Monday, July 2, 2018

Running a Marathon is Like. . .

The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is my fourth marathon, and it's the second time I've run the Cleveland full. I feel like I am still a newbie when it comes to marathons although I have officially run more marathons than some "real" runners I know.

I love the marathon; I hate the marathon. Much of this has to do with me personally, and this post is where I might try to sort it all out.

I have known intense pain in my life: 1) the birth of my first child and my second child and 2) when I  broke my right foot. Both times I knew that something in my body wasn't right, and my mind could not just ignore or correct it. The four times that I have run a marathon and the one time I ran a trail ultra relay have also met those criteria.

I have written that I did not have a runner's high after I ran the marathon. In fact, if you read all my other posts about running a marathon, like here and here and here, you will see that I have never felt good when I finished a marathon. On the contrary, I almost always feel powerful and happy when I finish a half marathon. I think I can pinpoint the reason for this; it is all due to time. You see, it took me more time to run any one of my marathons than it took for me to birth BOTH of my children.  Together.

Punkin and Butterbean

Akron Marathon. It took me longer to finish this than to birth BOTH Punkin and Butterbean.

So what? you ask. What does this have to do with anything?

Well, I think it has to do with our relationship to pain. For both of my children, although I was in labor for days before entering the hospital, I did not feel extreme pain until my water broke, and that was minutes before I actually delivered. (Here is my gratuitous bragging: My daughter took five pushes; my son took 3.) When I finished delivery for both, I was ecstatic as a result of adrenalin, endorphins, a beautiful baby to hold, and various drugs being pumped into my body to compensate for my pain. I distinctly remember saying to my sister-in-law after my daughter's birth, "God, I could kick down a tree right now! I am SO POWERFUL!!!"

This is EXACTLY how I look when I feel like I could kick down a tree.  I did NOT look like that after  birthing Punkin and Butterbean, though. Or this morning. Or, well. . . at all, actually.

I repeat that any one of my marathons took longer than it took to birth both of my children TOGETHER. So, let's take it back to pain management. Many people run long distances with the promise of the "runner's high." I am one of the lucky people who almost always experiences that high after the second mile. Here is the problem with a marathon or ultra-marathon distance: The endorphins and the adrenalin go directly toward your will to survive this run. They no longer make you high; you don't even feel good. Their only purpose is to get you to the finish because you are out there so f-cking long.

As I ran three marathons before the 2018 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, I knew that I would not necessarily be a happy runner for this race. I was worried because I was running with Marta, who is possibly the kindest woman I know, who signed up for the race to RUN WITH ME, and whose feelings I did not want to destroy around mile 18. I decided that the best strategy for this race would be steadiness: no highs, no lows. I didn't want to be elated at mile 15 only to decide to list everything I hate about life and people two miles later.

I wasn't pleasant to be around Saturday, when I took a few pictures with Marta and her mother at the expo. I was less pleasant to be around at dinner with Marta and her mother on Saturday evening after my volunteer shift. I was trying to fake some happy excitement at the starting line on Sunday morning. The truth is that I was just trying to hold on to some human decency at that point.

I think I did pretty well. Marta is a fabulous running partner; when I wanted to talk, she listened. When I wanted to listen, she talked. When I wanted to be left alone, she left me alone. And after all that, she even agreed to train with me on my long runs for the upcoming Burning River.

We ran with Kelly and Carolyn on Sunday. Notice my smile? It's before we started.

I'm still smiling after 18 miles. Actually,  I think I'm squinting because we are facing the sun. I dunno.

So, I guess my next goal is going to be to try to feel better at the finish line. This means I may have to figure out how my head deals with pain that lasts more than two hours. Or it could mean that I develop super-powers which enable me to finish a marathon in two hours or less.  Either way.

Whatever your relationship is to pain-management, I hope you (at some time) run happy, Peeps!

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Running while Scoring (Nope, not what you think)

Last week I was in Kansas City, Missouri, to work for College Board. College Board is the company that creates and scores the Advanced Placement Tests for high schoolers. Each year they hire thousands of teachers, at both the high school and college level, to score those tests, and after 16 years of teaching Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, I finally was able to get in on this.

Each day I started work at 8 AM, which is a half-hour later than I usually start work, so I figured I could get up at 5 AM to run at least 4 miles each morning. The city was beautiful, which makes for an interesting run up and down Main Street, but the weather was hot and muggy each day, starting in the mid-seventies in the morning and climbing to the mid to high nineties in the afternoon. This made for some slow runs.

