Guest Chica

If you’ve been running 5Ks in the Lansing, Mich., area for a while, you’ve probably seen the moon and stars logo for the Max’s Race 5K on the Michigan State University campus every summer.

Our familia has a connection to Max’s family. He and our oldest son were classmates in preschool and us parents traded stories about the boys’ progress while waiting for after-school pickups or at school functions. He was as cute and sweet as he looks in photos.


Max’s mom, Natalie, and I have kept in touch through the years, running into each other here or there and connecting on Facebook. When I saw her reminder about the upcoming race, I just knew you’d all want to hear their story.

Please consider signing up for the June 24 race.

By Natalie Hool

My name is Natalie and I lost my 6-year-old son in 2005 to a night-time seizure.

Max Matthews contracted bacterial meningitis in 1998 that left him with a few struggles at the age of 7 months, including hearing loss. He was the youngest recipient of a cochlear implant in Michigan when he had the procedure three days before his first birthday. 

This year, his birthday and Mother’s Day fall on the same date. In 2006 it did, too, but I couldn’t even get out of bed. This year, I am completely ready for the flood of emotions coming my way all because back in 2005 a decision was made to create a foundation in Max’s honor, the Maxwell C. Matthews Foundation.

Our main event is called Max’s Race. It is a 5K run/walk with a kids fun run.

Sparty joins the Max’s Race fun.

Sparty, the MSU cheer team and face-painting clowns all join in for the festivities. Our 12th annual race takes place on June 24, 2017. Our route on the Michigan State University campus begins at the “big rock” east of Farm Lane.

Credit: ©

The foundation’s motto is to “Create hope for kids and their families.” To that end, we have made donations to Sparrow Hospital‘s pediatric programs and the Davies Project. It is important that the money we raise is for kids like Max and their families.

This race really means the world to me. It is like a piece of Max is right there, touching me. The feeling that comes from all of the participants and volunteers coming together and thinking about him is indescribable. 

I am also a runner and there are so many race options in the summer. Please consider attending Max’s Race! Watching adults and kids come together for a great experience with Max on their mind is heartwarming and has been integral to my healing. 

Max’s Mom

(You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

ultra marathon drop bagOne of my favorite things about running is that there are always new challenges and experiences, no matter how long one has been pounding the pavement. Another is the wonderful experienced runners — like my running mentor and friend Brandess Wallace — who support us newbies and answer our endless questions.

Brandess has already shared her 10 must-haves for your first ultra marathon and today she’s sharing her top 10 ultra marathon drop bag essentials. You can even print out a list to make sure you don’t forget anything: 10 drop bag essentials.

  1. Change of shoes. Depending on the race, the course has the potential to have anything from muddy horse trails to waist-deep water crossings. Even on courses with ideal terrain, having a change of shoes can be just what your achy feet need. During my 50 miler, after 34 miles in my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes I could feel every rock on the trail with each step. I switched them out for a pair of Hokas for the final 16 miles and the relief was remarkable.
  2. Change of socks. Running in wet socks is pretty much the worst. I don’t have many sensory issues, but the feeling of running in wet socks gives me nightmares. Always carry an extra pair, just in case.
  3. Change of clothing. Weather conditions can vary from the start to the end of a race. For races in Michigan, temps tend to be cooler in the mornings and gradually increase throughout the day. Pack accordingly. Check the forecast. Have a light jacket or poncho packed in case of rain.
  4. Band-Aids/moleskin. Hot spots and blisters often pop up when running more than 26.2 miles. Moleskin is great at creating a barrier between blisters and whatever is causing the discomfort.
  5. Vaseline/Body Glide. Chafe happens. Reapply as needed. I usually experience chafing along my bra line in the front and back. A friend of mine suggested applying kinesiology tape on those areas as a preventative measure and it works! Yay, no more unsightly scars!
  6. Baby wipes. Great for cleaning up any dirt, bugs and sweat that have accumulated on your body during the race.
  7. Sunscreen/bug spray. Applying at the start will probably not be enough for the entire duration of the race. I pack travel sized bottles of each that don’t take up very much space in my bag.
  8. Electrolyte tabs. Depending on the weather, you may be losing electrolytes faster than your body can replace them with Gatorade alone. Electrolyte tabs will help prevent and alleviate any cramping that may occur during the race.
  9. Fuel. Yes, there is LOTS of great food to fuel with at the aid stations, but like a boy scout, it is always smart to “Be Prepared.” Whatever you already use to fuel during a traditional marathon, make sure to pack for your ultra. You never know if the fueling options at the aid stations are not going to agree with your body. I can’t imagine potato chips and gummy bears not agreeing with someone, but you never know!
  10. Your carrot! This is the one thing that will help you get to the end if you are in the deepest running funk ever. For my first ultra, I packed four things: HARIBO gummy bears; Fritos corn chips; a photo of me and my brother who had passed away 12 years ago the day of the race; and a photo of my husband who was on deployment with the U.S. Army at the time. I knew I had those items waiting for me at the drop bag point. They boosted my morale and gave me motivation for the final stretch of the race. Take some time to really think about what your carrot is and make sure you include it in your bag.
Brandess included family photos in her drop bag.

