Training with a Purpose

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Khakis, beer shirt, jingling keys in his pocket, and a huge smile!

It’s official; Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon training season is in full swing! This is my 7th year as an ambassador, and I am doing something different that makes me so incredibly proud. This year’s training cycle won’t be about me because instead of training myself for the big day, I’m going to be training my dad, Steve, to run his first half marathon!!!!!!! YES, my dad, the guy who formerly ran in khaki shorts, is signed up to run the RACM half. Actually, he did one better than that; he signed up for the 8K and half Challenge Series!!!!! This runner’s heart is bursting at the seams.

Dad first mentioned something about taking the distance plunge about 2 months ago when I was talking about the race. For the past few years, he’s run the Saturday race with me, but he never really trained. After last year’s race, he really started to get into running more, was heading out the door on his own and increasing his speed and mileage. Now, he talks about his “Nike Run Club” and rocks a Garmin. As you can imagine, I effing love it. He asked about my plan for May. I said I wanted marathon redemption but couldn’t pass up the Challenge Series, so my plan was the 8K and full. He said he wanted to participate in the Challenge Series also by running the 8K and 10K, but the only problem, as I explained to him, was they didn’t offer that option. “Well, I will just run the half.” I think my eyes about popped out of my head. This guy was serious! I told him if he wanted to make that commitment, there was no way I was running the full and missing out of this (possibly) once-in-a-lifetime experience. I just had to cross that finish line with my dad. Less than a week ago, I sat down at the computer, completed my dad’s 8K and half Challenge Series registration, and smiled while a tear rolled down my face. WE ARE DOING THIS! (which is also my little motto for life at this particular moment)

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One of my biggest running supporters is now my half marathon training partner!

As a start to our training season, Dad, Cael, and I attended the RACM Kick-Off Run at Fleet Feet in Pepper Pike this weekend. It was cold, but we had a great time. The Kick-Off runs always breathe new life into my running, and this year was no exception. Dad’s getting a membership to the new Planet Fitness in Painesville, and I plan to go out there on weekend the kids are with their dad to help him train. Once it warms up a bit, you’ll see us hitting the streets of Painesville and the bike path, one of my personal fave places to run in my hometown. We’re going to work on a training plan, which will undoubtedly include rewards with a cold beverage, because we intend to work hard and celebrate the efforts. Enjoying the journey will be our theme. I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds, and I am looking forward to sharing our training with you.

If you’re sitting here reading this and feel inspired, I encourage you to give running a try if you aren’t already a runner, and if you are, push yourself to go a little farther, a little faster. Sign up for the damn race that scares you. Add an extra speed session to your current training. Get outside and walk the neighborhood. Whatever it is and whatever your fitness level, just do something. Your body and mind will thank you. If you want to run CLE with Dad and me, sign up now before the next price increase and save 10% using the code SL2019. We hope to see you there!

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Best wishes!

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Off and Running

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Happy New Year, my fabulous readers! Gonna let you in on a little secret. Today is January 7, and it is my first workout of the year. Yes, you read that correctly. First one and it was only 2 quick miles with an even quicker lifting session. Do I feel guilty? Hell to the no, not in the slightest.

If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple; other priorities took precedence over training. I spent the time between Christmas and now doing things that fed my soul and filled my bucket. I enjoyed a (mostly) stress-free Christmas at home with my kids soaking in their joy when they unwrapped much-wanted gifts and cooking a good meal. I spent time with the people I love most of all – my family. I ate and drank with reckless abandon because it was the holidays, dammit, and I wanted to indulge. I smiled and laughed and cried and felt something I have not for quite some time – true happiness. I got my personal life in check, which felt freaking amazing! Having a plan and something to work towards brings a sense of calming, satisfaction, and clarity. Lastly, I let myself just be in the moment and live instead of worrying about cleaning, work, bills, kids’ activities, workouts, etc., etc., etc. I know I worry too much about things I can’t change.

All of that being said, I am now ready. Ready to commit to a training cycle, to drop some of my unhealthy habits (but if you think I’m giving up on craft beer and cupcakes, you don’t know me well enough), to start 2019 with a clear head and newfound sense of focus and purpose. This is my 7th year as an ambassador for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and there is something big in the works to commemorate the occasion. I don’t want to share the news until I am 100% certain it’s a go, but thinking about it makes my heart so damn happy it could burst in the best way possible. How’s that for a teaser?!

I know some of you who read this blog are die-hard workout folks, but there’s a portion who work out when they can or just don’t know where to start. If you fall into the latter category, I challenge you to set a goal for yourself and make 2019 the year you accomplish it. In a way, I am starting back right along with you. I’ve had progress only to experience setbacks not only in my physical activity but motivation levels and mental health. However, I am confident this is my year! I hope you can say the same.

Best wishes!!!!

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P.S. Signing up for a race is a great way to motivate yourself and stay accountable, just sayin’. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon features multiple races for any fitness level. There are 8K, 5K, 1 mile races on Saturday, May 18, as well as the Kids’ Run. On Sunday, May 19, you can choose from the marathon, half marathon, or 10K. If you’re up for a challenge, register for one of the Challenge Series events, which has you completing a race on both Saturday and Sunday. Prices increase on January 10, so sign up today and save money. Speaking of saving money, as an ambassador, I am given a code to share to help you save even more! Use the code SL2019 when registering for 10% off your registration.