My morning view on my run into downtown Kansas City

The run started at my hotel and took me into the River Market District, which is a cool residential and shop area based around an open air market. During my daily runs, I saw several other runners from the surrounding hotels, but very few cars and other people, something I still find very unusual since there is rarely a quiet street in Akron, even at 5 AM.  It felt a bit like the Twilight Zone.

I was remarking on this to a colleague on the bus ride to the convention center, and the bus driver said, "There is a good reason why there are no people out on the streets."

Me: "Really? What is it?"

Bus Driver: "This is a super-shady part of the city. You shouldn't be running here. Please be careful."

What????  Let me say this: I didn't have one person approach me at all while I was running there. The place was well-lit, and it was really nice and clean. If that is the shady part of town, I really want to see where the rich people go.

Because I was scoring essays, I was sitting on my butt for long periods of time. Actually, I alternated between sitting, standing, squatting, and rocking back and forth as I read essays. Then, after each folder of 25 essays, I would get up and walk .25 mile. During official breaks and lunch, I would walk longer. Then I would walk the mile back to the hotel at the end of the day. Each time I walked, I would set my watch so that I could keep track of my mileage. My daily average (without my four miles in the morning) was six miles. So, I had a fifty-plus mile week!

I also walked around the city as much as possible, if I wasn't too tired after work.

This is the performing arts center. 

Catching some music (with mandolin!) at the Record Bar

Hanging with my buddy B. Shakes before watching Much Ado about Nothing
 I spent a lot of time on my feet this week, but let me remind you of something that you have definitely read/heard before: Losing weight has to do with what happens in the kitchen, not the gym. This is what I remembered this week. When I started running, I thought it would be the "cure" to my struggle with weight loss. The truth is that no matter how active I am, I will always struggle with my weight. This week I shoved every bit of food into my piehole; whatever was in front of me, I consumed. For God's sake, I ate dessert at lunch! Who does that????

So, I'm coming back with five more pounds than I left with.  Ok, I know how to take care of that.

It's back to the training, too. True to my word, I have taken to the pool as cross-training, and even though it should be too soon to tell, I really think it makes a difference in my running.

Today I ran 8 humid miles in my old stomping grounds, Sand Run Park. I promised myself that if I ran to the very end, I would allow myself to run back on the road so that I could cross the stepping stones.

And I did!
My next step is to figure out how to incorporate strength training into my week instead of just substituting it with swimming and biking. I've got to do some planning.

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your summer runs and you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Race Recap: Medina Half Marathon

This is the fourth time I've run the Medina Half Marathon, and (spoiler alert!) it gets better every year.

I teach in Medina, so I like to use this race as a transition from my school year to summer, a sort of goodbye for a while. Usually I see lots of former students there, but this year the race was on the same day as Commencement, so there were fewer people around. I was a little bummed that I couldn't read names for Commencement, but sometimes the race needs to come first, Peeps.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm saying goodbye to the school year. . .in front of a gazebo. . .at 6 AM.

One of the reasons I like the Medina Half Marathon is the price. I sign up at the expo every year, so it costs me $30.  For a half marathon.  With beer. And pizza.  And a shirt. And a sweet medal. Whatta deal, right?

Here I am in front of that gazebo again, showing off that sweet medal.

A second reason why I like the Medina Half Marathon is the location, which is just 25 minutes away from my house. This means that I can get out of bed a little later than with some races. More importantly, the race starts at 6:45, but I can roll into town by 6:00 (or later if I weren't so nervous) and always find great parking (for free!) and use the bathroom as many times as I would like.

I also have time to take selfies with my friends in the corral. This is Jennifer, and she KILLED it.
The weather was a bit humid, moreso in the second half of the race. I ran with Jennifer for the first four miles because she claimed she wanted to run slowly and I needed to be gentle with myself after running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon just six days ago.  By the way, she is a liar. We averaged a 9:20 pace for the first part. At mile four when the rolling hills started, I told her to leave me because I knew I needed to conserve my energy.

I decided to fuel at Lake Medina because it's nice to eat your GU when running around a beautiful lake.

Isn't it nice that I mustered up a smile here?

