Towpath 5 Miler Race Recap

For much of the past year, I logged most of my miles on the section of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail that was located by our former residence in Tremont. Although we’ve moved a bit farther west, I still enjoy sneaking away to the Towpath whenever possible and logging some miles on the most serene and beautiful place in Cleveland. The Towpath Trilogy races are some of my favorite races; they are very well-organized, the race fees are reasonable, and the courses are spectacular.

I registered at the last minute for the 2013 Towpath 5 Miler with my buddy Eric, and I never got around to writing a race recap. I hadn’t thought about running this race until he asked me if I was going to run it, and when I realized that it was so close to my house, I figured that it was a no-brainer. Last year, I finished it in 44:47 (8:57 min\mi pace).


Me and my friends Ramona and Eric at the 2013 Towpath 5 Miler

Heading into the 2014 Towpath 5 Miler, I was shooting for a PR. My goal was to run an average pace between 8:15 and 8:30, which is the pace at which I have been running during my long training runs. I always make “secret” goals in my head for races that I think are somewhat unattainable, and my “secret” goal for this race was to run it in under 40 minutes (8 min\mi pace).

As usual, I ran behind in the morning, and a construction-related detour only added to my stress. Fortunately, I got to the finish line with about 10 minutes left before the starting bell. I think that I subconsciously walked really quickly because it was unexpectedly cold outside and I needed to warm up! I met up with Eric, who was celebrating his birthday and excited for a great race. We also bumped into our friends Ramona and Angie from church.

We lined up towards the back at the start. I saw that my GPS watch finally caught a signal as we were heading towards the starting line, but when I pressed the start button, something happened and it didn’t work properly. I eventually got it going, but I wasn’t exactly sure if the data would be accurate. I reminded myself that I had run watchless at the 2014 Bay Village Snoball 5K and that I had done just fine without it, so I kept on going.

Starting in the back meant that I had to weave around a fair number of runners in order to get to my race pace. I reached a pretty good pace by the time we entered the Towpath itself and I began to hit my stride once I started running on the familiar path on which I had logged hundreds of miles last year. The first two miles of the Towpath are pretty windy, and I did my best to run tangents.

When I passed the Mile 1 sign, I took a look at my watch and noticed that I was at approximately 1.02 miles. I was glad that the watch was relatively on point, but I remembered how a slightly inaccurate watch killed me at the 2013 Kinsman KTown 5K and I told myself that I shouldn’t rely too heavily on it.


Picture I took in February on the Towpath; this was the view during Mile 1. Gorgeous!

As I was cruising along during Mile 2, which was located on an extension of the main Towpath Trail, I felt last night’s dinner coming back to bite me in the butt (literally!). On Saturday night, I carbo-loaded at Olive Garden. I thought that the heavier white sauces wouldn’t be good to eat the night before a race, so I went with the Spicy Diavolo sauce on my pasta. In retrospect, this was a terrible idea, and I wish I had learned another lesson from the 2013 Kinsman KTown 5K (when I ate a burger loaded with fried jalapenos on the night before a race) and opted for something else. I thought long and hard about stopping at the restroom that was located at Mile 2.7, but I figured that I would have no shot at running it in under 40 minutes if I did that, so I powered through and hoped I could make it.

At around Mile 2.7, the course rejoined the main Towpath Trail and we began to head back towards the finish area. I was feeling a bit weathered at this point, but I reminded myself that I had run the remaining distance many, many times and that I was more than halfway done. Familiarity with a course cannot be understated!

mile 3

Mile 3 went through this part of the Towpath; I took this picture last summer.

Heading into the race, my plan was to start sprinting to the finish once I ascended the slight hill that was located at around Mile 4.5. Last year, I slightly misjudged the location of the finish line and I didn’t start sprinting early enough. However, Mile 3 felt like an eternity and I felt my pace drop a bit. I told myself that I had a good chance of finishing in under 40 minutes and that I couldn’t let up, but I felt myself majorly running out of steam by this point. By the time I ascended the hill, I didn’t have much left. I figured that I would regain my strength during the next tenth or so of a mile—which was pretty straight—and then sprint to the finish from there.