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A Little (Running) Perspective in 2018

Well…it’s been a hot minute since I last put pen to paper…eh, I mean fingers to keyboard. I have no good excuse for this except being caught up in the day-to-day and not realizing how much time had passed since I last wrote. It’s not necessarily for a lack of desire. There were plenty of times I pulled out my laptop, settled into my comfy recliner with legs propped, and started to let my thoughts flow only to have them interrupted by children bickering, phone calls, mom duties, a needy dog, etc., etc., etc. I sit here now on my lunch break typing in between bites of caramel and cheese popcorn, mixed together of course because it’s most delicious that way.

If you want the quick and dirty rundown of what’s be happening in our life these past few months, here it goes: junior high cheerleading and football games, fall baseball practices and games, school activities, spring baseball planning and fundraisers, travel basketball practices and games, youth basketball cheerleading practice (with me coaching), normal grind of work, holidays, rehabbing a knee injury, trying to take care of my mental health, and somehow finding time to train in between the craziness. I feel like I have been in a perpetual state of exhaustion with no signs of slowing, like I am always behind and trying to play catch up to no avail.

This year’s running echoes that feeling. Just when I got ahead, BAM! shit went down. At the end of 2017, I was running the best races of my freaking life – 5Ks in the lower 7:00/mile range, sub-8:00 pace half marathons. The broken back in late November 2017 had me down until mid-January, and I was basically starting from scratch. I worked my way to a half in Cleveland in May, which made me feel very proud but a little defeated since it was supposed to be my 7th marathon, and I ran my second fastest and second sub-8:00 half in June in Seattle. I started feeling as though I was back. Then, I got lazy or busy or stressed or all of the above. The weight I dropped from the damn C. diff and stress at the beginning of the year piled on plus more. I wasn’t training like I needed for my ultra, and that thought brought about more stress. I somehow wrangled my hot mess self together and ran what I felt was a great race during the Bluff Your Way Endurance Run, except for the knee injury I sustained after which kept my mileage pretty much nonexistent until November. I felt like I was starting over for the second time this year, and it kinda crushed me. I even went through a little phase were I thought about quitting because what was the point anymore? But quitting is a bitch move, pardon my language, and I don’t like to quit.

Okay, whiny part over. When I look back at 2018, it’s so easy to pick out the awful parts and focus on them, but this is where the (running) perspective comes in. I need to give myself a little grace, which is a statement I have told many friends this year. After thinking about it, I kinda kicked ass in 2018, and here’s why.

One – I broke my damn back in November 2017 and was back to running about 7 weeks later. I was so effing lucky!!!! Not only was I able to return to my favorite sport and form of stress relief, but I was able to do it without any pain or lasting impacts. It’s almost like the compression fracture never happened.

Two – I was not only able to run after breaking my back; I ran a pretty respectable half marathon 4 months after being cleared to resume physical activity. The Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon was my return to racing, and I finished with a pace in the 8:20s. Hard work paid off.

Three – running and exercise pulled me out of the worst mental state I had ever experienced. From the end of February through about late March, I didn’t do much besides sit on my couch, watch Netflix, and drink too much. I was not only physically sick but mentally sick. I started forcing myself to go to the gym, coaxing myself by saying if I just ran three miles, I could retreat to my home. You know what? I started feeling better and rediscovered my love of running and working out.

Four – I RAN 51 MILES AT ONE TIME! I sometimes forget how impressive this is until I talk about it with other people, and they look at me like I am both a lunatic and the most basdass human they have ever met (props to those who run even farther than this!!!!). When I did the Bluff Your Way Endurance Run, my plan was simple – run the whole time. I did just that albeit short, to-be-expected breaks. I stopped my watch when I needed to use the bathroom, change clothes and shoes, high-five and hug my family, and grab any needed supplies along the way. The difference between my chip time and watch time was only about 30 minutes over the span of nearly 10 hours. For that, I am extremely proud.

Five – Something I almost forgot – I was first overall female in a 5K in May! I did it once before at a race in August 2017 in Chardon. Breaking that tape was an amazing feeling! Although there wasn’t a tape to break at this race, it felt even sweeter because I was faster and the kids were with me.

Six – I was invited back as an ambassador for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I LOVE the race and its staff. 2019 will be my 7th year as an ambassador, and the staff are more like family, as are some of the other ambassadors who have been on this journey with me for more than a few trips around the sun. In addition to it being my 7th year, CLE will also be my 7th marathon. Double sevens have to be lucky, right?!

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If you want to run CLE and save some money, use the code SL2019 for 10% any of the races, including the Challenge Series!

There are only about two weeks left of 2018. As relieved as I will be to see this year go, I am thankful for the experiences that made me stronger, the friendships I’ve gained, and the knowledge I have earned (some of it the hard way). I know time is what you make of it, and I plan to spend my time in 2019 ridiculously happy.

Love,

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Bluff Your Way Endurance Run Recap

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Hi, friends! Long time, no blog. Anyone else feel as though they blinked and summer was over? Yeah, I thought so. For my fam, summer was filled with vacations (both the kids and I had summer adventures), baseball…lots of it, family time, and running. Here’s a quick catch-up.

