Sunday, November 30, 2014

Celebrating the Running Community

If you know me, you know that I really don't like people.  I used to really enjoy being in a crowd, but being a teacher has taken its toll on my enjoyment of social interaction.  Plus, I'm grumpy.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I am a loner, a rebel.

You would think that I would avoid group runs like the plague, but I happen to like them very much.  I also really like the group atmosphere at races.  There is nothing quite like being crowded into a starting corral with a bunch of like-minded people, all intent on accomplishing a personal best.  The running community is awesome.  For the most part, runners are supportive, kind, and sometimes crazy as hell (the part I to which I can relate).  I love the fact that I can show up at any running event in NorthEast Ohio, and I will recognize somebody there, and that person will actually BE NICE TO ME.  Remember; I'm a teacher, and I'm not always used to that.

Thanksgiving Day I participated in my first Turkey Trot, Home Run for the Homeless, a four-miler in downtown Akron.  It was a benefit for Gennesaret, an organization that provides housing for homeless families.  Gennesaret doesn't take any government funding, and the Home Run is their only fundraiser for the year.  This year 3,000 runners and walkers participated, and many more people donated time, money, prizes, and food.

I had heard of the Home Run for the Homeless, but I had never run it before. . . and I really don't know why.  Yes, it was cold; yes, it was hilly (VERY hilly), and yes, it was FABULOUS!  To see that many runners gathered together to benefit the homeless. . .it was very moving.  Plus, the giant piece of coffee cake I stuffed in my head after the race wasn't too shabby either.

Today I ran the Tryptophan Two Hour FREE Group Run sponsored by Vertical Runner in Hudson, an event I have been eagerly anticipating since I last ran it in 2012.  In the Tryptophan, runners and walkers can run/walk a two-mile and three-mile loop in any combination for two hours.  For every loop, the runner drops one or two tickets into a bucket for a drawing after the event.  The drawing had super prizes, such as fleeced-lined shirts from Vertical Runner and race entries.  Additionally, Saucony had a booth there, and they allowed runners to try their shoes for the run.  Jen, Shelby, and I got our picture taken at the Saucony booth, and I sent it to my email, but I never got it. : (

About three hundred runners showed up for the run, and I recognized many of them.  It was so nice to spend the morning running and chatting with my peeps.  Vertical Runner even supplied coffee, donut holes (which I DIDN'T eat), chocolate, and protein bars!

The Ohio Runners Network represents at the Tryptophan.
Vince Rucci, owner of Vertical Runner Hudson, is one of the reasons why we have such a strong, supportive running community.  I've seen him (and the Vertical Runner truck) out and about at different running events, and I know that he realizes the importance of giving back to the community.  Small Business Saturday is over for 2014, but I believe that every day we decide to consume, we should consider any local businesses first.  That goes double for the running community.  Let's thank Vince with our spending dollars.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Deer, Turkey, and Goats OR Run While You Can.

In my first year of teaching, I was in the middle of a lesson on Comparison/Contrast with my sophomores.  They were very giggly, unusually giggly for 8:00 in the morning.  As I taught, I cautiously checked my fly, my hair, my nose, anything that I thought might be the reason for the mirth.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore.  "What?  WHAT?!  What are you laughing at?" I demanded.

"We thought you did it on purpose," they said.


"Look down," they said, and then the whole classroom lost their minds.

I was wearing two different shoes.  One was brown; one was black.  One had a buckle; the other didn't.  They had two different heel heights.  I had been wearing them since 6:30 that morning, and the only way I noticed was after the class told me.

I would like to say that I have grown since then, but this morning, as I got out of the car to meet my running peeps, Shelby took one look at me and said, "Are those two different shoes?"

Jen said, "I wasn't going to say anything.  I thought there might be a reason."

I looked down, and this is what I saw:

I meant to do that.
At least they are the same kind of shoe this time.  Sigh.

This did not stop me from having a fantastic morning run with Shelby and Jen.  We started on the Bike and Hike and quickly changed our minds when we saw the ice coating the path.  The roads in Peninsula were perfect for an eight mile run in 40-something degree weather.  We all agreed to take our time, and we were rewarded with plenty of sights, starting with some deer on the Bike and Hike.

Our next stop was to look at these turkeys:

I wanted to tell them, "Fly!  Fly for your feathery lives!"  Then I remembered that turkeys can't fly.

It was really cool to make gobbling sounds at the turkeys until we noticed that they were pecking at a downed turkey, and then it turned really creepy when we realized that turkeys are cannibals.

