Tuesday’s training called for a “fun workout,” which serendipitously coincided with a planned trip to trails near Arcadia with Beth. What could be more fun that running trillium-lined single track trails deep in the woods near Lake Michigan?
Beth is the talented photographer who took some winter images of me running earlier this year. She’d asked me about taking the 45-minute drive southwest toward the lakeshore to capture more running shots, and since I’ve long wanted to explore these winding trails nestled within the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s Arcadia Dunes, I jumped at the opportunity. We also planned to make a stop near Elberta for some beach shots, and also Frankfort for lunch.
If you enjoy trail running as much as I do—or if you’ve wanted to give it a try—you’ll want to include these scenic paths on your must-run list. It’s a perfect half-day or full day trip if you are staying in the Traverse City area, and this time of year the trillium are out in full glory. Pausing for a visit to a stretch of Lake Michigan is always satisfying, no matter the time of year, and perhaps is especially sweet late May when spring offers that breezy-cool promise that warmth and sunshine will indeed soon crack wide open into a sun-drenched summer.
From Traverse City, we took U.S. 31 west. You’ll travel though the small towns of Interlochen and Honor before the highway heads south and runs through the village of Benzonia. Arcadia Dunes, which contains sandy beaches, dunes, forests and grassland, is located between the village of Arcadia, to the south, and tiny Elberta, to the north, along the shores of Lake Michigan. It encompasses some 3,600 acres in both Manistee and Benzie counties. Adjacent working farms have been permanently protected, and there’s a total of 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking.
We took Joyfield Road off U.S. 31, a route that takes you west toward Lake Michigan. Searching for just the right spot to stop and take in the blooming-white trillium in the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve, we come across this expansive field, a gorgeous lush green following recent rain.
After taking a few pictures here, we kept going in search of trillium patches. We stopped at the St. Pierre Trailhead, where a group of older women were meeting up for their weekly trail hike. We met up with them later on the trail, and they suggested a few other spots to explore. We ended up finding a gorgeous hillside of trillium a short drive away in the preserve.
I can’t wait to go back to these trails–Beth and I decided it’d make a perfect girls’ day of running–and explore these trails further. The terrain is hilly, but not overly challenging, at least the portions we saw. I can only imagine how beautiful it is here at the peak of summer, in all of its lushness, and also come fall with the vibrant changing colors.
After awhile we decided to head toward the water. We found a route to the lakeshore within the Dunes’ Green Point Dunes Nature Preserve. Much of this preserve includes steep bluffs at the shoreline, but there is a portion with stairs to the beach. A parking lot sits about a half mile from that point, so we parked and hiked down to the water. (It’s a decent climb back up, which we agreed was an extra little workout.) The route is part gravel two-track road, part wooded trail.
Ahh, a sight for sore eyes…I can never get enough of this view.
We stayed at the beach for awhile, running a stretch of it and taking photos. It was a not-too-chilly, slightly overcast afternoon. Is there any better sound than fresh water waves crashing?
I could have stayed at the beach the rest of the day, but we were getting hungry. We decided to head to Frankfort, a 10-minute drive north. This is a quaint beachside town that I predict will only continue to gain loyal visitors–a photographer friend of ours is opening the village’s first craft brewery this summer, a place called Stormcloud Brewing Company that you’re going to want to check out, and the town has happening spots like the Pan-Asian cuisine restaurant The Fusion and local moviehouse The Garden.
A good sandwich sounded good, so we stopped at L’chayim Delicatessen, 325 Main St. This is one of two locations (the other is in Beulah), and the bagels are amazing. Their bagels are made with organic ingredients, with flavors including harvest grain, sesame, cinnamon raisin, everything, plain, poppy seed, parmesean, cheddar herb, salt & honey wheat. I opted for a veggie toasted cheddar herb bagel sandwich–the Golda Meir, which has a so-so-good cream cheese-Stilton blue cheese spread with cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and red onion–while Beth had the Tel Aviv, which has roast turkey and pepper jack with roasted red peppers, lettuce and honey mustard.
We’d left Traverse City early in the day, around 8:30 a.m. and after exploring trails, spending time at the lakeshore and grabbing lunch in downtown Frankfort, we started back for home around 2 p.m. We took some back roads–Beth knows her way around this part of northern Michigan, thanks in no small part to her work on a Lake Michigan surfing story she worked on within the past year–and I think it’s safe to say we both felt refreshed after a trip to this incredibly beautiful area. I really look forward to getting back out there and running again soon.
Have you run Arcadia Dunes trails? Visited Frankfort? What do you love most about this area of northern Michigan?
On my most time-crunched mornings, when I’m hoping to squeeze in a run and especially on those days when getting kids up and going feels like a race, I’ll reach for peanut butter. At least one spoonful, all on its own or spread on a banana, is my quick go-to pre-run fuel.
While I wish I could say I’ve been eating the healthiest version of PB for years, it’s taken me some time to come around to this. But I have, particularly in the last year as I’ve discovered different kinds of nut butters and my family has taken a greater interest in eating more natural, organic and whole foods. And most recently, I’ve been loving Naturally Nutty nut butters, products made here in Traverse City by runner Katie Kearney.
I’ve known Katie for quite awhile—we have kids the same age and we live in the same neighborhood—and though we’ve chatted over the years about getting together for a run, our schedules just haven’t meshed. We both love trail running, so I’m hoping we’ll have the chance this summer to run together (she’s a very talented runner, a fast runner, so either I’ll die trying to keep up with her or she’ll help me increase my speed. I’m hoping for the latter).