So…running and racing. I was a little quiet on this subject over the summer because I was attempting something so incredibly daunting to me that I was scared to put it out there for fear of failing. I dipped my toes into the ultramarathon scene last year when I completed the Green Jewel 50K. It was such a rewarding experience, but I wanted to push myself further. When I heard about Lake Health Running Series’ Bluff Your Way endurance run, I knew I had to sign up! The premise of this race was complete as many 1.5 mile laps through the Lake Erie Bluffs as possible in 12 hours. I was drawn to this for a few reasons – 1) I could crew the whole thing myself, 2) it wasn’t trails because I can’t hang with those, 3) it was close to my parents’ so I could rely on them to drive me to and from, and 4) it would give me a chance to run another ultra. I will admit my training over the summer was average at best. I had no good reason for it except for the fact I was lazy and having a little too much fun instead of putting that time into training. However, I did buckle down for the last month and a half or so to be able to give it a fair shot. My goal for the race was to complete 50 miles, which would be about 20 more than my farthest distance ever. With 1.5 mile laps, that meant I had to run 34 of them, putting me at 51 miles. Piece of cake, right?!

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On Sunday, September 23, my dad drove me to the run, and we were both taken aback by the darkness. I mean, aside from the headlamps and giant glow sticks lining the course, it was pitch black. However, the stars were beautiful overhead. We dropped off my bin o’ running stuff and had a little while to chill before it was time to start. While I was waiting to start, I saw my friend Tim from Team RIOT, and it calmed my nerves to see a familiar face. I also was introduced to another Team RIOT member, Emily, who showed me quite possibly the best running hack to date – wearing your headlamp around your waist! At a few minutes after 6:00AM, the run started, and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the miles ahead.

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The start of the run was cool and crisp, a far cry from the heat and humidity that still lingered in northeast Ohio.  With each lap, the sun rose across the horizon and filled the sky. These early laps were slow and consistent, just the way I planned. Aside from a bathroom stop after the second lap, I kept moving for the first 2.5 hours until I stopped at my bin to ditch the long sleeves. Around mile 20, my sister Sarah and niece Sophia stopped up to say hi and watch a few laps. I was still feeling very strong and focused.

It wasn’t long before I had more company. My mom and dad came around mile 30. By this time, it was full sunshine, which meant I decided to say hell with any body image issues and run in my Oiselle crop (ZFG). I also made the decision to switch shoes and put in music at this time. I swear that was like a shot of adrenaline to my body! I had to keep checking my pace because I was ready to fly.

Everything was going perfectly until about mile 40. Up to this point, I had no issues with fatigue, cramping, or injury, but I started feeling pain on the outside of my left knee. By the time I finished that lap, running was not possible, and I slowed completely to a walk. It was incredibly painful! There was no way I could quit now, but I needed some help. That’s when I saw my sister and felt a sense of hope. She was kind enough to run to the store to get me a knee brace while I walked a lap. By the time I made it around, she was back. I slipped that thing on, hoped for the best, and started off with a slow run. Although the brace didn’t alleviate all of the pain, it made it so I could finish. Thanks, Sare! I couldn’t have done this without you.

By this time, quite a few runners had already called it a day, so the course was sparse. With getting close to my mileage goal, I began to get anxious and tried to keep my mind busy. Only a few more laps to go!

My family was there to cheer me on at the end. At the start of my final lap, I threw up a number 1 and said, “Let’s do this shit!” I headed down the path I had already taken 33 times before and reflected on the experience. Physically, this was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I felt very strong and empowered. I rank this harder than all of my labors and deliveries. Even without drugs, those were a piece of cake. I was thankful for my family who showed up to support me. They think my running is crazy and borderline dangerous (I hear you, Dad!), but nonetheless, they were there cheering me on lap after lap. I thought of my kids and how proud I wanted them to be of me. I wanted them to see me train hard for a goal and put that hard work into action. I was setting the example that we in our household can do hard things, and I especially wanted my daughters to see their mother in a role that requires mental and physical strength. I made sure I ran that entire lap and took in every single ounce of pain and pride.

The path opened up to the parking lot, and I saw everyone waiting for me. It was at this point I began to get emotional. I had just accomplished something huge and terrifying, and aside from the knee, I felt great! I sprinted (or at least it felt like sprinting in my mind) to the finish, threw my hands up in victory, and sobbed huge, ugly tears as I hugged my parents. And that was that – 51 miles in 9:58:28.

Had the knee not taken a crap at mile 40, I knew I had the stamina to go another 2 hours, but bowing out at this point was a smart move to avoid any additional injury. I had nothing else to prove; my goal of running at least 50 miles had been met. Then it was time to celebrate!

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It’s been just about three weeks since that run. While I am still riding the ultramarathon high, I am disappointed my knee is still giving me issues. I haven’t really been able to run since, and IT. IS. KILLING. ME. This run lit the fire under my ass to train hard because I am still in search of marathon redemption in Cleveland in 2019. While my original goal has been altered a little, the premise still remains – PR the eff out of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and have a ton of fun doing it! See you in May!

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Sorry not sorry

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Something I noticed about myself is I tend to apologize…a lot…for things that are not even my fault, do not warrant an apology, or are out of my control. I guess this partly comes from growing up where girls are supposed to be courteous, forgiving, accommodating, and apologetic, and it’s also just part of who I am. I usually can’t hold a conversation without apologizing for something, which is pretty effed. I mean, I’m a 37-year-old lady who (kinda) has her stuff together and takes care of herself, her kids, and a job. Why am I apologizing for ridiculous shit?

One of the many steps I’m taking to become a better version of me is not apologizing for so many things, especially if it’s something I personally like about myself that someone else might think is flawed. In honor of that, here’s a list of things for which I am not sorry.

