Racing Update

I still haven’t committed to a spring ultra yet, mostly due to cowardice (but also partially due to frugality), but I have signed up for a couple less daunting races.

In March, I am running the Hot Dash 10 Mile again. I don’t know if I’ll do it again after this year because it’s fairly expensive, but I do really like the race. It’s hard. The hills are really tough. I am hoping it’ll be a little bit warmer this year (last year it was like 33F); if not, I will dress a little more warmly than I did last year. Although I did feel fine while running the race, so maybe I just need to have a drop bag? I’m hoping I’ll be able to run faster than last year but not really sure what that will look like right now.

In May, I’ll be back in Lutsen for my 3rd straight Superior Spring 25K (here are my 2016 and 2017 RRs). I’ve already signed up to volunteer, and reserved my hotel room. I’m looking forward to running under 4 hours there this time around – I got so close last year. I feel compelled to return to this race after last year’s tragedy, to support the race staff and any runners who provided medical aid, and to honor the runner who passed away.

In September, I’ll be running the Moose Mountain Marathon again. I had to miss the race last year since I was in Maine, so I’m excited to get back. My hope is to volunteer at an aid station on the drive up Friday, and then work packet pickup, but I’m not sure how things will work out travel-wise. I’m signed up for at least the packet pickup shift. I’m really looking forward to this event – volunteering at this race sparked my love of trail running. Obviously I’m hoping to complete the event faster than I did in 2016, but I’ll leave any more specific goal setting for the fall.

I’m interested in an ultra at the end of February, but I’m not sure. It’s in Iron Mountain, MI, which is quite a drive, and there aren’t very many participants, so I feel like it would be very weird for me to run it. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with forcing volunteers to stay out there for 8 hours or so to support only me. Also who knows what the weather will be like? I don’t want to run in -10F conditions. On the other hand, it would be a good chance to get in a nice long long run before Zumbro (and would be a good bellwether for my performance at Zumbro), without having to deal with all the logistics myself. Update: Zumbro 50 is full! So the decision has been made for me.


Post-Mortem: Moose Mountain Marathon

Race Report
All MMM Posts

Good Things
Hills. I did a lot of hill work. All those torturous trips up Chester Bowl were worth it. I didn’t collapse and die on Mystery Mountain. My legs felt extremely strong, and I recovered really well, which was important since I have WD50K in less than 5 weeks.

Simplifying my race plan. My mantra was keep moving. I kept moving. I was tempted, for just a moment, on Moose Mountain. I wanted to stop for just a minute. I almost did, and then I muttered “Keep moving” and took another step. Before I knew it, I was at the top. Getting my picture taken.
I also planned out what time I needed to be at each aid station to reach my time goals. I typed up a little table, “laminated” it with clear tape, and tucked it into a pocket of my hydration vest. This kept me from getting frustrated when I realized my watch had gone haywire. The only problem I had was forgetting to note the actual time on my watch when the race started, so I wasn’t positive the times matched up exactly. It didn’t matter because I was ahead of my goal, but I could have ended up thinking I met my goal based on my watch time, only to find out my watch was slow and I was a little bit over. I mean, who cares, it’s a trail race and goals are only estimations, but that would have been annoying nonetheless.

Reconnaissance. I ran every section of the course. It sucked, driving up the North Shore every weekend (ok yes it was lovely, but I didn’t get to stop and enjoy the lake) and devoting an entire day to running. But it was worth it. I was prepared. I knew what the climbs felt like. I knew that I could conquer Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain, despite my disastrous encounter with those two in May. I will not be able to do that with every race, but for my first crack at a marathon, I needed that extra confidence boost. I knew what I’d encounter, even if I didn’t know how my body would react.

