2016 Akron Marathon

Miscellaneous

Well my 4th full marathon has come and gone and it was pretty uneventful. I guess that’s pretty good when it comes to the notorious 26.2 distance, considering everything that could go wrong.

My pace was decent (for me at least), my nutrition was great, the weather was beautiful and I felt pretty good almost the entire race.

Mentally prepping at the Expo!

Mentally prepping at the Expo!

I ran. I laughed. I smiled. And I was happy to finish.

I’ll be completely honest that the thrill of 26.2 just wasn’t there for me this year. It wasn’t my worst marathon time ever, but it clearly wasn’t a PR either (not that I even tried). I found myself lacking passion almost the entire race. Sure the race was fun and there were plenty of moments where I laughed, smiled and chatted with other runners, but I can’t help but notice that I just felt “over it” for the majority of the race. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve ran this race for the past four years straight or if I felt bored because of the lack of swimming and biking before the run! Either way I was happy to be done when it ended and I’m left questioning if I will be back next year. Not because the race itself sucked — far from it actually — Akron puts on a great race every September.

It’s almost like a weird breakup…it wasn’t the race — it was me.

pre-race

Pre-race with my best friend, Katie. Her first half ever!!

I was happy for the chance to run with one of my best friends, Katie. I’ve ran this race with other friends before and ran solo last year, so it was nice to be back with friends again. Katie’s husband and my husband kept us company at the start and I’ll admit it was awesome to have my husband there post-race to drive me home!

Somewhere around Mile 17.

Somewhere around Mile 17.

I ran with Katie up until mile 7, because I was starting to get nervous that I was falling too far behind the marathon course time. Unfortunately Katie was having some knee issues during the race and was trying to push through it. Sometimes training and running is like playing Russian Roulette with body parts. Everything could be going fine and then suddenly your knee, or ankle or Achilles’s tendon starts acting up out of the blue. Despite a tremendous amount of pain (and possibly a stress fracture!!), Katie DID end up finishing. She put in the months of training and hard work and like so many of us, an injury started to surface in the last few weeks of training. I’m reminded of that quote “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”. How many other runners can relate to that?!

Finish line!!

Finish line!!

SO happy to be done running!

SO happy to be done running!

I woke up the next day after the marathon not nearly as sore as I thought I’d be. Honestly I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I’m left wondering what my plans are after the marathon. I want to build more muscle in the off season, while also maintaining my fitness. I’m notorious for taking three full months off in the winter and then coming back in January and having to rebuild from scratch (and having to lose 20lbs!!). I’m really trying to avoid that happening again this year!

Somewhere around Mile 22.

Somewhere around Mile 22 on the Blue Line!

This week I started, Charlie Mike, which is a free 6-week workout plan on BodyBuilding.com. It’s 5 to 6 days a week and it’s always a lift (bench, squat, etc.) followed by two conditioning circuits. I think it’ll help get me out of the cardio/endurance state of mind and it’ll be nice to focus on something other than swimming, biking and running. Today was day two and I am a good sore. I also completed both workouts in about 50 minutes each — which is a short workout compared to Ironman training! I know the workouts are going to get harder though, so I’ll just enjoy it for now!

Here’s to the off season that won’t be so “off” for me this year!

2015 Akron Marathon Review

Miscellaneous

September 26 was the 2015 Akron Marathon. I was a nervous wreck going into this race. I felt super undertrained and my mind was still buzzing from the excitement of our wedding and honeymoon. All summer I was adamant about a strict workout routine, running 5-6 miles a few days a week and cross training on the elliptical and stair master. I was averaging working out 6 days a week and even 7 days a week closer to the wedding. I looked and felt great, but the lack of “long runs” made me really anxious, even entertaining the idea of only running the half for a little while. (My training plan had me scheduled to run 18 miles the day of my wedding! Needless to say I fell behind.)

The weekend we got back from our honeymoon I was determined to run anywhere between 15 and 18 miles for my long run. I had two weeks left until the race and I told myself that I would settle for running 15, but was really going to push for 18. Of course at mile 13 during the run I started to ache pretty badly. I mustered through until mile 15 and got home from the run feeling defeated. The weekend before the race I was in Nashville with absolutely no time to fit in an 18-mile training run! (My strategy was not to taper and to just keep training up until the race.) The week of the race I made up my mind to only run the half, but the closer the race got the more I knew how disappointed I would be with myself if I settled. I was completely torn. I loved this race so much and damnit I paid good money for the full distance!! I had a long talk with myself and officially decided that I was going to run the full. I was in good shape and I wasn’t trying to PR. I made up my mind that this race would be all about me and my love for running. My friend Nicole (who has run the past two marathons with me) wasn’t able to come up for the race and my other friend Rachael was only running the half. I knew I was going to have to go stag for the majority of the race, which I actually welcomed a tiny bit with my new plan of not going for a PR. This way no one would be annoyed with my slow pace and I was going to take however long I needed to finish it.

I had a long talk with my husband (still crazy to say!) the day before the race on the way to the expo. He told me that walking during the marathon didn’t mean I was “weak”, it meant that I was being smart and kind to my body. I knew that I could complete the race just from my normal training routine, but I also knew that I probably couldn’t complete it very fast. I’ve prided myself on the fact that I didn’t walk once during the last two full marathons I’ve done, so this new approach was completely going against that.

