race for the ribbon recap

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This weekend was so much more than a race. It was the first time in about 7 years I was able to meet up with two of my very best college friends at the place where our friendship began. My sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, at Ohio Northern University was holding its annual Race for the Ribbon 5K. Krisi invited me down to run it with her. We originally planned to run the Toledo half marathon, but supporting our sorority and visiting at ONU was more important. Sarah lives in Lima and was able to meet up with us that morning. Now that all three of us are moms, it only seemed fitting to bring the families together since they had never met. The kiddles and I (minus Adrianna who was at a Girl Scout camp) loaded in the car bright and early Sunday morning for our trip to Ada.

Thank God for Google Maps! (Yes, I can’t remember how to get to the college I went to for 4 years. It happens.) I wish they had that when I was a college student. I had to rely on following directions from my dad, who provided great directions. The problem was in the driver’s seat. We made it to Ada in a little over two hours. Driving through campus was nostalgic. I pointed out buildings where I lived, cheered, studied, worked, and the kids were enthralled. I suppose they don’t really think there was life before I was a mom. It was also interesting to see how much had changed since I graduated. It’s like the campus doubled in buildings!

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After making a long walk to an open building for a bathroom, we waited there to meet up with Sarah and her son. When we saw each other, it made me so happy! She looked exactly the same, like she didn’t even age a day! We hugged and squealed like typical cheerleaders/sorority girls before introducing the kids. I’m sure they were looking at us like crazy people, but I didn’t care. Krisi was still getting things together for the race and work (she is an athletic trainer at ONU), so we took a few pics and reminisced.

We walked back to the race area, and I saw Krisi and her son. I ran up to her and squeezed her. And she, also, looked exactly the same! Have we aged since we were here, or was it the college glow coming back?! All of this just made my heart smile. The best part was is felt like we were never apart for all of those years.

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All of kiddles were participating in the Kids’ Fun Run, which my sons turned into the kids’ race. Those two little shits (I meant that in the most loving way possible) have a fierce competitive streak, plus they wanted to smoke their older sister in the run. It was cute watching them all line up together and sprint the lap around the Tundra. Maybe future Polar Bears? Cole came in first, followed by Cael. Alexandra was either 3rd or 4th and promptly pouted something about her shoe coming untied and almost falling off. I had to laugh to myself. She was only upset that her brothers beat her.

The Race for the Ribbon 5K kicked off at 11:00. I was really impressed with the turnout. As ZTA’s major fundraiser for breast cancer awareness, each sister needed to recruit at least 3 participants. There were parents, students, alumni, and faculty coming out to support the cause. Krisi and were going to run the race together while Sarah kept an eye on the kids and was our official photographer. The race started off on the Tundra and took us around the campus. We chatted the whole time about all sorts of things. If I didn’t know any better, it was like we were still back in college, although I never would have been caught running in college. We made our way back into the Tundra and had our own cheering section waiting to lead us to the homestretch. Krisi’s son and Cole and Cael were waiting with arms outstretched for high fives, and they joined us for the photo finish. There was no official clock, but we finished in a respectable 28:33.

After the race, Sarah, Krisi, and I sat and chatted while the kids played. I apologized a few times for being the horrible friend who basically fell off the face of the earth after getting married and having kids. Thankfully, they understood, as the three of us have all been in that boat within the past 13 years. We made a pact to get together more often. I don’t doubt this will happen.

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This race and mini reunion capped off a great week and left me feeling positive leading into what will be a difficult week or so at work. Now it’s time to regain focus for work and prepare myself physically and mentally for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, which is only 18 days away!!!! Then, time will tell if the hard work I put in this training cycle will pay off.

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steph – 1, mother nature – 0: 20 mile drop recap

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I had the pleasure of kicking off my 2016 race season on Sunday with the Lake Health Running Series 20 Mile Drop and laughing in the face of Mother Nature, who obviously is a hot mess and forgot it’s spring with her recent blast of snow. All of you know that I absolutely hate cold weather, but that didn’t stop me from running quite possibly my best distance race ever.