Bad Things
Nutrition. It wasn’t terrible, but I am still sure I didn’t eat enough. I have to start planning better for remote races; I need to bring a cooler so I can eat something fresh for dinner the night before the race, instead of eating goldfish crackers and cookies. I didn’t eat much in the morning, either, just one Clif bar and a bit of Powerade. I had some minor stomach (well, really, esophageal) issues early on in the race so I felt kind of crummy. I should have eaten more at aid stations, carried something with me if I needed to. Potato chips tasted so good; I could have taken a cup to go and ditched the garbage at the next aid station. My stomach improved as the race went on, though. Chugging a Coke and a ginger ale helped prevent pressure from building in my stomach, and it also helped me get in some sugar when I ran out of Powerade. I knew they were only going to have Heed at the aid stations, but I should have tried some in training to make sure I could stomach it. I didn’t want to try out something new mid-race, so I just went with water and then pop at the aid stations. I felt hungry a few times during the race, especially at the end, so that was a bad sign.
My nutrition during training also sucked. I am going to wait until the off-season to start planning improvements to my day to day meals, but I’m ignoring a huge component of performance and overall health.

Strength Training. I’ve got to stop putting this on my “bad things” list. I don’t know what else to say about it.

Training Structure. I really winged it for this race. I didn’t follow a training plan, just had a general idea of the mileage I wanted to hit. My average miles/week was around 37 miles, and that average includes the two weeks I took off almost completely. (Taking out those two weeks, my average miles/week goes up to 40.) I appreciated the flexibility of going without a training plan, but I could have drawn up something fairly basic in advance so I’d have an idea of goal mileage and make sure to get in a couple of specific types of workouts (hills, other speedwork, etc.).

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 6

A robust week.

Monday: 6 mi, trail (SHT at Becks Rd), 144 bpm
Tuesday: rest (yoga)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest (travel)
Saturday: 26.2 mi, SHT (Moose Mountain Marathon!), ??? bpm
Sunday: rest (travel)
Total: 32.2 mi

Ok. Not much to talk about. I tweaked something in my left hamstring while doing yoga and decided shut it down til the race. It was mostly preventive, but I felt like one wrong step could do some damage. Even now, if I move in a certain way (like crouching down to lift up one of my cats), I feel a little twinge. I’m getting a massage this evening that will, I hope, fix this issue. I plan to start running again tomorrow.

Other than the weird hamstring problem, I feel completely normal today. Yesterday, I felt mostly normal. Sunday, I felt like if I absolutely needed to, I could run a few miles. I guess that’s a good thing. Does it mean maybe I could have pushed harder? Probably. But I am running a 50K in 5 weeks, so it’s for the best that I’m not completely trashed and useless for days.

I can’t believe after all the anticipation, hard work, setbacks, frustration, and nerves, that I’ve completed one of my big scary races for the year, and am only 5 weeks away from the other one. It felt, even the day before the race, like it was off in the nebulous not-too-distant future, but wouldn’t ever happen. I worried things would go wrong pre-race, like they did with Curnow, or during the race, like with the Superior 25K. I wondered what business I had thinking I could or should run a marathon. I wondered what the point was. I secretly hoped I’d magically be faster on race day. I wondered if I would be last.

I’m glad to have a break from the long trips up north to run on the course. I feel now like I know it well enough that I won’t have to do that anymore, at least until I move up to a longer distance… Someday.

Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon

I did it.
My friend Katherine took this photo. One of the perks of volunteering is there are always friends at the finish line.

Official Results:
Time: 8:23:29
Pace: 19:13
Overall: 207/258
Gender: 81/112
Division (OPEN F): 37/50

Watch Results:
Time: 8:23:28
Pace: 17:10/mi
Distance: 29.31 mi (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha)
Heart Rate: 131 bpm (my HRM only intermittently worked)
Obviously I had some technical difficulties.

A: 8:30
B: 9:00
C: 9:59:59

What I ate the night before: Goldfish crackers, chunks of bread & Nutella, 2 cookies, Triscuits
What I ate on race morning: a Clif bar at the marathon start
What I carried with me: 3 Clif bars, 10 Gu packets, Powerade

What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap
Gadgets: GPS watch, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker

Discussion: I feel amazing right now, even hours after I finished running. I’m writing this at 10 pm, just after the race officially ended. I know this because I could hear the finish line from my room, and listened to the awards ceremony and the names of the runners as they crossed the finish line. I would have joined to help out but I feel pretty drained and even going down to get my post-race chili after cleaning up felt difficult.