Brandess included family photos in her drop bag.

Brandess, a few of our favorite runners and I are running the Run Woodstock 50K in a couple of weeks. Thanks to her, I will certainly be among the most prepared for whatever may come that day. Thanks, chica!

Are you an experienced ultra marathoner? What else would you add to this list of ultra marathon drop bag necessities? Feel free to share your blog post link below if you’ve written about this before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

My friend Brandess Wallace is one of those always-smiling, cheerful people. And yet, she’s inherently dangerous.

That’s because she uses that charming personality to get you to do things like sign up for your first marathon…or a — gasp! — ultra marathon. That’s 31 miles, or 50 kilometers. On trails. In Michigan. In September. (For those of you who don’t live in the Michigan tundra, the temperature could very well be 80 or 20 degrees. On the same day.)

The beautiful Brandess.

The beautiful Brandess.

That’s how I found myself signed up for the Run Woodstock Ultra. And why Brandess was kind enough to create a list of ultra marathon must-haves. Here’s today’s Guest Chica post:

  1. Headlamp. Many ultra races start before daylight. Having a headlamp is important for preventing injury and staying on course. You can find ones that are very inexpensive ($5-10) all the way to lamps that cost near $200.
  2. Gaiters. Gaiters are small coverings that fit over your shoes to prevent dirt and rocks from entering. This may not seem that important, but pebbles can feel like boulders during trail races. Also, while sitting down to shake out pebbles is easy at the start of a race, 25 miles into a 50K sitting down can mean the difference between muscles seizing up — or not.
  3. Hydration Vest/Hand Held. Though ultras are known for having a multitude of fueling options (yay, potato chips!), it is still important to carry your own fuel, especially during the summer. In addition to carrying water, I use my hydration vest to carry extra gels, snacks, salt tabs and my phone.
  4. Neck Gaiter/Buff or Scarf. I always wear a running buff around my neck during long trail races. They are great for wiping sweat/dirt/bugs out of your eyes during the run.
  5. Visor/Hat. I like to wear a visor instead of sunglasses during trail races because they keep the sun out of my eyes without hindering my ability to see roots and such on the trail. Sunglasses often become too dark for me to be confident in my footing.
  6. Wool Socks. If your ultra has some water crossings on the course, wool socks will be your best friend. The wool wicks the water away from your body. Wet, damaged feet can mean the difference between finishing and a DNF (that’s did-not-finish) for an ultra runner. Take care of your feet. I wear SmartWool socks for all of my ultras and have rarely gotten blisters, even after waist-high water crossings lasting over half a mile.
  7. Trail Shoes. Some ultra trails can get very technical. Trail shoes will help you gain proper footing, especially if the trails are wet and muddy. Choose a shoe that is the equivalent of your running shoe. Meaning that if you usually run in a stability road shoe, then you will probably need a stability trail shoe as well.
  8. GPS Watch. This is not really essential. In fact, unless you have a time limit to make, I would suggest not even bringing your GPS because the GPS signal can get spotty in the woods, plus trail miles sometimes feel much longer than road miles. Glancing down at your watch every few minutes and realizing you haven’t run that far because of trail switch backs and such is going to get frustrating. Lastly, you’ll be out there for so long that your watch will probably end up dying before you finish…trust me.
  9. Drop Bag. Let me share with you the wonder that is your drop bag! Your drop bag is filled with any of the supplies you think you may need to make it to the end of your race. It is a bag of your choosing; some people use big, black trash bags, others use Rubbermaid totes. I have used large back packs, travel bags and small drawstring bags depending on the distance and my needs at the time. That could include a change of shoes; socks; moleskin/Band Aids; baby wipes; painkillers; BodyGlide/Vaseline; deodorant/Febreeze; batteries; and a camera.
  10. A Carrot. Drop bag locations are usually put somewhere late in the race (anywhere from mile 17-23 or farther). The most important item in your drop bag is your “carrot.” This is the one thing that will help you get to the end if you are in the deepest running funk ever. For my bestie, Shannon, those items are a can of Diet Mountain Dew and a bag of Funyuns. For me, those items are a bag of Fritos and a supply of gummy bears. Most of the time I don’t end up needing them, but when I do…it is like an oasis in a desert. Find what your items are and make sure you pack them.
brandess with shannon

Brandess, at the end of her first ultra marathon with her bestie, Shannon. She has since done six more!