Given my current obsession with Naturally Nutty’s Pepita Sun Seed Butter, and because I know so many runners are lovers of peanut butter, almond butter, you name the nut butter, I wanted to share Katie’s story. In just six years, Naturally Nutty has grown considerably—you can find it in numerous grocery and specialty shops throughout Michigan as well as across the U.S. and even overseas. And, Katie tells me she’s been working on a runner-specific nut paste: “I have been playing around with an endurance paste, not necessarily to sell with our label, but for local athletes, mostly my 13-year-old daughter,” she says. “Of course, I’ve said this before [when she started making peanut butter for her family] and look what happened! When we ran our last half-marathon, my daughter needed a little pick me up toward the end. The ingredients in the gels on the market don’t fit with our lifestyle, so I started messing with healthy ingredients, which would benefit Sielle while running. I’ve used it when biking and running–the stuff is awesome!” Here’s hoping this “product” eventually lands on store shelves, too … I’ll keep you all posted.
How long have you been a runner, and what got you started with this sport?
I have been a runner since middle school. I started because I was a chubby kid, who was sick and tired of being chubby! I started running a mile a day, thinking it was a huge feat! I did that for a whole summer, then decided to join cross country in the fall. I was awful at it! I came in last quite often, but kept at it. We started middle school in fifth grade, so that’s the year I started running. Each year, I improved a little, though I was always toward the end of the pack. As I moved up to high school, I got faster. In practice, I would run with the lead girls. In the meets, I would seize up, mentally and physically, so I would still come in toward the end. Finally, college came and I learned that I could do it! I could run fast and furious—I could keep up with the other girls, and actually succeed. It’s such a mental sport—I think that we aren’t actually good at it until we realize that we are doing it for ourselves, and nobody else!
How important is running and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to you now, as a wife and working mom of three?
Running, kickboxing, the elliptical, walking, Jillian Michaels, biking, paddle boarding … those are my favorite ways to stay in shape. Each day, I have to do at least two of those things listed because it’s the only way to clear my mind, work things out, and stay focused in my hectic life. I also feel that I’m teaching my kids that being active is not only fun, but the best way to keep yourself healthy. When they see that I take this time for myself, I’m teaching them that it’s not a selfish motive, but a way for me to be around to see them grow, as well as their kids grow (someday!). So I guess that was a super round about way to the answer, which is, VERY important. It’s something I have to do everyday to stay centered, focused and healthy!
You began creating Naturally Nutty products because you were looking for a natural and good-tasting peanut butter for your family—how having this business has grown over the years, and what your hopes are for this business?
The growing business—it’s crazy! I thought that we would stay fairly local, but I was way off. We are in the majority of the US (though just sprinkled throughout), as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We have distributors in those locations, and we also ship all over the world. This has happened simply out of need, for my family. I hope to continue to grow, but carefully. We don’t want to become “corporate.” We want to always run it the way we started, with integrity. We will only create things that we feel good about feeding our kids. We pride ourselves on having a happy, healthy product. That said, my hope for the future items we create, is 100% organic. Everything we make now is 80% to 100% organic. I also hope to become an even more sustainable company, using solar and wind power to run all equipment.
What are your thoughts on eating well for health and well-being—and for staying active through running and other activities?
The majority of money that we spend in our household goes toward healthy, organic food. My family and I follow a vegan diet; mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. I make 95% of our other food from scratch. I believe that what we put in our bodies affects us on every level. It gives us the ability to accelerate in any sport we choose to try, gives us the energy each day to enjoy our lives to the fullest, it keeps us free of disease and sickness, and it keeps us feeling happy. I’ve always said that if we need to live in a box, so be it, as long as we eat healthy food! I feel so passionate about it, I have gone back to school for my masters in holistic sports nutrition. This degree focuses (mainly) on a plant-based diet.
Do you have a favorite Michigan race?
My favorite Michigan race would have to be the Lighthouse Half Marathon. I loved running through the woods, especially with the beautiful fall colors at their peak. It was incredible, running along the bay, when it was still fairly dark out, as well as foggy! Once the sun came up, the colors popped. I think everyone should at least try this one.
You and your 12-year-old daughter Sielle, a talented young runner, are training for your second half-marathon together. How is that going?
Sielle and I are training for the Bayshore Half, which is also one of my favorites. The course is just incredible (aren’t we lucky to live here?) The view is amazing! I’m excited for Sielle to run this one with me. I know that she will appreciate it so much. She is so fun to run with, because we have all the time in the world to talk about everything in the world. She opens up about her life—everything that she is thinking and feeling, everything that is going on in her middle school life. I love getting to know her more, with each run, as an individual, not just as a mother and daughter. It’s hard to explain how the longs runs just make us feel more open and vulnerable, therefore making us talk about every aspect of life! Running long distance with your child is like nothing else. I hope to be able to do this with all three of my kids. The key is, they have to love running for themselves, in order to be able to have this kind of openness.
What do you like most about running in the Mitten State?
I love the changes in our weather. I love how one day, we could be wearing shorts and a tank top while running, yet the next, there could be snow. It always makes for an exciting adventure; it always keeps my on my toes! I like that (unless it’s June and snowing!) I love that we have such beautiful scenery, with so many unique and gorgeous places to run. My favorite place to run? It depends on my mood, but I love running back through the woods behind Mt. Holiday as well as the VASA. I love running up Wayne Hill. It’s great for the mind. I love running on the TART trail, especially along the water, or on back by our facility, with the rolling hills, and farms. I guess there isn’t just one spot …
This training marks the first time I’ve been deliberate about speed work. I know some of you long have known about and done regular “pickups,” “tempo runs,” “fartleks,” “strides,” and other running terms indicating go faster for X-amount of time during your run (or the entire run, in the case of tempos). But I haven’t put into practice a whole bunch these kinds of efforts…until, oh, about 106 days ago when I decided I wanted to not just run this marathon—I wanted to own this marathon.