I arrived Friday afternoon feeling pretty out of it. I thought I was sick but I am pretty sure it was just adrenaline. I helped hand out race t-shirts to marathoners and 50 milers, and then helped pack things up for the race morning check in. I hung out in my room and hoped to relax, but my heart race was still elevated and I don’t think I fell asleep until 1 am or so. But I slept until about 5:30, so at least I slept!

I got on the bus to the race start and hoped I wouldn’t get motion sickness. I don’t get bad motion sickness but just feel a little off/slightly nauseated. I hadn’t eaten anything at that point and had only had a little bit of Powerade so I was behind on nutrition from the start. I ate my Clif bar once I got there and didn’t warm up because I didn’t feel like it. I was wearing a lightweight rain jacket because I wasn’t sure about the weather (it rained while I was getting ready and had rained overnight, poor 100 milers!) but I took it off once off the bus since it wasn’t too cold. It folds up and zips into its own pocket and weighs like 1 lb so I just stuffed it in my hydration pack. I opted not to use drop bags or send a bag of clothes back from the start, just to simplify things. My friend Matt, a Ham radio volunteer, was at the start and I was able to talk to him until the pre-race briefing started.

One of the key elements in my pacing strategy was a little pace sheet I printed out, giving me times I needed to reach each aid station in order to reach my time goals. This is the only reliable way to stay on pace, since GPS is always a little off, and in this case, 3 miles off. However, I was unaware that the start had a funky little turnaround before we went through the aid station that is listed as the marathon start.The turnaround adds 0.8 miles, which was significant enough to affect my pace plans. [Update 9/15: it doesn’t add 0.8 miles, I read the map wrong; it is included in the 26.2.]

Cramer Rd – Temperance River AS: 7.9 mi, 2:34:05, 19:30 pace (segments ended when I left the aid station)
I didn’t start in last place like I usually do, and ended up falling in between two grand masters runners with tons of experience. We reached the first turn, then saw there was a traffic jam where the singletrack began. No one was able to run very much at the beginning, so we settled in for awhile. I ran with a small group of people for the first few miles, enjoying the runnable sections along the Cross River especially. I tripped while crossing one of the creeks, didn’t lift my foot up high enough to step onto the bridge. Once I started the climb that precedes the descent into Temperance, I separated a bit and ran by myself. I had heartburn so I was glad to be alone to just feel crappy. I ate a gel at miles 3 and 6. Nothing else eventful happened, I guess, or maybe I just forgot. How do people write such detailed race reports? I think I also ate a Jolly Rancher and maybe a wintergreen LifeSaver. I rolled into the aid station, ate some potato chips, and left, forgetting that I’d wanted to throw away some garbage and also drink some pop. Oops.
(I am not sure how the 0.8 mi fits into this, so I am going off just the distances given on the aid station charts. I don’t know if the 0.8 mi addition to the start makes the total distance 26.2 or 27 mi, but since it’s billed as a marathon, I’m going off that pacing.) Update 9/15: the total distance is 26.2. It’s 7.9 miles from the start/Cramer Rd to Temperance for marathoners, and 7.1 miles from Cramer Rd to Temperance for 50 and 100 mile runners.

Temperance River AS to Sawbill AS: 5.7 mi, 1:44:32, 18:21 pace
Out of Temperance, I trotted along for awhile, reapplying sunscreen and trying to wash down the chips. I ate part of a Clif bar before the Carlton Peak ascent began (I was also passed by the 50 mile winner just before the ascent!). I suffered through that as best as I could. There was a race photographer near the top, so that was marvelous. We’ll see how the picture turned out, I was beet red, I’m fairly certain. I think I have a bit of a sunburn but we’ll see tomorrow. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and actually passed a few people on the climb. It’s pretty tough, and there are big boulders at the top (which is not actually the summit, thank goodness). I was able to run a bit after getting off Carlton, and rolled into the Sawbill aid station. I remembered to throw my trash away, filled my 1/4 full Powerade bottle with water (the sports drink there was Heed, and I’ve never tried it, so I didn’t want to risk it), slammed a cup of Coke and a cup of ginger ale, ate some more potato chips, and left.

