Monday, September 11, 2017

Potato Stomp 9 Miler Race Report & Season Check-in

This was a last minute race-day registration for me. I had planned to race a half marathon the weekend before in Millerburg but my dog broke his foot and had to be taken to the animal hospital for a last minute surgery the Friday before so the race was a no go.

I have not raced anything shorter than a marathon since May so this was my first time attempting to be speedy in a while. I have done some uptempo runs but was unsure how I would fare on race day. Since my 100 miler in July it's been an uphill battle trying to get back on track with my fitness - in part because I've been suffering from an autoimmune disorder since then, which is the same as what I experienced during my last Ironman training cycle. Some days I feel fine and other days I can hardly get out of bed let alone run. I think I am on the mend now and this race was proof to me that I am getting stronger and that I can still push myself physically. I am really looking forward to next season once I have a chance to properly rest and recover.

9 miles can seem both short and long I suppose depending on who you ask. I thought of it as short - maybe too short in the sense that I went out too fast with my first few miles at 5K pace. This made for a tougher 10K to finish it up. My fastest mile was 6:45, slowest was 8:05 for a time of 1:08 and change, which averaged out to a 7:39 pace. Honestly, I was pretty happy with this time for me right now. I figured I had a shot at placing in my AG being 9th female but I was 5th in my AG (30-39). I would have won the 40-49 AG. Since I will be 40 next summer I think I will fare better at some of these more competitive races - or at least I hope so!

The real silver lining in this race for me is that I now have more confidence going into the Northern Ohio Marathon on October 1. I hope to BQ there and with an extra 5 minutes in my qualifying time (since I age up for the 2019 race) I think I can get it done despite a little fatigue late in the season. While I haven't raced as much, I've done 3 - marathons, 2 - 50ks, a 100 miler and few shorter races like this one to date so I feel more tired than I have in previous seasons. After Northern Ohio I am signed up for a couple of Trail 50Ks but honestly whether I try to race, just participate or sit them out will depend on how I feel physically and mentally about pushing myself any harder this year. I have to be realistic about how much I can do and stay healthy enough to do well and more importantly to take care of my health. No matter what, I plan to recover and rebuild and go for a big marathon PR in the spring to start things off.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moebius Green Monster 50K Race Report

This race has been on my bucket list for a few years since I started focusing on longer distance running. It's generally in August, which has usually conflicted with my triathlon schedule. Since I am not racing any tris this season and I have leftover endurance from the Canal Corridor 100 I figured why not have a go at it this year. Still, this one hurt more than I thought it would - maybe still fatigued from all the long races this year. Either way it was a good course and I would like to do it again.

Sunny Lake - photo credit - Rob Irr
The course is a 10K loop that you complete five times. The loop consists of mostly trail and grass with some cinder and a bit of asphalt mixed in throughout Sunny Lake Park in Aurora, Ohio. I was feeling pretty good for the warm up loop and for the second loop until it started relentlessly pouring rain. Yuck! This caused me to slow down for a while because I was sliding around too much in the mud and grass and I didn't want to fall. Coming through the aid station to start my third loop I was feeling a little soggy and defeated. I headed to the ladies room and used the hand dryer to try and take some of the moisture out of my clothes.

The third loop went okay but I turned too soon off the cinder road into the trails and ended up repeating a mile+ loop, which set me back a good 10-15 minutes. I wasn't happy about it but it's easy to take a wrong turn in a trail race so I just moved on kind of annoyed with myself. It warmed up and I started to dry off but my legs felt tired. I thought to myself maybe just finish this loop and call it a day - that would give me a solid 18. But I couldn't just quit just because I felt blah! I signed up for a 50K - not an 18 miler. I reluctantly started the 4th loop and it was a real doozy and I walked quite a bit of this one so I lost some time for sure. I was just not feeling this loop at all and was pretty much in the pain cave until I saw the aid station.

Post race with my finisher wooden medal
Something about being on the fifth and last loop gave me a second wind and I was able to pick up the pace a little and then a little more. I was no longer soaking wet and I knew I would be done in about an hour if I pushed it. I had no idea what place I was in and honestly it didn't really matter. I was out there for a butt-kicking workout and I got it done. My finish time of 6:25 was a lot slower than I expected but slow is always better than quitting! Plus I did run an extra mile so maybe I would have finished in 6:10-6:15 without the extra loop. I did find out a bit later in the week when the results came that I was third female. My husband also ran this 3 weeks after his BR100 finish and finished in about 5:20 (7th male) on those tired BR legs!

 Race director Stephen Godale does a nice job with the race. It's low-key and the looped course with the aid station every 10K is convenient as well as having the second aid station about half way through the loop. Thanks to Stephen and all the volunteers who made the race a good experience!

Now it's back to marathon training for the Northern Ohio Marathon, which takes place on Oct 1 followed with some more trail 50Ks to end the season.

Close up of the wooden finisher medal!

Monday, August 28, 2017

11 Things Running 100 Miles Might Teach You

100 Miles gives you a lot of time to think. And to feel. And it's not just during the race. It's also the journey of getting to the start line. And then of course the finish line. Even then you may still think and feel things weeks later. At least that's how my experience was. It's hard to put into words what this accomplishment means. I finished something I worked hard for. It wasn't as fast or as glamorous as I had romanticized...but who freaking cares?! I did it! Here are some things I learned along the way that I hope may help you if you take on the 100:

1. Running 100 miles is physically hard - I know big surprise right? It is actually even more difficult than I imagined it to be. I don't mind physical suffering but this is a new level of discomfort. The longer you go the more things that may hurt along the way.

2. It's as much mentally difficult as physically difficult- Yep, the legs are fried long before 100 miles so the mind has to stay strong and tell the tired body to keep going.

3. Aid station volunteers are really angels in disguise - Without these volunteers these races would not be possible for most of us. They feed you, give you words of encouragement, fill your water bottles and sometimes even fix you so that you can continue on your journey. Running 100 miles will give you a deeper respect for the sacrifice these people are making so that you can succeed at achieving  your goal.

4. You can do it but you have to believe - Of course you hope you can do it when you sign up...but you don't really know for certain you can do it until you cross the finish line. Until that moment there is the belief that you can do it and the determination that you will do it.