The day of the race I woke up incredibly nervous. Did I even belong out there with the other runners? What if I seriously couldn’t finish the race? How does that even work? Would I get picked up? Negative thoughts and emotions swirled through my head all the way to the race. I got to the starting line with about 40 minutes to kill before the race began. I called and texted my friend Rachael to try to meet up, but she was running late and with all the commotion at the starting line, we never got the chance to meet up. I had planned on running the first half of the race with her and planned on being able to chat and take my mind off running. Now I was going to run the full distance completely alone! I stood there in the coral – pissed off and miserable. I didn’t want to run and I didn’t want to be there. This was going to be a miserable and negative 26.2 miles…

And then it hit me. What was I doing?! I needed an instant attitude adjustment right then and there. I cranked up my music and closed my eyes. “I love this race. I love running. The weather is beautiful. I’m lucky to be able to run. I’m lucky that I can afford this race. I look forward to this race all year…” I told myself this over and over again until I could feel my negative thoughts and emotions start turning into excitement and happiness. I LOVE this race. It’s my favorite race all year. I was lucky to be there. Who cared if I had to walk a little bit?! Who cared how long it took me?! I had six hours to complete the race – plenty of time. I decided right then and there to enjoy every single moment of the race. I was going to run it for me and for the simple joy that I love this race and I love to run. I was going to find enjoyment in every single mile and soak up every high and low that the next 26.2 miles had in store for me.

ak-15-1 Right before the race began someone said a prayer over the speakers to the crowd. I wasn’t sure if this was a new addition or if I had just missed it in previous years, but it calmed my heart and put a grateful stride in my step. Next thing I knew we were off. Crowds lined the street and music blasted. Everyone was cheering and yelling and I had a smile from ear to ear across my face.

The first couple miles were very enjoyable. I watched the other runners around me, anxious to make a PR. I passed other runners, some of them saying that this was their first full marathon. I ran with a few of the same runners for a while (one of my favorite things about long distant races). Sometimes I talk to them or chime into conversations around me, while other times I make up stories about them and their lives in my head to entertain myself.

The past two years I’ve stopped to pee at mile 18, but suddenly I had to go bad at mile 8. I scanned the potties and didn’t see a line so I zoomed in and out. Around mile 10 I felt a little sluggish and someone offered me a couple starbursts, which I took graciously. I turned on my music and kept chugging along. I kept a steady, enjoyable pace not even looking down at my Garmin as the miles ticked by. I walked for the first time up a pretty significant hill at mile 12 and kept my thoughts positive.

The next thing I knew the full marathons and half marathons were starting to branch off. As I made my way over to the right hand side with the marathons, a woman running the half locked eyes with me, pointed directly at me and shouted “Good luck marathoner! You got this!” This woman probably didn’t know the positive impact that her comment had on me and I shouted back that she was doing a great job. I smiled as I trotted off towards the second half of my journey.

Akron changed the course this year, so I wasn’t expecting the steady hill during miles 13 through 15. I would walk for a few minutes and then run for a few minutes longer. I was surprised to look around me and see so many other runners taking the same approach.
Around me there was: A couple wearing matching orange shirts. Another couple that was very tall. A girl who was running by herself like me. And a dad and a son (who were hilarious). We would all pass each other and then slow down, making small talk every time we did. We talked about food, beer, the course, the weather…everything.

Miles 17 through 21 were through an awesome neighborhood. People have giant block parties and cheer on the runners while blasting music and usually drinking alcohol. I saw a few signs from people offering beer to runners. I always wondered if I could drink a beer while running. Next thing I knew I was running past a house where a younger guy was shouting at runners to come drink a beer with him. He had a megaphone and was specifically calling out runners. Suddenly I heard “You in the orange shirt!” and I looked over to see he was talking to me. “Come drink a beer with us!” he shouted. I shrugged and decided that I’d never have a better time to drink a beer during a marathon than right then.

ak-15-2I ran over and the whole yard of people cheered for me. I chugged it so fast even I was impressed with myself! I thanked them and ran away, grinning. A couple other runners were cheering and laughing as I rejoined them on the race course. I was laughing out loud to myself.

So then I continued on. I waved to and greeted people out on their lawns, thanking them for being out there. I stuck my hand out for high-fives for little kids. I read signs and smiled at people. I sang out loud to music that people were playing. I enjoyed myself.

At mile 22 I felt my blood sugars starting to go down. I saw a guy with a giant bucket of candy corn and ran over to him. He poured a heaping mound into my hands and I thanked him as I continued on. I ate it all and it was just the boost I needed to finish the race.

At mile 24 we started coming out of the neighborhoods and I could see downtown Akron. I knew we were close to the finish line. I started to tear up because I was so happy and proud of myself and because I was so happy with how the race was turning out. It was the most enjoyable marathon I had ever ran and to think I was going to be miserable at the start! The crowd support was amazing and as I always do during the later miles of a marathon – I had an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude for my life. I felt so lucky and blessed to be out there with other amazing and talented runners. The weather was beautiful and the people (both runners and spectators) were incredible. There was a small hill at mile 25 and my newfound enthusiasm for life carried me up the hill without walking.

I have visions of the finish line street for the Akron marathon all year round. I think about it and get goose bumps! Even though they changed the course this year, I was SO thankful to see that the finish line was still the same. I could see the mile 26 flag in the distance. My heart pounded. A smile planted itself on my face and I picked up my speed. The crowd’s cheers along the street carried me to mile 26 and I turned to run into Canal Park. I turned the corner and I saw the crowd in the stadium. I heard the cheers and roars of so many inspired family and friends of runners. I saw the finish line ahead of me. My goal was clear. The sun was shining and I was beaming as I sprinted through the finish line!

I felt amazing! I was on fire with enthusiasm for life and for running.

ak-15-3 I made my way over to the food area and as always, the Akron marathon never disappoints! There was tons of great food, including pizza and beer. I sat down to eat, not even carrying that I was alone. (Another fear and negative thought that I had going into the race “What if people think I have no friends because I’m there by myself?!”) Two seconds later I heard someone calling my name and I looked over to see my friend Dan that I had grown up with. He had run the relay. I talked to him for a little bit and then decided to venture back to my car.

I walked back to the parking garage where I had parked with a light heart and a smile. The weather was so incredibly beautiful and I was so happy with how the race had turned out. I obviously didn’t PR and I laughed when I saw my time because this was my worse marathon time yet! But none of that mattered. What mattered was what I was feeling. I love the Akron marathon and I was so happy I had turned my negative thoughts and worries into a positive experience. I felt blessed and grateful and I walked away from the experience with a smile on my face and a pep in my step.

