Sunday, April 19, 2015

Turtles and Taper

Today was an eleven mile run on the Towpath with Joy.  I didn't tell her we were doing eleven miles until we reached the turnaround at 5.5 because I'm sneaky that way.

Despite the fact that I am enormously suffering from seasonal allergies, I am really enjoying this weather.  Normally April in Ohio blows. . .usually literally.  It is so nice to run in capris and a tshirt and soak up some vitamin D.

This is what we saw while running on the Towpath:

Hello, leetle friend!
If you look closely at the brown blob in the middle of the green sludge, you will see that it is a beaver.  This was about a quarter of a mile away from the Beaver Marsh, where they hang out, but it is right next to one of the many beaver dams on the Towpath. (A quick digression--This week I was teaching my students about Oscar Wilde's use of the pun as a satirical device, and I had to share this example with you, Peeps:  Two fish swim into a wall.  One turns to the other and says, "Dam!")  The family next to us on the Towpath told us that this is in fact a river otter, but I don't think so.  I'm going with beaver.

Bale of turtles
I always know that warm, beautiful weather is coming when I see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the river.  It just makes me so happy to see the sun shining off their silver backs.  We must have seen at least fifteen today, and that was without really looking.

The last two miles of this run were particularly difficult, and I realized why when I checked the Garmin and saw that Joy had pushed us to doing our fastest miles in the last two.  She is a tricky one.  This officially starts our taper.  Joy and I are both running the Canton Gold Jacket 5k on Saturday, and we are each running a 10k leg on our relay team for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay on Sunday.  This will be my first time running a relay, and I'm excited.  By the way, Peeps, keep your eyes peeled for a Gold Jacket 5k giveaway on this blog.  It's coming up soon.  For information about the Gold Jacket 5k and/or the Pro Football Hall of Fame Races, check my other blog, From the Sideline.

I haven't run a 5k since September 2014, so I will be interested to see how I do in this one.  No matter what, Joy and I are going to have lots of fun, especially with our team, Beast Mode 5.  Does our name intimidate you?  NO????

This will be a great way to test my legs for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

Until next Sunday, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Birthday Week(s)

Happy birthday to me!  Today I am 45, and I love it!

You probably know somebody like me: I'm the one who celebrates her birthday as long as possible.  It starts when I get my first card in the mail (thanks, Audra!), and it ends when I say it ends.

Here are some things that made my week so wonderful:

We didn't recognize each other because we were not in running clothes.
I finally met the #CLEMarathon Ambassadors this week, and they are every bit as fabulous as their blogs and tweets.  We had some treats, some drinks, some CUPCAKES (thanks, Stephanie), and we talked a LOT.  If you have not followed their blogs, it is not too late, Peeps.  Check them out here.

Starbucks gave me a free drink for my birthday.  Hello, Java Chip Frappucino!  Yes, I like being able to chew my liquids.

This isn't running related, and I'll talk about it on my education blog,, but I learned this week that I was selected to be a 2015 Lead PBS Digital Innovator, and I'm so pumped!  Here is the bio from their web page:

Stephani Itibrout



Read the Full Bio
Stephani is an English teacher and blended learning teacher at Medina High School in Medina, Ohio. Stephani knows that learning is messy, and Blended Learning is especially messy. She loves seeing the light bulbs illuminate above her students' heads when a seemingly chaotic project suddenly clicks into place.
Favorite PBS LearningMedia resource: Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure: Paris
The weather has been fabulous, and today I celebrated my birthday with a ten mile run with Joy on the Towpath from the Big Indian to downtown Akron and back.

Pre-run pic (while we still look fabulous)
When I got home, my family gave me beautiful letters and cards and a Stephen King novel.  Then the strawberries from Edible Arrangements arrived (thanks, Bill, Jess, and Ella!), and I stuffed one in my pie-hole.

Tonight I look forward to going to Bar Cento for dinner, where I will eat pizza and french fries because--hey-- my birthday.

Run sunny today, Peeps!

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

All by Myself

My Easter Sunday run was eleven miles on the Towpath.  The weather was fabulous--in the forties--and for once I didn't overdress and get irritated.  Also, because I didn't run on any roads, I got to wear all black, which makes me feel like a badass.

I started my run at Botzum Trail Head, which is also a stop on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad line.

Botzum Depot

I continued on the Towpath towards Peninsula, passing by the Beaver Marsh.

No beavers today
Today is a day for gratitude, and I've got a lot of blessings to count.  As I ran, I thought about my week of Spring Break, which I was lucky to get during the same week as my kids' Spring Break.  Unfortunately, the three of us passed a bad cold/bronchitis around all week, but nobody had to miss school, so that is a plus.  We did get one day of good health, where we hiked Whipp's Ledges in Hinckley.

