Reaching My Peak at an Ohio Castle

MPC Week 2 Pinnable Image

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to go away for Valentine’s Weekend to Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth, Ohio, which is right in the Hocking Hills mecca of hiking, backpacking, camping and rustic relaxation. Ravenwood is a bed and breakfast and while I was excited to get away from the city and clear my mind, I was also worried about getting my Peak Challenge Prep workouts in. I was just getting over a bad head cold which took me out of the program for the first half of last week, and I didn’t want to miss any more workouts than I already had. I found myself in Hocking Hills and worried. I was unprepared for workouts and had no idea what nutrition would look like for the next three days.

Sometimes the universe gives you exactly what you ask for – even before you know to ask for it. So, I wasn’t entirely surprised when on our first night there while driving from our cabin to the castle for dinner, we felt our car slide backwards on the icy road, narrowly missing a deep ravine and semi-lodging itself in a sizeable ditch. My heart was pounding and I was secretly relieved beyond belief to get out of the car when it finally slid to a stop.

The snow kept falling as darkness descended around us in an area that is quite unlike the city – for one, it is heavily forested with what creatures I do not know (I think I saw about twelve Sasquatches and nine wolves), and I am terrified of the dark. No internet, no cell phone reception and no light except my car’s flashing hazard lights had me a little nervous. My other problems were solved, though. I wouldn’t be eating anytime soon (except for two Cadbury Crème eggs my Dad gave me for Valentine’s Day) and I would be walking – both up and down hills – a lot.

My husband decided to walk up to the castle to ask for help while I waited – unsuccessfully – by the car as the temperature dipped below zero. Shortly after my husband’s dark form disappeared into an even darker woods, I fell on the ice and was lying flat on my back in a snowbank when a thought besides, “Am I bleeding to death being on a blood thinner?” crossed my mind. It was, “Oh, for goodness sakes, what would Claire do right now?” Witty, intelligent and practical, Claire Fraser – the Outlander heroine who is unknowingly transported back through time to Scotland 1743 where she finds adventure, war and romance with the Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser – would not lay down in the snow without a plan, that’s for sure. It was while I was collecting my thoughts – and the strength to open a Crème Egg– that a truck drove by and its participants got out to help me to my feet.

Eventually and with the help of several other people who got stuck on the same hill, we were able to get my car out of the ditch and back it down the road to the cabin – where it remained parked for the rest of the weekend. It was then that I realized, I was having the time of my life, and I couldn’t be happier. I also realized my sudden opportunity to live my weekend as if I too were one of Diana Gabaldon’s characters without technology, vehicles or modern day luxuries at my disposal. There I was with the love of my life on my own private “Fraser’s Ridge,” with the rugged outdoors at my fingertips to complete my Peak Challenge workouts.

I made four total hikes up to the Castle – three on the road and one through the woods. It took about 25 minutes to walk up and about 15 minutes to walk back down. Walking up steep hills on snow and ice is not easy. I had to stop to catch my breath several times along the way. It is a little easier, though, when you have your own “Jamie” with you.


I met a horse-mule (I think) along the way who I lovingly called “Clarence.”


And you could not convince me that this is not “Castle Leoch.”



Saturday afternoon – before the Castle feast – I spent the afternoon by the fire in the pub reading and drinking Scotch Ale. I have never had Scotch Ale before and this was really good.


Now back from Ravenwood – we eventually got the car out – I stepped on the scale this morning and I was disappointed that not only had I not lost any weight, I gained weight since my last weigh-in a week ago. However, as the day has gone on, I realized maybe it isn’t always about losing weight.

I had a great weekend in a place that I have never been before where I could live, just for a little bit, in a fantasy world without the stress and worry of the real world (okay, I was slightly worried about getting my car out again). Staying in a bed and breakfast, I met and talked with a lot of fantastic people that I may not have met otherwise. I played board games, spent time reading and found my mind stimulated in new and exciting ways, being in a different environment. I was able to get some exercise in and eat sensibly through attention to portion size while still trying all the amazing food and drink a bed and breakfast has to offer.

Reflecting on my weekend, it was then that I realize this is exactly what Outlander star Sam Heughan’s My Peak Challenge is about – doing something new and different and stretching yourself out of your comfort zone – to reach your peak.

Tell me about you. What have you done lately that excites, scares or stimulates you? How do you make the most of your fitness and/or nutrition program when you’re away from your routine?

Until the next mile marker,

0 - blog post signature

Reaching New Heights with My Peak Challenge

MPC Cover

The past three years have pretty much been about surviving for me. I haven’t been running and I haven’t been working out. More than a few times, I thought of just shutting this blog down and moving on with my life – without running and fitness. In a lot of ways, running is who I was, not who I am. Ever since I did survive a blood clot in my leg (DVT) that went to my lung (PE) just over three years ago, I have been unable to run. At first it was physically difficult for me to do so and after that, it became an emotional struggle to even think about putting on running shoes. I began running way back when to lose weight, take care of myself and get my life together. It worked. I was happy, healthy and in better shape than I had ever been in my life.