Leading up to the race I had told myself that this was the last full marathon I was going to do for a little while. Three full marathons in three years sounded fine to me and after feeling so undertrained I thought taking a break was what I wanted. Of course the minute I crossed that finish line I thought:

“I’ll be back next year!”

Akron marathon you have done it again! Thanks for another incredible race. Thanks for the grateful heart. And thanks for another year of experience and memories! (If you are local and haven’t done an Akron marathon series race yet, I urge you to do so – you won’t be disappointed!)

Hello 2015 [& training season]

Miscellaneous

Well the holidays came and went. December was filled with bridal events for my best friend’s wedding, endless Christmas parties and an awesome New Year’s Eve Celebration to top off the year.

The fiancé got me a Garmin Forerunner 15 for Christmas and I was thrilled! I’ve used it a couple of times and let me tell you how much I love it! It is SO much easier to just glance down at your wrist to check your distance rather than fumble around with an app on your phone (and your armband).

forerunner

The end of one year and the start of another always means looking back at the year you’ve had and what you hope to accomplish in the next.

I did 16 races in 2014, adding up to 142.8 miles. I know those numbers don’t mean much to non-runners, but to those who understand what it’s like to look back and remember every mile, every early morning, every sore aching body part – you know the feeling of accomplishment and also the feeling of wanting to crush that number in the next year ahead of you.

Races-2014Looking back on 2014 my favorite race is a tie between the Akron Marathon (if you know anything about me you know I LOVE this race) and my first triathlon at West Branch State Park. The triathlon stands out to me because it was a goal of mine and I was petrified beyond belief to do the swim. I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I still know very little about triathlons in general, but that’s what made the race so special to me. I went after something that scared the living daylights out of me and came out afterwards with a smile on my face. That’s living.

This past weekend was the Lifetime Indoor Tri. This was my second time doing the race so I kind of knew what to expect. I did so much better than I did last year, which makes me hopeful for the race season. I was not in very good shape either considering I haven’t swam since September.

Indoor-TriThis week marked the first week back to training since the holidays. I’ve got a big race schedule coming up and my training decreased in December (like it always does) with the holidays, parties and the wedding. It’s time to stay focused and become dedicated again, which makes me excited because half the fun of racing is training.

Here’s an overview of my 2015 races:

Jan-March – Training and finding another indoor tri to compete in
April 12 – 20 Mile Drop
May 3 – Fly Pig Half Marathon
May 31 – Twinsburg Duathlon
June 7 – West Branch Triathlon (sprint)
June 10 (tentative date) – Mentor Flag Day 5K
July 12 – Johnny Cake Jog (5 miler)
July 19 – Fairport Harbor Triathlon (sprint)
July 26 – Cleveland Triathlon (aiming for the Olympic distance)
August 23 (tentative date) – Shaker Heights Biathlon
September – Akron Marathon
Oct/Nov – I’d like to find a fall half marathon that isn’t too cold!

The weather in Cleveland has been cold and miserable, so unfortunately a lot of my training will have to be done indoors. Luckily I got a spin bike on Black Friday which is super handy on cold, winter mornings in Northeast Ohio, plus in training for the Olympic distance in July.

bikeI’ve also held myself to two of my resolutions for 2015 so far – join Northeast Running Club and The Cleveland Triathlon Club. Done and done. I’m looking forward to group training sessions come spring!

For now I need to focus on hitting all my training goals and working on my diet. Because eating cookies and drinking wine every day is only acceptable behavior in December 😉

I’m looking forward to 2015, especially because I get to marry my favorite person in the entire world in August!

Happy New Year!

NYE-Kiss

#RunAkron – 2014 Akron Marathon Review

Miscellaneous

Despite my frustration in my time (three minutes slower than my goal – what the…), check-off 2014 as another amazing Akron Marathon experience. I honestly could not speak more highly about this event. From the race expo, to the gear, to the course, to the crowd support, to the finisher’s party – this race is awesome. If you are looking for a full marathon experience in Northern Ohio – Akron is your race.

I cannot get over how perfect the weather was for race day. Of course the morning was a little chilly at 4AM, but we bought $2 sweatshirts at Goodwill to toss once we warmed up, which ended up being mile 1. By 10AM it was a beautiful 65 degrees and the sun was out. Some runners complained about the heat, but running in warm (even hot) weather is what I live for.

The first half of the race was a piece of cake. One of my best friends, Nicole, ran until mile 9 with me. We chatted and laughed and I didn’t even notice what mile we were at until I saw the mile 7 flag. She has had a series of running and crossfit injuries, so we decided she’d run the first two legs of the relay with me and then meet me at the final and fifth relay to run me into the finish line.

Mile 5 was one of my favorite marathon “moments” both last year and this year.  As we turned down a road that faced east, you suddenly found yourself on a wide road with a beautiful view of the sun rising.  It was gorgeous and there was an orange glow on everything.  I wanted to take out my phone and snap a picture, but I didn’t want to fumble with my arm band. I reminded myself to soak in the moment of the race. Seeing the shadows of runners all around me, the sun shining brightly, hearing shoes hit the pavement, feeling the excitement of the race. A few days after the race I was excited to find a picture on Instagram of the exact same spot that another runner took during the race. The image below is by hdonze and sums up this part of the race.

mile-5-image

Nicole jumped off at the relay at mile 9 and I had to have a mental pep talk with myself. This is what all those training runs were for. This moment right here was what I truly enjoyed. What I thought about all year. What inspired me…

We ran through the cheering students at the University of Akron and I picked up with a pace group running 10:07. This middle part of the race is usually where you start looking around and realizing you’re running with the same group of people, but no one is really together. In my head I refer to these people as “race characters”. (Am I the only runner who names the other runners around them? I think half the fun of long distance races is meeting and seeing other runners out there.)

