Hope you’re staying safe and merry (as possible) during this very, erm… different holiday season.
I started a self-love newsletter at actpot.substack.com and would love it if you continued to follow me there. I wrote my first post about why I started a new thing at this time. I’m planning a weekly or biweekly drop for now, definitely nothing that’s going to clutter your inbox.
Peace, love, and punk rock always,
Taking care of four dogs can be costly (if chewy.com had a rewards program, I’d be VIP-status). That’s part of the reason I put off buying pet health insurance for so long.
But last week, I took the plunge. I felt like The Universe was nudging me to purchase a pet insurance plan before it was too late. If you have a fur baby (or four), I recommend you consider doing the same.
So, why do I believe I need pet insurance now?
Dogs eat disgusting, dangerous, and toxic things
It all started a few weeks ago when an instagram post by my friend, Linn, caught my attention.
Linn shared a terrifying story. She and her husband had to rush their adorable, intelligent, and super-sweet dog, Jada, to the nearest emergency animal hospital (located more than an hour away!!!), in the middle of the night.
Like my dog, Bruce, Jada is a hound mix. So, like Bruce, she’s very independent, stubborn, and curious. Basically just a really naughty bundle of cuteness you can’t take your eyes off for so many reasons.
After undergoing (costly) diagnostic tests, the vets determined that Jada must’ve eaten some mushrooms she found in the yard. As a hound mom, this doesn’t surprise me at all. One of the first times I had to rush Bruce to the vet, it was because he’d eaten toxic black walnuts that fell in our yard and got so sick couldn’t even keep water down. Even after that debacle, I’m sure he’d go right back and eat them again. I’m constantly zapping him with the e-collar in an effort to keep him away from fallen acorns (also poisonous to dogs in large quantities).
Jada was lucky that her pawrents were willing to do anything to help her. Linn was lucky to have had pet insurance at the time this happened.
A few days after their hospital visit, Jada was on the road to recovery. About that time, I got an email from Brandon at ConsumersAdvocate.org with a very informative report on the best pet insurance companies.
It turns out, the insurance company they rated #1, Healthy Paws, is also the one Linn had purchased for her doggos. Even though everyone says that money is no object when it comes to their furry best friends, I’m sure it put her mind at ease to know that 90% of her vet bill would be reimbursed after a manageable $250 deductible.
Because, really, who has the brain space to worry about money at a time like that!?!?
Thank God, Jada is okay and back to her normal self.
Jada’s story really hit home. I could easily see myself in Linn’s position. So, I spent some time studying the ConsumersAdvocate report and contacted a couple of companies for quotes.
Ultimately, I purchased a Healthy Paws plan for Bruce. For $42.82/month, I get 80% reimbursement after meeting a $250 deductible.
Rates vary depending on the size and age of your pet. Also, not all insurance companies cover older pets with pre-existing conditions (like arthritis or diabetes), so you need to consider that when choosing a policy.
We have three other, older dogs, but are still shopping for the right plans for them.
I felt the need to cover Bruce right away because he’s the one most likely to get hurt or eat something poisonous.
And that brings me to the other reasons I opted for pet insurance. In the three years I’ve had Bruce, I’ve taken him to the vet FOUR times for non-routine visits.
Here’s some examples of previous vet expenses that will be covered under his insurance plan moving forward:
If you have dogs, chances are you’ve had some type of encounter with foxtails. These spiky grass seeds are notorious for burrowing a one-way tunnel into dogs’ skin, where they can cause potentially life-threatening injuries and infections.
The very first time I ever took Bruce to the vet was because I thought he had a foxtail in his ear. Turns out, it was just an ear infection (something he’s prone to). But since I suspected a foxtail, the vet wanted to check inside his ears. She had to sedate him for it and that alone cost about $200, making the entire visit, including medication top $300.
About a year later, Bruce got a very real foxtail stuck IN HIS EYE! Fortunately, I was able to remove it, by myself, after about an hour of squirting saline solution into his eyeball. We were lucky because so_many_things could’ve gone wrong there.
The third time I took Bruce to the vet was especially traumatic. It was the first time he was ever attacked (it’s happened multiple times since then).
I was renting a cottage on a shared property with my landlady’s house. One day, her roommate’s dog ran up to Bruce and I as we were returning from a walk and bit both of us. We both had puncture wounds on our legs, but the emotional trauma was so much worse.
I asked the dog’s owner to pay for Bruce’s vet visit, where he was once again sedated while the vet cleaned out his wounds. Not every pet owner is willing or able to do this, so I wouldn’t count on it moving forward.
The fourth vet visit was also for a fight, this time one between Bruce and my husband’s livestock guardian dog, Sam. They got into a scuffle over a bully stick stuck beneath the car seat while we were in the middl-of-nowhere, Nevada, on a road trip.
Sam neatly bit Bruce’s head, leaving a gaping hole in his dome that needed stitches.
Fortunately, things have calmed down since then and I’m pleased to say that Bruce has only been in for check-ups. He’s a very healthy, athletic doggo.
You just never know what may happen
Environmental hazards aside, dogs develop chronic illnesses, such as arthritis and cancer, the same way humans do. Testing for and managing these diseases is expensive, just as it is for humans.
