leprechaun dash race recap



This past weekend the boys and I participated in our first race of the 2017 season! They have been itching to run another race with me. The original plan was St. Malachi, but with wrestling season, they didn’t have time to train for the 5-miler. I wasn’t too keen on making the trip to Cleveland for the 2-miler either, so I was happy when I saw an MRTT post about the Leprechaun Dash 5K in downtown Willoughby. I LOVE downtown Willoughby; the town is just so darn cute. Plus, we could dress up in festive St. Paddy’s Day gear. Sold!


Our morning started off super early because we had to drive from Amherst to Painesville Township where my sister lives. She graciously agreed to watch the girls for me while the boys and I ran (thanks, Sare…you’re the best!). Cole, Cael, and I got to Willoughby Brewing Company for packet pick-up with plenty of time to spare. It was great that WBC opened its doors for runners because I couldn’t imagine standing outside in the cold that long. We got ourselves bundled up and ready to go and headed to the starting line about 4 minutes before the race. The boys were ready to go, and so was I until I felt a pop and all my support was gone. Never have I ever had a wardrobe malfunction during a race, but my “vintage” Under Armour front-zip sports bra thought one minute before the race would be a good time to let loose. With all of the layers, I couldn’t reach the zipper, and I didn’t have enough time to make it to the bathroom for a quick fix. I did what any logical runner would do – I started running when the gun went off and prayed that the rest of the layers I was wearing would hold the girls in place.

Even though the boys barely train, they are machines. They showed no signs of tiring except when nasty wind gusts practically stopped them in their tracks. We were closer to the front of the race, so we didn’t have to worry about dodging other runners and could run together in a line. I knew the boys had their sights set on another young kid who was about 40 or so yards ahead of him, so they kept pushing. The race made a left turn shortly after mile 2, but a few of the runners, speedy little kid in front of them included, kept going straight. We might have gone off course too if it weren’t for a guy in front of us who yelled for his buddy to turn. The boys and I kept passing people, but clothes-wise, I was really struggling. I knew the boys wouldn’t get too far ahead, so I told them just go while I tried to hold myself in place. They took off, and soon after, I saw the misguided runners meet back up with the regular course. The little boy who was ahead of Cole and Cael was now behind them, and my heart kinda broke for him. He would have came in first fair and square had he not gone off course.

We got to the turn into WBC’s parking lot, and I saw Cole’s hat blow off. He turned around to grab it, and the little kid overtook him. Cael was still ahead and finished first out of the young kids. After a strong finish, we grabbed our medals and Chick-fil-A sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly; the race gave out Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the end! And they were hot! I was in heaven.

Inside Willoughby Brewing Company, we were able to check our results. It showed that Cael was first in his age group, and Cole as third. They wanted me to check, so for shits and giggles I did. First in my age group? That can’t be right. Let’s wait to see when the rest of the people come in.

We walked back to our table, and I had a little talk with Cael. I asked what he thought about giving speedy little kid his first place medal and swapping for his second place because had he not been sent on the incorrect course, he would have won. Cael thought it was a great idea, and that made me really proud. Plus he said he was still going to have two medals from the race today, and that made him happy.


We stayed for race results, and both boys were very excited with their medals! And they were my biggest fans when my name was called to receive mine. However, I have to laugh because both boys kicked my butt…and won’t let me forget they made it to the finish line first 🙂

we have a winner!



My Instagram giveaway for a free entry to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon ran from Monday, March 6 through Saturday, March 11. Thank you to everyone who entered, and now it’s time to announce the winner.


Congratulations to… Tiffany (@beckettsaunt)! You won the free entry to the CLE Marathon race of your choice! You have 24 hours to email me at stephplus4blog@gmail.com to claim your prize.

Bummed that you didn’t win my giveaway and still looking to win a free entry? Each week now through the week of May 1, a different ambassador will have a free entry up for grabs. That means there are still 8 more chances! Jill Grunenwald will have her giveaway up and running this week, so check out her blog and social media for more details. Good luck!

20 (running) questions and a GIVEAWAY




Let’s play a little game of 20 (running) questions, shall we? Here it goes!

  1. When did you start running?

I first laced up a pair of beat-up shoes in February 2009. I left my house wearing entirely too many layers, made it about half a mile, and thought I was going to die. But I kept running, and I’m so happy I didn’t.

  1. Where do you usually train?

I’m lucky enough to be able to train around my house. We live in a subdivision, and although it doesn’t have sidewalks, I feel safe running on the roads. Right in my backyard is a township park with an oval-shaped paved path, so the kids play while I run. I also have a membership to Planet Fitness (hey, don’t knock it! They have the best treadmills around!) and an older treadmill at home that help me get the miles in.