I decided that a change of music could possibly help matters a bit, so I switched over to Avicii’s “Dear Boy”. This song pumps me up so much and the long instrumental sections of the song are great for running quickly at a steady pace. In the distance, I saw the informational display that usually served as my stopping point during my training runs, and I told myself that I needed to really push it because the race was almost over. Once the music kicked in, my legs automatically began to run much faster and I powered through the remaining distance and across the finish line!


The end is in sight! (Photo courtesy of the Towpath Marathon)

I crossed the finish line with something like 40:07 on the official race clock. Much like last year’s Towpath Half Marathon, I thought that I had pulled off my “secret” goal, but I knew that I’d need to see the official race results to know for sure.

I stumbled to the nearest port-a-potty, and fortunately no one was in it! I can’t think of a time when I’ve been happier to see a bathroom. I know this is gross, but if you’re a runner, I’m sure that you can relate!

Once that was over, I headed to grab some water and cheer Eric on through the finish line. Although the temperature had increased, the weather was still somewhat cold, and some of the water actually froze a bit in the cups!

Shortly thereafter, Eric powered on through the finish line with a time of 50:52.1.

After the race, I met Michelle from the Runner’s World Sub-30 Club on Facebook. (Side note: All of you should join! The Sub-30 Club is a group of encouraging, fun, and knowledgeable runners. Even if you haven’t yet run a sub-30 (a 5K in under 30 minutes), you’re more than welcome to join. There are many folks in the group who have not yet achieved this milestone and I enjoy cheering them along their journey.)

We hit up the postrace party and grabbed some food before heading back to our respective homes to get ready for church.


Eric and I after the race. The photos from the Towpath folks are SO great. The fact that they had a photographer taking finish line pics for free is just one example of why these races are some of the best that Greater Cleveland has to offer! (Photo courtesy of the Towpath Marathon)

After church, I checked the official times posted on the race website and saw that I had finished in 39:59.02! This is more than a 4 minute improvement from my previous time of 44:47.

What’s the moral of this story, folks? Every single step counts. Even if I had let up just once, I wouldn’t have achieved my goal. If I hadn’t consciously run tangents, I wouldn’t have achieved my goal. Leave it all out there on race morning; there’s plenty of time later in the day to recover!

Needless to say, I’m thrilled with my performance in the Towpath 5 Miler. God’s been great to me so far in 2014; I’ve had two excellent races, a great season of training, and most importantly I haven’t had any serious injuries. I am excited for the remainder of my training before the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon!


By now, anyone running the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon should be well into their training plan. I’m in the sixth week of mine, and I’m grateful that everything is going much better than I expected.

My average mile split continue to decrease, which is particularly remarkable given that my distances are continuing to increase! After my first week of training, my long run pace was 9:08 min\mile. Five weeks later, I pulled off a 8:29 min\mile pace!

I’m staying relatively injury-free too. The periodic bouts of runner’s knee with which I’ve dealt over the past few months have been minimized with lots of ice and stretching. Luckily, I’ve been able to avoid the dreaded curse of plantar fasciitis that seems to be afflicting far too many of my friends during this season of training.

I’ve never had this much success with reducing my mile times and staying injury-free during a season of training. What have I done differently this year? Read the rest of this entry

Earned, Never Given

At the risk of sounding overly confident, I’m pleased to report that my training for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon has been going very well.

Even though work has been emotionally taxing and stressful and we’ve had a lot going on as we settle into our new home, I haven’t skipped one training run yet and been pretty faithful with my cross-training.

joe turned 33

No better way to usher in my 33rd year than a nice long ride on the exercise bike!

