5 Reasons to Run the Dune Dash

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How awesome is this year’s Dune Dash poster?! Poster designed by Dale Crawford

It’s hard to believe that it is already mid-August. But you know what that means? Some of the year’s best races are quickly approaching. One of my summer favorites is the 4 Mile Dune Dash. The Dune Dash is the epitome of Leelanau County running. Here are five reasons why I’m excited to run the Dune Dash this year:

  1. Perhaps the most visited area of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the famous Dune Climb. The Dune Dash starts and ends at the base of the Dune Climb. Therefore, participants can warm-up for the race by ascending the sandy hill and have a leisurely climb up after to enjoy the view. (Do ittttttttt)
  2. This race takes place on the smooth Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Runners and walkers will be submerged into the deep forests of the National Lakeshore. And bonus: ALL proceeds from this race benefit the Heritage Trail. Keep updated on the happenings of this excellent trail system here.
  3. The Dune Dash organizers are giving away a Yeti Cooler this year. Be there or be square, because you know you need something to put your post-race beers in.
  4. This course is mostly FLAT. (I mean, there are a view slopes, but nothing worth mentioning). So bring your speed shoes – this is a fun race for going all out.
  5. This is a 4 Mile race. How many organized 4 milers exist? I can’t think of any others. This unique distance is fun because it is longer than a 5k, but still not too long where you need to spend the full day recovering. (Think, energy leftover for the Dune Climb after!)

 

This year’s Dune Dash takes place on August 18th at 9AM. Register here to participate in this awesome event.

Plogging!

Plogging! Run Leelanau
On a positive note, I was 10 cents wealthier after my run. Who says I can’t get paid to run?

Plogging! The newest sensation. At least, the fact that it has a name is new. Courtesy of The Skimm, I learned that plogging is the act of picking up trash while running. Heck! I do this everyday. I love that it is now becoming a more widespread phenomenon and gaining attention. Clearly so many people do it that it is deserving of its own name.

Rumor has it, the health app Lifesum has a feature that helps people keep track of the amount of litter picked up. I haven’t personally checked this out, but it sounds awesome. Let me know if you look into and if it is as cool as it sounds.

As you may know, one of my biggest pet peeves is finding the beautiful area I live in full of trash, carelessly discarded. The other day I found a Wendy’s bag and several wrappers on my run. Mind you, Leelanau County does not have a single fast food restaurant. So as I stood there seething, I looked up Wendy’s on Google Maps. The closest one was 23 miles away. You couldn’t find a garbage can in 23 miles?? Are you tossing the bag out your car window as you get close to home so your spouse doesn’t know you snuck some fast food?  (I’m onto you) Hell, it’s hard telling why people litter.

I also come across a ton of discarded beer cans on my runs. Largely they are cans of Bud Light, Busch, and Miller Light. I, of course, have come to the official conclusion that people who litter drink disgusting beer, (ahem, domestics). Finding these discarded cans off the side of the road leads me to believe that some open intox tickets should be distributed in my hood.

The other day I even ran by a mattress tossed into some grape vines on the edge of an orchard. A freaking mattress. What. This is not something I could “plog.” I could not pick up a mattress and carry it to the trash while running, sadly.

If everyone who ran participated in plogging, perhaps we would have a significant reduction in trash lingering in nature. I wish plogging didn’t have to exist and people would stop littering, but at least there is something we can do to help offset it. I recommend gloves and some reusable plastic grocery bags. And when I say I recommend gloves, I insist on gloves. That shiz is gross.

I Meant to go to the Gym Today

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I meant to go to the gym today. My bag was packed and placed in my car.

I meant to go to the gym today, but then I spent 8 hours at work. The thought of doing anything else inside was too much to bear. After all that time in an air-conditioned building, I couldn’t bring myself to spend more time in a temperature controlled environment.

I meant to go to the gym today, but I zoomed home instead. Gym bag at my side, glaring at me with judgment. I thought about turning around,  my monthly gym bill weighing heavy on my mind. But with my windows down, I could feel the 80 degree weather and sunshine pouring in.

I meant to go to the gym today, but I traded the air conditioning in for the sun. I opted for nature therapy instead of a crowded room. I rode my bicycle to the beach. I swam Omena Bay and rode around the Omena Point. The fresh air and adrenaline brought energy that I wouldn’t have gotten inside. I live in the most beautiful place in America and this kind of weather is something we get three or four months per year. Trails, open roads, and clean water surround me. I would have been a fool to spend that time inside.

I meant to go to the gym today and I am so glad I did not.

 

Heroin, Food, and Running: What’s your Drug of Choice?

