Summer summer summer time! In my previous post, I mentioned that I didn’t have any races of significant distance on my radar. I’m signed up for many summer races, but have absolutely no goals set for these races. It’s liberating, thrilling, and terrifying all at the same time.
As a [fairly] competitive individual, I always have a time or distance goal set for specific races on my agenda. This summer, I do not. My plan is to run when I want, where I want, for how far I want, and at whatever pace I want. No pressure (Say whaaaaaaaaaat?) There will be days that I go fishing instead of running. Sometimes I’ll ride my bicycle to a brewery instead of running. Other days I’ll run 13.1 just because I want to. I’ve had a goal on my agenda for as long as I can remember. When I’m ready to set a goal again, I want to be eager to work for it. And I’m just not there right now. Right now, I don’t care if I run a 3 hour half marathon this Saturday. I don’t care if I walk, socialize, or do cartwheels down the hills (JK, I can’t do a cartwheel to save my life).
Knowing me, I’ll be itching to set an unreachable goal by July. However, I’m absolutely pumped to have such little pressure on myself for the summer. I need some balance and in order to achieve that, I’m going to take a break from my competitive side and run just for the sake of running again.
As an adult who works full-time, I can’t take an actual “summer vacation,” so this is going to be as close as I can get. A little less pushing, a little more relaxing. Happy summer 2018!
Believe it or not, I do not currently have a race that is of significant distance on my calendar. However, I am very excited for the next race that is on my calendar: The Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon! This year, it falls on June 16th. Hands down, this is one of my favorite half marathons of all time (do I say that about all of them? Hmm…) Anywho, the following 5 reasons are why I.LOVE.THIS.RACE.
1) It starts and ends right in the middle of Glen Arbor
As in, you should probably get yourself a great glass of wine from Cherry Republic after the race. Or, if you’re a beer fiend like myself, check out their brand new brewery and tap room! Or, stop by Art’s Tavern for a burger and their huge selection of beers. Or…or…or…
2) It’s so incredibly beautiful
I know, I know. I say that about every race. I could be running through a sewer and think it’s beautiful simply because I’m running. But this one is for real. Runners tackle the circumference of Big Glen Lake. And yes, this includes the ascend of Inspiration Point. Come on, with a peak named Inspiration Point, you know it’s going to be good.
3) Hills! But not too many…
This race has a monster hill (see reference to Inspiration Point). It’s the kind of hill you can run up, but some mean power walkers may pass you (oh, just me?) There are a couple of other smaller hills as well, so you finish feeling accomplished but not dead. Perfect combo, right?
4) The Narrows
Towards the very end of the race, runners get to cross the iconic Narrows. Big Glen is on your right and Little Glen is on your left. And of course, The Sleeping Bear Dunes‘ famous Dune Climb waves at you majestically as you run by. This may be even more inspiring than Inspiration Point! As it’s in the last leg of the race, it’s the perfect boost to get you to the finish line.
5) Summer Solstice!
Obviously from the title, this race always falls near the summer solstice. It literally kicks off the beginning of the summer race season. What is better than celebrating the start of summer with a half marathon? NOTHING IS BETTER, DUH.
So do I have you convinced yet that this is the best half marathon ever? Thought so. I’ll be there, so join me! If the half marathon isn’t your favorite distance, they have a 5k option as well. Hope to see you there!
My daily commute to and from work allows me to listen to podcasts on the reg. While listening to Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier” podcast the other day, she mentioned a notion she called “talking shop.” This was referenced while discussing jobs and tips for understanding if you are on the right career path. If you like to “talk shop” (ie, talk about your job when you are not at work), it’s a good sign.
For example, I work as a clinical therapist and love talking about mental health and the human brain when I am not at work. Honestly, I think this is a great method for measuring how happy you are with your chosen career path. This made me think about other areas of my life that I like to “talk shop” about. Naturally, running was one of the first things I thought about. I could talk about running all day, everyday. Once I learn that someone is a runner, I fire 4000 questions at them right away. “What’s your favorite distance to run? How long have you been running? What are your running goals? Do you have a favorite race,” all shoots out of my mouth in a big blur. And if someone is not a runner, but asks me about my running, watch out. My obsession becomes obvious.