  • Ridiculously loud and sometimes obnoxious cheering, clapping, and laughing
  • Wearing red lipstick with red hair
  • Rockin’ a sports bra to run in the summer heat
  • Putting my kids to bed early so I have time to myself
  • Enjoying the hell out of some craft beer
  • Running-related posts and selfies on social media
  • Not being a “Pinterest mom” or a “PTA mom” or a “playdate mom” or a mom who wants to hang out with other moms
  • Being awkward around strangers and hating anything that has to do with networking
  • My desire to get Botox
  • Adding to my tattoo collection even though it might not be deemed “professional”
  • Swearing…a lot
  • Running late and not wearing makeup to work
  • Having a dirty car
  • Cooking the same dinners because I know my kids will eat them
  • Wearing cutoffs practically all summer because my love for them never dies
  • Inability to keep plants alive and not having flowers in my yard
  • Being myself because it took 37 freaking years to get to this point

I’m alright

I’ve thought about writing this post for a while now but couldn’t quite make the words in my head flow onto the paper. However, I’m in a position in life now where perfection is just a silly game where the pieces pop up when you run out of time; it’s no longer a lifestyle for which I strive. I’m not perfect. This post won’t be perfect. That’s okay because I would rather it be truthful and honest than sound like a literary masterpiece.

I think for the first time in thirty-seven years, I kinda like myself. I wouldn’t save love, although that is the ultimate goal, but being able to say I like the person I am is a monumental victory. I’ve spent years in a self-loathing cycle, only happy when I felt valued by others or when my worth was affirmed by someone. Let’s just say it how it is (and excuse the language) – that shit is fucking exhausting! It’s also no way to live. You can’t live your best life when you are worried about what others think. Not anymore. This life is mine to live the way I want in a manner that makes me happy.

Even as a little kid, I looked for validation from others to feel good about myself, to feel worthy. I remember being in first grade wearing a fancy dress and happily twirling for the teachers when they told me how cute I looked. I remember the sense of pride I felt when someone told me I was smart for getting straight As in school. Looking back, that’s so stupid. Anyone who gets straight As at least kinda has her shit together and some brain cells. And don’t even get me started on when someone would tell me I was pretty or he liked me! Me, pretty?! Wow, best compliment ever, considering I always considered myself an semi-cute child and ugly adolescent. Hearing the praise made me feel like I was something. Compliments would build me up, but just as quickly, negative sayings would instantly tear me down. I would ruminate on them in a bubble of toxicity, hating the person I was and thinking if I could be different or better or anything not remotely me, people would like me more. One of the most painful memories comes to mind. I still feel the sting of an entire lunch table of “friends” in sixth grade making fun of me, rubbing their hands across the table to compare it to my flat chest. That affirmed my hatred for myself and my body.

I was thankful to grow up where I was loved just the way I was, but I don’t think some people realized the impact of their words and the impressions they would leave. Of course, these were not words directed at me but at themselves. Negative self-talk was not out of the ordinary, and even though I was not the subject, I could see some of the same traits in myself that were the cause of that negativity. I began to think if these traits are so bad in another person, they are equally as bad in me. Couple that with the fact I was a perfectionist, and it’s a recipe for self-hate. Why do I have to have this stringy, thin hair? I wish my thighs weren’t so big. Why was I cursed with shoulders that look like a triangle because you know you can’t wear strapless dresses with those? Why do you have to be so damn awkward around people you don’t know?! Why are you just so…Stephanie?

When most people would look at me and speak with me, they wouldn’t see the issues I tried so desperately to hide. They would comment on how great it was that I had my shit together, that I was a super mom and could do anything and everything, that I managed to run a house with four kids and stay in shape. As some people would say, my life was perfect (GAG!!!!) Apparently, I put on a good show, but the truth was far from that. I wasn’t confident, instead constantly second-guessing, and, most of the time, I felt I was failing at work, motherhood, life in general. I went through two prior stints in counseling to work on this, and, although it helped for a while, once I stopped going, the insecurities and negative thoughts came rushing back. I think this is because I tried to put a Band-Aid on the problem instead of actually fixing it.

When did the change occur? It took me getting to one of the lowest points in my life to decide I wanted things to be different. Not just different for the time being but different from this point forward. That was late this winter. I’ll save you the sob story of events that led me to where I am right now, but know I had way too much on my plate before one crushing blow broke me. In actuality, I wasn’t broken, just a little bent and bruised. Looking back, that last instance was the best thing that could have happened because I would not be where I am without it. I wallowed in misery and sadness, hating myself and wondering why I wasn’t good enough. I was alone, and I didn’t know how to be alone. I don’t remember the exact day, but after processing and working through my emotions and asking questions of myself, some of which I didn’t really want to answer, a switch flipped. Life is too short to hate myself. I possess a lot of qualities that are admirable, and for the qualities that aren’t, I can work on those. I inherently am enough and worthy of happiness. The only validation I need is my own. Happiness comes from within, not from the words of a boyfriend, co-worker, friend, or random stranger. I’m still a work in progress, but the fact I am still making progress brings contentment.

