Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Race Recap: Medina Half Marathon

The Medina Half Marathon is a tradition for me. I am a teacher at Medina High School, and this race takes place the Saturday after school lets out every year. It is my way of saying goodbye to the school year and to Medina for a brief vacation. It is my way of letting go of the stress and the tears and the sleeplessness of grading and worrying and juggling schedules.

This is part of Medina Square. The course begins and ends here.
Each year I sign up for next year's race at the expo because it is only $38, which is an amazing price for a half marathon with an awesome medal. So, when I signed up for the race for this year, I didn't realize at the time that I would decide to run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, since I have been running the half for a few years. This meant that I would run 26.2 one week and then 13.1 six days later.

I was committed to both races, so I figured I could walk as much of the Medina race as I needed to if I was still suffering from the marathon.  It turns out that I felt fine after the marathon, so I decided to run the half. Notice that I didn't say that I decided to RACE the half. I think that might have caused an injury, and I didn't want to do anything stupid. Well, more stupid than usual.

As a bonus, Marta from the Burning River Goddesses messaged me and asked if I wanted to run the race with her; she was also still recovering from the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.  Su-weet!

We decided to just run how we felt. . . and we felt pretty good! We decided about halfway through that we could probably shoot for a 2:10 finish.

The course has changed each year, and this year brought fewer hills, which surprised me greatly. I had warned Marta that we would be feeling the hills, and then I kept wondering when we would find them!  One other change from previous years: the race course was much safer in the residential neighborhoods this year. I think that our Medina friends have finally realized that the race is here to stay, and they have learned to live with it. In previous years, I have seen cars weaving among runners, and it was super-dangerous. This year when there were drivers, they listened to the course directors. Kudos to the Race Director for working on this problem.

As we came to the end of the race, I heard my friends shouting my name (thanks, Ailene!), so I found the energy to kick it in gear and sprint. Marta and I finished in 2:10:01.  I'll take it!

It looks painful, right?
 Now for the worst photo finish EVER:

Hahahahaha! So dramatic.
After I walked off the feeling of wanting to throw up, Marta and I took some happy pictures by the Gazebo (which is a Medina-thing):

Then we went to the best after-party EVER: Pizza and beer and a great band sponsored by Stand up for Downs. I drank some Fat Tire (no crappy Michelob Ultra here) and ate some pizza and basked in the sunshine with Marta:

Before we were faking it. Now that we have beer, we are truly happy.
And check out the awesome medal:

There are little sparkles embedded in the medal.
All in all, I give the Medina Half Marathon a big stamp of approval. This race gets better every year. The race directors listen to our feedback and work really hard to make any necessary improvements for the next year, and honestly, there is a lot of bang for your buck. I will continue to make this half my traditional hello to summer.

How do you say hello to summer?  Whatever your tradition, whether it involves racing or not, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Race Recap: Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

I started training for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon without even realizing it. I was doing long runs with a friend, who was training for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and there came a point where I realized I should just go the whole way.  So, I did.

Here is my disclaimer: This is my third year as a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador. This means that in exchange for sharing my training for the race, I got a free entry, one to give away, and some sweet swag.

I have always enjoyed being an Ambassador, and I ran the Cleveland races before I ever officially blogged about them. You can read about my 10k experience here. I loved that race!

Anyway, this year I upped the ante, even though I knew thorough training for a marathon would be difficult for me given that most of my miles take place before 5:30 AM.  I did it, though:

I ran the miles, sometimes on a treadmill, but more often not.

I did the speedwork.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I do speedwork. I am often chasing a gazelle.

I did the strength training.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I lift weights.  I use my moustache to wipe the sweat from my face.

What I did NOT do was watch my weight, which is what I should have done. I ran this race 10 pounds over my racing weight, and I could feel that difference. In fact, I'm feeling it now!

Anyway, let's not talk about me; let's talk about the race.

I got into Cleveland at 5:30 AM. I was nervous about finding parking at that time, so I decided to park in the Muni lot. This was silly for two reasons: 1. It's a mile away from the start and finish lines. 2. There was PLENTY of parking available.  Anyway, I'm a dufus, and it was probably good for me to walk the extra mile back to the car to stretch my legs a bit.  Yeah. Right.