If something is a large part of your life, yet you don’t like to talk about it, perhaps it is time to re-visit what purpose it is serving in your life. If you dislike your job, are you able to change it? And if you run or complete another form of exercise regularly, yet do not really have an interest in it, why continue? Obligation? Health benefits? You shouldn’t dread your daily exercise routine. There are many forms of exercise. Pick one that you enjoy and one that you love to talk with other people about. Most forms of exercise, including running, have wonderful, supportive communities full of people who love the activity.
Naturally, switching something like the form of exercise you participate in is easier than switching careers. I’m one of the lucky ones who got to choose my career instead of circumstances forcing me into the first available job. I’m very grateful. And if anyone out there wants to “talk shop” about running (or mental health!) get at me.
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of running for a charitable organization for the first time ever. In all my years of running, I had never signed up to run a race for any other reason than I personally wanted to run it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am an ambassador for Still I Run. This is a community that raises awareness for mental health and aims to reduce the stigma around it. As an ambassador, I got to run the Fifth Third Riverbank 25k in Grand Rapids as part of the Still I Run team. The requirements for the team were minimal, each member simply had to raise $100 for Pine Rest‘s Mental Health Services. Since I had never run as part of a team for a charitable organization, I had obviously never fund-raised for one either. That turned out to be a blast! I loved talking to people about Mental Health (good thing I’m a therapist, eh?) and continuing to raise awareness about it. And here I thought fundraising would be the challenging part!
At a past job, I had a boss that used to tell me I should run for charity. She said I was “running for no reason” and that I should “put those miles to good use.” Naturally, the rebel in me violently opposed running for charity as a direct result of this conversation. Running for no reason?! B, please. I run for me, my mental health, and my physical health. As you might expect, this woman was not a runner. Nor did she have any good self-care techniques. Fortunately, I did not let that conversation steer me away from charitable running forever.
The best part is that Still I Run supports and raises awareness for the exact reasons I run in the first place. My mental health is largely dependent on running and I am proud to represent Still I Run. You’ll be seeing me running for charity much more often. As for the Riverbank Run itself? Incredible race. It was extremely well organized, had tremendous crowd support, and was a beautiful course. The only negative thing I can say about this race is that we ran by a very aromatic Burger King at about mile 14. Nothing smells worse than BK at mile 14, but what can you do? Oh, and each runner gets a free beer after the race. Win win win win win win win win.
Wooop! Here I am, on the other side of my first ultra. The Traverse City Trail Running Festival was everything I thought it would be and much more (and by more, I mean more miles. AHEM).
Want to know what I was thinking before and during the race? Then keep reading to enjoy my ultra recap.
2 Days Before the Race
As anyone who has spent time in Northern Michigan this spring knows, we had a ridiculous blizzard in the middle of April that brought feet, literally FEET, of snow. Therefore, I had been slightly nervous about trail conditions. So when I received an email on Thursday that the course had to be revised due to excessive amounts of snow, I was not surprised.
Originally, the course was a 4-loop deal, which each loop coming in at 7.75 miles to complete the 31. Thursday’s email indicated that the loop would be cut down significantly – in fact, it was shortened to become a 5k loop. That meant 10 laps.
“How in the world am I going to keep track of 10 laps?! I’m going to get dizzy!”
The Day Before the Race
Another email arrived. This one was a mix of good and bad news. The snow had melted more than anticipated, and another adjustment was made to the course. Now the course was a 6.7 mile loop, and 50k runners would complete 5 loops. Now for all you mathematicians out there, you’ll notice that 5 loops x 6.7 miles each = 33.5 miles. YUP. That’s longer than a 50k, yo! I only signed up to run 31 miles! I panicked slightly but then got over it. What could I do?
