Sunday, May 24, 2015

Running with Friends

In my going-on-four-years of Running away from Trouble, I've learned that running friends can not only help you run away from trouble, but they also can keep you out of trouble in the first place.

I started my running journey with the Towpath Turtles, a group dedicated to preparing new runners to run the Akron Half Marathon.  From them, I learned how to pace myself so I could run farther than two miles at a time.  With their gentle encouragement, and with the sometimes not-so-gentle-encouragement of our coach, Sheila, I ran my first half marathon in September 2012.  Read about my time as a Turtle here.

The Towpath Turtles at the Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler in 2012
I graduated from running with the Turtles to running any time and distance I liked with fellow members of The Ohio Runner's Network.  Through the years, I have come to depend on these Peeps for my Sunday long, slow distance runs and for camaraderie in races.  These are just a few of the many memory shots I have with my TORN Peeps:

Shelby, Me, and Jen, looking into the sunlight

TORN runners at the 2014 Tryptophan Run 

Towpath Turtles at the 2013 Mother's Day 5k

Heather and I run the 2015 Shamrock.
Renee and I are trail running!

Joy and I are warming up before the 2015 Canton Gold Jacket 5k.
Shelby and I set a goal for the half marathon.

TORN at 2014 Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler

TORN at 2014 Medina Half Marathon
Bay Days 2014

I'll tell you a little secret, and you may find it shocking: I don't really like people much.  Wait, why are you laughing?

I think it's because I spent sixteen years in the food service industry, which I was really good at, but it REALLY made me hate people.  Oddly enough, I love my job, which is teaching teenagers.  Teens are awesome; at any moment your average sixteen year old is feeling more hormonal than I am on my worst day.  I'm not being ironic when I say I really enjoy working with teenagers, their drama, their sincerity, their craziness; however, because of the amount of energy I spend at work, it takes a conscious effort for me to make sure I don't have Resting Bitch Face when I am around people.  I decided a long time ago that I didn't need new friends; I'm just fine with the friends who have decided to stick with me.

Until now.

As a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, I was able to connect with other bloggers/runners who were so different from me (and from each other) and yet so familiar.  I have been following their blogs for almost a year now (some longer than that), and we all got to know each other through our writing and later in person.  What I found was an additional support group, something I didn't know I needed or wanted.

Each Ambassador has an interesting story to share, and I enjoyed meeting them in person after reading all about them.  When my performance in the half marathon was disappointing at best, especially when I compared my results to their fabulous PR's, the group seemed to know what to say and what to post to make me feel less angry and sulky.  I think the funniest post in our Facebook group was from Andrew (@andrewrunsalot), who posted a race pic of himself in genuine agony and invited us to caption it.

At our first meet-up
Start of the race

VIP reception

 It turns out that I can still meet new friends, and these friends have so much to teach me.  I look forward to following them in their pursuit of their goals, and I look forward to future races and meet-ups together.  Thank you, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, for giving me this opportunity!

To my "old" friends: Thank you for sticking by me, even when I insist on running alone.  To my "new" friends:  Thank you for being so positive and such great role models for me.  This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Race Review: Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon

I made some stupid mistakes on Sunday, May 17, at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.  Wanna hear about them?  Maybe you can avoid my mistakes in your own races. First, let me start with a review, and then you can laugh at my mistakes later.

The Expo:

I went to the Expo at the Cleveland Convention Center on Friday after school.  I parked in a deck directly across the street, and I heard that many people found free street parking, so that didn't seem to be a problem.  The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Expo nailed it again this year.  So. Much. Fun!  Some people like meeting up in groups at the expo, but I love to navigate it myself so I can do whatever I want.  And I did!

American Greetings took my picture:

It took like 10 tries because I broke the camera.  I'm not kidding.

I got my nails done FOR FREE!!!

These are press-ons!  They were so fun!
I bought a 13.1 tattoo, but then I put it on upside down, so I had to scrape it off.  Mistake #1?