If one of my fur babies ever needs to take medication on a regular basis in order to live a comfortable and happy life, I don’t want to have to worry about how I’m going to pay for it.
Final thoughts on pet insurance
One thing I really like about Healthy Paws is that there’s no limit to the benefits. Some other companies pay up to a certain max, like $15,000. One thing I don’t like about Healthy Paws is they don’t offer multi-dog discounts. Other companies, like Embrace, do. We may end up choosing a different plan for the other doggos because Healthy Paws actually isn’t great when it comes to the older guys.
That said, there are quite a few pet insurance companies to choose from and I think there’s an option that works fur every situation.
So please, take a look at the ConsumersAdvocate report on best pet insurance and see what works fur you.
If you do opt for Healthy Paws, please sign up via this link http://refer.healthypawspetinsurance.com/Lauren460
I don’t get anything personally, but Healthy Paws will make a $25 donation to homeless pets on my behalf. I think that’s a pretty good deal.
Thanks for reading! Do you have health insurance for your dog or cat? I’d love to know what you think!
I know. I KNOW! I just wrote a year-end review last week. It may seem odd that I’m posting another review, but let me explain…
Initially, I meant to write about how great I feel after not drinking for a month. Yesterday marked a full month since I’ve had a sip of anything stronger than kombucha, and I’m feeling like a MILLION BUCKS.
But I felt conflicted. Maybe I’m a little anal, but isn’t it wrong to have the second-to-last post in my blog be a yearly recap. Shouldn’t it be the final one?
Shouldn’t it be THE END!?
And then, I read an oldsk00l Livejournal-style year-end review by the amazing Gala Darling and felt inspired.
(Who else had a Livejournal? I think my username may have been ithurtstosmile.)
The perks of sobriety shall wait for later months.
And now, as I sip on sparkling water with a splash of pomegranate juice (poured in a wine glass so it looks like rosé), I’d like to share my SECOND review of 2018!!!
What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
I got married! Swam with whale sharks. Climbed an indoor rock wall. Cross-country skied. Visited Mexico. Hmm, there’s probably more I’m forgetting.
OH! J and I went to Costco for the first time as a married couple and bought the two-pack of electric toothbrushes! What an exciting day that was!
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t think I made any resolutions last year… but today I did do a little New Year’s Eve ritual inspired by Terri Cole. I made a list of crap to leave behind in 2018, then made a list of gems I extracted from the crap. Then, I burned the crap list, flushed it down the toilet where it belongs, and danced around my house singing, “I’M FREE!”
You should do it, too!
Did anyone close to you give birth?
No. BUT my cousin and sis-in-law are both pregnant! I’m gonna be an auntie in 2019!
Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. My family lost Grandpa Bill, my last living grandparent. He passed away in August just shy of his 92nd birthday. Rest in Peace, Pa Bill. You are loved and missed.
And a friend/guy I used to date took his life in March. He was almost 34.
What countries did you visit?
Mexico (Baja California) and the Bahamas (Bimini). We also drove across the country, up and down the east coast, and back to Cali via the southern route.
What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
A SUP and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And nice eyebrows.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
Gah! I think I have a bunion on my left foot. I can’t believe it happened to me…
What was the best thing you bought?
A standing desk from Uplift Desk. Life-changing.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Ya know, my wedding was pretty damn fun. There were a lot of other things, like landing a couple of great clients, traveling with my husband, and some absolutely epic nachos, but the wedding kind of takes the cake.
FYI- we didn’t have a wedding cake. No one even eats that shit.
What song will always remind you of 2018?
Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder?
Sooooooo much happy <3
ii. Thinner or fatter?
A few pounds less ;)
iii. Richer or poorer?
Waaaaay the fuck richer! This time last year was the poorest I can remember.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spending QUALITY time with friends! Like, the sit on your couch (or run through the woods) and talk non-stop for hours kind. I can get way too reclusive in my work-from-home lifestyle.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Complaining. Questioning myself. Negative self-talk. Saying yes to things I didn’t want to do.
I’m done with all that shit! Goodbye!
How will you be spending Christmas?
Jason and I spent Christmas in our little house in Dunsmuir. I missed my family, but didn’t have the energy to travel after the wedding and honeymoon.
What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 2018?
My dog barks at old people sometimes. That’s really embarrassing.
Did you fall in love in 2018?
Yes! More and more, every day <3
How many one-night stands?
Just the one that never left and vowed he never would.
What was your favorite TV program?
I started and finished Breaking Bad. It really messed with me at the end. I still talk about it and feel like I need a support group.
Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No- I don’t hate anyone. I can’t think of a single enemy in my personal life.
What was the best book you read?
I’ve been working my way through the Outlander series.
Only three more to go!
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35 in Arcata, California. Jason and I stayed in a creepy old hotel and scouted out our wedding “venue.”
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
One word. Mermaid.
What kept you sane?
I have never been sane.
What political issue stirred you the most?
This question deserves a whole blog post to itself. We’re currently led by a boar with a firecracker up his butt who’s dragging our nation through a field of post-Bonnaroo porta-potties.
Every day I strive to keep the bile down. I will not end this year in anger. NEXT QUESTION!
Who was the best new person you met?
