Tag Archives: Races

Marathon #17 in State #13: The Austin Marathon

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HEY LOOK IT’S SHAWN!!!!

 

I truly wish I could’ve thought of a better title for this recap, but maybe just like my beat up legs, my brain is tired and useless. This past Sunday I ran the Austin Marathon in Texas (of course), knocking another state off the long list, though it wasn’t without a massive struggle. Austin, unbeknownst to me before the marathon, is considered “Texas Hill Country” (thanks to the gentleman on my flight home who filled me in on this fact one day too late). I had thought Charlotte and Jackson had hilly courses, but I was truly mistaken in my definition of a hill.

Instead of a play-by-play report of a fun weekend spent in a fun new city with my husband Shawn and several running friends, I thought I’d break the weekend up into “chunks”, because who doesn’t love the word “chunks”.

  • The City of Austin: In my previous marathon experience just three weeks ago in Jackson, MS, bars and beer were few and far between. This was not the case in Austin. It seemed the entire city was NOTHING but bars and restaurants. Yes the LBJ Presidential Library is in town and full of culture I’m sure; however, we weren’t in the mood for no learnin’. We were too busy drinking, riding Jackalopes, drinking, eating sausage and tacos, drinking, and dialing random numbers left on Uno cards. The Red River ran through the city and the river walk did look lovely. Other than that, no real “natural” beauty to gaze at. There is a bridge over the river that is apparently home to bats in warmers months, which explained the mysterious bat theme throughout the town. I’m not sure where the Jackalope makes its home.
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Pictured: Culture

  • The Expo/Swag: Not bad! I found a really cool “Run Austin” shirt that is super comfy. The race shirt itself was a great retro design as well. I don’t have a photo because I suck at blogging. Full marathoners also got a good pair of Under Armor running socks. The finisher’s medal also doubles as a belt buckle, which would be cool if I wore belts (my fat ass keeps my pants up just fine, thank you). Again, no picture of the medal because I suck, but take my word when I tell you it featured a nice scene of Austin, complete with BATS!
  • The Course: Well if you enjoy running on slippery, hilly, concrete while taking in the fine sights of local fast food joints, then Austin is your marathon! Seriously, I can’t think of a single spectacular sight during the entire 26.2 miles, other than the damn steep hill leading us up into mile 26. There were no nice historic neighborhoods like in Jackson, or a jaunt through a local park like in Charlotte. Nothing but roads and restaurants. The crowd support was vibrant however, and included an anti-circumcision protester on a scooter. Keep Austin Weird, indeed.
  • Best Moments: The aforementioned protester gave me a chuckle. I mean, his sign had emojis on it which proved his seriousness. I also liked when a volunteer shouted “See you all back next year!” and a runner responded, “Not me! These hills suck!” There we soooo many happy puppies on the course too. Austin is a very dog-friendly city. There were some beer stations but seeing as how I knew I’d be drinking my weight in beer after the run I passed them up. Lastly, it’s rare that Shawn is able to travel with me to my out-of-state adventures, so it helped to have him waiting for me at the finish line with a healing hug. That hug was followed by two very delicious craft beers in the beer tent.
  • Worst Moments: Well most of the marathon was a bad moment. The lines to the porta potties were super long so it didn’t help that I had to pee three times during the run (no idea why or how, peeing is usually not my issue!). Until the half marathon runners broke off, the course was pretty congested which made getting ahead difficult. The scenery wasn’t much to take my mind off of the pain of throbbing legs. Around mile 22 I finally hit the wall and felt dizzy and weak. I gave up on my A Goal and settled into my B Goal which was simply to break five hours. I loudly cursed when I looked up and realized mile 26 was almost entirely up hill. The goodie bag of food presented to me when I finished had a fruit cup in it. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE DEMANDING FRUIT CUPS AFTER MARATHONS I DON’T GET IT! Seriously race directors, stop giving them out. No one eats them; we aren’t in elementary school.