Then we saw some adorable goats:

After owning goats as a child, you would think I'd be immune to them because, really, they are nasty, but just look at them! LOOK AT THESE GOATS!
We spent the time talking about future races and catching up with our lives.  I loved my run with Jen and Shelby.  It's so good to be out with other runners during the long run.  I often convince myself that I'm better off by myself, but when I can find a group where I feel I belong, well, that is incredible.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I feel I belong.  Also, we look like we just finished an 80's Jazzercise video.  I promise we aren't wearing leg warmers.
Up next week:  The Home Run for the Homeless on Thanksgiving Day and Vertical Runner's Tryptophan Run on Sunday.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Best Hot Chocolate Ever!

Saturday I made my kids clean the house, and then I packed them off to the sitter so I could go to the packet pick-up and expo for the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in Columbus.  I met Deidre, one of my running besties, at the Expo, and we crammed chocolate tabs in our mouths right away.  Then we scoped out any other food items there and crammed those in our mouths, too.  There were marshmallows dipped in chocolate fondue, mini Larabars, and sweet potato tortilla chips.

Then we took some silly pictures:

This is EXACTLY how I look when I am dreaming about Hot Chocolate!
We dressed up for the occasion.
I also spotted some Turtles there.  Fear them!

The expo was well-run.  I didn't have to stand in line for anything.   There were more vendors there than when I ran in 2012; I think the race is at least twice as big now.  Also, there were inflatable slides and things for the kids, but since I run to get AWAY from my kids, I didn't care about the inflatables.

After the expo, Deidre and I laid out our gear.  I agonized over my running outfit because I wasn't sure about the temperature, and I had packed several possibilities.  I went with this:
Flat Stephani appears to like blue this year!

Per our tradition, Deidre and I had dinner at Marcella's, a great Italian restaurant in the Short North, where I continued my personal pre-race tradition of stuffing my face with pasta carbonara.  YUM!!  It is also possible that someone consumed some wine.  Maybe.  We had a wonderful dinner, and we enjoyed catching up with each other, so much so that we didn't get back to the hotel until around midnight after walking several miles around the city.  In high heeled boots.  DOH!

The morning of the race was a little rough because of my lack of sleep and the cold.  I went down to eat a bagel for breakfast, but the breakfast bar wasn't open yet--GRRRRR.  Luckily, I am ALWAYS prepared when it comes to food.  I had brought a Cliff Bar, so I ate that and downed some coffee on the way to the corral for a 7:30 start time.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm freezing my dupa off in the corral at 7 AM.

As soon as the race started, I felt GREAT!!!!  The cold air woke me up, and running warmed me up quickly.  There was music in some parts of the course and plenty of water and sports drink.  At the beginning of Mile 2, I received some dark chocolate chips (a whole handful!), which I munched on for a bit.  In other stations, volunteers gave out Tootsie Rolls and marshmallows.  I took a Tootsie Roll for later, but I was afraid to try eating a marshmallow as I am clumsy, so I can just visualize choking to death on the marshmallow.

This year, after the trauma of running REALLY HARD for both the Perfect 10-Miler and the Akron Half Marathon, I decided to just enjoy myself in this race, and I really did.  I loved looking at the course.  The first few miles were a run up High Street and through the Short North.  Then we moved to the University and along the Olentangy River for the middle miles.  My favorite miles were the last two, the residential neighborhoods.  I LOVED looking at the old houses, especially the Painted Ladies.  I'm so glad I allowed myself to slow down and enjoy this race because it could have easily gone another way if I had given in to my inner slave-driver.

I finished strong because the last .3 miles were downhill, and I was smelling the chocolate.  I was surprised and happy to see Deidre waiting for me, and we got our fondue together. I ate a little bit of it, but my hands started freezing up, and I couldn't hold the food, so I knew we had to get back to the hotel as soon as possible, which we did.  Unfortunately, that meant I had to skip the after party, which I remember from 2012 as being really fun with a great band.

All in all, this race was worth the 2 hour drive and the run in the cold.  I really enjoyed the course and the chocolate, and what I liked best was being with my friends (even though I couldn't find most of the Turtles--sorry, Peeps!).  Oh, and the swag was FABULOUS!
I LOVE my warm jacket, swag bag, and hat!
And check out my medal--SWEET! (See what I did there?)

I plan to make this a tradition, so I will be back next year--hopefully as an ambassador again so I can get hats for everyone and a free entry to a lucky winner.  Thanks for running with me and following the blog, Peeps!

Keep following me--I'll soon be blogging for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

I'm Ok/ You're OK.