  1. What’s the farthest distance you’ve run on a treadmill?

22 freaking miles! It was during one of my Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon training cycles. I ran it at World Gym and got many weird looks from staff and other gym-goers like, “This lady is bat-shit crazy!” And it was kinda awesome.

  1. What’s your go-to carb loading meal?

One word – CHIPOTLE!!!! My usual is a scoop of brown and white rice, chicken, black beans, mild salsa, corn salsa, and cheese. Honestly, I’m hungry just typing that.

  1. What’s your favorite distance to race?

I go back and forth between the marathon and half marathon. Just when I think I picked one as my top choice, I find another reason to love the other more. The things that lures me to both races are the mental and physical challenges.

  1. What was your first race?

St. Malachi 2-miler in March 2009. At the time, it was my longest run to date. I’m pretty sure I still have the shirt saved somewhere.

  1. What are three items you can’t be without on a run?

This one is really easy – a Sparkly Soul headband, Oiselle Mac Roga shorts, and my Garmin.


  1. Do you run alone or with a group?

I much prefer to run alone. It’s really the only time I get to myself.

  1. What do you use for fuel during a long run?

I’ve tried a lot of things. Some work for me, and some definitely don’t. My favorite run fuel is Honey Stingers Gold gel. I’ve also tried Accel Gel, and that works pretty well, too. Also, never underestimate how great honey packets are for fueling. If I’m at Chick-fil-A, I usually grab a few extra to stash in my running bag. Sorry I’m not sorry, Chick-fil-A.


  1. What’s your bucket list race?

I have dreams of someday making it to Boston, but I know that will take a lot of hard work and dedication that I can’t honestly put in right now. I would also like to run the Big Sur International Marathon because it looks beautiful.

  1. Have you ever been on a race-cation?

Yep! I ran my first marathon in Hawaii. How’s that for a kick-off to marathon running?! And I try to sneak in some running/racing when I visit my brother and sister-in-law who live near Seattle.

  1. What songs power you through a tough run?

No matter how many times I’ve heard them, “My Body” by Young the Giant, “Ten Tonne Skeleton” by Royal Blood, “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance, and “Ride” by twenty one pilots always help motivate me.

  1. What’s the craziest thing you’ve had happen to you on a run?

I was attacked by a Canadian goose when I first started running, and a guy in a truck had to scare it away. I was also chased by a threesome of wild turkeys while running in Westlake. Scared the crap out of me!


  1. What’s your least favorite race distance?

5Ks are my least favorite, but I love running them with my kids. Give me a 10-miler or half marathon any day.

  1. How do you recover from a long run?

A hot bath and a cold beer! If it’s the end of a race, I love chocolate milk.

  1. What are your PRs (personal records)?

Marathon – 3:57:19 (2016 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon)

Half Marathon – 1:54:45 (2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon half)

5K – 23:28 (2015 Downtown Willoughby 5K)



  1. Have you sustained any injuries from running?

Knock on wood, I have been healthy for the past few seasons, but I’ve had IT band and knee issues in the past.

  1. What’s one piece of advice you would give new runners?

Running is a tough sport, but it only gets easier the more you do it. Take your time, be patient, and go at your own pace. The only person you’re competing against is yourself.

  1. If you could only race one distance, what would it be?

I would probably say the half marathon. It offers the challenge, which I love, but the training schedule isn’t as grueling as a full.

  1. How has running changed you?

Running has helped me realize I am stronger and capable of more than I thought possible. I never imagined I would run 3 miles, and now I run 26 for fun. Running has brought me confidence, friendships, and a healthy outlet for stress, and I can’t think of how my life would be without it.



Whew, that was fun! You know what else is fun? Giving away a free entry to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon race of your choice, so you can be part of the 40th anniversary celebration! As an ambassador, I receive a free entry for myself and one to give away. Head over to my Instagram account (stephplusfour) and check it out! The giveaway starts today, Monday, March 6 and goes through Saturday, March 11, and there will be an opportunity to enter every day. The winner will be randomly selected on Sunday, March 12, and he/she has 24 hours to claim the prize before another winner is selected. Unfortunately, if you already registered for a CLE Marathon race, you aren’t able to win to recoup your cost, but you can run a race on another day (for example, you can run the 5K or 8K on the Saturday before the 10K, half, and full). Good luck!



one run, huge difference



Lately, I’ve lacked motivation when it comes to training. I was too busy worrying about how slow I thought I had gotten or how few miles I put in during the week. It didn’t help that every time I checked social media, I saw friends who were running faster and farther than me.

