things i would tell my younger self

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Not quite sure why, but I have been thinking about my life and past a lot lately and got on the topic of things I would tell my younger self (and these are things you think about when you have two hours to kill on the treadmill). I know we can’t change our past, only our future, but if I had the chance to give the naïve young Stephanie some advice/thoughts/words of wisdom, these are some of the things that would be included.

  • As much as you loved environmental science, I wish you wouldn’t have given up on going to dental school. I think it was more of the fear of failing or not getting into the program that scared you. You may not have gotten in or finished or liked it once you started, but at least you would have tried.
  • Getting married in your very early 20s was a stupid idea. I have no clue why you thought that once you left college you had to have this piece of your life planned. How well did that work out for you? (Note: I would NEVER wish away my kids.)
  • DON’T EVER TAN! It’s not fun going to the doctor have spots checked out and removed because they are potentially cancerous or pre-cancerous. Embrace the pale and dammit wear sunscreen, especially on your face. The crow’s feet and lines aren’t a good look.
  • Why did you ever agree/decide on some of those stupid haircuts that are still the brunt of family jokes over 20 years later? Rat tail??? Come the hell on!
  • Don’t hate on your body so much because when you look back at pictures, you will realize that you looked pretty good in a bathing suit back then. And, HELLO, cellulite-free thighs! Years of cheerleading made them big but strong and without a single dimple.
  • You shouldn’t have slacked off freshman year of college because knowing that you graduated with a 3.59 GPA and missed High Distinction by 0.01 still pisses you off.
  • Consider taking up running sooner. You are not super fast, but you are pretty good at it. And it helps you from becoming a total hot mess.
  • Your desire to be a people-pleaser and make others happy above your own happiness leaves you feeling crappy about yourself more often than I can tell you. If you can find a way to fix this when you’re younger, you will save yourself a lot of trouble. It’s unfortunate that your self-worth is tied to the opinions of others.
  • Being part of the Eastern cheer staff and getting paid to teach cheerleading would have been an awesome opportunity, but you were too afraid to do it. Take some chances.
  • Quit acting like a little bitch to your dad in high school. He loves you so much, and you regret that you lost that time because you were busy being a moody, know-it-all teenager. You will always feel as though you need to make that up to him.
  • You should have stayed in touch with your friends from college, especially Sarah and Kristin. You hopped on the family fast track and lost that connection when you were busy being a mom and wife. It wouldn’t have required a huge effort, but you missed out and you miss them.
  • Live by yourself for a period of time. No husband, no boyfriend, no roommate, no kids. Just you. I think you would have liked it a lot.
  • That being said, you hurried through motherhood, wanting to finish each day, and you didn’t stop to enjoy the moments when your kids were younger because you were “too busy.” That time has passed, and there’s no getting it back.
  • You can wear silver jewelry instead of gold with your skin tone, have long hair despite not having thickness, and wear a strapless dress with your triangle shoulders. The fact you had these made-up rules for things like these was just silly.
  • Chocolate and beer are amazing, and you should have indulged in them sooner before you had to worry about the calories. And remember when you used to make Stove Top Stuffing as an after-school snack? Those were the days.
  • You are enough :-)

What is a piece of advice you would tell your younger self?

how to cram a week’s worth of vacation in Seattle in three days

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The answer to that question is to go on a vacation to visit my brother. In the summer, my brother Steve and sister-in-law Tracy moved to Washington, where Tracy lived growing up. I promised him that when they moved and settled in their new house, I would come out and visit. Thankfully, Dan and I had the opportunity to take that trip to Snoqualmie about a week and a half ago and held the honor of being their first guests from “The Great State.” With our limited vacation time, we crammed an entire week’s worth of vacation into three amazing days. Here’s the highlights!

Snoqualmie Falls

Cirque de Soleil – Kurios (lack of pics due to no photography during show but still amazing & a bucket list item for me)

Hiking Tiger Mountain

Tulalip Casino for Dinner and Outlet Mall Shopping

Pike Place Market

The Space Needle

Breweries…lots of them (Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company, Redhook Ale Brewery, Pike Brewing Company, and Pyramid Brewery)

Lots of amazing other pics to cram in this post

Thanks again, Stevie and Tracy! I love you and miss you…and when can I plan my next vacation?

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?