we are all boston strong

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I’m sure I’m the umpteenth person to post about the events of today’s Boston Marathon, but I just had to write a few words about the excitement and sense of pride I felt as I watched the runners and tracked friends who completed their own marathon journeys.

The Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of road races, and I was more than excited for it to get underway. The anticipation has been building for more than a week as we marked the one-year anniversary of the bombing and remembered those we lost and those injured in that senseless tragedy. Finally, it was race day! I tried to catch glimpses of the live stream and listened to the commentary throughout the race. I found myself cheering and crying at my desk for Meb as he dominated the course and brought Americans to their feet with a spectacular finish. An American won the Boston Marathon for the first time in over 30 years! So very fitting for this year’s race. Don’t even let me get into how I felt when I saw him stand there as the Star Spangled Banner played. It was a serious weep fest, and I loved every minute. And let’s not forget Shalane, who set the women’s pace for nearly the first 20 miles of the race and was the top American woman finisher! She crushed!

While it was awesome to watch our American elites do so well, I think it was more fun to track “real people.” I had two friends complete their Boston adventure today (yes, Ryan and Molly, I brag that I have friends who run Boston). The work that those two have put into training is amazing, and I can’t even imagine pushing my body to those limits to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon one time let along multiple times. They both made me so proud to say I know them and to be a runner. They are proof that real people can achieve something incredible.

While many of us will never qualify for Boston or get to see the race in real life, it is evident that the running community rallies together and runs for one cause. We run for those who can’t. We run with a purpose. We run to show that although we may get knocked down, we will continue to stand back up and come back stronger than ever. We are all Boston Strong!

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There are teachable moments every day, but motherhood is one thing where you are constantly amazed at the things you learn. I’ve had the pleasure (umm…well, it hasn’t always been pleasant, but you know what I mean) of being a mom for over 9 years now, and I would like to impart some of my “wisdom” on you.