There was:

• “Tough Mudder” a guy wearing a tough mudder shirt
• “Two camel back sisters” two women both wearing camel backs and looked like they could be related
• Two guys in black shirts that kept passing one another, but I think were running together (or at least trying to)
• A “rehab runner” which from conversations I heard, was an ex-drug addict who now runs instead of getting high – props to you girlfriend
• “Tattoo” which was a guy covered in military (maybe Marines) tattoos
• A girl running in a dress
• A mom who had really cute shoes on

I was doing great until we hit the tow path.  I mentally tried preparing myself for this section of the race, considering it’s only like three miles, but it still felt like FOREVER. I tried slowing down to really enjoy the run and focus, but every time I tried to remember last year and thought “Yes this must be the end” it wasn’t the end. It just kept going. By the time I was officially about to go crazy (and get super claustrophobic), the path opened back up to the road and I saw the crowd. Thank God! By this time I had to pee pretty bad and I knew we still had a small climb to get to the relay 4 zone. Just as I turned my music on, I heard my mom and fiancé suddenly screaming at me. I looked over to see them and my heart leaped. Just what I needed! I waved like an idiot.

“How are you feeling?!” Screamed my mom.
“I have to pee so bad!” I screamed back and waved and smiled some more.

2014-marathon-3
The exchange in relay 4 is exciting, but as soon as it’s over, it’s over. The park is then quiet and long. The road is big so you can spread out, but it almost seems to make it go more slowly. I remember fighting this same battle last year. Just keep moving. You’re fine. I knew there was a hill coming up called “Rally from the Valley” and I knew that once we hit 18.5 the course was going to turn fun again.

As I saw the giant hill approaching I also saw an open porta potty. I jumped at the opportunity and was in and out in less than 20 seconds. Just that brief break gave me the boost I needed and unlike in 2013, I ran the entire way up the hill without stopping! A nice man stood at the top screaming “Pump those arms! Let them pull you all the way up to the top! You got this!” which was just the encouragement I needed to keep moving. At the top of the hill was a marching band and twirlers and I grinned as I passed them. I saw mile 19 and knew I only had about 1.5 miles to go before Nicole joined me again. This part of the run is through a beautiful neighborhood and the street is lined with people and snacks and loud music. This is also one of the best places for signs. Once again I told myself to take in the moment of the race – the runners around me that I suddenly viewed as fellow comrades and not competition, the cheering families on the side of the road, the little kids holding out high-fives to runners, the roar of music, the signs for free beer and the aching I started to feel in my quads. I loved every minute of it. I felt alive.

At mile 20 I felt my eyes grow moist and I teared up for a brief moment when I saw the flag. My quads were sore. Very sore. I was also bored.  I  needed something to think about, so I looked for Nicole on the side of the road. Finally I saw her standing with my mom and fiancé. I once again waved like a crazy idiot. She fell into step with me and we continued running. Around mile 22 I asked Nicole to tell me a story. I asked her to talk to me about anything to keep my mind off my aching quads and also to keep my mind from screaming “STOP. I’m bored and your legs are tired!!” So we started talking about our weddings. Soon we were at mile 23. I took in another power gel and knew that we would soon be making a left turn and heading back towards the city, which is also one of my favorite parts of the race. I mentally tried to picture it, knowing that my mind needed to get in the right place if I was going to finish this thing. Before I knew it we turned and saw the street lined with people cheering. You could see tall buildings in the distance. I teared up again watching the mile 24 flag blowing in the wind. I was so emotional and tired. This part of the race was fun though. Nicole and I talked openly to other runners around us and to the amazing cheering supporters on the sidewalks.

2014-marathon-1
“TWO MILES BAY-BAY!!”
Shouted a tall black girl, holding up two fingers on each hand, “JUST TWO MILES GIRLS!!”

Nicole and I laughed. It was the boost I needed and I screamed “Wooo” at her in appreciation. I couldn’t believe the  support  from total strangers, a concept I completely love about marathons.

Nicole told me to pick it up a little as there was a slow incline and somehow I managed to pick up the pace. I was surprised at my body, but I have been doing HIIT two times a week for the last several months and I silently thanked myself for that. At mile 25 I felt the wheels  starting to come off, but somehow managed to keep a decent pace. I was feeling 300% better at mile 25 this year compared to last year.  We were so close to the finish line that I could hear “The Wobble” playing in the stadium speakers and I deliriously said “I want this song to play every hour on the hour at my wedding”. And Nicole just agreed “We can arrange that.”

The street was lined with people and the energy was intense. I knew that the best and most emotional part of the race was just head.

“Where’s 26!?” I screamed to Nicole.
“Four more stop lights girls!! Keep going!” shouted a guy on the sidewalk to us.

Nicole counted the stop lights one at a time (and they seemed to fly by). “I see it!!” I screamed as I saw a tucked away mile 26 flag. I was sprinting and fighting the urge to throw up. We went down a tiny hill and turned into the stadium. The light filled the finish line straight away and I sprinted into the stadium – dying, screaming and probably making the ugliest face ever.

I crossed the finish line and I stopped running for the first time in over 4 hours. We stood there catching our breath and smiling at the crowd.

I did it again! My second marathon. Twenty six point freaking two miles.

2014-marathon-4
We began our zombie walk limp over to get our medals and the post-race food. I looked around and took in the sights and excitement of the stadium. Other runners flipping out over their accomplishment, the music booming over the speakers, people celebrating and high-fiving, the medals clanking on our necks.

Running a marathon is emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting, but it’s a feeling that is so unique, painful and wonderful that it somehow leaves you wanting more.  Even as I stood at the finish line, my quads shaking, my muscles aching, and my body ready to throw itself on the floor, I still heard a voice in my head that said “I want to do that again.”

2014-marathon-5

Training Season

Miscellaneous, Running

I love August.