Oooh, that’s a fun one! I’ve met many new badass babes at races, fitnazz class, and social gatherings. I can’t choose just one, but I love and am grateful for you all!
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018:
There were many, but I’d say the most important one is this:
Life is always better with a dog.
There you have it! Words to live by.
Well, my friends, it’s midnight somewhere! I raise my glass of fizzy fruit juice to you!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Thank you so much for reading and following my adventures this year. You’re awesome! I’d love to read YOUR review, too!
Last year, I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a $3 bean burrito and Modelo Chelada (my drink of summer), relaxing in my Crazy Creek as I watched the desert sky melt into a tranquilizing melange of pinks and purples.
It was the first day of my month spent roaming the southwest, camping out of my car with my dog. Bruce doesn’t like change, prefers a couch to the ground, and really isn’t much of a camper. So, the little hellhound had taken his first opportunity to run away.
He returned to our campsite by the time it became fully dark, about an hour later, absolutely covered in cactus spines.
I made the mistake of inviting him to sleep in the tent with me, which he promptly shredded.
After that, he slept in the car.
Earlier that day, I had locked most of my possessions in a storage unit and set off with no real plan other than to explore northern Arizona, southern Utah, and Colorado. Just me and Bruce without any obligations to anyone (unless you count the Grand Canyon 50k I ran at the end of the month.)
When I shared my plans with people, about 85% asked if I was okay and offered to have me stay with them, not understanding that I was looking forward to this experience.
The other 15% were jealous.
Every day I picked a spot based on a trail I wanted to run, a mountain to climb, a canyon to explore, or a river to wash myself in. I drove to that location, charging all my devices along the way.
I became an expert at setting up my Big Agnes tent in record time. I watched the sun rise and set every day. I spent hours quietly journaling, meditating, and becoming acquainted with the natural inhabitants of the desert.
One time, I spent an entire afternoon doing nothing but watching the sky as storm clouds slowly coalesced in the distance, uniting from various directions and steadily growing heavier before I felt the first raindrops.
Some days were blustery and nights were just gnarly. There was more than one time I sat awake for what felt like hours, leaning into the wall of my tent to keep it from collapsing on me, praying for the wind to stop.
It always did, eventually. Except for one night, when I camped on top of Moki Dugway in Utah, right as a major storm was rolling in. I had no choice but to curl up in the front seat of my car while Bruce glared at me with a “WTF, mom” expression.
We didn’t sleep that night.
Without anywhere to keep him safely contained, Bruce came with me pretty much everywhere. It was interesting for both of us.
I often didn’t have cell reception and would get lost. But when you have no set agenda, getting lost isn’t such a bad thing.
One time I got lost and found myself here:
I spent one day roaming through Snake Gulch outside the Grand Canyon, hunting for petroglyphs and pictographs. As a writer, I felt particularly moved by these story-telling images that remained so well-preserved thousands of years later.
I miss that trip. The freedom and simplicity.
This year, I didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo at all.
I was working.
But my heart ached a little as I remembered.
Now, I stand at my fancy new desk, using electricity that doesn’t come from a 12-volt power inverter, I can’t help but wonder…
What would the coyotes think of me now?
I know I’m not the only one who goes through periods where running feels like a chore. It’s almost May, and I’m wondering where the passion I finished my 2017 ultra race season with has been hiding.
This year’s been off to a weird start. So far, I’ve skipped the only two races I was planning to run, one because I was snowed in and the other because I was overloaded with work. More and more, writing assignments and other responsibilities I didn’t have last year are pushing running further down my personal priority list. On top of that, my favorite trail sisters are injured.
All these things and more have me less than stoked
I know it’s still there, I just need to hang tough while I search for it.
It’s probably hiding with my damn wireless mouse.
In the meantime, this is how I cope:
Do other things
Sometimes, your body needs to shake up the routine. This is important for so many reasons. Not only does it prevent boredom, but it giving your body a break from the usual can help prevent overuse injuries runners are so dang prone to.
Move different parts. Try something you never had time to because you were too busy running. Stand on your head. Wrestle your fears to the ground.
Just change something.
This year, I promised myself I’d learn to ski and climb. Very proud to say I tried both those things and really love skiing.
I almost wet my pants climbing because my fear of heights is real, but I’m not giving up, yet.
(In fact, I’m going again this Wednesday.)
I also found a really great yoga class taught by my fellow ultrarunner and total badass, Courtney Chase. It’s literally just what my body needs.
Prevent injuries while you’re ahead
Clamshells, monster walks, kettlebells, TRX, and planks, planks, planks. Stretching, Epsom salt baths, foam rolling, and massage.
These beautiful, wonderful exercises are called prehab (I learned that from a physical therapy practice I wrote web content for.)
When I’m running like crazy, I can get too tired, or lazy to do put effort into giving my body the care it really needs. Now that I’m averaging less than 40 miles per week, I have no excuses not to devote time to reinforcing my core and working out the kinks that could lead to serious inflammation down the road.
Save money, make money
Races can be expensive. Then there’s the cost of getting there, maybe lodging, maybe dog sitting. Shit ain’t cheap.
Way Too Cool was supposed to be my first race this year, but I didn’t go due to a snow storm.
Sure, I was bummed. WTC was, by far, the most ridiculously expensive race I’ve ever registered for. (I haven’t run many races.)
