Tag Archives: Natural Highs

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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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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Obligatory Post About 2014 Goals

Hello Dear Readers (Wow I have Readers!):

I’m about four weeks into 2014 and already I can tell it’s going to be challenging, Polar Vortex aside. Between life, work, and run-ventures I’m going to have a full year. I have a lot to look forward to and much to stress over as well, which makes every day an odd mix of excitement and anxiety. Below I’ll try to make sense of the days that lie ahead in 2014 by outlining my two major goals for the year:

1) Live on my own and enjoy it: In a month or so I’ll be moving in to my own place, all by myself, for the first time, EVER. I’ll only have myself to depend on financially and all the bills I’ll be paying out of my less-than-stellar income sure have been a wake-up call. I’m not afraid to work two jobs if need be but I’d also like to be able to enjoy time out with my friends and my hobbies. Finances aside, the freedom involved in living alone will be fun. I can run when I want, watch what I want, cook what I want, or just walk around in my underwear with the radio on full blast like I usually do when I have to house to myself.

Speaking of my less-than-stellar income, part of this goal is to make myself more marketable, whether by new certifications or by working towards a new degree. First I need to figure out what I’m good at and what I’d enjoy doing for the next 30+ years. I’m getting by, but I’d love to get ahead, and I doubt “Really good at music trivia” is a plus on a resume.

2) Finish four marathons and a 50K: Holy shit what have I done?! Marathon #1 for the year is on Sunday, the Ohio Northern University Polar Bear Indoor Marathon. You read that correctly, 211 laps around an indoor track (I can’t wait to write a race recap!). Marathon #2 will be the Salt Lake City Marathon on April 19th. I’ve pegged this one as my PR Race, and I really hope to finish in 4:15 or less if the elevation doesn’t kill me. Marathon #3 will be the Charlevoix Marathon, which is tradition. If anything I’ll look at it as a training run for my 50K. Speaking of that, I’ll be running the Woodstock 50K on September 6th. Why? I figured if I’m going to run 31+ miles, I might as well do it the year I turn 31. And last but not least, I’ll be running marathon #4 in November, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. If I don’t meet my time goal in the mountains of SLC, there’s always flat Indiana.

Thanks goodness I’ll have my favorite training partner Mary Beth to join in on the pain in Salt Lake City and Indianpolis. Why have I signed myself up for such madness? Well, I like the discipline of training for one. Secondly, it gets my mind off of my implosion of a personal life. Thirdly, I love running adventures with friends. The memories and laughs they create are priceless.

I’m thinking these two main goals will be enough to keep me occupied through the rest of the year. There are other smaller goals I’d like to accomplish if I have the time, such as volunteering at some races, swimming and biking more, maybe even completing another sprint triathlon. I’d also like to read more and am toying with the idea of not having a television in my new place (I doubt I’ll be able to afford cable anyway). Despite my whining about money, I am truely rich in love and support from my family and friends. No goal would be possible without them.

What are your 2014 goals? Anyone out there as crazy (or crazier) with their race schedule than I am?

 

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Laura Tried!

GUESS WHAT KIDS!!

I did it. I finished my first sprint triathlon. Peanuts, I know, but we all have to start somewhere. Despite having a Bud Light budget, I was able to finish with a smile on my face and a strong desire to do more triathlons in the future. As much as I hate writing race recaps, I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about popping my Tri Cherry.
The Location

Beautiful Sandusky, Ohio! actually, the city of Sandusky isn’t beautiful but it does contain Cedar Point, America’s Roller Coast (trademark blah blah). I’ve been coming to Cedar Point since I was a small child, but this was one of first times I came by car, not boat.

I brought my friend Andrea along to be my sherpa/map-reader/life-coach/brain since Randy wasn’t able to make the trip with me. I also had three friends that would be doing the Half Iron Man Sunday morning: Staci, Shawn, and Paul.

Race Day Morning!

I woke up feeling refreshed and excited, despite an evening spent sampling Sandusky’s “night life”. I put on my tri suit and 100 temporary tattoos with my race number and Andrea and I made our way to the transition area. Shawn, Paul, and Staci were awesome enough to wake up bright and early with me. Shawn also attempted to help me set up my transition area, but alas, only the Sprint Tri athletes were allowed. Boo! I was counting on his help but no big deal, I copied off the people around me. As I looked at all the high-end tri bikes I couldn’t help feeling like a fool with my $400 road bike with a helmet I purchased at Meijer’s.

