Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I Wanna Be Faster!

I have many speedy friends in the running community. On my best day, I am a middle-of-the-pack runner.  What does that mean? Well, if coyotes attack my running group on the trails (something I am certain will happen some evening), my friends will escape without even breathing heavily; I will be a tasty coyote dinner.  If there is a zombie apocalypse, I will be just fine with my 5K pace of 8:30/mile. If the zombies can hang in there past 3 miles, I am brainfood.

Be careful of zombies--seriously!
If you are a slower runner, you might be tempted to compare yourself to your faster friends and decide that it’s no use trying to improve your time.  I disagree. While I don’t compare my running times to those of other people, I do like to set my own time goals and then beat them. There is nothing like the feeling of a PR, especially if you pay yourself five bucks for every PR (See my post about paying yourself for running). So, how can we run faster, even if we don’t run like Meb?  Here are some tips for any runner. Use what you like; there is no one plan for everybody.


This is the number one technique (obviously) to getting faster.  If you google the term, you will see lots of different methods. Choose anything you want to try; try everything!  I like to do speedwork twice a week, and here are some of my workouts:

10s20s30s.  This is a great beginner’s method. All you need to do is count or use a watch if you don’t like to count.  After a warmup, I run for 30 breath cycles (more on this in the next tip) at an easy pace, then 20 cycles at a moderate pace, then I sprint for 10 cycles.  If you are using a watch or the clock on a treadmill, you can do 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds. Repeat for 2-4 miles; then, cool down.

Intervals: Warm up for a mile. Run 400 meters (or a quarter mile) at 5k pace. Recover for a minute by walking or slowly jogging.  Repeat up to 12 times. Cool down. When you feel comfortable with this pattern, you can either speed up your pace or lengthen your running to 800 meters (or half a mile) for up to 8 intervals.  Cool down.

Tempo Runs: Warm up for a mile. Run 3-6 miles at half marathon pace. Cool down.  Increase your speed and your middle miles as you get more comfortable.


Your ability to bear discomfort has a lot to do with your breathing. As someone who bore two children, one without an effective epidural, I can tell you that breathing is the number one non-drug way of managing pain. Running faster is a matter of working with discomfort and even sometimes pain.  How do you breathe when you run? I read an article (Boy, a better blogger would have that reference for you here, but I can’t find it) that claimed that in-out breathing patterns should be grouped with footstrikes, and they should be in uneven number cycles in order to alternate each side.  This is how I breathe when I run: three breaths in (I chant in my head, “In-In-In) and two breaths out (“Out-Out”). Each breath occurs when my foot strikes the ground. It takes practice, but it really helps me to run faster and endure the discomfort that comes with it. I even have mantras that go with those cycles:  I am Strong (In-breaths), Runner (Out-breaths); I am Fast, Runner; I Got This, Runner.  

Here is something I learned when researching speed work. Do you know why we call 400s or 800s Intervals? The interval part isn’t the running, which is what I originally thought.  The interval refers to the recovery. Recovery and rest are super-important for overall health, and you won’t get faster if you don’t respect this. When we work hard, we cause minute tears in our muscles. Protein and rest repair those tears, and the muscles become stronger. If you don’t consume protein, and if you don’t rest, you will continue to strain those muscles, and they will get weaker instead of stronger.  It’s that simple. Take a rest day between difficult workouts. Do yoga. Stretch. You’ll be better and faster for it!

Use your newfound strength to race at the Cleveland Marathon series! If you want 10% off registration for any of the races, use my code RUNCLESTEPHANI10 !

Whether you run speedy or slow, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Giveaway Winner!

It has been a fun week, Peeps. I have posted each day to offer you a chance to run any Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon race for free, and you didn't disappoint with your responses!

This is EXACTLY how I look when I offer free race registrations!

To enter, you had to respond in the comments on any of my posts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.  I assigned a number to each comment in the order in which they appeared, and I used a random number generator to choose the winner.  And the winner is. . .


Congratulations! You get a free entry to any of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon races! I can't wait to find out what you choose.

Don't fret, Peeps: you can still win an entry. All you need to do is follow the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors on social media, and you can still #runCLE for free! I'll even give you a hint: the next giveaway belongs to Jen Solanics. Find her and respond to her posts this week!

Of course, you can always register now with my code RUNCLESTEPHANI10, which gives you a 10% discount. It's simple--go to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon page and register today!

However you choose to run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Giveaway Week!

Peeps, you may have heard (in very subtle hints) that I am a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador.  This means that I get to give away an entry to the funnest (yes, that is a word) race in Ohio! This week starts my giveaway; I will post each day from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  Respond to my posts, and I will give you a chance at registration for any race in the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon series!

