Monday, September 26, 2016

My First Marathon

To give you an idea of my luck, here is my Facebook post from the morning of the Akron Marathon:

Just like before the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon, I watched my carefully laid plans blow up one by one.  This is my life.

I was surprisingly calm during taper and just before the race, but my stomach was churning.  I took lots of pre-race selfies with The Ohio Runner's Network and with my running partners, Shelby and Megan.

Shelby and I are at the expo.

TORN in the morn
Megan, me, and Shelby pre-race

The corral line up was very smooth, and though we were worried we were going to have to dodge walkers, there were enough corrals that we had nothing to worry about. Corral C is for me!

The first twelve miles were fine.  Megan, Shelby, and I had great conversation while trying to slow down our pace.  We met some interesting people.  When the split off came for the half and the full, I thought I would be upset, but I really wasn't.  At that point I made up a game: I planned to stop at any restaurant that was open rather than finish the race, but since it was early, I had to keep going until I hit the next restaurant. This kept me going for quite a while, and Shelby and Megan were happy to play along.

I had the best surprise around mile 16.  My friend and colleague, Rob,  lives on the blue line, and he threw a party in which he invited our mutual friends and colleagues for the race.  I passed them at mile 16, and I screamed, "I f----king got this!!!!" while I high-fived all of my friends.  I felt awesome.

Fabulous signs!

I came pretty close to my house around mile 18, and I contemplated just running to my house to nap and eat, but Shelby told me I would never forgive myself and that I would have to run this marathon again, so I forged on.  At mile 19 I saw my fellow Cleveland Ambassador Melissa, who, even though I was sweaty and salty and disgusting, gave me a huge hug.  I really needed her then, and that hug kept me going.

Running through Stan Hywet Gardens

Smiling in West Akron

At mile 22 I was ready to call it a day.  It didn't matter that I "only" had 4.2 miles to go; I didn't care.  I hated my life, and I hated the race.  That was when Jess and Erin showed up to "run me to the party" as I was passing Rob's house again.  As we ran together, I said, "This is so f--king hard, guys.  I don't know if I can do this." Erin and Jess told me I was strong and I was going to finish and if it was hard it was because it was worth it.  I kept going to the party where I saw everyone cheering for me.  As I ran away from my friends, I was crying.

I know this is sappy, but I have rarely counted on anyone to ever know or care what is going on in my life.  My training for the marathon was barely a blip on my family's radar because I made sure it didn't inconvenience them in the slightest.  People don't watch me finish races. I am usually the person who takes the pictures of others when they finish. I try not to talk too much about training on social media; I save it for this blog so people can choose to know or not know.  I realize that I am often a pain in the ass at work and in my basically-nonexistent social life, and people tend to tune me out.  You can understand then why this was a big deal to me.  I NEVER in my life thought I would ever have someone travel any distance at all to see me.  I cried because this was a moment where I felt someone cared about me.  It's a big deal, Peeps.

I have the best friends ever. Jess, Katie, Sharon, Erin, and Sherri

Anyway, I have to tell you about someone else who cared enough to keep me going.  Sheila, the head of The Ohio Runner's Network (and Shelby's sister) came out on her bike around mile 16 and followed us for a few miles, ringing a cowbell, blowing a bird whistle, and cheering.  She was a great bright spot.  I especially enjoyed watching Megan's reaction, as she had never met Sheila before, and she didn't know what it meant to cheer as a T0RN SUPERFAN.  Megan told me she thought Sheila was amazing, and I agree with her.

Sheila reappeared at the "party block" and followed us to the end.  There were hills.  Lots of hills.  There were many times between mile 22 and the end where I felt like I would just walk the rest. . . but I didn't.  As soon as we hit route 18, Shelby was "smelling the barn," and she wanted in the worst way to pull ahead.  I told her to go, but she held back.  Sheila knows me, and she shouted at me as she rode next to me, telling me to get out of my head and just concentrate on my legs.

This may be my favorite photo of the race:
I'm going to finish this race.  I got this.
See Sheila in the pink?  I couldn't have continued without her. I love this photo because I think it accurately depicts the struggle I had to finish.  You can see that I'm battling demons, both physical and psychological, and you can see Sheila is helping me.  I also like my legs in this pic.  By the way, the pink is my FlipBelt. My husband pointed out that it looks like I was wearing saggy shorts.  I wasn't.