5. Ultrarunners are good, caring people - You will meet some of the nicest, most supportive people on the planet during your race. Everyone cheers for each other and says good job or looking good, woohoo or whatever they can say to help you because they care and they know how you are feeling.

6. You will make friends - If you talk to people during the race you will have an instant friendship because seriously where else can you make friends as freaking crazy as you are that are obviously as addicted to running as you are?!

7. No, it's not boring - Seriously people there is too much to think about, people to talk with, food to eat, things to see, aid stations to visit and then of course aches and pains to keep your mind occupied. I don't recall boredom really ever being an issue.

8. Walking is okay and expected even - I mean it's 100 miles! You will need to take some breaks to drink, eat, change up the muscles working and conserve some energy. Walking in an ultra, especially 100 miles, is normal and encouraged. In fact many of the training plans out there and experienced ultra runners will tell you to practice your power walking skills too because it helps during the race.

9. Training is important but will only take you so far - a lot of things can go wrong during a race that lasts as long as 100 miles. You can't always train for every circumstance but you should try to get in a decent amount of running as per any beginner to intermediate 100 mile plan, figure out what fuels work best for you, gear, etc in advance of race day. Still it will be your utter determination that will carry you across that finish line because if everything falls apart you will still keep moving forward because you said you would.

10. It takes a village - Maybe some people can train alone for 100 miles or without anyone's support but I would day they are probably few and far between. For most of us it takes running friends, family support, understanding from your work, etc to see this thing to fruition. You need that support network to be successful.

11. Run often, run long, listen to your body and slow down - It's good to have a training plan but let's face it life happens. And aches and pains happen during training. It's okay to take a day or two off especially if something feels icky. Cross train or rest - it will only help you. But when you feel fine do not skip out on the training. Those double long runs really prepare your body (and mind) for what's coming. It build your strength and confidence. Also, most of your running should be easy, conversational pace running.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Crewing & Pacing Burning River 100 For the Hubby

I've always admired people who take on the Burning River 100 Endurance Run. This year my husband Steve happens to be one of them! We trained mostly together as I completed the Canal Corridor 100 a few weeks earlier. So as I was recovering he was starting to taper and get ready for his little journey of 100 miles through the forests of Northeast Ohio.

Prerace in front of the Castle!
The race starts at Squire's Castle in North Chagrin Reservation in Willoughby Hills, OH. This is a park we spent many miles running in when we lived in Lake County. The 100 mile start is at we had to be up pretty early as in 1:30am to get ready and make the close to an hour drive. We were out the door by 2:30, arriving at the start at 3:30 with plenty of time to get Steve ready for the long day and night ahead. We ran into some friends Brandon and Mel that were parked next to us. Mel has done BR numerous times and is one of the fast ultra ladies out on the course.

Steve and I headed up to the start about 10-15 minutes before the event started. I could tell he was excited and anxious to get this thing started. It was fun watching these 250 or so runners take off in the dark with their headlamps and dreams of first time or maybe PR finishes. Once he started I spent a few minutes in the car mapping out the route to the Polo Fields aid station where he expected to come in around 5:45am. I chatted with some people and waited to see Steve and have some of his requested items like chocolate milk ready for him. Next i met up with him at Shadow Lake where he was able to change into his new trail shoes.

After that I had some time to kill since I wouldn't see him again for 2 or 3 hours so I headed to Panera to grab breakfast and a bagel for Steve and I also stopped at Heinens to get some lunch for us later in the day. I arrived at Meadows aid station where I was able to get in about a 30-minute nap before setting up to cheer and crew for Steve. When he came in he was hungry and had a blister we took care of. He was still in good spirits when he took off. Again I had some time before I would see him again at Boston Mills (mile 50) so I headed over to the aid station and took a second cat nap before setting up my crew stuff. I ran into some Cleveland Tri Club friends, which was a nice pick me up and I ate lunch and cheered on some of the 50 mile finishers. Finally Steve came in and was able to eat his lunch I made him and change his shirt before heading on.

Ledges before our run together!
Our next place to meet up was 16 miles away so I had a lot of time to kill. I ended up stopping at the grocery store and going home to make dinner and take care of the dogs before meeting up with Steve later at Ledges Shelter. I had heard from friends that he was having a hard time and I was growing worried about him since he was a good amount off his goal pace. Finally as I started to head out on the course I saw him coming in! He looked pretty tired and I knew he was hurting. I agreed to pace him in the rest of the race, which was 34 miles for the 100 plus the bonus 3 miles at the end since BR 100 is actually BR 103. He ate and I put all the crewing stuff away, locked up my car and off we went to the Ledges to start our long and memorable journey together.

We did pretty well running through the Ledges and Pine Hollow but Steve was fading at Covered Bridge with about 20 miles left to go - including some tough ones! Special thanks to our friend Trevor for lending Steve his running jacket because it had gotten chilly and he was cold. By the second time through the Covered Bridge aid station he was doing better and we were power walking and light jogging and in better spirits. From Covered Bridge II to Botzum seemed to take a long time as well. We ran into our friend Rich in O'Neal Woods and he had some words of wisdom to share with us 100-mile newbies. Finally we reached Botzum! And then it took forever to reach Memorial Parkway but this was our last aid station! We still had about 4-5 miles to the finish including the Gorge in Cuyahoga Falls where you have some serious stairs to climb after 100 miles. Oye! Even I did not like the stairs so I can only imagine how Steve felt!

Hardest earned medal ever!
Leaving the Gorge I was excited for Steve to finish and I was excited to be done because I had been out there with him for many hours through the night and was growing tired and cranky! He was able to run the finish and then immediately needed to sit down for a few minutes and just soak everything in. He was a 100 mile finisher! He finished Burning River 100 like a badass! The only issue is that his right calve was swollen and of course his ankles and feet were swollen too, which of course made walking not fun.