I’m happy to say I feel as though I turned a corner on Monday, and my confidence and motivation have been restored. I was thankful to have the day off for Presidents’ Day and with the unseasonably warm weather, it was a perfect day for a long run. I was a little worried since I had just ran 10 miles on Saturday, but I needed to try. My run Saturday wasn’t particularly bad, but it was hard, much harder than I expected. I never settled in a rhythm, my legs felt dead, and all I kept thinking was I couldn’t wait for it to end.

I knew running around the neighborhood wouldn’t motivate me, so I decided running the Lorain County Metro Parks would be a good change of scenery. I parked my car, turned on my watch, and set off with no real expectations. And do you know what? It felt great! My legs weren’t tired, and my pace was much better than I was expecting! It almost felt effortless. The miles clipped by, and I wasn’t faltering. I was actually getting faster. And I truly enjoyed the run, everything about it. It’s been a long time since I said that.

When it was all over, I ran a nice little half marathon through High Meadows, Bur Oak, and the Steel Mill Trail. 13.1 miles at an 8:42 pace! That, my friends, is my fastest outdoor half marathon to date! And it was a training run on a freaking Monday! To round it out to a nice whole number, I even jumped on the treadmill at Planet Fitness where I parked and ran a 0.9 mile cool-down.

After the run, I was still riding my runner’s high, so I thought I might as well keep it going. After 14 miles, I took the kids to Sky Zone for some exercise disguised as fun. We jumped and laughed and enjoyed the time out. The added bonus was the kids and I are now lumped in the same weight group, so we are finally able to jump together as opposed to having the smaller ones on one side of the jump floor and me on the other.


So that was all it took. One little run made a huge difference. Bring it, Cleveland Marathon, I’m back and ready to train hard! See you in May.


CLE marathon training update



I’ve been writing about other things lately, mostly associated with running, but I figured it was time for an actual training update/check-in. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is 102 days away, so that’s about 14 weeks. Typing that makes me feel a little less nervous about tackling 26.2 miles again. I have no clue why I feel like the race is right around the corner. For goodness sake, it’s only the beginning of February; there’s still a lot of training time.

I’m by no means behind on training. Just this Saturday I was able to get in another 14-miler on the treadmill (13 miles at 8:51 pace and 1 mile total for warm-up and cool down), which was faster than my previous long run of the same distance. I fought for those miles though. It was hard. I didn’t bring great fuel with me. I had blisters on the balls of my feet. But I got it done, and I needed that run. The Wednesday prior to my long run was the first run back in a week. No miles for me in one week. Zip. Zero. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I took one week off from running. I decided to wipe the slate clean and start fresh in February. January wasn’t a bad month, but my running lacked diversity and consistency. Time to reset and refocus.

One week in, and I’m pretty happy with the miles I’ve put in and the types of runs I’ve completed. In addition to a pretty good long run, I did some speed work on the treadmill, running at my fastest interval pace ever (and pretty much dying after). I hate intervals when I’m running them, but hot damn, do I feel great when it’s done. I got in a run on my home treadmill. I don’t know why running on it is so hard, but it is. My speeds are at least 1-1.5 minutes per mile slower at home, and my legs feel like they are working harder for each step. This, I feel, makes me stronger though, so I should do it more often. I even made it outside for a few miles yesterday to enjoy the sunshine and warmth and test out the legs on the road. I was pleasantly surprised – 8:14 pace for 3 miles and then a cool down mile. Not too shabby after my Saturday long run.

Where do I go from here? I feel confident in the fact I can already run a half marathon, which means I can focus on adding miles and getting a little faster. I’m not looking to be a speed demon in May, but I would like to run another sub-4 hour marathon. I need to make sure I don’t fall into the training trap where I run to get the miles in but don’t mix it up with speed. I’ve also been adding lifting to my routine to help get stronger. I’m hoping this all will pay off in May and again in June when I run my first ultra marathon. I don’t have a lot of races on the calendar before May. Although I haven’t signed up yet, the plan is to run the 20 Mile Drop and Brokeman’s 20 Miler in April. I’m also hoping to get my sons, Cole and Cael, to run St. Malachi with me. If we run, it would probably be the 2-mile race, but I’d love to see them do the 5.

If you’re in the midst of training, good luck! If you’re not, there’s still time to start training and register for Cleveland before the price increase on Thursday. With the great race shirts, commemorative key chain, and updated medals (bye-bye, spinning guitar), you don’t want to miss out.