The weather prediction was thunderstorms, but the sky looked ok at the start, although it was humid. I lined up for pictures with all of my amazing peeps, some who are Ambassadors:
Stephanie, Melissa, Sara, Pam, Jessica, Me, Jamie

and some who are teachers:

Laina, Me, Katie. What is up with my hair???
I started in corral F, and I found the 4:55 pacer there. I asked him about his pacing strategies, and while he seemed like a really nice person, I realized he was a wild card when it came to pacing. My goal was to start with his group and then pull ahead if I was feeling it. It took me all of two miles to decide that I wasn't sticking with this group because a woman kept cutting me off in order to run RIGHT NEXT TO THE PACER. God forbid she get two steps behind or ahead. It didn't matter where I went; she would cross in front of me. I pulled ahead.

My goal was to stick with 11:00/miles, especially in the beginning miles. I felt super good, but I managed to stay between 10:45 and 11 most of the time. At Mile 4, we hit the Flats. This may be my favorite part of the race. We ran up the hill to the Columbus bridge, and the hill was pretty awesome. I am used to hills, so I kept my pace and breathing steady, and I watched the spectacle around me, namely the Pope (or a bishop?) with a pitcher of beer, a man yelling, "Get up that hill!" and some fun signs. Check out this awesome video from Share the River that shows exactly what it was like:

When we reached the top, I made my signature move: I threw my fists in the air and yelled to the almost-silent runners, "YES! I MADE THIS HILL MY BITCH!"

I also enjoyed running through Ohio City, Tremont, and Gordon Square, where I found a man in a Speedo standing on a wall yelling, "Let's have some laughter and fun! C'mon! I'm wearing a Speedo! Look at me!"I am also grateful to Didi (with whom I ran Burning River last year), who found me and cheered for me there.

My second favorite part of the route was the out-and-back on Clifton, even though it started to rain when I got to Mile 14. I like out-and-backs because they give me the opportunity to look for my friends, who are all faster than I am. For the miles going down to Rocky River, I was able to spot Steve (pacing), Ed, Andrew, Stephanie, and Marta. Coming back I concentrated on the gorgeous houses, which definitely helped me take my mind off the pain I was feeling in my legs and feet by Mile 18.

I found a burst of energy at Mile 21 because I had reeled in a man with cool dreadlocks. For a minute we ran side by side, and then I started to drop back and let him go so I could fuel, but I noticed that he also dropped back with me and kept pace. At this point I wondered if we were pacing or racing each other, so I sped up a tiny bit. He sped up with me but didn't pass me, so I realized I had a new running buddy. He kept me going for that mile at a faster than usual pace, and then I decided to go through a water station, so I lost him. I found him after the race and thanked him for getting me through a tough mile.

Coming into the city was hard, but not because of the route, which was fabulous. Aerobically I felt fine, like I should have picked up the pace, but my legs and feet were really hurting, and I knew it wasn't possible to run any faster than I was going. I saw Didi again, and I yelled to her, "I'm dying, Didi, seriously!" but she assured me that I wasn't.

By now I was in the last two miles and it was pouring (but no hail or lightning, thank goodness). I found Lyndsey, who was running this after the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, and I told her that we were going to finish strong. I was thinking of walking a few steps, just to stretch my legs, when I heard a dreadful, familiar voice behind me: It was the 4:55 pacer. WTF!!!! I looked at my watch; he was ahead of schedule. I KNEW that guy was a wild card. That was when I decided to get my ass in gear because there was NO WAY that pacer was going to finish ahead of me.

Coming in to the finish was amazing. I heard John Adams, the Indians' drummer, and that was definitely enough to put a smile on my face. I LOVE hearing the drum at the Indians' games.

I ran through a row of American flags, and I found the energy to pick up my legs and the pace for a strong finish. I got my medal, my food and water, and a super-cool towel, and then I got my gear and started back the mile to my car before the stiffness could set in. I looked absolutely pathetic draped in a beach towel, carrying a bunch of stuff and a gear bag, and shuffling painfully to the Muni lot.