After the race we went home to eat a quick bowl of cereal, shower and sleep for about 5 hours. Then we got up and went to the Ledges to pick up my car and headed over to the Winking Lizard Peninsula for a proper post race dinner and hoppy beers! Of course Steve had to put his hard-earned BR100 sticker on his car too! He sure earned it! And I am proud of him because I know that he struggled for more than half of the race and especially the last 20 miles. It was not the time he had in mind but he finished and that is all that counts in my book. I don't know if he will run this one again but you never know and for me I would rather run the 50 or 4-person relay next year. I don't know that I will put this one on my bucket list but only time will tell.

Congrats to all the 100 mile finishers - you are all amazing! And to all the 50 milers and relayers - way to go! BR is a tough course. My 37 miles was tough after a day of crewing - also very hard work! Thanks to Western Reserve Racing for putting on an excellent, well-organized event. Most of all thank you to the volunteers. You guys make the race! Without you noone could do this race. Your generosity and support are appreciated!

Until next year BR!

Hardest earned sticker ever!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Canal Corridor 100 Mile Race Report

This may be the first of several posts about a little race I ran last weekend in Akron called the Canal Corridor 100 Mile Endurance Run. Last week was bittersweet for me. I trained for months for my first attempt at the big 100. I thought I had it in me but I wasn't sure. After all before last Saturday I had never run more than a 50K. My attempt to run the 100K last year resulted in a DNF albeit more related to a lingering hip/lower back injury. So this was a bug jump for me mentally and physically to take on a 100 mile event.

I had been feeling run down the week leading into the race and noticeably going to the bathroom more. I thought it might just be prepace nerves but finally Thursday I made the decision to go in and get checked out. Wouldn't you know I had a freaking UTI (urinary tract infection). I was pretty upset. I had trained so hard for this event. I didn't want to miss out. So I decided to see how I felt after a couple of days on antibitoics. The first day and a half was pretty brutal as I had a lot of nasty side effects from Macrobid such as nausea, loss of appetite and probably one of the worst headaches I've ever had.

Since my drop bags were already packed I decided to check in Friday at Lock 3 and just see how I felt Saturday morning knowing that I could always back out of the race if I didn't think I was up for it. I took it easy Friday and had a good meal, hydrated well and went to sleep around 8:30PM. When the alarm went off at 3:30 Saturday I didn't even think about anything. I knew it was go time. Since I was feeling well enough to hit to the start I told myself I would just give it my best. If I had to drop after 25, 50, 75 or whatever that's what I would do.

prerace with Steve
I got down to Lock 3 to check in for the start right around 4:30am. Steve and I snapped a couple of pictures and I used the bathroom and lined up with excitement among the other 60 or so runners ready to take on what the day might bring. After a couple announcements from the RDs we were off at 5am sharp. The first leg of the race starts at Lock 3 and head south on the Towpath headed towards Canal Fulton where we turn around about 20 miles out. It was dark when we started for about an hour or so and I enjoyed chatting with some of the other runners and learning about them.

I was fortunate to have my hubby Steve crewing for me at the allowed aid stops so I could have specific items that I wanted throughout the race such as chocolate almond milk and of course cranberry juice to keep my system flushed out. There were also race aid stations either full service or self serve (water) stops about every 5 miles, which made staying hydrated easy.

around mile 35 going strong!
I felt pretty good 20 miles in around 3:45. The next big stop was mile 30 followed by mile 40 at Lock 3. I was still feeling pretty decent here but did take a longer aid stop break to change socks, tape up my left hip and get something more substantive to eat like grilled cheese. Mmm! The next stop at Portage Path/Second Sole I tried to eat part of a Subway sandwhich but it was not happening. I had to fix a blister and also tape up my left arch, which was starting to bug me. Off I went towards Botzum, Hunt Farm and finally Boston Store at mile 57 where there was a bigger aid stop. Along this stretch I talked for a bit with other runners and ran into my friend Margie who was riding on the Towpath before Winking Lizard. That helped pass the time. Making it to Boston Store was mentally good for me as I started to struggle more after 50-55 miles.

I was so happy to have Steve crewing and at Canal Exploration to pace me. He had brought me a Melt Grilled Cheese, which tasted like a slice of heaven after running that long! Not to mention that he paced me the last long 34 miles. Getting to the turn-around wasn't too bad with him (mile 70) but then I started feeling pretty bad with cramping (GI and bladder) and when we made it back to Canal at mile 74 I thought that I might have to call it a day. I wanted to finish, but I also did not want to permanently damage my body. So I stopped here and lied down in the backseat of my car for a while. Like an hour. This was good and bad. As I layed there my body felt good. To good. I throbbed and rested. I wanted to be done like nothing more. Texts and calls from family and friends urging me to keep moving kept me thinking and then I decided to just try it. I was 75% done. I changed clothes, taped up some blisters, grabbed some food at the aid station and then off we went toward Station Road.

Mile 71ish with Steve
It was dark on the trail but the moon was full. The sounds of bull frogs and even coyotes howling in the distance filled the night air and made me want to keep moving fast. It was mostly a power walk at this point. Once we made it to the Boston Store again at mile 82 or so and had some food and a much needed bathroom break (GI was pretty bad) I was able to run a few miles. Then the GI started acting up again and I had to stop a couple more times including Botzum and Big Bend. It seemed like an eternity until we made it to the final aid stop at Portage Path/Second Sole at mile 94. At this point it was morning although still a chill in the air. I felt wasted but was in decent spirits knowing I was going to make the cutoff. After some cold macaroni and cheese, which was divine we were off to do the last miles including the hills leading to downtown Akron including that detour, Cascade finally making it close enough to see downtown. What a feeling. I was finishing. I was exhausted. I was able to muster up a little jog for the last 1/2 mile or so to the finish line. It was a long day/night and I finished in 27 hours and 23 minutes - longer than I expected but who cares. I did it!! The real goal of a 100 is to finish the damn thing and I DID IT!! Wow!

The finish!
Lock 3 was hopping with race staff and runners and family members. I was beyond happy to be done and have Wild Bill hand me that very hard-earned belt buckle! I chugged a smoothie and sat down for a while taking it all in and cheering for other finishers including some first timers like my friend Brian I met. It was pretty emotional. Finishing 100 miles is not an easy feat. Some of us suffered out there for a long time but the joy of the finish is worth it. After a while I got changed and then headed home. My awesome husband cooked me eggs and bacon and we celebrated with an IPA. That may have been the best breakfast and beer ever. A long, hot shower and then a long nap were up next. Later that night we went to dinner with my daughter to celebrate. I was done. It was really over. What a great race!!