After picking up my shirt, I headed to a reception, sponsored by Tito's Handmade Vodka, in the old Arcade, where I hooked up with my fellow #runCLE Ambassadors.

We clean up good, don't you think?

Saturday the Ambassadors roamed the Expo, but for me it was cleaning day, so I stayed home and then I tried to go to bed early, but not before I applied another pre-race tattoo:

This is from Ulysses.  #litgeek

Two of my biggest worries about races are parking and bathrooms, and neither were a worry at this race.  I easily got into a parking deck at 5:55, and I didn't notice any terrible traffic jams as I walked to the starting line.  There were tons of porta potties lining the starting corrals, and there were bathrooms at the Q.  The ONLY problem I had was that there was no sanitizer anywhere to be found.  I ended up begging sanitizer off Jamie's mom (Jamie is a fellow Ambassador) because I knew I wouldn't be able to function without attempting to clean my hands after a visit to the porta potty.

Some of the Ambassadors met at the start for a picture:
We are ready to rock this run!

I also had a nice surprise: I spotted Christina, who is a former student and was about to run her first half marathon!

You always remember your first!
As we waited in the starting corrals, the skies opened up and drenched everyone, which wasn't too bad considering the temps were a steamy 68 degrees with humidity around 100%.  I thought this was a good sign because I was starting cool, and I knew I would need to keep cool during 13.1 miles.

The corrals were neatly organized; I lined up with the 4:00 pacers, and there was lots of room to navigate.  Actually, I had very little need to dodge runners because we all were on pace.  That is very refreshing, as dodging and stutter steps tend to sap my energy, and I can't keep myself from doing it if people are too close to me.  Speaking of the pacers, one of them was calling out information about the city as we passed the landmarks.  He was amazing.

The course is soooo fabulous, Peeps.  Some of it was a blur, but I loved running around Tremont, Ohio City, and Edgewater.  The crowd support was nice, although I didn't see as many funny signs as I saw last year.  I saw my friend Ed (who is a super-speedy runner) twice around Ohio City, and that gave me a nice boost for a while.

So, let me fill you in on how I handled the heat and humidity in this race.  I'll give you a hint:  not well.  I did a lot of stupid things during these 13.1 miles, and most of them were during the first 10k.  First of all, I didn't have any true time goals and I should have.  Normally I have a secret goal that I would be ecstatic if  I hit, a challenging goal that I'm pretty sure I can hit, and the "acceptable" goal that I won't beat myself up about if I at least hit it.  I didn't have any of that.  I just said, "Let's see how I feel," and that was stupid because I am never truly aware of how I feel in the moment.

I tried my trick from the 2014 Akron Half Marathon, when I focused only on how I felt during that mile, and so each mile when I asked myself if I felt good, the answer was yes.  Then I hit the 10k mark, and when I asked myself how I felt, the answer was AWFUL.  I realized that even though I was hot and sweaty, I was shivering and wanting to vomit, and that means possible sunstroke, Peeps.  Not good.  After I crossed the 10k mat, I deliberately slowed down and then walked through every water stop available on the course, drinking one cup and dumping another on my head.  Normally I might hit three stops on the course, but I knew the weather was a major game-changer, and I needed to take care of myself.  Kudos to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon organizers for having so many water stops; I needed every darned one of them.

Kudos, too, to the volunteers who cheerfully handed us water, Powerade, and Carb Boom! Gels.  I am especially grateful to the lady who sprayed me with her garden hose (I think I love you), and I think the person who placed a sprinkler on the highway around mile 11 is a genius.

Despite all of these wonderful people, I feel like I just couldn't get my act together after the 10k.  At one point my Garmin shorted out, so I didn't see until I checked my data later that I ran an 11 minute mile.  Dammit.  I just fell apart.  I saw Ed three times on the course, and the last time was on the highway for mile 12.  I was a mess, but I was grateful to see him as I shuffled by like a zombie. When I got close to the chute, Laura and Erin called my name, and I told them I was toast, but they continued to encourage me.  I didn't really have anything left to kick it in the end.