Austin Texas is a fine town to party in but I wouldn’t run through it again any time soon. My finishing time was around 4:52, which was disappointing as I had wanted to improve on my finish in Jackson. The hills had other plans. I don’t have any other marathons on the horizon nor do I plan to for reasons I won’t go into here. It’s really difficult to change my mindset from constantly preparing for the next long run. Part of me wants to register for the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio and finally run a sub 4:40 for the first time in four years. The better part of me (Shawn) would probably kill me if I did. I may pick an early spring 5K to target and focus on short distance speed for the first time since…well, ever. I know short distances are nothing to sneeze at and take just as much training but this distance junkie might just relapse.

P.S.- I’d be a terrible wife if I didn’t mention that Shawn ran a 1:52 half marathon in Austin after not running for months and only riding his bike trainer. Shawn is a freak and we should all hate him (just kidding…a little).

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Marathon #16 in State #12, the Mississippi Blues Marathon!

img_7266I think I can safely say I had never experienced “The Deep South” before my recent visit to Jackson, Mississippi. Sure, I’ve been to Florida a lot and even Louisiana, but I would hardly call Tampa and New Orleans a true representation of the South. While waiting for my Uber to the hotel after stepping off of the plane, a gentleman walked past me and my friend Mary Beth and said “Hello Ladies”. Back home, any greeting by a stranger is usually greeted with suspicion. He quickly followed up with, “Welcome to Mississippi. We friendly here.”

Extremely polite strangers were abundant in Jackson. What was not abundant was countless breweries to visit, which I have become accustomed to after running a marathon in a new city. Jackson is like most capitol cities I imagine- probably very busy during the week and then dead on the weekends when professionals are home in other cities. Similar to Detroit, we were told that “the money left Jackson for the suburbs” and there were areas with run down buildings and roads riddled with potholes. However, whenever me and Mary Beth are together, fun is to be had, even if there was only one brewery in town.

Upon landing in Jackson, it was our mission to find coffee and to obsessively check our weather apps to see if the “100% chance of rain all day long, suckas!” forecast had changed at all. My app was more optimistic predicting a 50% chance for rain. My app was horribly wrong. More on that later. The expo for the Mississippi Blues Marathon was held in a local Marriott. It was a nice standard expo with your usual booths for hair bands, medal hangers, and promotions for local races. The woman who gave me my bib said she liked my last name. Again, very polite strangers. Of course, a Blues band played at the expo under blue lights. How meta.

We were told by our very friendly hotel front desk attendant Larry that the new Civil Rights Museum was not to be missed. Mary Beth and I had time to kill, and being the history nerds that we are, decided to check it out along with the Museum of Mississippi History. The history museum was about as exciting as one would expect Mississippi history to be (spoiler alert: moderately interesting). However, the Civil Rights Museum was world-class. It still amazes me the deadly lengths that people went to in order to stop African-Americans from having basic human rights. Seeing banners filled with the thousands of names of those who were lynched, along with a wall filled with the mug shots of all the peaceful protestors who fought for civil rights, was awe-inspiring. If you are ever in Jackson this museum is a must-see. In order to get some levity our next stop was to a local distillery, Cathead. Based on the name along we had to check it out. We were excited to drink some whiskey and vodka until the bartender informed us that local liquor laws prohibited the serving of liquor at a distillery. We would have to drink beer. Oh, darn.

Mary Beth and I ate dinner at a local Blues bar which was pretty dead at around 5pm. Oh well, there was live music and our meals were discounted for running the marathon. We were in bed around 7:30ish and I fell asleep shortly after. Having to get up at 3am that morning to get on a plane took a lot out of me. Despite my 10 hours of sleep, morning came fast and it we began our 1.5 mile walk in the rain, in order to get to the starting line of my 26.2 mile run in the rain. Fun times. Luckily, shortly into our walk some fellow marathoners stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. A lifetime of being told “never get into a car with strangers” went out the window. Besides, there were dressed as runners. So either they were more extremely polite strangers, or very smart sex traffickers who put on a good costume. Thankfully they were the former.