Then, my mom passed away while running one day and then I almost did after running one weekend. I hated running – I still do sometimes. I had given it everything and in return, I faced more heartache then I ever envisioned at just 29 years old. None of my happy memories of running mattered to me anymore. I locked running up and threw away the key. I refused to care – about running, about my health, about my happiness. I felt betrayed by my body and my emotions. How was I out of breath just walking into the kitchen and how could I hate something that had once brought me so much joy?

For the past three years, I tried my absolute hardest to forget about running and the good times. I had no choice. I had to focus on making it through what proved to be a long and difficult recovery and managing a lifelong illness. Here and there, I tried to walk or jog, but it always ended (or started) in tears and I once again found myself on an emotional roller coaster of sadness, fear, blame, anger and betrayal.

I shifted my focus to other things – my relationships, my writing and my pursuit of new passions. I immersed myself in blogging about my recovery from blood clots and eventually, a new career. It felt good to be driven by something other than my feet on the pavement and eventually, I stopped missing running. I stopped wishing I could run again, I stopped wondering if I could and this time, I didn’t feel guilty. I gained weight again (I wasn’t moving at all) and I stopped paying careful attention to what I put in my mouth. I couldn’t afford to care about anything else so I didn’t. I developed an “It is, what it is” attitude. Managing a chronic illness is time-intensive and exhausting – I didn’t have the time, energy or resources to manage my situation and pursue good health. I was operating in survival mode, my only capability.

Through it all – even my success in online advocacy and my profound happiness in my new career – I began to notice an old feeling again. Just like all those years ago, I started to feel like I needed to take the steps to get healthy again – even if that meant lacing up my shoes and jogging down the street. I joined a gym, not unlike all those years ago, and had a few good treadmill runs, but I couldn’t get back into it. I didn’t feel anger or sadness, just defeated and disheartened. Who was I kidding? I’m not a runner. And there I was, back at ground zero with no way out and no motivation to even look for one.

Then one day, I was scrolling through Facebook when a post on Sam Heughan’s – the Scottish actor best known for his roles as Jamie Fraser in the Starz series Outlander – Wall caught my eye. The post was simple. It said, “Let’s get ready for MPC” and featured a small video clip of Sam running. I clicked on the link which directed me to the My Peak Challenge website where it said, “It all started on a mountain.” And I was hooked.

pin sam quote

In it’s second year, #MyPeakChallenge is the brainchild of Sam, who believes that there is significant power in sharing the feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration that comes with completing a physical challenge. He also holds a firm belief in the power of exercise to unite people across many different ability levels. Something hit home – I used to hold those beliefs too – and I felt something stir inside of me. I clicked “Add to cart” and signed up for the 60 day Prep Program which includes a customizable and scalable nutrition and fitness plan to prepare me to succeed in a challenge I later choose to complete. I was also very excited about the private Facebook forum, where I would receive direct support from Sam himself and his personal trainer John Valbonesi of Fight Camp Glasgow. And, no less than half of the the proceeds of the program (just $89) go to Bloodwise to support blood-cancer research. There really wasn’t a single reason I could think of to say no.

This week I completed my first week of the My Peak Challenge Prep Program, which included several days of strength training, cardio and rest too. I completed every single workout – and I ran too, my own choice for cardio activity. I’m logging my food choices, macro nutrients and calories on My Fitness Pal while slowly incorporating Sam’s shopping list into my diet. Although weight loss is not my only goal nor the primary goal of the program, I am happy to say I have lost 4.8 pounds so far.

I’m taking it a day at a time and taking care of myself. Excessive weight is a risk factor for blood clots and so is sitting for long periods – both things I can work to control, in light of the risk factors I cannot control like an incurable clotting disorder. I am tired of feeling sluggish and sick and I am tired of feeling embarrassed about my size, even though I know I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I was just about done feeling the way I do when My Peak Challenge just happened to give me the last bit of motivation I needed to make a change. Finding and holding on to motivation can be hard, even when all of the motivation is right there in front of you. Here and now in my present life, the My Peak Challenge is exactly what I needed to inspire me to change. I can’t wait to see what mountain I will climb next.

Tell me about you. What motivates you to make a change? What goal are you working towards right now? Are you a member of any fitness or nutrition programs or groups to help you achieve your goal?