The purpose of this post is the share my journey with the hope that it will inspire some of my family, friends, and readers. I have three friends in particular who I feel are struggling with some of the same issues, and I hope they know I am there for them (shout-out to ya, M, N, and S!). There is a different path, one that will make you feel as though the weight has been lifted off and you’re finally living, and it’s a great feeling. My only regret is that it took so long, but I suppose change can only come when you are ready and willing. ZFG 🙂

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Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Weekend Recap

 

Best. Marathon. Weekend. Ever! That’s the super short recap of my 2018 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Weekend, which is basically my Christmas. I wait for it all year, and now that it’s over, I’m bummed and already dreaming of next year. This is going to be a long post, so if you’re planning to read it all, get comfy.

For the past 6 years, my Marathon Weekend kicked off on Friday. I take the day off work and spend it enjoying the Expo and VIP Reception. This year, I did something a little different and worked the Information Booth, which was intimidating for me because talking with strangers stresses me out (hello, introvert here!). I have to admit it was much more fun that I envisioned and would definitely sign up again next year. Thanks, people, for being super friendly and understanding when I didn’t have all of the answers!

After grabbing race packets, I did a once-around through the Expo, with the plan of spending more time on Saturday after the 8K (more on that later). Every single time I go to the Expo, I always think to myself, “Why didn’t you bring more money?!” Seriously, just take it all. I want everything!

After making my way back to the hotel, it was time to get fancy for the VIP Reception. This year, the other ambassadors and I decided to up our outfit game because why the hell not!? I felt bad for my dad, who was waiting down at the bar, because I took FOREVER, no thanks to my straightener that wanted to crap out in the middle of curling my hair (yes, I actually did my hair and did not wear a side braid). We arrived fashionably late but had time to grab some delicious food and drinks before it was time for the annual ambassador picture. Cheese! My only wish for the night was having more time to visit with the other ambassadors. Sorry, guys, I wasn’t being snooty or trying to ignore you. Dad and I got wrapped up smashing food, or, more specifically, I got wrapped up smashing desserts. Those little strawberry shortcake things were delish!

The night wasn’t over after the VIP Reception. Dad doesn’t get much of a chance to go out, and I definitely wanted to make sure he had a good time. Seriously, the poor guy needed it badly! A group of us went to Flannery’s and made friends with some of the people from the Pittsburg Marathon and Running USA. Shout out to Brian (who my dad kept calling Ryan), who was so friendly and absolutely awesome. After Flannery’s, Dad and I weren’t ready to call it a night, so we stopped at The Butcher and the Brewer for the fabulous Albino Stout, one of my top 5 favorite beers, and Corner Alley. When in CLE…

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Saturday morning came very early. Oh yeah, we were running an 8K! I love that the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon moved the Saturday races to downtown because we were able to walk a few hundred yards to the start line at Public Square. There, we met up with my friends Dan and Cory, who were also planning to run the 8K. Of course, I was also happy to see Andrew and Debbie, who are ambassadors with me. An unexpected surprise was seeing my college friend and ZTA sister, Tisha, and her wonderful daughter when we lined up for the race!

Our race strategy is 1. Have fun and 2. Do a combination of running and walking. I was so proud of my dad because we ran .65 mile before starting to walk, the farthest we’ve gone during this race. Along the course, we saw Melissa and her family. Melissa, another wonderful ambassador friend, is ready to have a baby any freaking second! I loved that she was out there racing!

For me, the race flew by. I loved having this time by myself with my dad to talk and enjoy each other’s company. Living an hour away and with busy schedules, we don’t usually get time together. Dad, I look forward to this every year. And you rocked that race! Way to finish strong!

Afterward, we celebrated our accomplishment at the JACK Casino, followed by lunch at Winking Lizard. It’s a good thing we stopped there because we made friends with Don, who came with his running group from Wisconsin to run CLE! I love that people travel for my hometown race! I sometimes take that for granted because of living so close and always participating.

Saturday came and went with me sleeping for most of it. The week before the race was crazy busy, and we kicked it pretty hard Friday night and Saturday morning and afternoon. I was bummed I didn’t have a chance to hit up the Expo again AND I missed out on my pre-race ritual – food court chicken teriyaki from Tower City. Don’t judge my food choices. At least I had fun watching the Cavs! Then it was time to lay out my flat Steph, start packing up my stuff, and get some sleep, which didn’t happen because CLE was hoppin’ after the Cavs win.

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I was up early Sunday morning to get prepped for the race. I was honestly a little nervous because I knew I wasn’t as well-trained as I had been for past races. Damn broken back and C. diff! I reminded myself this year was all about having fun and enjoying the experience with no time expectations. Walking to the Q, I tried filling my head with all my positive mantras, most importantly, “And though she be but little, she is fierce!” (which is also my newest tattoo).

Seeing the other ambassadors and race staff really got me excited. We are like a little family, and I can’t say how much I have appreciated their motivation and support these past few months. We snapped our annual pre-race pic, and then it was time to line up. This race was happening whether I was ready or not. As I stood shivering in the rain and cold, I again thought to myself how much of an accomplishment it was to even be here lining up.

Then, we were off! The plan was to go out easy for the first mile or so, which is pretty much what you have to do anyway until the crowd thins out. In the past, I would get annoyed with having to run slower and dodge other runners, but this year, I couldn’t care less. I was more worried about dodging puddles because the thought of running a half in soggy shoes sounded less than appealing.