I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to speed work, I’ve decided. It’s truly been a learning experience for this (mostly) go-with-the-flow, run-how-you’re-feeling girl to tackle a race training plan that lays out specific kinds of speed work each week. I’ve been following The Marathon: Own It plan outlined in the book Train Like a Mother. It’s an 18-week program, and though I got off to a somewhat rocky start because of heel/lower calf pain, it’s proved to be a good fit as the weeks have gone by. I’ve liked the challenge of pushing my body and mind as I tackle high double-digit runs, several of which call for “mid 12 (or 6 or 5) at race pace” and “15-minute strong finish.”
As for the midweek runs, there have been plenty of miles during which I’ve injected pickups and strides for specific amounts of time and within specific zones—there are 5 zones, each with a perceived effort and a description of how it feels. Zone 1, for example: 60-70 percent perceived effort, good for “really easy runs, warm-ups and cool downs, and recovery between intervals or track repeats.” Feels like: “trotting along, feeling fine.” On the other end of the spectrum is Zone 5, which entails 95-100 perceived effort, and feeling like, well…: “You have to ask? Lungs, legs, arms, entire body are en fuego. In a good way of course,” says my training plan.
Tuesday morning I ran 4 miles, a straightforward out-and-back route that’s paved and tree-lined and pretty quiet given that the smattering of homes sit far back from the road and on fairly large parcels. It was the perfect spot for all-out, Zone 5 speedwork. I ran one mile as a warm-up, at an easy-peasy pace, then got to work: 6 X 20 seconds in Zone 5, with 10-second easy in between each. What helped: the flat route and switching my playlist from my low-key Coldplay/Mumford & Sons/Jack Johnson to Katy Perry/Pink/Fergie.
Here’s the thing: the speed work was challenging. I thought midway through for a fleeting moment that I didn’t really want to do this. Would four be enough? Why six? But then I did it, I did these six sprints and then it was over and I had just over two miles to slow it down and run it on home. So then my silly mind starts thinking, “Oh, maybe I should do some more! They weren’t that bad!” Then, I came to my senses. “Take it easy, now. That was good. That was enough.”
Confidence=good. Overconfidence=not good. It was probably a form of foreshadowing that I had read a running article in recent days about the danger of overtraining. Definitely don’t want that.
The next two and a half weeks before race day(!) will find me doing some more speed work, possibly some with Krista and maybe on a track. I’ve yet to do this—one of the aspects of coming to running later in life, never having run on a track, with the exception of high school gym class—but I’m intrigued. I think. Watching fourth- and fifth-graders run dashes and 400-, 800-, and 1600-meter runs during my son’s track meets also are inspiring me, what can I say?
I’d love to hear from all of you about speed work…who here does it? What works best for you—the track? Your neighborhood?
Anyone have success stories about how your speed work changed your running?
I can’t say that my main reason for signing on for the Eugene Women’s Half Marathon back in 2010 was to run a female-only race—it was more a cool aspect of an event that was far-flung and that took place in an area of the country that was completely foreign to me (furthest west I’d been at that point was Colorado during a college spring break trip). Mostly I wanted to travel with one of my BRFs and run 13.1 in a place widely known for its running roots. Another friend, Laura, an Oregon ultra-runner I’d yet to meet but who had become a blogging buddy, suggested signing on for the inaugural event. I was excited to experience, through running, an entirely different geographical landscape.
A little over a year later, I ran my second women’s race, the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco with Beth and Katherine. This time, it was more intentional, this idea of running alongside thousands of strong mothers, daughters, and sisters–and to make a girlfriend weekend of it.
Both races did reveal to me just how special a female-only race can be. From the elaborate race expos and extras like chocolate handed out mid-race, to post-event special touches—spa services, Tiffany necklace “finisher medals”—these races cater to the female runner and aim to create an experience that goes well beyond your everyday road race.
According to Running USA, there were more than 200 “women-only” events in the U.S. in 2011 meeting the criteria of 95% female participation or more. This same report by Running USA found that women-only events have surged in the last decade, meeting the growing demand of female runners. The camaraderie of other female runners along with feeling less self-conscious about pace were reasons cited in the report as why women flock to these events. Not to mention the array of activities including a health and fitness expo just for women and runner medals or gifts specific to the female participant.
In Michigan, these women-focused races are on the rise, too, with the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon and 5K on Sept. 22 being the latest offering.
I checked in with Michigan runner Mary Culbertson, co-race director, to learn more about this new fall race.
How did this event come about?
The idea for the race came about around 1 ½ years ago. I noticed a lot of women’s races popping up around the country. There’s a great community of women’s running in the Detroit area, and throughout Michigan, and I thought a women’s half would be a perfect fit here. I mentioned the idea to my friend Eva Solomon, who is the owner and founder of Epic Races, a company that provides professionally managed, safe, eco-friendly multi-sport and endurance events for beginner through elite athletes and which showcase the resources and beauty of southeastern Michigan. Epic Races already puts on a women’s triathlon (Tri Goddess Tri), so I thought she would have a great sense as to how Michigan runners might respond to a new women’s half marathon. We’ve been working together since and are looking forward to a great event in September.