  • There will always be the mom who is more patient, craftier, more fun, more creative, blah, blah, blah, and I don’t want to live up to those standards. I think Pinterest is the devil because it gives unrealistic expectations of what a mom should be able to accomplish. Sitting here now I have no desire to make cupcakes that look like dolphins jumping out of crystal blue water, but you know what, if I see the number of people who are pinning stuff like that or sharing it on Facebook, I begin to feel inadequate and think to myself, “Maybe I should be making stuff like that for the kids.” or “Maybe my kids would think I was a better mom if I did more things like that.” That’s where I have to tell myself to stop, take a deep breath, and close the computer. If you’re a Pinterest mom, that’s great, and I’m happy for you. If you’re more like me, that’s great, too. The lesson here is motherhood is hard enough as it is, but throw in the expectation that moms can do all of those great extra things too is just unfair. It helps that I read the blog of an absolutely real mom who gives me a dose of reality when I feel like I’m failing. Her name is Rachel Martin, and she is my hero. Read her blog at http://findingjoy.net/.
  • Owning anything white is utterly ridiculous, especially outerwear and furniture. Although I’m pale and probably the same color, I have always wanted a winter white coat. I just think they are so pretty. However, I will never purchase one because even as my kids get older, they tend to still get things all over me. A little marker smudge here, a bit of dinner there, and before you know it, I’m a mess. And do I even need to get started on when they are babies and are constantly spitting up everywhere?! Better to just leave the white to people without kids.
  • The way you choose to feed your baby is your choice. People will have all kinds of opinions on how a baby should be fed, but the only one that really matters is yours. I chose to breastfeed my kids, but I’m surely not going to knock the lady who used formula. Lex was almost 11 months, Annie was around 10 months, and the Cole and Cael were 9 months when I stopped, and that was the best choice for us. Breastmilk or formula – the important things is the baby is growing and healthy and fed.
  • There will always be pee somewhere on my toilet. Ahh, the joys of boys (and messy girls)! It doesn’t matter if I just cleaned it; within five minutes, it’s already been sprayed, like they’re marking their territory. Lysol wipes are my best friend. And this is followed up with the next item.
  • No matter how many bathrooms there are in the house, the kids will whine and complain when someone else is using “their” bathroom. I could see my kids complaining when we lived in the duplex with one bathroom, but we are fortunate enough to have four, count them, four bathrooms in my new house. However, I will have someone standing outside the door of the upstairs hallway bathroom whining that so-and-so is taking too long and he/she really has to go. Child, if you had to go that badly, you could walk the extra 10 feet and use my bathroom instead of causing a scene.
  • Someone will usually think dinner is “disgusting.” This is the term commonly used by my Annie to describe my dinners, which the rest of the kids and I think are pretty good. There is no pleasing everyone. However, give her a few minutes, and she usually eats everything, proving yet again that kids just like to drive you crazy.
  • Buying new furniture is a ludicrous idea. I’d like to say that my children are old enough to be in the new furniture stage, but alas, it’s untrue. I still have to yell at my 9-year-old that walking on the couch is inappropriate and constantly remind my 7-year-old that flips are not what the chair is used for. The boys haven’t even come to the realization that butts are the only things that belongs on a couch or chair. Maybe new furniture is in the cards, like when they go to college.
  • A strict bedtime schedule is a necessity. With being a working mom, I didn’t have the luxury of being at home much with the kids. Sure, I had maternity leave, but after that, they went to child care. Because we had to be up and out of the house early, I kept to a very strict bedtime schedule. I still keep one to this day. Dealing with four kids and getting them out of the house on time is hard enough. Throw in crabby and tired and forget it! Plus I need that downtime once they’re in bed to work, clean the house, pack lunches, do laundry, write blog posts…
  • Just because I had kids didn’t mean it was an excuse to let myself go. I’m not just talking baby weight here. I don’t know too many women who have escaped pregnancy unscathed by at least a few extra pounds or a redistribution of weight on their body. I mean motherhood is not an excuse to stop doing things that you did before to make yourself feel good, whether it’s wearing makeup, getting a great haircut and color, putting on a cute dress and heels, or signing up for that exercise class. I think it’s important to do things that make us feel non-mommish (that’s not really a word but roll with it). With all the time we moms put into our families, we shouldn’t overlook ourselves.

What lessons have you learned as a mom (or dad)?

i’m (semi) famous

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As if I didn’t get enough perks with being an official blogger for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, an amazing opportunity came my way. I got to take part in a promotional video for the race! RACM passed along my name to Think Media Studios, and they contacted me about taking part in a video that highlighted runners and their stories. Two other people were picked for this – a legacy runner who has completed every Cleveland Marathon since its inception and a father who, along with his son, is running in memory of his child who passed away.

When I was asked, I immediately accepted, although I was a nervous. Would my story be as good as those? Would I look like a dork on camera? My fears were quieted after talking with Damien, who coordinated the shoot. After a phone call and some email exchanges, we had everything set. The plan was for me to explain my story and get some footage of me running around the neighborhood. This should be fun. An added bonus came in the way of Alexandra. When Damien and I spoke on the phone, I mentioned how proud I was that my oldest daughter took to running and was going to complete her third 5K the day before the big race. He said that we could work her story into mine and get her on camera, too! She immediately flipped out (in the best way possible) when I told her.

The Think Media crew (Damien, Kasey, and Caleb) arrived at my house on April 3. Being the anxious planner that I am, I stayed up the night before and tried to transform a house that normally looks like a bomb went off into one that didn’t embarrass me. I also left work early, grabbed Lex from school, and made sure we were set as soon as we got there. It also helped that dinner was waiting for us at home (thanks, Dan!). The guys showed up, and it was like a major production was about to go down in my house. They hauled in loads of equipment and spent quite a while getting everything set up. Then it was time to interview! I was nervous, extremely nervous. I don’t normally have a problem speaking in front of people – I do this quite a bit with work – but being in front of a camera was scary. All I kept thinking was, “PLEASE, don’t sound like an idiot!” Thankfully, Damien was a good sport and did his best to keep me calm throughout the process.

