I am a ZOOMA Great Lakes Ambassador

28 Jan

ambassador badge 2019

I am thrilled to be again serve as an ambassador for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon this year!

The ladies-only event features not only a half marathon, but a 10K and 5K, too. It takes place Sept. 14 at the beautiful Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wis.*

Register at http://zoomarun.com/race/zooma-great-lakes and use the promo code RUNWITHME for a discount off any of the races.**

ZOOMA Great Lakes offers races for women of all abilities, as well as a post-run celebration, yoga sessions, and great swag — all against the incredible backdrop of a Midwestern lake in the fall.

This was such a fun race last year. It should be even better this year!


Join me for the weekend. Bring your mom, your sister, your girlfriends. I promise you’ll have an incredible experience! And I promise, I’ll be one of your biggest cheerleaders!

The details:

ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon, 10K and 5K
Sept. 14, 2019
Next price increase is April 2.


*Fun fact: I worked as a reporter for the Janesville Gazette for a couple of years, and I covered Walworth County, which includes the city of Delavan.

**Code is good for any ZOOMA race or challenge in 2019.

DIY Advent Calendar (Holiday bucket list)

21 Nov

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season–the obligations, the shopping, the preparation. It’s also easy to completely miss out on the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.

So how do you fulfill those obligations, observe family traditions, and still experience the joy and wonder of such a beautiful holiday?

I suggest making an Advent calendar or Christmas bucket list filled with activities that will help you appreciate all that comes with the month of December.

We made an Advent calendar for the girls in 2014, when they were a little more than a year old. We wanted to countdown the days until Christmas, introduce them to our traditions, and teach them about the reason for the season.


I had these envelopes printed at a copy shop in 2014 and have used them every year since then. I hang them on a decorative clothespin garland in a place of prominence.


I make a list of things we want to do in preparation for Christmas–things like watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” donate to Toys for Tots, bake cookies, decorate the Christmas tree, and make gifts for the girls’ caregivers or teachers. I’ve always made sure to include family traditions, charitable acts, crafts and/or gift-making, special treats, and movies.


Then, I print a blank December calendar and strategically schedule out our activities, based on when a particular event might be happening, or when a charitable organization needs donations, etc.


Once it’s all planned out, the setup and execution are really easy: Print (or write) out the list of activities, and cut out each activity; place each one in its corresponding envelope. Then, hang up or display the Advent calendar. Finally, open up the envelope on the corresponding day and enjoy 24 days of heart-warming activities with your family.


Pro tip: Keep the December calendar handy, so you can prep for the next day’s or week’s activities and generally stay on top of things.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Drink hot cocoa
  • Drive around the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights
  • Shop for and donate a blessing bag for a homeless person
  • Have dinner by candlelight with Christmas carols
  • Have snowman pancakes for supper
  • Build a gingerbread house
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • Shop for and donate a toy to Toys for Tots
  • Collect and donate items to the local animal shelter
  • Drop coins in a Salvation Army kettle
  • Write a letter to Santa Claus
  • Watch ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
  • Put together the nativity
  • Read the Christmas story in the Bible
  • Make a gift for your teacher
  • Watch ‘Elf’
  • Make Christmas cards for your grandparents
  • Help decorate the Christmas tree
  • Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’
  • Leave cookies and milk for Santa
  • Shop for a gift for your sister
  • Donate to a food pantry

Look for local Christmas events, such as visits with Santa Claus, Polar Express train rides, and movie showings. Think about the things you did as a child to celebrate Christmas. Consider also the things you might have to do (e.g. shop for or make a teacher gift) and make them into family activities. Think of those less fortunate and make an effort to help them. And of course, remember the reason for the season.


Enjoy and happy holidays!

Race recap: Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

9 Oct

The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was another for the books. Three years ago, this race was — what felt like then — the race of a lifetime. This year, this race was better, if only because it brought me a new personal record.

I again went into this race relaxed. I had a good shot at beating my time from three years ago. I had trained hard, putting in the hill training and speed work over the previous four months. I had endured some brutally hot, humid weather. I had stayed, for the first time in a few years, illness- and injury-free. I was excited to see Christopher and the girls, my mom and my dad along the course. I was excited to run through familiar neighborhoods and along the iconic lakefront.