What I should have done was pick a pace that I knew I could consistently maintain in that heat, and I still would have done better than I did by pretending to be Speedy Gonzales in the first six miles and then breaking down in the second half.  It was a dumbass move, and I don't intend to repeat it for the Medina Half Marathon in two weeks.

After crossing the finish line, getting my medal, and chugging some chocolate milk, I found my peeps from The Ohio Runner's Network, and we had some Great Lakes Brewing Company beer together.  This was a welcome change from the crappy "ultra" beer we get at other races, and I really enjoyed mine. . .until I spilled it.

This is really long already, so I'm going to cut it short and leave you with two more positive things I got from the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon:

1.  I made a new bunch of friends, and I'm going to write about them and their support in my next post.

2.  This:

I earned this shirt and medal!
Until next week, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Trust the Taper

This is taper time.  I'd like to say that I'm really embracing it, but the truth is that my week hasn't really been different than other weeks.  I ran two four-milers on Wednesday and Friday, and today I did a long run of ten miles.  I also ran in place for about fifteen minutes before lifting on Thursday, so I count that as a mile.  The only real change I made was to skip my Saturday run and/or walk, which usually was between four and six miles.  Maybe I'm not doing it correctly, but the 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon will be my seventh half marathon, and I've done it this way almost every time.

It's funny (maybe not funny haha) that I post each week about training when the reality probably is that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  Am I running long enough during the week?  Is my speed run REALLY a speed run?  Are the weights heavy enough when I lift?  Should I be doing those sequences?  Who knows?  I see my esteemed fellow bloggers, and they all seem to have a plan.  My plan is always the same, and it is the mantra I recite while I fist bump whoever starts the race with me (if you are standing next to me in the corral, it might be you!):  No falling, no puking, no dying.  I used to say No Crying, but I think crying is now ok if it's because you are emotionally involved in getting to the finish line.

I do know, however, that I need to hold back this week, even if I feel like I want to run more.  Science says that tapering works, even though every runner I know secretly believes that it will weaken him/her and lead to a more difficult race.  Not true, Peeps.  My coach says the taper should make you feel like a horse, nervous to break out of the corral.  It does.  Oh, it does.

Today I gave myself a treat, and I ran my favorite ten mile loop.  It follows the fading blue line from the old Akron Marathon course through Sand Run Park, around the golf course, up to Highland Square, down Merriman past Stan Hywet Hall, and down, down, down hill back to Sand Run Parkway again.  The first four miles are pretty much uphill, so it is a challenge, but finding this on the path at Mile 1.5 lifted my spirits:

How cool is it to come upon a painting in a metropark?
I stopped long enough to take this picture and then scan the QR code to see what this is all about.  The code led me to Akron Art Museum's Inside/Out Tour.  If you follow the tour, you can find paintings like this all over Akron.  Here is the link to this particular painting.

It has been a long while since I've run this loop, and it gave me plenty to think about: lesson plans, this blog, my family, my career goals, and of course the race coming up this Sunday.  I also thought about how far I have come in strength and pace and overall physical fitness.  I even flashed back to my first blog post, which I composed while running this very loop.  As I ran downhill for the last mile, I felt like I was flying, and as I finished, the rain started.  Perfect timing!

This is EXACTLY how I look after running 10 miles in terrible humidity.  Oh wait. . .
THIS is EXACTLY how I look after running 10 miles in terrible humidity.
UPDATE:  We have a winner for the Gold Jacket 5k free entry!  Congratulations, Lyndsey H!  Check your email.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pro Football HOF Relay and a Giveaway!

Beast Mode 5 got the job done on Sunday, 4/26, the day of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Relay.  It was my first experience with a relay, and I'm glad it was this particular race.

I was a bit worried about running my 10k leg (#1) because I had run the Gold Jacket 5k the day before, and I ran it hard enough to just miss a PR.