Although I’ve been doing some training runs on the treadmill, I have been forcing myself to do my weekly long runs outside unless there is accumulated snow and ice on the ground. (I actually can’t even use that excuse anymore now that my sister-in-law purchased a set of YakTrax for me. Thanks again, Sara!) Even though my past two long runs have taken place in 20 degree temperatures, I’ve been able to post a pace lower than 9:00 minutes\mile for each run, putting me well on my way to set a new half marathon PR in May.

These gains haven’t come without cost, though. Read the rest of this entry

I’m a FitFluential Ambassador!

I’ve got some pretty cool news that I’m pleased to share with all of you…

I was selected to be a FitFluential Ambassador!


For those of you who aren’t familiar with FitFluential, here’s a little bit of information about them from their website:

“FitFluential is a nationwide network of highly influential fitness enthusiasts sharing their journey both online and offline through multiple social media platforms. Founded in April of 2011 by Kelly Olexa, FitFluential was designed to connect health and wellness brands with their ideal target market through customized, long-term experiential and contextual marketing campaigns.”

I actually received the news a few weeks ago via e-mail when I was in the midst of a very stressful family-related phone call. Read the rest of this entry

Young At Heart And Loving It!

During college, one of my favorite songs to listen to when things were going wrong in the romance department was “All My Friends” by Counting Crows. (I always thought it was a bit disingenuous for Adam Duritz to sing about being single when he was squiring around the likes of Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston though.) Anyhow, I must have listened to him singing the following lyrics about 1,000 times, but I never really thought about what my life would be like at 33:

Thought I might get a rocket ride
When I was a child
But it was a lie
That I told myself when I needed something good
At 17 had a better dream
Now I’m 33 and it isn’t me

Well, I just turned 33 on Tuesday, and life is much, much better than the “better dream” that I envisioned for my life when I was 17!


My 32nd year on Earth was pretty great. I ran my first half marathon and my first full marathon, two things that I spent years 0-31 thinking that I’d never be able to do or even want to do. Read the rest of this entry

In my January training recap, I mentioned that we joined Fitness 19 towards the end of January. At the time, I felt skittish about spending money on a gym membership because the sidewalks are available to me for free at any time and because we are learning to incorporate a whole host of bills into our budget that we didn’t pay when we rented.


Working out with Sheila has been great. I’m so blessed to have a spouse who encourages me to go to the gym and doesn’t mind working out while most other couples are going out on the town. Can’t imagine how difficult this journey would have been with a partner who wasn’t supportive of healthy eating and running!

After going through yet another month of brutally cold weather and heavy snow, though, I’m extremely grateful that we joined Fitness 19! Otherwise, I’m fairly certain that I would have wound up either forcing myself to be satisfied with the few outdoor runs that I managed to sneak in towards the end of the month or hurting myself as I attempted to navigate through the mazes of black ice and potholes on Cleveland’s sidewalks and streets. Falling last year on snow and ice and buttdialing my boss at his house on a Saturday night when I landed on my phone was not fun, and I’m very grateful for the good ole treadmills at Fitness 19. Read the rest of this entry

After running my first full marathon last October, I was eager to do another one again. During the winter, I spent a lot of time debating whether to run the full marathon or half marathon at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

In the end, I decided to go with the half marathon.

Part of my decision had to do with the fact that I would have had to start training on the day after we moved into our new home. Although I had never previously owned a home, I knew that moving in wouldn’t be a quick and painless endeavor. However, I knew that I could squeeze in the training if I really needed to do so.












Most of my decision had to do with the fact that I had heard many horror stories about the second half of the marathon. One of the reasons I run is because it allows me to have some quiet mental space and time for reflection, contemplation, and relaxation. I’ve never done a “group run”—although I’d like to do one someday—and I’m used to running by myself with only my music to accompany me. Because of this, crowd support isn’t a big factor that I consider when making my big race calendar.

