life happens

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Okay, readers, I have a confession. Until this weekend, it had been two weeks since I ran, and three weeks since I completed a long run. Whew, I feel better about admitting that, but it also makes me feel a bit guilty. Why the running hiatus? Life happens. Plain and simple. Between an illness that stopped me from running (and basically being able to function) altogether to a much-needed and well-deserved vacation in Washington to getting back in the swing of work and home life, running took a back seat for a while.

Ideally, that’s not what I wanted to have happen in the middle of marathon training. Up until this point, I was on schedule to be around 15-16 miles for my long runs. While I am not too far behind, I don’t have the wiggle room that I did before in case I bomb a long run, which happens at least once, or get hit with something unexpected. With the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon about 10 weeks away, I need to regain focus, stay healthy, and continue to train with a PR mindset. I still haven’t given up hope that a great race is in store for me, and I know that I am not the only one who has had a setback or two during the course of training. This is where we pick up the pieces, take a deep breath, and start again with more fervor than before.

Although my marathon training isn’t going as planned, I’m happy to say that the kids started their training for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 5K, which is held the day before the big race on Saturday, May 16. This will be the first time that all four kids have run a 5K with me, and I couldn’t be more excited! Yes, even my Adrianna who has said that she doesn’t like running is going to participate. Yesterday, we attend the Lorain County Fitness Walk at Splash Zone in Oberlin. The field house track is open to the public free of charge every Monday at 5:30 PM as part of a collaboration with the Lorain County General Health District (my employer), Lorain County Metro Parks, Mercy Hospital, and WOBL/WDLW. This is a great opportunity because it gives us a place to train when the weather is lousy, allows the kids to burn off some energy, and supports the local community. All four kids put in at least 1.5 miles yesterday, so I am anxious to see how well they will do come race day. Good luck, kiddles!

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research study – runners wanted!

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About a week ago, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon had a post on their Facebook page about a research study on running-related injuries. The Cleveland Clinic was conducting the study and looking for participants. Being the science-minded person that I am, I was all, “Sign me up!” I have encountered two injuries since I began running in 2009 – IT band syndrome and impinged fat pads in my knee – and I thought if I could learn a little something from the study and help others, it would be worth it.

In the study description, Cleveland Clinic stated they were looking for healthy runners who were heel to midfoot strikers, and the time commitment was one hour or less. Check and check. After a few back-and-forth emails with Darrell Allen, the study coordinator, my appointment was all set. They even generously allowed me to bring the kids along.

We set out for the Cleveland Clinic Sports Health building in Garfield Heights on February 14. Yes, we spent Valentine’s Day morning doing a running research study :-) The weather was great until we hit the airport, which resulted in us being a few minutes late (I know, story of my life). Darrell greeted us at the door and escorted us to the physical therapy gym. I was happy when I saw there was a small area with a ball and net, and Darrell and crew allowed the kids to play while I took part in the study. I was worried about how they would behave during it, but having the opportunity for them to play alleviated a huge ton of stress!

After reading and signing the obligatory waivers and having some tape marks placed on my shoe and leg, it was time to hop on the treadmill and begin. Without giving away the gist of the study, I had to alternate between periods of walking and running while a camera captured my movements. I was able to chat a bit about the study, but I can’t give away that information in case others who want to participate are reading. But I can tell you it was a fun experience and exciting to know that I am helping with research on running-related injuries. I also came away with a few tips to help reduce injury while running, so all-in-all, it was helpful.

The Cleveland Clinic needs more participants, so I encourage you to help out! How often do you have the opportunity to be part of a research study and garner some tips to become a more efficient runner?! Contact Darrell Allen at 330-888-4512 or allend4@ccf.org for more info. 

why momma suze rocks at life

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In celebration of my mom’s birthday today (don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone the number), I wanted to put together a little list of why my mom rocks at life. Yes, I know, there are too many for one blog post, so I will just highlight a few.