Also, if you want to score a free entry to a CLE Marathon race of your choice, make sure you check out the other ambassadors’ pages for more info. This week, Rachel from Running on Happy is running her giveaway. And you have to admit, running CLE for free would be pretty awesome.

the comparison game


Thanks to technology, we are more connected with others than ever before. Take myself for example. I have 3 email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Runtastic, Untappd, Garmin Connect, and a blog, and I’m sure that’s only half of the social media/technology that others are plugged into on a daily basis. It has its perks. Having a vast network of friends, even those I have never met in real life, gives me a built-in motivation and support system. People are there to cheer me on when I’ve succeeded at a huge work project or set a personal best in the marathon. They are there to provide words of support when I falter or bomb a training run. They are there to share funny memes and videos, delicious recipes, and quotes that make me smile and sometimes roll my eyes.

The connectedness also has a darker side, the side which leads me to compare myself in pretty much all aspects of life. For example, here’s a typical conversation inside my head while scrolling through Instagram, which happens to be my favorite social media platform.

Scroll, scroll, scroll. Oh, love the quote, “Someone busier than you is running right now!” Oh wait, that someone is me. Shit, you need to get that run in today. Note to self – run tonight.

Look at that amazing and healthy lunch he packed! You really need to start eating more like him. Seeing as you just scarfed down a Dairy Queen chicken basket in the front seat of the car while sitting in the health department parking lot so you didn’t have to bring it in and eat it in health shame, you could really use that salad right about now. But you have to admit the chicken basket was amazing. Come to think of it, you totally got gypped on the Texas toast! Demand a chicken basket redo!

Scroll, scroll. Looks like all of your friends got runs in this morning before you even got your lazy butt out of bed. And they are getting faster and running farther! Much faster than you. Steph, all you are doing is getting slower. How do you ever thing you’re going to be able to run another sub-4 hour marathon in May if you don’t get on a regular training schedule?! Holy crap and some are getting runs in during the day and double run days at that! Jealous! I’m sitting at work on my ass, which is expanding, and they are running free. Don’t they work?! Steph, that was totally not nice. Quit that crappy ass negative thinking about your friends. If they heard you right now, they would think you are a total bitch. You must be a total bitch for being jealous of your friends over running. Do you hear how ridiculous you sound?

Scroll, scroll, scroll. I think she just had a baby a couple months ago and look how thin and toned she is! If you weren’t too lazy, Steph, you could look like that too. But probably not. Besides, you look pretty good…for having 4 kids. Who are you kidding? You’re saying that to make yourself feel better. Did it work? Maybe, depends on the day.

Another head of gorgeous, thick hair. Another beach vacation. Another picture of a beautiful new house, just like one you have always wanted. Why are you not content with anything you have?! What the hell is wrong with you?!

See, so not cool. Self-confidence is eroded, and jealousy rears its ugly head. It’s not all the time, but it happens more than I’d like to admit. It’s probably the perfectionist in me. Never quite happy because I’m not the best but not stopping to think that I can’t always be the best. I might not even be the best some of the time or even just once. But can I be better than I was before? Can I improve? Have I improved? Instead of comparing myself to my friends, shouldn’t I compare myself to the person I was 1, 3, 5, or 10 years ago? Have I grown? I would like to think that the answer is yes.

Does this mean I’m going to leave social media? No, I think I’m too nosy to stay away, plus some people are just such great entertainment, but I will make a more conscious effort to quit playing the comparison game. I need to remind myself that people generally only put the really great things on social media, things they are proud of and rightfully so, but it’s not real life. Real life isn’t running 7 super-fast miles in your sports bra and booty shorts with six-pack abs while your perfectly highlighted hair flows behind you all while on a sunny beach with your hot husband, two beautiful kids who look like Gap Kids models, and dog who doesn’t regularly poop on the floor. Life is life, and it’s great and sucks and is messy for all of us. But it sure can be fun.

i’m a sparkly soul ambassador!



If you follow me, you know I absolutely love Sparkly Soul headbands! They’re cute, hold my hair without slipping, don’t give me a headache no matter how long I wear them, and can be worn to work or the gym. I’m not ashamed to admit I have close to 50 of them and have given countless as gifts. I even buy the 5-packs during the major sales and pass them out to friends and family who want to give them a try.

I was very excited when they asked me to come back as an ambassador for 2017. Uhhhh…YES, PLEASE! It’s a brand I enjoy wearing and am proud to promote. Their mission is to celebrate individuals who find their strength and soul while pushing themselves to their limits, which resonates with me. Thanks again, Sparkly Soul, for this great opportunity! Much sparkly love to you!