But, as soon as I canceled my hotel reservation, I landed 2 writing gigs that collectively brought in 4x the amount I paid for the race! Not gonna lie, I was more excited about the work than dismayed about missing the race.
After three years of relentless striving to figure out how to make a living as a freelance writer, I now have a thriving career.
Honestly, getting to this point has felt like the longest, hardest ultra I’ve ever run. But now I’m cruising and feeling good, enjoying this sense of accomplishment while it lasts.
Don’t beat yourself up
I know it’s tempting to. Trust me, I love a good self-flagellation now and then.
But it really doesn’t help things.
Some days are tough. Some workouts are really tedious.
I’ve definitely felt disappointed in my running a few (dozen) times this year. Or disappointed in my performance, or my body’s abilities in general.
When this happens, I try to do something nice for myself, such as:
- Take a bath
- Take a nap
- Put on some eye glitter and turn up Lil Kim
Whatever makes you feel good, do that, and remember you can always try again tomorrow.
On that note, I’m still planning to run Paiute Meadows 50k in a few weeks. In fact, I’m stoked about it. Oh, shit! There’s my stoke!
I leave you with this gem:
ps- I just made a new Facebook page for this site. Please feel free to like and share!
It’s the day before the winter solstice. My garlic is planted and I got my first snowy run this morning.
There’s something totally magical about frolicking (because that’s how I run) among fatty flakes floating gently toward the ground.
Until your jacket starts to soak through. Then it’s time to go home.
Yesterday I moved into a tiny cabin my boyfriend built. I miss my old house in Dunsmuir, but it’s nice to be out of the canyon. I need more sunlight to thrive. Now we’re out in the hills, technically in California but basically Oregon, bordering on BLM land inhabited by gorgeous horses who think they own the place.
Cold weather and darkness have me spending lots of time indoors, reflecting on 2017 and all the exciting things that happened.
So, enough about me. Here’s more about me:
Here are my top 7 best moments in running of 2017
Definitely the craziest thing I did all year, maybe even in my entire life? Aside from my first (and only) ever snowshoe backpacking trip in Zion, where I was 100% unprepared, I really can’t think of anything.
My favorite running event of 2017 wasn’t a race. A group of local ultra studs attempted to summit all three peaks in the Mount Shasta area in one day — Mt. Shasta (we had to turn around due to bad weather), Black Butte, and Mt. Eddy.
3 Peaks was definitely transformative. It was the first time I’d ever kept moving all the way through the night, pushing through layers of physical and mental exhaustion. It doesn’t sound very appealing in writing, but during the hike up Mt. Eddy, in the wee small hours of the morning, was when I decided I really wanted to run a 100 miler.
I guess that experience just gave me a different perspective. I got to explore the limits of my own body in a new way and was left wondering how far it could go.
We find out in 2018!
Getting coached by my biggest shero
I was camping out in Flagstaff, Arizona when I learned Jenn Shelton joined the crew of coaches at Trails & Tarmac. I felt this rush of excitement that was almost immediately squelched by the certainty that I was not nearly cool enough to even think about working with her.
I mean, she’s a total rock star. A bad bitch with a heart of gold who smashes records in a bikini while chugging beer.
And who am I? I guess at that time, I wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t until months later that I finally had the balls to reach out to Jenn. I remember waiting for her to call me for the initial interview. I was pacing back and forth, driving my dog crazy.
When she called, I remember my hands trembling as I held my phone, determined to let it rung a few times… so I could look cool?
The cheerful voice and infectious laugh on the other end put me at ease right away, and it was nothing but rainbows and unicorns from there.
Hiring a coach was easily the best investment I made all year and I can’t wait to start working with Jenn again early in 2018.
Coach Jenn’s highlights deserve their own post. Or book, or movie…
Finishing Waldo 100k
My biggest race of the year, the one that literally kept me up some nights worrying… about nutrition, pacing, ALL the things… couldn’t have possibly been better.
Crossing that finish line was the proudest moment of my life. Moreso than college graduation or that time I won a ten-speed at a circus. That’s probably why I collapsed into a pile of tears.
Waldo was a gorgeous race full of amazing runners. Honestly, the mega eclipse of 2017- the event that had the entire world losing their shit over – meant NOTHING to me compared to that race.
It was also the first time I ever felt post-race depression. I imagine it’s something like postpartum depression, and plan to explore this topic more in its own post.
Random mountain adventures with friends
I came back to Mount Shasta because I missed the mountains and the community of runners I met here. We just don’t have shit like this in New Jersey. So you better believe I spent every free minute getting out there and having fun with the crazy crew I’ve come to love so dearly.
Almost every weekend, I would meet a friend, or group of friends, for an adventure. There’s something really special about people who are compelled to run long distances. As my trail sister Linn once said, “I think there’s something wrong with all of us.”
I couldn’t agree more and want to take this opportunity to thank every_single crazy motherfucker out there who has connected with me over running. I’m not just talking about the ones I’ve met and run with. I’ve talked to some incredibly inspiring runners on social media, too. I love and cherish every one of you quirky badasses.
You do amazing things every single day and it makes me so happy I cry. I’m crying right now because of you.