  • She sacrificed (and continues to sacrifice) for her family. Momma Suze was a stay-at-home mom for many years, choosing to give up a career to raise us. Personally, I would have gone bat-shit crazy without work, but my mom is a much better person than me. PTA meetings, school projects, summer activities, you name it, she helped out. She continues to help us, even though we pretend to be self-sufficient adults.
  • She rocked a perm with a banana clip and “Big Reds” (glasses) like it was nobody’s business. I think there was even a time when Dad and she had similar curly 80s hairdos/mini-mullets, which was awesome. They liked them so much that they made sure Sare and I matched. Lookin’ fresh all day, every day.
  • She taught me about cheerleading! Before running came into my life, there was cheerleading, and I learned my foundation from my mom. While the other moms in the condo complex were busy doing other mom-ish sorts of things, she was flipped around in the backyard, teaching us cartwheels, round offs, headsprings, and various jumps. She even coached my first cheerleading squad, the Redskins, for midget football. I still remember her making skirts for us girls to wear, getting us screen printed sweatshirts, and dying briefs at home to wear under the skirts.
  • She is one hell of a grandma, and my kids are lucky to have her. Mom is fun and creative and patient with the kids, but she doesn’t let them get away with crap. She shows them all the time that Grammy loves them but won’t think twice about punishing them if they get out of line.
  • She still loves me. I wasn’t a bad adolescent (at least I don’t think I was), but in adulthood, I was kind of a hot mess. I guess it was payback for being a semi-easy child. Mom has been there to support me regardless, and I am forever grateful.

Happy birthday, Mom! We all love you and wish you many more! Another year older, another year more fabulous!

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escaping unscathed

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I know this has pretty much turned into a running blog as of lately, but for my non-running readers, I have a post for you! Actually it’s for anyone who has kids. I’m sure all of you have seen things plastered on your Facebook walls and Twitter feeds of children, oh let’s say, behaving badly. The kids who dumped a gallon of paint and covered the living room and themselves. The little one who got into markers and gave himself and his dad homemade tribal tattoos. Seeing things like that made me think that I escaped the trials of early motherhood unscathed more or less. Sure, we had some incidents, most notably the Lexi-Annie hair cutting fiasco where my poor Banana had what I referred to as hillbilly bangs and a chunk taken off the side thanks to her sister. Thankfully, I was able to (somewhat) fix it, but really, was it THAT bad? Below is a list of things that I am happy to say never happened in my house, and thanks to the age of my kids (10, 8, and 6 1/2), I probably won’t have the pleasure of encountering.

  • Poop Picasso. I am forever indebted to my children for not putting me through this horrifying act. You wake up, walk into your sweet baby’s room, and find that he/she managed to wiggle out of that diaper and paint the walls, crib, you name it with poop. As a self-proclaimed germaphobe, this is the stuff of nightmares. I’m gagging just thinking about it.
  • Makeup Makeovers. I felt like this was a given with what I did to my mom when I was little. I have fond memories of stealing borrowing her Avon makeup samples (the tiny lipsticks were my fave), bringing them to my room, and getting them on myself, bedding, and other random room stuff. The fact my kids never did this to me as payback is a miracle.
  • Store Meltdowns. I must be an anomaly here because every other mother I know can recall at least one major meltdown in the store. I’m not saying I did anything better than any of them to prevent this from happening; I just happened to luck out.
  • Sleepless Infants. You would think that with four children at least one would have been a horrible sleeper. Not so in my house! While they may not have been necessarily fabulous while awake (um, Annie, I am talking to you), sleeping wasn’t an issue. Knowing they would sleep well at night helped my sanity.
  • Pet Terrors. This one was easy because we didn’t have any pets while the kids were little, so I missed out on all of the torture that four little kids can inflict on the poor family pet.
  • Mud Painting. I say this with trepidation because it is still a very real possibility, and this is another one of those things that warrants payback. When I was little, my friend Morgan and I innocently painted her garage with mud, much to her mother’s dismay. The end result was an “I’m sorry” letter to her mom and clean-up.

As I write this, I’m sure karma is going to come back to bite me for saying I missed out on all of these great milestones of motherhood. I know there are plenty of things that lie ahead, but I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.

musical motivation

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but when it comes to running or working out, I need a little auditory stimulation to get me motivated. That goes double when I’m on the treadmill or logging miles alone. The music gives me that little push I need when I am feeling tired or bored or just blah. Truth be told I still have songs on my iPod that I listened to when I started running in 2009, and I still enjoy them today. For me, those songs evoke memories from past races or training runs that made an impact on me, and I use those feelings as motivation to push myself. Here’s a list of some of my favorite running songs that are in regular rotation on my playlist.

Song: Mr.Brightside
Artist: The Killers
Reasoning: For some reason this song would always play when I was on the last mile or so before reaching my house when I began running in spring 2009. Runs were SO hard at that time, but hearing this let me know that I wasn’t far from home. It still has the uncanny ability of coming on near the end of my runs, and when I hear it now it reminds me that the end is near and to keep going.