I started my run with the 4:50 pace leader and was feeling like this was a perfect pace and I couldn’t go much faster. I stayed with Mr. 4:50 until around mile 8 when he decided “screw pacing!” and pulled away from the group. Seriously, we were dumbfounded. Maybe he started us out to slowly. At any rate it was around this time I had to make my one and only pee stop. I had to wait nearly 10 minutes in line which killed my spirits, but I was about to piss myself (not that anyone would’ve noticed, all my clothes were soaking wet at this point). In order to make up time I pushed myself to run 9:30ish miles until I hit mile 11. I felt surprisingly strong. The course was pretty through the rain- lots of historic neighborhoods filled with old money. It also offered plenty of challenging hills. I pushed myself to run faster on the down hills and flat portions and took my time on the hilly miles.

Two days before my marathon I attended the funeral of a friend, Karen Perzyk, who was the most amazing runner and triathlete I’ve ever known. She qualified for Boston several times and even the Kona Ironman. It goes without saying Karen was an elite athlete who never accepted less than her best effort. During the second half of my marathon, I felt her presence around me, pushing me through any threat of a wall, pushing me to run faster when I wanted to walk, pushing me to run faster when my legs were killing me. I felt stronger in the last six miles and began running sub-10’s after mile 22. Let me tell you, I have never before in my 15 prior marathons ran negative splits, let alone feel like I’m not going to die in the final miles. There was definitely something bigger than myself with me on that course. I finished in 4:44:30, beating my goal of 4:50.

Usually after a marathon my stomach is not ready for food, but after running the hills of Jackson my stomach wanted ALL THE THINGS. Thankfully there was pizza and beer at the finish. I began shivering in my soaking clothes so we caught an Uber back to the hotel. Mary Beth and I switched into party mode and made our way through many beers, delicious bourbon cocktails, and amazing barbecue.

Running Jackson brought me back some much-needed confidence. It reminded me that I can push myself through pain and fatigue; in fact, that’s the only way to successfully run a marathon. I’m looking forward to the Austin Marathon just three weeks away. I’m hoping to shave a few more minutes off of my finishing time, perhaps run a sub 4:40? My plan is to run less  and cross train more during the week and run long on the weekends. My husband Shawn will FINALLY be accompanying me to an out-of-state marathon and I’m trying to convince him to pace me. He’s one of those annoying people who can run fast with little training.

Long story short- I’m proud of my effort in Jackson and I’m happy to knock another state off of the list. I truly believe 2018 is going to be an amazing year!

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Streaking Through the Holiday Season

Though I have been totally lazy and haven’t written in a while, that’s definitely not because of a lack of running and racing. Before I get to the main point of my post I thought I’d give some updates, since I’m sure all two people who probably read my blog are on the edge of their seats.

I’ve been feeling pretty good about my speed this fall so I was really hoping to run a 2:10 or less at the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon in October. Well, my dumb butt decided that eating at Polish Village Café the night before was a good idea. I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded that kielbasa and sauer kraut aren’t recommended fuel for running. After about six visits to porta potties in the last three miles, I finished in a disastrous 2:27. However, my urge to run a faster half still needed to be satisfied and I decided to run the Monroe Half Marathon on November 5th. I finished in just over 2:05, smashing my goal of 2:10.

My performance in Monroe gave me confidence that I could run a possible 4:45 at the Charlotte Marathon on November 11th. However, confidence doesn’t make up for a lack of training and long runs. Charlotte is also not like Monroe in that is has HILLS FOR DAYS. I hung with the 4:45 pace group for a while, and to be honest, I began hanging back due to a very loud and obnoxious woman who was running with the group. Hearing her scream as every passing car to “HONK FOR US!!! HONK!!!!!!” was enough for me to let up on my goal. Well, that and the fact I just didn’t have it in me 😉 Oh well, I was pretty pleased to run a 4:52:51. For my next marathon, the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, I will try this whole “training plan” thing out and again try to run a 4:45 or better.

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Look at this sexy medal

To help me achieve my goal in Jackson, I’ve also committed to participating in a holiday running streak sponsored by the Running Lab in Brighton. The rules are simply to run, walk, or hike at least one mile a day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I’ve tried streaking before unsuccessfully, but the possibility to win prizes and the accountability of posting your workout to their Facebook group every day is very motivating. Something else that is motivating me is how unhappy I am at my current weight. I gained a lot last year with the constant travel my job demanded and it seems to be getting worse lately. I’m tired of making excuses for myself and I know I deserve better. I’m hoping that cutting back on the beer, not eating out at restaurants as much, and committing to my running streak will help shed some of these unwanted pounds.