I did it. I ran this marathon all by myself like an adult, and I did it without crying and without music. My fellow Ambassadors encouraged me and told me that I had it in me, and they were right. Thank you, Friends, for believing in me when I found it difficult to believe in myself.  I PR'd that bitch by almost a minute and a half. I am proud of myself.

Overall, I have to say that I LOVED this experience. The race course was so interesting and fun for me that I didn't need any music or conversation. The medal and the swag are fabulous. There were plenty of water stops, fuel (including waffles!), and portapotties. The spectators were kind and fun. This has been the best Cleveland race experience I have ever had.

As the race amnesia sets in, I realize how difficult it was for me to train for a full during the schoolyear, but honestly, if the race next year is like this year, I intend to do the full again. Thanks, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon for an empowering race!
Look at my medal! LOOK AT IT!!!

I'll be back! Will you be there with me? Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

This Is the Moment!

This is it, Peeps. This is the moment for which I've been doing 400s at dark o'clock. This is the reason why I have been putting in insane miles on Sundays when everyone else is eating bagels and reading the newspaper.  This is the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and I'm running it tomorrow.

I'm not panicking. I'm not. I'm also NOT sitting in the corner in the fetal position, rocking.

The end of the school year timed with tapering has been a bit stressful for me. It was really nice to meet up with my fellow Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors on Friday evening at the VIP Reception after visiting the Expo.

I saw Rachel and Melissa first at the Expo (after I caught Holly on her way out):

We are like Charlie's Angels. . . only more badass.
I also spotted my name on the Ambassador list:

"I'm kind of a big deal." I can't even write that with a straight face.

And I bought a signed copy of Jill's book.
Get your copy and check out the back. You may find a blurb written by someone you know. *cough*

Then I hugged and laughed and took as many selfies as I could with my fellow Ambassadors:

Andrew is so serious now that he wears a tie.

Stephani(e)s squared!

Emily and Jessica

Melissa and I are together again!

The Hyatt Regency. So beautiful

Rachel, Sara, and Melissa

Our traditional group shot.

I missed some Ambassadors, and I hope to get pictures with them tomorrow. . .if I am not hiding under my bed. It was so overwhelming to see everyone, and I got confused about which pictures I took.  I'd like to thank Jack Staph and Ralph Staph for including me in this wonderful experience of blogging for a race I love. I would like to thank Joan Freese, Kayla Henderson, and Mary Sutter for being my guides as a Rite Aid Cleveland Ambassador. Of course, I would like to thank all my fellow Ambassadors, YES, EVEN YOU, ANDREW. You all came into my life at a time where I was certain that I didn't want or need any more friends. I was so wrong.  Most of all, I'd like to thank you, Peeps. It really gets me through the dark times when you tell me that you enjoy my blog or when you comment on any of my posts. Thank you.

Today I spent most of the afternoon working Commencement for Medina High School. This helped me not to fret so much. Then I did some housework and took a looooong nap. I so needed it. Now I'm trying to settle in because this is where the scary head game starts. I've applied my tattoo:

And I've laid out Flat Stephani:

This is the moment, Peeps, the moment where there is no room for self-doubt. I've trained really well; I need to trust the training. I got this; I do.

Will I see you at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon tomorrow?  I hope so. If you do see me, yell something--ANYTHING--at me, even "Your blog sucks!" I will take it as encouragement.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

20 Miler!

This was my second 20 miler ever. The first was the Akron Blue Line run just before the Akron Marathon, and with the heat and the sidewalks and the concrete and the chafing. . .it was brutal.

This is the Blue Line.

This time I decided to run 20 miles on my own terms.

Normally I should have run the 20 miles last week, BUT I DO THINGS ON MY OWN TERMS; didn't you just read that? Instead I ran the Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon, and yes, I know you are waiting for Part Deux of the race recap, but that isn't happening this week, ok?

A few months ago when I was running with Jen and Renee, they both volunteered to help me with the 20 miler, and they suggested I invite the Burning River Goddesses. I did, and they generously stepped up. I did a bowtie of five miles in each direction from Lock 29, and I had a crowd to help me along in the beginning.
I'm a Goddess! I'm the Goddess of NO CHILL!

Marta, who has run OVER 30 MARATHONS and is running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, stayed with me for the full 20 miles.