Song: Uprising
Artist: Muse
Reasoning: The first time I ever ran 10 miles was during the Towpath 10-10 in 2010. I felt pretty good for the whole race, but when this song came on around mile 8, it was like someone lit a fire under my butt. I remember picking up the pace dramatically and smiling as the sun shone brightly on the path. The run felt effortless, and I loved it! I try to remember that feeling each time this song plays.

Song: Born This Way
Artist: Lady Gaga
Reasoning: This song takes me back to the Hermes Cleveland 10 Miler in 2011. Prior to this race, I had IT band issues and was nervous about being able to complete it without walking. My race started with this song, and I knew it was going to be a good one. Ten miles and no pain later, I had completed the race! This was also the race where I also met my friend, Sarah Cawley, by pure coincidence, so this song always reminds me of her. We were running near one another and started chatting, and because of her motivation, I was able to finish strong. Sarah is a resilient, courageous woman who is a great wife, loving and devoted mother to her two daughters, breast cancer survivor, and one badass mother runner!

Song: Kiss You
Artist: One Direction
Reasoning: Don’t knock this song until you listen to it! I’m not gonna lie; I really like 1D. The catchy lyrics and fast beat make it great for running. This was also the song that kicked off my half marathon PR race at the Northern Ohio Marathon half in October 2013, and I can’t help but turn up my pace when I hear it.

Song: My Body
Artist: Young The Giant
Reasoning: I can’t pinpoint a particular race or training run for this because there are so many! This song earned its spot on my playlist the second I heard it, and it never fails to motivate me to run faster and try harder. In addition to running memories, this song reminds me of MO POP Festival this summer with Dan when we heard them play live. Completely awesome!

I asked the other Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon race ambassadors about the songs that inspire them, and here were some of the responses.

  • Andrew Hettinger: “The Beast In Me” by Johnny Cash always pumps me up in late miles on a long run. Let’s me know something I can’t even explain pushes me when I feel I can’t go on anymore.
  • Melissa Bixler: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and “The Distance” by Cake.
  • Melissa Carney: “Welcome To The Black Parade” – My Chemical Romance
  • Pamela McGowan: Anything Sex Pistols but especially “Anarchy in the UK” or “God Save the Queen.” Punk music is so high energy!
  • Jessica Humphrey: Katy Perry “Roar” gets me every time!
  • Emily Baumgartner: “Centuries” and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” by Fall Out Boy
  • Stephani Itibrout: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour, “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)” and “Your Country” by Gogol Bordello, “Pepper” by Butthole Surfers, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, “Royals” by Lorde, “Some Nights” by Fun

Since I’m looking to add some new music for the 2015 race season, what are some suggestions? What songs motivate and inspire you?

reasons for running

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One’s reasons for running are as varied as the individual. Some people enjoy the camaraderie of the sport and treat it much like a social outing. Some get their kicks from going fast and crushing the competition. Others are on a journey to improved health, mental and physical. No matter the reason, the important thing is that we are all runners, and it is a sport that binds us across states, countries, and continents.

So why do I run? I don’t have a simple answer for that, as it has become more complex as the years have gone by. I began running in February 2009, six years ago, as a way to cope with stress at home and lose baby weight. In that time, I have seen myself grown in ways I never thought possible. I mean, how many people can say they work a full-time job, take care of four kids, run the house as a single parent, and are a five-time marathoner? I’m pretty proud of all of those accomplishments, and they make me the person I am today. Here’s a condensed list of why I run.