Random mountain (and desert) adventures alone
This spring I had the opportunity to explore the southwest with my dog while we spent the month of May in a state of surprise homelessness. We camped out on public land, ran new places every day, and endured some extreme winds.
It was an amazing experience that sometimes makes me long for the forced simplicity of #vanlife.
Before I got picked for Waldo, my intention was to not push distance in 2017. I wanted instead to become a faster runner. I had no clue what that even meant, but I thought maybe a 5k or 10k PR would be cool.
I’m really, really stoked to share that I was able to do both. I finished my first 100k with a time I was happy with while also:
- Setting a one mile PR (I don’t think I’ve ever even tried that before)
- Winning my first 5k (don’t even know what my time was)
- Taking over 30 minutes off my 50k PR twice (once in May, again in July)
- Taking over 30 minutes off my Headwaters 50k PR
Making it through my ultra season without getting sick, injured, or dead
This one is pretty self-explanatory. More than any of my races or time accomplishments, I’m proud of the fact that I made it through unscathed. Aside from a patchwork pattern of scars and scabs on my knees all summer, I am entirely uninjured.
I don’t know if this was from taking good care of myself or sheer luck, but it’s pretty effing great. One thing I will mention is that Jenn reigned me in more than she ever pushed me as a coach, and frequently inquired about the health of my mitochondria.
Turns out, mitochondria are v important. Look it up!
Well, friends, thank you all for reading. Thank you for being a part of this wild adventure, and, as always, thank you SO MUCH for your support.
This year’s Thanksgiving was amazing.
So much better than last year, when I spent my entire Thanksgiving driving alone (with my dog, of course) across the most desolate corners of Oregon and Nevada on my way back home to New Jersey, resting briefly at a truck stop for a depressing dinner of greasy pizza.
Thinking back on that day makes me so much more grateful for all the love, friends, and deliciousness involved in Thanksgiving 2017.
Even though I’d only gotten a few precious hours sleep the night before (busy ruminating on anxieties about things I don’t have rather than counting my blessings) I was supercharged and ready to hit the track Thursday morning.
All the rushing to get there proved unnecessary as I spent about an hour hanging around the registration area, drinking rrrrrrrreally strong Starbucks and chatting.
A few of my friends were there, including 3 Peaks homie Chuck Walen and his awesome lady, Kim, who just finished her first ultra this year. Welcome to the dark side, Kim! There’s no going back.
Malou Shannon, the only person I know who’s run Headwaters 50k more times than me, also showed up early to kick ass.
Before the race started, we said a prayer, saluted the flag and listened to a young woman speak about how much SFA has helped her out this year.
And then… we Zumba’d.
** Side note – Dancing around like a lunatic is an absolutely phenomenal way to warm up and loosen your hips. I even replaced some of my boring morning yoga with this fabulous dancercise. **
About 160 people ran or walked the 5k this year. It starts and finishes on the COS track and meanders through a mellow trail in between. I wore Saucony Type A road/track shoes because they’re literally light as a feather, but I was longing for the grip of my Peregrines once we hit the trail.
I went into the race with my mind set on speed. I haven’t done a track workout in a minute and was jonesing for the kind of push that makes your muscles scream.
Chuck is a badass runner, even though he totally let me pass him at the Siskiyou Outback 50k this year. My strategy for the 5k was to keep him within sight for most of the race, and then catch up once we got back on the track for the last 300m or so.
My strategy proved effective, although I never actually caught up to Chuck. He finished a good few seconds before I did, winning his age group and coming in 4th overall.
I knew he knew I was on his tail because I saw him peek behind his shoulder. In that moment of diverted focus, I easily closed the gap by another 5 meters.
Never look back.
I finished feeling totally spent and worn out… and badass. Exactly what I wanted.
I didn’t realize who won until I checked the leaderboard and saw no one else in front of my name.
Even though this was a fun, family-friendly event, there were some mighty fine runners there and I feel really jazzed about winning my first race. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend a gorgeous fall morning running with awesome people while supporting a really important nonprofit in our region.
Winning the race and a $50 gift certificate to Sportmen’s Den in Mount Shasta was the candle on my cake.
When SFA Executive Director Denise Spayd called my name to receive the award, I gave her a biiiiiiig hug. We know each other because I wrote an article for Mount Shasta News about SFA and the Run for Food a few years ago.
Thanks so much to Liz Pyles of Mount Shasta News for capturing that moment.
Seeing my picture in the newspaper I used to write for is an extra layer of warm fuzziness.
Full circle, and stuff.
I came home to Dunsmuir and rested with my feet up, sipping a recovery beer while my amazingly handsome and talented boyfriend got our side dish ready to bring to a potluck full of happy homies.
The rest of the evening was equally fantastic, with much eating, drinking, and being merry with friends.
Thanksgivings aren’t always awesome, but this year really highlighted all I have to be grateful for.
A SHIT TON.
Thank you and thanks for reading
Last week I quit another job.
I started delivering mail in Dunsmuir about a month ago, thinking a part-time job with USPS would be an easy way to earn a steady paycheck and get me out of the house after my summer of ditching work to play outside left me broke and craving structure.
And structure was exactly what I got. Paperwork. Training. Supervisors upon supervisors. Pee tests. (I passed. Anything is possible.)