My mom drove me to Grafton High School, and we scurried inside to stay warm until it was time to head toward the starting line. We finally headed outside with about 15 minutes until race start. I lined up behind the 4:20 pace group, but ahead of the 4:30 pace group with intentions of staying comfortably between them. The race director counted down and blew the horn, and we set out for our 26.2-mile journey.

Just like three years ago, somewhere between Mile 1 and 2, as the course ventured into its only truly “rural” setting, the breeze blew in the unmistakable smells of a dairy farm. I laughed as everyone around me grimaced. I took that moment of deja vu as a good omen for the race.

At about Mile 5, I saw my mom. I did not expect to see her out on the course, so I was pleasantly surprised. She was so excited and cheered so loudly and proudly.

I felt some aches and pains around this point of the race, but I shook them off. I had too far to go to get into my own head about those tings and twinges. I told myself to push forward, nice and easy.

Around Mile 8, I saw Christopher and the girls, my dad, and our good friend Bass. I was so glad to see them with their signs, which together read “There goes our hero. Watch her as she goes.” (Extra credit to those of you who know from where those phrases were clipped.)


Between miles 8 and 15, the course heads south through Mequon and Bayside, fairly close to the lake, where the houses are beautiful and large, but the roads are pretty quiet. There were plenty of spectators, many who used our first names, which were printed on our bibs.

LFM midrace 3

Around Mile 15, and again after Mile 20, I saw Christopher and the girls and my dad again.


At that point, my low back was really sore. I tried to focus on remaining upright and pulling in my core to support my spine and tailbone. I reminded myself there was just over 6 miles left of the race and, with a steady 10-ish-minute mile, a personal best at the finish.

After Mile 20, the course gets into familiar territory–the UW-Milwaukee campus, Lake Park, and Lincoln Memorial Drive. It’s always such an incredible sight to head toward downtown.

There are three aid stations between miles 21 and 25; I had not truly walked through any of the aid stations until those last three, forcing myself to relax my stride. I probably lost the most time in those three stops, but I needed those mental breaks.

In the last two miles, I pushed it as much as possible. Whereas Mile 23 was my slowest mile of the race at 11:22, Mile 26 was my second-fastest of the second half at 10:01 (Mile 13 also was a 10:01, while Mile 15 was a 9:58).

The last quarter-mile of the race is unlike the last stretch of any other marathon: The crowd is thick on either side of a fairly narrow path. Spectators fill bleachers 10 feet into the air on either side of the chute. It is loud, as people are cheering, clanging cowbells, and clapping, and the race director is calling out the names of runners as they cross the finish line.

LFM chute 3

I picked off other runners down that quarter-mile stretch, catching up to the 4:30 pacers, who I had lost in the last 4 or 5 miles of the race. The clock read 4:30…

LFM finish

It was close. But I didn’t care. I wanted nothing more than to stop running; my stomach was uneasy, my legs were shredded. I had given it everything.

After I had my medal around my neck, I trudged through the muddy finish area to claim my gear bag and my snack bag. In the runner-spectator meeting area, I finally found Christopher and the girls and my dad. At that moment, I found out my time was about 4:29 — a PR by 10 to 20 seconds. I couldn’t believe it. I squeaked it out. I truly had left everything out on the course.


The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was, once again, such an incredible race. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m really doing this running thing and not just dreaming it. I can’t believe my body, my mind, and my heart allow me to dream so big and accomplish so much. I am blessed to have a husband who, year in and year out, supports me through weekend-morning long runs and busy race days. I have daughters who fuel my fire and are my motivation to do hard things. I have an incredible family and amazing friends who believe in me, support me, and put up with all of my crazy running adventures.