The Swim!

It was a beautiful morning for a swim in Lake Erie, and as I waded out into the water I noticed the temps were good and I was confident in my decision to forego my wet suit. Besides, I hadn’t trained once in a wet suit so why would I mess with it now? Come to think of it, I had only done one short open-water swim before this and wasn’t really prepared and oh my God I’m gonna drown…

AHH!

Before I could completely panic it was time to swim. Adrenaline overtook me and I only focused on the swimmers around me and staying on course. In fact, I was a little obsessed with staying on course and was constantly looking up to make sure the buoys were in sight. There was one girl who kept bumping into the side of me. Every time I’d move over she’d get closer. I gave her a good kick and she backed off. Like sharks, you must show other swimmers you are a threat and they will quit attacking you.

As I finally approached knee-deep water I wasn’t sure whether to run my way in or swim. Every article I read said swim until you no longer can to conserve your leg energy. Well, I swam in two feet of water and felt stupid. As soon as I stood up my tri-bottom sucked onto me like a second skin. I passed Andrea and my other buddies cheering me on as I made my way to transition. “Do I have a camel toe?” I shouted to Andrea, who shouted back, “Who cares? GO!”

In all, my half mile swim took half and hour to complete. Pitiful. I definitely have some work to do before my next triathlon.

The Bike!

Ah, the dreaded bike portion.

Transition from swim to bike took me nearly six minutes. I was obsessed with getting my feet as dry as possible to prevent blisters. Also, I had no fucking clue what I was doing. Prior to my race I had gone on one 8-mile bike ride, so I had zero expectations for this leg. I finally made it onto my bike and was directed onto a beautiful, yet deserted, road along the coast of Lake Erie. The view was pretty, but there were no other bikers in sight and I was worried I had made a wrong turn. Finally I spotted a photographer. “Am I going the right way?” I shouted at him. “Of course!” he replied, looking at me like the idiot that I am. At least I didn’t ask him if I had a camel toe.

The final half of the bike portion was along a main ride that was NOT closed to traffic. I’ve never rode a bike on a road before, let alone with cars whizzing by, so I was pretty cautious. I drank no water because I thought if I bent down to grab my water, I’d fall off my bike and get flattened by a car. I was so thirsty. All in all, it wasn’t a bad ride. Dare I say it was relaxing? Obviously I didn’t “race” this portion, I just enjoyed it. The 12 mile ride took me 50 minutes to complete. Not as bad as my swim, but not great either. Oh well, on to my run…

The Run!

Well, I certainly learned what I’m good at. As I wheeled my bike into the transition area, I definitely got a sense of the dreaded rubber legs everyone talks about. I had no idea how I was going to run on those things. However, seeing all my buddies cheering me on gave me the strength to turn my hobble into a running-like motion.

The run portion was a stupid double out-and-back loop through the parking lots of Cedar Point, not exactly the “run through the park” the website advertised. Oh well. I had no watch on me so I was blind to my pace. The rubbery leg sensation went away surprisingly quickly and I started feeling stronger. On the run I enjoyed doing what I normally do during a road race: people watching. I saw many fit people and many people who did not look like your average triathlete. It always makes me happy to see all shapes and sizes participate in athletic events.

I’m not sure if dehydration was making me delirious, or if I was feeling a “tri high”, but as I made my way around my second loop I felt ecstatic. “I’m gonna hug and kiss everyone I see! I don’t care if they’re a stranger! I love everyone!” I kept thinking to myself. I heard my name called as I crossed the finish line and saw all of my awesome friends cheering. Luckily for them I spared the kisses but grabbed each one them despite being a sweaty mess. I was so happy to be done.

My 5K time was 25:00, only about 30 seconds slower than my PR. I’m still not sure how the hell I pulled that off.

Closing Thoughts!

I HAD A FUCKING BLAST!! Seriously. I’ve never had that much fun doing any other athletic event in my life. There are definitely more triathlons in my future, and I’m even toying with the idea of doing a Half Iron Man next year. I’ll probably have to sell a kidney for the proper equipment, but hey. You only need one, right? Believe everyone when they tell you triathlons are addicting.

The next day I was able to play cheerleader for all of my Iron Friends. If you ever have a chance, go watch an Iron Man race. It was an inspiration. Seeing all different ages, body types, and abilities convinced me a longer distance triathlon was in my reach.

