Without further ado, here’s my recap of Weeks 6-9!

Week 6: This was a brutal 10 mile run. When I started running, the temperature was 91 degrees. The course on which I ran wasn’t shady and I didn’t carry water because I’m trying to see if I can make it through without using a water belt since it does add a bit of weight. I hydrated well before I headed out, but I learned the hard way that one’s body needs consistent re-hydration in temperatures like that. Making matters worse was the fact that I split up the run unevenly and thought that it would be a great idea to run 6.2 miles with no water.

By the time I got to my car, I was exhausted, dehydrated, and pouring sweat. The last 2.8 miles were a tough slog, but as I ran, I was motivated by thoughts about my first 18 miler last summer which took place on the same area of the Towpath on which I was presently running. I remembered how proud I was for persevering through that tough run and I told myself that pushing through would feel great, and I was proud that I did. I finished the run in 1:31:27, making for a 9:09 minute\mile pace.

10 miler
 
Week 7: My usual long run day took place when we were celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary at Ravenwood Castle, so I rearranged my schedule yet again. Sheila had Ceramics II on the night that we returned, so I knocked out my 12 miler on Big Creek Parkway in the Cleveland Metroparks. Considering that I had eaten and drank whatever I wanted during the past three days before the run and spent the majority of the day driving back from southern Ohio, I was expecting the worst. To my delight, this turned out to be the best run of the cycle up to this point! My body sure loved the 70 degree temperatures and I cranked out 12 easy miles in 1:45:47 for an 8:49 minute\mile pace.

Aside from needing to sprint through a few big intersections in order to avoid getting caught by lights, I had a blast running on Big Creek Parkway. Some of the homes near the Parkway are gorgeous! Until God leads us elsewhere, we are committed to living within the city limits of Cleveland itself and using our tax dollars to support our great city, but the idea of having a trail ten steps away from one’s house is pretty tempting! Perhaps Cleveland should just build a scenic pathway or trail through our neighborhood…but I should count my blessings because the Rocky River Reservation is 5 minutes away. Some folks have to drive 20+ minutes to find a good trail!

12 miler
 
Week 8: Since when did 13.1 miles become a training run distance? Even though I’ve been running for over 2 years, I never fail to find myself sitting back and marveling at the great progress that God has helped me accomplish. There was once a day when 1 mile was a terrifying distance and I felt like a conquering hero as I slogged across the bridge on West 14th Street towards my house on the day when I ran a mile from start to finish for the first time in over 10 years. If you had told me back then that I would be able to run 13 miles without stopping, I would have called you a liar and used the last bit of air in my lungs to laugh at you.

Anyhow, 13.1 miles is now just another long run on the training schedule, so I set out to conquer them on a slightly cool Sunday evening. For the most part, this run went pretty well. The first part of the course had multiple inclines, but I wound up pushing through them pretty easily. The middle of the run was very rough, but I found my racing legs after I stopped at my car to rehydrate and the electrolytes kicked in shortly thereafter.

Towards the end, I did a bit of mental math and realized that I was in danger of missing my goal pace of 9:00 min\mile, so I really let loose during the last mile. Unfortunately, I peaked a bit too early and I felt my spirit flagging a bit during the last quarter-mile. As I ran, I yelled out “Sub-4! Sub-4!” in order to motivate myself and remind me of my end goal. The folks picnicking next to the trail probably thought I was nuts, but oh well! I finished in 1:56:03, putting me at an 8:52 min\mile pace. I felt an unusual amount of soreness after the run, so I decided that it was high time for my first-ever ice bath.

13 miler

 

Week 9: Now that I was finally back on track with my schedule, I was able to get in both of my midweek runs this week! Thank goodness Hal Higdon only had a “short” long run of 10 miles on tap for me, because our Sunday filled up pretty quickly with church, a graduation party, and our church’s annual business meeting. I squeezed my run in during the middle of the day because the idea of running outside at night and injuring myself on uneven pavement didn’t sound like a great way to head into the second half of my training cycle. When I headed out, the thermostat said that it was 83 degrees. However, the humidity was brutal and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to shield me from the scorching sun! For some reason, my stomach didn’t respond too well to the water that I guzzled during my water break and the last 3 miles were pretty rough. I kept hoping that I’d have a surge of energy once the water kicked in, but that never happened. I finished the run in 1:25:17, giving me an 8:32 min\mile pace.