Sawbill AS to Oberg AS: 5.5 mi, 1:49:01, 18:49 pace
I slowed a bit during this section for some unknown reason. I guess just generally losing energy. This is also where my GPS went crazy, telling me I was running 9 or 10 minute paces at time. I realized it was completely useless and tried to just focus on running well. I fell in with a 100 mile runner and his pacer; they let me lead up a hill, then passed me, then I passed them when the runner stopped to pee, then I led up a hill, they passed me, I passed them during another pee break, and then that was it. The runner finished a bit behind me and I congratulated him at the finish line after his crew/family did, and we hugged. This section felt really long, especially for only being 5.5 miles. Nothing was really that hard, except for a few switchback sections. I tripped and fell in some mud and scraped up my leg a bit, but was otherwise ok. I tripped another time about a mile later. I was starting to feel like Grandpa Simpson with his frequent trips to the ground. I stopped to pee at some point along the trail, then caught up to some others and ran with one woman til we reached the aid station. It was quite a bit further from the Onion River than I remembered, and I found that sort of annoying. The Oberg aid station was AMAZING, though. Concierge service. I had my water bottle refilled, was led to the food, and even had someone take the trash right out of my hydration vest pocket. I mean… wow. That’s how I will acquit myself on every aid station volunteering stint from here on out. I had more chips and more Coke and ginger ale, and then left.

Oberg AS to Finish: 7.1 mi, 2:15:56, 19:08 pace
I thought as I left Oberg that I still had a chance to run under 8 hours. Hahahaha. Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain said no. I was running slower even before then. I chowed down on a gel before climbing Moose Mountain, and then just put one foot in front of the other and hauled myself up.

And was met at the top by one of the race’s social media contributors!

Mystery. Enough said. #superiortrailraces #superior2016 #moosemountainmarathon

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I look like a Sith lord, which is good. He actually took a video but I swore on it (He asked how I felt and I said “I feel great, I’m done with this sh*t!”) and our conversation wasn’t that funny (he reminded me Mystery Mountain was still to come, I said I knew but I just was happy to be done with Moose Mountain, it was confusing).

I recovered and was able to run some on the top of Moose Mountain, and then slowed for the steep descent. I had another gel right before Mystery Mountain, popped in a LifeSaver, and then dug in for the switchbacks. I had hardly seen any other runners, just one 100er/pacer, and enjoyed being able to handle both tough ascents alone. Once I got to the top of Mystery Mountain, I was… giddy. Like, grinning and laughing to myself like a goon. I was ecstatic to be done with the climbs, and I could smell the barn!

It was at this point I realized that I needed to move my butt or I wasn’t going to make it ahead of my goal. I didn’t know how far I had left to go and I knew I was going to have to hustle. I was passed by a volunteer running by, who told me that I had 2 miles to go; I was thinking I had less, so that was a kick in the crotch. I passed a marathoner who was ambling along, not sure if he was bonking or just didn’t feel like running. A 50 mile runner passed me and we had a little chat as he flew by (he was the 5th and last to pass me; no marathoners passed me after I took my bathroom break), and I tried to keep my pace up. I ate the little bit of the gel remaining from Mystery Mountain and that was it, even though I was actually hungry. I knew I could eat at the finish.

I can’t say I really hammered it once I reached the road, but I did kick it up a notch. I didn’t like losing the shade of the trail, since the sun was still fairly strong, but I didn’t care too much since I was almost done. Once I turned off the road to come around the back side of the resort, I was grinning, and I ran through the chute smiling. There were a lot of nice people cheering and some women gave me high fives as I crossed the finish line, got my finisher’s medal, hugged the finish line coordinator, and accepted some glorious lemonade from the race director.

I went back to my room, cleaned all the mud off, changed my clothes, and then goofed around in my hotel room for a little while before I mustered the strength to go down to get the post-race chili (and some kind of quinoa salad), then brought it back to my room to eat, since I was feeling kinda… dazed, I guess. I drank some pop, ate some goldfish crackers, watched some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, read, and listened to the sounds of the race.

I loved the race, loved the atmosphere, the other runners, the volunteers, the race staff, everything. The Minnesota/Wisconsin trail running community is so inclusive; fast or slow, everyone genuinely encourages each other and looks out for one another. We are here to have fun, to enjoy the beautiful trails, and to test our own limits.

