Team Lesco is T1D Strong!

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On May 21 while I’m running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, my family in Seattle will be completing a special race in honor of my sister-in-law, Tracy. A little over a year ago, Tracy was in the ICU trying to wrap her head around her diagnosis – type 1 diabetes (T1D). Prior to this, she was healthy, ate well, exercised, and had no indication that her body was sabotaging itself. There is no cure for T1D. It’s not like type 2 diabetes we hear so much about that can be cured with diet and exercise. The pancreas stops producing insulin, which is required to turn food into energy, and blood sugar levels must constantly be monitored and insulin given to live. Although devastated, Tracy persisted. She adapted to the new normal and became an advocate for diabetes management and research. In less than a years’ time, she went from hospital bed to totally kicking ass at the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Arizona in January and setting a PR. We were all so proud of her, and she is definitely T1D Strong! I also had the pleasure of completing the FroYo Run with Steve and her in July 2016 and the Seahawks 12K earlier this month. The difference was night and day, and I had trouble keeping up with her this time on the rolling hills.

Tracy, my brother Steve, and many of her family members will take to the streets of Seattle for the Nordstrom Beat the Bridge, which raises funds to cure, prevent, and better treat T1D. Unfortunately, I am unable to join them, but I’m running my marathon and wearing purple in honor and support of my amazing sister. A race takes on a new meaning when you run with a purpose, and I am proud to be a member of Team Lesco.

If you feel inclined to help our family and others throughout the nation, I encourage you to donate to Team Lesco. We are raising money for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), so one day, they can help find a cure for T1D. The goal is for type 1 to be type none! Here’s the team link: http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR/Walk/JDRFNorthwestChapter4700?team_id=230175&pg=team&fr_id=6468

the mountains are calling

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Lately, I have been mentally and physically drained, so I was really looking forward to my vacation in Washington to visit my brother and sister-in-law. After a flight snafu (I hate you, Spirit Airlines!), I made it to Seattle on April 7. On top of seeing my family, there were three things I wanted to do while there – baseball, craft beer, and running. Happy to say I nailed all three.

I consider myself to be a pretty in-shape runner, especially around home, but throw in some elevation and hills with a sprinkle of trails, and I’m an amateur at best. But that’s okay. I needed running to feel fun again instead of a chore, and it certainly was.

My SIL Tracy is a runner, having just set a half marathon PR in Arizona a few weeks back, and my brother Steve has the uncanny ability to transform into a runner when the mood strikes, like during a visit from me. He and I kicked off my first morning there with 4 miles around their neighborhood. Our pace was nothing like I am used to at home, but I felt accomplished with the elevation changes and the fact I wasn’t sucking wind like I would during previous visits. They live in the mountains about 25 minutes outside of Seattle, and the last time I was there and ran, I couldn’t even go 2 miles without stopping.

Next up was the Seahawks 12K! Tracy and I were already signed up, and on a whim, Steve did, too. This would be his longest race to date. The weather gods were smiling on us that Sunday because although it was crisp, the sun was shining, something they haven’t seen in a while in Seattle. This race was the most fun I’ve had running in I don’t even know how long! We weren’t worried about pace. The crowd and overall atmosphere of the run was entertaining. The views were freaking gorgeous, as the course took us along Lake Washington and around the Seahawks training facility. I’m pretty sure I smiled the entire time! And we didn’t run a shabby race either – 7.65 miles in 1:11:09 according to my watch.

My plan while there was to get in my long-overdue long run. You know what? It didn’t happen, but that’s completely okay. The trail run Steve and I had on Tuesday was much more rewarding and enjoyable than any long run on the pavement would have been. We drove to the area where Tracy and he lived when they first moved to Washington and ran the Redmond Watershed Preserve. The scenery was beautiful and peaceful, and the trails weren’t completely killer. We clipped through the woods for 6 miles, and I loved every minute. Plus, running on the trails, even though they were considered easy, made me feel kinda badass.

So that’s the running, but what about the baseball and craft beer? I have been wanting to go to a Mariners’ game since I first visited, and we had the opportunity to go to the home opener on Monday, April 10. And they pulled off a win!!! It was a great experience and made me think of all of the times we had with my dad going to Opening Day at the old Cleveland Stadium. Sweet nostalgia.

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And craft beer. Lots of it. We stopped in at least half a dozen breweries to grab a flight and did a little shopping at the beverage stores, which made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Stouts, porters, IPAs, red ales, pale ales, barrel-aged goodies, even a few barleywines, we tried a lot. I think part of my liver is still in Snoqualmie.

Thank you, Steve and Tracy, for a much-needed vacation. Love you both and can’t wait to see you again!

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my cle marathon history

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If you’re like me and counting down the weeks until we run CLE, you’ll know that we are just about 7 weeks from the big day! The time is flying by, and race day will be here before we know it. At least we are finally moving from winter to spring and getting some nice weather for outdoor training. I’m pretty much over the treadmill.

Over the last two or so weeks, I started thinking about my experience with the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. It goes deeper than the 5 years I have been an ambassador. Here’s a little Cleveland Marathon by the numbers.