 

Have you ever successfully completed a running streak? Have you ever been able to lose weight during the holiday season? Am I an idiot for even trying?

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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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Comfort Races

I must say, it feels good writing a post that is running/fitness related instead of dead pet related. That being said, I really don’t have much to post in regards to my running since I barely did any of it in July. Truth be told, due to the constant vet visits and care that go into taking care of sick and dying pets, and not to mention the stress and heartbreak, I only ran a total of 15 miles in the month of July.

But Laura, your second 50 miler in North Country is only a couple of weeks away! Yes, thanks for the reminder you jerk. I am fully aware of how unprepared and unmotivated I am to tackle another 50 miler, so sadly, I have decided to be a DNS. Instead, I will be running 40 fewer miles as I tackle the Crim Festival of Races on August 26th. This brings me to the title of this post.

Four years ago was one of the happiest and most successful in my running history. I was setting personal records left and right and was able to enjoy some really fun races associated with some great memories with friends, which is why I now refer to them as  “comfort races”. Like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes, these are races that are just plain fun and make me feel warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. As I put myself through another round of 50-mile training in preparation for North Country, I realized I was burned out. Running wasn’t fun anymore. I wanted to be the runner I was four years ago when running felt effortless and it was something I actually looked forward to. I needed to run more comfort races.

The AdvoKate 10K in Rochester is one such comfort race for me. The AdvoKate is held in memory of Kate, a young girl who passed away from pediatric brain cancer. No that is not at all a “comforting” thought but the race does raise funds for one of my favorite charities, St. Jude’s. My friend Andrea and I had a tradition going for two years where we would run the AdvoKate and then drive to Clarkston to enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch at the Union Woodshop. Sadly, Andrea is in graduate school in Ohio and couldn’t join me this year. However, seeing those familiar pink balloons at the start line and running through my favorite trails in my favorite city was enough to bring back so many great memories of miles spent with my friend. Four years ago I set my 10K PR of 52:10 at this race. I surely did not run that fast this year but I enjoyed myself and that was my only goa.

The Crim 10 mile race in Flint, Michigan, was another favorite that I participated in four years ago. Along with my friends Andrea and Mary Beth, we travelled to Flint the night before to run the Michigan Mile and have some fun downtown. We had a blast that night exploring the all important Expo, getting a free meal because a restaurant accidentally poisoned MB with a buttered bun (she has a lethal dairy allergy), getting beer from a toothless lady, and making up one of MB and mine’s most enduring inside jokes- The Beefberry. The race itself was a blast too, with crazy fun spectators and some beautiful scenery that I was not quite expecting from Flint. The race after-party was a blast as well with more beer tent fun and listening to some great live music. I’ve been wanting to run the Crim again ever since but have always had a conflict. I am so excited to be able to run it again this year, despite knowing I’ll also be DNS-ing North Country.

Speaking of happy memories, I hope to make some more by running some new-to-me races in the coming weeks- the Milford Memories 10K this coming Sunday, and the Marquette Trail 11 Mile Race the week after. Having logged so many long runs all year, it’s been very liberating running short distances and having so much of your day left. My husband will be running the 50K in Marquette and I look forward to a vacation filled with all the beauty the Upper Peninsula has to offer.

Is there another 50 miler in my future? I’ve been toying with the idea of running The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50 Miler in January. I was so motivated to tackle another 50 after the Indiana Trail, but that motivation quickly faded when I realized I’d be training solo this time, and in the heat and humidity. For now, I’m enjoying the short runs. Plus, as a friend recently told me, “You have already have your 50! Why the hell would you want to do another?!”

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HOLY CRAP I RAN 50 MILES

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I mean, can you think of a more fitting title? You read that right, my tens of readers- I, the Rum Runner, ran a 50 mile Ultra Marathon, The Indiana Trail 50 (actually it’s officially called the Indiana Trail 100 and all the merch had that printed on it despite there being a 50 mile and 100K and I found that super annoying).