*Insert silent weeping*
I arrived onsite about an hour early. Standard me. It was about 30 degrees with a decent wind. I was cold and anxious to start. Finally, the 50k runners lined up at the start. There were only 10 of us total, and two females including myself.
“Hey, at least I’m guaranteed to place within my age group.”
Lap One: Miles 0-7
I took this lap quite slow. I didn’t know what to expect or if I needed to save excessive energy for any crazy hills. There were flags marking the course, but that didn’t stop me from getting lost at least 2.5 times. Pro tip: Don’t blindly follow the guy in front of you, he may not know where he is going either.
While large chunks of the trail were hard-packed dirt and decent, many areas were not. Sheets of ice and snow covered long stretches and it was nearly impossible to run those sections. I developed a rather attractive “shuffle-slide” to get through them. I’d be happy to demonstrate this technique for you.
Towards the end of the loop, I glanced down at my watch. We had already crossed the 6.7 mile mark and I hadn’t begun lap 2 yet. In fact, the start of lap 2 was at least 1/4 mile away. As I crossed over into lap 2, my watch read 7.03.
“What the hell, man!”
Lap 2: Miles 8-14
I spent quality time on this lap hoping that the GPS on my watch had been off, and this lap would come in at an appropriate 6.7 miles. It did not. I finished lap 2 at 14.06 miles. Shit. This is going to be a 35 mile race.
“I will die. Death is inevitable.”
Lap 3: Miles 15-21
“When I’m halfway through this lap, I’ll be halfway done with this race.”
“Am I fueling frequently enough?”
“Why am I STILL cold??”
Lap 3 was tiresome. I was approaching the 20+ mile mark and still had two laps to go. However, I was loving running on trails for this amount of time. And just as I was thinking about how peaceful the woods were, BOOM. I tripped over a root covered in leaves and fell face first into the dirt. Thankfully, not a human was around to hear the noises that escaped my mouth.
Lap 4: Miles 22-28
“Well I’ve run 22 miles and I still have a half marathon left to go.”
That thought was humbling. Lap 4 brought a bit of mental fatigue. I heard someone in the distance shooting guns for target practice and couldn’t help but think, “It wouldn’t be the worst thing if I got grazed by a bullet right now and didn’t have to finish this race.”
My mental fatigue also had me thinking about not completing lap 5. Lap 4 would bring me to 28 miles. That would be the furthest distance I had ever run and technically, I could still consider that running an ultra marathon since is was longer than 26.2. This thought was fleeting, though. Fortunately, my obsessive need for accomplishment would never let me have a DNF after coming this far.
Lap 5: Miles 29-35
“One.Last.Lap. One.Last.Lap. One.Last.Lap.”
“If I finish this race, I never have to run again.” (LIES, Jennifer, LIES)
Running the last mile of this race, I laughed out loud to myself. “Holy shit, I’m completing a 35-mile trail race on some ridiculously rough trails.” Everything ached and I was exhausted. I had no idea how many people finished ahead of me or how many were still behind me out on the course. I was sweaty but chilled, which is always an uncomfortable sensation, but one any winter runner is familiar with.
I did it. I finished. I ran 35 miles. I am an ultra-marathoner. I need a nap.
To conclude, I loved my first ultra. The horrible trail conditions just added to the badassery of my accomplishment. Will I do another in the future? You betcha.
In all my years of running, I have never completed a run streak. It’s never had an appeal to me. Hell, I hate to admit it, but I like rest day. So no rest days for xxx amount of days/months/years?! WHY.
I’ve read stories where people have streaks going for decades. Literally, running at least one mile every day for more than 30 years. They have great stories about how they are forced to creatively get those miles in. One guy reported that he ran 2 miles in a row; the first mile started at 11:50PM and the second mile ended at 12:10AM. And just like that, two days are knocked out in the span of 20 minutes. Genius.