My son conquered the Ledges like a boss.
I was able to run outside this week, and I was able to do it whenever I wanted.  On Wednesday I ran five miles in the evening with Shelby, and while I was grateful to run with her, it reminded me why I'm a morning runner, but there was no running at 4:30 AM this week, thank goodness.   I even re-visited my favorite training grounds and saw a harbinger of better weather:

You know it's Spring when the water fountains are back on Sand Run.
As I ran today, I took time to take pictures and reflect on how lucky I am to live near these beautiful trails.  The next pictures are all of the Cuyahoga River, taken at points between Peninsula and Hunt Farm.

At one point, when I started feeling tired around the eighth mile, a deer bounded across the path, just in front of me.  It was gorgeous, and it gave me the strength to continue with a smile.

All in all, this has been a great Spring Break, full of running and family and joy (and mucous--lots and lots of mucous).  Right now my legs ache (in a good way) and I'm looking forward to legs-up-the-wall, a nap, and some good eats.  In that order.

I am confident that my training is going well for the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon, and I look forward to meeting up with the other RunCLE Ambassadors soon.

Count your blessings and run happy, Peeps!  

See what I did there?

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Chicken Soup Cures Everything

Peeps, I have been so. sick.  It wasn't the flu this time; it was a cold and allergy combo.  The bad part was that I could only medicate for one of the two problems, and I chose unwisely, I guess.  I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk, I couldn't think.  It was a great way to end the week before spring break.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I can't breathe, talk, or think.
I went to the doctor when it descended to my chest and I felt like I was wheezing.  Luckily, she said she felt I could kick it myself without antibiotics.  When I asked her about my long run the next day, she said the biggest problem would be the cold air hitting my lungs and advised me to dreadmill it.  What I heard was, "Whaa--waa-waa. . .You can run," so when Mandy asked me to run part of her 18-miler with her on Sunday morning, I was all Sure!  What can go wrong?

I'm not completely stupid; I told Mandy that if I couldn't stop coughing I was going to have to bag the run.  Then I made myself a huge pot of chicken soup.  After dinner I took some Robitussin and went to bed early.  Chicken soup + sleep = Feeling much better.

The run was fabulous!  The air was cold, but the sun was bright, and it really warmed up the Towpath.  Lots of hacking, spitting, and blowing my nose (sorry, Mandy), which actually helped me.

Halfway through the run we climbed the Wicked Stepsisters, a 1/2 mile set of hills that are part of a 5% grade.  The top of the hill was a great place to take some pictures (after blowing my nose and hacking up a lung):

View of Akron where the Towpath ends at the top of the Wicked Stepsisters

Looking back from where we came
The second half of the run was pretty speedy, as much of it was downhill, and I felt really, really good.  I was able to do ten miles with Mandy, and she continued on for her final eight in the sunshine.  I'm so glad I didn't have to bag the long run; this would have been a much gloomier post if I had.

I'm starting to get excited about my upcoming races, especially the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon on May 17.

One last thing, look what I bought:

My very first pair of trail shoes!
They are bright and colorful so the snakes know to stay the hell out of my way.  Where will I be wearing these babies?  Well, let's just say I have a few plans to shake up my training this summer after I #runCLE.  More to come!

Eat your chicken soup and run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back on the Towpath!

Today I ran eleven miles, which I haven't done in a looooong time.  I was initially reluctant to go through with all the miles for several reasons:

1.  I have a cold.  Or allergies.  Or something that only lets me breathe through one nostril at a time.  Grrrrr.

2.  My daughter and I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee last night at Copley High School (GREAT job, kids!), and then we had ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery afterward.  The point is  that I got to bed a bit later than I normally do, and I ended up taking some nighttime cold medicine, which finally knocked me out.

3.  Because of said cold medicine, I had a difficult time getting around this morning.

4.  Once again, it is freaking COLD out there!  Thanks, Ohio.  Thanks for nothing.

Well, because I have taken the opportunity to learn about myself through running, I knew the above reasons were merely excuses, and I had to get off my butt and run.  Keep in mind that  you need to learn what works for you.  I know that if I have a stuffy nose, running will help it. . . well, run.  This rule may be different for you, and you may have to give yourself a rest day.  I know that I can function very well on little sleep (I had 6 1/2 hours last night, which is not enough for me on weekends), especially when I can compensate later with a nap (I hope). These rules may not apply to you; learn what your rules are.

I'm glad I ran because the company was so nice (thanks to Stacie, Daniel, and Erin), the cold air felt good, and it felt great to get my heart pumping.  After about eight miles,  I peeled off from the pack and continued the rest of the way on the Towpath, which was terrific.

