MEET STEPH

MeBenKiss

I work at an insurance company helping big companies make their workplaces safe for their employees. My degree is a B.S. in Industrial Engineering, and while I only occasionally use my “college knowledge,” I never thought I’d have a job I get so excited about! Every day is like an episode of the show “How It’s Made,” and I never get tired of learning and seeing new things. Work varies daily and I travel all around Indiana, which fits my short attention span on-the-go personality. I see construction sites, hospitals, office buildings, farms, truckers, factories… and it’s fun.

Make the look work for you!
Hair nets? Safety vest? Steel toes? Yep.

When I’m not working, I love taking on projects around the house – anything from building furniture, painting my own artwork, sewing new pillow covers, or just rearranging the furniture. (Ben would tell you I could open up a frame, lamp, and rug showroom!) I’m also learning to use a DSLR camera. It’s going so-so.

What else? I’m a huge Ohio State fan – I grew up just outside of Cleveland and went to OSU (of course I had football season tickets!). I’ve never lived outside of the Midwest but love everything about Colorado. I live/run for food. I’m a busy-body, and I am not good at resisting impulse purchases (or Sour Patch Kids). I have a black thumb and have killed every plant I’ve ever owned. I love the no-pressure attitude of signing up for races last-minute. I’m a borderline Pinterest addict when it comes to clothes, food, and interior design. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to computers. And then there’s lists. I love lists.

Always and forever: an Ohio State BUCKEYE

On the running front, I first ran in elementary/middle school for the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, the mile run (7th grade mile run PR ~12 minutes). I hated it. Running was terrible. Later, I joined track my freshman year of high school – it was one of the few sports you didn’t have to be good at to be on the team! I accidentally went with the distance girls, and after trying – gasp – throwing, I went back to distance. I was mostly a mid-pack runner, but I had enough success with my first season in the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m runs that I kept running through summer and joined the cross country team fall of my sophomore year. It turns out running consistently is a good thing: I eventually got fast enough to be one of the top 7 varsity runners by the end of the season sophomore year. By senior year, I ran fast enough to make varsity every week, earned MVP, and placed Second Team All-Conference (and was close, but never made it out of Districts). Cue embarrassing high school photo.

 

Freshman year of college, running took a backseat and I was mostly a recreational runner. That summer, I ran my first half marathon, the State to State in Oxford, OH. I joined the Running Club at Ohio State my sophomore year and couldn’t believe I hadn’t sooner. Practices were casual – just three times a week, and I ran a few other half marathons in college (Cleveland Half Marathon, Capital City Half) and a handful of small 5Ks. I made some great friends in the club who I still visit (as often as I can) today… while still vowing I’d never do anything longer than a half marathon.

The Running Club at OSU – before a club cross country meet at
Ball State. It was the only team competition opportunity all year!

After college, I lived/worked in a Chicago suburb and ran on a treadmill daily, unintentionally training for my first marathon. That marathon was my first BQ! Right after that, we got married and moved to Indianapolis. Then I learned you should never say never. See, Ben constantly inspires and pushes me farther than I ever imagine. Since then, I’ve:

Me, Erin, and our new buddy after my first ultra, DWD 50k.

I also ran with the Bloomington Area Runners Association (BARA) – a community running group for all paces and backgrounds. It’s great to be a part of a running group! I try to run with other local running groups and store groups when I’m on the road and traveling… it’s always fun to experience running with other “packs.”

My running philosophies are unique compared to most. I say…
Don’t have a plan – just run. Don’t run because you feel like you have to. Be around people who inspire and motivate you… and be like them. If you’re having a bad running day, call it a day. Try things you’ve never done before (trails, mountains, loops, distances). Signing up for a race hours/days in advance means no pressure. Smile – you’ll run faster and feel better. Eating: garbage in, garbage out. Say hello when you pass another runner, because they’re part of the club too. Don’t follow me – I’ll get us lost. And when you’re racing, have fun. Just have fun.

To this day I still have no idea what was going on here.
Group rides with runners!

 

California

At the beginning of 2014, I accepted a job promotion at my company, so Ben & I moved to Southern California. My new work is sometimes-stressful, always challenging, and every day here is sunny and beautiful. Why hadn’t we done this sooner?! We belong to two running clubs, the Aliso Trail Runners and South Coast Road Runners – they’re always so friendly and inviting, and we’ve made a lot of new friends through these groups.

New and old friends in the Marin Headlands (Northern California)

It took a while to adjust to so much climbing on simple, everyday runs in Orange County. I did, and then amped up my running and racing. I got stronger with each one (!): Harding Hustle (50k), Ventura Marathon, Cuyamaca 100k, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile – San Francisco. I maxed out around 100 miles/week for several weeks and felt great!

Hashimoto’s

After over a year of suffering from digestive issues, debilitating fatigue and significant weight gain sent me to the doctor in March 2015 and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid, which regulates all other body functions. It opened my eyes to how I was caring for my body and sometimes asking it to do too much. It changed everything.

Because Hashimoto’s is a condition that can be sent into remission (antibodies reduced) with much effort and self care, I embarked on major, permanent lifestyle changes with the help of my doctor to re-evaluate sleep, physical activity, diet, stress, and nutritional deficiencies. After 8 weeks, I saw significant improvement in my thyroid function/lab results, but it’s an ultra and not a sprint – I’m healing, but not healed. How I feel every day is still very unpredictable, and I’ve made improvements, but still have not addressed my own unique root cause for illness. I’m grateful for Ben every day, because that boy bends over backwards to support me. No matter what.

Finding balance – literally and figuratively

What does this mean for running? One big lifestyle change is that I’m no longer running; I was writing checks my body couldn’t cash… running added to a stress burden (with other stressors like poor sleep, nutrition, blood sugar imbalance, anxiety) that became too much. I hope this hiatus is temporary over the next year or two as I handle the other stress factors and get to a much healthier place. Because of this, you’ll see my content on this blog evolve to include overall mind and body health.

Of course, now we’re in new, uncharted territory; zero ultra runners (that I know of) have healed Hashimoto’s and then returned to ultra running and/or performing at the same level. I’m determined to do it and come back as a better me, so learning experiences and highs and lows are guaranteed… So stay with me, because it is going to be one heck of a journey!