Until the next mile marker,

0 - blog post signature

Inspired Endurance Holiday Gift Giveaway

I first met Marie Scholl, owner and founder of Inspired Endurance running jewelry several years ago, at the race expo for my first half marathon to be exact. Prior to seeing her boutique, it had not occurred to me wear running jewelry, but as soon as I saw the jewelry she makes, I knew I had to own a piece. Her designs are simple, beautiful and so many of her items are fully customizable, to perfectly capture your running journey and accomplishments.

Since then, my Inspired Endurance collection has grown from the original “Pandora style” race beads, which still remains on my Pandora bracelet today and personalized race tags (thank you, Marie, I will never forget a race time or date again) to my favorite Runner Girl charms.

FullSizeRender 7

Marie and I re-connected by chance just a few weeks ago, and I was reminded of how much I value her and her company. It was like re-connecting with an old friend. And that is exactly how Marie runs her company – like a friendship. Each time I have worked with Marie, I have been impressed with her customer service, kindness and genuine interest in my life – running and otherwise.

Not only was it good to catch up with Marie, but I am also grateful to be able to pick out a design from her site this holiday season. In browsing Inspired Endurance, I noticed that she has many new designs, as well as the classics I already love. I was immediately drawn to the Gemstone Stretch Bracelet with Running Shoe Charm. I do not have any running gemstone jewelry and the red coral is absolutely stunning, not to mention perfect for the season.

red coral bracelet on pine

I have been wearing it non-stop since I got it, and it goes with everything – if I am wearing red or if I want a pop of color. The coral is just as beautiful as in the picture and the bracelet is stretchy, but not too tight or lose on my wrist. The running shoe charm is small and perfectly sized for me. It’s noticeable, but not too big. It is also removable so I can wear the coral without the charm or I can add additional charms in the future. Plus, it goes perfectly with the gemstone bracelet my mom gave me on the last Christmas she was here.

FullSizeRender 6

Marie has graciously offered to give away not one, but two of these same bracelets for the holidays. So, you get a little of Inspired Endurance and a little of my own Words to Run By design.

Enter below to win one of two bracelets or if you can’t wait, shop Inspired Endurance to make your own gemstone combination. It is affordable at just $35 and makes a great customizable gift for Christmas or a gift any time of the year.

The Inspired Endurance Holiday Gift Giveaway

red coral bracelet in gift box with card

One of two Red Coral Gemstone Stretch Bracelets with Running Shoe Charm. Each item comes in an Inspired Endurance Gift Box. Care instructions are included. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only, please. Giveaway runs from 12/09/15 through 12/16/2015. Winners will be drawn and announced here and contacted via email or social media on 12/17/2015. Winners who do not respond with a mailing address by 12/19 will be re-drawn to accommodate holiday giving. Enter below, there are a lot of ways to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Marie at Inspired Endurance gave me this product to review and two additional products to give away. I was not compensated otherwise or asked to write a positive review. All thoughts, opinions and comments provided are my own.

Thank you to Marie and Inspired Endurance for these beautiful gifts. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Until the next mile marker,

0 - blog post signature


To the Person Who Asked My Wife If She Was Pregnant

To The Person Who Asked Guest Post

This is an anonymous, open letter written by a fellow fitness blogger that I have known for a couple of years. He wrote this post in response to comments his wife has received and out of respect for her privacy, did not find it appropriate to post on his blog or social media, but asked that others do. I am sharing this post because I too have received these comments from time to time and can recall exactly how much it hurts and what negative impact it has on my self esteem. 

To the Person Who Asked My Wife If She Was Pregnant,

The upshot of your inquiry, was to tell my wife she had the body of a pregnant woman – which is the same as being called fat, if you’re not pregnant. She’s not. She has, however given birth to our two sons, and you’re obviously familiar with the concept of pregnancy’s effect on the female body. My wife exercises regularly, and is an avid runner. She keeps the whole family’s diet on the healthy side, with whole grains, fish, vegetables, kefir, Greek yogurt and supplements for vitamins, probiotics,and DHAs in the mix too. She does enjoy red wine, and has a sweet tooth – we both do, in fact. She is healthy, beautiful and sexy.

So when someone seemingly innocently asks about a non-existent pregnancy, she questions her entire lifestyle and why she puts effort into maintaining her body. Her self-esteem is damaged – she doesn’t feel like the healthy, beautiful, sexy woman she is. Her day is ruined, and as her husband and someone who loves her dearly, my day gets ruined too. I wasn’t present when you decided to ask a personal, invasive question of a stranger, but if I had been this is what I would have liked to tell you, and all of your ilk.