The first few miles were a blur and went by so quickly. I felt great where I wasn’t overexerting myself but still respectable time-wise. I can’t exactly remember the mile, but I met up with my sons’ former wrestling coach, Brian, and chatted it up with him. He was running the same pace as me, so I asked if I could hang. I prefer to train alone, but having someone to race with is always fun for me. The miles clicked by with a steady pace, and I felt incredibly strong. Since this race was all about fun, I high-fived the kids cheering us on along the street, commented to spectators about their awesome signs (the Kluber one was my fave #swoon), drank a Dixie cup of Summer Shandy around mile 9ish, and tried to soak in the entire race experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun along the course and felt no pressure.

Before I knew it, we were at the bridge heading back to the city, and I could hear the spectators cheering at the finish. I kicked it in and crossed the line with the biggest smile and a time of 1:48:53! I did it, my first significant race post-injury and illness! I got a little emotional when Brittany, my friend Andrew’s wife and RACM volunteer extraordinaire, hung the medal around my neck. While this wasn’t a PR for me, it was my third fastest half and my fastest CLE half. Now it was time to celebrate post-race with a well-earned beer and friends!

I was still riding the race weekend high on Monday when my family shared something awesome with me. I had no clue the media was taking pictures after the race, but yours truly was printed in The News Herald and The Morning Journal and in the online photo gallery for the Journal. The look on my face says it all about my entire Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon experience.

As I sit here writing my recap, I’m sad this year’s race is over. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon has my heart. It is and will always be my favorite race. I am already looking forward to next year. I plan on working my ass off during the rest of this year and next, and I will be back in racing shape for the full, my favorite distance.

Before I end this lengthy post, I want to thank Jack Staph, Ralph Staph, Joan Freese, Kayla Henderson, and the rest of the absolutely fabulous people who worked tirelessly to make the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon great. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to promote your race for the past six years. You have become family to me, and I have so much love and respect for you. Ambassador friends – I loved being on this journey with you! I’m happy to have shared this experience with some of you for the past few years and equally as happy to have made some new friendships this year. Family and, specifically, Dad – I know you think all of my running is slightly crazy, but I love your unconditional support. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. And Dad, this half was for you. We have all had a challenging year, and with taking on the Challenge Series, I ran this half in your honor. I hope you are proud. I love you. And I think you are turning into one kick-ass runner!

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Strides for Leadership 5K Recap

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By now, you know that I love to run, but what I love so much more is running with my family! It’s been a while since the kiddles and I completed a race together, but I’m happy to say we did just that on Mother’s Day weekend at the Strides for Leadership 5K in Grafton.

Cole and Cael were on board from the beginning, as they love racing, and I was thankful the girls didn’t protest. Lex used to run with me, but the novelty wore off, especially when the boys started running. Annie minces no words when she says she doesn’t like distance running; however, both seemed excited when I said they didn’t have to run and could walk instead.

We arrived at Indian Hollow Reservation Royal Oaks, a former golf course, and the kids’ energy level was sky high, except for Lex who wanted to rest in the back of the SUV. I’m sure we looked like crazy people with kids playing tag and watch-how-high-I-can-kick-my-leg in the parking lot. I was not amused and told them there would be people from work at this race, so they better not embarrass me!

We grabbed our packets, pinned our race bibs, and chatted it up for a bit with my friend and his daughter who was running her first 5K. Soon it was time to move to the starting line. The boys were chomping at the bit to line up directly in the front because they planned to “run fast.” I had to laugh because although my sons are super athletic, they haven’t ran a 5K since March 2017 and never train. I should’ve known better than to underestimate them, but more on that later. And…we’re off!

Cole and Cael took off like a rocket, and the girls and I hung together for a hot minute before they slowed down to walk. I was happy they at least started the race strong! The boys were a little ahead of me, and it was cute to watch them hang with the older guys and keep pace. They were also in perfect unison and absolutely twintastic. The course was definitely more challenging that I expected. In addition to being gravelly, there were elevation changes that made it hard to keep my footing. I wasn’t expecting that! Before I knew it, we were at the first mile, and I was a few seconds above 7 minutes.  Woohoo! For me, this is super speedy.

By the middle of the second mile, I could feel myself slowing down a little. I have a problem with going out too fast and then killing myself, and the hills and gravel didn’t help. Note to self – work on that for future races. Cole and Cael were still ahead of me, and I was amazed. Those little shits! I trained my ass off to get faster, and they just go run a 5K without training and crush it (actually, I am so proud of them for this!!!!). Around mile 2, I caught up to Cael who started walking. He was drenched in sweat from wearing too many layers and was battling a side cramp. I told him to walk it off and rest, and I took off. Cole was still powering through like a machine!

The end of the race was in sight, and I smiled as I watched Cole cross the finish line. I followed about 10 seconds later, grabbed him, and squeezed him so tightly! He said he was going to kick my butt, and he was right J About 2 minutes later, we saw Cael coming down the path and cheered him toward the finish. I told both boys I was going to go back for the girls, so they needed to stay at the finish line and wait for us.

It took me almost a mile to get to the girls, but they were in good spirits and having fun. I told them when we got to about half a mile from the finish, we would start running. Surprisingly, Annie was all about it; Lex, not so much. Annie took off, and it was fun to watch her sprint toward the finish. The girl could really have some talent for short distances because she is speedy and strong. I hung with Lex who reluctantly ran the rest of the race with me. Cole and Cael were there to act as our personal cheering section.

I knew our family did well, but goodness sake, did we clean house! I was first overall female, something I have only accomplished in one other race, and 7th overall with a 7:16 pace. Cole was 4th overall and first in his age group with a 7:12 pace. Cael, despite changing clothes and walking out a cramp, finished 2nd in his age group and still managed to finish with a 7:54 pace! Adrianna, my little non-runner, was 3rd in her age group. Lex didn’t place, but I am proud of her for finishing.