Of course, I’m not one to stay up until midnight. I prefer to be in bed by 8:30. Well here I am, about to step outside of my comfort zone and run everyday for a month. As an Ambassador for the incredible organization, Still I Run – Runners for Mental Health Awareness, I am joining their challenge to streak for the entire month of May. Now, this particular challenge states that individuals can either walk or run at least one mile daily. Due to the nature of my job, though, I walk several miles daily. I will not be counting those miles, as that does not seem fair (hence this being a challenge).
I’m hoping that none of my runs take place after my usual bedtime, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice for a month. The challenge has three different participation levels; ‘free,’ ‘regular,’ and ‘bonus.’ The free challenge invites runners to join the Facebook group and post about their daily mileage. The regular challenge costs $10, and participants receive a Still I Run bracelet and custom ‘Mental Health Road Warrior’ race bib. The bonus challenge is $25 and participants receive the items from the ‘regular challenge’ in addition to custom BibBoard Fasteners.
Money raised through the challenge goes back to Still I Run to fund events, other challenges, and mental health awareness educational material. Win win! So clearly, you all need to join me on this challenge and run or walk one mile everyday in May! (And hey, the weather is bound to be better than it was in April, am I right?)
For real. Even before becoming a long-distance runner, I’ve loved the salty things in life. I’m the person who adds salt to already salted popcorn and soup. Heck, I salt my steamed vegetables.
My love of salt is relevant to running because I experienced symptoms of hyponatremia during two of my marathons. If you don’t know, hyponatremia occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. This commonly happens to endurance athletes who consume water while exercising, but not enough electrolytes. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and confusion. If hyponatremia persists for too long without treatment, it can cause long-term damage or even death (please note I am not a doctor – source credit; the ever favorable WebMD). Warm and humid weather can make people more susceptible to hyponatremia, as it causes them to sweat more (thus losing more sodium/electrolytes).
It was during my first and third marathons that I had symptoms of hyponatremia. The first one because I had no idea what hyponatremia was and I didn’t know how to fuel/hydrate during that initial 26.2. After I finished, my family and I went to a restaurant to celebrate. I remember sitting on the floor of a bathroom stall (yuuuuuuuck), thinking I was going to die. When I finally ate my sandwich, I was blown away by how quickly I started feeling better.
I suffered from symptoms of hyponatremia during my third marathon while still on the course. It was humid and I was pushing myself for a time goal. I was dangerously close to not meeting that goal and had no seconds to spare in grabbing any fuel for the last few miles. Literally at mile 26, I started to get tunnel vision, my face was numb, and I had chills pinging throughout all of my limbs. Lesson learned – time goals are not worth putting my health in danger.
I brought these occurrences up to my doctor. He educated me on hyponatremia and you know what? He encouraged me to consume more salt! What a glorious man. Perhaps I have taken his suggestion too far, as the amount of salt I put on popcorn now makes my husband choke and cough. But in all seriousness, I am diligent at consuming electrolytes with my water while running, and I usually have a salt tablet in my mouth during long runs. I don’t know about you guys, but after a very long run, I typically have salt caked up behind my ears and all over me from the sweat (TMI? Ah, well). So clearly, that needs to be replenished as I’m moving.
To me, the most important thing about endurance training is finding an appropriate fueling strategy. I love learning about other peoples’ fueling – what, how often, what works, what has failed, etc. Drop me a line to let me know!
Self-improvement, we’re all striving for it, right? I’m constantly absorbing material through media, literature, and podcasts that include ‘life hacks.’ One of my favorite authors and podcast hosts is Gretchen Rubin. I first learned about her after she wrote The Happiness Project. Years later when I stumbled upon her podcast, I was thrilled.
Gretchen Rubin has a theory that people largely respond to expectations in four different ways. How you individually respond to expectations helps to identify ways to set goals and actually stick with them. Rubin describes these as the “Four Tendencies.” She has a full book on the four tendencies, but you can take her online quiz to discover your individual tendency and learn more about each one.
