, I perked up as soon as we arrived in Ypsilanti. After the horrific news out of Colorado on Friday, seeing a huge crowd of happy, laughing runners made me forget about my lack of faith in humanity and escape to The Color Run Universe. My friends and I took it easy and enjoyed taking pictures and laughing at all the crazy scenery. I loved all the adventurous spirits who rolled around in the excess color on the ground, and enjoyed a good chuckle at a boy who held up a sign reading, “RUN FAST- I JUST FARTED”.

For such a large race, The Color Run was handled efficiently and smoothly. The city of Ypsilanti seemed tickled to have such an event- I overheard one local woman say, “I’m so glad this is happening in Ypsi! Screw Ann Arbor!” There was a huge dance party after the run where we all bared witness to a very sweet marriage proposal.

Though I’m still trying to scrub off the blue tint from the small of my back and armpits, I had a great time at The Color Run. Next time I’d definitely take it easy the night before so I could better enjoy the happy madness around me.  Also, I hate to keep driving home the point that I like to drink (hey, you saw the title of this blog and knew what you were getting into), but it would have been nice if the race was held later in the day and beer was served at the after party, a la Warrior Dash. I wasn’t feeling the party vibe at 9am on a Sunday.

My next racing adventure will be joining up with a running group tomorrow night, The Downtown Runners. They are meeting at Harry’s in Detroit, the best place to grab a drink or two before a Red Wings or Tigers game. Running (and socializing) with strangers is outside my comfort level but I’m still looking forward to it.

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Nothing can stop me now, cause I don’t care anymore…

Remember your senior year of high school when you had to choose some witty quote to encapsulate your philosophy,  attitude, and everything you’ve learned in the past four years? I attended an all-girls Catholic school full of very well-off young ladies who KNEW they going on to something great in life. They choose quotes like, “Dance like no one is watching, love like you’ve never been hurt…” On free-dress days (when we didn’t have to wear our uniforms) they wore Abercrombie and Fitch. They listened to Dave Matthews band and all had steady boyfriends. They were team players who loved healthy competition. They were always happy.

Me? Well, for starters, I wasn’t very happy in high school. I had fun, don’t get me wrong, and I had a close group of girlfriends who are my best friends to this day. I had no self-esteem. I was lost, and just begging to be found. I wore leopard print high heels and too much make-up on free-dress day. I never had a boyfriend. I was scared to death of my future. I smoked cigarettes, wrote short stories, and never tried sports because I was so afraid of failure. The title of today’s post (from a NIN song, of course) was what I chose as my senior quote. Nothing can stop me now, cause I don’t care anymore, was the greatest way to describe me feelings upon leaving high school. Of course, the yearbook teacher found it to bleak and made me choose another one. Begrudgingly I choose some line from a David Sedaris book.

What the hell does this have to do with running? Well, nothing really. But I’ve been thinking about this quote lately. I’ve been struggling with building not only my endurance back but also that drive that I used to have that got me out the door in the first place. When I do try to run longer I get exhausted and have to take more walking breaks than usual, something I usually view as defeat in a run. But it’s time I just stopped caring! Who cares if you have to stop to walk? Who cares if you aren’t as fast as you were pre-injury? I really don’t think it’s a negative thing to “stop caring” when what you’re letting go of is holding you back.

So my new mission in regards to running is to stop caring. Just get out there and RUN, dammit! Starting today, I will run at least a mile every day until my half marathon on June 23rd. It’s time to stop admiring all the hardcore ultra runners on DailyMile and work on becoming one myself. It will be difficult and I will have to push myself, but really, I’m the only obstacle in my way. I need to break through this mental prison I’ve built around myself that prevents me from trying, or accomplishing, anything great in life. It held me back all four years of high school, and I will no longer let it hold me back as an adult.

And nothing can stop me now, cause I don’t care anymore.

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How’d you get so big, how’d you get so strong?

Looking back at my running history on Daily Mile, I’m amazed how much my speed and endurance has improved. My average paces this time last year were between 11-12:30 minute miles. Now I’m averaging 9-10 minute miles. I could lie and say I made a concerted effort to get faster through research and speed training, but I know it all has to do with kicking the cigarettes for good. Even a social smoking habit can slow you down.

One thing I need to improve- nutrition. Being a typical body-dysmorphic girl I equate eating big meals with growing an even bigger butt. My tendency to not snack has been affecting my after-work runs. A tiny microwaved meal consumed at 12:30 will not adequately sustain a six-mile run at 5:30. I got some great advice from DMers yesterday on how they fuel up half an hour before a run. My favorite idea- Clif Bars. I once caught my husband stealing a Peanut Butter Pretzel Mojo bar from my stash and I almost cut him.

Treadmill run tonight, long run on the Paint Creek Trail tomorrow. I will experiment with gels and hopefully that will help me reach 11+ miles. Good Friday, indeed.

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