And speaking of testing limits, I signed up for the Wild Duluth 50K.

Moose Mountain Marathon Goals

I am tired. Less than 12 hours from now, I’ll be at the starting line for the Moose Mountain Marathon. I hope. I guess after what happened with Curnow I am convinced that even at this late hour something can go wrong. Especially since I felt crappy all afternoon. I had too much caffeine and not enough food, or something, and my heart rate’s been high. I spent a few hours volunteering at race check-in, handing out race t-shirts and answering questions and basically pretending this race isn’t going to happen, that it’s still at some far-off time in the future.

Denial ends tomorrow, I guess. Let’s just hope I can sleep.

A Standard: 8:30:00
B Standard: 9:00:00
C Standard: 9:59:59

Same goals as Curnow. Based on my training runs, 10 hours is probably too conservative; I am not sure what would have to happen in order to be out there that long, but anything can happen. My left hamstring is tight and I’ve been off my feet since Monday trying to rest it. Maybe it’ll snap or something. Knock wood.

The usual non-pace-related goals apply: I don’t want to puke, become incontinent, pass out, or otherwise have a medical emergency. I want to avoid poison ivy and hypothermia. I don’t want to get swept. I want to pull myself out of tough mental or physical stretches of the race. I want to keep moving. That’s the mantra. Keep. Moving.

I’ve still got to lay out my race clothes and pack up my hydration pack. There’s an opportunity for drop bags, but I decided to simplify things and skip them. I’m going to carry most of what I need, and scavenge the aid stations for the rest. Then I’m going to crawl into bed and try to fall asleep early. Hahahaha.

Oh man, I just want to get through this race happy and healthy. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 5

A taper of sorts.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5.3 mi, trail (Lakewalk), 132 bpm
Wednesday: 6.7 mi, road, 131 bpm
Thursday: 7.3 mi (4 x 1 mi), paved trail (Munger), 147 bpm
Friday: rest
Saturday: 6.2 mi, trail (SHT @ Becks Rd), 144 bpm
Sunday: 9 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk), 144 bpm
Total: 34.6 mi

Winter is coming. It’s depressing to think about, and the weather is still nice so it’s easy to forget, but it’s looming. The days are shortening, and I’m starting to realize I can’t lollygag around home and still get in a workout before dark. Twice this week I was caught out at dusk with no headlamp and no reflective vest.

Monday I took a rest day because my hips were hurting. I wasn’t especially concerned because both sides hurt and it felt more like muscular soreness than a real injury, but I did not want to take any chances. I don’t really like to take Mondays as rest days, since it means I don’t have flexibility later in the week, but sometimes it’s necessary. I felt much better on Tuesday so clearly it was worth it.

Tuesday & Wednesday: boring runs of no interest.

Thursday I ran 4×1 mile on the Munger Trail and it was hard. My hamstrings did not like it. I felt for awhile like they were on the verge of snapping, like violin strings, when one slight turn of the peg would be too much.
My repeats were:
9:20 @ 175 bpm, 9:30 @ 176 bpm, 9:34 @ 175 bpm, 9:40 @ 173 bpm
I had to slow a bit on the 3rd repeat because I thought I was going to barf up my energy bar, and on the 4th repeat I guess I just got gassed. Strava says I set a mile PR. Hooray I guess.

Friday I had planned to run and didn’t and that was fine. Saturday I did a trail run and bonked like 3 miles in, thanks to some bad timing. I had a gel and felt better but it was still not the best run.

Sunday I ran the Lakewalk from Brighton Beach to Canal Park, which was one of my goals for the season. I didn’t really want to run 14 miles, so I wasn’t sure what to do, then had an epiphany, I could ask my husband to pick me up at the Rose Garden and drive me back to my car. I try hard not to ask him to do stuff like that too often, but the Rose Garden is fairly close to my house (not close enough to run! and all uphill), so it wasn’t a huge burden for him. The Rose Garden/Leif Erikson park is a Pokestop, which meant it was crawling with people not paying attention. Canal Park was also teeming with tourists. I should have known this, and attempted the run anyway, so it’s my own fault.

I managed to do yoga or some other quick strength training almost every day this past week, so I am going to pat myself on the back. I guess the hip soreness scared me into getting my stretches in. Now it’s time to take it easy with a lot of gentle running leading up to the race on Saturday.

