Sunday, April 27, 2008

10 Instead of 20

I am fighting a head cold – it sucks. I was trying to convince myself that it is just allergies – but I don’t think so. Allergies are probably contributing to how I am feeling, but I definitely have a head cold. That is okay – as long as it doesn’t go to my lungs. I was supposed to do 20 miles today, but when I got up at 6 am – I knew that wasn’t possible. So I called Micah and told him he was on his own for his 20 mile run. I felt bad, but I cannot mess around with my health.

After talking to a few people about my cold and long distance runs, I decided that I’d do 10 miles this evening. I was able to run the whole time – and was pretty happy with that fact. On Friday, I ran 8 miles near my parents’ house and it was a big struggle – that was when I was coming down with the cold. I ran 10 miles tonight in less time it took me to run 8 miles on Friday.

Today was a BEAUTIFUL day in Columbus – the leaves are finally out, everything is in bloom and there was no humidity. Other than all the allergens in the air – it was perfect running weather.

I think that everything in the past week was just wearing on me and ran down my system, but, better now than right before the Marathon. I just need to make sure I push myself on the long runs moving forward – even though they will be shorter.

Next weekend, I am running half of the Cincinnati Marathon with my friend Lauren. She ran half of the Columbus Marathon with me last year – so time for me to repay the favor. I may run a little more than just half – depending on how I am feeling to make up for not running 20 miles today.

As for an update on Joliba Trust – I am pretty sure we are close to raising $1,000 from the tracking I’ve received from Caroline and the updates from you all about what you’ve given. I want to thank you all for your generosity. With 3 weeks to go – we need to raise $1,000. So, for those of you who haven’t given – and you know who you are – be expecting me to personally hit you up:)

Monday, April 21, 2008

One Hard 18-Miler

Well, last weekend’s 18 miler seemed like a sweet day dream compared to this weekend’s run – mentally and physically I was not ready for the run.

On Friday afternoon, I got the unfortunate call from my Mom telling me that my Grandmother wasn’t doing well. I wasn’t expecting this call from my Mom – I was expecting her to call to thank me for the gift I sent her for her birthday. But, my Mom didn’t even remember it was her birthday because her mother was dying.

I was in Cleveland, so I quickly got in my car to drive back to Columbus to arrange for someone to cover me for my Saturday work obligations. (A big thanks to Lauren for covering for me!) When I got to Columbus, I squared a few things away at the office and at home and got back in the car to drive another 3 hours to Youngstown. I went straight to the nursing home – to see the ghost that was left of my Grandmother. I saw her not that long ago and each time I’ve visited her over the past two years – I’ve had to deal with the shock of how much she changed since the last time I saw her.

I was always been close to my Grandma Jeanne. Some of my fondest memories from childhood were going over to her apartment in Canfield to spend the weekend – she lived close to a Dairy Queen – which is still one of my weaknesses! My Grandma was the “cool” Grandma. She was hip, classy and was an avid athlete into her 70s – she played golf and bowled. She always went to Florida with my mother and me to visit my Aunt Pat and her family. She had great taste in movies from classics to current movies – heck, this woman gave me Silence of the Lambs!

One of the things my mother’s family is NOT good at is sharing family history – that could be because their lives growing up were hard. I do remember the countless times when my mother would tell me that she walked 3 miles every morning to go to school – even in the snow and had to walk back every evening – uphill both ways (just kidding). But, she always left out the fact that my grandmother divorced my alcoholic grandfather in a time when divorces were not common and were shameful for Catholics. My mom and her 5 siblings did have a hard-knock childhood growing up in the projects in Briar Hill in Youngstown. My Grandmother worked 2 to 3 jobs to provide for the brood of 6 and ruled with an iron fist to keep them in line – which is hard to imagine being that my Grandmother was always a petite woman.

My Grandmother married my Grandfather at 19 and he was 10 years her senior. Shortly thereafter, my Grandmother gave birth to my Mother. My Grandfather was a WII Vet – who had a purple heart – but could not keep a job because of his substance abuse problem. Although it sounds like he was a charmer – he could be a very violent person at times – he stabbed my grandmother and that came very close to ending her life. My Grandmother divorced him and in her early 30s took on the task of raising 6 children on her own. Just recently I learned there was a 7th child, a little girl that was given up for adoption as an infant. I wish that she could have known the amazing, strong woman that my Grandmother was.

I look at the decision my Grandmother made and it would intimidate most women today – even after the women’s movement. My Aunts and Uncles remember a hard life – but one where they never felt deprived. This weekend my Aunt Pat fondly recalled that they never went without at Christmas and always had new bonnets and patent leather shoes at Easter. She pondered – how did she do it? It is a good question – sounds like my Grandmother was able to work small miracles on a regular basis. I cannot imagine the ridicule that my Grandmother went through being a divorced woman in the mid 50s with 6 kids – while sending most of them to Catholic school.