I made it to the finish, and I managed to smile for the cameras when I saw that my friend and fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador Andrew was waiting for me at the chute. . .holding out a beer.

Andrew is in the blue and the sunglasses. Notice I did NOT take the beer.

Andrew has been giving me a lot of flack about refusing the beer, saying it would have been the best finish line pic ever.  I still think it's pretty damned awesome.  Andrew ran the half, so he was waiting a LONG time for me to come in, and I really appreciate it.  When I crossed the finish, I felt awful; I didn't know if I wanted to vomit or cry or walk or collapse.  I hugged Shelby and Megan, and I followed Andrew away from the finish, where he walked with me to the food tent and got me settled on the lawn so I could stretch.  I am not a fast runner, and this was my first marathon, so I really appreciate Andrew waiting for me.  It must have been super difficult drinking tons of cheap beer in the sunshine.

Shelby and Megan caught up to me after getting their food, and we sat together for a while.  I thought  I would feel victorious and euphoric and giddy, but I really just felt drained and sweaty and stinky.  Running a marathon was the most difficult thing I have ever done.  It was more difficult (and took more time!) than birthing both of my kids.  It took physical effort, but it took a whole lot more mental/psychological effort.  I am glad I did it, but I really didn't feel that way right after the race.  I ate lunch with TORN, but I wasn't really feeling that either, so I went home in time to help my daughter with her Homecoming preparations.

I learned a lot during these four months of training.  I learned that I like marathon training--more than I like marathon running.  I learned that I am physically very strong, and I learned that mentally I am much stronger than I often believe.  I learned that I have people who care about me, and sometimes I can relax and rely on friends.  Old friends are awesome (Shelby, I love you, man; you rock), but it's always possible to make new friends (Thank you, Megan, for running this race with us), even when you don't like people in general.  Hey, you had to know that I wasn't going to keep this sappy.  I gotta be me.

Will I run another marathon?  Hmmmm. . .

This is EXACTLY how I look after running a marathon.

That is something I'll have to decide later when the race amnesia sets in a little more.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Recap: Race with Grace 5k

Sunday was the annual Race with Grace 5k in Medina. Last year I ran it with the Kabyle Chef, but I knew that with his crazy hours he wouldn't be getting up early to run or walk 3.1 miles with me on his only day off, so this year I asked my friend Katie if I could run with her.  It was Katie's first race, and well, that's always a special moment.

I got there early so I could put in a few extra miles.  I only had time for two miles because our team had to meet for pictures, but hey--two miles is better than nothing, right?  After all this is taper week.

Did I mention this is taper week?

This is EXACTLY how I look during taper week.
I guess some of my team members saw me running before the race, and somehow a rumor went around that I ran to the race.  From Akron.  Yeah.  I guess there are worse rumors.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I run 13 miles from my house to a race.
Our team consists of high school staff members and their families.  We are called Team Brenda because we run to support Brenda Hufford's fight against cancer.  The race is in honor of Mary Grace, who was an active Medina Community member.  You can read about her struggle with breast cancer and the race's mission here.

Team Brenda 
We had a good showing this year; team Brenda raised over $1,200 for the Mary Grace Foundation.  I am so proud of my colleagues.

The best part of the day was running with Katie for her first race.  I remember my first race; it was the Mother's Day 5k in Munroe Falls. I remember how nervous I was the night before, and I remember how keyed up I was during the race, so I asked Katie if she would like me to run it with her, and she said yes.

To seal the deal, I gave her a running tattoo.  I'm not a tattoo person, but I do believe in war paint, so my tradition is to wear temporary tattoos when I'm racing.

I got this tat from Bondi.  Order yours as well as some headbands (see mine below?).  Make sure to use my code (TroubleRun) for a 10% discount.

Another team member, Jess, joined us, and the three of us chatted while we ran in the sun.  Katie was tough, and she managed to save enough in the tank for a kick to the end, which is always exciting.  I am so proud of her; it's not easy to train for any race, and it's not always fun, but Katie did it with class.  I hope this is just the beginning of her running journey.

Look at this Badass!  She ran a 5k!
After the race, I got a FREE chili cheese dog with my former principal, Paul.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm standing in line for a free chili cheese dog in the morning.  I'm on the right, by the way.

All in all, I can say that this race is such a fun experience for me.  The course is nice with just enough incline to make it interesting.  The food and entertainment are amazing for a small-town 5k.  The opportunity to run with my colleagues is even better.  The best part was that Katie allowed me to share the experience of her first race.  Katie, you are amazing.  I hope you had fun, and I hope this is something we can do again in the future.