“But isn’t that what you’ve been training so hard for since early January? Why do you act so surprised?” you are probably thinking to yourself (as well as “Why do I care? I have things to do”). When I look back, running for a very long time is what I trained to do. Actually FINISHING a 50 mile run for the first time is almost next to impossible to prepare for properly. I almost quit dozens of times. I was in immense pain. I felt angry. I felt frustrated. I felt hysterical. I sobbed into the arms of a complete stranger. It was miserable and horrendous and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

I won’t try to give a play-by-play of 14 hours of running. What I will do is break my experience down only the most important facts:

  • Poops taken? One
  • Shoes worn? Two, of course! One for each foot!
  • No smartass, I meant pairs of shoes! Only one pair, my Salomon Speedcross trail shoes.
  • How many blisters did you end up with? Only about two mild ones, despite wearing the same pair of shoes AND socks the entire run
  • Areas chafed? Surprisingly none, not even the usual offenders like the thigh chub rub and butt crack. The one application of Body Glide held out the entire run.
  • What the hell do you eat when running 50 miles?! For me, lots of cups of chicken noodle soup and flat Coke. That’s about all my stomach would tolerate. Once it let me eat a small piece of PB&J. My stomach did NOT like anything sugary, however, like candy or fruit. I also drank too much Tailwind in the beginning of my run which resulted in horrible tummy distress and eventually to my singular poop.
  • Tell me about the course! Okay! It was a very pretty state park with rolling hills and trails in the woods that were pretty technical without killing yourself. You only had to look out for the odd roots and rocks. But oh, was there ever MUD. The dirt in this park was mostly clay and the rain in the preceding days had turned most of the second loop of our run to a muddy, slippery, mess. There were at least five straight miles where running was just not an option.
  • Speaking of rain, how was the weather? Looking back, the weather was kind of perfect in terms of running. The temperature stayed around 50-55 the entire run which made it easy to dress for. There was some rain in the middle of our run but it wasn’t a downpour. However, towards the end of the 50 either it got colder or my body just quit functioning properly and I began shivering uncontrollably. Thank goodness for my rain coat.
  • Tell me about the aid station and volunteers! Let me tell you, The Indiana Trail 50 was more like a strolling buffet in the woods than an Ultra Marathon. Just kidding there was nothing easy about a single moment but those aid stations were STOCKED with goodies I couldn’t eat. Burgers, pierogis, bacon, donut holes, chocolate covered coffee beans…all that was missing was pizza and a nacho bar. The volunteers were amazing people. After about mile 30 the pain and fatigue pretty much turn you into a toddler unable to walk steadily or speak full sentences. Thankfully, the volunteers treated me as such. “Hi there you look so strong! Do you want me to fill up your water? Do you want a cookie? Does someone need a nap?” Okay I made that last part up but my point is they were super attentive and I couldn’t have made it to the finish without them.
  • Why the hell did it take you so long? Hey! Did you read the part about the mud? Also, from mile 39 until the end, every step became a small battle with my mind. At that point I was mentally exhausted and hating life. When my mind betrays me like that, it’s difficult for me to overcome and think positive and move fast. The last five miles of the race were pure hell. That’s when my anger turned to despair and I began randomly crying. At this point I was the last of my friends left on the course and I was feeling sorry for myself on top of the pain. I shuffled along in agony until Shawn found me a quarter mile away from the finish line, held my hand, and ran me in to the finish. It also took me so long because my lying-ass friends told me this was a FLAT RAIL TRAIL COURSE so there was no need to train on real technical trails. LOL!!!!!!! Fuck my friends. Also I’m just slow and dumb to begin with.
  • Why the hell would you want to repeat this hellish experience? Because I know what to expect now. Everyone tells you it will be hard but you won’t know how freakishly painfully hard it will be until you do it. Remember your first time running a marathon and you swore never again and then the pain went away and then you became determined to run another one faster and now you’ve done 13 and you’re not getting any faster but you just keep signing up for marathons like an idiot? Oh wait that’s just me. Now that I know what to expect in a 50 miler, I can plan better to prevent those rough times and, I don’t know, maybe run on a trail or two with some hills. Also, I kind of have no choice since remember that I am registered for the North Country Trail 50 in August.

