The Upside and Downside of Speed

“Wow, you are fast!” This is not considered a compliment when dating; however, in the running world, it most certainly is! Fast and running are two words that never went together to describe me until recently (Note: I am still not that fast; just quite a bit better than I used to be). I was always content with being a middle-of-the-pack runner, consistently ticking off miles during training runs and races but not exerting too much effort. It wasn’t until this summer that I made a concerted effort to do something that seemed impossible to me for the longest time – consistently and comfortably run at a sub-8 minute pace and run a fast 5K.

The training part wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I loved being able to zip over to the high school track during the boys’ baseball and football practices and crank out some intervals or really push myself during tempo runs. I saw my times dropping, and it was an intoxicating feeling. Leaving it all on the track/pavement during a training run was a rewarding feeling, one that made me want to train harder.

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Between August and October, I saw my 5K PR fall three times. First, was a PR and first overall female for me at the Run for Suds 5K in August (23:08 but I swear it was a long course), but I crushed that at the Miles for Mutts 5K in September when I ran a 22:42, which was good for 2nd overall female. That PR held for a month until the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon offered me a free race entry to the Beech Brook 5K in Pepper Pike. Honestly, the race was awful for me. My shoe came untied a little after the first mile, and then around 1.5-1.75 miles, I stopped to walk for a bit when I thought I was going to puke (Note to self: DO NOT eat McDonald’s the day before a race!!!!). Despite all of that, I was able to finish with a 22:27 – my fastest 5K to date and 2nd female overall behind my speedy friend Pam.

My improvements didn’t stop at 5Ks. Because I have been too lazy busy lately, I haven’t had a chance to write about my absolutely awesome half marathon experiences! Out of everything that happened this race/running season, nothing has made me more proud than the Northern Ohio Half Marathon in October. Hell, it is one of my top 3 running experiences to date! Leading up to the race, everything was wrong. I didn’t eat or hydrate as well as I should. I was busy running around the day before the race with football games and babysitting. I slept for crap the night before, and don’t get me started on stomach issues. Despite all of that, I ran my perfect race complete with negative splits and a super kick for the last mile (7:26 pace!). This is the first race where I felt physically and mentally strong the entire time, and I couldn’t keep from smiling. Everything about it was effortless! When I started the race, the goal I set for myself was to finish under 1:50. I completely blew that out of the water! I crossed the finish with a smile and a nearly 11-minute PR (1:43:57, which BTW is 7:56 pace!). That effort earned me first place in my age group.

The week after Northern Ohio, I ran the Towpath Marathon Half for fun because who the heck doesn’t love a half marathon through the gorgeous Cuyahoga Valley National Park?! It was also my friend Cory’s first half, making it a great experience and automatic PR for him.

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Cheers for beers…and finishing a half marathon!

I wanted to extend my racing season, so when the opportunity came up to run a half in my county right next to the place I work, I just had to sign up. The Inland Trail Half Marathon was November 5, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The weather was awful in the morning with rain, wind, lightening, and thunder, plus it was unseasonably warm and humid. I felt great during this race for the first 2 or so miles, but after that, it was a mental and physical battle to keep moving forward. Some races you have it and others you don’t. I definitely got a burst of energy at the turnaround on the trail and knew I only had about 2.5 miles left. Seeing the encouragement from others as I made my way back lifted my spirits and breathed life back into my legs. The last two miles felt easy, and when I made the last turn, I was so happy to see my oldest daughter and one of my twin sons standing there with our goofy little dog cheering me on. That run, although hard, was good enough for third female overall and my second fastest half to date (1:44:57).

So you might be asking yourself, “Why is she bitching that there’s a downside to all of this?” This might sound a little elitist or run-snobby, but it is hard for me to run now without putting the pressure on myself to do well. Before this year, I was lucky to place in my age group at a small, local race, and that was completely fine with me. Now, my attitude has changed. I have been fortunate to run well enough this summer and fall that I have placed at pretty much every race. I hate that I don’t feel satisfied unless I am “fast,” even with training runs. That thinking wears on me mentally and kills my motivation. I have really noticed it in the last few weeks.

What’s the remedy? I think I need to take a little time off from racing and just run to enjoy it and keep myself physically and mentally healthy. I am not signed up for anything until the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 8K and Full Marathon Challenge in May, although I will be running the 20 Mile Drop in April and the Green Jewel 50K in June. I have really big goals for CLE. Okay, big is a super understatement, but I am not at a point where I want to share. You will probably hear more as we approach the race. I think now is a great time to get a little rest, refocus, and find the motivation I need to propel me through another marathon training cycle. It’s going to be a great ride!

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Miles for Mutts 5K Recap

Any time I get to run a race near my hometown of Painesville, it makes me incredibly happy, and this weekend was no different. I laced up my racing flats and ran the Anytime Fitness Concord Miles for Mutts 5K. I am developing a love-hate relationship with 5Ks. They are complete torture for me, but I love the feeling I get when I am finished and think, “Wow, I just crushed that! I was pretty fast” It’s slightly addictive.