second 10 miler

Compared to where I was last year at this time, I’m thrilled with how everything is going! Would I have loved to be able to get in every single long run? Of course. I’m not one to make excuses when it comes to training, and I’ll be the first to admit that I probably should have gotten up earlier to run during Week 2. Regarding Weeks 3 and 5, though, I’ll give myself a pass on that one. I just couldn’t justify missing the chance to see my grandfather while he was still conscious for the final time in order to get my run in and even if I was able to go for more than 2 minutes without blowing gallons of crap out of my nose there’s way I would have wanted to miss a moment of my grandfather’s calling hours or funeral in order to squeeze in a run. I doubt this will cost me in the long run, and if it does, I like to think that both of my wonderful grandfathers are cheering me on from Heaven and that they’ll reach down and give me a supernatural surge of energy if I find my spirit and legs flagging on race day.

How is your training going? The cooler temperatures in Northeast Ohio this summer may not have allowed for many days at the beach, but they sure have been a blessing to us runners!

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter know that I’m planning on running the 2014 Towpath Marathon on October 12th. I had planned on running it last year, but the government shutdown postponed the race because it takes place in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I wound up doing the inaugural Northern Ohio Marathon in 4:53:55 instead.

My training last summer went terribly. Our June was very hot, and while I got some great experience in learning how to hydrate properly on a 95 degree day, I wound up having many awful training runs. In July, I hurt my hamstring when I jerked awkwardly after I was caught off guard by a viciously barking dog while running in my neighborhood. I finally recovered from that injury by early August, but then I wound up getting bit by a dog on my first full run back from injury. By God’s grace, he didn’t hit my tendon or cause severe damage, and a factory across the street from the trail happened to be open—it was 8:45PM at the time—and they graciously allowed me to use an industrial-strength first aid kit. My 15 and 16 mile runs in late August were brutal, but I finally rebounded in early September with some solid runs. I wasn’t doing any cross-training either.

This summer, I resolved to start my training cycle on a strong note so that I could head into the fall with confidence. I am an adjunct faculty at a local community college, and one of the community college classes that I teach didn’t fill. While this was disappointing because I love teaching, this freed up several hours per week for training. Our summer turned out to be very, very busy, and I’m not sure what I would have done if I had to teach two classes.

I’ve had to play Jenga with my training schedule a few times over the summer in order to accommodate unexpected events, but the general contour of my weekly training schedule is as follows:

Monday: 30 min cross-training (all elliptical)
Tuesday: Run
Wednesday: 30 min cross-training (10 min elliptical\20 min weights)
Thursday: Run
Friday: Rest (during some weeks, Friday and Saturday were swapped)
Saturday: 30 min cross-training (mostly elliptical with a bit of exercise bike mixed in)
Sunday: Long Run

Essentially, I do 3 days of running, 3 days of cross-training, and 1 rest day.

Heading into 2014, I wasn’t sure what my goal would be for the 2014 Towpath Marathon. Barring injury, I was relatively sure that setting a new marathon PR would be possible but not much of a challenge. After the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon, I took a look at my average pace time (8:37 min\mile) and I also began to consider the positive effect that regular cross-training has had on my times and my physical health.

In late May, I went to my friends’ wedding at Hale Farm and Village, which is located about a mile from the Towpath Marathon course. Read the rest of this entry

NOW Foods Product Review

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of NOW Foods.

When I started lifting weights for the first time, I had no idea about what to eat in order to build lean muscle mass, so I responded by eating everything. Literally. (Before you laugh, I first started lifting weights in the fall of 2000, an era in which dialup Internet was still relatively common and high-speed Internet was so rare that I thought it was one of the best things about college! Because of this, the great community of fitness and healthy living bloggers which exists these days was non-existent and the amount of information on the Internet about healthy eating and healthy living was very small.) After my buddies and I would pump iron, I’d go to the dining hall and eat everything in sight. Although this enabled me to build a decent amount of muscle mass, this method of nutrition also meant that the muscle mass was hidden under several layers of fat. Not a good thing!

After reading multiple articles about the importance of incorporating weightlifting into a runner’s cross-training plan, I decided that I should start lifting again once I joined a gym. However, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes that I made last time and I was determined to find a way to sustainably build lean muscle mass without relying on products containing a laundry list of artificial ingredients.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to try out some of NOW Foods’ natural products through my partnership with FitFluential after I learned that NOW Foods is a company that is founded on the belief that natural is better. NOW Foods is a leader in the nutritional supplements industry that is dedicated to providing customers with a comprehensive approach to wellness by offering a variety of high-quality, natural, and affordable products. NOW Foods offers more than 1,400 natural products that are intentionally created with the goal of advancing optimal health through good nutrition.