Here’s to another 26.2-mile adventure…


Distance: 26.2 miles
Duration: 4:29:18
Average pace: 10:16 per mile
Miles 1-6.2: 1:00:38
Miles 6.2-13.1: 1:09:08
Miles 13.1-20: 1:13:10
Miles 20-26.2: 1:06:22

Race recap: ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon

25 Sep

I was fortunate enough to serve as an ambassador for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon on Sept. 15, in Delavan, Wis. It was my first ZOOMA event, my first women-only race, and my first half marathon in more than a year.

JPEG image-9E1F3A73B37C-1

This summer, the weather has been brutal in terms of heat and humidity, and even into the middle of September, it continued to be brutal. A beautiful sunrise over the lake gave way to race-start temperatures in the low 70s.


I approached the starting line relaxed. I didn’t intend to “race” this half marathon. I planned to run comfortably (saving my racing legs for the marathon) and to enjoy the course and the experience.


We left Lake Lawn Resort and headed southwest around Delavan Lake, an area that 10 years ago was quite familiar to me, but whose rolling hills had escaped my memory. The pace groups thinned pretty quickly, many ladies undoubtedly holding back because of the the hills and humidity. I ran as much as possible, slowing up hills when necessary, otherwise slowing only through water stations.

We ran along township and county roads, past beautiful lakefront homes. We spent about more than a half-mile (in Mile 7) along a channel that feeds into the lake, where on either side of the channel folks have small boats tied to private docks. It was so quaint!

We chugged uphill a fair amount in Mile 8 and Mile 9, as we headed northeast around the lake. I maintained my steady 9:30-ish pace, until I saw my family right around the marker for Mile 10, where I stopped to kiss the girls and grouse about the hills.

The route around the lake continued onto Highway 50, which by that time was busy with weekend traffic. We ran on the gravel shoulder, past whizzing vehicles, in full sunshine. I was so warm; I could feel my face was red and probably slightly sunburned.

Finally, for the last 1.1 miles, we turned back into the resort, running first on a gravel road around part of the gold course and then on a paved walkway right along the lake. I had lost my reliable signal after about 3 miles, so I had run most of the race without music. I finally took my headphones out of my ears and my phone out of my belt as the finish line approached, and I just soaked in the sounds of cheering — my favorite being “Yay Mama!” from Anna and Elise.


I ran through the finish with my arms up in celebration, a smile on my face. I had pulled out a really great half marathon, missing my personal best (from 2016) by only 22 seconds! I was proud.


After a bit of relaxing and refueling (and imbibing with Lake Lawn Punch, aka vodka and pink lemonade), we watched Anna and Elise in the kids’ race.


They ran really well and earned their very own medals, of which they are–not surprisingly–very, very proud!


My heart was very full by the end of the morning.

The ladies behind the ZOOMA race series did a really wonderful job resurrecting this race, and I was honored to be a part of it. The whole experience was so positive and supportive. It reinforced why I am so proud to be a part of the running community.

Distance: 13.1 miles
Duration: 2:05:28
Average pace: 9:35 per mile

Free learning resources for school-age children

24 Sep
Fall is official here! And while that brings with it the fun of playing in the leaves, dressing up for trick-or-treating on Halloween, and visiting the apple orchard and pumpkin patch, it also brings the hard work of learning to read, write, and count.
Anna and Elise are kindergartners this year, and they are thriving in their all-day classroom settings. Both girls (they are in different classes with different teachers) already have a dozen or so sight words memorized, can write their names properly, and can describe their environs using “above,” “below,” and “beside,” among other descriptors.
The girls’ teachers do not believe in issuing homework to kindergartners, as the daylong work of learning is taxing enough for their little bodies and brains. But they do ask us, as parents and families, to read at least 10 minutes a day and, if we’re able, to practice their “popcorn” words (words that pop up frequently in text and in conversation) and their amassing math skills.
One way parents can help their children reinforce their newly acquired skills is with free worksheets and activities from Education.com.
Anna and Elise tackled this cute Halloween matching worksheet this afternoon. They sounded out the words, and while there were a few tricky ones (deciphering between “candy” and “candle” and “castle”), they successfully found each matching picture.
Check out Education.com this fall! Their worksheets, puzzles, mazes, color-by-number pages, and more (all of which are broken down by grade and topic) are a great supplement to what your children are learning in school!