What can runners expect from this race?
The course is on Belle Isle, a beautiful city park in Detroit that is also an island. It’s the largest island city park in the U.S., a little bigger than New York’s Central Park, and was designed in the late 1800s by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park.
The race will be a certified USATF Course and will be run entirely on Belle Isle, looping it twice and starting and finishing near the Scott Memorial Fountain. It will be a wonderful setting for a race, with the course passing the Belle Isle Conservatory and other historical landmarks and the island’s natural beauty.
We’ve heard from women that they’re interested not only in a great course but also the unique touches that make women’s running events special – and we’re planning plenty of them. The Douglas J Aveda Institute is setting up a spa room as part of the expo. They’ll be available to braid your hair so it’s in place and out of your eyes for race day and provide other fun services. Goody brand hair accessories will be handed out at the spa room, and GloProfessional will have skincare samples for you in the goody bags. There will be a Chocolate Mile sponsored by Sanders Chocolates, a finisher’s charm, and more to come!
How many people do you expect to participate in the event?
It’s our first year and we’re seeing a great response so far. Right now we expect around 2,000 runners.
What’s your personal Mitten State running story?
I started running cross-country in middle school, and then joined the cross-country team again later in high school. After that I didn’t run again until I was in my 30s, to get back in shape after my daughter was born. When I realized that my then-60-year-old mom – who hadn’t started running herself until she was 50 – could outrun me, I decided I needed to set some goals! So I set my goals high. Before I could even run a mile I signed up to run the Nike San Francisco Women’s Half Marathon through Team In Training, an organization that raises money for leukemia and lymphoma through sports events. Thinking I wasn’t the only one who should tackle a challenge, I recruited friends and coworkers to run and raise funds as well. My mom ran 26.2 miles that year while I huffed and puffed through the half. Afterward, I found I enjoyed the camaraderie of a running group and since someone was always training for something, it was fun to join in. And I’ve kept running ever since. Now my daughter, who once said she would never run, is excited to start middle school cross-country in the fall.
Any great running advice to offer?
I think what I’d want to share is that anyone can get out there and run – whether you’re competitive or casual, fast or slow. You don’t have to feel pressure to be the fastest or the best. What’s important is to get out there and run!
Check our website at www.detroitwomenshalf.com for exciting news on the race and the charities the race will be supporting. You can also contact us about a charity you want to fundraise for and we can start a fundraising campaign for you.
The website also has information on local training groups that can help you get started and provide great incentives to keep going, such as Goalmakers in Metro Detroit, and Two Dogs Running and PR Fitness in the Ann Arbor area. If you’d rather train on your own, our training partner Applied Fitness Solutions (AFS) has online training plans available to help you train for either the half marathon or the 5K.
Start running with friends – make it a team effort! A race like this is a great place to start, because you’ll have a goal in mind, and have fun while you’re pursuing it. We encourage individuals as well as teams of all kinds to sign up – from corporate teams, to fundraising teams, to groups of friends who want to run together. Most of all, we’re excited to see everyone on September 22!
Sign on for this race through this weekend and save — rates go up from $70 to $75 the day after Mother’s Day. Keep up on the latest with this race over on Facebook–“like” the race page here »
On Sunday I ran my final 20-miler of this marathon training. If I take a moment to simply reflect, to forget that it was far from my best long run and that my sore legs and tired hips kept me tossing and turning in bed that night, I am pretty proud. This is my fourth marathon training, and it’s the first one during which I’ve logged three 20-milers. Previously, I’ve done just one 20-miler per marathon training (and actually just one 18-miler while training for Boston in 2012 because of an IT Band injury).
It’s a good feeling, knowing my body is holding up OK. I know I still have weeks to go in this training, and I don’t want to get overly confident, but at this point I am feeling good (soreness aside). And pleased I’ve accomplished such significant distances, as outlined in the training plan I am following for marathon #4.
Still, I’m tired. And a little weary. It’s been 14 straight weeks of pretty intense training. Four weeks to go. Is it kinda-sorta taper time if I’ve run my longest long run? It’s all downhill (in a good way) from here, right? Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Not quite tapering yet.
There’s something about this point in preparing for an upcoming long distance race when you realize just how immersed you are in all things running: setting out your running clothes and gear for the next day’s run; (trying) to get enough sleep each night; eating the right healthy and sustaining foods; hydrating as much as humanly possible; eyeing the weather forecasts like a crazed meteorologist; and wondering what Mother Nature has in store for your late spring race day…as much as I’m yearning for warm weather following our super long winter, I’m also really, really hoping it’s not too warm come May 25.
I realize just how all-encompassing training has become when I meet up with a non-running friend for coffee and, because it’s been awhile since we’ve caught up, she looks at me all strange when I say I’m ordering a breakfast sandwich with my latte, even after devouring a big bagel slathered with cream cheese not even two hours prior. “Oh, I already ate this morning,” she explains when I place my order. “Me, too,” I reply, “but I am so hungry all the time now!” To which she gives me a half-smile and a quizzical look.
“Because of my training,” I say. (Ever get the feeling like everyone else around you should just know how much you’re running?)
“Oh, you’re running that race, that one downtown? How far is it again?”
I remain excited as ever about running this race, I really am. But I’ve been in this place before and know that this is normal, at least for me. When I want something badly enough, as I do this race–I want to believe I can set a marathon PR, that I can have a strong race–I throw myself into it. Completely. 117 percent. And so after awhile, as the training wears on, I do reach a point of needing to pause, catch my breath and take stock of where I’m at and how far I’ve come…and then, also give myself a swift kick in the pants to just get on it with already. To keep going, to stay focused on my goals. In other words, maintain that marathon training mojo.
