Tag Archives: nature

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

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , ,

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?

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.”

Tagged , , ,