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Week 10 of training for the 2014 Towpath Marathon is in the books!

Monday: I headed to the gym for 30 minutes on the elliptical to keep my muscles loose after my 10 miler on Sunday and burned 350 calories.

Tuesday: I took advantage of a bit of free time and added a 15 minute exercise bike ride to 30 minutes on the elliptical, and I burned 425 calories. My goal was to loosen up a bit for my run on Wednesday.

Wednesday: Sheila had a work meeting in the evening so I got in my 9 miles on the good ole section of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath on which I ran many, many miles when we lived in Tremont. I knocked out those 9 miles in 1:11:25 for an average pace of 7:56 minutes\mile! As I ran, I thought about how much I have grown as a runner ever since I discovered the Towpath in April 2013. I thought about all of the runs that I had done in this area throughout 2013 in which I was thrilled to post a 10 min mile. I enjoyed the scenery and thought about how awesome the 2014 Towpath Ten-Ten was in June. We lived in Tremont for three and a half years before moving over to our new neighborhood, and living in Tremont in such close proximity to the Towpath was awesome! God blessed us so much while we lived in Tremont; they were 3 of the most transformative and memorable years of our lives. Even though I love where we live now, I’ll always remember my first year and a half of running in Tremont and praise God for helping me lose 20+ pounds there and giving me the courage to believe I could run 3.1, 13.1, and 26.2!

towpath throwback run

Thursday: Absolutely nothing was on TV at the gym, but that didn’t stop me from getting in 30 great minutes on the elliptical and burning 330 calories. I’ve gotten a bit outta sync with incorporating weights into my training, and in the back of my mind I’m slightly worried that my legs will fall apart during the last part of the marathon like they did during last year’s marathon. I know that I’m much stronger this year in comparison to my ability level last year, but I don’t want to see my hopes for a sub-4 getting dashed by a rough final few miles. In an effort to strengthen my hamstrings a bit, I dedicated much of this elliptical section to running backwards after I read somewhere that it was a good thing for runners to do. This really worked my hamstrings! You just can’t beat the burn of a great workout.

Friday: Rest day! I’m not sure if it was a rest day in the traditional sense given that I spent several hours on a ladder painting our bedroom, but I didn’t run or hit the gym.

Saturday: Knocked out 4 miles on the treadmill in 31:17 at the gym. My foot felt a bit weird on Friday, and with my mileage increasing over the next few weeks I didn’t want to take any chances of venturing anywhere near the runner’s nightmare of plantar fasciitis. I figured that cutting down my mileage and running on the treadmill would be a good way to ascertain the status of my foot. Fortunately, nothing seemed to be wrong – I had no pain or discomfort following this run.

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Sheila snapped a great picture as I was pounding out those miles!

Sunday: After we finished painting our bedroom, I squeezed in 30 minutes of cross-training at the gym. I burned 275 pounds with a combination of 15 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the exercise bike. My goal was to loosen up for my long 15 miler on Monday.

Monday: When I saw that the Browns\Redskins preseason game was scheduled for Monday night, I figured that relaxing on the couch covered in ice packs while enjoying a delicious meal after my 15 mile long run would be the best way to watch it. I had hoped to get my run in before the game. I wound up having to work late and I wound up starting my run at around 6:45PM. As it turned out, though, this was a blessing in disguise because the temperature had cooled off considerably by this time.

When I planned out my route, I made sure to build in plenty of water stops. During my past few long runs, I planned my water break at a point at which I had already completed 2\3 or more of the run. I did this because it gave me a mental boost because I could tell myself that the worst was already over. However, I kept finding myself reaching the water break feeling very exhausted and I would wind up drinking 20+ ounces of fluid in one gulp. Needless to say, my stomach wasn’t happy about the fact that I would burst into running immediately afterwards, and my legs often tended to stand in solidarity with my stomach and refuse to willingly give me what I needed until a few miles had passed. This resulted in slower times and a disappointing end to my runs. This time around, I decided to build in 3 water stops in order to ensure that I didn’t reach a point of significant exhaustion and to have the opportunity to drink and fuel before I reached the point at which I desperately needed water.

To be honest, I was really, really nervous about this run. Last year’s 15 miler was the worst training run that I’ve ever had. Heck, even my 18 and 20 mile runs went better than my 15 miler! I fueled improperly and I felt sick to my stomach during the end of the run. My pace was slow and I wound up taking several walking breaks. I had hoped for the run to take 2.5 hours, but it took me 2:48:03 and an average pace of 11:12 minutes\mile. I was very grateful that my family agreed to delay the start of my dad’s birthday party that evening because I would have had less than 30 minutes to ice down, eat, and shower before we needed to leave. When I got home, I wound up staring blankly at a delicious plate of macadamia-crusted grouper that Sheila made because I felt so nauseous.