Getting up and walking really sucked for the first couple of days! But I forced myself to keep moving. Monday I walked 2 miles, Tuesday I walked 3 miles and cleaned the house, Wednesday I walked 2 miles and biked for 20 minutes. Yesterday I ran 4 miles (slow with some walking). I am happy that my recovery is going well. And of course now I am sad that it's over. Next up is the hubby's first 100 at Burning River where I get the honor of crewing and pacing. Then who knows. I may run another 100 for time at some point. Probably not this season as I want to stick to 50K and under but you never know. Now I know that I am strong enough to run 100 miles. That opens up a lot of possibilities and curiosities in a person I think.

I'll have to dedicate a whole post just to the emotional side of the race. I feel like it reawakened something in me. More to come on that!

The blimp was out on race day!

My hard-earned finisher buckle! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Canal Corridor 100 Prep

Pre-run selfie with Stephanie
The last week and a half I have been winding down my training for the quickly approaching Canal Corridor 100 mile endurance run. I completed my last long run last Sunday on the Towpath. My friend Stephanie ran the first 15 with me and I did another 5.5 before calling it a day. It was a 50 mile week, which seemed light compared to the previous week which was about 85 miles with two long runs.

This week is lighter with probably less than 30 miles of running. I kicked off the week with a 90-minute recovery ride on my bike on the Towpath and have just been doing one short run a day of 4-5 miles. I got in an easy 30-minute spin at lunch today and plan to run a short one tomorrow along with some core work and maybe 8-9 miles of running Sat or Sunday.

Next week will be very light with just a couple easy shakeout runs and a couple of rest days before the race, which is Saturday, July 8. I have been so nervous about getting injured with the higher mileage of 75-100 miles week of running so I have kept all of my runs easier in effort and I feel pretty good aside from an occasional ache here or there.

Now I am focused on shopping for and packing up the gear I need to have with me during the race and for my drop bags. I am trying to get mentally prepared to take on this big challenge. I feel like I have done a good amount of physical prep for the race but I also know that a lot of the outcome will be not based on my physical strength but more on mental strength and my ability to stay strong and keep calm even if the shit hits the fan so to speak.

I am stalking the weather and of course worrying that it will be too hot (high 80s) and that they show thunderstorms. Still we are more than a week out so I am hoping for more favorable conditions!

I have to check in at the race start at Lock 3 next Friday after work then head home to eat a good meal and attempt to get some sleep. I need to be back at the start to check in around 4-4:30am and the race starts at 5am. It's going to be a long day at the races!

I have no idea what to expect from myself time wise. We get 30 hours to complete the race. Essentially you can power walk it if you want to. I would like to run as much as I can with scheduled walk breaks. The goal is really to survive this and cross the finish line as quickly as I can without injuring myself. I will be taking a longer break from running after this event - it may be two weeks before I am back out there. Only time will tell.

I'll be posting updates online as I can and I am sure Steve will be posting too. He is allowed to pace me from mile 66-100 so it will be nice to have his company in those later miles. I am sure I will need all the mental support I can get! Please send positive thoughts and energy my way next weekend! And if you happen to be on or near the Towpath Trail you may even see me!

Part of the beautiful Towpath Trail I will be running on for 100 miles!

Nothing to it now but to do it! Send me good vibes!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Green Jewel 50K Race Report & Training Update for Canal Corridor 100

Prerace selfie with the hubby!
Saturday I ran the Green Jewel 50K for the third time...although this time it was a much different race for me than the past two years. For starters, it moved to June instead of March as originally scheduled. As you can imagine this made for a much warmer race. Also, the course was reversed to start in Brecksville and end in Rocky River. This means most of the climbing is done before you hit the Emerald necklace. Finally, I have been training intently for the Canalway 100 next month and never really planned to race this so I ran my first ever 100 mile week last week and then only tapered for two days leading into this. A friend of mine suggested that I race the 50K and then run the next day early on tired legs to simulate how I will feel at the end of the 100. Okay, I thought that made sense so I listened. I decided to attempt to race this thing even thought I figured I would pay for this decision being as fatigued as I am.

Somewhere in my irrational mind I thought I might even be able to beat my time of 4:38 from last year. We started off in the park running straight up hill from Oak Grove at about an 8-8:15 mile pace. Ouch. This hurt. My legs were not happy and I was laboring from the start. Once you get off the trail you run some miles on Valley Parkway. There are some decent sized hills and I can recall my calves cramping up into painful little balls so I decided I would take a little walk break. I remember one of my splits being about 10 so I think I ran about 8 and then walked for 2 minutes. That helped. But this continued. It was the worst my calves have ever felt in a race and I debated dropping out and heading back to the car. Noway! I told myself you HAVE to run this race! What if this happens during your 100? You can't just give up! So onward I went. Fortunately I had a water bottle with Nuun with me as well because it was getting hot early on and without water and electrolytes the cramping in my calves probably would have been worse. Either way I knew this was going to be a long sufferfest!

By the first aid station at Ridge Road I was feeling a little better about my chances of surviving the race - mainly because we were heading downhill then. Although it is not the easiest thing to run fast down Ridge Road either. Ouch! Onward I went after a gel and some Tailwind. Around that time I was still trying for sub 9 for a bit but by 13 or 14 I really wasn't feeling great. I was sore, hot and just kindof apathetic about my chance at having a great race. Onward I went just trying to walk a little as needed to rest my tired body. I remember thinking it was taking forever to get to the check point at Wallace Lake. I was pretty excited to get my drop bag and get my Smuckers Uncrustable for a snack along with my GU Rocktane gel. But when I got there my bag was not there and I think we were at about 16.5-17 miles not 14 since the course was reversed. This was not good for my psyche and I was again cursing my decision to race this thing and I decided I would just survive it.