Here are a few things I believe make all the difference, and should help me and all of you in the thick of training arrive at race day feeling as prepared physically and mentally as possible:
1.) Surround yourself with inspiration.
I remember my running coach once sharing this gem: “Inspired people do inspiring things.” She then recommended I get my hands on awe-inspiring books, articles, quotes, movies–these could be running-related, or not–and soak ‘em in. I’ve been reading Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run, and along with feeling uplifted reading about her running adventures and the power of female friendships, I’m loving the great sentiments from those who motivate her which she peppers throughout the book. A couple pages I’ve dogeared include thoughts like these:
“I know I should be exhausted these days, but I’m drinking from the cup of life until it spills down my cheeks. Wouldn’t want it any other way …” – Scott Dunlap, trail runner and ultra runner, in an email message to Kristin.
2.) Keep your running friends close.
This time around, unlike during my first marathon training, I am running with friends fairly often. And I’m loving it. Some Saturdays I’m joining my Group Therapy girls Julia, Karen, Beth, and Bonny, and other times I’m meeting up with my sweat sisters Krista and Cassy. Though I’ve recently had to switch from Saturdays to Sundays for long runs–gotta catch my 7-year-old Alex rock it in soccer!–I’m counting on logging these final training miles with my sweet friends. They keep me going strong. And when we can’t meet up for a run for whatever reason, we’re there for each other in spirit–sending a quick text of encouragement like the ones Cassy and Krista had waiting for me when I awoke Sunday morning.
Running friends needn’t be training for the same race, or even the same distance. I’m technically training for the Bayshore alone–Krista just ran Boston and Cassy’s first marathon(!) is this fall, so we’re all at different points training-wise. But we’ll make our varying miles mesh with one another. Cassy may run 10, Krista runs 6, and I run 14. Same with Julia, Karen, Beth and Bonny–these dear friends all are training for the Bayshore Half. I’m just grateful they’re all willing to run parts of my runs with me.
3.) Remember the Big Picture.
I know May 25 will come…and it will pass. There will be more runs and races ahead, including the M22 Challenge I’ve signed on for just two weeks after the marathon <yikes>. I also want to embrace the many other aspects of my life besides endurance sports. (Admittedly, this is hard sometimes…it just feels so integrated in my everyday life at this point. How in the world do Ironman atheltes and ultra runners feel? Someday I hope to find out…but it feels overwhelming to think about training any more than I already am…)
There is a bigger picture.
I want to savor my almost 13-year-old’s current obsession with watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix, and how every time she flips it on, I sink into the couch next to her and together we laugh as we get sucked into the drama. I want to remember that my 10-year-old boy Andrew is at the most perfect age: old enough and smart enough to hold a witty conversation with his mom and dad, sweet enough to still hold my hand in public and allow me to stroke his hair while wishing him goodnight. I want to relish that our youngest who, while playing outside in last weekend’s magnificent sunshine and warmth, quickly ran inside the house for a plastic container when I told him I’d found a worm while working in the yard–he had to make a house for it complete with dirt, grass and “just a little bit of water.”
Running is a gift. It allows me to see life differently, and to to live life differently. Sometimes it’s about actually running and racing, and other times it’s just about being. Being the best version of myself that I possibly can be, for myself and for those around me–that’s motivating me to keep going strong.
What’s your sure-fire way to stay strong throughout your training, for a marathon or other race distance?
I thought I knew what I would write—at least, I had an idea of how to start. After getting my kids ready for school this morning, kissing and hugging them extra tight, and saying goodbye to Joe who had to leave the house early, I headed out for a run. I would get my training run in and come home and write, I told myself.
Like so many others reeling from yesterday’s horror in Boston, my mind has been in a constant swirl, my body racked with emotion. I turned to a run, a tempo run according to my training plan, for some solace.
I started with a one-mile warm-up, a loop that started at the end of my driveway and took me up a slight incline and then a nearly snow-free hilly dirt path that kept me at an easy-does-it pace. Once I hit pavement again, though, I kicked it in. My training plan called for tempo, but seeing my mile times later, I realized I was pushing it even harder, going even faster. I ran 7:38 that first tempo mile, 7:08 the next, then 7:20. I rested in between each one—actually, I was near gasping there after the third tempo mile. And then I slowed to a more normal 8:45 for my cool down, which lasted the final mile and half back to my house.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Boston the entire time–the runners, including my dear friend Krista who ran the race yesterday, the spectators, the volunteers, the first responders…each and every Boston resident and visitor who was there yesterday. I prayed to God for comfort and peace for all involved. And I thought about how just one year ago I was running that very same race. How Joe and our three kids, and my very best friend and her family, were all there watching for me, cheering on the thousands and thousands of runners…and walking the city streets to come find me at the finish line. It could have been me there at the finish line when the explosions went off. It could have been my family, my friend and her family…
The thing is, it was my family and my friends—my running family and friends. I wasn’t there, but I feel almost like I was there. My heart is there in Boston—has been ever since we arrived there marathon weekend last April, when my kids had their first taste of big-city public transit and I toed up to the start line of the nation’s oldest marathon after months and months of sweat, commitment and dogged determination. My friend Dimity said it so well today when she shared that this tragedy has hit so incredibly close to home for her because it happened to people like her, at an event so, so familiar. She wrote: “Everything—my friends, my work, my lifestyle—put me right there, except that I wasn’t right there.” I so get that.
