After months and months of training, I’m so glad that the Inland Trail Marathon is almost here. Due to my injury, my race day was postponed for 3 weeks. I’m grateful to have had the extra time to training, but the anticipation and worry that is inherent with any marathon has been wearing a bit on me. I’m looking forward to completing my second marathon and to not being consistently worried about stepping on Butters’ bone or suffering another freak injury!

1397830_940943719236_2102969368_o

Couldn’t resist sharing this pic of Butters’ Halloween costumes over the years!

On the other hand, I know that the weeks after a marathon can be pretty rough. I woke up on the morning after the Northern Ohio Marathon and thought, “What do I do now?” I had dedicated so many hours to training over the past few months, and I felt a bit purposeless when I woke up on Monday morning. I didn’t have access to a gym, so I didn’t do any exercise for 2 weeks following the marathon. Of course, all of the hours during which I used to be training promptly got consumed with work and I found myself feeling really burned out. Post-marathon depression is a real thing, folks! This year, I am grateful to have access to a gym, and I definitely plan on cross-training regularly during the next two weeks.

joe turned 33

Looking forward to some nice sessions on the exercise bike while enjoying LeBron and the Cavaliers!

As far as goals for this race are concerned, my goal is to simply set a new marathon PR. I ran the Northern Ohio Marathon in 4:53:55, and I think that a PR is a reasonable and worthwhile goal. If I had to put a number out there, I’d be thrilled to run this at a 10:00 min\mile average pace for a time of 4:22:00. One nice thing about marathons on small trails is that I don’t have to worry about running tangents and winding up running much longer than 26.2 miles! I plan to take it easy and to intelligently use a combination of running and walking in order to prevent myself from reaching Miles 20 and beyond in a completely burned-out state. Last year, Miles 22-26.2 were brutal and while I certainly don’t expect them to be easy this year—after all, I’m running a marathon!—I am hopeful to reach them without feeling like I have nothing left in the tank. I would run without my GPS watch but I want to make sure that I don’t come out too fast and that I have some record of my time in the event that my timing chip doesn’t work.

IMG_0524

One of my friends from the The Sub-30 Group remarked that I looked great and that it didn’t look like I had even run a marathon. My legs would beg to differ with him!

To be honest, once the goal of a sub-4 marathon became out of reach, I began to wonder if I should even worthwhile to run a marathon this fall at all. For a second, it felt like a waste of time. Why have Sheila and my other family members sacrifice their Sunday morning to stand around in the cold weather to watch me do something that I’ve already done? Why keep on trying to fit my training into the few windows of free time that I have during the week? Why spend the money on gels, running tights, and other things I’ll need? I began to think about just pulling out of the race quietly and told myself that perhaps I should just call it a year and start healing and resting up for 2015.

As I thought about it, though, I realized that the marathon day itself is simply a celebration of all of the hard work that I’ve put in over the past 4 months. It’s the day on which all of those long, lonely runs during hot weather in the summer and rainy weather in the fall pay off. It’s the day on which all of the good food choices that I’ve made over the past few years become worth it. It’s the day on which I will run 26.2 miles and celebrate the fact that God has given me the health and dedication to go from being able to run less than three blocks without getting winded to being able to conquer distances that I used to only be able to conquer via car.

blogger-image-1114969926

Great quote! (Source)

Rather than focusing on what I’m not able to do, I should focus on what I can do and celebrate the fact that I have the health and courage to even attempt training for such a daunting endeavor. Maybe I won’t be running a sub-4 marathon this fall, but Lord willing there will be plenty of other healthy training seasons and marathons in which I can attempt to do that! Finishing a marathon is something that is worth celebrating in and of itself, and I’m so thankful that I’m a point in my life at which I can have the privilege and honor to do that.

deadlast

The field for the Inland Trail Marathon is pretty small, but even if I’m dead last, I’m still a winner! (Source)

 

If you’re a praying person, I’d appreciate your prayers on Sunday morning. God’s power, strength, and transformation in my life is the reason why I was able to begin running in the first place, and it’s the reason why I’ll be able to cross the finish line on Sunday.

For those of you with races still on your calendar before the end of 2014, I hope your training is going well! Happy running.

We’re Back!

Hello everyone! It’s been far too long, hasn’t it?

Between training and life in general, late summer and the fall were a pretty busy couple of months.

With the assistance of Sheila’s brother, we were finally able to get the commenting system fixed. We are now using Disqus to handle our comments. I’m sure that all of the spammers who are trying to sell counterfeit Louis Vuitton purses are disappointed!

As anyone who follows me on Instagram or Twitter is aware, I didn’t run the 2014 Towpath Marathon. My training was going very well until I stepped on Butters’ Nylabone and my foot and ankle went in two different directions. I didn’t think that I was hurt too badly until I headed down to the Rocky River Reservation and took 3 steps and screamed in pain.

I took a week off of running and didn’t think that it was prudent to jump right back into it with a 20 miler, which is the run that was on my training schedule for the week following my injury. I know that some marathon plans only take runners up to 18 miles, and while I had successfully done an 18 miler a week before my injury, my experience in the 2013 Northern Ohio Marathon had shown me that it is hard to complete a marathon when one’s longest training run goes up to 20 miles and I didn’t want to fathom how much more difficult running a marathon with a longest run of 18 miles would be.

IMG_0525

I may be smiling, but it took a lot of effort to stand up to take this picture!

I’ve been looking forward to doing the Towpath Marathon ever since I stood on the front porch of the Boston Store in 2012 and cheered on my stepmom and our friend Holly. I’ve trained hard on the Towpath, read many race recaps, and visualized myself running that last beautiful mile with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack blasting through my Yurbuds. The idea of a sub-par, half-baked, disappointing effort in which I dragged myself across the finish line didn’t sound like a great way to run a race I’ve wanted to do for years.

Because of that, I decided to take some time to heal up properly and to run in the Inland Trail Marathon on November 2, 2014 with the simple goal of setting a new marathon PR. The event takes place on the Inland Trail in Lorain County, which is a course very similar to the Towpath. The race supports a great cause—the Murray Ridge Center, which is a school for those with developmental disabilities—and I am looking forward to a nice and relaxed marathon amidst the fall leaves.

MurrayRidgeLogo-Web_11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did a 20 miler on the course a few weeks ago, and it went very well. Read the rest of this entry

Hey everyone! Something’s gone wrong with my commenting system and I’m in the process of fixing it. This is why you haven’t been able to submit comments over the past few days.

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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!