My friend Tony ran by and motioned for me to run with him and his group as I was walking and I said "I'm not racing it, just gonna finish it." Part of me wanted to quit, part of me wanted to walk it in and part of me just wanted to get it done as fast as possible. So I ran as fast as I could and then took walk breaks when I wanted to. I reminded myself that this race is the best training run I would have before Canalway. I couldn't just give in. I drudged on in the heat, took in some gels and tailwind and eventually found myself at the mile 27 aid station. I was pretty excited then to be close to the finish and my friend Jim was working the aid station and gave me some cheers and energy to move on.

I was able to run most of the end but did walk some of the uphill as I was pretty exhausted and hot. I was trying to break 5 hours at least but came up a little short at 5:08 and change. I finished 4th female, 1st in my AG. But really I was just happy that I pushed myself through a very, very tough day for me physically and mentally. I assume this is how it will feel during the 100. I am sure I will hurt like hell and I will want to quit a million times but will need to dig deep and find the strength to continue on towards the finish. I hope that this training I am doing now will make me strong enough physically and mentally to remain as focused and strong as possible.

Steph L, me and Steph I post race
After the race I went to the bathroom to change into dry clothes and then walked back over to the finish to watch for my friends (and fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors) Stephanie L and Stephanie I. Both of them were standing there when I walked up. I was excited to see that they had both done well! Stephanie L had run her first 50K and rocked it and came in not too far behind me placing 2nd in our AG! Stephanie I and her teammate were the 2nd place womens' relay team! Steve also had a good race considering that he too is very fatigued he still placed in the top 10 and in his AG!

Post race Steve and I headed over to Fatheads for some hard earned burgers and hoppy beers! Then it was time to go home, shower, sleep and get up early to run on tired legs. Our plan was to get up in the wee hours of Sunday am and head to the Towpath for 8-10 in the dark. But at 3am I just couldn't drag myself out of bed so we snoozed and instead ran around 8am. It was already hot and muggy and we did 9 slow miles before having a snack and heading out on the cross bikes for an hour of fun biking. The week wrapped up with 60 miles of running, 30 miles of biking. Today I am resting but got in a nice lunch walk on the Towpath. I will try to get in one last big week of 90+ miles and start my taper about 2 weeks out on Sunday.

hard-earned hoppy beers at Fatheads post-race!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cleveland Marathon Race Report

It was a very busy and exciting Cleveland Marathon race weekend this year! I finally got off the plane Friday from California around 7:15PM, hurried up to change into a dress and head downtown directly to the Marathon VIP Reception. It's always wonderful to see my fellow race ambassadors and their significant others as well as the marathon staffers. Although we were later to arrive than I hoped it was a fun and exciting night. Shortly after taking our annual group photos, my friend and fellow ambassador Melissa's boyfriend surprised us all and proposed right there in front of us!

The following day there was lots to get done including unpacking, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, hitting the race expo to pick up our bibs and goodies and then we had my Aunt Shelly's surprise 60th birthday party at 5:00. We got home around 8:00 and finished getting our stuff ready for an early race morning.

4:15am Sunday came early and we were up getting ready to race. I had been worried about the weather and how I would run all week. I had been pressuring myself to get the BQ again this season. The night before I decided if a BQ happened it happened but there is much more to running than that and certainly much more to life. There are the friends and family that make us feel special and inspire us so I decided to make my race about more than a BQ. I wrote down the names of my friends and family members that have had cancer and I dedicated the race to them. Perhaps that helped me to have a better race then I would have otherwise...

Prerace with fellow ambassadors
Steve had to be downtown by 6 to pace the 3:35 group so we got here early enough that I was able to see many friends before the race including most of my fellow race ambassadors. I even made the pre-race photo this year! Around 6:45 I ran over for one last potty break before lining up in the corral with the 3:35 group. Instead of worrying myself I tried to take in all the excitement.

The first couple of miles didn't seem too bad to me and then I started to feel hot and labor on some of the hills. I thought to myself this is not good. It's too early to work this're doomed! Then I told myself to just be quiet and steady. I got a pick me up around mile 8 or 10 when we saw our friend and Snakebite Racing team member Eric fanning in his speedo and cowboy hat!

Focused on the finish!
Around the halfway I just started running out of steam. I am not sure why. I decided to allow myself to slow down a little. I thought who cares if you can't hold onto the pace group you can just run alone at your pace. That's not that bad. So that's what I did. I held on and worked quietly at the pace that felt right for me. Before I knew it I was on mile 19 and I was working through the fatigue. I never really bonked. I never walked - just stopped for a quick drink or gel as needed. Most of my late miles were 8:40ish versus the 8:10 I hoped for but I did what I could do. There were more Snakebite, CTC and other friends out on the course cheering so it really helped me stick with it. I want to say thank you to everyone that volunteered at the race or came out to cheer. The crowd support was really solid this year!

The last few miles I thought I still had a chance to BQ so I ran my heart out and came up a little shy with a 3:41:21 - less than a minute and a half off. I finished with mixed emotions over doing my best but not succeeding at the BQ. In the end this was still a Cleveland course PR for me and it's the second fastest 26.2 I've run out of about 15 now so I am happy with my effort.

The weekend went so fast and there was so much excitement. After the marathon my friend Dan and fellow ambassador Stephanie got engaged also! You may have seen the video. It was super cute. He waited for her at the finish line and proposed right there! Even if she didn't have a PR this year I know she'll never be able to forget this year's race! And it brings me back to my point that there is more to running than just the numbers and the goals. It's the people we meet that become our friends and sometimes significant others that really make these events special. In fact when Steve and I first met our first official date was on my birthday several years ago at the Perfect 10 Miler race. Who would have known that running would bring me my very best friend and husband?!

I'm sure I will be back next year for another Cleveland Marathon - and with the extra 5 minutes I'll have to qualify for 2019 maybe I can actually BQ. Or maybe I will just run it for fun. I guess we'll see. I'm not giving up on that second BQ. I know it will come but now I have to switch my focus entirely to training for the Canal Corridor 100, which is only about 6 weeks away...eek! I have the Green Jewel 50K next, which I will likely use as a training race versus racing it. I need to practice my 25 minute run/5 minute walk approach for the big race! Plus I will have to get in another long run on Sunday.