Honestly it might be one of my favorite months. I don’t know what exactly it is, but I’ve always loved the end of summer. Don’t get me wrong, the start of summer is incredible and filled with anticipation of so many events and activities, but the end of summer has a different vibe. The end of summer usually means being in top physical shape for us runners. After training all summer, the end of August should be your peak performance state. You should also be your tannest and happiest considering you just spent the last three months enjoying flowers and fresh air rather than dragging yourself through snow and slush! There’s just something about knowing you had an amazing summer behind you, but also knowing that there is still some more amazingness to squeeze out before autumn closes in. I always loved feeling the rush of the last few days of summer break before returning to school. Like in college when you spent all summer at home and then suddenly you got to pack up all your stuff and head back to have fun at school. The excitement, the nerves, the newness and the warmth of the summer encompasses everything.

For me now-a-days, the end of summer and watching it fade into fall means that the Akron Marathon is closing in. I’m so excited I get giddy just thinking about it. Last year I ran Akron as my first full marathon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it changed my life. No other memory can give me goose bumps and chills the way thinking about the Akron Marathon does. I loved every single beautiful, painful second of that experience, and I know only other marathon runners can relate to those feelings.  I’ve been doing my long runs on Saturday mornings and there’s nothing like waking up early, excited to run 15 miles. I guess that’s why they call runners crazy. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this though and I can’t wait to be around thousands of other people who felt the same way all those Saturday mornings during training. Running a marathon is an experience like no other and I absolutely cannot wait to get out there on the blue line again in 56 days.

August also means competing in the Bellefaire JCB Biathlon again. It’s a charity ride featuring a fast, flat 5K and then a 13 mile bike ride. Last year I won my age group and it was my first glimpse into the world of competitive biking. Speaking of bikes, I bought an amazing, fast touring bike from a fellow biker in Chardon about a month ago. I have yet to get clip in shoes yet though, so stay tuned for that. (I have visions of myself toppling over and unable to get my feet off the pedals.) I’ve taken the bike out on quite a few rides and every single time I’ve come back thinking “Wow that was fun!” Best feeling ever.

touring-bike
As if training for a full marathon and biathlon weren’t enough, I also signed up for my second triathlon in September. I’ll be competing in the Portage Lakes Sprint Triathlon in Akron on September 14. Yep – then two weeks later I’ll be back in Akron again, but this time running 26.2 miles. With that being said, other athletes can image and appreciate my intense training schedule. Most weeks I train 6 days a week, forcing myself to take a rest days on Sundays after my weekly long run. Sometimes I’ll cave and do a quick bike ride though. My diet and nutrition have been on point as well. Nothing is worse than eating a ton of pizza for dinner and then waking up early to get in a workout (especially a pool workout) and having that greasy pizza sitting on top of your stomach. It’s bloat city. I used to be naive and think that nutrition had nothing to do with athletic performance. (Yes I’ve now learned that lesson the painful way.) It’s still frustrating to me though when we are out at a bar on Friday night and my friends are drinking beer and eating burgers and I’m sipping on some water. Then someone makes some comment “Are you dieting? Why aren’t you eating!? Are you trying to lose weight?!” And I have to explain that I need to do a brick workout in the morning, AKA bike 10 miles and then run 5 miles and being even slightly dehydrated from drinking or bloated from eating a greasy burger just isn’t going to cut it. I constantly have to remind myself that not everyone understands the journey and that it’s OK because they don’t need to understand it.

So basically I meal prep almost everything I eat during the week. It keeps me on point and never in a position where I have to stop and get fast food. It’s a challenge, but then again this entire journey of training for 535263 events has been a challenge, but one that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

meal-prep-july
I only ran one race in July, which was a quick 5-miler in Painesville called the Johnnycake Jog. It was strange to only run one race last month though  because I ran a ton in June.

johnny-cake-jog-2014
Even though training is at an all time high, we still found time to squeeze in our engagement pictures last week. Here’s a sneak peek.

PS. Just looking at these  I cannot stop smiling – we are so excited for NEXT August. Yes, we are even getting married in my favorite month 🙂

kiss-path-engagement
engagement-picture-jump-flowers
us-looking-bench
Keep running!

If you’re not scared, if you’re not worried — you’re not taking a chance.

Miscellaneous

I’m feeling very sad today. Not depressed sad, but more nostalgic thinking about this past summer and all the awesome races I got to run. I trained so hard and spent so much time out on the trails early in the summer mornings watching the sun come up. It was so rewarding and fulfilling because it was all so much bigger than I was. I think that’s what draws me to races. There’s something magical about putting on the bib and planning out GU times, pace times and start times. You’re part of this huge, giant race – you’re a piece of the bigger picture. Racing and actually competing is one of the most exciting parts about being a runner. On the other hand, I also like the nice relaxed runs. The runs where you enjoy every moment and you’re reminded why you love this sport. Being a runner is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. And now, as November rolls around in Northeast Ohio, I am filled with dread as all of these rewards and feelings will now be confined to a small, crowded gym for the next six months.

runnin-quoteIt’s enough to make me cry really. What I wouldn’t give to wake up early on a warm summer morning and hit the trails early before work. Now it’s cold and dark outside as I’m dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to get to the gym. Worse – sometimes I have to go to the gym after work when it’s filled with high school meat heads who take up the entire weight area and high school girls who are just there to socialize with one another.