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smiles pre-interview

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someone was taking selfies during my interview

A little big change of plans happened when Annie, Cole, and Cael came home early, right in the middle of the shoot. I didn’t know what to do, but the Think Media guys rolled with it, even shooting some footage of me doing my normal “mom thing” in the kitchen with them. I think the kids were all excited for a chance to take part. After that excitement, Lex was up. I wasn’t sure how they were going to talk with her, and when they suggested a walk and talk in her room, I instantly said, “Oh crap!” Yep, I cleaned the house but not the bedrooms. After the quickest cleaning ever (thank God for closets!), Lex was ready for her camera debut. I didn’t follow her in the room; this was her chance to speak and shine, so I am looking forward to hearing her piece when the video is out.

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awkward pre-run selfie

After all of the interviews and in-house footage was completed, it was time for the fun part – running! Lex and I bundled up. The weather, which was absolutely gorgeous the day before, didn’t exactly cooperate the way we wanted when we scheduled the shoot. Cold and wet were the conditions of the day, but what the hell?! Isn’t this typical Cleveland weather, and don’t we have to train in this anyway? They shot footage of Lex running back and forth in front of the house. The plan for my run was to follow along behind the van while they filmed. I have to admit it felt a little awkward, but it was kinda badass running in the rain and splashing through the puddles.

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This truly was a great experience, and I was so happy that I was picked to represent a race that is so important to me. Thank you, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and Think Media Studios! I can’t wait to see the finished product and view the other runners’ videos. I have no doubt that they will motivate others and me for CLE.

If you want to see a quick promo video that Think Media Studios put together, check it out! I make a cameo :-)

everyone starts somewhere

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This morning, I had a brief conversation with a friend. It started when she came to my desk and announced she had something to tell me. Turns out, she and her husband ran/jogged last night, and she thought of me and wondered how on earth I could log all of those miles. Truthfully, I wasn’t thinking about how I log the miles at all; I was too busy congratulating her for her effort. I absolutely LOVE when people tell me they’re giving running a try; it just makes me smile. She said that although she was tired and felt sore, she was going to continue, and that is what made me so proud of her. I’m going to drop a truth bomb on you (not like you don’t already know it) – Running is hard, and the initial effort is likened to torture.

I’m sure these people exist, but I don’t know of anyone who fell in love with running after their first run. Do you know how few runners we would have in the world if people based their impression of running off of their first run ever? My guess is not that many. I still remember my first run like it was yesterday. It was very early spring 2009. I laced up my worn-out pair of shoes, put on copious amounts of layers, stretched a little, and I was off…kinda. I had only made it down the street and already I was out of breath and overheated. I turned off from my street to a small subdivision and clumsily wound around the streets. Each step I took made me feel like an elephant, and I’m sure I looked just as ridiculous. I had no mp3 player at the time, so all I could hear was my heavy breathing and clomping. I also had no watch, so I had no clue how long it had taken me or how far I went. When I made it to the main street, I stopped, hunched over in pain, and tried to catch my breath. My body was screaming out, “What the hell are you doing to me?!” For a girl who was normally in good shape, I felt like a mess. I walked home, a little disheartened, a little defeated. My run, which in my head felt like at least a mile and half, turned out to be only three-quarters of a mile. I had a lot of work to do.

The next day my entire body hurt. My back, my legs, my core, everything. I wasn’t used to this type of exercise. Did that stop me from running? No, it didn’t. I set out again on the same route as the day before, and yes, it was still miserable and continued to be miserable for the first two weeks or so. Despite the pain, I kept running and found that I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the time away from personal life stress. I enjoyed the small improvements I was making. I enjoyed the way I felt after completing a run, like I had accomplished something. Soon after, running was my “thing.” I’m pretty sure getting a new pair of shoes that were actually made for running, an mp3 player, and new running clothes didn’t hurt either.