I love, love, love the 20 Mile Drop because it’s the perfect training race for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and gives me a chance to run through my hometown of Painesville. When I ran it with Dan two years ago, we wore shorts and tank tops. This year was a bit different. We woke up to find this on Saturday morning before the race.

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I was freaking out for many reasons. How the heck will I run in the snow and cold? Will the path and roads be cleared for the race? What will happen if I slip on ice, get hurt, and all of my CLE training would be for nothing? Should I back it down to the 10 Mile Drop to be safe? Are they going to cancel? The plan was to drive to packet pick-up, scope out the weather and roads in Lake County, and make a decision. Worst case scenario would be I make the decision Sunday morning and run either the 20 or 10. Packet pick-up was quick and uneventful, just the way I like it, and the plan was to run the 20 on Sunday morning.

With the race being in Chardon, just a few miles south of my parents’ house, we decided to stay there instead of driving in the morning. Plus, my mom and dad were able to help out with the kiddles (thanks, mom and dad!). It’s hard enough to rest up and prepare for a race at your own house, but when the kiddles are super excited for a sleepover at Grammy and Grampy’s, it’s even more difficult. I didn’t have a great night’s sleep before the race, but I still felt it would be okay. Adrenaline and excitement can help me overcome less than perfect sleep.

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Dan and me pre-race

I was thankful that my dad agreed to drive me to the start in Chardon on Sunday morning. Being able to have extra time in the morning and sitting in a warm truck before the race made a big difference. With about 15 minutes to spare before the start, I said goodbye and hopped out. While it was cold, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The race was supposed to start at 7:15AM, but they pushed it back to allow all racers, me included, to use the bathroom, which I thought was a nice move. After a final bang on all of the porta potty doors and a quick line-up, we were off!

When I first started, my feet were ice cubes, and it took about 2.5 miles to get feeling back. Thankfully, the rest of my body felt great from the start, mostly because smart layering and hand warmers. I also felt that I was well rested from taking it easy during the week. It was then I decided I was not just going to run this, I was going to race it and was excited to see how fast I could go.

Don’t let the name 20 Mile Drop confuse you; this is not a nice, easy downhill course. There are quite a few hills and inclines, nothing ridiculously huge but enough to make you feel it in your legs. At those points, I was happy I trained harder and smarter this season, as the hills weren’t a big deal. Around mile 5, I was still clipping along at a solid pace (around 8:35-8:40) and met a similarly paced runner on the course named Mack. We got to chatting, which made the miles go by very quickly. Turns out he’s from Vermilion (right next to my town), has 4 kids (and 16 grandchildren!), AND has a daughter named Stephanie who graduated in 1999. Crazy coincidence!

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Hustling with Mack at mile 12

It was around mile 12 when I started getting antsy because I knew I would see my family soon. The race course took us through my old neighborhood, and the mile 15 marker was very close to my parents’ house! When I saw the kiddles and my parents cheering for me as I turned onto Cedarbrook, I got a little teary. They were yelling and had made a sign for me. I ran past to give them high fives, but one of my boys slipped on the ice and fell. I helped pick him up and wanted to see if he was hurt, but my mom told me to keep going and she would take care of him. I said goodbye to them, knowing I would see them at the end. They were just the boost I needed to make it the final 5 miles.

Mack and I were still keeping the same steady pace as before, but I could feel my legs getting a little heavy. After all, this was the fastest I have ever run for this distance. When we got to the north end of Painesville, I was worried we would have to stop for a train but was overjoyed when it passed before we got to the tracks. Had I been forced to stop for the train, my race would have been over. I told Mack to feel free to leave me in the dust if he wanted to pick up the pace, but he said that since we ran most of this race together, we were finishing together. It’s amazing how much someone who is a complete stranger before a race can turn into your biggest motivator during.

