So Long, Sweet Summer

So Long, Sweet Summer
Before Sugar Loaf posted all those “no trespassing signs,” (SIGH) it was one of the best places to hike and see the fall colors.

It’s a bittersweet time in Northern Michigan. Summer is quickly coming to an end. Kids are back in school, the days are shorter, the wind feels crisper. Don’t ask me how this happened, I swear that mid-April blizzard was just last week.

As we mourn the end of summer, we must also mourn the closing of another race season. In Northern Michigan, there are very few races held after October. Sure, there are a few fun ‘snow’ or ‘holiday’ themed races, but there are not races popping up every weekend the way they do in the summer.

I may be getting ahead of myself, as fall is still a top-notch racing season. Some may argue that fall racing is even better, as temperatures are cooler and more comfortable. Many of you may be anticipating a fall marathon that you’ve spent the summer training to complete. (And kudos to you if you’ve been training this hot, dry summer!) I, of course, do not have a fall marathon on my agenda because, as you may recall, I took the summer off of training and goals (psssst – I’ll have recap on how that felt coming up!)

Now that we have all that mourning out of the way, let’s celebrate. I love fall too much. Judge me, but I even had pumpkin flavored coffee this morning. October is the best month, don’t try to argue. I also love winter. (I know, I’m the worst). I’m looking forward to those crisp leaves crunching underfoot on trails, and I’m pretty damn stoked about the first snowfall of the season (have I caused you to unsubscribe from my blog yet?) There’s nothing better than running in the bitter cold, all wrapped up in [ridiculously expensive] layers and crossing paths with another runner. That calls for more than just the typical ‘runner wave.’ Running in below zero temperatures calls for a mutual fist pump into the air.

So yes, I am mourning the end of summer, but I am also beyond pumped for fall. I have several running color tours planned – the colors better be epic this year. Cheers to a new season of running, everyone!

 

Miles for Mollie

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Every so often, something happens that shakes the running community to the core. This summer, the story of Mollie Tibbetts is causing an uproar of emotion across the country. Being a woman in the United States is dangerous. It has been years since I have felt comfortable running without the accompaniment of another person or a weapon. I try as hard as possible to avoid running in the dark – and as the days get shorter, my running window narrows. Women everywhere are forced to alter hundreds of aspects of their daily living in order to feel safe in a world that is not designed to protect them; carry mace in your purse, travel in pairs, run inside on a treadmill, wear special nail polish that can detect if someone drugged your drink, etc. Society has been forced to create extreme measures to keep women ‘safer’ instead of holding offenders accountable for their actions.

The news of Mollie Tibbetts comes at a particularly difficult time for me. About four weeks ago, my neighbor broke into my home while I was in it. I cannot adequately express what if feels like to find someone climbing into your living room window while inside, home alone, completely unsuspecting. Since this occurred, I have been living in an exhausting heightened sense of awareness. I have trouble sleeping, I don’t feel comfortable going outside to mow my lawn or work in my garden, and I have a hard time not obsessing over “what if” situations. Sadly, this is not the first time someone has broken into my home. My home in Grand Rapids was broken into when I lived there years ago. As a therapist, I am well aware of what compounding trauma can do to a person.

So what does a therapist do when they are suffering PTSD? I practice what I preach – I attend therapy now. Despite working full-time with health insurance, my therapy co-pay is still $40 per session. I am paying $40 each week to try to regain some sense of safety and normalcy within my home. Yes, my mental health is worth $40, but it is ridiculous that the victim continues to pay for the actions of the offender.  Our world is not designed to prevent danger – it is designed for us to adjust to and prepare for potential threats. Just look at all the things women are expected to purchase in order to feel safe – mace, knives, whistles, alarm systems, it goes on.

I feel like this break-in is the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back,’ if you will. As a 30-year-old female, the daily sensations of not feeling safe are draining. Comments, catcalls, unwanted touching, obnoxious stares, and being mistreated are the norm for women. These tiny moments of everyday add up over time. They are enough to make us feel insecure within our surroundings. And then something catastrophic takes place – Mollie Tibbetts being killed while running or someone breaking into my home – that confirms our worst fears: we are not safe.

There is so much more to be said on this subject, but I’ll end on a positive note. My PTSD has not stopped me from running, despite the way it screams “this is not safe!” as I lace up my running shoes. Thousands of women are sharing their stories and continue to log the miles in Mollie’s honor. The running community is resilient and we will continue to run for Mollie and victimized women everywhere.

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.

‘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?

 

 

 

Streaking

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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?)