So, this is my second race after breaking my back and battling 3 treatments for C. diff. I’m proud to say that for short distances, I’m basically where I used to be! This race was only 5 second off my 5K PR (22:32 vs 22:27), and I was in my best running shape at that time! This leaves me feeling confident, motivated, and hopeful, and I am ready to take on my first significant distance race this weekend – the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon half! While I’m not looking to PR in CLE, I feel I will run a race I can be proud of and have one hell of a great time doing it!

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Lessons Learned

I’m about two weeks out from the Rite Aid Cleveland 8K/Half Marathon Challenge! If you asked me a few months ago, I wasn’t even certain I would make it to this point. Since November, I’ve battled injury, serious illness, family strife, personal strife, depression, and anxiety, but I am incredibly proud of where I am at this particular moment. I can honestly say life is good, though not without its challenges. I think the culmination of events at the end of February, though painful, was just what I needed to take a look at myself and determine what I needed to be content and fulfilled. I will let you know that the life I was living was not giving me that feeling. Through the help of my wonderful counselor Myra (I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit I am receiving mental health care) and support of caring family and friends, I’m looking at myself through a different lens, extending myself a little grace, and working to become a version of myself that makes me happy.

Throughout this training cycle, I’ve learned a few lessons and would like to share some of those with you.

Lesson 1: I’m pretty damn awesome. Without sounding like an egomaniac, I’ll explain what I mean. If you can’t be your own damn cheerleader, how can you expect anyone else to assume that role? I’ve spent too much of my life basing my worth on others’ opinions. In my mind, my value rose like the tide when someone praised me, told me I was pretty, said they loved me, etc., but the crash of a negative or critical comment or action crippled me. I had no real sense of self-worth. I was a shelled that housed people’s opinions. In one of our sessions, Myra asked me to list things about myself that made me proud or I liked. At that time, I couldn’t come up with but a handful. She asked me to ponder that question at home, and in a subsequent session, I was able to give a substantial list. A few of those items are I have four wonderful children, am successful at work, financially support my family all on my own, am a fairly successful distance runner, and make a pretty great batch of homemade mac and cheese. I am really starting to believe I don’t need validation from others because I see my own worth.

Lesson 2: Changing my attitude had the biggest impact on my training. In the fall, my motivation and fitness level were sky-high! I just ran a huge half marathon PR and was prepared to put in the work to potentially have a Boston qualifier in Cleveland or at least give it my best shot. Then life happened in a major way, and I shut down physically and emotionally. Running, which used to be my therapy, wasn’t even enjoyable. I dreaded every step and felt like a failure having to start from the beginning. Even worse, I was envious of friends who were excelling with their training. To say I was a miserable person was an understatement. I got back into running, but the passion wasn’t there and neither was the progress. I received great advice from a friend. “Be better than you were yesterday. Beat yesterday,” she said. I applied that statement to my runs. Being better meant running a little farther, pushing the pace a little harder, running those intervals until I feel like I couldn’t take another second, lacing up my shoes to hit the pavement when I would rather sit on the couch and watch a creepy documentary. I’m not exactly where I was pre-injury and illness, but I’m not too far off. The best part is I’m excited and motivated to put in the work and see improvements. One more thing I would like to acknowledge is my most recent breakup. It may have been one of the best things to happen to get me back on track with running and life in general. I don’t say this sarcastically or with malice, just from a place of truth and self-reflection over the past few months.

Lesson 3: Breaking out of my comfort zone has helped me grow. I will be the first to admit I am not fond of change and don’t like to do things that make me feel uncomfortable or as if I will fail, but I won’t grow if I don’t change. I have been forcing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do for the sake of the challenge. I took the kids to and from CLE on the rapid. I never did that before because I didn’t know the routes, was not sure how to even do it, and it made me nervous as hell. I started venturing out to places on my own and making new friends. Those close to me know I’m more of an introvert, and I prefer to not interact with others, leaving a lot of people to think I’m just a bitch. This was a huge one for me! I participated in activities I haven’t before, such as the group runs in Cleveland, which also forced me to be more social. I put myself out there with the possibility of rejection because, hey, knowing how to better deal with that is part of life. I may even entertain the notion to conquer one of my greatest fears over my trip to Seattle, which is singing in public, as my brother and I are a pretty wicked Facebook Messenger duo. As trivial as these may seem to some of you, they are big steps for me.

Lesson 4: Just finishing the Rite Aid Cleveland 8K/Half Marathon Challenge will be an accomplishment. My mindset surrounding race weekend has entirely changed. It’s not like I don’t care about running a good race, but I am not going into the half with an expected finishing time nor will I kill myself to reach it. I want my comeback race to be enjoyable without the pressure of performance. I want to be able to soak in all of the excitement the city has to offer that day and immerse myself in the experience. Truthfully, I am more excited about the 8K. On the Friday before, Dad and I will be livin’ it up at the Marathon’s VIP Reception. I mean, I can’t think of a cooler date than my dad, and my ambassador friends are already excited to meet him. Then on Saturday, he and I will run/walk the race. I truly love that time with my dad because we don’t get much of a chance to do things just the two of us. Although he is not a runner, he supports what I do and encourages me, the epitome of what a great father does for his children. Want to hear the best part?! I think he may be getting into it a little more. He asked about doing more races together this season, preferably ones with beverages at the end. Win-win!!!!