Not to sound too corny, but I became a different person after running my 50 miles. I feel a certain confidence in my every day life I didn’t have before. My brain is probably thinking, “Well she went to hell and back, maybe giving a presentation in front of 50 people isn’t the worst that can happen.” I am actually looking forward to training for North Country and hopefully shaving a good hour off of my Indiana finishing time. I think 50 milers, if life allows, will not be a two-and-done occurrence for me. But nothing longer, that would just be stupid.* On that note, I’ll leave you with this joke:

How does a runner get through the woods?

On the psychopath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*I once swore I’d never run a marathon too

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My First Ultra: The Kal-Haven Trail Run

Kal Haven Finish

Emil Zatopek, winner of four Olympic gold medals, once said the following: “If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” I love this quote because it’s impossible to run a marathon and not learn something new about yourself. You will find strength you never knew you had, tenacity to push through pain that once would’ve made you quit. Marathons are a beast that will change the way you feel about yourself forever. Ultramarathons are a monster that will cause you to experience about 3 different lifetimes and even cause you to fantasize about a life where you never have to run again.

On Saturday, April 8th 2017, I officially completed my first ultramarathon, the Kal-Haven Trail Run. This race is advertised as 33.5 miles but according to my watch and everyone else I asked, it’s technically over 34. The entire run is held on the Kal-Haven Trail, a pancake flat rail-trail which runs from Kalamazoo to South Haven, Michigan. In terms of ultramarathons, it’s an easy one. I already mentioned it’s pancake flat, and pretty much the only terrain you have to look out for is sticks and branches on the trail. I knew going in to this race it would be flat, but good Lord did I underestimate how flat it was. You would think that would make the run easy, right? Well 34 straight miles of using the same exact muscles with not even a rolling hill to help break up the monotony tore up my leg muscles more than I would’ve imagined. But, more on the pain later.

I arrived in Kalamazoo the night before and stayed in a hotel for free thanks to my Hilton Honors points, the one perk of travelling so much for work last year. I enjoyed dinner at a new brewery in town, One Well Brewing. It had been written up as one of the best new breweries in Michigan, and in a state where breweries are getting a bit out of control in my humble opinion, that was enough to get me through the door. I ordered a flight and there wasn’t a bad beer in the bunch- a delicious IPA, amber ale, even a jalapeno flavored beer. I also ordered a pizza with no cheese because, duh, I didn’t want my stomach to be upset for my run. Jalapeno beer is totally fine before an ultra though.

One Well

Pictured: Carb Loading

I woke up the morning of the race feeling oddly well rested and ready to go. I ate a gas station Clif Bar and horrible hotel room coffee with powdered creamer, grabbed a banana from the lobby breakfast, and went on my way to the Kal-Haven trail head. As I picked up my packet I was oblivious to the daunting fact that I was about to run the longest distance of my life up to that point. At least the weather forecast was looking perfect- chilly to start but warming up to the 50’s and sunny for most of the day.

The first few miles of the race were like any other run on a rail trail similar to the ones back home, such as the Paint Creek Trail or the West Bloomfield Trail. It was very pretty and full of trees. And it stayed like that, for miles and miles and miles and miles. What I’m trying to say is it was a bit monotonous. Oh yeah, and did I mention no hills? By mile 17 I was surprised at how sore and beat up I felt. Luckily there was a huge aid station marking the half way point full of pretzels, fruit snacks, bagels, bananas, and PUPPIES! Yes, I met a beautiful pit bull puppy named Beans, just like my baby kitty. Receiving puppy kisses from Beans gave me a burst of energy that lasted until mile 24.

It was at this point that I ran out of motivation. After 24 miles of running a straight line through trees, with no friends to talk to and no music, I was just plain bored and couldn’t find the mental strength to run through the pain. I texted my husband while fighting back tears letting him know how tough this run was. He told me to stay strong and keep going, and of course texted a photo of our cat Beans cheering me on like he does for every race. With his encouragement in mind I hobbled along for two more miles then ended up walking most of mile 26. Mentally, I was done with this race. I questioned why I was a runner. I beat myself up for my lack of speed. I told myself no way in hell I was going to run the 50 miler in April and that I wasn’t good enough to be a runner so I was going to just quit and start taking spinning classes. I was excited imagining a life of sleeping in on Saturdays and having toenails.