If you’ve considering running, be warned – it won’t be pretty and it won’t be pleasant when you start, and you will hit plateaus along the way. Push through those, knowing there is running bliss awaiting you. Running is a great way to mentally and physically test your body’s capabilities, and I promise that you will be surprised with how much you can accomplish.

And if you’re looking for a great place to start, I highly suggest you register for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 5K! It’s Saturday, May 17 at 8:00 a.m. The run is only $30 through April 9. Register today and use this as your motivation to get moving. My daughter, Alexandra, and I will be there, along with other family members, so I know it’s going to be a blast and just what I need to shake out the legs before the marathon on Sunday.

no calendar = better training

Did you know over 20,000 runners, joggers, and walkers will take to the streets of Cleveland for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in less than 8 weeks?! If you think that sounds hard to believe, so do I. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was asked to come back as an official blogger and chronicle my journey, and now, we are almost there! My race day excitement is building with each passing week as I continue to work on speed and adding miles. I am reaching goals I’ve never thought possible and am very excited for what race day will bring.

So, how has training been going for me? The answer – really well! And want to hear the funny part? I’m not keeping with a strict schedule like I have in the past, and it seems to be working for the better. For previous half marathons and marathons, I’ve sat down with my blank calendar and penciled in every single run to get me to race day. I barely deviated from the schedule, which was good in terms of discipline and consistency, but it led to running burn out. Every weekend I logged a long run, adding 1-2 miles each week whether my body felt up to it or not. I may have been getting the miles in, but my times were slow and the run itself was mediocre at best. This year is different. I’m doing a better job of listening to my body instead of letting my calendar dictate my life, which, for a super scheduled person like me, is hard to do. Now, if I don’t feel up to a long run on Saturday or Sunday, I don’t do it. I don’t want to force the miles. I would rather complete the run on another day than slug through and be miserable with the way the run felt and the time in which I completed it. There have been weekends where I haven’t run. I worried about this at first, but I found that the time off gave me fresh legs and a clear head, which allowed me to come back and crush it. My long run yesterday was proof of this.

Do I still have my training calendar? Yes, I do, and it’s still hanging on the side of my refrigerator. I glanced at it to see where I was in terms of miles, and I’m happy to say that I’m ahead of schedule! Currently, I’m up to 18+ miles for a long run, which in past years I didn’t reach until about 5 weeks before race day. My plan is to keep improving on my long runs and nailing down my pre-race and race day nutrition. I recently tried PowerBar Performance Energy Blends and fell in love. They are basically glorified baby food, but, goodness sake, are they delicious and beat the heck out of gels! I highly suggest trying them, especially if the thought of downing another gel makes your stomach want to flip.

What next? I originally planned to not run a major race before CLE, but with my new running confidence and being ahead of schedule, I took the plunge and signed up for the Lake Health Running Series 20 Mile Drop, a point-to-point race that starts in Chardon and ends at Mentor Headlands. I needed an element of challenge to fight long-run monotony, and I thought this would be the perfect chance to put my training to the test. I would much rather find out something with my pre-race prep, nutrition, gear, etc. isn’t working quite right and have a chance to tweak it than get to the marathon in May and have things fall apart. I refuse to fail in Cleveland this year! Plus, it’s hard to pass up a race near my hometown of Painesville, and I hope that some of my family can make it to Headlands to see me finish (yes, fam, I’m calling you out and hope you come to the race!)

If you’re interested in running the 20 Mile Drop, sign up now; they have a limited number of spots left. 20 miles not your cup of tea? Be part of the fun by running the 10 Mile Drop! Hope to see you there!

my 10 running commandments

I know that every runner has a set of rules that he/she follows. Some are well-known throughout the running community, like never changing your routine on race day, and others are more personalized, even quirky. Here are my 10 running commandments that help prepare me for a long run or distance race.