And it isn’t as if my Grandmother’s life was all hard knocks…in the late sixties she met the man that I’ve always known as my Grandpa – my Grandpa Chuck. They married and moved to Pittsburgh and my Grandmother became a nurse. They traveled to Europe, Mexico and the Bahamas and had a lovely home. My Grandpa Chuck died in 1987 and my Grandmother stayed in Canfield – close to several of her children. Into her 70s, she continued to work and helped my mother run our farm market. I loved the fact I got to see my Grandmother every day in the summer and during the rest of the year, she came over every Sunday for dinner.

Later in life my Grandmother continued to work small miracles…even on a fixed income she managed to give all of her grandchildren gifts at Christmas. My favorite were the chocolate covered cherries she’d buy me every year from Gorants – the local chocolate company in Youngstown. Looking back, I realize how truly amazing it was that she was able to give us all gifts. She was also talented in making crafts – she knitted, cross stitched and was very involved in her miniature club even into her 80s. She was there for all my major rites of passage in life – confirmation, graduation from HS, graduation from college and graduate school. She will be greatly missed at the next stages of my life. I am sad that she won’t be there when I get married or when I have children.

There are a lot of lessons in my Grandmother’s life but I’m not going to name off each one. AND, I’m not saying she was the perfect person – we all have our faults. But she lived one extraordinary ordinary life while up against incredible odds. She worked to have the ordinary things we all take for granted – like gifts at Christmas, vacations and to do simple things in life like golfing. She didn’t have a life partner who supported her and her children – she did it on her own in a time when being a single, divorced mother was looked down upon.

Well, now to my actual run…I did 18 miles on Sunday on the bike trail near my parents’ house. I ran from Green Township to Austintown (past Mahoning Ave) and back – kind of crazy – if you know the area. But, I didn’t have the normal elation that I have on my long runs…I really couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could get back to the nursing home to be with my family. It felt like it was uphill the first 9 miles and uphill the last 9 miles. Plus, it rained and that seemed very fitting for the day.

I cherished being with my family this weekend and listening to their stories about my Grandmother. I’ve asked that they write them down…because I know that most of us Grandchildren don’t know the stories. I am sure that what I’ve shared today is just a small part of her life…but, well…it is a start.

My Grandmother died early this morning while my Aunt Pat was reading poetry to her from a book that my sister gave her. I will miss my Grandmother very much and will think of her often. I am glad that after the last two rough years of her life that she is finally at peace. She had 6 children, 19 Grandchildren and 13 Great Grandchildren. Although she lived an ordinary life, she obtained that ordinary life while enduring extraordinary circumstances and she has had a major impact on my life. I love you Grandma and you will be missed.

I am sorry for those of you who are reading this for running updates…this really isn’t one…but an important life update nonetheless.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Post From Lauren!

Hello, this is Lauren, guest blogging on Karen’s Run Gasper, RUN! blog. Karen and I both have a great running life and a bad work habit. I ran my first marathon in Cleveland in May of 2006, right before I moved back to Ohio and shortly thereafter befriended Karen. Since that first marathon I’ve completed a 10k and half marathon and apparently the pain of Cleveland has worn off… because now I’m signed up to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon two years later this May.

Unlike Karen, I haven’t talked as much about my efforts in that first marathon or now my second. I feel moderately comfortable doing so now because I have actually completed a marathon and just last Sunday I ran my longest pre-marathon training run, 20 miles in unseasonably cold light rain and wind, up and down the hills of Cincinnati… I understand why Karen has been more public in her marathon aspirations, it can be great motivation to complete this hard task and a way to raise awareness about important issues. For me running has been a personal challenge, a time that I keep for myself and to myself. I decided to run my first marathon because I checked my Sunday mileage after developing a running habit over several years that always included a longer Sunday run. I was shocked to realize when I mapped my regular Sunday route that I was running half a marathon. It seemed like a logical step to challenge myself with the task of running a race and finishing a marathon. This time I’m hoping to improve my time a bit but the goal is still to have fun and maintain and improve fitness, both the mental and physical kind.

I hope you will consider joining me on marathon day, May 4th in Cincinnati, details at I hope you will also contribute at least $26.20 to Joliba Trust where even a small donation will help. Learn more and donate here. See Karen’s first post about why she started this blog and why she chose Joliba Trust.

Karen’s original goal was to raise $2,000 and her friends, families and coworkers are contributing and they are on their way. Let’s achieve and exceed that goal. I feel lucky and that it is a great luxury to have the health, time, support, and fancy shoes and energy bars to be a runner (even a not-so-fast one). I hope this very personal, sometimes selfish marathon training will maybe inspire someone else to complete a seemingly insane challenge and to raise awareness about the issues women in poor countries are faced with. I hope you will donate, even just a little. And I hope you are inspired to get out and run, bike, and play this spring.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Two Great Runs: 8 Miles and 18 Miles!

I had two fantastic runs this week – I completed my mid-week 8 mile run in 1 hour and 14 minutes and 33 seconds – even while running into a person I went to high school with – Columbus can be a small world! This was the fastest 8 miles I’ve ever run and I was VERY excited about it. The weather was warm – probably about 65 degrees. I just felt incredibly strong throughout the run and just concentrated on pushing myself.