See the lake?
Coming off the lake, we entered into the residential areas. This is where in the past I have had serious fears. In the first few years, there were some people who completely ignored the fact that there was a race going on in their neighborhood, and they would weave in and out of runners with their cars and completely ignore course marshalls, even policemen. I know for a fact that the Race Director works very hard to integrate this race into the community, and her communication with people living in those neighborhoods is top-notch, so I used to get very angry when I saw how dangerous drivers were there. I am happy to say that there were ZERO PROBLEMS with drivers this year, even at the busy intersection at the finish. Bravo, Medina. You are showing us your best face, the one I often see year-round but other visitors to your city weren't seeing in the previous races.

It was getting muggier and muggier in the race, and I was very thankful for the hoses and sprinklers that friendly neighbors were using on the course. I also have to compliment the Race Director for having ample water on the course. There were water stops at least every two miles, and I stopped at just about every one of them to drink some water, swish some electrolyte drink in my mouth, and dump a cup of water over my head.

The finish was the same as in previous years, on bricks (which I don't like), but without the drivers busting through the intersection before the finish line.  I managed to kick it into high gear when I saw the finish line.

This is my favorite picture: Kicking it to the end! Photo Credit: Marta Pacur
After the race, Marta, Angie, and I took some pictures, drank some beer, and ate some pizza.

I'm modeling the Medina shirt here.

Then Marta and I had breakfast on the Square at PJ Marley's.

This was a great race. It meets every requirement I have of a race: ample parking, good bathrooms, post-race beer and pizza, and interesting and safe course. Oh, and did I mention FREE pictures??? I signed up for next year at this year's expo!

Thank you to all the volunteers and those who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this race happen. I really appreciate you, and I plan to see you next year!

A special thank you goes to Marta, who drove to Medina early in the morning to cheer on Angie and me. We are Trail Sisters, and we support each other, but Marta really goes above and beyond.

What are you training for? For me it's Leg 7/8 of Burning River. I hope that no matter what your running plans are, you run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Race Recap: Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

I wasn't feeling the excitement and the love for running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon until the Friday night before the race at the VIP dinner. Up until then, I was grumpy and unsure of myself, wondering why the heck I had once again signed up for 4+ hours of pain and suffering. Then I saw my fellow Ambassadors, and I regained some of that excitement.

Ambassadors lined up for the picture, on our best behavior. Or are we? Check out the shenanigans in the middle row.

Our traditional picture of a selfie in action
Pam and I are glamming it up.
The general consensus among my friends was that I should try for a 4:30 marathon, but I wasn't convinced. They basically kept reminding me that I had put in the training, and I needed to believe in it.  I told everyone that anything under a 4:50 would be awesome, but secretly I hoped for a 4:45.

The next day I visited the Expo very briefly before reporting to work at the Information Booth. The Expo was full of cool stuff, but I only had time for a quick picture with Marta.

I look like I want to throw up here.
Then I manned the Information Desk for three hours without ONE SINGLE FRAPPUCCINO, despite pleas to my fellow Ambassadors to hook me up with some caffeine.

I'm not happy here.
I counseled everyone who asked to arrive at a parking spot before 6 AM, and I had intended to get there at 5:45 AM, as parking is one of my worries in races. I got there at 6:00 on the dot, and there were no problems whatsoever in driving through the city and finding a parking space.  Whew. One worry down.

I dropped my gear bag and headed to the bathrooms, picking up Marta along the way. Bathrooms are my second worry in races, and I already knew that this was a non-issue with the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Portapotties everywhere, plus Quicken Loans Arena was open to runners.

The Ambassadors took some pictures at the starting line.
We are the Ambassadors!

This is the best one for obvious reasons.
Photographer: You.  Come out front and hold this medal.
Me: Really? I must be the most important.
Photographer: No, you're short and wearing fluorescent yellow.

Ok, here is what I remember about the race. I'm going to try to distance myself from the emotional part because that will be another post. This time I want to talk about the fabulousness that is the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

The course was mostly as I remembered it. I loved the bridges, although they were slippery. I even loved the hills because what goes up must come down, and I really enjoy exerting myself on a hill when I know that I can relax on the downside.

Marta (I will write about Marta next time; she deserves her own post) and I discussed the possibility of taking the beer miles. I was hesitant because I feel like I'm not that good of a marathoner, but when I saw the sign saying Beer and Bacon, I said, "Hell, YES, we are doing this!" It was the best piece of bacon and the best shot of beer EVER, and I really think it helped my race that day.  I definitely said NO to the Fireball Shot Mile.