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 4

My last big week before the race!

Monday: 6.2 mi, trail (Western Waterfront trail), 134 bpm
Tuesday: 5.4 mi, trail (SHT starting @ Magney), 151 bpm
Wednesday: rest (yoga)
Thursday: 7.3 mi (8 x 0.5 mi), paved trail (Munger), 143 bpm
Friday: 5.7 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk), 126 bpm
Saturday: 14.4 mi, trail (SHT @ Lutsen), 144 bpm
Sunday: 5.5 mi, paved trail (Bong Bridge), 130 bpm
Total: 44.4 mi

Last week was an eventful week. Monday, I found a new trail, the Western Waterfront trail. It is accessible from the Munger trail near the Munger Inn. It’s not a really long trail, but I wasn’t able to traverse the entire trail due to construction. This gravel trail follows the St. Louis River in west Duluth, with nice views and very little traffic, at least when I was on it. I will have to give the entire trail a shot some time, once I’m confident the construction work has passed by.

Tuesday, in addition to running, I did some trail work on the Superior Hiking Trail. I was able to sign up through an event at my work, so I can’t really call it volunteering, as I got paid. We assisted with a trail re-route near Keene Creek, including moving a small footbridge (the one that crosses the creek right before the trail goes under the freeway). I got to meet Larry, who is responsible for trail maintenance on the Duluth sections of the SHT, and give him a big thank you for the great trail conditions. I used a glorified rake called a MacLeod (?) to do final grading of a section of the trail, and removed roots and weeds from the trail. I was planning on running right after we completed the work, but it was 88F so I went and got an iced latte and cooled down for awhile before running in the late afternoon instead.

Thursday’s speed workout left me with horribly tight hamstrings both Friday and Saturday. Each day, it took a couple miles to loosen them up. Friday I went running on the Lakewalk and saw a bear. That was exciting. There was a chain link fence between the bear and me, but the fence wasn’t actually containing the bear. S/he was just chowing down near Tischer Creek. At first I thought it was a large dog, then backtracked realizing, no, that’s not a dog.

bear jamboroo

It’s a freaking Country Bear Jamboroo on the Lakewalk.

I’ve spent hours and hours running alone in the wilderness but I see a bear on a well-traveled paved trail in the city. Of course.

Saturday I trekked back up to Lutsen to finish my recon of the marathon course. All I had left to do was the Oberg to finish section, which I’ve already done as it is the Superior 25K course. And oh yeah, it sucked last time. I found it challenging this time around, but not nearly as difficult as I did back in May. I was able to scale Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain without stopping (though Moose Mountain was still incredibly tough), although I know when I’ve got 20+ miles on my legs, it’s going to be a lot harder. I can attribute my improved ability on the course to a couple of factors: 1. Improved fitness (I think) 2. Better weather (cooler in August than in May, that is odd) 3. Managed expectations (I knew that Mystery Mountain would go on forever, so I was mentally prepared). The first few miles of the run were tough due to my tight hamstrings. I had to pick around a lot of rocks and roots and didn’t have the maneuverability I’d have like. I had to stop a couple of times to practice my latrine-digging skills, so that was a bit annoying, but that was only due to poor planning/timing, not stomach issues. I encountered a group of ladies hiking on the trail, hearing them before I saw them as one was wearing bells to scare off wildlife (I assume). Jokes on you, lady: all the bears are in Duluth.

Sunday my hips hurt, so I didn’t push too hard on my recovery run. I ran across the Bong Bridge from Duluth to Superior (and then back again), which was cool, but not as cool as I’d have liked.

A bridge from a bridge. #conservationofmomentum

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It is a short run; the bridge is probably less than 2 miles across. I thought at some point the view would be breathtaking, but I never quite got my socks knocked off. I don’t plan to run this route often, but I wanted to give it a try at least once.

This was probably one of the most interesting training weeks I’ve had, with something notable happening every single day (new trail, wildlife encounters, trail work). I am pleased I’ve been enjoying running again lately; it means the break I took in July to get my head straight was worth the time off training. Never dismiss the power of a mental health break.