Then, magically at mile 30, a third (or fourth?) wind came upon me. An inner voice appeared and actually started pushing me along instead of keeping me down. “Don’t think about how far you have to go, think about how far you’ve come.” This random thought became my mantra as I pushed along for the last four miles, going from over 13 minute miles to 10:50’s. Yes, that is super slow, but at that point I felt like I was flying. “You are going to finish, probably not as fast as you wanted but you will finish and no one can take that from you.” I really wish this encouraging inner voice would show itself more often, like at work meetings. I guess it only shows up when I’m under tremendous physical stress.

Well, I did finish, but not before cursing the course for putting the ONE HILL right before the finish line. Bastards. After grabbing my medal I looked for my friend Angie who I was sure finished long before me. By “looking”, I mean I sat on the ground in pain and waited for her to find me. When she finally did I learned she had finished AN HOUR before I did. She is truly a beast and is going to rock her upcoming 100 miler. I was just happy to finish 34 miles in 7 hours and 10 minutes.

Despite the miles of agony that plagued me during the Kal-Haven Trail Run, overall this race motivated me even more for my upcoming 50. Despite how happy I was to be done running I actually felt like I could tackle another 16 miles. Kal-Haven proved that I can push through extreme pain, fatigue, and boredom and finish with a smile on my face. The miles may not be pretty or fast but they will be my own to be proud of forever.

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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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I’m Alive!! And Stupid

Hey there kids! I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I updated this vibrant and widely-read blog. Actually, I can believe it- I pretty much decided to abandon it after taking on a very travel-intensive job last year. Well, I left that job and after leaving a pretty crummy year behind, I’m actually optimistic for the year ahead. When I’m happy, I feel like writing about it.

I guess last year wasn’t that crummy. I did after all marry the love of my life. However, as previously mentioned, I had to plan our wedding through many business trips that took me away from home, friends, and running. I spent most of my year as a resident of Hilton hotels all over Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Texas. I also lost my grandma, that was pretty shitty! Oh and a reality television star was elected president. As John Oliver said, f*ck 2016.

Let’s not dwell on the negative and turn to the positive instead. I recently took on a new job where I will be in ONE PLACE ALL THE TIME. I love my new team and the work I will be accomplishing with them. Soon Shawn and I will be closing on a new home in New Hudson, MI! We will be living within running distance of so many parks (Kensington and Island Lake!) and trails (Huron Valley Trail!), as well as living within running distance of a few breweries. I tell ya, life doesn’t get much better than that.

Thank goodness I will soon be living in a quiet and runner-friendly neighborhood, because I certainly have some running to do. At the end of last year I registered for the Ann Arbor Marathon to keep myself motivated throughout the winter. I decided to tag alone with some friends who were training for a 50 miler on their long runs in order to train. Well of course I soon got talked into REGISTERING for the 50 miler, The Indiana Trail run in Albion, IN. Oh and I’ll be doing the Kal Haven Trail run (around 34 miles) on April 8th to train for it. Oh haha and did I mention I had already signed up for another 50 miler, North Country, at the end of August?!

So yeah, I’m stupid, but I’m also excited. After trying unsuccessfully to train for speed for two years now I decided if I can’t run fast, I’ll run long. I’m looking forward to posting more about my Ultra adventures as well as all of the awesome places to run in my new city. Also, I need to break out my old bathing suits since I’ll be really close to Island Lake and really have no excuse not to do a T Rex Triathlon this summer (because I’ll have so much time, right?!).

In addition to my upcoming running adventures, I’m also looking forward to embracing a healthier lifestyle. Actually I’m not eating healthier at all, but I’m looking to drastically cut back on drinking. After a booze-soaked cruise last week, I’m determined to drink as little as possible in the coming month. This may not sound like a daunting task to most people, but I am the Rum Runner after all. Getting used to sparkling water instead of red wine with dinner and giving up shower beers after a long run will be tough. However, I know my life and running goals will be easier to achieve without them.

Thanks for reading! Happy 2017 and happy running!

 

 

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New Year, New Training!

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

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

Still beats the treadmill.

Whatever it takes

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

 

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