I loved running on Lake Ave. with the beautiful houses. Many people don't like out-and-backs on a race course, but I do because I can look for my friends. I saw Pam and Eric, fellow Ambassadors, and I saw Steve and Ryan, badass Pacers.  They were all super encouraging as we crossed each other.

Battery Park was an interesting part of the course; I don't remember if it was part of the course last year, but I enjoyed it.

The course had plenty of water and fuel stops. New this year was the Honey Stinger Waffle, which I ate at Mile 17, and I LOVED it.

I tried hard not to focus on my time. I spent most of the time talking with Marta or looking at the scenery. When things got overwhelming, I would scan my body and count my breaths.

Seeing the flags at the end of the race, I got very excited, and Marta and I kicked it up for the end. And we finished together.

We finished! I don't know what the heck I'm doing with my swollen hand.

I got my medal and grabbed some food, and I met Marta in the Beer Garden. I was in some pain, and I was emotionally spent (more about this in next post). Pam and Steve had waited for me at the finish line, and it was nice to see them, although I could barely speak to them.

I love them all, but I was faking happiness here.

I drank half a chocolate milk, but I couldn't eat any food. I drank my beer, and all of a sudden I just wanted to go home.  Normally I was supposed to go out and celebrate with Pam and Steve, and I JUST COULDN'T EVEN.

Why am I so numb? Well, some of it is shock. Remember when I told you that I was secretly hoping for 4:45?  Here is my result:

Holy Shmoly! A 7 minute PR!

I have a lot to say about this accomplishment, of which I am very proud, but that will be for another post. For now, I would like to say that I will DEFINITELY run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon next year. I loved the volunteers, the bands on the course, the support, the accessibility of bathrooms and fuel, and mostly the beautiful city course.

This is my third year as a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, and it has been a privilege for me to represent this race every year.

Next post will be about my experience running this marathon. Today I wanted to honor the race and the wonderful people who work so hard to make it happen. Thank you.

And thank you for following my posts! What races are you prepping for? Until then, run happy, Peeps!

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

20 Miles!

My students took a practice Advanced Placement test on their Friday afternoon off. It took 3 hours. I told them, "I would never run a marathon without running a 20 miler first to prove that I have the endurance. You need to do the same thing." And so I must take my own advice, and today was the day of the 20 miler before the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

Marta and I met at 8:00 AM at Station Road Trailhead. The weather was a perfect day: overcast and 50 degrees. We had the genius idea to break the run up into segments of 5 miles: out 2.5 and back in one direction, again in another direction, and twice in yet a different direction. It really helps me to take on the elephant one bite at a time.

Marta and I are ready and eager to get started. 
The first ten were easy. It was nice to run and chat, and the time passed pretty quickly.  The third set of five miles was still fun, but I could feel that it was becoming more difficult to maintain focus. By the last set I was pretty grumpy.  I tried to use every trick I could; for example, I scanned my body to see what felt good and what didn't. I tried to think about my form and using my glutes and my core. I concentrated on pushing off with my big toes. After a while none of this really worked, so I started swearing, something that I find stress-relieving. Poor Marta had to put up with quite a few times that I said, "I don't f--ing want to do this anymore!" She remained calm and cheerful. Marta, you are a rock. You had better think long and hard about whether you actually want to run with me at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon because today I was holding back.

We finished strong.

I am alive, and we still like each other.  I'm pretty sure.
As we were recovering in the shade of the depot, I heard someone call my name, and lo and behold, it was Pam and Steve! I'm sure you remember that Pam is also a Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, and Steve is a pacer. I invited them to the party at my car that definitely involved Muscle Milk and POSSIBLY involved some Fat Tire to celebrate.

Pam always looks fresh as a daisy. I really hate her. I look like I'm having a gas attack.
I don't feel terrible. I was still able to come home to the mountain of laundry at my house AND scrub my son's room (which was disgusting--you don't even want to know). Am I ready for the marathon? I hope so. I think I did a good job, even though I was slower than I would have liked. Hopefully I'll do a better job of maintaining my pace during the race. I'm trying not to think about race day; I'm just going to put my trust in my training.

Want to join me? You still have time to sign up: online registration is back! You can use my code, SICLE10, to get a 10% discount on any of the races. You can even use it if you sign up at the expo! Speaking of the expo, I'll be there on Saturday from 3-6 at the information booth. Come talk to me!

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

19 miles to Prep for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon!