To kick this off, I thought I would present 13.1 things about me. It should be 26.2, but I am not that interesting.

Shut up.

1. I didn't start running until after I turned 40.  I got a late start, but I'm in it for the longevity.

2. I originally started running so that I could run the 3.1 mile leg on Sand Run Parkway for the Akron Marathon. I tried and tried to run farther than 2 miles, but I would be winded. Finally, I joined a running group, the Towpath Turtles. The day I reached 4 miles, I burst into tears. "I never thought I would be able to run this far," I sobbed gratefully to my coach. "Of course you didn't," she replied, "because you were running like a dumbass before."  Huh.

Me with my first running group, the Towpath Turtles

3. I signed up for that very leg on an Akron Marathon Relay team. When teaching a unit about Carpe Diem (seize the day!) in my literature class, a student challenged me: "Why not run the half marathon? Why run only 3 miles? What are we really doing here?" I realized she was right, and I switched to the half.  There was no looking back.

4.  I ran the Akron Marathon when I failed to break the 2:00 barrier for the half marathon (I was 53 seconds short!).  Again, there was no looking back. This year will be my 5th consecutive Akron Marathon. I have run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 4 times. Will this year be the 5th?

My first marathon!

5.  I ran my first 50k this year for Forget the PR. It was brutal, but I had a great time.

Wendy and I finish my first 50K!

6. Sometimes I think about a 50 miler. . . and then I remember how miserable I feel in the last 6 miles of a marathon. So far that is a NOPE race.

7.  I am a high school English teacher. I love teaching high schoolers.  Seriously. I use running analogies all the time. My favorite: Education is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to build your endurance. Sometimes your runs are super-fun, and sometimes they suck and you feel like they will never end. They all have purpose, and they all make you a better person.

8. For three years I lived in Paris, France, where I met my husband. We had a neighborhood restaurant called Cafe Le Bouliste. When we retire, we plan to move back to Paris and open a Browns backers club called Le Dawg Pound.

My husband--the Kabyle Chef

9.  Although I am an English teacher, the language I speak at home with my husband is French. Go figure.

10.  I am obsessed with food. I think about it constantly, and I am always hungry. I feel like I ran my 50K only for the trail food and the opportunity to drink a lot of beer after the race. Unfortunately for me, I was wiped out after 2 beers.  Ok, maybe 3. Favorite aid station food? Grilled cheese sandwich triangles with pickles on top.  Runner up? Bacon.

11. Trail running is not my first love. In fact, I hated it for my first two years of running. I didn't even buy my first pair of trail shoes until I was three years in. Today I like to run trails if I am with my friends, but if I am alone, give me roads any day.

Love me some roads!
Love me some trails, too!

12. I struggle with my weight. A lot. When I started training for marathons and ultras, the wheels came off a bit, and I've gained 20 pounds that I am now trying to lose. For me, this means logging every bite I put into my mouth. Somedays I wish I could eat like a "normal" person, but I know where that kind of thinking leads me. . .right into my fat clothes.  I've lost 10 of the 20 pounds, but every day is a battle.

13.  I belong to some super-cool running groups: Trail Sisters, Crooked River Trail Runners, Phillips' Phlyers, Canal Rats, the Lawn Wranglers.  I truly enjoy running with people in these groups. Runners can be the nicest, most welcoming people in the world.

The Trail Sisters

13.1. I want to give YOU a free entry to any Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon race!

For a chance to win, tell me which of the above snippets relates to you. Want more chances? Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @itibrout! I will post a chance for you to respond each day. At the end of the week (Saturday, February 8), I will draw the winner, and I will announce it on Sunday, February 9.

Don't feel lucky? Use my code, RUNCLESTEPHANI10, for 10% off any race registration.

What are you waiting for? Join me!

However, whenever you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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

Monday, January 20, 2020

Running Payday

Here it is, Peeps, my annual Payday Post!

Here is how it works:

I pay myself $.50 for every mile I run, $1.00 for every racing mile, and $5.00 for every PR.  I deduct my race fees from this amount, and I deposit the total in a special savings account for my big ticket racing goal.  Here and here are some previous posts. Go ahead and read them; I'll wait.

Ok, ready?  Step one is to calculate the total miles of 2019. I get this figure from Garmin and Strava, where I log my runs. This year I ran and walked 1,714 miles, which is a surprising decrease from last year, considering I added a 50K to my races. I think this isn't a bad thing, though, for two reasons:

1. I was sick and couldn't run a step for over two weeks during the summer. It was all in my chest. We all know that when it hits your chest, you don't do heavy workouts. That is a loss of approximately 60-some miles.