I know I had written that I was going to go bright and early to Belden Village to take the shuttle, but Michael (Leg 3) lives just across the park from the starting line, so we parked at his house and I used the park as a warm up.
This is Michael.  He saved us from shivering in a parking lot at 4:00 AM.
We met the other members of The Ohio Runners Network (TORN) on the Hall of Fame steps for a photo op:

We are fresh and ready!

And then we got a special Beast Mode 5 pic:

Check out the headbands. Beast Mode 5: Does the name scare you?  NO????
After that we waited for the start.  And waited.  Unfortunately, the lines for the shuttle were super long, and rather than start without all of those people, Jim chose to give them another ten minutes.  I think that's a really difficult call for a race director to make because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.  Some people were really cold, but I felt ok because the sun was coming out and I was crammed next to a bunch of runners in the corral.  Plus, I was excited.

If you read my post about the Gold Jacket 5k, you know that I was irritated that I couldn't get around the walkers in the first mile of the race.  I was really worried that I would have the same problem, and because I was the first leg of the relay I didn't want to screw up our team by having a slow start.  Luckily, starting in the 9:00/mile corral was exactly what I needed; I was able to get into my groove soon after crossing the starting gate.

I felt great running my 10k leg.  The course had a few small hills, but nothing a Beast Mode 5 team member couldn't handle.  I stayed at a pace I thought I could handle for six miles and still push myself at the end, and as a result, I PR'd the 10k by over three minutes!  Unfortuately, my time isn't officially recorded because even though I crossed a finish mat,  the slap bracelet I was wearing didn't register my individual leg--just the overall time of the team.  I'm disappointed, but at least I know what I can do for my next 10k (Akron Rubber City Series).

The exchange points were really well-organized, but that didn't stop Beast Mode 5 from screwing it up right away.  I lost at least 30 seconds, maybe a minute, because I couldn't find Brad.  I suspect he was in the Port a Potty, but I would never say that publicly.  Oh wait. . .
I guess I did say that publicly. Way to go, Brad!

Anyway, Brad, Michael, and Mandy were awesomely speedy in running their legs, but I still had a few hours to wait for Joy to come in.  The day was beautifully bright, but there was a cold, cold wind blowing.  Luckily, I had brought a change of pants and I already had my amazing finisher's blanket, which I immediately wrapped around myself while I huddled on the field and ate some food.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm huddling on the field with a blanket and a hoodie.

Great food, by the way:  Subway sandwich, spicy rice chips, Caveman bar, bananas, chocolate milk.  Yum!

When it was time for Joy to come in, we were waiting for her at the entrance to the stadium for our relay team finish, and it was fabulous!  We loved running in together while the announcer called our team name.

Beast Mode 5 races in.  What you don't know is that my pants were falling down here.  What a dork.

We collected our medals and posed for our post-race pic:

Tired, dirty, and happy

Would I do this again?  Yep!  I loved running with a team, and this was a fun race to try.  The pluses: the course (challenging, some nice residential parts), the medals (sooo awesome), the food, the finisher's blanket (soft and warm!).  The minuses:  the unexpected wait at the start, no record of times on individual legs.  I think these could be easy fixes when Jim gets together with his team to plan for next year.  I do have one more suggestion that would have made the cold wind, the wait, and the lack of an individual finish time much more bearable: BEER.  Michael, Brad, and I agreed that beer would have really helped us feel better about waiting in the cold wind for Mandy and Joy, but it certainly isn't a deal breaker as there are a lot more positives than negatives about the race.  Maybe I'll bring a deck of cards while I'm waiting next time.  And a space heater.