A month was about all I could take of that noise. No more government jobs for this bish.
The real reason I left was the schedule. I was working way more than part-time and had to miss two races because of work: one I was planning to participate in and another I wanted to crew for a friend.
I just can’t let that happen. Money comes and goes, but my time is something I’ll never get back.
After I saw that I was scheduled to work during both races even though I had requested those days off a month prior, I gave my supervisor two weeks notice.
I’m sincerely grateful for the month I spent there. I got to spend my days driving through north Dunsmuir in autumn, watching the river flow and trains pass with the windows down in 80º weather.
The fall colors were also pretty dope.
But the thing I’ll miss the most is the quirky cast of characters I met while delivering mail.
Here are some of my favorite mail customers:
The first character I met is an elderly woman who lives alone and waits outside for the mail every day (even in poor weather.)
She sported a fuzzy beard and told me she was schizophrenic within the first few words we exchanged.
“I was just born that way,” she clarified.
She was always very sweet to me, although I heard from other mail carriers that she could get very… emotional if there was no mail for her.
As I handed her mail to her every morning, I would try to spend a minute or so chatting with her, thinking back to my time volunteering for a suicide hotline in college and all the lonely old folks who would call on a daily basis just to have someone to talk to.
I figured if this lady has been living with a mental illness all her life and freaks out over mail, stepping out of my usual style of avoiding eye contact and small talk whenever possible was probably what my higher self would want me to do.
She would often ask me if the young men at work told me I was cute. When I answered, “No, nobody at work tells me I’m cute except for you,” she would assure me it was just because they were shy.
One day, she told me that she hopes I get promoted to a job inside where I can sit at a desk and tell people what to do because I know ALL THE THINGS.
I’m really lucky there were only two days I didn’t have any mail for her. The first time, I was saved by her phone ringing inside. The second time, though, was on my last day.
She wasn’t even waiting outside that day so I thought I was in the clear. I delivered her neighbors’ mail as quickly as possible and then darted back to the truck. I heard her yelling for me as I started the engine.
The sound of her calling, “wait!” kind of broke my heart but I was too much of a butthead to go back and tell her she had no mail.
I sent her a greeting card for Thanksgiving.
(side note- the fact that I did time in the mental hospital makes it acceptable for me to use the term “schizo” in a completely affectionate and non-derogatory way.)
The first thing I noticed about this guy was his mailbox. It’s the sweetest shade of pale/electric blue and surrounded by 10-foot-tall flowers.
I call him Cartoony Councilman because his voice and mannerisms brought to mind a stoned version of Garfield — the cat that loves lasagna and hates Mondays. When he spoke, it sounded like he was delivering well-rehearsed lines of comedy to some invisible audience hidden in his neighbors’ bushes.
Usually, he’d greet me by shouting, “Aloha!” and come out to take his mail directly from me, holding a fat stogie in one hand and wearing a fuzzy blue bathrobe that almost matched the color of his mailbox. As I pulled away, he’d yell, “watch out for the squirrels!”
His name sounded very familiar, so, naturally, I googled him. Turns out I recognized his name because he once served on Dunsmuir City Council (before my time,) and was recalled.
The dude is clearly enjoying retirement. Good for him.
There was an old Italian gentleman toward the beginning of my route who would often bring me veggies from his garden. We had a long summer in Dunsmuir, so I got hooked up with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers throughout October.
I don’t have much to say about this guy other than it was really sweet of him to trade vegetables for his mail. Plus, they were delicious.
He also had a cute accent and spoke limited English. So, I would cheerfully tell him, “have a great day!” and he would reply, “ok-fine.”
One day, I pulled to the side of a pickup truck that was blocking the box at a house that always got a lot of mail (old people get TONS of mail!)
Before I had the chance to get out, a woman, barely 5-feet-tall and dressed head-to-toe in violet, approached to take the mail.
“I’m sorry, honey,” she said, “I don’t want to make you get out. I’m about to celebrate my 60th wedding anniversary so we have lots of company.”
60TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!!!
Obviously, we had to stop and chat for a bit.
This woman did not look like she could have been married for 60 years, but then she told me she was born right here in Dunsmuir, “in the old hospital on the hill,” 75 years ago.
So she got married when she was 15 and never got out.
When I told her I was from New York, she said she’s always wanted to go.
I looked at her, this extraordinarily sweet, miniwoman with a full head of Aquanet and a silver cross the size of my iPhone around her neck…
I assured her she’s not missing anything good in New York. She gave me a big hug.
Now, can someone please fill me in on where this, “old hospital on the hill,” was in Dunsmuir???
One day — not just any day, but my very first MONDAY on the job — I was running terribly late and found myself accosted by an older woman from Tennessee.
She was walking her tiny dog (crazy people always have tiny dogs) and asked if she could take her mail from me to save me from getting out of the truck.
People seem to think getting out of the truck is a major problem, but I was all for it in good weather.
After handing her the mail, she started to walk away, then paused, looked up at me and said, “I used to be a mail carrier… that was the hardest test I ever took, that civil service exam.”
** I think that was the exact moment I decided I was going to quit **
She had hair the color of a traffic cone and proceeded to stand there for about 10 minutes, telling me all about where she was from, how all her kids did in school, and what they all do for a living these days.