I’m missing my long weekend runs too. Some weeks I dreaded them, while other times I looked forward to them, but I always felt amazing afterwards. I knew I could officially enjoy the weekend after a long early Saturday run. Now I’m stuck running five miles on a treadmill in a stuffy gym with people running directly next to me, stomping away on their own squeaky treadmills. Even worse, sometimes you get kicked off after an hour. I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to get in 13 miles if I have to get off the treadmill every hour and wait for another one to open up? It’s awful and I’m critically depressed and it’s only the beginning of November. not-scared

How does anyone do it?! How do runners stay motivated and on their A game during the long, cold winter months? How do you train hard all winter? I am tossing around the idea of running the full Cleveland Marathon near the end of May, but giant red flags are waving in my head. I HATE INDOOR RUNNING. Why would I put myself through that awful training during the coldest part of the year? Why Cassandra why?! …..…and then right as I am about to make up my mind that I won’t do it, I hear that I quietly answer myself…because I am missing marathon training more then I ever could imagine. Because I know that if I sign up for that race I will feel like I did this past summer. I will have that feeling that I am a part of something bigger than myself and all these past’s winters I didn’t know what that was like, and now I do… 

Eight Days, Two Races – 39.3 miles

Miscellaneous

There was once a time when I thought two miles was a far distance to run. There was also once a time when I thought five miles was even longer and harder to run. The past week has been insane. I can’t even wrap my head around how far I’ve come as a runner. In eight days I ran my very first full marathon and then a half marathon. In those eight days, two races have changed everything for me as an athlete. psalm26.2

I feel like the marathon was a dream. Did it actually happen? I kept telling myself to live in the moment as I ran. I couldn’t believe this dream was actually happening. I’ve wanted to run a marathon since high school, but I was never a dedicated enough runner. In December of last year, I sat staring at the computer screen of a half marathon registration. At that time the longest I had ever ran was five miles. It took everything I had to press submit on that computer screen and then to stick to a grueling 12-week training schedule. Who knew that less than a year later I would have been standing on the starting line of the 2013 Akron Marathon. I wouldn’t have believed you back in December. It’s absolutely insane how far I’ve come as an athlete and grown as a person on this incredible running journey.

I read something online the other day that said “The person who starts the marathon is not the same person who finishes.” I couldn’t agree more to this statement. Everything changes for you as a runner after a marathon.

akron alarm clock

My alarm.

I woke up the day of the marathon at 3:35 a.m. I was scared and excited beyond belief. Would I survive? Would I cross the finish line? What was it going to be like? With my stomach doing back flips, I drove to meet the group of people I was going with. I started the beginning of the race with one of my childhood best friends, Nicole. She was running the first leg of the relay of the marathon to 3.9 miles. If you know anything about me you’ll know that I despise the first four or five miles of every long run, so it was awesome to have a friend there to get me through those terrible first miles. The beginning of the race actually flew by as Nicole and I chatted and cracked jokes. Even as she split off at her relay end I was surprised by how easy it was to continue. Somewhere in between trying to live in the moment and taking in the giant crowd around me, I forgot what mile I was on. I estimated I was probably around six. I looked up to see mile eight a few minutes later and greeted it with a giant grin. I felt great. The crowd was awesome. The signs were hilarious and inspiring. I even took a marshmallow from a local church passing out water and other treats to runners.

flex race

Just flexing by myself around mile 11.

I continued on the route knowing two things. We were going to run four miles on wooded trails at some point and there were hills at mile 18.5 and 22. The trails started off OK, but by the end I was itching to get out because I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Nicole had called me on the trails and I heard spectators laughing as I ran by as I picked up the phone “Oh hey.” I said casually into the phone at mile 13.1. Nicole told me that was going to meet me at mile 21 and run me into the finish line. I continued on. At mile 17 I began to slow down. There was a huge lack of crowd support and I was becoming increasingly bored. I spotted an open port-a-potty at mile 18 and took advantage. The only thing that began to keep me going was the thought of gaining a companion again at mile 21. When I reached 18.5, I encountered the toughest hill I had ever witnessed as a runner. Even mentally preparing myself didn’t help. I don’t think I saw a single person running it. I got about half way up and realized I was burning a mass amount of energy and power walked (full arm swing and everything) the second half.

At mile 20 I found myself running behind one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. The image will be burned into my memory forever. A man was pushing a running stroller carrying a handicapped man. (Find the full story here.) It was incredible to see how happy the handicapped man was and how hard the man pushing the stroller was working. I followed the stroller duo into the neighborhood part of the route and the crowd’s cheers and reactions to the two men was an amazing thing to witness. People were shouting and clapping and standing up from their seats as the man and the stroller pasted by. I don’t know if it was just my emotions or my exhaustion or what, but I began to cry every time people started clapping and cheering for the stroller in front of me. It got to the point where I practically started hyperventilating because I was crying and running and couldn’t breathe. I made the decision to hurry up and pass the stroller team just so I wouldn’t pass out. As I ran passed I peaked inside the stroller and caught a glimpse of the man inside. He was grinning from ear to ear and waving to the crowd as he passed.

singmarathonAt mile 21 words cannot describe how happy I was to see Nicole standing below the mile marker waiting for me. At that point I didn’t feel good, but I still had some juice left in me. We saw my mom and the boyfriend at 21.5. Tears began to swell up in my eyes. I was just so happy to see them and I was so tired. I smiled, waved and continued running. When we reached mile marker 22, the race took a different turn for me at that point. I joke that mile 22 was when I started screaming. This is true and funny now, however at the time during the race I had hit pure exhaustion and pain. I have never had knee issues. Even after 12 years of playing sports (and being a catcher in softball) my knees never bothered me. But by mile 22 at the marathon I had full on shooting knee pains like I’ve never experienced. My back also hurt. My glutes hurt. My toes were aching and rubbing themselves raw against my shoes. Music wasn’t even helping to motivate me anymore and every few minutes I would just scream at the top of my lungs. Suddenly all around me the majority of runners were starting to limp, groan and drastically slow down. I knew that this was probably the make-you-or-break-you part of the race. I don’t even know what I told myself to keep going. I don’t even know how I continued.

running

Not even sure if I had a pulse here.

We passed a sign at mile 23 that said “It’s just a 5K now.” I screamed at the sight of the sign. Suddenly I felt a runner next to me. “Keep your head up. Run smooth. Move your arms. Let your legs carry you. You got this.” said a man with gray hair as he passed Nicole and I. I nodded and began repeating out loud the exact same thing the man had just said. I don’t know how long I said it or how loud I was even talking. I was vaguely aware of Nicole saying “You got this girl” over and over next to me. Somehow I found myself at mile 25. As we ran I knew there was a crowd around us, but unlike before I didn’t even look at them. I heard people shouting encouragements, but I wasn’t aware of what they meant anymore. I saw other runners limping all around me. We twisted and turned down roads and around the buildings of downtown Akron. It felt like I was running through a dizzy maze. Every corner we turned I was praying to see mile 26. The crowd was getting louder…

akronstadium

What the finish line looked like.