15 miler from 2013

2 hours and 48 minutes of pure pain. You can tell how hot it was from this photo!

Throughout the day on Monday, I worried that perhaps 15 miles is the distance at which I cross the proverbial Rubicon and that no amount of training will allow my body to conquer 15 miles without extreme hardship. I told myself repeatedly that I was a much stronger runner than I was at this point last year and that my training so far this summer had gone much better than my training at this time last year. Nevertheless, I was still a bit nervous when I took off, but I figured that I would start slow and take it one mile at a time.

Miles 1-4 went exceptionally well, and when I reached my car for my first water break, I was feeling great about how everything was going.

Mile 5 started off with a hill. Although the 2014 Towpath Marathon course is very flat, my experience at the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon showed me that doing hill training is essential to building stamina because the hills on the last few miles of the course really killed me since I didn’t do any hills during my training for that race. My legs held up relatively well on the hill, and I was grateful that I was able to immediately resume my usual pace once I reached the bottom of the hill.

I knew that the run would turn out to be successful if I could get through Miles 6-10 in a good physical and mental state of mind because I would “only” have 5 miles left to go after my second water stop at the end of Mile 10. (I know that this theme has been beaten to death among long distance runners, but isn’t it crazy how a distance that seemed very daunting at the start of one’s running journey can eventually turn into a run that feels like a short jaunt in the park?) My route for Miles 11-15 took me over the exact same course on which I ran during Miles 1-4, and I knew mentally that I’d be in great shape during that part of the run because I had just conquered that distance with little trouble earlier in the run.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I rolled out Guns ‘N Roses’ epic Appetite for Destruction for this section of the run. This was the first tape that I ever owned. Although buying it in kindergarten wasn’t probably the best choice for my long-term socioemotional development, I am grateful that one of the “cool” second graders told me about it when I was a kindergartener and that I was lucky enough to discover the best rock album ever recorded at a young age. When I put this on, the opening chords of “Welcome to the Jungle” gave me an unbelievable surge of energy and I felt like I had just started running!

appetite for destruction cover

Released in 1987 and it still sounds like it was recorded yesterday. I’m convinced that it’s the best album ever recorded! (Source)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a great second water stop, I headed out for Miles 11-15 knowing that my goal time was well within reach. Running into the beautiful sunset helped Miles 11-13 pass by very quickly despite the fact that I was becoming increasingly sore. When I turned around to head back to my car, I told myself that all I needed to do was to hang on for 17 more minutes in order to slay the 15 mile beast.

By this time, the sun had mostly set and I was having a bit of trouble seeing where I was going. Shade is a great thing when the sun is beating down, but it works to one’s disadvantage during the evening hours. The darkness meant that I couldn’t see my GPS watch either. I kept picturing myself as one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring during the scene in which they flee the Ringwraiths amidst darkness and head towards Bucklebury Ferry.

buckleberry ferry

Run! (Source)

My legs were still holding up relatively well and I felt like I was flying along at an 8:40 pace, but I wasn’t sure how much left that I had to go since I couldn’t see my watch. My frustration with this started building but I told myself that inadvertently running more than 15 miles wouldn’t be the end of the world. Fortunately, my watch lights up at the end of every mile, so I decided to run while keeping my watch out in front of me and to stop running once I saw it light up.

I kept running with only a vague sense of how far I had left to go. Although I wanted to start sprinting, I didn’t want to peak too early and wind up slogging through the end of my run. I began to run faster and before I knew it my watch lit up and told me that my run was done!

Once I finally reached a place at which I could see my watch, I saw that I knocked out those 15 miles in 2:12:17 for an average pace of 8:49 minutes\mile. When I realized that I had achieved my goal, I felt a sense of peace. Oftentimes, I’ll feel like yelling at the end of a long run, but on Monday night I felt very calm and satisfied. Maybe it was because the darkness kept me from feeling the exhilaration of seeing the miles tick down on my watch as I sprinted to the finish, or maybe it was because my body and soul knew deep down that my training and good food choices over the past year have prepared me for this moment and that there truly was nothing to worry about.

15 miler

I looked like I was lactating blood when I got home–stupid chafing!–but if that’s the price I need to pay for a great run, then Count Dracula can come on over and have all of the blood that he wants.

In any case, I’m praising God for helping me to have such a great run and I’m already looking forward to my 16 miler during Week 11!

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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!

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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