However, there’s a difference between not allowing crowd support to control my decisions and appreciating crowd support towards the end of a race. Read the rest of this entry

Bay Village Snoball 5K Race Recap

After being cooped up in gyms, treadmills, and indoor tracks during the first few weeks of 2014, I was eager to get outside and see if all of the cross-training that I have been doing would have an effect on my race times. My times on a treadmill in 2014 had improved significantly from my race times from 2013, but it’s a lot easier to run inside on a treadmill in shorts and a tee-shirt than it is to run outside in the cold wearing more clothing and dodging other runners and ice patches.

I ran the inaugural Bay Village Snoball 5K in 2013 with my brother, and I was eager to run it again this year. My dad, stepmom, and brother live in Bay Village, and I spent a great deal of time there during my childhood. Unfortunately, I found out that none of them were able to run or spectate at this year’s Snoball. Because of that, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. However, when I saw that the weather would be good, I decided to sign up. I just couldn’t wait any longer for my racing season to begin! Read the rest of this entry

First of all, I’d like to extend a sincere thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway. The enthusiasm was great to see! I hope that all of you keep reading far into the future and that you’re able to find some helpful tips for your running and healthy living journeys on my blog.

Without further ado, the winner of a race entry for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is…












Comment #47 – Giselle! Congratulations to you and happy training!

To those of you who didn’t win, don’t lose hope! Many of my fellow Official Bloggers still have race entry giveaways coming up.

Jamie Johnston, who is one of the most inspiring people that I know, starts her giveaway on Monday. Click here to visit Jamie Johnson’s Journey!

Heather Mursch’s giveaway starts soon too. Reading her blog has helped me learn a lot about Crossfit, and hopefully someday I’ll get to check it out. Click here to visit Mile 26 and More!

The entire list of Official Bloggers for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon can be found here. Many more giveaways are still to come!

Additionally, the great folks down at the marathon also hold a giveaway called the #RUNCLEcontest every Monday morning at 10AM. Some of their giveaways consist of race entries, while other giveaways consist of other race-related Follow them on Twitter at @clevemarathon!

My half marathon training starts Monday. Happy training!

Have you entered my race entry giveaway for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon? The deadline is February 24, 2014 at 11:59PM! Please see the post below for more details or click here to go directly to the post. Thank you to everyone who has already entered! Good luck!

I am not a very self-aware person. Fortunately, I have many great people in my life who help me understand myself! A few months ago, I posted a running update to Facebook and someone who I have known for 11 years left a comment that said that they weren’t surprised that I had developed into a serious, dedicated runner because I am the type of person who always focuses on being as best as I possibly can at whatever I do and who does what it takes to get better.

I hadn’t ever thought about myself like this before, but after reflecting a bit on this comment, I would have to say that it’s pretty accurate. Once I took ownership of my weight loss journey, I found myself doing all sorts of things that I never, ever dreamed I’d do because I wanted to achieve my goal. These days, I’m doing things like telling Sheila to hide the Valentine’s Day candy that she bought me because I know I don’t have the willpower to refrain from consuming an entire bag of Mike ‘N Ikes in one day!

mike and ike

I have no idea how anyone can resist these! (Source)










One of my jobs involves teaching at a local community college, and I take a lot of pride in doing a good job and being the best possible instructor for my students. I know that we all used to laugh when our professors told us that they read the course evaluations that we completed at the end of the semester, but I actually do read them all once the grades are turned in and I’ve even made up my own evaluation to get more in-depth feedback. One of the comments that consistently shows up on my evaluations is that I am a very helpful and accessible professor who provides whatever help is necessary to help students succeed and who responds to emails very quickly at all hours of the day. At the risk of breaking my arm patting myself on the back, I won’t deny that this is true. I also place a great deal of pride in the fact that my co-workers and supervisors at my other positions can reach me via email at all hours of the day.

However, this has come at a bit of a cost. Read the rest of this entry