When we turned on to Richmond Street, my cheering section was back and bigger than before. My parents and the kiddles were joined by my youngest sister and her daughters, who had overtaken the Kurlee Kone parking lot. I was so happy to see them!!!! With only 2 miles left, I checked the watch. Unless something disastrous happened, we were going to finish this thing in less than 3 hours! After we passed, the fam piled in the vehicles to head to the finish line, with the kiddles blaring music and screaming out of the windows to the other racers and me.

There was an extreme sense of joy and accomplishment when we hit mile 19. Only 1 to go! Sometimes this part of the course seems to be the longest for me, but before I knew it, we were making the final left turn for the home stretch. I had some energy left in my legs for a kick at the end but decided against it with having to finish on grass, which was a messy mixture of snow, slush, and mud. Plus, I didn’t want to have a perfect race ruined by falling at the finish. That would have been embarrassing. My family was there at the finish, along with Dan who had run the 10 Mile Drop and they were yelling like crazy for me. I heard my niece yell to me, “Come on, Aunt Stephie, pick up the pace!” to which I responded, “Why don’t you try to run 20 miles, honey?!” It made me laugh. Running as carefully and quickly as I could, I crossed the finish line with an official time of 2:53:25, well below my goal of sub-3 hours!

 

After finishing and grabbing my super sweet and well earned medal, I thanked Mack for helping me through this race. Because of him, I was able to keep a great pace and finish strong, even though there were times I felt tired and wanted to slow down. I told him I looked forward to seeing him in CLE because he is also planning to run with the pace group in the hopes of running a sub-4 hour marathon.

The fam ran to meet me at the end, and I hugged and thanked them for their love and support. Having them there made a big difference, and I love them dearly. I think Dan was shocked when he saw my finishing time, and he told me how proud he was of me. It’s not that he doubted me before, but he said the idea of me running a sub-4 in Cleveland was a reality after this race, especially considering the things I had going against me to start such as bad weather and lack of sleep.

 

Reflecting back on the race, I don’t think there was one thing I could have done to run it any better, and I’m very pleased. My plan was to leave it all out there on the course, and I did just that. This race left me feeling confident and motivated for the last month leading up to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon (psst…it’s only 33 days away!) Here’s to a great last month of training with the hopes it will all pay off in the end. Good luck, everyone! We’re in the home stretch!

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we have a winner!

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Thanks to everyone who entered my Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon race entry giveaway last week. I wish I could give all of you free entries, but unfortunately, I can’t. And the moment you have been waiting for – the winner!

Congratulations to Rachel (@ItsAHero)! 

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Fear not! There is still a way to run CLE for free. My friend and fellow ambassador, Melissa, is kicking off her giveaway tomorrow, but you can check out her blog today for a chance to score an extra entry (http://icrashedtheweb.com/). And, even more good news – there are still two more ambassador giveaways to go!

If you’re looking to register for any of the CLE Marathon races, there is still plenty of time. Visit their registration page and sign up! You don’t want to be the only person not running!

CLE marathon entry giveaway!

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Being an ambassador for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is such an honor, and I am thankful to have been part of this great organization for the past 4 years! Many positive race changes have happened over that time period – improved start and finish areas, addition of the west side on the marathon course, better expo facility, and increased crowd support to name a few. I feel the CLE marathon is really trying to take into account participant feedback to provide the best race experience it can. Getting to know many of the race coordinators over the years and developing a friendship with them, it’s easy to see they pour their hearts into the race. Their passion for the event and the City of Cleveland is evident. I only wish the City would reciprocate those feelings and be more supportive of its hometown race. Marathon weekend is a chance to showcase everything fabulous about Cleveland, and it should take full advantage of this.

My love for the CLE marathon runs deep, and I’m excited to share the love with you. As an ambassador, I was given a complimentary entry for myself and one to give away to a lucky reader! Now’s your chance to run CLE for free! The free entry is for the race of your choice (the 5K or 8K on Saturday, May 14 or the 10K, half marathon, or full marathon on Sunday, May 15). It does not cover the Challenge Series and cannot be used to reimburse your race fees if you already registered. However, if you haven’t signed up yet and want to run, here’s how to enter. Please note you have four chances to enter the giveaway.