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Nicole encouraging me, but I probably wasn’t running very fast!

Suddenly I spotted mile marker 26 and below it was the straight away leading into the Akron Aeros Stadium where the finish line waited. Nicole kept shouting “Just sprint the .2 miles come on! Come on!” I knew I had picked it up considerably those .2 miles, but in reality it probably wasn’t very fast. We turned a corner, ran down a tiny hill and into the stadium to the sound of a giant crowd and the actual straight away to the giant finish line. The big screen showed a close-up of the runners as they entered the stadium. It was like being a rock star for 10 seconds. I was dying as I attempted to sprint. I crossed the finish line and for the first time in 4 hours and 44 minutes I came to a complete stop. I stared at the ground with my hands on my knees, suddenly becoming aware of my limbs aching in pain. I heard my mom and boyfriend yelling from near by and looked up and saw them in the stadium waving wildly and taking pictures.

I limped over to the recovery area and as I looked around, seeing thousands of runners flopping onto the ground, hugging, high-fiving, I couldn’t even believe I had done it. In fact, I still can’t believe I did it. It may have taken me 4 hours and 44 minutes, but looking back it seemed like one bright, shinning moment. It didn’t last very long, but it was simply incredible. It was amazing, yet the hardest, toughest thing I had ever done.

finish line

The finish line!

Afterwards, I could barely walk and my toes were raw. It took a couple days for me to even be able to wear shoes again. Grossly, my toe nails turned purple from bruising. (Needless to say I need to invest in a better pair of running shoes.)

rnrnicoleandi

We look happy, but secretly we are in pain in this picture!

Three days after the race I was up at 6 a.m. running my normal four miles and by day 5 I felt great. On the 8th day after the marathon, I set out at 4:30 a.m. for downtown to run the Rock and Roll Cleveland Half Marathon. A few people called me crazy since I wasn’t fully healed from the marathon, but I felt good. This time I was running the race with both Nicole and the boyfriend. Nicole joked that once you run a full marathon your body is never the same. I didn’t really believe her until mile 6 of the half, when my sharp knee pains from the marathon were suddenly back. The course was incredibly hilly, so that didn’t help either. It hurt just as bad going down hill as it did going up. By the end of the race, all three of us were screaming and groaning from our injuries.

The boyfriend and I sprinted in the last .5 miles even though we were hurting pretty bad. It didn’t make much of a difference though because we finished in 2:25. Our PR from May’s half marathon was 2:20, so we weren’t particularity happy with our time, but we WERE overjoyed that it was the end of the race!

At that point my body was aching and screaming. I could barely walk. Even as I sit and write this three days later, I’m still limping from my knee. I have Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot, which causes me a lot of pain to walk and wear shoes. My toe nails are still gross with blisters and bruises. I don’t regret a thing though. I wear my injuries proudly as a matter-of-fact. I haven’t worked out one day this week. I’ve also allowed myself to not diet or worry about calories either. It’s been a nice mental break, however typical superwoman me is already itching to get back into the gym and go for a run. I’m trying to rest and recover this entire week, maybe, MAYBE I’ll go for a short run on Saturday…

rnrhandfinishline

The boyfriend and I painfully crossing the 13.1 finish line together.

Those eight days felt like a complete dream to me. A dream that was torture at times, yet so sweet and amazing that it makes you want to go back for more. It’s bittersweet really. It’s incredible and life changing, yet crushing and scary and painful. It breaks your heart, yet you’ve never felt so alive when it’s done.

I’ve already looked at other marathons and longer races, but I think it’s probably best to take it easy for a little now. This year (and especially this summer) has been such a journey for me. I’m beyond proud of myself and beyond proud of others who run these marathons. It’s truly an experience. It’s a test of character, dedication and mental willpower.

Like that saying says about not being the same person who finishes the race. You really can’t be the same person after finishing a marathon. It changes everything.

Look in the mirror — there’s your competition.

Miscellaneous

Well…it happened…

I signed up and am officially running the Akron Marathon on Saturday, September 28. marathon

It still seems unreal. I’ve dreamed about running a marathon for years — even when I thought 4 miles was soooo long during my early college years of running. Now, I finally feel ready enough to attempt it.

All summer I went back and forth with the decision to run it or not. I had planned to do it and then suddenly prices dramatically increased. Then I was out of commission for three weeks because I got my wisdom teeth out and developed a terrible infection. Then people I spoke to warned me “Oh no you don’t want to run Akron as your first marathon.” Or “It’s stupid, don’t ever run a marathon.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

I got so inside my own head that I shut out the idea for a little bit. Then suddenly something just clicked inside of me. I trained all summer (well minus three weeks) and I knew that the Akron half marathon would be too easy. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to feel proud of myself. I wanted to be the person I had watched at the Cleveland Marathon finishing strong and crossing mile 26.2.

Suddenly I felt a huge surge of inspiration and motivation. I would never be more ready then I would be right now. Of course I would (and am) continuing to train up until the race, but if I didn’t take advantage of this right now, I would spend all winter wondering what if?

Of course I’m still terribly afraid. I’m petrified I’ll get to mile 18 and just be done, but I’m also so excited that it keeps me awake at night. The past two weekends I woke up with a giant smile at 7 a.m. because it was the day for my long run.

I’m also nervous because I’ll be running it alone. Of course there will be the other 2,000 runners, but in general, none of my friends will be there running next to me. The BF just could not do it with his bad knee and of course he feels awful about it, but I’m not holding it against him. This is more of my dream now and I’m finally going to make it happen. I’m scared out of my mind, but I was even more scared to have to wait a whole year to get this opportunity again.

Stay tuned, because this race happens in three weeks!