Race recap: Hard Cider Run

21 Jun

It’s been a long time since a race recap has appeared ’round these parts… But Christopher and I ran a really fun 5K race last weekend — the first 5K we’ve raced in almost 3 years!


The Hard Cider Run is a series of races held mostly in the Midwest and Northeast at orchards, wineries, and cider mills. Participants run a scenic 5K through the apple trees and earn a sweet glass of hard cider at the finish.

We have bypassed so many short-distance races in favor of full and half marathons the last few years, because we opted to spend our race dollars on the Big Kahunas — races in which we get more bang for our buck. But we signed up for this one not only because it was local, but also because our entry fee got us a T-shirt, finisher’s medal, and commemorative stemless glass.

race_43746_6789_511dab04-30c8-4be1-bdfb-0e24a27e5ea0(The race also offers free race photos!)

The race was Saturday morning at Jonamac Orchard in Malta, Ill., about 10 minutes west of DeKalb. The weather was brutal: hot (temperatures in the low 80s at race start) and humid.

We were placed in the first corral, which actually proved to be a blessing. The race was popular, although the unfriendly weather likely kept a good number of people away, but the first corral was not very crowded. We had plenty of room to run.


Christopher and I didn’t have any time goals, but we figured since we were in the first corral, we might as well try to go as fast as we could, for as long as we could, given the conditions.

We ran almost entirely on grassy “trails” that wound through the orchard, only stepping on crushed limestone or gravel “roadways” to turn into the next line of trees and, at the end, to come down the finish chute.

The first stretch of the route was situated where the orchard has its corn maze, so it had been tilled last in the late fall; it was uneven and filled with ruts, roots, and rocks. I unfortunately stepped right in one of those holes and fell flat onto my knees and stomach. I got right back up, brushed off the dirt, and kept on.

Our first two miles were 8:20 and 8:25, respectively, and we benefited from an occasional breeze. Our last mile was 9:10, when the sun was at its highest and hottest, and the breeze had stopped.

The final stretch of the route was situated where the orchard has its “attractions” in the fall — a petting zoo, children’s play area, etc. — which meant all of the spectators gathered there to cheer on the runners. We spotted our family — my dad and his sister came down to watch the girls while we ran — and bolted down the chute; my RunKeeper says that last quarter-mile was a 7:50 pace!


I crossed at 27:26 which is my second-fastest 5K — only 30 seconds off my personal best from 3 years ago and good enough for third place in my division. It’s just too bad the race didn’t hand out age-group awards!


This was a fun, well-organized race with lots of perks! It was well worth the $35 registration and is a truly fun 5K, especially for runners who don’t often race the shorter distances or for those just starting out on their distance-running journey.

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 27:26 chip time
Average pace: 8:50 per mile
Mile 1: 8:21
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 9:11

Free learning resources for parents

10 May
Summer is both a fun and challenging time for us: The girls are out of school, which means more time for outdoor activities, special projects, and day trips; but the girls are out of school, which means less structured activity, fewer school projects, and quicker boredom.
We enrolled the girls in summer camp at the YMCA three mornings a week, so I can maintain my hours at work on those busy days; they’ll go to Kids Zone at the YMCA the other two mornings (or evenings), on my less busy days.
They’ll still get some structure with camp, but our other mornings, and all of our afternoons, are sure to need some.
My grand plan this summer is to institute a weekly schedule that incorporates arts and crafts, science, cooking, playing, and learning, possibly following the camp theme each week.
I hope to impart not only academic-type lessons, but also personal and social skills (e.g. age-appropriate chores, manners, etc.) through hands-on and play-based activities — just as the girls have gotten in preschool.
But I undoubtedly will run out of steam and inspiration, so I am really excited that there is a veritable treasure trove of resources at Education.com.
Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 12.13.42 PM
This cute maze, for example, is something the girls will love!
I’m also a fan of this sight words bingo worksheet and this home scavenger hunt idea.
Check out Education.com this summer! Their worksheets, puzzles, mazes, color-by-number pages, and more (all of which are broken down by grade and topic) are a great supplement to your summer activities!