1. Thou shall eat Chipotle. Twist my arm! I SWEAR by a burrito bowl with white and brown rice, chicken, black beans, tomatoes, corn salsa, and cheese. It’s the perfect combination of carbs, protein, and deliciousness. And for as much as I eat, I think my local Chipotle should sponsor me (hint, hint, Elyria!!!).

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2. Thou shall wear a supportive sports bra. We have all seen those unfortunately souls who fall prey to this disaster, and if you are like me, you are thinking, “Dear God, is she going to lose an eye?!” Ladies, if you are serious about running or any other high impact sport, pony up the money and treat yourself to a sports bra that holds the girls in. Trust me, they will thank you! My latest and greatest is The Standout from Victoria’s Secret, and I am in love with it. Besides the fact it is super cute (can’t beat hot pink and black), it does the job better than any other one I have owned, Under Armour included!

the standout bra

okay, so i’m not candice swanepoel, but the bra even looks good on me

3. Thou shall Body Glide. Before I lost some weight, I made sure that the legs were greased up before stepping foot out the door or on the treadmill, because, frankly, chafing sucks. Once it starts, there is no going back, and showering will hurt for at least a week. I don’t really have to use it now for that problem, but I love using the Skin Glide, a liquefied powder by Body Glide, on my feet to prevent blisters.

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running life saver

4. Thou shall wear black shorts. This is one of my quirks with a legit reason. I won’t run any significant distance in anything but black shorts. Why, you ask? You try birthing four children and tell me how fabulous your bladder is. I know I’m not the only person with this problem.

5. Thou shall decrease fruits, veggies, and fiber. Two to three days before my run I cut back on these things because nothing kills a run more than having to go to the bathroom. While those items are delicious and healthy, they also get everything moving in my system. Great for health and regularity, bad for running. My diet for those few days before is mainly simple carbs and protein. I know others who can eat the complex carbs and not have issues, but I have run enough bad races to know they aren’t for me. I stick to what works, like pancakes…yum.

6. Thou shall drink only water. I’m not a sports drink girl when it comes to hydrating. Tried it one time, and it was a disaster. I stick to plain water, which I unfortunately hate, and green tea. Both of those get my body ready to run long distance. I change this rule a little, however, during a race by taking the sports drinks at every other water stop.

7. Thou shall wear Sparkly Soul. Just because I need to knock out some serious miles doesn’t mean I can’t look cute doing it! A little sparkle makes everything better. Plus these bands hold my hair like no other! With Sparkly Soul, my hair doesn’t look much different after a race than it did before. Check them out if you haven’t already. They also run sales frequently, so if you’re not ready to buy one to try at full price, take advantage of the deal. I guarantee you will become an addict, just like me.

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the majority of my collection…yes, there are more

8. Thou shall refuel every 4-5 miles. This is ideal for me during a run because I never feel like I’m crashing. It’s more of a feeling of sustained energy, which helps carry me through. As far as refueling goes, I am trying to get a better handle on that. I used to swear by gels, but they are getting harder and harder to stomach. I pretty much only like the vanilla and sometimes will do a chocolate one. However, the PowerBar Energy Blasts in Raspberry are the absolute best! I’m also a big fan of the glorified baby food in the pouches.

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9. Thou shall have music. I have done runs without music before with success, but there is no way I will run a race without it, especially a race where I want to run well. Music is motivation and helps carry me through when I feel like I have nothing left. It is amazing how a song can transform your legs from Jell-O to beast mode.

10. Thou shall own the run. You either own the run, or it owns you. With trying to squeeze training in with working full-time and being a mom, I am not afforded the luxury of running when it feels right. I have a set time and date, and that is when I need to make it happen. Getting my head in the right place and having confidence in myself and my running abilities does wonders, even when I feel I might be lacking some motivation, because I am stronger than I give myself credit for. The difference between a good run and a bad one is attitude.

