Tag Archives: marathon training

that’s a wrap

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On Saturday, I wrapped up my Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon training cycle with 22.5 glorious miles on the treadmill at Planet Fitness in Lorain, and all things considered, it felt pretty damn good! I made sure I dialed back the pace and just cruised. I get asked a lot how I keep myself engaged and sane on the treadmill. Thankfully, I am able to read magazines while I run, so now, I am well-versed in spring fashion, workout tips, and Hollywood gossip. I’ll watch a little TV, people-watch around the gym, and reward myself with music for the last 5 or so miles. I also “compete” with other runners on the treadmills next to me (sorry, not sorry), so that keeps it fun. I had someone pay me an awesome compliment when I finished the first 10 miles and needed a water bottle refill – “You run the shit out of that machine!” Why, thank you, sir, and yes, I do.

The run certainly wasn’t easy, but I walked out of there feeling strong and accomplished. Do I feel 100% ready for Cleveland in 2 weeks? I’d say I’m feeling 85-90% confident that I will run a “good” race. I don’t feel I trained as well as I should have this year with everything else going on in our crazy, busy lives, but I know it was well enough to not totally fall apart on the course. I’m expecting it to hurt, but the feeling of crossing the finish line for my 7th marathon/5th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon will be so rewarding!

Another thing I always look forward to near the end of the training cycle is the Ambassador Meet-up, which was held at the tail-end of April. It had been a long time since I saw some of my ambassador friends, and seeing them was like a jolt in the arm and just what I needed to carry me through the end of training. They are supportive and motivating, and we’ve come to build this little running family. Basically, they make my heart smile, and I can’t wait to take the streets of CLE with them! 13 DAYS!!!!!!

20 mile drop race recap

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A little over a week ago on April 23, I ran the Lake Health Running Series 20 Mile Drop. I freaking love this race for a few reasons.

1. It’s the perfect training run for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and it’s not that expensive of a race at all. Even with signing up later, it was $65 with a discount code.

2. It’s challenging! Don’t let the Drop part of the name fool you; the course has some hills and elevation changes to keep your legs guessing.

3. And last but most certainly not least, this race goes through my hometown neighborhood in Painesville, so my family is able to cheer me on right near their house. I also get all nostalgic running through my hometown.

Race day conditions were sooooo much better than last year when Mother Nature dropped a snowstorm the day before the race and graced us with bone-chilling temps. I got my usual escort to the starting line (Thanks, Dad! You’re awesome!), made one last bathroom stop, and walked to the start. I was happy when I saw a few peeps I knew (what’s up, Rachel and Sara?!) and chatted for just a bit before we were off and running.

The plan I told everyone was this would just be a training run for CLE, and I wasn’t going to push the pace. That in fact is a lie; I just didn’t want to hear the bitching. I wanted to see how well I could do this year with running it well last year (2:53 and change). The first mile was done before I knew it, but it was too fast to be sustainable (just a hair over 8:00). Time to back off because I still had 19 miles to go. Around miles 1.5-2.5, there was a significant climb, but thankfully, I didn’t feel tired or winded after. This shocked me because I keep feeling as though I was not as well training or running as well as I did last year. Small victory, even though it was early in the race.

Around mile 4ish, I hung with a group of three ladies and chatted a bit. It’s always nice to have someone to talk with during these long runs because it breaks the mile monotony. The one lady and I pressed ahead, and she was pretty awesome. I didn’t catch her name, but she was a 40-something, elementary school gym teacher in Kirtland. And she was killing it! For the next 4 or so miles, we hung together and talked. I wasn’t paying attention to my watch, but when I finally did, I told her to leave me in the dust because I was way under my planned pace and didn’t want to burn out halfway through the race.

Miles 10-14 were a blur because I started to get really antsy. I knew my parents would be waiting for me around mile 14, and I was just like, “Holy crap, just get there already!” When I came out of the bike path into the neighborhood, my mom and dad were there smiling and cheering me on. I was starting to feel a little fatigued at this point, so it boosted my spirits. The best part of the whole race happened when my dad, who is not a runner, hopped in to run with me. All the feels!

Although I felt myself getting tired after mile 15, I kept moving forward, and my pace was great and consistent. This changed as soon as I hit the damn flag for mile 17. Muscle cramps in both calves and a cramp in my left foot stopped me in my tracks. I had to stop and stretch, walk, and then get back to running. This would be the recurring theme for the last three miles, and I know I stopped at least 5 times. I felt defeated and wanted to cry, but I told myself I better get my shit together and finish this race. My parents got to see me in this sad state when I hit mile 18, and after talking with them after the race, they said they wanted to stop and help me.

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pain train at mile 18

I was so happy when I reached mile 19 knowing I was so close to that finish line. I wanted to be able to run the entire last mile, but I had to stretch out one last cramp around 19.5. One-half mile to go! You can do this! When I hit the last turn, I regained focus and made my way through the muddy grass to the finish. 2:56:34. It wasn’t the race I necessarily wanted being that it was 3 minutes slower than last year, but I know I spent more than 3 minutes taking care of my legs on the course. All things considered, I did pretty damn well, and it was good enough for second place in my age group! WOOHOO! I could get used to this placing thing. Thanks, Lake Health Running Series, for yet another great year. I’m already looking forward to 2018!