  1. Answer the questions “Why do you want to run a CLE marathon race and which race would you run?” in the comments below.
  2. Follow the CLE marathon on Facebook and leave a comment.
  3. Follow the CLE marathon on Twitter and leave a comment.
  4. Follow the CLE marathon on Instagram and leave a comment.

The giveaway runs from Monday, March 21 through Sunday, March 27, and the winner will be chosen randomly on Monday, March 28. The winner will receive an email from me, and he/she will have 48 hours to confirm before another winner is chosen. Good luck!

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finding my stride

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I gotta say that so far, March has been a tough training month for me. Between sickness making its way around my house, business trips, and family events, running has been lacking lately. Hell, I only had 9 miles in the first week. Nine! I was starting to worry that I was falling behind, that I might not be ready for the marathon in May. Then, to top it off, I started having this deep pain on the left side of my butt to the point where I stopped running for a few days and even had an appointment scheduled to get it checked out. I was worried, really worried. Would I have to drop back to the half? Would I even be able to run altogether?

I broke out the “real runner” tricks to help overcome the butt issue.
Foam roller and The Stick? Did it!
Rest? Check!
Stretches? Yep!
Advil and a heating pad? You bet!

Also, I would like to think that a meet-up with my Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon ambassador friends helped too! We had a blast last Wednesday, and I was so happy to see everyone. Plus, we scored an awesome ambassador shirt!

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Thankfully, the pain was gone after that, but my confidence took a major hit. It had been about 3 weeks since I got in a good long run, and I wasn’t sure I had it in me. I knew the only time I had to squeeze it in this weekend was Saturday after working at a Girl Scout cookie booth from 1-4pm, not exactly the most opportune time. After peddling the tasty wares, I dropped the kiddles off, got dressed, and stepped out my front door. My schedule called for 16 miles. I was not expecting much, and the goal was to run until I couldn’t, as 16 miles seemed nearly impossible. Well, it wasn’t.

My legs felt great after all the rolling and stretching the week before (note to self: do that stuff more often!!!). I ran the first 7 or so miles around my neighborhood, just in case I needed a bathroom break or didn’t feel the run. After that, I ventured out to the main roads that made a large loop by my house. I love running on the main roads. I feel like I can zone out, and miles click by effortlessly. Sure, I have to dodge the occasional ass who wants to play chicken with me, but I have found most drivers to be friendly.

When I hit mile 11, I got semi-emotional. Although I have run upwards of 17 miles on the treadmill this training season, 10.5 miles was my longest outside run, and that was under nearly perfect conditions. This time, I had a few things against me (lack of sleep, coming back from an injury, not ideal fueling, weird running schedule), and I was still doing well! My confidence started to creep back with each mile after that, and I knew 16 was well within reach.

My watch buzzed within a quarter mile of my house. I stopped the watch, almost died when I saw the time, and did a little fist bump in the air. 16 miles, 2:17:32 (8:35 pace). That, my friends, was the fastest long run I have ever completed. But it was so much more than that. This run made me feel confident, strong, almost invincible. It will be one of those that I draw on when I need a boost during another long run or the marathon itself. It helped show me that I was capable of more than I originally thought.

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soundtrack to my runs

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At this point in my training, miles are starting to pile up, and runs are getting longer. That means I need music more than ever to help me get through. It’s not that running is impossible for me without music, but it makes it so much more enjoyable. Certain songs take me back to training and race experiences, and I use them as motivation to keep going. It’s amazing how the right song can lift you up when you need it most.

I’m always curious about what other people are listening to when they run. Pop songs and 80s rock seem to dominate many people’s playlists, but they don’t really do it for me. I’m not a fan of popular standbys (Livin’ On A Prayer, Eye of the Tiger, Don’t Stop Believin’, and Born to Run) and typical “girl power” motivational songs (Roar, Firework, Girl On Fire, Raise Your Glass). If I offended you because you love to run to those songs, I’m sorry. They’re just not my cup of tea.