I was more than a little worried about this race for a few reasons. One – since the Run for Suds 5K, I switched up my training to get ready for the Northern Ohio Half Marathon and Towpath Half Marathon in October. Translation – I’ve been slacking a little on speedwork. Two – Nutrition and hydration were mediocre at best. I mean, beer counts as water, right? Three – my stomach has a way of not cooperating on race day sometimes. I got there with plenty of time to pick up my packet, hit up the bathroom, and warm-up. I was feeling okay until I was almost finished with the warm-up. Dammit, stomach! Dammit, long bathroom line! The start was about 12 minutes away at this time, and I was crossing my fingers that I would make it in time. Thankfully, the bathroom line moved quickly, and I was able to make it to the start line with about 30 seconds to spare.

I had no time to really get myself ready before we all took off, and I had no clue how fast I was going until about a quarter mile in when I looked at my watch. 6:25 pace?! Crap, better slow that down. No way was that a sustainable pace for me. I backed off a little and was pleasantly surprised when I hit the 1-mile mark in 6:51. Unfortunately, going out super fast (for me) and the humidity already had me feeling miserable. We made the turn onto a side street and took a little loop through a residential area. I kept swearing to my legs to run faster, but I could feel myself getting tired. I was thankful when I hit the water stop right before mile two because I definitely needed a little something. Thanks, water stop volunteers! You were a lifesaver!

The last mile for me was pure hell. It was one, long, straight shot that felt like it went on forever! At this point my lungs and legs were burning, but I was so damn close! I was happy to still see the lead group ahead of me, so I knew I wasn’t doing too poorly. I made the last turn into the parking lot, happily crossing the finish line as the second female overall! AND it was a 5K PR for me, beating my Run for Suds 5K time by a few second per mile! That made all the pain totally worth it.

What better way to celebrate a 5K PR than at your favorite brewery?! After crushing it at the Miles for Mutts 5K, I spent the afternoon enjoying my favorite Southern Tier Brewing  Co. beverages at the Pumking Fest!!!! Delicious beer, live music, amazing company, and gorgeous weather made it a perfect day. Cheers to PRs and beers!

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Back-to-school wishes

I’m sitting here awake so much later than I planned on the eve of back-to-school thinking about the kids. This year, I have one in 7th grade, one in 5th grade, and the twins in 3rd grade. I feel like just yesterday I was watching Alexandra get on the bus for kindergarten. Time is most certainly flying. 

I am also thinking about my wishes and expectations for them. These have changed over the years. When I was first a mom, I wanted certain things out of them academically speaking – near perfect grades, studious, self-motivated, every assignment completed following all directions and on time. In short, I wanted little clones of me. I was hit with a very hard lesson – they are not me. No matter how much I wanted them to follow my lead in school, it wasn’t going to happen for all of them. And that is okay. They are themselves, nothing more and nothing less. 

Instead of straight As and copious school accolades, I have a better, more important list of wishes for Alexandra, Adrianna, Cole, and Cael. Kids, listen up! 

Be the kids who…

  • Are respectful to all teachers, school staff, and other students.
  • Stand up to bullies if they pick on other kids; never join in. 
  • Invite a kid who looks left out to sit with you at lunch or play with you during recess.
  • Actively ask for help if you don’t understand something. Taking the initiative shows a lot about your character. 
  • Don’t give up when you encounter a challenge. Keep working to overcome it.
  • Take responsibility for your actions whether it is missed homework, talking too much in class, or not listening during a lesson.
  • Realize your self-worth doesn’t come from other kids thinking you are cute/pretty/handsome. You are so much more than that.
  • Are strong enough to stand up to peer pressure. You know what is expected of you and what is acceptable behavior at home. 
  • Speak your opinions clearly and with regard for others who may not hold the same opinion. 

    Good luck, kiddles! I love you. Best wishes for a wonderful school year.

    Run for Suds 5K Recap

     

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    For those of you familiar with my running, you know I love long distances. Give me a half or a full marathon any day; however, I am starting to embrace the suck that is a 5K. 5Ks, though short, are a full-out pain fest, in my opinion. My legs feel like lead about half a mile into the race, and my lungs are screaming for mercy. I managed to snag my last 5K PR in September 2015 when I ran the Downtown Willoughby 5K, and I was incredibly pleased with that accomplishment. Still, as I started to get faster and train harder, I was interested to see what I could do. Coincidentally, I found the most perfect race – the Chardon Brewfest Run for Suds 5K. Running and craft beer? Sign me up! I also aggressively cohered encouraged my dad, sister, and brother-in-law to join in the fun.

    To prep for this race, I did something I had never done before – made speedwork a priority and a regular part of my training. Being able to run intervals on the local high school’s track was key. I felt like a gazelle flying around the track but with much stumpier legs and a lot less fast, but whatever, it was awesome and addictive. When I would look down at my watch during 400s and see a pace in the low 6s, I was like, “Holy crap! This is what it feels like to be Ryan or Jess or Pam or Steve or Jamie any of my other super fast running friend!!!”