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I started Run Leelanau because I love where I live and my favorite way to explore this area is by running. My daily runs are full of beauty – much of which I showcase via social media. However, Northern Michigan is not without its flaws. This region, just like (literally) every region in the United States, is deep in the throes of the opiate epidemic.

As someone who works daily with people who suffer from addiction, the amount of judgment and lack of empathy from the general public is horrifying and disgusting. Every time an overdose is reported in our local news, the comments section is full of ridiculous statements like, “Natural selection,” “You can’t fix stupid,” and “Poor parenting leads to heroin addiction.” It makes me want to rip my hair out. Just typing those sentences out is making me clench my jaw to a point where it hurts.

People who display anything but sympathy or empathy for an addict are uneducated, small thinkers, and sad.

And yes, I am comfortable making that bold, generalized statement about people who judge addicts. Because the truth is, those who are judging the opiate addicts are likely facing an addiction of their own. Research has shown us over and over that addiction, no matter the substance, impacts our brains similarly.

Please note that people can be addicted to:
Drugs, food, exercise, gambling, social media, attention, television, video games, sex, shopping, work, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

It’s easy to say I am addicted to running. I get a boost in my mood after a run and crave it regularly. But I’m not foolish enough to think my only addiction is running. I’m well aware of the dopamine spike I feel when I eat an ice cream cone or some other excessively sugar-based item. In fact, food used to be my coping mechanism. I weighed around 200 pounds when I was 14-years-old. The difficulty with food addiction is you can’t ever actually quit – you just have to manage and maintain. My current relationship with food is much more reasonable, as I realize the importance of eating for fuel and have developed a greater sense of control. But I still live in a culture that uses food for everything – celebrations, dealing with sadness, family functions- it’s often the foundation for many gatherings and events.

So many Americans are addicted to food. Our obesity rates speak for themselves. The CDC reports that 70.7% of American adults are overweight. A good section of that percentage can be explained by food addiction and eating habits. The way opiates impact the brain is similar, but exponentially greater. When we eat or exercise, dopamine gets released and tells us to keep doing the thing that released it. The brain wants more of what made us feel good. With substances like opiates, excessive amounts of dopamine is released – far more than what is released during a natural behavior that causes pleasure (such as eating or exercise). This flood of dopamine causes the brain to completely rewire itself. After lengthy and repeated use, the brain may not produce dopamine naturally anymore and requires more and more of the substance to produce it.

So before you go judging a heroin user for their addiction, take a very good look at yourself and consider what your addiction may be. If you cannot display empathy for an addict or their family, keep your thoughts to yourself. Like I said, I love where I live and that love helps me continue to advocate for those who need our support.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with an addiction or mental health disorder, there is help readily available 24/7.

Local resources include:

Third Level Crisis Center 231-922-4800 – Available 24/7. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, you can also use their text line: 231-480-0292

Catholic Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction) 231-947-8110

Munson Behavioral Health (Mental Health and Addiction) 231-935-6382

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health (Mental Health and Addiction) 231-922-4850

And of course, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

 

A Summer without Goals

A Summer without Goals - Run Leelanau

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!

5 Reasons the Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon is the Bee’s Knees

5 Reasons the Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon is the Bee's Knees - Run Leelanau
When you cross The Narrows, you’re in the homestretch. How’s that view for the final push?

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!

“Talking Shop”

"Talking Shop" - Run Leelanau
If I’m not running or talking about it, do I even exist?

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.

Running for Charity

Running for Charity - Run Leelanau
Run with purpose! I loved running as part of the Still I Run team.

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.

50k Recap

50k Recap - Run Leelanau
Finishing lap 4, heading into the final loop. Photo Credit: Endurance Evolution

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*

Race Day

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before the 50k

50k eve

 

‘Twas the night before the 50k, when all through the house

All the anxieties were stirring, the heart fluttered most.

All the race gear was laid out by the bedside with care

In hopes that over-preparation would help just a hair.

The runners were nestled, restlessly stirring in their beds

While visions of DNF’s floated through their heads.

I, in a fit of agitation, and my spouse at a safe distance

Had settled into bed at 7, per my insistence.

The alarm was set 6 hours too early

For rushing in the morning would certainly make me surly.

Stomachs rumbled with threats of GI issues

And I quickly arose to pack more tissues.

For a trail race could lead to some awkward bathroom trips

They say, ‘never trust a fart,’ but you can’t always help what slips.

At last the final thought left the exhausted runner’s head

And race day quickly came with a mix of joy and dread.

After 18 weeks of preparation and training,

It’s just 7.75×4, how’s that for some reframing?