I thought I knew how I’d start this post, but it changed after I came into my bedroom after my run, soaked with sweat, feeling equal parts grateful for the run and still so heavy-hearted. I sat on my bed, stretching out my whipped legs, and picked up my phone. A friend had posted a Boston Globe column by Kevin Cullen, and as I read his eloquent words, tears began streaming down my face. When I got to the part about the 8-year-old boy who died, how just moments before he’d ran out to give his dad a hug at the finish line and then ran back to his spectator spot with his mom and sister where the first explosion hit, I lost it. I began sobbing. I just can’t believe this. I just can’t believe this. Why? Why did this happen? Why this innocent little boy? How many times had my own children run out onto the race course or near the finish line for a quick hug from mom? How many times has my amazing family come out to cheer me on, to wait hours just to see me pass a particular point in the race, to endure weather of all kinds (last year’s Boston heat the toughest, hands down), so I could see their smiling faces and they could offer up the very best encouragement a runner will ever receive: “Go, Mom, go! You’re doing great! You’re looking great! Finish strong!”
I woke up yesterday morning filled with excitement to stream the 117th Boston Marathon on my computer. I watched in awe as the elite runners navigated the course so smoothly. I smiled and nodded along as commentators spoke of the route’s landmarks, starting with Hopkinton and then Wellsley College where the college girls offer up kisses to runners, the rolling Newton hills, the infamous Heartbreak Hill, the Citgo sign signaling the final miles…and finally Boylston Street, where runner dreams long have, and are supposed to, become reality. I still can’t believe how a day meant for celebration—for runners and their loved ones, and the very city itself—could turn into something so wrong.
I am an optimistic person. I try my very hardest to believe the very best in people. But I am confused right now. I am sad, and mad. And not feeling all that hopeful.
And yet, I know that I can’t succumb to the feeling that all is lost. It is not. It feels as though it is. But it is not. I have been encouraged reading stories coming out of Boston, of heroic people who helped however they could. I read so much about how we can be strong—stronger than we ever imagined—in the face of such unfathomable tragedy. We can’t—we won’t—let evil win (it never wins, as my boys often say to each other while watching our favorite Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies–and I believe it, too).
Today I am wearing my Boston 2012 shirt. I wear it proudly, showing my respect and love for Boston, for the marathon, for those so horribly touched by this. I pray that justice will be done, and mostly and forever, I pray for those who were there, whose lives are forever changed.
I do have hope. I am a runner. I will keep running.
“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” — Katherine Switzer. One of my all-time favorite running quotes.
It’s a big weekend ahead for Krista Scott, a 35-year-old Michigan runner I “met” when she replied to one of my posts. As luck would have it, she lives in northern Michigan, too, and she’s become a good friend—we finally were able to mesh our schedules and have run several times together this spring. I’m thrilled to share her Michigan running story, especially now as she’s heading to the East Coast to run this Monday’s 117th Boston Marathon. We’re cheering for you, Krista!
Memorable Recent Run: The other weekend I went on a beautiful sunrise run with a dear friend. The roads were finally clear and the company was just what was needed to keep my spirits up for the last weeks of training.
Boston Bound: I ran my first marathon as a bucket list item before my daughter was born, and swore I would never do another one after crossing the finish line. I decided to run the 2011 Chicago Marathon as a member of Team LiveSTRONG after my mom was diagnosed and subsequently lost her battle with cancer. My mom was diagnosed in 2009 and when I daydreamed with her about Boston, she encouraged me to follow that dream. After my mom passed away I found solace in running and I felt the need to fulfill the dream my mom believed in. I spent the better portion of a year doing speed work and building a base for the pace I would need to run to BQ. I thought Chicago would be the chance. I ran a half-marathon PR to get a corral spot and followed a basic training program from the Chicago Marathon. Unfortunately, I felt great in at the starting line and took it out way too fast in Chicago. Even though I knew in my head I needed to slow down I couldn’t force myself to do it. Rather than throw all the training out the window, I signed up for the Kiawah Island Marathon less than two months later (serendipitously it was being run on my mom’s birthday). During those two months I used a modified version of the Hanson Brothers Marathon training program and truly focused on hitting the given pace for each training run. I could not have asked for better race condition or race than Kiawah Island. I ran in control and negative split qualifying with time to spare. I really felt the Hanson Brothers plan worked well for me and I am using the program again for my training for Boston.
Experiencing Beantown: What can I say? It’s BOSTON! I can’t wait for the crowds, the blue and yellow banners, seeing some of the fastest marathoners in the world, crossing that finish line! Initially, I thought about running with a video camera and just relishing in the fact that I made it to Boston. Once I registered and was in I decided to train and race – setting a goal of sub 3:30.
Mitten State Running: I love living and running in an area that is packed with so many outdoor exercise enthusiasts year round. You can see people out running in any weather condition – it can be a blizzard and people are out running. I always giggle at those winter running articles that talk about when it is too cold (ie: below 10 degrees), you should just run on a treadmill. If that were the case us Michiganders would never get outside to run! Locally, I enjoy running on the west end of the TART trail – you don’t have to worry about cars and the scenery is beautiful… trillium blooming in the spring, deer meandering in the woods, and in the fall being surrounded by all the colors of the leaves is amazing.
Favorite Michigan Race: I love the Zombie Race in Traverse City. Our whole family gets dressed up in costumes and runs together. It is fun to have a race that encourages kids and families to get out and run. My daughter runs a lot with me and I want to pass on to her my enjoyment of running so a race like this offers us the perfect opportunity to show her how much fun running can be.