The hard earned 40th anniversary medal! The race started just before I was born in 1978!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hall of Fame Marathon Race Report - Hall of Fame 1, Pam 0

Sunday was a big day for me. I was ready to accomplish a couple of big goals including my second BQ and a shiny, new marathon PR. I have trained with determination for months. Through ups and downs, health concerns, foreign business trips. There were many obstacles this year that threatened to get in the way of my big goals - but I got through each of them. I never gave in. I never skipped my training - when I could control it.  Most weeks of the year I have run 50+ miles - sometimes reaching 70. I added in more cross training to avoid injury. I've biked hundreds of miles to keep my legs strong. I went to the gym all winter - lifting heavy a couple of times each week to avoid injuries mid season. I feel I did everything I could to achieve my goal. Yet, I didn't.

Prerace photo with my cute pacer!
I lined up at the Hall of Fame Marathon ready to give everything I had. Even after I knew the weather forecast wasn't ideal I could not bring myself to back down from my goals. My brain just doesn't work this way. I instead tried to acclimate to the heat as much as I could - running hot tempo runs at lunch and hydrating more than usual. I thought maybe if I ran a smart race with even splits I could beat the heat. This worked for a while. But then the heat and lack of water on the course got to me. Going two or three miles after 13 miles of running around an average of 8:08 without water caught up to me. Thank goodness my husband snagged a Gatorade bottle for me that I was able to refill and run with for the rest of the race. If not, I don't think I would have made it much longer.

The heat was heavy, my body sweaty, stomach sick from Gatorade, calves cramping and I just gave in a little around mile 19-20. Not a complete "I don't give an F" give in but an "I can't keep going this hard or I am going to pay for this" give in. So I walked a little. Then a little more. I did what I could do. I let my big goals go around mile 21 or 22. I negotiated with myself. Just break 3:45 I told myself. At least you will get in a good training run for Cleveland I told myself. You can try again. It's okay. Everyone is hurting. Not just you. Just do what you can do today. So I listened to my inner voice. I tried to run slower and steadier and just bring it home. I finished in 3:46:07. My husband was cramping and wanted to sit down for a few minutes. I couldn't. I just walked for a little bit and then stopped. And cried. Tears of frustration, exhaustion, disappointment, relief. The pressure that I put on myself temporarily removed. Until I try again. Soon. In less than three weeks - in Cleveland.

At times I wish I could just not care. Why can't I just do this for fun? Why do I need to compete? What makes me push myself so hard? So often? Maybe the need to control my environment? Maybe to prove to myself that I am good enough? Maybe something else? I can't say exactly what drives me. As long as I am competing I will compete against myself. I will set bigger goals.  And I guess that's okay. I just want to achieve things so I set big goals and then I work hard for them. I take them seriously. I make them part of me. It's not right or wrong. That's just how it is. Thank goodness I am an amateur - I can't imagine the pressure of being an elite and having my paycheck depend on meeting my goals.

So now, I rest and recover. I prepare for the Cleveland Marathon, Green Jewel 50K and the Canal Corridor 100. One day at a time. One run at a time. One mile at a time. Who knows what the future holds. Maybe bigger things than I can even imagine in this moment. Maybe more disappointment. No matter what, the journey won't be boring. And I will learn something new - even if it is something as simple as accepting myself and my failures. At least I earned a sweet finisher medal, right? I also earned my hoppy beer at R. Shea Brewing after the race!

Best part of this race is the medal for sure!

Post race at R. Shea enjoying an IPA!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Training Update for HOF, Cleveland and Fundraiser for Mom

I have not been writing as much as I want to lately but I am running...a lot. I am back on the bike pretty regularly also. The swim is non-existent at this point but I am sure I will get back to it after my long races.

I raced a 5K a couple weeks back called Run to the Beach 5K. It was a tough course with much of it being on trails and some on the beach. Needless to say I did not PR but was able to get in some good speed work and came away with 3rd place female.

We are five days out from the Hall of Fame Marathon this Sunday! I am in full, cranky taper mode. The weather forecast looks hot, which I am not excited about! My plan is to run a 3:35. Hopefully it doesn't get too hot too soon or else this could be a training run for Cleveland.

The Cleveland Marathon is three weeks from Sunday (25 days out) so I am excited about running one of my favorite races of the season! I am hoping for better weather there this year! The Green Jewel 50K is few weeks after that.

Then it's the Canalway Corridor 100 mile run in 73 days! This is exciting and scary!!

My goal is to finish the 100 mile run in one piece! This is my first very long ultra and I am doing this to raise money for the lung association. This is an organization near and dear to my heart. My mother-in-law Barb was diagnosed with lung cancer this year. It has spread to her brain. This 100 mile race is for her - to encourage her to keep fighting! My husband is running the Burning River 100 as well. We have setup a fundraiser page for Mom here. Please consider making a small donation.

Also, as some of you might know my mother has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), also a disease of the lungs, mainly caused from years of smoking. So unofficially this race will honor her as well.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Shamrock 15K Race Report

I did not have high expectations for the Shamrock 15K race yesterday. Leading into it I still felt a little fatigue from Austin and had not gotten in any speedwork. Plus it's "that time of the month" for me as well as suffering through some pretty bad GI issues that I now think may have been food poisoning from Saturday night since the hubby and I both felt pretty bad yesterday. Thank god for Pepto is all I can say! 

It was cold low 20s and there were some light flurries during the race at times but nothing too crazy. The Shamrock course is full of hills. The first 4 miles go pretty fast since there is a lot of good downhill. I probably ran a bit faster than intended early on with some miles at 6:50 pace and then I suffered for it later when mile 5 and "the big hill" came where I clocked my slowest mile at 8:45. Miles 5 and 6 were my slowest and I was able to get back on track with a 7:30ish pace to wrap it up with a 1:09:36 (7:29 pace). Given how crappy I felt yesterday I am very happy with the result. I ended up 5th female, 1st in the 35-39AG. I would like to give this one another go on a better day for me to see what I am truly capable of when feeling 100%.

This is a great and competitive little race with really nice swag including a nice 3/4 sleeve race shirt, a finisher towel and a nice glass mug for the AG winners. SARC does a nice job with their races and had plenty of food inside Woodridge Middle School after the race. I would put this one on your bucket list if you are looking for a challenging middle distance race. 