Naturally, I took this quiz and learned that I am an ‘upholder.’ Being an upholder means I readily meet inner and outer expectations. Accurate. If I set goals for myself, I generally meet them. If others expect something of me, I have no problem accomplishing it. Naturally, not everyone falls into this ‘upholder’ tendency. The other tendencies include the obliger, questioner, and rebel. Check out Rubin’s work to get a full description of these other tendencies.
So what does being an upholder look like for me as a runner? Well, I find it pretty easy to stick to my training schedule. I don’t need a running buddy to get me out of bed for early runs. But it also means I like to be in control of everything. If something unexpected comes up that forces me to skip a run, I get irritable, anxious, and agitated. I am not the most flexible person and rarely do I like surprises. I like to know exactly what is happening at all times. Obviously, these are things I’m working on improving.
Part of the reason I am an upholder is because I have anxiety. Running really helps me keep my mental health in check. I know I need to get better at being flexible, because life happens and runs will be missed. I used to run in the morning before too much ‘life’ had a chance to happen, but my current work schedule already gets me out of bed around 4am. I’m not about to get up before 2am to run. Now I exercise after work, which can be a problem when unexpected situations occur.
I enjoyed learning about my ‘tendency’ as it helps me understand the best way to approach goals I set for myself. Take the quiz and let me know your results! I’d love to know how many runners out there are fellow upholders or if a different tendency is more common for runners.
“It’s not 26.2 miles, it’s 6.55 x4,” I told myself going into Sunday’s long run. My training schedule called for a 26-miler, but what kind of distance runner stops at 26 and leaves the .2 hanging? Seems like bad luck.
Last week was “Peak Week” in my 18-week ultra training plan. This plan has me maxing out at 26 miles in preparation for the 50k. I suppose this makes sense, as most marathon training plans I have completed max out around 16-20 miles. (Though before my first marathon, I ran 26.2 two times to make sure I could do it. I’m not obsessive or anything…)
So now? I taper. At the time I’m writing this, I ran the 26.2 yesterday. That means I’m prettyyyyy excited to taper since I feel a bit fatigued. I ran 3.5 recovery miles this morning. And by ‘ran,’ I mean hobbled. But I know as soon as the tightness of my muscles fades away, this taper will make me antsy. But hey, isn’t that the point? Isn’t the taper supposed to get me so eager to run that I’m ecstatic when race day comes?
I still have a couple of 10-13 milers left, so I won’t be completely deprived of long runs. I’m hoping I can complete more of my mileage on trails in these remaining weeks. My ultra is a trail race and I am sad to say I did not spend as much time training on the trails as I would have liked. The snow and ice really deterred that. Sometimes I couldn’t figure out where the trail was and got hopelessly lost. Other times the snow was deeper than my knees to a point where I didn’t feel like that would be quality running. And lately, the snow has been hard-packed into ridges where it’s too dangerous to try and run on it. So, this trail ultra will likely completely kick my ass.
My Sunday marathon felt pretty darn good though, which surprised me. I recently discovered Spring Energy and it’s an incredible fuel. I have the sampler pack, so I was stocked with on-the-go fuel and electrolytes. I continue to use Generation UCAN as well, so the combination of both of those with some salt tablets helped me stay energized throughout my run. The most important thing I have learned with distance running is the importance of fueling before you feel like you need to. I take a swig of UCAN or half a packet of Spring Energy every three miles. It may seem excessive, but it’s what works for me.
I finished the long run in 4:04:46. Given that my marathon PR in a race is 3:58, I was quite impressed with my time. I ran the majority of this on hard-packed dirt roads – it was as trail-like as the conditions would allow for the day. So do I feel ready for this ultra? Kind-of. But I feel that way going into every big race. Like they say, trust your training and just have fun. And most importantly, it’s not 31 miles, it’s 7.75 x4.