2009: This was the first year I participated in a RACM event. I was fresh into running, having just started in February, and wanted to dip my toes into something besides a 5K. A friend at the time was running the half, so I tagged along with her to run the 10K. I felt nervous and out of place around all of these people who looked like “real runners.” That feeling went away quickly after I started running and kept receiving words of encouragement from the participants and crowd alike. I crossed the finish line in 1:02:08. This race lit a fire under my butt to run longer.

2010: To date, this is the only year I have not participated in some fashion. Personal life got in the way, and I actually took a break from running.

2011: My very first half marathon, a running milestone! This was also one of the first races where I felt confident in my training. I was by no means fast, but I was consistent and ready. I had a feeling of euphoria when I hit the 11.5 mile mark with not having run anything farther than that before. It was like venturing into uncharted territory. My legs felt great, I wasn’t tired, and I didn’t have to walk. The only thing that took away from my happiness was a dreaded bathroom break around mile 12. I should have known this was a foreshadowing of things to come in CLE. Finish time – 2:17:45

2012: This was the year I ran my very first Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon! (I completed my first marathon in Honolulu in December 2011) I won a free race entry from Jessica McCartney, and I thought, “What the hell?!” With a free entry I might as well go big. I had some IT band and knee issues during training that set me back a bit, but I felt like I was up for the challenge of 26.2 miles. Unfortunately, my stomach had other plans. Everything felt pretty good aside from the warm weather, but once I hit the half split, I was a hot mess. I can honestly say I hit up every single port-o-potty from the halfway point to the finish and made my way through the miles with a run-walk combination. Each step was a struggle, and I cried when I hit the finish line, thankful to be done. That was 5:22:22 on the pain train.

2013: I couldn’t let my absolutely awful race in 2012 break me, and I wanted redemption in 2013. This was also my first year as a RACM ambassador (official blogger back then), so I joyfully signed up for the full again. Training was going well, and I was getting faster. Impinged fat pads slowed me down a bit during training, and I went to the start line feeling a little unprepared. Although super hot, the race went well for me…until the damn second half when stomach trouble reared its ugly head. Although not as bad as the 2012 race, it still slowed me down, and I remember crying on the course. I thought I had this under control but apparently not (it would take until the next year for me to get smart and take Imodium before the race). I finished in 4:49:20, not as well as I had hoped but a whole hell of a lot better than the year before.

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2014: My 3rd attempt at the CLE marathon and Dan’s first. We trained together for this race. I needed him to help me get faster, and he needed me because I had marathon experience. On race day, the weather was cool and crisp, and I was well prepared for this race both mentally and physically. Miles clipped by, and this was the first time I made it past the halfway point without a bathroom break! This was also the first time running 26.2 miles where it felt, if I dare say, easy, and this was probably my most enjoyable race to date. I crossed the finish in 4:24:52 with a leap across the line and a smile on my face! 2014 was also the first year I tried something new and added a race on Saturday. My parents, Dan, and I walked the 5K, and I loved that even though my parents are not runners, they still participate and support me.

2015: Again a CLE ambassador, my plan was to run the full, but I switched down to the half before race day. No worries, I suppose. On Saturday, I ran the 5K with all four of my kids. Yes, ALL FOUR…even my daughter who hates running. They all had a great time and liked getting medals and snacks at the end. On Sunday, I lined up for my second CLE half marathon, which made me laugh considering I had run the full three times already. Everything was going well, and for me, I was running fast. I ran out of steam a little near the end, slowing down a bit, but I still managed to run a race I was proud of. 1:55:54 and it was my first time running a long distance race under a sub-9:00 pace. PR party for me!

2016: The. Most. Cleveland. Race. Ever! The terrible weather conditions started on Saturday when my absolutely awesome parents joined me in the wind, rain, and cold for the 8K/5K. Dad and I walked the 8K, running at times because that’s how he does it, and Mom and our family friend Julia walked the 5K. I remember just about crying to my dad that I put in so much work training for the marathon to have it derailed by weather. He told me to just go out and do my best. And that is exactly what I did. My plan was a sub-4 hour marathon. I had quite a few people tell me it would not be possible, and I kept using that as fuel when the weather got worse and my legs got tired. I ended up having to walk for a hot minute on the dreaded Shoreway, but through my happy tears, I mustered the remaining leg strength I had to cross the finish in 3:57:19. I did it! My first sub-4 hour marathon!!!!

So what will 2017 bring? I was dragging my feet a bit with signing up. I knew I was planning to run the full marathon but as undecided about the Challenge Series. Mom and Dad agreed to walk with me again, so that made my decision easy. Full Marathon/8K Challenge Series it is! I’m trained up to 18 miles and feel pretty good about where I stand with my training cycle. It’s true I was better prepared last year, but I don’t feel as though I am too far off. As much as I want to run CLE all out and see how fast I can go with the new course, I need to play it smart with having the Green Jewel 50K about 3 weeks later. An injury in CLE means no ultramarathon, which is a bucket list item for me. For the next 8 weeks. I need to remain focused, continue to get my training runs in, and step up my nutrition game. Seven more weeks. We’ve got this.

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leprechaun dash race recap

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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)

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  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.

 

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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!

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one run, huge difference

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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.

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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.

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