EXCELerate/Endurance Evolution team running: I was never a runner growing up; I was a competitive swimmer from the time I was little through college. When I first started running I trained by myself, but I missed the camaraderie of being on a team. I missed having some there to cheer you on and hold you accountable when you didn’t want to put in the extra effort. I missed being that person to others as well. I started running with the EXCELerate/Endurance Evolution Team in hopes to meet some new runners to occasionally train with. Instead, I have met an amazing group of friends that continue to offer inspiration and encouragement. The team is open to runners and triathletes of all abilities, making for such a diverse group of people that I would have never met on my own. As a physical therapist I love the fact that this team is open to everyone and encourages everyone to participate. That is what is going to change the health perception for those who think they are too far gone to even try and for our kids who will have a health epidemic if they don’t start trying.
Passionate about LiveSTRONG: I became involved with the LiveSTRONG Foundation when my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer in the fall of 2009. Their guidance and free services for family members/care givers was a light in a dark time for me while dealing with my mom’s diagnosis and eventual passing eight months later. The LiveSTRONG Foundation provides free cancer support serviced to help cope with the financial, emotional, and life challenges that accompany cancer. It has become a symbol of hope and inspiration for many around the world, as it did for my family. I felt the best way to honor my mom’s memory was to continue to offer that hope to others. I joined Team LiveSTRONG for the 2011 Chicago Marathon and 2013 Austin Half Marathon to raise funds to continue to mission of providing free services and counseling for those families who felt as lost as I did. Additionally, this spring I was selected to be part of the LiveSTRONG Leader program which works at the local level to build community awareness of the services available. In doing so, I have hopes of formulating a whole health-based community program offering exercise groups, nutritional information, and mental health information for those currently undergoing cancer treatment and survivors.
The way I look at it – I run because I can and because there may come a day that I can’t, but today is not that day. So if by putting one foot in front of the other and running a race I can help one family deal with the chaos and uncertainty the diagnosis of cancer brings then it is worth it.
What’s Next: After Boston, I will take a quick break to recover before defending my title at the Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon. After that I will be flying be the seat of my pants – maybe a 5K here or there and maybe the Sleeping Bear Half or Full Marathon in October. In the future I would love to represent Team LiveSTRONG in the NYC Marathon. When my daughter is older I would love nothing more than to be able to run a marathon with her as well.
Thankful for Family & Friends: Training for a marathon a humbling experience and requires sacrifice not only of yourself, but of friends and family. It is something that you never truly realize until you have gone through it. So a huge thank you needs to go out to my friends and family that have supported me along this journey. Especially my husband, Ethan, who has gone above and beyond whether it be helping out with Amelia, listening to all the training/diet/gear talk, keeping me on track when there were a million other things to do, and encouraging me in every step of the way – I know I would not be to this point without him!
Two weeks from now I’ll be cheering on my son Andrew and his friend Emma, both 10 years old, as they team up to run a 10K relay during a new weekend trail running fest here in Traverse City. The next morning I’ll take on the 25K event, a perfect way to inject a different kind of long run into week 12 of my marathon training, and can I tell you how excited I am to run on trails? On dirt? Maybe some mud, too–bring it, I say! After this year’s looong winter, I’m ready for it. (Note to Mother Nature: please don’t go thinking you should give us any April snowfall.)
I was so happy to have the chance to give away two free entries to this inaugural event–the Traverse City Trail Running Festival, put on by Michigan-based Endurance Evolution–and 12 readers offered thoughts on why they’d like to win. I loved reading the responses–thank you to all who entered. (I used Random.org to select the winners. For complete drawing details, go here »)
Without further ado, the winners are …
Holly: “I would love to run this! I don’t know why I haven’t signed up yet?! Hoping for muddy trails to start the race season!”
Flo: “I love running Northern Michigan trails but have never raced on trails. And I love Short’s!!!”
Holly and Flo, please email me at heatherdurocher [at] yahoo [dot] com to redeem your winning entry. You can choose the event you wish to run — the 10K Relay (Friday, April 12), 11K, 25K or 50K, all held Saturday, April 13. I look forward to seeing you both at the race (and perhaps sharing a pint of Short’s brew together!)
To everyone else, I hope you’ll consider still signing on for the race–entry costs go up tomorrow, April 1, so sign on today if you’d like to save some cash. And please say hello to me if you do come. I’d love to meet you!
Think spring, think spring …
We’ve got lots of snow still on the ground but I’m hopeful that spring truly is going to arrive. Any second now would be great. Ever the optimistic, this week I broke out my new Brooks Cascadia trail-running shoes and wore them for a wintry run—partly to see how they handled snowy roads (still needed my Yaks given the roads were especially slick beneath the fresh snow) but mostly to break ‘em in. I can feel it—I will be wearing these beautiful kicks on the dirt and mud very, very soon.
Like I said, I am optimistic. It is almost April.
Like everyone else in Michigan (and other states dealing with springtime snow), I’m aching for warm breezes, clear roads and trails, and sunshine. I’d even take rain, lots and lots of rain to get things green, so long as it’s not the icy kind. I can do drenched runs on a warm spring day, just no more miles in frigid, bone-chilling-cold weather, pretty please.