As we near the homestretch of training, I encourage you to think about the lessons you’ve learned. I know the past few months have changed me for the good.

ZTA Race for the Ribbon 5K Recap

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Every now and then, I get a chance to do something that really fills my soul and rejuvenates my spirit. This weekend was one of those experiences. I not only ran my first race post-compression fracture; I had the opportunity to visit with some of my wonderful friends from college.

In May, it will be 15 years since I walked the Tundra at Ohio Northern University in good old Ada, Ohio. I have only been back a handful of times, but in the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of making three visits – two to run the Zeta Tau Alpha Race for the Ribbon 5K and one to school the college cheerleaders in partner stunting (yep, still got it!) As a sister of Zeta Tau Alpha, I was more than happy to participate in their annual 5K, which raises money for breast cancer awareness and education, the chapter’s national philanthropy. A visit to Ada also meant an opportunity to catch up with two of my very best friends – Sarah and Krisi, who, not matter what, I always refer to as Kristin 🙂

As I was driving to Ada, my first thought was, “How the hell did I get to and from school without Google Maps?!” Seriously, I couldn’t remember the route to save my life, but as I got closer, it became more familiar. Driving through the town, I was flooded with memories and teared up a little as nostalgia set in. I’m not saying I would ever want a redo on my college days, but some of my fondest moments unfolded in that quiet, little town. Now, it was a slightly odd mix of old and new. Some things were exactly the same as when I left, untouched by a decade and a half. On the opposite end, Ada finally got with the times and put in a McDonald’s!

I pulled on campus with plenty of time to spare before the race, giving me a chance to get my packet and relax after the drive. Sarah arrived shortly after me. I met Sarah freshman year in Western Civilization class, I believe (Honestly, I remember the professor’s name, Lomax, but not positive on the class). She was super smart, almost intimidatingly so, but also incredibly kind, bubbly, and friendly. She was also the BEST cheerleader I have ever seen. No lie, she was that good. I wanted to be friends with her, and I remember her complimenting me on my copious amounts of butterfly clips in my twisted, blonde mess that I thought was cute at the time. The rest was history. She was my sorority sister, sophomore year roommate, ZTA housemate, cheerleading badass, and go-to girl. When we saw each other, we laughed and hugged like time never passed. That’s how you know you have a good friendship.

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Picture courtesy of a college kid wearing an ONU Dad shirt who could have possibly been our child! (FYI – he was NOT an ONU Dad)

After chatting it up for a bit, we met up with Kristin. Kristin is one of those special people who has such a kind heart and will do anything for anyone, and I aspire to be more like her. She also happens to be my fabulously awesome Lil’ Sister in ZTA and fellow ONU cheerleading alum! I knew when I met her and she said she wanted to become a ZTA, I had to be her Big, and I was lucky she chose me.

Pretty soon, it was race time! I told myself I was going to really race this, not just use it as a training run for the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon. To say I was nervous was an understatement. This was my first race since the Turkey Day 5K on Thanksgiving 2017. Since that time, I have battled a broken back and three rounds of antibiotics for C. diff. I knew my fitness level wasn’t where it was before all of that ridiculousness, but I have been feeling a lot more confident with running and life in general the past few weeks. I was anxious to see what these old legs could do against the spry college students. Anything under an 8:00 pace would make me happy.

We lined up, but I kinda missed the announcement of the start of the race. Not quite sure what my problem was, but others seemed to not realize it either. I fumbled a little bit as I tried to start my watch and begin my music. I told myself to not go out too fast because I didn’t want to be dying for the last mile or so. After settling into a comfortable pace, I was pleased when I hit the first mile mark without feeling fatigued. The course gave a nice tour of the campus, and, like everything in Ada, was completely flat. The second mile was a little slower as we runners headed into the wind, but I was still feeling strong and confident. For the last mile, we snaked through the campus and finished where we started on the Tundra. I crossed the finish, high-fived Klondike, and stopped my watch. HOLY CRAP!!!! I was hoping for anything sub-8:00, but I was shocked when I saw the time – 22: 44, which is a 7:20 pace for a 5K! I was almost back to where I was pre-injury and illness. A sense of personal satisfaction filled me, and I got a little emotional. This was a huge moment, running-wise and healing-wise. I needed this race both emotionally and physically, and it gave me more confidence heading into my last few weeks of half marathon training. Oh, and did I mention I was 5th overall female? Not to shabby!

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Following the race, Sarah, Kristin, and I got to have lunch with our fabulous and ageless friend, Sarah, and Josh. I tell you; that man was a good sport for listening to all of our reminiscing and crazy stories. Sitting there smiling and laughing made me feel young and happy, as if I was still in college without a care in the world except getting to class, working at the bookstore, and cheerleading practice. Sometimes, you just need that, a shot of life to revitalize you. I had the same feeling at the beginning of March when I was able to spend a wonderful weekend with my bestie, Lynne, and her husband.

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Zetas wear the crown!

Driving home, I was both thankful for such a fulfilling day but sad to leave my friends. With living 2 hours away, I don’t get to see them anywhere near as much as I would like, but we are already planning for another fun weekend. Also, with my Lil having a little soon, I know I will be making another visit shortly!

Sarah, Kristin, and Sarah – you made my whole weekend. I hope you know how much the time together meant to me. Love to you all! ZLAM!