We saw deer.

We saw turtles.

We saw herons.

The weather was beautiful, sunny with a chilly wind. Marta and I ran when we wanted to and walked when we needed to, and it was a great time overall.

Marta and I took a pic at the Beaver Marsh (14.44 miles in)

One thing I like about running with the Goddesses is that they are incredibly chill. We all know that I have NO CHILL WHATSOEVER, so it is important to me that I have someone to calm me down.

For the first time in a long time, I woke up this morning excited for a long run.

When we finished, I hugged Marta repeatedly and thanked her and told her how much it meant to me to have someone so experienced running with me. Then she gave me candy. WHAT????
You want this awesome Goddess with you when you run 20 miles.

So, now I am trying to relax with a recovery drink while my intuitive husband takes the kids to the mall and then to dinner so that we can have a nice dinner of steak and wine together.

Today was a good day. If the weather holds out, I feel I will be ready to tackle the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Will you join me? Click here to register!  Don't want to run? Try the link to volunteer; it's so fun to be in the midst of the action without having to hurt yourself.

I feel good, Peeps. I feel like I want to run. I want to run with you. Will you run with me?  I'm waiting to hear from you.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon Recap, Part I

The thing about me is EVERYTHING is about me, right? So, Part I of my race recap will be what I learned about myself today.

It's ALL about ME.  Always.

First, my finish time for the half marathon was 2:14:29.  This isn't fabulous, but it isn't totally disgraceful either. A part of me had hoped that I would PR this race, even run it in fewer than two hours, but I knew from the first step that this wouldn't happen.  Why?

1. It was SUPER-HOT today, and it was very muggy, too. I knew that I should readjust my pace when I started sweating profusely in the first two miles. Scary moment: at mile 11 I passed a woman who had collapsed and stopped breathing. Someone was administering CPR. It was awful.

2. I had stomach cramps starting at mile 5. This was because I didn't have adequate bathroom time before the race. You know what I mean. Anyway, I spent a good 3-4 minutes in the portapotty at mile 7.

Guess I shouldn't have eaten this the night before the race.

3.  I am 47 years old. This is a fact. I have not been in super-great shape my whole life; in fact, I started running after I turned 40. I may have hit my PR in the half when I did Akron in 2:00:52.

This is EXACTLY what 47 looks like.

4. I am carrying at least 10 pounds that I shouldn't be carrying, and that isn't even going by race weight. In that scenario, I am carrying at least 15 extra pounds. I feel those 10 pounds every day, so I know they affect my pace. I hope to lose them while training for the Akron Marathon, but we will see.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I need to lose 10-15 pounds.

5. I am currently experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress, and today I started the race completely stressed out. This definitely affects my performance.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm stressed out.

6. I'm just not hungry to race anymore. I don't know if it's marathon training or trail running or age or what, but I don't care to run balls-to-the-wall anymore.

I did learn something positive about myself today. As you may have read, I have been worried about having heart palpitations at unexpected moments of running, twice during races. This has made me reluctant to race; that is why the Pro Football Hall of Fame is my first race of the year. Today I strapped on my heart rate monitor because I wanted to have data in case I experienced any problems.

There were a few times that I felt like I was going to have heart palpitations, so I checked my heart rate during those times. . . and I was completely normal. When that happened, I felt reassured that I wasn't going to have to walk and wheeze for the rest of the race. I told myself that it was in my head, and the feeling passed. Does this mean that it's all in my head? Maybe. I suspect that it is, especially since I've had an electrocardiogram and a blood test with perfectly normal results, but I'm still going to see a cardiologist to make sure. Anyway, it made me feel so much more secure in pushing myself a little bit. . .not that my finish time reflects that.

Also, this is my first race after the implantation of my urethral sling. I can't tell you how my life has changed for the better because of this surgery. Let's leave it with this: no screaming in the shower because of chafing caused by incontinence pads. You know what I mean.

Anyway, I haven't touched on the actual race, so I will save that for a another post. For now, I'm prepared to accept my results and think about how to improve them for future races, specifically for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, which will be my A-race this year.  Wanna join me? Click here to register or volunteer.

Will the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon be one of those future races? Check back soon to find out.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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