NOW Foods All Products

All of the products that I received! (Photo by Ms. Lindsy Rivera)

Over the past few weeks, I have been using a variety of these products on a regular basis and have incorporated all of them into my training regimen. Here are my thoughts! Read the rest of this entry

As I’ve moved forward in my journey towards wellness, I have become increasingly concerned with what I’m putting into my body. Sure, I’ve done the easy things – I’ve cut out fast food for the most part, stopped drinking soda pop, and found healthy substitutes for junk food.

dont drink soda

Don’t think you can give up soda? Neither did this former 4-can-per-day guzzler, but I did! You can too. In the future, I’ll share a few tips about how to wean yourself off soda. (Source)

As time has gone on, though, I’ve really gotten into the habit of reading lists of ingredients before I consume things. Unless I’m eating at a restaurant, I have made a habit out of not consuming anything unless I can get a general sense of what’s in it. (This has made for a few awkward moments at social gatherings when folks have handed me boxed food or beverages and I have instantly started scanning the ingredients right in front of them!) As a general rule, I tend to stay away from items that have ingredient lists whose lengths rival War and Peace or items that contain a tremendous amount of artificial sweeteners.

long ingredient list

Always a bad sign when it takes longer to read through the ingredient list than it does to eat! (Source)

 

Earlier in the year, I started taking a look at the type of hydration and fuel that I was using during my training. I figured that there was no point in spending several hours running and training each week in order to improve my health if I was going to consume a plethora of harmful substances in order to have the energy to do so.

When I scanned the ingredient list of the sports drinks that I had been consuming over the past few years, I was dismayed. In an effort to minimize my calorie intake, I had been consuming a great deal of zero-calorie sports drinks. After doing some reading, I learned that many of these beverages had sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener that can potentially affect the body’s insulin levels and that caused leukemia in mice in a scientific study. No thanks! When I took a look at the lists of traditional sports drinks, I noticed that the second ingredient on the list was often “Liquid Sugar” or “Sugar”. Unbelievable! If I’m going to limit consumption of my beloved Mike and Ikes to holidays, what’s the point of drinking sugar?

sugar in sport drink

Drinking these types of things after exercising is like robbing Peter to pay Paul health-wise! (Source)

I started to look around for a healthier option that would allow me to hydrate properly before and after workouts without compromising my health and long-term wellness in the process. When the folks over at Ignite Naturals reached out to me earlier in the year and asked if I wanted to try a sample, I thought that I may have found what I wanted. Their initial email to me clearly stated that their product consisted of 100% plant-based electrolytes, which was exactly what I had in mind! Read the rest of this entry

Last week, I shared a few tips about how to start off your morning on a healthy note. Let’s move onto the next part of the day – the afternoon!

1.) Eat Lunch

We’ll start with the basics. There’s no point in talking about how to eat healthy at lunch if you’re not eating lunch. Many folks don’t eat lunch for a variety of reasons. Some don’t think they have time during the day, while others think that eating less during the day will help them lose weight.  Others don’t eat lunch because they don’t take the time to pack it and don’t want to spend the money to buy it.

If you don’t think that you have time to eat lunch, I encourage you to reconsider that view. Studies have shown that well-fed employees are more productive employees. If you really want to do the best possible job for your employer, make sure to eat!

eat lunch 1

Eat these foods to perform better at work! (Source)

eat lunch 2

Eating these common lunch foods can help make you more productive! (Source)

As I mentioned last week, skipping a meal with the goal of accelerating weight loss is a bad idea. If you skip lunch, you’ll find yourself feeling ravenous around 3PM. It’s a lot harder to walk past that vending machine unscathed when you’re starving! When you get home, your appetite will be out of control and you’ll be more likely to overeat, make an unplanned detour at a fast food restaurant, or eat frozen foods that are packed with calories, preservatives, and sodium. Read the rest of this entry

This morning, I weighed in and the scale read 190.0!