  1. I like the solidarity of the sport but enjoy the support from the running community. I have never much been a team person. I was a cheerleader, and although I know that is a team sport (yes, I did just say it was a sport), I was most concerned with what I was doing. Running is much the same way for me. I thoroughly enjoy hitting the road or treadmill solo. That is my “me time.” That’s not to say that I don’t like other runners. It’s exactly the opposite. I love the support and motivation that runners give one another. It makes me feel that even though I am running on my own, we are all in this together.
  2. Running will hopefully help me outwit family history. There are some things in our genetic make-up that we can’t control, but I am hoping that running, along with other healthy habits, will help me live a longer, happier life that is free of things such as hypertension, heart disease, and cancer. I have lost family members very near and dear to me due to health conditions that are preventable. I am taking my health and future in my own hands.
  3. I am setting an example for my children. I want the kiddles to grow up knowing that exercise is an important part of life and a necessity. If they see me being physically active, that will encourage them to do it, also. They don’t necessarily have to run (although I would LOVE that!), but it is important for them to find something that keeps their muscles moving. Thankfully, they all found a sport that they enjoy. And, because I am too excited about this to not share, you can look for all of us at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 5K the day before the marathon! We will be out in full force. Special shirts may be required. More to follow on this.
  4. I’m vain and not too proud to admit it. If running is going to help me stay slim, then I will continue to do it. I enjoy being able to say I wear the same size that I wore in high school. Call me a bitch or conceited, but I’m just being honest. Hey, if the jeans still fit…
  5. Running is a constant challenge, and that’s what I like about it. It’s not to say that it doesn’t get easier, but there is always room for improvement. Right now I am sitting on a 1:58 half marathon PR and a 4:24 marathon PR. Did I work hard to get to those? Hell yes, I did! And I plan on working even harder to beat them. I enjoy seeing my speed and miles increase while my time decreased. I know I will never be the best, but I can be my own personal best.
  6. RUNNING KEEPS ME SANE! Yes, that sentence totally warranted all caps. I will be the first to admit that I am a hot mess even with running. Take running away and I reach a whole other level of craziness. It’s my outlet, my stress relief, my therapy. I need running. With it, I am a better parent, employee, and girlfriend. And if you think I lack patience now, see me after a few days of not running.

Why do you run?

and so it begins…marathon training!

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The holidays have come and gone, and now is the time to settle into training mode and gain some focus. In just about 17 weeks (120 days to be exact), I will again take to the starting line in the city that I love and run my fourth Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Does that sound daunting to anyone else?

It’s not like I am starting from scratch; I feel like I have built up a pretty solid base. Although I consider myself a wimpy runner for not hitting the pavement (and ice and snow) in this frigid Northeast Ohio winter, I have been consistent with the treadmill and have been running 2-4 times during the week with a long run (around 10 miles) on the weekend. My long runs average a pace in the 8:40s range, so for me, that’s great! I also ran the Santa Hustle Half Marathon with my friend in December, and although the pace wasn’t my normal, being able to sustain the energy to keep going for 3 hours made me happy (and the race was an absolute blast!). Now, it’s a matter of building mileage and keeping my speed relatively consistent. I feel I have enough time to build slowly, which will help me fight running burn-out and injury.

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I feel like I have the actual running part of the training down, so a big focus will be on my diet. I hate to brag, but I am pretty proud of the fact I lost weight over the holidays and back to where I want to be for racing. Who can say they lost weight over the holidays?! Being home with my fam gave me time to reset my bad habits (eating at my desk at work when I feel bored or stressed, fast food lunches, etc.) and get back to the healthier ones. Do I still eat chocolate? Yep. Do I still drink beer? Umm…YES! But I have cut back on snacks, added more fruits and veggies, pretty much cut out the fast food except for about once a week (and switched to healthier options like Panera), and cut way back on sweets (my downfall). The trick will be keeping it off. I always have a tendency to gain weight during marathon training, but I know I can do this.

So what’s the plan? Honestly, I don’t follow a traditional training plan that requires certain workouts each week. Things come up. Life happens, and as most of you know, my life is a little hectic. My plan is pretty simple and allows for flexibility with my schedule. I get in at least 2 shorter (3-5) mile runs each week, whether it’s outside or on the treadmill, and I plan for one long run on the weekends. The days for the shorter runs don’t really matter; I just usually do not do them back-to-back. It might not sound like a lot of running to those who are hardcore marathoners, and that’s okay. I’m not going to set any records with my training plan or qualify for Boston, but that’s not the point. The point is I know I can adequately train for and complete a marathon following this schedule and not kill my body or feel that I am neglecting my family and work responsibilities at the same time. Win-win-win!

I have one little added push that is going to help motivate me during my training period and the rest of the year. Dan and I signed up for the Run 2,015 in 2015 Challenge with Run the Edge. The goal is simple – collectively, he and I will run 2,015 miles this year, 1,007.5 each. Running over 1,000 miles for me would be a huge accomplishment, and knowing that I am accountable to our team makes me get off the couch after a day at work and get in some miles.

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just remember this when you don’t want to train

So, good luck, runners, and I wish you success in training. Whether fast or slow, whether training for the 10K or the marathon, we are all in this together. If you’re looking for some motivation, check out what the other Race Ambassadors have to say about training and racing in CLE.