This is the Beaver Marsh after the Ira Road Trailhead.

This is the Boardwalk around the Beaver Marsh.  Notice how pretty the clouds are!
In the last two miles of my run, I was behind an older gentlemen who invited me to keep pace with him.  Actually, he heard me sniffling and coughing and asked me if I was ok, but I don't need much encouragement, so I started running with him.  His name is Jim, IRONMAN Jim, and he is amazing! I asked him what he is training for, and he said a triathlon.  I gave the typical response most people give, "Wow!  That's cool.  I can't ever do the swimming part of a triathlon, so I really admire those who do it."

He replied, "Don't say 'ever' because you never know.  I didn't learn how to swim until I was fifty.  Now I've run three Iron Mans, some Half-Iron Mans, and lots of other races."  Three Iron Mans!!!!  Holy Shmoly!  He even told me that he ran his most recent Iron Man at the age of 62!

I love meeting new people on the running path.  There are so many places for inspiration, and runners are just the best group of people ever.

Can you tell that I'm on a runner's high right now?

Five weeks until my Pro Football Hall of Fame relay (read about the relay here), and eight weeks until the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon!  I'm so excited to meet the other #RunCLE Ambassadors and run through my favorite Cleveland neighborhoods.  Will I see you there?

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Race Recap: Shamrock 15k

Today I ran the Shamrock 15k, organized by the Summit Athletic Running Club.

When I last checked the Weather App, it said that the temperature would be forty degrees.  By one o'clock, when I estimated that I would have climbed the hill from hell, it would be forty-three degrees and sunny.  For an Ohio runner, this information means 1) no hat, 2) a long sleeve tech shirt, and 3) capris.  My favorite racing capris were in the wash, so I wore tights instead, but I made sure not to go with my gut and bring along a jacket.  "Stephani, " I told myself, "you ALWAYS wear too much clothing, and then you get really hot and irritated.  Don't do this today."  So this is how I dressed:

Shamrock, I'm coming for you!
Boy, was I wrong.  Apparently, "forty" means "really freaking cold and gray with lots of wind."  This was not what I was expecting.  I got on the phone and pleaded with my husband to bring me a jacket, but then Jone, one of my TORN friends and now my savior, came along and lent me her vest.  So, it all worked out.

I saw Heather, Laura, Erin, Suegene, and Brad.  I hadn't seen Heather and Laura in a long time, and it was so nice to catch up today.  I also saw Marilyn, Amanda, and Stacie, who are badasses because they ran four miles before the race.

Heather and I ran the Shamrock together (it was my first time) in 2013.

Erin and I seem to find each other at every race now.
There was a bagpiper:

I know some people don't like bagpipes, so I only gave you ten seconds.
Ok, here is the lowdown on the course:

The first 5k are completely downhill.  It would have been awesome except that I lost about thirty seconds in mile 1 because my pants kept coming down, and I had to stop THREE TIMES to retie the drawstring.  GRRRRR.

The next mile or so is flat, and then the rest of the race is uphill.  I'm not joking.  The first two hills are the stuff of which nightmares are made, and then there are little inclines until the end.  My goal is to never walk on a hill.  I allowed myself to walk through three water stops, but none of them were on a hill, and I never completely stopped.

The sun did come out when I reached the top of the hill, which was nice.

I did change up my strategy from the last time I ran this race.  My official goal was to do better than I did in the Hot Chocolate 15k (where I was hungover and I actually ran slowly enough to EAT HANDFULS OF CHOCOLATE on the course), but my secret goal was of course a PR.  The first thing I did differently was wear earbuds.  I know; earbuds are bad-the course isn't completely closed-yadda yadda yadda.  I can tell you that I was completely aware of any cars on the course well before they were anywhere around me.  I was alert.  Plus, I was much safer to be around because I had drowned out my Voices, which normally want me to do terrible things in the middle of a long run without music.

The other thing I did was let myself go in the hills of the first 5k.  I usually try to slow down and warm up in the beginning miles of a race; it's part of my hope that I will run a negative split, but you know what?  I never do.  I realized (from watching Shelby do this two years ago) that I should take advantage of the downhill start and let 'er rip.  I think it made a huge difference.

Judge for yourself:

Shamrock 15k 2013:  1:34:22  10:07/mile

Hot Chocolate 15k 2014: 1:31:32  9:49/mile

Shamrock 15k 2015:   1:29:15 9:35/mile

I think I'll take it!
This is a great race if you like hills (and I do).  There was soup and bread and fruit and popcorn (!) after the race, which was very welcome when I got the shivers.  The medal is sweet, and I can never have too many long-sleeved tech shirts.  Even though I really should be doing eleven or more miles on my long runs, I thought this challenging course more than made up for the fact that I ran fewer than ten miles today.  I am right on track to prepare for the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon.  Are you?