Fortunately we felt good enough post race to have a beer at R. Shea Brewing and then it was home to battle the GI troubles for the rest of the night. Today I am feeling much better albeit tired.

Next up is the Spring in Your Step 10K in Massillon on the 25th, which is supposed to be a mix of rolling hills and flat towpath. I am also planning to run a 5K a couple weeks out from the HOF Marathon. Scheduling these races helps me to get in some high quality speedwork, which I hope will toughen me up for a BQ marathon this spring at either HOF or the Cleveland Marathon!

Cheers to another successful race! Maybe the luck of the Irish?!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Training Update for HOF & Cleveland Marathons

I've been in a bit of a running slump since the Austin Marathon a few weeks ago. Recovery is hard, especially in winter because the weather stinks and I am beyond sick of the treadmill. Yes, I use the treadmill a lot because I run early am before work and at lunch at my gym most days. Occasionally I get in an outdoor evening run. With daylight savings time this weekend I expect to have more of those after work runs. I run outside on weekends as much as I can. The highlight of last week's training was hitting the trails in North Chagrin Reservation!

With my running volume lower between 25-40 miles since the race, I have been on the bike trainer a good bit to cross train. This increase in bike mileage led to my IT band becoming irritated last week so I did not run the Mill Creek half as I had hoped. I did not want to force an injury. This week I am feeling better and almost back to my normal self. I should hit about 48 miles this week including running the Shamrock 15k race in Akron on Sunday. I'm not sure how the race will go but I figure it will at least be some speedwork, which I need if I am going to have a shot at a BQ this spring.

After this week I have about 3 weeks of training to get in before I head over to Switzerland for a work trip for the first week in April. I do not anticipate having much time to train while I am away. My plan is to get in a couple short runs and some core work and use this week as rest/recovery, which is probably needed anyways leading into HOF later in the month. I am not sure how I will fare at HOF but the Cleveland Marathon is 3 weeks later, which is ideal for me. With the new course in Cleveland I may have a shot at a good race. Also, I think we are due for some nice, mild weather (fingers crossed for 50 and partly sunny).

Special shout out to PowerBar for the box of goodies they sent me this week! I am looking forward to trying their new stuff. Hoping to be back on Team Elite next season!

Watch next week for my Shamrock 15K race report! It looks like it will be a cold one. I don't about you guys but I am ready for spring! Also watch for a post about the new PowerBar products I'm trying out in the coming weeks.

This week's mantra!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Naples, FL Craft Beer Tour

My husband and I took a much needed week long vacation to Naples, FL from Christmas Day until New Years Day. The weather was terrific and we enjoyed our daily runs, bike rides and even got in a couple of swims in the gulf. We also got in our fair share of beer tasting throughout the town.

A lot of the breweries and local bars were closed on Christmas so we made our way to downtown to a restaurant and split a bottle of wine since the beer selection was weak.

The next day we had dinner and flights at a really cool bar called the Brass Tap. We tried a bunch of different IPAs including the Evil Twin Molotov Heavy, which packs a big punch at 18%! We also tried some Belgians that were good too. They also have their own brewery onsite called South Cypress Brewing and they had some good beers as well including their IPAs and a Peanut Butter & Jelly Stout!

While shopping for some snacks at the local Whole Foods we discovered that they have a full bar and restaurant so we enjoyed some of the taps there. The Green Bench Sunshine IPA was a crowd pleaser after a hot day at the beach! They had a pizza and pint night for $8, which we could not pass up! 

Beers after our bike ride!
One of my favorite stops after a long day of bike riding was to Fit & Fuel, a cute little cycling-themed cafe owned by the folks that own the Naples Cyclery. Fit & Fuel has really good and healthy food and really good and healthy beer! 

We also checked out a few other breweries. We liked Bone Hook Brewing especially their Double IPA. I think it was called Dave's Dirty Double. Their Belgians weren't bad either. And it was a cute little place.

We were not as impressed with Riptide, although their beer was definitely drinkable they were just out of the IPAs we really wanted to try.

Naples Beach Brewing was a big disappointment for us. I didn't even drink all of the beers in my flight. The flavors were all over the map and some of the beers just tasted like Miller Lite. That and I did not really like the industrial park feeling to it either. But hey to each their own!

All in all it was a fun vacation, full of of sunshine, running, biking, swimming, tasty food and craft beer! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Austin Marathon Race Report

This past weekend I ran the Austin Marathon in Austin, Texas. My husband Steve and I were there on a short vacation and when we heard the race was open we figured it would be a nice opportunity to test our early season fitness. And test our fitness it surely did! It was certainly not an easy course... probably not a PR course unless you've heat acclimated and done a good amount of hill work, which we had not. Still, it was a fun challenge to take on and a way to see a lot of the city. Fortunately we did have a little time before the race to relax by the pool at our resort in Barton Creek.
A little R & R prerace

The race started downtown on Congress. We parked about a half or three quarters of a mile out and used that little walk as a warm up. Then we dropped our post race gear bags, used the bathroom and lined up just in time for the national anthem. I wasn't really sure where to line up so I ended up around the 3:35-3:40 group, thinking this would be good and I could always push the pace later if I felt okay. The race started quickly and I recall thinking "oh no, it's only mile two and I am breaking a sweat...this may be a long race". And it was. The weather was about 80 degrees with 90% humidity and I definitely felt it.

I was pacing pretty well despite the heat and hills through the 15k and then the wheels started to come off a little. I recall seeing the half split off around that time and wishing I was almost done. I was pretty drenched by them and stopped to remove my race singlet and pin my bib to my sports bra. After that I felt a little cooler. I just remember thinking "oh hey another hill" quite a few times. The good news is that there is also some downhill running.
Toughing it out!

I stopped around the halfway mark to use the bathroom so at least I know I was hydrating enough. At every water stop I had Nuun and sometimes a water too. I think this helped tremendously in the late miles. I also took in six gels and a few orange slices as well as some Hammer Endurolites during the race, which really help me avoid cramping in the heat. I didn't want to walk so I tried to just walk the aid stations as needed and would limit my break to a minute. I normally do not need the breaks but in this heat I did. I think if I was better acclimated that would not have been the case.