Along with breaking out my new running shoes, I’ve signed on for a new trail race here in northern Michigan, a 25K that’s one of several courses offered during the inaugural two-day Traverse City Trail Running Festival, set for April 12-13. I am super excited about this new event—there’s something for everyone, from kids to ultra runners—and the best news I have to share is that you, my dear readers, have the chance to run this race, too. I’ve got two entries to give away, thanks to the generous guys behind Endurance Evolution, the Michigan-based event management company that’s putting on the TC Trail Running Festival.
I had so much fun giving away two entries to last December’s inaugural Farmland 5K, and I’m just as thrilled to be able to do the same for this brand new race. Here’s what you need to do if you’d like your name to be entered to win one of two entries to the event:
- Check you calendar to make sure you can attend the Festival and participate in one of the events, which include: 10K Relay (Friday, April 12), 11K, 25K and 50K, all held Saturday, April 13. More race details at the Endurance Evolution site.
- Post in the comment section below why you would like to run this race—are you a trail runner at heart? Have you always wanted to try an off-road race? Are you just ready to get your running shoes dirty? Maybe like me you’re wanting to infuse something fun and different into your spring marathon training. Tell your story, it can be short and sweet or long and detailed. However you want to say it.
- The giveaway will close at noon EST Friday, March 29th. Winners will be announced that weekend, March 30-31 here, on the Michigan Runner Girl site and the Michigan Runner Girl Facebook page.
- I will use random.org to select the winners.
And a few more cool details about this race (in case you need a bit more encouragement to throw your name into the hat…):
- Endurance Evolution announced this week that Short’s Brewing Company is the official recovery beer of the Traverse City Trail Running Festival. Yum. The Official Shorts Brewing Company will be serving their goodness on Saturday (April 13) at the finish line at Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort. Racers that are 21+ will get a free pint on Endurance Evolution.
- The courses will take runners through the Pere Marquette Forest on a variety of singletrack and two track trails. The festival begins with a two-person 10K relay (each runner runs 5K) on Friday evening, and the individual 11K, 25K, and 50K run get underway on Saturday morning.
- A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to TART Trails.
Looking forward to reading your comments and giving away these two entries! And if you’ve already signed on for the race, let us know why you decided to sign on… See you all there!
So, I’m surprising myself a little lately in the kitchen. I’m a foodie, and I do enjoy making meals for my family and guests, but the whole making-things-from-scratch approach has seemed somewhat foreign to me. I’ve left that up to other people. I’ve tried over the years–halfheartedly, here and there, I’ve got to admit–but now, I’m really getting into it. I think it’s due to a few things: Joe’s commitment to eating a plant-based diet (he’s on week 7, has lost 20+ pounds, is feeling great); my interest in experimenting with different foods; and marathon training. Actually, it’s my current training AND also future trainings, since I want more than ever to see what fuel works best for the fitness, health and well-being I seek long-term for my family and for me.
Not long after watching Forks Over Knives together–the reason for Joe’s decision to try a vegan diet (and my decision to eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruits…I’m more of vegetarian at this point, it seems)–I’ve been trying out recipes from the documentary’s “how-to companion” cookbook. This Saturday, after logging my longest run of this training so far, I devoured a plate of Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna. 18 miles is long and far and hard, mentally and physically, and this dish hit the spot. It’s packed with lots and lots of veggies, as well as tofu and noodles. Definitely filling. And you’ll have plenty of leftovers; this recipe serves 10-12. I’m looking forward to having some tonight.
I think this is a great meal post-long run (I’d recommend preparing it PRIOR to your run, since it does require some prep), but it’s also a yummy meal anytime. Note: This ended up being a late dinner for us, so my kids had already eaten something else and didn’t try this (yet). And I’m guessing two of the three–I won’t name names–won’t be especially excited about it, but I think they’d like it once they try it. (One of my kids will love it, for sure. He’s all about veggies.) And, it’s worth noting that in the cookbook, recipe author/firefighter Rip Esselstyn says he and his wife liked this lasagna so much that they chose it as the main dish at their wedding reception.
Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna
1 Onion, chopped
1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed (I chopped ‘em)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 head broccoli, chopped (I used an 8-ounce bag of frozen broccoli florets already chopped)
2 carrots, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 package firm tofu (I used extra firm since that’s what I had on hand, it worked great)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 jars pasta sauce (kinds with minimal or no added oil)
2 boxes whole-grain lasagna noodles (we used rice lasagna noodles since Joe is trying to limit his wheat intake)
16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (I suggest cooking these while you’re chopping up all the other veggies)
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup raw cashews, ground (as you can see from the picture, I didn’t grind up the cashews; instead, I crushed them up a little)
1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Water saute the onion and garlic on high heat for three minutes in a wok or nonstick pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and mushrooms give up their liquid. Remove them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Reserve the mushroom liquid in the pan. Water saute the broccoli and carrots for 5 minutes and add to the mushroom bowl. Saute the peppers and corn until just beginning to soften. Add them to the vegetable bowl. Drain the tofu by wrapping in paper towels. Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the vegetable bowl. Add spices to the vegetable bowl and combine.
2.) Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole with a layer of sauce. Add a layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with sauce. This way the noodles cook in the oven, saving time and energy. Spread the vegetable mixture over the sauced noodles. Cover with a layer of noodles and another dressing of sauce. Add the spinach to the second later of sauced noodles. Cover the spinach with the mashed sweet potatoes. Add the final layer of noodles and a last topping of sauce. Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes.
3.) Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
I hope to feature more recipes in upcoming posts — you can check out my last one, a recipe for White Bean Chili with Jalapeno & Lime here — and ideally, I’d love to include how to incorporate Michigan-grown produce and Mitten-made products into these recipes. If you have any recipes you think I should try, please let me know!