I explained to her that I was running late and thought I was going to get away when she started talking about her other daughter… the one who passed away at 44. She died of kidney failure after overcoming cancer.
She was crying.
I couldn’t get away.
There must be something about my face that makes people want to tell me EVERYTHING.
Anyway, her dog eventually grew impatient and Crazy Tennessee let me finish my mail route.
That’s all I got for now.
I finished my month at USPS with a new level of respect for mail carriers. It’s a tough job I’m definitely not cut out for.
The good news is, I was offered a new, much better job on my last day carrying mail. Perfect timing!
I’m stoked to be the newest freelance medical copywriter at Patient Pop
Back to working in sweatpants in the comfort of my own home with a dog on my keyboard.
The good life.
Today, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to stray from the topic of running to write about another major theme in my life.
Maybe it is slightly related to running because maybe my passion for the sport started as a relief from stress or an escape from bouts of depression I deal with on a regular basis. I know many other runners have opened up about similar struggles during long miles spent together on the trails.
The picture below was taken around this time last year, shortly before I left Northern California to go back to New Jersey and stay with my parents for a little while. It was one of the days I couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t even my bed because I was essentially homeless and felt completely hopeless.
My mental health at that time was slipping into the danger zone- a dark place I haven’t visited since my teens. I was hit by a wave of depression so strong I feared I wouldn’t be able to stand up against it much longer, so I ran back to a safe space and let it all go.
I remember it starting with me breaking down in tears at random times with no trigger. I would get dressed to go for a run and start crying. I would be driving to a meeting I was covering for the newspaper and begin sobbing uncontrollably.
And sometimes I would just feel paralyzed by it.
For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to document my depression by taking photos but I didn’t know what to do with them until just now. I’m glad I have these photos.
I’ve opened up to some people about my history of mental illness, but it’s still something I feel wary talking about because of the stigma and shame I grew up with.
One thing I remember vividly from that time last year, before I disappeared, was standing in front of a shaded window with my eyes closed, trying to reach out psychically to all the other people in the world I knew had to be experiencing the same kind of pain. Or, even worse, apathy. I tried to reach out to all the survivors I’ve shared stories with and the ones I’ve never even met, just to know I was not alone.
Or, even worse than pain… apathy. Numbness.
I tried to reach out to all the sweet souls I’ve shared stories with as well as the ones I’ve never even met, just to know I was not alone.
Because that was what really got to me when I was younger- feeling so isolated and so alone. Like a freak. Like there was something inherently wrong with me.
But now I’ve made it to my 30’s. I’ve seen some majestic places and met some extraordinary people. Even at my lowest point, I know I’m not alone.
Mental illness is something I wish was easier to talk about because so many of us deal with it.
Here’s a fun infographic from NAMI that illustrates my point:
1 in 5 adults- that means you definitely know someone who can relate to what I’m writing. Or maybe that person is you?
If it is, know that you’re not alone. I mean really, deeply know. And if you have my number you can always use it.
It’s taken a lot for me to be this honest with myself (and the internet.) I just got tired of saying I was fine and I want to live in a world where I don’t feel like I have to.
Anyway, a lot of people asked why I left Mount Shasta so abruptly and then came back again. So there it is.
Please go hug someone for me (or a dog).
Four years is a big deal in the mind of a restless wanderer. There aren’t many people, places, or races that can keep this girl around for that length of time.
But last Saturday I successfully suffered through my fourth running of Headwaters Trail Runs 50k.
That’s some major commitment. I didn’t even go to the same college for four years.
In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I devoted four years to something was high school.
So running Headwaters for the fourth time was basically my high school graduation of ultrarunning.
Bear with me here…
Headwaters 50k was my very first ultramarathon in 2014. I finished that race hopping on one foot. But in the years since, I’ve gotten much stronger, smarter, and more experienced as a runner.
Even the course itself has changed with time. A wet winter made the roads more twisted and gnarly than ever before, while maintenance work on the Sisson-Callahan trail brought the second loop of the race one step closer to heaven. HUGE thanks to whoever is out there cleaning that up!!!
But Headwaters Part IV was way better than high school because I got so much more support along the way!
Being a local, I had the added benefit of knowing many of the volunteers that helped the race operate as smoothly as it did. I had friends at every aid station and more at the finish cheering me on.
First, I passed local legend Tina Ure, my pacer from Waldo 100k. Tina hangs the ribbons to mark the course every year and was helping on race day by directing runners at the first major junction, leaving North Shore Road and heading up Rainbow Ridge.
This road is totally runnable, but I chose to apply my standard method of alternating running and hiking. A lot of people passed me during this part, mostly because I started way too close to the front for the sake of this photo op.
Headwaters Trail Runs offers both a 30k and 50k race (and a 10k but that’s totally different). The 30k is the first loop of the 50k course, so runners of both races start at the same time. Since the first loop is less grueling (for me), I’ve always tried to establish my place there.
This year, however, I promised my coach that I would not go out hard.
The conversation went something like this:
Shelton: I want you to promise me you won’t go out hard.
Me: Yeah, I know, but the first loop is so much easier and I always hike the Sisson-Callahan part anyway so shouldn’t I get speed while I can?