I did 19 miles and change in the sun!  I was a little bit worried about going it alone, but luckily, I didn't do it alone. I had a wild turkey, a coyote, a herd of deer, a bunch of turtles, and a bunch of goats to keep me company!

Goats are more fun to watch (especially online) than they are to own. I know this from experience.
I was lucky enough to have human company, too. I knew that there were some groups starting from Hunt Farm on each half hour starting at 7:30, but all of the groups have faster runners than me, and I knew I had to go slow and steady today to reach 19 miles, so I wasn't planning on running with any of them. I pulled into the parking lot at 8:06 (late enough that I was sure there wouldn't be a group hanging out there), and I saw my friend Jennifer, who kindly suggested that I run with them. I told her that there was no way I could hang with that group since I needed 19 miles, but she is training for a 100-miler, so she said that she'd run slowly with me.

Always pick ultra-marathoners as your running partners when you have to do the long, slow distance run. That is my useful tip for you today, Peeps.

We ran seven miles in a group, and two of those miles consisted of a big-ass hill. I walked half of that hill, but I felt really good, and I wanted to run it, but I was afraid that I would tire out later as a result of too much effort in the beginning.

I peeled away from the group at the end of the seven miles, and I started my journey of twelve more miles alone (and with various animals along the way). I ran when I could, and I walked when I fueled, and overall, although it was slow for me, I felt awesome all throughout the run. I tried not to dwell on the fact that I will have to add on seven more miles in less than a month because I know I can do this. I've done it before, and I will do it again. It's a mental game, and I will win it!

Last week I ran Hampton Hills with the Crooked River Trail Runners: Outer loop + inner loop = 5 miles. Angie and I ran together, and it was a gorgeous night.

Crooked River Trail Runners: Tony, Marta, Laura, me, Angie

This gave me a total of 40 miles this week. Although none of it was actual speed work, I did make sure to run a few fast miles here and there, and I kept up with my yoga and strength training. I think I'm doing a good job of balancing the right amount of training and rest.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I smugly say that I'm doing a good job of balancing training and rest.

As for speed, next week I am running the Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon, so I would like to see if I can run a smart race and maybe, just maybe come close to a PR.

How is your training going for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon? You did sign up, right?  If not, use my code, SICLE10, for 10% off registration price. I really want to see you there!

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

So Sick of Running in Bad Weather

It is April, Peeps. I should NOT be running on a treadmill!


This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm throwing a tantrum because: Ohio weather.

Last week I had 18 miles on my to-do list for Sunday's long run. To shake things up, I decided to join a training run in the Bedford Reservation for Burning River. It was 15 miles, and I figured I could add on 3 miles pretty easily.  To make it even better, Felicia and Angela (from the Mother Runners) agreed to run with me because they also needed 18.

The weather was a problem. It was 27 degrees at the start time, but the prediction was that we would go up to the 40s or higher, so I couldn't figure out what to wear.  To make matters worse, the weather was NOT what was predicted at all. It probably didn't help that I looked up the weather WHERE I LIVE, not in the Bedford Reservation. Duh. So, we did start at about 27 degrees, and then it got colder. And colder. And then it started snowing. That was our weather for about four hours of trail running. It wasn't until about mile 16 that the sun came out, and that was glorious.

The only moment when the sun came out. These ladies are amazing!
Trail running can be challenging. Trail running in the snow (in April) for 18 miles is exceptionally challenging. I am giving us a pat on the back for being so badass.

Today I had 18 miles again, and of course it was freaking POURING outside. I decided to run the treadmill, so I made a plan, just as I would for an outside long run. I listened to  Wait, Wait! Don't Tell Me! for five miles, and then I peeked outside, where it appeared to me to be just drizzling. I changed into dry running clothes and went outside to finish the rest.


As soon as I was about a mile in, it started pouring again. I was wearing a rain jacket, but damn! I decided that I was going to power through it, so I kept going. I ran 11.3 more miles in the cold, pouring rain before I decided to call it quits. I want to thank Peter Sagal and Mo Rocca (my crush) from Wait, Wait! Don't Tell Me! for getting me through this. I didn't run 18; I ran 16.3 total, and that is just fine.

Next week I need about 19 to feel respectable. Will I do it? Stay tuned to find out!

Whatever horrible weather Ohio is throwing at you, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

Psst! Hey! Are you going to run with me for any of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon races? Use my code, SICLE10, for 10% off any registration!  I hope to see you there!

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