I figure you’re one of two kinds of people. The first type, is simply ignorant of the kind of damage you’re doing by asking such a question. If the little pouch you observed would have been due to a pregnancy, it would probably be in the first trimester, when most expecting moms don’t widely release the news to due a fear of miscarriage which occur in those first 12 weeks; Personally, I never ask a woman about a pregnancy unless she looks like she’s smuggling a regulation size basketball, or if she brings it up herself. I would be mortified if I made the mistake you made – but you don’t care about that, you simply need your nosiness satisfied, and you’re too socially stupid to consider the consequences of your assumption being wrong. I suppose there are plenty of socially impaired people out there, maybe it explains why this happens almost regularly – if it were a one time occurrence, we might be able to ignore it.

Since it does seem to happen every so often, my cynical side begins to wonder if there’s a second type of person who asks a woman about a pregnancy which isn’t actually there. I think you do it on purpose; it is a malicious, passive-aggressive, catty attack on someone who has done nothing to provoke you. Why would someone do such a thing? I’m not sure, but my best theory is that you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see someone trapped in a cage of self-hatred, and you think the only means of escape is to knock someone down a peg. You’ve actually found a way to fat-shame someone who isn’t even fat (which I’ll admit is a term as ugly as it is subjective), and yet you won’t get called out on it, because the insult is cloaked in warm, fuzzy, family-friendliness. I’d applaud the brilliance of the tactic, if only it wasn’t so plain and outright mean.

If you’re in the former, socially stupid camp, let this be a lesson to you. Women who ARE pregnant get asked all kinds of questions about their body day in, day out. They are treated to labour horror stories, and questioned about every little detail on their lifestyle – what they eat, whether or not they’re exercising, what kind of birth they’re planning. They might enjoy some adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around that stuff – they might feel nostalgic for the “normal” life, and if not, they’ll probably discuss pregnancy details with you unprompted. Show some manners, and mind your own business.

If you’re in the latter, malicious camp, you have a learning opportunity too. While you can do some superficial damage to her (and therefore us), you can’t make us fundamentally unhappy – we have too much to be grateful for. By the same token, your cage of self-hatred is one you constructed yourself, and you’ll free yourself of it not by attacking others, but by appreciating the beauty and light within your own life. Try to build yourself up, and if you can spare the effort, maybe even build up someone else, and do it sincerely. If you still don’t get it, try this: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Why you need a journalMENU

journal cover

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive a free journalMENU running journal with customizable cover for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

It probably doesn’t surprise you that I enjoy writing and journaling. In fact, this blog was started as a journal to keep track of my running and racing progress as I trained for my first half marathon. I learned early on there was great benefit in tracking my training, miles, pace, shoes, what I ate and drank and how my runs went. I know there are countless online and digital apps to keep track of running progress, but I prefer a paper one, even if in addition to a digital method. For the same reason I enjoy reading paper books, there is just something comforting and appealing about feeling the pages between my fingers and the pen in my hand. I am a journaler at heart and I have found a wonderful running journal. If you’re a runner, athlete, triathlete or writer, you need a journalMENU.

My favorite feature? A totally customizable cover! I customized my running journal with a picture that my husband took at Bryce Canyon and a quote I found online, “Upturned, toward the sun, eyes closed. That color and warmth I see and feel is the soul on fire. If only it remained when when again my eyes opened.” Pretty close to how you feel running, right?

I love that it is spiral-bound because I can fold the cover back when I write on the pages, which offer plenty of room for me to write, another important feature to me. On the tracking pages, I can keep record of things like type of run, pace, reps or weighs lifted, other types of workouts, weather, total miles for the year and my favorite blank space – NOTES, where I can write what I want.

tracking page

What the journalMENU has to offer is much more than a place to record workouts, though. It also offers a Race Planner, menu planner, recipes (including Paleo plans), Crossfit workouts, pages for race reviews and tons of information about nutrition, goal setting, eating plans, personal records, pace charts and so much more! If you were starting training – or maybe want to get back into training – this is the journal for you.

Pages collage

I worked with Erica at journalMENU to create this journal and it couldn’t have been easier. I just sent her the photograph and the quote and she sent me back a proof within a day or two. My journal was on my doorstep within the week. You can also choose one of the fun and unique existing designs if you don’t have your own you want to use. These journals retail staring around $15, which is completely reasonable considering that you might spend on a journal from the store.

Would you like to win your own journal? journalMENU has graciously offered a journal to one of my readers. Giveaway runs through 07/02/15 and winner will be notified here and via email. Enter here and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t want to wait or are you looking for a gift? You can save 15 percent on a journal with your very own customizable cover by enter coupon code WORDSTORUN at, or visit this page for more details.

Journaling is important to any fitness – of life – journey because it keeps you on track, holds you accountable and gives you a place to discover and document your hopes, dreams, fear, setback and triumphs. I truly believe journaling has the potential to enrich any life and writing – with pen and paper – is therapy for the soul. Give jounralMENU a try and start journaling your life today!

Until the next mile marker,

0 - blog post signature