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“It’s a major award!”

 

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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CLE marathon training update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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how do you do it? – training for a marathon mom style

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“How do you train for a marathon?!” This is a very popular question when people find out I’m a runner who has completed 5 marathons already. The answers are kinda simple. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about how I train with being a full-time employee and mom to four little angels (insert sarcasm here). You can just skip this post if that’s the case, but if not, here’s how I juggle work, family, and running. Hopefully it will give a little insight and possibly help or inspire another mother runner out there (or father runner, too).

  1. I run when I have the opportunity. Does this mean I run exactly when I feel like it? Hell no! Remember the saying, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.”? That totally applies in my case. Knowing I have only a short window of time to complete my run helps drum up some motivation because even a not-so-fabulous run is better than no run at all. Plus, you never know what will happen on race day, so being able to run when you are tired, hungry, stressed, or, heaven forbid, having stomach issues, will only make you stronger.
  2. That being said, I also make time for running because it is a priority to me. I used to feel guilty about saying that, but I don’t anymore. Even moms need something they do that is entirely for themselves. Training takes precious time, so it’s important to make sure you are able to set aside this time, especially for long runs. I don’t know too many people who can run a marathon on a whim, and if you can, I am completely jealous. I usually save long runs for the weekend but have been known to throw it in during the middle of the week if it works best with our family’s schedule. Take last night, for example. We have a busy weekend ahead, so Taco Tuesday became Treadmill Tuesday, and I knocked out a 14-miler after work. It can be done.
  3. I have a treadmill at home and membership to a gym with child care. I know not all moms are fortunate enough to have just one of these resources available to them, so I consider it a blessing to have both. Before you skip past this one, hear me out. My gym membership with the child care is $20 a month. I bought the treadmill secondhand for $150. You can find deals out there that could help you achieve your running goals without breaking the bank. It’s just a matter of looking around.
  4. I take advantage of the local park and streets around my house. Less than a quarter mile away from my house is a community park with a paved .4 mile loop, baseball fields, and playground. It is perfect for us, and the kiddles and I are a fixture there when the weather is nice. They are old enough where I can run loops and keep an eye on them, plus they are out playing. Win-win! I also have a loop with the street parallel to mine. I allow the kids to play in the front year (not near the street), and I run the .7 mile loop, checking up on them with each lap. This year, I also plan to take advantage of the high school track that is a short drive from my house. This should be perfect for speed work.
  5. I enlist the help of family and friends. There are times I have to ask family and friends to help watch the kids for me, so I can get a run in. This usually only happens when it’s long run time. Regardless, I am thankful to have people in my corner who can help me, even if they think running 26.2 miles is bat-shit crazy.
  6. I have realistic goals. The purpose of me running a marathon isn’t to win or qualify for Boston. The closest I will get to Boston, at least at this point in my life, is my Boston Strong Sparkly Soul headband and living vicariously through my speedy friends. I’m running a marathon to prove to myself that I can do it and improve my time. That puts the personal in personal record. I have a fairly lofty goal for my next marathon, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. I want a sub-4:00 BADLY! Will I be disappointed if I don’t make it? Well, yes, but running that race will also be influenced by so many other factors outside my control (weather, precipitation, stomach issues, injury, etc.). Because of this, I have a B (4:05-4:08) and C (4:10-4:15) goal set for myself. The best way to look at it is I will have a PR of at least 10 minutes with any of those goals. I will continue to remind myself of this during training.

How do YOU train for a marathon? What are your favorite tips?

 

and we’re off: CLE marathon kick-off run

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It’s official; training season for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon has begun! This year, the marathon kicked it off in style with their Kick-Off Run held at Fleet Feet in Pepper Pike on Saturday, January 9. This free event was hosted by the CLE marathon, Fleet Feet Sports, and Brooks, and it was AWESOME!

I was excited about this run for a few reasons. First, Dan was going to run it with me, and with our schedules, we don’t get to run together much. Second, I had a chance to reconnect with some of my CLE ambassador friends and other running friends, who have become more like a running family. Third, it was the official start of my marathon training. HOLLA! Time to buckle down to crush some goals. Fourth, I had a chance to see my friends who spend countless hours coordinating the CLE marathon, which is no easy task. And fifth, it was an opportunity to bring together the running community in support of the CLE marathon and gain excitement and momentum for the race.

I was very pleased with the turnout, considering the rainy weather we had riding to the event. Thankfully, the rain stopped for the run, and the sun even made an appearance! January in Ohio with sun and no snow and not freezing our butts off – I’ll take it! Living where we do, we don’t get an opportunity to run hills on a regular basis, so I was happy that the course was not pancake flat. Gotta run those hills to get ready for CLE! Even though the route ended up being longer than expected, we finished with a 5 miles in less than 40 minutes! For us, that is super speedy! I think it helped that Dan and I had Will as comic relief along the course. Another thing I really liked about the event was I had a chance to meet some Instagram friends in real life, which is always fun because they have been providing motivation and support along the way. Shout out to Heather and Tony!

Thank you, CLE marathon, for a great kick-off! Let’s do this!