Next year I want to find someone else who has never run a race.  Who will it be, Peeps?  I'm betting on one of my kids.

This Saturday is the big day: The Akron Marathon.  I am in taper mode, and it is UGLY.  If you want to find me before the race, look in a dark corner where I'll be rocking in the fetal position and crying. Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Snapping Turtle Meaner than Me

Megan and I ran 13 miles on the Towpath last Sunday.  The weather was perfect, but the run seemed difficult because we were both wondering how we were going to DOUBLE that mileage and then add .2 FREAKING miles in a few weeks.  Shelby tells me not to think about it, but it's hard to turn off the crazy, you know what I'm saying?

The monster snapping turtle helped distract us from our angst:

Seriously, he was YUGE!
He was blocking half of the Towpath, and we were afraid to cross in front of him because snapping turtles have those long, snakelike necks AND we thought he might lunge for us.  It was an existential problem, too: Can I really run faster than a turtle?

I was too afraid to find out.

Then, a man ran past us, totally in the zone with his earbuds, didn't even look at the turtle, and ran right in front of him.  Nada.  He left with all his toes intact.  So, after some nervous squealing, we ran as fast as we could past the turtle.  He looked pissed, but he didn't try to bite us.

Stephani and Megan: 1, Turtle: 0

We began our run with members of TORN (The Ohio Runners Network), and I caught up with them at Szalay's later when I bought some corn.

Notice that I am the blogger, but I am the ONLY ONE who never knows where the camera is.

Other fun surprises:

My Ragnar belt buckle arrived!  It is so heavy!

Also, I know you never see me without a Bondi Band (Click here to order from them and use my code, TroubleRun, for a discount), so here is a recent picture when the Kabyle Chef actually took a night off and we had dinner out:

My hair is purplish-pink now!  I love it!

Speaking of dinner, I really need to regain control of my eating.  I've stopped my nightly glass of wine with dinner (since the Chef isn't there to enjoy it with me), but I've replaced it with ice cream.


I fear the taper will not help this situation.

How is your taper going, Peeps?  Ready to kill anyone yet?  Have you eaten all your kids' candy bars?  No? Just me, huh?

Well, I hope you do better than I traditionally do.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Review: SLS3 Socks

This week  Shelby and I ran with a guest.
Meet Megan!
 My friend and fellow Cleveland Ambassador Melissa texted me on Friday night asking if her friend could run with us this weekend as she was training for her first marathon (like me!) and didn't have her training partner with her due to injury.  I said, "Sure, the more, the merrier!" and she met us at the start of our 16 miler on the Bike and Hike.

Megan is quite a bit younger than Shelby and me, so I was worried that our pace would be frustrating for her, but everything was great.  Megan fit right in to our pace and our groove, and she kept up her part in conversation.  We invited her to run with us anytime, including during the Akron Marathon.

I have been experimenting with different kinds of socks and compression gear lately (as if you hadn't noticed), and these past two weeks I have tried out a pair of SLS3 running socks. SLS3 sent them to me for free in exchange for a review, so I wore them on a short run of four miles, a trail run of ten miles, and my long run of sixteen miles.  Does it tell you anything when I write that after the trail run, I immediately went to Amazon and ordered a six pack of the socks?  I love them.  Here are some reasons why:

1.  The color!  These colors are bright and fun.  I usually wear black socks, and I sometimes feel like someone's grandpa when I wear them.  Check out the picture:

Cute, right?

2.  The fit.  I am a size 10 shoe, and I ordered the small.  Perfect!

Happy foot
3.  The wicking.  I sweat a LOT, and these socks didn't chafe or rub at all.  Plus, they felt light and comfortable on my feet.

4.  The price.  While my trial pair was free, I ordered on Amazon, and guess what? They are on sale!
Click here to check it out.  Major update, Peeps:  Use this code for $5.00 off!!!  DKJIJERK Don't ask why the word Jerk is in the code.  I don't want to think about it, honestly.

I even wore the socks for our family day at Cedar Point this weekend.

Of course you can't see the socks, but this picture is so dang cute I couldn't resist.  Look at the evil kid glaring at us over his shoulder.  Priceless.

These will be the socks I rock in the Akron Marathon in a few weeks.  I hope you have good socks for your upcoming races.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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