    My big race day was quickly approaching – Saturday, August 12. Dad and I arrived at packet pick-up super early. I am not sure why I am always paranoid there is going to be a long line, but I am and that makes for a lot of standing around. Sarah, Rhett, her friend Stephanie, and my niece and nephew arrived shortly after. The kids were beyond excited for “their race” and the fact they would receive a medal at the end for running (truth: Sarah and Rhett did all the running while pushing them in a double stroller contraption with at least 100 pounds of weight…beast mode!).

    Before the race started, I was scoping out the competition. I saw a few ladies who I figured were on the quicker side, and there were two young girls, around my oldest daughter’s age, who looked like cross country runners. Since they were lined up right in the front, I figured they were planning to fly. Things going through my head before the start of the race –

    • Steph, did you see the overall winner awards? Wouldn’t it be cool to get one of those?
    • Little girls can’t appreciate those Das Boot beer mugs, so you better run your ass off.
    • I hope you don’t crash and burn on the hills!
    • Sweet Jesus, stomach, please cooperate for this race!!!

    Then…we were off! I was thankful I warmed up a little before the start of the race because I didn’t feel as though I was instantly dying. It also helped that the very beginning of the race was downhill. The cross country girls were fast like I suspected, but I hung right with them. The one little girl was leading until around mile 1, but I got ahead of her as we circled the square in Chardon. That is right; I was LEADING the women’s race, on a hilly course no less!

    After rounding the square, we had a brief respite with some downhill, but after making a turn, it was back to rolling hills. At the second mile mark, I was still hanging strong but could feel myself getting tired. ONE MORE MILE! I could do this.

    We had a turn around mile 2.3, and then it was one long, uphill stretch until the finish. I kept checking the pace on my watch and cursing my legs to go faster. I was starting to get a little sick to my stomach because my body was not used to going that speed for that long, but I kept pushing. When I hit mile 3, I was both happy and a little defeated. I am no distance wiz, but I knew we still had more than .1 mile left on the course. My goal was to come in under 23 minutes on their clock, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

    The sadness was short-lived because when I made the final turn into the parking lot, I saw the race organizers stretching the ribbon across. That was truly a “HOLY SHIT” moment for me because, obviously, that had never happened before and may not happen again. I smiled, pushed on, and broke the ribbon with a huge smile on my face!

    It took a few minutes for me to catch my breath, wipe the copious amounts of sweat off my face, and process what actually happened. Then it was time to cheer on my family. I was so proud when I saw my dad coming down the finish, and he was running his butt off! He looked tired but ran an excellent race, especially considering he does not run! Next in were Sarah and Rhett with their littles in the stroller. I was shocked at how quickly they finished and was thankful it was them and not me pushing them up those hills.

    After the awards, it was time to celebrate with a post-race beverage at my parents’ house and the Chardon Brewfest. Run all the miles; drink all the beer, am I right?! It was the perfect ending to my new 5K PR and best race ever! Thanks, Great Lakes Race Timing, for yet another awesome race! Looking forward to running more with you!

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    I am…

    Well, this is my very first post on my new blog, and it feels oh so good to be back. In what feels like a lifetime ago, I blogged at stephplusfour, but I needed a fresh start, a change, so here it is. It feels liberating and comforting to start over, a blank slate. Many of you know me or at least have an impression of me, which could be both good or bad at this point. Some of you may not, so here it is.

    I am…

    • a mother of four wonderful and crazy children
    • an extroverted introvert
    • a distance runner
    • a failed wife and fiancée
    • a public health professional
    • a people-pleaser
    • a perfectionist
    • insecure
    • inappropriate at times
    • an obnoxiously and apologetically loud laugher and clapper
    • a hot mess
    • a daughter to two awesome parents
    • caring and kind, sometimes to a fault
    • the oldest sister (which my middle sister reminds me of all the time)
    • a former cheerleader (but wishing I could do it all over again)
    • a person who doesn’t eat all her dinner to gorge on dessert
    • always questioning whether I am good enough in all aspects of life
    • a reader of gossip magazines (thanks, Gram!)
    • nervous to speak my opinion
    • a lover of chocolate and craft beer
    • worried I have messed up my children
    • constantly checking out my crow’s feet in the mirror
    • someone who loves and appreciates good grammar, even though I don’t always follow it on my blog
    • loves going to the dentist
    • lucky because I always find four-leaf clovers

    I AM ME! Perfectly imperfect, hoping each year bring some enlightenment that leads me to the revelation that I am fine just the way I am, that I am enough, that I am happy as me. All I know is I feel like my life is on the right path. I feel good about myself, despite my faults, and the kids are happy and thriving. What more could I ask for in life?

    Thanks for reading and being part of this journey with me. If anything, I hope you at least get a little enjoyment from my happiness and, at times, misery. Much love to you all.

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