S: The second loop won’t be as bad if you don’t go out hard on the first.
Me: Okay, right, but my friends are all doing the 30k and they’re probably going to be taking that loop fast and I’m going to want to keep up…
S: mmmmm yeah but you’re better off going into the second loop with more energy than you would be pushing it on the first.
Me: but it’s..
S: JUST DON’T GO OUT HARD!!!!
She was right, but I ended up running with my 30k buddy Bobby for a few miles, anyway ;)
I still hiked most of that 5-mile section of single track in the second loop, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t hike it faster than ever before! I was even able to jog some parts. I actually felt really good when I reached the North Fork aid station the first time around.
Huge thanks to my amazing boyfriend Jason for being there to take photos, watch my dog, and do anything he possibly could to support me.
You have to scroll thru and he’s the studmuffin in the cowboy hat.
Camelia was supposed to run the 50k, too, but some sickness kept her from toeing the line that day. She still came out to support her sister Victoria, who proceeded to win Headwaters 50k for the second year in a row.
Kyle Carson of Ashland, OR won for the men, and I finished 3rd female, which is also pretty neat.
Here’s me coming into the North Fork aid station the first and second times.
Notice how the first time through I was all smiles and sunshine, while the second time I look like I just crawled out of a grave, covered in blood and dirt? A simple 5-mile loop and one poorly-placed rock was all it took.
Now, look at the photo on the right. The guy you see running behind me is my hero of the day.
His name is Ken and he’s a champ. The first time I saw Ken, he was walking DOWN the Sisson-Callahan trail. The opposite direction of which the race was going.
That was the second time he almost dropped from the race, and the second time he turned around.
Ken finished right behind me.
You are fucking awesome, Ken!
Headwaters is not an easy race. Pretty much every step is on a rocky hill, going up or down, and some are kiiiind of steep.
I knew it was not a course to PR. My 5:38 time from this year’s SOB 50k was out of the question. But I did go into this race with an ambitious goal of finishing sub-6 hours.
By the time I ran out of North Fork the second time, I knew in my bones that wasn’t going to happen.
But that was fine. Jenn also told me to keep in mind my original goal, the one that’s written in my training plan- to finish Headwaters in under 6:30 and without injury.
My energy shifted when I realized I had more than enough time to meet that goal. That’s when I started really thinking about my progress over the years.
That’s when I realized I was about to graduate high school.
Before I knew it, High Divide aid station was in sight. The volunteers from Shasta Mountain Guides gave me a warm welcome and my friend Heather took this awesome photo.
SMG co-owner Chris Carr, who has been manning High Divide for as long as I’ve been running Headwaters, asked me if I remembered two years ago when the race was still held in August and it was over 100º by the time I reached that aid station.
My answer: I will never forget.
That was the only other time I’ve placed third in this race, and my time was still hovering around 7 hours. I only scored a podium finish because it was so damn hot that all the stronger runners dropped out.
The only clear memory I have of that day was one of Chris’s volunteers handing me a cold can of Pepsi.
side note- I’ve always felt like my hidden superpower in ultrarunning is my innate tenacity. I may not be very fast but I can power through some brutal shit. That’s why I always run Headwaters 50k instead of the 30k.
The torture really brings out my strength.
Anyway, I love this aid station and almost ended up volunteering here instead of running the race.
TBH- I was on the fence about whether to run or volunteer at Headwaters for over a month.
My body and mind took a long time to recover from Waldo. I knew Headwaters would be hard. I was expecting a lot of myself and the pressure was literally frying my brain.
It was hard, but I’m so glad I did it. The pain I experienced by pushing myself beyond my comfort zone was nothing compared to the sharp sting of regret I know I would still be feeling had I not participated.
This was my last (ultra) race of 2017 and I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate a great fucking year.
I am so grateful for every single person that was out there that day as well as a handful who couldn’t make it.
Thanks to all the runners. I love meeting you, asking where you’re from, and welcoming you to Mount Shasta.
Thanks to all the volunteers. You’re just totally amazing. I love you, for real.
Thanks to the weather for being ABSOLUTELY PERFECT for a fall race in NorCal.
Thanks to the event sponsors. I was so stoked to geek out about shoes with Altra athlete Zach Bitter and win some Smartwool socks… as well as my fourth Headwaters Klean Kanteen pint glass. (Do you still call it a glass if it’s made of steel?)
NOW I HAVE A WHOLE SET!
Thanks always to my family, friends, and running buddies for the neverending support.
Thanks to Coach Jenn Shelton for being the goddess in charge and continuing to inspire me and countless others every damn day.
Extra big thanks to race director Gerad Dean for being the evil mastermind behind this operation.
Way to be the wholesome, nutty bread that held my ultra sandwich together.
My goal was to finish feeling completely wasted with nothing left in the tank.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Thanks to whoever let my wobbly ass lean on them at the finish.
I finished in 6:23:59- 32 minutes faster than last year’s time.
The first three times I ran this race I only improved by a few minutes each year.
I also finished my ultra season with zero injuries. Skinned knees don’t count.
Coaching undoubtedly had a lot to do with this. Big love to Trails and Tarmac for an amazing race season.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Now for a little breather before I start training for my first 100 miler next year ;)