I'd like to thank Jim Chaney for giving me the opportunity to blog for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay.  I hope this is only the beginning of our partnership, and I intend to continue blogging about the Gold Jacket 5k when I run another one.  Would you like to run one with me?  You have a few more days left in my Giveaway.  Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This week I ran my last long run until the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon.  Eleven miles (eight of them on the trails), and I'm ready to collapse.  My taper starts. . . NOW.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket 5k Recap

Saturday I ran the Gold Jacket 5k in Canton, and it was a great time!  The race started at 8:00 AM, and there was plenty of parking, so Joy and I were able to leave my house at 6:30 and still get to the Pro Football  Hall of Fame in plenty of time to use the bathroom a few times and warm up.

Hanging out before the race

There was a drone hovering over the race, taking pictures, and that was extremely cool.  Here is a picture from the drone at the start of the race:

Can you see me?
Photo Credit:  Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon
Let's get to the review, shall we?

The Good:  There was a lot of good here.  The course was fabulous for a 5k.  The first two miles had a lot of downhill, and there were a few slight rises in the third mile.  It made for a fast run.  We had the whole stadium before and after the race, so there were plenty of bathrooms.  The medal was FABULOUS:

It's a Hall of Fame ring, and it weighs as much as a can of your favorite beverage.  When my husband saw this, he told me to sign us both up for another Gold Jacket 5k.  Win!

The day started a bit chilly, but running hard is a great way to warm up!  At the finish we got a high-five from Dan Marino, and that was incredible.  Let me just tell you (before my husband does) that I am happy to high five Dan Marino because I loved him in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.  Shhh.  Don't judge.

To sum up the good:  drone (way cool), medal (wow!), course (fast), bathrooms (more than enough), Caveman bars (yummy), and Dan Marino (#starstruck).

The Bad:  It's difficult to really identify something bad about the race.  The weather was chilly at the start, but nobody can control the weather, and we had a warm place to stay.  The awards were held outside the Hall of Fame, which normally would be awesome, but I started to shiver, so I had to go inside to warm up.  Again, nobody can control this.  I'm going to say that for an inaugural race, this was very organized.

The Ugly:  

The ugly has nothing to do with the organization of the race, but with certain groups of people who participate in theme races.  The slogan for this race is "Walk, Run, Jog, Compete," and I think anyone who wants to sign up for a 5k should do so.


At the start, Joy and I tried to jockey into a position with the middle-of-the-pack runners.  We don't like to anger the elites and really fast runners, and we don't like to dodge slower runners and walkers. There should be a middle ground, and most of the time there is a middle ground.  Unfortunately, there were walkers scattered all over the starting line: front, middle, back.  It was impossible to avoid them.  Normally that would be ok because most walkers in a race know to start at the back of the pack and walk on the side.  In fact, the race instructions include a page on runner's etiquette which spells this out.  It was obvious that the runners/walkers from this race paid no attention to etiquette because as soon as we crossed the starting gate, the walkers spread themselves out from one end to another.  Sometimes they held hands or linked arms.  Joy and I had to go from one sidewalk to another to get around massive walls of flesh who refused to move, even when we said, "Excuse me."

I'm not going to go on about this (much), but I have to get this off my chest:  My first mile was more than 30 seconds slower than my second and third miles because I had to dodge walkers or stop dead behind them.  I wasn't trying to PR at this race, but I COULD HAVE, PEEPS.  Anyway, I am preaching to the choir here.  If you are reading this blog, you wouldn't have started at the head of the line and then linked arms to block every other runner.  I don't know what to do about this because obviously the ugly is my problem.  I need to relax when I'm running a theme race, so I guess I am the ugly.

I may be "The Ugly," but I look pretty good with my medal here.
I intend to run more of the Gold Jacket 5k series.  Click here to see the schedule of upcoming races.  You can also see what is on schedule for 2016.

My husband and I are wondering if we can get a trip out of town in. . .and I'm hoping to get the kids trained to run/walk a 5k.  Of course we will run/walk from the back and the side!

I want you to join me, Peeps, so thanks to Jim Chaney, race director, I am giving away an entry to a Gold Jacket 5k.  If you have already purchased your entry, I can't reimburse you; this is only good for one person, one 5k.  Enter the Rafflecopter and follow the directions to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Turtles and Taper

Today was an eleven mile run on the Towpath with Joy.  I didn't tell her we were doing eleven miles until we reached the turnaround at 5.5 because I'm sneaky that way.