Because I rarely do anything in a conventional fashion, I neglected to do an initial “weigh in” on January 1, 2012 when I began my weight loss journey. I’m guessing that I was in the vicinity of 225-220 pounds because that is the weight at which I had been for quite awhile, but I don’t know for sure. Unfortunately, this means I don’t have an exact count on the amount of weight that I’ve lost. At the very least, I’ve lost 30 pounds over the past two and a half years. Praise God!

BeforeAfter

One of the biggest things that helped me lose weight was making several small substitutions in my diet and small changes in my eating habits. Over time, the effects of these changes added up to have a very positive impact on my health. In my opinion, none of these changes are exceptionally expensive or hard to make.

Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of three posts with a few small, yet powerful, changes that folks can make in their own diets on the journey to health and wellness. This week’s post will be about small changes that folks can make at breakfast. Next week’s post will be about lunch, and I’ll end the series with a post about dinnertime! (I prefer to call it suppertime, but most people don’t like to call it that. Why is that?)

1) Eat Breakfast

You can’t make changes in what you eat for breakfast until you start eating breakfast. Some well-intentioned folks who are trying to lose weight don’t eat breakfast because they don’t want to consume calories, while others succumb to a busy morning schedule and run out of time to make breakfast in the morning.

Eating breakfast is crucial if you want to lose weight! I know that it may seem counter-intuitive to say that eating food is essential to losing weight, but it is. Read the rest of this entry

The winner of the Running for Hope 5K Race Entry Giveaway is Brian Michal, my fellow 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Official Blogger!

If you’re still interested in running, it’s not too late! Online registration for the Running for Hope 5K ends on Thursday, June 26. Race day registration begins at 6:45A.M. on Saturday, June 28.

Congratulations to Brian, and I hope that all who participate have a fun, fast race!

Are you looking to start off next Saturday (June 28) with a great 5K to support an excellent cause?

If so, be sure to enter my Running For Hope 5K race entry giveaway!

run_for_love1

 

 

 

 

 

This race is raising support for the Love Without Boundaries Foundation. According to the race website, the vision of the Love Without Boundaries is “to provide the most loving and compassionate help possible to impoverished children in China, and to show the world that every children, regardless of his or her needs, deserves to experience love and be treated with dignity and care.”

love-without-boundaries-logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This organization provides a wide variety of wonderful services to orphans in China, including education, foster care, healing homes, medical care, nutrition, and orphanage assistance. More information about Love Without Boundaries can be found here and here. Read the rest of this entry

2014 Towpath Ten-Ten Race Recap

The Towpath Ten-Ten is the second race in the Towpath Trilogy, which are a series of races that are designed to raise money Canalway Partners, the organization that promotes and develop the trails along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath. (The first race was the Towpath Half Marathon and 5 Miler in April.)

Last year, I had some great training runs leading up to last year’s Ten-Ten. Although I came out too fast, I had a great race. As the year went on, though, I realized that I may have come back too quickly after the 2013 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon and the Ten-Ten because I came down with a variety of injuries that sidelined me for much of late June, July, and early August. This year, I decided to take it a bit easier after the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon and the 2014 St. Joseph Academy Earn Your Spots 5K and focus more on cross-training.

cross training

Core work in June leads to great marathons in October! Loved helping Sheila learn how to use the bench press machine too.

As I planned out my running schedule for the last two weeks before the Towpath Ten-Ten, I decided to do four runs: one 3 miler, one 6 miler, one 9 miler, and one 3 miler.

Each of these runs was very, very difficult. I’m attributing most of the difficulty to the hotter temperatures that have descended upon Greater Cleveland in recent weeks. My 9 miler on Tuesday evening was my worst training run of the year and one of my top 5 worst training runs of all time. Read the rest of this entry

The weather in Greater Cleveland (and elsewhere) is heating up! A few weeks ago, Sheila mentioned that the weather went from being 50 degrees to being 80 degrees in the span of a few weeks. Generally, temperatures in June tend to hang around in the 70s, but evidently Mother Nature had different plans for 2014.

Many of us are starting up fall marathon training plans. Barring injury or another government shutdown, I’ll be running the 2014 Towpath Marathon, and I know many others have started training for Chicago, Akron, Marine Corps Marathon (which will hopefully be my 2015 marathon) and many more.

For those of us who are running the Towpath Ten-Ten this Sunday, we could easily be facing 80 degree temperatures at the start.

What’s a runner to do in the heat? Here are five very, very basic tips for successful running during the dog days of summer:

summertime butters

Somebody’s ready for summer!

 

Read the rest of this entry