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Learning through Running

The other day Shannon had a four-mile run on her schedule.  I asked her about it when we chatted in the hallway between classes.  "Oh, I didn't go.  I had to drive my kids to practice, and then (voice drops and falters) I went out.  I need to make it up.  Maybe I'll tack it on to today's run."

This is where I stopped her with unsolicited advice because--hey--ME.

"I would not suggest you add mileage to your run tonight, as you haven't established a base yet, and even one more mile would be a significant add-on at this point.  Let it go, learn from it, and move on."

Shannon sometimes suffers from injuries, but today she suffered mostly from guilt, and I would hate for her to hurt herself in an attempt to make up a lost run.  Too often we adhere to a rigid training plan, and when life gets in the way, we beat ourselves up.  Does that mean I should drop a run anytime I don't feel like getting out there?  No.  At this point in my running, I know what my options are when I feel like I need to bail, but it took me a while to figure it out.

I believe the first year of running is a way to learn more about yourself THROUGH running.  The added mileage and endurance is a plus.  When I explained this to Shannon, she asked, "What do you mean?  What do I need to learn?"

Here are some things I learned about myself through running:

1.  How and when I need to eat to have a successful run.  For example, if I run six or fewer miles, I know that I don't need to eat breakfast first.  I can just wake up, chug at least sixteen ounces of water, and lace up.  If I go longer, the rules change.  I need to wake up at least one and one-half hours before I leave, eat a bagel with cream cheese, drink coffee and lots of water, and spend some quality time in the bathroom.  I didn't learn this the first time I ran more than six miles.  It took me a good year to figure it out through trial and error.

Mmmm.  Food of the gods.  Except I definitely need cream cheese, and that coffee needs some Thin Mints creamer.

2.  Water is non-negotiable.  I HAVE to drink at least six 8-oz. glasses of water a day, more if I'm running.  If I run more than five miles, I have to carry my water with me or run where there are drinking fountains.  The pre-run hydration is the most important part for me, though.  Not drinking enough before a run is a bonk waiting to happen.

My favorite beverage.  I even like it more than I like wine!

3.  When I should run.  When I first started running, I ran with my friend Deidre after work.  Because we were both always so tired, both physically and psychologically, we rarely had good runs, and we were rarely able to push ourselves as much as we should have.  I have learned that with very few exceptions, I can't have a good run when I've been teaching all day.  It just doesn't recharge me, and my chances of bonking increase exponentially.  On the other hand, if I run in the morning, even as early as 4:30, I've set myself up for success.  My mood improves dramatically, and the runner's high carries me through the day.

Wake up!  It's time to run!

4.  How much sleep I need.  I've learned that I function just fine on very little sleep for short periods of time.  This means that if I whine to myself that I'm too tired to get up at 4:30 to run, I have to tell myself to suck it up and run.  I am not allowed to use lack of sleep as an excuse.

5.  When asked to try something new, my first response will be "No."  You should ignore this response because I will do said new thing anyway.  I don't know why I do this; I think I just don't like people to tell me what to do, even if it's something I want to do anyway.  I learned this from my running coach, who does a great job of ignoring me when I bitch and moan or even just say no.

6. My most efficient running weight.  I'm still trying to figure this one out.  This year I've lost about twenty pounds, and it's had a dramatic effect on my pace.  I've got to figure out how to balance my need to eat and drink everything I see with my desire to hit certain paces.

How much weight do I have to lose to get a PR?

7.  I am my biggest driver and harshest critic.  Nobody has higher expectations for me than me.  I have long-term goals, short-term goals that lead to the long-term goals, and secret goals.  I have tests that I give myself to see if I'm going to hit my marks.  I punish myself if I don't make it.  Sometimes I have to do a check-in with my coach to make sure I'm not being too hard on myself.  Sometimes I need to "fail" in order to get a reality check.  It's funny because I don't have impossible aspirations; for the most part I know that I am a middle of the pack runner, but I want to be the best middle of the pack runner I can be.

Everything I have learned so far doesn't just apply to running; it applies to ME and the way I live.  It is extremely valuable information, and it has taken me three years to get this far.  I'm excited about what I can learn in the running years to come.

This is the third week for the Towpath Turtles, our new runner group, and I can't wait to meet all of you on future runs.  The advice I have for you is the same advice I gave Shannon:  Take this time to learn about yourself through running.  You won't regret it.

Run happy, Turtles!

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