Despite the fact that I am enormously suffering from seasonal allergies, I am really enjoying this weather.  Normally April in Ohio blows. . .usually literally.  It is so nice to run in capris and a tshirt and soak up some vitamin D.

This is what we saw while running on the Towpath:

Hello, leetle friend!
If you look closely at the brown blob in the middle of the green sludge, you will see that it is a beaver.  This was about a quarter of a mile away from the Beaver Marsh, where they hang out, but it is right next to one of the many beaver dams on the Towpath. (A quick digression--This week I was teaching my students about Oscar Wilde's use of the pun as a satirical device, and I had to share this example with you, Peeps:  Two fish swim into a wall.  One turns to the other and says, "Dam!")  The family next to us on the Towpath told us that this is in fact a river otter, but I don't think so.  I'm going with beaver.

Bale of turtles
I always know that warm, beautiful weather is coming when I see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the river.  It just makes me so happy to see the sun shining off their silver backs.  We must have seen at least fifteen today, and that was without really looking.

The last two miles of this run were particularly difficult, and I realized why when I checked the Garmin and saw that Joy had pushed us to doing our fastest miles in the last two.  She is a tricky one.  This officially starts our taper.  Joy and I are both running the Canton Gold Jacket 5k on Saturday, and we are each running a 10k leg on our relay team for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay on Sunday.  This will be my first time running a relay, and I'm excited.  By the way, Peeps, keep your eyes peeled for a Gold Jacket 5k giveaway on this blog.  It's coming up soon.  For information about the Gold Jacket 5k and/or the Pro Football Hall of Fame Races, check my other blog, From the Sideline.

I haven't run a 5k since September 2014, so I will be interested to see how I do in this one.  No matter what, Joy and I are going to have lots of fun, especially with our team, Beast Mode 5.  Does our name intimidate you?  NO????

This will be a great way to test my legs for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

Until next Sunday, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Birthday Week(s)

Happy birthday to me!  Today I am 45, and I love it!

You probably know somebody like me: I'm the one who celebrates her birthday as long as possible.  It starts when I get my first card in the mail (thanks, Audra!), and it ends when I say it ends.

Here are some things that made my week so wonderful:

We didn't recognize each other because we were not in running clothes.
I finally met the #CLEMarathon Ambassadors this week, and they are every bit as fabulous as their blogs and tweets.  We had some treats, some drinks, some CUPCAKES (thanks, Stephanie), and we talked a LOT.  If you have not followed their blogs, it is not too late, Peeps.  Check them out here.

Starbucks gave me a free drink for my birthday.  Hello, Java Chip Frappucino!  Yes, I like being able to chew my liquids.

This isn't running related, and I'll talk about it on my education blog,, but I learned this week that I was selected to be a 2015 Lead PBS Digital Innovator, and I'm so pumped!  Here is the bio from their web page:

Stephani Itibrout



Read the Full Bio
Stephani is an English teacher and blended learning teacher at Medina High School in Medina, Ohio. Stephani knows that learning is messy, and Blended Learning is especially messy. She loves seeing the light bulbs illuminate above her students' heads when a seemingly chaotic project suddenly clicks into place.
Favorite PBS LearningMedia resource: Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure: Paris
The weather has been fabulous, and today I celebrated my birthday with a ten mile run with Joy on the Towpath from the Big Indian to downtown Akron and back.

Pre-run pic (while we still look fabulous)
When I got home, my family gave me beautiful letters and cards and a Stephen King novel.  Then the strawberries from Edible Arrangements arrived (thanks, Bill, Jess, and Ella!), and I stuffed one in my pie-hole.

Tonight I look forward to going to Bar Cento for dinner, where I will eat pizza and french fries because--hey-- my birthday.

Run sunny today, Peeps!

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