The BF and I at this weekend's home opener.

The BF and I at this weekend’s home opener.

In other races and life news, I’m a happy gal because my Cleveland Browns are back at it! I’m sad that summer is ending (actually borderline depressed), however I love football season!

I also ran the South River Winery Vineyard Run two weekends ago and it was awesome, but undoubtedly the toughest course I’ve ever ran before. It was all grass trails in and around the grapevines of the winery. Of course it was cool and very scenic, but after almost twisting my ankle 28 times and missing my 10K PR time by two minutes, I was happy to see the finish line.

Friends, myself and the BF post race.

Friends, myself and the BF post winery race.

That’s it for now. I am so focused and excited that I’m practically giddy about it being 91 degrees today, because I plan to get in at least five miles tonight after work. I’ve got to keep this motivation and fire lite!

clearurmindpic

Biathlon Beginnings

Miscellaneous

This past weekend was my first running + biking event — the 2013 Bellefaire JCB Biathlon.

The event was a 5K run (3.1 miles) followed by a 12.9 mile bike ride through the beautiful cities of Shaker Heights, Beachwood and Mayfield. I convinced the boyfriend to compete with me. (FYI he loves when I force him to do events like this. Just kidding, he enjoys it. Most of the time at least.) biathonStart

The run was smooth and fast and we finished in about 27 minutes. Pacing ourselves at 9:23 was a good idea since we had a nice little bike ride ahead of us. The ride was challenging, but awesome. There was one gruesome hill that had bikers dropping like flys. The BF and I powered through it though, even high-fiving at every mile. (We continued this tradition from our first half marathon together back in May.)

Overall our time for the entire event was 1:27 something. The BF snuck ahead of me and technically beat me by 8 seconds. Of course me being Miss. Competitive/Must-Win-Everything didn’t like that 8 second lead. (In fact I still don’t like it.) BiathonPicnic

Post-race was a giant picnic with TONS of food. I’m pretty sure I ate back all the calories I burnt in the race on the food I ate afterwards. That’s OK though since it was my cheat meal for the week. Let me tell you how delicious it was to eat a pulled-pork sandwich on white bread. In fact, I even went a little wild and stole a bite or two of the boyfriend’s donut he was munching on.

BiathonMeWhile we were enjoying our food, an announcer came on and started the awards. I was sitting back against a table and had only just whispered “I wish I had a medal to hang up” to the BF when suddenly the announcer called my name over the speaker! Everyone I was with screamed and cheered as I ran up there. I had no idea! I went up there and to my huge surprise received a congratulatory first place medal for my age group (20-24). BiathonAJME

Winning that medal was the cherry on top of an amazing race. The boyfriend and I added it to our “We’ll be back every year for the rest of our life” event check-list. At some point I would love to do a duathlon, which is running biking and running again. I think the next event like that around here though is next August. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens! 

Next up on my “train all winter race all summer” is a 10K on Sunday at my favorite winery! (Find more information about the Vineyard Run.) The race is through the scenic grape vineyards and has mostly trails, plus you get a FREE glass of wine post-race. I mean, what’s not to love about this event?

There’s a few smaller races I’m thinking about doing in September, but the BIG race coming up on September 28th is Akron*dun dun dun*

I still have not decided if I’m doing the full or half. On a good day I can run 17 miles, but I’m near death after. The fear of having to run almost another 10 miles after that is really stopping me from signing up, but the fear of having to wait until next summer to have the chance to run a full again is scaring me too. I know that if I do the half, it’ll be easy and I’ll wish the entire time I did the full. On the other hand if I do the full I’ll A.) Be alone and B.) Want to die. I can’t decide and time is quickly running out. I don’t want the fear to stop me, but what’s the smart decision here?

Am I only half crazy? Or fully crazy? That is the real question.

Train all winter, race all summer.

Miscellaneous

I think this might be the summer of races, and I’m not mad about it either.

I’ve ran a couple races the past three weeks and have so many more marked down on my calendar over the next couple months. The boyfriend and I seem to be in an official racing kind of lingo lately. There’s just something so exciting about running a race. The registering, the bib number, lining up, the mile markers, the crowds, the excitement. I love hearing pace times being yelled out, running along side complete strangers and the cheers as you sprint the last few feet into the finish line. Anyone who trains all winter on a treadmill is really missing out if they don’t run any of the races offered in the summer around Northeast Ohio. I mean we only get four nice months of weather anyways, so as a runner you better take advantage of it!

I ran a 10K in Northfield two weeks ago. You could run either a 5K or a 10K. All proceeds from the race went to stop human trafficking and it was put on by a local church. The race size was relatively small, but the route included mostly bike trail running and a few good hills. My mom walked the 5K and set a new PR for herself! I finished the 10K in just under an hour, which I was happy about. More info on the race can be found here.

Mom and I after the race.

Mom and I after the race.

Yesterday night the boyfriend and I got a group of friends together to run the Mentor Flag Day 5K. It was supposed to storm, but it actually only ended up sprinkling as everyone started to cross the finish line. The event included post race food, which was awesome. I set a new PR for my 5K time (26:45), which isn’t amazing, but the last 5K I didnt was in December and my time was 34 something, so I’ll take it. The race was on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., which I actually really liked after a long work day. This is a great family event too. More information on the race can be found here.   

America!

America!

I really wanted to run The Lake Health Half Marathon this Sunday, but the race is sold out. Why they stop accepting entries? I’m not sure, but I’m pretty bummed. Plus the race was only a cool $50 compared to other halfs AND only 15 mintues from my house, but oh well.

This week marks 16 weeks out from the Akron Marathon. I’ve tossed around the idea of trying to run the full, but it’s not set in stone yet. I’m following a bare minimum training schedule for a full, but who knows if I’ll just stick with the half instead. The mileage is way down to only 18 miles a week right now, so it’s currently no big deal. We’ll see what happens I guess!

I hope everyone is taking advantage of summer and running a few races!

Keeping Running!