What are your running commandments? 

changing it up

If you’ve been a reader of mine and followed me through the adventures of marathon and half marathon training, you should know by now that I train solo. No running groups, no running partners, no online teams to help motivate me. I have run races with others before and love that, but when it came to training, it was just me and the pavement or treadmill. And I liked it that way. It was quiet and peaceful, but maybe a little too quiet and peaceful. Although I was putting in the miles each week, I wasn’t pushing myself as hard as I should to adequately prepare for a marathon and face the mental and physical obstacles of running 26.2 miles. Do you know what happened during last year’s race? I fell apart, completely, and felt defeated. I tried to blame it on the weather, but the truth was I just wasn’t as well trained as I could or should have been. I finished, but it wasn’t pretty. I swore off running another marathon for a really long time, maybe forever.

All of that changed when I was asked to come back as an official blogger for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. After last year’s race, I immediately signed up to run the half. I knew I wanted to participate in 2014, but the thought of running the marathon scared the crap out of me. A half would be more than manageable, and I had potential to crush it if I prepared enough. When I received the email from Joan inviting me back, I felt as though I owed it to them to give the marathon another shot, and I needed redemption for two poor CLE marathons (yes, I fell apart in 2012, also…so sad, but I was coming off on an injury). I quickly changed my entry, and I was set for my third Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon! Instead of feeling scared and worried, I was empowered. 2014 was going to be different.

For me, training for Cleveland started back in fall 2013 after I ran a month of half marathons. I vowed to not let myself lose the distance and speed I worked so hard to improve. I kept running long distance each weekend (at least 10 miles) and stayed consistent with my shorter runs during the week. I felt like a running machine! My times got quicker and quicker, and my endurance was improving. I knew I could go and run a half at any minute.

But something was missing. Although I was accountable and stuck to my training calendar for the most part, I still needed a push, a kick in the butt to get me out the door at times when I lacked motivation and make me pick up the pace. Lacking hard work and motivation wasn’t going to work if I wanted to crush CLE this year. I knew if I was going to become a better runner/marathoner, I needed someone to help me, so I changed it up and got a running partner.

Dan, who ran the Towpath Half Marathon in November with Susie and me and the Christmas Story House Run in December with Lex and me, said back in the fall that he signed up to run his first marathon in CLE! Exciting, I know, because it is my favorite race! I said I would help him run the race if he would help me. I figured he needed me because I have past experience with marathons and endurance, and I needed him because he is faster and would push me. Win-win. So far, runs have been going well, and it has been a learning experience for us both due to being solitary runners from the start. We hit a bit of a rough patch in training about two weeks ago, but our last long run gave us a much-needed confidence boost and motivation to train harder. We both dominated 15 miles (which was originally supposed to be 14, but we had so much energy and kept going). This is great because it puts us ahead of our training schedule, and a little extra preparation or wiggle room never hurt anyone. I also appreciate the fact he is able to run during the day when I’m at work due to working nights. Knowing he has already put in the miles motivates me to drag myself to the gym after work, even when I don’t really feel like running.

We have a goal for Cleveland, but I’d rather not share that now. It seems to change after every long run. Before our training, I would have been happy with a 4:30 race, but I’m thinking we have potential to finish much faster than that, making it a big PR for me and a fantastic first race for him. Time will tell, as we still have about 11 weeks until race day and are only 11 miles away from 26.2. That thought alone makes me smile because I have never been this far along in training! Currently, we have been logging treadmill miles, but I’m not complaining. I love being able to save my knees, not freeze my butt off, and avoid the worry of slipping on ice/slush/snow and ruining my race. Now, we are both ready to get outside and see how well our training has paid off. Stay tuned for updates! Good luck and happy training!

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me, dan, and susie after towpath