Today I ran ten miles on the Towpath in Merriman Valley.  It was just me, the leaves that are stubbornly sticking to the trees, the geese migrating overhead, and lots of good music.

This is my favorite song by Adam and the Ants.  Look at him:  he's so beautiful, and he's the Dandy Highwayman!

I ran most of my short runs of five or fewer miles by myself when I was visiting my father in Florida, and that was fine.  Lately I have grown accustomed to running the lsd without music and with at least one other person, if not with a group.  When I didn't get my act together to post a run in The Ohio Runners Network group page, I was a little bit grumpy about going out by myself for ten miles.  Don't get me wrong; I'm sure I could have posted and someone would have joined me, but I was worried that nobody would respond, and I don't handle rejection well.

It was after my typical, soul-sucking, hateful first two miles that I started to relax and enjoy my music and being inside my head.  I remembered what it is like to enjoy ME.

This is EXACTLY what it looks like when I start to feel good after two miles on a long run.
It was a perfect Fall morning, and I'm so glad I got out there to enjoy it.  It made up for the crappy food choices I made this weekend.  (Just a hint:  You should NEVER eat a chocolate-peanut butter bar AND a chocolate chip cookie within five minutes of each other.  Never.  Especially when you have no intention of cutting back for the rest of the day.)

Speaking of chocolate. . .

Have you registered for the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k?  If not, remember to use my code, TroubleRunHat, to score a free hat.  I'm so excited for this race, especially since I just found out that my friend Deidre is driving up from West Virginia to run with me!  We are going to have a nice dinner together (and some wine, no doubt), and then we will stuff our faces with chocolate.  Will you be there?

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Beat the Blerch in Brecksville!

I didn't get to write about this when I did it because of the Hot Chocolate Giveaway (Congratulations, Erin!), but here is the lowdown on the Blerch:

You know that tempting voice in your head that tells you it's time to give up in mile 6 of your ten-miler?  The voice that tells you that Halloween candy doesn't count because it's so tiny?  The same voice that lulls you back to sleep when your alarm goes off at 5:30 to prep for your Sunday long run? That voice belongs to the Blerch:

He looks like he likes candy, right?
The Blerch is a creation of Matthew Inman, known as The Oatmeal, who is a cartoonist, grammar enthusiast, Nicola Tesla groupie, and runner.  The Oatmeal introduced the Blerch in his book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.  It is a beautiful comic that really captures distance-runners' feelings about the sport and explains why we do what we do.  As soon as I read this book, I had to buy a t-shirt and bumper sticker:

This is the front and back of my t-shirt.
This is my bumper sticker.  Everyone at my job thinks I'm weird, but now that I think about it, that may have little to do with the bumper sticker.  Hmmmm.
We all have a Blerch who lives inside us, and running (or any healthy physical activity) helps us to shut up the Blerch when he wants us to eat cake and sit in front of the computer clicking on mindless games.  Not that I do that. Ahem.

So, when I saw that there was a Beat the Blerch 10k/Half/Full Marathon, I was pumped.  Unfortunately, it sold out in ten minutes, so my dreams of traveling to meet a live Blerch (they chased runners on the course) were completely shot.  Luckily, The Oatmeal sold entries to a virtual race, so I was able to beat the Blerch on my own terms and still get a medal and some cool swag.  My friend/running Peep Jen also entered the race, so we decided to do a 10k together.  First, here is the swag:

Awesome, right?  All this for twenty bucks, plus, there is a mini-Blerch stress ball that I forgot to put in the picture.

Now I have even MORE bumper stickers on my car!  My kids aren't embarrassed AT ALL when I pick them up and their friends see my car.

Jen and I ran in Brecksville Reservation, and it was gorgeous.  The temperature was in the sixties, the leaves were colorful, and we were able to catch up after not seeing each other in a long time.  (Ah, the paths of trail runners and road runners don't often cross.  We must take advantage of the moment when they do.)  Anyway, here is my medal shot:

This is EXACTLY how I look when I beat the Blerch!

Jen and I had a fun time, and she celebrated by giving me some purple deliciousness for my kids (read the book, and you'll understand). Neither one of us drank it because--eww-but my seven-year-old will love it; he'll drink any kind of pop.

If you are into virtual races, this was a good one.  Jen and I are hoping to register for the real race next year where we will Beat the Blerch on his own territory.

Remember, Peeps, it isn't too late to register for the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k in Columbus.  Use my code, TroubleRunHat, to get a free hat with your swag.  I hope to see you there!

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