Here are a few of my personal faves from my playlist. I will admit that at least 60% of my playlist songs have been on there for a few years. I don’t change things up very often, obviously, but there are a few newish ones along with my oldies but goodies.

AWOLNATION – Woman Woman

Young the Giant – My Body

Snoop Dogg – Doggy Dogg World

Crazy Town – Megatron

Florence + The Machine – Shake it Out

Missy Elliot – WTF

Royal Blood – Ten Tonne Skeleton

Muse – Uprising

Twenty One Pilot – Ride and Holding On To You

My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade

2Pac – California Love

The Struts – Could Have Been Me

Theory of a Deadman – Bad Girlfriend

What are your favorite running songs?

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things that make the CLE marathon even better this year!

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Every year, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon steps up their game to give participants an even better experience. There are some pretty great things I want to share with you, in case you didn’t know. Here’s the rundown.

Challenge Series! Show some mental and physical toughness by tackling the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Challenge Series. There are a few options for this, but all involve taking part in a race on both Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. Options are 9.3 miles (5K Saturday and 10K Sunday), 18.1 miles (8K Saturday and half marathon Sunday), or a whopping 31.2 miles (8K Saturday and marathon Sunday). Whichever you choose, you’ll receive an awesome Challenge Series medal on top of the individual race medals, a shirt for each event, and additional race loot.

RaceKids Day Camp. Raise your hand if you’re a parent and worry about who will watch the kids while you’re running. Do you enlist the help of a spouse? Bribe a family member? Pay a babysitter? This year, bring them downtown and let them take part in RaceKids Day Camp! Located at the Hyatt at the Arcade and opening at 5:00AM on May 15, this fully licensed and insured camp is qualified to watch kiddles ages 18 months and up. The cost includes full supervision, two meals, take home crafts, and more. There’s a half marathon option with up to 6 hours of structured care and a marathon option with up to 8 hours of structured care. The CLE marathon is also offering a 15% with the code CLEKIDS15. Take advantage of it now, as prices go up on March 15.

Sweet In-Training Merchandise. This year, the CLE marathon switched it up and went with Brooks for its official clothing. While I haven’t seen the race shirts yet, I can say I love the new in-training merchandise design, and with a tech t-shirt and moisture-wicking hoodie to choose from, you can’t go wrong with either option. I will give a word of advice about sizing if you’re looking to buy. The t-shirts offer both men’s and women’s sizing; the sweatshirts do not. I definitely needed the XS in the sweatshirt.

Pub Runs! Running = great. Drinking tasty beer = great. Running and then drinking tasty beer = AMAZING! The first Pub Run of the year is set to kick off on March 14 at 6:30pm. Hosted by the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and Fleet Feet, this 3.5ish mile fun run starts at Great Lakes Brewing Company (one of my personal faves) and takes you on a little tour of CLE. Stay after the run for drinks, and the first one’s covered. Look for more information on Facebook and Twitter. The event is free, but you will need to RSVP.

Kick-butt Race Ambassadors! Last year, the CLE marathon put together a perfect mix of people (in my opinion) to represent the race. Ambassadors spanned various speeds, ages, and backgrounds, but we all had two thing in common – running and our love of the race. What started as a group of strangers grew into a family that supported and motivated one another long after the last ambassador crossed the finish line in May 2015. This year, we’re back again and stronger than ever, and we’re pleased to welcome two new ambassadors to the group. No matter your story, I’m sure there is at least one ambassador who has something in common with you. I encourage you to check out their blogs and social media pages for healthy doses of motivation, inspiration, determination, and heart. CLE ambassadors – love to you all!

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Some of our amazing crew from 2015!

And just an FYI. If you’re on the fence about running CLE, make your decision now and save money! The prices increase on March 1. Register now at http://www.clevelandmarathon.com/Registration/. You can also try to win a free entry from the Ambassador of the Week! My week begins on March 21, so be on the lookout for that.