Phew. Well I hope this wasn’t as boring to read as it was to write. My description did not even come close to capturing the fun, excitement, dread, fear, and empowerment I felt completing my first triathlon.

Next stop: The Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY

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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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Random Thoughts: March Madness Edition

ImageMarch has been a month of personal records for the Rum Runner, in both the 5K and Half-Marathon (26:00 and 2:01:36 respectively). I should have recapped those races but frankly I just don’t feel like it. The thought of another race recap bores the hell out of me. My mind is more sporadic which leads us to yet another edition of Random Thoughts:

1) Randy and I leave for Utah on Easter Sunday to visit our favorite couple ever, Tracy and Charlie. Tracy and I met in college when we became roommates. We spent many a drunken night making fun of The Dog Whisperer and the rest is history. We’ll be visiting Moab for some hiking and mule riding and spend the rest of our time Sister-Wifing around Salt Lake City. I can’t wait!

2) I just bought a six-month unlimited yoga package at my favorite studio. I really hope to get my money’s worth and be able to contort into a pretzel by the end of September.

3) My morning routine could use an overhaul. Right now it consists of abusing the Snooze button, jumping out of bed way too late, tripping over cats, screaming about having nothing to wear, and rushing out the door still half asleep. Now that the weather is nicer I want to make a new tradition of getting up earlier to run two miles every morning. Just two easy miles to awake my mind and body and start the day off right.

4) Saturday morning me and some Your Pace or Mine buddies will be running the 16 mile training run held by the Lake Orion Hansons. I don’t have 16 miles on my schedule but I’m going rogue and doing it anyway! YOU AREN’T THE BOSS OF ME HAL HIGDON!

5) I’ve been craving really strong coffee lately. I’ve been drinking it black, which I never do. I’ve also been craving really good microbrews and I’ve never been a huge beer drinker. My friend joked that my strange cravings could mean I was pregnant, though I think most people would agree that coffee and beer are horrible pregnancy cravings. By the way, I’m definitely not preggo. CHEERS!

What are everyone’s spring plans? Any races on the horizon? Any babies in the oven? Oh my that sounded terrible. You know what I meant.

 

 

 

 

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May all Beings Everywhere be Happy and Free

Years ago when my body dysmorphia was at it’s worst, exercise to me was merely a way to burn calories and lose weight. I hated every minute of it but I forced my butt on the elliptical machine every day until the “calories burned” on the display met a number to my liking. Since the only benefit was weight loss, I looked at a seemingly low-intensity workout such as yoga as a waste of time. “Look at those idiots!” I’d say to myself passing the gym’s yoga class, after spending 75 mind-numbing minutes on a hamster wheel.

It wasn’t until I hopped off the elliptical to start running that I realized exercise offered more positive benefits: stress relief, a feeling of accomplishment, that famous “runner’s high” that I always figured was a myth. Still, even with this new found respect for my body and it’s abilities, I wrote off yoga as being for lazy people who were afraid to sweat. Sitting around a dark room with mats and soft music? Sounds like nap time in preschool! Little did I know…

After reading numerous posts from DailyMile friends touting how beneficial yoga was to runners, I bought a Groupon for a local studio. Walking into my first class, I was at first intimidated by the experienced yogis stretching and contorting. The studio had an eco-friendly bamboo floor, the lights were dim, and the music soothing. I felt calm. As I worked my way through my first class I experienced a flood of happy endorphins (the hot teacher who was generous in correcting poses helped I’m sure). I don’t know if it’s the breathing or the poses, but yoga definitely produces a special high. I’m sure the ancient practitioners of yoga invented it for that reason alone. Ask any kid who spins around and around until they fall from dizziness, natural highs are the most satisfying.

That’s not to say I spent the whole class laying around with a buzz. The movements were definitely challenging. As with running, I was proud of the things I could do with my body in yoga. At the end of the class the instuctor left us with these words, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”. Translation: May all beings everywhere be happy and free. Well if that didn’t make my little animal loving, vegetarian heart swell.

I can gladly admit I’m hooked on yoga . I’ve set new goals for myself in the coming months: run at least 25 miles a week, strength training at least twice a week, and make time for yoga at least twice a week as well.

Let me know readers! What is your favorite source of a natural high? Am I bad for doing downward facing dog incorrectly just so the hot instructor will grab me? When did you make the mental switch from exercise being maintenance to a way of life?

 

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