I am so glad that Brandess was nice enough to share her very-thorough ultra marathon survival list, because I now have five months to figure out what my carrot is. (Who am I kidding? It’s going to be a bag of Mega Stuf Oreos.)

How about you? What item or two would get you through an ultra marathon? Do you have anything to add to the list?

My long-time amiga and fellow boricua Margarita is returning to running after a bit of a break, so I asked her to share her story here. Margarita is also a fellow former journalist and public relations expert. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

By Margarita Bauzá

So this morning, I went on the Fifth Third River Bank Run website and signed up to do a 25k.

I didn’t really put that much thought into it. My friend Teresa, who turns 61 this year, asked me to join her. Sure, why not? I signed up right away.

About 14 years earlier, new to Detroit, I had done a similar thing. My friends were running a 5K the morning of the Detroit Free Press Marathon. I felt a bit silly signing up for “just a 5K” when a whole marathon was going on next to us. So I did what any sane person would do: I signed up for the marathon happening that very next day.

margarita vancouver marathon 2

I had never contemplated running that far. Nor had I any concept of what kind of training it took to run that far. In fact, I don’t think I actually knew how far “that far” was.

Thank goodness, on the morning of, several outraged friends talked me out of doing it. “You could die,” they warned. “You really could. We love you. Don’t do this.” I glumly conceded they were probably right. I went ahead and did “just the 5K.”

But the idea that this website had accepted my name, info and credit card number planted a seed. I even got a T-shirt out of it: a marathoner T-shirt. If the person operating this marathon website finds it acceptable for me to attempt this, why wouldn’t I?

Months later, I signed up to do a full marathon with many months to spare and train. I joined an endurance training program and began running five days a week. I made lots of friends and soon enough we were all a cult of “runners” doing “runner things.”

“Runner things” consisted of:

  1. Running
  2. Eating lots of peanut butter
  3. Eating lots of pasta
  4. Eating lots of carbs
  5. Talking about chaffing
  6. Talking about anti-blister socks
  7. Talking about gastrointestinal discomfort
  8. Talking about peeing
  9. Talking about how much to drink and when
  10. Talking about our favorite GU flavors
  11. Talking about when to go #2 if you are going on a long run

My thoughts after my first marathon (Phoenix) in January 2004: “I will never do this again.” “I want to cut my legs off and not feel pain.” “Someone shoot me.”


Days later: “That wasn’t so bad!” “I want to do this again!” “I miss running!” “Now that I know how to do this, I can aim for a better time.”

This went on for several years, three more full marathons (Vancouver, San Francisco, Detroit), several dozen half marathons, triathlons and century bike rides.

Then one day, just as I had started, I stopped. Life got busy. Love, work, kids, family activities, exhaustion, eating poorly, traveling for work, eating bad food while traveling for work, Netflix. It was a long list of stumbling blocks and barricades.

A bit over a year ago, I signed up to do the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon. I was feeling as far as one could feel from “healthy” and “runner.”

I carried significantly more weight than the day of my first marathon in 2004. Training was hard. Doing the race was even harder. It was not a joyous experience. It hurt physically and mentally. I held back tears walking back to my car after crossing the finish line. Yes, I was proud, but I was also scared that I had veered so far off what had been such a great and joy-filled path.

Since that day, I have lost a big chunk of weight and I hit the gym regularly.

I am still not where I would like to be, but I am way ahead of where I was a year ago.

Things are lining up. Wait, no.

I am lining things up.

I am lifting. I am sleeping. I am eating better food.

I am registered for my race.

I have my socks ready. I have my shoes ready.  I am saying “no” to things that don’t contribute and “yes” to those that do.

I am making plans. I am lacing up. I am running.

Margarita Bauzá is a native of Puerto Rico and a Detroit-area resident for the past 14 years. A former journalist at the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, she currently works in automotive public relations. She has completed four marathons, many half marathons, a couple of CRIM 10 milers, several triathlons and a very long 122 century ride that traversed the Hoover Dam. She loves to ski, play soccer and is breaking her Netflix addiction. She is returning to running in 2016 after too long a hiatus.