2. I did a better job of incorporating other activities besides running into my schedule. For example, I like to rotate among cardio and strength training activities like Zumba, Tae Bo, Dancing, Kettlebell, and free weights. I also did more swimming this year.

This is EXACTLY how I THINK I look as swimmer.

This is ACTUALLY how I look as a swimmer.
Step 2 is to add up the racing miles:

April: Forget the PR 50K= 32 (I got lost)
May: Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon = 26.2
May: Medina Half Marathon = 13.1
July: Burning River = 17 
August: One Hot Momma = 16
September: Race with Grace = 3.1
September: Akron Marathon = 26.2
October: Crowell Hilaka = 15.5
November: Home Run for the Homeless = 4

Total Racing Miles = 153.1 = 153

Step 3 is to subtract racing miles from total miles:

1,714 - 153 = 1, 561

Step 4 is to multiply non-racing miles by .50 and then add to racing miles:

1561 x .50 = 780 + 153 = $933

Step 5 is to add in $5.00 for every PR. . .and that would be one (FtPR): 933 + 5 = $938

Woohoo! I'm rich! I'm . . . Oh wait. I still need to add up my racing fees and subtract them from the total:
938-448 = $490

I am so happy with this! What this means is that I will be depositing $490 into my savings account dedicated to running the Paris Marathon. 

As my smart-ass brother has pointed out to me, I am merely paying myself with MY OWN MONEY, which I completely understand. . . HOWEVER. If you are remotely like me, you may want to pay attention to this part. 

I tend to be the person who takes care of everyone else around me: my family, my friends, my colleagues, my students. Running is one of the few ways that I take care of myself, and I have learned that I deserve rewards. Also, knowing that I have an account waiting for me to reach my goal of running the Paris Marathon gives me an incentive on the days that I don't want to get up at 4:30 AM to run or work out. I tend to punish myself pretty harshly when I don't achieve one of my gazillion goals, so I really use this system to remind myself that I am doing a great job.

How can you reward yourself for your goals, Peeps? One way you can reward yourself right away is by using my code, RUNCLESTEPHANI10, for 10% off any race entry for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. We can earn points towards our paydays together!

I'm looking forward to where my running year will take me. Wherever your running year takes you, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

There's a Needle for That.

You hate this title, don't you?

Last post, I wrote about my problems with Morton's Neuroma in both feet. Honestly, I have been really freaked about it.  You can read about it here.

Since then, I have been trying to figure out the problem and take care of the situation. Here are some things I have been doing:

1. I have cut back on my running by about 10-15 miles per week. I have been substituting strength training. I plan to put in some swimming soon.

Pretty soon I'll look EXACTLY like this. . . but hopefully with hair.  And, well, not as a man.
2. I have purchased a new pair of trail shoes, and I haven't worn trail shoes as much as I usually do.

Saucony Peregrine Ice.
3. I have continued my visits to the chiropractor.

4.  I now use YogaToes (when my feet aren't too cold).

5. I have had 3 acupuncture treatments so far, and I have another scheduled.

I basically get needles in my feet (soles and tops), my calves, my lower and upper back, my hands, my ear, and my head.  It doesn't sound relaxing, but somehow it is. . .well, after the needles in my feet go in. I can't feel any of the needles going in except for those on the soles of my feet. Even so, I don't feel them once they are in. 

I really like my acupuncturist. She instructs me by explaining how all of it works, and I find Eastern Medicine to be very interesting. I also like the idea that sticking me in different places can help different problems, all at the same time. You got a problem? There is a needle for that.

The marble-like sensation hasn't completely disappeared, but it is definitely dissipating. I have hope, so much hope that I'm thinking ahead to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. I haven't registered yet because I can't choose between the Challenge Series or the marathon, but I'm definitely going to be there, and it's going to be amazing! Do you want to join me? Register here and use my code, RUNCLESTEPHANI10 to get 10% off any race, even the Challenge Series!

Clearly, I am excited to run Cleveland!
Wherever you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

My Lumps

Yes, I know that isn't the song.

I have Morton's Neuroma on both feet.  This is some kind of  bullshit because I NEVER wear high heeled shoes. In general, my shoes are supportive, rather than cute. I first noticed the feeling of a marble in the ball of my left foot about two months ago. After the Akron Marathon, I went back to my trusty chiropractor, who previously had cured my Achilles Tendinitis. I like my chiropractor because she won't tell me to stop running.

This is EXACTLY what a Morton's Neuroma looks like.  I guess. What the hell is this???

What has caused my neuroma?  Here are some guesses:

1. Shoes.  I have worn the same brand of trail and road shoes since I started running about eight years ago. Maybe they are no longer the best shoe for me? I notice that I feel worse after trail running more than five miles.