Miles 13-18 were particularly hard for me physically and mentally. At times I was asking myself why I do this running marathons thing for fun. Then I was able to get comfortable again in the later miles and pick up the pace some to bring my average pace back down into the 8:40s. I was hoping for 8:10s to finish around 3:34-3:35 but on this day a 3:50ish finish was okay by me. It was a challenging race and I think I did okay and feel I am track to possibly PR one my cooler, flatter 26.2s this spring in either Canton or at the Cleveland Marathon. 

Even the last mile or two were uphill and I passed a lot of people walking and I can't blame them. It was a hard one. I was able to push through and was elated to see the finish and to drink my Oscar Blues IPAs after with Steve, who also had a tough go of it. But we finished it and it was a hell of a training run for these spring marathons quickly approaching! Next up...the Shamrock 15K in a few weeks. I think those hills may feel a bit easier now.
Post race Oscar Blues finish line was hoppin'

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cleveland Marathon Contest Winner and Training Update

Last week I posted my Cleveland Marathon giveaway and there were a lot of runners hoping to win an entry. I wish I could give one to all of you but unfortunately I can only give away one entry. To make it fair I also use This year's winner is ChelseyKelsey! Please reach out to me and I will give you your code to sign up for any Cleveland Marathon race distance of your choice. I hope that you have a fabulous race! For everyone else, keep following along with the ambassadors each week leading up to the race and there are still many entries to giveaway!

As far as my training goes, I got in another great effort last week of 71 miles, including my first 20 miler of the year yesterday! When I started the long run I felt awful and wasn't sure I was going to get it done but I stayed strong mentally to overcome the physical struggles I was dealing with (mainly GI issues but also a headache and some fatigue). The second half of my run went much smoother and I was able to get in some fast miles at the end. Today, I am resting and not running. I will do an easy spin on the bike just to get the legs flushed out and ready to run in the morning. 

My husband and I planned a last minute trip to Austin, TX in a couple of weeks and we we learned that the Austin Marathon was still open we signed up! Of course I am excited and nervous! This will be a good early season test of fitness and it's always fun to run a marathon - especially in a new city and when there's an Oskar Blues beer tent at the finish! Since we're running the marathon we're tapering back the next two weeks, which is always bittersweet. I know my body needs the break but those taper days can be a challenge. Wish me luck! 

Congrats to winner ChelseyKelsey!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cleveland Marathon Training & Race Giveaway

It's that time of the year again... I am all signed up for the RiteAid Cleveland Marathon! It's become like a right of passage into spring for me. This race was my first half marathon in 2008 and then my first full marathon in 2010 so I have many fond memories of running through the streets of Cleveland each year in the Cleveland Marathon!

Some years I've PR'd the course and other years like last year I've hardly survived. This year I will be running the HOF marathon a few weeks before to get ready for what I hope will be a strong 26.2 in Cleveland! So far my training has been going really well so I'm excited to see how I will do!

This year is the 40th anniversary of the race so they are giving away some really cool swag including a nice commemorative key chain to all participants and as always each participant will receive a high-quality tech tee and access to the fun after party! Want to join me and race on May 21? As an official ambassador for the marathon, I have a free entry to give away to the race distance of your choice. Simply leave a comment on this post and I will randomly select a winner next Monday. Goodluck and Happy Running!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Holiday Race Reports & Legends 5K Race Giveaway

The first couple weeks of January have flown by with vacation and travel for work. I was able to spend a couple of weeks in Florida and run in the sunshine and on the beach. Prior to vacation I did get in a couple of short races to end the year.

post race with santa!
The first race was the inaugural Spirit of the Season 5K in North Canton. I really had no expectations for the race but to get in speed work. It was a cross country style course that went around a high school and included asphalt, cement and gravel and there were a couple of good hills for extra fun. The whole time I felt like I was dying since this was the first faster effort I had run in quite some time. Although it wasn't my best effort I ended up running a 21:50, which was good enough to win the female race. For winning I received a free entry for the Hall of Fame Marathon's Legend's 5K race. Since I will be racing the marathon the next day I will not race the 5k the day before. I am giving away my entry. Simply leave a comment below letting me know that you want to run the race, which will be on Saturday, April 29 and I will randomly select a winner early next week.

love the medal!
The next race was the Frosty 5 Miler on Christmas Eve in Hudson. We had done this race last year and had a good time and it's a nice little tradition to kick off the holiday with a race. I felt better during this race than I did during the 5K, which is progress. My pace was about the same too. I just missed breaking 35 with my 35:02 (7:00) pace. I was happy with the age group win and rewarded myself with a tasty Christmas eve beer for the hard work.

I don't have anything officially planned now until the HOF marathon although I am debating some races in Jan-April depending on my schedule and how I feel.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Inaugural Trip to Royal Docks Brewing

A few weeks ago before the holiday my husband and I had a dinner event to attend in Massillon. Since we were in the area we decided to stop ahead of time at Royal Docks Brewing in Jackson Township. We had recently tried their Vlad the Impaler Russian Imperial Stout and loved it so we were excited to explore some of their other beers.

Now this is a nice paddle! 
In my opinion the best way to try a variety of beers is to order a paddle. Generally you get 4-6 5-oz styles to try for around $10 or so. This was our approach at Royal Docks. Their flight comes with six selections, which is generous. I started with the Vlad because it's now one of my favorite imperial stouts and although it's 13%, it is quite smooth and drinkable. I also tried the Baba Yaga Porter, Prodigal IPA, Tanglefoot IPA, Yuletide Ale and they brew fresh Kombucha, which is non-alcoholic but I could not pass that up as I really enjoy Kombucha.

All of the beers were smooth and drinkable. I enjoyed the IPAS, they were well-hopped. The porter was smooth. I am not the biggest fan of holiday ales but theirs was spicy and good, garnished with fresh rosemary and cranberries. The Kombucha was also good.

Love this hat!
We did not try the food yet as we had a dinner following our visit but the menu sounds enticing. The service was good, the facility is clean and modern and overall we had a great experience so we will be back!

In the meantime I can show off my new Royal Docks beanie, which is helping to keep me warm on these cold Ohio winter days! I couldn't resist the tagline "Mind the Tap". Indeed!