On Saturday, Micah and I started out on our 18 miler at 7 am – early, I know – but we have to get into a rhythm for the Marathon since is starts at 7 am. This means getting up early, eating something and going through the same routine that you’ll go through the morning of the Marathon. Our run was a scenic run that goes though some beautiful parks and a few quaint Columbus neighborhoods. This Saturday was cooler than Wednesday when I did my 8 mile run. But spring has FINALLY come to Columbus and the trees are blooming and the grass is finally green again.

When Micah and I hit the 4 mile mark, we were running just under 10 minute miles. I was pretty pumped about that – since that was quite an improvement over our past 4-mile mark on our last long run together. We were able to keep a consistent pace throughout the run and completed 18 miles in just 3 hours! I was so pumped! The other thing that was fantastic about our Saturday run was seeing the Half Marathon Runners going through Columbus. At the midway point on mile 17, we saw the Half Marathoners running around the Horseshoe (for those of you not familiar with Columbus that is the OSU Football Stadium) and I was able to get out a “GO HALF MARATHONERS” as we crossed paths. I don’t know who I surprised more, Micah or myself by the fact I was able to get that bellow out so late in our run. But just seeing the runners got me very excited about running the Marathon in a month.

Tonight I had dinner with my Aunt and Uncle who live in Dayton and my friend Lauren joined us. (And a big thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for their generous donation!) She is running the Cincinnati Marathon and I’m running half of it with her on May 4th. She has decided to encourage her friends and family to donate to Joliba Trust, too to support her in her Marathon running! I am so excited since that means more donations to Joliba Trust! So, check out the blog in the next few days for a blog from Lauren on how her training is going.

Oh, and an update on Eric, check out this comment on his 5 k training: Run Eric Run! And it looks like I might be joining him for his Father’s Day 5k!

And finally a big congratulations to Kamden and Phillip for running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC last weekend! They both had fantastic times – 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 23 minutes respectively!

Please keep the comments and donations coming!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

16 Miles: Reconnecting and Rebuilding

For my run this week, I was in my hometown – which is outside of Youngstown, Ohio. Most of you know I grew up on a farm and my parents still live there. And my oldest sister, Michelle, lives nearby in my grandparents’ old home. With my job, I get to travel around the state, so I can try to pop in on weekends to spend time with my parents and my sister’s family. When I was home, my sister reminded me that I had not been home since Christmas, which I didn’t even realize, so it was nice to reconnect with my family and some of my friends.

On Saturday, my sister joined me on her bike for my 16 mile run. It was the first nice-weather long run I’ve had since I started training for the Cleveland Marathon. When I started out, it was about 35 degrees and then warmed up to the mid 50s. The first three miles of the run were by myself down a country road with rolling hills (my sister said I was on my own on the hills). The sun was rising and burning off the early morning fog that covered the hills. It took me just 30 minutes to get to the beginning of the bike path where I waited for my sister.

I’m not a quick runner – I am getting better, but there are no Olympic trials in my future – unless I am a spectator! I run at a comfortable pace that allows me to carry on a conversation. I cannot tell you the last time I had 2 hours to just talk to my sister – about anything and everything – completely uninterrupted except for the occasional hellos to the other people on the bike path. We talked about growing up, our parents and her two boys.

I was able to reconnect with my sister this weekend and was able to witness the rebuilding that has happened at my parents’ farm. About 9 months ago, my parents’ barn burned down. I happened to be visiting when it happened. I’ll never forget driving home from dinner with my mother and sister (driving over the hills that I ran on Saturday morning) to see an eerie light in the sky -- and knowing that there was nothing else there except for my parents’ farm. When my mom and I pulled into the driveway, I jumped out of the car and started looking and yelling for my dad because I could see that our back barn was up in flames. He -- of course -- was trying to get equipment out the barn that was completely engulfed in fire. I convinced him that we needed to focus on saving the other barn, since it was already smoldering. And unfortunately our road was closed, so it took the fire department over 30 minutes to get to my parents house and there was nothing left of the back barn to save. I will never forget that night – you just wish you could do something to give hope back to you parents’ but nothing you say can make up for all the years of work they’ve lost in just a few hours.

In just 9 months, my parents’ have been able to rebuild their barn, and with the help of their friends, they continued to farm last summer even with the loss of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and supplies. Neighbors loaned tractors, equipment and helped clean up the fire site. It showed what can be overcome with the help of your friends and community.

So now, you might be wondering how any of this connects to my marathon training…that is a good question. I’m not sure if any of it is connected other than the fact that running gives me time to process life events and to think about relationships.

Well, I guess that is the connection – I didn’t chose to run a marathon to win – but to do something healthy for myself and as a byproduct, I created a healthier lifestyle. This healthy lifestyle has had more benefits than what I imagined. Part of what helps me keep this life change is the support from my family and friends for my running. My running helps me stayed connected to the people I care about – because I make time to think about other things than work – which in 2006 became all consuming. It has also helped me rebuild my health. So there it is – 16 miles to reconnect and rebuild – in many different ways in my life!