2. Weight. I have not been able to shed fifteen pounds that I put on when I started marathon and 50K training. I'm not sure I buy this one, however, because I was much heavier when I first started running.

3. Stress. I have been in a dark, stressful place for a while. (I am sure that because of my naturally sunny disposition, you didn't notice.) I think my stress is slowly killing my body, piece by piece.

4. Dampness? This is a weird one, but my acupuncturist said that Chinese practitioners believe that dampness causes neuroma. This has certainly been a damp time outside.

5. Running. Gulp.  I don't want to believe this one. I'm going to just skip over it.

What am I doing to treat my neuroma?

1. Shoes. I am wearing completely supportive shoes at all times. I just bought a new pair of the same brand of trail shoes, but I might go to Second Sole to discuss changing brands.

2. Weight. Let's be honest here. Nothing yet.

3. Stress. Ummmmm. . .Move on. Nothing to see here.

4. I am currently experiencing acupuncture, a first for me. My acupuncturist seems really confident that she can take care of the problem.  I really, really hope so. I'm combining that therapy with my chiropractor's sessions, so I'm currently getting my neck cracked and needles stuck into the bottoms of my feet. And the top of my head. And my ears. And my back. And my legs. And my hand.

5. Running. I have cut way down on the mileage, and I"m not happy about it. I have been doing other exercises, but running has always been the best way to keep down the crazy.

How will this end? I haven't a clue, but I have hope. I have so much hope that I registered for a fall marathon.

Also, as a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, I am still your connection for discount race entries!

Would you like a free race entry? Take your chances by following the Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors. You can find their social media info here.

Not feeling lucky? You can get a 10% discount on your race entry if you use my code, RUNCLESTEPHANI10. Join me! I promise I won't keep talking about my lumps.

Wherever/whenever you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!
Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @itibrout!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Race Recap: Crowell Hilaka

I have been in a funk since before the Akron Marathon. Marathon training is tough and long, and I ran two marathons and a 50K between April and September.  That is a lot of miles. The remedy to this should be letting go of the miles, but Fall weather is FINALLY here, and it is my favorite season to run. I'm still not really having fun.

On Saturday, I ran the Crowell Hilaka trail half marathon at the Richfield Preserve, and I found some mojo that had been hiding on the trail.  It was a great time.

Crowell Hilaka is a donation-or-volunteer race; you either donate money for your entry, or you volunteer with the group to clean up the trails.  Either way, it's a good place to put your money or time. The donation money goes towards the efforts to maintain the trails, so I feel good knowing that I'm not out there just using up resources without giving back. The park is a former Girl Scout camp; before that it belonged to the Kirby family (yep, the vacuum people). Last year I swept for this race, so I knew what it would be like, remnants of scout camp buildings and fire pits, beautiful trails, a lake, and houses (and a water wheel!) that used to belong to the Kirby family. It's a really interesting course with something different every couple of miles.

I like that I was able to roll in about an hour before the start time and collect my bib and t shirt. No worries about parking or bathrooms because there was plenty of both. I spent the time finding every trail friend I've ever seen.
I'll bet you recognize fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador Pam. We are always taking pictures together at the start. Then she blows me away.

This was a Trail Sister race, and boy, did we show up as runners and volunteers!

Lots of Trail Sisters today!
We started in the back, chatting. After about a mile, I started feeling a little bit perky. The sun was shining through the trees, and the course doesn't have any really sharp inclines, so I was able to continue my momentum of running, and I started to feel very good. I decided to run alone for a while and see if I wanted to push my pace at all.  The first loop of six miles passed very quickly (for me on a trail), and I enjoyed every second of it. I grabbed more food than I should have from the aid station and moved on.

Around mile 10 I started getting a bit tired, and that is when I spotted Giovanna, who I seem to see at just about every trail race. We started chatting and decided to finish together. With her the last three miles were great, especially since we both agreed to walk the steep parts of the last mile (which is pretty much all uphill).

The finish was a trail PR for me, and honestly, because I am a sick, sick person, I'm kind of mad at myself for not pushing a little harder.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm kind of mad at myself for not pushing a little harder.
There were lots of plans for post-race celebrations, but I had to excuse myself to spend 4 1/2 hours selling 50/50 raffle tickets for my kid's band invitational. I'm not complaining.  I'm not.

In short, this race made me want to do more and be a better runner. I'm already making plans to get in more speedwork and cross training because this is definitely something I've been lacking.

Kudos to Jennifer Douglas and Matt Force, who are great Race Directors!

Where did you find your running mojo this week, Peeps? No matter where you are, I hope you run happy!

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